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Monotheism 3 – Analysis Of Creedal Formula
Channel: Jamal Badawi
Series: Jamal Badawi - Monotheism
File Size: 6.99MB
Episode Transcript ©
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Salam Alaikum Peace be upon you ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to another episode of Islamic focus. This is going to be the third in our series on Islamic beliefs and Islamic teachings. And our guest today is Dr. Jamal Badawi from St. Mary's University. And he will cover the second part on the concept of God capital G in Islam, Salaam Alaikum. Janelle, and welcome to our program. I was wondering if we could start by recapping very quickly introducing our subject by giving the main points of our last program. As they link to today's issues.
There were basically two main issues that we discussed last time, one dealt with the basic sources of knowledge about God or about beliefs in general. And the second was the Slavic term for God, capital G.
The first issue was the one that we spent most of the time on. And basically, we said, according to Islam, there are three basic sources of knowledge, cetera or the innate pure nature, the use of human faculties and Revelation, on the question of sutra and Arabic, which like I said, roughly means the pure, universal, natural disposition of the human. We said that basically, this is a kind of built in spirituality that is inherent with the creation of the human, that the person has this basic nature of recognizing the presence of God,
having the basic distinction between good and evil, and also have the feeling to turn to God at the time of need, distress, or danger.
Secondly, we discuss the use of human faculties as source of knowledge, which includes both sensory as well as intellectual. And we have given various examples from the Quran that shows that in Islam, there is no contradiction really, between faith and reason. That, in fact, reason and the use of intellect could be a very strong tool to strengthen and inculcate faith in the human being. And then we discuss various quotations from the Quran on various levels, where the Quran implores the human, to look into themselves, like the functioning of the human body, looking into the environment and see the delicate ecological balance and looking into the entire universe also, and its creation. And
we said that this kind of coordinated and balanced scheme of creation, according to Islam is the most profound evidence of the existence of God, and the most obvious manifestation of his divine attributes. We added, however, that this two sources of of knowledge in themselves may not be sufficient without divine guidance, because our pure and innate natural disposition might be be clouded because of personal weakness, social pressures, or other historical forces. And so I also our human faculties and reason are at times limited, they're not absolute, they are not perfect, and at times, they are myopic.
So we said Finally, that humanity needs divine revelation, this will be very important to resolve issues that human being can never set the like what is ethical and moral, it would help also acquires the type or category of knowledge, which could never be obtained by the use of conventional scientific methods. And these are things like the knowledge of the unseen knowledge about the attributes of God about the purpose of creation, about the nature of life after that. And finally, in the second issue, we were discussing the basic term used in Islam, about to express God capital G. And we said that the Arabic term is Allah, Al l h, and said that this simply means the one and
only universal god of humanity of all time to emphasize that.
It we're not really talking about two different things when we say Allah or God capital.
G. And we indicated even that the term Allah is even more accurate, as compared to the English term because the English term God is subject to s to the plurality, you can say gods, it is subject to female genders. And when you say goddess, whereas the term Allah in Arabic does not have any plural or any male or female, gender, this was basically the two points. Well, if we take off from that point,
am I correct in understanding that the Muslims, when they refer to God as a law, are referring to the same deity, as the Christians and Jews, for instance? Fundamentally, yes, just like when a Frenchman, says, da, which is the French equivalent of God, I have never seen anyone who says that when the Frenchman says da, he's talking about the God of the French people. This is a very simple and logical rule. However, oftentimes, this rule is violated when writers who are not Muslims write about Islam, which is the most common literature in this country. And they leave the readers with the distinct impression that Allah is some kind of the God of the Muslims. Indeed, this false
impression still persist until today, the kind of stereotype.
The other day I was addressing high school students and Queen Elizabeth High School. And I kept explaining what is the word Allah means and they will talk about the same basic monotheistic concept of deity. And after I finished, one student asked me and he addressed me this question, it says, your God, I said, brothers will not Let's not talk about my God and your God. Let's talk about our gods, the guts of the entire humanities. So that shows again, how persistent this kind of
misconception, even until today
was the that may raise an even more interesting point of what to the Christians and Jews living in the Arab world, for whose
Arabic is the mother tongue? What term do they use, when you be surprised? Exactly the same term as Muslims do? Allah, because simply that's the Arabic term for God, capital G, if you go, for example, to Lebanon, which is nearly have Muslim, half a Christian, more or less, you cannot distinguish if you hear people talking, say Allah, a Christian would be saying Allah, the Muslim would be saying alandi mean? basically the same thing. Of course, it is quite possible to make sure that a Jew, a Christian and Muslim may have some differences about specific interpretation or definition of divine attributes. They may have differences in accepting or rejecting certain types of doctrines like, for
example, the idea of chosen people the idea of Trinity, there may be differences on such kind of doctrines, but on the whole, on a fundamental level, they're really talking about the basic thing they're talking about the one and only transcendent, all powerful or merciful, creator provider of the universe. So in reality, the concepts are basically the same thing.
Now, how can we reconcile ourselves with all the writers that same on Islamic studies that claim that Allah is not an Islamic term, and that Allah existed as a name of a deity in the Arabian Peninsula, years and years before his time appears on the phone? Okay, I have already explained that, what in Arabic, the Arabic language, the word Allah means is the one and only creators are God. Now, if any term has been perverted or used
in a mistaken or erroneous way, that does not change the reality of it. In fact, the name must be restored back to its original use. This is one thing. The other thing which is even more interesting is that there is a common error also our common mistaken assumption behind the statements similar to this, that is that the Arab, the pre Islamic Arab, that's where Islam started first in its final form.
about monotheism that all they knew was idol worship, which is a very, very
common error very erroneous, because monotheism was known to the Arabs. Indeed it was introduced centuries ago by Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael, as you know, Prophet Abraham took his son Ishmael, to Arabia and this that's why prophet Ishmael is regarded as like the grandfather of the, of the Arabs. The Arabs in particular
Now, with this type of understanding, we can say that the herbs did have some notion and understanding of monotheism, possibly at one time or the other, they use the term Allah in the proper sense the Lord of the universe. The fact that they perverted their practice and forgotten the true teachings of Abraham and Ishmael like what happened to many nations, a Prophet would come after he goes, people start
deviating from his basic teachings and introducing their own ideas into them. This does not necessarily mean that the term Allah really does not refer to what actually it is intended to refer. And then with the advent of Prophet Mohammed, this term was restored back to its originality or to be more accurate. monotheism was restored back to its original original purity, just like the case of the Kaaba, for example, the holy Kaaba. The Kaaba was built initially by Prophet Abraham, as a shrine of monotheism for the worship of the One God actually, it is the first house ever to be built on Earth as a shrine for monotheism. Now, the fact that pre Islamic herbs have perverted the use of
Kava and put items inside that does not change its historical origin. And that's why when Muhammad and the Muslims have victory, finally,
they destroyed the idols they clean, cleanse the Kaabah understood it back to its original terms. It's a matter of restoration of monotheism, really.
Okay, having clarified the term Allah and clarified what this means in Islam, as it relates to the word God in English, maybe now we should ask the question, is Islam as a faith expressed in a creedal form? Does it have a professional faith? Like the shame of for instance, for the Israelites? Does Islam have such a professional? Yes, it does. It's very simple but profound. Some, sometimes we can only say simple things that simple. It's only for simplicity, for a simple mind. It's simple, but very profound. It says in Arabic, a shadow Allah ilaha illAllah, Muhammad Rasulullah, which means in English, I bear witness that there is no deity or no God, but Allah, which we said, capital
G God, there is no deity but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger. Now, as you notice, you can say that this
creedal form or confession of faith is composed of basically two points, which reflect two very important beliefs about the Muslim. The first part, I bear witness that there is no deity but Allah
is a reference to the concept of pure monotheism, the oneness and uniqueness or unique oneness of Allah. That's the first part. The second part, if I bear witness that Muhammad is His Messenger, is actually a reflection of another concept that perhaps we'll be coming back to in another series, the concept of prophethood in Islam, you might wonder why I say Prophet would not just the belief in Mohammed, but the answer to that, as will be clarified later, is that once a person believes in Mohammed, who is the last of all messengers, by definition, one has to believe also an old the previous prophet in the succession of prophets, Muhammad Ali being the last one of them. Now, the
the mere recitation with conviction, that's the point with conviction under no compulsion, if the person decides this, according to Muslim jurists this would suffice to enter him into the folds of Islam. In other words, there is no need for affiliation, no church, quote, unquote, structure or hierarchy. You might say that in front of anyone, but actually,
to say that, with conviction suffice to enter the person into the fields of Islam. It's a matter of not ceremonies, but rather, sincerity and deep understanding and conviction of what it means. Yeah, it's very interesting to note in the Shahada, or in the cradle formula of Islam, that it starts with the negation.
In essence, it doesn't say, there is one God but it says, I bear witness that there is no god but one God and God lives with me. Now, is there any significance to that initial negation? Yes, there is. In fact, it's very essential. I give at least three basic reasons for that. First,
by definition, when a person admits the supremacy and the Oneness or the unique oneness of Allah,
it follows also that one must reject any other deity, then Allah in other words, it would be a contradiction of terms simply to say there is God but somehow implying that they could be also other gods.
The pure monotheism
It means that rejection also of any other false deity, and the negation of any godhood attributed to any of the creatures of Allah. A second main reason is that, even though pure monotheism, the belief in the One God has been preached by all prophets throughout history according to the Quran, as I said before, still the, the concept has been perverted. And
people added their own ideas and philosophies which resulted, in fact, in a source of tokenizing, or changing the purity of the nature of monotheism. So it is it was necessary and very important also to clarify the right from drunk and with which deviations, you know, are not really authentic and relevant to the pure teaching of the prophets from Adam to Mohammed.
The third reason is that Islam being the
Islam in the final form, because it said all prophets printed Islam. But the mission of Prophet Muhammad being the conclusion of this prophetic tradition, which extends throughout history.
It's very essential to clarify the errors that has taken place prior to the mission of Prophet Muhammad so that it warns people it brings to the attention of believers, what kind of temptations and erroneous interpretations of God has taken place so as to avoid them, and maintain the purity and the future, the purity of the faith and the purity of monotheism?
I suppose, since it's a very wealthy and rich concept, we should start by looking at the negations and then
move maybe in the next program, to the affirmative side of the tree, the former in Islam, and to stop the negations. Maybe we should, although you mentioned that before, but could you elaborate a little bit on the position of Islam, Visa v. The either worshipping that was rampant in the Arabian Peninsula before it's in fact, the idol worship was not only rampant among the pre Islamic Arabs, but you study history also, you find that it's, it was rampant as well in so many nations in the past. I wonder even why they might be resisting even until today and in some places in the world.
The Quran indicates, for example, just to give an evidence of this documented evidence,
the Quran talks about the dialogue between Prophet Abraham and his his father, and the quotes from the Quran Chapter 19, verse 41, and 242.
And mentioned in the book The story of Abraham, he was a man of truth, a prophet. Behold, he said to his father, or my father, why worship that which he is not, and sees not, and can profit you nothing.
There's something even that's quite touching. In the Quran, when it talks about the story of Prophet Abraham, with his people in his dialogue with them to bring the point or drive the point home. The story just to make it brief, and then I just got from the Quran, the verse that deals particularly with this issue, it says that the people went out of town for one of their festivals, the people of Abraham,
and he refused to go with it, he stayed behind. And when everybody went out, he went inside the temple, where they used to have their items. He took an axe, and he smashed them to pieces. He only spent one idol, which was the biggest of the ideas.
And some, some interpreters of the Quran say also that you might have put the X in the hands of the, the big item.
When the people returned back from their picnic or whatever festival, they went back into town, they entered into the temple. And they were outraged and very angry, to find that their gods
smashed into pieces. They suspected that it was probably Prophet Abraham because he was the one he's talking about monotheism, avoid rejection of either worship. They brought him for questioning. And like the verse says, they told him Are you the one that did this to our gods? Or Abraham? He said me the biggest idol did it. Ask them if they can speak intelligently. So in other words, he is bringing home in a very logical way. The point that Okay, these are so many gods and there is a big goddess and big idol. Maybe those Gods got into some quiet and that big fella using his muscles, he smashed them nobody could especially and Alright, if you if you don't believe me, you want to ask him, ask
We're basically saying that this objects which cannot hear, cannot literally cannot defend itself against the destruction.
Exactly, totally incapable of even defending themselves.
The Arabs before Islam had their share of this kind of provision, like many other nations also. In fact, there were so many gods in a sense of idols worshipped by the pre Islamic Arabs, that sometimes you have a tribal gods, the gods for one particular tribe.
When they travel, they used even to carry some of the gods with them. So imagine a God being carried in your pocket.
In a caravan, which was sort of decades what was even more funny is that some Arabs used to get some of those
dry dates, remember, like the famous California dates, and then they press it, to make it in a form of a statue. And that becomes an idol to be worshipped. And then after they get hungry, when they run short, the food they eat.
Exactly. That, in that sense. So this was kind of ridiculous. Actually, they used also to go at the feet of the idols and sacrifice animals thinking that they are gaining favor with the with God and something that I are intercession.
So what happens is that
with the advent of Islam, like I mentioned before, all of these phones were totally annihilated and monotheism was restored back.
Maybe at this point, you could clarify to ask a question that lurks in a lot of people's minds. And that is, what would make human beings stoop so low, as to worship a piece of stone or a statue or an inanimate object. It is very rare
that you really find someone who would, in his heart or her heart, really believe that this is their gods even. And this pastor, it's because I said, what they did is it was very funny and ridiculous. And I think they were the first one even to know that this is not necessarily true.
But there are other reasons also behind this kind of perversion. For example, historically, at times when some people died,
pious men die, for example, some people might make a kind of shrine or a statue just to in memory, of that that person. And as what happened our best one of the companions of the Prophet explains, as quoted Bukhari, he said that gradually, people would forget the origin of the either or the statue and actually turn it actually into an object of worship. This was probably one of the reasons that I think also is that
many people, either worshippers did not really believe that those idols are gods in themselves. But in fact, they use them more or less as intermediaries or intercessors. Yeah, between God and men. So they thought that by appeasing those idols by worshipping them by sacrificing animals, at their feet, or whatever, that they are gaining favor, with God. But the third reason seems to be perhaps more common, because it applies even to other than either worshipers. And that is the human weakness and tendency to try and materialize everything in the tangible and physical type of forms, which is a human type of
inclination, because that's how our perceptions work. So we try to fill in the insecurity with the abstract, you're likely to have something tangible, leaving one just to think of something that's a bit of transcendence very hard, especially with the early stages of human development, the constant higher concept might be difficult to accept, touchable things might be more closer to people's minds. So with this kind of attitude, people started searching for God. And in that search, they try to have some kind of image for God so that they can relate or relate to them, which like I said, is a natural human
weakness or something, but still doesn't necessarily mean that it's correct, because you can put higher concepts on them physical title, touchable images.
Well, as long as we are on this particular point, why don't extend the discussion to
the worship of natural phenomena of forces of nature, like the sun, the moon, when
this was again very common in mythology as well as the Islamic Arabian sun worship, the psychological somersham. In in Persia, let's say, again, what would make people move in that direction.
Again, this is an another example or another facet of man's errors.
While he's searching for truth, the motive for searching for truth is good and commendable. But again, there are errors on the way. And that's why you mentioned earlier that you need divine revelation on the right to guide that assertion and in the proper way. But in that search for the the power behind the universe, the creator, the Merciful provider of the universe, people get so fascinated with powers of nature,
the powers that they feel can benefit them, or the powers that are capable of doing any harm to them, about heavenly bodies are stars. Again, people used to have lots of
superstitions about because there are two remotes, about their impacts in determining the destiny of the human being like astrology, for example, is that affliction again, this kind of thinking,
with this kind of thinking,
people gradually might turn in instead of just adoring this, or admiring this forces of nature into actually worshiping those forces or trying to appease them or seek benefits from them.
As far as the epistemic position from this, it is totally rejected. And in fact,
it indicates in the Quran that these are only creatures of Allah, not substitute or have parallel power, or with Allah, maybe I can, quote, two citation from the front that drives the point home.
In one verse in chapter 41,
that's verse 37. It says, among His Signs that the signs of God's existence and power, among His Signs are the night and the day, the sun and the moon, adore the sun and the moon, but others are prostrate to Allah who created them. If it is him, you wish to serve. Very simple logic and very powerful clarification that they are creatures, you are the one who created them. And another is a moving story, again to God, Prophet Abraham, because again, this is a common prophet for all monotheistic faiths. It's mentioned in the Quran quite frequently.
He was trying to educate his people. And he was wanted to give them a practical example where there is involvement in the search for truth.
And I just got diversity in certain ways. So because it has it very clearly, and it says, and that's, by the way, for reference in chapter six, verses 74 through 79. It says, lo, Abraham said to his father,
do you take idols for God? For I see you and your people in manifest error.
So also, did we show Abraham the power and laws in the heavens and earth that he might have substituted?
When the night covered him over? He saw stars, he said, This is my dog. But when it said, he said, I love not those who said,
when he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said, This is my Lord. But when the moon said, he said, unless my lord guides me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.
When he saw the sun, rising in splendor, he said, This is my Lord. This is greatness that's greater than other stars. But when the sunset he said, All my people, I am indeed free from your guilt, of associating other deities with Allah. For me, I have set my face firmly and truly towards Him, who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I associate other partners with Allah. I don't think we can close the program with more befitting terms. We hope to continue that subject next time, inshallah. And until we see you ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much