Tuesday, January 29

The God Solution: The Islamic Concept of God Click for more info

Although I've read a bit of his stuff and seen him on the television, I've never had the pleasure of listening to one of Abdul Hakeem Murad's lectures live. That's why I jumped at the chance of attending one down at Guy's this afternoon. To jump straight to the point I wasn't disappointed; he really is a wonderful speaker.

In this session he was to talk about the Islamic concept of God. He did this by covering various questions that had been asked in the history of Islam along with their respective answers. In this way it was tough to tell what his exact opinion was; a good thing since it left us to form our own. This objectivity is what probably impressed me the most.

So the micro-topics covered included the genericness of God as well as the more contrasting aspects between the Abrahamitic faiths, an explanation of why evil could exist in the world with God (including a neato story about an ant and a carpet maker and how the former couldn't appreciate the creation of the latter) and how Islam is largely a fatalistic religion ("everything is in the hand of God"). He also covered atheism as a contrary to theology and the respective implications on free will and choice.

He explained how the much requested (by the West) reform of Islam had already taken place with the rejection of most of the historical advances made in the religion and gave the examples of the peaceful and tolerant coexistence times in the past.

After laying the above groundwork, Abdul Hakeem then moved on to more philosophical topics. He talked a lot about Kalam, or the forming of religious opinion via logic and argument - an example of this was how some theologians started with the "base case" of atheism and worked up to theology from that using principles of logic (as opposed to proving an existing assumption of God). He finally noted that even though some had thought they had proved the existence of God, they also noted that there was no obligation of faith without scripture, or the commandment to believe. Heavy stuff.

The question and answer session was okay. I managed to submit my simple question to Abdul Hakeem Murad:

Isn't the lack of a definite proof of God a pre-requisite of sound belief?

I'm proud to say that this was one of the few questions that made our host pause for thought - I even got a show of appreciation with him declaring it a "good question" after his reply - there's nothing quite like validation you know? Anyway, he agreed that there has to be room for disbelief in order to give belief value, but noted that although there weren't/couldn't be any overwhelming proofs of God that there were so many "almost-proofs" that after aggregation the likelihood was that this stance was correct. A bit of a fudge but elegantly so I thought.

Other good points raised included discussion of how a good disbeliever could be in a better internal state than a bad believer due to the differing obligations on each. We were also told how a perfect level of tauheed should demonstrate itself by a lack of panic over worldly events and calamities, a lack of fear and a lack of regret.

The rest of the Q&A was substandard boring studenty stuff, once again more about the person asking the question than the answer they received. Someone even asked if God could create a stone he couldn't lift - which turned out to be a worthwhile question if only to see how expertly Abdul Hakeem dismissed it. Overall I think it was a wasted opportunity and pretty painful for the speaker.

But this was a brilliant talk that I feel lucky to have attended. Abdul Hakeem Murad is smooth, seamless, clear, concise and witty and an absolute joy to listen to. Just in case you couldn't tell by now I have definitely become a fan of his and I recommend you all check him out if you ever get the chance to.