Wednesday, March 26, 2014

God, Islam and the Age of Skepticism

“I have faith that God will show you the answer. But you have to understand that sometimes it takes a while to be able to recognize what God wants you to do. That's how it often is. God's voice is usually nothing more than a whisper, and you have to listen very carefully to hear it. But other times, in those rarest of moments, the answer is obvious and rings as loud as a church bell.”
~ Nicholas Sparks

My work will address several, if not the most important questions in theology and philosophy today. I will respond to most of the challenges by the age of skepticism and science, and in doing so I will provide a balanced approach representing not only the theistic/atheistic perspectives, but also a much needed Islamic viewpoint that has largely been ignored or misunderstood. In this article I will be attempting the answer the following questions:
  • Who is God?
  • Where is God?
  • Who speaks for God?
  • If God exists then why is there evil in the world?
  • Is God compatible with science and reason?

In order to talk about God first we have to know Who is God and how does God define Himself.
God says in the 112th Chapter of the Holy Quran:
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Say: He is Allah, the One!
Allah, the Eternal!
He begets not nor was begotten.
And there is none comparable unto Him.
Note that "Allah" is not the name of a God for Muslims but the word "Allah," an amalgamation of the word "ilah" meaning "god" and the prefix "al" meaning "the," in the Arabic language itself means "The One God." So Allah is the God of all humanity and not only Muslims. Even the Arab monotheistic religions use the word Allah in their scriptures such as the Arabic Bible, so it is not something that only Muslims say to refer to God but all Arabic-speaking monotheists of the region.

From here we outline the basis of "Tawheed," meaning monotheism: that there is Only One God, there was nothing before Him and there will be nothing after Him, He is Everlasting. And this, so far, is the best explanation for God, because what makes God a God is that He is Unique and that there is nothing that can be compared to Him.

Now I will give a brief description about God and where is God. Is God in the sky? There is a huge misconception about some monotheistic religions that they believe God is somewhere up in the sky. As a Muslim, I believe that this statement is totally absurd. Why so? Because God has no place. If God had a place then He is everywhere without being anywhere. Confusing? Let me use an anecdote from the life of Imam Murtaza 'Ali ibn Abi Talib to elucidate:
An Arab atheist once came to Imam 'Ali and asked him 
"Oh 'Ali, tell me where and what is your God?" 
Humbly, he replied, "He made the 'where' a 'where' so He is nowhere, and He made the 'what' a 'what' so He is no what."
Basically, what Imam 'Ali is saying is that God is beyond time and space. He cannot be contained somewhere, because He is everywhere. The dimensions we live in do not contain Him.

In another occasion Imam Dhi`lib al-Yamani, a companion of Imam 'Ali, asked him whether he had seen God.
He replied, "Do I worship One Whom I have not seen?"
Then, Imam Dhi`lib inquired, "How have you seen Him?"
Imam 'Ali replied, "Eyes do not see Him face to face, but hearts perceive Him through the realities of belief. He is near to things but not physically contiguous. He is far from them but not physically separate. He is a speaker, but not with reflection. He intends, but not with preparation. He molds, but not with the assistance of limbs. He is subtle but cannot be attributed with being concealed. He is great but cannot be attributed with haughtiness. He sees but cannot be attributed with the sense of sight. He is merciful but cannot be attributed with weakness of heart. Faces feel low before His greatness and hearts tremble out of fear for Him."

Positive statements about God can only come from God Himself, which are communicated to mankind primarily through Divine Scriptures and Prophets. The Message started developing as man's ability to understand became more advanced until the Last Message was delivered by the one Muslims believe was the Final Seal of all Prophets, Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Mutalib ibn Hashim of Banu Quraysh. He was the one to spread the Last Message which Muslims refer to as the Holy Quran.

The Quran contains all the teachings of the previous prophets before Muhammad. It was like the latest version or an update of all the prior messages. Everything in this Message is compatible with human nature. Now remember this, a Message from God should be completely perfect with no flaws whatsoever. Why? Because God is Perfect and therefore His Words and His Message should also be Perfect. So in order for the Message to be sent to humanity, the Prophet that spreads the Message should also be perfect. Just like water. Try to mix dirty water with clean water. Will it stay clean? Of course not. And this is what Muslims believe. That all Prophets are Completely Infallible.

So, if God exists then why is there evil in the world? I will start this argument with the recitation of Epicurus' formulation of the problem of evil:
  • Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.
  • Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent.
  • Is God both able and willing? Then why is there evil?
  • Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?

This is a valid argument; the question is, is it sound? With the same argument I will give another example: My sister wants my dad to buy her a toy, but he is refusing because she’s not getting good grades in school. However, before all of this happened my dad warned my sister that if she does not get a good grade he will not get her a toy. Is my dad able to get her a toy? Yes, he is. Then why wouldn’t he? It is because he wants to teach her a lesson for her actions. Everyone is responsible for their own mistakes. You are warned not to do something because there will be consequences. God did not create evil. We human beings did,
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by what the hands of people have done”
[al-Quran 30:41]
How did we create it? Because of our free will. Even if there is evil in this world, that is not a reason for someone to disbelieve. The people who are indulging in evil are not going to get away with it. Everyone will be judged fairly in the end not only by our actions but also by our intentions. That is the Abrahamic concept of Judgment Day.
Zoroastrians and even the ancient Egyptians too believed in it.

Is God compatible with science and reason? Reason refers to the uniquely human capacity for logical, rational and analytic thought. Historically, however, the intellectual movement of rationalism considered reason to be more than just a feature of human nature, and instead, considered it the primary path to knowledge and truth.

The Islamic perspective on science as a form of knowledge is characterized by an inextricable connection to God as its source. Modern science, which stops short of connecting phenomena to their ultimate source is therefore an incomplete explanation of phenomena. There can be no possibility of conflict between God and science, since it is actually science that is subservient to God’s Command. And there are a lot of modern scientific discoveries that can be found in Islamic Scriptures written down almost 1,400 years ago. Below I will state a few:
Firstly, the Big Bang Theory,
"Have those who disbelieved not considered that the Heavens and the Earth were a joined singular entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?"
[al-Quran 21:30]
Second, the expansion of the universe,
"And the heavens We have constructed with strength, and indeed, We are the One Who expands it."
[al-Quran 51:47]
Third, the solar system type of atom,
“One bright spot in the Middle Ages comes from the Mohamedan world, a line from the pen of the mystic Ali who wrote: 'split whatsoever an atom and in its heart you will find a sun'
This would appear to indicate that in his mystical vision he had somehow glimpsed a preview of the modern solar system type of atom.”
Almighty Atom; the Real Story of Atomic Energy, Page 5, O'Neill, John J. (John Joseph), 1889
Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked by a reader of TIME magazine, "What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the universe?" This was his answer:
"I look up — many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big — but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like a participant in the going-ons of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive."
And I say I’m sorry Dr. Tyson but Imam 'Ali said that much before you:
“Your cure is within you, yet you do not sense it. Your sickness is from you, yet you do not see it. 
You presume you are a small entity, but within you is enfolded the entire universe.”
And then we also have the Pharaoh's preserved body:
"What, now you believe when previously you also rebelled and were one of those who spread corruption? Today we will preserve your body so you can be a Sign for people who come after you. Surely many people are heedless of Our Signs." [al-Qur'an, 10:91-92]
In the 1900’s, Maurice Bucaille who was a French medical doctor, member of the French Society Of Egyptology, found the Pharaoh's preserved body in Egypt, and when he saw the verse in the Quran, he immediately converted to Islam.

This is just a dot in a sea of the knowledge the Quran and Islam has to offer but the mainstream media has prevented us from revealing these issues in public. They tend to extinguish the Light of Allah with their mouths,
but Allah refuses except to perfect His Light, although the disbelievers dislike it.

Muhammad Ali Hamoui al-Sayyed, The Veiled Secret

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