Radical Islam? Do something about it Muslims Posted by: McQ
on Friday, July 07, 2006
John Espisito, a professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University asks exactly the wrong question in today's Guardian:
How do we prevent the militant rhetoric and actions of a minority from defining Islam and relations between Muslims and the west?
Why is it our (the West's) responsibility to do so?
Now, some of his points have merit. He asserts that the reaction of radical Islam has not been to who we are (our values and our way of life) but what we do.
I'd agree. But I don't agree that what we've done makes it our responsibility to prevent the blurring issue. It is Islam's responsibility. To date, what we have essentially gotten from the mass which is known as "moderate Islam" are empty claims that the radicals don't represent them, or that the West is misrepresenting Islam with it's focus on the radicals who've been attempting to kill us.
Espisito is typical of those who would turn the argument to one which places the onus for change on those who are outside the Muslim world rather than within the Muslim world itself. That's an impossible task.
Our common peace and security depend more on mutual understanding than demonisation. We, Muslims and non-Muslims, have all been victims of global terrorism, in New York, Madrid, London, Bali and Amman. And yet, five years after 9/11, the war on terrorism is seen by many Muslims as a war on Islam. As Islamophobia and xenophobia grow, the critical distinction between religious extremism and mainstream Islam is increasingly blurred. How do we break out of this cycle of ignorance?
How about by seeing those who consider themselves to be in the mainstream of Islam condemning and working with the West to root out and destroy the radical arm which is helping to blur the line? That, I believe, would be a good first step. And it would certainly work very well toward dampening any emerging feelings of Islamaphobia or xenophobia rising in the West.
Espisito sites polls which show the vast majority of Muslims admire and want the political freedoms the West enjoys. Speaking of citizens in Muslim nations he notes:
Overwhelming majorities in every country would support freedom of speech, religion and assembly if drafting a constitution. Majorities in virtually every country also felt women should have the same legal rights as men.
But what have they done about it? We see glimmers of hope in various places such as women voting for the first time in Kuwait, but for the majority, life remains as it has for literally centuries. If the West does nothing how will that change?
And that is the paradox, isn't it? If we're being attacked for what we do and not who we are, should we stop doing what we're doing (i.e. pushing for democratic reform in the Muslim world)? It would certainly be a short term solution to the problem wouldn't it? Withdraw completely from the Muslim world and let them sort it all out.
But which Islamic faction then wins?
Muslims, however, want their cake and to eat it too:
What would improve relations with the west? Their most frequent replies were "demonstrate more understanding and respect for Islam"; help with "economic development/jobs"; and "stop interfering in our affairs". Most wanted better relations with the west, but did not believe the US was serious about promoting real self-determination.
Actually what this all says is they want better relations with the West but don't want to do anything to earn them. It is up to the West to make all the right moves and concessions. Understanding and respect, apparently, are a one-way street.
Esposito's conclusion? Predictable based on his initial question:
The conclusion? Anti-western feelings result from what we do, our policies and actions, not from our way of life. Globalisation and an increasingly multicultural west test the mettle of our values. Islamophobia is a threat to our democratic way of life. This cancer should be as unacceptable as anti-semitism. Pluralism and tolerance demand greater understanding and respect from non-Muslims and Muslims alike. The more we learn about each other, the more we will see beyond our differences to a reservoir of common concerns, values and interests.
Frankly I think our "mettle" has tested out pretty well to this point. It is the mettle of moderate Islam and the Islamic world in general that has me concerned. It is they who continue to allow the blurring of the line Esposito finds so important. The West would be fine with moderate Islam standing up and actively taking a part in ending the terror by which its radical faction pushes it's agenda. Perhaps they should understand for a change that it isn't their way of life or who they are which result in anti-Islamic feelings in the West but what the DON'T do which does.
"The Muslim community since July 7 has come forward and earnestly engaged both within and with the wider community," said Habib ur Rahman, head of the Islamic Forum Europe.
"This will continue to be the case, despite the insensitive, ill-informed, inaccurate provocation from Mr Blair.
"Terrorism is a crime and crime has to be fought by all of us," Rahman said. "Did we delegate combating the IRA to the Catholics? Is Tony Blair not our prime minister?"
Thousands of Muslims were due to attend Friday prayers across the country and many observed a 2-minute silence in tribute to the 7/7 victims.
Good. While I'm not sure how useful trashing Tony Blair is, that is the sort of outspokenness and willingness to become involved in the solution the entire, world-wide Muslim community needs to commit too. Only then will radical Islam's hold on a significant portion of Muslims begin to wane.
How representative of the whole Mr. Rahman is remains an open question, however.
What would improve relations with the west? Their most frequent replies were "demonstrate more understanding and respect for Islam"; help with "economic development/jobs"; and "stop interfering in our affairs". Most wanted better relations with the west, but did not believe the US was serious about promoting real self-determination.
I have to admit, I did a double take here.
I know exactly what these replies are like: these are the demands of a teenager to a parent!
"You don’t understand me!" "I need money." "Stop trying to control my life!"
Never mind that #2 and #3 are hilarious to see next to each other. People who simultaneously want help and to be left alone to determine their own course in life strike me as marvelously schizophrenic. I mean, let’s get this straight: they want to be dependent on our help and respected as independent people at the same time? Wait, I’ve seen this before. It’s from the nauseating list of things a perfect guy would do.
3. Stick up for you, but still respects your independence. Translation: bail you out when you fail at life, but never bring it up during conversations.
There was a Mallard Fillmore comic a couple years ago that made this same point.
"It seems the ’World Community’ divides its time between demanding our money and telling us to stay out of its business..."
"Yeah...being an American is a whole lot like raising teenagers."
Well, I do tend to agree with you. In my view, Islamofascism should be repudiated by mainstream Muslims and that would be a great step forward in combatting (what Prof. Epstein calls) Islamophobia. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Islamophobia — such as it exists — will disappear so long as Islamofascism remains the primary voice of Islam. One one point, however, I do disagree with you. It is surely true that, as a matter of "justice," Muslims should clearly renounce the radical wings of their religion/culture. Indeed, that would probably be more effective in eliminating tensions between the West and Islam, as well. But since that isn’t really happening, I think we must deal with the reality. And the reality is that we are the primary targets of Islamofascism. That being the case, it would seem prudent for us to those (reasonable) things will minimize the risk to us, including taking the first step(s) toward conciliation with Isalm. And that is regardless of whether we "should" have to do so. It is in our interest to do it.
That being the case, it would seem prudent for us to [do] those (reasonable) things will minimize the risk to us, including taking the first step(s) toward conciliation with Isalm. And that is regardless of whether we "should" have to do so. It is in our interest to do it.
I’m certainly not suggesting that we back away or that we not do such things. As you say, that is the prudent approach.
My point is more that the best agency to deal with radical Islam isn’t to be found in the West. It is to be found in mainstream or moderate Islam and it is time that it stepped up and took an active part in the elimination of what it claims doesn’t represent "true" Islam.
All of these red herrings about Islamaphobia and xenophobia aren’t the problem. Nor is the strawman which claims it is up to the West to do something. The problem is moderate Islam’s failure to act in concert with the West to eliminate the problem of radical islam.
Globalisation and an increasingly multicultural west test the mettle of our values
America exports our values throughout the world. Ideas such as equal rights for women, ethnic and religious pluralism, secular democratic governments, became popular over time amongst many in the Muslim world as those values reach the middle east through globalization and trade.
Muslim values suck, western values are better, so rational people in Isalmic countries begin to adopt them, and this pisses off the clerics and the extremists.
What we do is teach the world how superior we are. Thats why they hate us.
First off, is Bob a REAL human being? Rhetorical question. Anyhow, I realize that this is one of the "classier" stops on my internet voyages, but I must say that Prof. Esposito is a freaking dumb*ss. I am betting I am fairly representative of the typical American and his/her views on Islam. I do not hate Muslims. I do not wish harm to Muslims. I may think that their whole religion is a cultish clique too. I am indifferent to them as Muslims, but do judge them on their own individual characteristics and traits. I don’t judge people as a whole or group, but rather as individual human beings. However, I do HATE islamofascist scum and I do indeed wish harm on those creatures. MOST people can distinguish between the two groups. Yes, there are racists who choose not to, but for the most part they are truly marginalized. Somebody above mentioned the "fact" that many idiots, such as Bob, do not realize that there was life before 2000 AD. Islamofascists scum have been around since about, oh I don’t know, 630 AD. The 100,000 dead number? Obviously it’s BS, but the majority of dead innocents in Bush’s version of the war on terror have been done in by their islamofascist scum bretheren. Ultimately, it IS up to the moderates to turn the tide.
Bob, I see you’re still an idiot. An overly sensitive one at that. There is my ad hominem.
Anyhow, I can’t say that a religion is a cultish clique? That makes me not "classy" and not "intelligent"? LOL...Nice. You’re one of the "tolerant" little BDS casualties, I see. How about you tell the class how saying that a religion that has been spread via murder, rape and extortion is a "cultish clique" is not intelligent or not classy. You got that Political correctness thing down pretty tight. As I said before, even though I do think that way about Islam, the religion, that doesn’t stop me from judging individual Muslims by their own merits. I don’t see the world through that "collectivist" eye. I have a Muslim friend that understands that wholeheartedly. It’s telling that some PC soaked guy named "Bob" doesn’t understand that simple concept.
Simply put, if you believe Muhammed spread his religion by rape, murder and extortion, then it doesn’t matter which faction you are talking about. He was the founder of Islam. No? Unless you know of another Muhammed who started the other factions that split off from the original religion "shown" to him by Allah. I just cut to the source. Or you don’t believe that Muhammed spread his religion by those means. What say you John? Omar? If that is the case, then so be it. Then we just disagree. Let me put it this way for the sensitive types. I believe that Islam is the one major world religion where the majority of the adherents have made a more beautiful and "better" religion than was founded from its inception.
My point still stands. I don’t have to respect any religion because of it being a religion. I respect individuals based on their own traits and humanity. I realize that even for "neo-libertarians" such as yourself, it is difficult to be that forthright with one’s opinions on something as "sacred" as religion.
I personally believe that the Islamo-fascist jihadists are a tiny cult-like sect of fanatics operating within the larger culture of Islamic fundamentalism. These are people who would be Hare Krishnas or Scientologists if they were in a non-Islamic culture.
The key to understanding what makes these individuals tick can be found in Eric Hoffer’s book, THE TRUE BELIEVER, and in the psychological literature about the psychology of cult movements.
Unfortunately, since it would be impractical to kidnap and deprogram people like Mohammad Atta, the only viable solution is to track them down and kill them.
The Left wants very badly to make us believe that the key to understanding the motivations of the jihadists lies in American foreign policy. Thus, Professor Esposito concludes:
Anti-western feelings result from what we do, our policies and actions, not from our way of life.
That may be true of the Arab world in general, but with respect to the jihadists it is exactly backwards. The 9/11 Commission report, page 379:
Bin Ladin and the Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say: to them the America is the font of all evil, the "head of the snake," and it must be converted or destroyed. It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. There is no common ground - not even respect for life itself - on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.
The Left errors in ascribing political motivations to what are essentially cult religious terrorists. The proper analogy is not to "political" terrorists like the IRA, but to the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult that filled a Tokyo subway with Sarin gas.
Many on the Right, too, error in their understanding of the jihadists. Too many people on the Right ignore the fact that there are more than a billion Muslims on this planet who are not at war with the West, not raping, murdering or extorting. That should tell us that it is possible to interpret that religion in a peaceful manner. There is no utility in Westerners insisting that all of the world’s Muslims should be at war with us if only they properly understood their religion. Our focus must be on the relatively tiny number of fanatics who ARE at war with us.
Well done Aldo. Thank you for explaining that more eloquently than I could have. I think you’ve hit the nail spot on the head. Salafism is very much a cult type movement within Islam that considers other schools of Islamic thought to be badly misguided at best and outright heretical at worst. Their Islam is not the Islam of the majority of the world’s Muslims.
And Happy, please explain to me the history of the spread of Islam in Indonesia, Malaysia, and SE Asia. Hint : you won’t find any rape, extortion, murder, etc.
If you must berate the religion of Islam, at least try to distinguish between the various factions within it. Impugning the entire religion as if it is a monolithic entity is simplistic foolishness.
Something like criticizing Communism or National Socialism as "bad" without distinguishing between the factions and the many decent people that just happened to be believers? Neither creed was monolithic.
Same with condemning the whole human sacrifice worship of Moloch, Ba’al thing? Or the Aztec religion as a dangerous aggressive faith???...Without giving them credit for advanced population control techniques? Or the bum rap assigned these days to all Satanists? Satanists are not monilithic - so are they thus condemnable?
The problem with Islam is that all base their faith on the Qu’ran and it’s instructions to use war as the primary means to expand the followers of the faith - and the emphasis on the religious duty to convert - or to kill, rape, enslave, or permantly degrade infidels as 2nd class, less than fully human. Then Islam permanized that fundamentalist vision as the literal unchanging word of God spoken directly to the Prophet as a central tenet of faith that cannot be questioned on pain of death. The only Islamics that have broken with this are very small populations at the verymost distant reaches of Islam that had the ability both to break with and to defend themselves against the Shiites and Sunnis obligated to kill them for what they believed. The Sikhs, Sufis, Ba’hai.
Anyone who talks about Islam as "not monolithic" should read the Qu’ran, and then reference what parts of it Sunnis and Shiites are required to believe in. Just the opening pages are enough to chill the bones of any American who has yet to read it to understand what motivates Muslim radicals and underlies the Faith of all Muslims. The answer is, until a Reformation comes, Shia and Sunni are instructed to believe all of it. Not as allegory, not as metaphor, not as coming with certain tall tales meant as symbolic storytelling - all of it. The moderate Muslims will not condemn the Jihadis as perverters of the Faith because they believe the radicals do the difficult things that Muslims of lesser faith and other priorities won’t do. And most Muslims will not step forward because they are smart enough to know Jihad may make their lives worse. Only a tiny minority of Muslims are motivated enough keep it’s Borders with the rest of the world bloody because the rest have seen 500 years of history of bloody defeats and humilations when the Muslims have attempted to predate on stronger nations. So for now, they are content with killing the weak (Armenians, Christians in Sudan, what they thought was an eradicatable Jewish target), and letting those with the deepest religious fervor attack the West while working hard to say the right words to the West about how they "deplore Islamic terrorism" all while quietly putting up posters and memorials to honor the likes of the suicide bombers, Binnie, and Mohammed Atta.
Imagine if David Koresh defeated the FBI at the battle of Waco, managed to gain a few hundred more followers because of the attraction to his victory against all odds, and then thwarted an even larger invasion of his expanded compound, as a tornado swept through the FBI encampment forcing a retreat. (surely God sent the tornado!)
This is pretty much how Mohammad rose to ascendancy in 7th century Arabia. Does anyone refrain from calling David Koresh a whack-job cult leader? I’m sure there were dozens of rabble-rousing "prophets" at Mohammad’s time, just as there are today. Most got swept over by the sands of history, just like David Koresh, but it was very opportunistic and Darwinian how Islam survived and grew.
The Modern value of Islam seems to be mostly a national or ethnic identity for believers, a groupthink that pits "us" vs "them" complete with a social order on how every aspect of your life is to be controlled. Is that not at the heart of all fascist political movements?
I see no theological or moral value to anything that Sharia laws provide, or the eschatology of Mohammad’s teachings and rituals, other than a simple progression from polytheism to monotheism. Wouldn’t the reformation of Islam away from politics and civil law be like going to a Muslim cleric, pissing on his pancakes, and calling it syrup?
How? How does Mr Abdul of Karachi step out and say that terrorism against the Americans is incorrect? He’d be killed before he got to the end of the street. There are newspaper editors who refused to publish the mo-toons out of very real fear, editors who live under the protection of powerful police forces in law abiding countries. How can moderate muslims protect themselves from their armed neighbours reprisals?
Why? Islamic terrorism is not aimed at Islamic people. As long as they keep their head down they will be safe. It is not as if there is some countering action of the West that they need to fear. And there is no reward on offer for condemming the action of the militants.
Also So What? What happens if a majority of the global community condemms the militants? Anything at all? Will the weight of public opinion matter to the next Al-Zarqawi?
C. Ford, I’ve already responded to this on July 1 under the comments section of McQ’s "Quips, Quotations, and Questions" where you posted similar nonsense.
JimmytheDhimmi, I really thought we had settled our differences in another comments section (also one of McQ’s). Apparently not. Comparing Islam to Koresh’s brainwashed psychos? Islam is a "national or ethnic identity," and the best for last, "I see no theological or moral value to anything that Sharia laws provide." Why Jimmy why? You coulda been somebody. You coulda been a contender! Ok, Brando jokes aside. Lets cover this material again for the kids who were text-messaging in the back the first time. Early Muslims were not a collection of anti-authority cultists living in a compound in the middle of nowhere in the desert. They were ordinary citizens of the major trade city in Arabia. Eventually they abandoned Makkah due to persecution, but they were immdediately accepted by the population and leaders of Madinah. If they were such a pack of brainwashed weirdos, why did an entire city of people want them as their new leaders? And don’t even imply threat of force here, a thousand refugees starving in the desert do not an army make.
Point numero dos. Islam is in no way either a national or ethnic identity. People of every race and, most probably, of every nation are Muslims. As is true of Christians, Jews, etc. There is no dominant racial group within Islam. Although frequently identified with the region it was founded in (the Middle East), the largest Muslim nation on Earth is in fact to be found in SE Asia.
As to no value theologically or morally in Sharia law, let’s take them separately. Theologically, no I suppose there may not be much to be found there for a non-Muslim. Equally there isn’t much theological value to be found in Halachic law for non-Jews. Morally, however, Sharia is full of commandments very similar to what can be found in Christian or Jewish teaching. For example, abortion is outlawed (identical to Catholic teaching, similar to Jewish teaching [at least Orthodox Judaism]). Drugs and alchohol are banned (hmm... there’s something society would never benefit from). Adultery is banned (again, no benefit to society there). Moderation is urged in all things, especially eating (gee a nation of people who don’t drink, don’t use drugs, don’t cheat on their spouses, and aren’t fat, what a nightmare scenario). Is Islamic society perfect? No. No society, religious or secular is, but it provides a decent moral blueprint that IMHO more people would be wise to follow. I would be in agreement with anyone who offered that more people would be wise to follow Christian moral teachings, or Orthodox Jewish moral teachings. They are similar enought that I am comfortable with such advice being given out.
One last point. I am not an Islamist. I do not in any way support the idea that Sharia should be imposed on all people. Sharia is the law and covenant between Muslims and God, just as Halacha is the covenant between Jews and God. It is not binding on non-Muslims or non-Jews. Therefore if you smoke, drink, or light up a crack pipe, that’s on you. It is between you and your God (or higher intelligence, or creator, or alien abductors or whatever). It doesn’t ruin my chance at salvation. The example of the devoutly religious Muslim or Christian or Jew is simply that. An example for others to follow. Not a locked-in way of life that we demand everyone adhere to.
Good points as always unaha-closp. And also shark, a very good and frequently overlooked point. A large portion of the victims of Salafi terrorists are Muslims. Violent jihadists do not care about who they kill (Muslim, Jew, Christian, or atheist). This is largely overlooked by those who claim that terrorism is a vast worldwide Muslim conspiracy (or at least a conspiracy of silence). Muslims are just as vulnerable to terror attacks as anyone else, why wouldn’t the ordinary Muslim in the streets of Jakarta or Kabul or Baghdad not turn in violent jihadists if they knew about them? His own life would be just as endangered as the lives of non-Muslims. Islamophobes out there should take note of this fact next time they feel the need to rant about Muslims not opposing terrorism.
Omar: All, right, all right...maybe I’m generalizing a bit for the sake of arguement when I describe every Sharia law, and of course there are differences between Mohammad and Koresh. I see the most of the Sharia more as a means to maintain social order, based simply on the whim of the tribal leader, than anything else. Almost all of the rituals (like rammadan or the Ka’ab) already existed from the pagan Arab moon-god cult of the Meccans. Also I said Islam was like an ethnicity or national identity; one that you can sign up for.
In the beginning, Mohammad seemed to be OK, I guess like David Koresh before he stockpiled weapons and slept with children. When Mohammads wealthy wife died and he ran out of money, he raided Meccan caravans and villages, justifying it as revenge for his persecution. The Battle of Badr scared the crap out of everyone in Medina and the Jews started to get a little fed up when Muslims were killing poets and pundits who criticized Islam. The battle Trench solidified his reputation as the Apostle of God, and the subsequent extermination of the rest of the Medinian Jews established the hebrews as the sworn enemy of Islam. Mohammad had the confidence to spread his empire by military force, for with every razzia, every battle, he grew stronger. Clearly God favored these methods.
As far as brainwashed wierdos, there were quite a few. take this interesting passage from the Sirat:
The apostle said, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.” Thereupon Muhayyisa bin Mas’ud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time though he was the elder brother. When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, “You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?” Muhayyisa answered, “Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.” He said that this was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam. The other replied, “By God, if Muhammad had ordered you to kill me would you have killed me?” He said, “Yes, by God, had he ordered me to cut off your head I would have done so.” He exclaimed, “By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous!” And he became a Muslim
Its wishfull thinking that Mohammad was was al-insan al-kamil, or without sin. Unfortunately, most Muslims worldwide would probably view him that way. Too many Muslims world wide do believe Islamic laws should be imposed on every citizen of a Muslim state (as Mohammad did), you are one of the good guys.
The power of Monotheism and the power of restraint over earthly desires is profound and universal. Muslims need to focus on that aspect of their religion rather than admiring Mohammad and his methods so much. Thats why I think we are still on the same side, Omar. God is Great, Allah u’Akbar - that is the most important thing.
I think some of you guys are a little tough on Happy. He wasn’t condemning the people that followed the religion, but looked at the individuals humanity.
In my early twenties I studied most of the religions of the world in attempt to find one that I would be comfortable following. In the end I found that 95% of them had overlapping central themes and decided that I would live my life in accordance to those themes rather than follow any one organized religion. One of the religions I rejcted the quickest was the mulsim religion, mostly because I felt Mohammad to be a warrior, and not a spiritual warrior. As an athelete I felt that if applied within the rules of the game, the muslim religion would be the most beneficial. Athletics(at a high level) is 90% mental and 10% skill. But lets not confuse mental with spiritual.
If you were about to be judged by someone and were allowed one question in asking for mercy. Would it be ’what would Jesus do’ or ’what would Mohammad do’?
And no I don’t have anything against muslims or their religion.
Jimmy, maybe we really are working toward the same goal from two different sides. Maybe I am a little defensive, but with commenters like C.Ford and Happyinthemiddle can you blame me?
Muhammed (pbuh) was a man. No different than you or me when he was chosen by God. He certainly was not without sin and even after he became God’s Prophet he was still just a man. A very very devout and holy man, but like all Prophets, still just a man. Only a Salafi extremist would ever try to make the argument that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was without sin. In his lifetime he set the example of Ihsaan (excellence), but his entire life was not perfect.
To a certain extent, I cautiously agree with you that many fundamentalist Muslims hold up Muhammed (pbuh) as an almost Messianic figure, perfect and without sin. Shiites in particular seem to hold this quite un-Islamic view. In my opinion (and I am certainly no religious authority), it approaches shirk. Prophets (from Moses on down) are not meant to be worshipped or adored. They are meant to be listened to because they carry the word of God. While Quaran alone does not offer enough guidance without Hadith, we have to be very careful about what we accept as authentic here. If someone claims that Muhammed (pbuh) ordered all Jews to be put to death, for example, we must demand that he show us the proof. As no such proof exists for the above example, Muslims must not accept it as legitimate. I think far too many Muslims are not schooled adequately in fiqh and in interpretation of Quaran, Hadith, etc. At the same time, too many Christians and Jews are also not adequately schooled in their own religious laws and histories. This is an area where ambiguity and the false interpretations of religion provided by extremists always leads to major trouble. I wish there were an easy solution, but unfortunately there just isn’t one other than taking the responsibility of making sure you and your family are educated on these topics. If everyone did that, there would be a lot less suffering in the world today.
This is an area where ambiguity and the false interpretations of religion provided by extremists always leads to major trouble. I wish there were an easy solution, but unfortunately there just isn’t one other than taking the responsibility of making sure you and your family are educated on these topics. If everyone did that, there would be a lot less suffering in the world today.
Amen, Omar. In fact, I would take that a step further and say that the biggest problem the world faces today is extremism and fanaticism of every stripe.
Omar...you must have missed my point about some (most) adherents making a better and more beautiful religion than the founder. I am not attacking all Muslims. Quite the contrary. My point, which I thought I made clear but obviously not, is that the founder, the prophet Muhammed, spread the religion by those means. You may disagree with that and that it is more than fine. We disagree and that happens. However, I do not find an institution, especially a religion, that was spread by its founder by coercion of any sort as an institution to blindly respect. That is not condemning the practioners of that faith who do not use the same means as the founder.
Wilky, I agree 100%. It’s a contentious subject. No where did I condemn Muslims, but I just can’t get into a religion where the founder of that religion used those means to spread it. The God in which I believe in, wouldn’t have his most holy prophet spread "His" word by those means. Again, this doesn’t mean that I "hate" all Muslims. And I agree that the VAST Majority of modern day Muslims are not islamofascist scum.
The purpose of creation is a topic that puzzles every human being at some point in his or her lifetime. Everybody at some time or another asks themselves the question “Why do I exist?” or “For what purpose am I here on earth?”
The variety and complexity of the intricate systems which constitute the fabric of both human beings and the world in which they exist indicate that there must have been a Supreme Being who created them. Design indicates a designer. When human beings come across footprints on a beach, they immediately conclude that a human being had walked by there some time previously. No one imagines that the waves from the sea settled in the sand and by chance produced a depression looking exactly like human footprints. Nor do humans instinctively conclude that they were brought into existence without a purpose. Since purposeful action is a natural product of human intelligence, humans conclude that the Supreme Intelligent Being who created them must have done so for a specific purpose. Therefore, human beings need to know the purpose for their existence in order to make sense of this life and to do what is ultimately beneficial for them.
Throughout the ages, however, there has been a minority among humans who have denied the existence of God. Matter, in their opinion, is eternal and mankind is merely a chance product of accidental combinations of its elements. Consequently, to them, the question “Why did God create man?” had and still has no answer. According to them, there simply is no purpose to existence. However, the vast majority of humankind over the ages have believed and continue to believe in the existence of a Supreme Being who created this world with a purpose. For them it was, and still is, important to know about the Creator and the purpose for which He created human beings.
To answer the question “Why did God create man?” it must first be determined from which perspective the question is being asked. From the point of view of God it would mean, “What caused God to create human beings?” while from the human point of view it would mean “For what purpose did God create humans?” Both points of view represent aspects of the intriguing question “Why do I exist?” In the following pages, both aspects of the question will be explored based on the clear picture painted by divine revelation. This is not a topic for human speculation, because human guesswork cannot possibly produce the whole truth in this matter. How can human beings intellectually deduce the reality of their existence when they can hardly understand how their own brain or its higher entity, the mind, functions? Consequently, the many philosophers who have speculated on this question down through the ages have come up with innumerable answers, all of which are based on assumptions which cannot be proven. Questions on this topic have even led a number of philosophers to claim that we do not really exist and that the whole world is imaginary. For example, the Greek philosopher Plato (428-348 BC) argued that the everyday world of changeable things, which man comes to know by the use of his senses, is not the primary reality, but is a shadow world of appearances. Many others, as was previously mentioned, claimed and continue to claim that there is no purpose for the creation of humans at all. According to them, human existence is merely a product of chance. There can be no purpose if life evolved from inanimate matter which only became animate by pure luck. Humankind’s supposed ‘cousins,’ the monkey and apes are not bothered with questions of existence, so why should human beings be bothered with them?
Although most people put the question of why we are created aside after occasional brief reflection, it is extremely critical for human beings to know the answer. Without knowledge of the correct answer, human beings become indistinguishable from the other animals around them. The animal necessities and desires of eating, drinking and procreating become the purpose of human existence by default, and human effort is then focused in this limited sphere. When material satisfaction develops into the most important goal in life, human existence becomes even more degraded than that of the lowest of animals. Human beings will consistently misuse their God-given intelligence when they lack knowledge of their purpose of existence. The degraded human mind uses its abilities to create drugs and bombs and becomes engrossed in fornication, pornography, homosexuality, fortunetelling, suicide, etc. Without knowledge of the purpose of life, human existence loses all meaning and is consequently wasted, and the reward of an eternal life of happiness in the hereafter is completely destroyed. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that human beings correctly answer the question “Why are we here?”
Humans most often turn to other human beings like themselves for the answers. However, the only place that clear and precise answers to these questions can be found is in the books of divine revelation. It was necessary that God reveal the purpose to man through His prophets, because human beings are incapable of arriving at the correct answers by themselves. All of the prophets of God taught their followers the answers to the question “Why did God create man?”
A survey of the Bible leaves the honest seeker of truth lost. The Old Testament seems more concerned with laws and the history of early man and the Jewish people than with answering the vital question concerning humanity’s creation. In Genesis, God creates the world and Adam and Eve in six days and ‘rests’ from His work on the seventh. Adam and Eve disobey God and are punished and their son Cain kills their other son Abel and goes to live in the land of Nod. And God was ‘sorry’ that he had made man! Why are the answers not there in clear and unmistakable terms? Why is so much of the language symbolic, leaving the reader to guess at its meanings? For example, in Genesis 6:6 it is stated, “When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.” Who are these ‘sons of God’? Each Jewish sect and each of the many Christian sects who followed them have their own explanations. Which is the correct interpretation? The truth is that the purpose of man’s creation was taught by the prophets of old, however, some of their followers - in collusion with the devils - later changed the scriptures. The answers became vague and much of the revelation was hidden in symbolic language. When God sent Jesus Christ to the Jews, he overturned the tables of those merchants who had set up businesses inside the temple, and he preached against the ritualistic interpretation of the law practiced by the Jewish rabbis. He reaffirmed the law of Prophet Moses and revived it. He taught the purpose of life to his disciples and demonstrated how to fulfill it until his last moments in this world. However, after his departure from this world, his message was also distorted by some who claimed to be among his followers. The clear truth which he brought became vague, like the messages of the prophets before him. Symbolism was introduced, especially through the “Revelations” of John, and the Gospel which was revealed to Jesus was lost. Four other gospels composed by men were chosen by Athanasius, a fourth century bishop, to replace the lost Gospel of Jesus Christ. And the 23 books of writings of Paul and others included in the New Testament outnumbered even the four versions of the gospel. As a result, New Testament readers cannot find precise answers to the question “Why did God create man?” And one is forced to blindly follow the contrived dogmas of whatever sect they happen to belong to or adopt. The gospels are interpreted according to each sect’s beliefs, and the seeker of truth is again left wondering, which one is correct?
The Incarnation of God:
Perhaps the only common concept to most Christian sects regarding the purpose of mankind’s creation is that God became man so that He could die at the hands of men to cleanse them of sin inherited from Adam and his descendants. According to them, this sin had become so great that no human act of atonement or repentance could erase it. God is so good that sinful man cannot stand before Him. Consequently, only God’s sacrifice of Himself could save humankind from sin.
Belief in this man-made myth became the only source for salvation, according to the Church. Consequently, the Christian purpose of creation became the recognition of the ‘divine sacrifice’ and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Lord God. This may be deduced from the following words attributed to Jesus in the Gospel according to John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” However, if this is the purpose of creation and the prerequisite for everlasting life, why was it not taught by all the prophets? Why did God not become man in the time of Adam and his offspring so that all mankind would have an equal chance to fulfill their purpose for existence and attain everlasting life. Or did those before Jesus’ time have another purpose for existence? All people today whom God has destined never to hear of Jesus also have no chance to fulfill their supposed purpose of creation. Such a purpose, is obviously too limited to fit the need of humankind.
Everything is God:
The Hindu scriptures teach that there are many gods, incarnations of gods, persons of God and that everything is God, Brahman. In spite of the belief that the self (atman) of all living beings is actually Brahman, an oppressive caste system evolved in which the Brahmans, the priestly caste, possess spiritual supremacy by birth. They are the teachers of the Vedas and represent the ideal of ritual purity and social prestige. On the other hand, the Sudra caste are excluded from religious status and their sole duty in life is “to serve meekly” the other three castes and their thousands of subcastes.
According to Hindu monist philosophers, humankind’s purpose is the realization of their divinity and -following a path (marga) to emancipation (moksha) from the wheel of rebirth - the reabsorbtion of the human soul (atman) into the ultimate reality, Brahman. For those following the bhakti path, the purpose is to love God because God created humankind to “enjoy a relationship - as a father enjoys his children” (Srimad Bhagwatam). For the ordinary Hindu, the main aim of worldly life lies in conforming to social and ritual duties, to the traditional rules of conduct for one’s caste - the karma path.
Although most of the religion of the Vedic texts, which revolves around rituals of fire sacrifice, has been eclipsed by Hindu doctrines and practices found in other texts, the absolute authority and sacredness of the Veda remains a central tenet of virtually all Hindu sects and traditions. The Veda is composed of four collections, the oldest of which is the Rigveda (“Wisdom of the Verses”). In these texts, God is described in the most confusing terms. The religion reflected in the Rigveda is a polytheism mainly concerned with appeasing deities associated with the sky and the atmosphere, the most important of which were Indra (god of the heavens and rain), Baruna (guardian of the cosmic order), Agni (the sacrificial fire), and Surya (the Sun). In later Vedic texts, interest in the early Rigvedic gods declines, and polytheism begins to be replaced by a sacrificial pantheism to Prajapati (“Lord of Creatures”), who is the All. In the Upanishads (secret teachings concerning cosmic equations), Prajapati merges with the concept of Brahman, the supreme reality and substance of the universe, replacing any specific personification, thus transforming the mythology into abstract philosophy. If the contents of these scriptures were all that human beings had to choose from for guidance, one would have to conclude that God hid both Himself and the purpose of creation from humankind.
God is not the author of confusion, nor does He wish difficulty for mankind. Consequently, when He revealed His final communication to humankind one thousand four hundred years ago, He ensured that it was perfectly preserved for all of the generations of human beings to come. In that final scripture, the Quran (Koran), God revealed His purpose for creating mankind and, through His last prophet, He clarified all of the details which man could comprehend. It is on the basis of this revelation and the prophetic explanations that we will analyze the precise answers to the question “Why did God create man?”
Why Did God Create?
From the point of view of God, an even more fundamental question needs to be asked, “Why did God create?” This question should be asked because humankind is not, in fact, the greatest creation. God says in the Quran:
“Indeed, the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of mankind, but most of mankind do not realize it.”
The composition of human beings is far less complex than the composition of the universe in which they exist. However, very few people reflect on this reality. Because of the apparent supremacy of human beings over the other creatures on this earth, man’s journeys through space and the continued advancement of their technology and knowledge, humankind in every age becomes arrogant and considers itself the greatest thing in this world. It is worth noting that the majority of humankind’s amazing discoveries are not concerning the human being, but his surroundings. Thus, human efforts tend to be focused on the material world rather than human beings. In this verse, God brings human beings back to their actual status in this world. Humankind is merely a small part of the existence which resulted from the miraculous act of divine creation. Thus, in order to understand why God created mankind, one first needs to answer the even more fundamental question of why God created.
Creation is fundamentally the consequence of the divine attribute of being the Creator. A creator who does not create is something of a contradiction in terms. This is not to say that God needs His creation. God is free from all needs. It is creation which needs Him. But, as the greatness of a writer becomes apparent in his writings, the perfection of the divine creative attribute is manifest in creation. Creation in the true sense is unique to God alone. Although humans ascribe the act of creation to themselves, what they do is not true creation. Humankind merely manipulates what already exists - what was already created by God. A table is made from wood which came from trees and is held together with nails and screws made from metal that came from rocks. Human beings did not make the trees or the rocks. In fact, all human creations can be traced back to basic elements which humans cannot make. Even the artist ‘creates’ designs based on what he has seen. It is not possible to imagine what has not been perceived by the senses. Thus, all of the artist’s thoughts are reflections on what was already created. Only God alone creates from nothing. This basic fact was and still is incomprehensible to some. Some ancient as well as modern philosophers, who could not comprehend how God could create from nothing, claimed that the created world and its contents are all originally a part of God. That is, according to them, God took a part of Himself and made the universe. This conclusion is based on comparing God to man, who can only ‘create’ by modifying what already exists. However, God denies any such comparisons which would give Him human limitations. In the Quran, He states:
“There is nothing like Him and He is hearer and seer of all.”
Thus, the act of creation is a consequence of the divine attribute of being the Creator. God describes Himself as the Creator in a variety of verses throughout the final revelation to emphasize to humankind that everything belongs to Him alone.
“Allah created all things and He is the agent on which all things depend.”
“And Allah created you all and whatever you do.”
Man needs to realize that nothing takes place in this universe without the permission of God. To seek protection from evil or to seek to acquire good from any source other than God is a major mistake. Due to ignorance, many people attempt to avoid misfortune and to gain good fortune through a variety of charms and amulets, astrology, palmistry, etc. Consequently, in the Quran, God informs human beings to seek refuge in God from evil:
“Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn, from the evil of what He has created.”
Allah, God Almighty, is not evil; He is good. He created a world in which evil or good can be done by beings to whom He gave this ability. However, no evil or good can take place in this world without the permission of God. This is why it is futile to turn to others besides God for help and protection.
“No calamity strikes except by Allah’s permission.”
The final prophet of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him), further elaborated on this concept, saying, “Be aware that if the whole of mankind gathered together to do something to help you, they would only be able to do something for you which Allah had already written for you. Likewise, if the whole of mankind gathered together to harm you, they would only be able to do something to harm you which Allah had already written to happen to you.”
The Merciful, The Forgiving:
In the creation of humankind, the divine attributes of forgiveness, mercy and kindness are also manifested. Human beings were created good and pure with a natural awareness of good and evil. The Almighty also created in humans desires, and gave them an ability to control those desires according to divine law or to turn them loose and follow them blindly. God created mankind knowing that they would disobey Him. Consequently, He taught human beings, beginning with Adam, how to repent and thereby purify themselves of their sins. Adam and Eve represent a pattern for all mankind to follow. They forgot the commandment of God, and Satan played on their desires. After they had disobeyed God, they turned back to Him in repentance, and He forgave them. In humankind’s disobedience and turning back to God in repentance, the divine attributes of total forgiveness and infinite mercy become manifest. The final Prophet (peace be upon him) informed his followers of this reality, saying, “If you did not commit sins and turn to Allah, seeking His forgiveness, He would have replaced you with another people who would sin, ask Allah’s forgiveness and He would forgive them.” Every one of the 114 Chapters of the final revelation, except one, begins with the prayer, “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Most Merciful.” Allah’s attributes of mercy and forgiveness are stressed to encourage humans not to fall into despair. No matter how great the sins of human beings may be, God can forgive them if man turns back to Him in sincere repentance. The Messenger (peace be upon him) was quoted as saying, “When Allah created the universe, He made an obligation on Himself [recorded] in a document kept by Him: My mercy supersedes my wrath.” He was also reported to have said, “[Allah created] mercy with one hundred parts, one of which was sent down upon the jinn, human beings and other living beings. It is out of this one part that they love each other, show kindness to each other and even the animals treat their offspring with affection. Allah has reserved the remaining ninety-nine parts for His true worshippers on the Day of Resurrection.”
Had Allah wished, He could have created mankind like angels, incapable of committing sin. However, that was not His wish, as He had already created angels. Human beings were created capable of making mistakes and when they realize their errors and seek God’s forgiveness, the divine attributes of mercy and forgiveness become manifest.
In the judgment of mankind at the end of this world, God’s attributes of supreme justice and fairness also become manifest. Based on His infinite knowledge, God could have created all members of the human race who were to live on earth and immediately placed some of them in paradise and the remainder in hell. Before creating man, Allah already knew what choices they would make in this life, what provision and opportunities He would give them, and in what state of belief or disbelief they would die. Therefore, in one sense it could be said that some people were created for paradise and others for hell. Aaishah, wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), quoted him as saying, “Don’t you know that Allah created paradise and hell, and He created inhabitants for each?” If God had immediately placed those headed for paradise in paradise, they would not question God’s decision. Those in paradise would happily accept an everlasting life of bliss and be thankful that they were not placed in hell. However, those immediately placed in hell would ask why. They would feel a sense of unfairness due to their ignorance of what they would have done had they lived on earth. Those in hell would relentlessly argue that had they been given a chance to live out their lives on earth, they would have believed and done righteous deeds. Consequently, Allah allows human beings to live out their lives on earth and make all the choices they would have made, so that everyone who enters hell will know that they chose hell by themselves. They will recognize God’s mercy in their lives and acknowledge their sin in rejecting His signs and guidance. And they will accept His judgment as being just and beyond reproach. However, they will still beg for another chance to do good in this world, as God says in the Quran:
“If only you could see [the time] when the sinners will bow their heads before their Lord, [saying], ‘Our Lord! We have now seen and heard, so send us back and we will do righteous deeds. Verily, we now believe with certainty.’ ”
However, if Allah were to send them back to this world having forgotten what they had seen of hell, they would again choose evil and end up in hell as before. God spoke about this in the Quran,
“But if they were returned [to this world], they would certainly go back to what was forbidden to them. Indeed they are liars.”
God’s love is manifest in beings brought into existence, whether believer or disbeliever, to enjoy life, if only for a brief moment. It is also realized in the creation of paradise for those who choose righteousness over evil. Allah states in the final revelation that He loves those who do good (5:13), those who are just (5:42), those who are pious (9:4), those who are patient (3:146), those who put their trust in Him (3:159), those who frequently turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves (2:222). However, it is He who has defined for human beings through the scriptures and the prophets what is good, just and pious. Consequently, those who follow the prophets are most beloved to God. In the Quran, Allah instructed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to say the following to the believers:
“If you really love Allah, follow me and Allah will love you and forgive your sins.”
The prophets should be followed not only in the compulsory acts ordained by God, but also in their eagerness to do acts of voluntary worship.
The love of God is also manifest in His mercy and blessings which He grants to those who deserve them as well as those who do not. But, it is particularly manifest in His willingness to forgive the sins of whomsoever turns to Him in sincere repentance. From the creation of Adam and Eve, repentance was granted to them to erase their sins as an example to all human beings who would follow them into this world. No matter how great human sins may become, the door for sincere repentance remains open until the last day of this world. Anas quoted Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying, “Allah, the Almighty, has said: O son of Adam, as long as you call on Me and ask of Me, I will forgive what you have done, and I do not mind. O son of Adam, even if your sins reached the clouds and you asked My forgiveness, I will forgive you. O son of Adam, if you came to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and you met Me without giving Me partners, I will give you a similar amount of forgiveness.”
As for those in paradise, they will not enter it solely based on their good deeds. It is the grace of God which will ultimately carry them there. The final Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said in this regard, “Try your best to do right, and be happy. For none will enter paradise only because of his deeds.” His companions said, “O Messenger of Allah! Not even you?” He replied, “Not even I, unless Allah envelops me in His mercy and grace. And bear in mind that the deed most loved by Allah is one done constantly, even though it is small.” However, God’s grace is not arbitrary. It is based on both correct faith and righteous deeds. In the Quran, Allah says:
“Whoever brings a good deed, will have [the value of] ten like it, and whoever brings an evil deed will only be punished with one like it, and they will not be wronged.”
Were God to hold humankind to account strictly, no one’s good deeds would outweigh their evil deeds. However, God has manifested His grace by multiplying the value of good deeds, while keeping evil deeds at their face value. It is by the grace of God that the true believers enter Paradise. This does not mean that deeds have no role. Deeds have a major role, but they are not the deciding factor. God’s grace outweighs them.
Consequently, the creation of human beings, the errors that they make and the good that they do are all circumstances for the manifestation of God’s attributes of mercy and forgiveness, His attribute of justice and His attribute of grace.
Humankind should not question why God chose to manifest His attributes in this way. It can only be assumed that this was the best way, because Allah describes Himself as being the Most Wise and the Most Knowledgeable. Humans can only understand what Allah chooses to reveal to them.
“They will only encompass of His knowledge what He wishes.”
Thus, they should not try to equate themselves with God. If He has told humankind why He decided to do something, it is not for them to question why He decided to decide. Such questions are without end and thus beyond human scope. It is they who will be questioned on the Day of Judgment about their actions and intentions and not He. In the Quran, Allah addresses this point:
“He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they will be questioned.”
In this regard Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was reported by Ibn ‘Abbaas to have said, “Reflect on the creation of Allah but do not reflect on Allah.” To reflect on the reality of Allah is to reflect on the infinite. And, as the mind boggles when it reflects on the limits of the finite universe and the galaxies and stars within it, it will be more confounded when it attempts to understand the uncreated. The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned that the satanic forces would seek to introduce doubts in the hearts of the believers by raising unanswerable questions about God. Aboo Hurayrah related that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Satan will come to everyone of you and ask: Who created this and that? - until he questions: Who created your Lord? When he comes to that, one should seek refuge in Allah [say: I affirm my faith in Allah and His prophets] and avoid [such thoughts].
Why Did God Create Mankind?
From the perspective of humankind, the question “Why did God create man?” implies “For what purpose was man created?” In the final revelation (the Quran), this question is answered without any ambiguity. Humans are first informed by God that every human being is born with an innate consciousness of God. In the Quran, Allah said:
“[Remember] when your Lord extracted from the loins of Adam’s children their descendants and made them testify [saying]: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yes, we testify to it.’ [This was] in case you say on the Day of Judgment: ‘We were unaware of this.’ Or you say: ‘It was our ancestors who worshipped others besides God and we are only their descendants. Will you then destroy us for what those liars did?’ ”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that when Allah created Adam, He took from him a covenant at a place called Na‘maan on the 9th day of the 12th month. He then extracted from Adam all of his descendants who would be born until the end of the world, generation after generation, and spread them out before Him to take a covenant from them also. He spoke to them, face to face, making them bear witness that He was their Lord. Consequently, every human being is responsible for belief in God, which is imprinted on each and every soul. It is based on this inborn belief that Allah defined the purpose of mankind’s creation in Quran:
“I have created the jinn and humankind only for My worship.”
Thus, the essential purpose for which humankind was created is the worship of God. However, the Almighty is not in need of human worship. He did not create human beings out of a need on His part. If not a single human worshipped God, it would not diminish His glory in any way, and if all of humankind worshipped Him, it would not increase His glory in any way. God is perfect. He alone exists without any needs. All created beings have needs. Consequently, it is humankind that needs to worship God.
The Meaning of Worship:
To understand why human beings need to worship God, one must first understand what is meant by the term ‘worship.’ The English term ‘worship’ comes from the Old English weorthscipe meaning ‘honor.’ Consequently, worship in the English language is defined as ‘the performance of devotional acts in honor of a deity.’ According to this meaning, man is instructed to show gratitude to God by glorifying Him. In the Quran, Allah says:
“Glorify the praises of your Lord.”
In glorifying God, man chooses to be in harmony with the rest of creation which naturally glorifies its Creator. Allah addresses this phenomenon in many chapters of the Quran. For example, in the Quran, Allah states:
“The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them glorify Him and there is nothing which does not glorify His praise. However, you do not understand their glorification.”
However, in Arabic, the language of the final revelation, worship is called ‘ibaadah, which is closely related to the noun ‘abd, meaning ‘a slave.’ A slave is one who is expected to do whatever his master wills. Consequently, worship, according to the final revelation, means ‘obedient submission to the will of God.’ This was the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by God to mankind. For example, this understanding of worship was emphatically expressed by Prophet Jesus (the Messiah or Jesus Christ), “None of those who call me ‘Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” It should be noted that ‘will’ in this quote means ‘what God wants human beings to do’ and not ‘what God permits humans to do,’ because nothing happens in creation without the will (permission) of God. The ‘Will of God’ is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers. Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship. In this sense, glorification also becomes worship when humans choose to obey God’s instructions regarding His glorification.
The Need for Worship
Why do human beings need to worship and glorify God by obeying the divinely revealed laws? Because obedience to divine law is the key to success in this life and the next. The first human beings, Adam and Eve, were created in paradise and later expelled from paradise for disobeying the divine law. The only way for human beings to return to paradise is by obedience to the law. Prophet Jesus, was reported in the Gospel according to Matthew to have made obedience to the divine laws the key to paradise: Now behold, one came and said to him, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So he said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Also Prophet Jesus was reported to have insisted on strict obedience to the commandments, saying, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Divine laws represent guidance for humankind in all walks of life. They define right and wrong for them and offer human beings a complete system governing all of their affairs. The Creator alone knows best what is beneficial for His creation and what is not. The divine laws command and prohibit various acts and substances to protect the human spirit, the human body and human society from harm. In order for human beings to fulfill their potential by living righteous lives, they need to worship God through obedience to His commandments.
Remembrance of God
All of the various acts of worship contained in the divine laws are designed to help humans remember God. It is natural for human beings to sometimes forget even the most important things. Humans often become so engrossed in fulfilling their material needs that they totally forget their spiritual needs. Regular prayer is ordained to organize the day of the true believer around the remembrance of God. It interweaves spiritual needs with material needs on a daily basis. The regular daily need to eat, work and sleep is linked to the daily need to renew man’s connection with God. With regard to regular prayer, Allah states in the final revelation,
“Verily, I am Allah, there is no god beside Me, so worship Me and establish regular prayer for My remembrance.”
Regarding fasting, Allah stated in the Quran,
“O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may become God-conscious.”
The believers are encouraged to remember God as much as possible. Although, moderation in all spheres of life, whether material or spiritual, is generally encouraged in divine law, an exception is made regarding the remembrance of Allah. It is virtually impossible to remember God too much. Consequently, in the final revelation, Allah encourages the believers to remember Him as often as possible:
“O believers! Remember Allah often.”
Remembrance of God is stressed because sin is generally committed when God is forgotten. The forces of evil operate most freely when consciousness of God is lost. Consequently, the satanic forces seek to occupy people’s minds with irrelevant thoughts and desires to make them forget God. Once God is forgotten, people willingly join the corrupt elements. The final revelation, addresses this phenomenon in as follows:
“Satan got the better of them and caused them to forget Allah. Those are the party of Satan. Truly the party of Satan are the real losers.”
God, through Divine law, has prohibited intoxicants and gambling primarily because they cause human beings to forget God. The human mind and body easily become addicted to drugs and games of chance. Once addicted, mankind’s desire to continually be stimulated by them leads them into all forms of corruption and violence among themselves. God says in the Quran:
“Satan’s plan is to incite enmity and hatred among you with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and regular prayer. Will you not then abstain?”
Consequently, humankind need to remember God for their own salvation and growth. All humans have times of weakness in which they commit sins. If they have no means of remembering God, they sink deeper and deeper into corruption with every sin. However, those who follow the divine laws will be constantly reminded of God, which will give them a chance to repent and correct themselves. The final revelation accurately describes this process:
“Those who, having done something shameful or having wronged their own souls, remember Allah and immediately ask forgiveness for their sins...”
The Religion of Islam:
The most complete system of worship available to human beings today is the system found in the religion of Islam. The very name ‘Islam’ means ‘submission to the will of God.’ Although it is commonly referred to as ‘the third of the three monotheistic faiths,’ it is not a new religion at all. It is the religion brought by all of the prophets of God for mankind. Islam was the religion of Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. God addresses this issue in the Quran with regard to Prophet Abraham, saying:
“Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was an upright Muslim who did not worship others besides God.”
Since there is only One God, and humankind are one species, the religion which God has ordained for human beings is one. He did not prescribe one religion for the Jews, another for Indians, yet another for Europeans, etc. Human spiritual and social needs are uniform, and human nature has not changed since the first man and woman were created. Consequently, no other religion is acceptable to God besides Islam, as He clearly states in the final revelation:
“Surely Allah’s religion is Islam.”
“And whoever desires a religion besides Islam will not have it accepted, and he will be among the losers in the hereafter.”
Every Act Is Worship
In the Islamic system, each and every human act can be transformed into an act of worship. In fact, God commands the believers to dedicate their whole lives to Him. In the Quran, Allah says:
“Say: ‘Surely my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.’ ”
However, for that dedication to be acceptable to Allah, each act must fulfill two basic conditions:
1- First, the act must be done sincerely for the pleasure of God and not for the recognition and praise of human beings. The believer also has to be conscious of God while doing the deed to insure that it is not something forbidden by Allah or the last Messenger (peace be upon him).
In order to facilitate this transformation of mundane deeds into worship, Allah instructed the last Prophet (peace be upon him) to prescribe short prayers to be said before even the simplest of acts. The shortest prayer which may be used for any circum-stance is: bismillaah (In the name of Allah). There are, however, many other prayers prescribed for specific occasions. For example, whenever a new piece of clothing is worn, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught his followers to say:“O Allah, thanks is due to You, for it is You who has clothed me. I ask You for its benefit and the benefit for which it was made, and seek refuge in You from its evil and the evil for which it was made.”
2- The second condition is that the act be done in accordance with the prophetic way, called in Arabic the Sunnah. All of the prophets instructed their followers to follow their way because they were guided by God. What they taught were divinely revealed truths, and only those who followed their way and accepted the truths would inherit eternal life in paradise. It is in this context that Prophet Jesus, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, was reported in the Gospel according to John 14:6, as saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Similarly, ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas‘ood related that one day Prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) drew a line in the dust for them and said, “This is Allah’s path.” He then drew several lines [branching off] to the right and to the left and said, “These are the paths [of misguidance] on each of which is a devil inviting people to follow it.” He then recited the verse: “Verily, this is my path, leading straight, so follow it. And do not follow the [other] paths for they will scatter you about from Allah’s path. That is His command to you in order that you may be conscious of Allah.”
Thus, the only acceptable way to worship God is according to the way of the prophets. That being the case, innovation in religious affairs would be considered by God among the worst of all evils. Prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) was reported to have said, “The worst of all affairs is innovation in religion, for every religious innovation is a cursed, misleading innovation leading to the hellfire.” Innovation in the religion is forbidden and unacceptable to God. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was also reported by his wife, ‘Aa’ishah, to have said, “He who innovates something in this matter of ours, that is not of it, will have it rejected.”
It is fundamentally due to innovations that the messages of the earlier prophets were distorted and the many false religions in existence today evolved. The general rule to follow in order to avoid innovation in religion is that all forms of worship are prohibited, except those which have been specifically prescribed by God and conveyed to humans by the true messengers of God.
The Best of Creation
Those who believe in One Unique God, without partners or offspring, and do righteous deeds [according to the above-mentioned principles] become the crown of creation. That is, although humankind is not the greatest creation of Allah, they have the potential to become the best of His creation. In the final revelation, Allah states this fact as follows:
“Surely, those who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of creation.”
The Gravest Sin:
To contradict the purpose of one’s creation is then the greatest evil that a human being can commit. ‘Abdullaah reported that he asked Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) which sin is the gravest in Allah’s sight and he replied, “To give Allah a partner, even though He created you.” Worshipping others besides God, called shirk in Arabic, is the only unforgivable sin. If a human being dies without repenting from his or her sins, Allah may forgive all their sins except shirk. In this regard, God stated:
“Surely Allah will not forgive the worship of others besides Him, but He forgives sins less than that to whomever He wishes.”
Worshipping others besides God essentially involves giving the attributes of the Creator to His creation. Each sect or religion does this in their own particular way. A small but very vocal group of people down through the ages have actually denied God’s existence. To justify their rejection of the Creator, they were obliged to make the illogical claim that this world has no beginning. Their claim is illogical because all of the observable parts of the world have beginnings in time, therefore it is only reasonable to expect the sum of the parts to also have a beginning. It is also only logical to assume that whatever caused the world to come into existence could not have been a part of the world nor could it have a beginning like the world. The atheist assertion that the world has no beginning means that the matter which makes up the universe is eternal. This is a statement of shirk, whereby God’s attribute of being without beginning is given to His creation. The numbers of genuine atheists have historically always been quite small because, in spite of their claims, they instinctively know that God does exist. That is, in spite of decades of communist indoctrination, the majority of Russians and Chinese continued to believe in God.
The Al-mighty Creator pointed out this phenomenon, saying:
“And they denied [the signs] wrongfully and arrogantly, though within themselves they were convinced of them.”
To atheists and materialists, life has no purpose beyond the fulfillment of their desires. Consequently, their desires also become the god which they obey and submit to instead of the One True God. In the Quran, Allah said:
“Have you seen the one who takes his desires as his god?”
Christians gave Prophet Jesus Christ the attributes of the Creator by first making him co-eternal with God, then by making him a personality of God whom they titled ‘God the Son.’ Hindus, on the other hand, believe that God has become man in many ages, by incarnations called avatars, and then they divided God’s attributes between three gods, Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer.
Love of God:
Shirk also occurs when human beings love, trust or fear the creation more than Allah. In the last revelation, God said:
“There are among men those who worship others besides Allah as equals to Him. They love them as only Allah should be loved. But those who believe have a stronger love for Allah.”
When these and other similar emotions are directed more strongly to the creation, they cause human beings to disobey God in a effort to please other humans. However, only Allah deserves a complete human emotional commitment, for it is He alone who should be loved and feared over all creation. Anas ibn Maalik narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever possesses [the following] three characteristics has tasted the sweetness of faith: he who loves Allah and His Messenger above all else; he who loves another human being for Allah’s sake alone; and he who hates to return to disbelief after Allah has rescued him as he hates to be thrown into a fire.”
All the reasons for which humans love other humans or love other created beings are reasons to love God more than His creation. Humans love life and success, and dislike death and failure. Since Allah is the ultimate source of life and success, He deserves the full love and devotion of mankind. Humans also love those who benefit them and help them when they are in need. Since all benefit (7:188) and help (3:126) come from God, He should be loved above all else.
“If you try to count Allah’s blessings, you will not be able to add them up.”
However, the supreme love which humans should feel for God must not be reduced to the common denominator of their emotional love for creation. Just as the love humans feel for animals should not be the same as what they feel for other humans, the love of Allah should transcend the love humans feel towards each other. Human love of God should be, fundamentally, a love manifest in complete obedience to the laws of God,
“If you love Allah, then follow me [the Prophet] and Allah will love you.”
This is not an abstract concept, because human love of other humans also implies obedience. That is, if a loved one requests that something be done, humans will strive to do it according to the level of their love for that person.
The love of God should also be expressed in the love of those whom God loves. It is inconceivable that one who loves Allah could hate those whom Allah loves and love those whom He hates. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was quoted by Aboo Umaamah as saying, “He who loves for Allah and hates for Allah, gives for Allah and withholds for Allah, has perfected his faith.” Consequently, those whose faith is proper will love all those who love God. In Chapter Maryam, Allah indicates that He puts love in the hearts of the believers for those who are righteous.
“Surely, Allah will bestow love [in the hearts of the believers for] those who believe and do righteous deeds.”
Aboo Hurayrah also related that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said the following in this regard, “If Allah loves a servant He informs angel Gabriel that He loves so-and-so and tells him to love him, so Gabriel loves him. Then Gabriel calls out to the inhabitants of the heavens: ‘Allah loves so-and-so, therefore love him.’ So the inhabitants of the heavens love him. Then he is granted the love of the people of the earth.”
Prayers should only be directed to God alone, for only He can answer prayers. He is accessible as long as He is called upon sincerely.
“When My servants ask you [O muhammad] about Me, [tell them] that I am near, I answer the prayer of everyone who calls on Me.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) emphasized this point, saying, “If you ask in prayer, ask only Allah, and if you seek help, seek it only from Allah.” Thus, prayer to human beings or through human beings, dead or living, is a form of shirk. The one to whom prayers are directed becomes an object of worship. An-Nu‘maan ibn Basheer reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Supplication is worship.”
“Surely, those whom you call on in prayer besides Allah are servants like yourself.”
Thus, the Catholic Christian practice of praying to saints is shirk. If something is lost, Saint Anthony of Thebes is prayed to in order to help find it. St. Jude Thaddaeus is the patron saint of the impossible and is prayed to for intercession in incurable illnesses, unlikely marriages or the like. And it used to be that when someone set out on a journey, Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, was the object of prayers for protection. However, in 1969 St. Christopher was unceremoniously struck off the list of saints by papal decree, after it was confirmed that he was fictitious. Prayers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and to the angels, as on Michaelmas, are also shirk. Even Christians who shun saint worship commit shirk whenever they direct prayers to Prophet Jesus, through him or in his name. Likewise, any Muslim who prays to Prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) commits shirk. Consequently, God commanded the Prophet (peace be upon him) to inform his followers as follows, as stated in the Quran,
“Say [O muhammad]: ‘I have no power to bring good or avert harm even from myself, except if Allah wills. If I had knowledge of the unseen, I would surely have accumulated only good and no evil would have befallen me.”
Aboo Hurayrah reported that when the verse “Warn your nearest relatives,” was revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), he said the following to his relatives: “O people of Quraysh, secure deliverance from Allah [by doing good deeds], for I cannot avail you at all against Allah...O Faatimah, daughter of muhammad, ask me whatever you wish [in this life], but I have nothing which can avail you against Allah.”
Visit our blog http://thejourney2islam-team.blogspot.com/ to read more!