Islamic Culture and Religious Studies Book - Volume 4
- :Shahid Murtada Mutahhari
Islamic Culture and Religious Studies Book - Volume 4
Shahid Murtada Mutahhari
Youth is the most important period in the life of a human being. This is because it marks that stage when an individual passes out of the first stage of life i.e. childhood and begins the journey to the last stage i.e. adulthood.
Childhood is a dependant period. Every child requires guidance from elders and moral support to make and maintain correct decisions. In the early years of life, the hand of another leads a child but as adolescence and youth begin to emerge, the child learns to pull away and walk by himself.
During this period enormous physical, mental and emotional changes occur. It is a metamorphosis of character and intellect and could be likened to an explosion, rejuvenating all parts of an individual. Dormant inclinations awake in the youth and new horizons are sighted.
To the person experiencing this change, it seems as if yesterday he was living in a child's dream and today he sees the world through the window of reality.
It is at this time, that a human being seeks purpose of his existence and forms the principles that will guide him through the rest of his life. Thus, the period of youth is one that must be nurtured and nourished well both by the young individual himself and by the adults surrounding him.
One of the most important inclinations during this stage is that of seeking independence. This tendency plays a major role in the life of a human being. It is prompted by the need to break completely away from childhood, which as we mentioned is dominated by dependency.
When a youth realizes that he is growing he feels that he must prove himself to be unique. He can only do this if he breaks free of the bonds of childhood and the reliance he has developed on parents, siblings etc. This searching for independence also signals the beginning of intellectual maturity as the youth begins to think for himself and make his own decisions.
Seeking independence is a positive step and should be encouraged so that the youth can grow into a strong and firm adult. However, the journey towards independence must be accompanied by a sense of awareness - a conscious knowledge of what is ahead and what must be done.
This awareness is essential before anything else because it guards a youth from choosing the wrong path. A young person who is eager to achieve his independence can easily be tempted to adopt a selfish attitude and drown in a sea of mistakes. The child in him still has some hold over his thinking and without making a conscious effort to control his emotions, he cannot expect to succeed against it.
This consciousness also helps to develop and strengthen intellectual powers as it encourages a young person to question his thinking and prevents him from following concepts blindly.
In the period of youth, brain efficiency enters a new stage and special talents are fully explored. It is for this reason that pathologists refer to this stage as the beginning of the brain.The brain begins to ask many new questions and satisfactory answers to these must be provided.
What Action to Take?
When we embark upon any task in our life, the result is positive or negative depending on the conscious choices we make along the way.Basically, this means that the manner in which we think about situations and the decisions we make in regards to them are what form the deciding factors of our success or failure.
We can immediately make out how well developed the consciousness of an individual by looking at the actions that result from them. The behaviour of a human being shows others the extent and maturity of his thinking.
Many scholars regard intellect as the human's basic superiority over animals. That is why man is called a 'Thinking Animal'. This title clearly implies that if man does not put his power of thinking into action, he is no better than an animal that relies on instinct for survival.
The stronger a man's thinking power is, the better he can utilize it in solving complex issues.We can develop our intellect by beginning with the implementation of the following essential factors:
1. Intensity of Thought
Before making any decisions, we must of course think about what we are doing, why we are undertaking it and the possible results of any decision we are tempted to make. The more deeply we ponder on these issues, the more we are likely to understand the issue. This prevents hasty decisions made on superficial grounds.
2. Sound Thinking
Our contemplation must be based on reason and logic. For this purpose we require a balance in our consciousness. The more precise a man's awareness is, the more his thoughts will be capable of understanding.
We can illustrate this by imagining that our decision-making ability is a factory, whose raw material is the conscious. Without raw materials, the factory will not be able to produce anything.
A thing to be careful about is that our thinking should be based on facts, not guesses or assumptions. The latter not only obstructs intellectual power in the situation at hand but also prevents future development of the mind.
3. Seeking the Truth
In any attempt to analyse or contemplate, we must train ourselves to seek out the truth. Nothing should be of more importance that this.
Accepting ideas and opinions without searching for flaws or solid foundations leads to hasty actions. Such decisions may provide immediate satisfaction of our desires but in the long wrong, they will only harm us. If we do not form the habit of seeking out the truth in every circumstance then we will lower our level of thinking and never learn how to differentiate truth from falsehood.
Islamic Point of View
In Islam, the necessity of intellect has been given great emphasis. The Holy Qur'an cautions people against following things blindly. " (O Man) Do not follow that which you have no knowledge of …" Sura Bani Isra'il, Verse 36
In this verse, we can see that Islam encourage man to think and research on information before accepting it as the truth. This emphasis is so immense, that the accepting of the tenets of faith i.e. Tawheed, Nubuwwat, Imamat and Qiyamat, blindly is not allowed. An individual must ponder upon and be convinced of the truth before his belief is accepted. From the viewpoint of Islam, a person who has attained maturity is one who is intellectually advanced.
According to Allah (S.W.T.), if a person guides his thoughts towards seeking out the truth then he will easily be able to identify it from falsehood. This is why there is no force in religion - anyone who truly seeks God will find Him. The Qur'an says:
"There is no compulsion in religion. Guidance is distinguishable from error" Sura Baqara, Verse 256
From this verse, we understand that the cause of man's deviation from the Right Path is his lack of thinking and contemplation and his tendency towards hasty decisions.
If Muslims would be satisfied with judgments based on weak arguments then they would find themselves confusing religious teachings with superstition and innovation - a problem that faces many other faiths. Islam requires that every argument and action be founded on solid reasoning and sound judgment. The Qur'an acknowledges men of knowledge as those who respect the Laws of God.
"Only the realistic and visionary men are obedient to Allah." Sura Fatir, Verse 28
To better understand the-long term effects of making hasty decisions, we can outline two different examples:
a. Vulnerability Towards Disagreeing Views
It is a fact that various cultures exist in the world and that the Muslim Ummah is composed of members who come from these differing social systems.However, Islam demands that every culture should take second place when there is a choice between it and religion.
If an individual does not think deeply about the norms of his society, he may find himself following traditional values that have no place in Islam or worse still, contradict it.
An adult who can analyse the reasons for adopting a practice and compare them to religious laws, is able to choose and decide what to keep and what to discard. Such people allow the various cultures to co-exist and the Islamic culture to take top priority in all cases.
b. Lack of General Knowledge
As a child grows into an adult, many questions arise in his mind. regard daily activities while others about more philosophical issues.
To most young people, life is the most important of all issues. What is our aim in life? What are our goals? How do we lead a happy and successful life?
These and other similar questions keep coming forward and must be answered in order to allow the youth to base his character and principles on.
Although these are the main questions, we must realize that the answers to these questions are based many a time in our more common activities and the manners that govern them. How to eat, what to wear, what kind of company to keep, all these are directly or indirectly connected to the bigger issues mentioned above. The way in which we behave guides the way in which we look at the world and the manner in which we make our decisions.
In order to mature successfully, we have to study the knowledge available to us - both Islamic and Secular. As we study the rules and laws set out by Allah (S.W.T.) and observe the lives of people who have followed or rejected these laws, we learn what we must do in order to succeed.
It is clear to understand that if we try to live our lives based on ignorance and do things hastily, as we feel inclined to, then we will surely end up failing in whatever we attempt.
In the previous lesson, we discussed about the importance of general knowledge. Let us further expound on this subject.
Say for example that you intend to travel to a foreign city that you have never been to for a holiday. You would first begin by choosing the city you wish to see. This decision is based on what you want to achieve. It may be something you saw on television, read in a book or even the recommendation of friends.
Next, to ensure that you are able to make the most of your stay there, you will ensure that your travel arrangements are all well organized. The most sensible thing to do would be to study brochures and find out what means of transport would best suit you in terms of speed and finance, what the weather conditions are going to be like at the time you visit, what sites there are to see, health risks etc.
By the time you actually set out, it will be true to say that the schedule of your holiday is based on the knowledge, which you have equipped yourself with.
Be Aware Of Your Aim
From the example above, we can see that we make choices based on our goals or aspirations. Once this is determined then we work on how to achieve it i.e. the program, based on knowledge that we research and gather. Remember, our brains undertake all these processes voluntarily.
We can therefore divide any final achievement into three basic elements:
1. Awareness of the situation.
2. Determining the aim.
3. Laying out a program based on knowledge gathered.
Even something as simple as choosing how to get to work is based on these stages. We are first aware of the situation i.e. that we need to get to work. Then we determine the aim which is to get there as fast as possible and before the time given by the employer. Finally, we choose a mode of transport (the program) based on information that we gather about travel fare, timetables and time spent on the road.
Worldview, Ideology And Doctrine
The human being also seeks the greater truths in life, following this method. Man wants to know what is in the universe that he lives in (Awareness), he then chooses his goals in life (Aim) and lastly decides the action required to achieve those goals (Program).
The general awareness that we have about the world we live in is called the Global Outlook, Global Perspective or Worldview. It allows us to have a birds- eye view of the world - including animate and inanimate objects - but has nothing to do with any major matters in the philosophy of life e.g., one may learn about rivers or forests, but this has no effect on our outlook towards the world.
However, the general awareness of our surroundings allows us to realize that the world must be under the control of a Supreme Being and this has a strong effect on how we perceive life. As we try to learn more about the world, we begin to determine our aims and seek programs to fulfill them.
It is during this stage that we are able to decide for ourselves what our obligations are. We can distinguish what we must do and not do, in order to reach our final aims. These programs (set of rules) that we discover are called Ideologies. Therefore, an ideology can be described as a group of Must's and Must-not's that guide us towards noble ends.
The concepts of Worldview (Global Outlook) and Ideology together are called a Doctrine (School of Thought). Thus, every doctrine has two basic factors: its world outlook and its aims and programs.
Relationship Of Worldview to Ideology
We have seen that if you intend to spend quality time in a city, you must be prepared with the relevant information regarding that place and your trip to it. When your information is doubtful or incorrect, you will not be able to effectively benefit from it.
Similarly, the more our knowledge about the world we live in, the better our chances of spending a life of quality in it. We can take full advantage of our short lives if we seek and obtain correct information about it.
Different Worldviews = Different Ideologies
Every doctrine has its peculiarities. This means that every school of thought has it own set of Must's and Must-not's and its own unique outlook on the world. With this in mind, it can be said that every individual should strive to attain the correct vision of the world and build his outlook on firm and strong pillars.
Basic Worldview Issues
The issues raised from different world outlooks normally are in regards to the following three factors:
1. The world in which we live in and its mortality i.e. did it come into existence by itself or was it created? The answer to this question deals with knowing God.
2. Is man's life confined to this world or is there a possibility of another life after death? This normally tackles the issues of resurrection and eternal life.
3. Can man administrate his own affairs in life or does he need God's guidance? This can be associated with the issue of Nubuwwat (Prophethood).
Because the most basic views of any doctrine rely on these concepts, Islam emphasizes them as being the Usul - e - Deen (Roots of Religion). Acceptance of Tawheed (Monotheism), Nubuwwat (Prophethood) and Ma'ad (Day of Reckoning) are the pre-requisites of being a Muslim. Neglecting or discrediting any of these excludes a person from Islam.
From the answers of the above three questions, two broad types of world outlooks are derived:
1. Materialistic / World Worldview
This is based on the belief that stability equals wealth and that man is a materialistic being. This view regards life to be a temporary period and death to be final. The materialistic worldview says that man came on earth by chance and that life has no deeper meaning. Such an outlook prevents the development of any long-term or noble aims. It is an existence without hope.
2. Divine Worldview
The other view confirms that the world belongs to a Creator. It also believes in an everlasting life after this short worldly one. It looks upon the time spent in this world as a means of constructing ones destiny in the hereafter. This leads to the belief that there exists a certain code of life to attain the success and people who are sent by the Creator to teach it.
If we ponder on this we can see that the belief or disbelief in God results in the acceptance or rejection, respectively, for the other two factors i.e. Prophethood and Resurrection. This is why the first is more fundamentally important then latter.
Considering a Doctrine
In conclusion we can say that when examining any doctrine (School of Thought), we must first study its world outlook. Its basic principle i.e. concerning its position towards the issue of God is the most important when trying to establish its authenticity.
We will in the course of this text, discuss the issues of knowing God and then the Islamic World Outlook.
Before we begin to study the ways in which we can know God, it is necessary that we first look at the various methods we, as human beings, use to gather any kind of information or knowledge.
We know that one of man's specialties is that he is always in search of gaining more information about the world he lives in. He yearns to know about anything that is related to both his internal and external world. Because the knowledge he seeks comes in different forms, he is equipped with different skills to deal with this variety.
There are four main skills a human being uses:
1. Senses (Direct Capture)
The most ancient and transparent way of gaining knowledge is through use of our five basic senses. We see the different colours and shapes that fill our world; we listen to birds singing and babies crying; we learn the variety of flavours available through our sense of taste; we smell the aromas that things give off and finally feel textures through touch. The information we get in these ways is direct because the particular sense sends the message straightaway to the brain.
2. Experiments (Indirect Capture)
Despite the fact that many obvious things are learnt through direct capture, there are many aspects of our universe that cannot be discovered by using any of the five senses. For example, we cannot observe the actual flow of electricity in a live wire with any of our sense our senses. We cannot use our senses to discover things such as atoms, electrons and magnetism.
Our conclusions on these subjects are a result of indirect methods of discovery. Instead of seeing the actual object in question, we base our knowledge on the effect it has on other things, e.g. we know that there is a flow of electricity when we see the resulting light.
Another clear example is in regards to people's thoughts. We cannot discover what goes on in another's mind with any of our senses, but through that persons speech we are able to judge his thoughts and character.
When talking of indirect methods of gaining knowledge, we can refer to it as an 'intellectually-based' approach because it relies on the brain to process the information and apply it to the knowledge being searched for. Many of the achievements in science are achieved through this system.
The use of intellect to gain knowledge has been separated from the indirect approach because of a fundamental difference that exist between the two. In the indirect method of capturing knowledge, a human being reasons based on the result of his senses, but the use of intellect does not rely on the senses to provide the raw information with which to work.
An example of this is the science of Mathematics. When we study other sciences such as chemistry and physic, we know that we must carry out experiments, capture information with our five senses and then apply this using theories that we have come up with. This is not so in mathematics.
Mathematics depends solely on thought processes of the brain. In this science, you can get a thousand results from a few basic sources, without need for any experiments. Here the foundation stone of the knowledge is based on the brain.
Our internal understanding is another way in which we gain knowledge. We are capable of feeling sorrow, happiness, fear, courage, love and hatred. These feelings are direct, meaning we can experience them without any interference of outside influences.
If we are happy, we don't achieve this state with the help of any of the five senses, or the brain. The condition is directly felt in our heart. This is a result of an inner instinct that illuminates various ways for man.
Unseen Does not mean Unavailable
From the above methods, it is obvious to see that the existence of something does not depend on our being able to sense it. Many people deny God because that cannot see Him. To them what cannot be seen does not exist. However, if this were truly the case then we would also have to deny much of the useful scientific achievements that have been accomplished so far.
Our reasoning demands proof of existence so likewise we should also have proof of inexistence. When we have a lack of proof, we can say that we do not have knowledge about the subject but this is not the same as saying the subject does not exist.
To judge the presence or absence of anything, we need to first get information about it. If it happens to be unseen, then that will not automatically mean it is absent. If we do not manage to get enough reasons to prove either its presence or absence, then the phrase "I don't know" can be used to show that neither opinion has been sufficiently verified. This will also leave the door open to future discovery and argument in favour of either the present or absent stand.
To explain this concept better, let us take the following example. Suppose you are standing in your home and somebody asks you if your best friend is standing at a certain corner in town, which is out of your sight. What would you say? Would you deny that your friend is there just because you cannot see him?
Or would you say you don't know? The first is obviously an illogical answer. The second would be more sensible and would allow you to confirm later on whether your friend was on that corner or not.
From this we can conclude that not seeing something is not a sign of its absence.
How to Know God
Having looked at the various methods we use to gather and absorb information, we can now see how a human being using these skills to learn about God and His existence. It is clear that God cannot be found using the direct capture system, because He does not have a material or physical form. Since our senses cannot detect Him, we must turn to the other ways. Each of these can help us better understand God and prove He exists.
1. Indirect capture. In the same way we use experiments, sign and effects to prove Laws and theories in this world, we can observe the system around us and from its signs seek the path that will lead us to God.
2. Use of intellect. This is the most complete method for solving the issue of knowing God. By using our intellectual power we can prove the existence of the Creator. The causes of effects (See Book Three) are the main intellectual reasons used to prove the existence of God.
3. By relying on our emotional understanding we can also discover God. This kind of knowledge is called spiritual knowledge and will be dealt with in more detail later.
One of the ways of knowing God is through the study of the system that is the universe. This has been called the 'Proving System' because it helps us to prove the necessity of a Maker and Caretaker for such a complex structure. In this lesson let us look briefly at how we can use this proof.
A group of components that work together to achieve a common goal is referred to as a system. In our ancient universe, there are many groups of things that can be classified as being either arranged systematically or non-systematically.
A single object in itself cannot be called a system. From its very definition we know that for a system to exist, it must involve a number of objects even though these may be varied in the nature of their structure and function.
Another important point is that the objects that are part of a system must all work together to directly or indirectly fulfill a common aim. The most amazing and obvious example of this is the human body. Every organ in the body has a particular function: providing and allowing nourishment, protecting against viruses, dealing with wounds, cleansing blood, etc. But in the end all these activities are meant to do only one thing and that is to preserve life.
Of course, this means that it is necessary that every part of the system perform its duties correctly, or else it may disrupt or destroy the whole. In some cases, a component may be dispensable and if this is the case, it will be removed by the other components. However, in the case of essential components, the system is doomed if one small mishap occurs.
Qualities of the Parts In A System
For any system to survive, its elements or components must fulfill certain conditions. We will use examples from the human body to explain these:
Each element must possess the required structure or capability to carry out its specific function correctly and efficiently. For example, the structure of each bone in the body is such that it corresponds to the bones around it in order to form the skeleton with its joints.
Every part of a system must co-operate with the rest of the group. Thus, each component is a supplement to the others and together they form a united functioning whole.
The size and measurement of every element must be suited to its function. For example, if our fingers were either bigger or smaller than they are then they would not be able to perform their duties so well.
Every part of a system must have a special position within it. Try and imagine what would happen if our eyes were positioned on the top of our heads or if our ears were at the ends of our legs!
Survival of Systems
In order for a system to be maintained over a period of time, it must adequately meet its own needs. Two types of needs exist in such a group.
a. Practical needs: These are those necessities that are required directly by the components to survive. In the case of human beings, it would refer to things such as oxygen, food and water. If we do not eat or drink for a long period of time, then our body recognizes this lack of nourishment through the feelings of hunger/thirst. The body (system) then uses its senses to search for and consume food or water, which it needs to survive.
b. Future needs: These refer to the long-term needs that a system has in order to assure its continuity in the future. This is usually dealt with by the various components in a manner that can be best described as foresight. Amongst humans, an example could be the need that every individual has to procreate and thus perpetuate their species through reproduction.
In the previous lesson we reached a conclusion that in any system, every part has its own special duty, but that each parts is varied in shape, size, position and function. We also saw that a particular element may be excluded due to lack of functionality or efficiency.
Having said this, we can ask the following questions:
- Why is it that from all the different things in the world, only certain entities have been assembled in a particular group?
- And in addition to this, why have elements with certain qualities and functions been selected above the countless other varieties available?
When we contemplate the details of an orderly group, our intellect will show us that the creator of the group must have had an aim to begin with. In order to achieve this aim, he then laid down a design or plan for what would have to been done.
Based on this plan, he would choose special components to perform the functions required. However, the choices would have to be made by an expert in the field so that each part would perform up to the standard desired.
From the above assessment we can derive four principles that every organized system must be based upon:
3. Choice of parts/elements
4. Expert advice on choices
Qualities Of A Maker
Of course, it is now obvious that the Maker or Creator of a system must have an Aim to begin with, design the system, select its components and have the relevant knowledge at hand to make these selections wisely and correctly.
However, despite having these abilities, if he does not possess one fundamental quality then the others are void/useless.This basic quality is that of consciousness. If the Maker is not aware then the system cannot survive.
Would you expect a child who is unaware of any of the laws governing this world to produce an article explaining the workings of his remote control car? Hardly! Or try to imagine that this book you are holding is the result of a series of coincidences where a sudden reaction of gases and matter created the paper and then brought together atoms in pattern that just happened to form characters into sensible sentences. A little too farfetched, is it not?
Thus, for anything to exist and especially those things that are related to the intellect, there has to be some sort of pre-planned program that has been set into action. Logic cannot accept that anything remotely organized can 'just happen'.
The world around us is full of information and the very fat that we get much of our knowledge from it shows that it was created by an intelligent entity that was capable of not only creating a complex, working system but also hiding knowledge within it for us to find.
The universe is more complicated in itself than all the technology that man has discovered in the past thousands of years! Many inventors have got their inspiration for their discoveries and inventions from the natural systems around them, thus it is possible to say that the efforts of mankind are only a weak reflection of the natural world around us.
Inspiration From Nature
One of the wonders of our natural world is the ability that bats have to hunt and move about in darkness. Man, through observation and experiment, discovered that this is not due to extremely sharp vision (as was first believed) but rather is a result of an echo-signal that the bat uses to detect objects in its path.
The bat send out high pitched squeaks all the time as it flies and its extra sensitive hearing picks up on any echoes that bounce back, indicating a physical obstacle.
Based on this phenomenon, Man developed his radar systems which is a similar process, in that radio signals are sent out and radio echoes detected and translated to show where obstacles are. Sonar is even closer to the example set by the bat because it uses sound echoes and can be used under water and for deep geological research where radar does not work.
Once they realized how much there was to be learned from nature, scholars founded a new science with the name BIONIC which is aimed at examining and researching living organisms and applying their techniques to our computerized systems.
Borrowing From The Solar System
Isaac Newton is a famous 17th Century scholar. He was known to have made a model of the solar system using marbles, ropes and belts that showed the position and movement of the planets. Once a friend who did not believe in God came to visit him and saw the model for the first time. Amazed by the structure, he asked Newton: "Who made this model?" Newton replied: "Nobody."
The man was surprised at this answer and asked him again, "Didn't you understand my question? I asked who made that?" Again Newton replied, "It brought itself into existence."
The man stared at him. "Do you think I am crazy?" he asked. "Someone must have made this model and from its complexity it must have been a genius! I would like to know him."
At that Newton said to him, "My friend, this model is a small imitation of our entire solar system. It shows the earth we live on as a simple, small marble and yet you say it needs a creator to have made it and call him a genius.
"How can you then believe that this magnificent world came into existence without a creator?"
This is an extremely solid argument that can be presented to prove the need and existence of a God. We need to realize that we have studied this nature around us for centuries and have managed to barely scratch the surface of the wonders hidden in it. We then need to ask ourselves:
- If all the efforts of the best minds of our species have taken so long produced so little, how is it possible for the very source of this knowledge to be an accidental one?
- How can we derive so much law and order from something we consider a product of chaos?
- Why do our theories hold steady and our laws of science provide foundations for more laws to be derived from them? Surely, if the world came about as a result of coincidences then there should be flaws in the system.
Francis Beacon, who is known in history as the Father of New Science says: "I can not accept that the constructor of this world, created it without consciousness and intelligence. This philosophy can lead a man to infidelity, but profound philosophy guides man towards the realization of religion."
Theology And Its Development Theories
When man became well versed with the sciences, he began to believe that there was no need for a superior power in this world. His ego prompted him to develop a theory that would allow him to be the highest intellectual in the universe and leave him free to do as he wished with no accountability to anyone else. This theory is that of evolution.
The idea of evolution is based on the belief that things that exist today first began in a different raw form. Through the times, these basic simple forms then developed and adapted in the innumerable varieties of organisms and species that we see today. The people who hold this concept to be true believe that such an explanation of our origins would remove the necessity of having a Planner and Creator. Thus, their fight is not against any one faith but against religion in its entirety.
To prove them wrong we do not need to go out and search for more information. Just developing their concept to its full meaning allows us to see that the argument actually proves the need for a Creator rather than disapproving it! Consider the following:
1. The theory of evolution may have an answer to how we came to be today and explain this saying that it is the result of gradual development through the millennia. However, if we go back as far as the origins, there still remains the question of "Where did that origin come from?" Continuity is possible once a system is started but to set the system into action, you require a Creator. We see plenty of automatic machines in the world that work on their own, but that does not cause us to believe that they came to be without a creator or designer.
2. To accept that the amazingly complicated systems that exist today came to be through coincidental changes along the years is to ask human beings to accept something without using their intellect and logic.How can it be possible that just the right change should occur in the right order to result in the different perfect structures? The probabilities we would have to rely on in each case are unbelievable!
Let us take an extremely simple example to illustrate this point. Say a man wants to walk from his house to particular building across the town. He has to cross certain streets and take certain roads in order to reach it.
If you see him when he is on this walk, you would not understand why he was taking the corners he chose and wonder at them. On the other hand, if you happen to know his purpose then you immediately understand that he chose the particular route in order to reach his destination.
Now, ask yourself, if he had begun walking without thought and crossed streets and roads at random, what were the chances that he would reach that building at all? At every point, his choices would have had one right one and numerous wrong ones. Had he chosen a wrong turn even once, he would have deviated from his path and with every choice after that, he would have moved further away from the right road.
It is the same with nature. Even according to evolution, for us to be who we are today, there must have been a pre-planned route that we would have to follow. Even the smallest disorder would have had a totally different and most probably chaotic result. This means that we have to accept the existence of a Plan and therefore of a Planner.
From the above we can see that gradual development theory does not really cause any hindrance to the Proving System and its arguments.
The Creator is One
In the world around us there are systems that work in different manners on different principles. Two basic kinds are as follows:
1. The systems we create in our factories e.g. clocks, cameras, binoculars, computers, etc. In such systems, the different parts of the whole are created individually and then set together in a special way in order to make them work in co-ordination.
2. The system we see in man's words through speech or writing. In this case, we do not just pick words and then arrange them. Rather we think of what it is that we want to say or express and then use or create the words required giving them a link to each other and thus forming a system. Writing is the same where we place every word and sentence in a particular place to give them meaning. This changes depending on our aim.
The system in the world of nature is of the second type. The various parts within it were not created once and organized in a fixed manner to perform a function. All the things created have their special place in the universe and changes do occur in order to meet the final aim of the Creator of the system.
Just as when speaking, it is a person alone who expresses himself, the Expresser of the system is also One and Alone in His creation.
What is Nature?
The qualities that man possesses are of two types. Firstly, those that are gained through instruction like reading, writing, driving, sports etc. The second are those qualities that are inborn in him and require no training like affection for friends and family, curiosity, sympathy, self-preservation and the like.
The second type of qualities may be categorized as instinct and while some them are found in both humans and other lower animals, others are specific to man alone. These include love of knowledge, hope of attaining perfection and inclination towards good.
These qualities are part of the Natural tendencies. They are found in animals and some are particular to man and most importantly they are not acquired.
God In Man's Nature
It is in this nature of man discussed above that he should seek out and accept God. Although, the actual knowledge and proof comes later in life when he can speak, read and think consciously, Man has this information imprinted in him from birth.
It is his inclination to submit to a Power worth obeying and worship that Supreme entity. Every individual seeks this entity and that is why we must put a conscious effort to learn about and know God. This will allow us to fulfill our inner desire and complete our goal.
While it is true that such feelings exist within a human being, a person has the right to ask for proof for such statements. So, how can we prove that the inclination towards God is inbred in the human character? There are several ways but we will explain only two:
I . Reaction in Danger
One of the clear signs of theology (religion) being natural in human being is that when a person finds himself helpless and has no hope of protection against impending danger, he finds himself instinctively calling out to a Someone - a higher power - who can save him when no one else can.
This is usually the most sincere call a human ever experiences because he is faced with his own finite and weak self and realizes how little he can control the things that influence him. If the knowledge of God was not in his self, then how would this hope and plea arise?
One day a man came to visit Imam Ja'far Sadiq (a.s.) and asked him to prove the existence of Allah (S.W.T.). Imam (a.s.) asked him a question in return. "Have you ever traveled by ship?" he said.
The man replied, "Yes, I have." "And have you ever been caught in a storm that you did not believe you would survive?" the Imam (a.s.) asked him.
"Yes, I have experienced that too," the man replied. "At that moment of despair, did you give up all hope and resign to your death?" The man thought about this and then told Imam (a.s.), "No, I did not, O Imam! I had a hope that somehow I would survive through some miracle."
Imam (a.s.) immediately told him, "That hope, my friend, and the one you expected to perform the miracle was no other than Allah (S.W.T.) who is always in your heart and comes to your help when you call."
There are also several verses in the Holy Qur'an that explain that in times of hardship, man tends to remember Allah (S.W.T.) and when his difficulties are removed, he forgets Him.
"In that situation when the sea waves stack on them, they supplicate to God with pure and sincere hearts, but when they reach the sea-shore safely, a group of them put moderation aside (and the other group deviates) and other than those who are ungrateful, nobody can not deny the signs of God." Sura Luqman, Verse 32
The Qur'an speaks of these people as those with whom Allah (S.W.T.) is displeased. Remembering God at times of distress is a sign of being aware of Him, but if we remember Him only at these times then it also indicates our ungratefulness and negligence.
II. Endurance in History
The second proof we can use in our argument that knowing and needing God is in man's nature is that of the endurance of theology. Man's needs and desires control the existence, invention and lasting quality of anything he come sin contact with.
We know that as times pass, man looks to improve on what he has and with the coming of new things, the older models become rare and obsolete. Examples of such object are everywhere like the carts of long ago that have been replaced with cars and buses, or the use of electricity over the old kerosene lamps.
However, those things that are inbred in man do not change. They remain the same through the ages. Man's desire for peace and happiness, his loving nature, his eagerness to learn and need of perfection have always been present and will continue to be because they are qualities in his nature.Nothing substitutes these and even if people have abandoned them in history sometimes, they always come back later to seek them out again.
The inclination to believe in a supreme deity is one of these natural qualities and has existed since the dawn of human history. Archeological investigations show that even during the days when language and society barely had any solid structure, the worship of God prevailed even in the form of idols.
It is believed by some faiths that worship began with that of one God but later with civilization, polytheism developed.
This endurance shows that the belief is so well ingrained in the nature of man that despite all his progress and advancement, it has not been removed from his nature to this day.
What the Qur'an has to say The Holy Qur'an introduces piety and the inclination to God as rising from within man:
"Then set your purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright - the nature made by Allah (S.W.T.), in which He has made men. There is no altering of Allah (S.W.T.)'s creation. That is the right religion, but most people do not know." Sura al-Rum, Verse 30
Several points are found in this verse.
1. God has created mankind with the inclination of seeking Him.
2. Man's nature is unalterable and thus the seeking of God cannot be separated from him.
3. Most people are unaware of this reality and come up with doctrines that have no foundation according to their nature.
The Secret of the Prophets
We know that Prophets greatly influenced human history and that they did this with no great force at their liberty. Most were simple shepherds without any material wealth or power. Despite this, they managed to transform the world in their respective time, destroying great tyrannical empires and establishing new cultures.
Where did they get the ability to achieve all this? It is obvious that they did not force or bribe the people to accept their message and neither did they hypnotize them. Instead, they used the very power of the people themselves to bring about their revolutions.
By encouraging people to become familiar with God within themselves and rely only on Him, they made them aware of the fires hidden within their nature. This was what led to their amazing success.
The prophets only brought messages to remind the people of what they already had. This is why the Qur'an calls them Reminders and Warners.
"Remind them for you are but a reminder. You are not dominant over them." Sura Ghashiyah, Verses 21 & 22
The Prophets could not create the desire to seek God in men, this he had the capability to do himself. Rather, they showed the ways in which to use this desire and guided their strong inclinations in the right direction. The Prophets were sent to stop deviation towards idol worship and other wrong means of worship and the tendencies of man led him astray when he had no guide to help. Why do Some go Against this Nature?
Having established that the inclination to God is a natural desire, why then do some people turn against it and deny God? Do they lack this quality? Why does it not push them towards God?
The reasons for this may include:
1. Man's different tendencies. Each individual gives priority to different desires and those wants that dominate in his personality overshadow those that do not. For example, you will always see in a class some students who spend their time on their lessons and others who concentrate only on enjoyment and do not bother about studying. Thus, while some people search for the truth, others deny it.
2. The natural qualities in any man need conditional assistance for their progress. If the family and social atmosphere around a child is not positive for the nurturing his character then these qualities may be suppressed or distorted.
* Note that this is a probability and there are cases when a person has the inclination to turn to God even when he has been brought up in an environment that was against this or vice versa.
In conclusion, we can say that all worshipping systems that exist preach humility and submission to One Supreme Being. This conforms to the nature of humanity.
When you look at any object in this world, it reflects some quality or qualities of its inventor/creator. Take this book you are reading, through the writing, you can see what kind of person its author is. His qualities i.e. the extent of his knowledge, his opinions, his thoughts and ideas are all displayed to anyone who reads his book. If you look at a building you will be able to make out the creativity and competence of its architect.
The wondrous world we live in also shows the nature of its Creator and tells anyone who wishes to learn from it, about His unique qualities. The world therefore acts as a mirror in which the perfection of its Creator can be seen. In this mirror, scientists have discovered things that surprise even the greatest amongst them.
As man's knowledge increases, his amazement at the magnificence of this world also increases. Max Plank, a famous physicist says: "As man advances in science, he accordingly remains further in childhood. He must always be prepared for new amazements."
This mirror thus reflects that its Creator must possess unlimited knowledge and perfection to be able to create such an awesome and complex structure. Attributes of Allah (S.W.T.)
Since Allah (S.W.T.) is unlimited in His perfection, He possesses all attributes that arise from excellence. In describing them, we can divide them into Positive and Negative attributes. The word negative in no way refers to flaws but is used to describe the angle from which the perfect attributes are viewed. We will elaborate more on this under the relevant subsection.
Allah (S.W.T.) is Knowledge. The system of this world alone reveals His unlimited wisdom. His knowledge encompasses everything and there is no secret hidden from Him, be it deep in the hearts of people or high in the heavens above. "…Surely Allah (S.W.T.) knows everything." Sura Anfal, Verse 75.
Although we say that Allah (S.W.T.) listens to and sees everything, his hearing and sight is not like ours. He does not use eyes and ears and His perception is based on Knowledge and a Consciousness of everything.
Allah (S.W.T.) is All-Powerful. His creation in all its magnificence glorifies His immense capacity. Nothing is impossible for Him and in His unlimited ability there are no terms such as difficult, large or hard in description of tasks. His Power controls everything.
He created man, gave him life and death and after the human body decomposes, He is capable of raising him back to life and bringing him to Judgment on the Day of Qiyamat.
"... Surely God has power over all things." Sura Baqarah, Verse 20
Allah (S.W.T.) is Kind and Merciful. There is no limit to his compassion and He is a thousand times more loving to people than their own parents can ever be. In His own words, He is closer to a human being than the jugular vein (a most important blood vessel situated in the neck).
Any body can communicate and become familiar with Him, sharing grievances and seeking support from Him. He is most considerate to those who plead with Him and take Him as their support.
"And when My servants ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then surely I am very near, I answer the call of the supplicant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me, that they may achieve perfection." Sura Baqara, Verse 186
The above verse gives hope to all those who are in distress. Even when we feel guilty about the numerous sins we have committed, we should turn to Him for forgiveness and have faith that He will accept us back because He loves us. Despairing of the Mercy of God is a quality of the disbelievers and doubters. "Verily none are desperate of Allah (S.W.T.)'s Mercy but the disbelieving people." Sura Yusuf, Verse 87
Allah (S.W.T.) is Ever-Living and Self-subsistant. All things depend on Him to exist but He depends on nothing. His existence is not like that of other living organisms that require motion, growth, breath, food and reproduction to survive. These creations need certain elements for life and continuity - a condition of which Allah (S.W.T.) is absolutely independent.
"There is no God but Him, the Ever Living, the Self Subsistent." Sura Baqara, Verse 255
In addition to these, Allah (S.W.T.) possesses numerous other qualities such as that He is Forgiving, Honourable, Needlessness, Praiseworthy etc.
A defect is lacking of something and since God is Perfect and lacks nothing, the title does not refer to any negative attributes in the literal sense. It actually talks of those qualities that arise from shortage and that cannot be attributed to Him.
Thus, those qualities that are NOT found in God are called Negative attributes. For example, ignorance and weakness are a result of lack of knowledge and potency and therefore ignorance and weakness are not found in God.
Allah (S.W.T.) is not Material because a substance is limited and transformable, and none of these qualities are found in Him.
A creation composed of parts and requires these to exist and survive, to such an extent that if any of the elements are removed that creature will become deformed or cease to exist. Thus the creation is needful of its parts and Need is not in the essence of Allah (S.W.T.).
Allah (S.W.T.) is also not composed of a substantial form because lack, dependency and shortcomings are inevitable to such a form. A body of any sort would require movement and would be open to change. Every motion and change needs a motive and Allah (S.W.T.) is needless of such a requirement.
Allah (S.W.T.) inhabits no Space because to do this He would have to be confined to an area. Allah (S.W.T.) is infinite and cannot be defined as occupying such and such a position or place. Thus, contrary to those who consider the place of Allah (S.W.T.) to be in the Heavens (skies), He does not dwell in any particular place but every place is a creation of His.
He is everywhere and cannot be pointed at. We should not mistake this to mean that he fills the entire universe from east to west but rather that He exists in a way we cannot observe or explain in terms of our own existence. This means that He cannot and will never be seen with human eyes. He can only be found in the heart with the vision of faith.
"Vision does not perceive Him but He perceive all visions; He is all aware and knower of the subtleties". Sura An-aam, Verse 103
Imam Ali (a.s.) once replied a man who had asked him if he could see his God, saying, "Eyes cannot perceive God, but hearts full of faith can recognize Him." There is no sleep, old age, negligence, regret, envy, lies or oppression in the attributes of God because all these are derived from shortcomings and He is free from any kind imperfection.
Allah (S.W.T.) is not in need of the prayers of His servants or of their good deeds, obedience and alms. It is we, the servants, who benefit from all these! The wrath and the happiness of Allah (S.W.T.) do not mean that our actions cause an impression on Him, some of them angering Him and others causing Him joy.
These circumstances are not found in Allah (S.W.T.), because the necessary condition for them is that the subject in question should be changeable and capable of being influenced. Whereas, transformation from one state to another, is not a quality found in God. When man performs a righteous deed, he seeks the Mercy of Allah (S.W.T.). We thus say, that Allah (S.W.T.) has applied His mercy to His nature. On the other hand when a person commits a sin, he is said to be far from the mercy of Allah (S.W.T.) and this is his greatest punishment.
Extent of our Knowledge
Having discussed so much about Allah (S.W.T.), we now need to ask ourselves that once we start this search for Him, how far can we go in it? How well can we truly know our God?
Generally, the extent of our knowledge about anything is in two levels:
1. Being aware of its Existence.
2. Knowing its condition in detail.
For the first kind of knowledge, any indication, no matter how small, is good enough for us. If someone claps his hands out of our sight, we need only have heard it to know that that it occurred.
However, to know who clapped their hands, why they were clapped and other details, we need to have the second level of knowledge mentioned. This requires us to ask questions, seek out the source etc. This means that we apply some sort of skill in acquiring the information.
We can therefore distinguish the two extents of knowledge by saying that the first needs nothing other then a natural sense while the second requires a level of intellect and ability.
On the subject of knowing Allah (S.W.T.), we can say that discovering His existence is easy through his creation. The heart sees the indications of His Presence and Power wherever it turns, and finds Him. "Wherever you turn, the face of God is on that side."
Sura Baqarah, Verse 115
But knowing Allah (S.W.T.) fully - in the manner He knows Himself - is quite impossible for the human mind. This is due to the fact that Allah (S.W.T.) is an unconfined being and cannot be confined and understood by our flawed intellect. This does not mean that we cannot have any kind of knowledge about Him. Just discovering the positive and negative attributes of His nature is a means of knowing Him.
It has been highly recommended by our Aimmah (a.s.) that we work hard in strengthening our belief in Allah (S.W.T.). The Prophet (s.a.w.w.) said: "We do not know You in the real essence of Your knowledge, and we did not worship You in the real essence of Your worship".
When we discuss theological issues, we use the word Monotheism to refer to the belief in one God and Polytheism for the belief in a number of deities. Each of these words holds a deeper meaning when discussed in full. As you read further, you will realize that the definitions are not as simple as they first seem to be.
Monotheism - which is called Tawhid in Islam - can be divided into two major parts:
i. Theoretical monotheism : the faith that a person who believes in one God expresses.
ii. Practical monotheism : the effects and outcome of this belief in his life. Let us first look at the theoretical:
i. Theoratical Tawhid
This in itself has different dimensions:
a. Monotheism in Essence. b. Monotheism in Actions. Let us look at each dimension in turn.
A. Monotheism in Essence
This is the basic principle of Monotheism. It means to believe that God is One in essence. He is unique and has no partner. This belief of oneness in essence has already been proven in a previous lesson. (Lesson 5)
We saw that the world is a well co-ordinated system that works perfectly without any flaw. Such organization shows that a single power controls the entire structure. That Power is God.
B. Monotheism In Actions
This means that God does not need help from anyone or anything else when performing His work. Whatever ability a creature possesses, God gave it him and therefore already has it. How is it possible to believe that a creation who is in constant need of God, should have the power to assist Him?
Looking at the other side of the coin, this belief also means that there is no being that is self-sufficient and needless of God. To elaborate on this, we should understand that every creature has the strength to perform its duty and effect other creations e.g.
the sun has an effect on the growth and survival of plants and germs have the power to cause sickness in man. Despite this apparent control, neither the sun nor germs possess influence of their own accord. It was given to them by God and thus, they are not independent of Him. This is true of everything in existence.
There is only one independent influential entity in existence and that is Allah (S.W.T.). All control and authority is in His hands and none can change what He has willed. The Qur'an says:
"Praise be to God, Who has not taken a son, nor has He a partner in the Kingdom and He has no helper to save Him from disgrace. And proclaim His greatness, magnifying His glory. Sura Al-Isra, Verse 111
Note that belief in monotheism of actions does not mean disowning man's free will. Rather, it means man's free will is from God and a creation of His.
ii. Practical Tawhid
After a man has proclaimed his belief in the oneness of God - theoretical Tawhid, then he must ask himself what relations must be established between God and himself. He must then implement this belief so that it can be seen practically in his life only then will he claim of faith hold true.
According to the belief of monotheism in actions, control of all affairs is with God. From this we derive the fact that no one deserves to be obeyed and worshipped except the Almighty. This is called practical monotheism i.e. worshipping only Him. This is why the first step to becoming a Muslim is to say "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah (S.W.T.)!" This is an expression of practical Tawhid.
To put belief to action requires establishing God as the centre of your heart and making Him your goal. Everything else takes second place to Him and His commands. In the Holy Qur'an we are told that Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) said: "Surely I have turned myself, being upright wholly to Him who created the heavens and the earth and I am not of the polytheists." Sura Anam, Verse 79
"Say surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
No associates, has He. I was commanded this and I am the first of the Muslims." Sura Anam, Verse 162 & 163
These statements of Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) reflect true Tawhid in practice.
Polytheism is the opposite of monotheism. In Islamic terms we refer to it as Shirk. Just as Tawhid is of two kinds, so is Shirk i.e. theoretical and practical.
i. Theoretical Shirk
This belief in God is outside the boundaries set by Tawhid and thus can be called a wrong understanding of God. Theoretical Polytheism is likewise divided into, Shirk in essence and Shirk in actions.
A. Shirk in Essence
This is belief in more than one separate god. The belief in two and three gods is referred to as dualist-shirk and trinity-shirk respectively. Shirk in the essence of God is the opposite of Tawhid in His essence.
B. Shirk in Actions
This is an expounded version of Shirk in Essence whereby a person believes that different things were created and are controlled by different deities/powers e.g. that good things were made by God and bad things were made by a devil or demon, or that the god of the sea is different from that of the sun!
ii. Practical Shirk
Again this is the exact opposite of practical Tawhid and involves a person who submits himself in worship to others beside the Almighty. In Islam, when we speak of worship we do not mean only physical prostration but it is an expression of submission and obedience towards something. Therefore, whenever we surrender ourselves to the power of something or somebody, we will have worshipped him and taken him to be our God.
To abandon practical shirk, a person must set himself free from obedience to anyone other than God and then should succumb to what God is commanding Hidden and Clear Shirk When a person obviously and openly believes in se
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