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Islam: A Reasonable Faith

Posted by on Mar 20th, 2010 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

By YOUSEF DRUMMOND

THERE are countless episodes in our lives where each of us walked away after many hours of conversation with another person about a particular topic or issue because that person’s logical train of thought allowed them to arrive at her or his conclusion that we think is somehow “unreasonable”.  We privately conclude, for example, that this or that person’s assumption on a particular topic is “too extreme” because as you think about your position vis-à-vis theirs you come to that conclusion.  We privately conclude, for example, that a person’s assumption about a particular issue doesn’t make “sense” to you because as you ruminate about their logical train of thought in your mind you apply a sort of “cognitive test” to “weigh” their logical arguments on a particular topic and finally declare that their conclusion is somehow not “balanced” as far as you are concerned.  Heretofore we are then using a sort of “measuring stick”, that is, our mental faculties of logic, to form a conclusion or opinion about a particular topic.

No one for sure knows precisely what “reason” is but philosophers from antiquity through the present think that it is a mental faculty that allows one to form conclusions, judgments or inferences from assumptions or premises by employing our propensity for logical thought.  As is the want of modern philosophers to be as objective as possible by employing “concepts” to mental phenomena, they surmise that “reason” is associated with “rationality” because the concept is more reliable in ascertaining what is “true” about something.   So the “concept” of “reason” implies the use of logical thought to assess for ourselves what is “true” or not.

As is the wont of modern philosophers, they collectively assume the “concept” of “reason” is universal, since everyone possesses the mental capacity for rational thought.  To underscore importance, modern philosophers spell it with a capital “R”.

Allah (SWT) constantly reminds us, in the Qu’ran, about signs that are ascertainable to “men of understanding”.  We see, then, an exhortation to seek out the “truth” about something about which we have doubt.  Consequently, we are asked to employ some form of “reasoning” through some form of “logical thought”.  Note here that Allah (SWT) grants us our capacity for logical thinking and to employ it when necessary.

Psychologists now know that as children grow their capacity for logical thought are clear but inconsistent due to experience, but as they reach the age of “maturity” they begin to experience the world and persons around them and begin to employ this “concept” of “Reason” to ascertain for themselves the “truth” or falsity of some issue or other.  As logical thinking is perfected through higher instruction in universities by professors trained in the science of logical thinking, students become more consistent in their employment of logical thinking and begin to doubt previous assumptions.

Religious scholars of all persuasions can now chart a historical timeline indicating “milestones” where “modern” philosophers, trained in logical thinking, began to question long-held assumptions concerning religion.

A small group of Christian religious scholars who disdain political ideologies now say the religion of Islam, and especially the Qu’ran, invigorated the “spirit” of human autonomy through logical thought during the Renaissance.  They also say the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church toppled when Martin Luther questioned why the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Archbishops, Bishops and clergy amassed great wealth while ordinary people remained slavishly dependent on its instructions, presumably because they were unaware of the “rationale” for placing their earnings in the “collection box”.  This small group of Christian religious scholars now says the religion of Islam, with its explicit exhortation to “Reason” influenced Martin Luther to “pierce through” the veil of secrecy surrounding the inner-workings of the Roman Catholic hierarchy as it pertains to its finances.  Here we see glaring social ramifications of various policies employed by the Roman Catholic Church.  Most importantly, Martin Luther rejected the Church’s dictum that ordinary people are unable to understand for themselves the Bible for which the Roman Catholic Church was solely responsible.  Hence we see the Catholic Church splintering into Lutheranism and then Protestantism.

This “spirit” of rigorous investigation of previous religious assumptions continued well into seventeenth century Christian Europe.  Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727), perhaps the most influential scientist in modern Europe, wrote many religious manuscripts detailing logical arguments through a rigorous examination of the Holy Scriptures for the refutation of the Christian tenet, the “Trinity”, but chose not to popularize them for fear of treason by the Church.  It became clear to him that before this doctrine was asserted by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church had no Trinitarian doctrine.  Newton traced the Trinitarian doctrine to Athanasius (298-373), one of the early “Church Fathers” who was convinced the Trinity best described the “Nature” of God.  Hence the “Son of God”, i.e. Jesus (p), could not have co-existed with the Father, which postulates that there was a time when Jesus (p) was “begotten” or “born”.  According to the Trinitarian doctrine, three “personalities” exists simultaneously – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Some Christians are somewhat puzzled when Muslims declare that Jesus (p) was born without a father; and Muslims, mere mortals themselves, refuse to inquire into Allah’s (SWT) “Nature”.  Many other modern philosophers followed his inquiry into the Trinitarian doctrine, including the English chemist Joseph Priestly (1733-1804).  His seminal text on religious issues, The History of Opinions Relating to Jesus Christ (1782) and A History of the Corruptions of Christianity (1782), was so controversial (both texts argued against Jesus’ (p) Divinity,) that his house and Church was burned to the ground, whereupon he had to flee to France and then to Pennsylvania.

I was in my 20’s when I realized that what the nuns taught me in Catholic schools in the West Indies regarding the Trinitarian doctrine made no sense to me.  During this time I was in college here in New York City and I began to lose faith in Roman Catholicism because it conflicted with a new “faith” in secularism, until I began to search for another religion that was reasonable to me.  Besides, how is “’1 + 1 + 1’ equal to “1?’”  Then Allah (SWT) led me to Islam.

Islam is a simple but profound religion accessible to everyone.  It clears away all the clutter of complexity regarding the Divine and we are able to contemplate on His “signs” – the sun, moon and stars, for example, the planets – as manifestations of his Divine Power.

That said, there are some passages in the annals of religious texts, including the Qu’ran, that are not accessible to human reason; but for the sake of brevity and professed ignorance (for I am not a religious scholar) I will not delve into these issues.  Imam Ghazali [May Allah (SWT) be pleased with him] exhorted ordinary Muslims to be careful about what these passages really mean.  One such passage in the Qur’an reads in part that “We are closer to him than his neck (jugular) vein” [Qaf, 50:16]. We are asked therefore to believe these passages without effort; and we do.  The Qur’an, like other religious texts, is not a traditional text whose author is fallible and therefore prone to error.  But the Qu’ran is replete with passages on ethical living that is entirely consistent with human nature and is thus “reasonable” on an ethical plane.

There was a time in Christian Europe where male candidates who aspired to and was accepted into the highest echelons of the Roman Christian hierarchy underwent “castration” procedures in order to rid themselves of their sexual passions so as to contemplate without distraction on the Divine.  Consequently these men were referred to as “eunuchs”.

In 2006 the Vatican excommunicated an African Bishop, Father Milingo, for marrying Maria Sung, a 34-year-old Doctor of acupuncture from South Korea, in New York City (interesting, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Family Federation for World Peace, officiated the ceremony, along with 60 other couples).  Bishops, who has the authority to ordain priests, are not allowed to marry.  The Bishop added, however, that as far as he is concerned he did not abrogate his vow of celibacy because “marriage is the law of nature… At 71, I have realized the importance of marriage and its value before God in the transmission of love.” (italics mine)

Celibacy is prohibited in Islam; it is contrary to human nature.

Polygamy is not contrary to human nature, either.  According to the Qu’ran, a man is allowed to have four wives, provided that he has the mental and financial fortitude to do so.  There are men with political and military acumen who are monogamous but at the same time associate themselves intimately with other women, commonly referred to as “mistresses”.  In point of fact, the number of U.S. politicians – including governors, senators, and even U.S. presidents – that have had extramarital affairs within the past ten years is staggering.

One point is worth noting before I end this column:  there are some Muslims today within our ranks who, by whatever reason, have become “radicalized” to the point of committing heinous acts against innocent human beings by blowing themselves up and thereby blowing others to bits.  As a Muslim I no longer grapple with this dilemma because I strongly believe that “radicalization” along with the intent to commit violent acts against innocent human beings is ipso facto an unreasonable position for which no real solution is possible.   We now see that the internet has become a catalyzing tool to recruit able-bodied Muslims who are utilized as pawns for human destruction.  We say that we reject this view.  I personally do not want to add to this type of violence that will only escalate in the coming years.  My only advice for young Muslims who are vulnerable to such entreaties to be recruited to commit violence is to take a step back and consider the consequences.

Islam is a reasonable faith that if faithfully practiced leads to success in this world and in the Hereafter.

The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at drummondhugh@verizon.net

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