Dr. Maher Hathout
The following is excerpted from the book "Islam 2.0" by Dr. Maher Hathout in which he shares a conversation with the Muslim youth.
God guided humankind with the ability to think, ponder and contemplate, as well as the ability to discern, compare, deduce, judge, store and retrieve memory and information. Humankind was given the ability to build up knowledge based on personal experiences as well as on the experience of others, the ability to learn, develop language and record ideas. In addition, humankind has the power of expression and communication, as well as the ability to teach and make judgment.
God says in the Quran:
"Read-for thy Lord is the Most Bountiful One who has taught [humanity] the use of the pen - taught humanity what they did not know!" (96:3-5)
"Consider the pen, [therewith]!" and all that they write (68:1)
"The Most Gracious has imparted this Quran [unto humanity]. He has created humanity: He has imparted unto them articulate thought and speech." (55:1-4)
Reading, writing and research - that is the glorious gift of the human brain. Interestingly, when modern scientists mapped the anatomy and physiology of the human brain, where every organ is represented, they found that the largest area of the cerebral cortex is occupied by the tongue and the hand, the organs of expression and execution.
This gift, the faculty of thinking, is glorified and protected in Islam. Anything that may remove the role of the brain is either prohibited or at least abhorred. Some examples of canceling the role of the brain include intoxicants and brain tampering substances, coercion and all forms of compulsion at personal or social levels, superstition, black magic, and addictive games like gambling. The use of the brain can further be abandoned through actions such as brainwash and behavior control, fear and intimidation, blind following and imitation, succumbing to anger, deprivation of basic needs and all forms of irrational behavior.
The language of Islam is directed to those who think. It is astounding to see the frequency that the thinking brain, thinking process, pondering reflection, contemplation, observation and wisdom are mentioned in the Quran. This serves as a reminder to you to always think and use the gift of intellect that God has given you. You must remember to have the utmost appreciation, full utilization, and extreme protection of this precious gift. Do not yield it or allow anybody - not the dazzling orators, the feverish writings, the charismatic leaders, the demagoguery of the crowd or the magnets of conformity - to rob you of this faculty.
The intellectual faculty is God given. You are accountable to Him for the gift of your intellectual capacity which makes you special and unique. All that is asked of you is a clear intention and the objectivity of a conscience. Is the role of the intellect compatible with the concept of gheib (i.e. what is behind human perception)? Yes, scientific thinking tells us so. You see this everyday around you. There are sounds in your room that your cat hears while to you it is gheib. There are colors in flowers that bees can see that you cannot see. Bacteria was gheib before the microscope was invented, the mathematical concept of infinity is gheib, and anything beyond the speed of light is completely unknown, which does not negate its existence. Yet, this knowledge serves as a reminder to be humble and accept human limitations.
Therefore, the more you stretch the mind, the more you see reality. Those who tell you to be scientific, modern and progressive hence deny all that is not seen, touched, weighed or calculated scientifically, they are sinking in the deep pit of absolute materialism. In addition, these ideas reduce life to mere biology, depriving it of meaning, purpose and morality. This absolute thinking is unscientific and contradictory to unbiased and progressive thinking. The absolute materialistic claim is as old as the struggle for humanity to seek the truth.
It is recorded in the Quran: "And yet they say: 'There is nothing beyond our life in this world. We die as we come to life, and nothing but time destroys us. 'But of this they have no knowledge whatever: they do nothing but guess. "(45:24)
The spiritual compass that God embedded in human beings in a mysterious way. Since the beginning of civilization, humanity has looked for God, in order to establish a standard of good vs. evil, beauty vs. ugliness, justice vs. injustice. Ancient Indian, Egyptian, Greek, Persian, African civilizations all testify to this reality. There is an innate compass in human beings searching for God, almost a genetic coding recognizing God even in a state of unawareness.
God says in the Quran:
"And whenever thy Lord brings forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam, He [thus] calls upon them to bear witness about themselves: 'Am I not your Lord?' - to which they answer: 'Yea, indeed, we do bear witness thereto!' [Of this We remind you,] lest you say on the Day of Resurrection, 'Verily, we were unaware of this" (7:172)
The internal sensation that makes you feel good when you do something good, or conversely feel rotten when you trespass and transgress is the voice of the conscience which is in the innermost of all people regardless of their religion or whether they have a religion. Even the most abhorrently behaving people will have their moments, rare as they may be, when this voice of conscience will speak to them loud and clear. As a result, some individuals will even transform, repent and change their course. Omar ibn Al Khattab, was an example of one of these people in the early history of Islam. As he went with the intention to kill his sister and his brother in law for converting to Islam, he was touched by the truth in the words of the Quran, which caused him to change his course and become a leading Muslim with great faith. There is goodness in everyone, including you. Let this inherent goodness pull you from the rubble of broken lives and damaging circumstances.
Direct Communication from God:
A message carried by messengers, and sometimes documented in scriptures. God Almighty at different stages in time, sent messages in forms suitable for each stage, through a series of Prophets and messengers. All messengers, from Adam to Muhammad (peace be upon all of them), dealt with a social context and moved within a circle at a historical time. Some messages were for a specific group of people at a specific location, while others were at large. Some were Biblical Prophets and messengers who were also mentioned in the Quran, while others were mentioned only in the Quran. Yet, the Quran describes about all messengers certain realities:
They were all sent by God for the benefit and guidance of people.
They were all chosen and molded by God to be exemplary models for their people, and had the integrity and credibility to be followed and emulated.
We know only some of them, mainly as told in the Bible and Quran, but this list is not exhaustive. As God reminds us in the Quran:
"And, indeed, [0 Muhammad,] We sent forth apostles before thy time; some of them We have mentioned to thee, and some of them We have not mentioned to thee. And it was not given to any apostle to bring forth a miracle other than by Gods leave. Yet when Gods will becomes manifest, judgment will [already] have been passed in all justice, and lost will be, then and there, all who tried to reduce to nothing [whatever they could not understand]." (40:78)
We are not to set distinctions among the messengers."The Apostle, and also the believers, believed in what has been bestowed upon him from on high by his Lord: all believed in God, and His angels, and His revelations, and His apostles, making no distinction between any of His apostles; and they say: 'We have heard, and we pay heed. Grant us Thy forgiveness, 0 our Lord, for with Thee is all journeys 'end!" (2:285)
We honor and believe in all of the messengers.
Some messengers brought with them scriptures so as to have the message in a documented form, including the Torah, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus, and the Quran.
These scriptures were collected and documented in different ways, in various languages that either virtually disappeared or became antiquated. The Quran is the only exception to this case, as it was the only document that was collected and reviewed during the lifespan and under the supervision of the Messenger, Prophet Muhammad. The language in which the Quran was revealed is still alive, written and spoken by more than 100 million people around the world.
Muslims believe in all the messengers, as well as in the basic conceptual truth in all previous scriptures. While there may be debates about translations, interpretations, omissions or additions that might have happened, wittingly or unwittingly, any side of the debate may be proven partially right or partially wrong conceptually. Ultimately, the essence of the scriptures, the basic goodness and truth, the moral code and ethical teachings, are the same and Muslims believe in them, not out of tolerance, but as a matter of religious obligation. All the scriptures share the common description of being a guiding light to mankind.
God says in the Quran:
"0 you who have attained to faith! Hold fast unto your belief in God and His Apostle, and in this divine writ which He has bestowed from on high upon His Apostle, step by step, as well as in the revelation which He sent down aforetime: for he who denies God, and His angels, and His revelations, and His apostles, and the Last Day, has indeed gone far astray. " (4:136)
Additionally, in regards to the messengers, the Quran speaks to Muhammad about previous messengers as models for mankind:
"To those whom God has guided. Follow, then, their guidance, [and] say: 'No reward do I ask of you for this [truth]: behold, it is but an admonition unto all mankind! (6:90)
Muslims believe in the message that came from God to humanity, in accordance to the stages of its development within a historical backdrop of human experiences. The final form of the message was placed in the hands of the last of the Prophets, Muhammad, and documented in the Quran.
Maher Hathout is a leading spokesperson for the American Muslim community, is a retired physician best known for his tireless commitment to public service. He is also the author of "In Pursuit of Justice: The Jurisprudence of Human Rights in Islam" and Jihad vs Terrorism. He serves as the senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)