They say that a fool lives to eat and a wise man eats to live. But then the question remains: for what purpose does the wise man live? Living is not an end by itself. There has to be a purpose for man to live for. So what is this purpose?
Where from? Where to? And Why?
Any ignorance, however great, could be forgiven except for man to be ignorant about the secret of his existence, his aim in life and what will be his outcome after death. Some thinkers express these questions in simple words: where from? Where to? And why? Meaning: where did I come from? Where am I going? And why am I here?
Those who only believe in the material world and who do not believe in a Creator- the atheists- only believe in sensory data. They say that this universe and everything in it came by itself. All its order is simply due to blind coincidence. They say that man is simply like an animal or a plant and that he will exist for a short period and then end like any other animal or plant.
An Arab Poet, Elya Abu Madhi (a born-Christian), not long ago expressed his uncertainty about the purpose of life in his Arabic poem Al-Talasim, meaning “puzzles,” which I have translated into English. He says in his poem:
I came not knowing from where, but I came.
And I saw a pathway in front of me, so I walked.
And I will remain walking, whether I want this or not.
How did I come? How did I see my pathway?
I do not know!
Am I new or am I old in this existence?
Am I free and unrestrained, or do I walk in chains?
Do I lead myself in my life, or am I being led?
I wish I know, but…
I do not know!
And my path, oh what is my path? Is it long or is it short?
Am I ascending in it, or am I going down and sinking?
Am I the one who is walking on the road,
or is it the road that is moving?
Or are we both standing, but it is the time that is running?
I do not know!
Before I became a full human, do you see
if I were nothing, impossible? Or do you see that I was something?
Is there an answer to this puzzle, or will it remain eternal?
I do not know … and why do I not know??
I do not know!
This feeling of doubt and confusion about the presence of a Creator and whether He sent messengers and prophets to guide mankind must be quite painful because it deprives the Atheist and the Agnostic of tranquility, security and peace of mind. The unbelievers do not have credible answers to the purpose of one’s existence. And thus they say that man lives for himself and for the pleasures of this life. So what happens when life turns sour? What happens when one goes through hardships? It is no coincidence then that the largest number of suicides takes place amongst Atheists, Agnostics and people who do not know their purpose in life. Do you know which country has the largest number of suicides? It’s Japan. In the year ending March 2000, there were 33,000 suicides in Japan. That is 91 suicides per day or 1 suicide every 15 minutes! This despite Japan being the second largest economy in the world wherein people do not have to worry about providing a roof over their heads or about food or medical care.
What if you find a Watch in the Sand?
To the Atheist and the Agnostic the Muslim says: “Suppose you find a watch in the middle of a desert. What would you conclude? Would you think that someone dropped this watch? Or would you suppose that the watch came by itself? Of course no sane person would say that the watch just happened to emerge from the sand. All the intricate working parts could not simply develop from the metals that lay buried in the earth. The watch must have a manufacturer. If a watch tells accurate time we expect the manufacturer must be intelligent. Blind chance cannot produce a working watch.
But what else tells accurate time? Consider the sunrise and sunset. Their timings are so strictly regulated that scientists can publish in advance the sunrise and sunset times in your daily newspapers. But who regulates the timings of sunrise and sunset? If a watch cannot work without an intelligent maker, how can the sun appear to rise and set with such clockwork regularity? Could this occur by itself?
Consider also that we benefit from the sun only because it remains at a safe distance from the earth, a distance that averages 93 million miles. If it got much closer, the earth would burn up. And if it got too far away, the earth would turn into an icy planet making human life here impossible. Who decided in advance that this was the right distance? Could it just happen by chance? Without the sun, plants would not grow. Then animals and humans would starve. Did the sun just decide to be there for us?
The rays of the sun would be dangerous for us had it not been for the protective ozone layer in our atmosphere. The atmosphere around the earth keeps the harmful ultraviolet rays from reaching us. Who was it that placed this shield around us?
We need to experience sunrise. We need the sun’s energy and its light to see our way during the day. But we also need sunset. We need a break from the heat, we need the cool of night and we need the lights to go out so we may sleep. Who regulated this process to provide what we need?
Moreover, if we had only the warmth of the sun and the protection of the atmosphere we would want something more – beauty. Our clothes provide warmth and protection, yet we design them to also look beautiful. Knowing our need for beauty, the designer of sunrise and sunset also made the view of them to be simply breathtaking.
The creator who gave us light, energy, protection and beauty deserves our thanks. Yet some people insist that he does not exist. What would they think if they found a watch in the desert? An accurate, working watch? A beautifully designed watch? Would they not conclude that there does exist a watchmaker? An intelligent watchmaker? One who appreciates beauty? Such is God who made us.”
Did people always believe in a Creator?
It is a fact that throughout history and throughout the world, man had been found to worship and to believe in a Creator. Specialists in Anthropology, Civilizations and History are unanimous on this. This led one of the great historians to say: “History shows that there had been cities without palaces, without factories and without fortresses, but there has never been cities without houses of worship.” Since time immemorial, man believed that he was not created simply for this life, for this short period, and he knew that he would ultimately depart to another resting-place. We see this evidence with the early Egyptians, thousands of years ago, when they mummified their dead and built great pyramids (as graves) and even placed the treasures of the dead in their graves in addition to drinks and mummified food! From the earliest recorded history, mankind had been unanimous, with very few exceptions, that there is a Creator and that there is life after death. However, they differed about the essence of this Creator, how to worship Him and the description of the life after death. For example, Hindus believe in reincarnation and that after death one’s soul would then go into a human body or an animal, depending on whether one did good or bad in his life, and that this process would continue without end until the soul reaches perfection and unites into one with its Creator. People of other religions like Jews, Christians and Muslims also believe in life after death, but not in reincarnation like the Hindus. All three – Jews, Christians and Muslims – however have different views about what happens to the soul after one’s death.
The fact that all nations and communities throughout history believed in a Creator (with the exception of insignificant few) made the mission of all prophets in all ages concentrate on guiding their people away from the worship of creations to the worship of the one and only Creator God, i.e. rather than having to prove His existence.
Why did People turn away from God?
The situation now in the world is different because there are now a very large number of people who do not believe in a Creator or in life after death – for example two surveys in the Czech Republic in 2000 found in one only 13% believe in life after death and in the other only 17% believe in God. A major reason for this in the last century was the so-called theory of evolution by Darwin (other reasons include the impact of totalitarian communism rule on people’s faith.) The theory of evolution says that man evolved from the ape, rather than being created by a Creator. Although this theory has no academic or scientific substance, it gained favor with so many people because it appealed to the doubts they had about the God that they were told to believe in. This is not surprising. If you give an educated person a description of a Creator that is illogical and unreasonable and then ask that person to believe in Him as his God, he would refuse. This unfortunately is the situation right now, especially in the west. The Christian Doctrines advocate the trinity, that God manifests Himself in three distinct and equal persons, and that God came down to earth in the form of a man (that is Jesus) and that He was crucified and died as a vicarious sacrifice for the so-called sin of man. So the Christians believe that Jesus was God in human form, God-incarnate. But how can the Creator die?
Some of the most important doctrines of Christianity – the doctrines of the Trinity, the Divinity of Jesus, the Divine-Sonship of Jesus, the Original Sin and the Atonement are neither rational nor in conformity with the teachings of Jesus. These dogmas took shape long after Jesus, as a result of old pagan influence. For example we find in Hinduism, the “Triad” (the trinity): there is Brahma, the creator god, Vishnu, the preserver god, and Shiva, the god of destruction. Modern Hindus take Krishna the son of Divachi, the virgin, as Vishnu incarnate. Krishna is the savior who as a sacrifice for their sin, had to suffer. He was crucified, died and then was raised from death. In Buddhism we find the Buddhist gods: Guatama (the holy spirit), Maya (the virgin mother) and Buddha, the son (who was conceived when Maya was filled by the holy spirit) and who is the savior who died and was raised from death. It may be interesting to mention that the 25th of December is not the birthday of Jesus. It is the birthday of Krishna in Hinduism, and of Nimrod, the divine son (a Babylonian god), and of Mithra, the god of light (one of the gods of the Greeks and the Romans)!
The religion revealed to the prophets of various nations was the same, but in the course of time it had been misinterpreted and become mixed up with superstitions and degenerated into magical practices and meaningless rituals. The concept of God, the very core of religion, had become debased by (a) the anthropomorphic tendency of making God into a being with a human shape, needs and human deficiencies, (b) the association of other persons with the one and only God in His Godhead (as in Hinduism and Christianity), (c) by the deification of the angels (e.g., the Devas in Hinduism, the Yazatas in Zoroastrianism and, perhaps also, the Holy Spirit in Christianity), (d) by making the Prophets into Avatars or incarnations of God (e.g., Jesus Christ in Christianity, the Buddha in Mahayana Buddhism, and Krishna and Rama in Hinduism), and (e) by the personification of the attributes of God into separate Divine Persons (e.g., the Christian Trinity of the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost, the Hindu Timurtri of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and the Amesha Spentas of Zoroastrianism).
Due to major religions distorting the oneness and essence of God, pupils in the West are now being taught in schools to accept, as fact, Darwin’s theory of evo1ution. As a result, more and more students of school and university age are now Atheists. They even ridicule those who believe in God saying: “they are either stupid or lack confidence and so need something to give them security!”
I was recently attending a lecture in a Western country given by a Muslim to a group of retired men and women – more than 65 years of age. The lecturer in the beginning asked the group: which of you believe in God? They all raised their hands except two men. Then the lecturer asked: which of you do not believe in God? The remaining two elderly men then raised their hands. However, one of them paused and immediately interrupted the lecturer. He said: “Tell me what do you mean by God so that I can answer you!” After the session, I said to the lecturer: this man is intelligent because at first he said he did not believe in God, most probably because of the Christian concept of God, but then he was willing to have an open mind and rethink his position based on the concept of God that could be presented by the Muslim.
Why are we created?
Those who believe in the Creator can answer the questions: where from? And where to? They know that they have come into existence by being created by the Creator and they also know that there is an eternal life after death. But what about the answer to the third question, that is: why have we been created? If we had been created by the Creator, shouldn’t we expect that He would tell us the purpose of our creation? Shouldn’t He tell us on what basis He is going to judge us on the Day of Judgment?
What is the Islamic view?
Muslims say they know the answers because they have the Quran. But people of other religions also have their own scriptures, so what is so special about the Quran? The Quran is basically a book of divine guidance in areas that cannot be covered by the human senses or intellect, such as faith, acts of worship, a moral code and a code that governs the transactions between people. These are the four basic foundations of religion, an area in which man always needs divine guidance. Muslims contend that the Quran is the last revealed scripture by Allah (Allah is the proper name of God and is not used to denote any other being. Therefore, I shall use the name Allah in preference to the word God). The Quran is the recorded words of Allah Himself dictated verbatim to the Prophet Muhammad in installments, verse by verse or a group of verses, through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years between 610 and 633 AD. It is divided into 114 units, each called a surah. Muhammad received revelation of the Quranic surahs as and when Allah chose to bestow on him new revelation. At times several surahs, particularly the longer ones, were being revealed to him concurrently. Muhammad used to have a group of scribes entrusted with committing immediately whatever was revealed to him to writing. Those scribes used parchment, pottery, date palm leaves, flat stones, tree bark, wood, dried animal skins and even the shoulder blades of sheep or camels to write on; and the revealed verses were memorized by heart as the mere recitation of the Quran is in itself an act of worship, and as Muslims used these verses in their judgments and in their daily five prayers. In this manner, the verses of the Quran were preserved in the hearts of Muslims, as well as written down, during the lifetime of the Prophet. Muhammad was instructed by angel Gabriel where to place every new passage in the surahs. The surahs were named by divine decree, and Muhammad recited the whole of the Quran in front of Gabriel more than once in the last year of his life. Similarly, the arrangement of the surahs in a specific order was given by the Prophet Muhammad who indicated it mostly by reading the surahs, particularly in prayer, in a specific order. No revealed book has ever enjoyed the authenticity of the Quran or had the cherishing, reverence, surveillance and care of its followers as the Quran. The whole Quran has been memorized by a large number of Muslims in the lifetime of Muhammad .
After Muhammad’s departure, the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, asked one of the original scribes, Zaid ibn Thabit, to be in charge of collecting the original writings of the Quranic revelations and writing down the whole Quran. Zaid produced a whole copy of the Quran written on pages of leather. It was arranged in the order we have today. This was done in the first two years after the Prophet’s death, since Abu Bakr ruled for less than two years. This copy was then entrusted with the second Caliph, Omar, and finally with the third Caliph, Othman. During the reign of Othman, the Arabs came to know the paper industry from China and Othman called on Zaid to head a committee of four Quranic scholars who would take on the task of making seven copies. Those seven copies (written 14 years after Muhammad’s death) were distributed to the various centers of the Muslim state to be the reference copy in each center. At least three of those original copies of the Quran are still intact, one in Tashkent, one in Istanbul, and one in Cairo. They do not differ in one letter from the millions of copies of the Quran that are in the hands of people today. This authentication of the last revelation is in itself miraculous. The Quran is the oldest book within the hands of humanity that has been kept intact in exactly the same language of revelation word for word and letter for letter. That is why the Quran is unique, because it is the word of the Creator in its purest divinity.
Muslims believe in the authentic original revelations given to Prophets Moses, David and Jesus, but none of these original revelations is found intact, and none is found in the original language of revelation, and here the Quran stands unique in its divine purity. Again the Quran is different from any human writings because it is neither prose nor poetry. It came to the Arabs when they were at their peak in eloquence and challenged them to produce one single chapter of it, or similar to it, or to produce ten similar chapters or even a book like it. This challenge still exists today and no challenger is forthcoming. The early scholars of the Quran thought that its miraculous nature was due mainly to its style and beautiful expression. The beauty of expression is really unique and cannot be paralleled by human writings. That is why the early commentators of the Quran concentrated on its eloquence and style. Yet being the word of the Creator, any area that has been covered in the Quran must be unique. If you look at jurisprudence the Quran is unique, in the area of worship, the Quran instructs people how to worship Allah. The concepts of Divinity, prophet hood, and morality are all unique in the Quran. If we look at the narration of history of previous nations, one after the other, and how they received the divine message, their reaction towards it and what their reward or punishment was, at a time when there was no form of regular documentation whatsoever. The Quran talks about these successive nations without a single mistake, and modern archaeological discoveries are a testimony to this.
Is the Quran credible?
Besides religious guidance, the Quran contains hundreds of verses that speak of the universe, its components and phenomena such as the Earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, mountains, wind, running water, plants, embryological animals, and the successive stages of development of the human being. More than 1,000 verses relating to cosmic facts or cosmic phenomena can be counted in the Quran. During the early days of the Quran, scientific knowledge of the universe was limited and it was not easy to elaborate on the verses relating to the universe or its phenomena except within the limitations of the time. However, we now know about the laws of the universe much more than before and that is why reviewing the 1,000 or more verses relating to the cosmos, man and his surroundings can be one of the most obvious miraculous aspects of the Quran. This is because of the precedence of the Quran, which was revealed more than 14 Centuries ago, with many of the scientific facts, at a time when people had no knowledge whatsoever of such facts. The Quran has addressed so many of these facts in a language that is more precise, accurate and concise than scientists have ever been able to do. Nothing in the Quran contradicts any established scientific facts. These cannot be all covered in a short article and hence I have chosen only five verses that can testify to the miraculous nature of the Quran from a scientific point of view:
1) The creation of the universe is explained by astrophysicists in a widely accepted phenomenon, popularly known as the “Big Bang.” It is supported by observational and experimental data gathered by astronomers and astrophysicists for decades. According to the “Big Bang,” the whole universe was initially one big mass (Primary Nebula). Then there was a “Big Bang” (Secondary Separation), which resulted in the formation of Galaxies. These then divided to form stars, planets, the sun, the moon, etc. The origin of the universe was unique and the probability of it occurring by “chance” is zero. The Quran contains the following verse, regarding the origin of the universe:
Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were (once) a joined entity, then We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe? (Quran, 21:30)
The striking congruence between the Quranic verse and the “Big Bang” is inescapable! How could a book, which first appeared in the deserts of Arabia 1400 years ago, contain this profound scientific truth?
2) In 1925 an American astronomer by the name of Edwin Hubble provided observational evidence that all galaxies are receding from one another, which implies that the universe is expanding. The expansion of the universe is now an established scientific fact. This is what the Quran says regarding the formation of the universe:
And the heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander. (Quran, 51:47)
Stephen Hawking, in his book A Brief History of Time, says: “The discovery that the universe is expanding is one of the great intellectual revolutions of the 20th century.” The Quran mentioned the expansion of the universe before man even learnt to build a telescope!
3) Scientists say that before the galaxies in the universe were formed, celestial matter was initially in the form of gaseous matter. In short, huge gaseous matter or clouds were present before the formation of the galaxies. To describe initial celestial matter, the word “smoke” is more appropriate than gas. The following Quranic verse refers to this state of the universe by the word dukhan which means smoke:
Then He turned to the heaven when it was smoke… (Quran, 41:11)
Again, this fact is a corollary to the “Big Bang” and was not known to mankind during the time of the Prophet Muhammad . What then, could have been the source of this knowledge?
4) It was thought that the sense of feeling and pain was only dependent on the brain. Recent discoveries prove that there are pain receptors present in the skin without which a person would not be able to feel pain. When a doctor examines a patient suffering from burn injuries, he verifies the degree of burns by a pinprick. If the patient feels pain, the doctor is happy, because it indicates that the burns are superficial and the pain receptors are intact. On the other hand if the patient does not feel any pain, it indicates that it is a deep burn and the pain receptors have been destroyed. The Quran gives an indication of the existence of pain receptors in the following verse:
Indeed, those who disbelieve in Our verses (i.e. signs, proofs) – We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted in Might and Wise. But those who believe and do righteous deeds – We will admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide forever. (Quran, 4:56-57)
Prof. Tagatat Tejasen, Chairman of the Dept. of Anatomy at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, had spent a great amount of time on research of pain receptors. Initially he could not believe that the Quran mentioned this scientific fact 1400 years ago. He later verified the translation of this particular Quranic verse. Prof. Tejasen was so impressed by the scientific accuracy of the Quranic verse, that at a medical Conference in 1985 he proclaimed in public the Shahadah(Islamic Declaration of Faith), i.e. he embraced Islam.
5) The source of iron (Fe); we read in the Quran:
Indeed, We have sent down iron in which there is great (military) might and benefits for the people. (Quran, 57:25)
It has recently been proven that all iron, not only in our planet but also in the entire solar system, was obtained from outer space. This is because the temperature of the sun cannot generate iron. The sun has a surface temperature of 6000 degrees Celsius and a central temperature of about 20 million degrees Celsius. There exists much hotter stars, which are known as novae, or super novae where temperatures can reach 100s of billions of degrees Celsius and it is in these stars that iron is formed. When the percentage of iron reaches a certain proportion of the mass of the star it explodes and these exploded-particles travel in space until they are captured by the gravitational fields of other heavenly bodies. This is how our solar system all obtained its iron and it is an established fact today that all the iron in our solar system was not generated or created within the system but has come to it from outer space.
One wonders why the Quran comments on matters like these, things that were not known to anyone at the time of revelation or even for centuries afterwards, unless Allah knows in His eternal knowledge that the time will come when man will then immediately realize that the Quran is the word of Allah and that Muhammad is His last messenger. Allah says in the Quran:
We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. (Quran, 41:53)
Prof. Tejasen accepted Islam on the strength of just one scientific “sign” mentioned in the Quran. Some people may require ten signs while some may require hundred signs to be convinced about the Divine origin of the Quran. Some would be unwilling to accept the Truth even after being shown a thousand signs. The Quran condemns such a closed mentality: Deaf, dumb and blind- so they will not return [to the right path]. (Quran, 2:18). Also: The example of those who disbelieve is like that of the one who shouts at what hears nothing but calls and cries [i.e. cattle or sheep] – deaf, dumb and blind, so they do not understand. (Quran, 2:171). And: Then do they not reflect upon the Quran, or are there locks upon [their] hearts? (Quran, 47:24).
What is the Purpose of Life?
So what does the Creator, Allah, tell us about our purpose in life? Allah states in the Quran that He created man to be His Khalefah, His trustee on earth (Quran 2:30). Mankind’s basic trust, our responsibility, is to believe in and worship Allah:
And I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me… (Quran, 51:56-58)
Very simple! The purpose for man’s creation is to worship the Creator. The essence of Allah’s message through all of the prophets also was: O mankind, worship Allah, you have no deity other than Him. (Quran, 7:59,65,73,85; Also 11:50,61,84; and 23:23,32). Allah further states that He made this life in order to test man so that every person may be recompensed after death for what he has earned:
[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving. (Quran, 67:2)
But in order to worship Him, we have to know Him well otherwise we may form a distorted concept of Him and then go astray. In the Quran Allah tells mankind what He is and what He is not. For example, in response to a question about Allah that was posed to the Prophet Muhammad , Allah instructs Muhammad to give the following reply:
Say (O Muhammad): He is Allah [Who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent. (Quran, 112)
It is clear from this that Muhammad is not the author of the Quran otherwise he would not have shown that someone is dictating to him what to say.
Also, Allah has to tell us how He wants to be worshipped, which He does in the Quran. He also tells us in the Quran that all Prophets came with the same identical message to their people – that is to believe in Allah and to worship Him. He also tells us in the Quran that all the people of other religions have deviated from the original teachings of their prophets. This is due to two reasons. The first is that earlier scriptures were not preserved simply because of the absence or scarcity of writing paper and so the teachings were transmitted orally and with time became distorted. The second reason is because the clergy of various religions introduced doctrines that were never there (e.g., the Christian trinity creed was introduced only after the council of Nicea in 325 AD and the Council of Constantinople in 386 AD). Because of the changes that crept into earlier religions, Allah tells us that He sent the Prophet Muhammad as the last and final prophet and guidance to mankind with a scripture that He promised would be preserved forever. Allah provides a test to prove that the Quran is from Him. Allah says:
Then do they not reflect upon the Quran? (i.e. its meanings and its objective) If it had been from [any] other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction. (Quran, 4:82)
The Quran is available for scrutiny and investigation by any person to try to find even one error or contradiction in it. In fact this test must be applied to any other scripture that claims it is the word of God.
Is there any “blind faith” in Islam?
Islam is not a religion of “blind faith” but is a religion that strongly calls on man to use his logic, reasoning and intellect. Allah in the Quran stresses the importance for people to think, to reason and to use their mind and intellect. The word “mind” or “reasoning” is mentioned 49 times in the Quran (in Arabic Ta’qiloon 24 times, Ya’qiloon 22 times, and A’qal, Na’qil and Ya’qil one time each). Also Allah refers to “people of understanding” 16 times in the Quran (in Arabic Ulu Al-AlBab or Uli Al-Albab). Allah also refers to “those of intelligence” two times in Chapter 20 by the Arabic term Uli Al-Nuha. Allah also refers in many chapters in the Quran to the mind by the Arabic word Al-Fuad. Also in many verses in the Quran, Allah uses the term heart (in Arabic Al-Qalb) in place of the word Al-Fuad (mind) to mean the same thing. In one place in Chapter 89 verses 53 & 54, Allah refers to the mind by the Arabic word Al-Hijr. The Quran also, in tens of verses, strongly calls and emphasizes the need to “contemplate” and to “give thought” (in Arabic Fikr or Tafakkor). Also in tens of verses, the Quran draws attention to the importance for man to “remember” and to “recall” (in Arabic Tazakkor). The significance of the two being: to “give thought” is to increase or acquire new knowledge, whereas to “remember” is to recall and remind oneself of relevant knowledge and events that may have been forgotten, but which are important for one’s faith.
Allah praises people who use their mind:
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding – Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Quran, 3:190-191)
About the Quran, Allah Says:
[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that they (i.e. people) might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded. (Quran, 38:29)
In the Quran, the words that can be formed from the term “know” or “knowledge” (root ‘elmin Arabic) is to be found 865 times. In one verse Allah says: Are those who know equal to those who do not know? Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding. (Quran, 39:9). Also: And so those who were given knowledge may know that It (i.e. the Quran) is the truth from your Lord and [therefore] believe in it, and their hearts humbly submit to it. And indeed is Allah the Guide of those who have believed to a straight path. (Quran, 22:54).
On the other hand, the Quran strongly rejects certain mentalities that are driven by myths, illusions, absurdities, ignorance, blind imitation of others, assumption (conjecture), prejudice, whims and desires. In fact, Allah in the Quran confirms that most people on earth have gone astray because they follow assumption, conjecture and ignorance. Allah says:
And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of Allah. They follow not except assumption, and they are not but falsifying (out of ignorance, conjecture and assumption). (Quran, 6:116)
Is there Life after Death?
All the prophets of God called their people to worship God and to believe in life after death. They laid so much emphasis on the belief in life after death that even a slight doubt in it meant denying God and made all other beliefs meaningless. The very fact that all the prophets of God have dealt with this metaphysical question of life after death so confidently and so uniformly – the gap between their ages in some cases, being thousands of years – goes to prove that the source of their knowledge of life after death as proclaimed by them all, was the same, i.e. divine revelation. We also know that these prophets of God were greatly opposed by their people, mainly on the issue of life after death, as their people thought it impossible. But in spite of opposition, the Prophets won many sincere followers.
The question arises: what made those followers forsake the established beliefs, traditions and customs of their forefathers, notwithstanding the risk of being totally alienated from their own community? The simple answer is: they made use of their faculties of mind and heart and realized the truth.
Did they realize the truth through perceptual consciousness? They couldn’t, as perceptual experience of life after death is impossible. God has given Man besides perceptual consciousness, rational, aesthetic and moral consciousness too. It is this consciousness that guides man regarding realities that cannot be verified through sensory data. That is why all the prophets of God while calling people to believe in God and life after death, appeal to the aesthetic, moral and rational consciousness of man.
The Quran very clearly says that the disbelievers have no sound basis for their denial of life after death. It is based on pure conjecture:
And they say, “There is not but our worldly life; we die and live (i.e. some people die and others live, replacing them) and nothing destroys us except time.” And they have of that no knowledge; they are only assuming. And when Our verses are recited to them as clear evidences, their argument is only that they say, “Bring [back] our forefathers, if you should be truthful.” Say, “Allah causes you to live, then causes you to die; then He will assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt.” But most of the people do not know. (Quran, 45:24-26)
The explanation that the Quran gives about the necessity of life after death is what the moral consciousness of man demands. Actually, if there is no life after death, the very belief in God becomes meaningless or even if one believes in God, it would be an unjust and indifferent God, having once created man and now not being concerned with his fate. Surely, God is just. He will punish the tyrants, whose crimes are beyond count – having tortured and killed hundreds or thousands of innocent people, created great corruption in society, enslaved numerous persons to serve their whims, etc. Because man has a very short life span in this world and because numerous individuals are affected by one’s actions, adequate punishments and rewards are not possible in this life. Could the good and the righteous be equated with the wicked and evil? Moral, aesthetic and rational faculties of man reject this logic and endorse the possibility of the life after death. Allah confirms this truth in the Quran: Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned? (Quran, 23:115). Also: And We did not create the heaven and the earth and that between them aimlessly. That is the assumption of those who disbelieve, so woe to those who disbelieve from the Fire. Or should We treat those who believe and do righteous deeds like corrupters in the land? Or should We treat those who fear Allah like the wicked? (Quran, 38:27-28). Also: Or do those who commit evils think We will make them like those who have believed and done righteous deeds – [the evildoers being] equal in their life and their death? Evil is that which they judge [i.e. assume]. And Allah created the heavens and earth in truth and so that every soul may be recompensed for what it has earned, and they will not be wronged. (Quran, 45:21-22). Also: And We did not create the heavens and the earth and that between them in play. We did not create them except in truth, but most of them do not know. Indeed, the Day of Judgment is the appointed time for them all. (Quran, 44:38-40). The Quran emphatically states that the Day of Judgment must come and that Allah will decide the fate of each soul according to his or her record of deeds:
But those who disbelieve say, “The Hour (i.e. the Day of Judgment) will not come to us.” Say, “Yes, by my Lord, it will surely come to you. [Allah is] the Knower of the unseen.” Not absent from Him is an atom’s weight within the heavens or within the earth or [what is] smaller than that or greater, except that it is in a clear register – That He may reward those who believe and do righteous deeds. Those will have forgiveness and noble provision. But those who strive against Our verses [seeking] to cause failure (i.e. to undermine their credibility) – for them will be a painful punishment of foul nature. (Quran, 34:3-5)
The Day of Resurrection will be the Day when God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy will be in full manifestation. God will shower His mercy on those who suffered for His sake in the worldly life, believing that an eternal bliss was awaiting them. But those who abused the bounties of God, caring nothing for the life to come, will be in the most miserable state. Drawing a comparison between them, the Quran says:
Then is he whom We have promised a good promise which he will meet [i.e. obtain] like he for whom We provided enjoyment of worldly life [but] then he is, on the Day of Resurrection, among those presented [for punishment in Hell]? (Quran, 28:61)
The belief in life after death not only guarantees success in the Hereafter but also makes this world full of peace and happiness by making individuals most responsible and dutiful in their activities:
Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned. (Quran, 21:35)
Why should one read the Quran?
No person can afford to be ignorant of the Quran, for it is the constitution revealed by Allah to regulate and govern human life. It speaks with the perfect knowledge of the Creator about His creation. It exposes the truth and invites man to the way of truth. It contains important information about human destiny and that of the individual. It educates and raises men to the highest moral, intellectual and social level when they strive to comprehend it and apply its teachings to life.
Moreover, it is the actual words of Allah – not created, but revealed by Him through the angel Gabriel to a human messenger, Muhammad , for the benefit of humanity. It is an eternal miracle given to the final prophet, Muhammad , as proof of his prophet hood and a challenge to all succeeding generations. It is of unique and inimitable quality. Revealed fourteen centuries ago, it remains today completely intact and unaltered in its original Arabic form.
What does one discover when he understands the meanings of the Quran? The answers to this question can be classified in four main categories:
1) That he can know his Creator as He has described Himself
2) That he can know the purpose of life on this earth and what is expected of every person during this life
3) That he becomes aware of the consequences of his attitudes and hisbehavior
4) How he should relate to all things – to Allah by worship and obedience, to his fellow man by justice to all, and to the universe in general by putting those things under his control to good use.
This divine message was revealed to confirm and renew the relationship between man and his Creator and to reinstate the sincere and correct worship of the one true God, Allah, who says:
Then let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided. (Quran, 2:186)
Islam is not a new religion; it is not a different religion. It is in essence the same religion that Allah (or “God”) sent to all mankind through all His prophets at different times in history – the religion that had unfortunately been changed through human adulterations, theology and philosophy. That is why the Prophet Muhammad came as the last and final prophet and messenger of Allah. He needed to come to remove all the riddles and confusion in the lives of people. He corrected matters of diversion in belief that were introduced by confusing human philosophy and theology. He restored the pure monotheistic belief of our Creator and brought the most perfect and most noble understanding of Allah (or “God”).
The purpose of life is to know Allah, to believe in Him and to worship Him according to how He wants to be worshipped, this includes that we live our lives according to His commands. In the Quran, Allah tells us that since the messages of all prophets before the Prophet Muhammad have been distorted, none of these objectives could be achieved correctly except through His last and final message, and therefore He will judge people on the Day of Judgment based on whether they believed and followed Islam. Allah says:
Indeed, the religion in the sight of Allah is Islam. (Quran, 3:19)
In the same chapter Allah declares:
And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers (in the Hellfire). (Quran, 3:85)
Muslims believe that the present life is a trial in preparation for the next realm of existence. Muslims know that man was not created merely for this worldly life; rather this world was created for man.
So, if a fool lives to eat and a wise man eats to live, then a believer lives to worship Allah.
How Does Someone Become a Muslim?
To become a Muslim a person simply needs to say the Shahadah (Declaration of Faith) with sincere conviction: “Ash-hadu al-la elaha illa-Allah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasulu Allah” one becomes a Muslim. This saying means, “I testify that there is no deity [worthy of worship] except Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”