Friday 21 February 2014

Knowing Allah - Between Anthropomorphism & Philosophy

The vast majority of people today claim they do not believe in God. Most of those who do claim to believe in God either believe in an anthropomorphic (human-like) god, as do Christians and Hindus, or  they believe in an abstract god, the way philosophers and scientists believe, where they argue and put forward theories for "the concept of god" and "the existence of god". But the God of Muslims is neither anthropomorphic nor philosophic (abstract). Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi says the God that Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, and all the other Prophets and Messengers called people to believe in and to worship was a real God with whom people could have a real and intimate relationship such as could not be had with any of the creation of God.

But today, we Muslims have also fallen into the same problems as others. We sometimes fall into anthropomorphism by expecting God to behave like human beings, as it happens when we require God to have intermediaries between us and Him "because we are so low and God is so high". Or we turn God into philosophical abstracts and theological concepts in the name of "aqeedah" or theology. Since these abstractions and concepts can have different perspectives, we now have different schools of "knowing God" such as the Salafi, Ash'ari and Maturidi. But, as Dr Nadwi asks, is this really what the Prophets and Messengers came to teach us about God?

"It is very clear that Eeman has been replaced by Aqeedah, Islam by Madhab and Ihsan & Tazkiyyah by Tasawwuf. This is the biggest problem for Muslims today." - Shaykh Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi

How do we then know Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala?

<<[Prophet], glorify the name of your Lord the Most High, who created [all things] in due proportion; who determined their destinies and guided them; who brought out the green pasture then made it dark debris.>> [Surah Al-A'laa 87:1-5]

<<Prosperous are those who purify themselves, remember the name of their Lord, and pray. Yet you [people] prefer the life of this world, even though the Hereafter is better and more lasting.>> [Surah Al-A'laa 87:14-17]

Surah Al-A'laa gives us a hint as to how we can know God, and the surah following it - Surah Al-Ghashiyah - tells us that this means serious business because the consequences of not wanting to know God are very severe.

<<So [Prophet] warn them: your only task is to give warning, you are not there to control them. As for those who turn away and disbelieve, God will inflict the greatest torment upon them. It is to Us they will return, and then it is for Us to call them to account.>> [Surah Al-Ghashiyah 88:21-24]

Coming up this Saturday inshaAllah is the most fascinating, deep and detailed explanation of this pair of surahs, Surah Al-A'laa and Surah Al-Ghashiyah, by one of the foremost scholars and thinkers of the Western world today. Please make sure you attend this seminar either onsite in Cambridge or online worldwide.

Surah Al-A'laa & Al-Ghashiyah
The Solution to All the Problems of Mankind
By Shaykh Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi (Oxford)

When: Saturday 22nd February 2014

Time: 9:45AM - 6:00PM    Coffee & Registration: 9:30AM

Venue: Cambridge University, Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge CB3 9DA

Online: Worldwide - Live & Recorded Access

You can either register for individual sessions or apply for an annual pass with 50% discount.

Individual Seminar Registration:

Series Registration:


"Jazakumullahu khayran. I can't thank you enough for the opportunity. I am so impressed by the Sheikh, subhanallah, mashaAllah. A very rare example of tradition fused with awareness of the environment and reality while not compromising God consciousness. If only there were more like him. Questions, I'm so glad we can ask them even if it's not about the sura. Yes, how else are we to learn from his wisdom and experience if we don't ask? The issues facing Muslims in the West are so many and so confusing and I just love the fact that he does not have an inferiority complex about Islam. It's really sad to see psychologically defeated scholars start throwing away tradition in the name of progress and fitting in. Sheikh Akram Nadwi gives you the sense that the real life is in the hereafter so don't have to get so tied up with the philosophies and controversies that sometimes take away our attention from the real purpose. The onus is on us, are we being pious?" - Aisha Barkatulla, Cambridge

"I recently attended the Tafsir of Surah Nuh. Whilst I had heard much about Shaykh Akram, this was my first class with him. The first thing that you cannot help but appreciate is how the Shaykh hooks you with his connection to knowledge, in a pure sense, there was no need to employ any speaking tactics to keep the attendees engrossed. The Shaykh, made every point relevant, to connect the text with our lives today and our response to get closer to our Creator. Indeed the Shaykh mentioned countless gems that he mentioned offhand but when contemplated on, really struck a chord in the heart. It was also great that the Shaykh was very open to questions, however sensitive, and tackled them head on, without compromising the principles of our faith, exemplifying that Allah azza wa jal has not only blessed him with knowledge, but also wisdom. I don't say this lightly, I genuinely believe, if you have the opportunity to study with the Shaykh, and you don't take it, then you have missed out on tasting the fruits of the knowledge of the Scholarship of our time and land" - Umer Suleman, South London

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