The Big Questions, Part I – In The Beginning
At some point in our lives, everybody asks the big questions: “Who made us,” and “Why are we here?”
So who did make us? Most of us have been brought up more on science than religion, and to believe in the Big Bang and evolution more than God. But which makes more sense? And is there any reason why the theories of science and creationism cannot coexist?
The Big Bang may explain the origin of the universe, but it doesn’t explain the origin of the primordial dust cloud. This dust cloud (which, according to the theory, drew together, compacted and then exploded) had to come from somewhere. After all, it contained enough matter to form not just our galaxy, but the billion other galaxies in the known universe. So where did that come form? Who, or what, created the primordial dust cloud?
Similarly, evolution may explain the fossil record, but it falls far short of explaining the quintessential essence of human life—the soul. We all have one. We feel its presence, we speak of its existence and at times pray for its salvation. But only the religious can explain where it came from. The theory of natural selection can explain many of the material aspects of living things, but it fails to explain the human soul.
Furthermore, anyone who studies the complexities of life and the universe cannot help but witness the signature of the Creator. Whether or not people recognize these signs is another matter—as the old saying goes, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. (Get it? Denial, spelled “de Nile” … the river Ni … oh, never mind.) The point is that if we see a painting, we know there is a painter. If we see a sculpture, we know there’s a sculptor; a pot, a potter. So when we view creation, shouldn’t we know there’s a Creator?
The concept that the universe exploded and then developed in balanced perfection through random events and natural selection is little different from the proposal that, by dropping bombs into a junkyard, sooner or later one of them will blow everything together into a perfect Mercedes.
If there is one thing we know for certain, it is that without a controlling influence, all systems degenerate into chaos. The theories of the Big Bang and evolution propose the exact opposite, however—that chaos fostered perfection. Would it not be more reasonable to conclude that the Big Bang and evolution were controlled events? Controlled, that is, by the Creator?
The Bedouin of Arabia tell the tale of a nomad finding an exquisite palace at an oasis in the middle of an otherwise barren desert. When he asks how it was built, the owner tells him it was formed by the forces of nature. The wind shaped the rocks and blew them to the edge of this oasis, and then tumbled them together into the shape of the palace. Then it blew sand and rain into the cracks to cement them together. Next, it blew strands of sheep’s wool together into rugs and tapestries, stray wood together into furniture, doors, windowsills and trim, and positioned them in the palace at just the right locations.
Lightning strikes melted sand into sheets of glass and blasted them into the window- frames, and smelted black sand into steel and shaped it into the fence and gate with perfect alignment and symmetry. The process took billions of years and only happened at this one place on earth—purely through coincidence.
When we finish rolling our eyes, we get the point. Obviously, the palace was built by design, not by happenstance. To what (or more to the point, to Whom), then, should we attribute the origin of items of infinitely greater complexity, such as our universe and ourselves?
Another argument to dismiss the concept of Creationism focuses upon what people perceive to be the imperfections of creation. These are the “How can there be a God if such-and-such happened?” arguments. The issue under discussion could be anything from a natural disaster to birth defects, from genocide to grandma’s cancer. That’s not the point. The point is that denying God based upon what we perceive to be injustices of life presumes that a divine being would not have designed our lives to be anything other than perfect, and would have established justice on Earth.
Hmm … is there no other option?
We can just as easily propose that God did not design life on Earth to be paradise, but rather a test, the punishment or rewards of which are to be had in the next life, which is where God establishes His ultimate justice. In support of this concept we can well ask who suffered more injustices in their worldly lives than God’s favorites, which is to say the prophets? And who do we expect to occupy the highest stations in paradise, if not those who maintain true faith in the face of worldly adversity? So suffering in this worldly life does not necessarily translate into God’s disfavor, and a blissful worldly life does not necessarily translate into beatitude in the hereafter.
I would hope that, by this line of reasoning, we can agree upon the answer to the first “big question.” Who made us? Can we agree that if we are creation, God is the Creator?
If we can’t agree on this point, there probably isn’t much point in continuing. However, for those who do agree, let’s move on to “big question” number two—why are we here? What, in other words, is the purpose of life?
The Big Questions, Part II—The Purpose of Life
The first of the two big questions in life is, “Who made us?” We addressed that question in the previous article and (hopefully) settled upon “God” as the answer. As we are creation, God is the Creator.
Now, let us turn to the second “big question,” which is, “Why are we here?”
Well, why are we here? To amass fame and fortune? To make music and babies? To be the richest man or woman in the graveyard for, as we are jokingly told, “He who dies with the most toys wins?”
No, there must be more to life than that, so let’s think about this. To begin with, look around you. Unless you live in a cave, you are surrounded by things we humans have made with our own hands. Now, why did we make those things? The answer, of course, is that we make things to perform some specific function for us. In short, we make things to serve us. So by extension, why did God make us, if not to serve Him?
If we acknowledge our Creator, and that He created humankind to serve Him, the next question is, “How? How do we serve Him?” No doubt, this question is best answered by the One who made us. If He created us to serve Him, then He expects us to function in a particular manner, if we are to achieve our purpose. But how can we know what that manner is? How can we know what God expects from us?
Well, consider this: God gave us light, by which we can find our way. Even at night, we have the moon for light and the stars for navigation. God gave other animals guidance systems best suited for their conditions and needs. Migrating birds can navigate, even on overcast days, by how light is polarized as it passes through the clouds. Whales migrate by “reading” the Earth’s magnetic fields. Salmon return from the open ocean to spawn at the exact spot of their birth by smell, if that can be imagined. Fish sense distant movements through pressure receptors that line their bodies. Bats and blind river dolphins “see” by sonar. Certain marine organisms (the electric eel being a high-voltage example) generate and “read” electric fields, allowing them to “see” in muddy waters, or in the blackness of ocean depths. Insects communicate by pheromones. Plants sense sunlight and grow towards it (phototrophism); their roots sense gravity and grow into the earth (geotrophism). In short, God has gifted every element of His creation with guidance. Can we seriously believe he would not give us guidance on the one most important aspect of our existence, namely our raison d’etre—our reason for being? That he would not give us the tools by which to achieve salvation?
And would this guidance not be . . . revelation?
Think of it this way: Every product has specifications and rules. For more complex products, whose specifications and rules are not intuitive, we rely upon owner’s manuals. These manuals are written by the one who knows the product best, which is to say the manufacturer. A typical owner’s manual begins with warnings about improper use and the
hazardous consequences thereof, moves on to a description of how to use the product properly and the benefits to be gained thereby, and provides product specifications and a troubleshooting guide whereby we can correct product malfunctions.
Now, how is that different from revelation?
Revelation tells us what to do, what not to do and why, tells us what God expects of us, and shows us how to correct our deficiencies. Revelation is the ultimate user’s manual, provided as guidance to the one who will use us—ourselves.
In the world we know, products that meet or exceed specifications are considered successes whereas those that don’t are … hmm … let’s think about this. Any product that fails to meet factory specifications is either repaired or, if hopeless, recycled. In other words, destroyed. Ouch. Suddenly this discussion turns scary-serious. Because in this discussion, we are the product—the product of creation.
But let’s pause for a moment and consider how we interact with the various items that fill our lives. As long as they do what we want, we’re happy with them. But when they fail us, we get rid of them. Some are returned to the store, some donated to charity, but eventually they all end up in the garbage, which gets … buried or burned. Similarly, an underperforming employee gets … fired. Now, stop for a minute and think about that word. Where did that euphemism for the punishment due to an underperformer come from? Hmm … the person who believes the lessons of this life translate into lessons about religion could have a field day with this.
But that doesn’t mean these analogies are invalid. Just the opposite, we should remember that both Old and New Testaments are filled with analogies, and Jesus Christ taught using parables.
So perhaps we had better take this seriously.
No, I stand corrected. Most definitely we should take this seriously. Nobody ever considered the difference between heavenly delights and the tortures of hellfire a laughing matter.
Source : http://leveltruth.com/?p=67
The Big Questions, Part III—The Need for Revelation
In the previous two parts of this series, we answered the two “big questions.” Who made us? God. Why are we here? To serve and worship Him. A third question naturally arose: “If our Creator made us to serve and worship Him, how do we do that?” In the previous article I suggested that the only way we can serve our Creator is through obeying His mandates, as conveyed through revelation.
But many people would question my assertion: Why does mankind need revelation? Isn’t it enough just to be good? Isn’t it enough for each of us to worship God in our own way?
Regarding the need for revelation, I would make the following points: In the first article of this series I pointed out that life is full of injustices, but our Creator is fair and just and He establishes justice not in this life, but in the afterlife. However, justice cannot be established without four things—a court (i.e., the Day of Judgment); a judge (i.e., the Creator); witnesses (i.e., men and women, angels, elements of creation); and a book of laws upon which to judge (i.e., revelation). Now, how can our Creator establish justice if He did not hold humankind to certain laws during their livetimes? It’s not possible. In that scenario, instead of justice, God would be dealing out injustice, for He would be punishing people for transgressions they had no way of knowing were crimes.
Why else do we need revelation? To begin with, without guidance mankind cannot even agree on social and economic issues, politics, laws, etc. So how can we ever agree on God? Secondly, nobody writes the user manual better than the one who made the product. God is the Creator, we are creation, and nobody knows the overall scheme of creation better than the Creator. Are employees allowed to design their own job descriptions, duties and compensation packages as they see fit? Are we citizens allowed to write our own laws? No? Well then, why should we be allowed to write our own religions? If history has taught us anything, it is the tragedies that result when mankind follows its caprice. How many who have claimed to banner of free thought have designed religions that committed themselves and their followers to nightmares on Earth and damnation in the hereafter?
So why isn’t it enough just to be good? And why isn’t it enough for each of us to worship God in our own way? To begin with, peoples’ definitions of “good” differ. For some it is high morals and clean living, for others it is madness and mayhem. Similarly, concepts of how to serve and worship our Creator differ as well. More importantly and to the point, nobody can walk into a store or a restaurant and pay with a different currency than the merchant accepts. So it is with religion. If people want God to accept their servitude and worship, they have to pay in the currency God demands. And that currency is obedience to His revelation.
Imagine raising children in a home in which you have established “house rules.” Then, one day, one of your children tells you he or she has changed the rules, and is going to do things differently. How would you respond? More than likely, with the words, “You can take your new rules and go to Hell!” Well, think about it. We are
God’s creation, living in His universe under His rules, and “go to Hell” is very likely what God will say to any who presume to override His laws with their own.
Sincerity becomes an issue at this point. We should recognize that all pleasure is a gift from our Creator, and deserving of thanks. If given a gift, who uses the gift before giving thanks? And yet, many of us enjoy God’s gifts for a lifetime and never give thanks. Or give it late. The English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, spoke of the irony of the distressed human appeal in The Cry of the Human:
And lips say “God be pitiful,” Who ne’er said, “God be praised.”
Should we not show good manners and thank our Creator for His gifts now, and subsequently for the rest of our lives? Don’t we owe Him that?
You answered “Yes.” You must have. Nobody will have read this far without being in agreement, but here’s the problem: Many of you answered “Yes,” knowing full well that your heart and mind does not wholly agree with the religions of your exposure. You agree we were created by a Creator. You struggle to understand Him. And you yearn to serve and worship Him in the manner He prescribes. But you don’t know how, and you don’t know where to look for the answers. And that, unfortunately, is not a subject that can be answered in an article. Unfortunately, that has to be addressed in a book, or maybe even in a series of books.
The good news is that I have written these books. I invite you to start with The Eighth Scroll. If you’ve liked what I’ve written here, you’ll love what I’ve written there.
Source : http://leveltruth.com/?p=72
“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” –old proverb
True belief has a reward in the hereafter. Disbelief does too, buuuut … you don’t want it. Such has been the message of all the prophets—each and every one of them.
How can we justify an afterlife? Well, where else can the injustices of this life be rectified, if not in an afterlife? What we perceive to be injustices in this worldly life would be a poor reflection upon God’s sense of fairness, if these “injustices” aren’t offset by appropriate rewards and punishments in the hereafter. Some of the worst of the worst enjoy some of the most luxurious lives. Meanwhile, some of the best of the best suffer terribly. For example, which prophet had an easy time of it? Which prophets lived pampered lives of splendor to match that of a mafia boss, drug lord or tyrannical ruler, either of our time or of theirs? If we are to trust in the mercy and justice of our Creator we cannot believe He restricts the rewards of piety and the punishments of transgression to this worldly life, for the inequities of life are clear.
So there will be a Day of Judgement, we’ll all be there, and it will be a bad time to start thinking about changing our lives for the better. Because … now stay with me here … because our lives will be, in a word, over. It’ll be too late. The record of our deeds will be done. And there’s no going back.
Mankind will be sorted according to beliefs and deeds. The faithful will be vindicated, the disbelievers condemned, the transgressors (if not forgiven) punished according to the severity of their sins.
Jews declare paradise to be a birthright of the “chosen people,” Christians claim “not to be perfect, just forgiven,” and Muslims believe that all who die in submission to the Creator are eligible for redemption. Those who followed the revelation and prophet of their time will be successful, whereas those who forsook the revelation and prophet of their day did so to the compromise of their souls.
According to Islam, the believing Jews were upon the truth right up until they rejected the prophets who followed (i.e., John the Baptist and Jesus Christ), their teachings and, in the case of Jesus, the revelation he conveyed. In this manner, the Jews lived in submission to God not on His terms, but on their terms. When God sent prophets or revelation they didn’t like, they chose to remain upon the religion of their forefathers rather than upon the religion of God. In this manner, they fell into disobedience and disbelief.
Similarly, Jesus’ followers were upon the truth, right up until they rejected the final prophet (i.e., Muhammad). Again, Jesus’ followers submitted to God, but only on their terms. And that’s not good enough. When called upon to honor the final revelation (i.e., the Holy Quran) and the prophet who conveyed it (i.e., Muhammad), they rejected and
fell into the same disobedience and disbelief as their Jewish cousins.
According to Muslims, the religion of truth has always been Islam (i.e., submission to the will of God), for that is what all prophets taught. However, the refinement of Islam is to be found in the final revelation and in the teachings of the final prophet. In revealing the final revelation, God abrogated all preceding religions and revelation. Hence, the only group that submits to God’s religion in the present day is the Muslims. Those who know of Islam, and reject, will be condemned. Those who know of Islam and willfully duck the responsibility of studying the religion will likewise be condemned. However, those who die neither knowing of Islam nor willfully avoiding investigation thereof will be tested on the Day of Judgement, to prove what they would have done, had they known. And on that basis, God will judge them.
In this manner, if it can be imagined that there are Jews who died without having known of the prophets who followed, and Christians who died ignorant of Muhammad and the Holy Quran, they are not to be condemned. Rather, God will judge them according to their submission to the revelation to which they had been exposed during their lifetimes, and test their faith and obedience. So, too, with those who die ignorant of revelation as a whole. Hence, the ignorant who die sincerely seeking the religion of truth have hope for salvation, whereas the insincere have no such hope, even if educated.
Source : http://leveltruth.com/?p=75
Let’s talk frankly. Almost never do non-Muslims study Islam until they have first exhausted the religions of their exposure. Only after they have grown dissatisfied with the religions familiar to them, meaning Judaism, Christianity and all the fashionable “-isms”—Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism (and, as my young daughter once added, “tourism”)—do they consider Islam.
Perhaps other religions do not answer the big questions of life, such as “Who made us?” and “Why are we here?” Perhaps other religions do not reconcile the injustices of life with a fair and just Creator. Perhaps we find hypocrisy in the clergy, untenable tenets of faith in the canon, or corruption in the scripture. Whatever the reason, we perceive shortcomings in the religions of our exposure, and look elsewhere. And the ultimate “elsewhere” is Islam.
Now, Muslims would not like to hear me say that Islam is the “ultimate elsewhere.” But it is. Despite the fact that Muslims comprise one-fourth to one-fifth of the world’s population, non-Muslim media smears Islam with such horrible slanders that few non- Muslims view the religion in a positive light. Hence, it is normally the last religion seekers investigate.
Another problem is that by the time non-Muslims examine Islam, other religions have typically heightened their skepticism: If every “God-given” scripture we have ever seen is corrupt, how can the Islamic scripture be different? If charlatans have manipulated religions to suit their desires, how can we imagine the same not to have happened with Islam?
The answer can be given in a few lines, but takes books to explain. The short answer is this: There is a God. He is fair and just, and He wants us to achieve the reward of paradise. However, God has placed us in this worldly life as a test, to weed out the worthy from the unworthy. And we will be lost if left to our own devices. Why? Because we don’t know what He wants from us. We can’t navigate the twists and turns of this life without His guidance, and hence, He has given us guidance in the form of revelation.
Sure, previous religions have been corrupted, and that is why we have a chain of revelation. Ask yourself: why would God send another revelation if the preceding scriptures were still pure? Only if preceding scriptures were corrupted would God need to send another revelation, to keep mankind on the straight path of His design.
So we should expect preceding scriptures to be corrupted, and we should expect the final revelation to be pure and unadulterated. If impure, it too is due to be replaced, for we cannot imagine a loving God leaving us astray. What we can imagine is God giving us a scripture, and men corrupting it; God giving us another scripture, and men corrupting it again … and again, and again. Until God sends a final revelation He promises to preserve until the end of time.
Muslims consider this final revelation to be the Holy Qur’an. You consider it … worth looking into. So let us return to the title of this article: Why Islam? Why should we believe that Islam is the religion of truth, the religion that possesses the pure and final revelation?
Oh, just trust me.
Now, how many times have you heard that line? A famous comedian used to joke that people of different cities cuss one another out in different ways. In Chicago, they cuss a person out this way, in Los Angeles they cuss a person out that way, but in New York they just say, “Trust me.”
So don’t trust me—trust our Creator. Read the Qur’an; read books and study this website. But whatever you do, get started, take it seriously, and pray for our Creator to guide you.
Your life may not depend on it, but your soul most definitely does.
Source : http://leveltruth.com/?p=79