Friday, 12 June 2009

Epistemology and the Nature of Reality

Assalaam alaykum,

I am writing this post because of a conversation I repeatedly have with a certain brother about 'ilm al-kalaam and the logical arguments that are currently circulating in western academic institutions. Today's discussion, albeit rather brief and informal, was about epistemology and the nature of reality, and of course it touched on how to answer certain individuals when they answer certain questions. This is a matter that I feel I need to get off my chest and insha'Allah some benefit will be found in what I have to say. I think numbered points would be the best way of going about this.

1) Not everyone on the face of this earth is sincerely seeking the Truth with the intention of submitting to it unconditionally once it has been found. How do we know this is true? Allah is Most Just and He rewards sincerity. If everyone on the face of the earth was sincerely seeking the truth and ready to submit to it, then the everyone on the face of the earth would be Muslim. They're not.

2) Allah called His Deen "Islam", i.e. submission, surrender, giving up, making peace etc. See 3:19, 3:85 and 5:3. "Islam" is the official name, not "The Religion of Truth", "The True Religion" or anything similar to that, even though such labels are correct. "Islam" is the official name because whether or not the Deen is true is not the issue. The truth of the Deen is actually obvious. The issue is whether or not the individual is capable of subduing his nafs, or his ego and his desires, and submitting to the Truth.

3) While 'Ilm Al-Kalaam seeks to answer people's questions about Islam and various theological subjects, there comes a point when no quality or amount of answers will do. A certain individual simply will not believe. Does this mean that Islam and the brilliant theologians that it has produced have failed to provide adequate answers? No. Someone disbelieves out of choice, as is made clear in 18:29. Al-Baqara, 2:6-7 is also extremely relevant here.

4) By examining the Qur'an and the Seerah and the various arguments and objections that the Quraysh and the disbelievers put forward, one will find no mention of them not understanding the message being presented, or of them being unconvinced. They ask for more signs but in reality, as Allah informs us, they are liars and they will never believe. [See 17:88-97] If the Qur'an itself isn't a clear sign and proof, especially amongst a people who are the most skilled and proficient in the Arabic language, then what is? The disbelievers, and the Quraysh notables in particular, disbelieved for their own selfish reasons. They feared that they would lose their temporal position of power and authority. They feared that the tribe would lose its status amongst the Arabs and thus much wealth.

5) As for disbelieving academics and scholars in the west today who always have new arguments and objections to Islam, are we, as Muslims, supposed to find theological and philosophical answers to all of them? What more proof do we need? See 14:10. The bulk of these arguments and objections, regardless of how sophisticated they may be, are really nothing more than a smokescreen, cunningly employed to cover the fact that they don't believe because, as a matter of fact, they don't want to. That's it. This case is very similar to many Muslims that I've met over the years who have been given several opportunities to learn Arabic, yet never have. Some have spent months or even years in an Arabic-speaking country. They come up with excuse after excuse as to why they haven't learned the language: the teacher was rubbish, the textbook was boring, the environment didn't allow me to focus, the course was too expensive, and so on and so on. Everytime a complaint is responded to and rectified another one pops up. What does this indicate? It indicates that this individual doesn't want to learn Arabic. He or she is simply not bothered. However, as a Muslim, this would be a shameful thing to admit. The same thing goes for these academics. They look better if they hide behind the smokescreen of appearing to be too intellectually sophisticated to accept Islam.

6) One of the silly arguments they like to put forward is the nature of reality. How do we know that this world is real? How is it more real than a dream? My question is: How does such a discussion benefit a Muslim? The fact is it doesn't. Playing semantic games about the word 'real' is a waste of time and another smokescreen, another excuse to turn away from Allah and fall down in pathetic, subservient obedience to one's nafs. As Muslims we believe in Allah. Allah is real; Al-Haqq. The Day of Judgement is real. This world is real, as opposed to dreams, because what we do in this world will be taken into account on the Day of Judgement. We will be asked about what we did in this world. We are not accountable for what we do in dreams, so in this sense, this most crucial sense, dreams are not real.

7) We believe in Allah and the Last Day. This is our focal point. This has to be at the forefront of our thoughts at all times. These disbelieving academics don't believe in Allah and the Last Day. They don't even believe in revelation, so they are left groping around in the dark and wasting their time on pointless discussions and arguments that are of absolutely no benefit. Should we really waste our time and try to respond to each and every one of their arguments? They want us to think that their problems are intellectual, that they're in the mind, but, as Allah tells us (2:10), their problems actually lie in the heart. In their hearts is a sickness, and no intellectual/rational/logical argument, no matter how brilliant, can cure a diseased heart, let alone a bring a dead heart to life.

May Allah guide us all to seek and acquire knowledge that is of benefit to us and may He protect us from delving into matters that are of no benefit, and all success lies with Him alone! Amin!

Assalaam alaykum,