Thank you very much, dear readers, for your valuable comments. I attempt, hereby, to respond to you in the hope that you may find answers to your questions. As I had pointed out right at the outset, this topic is not easy to broach. No wonder, then, all manner of comments and questions have come up.
We are all on an equal footing here and none knows whether we will succeed or not. That decision is with Allah. But what we are commanded to do is to try our best to succeed in the way that the Qur’an teaches us. One reader commented that he/she has hope that a good life awaits him/her. That is the spirit! We keep hoping for the best and never despair. That hope, however, should not be a baseless optimism but one that is counterbalanced by deep concern about making the right choices. It is not a simple matter, but a commitment for life when we see and accept the Truth. I once heard a deplorably naïve claim that, you simply say you believe in Allah and voila! You have ensured admission to everlasting bliss! There is stern admonition dismissing such wishful thinking (2:8,9) and this becomes even more evident from the warnings directed to the believers in verses such as the following:
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested.” (29:2)
None of us, then, can afford to be complacent whether we are believers or not. Simply having a Muslim name or even a Muslim identity will not qualify us for Paradise, or more importantly, for gaining the Pleasure of Allah. The Qur’an gives clear guidance on how to attain these.
On that note, let me try to address some of the issues in your comments to the best of my ability. One reader asks how to reconcile the fact that women are denied education while Islam comprises lofty ideas. It is a natural confusion, for I, too, am struck by the amount of intoxicants, murders and other crimes pervading countries that claim to uphold values of the main world religions. You would agree that, to come to the conclusion that the religion is responsible for the wrongdoing would not be, at all, sound or fair. The abuse of religion for ulterior motives by people who claim to follow it, is not rare. As no religion promotes immorality or any form of oppression, we should take care to appraise religions without prejudice. What is more, it is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, to seek knowledge. The Qur’an emphasizes this to a great degree; suffice it to say that its first revealed word was the command, “Read,” which is the basis of acquiring knowledge. If the reader concerned is interested, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org for a brief but comprehensive explanation of the topic.
To the reader who asked for names of skeptics who admit to the presence of an immense intelligence behind the wonders of creation, may I humbly request you to please read the source I have cited especially pages 4 to 7 where Edward Milne, Edmund Whittaker, George Smoot, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Anthony Flew are mentioned in this regard. As I had pointed out earlier, and as all of us are bound to know, vast amounts of literature on these sciences are available for anyone who wants to study further. I trust you would engage in additional reference at your discretion. Allow me to add here that it is mainly the observation of the complexity of the universe and human DNA that substantiate the presence of a Creator and this is what the Qur’an states, too: “We will show them Our Signs in the Universe, and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this (the Qur’an) is the truth” (41:53.) The assertions of Prof. Keith L. Moore, professor emeritus in the division of anatomy at the University of Toronto, confirming the Qur’an as the revealed word of God based on its accuracy regarding the developmental stages of the human embryo, may also provide insight to readers who would like to explore further.
Several readers sent comments related to knowledge and intellect. The knowledge that the Qur’an imparts is for anyone who wants to take it, whether they are believers or not. The doors of Mercy are open to all equally, regardless of your race, language, gender, etc. We do not have to give up on it, assuming it is beyond us. Rather, trying to understand it to the best of one’s ability and actually wanting to benefit by its guidance is what will be more meaningful. In the Qur’an Allah speaks not only to our mind but also to our heart. So, there is ample opportunity for us to respond at an emotional level to the call of Allah. For example, developing a sense of gratitude whenever Allah mentions His Bounty with which He has blessed us, is something all of us can achieve. As to the intellectual aspect of approaching the Qur’an, there are numerous resources which we can tap in order to find out more; advances in IT have made such help easily accessible to most of us. There is every reason, then, for us to make an effort to learn the Qur’anic message for our own lasting well-being. One remarkable lecture that comes to mind is, a series in three parts, about “The Purpose of Life” by Khalid Yasin, in which he explains, among others, two profound verses of the Qur’an (3:190, 191), that bring out the link between our powers of Reason and our potential for Faith. This is available on YouTube and in book form, too.
A familiar and logically flawed question is raised by another reader: “Who created the Creator?” The answer to this is in the self-explanatory word “Creator,” meaning He is not created. If you need further clarification on this please visit abuaminaelias.com from where I quote Ibn Taymiyya, a reputed 13th century scholar, “It is not possible for the Creator of the creation to have a creator. If He had a creator, He would not be the Creator of everything. “ Sadly, it is when we presume that we (have to) know everything that such doubts appear in our minds, whereas the knowledge that we are afforded is miniscule compared to the infinite wisdom of our Creator. Albert Einstein called the genius behind the universe “an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it all systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection” (Ideas and Opinions – The World As I See It.) The verse known as “The Throne” clarifies that human knowledge is limited: “…they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills” (2: 255.)
I gather that there is an assumption that chaos existed before God but the Qur’an teaches that Allah precedes everything (57:3) and is the originator of all creation. Not even the primordial dust cloud came into being by itself. For more on this and other related questions may I recommend a lucid discussion by Dr. Laurence Brown in The Big Questions.
I do not write on this topic in the capacity of a scientist, a logician, a philosopher, or even a religious scholar, for I am none of these. I write as a humble mortal to my fellow mortals in a spirit of complete goodwill and friendship. We are all in a perilous journey together and as such it is imperative that you extend the lifeline to your fellow passengers as well. We can argue for and against Truth, but even while we are thus engaged, we will cease to be. This is not a matter of winning or losing a debate. The crucial question is whether we want to adopt a stance of denial and defiance in order to live a carefree life in this fleeting world, compromising our success in the permanent hereafter. Or whether we want to endure this life in obedience and thankfulness to the One who gave us life and achieve ever-lasting success. Life is not unlike the famous Marshmallow Test, which establishes that those able to delay their gratification by resisting their impulsive urge for immediate fulfilment, end up with a greater reward. It is also good to remember that whether we accept or reject the Truth, we are incapable of benefitting or harming our Creator in the least. It is the success or our own soul that is at stake: “Whoever strives, strives for his own benefit. Surely Allah is independent of all the worlds.” (29:6)
You may have noticed that, wherever possible, I have mentioned material for further reading. I sincerely wish that these, and even better sources of your own finding, would serve you in your present and future quest. Another way to seek guidance is to listen to the stories of those who embraced faith. They motivate us to find the Truth as well. One such narrative I came across was remarkable in that the person relates how, looking up into the seamless skies made him realize that there is more to life than what is apparent to us, and after extensive study of different philosophies he finally accepted the truth of the Qur’an, which specifically enjoins us to gaze up into the heavens for self-realization. (67: 3,4)
May Allah bless us all with His guidance.