“Why should there be more than one religion? Are all religions true? Are some truer than others? Can religion aspire to function as a positive force in the world?” Thus does a leading contemporary academic identify some of the major questions posed by human curiosity. The relationship between religions is something that has long drawn the attention of theologians, scholars and historians, and in today’s global context of increased mutual awareness of and interaction between religions, the subject is of still greater practical relevance. Without detracting from this, I will assert that it behooves every individual to ponder upon such questions in the context of their own spiritual quest, and that indeed, that is ultimately the more important dimension of such enquiry.
Humility is an essential attitude in anyone claiming to be religious; so too in the seeker, and even, I proffer, in the skeptic. We must be humble before God (or at least before truth and reality, for one who has not yet acknowledged God), realizing our frailty, our own limitations of knowledge, our shortcomings and the uncertainty of our final state. We must also exhibit humility toward our fellow human beings, and not be so presumptuous as to regard ourselves as absolute judges (let alone assume the roles of judge, jury and executioner) over other individuals. Continue reading “Pluralism and Tolerance”
Mere profession of faith in one god is not sufficient for one to be a believer. In fact, many people may claim to profess such a belief, and yet their conceptions of the One God are often strikingly different. The prophets, and in particular Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), were sent to eradicate idolatry, and describing Allah as resembling creatures is nothing but a manifestation of idolatry. Allah is transcendent, above the limitations of created things, beyond our sensory perception, and can be recognized only through His attributes. An important principle, which follows from Allah’s transcendence, is that we may only describe Him by those names and attributes by which He describes Himself, or by which His Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) has described Him.
It is important to stress that Allah’s non-resemblance to creatures does not make Him unreachable or incomprehensible.
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” [Qur’an, 2:186]
Indeed, we can sense or comprehend the effects of many of Allah’s attributes. An example is the attribute of mercy.
“So observe the effects of the mercy of Allah – how He gives life to the earth after its lifelessness.” [(30) Al-Rum, 50] Continue reading “1b – Attributes Of Allah”
Mankind in general has maintained a belief in the existence of the Creator of the Universe since time immemorial. The duty of the prophets of Allah was not so much to inform their people of Allah’s existence as to warn them against associating others with
Him, and to teach them how to serve Him.
“Their messengers said, ‘Is there any doubt concerning Allah, the originator of the Heavens and the Earth?'” [Qur’an, 14:10]
The early Muslim scholars did not even have to address the issue of the Existence of God, for it was a blatantly obvious fact which nobody questioned. It was only around the fourth century after hijrah, when people’s doctrine started being infiltrated with atheism and permeated by unbelief, that the scholars had to address the issue.
Human beings acquire knowledge through four different channels: credible reports, intuition (or instinct), deduction and sense perception. Each of these channels can lead us to knowledge of the existence of Allah. Continue reading “1a – The Existence Of Allah”