The Finality of Islam – With Reference to Perennial Philosophy


Finaility of Islam: Part I Part II | Part III | Part IV

Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, in From the Depth of the Heart in America, noted that “Islam is more sensitive than any other faith . . . Its limits are marked out very clearly.” This sentiment has remained true until our day, even in western universities that teach Islam. Despite the modern attack on religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, whereby they are made to be nebulous and far from structured (especially away from traditional articulations), there is still a meaning to “Islam”; hence an author or university is forced to still conform to certain parameters when defining the religion, in spite of the academic habit of sub-division which has made certain prefixes to “Islam” seem more acceptable, such as “conservative,” “liberal,” “progressive,” “fundamentalist,” “political,” or “classical.” The normative way of defining Islam, even whilst acknowledging these recent trends and descriptions, is to uphold those scholarly authorities that gained academic and social acceptance amongst the traditional Muslim societies. Therefore this article will present a Sunni understanding of the question of Islam’s finality, which is for people to accept or reject, whether through a Sunni discourse or a heterodox one.

Like Muhammad Legenhausen, in his essay entitled “Islam and Religious Pluralism,” it is important to note that the discussion of Islam’s finality, or “correct faith” (in Legenhausen’s words), is a distinct topic to the notion of salvation. The idea of salvation has some more details, and it is not my subject matter here. [Those seeking interesting reads on the question of Islam and salvation, in particular regarding the Other, the following English resources will be of interest: Mohammed Hassan Khalil’s PhD entitled “Muslim Scholarly Discussions on Salvation and the Fate of ‘Others’” (University of Michigan, 2007), Tim Winter’s essay entitled “The Last Trump Card: Islam and the Supersession of Other Faiths”; and Mohammed Fadel’s essay entitled ‘“No Salvation Outside Islam: Muslim Modernists, Democratic Politics, and Islamic Theological Exclusivism,’ to be included in the forthcoming Islam, Salvation and the Faith of Others (ed. Mohammed Hassan Khalil).]

Perennial philosophy will be touched upon, in essence, due to its challenge to the orthodox understanding of Islam’s finality; and due to its patient attempt to clandestinely establish itself within the orthodox community, despite opposing a belief that is considered so foundational and absolute to Muslims. Moreover, it has a tone that is very much in accord with a modern sentiment towards religion, hence it is highly seductive; therefore it is of interest to discuss its arguments in light of an orthodox discourse. The perennialists have laid claim to a Sufi lineage, but most of the greatest Sufis of all time have explicitly rejected their claims about Islam, most notably – as we shall see – from arguably the Sufi with the greatest standing in Islamic history, Abu Hamid Ghazzali. [A good historical overview of perennial philosophy can be gained from Mark Sedgwick’s Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century.]

In an age where celebrity and show business are often given more value than rational argument and non-partisanship, I’ve decided to omit, on occasions, certain contemporary western names in the course of the discussion. This is in the hope of not presenting any distraction that might obscure any argument, where preoccupation with a person takes the place of seeing the point at hand. In this regard, it is apt to quote the saying attributed to ‘Ali radi Allahu ‘anhu (may God be pleased with him) in Ghazzali’s al-Munqidh min al-dalal: “Don’t know the truth by men; rather, know the truth, then you shall know its people.” Ghazzali says that the state extolled by ‘Ali is the way of the intelligent (al-‘aqil) and explains the virtue of this path, which is partisanship to the truth, not to personalities. May God make us of the wise people; success is only from God.

Defining Islam

Scott Lucas, in his PhD entitled “The Arts of Hadith Compilation and Criticism: A Study of the Emergence of Sunnism in the Third/Ninth Century” (University of Chicago, 2002), asserts: “most Muslim and non-Muslim scholars consider Sunnism to be the normative manifestation of Islam.”  In opposition to Lucas (and his faithfulness to Marshall Hodgson on this point), it is appropriate to view Sunnism as the “orthodoxy” of Islam, for a number of reasons: the fact that Sunnism characterises the overwhelming majority of Muslims over the course of Islamic history, and this  status quo has been maintained to our current time; and, consequently, one sees the great past and modern institutions of Islam in the Muslim lands adhering to a broad Sunni method, with its agreements upon the fundamentals and universally-agreed matters of the faith. It is, therefore, perfectly understandable that writings on Islam respect the parameters of broad Sunnism.

In practice, one naturally sees the utilisation of scholars and works that are recognised by all aspiring-Sunni groups, despite perhaps disagreeing with subsidiary points of law or theology. Thus one sees Shariah-orientated Sufis and salafis, to take two generally Sunni groups from almost polar opposites of Sunnism (although there are self-professed salafis and so-called Sufis who cross, or stray close to, the boundaries of orthodoxy, either in isolated matters or in essential points), relying on the Qur’anic exegesis found in the works of Tabari, or the hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim and their respective commentaries by Ibn Hajar and Nawawi, or the theological work of Abu Ja’far Tahawi, or utilising and discussing the points of law raised by the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali schools, to take some essential examples. In terms of jurisprudential foundations, the science of usul al-fiqh has well defined parameters in Sunnism, and disagreements that are tolerated within Sunnism.

Therefore the discussion of Islam is best served, from academic and social points of view, through the scholarship of Sunnism. Hence the question of perennial philosophy’s position in regards to Islam will be tested within a Sunni framework. Heterodox readings of the Islamic faith are open to those who view Islam’s authenticity as being defined by such traditions; but, in truth, such minority attempts have never succeeded the test of time, and they tend to be relegated to the footnotes of history, while Sunnism continues to be the story of the Muslim people. In this light, it was not considered necessary to speak of any adjective before Islam due to the orthodoxy of Sunnism; whereas any heterodox reading of the faith should be bound to either qualify itself or use a completely separate name for itself, depending on the severity of the intellectual break with Sunnism.

Notwithstanding this identification of Islam or designation of something as Islamic in terms of orthodoxy or Sunnism, Ghazzali in Fada’ih al-Batiniyya has elucidated how every contravention of orthodoxy need not result in the denial of the religion or disbelief (kufr). Ghazzali discusses how being mistaken (takhti’a) in certain branches (furu’) of the religion can ascend, in seriousness, to misguidance (tafdil), to being considered a sinner (tafsiq) and the accusation of unlawful innovation (tabdi’); and then the final level of deviation whereby the contravention of Islam requires that the perpetrator be accused of disbelief (takfir or anathematization).

In order to show how Ghazzali distinguishes between tafdil, tafsiq and tabdi’ on the one hand, and takfir on the other, he illustrates the example of someone who believes that ‘Ali should have been the Caliph before Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman (ra). Such a heterodox position, Ghazzali acknowledges, is a contravention of “the consensus of the people of the religion” (ijma’ ahl al-din), but such a contravention does not render one a non-Muslim, but merely means that one is a Muslim who unlawfully innovates. A Ghazzalian understanding of what constitutes an act requiring takfir will be explored later.

The Proofs and Unanimity of Islam’s Finality 

There are numerous verses of the Qur’an that Islamic orthodoxy has used as a basis for establishing that Islam is God’s final religion, and the only valid one in this age after the coming of the Final Messenger Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him):

This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion (5:3).

And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers (3:85).

In order to clarify the above verses, in light of some contemporary discussions about whether the “Islam” mentioned is “islam” with a small “i”, i.e. literally the “submission to God” regardless of the religious form, as opposed to the historical Islam of the Messenger Muhammad ﷺ  (peace be upon him), the following verse is noteworthy:

Indeed, they who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the worst of creatures (98:6).

Ghazzali sums up the orthodox creed in his Ihya’: God sent the Prophet ﷺ  to the whole world with His message (bi-risalatihi ila kafa al-‘arab wa’l-‘ajam); and through the Islamic Sacred Law abrogated the previous Sacred Laws, except for what Islam confirmed; and He has denied the perfection of faith (mana’a kamal al-iman) to one who declares God’s Unity but fails to attest to the Prophet being the Messenger of Allah.

The Sunni schools of Islamic law – Hanafi (Ibn ‘Abidin), Maliki (Dardir) and Hanbali (Bahuti) – concur with the following statement from Nawawi of the Shafi’i school:

Someone who does not believe that whoever follows another religion besides Islam [today] is an unbeliever (such as Christians), or doubts that such a person is an unbeliever, or considers their sect to be valid, is himself an unbeliever (kafir) even if he manifests Islam and believes in it (Rawda al-talibin, 10.70). [Trans. N Keller ]

Ghazzali, in al-Iqtisad fi’l-I’tiqad, represents the “Sunni consensus” on the question at hand:

“The Jews, Christians, and the followers of all the religions, whether Zoroastrians, idol-worshippers or others, are all to be considered unbelievers [kafir] as is specified in the Koran and agreed upon [ijma’] by the Muslim community [umma].” [trans. Winter, “Last Thrump.”]

[For a contemporary declaration of Islam’s finality in light of challenges to the orthodox position, which have even reached the Muslim lands, one can read the appendix entitled “Unification of Religions” that Abu ‘Aaliyah added to his translation of Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen entitled Tenets of Faith. The appendix is the legal verdict (fatwa) of the Council of Senior Scholars of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.]

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32 Comments

  1. Marc Manley says:

    as-Salaamu ‘alaykum and jazakallahu khayran for this article. You have touched on a great topic here: the Perennialists. While I have admired some of the works of Seyyed Hossein Nasr and William Chittick, I have also been concerned about how they are not seen as just that: Perennialists, but rather as pseudo-orthodox. In order for us to not throw the baby out with the bathwater [for instance, I found the first third of Chittick's Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul to be informative on the need for a methodology of Muslim thought, as well as some of works by Nasr, I still find it unnerving and dangerous in how their opinions are taken [by the Academy especially!] as orthodox.

    Ma sha’Allah. Keep up the good work.

  2. MT says:

    MashaAllah, great piece of academic writing. One question:

    Perennial Philosophy, in a basic sense, deals with all religious traditions having a single truth. Is it safe to say that, since there has been a messenger sent to every community preaching Tawheed, that, in essence, these other religions that have been tampered with did infact stem from Islamic Tawheed?

    What are your thoughts?

    Jazaks,

    • MT says:

      So in essence, perennial philosophy does hold true, considering all original foundations of the religious traditiions?

    • fez says:

      yes but maybe it deals with islam as “another religion” and i would guess also discounts the theory of a final religious tradition.

      • C. King Khidr says:

        Perennialists agree that Islam is the final revelation, but do not consider previous revelations to be invalid, nor doctrinally false. They are all, to use a familar expression, “pathways leading to the same summit.”

  3. Engie Salama says:

    Amazing article! I really enjoyed reading it and considering the different perspectives. Thank you for the great hadiths and excellent resources!

  4. Reed says:

    So far, there seems to be the idea that because classical sunni scholars, including Ghazzali, have agreed upon the finality of Islam (with large I), then they must be right. The closest to a discussion of this topic is the “noteworthy” mention of 98:6.

    This is only the first part of a series, so I am hoping that later parts stay true to Ghazzali’s statement, ““Don’t know the truth by men; rather, know the truth.” That is, I hope it will show why the classical sunni scholars are right (not simply quote their position), why the perennials’ position is wrong, and how other verses like 5:69 are handled:

    “for, verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, [86] and the christians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.”

  5. Andrew Booso says:

    Salam, and jazakumallah khairan for your kind words.

    @MT
    We can only categorically say that certain religions were originally based on tawhid and have been tampered with, i.e. those religions that we know for certain had a Prophet sent to them and whose message, we are informed, has been altered.

    The perennial philosophy under discussion here – as opposed to the variety made famous by Aldous Huxley – is a bit more complex than being suggested in the comments. Later parts of this series should help with making its position clear, insha Allah.

    fi amanillah

    Andrew

  6. Rashid Dar says:

    salaam andrew –

    i have always found this topic to be of immense interest, because many western orthodox sunni scholars have given credence to or have been willingly affiliated with known perennialists. an easy example would be how prof. nasr was invited to speak to students enrolled at zaytuna college recently, or the high esteem that shaykh hasan le gai eaton was held in across the pond. i am a reader of a number of perennialists (including the ones above) because i have found their works to be enlightening in several respects, but i always do so with great caution, knowing that they perhaps do not take the orthodox opinion on things.

    so two questions to be answered for the forthcoming pieces:

    a) how exactly has perennialism’s “patient attempt to clandestinely establish itself within the orthodox community” operated? i would enjoy seeing your take on how this developed, making sure to include figures like schuon, nasr, guenon, lings (raheemullah), and their connection to figures and shaykh in the shadhuli tariqa.

    b) it would also be cool if you could directly engage with the arguments that many of these perennialists make for perennialism in their writings, because honestly, a lot of it sounds attractive, and perhaps dangerously so. i’m reminded of hayy bin yaqdhan by ibn tufayl…

    anyway…

    this is an important project that a lot of muslims are woefully unaware of and has not been adequately addressed by our ‘ulama in modern times. may God aid you in it!

    ps: i wasn’t trying to take jabs at any scholar, just trying to make sense of some things. i love Shaykh Hamza and all he has done for Islam in America, may God protect him! i’m just a curious nerd.

    • C. King Khidr says:

      May I ask, how are you reminded here of Hay b. Yaqzan? If anything, Ibn Tufayl’s tale confirms some of the ideas of perennialism.

  7. Amber says:

    JazakAllah for this article! I know this website deals with a lot of controversial topics, but they way this is written has made me excited to look forward to the upcoming series. I have been interested in Perennial philosophy, though not entirely convinced of its truth. I want to thank the author who wrote this article for recommending other texts to read so we can gain further knowledge on this subject. Usually these types of articles are written in a polemical fashion, and in a way that makes the (amateur) reader/dilettante (i.e. me) with less knowledge feel that they will never quite understand the subject, and we must blindly accept what the author says.
    Thank you for providing extra information, though this introduction was incredibly fascinating and I am looking forward to your future posts.

  8. Reed says:

    “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion (5:3).”

    From what I’ve read, the word mostly translated as “religion” is “deen”, which means primarily obedience and submission to Allah, as does the word islam. In that case, this verse seems to be talking about islam rather than Islam.

    I’m hoping that you can go more into the meanings of the verses you quoted, explaining why it should be interpreted the way that you are using it.

  9. maghribi says:

    Personally, I would tend to simplify things. I would say Islam is a set of rules meant to help Man worship Allah in the best and easiest way, while accomplishing his task as a viceroy of Allah in the earth. Work is in itself an act of worship. By planting a tree you are worshipping Allah just as when extricating a victim from the rubble in the wake of an earthquake or when saying your beeds.

  10. Haq says:

    May Allah reward you Ust. Andrew, a refreshing scholarly piece which I know our readers will benefit immensely.

  11. Fuhad says:

    I do not agree with the methodology and structure of the article by brother Andrew.
    By citing text of authors without any due consideration to their entire work on similar isues. By giving reference of prominent people Winter and Keller, the article portrays a very reductionist approach in explaining Islamic orthodoxy. It is very dangerous to quote certain text of Ghazali on status of Kufr. Gazhali was one of the most lateraly inclusive thinkers who expounded Islamic theology and philosophy to such an extent where he includes everyone i.e from hindu,Christian etc as the recepient of Divine Amensty. This is the beauty of Islamic Salvation for humanity inspite of religious differences.
    Kind Regards
    Fuhad

    • Andrew Booso says:

      My introduction stated that I wouldn’t be dealing with salvation (and I gave further references for those interested in the topic). But there is orthodox consensus on Islam’s supersession (naskh) over other religions. Moreover, authorities report “Consensus” (ijma’) of Islamic orthodoxy on unbelievers receiving eternal damnation (see w.55 of Reliance of the Traveller, compiled and translated by Nuh Keller).

      Ghazzali’s inclusiveness of non-Muslims for ultimate mercy (rahma) was limited, in explicit terms, to those Christians who lived in remote parts of Byzantine and Turks of his time who had not received the message of Islam or had only received a heavily distorted version of the faith; and for “many of the earlier communities, even though most shall be exposed to Hellfire, either lightly – even for a moment, or a while – or for an extended period” (Faysal al-tafriqa, trans. Tim Winter in “The Last Trump Card”). He wasn’t applying such “grace” to those who received the message, understood it and rejected it.

      Regards,

      Andrew

  12. abdul azeem says:

    While I respect the position of the author, he does not seem to address any of the actual texts of the perennialists themselves in any depth. I have found that while many Muslims have strong opinions against perennialism, these are usually not the result of a meditative engagement with the writings of the perennialists (Schuon, Guenon, Nasr, Lings, Coomaraswamy, Cutsinger, etc). Instead they rely on little excerpts of their writings here and there, and brief summaries at the hands of critics (Winter, Keller, Legenhausen, etc.)

    As for myself, it was only perennialism that was able to solve my own philosophical and theological problems with mainstream “orthodox” Sunni Islam (as defined by the author). I now find spiritual sustence in the message of the all the great spiritual traditions of the world, even though my practice is entirely (and exclusively) Islamic. I can also now see the light of God in pious people of all faiths who love God deeply.

    Fi aman Allah,
    Abd al-Azeem

    • Andrew Booso says:

      Perennial philosophy – for all the showboating of its supporters – is quite simple and repetitive across the authors, even if a certain long-winded nature flatters to deceive. Therefore the summary I made of it in parts two and three (especially the beginning part of three) of this series sum-up the main arguments directly from their own books. Hence one could not say that Keller and others have been followed blindly in this matter.

      Perennialist supporters would be more helpful if they succinctly told us what we are missing in our understanding; rather than guessing we haven’t read the books directly or expecting us to become equally long-winded in an equally unnecessary manner.

      If one has read Schuon, Nasr and Lings on perennial philosophy and its relation to Islam, and then consulted Islamic theological sources, would one have to go through the drudgery of Guenon, Cutsinger, Smith, Coomaraswamy, etc. through a variety of religions in order to simply conclude: Islam rejects perennial philosophy? No is the answer, and that is the point that cuts across all attempts by perennialist supporters to try and muddy the waters.

      • Hyde says:

        Salam,

        I am very excited that you have written an article(s) on perennial philosophy and Islam and look forward to reading the rest of the series. I completely agree with you the with the “drudgery” aspect of the perennialists, but having re-read Guenon and having read some work written by Schoun & Manly Hall, outside their “pseudo”-religious sources, their view on society and contemporary affairs is very much what I observe everyday around me and thus they have made me a better Muslim. By no means do I adhere to the idea that all religions are equal, and just “holding hands and everything will be all right” sort of stuff; Islam is the way and the only way, but—and I haven’t read the rest of the series yet— can one even procure a small social/contemporaneous benefit from the writings of the perennialists ? Or is that they have the esoteric agenda and sooner or later all of their ideas will reflect that? (Guenon and others were pretty big on occultism and freemasonry and esotericism)

      • abdul azeem says:

        Salams dear brother Andrew,

        First of all, may Allah reward you for the sincerity of your work. I do however beg to differ with you on this matter of perennialism. In my own view, one needs to be cautious about making absolutist statements such as “Islam rejects perennialist philosophy.” After all, whose “Islam” are we talking about? If by “Islam” you mean the views of mainstream Sunni kalam, I would agree, yes Islam rejects perennialism. But if by Islam we understand what has been identified as the “sapiential” or “wisdom tradition” of Islam, then perennialism can in many respects be seen to be the logical outgrowth of such a tradition. This is a tradition whose representatives are not the exoteric authorities Ahmed b. Hanbal, Ashari, Juwayni or Maturidi (may God sanctify their souls), but Rumi, Farabi, Ibn al-‘Arabi and Dara Shakuh (may God sanctify their souls). If we closely meditate over the the writings of the latter, we can find an authentic and “esoteric” Islamic foundation for perennialism in the classical intellectual tradition, even if that foundation is to be rejected by those whose thinking is confined to and limited by theology or kalam. This sapiential tradition is so much richer and more profound than anything kalam can offer, being rooted not in speculative and theological ratiocination but the highest levels of gnosis – a gnosis that is able to discern the presence of the Real’s self-disclosure in every creed and belief. It is this kind of gnosis that we are direly in need of in a world marked by diversity, pluralism and difference.

        Fi aman Allah,
        Abd al-Azeem

        • Shiva says:

          Assalamu alaykum Abul Azeem,
          I felt very connected to your last comment here. I was especially thrilled to see someone finally mention the perennial nature of some of the poetry/teachings of certain past figures such as Molana Rumi.

          However, I notice that traditionalist Muslims interpret those same religious figures in ways that are in agreement with their own understanding/tradition. They have the claim that really, people like Rumi were actually orthodox and traditional and thus in full agreement with today’s mainstream orthodoxy. Do you have any thoughts about that?

          You brought up a point: “whose ‘Islam’ are we talking about?” What do you say to those who will tell you, “Well, the same Islam that all of orthodoxy has accepted throughout the past 1,400 years”? I’m not really sure what your personal stance on orthodoxy is, so I’m just going to lay out some questions and thoughts I have. How is anyone to reconcile that the largest figures of Islam have been anti-perennial? In general, is there even a way to reconcile that the vast majority of recognized Islamic scholars, and thus the traditional version of Islam, dictates a certain way opposite of others?

          I find myself in a religious crisis at the moment. I’ve been so heavily convinced of traditionalism that the threats and excommunication of traditionalists really affect me. At the same time, I think my core is not traditionalist, but only that I have been “tricked,” for lack of a better word, into believing that I have to be that way. I like the idea of orthodoxy and want it with all my heart, but not at the expense of my own self – suppressing my mind in order to go with the crowd, because if I don’t, I’m exiting the “true” path and have left the saved sect (jama’a). I also find the behavior of our scholars to be really demeaning in that when a voice of disagreement comes along, they quickly label it as a lack of adab, or an exiting of siratul mustaqim, or a result of ill knowledge in an area, no matter what a person’s reasoning is. The person not being a cologne of the same ideology spread in the traditional sphere automatically justifies their attack of and disregard for opposing views.

          Do you have any readings in particular that you recommend to me as an extension of the ideas you present?
          Thanks.

        • A.K. says:

          Salams Shiva –

          As someone whom you might describe as a convert to perennialism, I hope you don’t mind my interjection here, especially because like yourself I too struggled with a number of issues surrounding “orthodoxy.” While it has been some time since you posted your comment, I hope you will read this.

          My main advice to you would be to pray for guidance on these matters. Do not underestimate the power of prayer. A prayer that wells up from a sincere, genuine, and pure heart is bound to be answered.

          There is a beautiful story of Imam Junayd that illustrates the power of such prayer: A woman once came to him and complained of a son who had disappeared. Imam Junayd advised her to have patience, so she left. She came back some time later, and lamented her plight once more, beseeching his help. He gave her the same advice he had the first time. “Be patient” he said. She departed once more. After sometime had elapsed, she came back again and cried, “I can’t take it anymore. My son has disappeared. Please do help.” Imam Junayd finally said to her, “go home, you will find that the lad has returned.” When she came home, to her surprise, the boy had indeed returned, just as Imam Junayd had predicted. She came back to him in wonderment. “How did you know?” she marvelled. He then cited the Quranic verse, “Is not He the One Who responds to the oppressed one when he calls upon Him (afa man yujiba al-mudtar idha da‘ahu).” The woman, for Imam Junayd, had reached the point of oppression or idtirar, so her prayer could no longer remain unanswered.

          Not only can prayer miraculously turn around one’s circumstances, it can also lead to clarity and certainty on matters of doctrine, provided the dua is genuine, sustained for as long as necessary, and the petitioner remains particularly attentive to refraining from sinful behaviour. Prayer is so strong that our Beloved Prophet went so far as to say that “nothing but prayer can avert the divine decree.”

          So that would be my own humble advice. Pray, pray and pray.

          For further reading, I would suggest you read Reza Shah-Kazemi’s THE OTHER IN THE LIGHT OF THE ONE, which you can find on amazon.com. It is thoughtful work, but you will have to be patient with it as it is not an entirely easy read. It will, however, be worth your time and effort as it addresses many of the (legitimate) issues raised in the article by Mr. Booso.

          As for the question of the orthodoxy of these authors, such as Rumi and Ibn Arabi, I will try to post a short comment below, in response to Mahmud, if God gives me tawfiq.

        • Mahmud says:

          Shiva-you should take the consensus of the Ummah into consideration. Here is what an-Nawawi says-

          Excerpt from Imam An-Nawawi’s Rawdat At-Taalibeen, Chapter on apostasy:

          وأنه لو قال كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أسود أو توفي قبل أن يلتحي أو قال ليس هو بقرشي فهو كفر لأن وصفه بغير صفته نفي له وتكذيب به وأن من ادعى أن النبوة مكتسبة أو أنه يبلغ بصفاء القلب إلى مرتبتها أو ادعى أنه يوحى إليه وإن لم يدع النبوة أو ادعى أنه يدخل الجنة ويأكل من ثمارها ويعانق الحور فهو كافر بالإجماع قطعا وأن من دافع نص الكتاب أو السنة المقطوع بها المحمول على ظاهره فهو كافر بالإجماع وأن من لم يكفر من دان بغير الإسلام كالنصارى أو شك في تكفيرهم أو صحح مذهبهم فهو كافر وإن أظهر مع ذلك الإسلام واعتقده وكذا يقطع بتكفير كل قائل قولا يتوصل به إلى تضليل الأمة أو تكفير الصحابة وكذا من فعل فعلا أجمع المسلمون أنه لا يصدر إلا من كافر وإن كان صاحبه مصرحا بالإسلام مع فعله كالسجود للصليب أو النار والمشي إلى الكنائس مع أهلها بزيهم من الزنانير وغيرها وكذا من أنكر مكة أو البيت أو المسجد الحرام أو صفة الحج وأنه ليس على هذه الهيئة المعروفة أو قال لا أدري أن هذه المسماة بمكة هي مكة أم غيرها فكل هذا أو شبهه لا شك في تكفير قائله إن كان ممن يظن به علم ذلك ومن طالت صحبته المسلمين فإن كان قريب عهد بإسلام أو بمخالطة المسلمين عرفناه ذلك ولا يعذر بعد العريف وكذا من غير شيئا من القرآن أو قال ليس بمعجز أو قال ليس في خلق السماوات والأرض دلالة على الله تعالى أو أنكر الجنة أو النار أو البعث أو الحساب أو اعترف بذلك ولكن قال المراد بالجنة والنار والبعث أو الحساب أو اعترف بذلك ولكن قال المراد بالجنة والنار والبعث والنشور والثواب والعقاب غير معانيها أو قال الأئمة أفضل من الأنبياء

          “…………….And the one who does not declare kafir the ones who profess a deen (religion) other than Islam, such as the christians, or doubts in the takfeer (declaring kafir) of such people, or authenticates [or praises] their religion, he is a kafir even if he displays Islam alongside this [belief] or [claims & shows he] believes in it; and likewise takfeer certainly applies on everyone who says things that imply towards stating that the entire ummah is misguided or [a person doing] takfeer (declaring kafirs) of the Sahaba……….”

          Qadi Iyad says:

          الاجماع علی کفر من لم يكفراحدا من النصاری واليهود و کل من فارق دين المسليمن او وقف فی تکفير ھم او شک ، قال القاضی ابو بکر لا ن التوقيف والا جماع اتفقاعلی کفرھم فمن وقف فی ذٰلک فقد کذب النص و التوقيف اوشک فيه، والتکذيب والشک فيه لا يقع الامن کافر

          الشفا ء بتعریف حقوق المصطفٰی 297/2

          There is consensus on the disbelief of the one who does not state disbeliever anyone from the christians or jews and all those who are aloof from the religion of Muslims, or refrains from doing takfir of them (doing takfir is calling someone kafir) or doubts their being kafir. The Qadi Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani said [it is] because explicit primary texts (Quranic verses & ahadith) and the consensus of the ummah (i.e., the sahaba and the scholars) are unanimous on their kufr. Therefore, he who refrains from calling them kafir, is denying the explicit primary texts and consensus, or doubting them. And such denial and/or doubt can only be expressed by a kafir.
          (Ash-Shifa of Qadi Iyad)

          I think this wonderful article by Andrew Booso explained the consensus of the Ummah. You are free to disagree, but not all disagreement is tolerated. In this aspect, someone believing other religions are acceptable after proofs come to him is like someone following the Qadiani religion. That is the truth and there is no changing it.

        • Paul Bartlett says:

          Peace be with you (salaam alaikum), Mahmud. May Allah (exalted is He swt) reward you for whatever you have said is pleasing to Him.

          I think we have to realize that not everyone is a scholar, not everyone is an expert, not everyone is overwhelmingly firm. There are many people who are are not “experts,” and there are many people who are actually weak in their faith and practice. This is reality.

          There are many individuals who were born to nominally Muslim parents who would therefore nominally be considered Muslims but who did not receive any realistically Islamic upbringing. There are many individuals who professed themselves Muslims but who really did not have realistic education in Islam and who may have been innocently and genuinely confused as to what they were doing. (Believe me, it happens. I speak from experience.)

          Are we to consider these ill-educated and/or confused individuals to be unbelievers (kuffar) because through no fault of their own they were not well founded in Islam according to our understanding? And please acknowledge that there is more than one understanding of Islam. (Indeed, I myself recently heard one person refer to the “Queering of the Qur’an” to justify “Islamic homosexuality” – may Allah forgive us for this outrage, which I myself do not accept.)

          Yes, there are troubled people in this world. I am not a scholar, but I vaguely seem to recall that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported in a Tradition (hadith) as having said that before the Hour there will Muslims but little Islam. (I am quoting from a faulty non-scholar’s memory here.) If that is so, who am I to condemn others from my faulty understanding?

        • Mahmud says:

          I’m sorry AK but an-Nawawi was 100% correct and so is al-Ghazali. Taking the statements of two scholars of ahlus Sunnah out of context and implying they contradict each other is not doing you any favors. They both DO agree even if an-Nawawi didn’t mention the people of fatrah in the very same breath he was talking about apostates.

          an-Nawawi’s stance is a CONSENSUS of the Ummah and not contradicted by the other knowledge that those who did not receive the message may be excused. We even have narrations on the matter.

          But whoever denies that a Jew or Christian who fails to enter Islam after it reaches him is a disbeliever is himself a disbeliever-by consensus.

          The First Hadith from Al-Aswad bin Sar ®299؛ Imam Ahmad reported from Al-Aswad bin Sari’ that the Messenger of Allah said,

          «أَرْبَعَةٌ يَحْتَجُّونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ: رَجُلٌ أَصَمُّ لَا يَسْمَعُ شَيْئًا، وَرَجُلٌ أَحْمَقُ، وَرَجُلٌ هَرِمٌ، وَرَجُلٌ مَاتَ فِي فَتْرَةٍ، فَأَمَّا الْأَصَمُّ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ قَدْ جَاءَ الْإِسْلَامُ وَمَا أَسْمَعُ شَيْئًا، وَأَمَّا الْأَحْمَقُ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ قَدْ جَاءَ الْإِسْلَامُ وَالصِّبْيَانُ يَحْذِفُونِي بِالْبَعْرِ، وَأَمَّا الْهَرِمُ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ لَقَدْ جَاءَ الْإِسْلَامُ وَمَا أَعْقِلُ شَيْئًا، وَأَمَّا الَّذِي مَاتَ فِي الْفَتْرَةِ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ مَا أَتَانِي لَكَ رَسُولٌ. فَيَأْخُذُ مَوَاثِيقَهُمْ لِيُطِيعَنَّهُ، فَيُرْسِلُ إِلَيْهِمْ أَنِ ادْخُلُوا النَّارَ، فَوَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ، لَوْ دَخَلُوهَا لَكَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا»

          (There are four who will present their case on the Day of Resurrection: a deaf man who never heard anything, an insane man, a very old and senile man, and a man who died during the Fatrah. As for the deaf man, he will say, “O Lord, Islam came but I never heard anything.” As for the insane man, he will say, “O Lord, Islam came and the young boys were throwing camel dung at me.” As for the senile man, he will say, “O Lord, Islam came and I did not understand anything.” As for the one who died during the Fatrah, he will say, “O Lord, no Messenger from You came to me.” Allah will accept their pledge of obedience to Him, then He will send word to them that they should enter the Fire. By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, if they enter it, it will be cool and safe for them.) There is a similar report with a chain from Qatadah from Al-Hasan from Abu Rafi` from Abu Hurayrah, but at the end it says:

          «فَمَنْ دَخَلَهَا كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِ بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا، وَمَنْ لَمْ يَدْخُلْهَا يُسْحَبُ إِلَيْهَا»

          (Whoever enters it will find it cool and safe, and whoever does not enter it will be dragged into it.) This was also recorded by Ishaq bin Rahwayh from Mu`adh bin Hisham, and by Al-Bayhaqi in Al-I`tiqad. He said: “This is a Sahih chain.” It was reported by Ibn Jarir from the Hadith of Ma`mar from Hammam from Abu Hurayrah, who attributed it to the Prophet . Then Abu Hurayrah said: “Recite, if you wish:

          ﴿وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُولاً﴾

          (And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning)).” This was also narrated by Ma`mar from `Abdullah bin Tawus from his father, from Abu Hurayrah, but it is Mauquf (it was not attributed directly to the Prophet ).

          Once again, an-Nawawi RH was mentioning the disbelief of those who fail to declare non-Muslims disbelievers in hs chapter of apostasy.

          This is a consensus of the Ummah. It’s not something you have any leeway in. If you want, go read he sharh if he has one on the other narration which I narrated above.

          “It might also help us as a community to keep the doctrinal boundaries of Islam open as wide as possible to accommodate for competing intellectual approaches to a tradition in crisis.”

          AK,the alim an-Nawawi and the rest of the Ulema(like I said-it’s consensus) did not decide to declare people who hold such a view(that non-Muslims who fail to enter Islam after it comes to them can enter Paradise) as disbelievers on a whim. This is not an area of maqasid. The Islamic tradition is not in “crisis” except for those who have deviated. Allah aza wa jal does not need to expand the definition of Islam to include more people. Rather it’s the other way around-people are subject to Allah and must submit their whims to their Lord. Islam is exclusive to a degree(we accommodate 70 something deviant sects without declaring them disbelievers as a rule) and always has been exclusive(to a degree). To enter it alone one negates every single other deen in existence-la ilaha illAllah Muhammad ur rasulullah.

          In short-yes by consensus this false belief refuted so beautifully by our brother Andrew Booso is kufr and it is kufr by CONSENSUS and the statements of al Ghazali let alone the narrations of an-Nabi (S) don’t in the slightest contradict the statements of an-Nawawi rh (and the rest of the Ulema) except for one who failed to comprehend the texts in the first place.

          Finally, the scholars are not declaring the status of other human beings (disbeliever or Muslim) based on their whims. Do not assume it’s for excluding other people from this deen or that it is to include other people from this deen! Rather, takfir is done because it needs to be done. Someone claiming a non-Muslim can enter Paradise after Islam reached him has invented a lie upon Allah and denied the Messenger. Such a person is a disbeliever.

          And that, my fellow brother in humanity is, from Ahlul Ilm-a consensus. Absolute and unchanging. Unlike our predecessors the Jews and the Christians.

          Salams

  13. Gibran says:

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    SubhanAllah, there are people who believe that non-Muslims can get Jannah? SubhanAllah,got to IslamQA.info/en and you’ll find all the authentic hadith which prove that only Muslims can enter Jannah.

    • Hyde says:

      That may be all to encompassing a comment. What about those who have not heard the message of Islam ? And what about the tradition that Jews will be judged by their standards and the Christians by here ?

      • Gibran Mahmud says:

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        As for non-Muslims who did not HEAR the message of Islam, Allah knows their case.

        As for Jews and Christians BEFORE the Messenger of Allah salllahualayhiwasalam, if they died on their faith inshaa Allah they will be accepted into Paradise.

        However whoever hears of the Messenger of Allah sallahualayhiwasalam and does not become Muslim must enter Jahannam as he is a disbeliever.

        Remember, Bani Israel at the time of Musa alayhisalam were the Muslims of the world.

        • Gibran Mahmud says:

          Assalamulaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          Read this hadith:

          The First Hadith from Al-Aswad bin Sar ®299؛ Imam Ahmad reported from Al-Aswad bin Sari’ that the Messenger of Allah said,

          «أَرْبَعَةٌ يَحْتَجُّونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ: رَجُلٌ أَصَمُّ لَا يَسْمَعُ شَيْئًا، وَرَجُلٌ أَحْمَقُ، وَرَجُلٌ هَرِمٌ، وَرَجُلٌ مَاتَ فِي فَتْرَةٍ، فَأَمَّا الْأَصَمُّ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ قَدْ جَاءَ الْإِسْلَامُ وَمَا أَسْمَعُ شَيْئًا، وَأَمَّا الْأَحْمَقُ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ قَدْ جَاءَ الْإِسْلَامُ وَالصِّبْيَانُ يَحْذِفُونِي بِالْبَعْرِ، وَأَمَّا الْهَرِمُ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ لَقَدْ جَاءَ الْإِسْلَامُ وَمَا أَعْقِلُ شَيْئًا، وَأَمَّا الَّذِي مَاتَ فِي الْفَتْرَةِ فَيَقُولُ: رَبِّ مَا أَتَانِي لَكَ رَسُولٌ. فَيَأْخُذُ مَوَاثِيقَهُمْ لِيُطِيعَنَّهُ، فَيُرْسِلُ إِلَيْهِمْ أَنِ ادْخُلُوا النَّارَ، فَوَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ، لَوْ دَخَلُوهَا لَكَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا»

          (There are four who will present their case on the Day of Resurrection: a deaf man who never heard anything, an insane man, a very old and senile man, and a man who died during the Fatrah. As for the deaf man, he will say, “O Lord, Islam came but I never heard anything.” As for the insane man, he will say, “O Lord, Islam came and the young boys were throwing camel dung at me.” As for the senile man, he will say, “O Lord, Islam came and I did not understand anything.” As for the one who died during the Fatrah, he will say, “O Lord, no Messenger from You came to me.” Allah will accept their pledge of obedience to Him, then He will send word to them that they should enter the Fire. By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, if they enter it, it will be cool and safe for them.) There is a similar report with a chain from Qatadah from Al-Hasan from Abu Rafi` from Abu Hurayrah, but at the end it says:

          «فَمَنْ دَخَلَهَا كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِ بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا، وَمَنْ لَمْ يَدْخُلْهَا يُسْحَبُ إِلَيْهَا»

          (Whoever enters it will find it cool and safe, and whoever does not enter it will be dragged into it.) This was also recorded by Ishaq bin Rahwayh from Mu`adh bin Hisham, and by Al-Bayhaqi in Al-I`tiqad. He said: “This is a Sahih chain.” It was reported by Ibn Jarir from the Hadith of Ma`mar from Hammam from Abu Hurayrah, who attributed it to the Prophet . Then Abu Hurayrah said: “Recite, if you wish:

          ﴿وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُولاً﴾

          (And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning)).” This was also narrated by Ma`mar from `Abdullah bin Tawus from his father, from Abu Hurayrah, but it is Mauquf (it was not attributed directly to the Prophet ).

  14. Mahmud says:

    JazzakAllahu khair….one of the greatest articles to come out of Suhaib Webb, may Allah increase you in guidance.

  15. A.K. says:

    Thank you for this article. This is an important topic which needs to be explored in greater detail, and Mr. Booso has done it admirably by pooling together a good range of sources.

    With that said, it seems to me that Mr. Booso does not sufficiently acknowledge the difference between Islamic theology and Sufi (specifically Akbarian) metaphysics. As a Tijaniyya shaikh informed me, the perennial philosophy is based on a certain interpretation of Ibn Arabi’s writings, the result one might say of a “doctrinal ijithad.” It is this particular interpretation that must be challenged for one to make an effective case against the perennialists. In this respect, it does not help to quote Ghazali (as the author has done), nor any of the other writers he cites, since it did not lie within their provenance to expound the worldview of the Sufis and Muslim contemplatives in all its fullness. For this, one must turn directly to Ibn Arabi (=IA), almost universally acknowledged to be the greatest exponent of Islam’s “science of unveiling” or al-‘ilm al-mukhashafa. Unlike Ghazali, IA did not restrain himself from articulating doctrinal positions which the author of the Ihya might have been much more reticent to express, at least publically. Had it been otherwise, IA would not have been the frequent object of religious censure.

    A close and honest reading of IA writings, I think, makes it clear that perennialism, far from being a baseless aberration and entirely foreign to Islam, has its origins in the spiritual giant’s worldview (and by extension, the great mystical interpretations of his peers). IA’s approach to the Qur’an and scripture can also provide one with the necessary tools to make sense of the apparent anti-perennialist thrust of many of the hadiths and verses of the Qur’an. (I stress “apparent” since Scripture, for IA, is polyvocal with multiple layers of meaning, some of which may even conflict).

    Even if one disagrees with perennialist interpretations of IA (not an entirely unreasonable position, even for perennialists), the perennial philosophy is so deeply tied in to certain conceptual trajectories in IA’s writings, that to deny the link between the two cannot be anything but intellectually dishonest. Keep in mind that IA, according to his own confession, was neither Asharite nor Mutazilite; and while his views resembled Hanbalism in certain respects (vis-à-vis divine immanence), they represented an independent development in the Islamic world, one which traced its roots to the universe of the Sufis, and most importantly, his own mediations over the Qur’an.

    At the heart of IA’s worldview lay the belief that God’s reality is all-pervasive – as the Qur’an states, “And He surrounds all things” – and that, as a consequence, there is no doctrine or belief which is entirely “untrue,” since all beliefs are based on a unique and legitimate encounter with God’s self-revelations, His tajalliyat. It was for this reason that IA could affirm in no uncertain terms that God is present everywhere, whether it be a mosque or a church, a temple or a synagogue.

    To take the perennialists to task for their unorthodox beliefs – and to the extent we define “orthodoxy” as mainstream exoteric Islam, they are unorthodox – is by extension to call into question the orthodoxy of Islam’s al-shaikh al-akbar.

    • Mahmud says:

      Salams

      I can’t count the number of Ulema(from Ibn Hajar al Asqalani’s teacher to others) who declared IA a disbeliever.

      Others if I’m not mistaken, tried to find some excuse for his heresy.

      But do know, it is a consensus of the Ulema that whoever fails to accept that Islam is the only acceptable religion, than he is himself a disbeliever. This is from Imam an-Nawawi who is among the very greatest scholars this Ummah has ever seen!

      So is the orthodoxy of IA in question-absolutely. if you take the fact that such eminent figures declared him to be a disbeliever, yes, he is far, far from being taken as someone in the mainstream.

      Here are some Ulema who declared this man to be a disbeliever-do not take it as an exhaustive list!

      http://www.islamicweb.com/beliefs/cults/sufi_takfir_ibnarabi.htm

      I think the words of these heavyweight Ulema deserve more than a little consideration!!!

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