Doubt

November 13, 2009 at 12:51 am (God, personal)

Do you ever have days where you don’t know if you believe in God?

Perhaps I am an emotional decision-maker after all, because when doubts come knocking, intellectual convictions aren’t enough to prop me up. Or maybe I am just suffering severe anxiety and the clouding of the rational mind that comes with that.

I am beginning to worry that questioning and digging deeper only destroys religious belief. I’ve already knocked out one faith through questioning and applying reason. Maybe there just isn’t a faith out there that can prove itself beyond all reasonable doubt to be just what it says on the tin.

But I can’t turn my back on my convictions, nothing makes sense otherwise. And part of my convictions is that religions are the result of God communicating with us and showing himself. So maybe I will just have to swallow the bitter pill of uncertainty.

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77 Comments

  1. ellen557 said,

    Even the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) was unsure at first – remember that after the first time Gabriel spoke to him, he went to Khadijah (as) and asked to be covered with a cloak because he was confused and questioning whether he really experienced what he did.
    I’m trying to find a quote from Tariq Ramadan about this (I think you’ve read “The Messenger” haven’t you?) but I can’t. It was something about how it’s natural and almost expected to question something first, then take it as truth then believe in your whole heart.
    What do you feel uncertain about, if you don’t mind me asking?

    • Cornelius said,

      “What do you feel uncertain about, if you don’t mind me asking?”

      This question was not directed to me, but I’d like to respond please.

      Well, there are just too many, there is just not enough space to mention them all here.

      If God exists, why does he allow very small children suffer and die?

      And the most popular answer to this question is that it’s all our doings; that the world is what we make of it the most part.

      However, what about the part that we didn’t make? Innocent children sometimes die not because of anything that we have done; they die because of things which they have no control of, e.g. they’re born with cancer or other uncurable diseases. They suffer very long painful deaths.

      And if that’s God’s idea of testing our faith, then it’s a very cruel way of doing so. The small children do not even know the meaning of the word “faith”, let alone having one. And if it’s the adults’ faith that’s tested, then it’s cruel to use the children as the scapegoats.

      This explanation is inconsistent with the quality of a loving God. But of course the religious people will say that we’re not up to the level to understand why God does some of the things He does. We are only able to understand and appreciate the good things He does.

      • Sarah said,

        I can try to give you an answer, If you don’t mind.

        But not right now! cuz I feel sleepy. =(

        Peace~

        • Cornelius said,

          Holy cow, Sarah! What are you doing still up at 4am in the morning?.. HAHAHA!

          Sure I don’t mind. We’re all here to exchange views, and with any luck find the truth.

          Sleep well my friend, don’t let the bed bug bite.

    • Sarah said,

      Ellen – Thank you for this reminder. It’s a really good point. Yes I have read The Messenger, you’ve got a good memory! I think I remember that it said there was a huge gap in time between the first revelation and the next, leaving him doubting again and wondering if he’d imagined the whole thing. I found that quite interesting. Like God tested him from the outset and taught him how fully he depended on him.

      I feel uncertain about whether there were really prophets and messages from God. I want to go back to Ramadan when I was immersed in reading Quran and fasting and it was all hunkydory. 😉

  2. Sarah said,

    Hi there! =D

    You don’t know me, but I stumbled into your blog a few days ago and have been reading your entires… and I discovered that the similarities between us is almost scary!

    I can honestly tell you that you’re taking it WAY too over-dramaticlly. I know.. because I was exactly in your shoes 6 months ago, and looking back now I can’t believe the unimaginable hardship I put on myself!

    In Islam, having doubts is perfectly natural (and sometimes nessesarly) to develop your faith. Some doubts may appear while poundring and using your intellect (which is something God COMMANED us to do!), and some doubts are actually driven by satanic whispears.

    The first type of doubts are resolved thourh seeking knowledge, and the second kind only resolved through sincer prayer (I noticed too often that when I’m totally stuck on an issue of faith and can’t figure out the answer on my own, I pray to God for help and after that I feel my way of thinking is changing ever so slowly and stubly- to the point where I’m actually able to look at things from a different angle and discover my answer within).

    (Maybe there just isn’t a faith out there that can prove itself beyond all reasonable doubt to be just what it says on the tin).

    Don’t be this hard on yourself. One should never freak out everytime they can’t understand something- because guess what? you’re not that smart! nobody is smart enough to understand everything at once or the time they deem fit. You don’t find knowledge most of the times, it finds you..

    and sometimes God doesn’t give the answers until you’re ready enough to accept them (me being proof of that, heh).

    It’s takes time and prayer and sincer effort to think and look for the wright answers. It’s a long, tiresome yet wonderful journy.

    Not only a spiritual journy, but an intellectual one as well.

    Relying on reason alone or prayer alone is never enough. In Islam you need BOTH. Because it is all about balance after all (and I’d say you need extra more prayers to help you out this time).

    And honey, please take this little advice to heart: never assume you know enough about Islam to dismiss it just like any other “blind” faith. I’ve been a born-muslim all my life and I’m still amazed of the little things I discover everyday about Islam.. it’s really unlike any other religion I’ve known.

    No other religion have emphasized the important of reason and the role of human intellect such as Islam.

    “Will you not, then, use your reason?” is a common expression in the Quran, so don’t be afraid to use it-

    just use it carefully. =)

    PS. Have you the book “Even Angels Ask”? It’s fantasic! and deals wonderfuly with many subjects you addressed before (like the wisdom of suffering in this world, for example).

    • Sarah said,

      Sarah – welcome to my blog! It is amazing how many Sarahs I have met through blogging, I’ve actually lost count now.

      You are saying a lot of good things here. You are right that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions too quickly about things. Especially if those conclusions are in conflict with other evidence that I’ve somehow pushed aside in my moment of panic.

      “Relying on reason alone or prayer alone is never enough. In Islam you need BOTH. Because it is all about balance after all”
      This is a really good point. We do need both, and I love how Islam is about balance in these sorts of ways, it’s “a middle way”.

      I haven’t read “Even Angels Ask”, although I am reading another one at the moment by Jeffrey Lang, “Struggling to Surrender”. I am enjoying his way of writing and thinking, so I definitely would like to read more of his books.

      • Cornelius said,

        Oh! I don’t believe it!… I must be getting too old! I thought it was the other Sarah! Sarah must be a very common name in your part of the world, huh?

        • susanne430 said,

          I can’t say how popular Sarah or Sara is where the “born Muslim” Sarah is since I have no idea where she lives, but in the United States, Sarah was the 5th most popular name in 2000. (According to the Social Security most popular names tool.)

          So yeah, lots of ’em out there! 😉

        • Sarah (not Liala! xD) said,

          Hi again, Cornelius! =)

          Sorry for being this late, but my internet connection was acting bitchy lately.

          (If God exists, why does he allow very small children suffer and die?).

          Before answering this, I should explain first how does Islam views human suffering.

          We all know that human suffering has always posed an enormous dilemma for religious thought. Is it to entertain bored, capricious, and rival gods? Is it punishment for our sinful natures? Is it something from which we must be saved? Is it a necessary aspect of creation to be transcended through spiritual training and meditation? Is it the product of chance accidents that occur in a godless universe?

          (All of these questions take for granted that human suffering is damaging and undesirable. This is natural, since it reflects the human perspective, the point of view of one who feels victimized).

          The great divide between thiests and atheists is thier reactions to human suffering. Often the the first one views it as either deserved or impenetrable mystery. While the second sees it as unnecessarly and inexcusable.

          Islam advocates neither viewpoint.

          The Qur’an has a very different view of human earthly suffering. It says that it is a necessary and key element in the human growth process, and it’s attitude towards it is not passive and resigned, but positive and dynamic.

          Since the Islamic perspective views this earthly life as a temporarly place for trial and human growth (both spiritual and intellectual), suffering and hardship are held to be inevitable and essensial to human development on earth, and every singel soul needs to experience it. All of us, good and bad, sinful and righteous, believer and unbeliever, young and old, will and must experience it.

          Most assuredly We will test you with something of danger, and hunger, and the loss of worldly goods, of lives and the fruits of your labor. But give glad tidings to those who persevere—who when calamity befalls them, say, “Truly unto God do we belong and truly unto Him we shall return (2:155).

          Hence everyone must experience pain, loss, hardship, and calamities on earth, regardless of who they are.

          Some may feel that the statement, “Give glad tidings to those who persevere,” seems too sanguine or insensitive in a passage that discusses human misery.

          Is the Qur’an oblivious to the terrible injury acute suffering does to our personalities?

          No, instead it emphasizes just the opposite! that we can greatly benefit from how we respond to life’s misfortunes (are we going to curse God and forget about ALL his blessings if He test us with hardship? Or are we going to persevere and turn to Him to give us hope and streaght)?, and that this response is inextricably linked to our state in the afterlife.

          “Do people think that they will be left alone on saying ‘we believe’, and that they will not be tested?” (29:2).

          Do you think that you could enter paradise without having suffered like those who passed away before you? Suffering and adversity befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle and the believers with him would exclaim, “When will God’s help come?” Oh truly, God’s help is always near! (2:214).

          (Note that this portrayal of human suffering involves truly devout believers—“the apostle and the believers with him”—and their agony was intense—“so shaken were they that they cried, ‘When will God’s help come?’”).

          You will certainly be tested in your possessions and yourselves (3:l86).

          Every soul must taste of death. And We test you with calamity and prosperity, [both] as a means of trial. And to Us you are returned (21:35).

          Repeatedly, the Qur’an recalls, most notably after some verses that emphasize the essentiality of human earthly suffering, that to God we return. But does suffering bring us closer to God in this life in some essential way?

          Is there is a connection between our personal development and our relationship with God? An organic link between our self-sacrifice and our clossness to God?

          Does suffering bring us closer to God in some intrinsic way?

          Absoulotly.

          If not, then it seems that this earthly stage of our existence could have been avoided, that we could be brought near to God without having to suffer earthly strife.

          But the Qur’an maintains that our lives on earth serve a fundamental purpose.

          Those [are believers] who remember God standing and sitting and lying down and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth [and say]: Our Lord, you did not create all this without purpose! (3:191).

          We have not created the heaven and the earth and whatever is between them in sport. If We wish to take a sport, We could have done it by ourselves—if We were to do that at all (21:16-17).

          Do you think that We created you in vain and that you will not be returned to Us? The true Sovereign is too exalted above that! (23:ll5).

          We did not create the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in play (44:38).

          All the horrible things that make us question God: death, sickness, suffering children, poverty, ect… all these things are important trials that we need to show patience through; help each other out, and maintain our devotion and worship of God.

          “And if We make man taste mercy from Us, then withdraw it from him, he is surely despairing, ungrateful. And if we make him taste a favor after distress has afflicted him, he says: the evils are gone away from me. Truly he is exultant, boastful; except those who are persevering and do good. For them is forgivness and a great reward” (11:9-11).

          “Verily, it is We who have created man out of a drop of sperm intermingled, so that We might try him (in his later life): and therefore We made him a being endowed with hearing and sight. Verily, We have shown him the way: (and it rests with him to prove himself) either grateful or ungrateful.” (76:2-3)

          “And know ye that your possessions and your progeny are but a trial; and that it is God with whom lies your highest reward.’ (8:28)

          “If ye would count up the favours of God, never would ye be able to number them: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (16:18)

          Man, however, does not grow only through patience suffering, but also by striving and struggling against hardship and adversity.

          “And thoes who strives hard for Us, We shall certainly guide them in Our ways, and God is surely with the doers of good”.

          O man! Truly you’ve been toiling towards your Lord in painful toil—but you shall meet him! (84:6).

          We certainly have created man to face distress. Does he think that no one has power over him? He will say: “I have wasted much wealth.” Does he think that no one sees him? Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips and pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways?

          Whether by chance or grand design, one could not deny that mankind seemed eminently well suited for struggle. Our species seems to thrive on it as tragedy and strife has marked and guided our evolution throughout history. Even when hardship is not our lot, we seek it out in the form of self-made challenges and competitions.

          Yet while human beings may be made “to face distress,” the Qur’an does not focus here on the part this has played in human worldly progress. It is more concerned with its moral and spiritual repercussions and begins by warning of its potential negative effects.

          Struggle, which ends in either success or failure, can lead to either hubris or despair, respectively, and in both cases to a loss of God-consciousness and/or confidence in God’s omnipotence, and sometimes, to agnosticism or atheism.

          Therefore the Qur’an states:

          “Does he think that no one has power over him? He will say: “I have wasted much wealth!” Does he think that no one sees him?”

          The remorseful exclamation “I have wasted much wealth!” epitomizes a life of struggle solely for temporal ends.

          “Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips and pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways?”

          Several such statements appear in the Qur’an, most often citing the faculties of hearing, sight, and the heart (the latter apparently representing human intellect in the most general sense) as gifts that people often ill-use.

          Difficulties in life may be holding beauties beneath. People who don’t encounter hard times anytime in their lives (either economical, or related to health or social problems) may not be awaken, and may not search the “hikmet” (the reason, the understanding) of life.

          Life is a platform of examination. Questions you encounter in the exam paper are not punishments to you, are they? And people who experience terrible diseases or accidents are not the guilty ones of humanity, whereas people who live in comfort and wealth are not the most innocent.

          If we imagine a world without anything black, a life without any problems, then why do we-human have the very differentiating and important specialty among other creatures; that is our will. The power to choose.

          Both good and evil are equally necessary for the spiritual development of man. For the spirit to grow, it has to overcome evil and do good.

          God says in the Quran what means:

          “Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel evil with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but persons of the greatest good fortune.” (Fussilat 41:34-35)

          That is to say, we must counter evil with good. But to do this, immense patience is necessary. As for believers, good does not spoil them, nor does evil make them desperate.

          We may say that a believer should have two kinds of patience: patience in the face of moral evil; and patience in the face of natural evil.

          Both kinds are required for spiritual development.

          An example of moral evil is the insult a believer suffers from an arrogant person. Here the believer controls his anger with patience, and he is successful in the test.

          An example of natural evil is a flood in which many people, including children, suffer. Believers in this context do not curse God, because they takes it as a test of their faith and aportonatly for them to get great rewards in the hearafter. So they go out to help the victims in whatever way they can.

          If they themselves are victims or thier children (keep in mind that even the trials of others are trials of our own), they are patient and seek forgiveness from God and pray for protection. And in this act, they draw near to God and are successful in that test.

          Prophet Muhammad once said: “Wondrous are the believer’s affairs! For him there is good in all his affairs, and this is so only for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is grateful, and that is good for him; and when something displeasing happens to him, he is patient, and that is good for him”.

          God says in the Qur’an what means:

          “Seek help in patience and prayer; It is indeed hard except to those who bring a lowly spirit”
          Al-Baqarah 2:45).)

          Believers have the conviction that all things and events are under the control of God and so they never lose hope.

          They trust in the eternal benevolence and mercy of God, who says in the Qur’an:

          “On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear” (Al-Baqarah 2:286).

          And again:

          “And My mercy extends to all things”
          (Al-A`raf 7:156)

          “There certainly is a facility after every difficulty”.

          Also, keep in mind that this world is NOTHING compared to the hearafter (there is a saying of the Prophet that says: “The life of this world is worth less than a wing of a fly compared to the life in the hearafter”).

          When people enter the next life and are asked how long they spent on earth, they will have only faint and distant recollections, as if they are awakened from a dream. This image of the dreamlike character of life is enhanced by many of the descriptions in the Qur’an of the Day of Judgment.

          In verse 39:42 the Qur’an compares awakening from sleep to resurrection of the dead. These descriptions suggest that regardless of the suffering we endure on earth, our recollection of it when we enter the next life will be much like that of a sleeper when he or she awakens from a nightmare. All the pain and agony which seemed so intense and real in our earthly existence will seem to us like nothing more than a distant illusion, almost like the creation of our imagination, when we enter the next stage of our being. The Qur’an is not saying that earthly existence is not real, but that the suffering we experience in it will seem so unreal to us when we perceive the greater reality of the hereafter.

          So when children die they don’t remember anything about the pain they suffered in the prevoius life, and they are immedetly sent to Heaven.

          You’re concern of the children’s suffering in this life comes from your natural human emotion of empathy that God gave all of us. And also because “life” to you only means one thing: THIS life.

          That’s why beiliving in the hearafter is SUCH a key concept in Islam. God always links believing in Him with believing in the hearafter, because without it a lot of the meanings of the purpos of life and many things that happened in this world would not make any sense otherwise.

          God’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: “Never a believer is stricken with discomfort, hardship or illness, grief or even with mental worry that his sins are not expiated for him”.

          He also said: “There is nothing (in the form of trouble) that comes to a believer even if it is the pricking of a thorn that there is decreed for him by God good or his sins are obliterated”.

          God’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) again said: “When a Muslim falls ill, his compensation is that his sins are obliterated just as leaves tall (in autumn)”.

          • Cornelius said,

            Wow! Sarah!

            I just ran my 35km first thing this morning. And now I’m going through this marathon response of yours! But thanks for trying, my friend.

            “Does suffering bring us closer to God in some intrinsic way?

            Absolutely.

            If not, then it seems that this earthly stage of our existence could have been avoided, that we could be brought near to God without having to suffer earthly strife.”

            So a 6-month old baby who died in a fire which was caused by a lightning strike. He suffered the pain of the fire before dying. Does the Quran explain in what way that baby’s suffering and death brought him closer to God?

            “People who don’t encounter hard times anytime in their lives (either economical, or related to health or social problems) may not be awaken, and may not search the “hikmet” (the reason, the understanding) of life.”

            Does the Quran explain in what way that same baby above was “awaken, and able to find the ‘hikmet’—the understanding—of life?

            “Both good and evil are equally necessary for the spiritual development of man. For the spirit to grow, it has to overcome evil and do good.”

            Does the Quran explain in what way the baby’s suffering and death were necessary for that baby for his spiritual development? At that age, are we to assume that the baby had the mental capacity to “grow” by overcoming evil and doing good”?

            “So when children die they don’t remember anything about the pain they suffered in the prevoius life, and they are immedetly sent to Heaven.”

            So why bother letting the baby come into this world at all? If, say, a baby dies a birth, what’s the point?

            We can’t do anything about it (unless we’re talking about an insane parent, letting his child dies when he can do something about it), but an almighty God is able to prevent the death. A truly loving and caring God would feel morally and ethically obligated to allow that baby live its time in this world, whatever plans He has for that baby in the afterlife, no matter how wonderful that afterlife is.

            Those are only from my point of view. But what do I know about children dying?

            I don’t care whether or not the babies can remember the pain they’ve suffered before they died when they arrive in heaven. The point is they did suffer; they went through the pain. If God had really loved those babies, why not simply let them die in their sleep peacefully, and take their souls to heaven? It’s not like they can learn anything from all those pains and suffering anyway. Or are you saying they can?

            • Sarah said,

              (I just ran my 35km first thing this morning. And now I’m going through this marathon response of yours! But thanks for trying, my friend).

              Ha ha! sorry if it was too long. I just tried to give as much detailed answer as I could.

              (Does the Quran explain in what way the baby’s suffering and death were necessary for that baby for his spiritual development?)

              Rememmber that I already said: “even the trials of others are trials of our own”.

              The child is not the one who’s being tested, it’s the child’s family or close ones.

              In Islam, the greater the test is the greater the reward. For those who lost their children (even if the child died peacfully) God has prepared for them a reward that cannot be enumerated:

              “Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning” [al-Zumar 39:10]

              Very few people will enter Paradise without any question in the day of Judment. God said that he shall not reward the grieving parent who persever with nothing less than Paradise.

              Keep in mind that Paradise is not the reward to every test, the majority of rewards are more good deeds being writting in our record, but because God knows that losing a child is the most hard ordeal of a parent, the rewards became nothing less than Paradise without reckoning (which is the ultimate reward that every believer hopes to achive).

              The Prophet even said that those who were not tested in this world with great suffering will wish that they had suffered similar calamities when they see the high status attained by those who bore calamities with patience!

              God doesn’t like making children suffer as much as he doesn’t like people to disbeilive in Him, yet he allows both to happen for a great wisdom.

              He allows some things to happen in His dominion that He dislike, because they serve a greater wisdom which we, or most of us, cannot comprehend fully. Some of His wisdom may become clear to us, and that is by the mercy of God towards His believing slaves, as He shows them some of His wisdom in this world so that they might find peace of mind.

              (I don’t care whether or not the babies can remember the pain they’ve suffered before they died when they arrive in heaven. The point is they did suffer).

              That’s not really the point. I already told you that believing in the afterlife is an essential part of the Islamic world-view (it’s actually one of the six main pillars of Islam), so you can’t really dismiss it as something insignificant.

              Please read this verse carefully with an open heart:

              “And if We make man taste mercy from Us, then withdraw it from him, he is surely despairing, ungrateful. And if we make him taste a favor after distress has afflicted him, he says: the evils are gone away from me. Truly he is exultant, boastful”.

              A sign of man’s weakness and shortsightedness, is that he focuses on the calamities without paying any attention to the benefits they may bring, and not looking at other blessings that he enjoys and sees around him. For God has blessed mankind in ways that do not compare with the calamities that may befall them.

              You’re objection, for example, is made as if children who suffer and die is the norm and children who grow healthy or dies peacfully is the exception!

              We muslims have certain faith that God Who created us has the utmost wisdom which cannot suffer the slightest shortcoming whatsoever.

              We, because we are part of the creation of God, cannot comprehend any part of His wisdom unless He tells us of it. What He has taught of the reasons behind His actions, we understand and accept; what He has concealed from us and kept the knowledge thereof to Himself, we believe in it and we know that He does not do anything unless there is great wisdom behind it, because He is the All-Wise and All-Knowing.

              It will never, under any circumstances, cross our minds to think that we can bring Him to account for what He does in His dominion and creation, otherwise we will be transgressing upon the preserve of Lordship and overstepping the mark, if we claim that we can know what He knows.

              Imagine if a mother took her sick child to the doctor, and the doctor gave the child an injection to make him feel better. of course the child would feel great pain and cry. Now imagine if the mother saw this and cursed the doctor for making her child “suffer” saying: “I don’t care that’s he’s better now, why did you make him feel this much pain?!”…

              It’s silly, isn’t it?

              But that’s how you’re objections sounds like.

              You are looking at things in a very narrow angel, which is natural if you don’t beilive in God or the afterlife.

              To not beilive in God or the afterlife will make a lot of things in life unclear, which will cause many people to suffer the pain of confusing and uncertainty.

              That’s why God said:

              “By Time, Surely man is in loss”.

              All mankind?!

              No.

              “Save those who believe and do good deeds, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience”.

              God also said in the Quran after this earthly life (compared to the hereafter):

              “And this life of the world is only amusement and play! Verily, the home of the Hereafter, that is the life indeed (i.e. the eternal life that will never end), if they only knew!”.

              “Naught is the life of the world save a pastime and a spot. Better far is the abode of the Hereafter for those who keep their duty (to God). Have ye then no sense?”.

              “The life of the world is but a sport and a pastime. And if ye believe and ward off (evil). He will give you your wages, and will not ask of you your wordly wealth”.

              “Know that the life of the world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the husbandman, but afterward it drieth up and thou seest it turning yellow, then it becometh straw. And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but a deceiving enjoyment”.

              In this life we find sickness, old age and death. We see things that are ugly, people who are insane and foolish. There are storms, earthquakes, floods, draught and famine. We also see people commit sins, show disloyalty, unfaithfulness, greed and insincerity. We see people commit rapes, murders; they fight and make wars. We know all these and many more problems. There are evils caused by human beings and there are natural disasters. There are suffering for individuals and there are those that involve a large number of people.

              But we also know that this is not the whole story. Besides all these negative things, we also see beauty, health, prosperity, life, birth, wisdom, intelligence, growth and progress. We also see goodness among people, faith, sincerity, charity, love and the spirit of sacrifice. We also see a lot of virtue and piety. It is wrong to see one side of the coin and not to see the other side. Any philosophy that concentrates on one aspect of the creation and denies or ignores the other side is partially true and partial truths are no truth at all.

              It is also the fact that the element of good is more in the creation than the element of evil. We all see that there are more people who are healthy than those who are sick. There are more that eat well than those who starve.

              There are more that lead decent life than those who commit crimes. Goodness is the rule and evil is the exception. Virtue is the norm and sin is the aberration. Generally trees bear fruits, the flowers bloom, the winds move smoothly.

              God did not create us and then abandon us to the pleasures and trials of life; rather He sent Messengers and Prophets to teach us and Books of revelation to guide us. He also provided us with countless blessings. Each blessing makes life wonderful and at times bearable. If we stop for a moment and contemplate our existence, the blessings of God become evident. Observe the rain falling outside, feel the tingle of the sunshine on your bare skin, touch your breast and feel the strong rhythmic beating of your heart. These are all but a few of the countless blessings from God.

              The life of this world is mere deception. The most beneficial thing to us are the good deeds that we were able to perform. Families are a trial, for God says that they can lead us astray, but equally they can lead us to Paradise. Wealth is a trial; coveting it can make us greedy and miserly, but distributing it and using it to benefit those in need can bring us closer to God. Health is also a trial. Good health can make us feel invincible and not in need of God, but bad health has a way of humbling us and forcing us to depend on God. How a believer reacts to the circumstances of life is very important, Because this reaction is inextricably linked to our state in the afterlife.

              However, we are imperfect human beings. We can read these words in the Quran, we can even understand the sentiment behind them, but behaving with acceptance is sometimes very difficult. It is much easier to bemoan and cry about our situation, but our Most Merciful God has given us clear guidelines and promised us two things, if we worship Him and follow His guidance we will be rewarded with Paradise and that after every hardship will comes ease.

              “So verily, with every hardship, there is relief.”

              “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure”.

              I hope you don’t mind me asking: have you read the Quran?

              Try to read it someday carefully with an open mind, and you might find even more answers to your quistion (if you are sincer, and not only arguing for the sake of arguing).

              There is also an amazing Islamic site you can ask to get more profissional ansewrs:

              http://www.readingislam.com/servlet/Satellite?hSection=DIEAI&pagename=Zone-English-Discover_Islam/DIESection

              Give it try if you want. =)

              Peace~

              • Cornelius said,

                “The child is not the one who’s being tested, it’s the child’s family or close ones.”

                If I were God, I would not test the adult humans by torturing their young children, even if I intend to pay back by rewarding those scapegoats handsomely in the end. But of course I am not God.

                “Very few people will enter Paradise without any question in the day of Judment. God said that he shall not reward the grieving parent who persever with nothing less than Paradise.”

                Since I’m not such a big fan of this conceited and sadistic being, I’m quite OK if I never end up in Paradise; I can do without this particular reward. In fact I don’t see it as a reward at all. I’m sorry if I’m offending those who see Paradise as the highest reward.

                “The Prophet even said that those who were not tested in this world with great suffering will wish that they had suffered similar calamities when they see the high status attained by those who bore calamities with patience!”

                Attaining high status because of bearing calamities with patience. Dunno, sounds like a bunch of craps to me. A person can be a good person without the need to subject him to torture. On the other hand, you may put a hardcore criminal in prison and manual labour for many years, and when he is finally freed, he’s still a hardcore criminal. No amount of torture will change him.

                “I already told you that believing in the afterlife is an essential part of the Islamic world-view (it’s actually one of the six main pillars of Islam), so you can’t really dismiss it as something insignificant.”

                Ah! then I am fine! I don’t believe in afterlife. So I don’t have to worry about looking forward to my rewards.

                “Try to read it someday carefully with an open mind, and you might find even more answers to your quistion (if you are sincer, and not only arguing for the sake of arguing).”

                Oh I am sincere! Just that the religious explanations, Islam and Christian alike, defy logic and common sense, you see. I do keep an open mind, but unfortunately I can’t bring myself to have blind faith like the religious people. Holy books are produced by humans, although their contents are said to have been inspired by God.

                God drowned most of the human race (presumably even small children and unborn babies); He gave us pain and suffering; He even allows humans killing each other under Jihad. I just can’t bring myself to respect such a being. There is just nothing special about this being as far as I am concerned.

                I try to be a good person; I try to help others if I can. But I don’t want to worship a cruel being. When I die, if I am not allowed into Paradise to be with God, maybe that is not such a bad thing.

                But thanks for your long explanations anyway, Sarah. I must say it is a commendable job.

                • caraboska said,

                  What you forget is that while there may be Christians or other religious people who say ‘Ah, it is a mystery’ (which is normally the kind of rhetoric used by people who are trying to gain control over others by positioning themselves as the ‘guardians of mysteries’), there are other Christians and believers of other religions who view their religion as very simple, logical and rational. See, every religion or even non-religious thought system has its own internal logic. Other religions and thought systems that do not meet the requirements of a given system’s internal logic may be viewed by people who adhere to that given system as ‘illogical’ – and the matter works the other way around too. So I would suggest that if you find Christianity or Islam illogical, the place to look is not at Christianity or Islam, but your own assumptions.

                  You keep asking about little kids – and then you insert a disclaimer – but then again, what do I know about small children? (Or something to that effect). What is this *really* about, then? It’s obviously something personal, so I don’t expect you to necessarily reveal the answer to this question in public, but it is something worth thinking about…

                  • Cornelius said,

                    “I don’t care whether or not the babies can remember the pain they’ve suffered before they died when they arrive in heaven. The point is they did suffer; they went through the pain. If God had really loved those babies, why not simply let them die in their sleep peacefully, and take their souls to heaven? It’s not like they can learn anything from all those pains and suffering anyway. Or are you saying they can?”

                    Are these not logical questions?

                    “What do I know about children dying?”

                    That line was to preempt your response, much the same way when you asked me if I had experienced cancer myself.

                    What do you think this is *really* about? I am merely asking some questions which haven’t really been answered yet so far.

                    So a 6-month old baby who died in a fire which was caused by a lightning strike. He suffered the pain of the fire before dying. Does the Quran explain in what way that baby’s suffering and death brought him closer to God?

                    Does the Quran explain in what way that same baby above was “awaken, and able to find the ‘hikmet’—the understanding—of life?

                    Does the Quran explain in what way the baby’s suffering and death were necessary for that baby for his spiritual development? At that age, are we to assume that the baby had the mental capacity to “grow” by overcoming evil and doing good”?

                    So why bother letting the baby come into this world at all? If, say, a baby dies a birth, what’s the point?

                    If God had really loved those babies, why not simply let them die in their sleep peacefully, and take their souls to heaven? It’s not like they can learn anything from all those pains and suffering anyway. Or are you saying they can?

  3. Sarah said,

    By the way, that was supposed to be: Have you READ the book “Even Angels Ask”?

    lol, silly typos.. x)

  4. LK said,

    We all question, its a natural process. Once you come to an understanding of your own certain things it gets easier. I rarely doubt the existence of God, but that is because I have come to a personal understanding of some things, such as when bad things happen to good people.

    You will find your own personal way. And it will be wonderful, even if you are the only one who understands it.

  5. caraboska said,

    I agree with Sarah – doubts about issues are your cue to deal with a certain issue, to investigate it more fully. Doubts about self are your cue to focus on God and HIs attributes.

    And if I may respond to Cornelius, such things as cancer are opportunities for us to understand that God is God. He is the one who has created us and decides how long we will live. If we understand this, then we can live through such a situation as knowing we have cancer, that our operation is in two weeks’ time – and here we are having a new metastatic tumor every two days. We can sleep with angelic peace every night through those two weeks. We can also endure months (and presumably years) of treatment. We can have chemotherapy and even come out physically stronger than we were before we began the chemo. And the same applies to radiation as well. We can, for example, run our first 5K race ever while having radiation. And even if we are not able physically to do these things for some reason or other, we still have our peace of mind from knowing that God watches over us and accepting what He gives us.

    I know of what I speak – I have personally lived through everything I mentioned in the preceding paragraph, in exactly the way I have described.

    • Cornelius said,

      caraboska,

      You must bear with this stubborn man.

      Evidence! That’s always the thing which is missing!

      All those things you’ve mentioned—that you have personally lived through—is what we call faith.

      You believe in God; you believe He gives you everything; you believe He is watching over you; you believe He gives you strength.

      You have never seen God. But because of your faith in His existence, and your trust in Him, you are convinced that you can feel Him. And because there are so many things that we can’t explain, then it must be God working in mysterious ways. And because you felt stronger after chemotherapy and radiation, it must have been God who helped you through it all. But of course many others who also had God watching over them suffered a lot of pain before eventually dying after the chemo and radiation.

      I think God can do much better than giving us cancer, chemotherapy and radiation. I’m sure that He can think of a much better way which is less painful to convince us of His love, power etc. If God—assuming that he exists—has so many inventive ways to inflict pain on us all, maybe there is no difference between heaven and hell, no?

      • susanne430 said,

        Suffering is in the world as a result of sin. God did not create the bad. It’s a fallen world, therefore, bad and sad things happen. But, thankfully, God helps us through them as Caraboksa has shown by her own life.

        • Cornelius said,

          “Suffering is in the world as a result of sin. God did not create the bad.”

          Says who? Is that what is says in the holy books? Did God tell you that to justify His actions?

          Typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes. As far as I am concerned, those are happenings which I did nothing to cause. And even if I’m such a sinful person, it’s still terrible for an all-loving God to allow them to happen. Why should I be thankful for His help when He did nothing to prevent them? He could have prevented them, couldn’t He?

      • caraboska said,

        Precisely. We do not see the wind, but we see the branches moving on the trees outside our window and conclude… what? That they are intentionally waving their own branches without any outside aid?

        God didn’t need to convince me of these things because I already knew about God’s care. So that instead of taking two years to come to terms with the situation enough to talk about it, there I was writing a magazine article about my experiences – ‘what it is like to live right now in real time with the fact that I just found out one week ago that I have cancer’. Various things happen to various people in this life. If a twelve-year-old boy can get breast cancer, why not me?

        Let me ask you something. Have you ever actually had the lymph nodes removed from your armpit? Have you ever actually had chemo? Have you ever actually had radiation? If so, how would you know whether it is or isn’t painful?

        Supposedly having lymph nodes removed from your armpit is extremely painful – such that most people require morphine afterward. I didn’t require anything at all. Indeed, sure, I felt something, but it was never that intense that I would even call it pain. Indeed, within 24 hours I was able to attain a full range range of motion with that arm. A week later, I was dancing at someone’s wedding.

        But let me give you an even better example. I know two people who had very similar diagnoses – breast cancer with bone metastasis. In fact, one even had a liver metastasis.

        One of these people is still very much alive, active, full of ideas, just generally one of the most positive and edifying people I have ever met – after having had several recurrences over a period of years.

        The other died within months of diagnosis. She had such a negative view of her situation that she wouldn’t even take treatment. Just took her place on her deathbed and proceeded to die.

        The fun part is that it is the one who is very much alive and active who had the liver metastasis (normally a very negative prognosis). All three spots on her liver are now gone. She is not asking to not have cancer anymore; she is quite content with what she is being given, which is something she regards as simply a chronic illness, but otherwise a full, active life.

        Again, her prognosis was even worse than the other lady’s. The other lady could be in her shoes now, alive and active, but by her unbelief, she refused what could have been hers. Surely there are signs in all this for those who reflect.

        Let me ask you something: are you satisfied that every good that should be in your life is there? Are you sure you aren’t refusing some good that could be yours?

        • Cornelius said,

          Many, many years ago, when humans were unable to explain the sun in the sky, they saw it as a God too. I can’t see the wind and electricity, but I can explain them scientifically. So I’m able to tell you that they’re not God. But if we were to bring them back to thousands of years into the past in a time-travel machine, I bet we would be able to convince some people that those are Gods too, because no one would be able to explain them.

          It is good that you needn’t convincing from God. I’m really happy for you, my friend, honest. But that’s not the subject matter here, is it?

          So here’s the question once again:

          If God exists, why does he allow very small children suffer and die?

          What have they done to deserve such punishments?

          And no, thankfully, I have never experienced having anything removed from my armpits, but I have close friends and relatives who went through something very similar. And the information I got from them was a lot of pain and suffering. If you did not even feel pain, then maybe you are one in a million, which is really good for you, I’m sure.

          This reminds me of the time when I visited Reno some years ago. The tour guide in the bus was telling us that just a day before that there was this blind man who won the jackpot at the slot machine with his last dollar. But of course she did not tell us about the million other people who lost all their money on that same machine.

          You must excuse me for my stupidity when it comes to religions. But it is very hard for me to go against common sense. I have the tendency to rely heavily on statistics. If out of one million people going through cancer treatment, only 1% of them don’t feel the pain, then I would trust the testimony of the 99% who did feel pain.

          I’m not discounting the benefits of positive thinking, mind! In fact, I am a positive thinker myself. If I have cancer, I will fight really hard to try to beat the illness and hopefully live through it, not only for myself, but also for my loved ones.

          Let me ask you something: are you satisfied that every good that should be in your life is there? Are you sure you aren’t refusing some good that could be yours?

          Generally speaking, there is almost no limit to the human appetite. We want to have more if we can help it. Some of us have knowledge, but we still want to be more knowledgeable. Some of us have lots of money, but we still want to be richer. Some of us have other things, but we still want more of those other things. But obviously we can’t get all that we want in life. I can live with that. That won’t stop me from trying though.

          • caraboska said,

            1) Where did you get the idea that cancer is a punishment? The thought never even crossed my mind either while I was living through it, or afterward.

            2) You wrote: If out of one million people going through cancer treatment, only 1% of them don’t feel the pain, then I would trust the testimony of the 99% who did feel pain.

            And this is a huge difference between us. I would be busy trying to figure out what the difference was between the ones who didn’t feel pain and the ones who did – just in case the info might be useful sometime in optimizing my current life experience.

            • Cornelius said,

              1) You have a point there! Maybe it’s not a punishment. But it’s at least pain and suffering, is that fair enough? Now this may come as a surprise to you, but many, many people fighting cancer (and some dying from it) see it as some sort of punishment. I can’t blame them for seeing it as a punishment, because they have been convinced that they’re going through all those pain and sufferings because of the sins that humans have committed. But I don’t rule out that some people—you are obviously one of them—who don’t see it as a punishment.

              2) Yes, you are right, that is the huge difference between us.

              • caraboska said,

                Right. And I invite you to notice the huge difference in quality of life between those who assume it is a punishment, and those who do not. Between those who are angry about what they are going through, and those who are not. Surely there are signs in this for people who reflect.

                • Cornelius said,

                  Again, this does not answer my questions. But it’s OK, perhaps there is no answers anyway. Thanks.

                  • caraboska said,

                    Yeah it does, but not the way you were expecting. Basically, the line of thought here is that quality of experience is in great measure predicated on what kind of questions we ask. And I suspect from the tone of your comments that your experience may not be optimal. And I’m suggesting that it may have something to do with the kind of questions you ask. Exactly what, I cannot know, as apart from your comments I know nothing about you or your situation.

                    • Cornelius said,

                      “If God had really loved those babies, why not simply let them die in their sleep peacefully, and take their souls to heaven? It’s not like they can learn anything from all those pains and suffering anyway. Or are you saying they can?”

                      You did not answer this question, and your claim that you did is simply not true.

                      “And I suspect from the tone of your comments that your experience may not be optimal.”

                      Is there such a thing as “optimal experience”?

                      I don’t have to experience “un-optimal” events myself. All I need to do is to look around me, e.g. all those children who perished in Gaza to know that there is such a thing as young children suffering and dying. But if you think this is about me, you have the right to your own opinion. I will respect your views.

                    • Sarah said,

                      One possibility might be that seeing such suffering moves us to do something about it. Man-made suffering like the war in Gaza has an obvious explanation. But even when it comes to natural disasters, disease etc., we can be moved with compassion and try to do something about it – mitigate against disasters, do research into illnesses and treatments, and so on. And that is good for us; these are ways we develop our spiritual character. It comes naturally – even atheist scientists believe without question that this research is worthwhile. What doesn’t come so naturally is putting our material wealth on the line for others. The ones who suffer more from disasters and disease are the poor nations who don’t have the resources to do this type of work, and then there’s a test for the richer nations – will they reach out and help?

                    • Cornelius said,

                      I can agree that the hardship can make us stronger. I am truly convinced that hardship can make me want very hard to improve myself to overcome the hardship—religions aside. People work hard and long to find cures for diseases etc. Yes, I can accept all those.

                      And yes, seeing children suffering and dying from, say, cancer or other incurable illnesses can “move us to to something about it.” I am not disputing that. Perhaps in that sense, I dare say that hardship and suffering is “beneficial” to us.

                      But it doesn’t explain why the lessons have to come from innocent children’s suffering and deaths. All I am saying is that God, with all His powers can and should intervene to take the pain away from the children. This kind of intervention is not like not giving us free will. It’s not like not allowing us to choose (for ourselves) between taking drugs and study hard for a better future.

                      But He doesn’t intervene; He allows the suffering and deaths on children to continue. This is the part which I find hard to accept, because it doesn’t reflect a loving and caring God to me, even if he intends to reward handsomely in the afterlife. I just can’t see the point of that suffering for those children.

                    • Sarah said,

                      We wouldn’t be so moved to help out if the children did not appear to suffer.

                      You are assuming that a good God should want us all to be happy at any cost. I think God wants the human race to move towards betterment, not necessarily more ease and happiness. I don’t think temporary unhappiness does anyone any harm if it serves a greater goal.

                    • Cornelius said,

                      “We wouldn’t be so moved to help out if the children did not appear to suffer.”

                      You really believe that, Sarah?

                      Well, I guess different people react differently. I would be equally sad and moved (to help out) if a child dies regardless of whether it suffered or not before dying. Even if a child dies in its sleep peacefully, I would still be sad immensely. A loss of life is a loss of life no matter how we see it.

                      If my child dies, I would be devastated whether she dies painfully or not. But I have a weakness when it comes to young children. They are so vulnerable, I can’t bear to see any harm upon them, especially loss of lives.

                    • Sarah said,

                      Cornelius!!
                      I just saw this and thought of you:

                      About half-way through he discusses your question of little children suffering.

  6. Sara (cairo, lusaka, amsterdam) said,

    “I am beginning to worry that questioning and digging deeper only destroys religious belief.”

    No, definitely not. Digging deeper does not necessarily destroy religious belief; sometimes it can strengthen it. And if you are the kind of person who likes to question things (and I know you are :P) then don’t stop digging!

    But like I’ve said before, Islam has an aspect of faith – you cannot accept everything on the basis of pure logic. There are things we don’t know or understand. You have to TRUST God, and believe He wants the best for us.

  7. Sarah said,

    LK – yes, in a way I can’t NOT believe in God, but if I believed no religions were right, then I’d have to believe in a God that didn’t communicate with us, and that would put a huge dent in my world-view. So when I doubt religions, it’s a big doubt. But probably an irrational panic most of the time.

    caraboska – I find doubts about issues do more damage. Doubts about myself are always there but faith helps to produce optimism about that. I must say, mashaAllah that you coped with your treatment so well. I hope you are now in full health. There is some evidence that a positive, accepting mindset such as yours actually has positive physical effects on the body in terms of recovery from disease etc.

    Sara – I’m glad to hear that, because I don’t think I could stop digging if I tried!
    I do agree with you that faith is still required and I think I really understand that now. You have to trust in order to commit. It’s like relationships, if you questioned your relationship every time something happened, it wouldn’t thrive.

    • caraboska said,

      Sarah, Alhamdulillah, have been cancer-free for over 8 years now. Yes, issues can do a lot of damage. I think one particular issue – and especially the feeling that I had to have a solution in order to be happy, but none was forthcoming – lowered my resistance enough to give the cancer a foot in the door. I think the solution was two-fold:

      1) understanding that there is nothing I ‘can’t live without’ – even the solution to my problem, and

      2) later on, being in a situation that genuinely required a solution to this problem, in order to ‘do the right thing’ by someone else – so that I sat down and assumed that there is a solution, and proceeded to design the best possible one I could given the knowledge I had at my disposal at the time, and

      3) understanding that no one except God needs to approve of my solution – it does not matter what anyone else thinks.

      • caraboska said,

        PS *three-fold 🙂

      • Ellen said,

        MashaAllah caraboska, I really admire your faith 🙂

        • caraboska said,

          Masha’Allah, Surely God is present even when no one else can be seen, and He sees all, even that which no one else can see…

  8. LK said,

    Sarah – You could still believe no religion is right for you but believe in God. God may have given us the basis of religion, but we sure did mess it up LOL. Even the Qur’an says God is there for all believers.

  9. Aisha said,

    But, it was before the Truth was accepted – once you have become a Muslim, then you have a moment of doubt, you go out of Islam and must return by new shahada, because Islamic teachings are that a Muslim is he who believes and has no doubts – this is from the Qur’an itself, not from nothing. The Qur’an says about those who doubted, even for a moment, that they are those who disbelieved after they have believed and they are therefore disbelievers, unless they return (to Islam, by new shahada). This is also acknowledged by all the classical Islamic scholars, based purely on the Qur’an and perhaps, on some of the hadith, too.

    • Sarah (not Liala! xD) said,

      “once you have become a Muslim, then you have a moment of doubt, you go out of Islam and must return by new shahada, because Islamic teachings are that a Muslim is he who believes and has no doubts – this is from the Qur’an itself, not from nothing. The Qur’an says about those who doubted, even for a moment, that they are those who disbelieved after they have believed and they are therefore disbelievers, unless they return (to Islam, by new shahada). ”

      Um.. NO! you couldn’t be more wrong about this!

      There was a Hadith where some of the Prophet’s followers came to him and expreesed that they were having very bad thoughts of doubt and so they were afraid that they might lose thier faith. The Prophet reasure them that having some doubts (not all of them) are a sighn of sincer faith!

  10. Aisha said,

    One more thing – God created everything; good and bad, for not for no reason. This is logic that without pain, poverty or death there would be no good in this world and no mercy could develop in human hearts – the poor exist in this world to show the rich the way to Paradise… To sport mercy and concern for others, we must suffer ourselves and there must be some sort of suffering in this world. Also, the existence of hell as a punishment for evil ones, would make no sense without the existence of evil in the world. Evil exists, so that the evil ones might be punished in the hereafter. If God had only created good, then all people would be good and therefore, there would be no evil deeds because good people would not even kow what evil is… Then, everyone would be good. But, then, again – there would be no point for Paradise to exist, as well as hell, because if people were only good and worshipping God, then there would be no need to send prophets and holy scriptures to them, so they could just live and enjoy their lives without worrying about the hereafter reward or punishment, so there would be no death which is but a passport to the hereafter life – either in hell or in Paradise… Everything would make absolutely no sense. This is but the proper order of this world, while God is our Lord and He decides…
    It is not only testing the aware adults’ faith. It is about God’s plan, or: Teodicea in Christian teology (I am a Muslim personally but we do believe in a similar way).
    Basically, a child is born and new born baby is not responsible for any sins until it reaches the age of understanding, i.e. when the child is ‘mukallaf’ (in Arabic: aware, sane and have heard the message of Islam). Only such a person is actually responsible for his actions and beliefs in the next life, according to Islam. So, when a new born baby dies of cancer, for example, God rewards the child with Paradise as a result of His mercy and forgiveness, because apparently, this child was not yet sinful and was considered a Muslim, until the child’s parents taught him or her different religion. This is called ‘fitrah’, or the pure nature of a new born baby whose account of deeds is clear until it grows and is not mentally ill – and he or she has ever known the credo of Islam; that therei no other God but Allaah and Muhammad is His Last Messenger. Only in that case the child would be responsible and eventually punished. But how can a baby be able to hear and understand the shahada (kalimah) if it is just born and it dies immediately…? Of course, he or she is then free from responsibility. God is Merciful. Indeed.
    I had very bad past experiences in my life, though I am only 21 now, and I have faced a lot of difficulties, lot of persecution because of my faith and who I am. I was strong enough, however, because I have my faith and after all trials of this life, God finally gave my tranquillity – but, then, again, I was tested, but as a believer, I am always happy for whatever He gives me and indeed, in the past, I used to suffer loneliness, poverty, violence and starvation; I used to be homeless occassionaly… I did not break. Even more, it made me stronger and more steady in my faith, and I thank God for that hard times I had… I was miserable, indeed, yet – happy! yet – grateful!… I do believe there is a point in all this… 😉
    Aisha, UK;-)

  11. Cornelius said,

    “Only in that case the child would be responsible and eventually punished. But how can a baby be able to hear and understand the shahada (kalimah) if it is just born and it dies immediately…? Of course, he or she is then free from responsibility. God is Merciful. Indeed.”

    Never mind what God does with the child after it is dead. That is besides the point, because we can’t be sure if that child will indeed end up in heaven. It is a different story if one of them actually came back to this world to say that he’s now in heaven. What happens to the child’s soul is a separate matter, and probably deserves a different forum.

    I mean, if someone tells me that if I were to fly a jumbo jet into those tall buildings, thus sacrificing my own life in the process, and then I will be rewarded with a free pass into heaven where 50 virgin women are waiting for me, how am I supposed to react? Well, apparently some people believed that kind of promise, but I will have none of it! For I can’t help wondering what will happen when women take up that offer—will there be 50 virgin men waiting for them in heaven? Somehow that doesn’t sound like a very appealing offer?

    Anyway, the point here is the manner in which the child’s life comes to an end. How can the loving and caring and almighty God allow the pain and suffering? To me, it doesn’t seem like God is merciful if he can allow such pain and suffering to happen to very young children.

    • Sarah said,

      (I mean, if someone tells me that if I were to fly a jumbo jet into those tall buildings, thus sacrificing my own life in the process, and then I will be rewarded with a free pass into heaven where 50 virgin women are waiting for me, how am I supposed to react?)

      Um… exuse me, but that’s a very silly and naive way to view Heaven in Islam.
      You should really try to rid yourself of these blind misconceptions if you want to understand Islam.

      http://www.readingislam.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-AAbout_Islam/AskAboutIslamE/AskAboutIslamE&cid=1123996015778

      (and btw, killing yourself is actually forbiddin in Islam).

      • Cornelius said,

        “Um… exuse me, but that’s a very silly and naive way to view Heaven in Islam. You should really try to rid yourself of these blind misconceptions if you want to understand Islam.”

        Yeah, it is silly, isn’t it? But I bet Osama would not agree with you. And his followers may disagree with you too. It is so silly for us, but to those who believe—those who have faith in Osama and his interpretations—it’s not silly at all. In fact, they may see it as the gospel truth!

        Likewise, you believe in Paradise and the beauty and wonderful life there as the ultimate reward. You have faith that such place actually exists. But I see it all as just a silly notion.

        You see, when you believe in something—no matter how unbelievable that something is—it won’t be silly to you. But others may think that it’s silly.

  12. Sarah said,

    Sarah,

    Thank you for all that you have shared on the subject of suffering. I have to say your words make an enormous amount of sense to me. As I read, I just feel like applauding. You have completely described the understanding that I have come to already, and although I got there partly by looking at the Quran’s accounts of creation, I didn’t know whether my views were really Islamic or not. Now I think that they are.

    I especially loved this paragraph of yours:
    “Whether by chance or grand design, one could not deny that mankind seemed eminently well suited for struggle. Our species seems to thrive on it as tragedy and strife has marked and guided our evolution throughout history. Even when hardship is not our lot, we seek it out in the form of self-made challenges and competitions.”
    That is so true!!

    I also recently came across the verse 84:6 that you quoted and absolutely love it:
    “O man! Truly you’ve been toiling towards your Lord in painful toil—but you shall meet him!”

    Do you have a blog of your own? If so I’d love to read it. If not, well, you should start one!

    • Sarah said,

      Thank you, dear!

      I actually wrote those comments with you on mind, so I’m really really glad that benifited from it.

      Some of the things I wrote are taken from Jeffery Lang’s wonderfull book “Even Angels Ask”.

      (Do you have a blog of your own? If so I’d love to read it. If not, well, you should start one!)

      I don’t have a blog yet, but I plan to start one in the near future. =)

      • Sarah said,

        Sarah – let me know if you do start a blog!
        I will try to get Even Angels Ask, I’m now very curious. 😉

  13. Sarah said,

    Cornelius,

    It seems to me that when you have to start pointing the finger at Osama bin Laden in order to argue against religion, you are struggling. Not very many religious people look at Osama bin Laden as an inspiration. Why? Because the view espoused by extremists like him is unreasonable. Blind faith in any dogma is also unreasonable.

    We may decide trusting in God’s wisdom is reasonable because (a) God has shown his wisdom in many ways, and (b) we know there is a limit to what we as humans can understand. This is not the case when it comes to trusting in dogma promulgated by other humans.

    Even non-religious people find value in suffering. For example the song “You Learn” by Alanis Morissette is all about how the difficulties in life including mistakes we make ultimately cause us to learn and grow.

    The suffering of innocent babies through natural causes who cannot be said to learn anything from it is a difficult one. But I think the fact that it is temporary along with the idea that the child is rewarded greatly in the afterlife is of comfort to parents who believe this when their child tragically dies.

    • Cornelius said,

      Trust me Sarah, I am not struggling. I don’t really need to use Osama to argue my case. I was merely trying to point out that when people believe in something, however extraordinary that something is, it’s not silly at all to them. But others may find their beliefs silly.

      Likewise, the Christians believe that Jesus is God, or at least the son of God. That notion is not silly to them, but it is to me. I don’t know what Muslims think about it though. I was merely trying to point out that what is silly or not is a matter of perspective; quite subjective.

    • Cornelius said,

      “The suffering of innocent babies through natural causes who cannot be said to learn anything from it is a difficult one. But I think the fact that it is temporary along with the idea that the child is rewarded greatly in the afterlife is of comfort to parents who believe this when their child tragically dies.”

      So far, this particular response is the best and one which I can accept. If only I can believe the idea of that great reward in the afterlife (but that is my problem).

    • Sarah said,

      About Cornelius, I did want to continue talking to him, but his last comment was so disrespecful that I didn’t even bother.

      I started laughing when he said “If I were God”.. I mean come on!

      I’m not bashing him, but if he has already made up his mind and won’t even bother to give Islam a fair look, then there’s nothing I can do, is it?.

      Oh, well.

      • Cornelius said,

        I am sorry you felt that way. When I said “If I were God…”, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. I did not say that “I am God.”

        “If I were President Bush, I would end the war in Iraq.”

        Is that being disrespectful to Bush?

        “If I were Bill Gates, I would use some of my richness to help the poor.”

        Is that being disrespectful to Mr Gates?

        “If I were God, I would take away pain and suffering from this world.”

        Is that being disrespectful to God?

        Please don’t be offended. Sometimes, we can’t expect others to agree with us on our beliefs. I still respect your beliefs. I am not offended that you do not agree with mine. I hope you feel the same way too.

        • Sarah said,

          (“If I were God, I would take away pain and suffering from this world.”

          Is that being disrespectful to God?)

          It’s not just that. You kept insulting my beliefs by repetidly saying “this sounds like crap” when you responded to my comments. That wasn’t a polite thing to say in the least bit.

          I’m not offended that you don’t agree with my beliefs. Not at all. But I wish you were more careful with how you used your words.

          • Cornelius said,

            Ah! Yes, you are right, I shouldn’t say things like “sounds like craps”. That was wrong of me. I am sorry for that. I sometimes get carried away with my expressions; with the words I use. I should make it a habit to read and reread before posting, but sometimes I’m just lazy. Please accept my sincere apology.

            • Sarah said,

              Don’t worry about it, apology accepted~

  14. Sarah said,

    Caraboska,
    I would love to hear what exactly you think it is that reduces suffering in a person’s experience, if you’re able to encapsulate it in words.
    Also, do you agree with Susanne’s view, that suffering and death exist because of sin?

    • caraboska said,

      I would say the vast majority of what makes some experience ‘suffering’ is our attitude towards it. Our beliefs concerning it. The experience of a person who is angry about whatever it is they are going through – which probably boils down to its not meeting their expectations of what their life experience ‘should be’ like – is going to be very different from that of a person who is voluntarily entering into some experience, views it as having a purpose.

      Christians, for example, believe that Jesus really did die on the cross – and crucifixion was a particularly physically stressful form of death which could take even days. They believe that he did so voluntarily, and that he viewed the purpose of this death as one of providing the opportunity for redemption to all of humanity. We can surmise from the accounts of his death that his experience was probably very different from that of an ‘ordinary person’ who neither voluntarily entered into that experience, nor viewed it as having any redemptive value.

      The experience of a person who views that experience as some sort of punishment is going to be very different from the one who does not view it this way, and perhaps even sees some good in it. Having a life-threatening illness, for example, can be a great antidote to depression. It is a great opportunity to find out that life is worth living – even if at first one is fighting the illness ‘just in case it turns out later that life is worth living’ (because think about it – it would be kind of tragic to find out on one’s deathbed that life is worth living, and not be able to do much to enjoy that life…). And the experience of the person who views it that way is going to be very different from that of the person who views it as a punishment.

      All that having been said, I do view death and other difficult physical experiences as being in some way related to sin. I do not know whether the problem was that our first parents from the beginning had bodies that were dependent on access to the Tree of Life in order to remain in an immortal state, or whether they were in an immortal state at the beginning, but when they sinned for the first time, this produced actual biological effects (mutations, as it were) which they then passed on to their children.

      And the same thing applies to illness. It may be that these biological changes made people susceptible to various diseases. And there is Biblical evidence that the Fall damaged humanity’s relationship with the rest of Creation, so that it would no longer be harmonious and cooperative, but rather disharmonious and adversarial. So that bacteria whose presence is even normal and necessary might also end up attacking the human body in various ways and producing uncomfortable symptoms such as those of a urinary tract infection. I have in fact had countless UTIs this year alone. I do not remember how many anymore. And they are so severe and strike so quickly that I must have extra medication available for them literally at all times. I admit that when one struck me on my birthday this year, I was in so much pain that I began to wish I had never been born.

      But no, I do not view it as a punishment. It is simply part of what I have been given to deal with in this life – just like, for example, having a visual impairment or an autism spectrum disorder. But God also gives good along with this: a large portion of physical strength and general health, or perfect pitch, or a mind that works fast enough to compensate for the lack of neural connections that would be present in the brain of a ‘neurotypical’ (i.e. non-autistic) person – fast enough, for example, to be able to think about every ending in a highly inflected language, get every ending right, and still speak at a normal conversational pace.

      But it may be that I can view it this way because of my beliefs about redemption. That because of what God has done for me through Jesus, punishment is a non-issue. So that I can come to God for the right reasons – neither to avoid hell nor attain the reward of heaven, but just because of God HImself. So that while health and comfort are important, they are not my gods. And the same applies to any number of other things that people worry about not having in this life. So I can still choose to worship God, and maintain my peace of mind, regardless of whether or not I have these things. It gives a certain perspective, certain priorities about not only what I do, but also what I do or do not have, to be clear about having the top of the totem pole be occupied by God.

      • Sarah said,

        Thanks for writing this. Do you think then that the reason for life-threatening illnesses might be so that we get the opportunity to find out that life is worth living? And perhaps if we hadn’t sinned we wouldn’t need to find this out? Do you think difficult experiences are blessings from God?

        Because if so, I think we are on common ground here. Which is interesting!

        The way you described Jesus’ death on the cross surprised me, because you are saying that he didn’t view it as punishment or suffering. But then right enough, if we can reduce the experience of suffering with our attitude towards it, perhaps hell needn’t be feared, just like sickness and death needn’t be feared. In fact perhaps hell can even be redemptive.

  15. caraboska said,

    Oh, I think it depends on the person. In my case, definitely. And yeah. I had that feeling that life was not worth living because life was not fulfilling my expectations – in the form of answers to certain questions that I felt I just ‘must’ have, or even just a feeling that my life as a whole (as opposed to a few isolated moments) makes sense, or that I occupy some unique, irreplaceable place in this world. And I now view that kind of thinking – that I ‘have to have’ all these things – as a form of idolatry. So that in that sense, I brought my negative experience of life on myself.

    But yeah: I do feel blessed that I had cancer. I mean, not that I’m going to go and beg God for a recurrence so I can have some more of that blessing. But yeah: I find it difficult to worry about life nowadays. Not that I never worry, but just MUCH less. It takes a lot more to get me going. Even losing half the value of my stock market portfolio in one day won’t necessarily do it.

    Or another example: I had to leave the country so quickly to seek treatment that there was no time to figure out what the proper tax treatment of any earnings I might receive from my customers would be, given my location. So that I was obliged to wait until returning from my treatment (nearly a year later) to take care of that. This meant no income and being completely financially dependent on my parents. And there were comments implying I wasn’t ‘sufficiently worried’ about this state of affairs.

    So you know what I said? ‘Right now, my life depends on not worrying about things that are outside my control. I don’t think any of us really want to find out what will happen if I start, for example, worrying about my health.’ That was the end of the story. What more could anyone say to me? And it would never have happened if I hadn’t had cancer…

    I’m sure Jesus was afraid to go to the Cross. I mean, it was a step into the unknown. But once he was on the cross, it was no longer unknown. He knew why he was doing it – yeah, it was punishment: bearing our punishment, in other words, engaging in a redemptive act – so he didn’t fight it. He just accepted it. And yeah. He felt alone. Didn’t feel God’s presence at all at one point. It was just as the Psalmist (unknowingly, perhaps, but nonethless) predicted all those centuries ago. No doubt there was an aha moment – so that’s what the Psalmist was talking about… But he also knew it wasn’t going to last forever. There would be a resurrection. There would be redemption for billions of people. So yeah, he maintained his dignity through it all and, under the circumstances, had a much easier death than the usual. They didn’t even have to break his legs to hasten his death, because he was dead within hours. His blood had even already started to separate. This for a form of execution that could take days.

    The thing about hell, however, is that it by definition is a place from which there is no redemption. That’s what makes it hell, not just some sort of purgatory (being a nice Protestant girl, I don’t actually believe in purgatory though). That’s why it’s a place people don’t want to go to.

    And this is precisely why the redemption that Jesus provided is such a good thing. Why it was such a ‘stroke of genius’ on God’s part. Because then we are spared trying to earn our way out of hell/into heaven. That whole thing is short-circuited, so that we can come to God for the right reasons.

    There are those who think that this is all foolishness, to think that we need a sacriice for our sins, or who find the idea of Messiah dying on a cross offensive to his high, mighty status. And to these, the Bible says that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

  16. Sarah said,

    If heaven begins on earth, perhaps hell does too. Perhaps hell is that state where no matter what happens to you, good or bad, you are ungrateful and unsatisfied and not at all humble. You cannot be redeemed either by struggle or by the relief of struggle.

    I am wondering how it is that suffering can be a blessing, and yet we shouldn’t wish – or even inflict – suffering on ourselves or others. Indeed, we must even try to alleviate the suffering of others. Why is it good for us, and for them, that we do this?

    I think I’ve got it, after mulling over all the comments again. I think God builds mountains and our job is to climb them. (Figuratively of course) Climbing them benefits us, it makes us fit and strong. In practical terms, sometimes that means accepting and dealing with hardship; sometimes it means helping ourselves or someone else out of hardship. If we mitigate our own suffering at the expense of someone else, that is not helping anyone. Likewise if we give someone else excessive ease at our own expense, that is not good for anyone. If we do our best to mitigate suffering equally across the world, that is part of climbing our mountains. There will still be suffering, and that is the other part of climbing our mountains – accepting and dealing with it.

    • Sarah said,

      (I am wondering how it is that suffering can be a blessing, and yet we shouldn’t wish – or even inflict – suffering on ourselves or others).

      It’s simple; because while natural evil that God’s allow to happen in this world can be a blessing, moral evil that results from human’s free choice is often more challanging to cope with.

      People can accept getting injured by falling down the stars by accident, but few will tolerate being pushed down the stars.

      This how humans are wired, I suppose.

      One of the benefits of suffering that I’ve personally noticed is how it “brings people together”.

      Feelings of anger, envy, grudges are often forgotten between families and friends when one member is suffering (which is also true between people in general). Suffering unite people together and humbles them in some sort.

      Also good deeds such as compation, charity, forgivness, perseverance, ect could not possibly take place in the world if there wasn’t any kind suffering.

      • Sarah said,

        The last sentnance was supposed to be:

        “any kind OF suffering”.

        Thoes damn typos… grrr.

      • Sarah said,

        I think you’re right Sarah, it would be harder to cope with suffering knowing that it’s inflicted on you by someone’s evil action.

  17. coolred38 said,

    You want to really get a knock to your faith…read Stephen Hutchinsons “god is not great”…a real eye opener about how many religions came about and or changed over time to suit the religious elite in charge…and that refers to ALL 3 Abrahamic faiths and a few others as well. Interesting read.

    If you truly believe in God…then you believe God would allow you to ask questions and not be satisfied with the much oft repeated phrase “cause God said so” (or cause Islam says so if you must be specific)….a thinking brain questions…its who we are and how we are built…an unthinking brain is a useless piece of meat…and unfortunately too many people today have a useless piece of meat in their skulls *sigh*

    • Cornelius said,

      I don’t have the kind of faith you are referring to, but I’d still like to see what this Hutchinsons fellow has to say about God. Is there an online source? If not, I’d probably try to find the book. Are those the exact titile of the book: God is not great?

    • Sarah said,

      (a thinking brain questions…its who we are and how we are built…an unthinking brain is a useless piece of meat…and unfortunately too many people today have a useless piece of meat in their skulls *sigh*).

      A “thinking brain” questions is exteremly important (espacially in Islam), but many people just wouldn’t accept that the human brain was and will always be limited.

      • Sarah said,

        …. Okay, what the hell?

        half of my previous comment just disapered?? 0_o

  18. coolred38 said,

    Cornelius…yes that is the title….god is not great.

    Sarah…our minds are only limited by what blocks we put up…as in…we choose NOT to pursue educating ourselves about things and just go with the flow.

    My personal feeling about a great many Muslims I have met….they know less about Islam then nonMuslims who have taken an interest in it…for obvious reasons….Scholars may tell us to learn…may recite hadith and ayats that exhort us to learn…but for the most part…they dont want us to learn too much…cause then you come to realize much of what you have been taught is pure horseshit…or Arab culture in other words…and nothing to do with anything religious. A little education can be a dangerous thing…to those “in charge”.

    So say I.

    • Sarah said,

      coolred38 – that is exactly what a speaker I heard last night was saying. He was an imam from South Africa. He said there is intellectual poverty in the Muslim world, which leads to scholars having “specialist knowledge that no-one else can know or challenge” – basically to bolster themselves up. He said the idea that you can’t ask questions goes completely against the original spirit of Islam.

      • Sarah said,

        (He said the idea that you can’t ask questions goes completely against the original spirit of Islam).

        Well, he couldn’t be more right!

        coolred38 – When I said that our minds are limited, I didn’t mean that we shouldn’t educat ourselves and seek knowledge (that’s what being a muslim is all about). I meant it in a more general sense, that there are many things that are way beyond our comprehension (such as the nature of God or gravity ect ect).

    • Cornelius said,

      Thanks coolred38,

      I have since searched online, but so far I’ve not found any bookstore in Malaysia having that book. Not that I was expecting to find it in this country anyway. Since I’m going to Singapore in a couple of weeks time, I’ll try my luck there, failing which, looks like I’ll have to get it from Amazon.

      I checked it out on Wikipedia, however, and sounds like an interesting book.

      • Cornelius said,

        Oh I forgot to mention that in Wikipedia, the name of the author’s given as Christopher Hichens. Somehow I can’t find a match with Stephen Hutchinsons. Is the one by Hichens the book you’re referring to?

  19. coolred38 said,

    Cornelius…oops…you may be right…Christopher is probably it…Im currently reading another book with the authors name Stephen…so my bad. Hope you find the book…its well worth the read.

    Sarah…I understand…no problem.

  20. Achelois said,

    “Do you ever have days where you don’t know if you believe in God?”

    Yes 🙂

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