The age-old dream of the human caravan is not to send astronauts in their orbit in outer space.. it is to send its individuals - every single individual in his orbit of self-realization. It is high time that this dream be thus reinterpreted. It is also the sacred duty of every man and woman to help intelligently reorientate human endeavour towards the culmination of this pilgrimage.

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha - Answers to the questions of Mr. John Voll - 17.7.1963

Simplifying the New Islamic Call - Episode II

Part 3

The state of superficial submission—semblance of words and actions—has been defined as Islam. The state of outward and inward submission has been defined as faith, which is semblance of word and deed, and credence with the heart. If a person sincerely proceeds, faith increases—the internal sense increases. It is more accurate to use the word precision, which was mentioned in the prophetic hadith, to express this stage. So, precision comes after faith.

The famous hadith of Gabriel that was narrated by Omar bin al-Khattab, said: “While we were sitting with the Messenger of God there appeared before us a man whose hair was exceedingly black and whose clothes were exceedingly white; no signs of journey were to be seen on him and none of us knew him! He sat down in front of the Messenger of God (May the blessings and peace of God be upon him), with his knees touching against the Prophet’s. Placing the palms of his hands on his thighs he said: ‘O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.’ The Prophet said: ‘Islam is to testify that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God, to perform prayers, to give alms, to fast Ramadan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so.’ The man said: ‘You have spoken rightly;’ and we were amazed at him asking him and then saying that he had spoken rightly. Then the man said: ‘Tell me about faith.’ The Prophet said: ‘It is to believe in God, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in divine destiny, both the good and the evil of it.’ The man said: ‘You have spoken rightly.’ The man said: ‘Then tell me about precision.’ The Prophet said: ‘It is to worship God as if you see Him and if you do not see Him, then (know that) truly He sees you.’” At this point, Gabriel (for that was who he was) stopped asking about the definitions of Islam, faith, and precision and went on to ask about the Hour: “The man said: ‘Then tell me about the Hour,’” which means, when is the Hour? “The Prophet said: ‘The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner.’ The man said: ‘Then tell me about its signs.’ The Prophet said: ‘That the slave-girl will give birth to her female owner, and that you will see barefooted, naked destitute shepherds competing in constructing lofty buildings.’ Then the man left after he said: ‘You have spoken rightly.’ Then the Prophet said: ‘O Omar, do you know who the questioner was?’ I said: ‘God and His Messenger know best.’ The Prophet said: ‘It was Gabriel, who came to teach you your religion.’” This hadith presents in order the definitions of Islam, faith, and precision, which are different heights in a flight of stairs.

It seems that there is a great deal of confusion in the minds of many people concerning this hadith. The fact is the matter of accuracy in distinguishing its meaning happens to be very simple. Meanings do not appear to them as pairs; rather they appear as singles. In people’s view, Islam has a single meaning. Also, people think that faith is higher than Islam, because of how they regard a person as Moslem, which is, as we have said, a matter of superficial submission that only when increased becomes faith. Of course, this is a true view and is correct on this level. But, there is also an Islam that is higher than faith. This is what we mean by saying that the meaning of Islam is paired.

Here, in one place our Lord acknowledged the conversion to Islam by the Bedouins, even though lower than the level of faith, while in another place He says: “The Bedouins are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy and most fitted to be in ignorance of the bounds of what God has revealed” (9:97). God did not let them persist in their claim on faith, but demoted them to Islam. Clearly, this level of Islam cannot be the level about which our Lord says: “The (true) religion in the sight of God is Islam (complete submission to God)” (3:19). The Islam of the Bedouin cannot be what Abraham was asked to embrace, “As his Lord said to him: Submit! He said: I have submitted to the Lord of the Worlds” (2:131). After many trials, our Lord asked Abraham to submit, so he said: “I have submitted to the Lord of the Worlds.” Our Lord further claims: “He who desires other than Islam as religion, that (religion) shall not be accepted, and in the hereafter he shall be among the losers” (3:85). God also says about this level of Islam: “O believers, be pious to God with true piety and do not die except as Moslems [in submission to God]” (3:102). So, after faith was approved for them (by God) and after they were called the believers (“O believers”) and after He approved that they are believers, they were recommended by Him to embrace Islam. Remember, he said: “be pious to God with true piety and do not die except as Moslems.” We had defined piety. God’s “true piety” is one of the most significant and complex things, which can never be fully attained. The more the servant or the Sage is pious to God from one aspect, the more ignorant of God shall that servant be from another aspect. Being pious to God with “true piety” can never happen. It is only from God to God, because it requires knowing God truly. No one (truly) knows God Self but God. Those for whom faith was approved were called believers, “O believers!” God recommended them to Islam. This level of Islam cannot be the Islam of the Bedouins, to which they were demoted after claiming faith. God denied them that faith, “The Bedouins said: We have faith. Say: You have no faith, but rather you say: We converted to Islam, for faith has not yet entered into your hearts” (49:14).

So, above faith there is Islam. The convert scales the stages of Islam, from the superficial submission to faith, to precision, and then ascends the stages of certitude to become a fully certain, post-believer. Certitude is a stage of three levels as was faith, which is also a stage of three levels. The levels of faith are superficial Islam, faith, and precision. The levels of certitude are certain knowledge, substantive certain knowledge, and true certain knowledge. These three levels of certitude are alluded to in the Quran while they were not mentioned in the hadith of Gabriel. This is because Gabriel came to teach the nation of believers their religion.

The Prophet’s phrase “It was Gabriel, who came to teach you your religion” is an address to the nation of believers. Our scholars, the theologians, did not understand this, because they also think that there is a single nation. This leads us back to duality, which we term ‘pairness’. They think that there is a single nation, “the nation of believers,” but, in fact, there is a nation of Moslems, too. The nation of Moslems has not come until this day. Rather, what has come are its forerunners—the appearance of the Prophets and the Messengers. They are all Moslems. Their nations believe in them, but they are Moslems. They are individuals, while the Moslems as a nation have not entered history yet. As a matter of fact, the sublime purpose of the Islamic call is to give birth to the Moslem nation—the counterpart of the nation of believers. So, Gabriel came to teach the nation of believers, while the Quran came at the time of the nation of believers to transform it into a Moslem nation in the end. This is what it is meant with as the phrase, “the Earth will be filled with justice just as it was filled with injustice.”

The two stages of Islam are the initial stage, and the final stage which will be topped by a second Islam. After conversion to Islam, the superficial submission develops into faith—it develops into outward and inward submission by its settling into the heart. Then this faith develops into precision. These three levels are the levels of the nation of believers, which will ultimately move toward the next set of three levels. The precision develops into certain knowledge. The certain knowledge develops into substantive certain knowledge. Then the substantive certain knowledge develops into true certain knowledge.

When the stage of certitude is completed, it is crowned with Islam, which is complete outward and inward submission, “As his Lord said to him: Submit! He (Abraham) said: I have submitted to the Lord of the Worlds” (2:131). In fact, Abraham came to this stage of submission after he was questioned about faith, and was found to be in the fullest faith, leading to certitude, “When Abraham said: ‘My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead, He replied: Have you no faith? Abraham said: Yes! But just to reassure my heart” (2:260). Answering, Have you no faith? Abraham said: “Yes!” Abraham fulfilled faith, but he was asking for more than faith. He was asking for reassurance, “When Abraham said: My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead, the Lord replied: Have you no faith? Abraham said: Yes, (I have faith)! But (I am asking for more than faith) just to reassure my heart.” As if Abraham said: “I am asking for certitude.”

What is asserted in the Quran is: “Thus We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the Earth that he may be of the ones of true certitude” (6:75). God did not say: “that he may be of the believers.” Rather He said: “that he may be of the ones of true certitude.” Then the Quran goes on to say: “As his Lord said to him: Submit! He said: I have submitted to the Lord of the Worlds” (2:131). This is the second Islam. This cannot be the Islam of the Bedouins. Abraham arrived at this level of submission after all these trials—after being tested by his Lord, “As Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled, the Lord said: I have appointed you a leader for mankind” (2:124). The phrase, “As Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled,” indicates the many trials he was subjected to during his observance and practices. Abraham was scaling the stages from uncertainty to certainty—from faith to certitude. Then once he ascertained, he was asked to submit, “As his Lord said to him: Submit! He said: I have submitted to the Lord of the Worlds” (2:131). So, it is very clear that there are two kinds of Islam.

It has become clear to us that the esoteric code and exoteric code are two things that differ in degree. Whereas the esoteric code is much higher and more accurate and greater in its obligation than the exoteric code because it is based on a knowledge that is greater than that by which the exoteric code addresses the ordinary practitioners. Now it is quite clear to us that Islam itself is of two kinds. As a matter of fact, paining embraces the entire Quran. All the meanings are in pairs—a meaning close to the servant, and a higher grand meaning with the Lord. The two meanings may be expressed in one word or two words but people think of them having a single meaning. As touched upon now, the word “Islam” refers to two different meanings. People think of Islam as one thing, and that faith is greater than it. We want to draw the attention to the fact that there are two kinds of Islam—an Islam below faith, and another Islam above faith.

The other point mentioned in the previous episode was about “esoteric code and exoteric code” where people view the esoteric code as the exoteric code. More than that, as we have said, the exoteric code and religion are considered one thing. This matter calls for a more nuanced treatment. Yes, the exoteric code is nothing other than the religion. There is no otherness in the sense that exoteric code goes eastward while religion goes westward, not at all. The difference, however, is in degree. The exoteric code is the religion that has come down to the ground of the ordinary people to address them according to the extent of their intelligence and to obligate them according to their capability. The esoteric code was at the level of the Prophet to address him according to the extent of his intelligence and to obligate him according to his capability. As long as there is a difference between the capability, comprehension, and intelligence of the Prophet and the comprehension and capability of the ordinary practitioners, it has become clear that their obligations are also different in level. The esoteric code is more accurate and more precise than the exoteric code. These are two meanings where a difference in degree exists between them. Such accurate and precise distinctions lead us to the nuances, which we are calling for now.

The nuances that we have in mind are actually our pursuit—the new, more nuanced understanding of the texts. We, definitely, are in need of nothing other than the Quran. No one is in need of anything other than the Quran, except perhaps a new understanding of the Quran. This new understanding of the texts requires the observance of the Prophet Path as a personal way of worship, because the life of the Prophet is the access to the Quran. It is as if we are only beginning to revive the esoteric code because of our quest to have a new understanding of the Quran. And by reviving the esoteric code, the revival of Islam will take place.

In any case, the elaboration on the duality will be the subject of our next episode. That is because the issue of duality also requires further clarification. We are really anxious to have this issue elucidated clearly, to have people understand us enough so as to eliminate the confusion for our call and to stop the deliberate distortion that is occurring in the present time.