Tag Archives: The Quran

What to do if the Quran (in English) does not touch your heart

I have an issue I feel bad about. Whenever I read the Qur’an i can’t connect to it. At worst I haven’t even had a clear feeling it’s from God. Idk why. Maybe because I don’t know Arabic. But whenever I watch a religious video explaining the religion i feel very connected.

You could try different translations of the Quran, some of them have a very technical style that is hard to connect to. Many people like The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics) which is not available for free online. You can also try Irving’s translation, which is free.

And if that doesn’t work, but you continue to enjoy lectures, then that is fine too. Once you have understood the religion and follow it, you are free to worship God and seek spirituality in the way that works best for you.

My favorite way to feel spiritual other than listening to the Quran is to read my collection of Ibn al-Jawzi’s sayings, which I have published as a book and which you can read here for free.

Quran-Focused Islam: A Rationalist, Always-Modern and Orthodox Alternative to Salafism

I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I came back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam. — Muhammad Abduh

At the end of the 19th century, Egypt came into increased contact with Western ideas. Travel to and from Europe became commonplace. Many intellectuals learned French and spent time in Paris. Egyptians started to feel that their conservative Islamic culture was increasingly outdated, irrelevant and inferior compared to the supposedly irreligious West.

The above saying of Muhammad Abduh elegantly expresses this realization; that despite the fact that Islam was supposed to be God’s latest and greatest religion, an irreligious civilization had built institutions, legal structures and prosperous societies that put Muslims to shame.

Cairo’s al-Azhar University was the world’s foremost authority on orthodox Sunni Islam at the time (and still is for most of the world). Al-Azhar’s scholars rushed to update their understanding of Islam so that its teachings wouldn’t seem inferior to the Western doctrines of socialism, communism, romanticism and humanism. Books were published with the intent of proving that, despite appearances and the obvious facts on the ground, Islam was really a socialist doctrine, and that it had great respect for logic and human rights.

Islam’s secularist detractors, thanks to the weakening of scholarly authority as a result of colonial rule, were able to speak loudly and point out Islam’s various failings. It was more than sufficient for them to point out the superiority of Western science, ideas and living conditions to show how inferior the Islam of their time was.

The Egyptian reformist jurist Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905 CE, al-Azhar professor and Grand Jurist of Egypt in 1899-1905), who had spent time in Paris and England, started a movement that resolutely worked to update Islamic thought and doctrine, and his follower Mahmud Shaltut (1893-1963, chief jurist of al-Azhar University in 1958-1963 CE) continued this work. They made many new and sometimes controversial rulings, some of which remain controversial up to this day. They were the first major establishment scholars to dare to risk controversy and become the subject of attack by going against established opinions and coming up with new interpretations of the Quran that sometimes conflicted with authentic hadith narrations.

By somewhat discrediting the Islamic establishment, they helped create a new generation of Islamic intellectuals that re-embraced Islam in a Quran-focused way, rather than a hadith-focused way, deriving their ideals and principles chiefly from the Quran rather than hadith.

This movement was similar to the Salafi movement, in that it wanted to go back to Islam’s roots to re-establish an authentic version of Islam pure from the decay and irrelevance of the Islamic establishment. The difference was that while the Salafi movement bought into the classical doctrine of considering the Quran equal or nearly equal to hadith, the Egyptian Islamic intellectuals considered the Quran a living book, something completely different from hadith.

Similar to the way that the printing of the King James Version of the Bible in 1611 CE revived Christian belief and initiated the Puritan movement that took Christianity away from the clerics and put it inside everyone’s homes, the Egyptian movement took the Quran away from the Islamic establishment and put it in every intellectual’s home, as a living guide that taught them nearly everything they needed to know about Islam. Hadith was relegated to the task of explaining matters of ritual and practice, being an example of how the Quran is applied, rather than being a competing authority to the Quran.

Sayyid Qutb

The Egyptian intellectual Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), after spending much of his life as a secular intellectual, rediscovered Islam at the end of the 1940’s. Thanks to the new intellectual atmosphere of Egypt, he placed nearly all of his focus on the Quran, acting as if the book was sent down to him personally, instead of acting as if the Quran was merely a text belonging to a large library of Islamic texts determining Islamic belief and practice, which is how a person going through a classical Islamic education usually thinks.

The fact that he was a secular intellectual was probably crucial in developing his new understanding of Islam. He was originally repulsed by the classical Islam of his time and considered it outdated and irrelevant, only to rediscover the Quran and realize that the spiritual and ethical teachings of the Quran led to a worldview, spirituality and religion that were very different from the Islam of his time.

Imagine if the Prophet, peace be upon him, was brought back to life and placed among the people to lead Islam once again. What kind of revolution would that be? What kind of inspiration and revival? Sayyid Qutb says that you must treat the Quran as if it is alive, as if it was being revealed on the mouth of the Prophet this very moment, guiding us every hour and every day.

To a secular person reading this, this may sound like insanity, to treat a 1400-year-old book as if it is up-to-date even though its text has not changed in that time. It would be insanity if the Quran wasn’t a miraculous book. But, if like Sayyid Qutb, you are a secular person with very good knowledge of Arabic (he was a literary critic) who rediscovers the Quran, ignoring all their preconceived notions about Islam, you’d know exactly why he thought as he did.

Realizing the Quran’s immense superiority over all other texts and authorities, he came to consider it what the Quran was meant to be all along; a miraculous text designed to guide humanity for all time; a living guide. This means that the Quran is as much of an authority as the Prophet, peace be upon him, would have been if he were living among us today. The Quran is not considered a dead book to be left on the shelf, to be considered along with hadith as a historical artifact, sometimes to be followed, other times to be ignored in favor of hadith-based principles. What the Quran says, it is as if God is saying it to us today, as if He sent it down to us this very moment.

The Quran as a Software Program

The easiest way to understand the difference between Sayyid Qutb’s Quran-focused and classical Islam is to use the analogy of a computer program. A computer program can choose to do entirely different things based on the environment in which it is run. The program is always the same program, but its behavior can be different depending on the environment. The issue of slavery makes this clear. When the Quran was applied during the Prophet’s time ﷺ, it led to an Islam that tolerated slavery, since the environment required this toleration. When the Quran is applied today, it leads to an Islam that does not tolerate slavery, because the environment no longer requires that Islam should tolerate slavery.

The Quran with its laws and principles has always been the same, it has not changed. But it contains programming logic that does different things at different times:

If the environment already practices slavery, then tolerate it, reform it and slowly eradicate it. If the environment does not practice slavery, then do not practice it, but act the way the best of mankind act.

The Quran does not seek to control every facet of our lives. It gives us a set of ideals, principles and basic laws, and from there gives us the freedom to live our lives according to reason, common sense and our knowledge of the world. The Quran does not lead to an Islam that is out of date or anachronistic, seeking to bring 630 CE into the modern world. It leads to an Islam that is made up of Quranic logic applied to the modern world. It stands up to all of its challenges, rejects its falsehoods and adopts the good in it.

This Quran-derived Islam can evolve and become better over time. As we humans become better connected and find better ways of social organization and interacting with outsiders, we can adopt these new practices and make them part of our Islam. The Quran teaches us to adopt the highest ideals and principles, therefore if the modern world teaches us things about the rights of humanity that all of us can recognize as good, then we can adopt these new things even if the ancients did not. The Quran does not teach us to freeze ourselves in time.

Classical Islam and Salafism make the mistake of trying to follow the Quran and its ancient application (hadith) as equal authorities, not realizing that hadith is nothing but a derivation of the Quran, a record of how the ancients applied the Quran in their specific time and place, a record of the behavior of the Quranic program in the ancient world.

Classical Islam and Salafism will always suffer conflict as they try to apply the Quran and hadith equally, because they are misusing both the Quran and hadith when they do this, not recognizing the status and role of either. It is like having a computer program that acts a certain way today, but that acted a different way in 630 CE, and trying to adopt its 630 CE behavior instead of its modern behavior. It is rejecting the Quranic program’s modern authority, treating it as a dead guide, acting as if following the unreliable record of its behavior in 630 CE is preferable to following its reliable, ever-living, ever-authoritative principles and ideals today.

By mistaking hadith for a program by itself (rather than considering it a record of the way the Quranic program functioned), an unreliable and enormous tome of text becomes an equal authority to the Quran and refuses to allow the Quran to have the freedom to respond to the modern world. It mistakenly tries to adopt the program’s ancient behavior, instead of trying to adopt the program.

Classical Islam neglects the program (the Quran) in favor of adopting its unreliably recorded set of behaviors (hadith). In this way it refuses to admit that the Quran could do anything different today than what it did in 630 CE, acting as if God’s miraculous text, God’s guide to mankind for eternity, is a dead book that can teach us nothing new today. We are made to ignore God’s miraculous program in favor of a record of the way it was applied, a record that was written down somewhere between 100 and 200 years after the fact. The software analogy and an appreciation for the Quran’s immense superiority over hadith shows that this is almost insanity and is bound to lead to a corruption of Islam’s mission; instead of being a highly dynamic, always-relevant, always-responding program that deals with the matters of the age, it becomes an outdated program that thinks its highest achievement can only be an accurate reenactment of 630 CE.

This way of thinking led Muslims to forget their duty of living in constant renewal as necessitated by the Quran, becoming a backward religion that focused on appearances and rituals, leading to a worldwide Muslim community that had the rug swept from under them by the modern world. Instead of being leaders of modernity, they had divided societies where the religious leadership continued to advocate for a remake of 630 CE while the general population watched on with horror as their supposedly world-class religion was proven inferior time and again by the West’s prosperity, justice, empathy and peacefulness.

The analogy to a computer program is, of course, not exactly accurate. Hadith is a necessary part of applying the Quran in the modern world. The proper response is not to abandon hadith, but to realize that it is the Quran that we must follow as our ever-living guide, as our program in life, and to use hadith as a helper where needed, a helper toward following the Quran.

Once we think of hadith as a helper toward applying the Quran, everything falls into its proper perspective. Hadith no longer dominates Islamic thinking, and the Quran is no longer neglected and its mission abandoned. The Quran once more becomes the center of Islam, its priorities becoming the priorities of Islam, and its philosophy is used to judge both the modern world and hadith.

A Religion for Everyone, Not Just Scholars

Since the Quran is a very clear and simple book, Sayyid Qutb’s Islam takes the power of interpretation from the clerics and gives it to every Muslim capable of reading and understanding the Quran. Sayyid Qutb’s Muslims are not followers of the clerical establishment (although they respect it and use it where necessary), rather, like the Prophet’s Companions, they are followers of the Quran, and this gives them the power, the courage, and some would call it the audacity, to question everything within Islam, using the Quran to renew Islam daily, removing all practices and beliefs that went unchallenged a hundred years ago, but that today we have good reason to challenge as we follow the Quran.

Islam becomes a merger of the Quran and the cutting-edge of modern thought (rationalism and empiricism), instead of being a behemoth of tens of thousands of pages like classical Islam that only a scholar can properly understand.

Hadith is not a competitor to the Quran, or an equal authority to it. Hadith merely tells us about the Prophet’s efforts in following the Quran’s guidance. Islamic belief and practice is entirely about following the Quran, hadith is there to help us toward this goal, it is not there to give us new goals, to add things to Islam, to create a companion religion to the religion of the Quran that also has to be followed, which is sadly how Islam is practiced today.

What I am describing is not Quranism, the belief that only the Quran should be followed. We are still within orthodox Sunni Islam, we are merely rediscovering the Quran’s status and role.

Sayyid Qutb is today a controversial figure due to his political activism; his teachings have been used as inspiration by a number of famous terrorist organizations. Sayyid Qutb’s new, Quran-centric thinking naturally made him one of the most dangerous men in Egypt, because he had a version of Islam with him that was always up-to-date. Unlike the Islam of the scholars, it wasn’t concerned with technical matters of jurisprudence, or reciting the virtues of performing the minor pilgrimage and fasting on particular days of the month. His version of Islam was like the Prophet’s, was concerned with fighting injustice and tyranny, freeing the people from slavery and oppression, and reconnecting them with God as their always-present guide. He naturally made many enemies due to discrediting the authority of the ruling class on the one hand, and the authority of classical clerics and their control over Islam on the other.

Sayyid Qutb made the mistake of believing that the seeking of political power by Muslim groups is a good thing, and that said groups had the right to carry arms to defend themselves. This, as would be expected, was used (after his death) by others to justify terrorism. This matter is unrelated to the discussion (of Quran-focused Islam), therefore I will not delve into it. For a discussion of why I consider political power-seeking by Muslim groups detrimental to the interests of Islam, Muslims and humanity, please see my essay The Last Mufti of Iranian Kurdistan (And a Critique of Political Islam).

Ahmad Moftizadeh

Two major Islamic leaders who followed in Sayyid Qutb’s footsteps were the Iranian Sunnis Ahmad Moftizadeh and Nasir Subhani. It is unclear to me how much influence Sayyid Qutb had on Moftizadeh, it is possible that Moftizadeh developed his Quran-focused Islam in parallel to, rather than as a result of, Sayyid Qutb’s Islam.

Nasir Subhani was a member of Iran’s Muslim Brotherhood and Sayyid Qutb’s influence on him is well-documented.

Ahmad Moftizadeh worked against the oppressive (but Western-backed) Shah regime of Iran, and later with the leader of the Iranian Revolution (Khomeini) in good faith, trying to ensure the rights of Iran’s multi-million Sunni population. Khomeini soon betrayed his promises to the Sunnis (and to some of his own Shia cleric friends who truly believed in reform and coexistence with Sunnis, such as Ayatollah Beheshti) and started a campaign of torture and assassination against them that continues until this day. Moftizadeh spent many years in prison under torture. He died in 1993, three months after being freed, due to the irreparable damage he had sustained under the regime’s treatment.

Nasir Subhani

Similar to Moftizadeh, Nasir Subhani, who was more of a classical scholar than Ahmad Moftizadeh, also worked against the Shah’s regime, and later worked with Iran’s revolutionary government to advocate for the rights of the Sunnis. Like Moftizadeh, he fearlessly criticized the duplicity and tyranny of Iran’s new “Islamic” regime, so that he was stalked by the Iranian authorities for years while he continued his activism and teaching career in Iran and abroad, until he was caught in 1989 and executed in 1990.

It should be mentioned that neither men ever condoned violence against the regime. In fact both spoke harshly against certain violent nationalist elements of the Kurdish population. Their imprisonment and deaths were brought about without any semblance of due process, and the Iranian treatment of both men were harshly criticized internationally.

 

The Plasticity of Interpretation

The most significant result of Sayyid Qutb’s Quran-focused school is that it results in a form of Islam that is always renewing itself, day by day and year after year. Regardless of what year we are in, we always go back to the Quran, treating it as if it was revealed right at this time, as if everything it says is relevant and authoritative this moment. This means that as times change, interpretations can change (because they are updated daily as new knowledge and ideas arrive and are exposed to the Quran), and in this way Islamic thinking can change, while always staying true and authentic to the Quran.

One good example of this is the issue of evolution. Old interpretations of Islam fought evolution, and classical scholars to this day continue fighting it. But the Quran-focused version of Islam is perfectly capable of handling it, absorbing it and making it a part of Islam, because the Quran is compatible with evolution. If science says something, our living authority (the Quran) agrees with it, but hadith and the scholars disagree, Sayyid Qutb’s Quran-focused Islam enables Muslim intellectuals and scientists to bypass the classical scholarly community and make progress on their own, reconciling science and Islam. For a detailed discussion of Islam and evolution, please see my essay God, Evolution and Abiogenesis: The Topological Theory for the Origin of Life and Species.

And if one day science proves evolution false, we again go back to the Quran and ask its opinion on the new theory. We have the Quran living among us, enabling us to answer any challenge that Islam faces, now or 10,000 years from now.

Sayyid Qutb’s Islam is the Quran applied in the modern world, guided by hadith where needed. In this way a simple, highly capable, intellectually satisfying and non-contradictory Islam is achieved that is not anachronistic or irrelevant, that is not concerned with unimportant and technical matters, but that is always fully fitted to the needs of the age, that’s always highly relevant and highly activist, because it is derived from God’s living authority, as if the Prophet himself, peace be upon him, was living among us this day.

Embracing Sayyid Qutb’s Islam is like going back to the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, being with him and supporting him in his mission. It accomplishes what Salafism wishes to accomplish; to have an Islam that is alive and relevant today, having a living authority from God that guides each one of our steps, motivates us and inspires us to spend our lives in the service of God.

While classical Islam futilely continues to try to derive a modern Islam from the Quran and hadith, Sayyid Qutb’s Islam derives Islam only from the Quran, then uses hadith to provide guidance where needed. Since the Quran is a living authority, the Islam that is derived from it is always fully modern and up-to-date, and always fully compatible with science (if it wasn’t, if it contained even a single scientifically-provable error, it wouldn’t be worth believing in).

The Quran is not twisted to fit science and modern thinking, because it does not have to be. The Quran, by the virtue of being a miraculously always up-to-date book, always fits science and modern thinking, whether it is the ‘modern’ of now or the ‘modern’ of the next century we are talking about. The Quran opposes many things in the modern world, such as usury and sexual freedom. Those of us who know something about the history of the world know that when it opposes the modern world, the Quran is not backward, but ahead of its time. Usury is a highly corrupt practice that causes the super-rich to enjoy exponential wealth growth at the expense of everyone else. Sexual freedom breaks down the evolutionary mechanisms for the continuation of civilization; no matter how good it sounds, the end result is always below-replacement fertility rates and ultimately extinction; just because it takes a few centuries to cause a society to go extinct does not make it any less evil than a deadly plague.

Renewing Islam While Following the Sunnah

Quran-focused Islam gives its adherents immense freedom to modernize Islam and counter attacks against it, while also giving them the freedom to live authentically modern intellectual and personal lives. When living in the West, instead of acting like Salafis and Orthodox Jews, separating ourselves from the world, we fully embrace Western life and thinking, reject its evils, and work to improve it from the inside. We act the way the Prophet, peace be upon him, acted in Mecca. He did not separate himself from his pagan people, even though he recognized the evil they did and tried to change things for the better. He was fully-fledged member of Arabian society, living it and breathing it, and instead of being concerned with matters of technical detail, he was concerned with Islam’s spiritual message. His mission was to teach people to recognize the Oneness of God and to serve Him with everything they had.

We in the West, instead of hating the people and the society, love it and its people, recognize the good in them, forgive them their faults, and try to show that there is a better way. We do not try to destroy the West and rebuild it, any more than the Prophet, peace be upon him, tried to destroy Arabian society and rebuild it. Unlike Salafis who are generally authoritarians who think that everything must be forbidden unless expressly allowed by Islam, we leave it to the people to manage their personal and intellectual lives. If, like the Prophet, we succeed at spreading Islam through good manners and kindness like he did, then people will by themselves, democratically, choose to do what is in their best spiritual interests, similar to the way the people of the city of Al-Madinah invited the Prophet, peace be upon him, and made him their chief.

Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed God. (The Quran, verse 4:80)

A person reading this may think that this way of thinking rejects hadith or considers it unimportant. Nothing could be further from the truth. We continue to love and respect hadith and the classical scholarly tradition, all that we want to do is make one crucial reform, which is to recognize the Quran’s immensely high status compared to hadith, and the crucial differences between the role of the Quran compared to the role of hadith.

The Quran is my guide in life. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is my hero. He is the best man ever to follow the philosophy of life that I want to follow, therefore I use his example as my inspiration.

This is similar to a person who loves the rationalist and humanist teachings of Western philosophy and wants to apply them in his or her own life. To do so, they go and study the lives of the West’s greatest intellectuals, in this way finding inspiration and guidance toward applying rationalist and humanist ideas in real life. They gather a number of heroes whose thinking, sayings and ways of life are taken as a guide.

The point is not to follow those heroes due to any innate virtue the heroes contain within themselves, considering them sacred and holy. A person who loves the Western tradition follows these heroes because they embody the philosophy they want to follow. They want to follow the philosophy, and those heroes, by having applied such philosophies very well in their thinking and lives, are followed.

In Islam, the point is the Quran. This is the philosophy we follow. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is the hero that we follow for having embodied the Quran’s teachings best in his life. As Aisha, may God be pleased with her, says:

His manners were the Quran. (Mentioned in Sahih Muslim, al-Nasa’i, Ahmad, Ibn Majah)

Most of the difficulty that the scholars have with raising the status of the Quran (the way Sayyid Qutb suggests) is that it automatically lowers the status of hadith, and to them, this lowers the status of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Anyone who praises the Quran’s immense status and mentions its central place in Islamic life is considered potentially a dangerous fanatic, because they think the person is attacking the Prophet’s status. It is a sad state of affairs when even great scholars are short-sighted enough to think like this, to think there is some competition between the Quran and the Prophet, and to have an issue with a person taking the Quran as their guide in life.

The Quran, Islam’s only entirely reliable and trustworthy source, never mentions anywhere that the Prophet was anything more than human:

Muhammad is no more than a messenger. Messengers have passed on before him. If he dies or gets killed, will you turn on your heels? He who turns on his heels will not harm God in any way. And God will reward the appreciative. (The Quran, verse 3:144)

We did not send before you except men, whom We inspired, from the people of the towns. Have they not roamed the earth and seen the consequences for those before them? The Home of the Hereafter is better for those who are righteous. Do you not understand? (The Quran, 12:109)

And in fact it mentions him making several mistakes:

It is not for a prophet to take prisoners before he has become firmly established as a sovereign the land. You desire the materials of this world, but God desires the Hereafter. God is Strong and Wise. Were it not for a predetermined decree from God, an awful punishment would have afflicted you for what you have taken. (The Quran, verses 8:67-68)

May God pardon you! Why did you give them permission before it became clear to you who are the truthful ones, and who are the liars? (The Quran, verse 9:43)

O prophet! Why do you prohibit what God has permitted for you, seeking to please your wives? God is Forgiving and Merciful. (The Quran, verse 66:1)

1. He frowned and turned away. 2. When the blind man approached him. 3. But how do you know? Perhaps he was seeking to purify himself. 4. Or be reminded, and the message would benefit him. 5. But as for him who was indifferent. 6. You gave him your attention. 7. Though you are not liable if he does not purify himself. 8. But as for him who came to you seeking. 9. In awe. 10. To him you were inattentive. (The Quran, verses 80:1-10)

We can argue about the status of the Prophet, was he nothing but a messenger like the Quran says, or was he somehow intrinsically divine like the Christians think Jesus was? Was his task to give humanity the Quran, or to also give them a 9-volume second Quran (Sahih al-Bukhari) that competes with the Quran as a second authority?

A fair-minded reading of the Quran that has not been biased by classical Islamic doctrine will see that the Quran considers itself the center of Islam, and the center of the Prophet’s mission. It wasn’t the Prophet’s job to create a religion that is 50% based on an entirely reliable and miraculous text, and 50% based on a different, and ten times bigger, text that is full of unreliability and contradiction, and that often opposes central tenets of Quranic philosophy, and that due to its massive size overshadows the Quran.

The classical, outdated view of considering the Quran and hadith equals or de facto equals leads to the creation of a monstrosity that is very difficult to follow in good faith without one’s intelligence and sense of justice being insulted. The Quran says God is just and does not punish needlessly. Authentic hadith mentions someone being sent to the Hellfire because they did not clean themselves properly after urinating. The Quran says the Prophet is unable to hear the dead. Hadith mentions him listening to people in their graves. The Quran says when a person dies, they wake up on the Day of Judgment feeling as if only a few hours or days have passed. Hadith mentions them going through eons in their graves, being conscious, before being resurrected. The Quran says God guides humanity toward what is good, yet according to hadith He supposedly will give miraculous powers (such as the ability to bring back the dead) to some anti-Christ so that he can misguide people and take them to the Hellfire. The Quran does not contain a single mention of Jesus coming back to life and establishing some Paradise on Earth, instead strongly suggesting that he is already dead, while hadith is full of narrations regarding these matters, apparently taken directly from Christian mythology.

While there is usually not sufficient evidence to clearly rule out the above claims of hadith, Quran-focused Islam turns them into non-issues:

  1. Since they are not in the Quran,
  2. and since hadith is not 100% reliable (even if it is 99% reliable. Imam al-Bukhari, may God have mercy on him, says that the chain of narrators Malik-from-Nafi`-from-Ibn-Umar is the “most reliable” chain that exists, which naturally means all other chains are less reliable)
  3. therefore they are not important parts of Islam, or they may not even be parts of Islam,
  4. and therefore they can be safely ignored,
  5. and therefore they cannot be used as a basis for any argument or for establishing any principle or law.

A fair-minded person then will read the following authentic narration from the Prophet:

There will be after me narrators of hadith. Expose their narrations to the Quran; any of them that agree with the Quran, then follow those, and those that do not agree with it, then do not follow them.

And they will realize that even hadith calls for considering the Quran a judge and authority over hadith.

Then they will learn that Umar and other Companions disliked that hadith narrations should spread, because they feared that this would reduce the Quran’s importance in people’s minds (and they were sadly right). Then they will find out that Ibrahim al-Nakh`i (A Tabi` who met Aisha, may God be pleased with her) and Abu Hanifah both considered Abu Hurairah, a major “authentic” narrator of hadith, unreliable, because they considered him a human capable of human errors and of overextending himself, rather than considering his status holy and sacrosanct like those after them considered him.

The point is not to abandon the Sunnah. The point is to acknowledge the Quran’s central place in our daily lives, to acknowledge its authority over all other authorities, and to give preference to its principles and philosophy over hadith narrations.

One important fruit of Quran-focused Islam is that it has the power to revolutionize the science of hadith. As Muhammad al-Ghazali, may God have mercy on him, and his students argue, the Quran can be used to judge the content of hadith, something that has not been done formally in the classical science of hadith. Since Islam is always updating itself due to the merger of the Quran and modern thought, if through this process we conclude that something is true (such as evolution), then we can use this new finding to go back to all existing hadith narrations and reevaluate them. Those of them which clearly contradict evolution can be lowered to the status of “unauthentic”, which will affect our opinion of the narration’s chain of narrators, and this effect will go on to affect our opinion of all other narrations that have a similar chain of narrators.

When a hadith says something questionable, it is even possible that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said something from his own opinion that is incorrect or that he has corrected in another saying. The following is recorded in Sahih Muslim and other collections:

Anas reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) happened to pass by the people who had been busy in grafting the trees. Thereupon he said: “If you were not to do it, it might be good for you.” (So they abandoned this practice) and there was a decline in the yield. He (the Holy Prophet) happened to pass by them (and said): “What has gone wrong with your trees?” They said: “You said so and so.” Thereupon he said: “You have better knowledge in the affairs of your worldly life.” (Sahih Muslim 2363, Musnad Ahmad 24964)

And from Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet:

When he arrived at Badr, the Prophet set up his camp near the first wells he found. Seeing this, Ibn al-Mundhir came to him and asked: “Was this place where we have stopped revealed to you by God, so that we must not move either forward or backward from it, or is it an opinion and a strategy of yours, linked to war expedients?” The Prophet confirmed that it was his own personal opinion; Ibn al-Mundhir then suggested another plan that consisted of camping near the biggest well, the nearest to the way from which the enemy was to arrive, then blocking the other wells in the area so that the enemy could not get to the water. During the battle, the Muslims’ opponents were thus bound to find themselves in difficulty. Muhammad carefully listened to the explanation of this strategy and accepted it straightaway: the camp was moved and Hubab’s plan was implemented. (Page 103)

These examples show that the Prophet is not infallible in matters not having to do directly with Islamic guidance. They should not be used to reject narrations left and right without proper scholarly work, and this is not what I am suggesting. Quran-focused Islam wants to correct the corruption of the status of the Quran in the minds; it does not seek to throw away the scholarly tradition, it only seeks to reform it. Scholars of hadith can continue doing the important work of analyzing hadith, but now with the Quran always in their minds as the Criterion by which all narrations are judged.

An Always-Modern Islam: Solving the Problems of Slavery, Stoning, Apostasy and Others

Sayyid Qutb’s Islam is about correcting the error of the scholars in lowering the Quran to the status of hadith. It places the Quran back in its proper place; at the center of Islam. By doing this, it creates a form of Islam that is never outdated or irrelevant, but that is always fully fitted to the needs and concerns of the age, while also always fully authentic to the classical spirit of Islam, because it continues to respect and follow the Sunnah.

The great difference in this new form of Islam is that whenever modern science or thinking recognize some truth, and the Quran supports it, then Muslims can accept it, even if there are narrations that say otherwise. The Quran is used as a judge over both modern thinking and over hadith, in this way preventing us from adopting false modernist ideas (such as women’s moral superiority over men, or communism), while also preventing us from holding onto false ancient ideas that are in hadith but that are today proven false. The Quran, being always up-to-date, enables us to live through the ages and respond appropriately to all of the challenges the world throws at us, while also staying authentically orthodox Muslims.

When modern science and the Quran support the theory of evolution, if a scholar finds an authentic narration or two that go against it, then it is science and the Quran that are given precedence, by the Prophet’s own command (to use the Quran to judge all hadith narrations).

When we modern folk consider slavery repulsive, when we believe in human rights and the dignity of every human being, and when we find that the Quran, while regulating slavery, never commands it, then we can reject slavery and ban it in our societies. Our living guide, the Quran, does not ask us to practice slavery. Our dead guide, hadith, mentions that the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his Companions, widely practiced it, because that was the common practice in the world at the time, and it served various beneficial functions (it was far superior to the Jewish and Christian practice of killing all men, women and children of a defeated enemy, or leaving them to starve). It served a purpose at the time. And if 10,000 years from now, the world goes back to being undeveloped and slavery becomes commonplace, then the Quran is there to regulate it again and slowly eradicate it.

Classical scholars today are all against slavery to some degree, but they also have to “defend the Sunnah” by saying that it is a part of Islam and by finding various justifications for it. They are placed in the difficult position of having to say that there is nothing morally wrong with slavery (because the Prophet, peace be upon, practiced it), that the Prophet’s traditions are meant to be applied as an equal to the Quran today, and that slavery today is wrong and that Islam is against it. Quran-focused Islam doesn’t suffer from having to adopt these contradictory stances, because it believes the point of Islam is to follow the Quran, and that the Sunnah is merely a help toward this.

The Quran does not command slavery, therefore if there is no slavery in a society, then Muslims do not have to engage in it, and they are free to ban it. But, if Islam finds itself in a society that already practices it, then Islam can be adopted by it, in this way their practice of slavery is reformed and slowly eradicated (the Quran strongly encourages freeing slaves, and a child born to a slave and her master is considered a free person in Islamic law.)

The Slave Market, painting by Allan David (1838)

While classical Islam will always have difficulty with slavery, Quran-focused Islam does not. We can sincerely say that Islam is against slavery, and that its toleration of it is for practical purposes, since, as the experience of the American Civil War shows, abruptly ending slavery can create great discontent and unrest. It is far better to gradually phase it out, as Islam does. What the Prophet, peace be upon him, did in his time in practicing slavery does not apply to our time, because we are not required to follow his way of life in a vacuum (as Salafis think), we are required to follow the Quran and use his example when it applies, and needless to say, a modern person who authentically and unabashedly follows the full letter of the Quran does not have to have anything to do with slavery, and is in fact perfectly justified in opposing it, fighting it and working to put an end to it.

What the example of our Prophet, peace be upon him, teaches us is that if we find ourselves in a society that practices slavery, instead of taking up arms against the society, we can become part of it, help Islam spread, encourage people to free slaves, and in this way phase it out. If we find a slave woman on sale in the market, we can buy her and free her like the Prophet’s companion Abu Bakr used to do. Other Muslims, who are still stuck in the mindset of that slavery-practicing culture, can buy her and use her as a slave without being condemned. The culture is respected, while slowly being changed.

Unlike a Quran-focused Muslim, a Salafi, cannot have such a mindset toward slavery (that it was acceptable then but is not acceptable now). The Prophet, peace be upon him, and the Salaf (“The Pious Predecessors”) practiced slavery and had slave women with whom they had sex, therefore there is nothing wrong with it, and the practice can be continued today (as the Saudi Shaykh al-Fawzan recently ruled regarding Yazidi women captured by terrorist groups) even if most of the people of the world, including Muslims, find it repulsive.

To them, since Islam is a derivation of both the Quran and hadith, slavery has to be considered a good and acceptable thing, since it is part and parcel of hadith. While in Quran-focused thinking, since Islam is a derivation of  only the Quran, we are free what we think about slavery, if we find it repulsive, we do not have to support it, we can avoid it and work to eradicate it. If the world, or part of the world, or some isolated space colony, goes back to practicing slavery, then the Quran and hadith are there to regulate and eradicate it again.

So to a Quran-focused person, the fact that the Prophet, peace be upon him, had slaves does not have sufficient force in argument to justify it in the modern context, and such a person can stay true to the Quran while also supporting a worldwide ban on slavery. If there is a just war between a Muslim and a non-Muslim entity, the Muslim entity, while recognizing that technically Islam permits them to enslave the enemy, also recognize that Islam is a derivation of the Quran and the modern world, and neither of these things recommend enslavement of people today. In a different time and place, in a world that practices slavery, things could be different. But, since their Islam is always up-to-date, in today’s modern context, it is fully in accordance with Islam to oppose slavery and not practice it.

So we can honestly say that slavery was a part of Islam then, but that it is no longer part of Islam today, and that one day in the far future it could again become part of Islam. Our religion is always updating itself. There is no such thing as a single Islam the entirety of whose practices and ways of life can be set in stone and followed for eternity, as Salafis think. Instead, Islam is always a self-renewing derivation of the Quran and life, guided by hadith and classical scholarship wherever needed. If people say slavery is wrong, we agree with them, and tell them that Islam wants to eradicate it. If they point out Islam’s historical practice of slavery, we say it tolerated it because it was a worldwide practice then, because it served practical purposes, because banning it could have had violent consequences, but now that the world is different, Islam, too, can be different, because the Quran is living among us, telling us how to respond to each new age of the world.

The Quran-focused view is that Islam tolerates slavery for practical reasons where it is already practiced. The classical view is that slavery is not so bad, because the Prophet, peace be upon him, practiced it. The Quran-focused view admits the possibility of development in human ideas about morality and ethics, the classical view does not.

It is true that Islam’s dedicated detractors will probably not be satisfied by the Quran-focused view on slavery, but it is not our mission to satisfy them. Our mission is to reach fair-minded and moderate people, people who do not have a hatred against Islam but who merely want to understand it.

Another important matter solved by the Quran-focused view is that of stoning adulterers, which is something that perhaps 99.999% of Muslims would not agree to witness or carry out. The Quran-focused view effortlessly shows that there is no such thing as stoning or executing adulterers in Islam. There is strong evidence in the Quran against it, as I will describe in another essay, and there is sufficient evidence to believe that the hadith narrations that mention stoning were mentioning instances of the Prophet following Jewish law before Islamic law was revealed in the Quran, as Imam Muhammad Abu Zahra (1898 – 1974 CE), prominent 20th century Egyptian scholar of Islamic law, al-Azhar professor, member of al-Azhar’s Academy of Islamic Research and president of Cairo University has argued.

Another issue is that of punishing Muslims for leaving Islam (for committing apostasy), which is clearly in opposition to the Quranic concept of “no compulsion in religion” (as stated in verse 2:256). As our modern appreciation for logic shows, forcing someone to stay in a religion is as much compulsion as forcing someone to adopt a religion. Quran-focused Islam rejects the classical Islamic thinking that apostasy is punishable, considering it a human right granted by the Quran. Ahmad Moftizadeh is the major Islamic leader I know of who has advocated for this new view of considering apostasy a right of Muslims.

And another issue is the treatment of non-Muslims in Islam. While traditionally nearly all non-Muslims were considered kafirs (“infidels”), a modern reading of the Quran shows that a kafir is someone who knows and accepts the truth but denies it and acts against, committing Satan’s sin. This means that most of the people of the world are not kafirs. It also means that faithful Christians and Jews living today, those who believe and do good deeds, will go to Paradise as the Quran teaches, rather than going to the Hellfire for not accepting Islam as classical Islam teaches, since they barely know anything about Islam. God only burdens a soul with what He has already given it, it is highly unjust to punish a Christian for not being Muslim when they barely know anything about Islam, and when they do their best to serve God in good faith.

The Quran, besides reiterating the fact that pious Jews and Christians will go to Paradise in many places, has the following verse which criticizes Muslim exceptionalism in their thinking that only they will go to Paradise, while also criticizing the Christians and Jews who say similar things:

It is not in accordance with your wishes, nor in accordance with the wishes of the People of the Scripture. Whoever works evil will pay for it, and will not find for himself, besides God, any protector or savior. But whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, and is a believer—those will enter Paradise, and will not be wronged a whit. (The Quran, verse 4:123-124)

It is a sign of the incredible ignorance and negligence of Quranic principles and the status of the Quran that Muslims, including scholars, read the above two verses, then go on to say that Jews and Christians will go to the Hellfire in clear contradiction to it.

As can be seen, while the classical view insults our sense of justice regarding non-Muslims by teaching us to consider nearly all of them enemies of God, the Quran-focused view teaches us to have a positive view of them, since they are humans partaking in the same human struggle as ourselves, without being blessed with knowledge, and it also teaches us to have great respect for faithful and practicing Jews and Christians (few as they might be), and for people of other Abrahamic religions. And to give all of them the benefit of the doubt, since we do not know what is in their hearts, and to realize that it is opposed to the Quran to call them infidels when for all that we know they might be close servants of God. The only infidels among them are those who know the truth but act against it, and such people are also common in Islamic societies.

Salafism’s Better Alternative

One criticism of Quran-focused Islam could be that by giving the power of interpretation and argument to everyone who reads and understands the Quran, it promotes disrespect for the Sunnah and scholarship, that it teaches everyone to create their own sect. The best proof of the invalidity of these allegations is the ways of life of those who have actually adopted Quran-focused Islam, such as Iranian Kurdistan’s Maktab Quran movement. They continue to be full members of mainstream Islam, they love Islamic scholarship, and they follow the Sunnah. The same is true for those in Egypt who love Sayyid Qutb’s Quran-focused teachings.

Unlike Salafis (note that I have great respect for many Salafi scholars, such as Ibn Baaz, and consider them good and pious men), who often create elitist cliques that separates itself from the mainstream, who have an “us vs. them” mentality toward other Muslims, who attack respectable and pious scholars and leaders like Yasir Qadhi, Quran-focused Muslims, since they judge the world by Quranic philosophy, have an open and loving attitude toward all other Muslims (and non-Muslims), judging people first and foremost by the quality of their hearts, not by the quality of their virtue-signalling or their exact adherence to their version of Islam.

Quran-focused Muslims treat all Muslims as innocent unless proven guilty, while Salafism treats everyone as guilty until proven innocent.

Both Quran-focused Islam and Salafism have the same goal; to revive Islam based on Islam’s original teachings. Salafism makes the mistake of trying to derive Islam equally from the Quran and hadith, which, while often leading to good results in matters of fiqh (Islamic law), also leads to an exclusive, elitist and intolerant form of Islam.

Quran-focused Islam corrects Salafism’s mistake by not buying into classical thinking, but by evolving beyond Salafism to place the Quran back at the center of Islam and to re-derive Islam from its principles and philosophy, leading to an extremely open-minded, spiritual and tolerant form of Islam that thinks the best of everyone, that fits modern science, that solves the various issues that have Muslims questioning Islam, and that remains fully part of mainstream Islam.

It is important to reiterate that I have the same goal as a Salafi person; I too want to follow a version of Islam that most accurately represents Islam’s original mission. Having looked at both Salafism and Quran-focused Islam, it has become clear to me that Quran-focused Islam is far superior to Salafism; it accomplishes everything Salafism was meant to accomplish, while avoiding all of its pitfalls, and just as importantly, while creating a version of Islam that stands the tests of all time:

  • Salafism tries to derive “true Islam” from the Quran and hadith equally, creating a rule-based (rather than ideals-based) form of Islam. Every Muslim is judged based on their abidance by thousands of different rules, regulations and ways of thinking. Quran-focused Islam, on the other hand, tries to derive a far smaller “true Islam” from the Quran only, leading to a religion that is not rule-based, but ideals-based. Kindly and well-intentioned people of all sects are accepted, because the Quranic ideals are what matter most. Passing judgment on people is highly discouraged, because this is directly in opposition to the Quranic commandments of mercy, forgiveness and thinking the best of others.
  • Salafism always leads to elitist cliques of Muslims who separate themselves from the mainstream. Quran-focused Islam does not, because it contains nothing to build cliques on. It is a spiritual practice, a person who uses it to feel superior to others has failed to understand the basic precepts of it and will be shunned by the rest.
  • Salafism leads to a mindset that has a total lack of empathy for those who refuse to abide by its authoritarian version of Islam. It doesn’t matter that a scholar has a good heart, is pious and God-fearing, if a Salafi person finds a few technicalities to attack them by, they will do it without shame, and they will say they do it in the service of God, of course.
  • Salafism makes intellectual progress (in things like solving the problem of evolution or stoning) nearly impossible, because it refuses to admit that the Quran is an authority over all authorities, it considers Islam’s unreliable history an authority to be dragged into the modern world. Quran-focused Islam gives its adherents immense intellectual freedom, because their central authority by which they judge all other authorities is a simple and extremely open-minded book. This enables them to go out into the modern world and have a fully-fledged intellectual life that is in no way inferior to that enjoyed by the rest of the world, and is in fact far superior to it, because it has the courage to reject the things like the West’s fashionable but irrationalist ideas and ideologies.

 

Practicing Quran-Focused Islam Today

We cannot preemptively say what conclusions we may reach once the classical Islamic sciences are reformed according to Quran-focused teachings. For now, we can use the following rule to practice an intellectually satisfying and modern form of Islam that is free from the pitfalls of classical Islam:

Whenever someone says something about Islam that is not in the Quran and that is not anticipated by the Quran, you can safely ignore it.

If you hear a hadith narration about the virtue of performing the prayer (the salah) at a certain time of day, then you are encouraged to follow it, since the Quran encourages prayer, and it is fully in keeping with the Prophet’s mission (as an applicator of the Quran) to have prayed in such a way, therefore, even though such a time for performing the prayer is not in the Quran, it is anticipated by the Quran, therefore there is no issue with following it.

On the other hand, if someone tells you about devils praying on your fingernails, the Dajjal, or the need for exorcision, then while you may not be able to say that these things are definitely false (unless you have great evidence to back up your saying, or you rely on a well-respected scholar’s research on the matter), you have the right to be skeptical toward these things and to ignore them. Using the above rule, you can stay focused on Islam’s message and mission; its spirituality, its dedication to worshiping and serving God, its activism, and ignore everything that insults your intelligence.

From the outside, you can continue practicing Islam just like before, but now focusing more on the Quran, and due to the renewed devotion to God that this causes, working to carry out more of the Sunnah good deeds, while also being free from suffering the confusion, hesitation, and moral indignation that classical Islam causes. When a preacher says something so ridiculous that it makes you want to cringe and shudder, instead of feeling hopeless and questioning why you belong to this religion, you can simply think: “It is not in the Quran, and it is against the Quran’s principles, therefore it is not worth talking about. End of story.” You no longer have to submit to anyone’s authority except the Quran’s, with hadith acting as your helper toward applying the Quran in your life.

To many Muslims, what I describe here (of placing the Quran at the center of Islam) will not sound new or controversial. Within the scholarly community, however, few people dare to voice such an opinion, since they will quickly be attacked by Salafis and other hadith-centrists. Most scholars would rather choose the safe path of complacence that will ensure they will not be condemned, instead of choosing the path of respecting the Quran as an unchallenged authority as it is meant to be. In this way, with their silence and lack of courage, they continue to enable countries like Saudi to continue exporting their highly intolerant version of Islam with little resistance, so that today most Muslims cannot answer if asked why they are not Salafis.

We are not Salafis because it gives precedence to the Quran’s ancient application (hadith) rather than to its modern application (applying Quranic principles in the modern world). It thinks that if the Quran tells us to do something today, but hadith tells us that Muslims did something different in 630 CE, that we must ignore the Quran and follow the hadith, despite the fact that hadith is inherently unreliable.

Salafi attitudes toward slavery, stoning, apostasy and the treatment of non-Muslims is sufficient to show the inferiority of hadith-focused (classical) Islam and the immense superiority of Quran-focused Islam in the way it solves all of these issues.

Note: The concepts mentioned in this essay are developments of Sayyid Qutb’s ideas as carried forward by the Iranian Sunni leaders Ahmad Moftizadeh, Nasir Subhani and myself. They are not directly taken from Sayyid Qutb, but are inspired by his method in interpreting the Quran.

What to do if all the negative coverage of Islam and online Islam-bashing affects you

I’m from India and I see a lot of negativity towards Islam and it saddens me very much. Filthy comments made about Islam and people who practice Islam. I usually do not indulge in such arguments/comments because there is no point but it effects me. Please help Jazakallah khair

That is a promise of the Quran come true:

You will be tested through your possessions and your persons; and you will hear from those who received the Scripture before you, and from those who do not acknowledge the oneness of God, much abuse. But if you persevere and lead a righteous life—that indeed is a mark of great determination. (The Quran, verse 3:186)

The best thing to do is go on with your life like normal. It is not our job to guide people, and especially not those who say nasty things about Islam. Our job is to practice Islam, which means to stay close to God, to obey His commandments, to be kind and generous.

The Quran’s command regarding dealing with such people is to ignore them (instead of engaging them and trying to change their minds),

So turn away from them, and wait. They too are waiting. (Verse 32:30)

So avoid him who has turned away from Our remembrance, and desires nothing but the present life. That is the extent of their knowledge. Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He knows best who has accepted guidance. (Verses 53:29-30)

The servants of the Merciful are those who walk the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace.” (Verse 25:63)

When you encounter those who mockingly gossip about Our revelations, turn away from them, until they engage in another topic. (Verse 6:68)

So leave alone those who take their religion for play and pastime, and whom the worldly life has deceived. (Verse 6:70)

While some of what we hear and read can be very upsetting, this is nothing new. All of the prophets have suffered similar treatment. This is not a problem that can be solved, it is a fact of life, like bad weather. We have to accept that it exists and move on with your lives. Our focus, when dealing with non-Muslims, should be that the good and open-hearted among them should have an accurate view of Islam. As for those who dislike us, it is not our business to change them, they have already made up their minds.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, used to wish to have miraculous powers to be able to guide more people to Islam. The Quran’s answer was this:

Even if there were a Quran by which mountains could be set in motion, or by which the earth could be shattered, or by which the dead could be made to speak… In fact, every decision rests with God. Did the believers not give up and realize that had God willed, He would have guided all humanity? Disasters will continue to strike those who disbelieve, because of their deeds, or they fall near their homes, until God’s promise comes true. God never breaks a promise. (Verse 13:31)

The Quran teaches us that it is God who guides people. Even the Prophet could not guide people unless God willed it:

You cannot guide whom you love, but God guides whom He wills, and He knows best those who are guided.

For these reasons, we must not think it our duty to guide people. Our duty is to practice Islam, and to present an accurate view of Islam. What people do in response is their business, we cannot control their thinking, and we cannot force them to be guided.

God, Evolution and Abiogenesis: The Topological Theory for the Origin of Life and Species

Introduction

This essay is now available on Amazon.com as an ebook and paperback.

As a lover of science and rationalism, and a very religious person, the issue of God and evolution has been on the back of my mind for years. I grew up hearing many refutations of the theory of evolution from everyone around me; scientifically-minded relatives, Islamic preachers and science teachers, all of whom considered evolution a challenge to religion that had to be defeated to protect our faith.

While I eventually came to consider the evolution of non-human creatures plausible, the evolution of humans continued to be a challenge. In 2010 I read Darwinian Fairytales by the Australian atheist philosopher David Stove and considered it a good a challenge to the theory of evolution.

Since then I have read many more books on the topic. Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species is one of my favorite scientific books, in which he shows an unusual level of intelligence and intellectual humility in pointing out the deficiencies he saw in his own thinking.

One of my favorite novels is Terry Pratchett’s The Last Continent, in which the wizard Ponder Stibbons repeats many of Darwin’s thought processes.

What I have sought all of these years is something that perfectly satisfies both science and religion, because if a religion is entirely true, it wouldn’t conflict with science. One of the things I’ve said in the past is this:

A religion must make as much sense as mathematics, and if it doesn’t, it is not worth believing in.

If something in our religion is proven false beyond doubt, then that proves the entire religion false. The Quran claims to contain the unadulterated words of God, and claims to contain no errors. It logically follows that the presence of a single error proves the entire book false, because it either means that God isn’t so great as all that after all, since He made a mistake, or that He was incapable of protecting His book from adulteration, which is an equally fatal flaw in an all-powerful God.

It is a common misconception that all religions require their followers to curtail their skepticism when it comes to some matters, that they would have to believe certain things even if these things clearly contradict reality. The great science fiction writer Frank Herbert writes in his 1985 novel Chapterhouse: Dune:

Religion (emulation of adults by the child) encysts past mythologies: guesses, hidden assumptions of trust in the universe, pronouncements made in search of personal power, all mingled with shreds of enlightenment. And always an unspoken commandment: Thou shalt not question!

The novel Chapterhouse: Dune is one of Western civilization’s great achievements.

In multiple places he repeats his principle that an essential commandment of religion is “Thou shalt not question!” This is a common mistake made by both the religious and atheists, and if it were true, then the existence of a conflict between evolution and Islam would not be a special thing, it would be yet another conflict between rationalistic, atheistic science and backward and superstitious religion.

While the above might be true of some religions, and of some misguided versions of Islam, it is not true of the Quran. The religion of the Quran is founded upon the commandment “Thou shalt question!” The Quran constantly refers to evidence and proof, mocks various sections of humanity for not thinking clearly or for believing in superstition, and constantly calls its readers to think, to reason, to observe, to analyze, to question.

It is from two directions, both as a lover of rationalism and a lover of the Quran, that I have approached the theory of evolution. After years of coming up with various approximate solutions then discarding them, in 2014 I reached the “mold” theory of evolution, which I later renamed to the “topological theory”, that has stood the test of time and that fully satisfies both the Quran and everything we know about evolution.

While I could have waited on publishing this theory until I could turn it into a book (with detailed references), the theory is simple and straightforward enough to be shared in its present form, and I believe this will best serve the interests of both Muslim and non-Muslim seekers of knowledge.

Explaining the Winds and Rain

Muslims who have a problem with Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection due to the fact that it takes God out of the picture have a greater problem to solve, one that usually goes neglected, and solving that problem opens the way to solving the problem of evolution.

The problem is that in the Quran, God takes credit for various natural phenomena which all have scientific explanations. Among such instances are:

God is He who sends the winds. They stir up clouds. Then He spreads them in the sky as He wills. And He breaks them apart. Then you see rain drops issuing from their midst. Then, when He makes it fall upon whom He wills of His servants, behold, they rejoice. 1

It is He who sends the wind ahead of His mercy. Then, when they have gathered up heavy clouds, We drive them to a dead land, where We make water come down, and with it We bring out all kinds of fruits. Thus We bring out the dead—perhaps you will reflect.2

Have you not seen how God propels the clouds, then brings them together, then piles them into a heap, and you see rain drops emerging from its midst? How He brings down loads of hail from the sky, striking with it whomever He wills, and diverting it from whomever He wills? The flash of its lightning almost snatches the sight away.3

We, as rational human beings, are supposed to believe that God is responsible for the things described above, even though we never see God taking care of these things. This leads one to think that perhaps the universe would go on functioning like normal even if there was no God. What is the point of saying that God is responsible for making it rain when, from observation, it appears that it would probably rain anyway even if no God existed? We can carry out physics experiments inside sealed chambers where we can make it rain or snow, what does God have to do with any of this?

Imagine a king giving a speech in a newly conquered city, telling the listeners “I bring you food and water, so be thankful!” A skeptical person may go to the gates of the city early in the morning to see who actually brings food and water. Since he never sees the king himself carrying sacks of flour into the city, he concludes that the king lied, it is not the king who brings food and water to the city, it is people who do that.

His mistake is that he fails to realize that it is by the king’s order that people are bringing food and water to his city, so when the king says he is doing it, he is right. If it wasn’t for the king, it wouldn’t be happening.

When God claims to make it rain, the fact the His hand can’t be detected in the process doesn’t necessarily mean He is lying.

If the pharaoh of Egypt claims he makes the sun rise, I would be skeptical and ask him to provide some pretty convincing evidence before I take him seriously. In all likelihood the sun would rise regardless of the pharaoh. So what is so special about a 14-century-old book out of the deserts of Arabia that I should take it seriously when it says its writer makes it rain?

Atheists demand hard evidence before they believe in scripture like the Quran. But such evidence is not forthcoming. The Quran itself promises that it will not be forthcoming, because it says that once the existence of God has been proven by hard evidence, that would be the end of the world:

Are they waiting for anything but for the angels to come to them, or for your Lord to arrive, or for some of your Lord’s signs to come? On the Day when some of your Lord’s signs come (i.e. hard evidence for God’s existence), no soul will benefit from its faith unless it had believed previously, or had earned goodness through its faith. Say, “Wait, we too are waiting.”4

The above concept is repeated in multiple places in the Quran; that once a person has seen irrefutable evidence of God’s existence, their faith will no longer be of any worth, since faith will no longer be necessary.

The purpose of this universe is to create free-willed creatures who have the option of rejecting God’s existence, so that an act of will and a submission of the heart is needed for them to become believers in Him, and for this act of will, which they have to repeat every day of their faithful lives, they will be rewarded with Paradise5.

This situation leads to the conclusion that if God’s existence is ever proven, and the world doesn’t end, then this would prove the Quran false, since the Quran claims that hard evidence of God’s existence will only be shown to humanity when the world ends.

Are they waiting for God Himself to come to them in the shadows of the clouds, together with the angels, when the matter has been settled? All things are returned to God.6

As a Muslim, I obviously take God’s claim seriously when He says that He makes it rain. As a lover of science, a rationalist and an empiricist, I reject everything that’s not backed by evidence as superstition and ideology. And yet, although there is never any hard evidence, I am capable of believing the Quran when its Writer claims responsibility for various natural phenomena. How?

A verse of the Quran is called an ayah in Arabic, which literally means “sign”, something on the road that points toward a direction. As for its figurative meaning, the scholar al-Faraahhi says in his definition of ayah:

ما تستدِلُّ به على أمر. وليست هي تمام الدليل، بل يُنَبِّهُك على الدليلِ.

That which is used as evidence toward (proving) some matter. It is not the whole of the proof, but it directs you toward the proof.7

While a single verse or even chapter of the Quran cannot be used as “proof” of God’s existence, the book in its totality and its historical context is a powerful piece of evidence that cannot be discarded out of hand in good faith, and it is for this reason that a person like me can believe in it.

The reason I believe in the Quran is the same reason I believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution. They both get too many things right, which makes it impossible for me to dismiss them in good conscience. For the Quran, among such things are:

  • Its zero-tolerance policy toward usury. The evils of usury are long-term and requires deep and lengthy analysis to bring them to the surface, so much so that one among a thousand economists today cannot be found who appreciate how it creates immense wealth inequality, creating a form of legalized stealing that constantly causes wealth to “trickle up” into the coffers of the upper class.
  • The zakat system, in which the poor charge an annual 2.5% interest on the uninvested and speculatively invested wealth of the rich. This system would be completely useless without banning usury, it takes a genius to plug that loophole, and the Quran does it.
  • The fact that in 600 pages written in the 7th century CE, it doesn’t contain a single statement that’s provably false, or that contradicts another part of itself.
  • The moral philosophy of the Quran, where moral integrity and justice are always paramount. Killing a single innocent human is similar to killing all of humanity, which means that there can never be such a thing as a utilitarian murder, the type of murder that’s practiced on a daily basis by the CIA and probably every other intelligence organization in the world, where innocent people can be murdered if there is a great enough prize to be gained by it.
  • The concept of the Straight Path, where humanity’s long-term survival is ensured while humanity’s short-term moral integrity is also ensured. The Quran never asks you to do evil for the sake of the greater good. The end never justifies the means. The Quran teaches that God ensures a good end, so that our job is to stay on the Straight Path, serving His interests while behaving in the best manner possible, being kind and forgiving to all, and never, ever doing any evil toward anyone even if it ensures great good. That’s the only type of moral philosophy I can believe in.
  • The beauty of the Quran. The Quran is the only book that I can read over and over again and continue to be surprised by how intelligent, beautiful and sensitive the mind of its writer is. The writer is always superior to me. I’ve never had a similar experience with any other writer. I used to think Terry Pratchett was incredible, and I continue to enjoy his books, having read some of his books 20 or more times, but every reading brings up further flaws in his thinking, to the point that I can no longer stand some of his books that I used to think were so clever and intelligent in the past.
  • The Quran’s non-Arabian character and the unusual restraint of the writer in not engaging in the typical rhetoric of the time. This is perhaps the greatest clue to its truth. Anyone who studies Arabic poetry from that period, and the fabricated words of revelation of Musailamah and other false prophets, will see that while all of the literary speech from that era has a distinctly Arabian character, full of hyperbole, self-aggrandizement and bad logic, the Quran does not. The Quran was brought to us by an Arab from the heart of Arabia, yet it does not have an Arabian character. It feels like it was written by an alien civilization who were far more intelligent than any human of the time, and who translated their thinking into Arabic and used some Arabic idioms to make it easier for Arabs to understand. It does not feel like a book written by an Arab for Arabs. It feels like a book written by an unbelievably intelligent being who made use of Arabic. Something else we can compare the Quran to is hadith (narrations from or regarding the Prophet, peace be upon him). These narrations are clearly by an Arab and for an Arab audience, because the words are by the Prophet himself, peace be upon him, and clearly show the same character as the rest of the Arabic literature of the time.
    A fair-minded comparison between the Quran the rest of the Arabic literature of the time will conclude that the Quran is more unusual, extraordinary and miraculous than a 1500-year-old laptop computer buried under a rock in Arabia. Once examined deeply, one concludes that it does not belong to Arabian civilization, then one concludes that it couldn’t have been made by any human civilization of the time. And unlike the 1500-year-old laptop, for the Quran, one concludes that it couldn’t be made by any human civilization of the present either.

That is just a short illustration of what makes the Quran the best guide in life that I have found. I continue to read the Quran with skepticism, assuming Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) wrote it himself, as a way of ensuring that I’m being honest to myself, that I am not following it merely out of habit, but out of recognition for its virtue, and all it takes is 3 to 4 pages before the sheer amount of beauty, intelligence and sensitivity dispels any doubt I have that it could have been written by a human.

Re-examining Rain

How could God claim credit for making it rain when we cannot detect His hand in the process? In three ways:

  1. Purposeful invention. God invented rain. He designed and built a universe in which rain happens, for the very purpose of having it be a help toward the evolution and sustenance of the creatures that would one day come about on Earth.
  2. Operating the universe. This universe would be a big blob of inert, unmoving matter without God’s involvement. An atom has no power or will to move. It is God who has to move every single thing that moves in this world. That means God has to cause steam to raise, He has to make it go where it is supposed to go in the sky, He has to bring it together into clouds, and then He has to take it to where it will eventually become rain, where He condenses the water atoms into droplets of water, and where He causes these drops to fall using gravity, a energy field that He has to maintain. He does all of these things so reliably for us that we start to think of them as simply phenomena, saying “things just happen”, refusing to admit that there could be a power doing all of these things for us.
    This entire universe is like an image shown on a TV screen. Turn off the TV, and the image would disappear like it never existed. In the same way, this universe, if God decided to “let it go”, would disappear as if it had never existed: “God upholds the heavens and the earth, lest they cease (to exist). And were they to cease, there is none to uphold them except He. He is Most Clement, Most Forgiving.” (The Quran, verse 35:41) If God decided to stop moving the frames of this universe, the universe would be like a frozen video on a TV screen, not moving. It is God who has to move everything, and in this way He animates the universe, and claims responsibility for doing so. (Related essay: Islam’s theory of free will versus physical determinism: Why humans are responsible for their actions even though God operates the universe.)
  3. Intervention. While the above two ways admit for the possibility of God being responsible for the phenomenon of rain in general, we need something more. God seems to claim that He purposefully sends rain here and there (especially in verse 24:43 quoted above), in directions He wants at this moment, meaning not directions that only obey the laws of nature that He sustains. God seems to claim that His agency goes into deciding when and where rain happens, that it is not mere chance caused by the laws of nature. The way that God could make this happen is by making it happen regardless of the laws of nature, because He has the power to do that. This, of course, would be impossible to detect, according to His plan, since God does not want His existence known by hard evidence. Even if we could build a machine that perfectly predicted rain around the world, so that any aberrations caused by God’s decisions could be seen, God could change what the machine shows. While this explanation is not scientifically satisfactory, since it requires undetectable supernatural agency (which sounds like any other old superstition), the reason it can be taken seriously is that the Quran says it. Once you believe in an all-powerful God, it doesn’t require any stretch of imagination to think that He can do whatever He wants.
    Saying that God intentionally makes it rain here and there is to claim a miracle happens, since you are saying this rain is happening due to a supernatural phenomenon (God’s decision), not due to a natural phenomenon. To prove a miracle, an equally miraculous piece of evidence is needed, and the Quran is that miracle.
    Personally I’m disinclined to believe that God would change the readings of a machine just so that His hand would be hidden. It seems more likely that in the things where He intervenes, He will do it so gracefully that no further intervention would be needed to hide Himself. For example, when it comes to weather, His interventions are so subtle that they are all easily explained as “randomness” by scientists. A Muslim scientist can study the weather as a purely natural system, while also believing in God’s power to direct it as He wills, so that they can thank God when a tornado avoids their neighborhood.

Some Muslims and Christians try to re-interpret the relevant verses regarding weather and other phenomena to say that God is merely explaining how the laws of nature work. But I cannot support such interpretations in good conscience, because verse 24:43 in particular seems to claim direct agency. While a Muslim scientist may feel ashamed to admit that rain could ever happen for supernatural reasons, we Muslims aren’t actually asking non-Muslims to believe in it. We fully support scientific explanations, and we will not bother non-Muslims with anything supernatural, since that requires that they believe in God and the Quran in the first place, since they don’t, there is no point in telling them about God’s potential role in undetectably making it rain in certain times and places.

In other words, we fully believe in science. But we also believe that God is its inventor, that science is nothing more than the human effort to find out how God designed the universe, and we believe that God has the power to bypass it when He wants, in a fully undetectable way, because His own laws require that His existence should be undetectable.

An atheist could say this is like saying invisible magical fairies make it rain, and the reply is that yes, it is exactly like saying that. But in our case, we have extraordinary evidence to support our thinking; the Quran, while a person who claims that invisible magical fairies make it rain has no evidence.

Atheists will go on to say that the only reason highly intelligent and educated people believe in the Quran is cultural conditioning, that if we were reallytruly intelligent and open-minded, we couldn’t possibly believe in it, that there is some invisible, magical force that is preventing people like me from opening my eyes even after years of exposure to scientific books and enjoying books by atheists. There is no evidence for this, it is an atheist superstition that helps them feel smugly snug in their comfort zones.

Another phenomenon for which God claims direct agency is the forming of the genetic makeup of humans during conception:

It is He who forms you in the wombs as He wills. There is no god except He, the Almighty, the Wise.8

When a father and a mother’s genes unite, there are 64 trillion different possible combinations that could be created. God claims to have a hand in choosing which combination ends up actually taking place. Again, God can claim responsibility for forming our genes in the womb through the three methods mentioned above: Purposeful invention, operating the universe and intervening when He wants. Similar to weather events, the process of genetic recombination is so immensely complex and affected by randomness that God does not need to do anything to hide His hand in the matter, His interventions would be easily explainable as merely randomness, which is as it should be.

Yet another place where God claims direct responsibility for physical phenomena is in His providing sustenance for humans:

Or, who originates the creation and then repeats it, and who gives you livelihood from the sky and the earth? Is there another god with God? Say, “Produce your evidence, if you are truthful.”9

And whosoever fears God, He will create for him a way out. And He will provide him with sustenance from where he does not expect.10

The second verse implies that God has a direct hand in providing sustenance, because He says that if we fear Him, then He will provide. This is a central concept of the God-human relationship, repeated often in the Bible and the Quran,

[Moses said,] “And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed: ‘If you give thanks, I will grant you increase; but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe.'”11

If God did not intervene directly in the affairs of humans, there would be no way for this contractual relationship to be maintained. If we fear God, God will provide for us. We act, God reacts. For God to react, He has to intervene directly in our universe.12

God, Evolution and Topology

The problem that many of the religious have with evolution is that it seems to claim that the creatures on Earth could have come about regardless of whether God exists or not. They mistakenly think it is a God versus nature problem, and this mistake is also made by atheist scientists on the other end, who think that finding a scientific explanation for natural phenomena disproves God’s role. They do not see that God’s agency and the existence of perfectly explainable natural phenomena are not mutually exclusive.

Topology refers to the physical design of the universe; the physical constants that govern the universe (such as the speed of light), the placement of the galaxies, stars and planets, and the placement of mountains, rivers and oceans on Earth.

Topology is critical to evolution. Very minor differences in the universe’s topology would have made life impossible to exist. And very minor differences in the topology of Earth would have lead to the evolution of extremely different creatures than the ones we have now, and could have made the existence of humans impossible.

This is a fact of evolution that rarely goes examined even by scientists (I say this as someone who has enjoyed numerous books on evolution). Imagine if Earth was entirely an ocean planet, with the bottom of the sea a flat, featureless plain of sand. What type of creatures would evolve on such an Earth?

Ones that would be very different from the ones that we currently have. To begin with, there would be no way for land animals to evolve. The only types of bird that could evolve would be ones that could survive by sleeping on water without being eaten by the fish underneath, if such a thing is possible.

Since the bottom of this imaginary sea is flat and featureless, the type of aquatic life would be far less diverse, because diversity requires differences in conditions, the presence of unique evolutionary niches where an organism can find food and shelter and reproduce. Having an Earth that is exactly the same all the way round would lead to far less biodiversity. Perhaps the number of all species that would evolve on such an Earth would be less than a few thousand, instead of the 8.7 million species we have on Earth.

It might even be impossible for such an earth to support any type of organism beyond microscopic ones.

What this is meant to show is that the design of a planet is crucial to the type of creatures that evolve on it. And if you could design a planet with the right topology, you could create any type of creature you want.

It follows that you can create any living thing you want just by designing the right topology for it to exist.

And perhaps it is for this reason that God says:

Certainly the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of humanity, but most people do not know.13

27. Are you more difficult to create, or the sky? He constructed it. 28. He raised its masses, and proportioned it. 29. And He dimmed its night, and brought out its daylight. 30. And the earth after that He spread. 31. And from it, He produced its water and its pasture. 32. And the mountains, He anchored. 33. A source of enjoyment for you and for your animals.14

God is saying that the fact the He designed our universe’s topology is a greater accomplishment than the fact that He created humans. This would make a lot of sense if the existence of humanity was nothing more than a byproduct of the universe’s topology. When God created the universe, He didn’t merely create a lifeless system of stars and planets. He created a universe in whose topology was embedded the program that would ultimately lead to the existence of 8.7 million species, including humans.

Imagine if Earth lacked mountains and rivers. Could humans or human-like creatures have evolved on such a planet? It is unlikely, perhaps impossible. The design of the planet and the universe in which it exists decides what type of creature can evolve on that planet, meaning that the designer of the universe can be fully credited with the creation of all the creatures that exist inside that universe, if the designer had the creation of those creatures in mind to begin with.

Through the Quran’s consistent references to mountains, rivers, seas and the design of the earth and the sky, God acts as a topological designer explaining His methods. God explains the topological design of the universe in detail, and says that this is of greater importance than the creation of humans, because He is in effect describing the template, the code, that led to the existence of humans.

This universe can be thought of as nothing more or less than a factory for creating and sustaining humans. When God describes the various design elements of the universe, He is explaining His greatness as the designer of such an immensely complex factory that led to the existence of not just one species, but millions, and all done in a way that hides Him from our view.

Reversing Entropy for a Time

How can non-living matter lead to the complex biological machines that exist in all kinds of creatures? Doesn’t this go against the idea of entropy, that the universe continues to break down and become simpler over time?

It is possible if you provide 1. energy sources and 2. complexity-inducing topologies.

Both of these conditions come true on Earth, where energy is available in the form of sunlight, geothermal energy and tides, and where the topology of Earth and the universe in which it is contained create an environment in which life can not only originate, but diversify by finding niche after niche in which it can survive.

The origination of life requires that dead matter somehow join together and increase in complexity. This is somewhat like expecting a bunch of rocks to join together and walk up a hill. The difference is that in the world of atoms and molecules, things join together and increase in complexity all the time. All that’s needed is the right mixture, and usually a source of energy, and from this, extremely complex molecules can evolve. This is a fact of chemistry. The question is just how complex can these natural structures become? Someone who denies abiogenesis (the origination of life from non-living matter) would say that there is no way that the complexity can increase to the degree seen in living things, meaning that life could never evolve from non-living matter.

While someone with sufficient imagination would see that it might be possible given a large enough test chamber, ample building blocks of life, water, energy and hundreds of millions of years, and most importantly, a Designer who put all of these together in just the right way to create life.

Topological Programming

Physicists say that if the Big Bang (the explosion of the blob of matter that lead to the creation of our universe) had happened the merest fraction of a second slower or faster, the galaxies couldn’t have formed, and humanity wouldn’t have existed.

To create humanity, what God had to do was get the conditions of the Big Bang right, and 13.8 billion years later human-like creatures came into existence on one of the planets inside the universe created by the Big Bang.

The timescales involved in this, and the amount of intelligent design necessary, make it very difficult for people to imagine this actually taking place, that is, imagining God creating humans in such a complex and roundabout way.

But if you imagine the whole process taking just one second, it becomes easier to believe. Imagine a god who is holding a blob of matter in his hands. He parts his hands, the blob expands with it, and in just that second, you see a planet inside that blob of matter on which certain creatures live. Shouldn’t a god have such power? And can’t such a god claim responsibility for the existence of those creatures, if the nature of the blob of matter and the way he expanded it is all that lead to the existence of those creatures, and if the way he did was perfectly intentional, with the aim of creating those creatures?

Do the disbelievers not see that the heavens and the earth were one mass, and We tore them apart? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not believe?15

We constructed the universe with [our] capability, and We are expanding it.16

The Islamic version of intelligent design (the phrase Christians use to refer to God designing humans and other creatures) can therefore be also called topological programming. When you want to create a creature or group of creatures, all that you need to do is design a universe with the right topology. In this topology is programmed the existence of those creatures you want to create, and after millions or billions of years, which, if you are God, could be no length of time at all, those creatures will evolve on the planet or planets of your choice, according to the design you put into the topology you created.

Think of a computer program that lets you design creatures, but instead of letting you design the creatures directly, it asks you to design a universe that would lead to the type of creature you want. On the screen it shows you a box where a picture of the creature would be, but currently it is blank. And it gives you various boxes where you can input various numbers. It asks you for the size of the universe, the speed of its expansion, the external shape of it, and the various physical constants that go into that universe, such as the speed of light. By making the tiniest changes to any of these variables which the program lets you change, the creatures it shows you on the screen change immensely. Get the numbers just right, and you will get humans, among the trillions upon trillions of other possible creatures you could create.

This is what topological programming means;  designing universes with the specific aim of seeing creatures originate and evolve upon it after billions of years. A topological programmer is a designer of universes, and that is what the Creator is.

If you think about it, there is no difference between God creating all the creatures on earth by a single command that turns a large puff of smoke into all of them, which is the way our ancestors used to think how creation should work, and creating them by designing and sustaining a universe that would lead to their existence after billions of years. The end result is exactly the same, it is just that the second method is harder for the human brain to understand and appreciate.

In this way there is no clash between Darwin’s theory of evolution and intelligent design (except when it comes to humans, which will be dealt with below). The theory of evolution is merely telling us God’s means of designing creatures, which is far cleverer than anything one would usually imagine.

To design an elephant, God doesn’t need to create an elephant from a puff of smoke. He instead brings a blob of matter and expands it, and billions of years later elephants will exist on a planet or many planets inside that blob of matter. God has the power to create a new universe full of millions of planets all of which are inhabited by elephants, merely by designing a universe with the right topology to lead to such planets and creatures.

Topological programming doesn’t only explain evolution, but the origin of life as well. The same way that God can program evolution into the universe’s topology, He can also program the origination of life into it, and take credit for it.

Muslims mustn’t challenge atheists to create life from scratch, saying that if they do that we will stop believing in God. There is no suggestion in the Quran that artificial life cannot be created, and creating artificial life does not take away from God’s greatness. We are merely copying Him, from inside a universe that He designed and that He sustains.

The following verse seems to suggest that humans cannot create artificial life:

O people! A parable is presented, so listen to it: Those you invoke besides God will never create a fly, even if they banded together for that purpose. And if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it from it. Weak are the pursuer and the pursued. 17

However, this verse can actually be used as an argument for the possibility of humans creating artificial life. The second part of the verse says, “And if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it from it.”

Is it impossible to recover things stolen by flies? As a general rule, it is not impossible to catch flies and take back whatever they have stolen. What the verse is actually saying, which is a point repeated many times throughout the Quran, is that we have no inherent power of our own, that we have zero power over this universe, and that it is ultimately God who operates it. This means that we have no power to recover something a fly steals except when God enables us, by moving the relevant atoms, photons and energy fields for us so that we can carry out our intention of recovering something the fly stole.

By the same reasoning, we have no power to create artificial life, except when God enables us, by maintaining and operating the universe. Both of these things might be possible for us to do, if God makes them possible, and both would be impossible, if God makes them impossible.

In this way, creating artificial life might be as possible as recovering something stolen by a fly.

It is possible that humans will never be able to manufacture life. Perhaps there really is something special about life, and perhaps at some point God had to breathe life into Earth to jump start the process of evolution that would eventually lead to the rest of all of the creatures we see on Earth. We do not know, and it is best that we do not issue definitive statements on matters we know little about.

Personally I lean towards abiogenesis, I believe God is great enough to program the origination of life into the universe’s topology, meaning that He can create a universe that leads to the origination of life without Him having to intervene afterwards to plant life on it. Questioning the possibility of this happening is questioning God’s greatness and creativity. Just because we cannot imagine how we ourselves would accomplish this does not mean that it is impossible for God.

The Rarest Species

Why would God create life in such a roundabout way instead of creating it directly? Because this allows for the creation of the rarest species of all. No, not humans.

Atheists.

God wants His existence to be impossible to prove. He wants there to be the possibility of disbelieving in Him, and that requires that His own hand should be invisible from direct measurement. If you think about it, evolution is just the right way of achieving this. It provides a perfectly scientific explanation for the evolution of all the creatures we see, which makes God unnecessary, which makes it possible to disbelieve in God if we want to.

God wants us to have a choice, and creating life in a way that makes scientific sense is what God wants to do, so that we will not have any knowledge of the Unseen except through His scriptures.

Making it possible for atheists to exist might perhaps be God’s greatest accomplishment in this universe. Who else is there who can create such an immensely complex, well-functioning and logical universe that can lead to the existence of creatures who can doubt the Creator’s existence?

Human Evolution

God describes the creation of humans in detail, which causes many Muslims to automatically reject evolution, thinking that evolution goes against the Quran, or that the Quran goes against evolution:

26. We created the human being from clay, from molded mud.

27. And the jinn We created before, from piercing fire.

28. Your Lord said to the angels, “I am creating a human being from clay, from molded mud.”

29. “When I have formed him, and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down prostrating before him.”

30. So the angels prostrated themselves, all together.18

We know that humans share many of their genes with chimpanzees, rats, yeast and even some viruses. So are the above verses false, or is evolution false?

The answer is in the Quran, in this verse:

The likeness of Jesus in God’s sight is that of Adam: He created him from dust, then said to him, “Be,” and he was.19

We know that Jesus, peace be upon him, was a human. Yet the Quran says his creation was similar to that of Adam.

How did God create Jesus? He used some clay to create a human whose genetic code was like any other human, and at a time when other humans were around.

In the same way, God could have created Adam at a time when humans or human-like creatures already existed on earth (and existing, of course, by God’s design, who designed the topology that lead to the existence of such creatures). God took genetic code from these humans, or more likely, God already had the genetic code before the creation of the universe. He embedded that code into the universe’s topology. For example, a minimum number of rivers may be necessary on a planet for humans to exist on it. For humans to evolve on a particular planet, their genetic code has to be translated into topological features of that planet and the universe in which it is contained.

The evolution of humans or human-like creatures on earth, and the creation of Adam from scratch (rather than from another human), are not mutually exclusive. God created Adam from dust, and He created Jesus from dust, and in the first instance, humanoids may have already existed on earth, similar to the second instance.

What, then, was special about Adam? He had free will, while the human-like creatures that had evolved on Earth lacked it, they were merely animals, like Richard Dawkins thinks he is. The fact of God breathing “His spirit” into Adam may have been the critical differentiator that turned Adam into something more than yet another animal, perhaps it is this spirit which gives us free will.

Before Adam, the earth lacked any creature that could be held responsible for its actions. Adam’s introduction into Earth was the start of the existence of responsibility. It is for this reason that the angels complained about Adam being placed on Earth:

“Will You place in it (i.e. on Earth) someone who will cause corruption in it and shed blood, while we declare Your praises and sanctify You?”20

The angels do not like the idea of ruining the fact that Earth was free from all evil, since everything on it (including the humanoids) acted according to instincts placed inside them by God’s topological programming, meaning that everything on it perfectly obeyed God’s design as accurately as the planets do in their orbits.

Bears probably still ate deer, but that was according to God’s design, so it wasn’t an evil thing. Placing Adam on Earth, on the other hand, meant that there would be a creature on Earth who could defy God’s design, in this way creating evil.

The reason humans could do evil on Earth, when no other creature could do it, is that by having free will, they could do “artificial” things, things that did not directly follow from the rules and the wisdom that went into the creation of the universe. They could defy the program embedded in the universe’s topology, in this way bringing about corruption.

Some atheist writers make a great deal of the simple line of reasoning that if the universe is entirely ruled by physical laws, then there would be no place for free will or responsibility, because every action on it would be a derivation of the system itself. In a sealed chamber, if an atom moves faster than another, we do not say it decided to move fast. It moved fast because of the way it interacted with the rest of the atoms (and other forces) present in the sealed chamber. If we think of the whole universe as one big sealed chamber, then naturally, there would be no responsibility or free will, every action and reaction on it would be nothing more than particles and forces interacting. When someone decides to steal something, it is because all the different factors in the universe led them to make that decision at that time, similar to the different factors inside a sealed chamber causing a particular atom to move faster.

They do not realize that there is a big “if” at the beginning of that whole train of thought. The Quran says that humans have free will, therefore there is some special ingredient in humans that makes them an exception to the physical laws, and therefore none of the above actually applies to humans. Based on what evidence? The Quran. Therefore the above line of reasoning is irrelevant and does not prove anything, since it relies on an unproven premise. The question is whether we accept the Quran’s evidence or reject it, if we accept it, then we believe human actions are free-willed, and there is no scientific opposition to this, since there is no scientific proof that free will does not exist. All that atheists have is a line of reasoning that starts with an unproven premise, they believe in the superstition that there is no free will without having any evidence, while we believe in the Quran-and-conscience-backed, but scientifically unproven, fact that there is free will.

The Quran refers to the atheist desire to believe in unproven superstitions that help them disbelieve in God:

That is because when God alone was called upon, you disbelieved; but when others were associated with Him, you believed. Judgment rests with God the Sublime, the Majestic.21

Many irreligious people somewhat admit the truth of free will by acting as if human creations are artificial, while saying animal creations are not. They say that it is a bad thing if a city expands and destroys the uninhabited ecology in which various animals exist. But if we are simply yet another species, our destruction of the habitat of other creatures is as natural as the destruction of habitats that has gone on for millions of years as one species acquired mutations that enabled it to destroy other species, and as natural processes turned forests into deserts.

Why should our actions be artificial and the actions of animals natural? Why should humans not act greedily and destructively when animals can do it?

The reason why human creations are artificial, rather than natural, is because our free spirit is not controlled by the universe’s topological programming (by the laws God laid down for the universe), rather, we can defy it and do as we please. This makes us responsible for our actions, and it makes our creations artificial. Human creations are artificial because we are from outside this universe. We are only here for a short time. Once humanoids were given free will, from then on they stopped being partakers in nature, equal to other animals, and became something more, something that could sidestep nature, sidestep their own genetic programming, to do new things, sometimes good, sometimes evil.

Some will use the evidence-free theory of emergence to say that a piece of biological tissue (the brain) can acquire self-awareness and responsibility, and in this way do things that are artificial, that are not mere derivations of the system’s design and function. There is no proof for this, therefore it cannot be used to prove any point.

There is much debate on what consciousness is, what this thing is behind our eyes that enables us to think about thinking, to philosophize, to choose and be responsible for our choices. Consciousness is probably nothing more or less than our God-given spirit experiencing life inside a human body. This means that even if we manage to create life, it will probably be impossible to create a free-willed creature from scratch, since unlike God, we cannot breath a spirit into something to make it self-aware. This seems like a power that only God has.

We do not know the exact moment in the history of Earth that Adam was placed on it. It is possible that it was in the past 10,000 years, or it could have been 100,000 years ago. We do not know how Adam interacted with the existing humanoids, whether there was any interbreeding.

Even if Adam and his children (humanity) share genes with various humanoid creatures that have existed, that doesn’t mean we are directly descended from them, just that God used some of their genetic code to create Adam, the same way He used the genetic code of existing humans to create Jesus from dust.

God probably already had the full genetic code of humans before the creation of the universe, and it is for this reason that He can take full credit for the creation of humans (and all other creatures) despite the fact that they evolved naturally. This universe is simply a seemingly automated factory that follows a program placed inside it (embedded in its topological features) by God that is designed to lead to the origination of life and ultimately humanoids. Therefore it is not that God “took” genetic code from other humanoids to place them in Adam. He already had all of the genetic code to begin with, even before the universe was created. He placed some of the code in those humanoids indirectly (using evolution), and some in Adam directly. The code in both cases comes from God’s “library”, so to speak, one travels indirectly, hiding in the universe’s topology until, after billions of years, it is brought to life through evolution, and one travels directly, with God creating Adam from dust based on that code.

It is a case of starting with the recipe and building a massive universe in which the recipe can come into existence, without leaving any trace of one’s direct involvement in the process. God did not have to come look on Earth 10,000 or however many years ago to find genetic code to use for Adam. The code was already in His library.

The Self-Destructive Fight Against Science

Religious people, both Christian and Muslim, have done a great deal of work to discredit religion in their short-sighted and badly advised defense of it. The Christian speaker Bill O’Reilly has been the laughing stock of the internet multiple times in his ridiculous statements in support of religion.

O’Reilly makes the same mistake that many Muslims make. He supports atheists by making the exact same mistake they make; he thinks that once a natural phenomenon has been explained by science, it automatically proves God’s involvement false.

You can’t come up with a better weapon to hand to atheists to help them win their war on religion. By buying into their way of thinking, religious people enter an arena where they are guaranteed to be crushed over and over again by scientific findings.

The scientific functioning of our universe is a principle of the Quran. God’s existence must be impossible to prove, therefore there must always be scientific reasons that explain things without a need for God.

The world of the Unseen, the supernatural, is by God’s design beyond human knowledge or measurement. Everything we see around us must have a logical explanation, or seem to, or there should be the hope of finding a logical explanation for it one day. There should never be anything provably supernatural.

Provable miracles must never happen, because a miracle, by definition, is a sign of God’s direct involvement in our universe, which means it is a direct measurement of God, which means it is hard evidence for God’s existence. God, as He repeats over and over again in the Quran, intends to hide Himself from us until the end of the world, when clear signs of His existence will be shown to us:

Do they mean to wait until the angels come to them, or for your Lord to arrive, or for some of your Lord’s signs to come? On the Day when some of your Lord’s signs come, no soul will benefit from its faith unless it had believed previously, or had earned goodness through its faith. Say, “Wait, we too are waiting.” 22

Atheists say they want to wait for hard evidence for God’s existence before they believe in the fairy tales present in scripture. The Quran tells religious people to say the same thing, that we too are waiting. The above verse can be considered a pointer to the proper religious mindset toward science. We too acknowledge, with atheists, that there is no hard evidence for God’s existence. They say they will wait for hard evidence before believing, we say we believe in scripture and wait for hard evidence, and for this humble submission and patient waiting for proof, we will be rewarded.

The mistake they make is that they reject the possibility that scripture might be true, that what their consciences tell them might be true, that there is a God and that there is a purpose built into this universe, while we do not neglect our consciences and read scripture with an open heart, until the soft evidence of it proves to us that faith is better than disbelief, while acknowledging that we would never have direct proof for our beliefs until the Day of Judgment.

There is no shame in admitting that God’s existence is impossible to prove. That is what the Quran teaches. If God’s existence was possible to prove (with hard evidence), that would make faith unnecessary, and that would turn this world into a farce.

There is certainly ample proof in this universe and in the Quran for any fair-minded person to be guided to God, as the Quran says:

In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the ships that sail the oceans for the benefit of mankind; in the water that God sends down from the sky, and revives the earth with it after it had died, and scatters in it all kinds of creatures; in the changing of the winds, and the clouds disposed between the sky and the earth; are signs for people who understand.23

But these signs are not hard evidence, in that it is always necessary for the conscience to be involved before the evidence is accepted. Rational thought is not sufficient by itself.

One can argue that there is nothing besides rational thought to think with. Religion says that there is also the conscience, a power that probably comes with the unproven spirit of God that’s inside all of us, and which was given to us through Adam. This is the part of a human that is involved in faith, involved in making the final judgment to believe in God and obey His commandments without having direct proof of His existence. The recognition of the soft evidence in scripture and the universe’s design is sufficient to prove the existence of God, even if our rational brains continue to recognize that there is room for doubt and disbelief.

A Clarification on Kufr (Disbelief / Infidelity) and God’s Justice

In Islam, merely not believing in God doesn’t necessarily mean one will go into the Hellfire. The Quran’s word for someone who deserves eternal punishment is kafir. Misinterpretation and misunderstanding of this word among Muslims and non-Muslims has led to a great deal of confusion, and has turned many away from religion.

Kafir comes from kufr, which literally means “one who conceals”. For this reason kafir is actually also used to mean “farmer”, because a farmer covers up seeds with soil. A kafir is the evil mirror image of a faithful person; one who has seen the soft evidence for God’s existence and has accepted it in their heart, but who intentionally rejects this faith out of arrogance and desire. A kafir is someone who acquires faith and then disbelieves:

On the Day when some faces will be whitened, and some faces will be blackened. As for those whose faces are blackened: “Did you disbelieve after your belief?” Then taste the punishment for having disbelieved. 24

That’s what a kafir, a disbeliever, is. Someone who acquires faith but intentionally rejects it. In Islam, people who do not believe in God, or who believe in the wrong god because they do not know any better, are not automatically disbelievers. The Quran says:

God does not hold a soul responsible except for what is in its power.25

God does not hold a soul responsible except for that which He has already given it. 26

Therefore a person who never has a chance to believe in God, for example because they have only seen negative things about religion and have never had it clearly explained to them, will not be held responsible for not believing in God.

There is some disagreement among theologians on this matter. Some say that humans are endowed with sufficient capacity to believe in God even without scripture. While we cannot rule this out, I find it questionable, although I cannot think of any definite proof either way. It seems possible that perfectly good and kind people can be driven away from religion due to particular circumstances, or simply because they never learn enough about God to believe in Him, but again, we cannot make any definitive statements about what goes in inside people’s hearts throughout their long lifetimes.

Ultimately, what matters is that God is just. Many irreligious folk say that it is unjust for someone to be punished if they truly do not have sufficient knowledge to believe in God, and use this to say that religion is unjust. But religion says the same thing these people say. God is just and He will not needlessly punish anyone. God will not do anything unjust, therefore if we ever think or imagine that something He does is unjust, then we have thought wrongly about Him, and have not appreciated His kindness, generosity and justice. It is utter madness to think that the One who created humans, with all of their complexity and sensitivity, should be less just and sensitive than humans.

The God of the Old Testament is certainly that way, because of the corruptions that the rabbis introduced into the book. The God of the Quran is not. I have not found a single unjust thing in the Quran despite all of the times I have read it.

Conclusion: Time to Join in Origin of Life Research

It is time for Muslim individuals, organizations and nations to proudly adopt the theories of evolution and abiogenesis as nothing more than new fields of the sciences. The same way that we do not fight the atmospheric sciences even if they explain how rain happens, we must not fight the science of evolution just because it explains how creatures are made.

We must abandon the centuries-old superstition that discovering rational explanations for natural phenomena proves that God is not involved with them. We must eagerly endorse the effort to find out explanations for all phenomena, explanations that completely take God out of the picture, because we and the atheists have the same beliefs when it comes to this. We both believe that there can never be anything supernatural that can be measured, meaning that when doing science, we and atheists have everything in common, seeking to find rational and logical explanations for everything around us.

It is foolishness to attack a scientist for explaining how it rains, and similarly, it is foolishness to attack a scientist for explaining how creatures come into existence. In both cases, scientists try to find out how God designs and operates the universe.

Jews are a race and a religion

Can you please tell me the meaning of “Children of Israel” in the Quran?

Israel is another name for Prophet Ya`qoub, grandson of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). Ya`qoub is known as Jacob in the Bible. The Children of Israel are Jacob’s descendants. He had twelve sons, and the descendants of his sons make up the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Israel/Jacob is the father of all Jews, meaning that the Children of Israel means “genetic Jews”, people who are Jewish by birth. The Quran also uses yahood to refer to Jews, which means “genetic-cultural Jews”, Jews who are Jews by genetics, and who consider themselves part of the world’s Jewry and act as a specific culture and interest group.

In Islam, a person can be Muslim and belong to the Children of Israel (i.e. be a genetic Jew), since belonging to the Children of Israel is a matter of genetics, similar to being Arab or Indo-European.

But a person cannot be Muslim and yahood, because being yahood means that one accepts to be part of Judaism to a greater or lesser degree.

These distinctions are lost on many Muslims and many people in the West, especially since some Jews act as if they are “just a faith” like Islam and Christianity, when they are not just a faith. If they were just a faith, how could Israel use genetics to decide who to give Israeli citizenship to (since only a Jew can get citizenship)? According to the racist thinking that rules in Israel, an Arab’s genes are not good enough to make them citizens, while a Jew’s genes are. It is all about race, similar to the apartheid government of South Africa treating whites as first class citizens and blacks as subhuman.

The Children of Israel refers to Jews-the-genetic-group (i.e. the Jewish race), yahood refers to Jews-the-genetic-and-cultural group, those of the Jewish race who are part of Jewish culture (even if they are not religious). The word Jew in English, among those who understand history, has the same meaning as yahood.

What “Jew” means is similar to what “WASP” means (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). WASP refers to people of European and Protestant heritage, which includes many of the white people who live in the West. WASPs are both a genetic group and a cultural/religious group (even though they are not very religious in general). Jews, instead of having white genes, have Jewish genes, and instead of belonging to Protestant culture, belong to Jewish culture (even if they aren’t very religious).

Some people can be found in the West who think that one stops being a Jew if one stops “practicing”. This is like saying one stops being a WASP if one stops “practicing”. Being a Jew, and being a WASP, is not something you practice, it is something you are.

For Jews and WASPs, there is a religious tradition that originally defined their culture, but to most Jews and WASPs, religion is something that’s only useful during weddings and funerals, although both groups retain some of the teachings of their religions. Thus many Jews, even the atheists among them, continue to maintain the Hebrew Bible idea of considering themselves a superior species of humans, separate from all other humans, and continue to view the world in terms of Jews vs. non-Jews. WASPs, too, continue to value Christian ideals to some degree, and their culture of respecting fairness, equality and hard work was originally inspired by Biblical ideas.

Question from a reader

Asalaamualaykum. who founded Judaism?, was it the children of Israel? (Yacoub) did they become jews after Moses? before the coming of Jesus? Would be grateful for any info into the history of Judaism and children of Yocoub.

Judaism as we know it today was established by Moses (Prophet Musa peace be upon him). The same way that Islam is based on the teachings of the Quran, Judaism is based on the teachings of the Torah, the revelation that was given to Moses.

The Torah makes up the first five books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books contain the message and the laws of the original Judaism that was founded by Moses (with some corruptions).

The Jewish race (people of Jewish genes) existed before Moses, since their existence starts with Israel/Jacob, about 400 years before Moses according to Biblical chronologists. Before Moses, they followed the religion of Abraham and Israel.

The Jews before Moses are known as Hebrews, since in current usage Jew means a person of Jewish genes who is a follower of Moses’ religion/culture. But genetically and culturally the Hebrews and and the Jews are the same people. Once the Hebrews acquired Moses’ religion, they reformed into Jews.

Today’s Judaism is very different from the original Judaism because it follows the Talmud (writings of rabbis), which creates a new religion on top of the old religion and legalizes things like usury.

In Islamic thinking, Jesus was the Jewish messiah that was sent to correct and reform Judaism and ban the evils that the rabbis had legalized, such as usury. The rabbis tolerated for a while, until he started to threaten their profits by attacking the Temple (which was the Jewish Wall Street of that time where usury was practiced). Within one week Jesus was to be crucified for this unforgivable sin. In Islam, we believe that God saved Jesus, as is narrated in the chapter 3 of the Quran:

54. They planned, and God planned; but God is the Best of planners.

55. God said, “O Jesus, I am terminating your life, and raising you to Me, and clearing you of those who disbelieve. And I will make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return; then I will judge between you regarding what you were disputing.

In verse 55, God promises Jesus that He will ensure that the Jews and non-Jews who followed Jesus (the Christians) will be forever superior to the Jews who disbelieved in Jesus (Jews who continued to follow Judaism). This prophecy has continued to remain true to this day. Despite all Jewish efforts to stamp out Christianity, it went on to become the official religion of the Roman Empire, and since then Christian powers have always been orders of magnitude more powerful than Jewish powers.

What happened to Islamic civilization? Why did Muslims fall behind in science and technology?

I wanted your in depth opinion on a particular observation. Muslims, historically speaking, have been responsible for hundreds and thousands of scientific discoveries. What happened to us? Why are we in the stage we are?

Only 100 years ago, which is just a little more than one human lifetime, the Ottoman Empire was a sovereign Muslim nation that could stand up to any Western power. No Jewish colonizer would have dared to terrorize and massacre Palestinians when the Ottoman Empire was there to protect its citizens.

While many Muslims, including scholars, think that Muslims were always powerful, capable and thriving throughout history until modern times, this is mostly a romantic fairy tale told to console and encourage.

The Crusaders were able to take Jerusalem and other parts of the Levant from Muslims in 1099 CE and ruled it for nearly 100 years. Where were the great Muslim powers in this time that they couldn’t take it back? The Middle East was a mix of weak and fractured “Muslim” powers, who were only Muslim in name but in general acted like any modern power, killing and destroying while using religion to justify their actions, and while being under the influence and sometimes control of foreign non-Muslim powers.

The current weakness and powerlessness of Muslims is similar to their state during the Mongol invasions. Some Muslims thought the end of the world had arrived, thinking the Mongols were the promised Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj (Gog and Magog) mentioned in the Quran. The Mongols utterly destroyed the Sunni Muslim Khwarezmian Empire which controlled nearly all of Modern Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and parts of Afghanistan and Kazakhstan, and which had existed for 150 years, through the wholesale slaughter of men, women and children. After that, they went on to destroy Baghdad and Damascus, although the Abbasid Empire had been in decline for centuries before the Mongols arrived.

On the other side of the Medieval world, Muslims ruled nearly half of Spain for nearly 800 years, until 1492 CE (which is also the year the Americas were discovered). Just as they threw Muslims out of Spain, Christians went on to conquer two continents, spread Christian rule all over them, and eventually built the world’s most powerful nation there.

The Myth of Continuous Power Increase

There is a myth among Muslims that since they belong to God’s chosen religion, they should have been able to establish a globally dominant power that ruled the world forever. But God doesn’t promise us that. He promises that we will be tested:

You will be tested through your possessions and your persons; and you will hear from those who received the Scripture before you, and from the idol worshipers, much abuse. But if you persevere and lead a righteous life—that indeed is a mark of great determination.1

God also threatens us with His ability to remove us from power and replace us with others if we do not follow His guidance:

131. To God belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. We have instructed those who were given the Book before you, and you, to be conscious of God. But if you refuse—to God belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. God is in no need, Praiseworthy.

132. To God belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. God suffices as Manager.

133. If He wills, He can do away with you, O people, and bring others. God is Able to do that. 2

Verse 131 above mention’s God’s warning to the People of the Book. The Old Testament contains many promises by God that if His people disobey, He will abandon them to whatever that may happen to them, and that He will make others dominant over them. In the Book of Deuteronomy (part of the Old Testament, and part of the Torah), prophet Musa (Moses) says:

25 When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the Lord thy God, to provoke him to anger:

26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.

27 And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you.3

The Quran, too, mentions prophet Musa saying similar things:

6. Moses said to his people, “Remember God’s blessings upon you, as He delivered you from the people of Pharaoh, who inflicted on you terrible suffering, slaughtering your sons while sparing your daughters. In that was a serious trial from your Lord.”

7. And when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks, I will grant you increase; but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe.”

8. And Moses said, “Even if you are ungrateful, together with everyone on earth—God is in no need, Worthy of Praise.” 4

Our relationship with God is not one where He constantly supports us just because we say we are His nation, unlike some Muslims and many Jews think. Here is the Jewish feminist author Naomi Wolf expressing her surprise at finding out (by reading the Hebrew Bible) that unlike what many Jews think, God does not promise them never-ending support just because they are “His chosen people”:

He never says: “I will give you, ethnic Israelites, the land of Israel.” Rather He says something far more radical – far more subversive — far more Godlike in my view. He says: IF you visit those imprisoned…act mercifully to the widow and the orphan…welcome the stranger in your midst…tend the sick…do justice and love mercy ….and perform various other tasks…THEN YOU WILL BE MY PEOPLE AND THIS LAND WILL BE YOUR LAND. So “my people” is not ethnic — it is transactional. We are God’s people not by birth but by a way of behaving, that is ethical, kind and just. And we STOP being “God’s people” when we are not ethical, kind and just.5

She is not quite correct when she says “my people” is not ethnic. Jews are God’s chosen, what they don’t generally realize is that being chosen doesn’t necessarily mean one is chosen for a good thing. Jews are God’s chosen in that He gave them many scriptures and throughout the centuries continuously sent them new prophets to guide them back to the Straight Path. He chose them for a specific test. Their being chosen is not just a privilege, it is both a privilege and a heavy burden. If they reject God despite being chosen, God sends the most terrible punishment on them, like He has done many times throughout history. Many Jews forget the burden and choose to enjoy the privilege of thinking of themselves as God’s chosen elite.

Our relationship with God is contractual. If we obey, He supports us. If we disobey, He stops supporting us and subjects us to unfriendly powers.

The story of the Jews is a good lesson for us. Many times in their history they were extremely powerful. After they left Egypt, they entered Canaan around 1446 BCE. They disobeyed God when they were about to overtake a city and live in it, so God punished them by having them wander in the desert for 40 years. They finally entered Canaan in 1406 BCE and completely conquered it by 1399 BCE. Once they become a sovereign power, they soon start to do evil, abandoning God, worshiping Baal or the Calf, practicing usury or allying themselves with irreligious foreign powers. For this reason, as they rejected and sometimes even killed their prophets, every few generations God would send a powerful foreign power to destroy many of their cities and slaughter many of their people.

When they continued to reject God, He sent Babylon to conquer their lands and sent them into exile for 70 years. After that the Persian emperor, whose empire had conquered Babylon, allowed the Jews to return to their lands and reestablish themselves there. Their story continued the same as before, with them doing evil and being punished for it. In 70 AD, a few decades after they rejected Jesus and tried to kill him, they tried to escape the rule of the Roman empire. In return they had their city of Jerusalem utterly destroyed and hundreds of thousands of Jews killed.

The Arch of Titus, which commemorates the Roman victory over the Jews, among other things, still stands in Rome.

Titus, the Roman commander who was in charge of the Roman victory over the Jews, is supposed to have refused to wear a wreath after the victory, saying that he was only acting as a tool of God’s wrath over the Jews. Perhaps this was God’s punishment on them for their rejecting God’s prophet.

Another recent example from Jewish history is Germany in the first few decades of the 20th century. In 1920, Jews owned most of Germany’s media, banks and large corporations and controlled Germany’s academia. They continually promoted homosexuality and sex outside of marriage in books, plays and films in the name of progress. In short, they acted exactly the way they act today in the United States and Europe.

That ended abruptly with the rise of Hitler, who utterly destroyed everything the Jews had worked for.

In Jewish history there is an important historical lesson; that just because a nation associates itself with God and claims to be His people does not mean they will always have God’s support.

Muslim nations have had a history similar to that of the Jews. Many powerful Muslim states have risen and fallen throughout history, and this process is not going to end. If we establish a caliphate like some Muslims dream about, and even if it rules the world for 1000 years, if most of the population abandons Islamic values and Islam becomes largely culture and tradition and not faith, then that caliphate too will fail. God will enable another Mongol invasion, or another invasion by the British and the French, to come and divide their caliphate and do with it as they please.

Christianity’s Place in Islamic History

Just as Islam faded in the Middle East and became little more than cultural tradition and ceremony, Christianity rose in the West. The Christians who conquered the Americas thought they were doing it for God’s sake. They read the Bible daily, they established Biblical law in their colonies, and they braved many dangers in order to establish families, villages and cities in empty and hostile lands.

God’s promise in the Quran came true for them for their deeds:

65. Had the People of the Scripture believed and been righteous, We would have remitted their sins, and admitted them into the Gardens of Bliss.

66. Had they observed/enforced the Torah, and the Gospel, and what was revealed to them from their Lord, they would have consumed amply from above them, and from beneath their feet. Among them is a moderate community, but evil is what many of them are doing.6

While it is common for many Muslims to think of Christians as nothing but heathens who should magically disappear now that Islam has come, Christians are as much God’s people as Muslims are, that is, they too have a contract with God, and if they uphold their contract with God, God will uphold His contract with them. If a Christian nation is more faithful, more eager to serve God, and more observant of God’s laws, then we shouldn’t be surprised if God gives them His full support.

This was the case in the Americas and much of Western Europe until 1900 CE. With all of the corruption present, the average person’s actions and thinking were still largely controlled by Christian ideals.

Today, things are different. The West has finally abandoned the religion that made it great. The only reason the West is great today is the momentum of the past. A Muslim may lose hope when they look at the United States and see its immense capacity to dominate and do evil throughout the world. But the United States is already past its prime. It is desperately trying to hold onto its past power, constantly threatening Russia, China and Iran, but incapable of doing anything about them as they continue to rise.

The United States has had a below-replacement fertility rate since the 1970’s. If it wasn’t for their continuous importation of immigrants, their population would have been shrinking by now. A decades-long below-replacement fertility rate is all that is needed to illustrate that a nation is failing.

It is a country’s population that gives a nation its economic, technological and military power, and once the population starts to shrink, its power will decrease, because there will be fewer people to innovate, and fewer people to consume the fruits of these innovations and in this way pay for further innovations. Today the United States can afford to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on military spending every year, and it is this spending that enables various military companies to continue innovating. But as the American tax base and economy both shrink, with it its power to spend will shrink. America is on a trajectory to become the next Portugal, once a global superpower, now a complete non-entity.

One illustration of the continuing fall of the United States is that of the world’s top 15 skyscrapers (those higher than 350 meters) finished in the past 3 years, 10 are in China, and only one in the United States. China continues to rise, the United States continues to stagnate and fall. America’s failing economy has no need for new office buildings, hotels and restaurants, since it already has more than its shrinking economy needs.

The answer to the question of why Muslims are so powerless compared to the West these days is that Islamic history ran into Christian history. Christian power was still rising went it clashed with an Ottoman Empire that was already past its prime, so the Ottomans didn’t stand a chance.

Today, Christian powers too are past their prime, and great change is coming.

The United States is unlikely to become a Portugal any time soon, and if Islam continues to spread, it might change into a new type of superpower without becoming irrelevant.

It should be noted that while China’s rise will probably be a good thing in the short-term, as its rise to power will probably prevent further significant US excesses for the next few decades, once it is firmly established as the world’s most powerful country, it could start acting like the US, forcing every other country to either become a de facto client state or get turned into a war zone.

Islam in the West

There already are tens of millions of Muslims living in the United States and Western Europe. Just as the native populations of these countries continue to shrink, the Muslim population continues to increase.

At the moment, of course, Muslims are extremely poor and powerless in the West. But demographics decides the destiny of a nation. It is this fact that is terrifying Zionist career Islam-haters like Robert Spencer, Geert Wilders, Daniel Pipes and Pamella Geller and the billionaire Jews supporting them.

They know that it is only a matter of time before Muslims have the political power to affect the foreign policy of these nations, and that means they will have the power to affect the policy of these nations toward their beloved Israel.

Ten years ago, in 2007, every terrorist attack and every crime that could potentially be blamed on Muslims would be plastered all over the Jewish-owned or operated Western media (which is nearly all of the West’s media) for weeks on end. It appears that some time between 2014 and 2016 the Jews decided that it was more in their self-interest to protect Muslims and promote unfettered Muslim immigration to the West, to prevent white Christians from ever gaining total control of a Western country and in this way having the power to dictate Jew-unfriendly laws, as happened in Nazi Germany. Their media today does its best to hide the identities of terrorists, and whenever a terrorist attack occurs, Jewish-operated companies like Google can be seen promoting articles (in this case, in search results and on Google News) that blame these attacks on white people rather than on Muslims.

The Jewish-owned and operated Salon Magazine, a leftist publication, is a big defender of Muslims at the moment. This is a magazine that hasn’t made a profit in the past 20 years, it is entirely a tool of propaganda for leftist Jews. If they pretend to care about us, if they defend us, should we celebrate and join forces with them?

In ten years, when winds change again and the Jews7 decide, like they did in the first decade of the 21st century, that it is in their best interest to promote a negative image of Islam in the West, then they will do that all over again. We in the West are on a collision course with Jews. As our population, and thus our political power, increases, so will our power to sway Western governments against Israel. And when that happens, when we become a threat to Jewry’s beloved Israel, they will turn around overnight, attacking us left and right and portraying us as evil barbarians intent on destroying Western civilization, like they were doing 24/7 a few years ago, and like so many Jewish Islam-haters and “conservative” Jewish media outlets like Breitbart continue to do today.

We must learn to develop long memories, and our best help in this regard is the study of history. We must never ally ourselves with an evil force that has decided at the moment it is in its self-interest to defend us, because tomorrow it can decide that it is in its self-interest to attack us. We must never justify evil for the greater good, and we must never lose our moral integrity for the achievement of political goals.

Islam might go on to become the dominant religion of the West in 100 years, as non-Muslim white people continue to die out, and as white people who convert to Islam continue to increase and have higher fertility than non-Muslim whites. And of course, there are the millions of Muslim immigrants currently residing in the West.

While Muslims continue to be strangers in the West at the moment, this is going to change soon. Today it is still common for us to be viewed as barbarians and outsiders. But a point will be reached when everyone will know a few Muslims and accept them as ordinary citizens, and when that happens, the number of conversions to Islam could multiply very fast, because these people will finally see that Islam is nothing but an updated and improved version of Christianity.

The Long View of History

Even if Muslims establish a new global superpower that lasts for hundreds of years, it too can eventually fail and get conquered by non-Muslim powers. Imagine if this world continues to exist for the next 100,000 years. The story of Muslims being powerful then weak then powerful again might play out fifty or a hundred times more.

We humans wants safety and security. We want to establish Paradise on Earth once and for all and then go on living in it. But that is not the purpose of this world, and dreams of establishing a Paradise on Earth are naive and futile.

We are taught over and over again in the Quran that this world is worthless, that it will soon be over, that none of our deeds done in this world will last. The Quranic character Dhul Qarnain shows his appreciation for God’s message when he says the following right after completing building a structure for God’s sake:

He said, “This is a mercy from my Lord. But when the promise of my Lord comes true, He will turn it into rubble, and the promise of my Lord is always true.”8

For us Muslims, it is always about the journey, not the destination. It doesn’t matter what we accomplish in this world. What matters is the record of our deeds. No matter what we build, no matter how much power we have, we could see it all destroyed tomorrow. This has happened over and over again in history, though sadly we continue to fail to learn the lesson.

Why did God let the Mongols destroy Baghdad and Damascus if our purpose was to continue to gain power, wealth and fame in this world? Why did He let the Ottoman Empire, the last truly sovereign Muslim power, be invaded and destroyed? Why did He not allow the Arab powers to defeat Israel during their multiple wars?

Because this world is a test. It is not our purpose to build Paradise on Earth. Our purpose is khilafah, literally “to be stewards”. We are stewards of the earth. Our purpose is to take care of it by enjoining good and admonishing against evil, so that humanity continues, and so that the the earth does not become entirely corrupted.

A steward takes care of a farm until the owner returns, continuing the running of the farm as best they can. It is the owner’s business what they do with the farm. In the same way, our job in this world is to continue be God’s stewards, God’s agents for good in this world, but it is His business what He does with this world, and whether He gives us power or takes it away from us. All that we can say is, “We hear and we obey.”

We are not seekers after power. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not seek power, it was given to him. Neither did any of the righteous Rashidun caliphs. We do not seek to establish global dominance, or to carry out global war. Our job is to be God’s stewards, to walk on the Straight Path.

Being on the Straight Path does not require gaining power, and in fact the seeking of power is directly opposed to it, for the seeking of power always requires that one abandon one’s moral integrity “for the greater good”. This is the story of every political party that starts out with high moral ideals only to become a nest of corruption and evil.

It is God who gives us power if we deserve it, and if the time is right, for His own purposes, and as long as it pleases Him, until He can take it away from us. As for us, we must be thankful and content throughout all of this:

No, but worship God, and be among the thankful ones.9

It is God who manages history for us. We are not in charge, God is.

No calamity strikes except by God’s permission. Whoever believes in God, He guides his heart. God is Aware of everything.10

No calamity occurs on earth, or in your souls, but it is in a Book, even before We make it happen. That is easy for God. That you may not sorrow over what eludes you, nor exult over what He has given you. God does not love the proud snob.11

God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves. And if God wills any hardship for a people, there is no turning it back; and apart from Him they have no protector.12

God has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds, that He will make them successors on earth, as He made those before them successors, and He will establish for them their religion—which He has approved for them—and He will substitute security in place of their fear. They worship Me, never associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that—these are the sinners. 13

Our job is to do good wherever we find ourselves, to worship God, to be kind and just, to follow His commandments as best as we can, and it is God who will establish us on Earth when He pleases:

God has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds, that He will make them stewards on Earth, as He made those before them stewards, and He will establish for them their religion—which He has approved for them—and He will substitute security in place of their fear. They worship Me, never associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that—these are the sinners.14

We can, of course, be political activists and critics. We can constantly work toward social justice and the lifting of poverty. But instead of doing these by seeking power first, we do them without seeking power. We do what is right and just and kind toward everyone, and God, if He wishes, can give us power any time He wants.

Ibn al-Jawzi says in his Sayd al-Khaatir (“Quarry of the Mind”):

I reflected upon the envy that exists among scholars, and saw that its source is the love of the worldly life, because the scholars of the afterlife engage in love and do not envy others. What separates the two groups is that the scholars of the worldly life seek power and leadership in it, and they love to accumulate wealth and praise, while the scholars of the afterlife live in seclusion from these things, they fear them and have mercy toward those who are being tested by them.

Truly good and kind people, who fear God and take the afterlife seriously, do not seek power in my experience. Sometimes the right situation arises for a good person to rise and become powerful, as it happened with Saladin. Saladin wasn’t a revolutionary who grabbed power, or a politician. He became powerful as part of his job as a military commander, and one thing led to another until he became a powerful ruler.

The writer Frank Herbert says the following in Chapterhouse: Dune, and I find them true from all that I have seen:

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological
personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the
corruptible.

Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it.

Scientific vs. Divine Explanations for Islam’s Decline: Islam, Christianity and Indo-European Genes

Islam’s great revolution in science and scholarship came from Sunni Persians. Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, al-Nasaa’i, and Ibn Majah were all Persian. The first formal grammarian of the Arabic language was Sibawayh, a Persian. Some of the greatest names in Islamic history, such as al-Khawarazmi, al-Ghazali, Abu Sinaa, al-Biruni and Ibn Hayyan were Persian.

Persians are an Indo-European race, and to this day have continued their superiority in learning and scholarship over Arabs. In Iran over 70,000 books are published per year, compared to less than 20,000 per year in the entire Arab world.

It appears that historical events like the Mongol destruction of the Khwarezmian Empire, Shiite rule over Iran, and the centuries of conflict between the Persians and the Ottomans, caused Persian populations to shrink and become isolated, and in this way they fell out of the mainstream history of Islam. This might be the single most important historical reason for the decline of Islamic science.

Just as Islam lost its main source of Indo-European genes, Christianity acquired a tremendous new source in northwestern Europe. Christianity went through a similar process to that of Islam’s scientific rise, inspired by Greek philosophy and carried forward by religious thinkers like Thomas Aquinas. Christianity had far better access to Indo-European genes for many centuries compared to Islam, therefore the scientific revolution happened in Christendom. Christianity continued to ensure above-replacement fertility rates, Christian ideals continued to inspire and motivate people, and Indo-European genes supplied the high IQ needed for scientific progress.

This might be the scientific explanation for why Christianity overtook Islam after the Middle Ages.

A mistake many people make, both religious and irreligious, is that when they discover a scientific explanation for something, they start to think that it means that thing is not from God. But it is a principle of God that He will never allow us to have direct evidence of His existence, therefore when God does something, it is always through scientific means, or He makes it appear to be that way. God will not carry out miracles that can be recorded and published on YouTube. The only time that we will have direct proof of the existence of God and the rest of the Unseen is at the end of the world. When the pagans requested that they see an angel before they believe in God, God’s reply was this:

Had We sent down an angel, the matter would have been settled, and they would not have been reprieved.15

If we ever had direct evidence of God’s existence, then there would be no need for faith in God. God does not want that to happen, therefore everything that happens to us must have logical scientific explanations. We can examine Islamic history to find out where things went wrong. But even if we discover every single cause and try to cure it, our success is not guaranteed.

The divine reason for the fall of Muslims is that they abandoned Islam in their hearts, while the scientific reason is the above. The divine reasons precede the scientific reasons. If we disobey God, God will bring about logical and scientifically-explainable reasons for our destruction. And if we obey God, and carry out our stewardship in the best manner possible, God will inspire us toward whatever will give us success and power in this world.

Today, mainstream Islam is again acquiring Indo-European genes in the form of European converts to Islam. As these people increase in number, just as the number of seculars and Christians dwindles, among them will come great scholars and scientists, and soon (within a lifetime or two) Muslims could be responsible for half or more of the West’s scientific output.16

Conclusion

As Muslims, our goal in life is not to acquire power, glory or supremacy in this world. Our goal is not to establish Paradise on Earth. We can appreciate technological and scientific accomplishments, and we can work toward them as part of our stewardship on Earth, but we must never lose sight of the fact that ultimately, everything we do is meant to serve God, and that a day will come when all of our worldly works will be destroyed as if they never existed.

In this world, we are stewards of a temporary farm, a farm whose Owner has promised to destroy in the end. We must never get attached to this farm, or seek its improvement or power over it as a goal in itself. We must never get attached to the idea of establishing a global power. Even if we establish one, it too can come and go like every other Muslim power in history. History will continue going in cycles, Muslims will rise to power, fall, and rise again. The only people who achieve success are those who fear God and serve Him in the best way possible. It is only the record of our deeds which lasts forever, everything else is temporary.

If Muslims are weak today, look again in 500 years, and they may be the strongest and most technologically advanced power on Earth. Look again in 1500 years, and they may again be weak,  oppressed and backward. It is God who gives and God who takes. If we are thankful and obedient, He will increase us and improve our station in life, and if we are ungrateful, He can always take it all away from us and subjugate us to others, like He did to the Andalusian Muslims.

The purpose of bismillah

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The Arabs before Islam used to begin their works by naming their gods, saying “By the name of al-Laat” or “By the name of al-Uzzaa”. Other nations used to do the same. If one of them wanted to do something to please a king or ruler, they would say it is done “by the name of” that person, meaning that this deed would not be if it wasn’t for that king or ruler.

For this reason, when you say “I begin my deed with bismillah al-rahman al-raheem” (in the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful), it means “I am doing it by God’s command and for His sake, and not for the sake of my ego and its pleasures.

Shaykh Ahmad Mustafa al-Maraghi, Tafseer al-Maraghi.

Patriarchy in the Quran

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Stick to posting Islamic art and quotes. Otherwise, go learn about the patriarchy and power imbalances before flaunting your misogyny everywhere. May Allah guide you.

Islam is a patriarchal religion, where men get a degree of authority over their women in their households, and with that authority comes the burden of having to provide financially for all of their female relatives, so that in a devout Muslim society no woman will ever have to work, though they can if they want to.

That authority is balanced by the fact that a woman can get a divorce any time she wants, and she is protected by all of her male relatives against any abuses by her husband, so that if her husband abuses his authority in any way, she can always leave him to find a better man. The Quran calls on men to fear God, to be kind, to be just, and to defend the weak (which includes the women and children among them) but it also gives them authority in their households.

So while in Islam we believe in the equal worth of men and women, and in equal opportunities for both, the fact that God has given men a rank over women in their households is in the Quran, and ignoring this and pretending it doesn’t exist is throwing part of the Quran away because it disagrees with your preconceived notions, because you think your inane feminist-inspired moralizing is better than God’s guidance.

The Quran, 2:85: “Is it that you believe in part of the Scripture, and disbelieve in part? What is the reward for those among you who do that but humiliation in this life? And on the Day of Resurrection, they will be assigned to the most severe torment. God is not unaware of what you do.”

The Quran, 2:228: “And women have rights similar to their obligations, according to what is fair. But men have a degree [of authority] over them. “

The Quran, 4:34: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women [qawwamoon, literally “people of authority who watch over and maintain standards…”], as God has given some of them an advantage [in rank] over others, and because they spend out of their wealth.”

If you have a problem with a patriarchal society, you are in the wrong religion.

I encourage you to learn Arabic and read the Quran to discover the wonders of a society where men are not considered worthless and disposable like in the West, but where they are respected as figures of authority, and where a woman enjoys the peace of mind that comes with having multiple God-fearing men dedicated to her welfare, knowing that she could never, ever be homeless or wanting of food and income while a devout Muslim male relative remains to her, knowing that she can marry and divorce whoever she wants, start a business, or do whatever she wants with her life as long as it doesn’t go against God’s commandments, enjoying a peaceful life among men who like her and respect her and will not let anyone abuse her.

You are free to leave patriarchy, which means all sustainable civilized societies (all societies that have an above-replacement fertility rate, i.e. that are not on the path to extinction like Japan and Western Europe), to enjoy life among some Stone Age tribe where matriarchy is the order of the day, or in the ghettos and trailer parks of America where men belong to their mothers and do not know their fathers, where non-existent fathers make a patriarchy a practical impossibility, since patriarchy means rule of the fathers.

 

Why God Allows Evil to Exist, and Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Introduction

There is a surprising amount of confusion among the religious, even among clerics and scholars, when it comes to understanding why evil exists and why God stands aside when so much suffering happens throughout the world. I’ve heard nothing but lame excuses and naive, illogical reasoning from them when they try to justify the existence of evil.

Most of us express wonder when we see some horrible catastrophe happen, or when we see evil individuals, companies and institutions wield so much power. Some people even go so far as to blame God for the evil things that exist in this world, since if God had desired, He could have prevented such things from existing or happening in the first place. Others take this even further, using the existence of evil as proof of God’s non-existence. How can a good and supposedly all-powerful God stand by while so much evil happens? Where is our God?

I cannot follow a self-contradictory, unpredictable and illogical God, which is what God is as taught by many teachers of religion. Since I do not fit the criteria for becoming an atheist (being intelligent enough to reject the incoherent religion taught by my parents and teachers, but not intelligent enough to fix these incoherences and find my own path to God), what I have done throughout my life is to go back to Scripture and re-invent God based on its teachings, getting rid of all the cultural baggage that has entered into common religious belief to go back to the focus of all religion: The understanding and worship of God.1

There are good, perfectly logical explanations for these things, deep explanations that elucidate the purpose of this universe, our place in it, and our relationship with God, and through this give us perfectly good reasons for the existence of evil.

Why Evil Exists

What is the point of the existence of this world anyway? Many mistakenly think that the purpose of this world is to be a permanent residence where people judge whether God exists or not. They think that they can gauge God’s “level” of existence by the things that happen around them, so that given the right set of events, they will decide He is alive and active, and given others, they will decide He doesn’t exist, because if He existed, the world wouldn’t be the way it is.

A friend said that he once went on a trip abroad, and before he left, he asked God to protect three things that were most important to him in his life. During his trip, he lost all three, which included the dying of loved ones, and this made him decide that God doesn’t exist. He is a Buddhist now.

The above case is an example of earth-centric thinking, that considers this world a goal in itself. This is the core mistake that leads to millions of people misunderstanding, even disliking, God. That is a mistake because this world is nothing besides a testing hall where humans can freely choose to do as they like, to prove their worthiness of God’s approval or wrath. This world is not meant to be a permanent residence.

Most religions teach that an end of the world is coming. Regardless of religion, the universe is on track to become a dark, lifeless mass as the stars and galaxies die out. Everything is going to end, and what remains is the record of our deeds, kept by God. Even if we manage to create the greatest empire on earth, or write the most wonderful novel, none of our accomplishments will last.

One day the universe will shut down as if it never existed, and on that day what significance can our achievements have? This world is not meant as a permanent home of peace, but as a test. And a test requires that the possibility of failure should exist. If all humans acted according to God’s wishes, evil would not exist. But since God has given humans the freedom to disobey Him, they have the ability to do evil.

God is good, and evil is the absence of goodness, the same way that darkness is the absence of light. If God is Light, we cannot blame Him for the darkness we encounter when we turn away from Him, distance ourselves from Him, and act against His wishes.

Why didn’t God make the universe a place of wholesome goodness lacking in the possibility for evil? Because if evil could not exist, humans wouldn’t truly be free beings.

To be free, humans require the freedom to act against God along with the freedom to act for His sake. God wants to give humans perfect freedom to act and grow, so that they can be the best or the worst they want to be. Since humans have the freedom to act against God, and since to act against God is to create evil, humans have been given the freedom to create evil.

God did not make this world a perfect place because that is not its purpose. Imagine if you were a maker of creatures. If the creatures you made were controlled by their nature to do exactly what you put in them to do, they could never be truly your friends. They would be subservient robot-like machines that cannot help doing whatever you put in them to do.

But imagine if one day you wanted something more. You wanted to make creatures that could truly be your friends. The only way to have a true friend is to create a creature that can choose whether to be your friend or not. And so, you make creatures with free will, who can act according to whatever they wish, rather than according to your programming. Some of these creatures will choose to be your friends, others will ignore you, others will choose to be your enemies. They may fight among themselves, doing much evil to one another, and blaming you, their creator, for the evil they do, when in truth they should blame themselves, for they are the ones choosing to act the way they do. They have the freedom to be good, and many of them choose to be good, but some of them  choose to be evil instead.

The only thing we can blame God for is His creating us and giving us the freedom to be evil. This is a pointless blame. This is our reality and our fate, we cannot escape it. We have been thrown into this game regardless of our wishes, a game that forces us to choose to be either good or evil. We can debate the ethics of forcing people to choose between good and evil. But at the end of the day, we are forced to play this game. There is no dropping out.

Our Creator has done this to us, possibly against our will2, but we cannot get hung up over this fact, because our future holds something very important: Either eternal reward, or eternal punishment. Blaming God will not help our future. It may make us feel better now to hate God as so many do, but by making us think badly of God, this will reduce our chances of future success. The future is coming whether we want it to or not, and we have the power to make it a good or a bad future.3

Not all evil is done by humans. Droughts, floods and other natural disasters can cause much evil and suffering, and we can lose loved ones through car accidents and illnesses. Why doesn’t God prevent these things from happening if He loves us? Because, in order for the testing hall that is this world to be a true and consistent place of testing, God shouldn’t interfere with the functioning of nature4. The laws of nature should behave in such a way that makes sense even without reference to God. If we were as intelligent as we are, and yet we saw that nothing bad ever happened on earth, no car accidents, to illnesses, nothing, that everyone died in old age of natural causes, then this would be undeniable evidence of the existence of a higher power that protects humans.

God wants us to have the possibility of being atheists. It is one of God’s self-imposed rules that it should be impossible to directly detect His existence. And that requires that the functioning of this world should make perfect sense according to predictable scientific laws.

God wants us to believe in Him without seeing Him or knowing that He truly exists, because if it were possible to prove His existence, it would reduce our freedom to act against Him. God wants our universe to seem to make perfect sense without any necessity for His existence. This way we are given the freedom to discover Him and His Scriptures, and through our knowledge and conscience, we gain the ability to either follow His way or disbelieve in Him. Once we are given this knowledge, there is no turning away from the choice between good and evil.5

God wants our test to be a perfect test, in which we have perfect freedom to be good or evil. This would allow us to take credit for our actions. If God’s existence were proven, we’d be turned into slaves who cannot help but do as He says. We’d become merchants who act in our best interests by following God’s commandments. This is not what God wants. God wants us to be honored creatures who befriend Him not because we are forced to, but because we choose to. This is what gives worth to our friendship.

There is little honor in an employee acting according to his or her boss’s wishes, this is the expected behavior. While even this amount of obedience to a boss justifies reward, so that even if we had proof of God’s existence, we could still be rewarded for obeying Him6, God wants to take us beyond this boss-employee relationship. He wants to raise us to the status of honored friends, who act out of love and friendship, and out of our own efforts toward remembrance of God, rather than acting out of practical compulsion.

God wants us to be the servant who continues to love and serve his master, even though the master goes away for years, decades. What incredible honor and reward can await such a servant who faithfully loves and serves his absent master for 50 or 60 years, until he dies, even though the master never returns?7

God, by creating the possibility for the existence of true friendship between Himself and the humans He created, had to also create the possibility for the existence of true enmity between Himself and them. He wanted friends, but He knew that they couldn’t truly be called friends unless they had the option to be His enemies.

The evil done by humans on Earth is a doing of humans when they act against God, it is not a doing of God, therefore humans should be blamed, not God. And the evil done by nature is nature’s own doing, caused by the rules of physics, and God does not want to interfere with it because constant interference with nature would cause His existence to become apparent. It is necessary for disasters and accidents to be possible, as these prove to us the validity of nature’s rules, and allows the atheist the freedom to use these to prove that God doesn’t exist.

God and Nature shall always be apart, or seem to be apart, so that each one appears to function without the other. This is necessary, as this is what enables humans the freedom to choose between faith and disbelief, between good and evil. The world needs to make perfect, logical sense without having to refer to God in our thinking. It should be possible for us to believe that the world functions on its own without anything supernatural existing, this is what gives us the freedom to believe and disbelieve in God.

We need to be able to believe that the Master is absent. This is when the true nature of the servant comes through. Bad servants start to misbehave as soon as the Master looks away, and if the Master is away long enough, they entirely give up serving Him. They will start to loot His property and defile His name. But the good and honorable servant, even as he sees all of this happen, continues to have love and loyalty toward his Master. It makes no difference to him even if the Master never comes back. He keeps the remembrance of his Master in his heart, and he admonishes and encourages himself to continue to be the best servant he can be.

The world, the way it is, gives us the perfect opportunity to be this honorable and admirable servant. If evil did not exist, and if bad things did not happen, then there would have been no way for such servants of God to exist. We’d instead all be lowly and menial servants who never had a chance to disobey, and thus never had a chance to prove our loyalty toward God.

A world without evil and disaster would be a dysfunctional testing hall that cannot differentiate between the best and the worst of us. Without evil and disaster, God’s existence would be so clearly visible to us that most of us would cower in front of Him. A few people might be found who are daring enough to disobey God even in such circumstances, but the majority of people would kneel before God as they would before a great emperor, regardless of whether they had any loyalty toward Him.

A world that seems to be ruled by the cold, harsh laws of nature, and that completely hides the existence of God from our eyes, gives us the perfect opportunity to prove our loyalty to God. This world, with all of its problems, is the perfect testing hall, because of the problems it has.

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

I will get around the metaphysical complexity of defining good and bad people by saying that a good person is anyone the reader thinks does not deserve to suffer, while a bad person is someone who does not deserve God’s protection.

Why good people suffer has already been mostly answered. If bad things never happened to good people, this would act as a proof of God’s existence and the invalidity of nature’s laws. If all good people lived to old age and died of natural causes, this would be easily detectable by even the simplest analysis.

There are religious people who wrongly think that if you are truly faithful, you will never suffer anything bad. When they see bad things happen to people, they try to find the reasons why the sufferers themselves are responsible for the suffering that has come upon them.

But disasters are a natural part of life, and it should affect good and bad people equally, or at least it should seem to do so. God does not want to be seen, so it should be impossible to detect miracles happening to save good people.

The suffering of good people proves that nature’s laws are real. If nothing bad ever happened to good people, but only happened to bad people, the fact would act as a proof of God’s existence, and this is what God does not want in this world. God wants us to follow Him and serve Him of our own free will, without any compulsion or strong inducement.

There would be millions, maybe billions, more believers if avoiding suffering was as simple as believing in God and serving Him. But these believers would be tantamount to fair-weather friends, who are on the bandwagon of faith only for their own immediate, short-term interest. They wouldn’t be loyal friends of God.

The world should occasionally give the faithful the impression that God has abandoned them. This is the true test of faith. Once all blessing seems to have gone from our lives, that’s when we look inside our hearts to find God again. If we weren’t true believers, if we only believed in God to ensure our own worldly good, then there would be no God in our hearts. We’d lose faith and abandon religion once we had the impression that God has abandoned us, like millions do.

But as for the truly faithful, when life gives us the impression that God has abandoned us, we continue to believe in God and to do our best to protect our faith. If our Master seems absent, it does not mean He has gone away forever. Only a dishonorable servant would start to act as if the Master is dead once He is gone away for a month or two. Those of us who truly believe in God, who love Him and want His friendship, and who have accepted to be His servants for eternity, will not abandon serving Him, regardless of what hardship and loneliness comes our way.

By the morning brightness

And [by] the night when it covers with darkness,

Your Lord has not taken leave of you, nor has He detested [you].

And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life].

And your Lord is going to give to you, and you will be satisfied.

Did He not find you an orphan and give [you] refuge?

And He found you lost and guided [you],

And He found you poor and made [you] self-sufficient.
[Quran 93:1-8]

The possibility of good people suffering something horrible is nothing but an extension of these facts of life; the need for a proof of nature’s laws, the necessity for some suffering to prove one’s faith and virtue. God can inflict the greatest suffering on His most beloved servants, as He did with Abraham when He asked him to slaughter his beloved son, and as He did was Jacob in allowing him to believe, for years on end, that his most beloved son was dead, as this is how the greatest friends of God are raised to the highest ranks.

There can never be virtue without suffering. A virtuous act is one where we overcome our natural tendencies for the sake of God, and attaining virtue always has an element of suffering in it, small or great. A rich person who, out of love for God, refuses to practice usury to further enrich himself or herself, is doing a virtuous thing. Their suffering is that they watch their fellow rich men and women practice usury and see their wealth increase exponentially, while their own wealth increases slowly and is subject to far more risk.

And someone who attains virtue by working for a charitable cause, or by giving money to the poor, is also subject to a mild form of suffering (what economists would call “opportunity cost”), as they lose time and money that could have been used for something pleasurable.8

The possibility of good people suffering does not mean that blessedness in this world does not exist. As in the story of Joseph, God will allow suffering to happen, followed by periods of ease and enjoyment, followed by more suffering, until His servant is raised to the highest possible status. God will not leave his faithful servants abandoned alone to be entirely subject to the cold, harsh laws of nature, though it is necessary that it should appear so, so that God’s existence will not become apparent. The Quran says:

Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, and who is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.
[Quran 16:97]

Besides reward in the afterlife, the verse promises a good worldly life. The word used in the verse to mean “good” is tayyib, which can also be translated as “wholesome”. God will have a hand in the lives of good people, ensuring that despite the disasters they suffer, they will end up having wholesome, blessed lives. This, of course, cannot be proven, in accordance with God’s plan. But it can be seen in little things for those of us who have faith. The lives of believers seem to have more purpose. Their life stories seem better arranged and guided. This of course cannot be proven to an atheist, and it doesn’t have to be.

On the other hand, for disbelievers, people who knowingly rebel against God even though they believe in Him in their hearts, the Quran has this to say:

But whosoever turns away from My Remembrance, verily for him is a life narrowed down, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment. He will say: “My Lord, why have you summoned me as a blind person when I was sighted?” He will say: “Thus did Our signs come to you, and you forgot them; that is why you have been forgotten this Day.”
[Quran 20:124-126]

This verse, similar to the previous one, implies that there are worldly consequences for having (and in this case, not having) faith. Those who knowingly reject God will have a “narrowed down” life, also translated as “straitened” and “constricted”. Similar to how the lives of good people are blessed despite their hardships, the lives of evil people are constricted despite their joys and pleasures.

To put it another way, the general theme of a believer’s life is blessedness, while the general theme of a disbeliever’s life is constrictedness, a feeling of being oppressed by life. Both will enjoy periods of joy and periods of suffering, but through submitting to God, believers are blessed by God and are freed from many of the constraints of life, while disbelievers are, in general, and not very detectably, made to submit to the harshness and coldness of nature.

There will be a hidden hand of God that shields and guides the believer, while there is no such shield and guide for the disbeliever, and the world, itself a servant of God, treats them the way they like to be treated, as if God does not exist.

God could inspire us to always make the right choices in order to avoid all that is bad and to always gain what is good. But, besides making God’s existence apparent, this would reduce the value of our friendship with Him. A true friend of God is the one who keeps his faith in Him during difficulties, while a fair-weather friend of God is the one who only loves and worships God during times of peace and plenty, and whose faith is shaken whenever something bad happens to them (and plenty of such believers do exist).

The matter of ranks of God’s chosen friends in the afterlife is important, because it decides a person’s status in the afterlife for all of eternity. God does not want most of us to leave this world without having proven how good of a friend of God we are. That, in fact, is the main purpose of this world: To distinguish our ranks, from the very best of us to the very worst.

Some people die before they can prove themselves to God, for example infants. God allows this to happen because infant deaths are required by the laws of nature. And as for the poor infant, while their death is a tragedy in this life, in the afterlife God can choose to give them great reward without them having worked for it, since God’s generosity is not limited. He may also give them a higher status in the ranks of His friends than their parents as a reward for the parents, while also raising the status of the parents who kept their faith during the ordeal. A truly just God will not let an infant’s death go to waste.9

There are a thousand ways in which God can preserve eternal justice while allowing tragedies like infant deaths to happen, since this life is no more than a mere flicker compared to the eternity of the afterlife, and everything that happens here will one day be nothing more than a pale memory when a person has spent millions of years enjoying the rewards of the afterlife, close to family and friends and close to God.

Suffering is a natural part of a believer’s life. God does not ask us to stoically control our emotions, never letting any suffering show, to prove that we are faithful. Jacob was a prophet of God, and yet he cried so much after his son was believed dead that his eyes turned blind. There is no shame in sadness. God does not ask us to be super-human, but to keep faith alive in our hearts as we are subjected to life’s joys and sorrows.

Isn’t it Unkind for God to Punish His Creatures?

Think of God as Light. By staying close to Him, by following His commandments, we ensure our eternal good. No one is perfectly close to Him, each person is at some degree of distance. Eternal punishment is only for those who knowingly stray so far away from the Light that they knowingly wallow in complete darkness. Anyone who stays within the merest flicker of Light may gain God’s forgiveness and eternal reward.

Eternal punishment is necessary because that is the only way of ensuring that evil-doers don’t get away with their evil deeds. Many Jews (and Christians too) have become corrupted by the idea that they are God’s chosen children and that no matter what they do, they will eventually be forgiven. This is a highly dangerous thing to believe, because once you believe that you will never be punished eternally, then you can get away with anything. If you are an Israeli settler, who cares if you take over other people’s lands with violence. You are God’s Chosen, and you will be forgiven.

Once the idea of eternal justice is corrupted, then from that all evil follows. Even if people believe in an afterlife, if they think that there will be a limit on their punishment term, that they will burn for a thousand years and then will be freed to enjoy life for the rest of eternity, then many of them will not find it so bad to devolve utterly into sin, since they will eventually get away with it.

To preserve justice, people should not be able to get away with their crimes. During their lifetimes God gives them thousands of opportunities to repent and become better people. God believes that a human lifetime is sufficient to distinguish good people from bad, that it contains enough opportunities for humans to prove whether they deserve eternal good or eternal punishment. Every hour of every day contains opportunities for us to change, for better or for worse, and these small changes mount. There is a Light in this world and we can choose to either walk toward it or away from it every hour of every day. Every time we take a step away from it, we do it in the full knowledge that we have the chance to take a step toward it instead.

If we spend all of our lifetimes walking away from the Light by knowingly doing evil, we shouldn’t be surprised when one day we find ourselves in total darkness, hopeless of ever finding the Light again. It was our own choices that brought us here. For years and decades we had the option to turn back and walk toward the Light again, our consciences kept reminding us that we still had a chance to return to God, that God’s door was wide open to us, but instead we decided to keep walking away, chasing our shadow instead of chasing the Light.

Once a person falls into total darkness through their own choices, there will no longer be a point to extending their lives to let them come back. This is what Scripture claims, that once a person is totally surrounded by their evil deeds, they will never come back toward the Light. There is a point of no return, meaning that a person who crosses this point, even if given a lifetime of a hundred thousand years, it will not make a difference in their fate.

In fact, the Quran claims that such evil people, even if taken to the afterlife and shown all of the signs of God’s greatness, then brought back to earth, they will continue to be evil. Among some Christians there is the belief that people, no matter how bad, can be made to become good through education and reformation. The Quran, always unabashedly realistic, has a more satisfactory view, that guidance can only be had with God’s blessing, that even if someone fully understands God and believes in Him, they can still choose to be evil. The Quran goes beyond this, saying that once a person fully devolves into evil, not only will they become unreformable, but that God will actively prevent any reform, because they’ve done sufficient evil to seal their fate (as in the case of the Pharaoh of Egypt in the story of Moses).

If you could but see when they are made to stand before the Fire and will say, “Oh, would that we could be returned [to life on earth] and not deny the signs of our Lord and be among the believers.”

But what they concealed before has [now] appeared to them. And even if they were returned, they would return to that which they were forbidden; and indeed, they are liars.

And they say, “There is none but our worldly life, and we will not be resurrected.”

If you could but see when they will be made to stand before their Lord. He will say, “Is this not the truth?” They will say, “Yes, by our Lord.” He will [then] say, “So taste the punishment because you used to disbelieve.”

Truly, they have lost, those who deny the meeting with God , until when the Hour [of resurrection] comes upon them unexpectedly, they will say, “Oh, [how great is] our regret over what we neglected concerning it,” while they bear their burdens on their backs. Unquestionably, evil is that which they bear.

And the worldly life is nothing but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear God, so will you not reason?
[Quran 6:27-32]

The average person might be a sinner, but they do not fight against God every chance they get, and at the time of death they will likely possess enough light to be eligible for God’s forgiveness.

What are some examples of people who deserve eternal punishment? Usurers and their central bankers, who knowingly enslave millions to an evil, unnatural type of debt to enrich themselves, who orchestrate economic bubbles and bursts to reap trillions of dollars in profit while destroying the livelihoods of millions of families, and who plunge countries like the US into war after war, knowing that hundreds of thousands of innocent people will be killed, just so that they can earn their trillions financing these wars. A just God will not let these people go unpunished, and their punishment will not be something they can laugh at, it will not be a slap on the wrist like the US government gives to the usurers at Goldman Sachs every year when they are caught manipulating markets and destroying parts of the economy to enrich themselves. It will be something that will make them cry every single day for eternity.

I will not believe in a God who lets these people get away with the immense evil they do.

Conclusion

People make the mistake of considering this world their permanent home. They become attached to its blessings and disasters, and they think they can judge God based on what happens in their lives. But this world is nothing more than a tool for distinguishing God’s true friends from His fair-weather friends, and distinguishing these from His true enemies.

This world is nothing more than a preparation for the eternity of the afterlife. We would be wise not to become attached to its ups and downs, and to know that these are the days given to us by God in which we can prove ourselves to Him.

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I originally published this essay as a short ebook on Amazon in 2015. I’ve decided to publish it for free here on my website, after thoroughly rewriting it, so that more people may (hopefully) benefit from it.