The Atheist and the Mureed

A city bus carries a diverse array of individuals. Crowded and weathered, it just so happened that on this particular day the bus carried an mureed, deeply immersed in his faith, and an atheist, very much in the belligerent tradition of Dawkins.

The atheist had recently returned from a skeptics meeting, where they purported to champion reason and science over dogmatic superstitions. As he sat there, looking around on the bus, his eye was caught by the Mureed. Sitting there with his unusual black headcovering, loose clothing, and prayer beads, he was chanting something under his breathe, just barely audible.

The Mureed’s whispered chanting continued through the ride, and the atheist grew more and more angry. This person is practicing a backwards, archaic, antiquated faith that should be destroyed in the light of reason. In an instant, the bus passed over a pothill, shook the bus, and the mureed’s chanting was heard for a split second. “il Allah…” he said, and then his voice went back to normal.

At this, the atheist had enough. “Who are you talking to? There’s no one on this bus who can hear you, but you keep mouthing off.”

The Mureed looked up. “I was reciting a dhikr…an incantations. Its a prayer. Sorry, was I disturbing you?”

“Prayer? To who? God? There is no God. You know that, right? You’re wasting your time and youthful life. Enjoy what you have in this one life, because there is nothing after it.” This grabbed the attention of the entire bus. Some were Christians who felt sympathetic to the mureed, others were apathetic, and a few more agreed with the atheist.

“There is a God, I believe in him”, responded the mureed. The atheist smiled. He knew the line of reason he would take the mureed upon to get him to admit his lack of proof, lack of evidence – mere blind faith. He had done this before, and no one had ever stood up to him.

“You believe in God? Show me proof. I demand you give me evidence, verifiable, demonstrable evidence. Prove to me that your God exists.”

At this, the Mureed smiled. He closed his eyes, placed one hand in his pocket, and recited an incanation. A moment passed as everyone waited for his response. Eyes still closed, he removed his hand from his pocket to produce a brown string of prayer-beads, demarked with a silver bead at regular intervals and a long ending, scrunched up in his hand.

He then spoke. “Pretend for a moment that I am blind. Pretend that I have never experienced sight in my entire life. Describe to me what this object in my hand looks like.”

The atheist was confused. This was certainly not the answer he expected. But he decided to humor the mureed. “It looks like small pieces of lint, some are different colors, with a black string connecting them. It also has a few shiny silver beads” Was that sufficient?

The mureed immediately responded, almost interrupting the atheist. Still with his eyes closed, he said “You described this object as black, brown, shiny. These are all terms a blind person has no understanding of. What does color mean to a person who has no experience with it?”

The atheist thought for a moment. “Then I would describe it in physical terms. Brown is a frequency of visible light that bounces off of the object. Shiny means light complete reflects off of the object. Its describable in scientific terms.” What would the mureed say to a scientific answer, he thought.

The mureed immediately responded, “I asked to describe what it looked like, not to describe it in physical terms. Wavelength helps me conceptualize it, but does not help me experience what it look like. How do I know sight is real? Describe it to me.”

The atheist was somewhat annoyed. This was not the direction he anticipated the conversation to go. “Well, obviously the experience of sight cannot be communicated to someone who has never seen before. He has no frame of reference. But, that doesn’t mean sight does not exist, we can all see, unlike your God who has no proof.”

“We all know light exists. But the experience of sight cannot be described in scientific terms, its something each individual has to experience himself. Then we come to recognize what it is and believe in it based on our experience of it.” He stopped for a moment, a pause. What does this have to do with God, the atheist retorted, protesting he asked about God, not colors.

“Because God is not a mere intellectual proposition. He isn’t something you study through measurement and describe in physical terms. God reveals himself to us, and we taste that experience, just as you see or hear or feel. It is not something I can describe to you, other than to say its real. I’ve experienced it.”

The atheist did not know what to say. This mureed was speaking a language he was not used to. Then the atheist borrowed a line from Dawkins. “Your God is just a delusion you’re inducing on yourself.”

The mureed smiled. “Your sight is a delusion you’re experiencing. Prove otherwise to a blind person.” The bus gasped and the atheist was dumb-founded…

God is not something only the intellectual elite can examine. Sometimes, the mind can even get in the way. God is something to be experienced, specifically, by reflecting on his signs in natural beauty, reciting his divine words and excessive worship.