2.: Islam, Iman, Ihsan, Qadar
So, we can now move on to hadith number 2. The great thing about this hadith is that it's sort of "Islam in a nutshell". If pamphlets or flyers were made to give people a quick idea about Islam is all about, you could use this hadith as a basis. Actually, I think I just might do that one day.
Apart from the obvious descriptions of Islam (submission to God) and Iman (faith or belief), I think the point that could be the most interesting for discussion here is probably Ihsan (perfection in belief) or Qadar (fate or destiny). Of course, if there's anything in Islam or Iman which warrants discussion then by all means, say so. I may have missed potential for some interesting discussion.
Something which is clear to me is that the commentator on these hadith seems to have a very good understanding of qadar (fate). Actually, a surprising number of scholars seem to have a serious problem explaining fate to people. That could be because they don't know how to get the point across, because they're not sure if the person they're talking to will understand or they themselves don't actually get it.
I think we discussed the idea of fate before here on this forum in the first thread I've ever started in the Islam forum . Here it is. It's a topic that I think a lot of people tend to misunderstand and I thoroughly believe that Muslims all over the world should make more effort to understand the true Islamic concept of fate if there is to be any progress. Too many people seem to be too complacent sort of being lazy and expecting God to do something without them doing anything.
Concerning Ihsan, it's something that I've found myslf thinking about a lot over recent years. This "perfection" in worship is very difficult to achieve and I'm certainly not there yet. I guess to always have God in your heart and mind would ensure that you stay away from sins and and perform a large number of good deeds as well as begin to sort of break free of worldly things and not find yourself bothered by stupid things that would normally bother you.
Having said that, I don't think we're meant to be able to achieve this kind of perfection all the time. Perhaps, with effort, we are only supposed to be able to achieve it some of the time. God tells us that we are meant to sin and repent and there is a hadith that mentions how faith goes up and down.
I think that, Insha Allah (God willing), I've achieved Islam and hopefully Iman and maybe even sometimes Ihsan. Then again, maybe I haven't. In fact, I think I probably haven't. I guess all I can do is try my best and I remind myself that I'm not supposed to beat myself up about not being perfect because I'm not supposed to be.
Also, there is a verse in the Quran that reads:
"and worship thy Sustainer till death comes to thee."
The last word in the Arabic verse is yaqeen which usually means certainty but in this verse is usually translated as "death" or "the inevitable" (as it can be considered to mean that which is certain) since God is talking directly to the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) in the verses previous to it and it is assumed that the Prophet would have already attained a state of certainty of belief. However, I guess you couldsay that it could be taken as advice to an average person to achieve the kind of certainty in faith that we desire. I've heard an Islamic preacher (Mustafa Hosny) say the same. Only God knows best and may He forgive me if I'm talking rubbish. Or perhaps it's a general advice to worship until death comes to us (which is good advice anyway). Or maybe it's a double meaning with two pieces of advice? As I said, only God knows.
I did a quick google and came across this blog post where the author says the same kind of thing.
Oh, although off-topic, while I was reading some of the verses previous to 15:99 above, I read the following verse:
"We created not the heavens, the earth, and all between them, but for just ends. And the Hour is surely coming (when this will be manifest). So overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness."
Good advice from The Most Wise. I guess we should all be more willing to forgive.
Thanks for starting things off with Hadith 2. I remember mentioning this hadith in another thread several months ago, and I agree that it provides a good overview of the main tenets of Islam. As it's a bit late this evening, I'll just make a few comments and then I hope to return at the weekend.
Although it wasn't something I'd really picked up on when I first read this hadith some time ago, I was interested in the way in which the modern commentator begins by discussing what this hadith implies about the importance of seeking knowledge. In the West, we are largely ignorant about the vast tradition of knowledge and learning in Islam, and the central role that the communities of scholars (the ulama) play in maintaining this knowledge.
I like the 'tripartite' structure of this hadith. First, we have the 'five pillars of Islam': witnessing (the shahadah), prayer, purification of wealth through charity (zakah), fasting and the pilgrimage. All of these are basically actions, things Muslims do (and do with particular intentions and in particular ways) because this is what God has told them to do through the Qur'an.
Next, we have Iman, belief. It's worth remembering that the six things in which Muslims are enjoined to believe include God's Books (plural) and Messengers (again plural). As Moses is considered to be a Messenger to whom was revealed the Torah and Jesus is considered to be a Messenger to whom was revealed the Gospel, this provides a potential link between the three great Abrahamic religions and calls for us all (Jews, Christians and Muslims) to make the effort to understand our respective beliefs and principles for living, how they differ, but the many areas where they are fundamentally the same.
Finally, we have Ihsan, which I note is the subject matter of Hadith 17 (and is translated there as 'excellence'). Looking ahead at the later Hadith, I get the sense that Ihsan isn't just about doing good deeds, but it's about doing everything (not just specific acts of worship but ordinary day-to-day activities) as well as we can. The image I got from the words in Hadith 2 "you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you" was of the sort of thing that goes on when a very important visitor is around - someone you want to impress. In that situation you make a special effort to present yourself in the best possible light. The most important "visitor" of all is God, but of course God is all-seeing so we should be presenting the best of ourselves in everything we do, not just keep it for special occasions.
Qadr is a big issue that needs a lot of thought, but I agree that the modern commentary provides a very helpful discussion. Some time ago, I read a biography of Martin Luther, which discussed how Luther was for a long time heavily depressed by the Christian doctrines of predestination and election (basically, God has already chosen who will be 'saved' and who will be 'damned'). Luther couldn't find any logical reason to believe that he could possibly be among the 'elect', and so, if he was probably damned anyway, what was the point of anything? However, eventually Luther decided that, whether or not he was actually one of the elect, the best way of living was to try to please God - if it turned out that he was one of the elect, then that would be good, but if it turned out that he was damned (and Luther considered this to mean some sort of oblivion rather than hellfire), then at least he would have lived a good and fulfilling life. Interestingly, the book described Luther's decision as "absolute submission to the will of God", which sounds rather Islamic to me.
I don't have much to add, other than seeing this as an interesting summary of the key features of the faith.
The question of fate is, indeed, weighty and effectively similar concerns are present in secular discussions of whether free will exists, or whether all actions, down to me typing this post, could be predicted (say) at the moment the Earth formed, if someone was able to record the position and motion of every atom and had a large enough computer to calculate how those motions would play out.
One aspect - which may be clarified in other texts to come - is the extent to which the "God wills" aspect is present. The post from 2006 linked by the_new_mr is helpful and useful here. However, the feeling I got from those quotes is an impression I got from reading the Quran a while back. (The first quote may even be the one I recall in a different translation - there was one to the effect that God had made some unbelievers incapable of seeing the truth in religion).
That suggested to me that some folk were deemed to have been damned by divine will - so effectively they had no free will to exercise on that point. But, that said, I think the whole free will/fate type of argument is one of those discussions that can vanish in on itself, as we struggle to account for how exactly this particular person might have decided differently in that situation, given that the exact same set of circumstances will never recur.
However, I'm not sure of any of that comes out of the Hadith in question - which strikes me (perhaps wrongly, and perhaps I'm missing a lot) as mostly about listing the essential parts of the faith, rather than going into too much detail on what each is. (although it is clear about, for example, the obligation to perform the pilgrimage being understood to be something might not be easy for a believer to arrange to do.)
Well, I should have written Insha'Allah after that sentence. The weather was too good last weekend to stay in and use the computer, and the past few days have been very busy.
I haven't really got much to say about qadar, as the issues of free will and predeterminism have been addressed so well in the earlier thread referred to by The_New_Mr. The sensible view seems to be that we are responsible for our actions (we can't lay the responsibility off on God), and that prayers and supplications are worthwhile (even if we believe that God knows already that we are going to pray, and therefore, from our perspective, can appear to be answering our prayer). There's no room for a fatalist attitude. However, we must always be conscious that it's not our plan that comes about but God's plan. I found a couple of verses in the Qur'an (Surah Al Kahf 18:23-24) that are very clear on this (quoted from Abdullah Yusuf Ali's The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an):
The commentary to the hadith also says something about the relationship between intention and action:
I understand from this that it's not enough just to have good intentions (though they will be rewarded) - we need to act rightly as well. This applies both to the 'religious' actions set out in the definition of 'Islam' in this hadith and to day-to-day actions.
One issue that I find difficult to reconcile at least in the Christian version of the debate over qadar (I'm using this term because it nicely captures the ideas of fate/destiny, God's foreknowledge, and God's will in one word) is the classic conundrum: if God is all-powerful, and God is all-knowing, why does God permit people to act in ways that are in opposition to what God wants us to do? Why does God allow some people to sin so badly that they end up in the fire? In the Christian discussion, things are complicated by the view of God as 'The Father' (how can a loving parent allow his creatures to sin?), but I believe that the question still arises in Islam. A common answer to the conundrum stresses the importance of free will. If humans have been created with free will, then for this to be genuine we must be able to choose the bad as well as the good (if we could only choose the good, do we really have free will?). Thus for free will to be genuine, there must be the possibility of evil. This pushes the question back one stage - why then did God create humans with free will?
Possibly the problem comes from using the same word 'will' for both humans and God. For us, 'will' implies a degree of choice, and we are rightly held responsible for our choice. However, it simply doesn't make sense to talk of God's will in the same way. If God is the absolute transcendent being, then there is nothing 'above' God to hold God responsible for God's 'choices', so 'God's will' cannot have the same meaning as 'our will'. On the other hand, our world is contingent rather than necessary, so God's 'choices' are not predetermined (there cannot be any sort of agency superior to God to predetermine such choices, and God is not subject to limits). Also, when we 'will' something, we usually assume that we 'want' it (although there is a philosophical debate about whether we can choose something we don't 'really' want). Applying this to God makes it seem that God 'wants' bad things to happen, if we describe them as 'God's will'.
By the way, I note that the inclusion of qadar in the definition of faith in this hadith marks a difference from some of the classic definitions of faith in the Qur'an, for example Surah Al Baqarah 2:177:
Last comment on this hadith - I was amused to read the list of signs of the coming of the Last Day, particularly the one about herdsmen of the sheep raising lofty buildings. Is this a prediction of current building developments in places like Dubai?
There is something similar in the bible "Seek and you shall find". Various versions here: http://bible.cc/matthew/7-7.htm
People who think that they can sit back and not work (whether for material things or for their faith) are being unrealistic. Life is a struggle at many levels and we must work hard if we expect things.
God helps those that help themselves.
Sorry for my long absence from this thread. What can I say? Life just seems to keep getting in the way and, when I do have some free time, I feel mentally exhausted and unable to write. Perhaps it's the devil tricking me? Note to self: have stronger will power... and watch less wasteful TV
This thread got super interesting while I was gone. Let's continue this interesting discussion...
Yes, I see what you mean. Although, I think that the version of Ihsan in hadith no. 17 is more general in the sense of doing everything as perfectly as you can whereas in hadith no. 2, it's more specific in the sense of a kind of perfection in worship. A kind of enlightenment or deep rooted "feeling" of God's presence. Like the ihsan of hadith 17 is more external in terms of actions (with the intention as eternal) but with ihsan in hadith 2 more internal (with the external actions being the result of this internal feeling).
Yeah, definitely. Scholars often make the point that when someone sins, they try their best not to think of God because if they do, they may find it harder to continue with the sin. I guess things better when someone stops the sin as soon as they remember God and eventually get to the level where they sin less (and almost not at all) because they are always remembering God.
On the subject of Martin Luther, I think that if I knew 100% that I was one of the damned, I would probably think to myself "Well, may as well enjoy what I have while it lasts" That doesn't mean I'd kill anyone or anything like that but I can think of a lot of things I'd do if I knew there was no chance anyway. There has to be some sense of justice or, like the student who knows that their colleague will always be favoured by the teacher, you will lose motivation.
The Quran is clear that the seal is put on their heart because they don't want to believe not the other way around.
This is clearly shown in the following verses (as well as other verses in the Quran):
"for, what is there to keep people from attaining to faith now that guidance has come unto them, and from asking their Sustainer to forgive them their sins - unless it be [their wish] that the fate of the [sinful] people of ancient times should befall them [as well], or that the [ultimate] suffering should befall them in the hereafter?; But We send [Our] message-bearers only as heralds of glad tidings and as warners - whereas those who are bent on denying the truth contend [against them] with fallacious arguments, so as to render void the truth thereby, and to make My messages and warnings a target of their mockery. ; And who could be more wicked than he to whom his Sustainer's messages are conveyed and who thereupon turns away from them, forgetting all [the evil] that his hands may have wrought? Behold, over their hearts have We laid veils which prevent them from grasping the truth, and into their ears, deafness; and though thou call them onto the right path, they will never allow themselves to be guided."
HAHA! Join the club (except the bit about the weather... it was good but it had nothing to do with it )
No doubt but I think that it's still important to realise (and I know you agree with me on this anyway) that we still have to plan ourselves and whatever comes out as a result was to us by God's permission.
Concerning the free will question you raised. I think it's clear that there can't be free will without the option of doing something badly. As for why God would allow someone to do something bad, well I guess you could say that since God gave us free will, He also has to give us the freedom to follow through with the choices we make as a result of free will. So, although our will is bound by God's will, our destiny is very much in our own hands (especially when it comes to the afterlife).
I see your point concerning the comparison of God's will and ours.
Depends on how you define "will". I would define it as "what you intend to do" with the difference being that God always does as He intends but that we can't always do as we intend because we're not that powerful.
I think trying to understand God's "environment" (for want of a better word) that governs His will is a task that cannot have any conclusion. Presuming that someone believes in God, it's important to remember that there are just some things that our human minds just cannot grasp. If we can't get our minds completely around the idea of the 4th dimension (of time) then how can we possibly begin to fathom the "motives" (once again, for want of a better word) behind God's will?
With respect to why would God let people do bad things. Well, I suppose that you could say that since God created us to worship Him:
"I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me."
What better way to worship God than to do what He wants you to do even though you have the option of not doing it?
Only God knows but I assume so
Well, it's great to have you back, and you have certainly had a very busy night commenting on all the active threads.
There's just one point you make I want to come back to.
This is an aspect of the problem of "theodicy" - how can a compassionate and merciful God permit, even "will" evil? There's a thorough article in Wikipedia (not a source I normally endorse, but there are helpful articles if you are discerning) on this topic, which includes around 20 proposed solutions to the problem. I think that I am proposing the fourth solution: "God, if he exists, is so far superior to man, that he cannot be judged by man. Man's assumption that he can tell God what a benevolent and all-powerful god can or cannot do, is mere arrogance." I agree with you that there are some things we cannot grasp, but nonetheless I find it difficult to accept that God "wills" that people do things that God himself considers to be evil.
God is in the detail. However, we must strike a balance between doing things right and doing the right things.
Perhaps for another discussion, but can we see bad (in its various meanings) if we don't know good and vice versa.
LOL! Actually, I see my time on here as a productive use of my time. Unfortunately, often when I'm done here, I head over to google and youtube and waste a good hour of my time
Thanks for the link to the article. I've just read the whole thing. I kind of got the feeling that some of it was kind of life a copy&paste from a book on the subject (and not a very well written book at that). Interesting all the same.
In the list of 25 solutions, I found that a few of them were either completely or partially compatible with my own view of theodicy (which I believe to be Islam's view on it AFAIK).
I think that the following two points from the list are the closest to the Islamic view point:
and, to a certain extent, this one:
There is a verse in the Quran that says the following:
"Whatever good happens to thee is from God; and whatever evil befalls thee is from thyself. And We have sent thee [O Muhammad] as an apostle unto all mankind: and none can bear witness [thereto] as God does."
For the verse above, Mohamed Asad has the following commentary which I think explains the Islamic view (and, in my opinion, solves the problem of theodicy completely):
Also, going back to your point which I quoted above:
I think it's important to distinguish between God "letting" something happen and God "making something happen". Both cases are limited by God's "will" but only the latter is what God "wants" (for want of a better word). The former is God's allowing of free will to occur.
Your arguments are very cogent, and I'll need to give them careful thought over the next couple of weeks (when I'm not out enjoying myself on vacation ).
Thanks for the Islamicity.com link - I hadn't realised that the Asad translation was on the internet (and with the Arabic script, transliteration and notes ).
The distinction you draw between God "letting" something happen and "making" something happen is worth thinking about. My immediate gut reaction is that it doesn't get us off the hook, as it characterises God as either deliberately causing evil or passively allowing evil. Maybe the way through this is to pick up on Asad's comment that "evil" in this context refers to moral evils attributable to people, rather than misfortunes (which can be dealt with by regarding them as God's trials, or as events the ultimate consequences of which we cannot understand so do not have the right to regard them as "evil"). So we are left with "the evil that men do", and here, if free will means genuine choice, it must be not just theoretically possible for people to choose evil rather than good - some people must actually make the choice. If God didn't let some people choose evil, then he would not actually be allowing us free will. So this would be "letting" rather than "making", because God doesn't make anyone choose evil, even though he knows already (outside our dimension of time) what choices we all will make.
One of the features I've come to admire about Islam is the way in which many Muslims take the principle underlying the verse you quoted from Surah Al-Nisa (4:79 "Whatever good happens to thee is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to thee is from thy (own) soul." - quoting from Yusuf Ali's version) so much to heart, thanking God for good things and saying "Masha'Allah" (it is as God willed) when they want to praise something particularly good. I've come across a hadith that is apparently included in the Sunan of Ibn Majah, in which the Prophet is reported to have said: "Every religion has a quality that is characteristic of that religion. And the characteristic of my religion is modesty." I like that.
You're very welcome. I didn't know that you didn't about it. It's my main reference for Quranic translations and I use it all the time. It's very powerful too. With topics on the left and everything.
I'm actually look for a printed copy of Mohamed Asad's translation with commentary so that I can have it when I don't have a computer handy. Also, when I want to read the Quran, doing in front of a computer screen just isn't the same.
Agree with all that. It was cool to see your train of thought move along as you wrote that paragraph
Glad you like it Indeed, modesty is an essential quality to obtain. An idea of being pleased with oneself for achieving something or doing/having something good is not forbidden (and is in fact encouraged) but also encouraged and essential is the appreciation that it's a blessing from God that one must be grateful for.
Hope you have a good holiday by the way and come back safely God willing