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THE RELIGION OF AL-ISLAM

Sister Shariffa Carlo

Since our creation, humans have pondered the existential mysteries of life. The same questions have plagued us throughout the centuries, “From where did I come? Why am I here? What is expected of me? Where do I go from here? and, Is this all there is?” Some of us spend a lifetime pursuing the answers to these questions, others of us seem to be content to accept the answers provided by our individual cultures and religions, and some of us even consciously decide to ignore the basic instinct to find the answers.

Muslims have a strong tradition of seeking knowledge, and the most fundamental knowledge is the knowledge which will lead us to an answer to these questions.

We know that the only way to truly arrive at the truth is to objectively analyze all the available evidences, to formulate a thesis, to research thoroughly - carefully weighing each piece of evidence for its reliability - and to finally reach our conclusion. In this vein, the search to answer the existential dilemmas that plague us, should receive no less scrutiny than the search for the perfect literary theory, the fastest computer chip, or the latest scientific breakthrough. In actuality, it is more important and essential to us as humans than any research we can ever conduct.

Islam, like all religions, has answers to these questions, but unlike other religions, these answers satisfy not only the heart, and spirit but the mind as well, and this is the key to providing the pure satisfaction that the truth has finally been reached.

From where did I come?
As a result of analyzing the available evidences, the Muslim knows that there is a Creator; that we were created by an Omnipotent, Loving God. After all, what rational being can see the glory and wonder of the world around him and conclude that this was a providential accident. Imagine a student came to his professor - showed her a chair and said, “This was created by the wind blowing over a tree; after centuries of friction from various directions, this object emerged as the final product.” The professor would probably be amused, but never convinced. In the same way, the purely scientific theories fail to fully explain how this world could have such perfection in the interaction of ecosystems, biological systems, physiological systems, geological systems, and astrological systems. All these systems are interdependent. Yet, there exists no theory which does not leave an unknown element — primarily the originating force.

Who is this Creator?
Knowing that, there is a Creator, is not enough. We need to know whom this Creator is. The best way to know this is to define the necessary attributes of a creator. Since we recognize our abilities as humans are limited - we are incapable of initiating creation from a vacuum - we know the Creator cannot be a human. This essential bit of fact helps us to discount many religious theories based on this premise. Then, we know that anything lesser than a human, like an animal which has lesser intellect or nature which has no intellect, cannot be creators. After all, if man with his superior mind cannot accomplish the task, it would be impossible for any being with less. Also, we know that this creator would leave us evidences leading to knowing Him. These evidences would prove to us on many levels - intellectually, scientifically, emotionally, and logically that they are the truth. The Quraan, sent to the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), provides this evidence. So when the logical reasonable individual objectively analyzes it, he becomes the Muslim who thereby concludes that there is an All-Knowing, All- Powerful Creator, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).

Why am I here?
Once the Muslim accepts that He was Created by the One True God, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), he tackles the next question, “Why am I here?” What is the purpose for which I was created? The Quraan answers that our purpose in this life is to worship Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has created this place as a testing ground for us, to see if we are worthy of the ultimate prize, Jannah (Paradise). But how does the sound logical mind reach this conclusion? Easy. We look around at the circumstances of our lives. Careful examination shows that every event in our life has a direct or indirect correlation to other events. For instance, some event in our past prepared us to handle a crisis of today. Our lives are set up like a test with interconnections that both strengthen us and prepare us for the next level. It is obvious that we are being slowly smelted and purified so that we can cultivate the necessary strength to meet the final challenges.

What is expected of me?
Once the Muslim has reached this understanding, it is necessary to know what is expected of him in terms of this worship. To accomplish this, he refers to the sources sent by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa); for no Merciful Creator would leave His creation without guidance. This guidance comes in the shape of prophets sent throughout time to show mankind the path to Jannah. These prophets, like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus (peace and blessings be upon them all) and Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) all came with the same message: Worship God alone - do not attribute partners with Him.” Also, they gave us practical commands to help us to protect our existence on this earth. Mostly, the commands which were conveyed by our beloved prophets were and are behavior values which help us to live with peace and contentment in this life and to prepare us for the next,. matters such as avoiding harmful substances and behaviors and maximizing behavior patterns which benefit us both as individuals and as members of society in general.

Where do I go from here?
Once we have fulfilled our term on this earth, what are we to expect. The Muslim, at this point reaches the understanding that he has done all that he can to please his Creator, and he expects a reward for this action. The reward is Jannah. He knows that this is true just as the researcher knows that even though he cannot see beyond a certain point in the universe, more space exists. The evidence is conclusively proven by circumstance. We know that there is a Creator, that this creator cannot be but Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), that He has sent us prophets and has promised us Jannah as a reward for our well spent lives. We also know that just as in this life, there is punishment for evil, in the next life there will also be punishment for disobedience. For we have already seen that this life is merely a test, and like all tests, it is merely preparatory.

Is this all there is?
Therefore, the conclusion is that this is not all there is, because it is inconceivable that this limited created world is our only domain. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) promises everlasting life, peace, serenity, love, contentment and pleasure to those who worship and obey Him. He promises reward for positive action. Further, He promises punishment for those who disobey and persist in their evil actions. To prepare us to accept this premise, He creates for us a test which emphasizes these values. For instance, we know if an individual works hard and studies, he will get a good job and live more comfortably than one who does not. This is the rule. In general, it applies. At the very least, he will have the benefit of the knowledge itself. A positive action produces a positive reward. We also know that if an individual commits an evil act, he will most likely be punished, if not by society, then by his own self, because if guilt does not take its toll, his resulting evil character will lead to nothing but folly. Therefore, an evil action produces an evil effect.

Conclusion:
There is no way to definitively prove the existence of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). One cannot point to Him and say, “Look at Him. There He is.” But we can look to His works, His creation, and know that there cannot be a creation without a creator. We do not look to the chair and say it created itself. We know that some being had to create it, nor should we look to the miracle of the human respiratory system and say it created itself. To know who this Creator is, we have to seek out the clues He provided us. We have to define what we consider to be a God and trace him within this framework. As Muslims, we should try to study the Quraan under any of the pious and learned Ulamaa, to analyze it and compare it to the other sources of existential wisdom, and we should beg Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) to lead us to the Truth in any case.  

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