February 5, 2009

Response to BamBam

Once again, I've decided to take a response to a comment on my blog and make it its own post due to the length of the reply.


It is really interesting to me that you would choose (6:25) since you read in it that god veils the hearts of non believers against believing, basically condemning them to his hell without any chance of reprise theoretically, the exegesis for this aya is also revealing.

Actually, I hate to say, I never chose this verse (or 8:31) for the reason you ascribe; I chose both verses because of the similarities of language between what the polytheists in Makkah said ("These are nothing but tales of the ancients.") and what Nizar said ("...you still worship the same ancient myths..."). No more, no less.

However, since you bring up the topic ("basically condemning them to his hell without any chance of reprise theoretically"), I disagree with your assertion; I believe Muhammad Asad's exegesis is more on the mark:

Since it is God who has instituted all laws of nature - which, in their aggregate, are called sunnat Allah ("the way of God") - this "sealing" is attributed to Him: but it is obviously a consequence of man's free choice and not an act of "predestination". Similarly, the suffering which, in the life to come, is in store for those who during their life in this world have wilfully remained deaf and blind to the truth, is a natural consequence of their free choice -just as happiness in the life to come is the natural consequence of man's endeavour to attain to righteousness and inner illumination. Note 7 (Quran Ref: 2:7)

...that is to say, man's "going astray" is a consequence of his own attitudes and inclinations and not a result of an arbitrary "predestination" in the popular sense of this word ... In his commentary on the above verse, Zamakhshari stresses this aspect of free choice on the part of man and points out that "God does not cause anyone to go astray except one who, as He knows, will never attain to faith; and He does not guide anyone aright except one who, as He knows, will attain to faith. Hence, the [expression] 'causing to go astray' denotes [God's] leaving [one] alone (takhliyah) and depriving [him] of all favour, whereas [the expression] 'guidance' denotes [His] grant of fulfilment (tawfiq) and favour .... Thus, He does not forsake anyone except those who deserve to be forsaken, and does not bestow His favour upon anyone except those who deserve to be favoured." Commenting on the identical phrase occurring in 16:93, Zamakhshari states: "[God] forsakes him who, as He knows, will [consciously] choose to deny the truth and will persevere in this [denial]; and ... He bestows His favour upon him who, as He knows, will choose faith: which means that He makes the issue dependent on [man's] free choice (al-ikhtiyar), and thus on his deserving either [God's] favour or the withdrawal of [His] aid ... and does not make it dependent on compulsion [i.e., predestination], which would rule out [man's] deserving anything of the above." Note 4 (Quran Ref: 14:4)

In other words, non-believers are not "condemned to hell without any chance of reprise." They all have the chance throughout their lives to mend their ways if they will only take the opportunity. The question is, will they? The further they go down the path of unbelief the more likely they will not do so. As they follow along that false path their hearts become more and more veiled. And yet there is still hope (IMO). We are all tested, believer and non-believer; insha'allah, we may recognize the errors of our ways prior to death.


IT is not always the imitation in us that drives us to move further away from religion, sometimes it's knowledge that does that. History is full of examples where people of highly regarded religious knowledge move away from religion because of moral conflicts.

In which case I'd say that people are failing their tests. Knowledge doesn't equal conviction. Knowledge isn't the most important criterion. Perhaps you're familiar with this part of a hadith qudsi (#6)?

[Another] will be a man who has studied [religious] knowledge and has taught it and who used to recite the Quran. He will be brought and Allah will make known to his His favours and he will recognize them. [The Almighty] will say: And what did you do about them? He will say: I studied [religious] knowledge and I taught it and I recited the Quran for Your sake. He will say: You have lied - you did but study [religious] knowledge that it might be said [of you]: He is learned. And you recited the Quran that it might be said [of you]: He is a reciter. And so it was said. Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hell-fire.

Don't just rely upon your nafs to say, "Well, I'm smart enough in my knowledge of religion to say that this apparent conflict goes against my principles; therefore, religion is wrong and I'll become a non-believer." If your principles were in line with your religious knowledge you'd work your way through the moral conflict:

Whoever among you witnesses a bad thing, it is necessary for him to bring that to a halt with his hands, and if he does not have the potential for that; then he should stop him through his tongue, And if he does not have the ability to stop that with his tongue, then by his heart; he should think bad of this sin and that is the lowest level of Iman.


The reality that religion (abrahamic and otherwise with few exception) creates moral conflict in our current society and doesn't allow the space for it to be more encompassing of growing trends or realities. So the result is that people either create new sects with encompassing understand of their own religion or drop it all together into the ritualistic sphere ... others adhere strictly (usually causing conflict) and they should all co-exist.

The details of human life change over time; the nature of humanity hasn't. As I commented on a friend's blog:

Have we really changed? No.

You have left, O Hector, sorrow unutterable to your parents, and my own grief is greatest of all, for you did not stretch forth your arms and embrace me as you lay dying, nor say to me any words that might have lived with me in my tears night and day for evermore.” (Andromache, the wife of Hector, grieving over his death in The Iliad)

The Iliad is perhaps the world’s first novel-length story, with the text being written down - at the latest - by the 6th century BCE. I’ve always thought that if you can understand the grief of Andromache, then humanity hasn’t changed in at least the past 2500 years.

The Qur'an and Islam (indeed, one could argue all religions) are concerned about human nature. "Growing trends and realities" are irrelevant. Nothing has really changed except that people would rather follow their nafs by either creating sects or going into unbelief.


I leave you all with one question, would a person who leads a moral life and does his fair share of goodwill and is religious deserve to be incarcerated and tortured for an eternity in a place called hell because he picked the wrong god?

Allahu alim. Who are we to judge who goes to hell and who doesn't? Are you trying to set yourself up as judge of humanity? You've certainly made a start, setting up your own standards; the problem is, you don't know if your standards match His standards. Best I think to follow His, considering that yours is pure conjecture and He is all powerful.

7 comments:

Qwaider قويدر said...

I really wish, I had your patience.
Excellent job indeed. I hope more people will actually read this since it addresses a number of issues that might be considered "Shubha". What I love about your style here is -again- the calm, cool headed approach. I love that. I really wish I was as patient :)

JDsg said...

Part of this "calm, cool-headed approach" is due to experience. I used to be a regular on Beliefnet for about four-five years. I had started writing there just before 9-11 and, of course, when that event happened, people were extremely angry. Most of the Muslim writers (including myself) realized that the "calm, cool-headed approach" was necessary in order to help people ease over the emotional aspect while providing them accurate information about Islam and the Muslim world and countering the disinformation being spread by Islamophobes. So I've dealt with people like Nizar and BamBam before.

That doesn't mean that I can't get angry or upset myself; there were plenty of times when I've approached the keyboard where my fingers were shaking so much with anger that I couldn't type. In cases like those it's best to take your time. Walk away from responding for a day or two, to think about what you want to say and how you're going to say it. For example, yesterday, responding was impossible as I had something else to do that was an extremely high priority. Now while I didn't really give much thought then to how I could respond to BamBam the opportunity was there. And I've done that in the past. It helps.

And breaking down their arguments, addressing them point by point also helps as well. Granted, this way is much more time consuming and I don't bother with it much anymore unless I have to, but it's an effective method.

BTW, thanks for the link on your blog. I'll try to reciprocate, insha'allah.

bambam said...

thanks for the reply, and your time i guess...
For the first part the exegesis falls into the endless loop of predestination
"God does not cause anyone to go astray except one who, as He knows, will never attain to faith;"
That being said means that this created creature was predestined to be doomed ... that's what the explanation says, now you may believe otherwise but that's not the only occurrence of such statements in the quran.
For the second part, i was never talking about myself (i don't place myself in such high regard) i was just mentioning the fact that you knocked down nizar's opinions and thoughts to imitation rather than acknowledging that there are other reasons why people "stray" from your path.
AS for the changes in humanity, if you believe that we as a humanity didn't change in the past 2500 years then no argument on my behalf will change that. It simply is baffling to me to view human history as simply what a person feels and actually even that changes.

OK The last paragraph is what I think is uncalled for, I never claim to have more knowledge than whats available to me. Now you turning a blind eye to a knowledge that you have or not having knowledge of it in the first place is naive, especially as an apologetic.
God himself mentions it in several places (آل عمران:85, النساء:48) and "he" also says that everyone pays hell a visit regardless (مريم : 71) so don't try to sugar quote Islam like it doesn't condemn anyone to hell and "alah a3lam" as a blanket excuse for telling people what it really says because its rude to tell them that "i really think you are going to hell" atleast the Catholics have the decency to say that.

Again ... thanks for your time and reply. you are welcome to come visit my blog and see my thoughts and argue with them since this will be seen as an angry rant without any rationale when its just a glimpse into what stands behind it.
have a nice day

JDsg said...

That being said means that this created creature was predestined to be doomed ... that's what the explanation says, now you may believe otherwise but that's not the only occurrence of such statements in the quran.

Regardless of where one stands with respect to free will vs. predestination in Islam (and I believe we have limited free will), the fact is that we can never know in this life which is the correct position. From our perspectives as living human beings, we most naturally assume that we do in fact have free will, so why not live your life in a state of Islam if you have the chance?


For the second part, i was never talking about myself (i don't place myself in such high regard) i was just mentioning the fact that you knocked down nizar's opinions and thoughts to imitation rather than acknowledging that there are other reasons why people "stray" from your path.

I do believe that Nizar's opinions and thoughts are probably due to imitation although there can very well be other factors, unknown to me, at play. (Rebellion against his parents? He certainly wouldn't be the first.) Of course there are other reasons why people stray instead of merely imitation; I never said there weren't. That doesn't make them right, though.


AS for the changes in humanity, if you believe that we as a humanity didn't change in the past 2500 years then no argument on my behalf will change that. It simply is baffling to me to view human history as simply what a person feels and actually even that changes.

Tell me then what has fundamentally changed about human nature? I'm not talking about things like our level of increased knowledge about ourselves and the universe or our advances in technology and living standards. I'm saying, what has really changed about us? The biology remains the same. The fundamental emotions and cognitive processes remain the same. Mankind as a species has not evolved in any significant way in the past several thousand years, certainly not since the Qur'an was revealed. The problems we, humanity, face in our lives have remained the same over the centuries. How we treat each other. How we live our lives. Whether we should become intoxicated or not. Whom we have sex with. How we distribute our wealth at the end of our lives. These are the types of issues the Qur'an is trying to address and rectify. The answers then remain the answers today. Nothing fundamental has changed, only the details. That's not a good enough reason IMO to create sects or become a non-believer.


OK The last paragraph is what I think is uncalled for, I never claim to have more knowledge than whats available to me. Now you turning a blind eye to a knowledge that you have or not having knowledge of it in the first place is naive, especially as an apologetic.

I did not mean to insult, if that's what you thought, and if you did think that I do apologize. However, you are asking a question I expect you know very well can't and shouldn't be answered by Muslims. You set up four standards (leading a moral life, doing goodwill, being religious, choosing a god) by which you want me and others to make judgments on. It's not our place to decide who goes to hell or not.


God himself mentions it in several places (آل عمران:85, النساء:48) and "he" also says that everyone pays hell a visit regardless (مريم : 71) so don't try to sugar quote Islam like it doesn't condemn anyone to hell and "alah a3lam" as a blanket excuse for telling people what it really says because its rude to tell them that "i really think you are going to hell" at least the Catholics have the decency to say that.

I'm not trying to sugarcoat anything. I know people will go to hell if He decides, but it is not our place to say who would go to hell and who would go to heaven. I recently read a hadith (qudsi I believe) that essentially said, the person who condemns another to hell in fact will go to hell in place of the person he condemned, while the person condemned goes instead to heaven. Everyone who goes to heaven does in fact see hell on the way there, as you brought up in 19:71; however, that's not the same as actually being in hell. My fear in your asking your "one question" is that you may be causing harm to people who otherwise might not be harmed if they didn't answer your question. So the answer very well is "Allahu alim" because we don't know, and we can't know before the Day of Judgment, and it's not our place to make this type of judgment at all. Astaghfirullah!

JDsg said...

One last comment:

Again ... thanks for your time and reply. you are welcome to come visit my blog and see my thoughts and argue with them since this will be seen as an angry rant without any rationale when its just a glimpse into what stands behind it.

Likewise, thank you for your comments; I have in fact visited your blog, and will again in the future, insha'allah. Nor did I think you wrote an angry rant (and I hope you don't feel that I'm writing in anger either).


have a nice day

You too. :)

Anonymous said...

These arab muslims are something else, excellent response though =)

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