Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Even Angels Ask"

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'The cure for ignorance is to question.' (Sunan Abī Dawūd)

One of the interesting things that I have been seeing lately is the rise of the Muslim who believes in the beauty of Islam, but does not truly research their religion. They hide from their doubts, and would rather pick and choose from what sounds good, then from what Islam says.
I find this attitude to be frightening. I believe it reveals an ignorance of the great depth and breath of our beautiful deen (way of life), and a lack of confidence in the divine rules that have been sent down. A good example of what I mean is when a Muslim is faced with Western philosophy. In the hundreds of years since Greek philosophers came up with theories like rationalism, there has been a tension between those of religious faith and those of a more scientific bent - or so it would seem.

Is there an inherent contradiction between faith and science? In the case of Islam, I would say no. In fact, it was the rise of Islamic thought and practice that inspired the great academic centers in the Muslim world hundreds of years ago. There has always been an emphasis on gaining knowledge within Islam, both that which is explicitly religious and that of the world around us - studying God's creations, as it were.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'Seeking knowledge is a religious obligation for every Muslim (male or female).' (Sunan Ibn Mājah, Sunan Al-Bayhaqī)

There are responses in Islamic theology to rationalism, to atheism, to the many difficult questions out there. It is the Muslim's duty to delve into our rich past and explore these writings, and learn about our historical legacy. But even if one does not wish to do this, there are so many other avenues to knowledge - local scholars, online resources, or the one true book of guidance we can never over-use: the Qur'an.

I do not think there is an excuse for us to take the mentality that ignorance is bliss, or to run away from our doubts. It is crucial for the new generation of Muslims living in America to have a sound basis in faith, based off of solid conviction. There is a great spiritual void that exists in the West, that I believe comes from the failure of other religions to explain the world. Islam, however, uses rational thinking as the method to prove truth - how many times does Allah ask for us to think and ponder, when reading Qur'anic verses?

Jefferey Lang puts it best in his book Even Angels Ask:

"If Islam cannot be shown to be in harmony with rational thought, then faith for the Western Muslim, like many adherents to other religions in the West, becomes solely a personal, experiential, and spiritual matter. It loses much of its persuasiveness...What I am saying is that if a rationally compelling case is not made for Islam, one that Muslim young people can relate to, then Islam will be seen by many of them as just another religion, a religious option among more or less equal options."

This would be a great disservice to ourselves as Muslims. We have been given the incomparable blessing of Islam - how sad would it be if we can not see how truly beautiful and unique a gift it is? If we reject it, or keep it, without truly understanding it? How then can we share Islam with others?

"Read in the name of your Lord, who has created -- created man out of a tiny creature that clings! Read and your Lord is the Most Bountiful One, who has taught the use of the pen, taught man what he did not know." (Qur'an, 96:1-5)

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