Confused about Christianity

Shaykh Jamir Meah clears up confusion about Christian articles of faith and the mistaken picture of Jesus found therein.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Recently I have been having waswasa or something about Christianity. I am a Muslim but I am confused about the following things:

1. Religious Christians describe finding Jesus as peaceful. They talk about how they find peace in hard times through him; how they have faith in difficult situations (like tawakkul but they direct it at Jesus) and so on. How can they feel such peace if they are misguided? And how can I know if the peace we get from the Islamic tawakkul is truly the truth when others feel the same thing without following Islamic tawhid and so on?

2. How can we understand the many near death experiences where people claim to have seen Jesus, hell, paradise, etc., and then wake up and become practicing Christians because what they saw convinced them to accept Jesus as their savior and to live a different life?

Please answer me, it doesn’t have to be published but still send me a reply as an email. I want to have yaqin in Islam but I am struggling with this.

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Religions have many aspects to them and it is often quite easy to get stuck in one facet of the religion and forget about all the other parts of the ‘jigsaw’ which give a fuller, complete picture. This approach is akin to a person who only takes religious understanding from the Qur’an and ignores the sunna or life of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, or vice versa. Both of these are forms of extremism.

I have extracted the various issues embedded in your questions and answered them below. Following this, I have included some further points  to consider in regards Christianity, the person of Jesus Christ, peace and blessings be upon him, the importance of looking at a religion in it’s entirety, and how it compares to Islam.

Q1: Religious Christians describe finding Jesus as peaceful and Christians talk about how they find peace in hard times through him. How can they feel such peace if they are misguided?

Finding solace in something in times of difficulties is not exclusive to Christians, nor Muslims. There are many people who are Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Jewish, and even humanists, materialists, Scientologists, etc., who also speak of finding peace in and deriving strength from their deity or particular belief system. Therefore, finding peace and solace in a matter, even if experienced very deeply, is not a criterion for the validity of that belief, rather other things must be considered.

To understand why many people of all faiths may find peace and reliance in their belief, we look at the common factor that is shared between all types of “believers” that claim they find “peace.”  That shared factor is the belief in a Higher Being, Force, Intelligence, Architect, etc. Whatever one wants to call this Power, they all return to a basic belief that something exists that is more powerful than ourselves, whether it be God, gods, nature, love etc.

We do not negate other people’s sense of inner peace, nor deny that we all share this common factor at the very basic level of faith from which strength and comfort can be derived. This is because this common factor belongs to the primordial state (fitra) that is a part every being.

However, acknowledging this does not conclude that the entire belief system of each faith is agreeable or sound. In fact, some may be complete misguidance and perversion, others partially true, and, because absolute truth can only be one, one faith is absolutely true. Additionally, God is Peace  and the Giver of peace, thus He gives peace to whomever He pleases among his creation, and this giving of peace to an individual could be for many reasons.

Furthermore, for Muslims, this world is one of toil and struggle. It is not a place for peace and relaxation. This life is the land that we toil on, and its harvest and reward is in the next life. This is why God says in the Qur’an, “Indeed, We have created humanity in [constant] struggle.” [90:4], and the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, said, “The world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the unbeliever.” (Muslim)

Muslims toil on earth because it is a prison for them, for they are shackled by the burden of legal and moral responsibility. Tests come in waves in this life, and you may see Muslims struggle and sometimes even despair, and perhaps struggle with the practice of their faith, but this is the nature of humans, and not to be confused with the invalidity or validity of their faith.

Contrast this to person who is told that they are not bound by any binding law, no obligations, restrictions etc., and they are told that another person has suffered for their sins so they don’t have to. With such premises for belief and salvation, it is to be expected that this person would feel generally happier in life because they have freedom to do as they please, and worship God how and when they please. Though despite this, it would be a sweeping statement to say all Christians find peace in their “savior,” for the ills and struggles within Christian communities, including within the church, are no different to anyone else.

The strong believer realizes that difficult and dark times are part of the believer’s portion on this earth and part of an essential alchemical process of the soul, for these times are the smelting furnace from which a believer rises above the dregs of his mortal self to a being of pure eternality.

Thus, true peace and contentment is not seeing everything around you as successful and harmonious, but rather true peace is the contented state of one’s heart with God and His Decree, despite the chaos and darkness of life.

This would be agreed upon by people of almost all faiths, not just some Christians. Muslims who possess these states have been, and still are, are found in multitudes across the world. Their source of reliance and locus of peace and hope is Allah Most High and his Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him. May Allah make us among them.

Q2: How can we understand the many near death experiences where people claim to have seen Jesus, hell, paradise etc and then woken up and become practicing Christians because what they saw convinced them to accept Jesus as their savior and to live a different life?

Please refer to this previous answer that discusses this matter: Why We Shouldn’t Take Christian Miracles at Face Value.

Further Points to Consider

Jesus was a prophet of God, so is characterized by perfect attributes like all other prophets. Each prophet, just like every other person, has his own personality. We have five specific prophets known as the ‘Ul al-‘azm’, Those of high and firm resolve; Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them all.

Noah and Moses are described as being more direct and hardy personalities, while Abraham and Jesus more gentle and compassionate in nature, each being perfect for the fulfillment of their mission. Sayyidna Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is the apex and perfect balance between all the Prophets.

This is why he, peace and blessings be upon him, said to his two companions, may Allah be pleased with them both, “God has rendered the hearts of some men soft for him, until they are softer than milk. He has made the hearts of others hard, until they become harder than stone. Your likeness, Abu Bakr, is to Ibrahim, peace be upon him, who said, ‘Whoever follows me is of me, as for whoever disobeys, you are most forgiving, merciful’. Your likeness, Abu Bakr, is to ‘Isa, who said, ‘If you punish them, they are your servants; if you forgive them, you are most powerful, wise’. Your likeness, ‘Umar, is to Nuh, who said, ‘Lord, do not leave on the earth an abode of the disbelievers’. Your likeness, ‘Umar, is to Musa, who said, ‘Harden their hearts, such that they do not believe until they see a painful punishment” (Ahmad)

In regards the merciful personality of Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him), the following must be remembered:

a. Jesus was sent as a reviver and reformer, not as an abrogator with a new message or religion. Part of his reformation was to do away with the legal and ritual encumbrances, excesses, and additions that had crept into the Judaic tradition, as well as to admonish the corruption and transgression of the Judaic ministry. Thus, his mission was to restore balance to Judaism, which necessitated that he shows his people a path of compassion, mercy, and emphasis the spirit of the law to equilibrate the liturgical and ritual aspects of the faith.

It is this spiritual and peaceful aspect of the mission of Christ which many exclusively focus upon. However, Jesus also harshly rebuked the Pharisees and those who perverted the law, while at the same time, affirming the importance of adhering to sacred law and legal and moral responsibility.

b. Jesus actually preached on earth for a very limited space of time; one to three years. His followers were very few, and unlike other Prophets, his time on earth did not see him become established as a leader of a whole nation or of a state, which necessarily requires setting up state funds, legal institutions, welfare system, markets for commerce, a military, relations with other faith groups within one’s land, international relations with foreign countries and opposing empires, alongside the spiritual education. Jesus’ short time on earth is why there still remains a certain level of enigma for Christians around the facts of his personality, life, and the full import of his teachings.

Compare this to the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, whose life encompassed all of the above, as well as his personal relationships. His entire private and public life was scrupulously recorded and checked and confirmed in painstaking details.

c. Jesus was sent only to the Israelites and no other people, while Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them both, was sent to all of mankind.

d. While historians and scholars agree that Jesus existed historically, there is disagreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and how closely the character of Jesus Christ portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus. There is no such disagreement in the studies on the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

e. The Bible as we find it today is not the original revelation sent to man, but written over periods of time after Jesus by different people. Extensive critique has been done on the accuracy and reliability of the Gospels which cast much doubt on its content, which of course had a profound effect on how subsequent Christians understand the person of Jesus. Figures are often setup to fulfill a need of those who create them.

f. Bearing in mind that the Gospel’s authenticity is uncertain, we find many sayings of Jesus in it which seem to go against the typical image of Jesus put forward, such as, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36) Bible exegesis explains this paragraph as referring to eschatological events, but this interpretation is also open to critique, just as any other religious text is.

g. To base the legitimacy of one’s faith based on the personality of a person, without understanding the theological, legal, rational, and even historical aspects of a religion is not only naive, but extremely dangerous and subject to manipulation and exploitation. Yes, faith is in the heart, but authentic textual basis and the rational intellect, even at a basic level, play a crucial role in the validity of that conviction. Islam satisfies and appeals in all the areas of faith we have described.

h. The doctrine of the Trinity, the general concept of God incarnating in a created being, and the doctrine of the original sin, are all highly problematic from a theological and rational point of view, and contrary to textual evidence.

i. Believing that the man Jesus is the son of God, or one aspect of God, necessities for him everything that is connected to God. The Bible, even as it is today, is replete with references not only to the immense love and mercy of God, but also the terrifying wrath and vengeance of God. It also speaks of the bliss of paradise and the damnation of hell.

This would mean that divine reward and divine punishment, whether on earth or in the hereafter, is the will and action of God alone, His son alone, or both. Therefore, if Jesus is believed to be God, or the son of God, or both God and son, then one must logically accept that this person or duo is characterized by the attributes of not only peace and mercy, but also of a terrible wrath and retribution. According to this understanding then, it is wrong to only view the person of Christ as purely characterized by the attribute of love and mercy, as this would entail denying the other necessary attributes that must be connected to an absolute deity.

Lastly, I advise you to study Islamic creed and the sirah with a qualified traditional scholar. In person is best, but if not possible, consider taking one of our Islamic belief courses here on SeekersGuidance.

Warmest salams,

Jamir

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


 

Apostasy and Good Deeds

Ustadh Salman Younas unpacks the question of the deeds of an apostate who returns to Islam.

My question is on the deeds of the apostate. I know that apostasy invalidates good deeds but I want to know the opinion of the majority of scholars and maddhabs; whether they are returned to him when he repents and reverts back to Islam?

Also, when he or she does return back, is it necessary to repeat Hajj because I find it against the mercy of Allah Most High to wipe out all good deeds and keep his sins even if the apostate repents because apostasy is very easy to fall into so how can one word of kufr destroy all hard work even if one repents?

The first thing to point out is that apostasy is absolutely not a very easy state to enter into. While some people and texts may give such an erroneous and dangerous impression, scholars are quite clear that the conditions for deeming a person out of the fold are extremely stringent. When it comes to supposed acts or statements of kufr by a person, any excuse or interpretation that keeps him or her inside the fold of Islam is favored over those that do not.

As for the deeds of the apostate – someone who is shown to have decisively left the faith – there are two main positions on the issue:

  1. The deeds of the apostate who returns to Islam are not invalidated. Thus, he or she would not be required to repeat Hajj if they had already performed it before their apostasy and while Muslim.
  2. The deeds of the apostate who returns to Islam are invalidated. Thus, he or she would be required to repeat the Hajj even if they had already performed it before their apostasy while Muslim.

There is also a difference on the reward for previous acts. Some scholars stated that the rewards for the actions an apostate performed while Muslim are also nullified (and this was stated even by those who opined that such a person does not have to repeat acts the apostate did while Muslim, such as Hajj), while others stated that if he returns to Islam, he or she may continue to possess these rewards in some form. (al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim; Ibn al-Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur’an; Ibn Abidin, Hashiya; al-Shafi‘i, Kitab al-Umm)

Salman

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Uncreated Beings Besides Allah?

Ustadh Farid Dingle is questioned about the possibility of their being other creators besides Allah.

Are there other uncreated beings alongside Allah? Seeing as how the definition of god is the one who created the universe and creation, is it possible for there to be uncreated beings that Allah did not create? A being that created their own universe and creation. That is not regarded as god by us but regarded as god by their own creation that they have created.

I am asking this question because I have a thought going through my head that before the existence of any creation Allah had a quarrel with other uncreated things over who is more powerful. And that is why Allah has created the mankind and jinn to worship him; to prove to the other uncreated things that He is the most powerful.

I also go through thoughts that other uncreated beings alongside Allah do exist, but they all live in peace and that they all have created their own things and only the things they created regard them to be gods but not the things that the other uncreated things have created.

I know this sounds like it is against the teachings of Islam and I have tried to find anything that goes against this but I can neither find any convincing evidence against this claim or for it. The Qur’an mentions the impossibility of multiple gods in Sura al-Anbiya 21:22. But that only had to do with multiple gods creating the same thing.

My question is to do with multiple uncreated beings that create their own creation who are not regarded as god by the creation of other uncreated beings, but regarded as god by their own creation.

Please I would like for you to clear this up for me and give me an answer as soon as possible, because I am extremely confused and I need to desperately know what is the answer against this claim.

I also have other thoughts that Allah has sexual organs. I go through this thought because Allah mentions he has hands and a shin. I need to know what is the response to all of the above queries I have.

Dear questioner, I would strongly advise you to listen to this series of podcasts: Why Islam Is True.

Regarding your question, it is logically impossible that there be multiple creators because that necessitate a level of dependency in being or actions.

Were there other beings with the power to create and destroy, nothing would stop them from destroying each other, and then they wouldn’t have necessary existence. Similarly, if there were there beings with the power to create and destroy, the execution of such powers would be contingent upon the agreement of other such beings, and this would also be a dependency.

In short, the being that keeps everything in existence and keeps things the specific way everything is exists without any dependency whatsoever, and this dictates that it (He) be one.

As for His not having body parts, this also returns to His freedom of need: parts take up a certain among of space and this would entail that He needs space to exist. Verses that mention His hand or face are metaphorical. For more detail, please see Literalism and the Attributes of Allah.

Theologically, whenever anyone returns the whole of existence to one being, that being must be completely self-explainable: that it is and what is does cannot return to some other external determiner.

This is why the Big Bang cannot be the reason for the universe, Brahma, Jesus or, anything else apart from Allah as He is in the Qur’an.

Allah summarizes this beautifully in Sura al-Ikhlas 112: 1-4.

Say: It is the Allah is One, the One to Whom all else returns;
Never has He had children, nor was He ever born;
And there was [and never will be] anything equal to Him.

Again, listen to the podcasts and this will be more than clear, insha Allah.

I pray this helps.

Farid

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Types of Thought, Blasphemy, and Sin

Shaykh Farid Dingle is asked about the categories of thoughts and what to do when one has blasphemous thoughts or imaginings.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I heard that there are three kind of thoughts. Intentional thoughts, innocent thoughts, and thoughts due to disease. If someone were to imagine blasphemy would he commit a major sin or minor sin?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Dear questioner,

It is true that thoughts can be of different types and different origins.

Some thoughts may be purely divine, in that they are thoughts of the divine oneness (tawhid), or thoughts of Allah’s perfections. Others are angelic, and these are thoughts that encourage one to do good actions. Some are just neutral, like thoughts about what a word might mean or where you are going to park you car. Another group are evil thoughts, which are either demonic, such as intentions to disobey Allah or deny Him, or egotistic, such as the drive for fame and food.

Another way to categorize thoughts as well is to look at how far one has followed that thought. Some thoughts, whether good or evil, are merely passing thoughts. For example, a believer might have a passing thought to commit a sin, or that Allah doesn’t exist, and seeks refuge from the Devil and ignores it and thereby earn reward with Allah.

The next level would be to dwell on the issue, and waver back and forward about doing a good or bad act. This is a deeper level of interaction. With good deeds, one shouldn’t waver, but rather go ahead and do it even if it seems paltry.

The stage after this is resolve (hamm). Here the slave resolves, for example, to get up for the night vigil prayer (tahajjud), or resolves to steal. Allah be our refuge!

By resolving to do something good, one actually earns a reward with Allah before even doing it. Ibn Abbas narrates that the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace, said “Whoever resolves (hamma) to do a good deed, and then does not do it, Allah will write it down as one complete good deed. If he resolves to do a good deed and then does it, Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, will write it down between ten and seven hundred fold, or many more. If he resolves to do a bad deed and then he does not do it, Allah will write it down as one complete good deed. And if he resolves to do a bad deed and then does it, Allah will write it down as one bad deed.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

So, yes there are different levels of thoughts, and they do have different moral weights, but we are not held accountable for passing thoughts if we acknowledge those that are bad and discard them immediately.

As for the categorizing a bad thought into a major or minor sin, there is no practical benefit in it. The differentiation between major and minor sins is a purely theological debate, and only has any significance in court when the judge is looking to see who is or is not an upright witness.

If a Muslim plays with sinful thoughts, they should just seek forgiveness and that is it. They should not linger on whether or not it is a major or minor sin.

I would also be wary of visiting websites of Muslims who do not abide by traditional Sunni scholarship. We love and respect all people and all Muslims, but we should only take our religion from those who represent traditional Sunni Islam.

I pray this helps.

Farid

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


The Quandary of Disbelief

Shaykh Farid Dingle gives advice to a person who is struggling with the problem of disbelief, why Allah is as He is, and how one justifies this to oneself.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I’ve spent most of my life following Islamic principles with a devoted love toward Allah and often myself able to find answers to many of the perplexing questions about faith that many people have, except for one. No matter how much ways I’ve attempted to look at this question through theology, philosophy, or simple common sense, the math doesn’t seem to add up, and I’m hoping for a helping hand in getting through this hard question that’s starting to shake my soul in recent months.

I don’t see any logical reason for suffering or disobedience or evil, except for one consideration: Allah willed to be known (Hadith Qudsi), so He created us. He created evil (pain) so that we’d know what existence would be without Him, since knowing is not the same as wisdom, which is experience. It would be like trying to describe what an orange tastes like to someone who never tried it and the way we exist as creation is through our senses, so we’d have to actually eat an orange to understand it.

But that still doesn’t explain the reason for creating people He already knew would end up in Hell, because that would be essentially creating them to belong in Hell, and it doesn’t fit with the conceptualization that a Just, Compassionate, and Wise Lord would create something just to torture it for eternity. That’s sadism.

Why would Allah create those He knew, in His Eternal Knowledge, would disobey Him and even disbelieve in Him, thereby condemning them to Hell forever before they are even brought into existence?

Is there any guidance for me through this?

Jazak Allah khayr.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Dear questioner, the mind is a tool to help us understand what Allah wants us to do, not necessarily to understand what He is or why He does things.

The key issue that I can see in your question is that Allah’s creating people who are destined to the Hell-Fire necessitates sadism. This is not true. Allah has a wisdom in doing what he does, and that is enough: “He is not asked about what He does, but they will be asked.” (Sura al-Anbiya 21:23)

We should use our mind to eliminate foolish beliefs from our mind, and foolish actions. That is the limit of the mind.

Rather than trying to find a justification for what Allah does, we should focus on ourselves. We should think about our deeds and our ultimate end, and think about what we have to say for ourselves when we stand before Allah on Judgment Day.

My advice to you would be to work on the quality of your prayer by thanking Allah when you say, “Alhamdulillahi rabbil alamin,” and in your prostration. Thank him for your existence, your faith, your well-being, safety and wealth. Try to feel the verse of the Quran, the words that will be said when all is done and dusted on Judgment Day, “And the last thing they will say is, ‘All praise and thanks be to Allah, Cherishing Lord of all beings.’” (Sura Yunus 10:10)

I pray this helps.

Farid

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Reciting Ten Verses from Sura al Kahf as Protection from Dajjal

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani answers the question of which ten verse of Sura al Kahf one should recite as protection from the fitna of Dajjal.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

In these uncertain days for the Muslims we must prepare ourselves for the fitna of the Dajjal. I have heard that you are to memorize the last ten ayat of Sura al Kahf, but some websites have said that it is the first ten.

Can you please clarify whether it is the last or the first ten that should be memorized?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

The recommendation of reciting both the beginning and ending ten verses of Sura al Kahf, the 18th sura of the Qur’an, has been transmitted from the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. It is also recommended to recite the entire sura on Fridays.

Imam Mundhiri, Allah have mercy on him, devoted a chapter of his Al Targhib wa al Tarhib (Encouragement and Warning) to this:

Encouraging reciting Surat Kahf, or Ten Verses from its Beginning, or Ten from its End.

Abu al Darda, Allah be pleased with him, related that the Prophet of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever commits ten verses from the beginning Sura al Kahf will be protected from the Dajjal.” (Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, and others; the wording is Muslim’s).

In a narration in Muslim and Abu Dawud it states, “From the end of Sura al Kahf.” Tirmidhi related this with the words, “Whoever recites three verses from the beginning of Al Kahf will be protected from the tribulations of the Dajjal.” (Mundhiri, Al Targhib wa al Tarhib, 2172-2173)

Imam Shafi‘i, Allah have mercy on him) said:

It has reached us that whoever recites Sura al Kahf on Fridays will be protected from the Dajjal.) Shafi‘i, Al Umm, 1.239]

It is recommended to recite Sura al Kahf in its entirety the night before Friday It is also recommended to do so on Friday itself, before Maghrib. Ibn Abidin said, “And it is best to do so early on Friday, in order to rush to the good and to avoid forgetting.” (Ibn Abidin, Radd al Muhtar, Bab al Jumu‘a)

The Evidence and The Wisdom

The evidence for it being recommended includes the hadith related by Hakim and Bayhaqi, from Abu Sa‘id, Allah be pleased with him, “Whoever recites Sura al Kahf on Friday, light shall shine forth for him between the two Fridays.” (Ibn Hajar, Talkhis al Habir)

The wisdom behind it, as mentioned by hadith commentators such as Nawawi, Qurtubi, Qari, and others, is that:

    1. a) There are tremendous signs and portents mentioned in these verses. However reads these regularly and ponders on their meanings with not be led astray by the Dajjal;

b) The surah as a whole has stories of the struggle between true belief in Allah and the realities of faith, and materialism. Reflecting on any of these

c) It is a secret whose knowledge Allah alone posses, and we have follow it because of the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) guidance, with full certainty.

And Allah knows best.

Wassalam,

Faraz Rabbani


Do Angels Have Urges to Sin?

Answered by Shaykh Farid Dingle

Question: Assalamu alaykum

Do angels have desires to sin but are kept safe from carrying out sins because of Divine Protection or do they have no desire to sin in the first place?

Answer: Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

The relied upon position among Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jamaah is that angels are naturally disposed to obey Allah and that they cannot sin. [Nibras, Farhari] ‘They do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.’ [6:66]

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Farid Dingle

Shaykh Farid Dingle grew up in a convert family in Herefordshire, UK. In 2007, he moved to Jordan to pursue traditional studies. Shaykh Farid continues to live in Amman, Jordan with his wife and kids. In addition to continuing his studies he teaches Arabic and several of the Islamic sciences.

Shaykh Farid began his journey in sacred knowledge with intensives in the UK and Jordan (2004) in Shafi’i fiqh and Arabic. After years of studying Arabic grammar, Shafi’i fiqh, hadith, legal methodology (usul al-fiqh) and tafsir, Sh. Farid began specializing in Arabic language and literature. Sh. Farid studied Pre-Islamic poetry, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, and Andalusian literature. He holds a BA in Arabic Language and Literature and continues exploring the language of the Islamic tradition.

In addition to his interest in the Arabic language Shaykh Farid actively researches matters related to jurisprudence (fiqh) which he studied with Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, and continues with Shaykh Amjad Rasheed.

The Smoke and The Beast: Signs of the Last Hour

Ustadh Salman Younas explains the meaning of the Smoke and the Beast, and how we should view differences of opinion on Signs of the Last Hour.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Could you please explain the meaning of the Smoke and the Beast, which are from among the signs of the last day?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

The Smoke and the Beast are among the signs of the Day of Judgment, mentioned in the Qur’an and in rigorously authentic narrations.

The Smoke

Allah Most High states, “So be on the watch for a day when heaven shall bring a manifest smoke covering the people; this is a painful chastisement.” (Sura al Dukhan 44: 10-11) The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The Hour will not rise until you have seen ten signs: the rising of the sun from the west, the smoke, the beast…” (Muslim)

There is a difference of opinion regarding whether the “smoke” mentioned in the verse of the Qur’an refers to the smoke that was foretold as one of the signs of the Hour. Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud was of the opinion that it did not, while Ibn Abbas, Ali, Ibn Umar, and others affirmed that it referred to the same smoke mentioned in the Prophetic narratives. (Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim; Qurtubi, Jami‘ al Ahkam al Qur’an)

Imam Qurtubi mentions that the smoke will cover the earth for a period of forty days, effecting both the believers and disbelievers. The former will be effected as if suffering from a common cold, whereas the latter will suffer harder. (Jami‘ al Ahkam al Qur’an)

The Emergence of the Beast

Allah Most High states, “We shall bring forth for them out of the earth a beast that shall speak unto them.” (Sura al Niml 27: 82) The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The first of the signs [the Hour] to appear will be the rising of the sun from the west and the appearance of the Beast before the people in the forenoon.” (Muslim)

Here scholars differed greatly regarding the details related to the Beast, which, though not important to know, can be mentioned briefly as follows:

  1. Appearance: Some scholars, such as Imam Qurtubi, held that the beast is the she-camel of the Prophet Salih, Allah bless him. Others stated that it was an animal that is a hybrid of many different animals. Another opinion states that it is an actual human being, which is a very weak opinion. (Qurtubi, Tadkhira)
  2. Place of Emergence: Some stated that the Beast will emerge from Makka, basing it on a narration of Hudhayfa, Allah be pleased with him. Others stated that it will emerge from a desert, then disappear, then emerge from a village, then disappear, then finally from the Masjid al Haram in Makka. There is another opinion that states it will emerge from Ta’if. (Qurtubi, Tadkhira; Alusi, Ruh al Ma‘ani)
  3. Its Speech: The Beast will address the people with the words of Allah, “Mankind did not believe in our signs.” (Sura al Niml 27: 82) Others stated, quoting Ibn Abbas, that “speaking” refers to the action of the Beast in differentiating the believers and disbelievers.
  4. Its Role: The Beast will be tasked to differentiate the believers from the disbelievers. Abu Hurayra, Allah be pleased with him, narrates that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The Beast of the earth will emerge and have with it the staff of Moses and the ring of Solomon.” (Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad) It will use these to mark off the believers from the disbelievers. (Qurtubi, Jami‘ al Ahkam al Qur’an)

Differences of Opinion

An important point to note is that many of the opinions regarding the beast may not have sound basis in the texts. As such, believing in these subtle details is not necessary, except that which has come in the authentic narratives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

This includes, first and foremost, believing in the coming of the Beast itself, a point established decisively in the Qur’an, as well as it being a sign of the Last Hour, its speaking to people, and its task of differentiating the believers from the disbelievers.

Details regarding its appearance, where it will arise from, what it will say, and so forth, are matters of secondary importance. The safest route is to consign these modalities and details to Allah, while realizing that ultimately we will all return to Him to be judged for what we did in our worldly life.

Wassalam
Salman

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani


What Is the Reason for Our Being Created?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

The purpose of our creation is to worship Allah. But He does not need our worship. So why did Allah create us in the first place?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah khayr for your question.

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an, ‘I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me’ [51:56].

It is true that God does not need our worship, but this does not negate the purpose of our existence. The question you have asked is common: If the purpose of our creation is to worship God, and God does not need our worship, then why did God create us in the first place?

The very brief answer to the question is that God’s Knowledge, Will, Power, and Wisdom are absolute and perfect. He willed to create us to know Him, and commanded us to believe in Him and to worship Him, and He willed that if we do so, we will attain to eternal bliss in the Hereafter, and this reward is from His Generosity and Favour towards us. All of this, is because God has willed it to be so and that it be done in this manner.

This question can also be delved into in great detail. We will try to summarize the most important points to elucidate the matter for you, as well as others who have the same question, insha’Allah.

1. Elements of Actions

In regards human actions, all acts return to 1) a motivation, reason, or need (‘ilatun gha’iyyah / al daf’i), 2) the purpose sought after to fulfil the need or desire (al gharad), 3) the actual fulfilment or conclusion of the act (al ghayah), and sometimes, 4) the benefit of the act (al Fa’ida).

Take for example, a person who makes a sandwich. They are motivated by a need or a desire (‘ilatun gha’iyyah / al dafi’); either hunger, to feed someone else, or for mere enjoyment, comfort etc. The purpose sought after from performing the action (al gharad) is a feeling of satiety or satisfaction. Once eaten, one has concluded the act and has a sense of fulfilment from the act, which in this case, they experience the actual feeling of satiety, satisfaction, pleasure etc. [al ghayah]. The benefit of making and eating the sandwich (al fa’ida) could be many; satisfaction, gaining strength and energy, feeling better emotionally, feeling restful, fulfilling another’s need or right, and so on.

Human acts comprise of the first 3 elements, and usually the 4th element (benefit). A person who acts without a need, purpose, or motivation is either fooling around (‘aabith) or not fully sound of mind (safih). For example, we could say that a person could make a sandwich just for the sake of making a sandwich, not due to a need or desire. They could even make it and throw it away, and do this throughout the day. However, no sensible person would do this, so it is not worth considering.

In regards God, we should know that His actions do not comprise of the first three elements; a motivation, reason, or need, a purpose sought after, or conclusion of the act [al ghayah].

What this means is that Gods actions are purely from the Divine Will. Why did God create you and me? Purely because He wanted to. Why did God create this world? Purely from the Divine Will. Why does He ask us to worship Him? Purely because He willed it to be so. Why will God punish some people and reward others? Simply because He willed and Purely because He is able to. Why do we pray 4 cycles of prayer in Dhur? Because that’s what God willed, and so on.

God is a volitional agent, meaning the Divine Will is affirmed, and this Will is Absolute. However, there is no motivating factor, need, or desire that drives Him to act and judge, and there is no actual end conclusion to His acts and commands that comes about from a purpose being fulfilled.

In fact, for God to act due to these reasons is an imperfection, and imperfections are impossible for a true God. The reason being is that a person who acts due to a need, to fulfil a desire within them, or are forced, or experience a sense of conclusion and fulfilment from an act, all of these are deficiencies or imperfections. They act to feel complete. On the other hand, a being who is absolute perfection can never be motivated by a desire or need to complete them. They are the total and full meaning of perfection and completeness, and therefore, they require nothing more to perfect them or complete them.

However, because God is All Knowing, All Wise, and Most Generous, element 4, the benefit of an act (al Fa’ida), holds true for God’s acts, and the benefits of Gods actions are immeasurable.

We should also note, that just because God’s actions and commands are void of a motivating factor, it does not mean in any way that His acts are void of Wisdom. Rather, like the immeasurable benefits to God’s acts and commands, there is perfect and absolute Wisdom in them also, and this Wisdom is perfect.

Because God’s knowledge, Will and Wisdom are perfect, there can be no better way of things happening, even if created being cannot perceive it. If created beings knew the reality of matters, they would not wish it in any other than the way that God has willed them.

This is Allah, our Lord, ‘Doer of whatever He wills’ [85:16]. He Wills and does as He pleases, and His Sovereignty of all things is absolute. ‘He cannot be questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned’ [21:23].

In summary, we should know that God has absolute Knowledge, Will, Power and Sovereignty over all things, to do as He pleases. This is the nature of a True God.

2. Cause and Effect

Out of His Absolute Knowledge, Wisdom, and Will, the Sunna of God (God’s way) is that things have a cause and effect. To earn money, we must work. To start a fire, we must rub wood together or light a match. In the same way, God has made it that in order to enter Paradise (effect), we must believe and worship Him (cause). However, we affirm that none of these cause and effect relationships are necessary in of themselves, and had God willed differently, He could have made these matters revolve around different relationships or no relationship at all. He could make have made everyone a believer and enter them into Paradise without struggle or test.

Because of this cause and effect relationship, if we want to succeed in the Hereafter, we have no choice but to work and do righteous deeds.

3. The Verse in Context and it’s Full Meaning

Now, in regards the verse, I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me’, the first thing we can mention is that God created us and has ordered us to worship Him purely out of his Will. He was not motivated by a need or desire, nor in order to gain a sense of purpose or fulfilment, nor is He forced, all of which we have mentioned before. Our creation and the command to worship is first and foremost because God has willed it to be so in this way.

Secondly, to fully understand the verse, وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ, ‘I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me’, it is important to read the chapter, al Dhariyat, in full. Previous to this verse, Allah Most High discusses, in order:

1. The disbelievers of Mecca who denied the Quran, the Hereafter, and He warns them of the grievous punishment that awaits them should they continue.

2. In contrast to disbelievers, Allah Most High then mentions the God-fearing believers, and reminds them of the promise of the pleasures and bliss of the Hereafter, in order to increase them in their faith and their desire for doing righteous works in this life.

3. Then, Allah informs man of His Omnipotence (al Qudra) and the Oneness of His Absolute Power, Ability, and Might, telling man to look for the signs of his Power and Ability that are manifest in the universe; the heavens and skies, mountains, land and seas, in the creation and form of man and jinn etc.

4. He Most High then mentions stories of the Prophets and their struggle with the rulers and disbelievers of their nations.

5. The chapter ends with the purpose of our existence, including the verse in question, which is to know Allah, to believe in Him as the One True Deity, and to worship Him alone with sincerity.

So in most of this chapter, God discusses and compares the disbelievers and the believers, threatening those who do evil with eternal perdition and reassuring those who do good with everlasting felicity.

Then, as a reminder to both groups, but particular to those who deny the Message, God is also is saying in the verse we are discussing, ‘I created the jinn and man to realise their full potential and be true believers, which entails affirming and worshipping the True God only. You were not created to worship other deities other than your One True Creator, and nor did I create you to be content, chase after, or be preoccupied with this world.

As Imam al Razi states, ‘After having described the state of the disbelievers, God mentions this verse to highlight the evil of their actions, in that they abandoned the worship of Allah while they were [in reality] created to only worship Him alone.’

Thirdly, as some of the Quranic commentators have mentioned, the first letter لِ in the words لِيَعْبُدُونِ , outwardly, and in regards Arabic grammar, indicates the Lam al Ta’lil,, the Lam of Motivation or Justification, taking the meaning of ‘to’ or ‘for’. For example, ‘I ate the sandwich to satiate my hunger’ ‘I made the sandwich for my lunch’. However, the reality of this letter Lam, according to Arabic rhetoric, is that it is the Lam al ‘Aqiba, the Lam of Conclusion or End Result, giving the meaning of ‘realisation’ or ‘attaining to’.

In this sense, the verse also takes on the meaning of ‘I created the jinn and humankind only that they may attain to being true believers and worshippers’. Mujahid stated that ‘Only that they might worship me’ means ‘Only that they may know Me’.

With these meanings, we further understand that ‘attaining to being those who Worship God’, and ‘knowing’ God is a way of perfecting ourselves and becoming complete, pure, and noble enough to enter into the Divine Presence, and see Him Most High, and enjoy His everlasting bliss in the Hereafter.

In conclusion, God is not simply saying to us, ‘The only reason why I created you all is so I can be worshipped by you’, but rather, He Most High is saying, ‘I created you all that you may know Who I am, Who it is that created you, and through this knowledge, belief, and worship of your One True God and Creator, you can attain to the lofty state of being true and complete believers and be of those who I will honour in the next life.’

All of these layers of meanings, and more, are present in this one small verse.

Now that the verse has been understood more fully, the question remains, why create us in the first place? We will discuss this now by referring to everything we have mentioned.

4. Why create us in the first place?

To answer this question, we may recall three points that we mentioned earlier:

1. That God has created us and ordered us to worship Him alone purely out of his Will. Therefore, on God’s behalf, there is no need or motivating factor behind His acts of creating or His commands, no purpose sought in of itself, and no conclusion or fulfilment that arises from His acts. At the same time, God’s Wisdom is Perfect.

2. God has created our existence on the basis of cause and affect relationships; do good and you will enter Paradise, do evil and you will enter Hellfire. This is how God has willed it. If He so willed, he could have entered the disbelievers in Paradise and the believers in Hellfire.

3. We mentioned that the fourth element of actions is the benefit of the act (al fa’ida), meaning the beneficial consequences that come about from actions, and that the benefits of God’s actions and commands are countless.

Whether we like it or not, we must do good to succeed in the next life. Our acts in this brief life on earth, namely our belief and worship, has been placed as a condition for our admission into the realm of perpetual and unimaginable bliss. Therefore, the ‘benefit’ of our actions are that we will enter paradise and earn God’s Pleasure. Unlike worldly benefits from actions, there are no benefits comparable to the eternal pleasures that await the people of Garden.

Yet, while our entering Paradise has been conditioned by doing good works on earth, the reality is that our works are a paltry payment for the inconceivable benefits, rewards, and pleasures of the Garden. More importantly, these meagre works of ours are not what will actually enter us into Paradise or earn the rewards therein. Rather, as the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘None of you will enter Paradise because of his deeds alone.’ [al Bukhari, Muslim]

So what is that will enter us into Paradise and grant us its benefits, if not our worldly actions?

The answer is that we will enter and enjoy Paradise purely due to the Mercy, Favour, Generosity, and unrestricted Bounty of God.

Further considerations

Given all the above, it is still common for a person to ask or wonder, ‘But why did He create me if He has no need for me? Is it only because He wanted to or He willed to? What if I didn’t want to be created? I didn’t have a choice in the matter, how is this fair?’ and many more questions of this nature.

A summary of my answers to these types of questions is as follows:

1. First, let us recall the verse, ‘Remember when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to place a successive authority on earth.” They asked Allah, “Will You place in it someone who will spread corruption there and shed blood while we glorify Your praises and proclaim Your holiness?” Allah responded, “I know what you do not know”.’

This sentence, “I know what you do not know”, applies not only to angels, but to the jinn and to mankind, to you and me. God knows what we do not know. We have mentioned already that Allah’s Knowledge and Wisdom is Perfect.

2. If we could see with our eyes the ‘benefits’, blessings, and gifts descending upon us, or we saw the angels around us, or God spoke to us, no person would deny God or worship other than God. However, in this world, by means of a test, there are veils between us and God, between us and the Unseen, whether the veils be preoccupation with world affairs, wealth, ego, satan, or other matters.

Because people experience these veils and cannot see beyond them, and are instead commanded to have faith and persevere, we ask these types of questions. Because we experience a life of struggle, ups and downs, uncertainties, and upheaval, we ask these types of questions. If God granted everyone on earth a life of opulent, luxury, happiness and pleasure, and other gifts close to one’s heart’s desires, even if they could not actually see God and the Unseen, no one would be asking the question, ‘Why did God have to create me?!’ or complain that ‘I didn’t choose this existence’!!

3. It is common for people who have gone through struggles in this life to look back and say, ‘even though it was hard, I would not change the past.’ Of course, this may not be the case with severe suffering, trauma, particularly violence and abuse etc., but these statements are common. The point is, suffering and hardship is very often a means to appreciate and experience life in a new and meaningful way, that would not have been possible before the suffering, and is a chance to return to God with all our focus and devotion, which ultimately benefits us, and not God. These struggles are not in vain, and are in accordance with God’s Knowledge and Wisdom. He knows what we do not know about the reality of our burdens.

4. While in this life we struggle, when a person enters Paradise and sees what eternal pleasure, delight, joy, happiness, spiritual and physical bliss they have been given, even the person who suffered the most in this life, would not say ‘Why did you create me in the first place?!’ or ‘I did not ask for this!’.

Rather, the unimaginable bliss they will feel, which will be far above and beyond any equal compensation for their worldly suffering, will only make them say, in true sincerity and conviction, ‘Praise be to God, who created me and granted me all this for eternity, out of His Pure Generosity and Favour!’

At this point, we will realise what we did not know, and we would not prefer our existence to have been any different than it was, and we will know for certain that Allah’s Wisdom, Will and Decree are perfect.

Conclusion

In conclusion, God did not create us simply because he wanted beings to worship Him, nor without Divine Wisdom, Love, and Generosity.

Rather, we were created in order to live up to our full potential and noble rank as Gods representatives on earth (khalifah), which necessarily means knowing and believing in God, worshipping the One who created and sustains us, and in so doing this, God will enter us into eternal felicity, through his Generosity and Favour. For jinn and man to worship other than the One who created them and sustains them in every moment of their existence, is not what they have been created for and is a grave deviation from the truth.

God created us in accordance with His Divine Knowledge and Wisdom (‘I know what you do not know’), and has chosen to honour and raise the rank of the righteous amongst His creation, by entering them into an everlasting abode, in order that He may bestow His Favours upon them, grant them with perpetual pleasure and delight, and host them in a life ever-lasting. All of this, purely out of his Bounteousness and Generosity, and not because we have earned it. No person who enters Paradise will wish that they never existed or that their existence was any different to what God had willed for them.

Therefore, from our initial inception into existence to our final settlement in the Lasting Abode, it is exclusively because God has willed it to be, that it be done in this specific way, and this is out of His Love, Generosity, and Mercy for us, as well in accordance with His Infinite Knowledge, Wisdom, and Absolute Perfection in all things.

And all Praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

[Hashiyat al Susi, al Bahr al Muhit, Tahdhib Sharh al Sanussiya, al Iqtisad fil I’tiqad, Tafsir al Razi, Tafsir al Badawi, Tafisr al Qurtabi, Safwat al Tafasir].

Warmest salams,

[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

Is There a Place Between Heaven and Hell?

Answered by Shaykh Riad Saloojee

Question: Assalamu alaykum

Is there a place between heaven and hell?

Answer: Assalaamu’alaykum wa rahmatullah,

I pray that you are well.

There is no ultimate abode besides Paradise and Hellfire. Allah states: A party will be in Paradise; and a party will be in the Hellfire (al-Shura: 7).

The Qur’an mentions a temporary place called al-A‘raf which many commentators say is a temporary residence of those whose good and bad deeds are equal, before Allah’s final decree to enter the inhabitants of al-A’raf into Paradise.

There is also the temporary space of the barzakh, which is a transitional realm after death and before the Day of Judgement, and which, depending on the person, will be a reflection of either Paradise or Hellfire.

And Allah knows best.

[Shaykh] Riad Saloojee

Shaykh Riad Saloojee graduated and taught in an Islamic seminary in Cape Town, South Africa.  He is a lawyer by training and worked in the field of civil rights advocacy. Currently, he teaches and translates.