We continue from Part 1…
Many people err not by dint of their failure to see the legitimacy of the proofs of taw ḥîd and îmân but because of the vain passions (a ḥwâ’) that fire their souls and the spiritual diseases (adwâ’ rûḥiyya) that plague them. These are the real factors behind their rejection of truth. Here are some of the spiritual ailments and vices that the Quran says hold people back from true faith:
- Wealth (mâl):
Be not the ones to sell my revealed signs for a small price (Sûrat Al-Baqarah: 2:41)
- Willful confounding of truth with falsehood (talbîs):
Nor shall you mix the truth with falsehood, nor willfully suppress the truth, while you know [that it is wrong to do so] [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:42]
- Turning away from Allah’s signs (iʿrâḍ):
Then, thereafter, all but a few of you turned away. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:83]
- Envy (Ḥasad):
Many are those among the People of the Scripture who would love to turn you back into disbelievers after your coming to faith—out of the envy that has grown in their souls, ever after the truth has become clear to them. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah: 2:109]
- Attachment to, and love of, earthly life (dunya):
The life of this world is made fair-seeming to those who disbelieve. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:212]
- Irrational, bigoted attachment to the ways of one’s ancestors, people, or cultures:
They said: Have you come to us to divert us from that (path) which we found our fathers upon? [Sûrat Yûnus, 10:78]
Earthly life (dunya) is about trials (ibtilâ’), and purging of the believers’ faults (tam ḥîs) through tribulations and testing. It is one of the sunan (changeless ways) of Allah that the people of îmân are frequently subjected to ibtilâ’ and tam ḥîs, trial and purging of their faults:
So do you believers think that you will ever enter the Garden without there coming to you the like of [the trials that befell] those who have passed [over the path of belief] before you? Affliction and harm struck them, and they were severely shaken, until each messenger and whoever believed with him, would say: When comes the help of Allah? Most Surely, the help of Allah is ever near. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:214]
Explaining the divine plan behind this ibtilâ’ and tam ḥîs, the Quran states:
Never will Allah leave you believers in the state [of vulnerability] you are in, [but it is only] until He sets apart [through trial] those who are corrupt [in faith] from those who are good. [Sûrat Âl ͑ Imrân, 3:179]
Adding It Up
Îmân, faith, is, therefore, not just a set of rational issues which some people will grasp while others will not. Rather, and in addition to this, claimants to îmân are bound to be tested through trials and tribulations to reveal the truth of their îmân, to see if they can persevere under persecution and in the face of temptation, so as to ascertain their willingness to sacrifice their own conveniences and preferences for the sake of Allah.
These are great sharʿi, that is, Revelation-based principles that are far superior to whether one does or does not understand certain rational proofs. That is why the Quran consistently characterizes the believers as the ones who are purified, steadfast, obedient, and humble to their Lord.
It follows, then, that îmân—and by extension daʿwah—is not about understanding proofs. Rather, it is all about willingly submitting one’s will to the Divine will of the Lord of the worlds. This is taslîm.
Yet how many are the souls that miss this, that are blind to it, souls whose understanding of rational proofs is not in and of itself sufficient to elevate them to the station of a perfect submission?
Lessons From These Qur’nic Truths
These six truths (by no means a complete list) show us that îmân is not a purely rational issue that hinges upon our capacity as dâʿis to offer our fellows in humanity compelling, rational proofs for why they should believe in the One God, in his Messenger Muhammad ﷺ, in His revealed Book, the Quran, and in Islam as a way of life.
They teach us also that the multiplicity of Islam’s adversaries and ‘bashers’ (professional and otherwise) and the vociferousness of their anti-Islam rhetoric is not necessarily a consequence of the flimsiness of the rational proofs Muslims present.
Rather, behind the rejection of, and aversion to, Islam on the part of many of these people are a plethora of factors that unfold before the eyes of the caller to Islam as a vast field for thought about how to give daʿwah–] lest one concentrate one’s thoughts and efforts exclusively and obsessively on a single aspect that keeps swelling in one’s mind on account of what amount to alien, or secondary, factors.
Again, this should not be taken as an attempt on my part to slight the worth of rational proofs as daʿwah tools, for the Quran is replete with rational demonstrations of its great truths—along with denunciations of the idolaters’ (and others’) stubborn refusal to acknowledge the obvious dictates of human reason.
Hence, these truths also lead us to the following conclusions:
- A weakness of daʿwah by rational proofs is not the real factor behind some people’s rejection of Islam. Rather, what stands between these people and Islam is a set of spiritual diseases, including arrogance, envy, love of wealth and power, cleaving to earthly life, prejudiced attachment to social and national heritages, and other diseases of the heart. This is affirmed by the facts on the ground. The majority of converts say that their embracing of Islam was not the result of being exposed to a presentation of convincing, rational, scientific proofs of Islam’s truth. And this comes against a backdrop of a sharply rising daʿwah of persuasive, scientific, proof-based rational Islamic discourse!
- Dâʿis should therefore pay special attention to the treatment of spiritual diseases. Admonition, raising hopes in Allah, inspiring fear of His wrath, and reminding people of the inevitable Resurrection and final destiny go a long way in convincing people to accept Islam. When you read the Quran, particularly those passages featuring argumentation with the unbelievers, you cannot fail to notice the powerful presence of the discourse of exhortation (khitâb waʿẓi) there, as the following examples illustrate:Yet if you cannot do so—and never shall you do so—then fear the Fire of Hell, whose fuel is people and stones—prepared for the disbelievers. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:24]Also:O People of the Scripture! Do not exceed the bounds [of revealed faith] in your religion. Nor say of God other than the truth. Indeed, the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only God’s messenger, and was created by His Word that He cast to Mary; and was a spirit [that issued forth by a command] from Him [to be]. So believe in God and all of His messengers. And do not say ‘Three’ [gods in a Trinity]! Desist! It is better for you. Indeed, God is but One God. Highly exalted is He above having a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And sufficient is God as a guardian. [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:171]
Truly they have disbelieved who say that God is the third of three [in a trinity] while there is no other god but the One God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, assuredly a most painful torment will strike those of them who thus disbelieve. [Sûrat Al-Mâ’idah, 5:73]
In fact, sending down signs (both miraculous and Scriptural) is part of Allah’s plan:
Nor do We send forth miraculous signs except to put the fear of God in people’s hearts. [Sûrat Al-Isrâ’, 17:59]
Such is the discourse of the Creator who knows what His creation really needs. It certainly reflects a meaning that is lost on many of us who are so obsessed with rational proofs that we concentrate all our thoughts on conjuring up rational proofs that may, we hope, convince opponents. Carried away in our agitated quest after rational proofs, we grow more and more heedless of the effect of exhortation and admonition in guiding people to Islam.
- We should count on, and make use of, rational, scientific proofs only in moderation. We should never lose sight of the fact that our role is to make truth clear to our interlocutor, not to make him or her profess Islam. For the person whose heart is not opened to Islam is capable of argumentation and of raising different issues ad infinitum.Most of the time, our interlocutors’ prejudices and passions are cast in the disguise of the rational objections they raise. It is for this reason that so often in the Quran Allah exposes the arguments of the unbelievers for what they really are: Whims (a ḥwâ’):Yet even if you were to bring every [miraculous] sign [in evidence] to those who have been given the Scripture, [O Prophet, still] they would not follow your direction of Prayer. Nor are you ever to follow their direction of Prayer. Indeed, some of them will not even follow the direction of Prayer of others [among themselves]. And were you ever to follow their whims, after sure knowledge [from Allah] has come to you, then, most surely, you would be of the wrongdoers [godless in heart]. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:145]In fact, the Quran portrays all those who turn away from the teachings of the Prophet ﷺ as followers of a ḥwâ’:Thus if they do not respond to you, then know that they, in fact, follow nothing but their whims (a ḥwâ’). [Sûrat Al-Qa ṣa ṣ, 28:50]
So whenever one deems it necessary to provide rational proofs, one should see to it that he uses them sparingly, for the fact is, many people can do without them.
- Daʿwah is for everyone, but we should pay special heed to those who are known to be truthful, generous, and altruistic. Such people are more likely to accept the truth:Had Allah known any good in them, He would have made them hear [the truth]. But even if He were now to make them hear it, they would still turn away, for they are evading the truth. [Sûrat Al-Anfâl, 8:23]The meanness and ungenerousness of some souls render them unworthy of Allah’s guidance:Thus when they swerved [from the right path] Allah caused their hearts to swerve [from right guidance]. For Allah does not guide an ungodly people. [Sûrat Al-Ṣaff, 61:5]People like these will never appreciate the truth. They will turn further away from the Straight Way even when presented with incontrovertible rational proofs that meet all their expectations:
We put the fear [of God] upon them. Yet it does not increase them [in faith], but only in great transgression. [Sûrat Al-Isrâ’, 17:60]
Such as these will never desist from devising one excuse after another:
Rather, even if We were to open for them a gate into heaven and they proceeded to ascend through it, still they would most surely say: It is but our eyes that have been bedazzled. Rather, we are a bewitched people! [Sûrat Al-Ḥijr, 15:14-15]
Originally posted 2016-01-22 15:28:39.