1-   He begot none, nor was he begotten  
2-   If god preordained my deeds, why should he judge me?
3-   Why did god create evil?
4-   What about those unreached by the Quran?
5-   Paradise and hell
6-   Is religion an opium?
7-   Islam and women
8-   The spirit
9-   The conscience
10-  Is pilgrimage a pagan rite?
11-   Could Muhammad be the author of the Quran?
12-    The quran did not come from a human
13-     Doubts
14-     Religion and evolution
15-     There is no god but allah
16-      K.H.Y. 'A.S
17-      The miracle
18-      The meaning of religion
"We won worldly happiness and you got delusions"

Friday, March 11, 2011

5 - Paradise and Hell

My learned friend was perfectly sure of himself as he delivered his bombshell in slowly-pronounced but strongly-stressed words:

-        How is that God, the compassionate and Merciful, punishes us for a transgression committed in a moment of limited time with eternal and infinite torment- 'In Hell they dwell forever'? Who are we and what is our worth in comparison to God's greatness to deserve such vengeance? Man is only an atom or a speck of dust in the universe and relative to God's Majesty he is infinitely more insignificant than that-he is, in fact, nothing in the full meaning of this word.
Our learned friend conceptions are in obvious need of correction.
We are not like atoms or specks of dust in the universe. Our standing in the sight of God is not insignificant but considerable. Didn't he breathe in us of his spirit? Didn't he command the angels to bow for us? Didn't he promise us the inheritance of the earth and the heavens? Didn't he say of us?

          "We have bestowed blessings on Adam's children
        And carried them over land and sea. We have provided
        Them with good things and exalted them above many of
        Our creatures."         Al-Esra'a, 70

        We have, then, something of God's spirit in us. Nor are we atoms or specks of dust in relation to the universe. If we consider our bodies only we may well be like grains in the wide, spacious world. But don’t we contain this universe in and comprehend it with our minds realizing its laws and defining the orbits of its planets and starts? The astronauts who landed on the moon ascertained that all our calculations and designs have been true and accurate. Doesn't this indicate that in so far as our spirit in concerned we are larger than the universe and that we 'contain' it? The Arab poet was right when he spoke of man in the well-known verse:
You deem yourself a tiny body
        While the great world is within you contained

Man as the Sufis say, is the comprehensive book while the entire universe is but some of its pages.
Man, then, is of great standing and importance. He comes from the spirit of God. His deeds necessitate accountability. As for the finite sin in time for which God visits us with infinite
Torment in eternity, this is simply another fallacy of my friend's-the self –confident Ph-D!
God speaks about those immortalized in Hell-fire who begs to be returned to earthly life so as to change their deeds to the better:

          "But if they were sent back, they would return to that which they
        Have been forbidden. They are liars all"      Al-An'am ,28

Their guilt, according to this verse, is not confined to one moment of time. It is, in fact, a permanent feature of their makeup that repeats itself at anytime. Indeed, if they were returned to a new life they will commit the same transgressions all over again; therefore, they lie in their promise of improvement. Their sinning is an innate and enduring attribute of their psyche and not a momentary slip in the context of some exceptional life circumstance.

          In another Quranic verse, God describes those inveterate sinners:
        "On the day when God restores them all to life, they will swear
        To him as they now swear to you, thinking that they have some
Standing. Surely they are liars all."     Al-Mogadala, 18

This is a flagrant from of perversity and impudence which motivated them to lie even to God and to swear falsely before him on that Day of the Great stand when veils are lifted and covers are removed; indeed, this is most audacious and overbearing.

We are definitely not dealing with a transgression limited to a point in time but one that continues through time and after time itself has ended. We are really confronting a psyche that carries within itself its eternal evil. Hence, everlasting torment is only equitable for such souls. The Quran candidly puts it; 'but (they) shall never come out of Hell. (Al-Baqara, 167). Ibn 'Arabi says that mercy for those souls lies in their habituation to Hell-fire which will become their appropriate abode through infinite ions.

          There is undoubtedly an affinity of element between certain transgressing souls and fire; some of these souls are in reality blazes of envy, grudging, voluptuousness, jealously, and bitterness; they are flames of wrath, resentment, rebellion, and other animal passions that flare and rage as a veritable fire. Such souls can never live at peace or endure just one hour without causing conflict and setting fire to everything that surrounds them;  for fire is their element and natural habitat. It is a just judgment that Hell be their final abiding place
It will be like placing a thing in its rightful element. If they were admitted to paradise they would not be able to enjoy it. Didn't they disdain peace while on earth?

          We ought to be broad-minded in our conception of either Hell or Paradise.
Hell-fire In the other world is not a 'grill' and what goes on there is not burning in its earthly sense. God says that the damned in Hell-fire speak with and curse each other. Hell has in its midst a tree with 'fruit': the Zaqoum tree which grows from the bottom of Gehena. In Hell there is also scorching water for the tormented to drink of. Such place where a certain kind of tree and of water exist and where the damned talk must be another sort of fire than the one we know:

          "As it enters every nation will curse the one that went before it,
        And when all are gathered there, the last of them will say of the
        First: 'There, Lord, are the men who led us astray. Let their punishment
        To be doubled in Hell-fire"
                                                Al-A'araf, 37-8

The tormented talk while in Hell-fire; a fire 'whose fuel is men and stones'
                                                Al-baqara. 24

This fire, then, is something that belongs to the unseen (Gaib); all references to it can be taken as symbolic. It must not, however, be understood that we deny physical torment
Advocating, instead, a 'psychic' punishment. Physical torment is so clearly indicated that no one dare contest or doubt it. We certainly believe in its occurrence. What we suggest is only that the nature and particulars of such torment as well as the qualities and features of the Hell-fire mentioned belong to the hidden Gaib or unseen. As it seems from Quranic references, it is a fire unlike that we know in our world just as the bodies exposed to it will be different from the frail, clayey bodies we now have.

          The same view can apply to paradise. It is not a market display of vegetables, dates, pomegranates, and grapes. These Quranic descriptions of it are mere symbols, approximations, or illustrations that bring its truth within the conceptual compass of human minds:
          "This is a similitude of Paradise which the righteous have been
        Promised. There shall  flow in it rivers of unpolluted waters, and rivers
        Of milk for ever fresh."              Muhammad, 15

in my understanding of the first sentence of this verse God is only giving our minds an approximation of heaven; but the true details of heavenly bliss remain in the unseen:

          "No mortal knows what bliss is in store for them as a reward for their labors."
                                                Al-Sagda, 17

        "A paradise as vast as heaven and earth."    Al-Imran, 133

Paradise cannot be a mere garden. Its fruits are abundant, 'unforbidden, never-ending' (Al-waqe'a, 32); they are certainly unlike our own earthly fruits which can be forbidden and which cease from season to season. The wine of Paradise 'will neither pain their heads nor take away their reason', it is, undoubtedly, very much different from the wine known to us which leaves a hangover and unsettles the mind. The Quran goes on to say that God 'shall take away all hatred' from the souls of the blessed in Paradise (Al-A'araf, 43). Here again we confront an unknown means of purifying hearts.
          Paradise, then, is just like Hell: a matter belonging to the Unseen. This view does not, nevertheless, imply any denial of physical bliss. We believe that paradise contains both physical and spiritual bliss just as Hell is physical and spiritual torment at one and the same time. What we would rather emphasize is that the details and nature of such bliss or torment are unknown to us that paradise is not just a fruit and vegetable market nor is Hell an oven for banking meat.

          Torments in the hereafter are not a form of tyranny God exercises over his creatures but a kind of purification, enlightenment, correction, and mercy:

          "And why should God punish you if you render thanks
        To him and truly believe in him?"       Al Nessa'a, 147

Men were not all predestined for torment when they were created. God does not punish the believer who has knowledge of him; He only visits his torment on the obdurate disbeliever with whom all means of guidance and acquainting with the faith and all explanations of it have failed:

          "But we will inflict on them the lighter punishment of
        This world before the supreme punishment of the world
        To come, so that they may return to the right path."
                                        Al-Sajda, 21

It is God's law that these men should taste the minor punishments of this world to be roused from their torpor and lightened out of their deafness and slumber 'so that they may return to the right path'.

If all such approaches fail, with the disbeliever persisting in his attitude, there remains only one option opens: to inflict the promised torments on him so that he may come to know the truth. Acquaintance with the truth is the essence of mercy. Should God neglect those obstinate disbelievers in their blindness and ignorance, he would be unjust-far removed is he from this. To be led to Hell-fire is a kind of care for such benighted souls. All God's actions are merciful. He shows the mercy of correction and of enlightenment to the benighted in Hell; and he is merciful with his generosity and blessings to the knowing in paradise:

          "I will visit my scourge upon whom I please: yet my mercy
        Encompasses all things".             Al-A'araf, 156

God encompassed everything with his mercy even those under punishment
Let us, in our turn, ask our learned friend: would God, in your opinion, be more just if He treated both sinners and sinned against, murderers and murdered in the same manner throwing up a tea-party for all on the Last Day? Is justice, in our friend's view, synonymous to equaling black with white? To those that find it impossible for God to inflict punishment we may say: Doesn't He actually inflict suffering on us in this world? Aren't old age, sickness, cancer … etc. basic forms of torment? Who created the microbe? Aren't these all warnings that we are dealing with a God who can torment?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

4 - What about those unreached by the Quran?

My learned friend started to scratch the top of his head. He was, evidently, thinking hard to find a pitfall what would finish me off this time. He began to speak slowly and deliberately:

Very well, what can you tell me about the fate of a person whom the Quran or, for that matter, any other revelation or prophet did not reach? What fault can you lay at him? What in your creed will be his fate on the Day of Judgment? I have in mind, for example, an Eskimo in far away Polar Regions or a Negro deep in the jungle. What will befall such a person at the hands of your God on Doomsday?

          - I began my answer to him at once:

Let me; first of all, correct your view of the issue involved here. You have based your questions on a false premise. God informed us in the Quran that he deprived no one of his mercy, revelation, words, or signs:

        "For there is no nation that has not been warned by a messenger."
                                                Fater, 24
       "We raised a messenger in every nation."
                                        The Bee, 36
The prophets mentioned in the Quran are not all whom God sent. There are thousands of others about whom we know nothing. Concerning those messengers, God says to his prophet Muhammed:

          "Of some you have already heard, of others we have told you nothing."
                                                   Ghafer, 78

God in fact, sends intimations to everything; to bees, for instance:
          "Your God inspired the bees, saying:
          Build your homes in the mountains,
          In the trees, and in the thatching men
          Make."                  Al nahl, 68

This inspiration may be a revelation, a book delivered by Gabriel, or an illumination caused by God in a person's heart. It can be a state of 'relief' in mental disposition, an insight into truth, or an understanding of things. Again, it can take the shape of reverence towards and fear of God as well as an attitude of piety. Indeed, no one that ever 'tunes up' his heart and sense will be deprived from receiving a favor from God.

Those, however, who block their ears and hearts will not benefit from any number of books, messengers, or miracles.
          God says that he blesses whomever he wills of his creatures with his mercy and that he is accountable before none for his deeds. For a wisdom known only to him, he may send warnings to some but not to others so that these latter may be excused in his sight and the slightest indication of faith accepted from them.

          We can really never know. A mere fearful glance at the sky by that primitive Negro may be more redeeming with God and acceptable to him than our prayers. Nevertheless, a closer consideration of the creeds of such primitive Negroes reveals that they had messengers and revelations like our own. We know, for instance, that the Mau Mau tribe believers in a God it calls 'Mogabe' and describes him as a single being that was neither begotten nor begets and that has no equal or like. 

This divinity is invisible and only known by his deeds and effects. He is a creator, a donor of livelihood, a bestower, and compassionate being who heals the sick, relieves the distressed, sends the rain down, and hears prayers. According to tribal lore, lightning is that deity's dagger and thunder the sound of his football.

Isn't this 'Mogabe' almost the same as our own God? From what quarter did those tribesmen receive such conception unless a messenger and a revelation came to them at some period of their history? As usual, this message must, with the passage of time, have fallen victim to superstitions that corrupted its original purity.

We similarly know that Niam Niam people believe in a single divinity they call 'Mbole' who, according to their sayings, moves everything in the jungle, visits the evildoers with thunderbolts, and rewards the virtuous with livelihood, blessing, and security. The shylock tribe, we also know believes in jok, a single deity whom they describe as both invisible and manifest. He abides in the sky and everywhere and he is the creator of everything. The denkas believe in a single God, Mialok, whose name literally means 'he who is in the sky' or the sublime. By what name other than Islam can we call such creeds? What else can they be but messages delivered by prophets who came to those peoples?

          "Believers, Jews, Christians, and sabaeans-whoever believes in God
        And the last day and does what is right-shall be rewarded by their lord
        They have nothing to fear or to regret."
                                                        Al baqara, 62

Even the sabaeans (or those among them who worshipped the sun as one of god's signs and believed in the oneness of God,  in resurrection, in judgement, and performing good deeds) will have their wages from God.

It is well-known that god's mercy varies in how it is bestowed. There are those born blind and others who enjoy sight. Some have lived in the age of Moses and saw him with their own eyes parting the sea with his staff; others have lived in the time of Jesus and witnessed how he raised the dead. As for us, we only know of these miracles by hearing about them. Receiving a report of something is surely not equal to seeing it with the eye; for to see is other than to hear of a certain event' nevertheless, belief and disbelief do not hinge upon miracles. Obdurate non-believers witness wonders from the prophets sent to guide them but have no more to say of these miracles than describing them as 'fabricated sorcery'.

It is certain that our learned friend, who has just returned from France, has known three books-the Torah, the bible, and the Quran-in his own language. These revelations, it seems, only exacerbated his indulgence in disputation. To evade the entire subject he shifted the discussion to a hypothetical primitive in the jungle unreached by any revelation and went on to ask us the following question:

"Why does God's mercy vary? Why should God reveal his signs to some while others know of them only through reports?"
We reply to him by observing that revealing miracles to some may not be a blessing but a temptation. For didn't God warn the companions of Christ who asked for a table to descend among them from heaven?

          "God said: 'I am sending one to you. But whoever of you disbelieves
          Hereafter shall be punished as no man has ever been punished."
                                                          Al-Ma'ada, 115
The reason for this warning is that the coming of miracles is always accompanied by an increase in the severity of punishment for those who disbelieve after seeing them. Happy indeed are those who believe from hearing of revelation without witnessing any miracles. And woe to those who see them but persist in disbelieving.
The Quran you have with you is a witness against you and a warning for you. On the day of Reckoning it will not be a mercy but the contrary. Sparing the Eskimo of the Polar Regions such an irrefutable witness may be a sign of mercy, pardon, and alleviation on the Day of Judgment. A look at the sky from this ignorant Eskimo even once in his life may be sufficient for God to accept him as a sincere believer.
          As for the reason why God shows more mercy to some than to others, it is a dispensation he bases upon his knowledge of hearts:

          "He knew what was in their hearts.
        Therefore he sent down peace upon
        Them and rewarded them with a speedy victory."
                                        Al-Nasr, 18

God's knowledge of us and of our hearts precedes our creation in the wombs; it goes back to when we were spirits around his throne. Some of us were attracted to his light and were completely absorbed in it, while others directed their attention away from him to enjoy the spectacle of the universe (malakoot) shunning the splendor of their creator.

Ever since that time immemorial the latter have deserved the lower degree and were predestined to perdition. Thus said those who 'see' (Ahl el-Moshahada).
          What we experience in our short life on earth is not everything that there is. Knowing the wisdom behind every suffering and privation is something that belongs only to the Omniscient. If I were asked why god created the pig in that shape we know, I can only reply that God chose for it a 'piggish' form because its nature or 'self' is swinish. It was right and just that this animal be created in that shape we are familiar with.

          All the dispensations we see around us are just but realizing the all-encompassing wisdom and discovering that hidden justice is a task that is not within our ken. It is for this that the last day was decreed; when the "scales" will be set up and the Omniscient tell us of everything we disputed about.
          And now, my friend, I shall set your heart to rest with the decisive argument in this question. God said in his book that he will punish only those whom he warned beforehand through his messengers:

          "Nor do we punish a nation until we have sent forth a messenger
          To warn them."              Al-Esra'a, 15

Have I thus quieted your fears? Allow me further to add that the most peculiar aspect of your questions in this connection is their deceptive pretense of belief and pity for the poor negro deprived of the light, mercy, and guidance of the Quran. In truth, they indicate your disbelief in the Quran or its light and guidance. They are designed more for inveiglement And subterfuge. 

They run contrary to your own inner conviction and I can only describe this attitude as perversity in its quintessence. You are endeavoring to persuade us of an argument of which you personally do not have any proof. Don't you agree with me that your reasoning is in need of mending?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

3 - Why did God Create Evil?

My friend resumed his arguing in a derisive note of voice.

- How dare you speak of your God as the perfect, the omnipotent, the merciful, the bounteous, and the ruthful while he is the creator of all evils in the world: disease, old age, death, earthquakes, volcanoes, microbes, poison, scorching heart, freezing cold, and the torments of cancer that spare neither new-born babe nor decrepit senile. If God is truly love, beauty, and goodness, how then did it come that he created hatred, ugliness, and evil?

          - The problem, raised by my friend, is among the basic questions of philosophy; opinions differed and schools of thought split over it. We say that God is all mercy and goodness. He did not enjoin evil but suffered its existence for a wise end:

          "God does not enjoin what is indecent. Do you tell of god that you
        Do not know? Say: My lord ordered you to act in injustice. Turn to him wherever you
        Kneel in prayer and call on him with true devotion"
                                                        Ala'araf, 28

God only enjoins justice, amity, charity, forbearance, and benevolence. He only accepts what is good. Why, then, does he suffer the unjust, the murderous, and the thieving to perpetrate their deeds? The answer is that he wanted us to be free; freedom necessitates error; it would be meaningless if it did not allow us the right to trial, error, and right judgment and the unrestricted choice between sin and obedience.

          God was quite capable of making us all benevolent by compelling us to obey him. This, however, would have entailed that he deprive us of the freedom to choose. But in his plan and law, freedom with suffering is more honorable to man than slavery with happiness. That is why he let us sin, suffer, and learn; this is the wisdom in his sufferance of evil to exist.

          Nevertheless, a just and objective consideration of the matter would reveal to us that benevolence is the rule in the universe while evil is the exception. Health is the rule, disease the exception; we spend most of our life enjoying health and are visited by sickness only for few days in comparison. Similarly, total of the time during which earthquakes have struck would amount to only a handful of minutes in relation to the age of our planet which is measured in many millions of years. In the same reckoning, volcano eruptions or wars are but short-lived convulsions in the life of nations interrupting long periods of quiet and peace.

Moreover, we can discern a benevolent aspect in almost everything. Sickness bequeaths immunity; suffering engenders hardiness, fortitude, and endurance; earthquake relieve the pent-up pressure inside the earth preventing its crust from blowing-up and restoring mountains to their places as 'belts' and 'weights' that stabilize the crust; volcanoes spew up minerals and other hidden resources thus covering the land with rich soil; was unify and amalgamate nation's leading to their gathering in blocks and alliances and then in a league of nations and finally, in a security council which is like a universal tribunal where complaints are aired and settled. The greatest inventions were made during wars; penicillin, atomic power, rockets, jet planes and many others came out of the crucible of war. The ancient wisdom still hold true: "out of the snake's poison comes the antidote."
Even now we manufacture the serum from microbe. If our forefathers have not met their death we would not have attained the positions we now hold. Evil in the universe is like the shaded space in a painting; if you come very near to the painting, you will see these parts as defects and fault in it; but if you draw back to a distance and take a general view of the painting as a whole, you will discover that the shades are necessary and indispensable fulfilling an aesthetic function within the structure of that artwork.

          Could it be possible for us to know health if disease did not occur? Health glitters as a crown on our heads that is only known when we are ill. Likewise, it is impossible to know beauty but for ugliness or to know that which is normal without getting acquainted with the abnormal. This is why the philosopher Abu Hamed El-Ghazali  said that the universe's imperfections are the essence of its perfection just as the curving shape of the bow is the -essential feature of its usefulness since a 'straight-shaped bow' would be unfit for shooting arrows.
          Another use of hardships and sufferings is that they sort out men and reveal their true nature. As Arabic verse eloquently put it:

          "But for hardships all men would rule supreme bounty beggars
        And boldness kills."

These tribulations are trials by which we know ourselves; they are tests which determine our degrees in the sight of God.
This world is but one act of a play that has many; death is not the end of the story but its beginning. It is inadmissible to judge a play on the testimony of just one act or to reject a book because its first page did not appeal to us. The judgment in both cases is incomplete.

The entire significance of any such work can only be known at its end.
          One wonders at the alternative that our scoffing friend has in mind. Does he, for instance, envisage for us a life without death, sickness, senility, deficiencies, disability, grief, or suffering? Is he seeking absolute perfection? But the latter is for God alone. The really perfect being is one and cannot be many. Indeed, why should be multiply? What can be possibly lack in himself to seek for it in others? The upshot is that my friend will not be satisfied except by becoming God which is presumption par excellence.

Let us, in our turn mock him and those, like him, who scoff at everything. We ask those who dream of our life becoming a flawless paradise, 'what have you done to deserve a paradise on earth?'  Indeed, what services did our friend render to humanity so as to set himself up as God, the one and the vanquisher who order everything to be and creates all by his flat?

My grandmother had more sense than our French-educated, 'learned' friend. She used to say in all simplicity: 'Good comes from God, evil from ourselves.' A terse remark, indeed, but what a true view of the entire matter is contained here in a nutshell! God sends the winds and makes the river flow but a greedy captain may overload his ship with people and goods and when it sinks, he curses fate and destiny. What is God's fault here? He sent a benevolent wind and caused the river to flow smoothly but greed and avarice turned his good into evil.
          Indeed, what beautiful and fine words; 'Good comes from god, evil from ourselves'.