Faith and God’s Self-Evident Praise – an article by Imam Abdul Latif Finch

The most important aspect of the faith of Islam is the belief in the oneness of God. This oneness is understood to be his unity in His Essence, Names, Attributes and Acts. Commenting on God’s words, “Say, ‘With Allah is the far-reaching proof. If He had willed, He would have guided you all,’” al-Qurṭubī states that God’s far reaching proof or argument is…

…that which undercuts the justification of the one subsequently disproven and removes the doubt of the one who investigates it. His proof indicated here is that He is One, and His sending of the Messengers and Prophets. His oneness is made evident by virtue of observing creation. His sending the Messengers is made clear by his aiding them with miracles…

In other words, according to him, God’s far –reaching proof is something evident. This is quite a paradox as will be illustrated below. His unity is clear to those who see that all entities, for example, are unique: no two of them are identical. In this way, all are “one.” In other words, if all things were given a numerical representation they would all be the number “1.” This kind of illustration would have, for example, all the individual letters on this page to be seen as, 1111 111 11111 1111 111. If one were to lift their eyes off the page they would see the same number all around them. If they were to look in the mirror a matching number one would be staring back at them. Who gives them this sense of unity to all things but a Lord who Himself has this quality but in His own unique fashion? As for the Messengers, upon whom be peace, if activities were random and devoid of any designer then how does a miracle impress anyone when all acts would then be miraculous. Rather, it’s evident that there is a pattern and hence a Pattern Maker. It’s only when the miracle comes and breaks the pattern that we notice the presence of the pattern and call an act a “breaking of norms.” Both acts, those based in the pattern and those outside of it seem to show the evident nature of their Maker.

Faith, we should understand, is not the proof that would support it. If faith and proofs were equated, then were a proof to be disproven, faith would be refuted along with it. Likewise, if faith were a matter of proofs, then all one would have to do is understand the proofs of faith in order to have it. This is often not the case for God states, “And Moses had certainly brought you clear proofs. Then you took the calf [in worship] after that, while you were wrongdoers.” [1] Despite the clear proofs brought by Moses, his followers had weak to zero faith. Faith, rather, is something that stands on its own that comes directly from God as something self-evident. The Book says, “So whoever Allah wants to guide – He expands his breast to [contain] Islam; and whoever He wants to misguide – He makes his breast tight and constricted as though he were climbing into the sky. Thus does Allah place defilement upon those who do not believe.” [2] Here I will show that God’s praise, like faith, is self-evident, and therefore, not in need of proofs.

The Nature of Proofs

A proof is that which inclines to prove or disprove something other than itself. This evidence is sufficient to establish a thing outside the proof to be true. In order for a proof to be considered it must be established as true. If it has that kind of integrity then it may bring that which does not have the same kind of truth-ness into a state of truthfulness. In this sense, that which is to be proven is inferior to its proof. If God’s existence is to be established by proofs then His existence is inferior to these evidences. This presents a problem for, as mentioned above, God is one in all of His aspects. That which is one in all of its aspects does not have a rival in any of them. His Being, then, is rival-less. He whose existence is without a competitive existence is also not subject to inferiority or superiority with regard to any would-be viable existence. In other words, it’s inappropriate that God be proven for He is neither in need of anything, far less a proof, nor could there ever be a proof that would establish His existence as it’s own existence requires God’s own existence. Those who believe in God then, don’t believe in proofs for the above explanation. They simply have faith.

The Nature of Faith

Faith may be defined as a belief that is not based on proof. That which is not based on something else is not in need of it. Faith, therefore, is independent of proofs. As a proof is that which requires something outside of itself to establish it to be true and faith is that which does so without recourse to proofs, the two are mutually exclusive. In other words, faith and proof do not co-exist. That existent which doesn’t require proofs is obvious. As such, faith is self-evident. It occurs whenever and however God determines it to exist. It may also be removed as instantaneously. The tradition states,

Rush to perform (good) deeds now, before fitan (trials and tribulations) of pitch-black darkness (appear), wherein a man wakes up as a believer and becomes a disbeliever by nightfall, and another man goes to bed as a believer and wakes up as a disbeliever… [3]

In this hadith the Prophet, peace be upon him, mentions a time, “wherein a man wakes up a believer and becomes a disbeliever by nightfall, and another man goes to bed as a believer and wakes up a disbeliever.” If faith were something based in proofs, as long as a person knew these proofs their faith could not come and go so easily. Rather, faith is something apparent that exists in the heart or it is not. May Allah protect us from losing the obvious.

The Nature of The Self-Evident

That whose existence is not in need of proofs is termed to be “self-evident.” That which is self-evident is discernible. An example of the self-explanatory is the fact that we exist. Some would say that even our own existence is subject to debate. However, if we didn’t exist then the question about our existence would not occur. So, therefore, to question my existence presupposes our existence that might be questioned. At any rate, our own existence is not in need of proofs, it seems, and so therefore “I” am self-explanatory as well. “I” am the first thing that “I” know as a child and so therefore the basis of our understanding is on that which is self-evident; our own existence. So, the self-evident is, like our own sense of self, axiomatic: manifest, accepted and clear. That which is evident is not in need of proofs. That which is not in need of proofs is praised for its clarity. “Their messengers said, “Can there be doubt about Allah.” [4] Our relationship with God is based in faith. Faith, as mentioned above, is something evident. That which is evident is not subject to doubt. Therefore, just as there are no proofs for Allah there can be no doubt in Him. That which is free from doubt is true. That which is true is praiseworthy.

Good and bad are particular examples of existence and therefore are both equally in reference to God. The Book says, “If any good reaches them, they say, “This is from Allah,” but if any evil befalls them, they say, “This happened because of you.” Say: “All things are from Allah.” What is wrong with these people that they do not understand any word? “ [4:78] - Imam Abdul Latif Finch

Good and bad are particular examples of existence and therefore are both equally in reference to God. The Book says, “If any good reaches them, they say, “This is from Allah,” but if any evil befalls them, they say, “This happened because of you.” Say: “All things are from Allah.” What is wrong with these people that they do not understand any word?” [4:78] – Imam Abdul Latif Finch

The Nature of Praise

To be praised is to exist in the state of being approved or admired. In order to be approved or admired one must first be mentioned. Therefore, praise is based in reference. All activity points to an actor. Existence is an activity. Therefore existence points to one who causes it to occur. In this sense all entities reference or mention this Actor. Good and bad are particular examples of existence and therefore are both equally in reference to God. The Book says, “If any good reaches them, they say, “This is from Allah,” but if any evil befalls them, they say, “This happened because of you.” Say: “All things are from Allah.” What is wrong with these people that they do not understand any word?[5] Perhaps we cannot understand any word because we are left to our own judgments about them which causes us to be veiled from the Truth that is behind them?

I say that we cannot decide whether or not some event is ultimately good or bad unless one knows its ultimate ending when time and space finish. As creatures with only temporal orientations, we cannot know the atemporal result of any event; this is why the Day of Judgment must come for the ultimate end of every act will become clear. As such we cannot make judgments about anything outside of our perspective for we are not God and this is not the Day of Standing. Rather, the final say lies with the Actor who is beyond all events. As all activities lead to God, all acts are in reference to Him. This universal mention orients all creatures to their Maker. As objects oriented toward the Lord, He is above them in every sense. This exaltation or praise is absolute for, “Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is exalting Allah, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” [6] There is nothing outside the heavens and the earth and there is one act of reference to that which is above them. This exaltation comes from them to one Receiver of this Praise. As there is no one more appropriate for this referencing, all Praise or referencing is due to Allah.

Conclusion

That which is absolute is complete. That which is complete is sufficient. That which is adequate doesn’t require help. That which doesn’t require help stands alone. As stated above, proofs serve to assist. Faith doesn’t require backing, as it stands alone. Therefore faith stands alone without partner, yet in a created sense of the idea. Likewise God’s praise has been shown to be total. That which is ample is not in need of additions. Therefore, God’s praise stands alone without partner. All of this, upon deliberation, seems self-evident. That which is self –evident stands alone and has no partner, and this is true for both God and His creature that reflects His aloneness. Ironically then, the praise of God who is Himself alone and has no partner, like the faith in our hearts, is self-evident, and therefore, not in need of proofs. This oneness seems to be a self-evident and far reaching proof. May Allah guide us all. Amin.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

June 2015


[1] Quran 2:92

[2] Quran 6:125

[3] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim

[4] Quran 14:10

[5] Quran 4:78

[6] Quran 62:1

Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch converted to Islam at the age of 20 and has earned ijazas in Islamic Sciences including Quranic Sciences, Hadith, Maliki and Shafi’i Jurisprudence, Usul al-Fiqh, Seerah, Logic, and Arabic Grammar and Morphology under the tutelage of numerous scholars, including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Salik bin Siddina, Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Taahir, Qari Umar Bellahi, Shaykh Abdullah Ali, and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch co-founded the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, California where he served as the Imam till for 3 years until he resigned in 2012 to focus on his graduate studies. In addition, he was a teacher and a program developer for Deen Intensive Foundation, Seekers Guidance and has assisted Zaytuna College ‘s Summer Arabic Intensive program for three years in a row.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch has recently attained a Master’s degree in Philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, a member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Many thanks to Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch for contributing to this blog.

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Symbols – a quote by Imam Abdul Latif Finch

“Sometimes we look at the symbol so long that we forget what it’s pointing at”

– Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

Imam abdul latif quote symbol

Muhammad Abdul Latif converted to Islam at the age of 20 and has earned ijazas in Islamic Sciences including Quranic Sciences, Hadith, Maliki and Shafi’i Jurisprudence, Usul al-Fiqh, Seerah, Logic, and Arabic Grammar and Morphology under the tutelage of numerous scholars, including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Salik bin Siddina, Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Taahir, Qari Umar Bellahi, Shaykh Abdullah Ali, and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch co-founded the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, California where he served as the Imam till for 3 years until he resigned in 2012 to focus on his graduate studies. In addition, he was a teacher and a program developer for Deen Intensive Foundation, Seekers Guidance and has assisted Zaytuna College ‘s Summer Arabic Intensive program for three years in a row.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch has recently attained a Master’s degree in Philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, a member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Many thanks to Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch for contributing to this blog.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch’s website

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Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch’s LinkedIn page

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Mercy, a Gift to Mankind – a Thought by Imam Abdul Latif Finch

The Prophet, , has called himself simply an absolute gift. Abū Hurayra, may God be pleased with him, reported Allāh’s Messenger said,

“O People! I am only mercy gifted to you!” [1]

gift box

That is to say, if one were to ask just what the Prophet, is, the answer is a gifted mercy. Whatever is beyond the right of a dependent is a mercy. A gift is beyond the rights of the needy. Therefore a gift is a mercy. Hence, in this tradition he stated, , to all people without exclusion that he is but compounded mercy.

To compound something is to multiply it. The increased mercy here epitomizes the nature of his relationship with God’s dependents. These creatures have no foreseeable limit, as even the inhabitants of Paradise are dependent on God.  Therefore, the compounded mercy mentioned in the tradition of the Prophet has an unqualified nature. With this point in mind, it may be said that he, , is nothing more than unqualified mercy.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

May 2015

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[1] al-Darimi 1:21 Hadith #10 ;Ibn Abi Shayba in Al-Musannaf,6:325 Hadith #31782;Al-Hakim Al-Mustadrak 1:91 Hadith #100;Al-Tabarani in Al-Mu’jam Al-Awsat, 3:223 Hadith #2981; Al-Bayhaqi Sh’ab al-Iman 2:143 Hadith #1402;Al-Haythami in Majma al-Zawaid 8:257

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