Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 16, 2013

Islam and Existentialism

I find existentialism interesting for a few reasons. Not so much because of what it says, but what it attempts to say. To me it seems like a lens for spotting certain occurrences or scenarios in Islam. I won’t pretend to understand it completely, but I will try and explore its connection to Islam here.

Existentialism and North American Muslims

Jean-Paul Sartre said, “existence precedes essence” in Existentialism is a humanism but I will try and interpret it in my own way to make some connections to the Muslim worldview. I think ‘existence precedes essence’ is how we feel sometimes, where we are here, but aren’t sure as to who we are, our identity, what defines us, and what mould to fit into. “We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world — and defines himself afterwards.” We are here, as Canadian or American Muslims, and there is no essentialism to define us with regards to what we do. Precisely because we can’t figure out our identity as Muslims, all we have is existence and so essence remains a mystery, though the media may try and define our essence for us. For Muslims, we try and resemble the Prophetic actions and behaviors, but we don’t always fulfill that. What we do, how we organize our time, defines us: ‘I don’t know how to do anything else.’ We do things on auto-pilot and what matters, isn’t what we feel this says about God or Muslims, or even our personal life, because often those aren’t really on our mind, but that we actually do these things. Yes we did this, and no it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We do righteous actions, but after a while, the ‘righteous’ essence of those actions fades and it just becomes yet another thing we do and only its existence remains.

I think when it comes to things like extremism, people believe Muslims do things very consciously though in reality, it might just be the violent actions of a Muslim terrorist have no meaning or intent to them – its the mere existence of destruction that justifies it, not the essential meaning of that destruction and what its intended to symbolize. But then where does the responsibility lie? The existence of a Muslim committing a crime, and the rejection of its essential meaning means Muslims will really struggle to take responsibility for a violent act, individually and collectively. This is probably why Muslim extremism is so difficult to understand…

Another play where existentialism is relevant is when Muslims are tempted to cheat on final exams, so if they see someone’s exam sheet they decide to go against that cheating temptation and purposefully select another answer (a wrong answer presumably). Here, full responsibility is taken, but some could say here essence (right/wrong) precedes existence (a choice). For pious Muslims who have memorized the Qur’an, the fact they have memorized it is seen as having more merit, than the fact they understand it. The existence of the fact they have memorized the Qur’an is more important than them knowing the essence of the Qur’an.

Guiding people to Islam can be aided by better understanding existentialism. The person whom you are speaking to may see themselves as a sinner. This is there essence in their mind. Their existence and lifestyle has gone against whatever you may preaching to them. They don’t see themselves in that religious world. But mere existence precedes essence, so you can utilize the fact they exist to help them understand what their essence might be. I think this is where existentialism can explain how one can use their free-will to liberate themselves from what they may see as their sinful essence, and be empowered by a new existence that their free-will can lead them to.

Existentialism and the Prophets

Yet another example I can think of is in the Qur’an when the angels came to Abraham to tell him that they are there to destroy the nation of Lot (Sodom). What is important to recall is that Ibrahim argues with the angels to not destroy the sodomites. Here, is a Prophet of God going against the decree of God mentioned by God, and yet he is described as the Friend of God — and this is perhaps why he is described in the Qur’an as tender-hearted and forbearing. (Qur’an, 9:114). The existence of his mercy precedes the essence of its originating in God’s will.

Another example we can think of is when the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) consulted the Sahabas about going to war in Uhud (if I remember correctly that was the battle). He did not want to go to battle but some of the Sahabas persuaded him to. When they learned later that he was initially inclining to not go to battle, they came to him to revert to his decision. But by this time, the Prophet of God had already donned his battle armor and he said (paraphrased), “Once a Prophet wears his battle armor he doesn’t take it off until he has gone to battle.” Here, the existence of the Prophetic decision is more important than the essence of Prophetic decision – what that essence is, God knows best.

Miracles too play oddly into the dichotomy of existentialism/essentialism, since the existence of a miracle is unlikely but possible. What then is its essence if its existence is rare, if not impossible in the mind of an atheist? If it does exist, then the miracle existing has essence at the same time as it has existence. See below for an image of Japan’s first mosque standing tall even after bombings in World War II – something which many Muslims would say is a miracle.


Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


Note: I worry a great deal about what I write and hesitated a great deal to publish this. This is one of those post I will continue to worry about and its potential misuse. Before one reads this post, readers should be familiar with Islamic eschatology and signs of the Day of Judgment and have read the previous post.

In my previous post, I suggested a few new avenues that open up when one studies and contemplates the history of Sayyid al-Awaleen wa’l Akhireen ﷺ. If one considers how the miracles at the time of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and thereafter, were greater than the miracles prior to his arrival ﷺ, then one can infer two transhistorical realities:

1) If you know all the miracles Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ performed, then you can infer that most likely Prophets before him performed miracles very similar to these, only not at the same lofty magnitude; and
2) That possibly certain miracles of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ  are yet to occur. And is this latter possibility that opens a new door for us to wonder about…

No one can know when the Last Hour will be, and even Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ said he ﷺ did not any more than the one who asked him ﷺ. But we can speculate like the Jews and Christians, who were waiting in Arabia for the arrival of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. I will not be looking at all the hadith that are well-known, but I will be trying to look at those things that are implicit and hidden in these narrations. Again, Allah and His Rasul ﷺ know best, so I am not stating this post with absolute certainty (qati’) but rather this is a speculative (zanni) consideration, though certain things will rise to a greater level of certainty.

Here are some questions I pondered while looking over the hadith of the End Times: Why will world end in this particular way and not another way? What does that mean to the people of insight, ulu al-baab? What do ayat (signs) mean if we magnify them, and look at them through the lens of history and space? Do certain patterns emerge? Why do certain events stand-out in Islamic history?

[This is] the established way (sunnah) of Allah which has occurred before. And never will you find in the (sunnah) way of Allah any change. (Qur’an, 48:23)

These (ayat) signs of the End Times are like landmarks. In many of the hadith of the End Times, you see a reoccurring theme. The relics and reminders of the Prophets of old re-appear. The Ark of the Covenant is recovered by Imam Mahdi containing the relics of Musa and Harun, the Beast appears bearing the Ring of Sulayman and the Staff of Musa, Yajuj Majuj will break through, killing will occur to such an extent “if someone comes to kill any of you, then be like the better of the two sons of Adam.” It is the return of the Prophets. The forgotten legacy of the prophets and the asatirul-awaleen, tales of the ancients, are affirmed once and for all. They are no longer just tales but their presence is made known to the Ummah of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. It is as if the Prophets are gathering in attaching themselves to Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ and so there is no doubt as to previous messengers bearing the same message as Rasulullah ﷺ and that to him belong all their miracles. Whom Prophecy truly belongs to — Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ —  now and in every era, has been made clear and there is no room for dispute. No one will be able to say that Moses would’ve said such-and-such about the Muslims, because the staff of Moses and the Ark are in the hands of the Mahdi. No one will be able to say Jesus would’ve said such-and-such because he will be from amongst the Muslims. What, then can any Jew or Christian say?

But the question arises, are these all the manifestations of earlier Prophets that will arise in the Last Days in the Ummah of Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ? Here are some possible explanations regarding the Prophets: Ibrahim, Khidr, Jesus, Yusuf, Dawud, Musa, Harun and Nuh.

-Ibrahim was thrown into Nimrod’s fire and found it cool and this is analogous to when the believer will be shown Dajjal‘s heaven and hell, and the believer will walk into Dajjal’s false hellfire and it will turn into a cool garden.
-Some say Khidr will be the believer that Dajjal will split in half but Khidr will continue to argue against him.
-Another historical event maybe when the Dajjal is killed by the spear, which may have significance to the ‘Spear of Destiny’ which was the spear people believe killed (the false) Jesus on the Cross.   
-Dreams (cf. Yusuf) become more true near the end of time, perhaps suggesting a nearing of the alam al-mithal and the dunya?
-Will the Muslims get to make dhikr with the mountains as Dawud did once Isa has been successful?
-Mountains of Mecca have been blasted away similar to how the mountain was blasted away before Musa when he asked to see Allah
-A Safina (Ark), like that of Nuh may be constructed to shelter the last believers
-We know Jesus will be present, this  may mean other Prophets that are in occultation will also be appear

There is much to speculate but we know the trials in the Last Days will be more difficult than any trial any nation has ever faced so it is likely echoes of trials previous communities faced will re-appear, but in a more difficult form. This is yet another reason why we should adhere to the Qur’an and learn from the lessons Allah teaches us about previous nations. Those tested most are the closest to Allah, and this ummah’s test will be the greatest in history, and thus a sign of our rank and a metaphysical justification for our entering the Jannah first.

The Beast 

And when the word befalls them, We will bring forth for them a creature from the earth speaking to them, [saying] that the people were, of Our verses, not certain [in faith]. (Qur’an, 27:82) 

We know the Beast appears out of the Earth near the Hour bearing the ring of Sulayman and Staff of Musa and will speak to the people about the Qur’an. This is comparable to how many of the early disbelievers would ask, “Why isn’t an angel sent down?” and Allah responded “If We did send down an angel, the matter would be settled at once, and no respite would be granted them (Quran, 6:8)” meaning that a sign, in the form of an extraordinary creature is a conclusive and definitive trial. And so the Beast appearing at the End of Time is an appropriate connection to this ayat. Also note that whenever the disbelievers are quoted in the Qur’an as saying, “send down to us” it suggests pride, whereas the Beast emerges from the Earth, from below, not from above, suggesting a type of humility on the Muslims and the Last Day.

Salih’s she-camel emerged from the local mountain, as a sign and trial, while the Beast (Dabbah) emerges from the Earth, a sign indicating the dominion of the Last Prophet ﷺ and also a global trial for people, (though accepting Islam after the Beast appears will not be accepted). The Dabbah (Beast) speaking is comparable to Sulayman being able to speak to the animals, but is greater since it is an extra-ordinary creature. The metaphysical significance of the Beast has to do with it emerging directly out of the Earth and it emerging in the time of the Risalah of Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ speaking to the people about the Qur’an. This suggests that through the Beast, the Earth and the natural world are showing that Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ is their imam. The first half of the shahadah (La ilaha illAllah) is clear to all who study the Earth, but the Beast emerging and speaking about the Qur’an is the Earth’s affirmation of the last half of the shahadah (Muhammadur Rasulullah), and appropriately is the last sign (or second last as the sun rising in the West might be the last as well) at the End of Time just as Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ is the first sign of the End of Time. This miraculous creation will bear witness to the rank of the Best of Creation ﷺ. The miracle of the Beast is appropriate to our age because we have done great damage to the Earth and the natural world and become increasingly obsessed with science, nature and evolution viewing it in deterministic terms. So when this Beast emerges speaking the verses of Allah, what then can any atheist or scientist say?

Imam Mahdi and Ahlul Bayt


Made by my dear brother Abdul Khafid

We must recognize that Ahlul Bayt have continually been displaced throughout Islamic history. The rise of Imam Mahdi is the return of the House of the Prophet ﷺ to their rightful place. Just as the Jews rejects Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ so shall some of the Muslims reject the Mahdi and it may be that Imam Mahdi will be rejected in much the same way that Imam Husayn was rejected by the Muslims. But eventually and ultimately the Muslims will understand the place of Ahlul Bayt in Islam and honor the Qur’anic injunction to honor the House of the Prophet ﷺ.

Whereas the Imam Husayn’s resolve was strong to lead, his followers were weak in their resolve, however we know from hadith that Imam Mahdi will flee from the mantle of leadership and khilafat, and his resolve to lead will be weak but his followers will be strong in their resolve to have him as their imam. We know that much like Imam Husayn’s struggle, Imam Mahdi’s reign will begin with an internal battle amongst the Muslims, where he will defeat the ‘Sufyani’ and this is parallel to Imam Husayn’s political struggle against Yazid who was Abu Sufyan’s grandson. This suggests that Imam Mahdi will pick up where Imam Husayn left off and finish his work by establishing order and justice amongst the Muslims and ridding them of tyranny. Lastly, it may be that like many great events in history, something will occur on the Day of Ashura, just as the martyrdom (shuhada) of Imam Husayn occurred on Ashura, or perhaps, Imam Mahdi will change the significance of the Day of Ashura, to a day of victory and raise the spirits of the Muslims.

Jesus and Imam Mahdi

The Qur’an mentions Isa as being “Mahdi” (Qur’an 3:46,5:110) and he was lifted at 33 years of age, so it may be both Imam Mahdi and Isa alayhi salam will be of the same or near equal age. Another crucial point as can be understood from the previous paragraph is that Islamic history will be mirrored: It began with the 1) Prophetic rule of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ, then struggles in establishing 2) the rule of Ahlul Bayt (Hasan & Husayn) and then 3) the rule of Tyrants was established; The Last days will be the reverse, 3) The rule of Tyrants then 2) the rule of Ahlul Bayt will be established (Imam Mahdi) then it will return to 1) Prophetic rule (Jesus). This is a similar pattern to the history of Bani Israel where tyranny, prophetic rule and kings dominated their political reality.

We know from hadith it will be Isa who will pray behind Imam Mahdi and Isa will be a member of this community. The intersections between Isa and Imam Mahdi are more than just coincidence: Isa had a cousin, Yahya, in the time of his prophecy, and in the Last Days he will be in the company of his more distant cousin, the Mahdi. Imam Mahdi will die before Isa dies, just as Yahya’s death preceded Isa’s (supposed) death. Both Yahya and Imam Husayn had similar deaths, beheadings as a result of rebelling against corrupt authority. Another commonality is that just as the Christians worshiped Jesus, so too did a group of deviants worship Imam Ali, claiming that he is God (astaghfirullah).

These commonalities underline one simple fact: It will be Isa who will do justice to the rank of Ahlul Bayt. It will be a Prophet known for his spirituality, the Ruhullah, and known for his blessed lineage, who will show this Ummah how to honour the descendants of Rasulullah ﷺ. After the descent of Isa, there may even be a marriage between the family of the Mahdi and Isa or his offspring and this makes sense metaphysically to occur, in the Last Days; the blood-line of Isaac and the line of Ishmael will finally be joined and reconciled physically, spiritually, theologically and metaphysically into one.

Jesus and the Ummah

And indeed, Jesus will be [a sign for] knowledge of the Hour, so be not in doubt of it, and follow Me. This is a straight path. (Qur’an, 43:61)

Isa is the one Prophet who made dua to join the Ummah of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and his dua was granted to him; what does this say about the honour of this ummah through the blessing of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ? But Isa’s relation to this ummah is not only in the Later Days. There is a hadith that Isa was in Egypt and he came across Muqattam hills and said that the Sahabas will be buried at Muqattam hills, which came to pass. And we have another hadith that, ‘No ummah will be destroyed which has me at its beginning and Isa at its end’ (paraphrased from a Habib Kadhim talk). Our Ummah has been blessed with a description of the Masih (Messiah) from the hadith on Isra wa’l Miraj and also hadith on his descent to Earth, so that we won’t have a case of mistaken identity like that which the Jews and later Christians had, which ultimately lead them to misguidance. In this sense, the Muslims are favoured over the Jews and Christians. Unlike the Jews who were for the most part, opposed to Rasulullah ﷺ, the Christians were helpful to the early believers and this may be a sign of God’s favour towards the Christians that they will be guided aright when Isa returns, while many of the Jews will follow the Dajjal. With Isa’s descent the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which has been under the guardianship of a Muslim family for centuries, will finally become a masjid and with it, most likely the Vatican in Rome will become a masjid. The Hadith also states that Isa will kill the pigs, break the cross, and abolish the jizya, which may be a synecdoche that he will liberate Christians from dhimmi status, by converting all the Christians into Muslims.

The Isaacites (the Jews) waited for the Ishmaelite Prophet ﷺ in Madina; in the Last Days it will be the Ishmaelites (the Muslims) that will await for the Isaacite Prophet (Isa alayhi salam) in Damascus. This is alluded to in the Qur’an “Praise to Allah , who has granted to me in old age Ishmael and Isaac. Indeed, my Lord is the Hearer of supplication.” Quran 14:36-39  The Khalifas of some of the previous Muslims dynasties had adab with the House of Dawud, honouring leaders from them (the position of the exilarch) and this reflects on the reality that Isa will look at how the Muslims honored his kinsmen because of their righteous and Prophetic ancestry.

Now we must understand the Masih belongs in this ummah because he is a manifestation of God’s will that this ummah is for all mankind, and he is a proof that this ummah honours the place of the Ajami, the non-Arab, in the ummah of Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ and considering the fact Isa is from a previous era, this is a proof that Rasulullah ﷺ is a Prophet for all times, past, present and future and for all peoples.

The minaret of the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus where Isa (Jesus) will descend

Jesus and Rasulullah ﷺ

We know in hadith that Isa descends to Earth at the time before Fajr and this is the time that Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ was born in and when dua is accepted. Thus Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ is the connection between us and Isa, temporally and in this blessed time when we will pray to Allah, Isa will descend. Angels came to Bani Israel carrying the Ark of the Covenant; similarly angels will come to our Ummah carrying the Son of Mary – this is yet another favour upon us. Isa is a fatherless son; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is a father without a (surviving) son – for them to be buried side-by-side in Madina is a natural completion of God’s favour and divine sign on the importance of the bonds of faith over the bonds of blood. Prophets are buried where they die, and so this means Isa is buried where he dies, meaning that Isa dies near Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and in the opinion of Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa, he dies giving salams to Rasulullah ﷺ. Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa has also said, that we are created from the soil of wherever we are buried at death, and Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and Isa ibn Maryam will both be buried in Madina, meaning both were created from the soil of Madina. Isa will most likely continue to transmit hadiths from Jannah, not from himself, but from Imam al-Mursaleen ﷺ and the hadith books will insha-Allah continue to be written once again…

Jesus and Adam 

Just as at the start of time Adam descended to Earth after living in Heaven, so too must near the end of time, a Prophet descends to Earth from Heaven after dwelling there, and it is fitting that it is Isa as the Qur’an says, “Indeed the likeness of Isa (Jesus) before Allah is as the likeness of Adam.” (Qur’an, 3:59). Isa will establish ‘Heaven on earth,’ as a mirror to Heavenly garden of Adam and Hawwa. Isa is also in a sense, necessary at the end of time because ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’ and how shall it be known who are these meek inheritors of the earth unless a Prophet is there to do bestow upon them that inheritance?

Jesus and the Qur’an

Comparative religion writers make the point that the Bible should not be compared to the Qur’an, but rather the Bible should be compared to hadith and the Qur’an should be compared to Isa, since both are the Word of God (see Qur’an 3:45). It may be that the Kalimatullah (Isa) will recite the Kalimatullah (Qur’an) and a Muslim will see the Messiah reciting the Qur’an and say, “Glory be to Allah who has preserved both of His Words!” There are more similarities between the two: Isa was a living miracle and he gave rise to many miracles, just as the Qur’an was a miracle and gave rise to many miracles. Isa will live on the Earth for 40 years; Revelation of the Qur’an began at 40 years – this is consonant to the idea that Jesus is the Word of God and so is the Qur’an. And of further significance is that Isa was lifted up to Heaven in his time, and the Qur’an will be lifted up from the hearts of Muslims near the End of Time. Wa akhiru dawa anil hamdulillahi rabbil alameen.

Isa also has a strong relation to the Qur’an not just as a figure in the past, but as a figure in the future the Muslims will encounter. Allah fulfills his 5 promises to Isa in Qur’an 3:54-55.  The Muslims will be the answer to Isa’s call in the Qur’an: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?” and Isa will find among us men who will be greater than the Hawariyun (disciples) of the past. In the Qur’an, Isa will find what he is to say to Allah on Qiyama, Qur’an 5:110-120. This is a clear sign that Jesus too, is guided by the Qur’an and the Risala of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. In the Qur’an, the Muslims of the Latter days will once again apply the adab of honouring a Prophet, they will not to ask him to perform a miracle like that of al-Ma’idah in 5:110-120, and the women of this ummah who will become marry Isa, will appy the adab of being married to a Nabi, as mentioned in Surah Tahreem/Talaaq. In this way, the Qur’an is a very practical preparation for the Last Days.

The Qur’an tells us that when Allah will decide between Isa and the Christians, there will be no redemption for the Christians as they will be driven to Hell, and upon reciting this account in the Qur’an, Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ said, repeated the ayah “If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (Qur’an 5:118) and said “Allahumma ummati” and asked Allah for the shafa’ah and was given it. This is significant because it is yet another unique favour given to this ummah because of the rank Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ, and through his wisdom and learning from previous Ambiya. It is even more significant because Isa ibn Maryam is also a member of this ummah and so he will receive from the shafa’ah Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ.


There is more I wanted to touch on but I will stop here. For us, believers nearing the End Times, we should learn the Qur’an and learn from the examples of previous Ambiya if we are to be successful in facing the trials of the Last Days. As one can see in this brief outline that the Last Days are saturated with a clarity and shining forth of the rays of the Muhammadan Light. Superficially, it appears to be a return to a simpler time, but if we look deeper it is a return to a purer time. An era which will illustrate the realities of the Qur’an as the Final Book and what the Risalah Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ meant, not just to us as Muslims, but to the Earth, to the Prophets, and to history itself. This is a time when it will seem as if Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ never died because signs of his importance will be manifest and made clear by another Prophet who also never died. In concluding anything, one must pay tribute to what came before, and the Last Days will be a tribute to Sayyidina Rasulullah ﷺ and an explanation of his rank ﷺ.

Allahu Alaam.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 24, 2013

Metaphysics of the Prophetic Miracles

Since it is the eve of the birth of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ I thought I would post this piece…

salawat gif

While reading the Sirah (Biography of the Prophet) and his miracles, I began to notice many patterns and began to wonder about them. After I read Bidayat as-sul fi Tafdil ar-Rasul (The Beginning of the Quest for the High Esteem of the Messenger) of Imam Izz ibn Abd al-salam, then I realized there was more to these patterns since one of the khasais (virtues) of our Prophet ﷺ is that his miracles are superior than those of previous Prophets. Imam Izz lists only a few examples, but I began to realize there are many, many more…so I began to list as many as I could.

List of Miracles

In this list below, I compare and contrast the miracles of each Prophet with the miracles of the Imam of the Prophets ﷺ and contrast other similarities. I first mention the Nabi/Rusul and then I mention Rasulullah ﷺ. I haven’t listed the hadith or full references since they are common knowledge but only briefly mentioned the occurrence. A bigger picture shall emerge…

-Isa revived bodies; while Prophet ﷺ revived hearts
-Isa spoke as a baby to his mother; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ could speak to babies
-Isa walked on water; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ’s Companions rode their war horses on water – a miracle or a miracle in the path of Allah?
-Isa was raised to Heaven until End Times; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ ascended to Isra wa’l Miraj, passed Sidratul Muntaha and then returned to Earth – which is more astounding?
-Isa had 1 group Hawariyun; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had Ansar & Muhajirun – the Hawaris were a small group, while Ansar and Muhajirun were a brotherhood
-Isa breathed life into birds; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ’s Companions are martyrs living in paradise now in green birds – one was temporal, the other eternal
-Isa had a miraculous birth with angelic presence; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ’s Birth with Nur and Voice from Heaven – which is more majestic?
-Isa was slandered by enemies at birth; Palaces of future enemies of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ destroyed at his birth (i.e. Chosroes)
-Isa’s family: Hanna then Maryam then Isa; Ahlul Bayt: Prophet ﷺ then Fatima then Hassan and Husayn
-Isa visited by Shaytan almost 100x; Shaytan never came close to Rasulullah ﷺ, except as Najdi sheikh to mushrikeen – even shaytan had an awe of him
-Isa had no mark from the claw of shaytan; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had no mark from the claw of shaytan plus had Seal of Prophethood
-Isa cured blind; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ cured blind or promised them Paradise – which is loftier?
-Isa given al-Ma’idah (Table); Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ given Ramadan – one came from Paradise, one leads to Paradise


-Ibrahim destroyed a few idols; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ destroyed 365 idols, without even actually touching them
-Ibrahim sacrificed son; Abdul Mutallib’s oath on sacrificing his son, Abdullah, the father of Rasulullah ﷺ so one of Rasulullah’s ﷺ names is ‘Ibn Abi Zhabihayn’ – son of 2 sacrifices
-Ibrahim’s wife Hajar found Zamzam; Zamzam re-discovered before Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ’s arrival by the dream of Abdul Muttalib – this makes us reflect to whom Zamzam was really given to
-Ibrahim built the Kaaba with his son; Muslims rebuilt the Kaaba a few times
-Ibrahim’s Dua for a Prophet to be sent; fulfillment of the dua in hadith: “I am the prayer of my father Ibrahim and the good news proclaimed by `Isa to his people…”
-Ibrahim had the fire made cool for him when tortured; The Sahaba Abu Muslim al-Khawlani had the same miracle in Yemen
-Ibrahim sacrificed his son; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ lost 3 sons at birth and many daughters
-Ibrahim said of a star ‘This is my Lord’; Jews of Madina saw the star of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ on the night of his birth
-Egyptian Firawn tried to rape Ibrahim’s wife Sarah; Sayyidatina Mariah al-Qibtiyya given to Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ by Egyptian king Muqawqas – one was a protection, and another was a gift
-Ibrahim made dua for his own descendants; Allah revealed Qur’anic verses for honouring Ahlul Bayt
-Scholars from Ahlul bayt are like Prophets of Bani Israel (mentioned in a Hadith)
-Tabernacle destroyed; Kaaba protected from Abraha by birds (Surah al-Fil)
-Ibrahim unsuccessfully argued with angels to save Lut’s sinful community from punishment; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ stopped angels of the mountains from destroying Ta’if

-Musa made water come from rocks; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had water issue forth from his blessed hands – this lets us reflect on tayammum and wudu
-Musa split the Red Sea; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ split the moon – the former was earthly, while the latter was heavenly
-Musa had endless food come to him descend from heaven (manna); Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had many occurrences where the baraka made the food almost endless – this is similar to al-Ma’idah
-Musa was raised by his future enemy Firawn; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ was raised by many uncles who would become both his enemies and his supporters
-Bani Israel only allowed to pray in Temple Mount; Muslims can pray on the whole earth – who
-Musa on Mount Sinai;  Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ connection to Jabal an-Nur, Jabal Thawr and Jabal Uhud
-Musa spoke to Allah through divine ‘Burning Bush’; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ made a tree into a tree of Paradise, also went past Sidratul Muntaha and spoke to Allah directly
-Musa defeated magic with miracles and his staff; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had Jibril protect him from magic
-Musa faced down Firawn and Hamman; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ faced many Mustahzi’un, and our Ummah will face many false prophets and dajjals – which community then has more resilience?
-Musa liberated Bani Israel from slavery; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ liberated slaves for all history and made former slaves into conquerors founding cities – and who will lead humanity in their liberation into Jannah?
-Musa was asked to take off his shoes in Valley of Tuwa; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ kept his sandal on while ascended on Isra wa’l Miraj – whose footsteps echo in eternity?
-Musa hit 1 man and killed him; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ had the strength of 10-100 men

Bani Israel

-Bani Israel given Tabuk (Ark of Covenant) on which Sakina (tranquility) descended; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ given Quran and Sakina descends on those who recite it – one is lost and the other will continue to remain on Earth until the End Times
-313 fought with Talut; 313 Sahabas on Badr plus Angelic army
-Bani Israel were not given an explicit name for their religion; Allah named our religion ‘Islam’
-Bani Israel told to enter Egypt, given Jerusalem; Muslims conquered Egypt, Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, and lands of previous prophets
-Used Tabuk as a weapon of war; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ in Jihad had angelic support
-Bani Israel given many punishments for accepted repentance; Ummah Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is saved from many punishments for our repentance
-Bani Israel: Forgiven for sins with corporal punishment; Muslims forgiven sins merely by shedding tears
-Bani Israel given Torah, Injil, Zabur; Certain Qur’anic surahs have the same rank as these previous scriptures, plus given more surahs
-Khidr has greenery grow from underneath his footsteps; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ has the gardens of the afterlife grow from underneath his footsteps – one is rarely seen and worldly, the other is in Masjid an-Nabawi and is eternal
-Mountain hovering over Bani Israel’s heads to fall on them; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ could destroy and crush Taif between mountains and refusing to punish us
-Dawud had mountains make dhikr with him; Hadith about Mount Uhud loving the believers
-Yusuf was a dream interpreter; Abu Bakr was known to be a dream interpreter
-Yusuf’s remarkable beauty; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ was more more beautiful than Yusuf
-Sulayman speaking to animals; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ speaking to camel, trees and birds speech, the Sahaba Safina speaking to lion and being guided when lost, and some narrations suggest Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ knew all human languages
-Dawud made iron into chain-mail; Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ turned wood instantly into the sword of Zulfiqar
-Yusuf as finance minister of Egypt; Sahaba became rulers of entire Egypt

And there are more…


I began to notice it was not limited to miracles, it was related to occurrences and echoes of the past. Where the contrast is similar, I understand it to mean, that the Prophets of the past were beloved to Allah, because they resembled the Beloved of God to come and where the contrast is different, the honour of our Rasul is greater to show that Allah has favoured him above all. An example of the first is how shaytan did not make a mark on the Prophet with his claw when he was born, similar to Eesa alayhi salam and an example of the later is how the Muslims pray 5 times a day instead of 3 or the one or two prayers each Prophet was given.

In fact, this elevation is a proof of his position as Imam of the Prophets and to allude to us that the miracles of the previous Prophets and all miracles to ever occur are in reality miracles of the Prophet Muhammad. In this light, one can read the entire Sirah as a manifestation of all of Allah’s Names. You can literally check them off like a checklist.

So you can see another way of reading the Sirah is to piece it together backwards from the stories of the previous Prophets. The world before the Prophet is like a dream predicting or fore-telling the Risalah of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ to come and its fulfillment is even greater than what was ‘dreamed.’ (I gleaned this from a line in ch. 3 of Imam al-Busiri’s Qasida Burda) If we take this metaphysical understanding further then we can infer and predict the future and I will explore this in a future post since it is considerably more difficult to do…

Metaphysics of ‘Praise’

What does this all mean to us Muslims in terms of the metaphysical reality of who our Prophet is? His name means praiseworthy. His whole life was praiseworthy and his whole life was Allah’s praise of him, at every atomistic level, and it was this praised that raised mankind and believers in rank…so how can praise of him (salallahu alayhi wasalam) not raise us in rank? Thus he is the pattern by which we become praiseworthy. All these gifts our ummah was given was because of the honour of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and a praise of him.

His very name means praised and to this day he is praised. But was he praised before Islam? We should remind ourselves that miracles are not just proofs of God’s omnipotence but gifts that honour and praise the one whom they are bestowed upon–and all miracles, throughout time, are in reality, miracles of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ. We can see the miracles of the previous Prophets as a metaphysical praise of  Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ in the past, and the miracles of the Sahaba as a praise of him ﷺ at the time of his prophethood and the miracles of the Awliya and Ahlul Bayt are the praise of his rank ﷺ in the future. That is the temporal element of his reality, the Muhammadan presence in all time.

The spatial element is that Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ is praised in the heavens by angels and by Prophets on the miraculous Isra wa’l Miraj, he ﷺ was praised in the human realm in Madina both in his entering it and in the poetry recited in Masjid an-Nabawi, and he  ﷺ was praised on the earthly realm by miracles of stones prostrating to him and trees running to him and the like. That is element of the Muhammadan presence in all space.

Lastly, the Light of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ before time, being the first thing Allah created, and his ﷺ great intercession on Yawmul Qiyamah, in the Maqam Mahmud, is the manifestation of the Muhammadan presence in space-time. This may seem a little abstruse but what is important to underscore for all of us is the sense of historical and metaphysical continuity and how we must preserve this continuity by having a strong connection to  Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ as a means for our connection to Allah subhana wa ta’ala.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 10, 2013

Bayaanomics: The Art of Delivering an Optimal Islamic Talk

Bayaanomics: The Art of Delivering an Optimal Islamic Talk
by Dawud Israel, the Cynic and Pedantic but also the Humanist 🙂

I wrote the following after listening to many Islamic talks online and in person. There is a world of difference between the two, but I wanted to share my reflections based on the delivery of these Islamic talks. I am no expert, these are just my 2 cents. 🙂

Before one reads this, one must keep in mind that their are a variety of types of Islamic speeches one gives. From a reminder, to an academic style talk, to a rant, to an open-ended interactive discussion. This is not intended to downplay the place and importance of those speeches, but to highlight some key strategies and patterns as well as provide perspective to speakers as to what audience members may be thinking.

There are pitfalls in this document…namely that the listener is suggesting things out of his own intellectual pride and fickle attitude, and may lead to listeners having a low tolerance to various speakers. This elitism can be a problem with those who listen to lofty, metaphysical, subtle and obscure spiritual topics. Content is not of primary concern in this document, rather thought process, presentation, and delivery are. It will become clear some of the criteria outlined are not realistic, especially for those whom lecture frequently, but nonetheless may prove useful.

Primary Observations for Speech improvement:

Focusing/Missing the Intention: Some speakers just would do better writing than speaking. But often the best speakers are those that write a great deal. They have given what they are saying a great deal of thought, will not run out of material and complete the points they are trying to convey. One of the key problems writers encounter in revising their draft copies is realizing they completely missed the key idea they wanted to get across. It is in the back of their mind while they write but it never is expressed. “Yeah I already mentioned that…oh wait now that I have re-read it, I forgot to mention it.” And its that proofreading scrupulousness that also applies to lectures, where the speaker is about to convey a key point and thinks they have, but actually had not and missed it completely or didn’t reach it when they were building up to it. Related to this is when you sense the speaker is

Amplifying the Content: The best 3 qualities in the content of a religious talk are:
1) completeness- that they explain things fully, with lots of context, which shows true ilm and proper presentation
2) coherence- like an essay that brings ideas and lessons together and all the ideas mentioned are proportional to each other and not out of place
3) insight- it all lead to a deeper insight or realization than one could find in any religious book
The best off-hand example of this is this talk by Shaykh Husain Abdul Sattar:

Avaaz: Voice is to the Khutba what the Buraq is to the Miraj.

Pace: The most effective speakers will modulate the pace of their talk allowing for adequate comprehension by the listeners. Much like driving a car, if one drives at the same speed, it is easy to doze off but modulating speed keeps one alert and moving. I don’t know if this is intentional but speakers will speed up, which makes the listener pay closer attention, and then they will slow down well below their normal pace so that the listeners listen closely. This can be connected to evoking the emotions of pity and fear, as Aristotle suggest in his Poetics but can build intimacy. If one rushes through a talk then it distances the audience, but if one is slower then it can make the listeners feel like they are having a special moment. Hamza Yusuf does this with great effect. Watching or listening to a talk at 1.5-2x the normal speed can show one where pace may need to improve pace.

Perfecting Clutch Ideas/References: The speaker often has “clutch” ideas/hadith or Quranic reference that they will repeat off-hand in most of their talks through sheer force of habit. These will form their ‘spiritual signature’ to the audience and tell them what their ethos is. What they may not realize is how they came to be expressing those clutch references with people. What one reads is not necessarily what one can easily cite off unless it was personal or you were very deeply attached to it.

Memorizing quotes: What one writes out by hand, memorizes actively and mentions in conversations with individuals is what one can easily mention off-hand in a bayaan. Mentioning a hadith for the first time in a bayaan is not as easy as mentioning it in a third or fourth or 20th talk. A good way to be successful at this is to keep a small “common-place book” one can carry easily, in which one records quotations, memorizes them in their spare time and use them in conversation. Often what is most personal is what manifests most clearly in public speeches.

Intimacy: When a speaker says, ‘I’ll share a personal story’ that brings a lot of closeness to the speaker and the topic they are discussing, it feels special and one to one. If the story is told in a slanted way, this can however, discredit the speaker to the listeners, though it some subjectivity is understandable and appreciable. What is key here is teaching Islam from a first-person perspective, first-hand and not from a third-person, externalized perspective divorced from real-world experience.

Flow: Interruptions and pauses can hiccup the digestion and absorption of a speech. The smoothness and clarity of a speech can make a great effect on comprehension. Again, watching or listening to a talk at 1.5-2x the normal speed can provide some perspective on this.

Secondary Observations:

Problematizing: A key pattern one notices in many speeches is the tendency of speakers to problematize and list problems like a laundry list at length. This makes one feel powerless and it dis-empowers one. It makes for great talking points, but it can be a waste when you realize the speaker has the solution to these problems, a very practical solution, and yet doesn’t get around to sharing it. Problematizing also has negative effects on the mental health of Muslims causing paranoia and feelings of helplessness, and I have seen mentally sick brothers whose speech mimics those of many ulema and one can tell how these issues have bore heavily on their minds until they cracked.

Internet and Memory: Reading on the Internet can stretch the mind too far. Most reading online is shallow, it is broad in its diversity but superficial it is not as deep as one would find in a book. One recalls they read something about this or that, but never the details. Our memory falters and the mind is stretched so far that we find it hard to remember things; it feels like everything is falling out. Not only that, but things we could easily recall before become harder to recall in the moment. This is a common experience and I think perhaps in the future someone will coin the term ‘cognitive metabolism’ to understand this. Learning about a topic deeply, rather than just on the Internet, will make a big difference in memory recall about that subject.

Tashaduq/Qatwil: Many of these patterns in speech-making have been noted before. Tashadduq is an overblown elocution where words are over-enunciated by the speaker. This is connected to a later point in over-simplifying speeches mentioned below. Qatwil is when speeches lack any substance and are full of fluff or mere rhetoric and empty speech. You may sense this when you feel like the speaker just wants to get to the end of the speech or is talking at length about the talk he is about to give, but ironically never gets to. We ask Allah to protect us from both of these, ameen.

Duas used: You can tell a great deal about the speaker/shaykh just by the duas they use in the start, like their tariqa or place of training for example, and its the sincerity and honour given to the duas in the start of the khutba that will reflect on the wisdom of that speaker and how practical they are.

Adab in the speech is also overlooked. Abdallah Adhami always mentions before citing a hadith, “We are honoured by His Grace subhana wa ta’ala to read in the Musnad of…” and this elevates whatever he is speaking about.

Simplicity and Over-simplifying: Simplicity is good for the average Muslim. Too much simplicity is however demeaning and patronizing. After a while, one feels like they are watching Sesame Street or Treehouse TV (a kids TV channel). Complexity and detail especially in discussing a contemporary issue will make a Muslim proud of their religion and provide them with a tool in dealing with our information-based society. This requires discretion: a general khutba can be simple, but with some details but when it comes to a class there should be no hesitation in giving details and complexity especially if students are putting in their time and effort to learn. Too much simplicity to students of knowledge can negatively affect their motivation.

Tangents: Too many tangents can get confusing and make you wonder why you are wasting your time listening to these weird tangents. Tangents can be good depending on the speaker. The more educated and learned the speaker, then their tangents will provide valuable context. But even then, if you have a great topic and instead spend it on tangents, that can really be annoying. There is an amana in giving a talk and if I buy an Islamic lecture and instead get a lecture full of jokes then that can be argued to be fraud.

Personal favorite topics: The best topics for a religious talk are seerah and contemporary issues and problems. Seerah contains fiqh, tafsir, biographies, history, hadith and wisdoms that listeners can quickly apply. Contemporary issues are the best because they are pertinent, will grab everyone’s attention.

Repetition: Repetition is a blessing but can be a trap. It is a blessing because you come to memorize a hadith, it is a blessing because then it become routine, but it may lose its effect if one doesn’t remain in contemplation. Repetition can be a trap because it can lead to a limiting of the discourse, a drawing of boundaries and limits that no one can pass.

Q&A: Question and Answers are the test of a real scholar. It requires a lot of courage to face questions on the spot. If scholars dodge questions or go around them, or simply aren’t ready to answer them on the spot, this is understandable since early Muslims would often simply say “I don’t know,” but it goes without saying that this can also negatively affect credibility. Nonetheless, sometimes a simple response is better than one that can confuse people. Often with questions, the speaker will introduce new material causing many questions to arise to help clarify or solidify an understanding; in this case, the answers precede the questions and merely require re-stating.

Teacher/Student Psychology: If a teacher rants on what they are angry about, then they tacitly teach students to rant on what they are annoyed about. This can lead to a complete intolerance of all Muslims and Islam and a picky and pretentious snobbery. This is complicated when the angry teachers become angry that their  students are angry…they get offended, like, “How dare you? Who are you to rant? Only I may rant!” This is what I suspect shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller speaks about teachers transmitting their haal (for better or worse) to their students and is why it is sometimes better to simply stick to simple talks.

Styles can vary largely, however in the West Muslims have taken a very cool-guy, almost fraternizing attitude towards Islamic speeches. This is a relaxed talk that helps listeners be comfortable with whom they are listening to. The downside can be it downplays the significance of lofty and precious lessons. The style of bayaan that is disappearing is the dramatic style that one finds in the writings of Imam al-Ghazali or the speeches of Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (rahimullah). These are full of exclamation points and points of dramatic emphasis, perhaps better suited to the Arabic language than the English language. These should not be confused with angry speeches. The benefit of these types of speeches are they are magnificent, raise the esteem of the speaker and the one listening and give izzah to the religion. The best modern day example of this is Habib Umar’s lectures and their usage of poetic meter and a hybrid of this dramatic style and the cool-guy style can be found in Ibrahim Osi-Efa’s speeches.

Closing considerations:

These points are not for ones cerebral intellectual stimulation. Reading the above points, one may prefer a secular speaker or a philosopher or a good book. But these are just patterns and tendencies that highlight some room for improvement. The goal is not to make one feel special for hearing a very sophisticated discourse, often I find many feel proud that they only listen to Abdal Hakim Murad which is sad since many other messages are worth listening too and absorbing.  The goal of Islamic speeches is for religious tarbiya, spiritual transformation and the alchemy of the soul.

For the teacher and the seeker: How is someone with knowledge? How is someone by knowledge? How is someone around knowledge? How does someone realize knowledge? How does someone use knowledge? Ma’iya with knowledge – is there awe around books, preparation, an exploring mindset, and how are they with knowledge, is there with-ness with knowledge to one’s experience? And is that with-ness lofty? How do they interact and experience knowledge and make others experience knowledge? Is there ilm and amal? 

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 8, 2013

INFOGRAPHIC: Closing the Gender Wage Gap

The good folks at (Kayla Evans) contacted me about this excellent Infographic they have produced about the gender wage gap. I blogged about this little known fact a while back: Not many are aware that despite feminism and women’s rights movements, women in the West are NOT paid the same as men for the same amount of work. Conversely, in many Muslim countries working women are paid the same amount as men for the same amount of work, since this is an Islamic right for the past 1400 years.

Enjoy the infographic!

Because the Qur’an is the Criterion (al-Furqan).

There are many more proofs one can use, but I found these to suffice especially since its Qur’anic Tafsir from the words of Sahabas. They are not so well-known so do share away!

quranic proofs3a

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 10, 2012

Islamic Architecture in Secular American Buildings

A few weeks ago Zaytuna College had a presentation they aired online by Phil Pasquini on his new book “Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.” This was a very fascinating talk but unfortunately, not many tuned in because of the American presidential debates. Well, I took some notes on that talk and am going to share some examples of Islamic architecture in America that Phil mentioned in his talk. Phil made the point he felt a book like this was needed in order to fight Islamophobia and hatred towards Muslims and Arabs in America and to show Islam is woven into the fabric of America in ways most don’t even fathom.

Most of these buildings hail from a style of architecture called “Moorish revival architecture” influenced largely by architecture in Spain or what was once Andalusia. Many of these buildings are used by Shriners and other fraternities who would call them temples or mosques though their members were not Muslim. Keep in mind these are NOT Muslim buildings, but used for secular purposes from the very first day they were built.

I have put little descriptions about the buildings, so scroll down slowly. 🙂

Below are photos of Philadelphia Lulu Temple

Below is Angeles Abbey Memorial Park cemetery in Compton, California

Below is Helena Civic Center in Montana was formerly Algerian Shriner temple

Milwaukee Tripoli’s Temple below is supposed to resemble the Taj Mahal. Members play pool, inside and often Muslims come and ask to pray in here.

Madina Temple in Chicago below which is now a Bloomingdales Shopping Center

Alcazar Theatre below in San Francisco is now used as a parking garage.

Below is Alhambra Theatre in San Francisco

Lincoln Theatre in Los Angeles

New York Mecca Temple below

Below is Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” museum in Grand Prairie, Texas

Madina Wasal Army base where American troops train in a simulated Middle Eastern environment

Below is Almas Temple in Washington, DC. Inside is a picture of former American president J Edgar Hoover wearing a tarboush cap.

Tampa Bay Hotel below

Metaire Lake Lawn Cemetery Islamic architecture tomb in New Orleans, LA.

Metaire Lake Lawn Cemetery

Fabulous Fox theatre in Atlanta, Georgia

You would think you are in the Middle East, but nope, this is all contemporary United States of America. There are many more examples of this in the United States and even in some European countries. I have only shared a few. Below are some more links for those who wish to research this further.

More examples from Phil Pasquini’s new Book

Some Very Stunning High Quality Flickr Images of Moorish Revival Architecture

Moorish Movie theaters

Moorish Revival Architecture – Wikipedia

Masonic temples

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | September 20, 2012

Jumuah Checklist


I put this checklist together for myself but also for others. I find there are so many things to remember, so many variables in making the most of Jumuah that I forget them all. So I figured a checklist would be helpful.

I avoided citing daleel (proofs) but you can look these items up yourself or comment below about them. Its probably not likely for you to fulfill all of these, especially if you are busy with school/work, but try and complete at least 50-60% and slowly add more.

Special thanks to Sidi Suleiman alMusilm for his help.

Download here

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | August 21, 2012

Blessed Days come with Trials

The righteous have found various ways to determine when special blessed days in the Islamic calendar occur.* Often these methods are mathematical in nature probably owing to the numerological significance of the Arabic alphabet or astronomical in nature owing to astronomy’s importance in the Qur’an. I too have come across a method of my own which is that on these blessed days one will encounter new trials or difficulties that are more difficult than what you are used to.

The basis for my conclusion is a story of one of the awliya, where he was shown how in one year Allah rejected the Hajj of every pilgrim. But Allah accepted them by virtue of a man that gave up his life savings for making Hajj to a poor lady to care for her children. Though the man didn’t make Hajj, his Hajj was accepted and the wali was told to inform the man that Allah had accepted from him. Hajj is about sacrifice especially the sacrifice of Ibrahim alayhi salam, and so the man’s actions were perhaps closer to the spirit of Hajj than those of other pilgrims. From this I understood, the plain worship may not be what Allah wants from you, but He may send something different to try you upon special occasions, so be prepared.

This may or may not be completely true for everybody but in my experience it certainly was. The 15th of Shaban is a day one should fast upon, but I decided not to fast this day but ended up going hungry at a dinner party (only snacks were served) which tried my patience since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. On Laylatul Bara of Rajab, my grandfather passed away, may Allah show him mercy. On Laylatul Qadr last week (23rd of Ramadan for those who noticed how the sun rose the following morning without rays as indicated in hadith) I prayed only part of the night and fell asleep early due to the trial of praying near an exceptionally comfortable mattress (sleep on an uncomfortable bed as often as you can). On the night of Eid, a night wherein duas are answered and in which prayer is important, I again found myself too tired and exhausted though I usually have little trouble praying a portion of the night.

These may seem like small problems, but they are big in relation to how they distract one away from the meritorious rewards of these occasions. I can’t necessarily blame it on shaytan, but perhaps its my nafs pushing me away, that if I were to achieve the full success of these occasions, I would then as a result become harder on my nafs, or perhaps its simply a secret of Divine decree, that the reward is great because it is more difficult to worship at that time.

Allah knows best.

See also:

Midmonth Ajeebness

*As-Sufuri said (may Allah have mercy on him):

“I saw it written with my father’s hand from Shaykh Abul-Hasan Ash-Shadhili: “Since I reached puberty I never missed seeing Laylatul-Qadr. If the first day of Ramadan is a Sunday, it falls on the 29th; if it is a Monday, it falls on the 21st; if it is a Tuesday, it falls on the 27th; if it is a Wednesday, it falls on the 29th like Sunday; if it is a Thursday, it falls on the 25th; if it is a Friday, it falls on the 27th like Tuesday; if it is a Saturday, it falls on the 23rd, and Allah knows best.”

(Nuzhat Al-Majalis Wa Munkhatab An-Nafa’is” by Al-‘Allama Ash-Shaykh ‘Abdur Rahman As-Sufuri Ash-Shafi’i)

While working on my commentary of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s Contentions, I corresponded with the noble shaykh and he shared some of his own commentary on the more difficult ones that I struggled in commenting on or thought perhaps…there was more to their meaning than the obvious. It was surprising to learn that even he forgot what some of them meant…and also great to finally know what some of the more ambiguous contentions meant. I meant to post it earlier on, but alas, forgot.

Here is his commentary verbatim, reproduced by his permission.

82.       He did not say: ‘Guide us to the gay path.’ (happy/joy)

He said ‘Straight path’.

3.     Some drink deeply at the Fountain of Life; others merely gargle.

The Fountain of Life ‘ab-i hayat’ is dhikr, which saves us from spiritual death. Dhikr should be internalised and enter the heart, not simply played with inside the mouth.

86.       Rigour of Moses, Ahmad’s mercy,
Beauty of Jesus, heralds all.
In Adam’s heirs no controversy,
Call for change, don’t change the call!

This is clear, surely?

67.       The world’s texture is as rich as it is because of what you are called to be.

Humans can instantiate the divine names, which were taught to Adam. The perfect human being instantiates them perfectly. The cosmos represents a field of concatenation of the Names; and its richness, despite their only partial manifestation in the non-human realm, points towards the potential of man as ‘al-kawn al-jami’, when he is fully realised.

93. To attribute the maqam of da‘wa to one’s self is to be open to the Divine ruse.

Qur’an: ‘You do not guide whom you wish, but Allah guides whomsoever He will.’

94. Wonder is the first passion.

And the Qur’an offers creation as a field of signs.

53.       The alternative to interiority is inferiority; but the alternative to the internal is not the infernal.

We may remain only exoterists, which is inferior to full conformity to the Sunna; however God’s generosity ensures that even exoterists are candidates for salvation.

69.       Ours is the Bezm-i Rindan; our leader is al-Khidr!

The bezm-i rindan is the party of wild rioters and topers, made outrageous by their obedience to the Divine command, and their love of Creator and creation. al-Khidr is the leader of those who appear antinomian, but are in reality the fullest executors of the sacred Law.

39.    No meditation without mediation. No self without the Zulf.

‘Vision cannot attain Him’. We cannot ponder the imponderable. There must be an intermediate degree in which infinite and finite interact. In Islam that is primarily the Holy Qur’an. The zulf is the tresses of the divine Beloved. In Islamic poetry the tresses veil Her face, but cannot be condemned because they are of her. That is the nature of dunya. It veils God but is His creation and array of perfect signs. Without dunya, in which we exist, there can be no human selfhood, since human selfhood is neither part of matter, nor of the divine.

81.    The body exists that we might grow wings.

This is clear enough. A discarnate spirit would not possess faculties for engagement with the world, or a full sense of delineated self. It could not be moral. ‘It is through the physical that we know the spiritual’, according to the Baal Shem Tov.

28. Theodicy? In divinis, cause is not anterior to effect.

From the Divine perspective, the future is known; God is not subject to time. Hence to ask why He causes a particular misfortune is an ignorant anthropomorphism: ‘If I were God, I would not act thus!’ His decree is not analogous to human decrees; hence moral assessment of the divine is not conventionally coherent.

65.   The doctrine of ‘ ada demands the existence of a defensible secular explanation of nature. Such an explanation thus becomes a mercy. Without it, there is only anomie and alienation.

Ada is God’s custom, sometimes known as Sunnat Allah. It refers to the normal sequence of ‘cause and effect’ –  a sword causes a wound. The reality is that God Alone is the efficient cause. Hence miracles are possible; and in a sense everything is equally a miracle, since He is not bound by ‘physical laws’. Still, His custom creates the impression that causality is real, rather as quantum mechanics denies natural causality, but produces a universe in which its appearance is solid. Without the ‘user-interface’ of an apparently real causality, our minds cannot operate. Hence it is a mercy.

62.           The monoculture’s son is Zahid; you are the Rind. But among the Zahids of Islam, where are the Rindan?

Zahid is he who focuses on forms and ignores Love. Rind is intoxicated by the Real, and is hence the object of conventional reprobation. Muslims are called to be the Rindan of this lawbound and dry age. But among religious Muslims, where is traditional rindi behaviour to be found these days?

32.           The medievals, seeing the colour of our clothes, would call us all atheists.

Religious cultures usually favour bright colours, since they are optimistic. Modernity likes grey and black, in architecture, transport, and clothes. It believes that death is the true reality and normality of the world.

Imamology is a theodicy because it assumes the categoric novelty of Islam.

‘You are not an innovator among the Messengers’. Revelation does not indicate that earlier Prophets were followed by infallible imams. Hence on the Shii view Islam is categorically novel. Hence on its view earlier dispensations were categorically inferior. But the Qur’an denies this.

25.           Twelvism: dhawban al-hasha li’ttila’ al-Molla.

‘The melting of the guts due to the Mullah’s scrutinity’, not ‘al-Mawla’s [the Lord’s] scrunity’, as in the Sufi adage. Imamology leads to hierarchy, and hierarchy leads to static exoteric control of believers.

56.            Modernity’s undoing: the person is only a mask. To this there are only two


Latin ‘persona’ = ‘mask’. Personality, in the religious view, masks the human essence. On the secular view, there is no essence; we are only our conscious minds.

2.         Maimonides made the Mishnah out of the Talmud; Sayyid Sabiq made a Talmud out of the Mishnah.

Maimonides codified Jewish law, following the example of the fiqh manuals.  Sayyid Sabiq’s book Fiqh al-Sunna rejects madhhab rulings and plunges the reader into a hevruta-type sea of questions.

48.  Optimism: the false Salafism is pollarding.

False Salafi reformers claim to lop off the branches to return to what is authentic, in the hope (‘optimism’) that like pollarding, this will reinforce the tree and allow a useful crop.

87.           In the restaurant of life, the false Salafi can do no more than eat the menu.

The fiqh and all outward religious discourse indicate, but do not constitute, Islam.

81.           The cross and the décolletage: in hoc signo vinces.

The West combines Christianity with sexual licence: a paradox which is nonetheless very effective in ruling the world.

75            Edom: In terms of the Parousia, there have been too many Years of Grace.

Why wait so long for the Second Coming? What is the point of a 2000 year interregnum? Paul thought Jesus was coming again in his lifetime. But in terms of salvation history, 2000 years is not enough: from the Prophetic perspective, all history is open to grace, BC as well as AD. A million years of human waiting was far too long.

64.  Mind the Bible with your P’s and Q’s.

P is the Priestly text of Genesis, identified by the higher criticism as a key to understanding the composition and purpose of the text. Q is Quelle, identified as the original gospel text which was the source of the synoptic gospels. In other words, this contention is about tahrif.

92 What has the Christian to do with his toes?

He has no relationship with them, since he has no fiqh. For him, body is not integrated into worship.

30. The Abrahamic wandering, for us, but not for Levinas, is to polis, toumm al-Qura. It was Islam, not Judaism, which united Abraham and Odysseus.

Levinas has Abraham as the imam of postmodernism, since he does not get anywhere, unlike Odysseus (the West) who returns home and hence brings closure. Islam has Abraham as culminating in the Mother of Cities. The Ka’ba is resolution; nomadism is eternal exile and indeterminacy.

62.           Ishmael is Bab-i Yar; Edom is Babi Yar. (‘Perhaps you may return.’)

Bab-i Yar – ‘Gate of the Friend’. Islam’s historic role as protector of the Jews. When they threw their lot in with Edom (Christendom; the West), they ended up at Babi Yar, notorious site of an SS massacre in the Ukraine. Have they realized that they have made a bad exchange?

48. Man ankara Ankara faqad ankara al-ankara.

‘Whoever dislikes Ankara has disliked what is most disliked’

27.           Kemalism: the rind-i genç became the röntgenci. (peeping tom?)

rind-i genç (bad Ottoman for young scandalous lover of God); now no longer a contemplator of divine beauty in the shahid, but a low voyeur.

22.           Which of our cities is still ‘alem-penah?

Alem-penah – ‘refuge of the world’, historic title of Istanbul, home to all asylum-seekers.

58.  Secularity: Islam has got the bends. Islam: we are suffering from oxygen deficiency.

Secularity: Islam is misbehaving because it is going up (‘progressing’) too quickly. Islam: the West is taking us up into the upper atmosphere where there is nothing to breathe. Progress or change seen from two perspectives.

61.           Leviticus, not Deuteronomy, makes the Land female, and truly welcoming. (The Eretz is polyandrous, or she is a desert.)

The Land is a bride, to both Ishmael and Isaac. If she picks only one, then she will be devastated by conflict.

41.  One turbe for both the duarum turbarum.

The Prophetic turbe in Madina is for both men and jinn (duarum turbarum = thaqalayn in Ethe’s Latin version of the Burda).

7.             The moon is always at its best. Miss Hayd is not worse than Dr Jekyll.

Hayd = menstruation. Women do not degenerate when under the monthly lunar influence; they simply change from mode to mode.

91.           Akhbaris and Usulis: has the Pharisee claimed al-Farisi, and the Sadducee al-Sadiq?

The 2 sects of 12er Shiism. One is ‘pharisaic’ – the ‘separated ones’, scripture-oriented, often supported by the poor (hence Salman al-Farisi); the other is ‘sadducee’ – more rationalistic, esoteric, genetically elitist, priestly, hence Ja’far al-Sadiq.

39.            Farsi literature : tashyi‘-i isharat tashyi‘-i janazat bud.

‘The Shi’itisation of poetic language was a funeral procession’. Because when Iran was converted to Shiism by the Safavids, great poetry stopped.

72.           Cumhuriyet is possible; cumözgürlük is not.

If hurriyet (the Arabic word for Freedom) is inside a republican idea, there can be some coherence to the idea of civic virtue; if özgürlük (the non-Islamic neo-Turkish word for freedom) is inside it, it will collapse due to the intellectual and moral poverty of ethnic nationalism.

43.           The Ma‘had’s muqarrar: Mere tamrin means moronisation.

Modern lower institutes of Islamic learning employ manuals which are neither traditional texts nor exercises in promoting understanding.

37.           A miss is as good as a smile.

Seeing a beautiful woman brings warmth to the heart.

68.  Gender: the equator is only equitable if we include the sea. (Ave maris stella!)

‘Hail Star of the Sea’ – Jerome happily got this wrong: it should be ‘Maris Stilla’ – Drop of the Sea. If the sea indicates the feminine (fluid, fertile, mobile, mysterious), while the male is land, then the equator only allows a proper balance between the genders if we take both hemispheres into account.

61. Islam is the religion of women because Madina had no place for Oedipus.

Quite right. Freud’s founding myths are absent from the Sira.

21.  Maidens! Mey’den meydanlar medeniyyet’tir!

‘Spiritual dhikr spaces derived from intoxication comprise civilisation’. Without this principle polis is androcentric.

23.   The gender gap is a minor third.

It can’t be bisected harmoniously. The harmonious balance between men and women only exists if in each area of life there is a preponderance in favour of one or the other.

98. New Men without the numen neglect the marital and the martial.

Modern men, lacking the sacred, are poor lovers and warriors.


Liber Asian   ‘The Asian Book’ – the Qur’an – pun on ‘liberation’

Manu Mission  referring to the Laws of Manu, hence Hinduism, pun on ‘manumission’

Yawning Gulf ‘The Arabian Gulf’ – never filled with enough, but fatigued nonetheless.

Saga City  Madina, the city of the Sira. Pun on ‘sagacity’

Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 13, 2012

INFOGRAPHIC: Understanding Bid’a

Special thanks to Br. Shaik Abdul Khafid for the graphic work.

I’ve always found bid’a to be one of those misunderstood topics in Islam- if understood, its usually in a patchwork or piecemeal format, so I figured an infographic was needed to provide the big picture. Infographics is an underutilized idea in Islamic education but its very easy to do and inshallah I plan to make a few more of these infographics.

Bid’a is a discursive concept and even the Sahabas debated on certain bid’a. Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad has said, “Islam is the only religion in the world that has the concept of bid’a,” (and its subcategories of praiseworthy bid’a and blameworthy bid’a), to regulate Islam and keep it healthy and strong, free of superstition and ignorance, while also allowing it to adapt reflexively and dynamically when a real need arises. Its as I’ve said before regarding bid’a: sometimes things must change in order to remain the same.

The source for this project was Sunna Notes by GF Haddad, from which I took select quotations. Its a very lengthy book full of quotations, and also deals with contemporary issues like feminism, Progressives and Quran-only Muslims. If you have read GF Haddad before, you know he is a fantastic writer, but his tone is very scathing (interestingly, in his videos he is extremely soft spoken) so I tried to avoid his harsh tone in this project.

Click the images to enlarge them.

Bid’a Venn diagram

Understanding Bid’a in Islam Flow chart

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 10, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Family and Gender

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

EDIT: This is the last post for Abdal Hakim Murad Week (or 2 weeks). I had a few more posts planned but ran short on time. I will hopefully be revisiting those in a few weeks from now, as well as addressing the 300 or so Contentions that remain unfinished. I hope it was enjoyable, I definitely gained a lot spiritually and intellectually from it.

Depending on who you ask this section is the most important or the second most important section after the Secular ideologies section in the commentary since they are vital to the future of Islam. I have tried to comment to the best of my ability here, but I am afraid that I have misinterpreted and made errors on this sensitive subject matter and I fear in the process have made the same errors Muslim patriarchal cultures have made in the past. Nonetheless, like many other sections in the commentary, I will be reviewing and adding more Contentions to this section.

I have tried to properly contextualize the place of women in Islam with minimal cultural influences and critiquing the portrayal of women and men in Western society. If we simply stick to platitudes rather than actually understanding the complicated inter-relationship between men, women, God and society then we risk endangering our families. Abdal Hakim Murad shows us how to extract lessons from Islamic history and tradition to understand the place of women and men in Islam. In this way he empowers Muslim men and women to take control over the direction of our communities and families so that we do not fall prey to the dictates of a secular liberalist discourse. But we can take as much or as little as we wish from the conversation depending on the intention (niyya) we bring to it.

Women of Islam

31. Hagar, that ‘root out of a dry ground’, the most fertile woman in history.
-AHM may be referring to Hagar who has spiritually mothered millions of Muslims or because she was the mother of Ishmael and Abraham chose her because of her fertility over Sarah

32. Hagar is the matriarch of liberation because, unlike Sarah, she fends for herself.
-She is not protected by Abraham, but fends for herself and beseeches God and in that way is exemplary for Muslim women

58. The Tawaf is about Abraham, the Sa‘y is about Hagar. Only in Islam is a woman the initiator of a form of worship.
-Going in between Mt. Safa and Marwah on Hajj is in commemoration of Hajar, and in other religions, all the acts of worship are prescribed or related to men

54. The Mothers of the Believers: the most believable women in History.
-We believe in them, their words and explanations as an article of our faith but also that nothing needed to be done to make the early Muslims believe in the Mothers of the Believers and they did not question them or put them down because of their being women

24. To whom are the Mothers of Believers entrusted, after his death? Not to John, but to themselves.
-The Mothers of the Believers are not entrusted to John like Mary in Christian tradition was, but they are independent and sanctified by their relationship to the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa alihi wasalam)

72. Misogynist? Hafsa held the future of the Book in her hands; A’isha held the Sunna.
-Hafsa, the daughter of Umar was reading the Qur’an from a text of it, while much of the Sunna was taken from Aisha and the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) legitimized taking one’s religion from ‘this fair lady’ (i.e. Aisha)

62. Women are native to Paradise: is this not the most underestimated disclosure of the Book?
-The houris are from Paradise and for some reason Muslims overlook this both in their spirituality and theology

60. Layla: the chador of God on earth.
-Layla is a metaphor for God that denotes the ‘feminine’, maternal, nurturing and merciful aspects of God that are veiled in the unknown and whose beauty dazzles the lover
-Layla means night which conceals us like a chador veils woman

Women/Islamic metaphysics
-AHM says in one of his essays, ‘Naming phenomena with the gender-specific Arabic of revelations is not convention but a matter of principle, not simple biology but metaphysics’

21. Woman is between khawf and raja.
-The state of a woman is always between fear and hope, or in modern terms, anxiety and joy

81 The verse of women: ‘And they prefer others to themselves, though theirs be the greater need.’ (59:9)
-This verse is to describe the Ansar, but also appropriately describes women in their selflessness, self-sacrifice and compassion

9. Are women ambiguous? It is the muhkamat which are the Mother of the Book.
-The muhkamat and the muhtashabihat, the clear and ambiguous verses are being compared and AHM is saying, that no, women are not ambiguous just as the commands are not ambiguous

5. Religion without eros is the anticipation of eternal death.
-Better explained by ‘98. Celibacy is an anticipation of hell, for there is no eros there.
-There is no will to live in hell and no sexuality’ and ‘11. Unless there is Paradise, eros is a trick.’ and also ‘71. No modesty, no sensuality. No sensuality, no knowledge of God.’
-This has not just to do with sexuality but with emotions and loneliness

54 Heaven/Earth cannot be a same-sex relationship.
-Heaven and Earth respectively reflect beauty and majesty, jamal and jalal, as the feminine represents jamal and the male represents jalal
-The majestic makes the beautiful fertile but if it were otherwise then there be only jamal or only jalal
-This is related to the Contention, ’76. Homosexualism insults women by equating sterility with fertility.’
-AHM says elsewhere that, ‘Homosexualism is against Darwin because it is natures technique of population control and eliminating hormone pollution’

Christian/Muslim women

59. The femininity of the crescent, the masculinity of the cross. (Max Ernst, Men shall know nothing of this.)
-AHM says in one of his essays, ‘One thinks here of Christian bridal mysticism, but in reverse. St Teresa of Avila appears to use sensual images to convey her union with Christ. But again, Christ, as God the Son, is male. In Islamic mysticism, the divine beloved is ‘female.’’

-‘O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah . And whoever does that – then those are the losers.’ (Qur’an, 63:9)
-‘It is not your wealth nor your sons, that will bring you nearer to Us in degree: but only those who believe and work righteousness – these are the ones for whom there is a multiplied Reward for their deeds, while secure they (reside) in the dwellings on high!’ (Qur’an 34:37)

99. Marriage: pay and display? Or the primacy of privacy?
-Is marriage about status anxiety and showing off beauty to others or to give privacy a priority

66. If Eve is not of Adam, marriage is mere cohabitation.
-If Eve is separate from Adam, not being made from the rib of Adam, then her living with him is arbitrary, it is not a coming together and there is no virtue in it over 2 men cohabiting

35. Careless talk costs wives.
-What men say can damage their marriages, and this has a great deal to do with the wisdom behind prohibitions of backbiting

5. Spouses are traditional in order to be saved by gratitude. Spouses are modern in order to be saved by themselves.
-Related to the Contention, ‘49. Each gender was created only that the other might give thanks.’
-The reference to being modern may refer to the high incidence of divorce and how people are prepared for divorce before they go into marriage and have an individualistic attitude where they put their own personal fulfillment and rights before the rights of the family
-AHM describes the origin of many of the family problems in the West, as ‘bowing at the idol of personal freedom we all shout for our rights and chafe under our duties’
-A relevant word is autolatry which is the worship of the self

97. True marriage happens when there is true perception of beauty. True perception of beauty happens when there is true religion.
-Beauty in terms of spiritual beauty, that is, the beauty of ihsan, ‘doing the beautiful acts’

29. Marriage is not to give you what you want, it is to make you what you know you should be.
-Marriage is an assistance in the spiritual journey and as the hadith says, ‘Half the religion’ so it is not supposed to be a comforting only, but also a means by which we are spiritually elevated and uplifted

64. A man who would marry a feminist is not worth obeying.
-He has very little self-respect, that even she would not respect him

82. Maidens! If he obeys his ego, you should be a feminist.
-If a man is following his ego and pride, then she should be a feminist and humble him

60. The wife’s vulnerability is not the husband’s strength.
-Better explained in the Contention, ‘18. His strength is worldly; hers is unworldly; thus in the world he thinks that he prevails.’

23. Love your beloved better to love the Beloved. Love the Beloved and you will better love your beloved.
-Loving your spouse will help you come closer to God, but loving God will help you love your spouse

25. Do not be proud if she fears you, for she may also fear a rat.
-But if she loves you, it will be more than the love of anyone or anything else, in a way that is unique to him

Family life
-AHM refers to the line between private desires and public spaces and that both husband and wife must put the rights of the family over the rights of the individual

22. Her home is her zawiya; but khidma must be only the first of her degrees.
-There are a Number of acts of worship in a zawiya, such as recitation of Qur’an, dhikr and teaching which are more important than service and this applies to women in the home, where their are many better acts of worship for her besides maintenance of the home

2. Women are either refuges or refugees.
-’Wives of the state’ is a phrase AHM uses in one of his essays

53. Putting religion before family is impossible.
-‘kana fi mehnati ahlihi – The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was always helping in his home doing all sorts of menial jobs like brooming

46. Nestmaking is to be a mutual flattery.
-Creating warmth in the home requires love from both men and women, complimenting and praising each other and making the other feel special
-AHM may be referring to praising your spouse’s choice of taste in how the home is decorated and adorned

39. ‘Prayer was instituted to satisfy woman’s desire for asking.’ (British Muslim proverb.)
-For those who won’t understand it, this one is a joke

23. Life is vocation, not vacation.
-Its a calling, not necessarily something you enjoy all the time but something with a vision that is greater than the immediate issues we may face

49. Your career should be like prayer in congregation: if a space opens before you, step into it.
-We take it as a gift from God that arrives unannounced surprising us

1. Engage only in such leisure pursuits as may be offered to God
-As the Qur’an says, only in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest and so AHM may be referring to the ‘leisure’ and relaxation one gets from dhikr

8. Adulthood is the choice of finitude before the Infinite.
-We choose to act on the finite inlight of the Infinite
-Compare this to how AHM says in another Contention that, the Christian idea of Incarnation is the finite containing the Infinite

12. Taklif is the only ennoblement.
-The age of discernment or puberty in Islamic fiqh texts when a child becomes legally responsible for prayer and observance of the Shariah
-In most cultures for most of history teenage years never existed, transition was swiftly from childhood to adulthood and this gave youth honour and dignity, since they were respected as adults earlier on

59. If you would be young in eternity, emulate maturity while you are still young.
-Youth is a time of immense temptation and trials but if a youth is mature then Allah will grant Him a special mercy and shade him/her on the Day when there will be no shade but his

32. The young must learn to be forgiving; the old must relearn zeal.
-Muslim youth resent the apathy and complacency with the status quo

11. Childhood has been electrocuted.
-From television, video games, cell phones, MP3 players and computers childhood is now entrenched in technology and powered by electricity

46. Ask your grandparents of their grandparents, lest you become ‘forgotten and forgetting.’
-Learning about your ancestors as a family tradition will connect you to your past and in the future your children will also remember you and preserve Islam in the family

91. Be the heart of your family by having your family in your heart.
-The family member that is always thinking of their family is at the heart of family warmth

-AHM says that ‘houses become dormitories rather than homes when women work,’ so there is a lack of house warmth so children have little attachment to parents and home

82. ‘If European education is the death of maternity / Then death is its fruit for the human race.’ (Iqbal)
-The death of maternity is the death of the future

58. Women! If children are not your highest priority, then do not have children at all.
-AHM also says that an ‘increased income and work pleasure means an increase in fatigue and disputes, and often women suffer most because of overlapping function’

80. Do not juggle with babies.
-Women often say that they have to ‘juggle’ their careers and home life but this is insulting to the immense significance and meaning of bringing a child into the world

84. Only the very bad or the very good are polygamists.
-Some of the Prophets practiced polygamy and dealt justly with each wife but also there is an element of greed in the pre-Islamic practice of ‘collecting’ wives, so Islam limited it to 4, and the Qur’an mentions your families are a test for you

47. He shows the virtue of every virtuous marriage.
-The Prophets many marriage validated many different types of marriages and demonatrated how to deal with a whole gamet of marital issues and scenarios: with an older wife, with a younger wife, with spousal jealousy and with domestic arguments
-Compare this to Jesus’ bachelorhood and how Christians then came to only see virtue in celibacy

65. Marry them both – but only if you wish God to judge you for your fairness.
-All our decisions will be evaluated and judged by Allah and polygamy is no light decision and a man should understand God will judge him based on how hetreats his wives and their children and relatives
-In that sense it is a gamble unless one is exceptionally just and loving and righteous, and even then the temperments of the women and their idiosyncrasies must be accounted for

53. We prefer bigamy to duplicity.
-Islam doesn’t leave the problem of multiple spouses neglected but makes an allowance for the possibility and says that multiple wives is better than deception or having children out of wedlock, since in polygamy there is the weight of responsibility

49. An unfortunate pir of Lahore
Had four different mothers-in-law.
They talked in rotation
In English and Asian
Until he ran out of the door.

27. Women are not difficult; but they are difficult to understand.
-Women are not stubborn, but they require careful study to understand, where ‘no’ means ‘know’ or a host of other double meanings
-Some people actually note down these things in a chart that they use to keep track of her or his personal idiosyncrasies and moods, for example, if she is sad take her for ice-cream or give her a massage. See here for an example

28. Men are not easy; but they are easy to understand.
-Men are clear in what they say but they can be very stubborn

55. Veils without turbans? Coronets without crowns?
-There is an apparent disconnect between the genders in regards to dress; if she is veiling herself as if prized and valued as royalty while the men are dressed as average people attending to a queen so AHM is suggesting men need to be at the same level as women and revive the turban

10. The wine is masculine, the milk is feminine.
-AHM makes this dichotomy elsewhere but most likely here he is referring to rivers of milk and wine in Jannah or he may be referring to milk as baraka or the nourishing qualities of women (i.e. breastmilk) and wine may refer to marifa or knowledge of God as in Sufi poems,
-otherwise wine may refer to the gradualism in its prohibition, that men require time in the spiritual journey while it is natural to women as natural as breast milk is

55. Islam is horizontally patriarchal and vertically matriarchal.
-culturally patriarchal but spiritually matriarchal since women are respected as paradisal beings under whose feet and also that women in the form of houris are already in paradise

22. Man is ‘ibara; woman is ishara.
-Man is a statement; woman is a sign and by this AHM may be referring to men being verbal and straight-forward while women convey themselves through hints and non-verbal communication


-AHM mentions that dressing as a Muslim doesn’t mean you dress up as a Nejdi bedouin or a Hyderabadi peasant since Muslims in the past dressed beautifully yet Islamically

76. Do not use your beard to open people’s ears.
-On Qiyama the soul will be audience to the body, ‘That Day, We will seal over their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn.’ (Qur’an)

86. Pogonophilia without fitraphilia is a Jahilia.
-Love of beards without love of fitra is ignorance meaning there is nothing sacred about the beard without recalling Allah

85. Many wear the turban to prevent Allah from reading their minds.
-Wearing the turban to hide from Allah behind one’s pride and ego

75. He has not believed who has not felt the weight of the turban.
-To feel the weight of Islam upon one’s head and carry it willingly is a manifestation of one’s belief and pride in it

96. Sacred dress undresses the spirit.
-That is, it frees the spirit from the worldliness that saturates clothing and fashion trends

15. Choose your tie for its utility in cleaning your spectacles.
-We chose our clothing for its utility and not in deluding us, or using us
-AHM may also be referring to a belief among Muslims that the tie is a Christan symbol, so if we change our niyyah (intention) to use the tie to clean one’s eyeglasses then that makes one safe from the accusation of imitating the Christians, though the tie is not a Christian piece of clothing but worn by many and many religious scholars don’t see it as imitating the disbelievers but as a cultural item


-’Women’s modesty generally increases with their beauty.’ (Nietzsche)

46. The hijab: ‘a display of modesty’!
-The paradox of showing off modesty, which defeats the purpose of the hijab when we speak about it this way since modesty and humility go together

17. Hijab is not self-respect: it is Self-respect.
-It is not about her pride but it is about her respecting the tendencies of the nafs and controlling and nurturing them

8. In the fight against the Monoculture, the main sign is the hijab, and the main act is the Prayer.
-It may not be enough nor the best way to fight the monoculture so we could strengthen it with the turban and zuhd

35 Ikhlas: She should be mutahajjiba, not muhajjaba, and her opposite mubarraja,not mutabarrija.
-mutahajjiba means she took it upon herself, to cover herself up, muhajjaba is a woman that wears hijab or something that is covered up, mubarraja means exposed, and mutabarrija is a showy seductive woman.
-It is her choice to cover up, and she should not be covered up, that is she is not an object but a subject and covering herself up is not limited to her body but also to her actions
-The opposite of a woman who dons hijab from her own choice is someone who is exposed while the opposite of a woman who is treated like an object and covered up (as if by someone else) is a showy seductive woman who is also treated as an object by society

59. Female modesty is no excuse for sloth.
-Wearing the hijab doesn’t mean one has license to be lazy, or forget about how one looks, how clean her clothing is or how it smells or overall the manner with which she presents oneself, there still must be dignity and honour in it

66. Veiling the unavailable: noli me tangere.
-Noli me tangere are the words said to be uttered by Jesus to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection meaning ‘don’t touch, cling or hold onto me’
-The veil is a message to Christians and people of other faiths that she is a commited Muslim and to other men that she is not as ‘easy’ as the modernized, sexually ‘liberated’ woman
-This may have more to do with Christian ideas of clinging to Christ’s memory as a God though he has gone

71. The niqab exists to indicate the strength of the theophany.
-Like most gender-related topics the greater and more profound interpretation is that of the divine and spirituality, since God is veiled and this is related to the Contention, ‘60. Layla: the chador of God on earth.’
-Spiritual openings or theophanies are concealed much like the niqab is to conceal and this has to do with their sacred transformative power

43. Islam, by veiling her, reveals her; Edom, by unveiling her, erases her face.
-The veil reveals the honour of women in society, that is beyond beauty, while in Christianity by showing her makes her forgettable and reduces her to an item of beauty
-We often forget that the Kaaba is veiled as well and remains a mystery to us, and is only truly seen by the knowers of God, while the Vatican is on display for everybody as little more than materialism and decadence

97. Before your veil avails prevail.
-AHM may be suggesting that before the repulsive power of the veil alienates non-Muslims, she should make her attempt at daw’a or accomplish whatever she may intend

38. Miss Aisha Featherstone-Pugh
Has problems performing wudu.
When splashing with water,
I’m sure that she oughter,
Take off her veil and her gloves too.

8. The veil covers the man’s eyes, not the woman’s.
-She is not to be a blind follower but he is to be blinded
-Related to the Contention, ‘36. Censor the senses, but be not censorious of the sensory.’

64. Cranial nudity. Adverte oculos! The hijab is indeed an amulet, which wards off the evil eye.
-Adverte oculos means avert your eyes from the open nakedness of the head
-AHM is making hijab a taw’eez, not containing a literal or physical power but a spiritual metaphysical power

99. Hijab is to force him to wear bifocals.
-He sees not just what is immediate and close-up but also what is distant, so AHM may be suggesting that we see the akhira as well as the dunya in male interaction with the female gender


65. Stay home during the peek season.
-There are hadith that speak of the virtues of sticking to one’s home as the best place for one to be after the mosque so that one may not be tempted to look around

22. Marriage should be the retrieval of the first glance.
-We are permitted no more than the first glance, and it is a common human experience that the person of the opposite gender is the most beautiful in the first glance
-Abdal Hakim Murad is suggesting that love at first sight is really about the power of the first glance and the comprehension of the gaze, the beauty and mystery of the face
-Related to the Contention, ‘21. Woman is in the first glance, not the second.’

30. We have become too weak even to close our eyes.
-The image is suggestive of experiments in mind-control where the eye-lids are forcibly held open and made to watch traumatizing videos and images at length
-Possibly related to the Contention that speaks, ‘71. Do not trust those who readily close their eyes.’ where we direct our gaze in the wrong areas, we ignore modernity and the problems of the Muslim community but do not lower our gaze around the opposite gender

37. It is impossible to love a woman without loving womankind.
-It is difficult to ignore the sign of God, of beauty, birth and compassion, in the creation of woman

38. Sexual fidelity is not only to one’s spouse.
-It is to God since ultimately we answer to him

31. Only the saint should take women at face value.
-Again the intersection of sexuality and spirituality, where spirituality is really the true story, that only the awliya have firasa to see

6. The materialist argument against women: public performance equals fulfilment.
-She is made an object and must show society that she is fulfilling her personal rights and potential in the way that liberalism recognizes, the displaying of her beauty

49. Maidens! Choose him that uses his ears more than his eyes.
-Listening skills are crucial to proper communication, but a man who uses his eyes more will have his gaze wonder, while the ‘gaze’ of his ears is always on her

84 ‘Sexual display is pure conformism.’ (Germaine Greer.)
-There is nothing else which conforms more to the desires of men than sexual display

55. She that uses her body to exploit is a suicide bomber.
-It is as much an exploitation of her body as a suicide bomber exploits his/her own body
-Its an implosion and explosion of her ego and pride in the same way a suicide bombers actions is an explosion of his/her ego and anger


89. Futuwwa: the knight must be freed from the daze.
-The daze may refer to men having difficulty in lowering the gaze

69. There is no secular masculinity.
-Masculinity disconnected with religion has no chivalry and the honouring of women, and it is the ‘sexual revolution’ which has made men capitalize on the sexual freedom of women, eliminating motivation for earning the respect of women
-This is related to the next Contention, ‘15. Tyler Durden: without functional women, no functional men.’

7. She is the gift to him that precedes the Fall.
-Woman is a gift God gave to Adam before he and her sinned, and in that sense she is a reminder of Jannah


92. Foucault: the West’s frustration is that its discourse on sex does not lead to a conclusion.
-Sexuality will always be changing in the West, unlike traditional cultures that established traditions such as marriage to mothers or polygamy, the Wests Sexuality will always be changing
-Related to the Contention, ‘The American for erotic is erratic.’

49. Each gender was created only that the other might give thanks.
-The other gender is there for us to make shukr and to assist us in our worship

98. Men are from Ash‘ar, women are from Maturid.
-The Ashari belief that God creates the individual’s power (qudra), will, and the actual act, while the Maturidis view that God was the creator of man’s acts, although man possessed his own capacity and will to act”
-AHM is making a humorous jab at the nature of men and women, that men feel in control while women don’t, or perhaps that women see God more clearly than men do, or that

61. How to rebridge the sexes? To reach the point of reconciliation? Only the logos can achieve this, and a logos that is ungendered.
-Only an ungendered God, can bring men and women together
-Related to the Contention, ‘71. ‘Gender is not destiny.’ (Simone de Beauvoir) ‘God is destiny.’ (Hadith)’

2. Feminism has one virtue: it shows that the West is still capable of certainty.
-Feminism is the one aspect of the West that is certain though notions of sexuality continue to change

13. Feminism? First empower femininity.
-Liberalism, the monoculture and secularism are unsure as to what it means to be a woman and the value of the feminine, except for what Christianity taught about the inherent sinful nature of woman

78. Not every male superiority is female inferiority.
-Sometimes women allow men to feel they are dominant out of compassion which it self is a strength
-Related to the next Contention

31. Male and female cannot be equal, for they are mutually superior.
-Their strengths are different and in those respects are better than each other

29. Only in the din al-fitra are women adequately acknowledged.
-In the religion that recognizes that people are born with a primordial disposition to believe in God does it give women the same recognition as men in their spiritual, and therefore total, potential

48. Maidens! Where is the hierarchy when the turab produces the tara’ib, which produce the atrab?
-What is the hierarchy in the dust producing the backbone of a person from which actions which produces houris result

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 9, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Christianity


99 Jesus was humanly perfect; Christ was inhumanly so.
-How can The Christian relate to a divine Christ but they can relate to the Prophets and their very human encounter with the divine

55 Christ is the Hodegetria.
-The iconic artpiece of Mary holding Jesus as a baby and pointing to him alayhi salam, which is basically what the Quranic verse is, ‘So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child? [Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive. And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.”‘ (Qur’an, 19:29-33)

12. Jesus said ‘Allah’, not ‘Deus.’ (‘Say: Allah! and leave them plunging in their confusion.’)
-A kernel of Quranic wisdom to ponder: could it be this verse was revealed to show how Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Latin- was a brown-skinned Semite, not a Roman god, deus being used for many separate deities.

101. The Incarnation is God’s alienation from humanity.
-Much of 18th century “deism” was a reaction against the vulnerability which Hume imagined to inhere in the Christian idea of a “personal” God. A God who can be so like us as to be incarnated, must be answerable to our human charges that he has authored a world full of suffering. The “deist” God, is certainly not “human” in this sense, thanks to a radical idea of divine transcendence (what Muslims call tanzih), yet where his attributes have names analogous to the virtues we recognize among humans, he can still be the object of prayer, like the God of Ashar’ism.
-’They say: “Why is not an angel sent down to him?” If we did send down an angel, the matter would be settled at once, and no respite would be granted them.’ (Qur’an)

76. The God of Jesus was not the Jesus-God.
-Jesus when on Earth did not worship himself

53. Did Paul’s Jesus have hormones? Ecce homo …
-Behold the man, that suggests the humanness of Jesus who would have had to undergo hormonal changes in puberty, since in Islam Jesus lived to about 30 years old


28. If Christendom had heeded the Gospels, it would now not exist.
-The was not supposed to be a Christendom but it was connected to the Jewish community and not intended for Gentiles, but formalizing it and opening it up to non-Gentiles makes for leadership and positions of power

52. The Gospels are like Bilal: however hard you torture them, they will only say: ‘One! One!’
-AHM speaks elsewhere in the Contentions about torturing a religious text, and in this case he is saying that the Gospels will still preach monotheism like Bilal being tortured to recant tawhid and to worship the pagan gods, so there is a rejectionism of paganism that cannot be denied


34. Clerisy? Original Sin is to push Eve away.
-In Islam Adam and Eve share the penalty of the original sin but the patriarchy of the medieval clerics treated females as inherently evil, an attitude that was prevalent among the ancient civilisations that Muslim scholars also picked up

34. The real Original Sin was the Christian myth of the Fall.
-The interpretation of the Original sin was the original sin of Christianity, which lead to all the other deviated ideas about Christ, the economy of salvation and the Trinity

43. Our God is too generous to require an ‘economy of salvation’.
-Related to the next Contention

60. There is no unconditional love in an economy of salvation.
-AHM says in one of his talks, ‘If God has prescribed mercy on himself than that has historical reprecussions on how we look at the world; a God who lacks compassion is one who stuffs all of salvation into a single moment, so to say that only in the last 2000 years, makes nonsense of the Divine love, thats arbitrary dictate
-AHM says in one of his talks, ‘We are “indebted” to God and so there has to be a infinite sacrificial victim; Allah doesn’t require debt being repayed (legalism) or have someone else pays for him or Allah gives it away for free (sadaqa) which is Allah’s nature and this is most morally sound, Allah is the fountainhead of morality and this is the beauty of true monotheism, Allah is the author of the system of salvation and certainly has it in His power to forgive’

31. Incarnation: the finite can contain the Infinite.
-This is the reverse of the religious teachings of monotheism and goes against the metaphysics of the sacred, that the Infinite cannot be contained and that is precisely why it is Infinite and to be honoured

36. The ‘universal’ religion is not merely the religion that claims to be for all; it is the religion that claims that God has always been for all. There can be no Muslim ‘scandal of particularity’.
-God is not temporarily been for one but always been for one, and in this respect Islam has always been for all since Allah has revealed Himself to every community and nation

62. The Vicarious Atonement proves that torture can be a good thing.
-That Christs death and torture was ‘legal’ in God’s justice to eliminate the penalty of sin, and this is an implicit approval of torture
-This has parallels to the death of Osama bin Laden, another Semite whose death was ‘legal’ and justifies and makes Americans and other overlook the sins of the America

38. Annunciation vs. enunciation: the word is best made word.
-In Christianity the Word was made flesh in the form of Christ and he is the word of God, while in Islam the equivalent is the Qur’an
-This is a distinction many have made that the Qur’an is to Islam what Christ is to Christianity, while the Hadith is to Islam what the Bible is to Christianity
-AHM is saying it would have been better for the word to remain the word in Christian theology with the original Gospel (Injeel)

48. Islam: the real Jesus was unitarian. Christianity: the real Moses was trinitarian.
-AHM says in one of his essays, ‘The Trinitarian model, an obstacle to worship, should be reinterpreted to signify the three modes by which a non-Triune God operates. ‘We need no mediator’, Geoffrey Lampe went on to say: God is, by definition, enough; there is nothing in the ‘Son’ that is not also fully present and powerful in the ‘Father’.’

87. The Liberal Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Zeitgeist.
-The Zeitgeist is the spirit of the age, and is always changing with the times, so that the Spirit is the prevailing norms snd practices at the time, now its liberalism, at one time it was Roman rule, at another the Crusades and at another the Inquisition

54. The Trinity: three alter egos.
-If they are the same then there is no difference but if they are different then their must be a substantial difference in who they are, their peronalities and manifestations; this is a schizophrenic god
-AHM describes the Trinity, ‘To have love the 3 need some distinctiveness, center of consciousness, and interact with each other; that is imputing ‘plurality’ with the Divine Nature, we have 99 Names but they aren’t centers of consciousness that love each other, they are Name. And Allah’s center is Wahid.
-AHM also says in one of his talks, ‘It’s very hard to have a relationship with this kind of triangular, algebraic problem; three that are also one, what kind of person is that…if its 3 consciousnesses in one consciousnesses and theological polemic over how you define that?’

74. Arius says: Follow the muhkamat!
already firmly established things
-Arius disagreed on the Trinity at the First council of Nicea, stating that the son of God is secondary to the Father, and that the Son of God came from nothing. His religious attitude was to side with the firmly established things.

-Edom was a nation that rivalled the ancient Israel, were related to Jacob and his descendants, but were destroyed and never came back; some call Edom as Romans or Jews that were converted to Judaism
-AHM refers to Edom in many places, and it seems from other Contentions Edom seems to refer to modern Christians

85. Edom has no notion of wafat.
-They have no conceived of or understood what death means, either in the religious sense of being disconnected from the religious tradition as atheism has grown

29. Two names unpronounceable in Edom: Hagar and Muhammad.
-It is too hard for Christians to mention Hagar and Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam)

93. Edom’s absurd theanthropism has desacralised the world.
-To assume that Christ is divine has stripped nature of its sacred power, while the Qur’an has sacralized nature as a means to coming closer to God

21. Edom: God can fully save the world only in one way.
-The idea that God has no choice but to save the world only through the sacrifice of Christ

68. Edom: Rabbinism is nothing but a phantom pregnancy.
-Christian attitude towards the rabbinical tradition is that it bears all the signs of fertility but it is barren, or more literally, the rabbinical tradition is awaiting and in preparation of the birth of the Messiah even though they missed him already

51. Edom, then Ishmael: the superfetation of Juda-yi Ism.
-The Jews separated from the Christian world and now they are separating themselves from the Muslim world

74. The paradox of Edom: the felix culpa of Judas.
-It was the betrayal of Judas that redeemed the world of sin, and if Christ’s death is the basis of Christianity then it is a paradox that Judas is responsible and should be thanked

Imperial Christianity

63. The Christ of the Apocalypse: No More Mr Nice Guy.
-AHM describes this second reappearance in graphic terms, ‘Jesus with his eyes of fire, feet of brass and rod of iron smiting this unbelievers, the Ishmaelites’
-violent image of his reappearance in Book of Genesis
-The Christ of the End Times is essentially a Rambo on a killingspree as described by Christian scriptures, which goes against theteaching of Christ inthe chuech

36. Third World Christianity: worship a white man, and be saved from your past!
-The convenient marriage of colonialist interests and Christian evangelism
-Most scientists and even a few hadith indicate that Jesus is not white-skinned but dark-skinned

37. Jesus did not oppose Rome, and so Rome chose him for its god.
-Jesus tolerated and lived peacefully under Roman rule and perhaps AHM is saying had he rebelled and fought against Roman rule they would not have accepted him
-AHM is suggesting the Meccan example of living peacefully under persecution for Muslims, though not to make us gods but as a dawa of Islam

Jews and Christians

51. The Christian Messiah is false because he brings calamity to the Jews. The Muslim Messiah is true because he brings their liberation.
-The blame of Christ’s death on the Jews has brought them suffering and persecution for centuries, while the return of Jesus in Islam will bring the liberation and ease for the Jews who recognize him as who he truly is

68. Christianity is responsible for the suffering of the Jews, because it was Christianity that veiled Jesus from them.
-Jews continued to reject Christ because of Christianity’s claiming that he was the son of God which is against Judaic teachings
-Church’s historic halitosis as shouted towards jews and we are breathing something of the same fetted atmosphere

48. Christology: where is his Torah-observance?
-AHM questions how exemplary the portrayal of Jesus in Christianity is to Judaism in one of his essays, ‘Certainly, my own migration towards Islam was facilitated, if not entirely supplied, by those questers for the historical Jesus who doubt that he would have accepted the abstruse metaphysical conundrums of the Athanasian Creed. How would the charismatic wandering rabbi of Galilee have voted, had he found himself at the Council of Chalcedon?’

12. Crucifiction?
Juda-yi Ism exonerates Rome.
Ishmael exonerates the Jews.
Edom: Heaven cannot exonerate.
-The Jews did not blame the Romans for acting on their laws in attempting to murder Christ, while the Muslims as the Ishmaelites tried to guide the Jews and do not blame them for what happened to Christ and the trials they faced in the past where some went astray, and lastly Christianity says that God has no power or compassion to pardon the sins of mankind, except through the sacrificial lamb of Christ

Islam and Christianity Compared
-AHM has said elsewhere, ‘Islam is, in a sense, the formalizing of Ebionite Christianity.’
-AHM mentions elsewhere about the Muslim past, ‘No Christian state allowed the presence of a mosque; but that the Ottoman Empire was filled with churches”

45. Your bumper sticker is a fish eating a fish; for your Shari‘a fate in the West is to eat fish.
-The Jesus fish is a sign for Muslims to only eat seafood since the meat of Westerners is not slaughtered according to Christian or Jewish meat, or even if it is you csnnever be certain and should be careful, an opinion that AHM adheres to and makes explicit in one of his talks

1. Augustine: man’s deformity. Ishmael: his deiformity. (Defy, don’t deify.)
-Augustine is known for developing the concept of original sin, and thereby imputing upon man a deformity he cannot free himself from, nor one that man committed. Jesus as a man can only be raised to the stature of God, when man is given an ontological defect. The Ishmaelite Islam looks for the positive, pushes man to take upon godliness, that is, takhalaq bi akhlaqillah, to take on the character and moral traits of God

49. The Crucifixion and the Conquest of Mecca: which is higher: to forgive from a position of powerlessness, or of power?
-The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) forgave the mushrikeen of Mecca when he entered it as a conqueror while Christ in Christianity forgave while in a position of powerlessness on the Cross, though the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) did so as well while in Ta’if
-In weakness on is innecessity while in power one has the ability to exact revenge andthis requires more self control and compassion

39. Christianity was providential as preparatio evangelica.
-Paganism carried some truths that helped pave way for the success of the Gospel, but in reality, Christianity prepared the world for Islam.

69. A Messiah is monochrome, but a book is a prism. (‘I am sent to all mankind.’)
-The Word of God made flesh (Christ) compared to the Word made word (Qur’an), one provides a black and white vision of the world for its followers while the other sees the various shades of light

70 Unlike the Christians we see Heaven even when we look down. (‘He created heavens and earth bi’l-Haqq.’)
-The Qur’anic verse is that, ‘He created Heaven and Earth in Truth’
-We reflect on Paradise and the Afterlife when we look at the Earth and contemplate on Allah

39. Christianity was providential as preparatio evangelica.
-Paganism carried some truths that helped pave way for the success of the Gospel, but in reality, Christianity prepared the world for Islam.

97. The Church is the bride of Christ’. But he was too generous to be a monogamist.
-Meaning Jesus is also part of Islamic tradition, and is said to have made a prayer to belong to the Umma of sayyidina Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam)
-Upon his return he will marry and live a normal life

44. Have Christianity and Islam exchanged views of each other?
-A good example of this is the word ‘infidel’ which is a Christian word that used to refer to Muslims

40. The Paraclete was indeed the Comforter. We were in a state of ascetical panic about ourselves.
-the Paraclete is identified by Muslims to be Sayyidina Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam, and the comfort he brought was that he lightned the asceticism of the previous Christian communities of monks and made monasticism moot, though drawing comparisons to it with monasticism fasting and jihad, and yet making those actions worth a great deal of reward
-The panic suggests the previous communities were in a panic as to their inadequacies before God
-AHM is probably thinking of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari who had ascetic tendencies and prayed even before the advent of Islam

63. Why did it take so long for Christendom to turn its view of nature into reality?
-There is little reference to nature in Christian scripture though some do speak of the Book of Nature as a revelation, while the Qur’an refers repeatedly to Nature and the signs around one

45. Judaism: inscription.
Christianity: incarnation.
Islam: inlibration.
-The Jewish community historically have been the literati and learned community especially since the revelation of the Torah and Commandments given to Moses, the Christian community is about the incarnation of God as Christ while the Muslim community has been about incarnation of the Word of God in book

34. Christianity chooses the wine, Islam chooses the milk.
-In Catholic Christianity wine is said to transubstantiate into the blood of Christ as it is drank which is the practice of theophagy, or god-eating and in Islam the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) chose milk on the Isra wa’l Miraj Night journey over wine and Jibreel said, had he chosen wine, the Muslims would have gone astray

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 8, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Judaism

This section is quite difficult but I have tried my best here. I will most definitely have to review it and add more to this. And for the Jewish people that may come across this, this isn’t anti-semitic or politicized, its merely a discussion on the relationship between Islam and Judaism, hopefully it will be beneficial and lead to greater peace and understanding.


-Abdal Hakim Murad says in one of his papers, ‘What matters about Islam is that it did not produce the modern world. If modernity ends in a technologically-induced holocaust, then survivors will probably hail the religion’s wisdom in not authoring something similar. If, however, it survives, and continues to produce a global monoculture where the past is forgotten, and where international laws and customs are increasingly restrictive of cultural difference, then Islam is likely to remain the world’s great heresy. In that case, Kepnes’ description of Islam’s historic status as the rejected Ishmaelite, ha-ger, may not prove so unhelpful as he suggests. What if Ishmael actually wishes to be rejected, since the one who is doing the rejecting has ended up creating a world without God? Grounded in our stubbornly immobile liturgy and doctrine, we Ishmaelites should serve the invaluable, though deeply resented, function of a culture which would like to be an Other, even if that is no longer quite possible.’

42. Juda-yi Ism: the absolutizing of a people.
Edom: the absolutizing of a person.
Islam: the absolutizing of God.
-Judaism made the Jewish people sacred above all else, and Christianity made Christ sacred above all else but Islam looked past these and made God sacred above all else

71. Judaism: the deferral of decisiveness. (George Steiner)
-AHM may be commenting on how Judaism never really decided definitively on the Prophethood of Jesus and Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) or he may be referring to the fact that now the Jewish people are decisive about Israel, but never were that decisive in the past

15. Judaism was not displaced by Christianity or Islam so much as it was displaced by Zionism.
-Before Zionism one could argue that Christianity/Islam displaced Judaism but they didn’t alter Judaism internally as much as Zionism has

33. ‘Judaism is dead; but we are going to give it a magnificent funeral’. (Rabbi Zunz, fount of liberal Judaism.) Is Islam the reverse? And if so, what are the grounds for dialogue?
-‘Let’s do the Janaza prayer over the nation of Islam’ Muhammad al-Zahawiri, the shaykh of Al-Azhar grandfather of Ayman al-Zahawiri, response at the inability to elect a caliph in 1924 when the Ottoman Caliphate collapsed
-AHM has translated Imam Ghazali’s “Book of Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife” so this reference probably has significance in relation to that book. Are we like the martyrs who as the Qur’an says are not dead but living, though the Caliphate is dead? Is what goes on now post-Khilafat reminiscent of the life from beyond the grave, a ziyarat, where the life of the awliya or the prophets are still present?
-Is Islam a magnificent death but a forgotten funeral in the form of the occupation of Palestine and the demolition of Prophetic historical sites? Or is Islam alive and always having a magnificent birth?
-AHM is using grounds as a pun in relation to death, and the answer may be clear, that we cannot have a dialogue, except in grieving together with the Jewish community for the death and destruction

34. Judaism and Islam have resisted Christianity through eros and thanatos. Hence the magnitude of their victory.
-Islam and Judaism have preserve their religious tradition for generations through living their religions and dying for their religions, whereas Christianity

67. Only the Caliph can help them keep the Sabbath.
-Islam preserves the dignity of the Jewish and Christian communities in allowing them to preserve their practices, and though it may appear to be thecase in Israel that they should be able to worship freely, but a secular society can make this difficult and put pressure on religious communities.
-Muslim observances are similar to that of Jews and therefore Muslim observance of Islamic tradition would make Jewish observances easier (burqa/frumka, halal/kosher, etc)

97. Halakhah without halaqah is a vulnerable linearity.
-Jewish law with Islamic circles nearby, as in the time of Maimonides was beneficial to the development and strengthening of Judaism

48. The Sephardi and the Mizrahi mean something. But what does the Ashkenazy mean?
-The Ashkenazy is a European Jew, whereas the Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews are those that historically lived under Muslim rule
-What AHM is suggesting is that the attitude of the Sephardi and Mizrahi are more friendly to Muslims and have had their religious tradition preserved since Muslims respected their religious tradition, but the Ashkenazy having undergone a massive history of pogroms and persecution and then playing a leading role in Europe’s intellectual scene in the 19th-20th century its unclear what attitudes they bring: is it fear and paranoia or an atheism?

72. Juda-yi Ism : Ishmael is the rodef . Ishmael: Juda-yi Ism is the radif .
-Rodef: a Hebrew halakha term relating to self-defense or protecting against endangering, though its become controversial in Israel since its been interpreted differently and radif: something that is similar to something else
-Juda-yi Ism is AHM’s name for the Jewish community today, playing off the Farsi phrase juda-yi which means separation, perhaps in reference to how separate they are from the Judaism of the past or from the fact
-So Israel will say that it has a right to defend itself against the Muslim world while the Muslim world will counter back that this Jewish community is simply similar to the Jews of the past, they are not authentically Jews perhaps in relation to the Khazar Jews
-Juan Cole has written that the Palestinians are the descendants of the original Jews that lived in the Holy Land in the past, that they converted to Islam or Christianity and most of the Jews in Israel now are converts


27. Zionism: God’s sword unsheathed against Jerusalem.
-In the way the Jews were punished in ancient times by being conquered and subjugated, the Muslims are facing a similar situation and punishment from God in the occupation of the Holy Land

66. Zion is the abuse of Maimonidean Mu‘tazilism.
-AHM may be referring to the Three Oaths found in the Talmud pertaining to the nation of Israel and the relation of the Jews to the rest of the world, that Zionists and anti-Zionists reinterpret in light of the fact the state of Israel today is seemingly in violation of these ancient Jewish oaths

54. Zionism has the smell of Islamism: it fears non-belonging, and takes its fear out on others.
-Islamists fear Islam will never have a place in society, and rather than living Islam, they lash out

26. If Zionism is not a xenotransplant, why are there so many antibodies?
-Zionism is a foreign manifestation of nationalism which though has some resonance with the Promised Land, is not 100% a Jewish idea but has secular European roots
-When there is a transplant of living cells some of the cells will react adversely and may attack the other cells as an infection

29. Halakhah: Israel is the handmaiden of Judaism. Herzl: Judaism is the handmaiden of Israel.
-The difference between Jewish Law where Israel was helpful and subordinate to the spiritual life Judaism taught, but Herzl made Judaism subservient to Israel

8. The Arabs deceived the Turks. Lawrence deceived the Arabs. The British deceived Lawrence. Herzl deceived the British. God deceived Herzl.
-In a nutshell Israel and the modern Middle East are an example of how people think they are incontrol but ultimately God is in control
-The hadith, ‘War is deception’ has relevance in the interpretation that war is all about God deceiving men, as many battles in the Prophetic history are full of surprises and only God knew the outcomes

79. Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is not Israel.
-A play of the Mosaic commandment to worship of the One true God alone

1. We are against Israel to the extent that she endangers Jewish safety.
-Israel is not as much a threat to Muslims as it is the Jewish people, but what occurs in Israel will try the patience of Muslims and should Israel collapse there will be animosity and hatred for centuries to come though historically Muslims were protectors of Jews
-Israel was founded as a safe homeland for Jews and yet, the life of a Jew in Israel is unsafe and being surrounded by Muslims who it continually provokes and angers is a far worse situation for Judaism than living as a diaspora in Europe

83. Israel will forever be the country of the future.
-Judith Butler among others has talked about Zionism was only about the establishment of Israel, and yet it is alive today still which suggests a hiccup that Israel willremain a dream even when a Jew will live their whole life there, they will wonder what could have been or what God had promised them had their ancestors honoured His covenant
-In a sad way Palestinians will always make the dream of the Jews a nightmare, at worst through violent outbursts of frustration and at best as guilt or something unsettling in their conscience

28 The principal task of the Jewish people today is to befriend Islam.
-When it comes to surviving in the Middle East other faith communities have been sheltered by Muslims and have survived up until this day

53. ‘I never think back. Since I cannot change the past, why should I deal with it?’ (Shimon Perez.)
-Israeli politicians have no accountability, have plenty of ego and pride, but also this quote may be indicative of the breaking off of Israel from its history, even though its foundation in the land of Palestine has to do with this history

11. Schneerson: Israel is a goyische Staat.
-Israel is not a Jewish state

12. Israel is ‘Nebuchadnezzar, My servant’
-Israel is to the Muslim world today, what Nebuchadnezzar was to the disobedient Israelites of old, who destroyed their civilisation and put them into bondage

61. ‘Deus hoc vult.’ (Pope Benedict XV, speaking of Zionism.)
-’God wills it’ which was the rallying cry of the First Crusade

26. The Semitic is both emic and etic.
-Emic refers to the subjective/insider account of a culture, while the etic refers to the objective/outsider account of a culture.
-AHM is playing with words here to refer to the Semite as both etic and emic, whe the Arab Semite is the etic account observed from a distance supposedly objectively by an outsider but rarely from the inside, while the Jewish Semite is the emic account where Jewish experience is narrated to us from the inside only, rarely from that of the outsider who may point out the injustices in Israel/Palestine

76. Only those that reject the life to come can build the False Temple.
-Only the Jews who will no longer wait for the Messiah will attempt to build a temple in Jerusalem

84. God is only just if Ishmael and Isaac are equal.
-AHM says elsewhere, ‘The second sacrifice is one of the fertile enigmas of the book of Genesis . Hagar and Ishmael are guiltless, yet they are punished by an exile. In this they resemble their father more than Isaac does. (Abraham’s zuhd is to sacrifice his sons)’

53. Either Abraham is an adulterer, or he is the father of us all.
-If the Jews claim Hajar was not a legitimate wife it is an accusation on Abraham of sinfulness; or Abraham is the spiritual father of all of us

10. The Great Symmetry: Yad Vashem / Ghazzat Hashem.
-There is symmetry in the fact the Holocaust Museum is in Jerusalem and the tomb of Hashim, the great-grandfather of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is in Gaza, in that it indicates that the two communities meet even in the death of their spiritual and biological ancestors and not just the relation between Isaac and Ishmael
-It suggests a continuity that this is the last chapter of Jewish history and the beginning of Islamic history

29 ‘Dialogue’ comes easily to us, since Islam is the best of Judaism and the best of Christianity.
-We already know the best of what they have to offer and can appreciate their values and history, so when it comes to religious discussions often Muslims know more than the Christian or Jew they are speaking too

16. ‘If we are not for ourselves, other Jews say to me, who will be for us? And I answer, but if we are for ourselves alone, what are we?’ (Daniel Boyarin)
-If Jews are for themselves this only makes sense, as a community, but if they are for themselves alone then it suggests they are not in fact the Chosen people
-This makes one recall AHM’s other Contention of the Shi’a being either/or while the Sunnis are both/and

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 6, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Geopolitics

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, was-salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

This next section has to do with the Muslim world on the world stage. AHM deals with the life of Muslims in the West, as well as the relationship between East and West, and how Islam circumscribes politics. He does deal with certain regions of the world by name (Europe, Turkey, India, etc.) but I will be adding those sections here shortly.

Spirituality and Politics
20. Remember: the history of Islam is the history of the Muslim ego.
-Most of the Muslim conquest were done for glory or prestige and this is the case again today

54. If you put down your tasbih you will not pick up a rifle safely.
-The importance of spirituality (inward mujadaha) in tandem with physical outward jihad or else we will have a bad beginning in our battles

45 Sufism is the belief that we should not act against the political interests of Islam.
-Perhaps he is referring to the fact Sufis are seen as an apolitical, pacifist Muslim alternative by the West when they are very much involved in politics and war

4. The Dajjal will only be king when only the blind are left in the valley.
-‘In the valley of the blind the one-eyed man is king’ (Erasmus)

83. Hijra today means the move from the cenobitic to the idiorhythmic.
-Cenobitic, is the community of righteous monks as opposed to the idiorhythmic monk who lives alone so hijra today is moving away from a corrupt community in other words, and fleeing to the hills alone.

65. The ethical is only possible where there is a sense of place. (‘We have ennobled the sons of Adam, and carried them upon land and sea’.)
-The doing of good deeds is part and parcel with considerations and understanding of a place, but also this may refer to having an understanding of the culture (‘urf) and praiseworthy aspect of certain cultures

1. Activism will only succeed when it remembers that history is in good hands.
-History is in God’s hands as the Qur’an says, the night and the days are between His hands and the hadith says the hearts of His servants are between the fingers of ar-Rahman

65. The purpose of society is to produce saints.
-It is not the maximizing of freedoms or of pleasure seeking but of creating exemplary individuals, both internally and externally and not just superficially like in Western societies

4. Do not play politics with sacred politics.
-If you play politics with God it is similar to Adam’s disobedience and how it led to his fall and has consequences for the faith of people to come

13. His name in our age is al-Sabur.
-Allah is more patient with us now than He probably has ever been in our history

19. We have not grown out of the Shari‘a, we have shrunk out of it.
-When we say we have grown out of the Shari’a we are being proud and arrogant and that is a sign of our having shrunk out of the Shari’a

63 The function of the Caliph is to defend people’s lives, not to interfere with them.
-The purpose of the Caliphate is to help Muslims worship and make things easy for them, not to push them around like a bully

24. Politics is one cell within the body of Islam. If it grows unduly, it is a cancer.
-Politics has its place but it is not everything, and if it grows it becomes a tumor that impairs the body of Islam, hurting spirituality, justice and reason in Islam

20. The Mahdi will be appointed by Theos, not Demos. The blood of warrior-patricians will run in his veins.
-Imam Mahdi will be appointed by God, not the masses

70. Civil society is the deodorant of kufr.
-Being civil and acting polite is just to hide the stench of disbelief
-This doesn’t apply to our society as much but it can apply to Islamophobes. It applies best to the mushrikeen who would be civil though they were hateful since they wanted to preserve what dignity they felt they had

33. There is justice, and there is just-us.
-‘Oh you who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor; for God can best protect both. Do not follow any passion, lest you not be just. And if you distort or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do.’”(Quran 4:135)

18. Everything is political, but politics is not everything.
-You can politicize just about anything, and that is because there is a tendency for that to happen with any social interaction, but that does not mean politics is our complete potential

40. Those that sell Tornadoes shall reap the whirlwind.
-“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up. Hosea 8:7
-Comment on politics and Islam but also on those who ‘swerve’ in their speech and actions

-AHM mentions the hadith, ‘This umma is an umma that has mercy on it, its punishment is not in the next life but in this world, through fitan (trials/tribulations), earthquakes and killing.’

3. This sin of the Muslim world: menefregismo.
-Meaning we Muslims couldn’t care less and we are in a state of deep apathy or that we are in apathy about our state of apathy

9. The Umma without its Law is like a man without his Prayer.
-The connection with the salah has been disconnected with the disconnection from the Sharia

25. The Law upholds the Umma better than the Umma upholds the Law.
-The Sharia is keeping the Muslims functional moreso than the Muslims efforts to uphold the law, which may be a reference to extremism or shoddy religious scholarship

38. Muslim solidarity can never force us to lower our standards.
-Were we to agree to the lowest common denominator, it would not be a useful solidarity and wold probably impair the growth of Islam

40 Ummatolatry: from Islam to Izlam.
-Ummatolatry is a portmanteau of umma/idolatry, the idolizing of the ‘umma’ is a manifestation of nationalism, and Izlam is a reference to the arrows that were cast before the idol Hubbal mentioned in the Qur’an. Are we then casting arrows to this idol of Islam?

20 If your morale is built on the Umma, beware. If it is built on God, rejoice.
-AHM says elsewhere the umma provides us with fear while Allah provides us with fear
-If our morale were a sole consequence of what happened with us and we were in the Prophetic era we would collapse and give up on God since the Prophet was surrounded by trials and yet he remained firm with reliance in God, so we should follow the Prophetic example

28. Our condition is ignorance of our condition.
-We don’t know that we don’t know

21. ‘One lives so badly because one always arrives in the present unfinished, incapable, distracted’. (Rilke)
-We are not whole, our attention is distracted and lack the courage to do anything about it
-The salah and Qur’an are helpful because they connects and brings harmony between body and spirit and thereby dignify us so that we want to strive for a more nobler life

43. We claim the whole of the truth for ourselves, but not to have monopolised it.
-Their are other ummas alongside us in the past and in the present day who have access to the truth

Us and God inside the Religion
15. We are punished because we don’t know that we deserve to be punished.
-Our punishment is to make us cognizant of our shortcomings and to alert us of our faults

94. Only when distant from God do we crave what is distant from God.
-We see what is around us and find that what is distant from God is closer to us, when in reality it is distant from our spiritual nature

61 Ethics is the treatment for our exile from God.
-Through ethics or akhlaq we can near the Prophetic example and be remitted to the Divine mercy

65 We are too busy being right to have time for God.
-This is one of the virtues of being wrong that we turn to God, but its not about being wrong or right, but about thinking you are always right

-In one of his papers AHM says: “…In particular, it has failed to see that identity movements, by their nature, cannot defend authenticity, because they remake it in the act of defining it as authentic. In particular, it has failed to see that identity movements, by their nature, cannot defend authenticity, because they remake it in the act of defining it as authentic.
-Our debate has become the voicing of despair from turbulence of identity

79. We are Muslims because we practice Islam, not vice versa.
-We are not practicing Islam because we are Muslim, we subscribe to belief in Allah and not belief in our identity

73. The identity-merchant says ‘Un-Islamic’; the Godfearing says: ‘Makruh’ or ‘Haram.’
-It is not about us, but about God

31. Islam is not about ‘being yourself’; it is about improving yourself.

68. Beware the denial of identity that is not a denial of the self.
-If you deny your identity in anger and pride then you haven’t truly denied your self

8. Identity religion: be proud of your prison!
-An identity is a confinement since the body is simply a vessel and to be proud of it is to be proud of essentially a prison

60. How do I know who you say that you are?
-Is there an ideal or abstract idea of a Muslim or any other race or culture or grouping? How can we confirm this is what you are? The idea AHM is hinting at is the fluidity of identity and how it changes over time so that realistically speaking it is quite a meaningless identification

83. Religious practice is important only as a means of serving God
-It is not important as a form of show or belonging but only important insofar as it is beloved to God

Muslims in the West

-AHM says in one of his papers, ‘The sign of Islam’s enactment of this primordial covenant on earth is Abrahamic, and more particularly Ishmaelite, since the universalizing implications of Ishmael’s exile mean that the whole world, Hebrew and Gentile, forms part of an umma, which is, at the very least, ummat al-da’wa, the umma-in-waiting, the community of those equipped to under- stand. According to a hadith the Muslims are told: ‘Show piety in dealing with the protected peoples, those of the settled lands, the black, the crinkly-haired, for they have a noble ancestor and marriage ties [with us]’. In his SÏra, Ibn Hisham adds: ‘by “ancestry” the Prophet referred to the fact that the prophet Ishmael’s mother came from them.’7 In the Ishmaelite vision, it seems that even the Kushites, elsewhere despised, are capable of a full and equal understanding.’

73. Islam in the West: there is isolation, or assimilation, or success.
-In a way we are like Ishmael and Hajar in Mecca isolated at first but then later joined by others who come to Islam, but then assimilation occurs and then there may be success that comes later on as in the Prophethood of Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam)

94. If you are threatened by a materialist civilisation, make yourself economically
-This is the strategy of many communities who have realized they are protected insofar as they are needed for economic survival and its a model Muslims are adopting

94. Ishmael finds a Bab El even in Babel.
-A Muslim finds a door to God even in the West

37 Preferring rida to riba is the choosing of the milk over the wine.
-If we choose usury over contentment it will intoxicate us and lead us astray in the way Christians were led astray into the state today of unchecked capitalism
-The milk and wine allegory is an explicit hint to the Isra wa’l Miraj where the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was offered milk or wine by Jibreel and he (salallahu alayhi wasalam) chose milk, and was told if he chose wine then his (salallahu alayhi wasalam)’s umma would have gone astray
-There is a dua in the sunna for milk and its baraka to be expanded and among the ulema, milk is considered a food and not a drink while wine in Islam is only good when it is non-intoxicating as in the descriptions of Jannah

35. Dar al-Islam? Rome is where you will be most proud to be a Muslim.
-You won’t be proud to be Muslim around millions of Muslims, no, but you find pride in upholding Islam when you are surrounded by non-Muslims

52. Secular decadence is less ugly than religious decadence because only organic matter can really decompose.
-The secular has always been dead and inanimate like plastic, while Islam is like the gardens one finds in the mosque complexes of the Muslim world, they decay only because they once had life

14. A faith that is only a social consequence will mainly be concerned with its own social consequences.
-If Islam for you is just a consequence of heritage and geographical history, then you will see Islam only in the problems it has in society
-If Islam for you is divine decree then you will try to search for the designs of destiny in your society

12. Be a good Muslim and you won’t want to lie. Be a very good Muslim and you won’t need to lie.
-AHM may be hinting not just to speaking the truth but also to silence

82. Today’s believer is a disbeliever in most of what the disbeliever is a disbeliever in.
-We share common ground with liberals and Christians who have caught up with our beliefs about rights and dignity and that is a good starting point of discussion

39. Being heretics to the Monoculture requires both courage and style. But we should have room for those who have neither courage nor style.
-We should accomodate for Muslims who aren’t going to have any courage or style in resisting the monoculture; those who will neither wear the dresses nor show our Islam
-AHM has suggested Muslims create an ‘indigenous’ style or culture of Islam in America to go against the monoculture, and that is difficult and requires courage because it means not imitating modernity. In regards to mosque architecture he mentions the imperial design of Ottoman mosques, nor the Baroque styles of churches, but suggested looking into some of the ideas of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, though not imitating him completely

25. It is better to be tolerant than to be terminated.
-The Prophetic example in Mecca is to tolerate hardship rather than fight for what will ultimately futile to the cause of Islam

67. If you can’t beat them, be joined by them.
-The history of Islam is replete with examples of foreign enemies joining the Muslim ranks. The question then is how can we make them come to join us?

88. Da‘wa should start at the point of harmony, not the point of dissonance.
-We should start our dialogue with non-Muslims on common ground as the Qur’an suggests, rather than on a point of difference

East and West

-AHM says elsewhere, ‘Medieval Islam and Judaism imported freely from Athens; but they seem to have instinctively excluded those dimensions which obstructed diversity: poetics, drama, architecture.’

59. The West treats other civilisations like stroke victims.
-That they are paralyzed and need help doing everything, and Muslim leaders take this as a luxury when really its a service at a cost

12. Islam was the sharpest of all medieval Western problems of theodicy. The West is the sharpest of all problems for modern Muslim theodicy.
-The medieval wrestled over the problem of evil and why God would create evil (i.e. Islam) but
-We were the evil who were a problem, now the West is the evil that is our problem

14 Islam cannot be a way of being modern; but it can be a way of being Western.
-We Muslims cannot totally embrace modernity, but we are a part of the Western monotheistic tradition and are, in fact, the culmination of that tradition

32. Islam is the only way of being pro-Western.
-Islam will be the sole inheritor of the Western monotheistic tradition

56 Fear of death marks the difference between modern and Islamic art.
-Islamic artwork embraces death as paradisaical while modern art sees death in jaded, psychologically distraught as if drowning spiritually

47 Islam’s heart is ethical; the West’s skin is ethical.
-The West is superficially ethical while Islam is intensely spiritual
-Skin wears out with time, but the heart heals much quicker and holds something that is eternal

71. Traditional architecture: materials praising their Maker. Modern architecture: materials praising Man. Postmodern architecture: materials mocking man.
-Architecture is like music made solid, and like music it affects our behaviour, our minds and souls. As architecture has ‘progressed’ it begins to talk back and comment on our desires and the nature of our society. It does little to nourish us spiritually as traditional architecture of various traditions used to, but now instead only offers back to us our own attitude for endless critique

89. To be with Islam is to live in the valid diversity of signs. To be with the Monoculture is death.
-The monoculture has an invalid diversity of signs, that is, signs of distraction with which we don’t live as much as we drown in

72. Tradition: a low expectation of this world; high hopes for the next. Result: happiness. Modernity: high hopes for this world, low hopes for the next. Result: misery.
-‘He who has hope has everything’ (Arab proverb)
-The vast majority of human experience is not in ends but in the journey to things or in beginnings and often what we deem and end is just another beginning

62. Uncle Same is lord of the Monoculture. Allah is Lord of the Worlds.
-America is the head of the monoculture movement but Allah is the Lord of every seen and unseen world.

43. Tradition: we are on Religion’s leash. Modernity: religion is on our leash.
-Caesaropapism is the idea of combining religion with secular power or making secular power greater than religious power, while Weber defines it as ‘the complete subordination of priests to secular power.’

23. Religion desires to change the age. The age desires to change religion .
-The vehicle of historical change is religion so if religion is altered, then it will steer the ages to come in certain directions

96. Islam: there is a basis for cumulation. The West: there is only cumulation.
-There is a basis in Islam for accumulating wealth and worldly goods, since it can be used for good, as the example of the wealthy Companion Abdur-Rahman bin Awf demonstrates, but for the West there is no end to accumulating worldly goods
-Imam al-Qurtubi sees wealth as rain water, that if it is hoarded and remains stagnant then it will spoil, so it has to remain flowing with generosity and proper use

10. The East is content without form; the West is form without content.
-To borrow a famous Sufi saying one is a ‘Name without reality’ and the other’ a reality without a name’

19. Will our dialogue be clearer if we have lost our teeth?
-Malcolm X has put this succinctly that no one resents a religion (with punishments and the will to fight) except a wolf that intends to make you his meal

Muslim governments
27 Never before has praise from a sultan been so insulting.
-For the ulema to be praised by a Muslim ruler, in an era where Muslim political leaders have abandoned the religion more than ever, is a gross insult and there is no honour in it

77. The kings were ruled by adyan; now they are by duyun.
-The kings used to be ruled by religions and to answer to religious authority and this was how they were kept in check, but now they must answer to ideologies

55. Which Muslim state is not a bad parody of a Western model?
-The dress, the ceremonies, the terminology, the way the government buildings are modeled on European or American models
-The Ottomans built palaces like the Dolmabahçe Palace which imitates the Baroque and other European building styles something which is clearly superficial and unnecessary, a clear sign of love of the West

67. But for God’s mercy, we would have the governments we deserve.
-If we had the governments we deserved in relation to our sins and heedlessness, then the Muslim governments would be punishing us day in and day out, similarly the non-Muslim governments also

9 Today’s Umma deserves the Law as imposed by those who do not deserve it.
-Related to the previous Contention due to our sinfulness we deserve the distorted ‘Sharia punishments’ carried out by those self-appointed religious authorities who don’t understand the Sharia

87. Our name among the nations matters only when da‘wa is important.
-When we speak to people about Muslim countries as examples we find it hard to point to a good example to strengthen our da’wa

4. You no longer have the privilege of the Umma’s protection. (‘And upon God … ’)
-Now we are in a time where we have no umma or caliphate to protect us and God is the Caliph and upon Him alone we rely

84. The world will not rejoice until we deserve success.
-We are the last surviving robust religious community and the anger of atheists has to do with religious people not upholding the moral standards they claim to believe in, so when we uphold that

60. It is better that the injustices of others should stand than that our own injustices should stand.
-Even if an injustice may yield a temporary victory, it will haunt us and so its better we be wronged than to wrong others
-Our pride may ache but that pain cannot compare to the heart ache of the soul
-Europe’s example of the Holocaust is pertinent here, where they are haunted by a collective guilt, ashamed before the Jewish community and therefore always appeasing it

3. Real Islam is successful. If it is not successful, it is not real Islam.
-Success is God signature and we Muslims have always succeeded when we adhered truly to Islam

64. In a democracy there should be no private beliefs.
-Anonymity is a sin and there has to be maximum transparency where the line between private and public has changed in the technological age
-The same can be said about so-called democracies in the Muslim world where one can’t speak their mind even in their own homes

Arab World

77. The caliphs’ prayers ended with Hamidun Majid.
-It did not end with praise of oneself as the King or dictator or father of the nation but with praise of Allah as is mentioned in the prayers of the sunna
-AHM may be hinting to the names of the last Ottoman caliphs: Mahmud II and Abdul Majid II as a sign of God

49. Arab humiliation is usually the result of Arab pride.
-To fail gloriously or to be dramatic in listing one’s grief, as if to take a pride in one’s grief as a badge to show how invulnerable one is
-Arab dignity is the result of Islam as Umar has said in a famous saying, ‘We were a people who lived in humiliation and then Allah gave us honour through Islam. Accordingly, if we were to seek honour through anything other than Islam, Allah would humiliate us once again.’

84. Do not accuse the Arabs of stupidity.
-You don’t accuse people of stupidity, you insult them. And the Arab situation is one of being smart in feigning stupidity under brutal dictatorships that are only recently collapsing and just making the best of it

11. Arabdom is not congenital.
-Being an Arab is not by birth but it is by the spirit of Islam
-When pan-Arabism was beginning many Christian Arabs were adamant that Islam is a crucial part of Arab history and that there is no separating the leadership of Sayyidina Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) from Arab history

5. Aid for ‘moderate’ Middle Eastern regimes is meals on wheels, because it does not expect to rejuvenate.
-It will not bring about the ‘moderate’ stable leadership of the Ottomans but its only meant to keep these regimes alive bit by bit, on life-support or as if on a leash

60. Palestine: the burnt offering that atones for Paul’s original sin.
-In Christianity, Christ’s death atones for the original sin of Adam and Eve
-What AHM is suggesting that Palestine will pay the price for Paul’s sins, which is referring to the prophecies of the Apocalypse and the rise of Jerusalem before the return of Christ and fundamentalist American Christianity is trying to speed up his return by aiding Israel

61. It is better to be exterminated entirely than to give away the Holy Land.
-For what use is a body and the soul when the heart has been taken out of the body?
-This is most likely an allusion to the words of the last Ottoman Caliph Abdul-Majid who said to the Zionists that he would rather have a spear go through him than to surrender the land of Jerusalem to anyone

23 Do not wonder at the Arab’s love of emotion. Has not everything else been taken away from him?
-Has Islam been taken away from him? In many cases, it has and that may explain the boiling over of emotions in the Arab world.
-AHM does mention how the pre-Islamic Arabs would resort to suicide as a protest and it was these suicidal protests that ignited the Arab Spring protests in the Arab world

95. Arabs! Bright lights at Fajr, and loud loudspeakers, are errors that belie the Faith.
-AHM may be referring to dance clubs that party till sunrise in Arab countries, that their should be a shame in not honouring the Fajr time, a time of baraka, recitation of the Qur’an and spiritual theophanies

-Uncle Same is AHM’s play on words for the American monoculture
-Condelezza Rice has referred to the Muslim world as “the roadkill of history”
-’If they merely took pleasure in affirming their imagined superiority, the illusion would only do harm to themselves; but their most terrible offense is their proselytising fury: in them the spirit of conquest goes under the disguise of “moralist” pretexts, and it is in the name of “liberty” that they would force the world to imitate them.’ (Guenon)

46. ‘It’s kind of bad we destroyed everything, but at least we gave them a chance for a new start’ (Uncle Same’s warrior, after Fallujah).
-An example of the greediness in generosity and false comforting oneself being of more important than actually helping someone

35. Uncle Same: choice should be both legal and improbable.
-The legal system deals with non-issues and moral dilemmas that make people feel important, as if they are creating a law that is as momentous as revelation

91. Uncle Same twists us into different figures, but it is always the same twisting.
-Its the same strategy and technique but in different topics and areas

38. An empire must be an umpire.
-The ruling American hegemony is the one that makes the laws and calls the fouls, whether or not they have occurred, and that is what counts
-An umpire can never kicked out of the game

87. The American for erotic is erratic.
-America is always changing its ideas regarding sexuality

30. ‘Terrorism and precipitate responses to it almost always produce the opposite of what is intended.’ (Robert W. Funk)
-America’s actions abroad and the terrorism that has come in response to their action and the American counter-response just make things worse for Americans and those whom they attempt to ‘liberate’

96. America is Rome. Europe is Athens. Islam is Jerusalem.
-We are like the Jews living under Roman rule, elsewhere AHM also says that we are the true inheritors of Athens

80. Loyalty is simple: it is to the oppressed.
-When the question of loyalty to our countries or to Islam applies, then this is the response we should give

90. The fight against suffering in this world that takes no account of the next world can only yield a suffering that is greater still.
-We will not find any relief or any sense for suffering if we do not have God’s justice, punishment and reward in mind
-One conversion to Islam was of a woman who felt it was impossible for justice to not reach

96. Peace at any price? Not at any price.
-Certain prices for peace will just create frustration that will renew hostilities and this is better elaborated by the Contention, ‘2. Peace without justice is not peace at all.’

64. It is better to keep the enemy hull-down on the horizon than to fight him at close quarters.
-Its better to keep Islamophobes afraid of us slightly and remain safe than to go after them in an aggressive way that may worsen the situation


64. Pacifism? Better armed than armless.
-In non-violence guilt is an arm and weapon used against an oppressor, if there is a conscience there, but conscience isn’t it

96. If you believe in peace, you will not believe in pacifism.
-Pacifism can easily become an ostrich escapism, hiding until the problem goes away

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 5, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Islamic Ideologies and Isms

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, was-salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

I strongly avoid sectarian discussions on this blog, however this is a part of the Contentions and there is no really getting around this. It is a crucial aspect of AHM’s work and it would not be dignified of me to shy away from highlighting these ideas. They are overall good ideas, they are not angry ideas, but they are theological ideas and have little to do with the ordinary Muslims but with scholarship.

I would NEVER use these points in a conversation with someone who considers themselves a salafi or shia or whatever, because they are a simple Muslims like me and are just trying their best. Most of these issues and most of what people call ‘heresiology’ has to do with issues between scholars, not between lay people. I feel we really have screwed up here since there are few practicing Muslims, and amongst them there is an obsession with refutations as if this is what Islam is all about. This is not how the Sahabas lived Islam and its not how they became great. When a group of new Muslims began to adhere to a problematic creed, Ibn Abbas went and explained to them in a few minutes and brought them back into orthodoxy. These issues are really not as big as we make them out to be. Imam al-Bayhaqi has said polemics are a bid’ah hasana, but polemic have clearly become a blameworthy bid’a. So AHM has also included a number of Contentions that deal with proper adab with difference and navigating the many intellectual errors present in the diverse community of Islam, and I have been careful to elaborate on those ideas and those are points which I feel are of utmost important for the ordinary Muslim to read thoroughly, namely: ‘Spreading mercy not fear’, ‘Emotional Islam’ and ‘Try this…’

So its important to approach this section in realizing the mistakes made are not that severe, but they should be noted should history repeat itself and many of these points are useful in refuting insipid extremist rhetoric. Many of the intellectual mistakes Muslims have made are mistakes the Jews made or secularists have made as you will see below. But it could be history will reoccur, when Imam Mahdi comes and then dies, you could see a new brand of Shi’ism emerge or when Eesa alayhi salam dies you could see many other cults and sects emerge. AHM says little about the Sh’ia is harshest with ideology, extremism and the Salafi movement since he sees this age as the ‘golden age of the Khawarij’ which I found startling. Proceed with caution.

False religion

-This section applies to the comparison of Islam to other religions, but also to problematic tendencies present among Muslims

11. True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.
-Self-satisfaction is a false chimaera, since we can always become better people and always journey ever-closer to God

85. A canon of self-scrutiny: false religion feels more like a wound than a bandage.
-Their is self-scrutiny which is like a surgery and healing and then there is self-scrutiny which is like firing a cannonball at yourself

3. False religion finds it easier to make holes than to fill them.
-Problematizing is easy and a lazy job, while finding or creating answers is a hard job requiring real sustained effort

51. The false scholar: a muezzin whose fingers are stuck.
-Can’t or won’t listen to others, just keeps shouting

4. In senescence, religions have two possibilities: Alzheimers (the amnesiac option of the secular elites) and manic-depressive (the false Salafism).
-Like senior citizen, when religions are in decline they follow two routes, that of Alzheimers which is essentially forgetting their history (secularism) or Bipolar disorder where their are high points of manic religiosity and low points of depression which seems to be the route Islam in Saudi Arabia
-The geriatric metaphor is suitable because we should treat people who may go astray in these ways with compassion and caring we would treat someone who is unwell or terminally ill, even if these fellow Muslims will not change they are still a test for us before Allah

37. Some religions out-narrate others.
-out-narrate is a Milbankian term and suggests how the story of Islam is continuing while the stories of other religions is concluding

Spreading mercy not fear

-AHM mentions, ‘One hadith tells the Prophet’s (salallahu alayhi wasalam)’s companions, who lived in the “Age of Felicity” (‘asr al-sa’ada): “You are living in a time when someone who renounces a tenth of what is enjoined upon him will be destroyed; but a time will come when someone who performs a tenth of what is enjoined upon him will be saved.” (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 79) Traditional Sunnism took this to mean that the law should be applied more gently as time went on. For instance, even one of the most rigorous of Ottoman jurists, al-Birgivi (1523-1573) thought that his age was so distant from the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam)’s time that it was forbidden for the jurist to apply any but the most easy and gentle interpretations of the Sharia.

56. Those who wish Islam to be feared and not loved cannot claim the prophetic kerygma in mission.
-They who treat Islam like a tribe have not inherited the teaching of Islam, which is to make Islam loved and spread it in a humane way that is realistic to people’s capabilities

78. If you put the Sunna before mercy, you have lost both.
-The sunna is mercy and he (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is the mercy to the worlds

38 Remember, today, everyone is weak.
-Be merciful and soft with the Muslim and be realistic as to what you can expect of them

40. People will not come closer to you if you hit them.
-Few people will want to come back to revisit the mosque if we hurt them

93. Without meaning there is only meanness.
-An Islam devoid of spiritual meaning and intentions of spiritual transformation will be full of anger and attitude and this can also applies to modernity’s absence of meaning which leads to such gross harassments as racism and

13. Which came first: intolerant preaching or its subject-matter?
-Did intolerant preaching come because of political and theological problems or did already intolerant preachers simply find new spicy material to use in their sermons

64. Religion begins where empathy tends.
-Religion starts whereever one finds empathy, with the poor, oppressed and the confused

77. You may show a man a thousand miracles, but if you show him no compassion, he will not believe.
-Mercy is the greater miracle or an aid to witnessing miracles

31. Being hard is the soft option.
-Being harsh with people is the easy option while being soft is the hard thing to do

73 Once we cried out hawqalas, now we cry out ‘How callous!’
-We have become used to criticizing people and the problems we see rather than fleeing to Allah and using it as a moment to declare that God is greater and more powerful than these instances

91. Justice may never be the consequence of wrath; but it may be its right assuaging.
-Justice for us is not simply a mechanical reaction from anger, but it may heal anger and pain

55. Allat, Manat and al-Uzza cannot compete with your potential for harm.
-There is no allure to idolatry so it cannot distract us from Islam, but rudeness and being harsh with one another will hurt the cause of Islam and pushes people away from the religion


89. Ideology must not be self-critical; religion must be.
-When ideology is self-critical it may mean killing people, but religion has to be self-critical since that is a sign of its life
-Elsewhere AHM says ‘umma semper reformanda- the ummah is always reforming’ referring to 1400+ years of Islamic history

81. Kerygma becomes paranoia when orthodoxy becomes ideology.
-Preaching becomes all about paranoia, anxiety and insecurity when they see religion as an ideology

20. The Caliph’s first task will be to flog those who call Islam an ideology.
-Islam is not an ideology, since an ideology is static and done, whereas a religion is dynamic and always growing, to use a metaphor ideology is a small house, while religion is a mansion that the more you walk in it, the more it grows, the more room and facilities it develops
-You have to work to belong to a religion, because not everything is laid out for you, whereas everything is laid out for you in an ideology and requires just a little knowledge
-I have used the word ideology since there aren’t many words that near it in meaning and usage but

91. An movement is Islamic to the extent that it truly succeeds.
-Allah has promised success to the believers, so if they are not suceeding it has to do with them, how attached to Islamic practice and how much they imbibe the religion

68. Dogma: less is more.
-Dogmatic thinking is strengthen by slogans and weakened by lengthy, nuanced literature and discussions

70. Islam is mainly threatened by those who mainly say that Islam is threatened.
-Many of the people crying wolf have an agenda, and alarmism is how they can gain in popularity, whereas they actually end up hurting Islam in the long run

37. The worst ideology is that which courts failure as a guarantor of martyrdom.
-Why? Because it will continue on and on and never see any reason to stop since its failures are beloved to it


-AHM mentions the problem with, Utopianism is that ‘it leads to a chronic obsession with purity rather than an ethic of compassion and concern and that makes us incapable of being an example to non-Muslims’

92. Utopianism was the Jahiliyya of the 20th century.
-It is a naive mentality that falls into a childish fantasy that denies the nature of decay in the world

67. The hope for radical success is normally a sign of Westernisation.
-When Muslim fantasize about creating a utopia this has less to do with Islam and more to do with imitating the West since even the success of the Prophets was gradual

22. Fantasy is death.
-It is as good as death since it paralyzes people, mortifies them and if acted upon can lead to death

69. Utopia? The devil tempts you to attempt heaven on earth, as he tempts you with zina.
-We cannot create heaven on earth which will only happen when God decrees it
-Better explained by the next Contention

83. The Messianic exists to indicate what we should not attempt.
-Only Eesa (Jesus) alayhi salam will bring forth the closest thing to heaven on earth as propheisied in the hadith

47. They are not the solution; God is the solution.
-We aren’t ready to make mention of Allah when we detail the laundry list of our societal and political problems, and if we don’t turn to Allah then how is some angry brother at the mosque going to solve our problems?
-This hints to the real problem which is the problem of ego and hurt pride when ‘Umar said that ‘Our honour is Islam, if we abandon Islam then God will debase us’

89. The front line has grown too long.
-Too many Muslims feel they need to be defending Islam and rather than concentrate in one area of the line, they spread out, work alone, have little support behind them because they have detached themselves from the Muslim community and this makes it easy for the ‘enemy’ to penetrate the line

67. Utopians are un-Realistic.
-They are disconnected from God and are acting out more out of a distance from Him, seeing the debasement of Muslims as a sign of His abandonment when in reality the Propethic example is one of tolerating strife and alienation
-Utopianism always will fail because it is out of touch with reality and will create dystopia


1. ‘Islam is not Islamism – never forget this – but the latter operates in the name of the former, and this is the grave question of the name.’ (Derrida)
-Islamism could justify money laundering, scams, bank robberies, prostitution, drug trade and a host of other haram activities to fund what it sees as a battle for Islam
-The key idea here is Islamism, is unofficial repudiated Islam, does not represent nor assist Islam, except that it thinks it does, it is like someone who starts a fan club or dedicates fan fiction to a celebrity even though

69. Islamism replaces religion with the idea of it.
-Islamism advocates Islam, it likes and romanticizes the idea of it as glorious rather than actually living it as a life story, because it sees it as dead when it continues to live

71. Islamism: untie your camel, and trust in God.
-Islamism has no trust or reliance in Allah, it only has reliance upon itself and sees itself as the vanguard and sole force to protect Islam when Allah has promised to preserve this religion

92. Islamism is Orientalist.
-It takes on the caricatures that Orientalists have popularized about Islam, the marauding blood-hungry warriors, senseless and blind to reason and in this way Muslims Orientalize themselves

4. Islamism is the West’s only victory.
-AHM says elsewhere, ‘Even modern Islamism, which claims to be the Third World’s great revolt against the imposition of the West’s monoculture, typically defines itself in solidly Western terms as “vanguard” (tali’a), “movement” (haraka), or when finally ensconced in the palace of a fallen tyrant as an “Islamic Republic.” Hence John Gray’s diagnosis: “The idealogues of political Islam are western voices, no less than Marx or Hayek. The struggle with radical Islam is yet another western family quarrel.” Islamism is far from the liberal entailments of the Enlightenment, but it is closely allied to the more totalitarian possibilities which the Enlightenment unleashed.’

48. Islamism: the Holy Prophet marching.
-It is the only image of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) that Islamists think of or know of

14. Islamism’s fire will leave only ashes.
-The fire will not spread but will die out and leave only ashes of the Muslims

32 Islamism is the Frankenstein of Frankistan.
-Islamism is a zombie resurrected from the dead and defunct ideologies of the West’s past; the Orientalist blood-thirsty caricatures, the utopianism of the Communists, and often somehow ending up serving the political interests of the West in some way, shape or form by making Muslims look bad

86. Do not fear any extremist; fear the consequences of his acts.
-An extremist often is not to be feared since they are merely angry and frustrated but what they may do is what would cause harm to themselves and to Muslim lives and the future of Muslims

41 Islam thinks dyadically; Islamism thinks dialectically.
-Islam thinks about both the Muslim and the non-Muslim, whether they be enemies at the time or not, how to bring about harmony between them as Allah healed the hearts of the mushrikeen to accept Islam, while Islamism because of its distance from true Islam assumes no such thing can ever happen and thinks in terms of an forever us vs. them tribalistic mentality

27. The zealot is wrong, even when he is right.
-Because ultimately he will be wrong in the end


-AHM says in one of his papers: ‘the other extremism is to give way to the lower desires, revenge, anger, venting one‟s sense of outraged pride, which is a reversion to the days of the jāhiliyya. Remember the old suicide warfare of the pagan Arabs, the ittifād, one of the phenomona of the furious rage, the h’amiyya, of the people of the jāhiliyya, who couldn‟t stand it when their honor and their pride was challenged by others, was a ritual suicide on the battlefield and to show them that these people were not afraid of death. One of the jahili practices that were abolished by Islam. Unfortunately this practice has come back in some contexts, but it is alien to our tradition. Think of earlier ages of the occupation of Palestine for instance, however much we stretch our imagination, can we imagine somebody in the Palestine occupied by King Baldwin in the time of the crusaders, walking into the now substantially Christianized market place in Jerusalem and engaging in act of suicidal terrorism against the men, women and children there? Before explosives, how would one have done it? Blindfolding oneself perhaps and lashing out with a sword at whoever happened to be near. History of course, because our history is a history of futuwa, of honorable warrior-hood, records no such thing.
That rage, that desire to self annihilation, to lash out and the men, women and children, whoever in the vicinity, is now becoming a global epidemic. And the „ulama who opened the little door now see these legions rushing through it in every place don‟t know what to do about it. That door has to be closed. Islam is too good for such practices, for such baseness, for such wild expression of futility and despair and vindictiveness.
This arbitrary brutality that has now come to the streets of this city and has caused such despair and confusion and division and battlement amongst Muslims and such joy and celebration amongst those who really wish we weren‟t here at all. This has to stop. And we should have a policy of zero tolerance of those who try to fudge the issues, and say, well in some places it‟s all right, but here it isn‟t, because this is a moral absolute. The practices is qabeeh, it is ugly, and Allah is Jamīl yahibbu al- Jimāl. He is beautiful and He loves beauty.”’

-AHM says in one of his speeches: “Bin-Ladenism, with its fury against global imbalance, is unveiled as simply another manner of being Western, as John Gray has calculated. If world trade is currently iniquitous, attacking the World Trade Center is no less iniquitous, like growing a rank weed in the same fetid soil of greed, envy, and lack of compassion.”

65. The suicide bomber is not afraid of death, because already, there is nothing left in him to die.
-AHM was once asked by a journalist if suicide bombing is mentioned in the Qur’an and used to say no, but then started to respond, “Uh huh, yes there is one verse: ‘It [Hell] almost bursts with rage.’ (Surah Mulk, v. 9)”

29. Extremism should preoccupy us only when it becomes the cause as well as the consequence of failure.
-It is neither the cause nor the consequence of our failures, it is a failure but the cause that needs fixing is our spiritual problems

53. No pure purism pushes people into impurity.
-Extremist rhetoric cannot be pure if it pushes people into sins

15. Extremism is tolerable because it is always transient.
-It is short-term and dies out quickly

92. Faith cannot yield despair; despair cannot yield martyrdom.
-The Qur’an states none despair the mercy of God but the disbelievers, but true faith remains strong when faced with adversity and there is no martyrdom when despair is the true reason, since it is an escape
-It requires more courage to live for Islam now, than it does to die for it and in a way those who embody Islam today are ‘living martyrs’ in the exoteric sense though the Qur’an states the martyrs are not dead but living in the unseen
-There are hadith that state the reward of the righteous near the endtimes will be like that of 40 Sahabas

93. Fundamentalism imitates the future, not the past.
-It imitates the dystopia that comes from utopianism and ignores the example of the Sahabas
-How the Companions behaved in Mecca, Madina and in Abyssinia is how we should behave under various societal situations

2. Fundamentalism is the belief that revelation forces us to be stupid.
-That we are not to use our intellect when the Qur’an clearly encourages us to in several places

15. The definition of extremism: any act that leads to extreme misfortune.
-Better explained by the next Contention

49. Suicide bombing is an extreme way of shooting oneself in the foot.
-If it flops, which it often does, the bomber ends up in jail and injured and if it succeeds innocent people die and it destroys the images of Islam

9. Ghuluww is not an excess of piety, it is a lack of it.
-’Halaka al-mutanata’oon, destroyed are those who go in extremes.’ (Hadith)

58. Extremism has no enemy save those it claims to defend.
-Often the greatest casualty are the extremists claim to protect and this is the same for American extremism as well
-Often there is a hatred of the people it claims to defend

30. Extremism: just say know.
-Islamic knowledge and learning is the answer to the ideas and problems posed by Muslims with extremist tendencies

40. Suicide bombing: al-fana’ fi’l-shaytan.
-Absorption and annihilation into shaytan since it is the triumph of despair and Allah says in the Qur’an none despairs in Allah except the disbeliever, while saying about the Awliya that they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve
-Better explained by this Contention, ‘9. The devil, not God, heareth the zealot’s prayer.’

7. Terrorism is to jihad what adultery is to marriage.
-It is the form of the act that is what makes the difference

50. Don’t get even. (‘God is witr , and He loves the witr .’)
-Do not take revenge
-AHM is particularly brilliant at combining Islamic and English language and vernacular to show that perhaps God has left signs and moral guidance hidden in those language

22. Islam provides hope; the umma provides fear. ‘Whoever unites both wings shall fly.’
-Islam promises us transformation and Muslims scare us about our future, and in a way this is good since we get our share of fear and hope

62. Do not let a false radicalism diminish your desire for a radicalism that is true.
-Better explained by this Contention, ‘58. ‘Moderate Islam’? Do not be an extreme Muslim; be extremely Muslim.’

False salafism
-A manifestation of scientism and skepticism inside the Muslim world
-change the edifice and foundation of building and make it collapse on them
-It carries with it a spirit of independence and autonomy reminiscent of feminism

67. “Back to the Sources!’ Pulling up the bucket is not helped by cutting the rope.
-The constant cry of the Saudi-trained scholars that never seems to progress much further
-If we want to get to the sources we have to follow the chain and historical Islamic scholarly tradition, but we can’t because the Salafi scholarship has detached itself from that tradition

7. The false Salafism should recall that some creatures can only survive in deep water.
-The superficial reading of Islam may work and be enough for the simpleton Nejdi Muslim but that doesn’t mean it is enough for every Muslim
-Some Muslims require more spiritual and intellectual depth and Islam has been quite capable of providing that throughout the ages

18. Wahhabism: the war on polychromy. (Vermeer: the perfect Protestant.)
-The rejection of the diversity of Islam and the multiplicity of religious opinions in favour of the ‘correct opinion’ which when asked on what basis or criteria it is considered ‘correct’ little explanation is given
-In a self this tendency might have its roots in the Monoculture though it is true many Muslim groups have proselytized their interpretations of Islam

50. History for the false Salafis is what the Holocaust is for the Jews.
-It is a revisionist paranoia that only sees the ugly moments in Muslim history and says ‘never again’ but like the Jewish state today it precipitates and brings about what it claims to combat

60. The false Salafism: veiling the Prophet with the Sunna.
-Hiding the Seerah via selective quoting of hadith, and thereby giving not giving each hadith its place, since context is absence

4 The false Salafism: an unsuccessful flight from complexity.
-Though it seeks simplicity it only ends up making things needlessly complicated by forcing people into making Islam a do-it-yourself project

25 The false Salafism: to make progress, we need to start at the beginning every day.
-The slogan is always to return to the basics of tawhid, those things every Muslim knows and has known since childhood

3. The false Salafism: an optimism about the present which justifies a pessimism about the past.
-In this sense it is an heir to European triumphalism of liberalism, secularity, modernity and the Enlightenment which looks back at history negatively and because of that is satisfied with itself and this is precisely why it is deaf

39. The false Salafi is Pharoah in the robe of Moses.
-The age-old Muslim problem of personality cults among religious students

88. The false Salafism: the revolt of the ego against the Caliph.
-This may refer to the revolt of would-be Saudi leadership against the Ottomans for selfish purposes of conquest, rule and the fervor of nationalism

41. The false Salafism: only the Arab has a salaf.
-In other words, the Arab Islam is the most authentic which forgets Bilal, Suhayb and Abdullah bin Salam, who were not Arab; rather many of the Sahabas and the Salaf were non-Arab in ancestry and region

80. The false Salafism: it is better to lose angrily than to win calmly.
-Related to the Contention, ‘54. Beware him that would fail violently rather than succeed peacefully.’

33 The false Salafi should disbelieve in angels.
-The absence of the spiritual is crucial since tasawwuf has to do intimately with the study of angels

43 The pleasure of false Salafism: the exegete stands above, not below, the ulema.
-The man who simply says this hadith is sahih or daef or rejected has a greater status than the ulema who will explain that hadith, contextualize it, compare it with related hadith, criticize it and derive lessons and rulings from it

36. The false Salafi is enraged because Sufism has been taken away from him.
-There is a dearth of spirituality, and a great disconnect between the ascetics, pious men, al-baka’un weeping saints among the Salaf and the early Sufs and the scholars of Saudi Arabia today

80. Only Karaite Muslims demand adherence to a detailed creed.
-Karaite Judaism rejects Jewish rabbinical tradition, demanding strict adherence only to the Torah, detached from the rabbinical scholarship tradition, and the comparison is that Ahl al-hadith and other literalist movements are characterized by what they are not, as opposed to what they are

49. Literalism is the laziness that masquerades as courage.
-Critical thinking requires courage and a boldness to go dig deeper, and the literal reading is the easiest and least demanding reading for the scholar

65. Literalism is a playpen.
-A pun since it plays with words, childishly

90. Literalism is literally a type of tahrif .
-It is a literal distortion of an Islamic text since it hides the metaphorical or other layers of meaning

35. Literalism: have you seen him that worships God on a harf?
-Worshipping God on the tip of a word and being ready to change if someone says that word has changed, has no adherence to the spirit and spiritual power of Islam; it has little regard for context and moral depth

18. Literalism is defensible on all levels save the sacred.
-There are verses in the Qur’an that are clearly non-literal such as ‘And whoever is blind in this (world) he will be blind in the Hereafter…’ which are clear indications to the spiritual which is the hallmark of the sacred

11. The idolator is he who takes symbols literally.
-The Khawarij would not recite Surah Yusuf in prayer because they thought it was just a story

36. Without the batin, the zahir is an idol.
-It is for itself and to itself and does not have any spiritual connection to God
-This may have connection to the Mu’tazilite doctrines involving the corporeal nature of God

24. Be patient with literalists; but absolutely impatient with their extremists.
-Literalism is a simple matter, since in Islam there are literal readings which are valid and invalid so its a matter of simply showing and explaining
-But one cannot be patient with literalist extremists since they are perhaps the most dangerous of any extremist, who will act and kill on a typo
This clip of Hamza Yusuf is highly relevant to this discussion

Ahl al-Hadith
-The recent Indian movement that advocated the usage of hadith alone and dispensing with 1400 years of Islamic scholarly tradition which has taken root in Saudi Arabia

100. The ahl al-hadith have only four madhhabs.
-The limit on opinions that can be derived are those in the four fiqh madhabs?

37. Takhrij is no substitute for exegesis.
-Simply sourcing a hadith and saying whether you think its authentic or not doesn’t actually derive any wisdom or lessons for the hadith

-Formalism is another part of the Khawarij tendencies focus on the form, rather than the spiritual content, the focus on religious observance of rites and practices rather than the meaning
-a static, ossified, tradition, which you either are or are not inside this form- the strict adherence or observance of the deen, but in a way that ends up destroying the spirit of Islam and this formalism, differs starkly from the organic nature of the Sunnah, which is about always developing, always coming closer to Allah, always learning, always improving, and therefore, never seeing yourself as pious or knowledgeable because it is an infinite journey.

76. Formalism is just another variety of materialism.
-It is a superficial focus on worship as little more than a commodity rather than as a healing or spiritual journey
-The immediate, perfunctory rituals have more virtue because they are material, they can be seen as substantial, and easy to show, “This is what Islam looks like!” where as education and tazkiya are in solitude

91. Formalists prefer the political to the spiritual because their political failures are less extreme.
-A spiritual failure is harder to confront than a political problem to which one can resort to slogans and sound-bites to attempt to solve
-Spiritual transformations are what true political change is about

21. Tradition: the signs of tawakkul are an authorisation. Formalism: the signs of anger are an authorisation.
-Acting based on anger like the Hulk rather than acting on trust and reliance upon God like the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wassalam)

73. Formalism: to esteem his fingers over his soul.
-AHM may be referring to the finger raising in prayer or he may be referring to pointing fingers rather than acting from the soul and healing the soul

49. The formalist is the corpse of an angel.
-The material nature of formalism sees what is material as real, but angels are made of light and to have a corpse of an angel is a metaphor to the death of spirituality

80. Shi‘ism is a schism, lacking the sea of Mercy.
-This is related to the Contentions, ‘78. Mu‘tazilism: unity and justice. Ash‘arism: unity and justice and mercy.’

33. Shi‘ism: He was infallible, except in his choice of wives.
-If the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is infallible it applies to all his choices, yet the Shi’a find fault in Aisha (radiallahu anha)

74. He is the Alid who does not accuse him of lacking rida.
-A true supporter of Imam Ali is someone who doesn’t accuse another personof lacking rida (satisfaction and acceptance of divine decree)

77. We are the Shi‘at Ali.
-Perhaps AHM is referring to Sunni Islam being the true partisans of Imam Ali

99. Rafidism: the first Muslim conspiracy theory.
-Rafidi Shi’ism where all sorts of ideas of a divine mistake being made where the Prophethood should’ve gone to Ali
-Like all conspiracy theories it has more to do with the love of scandal than of any truth

3. Sunnism is built on manaqib ; Shi‘ism on mathalib.
-Sunnism, instead of requesting of others, is built upon far sightedness, planning and doing
while Shi’ism is built upon requesting of others to do things

36. ‘Whoever has me as his Mullah, then Ali is his Mullah.’
-A reference to a hadith that connects the Risala of the Prophet with the honour of Imam Ali who is the ‘gate of knowledge’ and at the head of the Sufi orders
-AHM mentions that one of the books chanted by the Shi’a regarding Ahlul Bayt is written by Abu Wa’iz al-Kashifi, a Naqshbandi Sunni Sufi

23. The Sunna: both/and. The Shi‘a: either/or.
-Better explained by the next Contention
59. The Siddiq and the (Ali) Murtada are like Isaac and Ishmael: we do not say either-or, but both-and.

Emotional Islam
44. We are offering to the world a chalice for the soul, filled with our emotions.
-The Prophetic example is not to preach his grief and anger along with tawhid though he (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was more tried than any of us

70. Pessimism is part of the impiety of the periphery.
-Being pessimistic damages the man of Muslims who live in the West: it can make Muslims in the East feel even more hopeless and it can make us Muslims self-defeating and powerless

45. Only movers are shakirs.
-Only people who achieve change are grateful, people who are always complaining and ungrateful usually will never attempt anything

50. Religion is only worth doing when it is better than opera
-If religion is just more theatrics and drama being added to our life then it is of no avail and of no use

95. Decadence is to protest more than to invite.
-Again, AHM visits the idea of decadence and how we Muslims protest more than welcome or do dawah
-When was the last thing Muslims held a rally for dawah for non-Muslims?

16. Have we become like the Incredible Hulk, ineffectual until provoked?
-An apt metaphor about Muslims who are on auto-pilot angry 24/7 when it comes to doing anything
-There is a Twitter account that plays off of this idea: MuslimHulk

97. Those who curse do not transform; those who do not curse transform.
-The difference between the spiritual state and its effects

64 We have replaced contrition with shame.
-We feel shame and our inferiority complex in the way that we should be feeling remorse and repentance to God for our sins

13. Know when to feel ashamed of feeling ashamed.
-Prolonged self-pity and mourning over oneself and the state of the Muslims is much more pathetic and embarrassing than actually being embarrassed by Muslims, its shaytan rubbing salt in the wound

100. Despair of self is the door into religion; despair of God is the door out of it.
-When we are overcome by the difficulties of life we turn to Allah for solace and ease, but when we imagine despair of God’s assistance we abandon religion
-The Prophets are the most tried amongst humanity and they did not fear sins as much as they feared disbelief

78 It is time to rise from the emotion-bath, and recall where we left the libas al-taqwa.
-We should stop bathing our mind, body and soul in emotions and anger, and instead put on the garment of piety and God-consciousness

54. Beware him that would fail violently rather than succeed peacefully.
-When someone decides that violence is the nobler route or carries with it more success simply because of what they have seen in films its a sign of stupidity and as AHM says elsewhere in his Contentions, ‘an extreme way of shooting oneself in the foot.’

3. Today we grow up quickly, but into something childish.
-Brings new meaning to the saying, ‘The child is the father of man’
-The idea of the ‘kidult’ and the fact so many divorces occur
-Elsewhere AHM talks about the modern day Muslim as a child in the robes of an elder sultan

31. See things coolly. You will not think more clearly by worrying that you worry.
-In biology, the part of the brain that worries is the ‘reptilian brain’ since it has similarities to the animal world where it initiates a flight or fight response, and this impairs any cognition with the upper parts of the brain

52. We can curse, or we can be discursive.
-We can keep cursing and getting angry or we can start using our reason and find ways to mitigate the reasons for our anger

71. Do not trust those who readily close their eyes.
-We put people in the driving seat who aren’t ready to open their eyes and we all crash and get hurt

100. ‘The conspiracy theory of society comes from abandoning God and then asking: “Who is in his place”?’ (Karl Popper)
-Even the philosophers understand why conspiracy theories have grown, that its a symptom of our distance from God

Try this…

96. If their defences are strong, it is because you have not used the weapon of mercy.
-’I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends’ (Lincoln)
-People know how to react with anger and hostility, but they become confused and don’t know how to react when their enemy uses compassion against them and eventually they cave

84. Expect only a little. If you impose everything on everyone, you will drive everyone away from everything.
-Taddaruj or gradualism is the way Islam grew and it is the convention even in the Qur’anic revelation

10. Use silence to suffocate falsehood, not truth.
-When we speak to someone idiotic we lower ourselves and acknowledge that they are to be listened to

43. Use words in your preaching only if absolutely necessary.
-Often the Muslim who remains silent and talks little people note his/her character and actions much more closely and it is in there that only the good stands out clearly

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 4, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Secular Ideologies and Isms

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, was-salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

This section is arguably the most important section of AHM’s Contentions. Here he touches on a number of issues ranging from the scientific, philosophical and political in the Western framework. This section may be a little abstruse but its crucial for Muslims to start discussing some of these more challenging topics.

Part of this section (modernity, monoculture and liberalism) are relevant to the next sections of Islamic Ideologies and Isms/Geopoltics since those are in response and often connected to these ideas.

-‘Science looks for where it lost the ring under the streetlight because that’s the only place that it has any light.’ (Nuh Ha Mim Keller)

93. Those that are wedded to the science of this generation may be orphaned in the next.
-Science will most likely abandon us, treating humanity as little more than guinea pigs, so we have no support in the future and perhaps turn to religion instead
-The problem with science nowadays is the lack of values and ethics that stablise it, if the line between does and don’ts is always shifting sooner or later it will be the science that gets hurt
-AHM may be hinting to the fact science may so radically alter us in our psychology and biology that we will be unable to approach science in the same way

35. Science is the revelation of order. Faith is the revelation of liberation.
-What does order reveal and what does liberation reveal?
-AHM has mentioned that philosophy has debated and wrestled over the idea of ‘being’ which here may correspond to liberation, and the ‘order of being’ which corresponds to ‘order’ or perhaps ‘order of being’ corresponds to liberation in the sense that faith orders our existence

80. Scientists show us only dead matter. (‘God calls you to what gives you life’.)
-Science is materialism and engages in a type of necrophilia because it has its limits (i.e. this Earth) and its rigor often sounds like its beating a dead horse
-Often science has more to do with disproving and often trying to be a kill-joy to the more mysterious aspects of life,
-’When a scientist says something is possible he is almost always right, but when a scientists says something is impossible, he is almost always wrong’

76 The frontier between seen and unseen moves in time, so why not in space?
-As time has gone on we can now see with microscopes, ultrasound, x-ray or telescopes what we once could not see, so if that is the case, and our understanding of reality is that time and space are interconnected and intimately related, so then we have a basis for the possibility that we can ‘move’ spatially into those unseen worlds
-He is suggesting our moving from this world to the Next via what we know of time-space


58. We are designed to fall to our knees.
-AHM I believe is commenting on the intelligent design argument for the existence of God, like the watch-maker explanation for God, and building upon it by saying we are designed not just to prove God’s existence but to also for prayer, and therefore designed for His worship
-There is a design to the world in that we do become overcome by grief and do collapse and look up in prayer

22. Taskhir is usufruct, not a title deed.
-The argument of intelligent design is on loan, that is, perhaps Muslims are just borrowing it from Christians and its not really a ‘Muslim’ argument in that we own it
-Or that we are allowed to use the world around us, but it is on loan from God and therefore not truly ours

32. The existence of God is proven by existence. The existence of existence is proven by the one for whom it exists.
-I don’t think it could be said any clearer than that so I won’t comment on this

85. Man is the proof of God. The man of God is the proof of religion.
-Man proves God which proves the man of God which proves religion
-The sight of the Awliya and the Prophets is often enough to change an atheist into a believer

70. Atheism: all faith is idolatry.
-Muslim definition of idolatry applied to any belief in a god
-Atheism is a purism, but from what?

60. Nietszche: God has died because of those who believe that God died.
-A clarification of Nietszche’s ‘God is dead’ which really refers to the appreciation and fear of God which has vanished
-’I am in the opinion of My servant’ (Hadith)
-People ‘believe’ God is gone, meaning they still have potential to ‘believe’ in something, but why has it been reduced to a belief in an absence?

37. Ex nihilismus nihil fit.
-From the nihilist nothing is done
-Nothing is meaningful for the nihilist who surrenders to a fatalism
-Julian Benda echoes an Islamic idea that one should do good not because of its results, since it may achieve little but because it is good, similar to the hadith, if one is planting a seed and the end of the world arrives, you should finish planting the seed

65. Atheism: the belief that water originates in the well.
-AHM mentions in one of his talks, to use aql for an end, and only to an end, leads to atheism and a believer that has aql is more true to aql
-The problems of philosophy are about being and order in being, so why is there water and why is the well ordered neatly, why isn’t a big gooey mess?

42. Atheism: I live, and I will die. Theism: I live, and I will live. Tariqa: I am dead, and I will live. Haqiqa: Allah is Alive, and does not die.
-A continuum of beliefs and progressions on the spiritual journey
-This is a very close definition to belief and how it can radically alter our world moving from a mere idea to a lived reality

84. Free will secularises by authenticating the alterities.
-Free will alone suggests we are the other in our choices and that we can be coequal to God in the scale of our decisions when in reality God has destiny operating as well
-A commitment to free will validates the idea that there are other non-religious ways of being, that can be just as good as Islam, which for Muslims it makes Islam feel like its not as sacred or any more special than any other religion or ideology

98. Is it willpower that frees us from our wilfulness?
-Will power as a battery and willfulness is intention or the action that uses willpower to power it
-Having the ability to choose satisfies us so we don’t do anything very meaningful volitionally
-What actions do we do that are truly wilful?

-AHM talks about this elsewhere, ‘You won’t find certainty through any amount of equations that you write up on a chalkboard. You won’t find certainty by looking through a microscope because that’s all dunya and it’s all self-referential. It’s the hall of mirrors. Certainty is a gift. Allah (SWT) is the one who bestows it…’

9. Relative existence has no reality of itself. See it only as signs made of shadows.
-Signs made of shadows which is similar to mirror made of reflections, where we relate our existence to others and find mutual hollowness
-A sign made of shadows vanishes when Light is near and so God can efface our reality when guidance and the proper spiritual openings come

86. The only thing that is inherently uncertain is the claim that everything is inherently uncertain.
-If everything is inherently uncertain then this statement too would be inherently uncertain and false too

26. Uncertainty is only superficial.
-See the previous and next Contention

39. If you are sceptical about coincidences, God will help you.
-Hamza Yusuf in one speech mentioned the word coincidence is made up co-incidences meaning that the cause-effect relationship is not being followed clearly and there is something not quite normal going on
-God will help us in that He will manifest coincidences in our lives so as to show us His omnipotence and that He truly is in control and that miracles are not as far-fetched as we imagine them to be

83. Determinism does not exclude providence, it excludes everything else.
-Determinism out rules the possibility of something different occurring, that cause-effect relationship, is binding and God may have let that come about because of His Sunna but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to occur
-The fact it excludes everything else, for example, means that it out rules the paranormal, and other possible explanations and therefore also out rules and cannot any further than cause-effect and appreciate the mysteries of life
-The miracles that occurred in Prophetic history have spiritual effects but just because God causes a miracle doesn’t mean people will believe, some won’t since deterministic understanding of cause-effect makes them still doubt it
-The uni-drectional linear flow of time creates a very limited world of experience

-AHM says elsewhere, ‘secularity must be the public certainty; all other certainties must be contemplated in private.’
-Syed Naquib al-Attas dedicates a portion of his writing to differentiating secularism and its related processes, where secularism is the crystallization of the process of secularization and secularity is the state of being secular and apart from religion so the crux of the issue is the ‘progress’ of secularism and whether it can succeed

82. Nothing is more counter-intuitive than secularity.
-It goes against our intuition to compartmentalize and divide our experience of the world and thereby diminish it

85. The secular are just like everyone else, only less so.
-Secularism is defined by reaction and subtraction
-Religion carries with it glorious expressions of human history, our emotions, poetry, art and our maximum potential but the secular in separating from this make themselves voluntarily lesser than past society and currently existing religious societies
-The scope of human experience is severely limited and there is a great deal of depression and confusion

99. Can one belong to the West and not subscribe to the illusion of a secular ethic?
-Our participation in society has to do with the secular ethic of keeping religion private, and its implicit in our society, but it is an illusion since we have freedom of speech, so if we were to go and speak about religion publicly would this shatter the illusion or make us ‘lesser’ members of the West or somehow nullify our membership as citizens?

6. Nothing is more risky than the thought that the world has been ‘secularised’.
-Secularization of the world cannot ever be fully achieved since something will always make it under or over the fence, so when Muslims start believing in secularisation happening then they begin to denigrate Islam

99. Secular morality: modernity’s saving fiction.
-Its undefinable and whatever aspect of morality is there has more to do with Judeo-Christian morality than with a secular morality, since a secular morality is little more than biological determinism and a cynicism and critique of altruistic behaviour

96. Secularity excludes universals
-In secularity, everything is specific, isolated, fragmented, and disconnected
-There is little internal coherence in secularity

-“Humanism in the conventional sense of the term de facto exalts fallen man and not man as such. The humanism of the moderns is practically a utilitarianism aimed at fragmentary man; it is the will to make oneself as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible.” (Frithjof Schuon)
-AHM remarks in one of his essays, ‘…theme of “becoming oneself” that ironic modern quest which, as Robert Pippin has noted, has replaced the ancient and Enlightenment dream of “knowing oneself” so that instead of learning what it is to be human, the novelist avoids any generalization from his own self-awareness to the nature of humanity as such or the quality of reality. “Self-becoming” takes place through relationality, once the experiment with isolation has failed; and relationality’s summit is not romantic love, but sexuality. Hence, as with Proust, Houellebecq’s narrator is only able to reflect upon his own growth to self-becoming in connection with the body.’

21. True humanism: the Real is known only through mu‘amala.
-God is only known through meaningful interactions with each other and Him? Uncertain if AHM is trying to say something else.

32. True humanism: there is no account of God without a knowledge of human potential.
-’He who knows himself, knows his Lord’ (Imam Ali)
-One must be realistic in matters of religion with respect to people’s ability which means, not simply looking at our individual choices but what we as human beings are capable of otherwise its ‘personism’; not selling humanity short


58. Comfort and freedom are unnatural bedfellows.
-‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.’ (Thomas Jefferson)

15. Tolerance is no substitute for holiness.
-Being tolerant is not the core of religious teaching, though it is important, holiness and a sense of something greater than ourselves and the world around us is far more important

16. The solution is liberality, not liberalism, for liberalism takes more than it gives.
-Being more generous is the solution since liberalism only seems to be taking things away from people
-“If they merely took pleasure in affirming their imagined superiority, the illusion would only do harm to themselves; but their most terrible offense is their proselytising fury: in them the spirit of conquest goes under the disguise of “moralist” pretexts, and it is in the name of “liberty” that they would force the world to imitate them.” (Guenon)

44. Liberals make mercy colder than justice.
-A passage from Chesterton who AHM has referred to elsewhere: ‘He takes us into the schools of inhumanist learning, where there are neither books nor flowers, nor wine nor wisdom, but only deformities in glass bottles, and where the rule is taught from the exceptions. Macaulay said that the Puritans hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. Of such substance also was this Puritan who had lost his God. A Puritan of this type is worse than the Puritan who hates pleasure because there is evil in it.’

10. Exoterism offers only literalism or liberalism.
-If there is nothing sacred or spiritual then everything has to do with maximizing pleasure and the morality is nothing more than world-play and manipulation

28. There is no liberation in the world that is not also a liberation from the world.
-There is no spiritual satisfaction in the dunya unless it has to do with the Akhira and Allah

81. Not all autonomy is dignity; but all dignity is autonomy.
-Being dignified carries with it autonomy but simply being autonomous doesn’t win you dignity

77. The hardest choices are those between justice and equality.
-The problem of ‘redistributive justice’ where to be compassionate or give rights to one person may take away from another person, especially if there is a limit on resources, which is related to Marxism
-How can we say this is fair or just in relation to another? On what scale are our values set?

-AHM says elsewhere, “What Westerners call progress is for Moslems nothing but change and instability; and the need for change, so characteristic of modern times, is in their eyes a mark of manifest inferiority: he who has reached a state of equilibrium no longer feels this need.”

89. ‘Progress and catastrophe are two sides of the same coin’. (Hannah Arendt)
-The use of the word ‘coin’ indicates gambling as the true nature of what society is doing, in gambling with ideas and the emotional and intellectual lives of millions

94. ‘If somebody scratches where it itches, does that count as progress?’ (Wittgenstein)
-The mechanistic reactionism of progress indicates the banality of it, its short-sightedness, and how it actually produces nothing but is little more than small desires

4. Nothing is more pessimistic than a naïve belief in progress.
-There is no control in that since one is putting faith into a ghost or a mystery whose values and decisions cannot be predicted and change rapidly

59. Liberation is always mutual.
-If I am liberated at the expense of another its not really a liberation because my conscience will imprison my soul, therefore both must be liberated for my soul to also be liberated

-This is something AHM has identified and make Muslims understand about the Western society; the monoculture with its uniformity is compared against the beautiful multiculturalism of Islam where religion is internalized regardless of race or culture
-AHM says in one of his talks, ‘Islam is the only religion that emerges against its society; Jesus is part of that society, Buddhism has India’s reincarnation ideas- and this is so God wanted us to recognize the greatness of Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam’
-AHM remarks in one of his essays, ‘For him, self-becoming requires separation from bourgeois false consciousness, and only two such separations are currently available: Islam and idealistic hedonism. His option is for the latters, but only because the former is alien to him. But perhaps in that very alienness lies an authentic Otherness, an option which would enhance our free separation from the monoculture.’

17. Islam is muwahhid; the monoculture is muwahhad.
-muhwahhid means monotheist, while muwahhad is the object form of the word and the monoculture treats people as objects, not people

78. If you seek to keep up with the Monoculture, you will always be out of breath. If you seek to excel it, you will be at peace.
-The monoculture always runs around in circles, consider how long it took for modernity to catch up with women’s rights, protection of minorities and abolishing slavery which Islam afforded a long time ago

66. The Monoculture annihilates difference for fear that the Other might show it what it truly is.
-Like a killer it needs to eliminate witnesses who have seen its violence
-AHM says in one of his papers, ‘For Davutoglu, the Enlightenment’s liquidation of non-Western cultures traps us forever in the monoculture, since the option of borrowing and syncretism open at earlier times of civilisational crisis has now been confiscated.’

64. The Monoculture is opaque to itself.
-Can’t see through itself or demands everybody else be transparent so it can judge other cultures yet no one can evaluate it
-This may change as there is now a new sociological discipline called ‘White Studies’ that has just begun

59. The Monoculture: an easy way of making life difficult.
Zahir: a difficult way of making life easy.
Batin: al-din yusr.
-Ease and tranquility have more to do with the cognitive frames one uses than with life itself

89 The Enlightenment’s falsest promise was the development of strong autonomous personalities.
-Better elaborated by the contention ‘87. False culture opposes consciousness.’
-How conscious are we? How self-conscious are we?

77. Happiness is more important than conforming to the Monoculture.
-There is a difference between the Monoculture and happiness, since the idea of happiness in the monoculture is material while happiness in Islam is about spiritual sakina

6. It is better to engage fully with the Monoculture from a position of dislike than to engage partly with it from a position of admiration.
-In terms of negotiation strategy, it is better for us to voice our beliefs about what we dislike about the monoculture and engage in it that way than to engage with it in a position of admiration where it may simply walk all over us

76. The Monoculture: everyone toes the line, saying: ‘I am in a different place!’
-To think freely is often to think alike, rather than differently
-Often the same people who demand freedom of speech aren’t very good at freedom of thought

4. The Monoculture has no principle save the absence of metaphysics. (Without the One, there is no Many.)
-’The first rule of fight club? Don’t talk about fight club!’

94. The monoculture is as relaxing as its trousers.
-Something about society is reflected in the sorts of pants it produces: baggy jeans that are half way down your legs, tight pants, yoga pants, torn jeans, or corduroys
-The pants are meant to stifle us and make us self-conscious and anxious about our appearance and adherence to the monoculture and latest fashions; there is no contentment

40. ‘I should’ now only means ‘I should not obstruct my neighbour’s “I want”.’
-Going along to get along
-Our morality is basically little more than getting out of the way

34. Detachment from the need to conform is perfect only when it yields perfect conformity.
-If we Muslims abandon conformity to societal norms then it is only perfect when we conform to the sunnah, or else if we do not conform to the sunna than what we do in the name of Islam often imitates the monoculture (ex: Islamic fashion shows or game shows)

72. The élites want everybody to be nobody.
-When an army invades, especially a Western superpower, the first people to die are those who are distinguished as leaders or learned people so that the masses can be more easily manipulated and not rise up
-AHM may be hinting to the state of modernity as alienation from what one is capable of

-AHM says elsewhere, ‘Muslims, in their wisdom, developed science and technology only to a point where divine agency and human frailty were still undeniable; and were providentially protected from further “progress”’
-AHM says in one of his papers, “If late modernity tends to strip us of true agency, then must we conclude that the core Enlightenment ideal can only be found in religion?”

7. The modern West shows that without a Shari‘a there can only be scattered hunafa’.
-There are only a few people remaining who believe in monotheism, that is among non-Muslims without the Shari’a

50. Modernity: ‘a world full of Christian ideas gone mad.’ (Chesterton.)
-Capitalism, Liberalism and the Monoculture have basis in the history of Europe

64. Modernity deprives us of the most basic right of all: the right to be traditional.
-It forces us to re-invent ourselves or always be changing
-To be traditional is to be like those who came before us and simply follow the culture of the geographical region without any unnecessary pressure from elsewhere

10. Modernity: a way of drowning in nothingness.
-Modernity advocates nothing and spreads this vaccuum which leads to depression

64. Modernity offers more and more ways of being the same sort of thing.
-In the spirit of things it is more of the same, though superficially it may appear differently
-This Contention is especially relevant to the next section which shows how Islamism and extremism are manifestations more of the West than they are manifestations of Islam especially in how they are related to utopianism of Communism and democracy

96. Which is the bigger prison: Islam in the eyes of modernity, or modernity in the eyes of Islam?
-Islam in the eyes of modernity looks exoterically a prison, but is esoterically open while modernity in the eyes of Islam is exoterically open but esoterically very constricting

26. What can modernity tell those who dislike shopping?
-When Christian Lauder, (who wrote ‘Stuff White People Like’) was praised for representing ‘white culture’ he replied, ‘This isn’t a culture, its a shopping list!’

11. Modernity, at best, is a nostalgia for desire.
-All modernity reminds us of are our biological and material desires over and over again

42. Modernity has only footnotes; faith has text as well.
-While Islam has the Qur’an and its own commentary, modernity has cut itself of from the flow of history, perhaps seeing itself as the ‘end of history’ it has concluded and started writing footnotes
-Often it is the footnotes which frame a text leading or misleading the reader

95. Modernity: such a huge arena for so little activity
-Spreading modernity around the world to absolutely no purpose, except perhaps economic benefit
-Loneliness has become epidemic with modernity

27. Modernity is confined to Westernness; Islam is not.
-The monoculture vs. the multicultural; the melting pot vs. the mosaic

100. Modernity finds it hard to distinguish between rest and idleness.
-Productivity and vacation, that after a while we become used to constantly working and find pleasure in it

35. Modernity offers us everything except pleasure and leisure.
-Today most people work 5 days a week and take 2 days off in a week, and retire late when they are aging, whereas in the Muslim world in the past, people would work 6 months and make sufficient money and for the next 6 months not work and spend their time in in leisure, worship and learning knowledge

13 Modernity has not healed our pain, it has only dried our tears.
-It is merely the flow of time and a comforting tough it has no healing for our pain
-In this sense it is purely exoteric and blind to what is esoteric
-An apt analogy might be having someone from a different religion comforting you at the funeral of a loved one

100. Modernity is the teaching of perfect misunderstanding.
-‘And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.’ (Qur’an 7:179)

27. Modernity: the nuclear winter of the Reformation.
-The Protestant reformation is likened to a nuclear war in which everybody has suffered modernity in a winter brought on by the blotting out of the sun by the theological fallout
-Its an example as to how internecine religious disputation when it goes on for too long can destroy the religion both sides seek to improve

9. Modernity: an accelerating attempt to shovel matter into the growing hole where religion used to be.
-’The blank in the modern heart is a God-shaped blank’
-’A religion small enough for our understanding would not be large enough for our needs.’
-Note the sharp disparity between matter/modernity inadequately replacing spirituality/religion

70. Against Modernism: between signs and science there is neither rhyme nor reason.
-There is no order nor inherent sense in the relationship between physical sciences and philosophy (signs/signifiers)

87. The cause of modern panic is non-referentiality.
-There is no tradition and therefore no security or ‘home’ to go to when things get bad
-No one to look up to for guidance or support, but having a constant societal pressure to invent and innovate

-Postmodernism is the idea that everything is subject to open interpretation, a decadence that means everything is meaningless and banal

6. Postmodernism is Jahiliyya. Each tribe has its own story.
29. Postmodernity: a galaxy of dogmatisms.

22. ‘I particularly like the idea that my paintings may say nothing.’ (Magritte)
-A decadence that becomes too lazy to intend anything
-If people believe life has no purpose that comes to be reflected in the artwork


71. Heuristics: the ideal ear is the idea without the Id.
-‘Reason is the slave of passion.’ (David Hume)

9. The task of the intellectual is to atone for his complexity.
-There is a hadith, ‘Yassiru wa la tu’assir, Make things easy, not difficult, Basshiru wa la Tunaffiru, Spread good news, not bad.’

1. It is better to be a naïve believer than an intellectual bereft of intuition.
-An intellectual can become deluded with pride in his knowledge and intellect and may reject Islam, but a naive believer remains humble with the vicissitudes of life and preserve their Islam
-AHM often mentions a hadith, that most of the people of Jannah are simple-minded (or foolish) people

44. Academic Islamic Studies is as foolish as it is because we are as foolish as we are.
-Its hard to make Muslims noble by studying their strange idiosyncrasies

17. Most people would benefit greatly from learning a first language.
-AHM’s writing and is a clear example of why you should master your first language
-When Islam becames an integral part of a country Islam becomes a part of the language, but first Muslims must make Islam understandable to the general masses with a better use of language

76. The saint says a few simple things, and changes the world. The academic philosophises, but does not change even himself.
-We can become slaves even to our ideas and they can control us, but the saint strives and changes the only thing he can change, himself and Allah

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 2, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Tributes to Islam

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, was-salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

This section will strengthen your understanding of the place of Islam in this world as well as honour and praise Islam and show you various ways to approach Allah’s Majesty and Beauty.


49. It was Orientalism that told us that Islam means ‘submission’. But Islam says that Islam means ‘letting go’.
-Orientalism was a 3rd person narrative of Islam but Islam tells in the 1st person that its about letting go, humility and detachment

4. All Islam offers is God.
-This religion is the ultimate monotheism

87. Islam is a hidden treasure longing to be known.
-Like a treasure one must journey to it and search it out

75. Islam is God’s effort to give us the easiest possible way of being traditional.
-’Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty’ (Qur’an, 2:185)

82. It is in its Ash‘arite occasionalism that Islam most radically sacralises the world.
-Each act of Islam is separate from the previous, each event has it’s own sanctity
-The world is not sacred as a whole but as infinitesimally small parts meaning it is being honoured every moment continually, not simply being honoured once

14. Only Islam is good enough for Sufism.
-Other religions try to approach Sufism but are partial at best and incomplete
-People from other religions do also experience ‘miracles’ but often they are inferior to that of the Muslims and Islam has produced more ‘saints’ than any other religion

83. Islam does not give you a full account of God, but it gives you the fullest account of God.
-The extent to which God can be known He is made known

66. Islam: the transformation of nature into culture.
-Many of the sensibilities our soul innately recognizes as good and beautiful, are made explicit, confirmed and sanctified by Islam

42. The beginning of Islam is wonder at the world; its end is to be the wonder of the world.
-Islam begins as marveling at the beauty and ayat in the world, ‘You have not created all this in vain’ (Qur’an)
-Islam becomes beautiful as an expression of our maximum potential of beauty and grandeur

18. The fact that we so regularly misunderstand each other is a proof of Islam’s universality.
-We misunderstand, but then we come to understand, which shows how vast Islam is
-People understand Islam differently which shows how broad the religion is

57. Religion, like a garden, is more resilient than a fortress.
-Religion is natural, not man-made
-Religion plants seeds and carries scents afar

21. If your Islam does not attract pure hearts, it is not Islam.
-If what we call Islam attract turbulent hearts then that is not the Islam the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) attracted humanity to

23. The Straight Path is the shortest distance between two points.
-Islam is about directing yourself to the direct path to God

33. Islam is the learning of mercy.
-Mercy in the broadest terms, of every aspect, in our thought, actions, feelings, prayers

6. What the heart needs is the periodicity of the crescent, not the uniqueness of the cross. (Chagall, White Crucifixion .)
-Periodicity refers to the reoccurence of, so Islam is reoccuring at intervals and is not simply over like the time of Christ is over with

15. Islam is the Pentecost.
-The Pentecost is a celebration of the Law given to Moses and Resurrection of Christ in Christianity, so Islam is the celebration of those religions
-’I am the supplication of my father Ibrahim, the good news of Jesus, the son of Mary, and my mother saw a light that radiated from her which illuminated the castles of Ash-Sham (Syria).’ (Hadith)

63. Islam: inlet heaven.
-An inlet is a body of water hugged by land, as if welcoming people at sea
-Conversely you can see Islam as a starting point to jump out into the ocean of the spiritual world and if you are weak easily retreat back to the land of Islam and try again later

52. Islam is no meteorite fallen upon Earth; it is its invisible, unregarded core.
-Islam is not the Black Stone in Mecca, rather Islam is the centre of the Earth
-Islam is equated with the nourishing, hospitable broad nature of the Earth and yet like the Earth it is always underneath us thought we neglect its presence

84. He who knows himself, knows Islam.
-If I know myself, my weaknesses and needs then Islam will naturally appeals to me

88. Iman is derived from ‘Immanence’. The centre must be present in the periphery.
-There are no borders to the spiritual
-AHM defines Iman in one of his talks as ‘Growing and declining as an expression of the percentage of things and experiences we encounter that we relate to Allah’

71. Islam is a frame. Iman is a claim. Ihsan is the Name.
-Islam isthe frame we operate in, Iman is something we claim or try to claim and internalize, and Ihsan is all about the Names of God and knowing Him

79. Sharia – to hammer in the tent-pegs. Tariqa – to pitch the tent. Haqiqa – to dwell in the tent as a Prophet in glory.
-Where do we hammer the tent-pegs? Where do we draw the boundaries? If its too large pitching the tent will cause it to tear. If its too loose, it will crowd us inside. Some tension is needed. And then to dwell in it is to be like the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) in Itikaaf with his Lord


53. The world without hell is the word.
-It is just talk and not serious

40. The kafir: the baby turtle that forgot the sea.
-Some animals have a memory of where they were born and journey back to it to give birth to their offspring, so this reference has to do

98. Kufr is the betrayal of love.
-Kufr is to deny the truth of Islam when it is shown to you clearly, but when Allah shows us the truth of Islam that is a manifestation of His love to us and our kufr is to betray that love

34. Kufr: impermanence is a problem. Iman: our anxiety about impermanence is a problem.
-The mushriks think a good or evil comes due to their actions and is a sign of divine favour while the believer knows it is merely a test to raise one high

51. Polytheism is faith in the alterities.
-Alterities is faith in what is other or secondary, and in the thought of Levinas has to do with an entity whose identity is established in contrast against
-Idols come after the belief in Tawhid, they are a pollution or decadence of the idea of God

76. Tawhid makes vanity impossible; shirk makes it indispensable.
-Shirk is to be vain and the worship of other than God, either in riya or worship of the self has everything to do with vanity and narcissism

27. No graven images – because to emulate God’s creation is blasphemously to underestimate His power.
-The images do not capture the totality of the creation but only capture a part of it. It misses out on the soul, heart, character, intellect, cells, etc all of which are also part of that creation

74. There is no Divine gift that is perfect in the absence of the fear of hell.
-Without the existence of Hell we would not value Paradise as much as we do

12. ‘Die Bösen haben keine Lieder.’
-the wicked have no songs
-What song is sang about Firawn? No one loves them.
-There is no rhythm or coherenece or beauty in their actions and life story

50. To believe that every virtue in a disbeliever is a manifestation of the Divine ruse is a manifestation of the Divine ruse.
-This one is difficult but I think it means, It is a test for you to think that the virtue you see in a disbeliever is a redeeming virtue
-It is a puzzle or a test to think there is a mystery behind the disbelievers haing virtue

60. Idolatry, at best, is the unbalanced fixation on an Attribute.
-Idols and pagan gods are limited to a jurisdiction, like being a destroyer god or the god of wisdom, which are

65. Only a hypocrite is proud that he despises himself as a hypocrite.
-Nifaq or hypocrisy is covert and one knows they are a hypocrite but takes pride in it by not changing it?

64. Mockery is for pouring upon kufr, not upon people.
-We hate the kufr and it is the only thing worth mocking, but that doesn’t mean we hate people

6. Kufr: to see the sun setting, and to do nothing about it.
-To know one’s mortality and imminence of death and to do nothing

37. Idolatry is worse than atheism.
-You only need convince an athiest of God and Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam), but you must pull a mushrik away from shirk and then make him/her believe, so its the difference than 1 or 2 steps
-Atheism is half the Shahada

18. Let us hope that their shout does not bring on the Shout.
-Let’s hope the shouts of misguidance does not bring on the the shout of Gabriel which destroyed some of the disbelieving nations mentioned in the Qur’an


32. After converting, treat yourself to your favourite meal.
-Make shukr, contemplate over it and prepare yourself for the trials that are to come

44. Joining religion is like unearthing your family tree.
-You meet people who are related to you in a very intimate way because we are all related to Islam
-Salman al-Farisi being once said something along the lines of ‘Islam is my family’

23. Converts: we must jump the gap without losing our clothes.
-The gap is of the life of the West and the East, and converts shouldn’t soak up or absorb everything of a Muslim culture
-Clothes are the closest form of art to the human body and saw much about oneself, but clothing itself is rarely ‘un-Islamic’ in nature

7. To give the newcomer the rukhas is fard. To give yourself the azima is Sunna.
-To make things easy for the convert is fard, and being strict with them is unjust. But being hard one yourself is the Prophetic way.

5. British Islam: ‘We came as rebels, and found ourselves to be heirs.’ (Gershom Scholem)
-AHM is probably expressing his own situation, becoming a Muslim and suddenly being in a leadership position

29. Closet converts are the malamatiyya: they know, but are not known.
-People who hide their Islam blame themselves and feel inadequate for not showing it openly

97. Islam liberates because it is rooted in our natures.
-In other words it is rooted in our disposition and manifests what is already there

40. Everyone is a cradle Muslim. The mysterium iniquitatis is a post-natal complication, not a genetic fault.
-The fitra is there in every newborn but blaming satan for misguidance is something that complicates thing
-Not being a genetic fault hints to the ‘touch of shaytan’ which every human has been marked with at birth except for a few (Jesus and Maryam)

98. No-one is uncircumcised, for the bezm-i alast was too joyful to be forgotten entirely.
-Day of birth carries with it an ontological joy that demands it be commemorated, the Day of ‘Alastu bir-rabbikum, Am I not your Lord’ and we responded ‘Yes to this we bear witness’ mentioned in the Qur’an is a momentous event that should be celebrated

24. Ma’ruf and munkar are defined by the fitra.
-Our conscience tells us of good and bad, it is in us, with beauty being with ma’ruf (good) and ugliness being with munkar (evil)

5 pillars

24. Only five pillars hold up the sky.
-The reference might be to the hadith that the heavens are creaking under the weight of the angels busy in worship of Allah, so we in following the 5 pillars of Islam are putting opposing pressure on the sky to keep it from tearing and collapsing on us

22. al- Hajju hujja .
-the Hajj is witness, meaning that on Qiyama various parts of the Earth will testify to our actions, so having places that are sanctified bear witness to our righteousness before Allah is a blessing

47. The dietary laws are an opportunity to fast.
-A ‘micro-fast’ in a sense


-“‘Verily the soul becomes accustomed to what you accustom it to.’ That is to say: what you at first burden the soul with becomes nature to it in the end.” Al-Ghazali

1. Adab is nothing but a preparation for prayer.
-We remember Allah in prayer to the extent we remember Him outside of prayer

45. Salat is the zakat of time.
-Prayer is tax on our life, as a shukr for the baraka put in our time

92. The Alone wishes to save us from loneliness. ‘Come to the prayer!’
-Had Allah not prescribed the prayer we would have found more distress and difficulty than we find in actually performing the prayer and it is in this sense a gift

46. In the measure that we accept the Prayer it is accepted by God.
-Do our souls take from the salah any good? If we don’t see any good in the prayer then why would Allah see any good in it and why would He accept what is not good enough for even us? Are we giving to Allah a prayer that is the equivalent of a worn out jacket or a sock with holes in it?

51. Prayer shows us what we truly desire.
-When we start to make dua we realize what we really wanted

69. If you do not sanctify the dawn, the day will not sanctify you.
-We feel special in our other prayers only if we prayed the Fajr

75. Miss Fajr will help you to feel tired all day.
-The early morning hours are full of baraka and a secret of the successful and the righteous

76. Those who sleep with Miss Fajr may catch a disease.
-A dis-ease that will make catching the other prayers difficult

27. A busy life makes the Prayer harder; but the Prayer makes a busy life easier.
-It is hard to focus on our salah when we are distracted by dunya, but we we do pray there is always some ease

18. The position of prayer in your list of priorities points to your state.
-What things are more important on our list? Laziness? Comfort?

8. The alternative to pride is prayer.
-Sometimes our prayer is self-exaltation so we are either praying to God or embellishing our pride

74. Without the Prayer, each of us is a hole in creation.
-Perhaps a play on words, that with the prayer each of us is ‘whole’ in creation

97. Let the next hours be an apology for the sunna prayer. Let the sunna prayer be an
apology for the fard. Let the fard be an apology for separation.
-Allah compensates the paucity of our prayers with the other prayers
-AHM is saying let us remind ourselves of God so that we think of Him in the sunna prayers, which will help us with our fard prayers and the fqrd prayers compensate for our forgetting of Him

1. The saint is he whose presence makes you love the Prayer.
-The Awliya make prayer beloved because we see what prayer can do to someone and what its value really is

90. The Prayer is rus in urbe.
-Rus in urbe is a garden or countryside atmosphere within the city, so this means the prayer is like a stroll in a garden amongst the tumult of the city or in the fashion sense a reference to the dress one wears or the sight of the prayer may remind one of Paradise or longing of the Muslim world and specifically the Holy Cities

41. Without the rusum you haven’t got a prayer.
-You need rituals for the prayer to take effect because we don’t know which movements be beloved to God

God exaltation

81. The slightest reduction of God makes Him vanish.
-Vanish in the spiritual sense of our consciousness of Him
-‘I am in the opinion of My servant’ (Hadith Qudsi)

39. Does the infinity of God leave space for anything else?
-Can the ego rightly claim a place or can anything compare to His Transcendence? In our actions do
-God is beyond time and space and so there is no space…

75. God’s only sameness is in His signs.
-His Attributes vary but all His signs carry the same grandeur and beauty

18. God was the beginning, and He still is.
-He is also the Last and He still is

43. Belief in God begins when we cease to believe in ourselves.
-In another Contention, AHM says, ‘Islam means ‘letting-go’ (i.e. not submission)

54. We can know nothing other than the Unknowable.
-Abu Bakr said, ‘ al-`ajzu `an dark il-idraki idrak’ Our incomprehension of God is our comprehension of Him
-Everything points to Allah though we are impotent in knowing Him by ourselves

56. All that we have, we must offer to God. All that we keep back will burn.
-Related Contentions to this mention how our money is only truly ours when it is in sadaqa and when we spend it for Allah

3. Oneness cannot be exaggerated.
-The tranquility and honesty of tawhid
-AHM says in one of his talks, ‘You can never have too much fear of God’

25. Only God is both inescapable and indispensable.
-’Umar said, ‘We are fleeing from God to God.’

20. Disregard my sins as you hear this prayer. And make this prayer that you disregard my sins.
-Our prayers are from Him so we ask Him for the duas to ask for our forgiveness, that is if AHM is referring to God
-If he is referrring to a fellow man, it is thay we think well of those who pray and sometimes we pray so that people see us trying and because of that forgive us for our mistakes

93. Ibada: remember God to re-member yourself.
-In our decadent society sometimes we sit for long hours and don’t use our limbs as much as we should, so by worshipping Allah grants us a connection to both spirit and body

5. The Buraq exists to indicate the nature of the asbab. Nothing is more indicative of God than His conventions.
-Contemplate the convention of the Buraq and what sort of means it is in the journey to God
-The Buraq journeyed to God with great speed, it was shy and difficult at first before the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) which hints to suluk being difficult at first but then swift which hints to nature of the inner
-The Buraq travels swiftly to as far as it could see so this may allude to the fact God can make us journey to Him with a mere glance

59. Do not think that anything has any purpose other than to point to God.
-Everything is an ayat (sign) and reminder of Allah

88. A tasbih deals with tashbih. But for tanzih, there is nothing at all.
-We say subhanallah due to the ayat and similitudes that He coins but we struggle to express His Transcendence
-If we fill our whole life with lofty attributes and deeds then that is how we dedicate it to understanding His Transcendence

14. God’s glory was, and there was nothing else. His glory is now as it was.
-Had He not made us He still would be glorious and majestic and He is not increased or decreased by us

61. You do not rise to Him. He does not descend to you. Rather, what you see, He may unveil as His alone.
-‘Direction’ is subservient to Him and whatever we understand of that is in His knowledge

62. Your reach towards Him is tiny. His reach towards you has no limit.
-The journey to Allah never ends

68. Our finitude is our distance from Him. His infinitude is His closeness to us.
-We are limited in how close we are to Him, but its not about us, its about His reach to us.

40. Only God can save us from thinking that we are gods.
-Were it not for His revelation we would be like Firawn
-Guidance (hidaya) is from Allah alone

78. God is only absent from creation when we are too.
-When we lose sight of the blessings around us then We lose consciousness of God

29. Total transcendence is immanence.
-If He is not Great then We would not value His omnipresence

54. There is no conception of God, for conceptions will pass away.
-‘Everything will be destroyed,’ including ideas and thoughts ‘and all that will remain is the Face of thy Lord abiding’

41. The purpose of holiness is the sanctification of God’s name.
-Sh. Nuh Ha Mim Keller upon being asked if there was a commentary on the 99 Names paused then replied, ‘You are the commentary’

Beauty always promises, but never gives anything. ~Simone Weil

78. Beauty is the most literal of metaphors.
-Husn is a metaphor for good
-Ihsan is as William Chittick translates it and as AHM affirms, ‘doing the beautiful’

73. There is no gratitude without a sense of beauty, and no humility without a sense of gratitude.
-Beauty leads to gratitude which then leads to humility
-We make shukr when we see God’s goodness to us which we find beautiful and there is no humility implicit that gratitude

85. Religion is the recognition of beauty.
-In finding a beauty of Islam, a person would give shahada; had they found it ugly would they commit to Islam?
-‘The perception of beauty is a moral test.’ (Thoreau)

68. The only principles in this world which are impressive are Paradisal: the beauty of nature, of women, perfume, friendship, the sound of God’s word.
-AHM once quoted Ibn Abbas said ‘There is nothing in the next world of this world except their names.’

43. There is no knowledge of Him without love of beauty. We have been created to love beauty.
-the Quran, Seerah, the Prophets, hadith and righteous are beautiful and actions are beautiful
-Idols generally are ugly creations and come across as a type of decadence and pollution because idolatry saturates the consciousness with the world

94. Nobility is the aptitude for seeing beauty.
-Discretion, honour and futuwwa come in deference to beauty
-Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love”
-In projection and perceiving – is 99.9% attitude. ~Grey Livingston

47. What is forbidden, is forbidden only because of its banality. ‘God is Beautiful, and He loves beauty.’
-The connection between the cosmetic and Cosmic

69. To claim that beauty is decadence is decadence.
-If one has grown weary and cold-hearted to beauty then they see beauty as a lowly thing to take for granted

4. Al-Jamil means ‘He That Reminds’.
-Beauty is a reminder, and that is what the Ayat are but a reminder

45. The judge of the art competition seeks only beauty in our portfolios.
-Allah wants to see good actions in our book of deeds and if there is something especially beautiful then He is pleased with us
-Allah doesn’t seek more actions, but more beautiful actions

The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa alihi wasalam)
-AHM comments on ‘the limitlessness of his parish’ (salallahu alayhi wasalam)
-AHM mentions that the Seerah and Qur’an are intertextual

13. The ultimate was not he that endured his own suffering; it was he that endured the death of his family. (‘I am with the broken-hearted’.)
-Khadija, Abu Talib and the Prophet’s 7 daughters and sons, except for Fatima all died before him and he had to deal with that loss. In his last day’s the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) would visit Umm Ayman who was the hand-maiden servant of his mother Amina and say, ‘You are the last remnant of my house’

46. Mecca: he will come.
Jerusalem: he was here.
Medina: he is here.
-Graffiti you would see in these Holy Cities

87. Each perception of beauty is a prayer upon the Prophet.
-The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is the most beautiful of mankind and Allah created the world from his nur (salallahu alayhi wasalam) so all beauty has a portion of the Prophetic beauty
-We make prayers upon the Prophet in a variety of formats, and AHM is introducing the idea of making salawat an-nabi
-‘More flowers I noted, yet I none could see but sweet or color it had stol’n from thee.’ (Shakespeare)

74. The durud is all our theology, and all our spirituality.
-The salawat an-nabi is an application of La illaha ilallah Muhammadar-Rasulullah and it is a dua given to us from Allah
-If we cling to it, it has the shahada implicit in it and it is the summary of the Qur’an and Sunna and increases us in closeness to Allah and His Rasul (salallahu alayhi wsasalam)

56. If he is both familiar and unfamiliar, he is a Messenger of God.
-We knew him before his Prophethood and yet we don’t really know him or understand the nature of the spiritual transformation in his Prophethood
-He is both of the world and of the other world

94. Rumi is among the dala’il al-nubuwwa.
-Rumi’s popularity and universality are indications of how the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is a universal Prophet sent to all mankind

35. It is normal that not everyone deserves the mawlid.
-Most Muslims have inner feelings of love to the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) longing to get out but most people don’t realize the mawlid is a place for that
-The blessing of the mawlid is like the Sahabas recalling hadith of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) often involving nasheeds, qasidas, and discussions of ‘ilm

20. If worship is the purpose of creation, then the Founder is the purpose of creation.
-He salallahu alayhi wasalam is sabab al-wujud, the reason for existence
-Qadi Iyad speaks in his Shifa about how were it not for Nabi Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam, Allah would not have created the world, because he is the beloved of God. The Sahaba asked the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam what was the first thing to be created, to which the response was “Nur Nabiyika- the Light of your Prophet” (salallahu alayhi wasalam).

24. Only by love is the Prophet seen.
-The mushrikun saw him (salallahu alayhi wasalam) but only saw their nephew while the believers saw someone they loved

3. God gave us the Prophet because He loved what we might become.
-He gave us a pattern to follow for becoming beloved to Him

37. ‘Like us in all respects, except for sin.’ To know one’s sinlessness: is this not to be unlike us in all respects?
-People discuss the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) as a Muslim like us, but we are saturated with sins and to be free of sins like him (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is to be completely different from us
-We are humanized by sins to repent but the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was free of sins and yet still would ask God for forgiveness and there is a vast difference between the two

31. ‘What I stand for is what I stand on’ (Wendell Berry). ‘No prophet was not a herder of sheep.’
-He (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is the best servant of all the servants of God, he was the best of mankind, guided humanity, is honoured by humanity

42. The Prophet carries all of great Islam.
-Every great moment in Islamic history is a nostalgia for the Prophetic era
-AHM comments in one of his books on the hadith, ‘Ana Ahmad bila mim – I am Ahmad (a name of the Prophet) without the “m”‘: for when one removes this letter, only Ahad, the One remains.'”

12. He was exemplary for all four castes.
-The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is exemplary to all 4 castes in the Indian caste system: the priests, warriors/kings, business-men, and the downtrodden and neglected. This shows his universality to the diversity of human experience and how he best manifested the virtues of these castes.
-This may also refer to the 4 madhabs

58. ‘All true Reformers are by the nature of them Priests, and strive for a Theocracy.’ (Carlyle, on Knox)
-The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) achieved the fullest aspect of reforming society, that is, by establishing a state
-As one of the bedouin Sahaba said about the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) ‘There is nothing in his religion that leaves me wanting change’ which is relevant because it satisfied every aspiration


10. The lubb: humanity without nature is like nature without daylight.
-Nature nourishes our spirit, amazement and sense of growth in the way sunlight nourishes nature
-‘Know that when one of Allah’s servants sins against Him, He deals with him leniently. Should he sin again, He conceals this for him. But should he don its garments, then Allah conceives against him such wrath as the very heavens and the earth could not compass, neither the mountains, the trees, nor the animals; what man could then withstand such wrath?’

44. To know the saint is to know the age.
-AHM says in one of his papers, ‘The saint, who is God’s vicegerent (khalifa) on the earth, is precisely the one who realizes the teleology of the body-subject by using the plentitude of “body and spirit” in harmonious conformity to God’s commands; and in consequence, a sign of his/her sanctity is that like the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) he/she is a refuge for the animal kingdom.’

6 If you would know God’s view of the age, see how the blessing of nature has been received.
-AHM says in one of his papers, ‘The current crisis in the world’s environment is, of course, only to be understood religiously. Global warming, depletion of the rainforests, the failure of the monsoon, hormone pollution, male sterility, acid rain, BSE, desertification, and a myriad of other planet-threatening calamities can be easily explained, from our perspective as Muslims, as the consequences of not paying the rent. We are taking more from the world than ever before, greedily digging up its most inaccessible resources, sucking up oil from under the North Sea and the Alaskan tundra, mining uranium from deserts in Namibia, squeezing iron ore from inaccessible corners of Mauretania: the sheer quantity of Allah’s bounty should astonish us. And yet the more we gobble it up, the less we thank the source of these resources. When an oil well is finally depleted, humanity does not burp, and say, ‘Al-hamdu li’llah.’ We are not paying the rent, and so the Landlord, subhanahu wa-ta‘ala, sees no reason to maintain the property. Why should He? Out of His astonishing mercy, he keeps oxygen in the air, and fresh water in the rivers, so that the earth supports six billion people, and comparatively few starve. But as we guzzle more, and reflect less, this generosity cannot go on forever.

69 One is to rejoice at non-membership of the culture that is Earth’s enemy.
-Here is why we should side with Islamic cultures rather than Western culture and its decadence, because it is out of touch with the Earth
-A good example of this is in one of AHM’s essays: ‘Those who have visited Sarajevo, or Mostar, or the other cities of Bosnia tortured by months of bombardment, may have noticed a remarkable thing. Modern buildings made of prestressed concrete need only a tap with a mortar shell to bring them down like a pack of cards. But the Ottoman buildings are astoundingly resilient. A large-calibre artillery shell can go through a dome, or clean through one of those pencil-thin minarets, and the structure remains absolutely sound. So the Serbs poured more than 150,000 shells on Sarajevo, and almost all of the mosques of the old city are still serviceable. But walk out of the old town and into the modern quarter, and there is absolute devastation, stretching like a concrete sea in all directions. No-one lives there now, except the rats.
The Turks knew how to build: for a reason. They came from a country prone to earthquakes. Their buildings are incredibly strong. During the 1961 earthquake which flattened the Macedonian capital of Skopje, killing 20,000 people, observers watched with astonishment as the minarets, seemingly the flimsiest buildings in the world, danced and undulated like snakes, and then settled down again, pointing to the heavens, while the rest of the city, built under Tito, collapsed with a roar.
In 1878, when the Russian army occupied the cities of Bulgaria, they experienced enormous difficulties in demolishing the mosques. In Sofia, the capital, they had to wait until there was a midnight thunderstorm, and then they detonated giant charges of dynamite in the mosques to bring them down. The local people mistook the sound for thunder, and did not come out to defend their mosques until, for the first time in five centuries, they failed to hear the adhan for fajr.
In Turkey itself, today, the newest structures have proved the most flimsy. The ancient buildings are generally safe and sound. The Orhan Ghazi mosque in Izmid, dating from the early fourteenth century, is apparently largely unscathed. The traditional wooden houses are virtually all safe, and those who lived in them are still alive. I was once myself in an earthquake in Turkey, just thirty miles from Izmit. But I was in an old Ottoman house: the house groaned and squeaked for a minute, but it was quite unharmed.
There is, then, a secular culprit. Or rather, a class of them. They are those Turkish city planners who, following the destruction of the Ottoman caliphate, insisted on changing the face of Turkey. Just as it was a criminal offence in Ataturk’s Turkey to wear a turban, so also the state insisted on the abandonment of traditional Turkish building methods. They had to be replaced by European, specifically German norms. Hence those rows of dismal, grey buildings in modern Turkish cities which have nothing to do with Turkey. Their spiritual and engineering roots are in Germany: and Germany is not in an earthquake zone.

85. We see the world, and think it to be still. But it is coming down fast, all the time, from Heaven. (‘You see the mountains, and think them to be still.’)
-A reference to Asharite Occasionalism and the creation/re-creation of the universe at every moment

63. The dove and the spider: nature only spares those who spare it.
-The dove and the spider stood outside the cave while the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) and Abu Bakr hide inside it, ‘Innallah ma’ana – Do not fear, Allah is with us’
-The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was merciful to nature, he would show mercy to nature and the lesson is that nature may reciprocate kindness show towards it
-Similarly nature may reciprocate harm done to it as is the case with global warming

God’s Mercy
As the Qur’an says, kataba ala nafsihi ’r-Rahma: He has prescribed rahma upon Himself.

66. The illusion of causality is a divine mercy, which veils rigour, which in turn veils Mercy.
-We see cause and effect and make sense of it that way which is a mercy, though that is not the case since Allah is the Cause, and continually is showing us mercy in allowing us to perform good deeds

47. Marvel at mercy only when it comes from those to whom no mercy has been shown.
-’Those who do not show mercy will not be shown mercy’ (Hadith)
-Mercy from those who have been oppressed is a miracle

78. Mercy has the last Word.
-the Risala of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) came last and was ‘Rahmatil lil Alameen Mercy to the worlds’

8. He created Hell only that He might be called ‘Merciful’.
-He is the Most Merciful precisely because He created Hell, because sometimes punishment is a mercy.

7. Shari‘a is a side of God’s mercy. Tariqa is a sign of God’s mercy. Haqiqa is a sigh of God’s mercy.
-The closer we get to Him the more of His mercy we encounter

16. Transcendence is merciful insofar as it is preparatory.
-For us to exalt God as being greater than what people ascribe to Him is preparatory of our meeting with Him and this is merciful since it is a Divine disclosure that humbles us which assists us in our tarbiya

97. In the rain of God’s mercy, the believer is a duck, the infidel a cat.
-The believer recognizes God’s mercy and is not afraid of it, regardless of its form because of its Origin, and the disbeliever is afraid of it

24 ‘One who has mercy on the cruel will in the end be cruel to the merciful’. (Koheleth Rabbah 7)
-If we are merciful to oppressors often that mercy will hurt the oppressed and assist the oppressor in his evil

66. God’s mercy is not limited; but He is not limited by His mercy.
-He is not tied down or bound by His mercy
-Ibn Munkadir, tabi’i, said, ‘I am shy before God to say that His mercy will fail anyone among the disobedient, and had it not been for the clear revelation concerning the polytheists, I would not have removed them from inclusion in the verse, “My mercy encompasses all things.”’

66. You have underestimated His rahma.
-Just like the line in the Burdah, “Praise him (Muhammad) as much as you can, and you will never do him justice,” so is God’s Mercy and Muhammad is God’s Mercy (salallahu alayhi wasalam)

75. Wrath is finite; mercy knows no end.
-’My mercy overcomes my Wrath’ (Hadith Qudsi)

67. Only a few can see that God’s rigour is compassion.
-Think of sour medicine, or think of cauterization, or amputation of diseased limb; they hurt but are needed at times

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | December 1, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Spiritual Development

Bismillah, alhamdulilla, wa salat wasalam ala Rasulullah

Here is the second batch of commentary. I may edit and update these some more. I am beginning to think Abdal Hakim Murad week will last longer than 1 week! 🙂


51. Prayer shows us what we truly desire.
-When we start to make dua we begin to think and realize what we really want

11 Failing to pray for faith is a sign of lack of faith.
-Concern over one’s weak faith is a sign of faith is what the ulema and sufis always say
-The duas of the Sunnah often mention praying for strong iman and faith

100. ‘May I not prove too much of a skunk when I shall be tried.’ (Wittgenstein)
-A prayer we can modify to “Oh Allah, do not make me odious and wretched when You try me. Make me beloved to You when You try me.”

79. I am my weakness; You are my strength.
-The Qur’an mentions that Allah create man daifa, weak and he is full of anxiety but when that anxiety is for Allah and fear of Allah then it becomes our strength

81. A good prayer is from Him; a bad prayer is from us.
-Similar to the verse that good is from him and evil is from us

36. Stolen prayers are the sweetest.
-Being a collector of duas: the wisdom, attitudes and spiritual states you find in various duas of the righteous makes you grow

77. Let us pray, O Lord.
-How desperate is our state that we struggle to pray properly? That, we are at a point of confusion, formality and impairment in our prayers
-Dua is the essence of worship and to achieve that is no small thing but a blessing bestowed by God

-Elsewhere AHM mentions that there is no dhikr without consciousness

5. If there is no dhikr, there is no self-restraint. If there is no self-restraint, there is no beauty. If there is no beauty, there is no dhikr.
-Dhikr is connected to beauty and self-restraint, dhikr has baraka in it that restrains us but also demands us to work hard and restrain ourselves because we must watch what accompanies it, and what best accompanies it is what is beautiful

33. The inward istighfar comes before the tahlil; the outward one after it.
-Imam Junayd has said that tawhid is not the first thing needed to convert to Islam, but rather humility and putting down one’s pride is needed first

42. Takbir is insincere when louder than istighfar.
-We love to say Takbir loudly as if we have something to be proud of but we have more to repent for

59. Dhikr and electricity are deadly rivals.
-Electricity powers the distractions of the dunya today while dhikr powers the growth of the soul

7. Bless him, and you will travel to the secret of the Names.
-Salawat an-Nabi is said by the sufis to subsume the Names of Allah in their dhikr and effects

Actions of the Heart

34. You are your intentions.
-The virtue of good deeds is mostly in their intentions, more so than in their performance

35. There is no inaction, so long as consciousness remains.
-Elsewhere AHM mentions that there is no dhikr without consciousness

82. Nothing is difficult, except in our thoughts.
-We think something to be far more difficult than it actually is and this is the trap of cognition, you can over-think something and do so very often but very rarely do you see someone over-doing something

24. You may hold open the furnace door; but it is God Alone who blows out the fires consuming your heart.
-We may strive with great effort to change ourselves but the actual change will come from Allah, we do have a science of cause and effect in our spirituality, but in reality the cause is Allah
-In the past some people who the shaykhs struggled to transformed would later be transformed in an instant

17. The believer has faith as his companion, and hope in his destination. The ignorant man has neither, yet he still seeks joy.
-Arab proverb: ‘He who has hope has everything’

94. Look within, and what is outside you will become clear. Look around you, and you will understand yourself.
-The inter-relationship between the zahir and the batin, what they tell each other and how they circumscribe each other
-When we look inside we see what is important in the world, when we look at the world we see what is important to our souls

82. Fasl: Calmness lies on the other side of your tasks. Wasl: Your tasks are your calmness.
-You may decide that once your prayer or fasting is over then you will be calm, but really you will only find the calm in those acts of worship
-This can also apply to the workplace where you must get some calm from your work
-Fasl is connected to zahir and Wasl is connected to the batin

72. If you wish to excel at your work, consecrate it to God.
-Actions such as praying Istikhara or 2 rakah nafl to put blessing in it, doing it while fasting or while making dhikr

-AHM says in one of his papers: The Qur’an itself speaks of those purely exoteric beings who ‘are like asses, carrying scrolls.’ (Qur’an, 62:5)
-The Muslim today is not much to look at, outwardly but inwardly its a very different story. AHM says in one of his speeches that we are like a graveyard where there is not much to look at but there is a great deal going with glimpses of the Heaven, Hell and the punishment of the grave

85. The shallow always dries up.
-The spiritual world is always compared to an ocean but the physical world is very shallow and carries little nourishment for the soul

22. Exoterism cannot see that nothing is strong enough to limit His self-disclosures.
-People who deny the spiritual and baraka don’t really realize Who they are dealing with but they may never find out because, Allah says in a hadith qudsi, ‘’I am in the opinion of my believing servant’

20. The failures of exoterism are not usually the victories of esoterism.
-Usually when the exoteric aspect fails it takes down the esoteric aspect along with it

68. The esoteric made exoteric becomes an exoteric argument against the esoteric.
-The zanni made qat’i becomes a qat’i argument against the zanni, or the probable made definitive becomes the definitive argument against the probable

19. Failure is God’s punishment for exoterism.
-Exoterism means a lack of inward actions, especially a lack of sabr

97. Without the inward whom can we worship? The Outwardly Manifest?
-If there is no spirituality then how outward can we be? How outward can God be? Is there Transcendence or Immanence then?
-AHM says that the sacred is the idea that the world can be more than itself

-We have female Awliya but often they too are often referred to as men (rajul)

35. Approach the teacher as the comet approaches the sun.
-As comets approach the sun they develop enormous tails which for us means one should leave things behind and lose some of oneself

47. The teacher exists to teach you the importance of what you have transcended.
-He teaches you rahma and wisdom and does not make you proud of being better than those who are in a state that you used to be in

65. Rejoice most highly when the Teacher’s command is hard.
-A difficult command may be a short-cut on the spiritual path

92. Who is a shaykh? One who recognises that his life will soon be over.
-Their is a saying of Hasan al-Basri that ‘He who remembers death (at least) 20 times a day is one of the Awliya’

75. The saint’s belief that he is bound for hell is his halo.
-It is belief and conviction, not mere passing thought that he is fighting against a hellfire

36. A good teacher always feels guilty.
-They are always apologizing for shortcomings and seeing others as better
-AHM mentions that if they give you a gift they will apologize that its not the best they could do and are generally never satisfied with themselves

38. If you have not seen the saint, you have not seen the Sunna.
-The Sunna and Wilaya are commensurate to one another

84. Learn from the Law in the saint alone.
-The awliya imbibe the Sunna and Sharia, in ways they themselves may not notice

41. The theologian proves the second shahada from the first. The saint proves the first shahada from the second.
-The theologian proves that Muhammad is a Prophet of God by appeal to God, whereas the awliya prove God’s existence and magnificence through the Prophet and his Seerah (salallahu alayhi wasalam)
-Knowing Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi waslam) makes one believe in God

41. The scientist discloses matter, the jurist discloses ethics. But their shared beauty can only be disclosed by the Teacher.
-The connection between matter and ethics, is known by the Awliya, and they understand the kharq al-adat (the breaking of the norms of God’s Sunna)

83. The saint is the father of deception, for he perfectly emulates the veil of the asbab.
-The awliya or the murshid is a veil of the divine, He does little more than pray for the student as Allah is the One who really guides

85. The saint is a mediator to the extent that he demonstrates the omnipotence of God.
-The awliya are not in themselves great, but great in connection to Allah
-They are a manifestation of Divine Power

42. The Teacher knows that only the tedious is forbidden.
-To get tied up with the dull and boring will distant people, so Allah teaches us by continually giving us new trials and tests
-Our teachers give us dignity in our tasks and do not tire us with dry boring tasks
-What is tedious often results in little benefit

55. The profane see the windmill, the saints see the wind.
-The saint sees the unseen and does not need signs or indications

50. The Teacher does not love the disciple because the disciple serves the Teacher. The Teacher loves the disciple because his service reveals understanding of the Way.
-The Awliya are teaching in order to share the blessing as the hadith says, ‘He is not a believer who does love for his brother what he loves for himself’
-The Awliya have no ego in their teaching and have a totally different attitude we find difficult to understand

51. When the Teacher moves beyond the curtain of death, the signs become fainter; they are instructing you to watch for them more carefully.
-When the Awliya pass on to the next world, they like the martyrs and Prophets are still alive in a spiritual sense, as the hadith related to Isra wa’l Miraj relate,
-What this means is we should observe carefully to see their appearances

46. The saint is the one whose love reminds you of your most recent sin.
-He/She reminds you of God and provokes in you the fear of God

62. The saint’s servitude makes him greater than the heavens and the earth.
-The saint may not seem a servant but his/her tarbiya is his servanthood

80. Truth is proven in the diversity of saints.
-AHM says most of the Awliya are non-Arab and this proves that Truth is present everywhere

75. Without the saint, the accumulation of matter will kill us.
-A world without spirituality will drown us in a sea of materialism

41. The saint is serious, but not judgmental; the false Salafi is judgmental, but not serious.
-The difference between acting from wisdom and acting from nafs

85. A saint is anyone who teaches you the meaning of wudu’.
-Wudu has many meanings, some of its purposes are being the key to prayer, a purification and a method to cool one’s anger so it is an aid as well as a cure

43. By their selflessness they take you from yourself to Himself.
-The journey from the nafs to Him
-There is no distance between you and Him, but it is all about removing the nafs

59. The Shaykh’s cosmic gift to you is the opportunity to serve him.
-Their are effects in khidma to the pious, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi once said that those who serve the Awliya will be granted children who will become ‘ulema

60. If you disobey the Teacher, you have told him of your admiration for the tiny.
-The Awliya call us to Allah and what is magnificent while we may still admire things of the dunya and if we cling onto those things, so disobedience of the Awliya translates to a clinging to the dunya

90. The saint only leaves the bridal chamber on his beloved’s account. (‘I am his hand wherewith he smites.’)
-The Awliya are hidden and only come out with permission from Allah and His Rasul (salallahu alayhi wasalam)
-al haqqu awliya khafa’ – the right of the Awliya is obscurity
-AHM mentions the Awliya are the anti-chamber of the sacred, the barzakh between this world and the next and a manifestation of the jalal and jamal

97. If you are not a saint, everything is your fault.
-Allah sends mercy into the world through the Awliya while it is the sins which cause problems for the Muslims as a whole because we must be purified
-’This ummah has mercy on it, it has no punishment in the Next, but its punishment is in this world with fitan, earthquakes and killing’ (Hadith)

8. No-one is more extroverted than the contemplative saint.
-The Awliya are actively involved in this world and not isolated
-The Awliya see everything, even the inner is made manifest to them so their extroversion sees all that is introverted


-AHM mentions in one of his speeches how we try to become the living with dhikr and reforming our souls, that we Muslims are essentially ‘halves’ walking around

24. Suluk is a sostenuto, not a tenor clef.
-Endurance and sustaining the rigor of the spiritual journey

26. Sufism is the way of God wherever Islam is the way of God.
27. Islam is the way of God wherever Sufism is the way of God.
-There is no separation between the two
-‘Every Law unsupported by mystical truth is unacceptable; likewise every mystical truth unsupported by the Law’ (al-Qushayri)

99. Suluk is untying the knot; jadhb is cutting it.
-Jadhb or the way of Love is the fast-track to God

32. Sufism is uncastrated Sunnism.
-It is a Sunnism that requires a bold courage and to use a reproductive metaphor is fertile to give birth to the Sunnism of the next generation

82. Khalwa is quarantine.
-In retreat you are not saving yourself from others evil, but saving others from your evil actions

65. A tariqa carries fare-paying passengers. If they will not pay, it should not continue as a railway preservation society.
-There is no free-ride; one must sacrifice in order to continue on the way, otherwise the tariqa is just cultural heritage

92. Guilt is a warning.
-The hadith, ‘astafti qalbik, listen to your heart’ is relevant
-It may be a sign of a punishment or purification to come, or it may actually precede a sinful act

74. Seek, and you will be found.
-Seek Allah and He will send someone to find you

74. Tariqa: peer with peers to find a pir; a pir appears.
-In the process of searching for Awliya alongside peers and friends, you discover Awliya perhaps even amongst your peers

60. You will only choose the right tariqa when you realise in what sense it does not matter which tariqa you choose.
-You do not choose the tariqa, but the tariqa chooses you
-The tariqa itself is a veil behind which Allah is the real Actor

23. Why ‘spirituality’? Because muraqaba makes the ritual into the spy-ritual.
-A play on words with spy-ritual/spiritual, as muraqaba is a surveillance over the heart and thereby creates a stronger connection of the heart to our ibadat

29. If you think you do not deserve God’s punishment, you may not deserve His tribulation.
-If you are arrogant Allah may simply abandon you with worldly pleasures to delude you

100. You cannot arrive by making an effort, but you cannot arrive without making an effort.
-One must make an effort but it is not the effort that makes on arrive but rather it is Allah witnessing the effort and accepting it and guiding you

24. Knowledge is to see the door. Penitence is to approach it. Prayer is to knock upon it. But to open it is not within your power.
-It takes knowledge to realize there is a door, repentance brings us closer to it, and prayer is to knock on it, but the ‘opening’ comes only from Allah

66. The Sufi is he who makes God’s slaves love the Law.
-Fiqh precedes spirituality and is tied up with it

10. Knowers know in the way that flowers flow.
-It is in their nature or the flowers in the garden flow with the wind?

50. The beginner resents being laughed at. The wayfarer forgives those who laugh. The Arriver laughs with them, long and loud.
-The shrinking of the ego as a measure of spiritual progress and achievement

99. Initiation is to realise the lightness of the Law.
-Bayah is an acceptance of the Sharia and a finding of assistance in the observance of the Law

12. Our faces are a prediction.
-Firasa and Nur are being hinted at here

24. Paradise is occupied mainly by the stupid and the Sufis.
-AHM is fond of referring to a hadith that states ‘Most of the people of paradise are simple-minded (or in AHM’s translation: foolish) people’
-So if we aren’t foolish or simple-minded, then we must try to be like the Sufis, but in Paradise everybody has become a Sufi as AHM mentions

87. No-one is suited to tariqa. Tariqa is suited to everyone.
-There is no free-ride but it is like a gym in that it is open to everyone since we all have the same spiritual anatomy but have to work to tone it

15. Beware the word that is an excuse for not making dhikr.
-On what basis can we excuse ourselves from dhikr?
-Some say doing Qur’anic calligraphy or other acts that relate to dhikr is a valid excuse for missing one’s daily dhikr (wird)

48. The internal, not the external, reaches the eternal.
-The external is limited, we know we can’t reach that far in the real world but we do not know the limits of the internal world

44. A paradox: the showing of light is usually covert.
-Spiritual theophanies are not visible to everybody so the light is an intimate experience

84. Haqiqa justifies tariqa; tariqa justifies shari‘a.
-’Hold fast to the Rope of Allah altogether’ (Qur’an)

3. But for Sufism, religion would be just another form of self-esteem.
-The religion would not amount to little more than tribalism, ego and a feel-good sentimentality

14. Only they who underestimate Shari’a despise Tariqa.
-They don’t see the nobility and lofty status of the Shari’a so why would they see any virtue in Tariqa?

53. Love of the saints is the proof of religion and of religiosity.
-Love of the righteous believers is a proof of true religiosity

81. To grow in the spirit, and not to grow in the need to pretend not to be what one is, is a contradiction that closes the Way.
-This one is confusing but I think it means to grow spiritually and to not want to be more authentic to one’s spiritual potential is a contradiction

73. Lust before lustrations. Fast before frustrations.
-Lust before purifications and Fasting before we are frustrated by our appetites
-We must sin before we are purified but we must exert ourselves before our sins overtake us
-Frustrations are related to purification because they purify us if we bear them with sabr

16. Only if the body is the temple of the spirit does the veil not belong to the high priest.
-There is no high priest in the temple of the spirit

97. ‘Down to Gehenna, or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone.’ (Kipling)
-We must journey with righteous company as Islam began in a community, not in isolation and hence the necessity of a tariqa or friendship with righteous brethren

76. The Sunna is suluk, for the Divine Other may only be intuited. ‘Perception does not attain Him, but He attains perception.’
-Following the sunna is a sign of progress on the journey to God

25. Without Law we can make no ablution from our sins; but without Spirit there is no water.
-Water has a purifying effect on our psychology and there are research studies that confirm that fact and yet it is the Sharia that makes the washing of water sacred

9. ‘Leave the ghazal, look into the azal.’ (Rumi)
-Leave the flirtatious love, look into the eternity,
-Ghazal in this context would refer to flirtation with beauty of this world I suppose
and look into eternity which refers to the essence behind the beauty in this world

61. Jaza’ at-talaqi yawm at-talaqi.
-The rewards for meetings is on the Day of meeting (day of judgement)

2. Without the ilm al-hal we will mistake imhal for ihmal.
-Without the ilm al-hal (knowledge of states) we will mistake imhal (neglect) for ihmal (carelessness).

-Qur’an: ”Hast thou considered him who takes his lusts (hawa) for his god?”
-AHM uses the

86. The greatest achievement of the ego is to make virtue unattractive.
-Imam Ali or one of the sufis said: ’The legacy of the company of evil men is to think evil of the good’

13. Hawa: the wind of fancy.
-A breeze that comes and disappears on a whim
-Desires are vapid and immaterial in their substantiation

19. Your nafs will never receive exactly what it wants.
-The nafs has very bad vision and even worse coordination

72. The body cannot overcome the nafs, because the nafs is bigger than it.
-No mater how much one consumes or tries to satisfy the nafs, the body will just become fatigued
-Ibada is not nearly as fatiguing as following the nafs

65. Inequality is from the nafs alone.
-Me, myself and I, anna anna, ‘nafsi nafsi’
-Righteousness is selflessness because we can guide and intercede on Qiyama for others

28. The nafs is anxiety and agitation. The Spirit is the breath of peace. (‘So give good news to My servants!’)
-Status anxiety upon seeing what Allah has given to the disbelievers
-Qur’an 18:28 “And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, and do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect.”

18. Self-control makes you a fortress; self-indulgence makes you an animal, either a riding-beast or a target.
-No one can control or penetrate you if you have self-control, and be self-indulgent and your desires will repeatedly use and abuse you as you let your ‘ego run rampant’ as Abdal Hakim Murad says in one of his talks

29. Nafs is a comedian. So enjoy your Sufism!
50. The road to God is paved with laughter at the self. The road to Hell is paved with laughter at others.
-The nafs and the tricks it plays on us is something to be laughed at, since it will become frustrated.
-Laughing at others and mocking them does not benefit oneself and leaves a void

100. Only religion allows people to be magnificent without egotism.
-We are truly magnificent for other worldly reasons, in everything else our ego is operating
-Religion is a ‘no-ego zone’

99. A little worship with sincerity is all of religion; abundant worship for the sake of one’s image of oneself is nothing at all.
-”So woe to those who pray [But] who are heedless of their prayer – Those who make show [of their deeds]” (Qur’an, 107:4-5)

52 ‘The true soldier is an enemy to the beast in man.’ (Montgomery of Alamein.)
-Discipline and knowing your enemy are marks of a true soldier

44. Show yourself yourself; then He will show Himself Himself.
-Imam Ali: ‘He who knows himself, knows His Lord’

81. Nothing is more dangerous than the ego wearing the robes of the spirit.
-A charlatan sufi and false teacher, much like Firawn which are hard to spot
-Often the true teacher is humble and always apologizing to you unnecessarily

5. Because of self there is suffering.
-Theodicy or the problem of evil is not so much a problem if the self is eliminated
-Our self-importance and pride is what makes suffering feel like an injustice, either way we can be manipulated equally by pleasure or pain

94. Laziness is its own chastisement.
-Our laziness impairs us and makes it hard for us to achieve what we really need to achieve
-What we know we should do but aren’t, haunts us and stands over our shoulders bearing down on us

50. Today the rigidity that comes from the spirit and not from the ego is rare indeed.
-Softness is not the only thing the spirit produces, the spirit too can be rigorous and severe

67. Walk through the zoo within; check the locks; enjoy the sight of each brute; know that they are your self.
-Study your nafs and its manifestations
-Imam Ghazali uses a number of metaphors and in the Old world certain animals manifested certain attributes (i.e. the fox was cunning, the pig was sloth, etc.)

22. Dreams do not illustrate the nafs so surely as daydreams.
-Dreams and the subconscious only indicate margins of our thoughts, that weren’t given much attention while awake but daydreams, and the places and scenarios our mind flees to in the day are the retreat and hiding spot of the nafs

88. Do not treat the world as though you were its centre.
21. The world is most damaged by those who have the highest opinion of themselves.
-We subjugate the world to our opinions rather than subjugate our opinions to reality

74. ‘The fact that it is so difficult for present-day man to pray and the fact that it is so difficult for him to carry on a genuine talk with his fellow men are elements of a single set of facts.’ (Buber)
-We have become so self-centered, self-absorbed and lonely that we are out of touch with each other

28. The voracious cannot be veracious.
-Those who have no self-restraint cannot be truthful because they are lying to themselves

52. Khawarij are full of hawa.
-Sloganeering and manipulating Islam to their ends
-One of the practices of the Khawarij is that they never recited surah Yusuf in prayer because they thought it was merely a story

38. We are divided from the other world by the thinnest of membranes, which we hang with mirrors.
-The veils of the unseen are hidden behind the ego and nafs

The Other

83. Demonising the Other is from the harshnesses of the self.
-Attacking others is one of the most blatant manifestations of the nafs
-Often when the question of the Other comes up, in conjunction with demonisation it is really just an idea, history always shows that the Other is not much different from oneself

57. To be reminded of the greed of others and the poverty of the self is to be reminded of the poverty of others and the greed of the self.
-We are impoverished spiritually because of the greed of our nafs and when we see the greed of others what we really are seeing is a type of jealousy
-Something could be said here also about the poverty of aspiration

89. We should be reluctant to forgive reluctance to forgive. Rigour and mercy circumscribe each other.
-We shouldn’t make excuses for people who make excuses for not forgiving
-Sometimes being merciful with others means being hard on oneself

20. We need less self-righteousness and more self-knowledge.
-Self-righteousness comes from righteous actions, so AHM is using the ilm/amal dichotomy to the self, but when it comes to amal of the self, knowing ourselves is true amal (righteous action)

71. ‘The hypocrite looks for faults; the believer looks for excuses.’ (Imam al-Ghazali)
-In what areas if our lives do we not apply this as much as we should?
-‘O ye who believe! When ye are told to make room in the assemblies spread out and make room: Ample room will Allah provide for you.’ (Qu’ran, 58:11)

20. Govern the Self before you govern the Other. Govern the Other in order to govern the Self.
-We need to have some restraint before we encounter the Other
-If we are dealing with someone who is an Other (a different race or religion) then we must be careful in governing the movement of our feelings and thoughts and ensure we are compassionate and train ourselves to do so
-AHM may be referring to purification that is needed before conquest and how Muslims dealt with people of other religions, dealing with them with mercy and tolerance as the Qur’an commands was something hard on the ego

2. To blame others for our misfortunes is always a victory for the nafs .
-You are letting the nafs get off free and it will repeat this offense

64. Discourtesy always resembles a failure.
-Rude behaviour always misses the mark, it tries to sound strong but is just embarrassing

88. Some look for vengeance, some look for repentance.
-Scenario: The victim seeks vengeance against the criminal who wishes to repent or the criminal seeks vengeance while the victim is ready to forgive
-Some will have a punishment implemented for a crime, while others will not in hopes of gaining To the Divine pleasure

19. Those that are angry with everyone will end up believing in nothing.
-Anger is an enemy to iman and belief

79. Judge people by the extent to which they are alive.
-’God calls you to that which gives life’ (Qur’an)
-Judge people to the extent they are in dhikr

45. Others are our fellow-travellers, even if they have lost the road.
-We still need be courteous to those who may have gone astray, perhaps they may find the path

44. Despair not of those who are drawn to ugliness, for they too are probing the mysteries.
-People are learning and it takes time and chances are there was a time when we too explored the ugly areas of life
-Umberto Eco has written on how ugliness is more fascinating than beauty and that may be part of its distraction

62. Do not say: Do you agree with me? but say: Do we agree?
-The use of pronouns and proximity in negotiationg and resolving conflict

25. Forget not the Other in the Brother.
-Hadith: ‘You will not believe, until you love one another’

13. ‘Never despise any Muslim, for the least of the Muslims is great in the eyes of God.’ (Abu Bakr al-Siddiq r.a.).
-An anticipatory vaccine against the sicknesses that would come to plague the ummah.

28. Those who look for sin often strengthen it.
-They aren’t looking for good so they can’t repair anything, they search but can’t rescue
-AHM remarks in one of his lectures that its the aynal hasud, the eye of jealousy that seeks out the faults of others
-al hasud, la yasud the jealous never rises

50 Criticism is infectious.
-Don’t expect that your criticism will not lead to people criticizing you
-‘Beware whenest thou rants unto ye gale, lest ye become bespotted with thine own spittle.’ (Shakespeare)

37. Religion is not difficult; we are difficult.
-As in, ‘you are being difficult to put up with’
-What obstacles do we put up against God? Why is it so hard to give way to God?

90. If you fail to pelt the pillars you can only pelt the pilgrims.
-When you are pelting the pillars on Hajj if you miss, you will hit the people behind them, this is an ayat as to how we should be careful we don’t hurt our fellow brothers and sisters in our quest to put down shaytan

80. If you are good, pretend to be bad. If you are bad, don’t pretend to be good.
-Don’t delude yourself, be as you are so as to see yourself clearly

Sloth (Or Acedia)
-This is a complacency and laziness of the soul being negligent of Allah, and is well-established idea in Christian morality

3. This sin of the Muslim world: menefregismo.
-Meaning the Muslim world couldn’t care less what people think of us, or what Allah thinks of us

55. Haste is usually the consequence of sloth, not of diligence.
-The hadith at-tajeel minsash-shaytan, haste is from shaytan is relevant here
-When people are praying quickly it is usually not a sign of diligence but of sloppiness,
but being diligent in prayer is in slowness and concentration

6. Those who are indifferent to their reputations may still be slothful, gluttonous.
-The sufis can still fall into the trap of sloth, even if they have no care for their reputations it is sloth for them to not have hayya or to fall for an antinomianism

87. Do not be complacent. Most people judge religions by their followers, not by their doctrines.
-If people see that we are complacent then they will think that we Muslims are not actually good followers of our religion

100. Faith is a tender shoot; water it with works, parch it with apathy.
-How much apathy and how much works are required to alter one’s iman?

54. Nothing brings less ease than sloth.
-Putting off a prayer for later actually gives you more stress because you are constantly thinking about it but if you simply go and pray it, its ease for you

-Cautiousness and being careful

49 Do not equate wara‘ with fastidiousness.
-Being difficult to satisfy, or being too exact and picky is not wara’, its deprival
-‘Make things easy for people’ (Hadith)

15. Wara’ is the shift from fear to hope.
-Scrupulousness and caution in giving up the permissible or the makruh, takes one from worrying to safety.
-One has done as much as they possibly can and therefore, has every right to hope, though fear may still linger.

69. Wara‘ today is the scrupulous avoidance of narrowmindedness.
-Too many are not cautious about becoming narrow-minded when they should be
-It is one thing to avoid the grey areas, it is another to limit the grey areas

-Decadence as Abdal Hakim Murad uses the word has many broad meanings, here I have applied it to consumerism, entertainment, drugs, greed and other modern problems with materialism. He, however, also appropriately applies the idea to religious issues; extremism, excess decoration of mosques beyond the scope of beauty, being unrealistically demanding of the Ahlul Kitab are also forms of decadence AHM refers to.

73. It’s called the consumer society because it consumes us.
-What aspects of us is it consuming? What of us has it already consumed?

75. ‘Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean I’d love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.’ (Mariah Carey)
-Here is an example of the perversion of decadence and how it radically alters howwe seetheworld
-AHM is showing us how people see the good and the bad, according to their own interpretation and how we come to desire our own destruction

52. Television is hellish vision because it robs us of the sense of truth.
-Again, it is decadence to let others decide for you

1. ‘Buying is much more American than thinking.’ (A. Warhol)
-We buy so others may think more of us, though often they think more they don’t know exactly what to think

14. Opium is the religion of the masses.
-A response to Marx’s, ‘religion is the opium of the masses’ since now religion has very little role in Western society, while drugs and narcotics are taken to cause all sorts of pseudo-spiritual experiences

36 Capitalism: the law of the jungle that destroys the jungle.
-AHM completes the ‘law of the jungle’ idea, survival of the fittest only works when there is a place to survive in

51. Censorship of the press is less subversive than censorship by the press.
-We live in an Orwellian age, where once the press produced truth that was suppressed now the press does not even produce that truth but is merely a courtier for government and commercial interests

53. Popular culture dwells in deep pockets.
-Most of the culture of the West has to do with money
-When Christian Lauder, (who wrote ‘Stuff White People Like’) was praised for representing ‘white culture’ he replied, ‘This isn’t a culture, its a shopping list!’

33. Modern holidays: the nafs will heal the ruh!
-We devote more time to the nafs expecting it to magically do something to make us feel better

79. Global warming is from the gases of our indigestion.
-We have consumed too much as a society. The societal appetite has impaired our societies but also our planet

26. Climate change: ‘And We coin similitudes for mankind, that perhaps they may reflect.’
-AHM is saying Global warming, is as if, a metaphor of a Jahannum to come

32. The smarter the hotel, the less comfortable the Muslim.
-They way hotels are structured for comfort and ease, in which Muslims are not comfortable because they are temporary places, not unlike the dunya

55. The lottery: a way of exploiting the weak-willed in order to reward the undeserving.
-Better explained by the Contention 56. The lottery: a tax on stupidity.

69. The justification of alcohol: those without self-control must pay for the pleasures of those with self-control.
-If you are silly enough to be duped then it is at your expense and to the benefit of those who aren’t

36. Holidays: they think their bodies are solar-powered.
-Going to a sunny part of the world, like a beach, as if it will recharge you when perhaps it may drain you and make you lose more energy when you return

72. ‘Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life’. (Brooke Shields)
-It is as if she is brain dead already and already lost a very important part of her life

7. To switch on a television is to acknowledge one’s own lack of refinement.
-AHM is appealing to our sense of individuality and excellence, as watching television teaches us nothing about sensibilities, etiquette and taste
-Cultural refinement is an interesting concept because who can be more refined than Allah in what He likes and dislikes?

73. Luxury will persuade you that you are not a psychopath.
-The more luxurious we are the more we indulge, until we find ourselves indulging in dark humour that is toxic to our soul

-Compare this section to the Decadence section
-AHM says in one of his speeches: “poverty that breaks the back of the human spirit is of the devil, but the poverty that breaks the back of the ego is of God.”

84. Zuhd is to make the soul feel at home in the body.
-When you have few distractions the soul is much more comfortable and at ease, it is not displaced by material desires and the nafs

85. How much asceticism do you need?
-It is not merely to do zuhd but to know its effects, and it is on a need basis so we need as much as will purify us spiritually and then we need more to make sure we remain so
-‘The first virtues of this umma are zuhd and yaqin, the first sins are miserliness and vain hopes’ (Hadith)

57. To be proud of luxury is a sin, but to be proud of disdaining it is worse by far.
-To be proud of zuhd is not to have zuhd because pride is worse than zuhd, but also because it is harder to cure

92. Today it is hard to achieve zuhd through poverty.
-The idea of zuhd is for the heart to be empty of what the hand is empty of, but today the poverty that exists is not a moderate poverty but a exteme desperate poverty of survival
-Combined with an era of materialism, there is plenty to desire in the poverty so today the hand is empty but the heart is not and the eye and stomach are desirous, so it just may be better to content oneself with wealth
-The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) feared poverty of this kind because it would lead to disbelief

50. The more we have, the less we are.
-We shrink in comparison to our desires, we become absent and God becomes even more absent

77. ‘Everything in the world is yours, until and unless you try to grab it and keep it for yourself alone.’ (Pickthall.)
-This relates to greed, Warren Buffet Sr. mentioned in a recent documentary that the wealthy owe something to society for allowing them to succeed so they should give back as much as they can and help society

94. Only when distant from God do we crave what is distant from God.
-And only when we are close to God do we crave what is close to God

93. Self-limitation allows you to find your character.
-Consumerism makes us wonder, ‘what purchases define me?’ when really that is a very paralyzing question and often we trick ourselves by mindlessly following the trends
-If you limit your self you can more closely observe your true personality, your soul, and spiritual states and focus on improving it

57 ‘He who binds to himself a joy, doth the winged life destroy;
He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in eternity’s sunrise.’ (Blake.)
-If we hoard and cling to pleasures then we ruin them but when we make shukr for them and let them go we let them wait for us in Jannah

-The meaning of the word dunya is something lowly or brought low, and as the Hadith states in the sight of Allah it does not even have the value of the wing of a fly

83. The Ka’ba has a positive charge; we are negative. Dunya, however, is an efficient insulator.
-There should be sparks in our ibada but dunya resists the current of baraka
-This is related to another Contention: Dhikr and electricity are deadly rivals.

14. The delight of each worldly pleasure does not last long.
-Desires are never satisfied or fulfilled, rather they collapse and vanish

4. There is no true engagement without detachment.
-Being encumbered by the world will always get in the way
-Compromise is the price of engaging people and sacrifice is the price of engaging God

75. Because we are worldly we are worldless.
-This world is not permanent but is vanishing, so we shouldn’t be building our home on a bridge that will collapse

77. Your property belongs to you if you belong to God. If you belong to Satan you belong to your property.
-If we turn to Allah in repentance He will give us but if we turn to materialism then shaytan will subjugate us

19. Flight into self is a retreat from the facticity of the world; flight into heaven is its affirmation.
-If we flee into spirituality it will help us flee into Paradise
-The Quran asks us ‘Fa’ayna tadh-habun – where are you going?’

23. Dunya: a little Gentleness, and much Rigour. The fitra: a little Rigour and much Gentleness
-In the dunya we face a great deal of difficulty, harshness and rigidity if we grow old, but if we die in our infancy we face a little rigour and harshness but receive a great deal of gentleness from those around us and from Allah

12. Reverence is the opposite of reverie.
-The difference between awe and partying

5. The world is iconic, or it is ironic.
-The world is either about images and exalts itself, or it is ironic and therefore unexpected denies and contradicts itself in that what is superficial in it varies from what is underneath and the world is really not about itself

-AHM says in one of his essays Muhasaba is a term in the Sunna: ‘Call yourselves to account before you yourselves are called to account.’ And the ulema say that the first step in tawba is muhasaba.

18. Muhasaba: you will not move forwards until you look backwards.
-The adage ’Those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them’

62. Nothing succeeds like circumspection.
-Muhasaba is micro-reform of the soul, Allah has given us the ability to do hisab of ourself
-Those who do hisab of themselves will have an easier reckoning before Allah

88. Govern the thoughts in your head, or else you’ll walk around dead.
-Thoughts are like citizens, interact with them and they will continue to give you good or ignore them and they won’t give you anything

65. Nothing is not a test of tawakkul.
-Everything is a test of our trust and reliance in Allah
-Doing nothing is not a test of our trust and reliance in Allah

88. Tawakkul: the lock, as well as the key, is a revelation.
-The difficulty as well as how to approach it is from God, and so we have all the more reason to place our trust and resignation in Him

56. Trust in God, not in your trust in God.
-Don’t turn tawakkul into a means (sabab)
70. Pay attention, and trust in God.
-Perhaps an interpretation of the hadith, ‘Tie your camel and place your trust in God’

71. Know that your plans are written on water.
-Allah is the Planner, not us, so even if we trust in Allah and things don’t seem to be going the way we were hoping then remember that what Allah has planned for you no one can take it away and it is better for you

-Many verses one can refer to such as ‘innala ma’as-sabirin, Allah is with the patient ones’ and ‘to seek aid with patience and prayer’
-Sabr sometimes means fasting and this is its most practical manifestation

48 Which is greater: His patience, or your impatience?
-As impatient as we are, Allah’s patience with us, is greater, He is as-Sabur

8. Our patience is the awaiting of delights for us. His patience is the awaiting of delights for us.
-We are waiting for Jannah, but Allah is also waiting for us to come to Jannah
-This is remarkable if you think about it because Allah is beyond time, and so even His patience transcends time

73. He who says, ‘I am patient’, is not patient.
-’Lord grant me patience and I want it now!’

90. It is easier to preach on vengeance than on patience.
-Patience in dealing with anger and the place of patience in geo-politics, where we seek revenge rather than be patient

-The atomism of ni’m (blessings) that in every aspect of life we are grateful for there are more aspects for us to be grateful for
-We could coin a word, Omnigracious or Omnigiving for the blessings Allah continually bestows upon us
-The importance of shukr as the basis for our worship, is when the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) is asked why he prays so much even though God has already forgiven him, and he replies, “Afala akunu abdan shakura? Shall I not be a grateful servant?”

78. Give thanks for the tangible, that you may give thanks for the intangible.
-Once we start making shukr for the physical objects and blessings our mind will lead us to give thanks for the unseen, the Divine Decree and the coming of blessings but also give thanks for good intentions amongst us or the protection from harm not befalling us

99. Which is it, of the blessings of your Lord, that you deserve?
-A play on words on the repeated verse of Surah ar-Rahman, Which of the blessing of your Lord will you deny?
-Here shukr is combined with humility and justice. We are by no means entitled to these blessings they are from His sheer grace and reflect very little about us

77. Good architecture is to promote thankfulness.
-Mosque architecture should be beautiful so as to prompt our hearts to be thankful

100. For which is He more to be praised: for His blessings, or for His forbearance in the face of our refusal to give thanks for them?
-There is no comparison between the number of blessings He bestows upon us
-’If you tried to ennumerate the blessings of Allah, you would find no end’ (Qur’an)

21. Ritual is nothing but thankfulness, or it is nothing.
-If we see our ritual ibadat as nothing more than a lip-service or a formality it is nothing
-Thanking Allah with salah is thanking Allah with what He is to be thanked for

96. There is Bliss, and there are consolations.
-There is Jannah and there is comfort before arrival to it

5. Faith is not a given, it is given.
-Islam is bestowed and for this we should give thanks, even if we were raised as Muslims we must discover and strengthen that faith

77. It is better to appreciate what you do not have than to have what you do not appreciate.
-For example, my appreciating not being sick is better than for me to have a meal that I do not give thanks for, since in the first there is reward and possibility of being given more good health while in the second there is no guarantee of the continual of that blessing nor good deed
-Sometimes being free of something is much better than having something

62. What is the situation in which gratitude is inappropriate?
-There are no situations where gratitude to Allah is inappropriate
-There is even a dua to thank Allah for being able to urinate and defecate without any medical problems

42. Make manifest your thankfulness for what you must conceal.
-Thanks for hiding ones sins and even more thanks for forgiving them

24. We have too many things, and too little gratitude.
-Possessing very few things may lead to more gratitude since, there is greater gratitude in being liberated from ‘things’ but if we possess a great deal we may forget to be grateful

31. It is gratitude that sees beauty.
-When we set our mind to be thankful we come to see beauty in its plentiful manifestations

13. Falah is harvesting what God has done for you, not what you have done for God.
-Success comes when we realize Who has really done all the work for us

5. ‘Blessing’ is a large word, but do not be slow to use it.
-Being quick to use the word blessing is itself a blessing

34. Tawhib yields tardid; taswif yields tawhid.
-Gifting yields to repetition; lending or letting go yields to tawhid (oneness)
in the first half the reference may be that of blessings and shukr, in the second half that Islam means letting go also mentioned in the Contentions later on
-We should celebrate the blessings we receive repeatedly as the Qur’anic command: ‘And the blessings of your Lord celebrate’

42. Grant us to deal with others on the basis of our thankfulness to You.
-Shukr as an operational basis for our mu’amala (interactions) with one another
-We are grateful to be speaking, hearing and being listened to and see this as a manifestation of God’s grace and we honour others as a thankfulness to God

86. The true hearth is gratefulness. (Abraham: ‘Lord …’)
-Shukr warms the heart and soul even when we are in need

Contentment (Rida)

2. Rida is the true freedom.
-Contentment frees and liberates us and there are few things that make us content as much as reading the Qur’an does
This piece I wrote a while back gets at the core of contentment

11. To be resigned is not to resign.
-Giving up is not proper resignation or contentment
-A hadith mentions, as-sabru rida, patience is contentment


-There are two types of generosity, one is to be generous upon being asked to give and the other is being generous voluntarily withou being asked

70. The fanatic is the weak man. Strength is shown in generosity.
-It takes real courage to be generous and to see that generosity is the sight of true strength
-There is a saying (or hadith, I cannot recall) that a believer loves those who do good to them, while a hypocrite hates those who do good to them

10. ‘Greed has been severely underestimated and denigrated, unfairly so, in my opinion.’ (Conrad Black)
-The irony of connecting greed with justice when greed is a form of injustice as the Qur’an: ‘Those who unjustly eat the property of the orphans…’

40. The only safe bank is the Sadaqa Bank.
13. Your wealth is only yours once you have given it away.
-Aisha radiallahu anha narrates that they sacrificed a goat. The Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam asked, “How much is left of it?” She told him that only the shoulder remained. He remarked, “The whole of it is left except the shoulder.” (Tirmidhi)
(commentary: meaning all of the hasanat from it is now in the Akhirah, except the shoulder)


84. Through selflessness we join the world.
-When we are selfish we are confined to ourselves, but when we are selfless we become involved in the world
-Selflessness is something beloved to every person globally
-Better explained in the Contention 13. Servanthood is the mark of humanity.

72. Serve none but a slave.
-We are all slaves and the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was abad an-nas, the most expressive of slavehood to Allah

4. If you cannot be of the poor, then be with the poor. If you cannot be with the poor, then pray with the poor. If you cannot pray with the poor, then pray for the poor. Beyond this there remains not an atom’s weight of faith.
-In our age we neglect the poor, though the Qur’an repeats over and over the importance of helping the poor

51. Some want to serve, others to deserve.
-Often activists work as if they deserve something, whereas others work only to serve

34. Islam is the crown of the poor.
-There is a hadith that the poor shall enter Jannah 500 years before the rich, and the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam lived poor, wanted to die poor and be raised with the poor and in this way the poor are honoured in Islam
-There is very little to answer to God on the Day of Reckoning if you are poor and you have valid excuses

16. It is only the hungry and unfortunate who may know whether they are good.
-They are struggling and it is because of their dua that Allah keeps the umma continuing

90. Power can be servitude. (‘I am your most high Lord’ .)
-Now Firawn is an example for people and in that way he is serving God’s purposes

90. You will only find yourself if you live for others.
-When we live for ourself we find ourself missing, its not as enjoyable as enjoying a moment with company
-We feel ‘whole’ when we serve others, it fulfills us in a way that is meaningful

-It takes courage to do any good deed, to be generous or to be humble or to evaluate one’s soul

14. It takes courage to bear the consequences of cowardice.
-We associate courage with bravery but if we are cowards it still requires courage afterwards to show face and endure humiliation

-“Of what profit to you were your hoarding and your arrogant ways?” (Qur’an, 7:48)

44. What are you but a lightly-clothed skeleton?
-If you really think about your body in terms of parts, not whole, you have bones which are basically sticks that hold your back up, and prop you up covered up by a gooey fabric we call skin
-We really are not much more different than furniture
-But what makes us great is our spirit and heart

19. Pride is the only sin that cannot fear God. ‘I, even I, am the Proud!’
-There is no fear of God in admitting you are proud

92. Pride is the crown of the ignorant.
-Related to ‘Islam is the crown of the poor’
-Ignorance and pride feed into each other, one becomes proud and self-satisfied because one has no desire for truth and the lack of truth makes one even more proud and self-satisfied

39. The devil within you: vein glory.
-A play on word with vein/vain reference to the hadith that shaytan runs through the blood of man, reminding us of our own innate weakness

52. We grow through self-diminution.
-Reference to the hadith, ‘he who humbles himself, Allah raises in ranks’

61. Islam and the Umma teach us different kinds of humility.
-Islam teaches us humility before God while the Umma teach us humility before man and the dunya, the first is volitional, the second is forced

25. The worst arrogance is the one that yields a sort of humility.
-The idea of false humility, ‘In my humble opinion…’

33. The breadth of the Garden is reached through the narrow door of humility.
-Coming to Allah has to do with putting our ego down and the reference to the door of humility is mentioned by Abdal Qadir al-Jilani that all the doors he found were full of people but the door of humility has no one around it, so he entered it and was raised in ranks

73. Only be proud of your works to the extent that you remember that they are not yours.
-All good is from Allah, and all bad is from ourselves

86. Only make wudu’ if it breaks your pride.
-If I can’t make wudu properly it hurts my pride and I may look silly dripping and creating a mess
-Wudu is a humility-inculcating act

68. Only those who know themselves to be unworthy are worthy.
-I referred to it before, but saying ‘nolo episcopari’ or ‘I do not want to become the bishop’ is one of the ways one becomes a bishop

63. Sufism: don’t think that you can dive without lowering yourself.
-You won’t be able to dive and retrieve pearls without being humble

63. Be still, and know that you are odd.
-We are 1 umma and, we are strangers/ghuraba as the hadith mentions, and we are ajeeb in comparison to many other nations

46. He that struggles to progress, though he has not been shown the road, is better than he that stands upon the road, pridefully mocking.
-’They who strive in our way, We shall surely guide them to our Path’ (Qur’an)

76. The true king admits the beggar first.
-Whoever has the greatest need is shown the most attention, but if we behave as beggars with humility then we will be admitted first

52. Learn that you are the merest shadow of Another’s act; thus you will learn humbleness, which is the beginning of understanding.
-In the scale of creation we are not much more than microbes

-‘On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness will the Most Gracious bestow Love.’ (Qu’ran)

91. The world survives because one may fall out of love with hatred, but one may never fall out of love with love.
-We love to love and we hate to hate
-That there is still love in a world as crowded and jumbled up as ours is a mercy

16. Trying to be loved is not the best way of becoming lovable.
-The Prophetic practice of giving gifts
-’Allah loves those who do good’ (Qur’an)
-Often when we try to be loved, we end up hated or people become jealous of us, but those who are humble and who are zahids attract the love of others

53. Without the law of Love there is no Law at all.
-Sharia operates through our love of God not simply our fear of God

74. With love He shows you that you are rotten. With love, you say: Yes! Yes!
-Anything that comes from God is beloved to us, even if it is regarding our faults
-We should try and think of love from the perspective of God towards us if we want to grow in our love towards Him but also in love towards our fellow man

26. Love is the only cure for the desire to follow the crowd. (‘Khalq-i ‘alam bir yana oldu, bu sheyda bir yana …’)
-An absence of love is a passivity that would make us follow the crowd but we abhore that which goes against the One we love

79. Where there is love there is immanence.
-When we love Allah we can feel His presence around us, just as the Qur’an says that He is closer than the jugular vein, closer to us than us ourselves and life itself

Difficulty and Despair
-AHM often connects despair not with spirituality but with identity politics and how Muslims are dissatisfied struggling as minorities

59. Despair is the worship of necessity.
-the Quran mentions how people only come to beseech Allah in times of need but abandon Him in times of ease
-What is worship without necessity then? Love?
-We worship necessity when we despair over things, but what is necessary and what isn’t?

90. Despair is the only grounds for despair.
-Despair and gratitude come from the same evidence, its just a matter of being selective to what end
-Gratitude is the only grounds for gratitude

20. Pain is nine-tenths of desire.
-It is hard for desires to ever be fully satisfied, there is always something lacking and this is always the source of our pain

82. The ruin of the heart lies in denying the desire for obedience.
-Obeying is at some level a tendency we have in us that needs satisfying, either we obey our nafs, God or others around uss
-Imitation whether we are conscious of it or not is one of the most subtle forms of obedience

50. ‘If the eyes had no tears, the soul would have no rainbow.’ (Minquass proverb)
-Being overly emotional we may lose sight of the rainbows that do appear

58. When heart and body are in harmony, fikr results.
-When we our hearts and body are in harmony together, we think more clearly

15. With God’s secret gift, every hardship becomes easy. Without it, every ease becomes a source of hardship.
-Recalling the greatness of Allah removes hardship in prayer
-What could be the secret gift? Tawakkul? Marifa? Mahaba?

85. Fear not the wind: it will bear your kite high.
-Difficulties raise us in our darajat with Allah, if we are patient and persevere

47. The impermanent cannot be devoid of suffering.
-It will vanish and at the very least their will be anguish at that loss


67. For each karama that takes you forward, there are ten which will take you back.
-AHM mentioned in one of his speeches that the Awliya say, ‘If you see a karama, look away which is often not our first instinct’

18. The miracle of mundanity . (Rembrandt, The Holy Family .)
-‘To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.’ (William Blake)

75. It is not the giving of a karama that transforms; only the manner of its acceptance.
-How do we react to miracles? Do we glory in them? Do we give thanks for them or just ignore them completely as a shameful secret?
-Its really a miracle when it transforms us

16. The real miracle is anything that is not perceived as a miracle.
-Just about everything about our existence is miraculous in their nature, we just don’t perceive at as such

74. Without determinism there can be no miracles.
-Just because the sun rises every day doesn’t mean it will rise the next day but we think the relation between cause and effect is linear and unbreakable, when really it is Allah who is the musabib (Actor)

76. To think of the Teacher is to be offered a karama, so be utterly attentive in watching for it.
-Recollection of our teachers and the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam, especially spontaneously is miraculous because it indicates the transformation of our soul

29. Are there still miracles? Is God still the Omnipotent Bestower?
-In our age we find it hard to believe in miracles but Allah is the One who can bestow miracles regardless of time and space

16. Moderation in miracles: ‘Enter houses by their doors.’
-One miracle of the Awliya is to walk through walls, so even if one had that ability the Qur’anic verse above to enter through the doors would be better

-AHM quotes Imam Murtada al-Zabidi who says in his commentary of the Ihya, ‘al-amalu natijatul akhlaq, actions are the consequences of character’

14. Adab: we must re-member our bodies.
-In one of his talks AHM mentions, akhlaq is related to the word khalaq, creation, so adab is in a sense an extension of our bodies

36. Good adab is to jostle to be first in line for Heaven.
-The heaviest things to be placed in the scales will be fear of god and good character
-Adab is from the sunna of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam)

-AHM mentions that Abdullah ibn Mubarak defines good character as the absence of anger

88. Be attached to God, not to the fruits of your actions.
-Sometimes we want to see a fruit in our actions but we are so caught up thinking about the action we forget the niyya
-Doing an action gently is a sign of having God on your mind and heart

41. Each sin is a consequence.
-Imam Murtada al-Zabidi says in his commentary of the Ihya, ‘al-amalu natijatul akhlaq, actions are the consequences of character’

38. Sin is the refusal of our glorious potential.
-Sin is related to ugliness while husn is related to goodness and beauty

78. Irritation is from sin.
-A sinful desires is like wanting to scratch where it itches but that is a reflex and a first prompting that we shouldn’t fall for

91. The veils of the world must be walked through. The veils of sin must be walked around. (Imam al-Haddad.)
-We must endure the world and have no choice but to walk through it in life, while the various possibilities and routes for sin to manifest must be avoided
-’The veils of’ make this Contention hard for me to understand

43. ‘Whoever thinks about repenting of a sin before he has even committed it is led thereby to fall into it.’ (Imam al-Haddad.)
-We come close to sins, desensitize ourselves to them and minimize our reaction to the sin without realizing it

17. Yielding to a minor sin can be a major sin.
-Look not at the size of the sin but at the one magnificence of the One you are sinning against

38. Do not rejoice at lessons you receive from sin; or at nourishment you find in a rubbish-heap.
-The lessons from sin can be learned only a few times before they become repetitive

95. In deciding whether a desire is a vice, consider whether its satisfaction is honourable.
-Did you feel honoured after you were satisfied or did you feel despicable and ‘used’ by your nafs?

11. ‘Flagrant evils cure themselves by being flagrant.’ (Newman.)
-These evils are embarrassing and so no one wants to repeat them

68. Error is its own punishment.
-There may be a negative consequence from our errors but errors are frustrating in themselves

78. The world is the way it is because you are the way you are.
-Our good/bad deeds affect the mercy that Allah descends upon the world, so the miseries in the world may be in part because of my sins

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 30, 2011

Commentary on AHM’s Contentions: Traditional Islamic Education

Bismillah, walhamdulila wa salatu wasalam ala Rasulullah

Here is the first batch I have organized and commented on. I will probably update this repeatedly and might change the format.

96. Courtesy and knowledge are like two hands washing each other.
-Courtesy will remove blemishes in one’s knowledge, and if one is discourteous they will only be selective with their knowledge and dirty it
-Knowledge removes blemishes from courtesy for example understanding an adab or custom

57. Morality means more-reality.
-A lie is less-reality, but a truth is reality
-Patience is closer to reality because it allows things to arrive whereas anger may delay them
-Truth is in touch with morality and morality helps one see society with clarity, and the alternative is delusion

65. Wisdom consists mainly in the ability to recognise human weakness.
-Being realistic and compassionate as to people’s expectations rather than abstract, detached ideas

37. Renunciation is wisdom’s only door.
-The following quotes from Imam Muhasibi are relevant: 1) ‘People differ in worldly divestment in proportion to the soundness of [their] intellects, and the purity of [their] hearts. The most virtuous are the most intelligent and those who best understand God.’ and 2) ‘Anyone divested from the world finds his divestment in proportion to his knowledge, his knowledge in proportion to his intellect, and his intellect in proportion to the strength of his faith.’

83. Wisdom and safety are humility’s twin daughters
-Being arrogant can get you into trouble with hubris and over-confidence, and often you don’t learn much, whereas humility is a safe route which can show you insights you would have otherwise missed

97 Religion has only one door, whose name is Repentance
-The beginning of the spiritual path is repentance and continues with repentance, even if we are not sinning we could be repenting for our shortcomings in doing good

93. Religion is maximising the number of epiphanies we love.
-When we love religion more and more epiphanies we love God more and more

91. Respect the insights that can only be expressed by humour.
-A very British idea that is quite right

41. Religion is not what we do, but what we mean.
-Innal amalu bin-niyya, actions are by their intentions

2. How easy it is to forget how easy it is to forget!
-Forgetting forgetfulness, and man was created nisyan (forgetful)

11. The world is the instantiation of useful metaphors.
-AHM mentions in one of his papers, “Ayat are ontological reflections or instantiations of the Divine

24. It is not possible to be right in a way that is barren.
-Being ‘right’ has a fecundity to it, in some way it brings forth something new and good
-Even if one is wrong, one learns from their mistakes at the very least
-Even if it may be hidden right actions bear fruits that may be hidden and demand patience to seek out

Traditional Education
33. Heresy is the gad-fly that makes the horse trot.
-Without heretic movements it just may be religious scholars would grow complacent and the religious zeal would die

54. Tajdid involves liposuction, not resurrection.
-Revival or renewal, means getting rid of the excess that have built up rather than resurrecting both the good and the bad

72. Popular taqlid sounds like four-part harmony. Popular ijtihad is cacophony
-’Fides ex auditu – faith comes by hearing’
-Their is something beautiful in the reasoning of the madhabs, even when you hear the reasoning/dialogue it is as if you are hearing a very special song, something you won’t hear often, because it carries with it a special gathering of noble minds but with DIY ijtihad it has no significance and sounds like a jumbled remix

53. The ijma‘ is the least selective reading of Scripture.
-The more selective one is they lose out on the spirit of Islam

17. Prefer the rukhsa when it leads to recollection. Fear the azima when it leads to turbulence of the heart.
-A heuristic in deciding between taking the rukhsa (lax fatwa dispensation) or azima (a sticter adherence to the fiqh)
-The rukhsa should help us remember God, the mercy in being given it; it should not distract us

58. Then: many muhaddiths and few muftis. Now: many muftis and few muhaddiths.
-The difference might suggest a change in the needs of the community but also reflect that we cling less to the corpus of hadith and instead only access it selectively
-AHM says in one of his papers: “Today the „ulama, the real „ulama in a classical sense are few, but everybody is giving a fatwa. That‟s our condition. People convert to Islam and ten days later they are telling you well this group is not right and this view is not correct and this tafsīr has a problem, ma sha Allah. That‟s a sign of grave decadence. Now those people, when they look at the tree don‟t quite know what they are looking at because they haven‟t studied with gardeners who have been part of a tradition of maintaining that tree and its environment since it was planted. They don‟t know its ways and they can be lethally dangerous.”

93. The weaker the homework, the stronger the ideology. The stronger the homework, the stronger the din.
-If we don’t study carefully we will often fall back to ideological ‘attitudes’ as substitutes or auto-pilots of religious reasoning and wisdom

33. Dignity comes from respecting tradition, not from respecting oneself.
-Who can give one dignity if one toots one’s own horn?
-Respecting tradition makes one part of the dignity of the past, so it naturally follows

8 Faith may be measured by the number of verses that soften one’s heart.
-Count them and remember them

93. Traditional Islam is not the replication of the positions of the ancients; it is to seek what they sought.
-It is the same niyya, often coinciding with the same means but not always

86. The Ummi was the unequalled promoter of literacy.
-Literacy in the broad sense of the term, not in the literate sense of the word since the Prophetic example was adept at cultural literacy, diplomatic literacy, teaching literacy, economic literacy, psychological literacy, political literacy, the list goes on

44. Where the roots are weak, the branches are stiff. Where the roots are firm, the branches are supple.
-The more well-established one’s roots are the better the absorption and flow of mercy in the branches and their fruit; the less well-established the root the less mercy can be flowed out to the branches (the limbs/members of the body of Islam or the actions)
-AHM says in one of his speeches: “‘Have you not seen how Allahcoins a metaphor, a good word is like a good tree whose root is firm, whose branches are in the sky. Every season it gives its fruit with the permission of its Lord. And your Lord coins metaphors for humanity that perhaps they may remember.’ (Quran) The Usūl, the roots and the furū‟ the branches. The Usūl, the sources; how do we derive nourishment from the Qur‟ān and the Sunnah. And the branches, what are the implications of that nourishment for the way in which the shariah and the Muslim life develops and provides shelter and nourish to human beings.”

19 The mujtahid does no more than turn the soil.
-Its not far-fetched for the answers to problems to already be there, but hidden under the surface, the mujtahid can turn it and show the deeper meaning and the other side of a fiqh issue

26. Ijaza is transfusion.
-Elsewhere in AHM’s writings he refers to the ‘lifeblood of the Scriptures’
-The closeness of the knowledge in it intimate experience but that it also carries through in one’s actions and alters oneself in a physical manner, that is, in our deeds and moods
-AHM may be referring also to sufi methods of transmission

51. Without long commentaries, it would be easy to throw the book at people.
-The literal reading of this would mean the long commentaries that add extra weight to the books so its too difficult to throw
-The less literal reading is that long commentaries prevent violence due to faulty religious understanding

23. Preaching presupposes inculturation.
-Inculturation is a term used in the Catholic Church for adapting Christianity to non-Christian cultures, a term that could be of particular use to Muslims in the West for adapting Islam to the society
-What AHM is saying is preaching tries to accomplish this, but for Muslims we need not try as hard as the Christians do because Islam with its breadth is more natural and suited to adapting

98. Exoterism is mediocrity.
-The mirror image of this being Esoterism being sanctity or holiness

67. Islam = arithmetic
Iman = reading
Ihsan = writing.
-Islam is the learning of tawhid, Iman is the understanding of Islam and being emotionally attached to Islam and Ihsan is acting, producing and sharing that and giving it more life

6. Tradition is the puddling-clay of faith.
-Puddling-clay is used to construct simple ponds, the tradition holds the water of faith in
-The choice of puddling-clay as a metaphor for tradition may reference flexibility, diversity in shape, how it can be constructed anywhere, and rely on rain-water whereas a watering well doesn’t have that advantage

68. A mosque is not built, it is written.
-The mosque is a place decreed by Allah for His worship, and not one’s own choice
-A deeper understanding of this might be explained by the fact the 15th century Ottoman architect constructed Mimar Sinan constructed over 100 mosques of which only a few remain standing; simply because it is built does not mean it will remain

-By fiqh what is meant is understanding of the religion though it deals more with the ‘how-tos’, halal/haram and reasoning of Islam

14. A Sufi is anyone who knows that fiqh means understanding.
-Sufism also involves fiqh and ijtihad of the soul and spiritual matters
-One must understand oneself in the journey to understand one’s Lord

28. A madhhab is a grammar of the Law.
-Grammar can change the meaning in substantial ways
-Here is an example of the importance of grammar floating around the web:
A woman without her man is nothing.
A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
-Language expertise is necessary for understanding the Sharia

35. The best way to make fiqh complicated is to teach that it is simple.
-One must understand people in making them understand fiqh, to tell them its simple and they will become over-confident and be discouraged and disgruntled by its nuance, but tell them its complex and they will appreciate it and be honoured to study it

96 The fiqh does not require hagiography to be hajji-ography.
-The biography of the pious is not limited or necessitated by their ritual acts of ibada but can refer simply to their understanding and wisdom

25. Without fiqh there is only opinion.
-AHM refers to madhabs as telescopes to see with maximum clarity, and to Do-it-Yourself ijtihad is a lot like trying to build a telescope yourself

13. Real fiqh is always a vernacular Islam.
-Terminology and lingo varies by time and region and there is an understanding of the true meanings that is necessary in order to have a full understanding of a particular fiqh issue

4. Fiqh is the joyful focussing on the moment.
-Fiqh connects each moment with ibada and this is how joy is found in consecrating every instance
-Note the British spelling of focussing as opposed to the American focusing

70. There are no loopholes in the Law, only well-crafted opportunities for sloth or gratitude.
-The ‘loopholes’ are not there, the Law demands excellence though there is room for mistakes and ease, of which one may be grateful or on a higher level, those loopholes are tests from God to see who will have the ahsanu amala (best action, Surah Mulk, v. 2) and who will make shukr to Allah for them

66. Do not number fiqh among your worldly concerns.
-Many approach fiqh as a boring textual material when in fact it carries with it an otherworldly spirituality and baraka
-Sufis will often just teach fiqh and it can be through its baraka that someone is purified

79. Ijma‘ records unity in order to supply it.
-Past unity carries into the future by virtue of historical fact. If we had no examples of unity in the past, would we continue that tradition?

51 Orthodoxy, like heterosexuality, is a corporeal, majoritarian mode of being.
-Ahlul Sunnah wa’l Jammah: The reference is to the Jamaah or Jamhur, the body of Muslims

51. He who does not love fiqh has no body.
-A play on words, no body/nobody since the one who does not love the diversity of fiqh is alone and also because fiqh is connected to the physical body and spiritual body of actions (amal)

38. Fatwa: only the mad do not pray. Taqwa: only the mad do not pray.
-A subtle difference between zahir (outward manifest) and batin (inwardly hidden)
-The fatwa gives allowance and excuse to the medically insane regarding worship, that is, they do not pray because they are mad whereas taqwa sees the lack of prayer, though one is able, as the sign of madness

30. We need not remain in the dark without dark al-idrak.
-Without understanding of understanding (fiqh) we are in the dark and lost, but we will remain in the dark until we go and learn

62. Fiqh is a sword for Theotormon.
-Theotormon is tortured by his Judeo-Christian morality and stiffled with indecision but Fiqh is a sword of guidance for him to free himself from indecision and powerlessness

17. Who is better: the one who is all fitra and no fiqh, or the one who is all fiqh and no fitra?
-The classical sufis warned against spirituality without adherence to the Sharia and to abandon a sufi who does not write hadith and teach fiqh
-But if one is just pure fitra then one is much more pure and then learning fiqh may come more easely

47. ‘Islamic’ and ‘un-Islamic’ are not the only adjectives. (‘And the differences of your tongues and colours.’)
-We use these two terms when we could use the more ‘islamic’ terms of haram, halal, makruh, mubah, wajib, etc. or the more humane and honest adjectives that would brings us closer to the deen that might include: frightening, different, adventurous broken, beautiful, alive, revive, gentle, slow, African, Indian, Indonesian, American, British, sensible, thankful, scattered, fragmented

-AHM refers to Kalam as an ‘apologetic and therapeutic space’

62. Kalam is negative theology. Sufism is positive theology.
-Kalam tells us what God is not, Sufism tells us Who God is. And the purpose of our creation is to know Allah.

22. Theology is the quest for the least silly definition of God.
-A-ra’ayta man ittakhada ilahahu hawah, says the Qur’an: ‘Have you seen the one who takes his own passions to be his god?’

51. Ash‘arism: the turn to the Sunna is a turn towards reason, for the Sunna neglects nothing that is from God.
-Reason is from Allah and turning to the Sunnah is a reasonable course, and approaching epistemology through the Sunnah is more reasonable than to approach it through some detached philosophical abstraction

78. Mu‘tazilism: unity and justice. Ash‘arism: unity and justice and mercy. (‘And thy Lord shall surely give unto thee …’)
-Why spirituality is superior to theological disputes, that even in theological disputes our character is seen, that even in theological disptes Allah is acting and involved, and Allah had mercy upon those theologians who saw Allah’s Rahma
-Arguably you could say the Mu’tazilites were lacking compassionate

17. Where there is no iman there is no theology.
-In the time of the Sahabas there was no such thing as Aqida, in fact, Iman was the term used and the basis of Aqida is that iman and belief the Sahabas held
-One cannot approach Aqida debates without iman first
-Theology is an expression of Iman, it is not its substitute

23. A theology which attributes the jalal to a failure of jamal must end in secularity.
-Majesty as a failure of Beauty, ends in secularity, perhaps meaning that if we feel justice is only justice when mercy is absent then it leads to a divorce from God because of the mechanistic nature of justice, and the absence of the transcendence of mercy. What amazes the believers most is that Allah forgives and this is beautiful to see

49. The foundation of Action is Theology. The foundation of Theology is Faith. The foundation of Faith is Action.
-Amal comes from Aqida which comes from Iman which is nourished by Amal
-The saying of La illaha ilallah is an Action (Amal)

82. It is in its Ash‘arite occasionalism that Islam most radically sacralises the world.
-Each act of Islam is separate from the previous, each event has it’s own sanctity.
-This is referred to in the next Contention

48. It is not arbitrary creation that is amazing; what is amazing is the perfect occasions He employs. ‘Do you see any flaw in the Merciful’s creation?’
-In Asharite Occasionalism every moment is created by Allah anew, but the miracle is that we do not notice it

77. The proof of God is the form of the proof.
-This may be a reference to Plato’s Theory of Forms
-What AHM is saying is worth considering that the ‘form’ is all that is needed to prove God’s existence, the ‘content’ of the proof is not needed

87 God is not a reality to be explained; He is the explanation of reality.
-A very powerful, concise aphorism. God is indeed beyond time and space. Can we imagine that?

77. That there is evil is good, but evil is not good.
-Rumi: He punishes because He is merciful
-Without evil we would not appreciate good, but this does not make evil good or noble


29. ‘The pillars of Beauty are truth and purity, and whosoever would find the one must love the other.’ (Nur-uddin Stephen.)
-AHM refers to Elaine Scarry’s idea that Beauty leads to a radical decentering, that provides ethical intuition and access to timeless truth

41. To learn truth is always to relearn. To lapse into falsehood is not always to relapse.
-Falsehood is not in our nature, but truth is in our nature with the fitra (primordial disposition to haqq)

93. Truth is already present, in all its splendour.
-Even if there is a lie present that doesn’t make truth disappear in fact the truth is still present, but being hidden by the lie and with time can collapse and shrivel up because lies are made up and hard to recall whereas truth is fact
-If AHM is referring to Truth as in al-Haqq or Haqiqa then that suggests the omnipresence of God

47. The Truth can be lived; it cannot be thought.
-Imam Ghazali speaks on this point that it takes a lifetime to understand the meaning of Truth

3. Truth is too big to fit into our minds, but our minds are small enough to fit into Truth.
-The search for truth is connected to ego and capability, if we want to fit the truth into our minds out of wanting to subordinate it, we can’t because we are not capable of it
-When we fit into Truth, it is because it is much grander than us, and AHM may be referring to the Divine as only knowable in part: ‘My incomprehension of God is my comprehension of Him’ (Abu Bakr)
-Hinting towards humility

99. Truth is the further shore of love.
-One must travel the path of love (mahaba) to reach Truth

God and Tarbiya

42. There is no worship without knowledge. We have been created to know Him.
-The purpose of worship is to know Allah, but we need some knowledge to start worshipping so our worship is sandwiched between sacred knowledges

96. We know God through takhalluq. The ethical is the way.
-AHM refers frequently to the hadith, ‘takhalluq bi akhlaqillah, take upon yourself the akhlaq or character traits of God’ and in taking on those attributes in our moral life we come to know God in an intimate way that resembles His ever closeness to us

30. God is always there for us, but never on our terms.
-What do our terms compare to God’s?
-What terms we do have that He didn’t reveal to us?

33. In practice, ‘remembering God’ can only mean ‘remembering the Covenant.’
-The Covenant may refer to the mithaq of humanity from the loins of Adam alayhi salam when they were asked by Allah ‘Alastu bir-rabbikum, Am I not your Lord?’ and we all replied ‘Bala shahidna, Yes to this we bear witness’ and this was our first dhikr
-It may also refer to the mithaq of the Prophets (to follow Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam should he arrive among them) and the shukr of his Risala (Prophethood)
-‘Practice’ may refer to actions carried out by the hand, that we honour that past agreement

57. God acts in the asbab, not through them.
-This is better understood Asharite Occasionalism and how it differs from the Maturidi stance
-AHM says in one of his papers, ‘And as months and years went by, I could not help but recognise the ‘conscious’ nature of the Absolute, as I played chess with Him. I would advance an argument, and He would show me an answer. All events acquired a religious meaning, as I entered what the Sufis call the ‘hidden game.’ In gently liberating me from the Greek web of the Trinity, He certainly showed me His existence.’

52. God’s ada shows that we are made in His image. He functions according to sunan and is not diminished by them. ‘Acquire the character traits of God!’
-We are not diminished by following a sunna, nor does God’s following His sunan diminish Who He is
-Another reference to the aforementioned hadith, takhaluq bi akhlaqillah

23. Self-knowledge without Divine knowledge? Divine knowledge without self-knowledge?
-’He who knows himself, knows his Lord’ (Imam Ali)

12. If God is not within, there is nothing to be within; if He is not without, we are without Him.
-Various hadith mention that nothing can encompass or contain God but the heart of the believer.


29. For ignorance to submit to knowledge, the many must submit to the One.
-We must submit not to a scholar or school of thought, but to Allah, but submitting to the ulema is a manifestation of submitting to Allah

61. Jahiliyya is ‘knowing no other way’.
-Did the Arabs of Jahili times ever see other ways? Did the mushrikeen see other ways?

99. If you seek light, avoid the narrow view.
-The name of Allah, an-Nur, the Light, is of particular significance

4. Faith is not faith unless it seeks understanding.
-In Islam faith is not simply fideism, but seeks out an understanding because of belief in its value and because we have been created to know God

80. ‘Pride is the denial of the Truth’. (Hadith)
-Pride by its nature will deny Truth, and so having both pride and truth together is impossible

49. Does the path of Islam grow broader or narrower?
-Worth pondering over

81. ‘Fear of God is knowledge enough. To be pleased with one’s knowledge is ignorance enough.’ (Bint Umm Hassan)

99. The limited love to limit, while the open love to open.
-Some people are insecure or easily irritated and want to close the doors and windows while others are more tolerant and will open doors for people

19. Lord, forgive us their ignorance.
-Hint to the Prophetic dua, Allahummaghfir li qawmī fa innahum lā ya’lamūn – O Allah forgive my people for they do not know

65 We are too busy being right to have time for God.
-Sometimes its not a matter of right or wrong but how one deals with those questions with patience and adab that is beloved to Allah, and will really show who really has a good standing with God

19. Followers of Antichrist see with only one eye, whose name is Zahir or Batin.
-People who see with one eye, monoptic vision lack depth perception
-Other references to Zahir and Batin AHM has made is that the two points of the Dhul-Fiqar represent the Zahir and Batin and it was unsheated against the Khawarij


92. Do not believe the confessions of tortured texts.
-There is adab with texts and getting any Islamic text to say something has more to do with the force (torture) place upon the text than the actual ‘confession’
-The word to use here would be ‘eisegesis’ which refers to the misinterpreting of a text in such a way as to introduce one’s own ideas into the text

25. The reading of Scripture is sufficient; but we are not sufficient readers.
-AHM makes us ask if our ears are out of tune with the Qur’an or unaccustom to it
-How we read and the time we take in reading the Qur’an is often enough to render many modern issues moot and remove the malcontent of Muslims and distortion of Islam but we somehow find no time for an indepth reading of the Qur’an
-Note the word ‘sufficient’ which denotes taking one’s provision from the Qur’an in reading it, rather than ‘efficient’, which denotes a constricted reading
-Repeated reading of the Qur’an will teach you to become a sufficient reader

90. Scripture defines mercy, but is not an alternative to it.
-We cannot resort to the Qur’an only when we want to be argue or pronounce takfir upon someone because it illustrates mercy
-One shouldn’t have the mindset of only reaching for the Qur’an in order to justify strictness

95. To slouch, and to suck one’s pen, are signs that one has never read Scripture.
-To think on one’s own ideas indulgently is a sign of decadence when the Qur’an is more deserving of that concentration
-The verses of fear makes us sit erect and put down our nafs in our stomach

30 Scripture to Law is as a vessel, not a manual.
-It only captures parts and one must carry the vessel back to the Scriptural source again and again
-There is no short-cut or index for the deen


-AHM mentions in one of his essays, “The Qur’an calls itself “Light” on many occasions; indeed, its God’s name is The Light, and the transformation of the world which it seeks is classically seen by apologists as a tanwir, an “Enlightenment” because it sweeps away superstition, priestcraft and dead Aristotelian verbiage.”
-Elsewhere AHM experiments with audio metaphors of the Qur’an, it’s ‘sonic and discursive totality’ and the ‘Qur’anic cantillation’ because in a sense we Muslims reason and think musically with an ear for both majesty and beauty. Here AHM experiments with other metaphors for understanding the Qur’an, but the word metaphor might not be a good description, because after all if the Qur’an is uncreated then it is not limited in its nature and is open to the possibility of diversity in its manifestations

75. If you want light in your house, use electricity from a sustainable source.
-The Qur’an is the sustainable source, and light refers to spiritual light and illumination

97. The Koran is prism or it is prison.
-We see through it, the way the Light (Nur) is broken up into the variant colours of the spectrum in our day to day experience where that Nur manifests
-It is a prison either for us, with our fear of God or for the disbeliever who is barred from it and misguided by the Qur’an

95. The Qur’an shows, it does not just explain.
-The Qur’an shows in many ways but the most powerful ones is when it explains or comments on something you have been thinking about privately
-The Qur’an provides examples of previous nations and parables of people who preceded us

19. He is dead who does not feel the Qur’an move in his hands.
-He may be hinting to the Qur’an nudging one’s world
-Perhaps AHM is referring to a spiritual vertigo sort of feeling
-Which way does it move? Up. The feeling one gets while reading the Qur’an is that it is ascending

26. Revelation is the opposite of the cluster bomb.
-It implodes into us but the more precise reference is to how the Qur’an came to the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) as a heavy strain

46. Like solar prominences, the Koran’s bibliotheophanies indicate the energy of its self-celebration.
-Solar prominences burst forth from the sun similar to solar flares except that they last much longer, the Qur’an bursts forth with Nur in a similar manner lasting for a very long-time and this is a sign of its self-celebration, of which there are many verses
-The Qur’an as a rising place is mentioned in one of AHM’s papers

68. Revelation is everything that allows us to discern the Good.
-’Hal jaza’ul ihsan ilal ihsan – Is there with good, other than good?’ (Qur’an)

47. An ayah is a wetnurse. When born we suckle, when we die we are weaned.
-The ayat or signs around are nourishing us and making us stronger for the life of the akhira, rather than being blunt with us the Qur’an lets us understand Allah’s Haqq through the dunya

14. Remember: you once knew the whole Qur’an.
-Perhaps a reference to the fitra and pre-eternal question, Am I not your Lord?

-AHM has said in one of his essays, ‘the first Muslims were detached, versatile, and sober they were not schematic, proud and indifferent to indispensable dimensions of human totality’

34 The sunna is our epistemology.
-It is the basis of our knowledge, it is not simply our slogan

46. The sunna is an optic.
-It is how we come to see things, perhaps more specifically this could mean see life through his lifestory salallahu alayhi wasalam (the Seerah)

30. The fitra tells us that nature is a medicine. The Sunna allows us to take it.
-Our hearts tell us there are signs in Nature and the Sunna with its many examples of references to nature (Mt. Uhud shaking or the weeping tree by his pulpit)
-We have a tradition of Prophetic medicine which is the more superficial reading of this Contention

67. To conform to the Sunna is to ‘conform to God’. Do not think that there is freedom anywhere else.
-The liberation in following the best possible conformity and not worrying if there is something ‘better’ out there

58. To say that there is nothing after the Sunna is to accuse it of infertility. ‘Truly, your detractor is the one cut off.’
-The verse referenced is a hint to the Fountain of al-Kawthar
-To suggest the Sunna will not bring forth more good suggests its failure. We can learn from the generations that came after the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) because they are like us, in that they want to adhere to the sunna so we can learn from them how to come closer to emulating the Sunna
-The hadith about good sunna and bad sunna is relevant here
-AHM says in one of his speeches: ‘The way to be true to the earliest generations of Muslims, is to be true to those who alone are authorized to teach the religion, because they have it had it from those, who have had it from those who have had it from those who actually held the hands of the sahāba (radi Allahu anhum). That’s the only way back.’

16. There is no neutral understanding of the Companions’ view of the Sunna.
-The Companion’s may have understood certain sunnas differently but they did not differ in the value they say in all of the Sunna
-AHM connects use to the Companion’s understanding of the Sunna rather than simply saying our understanding of the Sunna since they were first witnesses to it

100. Feuerbach : theological epistemology is anthropology. The Sunna : anthropology is theological epistemology.
-‘It is not as in the Bible that God created man in his own image. But on the contrary, man created God in his own image.’ (Ludwig Feuerbach)
-Feuerbach felt religion was really the study of man, that God was a manifestation of human feelings and a projection of human ideals whereas The Sunna is a lived social experience upon which we base our understanding of our religious sciences, whereas
-So in other words the Sunna is the study of man which is the basis of our theological sciences, what one can take away from this is that if belief in God is not connected to the Risalah (Prophethood) then God can indeed be merely a wishy-washy projection of our imagination whom we mold like an idol

21. The fact that the Sunna does not demand imperfection does not mean that it demands perfection.
-The sunna does not demand we be imperfect nor perfect, but that we simply try our best

74. Praying through someone is not praying to someone. Praying because someone is praying is praying to someone.
-Showing off in prayer (surah al-Maun) is riya/shirk but praying through someone (tawassul) is praying through someone has to do with their righteousness and standing before God, in the way the Intercession of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)
-Tawassul is mentioned in the hadith as done through Abbas radiallahu anhu, many people make this a problematic issue because the commit the Iblisian sin of putting reason before revelation
-One can also understand the durud/salawat an-nabi as a tawassul

35. Islam is not set in stone; stone is set in Islam.
-The Black Stone is set in the Kaaba perhaps as a sign relating to this metaphor, that stone is subordinate to Allah and will never be worshipped again
-Islam has bid’a as a mechanism of growth and internal safety of its healthy functioning in obligatory, praiseworthy, neutral, and blameworthy bid’as

70. Not every idafa is Arabic.
-Not every addition to Islam has to be in Arabic, meaning other cultures and ideas can play a role, for example, the digging of the trench which was an idea of Salman al-Farisi or the handshake which was a bid’a Abu Musa al-Ash’ari and his Yemeni clan introduced to the Muslims

86. The greatest subtraction is the claim that all addition is subtraction.
-The notion that nothing can be added to Islam (i.e. bida hasana) is perhaps the greatest subtraction because it would mean we have no Qur’an in paper form

Narrowing/Opening the Straight Path

8. Religion that seeks to be no more than a time capsule is likely to be claustrophobic.
-The metaphor of a time capsule is appropriate because it suggests how we cannot capture the past but only part of it which will not be enough, but this will not be the case if we remember Islam is more than a time capsule because it is not confined to one time alone

73. Preaching: this is an age for rukhas , not for ‘aza’im , and for conservatism, not for liberalism.
-We have the rukhsa in Islam and its there for a time and place and is still valid, so we shouldn’t shy away from it, but at the same time we must approach the rukhsa with an attitude of conservatism, not of liberalism.

50. The recipe for chaos: the qat‘i grows until the zanni is almost abolished.
-If everything in Islamic epistemology is to be absolute rather than probable/speculative, then we our mistakes become absolute
-Something like ruqya is a zanni act, being cured by Qur’an recitation is a probable thing but it doesn’t always work since it may have to do with the piety of the reciter, but if people think its qat’i and it doesn’t work, then their faith is shaken.

80 Belong, not short.
-Belong to the community you are in
-Be long as in be detailed and nuanced rather than reducing Islam to slogans and platitudes

9. The truly-taken rukhsa makes you grow a little; the falsely-taken rukhsa makes you shrink rapidly.
-We should watch our intention in taking the rukhsa, is it to please our nafs or to remain true to our Islam?

16. Compliance is no excuse for strictness.
-Just because we must comply with Islam does not mean we be overly strict and over-tax ourselves
-Compliance with the good must look at the feasibility of performing it and the experience of it

80. Laxity is not the only form of decadence.
-Strictness is a form of decadence

44. Religion should help us to include more, not less.
-The universality of Islam must allow for as many passengers as possible

89. If you crave narrowness, crave a narrowness that is filled with mercy.
-The reference might be intentional to the womb which in hadith is said to have been derived directly from Divine ar-Rahman

Misunderstood scholarship/For the Scholars

93. Being at ease in the company of scholars is a proof of faith.
-Why are we uneasy with scholars? Is it because we are uncertain that Allah is using them?

61. Religious leadership is an opportunity to be frightened of God.
-If one makes a mistake in the position of leadership then it has its effects on all the people, but one must remember there is accountability from Above and from below
-The Christian saying ‘nolo episcopari’ which means ‘I do not want to be the bishop’ is the phrase that is used as a false humility, since humility is what is the criteria

66. If the imam slips, consider him a victim of amazement.
-The opportunities for saying subhanallah are endless and leadership is included in this

59. The ability to perform ijtihad makes the scholar less judgmental, and vice-versa.
-I am not certain about this Contention but I suspect what AHM is hinting to is that one must imagine all sorts of possibilities and therefore one is less judgmental because they search in the body of Islam for any possibility that they can find

33. The preacher should neither lower the price of his goods, nor price Islam out of the market.
-’If this person, I kept telling myself, was one of God’s chosen salesmen on earth, then there must be something very wrong about the whole business’ (Roald Dahl)

52. Never trust a leadership position you find convenient.
-It may be a test or a trap from Shaytan

48. Text without context is pretext. ‘He withdraws knowledge by withdrawing the ulema.’
-This is important in understanding eisegesis and how Islamic texts can be misused for evil ends
-This is especially important in understanding controversial debates in Islam

17. The most useful person for the Umma is the true mujtahid; the false mujtahid is its worst enemy.
-After a while it becomes hard to tell the difference, in our era even the scholars have become confused

27. Many of our priests are in the wrong religion.
-There is a Prophetic hadith that every community has its Christians and Jews, people who emphasize the Letter without the Spirit (Zahir), the Spirit without the Letter (Batin) whereas Islam is the conjoining of both.

2. We must not overestimate the calamities of our age. A misplaced rigorism is less dangerous than an improper liberalism.
-An improper liberalism will release the nafs and it is is worse than being unnecessarily strict

40. The ulema must be as the tribunes of the plebs.
-The ulema must intercede for the lower-classes (i.e. the poor) in the face of government injustice, but this broadly also refers to the fact the ulema have a responsibility to the people

51. Woe betide the scholar who, at the end of his career, says ‘I wrote this’, and ‘I said that’, but did not heal a single soul.
-People account for books in this world, but Allah accounts for hearts in the Next

3. A faqih in first class? And pigs will fly…
-The pigs do fly in our times with what we know as swine flu. The reference is most likely to this hadith: Darimi relates that ‘Imran bin Muslim al-Minqari said:
I told Hasan (al-Basri) one day about something he had said, “O Abu Sa’id, that is not what the fiqh scholars (fuqaha) say.” He said: “Woe to you! And have you ever seen a single faqih? The faqih is but the abstinent of this world, the desirous of the next, the discerning in his religion, the perpetual in his Lord’s worship” (Darimi [23], 1.94: 299. S).


19. Tradition: esoterism is subject to the exoteric. Reform: the esoteric is subject to exoterism.
-In Tradition the spiritual batin matters are hidden and judged by amal and outward actions, as mentioned in the Prophetic hadith, so the outward actions are signs and justifications for righteousness, but in a ‘reform’ understanding of Islam, the inner baatini matters are cited as justification for righteousness without any need for outward signs of righteousness, which is the reverse of the Sunna
-This can be see in a Progressive Muslim understanding of Islam that resembles an Antinomianism

36. Revivalism is frequently a necrosis.
-It kills of what is living, and even if it were dying already it kills it prematurely
-In another Contention he alludes to how only organic matter can decay and perhaps the reference to organic has to do with the gradual growth of Islam

31. ‘Islah’ can never mean more than ‘amelioration’.
-Islah or reform as its translated can not be more than improving upon the past, otherwise if it tries to rebuild from the ground up it fails
-Another meaning of ameliorate is to make more tolerable and give it more appeal, which does not mean changing it

17. The radicals are announcing only one thing: ‘Attention! This vehicle
is reversing!’
-The radical insecurity and desire for safety from the unknown future is to retreat and for some reason everybody must be warned as if its a staged performance

43. The new creed: there is no islam but Islam, and Muhammad is the messenger of Islam.
-The reification of Islam and excess focus on the religion rather than Allah. This is definitely the message you get in the media about Islam, rarely is Allah spoken about even though we are the ultimate monotheistic religion

19. Redefine religion, but do not derefine it.
-The point made is the religion is refined enough, what is helpful is to redefine it so that it penetrates the heart. The destructive tendency alluded to is how in order for religion to be accepted by secularism, it needs to strip it of all meaning.

62. It is the Muslim, not Islam, that cries out to be reformed.
-Elsewhere AHM mentions the Sharia holds up the Umma better than the Umma holds up the Sharia
-The problem is the Muslim soul is not prepared to accept that it needs repairing but is ready to point at Islam as the source of the cause and this may have its link in the fact our society is an information society and not focused on the soul as much as we should be

27. We need an Erasmus, not a Luther.
Erasmus was critical of Luther, defending the ulema and how Islam has survived upto today

89. Only through tradition are we an umma semper reformanda.
-The latin means the Umma must always be reforming, and AHM reminds us that without the tradition reform is impossible and yet the true tradition of Islam is always reforming peoples souls and growing

Modern Islam

41. If you want to judge modern Islam, acquire a taste for beauty.
-We must not look for the ugly in the Ummah but in a globalized world see the beauty in how things play out and the diversity in our experiences of Islam

85. We want to make religion as small as ourselves; just as we have made our homes as ugly as ourselves.
-Related to the previous Contention on beauty and modern Islam
-References to ‘Truth is too big to fit into our minds, but our minds are small enough to fit into Truth.’
-Making our homes as ugly as ourselves may suggest how architecture is understood and how we use space in our homes, ‘as ugly as ourselves’ might refer to television or how all the furniture is pointed towards the television
-The connection between home and religion may have to do with the line between private and public in Islam and the Contentions in the Family Life section may be relevant, namely in the problems of adultery, divorce and broken families

58. Modern Islam: triumphalism without a triumph.
-One is reminded of George Bush’s ironic, ‘Mission Accomplished’
-Were we to triumph would we really bask in triumphalism? Did the Salaf have triumphalism? Or did they follow the Prophetic example of using their triumphs as opportunities to forgive (al-afuww ma’al qudra) and heal the umma?

42. They think to cut the medieval flowers, but what they leave behind is stubble, not the green shoots of Spring.
-You only get one chance with the flower of tradition, if you cut it down, it won’t sprout again
-It might be worth visiting some Qur’anic metaphors to nature
-AHM says in one of his speeches: “But the difference between ālim the and the amateur is that the „ālim says we‟ll deal with the tree as it is, we keep it going, alhamdulillahwe still have it and over the years it has acquired a certain magnificence, that in itself has the right to be respected and enjoyed. The amateur scholar says no, the best thing is to cut it down and well be back in 1453 again, or indeed back at the time of the hijra, in the time of the prophet (SAWS). This is really what is at stake. We have a tree that is more intact than the trees of the other ummahs. But we have, given the nature of the age, an increasing proliferation of people who misunderstand it; who are not grateful for it, who can‟t see its current beauty, who have not trained with those who have been looking after it, and think that the solution is actually to cut it down. The great calamity in our age is not that Islam needs a reformation, or that we need a liberal Islam, the great calamity is that we are not being true to our own traditions of scholarship.”

15. Islamic modernism: a danse macabre flirting with the spiritual death of the Enlightenment.
-Modernised aspects of Islam are dancing to the tune of modernity and will lead to the spiritual death the Enlightenment brought
-I suspect the phrase Islamic modernism rather than Muslim modernism might hint to how Muslims have embraced certain modern ideas like adhan clocks or Islamic conferences and technology that take away from the spiritual feel of Islamic teaching, and of note might be the fact AHM doesn’t speak at too many Islamic conferences

-Three words are worth keeping in mind in this section preterition (that salvation is a done deal), apocatastasis (that due to God’s grace everybody will be saved) and theophilanthropic/ist (someone who loves both God and humakind)

72. There is no better way to limit the Divine mercy than by limiting Islam.
-AHM repeatedly mentions the Divine Mercy and its significance is important not to limit Islam
-I may be wrong in this because he used the word ‘better’ instead of ‘worse’ but I may be confusing myself here

69. Exclusivism is less oppressive to the oppressed than to the oppressor.
-This can apply to theological issues or political issues like American Exceptionalism
-For example, if I say that a people somewhere that I have never met will not be saved, they are not bothered by it
-It is more oppressive to the oppressor because it may be a sign of mental problems, arrogance, and ultimately an obsession over exclusivism leads to self-satisfaction and spiritual growth is stagnated

26. The bigger the intention to compress the biggest truth into the smallest community, the smaller the credibility of Providence.
-The idea of an economy of salvation in Christianity discredits God’s beyond infinite capability

99. It’s quite a hard thing to respect
 A God who our prayers would accept,
 We splash and we preen
 Then we fidget and dream,
 So proud to be of the Saved Sect.
-Its hard to imagine God would accept our weak prayers
-Splash may refer to wudhu, preen means to be narcissistically proud, we fidget because we aren’t sure and yet we dream of ourselves as chosen ones
-The limerick structure displays the childishness of thinking you are the only one saved, like a spoiled brat
-Are we worthy of being the Saved sect referred to in the hadith about the 72 ‘sects’ that will be in hell? I should mention that hadith is interpreted to mean that their stay will not be eternal but temporary, only the most pious will be saved and their is another hadith that states that 72 ‘sects’ will be in Paradise

1. We have turned the Sunna Theologica into a Sunna Contra Gentiles.
-The theology of the sunnah into the sunnah on one side and the Other/Gentile on the other
-We interpret the sunna racially or tribally, when in fact there are no borders to it, in one of AHM’s essays he suggests the sunna as gradations, not boundaries

35. Do not doubt another’s salvation until you are certain of your own.
-An excellent reminder


89. Tribalism flourishes where Truth is neglected.
-What does one care about tribes when one is preoccupied with the Truth?

8. Truth is stronger than faction.
-A play on words, that truth is stronger than fiction
-The following hadith mentioned in 40 Hadith Nawawi is relevant, ‘O my servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to become as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more than a needle decreases the sea if put into it.’

90. Dialogue: from the It to the They to the You to the We.
-Here we have a map of dialogue and unity in the form of pronouns, which pronouns are you using?
-Police officers observe the use of pronouns as a sign of guilt and culpability

57. Where there is no division in vision there is vision even in division.
-If we can see the big picture then we understand that the divisions in our umma may have a purpose, which could be to help people along a trajectory of guidance or that each group has a role to play, for example the philanthropic work of the Aga Khan has helped many Muslims regardless of ‘factions’.

52. Vulgar factions cause long division.
-The more vulgar one is to another faction the more difficult it is to heal the wounds
-Division is a mathematical play on words of repeatedly dividing reducing the number of people in those factions until they disappear
-Long division may refer to the fact the more vulgar one is the more one finds to disagree about and divide people over

30. Pious repudiations of polyphony usually yield monotony rather than plainchant.
-To disapprove of more than one voice or opinion, in favour of the ‘correct opinion’ usually yields to a drab monotony
-At a different level, when people say ‘You are doing too much,’ or ‘only focus on one thing’ and that somehow this is better than doing more may yield a monotonous boredom that pushes one away

60. Conformity can be more radical than alienation.
-In an age when alienation and ‘rebellion’ is the norm then conforming to tradition is a very radical act

54. A heretic never claims to be a heretic, he claims to transcend orthodoxy.
-Many heretic movements in Islam claim to correct Islam, with words like tasfiya, as if they are caretakers of the religion
-AHM may be referring to the hadith of the 72 sects as well, which many sects use to justify themselves

75. Be wrathful against error in its depriving, not in its difference.
-An error that is different is not a threat to Islam, especially if it does not deprive us
-However an error that does deprive us, especially of mercy, ease and opportunities for spiritual growth is deserving of our anger, an example maybe the censoring of hadith

88. Unless one has the Islam of the Name, one has only the name of Islam.
-The Islam of the Name is perhaps a reference to the Divine Names and the taking upon the moral character traits of Allah

36. The ‘universal’ religion is not merely the religion that claims to be for all; it is the religion that claims that God has always been for all. There can be no Muslim ‘scandal of particularity’.
-scandal of particularity is the Christian problem that the specific person of Jesus who is the only way to God
-Islam has no such concept but believes that religion of the haneefs, of Abraham and Noah who precede the Christian and Jewish communities with monotheism

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 30, 2011

Introduction to the Contentions of Abdal Hakim Murad

The Contentions are an excellent piece of work. They are concise, powerful and one quickly realizes while reading it the depth and breadth of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s intellect. The variety of topics and the provokative questions also pose something of a direction for the Western Muslim readers. Though ambitious in its scope there is a passive contentment throughout the work- a discipline in the sharp mental edge. It is hard to imagine a shaky AHM ever getting angry while you read this and calling it Contentions sounds at the same time both combative, hostile and yet also humble- these aren’t wisdoms, but more or less hypotheses to contemplate upon our society and spirituality, a muhasaba of sorts. I also am sure there is something of blessed khawatir in here, that some of these are Divine inspiration, thoughts put in his mind from God, whispered by some angel perhaps.

Through quotes, odd plays on words, foreign terminology and experimenting with portmanteau (made-up) words AHM explores new ideas and alters how we perceive certain issues. At times he offers no more than words that are a tribute to Islam and at other times he offers use aphorisms similar to that of the French Philosophes that can apply to a wide range of situations or contexts. There is a ‘precise openness’ about the Contentions in that there can be one or two or three interpretations, hidden subtly. They will vary by the wideness and narrowness of his thought; some are specific and other more disparate and in-depth in their understanding. He shows us fallacies and naive errors in our thinking, points out problematic Muslim idiosyncrasies, often breaking the cognitive frames and freeing the reader from the trappings of modern discourse. One thing to remember is that Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad is critical of not just one group or one body of ideas, he is critical of everybody and is essentially an equal opportunity offender. 🙂

I will be sharing my commentary on the Contentions. Its not a very long nor detailed commentary but its more to start the conversation and encourage other Muslims to get involved with Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s body of work. Until you organize the Contentions you can’t really see the genius of his thought because the ideas are scattered. But I have taken the time (a very long time) to loosely categorize the Contentions so they are more easily navigable. This isn’t easy because I have to organize each Contention, then organize the categories while ensuring I consider ideas in that Contention that may be beyond the category I placed it in.

I have organized the Contentions in the following categories with further subcategories numbering up to 100:
Traditional Islamic education
Spiritual development
Tributes to Islam
Secular ideologies and isms
Islamic ideologies and isms
Family and Gender

The Contentions if you ask me is a miracle for Islam because AHM is taking on many different forces in the world, and laying down a foundation for a Muslim discourse and meta-narrative. This is the first textual grappling with Islam in the ever-changing, globalized, chaotic world of today.  I firmly believe in the next couple of years, the study of the Contentions will become mandatory for any student of Islamic tradition. I have tried to recall some of AHM’s lectures and essays, if not directly then at least from my notes. The fact AHM is a soft-spoken person does not detract from the directness of his arguments though one may not take it so seriously because of the obscurity of the Contentions so I will try to build off some of his ideas.

I must say as I started this project I felt as if Shaytan was attacking me and trying to discourage me from attempting it, but I have gone forward trusting in Allah.

Special thanks goes out to Sayyid Ali Hussain for his help translating the Arabic terminology.

Disclaimer: I have not spoken to Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad in the course of this project and what you may read only represents my interpretations. This is not definitive nor absolute but merely an attempt at understanding the Contentions.


Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 29, 2011

Exploring the Contentions

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 29, 2011

Reflecting on Hadiths of Justice and Mercy

The following is something I wrote about a year back while reflecting on Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad “Forgiveness and Justice: meditations on some hadiths

Forgiveness and Rahmah is the best argument against people who think justice means, just-us. There’s a connectedness there in all our actions, even being connected with Allah- like, if a Muslim forgives someone else and shows clemency and mercy, than Allah looks upon that person’s action and says, “I am more merciful than my servant. I am the most merciful of the merciful” and then shows even more generosity in forgiving that person and making things easy for him. Allah commands us to adl’ wal ihsan- justice and excellence (forgiveness/mercy/clemency/compassion) because I think, it is more fitting of God’s Majesty, and perhaps more beloved to Him, to be associated with that mercy, more than simple mechanical justice.

I think just about everything in Islam has this in it: God wants us to be something more than just a creature (like the horn/hornless animals) demanding it’s “human rights,” (the allusion is intentional), to just demand justice with a sense of privilege and entitlement, he wants us to be worthy of Jannah, and that is why He pushes us to Islam, to tazkiya, to ihsan, “God only desires good for mankind,” and “Allah has no intention of oppressing the universe” (Surah Ale Imran) and “He who purifies himself has succeeded” (Sura al-‘Ala). And to purify oneself is to come to know oneself- weaknesses, tendencies, and fragility of life. Maulana Rumi says this is why there are difficulties, so that God can call man with a title of merit, of virtue, and rightly do so. So that perhaps, we won’t feel like a bunch of free-loaders, leechers, and scam artists entering Jannah, we’ll feel worthy of it, like the martyr/saint mentioned in the hadith, who has earned his place.

“For those who believe not in the Hereafter is an evil description, and for Allah is the highest description. And He is the Almighty, the All-wise.” (An-Nahl 16:60)) We will feel like we belong there and see something of ourselves, our actions, the vision of good, in that blessed place. I think in that, we come to actually know God. Otherwise, its like what Shaykh Hamza Yusuf said, “the sign of the righteous is they are grateful and love those who do good to them while the sign of the hypocrite is to hate the person who does good to them.” We don’t come to God as someone asking for welfare or unemployment payments, but as the king that Adam once was in Jannah. We’ll be back at our place once again. So, I think in a sense, it comes back full circle- if Allah is to show His mercy, so should we. His mercy to us is contingent upon our performance/merciful nature- like the hadith, man la yarham la yurham, that whoever does not show mercy, will not be shown mercy. Maybe that is why it remains a mystery as to the status of nonbelievers, believers, and the tension between justice and forgiveness remains in Islam, and in a ghayb, because its a work in progress that is unravelling with our existence; that if we ultimately fail to recognize God, and to recognize the goodness emanating from Him, than we fail to recognize ourselves and are doomed to hellfire, wherein we continue to remain ignorant, questioning and lamenting our sins, how we failed and where now is God’s mercy and hope? There is a possibility not simply of the chance of God’s “soft-heartedness” overpowering His wrath, but of also man’s soft-heartedness overpowering his wrath, towards himself, others and by extension, God. And that can have a deciding factor in the justice Allah serves.

In this way, justice and mercy becomes connected to fate and free-will- whether what is written in the Lawh al-Mahfuz is changed, how much is changed, as a work in progress (“In a book, that ONLY the purified can touch,” Quran) and what it will ultimately come to mean on Yawmul qiyamah. Questions of free-will/destiny are reified when in fact, they are more of a mechanism/condition that allow for man to work, and yet be protected/insured by God. What if Justice and Destiny are not a dichotomy, but rather one in the same? “Is it these poor believers that Allah has favored from amongst us? Does not Allah know best those who are grateful?” (Anam, 6:53) “Had Allah known any good in them, He would’ve made them listen.” (Anfal, 8:23)

There is divine mercy insofar as we are capable in our meek condition of seeing it and witnessing it, upon a continuum, everything beyond that to us seems like justice, when in fact it may really be mercy.

“The Sentence that comes from Me cannot be changed” (Qaf 50:29) But God is also All-Knowing and so the finality of it all, rests with Him, all that is with us is the temporary present, the escaping moment to grab the valuable good deeds, before the house of our existence collapses.

God’s Messenger, upon him be peace, said: ‘I smile because of two men from
my nation, who shall kneel in the presence of the Lord of Power. One of them
says: ‘O my Lord, grant me retaliation for the wrong which my brother did to
me.’ And God says: ‘Give your brother that in which he was wronged.’ ‘O
Lord,’ he says, ‘none of my righteous works remain.’ Then God the Exalted
says to the man who made the demand: ‘What shall you do with your brother,
seeing that none of his righteous works remain?’ And he replies: ‘O my Lord!
Let him bear some of my burdens in my stead!’ And God’s Messenger wept, as
he said: ‘Truly, that shall be a fearsome Day, a Day when men have need of
others to bear their burdens.’ Then he said: ‘God shall say to one who made
the request: ‘Lift up your head, and look to the Gardens.’ This he does, and he
says: ‘O my Lord! I see high cities of silver, and golden palaces wreathed about
with pearls. For which Prophet shall they be, or which saint or martyr?’
And he said: ‘They belong to whomsoever pays me their price.’ ‘O my Lord,’ he
says, ‘And who possesses such a price?’ ‘You possess it,’ he replies. ‘And what
might it be?’ he asks, and He says: ‘Your forgiveness of your brother.’ ‘O my
Lord!’ he says, ‘I have forgiven him!’ Then God the Exalted says: ‘Take your
brother’s hand and bring him into Heaven.’ Then God’s Messenger recited His
word: ‘Fear God, and make reconciliation among yourselves.’ (Qur’an 8:1)
26 al-Hakim al-Nïsaburi, al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-sahihayn (Hyderabad, Da’irat al-Ma‘arif al-
‘Uthmaniyye, 1915), IV, 576. (From Abdul Hakim Murad’s essay, “Forgiveness and Justice“)

Perhaps the best way to summarize the question then is that the real question of justice/mercy lies with us, not with Allah. “What! Can there be a doubt about Allah?” (Ibrahim 40:10) Do we want to be constrained by Justice or liberated by it or do we want to be constrained by Mercy or liberated by it? Or at the end of it, will we just become frustrated with human justice and give up and simply want God to decide because He is the only One capable of deciding?

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 28, 2011

Tahara of the Intellectual’s Mind

While reading Reason as Balance: The Evolution of ‘Aql I came across something I had often wondered about. One of the things Abdal Hakim Murad was getting at was the connection between intelligence and piety.

It makes sense doesn’t it? Intellect plays a role in maintaining our piety and were we to have no intellect in our deen, then we would be lost and in a state of sin. But its not just what we think about, in this case, niyyah, self-control, being self-critical – but it is also ‘how’ we think about those things. A seriousness and a sincerity is necessary for the intellect to succeed. There must be a conviction, an ilm al-yaqin. The Qur’an repeatedly appeals to thought and intellect, and in doing so, confers a special respect upon humans as capable of deciding their own futures. I feel this discussion on the role and place of intellect in Islam is pertinent and important because of the connotations today that religion is irrationale.

Yet here in Islam there is a connection between God and intellect and I am not saying this just to show off. The intellect is a trustworthy way to arrive at God, and I realized the proof of this could be derived in the period of Fatra, the 600 years in between Eesa alayhi salam and Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam, a time when no Prophets were sent and the only way people could arrive to belief in God (outside of the previous revelations) is through their ‘aql and reason. The hadith mention that these people have a valid excuse before Allah (similar to the excuse the mentally challenged have) for not being Muslims, but they will be tried to see if they have belief or not.

Now lets pause and think for a moment. For those 600 years, men and women were left alone to figure things out without any Divine intervention, and in a sense this is the only period when atheism, deism, polytheism, and humanism are, in a sense, acceptable. Whether one is an atheist or a brilliant philosopher who believes in God through his own ‘aql, everybody has a ‘get out of jail free card’ which means, they are all equal before God insofar as the excuse they have before God applies equally to all of them. This stresses then the uniqueness and honour that is conferred upon humanity by Revelation when it comes down and how humanity is pitiful without that revelation. One can see that what comes from God to us is greater than what goes from us to God. My second point is that in a way, Ahlul Fatra are a proof from Allah that relying solely on ‘aql could lead to Allah and on Yawmul Qiyama they are a sort of ‘control group’ to compare against communities to whom revelation and Prophets were sent. And that is interesting because on Yawmul Qiyama we can see them, what belief is or isn’t, outside of revelation and Divine command, and based purely on fitra (primordial disposition).

On reading this quote, my initial thought was that perhaps a sort of ‘mental purity’ or a ‘tahara of the mind’ was needed for one to arrive at true understanding. One of the effects of dhikr is that it empties the mind of clutter, and often people who have started making dhikr will recall a song they used to listen to, which is a sign of the mind (or the soul?) being purified and cleansed. And through that cleansing I imagine that the clarity of wisdom is found. That may be connected to the ‘innate knowledge’ that Abdal Hakim Murad is hinting to. Is he speaking about the fitra? Or is he speaking about the potential for ma’rifa, which is as intuitive as recognition of mathematical knowledge? Or perhaps the two are, in fact, connected and one and the same? Whatever the case, there is indeed something miraculous about aql and the miracle of consciousness, which philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists and physicists struggle to understand. In a very real way, discussing the existence of consciousness (or intellect) in the scheme of science is like discussing the existence of an angel. It is inexplicable. One of the realizations of our times is that consciousness can be altered through psychoactive chemicals, yet the problem society faces is the sheer confusion and meaninglessness of those experiences. Few realize that ibadat can alter consciousness, (i.e. spiritual openings) in a way that is meaningful, leads to ethical transformation and experiencing of truth. But not all truth is equal. Knowing the truth about a lie can be meaningful but it isn’t easy to accept that truth for everyone, some are stubborn, hurt and refuse to believe it out of an attachment to a lie and that can important in understanding why some people choose baatil over haqq.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

Posted by: Dawud Israel | November 27, 2011

An Ode to the Qur’an…

Click the image to get a better picture of the graph. For Facebook readers, click “View Original Post” or “View Full Note.”

This is taken from Hasan Askari’s book “Alone to Alone” and is quoted by Abdal Hakim Murad in his paper “Reason as Balance.”

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