Did all pagan deities of pre-Islamic Arabia have creation powers ? Evaluating Yasir Qadhi’s unprecedented understanding of Paganism.

This is a series of posts analyzing various aspects of Salafism vs Istiqlaalism debate from Deobandi perspective. On this particular issue, the critique is directed against Shaykh Yāsir Qāḍi (YQ), who is considered an advocate of Istiqlaal doctrine alongside others like Shaykh Ḥātim Al-ʿAwnī, and some students of knowledge. Even though, to add this disclaimer, YQ’s understanding on all issues may not corroborate with the stance of others in that camp.

So lets quote the position of Yāsir Qāḍi from his library chat:14 (https://youtu.be/dRtYCJ7bE5I), time stamped around 1:13:00 , where he says the following

Allah is saying that Quresh understand that there is one God of gods—the Supreme God, now whats the next verse. [Quotes 23(Al-Mu’minoon):91], this is paganism, the quintessential reality of paganism. Every Ilaah has the power to create according to the Quresh. Every Ilaah would be in control of a dominion and doing things in his own mini-dominion, and every Ilaah is a mini-Rabb and a mini-God in his own right.

Now let me quote a table that I have in my write-up tabulating the verses for and against the notion that pagans believed that their deities could create.

As we can see the verses on the right side of the table are quite explicit (29:61, 31:25, 43:9, 39:38) in saying that if it was asked to the pagans that who created heavens and the earth, they would surely reply Allah, and heavens and the earth imply everything in existence. So how exactly does Yāsir Qāḍi argue from Al-Mu’minoon:91, from where there is no indication that pagans actually believed that their deities could create ? The short answer is that he is conflating implications of a belief of pagans that is infact used to refute them because they precisely did not hold them, and he is turning them into the very beliefs of pagans, and then he calls it the ‘quintessential reality of paganism’. He is unable to understand grammar of Quran or even the grasp the basic elementary knowledge about paganism from an academic perspective, let alone an Islamic perspective.

The long answer is that what Yāsir Qāḍi does not seem to understand two things:

  1. The verse is originally refuting two different beliefs of pagans, of two different groups.
  2. What is the function of the what the translator puts in brackets ‘if there had been’, this is derived because إذا cannot come without two clauses: a main clause and a conditional clause. For example, if I say

“If you come to visit me tomorrow, in that case, I will welcome you.”

Now if I just say “in that case, I will welcome you”. It is understood that the conditional is implicit. In the same manner, in this verse, Zamakhsharī makes similar observation:

إذا لا تدخل إلا على كلام هو جزاء وجواب، فكيف وقع قوله لذهب جزاء وجوابا ولم يتقدّمه شرط ولا سؤال سائل؟ قلت: الشرط محذوف تقديره: ولو كان معه آلهة

إذا does not appear except in the kalaam except before the main clause (after conditional), so how can it appear and there is no conditional clause or a question ? I say “the conditional clause is implicit, which is “If there was with Allah an Ilaah”.

Al-Māturīdī adds to Zamakhsharī’s observation that the the implicit clause could also be understood as “if there was to Allah, an offspring”. So in essence, we have two different beliefs, from which two different implications can be drawn out as refutation. As I show in the picture below:

Yes, we may argue that the belief(3) and belief(4) are further refuted by showing their impossibility and they might additionally be refuted, but the original beliefs of pagans that are refuted in this verse are two:

  1. Allah has not taken any child.
  2. There is no Ilaah with him.

This is mentioned in a number of exegeses that these are two different beliefs of two groups, among them is Al-Rāzī, IbnʿĀshūr and others. Then Allah uses the implication of these two beliefs against the two groups.

Implication of (1) is that the child should be from same substance as Allah and if Allah has the powers to create then the child must also have same powers. This is used as a refutation of this set of pagans to show their internal inconsistency–it is an internal refutation, because they affirmed creation powers for Allah alone, but despite ascribing off-spring deities to God, they did not consider these offspring deities to have creation powers, which necessitates a contradiction. The whole structure of the verse and its argument only makes sense in this way, otherwise, whats the whole point of God telling them “if that were the case” then “this would be the case”. Ibn Taymiyyah specifically addressed this point.

وممّا يُبَيِّنُ الأمْرَ فِي ذَلِكَ: أنَّ المَجُوسَ هُمْ فِي التَّوحِيدِ أعْظَمَ شرْكًا مِن مُشْرِكِيِّ العَرَب، فَإنَّ مُشْرِكِي العَرَبِ كانُوا مُقِرِّينَ بَأنْ خالِقَ العالَمِ واحِدٌ، كَما أخْبَرَ اللهُ بِذَلِكَ عَنْهُمْ فِي غَيرِ مَوضِعٍ، ولَمْ يَكُونُوا يَقُولونَ: إنَّ لِلْعالَمِ صانِعَين، وهُمْ وإنْ كانَ فِيهِمْ مَن جَعَلَ لله أولادًا، وقالُوا: (المَلائِكَةُ بَناتُ اللهِ)، فَلَمْ يَكُونوا يَقُولونَ: (إنَّ المَلائِكَةَ يَخْلُقُونَ مَعَهُ)؛ بَلْ هُمْ مُعْتَرِفُونَ أنَّ اللهَ خالِقُ كِلِّ شِيءٍ

And what demonstrates this (that Majūs were worse than Arabian pagans) is that the Majūs were bigger Mushriks in Tawhīd than the pagans of Arabia, as the pagans of Arabia used to affirm that the creator of A’lam (existence) is one, as Allāh has told
us about them in multiple places, and they did not say that the existence has two creators, even though there were among them those who ascribed off-spring to Allāh , they said Angels are daughters of Allāh, but they were not saying: The Angels
create alongside Allāh, instead they affirmed that Allāh is the creator of everything.

Plus, Yasir Qadhi’s opinion that pagans believed that all their deities could create, this poses a contradiction with all those other verses of the Quran, where the beliefs of pagans is described vividly. One could attempt to get around this contradiction via two ways:

  1. Assume that pagans believed that their deities create small things and the supreme God created big things, i.e., السماوات و الأرض (heavens and the earth). This is linguistically weird, because السماوات و الأرض in Quranic terminology refers to the entirety of existence, otherwise what would be the meaning of له ملك السماوات و الأرض, where Allah says that He has the dominion of heavens and the earth.
  2. Assume that one set of pagans did not believe in multiple creator deities and other set of pagans also believed in other smaller creator deities. This position is hypothetically possible, but it defeats the argument of YQ where he calls this as the “quintessential reality of paganism”.

Infact, if we were to enumerate the amount of scholars who have explicit quotes that pagans did not ascribe creation powers to anyone other than Allah, it would overflow. For example, Shah Waliullah divides the levels of Tawhid into four levels:

  1. Restricting necessary existence of Allah alone.
  2. Restricting creation to Allah alone.
  3. Restriction management of affairs to Allah alone.
  4. Restricting worship to Allah alone.

He then states that pagans differed with muslims regarding half of the third level and the fourth level. [حجة الله البالغة: The Conclusive Argument For God: The Unity of God]

Ibn Kathīr says: الْمُشْرِكِينَ كَانُوا يَعْتَرِفُونَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْخَالِقُ لِلْأَشْيَاءِ كُلِّهَا (The pagans used to affirm that Allah is the creator of everything.)

Al-Rāzī says: أنَّهُ تَعالى لَمّا اسْتَدَلَّ بِخَلْقِ السَّماواتِ بِغَيْرِ عَمَدٍ وبِنِعَمِهِ الظّاهِرَةِ والباطِنَةِ بَيَّنَ أنَّهم مُعْتَرِفُونَ بِذَلِكَ غَيْرَ مُنْكِرِينَ لَهُ (When Allah argues with them by means of creation of heavens, …, it is explicit that these pagans affirmed that and did not deny that)

Al-Māturīdī says: قد علموا أن لا خالق سواه (They knew that there is no creator apart from him (Allah))

IbnʿĀshūr says in mutliple places in his tafsir (for the sake of brevity, I would not translate every quote, because it will just overflow).

ايْ سَألْتَهم سُؤالَ تَقْرِيرٍ عَمَّنْ خَلَقَهم فَإنَّهم يُقِرُّونَ بِأنَّ اللَّهَ خَلَقَهم، وهَذا مَعْلُومٌ مِن حالِ المُشْرِكِينَ كَقَوْلِضِمامِ بْنِ ثَعْلَبَةَ لِلنَّبِيءِ ﷺ أسْألُكَ بِرَبِّكَ ورَبِّ مَن قَبْلِكَ اللَّهُ أرْسَلَكَ (، ولِأجْلِ ذَلِكَ أكَّدَ إنَّهم يُقِرُّونَ لِلَّهِ بِأنَّهُ الخالِقُ فَقالَ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ، وذَلِكَ كافٍ في سَفاهَةِ رَأْيِهِمْ إذْ كَيْفَ يَكُونُ إلَهًا مَن لَمْ يَخْلُقْ

Infact, Yāsir Qāḍi’s view would defy not just the consensus of the entirety of Islamic scholarship and the Mufassireen, but it would also defy the academic consensus and basic common knowledge regarding the beliefs of pagans.

Take up any book of pagan deities, it is absolutely absurd that someone could claim this as a quintessential reality of pagans that all deities could create, infact, the quintessential reality of paganism is the exact opposite, that different deities perform different roles which have nothing to do with creation. Romans had a toilet god (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_god), what does this toilet god have to do with creation ?

Quran actually uses that inconsistency in the shirk of pagans against them. Because the Asl (default) of humanity is Tawḥīd, so the Shirk always comes with contradictions. These contradictions are repeatedly used by the Quran to establish proof against pagans, such as on one hand they affirmed creation powers only for Allah, on the other hand some of them ascribed off-spring deities with Allah or others would ascribe non-spring deities with Allah, which would contradict their other beliefs. Arabian pagans specially retained the remnants of the religion of Ibrahim(as) that got mixed with Shirk, such that their beliefs were internally contradictory, allowing a proof to be established against them. Shah Waliullah describes the same reality about Arabian pagans:

Although they (polytheists) were far from the straight path, still were in a position which allowed proof to be established for them through what remained of the knowledge that they had possessed” [حجة الله البالغة; The Conclusive Argument from God: The Explanation of What had Been the Condition of the People of Jahiliyya which the Prophet Reformed]

I do appreciate that scholars can make mistakes and I am not even arguing from a Salafi paradim such that I might have personal vendetta, but not every mistake is the same, and some mistakes are just not mistakes, they are reflective of a systematic problem. Yāsir Qāḍi makes an absolutely absurd assertion going against the consensus and common knowledge, that calls into question [on certain issues] his competence, his homework, and his basic comprehension, both Islamically and academically. Or at the very least, he should not be taken seriously on any matter other than heart softeners and doing generic Da’wah.

A person making such claims (his whole video is riddled with numerous such blunders which will be analyzed further) should definitely not be considered any authority in his claims on the nature of Ahruf and Qira’aat, or his calls for a new methodology in reviving fiqh or his views surrounding Hudud.

Because that is his charge against the traditionalists that traditionalists are unable to grasp “advanced stuff” and should just restrict themselves to their heart softeners, because they can only “regurgitate what they memorized”, while it is the likes of YQ who should be tasked with speaking on the cutting edge issues.

2 thoughts on “Did all pagan deities of pre-Islamic Arabia have creation powers ? Evaluating Yasir Qadhi’s unprecedented understanding of Paganism.

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