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"O Allah! We seek goodness from Your Knowledge and with Your Power (and Might) We seek strength, and We ask from You Your Great Blessings, because You have the Power and We do not have the power. You Know everything and I do not know, and You have knowledge of the unseen. Oh Allah! If in Your Knowledge this action (We are about to take) is better for my religion and faith, for our life and end [death], for here [in this world] and the hereafter then make it destined for us and make it easy for us and then add blessings [baraka'] in it, for us. O Allah! In Your Knowledge if this action is bad for us, bad for our religion and faith, for our life and end [death], for here [in this world] and the hereafter then turn it away from us and turn us away from it and whatever is better for us, ordain [destine] that for us and then make us satisfied with it."

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Importance of a good shaykh by Shaykh Abd'al-Qadir al-Jilani Radi Allahu anhu

Al Ghawth al-Adham Shaykh Sayyad Abd'al-Qadir al-Jilani Radi 'Allahu anhu said: You must work hard to ensure that your hearts are not locked out of the door of His nearness. Be sensible! You are getting nowhere. You must seek the company of a Shaykh who is learned in the law [hukm] and knowledge ['ilm] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), and who will show you the way toward Him. Without seeing the successful [muflih], one cannot succeed. If a person does not seek the company of scholars who put their knowledge into practice ['ulama 'ummal], he is a chicken from an egg abandoned by the rooster and the mother hen.

Seek the fellowship of those who enjoy fellowship with the Lord of Truth (Almighty and Glorious is He). What each of you should do, when the night has grown dark and people have gone to bed and their voices are silent, is get up, take an ablution [yatawadda'], perform two cycles of ritual prayer [yusalli rak'atain] and say: "O my Lord, guide me to one of Your righteous servants near to You, so that he may guide me toward You and make me familiar with Your path." The instrument [sabab] is necessary. Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) was quite capable of guiding [His servants] to Him without the Prophets [anbiya']. Be sensible! You are getting nowhere. You must awaken from your heedless folly. As the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa Sallam has said: If someone relies entirely on his own subjective judgement, he will go astray. Try to find someone who will be a mirror for the face of your religion [din], just as you look in the mirror to check the appearance of your outer face, your turban and your hair. Be sensible! What is this crazy foolishness? You say, "I don't need anyone to teach me," and yet the Beloved Prophet Salla Allahu ta'ala 'alayhi wa Sallam has said: The believer is the believer's mirror [al-mu'minu mir'atu 'l-mu'min].

When the believer's faith is sound, he comes to be a mirror for all creatures. They behold their religious faces [wujuh adyanihim] reflected in the mirror of his speech, every time they see him and get close to him. What is this craziness? Not a moment goes by without your begging Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) to provide you with more than you already have to eat, to drink, and to wear, with more sexual opportunities and more income. These are not things that could increase or decrease, even if you were to be joined in your plea by every supplicant whose prayers are answered [da 'in mujab].

Supplication [da 'wa] will neither increase one's sustenance by so much as an atom, nor reduce it by an atom. This is a foregone conclusion [mafrugh minhu]. You must devote your attention to doing what you have been commanded to do, and to avoiding what you have been forbidden to do. You should not worry about that which is bound to come your way, because He guarantees that it will come to you. Allotted shares [aqsam] arrive at their appointed times, whether they be sweet or bitter, whether you like them or dislike them.

The people [of the Way] attain to a condition in which they no longer have any prayer of supplication [du'a] or request [su'al] to make. They do not beg [in their prayers] to gain advantages, nor to get rid of disadvantages. Their supplication comes to be a matter concerning their hearts, sometimes for their own sake and sometimes for the sake of all creatures, so they utter the prayer of supplication without conscious premeditation [fi ghaiba].
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"O '' Allah, endow us with good behaviour in Your company under all circumstances!
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[When the believer's faith is sound], fasting [sawm], prayer [salat], remembrance [dhikr] and all acts of obedience [ta 'at] become second nature to him, mingled with his flesh and blood. Then he receives protection from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) under all circumstances. The restraint of the law [hukm] does not desert him, not for an instant, while he is on this course. The law comes to be like the vessel in which he sits, as he travels over the ocean of the power [qudra] of his Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He). He goes on traveling over it until he arrives at the shore of the hereafter, at the shore of the ocean of grace and the hand of nearness. Thus he is sometimes in the company of creatures and at certain times in the company of the Creator. His work and toil are with creatures, while his relaxation is with the Creator.
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From Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, "The Sublime Revelation (Al-Fath ar-Rabbani)," translated by Muhtar Holland (Al-Baz Publishing, Houston, 1992), p. 426-8.
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On the authority of Abu Hurayrah r.a., who said that Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. said: Allah SWT said:

Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him. (It was related by al-Bukhari)
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“Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous.”

Friday, January 16, 2009

Can a Machine Issue Islamic Fatwas?

http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=7&id=11493

17/01/2008
By Mona Madkour

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- A controversial new electronic device could revolutionize the field of Islamic jurisprudence and allegedly issue more accurate Shariah fatwas [religious edicts]. The device, currently in production in France, will be known as the 'Electronic Mufti' and will depend on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to issue opinions on contemporary Muslim affairs and matters.

Asharq Al-Awsat met with the only Arab participating in the production of this machine, Engineer Dr. Anas Fawzi, who hails from Egypt and is a communications expert who is part of the team based in France.

He describes the device as "a very large capacity computer on which all the information that is relevant to a given [historical] figure is uploaded; everything that has been mentioned in history books or chronicled documents that indicate his/her responses and attitudes towards all positions adopted in his/her life. Through a process that relies on AI, the computer then simulates responses based on the available data so that the answers are the expected response that the person in question would give if they were alive," said Dr. Fawzi.

"The device deduces the expected response through consulting thousands of examples that have been uploaded on to the machine, pertaining to that person whilst taking into account their reactions so that it may relate the expected response in accordance with their personality as created by the Artificial Intelligence apparatus," explained Dr. Fawzi.

Regarding the team working to implement this project, Dr. Fawzi said that the creation of this machine is undertaken by a group of French scientists and that it is not available to the public.

He added, "Despite the success of research over the past decades, [AI] is still incapable of fully knowing and familiarizing itself with the human mind's operations. There are also considerable attempts being made to make AI machines 'translate' human emotions and reactions from sadness to joy and compassion, among other human feelings."

In terms of the nationalities of the scientists and their fields of specialization, Dr. Fawzi said, "Scientists who have invented this device [electronic mufti] hail from various different nations. I am honoured to be part of this unprecedented scientific achievement. Through my work and residence in France for many long years, I am proud to be working with an exemplary large team where dozens of specializations abound."

In terms of implementing this technology and benefitting from it in the realm of Islam and fatwas, Dr. Fawzi said, "Although a team has assembled and uploaded all the information that is available about the Prophet Mohammed in [canonical] Islamic history books, the holy Quran and what is known about his life through Sunnah," he acknowledges that it would be highly controversial – if not downright contentious – to implement this.

Notwithstanding, he revealed, "I have consulted with several Islamic scholars and clerics in elevated positions – there is no need to mention their names so as to avoid stirring up public opinion – however, they have assured me that such a device is not 'haram' [prohibited by Islam]. But there are fears and scepticism regarding misuse and causing any misrepresentation or defamation to the figure of the Prophet. There are also fears in terms of Arab and Islamic public opinion and their acceptance of a machine such as this."

Dr. Fawzi expressed his aspiration to supervise over a team that could be headed by a group of Islamic clerics who would be directly responsible for all the religious edicts that can be sent to anyone anywhere in the world via email or through mobile phones or even using telephones so that questions may be posed directly.

Regarding the views of various Islamic scholars and clerics about this device, the Egyptian Awqaf [Religious Endowments] Ministry's First Undersecretary for Preaching Affairs, Dr. Shawqi Abdel Latif said with regards to the concept of 'simulating' the figure of the Prophet of Islam to serve the Islamic religion in accordance with special conditions: "the idea is a noble one if indeed it calls for Muslim unity in matters of religion in light of the satellite [channel] wars that the Muslim endure, in addition to the incapability of the relevant bodies of formulating and setting forth ideas in the interest of Muslims. However, I strongly stress that there is no machine or human mind capable of simulating the figure of the Prophet regardless of their knowledge or immensely advanced technological capabilities."

He also added that, "God Almighty blessed the Prophet and chose him and you cannot transcend over the rest of the creatures to be like him; the true differentiating factor here is Revelation. The incorrect interpretation of the Quranic verse 'Say: I am only a mortal like you' (Surat al Kahf 18:110) does not in any way mean that there is any similitude between us and the Prophet or between him and any famous figure that the machine can simulate."

Dr. Abdel Latif continued to say that, "If they wanted to apply this machine's capabilities to Islam then the sole condition would be that it serve the implementation of Islamic Shariah and unite the religions fatwas [religious edicts] and ijtihad [independent Islamic interpretation]. This can be achieved through the formation of an Al-Azhar religious committee that could attribute what has been issued by the machine to be in accordance with Islamic Shariah – not according to what the Prophet has said."

As for Dr. Mustafa al Swahili, professor at Al-Azhar University, he totally rejects the concept behind this machine and said, "I am in complete agreement that Islam is a glorious science and that it invites interpretation – so long as it does not violate the religion. I believe a device such as this will create confusion among the people since no matter how advanced science is; it will still have limitations because simulation is limited and does not yield full answers."

However, Dr. al Swahili stressed the importance of seeking knowledge and confirmed that it is an Islamic duty to always seek and further knowledge.