By The Sultan’s Jester
I very often get people asking me about which scholars, classes and lectures I recommend. The enquiry always fills me with dread: those who have proffered such a question are usually on a journey to become more ‘practising’ in the Islamic faith, and with the best of intentions they allocate their time and money to the industry that has grown up around ‘seeking knowledge’ and ‘Islamic classes’. These poor seekers are in a very dangerous position: they are obviously at a crossroads in their life and are wanting to make a change. Hence they are both emotionally and intellectually vulnerable and malleable. This is the very same reason why an inordinate number of Western and other youth who have joined extremist groups are those who have gone from being ‘non-practising’ to ‘practising’ Muslims suddenly – usually too suddenly: the hungry man is easily fed poison.
It is a lamentable fact that the overwhelming bulk of institutes, classes and above all scholars, which are after the allegiance, money and time of Muslims, are of a dreadfully poor nature. The singular skill of the majority of ‘Islamic’ speakers and teachers is the ability to read Arabic in addition to generous publicity and funding from their institutes and from interests abroad (frequently Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries).
Regrettably, the problem is not confined to a small segment of Muslim scholars, and just as how many of those ‘speaking for’ atheists in the public sphere, such as Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, are an embarrassment to civility and scholarship, as is often recognised by atheists themselves, Muslims have the same, or rather worse affliction of being subjected to ‘popularisers’ and teachers of religion who display such woeful knowledge and coherence that they serve as both a deterrent to non-Muslims and a handicap to believers.
After being brought the following talk by the famous UK scholar Dr Akram Nadwi, I was astonished at the egregious errors committed in the name of not only religion but also at the affront to the vocation of teaching. Needless to say, people will be offended, but forewarning the laity is of far greater importance, since the sheer number of errors and points of confusion presented by this well-known scholar, who has been attached to various institutes as well as being prolific in teaching courses, was truly horrifying. We are all lacking in some subjects, and I myself do not try to give public talks on subjects I am not competent in (which are many in number), but Sheikh Nadwi illustrates the cavalier attitude of nearly all of his colleagues: although he is clearly at a loss about Islamic philosophy and even on occasion his own specialist subject (Arabic), he nonetheless employs offhand statements and critiques of everything from linguistics to logic, as well as what is par for the course with Muslim scholars nowadays – an unbearable amount of fact less emotional blackmail and amateur theatrics. But he is not to be singled out: virtually all Islamic scholars think this appellation of ‘scholar’ is a ‘Carte Blanche’ to opine about everything from how to make love to your partner to Quantum Mechanics. They have made full use of the public’s ignorance of the less than comprehensive syllabus under which such individuals are schooled.
Since I am constantly asked about ‘scholars’ and ‘courses’ by readers and students, I am forced to demonstrate the degree of incompetence displayed in just a short part of what I believe was a paid course. Having used Sheikh Nadwi as an egregious example, the sad reality is that I could have used very many others. It ails our community that so many of our Muslim youth will throw away precious years of their lives and efforts in the service of the misinformation that irresponsible and vainglorious scholars spread about so carelessly. I hope that some of you can watch this and be warned and hence be on your guard against these dangerous individuals who offer all kinds of incorrect or inappropriate instruction under the guise of ‘scholars’.
I have included the video and the ‘timestamps’ of when the problems I wish to discuss take place.
‘Surah Mulk’, a talk by Dr Akram Nadwi
At 7.42 minutes, Sheikh Akram Nadwi says that The Quran wasn’t sent to Greece, Rome or China and those who had philosophy and knowledge. The reason for that is so that they can come to Quran without philosophy. [But Quran speaks about why it was sent to illiterate people, we will see what it says below]
9.37: He says one of the conditions of Quran is that it is for ummis i.e. illiterate people.
10.00: Come to the Quran with no knowledge.
Right from the outset, Shiekh Akram Nadwi demonstrates the type of incoherent doublespeak which characterises many if not most ‘Islamic’ talks: at the beginning he commendably says that there are two things needed to obtain the blessings of the Quran;
Repeatedly, at 31.00, and again at 37.15 and 46.10, he tells people that they must ‘think’ and even that they will go to Hell for not making use of their God given intellectual faculties. This would be hugely beneficial, but as with the use of science by such speakers, it is merely a ploy – for how is it that he says that you have to think and analyse the Quran and yet comes back to say that you shouldn’t use your own understanding? This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. He says that you have to understand it as the salaf (first three or so generations) understood it. What this actually means is that you should in fact never think about it but just read what the salaf said about these verses and just accept that. So what was the point of all that prior mention of ‘thinking’ and ‘understanding’? As with many speakers and scholars, it is merely to give the semblance of intellectuality and critical thinking to Western Muslim youth, who long to frame their faith in these terms. But Dr Nadwi has no intention of encouraging people to actually think about the Quran:
At 8.47 minutes:
He says ‘they want to put their understanding upon Quran’. Here he contradicts himself again. What are people who have come to this talk meant to think? First he says ‘think and understand’, then here he says don’t ‘put your own understanding’. So whose understanding am I supposed to take, and what manner of Orwellian doublespeak is this? He is in fact trying to say; ‘take the understanding of salaf as explained by our chosen scholars (in his case, Salafi archfiend Ibn Taimia, and he has done another lecture/course about taking only the principles of Ibn Taimia in understanding the Quran). So, his message is perhaps more plainly;
‘Quran is sent so you can think about it. But you are not allowed to understand it in your own way, but only by the understanding of Ibn Taimia‘
So why do public speakers such as Sheikh Nadwi not just say that instead of trying to seduce the audience with faux rationalism?
He says, most offensively, that the reason why the Quran wasn’t sent to Greece (and other places such as China), was because they had ‘philosophy’ and other knowledge, which is ‘bad’. Rather, according to him (for it certainly isn’t according to God), the Quran has to be sent to illiterate people so they can understand it, since philosophy will block your understanding, and he even states frankly that illiteracy is the desired condition to receive the Quran (see later).
Of course, as a Salafi partisan and admirer of Ibn Taimia, Dr Nadwi is militantly opposed to the philosophers. But even the most committed partisan has to question the logic of punishing whole nations of Greeks, Chinese and Romans for the fact that they had some practitioners of philosophy, in effect making philosophy like or in fact worse than ‘Original Sin’. Furthermore, it means that the practice of ‘philosophy’ (Dr Nadwi never makes clear what he means by this word and just a moment ago he was alternating between rationalism and blind adherence to the salaf) is worse, according to Sheikh Nadwi, than child murder and idol worship – since God could send the Quran to a nation of Meccan polytheists who practiced infanticide but resolutely not to Greek Philosophers. This is shocking to say the least.
What is really disturbing is that ‘philosophy’, in the usage of the Greeks (and indeed the Islamic ‘Falsafa’) included everything from Physics and Mathematics to poetry and musical theory. Is Sheikh Nadwi saying all of these are reprehensible in the opinion of God? Furthermore, what do the Chinese, whom he similarly condemns as being unworthy of Gods guidance, mean by ‘philosophy’? Is there an equivalent word in their language and could he be mistaking Confucian ethics for a system of metaphysics? Not knowing these things is not a problem – but condemning a whole nation or race whilst not knowing them is egregious. And how do Chinese or Greek viewers feel about this unwarranted disparagement of their civilizational contributions?
This is in fact completely unacceptable – but let’s look at the Quran for clarifications as to the reason of why it was sent to illiterate people;
And this [Qur’an] is a Book We have revealed [which is] blessed, so follow it and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.
[We revealed it] lest you say, “The Scripture was only sent down to two groups before us, but we were of their study unaware,”
Or lest you say, “If only the Scripture had been revealed to us, we would have been better guided than they.” So there has [now] come to you a clear evidence from your Lord and a guidance and mercy. Then who is more unjust than one who denies the verses of Allah and turns away from them? We will recompense those who turn away from Our verses with the worst of punishment for their having turned away. 6; 155-157
So the reason is that for others, including the Greeks (who were very largely Christians and not ‘philosophers’ by this time), God has already sent them a book and guidance. God sent the Quran to Quraish because they didn’t have any guidance beforehand…nothing to do with illiteracy or philosophy. Where did Akram Nadwi get this from, other than his inveterate Salafi antipathy to Philosophy and reason?
Let’s see what Imam Tabari, who died 310 hijra (so he is one of these ‘salaf’ that Dr Nadwi insists on so much) said about this issue (from his ‘tafseer’ (exegesis of Quran) volume 10, page 6 – follow in red):
‘‘The best interpretation of the verse according to me is the one which says; this is book is blessed, we’ve revealed it to you to so you cannot say ”the Book was revealed only to two groups before us”! And these two groups God mentioned, and mentioned that he sent his book to his Prophet Muhammad so mushriks [polytheists, specifically of Mecca] won’t be able to to say; We didn’t get any book to follow, nor have we been ordered nor forbidden from anything. So there is no proof against us about the things we do and don’t do. That’s because God didn’t send us a prophet and a book. So proof can be only against two groups who have got a book before us, Jews and Christians…’
Further Tabari mentioned the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet) and Tabein (successors of those companions) from whom this interpretation narrated.
Just see the rest of the pages I have scanned here. The very same thing is mentioned in ‘Tafseer ibn Katheer’, ‘Tafseer Qurtubi’, ‘Durr Manthoor’ and others. So Dr Nadwi was on the one hand insisting his audience jettison their reason and intellect and follow the salaf, but when these same salaf did not prove opportune to disparage his hated ‘Greeks’ and ‘philosophers’, he disregarded them in turn, even when they were Salafist favourites such as Ibn Katheer and Qurtubi. This is most disingenuous and partisan in the extreme, made worse by his obstinate refusal to acknowledge his conflicting interests and sectarian affiliation (i.e Salafism), which is clearly colouring all he has said from the outset.
This, namely gaining scholarly knowledge, is the very reason that people pay and give their time to attend such courses – but this information was substituted with an extremist and incoherent diatribe against philosophers. That, of course, is Dr Nadwi’s (and all Salafis) prerogative – but it cannot be at the expense of fragrant misrepresentation of the Quran and classical Islam. In any case, why was the Quran was revealed to the illiterate Quraish? According to Dr Nadwi because they can understand it because they don’t have philosophy as others do. But according to God and all of the Muslim scholars, because others had their books and Prophets. But the Quraish didn’t. That is why God sent a book and a Prophet to them – so that they cannot complain that they didn’t get any.
Sadly, Akram Nadwi is blissfully ignorant that by the seventh century, most Greeks and Romans were in fact Christian. He is confused about the Classical period and the flourishing of Greek philosophy in Socrates time and the much later revelation of the Quran, after the fall of the western Roman Empire and some three centuries after Rome (and Greece) embraced Christianity. But that was long before the Quran. As for the history of religion in China, I hazard to say Dr Nadwi should say nothing as he can be expected to be similarly uninformed and careless.
Rumi is a Kaafir!?
9.00 Sheikh Nadwi, tells us that the famous Persian poet and mystic Jalal ad Din Rumi is desirous of re-writing the Quran. He appears to be saying that Rumi accepted the challenge of God about (re)writing the Quran.
Having followed Salafist protocol and immediately, with his first breath, bashed ‘philosophers’ and rationalists, Sheikh Nadwi scarcely pauses before he moves on to their preferred next target – the Sufis.
I am aware of no statement by Rumi nor any other authority in Islam (apart from of course the militantly anathematising branch of the Wahhabo-Salafis, amongst which many of the Deobandis must regrettably be counted too) which says that Rumi attempted to take up the challenges of God and write or rewrite the Quran or something like it:
Here, for instance, are the three challenges of God:
Say, “If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants.” 17;88
Or do they say, “He invented it”? Say, “Then bring ten surahs like it that have been invented and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah , if you should be truthful.” 10;13
And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah , if you should be truthful. 2;23
Or do they say [about the Prophet], “He invented it?” Say, “Then bring forth a surah like it and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah , if you should be truthful.” 10;38
Rumi never wanted to rewrite the Quran any more than Shakespeare is guilty of rewriting the Bible just for having been eloquent. His book of ”Masnawi Ma’nawi” is a collection of wise stories, and nothing to do with accepting the challenge of God. We can’t tell what Akram Nadwi means by this statement but he is at the very least dangerously irresponsible – sadly, many teachers, especially of the salafist variety, do their best to channel their eager students minds and energies towards their own sectarian debates and prejudices – Nadwi has done this by shoe horning in a highly offensive statement about Rumi and by strong inference, Sufism.
Therein lies my contention – people come to these types of talks because they don’t have knowledge and do not know what is Islam’s approach to science or philosophy or who Rumi is. In the space of just ten minutes, Sheikh Nadwi grossly misinforms his audience about these and more, dangerously in line with his sectarian affiliation to the violently anti-Sufi Ibn Taimia. Sadly, Salafis love to glorify Ibn Taimia and insult Sufis anyhow and anytime they can.
God versus the Scholars?
9.37 Dr Nadwi says that one of the conditions of Quran is that it is for ummis i.e. illiterate people.
10.00: ‘come to Quran with no knowledge’.
So, in order to understand Quran, he explicitly states that there are two conditions: 1. Be illiterate 2. Have no knowledge
I’ve explained why the Quran was revealed to the Quraish. Most of the Quraish were illiterate so that is why Quran uses the appellation ‘illiterate’, but it wasn’t a condition of understanding it. Dr Nadwi is worryingly confused and I can only think what the audience will make of this.
The Quran says;
Say, “Believe in it or do not believe. Indeed, those who were given knowledge before it – when it is recited to them, they fall upon their faces in prostration, 17;107
God is essentially saying; O illiterate guys, believe in it or don’t believe, but those who are not illiterate, who were given knowledge before the Quran was sent, when it is read to them, they fall upon their faces in prostration.
So what God is saying is exactly opposite to what Sheikh Nadwi says. I.e. being illiterate is not something glorious, and having knowledge is not something bad. Also God says;
And these examples We present to the people, but none will understand them except those of knowledge. 29;43
According to God, the condition of understanding the examples of the Quran is to have knowledge. Regrettably, this infatuation with illiteracy is common amongst scholars. It likely has its origin in the spurious argument that the Prophet Muhammad was illiterate and hence incapable of composing the Quran. Since Muslims contend that the Quran is not amenable to human composition or even alteration, the illiteracy (or lack thereof) of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is of no consequence to the Quran’s authenticity. The anti-rationalist streak which Nadwi and Ibn Taimia represent has found its fullest flowering in anathematising the poor Greeks and Chinese for their sciences and now even the glorification of illiteracy – are they seriously insinuating that had the Prophet wished to learn to read he could not have done so, thereby denigrating him benath a huge segment of mankind? And in any case, there are compelling proofs that the Prophet could read (it would have been little use for him to see the ‘Preserved Tablet’ for example if he couldn’t).
It also shows how grossly out of touch people like Dr Nadwi are with the norms and temperaments of the societies in which they ply their ill trade – advertising the alleged illiteracy of the Prophet (pbuh) or Sahabah without context is not exactly going to endear them to modern non-Muslims or even Muslims. These types of banal utterances are often supplemented with apocryphal stories of Umar (RA) burning or destroying libraries.
Millions of People are Equal to God in his Attribute, So Everyone Goes to Paradise…Except God, Because He Didn’t Do What He Said He Would (i.e Guide Us)
10.50 Sheikh Nadwi says that ‘no language can contain the word of God beside Arabic’.
Unfortunately, there are only two possibilities from what he said, both of which are completely wrong:
- The ‘Word of God’, which is his Attribute, can be contained only in the Arabic language of the Jahili (pre-Islamic or ”ignorant”) period
- The message of God about guidance only can be expressed in Arabic of Jahili time.
I hope Dr Nadwi and his cohorts will give me some latitude here, since he in a most uncouth and unqualified way accused Rumi of trying to disseminate a rival and an edit of the Quran: If Akram Nadwi means it is the first possibility, then this is shirk or associating partners with God in his unique attributes. That is because we Muslims say that no one equals any of the Attributes of God. But if you accept what Sheikh Nadwi said then all of the Jahili [pre-Islamic Arabs] including Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab and others equal God in His Attribute of ‘Speech’ and they can say something similar to the Quran. If it is the second one, then people who didn’t speak in Jahili Arabic (including people of our time) are excused from accountability because they don’t understand the guidance of God – and no other language including Arabic (of the non-Jahili variety) can express the guidance. Which is bizarre.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, at 13.00, Dr Nadwi says that one of the ‘conditions of the Quran’ is that people must have Arabic language. These types of unqualified and confusing statements are exactly what teachers are supposed to be removing, not perpetuating. This very obviously makes no sense because most of the people who live by and follow the message of the Quran, including Arabs, are not able to understand Quranic Arabic. So what was the point of this incoherent aside?
Also, if no language can contain the guidance or ‘words’ of God, then is Akram Nadwi saying that the Torah, Injeel, Ten Commandments and Zaboor etc were all not the word of God? Surely this is manifest nonsense?
Inventing More Conditions and Barriers to Understanding the Quran
13.10: Dr Nadwi claims that a condition of understanding the Quran is that you have to understand that you are from the family of Ibrahim (the Prophet Abraham).
As far as I know 99% of people are unaware of this issue nor have any way of finding out if they are from his family, nor are likely to be related to the Prophet Abraham etc etc. So does it mean that they don’t understand the Quran? Also, where is there this condition? Why did the Prophet not encourage the people to assume that they are the ‘family’ of Abraham? Also, if someone is not Jewish or Arabian, will he not understand Quran? So, only the family of Abraham understand Quran. But not all of his family, but only those who know that they are related to Ibrahim. Do we accept this?
God said that the Quran is for everyone, including those not from the family of Abraham. If Dr Nadwi is being ‘metaphorical’, which it seems, then what is the point of confusing people like this, and telling them they are ‘the family of Abraham’, when clearly most people or at least many, are not?
Regrettably, many people just take these kinds of statements from scholars at face value and parrot them. Hence, for their time and money, they have neither gained knowledge nor the tools of critical thinking, thus becoming exactly like those types of blind respondents that are chastised in Islam and The Quran repeatedly.
Make Up ‘Principles’ as You Go
14.38 Dr Nadwi asserts that ‘a sign’ of understanding the Quran is that you cry.
This is another statement that the keen student just takes on board but it is emotional posturing and clearly devoid of any value. The student’s enthusiasm is not even rewarded with a feel good song or chant but simply hollow diatribe. It is well known that the Sahaba wouldn’t cry at or upon understanding the Quran. Dr Nadwi is using one verse which is describing a specific occasion of a Christian delegation who came to the Prophet and cried – but he is generalising it to everyone. Why do this? Does it mean that millions of great scholars who understand the Quran but didn’t cry in fact never really understood it?
Why carry on making up principles for no reason? To get a rise out of the audience? But that is the job of the Televangelist, the Politician or a Southern Baptist Preacher on a funding drive: scholars are there to teach and instruct, not to engage in inappropriate emotional masturbation of the audience. Yet as anyone who has attended enough of these talks and has any part of his brain engaged knows, that is their main constituent.
You Have to be Ignorant, You Have to Have Knowledge, But Don’t Have Knowledge…Huh?!
In a way it is ‘fortunate’ that the recurring motif of this talk is the vacillating and contradictory definition of and relationship with ‘knowledge’, since it characterises most Islamic teaching and polemics nowadays; continuously talking about ‘what makes sense’ and ‘logic’, and then conspicuously failing to apply them to their own favourite scholars, narrations or hadith. Imam Razi likened those who use intellect to persuade people of the truth of Islam and then demand that upon becoming Muslim the critical faculties are abandoned, to tricksters who invalidate the very proof by which they attested Islam.
15.21: He quotes a verse where God says; The ones who have been given a knowledge before it [i.e. before the Quran]…
The previous verse is the one that he uses to ‘prove’ that you have to cry if you understand the Quran. But previously he said that a condition of understanding Quran is that you must not have ‘knowledge’. Here you see he is quoting the verse which says that the ones who have been given knowledge before it [The Quran]…then he uses their crying as a sign of them understanding…how come? Which is ‘right’ – not having knowledge in order to understand the Quran, or crying?
Or rather, more pertinently, what is the point of this confusing and contradictory diversion?
Did Abraham Disobey God?
21.36; Sheikh Nadwi says that Abraham explained the foundation of religion and Moses came to explain the sharia (i.e the rules or rituals), and that the Quran explained both.
Again, this is simply absurd as it means that the people before Abraham had no part of religion (neither foundation nor rules), and that people before Moses were not practicing at all. So what did the prophet Noah bring? What did Prophet Yusuf, and others, practise?
Whatever Sheikh Nadwi means by this, do these kinds of strange and inappropriate statements contribute anything to the enlightenment of the audience. Yet we see that his prolegomena is simply littered with such utterances. This is extremely common in Islamic lectures but virtually unheard of in secular and academic ones, and contributes no small part to the degeneracy of learning in Islamic studies we see today.
Also, it is very well known that each single one of the Prophets used to pray – and praying is sharia or ‘rules’ anyway, so this statement is pointless and factually incorrect (even an incorrect statement can have merit if it is made in the service of a point). Actually, the prophet Abraham prayed twice a day before Moses, so Dr Nadwi has erred completely.
God also mentioned some of the issues that were sent to the Prophet Abraham, so why doesn’t Dr Nadwi teach this, plainly stated in the Quran, rather than his completely inaccurate and grossly confusing remarks on the prophets? Unless it is because salafis are fond, along with Philosophers and Sufis, of impugning enormities to the Prophets too – Sheikh Nadwi’s perennial favourite Ibn Taimia insisted on the ‘Satanic Verses’ incident for example.
Or has he not been informed of what was in the scriptures of Moses. And [of] Abraham, who fulfilled [his obligations] – That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives. And that his effort is going to be seen -53; 35-40
Dr Nadwi Suddenly Embraces Philosophy (But Keeps Insulting Philosophers Anyway)
Having slandered the poor Greeks and even the Chinese, I was concerned that the more recent Western philosophers had escaped censure. No matter, Dr Nadwi has come choice comments about them too, but sadly, these are no better informed than his earlier asides at ‘philosophy’.
40.18: He says that ‘philosophers struggle to prove their own existence, as there is no proof for it’ [emphasis mine]. He then rubbishes Descartes (and Al Ghazzali, whose work Dr Nadwi, in a sad overreach of competence, deigns to teach) and refutes the statement ”I think there for I exist”. He says ‘this statement is incorrect because it is ”A is A because A is A” and that the correct statement is; ”I think that’s why God is there”.
This is Dr Nadwi’s alarming and embarrassing attempt at constructing a logical Syllogism or as it is known in Islam ‘mantiq’
At 40.40, he astonishes both man and beast by claiming that there is no argument that proves you exist (let alone God or the universe).
Even the most die-hard Solipsist would be alarmed at this and needless to say, this bizarre ejaculation has no basis in Islam. Nor does Dr Nadwi make any attempt to legitimise it (for which we are thankful).
42.48 He says; ‘I am a small thinker, it proves there is a bigger thinker [he means God]’.
Here are his points again for those, understandably, too alarmed or confused to apprehend them the first time:
- Philosophers cannot ‘prove themselves’
- ‘I think, therefore I exist’ is in fact wrong
- ‘I think, therefore God exists’ is the right formulation.
This, yet again, is the proof and result of Muslim scholar’s hostile and inconsistent usage of reason and ‘logic’ (or ‘mantiq’). Dr Nadwi’s role model and the man he is wont to promote at courses and seminars, the aforementioned Ibn Taimia, is well known for his voluminous (as in it is literally many volumes) ‘refutation’ of ‘Greek’ logic. Sheikh Nadwi goes one further and uses it in one of the most bizarre ways I can ever recall being committed to ‘YouTube’ (and anyone familiar with that outlet will no doubt be aware of the severe violations therein). It is unsurprising – arguments about whether logic should be taught on the syllabus raged at the very founding of Deoband, which is where Nadwi seems to have been educated. On the evidence of Sheikh Nadwi, it seems they decided to teach it after all, but badly.
First of all just see how easily Ibn Sina (the latin ‘Avicenna’) (detested by Nadwi and Salafis but a giant in the field of logic) proves his own existence – follow the text below in red: Just look at yourself! Do you get distracted from your existence? … Do you get headless about your own existence? Do you deny yourself? According to me, any brainy person doesn’t do that! Even the sleepy person, while dreaming and drunken person while he is drunk don’t get headless about their own existence!
But it seems Dr Nadwi follows teachings from strange sophistic Greek philosophers and Ibn Taimia, who believe in a humanoid god and deny everything and anything, including that you exist. Perhaps that’s what led Dr Nadwi to say he cannot prove his own existence.
As for his philosophic/logical, er, ‘formula’, ”I think that’s why I exist”, he formulated this as ”A is A because A is A”
With respect, that is totally absurd.
The correct formula of what Descartes said is ”A is B, that’s why A is C”.
And that is a correct ‘analogy’. If Dr Nadwi had studied mantiq or logic then he would know that it is first type of ”Antijah” because it is; ”A is B, and every B is C, that is why A is C”.
That is considered the strongest type of ”Burhan” (proof) in logic.
There is no problem with Sheikh Nadwi being naïve of logic (indeed, proclaiming reason and logic to be forbidden and to be the same as inviting the punishment of God on your whole nation and race does predispose one to lack of competence in said subjects) but then what compels Dr Nadwi to continuously speak about issues he has no clue about?
As for his own novel fabrication of ”I think that’s why God exists” and the reason for that is that someone made me to do this act… regrettably, this is just as absurd, because God also acts, according to Dr Nadwi’s formulation; ”God acts, therefore some other God exists” because someone made him to act. In Islamic logical or mantiq terms, it is the fourth type of burhan but with incorrect ”Kubra”.
Also, if Dr Nadwi believes that there is no proof that he exists, it is absurd to appeal to his own thinking (of which he is sceptical) as ‘proof’ of the existence of God. Or even to be thinking. You simply mustn’t say things like this, and especially not in this day and age when religion is ridiculed and under attack.
Sheikh Nadwi’s association with IERA is well known and it is sad that both he and they are fond of engaging in these kind of amateurish and embarrassing ‘philosophical’ comments, which go down well on the poor youth who have been handicapped by these individuals own teachings, which display open hostility towards logic and reason, but which they then wheel out to seduce these same youngsters by showing them that they have the ‘answers’ to the atheists and for the issues of God’s existence and such. Rather, Sheikh Nadwi’s comments are a Godsend to atheists, and crassly stated to boot.
What is sad is that Sheikh Nadwi and others from the Salafi movement have anathematised the genuine scientists, philosophers and logicians of Islam (and everyone else, with Dr Nadwi boldly asserting above that the Quran was withheld from the Greeks and Chinese as well as the Romans on account of their engagement with Philosophy) but then in an occult and underhand way, they appropriate their ideas to gain fame and legitimacy for themselves. However, their lack of even rudimentary competence is galling.
I have hardly studied any logic or mantiq, but I found Sheikh Nadwi’s comments buttock-clenchingly embarrassing. How much more so the more savvy members of the audience or God forbid, non-Muslim philosophers?
Having Vanquished the Philosophers, Dr Nadwi Turns His Attention to God
42.48 he says; ‘I am a small thinker – it proves there is a bigger thinker’.
47.06 he says; ‘God is not arrogant’.
Here Dr Nadwi has in fact started to get engaged into the kinds of heretical issues that he was concerned that Jalal ad din Rumi was: again, I hate to point this out, but the fact that the laity is being accosted with ideas that could lead them to into disbelief forbids me from giving Dr Nadwi a pass as a dilettante in Islamic Theology – and that would be a generous assessment. Yet this is no way restricts him and numerous others from offering courses on these subjects. Let us immunise ourselves with these dreadful errors:
- God is ”A Bigger Thinker”.
- God is not arrogant
As for God ‘thinking’, this is considered kufr or ‘disbelief’ according to Maturidis and Ash’aris, the two orthodox schools of creed in Islam (for which Dr Nadwi has publicly stated that he, a Salafi, cares not). But Dr Nadwi as a follower of Ibn Taimia, who deviates from such orthodoxy in the most pronounced ways, is presumably coming at this from the anthropomorphist belief that humans are created in the image of God, so it is perhaps unsurprising that he would say that a human is small thinking animal, so God is big thinking animal. But this is completely inexcusable.
Having removed the obstacles of reason, intellect and Sufism, Dr Nadwi nakedly indoctrinates the uninitiated listeners into his own idiosyncratic and heterodox theology – but is too dishonest to do it with openness or consent, as scholarship and teaching mandate.
Concerning God not being ‘Arrogant’, he has also been utterly careless. In Surah Hashr; 23, God says that he is ”Mutakabbir”. This means…yes, you guessed it, ‘arrogant’. This is reiterated as well in many hadeeths (e.g of Bukhari): “Arrogance is my izar, so anyone tries to share it with me I destroy him and I don’t care!’’
Dr Nadwi has poor knowledge of attributes of God. This is sadly an extremely common affliction of Muslim scholars in the UK and elsewhere, who concern themselves only with their narrow sectarian interests and a preoccupation with hadith to the expense of virtually everything else. But Sheikh Nadwi’s degree of being ill informed is exceeded by his ambition: he has spoken on so many topics and with so little accuracy that it is simply unacceptable. And it begs the question; if he is willing to opine on philosophy, logic, theology and the fate of bygone nations without adequate background, what exactly is he specialised in, and why not stick to this?
Again, this is another alarming attribute of those who purport to ‘teach’ Islam: I said before that their principle skill is very often only the ability to read Arabic, but in fact the degree to which their audience is unable to apprehend common errors in even said Arabic, means there is a total lack of quality control. One expects better of Sheikh Nadwi, but once again, his statements will leave the students grasping:
52.23 he says; the Arabic word ”Mulk” cannot be translated by a single word. Further, he says; ”Mulk” means ”controlling” and ”possession” – so it is ‘ruler’, ‘owner’. He made two points;
- Mulk cannot be translated by a single word
- Mulk means ”ruling” and ”owning”
The correct thing is there are two different words, both have the same root letters; Meem, Lam, Kaf. But one is ‘Mulk’ and the second is ‘Milk’. Mulk means ‘kingdom’, so ‘Malik’, which means ‘king’, comes from this root. ‘Milk’ means ‘ownership’. So ‘Maalik’, which means ‘owner’, comes from this root.
From the ‘Mufradat’ of Raghib. Follow in red (if you want to);
You can say ”Malik” of people, but you cannot say ”Malik” of things. Some of the scholars said; ”Malik” is a name of anyone who is in charge/ruling…Thus, ”Milk” is more general than ”Mulk”…
So Dr Nadwi made two errors;
- He was unable to distinguish between two different words and thought that both are same therefore he included the meaning of both of them into one word which is ”Mulk”.
- He said that ”Mulk” is more perfect. It is exactly the other way according to the language and to the scholars.
55.28 minutes he says; ”Fa’eel” form is for ‘permanent condition’.
”Fa’eel” has several meanings (and not only the one which he mentioned which was ”permanent and continuous”):
- Having the condition in a high level, such as; Shareeb, Sameet.
- Has the meaning of ism Maf’ool with the meaning of ‘a short time period’, exactly the opposite to what Dr Nadwi stated.
‘Sajeen’ means jailed person and ‘Jareeh’ means injured person. Neither of them are permanent as Sheikh Nadwi said. So the Jareeh is very temporary.
Of course, anyone can make a mistake, but this degree of laxity in everything from facts to theology to even the Arabic language (in which Dr Nadwi has his PhD) is not becoming. Arabic is complex and I do not lightly highlight these errors as many could do the same to me. But in combination with the brash and poorly researched remarks which his introduction is littered with, I sadly see a stereotypical ‘Islamic course’, which is high in emotive posturing and sectarian indoctrination and astonishingly poor in information content and accuracy. Dr Nadwi is also, and I apologise for singling him out (but he is one of the most well-funded and well known), another exemplar of the woefully common tendency of scholars and teachers who don’t mind lecturing without double or fact -checking what they are going to teach. And I must be blunt; that proves that they don’t respect the students who entrust them with their Islamic education in good faith.
I hope the numerous examples within such a short talk serve to show the readers the dangers of channelling ones enthusiasm and finances into courses and lectures without being sufficiently critical and employing ones intellectual faculties. I think that the readers can also now see that virtually all of these errors, omissions and occasional slanders by Sheikh Nadwi did not in fact require any Islamic knowledge to apprehend. If one employs such examples, and is not ashamed of using ones God given gifts of intellection, one can be relatively, but never completely, protected from what has become a shamefully exploitative ‘Islamic courses’ industry in the UK and elsewhere.