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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Questioning Divinity: Can God's existence be proven? A Muslim's perspective

Questioning Divinity: Can God's existence be proven? A Muslim's perspective

The Qur'an contains several verses ["Ayaat", literally "signs", the singular being 'ayah'] asking us to consider the existence of God. Examples of which are given below.

Universal order and majesty as evidence

"And of his signs is the creation of the heavens and the Earth, variations in your languages and [skin] colors. Surely, in that are signs [ayaat] for the knowledgeable." [Qur'an 30:22]


Here, the Qur'an has made an assumption- that those with knowledge ['Aalimeen] can see the structure and deliberate craftsmanship, the master artistry, present in the Universe, indeed, in the human species. We come in different shapes, sizes, skin colors and speak different languages, yet we are of the same species, capable of the same potentials.

"Surely, in the creation of the heavens and the Earth...[these] are signs for people of understanding, those who ponder upon Allah, standing, sitting, reclining on their sides, and contemplate regarding the creation.."Our Lord, you have not created [all] this in vanity [Baatil][Ft.1]. Glorified is you, so protect us from the punishment of [hell]fire." [Q 3:190-191]


To use an analogy, the automobile has conponents for the use of the driver and passengers. It takes fuel, water, and a variety of other things for its maintenance. It has a steering wheel, tires, and seats for the driver and passengers. We can accept that the automobile has been manufactured, and, likewise, humans have been manufactured.

The Soul's knowlewdge

Philosophers, theologians, and lay people alike have been discussing these issues for countless generations. These discussions are found among figures of all races, religions, creeds and denominations. The fact that these issues still come up in a post-Darwinian world is itself an evidence that somewhere in the human being, buried within the conscious, there exists an awareness of the Divine. One writer calls this the god gene. [ft.2].

The Qur'an phraes this situation in the following manner:
" Behold, your Lord drew forth from the children of Adam- from their loins, their descendants, and they testified internally [to the query] '' Am I not your Lord?" , they responsed 'yes, we do testify', otherwise [i.e. had the testimony not taken place] [you would have grounds ] to say on the day of standing " We were not informed of this." [Q 7:712] [ft.3]


What about Evolution?

A detailed answer to this is beyond the scope and intent of this article, but nonetheless we will summarize our thoughts in the following manner:

[A] The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin's influencial work, and to a greater extent the so called period of enlightenment, [roughly the 17th and 18th centuries] are all products of a rebellion against a suffocating religious and intellectual culture, at the time headed by the Roman Catholic Church. In those days, the church [and even its Protestant step children] taught the Bible was to be understood in a literal way! If the text says the world is 5,000 years old,[Ft.4] then that was the reality, in their teaching. So, in light of such circumstances, it is understandable that data would be interpreted in a way which removes God from the equation entirely!

[B] Muslims and Christians have in common the fact that Evolution is disputed, some believing in it and others reconciling their scripture to the widely accepted idea. With Muslims, however, evolution does not prove too much of an issue, because the Qur'an gives few details on the beginnings of man, and it certainly does not give a date of the age of the planet.

[C] Even pre-supposing the validity of the idea of Evolution, the Qur'an itself identifies God by the word Ar Rabb, which carries, as one of its meanings, "Evolver"[ft.5]. Indeed, one meaning is "that which raises a thing to its perfection". Evolution, in a physical, mental and social fashion, certainly takes place for us all. Regardless, at least from the Qur'anic standpoint, none of this negates the presence of God. [Ft.6]

Conclusion

We hope these few words have been thought provoking, if nothing else. As always, any mistakes come from the author, and anything of benefit comes, in the end, from God Almighty, from his guidance and grace, wa Bilaaahit Tawfeeq.

Footnotes

[1] Baatil has a number of meanings and implications, both in Arabic and within the Qur'an. It can mean vanity, lies, falsehood, weakess, and even refer to something ridiculous!

[2] Geneticist Dean Hamer first coined the term and theory, after conducting a variety of behavioural genetic, neurobiological and pscychological studies. While admittedly he does not seem to endorse belief in God, he does assert that physiological arrangements create mystical experiences. He advances this notion in The God Gene: how faith is hardwired into our genes.

[3] Also of interest is Qur'an 7:173-174. The latter verse says that God relates this account so that "perhaps they will return [to their testimony and acknowledge the facts as such]" [La'allahum Yarji'oon].

[4] Some Christian writers still advance a literal reading of the Biblical creation story, arguing that 5,000 years is the right age of the Earth! See Is the Bible without any Errors? by Rick Deighton [2011, Search for the Truth publications, Nampa, ID].

[5] Imam W.Deen Mohammed [1933-2008] renders Rabb as "Guardian-Evolver, Cherisher and Sustainer".

[6] As stated before, evolution is debated widely in both the Christian and Muslim religious communities. Some writers from both groups [The Christian ones are generally called "Creationists"] assert that Evolution is nothing more than brainwashing of the masses in order to have them reject God and accept domination. This is asserted in the many works of the Turkish writer Harun Yahya. We need to mention here that there are extreme Atheists, who make it their mission to ridicule belief and believers at every oppurtunity, even making a "chocolate Jesus" to sell, to melt, as a way to provoke reponses and propagate their beliefs. The Skeptics Society publishes Skeptic magazine, in which examples of this radicalism can be seen for any observer.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Muslim's rights on other Muslims: examining the Hadeeth

Abu Hurairah [R.A.] reports the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] as saying: The Muslim has, as a right {Haqq}, six [things]: [1] When you meet him, greet him [i.e. As salaamu 'alaikum], [2] When he invites you, accept his invitation, [3] When he asks advise, give it, [4] When he sneezes and praises Allah, say "Allah have mercy on you", [5] Visit him when he is ill, [6] When he dies, follow his funeral procession. [Saheeh Muslim]
Salaam greetings

Throughout all Muslim cultures and sects, the common demoninator is the greeting of As salaamu 'alaikum ["Peace be upon you"]! This is not something that was started with the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom we pray for peace and the choicest of blessings. Rather, this can be accurately described as the Sunnah of the messengers and teachers of old as well.

When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'[ Luke 10:5, NIV]

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them,
" Peace be with you."[Luke 24:36


A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said,
" Peace be with you ! "[John 20:26]

Accepting invitation

Ideally, every Muslim is to be equal to each other socially. There should be no problems with the rich dining with the poor and vice versa. Indeed, if one were to read any biography of Prophet Muhammad, we find that he even accepted dinner invitations from slaves!

Advice

Again referencing Saheeh Muslim, the Prophet is reported to have stated that religion itself is advice! To give advice is to show care, warmth and consideration. This principle is not limited to telling someone where to buy a car and the like, but can also extend to correcting that person's theological views! This particular angle of understanding this hadeeth has application in many areas of the world, but especially so in the United States, and among Muslim inmates. By seeing even the followers of pseudo-Islamic or heretical movements as also bethren, deserving advice and guidance, and not condemnation or hatred, we can be more affective and we can diminish confrontations. Here, we have in mind people such as those in the Nation of Islam[NOI], led by Minister Louis Farrakhan. Surely, their God concept and ideas surrounding the Prophethood are at variance with the Qur'an, yet, they call themselves Muslims, they believe in the Qur'an and have respect for the Prophet Muhammad. If we view them as brothers, needing advice and correction via the Qur'an, we build a lasting relation with them. Indeed, in our experience, advice and understanding is a much better weapon than yelling "Kaafir" and the like. This is also the Prophet's practice, as seen in the following Qur'anic verse:

And it was by God's grace that thou [O Prophet] didst deal gently with thy followers, for if thou hadst been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Parden them, and pray that they be forgiven.." [Q 3:159, Muhammad Asad translation]
Saying 'YarhamukumUllaah'

The person who sneezes is to praise Allah [i.e. by saying Alhamdulillaah] because their heart has stopped, yet they still live. The Muslim nearby hearing this says "May Allah have mercy on you". Indeed, to wish for Rahmah on another is to also invite Rahmah on yourself.

Visiting when ill

The worldview taught by Islam is one of fraternity, love and brotherhood. To visit the ill gives heart to them, and strengthens bonds. This is, in the end, the desire of Allah.

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided. [Qur'an 3:103, Saheeh International translation]

Funeral [Janaazah]

The Funeral rites in Islam are very simple. Indeed, if the deceased is absent or in a far away location, it is still possibe to fulfill the last right they hold on you, by offering Salaat al Janaazah! In the Salaat al Janaazah, at least according to the Prophetic Sunnah, one prays [Du'aa] for both the deceased and the community in general.

Thus, the rights [Huqooq] Muslims have on each other are powerful, they are to create a bond that is to not be broken. The rights of Muslims to each other is a concept that should never be abandoned nor neglected.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Islamic perspective on world events: a glance at Syria

Introduction

Those who know me well know that I am a student at heart. I love learning, and strive to keep informed on the subjects of interest to me, and especially so on events in the Muslim world. This is natural, after all, Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is reported to have said that those who do not care about the affairs of Muslims is not of us. To strive to know all sides of the argument is not only common sense, it is also in keeping with the texts of the Qur'an and Sunnah. A rather comical example of the benefits of such an approach is an occasion when this writer attended the Dead Seas Scrolls exhibit. The program also included a Biblical history presentation. Anyways, a Church group was behind me, and their leader began asking me questions about the scrolls, mistaking me for a tour guide. I in turn provided the answers, me, a Muslim!

Thus, I am always surprised when people, especially Muslims, allow prejudices to get in the way of truth and justice, and blindly accept whatever is told in the media.

Syria: case in point

Without doubt, something is amiss there. The "Arab spring" inspired, in the Syrian context, both peaceful and non peaceful actions designed to show dissatisfaction with the Assad regime. This much can be agreed to by all hands.

It's obvious that Syria is a strategic piece of real estate, that it has close ties with Iran, Hezbollah and [until recently] Hamas, and that these [and other] circumstances have prompted parties both inside and outside the Middle East to insert themselves in the conflict, shaping to bend it to their own advantage. This is easy to do actually when one considers that the Assad family has been ruling Syria since 1970, and are themselves from the minority 'Alawi sect, whereas the majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims.

When emotions and prejudices get in the picture, truth and the spirit of reconciliation of disputing parties gets sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Take as a perfect example a recent New York Times article [ Friday June 15th, 2011, page A15 " Syrian liberators, armed with plastic" by C.J. Chivers] showing how the opposition released a video announcing the formation of "a special forces brigade", wearing masks, banners surrounding their filming site, and armed with- get this- toy guns!  As if that wasn't bad enough, what is even more disturbing is the following paragraph from the same article

[quote] This week, The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, published photographs of a so called ghost unit, loyal to Mr Assad and accused of systematically killing Syrian civilians..Two images showed a purported member with a large semi automatic pistol. The weapon was later determined by the newspaper Al Bawaba in Jordan to be a blank-firing replica of an Israeli-made Desert Eagle pistol.[/quote]

Our main point

We have to exercise a bit of dilligence when watching TV, the news, or reading the paper. This goes for issues in Egypt, Syria, religion, politics, even lay people. We have to understand that there is, in the midst of so called black and white, much grey. We have to be fair and honest, especially in issues dealing with life and death. Muslims in particular need to learn these lessons, about each other and about Non Muslims alike. As an example, there is a wide perception that Muslims are discriminated against in the United States, but the truth is very different. Yes, there are problems, but freedom of religion is a constitutional right, and is supported by the government and local political/social culture. In fact, Muslims are more free to practice Islam here than even in areas of Dar ul Islam.

Here are some relevant Quranic verses in relation to these issues, wa Billlaahit Tawfeeq!

" O believers! When a "Faasiq" [an immoral person who breaks the normal rules of behavior] comes with any information, investigate it, lest you bring harm to a people unknowingly and become regretful afterwards." [Al-Qur'an 49:6]


" O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity, and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is the closest to being God-conscious. And be conscious of God, verily, God is aware of all that you do." [Qur'an 5:8, Muhammad Asad translation]