Why should someone seriously consider Islam?
And if someone is setting out to find the truth, how would they know Islam is it?
We ask brother Dr Shabir Ally.
Q: Brother Shabir Ally, for Muslims, it’s a kind of a hard question to answer because we grew up thinking Islam is the truth, but we don’t really interrogate our beliefs; we don’t really continuously ask the question why is Islam the truth.
So sometimes we can forget the reasons why we believe in Islam. So maybe you can help us to answer that question. Why do we believe Islam is the truth?
A: Well, several reasons:
1- The idea of God in Islam is very simple and this is a kind of universal idea. All of the great arguments for the existence of God that survive from classical times point to the existence of one God, and that’s what Muslims believe, so it’s a very firm foundation.
2- The idea of Monotheism was emphasized in Judaism. There has been a series of prophets whose lives and teachings are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible over many hundreds or thousands of years, and these all emphasize the teaching of one God, and that is what is again mentioned in the Quran.
Q: So there is a historical progression then, where Islam is the end?
A: Yes. And this is how Muslims see the religion of Islam, as a culmination of the teachings of the great Prophets.
So if we have religions spanning from the teachings of important Prophets and heroes and personages from all around the world, Muslims see that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a part of this family of Prophets and that his message is a culmination of the messages that God has been delivering to prophets of all time.
So that in essence, the message is the same, and in terms of application the specific instruction given to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is now what is most pertinent to our present time and circumstance, so that we believe in all of the Prophets in principle, but we follow the last of all of the Prophets in practice.
Q: You mentioned the message, how do we know that this message is actually from God?
A: Well, we can examine the written message itself, the Quran, which was left by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. He said that this was given to him as a revelation from God. If one didn’t believe in that, one would think that ok it must be from he himself, so he has composed it on his own.
So it is either a message from God or from Prophet Muhammad himself as a writer.
But it couldn’t be from the Prophet Muhammad himself as a writer for several reasons:
1- He is known in history to have been an unlettered person, he wasn’t trained to read or write; and Muslims now would be amazed that the Quran being the first Arabic textbook and being in a literary high level. So this does not seem to come from the writing skill of a non-lettered person; it ties in with the belief that it is a revelation from God.
2- We can point to the Prophet’s sincerity that if he was writing this book on his own trying to convince people that this is from God, then why would he do that?
He would be insincere and he should not suffer the kinds of persecutions and so on that he did for the sake of this message. He should give it up easily if people did not want to believe in it.
But historians of religion point to the fact that the Prophet maintained his teaching for 23 years despite all kinds of persecution that was heaped upon him and his early followers, friends and family and that shows his sincerity.
When he said that it came from God, he really believed that himself; so he wasn’t making it up and trying to fool people.
3- The Quran itself commands the Prophet, teaches him, tells him what to do, and on occasion even criticizes him. If he were writing the book on his own, then it would be that he is speaking to himself and criticizing himself as if he is schizophrenic or something.
But the Prophet, peace be upon him, is known to be a very sane person, a wise general, a very capable administrator.
He has gone down in history as one of the wisdom sages of all, even by people who do not recognize him to be a Prophet of God.
So he could not have written this Quran on his own, it would seem to Muslims.
4- The Quran speaks about past history, and independent study shows that what the Quran detailed about previous Prophets and details of history are actually true.
5- The Quran speaks about the future, and other studies show that what the Quran speaks about what will happen in the future, the Quran is right, since only God knows the future, the Quran is obviously for Muslims the word of God.
6- The Quran describes certain aspects of physical phenomena that we can observe, to call our attention to the greatness of God and His Majesty.
But at the same time, the language which is used in the Quran to describe these things, while being simple and understandable to the 7th century Arab, at the same time from our modern perspectives these expressions seem to betray the knowledge of the author of some of the things that we are now discovering.
So for Muslims it is amazing, it would mean that this could not have been Muhammad authoring this because how would he know the kinds of things we’re discovering now in science; it just seems to be the mind of God that is unfolding before us in the Quranic text.
And there could be more to say about this, but all of these reasons combined and more point in the same direction that this book is not a human work; this is a revelation given to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from the Almighty God.
Q: What about if someone listens to your presentation and says “Yes, this is well and good, but then what about the fact that some of the aspects of the Quran seem outdated, they don’t to fit into the time in which we live.” Does that call into question the truth of the Quran?
A: Perhaps what you’re referring is that some people may object that some of the regulations for example in the Quran may be more suited to a time past than the present time.
We should say that this is not a proof that the Quran is not from God, this is only a proof that the Quran has a message which is suitable to various times and places, and we have to recognize within the Quran what is most suited to our time and how to apply the Quran in a way that is suited to our time.
We recognize the historical situation in which the Quran first spoke, and we see that the Quran may have given some regulations because of the time and place in which it was first addressing its message, but the Quran also has within itself the seeds of growth and progress.
It allows for Muslims to practice what is referred to as ijtihad which is the effort of learning how to apply the Quran in new and changing dynamic circumstances.
So that’s not a proof that the Quran is not the word from God. It’s just a challenge for Muslims to apply the Quran properly in new situations.