Can Re-Examining One’s Faith Be Dangerous?

QIn response to my post about adopting faith on rational basis instead of blind faith, Rabia Chaudhry wrote:

Evaluation on all levels is very important; however, excessive critique can sometimes be dangerous and detrimental to your belief all together.

Clearly, an individual who fails to question his or her beliefs is doing an injustice to him/herself. For discussion sake, let's just consider for example, an individual who, after having evaluated his belief, abandons it. From an Islamic perspective, perhaps this may not be a conscious and rational decision, nevertheless, a choice that he has made. From a societal point of view, this individual will not only be barred by the family, but also the community. What will be the state of this individual in the society, in the grave, and the hereafter? The consequences of such a decision are very severe and the punishment even greater.

Please comment!

ABismillaahi walĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu ‘alaa rasoolillaahi

(Please note that pronoun “he” has been used to represent all human beings)

People do not lose faith when they critically review their faith rationally. Rational approach only helps to guide them to Islam, strengthen their faith, make it grounded deep into their intellect and increase their commitment to it.

If a believer in any faith other than Islam critically reviews his own faith and takes a pragmatic, rational approach in studying various faiths including Islam and he is honest and sincere to himself, he will not be able to help but come to Islam. This will happen because Islam is the only faith that makes sense.

If an atheist or agnostic reflects on different views about God, taking the same honest but rational approach, the same result is expected. Islam’s is the only view that they will find appealing.

In all such cases, the rational approach helps people see the strengths of Islam. If you listen to the stories of converts to Islam, most of them were attracted to Islam exactly for this reason. That is why the Noble Qur-aan repeatedly invites people to reflect and ponder over the signs of Allaah.

If a person is born in a Muslim home in a non-Muslim society and he does not take rational approach to religion, his commitment to Islam will remain marginal, his faith will remain weak, he will always be under pressure from the anti-Islamic propaganda and he will be shy to identify himself as a Muslim in public. From Islamic point of view, his being Muslim is not going to be very useful either for himself or for the Muslim community. On the other hand, if he pays attention, takes a rational approach and studies Islam for himself by reading good books on the topic and reflecting on the verses of the Qur-aan, his faith will become strong, his commitment will increase and his devotion to the faith will grow. The person will feel proud to be a Muslim and feel good about it because it will be his own personal decision. If Islam is to stay in this part of the world, and grow and prosper in our future generations, our youth need to be provided solid rational foundations through which their faith is strongly entrenched in their minds.

When we invite young Muslims living in non-Muslim environments to reflect on their faith rationally, there is a danger that if any of them takes the wrong approach such as failing to free himself from the irrational propaganda and influences of un-Islamic ideologies to think independently and rationally, or just dwells upon non-Islamic philosophies during his study and review phase, he may say goodbye to religion altogether. If that happens, it is sad and we must feel for that individual for the terrible situation he is heading into. That is where our role as Islamic workers comes in. It our job for the sake and pleasure of Allaah that we help such individuals by providing them appropriate resources, books and materials, and by having constructive discussions with them and by arranging halaqahs and programs for them -- all this to help go through the review phase properly, sensibly and rightly. If that help and support is provided to them during this critical phase, Inshaa Allaah even marginal Muslims will come out strong in faith and commitment. However, if Muslims community does not reach out to such individuals, we should feel responsible for the terrible result. On the other hand, if the community did whatever should have been done and we still lose a person to shayŧaan, then it is no one’s fault but his own. The person was a lost cause to begin with, whether he would have used rational approach or not. That kind of people tend to opt for misguidance from everything -- even from the Qur-aan, the doubtless book of guidance. About them the Noble Qur-aan says, “Many are misguided by it and many are guided.”

We should also remember that every youth goes through this questioning phase anyway. It is the way Allaah has created us. When coming of age, every youth rebels and rethinks what his parents tell him. By our denial, this questioning phase is not going to go away. But if we help them go through this phase properly with due analysis and guidance, Inshaa Allaah, our youth are going to come out better Muslims.

My recently released book, Islam – Does it make sense is specially written for helping our youth go through this phase triumphantly and to help non-Muslims come to Islam through rational thinking.

However, the following point must be noted and understood:

My observation is that people do not usually lose faith because they took a rational approach to the articles of faith. People get into trouble and have their faith shaken when they start judging Islamic teachings from non-Islamic perspectives. That is a big no no. Evaluation of Islam must be done on the basis of precepts of faith, not on the basis of its commands. For commands, obedience must be total, instant, unconditional. No questions asked. We neither have need nor capability to understand all the wisdom of Islamic commands. Once we have decided to believe in Allaah, we must believe in Him truly and submit to Him fully without asking rationale for His commands. We must avoid the temptation to judge Divine commands in comparison with contemporary human thoughts. When people indulge in evaluating the rationale of Allaah’s commands, shayŧaan starts celebrating because of the expected growth in the ranks of his disciples.

I hope this addresses your concerns.

March 9, 2004
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