Once I wished my sister well. She had been diagnosed as suffering from cancer of the liver, and had been given less than a year to live. After chemotherapy, it was found that all the nodes had disappeared except one, and that was easily removed. A miracle! She had been cured of cancer. Naturally, I wrote to her expressing my thanks to God at her recovery and wishing her God’s protection hereon in.
I also wrote to a sibling, who was often the last to know good or bad family news, expressing my thanks to God that she was better. But what I received in reply took me aback!
I was told that becoming agnostic had made life much more relaxing and free from disadvantages when my sibling saw the self as a cosmic being rather than a brainwashed believer in the supernatural. It was explained to me that man created God, not the other way around. That is, He is man’s creation, the cosmic energy that we are all part of, whom man created in his image. In other words, my sibling did not believe in God as a person, but just as a personified form of energy.
Naturally I responded, and below are a few of my thoughts.
Among Muslims there is a school of Sufi thought that regards our existence as being a figment of God’s mind. That we are all part of God. God is in everything and ever present and we are part of His mind. I don’t subscribe to that extreme viewpoint, mind you, otherwise our lives would be the lives of mere automatons, without real conscious choice. Indeed we all experience choices, and we may have chosen different paths of the philosophy of life.
As a teenager crossing into adulthood, I believed naively that God was a created bogeyman, with origins, perhaps, in historical visits from aliens to pre-technological mankind. A bogeyman that religious institutes conspired to impose upon the masses in order to control them. Even later, when studies introduced me to Marxism, this was backed up by the vision of religion being a vehicle of ideology – a machine of the rulers and an “opiate for the masses” – tranquillizing and nullifying their feelings of alienation from their productive lives through being mere exploited cogs in creating wealth for others.
How to take control of my life? Well, exploring avenues of affective action (sorcery) or passive inward stoicism (transcendental meditation).
Eventually things came together when I began debating the power that controlled the universe with others similarly bewildered. I constructed (rather than created) a system in which I could believe – that God was not a person but a power expressed in the guiding principle that keeps the universe ordered – the laws of physics? The scientific principle? Mankind was capable not only of adapting to and using this guiding principle in good, environmentally friendly, responsible ways (good) but also to cut across natural laws and create an opposing destructive, polluting and forced channel that defied nature (evil). By our will (towards doing good or evil) we affected the world and the universe. I felt that those who were contra nature would get their comeuppance in the end (whether in this world or the next) and that the do-gooders would get reflected good (in this world or the next).
So it is not like I have not been through doubts and changing positions in my beliefs. Islam settled all that. A very simple message. There is only one God, and we owed it to Him not to ascribe any of His qualities to anything else (lest we invest it with qualities that belong only to God). Secondly, we will be reconstructed after being dead and judged on how well we single out God (Allah) for worship. If we willingly opposed His sovereignty, then the fire awaits. If we willingly submitted to His sovereignty, then paradise awaits. And if we are somewhere in between, there may well be a period of trial, and temporary residence in the fire.
In addition to the argument above are a few cogent ideas for people to reflect on derived from what the Prophet Mohammed, may God praise him, said.
One of the reported sayings of the Prophet was: “A Christian or Jew will be a dweller in the fire unless he or she believes in Allah, His Messenger (Muhammad) and the message with which he was sent.”
The message is simple, the same warning sent down with all the Messengers: ‘There is a last day, and you will be resurrected. When you are resurrected you will be judged and then sent to dwell in either the Fire or in Paradise. If you believe this and act accordingly, then you will inhabit the latter rather than the former.’
How is it to act accordingly? In another reported saying of the Prophet, he asked rhetorically what people owed to Allah, and replied: “We owe Allah that we take not any other in worship except Allah.” He then asked rhetorically what Allah owed to human beings in return, and said: “Allah owes His protection from the fire touching someone forever to the person who takes not any other in worship except Allah.”
Does believing the above mean I have been brainwashed? Well, if I was brainwashed, it was from when I was a Christian; accepting Islam was simply due to the concept of deity it taught more fittingly describing Godhead than Trinity. In fact, when I was scared a man might actually be God and my judge on that day, I had serious conflicts in my breast and denied the religion that set such a one up as the one I depended on. Now that I know it is my Creator I depend on, I am much more relaxed. To me it is better to be safe than sorry. And I really cannot see any disadvantages to being a believer. Death comes to us all.
Finally, this epistle is not aimed solely at denial of being brainwashed by Islamic theological education, but also at inviting people who are conscious of mortality. God willing, it might hopefully, give pause to their thoughts about the hereafter. There is a chance for everyone to be one of those that admit His sovereignty and eschew opposition to it. That is all I am reminding people of.