by Humza Asad
Language is a wonderful tool. Its continual evolving and developmental nature creates a rich diversity of discussion amongst its users, but just like any tool it can easily be misused. It is said that a wise man can learn more from a foolish man’s question then a foolish man can learn from a wise man’s answer, and in some cases, this could not be closer to the truth.
The problem stems from the way we interact with language around us. It is commonly thought that every question has an answer. And thus, using this to spearhead our logic, many of us fervently search until we can find the ‘correct’ answer which wholly satisfies the question posed to us. Yet what we have misunderstood is, not all questions necessitate answers. In other words, we should be questioning the question, rather than continually questioning the validity of our own answers.
What am I trying to get at here? For many of us, we don’t have the Islamic knowledge to answer seemingly tough questions directed towards us. And, in a desperate attempt to regain that strong iman and taqwa we once had, we haphazardly search online to find a ‘satisfying enough’ answer. But the problem is, many a times we don’t find exactly what we are looking for. Subsequently a drop in iman follows and that firm ‘yaqeen’ we once had now seems to just disappear.
A classic cliché to this is that ever-recurrent question on the ‘problem’ of evil. Once we are delivered with the question auto-pilot mode begins. But the implicit irony in this is that there doesn’t seem to be a unanimous answer given. Answers vary across individuals with popularised responses being ‘this life is a test’ and ‘free will.’ Others prefer the idea of evil being a ‘necessary’ concept in order for us to appreciate ‘goodness.’ Now I am not suggesting that these theodicies amongst others have no weighting. Nor am I suggesting that you cannot find full satisfaction from them. Instead I am just highlighting the interesting point that no definitive answer ‘seems’ to exist.
This very point exposes the hidden flaw in the question itself. An example of the tool of language misused – as the question is disguised innocently, yet has some very ignorant presuppositions. Thus, you as the wise man are now in a greater position to learn from the fool’s question than the fool will ever be learning from any such answer you may ascertain.
You see, such concepts as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ only hold their objective weighting under the foundations of Islam. The very fact that Allah swt calls the Qur’an ‘al Furqan’ – the criterion – shows us that he has differentiated what is to fall under the banner of ‘good’ and what is to fall under the banner of ‘evil.’ After which there shall be no dispute over the general concept of morality.
The questioner however has removed Allah from his worldview. Thus, his morality is determined by the subjectivity of upbringing, society, culture and individual preference. In other words, if this individual were to be brought up in another cultural era, his views would change. A classic example is that of the jahil Arabs before the advent of Islam. They would bury their own daughters alive seeing it as a ‘good’ practice which had to be undertaken. It became so immersed into society that individuals felt greater guilt in opposing this social norm than carrying it out.
Thus, the individual asking the question has his moral beliefs built on subjective foundations. Yet, with implicit irony, he has the audacity to question how objective moral law can ever exist with the existence of Allah – rendering his own question as logically fallacious. As objective law only exists with Allah and so for him to even question it, it would be a requirement for Allah swt to exist.
With this understood, the same questioning of the question can be repeated to a plethora of examples of misused language. The marriage of Aisha ra; shari’i punishments; two female witnesses’ vs one male and so on. All of these cliché arguments put forward against Islam have their own vast array of ‘satisfying’ answers. Yet they all have one single, common, unanimous flaw in their question. That presupposition that somehow objective moral codes can exist and do exist without the existence of Allah.
So next time you’re asked one of these questions, or one of the numerous platitudes that accompany them. Remind yourself to question the question rather than your Creator. For as Allah says in Surah At-Talaq: “And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for Him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” (65:3)