Bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim
I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
The above is the “shahada” or testimony that Muslims profess to believe in, and non-Muslims have to say in order to convert to Islam. Traditionally we say the shahada in arabic:
أشهد أن لا إله إلاَّ الله و أشهد أن محمد رسول الله
In transliteration: Ashadu an la ilaha illa illa-ilah, wa ashadu anna muhammadan rasul ullah.
So, the question for this article is why do I believe and why am I a muslim specifically? The basis for my belief are 3 things: the strong beliefs of muslims around me (my family, my sufi spiritual master, other muslims both in the present and in the past), the Quran, and the Prophet Muhammad. And I think the key to my faith and that of other muslims is the Prophet Muhammad himself. In essence he is the foundation of the Quran. The Quran would have no merit if it came through any other source.
From the 98th chapter “The Clear Proof” the first 3 verses are very telling of God’s own justification of the Quran (Yusuf Ali translation):
“1. Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, were not going to depart (from their ways) until there should come to them Clear Evidence,-
2. An apostle from Allah, rehearsing scriptures kept pure and holy:
3. Wherein are laws (or decrees) right and straight.”
The following is a link to a video where you can listen to these verses being recited. This is really more for the illustration to show how the Quran is not just dry words on a page. When recited they come to life with such colour and sweetness, it’s always pleasant to listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iv19Az98bto
So the next question that comes to mind is how is the Prophet the Clear proof or evidence? And evidence of what exactly? He is evidence of God himself, as God chose an emissary to represent Himself on Earth and bring and perfect the final message. God chose the Prophet to be the medium to bring the Quran.
The Prophet Muhammad is a very special man in that he lived his life with (and I’m not exaggerating) the best of manners and compassion, dignity and honour. In all the qualities that make a positive human being, the Prophet was an exemplary in all these qualities: in being humble, kind, sweet to women and children and the old, quiet and forgiving, accepting the faults of others, and extremely fair and just. He also never lied which itself was a well-known fact of his behaviour amongst the Arabs around him. I want to write more articles in the future detailing events in his life which showcase these qualities but for now I want to relate 3 examples to show his wisdom, kindness and forgiving nature.
Rebuilding of the Ka’ba
The city of Makkah was situated in a valley which was prone to mudslides and flooding. One such geological event took place which damaged the Ka’ba (the central holy building in the middle which muslims pray towards and circumambulate). So the tribes of Makkah worked together to rebuild it to what it looks like today. The building was almost finished, when the final piece, the black stone (a literal smooth black rock which some thing is a meteorite), had to be placed onto one of the corners. The tribes started arguing with each other as to who would have the honor of placing the black stone onto the Ka’ba. They decided that they will have whoever turns up right then will arbitrate for them on this matter. At that moment, it was Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was coming home from a trading trip to circumambulate the Ka’ba as was his custom.
The tribes were happy to have Muhammad (a young man in his 20s at the time) to help them with this issue because they knew he would judge fairly and was known as Al-Ameen (the Truthful or Trustworthy). The Prophet Muhammad (who wasn’t charged with his mission at this point) showed his wisdom by coming up with a wonderful neat solution. The black stone was to be placed on a cloth. A member of each tribe would together hold a part of the edge of the cloth to lift it up, and the Muhammad himself placed the stone into its place.
During the early years of the Prophet’s mission in Makkah one of his neighbours was a Jew who would through pig entrails and offal at the messenger or on his path. The Jew would do this everyday.
One day, the Prophet noticed that there was no pig offal thrown at him or on his path and became concerned for the Jew. So the Prophet went to visit the Jew who turns out was sick in bed.
The Jew was so moved by the Prophet’s concern for him despite his bad treatment of the Prophet that he took the shahada and converted.
The conquering of Makkah
After the Quraysh (ruling tribe in Makkah) broke the treaty of Hudaibiyyah, the Prophet gathered an army of Muslims to conquer Makkah. He announced that anyone who stayed home or was around the Ka’bah would be unharmed. The people of Makkah were so frightened and surrendered, and so Makkah was taken bloodlessly.
Once the city was in his control and the Qurayshi elders and leaders who went against him the past stood in front of him, they asked him what he would do with them. And the Prophet simply forgave them and left them in peace. If they accepted Islam, great, otherwise they were allowed to be in a safe place in peace.
Virtually everyone after that day converted to Islam. Massive queues were lined up to see the Prophet, everyone giving the shahada in front of the Prophet.
The opening of Makkah and the throngs of people flocking to join Islam was foretold in the 110th chapter of the Quran “The Divine Support” (Yusuf Ali translation):
“1. When comes the Help of Allah, and Victory,
2. And thou dost see the people enter Allah’s Religion in crowds,
3. Celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: For He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy).”
Again here’s the link to hear these verses being recited: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKiogzlhoY4
The Prophet’s life revolved around reciting the Quran, and the Quran revolved around the Prophet’s life, a revelation coming down as necessary in response to situations and give guidance.
If you are reading this and think this is all made up, well I’d like you to at least imagine the point of view of a believer in the Prophet. Imagine that you are a follower and companion of the Prophet and you see that when there are problems that the muslims have to face, a revelation is revealed that gives guidance, gives reassurances and gives admonition as necessary and looked directly applicable to the current situation. For anyone looking at the situation and seeing how the Prophet navigated the various problems and obstacles in his and his companions’ lives it would really look like he was guided along a certain path all his life, and being guided directly by God.
Now we come to the Quran itself. As I said before that the Quran wouldn’t really have any merit if it came from a different person who was flawed and lied and wasn’t sharp of mind. Of course the Prophet had high intelligence, was honest and had an exemplary character. Having said all that, Quran stands on its own words as well. Though it’s very clear that the ones that really benefit from the book are believers.
From the 2nd sura (chapter) “The Cow” (Yusuf Ali translation):
“2. This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah.
3. Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them;
4. And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter.”
It is clear (at least from my reading of the verses) that to those who believe and fear (the arabic word has both the meanings of faith and fear combined) their Lord, the Quran will provide sure guidance and be without doubt. The next two verses describe these believers as believing in the unseen, being charitable and generous, praying, believing in revelation and the Last Day and the afterlife. These are the characteristics of a believer who would benefit most from the Quran.
It is interesting from my reading, that the first characteristic mentioned is belief in the Unseen. In a sense we are being asked to open our minds and take a leap of faith as it were and accept that there are things that we don’t see but exist, and more subtly things that we can’t normally interact with but still exist.
Next this belief in the Unseen motivates us to worship God, who remains unseen to us. Our devotion to God then spills out as devotion to his Creation, hence charity being the symbol of service to creation. Again there is a link back to the unseen by the phrase “We have provided for them”. The believer is able to be charitable and generous because he knows the wealth he has, little or a lot, was provided by God (through worldly means such as a salaried job) and that not only is the wealth not his to hoard, but that the Provider has a bountiful supply, therefore even if he gives it away in service and charity, he knows that the Unseen God will provide for his provision.
The 3rd verse continues this logical pattern of the list of characteristics of a believer: he believes in the Revelations (both the Quran and the earlier revealed scriptures sent to the Jews and others), then the believer will take heed of the warnings of the Last Day and punishment of Hell and reward of Paradise in the Revelation, thereby having certainty of its coming.
I just want to emphasise this is what I have taken from these verses and there’s even more for me to reflect on. It would be good to read the interpretations (tafsir) written by actual muslim scholars who knew arabic to a high level. A good one is the tafsir of Ibn Kathir. Another great site is altafsir.com which archives many or all the interpretations from various schools of interpretation.
Finally, I want to say that I don’t really use theistic arguments to bolster my personal belief in God, but they’re nice to know as it shows greater alignment with the universe that I experience and my beliefs. However I do personally take more reassurance when I study biochemistry. If you study biochemistry, you’ll just be overwhelmed by the actual details and principles at work in living organisms. The inherent harmony, functional designs and exponential complexity of a cell in a living organism’s body really speak to me of an All-powerful, purposeful and merciful Designer and Creator. Everything has its place and function. Random replicators wouldn’t have even fit sufficiently well with their environment to last long enough to divide and multiply and diversify. Parts fitting together and fitting with their environment is inherently a non-random thing. Random events could not of themselves work together to produce well-run efficient machines. This is why I can’t conscientiously use evolution and natural selection as an explanation for why living things are the way they are.
This is why I don’t subscribe to the “we were cavemen” belief and how the modern world is a bad fit for us humans because biologically we are still like cavemen who prefer to eat meat and are starved for the majority of the day everyday (not like our modern habits of over-eating carbs and eating more than 3 meals a day). In a sense the constellation of evidences are being connected the wrong way to give a different picture. Everything in the evolutionary world view is filtered through the lens of survival and sex (as sex leads to offspring so anything that affects sex affects survival and therefore is naturally selected for). This is why you find that according to evolutionists the vaginal canals of ducks and the penile appendages have been in a sort of arms-race: the vaginal canal becoming long and maze like (to prevent the male raping ducks from impregnating them) and the male duck’s have been evolving longer and longer penile appendages to navigate those mazes (in order to impregnate the female ducks that they “rape”). The evolutionist concocts a narrative to make the actual facts make sense in their limited (or in this case rather elaborate) imaginations. The facts are that the vaginal canals are maze like and the penile appendages are very long. The assumptions are that the females are getting raped and that the females want to avoid getting raped and becoming pregnant as a result, and of course the males have to respond by evolving ever-longer dicks. And all the while the evolutionist keep disclaiming that this is an unintelligent process that happens over many many generations, and yet it appears that the process is biased in a certain direction, usually in whatever direction leads to more babies. And this here is the big contradiction in this “just so” story, why would females that are harder to impregnate be naturally selected for when that potentially reduces the number of her offspring? One could say, that getting pregnant at any time is too demanding on the female’s body so to reduce her chance of pregnancy (since evolution is always a pay off between fitness and number of offspring possible), the female duck won’t get pregnant multiple times in a row or something like that.
And you don’t need to take my word for this “just so” story of the “arms race” of duck genitals.
One might ask, if the genitals didn’t evolve like that or have that purpose then why else do they look like that. And I don’t know, but I know that there is a purpose to everything being created. According to the new scientist article that I linked these long twisting genitals are present in species where forced copulation is present and in the species where there is no forced copulation. So if “rape” isn’t really an assumption and really from the animals perspective it means they might not have a “mating season” but rather that a female can be pounced on at any time, it would make sense that God would create a maze like vaginal canal to reduce the chance of pregnancy to reduce strain on the female. In this way there is a balance between the female’s health, the lust of the males, and the overall duck population.
One might also ask, then why did God create lusty male ducks in one species but not in another species? (As a side note, this also goes unexplained in the evolutionist’s narrative – why ARE these particular male ducks lusty and not that of other species?). Fundamentally, everything that we see (the universe of created things) themselves are advertising the fact of their own creation. One could look at the Universe as another book in conjunction with the Quran. What do the pages of the Universe tell us? They tell us: “Look at our glorious Creator! See how here he produced ducks that did not rape and how he made their genitals accordingly and in balance. And look here at these ducks that he made with the impulse of raping, but how in his mercy he also fashioned the genitals appropriately to maintain balance between health and population. See, the Creator is indeed Most merciful, most beneficient, all-powerful, all-knowing!”.
As a final note, these days my faith is bolstered by the Quran and by the stories of sufi saints and wanting to better myself by emulating more Godly men then I.
I hope you have a better understanding of what drives my beliefs and of course I will be writing more articles detailing aspects of my beliefs and why I believe them. If you would like, please leave a comment letting me know what drives your beliefs and if you want, even write an article about that and leave a link here so I can read your article. 🙂