Answering Missionaries

August 4, 2006

RUMOURS AND RESPONSES

Filed under: Dialogue/Debates,General — answeringmissionaries @ 5:39 pm

[Disclaimer: I personally take no sides on the issue of Qadr or subscribe to any particular point of view at this stage. Thus I am neutral on this subject. Nor am I in anyway associated with the questioner. Br. Shabir Ally clarifies his position regarding Qadr and also responds to certain claims made against him by an individual.]

RUMOURS AND RESPONSES

QUESTIONS FROM A MUSLIM BROTHER

    Asalamu’alaikum wa’rahmatullah! I hope you are well insha’allah. I would just like to ask you a few questions as i’ve recieved an email from someone and they highlighted a few ‘problems’ about you. after hearing rumours, following the sunnah, you have to verify the news so this is what i have come to do. I dont mean to ask in a rude manner or offend you in any way, i was hoping to find the truth so that i could tell this person to stop slandering and backbiting others as they have done before. anyhow, the person has laid a few accusations which are listed as below:

      Shabir ‘Ally claims that Allaah does not know the deeds of people until they happen.
      He says that all Ahadeeth related to Qadr are not accepted (like the hadeeth of Adam to send people of hell 999) this hadith he said is contrary to Allaah’s mercy.
      Using Aqal (intellect) to judge the Deen.
      He believes that the Sahabah made lots of mistakes in their narrations of Hadeeth and also the Qur’aan (so he thinks there is only one correct Riwayah).
      He accuses our scholars like Imam Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim and others like the scholars of Jews and Christians.
      In one of the discussions he said that our salaf did not do a good job in replying to deviant groups like for instance; Mu’tazili and Qadaris.
      He accuses the salaf of intellectual stagnation.
      He described the Jihad of the prophet (sallahu alayhe wa salaam) as Olympic games because at the time of the prophet ( sallahu alayhe wa salaam) the tribes of Arabs in the peninsula were attacking each other, the Jihad was a must and no way to get out of it.
      He also described the Muslim prayer as a mixture of western sports and Buddhist mediation.

    please could you respond insha’allah and clarify this. jazakallahu khair akhi.
    wa’alaikum’asalaam wa’rahmatullah

SHABIR ALLY REPLIES:

July 23, 2006

Dear Brother in Islam,

Assalaamu Alaykum,

Thanks for asking for clarification. You are indeed following the dictates of Islam in doing so. You could of course do even better. You can, and should, ask the people who are circulating these rumours to furnish the proof for their claims. According to a hadith the burden of proof is on someone who makes a claim. Those who claim that I said what you are asking about have the obligation to substantiate their claim. We should ask them for the exact words I said, and the context of those words. Although the reported statements have some connection with things I have said, they can be best understood if they are reported in the original words I uttered, and if they are given together with the evidence I have advanced from the Quran and the Sunnah in their support. Many of the statements you have asked about have been put in a form that I find ridiculous, and which I immediately reject.

It turns out that I did run afoul with some of our brothers after I began pointing out the errors of their ways. Instead of accepting the correction and changing their ways they turned to spreading false accusations against me. Because these are generally good brothers who are apparently trying to follow the sunnah, I do not claim that their falsehood is deliberate, only that it can be overcome. What I suggest is that we all do what I have suggested to you above.

What I have said to the brothers, or more generally to the community, I have based on evidence. But to accept this means that some of the principles which some champion as the true principles which all Muslims must accept are actually mistaken. My opponents have the reasonable possibility open before them of refuting the evidence which I have presented. If they do so I will take back all my statements. It turns out that they cannot actually refute the actual points I have made. Hence they resort to circulating among themselves twisted forms of my statements such that their colleagues who subscribe to the contrary will immediate find the statements, as I do also find them, ridiculous.

If I am to tackle the points in order, here is what you asked about, followed by my answers:

RUMOUR:

    Shabir ‘Ally claims that Allaah does not know the deeds of people until they happen.

RESPONSE:

In fact I reject such a statement. There is only one creator. He knows everything: past, present, and future. People cannot create their own deeds. When they choose to do something Allah creates their deeds for them. And surely he knows what he is creating. No one can do anything until Allah first knows it, wills it, writes it, and creates it. The distinction I have made, and which some refuse to understand, is in order to avoid condemning people to hell before they are even created. The idea that Allah has deliberately created some people to put them in hell, and then first put them in this life to prove to them that they deserve to go there is a vile accusation against Allah. The fact that many good Muslims think it is so does not make it less repugnant. The truth, which all Muslims actually believe, is that people go to hell because of their own bad choices. They do not make bad choices because they are created for the express purpose of filling hell. I believe that you the reader have both possibilities open before you. You can go either to heaven or hell, depending on your choices.

My opponents hold that all the choices you have ever made in life, and every choice you will ever make in the future, were fixed before you were even created. The creator knew that, if he created you, you will definitely make those and only those choices. He did not have to create you. Or, he could have changed you in advance so that some of your choices would be different. But he deliberately created you to make a long series of unavoidable choices based on which he would either praise or convict you on the day of judgement.

To avoid the obvious error involved in the position of my opponents, I hold that if a person had to inevitably and unavoidably make a certain choice then he is not really responsible for the choice even if he thinks that he is. If there are such choices which we do make according to the fixed plan of Allah then we will not be judged for those choices. The choices we make, and on which we will be judged, are flexible within a range of options Allah planned for us. Within the range are good and bad choices. Whatever we choose, whether good or bad, are all known to Allah in advance as possibilities. When we make such a choice it comes truly from within us, and is not due to a fixed and unavoidable plan. Hence if we make bad choices we deserve the negative consequences they bring. Now if we observe a person for a while we may get a fair idea of what the person will choose next. A teacher may know in advance that a student will fail. Allah knows more than we do or any human teacher does. Surely he knows what people will choose even before they choose it. And since he knows it it has to happen. But the essential distinction here is that now it is not happening because the creator fixed it to happen, but because the creature chose it from the range of choices which the creator presented as equal possibilities.

The irony in this dispute is that all Muslims believe with me that our futures are flexible even though they may not know how to explain it the way I do. And all Muslims know that the view of my opponents is mistaken, even if they do not know what to do about the fact that this mistaken belief has become the classical statement of faith. We all know that it would be wrong for a creator to knowingly make something to act one way, then plead with it to act the other way, and then beat it for acting the way it was made to act. The belief that the future is flexible is not only the belief of Muslims now, but it has always been our belief. What is now being championed as the classical statement of Muslim belief in this regard is an error that arose when Muslims began discussing the question in the second century of Islam.

Even my opponents know that I am correct about this belief. They also share the belief that the future is partly flexible, even while they keep insisting that it is fully and finally fixed. We can see that they, perhaps more than the average Muslim, are anxious about their future. They are trying hard to make sure they have the right belief and the correct actions based on which they will be admitted to paradise by the mercy of Allah. They say that their final position is written, known, and unchangeable. Yet they act as if their futures are yet to be decided. Their actions betray their inner belief that I am correct. They say they believe that they cannot change the final place which is already fixed for them to end up in. So, why do they worry so much? If that place is heaven they have no need to worry. And if that final place is hell worrying about it will not change it. Their concern and constant effort show that they speak one way and act another. Their actions show their true belief: that the future is at least partly flexible. This of course is what all Muslims from the first generation to this day believe. Why continue to deceive ourselves and deceive the public by insisting on a mistake which arose in the second century of Islam?

RUMOUR:

    He says that all Ahadeeth related to Qadr are not accepted (like the hadeeth of Adam to send people of hell 999) this hadith he said is contrary to Allaah’s mercy.

RESPONSE:

There are two basic views being discussed about Qadar here. The view of my opponents is that the future is fully and finally fixed by the creator and that there is nothing we creatures can do to change it even though we operate with the feeling that we can. To support this view they ignore many verses of the Quran and turn some other crucial ones away from their literal meanings. They do the same with the hadiths. Many hadiths support the view that the future is flexible, and that our futures depend on our choices. But these are either ignored or reinterpreted to support the mistaken view that some people are fixed for heaven and all others are fixed for hell.

The second view is mine: that the determination of the final place of a person depends on his or her choices. I find that the verses of the Quran which have been used in classical writings to support the mistaken view actually support the correct view when they are taken in their proper contexts, and in their literal meanings. Moreover, there are other verses of the Quran which do in fact clearly support the view of a conditional future. But such verses are simply ignored by those who are bent on maintaining the mistake.

There are indeed hadiths which give the impression that the future is fully and finally fixed. My detailed studies of the whole historical discussion lead me to the conclusion that such hadiths either have a meaning which is in agreement with the Quranic view or they are incorrectly attributed to our prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam in their present form. We should be clear, as could be gathered from any good introductory book on hadith, that narrators sometimes made mistakes. When ideas where debated among the early Muslims, people invented hadiths to support every variety of belief. Some of the inventions were blatant, and could be easily recognised. Some were more subtle. A collector of hadiths had to sift the hadiths accepting those that seemed genuine and rejecting those that seemed questionable. Such a collector would work with some principles about the sort of hadiths he would accept, and the sort of persons he would accept hadiths from. But the method was not foolproof, because a hadith did not come with a barcode with clicked ‘authentic’ or ‘forged’ when scanned. The collector had to apply his own judgement to a certain degree. If the hadith seemed to say something correct, there was little reason to be sceptical about it, and it would be easily circulated as a part of the acceptable pool of hadiths leading to their eventual inclusion in the standard collections which, I should remind you, were made a long time after the death of our prophet.

When Muslims discussed the question of Qadar, it seemed safer to many to hold that Allah decided the destiny of every individual before he created them. This quickly became the standard belief on one side of a dispute. The other side died off, and the history was written by the winners. The books of hadith that support that writing of history contain some hadiths which, contrary to the vast majority of hadiths in the same books, show that a person’s final place is fixed. If such hadiths are really from the prophet, they cannot mean that the person’s place is fully and finally fixed, as this would go against the Quran, the rest of the hadiths, and the true belief of all Muslims. Hence these few hadiths must be given a meaning that reconciles them with these three: the Quran; the rest of the hadiths; and the correct belief of Muslims (not what some Muslims say, but what all Muslims actually believe).

The specific hadith you have asked about exists in two versions. Both say that on the day of judgement Adam, alayhis salam, will be commanded to select from the crowds those people who are to enter hell. He will ask how many. In one hadith he is told: 999 out of every thousand. In the other hadith he is told: 99 out of every hundred. This of course is the equivalent of 990 out of every thousand. Hence according to one hadith one out of every thousand persons will be saved, and according to the other hadith ten out of every thousand persons will be saved. This makes a difference of nine persons who are either saved according to the second hadith or doomed according to the first. Obviously the prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, did not say it both ways. Logically, the truthful prophet could have made either statement, but not both. Someone made a mistake in attributing at least one of these statements to our prophet. Now, according to Sahih al-Bukhari, the prophet said: “Whoever attributes to me that which I did not say may as well assume his seat in hell.” This last mentioned statement of the prophet should make us hesitate to attribute the two former statements to him, as it is obvious that at least one of the two statements is not from him.

There is a further reason to think that both statements contain the mistakes of narrators. It is hard to conceive that the Merciful Creator has already decided in advance that such a large percentage of persons must enter hell initially. The difficulty is lessened by the suggestion that the doomed persons are mostly from Yajuj and Majuj, and that eventually many persons would be taken out of hell. But still, the Yajuj and Majuj are also His creatures, and humans. And the Quran declares that He is merciful to humans (Quran 2:143). And if we start with such a large percentage of persons in hell and then take out the persons having the smallest degree of faith it seems that a large percentage will still remain in hell. It is difficult to see that the creator whose mercy is so stressed in the Quran, especially in the repetition of the Basmala 114 times, would plan it this way. While it is clear that one of the two hadiths in question is definitely not from the prophet, and must be due to a mistake of a narrator, it is probable that both contain mistakes of the narrators. We know that at first the hadiths were circulated informally and orally. People generally did not ask about the source of the narratives, and did not insist on narrating the actual words. Ibn Sirin (d. 110) said that it was after the fitnah that people began asking for the names of the informants who narrated the information about the prophet. Perhaps the number of people to enter hell was smaller, and the number became exaggerated as the saying was circulated orally in an informal manner.

RUMOUR:

    Using Aqal (intellect) to judge the Deen.

RESPONSE:

This is not possible. The Deen (religion) is not something separate from Aql (intellect) which intellect can now judge. The Deen includes the use of the intellect. My struggle is to show that the Deen is in fact reasonable. Those who oppose me in this follow a strand of thinking which adopted mistaken ideas and then prohibited people from using their reason for the fear that such errors would be exposed if people use their reason. Nothing in Islam is unreasonable, even though some things are beyond our reason. There are some things we cannot understand because they relate to things that are beyond human experience. But we know for sure that two contradictory statements cannot be both true at the same time. If anyone claims that both are true he is making a false claim. We should use our reason to reject such false claims. This is what the Quran calls on us to do again and again. Hence we cannot use our intellect to judge the religion. But we should use our intellect to judge and dismiss the false additions which people have made to our religion. Their claim that we should not use our intellect is itself one such false addition.

RUMOUR:

    He believes that the Sahabah made lots of mistakes in their narrations of Hadeeth and also the Qur’aan (so he thinks there is only one correct Riwayah).

RESPONSE:

The hadiths themselves often claim that someone made a mistake. Some hadiths show that Ayesha, for example, may Allah be pleased with her, on occasion said that a Sahabi made a mistake in his narration of a hadith. As for the Quran, it is well known that the best of memorizer can make a mistake when he is reciting from memory. In fact, even if one is looking at the printed page he could make a mistake when he is not concentrating on his reading. But of course they and other scholars worked to eliminate such errors so that we could inherit from them the authentic Quran. I believe that there are ten acceptable riwayahs. These all together represent the Quran that was revealed by Allah for the guidance of all humankind.

RUMOUR:

    He accuses our scholars like Imam Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim and others like the scholars of Jews and Christians.

RESPONSE:

It is not clear what the statement above means. Does it mean that I, like the scholars of Jews and Christians accuse our scholars of something? Or does it mean that I accuse our scholars of being like the scholars of Jews and Christians? Either way, the accusation against me is false. I do not accuse our scholars of anything. I respect our scholars and learn from them. Without the rich literary heritage we have received from our scholars we would be swimming in a void. I do, however, follow the way of our scholars in refusing to idolize them. They were humans capable of errors. If people insist on following the errors I sometimes show these to be errors. This does not detract from the greatness of the scholars, and is in fact in pursuit of the intellectual honest they would demand of us.

RUMOUR:

    In one of the discussions he said that our salaf did not do a good job in replying to deviant groups like for instance; Mu’tazili and Qadaris.

RESPONSE:

We have good reasons for rejecting some of the known positions of the Mutazilites and the Qadarites. However, the dispute between them and our scholars on the question of human freewill and Divine justice has never been resolved. If someone can point to a piece of writing which effectively answers these deviant groups in a way that does not contradict itself on these questions I would be pleased to read and follow it. In my survey of the available literature in English (including works translated from Arabic) and some Arabic works I have found that our scholars tended to refuse to reply rather than to present reasonable replies to the questions about Qadar.

If anyone is in doubt that this is so you can go pursue the following exercise. Ask my opponents to name a scholar. Then go ahead and ask that scholar to explain the concept. Your Q & A may look like the following: Q: If my final place is fully and finally fixed, how can I be held responsible for going there? A: You do not know what is fixed for you. You will not know until you get there. So now as far as you are concerned you can strive for either place. So strive for paradise, and you will get there. Q: But if my final place is already decided to be hell then my striving for paradise will not do any good. A: But how do you know that you are fixed for hell? Why not assume that you are fixed for paradise? Q: If I assume that I am fixed for paradise why do I have to worry about doing anything? A: Because you do not know. Perhaps you are fixed for hell. Q: But if I am fixed for hell there is nothing I or anyone can do to save me. A: But you do not know what is fixed. Q: But you and other scholars told me in your speeches and writings that my final place is fixed. If that place is paradise I cannot miss it; and if that place is hell I cannot escape it. A: But you do not know which it is. Q: But whichever it is, there is nothing I could do about it. A: Your responsibility is to do good deeds. You do that and let Allah decide the rest. Q: But you have said that Allah has already decided everything. A: But you do not know what the decision is. Q: But you told me that it is either that I will end up in heaven or I will end up in hell. If Allah’s decision is that I will end up in heaven no power in the universe can stop me from getting there. And if his decision is that I will end up in hell no power in the universe can save me from falling into it. A: You are too contentious.

This Q & A can go on and on until the scholar loses his patience. Yet the questioner here is neither a Qadarite nor a Mutazilite. This is the sort of question that is in the mind of ordinary Muslims. But some present-day scholars make us afraid to ask the questions because they do not have the answers. So they leave the ordinary Muslims with doubt and fear. But what is needed is either a reasonable answer or a relinquishing of the mistake. The mistaken position has a flaw which is easy enough to recognise. The questions about it have never been reasonably answered, only silenced.

RUMOUR:

    He accuses the salaf of intellectual stagnation.

RESPONSE:

Not the salaf, but the khalaf are guilty of intellectual stagnation. I said this years ago. Since then what has been the intellectual product of the present-day scholars? Where is the fresh analysis of any matter? Where is there even an intellectual and critical engagement with the articles I have written on the subjects about which my opponents are misrepresenting me? The works of the salaf are characterised by original thought. The works of the khalaf are characterised by blind imitation and mindless copying. The older works are repackaged as new. Commentaries are written on the older works instead of producing works using the same creativity which the salaf employed. Then commentaries are written on the commentaries. And when the commentaries of the commentaries become too large someone writes a summary version of it. Where is the intellectual activity of the khalaf? The salaf held discussion and debates over issues. The khalaf simply issue fatwas, boycott their opponents, and spread rumours against them.

This rumour exposes the method of my opponents. To hide their own error, and to accuse me of one, they have misrepresented what I said. My accusation against them is obviously true, as they are against the use of the intellect. So they recast my position as an accusation against the salaf to make me look silly. If they really wanted to disprove me they would follow the Quran and use the intellect which Allah has given us to use, and which he calls on us to use, and which he will take us to task for not using. They, not the salaf, are guilty of intellectual stagnation.

RUMOUR:

    He described the Jihad of the prophet (sallahu alayhe wa salaam) as Olympic games because at the time of the prophet ( sallahu alayhi wa salaam) the tribes of Arabs in the peninsula were attacking each other, the Jihad was a must and no way to get out of it.

RESPONSE:

I never described the jihad of the prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, as the Olympic games. May Allah save me from ever making such a statement. On the contrary, I said that after the Quraysh were defeated at Badr they announced that they would return for another bout the following year. For them (the non-Muslims) fighting was like a sport that recurs year after year. It was not the prophet’s motive to kill the non-Muslims. He was sent as a mercy to the worlds. His task was to convey the message that would save them from eternal damnation. He saw himself desperately struggling to stop people from rushing into the fire of hell knowing that he could not stop their persistent efforts to make the plunge. His pain was not from the physical wounds he suffered in battle, but from his grief over the fact that his enemies seemed determined to trod the path to perdition.

Jihad is an important and undeniable part of our religion. Every part of our religion must be correctly understood and appropriately applied. The prophet was not looking for a way to kill non-Muslims, but they were looking for a way to kill the Muslims. The prophet sent some of his followers away to Abyssinia in one batch after another. He himself along with many of his followers moved away from the scene of violence and took up safe residence in Medina. But the non-Muslims would not leave him alone. They were bent on wiping out the fledgling Muslim community. What was the prophet to do? Allah then gave the Muslims permission to respond to the enemies in battle. This permission is stated in the Quran in 22:39-40 and in 2:190. As Imam al-Qurtubi has pointed out in his tafsir of this latter Quranic verse, the word Qital entails two sides in a fight. Moreover, he points out that in addition to the word itself, the verse spells out the fact that it is those who were attacking the Muslims who were to be fought against. This shows that the prophet was not seeking to attack others but was merely responding to the onslaught. Of course once the decision to take up arms is made, the strategy of war may include seizing the initiative. But this does not cancel the basic premise that Qital is for the purpose of defending the Muslims, ensuring justice, and preserving the presence of Islam as a religion.

If the non-Muslims at the time did not begin hostilities the prophet would have had no reason to fight them. He preached to them for thirteen years in Mecca. He and his followers bore their persecutions with patience. But then, enough is enough. The Quran makes it quite clear that if the non-Muslims had ceased their hostilities then the Muslims should have no enmity with them.

RUMOUR:

    He also described the Muslim prayer as a mixture of western sports and Buddhist mediation.

RESPONSE:

This is a really vile accusation against me. What I actually said is that people who neglect the prayer will find that they are missing something without knowing exactly what. Some people in modern times are turning to forms of Eastern meditation; others are going to the gym to work out. But through the prayer Allah has blessed us with the best of all of these endeavours. The prayer includes both mental and physical exercise. Of course the prayer is much more than this. My words were meant to show people the benefits of prayer. My opponents have twisted my words to make it appear that I despise prayer. May Allah forgive them.

Your brother in Islam,

Shabir Ally

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2 Comments

  1. asSalaam ‘aleykum;

    dear brother Shabir, thanks for the above post: while I’ve never received the post you addressed above, I found the questions and answers you noted beneficial. You also clearly answered the questioner, and made the paradox of Qadr and free will clear: my only qualm would be not mentioning the hadith (two Sahih that I’m aware of): first, where the bedouin asked: “O Messenger of God, if I’m destined for hell, why should I strive?” Whereupon the Prophet, Sal Allahu alayhi wa Salaam, answered: “Each of us is created with a destiny, and finds easy those actions which take him to the place to which he was destined.” – perhaps because this one can seen by those who are argumentative as still promoting passivism. Or the second on the matter of hell, where the Prophet assured a mother who showed concern for her children not falling into a fire, and asked the Prophet how Allah could throw people into the fire, when she would not do such a thing — weeping, he, sal Allahu alayhi wa Salaam, answered: “Allah does not throw anyone into the fire except for those persistent in their rebellion.” (aw qama qala hu, as he said).

    Please correct me on the hadith, but these answers were sufficient for me on the matter of destiny, and I also remember that the Prophet warned that arguing about it led to disbelief – which is not dissuade one from reasoning with those who have reasonable concerns, as do believers who question.

    May Allah bless your efforts.

    Comment by dawud — March 25, 2007 @ 6:58 pm

  2. Brother Shabir,
    May ALLAH bless you and reward you.

    Comment by khalid alkalali — April 22, 2007 @ 10:37 am


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