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The Life, Works & Legacy of Jahm b. Ṣafwān – d. 746CE

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Yasir Qadhi

Channel: Yasir Qadhi

Episode Notes

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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Tip number seven

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Zani hi dee

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dee

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dee doo dunya

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who died in 746 common era was a figure who invited condemnations from Sunni Sunni theologians was heretical a few centuries after his death. Yet Very little is known about his life and none of his own works. I extend to discuss with me today the life works and legacy of these enigmatic figures Dr. yasir Qadhi, Dr. Cardy completed PhD at Yale or he maintained a theology of his masters at the Islamic University of Medina where his dissertation was on gentlemen so far. Dr. Cardy resides in Dallas, Texas, and is the Dean of the Islamic seminary of America. And he also ministers as an Imam at the East planet Islamic Center in planet Texas. Welcome, Dr. Cody.

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Sun Welcome. Hello and welcome and thank you for having me on on your podcast. Jehan, Vint Cerf. One was an administrator to a regional governor in the turbulent last years of the omya tennis teams executed by a rival ruler in a civil war in 746. Common Era before we look at his life works in legacy, tell us what we know about the socio political circumstances he lived in an intellectual climate.

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So well, Jonathan soft one was alive during the very end of the Umayyad dynasty, and so he lived and flourished during the decline of the Omega dynasty, they might do a dynasty have already seen its heyday. And towards the end of the Romanian dynasty, as is the case in all dynasties, there was quite a lot of tension within the royal family a succession of hold of one after the other. And of course, the Almighty has done the opposite. They always had to deal with internal revolts. Of course, early Islam is marked by a myriad of revolts during jobs time, there was a number of interesting revolts in his own region of hora Sanjay him lived in died and hollow sun. And Nasir

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Evans to Yahoo was the last of the omiya governors appointed to Horace and he was in charge of very efficient and yet obviously somewhat brutal, I mean, generally they'd go hand in hand governor and also to Minnesota had to battle a number of very important rebellions during the time of jam. Most importantly, from the cottage he had somebody by the name of balule. From the she is the proto Shiites, of course, you had zeta banally. Also the great great great grandson of the Prophet system also revolting, obviously, not directly in hollow sun, but it did affect that time and frame. And most importantly, for our lesson, the revolt in hora sun against the overheads that jam joined, and

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this is the revolt led by a hadith Eben Swaraj and had it been so rage was a very enigmatic figure, who seems to be a pious, artistic fanatic, a pious, artistic, you know, overzealous person who was calling for the keytab. And the sooner against the oma years as if the mayor's were not applying, they could have been sorted, this is not a defense, or I'm just saying that's the reality. In those days, politics and religion were intertwined. And so almost every revolt that was politically motivated, was also somehow religiously motivated. So it had it been so rage, led a military campaign against the Obama years, he called for the overthrow of Nostradamus out, in fact, he

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actually was successful for a period of time in certain regions of Horus. And, and one of his points very interestingly, he said that we want people of piety appointed, right, that people have good knowledge and manners as if like, again, the accusation was humans were evil people. And he said, we want to abolish the jizya against the Convert. So the Obama years were well known, as you know, there are buses, part of the reason they came to power was the issue of jizya. And so he is seeming to be some autistic individual, and he appoints our guy, john Vincent Juan to be his personal kataeb, which is like a Senior Lieutenant or a personal secretary. So this is on the political

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front, on the intellectual front. This is again a very, very exotic period. It seems like there's a World Wind of ideas swirling around at the time and again, it's very interesting. Many Muslims have a very simplistic view of early Islamic history. The reality is as usual, far far more complicated, dare I say convoluted and you have elements of proto fascism Nazism and fascism are going to come out you have clear elements of extremists will actually ism you have other ism on the on the intellectual front of people who affirm either and denied and denied that human denied free will. You have Neo Marxism. This is the era where more visit ism is

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Born right while sleeping outside is basically you know of this timeframe. You have hottie Jism and his glorious heydays, obviously you have plenty of sex. And then for our purposes is crucial for our purposes, you have Jim and his teacher job, are introducing neoplatonic thought into the Muslim world. And of course, this is eventually going to become a symbol column. And of course, much more can be said. But that's a brief, brief answer to your question.

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JOHN being soft one was possibly of Persian stock and came to a consensual Asia he was influencing these ideas by a factor called uncharred. being there when he was executed, apparently for his heretical views of the little we do know about Jehovah and stuff, one's life, what can we be certain about?

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That's a very difficult question to answer. Even in a dissertation, which I had to do, which I have a very different time frame of my life. Um, what can you be certain about depends on what you consider to be evidence. I mean, we're pretty we're fairly certain that he existed. I mean, multiple references do mention him. We are also fairly certain that he played a prominent political role in the revolt as we mentioned, inheritance or age, we know his name jam is so fun, but we do not know his lineage. And this therefore makes it fairly certain that he is of non our origin, which is what everybody says, We also know his Konya will may have us and we know that he affiliated with the

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bundler lost his tribe as a molar. We also know that he probably never traveled outside of Horace and so he lived his entire life within the region, of course, and primarily intimate and somebody and of course, the problem comes you're asking what we can be certain about his life. The problem comes the first books that we have that mentioned jam, two issues number one, chronological number two, basically source critical there who's who's who's mentioned this as for chronological, the first books that mentioned jam have been authored a century or a century and a half after the era of jam books like hollowfibre, Eva, Bahati or the legend or dalla Jamia or I should say that are Jamia

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that is allegedly by Mr. Mohammed are other books of this nature, they're obviously written at a very different timeframe. And of course, the other problem is that they're written by, obviously, opponents of jam. And this will I guess we'll come back to this point later on. But again, the issue of how skeptical should we be? And how trusting should we be of sources that are hostile to john? What has been ascribed to him and again, for the purposes of this podcast, I'll mention six points, much more can be said. But and remember, by the way, my PhD and Master's in theology so I'm coming to this from a theological perspective, not from the more from a historical which is, of course your

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area of expertise, but from a theological perspective, what has been ascribed to him, I'll summarize it in six points. Number one, he has been ascribed as claiming that faith or EMA is purely knowledge base in the Arabic is modified. So there is no need for even acceptance, much less action, action upon that knowledge, all that is known is all that is needed is the knowledge of God that God exists. So this is modified. And of course, this does fit in with neoplatonic thought. Number two, it has been claimed that gem was the first to introduce the Kalam cosmological argument. Even Tamia is one of those who makes this claim. However, to be honest, this is highly debatable because we

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know for a fact that even the first generation of Morteza hadn't really developed or fully fleshed out the Kalam cosmological argument. Such a claim that john who predates this already has a an argument in place seems a little bit of a stretch, perhaps geheime spoke about the need to prove in God's existence intellectually, but it is very, very doubtful that he actually had even a rudimentary form of the Kalam cosmological argument is simply too early. The third issue which is definitely verified, meaning in almost all the sources mentioned, it is his denial of the attributes. This is what john is associated with. And of course, the question arises of what exactly

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he would have said versus what his opponents would have said, and even in my MA, which I wrote at a different phase of my intellectual life again, 20 years ago, even in my MA and my advisor, and my, you know, the two readers were not too happy at this that I said, I said, even in my mo which is in print that the claim that Jim denied, all the attributes simply doesn't fit in with what we know even from Sunday sources, rather, jam did not negate all the attributes, he had a specific ideology which is that theology which is that anything that man is able to do or man is described with cannot be described of God. So anything that is predicated on man's attributes from man's attributes must

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be negated from God's attributes that is not the same as saying that he denied all the attributes.

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Very interestingly, john, it was reported that he said, Lisa be shaped that God is not a thing, okay? That God is not a thing. And this has been interpreted by many of our scholars as john negating God's names and attributes. Of course, even back then I didn't understand now, we understand or I understand that when john was saying Lisa B shape, he's basically denying that God is a being, which is of course standard neoplatonic thought, but most of our scholars when they read this, they understood they should be shaped as being as as interpreting that God cannot be anything. Whereas Of course, what he means is that God cannot be a being. So, that is his third point, he is

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negating specific attributes. The fourth point of jam that is getting ascribed to him is that God cannot be described with the direction multiple early authorities claimed the gem said that God is everywhere like air girl Hawa. Now again, what does he mean by this? Does he mean a type of Spinoza and pantheism? Or does he mean a pre Kalam attempt to to define God's transcendence as the scholars of Shadi and Martha xidian. And my 3d Cree would later say that God cannot be described with a direction what exactly the gentlemen, again up for grabs, question mark over that. The fifth second to last issue is what again, jam is well known for. And of course, as Shadi says, that's a shot in

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Islam. Okada t says that john was unique in all of Islam for claiming this and that is to deny that a man has any type of efficacy in his actions. So john is the father of what is called the Jedi, and the Jedi are pure fatalists. He would famously remark that men are like leaves in the wind, wherever the wind goes, the leaves will follow. So to his father, that whatever has been will they simply do it, and so man has no freewill whatsoever. He is literally like a robot, nobody else in Islamic history went to such an extreme to deny that man has any efficacy over his actions whatsoever. And the final point that we'll mention, and again, much more in my dissertation is, you know, in print,

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it's 800 pages. So it's a lot of stuff there. But the final point I mentioned for the podcast is, john claimed that heaven and hell are not eternal. And again, this is unique, no other. No other theater no other person ascribing to Islam claimed that heaven and hell are going to be basically extinguished. Now, of course, this is interesting, because where he's coming from, is actually a theological point, which is to affirm the uniqueness of God being eternal, both pre eternal, and sempiternal. So God alone is eternal, and God has been and God shall be, and therefore for john, to claim that any other creation shall be for all of eternity is impeding or infringing on God's

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eternal eternality. And therefore jamm claimed that heaven and hell would eventually be extinguished or destroyed, and only God would remain. So these are some of the things that have been ascribed to gentlemen, some seem to be fairly certain we can say, and others, like I said, a bit of a question mark over.

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Though he was executed shortly before the abasi revolution showed the so called Jamia occupy much of the thoughts and activities of subsequent generations of Sunni scholars and perhaps other sects to tell us about Islam, the intellectual legacy. So john lived and died 128 he was executed. And his ideas did not really live on directly in his students, but they lived on and they took on an imagination of their own in the minds of his opponents, which is really interesting. So john himself, actually his followers are negligible. In fact, we don't even know of a community or a group that called themselves the followers of jam. And even I mean, some of the earliest news

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sources mentioned, he barely had maybe 10 followers and Max, I found in one reference was he he barely had 50 followers. One even said he barely had two followers. And this does seem to be the case that he was more of a political agitator than a theologian, but as a political agitator, or as a person who had some influence. He also had theological views, and the theological views he had, as I said, they lived on much more in the imagination of his opponents than in the actual following that he had in his life. And his opponents took the appellate jamea and constructed a very interesting trope out of it. The term itself, as I said, took on a life of its own

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And multiple treatises were written by some of the giants of you know, traditional assumed ism in my humble has a book that is ascribed to him that whether it is his or not is again another interesting topic but again definitely it's a very early treaties whoever wrote it and Allah Jamia, he called it refuting the john might amendment Bahati in his famous law here. He has is the very last chapter, which is called Cotabato hate what rather than Jamia so again refuting the Jacobites, a didomi has treatises and refuting the gentlemen have been bought, has a treatise called refuting the Japanese even though the atom has a treatise called refuting the Japanese and on and on, there's like half a

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dozen treatises, all of them with the same title refuting the jet mites, but who are these gem mites that they're refuting? Well, if you read the treatises in reality, they're refuting people whom we would either call proto mortadella or the more Tesla and in fact, maybe even some people who would be closer to a shot ism, even though they're being refuted in this timeframe. Therefore, what happens is that the term Jamia becomes the term that early Sunni traditionalist use to describe any group that they disagree with in terms of the issue of the attributes. And therefore somebody like even husband can come along, you know, in the fourth century, the fifth century, and make the

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somewhat preposterous claim that the Saudis, the Shia IRA are the real followers of john Gibbons have one right? This is what even has them claim, because from his mind, anybody who negated the attributes or made that we live the attributes, is basically a jam, right? And so we have to be a little bit more careful, because the term really did become a smear or somewhat of a slur. And ad hominem to be called the jack might, was simply to reject your credibility and your credentials. And we have in our books of double pots of all of the metadata and all of the fit of this epilator Jeremy, he was a Jeremy, he was a Jeremy. And when you look at the person's theology, you find

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actually a relatively large spectrum of beliefs that come under the umbrella term, john might and so I find that very interesting. And actually, definitely more research needs to be done about how the term was co opted, if you like, by a certain group of scholars, and then used to refute any type of deviation when it comes to, from their perspective, again, when it comes to understanding God's attributes. But to conclude, I mean, in this particular question, I mean, the legacy of john himself, the direct legacy seems to be very minimal, to be honest. But the the the controversy generated around him and for him and through him, and the notions that were then ascribed to him.

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That is, where his legacy primarily lies, and how much of it can actually be attributed to him or not, I think that's something that definitely is still up for for research and study. Let us turn to the historiography of the sources and methods on Jamba software and his legacy, or what we know about him and his ideas are taken from his opponents. And even if we assumed integrity, they will still be historical, historical, graphical need to reclaim as much as we can have original voice with source critical readings and perhaps turned to other non Sunni, perhaps even non Muslim written and material sources. The anecdote of jumble sofar, and missing prayers implies oktopus of 40 days a

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number significant in wider so called Near Eastern cultures, it is a literary device, what would you like to see in any future works on changbin software and pacifically? And the history of Islamic theology more generally? So that's a very good question. And I think that we need to understand that there are different types of people doing research in early Islamic history and early Islamic theology. I come from a background where again, I did my first degree in theology from the IRS to Medina, which has a very different paradigm. And then, which is my MA. And then my master, my PhD was from Yale, which again, has a very different paradigm. And I, I am a firm believer that both

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paradigms have their strengths and weaknesses. I'm a firm believer having gone through both systems. I think that we cannot dismiss the other paradigms except at our own peril. Now, I guess I will primarily be speaking to a Muslim audience for the next few minutes. When I say that Muslim researchers in particular, they need to become more cognizant of the sources and the biases of our own sources. I think one of the problems that many Muslim researchers have Muslim academics out is that they're extremely trusting of sources that they are already inclined towards. And by and large source criticism, historical source criticism is really frowned upon from within Muslim circles, and

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I'll be the first to say it took me many years of my own research, you know, after leaving them at the UN environment.

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Many years of understanding the human nature of byesies, to understand that we cannot just take what sixth century Sunni theologians said about a jam, and accept it as a fact, even if we love the sixth century author even if we admire him, and one of the anecdotes that are one of the one of the Hadeeth narrations that I quote, when I teach critical thinking to my own students, that Islamic seminary of America is the anecdote or the Hadeeth. And so I have Bahati of the lady who complained to the Prophet, so tell them about her husband, you know, and how he treated her and how he didn't pray and how he didn't do this. And that, and the fact that, you know, when you when he called the

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husband, the husband explained himself, we discovered that the lady is not actually lying at all, but the lady has a selective bias, the lady is picking certain things out of context, and then presenting them to the Prophet sallallahu. I said them, if we can understand that this can happen to two companions, right? You have selective bias, how much more so when we have interest sectarian bias, right. So again, when it comes to this issue of Jonathan soft won, I mean, if you read I don't want to mention the the the person because he's highly admired and respected, let's just say one of the main icons of Sunni Islam. If you read how he describes him, you know, he will say that he was a

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person of evil a person of Jeddah, and when Alva and yet when you read a Sufi, who is a more neutral historian, and basically somebody who's coming to it from a pure historical perspective, you know, a Sufi says that jammers of one kind or the other bin, were never in their car in what picketing? Would you dive in with me. All right, so notice how he shifted around. He doesn't negate that john was argumentative, but he says he was an argumentative person, but he was also a person of learning a person of letters, a person of intellect, a person who would think deeply right, so notice how a Safa D describes him. And our Sunni icon, one of the icons of Islam, basically eliminates the first

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five or six adjectives and then says he was always argumentative, and maybe he was argumentative. And again, please don't misunderstand this as a defense of jam. Not at all. I mean, I have no idea that he had views that are definitely not mainstream and Orthodox and scientism. So this isn't a defense, but it is an issue of how much should we trust the sources? Let me give you one more example about jam, which really illustrates the point, one of the most common anecdotes that is narrated about Jim, in fact, in my Ma, I have this anecdote without question, because that was a different phase of my life, is the anecdote of picking up the Quran and throwing it on the ground

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and stomping on it. Okay, this is mentioned by a number of early authors, including a moment Bahati, for example, right? Now, again, this is an anecdote that nobody ever, you know, doubts or whatnot. At the same time, let us be a little bit more critical, and this is not a defensive jump. If he did this, then this is, without a doubt a type of, of heretical, you know, blasphemy that no two Muslims would differ over. But did he really pick up a copy of the Quran and throw it on the floor and stomp on it? Does that really make sense for somebody to do in a Muslim land and environment to have such a level of hatred? Let's look at who narrates this, when we look at the narration, it all goes back

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to one particular individual, a woman or a man who is hardly known as a narrator of Hadeeth. He's barely acceptable, you know, as a narrator, and then he says, an anonymous friend of gems told me, right, somebody who we don't know who that person was, right? Somebody who we have no clue who he was. So all of this story goes back to a person who is really not well known for knowledge. And he's just like I said, somebody both He is a very we know he existed, we don't know much about him. He does not narrate any of the famous hadith of any of the famous books of Hadith. He's not a, you know, a well known fact, he was known for its shadow, which, again, a whole different point

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altogether, yet we trust one AML policy when he narrates from Mr. Anonymous, because it fits our narrative of john. And again, this is not a defensive gem. But let us be fair here, would that hold up in a court of law? Would that would that be fair? Would we like one of our enemies to say something like that about us with a complete, you know, brazenly broken chain full of, you know, so, here's the point, what do we really know about? Jim? That's a very good question. And I think that's where further research will continue needs to be done. But I agree with you that we should approach some of these tropes with a healthy degree of skepticism, not because we're impugning the character

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of these great Imams and authors, but because when you already have a bias against somebody, it is only natural that a small issue will be exaggerated. And that may be even a mistake will become something very evil or, or maybe even an outright lie is not going to be verified and then passed on by trustworthy sources. So when we call for source critical

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Thinking and when we call for being a little bit more careful about what our own sources say, this is not at all to impugn the integrity and the character of the great moms and the fathers of 100 sooner, rather, it is simply being human. If the Sahabi wife and the Sahabi husband, it can be discovered that neither is lying, but it's simply selective, then surely, you know, men by Viola are fortiori. We should, we should be a little bit more careful when you know, people have different sects and she isms are described in our own books and Allah knows best. Finally, tell us about any current projects and forthcoming works. And any last words for our listeners? Well, how forthcoming

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projects so I have multiple projects that I'm doing but I guess for this podcast, I guess, would you be most interested in I've been writing for the longest time, a book on Salafism for one World Press. So inshallah I hope that I mean, I'm in almost the final stages, but again, because I'm so busy with my so many other projects, but this is going to be a book that is interesting, hopefully, because it is coming from someone who was definitely an insider of the movement and still at this stage of my life. I have not, as I said, have moved on not moved against I'm basically I appreciate what the movement gave me and how it shaped me but I no longer subscribed to the movement. But

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having been an insider and having been somebody who studied for 10 years at Medina, I'm gonna be, you know, bringing in a site of Salafism that is at one sympathetic and also softly critical as well. And I hope that it will be of use to all people, people inside the movement outside the movement and describe the historical reality of the movement as it currently exists, and link it to previous iterations and manifestations which again, I think the movement does itself an injustice when it does not when it does not fully understand its own roots and has a very, very simplistic notion of its own existence. You know, the notion that Salafism has existed untouched and pristine

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in its original form for all 14 centuries. Hopefully this book will clarify that that is definitely not the case. But yeah, that is one of my main projects I'm working on now.

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Dr. Cody, thank you for being our guest. Thank you for interviewing me and wish you all the best in your PhD as well inshallah.