Transcript of The Rational Episode 08, Revelation And The Creator
Yassir Fazaga: Dr Jafaar, thank you for being with us. So far it has been a real joy and I believe we said in the beginning this is going to be intellectually stimulating, challenging and tickling and every time we speak I do feel tickled and I am sure our viewers are as tickled as I am. Last time we spoke about different arguments and we were talking about the statement of design and we ended up going back to the statement of Ibn Rushd. The argument for design speaks more of the attributes of the creator and we said there were two sources about knowing the Creator: the creation and revelation. And the Quran I believe speaks about both of them. Then there were verses about creation that you quoted from surah 78, verse 6-16 and now we have got what the revelation says about the Creator.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: There are many important arguments related to revelation but I think the most important argument is that this book which is revealed to the Prophet SAW and again I say that this applies to all previous books but unfortunately we don’t have all those books now.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh, you mean in their original form when they were sent?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: Yes. The book itself is a proof that it could not have been except from the Creator. There are many arguments for this but I will resort to choosing one of them which is clearly very rational. It says:
وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِنْدِ غَيْرِ اللَّهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا
Had this book been from someone other than God, they would have found many discrepancies therein
So the Quran now is saying there are no contradictions in this book and therefore it must be form God because if it was written by a human being, he would surely have contradicted himself.
I thought about this and have come up with some elaborations.
When does the probability of contradicting oneself increase?
Firstly, it increases by the amount of time one spends in talking for instance if you speak for 5 min you can manage to be careful. If you speak for an hour there are more chances that you will be contradicting yourself.
If you say something today and tomorrow and continue like we have been doing for a week or so and you are expressing your views then the probability of you contradicting yourself increases.
The Quran was revealed in a period of twenty three years and it was revealed in instalments –a few verses today, some more after a week and further some more after a few weeks. Yet there is no contradiction.
Imagine someone who say, writes a column in a newspaper every week and then after two years if he looks back into what he wrote I think he will laugh at himself. He might say in January 1970 I said this but in February 1972 I seem to be saying something totally in contrast to what I said earlier. That’s because human being is not perfect and has a tendency to forget, and also his knowledge increases or decreases that’s why he is liable to contradict himself.
Secondly, this is also related to the amount of what one says. For example if you write a 5 page long article, you are less likely to contradict yourself than you might be if you write a book of 500 pages.
Thirdly, it also increases with the amount of subjects that you deal with. A physicist is less likely to falter than a philosopher who talks about physics, religion, economics etc. The latter might say something related to economics that contradicts something in politics.
Now Quran speaks about the creator and His attribute, it speaks about history, about the future, it also speaks about social, political, economic organization. It also speaks about moral behavior, psychology and in spite of this, there are no contradictions.
Now Quran speaks about the creator and His attribute, it speaks about history, about the future, it also speaks about social, political, economic organization. It also speaks about moral behaviour, psychology and in spite of this there are no contradictions.
At first I used to think about contradiction as mere contradiction between statements. But now more importantly I think, don’t know how to express it …but say someone like Marx talks about economics and politics, his aim was to make people free. He thought that Capitalism was the cause of enslaving people but his political system became the worst dictatorship so what he said in economics went against his saying in politics.
Some people now say the same applies to democracy and capitalism. Democracy says everybody has the right to be president of the US or people are equal as far as it is concerned but capitalism gives this opportunity by linking it to wealth. If you yourself are not wealthy or not supported by people financially then you stand no chance. Even if you are the most competent person for the post.
Yassir Fazaga: One does not confirm or affirm the other, right?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: Yes it contradicts in the sense that it makes the claim of democracy null & void and this was one of the good criticisms of the Marxist theory. They say that the western democracy is only formal and not real because it says everyone has the right to enter the parliament. This is in the constitution but I cannot be a member of the parliament if I am not supported by a political party or if I am not rich. That’s why interestingly some people in the west who have Marxist leanings say that even election contradicts the purpose of democracy because you are saying some people are more competent than others but democracy says no everyone supposedly is equal. So what do we do? They say we do what the Greeks did. Make it by lot. Hence who will enter the parliament is chosen by lot. They say this is more democratic than elections.
In Islam there is no such contradiction and I will give you some examples. Islam is based on belief in the Creator so everything is designed to strengthen and preserve that belief…everything! You worship for this purpose so as not to become weak, social life is organized in such a way too and that is why it is very difficult for people like you who live in non Islamic societies to do all that is required of him e.g if you live in a country like Saudi Arabia you can pray 5 times in a mosque as there are thousands of mosques.
In Egypt and Sudan the opportunity is relatively less but still you meet Muslims and learn from them but of course some scholars said it is better to go to non Islamic lands if u have to propagate faith because dawah cannot be done while you are staying at home so even if this is done at the expense of that good opportunity, it’s probably worth it.
Also there is no contradiction between orders and prohibitions. In fact the Quran justifies orders and prohibitions in terms of that specific purpose. e.g belief makes people brothers and sisters.
Yassir Fazaga: As the verse goes انما المومنون اخوة
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: Yes indeed so anything that militates this is forbidden. That’s why alcoholic drinks are forbidden, so are drugs, it is clearly stated in the Quran
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاءَ فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلَاةِ
So as a result of drinking people become enemies and they hate each other secondary to alcohol intoxication.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh you said there is this harmony between principles proclaimed and the prohibitions and obligations that go along with it.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: Yes
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh we talked earlier about the rational argument for credibility of revelation and you chose a verse from the Quran ‘Had this book been from someone other than God, they would have found many discrepancies therein.’ This is about the Quran and as you said earlier any other previous scripture that was in its original form.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: Yes because God does not contradict Himself.
Yassir Fazaga: As that is neither befitting His majesty, nor His character and you were giving us an example here about how in other forms the principles proclaimed do not necessarily go in parallel unlike the teachings of the Quran and then u gave an example of brotherhood and what is prohibited so as to keep a harmony between people and you were about to give us some more examples.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: Yes more examples again of brotherhood for example if people are brothers, then there rule is a brother, so he cannot be a dictator. Dictatorship is someone heard me criticising democracy and every time you criticise democracy people think that you are defending dictatorship because they think these are the only two alternatives. I say no, if I say I am against the majority of the people legislating for me of course I would say I am against the one individual legislating for me and some philosophers and Muslim theologian say if you follow someone consistently if you obey them then you are taking him as a god even if you don’t call him god.
Yassir Fazaga: Because absolute obedience is only befitting to God.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: Yes. This is what a dictator demands. He would not be your brother; he would be your master or your god. Also say the example of zakaat and interest or usury. Zakaat takes from the wealthy and gives to the poor. But usury is from the poor to the rich. God could not have allowed usury. So God could not have allowed usury because this contradicts the principle of zakah. On the one hand you say the rich should give to the poor while on the other you say no poor should give the rich.
Yassir Fazaga: It’s interesting you say this, and if I may share with you and our viewers out there, one time I was doing a paper on interest in the United States and we have what we call ‘pay day cash loans’ and these are places that you can go to receive a loan from them and once you have your pay check they would take their money back but you would have to pay them of course interest. And I was surprised to see the amount of interest they charge.
On a credit card for example they charge about 17.99 annual percentage rate. When I went there they pay day cash loans people were charging 466.88 percent. And I remember the number vividly and said why do people come to you and they said well majority of them are poor people who cannot afford a credit card because they have bad credit so they come us. The poorer they are getting the more interest is being charged from them.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: The question of poverty cannot be solved at all. And that is why one learned person directed me to, I think a saying, I am not sure it’s a hadith or a statement from one of the companions of the Prophet SAW perhaps Omar ra, he said when you give don’t distribute your zakaah across many people in small denominations like ten dollars and so on. Give a big amount to someone, make him rich and then you solve his problem. Next time he won’t need any more charity.
So Zakaah is supposed to solve the problem of poverty not just to help the poor or worse make the poor poorer. In fact one American writer, I forgot the name of his book, he said and he is not a Muslim, if there was a tax somewhere around 3%, some figure very near to zakaat on the capital of the rich people in the United States there would have been no poverty in the world. 3% annual on someone like Bill Gates. So if you take zakaah from that person annually it solves the problems of poverty.
Yassir Fazaga: To be honest, Bill Gates has been very charitable lately.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: What he is spending is much less than zakah (smiles). In Islam the family is the basic unit of society and therefore everything is designed in such a way to preserve that unit. No sex outside marriage. And that also is the reason why people are allowed to marry more than one wives. Because if you feel you need to marry another wife and you are failing this might lead you to have sex outside marriage. Then there is the hijab and prohibition of free mingling of men and women because this increases the probability of sex outside marriage. And then there is severe punishment for committing adultery or fornication. Many people now think that this punishment is very severe.
Of course if you allow women to dress like what they are dressing now and to mingle with men and you see many people committing fornication or adultery of course you would be against whipping them or stoning them because you would be stoning one quarter of half the society and no one would accept this. So you have to take the religion as a whole. If you take part of the religion then it becomes inconsistent, if you replace on part with another then it becomes inconsistent.
That is why it is wrong to say or claim that religion can change with the change in time or change in place because it is very consistent. If it is consistent as it is then if you make any changes in it, it would make it inconsistent.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh does this apply to all things in the Quran. You gave example of brotherhood, is this consistency all over the place?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh: Yes it is all over the place. The main relationship with Muslims who worship god, I don’t want people to think that Muslims are only the people who follow Prophet Muhammad SAW. People who followed Jesus AS were Muslims, people who followed Moses AS were Muslims. But it is the rule in the Quran that if you follow on Prophet, you should believe in all Prophets. There is no reason for you to pick and choose.
And also if you were follower of one Prophet and then another Prophet comes after him then you must follow that prophet. So it is wrong argument that some people use that you say I am following my Prophet Jesus or Moses why should I follow Muhammad (SAW)? We say that this is a contradiction.
Because if Muhammad SAW is a prophet and he says that God sent him as His final prophet then you should follow him. And if you study your religion carefully you will find in that religion itself the reason why you should follow the prophet that comes after the prophet in whom you believe in. So when we say that all these earlier messages were like the Quran in being consistent in making people happy in this life and the hereafter and so on.
The only main difference is that this religion is more comprehensive than others and that in some of the details it is not like earlier religions as this religion is for all humanity not for a particular group of people at a particular time. So all people at particular time and places are invited to the fundamentals of the religion: that your worship none but God that you do this you do that, but when it comes to details there are differences.
Yassir Fazaga: The main message remains the same but legislations to serve that may change from one time or place. Shaykh Jaafar it’s been a joy being with you here in this episode and we look forward to seeing and hearing more of you in coming episodes. We this we come to the conclusion of this part of the program hoping that you enjoyed it as much as I did. Hoping that you would join us next time, until that assalamu’alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu.
Transcribed by Defiance Team