Category Archives: Theology
I was flicking through tv channels whilst sipping my tea and paused at the ‘Ummah Channel” to hear someone go on and on about Istighatha along with ruthless criticism of his opponents as if his discussion holds the solution to humanity’s problems.
Aqeedah wars are obviously not new, rather something we inherited when Muslims met philosophy around the 8th and 9th Century. When translating and answering complex theological questions influenced by the Greek Philosophy, Muslim scholars took several different positions as proponents and exponents of philosophy.
First came the Muslim philosophers who gave birth to various schools of thought Qadariyyah, Jabriyyah, Jahmiyah (all extinct now). In their refutation came the Mu’tazilah, who despite being valiant defenders also flopped paving the way for the Mutakallimoun (Muslim theologians) mainly the Ash’aris and Maturidis.
These remaining schools of Aqeedah (Ash’ari and Maturdi) were founded to counter the erroneous methodology of the Mu’tazilah gaining acceptance and popularity due to the growing interest in philosophy. The people were asking questions never asked before, about God, and the Muslim theologians presented carefully constructed arguments which were rational yet having textual (kitab and Sunnah) basis. Although they were the Islamic defenders of their time against the onslaught of deviant sects and the influence of foreign philosophies, they too, along with all other sects became problematic and ended up contributing towards the decline of Islamic thought.
Aside from the decline in thought, one of the problems they left Muslims with was the unnecessary Aqeedah debate and the consequent codification of Aqeedah leaving Muslims with a text book version of the very basis of their belief. A text book Aqeedah, with text book proofs, occupying Muslim minds in a fruitless debate over various interpretations rather than forming an independent intellectual belief based on definitive rational and textual proofs.
The Asharis and Maturdis came in response to the Mu’tazila. We don’t have Mu’tazila anymore, so when we don’t have the problem why debate over the solution? Why not return to the basic teachings of the Sahabah, tabi’een and the salaf as-Saliheen who taught pure Islam free from the influence of philosophy and kalam?
Why not return to the true representatives of Ahlasunnah wal Jammah; Imam Abu Hanifah, Malik, Shafi’ , Ahmed ibn Hambal, Laith ibn Sa’ad, al-Awzaee, Sufyan al-Thawri (may Allah ta’ala be pleased with them all) away from the Brelawis, Deobandis, Wahabbis, and the Sufis who are full of blind hatred and can’t see that the Mu’tazili problem is long gone, but there are new problems like secularism, modernism, and host of socio-political problems faced by Muslims throughout the world.
Perhaps it’s time to re-focus attention to more pressing matters instead of idle useless debates which only breed hatred and intolerance.
Whilst flicking through channels on our sky box, I couldn’t help notice the number of Muslim channels which have sprung up over the last year or so of which the most prominent being those running Shia themes. Muharram maybe over for most of us, but it seems for these handful of channels it may never be over. Day in day out, we have programmes, documentaries, lectures and wailing continuously glorifying the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the events leading to Karbala and the aftermath.
Fair enough, if you have to mourn, dedicate a few days or even the whole month for this, but carrying on as if the whole of Islam revolves around this particular incident is a bit too much. All of us, Sunnis and Shias recognise the brave steps Imam Hussain (ra) and the Ahlul Bayt took to protest, demand and protect their rights through a struggle which serves an example for the rest of Muslims and generations to come. An example and practical guide for us when it comes to seeking justice and freedom in times of tyranny and oppression. So why not use this time to learn and reflect upon these important lessons rather than to remain in constant state of mourning throughout Muharram and the rest of the year??
I don’t have a problem with the Shia channels, but what a waste of resources to dedicate most of the airtime narrating, glorifying, reproducing and might I add exaggerating events which took place over a thousand years ago. Events which have very little to do with the very basis of our belief in Islam, its legal maxims and laws which emanate from them. An event which has no relevance to the modern world, except the striking resemblances to the time of Imam Hussein, where Karbala today along with most of the Muslim world is run by tyrannical despots, dictators implementing crude Capitalism and oppressors far worse than Yazid ibn Muawiyyah. In light of our current situation, what good is the constant wailing, self harm and being stuck in history?
The problems faced by Muslims in the modern world are far complex, with tremendous differences ranging from east to the west. For so long Muslims have cried for lack of Muslim run Media to unspin the biases of western Media and its misrepresenting and doctoring of facts. Isn’t it a shame that we now have so many Muslim run channels both Sunnis and Shias but they seriously lack all the qualities of Muslim Media, instead are engrossed in fueling sectarianism, preaching hate, presenting feuds of political nature with an Islamic twist and spiritual/political agendas of their own.
A waste of resources? I think so.
The Muslim Sufi channel on Sky called Noor TV run by Pir Alauddin Siddqui from Birmingham features an interesting debate show on Sunday Evening called Search for the Truth. The format of the show consists of an incredibly biased individual who “chairs” the debate, along with a seemingly keen learner who is there to extrapolate convincing arguments from each debatee of which there are two.
The first of the debating panel is a sister of Salafi orientation with the typical characteristics of harshness, being dismissive and zealous. The other is our Sufi sister, probably a die hard Mureed of the Pir saab, with the typical Sufi persona. Together, they debate the most controversial issues ranging from Shirk, grave worshipping to kissing the feet of pious people. We have been watching this show for a while and the conclusion is almost always predictably in favour of the Sufis at the expense of the Salafi sister’s shortcomings and inability to formulate a convincing argument – at least not to her panelist, the channel or the audience mainly beause they are all sufis.
The show almost always typically ends with the Salafi sister left to say, ‘I will go back to my Shaykha and come back on this’ only they never continue with the same topic again, not that she would anyway. The arguments are convincing although surprisingly the notes of the presenter, the keen learner and the debater are all somehow synchorised and often gang up on the Salafi sister.
The last debate was on kissing the feet of the Pious, the sufi sister quoted a Hadith in favour of it which was denied by the Salafi sister as it did not exist in her version of Adab al-Mufrad of Imam Bukhari compiled by her Shaykh Al-Bani. The response which followed from all three Sufi panelists was not based on a discussion on strength of hadith neither the classfication, rather an attack was launched on Al-Bani, accusing him of tempering with the original texts – a debate the Salafi sister could not win. She failed to mention that Al-Bani was a Muhadith well qualified in sciences of Hadith possessing the necessary skills to scruitanise and reclassify hadith, a process of Renewal (tajdid) which is far from corrupting or tempering, but rather is a process of purification and preservation.
Anyway, week in week out they are debating complex issues using references which are literally read out from pieces of paper. There is lots of arguing and every effort is made to show the weakness in Salafi methodology in favour of an Islam which revolves around Shrines, Peers, kissing the hands and feet of the ‘pious’, Khatm, yarween sharif and such. Don’t get me wrong, I am not Salafi or anything but I certainly do not take any of these practices seriously.
As for the show, I think its a complete sham and a setup. If the Salafi sister was sincerely there to propogate the Salafi manhaj, she would do her “research” and present her arguments more convincingly and soundly rather than by ranting “and you should stop doing xyz, seriously-its bida’h” or “Memona can never break this argument, I say we finish the show here!” and expecting them to agree. The sufiesque sister on the other hand regularly goes off topic and begins to link random points to her arguments to make them seem more lofty, tolerant and inclusive, using the “impressionable keen learner” to acquiese with her point much to the chair’s satisfaction who often also sides with her and regularly joins the debate.
Makes for good Sunday night entertainment as long as you are not Salafi!