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Ramadhan 2015 - Day 26

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. Until war lays down its burdens


(47:4) So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens.That [is the command]. And if GodAllah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of God/Allah - never will He waste their deeds.

I consider the above sign / indicator (ayat) to provide a clear and categorical - i.e. mukham - ruling (hukm) and command (amr) from God/Allah regarding when enemy combatants can be put into bondage, i.e. taken as prisoners of war (harb), and for how long, viz. for the duration of the state of war - "until the war lays down its burdens". It is crucial to note, in this regard, that towards the end of this sign / indicator, God/Allah refers to those killed "in the cause of God/Allah" (fi sabeel-illah). I take this to mean that the commands regarding enemy combatants are to be understood in relation to warfare associated with "righteous struggle", i.e. defense of the Muslim polity / community (ummat) from external aggression and/or in order to liberate oppressed people. In this connection, I should like to refer interested readers to the journal entry: Ramadhan 2015 - Day 5, Point #2.

Since the above sign / indicator is quite specific (khass) about the conditions (shuroot) under which enemy combatants can be made into prisoners of war, and that war is envisaged as a contingent and temporary / transient state (haal) rather than a necessary and perpetual / abiding state of affairs, one has to wonder, from an Islamic Counter-Racist and/or Islamic decolonial perspective, what possible islamic / Qur'anic justification there was for the Arab Slave Trade / Islamicate slavery? The short answer: none. On this point, consider the following sign / indicator (ayat):


(5:64) And the Jews say, "The hand of God/Allah is chained." Chained are their hands, and cursed are they for what they say. Rather, both His hands are extended; He spends however He wills. And that which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in transgression and disbelief. And We have cast among them animosity and hatred until the Day of Resurrection. Every time they kindled the fire of war, God/Allah extinguished it. And they strive throughout the land [causing] corruption, and God/Allah does not like corrupters.

For further information on the Islamic laws of war, I refer interested readers to Ahmed Al-Dawoody's book of the same name, viz. The Islamic Law of War: Justifications and Regulations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). It is interesting to note that the term 'slave' does not appear in the index for this work although there is an entry for "prisoners of war", a subject that is covered on pages 136 to 141 of this highly technical and authoritative work. The author has also written related and much shorter work entitled JIhad and the Islamic Law of War (Jordan: Royal Aal Al-bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, 2009).

2. Killed, but not dead


(47:5) He will guide them and amend their condition.

I am intrigued by this sign / indicator (ayat) insofar as it follows immediately after the preceding one referred to above since those who will be guided (sa yahdihim) and have their conditions amended (yuslihu baalahum) by God/Allah are those who have been killed in the way of God/Allah (alladheena qutiloo fi sabeel'illah). Yet how can those who are dead be guided / directed, and/or have their conditions (baal) amended / rectified / repaired (yuslih)? I think the answer to these questions is provided by the following sign / indicator (ayaat):


(2:154) And do not say about those who are killed in the way of God/Allah, "They are dead." Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.

In short, those who are killed in the way of God/Allah are not dead, i.e. they are still alive, even though conscious awareness of this is not possible on the part of external / zaahiri observers. As to the 'how' (kayf) of their living, consider this:


(3:169) And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of God/Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision,
(3:170) Rejoicing in what God/Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty, and they receive good tidings about those [to be martyred] after them who have not yet joined them - that there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.

And as to the 'where' (ayna) of their living, consider this:


(47:6) And admit them to The Garden, which He has made known to them.

3. Ally, but no master


(47:11) That is because God/Allah is the protector (mawla) of those who have believed and because the disbelievers have no protector (mawla).

I am inclined to think that the use of the term protector / master (mawla) in this sign / indicator (ayat) is significant insofar as a comparison can be made between this sign / indicator and (2:257) where the term ally / protecting friend (waliy) is used, viz.


(2:257) God/Allah is the ally / protecting friend (waliy) of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light. And those who disbelieve - their allies / protecting friends (awliyaa) are the Taghoot (i.e. false gods / ultimates / absolutes). They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.

In short, the rejectors (al-kaafiroon) have no mawla, yet those who have rejected (alladheena-kafaroo) have awliyaa; apart from the difference between the terms mawla and waliy, there is a need to consider the difference between the stronger noun-based classification al-kaafiroon and the weaker verb-based classification alladheena-kafaroo. According to Corpus Qur'an,

According to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, author of the Dictionary of The Holy Qur'an (2009),

Grammatically-speaking, the difference between the terms has to do with the word mawla being derived from Form IV of the verb. According to W. Wright's A Grammar of The Arabic Language, Volume I (1974), page 34:

On this basis, I am inclined to the view that the difference between mawla and waliy should be understood in terms of causal capacity, viz. that, ultimately, since there is no cause / doer (fa'il) except God/Allah, there can be no mawla other than God/Allah which means that the rejectors (al-kaafiroon) have no mawla other than God/Allah, who they reject. In neo-Akbarian terms - that is, in terms of the theological metaphysics articulated by ibn 'Arabi - God/Allah (alone) is Absolute Being (wujood or al-wujood al-mutlaq), while His 'opposite' is absolute nothingness (al-udum al-mutlaq), i.e. nothing in and of itself.

4. On the relation between guidance (hudan) and self-preservation (taqwa)


(47:17) And those who are guided (alladheena ahtadow) - He increases them in guidance (hudan) and gives them their self-preservation through consciousness of God/Allah (taqwaahum)

Consider the grammatical analysis of this sign / indicator (ayat) presented by Corpus Qur'an, viz.

I am interested in how this sign / indicator (ayat) stands in relation to (2:2) and other similar signs / indicators:


(2:2) This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance (hudan) for those who preserve themselves through consciousness of God/Allah (al-muttaqeen)

Note that "those who are guided" (alladheena ahtadow) in (47:17) is a verb-based classification, whereas "those who preserve themselves through consciousness of God/Allah" (al-muttaqeen) is a noun-based classification.; in short, the former is defined in terms of doing, while the latter is defined in terms of being. I am strongly inclined to the view that the way in which the categories are defined has significance in terms of causal relations involving guidance (hudan) and self-preservation (taqwa), although I have yet to determine precisely the nature of the causality at work here and whether it is unidirectional / linear or bidirectional / circular, i.e. involves what might be described in contemporary systems-theoretical terms as 'feedback'.

As to verbs in Form VIII, according to W. Wright's A Grammar of The Arabic Language, Volume I (1974), page 42:

5. Of incentives, financial and otherwise


(47:36) [This] worldly life is only amusement and diversion. And if you are securely committed to God/Allah and preserve yourselves, He will give you your rewards and not ask you for your properties.
(47:37) If He should ask you for them and press you, you would withhold, and He would expose your unwillingness.
(47:38) Here you are - those invited to spend in the cause of God/Allah - but among you are those who withhold [out of greed]. And whoever withholds only withholds [benefit] from himself; and God/Allah is the Free of need, while you are the needy. And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you.

I am strongly inclined to the view that the above signs / indicators (ayaat) point to the importance of cultivating an 'other-worldly' / long-term (ukhrawiy) existential orientation as a basis upon which to found a non-coercive yet vibrant economy which benefits society as a whole. I maintain that if the incentive for keeping one's surplus wealth / resources in circulation, like the blood circulates in the arteries, veins and capillaries of the body*, is a fundamentally next-worldly / long-term benefit, it becomes possible to transcend short-term 'capitalist' behaviour and, importantly, avoid the need for imposing 'socialist' interventions to keep such predatory behaviour in check. In short, capitalism and socialism are dialectically-related opposites emerging within a materialistic / 'secular' (dunyaawiy) conception of reality.

I understand (47:36) as stating that if one is securely committed to God/Allah (imaan) and self-preservation (taqwa), God/Allah will not ask for one's properties because it will not be necessary to do so; rather, the 'fruits' of imaan and taqwa would be the sharing / keeping open of wealth (and resources). I see (47:36) as establishing priorities, viz. inculcation of imaan and taqwa as precursors / conditions (shuroot) for such wealth-/resource-sharing, and (47:37) as indicating what would happen if a demand to share was made before such precursors were fulfilled, i.e. before imaan and taqwa had borne their 'fruits', viz. withholding and unwillingness to part with wealth / resources. (47:38) points to the effect of such negative behaviour on the 'self' (nafs) and needs to be contrasted with the behaviour described in (92:18) which relates to the phenomenon of cultivating the self for development through pruning it of its defects (tazkiyyat) in (91:7-10).

If this all sounds too 'idealistic' and 'anarcho-libertarian', I should like to draw attention to the closing phrase in this sign / indicator (ayat) - which is also the closing phrase of this enclosure / chapter (surah), viz. "and if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you." In short, if a people are not willing to measure up to this 'ideal', then they will be replaced by others.

Capitalism might appear robust and permanent, but it is nothing but the 'froth' that mounts up on the surface of the water and is destined to pass.

In this connection, I should like to encourage interested readers to study The Qur'anic System of Sustenance by the modernist Qur'an exegete G.A.Parwez which is both brilliant and, in my humble opinion, flawed yet makes for essential reading.

* The Arabic word for 'spending', viz. infaaq, is derived from the root nafaqa from which is derived the word nafaq meaning 'tunnel'.

6. Of contracts, 'vertical' and 'horizontal'


(48:10) Indeed, those who pledge allegiance to you, [O Muhammad] - they are actually pledging allegiance to God/Allah. The hand of God/Allah is over (fawq) their hands. So he who breaks his word only breaks it to the detriment of himself. And he who fulfills that which he has promised God/Allah - He will give him a great reward.

I consider this sign / indicator (ayat) to be one of the clearest statements that the horizontal 'social' contract is underpinned - or pehaps that should be overpinned - by the vertical Divine contract. In short, the communitarian / polity-based manifestation of the deen (life-transaction / power-relation) as millat is grounded in a personal contract between the individual as slave / 'abd and God/Allah as Master / Lord / Rabb.

7. Against the (post-)modern redefinition of Islam


(49:15) The believers / those securely committed (to God/Allah) are only the ones who have believed in / securely committed themselves to God/Allah and His Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and their lives in the cause of God/Allah. It is those who are the truthful.
(49:16) Say, "Would you acquaint God/Allah with your religion / life-transaction / power-relation (deenikum) while God/Allah knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth, and God/Allah is Knowing of all things?"

I am inclined to interpret the first of these signs / indicators (ayaat) as 'framing' the deen (life-transaction / power-relation) of Islam in terms of 'belief' and 'action', viz. secure commitment to God/Allah and His Messenger and the concrete existential demonstration of the truth / veractity of this commitment in struggle (jihad) with one's life and one's wealth. As to the second of these signs / indicators, I consider as a rejection of any other conception of the deen of Islam.

In the contemporary era, I think the above signs / indicators speak to possibly well-intentioned yet ultimately confused and misguided attempts on the part of some Muslims intoxicated with 'critical', 'post-colonial', 'post-modern' and other tendencies to forge a conception of the deen of Islam which either distorts the Qur'anic 'framing' or, worse still, presents a conception of 'Islamicity' (sic) wholly divorced from The Qur'an, grounded instead in 'Muslimness', i.e. "what Muslims do".


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 25

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. How God/Allah eliminates falsehood


(42:24) Or do they say, "He has invented about God/Allah a lie"? But if God/Allah willed, He could seal over your heart. And God/Allah eliminates falsehood and establishes the truth by His words (kalimaatihi). Indeed, He is Knowing of that within the breasts.

Elsewhere I have written about how that which is 'false' (al-baatil) is eliminated by that which is 'true' / 'right' (al-haqq); on this point, I refer interested readers to the following journal entries: Ramadhan 2011 - Day 10; Ramadhan 2014 - Day 4; Ramadhan 2014 - Day 9, Point #2; Ramadhan 2014 - Day 15, Point #2; Ramadhan 2014 - Day 22, Point #2; Ramadhan 2015 - Day 13; Ramadhan 2015 - Day 15, Point #1.

I find the above sign / indicator (ayat) interesting insofar as it points to how God/Allah uses His Words (kalimaatihi) to effect such an elimination, and am inclined to think that this sign / indicator should be understood in relation to the following:


(25:52) So do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them with it (i.e. The Qur'an) a great striving.

2. Of Pharaoh and Iblees


(43:51) And Pharaoh called out among his people; he said, "O my people, does not the kingdom of Egypt belong to me, and these rivers flowing beneath me; then do you not see?
(43:52) Or am I [not] better than this one (haadha) who is insignificant and hardly makes himself clear?

I am struck by the similarity in deictic (or positional) language - specifically, the use of the near / proximal demonstrative (haadha) - between the second of the above signs / indicators (ayaat) and the second of the following signs / indicators:


(17:61) And [mention] when We said to the angels, "Prostrate to Adam," and they prostrated, except for Iblees. He said, "Should I prostrate to one You created from clay?
(17:62) [Iblees] said, "Do You see this one (haadha) whom You have honored above me? If You delay me until the Day of Resurrection, I will surely destroy his descendants, except for a few."

According to basic Arabic grammar,

I am inclined to the view that since both Iblees and Pharaoh are treating their respective 'adversaries' with contempt - Adam in the case of the former and Moses in the case of the latter, both of whom stand as successors (khulafaa) relative to them (Adam as insaan is the successor creation to Iblees who belongs to the jaan, while Moses and the Bani Isra'il are to succeed Pharaoh and his people in the land) - they employ the use of the near / proximal demonstrative (ishaarat), viz. haadha, rather than the far / distal demonstrative, dhaalika, i.e. rather than refer to their 'adversary' with a measure of respect by employing the kaaf of address and the honorific laam of distance, each of them refers to their adversary with the haa of 'alerting'.

I am also struck by the Ibleesian language that Pharoah uses in (43:52), viz. "I am better / superior than" (ana khayrun min)

3. Against secularism


(43:84) It is He [alone] who is god in heaven and god on earth. And He is the Wise, the Knowing.
(43:85) And blessed is He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them and with whom is knowledge of the Hour and to whom you will be returned.

I am inclined to the view that the above signs / indicators (ayaat), which in my opinion provide a clear basis for rejecting secularism (i.e. two separate 'spheres' / realms / dominions of ultimate authority), should be understood against the background of the following sign / indicator:


(16:51) And God/Allah has said, "Do not take for yourselves two gods. He is but one god, so fear only Me."

4. The purpose of the cosmos


(45: 22) And God/Allah created the heavens and earth in truth and so that every soul may be recompensed for what it has earned, and they will not be wronged.

5. Knowingly sent astray


(45:23) Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and God/Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge ('ala 'ilm) and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after GodAllah? Then will you not be reminded?

I am interested in how the highlighted phrase "due to knowledge" in the above sign / indicator (ayat) should be understood. According to Nouman Ali Khan, this sign / indicator should be understood as follows:

Muhammad Mohar Ali in his Word for Word Meaning of The Qur'an (2003), Vol.III, page 1625 renders the phrase as "against knowledge" and offer the following note by way of a clarification of his interpretation:

However, I am much more persuaded by the interpretation of Muhammad Asad presented in The Message of The Qur'an (1980), viz.

(45:23) Have you ever considered [the kind of man) who makes his own desires his deity, and whom God/Allah has [thereupon] let go astray, knowing [that his mind is closed to all guidance], and whose hearing and heart He has sealed, and upon whose sight He has placed a veil? Who, then, could guide him after God/Allah [has abandoned him]? Will you not, then, bethink yourselves?

Commenting on this sign ./ indicator, Asad states: "Thus Razi, evidently reflecting the views of Zamakhshari, which have been quoted at length in my note 4 on 14:4."


(14:4) And never have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people's tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them; but God/Allah lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides him that wills [to be guided] - for He alone is almighty, truly

Asad offers the following commentary (note #4) on the above sign / indicator, pointing to the grammatical ambiguity associated with the highlighted phrase:

  • Or: "God lets go astray whomever He wills, and guides whomever He wills". All Qur'anic references to God's "letting man go astray" must be understood against the background of 2:26-27 - "none does He cause to go astray save the iniquitous, who break their bond with God" (regarding which latter expression, see surah 2, note 19): that is to say, man's "going astray" is a consequence of his own attitudes and inclinations and not a result of an arbitrary "predestination" in the popular sense of this word (cf. surah 2, note 7). In his commentary on the above verse, Zamakhshari stresses this aspect of free choice on the part of man and points out that "God does not cause anyone to go astray except one who, as He knows, will never attain to faith; and He does not guide anyone aright except one who, as He knows, will attain to faith. Hence, the [expression] 'causing to go astray' denotes [God's] leaving [one] alone (takhliyah) and depriving [him] of all favour, whereas [the expression] 'guidance' denotes [His] grant of fulfilment (tawfiq) and favour.... Thus, He does not forsake anyone except those who deserve to be forsaken, and does not bestow His favour upon anyone except those who deserve to be favoured." Commenting on the identical phrase occurring in 16:93, Zamakhshari states: "[God] forsakes him who, as He knows, will [consciously] choose to deny the truth and will persevere in this [denial]; and ... He bestows His favour upon him who, as He knows, will choose faith: which means that He makes the issue dependent on [man's] free choice (alikhtiyar), and thus on his deserving either [God's] favour or the withdrawal of [His] aid ... and does not make it dependent on compulsion [i.e., predestination], which would rule out [man's] deserving anything of the above."


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 24

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. Salvation by 'self' attainment and such attainment as by the mercy of God/Allah


(39:61) And God/Allah will save those who feared Him by their attainment (bimaa faazatihim); no evil will touch them, nor will they grieve.

In this sign / indicator (ayat), salvation (najaat) appears to be attributed to the actions - 'attainment' - of people; yet consider in this regard the following sign / indicator:


(40:9) [The Angels / Angelic powers will say:] "And protect them (i.e. those in Paradise) from the evil consequences [of their deeds]. And he whom You protect from evil consequences that Day - You will have given him mercy (rahimtahu). And that is the great attainment (al-fawzu-ul-'azeem)."

I take this to mean that the very capacity for the 'self' (nafs) to attain salvation is a manifestation of the mercy / compassion (rahmat) of God/Allah.

2. On the meaning of raf'ee


(40:15) [He is] the Exalted above [all] degrees, Owner of the Throne; He places the inspiration of His command upon whom He wills of His servants to warn of the Day of Meeting.

I am interested in the opening phrase of this sign / indicator (ayat) which is a possessive construction (idaafat). Muhammad Asad in The Message of The Qur'an (1980) renders this phrase as "High above all orders [of being]", while Muhammad Ali in his English Translation and Commentary on The Qur'an (1963) renders this phrase as "Exalter of degrees". Here are some additional renderings of the above sign / indicator:

Nouman Ali Khan renders this sign / indicator as follows:

According to Corpus Qur'an, the possessed (mudaf) in the above possessive construction, i.e. the word raf'ee, is an adjective (sifat):

However, Muhammad Mohar Ali in his Word for Word Meaning of The Qur'an (2003), Vol.III, page 1514 states the following:

In short, he sees the word raf'ee as an active participle (ism fa'il), although he renders this phrase somewhat oddly as "Exalted in State".

I am inclined to the view that Mohar Ali is correct to identify this word as an active participle in the scale (wazn) fa'eel. In this connection, it is important to note that words on this scale, such as 'aleem, haleem, raheem etc. carry the connotation of something that is slow and gradual (on this point see the journal entry Ramadhan 2015 - Day 21, Point #3), but also continuous yet not necessarily manifest in the present (on this point see the journal entry Ramadhan 2015 - Day 1). With this understanding of the term raf'ee in mind, I am inclined to the view that (40:15) is pointing to the the slow, gradual, continuous, yet (perhaps) not presently manifest elevation of those securely committed to God/Allah from among mankind / the people (an-naas) as a consequence of the Prophetic mission, i.e. "the inspiration of His command upon whom He wills of His servants".

3. Falsehood is... nothing


(40: 20) And God/Allah judges with truth, while those they invoke besides Him do not judge with anything. Indeed, God/Allah - He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

I am interested in the contrast between 'the truth' / 'the right' (al-haqq) and nothing in this sign / indicator (ayat) in terms of how this might shed light on the ultimate, 'inner' meaning of the word 'falsehood' (al-baatil) with which 'the truth' / 'the right' (al-haqq) is generally contrasted.

4. Rethinking Pharaonic empiricism


(40:29) O my people, sovereignty is yours today, [your being] dominant in the land. But who would protect us from the punishment of God/Allah if it came to us?" Pharaoh said, "I do not show you except what I see, and I do not guide you except to the way of right conduct."

Previously, I have argued that the above sign / indicator (ayat) provided evidence of an 'empiricist' / 'poisitivist' outlook on the part of Pharaoh / Fir'awn. (On this note, I should like to refer interested readers to the following journal entry: Ramadhan 2014 - Day 24). However, Muhammad Asad in The Message of The Qur'an (1980) renders tje above sign / indicator as follows:

  • "O my people! Yours is the dominion today, [and] most eminent are you on earth: but who will rescue us from God's punishment, once it befalls us?" Said Pharaoh: "I but want to make you see what I see myself; and I would never make you follow any path but that of rectitude!"

In a footnote clarifying his position, Asad states: "Thus alluding to the reasons underlying his intention to kill Moses, expressed in verse 26". In short, Asad understands Pharaoh's statement as fundamentally 'political' in nature, expressing his concern that Moses is motivated by a desire to "change your religion or cause corruption in the land".

While I think Asad is clearly onto something here, it is important to appreciate that at least since Schmitt (in the modern / colonial context), it is well understood that politics and theology - which, in this context, includes exclusively 'outward' (zaahiriy) secular philosophies such as empiricism / positivism - are thoroughly 'entangled', whence political theology and/or theo-politics. For this reason, I am inclined to the view that both my 'empiricist' reading and Asad's 'political' interpretation are warranted and mutually informing. In terms of further 'evidence' / warrant / support for my reading, consider the following:


(28:38) And Pharaoh said, "O eminent ones, I have not known you to have a god other than me. Then ignite for me, O Haman, [a fire] upon the clay and make for me a tower that I may look at the God of Moses. And indeed, I do surmise he is among the liars."

The word for 'look' in the above sign / indicator comes from a different root to the word for 'see' in (40:29), viz.

According to Corpus Qur'an,

According to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, author of Dictionary of The Holy Qur'an (2009), the meaning of the root ta-la-'a is as follows:

Muhammad Mohar Ali in his Word for Word Meaning of The Qur'an (2003), Vol.II, page 1245 states the following:

For this reason, Muhammad Asad maintains that the phrase "I may have a look at the god of Moses" in (28:38) might be alternatively rendered as "ascend (or mount up) to the god of Moses", whichever of the two meanings is given to the verb attali'u. Muhammad Ali, in his English Translation and Commentary on The Qur'an (1963), offers the following:

Finally, consider also the following signs / indicators (ayaat) which expand on (28:38):


(40:36) And Pharaoh said, "O Haman, construct for me a tower that I might attain the means (asbaab) -
(40:37) The means into the heavens - so that I may look at (or ascend / mount up to) the deity of Moses; but indeed, I think he is a liar." And thus was made attractive to Pharaoh the evil of his deed, and he was averted from the [right] way. And the plan of Pharaoh was not except in ruin.

I think it is highly telling that Pharaoh thinks that the means by which to reacj God/Allah is through the construction of some apparatus, viz. a tower; hence, my description of his 'theology' as fundamentally 'empiricist' / 'positivist' - or perhaps that should be 'instrumentalist' - in orientation.

5. Of Islamic decoloniality and fortitude


(41:33) And who is better in speech than one who invites to God/Allah and acts so effect reparations (to 'self' and 'other') and says, "Indeed, I am of the Muslims (i.e. those who self-surrender to God/Allah)."
(41:34) And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.
(41:35) But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except one having a great portion [of good].

I am inclined to see the first of the above signs / indicators (ayaat) as having a critical bearing on Counter-Racist / decolonial projects insofar as these need to be 'inflected' / 'modulated' / 'pruned' and 'expanded' by / with / on the basis of an Islamic perspective - specifically one informed by (1) a commitment to da'wah, i.e. inviting people to God/Allah, (2) acting to effect reparations, and (3) clearly stating that they are among those who self-surrender to God/Allah, viz. that their deen (life-transaction / power-relation) is one of their being slaves / 'ibaad to The Divine as lord / Rabb - in short, a commitment to Divine Unicity (Tawheed).

With respect to (41:34-35), I understand these signs / indicators to be saying that the capacity to repel evil by that which is better / more balanced / more beautiful / more appropriate (ahsan)* such that hostile relations ('adaawat) are transformed into friendly ones (waliyy) is contingent on steadfastness / fortitude / perseverance (sabr), and that the possession of sabr that makes possible such a transformation constitutes a great portion / share / fortune.

* Interestingly, Muhammad Ali maintains that the word ahsan should be rendered as 'best'. There is some justification for this in that this word is what is known as an ism tafdeel, i.e. it is of the af'al or 'elative' form which is used for both comparatives and superlatives.


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 23

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. The great sacrifice


(37:107) And We ransomed him [i.e. Abraham] with a great sacrifice,

I fully concur with both Muhammad Asad, author of The Message of The Qur'an (1980), and 'Maulana' Muhammad Ali, author of an English Translation and Commentary on The Qur'an, that the "great sacrifice" (zibhun 'azeemun) referred to in the above sign / indicator (ayat) is not a mere ram, but rather the institution of the sacrifice during the pilgrimage (hajj) to Makkah. According to Asad,

  • The epithet 'azim ("tremendous" or "mighty") renders it improbable that this sacrifice refers to nothing but the ram which Abraham subsequently found and slaughtered in Ishmael's stead (Genesis xxit, 13). To my mind, the sacrifice spoken of here is the one repeated every year by countless believers in connection with the pilgrimage to Mecca (al-hajj), which, in itself, commemorates the experience of Abraham and Ishmael and constitutes one of the "five pillars" of Islam. (See 22:27-37, as well as 2:196-203.)

Ali expands on this point with the following interesting commentary:

On the matter of human sacrifice, I should like to refer interested readers to the following journal entry: Ramadhan 2015 - Day 17, Point #2.

2. A heterodox interpretation of (part of) the story of Jonah


(37:139) And indeed, Jonah was among the messengers.
(37:140) [Mention] when he ran away to the laden ship.
(37:141) And he drew lots and was among the losers [i.e. those to be thrown overboard]
(37:142) Then the big fish / whale grabbed him while he was blameworthy.
(37:143) And had he not been a valiant swimmer,
(37:144) (The big fish / whale would have swallowed him and) he would have remained in her belly until the day of resurrection
(37:145) (He freed himself and swam to safety). Then We cast him on the shore, while he was exhausted.

(37:146) And We caused to sprout over him a plant that bends.

The above 'heterodox' rendering of these signs / indicators (ayaat) is based on Shabbir Ahmad's The Qur'an As It Explains Itself (QXP).

Commenting on (37:141), Nouman Ali Khan states the following:

I am inclined to agree with Shabbir Ahmad that the word musabbiheen in (37:143) should be understood as "valiant swimmer" on account of the fact that Form I of the verb sabaha has the meaning "to float, to swim" as shown below:

Although verbs in Form II, and nouns derived from such verbs - as is the case with the word musabbiheen in (37:143) - are generally causal, the second form of the verb can also be used to indicate intensity or repetition; consider in this regard the verb daraba which has "to strike" among its meanings, where Form II of this verb, darraba, means to strike repeatedly or with intensity. Given the context, it appears that Jonah / Yunus has to swim hard to escape the clutches of the fish / whale. That said, in (37:66) the same word musabbiheen is used and I think it has a different meaning, viz. "those who intensively perform a daily course", in that sign / indicator. Although I have become somewhat wary of "scientific tafseer", I think it is interesting to note the following commentary on the meaning of sabaha in (21:33) presented by Maurice Bucaille in The Bible, The Qur'an and Science:

In (37:146), the word yaqteen appears. According to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, author of the Dictionary of The Holy Qur'an (2009), this word has the following meaning:

Commenting on this word, Nouman Ali Khan states the following:

But was Jonah / Yunus extremely sick, or was he extremely weak, in the sense of fatigued / exhausted, as Shabbir Ahmad argues in his rendering of (37:145)? On this point, consider the meaning of the word saqeem:

Although commentators tend to translate the word yaqteen as a gourd, at least one commentator interprets it as seaweed, while Shabbir Ahmad understands it to refer to a fruity plant. The word ambatna in (37:146) is derived from the verbal root nabata. According to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, the meaning of this word is as follows:

I am, therefore, more inclined to the view that it might simply refer to a plant / tree (shajarat) that sprouted and bent over to provide Jonah / Yunus with shade.

3. On the power of address


(38:20) And We strengthened his kingdom and gave him wisdom and discernment in speech.
(38:21) And has there come to you the news of the adversaries, when they climbed over the wall of [his] prayer chamber -
(38:22) When they entered upon David and he was alarmed by them? They said, "Fear not. [We are] two adversaries, one of whom has wronged the other, so judge between us with truth and do not exceed [it] and guide us to the sound path.
(38:23) Indeed this, my brother, has ninety-nine ewes, and I have one ewe; so he said, 'Entrust her to me,' and he overpowered me in speech."
(38:24) [David] said, "He has certainly wronged you in demanding your ewe [in addition] to his ewes. And indeed, many associates oppress one another, except for those who believe and do righteous deeds - and few are they." And David became certain that We had tried him, and he sought protection from his Lord and fell down bowing [in prostration] and turned in repentance [to God/Allah ].
(38:25) So We afforded protection to him for that; and indeed, for him is nearness to Us and a good place of return.
(38:26) [We said], "O David, indeed We have made you a successor upon the earth, so judge between the people in truth and do not follow [your own] desire, as it will lead you astray from the way of God/Allah ." Indeed, those who go astray from the way of Allah will have a severe punishment for having forgotten the Day of Account.

I am inclined to the view that the above signs / indicators (ayaat) point to a lesson that David / Da'oud was taught by this incident, viz. that a powerful address (khutba) can be used by an articulate peaker in order to dominate / oppress (baghiy) another; in this connection, consider the reference to "discernment in speech" (fasl-ul-khitaab) in (38:20) and "he overpowered me in speech" ('azzaniy f'il-khitaab). However, I don't see this trial (fitnah) as entailing that David had done any wrong; rather, that it served as a means by which to alert him to the possibility of doing wrong through the power of address - something that he needed to be made aware of given that God/Allah had granted him "discernment in speech". In this connection, it is important to appreciate that the word istighfar in (38:24) should not be rendered as "he asked for forgiveness" (on account of having committed a wrong action) which is the usual, erroneous translation; as Muhammad Ali points out toward the end of his commentary on this sign / indicator:

3. Of substantive and relational supremacisms


(38:75) [God/Allah] said, "O Iblees, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands? Were you seeking greatness, or were you (already) among the haughty?"

I am strongly inclined to the view that this sign / indicator (ayat) provides a means by which to contrast what might be described as a relational / comparative supremacism ("seeking greatness") with a substantive / essential supremacism ("the haughty"). I think this view is supported by the grammatical nature of each of the two terms in this sign / indicator, viz.

Here, the phrase translated as "are you arrogant" which I have rendered as "were you seeking greatness" is a verb in Form X. Regarding this form, W. Wright's A Grammar of The Arabic Language, Volume I (1974), pp.44-45 states the following:

On this basis, it appears that Iblees thought that he possessed, in reference to himself or for his benefit, the quality of being great (kabeer); however, in reality, he was seeking after / demanding greatness. Insofar as the word astakbarta is a verb, it is grammatically weaker than the following word since it is pertains to something that one does (action) rather than something that one is (being, ontology), viz.

Here, the term translated as "the exalted ones" which I have rendered as "the haughty" is an active participle, i.e. a noun.

Interestingly, in the following sign / indicator, Iblees arguably invokes both relational and substantive forms of supremacism, justifying the former by appeal to the latter:


(38:76) He said, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay."

I am also intrigued by the use of the first person singular in (38:75) where God/Allah refers to His having created Adam with His (own two) hands (bi yadayya), thereby indicating a certaining closeness (taqreeb) in relation to this creative act. (Ibn 'Arabi makes much of this reference to God/Allah's two hands in relation to how the paired Divine Names of majesty (jalaal) and beauty (jamaal) manifest in the human being.) Consider in this regard the following two signs / indicators, the first of which also makes mention of the God/Allah having constructed the sky (as-samaa) with his with His (own two) hands (bi aydin), and the second of which states that the creation of the cosmos, i.e. heavens and earth (as-samaawaati w'al-ardh), is greater than the creation of mankind:


(51:47) And the sky, We constructed with our hands, and indeed, We are [its] expander.


(40:57) The creation of the heavens and earth is greater than (akbaru min) the creation of mankind, but most of the people do not know.

4. On Unicity (Tawheed)


(39:29) God/Allah presents an example: a slave owned by quarreling partners and another belonging exclusively to one man - are they equal in comparison? Praise be to God/Allah! But most of them do not know.

I am intrigued by the repeated reference to the idea of exclusivity (ikhlaas) in this enclosure / chapter (surah) - specifically, in (39:2), (39:3), (39:11) and (39:14). I am also fascinated by the focus on Divine Unicity (Tawheed), an poignant example of which is presented in the above sign / indicator (ayat).


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 22

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. The unseen as future


(34:14) And when We decreed for Solomon death, nothing indicated to the jinn his death except a creature of the earth eating his staff. But when he fell, it became clear to the jinn that if they had known the unseen, they would not have remained in humiliating punishment.

I am intrigued by the reference to "the unseen" (al-ghayb) in the above sign / indicator (ayat). Elsewhere in The Qur'an, this term has been used to describe both past and future, neither of which is capable of being 'witnessed' (mash-hud) in the present, and while initially I was of the opinion that the term was being used here in the sense of "that which is beyond perception" - specifically, the 'inner' (baatin) reality / fact that Solomon was dead though appearing to still be alive - I am now more persuaded that the term is here being used to denote the future. In short, if the jinn had known the future, viz. that Solomon was dead, they would not have remained in a servile state.

2. A messenger to mankind


(34:28) And We have not sent you except comprehensively (kaaffatan) to mankind as a bringer of good tidings and a warner. But most of the people do not know.

It is well understood within Islamic tradition that Prophet Muhammad (peace be unto him) was sent as a 'mercy' (rahmat) to the worlds (al-'aalameen) as stated in (21:107). However, I am interested here in the term rendered as 'comprehensively' (kaaffatan) in the above sign / indicator (ayat) and the grammar / syntax of the possessive construction in which this term is embedded.

As to the term kaaffatan, according to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, author of Dictionary of The Holy Qur'an (2009), this word has the following meanings:

With respect to grammar, Corpus Qur'an states the following:

In Arabic, possession can be effected in two ways, viz. either through the use of a possessive construction (idaafah) or through the use of the particle li which is the case in the above sign / indicator.

It appears that we are dealing with an instance of 2(c) in (34:28), i.e. "an x of the y". For this reason, I am inclined to think that the word translated as 'comprehensively' (kaaffatan) in the above sign / indicator, thereby giving the impression that it is an adjective describing how the Prophet was sent by God/Allah, should be understood as "a comprehensive (message bearer)" to / for / of (li) the people (an-naas).

3. The weak in hell


(34:31) And those who disbelieve say, "We will never believe in this Qur'an nor in that before it." But if you could see when the wrongdoers are made to stand before their Lord, refuting each other's words... Those who were oppressed will say to those who were arrogant, "If not for you, we would have been believers."
(34:32) Those who were arrogant will say to those who were oppressed, "Did we avert you from guidance after it had come to you? Rather, you were criminals."

(34:33) Those who were oppressed will say to those who were arrogant, "Rather, [it was your] conspiracy of night and day when you were ordering us to disbelieve in God/Allah and attribute to Him equals." But they will [all] confide regret when they see the punishment; and We will put shackles on the necks of those who disbelieved. Will they be recompensed except for what they used to do?

I am inclined to think that the above signs / indicators (ayaat) point to the possibility of at least a limited sense of agency in that, although in a subordinate position relative to the dominant / hegemonic power*, the weak (al-mustad'afoon) - rendered as 'oppressed' in the above transaltion - are still held accountable to God/Allah for their actions insofar as they are mandated (by God/Allah) to resist the machinations of the arrogant (al mustakbiroon) - literally, those who seek greatness. In this connection, it is crucial to bear in mind that The Qur'an explicitly states that Iblees, the proto-Racist / proto-Supremacist, was guilty of seeking greatness (istkibaar) in (2:34). In short, there is no avoiding responsibility to / before God/Allah.

I think this point is crucial since it calls into question what are, from an Islamic perspective, metaphysically and ethically flawed conceptions of existential struggle (jihad) such as the notion of dialectical / historical materialism advanced by Marx and later ideologies built upon (post-)Marxist foundations, including existentialist humanism of both Sartrean and Fanonian varieties. For this reason, I continue to urge the need to decolonise decoloniality, i.e. to effect a 'second order' decolonisation that transcends the (new) humanism of decolonial scholars who point to Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, Lewis Gordon and others as founding sources of inspiration for the decolonial project**. While there is much to learn from their analyses, I think it is crucial for Islamic Counter-Racists / Islamic Decolonials to appreciate the "secular / post-Christian baggage" (i.e. assumptions) that inform both Fanon and Wynter's understanding of 'Man' and the "new humanism" they sketch as an alternative to the anti-blackness and White Supremacism (Racism) of the contemporary 'World'. Rather that starting with 'class' or 'race', capital (Marx) or the body / flesh (as 'raced'), I call upon those committed to forging an Islamic Decoloniality, i.e. a decoloniality inflected, modulated, 'pruned', and augmented by the Islamic worldview, to draw inspiration from the following statement of the Sufi master, ibn 'Ata'illah Al-Iskandari in The Book of Wisdom (Kitaab-al-Hikam):

What a difference between one who proceeds from God in his argumentation
and the one who proceeds inferentially to Him!
He who has Him as his starting-point knows the Real as It is,
and proves any matter by reference to the Existence of its Origin.

But inferential argumentation comes from the absence of union with Him.
Otherwise, when was it that he became absence that one has to proceed inferentially to Him?
Or when was it that He became distant that created things themselves will unite us to Him?

For a critique of the Marxist position in which the 'downtrodden' / weak are invariably identified as intrinsically / inherently 'good' from a revolutionary standpoint, I should like to refer interested readers to Ayatallah Murtada Mutahhari's Man and Universe Part 6: Society and History, Chapters 23-29; in addition, I should like to point readers to Ali Sharia'ti's Marxism and Other Western Fallacies: An Islamic Critique and Asef's Bayat's critique of Shari'ati's position.

* On this point, I refer interested readers to the journal entry: Ramadhan 2015 - Day 5, Point #4.
** On this point, I refer interested readers to Seminar 3, Slides 41-42 of the short course "Towards an Islamic Decoloniality".

4. Of presences and absences

(35:19) Not equal are the blind and the seeing,
(35:20) Nor are the darknesses and the light,
(35:21) Nor are the shade and the heat,
(35:22) And not equal are the living and the dead. Indeed, God/Allah causes to hear whom He wills, but you cannot make hear those in the graves

I am interested in the way that the first three signs / indicators (ayaat) contrast an absence (blindness, darkness, coolness) to a presence (sight, light, heat), and how this might inform the understanding of the relation between life and death mentioned in (35:22). In short, and following ibn 'Arabi's lead, I am inclined to see death as the absence of life, and not something in and of itself. Until such time as The Living (Al-Hayy) determines to give 'existence' (wujood) to created things (al-khalq) such that they become animated - i.e. alive (hayy) - they remain 'dead', 'inert'.

Only through the Breath of The Merciful (Nafs-Ar-Rahman) do things come to be and do the dead come to life.


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 21

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. Enlightened existential thinking


(30:8) Do they not contemplate within themselves? God/Allah has not created the heavens and the earth and what is between them except in truth and for a specified term. And indeed, many of the people, in [the matter of] the meeting with their Lord, are disbelievers.

It is interesting to note that this sign / indicator (ayat) immediately follows (3);7) which states:

(30:7) They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware.

I take this to be saying that those of a 'secular' / worldly / materialistic disposition, and who conceive reality in exclusively outward (zaahiri) terms, fail to appreciate the teleological / eschatological (ukhrawiy) nature and significance - in the sense of "containing signs that point to something beyond themselves" - of the cosmos. It should be noted that the contrast here is not explicitly framed in terms of 'outward' (zaahir) and 'inward' (baatin), but rather in terms of outward and other-worldly - thereby establishing, arguably, an implicit connection between the inward and the next-worldly. I find this interesting since (30:8) refers to contemplation within (fi) the 'self' (nafs) which is clearly something that is 'inward' / internal in the sense of not being accessible to perception by an 'outward' / external (human) 'Other'; furthermore, this sign / indicator goes on to make reference to the cosmos having been created on the basis of 'truth' (haqq) - that which is of abiding benefit for people (13:17) and according to the requirements of the situation, viz. the "human drama" - and, crucially, for a specified (i.e. finite) term, thereby pointing to existential issues of temporality and teleology / eschatology.

In short, I see the above two signs / indicators (ayat) as dealing with profound existential concerns, but from a radically - in the sense of rootedness, ontologically foundational - different perspective to that of the pre-modern 'existentialism' espoused by the contemporaries of the Prophet in the period of ignorance, arrogance and superficiality, i.e. jaahiliyyah.

2. Contemporary views on fitrah


(30:30) So direct your face toward the deen (life-transaction / power-relation), inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of God/Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change is there in the creation of GodAllah. That is the correct deen, but most of the people do not know.

The question of how to understand the term fitrah in the above sign / indicator (ayat) is one that continues to intrigue me. In this connection, consider the summary of different contemporary views on fitrah - understood as "human nature" - presented in the followinfg blog article: The Creation Story.

3. Of temporality, power and compassion


(32:5) He arranges the affair from the heaven to the earth; then it will ascend to Him in a Day, the extent of which is a thousand years of those which you count.
(32:6) That is the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, the Exalted in Might, the Merciful...

I am intrigued by the combination of Divine Names (asmaa) in the latter of the above two signs / indicators (ayaat), one of which relates to majesty (jalaal) - The Exalted in Might (Al-'Azeez) - while the other relates to beauty (jamaal) - The Merciful (Ar-Raheem). I am also intrigued by God/Allah being described in (32:5) as the one who arranges the affair / matter (al-amr) from the heavens to the earth - which I take to mean from the macrocosm to the microcosm - and that 'it' (huwa)  - i.e. the matter / affair - ascends to Him over a timespan of a thousand years of human reckoning, thereby hinting at the relativity of time to 'in time' (or intra-cosmic) observers. I am also interested by the reference to God/Allah being the knower ('aalim) of "the unseen" (al-ghayb) and "the witnessed" (ash-shahaadat) in (32:6) given that, in addition to the legal (shar'iy) connotations of these terms, there is the question of their possible link to issues of temporality - witnessing requiring 'presence' / being present (haadir), "the unseen" capable of referring to that which is yet in either the past or the future.

I am inclined to think that the occurrence of the Divine Name Ar-Raheem, rather than Ar-Rahman, in (32:6) might have something to do with the gradual nature of the 'ascent' referred to in (32:5) given that Ar-Raheem is on the pattern (wazn) fa'eel which has connotations of something being conditional yet continuous. According to the modernist Qur'an exegete Sayed Abdul Wadud, author of Gateway to The Qur'an,


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 20

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. Of signs shown


(27:93) And say, "[All] praise is [due] to God/Allah. He will show you His signs, and you will recognize them. And your Lord is not unaware of what you do."

In the above sign / indicator (ayat) the phrase "He will show you his signs" (sayureekum ayaatihi) refers to the addressor, God/Allah in the third-person singular ('He' / hi), and the addressee, people / human beings in the second person plural ('You' / kum). Compare this with the opening phrase of (41:53), viz.


(41:53) We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?

Here the addressor, God/Allah, is referred to in the first-person plural ('We' / na), viz. "we will show them Our signs" (sanoreehim ayaatina), while the addressee, people / human beings, are referred to in the third person plural ('Them' / hum).

In short, what we are seeing in the 'dispersal' / 'rotation' (tasreef) from (27:93) to (41:53) is a "deictic shift" (iltifaat), i.e. change in perspective: (27:93) is from the perspectve of the addressee, while (41:53) reverse / inverts this to consider the perspective of the addressor.

In addition, (27:93) refers to recognition (ma'aarifat) of the signs / indicators (ayaat) of God/Allah by people / human beings addressed in the second-person plural, whereas (41:53) refers to 'the truth' (al-haqq) becoming clear (tabayyana) to them, with people here addressed in the third-person plural.

I am intrigued by these instances of "deictic shift" (iltifaat). Does it mean that signs / indicators (ayaat), whether in "the horizons" (f'il afaaq) or within "the selves" (fi anfus), viewed from a third-person perspective, are understood as involving a process of clarification while those same 'phenomena', when viewed from a second-person perspective, are understood as involving a process of recognition?

2. Against supremacism - period


(28:83) That home of the Hereafter We assign to those who do not desire exaltedness upon the earth or corruption. And the [best] outcome is for the righteous.

I consider this sign / indicator (ayat) to constitute a profound rejection of supremacism - of whatever stripe - since God/Allah alone is The Supreme / Exalted (Al-'Aala). The implications of this for Islamic Counter-Racism / Islamic Decoloniality remain to be explored. A humble gesture in this direction has been made in the three-part seminar series entitled "Towards an Islamic Decoloniality", yet much more needs to be said and done in this regard.

3. Of faults and burdens


(29:12) And those who disbelieve say to those who believe, "Follow our way, and we will carry your faults." But they will not carry anything of their faults. Indeed, they are liars.
(29:13) But they will surely carry their [own] burdens and [other] burdens along with their burdens, and they will surely be questioned on the Day of Resurrection about
what they used to invent.

While the second sign / indicator (ayat) might appear to contradict the immediately preceding sign / indicator, that this is not the case can, I think, be established on (at least) two grounds: firstly, the terms used in each sign / indicator are different - khataayaa in the first sign / indicator, and athqaal in the seond. According to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, author of Dictionary of The Holy Qur'an (2009), the meanings of these words is as follows:

Secondly, the first sign / indicator relates to a purported claim for the ability to transfer personal / individual responsibility, something that is categorically rejected by The Qur'an at numerous places; by contrast, the second sign / indicator refers to the burden carried by an individual along with other burdens. What might these other burdens be if not the burdens of others? Since The Qur'an rejects the transference of burdens, what can these other burdens be? I am inclined to think that these burdens are relational in nature, i.e. they concern relations between guilty parties, each of whom is required to shoulder its own responsibilities, but also the burden of being in a relationship of misleading to 'the Other'. On this point, I should like to refer interested readers to the following journal entry: Ramadhan 2015 - Day 8.


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 19

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. Ar-Rahman, Al-Jalaal


(25:25) And [mention] the Day when the heaven will split open with [emerging] clouds, and the angels will be sent down in successive descent.
(25:26) True sovereignty, that Day, is for the Most Merciful (Ar-Rahman). And it will be upon the disbelievers a difficult Day.

I am inclined to think that the above signs / indicators (ayaat) provide yet further evidence in support of the view that the name (ism) Ar-Rahman should be understood as a name of majesty (jalaal) rather than a name of beauty (jamaal). (On this point, I refer interested readers to the journal entry: Ramadhan 2015 - Day 1. On the matter of the 'pairing' of the Divine Names (al-asmaa), I should like to refer readers to an interesting essay by Sachiko Murata entitled "The Tao of Islam", later expanded into a book-length work of the same name.)

2. A rupture in Pharaonic socialisation


(26:18) [Pharaoh] said, "Did we not raise you [i.e. Moses] among us as a child, and you remained among us for years of your life?

I find this sign / indicator (ayat) fascinating insofar as I think it points to Pharaoh's / Fir'awn's incredulity - which I take to be a consequence of his "God Complex" or theo-mania - toward Moses / Musa on account of the latter's rejection of Pharaonic / Fir'awnic socialisation / enculturation / patterning / conditioning. I am of the view that Moses' rejection (takfeer) of Pharaonic "false-god-ism" (at-taaghoot) - on this note, consider (2:256) and (16:36) - was caused by his being afforded the status of a Prophet (nabiyy) once he had come up to the measure (20:40), and that it is "the Prophetic" which makes possible rupture / breakdown / breakthrough of social conditioning at the most fundamental (usooli) ontological level (26:21). What I mean by this is that the kind of 'deschooling' / 'decolonisation' effected by revelation (tanzeel, wahiy) is of an entirely different order to that made possible on a non-revelatory basis; one might describe the difference between them in Heideggerian terms as follows: the former is ontological, the latter merely ontic.

In order to fully appreciate what is being said in (26:18), it must be understood that Moses was subjected by God/Allah to a Prophetic engagement marked by four stages comprised of two 'injections' and two 'ejections', viz. (1) injection into Pharaonic society (as a child) followed by (2) ejection from Pharaonic society (as a man) followed by (3) (re-)injection into Pharaonic society (as a Prophet) followed by (4) ejection from Pharaonic society (as a liberator, i.e. with the Children of Israel / Bani Isr'ail liberated from captivity). This series of 'movements' needs to be related to the processes of 'schooling' and 'deschooling' that I have discussed in earlier journal entries (Ramadhan 2012 - Day 16, #4 and Ramadhan 2015 - Day 16, #2) and have written about elsewhere (Prophetic (De-)Schooling).


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 18

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. Death then life


(23:37) Life is not but our worldly life - we die and live, but we will not be resurrected.

I am inclined to consider this sign / indicator (ayat) as yet another example of 'existentialist' life-philosophy - this time articulated by the generation following Noah and his people. (On the issue of pre-modern 'existentialism' as articulated by Prophetic opponents, I should like to refer interested readers to the following journal entry: Ramadhan 2015 - Day 12.) However, what interests me here is the order of terms in the phrase "we die and live, but we will not be resurrected". Why is death mentioned before life given that resurrection / uprising is mentioned at the end of this sign / indicator, and this is something that is said to occur after death? Perhaps one way of answering this is to render the above sign / indicator slightly differently. According to The Holy Quran Five Volume Commentary in English (1968) prepared by a board of translators consisting of Maulvi Sher Ali, Mirza Bashir Ahmad and Malik Ghulam Farid, all of whom were associated with the Ahmadiyyah community, (23:37) should be rendered as follows*:

* This work uses a slightly different numbering system for Qur'anic signs / indicators (ayaat).

2. Predestination vs. the law of rise and fall of nations


(23:43) No nation will precede its time [of termination], nor will they remain [thereafter].

While signs / indicators (ayaat) such as the above have been differently interpreted at different times and in different places with (some) pre-modern commentators insisting that the "rise and fall of nations" occurs according to an inexorable destiny fixed / 'written' by God/Allah in pre-eternity, while (some) modern(ist) Qur'an exegetes such as G.A. Parwez argue that such events take place according to the law of cause and effect, viz. "if this then that". (On this note, I should like to refer interested readers to Parwez' highly interesting work Kitab-ul-Taqdeer or "The Book of Destiny".) Another contemporary commentator, Fazlur Rahman, takes a slightly less 'mechanical' approach to the matter, arguing that it is not so much a law (of this type) that is operative in this human social sphere but rather a pattern. (On this point, I refer interested readers to the following blog post for a brief extract from one of Rahman's works relevant to this issue: BOOKS: Fazlur Rahman Malik.) Personally, I am inclined to see this sign / indicator as simply asserting that human behaviour patterns (sunan) are subordinate to / bounded by the measures (maqaadir) set by God/Allah, The All-Power (Al-Qaadir); thus, the "rise and fall of nations" occurs in accordance with these measures which cannot be transcended by human beings.

3. Mentioning not inclination


(23:71) But if the Truth had followed their inclinations, the heavens and the earth and whoever is in them would have been ruined. Rather, We have brought them their message, but they, from their message, are turning away.

I am inclined to think that the phrase rendered as "their message" (dhikrihim) in the above sign / indicator (ayat) is better rendered as "their mentioning", i.e. human beings have been sent a reminder (dhikr) appropriate for them, enabling them to existentially orientate themselves correctly towards the heavens and the earth in accordance with Divine mandate, rather than pursuing their personal / individual inclinations (hawaa) - mutually contradictory and conflicting, with the result that chaos / disorder / corruption (fasaad) spreads throughout the cosmos.

4. On existentialism (again)


(23:115) "Then did you think that We created you uselessly ('abathan) and that to Us you would not be returned?"

Twentieth century atheistic existentialists such as the French writers Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus considered life to be absurd. By contrast, their pre-Islamic (jaahiliy) counterparts / forerunners, while accepting that they had been created by God/Allah, held that they would simply live and then die, and that such a life-movement was, ultimately, pointless / useless ('abath). According to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, author of Dictionary of The Holy Qur'an (2009), the word 'abath derives from the verbal root 'abitha which has the following meanings:


Ramadhan 2015 - Day 17

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

1. Of outward forms and inward realities


(21:8) And We did not make the prophets forms not eating food, nor were they immortal [on earth].

I am interested in the word translated as 'forms' (jasadan) in the above sign / indicator (ayat). I am inclined to think that (21:8) bears on the issue of the different ontology (being or nature) of angels / angel powers, jinn and ins. (In this connection I should like to refer interested readers to the following two journal entries: Ramadhan 2015 - Day 7, Ramadhan 2015 - Day 15.) According to 'Abdul Mannan 'Omar, author of Dictionary of The Holy Qur'an (2009), this word derives from the verbal root jasida which means:

(7:148) and (20:88) refer to the construction of an idol, the 'golden calf', i.e. a form without an inner reality consistent with the outward form. In this regard, (38:34) is particularly interesting:


(38:34) And We certainly tried Solomon and placed on his throne a body; then he returned.

According to Nouman Ali Khan,

  • Jasadun is a body that is paralyzed and no longer moving. Like a body that is about to die. It is possible that it has some motion but is incapable of moving in general. There are different variations to understanding this ayah. The one that seems most correct is that Allah paralyzed Solomon temporarily and threw him on his throne and he couldn’t do anything and was stuck in that state. Then he turned to Allah in repentance. This was due to him missing a prayer. Though he did it by accident, Allah is teaching us that this action even though it was done by an accident is not acceptable to be done by someone with such a high status in the sight of Allah like a prophet.

I consider Khan's interpretation highly speculative and unfounded and much more persuaded by the argument of Muhammad Asad, in The Message of The Qur'an (1980), who renders this sign / indicator as follows:

But [ere this], indeed, We had tried Solomon by placing upon his throne a [lifeless] body; and thereupon he turned [towards Us].

In a footnote clarifying the meaning of the term jasad which he interprets as "a [lifeless] body", Asad states the following:

  • To explain this verse, some of the commentators advance the most fantastic stories, almost all of them going back to Talmudic sources. Razi rejects them all, maintaining that they are unworthy of serious consideration. Instead, he plausibly suggests that the "body" (jasad) upon Solomon's throne is an allusion to his own body, and - metonymically - to his kingly power, which was bound to remain "lifeless" so long as it was not inspired by God-willed ethical values. (It is to be borne in mind that in classical Arabic a person utterly weakened by illness, worry or fear, or devoid of moral values, is often described as "a body without a soul".) In other words, Solomon's early trial consisted in his inheriting no more than a kingly position, and it rested upon him to endow that position with spiritual essence and meaning.

'Maulana' Muhmmad Ali offers the following alternative view in his English translation and commentary on The Qur'an:

2. Sacrifice - animal, yes, human, no


(22:34) And for every community We have appointed a rite [of sacrifice] that they may mention the name of God/Allah over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals (al-an'aam). For your god is one god, so to Him submit. And, [O Muhammad], give good tidings to the humble [before their Lord].

I am inclined to think that this sign / indicator (ayat) has at least two important implications: (1) that forms of sacrifice which are in accordance with explicit Divine mandate involve the sacrifice of animals - more specifically, cattle (aal-an'aam), and that this applies to all human communities; this means that (2) other forms of sacrifice including, most importantly, human sacrifice, are rendered invalid. Some commentators see in the narrative (qasas) of Abraham / Ibraheem and Ismael / Isma'il wherein the former has a dream / vision in which he sees himself laying down the latter for sacrifice, attempts to realise the dream with the willing compliance of the latter, however, God/Allah intervenes with a subsitute - the entire 'drama' being a test of their submission to God/Allah - as a negation of the validity of human sacrifice as a 'religious' practice.

3. The organ of perception and intellection


(22:46) So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.

I am inclined to the view that the above sign / indicator (ayat) constitutes one of the most powerful refutations of mainstream / materialistic cognitive science which locates the faculties of sight and reasoning in the head, viz. in the eyes and brain, respectively. According to this sign / indicator (ayat), it is to the breast / chest (sadr) that one should look - again, with 'the eye of the heart' (qalb) - if one wants to locate the 'organ' of perception and intellection. What I think is being intimated here is that real perception and intellection, that is, perception and intellection oriented towards an appreciation of the ultimate nature / reality of things, is fundamentally 'spritual' (roohaaniy) in nature. In this connection, I think the following sign / indicator (ayat) is highly relevant:


(30:7) They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware.