The Obstinate Sophists (Al-‘Inaadia) are the most extreme from amongst them. They are those who claim that the extra-mental physical world does not exist, by arguing that it is possible for it to be all a dream, or a virtual illusion, or something similar. And because it is often obvious that those people don’t actually believe in that which they claim to believe in, the classical scholars have resorted to treating them rather harshly. Take the example of Ustadh Abd Al-Qahir Al-Baghdadi, who prescribes: 

[As for the Sophists who] claim that nothing is real, and that knowledge of things is non-existent. Such people only say this out of stubbornness. They must be dealt with by beating, disciplining, and confiscation of wealth. So if they complain from the pain, or ask for their money back, we respond: if neither you, nor your money is real, then why do you complain? And why do you ask for something that does not exist?

– Al-Baghdadi, Usul Al-Deen (pg. 6-7)

Perhaps a more appropriate way to deal with those people today, would be to tell them: either you actually believe that the physical world is just a dream, or you don’t.

If you truly believe that the physical world is just a dream, then you are not a Mukalaf[1]. Just imagine: the one who wakes up in the morning, and is sincerely unaware of whether or not he woke up into a dream; the one who walks down the street, unsure of whether or not the people he sees around him are ghosts of his own imagination; the one who looks down upon his own hands, without knowing whether or not those hands exist. Such a person is undoubtedly suffering from an extreme insanity that will, with the grace of God, preclude him from accountability on the day of judgement. And if that’s the case, then there is no need to discuss anything with you.

On the other hand, if you don’t actually believe that the physical world is just a dream, even when you claim that you believe it to be so, then you are insincere. And if you’re an insincere person who wishes to avoid discussion by lying about what he believes in, then there is little point for any discussion to happen.

Either way a discussion on theological issues would be a futile exercise, so such a discussion will not happen.


[1] Mukalaf: the one who will be held accountable in the hereafter for his choices in this life.

One thought on “The Obstinate Sophist

  1. So if it’s a dream, when did I fall asleep? And if I’m asleep, when will I wake up? Or is it a dream I’m having after never have fallen asleep….like never have been awake and never to be awake?

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