Artist: Hamid Iqbal Khan
For 11 days in Ramadhan of 2011, the much adored Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Bin Yahya Al-Husayni Al-Ninowy had given lectures on Aqidah Tahawiyyah - lessons of tawhid based on the teachings of Imam Abu Jaafar Al Tahawiy who was born in the southern desert village of Egypt in 229 Hijri. Shaykh Ninowy's lectures took place at the Islamic Peace Varsity of South Africa.
At outset of his first lesson, Shaykh Ninowy asked the audience to be free thinkers, to be as critical as they can be on who is Allah and why He is worthy of being worshipped. The shaykh's lesson was based on two textual evidences namely the Qur'an and Sunnah, both of which "are shuyukh and imam of everybody. The lesson was about aqidah, a definitive subject and not something that can be based on 'maybe' or 'maybe not'."
Aqidah, said Shaykh Ninowy was a created terminology. It is not a term that you could find in the Book or Sunnah. It means a set of belief that you tie your heart on. It comes from the word aqadah or uqdah meaning to tie something using a rope. In reference to the same term, Shaykh Ninowy said he preferred to use imaniyat as iman is a more common phrase.
Then he went on to elucidate the meaning of key terms such as iktikad ahlul sunnah wal jamaah. Iktikad refers to articles of iman. Sunnah means what the Prophet s.a.w said, did and approved of. Ahlul sunnah refers to people who embody the Prophet's sunnah and follow it. It is a term that was crystalized around the 3rd century. Al jama'ah means a group that follows the haq even if it be one man alone by himself as was Prophet Ibrahim. In the Quran Allah has referred to Ibrahim an ummah by himself. Therefore Jama'ah does not necessarily mean the majority. And haq is not determined by the number of people who follow it. Haq is bigger than all.
Shaykh Ninowy then talked about the significance of learning tawhid. The usul or foundation/origin of tawhid is Allah's saying fa'lam 'annahu la ilaha illAllah. Fa'lam means to acquire knowledge. He didn't say faqul [say]. Quoting Imam Ghazali, he said, "ibadah is not valid until you know who you worship and worship is not valid until you know who you are worshipping." Ilm of Allah is obligatory on mukallaf, those who are accountable in the sight of shariah (those are sane, who have reached puberty and who has heard the dakwah of Islam). The usul (foundation) of deen is knowing who Allah is i.e. knowledge of tawhid. Rasulullah s.a.w had spent 13 years in Makkah focusing on tawhid. The most honorable of ulum is ilm tawhid. And how do we know Allah? We know Him through His attributes.
What does tawhid mean? Many people think of tawhid as oneness or unity but what tawhid really mean is the absolute uniqueness of the Creator. That nothing is the same as Allah. He is the One that nothing else is like Him. Al Ahad is often translated as the One but Ahad means nothing is like Him. Nothing you can or cannot imagine is like Him. It is not the mathematical number one. Al Wahid is also one of His Beautiful Names, but Allah is not like the number one which is subject to division. Nor is he matter that occupies space. Allah is the creator of matter. Qul huwallahu Ahad is the most often repeated surah and we should know its meaning properly. So Al Ahad is the One that nothing else is like Him.
Allahu Samad. What is Samad? Is it eternal? No. As Samad is the one not in need of anything for anything yet every thing is in need of Him for everything. Everybody knows lam yalid walam yulad. Walam yaqul lahu kufuwan Ahad. Take note of the term 'kufu' it means nothing is simlar to Him as in the pharse laisa kamislihi syai'. The surah is called Al Ikhlas. It has got two other names i.e. Surah Tawbah and Tawhid. Tawhid means ikhlas, having absolute sincerity and transparency in believing that nothing is like Him. People who associate other things which have similarity to Allah has no ikhlas and no tawhid.
Again, the shaykh reiterated on knowing Allah through His attributes Ar Rahim and so on and so forth. Still the creation is incapacitated to comprehend the Creator in a way that is encompassing, yet knows that He is the only Creator, the only one worthy of being worshipped. How can we know the Creator when we cannot even know the creation? Do you know how Jibril looks like? Do you know what is going to hapen to Cape Town 300 years from now? We don't know. We are incapacitated in knowing the creation. We are limited by what we know. Your knowledge is limited. We are subject to change and anything that is subject to change is imperfect. It is Allah who subjugate change. And He has no partners.
Allahu 'alam. May I be forgiven for any errors or omissions. The abve is not a verbatim transcript. It is based on my sketchy notes of the video produced by Omar Esack Digital Productions. Credit: Sister N for bringing the valuable DVDs all the way from Cape Town. Jazakillahu khair.
You may purchase the above art piece here: