I am in the Opinion of My Slave: On The Power of Positive Thinking – an article by Imam Abdul Latif Finch

A man of the past is recorded to have called upon Allāh with the following supplication:

O Allāh! O my Master! You have obstructed whom You have hindered from Your service. You have deserted whom You will among Your creation without any wronging nor accountability for what You do. You have destined hope in You in me. So do not join within me the reward of obedience with disappointment in what I hope for from You, O Generous One! [1]

I feel that these words are inspired and worth our attention. Below we will examine the principles indicated inside them and their import for us whom are alive, and are actively engaged with God, whether we realize it or not. In the end, the aim is to show that having a good opinion of Allāh is the most important decision one can make.

The Fact

A fact is that which is indisputably the case. The fact that we all must die at some point, for example, is necessarily true as “every soul shall taste death.” (3:185) We might be so bold as to say that the only thing guaranteed in life is death. No one is promised life, as many are stillborn. Some have short lives as they die in their youth. Others may live for nearly a century and a half. Nonetheless death is indisputably the case. It is a fact. This guaranteed event is why many people gravitate toward religion in the first place.

The Non-Fact

It seems that in practical religious life, whatever is actually the case with what God is doing with us at any given moment is not established and without dispute. In other words, on the receiving end, we aren’t equipped with full clarity as to where we stand with God or why He does or does not do something. An example of this is in the death of a child; why did He allow this child to die? In more personal instances the questions is: why did He allow my child to die? Though the same God we praised for providing us with progeny is the same God who might take them away, few of us would be able to answer, for sure, why He is doing this to us. What does this mean? Where do I stand with Him? Where does He stand with me? The fact is that the child is gone, but the reason as to the decision to take him / her is not something we would be able to establish. [2]

Generally speaking, when we can verify something in a most severe example, as in the above, we will be able to do so in instances that are less so. For illustration, it is well known in the Creed of Imām al-Ṭaḥawī that

God, the Sublime and Exalted, created Paradise and the Fire before creating [the world]. He then created denizens for both abodes. He admits to Paradise whomsoever He wills by His grace and condemns to the Fire whomever He wills by His justice. [3]

Practically, this implies that there is no activity that one may do that guarantees heaven for them, nor one that guarantees hell. The most pious of people can be entered into hell and the most wretched may be placed in paradise. Why? Due to our shortcomings all of us deserve the hellfire. On the other hand, people will only enter into paradise by God’s grace upon them. Well, doesn’t the testimony of faith and observance of Islam mean anything? Yes, they do and their abandonment is a grave matter. However, at the end of the day, just because one was born Muslim does not mean they will die one. One may come into Islam this morning and leave it by nightfall. The truth is, we never know exactly how we stand with our Creator. This is why we ask for guidance at least five times a day. We don’t have tomorrow in our hands. Thus, the proverbial ball is still rolling. Only God knows, for sure, where it will end.

The Opinion

Just as I will choose to pour the coffee in the morning, I may choose not to. The decision is based upon benefit; will it help me or not? If it helps me, I will drink it. Will it help me? I must think that it will or I wouldn’t pour it. If I have this good opinion about coffee I will take advantage of the pick-me-up. All acts are based upon this attitude; every activity is based upon some good opinion. We move toward benefit, we move away from harm (so as to avoid the opposite of good yet based in the quest for good none the less!). So, though we can’t determine our status with God at any one point, per se, what we do have, on our end, is an opinion about any given moment. This is to say; I don’t have the option to opt out of existing (even suicide can only occur if God permits one to die, hence so many botched attempts to do so). While here I must face the ambiguity of my position regarding the Lord of the Worlds, just as I do with the coffee and the chance that it might end up all over my shirt before arriving at work, with my opinion or perspective regarding Him. So, like coffee, as long as there is a relationship between us, we will have an opinion of God and based upon it we will choose to go toward Him or simply refrain. It is in the good opinion, that there is benefit to be obtained, just as in all choices, that causes us to choose to engage Him or to refrain from doing so.

The Importance of a Good Opinion of God

How very important, then, is the nature of this opinion? How irrelevant are the facts? In fact (excuse the pun), we can say that if our objective in establishing a relationship with God is to establish the non-negotiable, that our religion will be fully predictable, we may have as much luck in doing so as we do with our daily lives. What’s important to emphasize is that security is not found in actualities. Rather, security and salvation is found in resignation. Imam al-Ṭahāwī states, “No one is secure in his religion unless he resigns himself to God, the Sublime and Exalted, and His Messenger, peace be upon him, and consigns whatever obscures his understanding to the One who knows its meaning.” [4] This is to say that religion is not about establishing facts, for that is God’s domain. He also stated, “One’s footing in Islam is not firm save on the ground of resignation and surrender.” [5] In other words, if we were to be fixated on establishing facts, as seems to be the case for many Muslims who seem to be fanatical about authenticity, we would likely lose our footing in Islam as has happened to many who have taken that route.

In any case, it is important for us to acknowledge the limitations of our knowledge. I do not mean that we should accept that we aren’t intelligent but that there are epistemic limitations imposed upon us as a consequence of our being created beings. We simply cannot understand everything and to not understand this fact is a hallmark of misguidance. Imam al-Ṭahāwī states regarding this,

Whoever covets knowledge that was barred from him, discontented with the limits of his understanding, shall be veiled from pure unity, unadulterated comprehension, and sound faith on account of his covetousness. He will then vacillate between belief and disbelief, assertion and negation, and resolution and denial. Obsessive, aimless, skeptical, and deviant, he is neither an assertive believer nor a resolute denier. [6]

To put it differently, the objective is sound faith, not sound facts. Faith is an opinion. Sound faith and thus good opinion is achieved through submission. Part of realizing a submissive nature is recognizing one’s limits. If one is patient with their limitations and accepts them, they are granted what is beyond their comprehension by way of consistency in their faith, assertion, resolution and overall good opinion.

This approach lends itself to considering the import of the well-known statement attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him, who speaks on behalf of his Lord, the Exalted, who said,

I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running. [7]

To restate it, God has said that He is in the expectation of His slave. Whenever she mentions Him, He is there. If done alone, then He does so alone. If done amongst others, then He does so amongst more. If she wants Him, He wants her more and with more zeal. God is not to be outdone. This all starts with the perspective of the slave: if she doesn’t think well of God, none of the rest of the relationship will be engaged; she won’t mention him, alone or otherwise and she won’t approach Him. Therefore the ball is in her court, in a manner of speaking.

Commenting on this Divine Tradition, Shaikh Aḥmad al-Tijānī, may God be pleased with him, as per his student, Sīdī ‘Alī Ḥarāzim Barāda, may God be pleased with him stated,

[It] has come down in some reports that Allāh, Great and Exalted, will cause a slave to stand before Him and say to him, ‘What was it that caused you to disobey me, until you even changed My command?’ Or, what has that meaning. The slave will then say, ‘My Lord! I thought that you would absolve me.’ So, He would forgive him because of his good opinion. [8]

This means that this person knew that God was capable of forgiving him. This is significant because many people slip by assuming that God cannot forgive them, as their sins are too great. God is the Most Powerful. In fact He is the one who grants or takes away power from whoever He pleases. There is no one who can over power Him whatsoever. If a person were to meet God assuming He could not forgive Him due to the strength of His sin, He would meet God as one who associates partners with God, namely himself.

Shaikh Aḥmad al-Tijānī, may God be pleased with him, continues his explanation saying,

And it has been reported of Yaḥya bin Akthum- and his state of affairs is well known- that one of those who saw him in a dream (subsequent to his passing) said to him, ‘How did Allāh treat you?’ He said, ‘He exonerated me.’ He said, ‘I said to him, ‘On what basis?’ He said: He said to me, Great and Exalted is He, ‘You did this, this and that.’ I said, ‘My God, what about that which is related regarding you?’ He (Allāh) said, ‘And what is it that is narrated concerning Me?” I said, ‘So and so related to me from so and so’- and I cited the narration all the way back to the Prophet, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace – that he, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Verily, Allāh is too reluctant before one who has grown old in Islām that He should fail to forgive him’ (or what is equivalent to that). So He said, “So and so and so and so are truthful’- stating the entire narration. Then He said to me, ‘Go. For I have forgiven you.” [9]

Notice that when the slave was asked about his sinful nature, he in turn asked God about His Forgiving one. He didn’t do so to be contrary for if there were any time to be rebellious, obviously this would not be it. Rather, this person, despite his characteristics had firm conviction in God’s Mercy. As a monotheist, he knew that were it up to his actions he would go to the Fire but the affair is not up to them, for they are not God. Thus he cited a tradition of the Prophet, peace be upon him, whom he believed in as a way to call on the Mercy of God and to consign the issue to Him. This attitude is, according to Shaikh al-Tijānī, may God be pleased with him, the epitome of a goodly interaction with God. He says about this incident,

That is having a good opinion of Allāh, the Exalted. Thus whoever assumes good from God is treated in a good way. Whoever assumes bad of him, He treats him in accordance with his assumption. The one who assumes that he has nothing from Him except chastisement and punishment, Allāh treats him that way. Whoever assumes pardon from Him, Allāh treats him in kind. [10]

Indeed, this seems like simple logic. However Mercy is not a complicated affair nor something exclusively reserved for the “educated” or “intelligent.” Shaikh al-Tijānī, may God be pleased with him explains this aspect of a goodly interaction with God as he continues to say,

He, peace be upon him, was asked by a roaming Arab, ‘Who will be in charge of taking account of the creation on the Day of Judgment?’

Peace be upon him, said: ‘Allāh’, meaning Allāh will be in charge of taking account of creation on the Day of Judgment.

The nomad said to him, “Himself?’

He, may Allāh bless him and salute him, said, ‘Himself.’

Then the nomad laughed very hard. And the Prophet, may Allāh be pleased with him, said to him: ‘Why do you chuckle O nomad?’

The nomad responded: ‘When the bighearted one takes account, he is tolerant. And when he declares a verdict, he pardons.’

So he, peace be upon him, was silent and left him with his good opinion. He did not worry him about it. [11]

If there had been an issue with the perception of this simple ‘Arab nomad, the Prophet, peace be upon him, would have been obliged to censor and correct him for it. However he did not do so, peace be upon him. Thus we may understand that there is nothing wrong with his attitude. For this reason Shaikh al-Tijānī, may God be pleased with him, adds this incident to his citations of a goodly interaction with God. However, this disposition is tempered with due respect for God’s prohibitions as alluded to by his words. He says,

Having a good opinion of Allāh is the most important decision one can make. May Allāh preserve our positive estimation of Him! Amin

“Thus, having a good opinion of Allāh is the most important decision one can make. May Allāh preserve our positive estimation of Him! Amin” – Imam Abdul Latif Finch

Then, a good opinion of Allāh, even if the one who has it is absorbed in it, it being his heart’s predisposition, will prove beneficial for him with Allāh. So his good opinion is not rendered useless. However, in the context of the Sacred Law (meaning if left solely to juristic consideration) such an attitude is avoided (on the grounds that) it inhibits there being something to fear Allāh for or due to lack intimidation regarding His punishment. Some of them have named it as one’s “being deluded in Allāh.” [12]

When considered from a purely legal standpoint, a supremely optimistic attitude toward the reception of God’s Mercy can be dangerous. The reason it can be hazardous, according to outward considerations, is because one may not fear God as they should and therefore fall into delusion regarding their Master. The slave is the slave, the Lord is the Lord. If the slave were to do whatever they want expecting the Lord to forgive them, the roles are reversed. Not only is God not given His right in this scenario, but also one may attract something to themselves they do not want due to their open disrespect toward their Creator.

Here, however, the Shaikh seems to be indicating a subtle and thus more inward point. If one were to have an inappropriate opinion regarding the dynamic between God and herself, such as seeing Him as an oppressor and the like, then that would cause her to actually rebel against God. It may also cause one to go so far as to leave Islam altogether, a situation that regrettably occurs all too often. So, just as God is quoted to state in a tradition, as narrated Abu Hurayra, may God be pleased with him, the Messenger of Allāh, peace be upon him, said: “When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, ’My Mercy overpowers My Anger.’ [13] Likewise it is appropriate that one give preponderance to God’s Mercy over His Anger, yet not deny it altogether. That is to say, though there are two sides to the coin, God Himself has indicated which one He Himself favors, but denying the other side would be a mistake, indeed.

Shaikh al-Tijānī continues his explanation of the importance of a good opinion saying,

It has been related regarding Abū Nawwās, the famous poet- and his state of affairs is well-known, by one of the Virtuous: I saw him in a dream after his death in a beautiful, praiseworthy state. I said to him, ‘How did Allāh treat you?’ He said, ‘He forgave me.’ I said, ‘On what account?’ He said, ‘Because of some couplets which I said at the time of my death.’ I said to him, ‘What are they?’ He said, ‘They are by my head on a pillow.’ I came to it and found four couplets there:

O Lord! Verily my sins are great in number / but I known that Your pardon is greater.

I call upon You Lord, as you have commanded: in private. / Thus, if You reject my hand, then who will have mercy?

If none can have hope in You except the righteous / So, in whom can the offending criminal have hope?

I have no intermediary with You except hope / And my beautiful opinion, and that I am a Muslim.

Allah forgave him on behalf of the attitude toward him that was expressed in these couplets. On the whole, what is relied upon in the range of what has been confirmed is that whoever meets Allāh with a good opinion of him in that He will pardon his sins, even if he is the most preoccupied with it, He will meet with pardon from his Lord. And who ever is not like that, then his affair is with Allāh. It does not matter if he is frequent in humbling himself from his sins, in the suggested times of his days, seeking pardon, and abandoning the blameworthy, while his attitude towards God remains incorrect.[14]

To put it in a different manner, if one is outwardly engaged in all that they are required to do so as to be clean from sin but are polluted with a bad opinion about God, their efforts are to no avail. This is because, as the tradition of Abu Hurayra, may God be pleased with him, states, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘Verily, Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your hearts and actions.’ [15] Notice that the heart, i.e., its state, comes before the actions. Therefore, we may consider the heart as the source of one’s external actions and if it is stained with a bad opinion, all the externally “good” actions are blemished with it as well.

After reading thus far, it may be suggested that we have no say in what comes from us to God, for whatever comes to them from God is written. This is not the issue. The point at hand is not to delve into the secrets of predestination for we have already mentioned that our relationship with God is not based in facts. We do not have to have 100% clarity as to the what and the how in order for it, i.e., our relationship, with God to exist. Rather, as long as I can consider God in a good way or a bad way, which I definitely will do, then I can also change this view if necessary. This is my perspective of the dynamic between my Maker and me, and this is the aspect of this link that I am responsible for, not decoding the reality of destiny.

To encourage us along these practical lines, that is to help us to focus on what is within our grasp as opposed to be lost in our heads about what is not, Shaikh al-Tijānī, may God be pleased with him, wrote the following:

Human ambition is irresistible and overpowers all creation. Once you have attached yourself to an objective and spent yourself in attaining it with earnestness such that no wavering, nor turning back, nor afflictions (i.e., complaints, etc ) commensurate with striving, nor doubt, nor hesitation in believing it can be attained, occur but rather, one believes they will either attain the goal or die trying, their aspiration will reach it’s objective even if the objective is to be found behind the Throne of God (i.e., very far away).[16]

This is to say that as long as we want something enough to where we don’t give up in attaining it, God will reward us with it, if He wills. The sign that He wills, perhaps, is that we do just that! This concept reminds me of a tradition of Aisha, may God be pleased with her, wherein she narrated the Prophet, peace be upon him, said “O people! Do only those good deeds which you can do, for Allah does not get tired (of giving reward) till you get tired,..” [17] In other words, as long as we are happy to act God is happy to receive. Again, God is not to be outstripped by anyone, thus a person is happy with her because He is happy with Him first and gives her the ability to do what also ends in his pleasure. Another longer tradition supports this idea,

Abū Hurayra reported: The Messenger of Allāh, peace and blessings be upon him, said: Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allāh loves to meet him. Whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah hates to meet him. Aisha said, “O Prophet of Allāh, is it because of the dislike of death? For all of us dislike death.’ He said: It is not like this, rather when a believer is given the glad tidings of the mercy of Allah, His pleasure, and Paradise, then he loves to meet Allah and Allah loves to meet him. When a disbeliever is given news of the punishment at the hand of Allah and hardship to be imposed by Him, he hates to meet Allah and Allah hates to meet him. [18]

In any scenario, there is a relationship between the sentiments of the slave and God’s position regarding them. This is, at least in my modest opinion, quite an interesting reality.

To continue with this narration regarding Abū Nawwās, Shaikh al-Tijānī, may God be pleased with him, goes on to say,

And it has been related by some of the common folk about his state, that it was well known that he indulged in what was not acceptable. He died and was seen after his death in a good state. The one who saw him said, “How did Allāh treat you?” He said, “He treated me in the best of ways.” He said, “On what account?” He said, “On account of a supplication that I used to humbly pray.” He said, “What was it?” He said, “I used to say, “” O Allāh O my Master! You have obstructed whom You have hindered from Your service. You have deserted whom You will among Your creation without any wronging nor accountability for what You do. You have destined hope in You in me. So do not join within me the reward of obedience with disappointment in what I hope for from You, O Generous One! [19]

The obedience he seemed to intend in this supplication was one of having a good opinion of His Lord. As stated above, I believe these words are inspired. However, it is not the words that are of any real significance. Rather, the attitude toward God that produced them is of the utmost import to us. This man was a sinner, apparently, and probably did not live the most exemplary life. Many of us can relate to that lifestyle, if truth be told. Some of us, on the other hand, consider ourselves to be quite righteous. If we are ostensibly so, based upon our obedient track record, we do not want to be that person who has spent their lives working for a God that we think negatively of, only to find in the end that the attitude we displayed toward Him spoiled our efforts. Rather, we want to put God above all of our shortcomings. A negative thing is not a positive one. What is positive is what is sufficient. That which is negative is therefore not so. A negative opinion of our Lord is one that assigns insufficiency to Him. To assign inadequacy to God is to make Him other than God. To worship other than God is a grave mistake. Thus having a good opinion of Allāh is the most important decision one can make. May Allāh preserve our positive estimation of Him!

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

Sept 2015

[1] ‘Alī Ḥarāzim Barāda, Jawāhir Al-Ma’ānī, trans. A.L. Finch (n.p.: Al-Shārika al-Dawliyya li al-Ṭibā’, 2011), 2:8.

[2] To be thorough it is also not something we are to ask, “He is not questioned about what He does –it is they who will be questioned.” (21:23) However, whilst enduring such a loss one can hardly be blamed for such questions coming to their heart. Allah knows best.

[3] Aḥmad al-Ṭaḥāwī, The Creed of Imam al-Ṭaḥāwī (n.p.: Zaytuna Institute, 2007), 72.

[4] Al-Ṭaḥāwī, 56.

[5] Ibid.,56.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Saḥiḥ al-Bukhārī

[8] Barāda, 2:6.

[9] Ibid., 2:6.

[10] Ibid., 2:7.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Saḥiḥ al-Bukhārī

[14] Barāda, 2:8.

[15] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim

[16] Aḥmad al-Tijānī, Aḥzāb Wa Awrād, ed. Muḥammad al-Ḥafidh, trans. A.L. Finch (Taghzūt: Dar al-Tijānī li al-Ṭibā’ wa al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi’ wa al-Tarjama, n.d.), 104.

[17] Saḥiḥ al-Bukhārī

[18] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim

[19] Barāda, 2:8.

Bibliography

Barāda, ‘Alī Ḥarāzim. Jawāhir Al-Ma’ānī. Translated by A.L. Finch. Vol. 2. N.p.: Al-Shārika al-Dawliyya li al-Ṭibā’, 2011

Al-Ṭaḥāwī, Aḥmad. The Creed of Imam Al-Ṭaḥāwī. Translated by Hamza Yusuf. N.p.: Zaytuna Institute, 2007.

Al-Tijānī, Aḥmad. Aḥzāb Wa Awrād. Edited by Muḥammad al-Ḥafidh. Translated by A.L. Finch. Taghzūt: Dar al-Tijānī li al-Ṭibā’ wa al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi’ wa al-Tarjama, n.d.


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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Muhammadiyya and the Reality of the Prophet’s Praiseworthiness‏ – an article by Imam Abdul Latif Finch

Introduction

The Qurān states, As for those who malign God’s Apostle – grievous suffering awaits them. (9:61) However, due to the now common ignorance regarding his status amongst Muslims many of us fall into the danger of being injurious to the Prophet, peace be upon him, without realizing it. This lack of respect is not merely bad manners toward the Prophet, peace be upon him, but as the ayah clearly states it is also recompensed with punishment. To avoid such a fate we must show due respect toward the Messenger of God, peace be upon him. To respect him we must know him. To know him we must know his attributes. Here we will show that the Prophet’s muḥammadiyya or praiseworthiness is not his own but is rather a reflection of God’s own value. Treating him like any other person, it will be shown below, causes one to fall into a trap that their own disrespect will not allow them to escape from. This ruse and its preliminaries will be explained in full detail below, God willing.

Muḥammadiyya or Praiseworthiness

             The ‘Arabic suffix iyya indicates that which is of or relating to the word it is attached to. To relate is an act of telling or conveying. The name Muḥammad means, “he who is praised intensely.” Thus muḥammadiyya is the act of conveying one’s intense praise. This commendation may be self-generated or may come from another outside one’s self. It may also be self-received or given to another. In any account, praise is based upon one’s attributes. Attributes may be either temporary or permanent. Such laudation, then, may be either temporary or permanent, in turn.

As God has attributes, he also has a kind of muḥammadiyya. This state of the reception of praise when it comes to Him is pre-eternal as His qualities are pre-eternal. This is to say that there has never been a time when God failed to observe His own praiseworthiness. His self-respect, like His attributes, has no beginning and has no end. Therefore God’s self praise is a continual state. The English suffix ness denotes an action, quality, or state. In this sense one may refer to muhammadiyya as pre-eternal intensified praised-ness. For the sake of expediency we may refer to this activity as simply praiseworthiness in this article. I have chosen this term specifically as it’s the worthiness behind the One who is praised that explains both the existence and endurance of this quality.

When He created the creation He did so with this praise structure in place. Any creature that would come into being, then, would do so appearing within a context of a self-praising Lord. The fabric of the reality that this organism is woven into, then, is one built upon muḥammadiyya. For this reason praise is the natural inclination of all that dwells within time and space. To this end God states, The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving. (17:44) God did not create in vain, as he says, who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire. (3:191) That which has an aim has an end or purpose. Therefore, the creation has a purpose.

This reasoning tends to imply that there would need to be something in the creation that fulfills its purpose. As the fabric of created existence is calibrated to harmonize with the reality of divine self-praise, it follows that there would be some created entity who meets the purpose of the universe that is engaged in the praise of the Lord in the most symphonic capacity. This is to say that there must be a creature that fulfills the nature of the creation, otherwise its objective would not be realized and therefore not meet out its purpose in full. Thus, there must be a creature that harmonizes with God’s self-laudation with full receptivity to save the universe from aimlessness. This individual is the Prophet Muḥammad, peace be upon him: ‘and we have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.” (21:107)

 

The Prophet Muḥammad, peace be upon him, as a Reflection of God’s Own Muḥammadiyya (Praiseworthiness)

             When scholars treat the 99 Names of God, the Name al-Raḥmān precedes the rest. In this sense, it may be said that God’s Mercy is the basis of all His Names when the learned consider them. His Names are all virtuous. Thus His Mercy may be considered the basis of all God’s virtue, as we may understand it. That the Book itself states, My Mercy has enveloped everything,’ (7:156) tends to support this position.

Likewise, the Prophet, peace be upon him, is also valued primarily for his mercy. Sayyid ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, may Allāh have mercy upon him, stated from his book, The Muhammad the Perfect Man, in this regard

Allah says: ’And we have not sent you except as a mercy to the worlds’ [21:07]. He, peace be upon him, is the Messenger of

  When scholars treat the 99 Names of God, the Name al-Raḥmān precedes the rest. In this sense, it may be said that God’s Mercy is the basis of all His Names when the learned consider them. His Names are all virtuous. Thus His Mercy may be considered the basis of all God’s virtue, as we may understand it.

When scholars treat the 99 Names of God, the Name al-Raḥmān precedes the rest. In this sense, it may be said that God’s Mercy is the basis of all His Names when the learned consider them. His Names are all virtuous. Thus His Mercy may be considered the basis of all God’s virtue, as we may understand it.

Mercy, whom Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, sent as a mercy to all created beings: a mercy to the believers, and a mercy to the disbelievers, and a mercy to the hypocrites; a mercy to all humanity, men, women and children, and a mercy to the birds and the animals. He is an all-embracing mercy to all of Allah’s creation. As for his compassion, tenderness, and mercy for all of mankind, Allah says of him: ‘Grievous to him is your suffering; anxious is he over you, full of tenderness and mercy for the believers’ [9:128]. It has been said that it is a mark of the Prophet’s, peace be upon him, virtue that Allah gave two of His Names to him when He said ‘full of tenderness and mercy (ra’ūf raḥīm) for the believers. [1]

The word attribute is both a verb and a noun. As a verb attribute means to “assign or bestow,” as its Latin root includes the term tribueure literally meaning to give something (tribute). The same word, in a nominal capacity or as a noun distinguished by its pronunciation, means a “quality ascribed to someone. So, when the Prophet, peace be upon him, was gifted with these names (ra’ūf raḥīm) and others (for example he is also known as Awwal and Ākhir [First and Last, respectively]) their ascriptions to him remained gifts. In other words, they are not essential to him, peace be upon him, though his fundamental task is to reflect the presence of God. This representation may be found in ayat like, Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. It is not but a revelation revealed (53:4) [2] Revelation is a disclosure of information to person by a divine or supernatural agency. The stem of revelation or revelare or is to “unveil, uncover, lay bare.” As the word reveal means to unveil revelation, being an act of divine agency is an act of self-disclosure. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is the recipient of this divine unveiling as he is exposed to the Attribute of God, or the Qurān whose content is then consequently reflected out into the universe, by him peace be upon him. In this sense, the Prophet, peace be upon him, is a mirror echoing the presence of the Lord for all to experience. As he, peace be upon him, is described by cĀisha, may Allah be pleased with her, as “the Qurān walking,” it may be understood that he is a mirror that reflects the attributes of the one who disclosed Himself through revelation upon his blessed heart, peace be upon him. This act was deeply impressed upon all the believers fortunate enough to be in his blessed presence, peace be upon him. Nonetheless, being a mirror, whatever they cherished from his presence amongst them was not from him anymore than what a mirror displays as an image is from itself. Hence it may be said that the Prophet’s praiseworthiness, like that of His Creator, Exalted is He, is a reflection of the structure that God has presented to us of His own praiseworthiness via His Self-Disclosure to the Perfect Mirror, peace be upon him.

 

God’s Own Value is Demeaned When the Prophet’s Praiseworthiness is Degraded

             No one can describe a mirror because it doesn’t have an identity of its own. Rather, it only shows the face of the one who looks into it, even if only as a representation. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is a mirror of God’s attributes, as demonstrated above. If a person is impressed by the image found in a mirror their praise of the representation in the mirror would be better suited for the one it reflects. Likewise, if a person takes issue with a reflection in a mirror, naturally, their contempt is not towards the mirror, itself. Their issue is with the one who looks into it. For this same reason, if one were to degrade the merit of the Prophet, peace be upon him, the mirror of God’s own praiseworthiness, they would be demeaning the virtue of the one who bestowed the Names on him, peace be upon him, in the first place. Thus, God’s own value is demeaned when the Prophet, peace be upon him’s, praiseworthiness is degraded.

Degradation of The Prophet, peace be upon him, is the Muslim’s Self-Deception

             There are some amongst us who consider the Prophet, peace be upon him, to be but a postal worker; he merely delivered the message and has no other merit to God nor His creation. I say that this is not only spiritual blindness but an attitude that exposes one to a theological disaster that he or she who holds this unfortunate position would not be able to rescue themselves from.

To explain, if a person where to ask any believing Muslim (as some may be Muslim but only in name) if the Qurān is the Word of God, they would respond with unshakable confidence that it is. If this person where to ask them if there are any contradictions in the Book, so as to indicate some flaw or other within it and thereby disproving its sanctity as revelation, the response from this same woman of faith would be a similar stalwart display of confidence in its divine status. If asked if all praise is due to God (al-hamdulillah), as it claims, she would reply with matching fervor that this is the case and the Book itself states this to be the case. If she were asked at this point if this praise is shared with any of God’s creatures she would reply that it is not as the word all indicates that praise is limited to God alone. If this interrogator were to then request an explanation for how the Prophet, peace be upon him, is named “Muhammad,” a name which literally means the one who is praised intensely and the word all does not include any other entity so therefore all praise is only due to God and hence why the obvious contradiction, she might hesitate to respond. The reason for her delay is that if she says that praise is not all for God and therefore some of it is due to the Prophet, peace be upon him, she belies the Quran. If she says that the Prophet, peace be upon him, does not actually deserve the name she has committed yet another act of disbelief. [3] Fortunately, this is only an issue for those who don’t know anything of the reality of the Prophet’s praise, peace be upon him. Unfortunately, this ignorance is the case for many people who even claim to be the bastions of orthodoxy. It also seems apparent that this degradation of The Prophet, peace be upon him, to the level of a mere mail operative, may God forgive us, is our own ideologically self induced subterfuge.

 

Knowing the Reality of the Praise of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as Protection from Disbelief

             To disrespect the Prophet, peace be upon him, is an act of disbelief. Such acts result in commitment to the Fire. These factors can be determined in this tradition:

It is related that a Bedouin came to the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, asking for something. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, gave him something, and said to him: ‘Have I been good to you? The Bedouin man said: ‘No, and you have not acted decently! Some of the Muslims became angry and made as if to stand up to him. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, indicated that they should stand down. He, peace be upon him, then went home, and sent the man something else, and said to him: ‘Have I been good to you? ‘The Bedouin replied: ‘Yes, may Allah reward you with goodness of family and kinsfolk!’ The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘You said what you said, and this has provoked something in the souls of my companions; so if you like, say before them what you just said before me, so that their ill feelings towards you leave their hearts.’ He agreed to this.

The next day, the man came back, and the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘This Bedouin said what he said, and then we gave him more, and he declared himself satisfied. Is that right? ‘The Bedouin said: ‘Yes, may Allah reward you with goodness of family and kinsfolk!’ The Prophet, peace be upon him, then said: ‘The likeness of myself and this Bedouin is as that of a man who had a camel that ran away, and the people gave chase but only succeeded it run further still. The owner of the camel said to them: ‘Get from between me and my camel, for I am gentler than you with it, and I know it better.’ He then went to it, and picked some grass for it, and called it, until it came to him and knelt. Then he secured to its saddle and mounted it. Had I left you when the man said what he said, and had you killed him, he would have gone to Hell.’ [4]

This man was not only dissatisfied with the Prophet’s generosity he told him that he was indecent. This was a grave error indeed as the Prophet, peace be upon him, explained to him and saved him from. This is the reason why the Prophet said, peace be upon him, ‘Had I left you when the man said what he said, and had you killed him, he would have gone to Hell.’ [5] To disrespect is to fail to regard someone with deferential esteem. None of us would accept someone’s failure to treat us without due regard. God says about his beloved peace be upon him, The Prophet is more worthy of the believers than themselves… (33:6) In other words, the Prophet, peace be upon him, has more of a right to the natural respect we have for ourselves than we do. The Qurān is the word of God and God’s word deserves more reverence than any other speech. Thus if we claim to believe in revelation let us consider the fact that the natural reverence we have for ourselves, that doesn’t require a reason for us to justify doing so, belongs to him first, peace be upon him. The difference being, of course, that despite its not requiring a reason God has furnished it for us anyway.

We have attempted to explain part of this reason here so that our minds may not hinder our hearts from their own inclination, as creatures created in a structure of praise, to praise and be thankful. Part of this appreciativeness is due to the means who made things clear, peace be upon him. Indeed the tradition as reported by, “Abū Hurayra says: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “He has not thanked Allah who has not thanked people.” [6] If one hasn’t thanked Allah by thanking people what has one done with God when he hasn’t thanked the greatest of people, peace be upon him?

Conclusion

             We have shown here that muḥammadiyya is praiseworthiness. Muḥammadiyya is a reflection of God’s own merit. We also demonstrated that God’s value is demeaned when the Prophet’s praiseworthiness is degraded. Degradation of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as has been shown, is a trap. The issue is clear; if we say that all praise is due to God, then how can He have named his messenger, peace be upon him, “Muhammad,” a name that means the one who is intensely praised? In doing so God appears to have shared His praise with one of His creatures, a problem that seems insurmountable if approached with the misunderstanding that most common Muslims have about the Prophet’s status, peace be upon him. Here, however, in an attempt to reframe this positioning into something far more appropriate for him, peace be upon him, we have shown that the Prophet’s muḥammadiyya or praiseworthiness is not his own but is rather a reflection of God’s praiseworthiness. Therefore, in the end, all praise is in fact due to Allah including the acknowledgement of His making Himself accessible to us via the reality of the Prophet’s praiseworthiness, peace be upon him. Knowing something of this reality, it appears, is the fortress of faith and hence an evident good.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

2015


[1] Muḥammad ibn ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, Muḥammad the Perfect Man (n.p.: Vision of Reality Books, 2013), 133.

[2] In fact, there are many scholars who take the position that his entire life is revelation aiding and instructing us in some form or other.

[3] As God refers to him as Muhammad himself.

[4] Muḥammad ibn ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, Muḥammad the Perfect Man (n.p.: Vision of Reality Books, 2013), 134.

[5] Muḥammad ibn ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, Muḥammad the Perfect Man (n.p.: Vision of Reality Books, 2013), 134.

[6] Sunan Abu Dāwūd

Bibliography

al-Mālikī, Muḥammad ibn ‘Alawī. Muḥammad the Perfect Man. N.p.: Vision of Reality Books, 2013.


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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Aḥmadiyya and the Nature of Muḥammadaic Sainthood – an article by Imam Abdul Latif Finch

Introduction:

            Ḥ.m.d is an ‘Arabic root which indicates commendation, laudation. [1] A commendation is an expression of approval. To approve is “to attest (something) with authority.” [2] When these root letters are expressed in their various patterns, multiple meanings manifest for us to consider. “Aḥmad,” is such a name appearing as a form of these foundational letters, which will be contemplated here. The Quran embraces this form when addressing the Messenger of God, (ﷺ), when it states,

And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allāh to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.” But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, “This is obvious magic.” [61:66]

Regarding this Qurānic sign, Shaikh Ibrāhīm Niās, may God be pleased with him, stated

“…of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Aḥmad,” ‘(‘Isā, (ﷺ)) gave glade tidings regarding the coming of the Prophet, (Muḥammad) (ﷺ) and that his name in the revealed books was “Aḥmad.” God preserved this name such that He never named any one such before the Messenger, upon him be peace, so that there wouldn’t be any ambiguity (as to who is referred to when the name is used). His name Muḥammad signifies the time his appearance drew close. The monks and priests discussed the fact that a messenger named Muḥammad is to come from the Inviolable Precinct (in Makka). There were six children from amongst his people named “Muḥammad.” They include Muḥammad ibn Salma, Muḥammad ibn Aḥyaḥa…however none of these children had amongst them anyone who claimed to be a prophet nor have a state that would cause anyone to speculate about him being the Messenger of God( ﷺ).

“…whose name is Aḥmad,” he said, (ﷺ), ‘I have five names. I am Muḥammad. I am Aḥmad. I am al-Māḥī, by whom God erases disbelief. I am al-Ḥāshr, the one who gathers the people at my feet. I am al-‘Āqib, the last of the Prophets. I am Ṭāhā. I am Yāsin. He has a thousand names, the most famous of which are his name in the heavens, “Aḥmad,” and “Muḥammad.”

 

Aḥmad is an exaggerated expression of the concept of praise (fi-l ḥamd). Muḥammad is on the pattern of mufa’al of the concept of praise that acts as an amplification of praise as well. Also from the names is al-Ḥamādūn. The previous books depict the community of Muḥammad as al- Ḥamādūn, those who praise God in every state. When they eat, they say, ‘al-ḥamdulillah.’ When they drink they say, ‘al-ḥamdulillah.’ When they put on clothing they say, ‘al-ḥamdulillah.’ In good times they say, al-ḥamdulillah,’ and in bad times they say, ‘al-ḥamdulillah.’ (They also say it) when they die, when resurrected, and when they enter into Paradise.’ [3]

 

Here we will demonstrate that “Aḥmad,” indicates the intimate friendship that the Prophet (ﷺ) has with God, reflected in the authority to praise Him. This clout consequently denotes some of the mastery inherent in the slavery of the Messenger of God, (ﷺ). All these characteristics manifest in his sainthood or Aḥmadiyya.

Al-Walī is one of the Divine Names. The Book mentions, “Alläh is the Walī of those who believe; He causes them to come out of the darkness into the light [2:257]” and “Allāh is the Walī of the pious.” [45:19] Obviously God’s attributes have neither beginning nor end. When applied to human beings, the name does have limitations. Michel Chodkiewicz mentions some of these constraints

‘The Muslim exegetes […] attempted to classify the different meanings of wali in the sacred Book. Muqātil (eighth century) detected ten meanings which can in fact be reduced to two. The first is directly related to the idea of proximity […] is the primary meaning of the root, and signifies, according to the context, ‘friend,’ ‘companion,’ ‘relative,’ ‘ally,’ ‘counselor.’ The second meaning is ‘protector’ or ‘governor.’ The existence of these two classes of meaning is connected with the very nature of the word wali. This word is constructed on the ambivalent fa’īl pattern which in Arabic can possess both an active sense (normally expressed by the form fā’il) and a passive sense (corresponding to the form maf’ūl). Thus the wali is simultaneously one whom is close, the beloved, he who is protected, taken in charge, and the protector, the ‘patron’ (in the Roman sense), the governor (al-walī, the active principle constructed on the fā’il paradigm. [4]

According to Muqātil, the root word w.l.y. may be considered in two capacities. The first (walāya) is the common application of the term wali (commonly translated as, “saint.”), i.e., one whom is God’s friend, having all the makings of one drawn near to God. This aspect of the term may be exemplified in the Quranic sign, “Know well that the confidants (saintly servants) of God; there will be no reason for them (awliyā, the plural of wali) to fear, nor shall they grieve.” [5] [10:62]

An object is known through its attributes. The one who knows another’s attributes best may be said to be the most intimate in knowledge of the latter. The walī (saint) is intimate with the knowledge of God. Therefore, he/she is familiar with God’s attributes. God’s attributes are essentially praiseworthy. Therefore, the walī is closely acquainted to His fundamental praiseworthiness. Every prophet is a walī. The Prophet (ﷺ) is the best of the prophets. As his walāya is commensurate with his prophethood and he (ﷺ) is the greatest of the prophets, it follows that he is also the greatest of the awliyā and the most capable of praising Him due to his superbly intimate knowledge of God’s attributes. His name, “Aḥmad,” or “The Most Praising” indicates this station as Shaikh Ibrāhīm mentioned above, “Aḥmad is an amplified expression of the concept of praise (fi-l ḥamd).” The Most Praising is also the most intimate. When one is intimate with another there is a kind of synchronicity between the two. According to ‘Amr ibn al-Jamūḥ, the Prophet,(ﷺ) stated “the awliyā are those who, when you see them, you are reminded of Allāh.” [6] In other words, the intimacy between the friend of God and their Maker is such that to see the former is to “see” the latter though only symbolically. The Divine Tradition says, “My awliyā among My servants, and My beloved among My creatures are those who are remembered with My remembrance, and I am remembered with their remembrance,” [7] a statement that further emphasizes this point. After all, one can say “Allāh” without remembering the Prophet (ﷺ) but one cannot say “Aḥmad “ without remembering Allāh. Therefore, the name “Aḥmad” indicates the intimate friendship or walāya that the Prophet (ﷺ) has with Allāh.

The second application of the root word w.l.y. as explicated by Muqātil above (wilāya) provides for a more terrestrial application of the term walī; one who governs. To repeat the previous formula, one is known through their attributes. The one who knows another’s attributes best may be said to be the most intimate with the latter’s characteristics. The walī is intimate with God. Therefore, he/she is familiar with God’s attributes. God’s attributes are essentially praiseworthy. Therefore, the walī is closely acquainted to His fundamental praiseworthiness. Therefore, as compared to one who is not as closely associated, the walī serves as an authority regarding God’s praise. One who has authority regarding God’s praise is rewarded with God’s pleasure. The one rewarded with God’s pleasure has God on his/her side. The one with God’s assistance is victorious in the earth. Therefore, it is through God’s ḥamd (praise) that the walī yields influence in the world and the hereafter.

An anecdote of such worldly authority is found in the Leader of the Faithful, Umar ibn al-Khaṭāb, may Allāh be pleased with him

It has been narrated on the authority of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar that ‘Umar, may Allāh be pleased with them, had sent an army for a military campaign. He had appointed a person as the leader of this army, who was called “Sāriya.” While ‘Umar, may Allāh be pleased with him, was giving a sermon, he started saying: O Sāriya! To the mountain! After this, a message-bearer came and said: O Commander of the faithful! We were fighting against our enemies. They had almost defeated us. When we heard someone calling out: O Sāriya! To the mountain! We stood with the mountain at our back and Almighty Allāh gave them a crushing defeat. [8]

As the khalīfa (vicegerent) of Aḥmad (ﷺ) he was also both a governor and a friend of God through proximity to His praise at one and the same time. As such, he had God’s facilitation to cause Sāriya to hear him at a mountain in Persia, hundreds of miles away. He was able to do so through Allāh’s leave alone and by virtue of his association with the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ). This indicates that the Prophet’s (ﷺ) that the intimacy and authority endures in his representatives after him.[9]

‘Umar, may God be pleased with him, occupied the station of the external regency of the Prophet (ﷺ). Acting as Aḥmad’s substitute (ﷺ), the new khalīfa’s task was to further establish the worship of God on the planet. One charged with such a task has been given authority regarding h.m.d. (praise). Both Umar’s success in expanding the borders of Islām, and the open miracles he performed show the support he received from the Divine. It follows that his own state of intimate friendship with God or Aḥmadiyya proves this station’s authority to praise Him in this world.

As mentioned above, the name al Walī belongs to God. His Names abide forever. The Hereafter is a realm without end. The one blessed with the name walī, then, is suited for the Hereafter for like his name suggests, his/her station will also endure permanently in the Hereafter. As the Prophet (ﷺ) is the greatest walī, his authority will manifest in a superior fashion in the Hereafter just as it does in this world. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “I am the master of the children of Adam on the Day of Judgment, and I am not boasting. The Banner of Praise will be in my hand, and I am not boasting. There will not be a Prophet on that day, not Adam nor anyone other than him, except that he will be under my banner. And I am the first one for whom the earth will be opened for, and I am not bragging.” [10] We see the honor that he has, ﷺ regarding praise’s banner here. We also see that the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is master of the descendants of Adam (ﷺ). This fact is apparent in at least two ways: his slavery and mastery. Both aspects are manifested in the following tradition:

It was narrated from Abu Hurayra, may Allāh be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “I will be the leader of mankind on the Day of Resurrection. Do you know why that is? Allāh will gather mankind, the first and the last of them, in one place, so that the caller will be able to make them all hear his voice and the watcher will be able to see them all. The sun will be brought close and the people will suffer such distress and trouble that they will not be able to bear it or stand it. The people will say, ‘Don’t you see in the state you are in and the condition you have reached? Why don’t you look for someone who can intercede for you with your Lord?’ The people will say to one another: ‘Go to your father, Adam.’ So they will go to Adam (ﷺ) … I will go and prostrate beneath the Throne. Then I will be given words of praise such have never been given to anyone before me, then it will be said, ‘O Muhammad! Raise your head; ask, for it will be given to you, and intercede, for your intercession will be accepted.’ I will raise my head and say, ‘My ummah, O lord! My ummah, O Lord!’ It will be said, ‘O Muhammad, admit from among your ummah those who will not be brought to account from the right-hand gate of Paradise, and they will share the other gates with the people.’ He said, By the One in Whose hand is my soul, the distance between two of the gate-posts is like the distance between Makkah and Humayr, or between Makkah and Busra.” [11]

Here, on the Day when all people will be concerned over their own fate, the Prophet (ﷺ) will be concerned about all of humanity. A weak tradition states, “The servant of a people is their master,” [12] however, its meaning is emphatically strong. Given that the Prophet (ﷺ) will serve as the intercessor for the Day of Judgment to relieve people from the agony of awaiting

On the Day when all people will be concerned over their own fate, the Prophet (ﷺ) will be concerned about all of humanity

On the Day when all people will be concerned over their own fate, the Prophet (ﷺ) will be concerned about all of humanity

judgment, we can see the extent of his service to mankind. As the Great Intercession is an honor only granted to him (ﷺ), his mastery over the rest of creation seems abundantly clear as all will rush to him on that Day, prophet and non-prophet alike. This authority eloquently reflects some of the mastery inherent in the slavery of the Messenger of God (ﷺ).

A perfect wali (one drawn close and one who governs) or has complete Aḥmadiyya, a fact that may be illustrated in the famous tradition of Abū Hurayra, may God be pleased with him, who narrated through the Prophet (ﷺ) that God said

Whosoever shows enmity to My friend, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant, he hates death and I hate hurting him. [13]

It may be understood from the words, “were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him,” that this person has a special kind of access to God. This specialness is a result of his/her submission to Him. This harmony may reach such a stage that whatever He wants is what he wants. This relationship manifests in the latter’s supplications being answered and God’s will manifest through him/her on the earth. Indeed, this appears to epitomize the meaning of the term khalīfa (vicegerent), the representative of God’s presence in the terrestrial realm. With reference to these two aspects, Imam al-Qushayri states, “Both of these descriptions are necessary for a wali to be a true wali, from his discharge of the rights due to God Most High through close study and full performance and God’s continual protection of him in joy and sorrow. “ [14]

To this end, Chodkiewicz states regarding these two aspects of intimate and friendship:

One of these is ‘to be a friend,’ and the other is ‘to direct, to govern, to take charge.’ Thus the walī, and properly speaking, is the ‘friend,’ he who is close; but as ibn Manẓur emphasizes in the Lisān al-‘arab, he who is also the nāṣir, ‘he who assists’ and the mudabbir, he who disposes. [15]

The two faces of the root w.l.y. (walāya and wilāya) merge into the personality of the individual described in the above tradition. The one who has intimacy with God’s praise is given intimacy and authority. The Prophet’s name, Ahmad denotes the intimate friendship, and authority of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) attributes manifested in the servant hood of the Prophet (ﷺ) as attested to in the display of his slavery on the Day of Judgment; a submission that will earn God’s attention, and grant him, ﷺ the authority that will cause people who were at a distance from God to have His intimacy, God willing.

Conclusion

We have stated above that when we look at the subject of God’s praise, the name “Aḥmad” indicates the intimate friendship or walāya that the Prophet (ﷺ) has with Allāh. Through the same evaluation we have shown that it is through God’s ḥamd (praise) that the walī yields influence in this world and the hereafter through their wilāya. The authority afforded to the Prophet, Aḥmad, (ﷺ) on the Last Day is, arguably, the objective of the appearance of the name al-Walī made manifest through him, ﷺ , and eloquently reflects some of the mastery inherent in the slavery of the Messenger of God (ﷺ). As such, the Prophet’s name Aḥmad is indicative of an inner reality or Aḥmadiyya, (sainthood) lying beneath his prophet hood that endures well after prophecy has ended in the world. It is both the epitome of intimacy with God and authority within His creation.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

2015

 


[1] The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic s.v. “Hamd.”

[2] Douglas Harper, “Commendation” http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=commendation&allowed_in_frame=0 (accessed January 21, 2014).

[3] Ibrāhīm Niās, Fī Riyāḍ Al-Tafsīr, vol. 5 (Tunis: Majma’ al-Yamāma li-al-Ṭabā’a wa-al-Nashr wa al-Tawzī’, 2010), 135-137. For an exact tradition that confirms the multiple names of the Prophet, (ﷺ), see Shamā-il Tirmidhī Chapter 051, Ḥadīth Number 001 (360).

[4] Michel Chodkiewicz, Seal of Saints (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1993), 24.

[5] The Quran refers to God’s friendship in several instances in the Book.  “Allāh is the Walī of those who believe; He causes them to come out of darkness into light.” [2:257] “Allāh is the Walī of the pious.’ [45:19] Know you not that it is Allah to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth? And besides Allah you have neither any Wali (protector or guardian) nor any helper. [2:107] Verily, among mankind who have the best claim to Ibrahim (Abraham) are those who followed him, and this Prophet (Muhammad SAW) and those who have believed (Muslims). And Allah is the Wali (Protector and Helper) of the believers. [3:68] Allah has full knowledge of your enemies, and Allah is Sufficient as a Wali (Protector), and Allah is Sufficient as a Helper. [4:45] Your ally is none but Allah and [therefore] His Messenger and those who have believed – those who establish prayer and give zakah, and they bow [in worship]. [5:55] Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish prayer and give zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. [2:277]

[6] For the specifics regarding this tradition see Gibril Fouad Haddad, The Muhammadan Light (Londom: Centre for Spirituality and Cultural Advancement, 2012), 268-269.

[7] For details regarding this tradition see ibid., 269.

[8] Dalāil al-Nubuwwah, Ḥadīth No. 2655; Mishkātul Masabīḥ, Bab al-Karamāt; Zujaja al-Masabīḥ, Bab al-Karamāt)

[9] These representatives are found scattered throughout the world. It is to this end that we find a report that states,”

Verily, ‘Umar, may God be pleased with, exited the mosque.  He found Mu’ādh crying at the grave of the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ). So he asked him, ‘What makes you cry?’ ‘Words I heard from the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) who said, ‘The slightest example of ostentation is polytheism. Whoever shows enmity with one of God’s friends has had a declaration of war made against him. Allāh loves the exposure of the hidden ones who are God-conscious whom were they to disappear no one would miss them. When they are present no one knows them. Their hearts are lamps in the darkness. They come forth from every gloomy recess of the Earth.’ Narrated by Mu’ādh ibn Jabal as found in the collection of al-Hāfiḍ a-Mundharī in his “al-Targhīb wal-Tarhīb 148/4

[10] Jāmi’ al-Tirmidhī, Chapters on Virtues, Ḥadīth 3975

[11]  al-Bukhārī, 4712

[12] Narrated by Ibn ‘Abbās, Anas ibn Mālik, and Sahl ibn Sa’d. Anas’s version states, “The servant of a people is their master and the one who gives them drink is the last to drink.

[13] Al-Bukhārī

[14] Abu’L-Qasim al-Qushayri, Sufi Book of Spiritual Ascent, trans., Rabia Harris, 4th ed. (Chicago: KAZI, 2006), 249-250.

[15] Chodkiewicz, 21.

Sources

al-Qushayri, Abu’L-Qasim. Sufi Book of Spiritual Ascent. Translated by Rabia Harris. 4th ed. Chicago: KAZI, 2006.

Chodkiewicz, Michel. Seal of Saints. Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1993.

Haddad, Gibril Fouad. The Muhammadan Light Londom: Centre for Spirituality and Cultural Advancement, 2012.

Harper, Douglas, “Commendation” http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=commendation&allowed_in_frame=0 (accessed January 21, 2014).

Niās, Ibrāhīm. Fī Riyāḍ Al-Tafsīr. Vol. 5. Tunis: Majma’ al-Yamāma li-al-Ṭabā’a wa-al-Nashr wa al-Tawzī’, 2010.

Wehr, Hans, The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic London:Macdonald and Evans, Ltd., 1974.


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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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.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch’s website

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Power belongs to God – an article by Imam Abdul Latif Finch

Power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. Behaviour is either voluntary or involuntary and is over one’s self or another. The ability to exist, itself, is not something that one has power over (i.e., one does not bring themselves into existence, for example). So, despite our choice and will when it comes to the myriad voluntary acts that we perform, our initial point existence (and continued existence for that matter) which spawns the flow of all voluntary activity is only made possible by the One who made us. So, ultimately speaking, voluntary power finds its source in God.

Our life sustaining activity is largely involuntary. For example, the heart beats without one’s choice. Without a heartbeat one cannot live. Therefore, the involuntary act is the basis of life. The brain’s activity is also unconscious. So, the ability to consider the words in this paragraph and their import as they apply to a relationship between power as involuntary or voluntary is based in the non-volitional act of giving life. God gives life. Therefore, involuntary power, comes from Allah.

Planning is the process of forming a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. A person may plan, for example, to attend a particular university. They may do so from early on while still in high school. They may have the requisite grades, inclination, and overall wherewithal to be able to attend. This person may even be accepted into the university as was aimed for. However, the plan did not take into consideration that he or she was not to live as long as the strategy presupposed he or she would require to in order to fully execute it. Therefore, in this, and in a limitless set of similar circumstances, power does not come from human planning.

“Our initial point existence (and continued existence for that matter) which spawns the flow of all voluntary activity is only made possible by the One who made us.” – Imam Abdul Latif Finch

A cause is a person or thing that gives rise to an action, phenomenon, or condition. This thing must first exist. Its existence, as mentioned above, is not a voluntary act. Therefore, this aspect of its existence is subsumed in the previous statement that all involuntary activity belongs to God. As such any involuntary power in causality belongs to God. Its involuntary activities depend on its origination which is, as mentioned, not within its power. So, voluntary activity depends on God’s decision to grant the cause’s existence. Therefore, voluntary causality finds its source in God. He creates the cause for whatsoever He pleases.

An effect that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause. The effect, then, is dependent on the cause. It’s voluntary or involuntary nature is of no real consequence when it is merely the outcome of a prior act. The ultimate cause, already stated, is God, and as created beings we are all effects. He creates us whenever He pleases as not every cause produces an effect unfailingly. Both cause and effect, then, are powerless. He creates them for whomsoever or whatsoever He pleases.

The Quran states in this regard:

Say, “O Allah , Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is good. Indeed, You are over all things competent. (3:26)

In other words, God is the Source of Power. He creates its causal and effective impression as He likes. He acts without a necessary link between cause and effect for not everyone gets what they plan for. The power of His hands has the ability to produce what is ultimately of benefit to all of the effects. As He knows just what each thing needs, He is entirely capable to do so.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

May 2015

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.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch’s website

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