Book 2: The Foundations of the Articles of Faith

To Believe or Not to Believe, that is the Question

(Reflections are taken from Sheikh Walead Mosaad’s class on Book 2 of the Ihya, “The Foundations of the Articles of Faith“.

Muslims state absolutely that Islam is the truth; unfortunately they have little time to examine the foundations of their belief.  When the Quran states that the Kaafir will go to hell, many pronounce this absolutely. At the same time, Muslims can shake their head in dismay and disgust when regarding believers of other religions, asserting these religions are patently false, but ignoring that they too only have a superficial knowledge of their religion or that these followers believe because they are following their forefathers and have not pondered over the foundations of their belief.

The irony is palpable.

The difficulty for Muslims in justifying their own beliefs is that for the masses, it is hard to argue philosophically without resorting to trite comments about the wonders of the world and the poetic marvels of the Quran. Many people who have serious, urgent questions, or are troubled by a religion’s truth claims cannot be pacified by some normative idea of what religion is

When Ghazali describes articles of faith, he provides a normative architecture, a series of conditions one has to believe in. But there is a difference between delineating articles of faith, and being persuaded by those articles of faith. To achieve this persuasion, it requires individuals with both an intellectual and a spiritual knowledge of the world, religion and God to provide a response to the question why should one believe.

In a secular age, this is challenging. In the absence of God or a messenger, it requires an intellectual and spiritual commitment to finding answers. Not everyone can or will embark on that journey. But people have to be on that journey in order to become the people the Quran describes as the ulul al-bab. They hold the keys to clarifying doubt.

However, their own starting point is doubt and the humility to know they dont have the answers and will never fully have the answers.. The seeker is a blank canvas, making little judgement on their religion or any other religion, only taking a leap of faith to assume that a creator made the world.  Thereafter, he/she practices, learns and waits for God’s illumination…just as the Prophet (Pbuh) had done.

Unfortunately, these people are few. As God and religion continue to be intellectually infantilised, our responses rely on sweeping statements and unerring certainty on preconceived notions that rest on un-examined notions of belief. Ghazali provided a list of articles, but it requires a Ghazali to preach them.

(To view and listen to more lectures on Imam Ghazali’s Ihya, please visit www.nursari.com/classes)

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Book 2: The Foundations of the Articles of Faith – The folly of Humanising God

(Reflections are taken from Sheikh Walead Mosaad’s class on Book 2 of the Ihya, “The Foundations of the Articles of Faith“. Click hyperlink to view the lecture)

 

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Looking up to the heavens in India

In a recent essay, the evolutionary biologist, Dr. David Barash, asserts that the monotheistic God is ‘remarkably humanoid’. Man created God to resemble a ‘harem master’, an ‘alpha male’, a ‘sexually distrustful dominant male’, suffering from ‘mammalian male anxieties.’ Barash concludes that homo sapiens have been ‘stuck with ossified behaviourial patterns and psychological dynamics that persist in its religious values and strictures’.

In other words, man created God in his own idealized image of a ruler.

Anthropomorphasising God is a common strategy used to devalue religion. Unfortunately, Baresh fails to see his assessment suffers from a deep irony. He sees God through the lenses of human experience and sentiment, and constructs an image through inference and postulation.

For Ghazali, personification of God in terms of emotions, body, and location is woefully inadequate and mistaken.  In describing God, Ghazali addresses what God is not thereby emphasizing that the Divine cannot be captured by human words or images. Descriptions, even religiously based, are limp attempts that form an allegory in order for man to relate. The truth is that God is thoroughly ineffable, unique and unknowable.

To learn God’s attributes, and accept a theological creed, is an intellectual exercise and only a mere step towards knowing the Divine.  It is not enough and certainly not sufficient. A creed gives the believer a foundation; truly knowing God is achieved by practice, reflection and, crucially, God’s eventual illumination if he so wills.

Ghazali, therefore, views the operation of Islam as a combination of intellect, practice, and hope.

Difficulties and dilemmas do arise from this philosophy.  Nevertheless, Ghazali insists that beyond the constructs of our mind and emotions lies a God who rises above human conceptualisations. The intellect alone is restricted in its understanding.  No words or concepts or names given to God adequately capture His reality. It is a point Dr.Barash, and other vocal atheists, ignore. Indeed, “Exalted is your Lord, the Lord of might, above what they describe” (Quran 37:180).

(To view and listen to more lectures on Imam Ghazali’s Ihya, please visit www.nursari.com/classes)