Is the World Seven Thousand Years Old?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: I’m confused about two hadiths I have read as they seem to imply that the earth is 7000 years old even though science says the earth is billions of years old. Is there a dispute in their authenticity or is there a different interpretation?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well.

General Principle for Understanding Revealed Texts

A general principle is that revealed texts are interpreted in a manner that accords with known facts, not in ways that contradict them.

There are a number of hermeneutical tools scholars employ to understand narrations in a way that makes sense of the text and the surrounding knowledge environment. The inability to reconcile them with empirical and observed truths constitutes a reason for scholars to consider a report fabricated.

A non-Literal Reading of Such Narrations

One such tool to make sense of the narrations in question is to consider them as intending to highlight the closeness of the Hour, not to give a specific numerical value for days remaining on Earth. That is, to consider them a type of example or comparison [ibn Hajar, Fath; ibn Rajab, Fath]. This would accord with the general meaning of other narrations that indicate the proximity of the Hour (see below), as well as allowing for those who uphold the veracity of the transmissions.

Many Scholars Consider these Narrations Fabrications

A modern reader would likely critique them because they do not seem to reconcile, prima facie, with current scientific understandings of dating the age of the universe. However, a number of classical scholars – including ibn Hazm, Qadi ‘Iyad, ibn al-‘Arabi, and al-Sakhawi – largely considered them fabricated for a different reason.
That is, that the narrations specify an age for the universe, seven thousand years, and indicate that about five hundred years remain. If this were the case, one could ostensibly calculate the end of the universe. Ibn al-Qayyim, in al-Manār al-Munīf, says that if these narrations were true, one could easily calculate from his time that there only remains of the universe two hundred and fifty one years.
This contradicts the Qur’anic text, which clearly states that this knowledge is something God has reserved for himself. For example: People ask you about the Hour; say: Its knowledge is with God alone [Qur’an; 33.63].

It is also contrary to established Prophetic narrations in the same vein, such as the Hadith of Gabriel, in which the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – was asked about the time of the Hour. He replied, ‘The one being asked is not more knowledgeable about it than the one asking’ [Muslim].

For this reason, a number of scholars have considered these narrations fabrications. Ibn Kathir, in his Nihāya, for example, holds that no narration that delimits the beginning of the universe, or indicates how much remains, is authentic. Ibn Rajab, in his Fath, argues in a similar fashion. Qadi ‘Iyad uses a similar line of reasoning to reject these reports, arguing that these time frames have already passed, and the world has not ended, clearly indicating the falsity of the contents of the reports. Ibn Hajar adds to this that since the time of Qadi ‘Iyad, three hundred years have additionally passed. [ibn Hajar, Fath].

The Closeness of the Hour

A number of Prophetic narrations, as mentioned above, do indicate the closeness of the Day of Judgment. He said – peace and blessings of God be upon him – that “I was sent, along with the Hour, like this” and held up his index and middle fingers together, indicating the proximity of the two events [Bukhari].

Such narrations indicate that what remains of this world is minimal compared to what has already passed. However, no one knows their actual lengths, and there does not appear to be anything authentically transmitted on the matter [ibn Rajab, Fath].

Further discussion, along with analysis of chains of transmitters, can be found in the sources cited above. See, for example, ibn Hajar, Fath.

God knows best.

Shuaib Ally

Is There Any Relation Between Sleep Paralysis and Jinn?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Is there any mention of sleep paralysis relating to jinns in the Quran or Sunna?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

I have not been able to find anything in the Qur’an or sunna connecting sleep paralysis with the Jinn. There are certain later scholars that mention it as one of the potential causes for sleep paralysis. However, if this is true, it would certainly be considered the exception.

Sleep paralysis is in fact quite common. As with other health issues, if one is worried about something a doctor should be consulted. I should also point out that some of the causes linked to sleep paralysis could be tackled by fulfilling the prophetic guidelines of giving one’s body its due rights: healthy diet, proper rest, improved sleep hygiene, and so forth. Stress is also cited as a possible cause and here having a healthy spiritual component is important through prayer, supplication, and reciting Qur’an.

You should continue to ask Allah to grant you health and well being. One of the supplications related by Bukhari and Muslim from the Prophet (God bless him) relating to well-being is :

اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ النَّاسِ أَذْهِبْ البَأْسَ ، وَاشْفِ أَنْتَ الشَّافِي ، لَا شِفَاءَ إِلَّا شِفَاؤُكَ شِفَاءً لَا يُغَادِرُ سَقَمًا

Finally, try to sleep on a state of purity, recite the four “Quls”, and the following before sleeping:

أَعُوذُ بِكلِمَاتِ الله التّامّاتِ مِن شَرّ مَا خَلَقَ

May we all be granted health and well-being inwardly and outwardly.

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What Does Islam Say About Evolution and the Big Bang?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: The theory of evolution is really pushed in schools and society as a whole. In our tradition, is evolution true, false or a difference of opinion? Can you please clarify the Islamic position on evolution and the Big Bang?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

1. According to most scholars, there is no problem accepting the Big Bang as it does not directly contradict any of the primary texts on the origins of creation. Some scholars have even cited Quran 21:30 and 41:11 as supporting the Big Bang theory.

2. As for evolution, the dominant – if not consensus – viewpoint among scholars is that it is in direct contradiction of the primary texts affirming an original and direct creation for Adam who was the first human being. These texts, such as Qur’an 38:71-76, indicate that Adam did not arise from a prior species. This was not because God could not have created humans through an evolutionary process but because He willed not to do so and informed us of this through revelation.

The Qur’an, however, does not state the same regarding non-human species. Consequently, some scholars have differentiated between human evolution and non-human evolution stating that the primary texts only affirm an original creation for humans, namely Adam, not non-humans. Therefore, the theory of evolution in relation to the latter poses no intrinsic problem whether at the level of macro-evolution or micro-evolution.

An important point that needs to be kept in mind is that even when evolution is accepted (i.e. for non-humans), it is still understood as an act of God stemming from His will and power. Evolution as random mutation and natural selection causally independent of God is decisively rejected whether the theory is applied to humans or non-humans.

Science and Religion

In any discussion on the relationship between science and religion, the first point that must be clarified is that the Qur’an was not revealed as a book of science. Nor was the sunna primarily interested in elucidating points of scientific fact. Rather, the purpose of both of these sources is to instruct humans regarding the manner in which they should live in order to recognize God and attain to felicity. In other words, the Qur’an and sunna are sources of guidance: “Indeed, this Qur’an guides to the straightest way and gives glad tidings to the believers,” (17:9) and “A book we have sent down to you so you may bring forth mankind from darkness to light.” (14:1).

With this said, there is no denying that the Quran and sunna make reference to the cosmos and natural phenomena. Debates over the interpretation of certain verses and prophetic statements that describe the cosmos is nothing new. For example, scholars have discussed issues such as the flatness of the Earth, the heliocentric nature of our galaxy, and so forth with a view towards what the primary texts indicate about these matters and what empirical evidence affirms.

A very basic framework that scholars forwarded when discussing contradictions between the primary texts and empirical evidence returned to notions of the decisive and probabilistic:

(a) a decisive text takes precedence over the probabilistic.
(b) a decisive text can only be conditioned by something that is decisive.

Consequently, the principle is that whenever a literal or outward reading of a verse of the Qur’an or a prophetic statement seems to contradict a decisively established point of fact, that verse or saying is interpreted in a manner that accords to this established point of fact.

Of course, it should be noted here that scholarly conceptions of decisiveness may vary and even change over time as it relates to certain issues. Even within the scientific community, the notion of scientific consensus, certainty vs. uncertainty, and so forth, can prove to be quite contentious. Therefore, while our tradition does not shut the door on utilizing the empirical to accurately understand the meanings of the primary texts, it does require grounding in and knowledge of the tradition, its principles, and an awareness of the complexities underlying empirical and scientific research.

Evolution Being ‘Kufr’

Following from the above, it is also important to address the fact that a number of scholars have stated that evolution as the theory claiming man evolved from a prior non-human species is disbelief (kufr), such as our teacher Shaykh Nuh Keller.

It is important to keep in mind here that:

(a) this does not necessarily entail that the proponent of such a view is in fact a disbeliever (kafir), and

(b) it is not even necessarily the case that the belief itself is literal disbelief (kufr) especially as it relates to Muslim evolutionists who continue to affirm God’s creative power and will, that Adam was a real human, and that he was in some manner created by God.

This latter point is important in light of the fact that disbelief is commonly defined as denial and disavowal (takdhib), which is not necessarily applicable to those who reach unsound conclusions based on erroneous-interpretations (al-ta’wil al-fasid) or ignorance (al-jahl).

For example, one cannot think of a clearer Qur’anic text than, “God is the creator of all things,” (39:62) and yet leading scholars have classically not affirmed the disbelief of groups such as the Mutazila and the Shia who opined that God does not create evil. This is because they do not actually deny the Qur’anic verse in question. Rather, they continue to affirm it but interpret it in an erroneous manner.

Indeed, a number of Muslims who affirm evolution do not seek to deny the Qur’an at all but interpret it in an erroneous manner. Therefore, it is difficult to apply the word disbelief (kufr) to the views of these individuals except as an expression of severe censure or in the meaning of their views having the potential to entail disbelief.

The details of the principles surrounding kufr and takfir have been detailed by al-Sharif Hatim al-Awni in his work Takfir Ahl al-Shahadatayn. Of course it goes without saying that not labeling a particular view as disbelief does not indicate that said belief is acceptable or sound.

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

How Many Pillars Are There in Islam?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: How many pillars are there in Islam?

Answer:Dear questioner,

I pray this finds you well. Thank you for your question.

There are five pillars of Islam:

1) Testifying that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammed (upon him be blessings and peace) is His Messenger
2) Establishing prayer
3) Giving Zakat
4) Pilgrimage to the Ka’ba
5) Fasting in Ramadan

When registration reopens, I encourage you to complete this course Being Muslim: A Clear Introduction to Islam. This is also a very helpful article: The Dimensions of the Religion – Excerpt from the Forthcoming Book “Being Muslim” by Asad Tarsin.

Please keep in touch.

With peace,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen

Can Truth Be Found in Every Religion?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: (a) If perennialism has no place in Islam, should one believe that all people of the book who were given the message of Islam and didn’t accept it, are therefore, not following truth?

(b) Could you please clarify where one draws the line at believing good of all religions and perennialism.

(c) I think every good person will be saved or doomed as per God’s judgement. Is this a perennial belief?

(d) Is it improper to call to Islam by saying every religion contains truth?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

I pray you are well.

(a) The idea that other religious traditions may contain certain elements of truth does not necessarily equate to perennialism.

Perennialism: A Definition

Perennialism is a particular philosophy that views all the major religious traditions of the world as sharing a transcendent truth. Although these traditions differ in a myriad of ways, such as in their rituals or the manner in which they articulate the divine, they are united by a common transcendent core. Consequently, many perennialists argue that all religions possess validity in the eyes of God (although it should be noted that some versions of perennialism identify ‘false’ or ‘aberrant’ versions of certain religious traditions).

This idea of the universal validity of religions is deemed a heterodox viewpoint in Islam, which recognizes the revelation revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (God bless him) as the final message and the only one acceptable to God. This has been discussed by classical scholars throughout the centuries and their is little evidence that they accommodated a viewpoint that recognized the equal validity of other religious traditions alongside Islam. For more, please refer to: Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir

In light of the above, believing that Christianity, for example, possesses elements of truth is not perennialism in so far as one can affirm the former while denying the latter. In fact, the primary texts of Islam clearly lend support to the idea that many past traditions were revealed traditions and, while suffering from severe doctrinal corruption, continue to maintain some elements of their original message: the existence of God, angels, prophets, belief in revelation, heaven, hell, rituals, and so forth. Indeed, it is on account of this that Muslims are permitted to marry women from the People of the Book and commanded to still show respect for the revealed scriptures, etc.

(b) In light of the above, one can believe there are some elements of truth in other religions but not that they are valid paths to follow in addition to or aside from Islam. Rather, we believe that Islam abrogated all previous traditions as the sole religion acceptable to God.

(c) There is nothing wrong with this and is in fully keeping with Islam. It is in fact similar to what our teacher, Shaykh Faraz, has mentioned from his teacher, Shaykh Adib Kallas:

We know that those who reject faith are in Hell but it is not decisively established what exactly entails rejection of faith — this is why the scholars of Sunni Islam differed. As for the details, we should concern ourselves with our own fate. Allah will ask us about ourselves, not about what He should do with others.

Consequently, the idea of consigning the knowledge of such matters to God is the way of our scholars. Thus, we affirm those who God has decisively affirmed as being in Hell, such as Abu Jahl or Abu Lahab, and we pass no specific judgment on others, which constitute the overwhelming majority of people.

Here, of course, it needs to be pointed out that there is not always a necessary correlation between soundness of ones religion and salvation. For example, people who have not explored or introduced to Islam may still attain salvation although they were not Muslims. For more on this see:

Truth, Other Religions, and Mysticism – Shaykh Nuh Keller

Overwhelmed and Confused in Trying to Understand and Practice Islam: What Can I Do?

(d) This is not a problem in da’wa contexts and is an extension of the Qur’anic command to come together on a common word and truth. (3:64)

Nonetheless, in contexts where this may cause confusion to other Muslims regarding the issue of the universal validity of religions, such statements need to be qualified. This would depend on one’s context and audience. Of course, experience shows that a majority of Muslims understand and believe in the exclusive validity of Islam and seem to naturally find the notion of perennialism questionable and contrary to the religion. However, clarity is always better than ambiguity when in doubt.

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Niki Odolphie

Is It Permissible to Consider a Muslim an Unbeliever?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaikum,

1) Is it permissible to preemptively assume that a Muslim is a disbeliever, without clear evidence?

2) Is it permissible to reject the invitation to one’s own brother’s wedding meal due to such an assumption?

3) Are the Shia disbelievers? Are all Shia restaurants haram?

4) Is somebody who calls for demonstrations or elections a disbeliever?

Answer: Assalāmu ʿAlaykum,

I hope that you are well.

It is not permissible – nor logical – to pre-emptively consider someone who appears to be a Muslim a polytheist or disbeliever, without clear evidence of this being the case. People are dealt with based on their outward characteristics, not what a person believes about them without just cause.

It is not permissible to reject a wedding invitation of a Muslim on this assumption.

Calling for political participation is not polytheism.

Shias are Muslims, not polytheists.

It is permissible to eat the sacrifice of Muslims as well as the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). Consuming the sacrifice of any other, including polytheists, is impermissible.

Please see: What Takes a Person Out of the Fold of Islam? and: Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir and: Is Voting Permitted?

wassalam,
Shuaib Ally

Photo: Jordi Bernabeu Farrús