Describing Sight to the Blind

A blind man once asked a friend to describe sight to him. Endowed with the four remaining senses, he asked for a parallel by which he could understand what sight is like.

“Please explain it to me, is sight like touching? Is it soft or hard, rough or smooth? Please explain,” the blind man asked.

Not sure what to say, the friend responded, “No, its something else. Its not at all feeling something”

“Then does it smell or taste sweet”, the blind man asked, “Or bitter? Maybe its bland?”

“No, you cannot describe it like that either. Its something completely unique”

Growing frustrated, the blind man asked, “Then what does it sound like? Is it deep or hitched? Is it loud or quiet?”

Sending the frustration, the friend did not know how else to reply. “It has no sound. Its something completely different.”

“So, this ‘vision’ you speak of has no sound, texture, smell or taste. Its comparable to none of the known senses. How do I know you are not just making it up? I have no reason to believe that it is real, and every reason to believe that you are delusional with this so-called ‘vision’.”

This is the state of the atheist. He does not experience what the believers experience. But rather than humble himself to accept the possibility that there is a reality in the perceptions of the believers, he arrogantly denies their experiences as mere delusion. I feel the following verses of the Qur’an are most apt.

  1. Indeed, those who disbelieve – it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them – they will not believe.
  2. Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment.
  3. And of the people are some who say, “We believe in Allah and the Last Day,” but they are not believers.
  4. They [think to] deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive [it] not.
  5. In their hearts is disease, so Allah has increased their disease; and for them is a painful punishment because they [habitually] used to lie.
  6. And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption on the earth,” they say, “We are but reformers.”
  7. Unquestionably, it is they who are the corrupters, but they perceive [it] not.
  8. And when it is said to them, “Believe as the people have believed,” they say, “Should we believe as the foolish have believed?” Unquestionably, it is they who are the foolish, but they know [it] not.
  9. And when they meet those who believe, they say, “We believe”; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, “Indeed, we are with you; we were only mockers.”
  10. [But] Allah mocks them and prolongs them in their transgression [while] they wander blindly.
  11. Those are the ones who have purchased error [in exchange] for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided.
  12. Their example is that of one who kindled a fire, but when it illuminated what was around him, Allah took away their light and left them in darkness [so] they could not see.
  13. Deaf, dumb and blind – so they will not return [to the right path].

– Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verses 6-18

Your thoughts?

Examining my Disbelief

Often, believers in God or a religion reach a state where they begin to develop doubts in what they previously held. This is a frequent occurrence and not unique to any particular cult or creed. As is the trend in our modern times, believers dwell on their doubts and this eventually leads to disbelief, either in the form of apathy or atheism. I can honestly say that I have been through the early stages of a similar, painful experience where I have, and continue to, doubt my faith. But, few who go through this ponder over the legitimacy of their own disbelief or its trigger. What caused their disbelief now, whereas they previously disbelief? This question is seldom asked. Instead, they rationalize their doubts through distractive arguments, which serve merely to back-fill their new positions, instead of arriving at them independently.

In this entry, I hope to self-analyze my own doubts, expose its illegitimacy, expound on its temporarily solution, and lament over my inability to find a makhraj (way out) – except with the help of God, for which I hope and pray.

When I am not in a perturbous state, I find myself imbued with the presence of God in all things I do. This attitude is healthy and productive. But when I am made uneasy by the pains of life and am alone with my thoughts for an extended period of time, I develop a feeling of restlessless, despair, and depression. Since I believe that God is capable of doing all things, the complains and petitions go to Allah for relief. But invariably, those prayers are not answered (According to Islamic theology, all prayers are answered, but not necessarily in the way the person desires). At this point, the proper approach is to recognize the wisdom in God’s decision and submit to it. I can personally attest to recognizing profound wisdoms in not having my prayers answered as I wanted, but it took see that. As Allah says in the Qur’an.

وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

…but perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.
– Surah al-Baqarah, Verse 216

But recognizing a wisdom requires submission and breaking yourself. Its not easy to do. Not only that, it can seem absurd. Our Western culture chases material glory and does not create a space for spiritual growth through pain. Absent of being able to recognize that wisdom, the believer experiences frustration and anger with God. Why did God do this? He should not have! Allah says in the Qur’an:

لَا يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُونَ

He is not questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned.
– Surah Al-Anbiya’, Verse 23 

Frustration and anger of all kinds weaken a person’s rationale and relegate him to emotionalism. Trapped in this state, he may choose to take revenge on God, so he actively disobeys what he previously obeyed, comes to hate God, and ultimately makes the concious decision to disbelieve in Him. In an interview, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan explains this as a deep psychological disorder:

After the person makes his decision, the arguments for atheism become increasingly appealing. The disbeliever uses the arguments as a cover for the real reason he left his faith, not as the primary reason. After all, if his reason was purely intellectual, why did he do so only after a traumatic experience? And why didn’t those same arguments appeal to him earlier? He might read the books of contemporary atheists, or repeat witty atheist mantras without contemplation. But even if this person was intellectually defeated, he would not leave atheism. Reason and arguments have little to do with atheism, just as they have little to do with faith. And because their disbelief is primarily rooted in pain, a common characteristic is to appeal to the pain of others around the world, such as orphans, the destitute, or other disadvantaged people.

I have, and continue to go through a similar experience. In short, a traumatic experience, coupled with seemingly sustained silence from the Heavens has left me bitter, frustrated, angry, and in despair. I don’t know know what to think anymore. Where is God when I call upon him? Perhaps he’s not even there, does not exist! I never outwardly said “I am not longer a Muslim”, but I know I had no reality of faith in my heart, suddenly arguments against faith made sense. As I write this, if there is a God, it is by his divine Mercy that I am a Muslim. I also recognize the profound wisdom in why what happened happened, but it took many years to get to that point.

But this type of disbelief won’t bear to critical examination. It is rooted in an inability to accept the traumatic event, to recognize its wisdom, to recognize that a wisdom does exist. It is buttressed by the spiritual impotence that thrives in a cultural backdrop that urges satisfying one’s every desire and refuses to teach him to deal with deprivation. Thus, the life experiences of the poor and disadvantaged condition them for the pains of life, and force them to rely on God, unlike the rich and privileged who feel self-sufficient and not in need of God.

The next question is, what does someone do who recognizes that his disbelief is primarily the disbelief of pain? This process is very hard, and to this day, I do not have the final solution. However, I can provide some temporary medicines to help you keep your faith afloat:

  • Make a conscious effort to maintain a positive attitude. This means refusing to allow yourself to wallow in depression or despair. You cannot control when it strikes you, but you can change your attitude of dealing of with it. This is the hardest part of the entire process.
  • One of the mental tortures is to dwell on the future consequences of the traumatic event. Don’t do that. You have to change what you are thinking about. Don’t make “plans” or create absurd mental scenarios. This is especially difficult late at night, and I don’t have a cure for that time.
  • Reflect on the negative of what would have happened had the traumatic event not happened.
  • Reflect on the positive things around you. Most people who can read this have infinitely more blessings than problems. But, they just fail to think about them. Your food, your eyesight, your computer, all of these things are tremendous blessings. But few people think about them, most are stuck in the inability to see beyond their limited problems.

My thoughts, please share with me yours…

The Nature of God

I enjoy listening to Richard Dawkins. He’s brilliant, sophisticated, and has wit. I was recently watching some short video clips of him on YouTube. In general, I agree with, if not his conclusions, at least the logic of how he got there. But then, I came across this video clip:

If you don’t feel like watching, let me summarize the relevant parts. He parallels the incoherence of matter coming about on its own with the idea of God’s existence coming about on its own. He argues that God is too improbable to have formed completely by chance. A questioner from the audience asks, isn’t it problematic to apply natural laws and probability on God? Dawkins retortes, “Well isn’t that just convenient? You talked your way out of providing a rational argument by just decreeing by fiat that God simply declares himself outside of matter… If you’re convinced by that kind of thing, you’re welcome.”

I’m sorry, but this highlights the deep-rooted ignorance in the New Atheist Movement. They don’t even know what they’re arguing against. Its akin to a creationist declaring that humans did not evolve from monkeys. At least know what you’re arguing against! Dawkins is a biologist, not a theologian, and his banter only serves to demonstrate this fact. And here’s why:

But first, a tangent to help illustrate the point!

Imagine if someone programmed an Artificial Intelligence (AI). This AI was truly self-aware and existed entirely inside  a computer. One day, it questioned the existence of a programmer. It pre-supposed that everything is composed of bytes/bits and obeys the laws of the CPU. Employing the scientific method, it sought evidence of a programmer. It combed every bit of computer memory and applies every law of the CPU, but returned empty handed. Therefore, it concluded that there is no such thing as a programmer.

Seem problematic? It should. The fallacy of the AI was to assume that all existence was contingent on the laws of the CPU and composed of bytes/bits. But, the programmer’s existence is outside of the AI’s world, distinct, separate and sharing virtually no common qualities.

By its very nature, the creator can share no common qualities with the created, nor be subject to any of the laws that govern it. This fundamental principle is adhered to by most theologians, and is especially strong within the Islamic and Jewish tradition by al-Ghazali and Rambam, respectively. They argue that God’s existence is not contingent on any created things, including and especially time and space.

The fallacy of Dawkins is the same fallacy of the AI. While the AI assumed that all of existence was within the laws of the CPU and consisted of bytes, the Dawkins implicitly assumes that everything in existence obeys the laws of physics and consists of particles. Ironically, this he implicitly declares “by fiat”. Both limit the scope reality and dismiss all that might exist outside of that scope.

I do not believe in a God that exists within the 3 dimensions, is subject to time-space or consists of particles. Most traditions state that his existence is unlike the existence of anything else. As a theologian once said, anything that comes to your mind about God is in opposition to him.

Next is the improbability of God coming about on his own, because of how complex God must be. This is the same problem rehashed in a different way. Again, we do not believe in a God that consists of physical particles and is mechanically complex, like some sort of divine machine. No, nearly all classical theologians argue that God is indivisible, unique, absolute oneness. But, Dawkins explores this “definition” of God and substitutes it with a God who is essentially a big machine in the sky who formed through an improbable occurrence. A true Strawman fallacy.

So, when Dawkins says things like “you’ve just declared by fiat”, he’s demonstrating his profound ignorance of exactly what he’s arguing against. Again, I’m sorry, but naiveté backed by rhetoric is no substitute for an argument. The problem is, this kind of ignorance is as rampant amongst the New Atheist Movement as science is amongst the radical Christians who interpret the Bible literally. No one denies (or should deny) the New Atheist Movement’s scientific acclaim, but that does not translate to other areas of knowledge, namely theology.

There was a time when anyone who read Dawkin’s The God Delusion would laugh and move on. But now his books convince the masses.