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 An Introduction to Islam: 4. Doctrine in Islam

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An Introduction to Islam: 4. Doctrine in Islam

Khaled Nusseibeh

 Doctrine in Islam

The Indian philosopher Muhammad Iqbal remarked something to the effect that the ancient Greek mindset emphasized cognition through reasoning more than through an experience and apprehension of nature. Within the context of the Islamic view of God, it is undoubtedly the case that the Islamic method of inculcating the monotheistic view of God and life underlines reference to nature and the universe and man himself as vehicles for knowing God. This may be contrasted to a method that emphasizes metaphysical speculation and that attempts to unravel metaphysical or unseen reality through philosophical reflection- and not through empirical observation that ontologically ties contingent created existence, to a unique Creator.

To illustrate the apprehension of monotheistic truth through a human striving for enlightened consciousness of God and the universe I shall read for you the following Qur`anic verses describing Abraham’s attainment of monotheistic faith by means of reflection on nature and the Universe:

Introduction to Islam
Table of Contents

Introduction to Islam

Fundamentals of Islam

Sources of Doctrine in Islam

Doctrine in Islam

Islamic View of Man and the Universe

Suffis and Suffism

Islam in the Modern World - Interfaith Dialogue

“And thus did We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth that he might be of those possessing credulity. And when night spread out over him he saw a star. He then said, “This is my Lord.” But when it set, he said, “I love not things that set.” When he saw the moon rising, he said, “If God does not guide me, I shall surely be among the perverse folk.” Then when he saw the sun rising he said. “This is my Lord. This is greater.” But when it set, he said. “O my people, I am free from that which you associate with God.” (6:75-78)

To quote Muhammad Mubarak, the late Syrian thinker, in this context: “Thus, Abraham arrived (at a monotheistic) conviction as a result of personal reflection and (spiritual) experience. He despaired of ascribing divinity to any aspect of the Universe since those aspects, or phenomena, are subject to change and eclipse. Abraham declares the result of his quest by saying: And here Mubarak quotes the Qur`an:

“I have directed my face toward Him who originated the heavens and the earth, as a hanif (an upright believer in God), and I am not of the idolaters.” (6:79)

In essence, Islam espouses a rigorously monotheistic view of God. The Qur`an rebukes associating or ascribing partners to God. He is One, without beginning or end, the Lord of the worlds and their sustainer. Islam’s condemnation of idolatrous worship is categorical, while it considers the Christian Trinitarian doctrine as a deviation from the true monotheism taught by the Judeo-Christian Prophets, including Jesus Christ. Having said that it must be remembered that Islam regards with high esteem the Christian people of the book (Ahl Al-Kitab), and affirms considerable parts of the Christian dispensation which Islam claims to have completed. It could be mentioned that belief in the Gospel and in Jesus the son of Mary is part of the Muslim creed, as is the miraculous immaculate conception of Jesus.

Historically speaking, the pristine faith of the early generation of Muslims in the One God was subject to considerable debate among jurists, theologians, mystics and philosophers. The transcendental God with attributes knowable through the Qur`an and the Sunna, under the influence of Greek metaphysics, or eastern mysticism, gave way to conceptions of God which detracted from a clear-cut, categorical monotheism. Existential monism, philosophical pantheism and sufi esoteric doctrines sometimes transfigured the parameters of monotheistic doctrine. Thus, Sunni orthodox theologians strove, mustering scriptural as well as rational proofs derived from Greek philosophy and logic, to maintain a doctrine about God that is based on exoteric- as opposed to esoteric exegesis, that is rooted in rational evidences, and that does not necessarily repudiate the insights of mysticism. Al-Ghazali, perhaps more than anyone else epitomizes the foregoing.

Allow me to share with you a poem I wrote that conveys a monotheistic perspective and conveys my sense of seeking the Divine:

Travels Beyond:

The mystic traveler has a tryst with truth

A moment of joyous love of God


He sees naught but His cosmic presence

Nearer to the heart than the jugular vein


Knowledge of God is an endless trail

To be trodden with yearning for more


Dazzled is a heart of a praising soul

The universe a sign of the Great Lord


But a dazzled heart must be from sin washed

Pondering the truth that encompasses all


The journey to know has a weapon to use

A Shari`ah that’s God’s guide to spirit’s trek


Subhanallah is the utterance of a heart consumed

The calling to fear an Omniscient God


The traveler meets His Lord even at a labyrinth

Dhikr that nears him to God’s unknowable mercy


Life is a canyon of pleasure immense

Matching dhikr is unattainable quest


Afterlife is the soothing thought of penitent hearts

Paradise the splendid abode of an awaited morrow


And hellfire the fear of a heart torn

Grief at the sins of a youthful day


Love of Muhammad is the tune of wondrous worship

Peace on him the guide of knowing souls


A haqiqa of amazing surrender

A repository of Revelation Divine


God’s Word anchored in Muhammad’s radiant heart

Uncreated speech of truth and love


Ahmad the guide and mercy to every world

Illumining darkness with shining truth


The traveler years for Ahmad to know his Lord

Following the exemplar of obedience to God


Journeyers of noble though unrested souls

Finding a truth beyond reason’s bound


The kings may strike the saints with swords

If only they knew the pleasures of dhikr’s way

Introduction to Islam (5)Continued

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