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Aqeedah and Fiqh

Knowing God: Reason, Revelation, and Intuition – Yasir Qadhi


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Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.



  1. Gohar

    April 24, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    Once Yasir Qadhi got into his full stride, from around 20-30 minutes onwards, this was excellent. Lots of material covered and lots of new insights.

    His very last point, about the limited approval of reason is especially useful. I also liked how he showed the importance of the idea of fitrah in theological discussions.

  2. Umm Fulaanah

    April 24, 2009 at 10:43 AM

    WOOOOOOOOW! maasha-allaah…….
    Yasir Qhadi always gives top lectures… But this was waaay out of normal…. maasha-allaah….
    Insha-allaah we’ll see more of this….

  3. Dawud Israel

    April 24, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    Would it be possible to have cliff notes posted? :S

    Garsh…I wish I had more time for my brothers and sisters here on MM, but I really don’t now… :(
    Salam aleikum

  4. NY

    April 24, 2009 at 11:53 AM

    Is it geared towards non-Muslims?

  5. Farhan

    April 24, 2009 at 11:56 AM

    That was….fascinating…

  6. A student

    April 24, 2009 at 2:08 PM

    This is a MUST for all students interested in aqidah.

    Can you tape some more lectures like this?

  7. MUA

    April 24, 2009 at 3:30 PM

    Salam aleykum Sh. Yasir,

    Thank you for the great lecture, it definitely raises the bar on our understanding of Aqeedah.

    I have taught aqeedah classes for 10 years and quite honestly, it is ashari-centric for the most part. Being so, and having listened and taken several of your lectures, and having a profound respect and love for Sh. Taqi-ad-Did Ibn Taymiyya, I must say that the arguments you present are not entirely convincing. In fact, I have several reservations, and for the sake of knowledge and guidance would appreciate your feedback. I’ll just mention two points here pertinent to your talk.

    1). I think we should acknowledge that Ibn Taymiyya’s views on the existence of God are not as cogent as you suggest. In fact, Hallaq mentions in “Ibn Taymiyya’s Logic and the Arguments for the Existence of God” that IT never wrote a treatise on the issue itself, but rather he had to consult 18 of his works in order to piece together Ibn Taymiyya’s belief on proving the existence of God.
    IT’s reliance on fitra is undoubtedly paramount in his thought as you state. But at the same time there are some inconsistencies in his thought, on one hand he emphasizes fitra as the way we know God exists, at other times he argues for a more empiric basis for the existence of God. His empiricism is definitely in contrast to the syllogism (Arisitotelian in nature) of the kalam schools. By empiricism I mean his emphasis on sense perception and expediting the sentient realm through those external (and internal – like hunger) senses (as opposed to the formalism of syllogism which pairs together a couple premises to arrive at an already sentient conclusion). So for example, like you said in you lecture, everything about the world we experience was an evidence of God’s existence for IT.

    However, IT’s empiricism is still different from some closer-minded Asharis’s whose empiricism was based on an inductive mode, in which a repetition of sense experience lead to the conclusion. So through the inductive mode one would observe the “natural laws” of the world or in other words adat or ayat Allah and then conclude the existence of the Creator. So my point is, I think your division of methods of proving God’s existence as two (kalam vs. fitra), is not entirely accurate. I would break up the methods as such: 1) the cosmological method (purely kalam based), 2) the empirical sensory method (one of Ibn Taymiyya’s postulates), 3) fitra (another of Ibn Taymiyya’s postulates), 4) the empirical, inductive mode (some Ashari’s opted for this). I know IT’s reservation with #4 was that since in inductive mode we draw analogies between particulars and thus come up with a universal (eg. We witness different types of dry wood burning every time a flame is put to it), the existence of the Creator should not turn on an analogy.

    Although I accept IT’s sensory method, I don’t think his criticism of the inductive mode is convincing, and I think sustaining the argument of fitra is very difficult. We know that Islam came for all people at all times, therefore it must be universal, and we know it is the Haq, therefore it must be the truth. Whereas the concept of fitra may play a role in making a case for the haq, by itself it doesn’t establish the universality of the aqeedah.

    2) You mention near the end that once you believe in the Quran there is no need to rationalize what’s in it. I completely agree, and the ashaira have held that position too (contrast the Mutazila). Once we believe that the Quran is from Allah we don’t question why we have to perform and believe what’s in the content. We must ask ourselves though, well how do you first come to believe in the Quran? That needs rationalization, we must be convinced that this Book truly did issue from the Creator (it is very deductive as you mentioned). It’s not sufficient to say well Allah put this knowledge within my breast and I can only articulate it’s veracity by mentioning that Allah put it in my breast. So the fitrah argument doesn’t’ get you out circular reasoning.

    Again only the rational argument (not cosmological) is universal (in that all people with aql can engage in and potentially come to its realization) and absolute (not based entirely on some inner purported proclivity to the truth but rather based on a transparent process). As you mentioned the Quran asks people to use their senses to experience the world around them and realize the existence of a Creator and His Oneness. And as far as these ayat only applying to non-Muslims who are not sure, that’s not entirely true, the verses are general and carry a general import. Moreover, we know that majority of humans when they come to the age of maturity (and taklif) do look within to question whether what they’ve been following is true, so to use the rational arguments as propounded in the Quran (observation of the sentient realm) is necessary, but imagine what happens to that person if you say that it is fitra, not really convincing, doesn’t quite fulfill the statement that Islam is for all people at all times as many ayat and ahadith mention. As far as the implications of maintaining that Iman should be arrived at rationally. Some Asharis certainly held the opinion that to arrive at Iman rationally is better (afdal) than taking something for gratned, but if one did not they are not deemed non-Muslim, in fact their Iman is completely in tact, but if they face people of a different intellectual culture it may very well sow the seeds of doubt and therefore it is better to be prepared and ensure that doubt will never loosen that tie of Iman.

    Moreover, you didn’t go over the reason why Muslims engaged in the rationalist discourse per se? Obviously the spread of Islam, and engaging other cultures, thoughts, and philosophies impelled Muslims to be relevant to those societies and convince them of the veracity of Islam, had they just gave the fitrah argument, I don’t think you would find many people accepting. It’s just like IT, engagning in these discussion according to their vernacular as they put it to be more relevant, meaningful, and effective.

  8. Anon.

    April 24, 2009 at 4:56 PM

    Shaykh Yasir, w’Allahi that was the best lecture I have ever listened to, about anything! Masha Allah!

  9. Anon.

    April 24, 2009 at 4:57 PM

    Also, btw your point about Yuhanna ad-Dimashqi is not original; it has been noted by many that he had an influence on early kalam. But your point about his influence on Ja’d is something I’ve never heard before, masha Allah.

    Shaykh, you’re really an inspiration! Masha Allah. I love you f’illah.

  10. Ameerah QShams

    April 24, 2009 at 6:10 PM

    I was at this lecture, when it was given live. A sister took amazing notes (Mine are not as good) so if you would like a copy, please email me (and if your a brother, include the ameer in your email). My email address can be found on the QShams section of AlMaghrib forums.

    It was a more academic lecture, so it wasn’t deleivered in the same way as if this had been a talk in a masjid for example.

    Many in the audiance (it is SOAS after all!!) touch on this sort of material in the Arabic/Arabic and islamic studies degree. This includes non muslims as well.

  11. MUA

    April 24, 2009 at 10:25 PM

    I apologize but I incorrectly referenced Hallaq’s article, it’s actually entitled, “”Ibn Taymiyya on the Existence of God.” I just want to quote a statement in Hallaq’s conclusion here:
    “But his [Ibn Taymiyya] concept of fitra is highly problematic, lending itself to two possible interpretations. On one hand, fitra represents a knowledge of God inborn in men upon birth, and on the other, it represents a medium for knowing the existence of God through the necessary sense perception of the Signs. If it is the first, then Ibn Taymiyya’s argument is clearly circular, since it would in effect be tantamout to asserting that through fitra, which is created by God, we know that God exists. If it is the second, then fitra must be seen in the context of Ibn Taymiyya’s theory of knowledge which postulates sense perception of Signs as the sole means by which God’s existence can be known – the other two means, reason and revelation, being of no use for this purpose. Thus, in the second interpretation Ibn Taymiyya seems to construct a valid argument grounded in empirical metaphysics. But if we take his statement to the effect that fitra knows that God exists without the medium of Signs, then a flagarant contradiction in his argument results.” (pg. 66).

    Btw, Wael Hallaq, as I’m sure Sh. Yasir is aware is the author of the excellent book “Ibn Taymiyya Against the Greek Logicians.”

  12. MuslimT

    April 25, 2009 at 3:13 AM

    Assalamualaikum Sh. Yasir

    Jazaka Allahu Khair for a very interesting lecture. I have 2 questions

    1) The Fitra argument I find cogent for explaining why Muslims who don’t go into a comparative religious study are intact in Iman. But it can only be accepted as an excuse for the masses by somebody who arrived at Islam through comparison. Otherwise, any religion can claim Fitra. Indeed Christians claim the Holy Spirit fills everyone, so isn’t it true that we can conclude Fitra is Islamic only after comparing?

    2) How do you deal with atheists? since presumably their Fitra is corrupt, and just dismissing them is unwise

  13. Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    April 25, 2009 at 2:28 PM

    As-salâm ‘alaykum Ustâdh Yasir,

    When Dr. William Lane Craig presents the Kalâm Cosmological Argument in his debates, he presents it as follows:

    Premise 1: Everything that has a beginning, has a cause.

    Premise 2: The Universe has a beginning.

    Conclusion: The Universe has a cause.

    Is this a reformulation of the arguments of the Mutakallimîn of old, or is it a simplified rephrasing? If it is the former, would it be permissible to use it as an argument against atheists, i.e. does it have some unacceptable implications? I ask because I personally find this argument very strong and have not yet heard a coherent counter-argument against it.

  14. yahmtz

    April 25, 2009 at 6:25 PM

    Where was this recorded?

  15. Yasir Qadhi

    April 28, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    Salaam Alaikum

    Jazak Allah for the comments, and apologies for not getting back earlier (was traveling to ‘the other side of the world’ ;) )

    @ MUA:
    – IT’s writing style is probably at blame here, more than anything else. He never wrote a separate treatise on his evidences from the proofs of God, hence people like Hallaq can (somewhat truthfully) claim that his ideas are not cogent. IT has a very bad habit of wandering off into long tangents, no matter what he is writing about, so even if he were to have written a separate treatise on the subject, it too would require some editing to be fully comprehensible for people of our times.
    – The fitra argument does not get you out of circular reasoning if you are engaging with someone from a Hellenistic background, in which it is assumed that you will start from ‘scratch’. I don’t believe IT was attempting to refute the philosophers directly in this line of reasoning (he did that in other works); rather, he was attempting to demonstrate to fellow Muslims the inherent fallacies of assuming the validity of the skeptical method. Syllogisms are sometimes valid, but cannot be applied to God, as the mutakalimun do.

    @ Anon.
    – My original point about John of Damascus was NOT that he had a lot to do with kalam – that has been pointed out by at least a dozen authors. I plan to write an article summarizing this influence, and it is quite a profound influence (e..g, ‘God cannot occupy space, God cannot have a direction, God cannot be the locus of change,’ etc – you might as well be reading an Ashari or Mutazili textbook). However, what I posited was the LINK between John of Damascus and the early Muslims, and that is Jad b. Dirham.

    @ Muslim T.
    – The point is not that we have to PROVE the fitra to non-Muslims, but rather that we use it and take it for granted as we talk to them.
    As I mentioned earlier, there is a major difference between the epistemological framework of the mutakallimun and that of IT. IT assumes that certain truths are self-evident and do not need to be demonstrably proven, and in fact to attempt to do so through incorrect methods will lead to more problems than solutions.

    – As for the question of how to deal with atheists, I’ve discussed this extensively in my Light of Guidance classes (also available on CD). From IT’s perspective, atheists have willfully chosen to deny what is self-evident; to intellectually engage with them for extensive periods of time would be counter-productive.


  16. MUA

    April 28, 2009 at 1:13 PM

    Thank you for your response Sh. Yasir. At the end, my point is that teaching aqeedah in the manner of the ashaira (minus the cosmology and syllogism) where rational proofs are adduced to prove the existence of God is necessary especially in our times where the marketplace of ideas forces open any social structures that may have preserved and guarded the existential beliefs of the community. I think this is the very reason why these arguments were deduced in the first place. I also believe that IT’s notion of fitra does have a role to play in the discourse of God’s existence, but alone it fails to compel (IT’s empiricist argument is much more compelling and what brought greek syllogism to its knees). For many Muslims especially in the west, we are starting from “scratch” therefore nazar is required to keep the Iman intact and allow it to find meaningful expression. To state that the fitra argument is not circular INSOFAR the context of Muslims is concerned is not very meaningful. Obviously, having Iman assumes many things, but even if a Muslim were to ask, “where did I come from,” such an existential question which is relevant to all human beings not just Muslims requires an answer for all human beings, moreover the Quran implores us to use our senses to experience the external world to come to the realization that there is a Creator and He is One.

    I also wanted to share another statement by Hallaq in his book, “Ibn Taymiyya Against the Greek Logicians.” He states in the footnotes, “It is a historical curiosity that it was British, not Muslim, philosophy which carried Ibn Taymiyya’s methodology to its logical conclusion…The empiricism which came to be regarded in the West as one expression of scientific enquiry was completely lost on the Muslims… The Muslims on the other hand were not able to see the significance of Ibn Taymiyya’s devastating attack against Aristotelian logic, let alone the extraordinary potential of his empiricist methodology.”

  17. MUA

    April 28, 2009 at 1:32 PM

    sorry, forgot a very important statement from hallaq continuing from above, “The superiority of Islam would have been a sufficient argument against the Greek doctrines had these doctrines not penetrated the Islamic sciences.”

  18. shah

    May 5, 2009 at 11:01 AM

    Salamo alaikum.

    Nice talk mA, but what I would really like to see posted was the talk I was sadly unable to attend – the one held at the LMC, talking about our Religious identity vs National identities :)

  19. Nus

    June 29, 2009 at 1:17 AM

    Asalamu alaikom, please brother Yasir you are very hard to speak to personally. Could you please give me an email address as I have a question regarding a private matter. I previously tried but had no response. Jazakallah.

    • Yasir Qadhi

      June 29, 2009 at 8:43 AM


      I sincerely apologize akhi. When all of this ‘dawah’ started with me I made an intention to always try my best to be accessible to people; I would give them my e-mail and even phone number (and I also used to publish my e-mail in my books).

      However, as more and more people began to contact me, and as my own commitments increased, it simply became logistically impossible to keep track of it all. These days, on average, I get anywhere from 40 to 80 e-mails a day, via four different accounts, and this increases month by month.

      I’m afraid I simply don’t have time to respond to all of them anymore, even though I still try to answer as many as possible.

      Please do email me again and I’ll try insha Allah.


      • Siraaj Muhammad

        June 29, 2009 at 11:55 AM

        You should get a personal secretary who can sort through and prioritize your email – I’m sure there’s a ton of people out there who would volunteer to take care of it for you for free – I think most fatwa sites already do something like this, you can do it for both fatwas / naseeha and speaker requests =)


      • ibnabeeomar

        June 29, 2009 at 3:56 PM – get them to pose as yq and reply to your emails.

        i can see it now…

        “yes, you are having the biddat”

        “it is halal/haram thank you”

        also, if my experience w/ the muslim community is any indicator, im sure you could deflect at least 30% of your emails with an autoresponse that says, “for all marital issues please contact” ;)

        • J

          June 29, 2009 at 5:15 PM

          I think YQ should hire a body double as well. Not only will it allow him to be at two places at once, but it will foil would be assassination attempts. He should be flanked on all sides by mureeds willing to take a bullet or a shoe if any get thrown.

    • J

      June 29, 2009 at 3:06 PM

      If I ever find out YQ’s email addy, he’ll be getting another 40 emails per day. :)

  20. Amin

    June 29, 2009 at 7:41 AM

    I agree with Nus above, i used the google mail one to try to get to you, if you’re not too busy, is it fine to give a word or two? Jazakallah Khair sheikh.

  21. Jairo Mejia

    August 28, 2009 at 6:24 PM

    Let us confront the big question: where do we come from?

    Dear Atheists, Agnostics, Christians:

    It has been common among religious believers to look with misgiving at atheists and agnostics, and to think that they are mistaken; however, in many instances the opposite is the truth; some religious beliefs are not just baseless, but obsolete and irrelevant. The fantasy “God” of main line traditions simply does not exist. Most people don’t dare to confront their religious doubts; they are afraid of abandoning the “certainty” of their convictions, and opt for the status quo. It is unbelievable how myths and a religious fantasy have influenced human minds with more strength than reality!

    On the other hand, it seems that agnostics and atheists do not dare to confront and accept the reality that “there is no effect without cause.” If this world exists, it must have a cause; mere chance does not explain it. What did make chance? Another chance? Do not say “I don’t know;” let us have the courage to confront the fact that there must be One which exists by itself, whose essence is to exist, where nature and essence identify because its essence is to be, and that is also its nature, the very Existence, “I am,” the ontological Existence. All other beings—existences—do not qualify for that. You might call it “Something” or “Someone” (proper name because it is unique); names do not matter. And, if its existence is infinite, how can there be anything that it is not? There is probably a single issue in which I do not agree with atheists: I believe that there is no effect without cause.

    There is a book that might help those with religious doubts or full of religious illusions: “Christianity Reformed From ist Roots – A Life Centered in God.” Distinguished philosophers and thinkers might give you an idea of this book—perhaps a generation ahead of time for most believers—(links below); or you might look at excerpts at

    Jairo Mejia, M. Psych., Santa Clara University
    Episcopal Priest, Retired
    Carmel Valley, California

  22. Abdallah

    October 1, 2009 at 7:28 PM

    The fitra argument is not circular at all. The fact that Ibn Taymiyya or another says that God implanted it – i.e. the fitra, also called: intuition, inborn dispotition, natural dispotition, primordial nature, necessary knowledge and so on – is just added information about its origin. It doesn’t make it a circular reasoning as Hallaq assumes.

    A simple reading of any book on different types of common arguments for the existence of God would provide enough evidence that the ‘natural feeling’ or ‘intuition’ of people is used as a basis for the belief in a Creator, before they even venture on ‘who’ might have put it there or not at all.

    To cite Ibn Taymiyya,

    “The basis of belief in the Creator and possessing knowledge about Him is settled (mustaqarr) in the hearts of all mankind and jinn. It is from the necessary concomitants of their creation, necessary within them… like their consumation of food and drinks is from the necessities of their creation, that [too] necessary within them”, see Dar’ al-Ta’arud 8:482.

    What is added simply by Ibn Taymiyya as a piece of information, is that he considers the belief in God from the necessary invested matters which Allah Himself inplanted into mankind. See also Manhaj al-Salaf wa’l-Mutakallimin fi Muwafaqat al-‘Aql lil-Naql 1:185-186.

    I like to add more, but let me say just chapeau for the interesting lecture!

  23. Abdallah

    October 1, 2009 at 7:52 PM

    Yasir Qadhi,

    If it is possible, could you please highlight the link between John of Damascus or any other high profile personality with al-Ja’d ibn Dirham? I’ve read and studied your master thesis on Jahm ibn Safwan and the work of Muhammad al-Tamimi entitled Maqalat al-ta’til wa’l-Ja’d b. Dirham.

    I can’t find in these works – nor in other classical books and studies – any obvious connection between the two, except in what has been reported about the infamous chain of transmission between Jahm and Labid and the passages cited in the two works I referred to above, which mention about non-Muslim influence on al-Ja’d.

    I would be very grateful if you could enlight us with the evidence of connection between the last church father and the grand master of Jahm, may Allah bless you.

    PS: in the previous post should be dispoSition (instead of a ‘t’) ;)

  24. Swarth Moor

    May 11, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    The problem, in summary, with IT’s argument is that he believed that Allah is a giant object with a smiling face, two feet, fingers and a shin bone that is sitting above (or upon) the `Arsh and is also inside the First Heaven. Attempting to demonstrate such an ludicrous belief logically is going to, quite naturally, run into absurdities. The mind is not going to naturally believe such a belief. On the other hand, the orthodox Sunni belief is in compliance with the judgment of the sound mind:

    The universe cannot be Eternal (for the universe is composed of originated events [all events are originated]), and the universe could not be self-created (for it could not have acted before it existed–a thing must be to do). Hence the universe (and its contents) require a Creator Who is not created. The Creator existed before the creations (the Prophet said: “Allah was and there was nothing else.”). Allah was before the universe–before darkness, light, time, space, and all dimensions. Allah is not susceptible to development or change. Hence after Allah created the universe, Allah is as Allah was (without being in darkness. light, time, space, or other dimensions). This is the intellectually invinsible belief of the Sunni orthodoxy.

  25. Ahmed Hassan

    May 11, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    Thanks Mr. Swarth Moor. very concise and to the point and makes a lot of sense.

  26. Abu Yunus

    November 20, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    Yasir Qadhi goes to great lengths in trying to debunk the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

    Yet when asked about responding to an atheist, he suddenly brings forth and advocates a version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument by saying, “logically, rationally, change requires a changer” (listen from 57:20).

    Any comments about his contradiction?

    • Yasir Qadhi

      November 21, 2010 at 7:01 AM


      Actually the main problem with the kalam argument is the assumption that its premises (of every ‘accident’ residing in a created ‘body’) must also be applied to Allah.

      The premise ‘every change must have a cause’, while part of the kalam argument, is actually also a Quranic and simple logic one. Ibn Taymiyya pointed this out numerous times in his writings – the Quran directly uses this argument without going into the philosophical details of the kalam argument, and while affirming that Allah chooses to do certain actions as and when He pleases (“And when We intend to do something, We say to it ‘Be’, and it is…” and other similar verses).


  27. Abu Yunus

    November 21, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    Wa alaikum us-salam, Ustadh Yasir.

    You accept that the premise ‘every change must have a cause’ is Quranic, while at the same time, a part of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. In fact, that premise IS the basis for the Kalam Cosmological Argument in the modern articulation (although I would prefer to outline the premise in the following way: ‘every change requires a being to cause that change’).

    And if you accept the premise ‘every change must have a cause’, then you must also apply that premise to your concept of God.

    And so you are left with the same criticism that you have tried to level at the Kalam Cosmological Argument – are you not?

  28. Abu Yunus

    November 30, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    In your talk you criticise the ‘Asharis’ for saying that God does not change.

    But if you believe that God causes change within Himself, then you cannot seriously use the premise ‘every change must have a cause’ against the atheist who simply believes that the universe causes change within itself.

  29. Abu Yunus

    November 30, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    By saying that God does not change, ‘Asharis’ cleanly avoid the contradiction that you have found yourself in.

  30. Ahmed

    October 11, 2012 at 7:27 PM

    Aoa Sheikh, I have emailed you on your hotmail address. I really would like to get a response back from you regarding the Muslim Parents Network invitation. I am really excited about this initiative.

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