A Tale of Two Cultures (Part One)
On Saturday, maa-shaa’ Allah, I was doing a lesson with some of the young people (well, mostly, young people)—East and one West African child between the ages of 10-13 or so, along with a few American converts and older first generation immigrants. The lesson is a step-by-step explanation of a book on traditional Islamic knowledge. We are at the beginning of the book discussing the matters of the creed. In that book there is a passage that, after quoting the Qur’an (Ash-Shuraa, 11: “There is absolutely nothing like Allah whatsoever”) says:
“Allah exists without a beginning, and everything else exists with a beginning. Allah is the Creator and everything else is a creation.”
We talked about the difference between two things being identically similar and two things being similar in some regards but not identical. Then it was explained that as for Allah, there is nothing identical to Allah and there is nothing kinda-sorta similar to Allah—in any way whatsoever. From there we discussed what are some of the characteristics of created beings. Among the things that I typically do is ask for the kids to compare one boy (or girl) with another. The students mention things like having legs, eyes, fingers, hair, being humans, etc. I then ask them to compare the student to, for example, the carpet. Often it elicits a giggle or two. Some might say there is no similarity. However, when I mention to them to think about the more general characteristics of the carpet and their fellow student, they will say things, like, size, color, shape, takes up space, and I might throw into the mix the child and the carpet have an age (and some of the kids, might say that they both change), etc. For many of the kids, they have grown up on this talk. So when I ask them to give examples, they already have the answers.
From this, that is, establishing what are some of the attributes of the creations (e.g., size, shape, color, age, etc.), it is explained to them that the Creator does not have such attributes. The Creator is not “kinda-sorta” different from the creations, or for the most part different from the creations. The Creator is ABSOLUTELY different from the creations. We mention that light and darkness, time and place are not the Creator. They are all creations. Allah existed before the creations. Allah is not in time or place. Allah is not light or darkness—or anything that resembles light or darkness.
We talked about intrinsic properties of “objects” (spatial entities—anything occupying space, whether it be of a dense or subtle nature). After explaining the meaning of “intrinsic,” we said that an object by its very nature must either be in motion or at rest. You cannot have a body that is neither moving nor still. Since it is known (from what we have mentioned before) that Allah ABSOLUTELY does not resemble the creations—and objects are certainly creations—then it is absurd to think that Allah “rose above” or “descends below.” Rising and descending are nothing other than motion. And motion (or stillness) is nothing more than a property of objects.
We continued in this summary with a passage that mentions “nature” and causes do not create. That is, the customary norm of things do not, in and of themselves, make the results. Fire, in and of itself, does not create burning, but rather, Allah is the Creator of the burning property in the fire and the being burnt in whatever was ignited. We mentioned the case of Prophet Abraham, who was catapulted into a giant raging fire, but was neither burnt in his body or clothing. As it is easy for Allah to create the burning of flesh by fire, it is easy for Allah not to create the burning of flesh by fire. Allah has control over all the creations, and it is easy for Allah to make things happen contrary what we expect.
That led to talking about the “customary norm.” We expect things to happen not because those things in and of themselves make things happen, but we expect, for example, fire to burn paper, because it conforms with our experiences. As Muslims, we are encouraged to study and understand causal relationships, while at the same time understanding that just because the causes are present, the effect does not have to result—that is so because Allah is the Creator of the causes and effects. Muslims are monotheists—we believe in only One Creator.
We then talked a bit about the problems with the “scientists” (meaning, modern materialists), who claim that things MUST result when the “necessary causes” are present. They forget that the causes can not create effects, because creations can’t give themselves their own properties. EVERYTHING requires a Creator (that is, everything other than the Creator is a creation and is totally dependent upon the Creator). We explained that the “scientists” confuse the impossible with the uncustomary; they deny the existence of things which have been confirmed, such as, paranormal activity or the miraculous acts of the Prophets, because they are “impossible” according to their “scientific” theories. What is categorically impossible are things, like, a square circle or the daughter giving birth to her own mother. Such things cannot exist, for they are contrary to the definition of the words. The incredible or uncustomary, however, are not impossible. For example, although incredible, it is not inconceivable that a person may fall from a 20 story building and walk away. Not likely—it is contrary to what is typically witness—but certainly not impossible.
Following the reasoning of the materialists, if some tourists from Alaska were to visit a primitive tribe down in the Amazon and tell them, that where they are from, the water gets solid like a rock and that for part of the year weeks pass and it does not get dark outside, the “materialist” Amazonians would say that such claims are ludicrous—water can only come in either liquid or gas form, and there is always a nighttime in every twenty-four hour period. We know that is not the case. And we should know that the lack of familiarity with something should not lead one to deny its existence. When it comes to the karaamaat of the awliyaa’, (the extraordinary feats of the ultra-righteous Muslims) or the existence of the jinn, one should not reject what is reported by multitudes of witnesses on the basis that such things “can’t exist” because they don’t conform to current theories of the modern materialists.
After the lesson was over, I almost felt a mild euphoria. Although the lesson has been taught probably hundreds of times, maa-shaa’ Allah, it was good to see that a new crop of young people were beginning to understand and internalize this precious knowledge. I thought to myself, how the knowledge of Tawheed (the Islamic science pertaining to the Oneness and Perfection of God) expands and clarifies the mind. It instills in the mind that the creed of the Prophet Muhammad and the Sunni Muslims is true—without hesitation or doubt.
One can see where others went astray, whether it be those who ascribe to Allah created characteristics or those who deny the existence of Allah. These people failed to realize that the Creator ABSOLUTELY does not resemble the creations, or they failed to realize that creations cannot designate themselves with their attributes (a stone, for instance, can’t give itself its size, color, mass, duration of existence, etc. and the various things that may affect the stone (the sun, or erosion, or time), likewise, can’t give themselves their own properties; they are all in need of a Creator))—hence, the creations cannot create anything.
It is said that Nature abhors a vacuum. It could also be said that the sound mind (and sincere heart) abhors a contradiction. When one learns the Creed of Tawheed, one has a framework by which to properly reason. That which contradicts logic and reason is immediately rejected, because it violates the laws of the mind. Consequently, when one hears someone deny the Existence of the Creator, or say that Allah has real-actual limbs, or occupies space, or is in a literal direction, the student of Tawheed finds such beliefs repulsive not only because they oppose what some might call “traditional Sunni dogma,” they contradict the very workings of the the mind.
To fabricate such lies about the Creator is not only blasphemy, it is a form of self-inflicted mental abuse. Allah gave us the faculty of reasoning, and with it we are able to discern what is rationally consistent from what is not. To suppress this ability, or to twist or distort this faculty and warp it to satisfy the lusts of the ego is a betrayal of the human soul and it is among the worst of the crimes the human being can commit.
As for the youth, this knowledge of Tawheed is indispensable. Day in and day out our Muslim youth are assaulted in the classrooms with what are ultimately absurd theories from the materialists. When not assaulted by the materialists, they are amongst people who believe that the Eternal Creator of the Universe became a human being who was later murdered. To tell Muslims, “We don’t need to go into such matters [meanings the details of the Islamic Creed],” or “This is only for the scholars to talk about,” is to leave the Muslim youth essentially defenseless against the kinds of attacks they are to encounter. Furthermore, teaching the Tawheed strengthens and refines the mind and expands a person’s capacity for logically consistent reasoning. Our strength and unity as Muslims is predicated on knowledge and not ignorance. The greatest of all knowledge is to know what necessarily befits the Creator and what does not, and it is this knowledge that we need to make sure (God-willing) enlivens the hearts of the Muslim youth who are to succeed us.