“Why does God threaten us with Hell and how is it free-will if He threatens us with Hell?”

Islamic theology (‘Aqeedah) is based on an ethical rather than speculative imperative. Many Qur’anic verses and hadiths show that Iman (faith) is obligatory and rewarded by paradise, and that kufr (unbelief) is wrong and punished by hell. We believe that Heaven and Hell exist and this is an intellectual possibility which doesn’t go against sound intellect. 

I am not gonna delve into speculative theology much, I am gonna try to keep it simple. Suppose you have your final year exams coming up, the teacher tells you that if you don’t revise, you are gonna fail, but if you do revise then you will pass and go on to get that dream-job of yours or whatever. Now, for most of us, it’s the ‘fear of failure’ and not the ‘hope of success’, that makes us revise the hardest. Why? Human nature, that’s just how we are and how we think as human beings.

Now, if the Qur’an didn’t mention ‘hell’ (and only mentioned ‘heaven’), then the people would have questioned “Well, what about those who refuse to believe?” And if the Qur’an didn’t mention ‘heaven’ (and only mentioned ‘hell’), then the people would have questioned “What is there for the believers?” But if you analyse the Qur’an thoroughly, you’ll find that the words “paradise” and “hell” are each repeated 77 times; there is a perfect balance between ‘fear of failure’ (Hell) and ‘hope for success’ (Heaven), because our Creator knows what is best for us.

As for free-will, see it this way: “God creates the possibility of a human action with his divine predestination, but then the human follows through and “acquires” the act, making it theirs and taking responsibility for it using their human fate.” Simply put, God has knowledge of everything that will be, but humans have freedom of choice. For example, the teacher knows that the student is going to fail the exam, because he doesn’t study or attend any lectures. But the student is still given the chance to actually sit the exam without him being forced to do so. If he was to pull off an all-nighter the night before the exam and pass, that’d just show that the teacher is *not* all-Knowing, but God is.

I tried to keep it as simple as I could, but if you want me to discuss issues pertaining to theodicy and Euthyphro dilemma in-depth, then please leave a comment below.

Imam al-Baji al-Maliki (d. 474 AH) on God’s descent to the nearest heaven in the last third of the night

Imam al-Baji al-Maliki (403 AH – 474 AH) states in al-Muntaqa Sharh al-Muwatta’ 1:357, in explanation of the hadith of Allah’s descent to the nearest heaven in the last third of the night:

“The Prophet’s — Allah bless and greet him — saying that our Exalted Lord descends every night to the nearest heaven is to inform us that supplication at that particular time is answered, petitioners are given what they request, and those who ask for forgiveness are forgiven. It warns us as to the great merit of that time and strongly encourages us to make abundant supplication, petition, and contrition at that time. It was narrated from the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — in similar terms that Allah Almighty and Exalted said: “If My servant comes near Me one hand-span I come near him one cubit. If he comes near Me one cubit I come near him an arm’s length. If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running.”He did not mean by this hadith a coming-near in terms of distance, for such is impossible and inexistent. All he meant was the servant’s coming-near in terms of good works, and Allah’s coming-near in terms of answer and acceptance. In the same sense one says “So-and-so is near So-and-so,” and they say of the leader “He is near his people” if he helps them a lot and welcomes them. This is well-known in the language of the Arabs.”

…And So It Comes to Pass

The marturdom of Imam Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Bouti
Written by Abu Ja’far al-Hanbali

Faceless cowards let off a bomb in Masjid al-Iman in the neighbourhood of Al-Mazra`ah in Syria, killing more than 15 people, one of them by Imam Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Bouti.

The situation in the country has escalated to the point now that marja` people are being killed, the very land of the High Ranking Saints being overrun with two groups, both fighting for a throne.

On one side is Bashar al-Asad, the inheritor of the throne; on the other are various demonstration groups that have transmogrified into the Free Syria Army. The war for the throne unfortunately has not just engulfed these two groups.

If it had, we could have just merely said, “Well, let them kill each other and let them leave our affair.” The problem is that it is not just that. It is the very case that those in the throne currently are striking back with ferocity at those trying to remove them.

Those desiring the throne are now showing that they are just as vicious as the regime is in killing, halting Jumu`ah due to gunfire and scaring people to the point that they are barricading themselves into their homes or areas.

Common laity are dealing with the problem and taking the brunt of the civil unrest. Access to bread, water, basic facilities and amenities are now luxuries with more than 1 million people dashing over the border towards Turkey, Iraq (it sounds strange to read Syrian refugees saying that, “We came here as we found it more stable.”), Jordan, Lebanon and further afield toward Europe.

Imam Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Bouti, may Allah have mercy upon him and accept his martyrdom, warned what would come to pass and we have 17 pages of fatawa from the beginning of the demonstrations up until his death that demonstrate this painful fact. I suppose an old marja` knows a couple of things more about the world than we think.

In his death, cowards, well wishers and capitulation specialists now call him, “one of the most important scholars of the Ummah,” “a mujaddid of the time,” and a really “eminent teacher and `allamah.”

Why only moments ago, our post-mortem bootlickers had called Imam Al-Bouti a stooge, a government scholar, hater of jihad (even though he is one of only four mujtahids who gave the landmark fatwa that opened to door to what we now know as suicide bombings in Palestine based upon strict principles) and even “discovered” a fatwa giving the “go ahead” for pornography (a spectacular lie that is easily unseated by looking at the fatwa itself and the translation) and many other pejorative titles.

The Imam was patient and continued to say what should be said and stuck to his guns. Yes, he did call the demonstrators scum and Marxists (keep in mind that many of them did not pray, so the word scum is gentle compared to being called kuffar by Allah in the Qur’an).

He also warned that if they carried on, the battle between them and the regime would produce nothing. Indeed this is the case. So the question in the destruction of masjids, madrasahs, burning of mushafs, killing of maraji` (10 of the 30 maraji` of Duma that gave the rulings against demonstrations and demonstrators are dead from assassination attempts) is this:

Are you now happy with what you’ve done? How do you like the country now? Enjoy the land you’re ruined.

Rest assured that Allah will avenge his authorities and the High Ranking Saints and He is never mocked.

Source: http://jurjis.wordpress.com/

Is “ignorance” a valid excuse in Islam?

It’s a common misconception that, “if you remain ignorant of something then you will not be held accountable for it.” You tell some people the ruling for X, they put their fingers in their ears and say, “Ahh! Why did you tell me?!”

This is not true, because if something is related to the Fardhul ‘Ayn (religious knowledge which is obligatory on every adult, sane, Muslim to know) then doing something out of ignorance is like doing something *intentionally* for which *you will be* held accountable.

Islam is a religion of knowledge and responsibility, not ignorance and neglect. One who doesn’t learn his Fardhul ‘Ayn is in the state of sinfulness. Fardhul ‘Ayn is Islamic knowledge related to everything that you do; from Prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, etc. to (and not restricted to) business transactions, university, school, work etc.

So, take your religion seriously, just like you take your worldly matters seriously. Find yourself a teacher, someone who is qualified to teach you your religion and someone you can refer to if you have any questions.

Does God descend (literally) every night to the lowest heaven?

Imam Muslim narrates the following hadith in his Sahih:

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏ ‏صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ‏ ‏قَالَ يَنْزِلُ رَبُّنَا تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى كُلَّ لَيْلَةٍ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا حِينَ يَبْقَى ثُلُثُ اللَّيْلِ الْآخِرُ فَيَقُولُ ‏ ‏مَنْ يَدْعُونِي فَأَسْتَجِيبَ لَهُ وَمَنْ يَسْأَلُنِي فَأُعْطِيَهُ وَمَنْ يَسْتَغْفِرُنِي فَأَغْفِرَ لَهُ ‏

“Messenger of God – May Peace and Blessings of God be upon him – said, ‘Our Lord – Blessed and Exalted is He! – descends every night to the lowest heaven in the last third of the night and says: Who is supplicating Me so that I may answer him? Who is asking forgiveness from Me so that I may forgive him?”

Shaykh ul-Islam, Imam An-Nawawi says in his Sharh Sahih Muslim,

“This hadith is from the hadith of the Sifat (attributes) of God, the Exalted, and regarding it there are two well-known madhdhabs (schools of thought): the first, and it is the madhhab of the salaf (the rightly guided predecessors) and some of the Mutakallimin (scholars of kalam) that it is to believe in their [i.e. the attributes] reality according to what befits God, the Exalted, and that the literal meaning that we commonly apply to ourselves is not what is meant, and that one does not speak regarding its interpretation while holding the belief that God, the Exalted, is free from the attributes of the created, and from translocation, and movement, and the rest of the attributes of created beings.

The second is the madhdhab of the majority of the Mutakallimīn, and a group from amongst the Salaf; and it is what is reported from Imām Mālik and al-Awzā’ī that they are interpreted figuratively but only according to their appropriate contextual meanings. On this basis there are two interpretations (ta’wil).

  1. The first is the ta’wil of Imam Malik ibn Anas and other than he, that its meaning is the descent of His mercy and decree and His angels. As is said regarding the Sultan (King) that ‘he did so and so’, when actually [the task] has been performed by those under his command [and not by him (Sultan) personally]]
  2. And the Second interpretation is that it is an Isti’arah (metaphor) to signifiy turning to (iqbal) to those who supplicate to Him with fulfillment by answering [the du’aa] and showing lutf (kindness, generosity) [to those beseeching Him]. And God knows best.

[Sharh Sahih Muslim; Kitab Salat al-Musafirin, number 1261]

Imam al-Qurtubi al-Maliki said in his Tafseer:

“God, the Exalted, is not attributed with transferring from one place to another. How can transfer and movement be attributed to Him when He exists without a place and is clear of time, and periods and intervals do not lapse on Him?”

Imam al-Faqih al-Asfaraini, the well-known Scholar of Creed, said in his book At-Tabsiru fid-Deen:

“The slave must know that anything which dictates creationism such as limits, extremes, place, direction, stillness and movement is impossible to apply to (God), the One who is clear of all the attributes of the creations.”

Imam Ahmad ar-Rifa`i said in his book Al-Burhan al-Mu`ayyad:

“Do not sanction attributing to God a directional above or below, a location or a physical hand or an eye or interpreting the word Nuzul as a physical descending or ascending.”

Al-Hafidth ibn al-Jawzi al-Hanbali said in his book Daf`u shubahtit-Tashbeeh:

“It is obligatory upon us to firmly believe that the Self of God is not confined to place, nor attributed with change or moving.”

Al-Hafidth an-Nawwawi, the well-known Shafi`i Hadith scholar said in his explanation on Sahih Muslim:

“Verily God the Exalted, does not resemble any of the creations and is clear of bodily concepts, moving, occupying any direction and of all the creations characteristics.”

Imam al-Bayhaqi said in his book, Al-Asma’ was-Sifat, page 488:

“God, the Exalted, is not in a place. Movement, coming to rest, and sitting are among the attributes of bodies.” [and God is not a body].

Shaykh az-Zarqani said in his elucidation to the book Muwatta of Imam Malik:

“Imam al-Baydawi said: ‘since it is confirmed through irrefutable proofs that God is clear of notions of body and dwelling, it follows that it is impossible that God would be moving from one [higher] place to another lower place.”

Al-Hafidth az-Zabidi said in his book Ithafus-Sadatil Muttaqin:

“God, the Exalted is clear of changing from one state to another, moving from place to place and physical attachment and detachment, for they are all attributes of the creations.”

As-Sanusiyy says in his al-Aqidah al-Sanusiyyah:

“God is not attributed with death, light rays, darkness, color, spirit, stillness, movement, shape, form, parts, divisibility, limits, countability, mode, mass, location or direction because these attributes need to be specified by a creator and must therefore have a beginning.”

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali says in Fath al-Bari – his Commentary upon Sahih al-Bukhari – chapter on facing towards the direction of the Qibla:

وقال ابن رجب الحنبلي رحمه الله: ومراده أن نزوله ليس هو انتقال من مكان إلى مكان كنزول المخلوقين
“What is meant by it is that His Nuzul (lit. descent) is not (in terms of) spacial movement from (one) place to (another) place, like the descent (Nuzul) of created things.“

The interpretation of the hadith by Ahlus-Sunnah – who clear God from occupying place, directionality, and boundaries –  is that the descent (Nuzul) mentioned in this hadith means that the Angels of Mercy descend by the order of God to the lower sky according to the night-time of every land. The Angels would say: Your Lord says: ‘Is there any one who is making supplication so that I will answer his supplication? Is there anyone who is asking me for forgiveness so that I will forgive him? Is there any one who is asking for things so that I will give him?’

The Angels convey just what God ordered them to convey. This is the meaning of the hadith as explained by the scholars of orthodox sunni Islam (Ahlus Sunnah). For these reasons, you have to either say that Nuzul does not mean that God Himself is descending, and then either give a plausible interpretation, or simply affirm the Nuzul while believing it does not mean that God is descending.

And Allah knows best.

Sources:
http://sunnianswers.wordpress.com
http://alsunna.org
http://www.seekingilm.com/archives/962
http://studentofthedeen.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/ibn-rajab-al-hanbali-on-allahs-nuzul/

Proof for the existence of God?

Many atheists think: “If you can’t see or hear God, then He simply does not exist and the burden of proof is on the theists.”

For the moment, ignoring the fact that being able to observe anything before the big-bang is a paradox in and of itself, let me throw this out: Time is at least in part a measurement of *change*. If, as may be, all of what would become the big-bang was in form of virtual particles and therefore observable, the state of reality before the big-bang must have been a state of *no change* and therefore *no time*.

Consequently, anything that existed before the big-bang is free of time, space and directionality; that means it must have existed for eternity, without having gone through any changes or occupying a place and must have been free from directionality.

Based on this, no one can see God in this life. Why? Because for our eyes to grasp His beatific vision, He must be in our dimension of space and time; must be contained within the six directions; allow the photon of light to reach Him (or be a ‘physical’ source of light which is divisible in form of particles) so that we are able to see Him physically, which would mean that God must be an atom  or a body composed of particles.

However, all of that is not possible and this anthropomorphic creed only attributes imperfections to God, who is All-Perfect. God is not a body or a particle, He has no gender; He is pre-existent without origin and eternal without end; free from any changes, dimensions of time-space; and directionality does not apply to Him.

To sum up: “God is not *on*anything, or *in* anything, or *from* anything. Because had He been on anything, He would have been carried; had He been in anything, He would have been contained; and had He been from anything, He would have been a creation.”
{Imam al-Qushayri in his book “ar-Risalah al-Qushayriyyah”

Is God in the sky?

When we say “God”, we don’t mean a ‘superman’ sitting on a cloud somewhere in the sky overlooking our affairs. That is the creed of the anthropomorphists, not Muslims.

We believe in a God, who is not an atom or a body composed of particles; He doesn’t occupy a space, nor is He contingent to time; universal/scientific laws do not apply to Him for He existed when nothing else existed and He is as He ever was before creating the universe. God is eternal without beginning. He is everlasting, without an end. Nothing, whether good or bad, will be except that He Wills. He is free from any imperfections and limitations; human imagination cannot conceptualise Him, nor can human understanding grasp His Reality, nor does He resemble creation. We know of Him through that which He chose to reveal about Himself and belief in Him is an intellectual necessity, not a mere possibility.