Western culture tends to overplay the reach of Science as it pushes us toward accepting the illusion that we can be essentially independent and self-sufficient at multiple levels: personal, family, community, etc. On the other hand, we Muslims must strive to be independent of reliance on unsupported interpretations of our perfected religion (Q 5:3).
Discerning what is truly sent down for us is a step-by-step process. We begin with understanding what is absolutely clear and unquestionable: We practice Prayer, Charitable-Giving, Fasting —and Hajj if we are able— in addition to holding to unalloyed faithful allegiance to the Creator, who has sent Scriptures and prophets to mankind. As we continue to practice these Pillars of Islam, mindfully, we gain in closeness to Allah, in knowledge of our history and heritage, as well as in mutual cooperation and support of our fellow Muslims.
SUBMISSION TO ALLAH IN REGARD TO OUR RESPONSIBILITIES
In modern life, it sometimes happens that God becomes forgotten and His requirements are pushed aside, even by those who aspire to being complete Muslims; so too does attention even to parents, children, and other personal responsibilities. Other bonds, notably those within one’s faith community, may become weakened, left unattended to, or even denied as relevant —in the rush of modern life. Ultimate priorities seem less pressing than daily needs and opportunities. A sure dollar —or dinar, euro, franc, naira, peso, pound, real, rial, ruble, rupee, rupiah, shilling, won, yen, yuan, etc— may strike one as a more urgent object of one’s attention than are the credits to one’s spiritual account that one ‘sends ahead’ for the Hereafter.
So [duly] establish the Prayer, and give the Zakât-Charity. For whatever good you advance for your souls, you will find [its reward] with God. Indeed, God is all-seeing of all that you do. [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:110]
In this modern world we are all ‘busy.’ We must remind each other not to let slip our moment-by-moment opportunities. For example, if you find yourself late, rushing to what seems to you a life-defining meeting or moment, make sure you do not fail to attend to the beggar you pass on your way. After all, Allah has ‘arranged’ for him to be there at that moment when you pass by! If we truly believe in Allah, attending to the immediate requirements of others around us is a fail-safe way for us to advance forward an investment in our ultimate abode. The disasters and crises happening all around us speak to our [collective] complacency, our [collective] impotence in addressing the world’s ills, our [collective] lack of humanity. Do we respond to our individual, daily-life opportunities to practice charity in terms of our time, attention or in meeting others’ material needs as much as we can? There are likely as many people needing your time and attention as there are those needing your monetary handout.
CAN ONE WIGGLE OUT OF ULTIMATE DEPENDENCY ON A CREATOR?
By the way, rejecting dependency upon our Creator is not new to the 21st century global world, which idolizes Science and Technology, making scientists the new high priests in a secular world. The Arabs in the time of Prophet Muhammad had their tribal gods; they idolized their own tribal exploits of plunder and their skilled literary accounting of these dramatic deeds. They, too, had ‘associated partners with’, or ‘ascribed divinity to’, or ‘joined other gods with’ Allah —which is the ‘gateway’ sin of human beings! And thus they failed to recognize the Creator as the exclusive Deity.
Indeed, God will not forgive associating any god with Him. But He forgives anything less than this for whomever He so wills. Thus whoever associates gods with God has truly strayed far away! [As for the Makkan idolaters], they call upon nothing beside Him but [false] female [deities]. [Sûrah Al-Nisâ’, 4:116]
Now they who ascribe divinity to any beside God say, “Had God so willed, we would not have worshipped any but Him – neither we nor our forefathers; nor would we have declared anything as forbidden without a commandment from Him.” Even thus did speak those [sinners] who lived before their time; but, then, are the apostles bound to do more than clearly deliver the message [entrusted to them]: and indeed, within every community have We raised up an apostle [entrusted with this message]: “Worship God, and shun the powers of evil!” And among those [past generations] were people whom God graced with His guidance, just as there was among them [many a one] who inevitably fell prey to grievous error… [Sûrah Al-Nahl, 16:35-36]
A divided loyalty does not make for psychological and spiritual wholesomeness. Associate-gods are a distraction; they do not bring anyone closer to the One Deity. The so-called ‘lesser gods’ do not—by their comparative inferiority—serve to exalt the ‘greater gods’ as superior! Contrary to what the people of Muhammad were presenting to him as an argument, these associate-gods were rival-gods.
Yet among mankind there are those who take [false gods] apart from God as [His] rivals. They love them with the love due only to God! But those who [truly] believe have a far greater love for God. … [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:165]
And out of whatever He has created of the fruits of the field and the cattle, they assign unto God a portion, saying, “This belongs to God”—or so they [falsely] claim— “and this is for those beings who, we are convinced, have a share in God’s divinity.” However, that which is assigned to the beings associated in their minds with God does not bring [them] closer to God —whereas that which is assigned to God brings [them but] closer to those beings to whom they ascribe a share in His divinity! Bad, indeed, is their judgment! [Sûrah Al-An’âm, 6:136]
As for the ancient Greeks and Romans —to whom Western civilization owes so much for their philosophy and foundations in learning, including Science— they, too, in their pantheistic way of thinking, had given lip service to the powers of a large number of gods and goddesses so as to explain the random influences of events on their practical lives. Their gods were born into families and took on human characteristics and engaged in heroic exploits. Their gods and goddesses lived in the shadows of the human world, retreating to Mount Olympus in ancient Greece, out of reach from the human eye. The gods were like their human patrons except that they were immortal: they did not die.
However, the Greek and Roman thinkers we so cherish appear not to have given any sort of historicity to these mythological deities: When it came to the question regarding an ultimate and independent Cause for the world’s existence, they didn’t find one; thus, they concluded that there was no such power as an initiating cause —in fact, they reasoned, there was no actual creation event or process leading to what now exists. For them, the world had simply always existed —without beginning, without coming into existence, and thus it needed neither an act of creation nor a Creator.
What we admire in the Greco-Roman tradition is that they were consistent in their system of rationality. Their logic had strict rules. They admitted the limits of their reasoning as being unable to take them beyond the fact that they and their world existed. If they could not reason out a cause for that existence within their systematic method of thinking, it must be that there was no Uncaused Cause. Their hangup? If the world had been created, then one would have to explain who had created the first or supreme creator god, why he existed or where he came from! They simply left it at that: the world had always existed!
What is interesting about our Western heritage, nevertheless, is that the concepts of cause and effect; purpose and result; natural sequencing in time and space; necessary conditioning; derivation; or process— these all play quite a central role in modern scientific investigation. Accordingly, it would be hard for a modern academic in any field or subject of study to turn his back on the principle of Causation and related explanatory tools.
Can one really, then, do without addressing the question of why we are here and Who created us? Today’s Western scientist —even if he is agnostic about the existence of Deity— is definitely interested in Causality: how is it that life began, developed/ evolved; by what process over the millennia was something living derived from something non-living? Et cetera, et cetera…
In the Quran, it is the unseen Creator, the Uncaused Cause, who has always existed; it is not the now-existing universe, perceivable to us, which has always existed. The Quran projects an entire creation that is dependent upon its Creator for existence, development, sustenance and guidance. According to the revelation of the Quran —as well as according to what was previously revealed by Allah to the prophets of Bani Isra’il and others— the world did not exist until the Creator created that which, in His wisdom, He saw fit to make, shape and fashion according to His intent.
It is God who has created, in six aeons, the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and [it is God] who is established on the throne of His almightiness. … He governs all that exists…. Such is He who knows all that is beyond the reach of a created being’s perception, as well as all that can be witnessed by a creature’s sense or mind: the Almighty, the Dispenser of Grace, who makes most excellent everything that He creates. Thus, He begins the creation of man out of clay, then He causes him to be begotten out of the essence of a humble fluid; and then He forms him in accordance with what he is meant to be, and breathes into him of His spirit: and [thus, O mankind,] He endows you with hearing, and sight, and feelings as well as minds: [yet] how seldom are you grateful! [Sûrah Al-Sajdah, 32:4-9]
[O mankind!] Are you more difficult to create than the heavens which He has built? High has He reared its vault and formed it in accordance with what it was meant to be and He has made dark its night and brought forth its light of day. And after that, the earth: wide has He spread its expanse, and has caused its waters to come out of it, and its pastures, and has made the mountains firm: [all this] as a means of livelihood for you and your animals. [Sûrah Al-Nâzi’ât, 79:27-33]
O mankind! What is it that lures you away from your bountiful Sustainer, who has created you, and formed you in accordance with what you are meant to be, and shaped your nature in just proportions, having put you together in whatever form He willed [for you to have]? Nay, [O mankind,] but you [are lured away from God whenever you are tempted to] give the lie to [God’s] Judgment! [Sûrah Al-Infitâr, 82:6–9]
Extol the limitless glory of your Sustainer’s name: [the glory of] the All-Highest, who creates [everything], and thereupon forms it in accordance with what it is meant to be, and who determines the nature [of all that exists], and thereupon guides it [toward its fulfillment]… [Sûrah Al-A’la, 87:1-3]
Consider the sun and its radiant brightness, and the moon as it reflects the sun! Consider the day as it reveals the world, and the night as it veils it darkly! Consider the sky and its wondrous make, and the earth and all its expanse! Consider the human self, and how it is formed in accordance with what it is meant to be, and how it is imbued with moral failings as well as with consciousness of God! To a happy state shall attain he who causes this [self] to grow in purity, and truly lost is he who buries it [in darkness]. [Sûrah Al-Shams, 91:1-10]
Allah is All-Powerful. Modern man needs to seriously consider replacing his gone-missing Creator with a Creator-Sustainer who is present, even though in fact He is knowable only to the extent to which one seeks Him and is willing to submit to the truth one finds about Him. Truly, there is a limit to which we humans are capable of grasping His divine Truth. Thus, we must do things His way. We are not independent of our Creator-Sustainer, even in our search for Him.
Allah has the final say in what one can choose to do. When we choose to find and follow His Guidance, we succeed. Deity sees, hears, knows, and responds to our choices, ultimately setting the scope and options open to us, allowing and disallowing, enabling and disabling —over-riding in some cases— the choices and efforts made by believers and disbelievers alike. In the end, our willful response is the final deciding factor in our standing before our Lord.
They [who disbelieve] desire to extinguish the light of God with their utterances. But God does not will other than to perfect His light—even if the disbelievers hate [it]. He is the One who has sent His Messenger [Muhammad] with the guidance [of the Quran] and the religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail [on its own merit] over every religion—even if the idolaters hate [it]. [Sûrah Al-Tawbah, 9:32-33]
But had your Lord so willed, all who are on the earth would have believed [in your message, O Muhammad] —each [one] of them and all [of them] together. Will you, then, [be the one to] compel people [to faith] so that they become believers, [O Prophet]! It is not for any soul to believe except by God’s permission. Thus He shall bring chastisement upon those who do not [use their reason to] understand [the signs of God]. [Surah Yûnus, 10:99-100]
…To be continued in Part 7