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The Idea of an Islamic Logic

The opposition to and defense of logic in Islam are both predicated on a misconception of what logic or thought is. In short, logic is thinking and the Greeks did not invent thought.

 
Philosophy is logic and metaphysics. Metaphysics is content. Logic is form. It is empty of content. It is how thought is structured, not what thought is. It is a calculus. Some would say it is the calculus. Al-Farabi said that logic (mantiq) “gives general rules for the expressions of every community.” A sort of universal grammar. A grammar of all languages.

This is right and wrong. It is wrong in so far as it identifies with being a grammar. But it is right in so far as it means that logic is rooted in grammar, which is to say, it is rooted in language. Al-Farabi’s definition is really an analogy. A sort of gesture saying, “This is kind of like that.” Of course, you only get what this is if you already know that.

But if we follow the analogy it is clear that logic is not Arabic, and definitely not Islamic. Logic is logic. It is form, empty of content. So, why would anyone want to talk about Islamic Logic? Indeed.

The Bedouin Scout

The Bedouin scout sees tracks in the sand and infers that someone must have made them. This is logic. Is it Greek? Is it Arabic? Does it even make sense to say it is Islamic? No, it is human. Do we not all know this?

“But how can you say it is logic? Or that he is using logic? He might not even know the word.” True. He might not even know that he made an inference. But if you asked him, “Why do you say that someone must have made them?” what would he say? I imagine he would question your sanity.

Similarly, if you asked him, “Did you make a logical inference from the tracks in the sand to the thought that someone must have made them? What proof do you have?” Again, he might look at you in wonder, or, what is more likely, just point to the tracks and say, “They are there.”

Does he have to know the word “logic” or “inference” or their history and what they mean in order for him to infer as he does? Does he have to be Muslim?

It’s All Greek to Me

A queer argument against the use of logic and its place in Islam is that it is a Greek discovery that has nothing to do with religion, and that it is probably anti-Islamic. The counter-argument is to prove that there is such a thing as Islamic Logic which is not at all Greek, and therefore okay. Equally queer.

Logic is logic. In the Hijaz or in China. In Greek, in Arabic, in Swahili, or any other language for that matter. It is inference from a set of propositions to another proposition. “But that is all Greek to me. What do you mean?”

A classical example of a logical inference goes: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” Formally speaking it looks like this: Major premise; minor premise; conclusion. That is the structure. The structure is empty. It is mere form without content.

This is logic. It is a tool. A very familiar one that is neither of the east or west. We use it all the time. It is not Islamic. Is it still Greek to you?

— Yusuf Latif, 10 Dec 2018


 

What Is Aqida and Why Study It? – Shaykh Hassan al Hindi

Shaykh Hassan al Hindi gives an overview of the science of ʿaqida, clarifies points of contention and agreement, and explains why it is a necessary science.

Though each of the Islamic sciences has its specific topics of inquiry and detailed investigations, a student may find himself losing sight of the purpose, importance, and distinctive features of a science when engaged in studying its details and minutiae.

For example, a student may study legal theory (usul al fiqh) under a teacher, covering such topics as linguistic signification, analogy, and consensus, but this student may still not know what legal theory actually is, the benefits that are gained through its study, its ultimate aim, the manner it is to be studied, and the way it distinguishes itself from other sciences.

For the science of ʿaqida, such a comprehensive and universal understanding is necessary before diving into its detailed investigations. He proceeds to provide such an overview by answering a series of questions.

What Is ʿAqida?

The term ʿaqida has two meanings. The first refers to aspects of belief that are obligatory upon a person to establish in his heart and have faith in. These are the concepts and ideas that a person adopts regarding the Creator, this universe, the purpose of creation, this world, the next world, and so forth. This is the ʿaqida that is obligatory upon all Muslims to know.

The second meaning refers to the subject matter that is taught in seminaries, namely the actual science of ʿaqida, which incorporates the first definition mentioned above but extends beyond it. In this context, the term ʿaqida is defined as the knowledge through which religious beliefs are established by means of evidence that is decisive and certain.

I would like to draw attention to the use of the word yuqtadar in classical definitions of the science of ʿaqida. It signifies a strong ability or disposition. Consequently, ʿaqida as a science is a natural disposition or aptitude of the self that is characterized by strength in knowledge, expertise in evidence, and the ability to engage in a dialectic where truth can be distinguished from falsehood. This ability is something that God grants to some of His servants.

The evidence used to establish points of ʿaqida are both rational and textual, and there is no contradiction between these two sources. There are some points of ʿaqida that are evidenced mainly on the basis of rational proofs, others on the basis of textual proof, and yet some others that are based on both these sources.

The Relationship between ʿAqida and Knowledge in General

The relationship between ʿaqida and knowledge in general is one of a general-specific distinction, i.e. all ʿaqida is knowledge but not all knowledge is ʿaqida. A matter is considered a point of knowledge if it is established on the basis of evidence that is knowledge-based and scholarly.

A specific point of knowledge is then termed ʿaqida if in addition to this God attaches a particular significance to it that necessitates belief in it. The ʿaqida of Islam can be divided into two types.

Firstly, those aspects known in their details, such as God being omnipotent, omniscient, all-hearing, and all-seeing, or the specific names of prophets sent to mankind mentioned in the Qur’an, or the names of angels, etc.

Secondly, a general belief in everything that has been authentically conveyed from God and His Prophet, blessings upon him. Thus, there are issues that a Muslim is required to affirm on a general basis and others that he is required to affirm and be taught on a more specific and detailed basis.

Sometimes we are required to express general points of belief in a more detailed fashion. For example, the books of ʿaqida do not detail the creation of Adam, peace be upon him. Muslims suffice with the Qur’an and other texts to affirm as a general point of belief that he was created from clay and was the first human being.

Today, however, it is necessary to discuss this matter in more detail due to the various doubts that have arisen regarding the Islamic creation narrative.

An Intellectual Science vs. Experiential Reality

Another manner in which ʿaqida is divided is between its being a scholarly and intellectual activity and between its being an experiential reality. The former refers to ʿaqida as an engagement with texts, detailing and interpreting various points of creed, expounding their proofs, defending the faith, and so forth. On the other hand, ʿaqida as an experiential reality entails transforming and transferring these points of creed into one’s consciousness and being.

Both of these dimensions are separate but intimately connected. Separate because they engage the subject-matter from two distinct perspectives – one intellectual and the other practical. And intimately connected because they complete one another.

ʿAqida as a Living Science

In order for anything to maintain its state of living, it requires two things: nourishment that allows it to grow and sustain its existence and a medicine/protection that prevents it from being harmed.

The nourishment for faith is found in acts of worship, such as supplication, remembrance of God, prayer, the company of the righteous, and so forth. This type of nourishment is required for everyone.

As for medicine, this is only required by those who suffer from a disease or someone who is prone/exposed to it. What is this medicine? It is of two types:

  1. It may be a cure to treat an actual disease that is present, or
  2. It may be a cure to treat a disease that may occur, i.e. preventive medicine.

In the case of the second of the aforementioned points, it is necessary for anyone who feels they are prone to the disease of doubt to learn the general proofs and evidences of ʿaqida. However, if someone is afflicted with doubt regarding a specific issue, it is obligatory upon that person to learn the appropriate evidences for that ʿaqida issue in specific and seek an answer for their doubt.

The Subject-Matter of ʿAqida

There are three primary subjects that ʿaqida deals with:

  1. Godhead (ilahiyat): what is necessary, possible, and impossible for God.
  2. Prophethood (nabuwwat): what is necessary, possible, and impossible for prophets.
  3. Unseen matters (sam’iyat): topics relating to such issues as the Day of Judgment, heaven, hell, angels, devils, the signs of the last day, and so forth. Each of these issues is subsumed under one core principle: things that the intellect deems possible that the revelatory texts affirm and attest to.

Scholars mention other topics that are included in texts of ʿaqida. Some of these topics are introductory discussions, such as moral responsibility (taklif) or the faith of a blind-adherent (muqallid). Other topics are viewed as accessory discussions, such as detailed expositions of the proofs for the existence of God.

Opinions on Why It Is Called Kalam

The science of ʿaqida is also termed the science of kalam. There are different opinions regarding why the latter term was utilized to describe this science. Some opined that it returned to questions concerning the nature of the Qur’an and God’s speech (i.e. kalam) being among the earliest and most oft-debated theological topics. Another opinion stated that the science of ʿaqida involved a sustained engagement between different parties, which often involved verbal debates (i.e. kalam).

Here is an important piece of advice for teachers. Someone who is instructing others in ʿaqida should be completely open to his students and their questions. This is because the teacher is tasked with teaching them knowledge upon which faith and disbelief rests, and he should instruct students in a way that ensures that they have fully understood the material and are convinced by it. Therefore, it is necessary for a teacher to engage the questions of students, their doubts, and endure with them patiently. This is not to be viewed as a flaw in the student nor disrespect towards a teacher.

The Ruling on Studying the Science of ʿAqida or Kalam

In regard to ruling of studying this science, there is no disagreement that it is necessary to know God, His angels, messengers, books, the Last Day, and so forth. The disagreement arises regarding the formal science of kalam, which some have deemed an innovation. This latter opinion is incorrect due to the fact that the emergence of the science of kalam mirrors the development of all other sciences, such as grammar or hadith.

The particular terminology utilized in kalam, such as “privative attributes” or “entailed attributes” is not ʿaqida in itself and nor of a specifically religious character, but labels and categories that explain certain discussion in ʿaqida and present it as a codified and systematic science. This is simply an organic development that all sciences experience.

Another point linked to this is the manner in which Islam spread and interacted with other systems of thought, such as Greek philosophy. Scholars undertook the task of evaluating and critiquing these systems, such as Imam al Ghazali in three of his famous works: Maqasid al Falasifa, Mahak al Nazar, Tahafut al Falasifa.

The scholars of kalam formulated principles, detailed proofs and arguments, etc. in order to eradicate erroneous and misguided ideas and return creed to its pristine state. Therefore, this science not only explained ʿaqida, but acted a barrier preventing corrupt ideas from infiltrating it.

How Does Islamic ʿAqida Distinguish Itself from other Creeds?

The ways in which the ʿaqida of Islam sets itself apart from other creeds and belief systems are as follows:

  1. The ʿaqida of Islam is from God and His messenger.
  2. The ʿaqida of Islam is tawfiqi, i.e. it does not accept abrogation, change, alteration, and so forth. Rather, the ʿaqida taught by the Prophet, blessings upon him, is the same one that the Salaf believed in and the one that Muslims continue to accept up until today.
  3. The ʿaqida of Islam accords with the primordial nature (fitra) of people. For this reason, when a Muslim speaks about the ʿaqida of Islam, it is done with two sources of influence and authority: one external and one internal. The external relates to strength of proof and rational/textual evidence, while the internal relates to the primordial nature of human beings.
  4. The ʿaqida of Islam does not contradict sound reason or intellect. The oft-repeated statement that the Muʿtazila were misguided because they arbitrated on the basis of reason and the intellect is not correct. Rather, if they had utilized these sources in a sound manner, they would not have been misguided.
  5. The ʿaqida of Islam is simple and clear.
  6. The ʿaqida of Islam connects a person to His creator without intermediary.
  7. The ʿaqida of Islam contains no contradictions. Perceived contradictions are the result of a lack of understanding. Sometimes, a point of ʿaqida may bewilder the mind, but it is never something the intellect deems rationally impossible. Thus, the intellect deems the throne of God and angels as rationally possible even though it is not able to fully comprehend their reality.
  8. The ʿaqida of Islam is a comprehensive creed for all times, peoples, and places.
  9. The ʿaqida of Islam is suitable for all times, peoples, and places.
  10. The ʿaqida of Islam is a moderate creed occupying a middle ground between extremes. It is neither a dry rational creed nor one grounded in emotional sentimentality. Rather, it appeals to both the heart and mind.
  11. The ʿaqida of Islam is the foundation of personal and communal well-being, righteous action, and rectification. This is why many prophetic traditions begin with, “Whosoever believes in God and the Last Day…” These good deeds and traits are the fruit of sound belief.

Why Study the Science of ʿAqida?

Not understanding the reasons underpinning the need to study a particular science often entails devaluing that science and not engaging it properly. There are a number of reasons why we should engage in the study of the science of ʿaqida.

  1. To present ʿaqida in a clear, scholarly, and systematic manner. This safeguards people from erroneous beliefs that may be unknowingly adopted in a context where ʿaqida is learnt organically in a general fashion. Such a presentation of ʿaqida also establishes it as a science with defined beginning, middle, and end stages that students can gradually progress through.
  2. To support points of ʿaqida with proofs and arguments that helps prevent doubts from affecting our faith.
  3. To strengthen and make firm our ʿaqida against refutations that are mounted against it. This is especially true in an age where even the most fundamental axioms that ʿaqida is premised upon are subjected to doubt, such as the impossibility of infinite regress. Here, it is a communal obligation to produce scholars who possess the knowledge and ability to fend off such doubts from the community at large and safeguard the faith of people.
  4. The science of ʿaqida allows us to possess belief that is sound, which is a prerequisite for felicity in the next-life. Through sound belief, one is able to properly conceptualize the world and the purpose of existence.
  5. The science of ʿaqida places an individual in a state of tranquility and peace with the condition that one possess a real connection to God.

How Does One Study ʿAqida?

The default is that every individual is responsible for studying ʿaqida. However, ʿaqida is presented to people based on their respective abilities and preparedness. Therefore, there is no one way of teaching ʿaqida to people. In terms of teaching people ʿaqida, learners fall into the following categories:

Young Children. ʿAqida is taught to them by constantly repeating basic creedal points, such as God is one, God is powerful, God gives us everything, etc., so that these ideas become embedded in their minds. When a child asks a question, he or she should be provided with a clear, simple, and sound answer. Children may not fully comprehend a particular idea, but they do retain it, and many of the ideas they retain at a young age are treated as axiomatic by them when they grow older.

The general laity. They are taught ʿaqida as a general expression of creedal doctrine without detailed and technical discussions. This should be taught to them not on the basis of creedal texts or the terminology of kalam, which the laity are not obliged to know, but rather through tafsir, sira, Qur’anic verses, and hadith using clear but non-technical language.

Well-educated people who are not ʿaqida specialists. They are taught ʿaqida in a general sense and also gradually exposed to some of the more detailed discussions relating to creed. However, these discussions are not presented to them in the manner that it would be to a person seeking specialization. Further, such people are provided answers to doubts – actual and potential – raised against Islamic ʿaqida. In this context, they are taught what is relevant to them in their own time and place, i.e. discussions on atheism, for example, as opposed to the Muʿtazila.

Students who are specialists. Those who are specializing in ʿaqida are required to study everything related to the science. This includes a comprehensive syllabus of classical texts – both early and later –, as well as past and modern ideologies and sects.

A Note to Students of ‘Aqida

Students who are specializing in this science must raise the bar. They should not suffice with intermediary works but eventually dive into the more advanced and principal works of the science after mastering the tools needed to access and understand them.

We must strengthen our aptitude and grasp of the evidence underpinning ʿaqida so that it may be furnished to people appropriately on the basis of their respective abilities and preparedness.

We must understand the period we are living in to present a more contemporary ʿaqida discourse that is suitable and appropriate to today’s culture and environment.

We must be aware of modern ideologies and sects, as well as the doubts raised against Islam, and formulate sound responses to them.

And God knows best.

Hassan al Hindi


This post is based on notes from a lecture in Arabic by Shaykh Hassan al Hindi. The notes were made and translated into English by Ustadh Salman Younas.


ONLINE COURSE: Ladder of Light to the True Sciences

SeekersHub Global is pleased to support Dr Mustafa Styer’s course in classical logic, based on the didactic poem al-Sullam al-Munawraq. Organised by Ha Meem College in the United Kingdom, open to all globally. Register now.

Start date: Sunday, Oct 1st 2017 (15 weeks course)

Time: Sundays at UK (BST) 11 AM, US (CT) -6 hrs, Au (AEST) +9 hrs (subject to daylight savings changes).

Duration: 2 hrs (2 50 min lessons with 20 min break)

Who: All beginner adults welcome

This course is especially relevant for homeschoolers and those wishing to gain confidence in this aspect of the Trivium in English. The lasting relevance of traditional logic as the only realist methodology of the sciences and of learning will be introduced.

Background and context to this course

This course will teach traditional logic in English in an interactive manner aiming to convey confidence in application of logic in simple settings. It will treat logic as one of the liberal arts and trivium and a means for assessing arguments, analysing texts, and producing and ordering knowledge. It will re-position logic within the modern context, but also in the sophisticated discussions of classical Islam rather than in a defensive reformer discourse. A balanced view of logic will be presented which holds that it provide the rules for the unique human faculty by which mankind was worthy of religious obligation: the intellect. However, it acknowledges some scholars stated that holding logic to be the only means to knowledge effectively blocks the higher faculty of the spirit (ruh).

In this context, this text will be taught as a introduction to the science of logic and as a key to further study of commentaries on the Isaghuji, Tahdhib, and Shamsiyya which contain the further tools for applying logic in sophisticated scientific and metaphysical contexts needed to operationalise and take classical disciplines off the shelf and make them a reality and move beyond scientism and nominalism. The course will introduce how the traditional science of logic clarifies misnomers such as distinctions between fact and theory and subject and objective taught in modern education.

This course is designed to empower parents and mature students to operate the classical disciplines in English or to pave the way to seekers of knowledge, especially those who wish to translate classical Islamic knowledge into English, for instance to refute New Atheism and atheism whose arguments are in fact full of logical fallacies or reach out to English audiences.

This core skills of introductory, traditional logic are the method of forming definitions and assembling (or analysing) valid arguments. In addition to teaching these, this course will explain the link between terms and concepts from a realist—as opposed to nominalist or scientistic reductivist—perspective. The traditional understanding of abstraction which explains the relation between particulars and universals—the so-called ‘problem of universals’—will be used to clarify this point.

Future courses will go further into material logic (including epistemology and necessary metaphysics for handling questions in the subject disciplines) and the role of logic in determining the internal organisation of the sciences.

Islamic Logic: Bring Order and Clarity to Your Religious Reasoning

An Introduction to Islamic Logic: Abhari’s Isagoge Explained

Have you ever had trouble arguing for your Faith? Have you ever wished you knew of a better way to clarify what others might find obscure in Islam?

About the course

Islamic Logic is an ancillary science, the main purpose of which is to
• protect Muslim scholars, students and laymen from mistakes in reasoning
• analyze anti-religious arguments in order to show their falsehood
• construct arguments to vindicate the tenets of faith of Sunni Islam

About the teacher

Shaykh Hamza Karamali joined the SeekersHub Global teaching faculty in 2016. This will be his first course with SeekersHub. You can read more about him here.
We are very excited about this new course. We think you should be, too. Sign up now.
If you’re not quite ready to jump into Islamic Logic, we have loads of other courses for you to take a look at. Check out the course catalog.

AUDIO: The Ornamented Ladder into the Science of Logic

Al-AkhdariThe Ornamented Ladder into the Science of Logic (“Al-Sullam Al-Munawraq”) is a highly popular didactic poem by Imam ʻAbd al-Rahman al-Akhdari (1514 – 1546). Shaykh Ahmed Saad Al-Azhari, Founder and Director of the Ihsan Institute has made a full recording for students of knowledge who are striving to memorise this text.

The 144-line poem outlines the principles of Aristotelian logic and explains how logic could be used to support the Islamic creed (‘aqidah) and jurisprudence (fiqh). The work is studied across the Muslim world as a primer on logic and is often read in conjunction with al-Akhdari’s own prose commentary.

 

Resources for seekers:

Islam’s Rational Monotheism – The Humble “I”

Islam’s Rational Monotheism – The Humble “I”

oxforduni

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad explains: ‘In the Western milieu, converts to Islam claim that they are attracted to what they regard as its clear, rationally-accessible teachings, unobscured by elaborate mysteries. It is not only insiders who wish to take this view. Non-Muslim academic accounts … now frequently draw attention to the central role of reason in Islamic theology.’1

He quotes Leaman in his The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia, saying: ‘The Qur’an does indeed display an unusual commitment to argument and logic in its self-explanation.’2

Earlier in the same volume, Leaman says that whereas Judaism is strongly linked with ethnicity, and Christianity with a leap of faith, Islam, in stark contrast, has successfully grown by stressing its rationality and evidentiality.3

With that being said, let us now consider a few examples of how the Qur’an employs a universal rationalist discourse – especially as it relates to its theology and its invitation to monotheism:

1. One of its rational arguments confronts atheism. Here the Qur’an interrogates the belief of atheists by asking: Were they created out of nothing, or were they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? No, they have no certainty [52:35-6] So either we created ourselves, which is inconceivable. Or we were created out of nothing: another impossibility. Logic just leaves us a third possibility: we were created by a creator. This simple argument does not only posit a creator, but given the remarkable diversity and complexity of life and the universe, this creator must possess will, power, wisdom and intent. That is, creation must have a wise, intelligent and purposeful Designer.

One detects the sheer eloquence and potency of the original Arabic (undoubtedly, lost in translation) in the conversion story of Jubayr b. Mut‘im. He says that he once heard the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recite the chapter containing this verse during the sunset prayer. When he reached the actual verse, Jubayr said, kada qalbi an yatir – ‘I felt as if my heart would fly out [of my chest].’ He then went on to embrace Islam.4

2. Another logical argument the Qur’an uses is: Have you not heard of he [Nimrod] who argued with Abraham about his Lord, because God had given him the kingdom? Abraham said: ‘My Lord is He who gives life and death.’ He replied: ‘I give life [by sparing people] and death [by executing them]!’ So Abraham replied: ‘God causes the sun to rise from the east, so cause it to come from the west!’ Thus was the disbeliever confounded. [2:258]

Nimrod initially feels smug in his response to Abraham that he too has power over the life and death of his subjects. Hence, having seen the way Nimrod is prepared to twist the issue, Abraham takes the argument to another level by challenging him to alter the movement of the sun as it courses through the sky. Nimrod is silenced; stupefied; his pretences shattered; and he is made to realise that divinity can’t be claimed merely by having sovereign power over a people in some tiny corner of God’s earth.

3. In addressing the Christian claim of Jesus’ divinity, the Qur’an says: The Messiah son of Mary was no more than a Messenger, before whom other Messengers had passed away. His mother was a saintly woman. They both ate food. See how We make the signs clear for them; then see how they are deluded from the truth. [5:75]

The ordinary human life which Christ lived has troubled those who wish to make him into a deity, in spite of evidences to the contrary in the Gospels. The Qur’an’s logic is clear. Food is eaten to satisfy an unquestionable physical need. Whoever needs to eat earthly food cannot, therefore, be a true deity possessing absolute perfection and thus be worthy of worship. The saintly Mary and her son, Jesus, both ate; thus they cannot be divine.

In fact, based on the likes of this verse, kalam theologians went on to rationally define a true deity, or ilah, as: ‘One who is independant of all needs beyond Himself, while all else is totally in need of Him (mustaghni ‘an kulli ma siwahu wa muftaqir ilayhi kulli ma ‘adahu). Now, this is less a definition of ilah – which has been unanimously defined as al-ma’bud, or “that which is worshipped” – as it is the least common denominator that would rationally qualify something to be worthy of being the true deity.5

As for condemning the attitude which deifies Jesus – see how they are deluded from the truth – can this be a justification for Muslims to not respect the beliefs of others? Well that all depends upon how we define respect. Respect can mean to admire, honour or approve of a thing. It may also be used in the sense of being polite, civil, courteous and considerate. If a belief is blasphemous or idolatrous (which for both Jews and Muslims Jesus’s alleged divinity is), it is inconceivable that believers could respect it in the sense of honouring, admiring or approving it. If, on the other hand, respect refers to a call to tolerate other peoples’ beliefs with civility, courtesy and dignified engagement, whilst remembering faith must be freely chosen, for: There is no compulsion in religion [2:256], then this must surely be the mandate.

We may not respect a particular belief, but we must be respectful of those who hold it. Call to the way of your Lord, asks the Qur’an, with wisdom and beautiful exhortation, and reason with them in the most courteous manner. [16:125] And speak kindly to people [2:83] is another Quranic prescription.

4. The Qur’an utilises the “logic of Lordship” to expose to the pagan Arabs or mushriks, the folly of idolatory – of worshipping gods alongside the One true God. It says: If you were to ask them: ‘Who is it that created the heavens and earth, and subjected the sun and the moon?’ they will say: ‘God!’ Why then are they lying. [29:61] Another verse asserts: Say: ‘Who is it that provides for you from the sky and the earth? Or who is it that has power over hearing and sight? Or who is it that brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living?And who is it that directs all affairs?’ They will say: ‘God!’ Then say: ‘Will you not then fear Him?’ [10:31]

Thus, having affirmed the role of God as sole Lord, Creator and Sustainer, the Qur’an demands that the pagan Arabs take the logic of this Lordship to its logical conclusion: that nothing else must be worshipped besides God. Ibn Kathir wrote: ‘The pagans who worshipped others along with Him affirmed that God is the sole, autonomous creator of the heavens and earth, sun and moon, alternating night and day; and that He alone is the Creator and Provider of His servants, meting out for them their livelihoods and life spans … Despite this being so, why worship others, or depend on others? For just as dominion and sovereignty is exclusively His, then likewise, He alone deserves to be worshipped.’6

5. One final example of Islam’s rational invitation: Hasn’t man seen that We created him from a drop of sperm, then he becomes an open opponent? And he makes comparisons for Us, and forgets his own creation, saying: ‘Who can revive dry bones after they have rotted away?’ Say: ‘He who created them the first time will again give them life!’ [36:77-79] The Qur’an is eager to demonstrate the plausibility of the resurrection to many of the Arab idolators who rejected the notion, by simply reminding them of “the first creation” of man. The fact that every individual has been brought into existence once before by the Creative Will of God, should be proof in itself that the same Creative Will is capable of doing so a second time: Do they not consider how God begins creation, then repeates it? That is easy for God! [29:19]

The Qur’an also alludes to how the phenomenon of resurrection is actually prefigured in this world. “Mini-resurrections” take place all the time in the natural world: flowers and foliage die partial deaths in winter, only to be brought to life again in spring.

The Qur’an also gives the simile of a desert whose scorched dead earth springs to lush green life with each merciful drop of rain: He it is who sends the winds as glad-tidings to herald His mercy, till, when they bear a cloud heavy with rain, We drive them to a dead land and then cause the rain to descend, thereby bringing forth fruits of every kind. Thus shall We raise up the dead. Perhaps you will remember. [7:57]

The above are some instances of how the Qur’an uses a rational discourse to vindicate its key theological truths, without having to revert to a circular argument (i.e. it is true because the Qur’an says so). So whilst the Qur’an does insist upon it being the revealed truth and the Word of God, and that it should be accepted as such, it permits a defence to be made of itself and its core metaphysical claims based on rational arguments and sound reasoning. As for how the Qur’an vindicates itself, that shall be the concern of a future posting; God-willing.

1. Reason as Balance: The Evolution of ‘Aql (CMS Paper No.3), 2, which may be found at http://www.cambridgemuslimcollege.org – drawing from Anne-Sophie Roald, New Muslims in the European Context (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2004), 116-24.

2. Leaman, The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia (London: Routledge, 2008), 65.

3. ibid., 55.

4. Al-Bukhari, no.4573; Muslim, no.463.

5. Al-Bayjuri, Tuhfat al-Murid ‘ala Jawharat al-Tawhid (Cairo: Dar al-Salam, 2006), 208. The salaf-based definition of ilah is: ma‘bud – “that which is deified” and also mustahiqq li’l-‘ibadah – “that which deserves to be worshipped.” See: al-Qurtubi, al-Jami‘ li Ahkam al-Qur’an (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1996), 2:128; al-Suyuti, Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Riyadh: Dar al-Salam, 2002), 33; al-Raghib, Mufradat Alfaz al-Qur’an (Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, 2002), 82.

6. Tafsir Qur’an al-‘Azim (Beirut: Dar al-Ma‘rifah, 1987), 3:431.