“Mankind will need some form of religion until there is a cure for death.” This bold statement spoken by a sociology lecturer rings true in many ways. After all, we humans didn’t create ourselves, nor did we create the world; yet we are part of a circle of life with many unknowns. The great questions intrigue human beings like what happens to loved ones when they pass away?—followed by the jolting reality that we too must one day depart into that same mysterious unseen world. What will become of us? Will we merely cease to exist after taking our last breath, or will there be an afterlife where we’ll meet our Creator, face punishment or reward, and have all our earthly and celestial questions finally answered? Religion, in fact, is a blessing for the “faithful” because it provides answers to these perplexing questions about the “unseen” world.
Our faith is not stagnant, but constantly in motion, either growing or diminishing.
Individuals from all walks of life elect to become followers of a chosen faith — and as such, a believer’s life is interweaved with feelings of satisfaction and, at times, doubt stemming from internal and/or external sources. When considering the various dimensions of doubt, it would first be helpful to examine the profound concept of faith itself, which in Arabic is “iman.”
What is Iman?
Put simply, iman is belief or faith. The Prophet (pbuh) said that iman is “to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and divine destiny, both the good and the evil thereof” (Muslim). The strength and vitality of one’s iman, or faith, is a testimony to his or her commitment to the religion of Islam. Our faith is not stagnant, but constantly in motion, either growing or diminishing.
There is also likely no greater loss for the Muslim than the loss of faith — because it is faith which is the gate keeper for ultimate success, in this life and the life to come.
As to one’s level of iman, this can perhaps be understood by asking the following: At any given moment, how much faith do you have that Allah (SWT) is aware of and judging all that you do, and that upon your death you will be questioned and either rewarded with the bliss of Jannah or the punishment of Hell?
The greater one’s iman, the easier it is to perform obligatory acts of worship and thus earn a place in Jannah. Iman, which inclines a person to righteous actions and to avoidance of sin, is an enduring and profound human distinction. Other personal characteristics such as wealth, talent, beauty, intelligence, etc., are insignificant in comparison to the critical issue of faith. There is also likely no greater loss for the Muslim than the loss of faith — because it is faith which is the gate keeper for ultimate success, in this life and the life to come.
Doubting one’s faith, questioning the authenticity of revelation, or having uncertainty about the existence of realms beyond the material one, have been a part of the human condition since the earliest days of religious discourse. Some doubts originate with the arguments or critiques made by followers of other religions or by non-believers. Other doubts are the manifestation of the normal internal struggles faced by all believers in varying degrees. That struggle might be waking up before Fajr to offer the Qiyam al-Layl prayer or, for others, offering a single prayer in a week’s time may be the struggle. Another individual may be entertaining doubts about the Quran, while another has moved to the point that he or she is considering leaving Islam all together. Struggles and doubts such as these have been expressed over social media in recent times and it will be helpful to present an Islamic response.
Unbelief Among Academics
I recall the first day of my university philosophy class; my professor proclaimed that he was an atheist and the first class assignment was to give our best argument for the existence of God. None of our arguments, however, proved the least bit interesting, let alone, convincing, to him. Along the same lines, one of my relatives had an unsettling experience during her first sociology class — the professor looked straight at her as he told the class he disliked anyone “who thinks they can find all of life’s answers in a holy book.” She felt that he was singling her out and it understandably made her feel very uneasy. She promptly dropped his class and enrolled in the same class with another professor.
Colleges and universities are generally beneficial institutions of higher learning where ideas are exchanged freely and academic knowledge is disseminated. However, students should be prepared for the possibility that his or her humanities or social science professors may have an agenda with the intention of “reeducating” religious-minded students. On his website, edwardfeser.blogspot.com, Edward Feser posts a passage from the book “University and Truth” written by philosophy professor, Richard Rorty, concerning Rorty’s views of the necessity of “reeducating” university students. “…..It is a concept which I, like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities, invoke when we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own…. we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization….we teachers do our best to be Socratic, to get our job of re-education, secularization, and liberalization done by conversational exchange… So we are going to go right on trying …to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours…”
In another article entitled, “How religious are American professors?” published in 2010 on the website whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com, a study published in Sociology of Religion by Neil Gross, found that the more “elite” the university, the more “pervasive” was unbelief. At elite doctoral universities, 36.5 percent of all professors are agnostics or atheists. The area of study also made a difference with 29.3 percent of humanities professors being atheist, 32.6 percent for computer science and engineering, 39.4 percent for social sciences; and 60 percent of biologists and psychologists were reported to be agnostics or atheists.
Claims that the Quran is Man-made
It should come as no surprise that some humanities professors would have a problem with organized religion and holy books like the Quran, since a good number of them are atheists. One of the most common attacks on the Quran is the assertion that it is man-made, and yet one of the most significant miracles of the Quran is that it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who was illiterate. So how is it that an illiterate man could produce such a profound book of wisdom? Allah (SWT) answers these detractors in the Quran: “And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers besides Allah, if your [doubts] are true. But if you cannot – and of a surety you cannot — then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones which is prepared for those who reject Faith” (Quran 2:23-24). If the Quran were man-made, it stands to reason that it would then be subject to error. However, Allah (SWT) rejects such fallacies: “Haven’t the unbelievers considered if this was from other than Allah, they would find within it many contradictions?” (Quran 4:82).
Claims that the Quran Was Copied from the Bible
Stating that the Quran is copied from the Bible must be a claim by an individual who hasn’t studied or even read the Quran and/or the Bible because the two are dramatically different. Both books tell the stories about prophets from God; and understandably so, as the Quran and the original books revealed to Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both), come from the same divine source. Allah (SWT) says: “And this Quran is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah, but it is a confirmation of [the revelation] which was before it, and a full explanation of the [former] scripture – wherein there is no doubt – from the Lord of the worlds” (Quran 10: 37).
There are, in fact, many differences between the Quran and the Bible. Muslims believe that over time the original revelations to the previous faith communities were changed through error, translation, or other means. The Quran stands as a criterion by which to remedy those errors. For example, in the Bible, Eve is said to have tempted Adam to eat from the tree, while in the Quranic account, Shaytan tempted both Adam and Eve together to eat from the tree. The Bible also relays that Adam and Eve came to the earth in a state of sin and according to the Christian doctrine of Original Sin, the blood of Jesus (pbuh) is necessary to purify the sins of man. However, in the Islamic account, both Adam and Eve sought and were granted forgiveness, and thus from the Muslim perspective, there is no original sin, and the blood and death of Christ as a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of man is a false doctrine. Finally, the Quran is very clear that Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, was a prophet and not the son of God. These are all significant differences, demonstrating that the Quran is not copied from the Bible.
The Truth, Guidance, and Miracles of the Quran
Allah (SWT) declares in the Quran, “Verily, We have revealed the Book for the people in truth. So whoever accepts the guidance benefits his own soul; and whoever goes astray, he injures his own soul. And you [Muhammad] are not a manager over them” (Quran: 39: 41). One of the greatest treasures of this world is the Quran, and one needs to read it with sincerity before understanding or guidance can grow and flourish. If one is looking sincerely for “proof” of the validity of the Quran, they will find it within its miraculous chapters.
There are many miracles in the Quran and instances where its verses confirm recent scientific findings. One such example is the detailed description of the stages of embryonic development in the womb which was later confirmed when high-powered microscopes were invented centuries later: “Man We did create from a quintessence of clay; then We placed him as a drop in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then We made the drop into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!” (Quran 23:12-14).
The Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, available at Islam-guide.com, notes that in 1981, during the Seventh Medical Conference in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, a leading scientist in the field of anatomy and embryology, Professor Emeritus Keith L. Moore, stated the following about the Quran’s detailed description of embryonic development: “It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Quran about human development. It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammad from God or Allah, because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God or Allah.”
There are many other examples found in the Quran of verses speaking of natural phenomena which only in the modern era were confirmed by science, including the water cycle, the geological features of mountains, the origin of the universe, and much more. A detailed examination of these and many other examples of Quranic statements predating scientific understanding can be found at Islam-guide.com, and miraclesofthequran.com. These miracles show that the Quran and science are harmonious.
The Harmony of Belief and Science
In reviewing Islamic history, one finds that devout Muslims have made great advancements in science over the centuries. With their full acknowledgement that all discoveries stem from divine knowledge, Muslims have made unprecedented contributions to civilization in the areas of geography, mathematics, medicine, and astronomy, to name a few. In his article, “The Limitations of Science and the Teachings of Science from the Islamic Perspective,” available on i-epistemology.net, Zaghloul R. El Nejjar mentions that the Latin root for science is “scientia” which means knowledge. This, of course, would include knowledge which could be obtained from divine scriptures. He states: “So science is defined as all the knowledge men have achieved in different places and at all times, arranged according to their subject-matter. This includes knowledge gained through Divine revelation; or by the way of human thinking and creative intellect, as well as through human legacy and tradition in these two areas. The prevailing direction, however, tends to limit the term Science to natural and experimental studies of all that is within reach of the senses and intellect in this universe (i.e. matter, energy, living beings and natural phenomena).” He argues that to limit science to mere observations made in the natural world is to limit human knowledge and reject divine wisdom
It is this “secularization of science” that Sohaib Baig, in his article, “Science or Scientism,” available at www.albalagh.net, blames for the devastating destruction of the planet. “In essence, the current environmental disaster is a very real disaster, and is a direct consequence of rejecting God’s authority and relevance over mankind…” There is a legitimate argument to be made that science and religion must find harmony through acknowledgement of the supremacy of divine and natural law. However, to continue a secularist approach in science is arguably destructive to both man and the natural world. Parting from Islam is not only destructive to science, but also to the individual.
Replace Islam with What?
For those Muslims who question and doubt their faith — what lifestyle instead of the spiritual and protective ways of Islam do they seek? Would they put all their faith in science with its many limitations and “missing links,” or indulge in behaviors prompted by the lower self which seeks pleasure with no regard to consequences? Sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy out of wedlock, addiction to drugs or alcohol, depression resulting from a lack of meaning and purpose in life – these are all real and catastrophic to individuals, families, and society. Islam was sent to mankind to uplift us, enlighten us, bless us, and prevent us from harming ourselves and others. Choosing to give up the way of Islam is a decision with profound consequences. Allah (SWT) says: “Those who sell God’s covenant and their faith for a small price shall have no share the Hereafter” (Quran, 3:77). Growing nearer to Allah (SWT) and earning our place in the wondrous and blissful world of Jannah is the ultimate goal of this world, and to find success one needs to develop and maintain a strong sense of iman.
Safeguarding Iman Against Doubt
Everything in life needs nourishment, and iman, or faith, is no different. Our iman is always in motion, growing stronger or decreasing, and this movement is in direct response to the heedful actions we take, or neglect to take, to maintain a close relationship with Allah. He (SWT) says: “This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah; who believe in the unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We Have provided for them” (Quran 2: 2-3). There are many actions we can take to safeguard our iman. Below are some examples.
Seek Refuge in Allah Against the Accursed Shaytan: The first advice for individuals who are doubting their faith is to seek refuge in Allah (SWT) from Shaitan whose goal has always been to bring about the destruction of man. Shaytan said: “…I will lie in wait for them on Thy straight way: Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor will You find, in most of them, gratitude [for Thy mercies]” (Quran 7:16-17).
Acquire an Armor of Knowledge
One should first aspire to study and understand the Quran, then the hadith and sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Knowledge is strength and power, and Islam is built on a foundation of learning and growing. The first words of the Quran that were revealed tell us, “Read in the name of your Lord, and Cherisher…” (Quran 96:1) The Prophet (pbuh) has said, “Acquire knowledge: it enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong, it lights the way to heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless. It guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends, and an armor against enemies.”
Continually Polish the Heart
Every Muslim is susceptible to suffering from a decrease in faith if their guard is down. But as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) teaches, it is mindfulness of Allah which can bring about success. He says: “There is a polish for everything that takes away rust; and the polish for the heart is the remembrance of Allah” (Bukhari). We can polish our hearts with such endeavors as attending the blessed Jumah prayer, offering our five daily prayers on time, making regular dua throughout the day, and through reading and memorizing the Quran.
Keep Good Company
The people we spend time with have a big impact on our thoughts, perceptions, and behavior. It is important to choose to spend time with righteous Muslims at every opportunity.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. So as for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” Thus, for Muslim college students, it can be very beneficial to join Muslim student groups and have preferable companionship, gain blessings by giving dawah to non-Muslims, and be spiritually uplifted through positive peer encouragement. All of these undertakings can instill in the individual a stronger foundation of iman.
Strive for Certainty
Once one has sincerely studied Islam with an open heart, uniting their intellect and heart together in confirmation of the truth and divine wisdom they have found, they then have the opportunity to taste the “sweetness” of iman. Enjoying this blissful feeling of being under the umbrella of truth, one reaches a deep-rooted level of iman and can aspire to feel Allah’s (SWT) “guiding light” of yakeen (certainty). At this level, it becomes difficult for one to be swayed by the various distractions or “glitter” of this world, and the deep roots of faith become strong and enduring.
“Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp; the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a brilliant star lit from a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah sets forth parables to make people understand, and Allah knows all things” (Quran 24:35).