Reasons for Reason

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// November 27th, 2006 // Blog

I've been wanting to write this entry for a long while now. The point i have to make has been the basis of most of my discussions with non-muslims, but i never seem to explain myself very well, as i've usually been responding to arguments rather constructing my own – so let's see if the message gets across any clearer this way.

Part and parcel of being a follower of a particular religion is the acceptance of certain doctrines and the rejection of others. Islam is no different. To be a Muslim one must believe in the following things, and to deny them is to take oneself out of the fold of Islam:

1) La illaha illalah – There is no deity worthy of worship except Allāh [God]
2) The Angels
3) The Prophets
4) The Revelations
5) Paradise and Hell-fire
6) The Divine Decree

These are the six articles of faith, the minimum one needs to be classed as a Muslim. In fact the above are merely general titles and there is more involved to being a Muslim than just belief, but it's a good place to start.

It would be very difficult for anyone to argue against these tenets of faith as they are inherent to the religion. Meaning: if you follow Islam then you are automatically going to accept these statements to be true no matter the opposition. So even if you've never seen an Angel or a Prophet, you will still have faith that they exist or existed at some point in history, because that's what Islam says.

A Christian may believe in all of the above, but they are not considered to be Muslim, and vica versa. Why? Because Christians testify that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and Muslims says he was a Prophet.

No doubt Jews also testify to the above articles, but once again they are neither Muslim nor Christian because they denounced Jesus altogether.

[Interesting side note: I once heard a speaker on Islam say that the reason Jesus will return (as opposed to Muhammad, Moses, Abraham or any other religious figure) is because he is the most contested figure within the three Abrahamic faiths, the focal point of our differences. His return will put an end to all this in-fighting and sort things out once and for all. No wonder peace will envelop the Earth during his reign!]

In fact the above statements may be shared in part or in whole by many other religions, and most also seem to share in other aspects such as morality. However in the end it is the differences between all these faiths that seem to cause the problems, especially when religion merges with politics – a potentially lethal mix in the wrong hands.

Now i am not a student of religion so i can only take my analysis so far, but it seems to me that the basis of many of these differences, at least where the “Abrahamic” faiths are concerned, are scriptural. The Jews have the Torah and Talmud, the Christians the Bible and the Muslims the Qur'an. Each stakes its claim to the title of “God's true religion” based on the integrity of these texts.

When it comes to other world religions, i'm not so sure whether they claim to be superior to others or not. It's obvious however that when you have one faith saying there is only one God, another saying there are many, and a third saying that there is no God at all – well, we can't all be right that's for sure!

So the question thus becomes: who is right, and can we ever tell?

Another question that may directly follow is: Who bloody cares?

Well, the answer to the second question is: many people do – and some say that's the crux of the religious intolerance problem.

Why we should or should not care depends on which religion you listen to. The three Abrahamic faiths seem to agree that belief in God will determine your abode in the eternal afterlife, with the two available options of Paradise or Hell being diametrically opposed in terms of long-term comfort and well-being (to put it very mildly!). Again i'm not sure about every other religion, although i have been told that some such as Hinduism and Buddhism put more emphasis on your moral choices than your spiritual ones which means that followers of other religions could potentially be Hindu or Buddhist, even me!

While i do see the potential worldly advantage of the last two religions in term of increased global acceptance and tolerance, it does not automatically make these religions “true”. In the end, our beliefs do not alter reality, even if they affect our quality of life. So when you factor in the potential other-worldly disadvantage for making the wrong choice on Earth, it makes sense to thoroughly do your homework before settling on any faith, or even settling on a lack of faith.

So now we come back to the first question, how can we tell who is right?

In my humble opinion it is definitely not enough to assess a religion's validity on how well it fits in with one's existing world view. For example, some people are put off by religions that preach the idea of Hell because they cannot understand how a merciful God could witness eternal suffering. Others cannot conceive the idea of multiple Gods or even the Christian concept of the Trinity, as they do not see how they could co-exist and yet be in full agreement (i admit to falling in that camp). Some do not believe in God at all, as one commentator on my blog said, because they don't understand how He would allow this world to be the messed up place it seems to be.

So we each have our own idea how God should or should not be, or at least what we wish Him to be, if we even wish Him to be at all. So one cannot judge the truthfulness of any one religion based on how much we agree with its individual teachings. In fact, due to the immense variation that exists in human kind, combined with our “intelligence” and ability to imagine, i would go so far as to say all religions will most likely fit with somebody's idea of reality – hence Scientology!

So we really have to go back to the drawing board when we it comes to our quest for the truth.

Although i'm only young, i do feel that my personal quest has come to a near end with accepting Islam, though i always pray for guidance as all Muslims do – five times or more a day in fact. So what i am about to say is based on my own personal and ongoing journey. For this reason you are allowed to be somewhat sceptical as i may err to the side of subjectivity. However, i am going to try to be as objective as a human can be.

Now this may pee-off some people but i'm not going to start with an argument for the existence of God. This is an ongoing debate that i cannot easily contribute to because i have always believed in God even without any “evidence”. Some can argue that i was brain-washed into it by my parents. Islam actually presents a flip-side argument that states all children are born upon Islam [i.e., faith and obedience to God] and that it is the parents and society that veer them away from perfect belief. Seeing as no-one is cruel enough (hopefully) to test the theory by locking up some children in a sound-proofed room away from all human influence until adulthood, it will remain a matter of personal opinion.

What i will discuss is the idea of the evidence-based approach to religion, in particular religion based upon scriptures. I'm sure many individuals who are far wiser and more eloquent than I have already written volumes about this same issue, but as I haven't as yet delved into the world of philosophy i thought i would have a go myself [besides, i love the sound of my own voice! Just kidding… i think].

I would say the basis of my belief in Islam being a true religion, and by admission of Islam itself, it being the only completely true religion in the world today, is the Qur'an. I say completely true because Islam teaches that other religions such as Christianity and Judaism are in part true because they actually have the same roots as Islam, i.e., God. Islam teaches that God has sent Messengers and Prophets to every nation on Earth. So we could go as far as to say a great number of the ancient religions, including Hinduism, were originally divine in origin – only God knows for sure. But somewhere along the line things got messed up – the human race can never let a good thing lie it seems. People took the religion and the scriptures in their own hands, changed a few words, obliterated more, forgot the rest, all the for the sake of power, influence and other selfish purposes – if i hadn't witnessed it myself, i would be gob-smacked at the idea. Islam teaches that God kept sending messengers again and again to undo the damage, to give people another chance to follow the truth. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final Messenger, the Seal of the Prophets, and the Qur'an the final message. Thus God promised that the Qur'an will be preserved in its original form until the End Days, and it will not suffer the same fate as the previous revelations such as the Torah and the Gospels. All this so people like you and me can have access to the truth.

Now this is what Islam says about the religions of the world. I haven't yet outlined why i think Islam is true. In fact, i'm not going to. Frankly, you won't believe me even if i did – why should you? Who am i to tell you truth from fiction? That's your job to find out. I'm simply going to outline some ways that might help you do this, ways that helped me. It's a matter of reasoning, but the obvious kind – i'm not into way out philosophy as many people know. Let's stick to reality, something which everyone has some idea of.

It seems that a unifying factor amongst those religions that believe in God(s) is the nature of the Divine. Many people agree that God can see all, hear all, knows all etc. They also believe that He is the Creator of the Universe and whatever lies beyond. Many religions are based on scriptures, at least that is the case of the Abrahamic faiths. So a simple exercise of reasoning leads to the conclusion that if there is a God that fits such a description, and He has indeed revealed a scripture, then this scripture should reflect the characteristics of said author. On the other hand, if the scripture is the work of men who are far from infallible, the nature of these authors will also be reflected in their writings. So based on this line of thought, the following have been proposed as ways of “testing” the authenticity of a scripture [this is a bit of a cut'n'paste job from another thread on my blog so apologies for the deja vu if applicable]:

1) If the scripture is derived from a perfect being, the revelation should also be perfect. Thus there should be no glaring contradictions.

2) The basic message it preaches should be obvious, plain and easy to understand as it has been targeted at a very wide audience, people of all intelligences and backgrounds.

3) If it contains any specific prophecies, these should have been fulfilled. Of course some prophecies may take place at a time that has yet to pass, such as those that relate to the Day of Judgement.

4) If it contains information that is of a scientific nature, e.g., describing the creation of the universe and of life, or any other phenomenon that can be investigated by experimentation and investigation, this should not contradict that which has been proven to be scientific fact or at least very strong theory. For example the “Big Bang” theory is widely accepted due to various observations such as the expansion of the universe etc, but it cannot be proven because no human being was around to witness it.

It is simple, if God created the universe, and God revealed a scripture, then knowledge derived from the study of the universe should not conflict with the knowledge found in the scripture. Also if the information contained therein is proven to be true, and at the time of revelation no-one could have possibly been aware of it, then it would be strong evidence to suggest that it was of divine origin as it fits with the idea that God is all-Knowing.

5) If the Book makes any claims about itself, such as it cannot be changed or that no-one can bring a book like it (as the Qur'an does) then these claims must be fulfilled.

6) The revelation should be complete, with no parts missing, no parts modified or added to. If there is evidence of such tampering then one should easily be able to point to those modified verses or books so that they can be removed and the book restored. This really can only be done if there is an unbroken chain of narration all the way back to the person to whom the scripture was revealed, so that each generation of believers can continuously monitor the texts in case anyone tries to modify it.

These are only a few of the most commonly discussed points and there are many others. The validity of each test can also be questioned. However taken as a package i think it works well.

Now i could go through all these requirements and show how the Qur'an may fulfil them, thus providing strong evidence for it being the Word of God, but i'm not going to. Besides the work has already been done by others better than myself.

My suggestion, as it has always been from the beginning, is to the read the Qur'an for yourself and see what you think. In fact i invite everyone to go to their own “book” if they subscribe to one and put it through the mill. We all have to question the basis of our beliefs at some point, else how can we call ourselves rational human beings?

To those who may not have a Book, there must be some way to show that you're on the right track. Remember, this is not about superiority of some individuals over other individuals, it's about seeking the truth, whatever that may be. It's our job, our calling, something ingrained deep within us so don't fight it or live in denial – be bold and brave, but also be humble and patiently persevere. It may seem like you're walking a tight-rope, but i'd like to reassure you that there is a safety net – God.

I don't guarantee that everyone who reads the Qur'an will come to the same conclusion as I and many others have. There is more to faith than reasoning – it can be a complicated affair. I also understand that there are those who have already done the above and will still remain firm on whatever they follow, and i respect that. I am not about to pick holes in other's beliefs even if i disagree with them. I believe that Islam was not revealed to destroy faith but rather to confirm it by reminding people of the truth and dissolving any man-made lies.

I have learnt some lessons from reading stories of converts who came to Islam from other religions. A unifying factor was that they all seemed to be on some kind of journey which started with a question: what does this all really mean? Some of these journeys lasted years and years, and one story narrated by a Australian convert involved her travelling the world searching for some kind of answer, only to stumble across Islam during a class in a Christian seminary. All her globe-trotting experiences acted like a signpost saying “this is it, this is what i've been looking for” and that was where one journey ended, and another began. This and other stories taught me that guidance is an affair that has been tailored for each individual, and no two stories will ever be the same.

Another lesson i have learnt from converts is that it never ever pays to be hostile and speak ill of someone else's faith. Some Muslim preachers engage in public debates where they spend hours arguing with preachers from other religions, in the process implicitly belittling the faith of various members of the audience. We all have this annoying little thing called an ego. To insult someone's faith is like pressing all the wrong buttons – don't expect them to listen to you as you've effectively slapped them in the face. I can definitely understand this point. Many Muslims the world over love the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) more than their own selves. For a Muslim to hear an insult against Muhammad is worse than the worse “yo momma” slur you can imagine. I don't agree to burning embassies and shooting nuns [no way!], but the peaceful demonstrations that took place around the world in response to the Danish cartoons were a natural consequence of this deep admiration, even though the man himself was not there to witness it. The Muslim world is like a wounded lion right now. Poking and prodding it is only going to make it roar in pain and force it to take a swipe at the offender. There are many things that Muslims are doing that I do not, and more importantly the religion itself does not condone, but it is not difficult to understand why these crazy things are happening with such instigation. That is no excuse though, as two wrongs never make a right. Muslims wake up!

That is why i now avoid going into details about other faiths. I would never intentionally criticise or slur other religious figures, even from the non-Abrahamic faiths such as Buddha or Krishna, even though i do not follow them or their teachings. Just as i would hope people who do not believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad would refrain from slandering him – it's nothing but common decency really.

My approach is to now encourage everyone, including Muslims, to go back to their roots and make sure that they really understand what they're following. As anyone who read my entry “Islam – Some Basics” will know, i believe there are some very big consequences for the decisions we make in our lifetime, so i would not take such a task lightly or even delay it for one second.

During your journey on this potentially long and winding road, remember to sincerely pray for guidance as i firmly believe no such prayer goes unanswered.

If anyone has any questions regarding Islam i do not mind answering them – but please remember what you have just read and first question your intention. If it is to widen your own horizons and gain a better understanding then you are more than welcome. But if you are here to make me feel or look bad, and are attempting to destroy my faith without replacing it with something that has stronger evidences then know this: i might be woman, but i ain't no girly-girl!

Please forgive me if i have ever caused you offence directly or indirectly especially in the ways i have outlined above. I will definitely try to implement my own advice first as i intensely detest hypocrisy.

I pray for us all peace, good will and guidance to the truth. āmīn

2 Responses to “Reasons for Reason”

  1. Linus says:

    what is ISLAM and who are the MUSLIMS? –

  2. iMuslim says:

    Jzh for the article bro.

    I’ve set up a special link to it – it “rocked”, mashallah!



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