People often question the existence of a higher power. I believe that when one questions a supernatural existence, he should also question his own existence.
As an adolescent, I experience a roller coaster of emotions about life. My confusion about the world’s uncertainties takes a toll on my philosophical outlook. That is why I am glad that I at least have one sincere, clear belief: the existence of God. I believe that faith keeps a person grounded and connected to society and to the world.
With all due respect, the idea that we exist through mere evolution stands just too empty for me. So much had to happen by chance in order for us to exist. Our universe was created with a series of steps. To this day, no scientist in the world can give a proper explanation as to why. I believe that people try very hard to discover all the mysteries of life. Many theories attempt to explain how the universe was made, but I want to ask why it was made. Why did the universe just emerge from a state that was just matter and energy? Why is it that the Earth is at a certain distance from the sun, the exact distance needed for us to survive? Had it been a little closer, we would burn or a bit farther and we would freeze. Why is it that the Earth is the perfect size to sustain an atmosphere to support life? Had the Earth’s size been larger or smaller, it could not contain the correct combination of gases to support life. Can we call this luck? Or maybe a mere coincidence?
Lets talk about water, the most important need for survival. Ninety-seven percent of the Earth is covered with it. Whoever created this Earth sure knew the importance of it. But humans can’t drink salt water. Well for that, we have the natural process called evaporation, which separates salt from water.
Its so easy for us to believe in gossip. Sometimes we even try to believe in gossip that seems preposterous just because it makes life interesting. But then the idea of believing in God comes up, and all of a sudden questions emerge from far and wide.
God has given us so much proof for his existence, but some of us find that hard to believe; gossip however, comes easier.
I know God exists. I am reasoned to know that one day God will judge all the things that happened in my journey through life. He will always be a presence in my life. If there was no God, I would have nothing to live for and knowing that there is a greater being who is watching over me gives me a feeling of comfort. With so many uncertainties out there, I am grateful that I have at least one sincere clear belief. This belief motivates me and gives purpose and meaning to my life. I very much thank Him for His existence, because I know that’s the reason for mine.
Adamson, Marilyn. Six Reasons. Every Student, 2009. <http://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html>
Reflection on The Trouble with Islam Today a Novel by Irshad Manji
“La ilaaha illAllah Muhammadar rasoolallah,” translated from Arabic to, there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger. This is the fundamental belief in Islam. This is the verse that converts to Islam must recite and believe in, in order to enter into the folds of Islam. Even if a person sins their entire life, and recites this verse with their final dying breath and believes it in its entirety, then Allah will forgive them and grant them paradise. This is the extent of Allah’s mercy. Identifying myself as a Muslim, I consider Islam not as a religion, but as a way of life. I cannot say that I did not have some preconceived objections going into Ms. Manji’s lecture which arose from my faith and my thoughts on her book The Trouble with Islam Today, but I tried to hear her speak with an open mind and try to understand where her vision and point of view were coming from. Although I found myself disagreeing with many of the things Irshad Manji advocated, I realized that the essence of her talk was right; there is power in asking questions.
Irshad Manji is a very animated and comical figure. She captures the audience’s attention with her wit and humor. However I did not let this disguise her message. She started off by telling the audience a little about herself and her background. A lot of this was a repetition of what she wrote in her book. She said that she had grown up with the madrasa’s teachings, not Islam’s teachings, and this is what frustrated and drove her to find out what were Islam’s actual teachings. She said that literalism is a big problem in Islam today. Every religion has literalists, but Manji said that literalism is mainstream in Islam. She seemed to be a totally different person as she was speaking then what she seemed to be from her writing. In this lecture Manji seemed to be more concerned with pushing for reform through the power of questioning and challenging traditional beliefs, because this she claims, is the savior of the world.
In her lecture, Manji addressed her sexuality. She said that out of everything she writes or talks about, her sexuality is what gets bashed the most. She justified her homosexuality by saying that it is between God and her. If God made her a lesbian than what sense does it make to say that it is wrong? Manji agrees that the Quran states that homosexuality is wrong. However, she finds her justification in her belief that the Quran is full of “ambiguities” and essential “contradictions,” and that this is one of them. She even says, “There is a chance of me being wrong on the Day of Judgment, and if this is the case then I can hold on to the hope that my Lord will forgive me.” I completely agree with her on this point. Allah is all-merciful and we as humans are not perfect, so all we can do is our best and hope for Allah’s forgiveness in our shortcomings and mistakes. A person’s deeds are between them and their Lord. However I found myself at disagreement with her belief that the Quran is full of ambiguities and contradictions. If you just look at the verses for what they are for, then you might think this, and that makes Irshad the literalist. The Quran may seem contradictory to the common or unlearned reader, but scholars who have devoted their entire lives to studying this holy text will tell you that the meaning behind most of it lines lies in the context. People are always quick on picking out verses from the Quran that degrade women, but they do not see that Islam gives women the most rights, and many of the rulings that seem oppressing are actually meant to protect the dignity of women. A lot of what people call Islam is actually cultural influences and traditions. This is why we need the scholars to guide us with their knowledge, because if left to our own interpretations, we would be lost in a stream of seeming “contradictions”.
Furthermore, Manji has the wrong interpretation of the concept of ijtihad. Historically, it is the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the Quran and the Sunnah, which are the actions of Prophet Muhammad. A person who applied ijtihad was called a mujtahid, and had to be a scholar of Islamic law, entailing extensive knowledge of religion. The opposite of ijtihad is imitation. Irshad calls for the universalizing of ijtihad instead of imitation, which is what she believes structuralized religion is. I believe that her vision is a good one. I agree that everyone should think more and learn to challenge their beliefs, and by doing so reaffirm their faith, but Manji’s interpretation of ijtihad is wrong. Ijtihad was only used for legal decisions and was done only by the most dedicated and educated scholars. If everyone begins to practice this concept of ijtihad, then in essence everyone will have their own religion. Fundamental beliefs will be torn apart, and everyone’s different interpretations will lead them down a different path. That which one person considers right may be wrong to someone else, and soon it will become an act of fitting a religion for your personal lifestyle. My question for Irshad is that if everyone practices ijtihad, then what will become of identity? What will you call yourself? If my Islam is different than my brother’s Islam, then how can we both call ourselves Muslims? In fact this holds true for any religion. People identify with a particular religion because they agree with the beliefs of that faith. With ijtihad that won’t be possible because everyone’s beliefs will be conflicting and there will be no unity.
Indisputably, I found my beliefs at odds with many if not most of those carried by Ms. Manji. I felt that by reading her book, many of our non-Muslim classmates who had no other significant prior knowledge about Islam, got a tainted and misrepresented presentation of the Muslim faith. Many times I wanted to speak out and say that she is wrong, but I realized that her right to express her beliefs was as good as my right to disagree. Herein lies the beauty of what I appreciated most about Irshad Manji’s lecture: even though I disagreed with her views, the concept of questioning and challenging, which is what she was doing to my beliefs during her lecture, is what makes a person reaffirm their faith and purify their beliefs. By questioning myself and my beliefs and by contrasting them to other interpretations, I feel more in-tune with myself and closer to God. For this I thank Ms. Manji.
By: Charmi Patel
It was a time of remembrance. A time to unite. A time to learn. This latest event by Thaakat was by far the most rewarding. Who knew our generation had creativity, drive, and culture? The intimate night started off once again at Inferno Hookah Lounge in Schaumburg. It seems we have true believers from Inferno! This night was meant to be dedicated to the Mumbai attacks. It started off with a poetry slam. Some came prepared, while others thought they would sit out in the sidelines. It was quite a surprise to see how many participated. It was almost like an epidemic. Those who came prepared recited their pieces and those unprepared performed on the spot! Talk about creative! Then the main event started. Everyone began discussing the recent attacks on Mumbai. Not only that, but many were informed for the first time of what was ACTUALLY going on. It seems that news often get mistranslated from Hindi/Urdu to English. We were truly out of the loop on this one. It was a heated conversation indeed. Topics of religion and culture caused tension that was just as easily put to rest. Everyone in that room was aware of the differences in people and what needs to be done to be united as one. As often as we hear our elders say we don’t understand our culture, I’ve never been more proud to be the youth we are. We know and understand our culture; we just don’t get the chance to show it too often. On that note, talk to your kids; listen to your kids; discuss with your kids. Take an opportunity to pass on the knowledge that we are so afraid of losing along the way.
By: Javeria Azhar
My arguments with my brother somehow always seems to boil down to the Adam and Eve story. To give a little background: my brother (who is more like a friend than an older brother) doesn’t like to admit when he is wrong, especially when the person whose right is his younger sister! Hmm, so what does that really have to do with Adam and Eve? Well, my brother enjoys holding up the argument, no matter what the situation, that women tend to be wrong. He justifies this by saying,” Look at what happened to Adam?” So let’s familiarize ourselves with the Adam and Eve story for the hundredth time!
Basically, Eve convinced Adam to eat the “forbidden” fruit and as punishment, the two of them were sent down to earth. That’s basically how we tend to summarize the Adam and Eve story. But it makes us wonder, why would Eve convince Adam to disobey God? Uh, women are mischievous? Hmm…let us back track now and look at all the characters in the story of Adam and Eve, one of which is Satan. To get a better understanding of the whole story, this would help people like my brother understand that women are not embedded with mischievous characteristics. As we all know, God created Adam and all the Angels-and Satan was one of the Angels. God then ordered them to bow down to Adam. Satan refused to bow down and as a punishment, was banished from heaven. As an action of revenge, Satan vowed to lead astray God’s beloved Adam. Now Satan chose Eve as his outlet to lead Adam astray and convinced her in trying the “forbidden” fruit. Why Eve? Because she is a woman? No! The correct answer is because this was Satan’s only way of taking revenge on God in the form of Adam’s disobedience through Eve. He wanted to prove to God that Adam, the one who all the Angels bowed down to, is no better than him (Satan). In other words, Adam would know better than listening to Satan; Satan and Adam had a history and were more like enemies! On the other hand, Eve was an easier target and a better candidate since Eve and Satan didn’t have a history! So brother, women are not easily led astray nor are we weak and mischievous. We can rationalize this by saying that had Satan chosen Adam it would not have worked. Adam and Satan were enemies, and who would listen to one’s own enemy? I feel sorry for Eve; but had the two of them not tried the “forbidden” fruit, we would not be here today!
By: Aemen Hussain
Politics is a force that somehow manages to accentuate the differences among people; and if given the chance, even create new ones. The latin root of this word comes from “poli” which means many and “tics” which means blood-sucking creatures. If the derivation of the word is not enough to demonstrate how evil this word is, then people could reference any political example in the history of time. In the current election, was split into two main parties, the democrats and the republicans. Theoretically, these two parties have opposing views on every aspect of ruling a country. But what happens when over-laps occur? It is more realistic that the presidential candidates usually just cater to their supporters with some sweet-talk rather than expressing how they really feel about certain issues. If the opposing candidate has picked one stance on a subject, the other candidate must pick the stance which represents the other side of the spectrum, or atleast a small detail of it. After all, what is the point in having two candidates with the exact same views? How would people decide which candidate is the one that is fit to rule a country if both candidates have mutual feelings about every issue presented to them? For example, one party has decided to pull troops out of Iraq as soon as possible while the other party wants to keep them there until Iraqis “stable.” One candidate wants to raise taxes in hopes of fixing our damaged economy, while the other wants to keep them low. Even though these views seem obviously different, one issue that overlaps in discreet manner is that regarding energy policy. Both candidates have promoted green jobs that could be created through alternative energy, decreasing dependency on imported oil, clean-coal technology, offshore drilling. When campaigning though, the candidates emphasize the two small differences in their views on the policy regarding energy; one side focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency, while the other pushes the importance of fossil fuel supplies and the construction of more nuclear power plants. These politicians use these minor differences to get people to sway from one side to the other, a small game many politicians seem to play. By making the differences which seem like a big deal, they can win or lose people to their opponent.
A particular political rivalry that affects Muslims much more closely is that which occured about the year 632 (CE). Once in a while, the idea of “one united Ummah” is thrown around lightly, but not many people have made a true effort to emphasize how important this idea truly is to the religion of Islam. The political debate occurred when Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and the Muslims of that time had to decide who would take the responsibility of spreading the message of Islam to all other believers. Some argued that the Prophet had chosen Ali while others argued that Ali was not yet ready to take this role; thus the majority of the Ummah elected Abu Bakr into this role. Majority followed Abu Bakr, then believed Umar and Uthman to be the next two caliphs, and Ali was the fourth; while Shi’as followed Ali all along. Whether Ali or Abu Bakr should have been the first caliph is an argument that is being revived century after century, but what does not seem to make sense is how these two branches began to differ in practice. Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) preached the same type of religion to all; what he demonstrated in front of Ali was no different from what he demonstrated in front of Abu Bakr. Why then, do some rituals vary in these two sects of the same religion and when did these variations come about? It makes no sense that the same Islam, practiced by the same people, taught by the same founder, has changed in practice in so many ways. Perhaps somewhere along the line certain rituals, such as the way Salah is offered, were changed on purpose in order to decipher one sect more prominently from the other, the way Obama and McCain changed their energy policies.
Would something that has torn apart the religion of peace not be deemed evil? The important point to know is that ummah by definition, means a community of muslim believers, where all Muslims are considered fully equal members of this community. It is sinful how we discriminate against one another and hurt each other when we all come from the same background. Times like this, when our religion and all of its followers are under attack, is the best time for all the followers of Allah to come together and become one. Before one Muslims attacks another Muslim’s faith keep in mind the words of the Quran, the book of Islam:
”And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not
divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for ye were
enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye
were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs
clear to you: That ye may be guided. Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all
that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain
felicity. Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after
receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty” (3: 103-105)