Should I be a Muslim? Some answers for doubtful people

Below is a question I received on tumblr, I decided to answer it in the article below.

Can you tell me how you know islam is true? I’m considering converting. But I don’t know if I should

To begin, there are two main ideas about how the universe works. The atheist idea is that the universe is a closed system, like a closed cardboard box. Inside it everything happens and nothing that happens inside is caused by anything outside of it. This theory has very important consequences. For example it nullifies the ideas of free will, responsibility, and the existence of a soul. If everything inside the box is caused by particle interactions inside the box, then everything that a human does, or everything that a human thinks, is simply caused by particle interactions, atoms and photons colliding and interacting with each other. When you decide to be kind to someone, it is not because of a choice you made, but because the universe at that moment (your memories, your way of thinking, the environment you are in) lead you to do that act.

The second theory is that the universe is an open system, that the human soul resides outside of it, which means that even though a person is affected by their environment, the part of them that lies outside the universe can act independently for itself, meaning that the person has free will. If we assume this second theory is true, then we immediately need an explanation for why the universe is this way, how it is arranged and for what purpose.

The two theories (whether the universe is closed or open) are rival theories. Atheists believe in the first one, religious people believe in the second one. But the truth is that there is no scientific way (so far) to prove whether the universe is open or closed, therefore almost all arguments between atheists and religious people are futile, since neither side has a conclusive proof. It is also probable that there will never be a conclusive proof (until the world ends).

Assuming that it is impossible to scientifically prove whether the universe is closed or open, we look to other sources of knowledge regarding this matter, and the only source of knowledge available to us regarding the nature of the universe is scripture, which explains the nature of the universe, how it was made and for what purpose.

Atheists have no evidence that the universe is closed, but the religious have evidence (scripture) that the universe is open. Therefore the matter stands on whether we take this evidence seriously or reject it. Atheists reject scripture, even though they have no conclusive scientific proof that their rejection of scripture is justified. And the religious accept scripture, even though they have no conclusive scientific proof that their acceptance of scripture is justified.

Science and reasoning cannot help us to decide the matter (since everything depends on whether the universe is open or closed, which cannot be proven by science/reasoning). Therefore, when it concerns the individual, the matter fully depends on the act of acceptance or rejection of scripture.

I have made the conscious decision of accepting scripture, as it explains the reason for the existence of the world, and things like why good people suffer and bad people enjoy life (scripture says this life is a test and the true life is after death, therefore a person’s suffering in this world does not prove anything about God’s kindness or cruelty. A person can suffer for many years, but if they are rewarded with an infinitely long and pleasurable afterlife, we can say that God is very kind).

As for telling whether Islam is the best religion, it is for yourself to decide. I have read the Quran and parts of the Bible and I have read books on Christianity and Judaism. When you look at the most pious Muslims and Christians, you will see that they are extremely similar in their way of thought and behavior. For example the Lord of the Rings, which was written by a Christian writer and is full of Christian ideas of good and evil, could have been written by a Muslim.

Christianity is encumbered by the idea of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. Islam simplifies the matter by saying that Jesus was a human being like any other, he belonged to a long line of prophets sent by God to inform and educate people. Therefore according to Islam Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad all were sent by the same God to give people the same message (that there is one God and that there is a day of Judgment). Each message was specifically written for its recipients, thus according to Islam Jesus was a Jewish prophet sent to the Jews to correct their religion and remove the various corruptions that the rabbis had added to the Torah (such as legalizing usury).

Christianity too was eventually corrupted, and when the time was right God sent his final message, the Quran, which is the simplest and the most global. The Old and New Testaments are mostly concerned with the Jews, which makes sense since they were meant for the Jews.

The books of the Testaments were written and re-written by humans, thus for example we have various gospels covering the same topics, each written by a different person. This made it easy to introduce errors and corruptions into the text, accidentally or otherwise.

The Quran, however, is very different. It is meant to be the direct word of God communicated to the prophet, and the way it is written, and the language in which it is written, make it very hard to change or corrupt it. It is easy to memorize (since it is musical or poetry-like), and during the prophet’s lifetime many people memorized the entire text, and since then it has been passed down orally until the present day. After the prophet’s death the written Quran was collected and many ancient collections exist and can be read to verify the correctness of the oral tradition.

If we assume there is a God and that he acts logically and sensibly, then the Quran is a very good successor to the Bible, written in a manner that makes it nearly impossible to change. God did not make the other scriptures like this perhaps as a test, to see what humans did with God’s words, and perhaps also because God was constantly sending new prophets to correct and guide people. However, during the 7th century, it appears that God decided that the world had reached a sufficient level of development to only need one final prophet and one final text.

The Quran contains some tantalizing scientific statements that add strengths to its authenticity. For example it makes a reference to the Big Bang (“Do not those who deny the truth see that the heavens and the earth were joined together and that We then split them asunder?” 21:30), and to the stages of the growth of the human embryo (which were not known at that time). However, the Quran is not meant to fully stand on its scientific statements, otherwise God could have provided more. If the Quran contained so much science to make it impossible not to believe in it, then that would be like God showing himself to humanity. In such a situation there would be no more point in having faith; it would be like forcing faith upon humanity, which God does not want to do.

Thus the Quran provides a great amount of evidence for its truth and authenticity, but there is always a little room for doubt. We can never be perfectly sure that scripture is true, we always have to take some of it on faith. Only after death we can find out whether the scripture we believed in is true or false.

I prefer to believe in the Quran rather than the Bible since the Quran is clearly superior. The Old Testament contains many ridiculous things, such as Jacob wrestling with God, which seems to be taken right out of pagan mythology, and the idea of the Christian Trinity is too cumbersome and unnecessary. There is no good reason for God having a son, and this too seems too similar to pagan mythology.

The Quran provides elegant and logical solutions to the problems of the Bible. There is one God, who sent various prophets to guide various sections of humanity, ending with Muhammad as the last prophet and the first global one, meant to teach all of humanity. God does not show himself to us, and he has made it impossible to prove his existence, so that humans can have the choices of believing and disbelieving in him. The reason why God saw it necessary to create humans and this universe is not very clear to us, but if he is a God then he can do what he pleases, and he doesn’t have to explain himself to us. Therefore even though we do not know the perfect explanations for God’s actions, if we believe that the Quran is true, then the only logical thing to do is to follow it to gain a good afterlife. God says in the Quran that his plan for mankind is that they should spread on earth while acting according to God’s commands, and this is basically every Muslim’s program in life: to build a good family and make the world a better place through doing good and avoiding evil (which is very similar to the program also followed by many faithful Christians and Jews).

4 thoughts on “Should I be a Muslim? Some answers for doubtful people

  1. Rahell Omer

    “Science and reasoning cannot help us to decide the matter (since everything depends on whether the universe is open or closed, which cannot be proven by science/reasoning). Therefore, when it concerns the individual, the matter fully depends on the act of acceptance or rejection of scripture.”

    Kak Ikram this seems a bit like Muhammad Iqbal’s approach. To me, it seems like this line of investigation nullifies the concept of (إن في خلق السمٰوات و الأرض و إختلاف الليل و النهار لأيات لأولي الألباب……) especially when the ayah says (و يتفكرون في خلق السمٰوات و الأرض…) I.e. the concept of finding God through his creations? I am not an advocate of Intelligent Design, but what about the “fine tunings” of the universe that are scientifically proven and maybe we can derive theological implications from it? If that’s the case, then science/reason does help us find God. What do you say?

    I am not sure about any of these, I am totally messed up myself, I think it might be a two-way road. First being finding God and reasoning down the chain of angels, messages until you get to the messenger. Or as you proposed, from the message chaining up to God. I don’t know.

    Thanks

    Reply
  2. Ikram Hawramani Post author

    Dear Rahell,

    An interesting clue that I mentioned to Rawa is:
    لَخَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَكْبَرُ مِنْ خَلْقِ النَّاسِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

    If the Big Bang expansion rate had been slower by a millionth of a percent, the universe would have collapsed, and if it had been faster, the universe would have spread too fast for galaxies to form.

    We can think of the universe as God’s “mould”. A truly great and powerful designer wouldn’t need to even touch the things he wants to create. He can create a mould that leads to the evolution of life.

    Imagine if God caused the Big Bang in one second, and within two more seconds life evolved on earth. If you speed up the way you imagine the process, you can see that you can credit God with all His creations by the virtue of His designing a system that enabled life. He had to get the conditions absolutely perfect for life to evolve. Life wasn’t a coincidence, it was His plan all along. But when we think in terms of billions of years, it becomes hard for us to imagine how we can credit God with His creations.

    Imagine you are a creator. You have a clot of matter, the pre-Big Bang clot. You want to create life inside this clot. So what you do is you touch the clot from the outside (by expanding it) in just the right way to lead to a planet that could evolve and support life. You need a mould to create a coin (by pouring molten metal onto it), the same way, if you get the universe right, it acts as a mould to create life.

    In this way we can have intelligent design with God only requiring to do a single thing: To get the Big Bang right. If the Big Bang is carried out properly, it will create the proper rules of physics and the proper types of matter that could support life.

    The chances of our universe happening by chance are so small that most physicists want to find out more about why it happened, and in this case religion offers something of an explanation. All of God’s creations are clues toward His greatness, since they are so beautiful and so impossible to create by chance.

    Atheists make the decision of ignoring these small chances by saying that perhaps there are infinite numbers of universes and ours is just the right one for life to exist in, even though they have no proof of this.

    Those who are not arrogant and who see God’s creations are motivated to find a better explanation than unprovable infinite universes, and in this case scripture offers help.

    Therefore everything in this universe is a clue toward God’s existence, but ultimately, the matter depends on whether we accept scripture’s explanation or come up with our own to bypass the idea of God. As the Quran says:

    ذَلِكُمْ بِأَنَّهُ إِذَا دُعِيَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ كَفَرْتُمْ وَإِنْ يُشْرَكْ بِهِ تُؤْمِنُوا فَالْحُكْمُ لِلَّهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْكَبِيرِ

    Atheists want to believe in anything besides God. They discount the evidence of scripture but raise the status of equally unprovable theories in their minds to avoid having to believe in God.

    Therefore while we can come to know God through His creations, His signs do not benefit the arrogant. There are various conditions necessary for benefiting from God’s signs, as He often mentions at the end of many Quranic verses:
    إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآَيَاتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ
    إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَذِكْرَى لِمَنْ كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ
    إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَعِبْرَةً لِمَنْ يَخْشَى
    إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكُمْ لَآَيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
    إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآَيَةً لِمَنْ خَافَ عَذَابَ الْآَخِرَةِ

    God made sure that His signs are not so powerful as to overcome our ability to disbelieve in them, because if His signs overcame us, it would be like forcing us to believe, it would be like Him showing Himself to us, which would remove the necessity of faith and would bring the end of the world. To preserve our free will, there has to be room for doubt.

    Atheists start from a place of arrogance (rather than a place of humility which is necessary to appreciate God’s creations), for this reason the following verse applies to them [7:146]:

    سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آَيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَإِنْ يَرَوْا كُلَّ آَيَةٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الرُّشْدِ لَا يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الْغَيِّ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُوا بِآَيَاتِنَا وَكَانُوا عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ

    I know it sounds like a chicken-and-egg problem whether you first need to see the signs of God to believe in Him or you first need to believe in God to see His signs, but in reality, in life we get a million chances to believe in God and a million chance to disbelieve in Him. It is a constant process of learning and changing. Arrogant people constantly reject the promptings of their hearts/consciences that perhaps God really exists, while the humble ones are uncertain at first, but see signs, then read scripture, then see more signs, and slowly God’s greatness and presence becomes undeniable to them, so that even a partially corrupt scripture like the Bible is enough to make them love God and believe in Him, even if they reject most of the rest of the book.

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