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Monotheism 2 – Sources Of Knowledge About God

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Jamal Badawi

Channel: Jamal Badawi

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Episode Transcript

© No part of this transcript may be copied or referenced or transmitted in any way whatsoever. Transcripts are auto-generated and thus will be be inaccurate. We are working on a system to allow volunteers to edit transcripts in a controlled system.


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Salam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, and peace be upon you all.

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Welcome to this new episode of Islam in focus. I am your host, Muhammad Hussain Hosni, and this will be the second of our series of episodes on Islamic teachings and the Islamic presets. Today's episode will deal with God, capital G. In Islam, his attribute is essence and so on. Our guest today on the program is Dr. Jamal Weatherly, Salaam Alaikum aficionados, and welcome to the program.

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I was wondering maybe to start with, if you could summarize for us the

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basic ideas that were involved in the first episode of this program that may bear

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importance or bear

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on the ideas that will be propagated today. Should I say I would say that there are five basic points that I think should be remembered again, I just say them very briefly. First, we try to clarify last time that to connect Muslims with herbs is a mistake. Not every Muslim is an Arab. And not every Arab is a Muslim, or too tight even with the Middle East at large, because the Muslim population is close to 1 billion in all kinds of countries in all places in the world. And the Arabs are actually a small minority among the Muslims. The second main point was that the whole notion of religion as understood by the Muslim is that it is not just a matter that's restricted to the basic

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rituals, or religious observances, but rather an all encompassing concept, a way of life that includes the social, economic, as well as the political aspects of life, life is all integrated. That was the second. The third main point that was discussed is the meaning of the term Islam itself, which we said that Islam is an attributive title that is, it is not just a name that is derived from a person or place or locality, but a name that carries within itself the meaning of Islam. And we said that the word Islam means in Arabic, to achieve inner peace and peace from without peace and community and in the world at large, by submitting oneself to the will of God and

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obedience of his command. Within this kind of basic definition of a Muslim or Islam, in a sense of following the path of God. We said that all prophets throughout history, not only Mohammed, did actually preach the same kind of basic Islam, and that it was simply culminated or fulfilled and completed with the advent of Prophet Mohammed. And we concluded from that, not only that Mohammed and Islam is mistaken and offensive name for Islam, but the fact that all prophets are brothers in that sense, and the those who sincerely follow them are also regarded as following the same basic path of Islam. They

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the first point we looked into Is this the definition of a Muslim and we said, based on the definition of Islam, we can simply say that a Muslim is one who committed himself or herself to live in accordance with the teachings commands and guidance of God as derived from from Revelation. It's not just a title that somebody claim or pay lip service, a true Muslim is one who follows the path of Islam. The fifth and final point that might have some bearing here is that we said that this universal outlook of Islam, towards prophets towards other followers of other faiths would provide a very good foundation and very good beginning

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to remove or demolish the barriers of fanaticism, prejudice and stereotypes which are sometimes propagated by mistaken sources which does not present

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the Islamic faith in its true perspective. And this will provide a more hopefully cooperation between various people following different prophets who are Muslims to us,

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for the good of all.

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Now, back to the topic of the day, which is God, capital G.

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In Islam, the first philosophical issue that is raised in this respect is

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How does a man with his limited capability come to know Allah the concept of gnosis? How do we know Allah, what faculties are used in the knowledge and what sources are used

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to reach a full knowledge of our life?

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What To start with, sometimes you don't really have to go too far, to get some basic, insightful knowledge and information,

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not only about God, but also about other things.

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I'll give you an example of this.

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When we talk about human nature,

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as the pure, innate human nature, that is, a human being is created with this natural, pure disposition to realize his creator. I'm not talking now about science, I'm not talking about prophets, Revelation, even on the very fundamental level, we find that throughout history, there is a very strange phenomena, that people of different backgrounds, living in so many different parts of the world at different points of time, they have always had this strong errors within themselves, to look and to yearn for the Creator, they see that there's some power, omnipotent merciful,

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power provider,

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transcendent, they try to interpret because maybe sometimes with in a mistaken way, by materializing God in some form or other but the basic yearning has always been there been been there. Even in the cases where you have

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places where there is no recorded history of a particular prophet who was raised in this area, that's what I refer to as an innate nature. The Arabic term agonist I'm sorry, not very translated, but simply say spectra. sutra literally means something that one is created with, or created in accordance with. Just to give you an example of this is one verse in the Quran, passage says, set your face steadily and truly, to the natural face, not as the natural face. It's nothing, concocted doctrines, natural says, established by God's God's handiwork according to the pattern he has made mankind, no change in the creation of Allah, or God, capital G. That is the standard religion but

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most among mankind understand not. That's why you find the Quran when it says or relates the story of Prophet Abraham, when his people deviated from the worship of the one God, and He simply addresses them and this is a word in the Quran says, as Elijah, is there any doubt about God? In other words, he's not. He's not trying to provide the equations and all kinds of massive prophecy. If you really think about it, honestly, is there any doubt about the existence or presence of God instinctively, even or let's say in Italy?

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The other thing that is quite observable also, it has been shown over and over again, that even those who are atheist those who reject God, at some time or the other when they're really in difficulty, they remember that you might have seen Yeah, right, for example, that I think about what happened to people in the Second World War, somebody who was an atheist or doesn't believe in God or, or just the person who doesn't believe period.

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Dropping with a parachute, the parachute doesn't open it. Oh, my God. Why did you remember that? Now, that shows again, there's something even despite of you, even though many of us in our own human experience, sometimes a person gets sick, and he's really suffering or in pain, oh, if I'm just cured, I try to be better, I'll be good. But of course, once he gets over that he forgets it. And that's why the Quran also analyze this weakness and human nature. For example, in one, one verse,

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it says, basically, that when people go on ship, and then there is a problem, and the ship is about to sink, all of a sudden, they remember and they pray to God to save them, once they get to shore, forget it. So this is the kind of, like I say, indirect proof from our nature, as humans that we know God. Finally, I should say also that something else could be very relevant here. I derive that also from the Quran. The Quran tells us that beyond this basic knowledge of the existence of the Creator, that

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a person is inspired, in a way the basic knowledge of right and wrong, like one passage in the Quran, it says one x in one so we're half and a half Fujiwara hosaka, that God has fashioned this soul and he inspired into it, the fundamental knowledge of right and wrong I know this knowledge of course, could be perverted as because of the influence of personal reasons or other social pressure. So a human being by his nature, in his purity or her purity. recognize some of these and this to me are quite

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legitimate sources of information, it's not scientific in the sense that you can put it in a test tube. But it's so common and one cannot really overlook it as I close my eyes because this doesn't sound like you know, I'm glad you raised the point of scientific now does the instinctive way of knowing Allah or or reaching you know this of Allah contradict

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the intellectual exercise that may be followed, right? Because sometimes you hear people talking about like intellect is the enemy of face or a challenge to face or sometimes people might believe that face requires that the one closest is mind boggling thing just accept things so that because he doesn't he's not capable of fully understanding? No, I don't think there's there's any contradictions, not only intellect, I'd say even in general, all human faculties,

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senses, including also, as one of the faculties intellect, are part and parcel of the whole process of seeking the truth. None of this might be by itself sufficient, and perhaps we'll get into that. But on the whole, they are not really in contradiction. In fact, I would say even more positively, that from a Muslim point of view, one of the main things that

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make the human being distinct, one of the basic blessings that is given by God, to make him different from animals, because animals also can think but they don't have intellect, that question of intellect. So it's not it's it's a god given gift or blessing. How could we interpret that as a challenge, or contrary or the antithesis of faith, this doesn't really stand. On the other hand, we can say also that the use of intellect and human Socrates in general, indeed could be in itself, a source of knowledge, a source of reinforcing the face and making sure that the person really is on the on the right track. You see, even in the areas of beliefs, where most people would say beliefs

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is not something really that you can apply the normal human reasoning, yes, human reasoning might be short of it, but it's not useless. Not at all. In fact, the Quran even addresses people who did not use their minds. And in many of the passages in the Quran, the appeal is made for us to utilize our mind, if we use it in the right way, again, trying to get into our basic in its pure nature, we would be able to discover the truth. So even the matter of belief is not just a kind of dogmatic presentation that this is, you know how he says, you know, you should look at it, don't think about it, accept it, just by faith, because intellect also could be a strong foundation for a firmer

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type of faith. If I may use some specific examples of that we don't just talk in generalities. If you check the Quran, for example, at least the way I classify him my understanding of this area that implores the human being, to search for truth, the search for knowledge of God, or about God, I should say, on three basic levels, interrelated levels, by looking into oneself,

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by looking into the environments in which one is living. And by looking into the total universe, the cosmos, if you will, as a whole, I'll give you examples of each on the personal or individual level. One doesn't have to go too far to realize that God does exist. Just look into yourself.

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You don't have to be a scientist. Of course, if you're a scientist, you appreciate more. You know, how come the whole body is made out of cells, one cell becomes a cell for site one becomes for hearing one, amazing how does the brain operate? the circulatory system, the digestive system, the nervous system, such coordination and beauty that shows that these things did not simply come in a haphazard way there must have been a deliberate design before so you want to find out about God, look at yourself, you don't have to go too far. And that's why it's called the Quran it says what he unphysical flr. That is, in the look, by looking into your cells, even you will find evidence that

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is to the presence and the powers of God. In one verse even it says, didn't they think or reflect or do they not think or reflect in their own minds, or in their own selves in our world.

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In fact, like I said, the not only looking into the whole body, if one really

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divorce himself from any prejudice caused by any particular pressure one way or the other, or worship of science as the ultimate thing. If one utilizes science in the proper way, you don't have to look into the hole, but you just start analyzing one single organ and see how it works. Like some scientists will tell you that in order to duplicate the digestive system, you'd have the

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Such a huge laboratory. And still it doesn't operate as efficiently as your stomach, you get acid in your stomach that could even affect metals erode methods, but it doesn't hurt you still digest the food but doesn't hurt you. Is that can that be haphazard? If that's one aspect of that is regarded as something that developed by chance, with everything else falling in line pieces put together by chance. So the question is really totally unfair to judge it this way. If you want to go beyond yourself to find further evidence, the Quran also implore people to consider and to think,

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take one aspect that many people think about today as very fashionable, like the ecological balance, for example, many people will take that as a very clear evidence again, that there is a design in this universe, vegetation, as it relates to animal life, the human life, the various atmospheric

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covers or layers that you have, everything is put together to sustain the human life. Now, this, like I said, looks fashionable. But if you really look into the Quran, you find that there's mentioned to that also, there's some hints into that. In one verse in the Quran, it says, wahala kakula, say in satara, hotaka, that God created everything.

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In exact proportion. This is a very important term in exact proportion. It's not just that he created, that there is a deliberate design, of putting all of these things together, one verse in the Quran, for example, transmission of meaning, it says, glory to God, who created everything in pairs are created in pairs, all things, that that is on Earth, or that the earth produces as well as their own mankind and other things, which they have no knowledge of. And another verse in the Quran also, when it appears to people to look into the whole scheme of creation, it says, word, they're created from nothing, or are they creators, nobody claims that he's created from nothing, nor can he

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create that he claimed that he is a creator or the Creator, then diverse countries, or they create the heavens and earth, nobody claims that then it says, Nay, but they see not. So the site is there, but whether we apply it in the right place in the proper way or not, that makes a difference. And finally, if you if you move into the, what I call the third circle, not just looking at ourselves, or the environment around us, but looking into the whole cosmic order, again, that is designed the planet, the solar system, the way everything's coordinated, the distance between the Sun and the air, which if it increases too much, it might burn everything gets if it goes too far, everything

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would freeze is deliberate thing, the succession of day and night, the, the, the circulation or changes of seasons, which has very important relevance to the lives of the people to vegetations, to animal life, all of this beautiful things that we are in the universe that we look at it with great admiration, definitely shows that there is design behind it, there is a designer also or creator behind it.

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Like one verse in the Quran implore us, in particular in this area, and it says had they not reflected on the domain of heavens and earth, and what Allah created there in. In another verse, it says, also,

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again, that just the position of meaning law, in the creation of heavens and earth, and then the succession of day and night, there are certainly Signs for those who reflect those who remember God's standing, setting and declining and ponder or reflect on the creation of heavens and earth, saying, Our Lord, you have not created this in vain. Glory be to You. So save us from the hellfire. The Quran is replete this around the examples of how even like I said earlier in the area of beliefs which most people take as dogmas, the utilization of human senses, the Quran uses Didn't they see that in the haze? Didn't they think Didn't they deflect all of these are integrated and regarded as

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a valuable source of knowledge, even about beliefs provided? Again, it's used in the proper framework. Now

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is there any contradiction again, between the concept of using one's own intellect to arrive at a pure and correct knowledge of truth and the essence of Allah? And the way which we're all familiar with, which is that of revelation that terms is revelation commensurate with that path or is a contradictory? Yeah, I from the Muslim point of view, definitely it's commensurate there is no problem whatsoever with this. Because even though we said that the the human

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Nature, the pure nature is a source of information or pondering in the universe is a source of knowledge. It's useful, but it's not perfect. In fact, that's not perfect again, does not make it useless.

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There are a number of reasons for that, that makes us in need as humans for additional guidance through direct revelation. We talked, for example, about the pure human natural disposition, or fitrah, as they call it. Now, the this human feelings or natural disposition could also be, like I said, perverted under pressure under indoctrination in one side, one side or the other, which might make it not really operating in the proper direction. That's why you find many people following so many cults, they say, Oh, that's great. I found that way. Why did I feel good? Okay, feeling good is one criteria. That's not the whole criteria, one could be feeling very good also, but for the wrong

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reason or in the wrong path. So there's still some shortcoming in this. And talking about the senses, intellect, or knowledge. I think anyone, even a person who does not believe in God would admit readily that our senses are limited, our perception is limited our sight hearing, we know that. Also, we know that our perception could also be deceived, or could could deceive us.

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If you put a pen in a glass of water, you see it's crooked, or at least cut or broken, because the light deflection as a principle, and when you're the very well known phenomena of people traveling in the desert, or at least even in hotter areas, that you see in front of you as if there is a lake or puddle of water on the Mirage, but actually, it does not exist. But at the time we see it, it's a reality to us. So our perception very is very useful. However, it still falls short of getting to know everything. On the other hand, science would be okay, it's fine. science can resolve many issues and problems that are purely scientific, that are purely technical. science can tell me for

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sure how to use technology, for example, to communicate sounds, and textures. And this is, can be determined solely by science. However, there are many aspects in the lives of people beyond science. Also, there is the moral aspects, there is the ethical standards, there is the application of the fundamental principle of good and bad that we said it's instinctive, but still, it needs some modifications in some implementation. And we know from history that people have always had differences as to what exactly defines the proper ethical or moral standard. In order to resolve that problem, there must be a higher authority, God Himself, telling us and providing us with stable

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standards of ethic, ethics, or morality within which we can interpret various details. And finally, and perhaps this is,

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in my mind, the most important reason is that we know that knowledge is not only limited to science, or books or perception.

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And we know that there are certain aspects of knowledge, legitimate knowledge, which does not lend itself to any of those tools.

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Examples, take the knowledge of the unseen what happened in the past, before history was recorded. If you wanted to get any information on that there is no recorded history, or at least there's dispute about recorded history. Revelation can tell you what, for example, the stories of previous prophets what they said, what was the message,

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there are issues that no matter how much you use your mind, you're not able to arrive at a final conclusion. example of that would be,

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let's say knowledge about God, you can feel the presence of God, you can see some of the attributes of God, but you can't have full knowledge without having a prophet or messenger, receiving that revelation from God and communicating to us. So in that sense, then I don't see contradiction. Actually, they all supplement each other, they have to be used simply in the proper context framework of our framework.

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Now back to God, capital jeans.

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Do the Muslims in general have a special term or a special name? For God? Or do they just use the word God? No, ha, they are the proper terminology used in Islam, for God is Allah. Al l. h. h, Allah? Is that a reason for having a special? Yes, there's a number of reasons. In fact, first of all, the term Allah in Arabic means the one and only universal God are creators, providers of the universe, not this year. I emphasize the one and only so a Muslim would not simply say there is one God

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that would not be as accurate or as strong expression, a single v one and on the Gulf and the meaning. The main points to be emphasized here is that, unfortunately, again, many of the writing that you find

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In various libraries in the West, various places, which are not listed from Muslim standpoint are how we can understand Islam. they detect a law as if it's something like of a tribe and Arabian gods or even the gods of Muslims. For example, say Mohammed worship is allowed worship Allah, Muslim worship, or worship Allah. Even if they say Allah also means that they put it in such a way that leaves the reader or audience with the impression that maybe it's not exactly the same thing for a Christian or different company, is it really, you know, the same kind of thing that he's talking about. But there is, like I said earlier, for considering the term Allah is more accurate. First is

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that Allah is not only just a meaning of God, a meaning it's also a personal name of our lives, both reference to God and His personal name. And this is beautiful, in a sense, because I say, God, you can, you can as well say, Lord, but when you say Allah, you're invoking the name, the person and name of the exact person and then they establish some kind of personal touch, and or rapport between the human being and the Creator. The other thing that I consider also relevant is that the term Allah in Arabic is not subject to plurality, for example, in English, you could have God, and you could also have Gods fluent in Arabic, there's nothing that's equivalent to us, none whatsoever. In

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other words, there is not a lot, for example, and that emphasizes the purity of Islamic monotheism. A third reason, I think, would be quite interesting. Also, interesting enough, the term Allah doesn't lend itself to any gender. In other words, there is no female or male genders for the term Allah. For example, in English, you can have gods and Goddess, or goddesses. In Arabic, this doesn't exist, simply, which shows that that term is a lot more accurately than using the term God, even if you use capital G, it's at least relatively more accurate in conveying the true nature of,

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you know, supreme supreme faces. So this taking together then would actually make me ask him, I said, even Why am I using the term God? Or why did they use it even in previous programs that I would say that, at least for the purpose of communication, especially in the initial parts of the of the programs, perhaps we had to use that. But having explained why the term is familiar, so maybe From now on, I'll try to use at least both, if not the term a lot, which is more accurate. He went and only got a doctor, by the way, who only got one minute left in the program. We thank you very much again for elucidating as some of the basic concepts regarding the Godhead in Islam.

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We hope that next time we'll be will pursue that identicals we still have several topics and several questions to ask from that score. And we hope that you will join us next time. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for being with us today. And we hope that you will be will be with us next week on the following episode where we will be treating the continuing topic of godhood in Islam, as well as a preamble to the precepts of monotheism. Thank you very much and the Solomonic mosque.