What are “messages from God” if they’re not real?

December 21, 2009 at 10:23 pm (Islam, religious experiences)

I have finally finished reading the Quran, and I have to say, the last juz’ contained some very beautiful short suras – I gather these are some of the earliest. Some of them are ones my husband has recited in prayer with me, and are poetically rhyming and sound lovely. I felt devastated all over again that I’ve severed this spiritual connection between us, which today he told me he felt devastated about too. I told him at the time that I wanted to still pray with him, but he never took me up on it. Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to say in this post.

Cornelius raised an interesting question in a comment – if the Quran is not a divine book, then what is it?

I could extend this question to make it relevent to everyone: there are a whole load of people throughout history that have claimed to be receiving messages from God – if they were not really, then what was it all about?

In each case, the possibilities are:

  • fully divine
  • partially divine
  • not divine at all

with other issues of preservation when the “messenger” lived in the past.

I have a theory that the size of a religion is a proxy for how much truth is in it. So the cults led by crackpots who sleep with their followers’ wives and announce ends of the world that don’t come to pass, will never grow very big because they won’t convince too many people.

Of course the amount of effort spent on converting others is another factor in the size of the religion. So religions that don’t actively missionise or conquer, e.g. Judaism and Sikhism, will stay comparatively small.

So basically I think there is significant truth in all major world religions, but it seems likely at least some of them must contain significant falsehood too. For example heaven and hell vs. reincarnation – can these both be true? Maybe… in some deep way that we can’t understand, they are both allegorical descriptions of aspects of the same thing? I don’t know.

I feel that both the Bible and the Quran contain significant human elements – understandings that are reflective of the cultures they came out of. My readers may feel that – for example – the Sikh holy book contains human elements or even, is entirely human in origin. So my question is: how can a person believe they are receiving messages from God if they’re not really? (I am giving these messengers the benefit of the doubt and assuming they were not fraudulent.)

Not all people who claim to get messages from God – even those with modest followings – are crazy or evil people. For example Neale Donald Walsch seems fairly innocuous. So I do not take the person’s normalcy as proof of the message. If they all brought exactly the same message, then maybe. But they can not all be literally true. And to be honest, I could probably believe Muhammad was a messenger of God if I didn’t have to believe his message was the literal words of God. If it was just meant to be his divinely-inspired understanding of things, I could almost believe in it. (Some things, like his being “commanded” to marry Zainab to prove a point about adoption, are still questionable though.)

So what is it that causes sincere mystical experiences if they are not real? (Think Paul on the road to Damascus if you are Muslim.)

I do have some doubts about my conclusions on Islam – some things that make me think, hmm, maybe I can’t dismiss that.

  • Muhammad was really serious about prayer, and charity to the extent of living in poverty – he didn’t seem to be looking for worldly gains – so I think he was sincere
  • Quran is really consistent throughout, and its values about renouncing dunya really resonate with me and have had an effect on me
  • Long break in revelation after the first part – a troubling test for him – why would this happen if he was fooling himself?
  • Their early military success was against all odds
  • Quran apparently foretold a Byzantium victory

But there are many other things I can’t square up. It’s a puzzle.

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71 Comments

  1. LK said,

    fascinating . I dunno the answer but I think writing this out is really interesting.

  2. Amber said,

    I tend to take the stance that people who believe they are receiving revelation from God (whether or not I personally think they are) who seem sincere, and aren’t *clearly* doing so for gain (being able to start their own harem, scam the poor believers out of money) or preaching apocalyptic scenarios that involve their followers either killing others or themselves (Jonestown, Branch Davidians, etc.) likely have some form of madness or delusion. Which is not to say that Jim Jones and the like weren’t crazy, just that their madness took on different forms. Just because someone is crazy doesn’t mean that they have to be harmful or dangerous. Some people who have seizures have visions. We discount them as divine, in this day and age, because we know they’re caused by physical problems in the brain. But in ancient times? They might have been prophets and holy men.

    Maybe, though, these ‘flaws’, are used by God to talk to some people? Is there something about a person not being ‘all there’ in the normal sense that allows them to be tapped into by the Divine? Or even the demonic? They’re theories I’ve heard before.

    Your mention of the heaven & hell vs. reincarnation thing reminded me of a personal belief I have: ghosts. Lots of people pooh pooh them, especially in my own faith, but I know, through personal experience, that they do exist. So what are they? How do I reconcile personal knowledge with my faith? In this case I think that ghosts may be souls trapped in (for lack of a better word) purgatory. I think, to be able to pass on into Heaven, you have to have let go of all the things that tie you to this world – unresolved anger, hatred, etc. So ghosts get trapped in scenes or places that resonate on those levels, and they’re there until they can let go. But that’s just a personal, ‘wacky theory’.

    • susanne430 said,

      I believe in ghosts … kind of. Like a spiritual world that we cannot see most of the time. Maybe not the kind that we dress up like for Halloween though.

      • LK said,

        If you ever worked in an old theatre that use to be a church you end up believing in ghosts….trust me. There are just some things you cannot explain.

        I’ve heard your explanation of Ghosts before, its not all that uncommon 🙂

        • Amber said,

          Woot! Then I am not alone! My insanity has spread! 🙂

          • coolred38 said,

            Ive SEEN a ghost…so for me…they exist.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Amber, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your ideas about revelation are interesting, as well as the thing about ghosts. If your theory there is right then it means ghosts are probably not something to be scared of. Not some sort of demonic thing that needs to be exorcised. I used to work in an old building with a colleague who saw ghosts there, and I was terrified I would see one one day!

      • Amber said,

        I’ve seen ghosts, and I live in a house that is gently haunted.

        The only time I was ever scared was the first time I saw one, when I was visiting relatives up north and my great-grandmother stopped in. Of course, she’d been dead for about 20 years at that point…but I was young. I haven’t been scared since. I am cautious, however, for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with this thread. I certainly don’t ‘encourage’ the ghosts.

    • Hamza21 said,

      Are they ghosts or are they jinn. There’s no proof of ghosts. A dead person existing as part material and part immaterial upon the earth. But they are many proof of jinn. I experienced jinn as a child decades before I became a muslim so I know from a personal experience they exist but ghosts I can’t believe in that. Being all the Prophets and messengers sent to the earth throughout the ages by the Creator I would think there would be some sort confirmation of a dead people existing as material and immaterial beings wandering the earth in words of the Prophets somewhere. Don’t you think?

      • Amber said,

        This is totally off topic, but since I did bring the whole idea up, I’m just going to say it and then move on.

        There’s no proof of jinn. A being made of smokeless fire? There’s lots of proof for ghosts. I’ve experienced ghosts, off and on throughout my life. I’ve never experienced a jinn, and I don’t believe they exist. The only prophet who mentions jinn is Mohammed. Wouldn’t the other prophets have mentioned them, if they exist?

        All that being said, this is basically a case of ‘potayto, potahtoe’. I say ghost or demon, you say jinn. Neither one of us is going to prove it to the other, because the things I attribute to ghosts or demons you can attribute to jinn. *shrug*

  3. susanne430 said,

    Great post…hmmm.

    About Paul … well, I can read about the drastic change in his life and know this man was touched -and changed!- by Someone. Here is a Pharisee brought up in the Jewish law who thought he was doing God a favor by killing these followers of Jesus. In fact he was so bent on getting rid of these heretics that he sought and got permission to go all the way to Damascus to round up more of them. He was an ancient “terrorist”bent on cleaning up things for God’s sake (holy war perhaps?) — making the Jewish religion pure again.

    Except something happened on the way to Damascus that radically changed this man. My Muslim friend told me once that he believed Paul changed as a way to infiltrate the Christians and destroy them from within. You know, act like one of them so he could change their religion. BUT after my friend read through the NT with me and saw all that Paul suffered *from the Jews* (his own people) and others afterwards, he was forced to admit, “No one would go through this in order to infiltrate and destroy a faith.” Conclusion: Paul was not a pretender. He truly was changed. By what or whom? I believe it was his encounter with Jesus.

    You mentioned something about Muhammad and the adoption thing. I don’t know a lot about that, but while reading about Muhammad one time, I was struck with how often God made exceptions for him and how something just so happened to be revealed that gave Muhammad an escape clause. Like marrying his adopted son’s exwife. Oh, by the way, this revelation just in: adoption is illegal so you really aren’t my son after all and I *can* marry your exwife. And also him getting to have more wives than the others. I don’t know. A good leader leads by example, not exceptions. But that’s just me. I don’t believe Muhammad was a prophet nor his book divine. There are good things about Islam and the Quran sounds pretty in Arabic, but I’m just being honest about my thoughts. I’ve heard there are contradictions and the ‘scientific evidences’ have been explained away when the Quran has faced scrutiny. As you said, if the Quran were merely inspired, you could understand better, but the *literal words straight from God* being wrong is harder to come to grips with. At least for me.

    • Amber said,

      Susanne,

      I was reading a blog a while ago written by an exMuslim, going through the entire Qur’an and ripping it apart. Some of what she said was just…well, nasty, and I don’t agree with all of it. However, much of what she said made sense. One of the things she mentioned, over and over again, was ‘cui bono’ for a *lot* of the revelations to Mohammed. Who benefits? The answer, of course, was always Mohammed.

    • Cornelius said,

      I really should’t be blogging from the office! (smile)

      Your last paragraph is loaded, my friend. That’s my exact thought.

      I want to comment further about “moral instinct”, i.e. where did we get it? Were we born with it? Did God program it into our brains?

      This has a bearing on the heading of this post. But I need to clear my desk before Christmas! Otherwise I won’t have ajob to come back to after the holidays!… HAHAHA.

      Later, y’all!

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Susanne – I had a massive panic over the adoption thing. The best explanation I could come up with was that God was testing his obedience by asking him to marry Zainab even though people would criticise him for it because it was Zayd’s ex-wife and because it was his fifth. But that’s not even what God says about it in the Quran. It happened to show people that they could marry the ex-wives of their adopted sons. A simple verse would have done the job. And it made me uncomfortable that the matter was decided by revelation, not by Zainab.

      • Hamza21 said,

        again taking something total out of context. Not allowing a blood relative to be called your son was implemented years before the marriage of Zaid & Zaynab. Also Zaynab wanted to marry the prophet but was encouraged by the Prophet to marry Zaid. As for breaking social taboos,marrying exslaves, there’s no proof of that. It’s just an opinion put forth by some scholars to explain why the prophet didn’t marry Zaynab when she wanted to marry him but he instead encouraged a marriage between Zaid and Zaynab both of whom didn’t want to marry each other.

        And yes Allah allowed the Prophet to marry Zaynab because that’s what she originally wanted. In fact she used to boast to the Prophet’s other wives she the only one the Prophet was ordered to marry by Allah.

        • Wrestling With Religion said,

          I am getting a bit tired of this accusation that I am taking things out of context or not looking deep enough. This whole blog is a testimony to how deeply I’ve taken my investigation. Do you think I didn’t lie awake at nights worrying about this, and spend hours searching for reasonable explanations? You are acting as if I set out to disprove Islam. On the contrary, I wanted to believe.

          Here is a Muslim explanation of the event in question (go to 35 minutes in):

          Just so that you know I am not ignoring Muslim explanations. I thought this was quite a good one, actually.

          • susanne430 said,

            I think Hamza only recently found you so he thinks you are out to disprove Islam. I hope I’m wrong about that, but that’s my perception. The ones of us who have been around longer know how meticulously you looked into it. Honestly I thought you would become a Muslim; this is how strongly I thought you were growing *in favor* of it. So I can see why these accusations that you are taking things out of context are a bit upsetting. I admire the way you looked at things and despite wanting to believe, you were unable at this time. I know you haven’t looked at things lightly.

            • Wrestling With Religion said,

              Thanks Susanne. I thought I would convert, too. I thought it was pretty much inevitable because it seems that when someone wants to believe something, they usually find a way. It’s oddly reassuring to discover this isn’t the case – who knew my commitment to objectivity was this strong? I didn’t!

              • Achelois said,

                Sarah, you don’t need to explain to anyone why Islam doesn’t make sense to you. What is religion if it is not subjective? You think Quran is not divine. Fair enough. It is your opinion and your readers and this blog are witnesses that you tried to understand it. How you understand is up to you; it is subjective. Even those who claim to understand it completely and completely believe in its divine source are also sometimes rejected by others making their understanding just as subjective. I love Asad’s interpretation of the Quran but don’t always agree with him and his interpretation is just that – his interpretation. Subjective.

          • Hamza21 said,

            that’s Yasir Qadhi he’s a salafi. His aqeedah is Allah has hand, a face,a thigh and “lives” somewhere. He has heretical anthropomorphic beliefs.These beliefs and concepts have been debunked by traditional scholars since early days of Islam. Allah does not have appendages nor does he live in a place.

            No i don;t think you’re out to disprove Islam but I do KNOW you misinterpreting and misunderstanding the Quran under the guise of “objectivity”. Which in reality is subjectivity. You place your beliefs as some sort litmus test as what is true and then see how the Quran stacks up agianst your beliefs. That’s subjectivty not objectvity.

            You’re taking concepts you believe and weighing against the Quran . Rather than properly understanding concepts based upon the context from Quran and searching for answer of whether or not it’s true.

            This way is the way of every deviant group that existed within Islamic history. Judging what the creator revealed against what you “feel” and “think” as though what you feel and think has been objectively proven to be true. As though you have sort of process of you can objectively prove what feelings are true and what thoughts are untrue.

            Your posts on the concepts within the Qur’aan are not objective but totally subjectively and you don’t even notice it.

            “Verily We have revealed the Book to you in Truth, for (instructing) mankind. He, then, that receives guidance benefits his own soul: but he that strays injures his own soul. ”
            39:41

            • Wrestling With Religion said,

              Hamza, I will just repeat what I said to you last time:

              Regarding your comments about my preconceived ideas and how I need to open my mind up to the truth, I take your point. I am trying to be as open-minded as possible. But how does a person come to believe in the truth? Not by accepting scripture blindly, but by applying reasoning to it and determining it to be true rationally. If we are going to just open our minds and accept things uncritically, we make ourselves vulnerable to being brainwashed by falsehood. The truth must make sense and I am trying to make sense of it.

              Or how else is a person supposed to determine truth?

              • ModestJustice said,

                I completely understand your frustrations Sarah (or at least I can empathize)
                It just completely undermines all of your efforts and struggles when someone says “Oh it is just Shaytan leading you astray”
                or like he said that you were ‘taking it out of context’

                And if your answer still doesn’t please them, they’ll brand a Sheikh or Lecturer as a ‘wahabi’ or salafi which isn’t the ‘true’ Islam.

                • Wrestling With Religion said,

                  It is frustrating!
                  If I had posted a video from a Shia or a Liberal Progressive or a Deobandi or any other type of Muslim that Hamza doesn’t agree with, it would have been the same response. Because of course what he thinks is right is right, and everyone else is wrong. There are no other valid perspectives.
                  I usually listen to what someone has to say rather than dismiss them because I don’t like what they’ve labelled themselves as. And I thought this speaker was quite interesting.

  4. kat said,

    I think it is “divine”—-If someone thinks the Prophet(pbuh) had “exceptions”,—they should research history more.
    Also, there is a lot of depth in the Quran—No one gets instant spirituality—it builds up slowly—so be patient and re-read the Quran several times. You will begin to see its depth and understand the real principles behind many things such as “Zainab”—etc.

  5. Jasmine said,

    My Dad is a schizophrenic and he says God talks to him all of the time – i a rea voice and appers to him in apparitions.

    In relation to afterlife – how can reincarnation happen without some force causing it to happen?

    I often think of hell as the very deepest part of the ocean, where it is so so cold that it “burns”, and there are those stange geysey things that spray random freezing wate and gas that also burns from its coldness, where it is so dark that no light reaches it and the creatures are super deformed nd look like there are in constantn pain and agony: they cannot go up and cannot go down without exploding, they cannot enjoy food and spend their whole life in what an only be described as the most agonsing way imaginable:shedding their skins, losing their limbs and other horrific things. Its the most awful environment on the planet surely. When I think of hell, I think of being one of those fish/creatures that lives in the deepest parts of the pcean.

    • Cornelius said,

      I will still post a comment on those questions I raised in my earlier comment above, but I can’t control myself from responding to this thing about “afterlife”.

      Tell me, Jasmine, does it not bother you that if you’re a good girl in this life, you will be welcomed into heaven to spend eternity with God and the rest of good boys and girls?

      I somehow can’t picture myself, having lived several decades in this world, will eventually (assuming that if I am welcomed at all) live for eternity in the kingdom of God. The thought of boredom after several hundred years, and then a billion more years after that is scary to me. I really hope that I WILL eventually die. I’m not all out to hope for immortality. Are you?

      • Jasmine said,

        Cornelius, its not really about wanting to live forever after you die – its more a case of: You will be rised up after you die, and youwill be in a place called heaven or a place called hell.

        As for eternal life everlasting – no, I wouldnt want to be an immortal human on Earth, but I would like to spend eternity in the sensation of peace and happiness – that sounds quite nice.

        I don’t think the afterlife is life like this life.

        Have you ever floated in the sea on a hot day surrounded by beautiful mountains – feeling no weight, coolness beneath you and heat above you? If existing for ever as that feeling would be wonderful. Or that feeling when you’re small, and run to mum’s bed, and she is all warm and soft and safe and you just feel loved and safe? If i could feel that forever I would be haooy too.

        I cant stop feeling nice things now! ;0)

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

    To add to that list Sarah, the beauty of the language in the Qur’an. I know it’s hard for non-Arabic speakers to understand, but I really think it is impossible that a human wrote that.

    • susanne430 said,

      Yes, I’ve heard this argument as proof of the Quran’s divine nature. Can God write pretty words? Sure. Does He? *shrug* If I can’t understand the message, they’re just sounds to me and do me little good. (And the Quran is ONLY the Quran in Arabic so a lot of us will never ever understand its message.) I need something that can change my life. A changed life is more beautiful than pretty words so this particular argument doesn’t phase me.

      • Hamza21 said,

        I need something that can change my life. A changed life is more beautiful than pretty words so this particular argument doesn’t phase me.

        Well that’s the heart of the matter isn’t it? You searching for something to do something for you without doing any of the work yourself.

        I’ve read something years ago that had profound effect upon me and totally changed how I viewed things and I think it will do the same for you. If you can understand the “pretty words”

        The assumption of responsibility for the conditioned state of our spirit – what we like; what we can do; how we feel; how we spontaneously react to situations,etc – is the foundation of spiritual work. Ultimately, if you do not know this, you have no knowledge of spirituality. ”

        “And if you don’t know how to control the conditioned states of your spirit,you are you not living spiritually. In spite of your wealth of spiritual information, you will not be in control of your behavior, and the course of your life”

        Ra Nefer Un Amen
        Metu Neter vol 1

        So many just don’t understand that simple fact. Spirituality is work. It’ s not a feeling or a belief.Iit involves working on your maqam (state of condition). It involves understanding your are in control of what and how you think and what how you behave and what and how you feel. Nobody or nothing can do this for you. You have to do the work yourself. Reading a book or believing in something isn’t going to do it. You need actions..rituals… to reinforce these concepts within your life.

        Ritual is thus a process of programming (conditoning), or deprogramming the spirit to manifest desirable effects in our lives
        Ra Nefer Un Amen
        Metu Neter Vol 1

        http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=12400719&blogId=376142996

        Hopefully you’ll understand and gain some better perspective. Rather than having ideas and thoughts and seeing what religion matches up to your ideas. Truly that is futile neverending journey.

        • Wrestling With Religion said,

          I don’t think Susanne is on the market for a new religion. She has already found something that she feels has changed her life.

        • susanne430 said,

          Hamza, thanks for what you shared. Truly. It helped me understand why Islam is right for you with all its rituals and requirements. I assume your working for your salvation/favor of God helps you think you are somehow in control of your destination and I DO see how that can be appealing. After all, if I work hard, I can get the fruits of my labors because I earned them. (Hmmm that sounds very capitalistic to my American ears, 😀 and I agree my working hard equaling reward is what appeals to me about a free market system. That’s the incentive for hard work for many.)

          You wrote: “You searching for something to do something for you without doing any of the work yourself.”

          No, not really. I could try to be a moral, kind human and give away money to the poor and try to meet needs and I could do a pretty fine job of it most days. But you come to a point when you think, “When is enough enough? HOW good do I have to be in order to earn God’s favor? Is just 51% good deeds vs. 49% bad deeds good enough? Or should I strive for at least 66% good or maybe God wants 75%?”

          I’m not dismissing good deeds. The Bible teaches we were created for doing good things, however, we do not do them to earn our way to God. That’s where I trust God for my salvation first and foremost realizing HE is the savior, HE is everything and without Him I am nothing. My good deeds do not save me. When I trust God for my salvation and yield to Him and seek His will in everything (this is part of that abiding in Jesus that I mentioned on MK’s blog — see John 15) I do, HE works through me so I can love and bless others. Have you ever prayed for God to give you His eyes of love and compassion? To see others and even those you deem as enemies or potential ones through His merciful eyes? It’s amazing how He can change the way you see others that you previously had hard feelings against.

          So it’s not that I am looking for the easy way out. I’m just being realistic — I cannot save myself. God can. So why do I try to do God’s job and take His place when He is the Almighty One?

          I am saved to do good works. I don’t do good works to earn my salvation. I hope the distinction is clear.

          Thanks for your reply.

  7. coolred38 said,

    People in the past…according to religious text (Quran, Bible, Torah etc) witnessed miracles with their very own eyes. We are to believe that all those Egyptians running behind Moses while the Pharoah gave chase actually stood by and watched Moses part the Red Sea…among other things. Jesus brought the dead to life and made water into wine…people saw that. They saw him rise up after 3 days of seemingly being dead. (Im merely stating what the books say about these miracles) Jonah spent some time in the belly of a whale (not sure who witnessed that one) and and and…lots of miracles that were apparently witnessed by people…and yet there were still unbelievers among those very same witnesses…or eventually unbelievers (according to the text).

    So….if apparently witnessing a miracle with your very own eyes doesnt get you to believe in God…what are the rest of us who are merely told to depend on the factual revelation of a mere book as proof of Gods existence supposed to do?

    • Achelois said,

      In reality even in the early Islamic days not everyone found the language of the Quran miraculous even though it was written in the Quraishi dialect. There were many people who were just not impressed. (BTW, that is one thing that really still confuses me – why did God speak in the Quraishi dialect? Why not any other dialect? Why not some universal Arabic dialect? After all, Quraish were not the only ones addressed in the Quran and Quraish was only a tribe, albeit a very large tribe. Even Khadeejah, the first Muslim, was not a Quraishi). I admit that even many Muslims don’t understand Quran’s language today, but that is not why they are Muslim. They are *told* that the language of the Quran is beautiful and it is their luck that they can’t understand it.

      I can read and understand Arabic and I really like the Quran, that is an honest truth, but I get lost in the message often and many times the language doesn’t really amaze me, In fact, I love Surah Fajr but interestingly its Urdu/Hindi translation sounds more amazing (especially the verse – Oh, satisfied soul return to thy Lord).

      • LK said,

        It is really pretty in Urdu! I went to a lecture the other day and the Sheikh was actually encouraging people NOT to understand the Qur’an. That we actually get more reward for reading without understanding. You somehow get more benefit from reading something even though you have no idea what you are saying or why. Not sure how that is at all possible. How can you mean it or feel it if you have no clue what it says?

        But then of course, another lecture I watched was encouraging everyone to learn Arabic so its all a difference of opinion 🙂

        • Achelois said,

          Haha! Maybe I shouldn’t laugh, but you know, I noticed that in Pakistan it is encouraged to read Quran in Arabic and most Pakistanis will read it all like parrots in Arabic and not understand a single word. It doesn’t matter because they are told what to believe in by the mullahs.

          In the ME, Muslims are banned from reading the Bible. It is not sold in bookstores and Muslims are reminded again and again during Friday prayers not to read it.

          I have a feeling it is because in Pakistan the mullahs want to sell their Islam and in the Gulf, they don’t want people to know any other religion so that they don’t convert since there are several inconsistencies between the Biblical events in the Bible and the same ones narrated in the Quran.

          Interestingly, all the Arab people I know who desperately wanted to read the Bible (NT) in Arabic left Islam. I am talking about a whole family of six people and three individual friends. All claimed that the message of the NT was superior than that of the Quran and if NT which is written by humans can be superior than Quran can”t be the word of God. But all of them are not Christians (none is Catholic!). Three persons from the family of six believe in Jesus as a divine teacher but not God. The other three are very confused at the moment 🙂 Two friends are Arians. And one attends the Protestant church.

          • LK said,

            Wow thats a lot of people. They sound like they might be Unitarian (one God, Jesus is awesome prophet, no trinity) 🙂

            Its sad that they are encouraged not to read the Bible. Yeah it has issues but it helps to make sense out of the Qur’an. A lot of the time it seems like the Qur’an is filling in missing pieces in the Bible but if you don’t know the Bible you would never realize it. But this usually only applies to stories of the prophets. But some Christians are discouraged from reading the Torah and the Torah helps to understand the OT, so who knows! You gotta go with what works for you but you can’t control what a person believes, that is definitely against all 3 religions.

            • Wrestling With Religion said,

              I think it would be very difficult to go from tawheed to the trinity. Unitarianism seems to be where quite a few ex-Muslims go.

              • susanne430 said,

                Yes, true…especially if you think Trinity means three gods which it doesn’t.

                • Achelois said,

                  Susanne, would you do a post on that, please, please, please. I want to know what Trinity means to you. I find it confusing and I know you can help me understand it. I have Christians friends who completely believe that Jesus is a physical part of God and pre-existed and is God (some capitalise pronouns for Jesus). But I also have friends who think he is God but not part of God and that he did not pre-exist.

                  My view is that he definitely had divine qualities (turning water into wine, healing the sick and bringing back the dead) but he was neither a part of God, nor God Himself. I believe he was given those qualities by God’s mercy but that he was sinless, perfect, and spoke for God.

                  Am I making sense? 🙂

                  Yes, I guess it is difficult to accept trinity after tawheed. But sadly many ex-Muslims become atheists and denounce God altogether 😦

                  • susanne430 said,

                    Achelois, I saw your request yesterday and it was on my mind even as I slept last night. Ha, ha. I had verses running through my head. 😀 I will try to do a post for you soon on what the Trinity means to me. No promises that it will help you make sense of it, but you can get another perspective on it at least. It may be a few days unless I get a sudden inspiration and time today to do it. 🙂

            • Achelois said,

              Yes Arians are unitarian. Unitarians are very much like Muslim in what they believe about Jesus.

          • susanne430 said,

            Reminds me of the time in history when the Church wanted to keep the Bible in Latin so that only THEY could read it and tell the people what it said. They didn’t want it translated into the common language because then people could read God’s Word for themselves and see how corrupt the Church had become, how far away the Church was from what the Bible actually taught. Thank goodness for those who fought the corrupted Church leaders and others so we can have Bibles in our own languages now!

            It is telling that the mullahs want to be the ones who instruct the people on what the Quran teaches instead of allowing them to read the message for themselves. I would think a logical religion like Islam would encourage its followers to read it and see what is there instead of reading Arabic words of which you have no clue what you are saying. I would hate saying a bunch of words I don’t understand. They are putting a lot of trust in the mullahs. Not sure I’d want to put my soul’s fate into the hands of mere men.

            I believe God wants His message known in all languages so just keeping it in Latin or Arabic is against His universal appeal to ALL people to come to know Him.

          • Kinda said,

            (All claimed that the message of the NT was superior than that of the Quran)

            I don’t know why, but I find that really hilarious and diffecult to belive. I’d love to know how they can came up to such conclusion.

        • aynur said,

          “I went to a lecture the other day and the Sheikh was actually encouraging people NOT to understand the Qur’an. That we actually get more reward for reading without understanding.”

          I’m sorry, that sounds so WRONG to me. *sigh*

    • Cornelius said,

      In the other post caraboska mentioned about the different standard of evidence, or something to that effect. I can easily agree with that. I think it would take quite a lot for anyone to convince me of the existence of something which no one has ever seen.

      If someone tells me that sheep can fly, I doubt that I will believe him. From high above a cliff edge, he pushes off one sheep at a time, and of course the sheep goes down straight to the bottom of the cliff. He then tells me that actually the sheep can really fly, and then continues pushing more and more sheep off the edge of the cliff.

      After 100 sheep have been pushed to their deaths, I say I still can’t see your flying sheep. But the fellow insists that sheep can fly!

      Some people might be convinced that sheep can fly, even if they haven’t actually seen one in action. For some reason, they can be convinced.

      If I were born in the times of the prophets, maybe I would be easily convinced. But since in this modern age I have access to people like David Copperfield, I might require more than what my eyes tell me. We have seen Mr Copperfield fly over London, cut his body into halves, make the Statue of Liberty disappear etc. After seeing all those and knowing that those were just tricks, maybe we would require a bit more to convince ourselves.

      Having said that, however, I think if God suddenly appears in person and show his powers etc, many more people would be convinced, although admittedly there will still be some who won’t change their minds no matter what. But of course that’s not God’s style. He wants to keep us all in suspense and forever guessing the truth of his existence.

    • susanne430 said,

      Coolred, your comment reminded me of yesterday when a friend and I were reading through John 11 and 12 about when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Even though they saw this miracle or heard about it from reliable sources, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus and later Lazarus. Why? Because people started leaving them and following Jesus! They’d rather kill the Miracle Worker and the one raised from the dead to squelch any mass migration to Jesus rather than them.

      As chapter 12 verse 10 and 11 put it: “So the leading priests made plans to kill Lazarus, too. Because of Lazarus many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.”

      So it seems some people just don’t want to believe. They are too caught up in their own power and control to even see God working among them.

  8. Cornelius said,

    I have mentioned several times my doubts on some of the contents of the holy books (both Quran and Bible). Some issues such as slavery just don’t seem morally right to me. And because I can’t agree with some of the teachings, I don’t believe that those are the messages or words of God.

    In another forum a while back, I used more or less those same words above to explain myself on the same issue. And some people were very fast to jump on the word “moral”. They asked me those famous questions:

    And where did your moral standard come from?

    How would you know that your standard is the correct one?

    Those questions made me pause for a bit. I never really thought of it like that. It took me a while to think of a response. But while I was in silence turning the matter in my mind, all the big guns were already shooting at me.

    Their view was that God gave us the moral standard in the first place. So who are we to question his moral instruction? Who are we to say this is good and that is bad, so I will only take the good ones. Because they’re all from God, we should just accept them all! He knows best, and we should just trust him! I suppose that is one way of looking at it. And I suspect many, many people can be satisfied with that conclusion.

    But the trouble is that I can’t really accept the notion of getting my moral standard from God. If a human baby is born and then abandoned in the deep jungle, and has no access to civilization, what would he grow up to be? His life would probably be about survival. He would probably hunt and kill animals for his food. And if there are other humans fighting for the same animals, he might even kill those other humans as well and eat their flesh! His behavior might not be any different from that of the animals around him. He would probably not know anything about democracy, about loving his enemies, about getting married and paying dowries etc.

    These are the group of people who’re excuse from religions. And immediately we ask ourselves why?

    Now compare that with a child born within a civilized environment. From early age, he is told bedtime stories about Cinderella and the wicked step-mother and 2 sisters. And how the good will prevail in the end. That the arrogant hare which was too sure of itself eventually beaten by the tortoise. That when you respect others, they will respect you too. Over so many generations the human race have learned through trial and error what would happen if they did something in a particular way. And they have learned that slavery is no good and inhumane etc. They have learned that military aggressions usually results in the deaths of many innocent people. And from all these information, they sort of come up with some general guide of what’s best to do for mankind.

    I certainly hope that I will never be a slave, so I certainly won’t take other people as my slaves. For I know how I would feel if I were a slave. And this has nothing to do with what’s found in the holy books.

    Oh yes, I think I would trust my own judgement in this case. I don’t care what the holy books say. Slavery is wrong! I don’t care if God allows it; it’s still wrong!

    • Achelois said,

      @ Cornelius,

      “I have mentioned several times my doubts on some of the contents of the holy books (both Quran and Bible). Some issues such as slavery just don’t seem morally right to me. And because I can’t agree with some of the teachings, I don’t believe that those are the messages or words of God.”

      You know I have always wondered why Christians are called People of the Book in the Quran and why Gospel is said to be revealed to Jesus, when Jesus is the Word of God (yes, even in Quran!) so whatever he spoke was what God wanted him to speak. But Jesus didn’t write the Gospel, nor did he even preach the Book per se (the NT are his teachings not the other way around). In fact Gospel wasn’t even written till a couple of centuries after his death. It is like saying that prophet Muhammad preached the Sahih Bukhari which was revealed to him! And the OT wasn’t revealed to Jesus either!

      Have you also ever thought about that? Anyone?

      Thus I can understand if there are passages that don’t make sense to you in the Bible, but the Bible doesn’t claim to have a divine source anyway. It (I am talking about NT) just has the teachings of Jesus and slavery or concubinage were never a part of Jesus’ teachings. He taught by his example and Jesus didn’t have slaves.

      I agree with most of your comments 🙂

      • LK said,

        I think when the Qur’an speaks of the Gospel it speaks of the teaching Jesus brought to the people not necessarily the written version we have today. I’ve read many books that say what we know as the Gospel today has vast differences from what most likely was originally taught to the people.

        Mark is the oldest and considered probably the closest to the original concepts. Not surprisingly, its not a favorite of most churches.

      • Wrestling With Religion said,

        “Have you also ever thought about that? Anyone?”

        Yes, it’s on my list of “problems”. As I always understood it, the Gospel was the “Good News” that the disciples of Jesus taught about salvation. I might be wrong though. Perhaps Jesus brought the “Good News”.

        • Achelois said,

          LK and Sarah, I actually always read the ayahs teaching the Gospel was a revealed book – ayahs: 3.3; 3:65; 5:47; 5:66; 57:27; and especially 3:48 – “And he will impart unto thy son revelation, and wisdom, and the Torah, and the Gospel” – P.S: Torah wasn’t revealed to Jesus.). Maybe I was wrong. I’ll have to read on that more.
          But then the Quran calls itself a great “book” when it was only put into book form after the death of the Prophet and when the surahs were being revealed, there was no physical book (which was the exact proof the pagans demanded – a complete physical book).

          • Wrestling With Religion said,

            Yes, I agree with you Achelois. What I wrote before was my understanding from Christianity.

          • Hamza21 said,

            You totally misunderstand what the Qur’an says. A kitab in Arabic refers to a teaching not just a physical book. Also the mushirk never demended a physical book (where you get that weird idea) but the demanded proof the book,ie the Qur’an was divine. There asked for sign to go along with revelation. Why would they ask for a physical book when most couldn’t even read? What would that prove?

            And your total misintrpretation of 3:48 is so off based. It doesn’t say anything about the Torah being reveled to jesus. It says he will teach them about it. where do you get these weird ideas from?

            • Achelois said,

              “You totally misunderstand what the Qur’an says. A kitab in Arabic refers to a teaching not just a physical book.”

              I think you may be right (although I am half-Arab, I have never heard that kitab refers to teaching. Kitab has three consonants of the root k-t-b (from Hebrew) which means ‘writing’ not *teaching*). So if what you are saying is correct then it explains this verse very well:

              … We have sent down to thee the (Book) Teaching explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and Glad Tidings to Muslims (16:89)
              It would mean Allah sent down *teachings* explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy and Good News to Muslims, but He only *taught* and didn’t dictate a *book.* In that case, the book as we have today is merely an interpretation by the Prophet of the teaching sent down and not exact words of God. That makes it easier. Thank you!

              “Also the mushirk never demended a physical book (where you get that weird idea) but the demanded proof the book,ie the Qur’an was divine.”

              I was talking about when revelations (or like you very well explained – *teachings*) began and they didn’t come all at once, the pagans (and even Jews) speculated that if it was really God dictating a *book* then He would have done it like He dictated the Torah in one sitting and demanded that a complete book be shown to them. Many books refer to the event. I don’t have the time to give references; if you are interested you can look it up yourself.

              “Why would they ask for a physical book when most couldn’t even read? What would that prove?”

              I answered that above. Many couldn’t read?! What makes you think that? What was the use of compiling the Quran then if many couldn’t read it?! I guess demanding such a proof was more accurate since any illiterate man can ‘speak’ words of wisdom but he can’t physically ‘write’ a book containing the same words of wisdom. Illiteracy does not equal unintelligence.
              “And your total misintrpretation of 3:48 is so off based. It doesn’t say anything about the Torah being reveled to jesus. It says he will teach them about it. where do you get these weird ideas from?”

              Hmm, if I understand your grammatical structure correctly you are saying that I am misinterpreting the verse. Perhaps I am. I was reading the Arabic – وَيُعَلِّمُهُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَالتَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنجِيلَ which indeed means God will make Jesus know (I was translating as ‘impart’) the *Book* (or like you explained teaching, so God will ‘teach him the teaching’) and Wisdom (hmm, can wisdom be taught or is it imparted?), and the Torah and the Gospel. This makes better sense now:

              God will ‘teach Jesus the teaching’ and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel.

              And I think it gels well with 16:89 that God only teaches the prophets and then they interpret the teachings based on earlier books (like the Torah) and write/dictate the books according to their understanding– Quran and Gospel. But then again Jesus didn’t dictate/write the Gospel! Argh! Will have to do it all over again.

              Thank you for your comment, Hamza.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Cornelius,

      I too have problems with accepting anything because it’s “from God”. How do you know it’s from God? Because it makes sense and seems good, right? That’s the only way to evaluate it unless you want to be brainwashed, which is pretty risky. So it all comes down to exercising moral judgments ourselves. (Or it should!)

      Your comment about the difference between a primitive and a civilised environment is interesting. I am not at all sure if civilisation really constitutes moral progress. I don’t think the world is in better shape today than in the past. We might not have slavery any more but we still perpetuate a lot of injustice on a global scale.

  9. Achelois said,

    Are you a fan of Gandhi, Sarah? I am. He used beautiful words to explain his beautiful thoughts. I believe God spoke to him sometimes and inspired him to do good.
    Gandhi never claimed to be a prophet although he is still called ‘maha-aatama’ (meaning superior soul). I believe if towards the end of his life he had claimed to be a prophet he would have had a huge following because people from all faiths loved him. But would he really be a prophet?
    Some people believe the British left India only because Gandhi had a pure soul that preached non-violence and so non-violence won in the end. Others think that British left because they had to leave (Hitler and 2nd WW and all that). Of course because we believe he wasn’t a prophet we would take a more pragmatic approach and agree with the second conclusion. We won’t conclude that there was a Divine hand in it. But then it could well be!
    I love the Psalms but just because the Psalms sound beautiful to me, I wouldn’t want to become a Christian. There has to be something more beautiful than words. I can’t accept that literary style is a measure of truth and divinity. In the same way the mool mantra is absolutely beautiful in original Gurmukhi. It has a rhythm, a lilting tone (you can listen to it here- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZxzuwQVk2M) and it means:
    One Universal Creator God. The Name Is Truth. Creative Being Personified. No Fear. No Hatred. Image Of The Undying, Beyond Birth, Self-Existent. By Guru’s Grace.
    Does the beautiful and great message of the mool mantra make Guru Nanak a prophet? Does it make Sikhism a true religion from God? For some it is. For others not.
    I am not saying whether Islam is true or not. I believe all religions have some truth in it. It is what you believe, Sarah. I have asked myself the same questions and found some answers from others. For example, it is not true that Muhammad was a poor man. Muslims have corrected that for me. He was poor for a while but he was born into a rich family, married to a rich woman and became rich in Medina. It is true that he was very charitable and didn’t like to accumulate wealth but it is not true that he died penniless. In fact, one reason his daughter and her family never got along well with Abu Bakr was because they demanded that Khaibar be given to Fatima in inheritance and Abu Bakr refused. Muhammad owned lands and date gardens. He owned slaves and cattle. How do we think all his widows (9 in number at the time of his death) survived after his death? When he lived in poverty it wasn’t out of choice.
    Quran is often consistent, but I find major differences in the message from Mecca and the message from Medina. But that is just me. Montgomery Watt found nothing wrong with it. And I also don’t think Quran preaches to renounce the dunya. In fact, it preaches that comfort of the dunya will continue even after death. Yes, early Muslims didn’t have all the comforts and it was important to boost their morale, but they were materialistic still –many carried out raids and fought in wars for the grand booty; greed for booty was also a reason why they were attacked in Uhud. In fact, whenever letters were written to other countries for their leaders to convert, material gains were promised to them (e.g., read the letters sent to leaders of Oman and Ethiopia).
    As far as prophesies are concerned, I think there are greater prophecies (like those of Edgar Cayce) than the Byzantium victory. In fact, personally I don’t think it was a solid prophecy to begin with (read comparative translations here – http://www.kavalec.com/Quran/30/4/default.htm).
    My theory is that if you can find nothing wrong with a person’s ‘moral’ message then what s/he is preaching has more truth than imagination. If you can find a lot of problems with the ‘moral’ message then I think there is more imagination than truth. But only you can be a judge of that and choose a moral guide for yourself.
    You really have to decide what makes sense to you and what brings you peace. If Islam still appeals to your heart then there is truth in it for you. I would only suggest that you give it another chance.
    But, if you can see clearly that Quran, although beautiful and good (in parts), cannot be from God then you have it right there in front of you. A Muslim can’t have ifs and buts regarding the divine nature of the Quran. No one should tell you how bad or good Quran is; that never works. What is magical to one person, is a hoax to another. You will have to see it for yourself and you will (or you have!).
    Sorry for the long comment!

    • LK said,

      Wow that was beautiful
      “My theory is that if you can find nothing wrong with a person’s ‘moral’ message then what s/he is preaching has more truth than imagination. If you can find a lot of problems with the ‘moral’ message then I think there is more imagination than truth. But only you can be a judge of that and choose a moral guide for yourself.”

      I think you just hit it all right on the head with this statement. May I quote this when I write my post on what makes a religion right for an individual?

      And I LOVE Ghandi.

      • Achelois said,

        Of course, you can. That would be an honour. And please write that post soon. I am so excited to read what you have to say!!

        • LK said,

          I will write it when I come back in a week Insha’Allah. But if more peeps want to add their two cents that would be fabulous!

    • Kinda said,

      (He was poor for a while but he was born into a rich family, married to a rich woman and became rich in Medina. It is true that he was very charitable and didn’t like to accumulate wealth but it is not true that he died penniless).

      Simply not true. If you read any authintic biography of the Prophet you’d know that he was very poor (espacially after his prophethood) to the point of not having anything to eat excapt water and dates for 3 days in a row. He sometimes would even had to tie a rop around his stomech from the sever pain of hunger. He died completely penniless, and left nothing exacpt a sheild to his jewish neighbor. His wives often complained to him about their extetemly diffecutl condetion, but in the end he simply gave them a choice: either to stay with him and be patient or to be divorced and live a more comfortable lives. They all choose him.

      (When he lived in poverty it wasn’t out of choice).

      I find that very hard to believe. Don’t forget, many Quraishy tribes tried to bribe him with money, power, women and anything they could of, but he always remaind perseverant.

      • Achelois said,

        I am writing from info from biographies especially Aslan and Armstrong. When he tied stones on his belly and had nothing to eat, it was the time Quraish was persecuting Muslims before migration to Medina and even in Medina the situation was very bad for a long time until Islam began to progress and after raids and wars. I am not saying that the situation was not bad. It was very, very bad and Khadeeja died because poverty had struck them so hard. In fact, it was only after their first raid that Aisha said she had ever eaten a plate full of dates in Medina.
        It is quoted in Sahih Bukhari (Volume 8, Book 76, Number 461) that Aisha said, “The family of Muhammad had never eaten their fill of wheat bread for three successive days since they had migrated to Medina till the death of the Prophet” which is a bit hard to believe if you’d consider he gave 12 ounces of gold as Mahr to all his free brides and slaughtered camels to celebrate his weddings. So yes, hadith books say something about poverty and then also have historical facts that challenge those ahadith on poverty.
        Regarding the choice he gave to his wives to stay or get divorced, it was never because of poverty. I would again guide you to the Arabic commentary of Ibn Kathir for that, Kinda 🙂 It was because they all fought with him because he spent extra time with Mary the Copt.
        I don’t want to comment on the bribe bit.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Achelois,

      I really don’t know much about Ghandi. I think I should find out! Oh, and I’ll listen to the mool mantra when I get home, that sounds interesting.

      I had a thought this morning. When an artist (in the general sense) creates beautiful things, he or she often describes a feeling of the art being bigger than them, that it came through them but they can’t remember or work out how they actually created it. Indeed, some works of art or music etc are so mind-blowing that it is hard to believe a person did that. I believe that’s why some artists are almost idolised.

      Perhaps they are tapping into something bigger than themselves, like a higher power; or perhaps we are all just endowed with creativity to do what we like with. After all art can be destructive and immoral as well as edifying.

      I’m not quite sure what I think art really is. Or why it is so powerful. But maybe some revelation experiences are essentially the same thing as artistic experiences.

      No need to apologise for long comments!

      • Achelois said,

        Wow Sarah! That is a wonderful analogy. Yes, like Mozart. He was miraculous. I think I can understand that.

        And you must listen to the mool mantra. I love it. I put that verse in Gurmukhi as the welcome message on my cellphone so when I switch it on it reminds me that God is One and His name is the only Truth.

  10. f said,

  11. Sam said,

    57:25 We sent aforetime our apostles with Clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance (of Right and Wrong), that men may stand forth in justice; and We sent down Iron, in which is (material for) mighty war, as well as many benefits for mankind, that Allah may test who it is that will help, Unseen, Him and His apostles: For Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might (and able to enforce His Will).

    Can anyone explain to me how any human knew that iron was sent down to the earth not formed in the earth 1400 yrs ago?

    • Cornelius said,

      That is a good question, Sam. And I will admit that I don’t know the answer to it.

      Some of us humans are very clever and ahead of our time. For example Edison had a vision of creating light (bulb). People laughed at him when he first came up with the idea. Bell invented the telephone, an outrageous idea at the time. Einstein knew many, many things long before their discoveries. He came up with very, very complex scientific theories, some of them proven to be correct long after he’s dead. Maybe Einstein was cheating; maybe it was God who told him all those secrets. Otherwise, how else did he know all those stuff?

  12. Achelois said,

    I may be completely wrong, but some years ago I was visiting the British Museum in London and the guide told us that ancient Egyptians knew very well that some iron came down as meteorites and in fact believed that those had divine properties and were holy in some way (like ancient Arabians worshipped fallen meteorites – e.g., the Black Stone). The ancient Egyptians obtained iron from meteorites even before the iron age began and used it to create items. For example, there are actually 18-20 items in the tomb of Tutankhamen that have been created from iron obtained from meteorites. Not many people know that. And it was specifically used because ancient Egyptians thought the meteoritic iron was godly since it fell from the sky. The guide explained that actually ancient people didn’t know that iron exists in the earth as ore and imagined that it only came outer space!

    What I don’t know is if early Muslims also thought that iron only fell the sky or if they were aware of its existence in ores as well.

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