Prelude: Belief in the Unseen
Our five senses are powerful means for discovering, observing and experiencing the world we live in. Yet, just as we know that a blind man’s inability to see does not disprove the existence of light, it would be presumptuous for us to insist that nothing exists outside of what we can perceive by our senses. Indeed, our minds can conceive the hypothetical existence of other dimensions and worlds in parallel with our own, or beyond it. Advances in human technology demonstrate to us that human knowledge is limited, and thus give us further reason to be humble. A clear, filtered glass of water may actually contain millions of microscopic organisms, which we can only see through a microscope. A dark room might actually contain infrared light, X-rays, radio waves or electromagnetic fields that are invisible to us, yet quite real. The very existence of matter is based on the arrangements and precise roles of countless subatomic particles.
Belief in the angels is the second pillar of faith.
“The Messenger believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and [so do] the believers. All believe in Allah, His angels and His messengers.” [Qur’an, 2:285]
Muslim belief in angels is based only on authentic scriptural knowledge. Superstition, fantasy and supernatural speculation are unreliable sources of objective knowledge, and hence are not relied upon for matters of belief. Continue reading “2 – Angels”
Prelude: Divine Guidance
Islam teaches that Allah sent communication to mankind at various times in history. This communication was through human messengers (prophets), who were directly inspired by Allah, and commanded to convey to their people the truth and guidance received through this revelation. Every true prophet of Allah must show people at least one miracle: something that is beyond human capability, a sign from God. A miracle (along with other factors, as we discuss later) is what proves that the prophet is indeed conveying a divine message, and that he is not just a philosopher, social reformer or charismatic leader.
Our knowledge is limited, subject to change, and confined to our experience in and of this world. Since we cannot directly perceive anything outside this life, we cannot know exactly how our conduct here impacts our fate after death. Human reason and experience might, arguably, be able to reach some realizations (about God, morality and divine justice) independently of divine revelation. But it is only by means of communication from outside this world that we could ever receive detailed knowledge of ultimate realities about the universe and our role in it. Individual spiritual experiences and human moral judgments can vary drastically between different people, especially in different cultures and time periods. This subjectivity makes these two sources unsuitable for the collective guidance of humanity. It makes sense for there to be some core of absolute values, corresponding to the essential, shared nature of humanity, and such common values can provide a basis for the smooth conduct of society. Continue reading “3a – Belief in Scriptures”