Sunday, October 16, 2016

Islam ?

There is much talk these days of Islamophobia, which is nothing but the result of a form of fear of Islam. As we say, when you don’t know something you fight it. What is Islam ? Islam is the name given to a set of beliefs and practices falling within the logical continuation of other beliefs and practices emanating from the same source: God. To understand Islam, which comes after Judaism and Christianity, we should then understand the design of God who revealed them all. I will not repeat what I said in my previous posts, but I will nonetheless remind readers of a few points. First, we know nothing about God more than He told us about  Himself directly in the holy books or through the prophets. The question is, what relation is there between God and man? Man has been  on earth for thousands of years, for believers, for millions of years, for non-believers. Both believers and non-believers have always shared life on earth. Humans have not always worshipped the same God nor had the same relationship to faith and the divine. Why should therefore any divinity interfere in the lives of people who could, in their view, do without all that is faith and divine, all the more so since this is based only on beliefs not always scientifically verifiable? In other words, do we really need God, be it Allah or other? Since we posed the question of understanding Islam, we will speak here only of Allah, who introduces Himself to us through the Quran, the holy book of Islam. When we read the Quran we learn that it is God (Allah) who created the world and placed man on the planet earth and put at his disposal  everything in the universe. Why did God do so, for what purpose? A first reading of the Quran suggests that God created man "51.56. to worship Me." It may therefore come to mind that it is because God needed to be revered, worshipped, that He had taken the trouble to create this whole universe in order to get a few prayers or praise or rituals from this poor man that He put on a planet no doubt suitable for life but unquestionably full of danger too. In this case, it is God who would need man more than man would need God and therefore God would have only Himself  to blame if man refused to worship Him. But the depths of human nature show that, in fact, the opposite is true: God has no need of man -nor of angels who never tire of worshiping him. Even the worst miscreants when they are facing death, well, they implore God, and no one else, to save them. "6.40. Say: Can ye see yourselves, if the punishment of Allah comes upon you or the Hour comes upon you, calling upon other than Allah? Do ye then call (for help) to any other than Allah? (Answer that) if ye are truthful. 6.41. Nay, but unto Him ye call, and He removeth that because of which ye call unto Him, if He will, and ye forget whatever partners ye ascribed unto Him."

The faithful, either, are not always as faithful as they may look. We read in the Qur'an: "10.12. And if misfortune touches a man he crieth unto Us, (while reclining) on his side, or sitting or standing, but when We have relieved him of the misfortune he goeth his way as though he had not cried unto Us because of a misfortune that afflicted him. Thus is what they do made (seeming) fair unto the prodigal."  "11.10. And if We cause him to taste grace after some misfortune that had befallen him, he saith: The ills have gone from me. Lo! he is exultant, boastful." "89.15. As for man, whenever his Lord trieth him by honouring him, and is gracious unto him, he saith : My Lord honoureth me. 89.16. But whenever He trieth him by straitening his means of life, he saith : My Lord despiseth me." In fact, many people who call themselves believers are interested in God only because they find in Him a refuge. "22.11. And among mankind is he who worshippeth Allah upon a narrow marge so that if good befalleth him he is content therewith, but if a trial befalleth him, he falleth away utterly. He loseth both the world and the Hereafter. That is the sheer loss."

Now let’s pose this innocent question : what do we put instead of God when we do not want Him? Certainly not the void. We put either the state, or any other tangible refuge, or one’s "self-sufficiency". The thing is,  the state itself, or any other refuge (tribe, clan, family, organization...), could legitimately claim that they are dependent on God's grace or that they are simply unable to meet the needs of those who depend on them. For example, crop failure is usually attributed to drought, that is, to God. Worse, man himself, as an individual, is not always able to ensure his self-sufficiency: there are physical accidents, mishaps, loss of income (unemployment…), disease, social problems, old age, etc. Whether one is a believer or unbeliever, all those things are dreadful. Even a great emperor would be afraid of losing his throne. More than fear, which may not always be justifiable, there are many undeniable realities. Age is a fact : nobody remains young and strong forever, and there's death at the end of the road. Even at the height of our youth and physical and mental strength there’s sleep, for example, and this sleep is a form of total helplessness. Allah speaks of all this in the Quran.

"39.42. Allah receiveth (men's) souls at the time of their death, and that (soul) which dieth not (yet) in its sleep. He keepeth that (soul) for which He hath ordained death and dismisseth the rest till an appointed term. Lo herein verily are portents for people who take thought." "30.54. Allah is He who shaped you out of weakness, then appointed after weakness strength, then, after strength, appointed weakness and grey hair. He createth what He will. He is the Knower, the Mighty. " "36.68. He whom We bring unto old age, We reverse him in creation (making him go back to weakness after strength). Have ye then no sense? " "40.67. He it is Who created you from dust, then from a drop (of seed) then from a clot, then bringeth you forth as a child, then (ordaineth) that ye attain full strength and afterward that ye become old men though some among you die before and that ye reach an appointed term, that haply ye may understand." "16.70. And Allah createth you, then causeth you to die, and among you is he who is brought back to the most abject stage of life, so that he knoweth nothing after (having had) knowledge. Lo ! Allah is Knower, Powerful."

When we read the Quran more closely, we realize that God is truly omnipresent.

This means, like the ancient scholars explained very well, that what God created does not work in a mechanical or automatic way. Certainly, a wheat grain will always give a grain of wheat and an egg will always give a hen's chick. That's the rule. But it is not because there was sexual intercourse between a man and a woman that there will inevitably be a child. It is not because it rains that the land will yield fruit and vegetables. It's not because it's the same father and the same mother that the children will have the same size or the same facial features... God controls the rule and the exception. He controls the whole and details.

"32.4. Allah it is Who created the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, in six Days. Then He mounted the throne. Ye have not, beside Him, a protecting friend or mediator. Will ye not then remember? 32.5. He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon."

"80.24. Let man consider his food: 80.25. How We pour water in showers 80.26. Then split the earth in clefts 80.27. And cause the grain to grow therein 80.28. And grapes and green fodder 80.29. And olive trees and palm trees 80.30. And garden closes of thick foliage 80.31. And fruits and grasses: 80.32. Provision for you and your cattle. " "54.49. Lo! We have created everything by measure. 54.50. And Our commandment is but one (commandment), as the twinkling of an eye. 54.49. And the earth have We spread out, and placed therein firm hills, and caused each seemly thing to grow therein. 15.20. And We have given unto you livelihoods therein, and unto those for whom ye provide not. 15.21. And there is not a thing but with Us are the stores thereof. And We send it not down save in appointed measure." "30.48. Allah is He who sendeth the winds so that they raise clouds, and spreadeth them along the sky as pleaseth Him, and causeth them to break and thou seest the rain downpouring from within them. And when He maketh it to fall on whom He will of His bondmen, lo! they rejoice; 30.49. Though before that, even before it was sent down upon them, they were in despair. " "11.6. And there is not a beast in the earth but the sustenance thereof dependeth on Allah. He knoweth its habitation and its repository. All is in a clear record." "42.49. Unto Allah belongeth the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He createth what He will. He bestoweth female (offspring) upon whom He will, and bestoweth male (offspring) upon whom He will; 42.50. Or He mingleth them, males and females, and He maketh barren whom He will. Lo! He is Knower, Powerful. " "56.62. And verily ye know the first creation. Why, then, do ye not reflect?  56.63. Have ye seen that which ye cultivate? 56.64. Is it ye who foster it, or are We the Fosterer? 56.65. If We willed, We verily could make it chaff, then would ye cease not to exclaim: 56.66. Lo! we are laden with debt! 56.67. Nay, but we are deprived! 56.68. Have ye observed the water which ye drink? 56.69. Is it ye who shed it from the rain cloud, or are We the shedder? 56.70. If We willed We verily could make it bitter. Why, then, give ye not thanks? 56.71. Have ye observed the fire which ye strike out; 56.72. Was it ye who made the tree thereof to grow, or were We the grower?"  "10.22. He it is Who maketh you to go on the land and the sea till, when ye are in the ships and they sail with them with a fair breeze and they are glad therein, a storm wind reacheth them and the wave cometh unto them from every side and they deem that they are overwhelmed therein; (then) they cry unto Allah, making their faith pure for Him only; If Thou deliver us from this, we truly will be of the thankful. 10.23. Yet when He hath delivered them, behold! they rebel in the earth wrongfully. O mankind! Your rebellion is only against yourselves. (Ye have) enjoyment of the life of the world; then unto Us is your return and We shall proclaim unto you what ye used to do. 10.24. The similitude of the life of the world is only as water which We send down from the sky, then the earth's growth of that which men and cattle eat mingleth with it till, when the earth hath taken on her ornaments and is embellished, and her people deem that they are masters of her, Our commandment cometh by night or by day and we make it as reaped corn as if it had not flourished yesterday. Thus do We expound the revelations for people who reflect. 10.25. And Allah summoneth to the abode of peace, and leadeth whom He will to a straight path." "27.60. Is not He (best) who created the heavens and the earth, and sendeth down for you water from the sky wherewith We cause to spring forth joyous orchards, whose trees it never hath been yours to cause to grow. Is there any God beside Allah? Nay, but they are folk who ascribe equals (unto Him) ! 27.61. Is not He (best) Who made the earth a fixed abode, and placed rivers in the folds thereof, and placed firm hills therein, and hath set a barrier between the two seas? Is there any God beside Allah? Nay, but most of them know not! 27.62. Is not He (best) who answereth the wronged one when he crieth unto Him and removeth the evil, and hath made you viceroys of the earth? Is there any God beside Allah? Little do they reflect! " "56.58. Have ye seen that which ye emit (the drop of sperm you ejaculate) ? 56.59. Do ye create it or are We the creator? 56.60. We mete out death among you, and We are not to be outrun."

All this to say that God intervenes everywhere and at any time -for good and for ill. God runs the world every day and in real time. He handles everything: from the rain and vegetation, to the creation of the fetus, to the whole course of the individual’s life, to the fate of nations. "23.43. Because no community can advance or recede the term allotted to it."
Hence the importance of the relationship between the Creator and the creature. To simplify things, let’s imagine a friendship between a great emperor and his gardener. The Emperor shows tenderness and generosity towards the gardener. He protects him and gives him some assurance. The gardener, for his part, shows total respect, unwavering loyalty and even unshakable love for his master. This image is too simplistic to oversimplify even a little bit the relationship that should be between a believer and God. But at least it has the merit of helping us to understand that it’s the emperor who should provide the protection and the gardener must in no case be disrespectful to his master. From the moment you admit that God is your master, the Lord, and that you submit to Him, with all the respect due to Him, you are entitled to aspire to His protection. Even the Quran speaks of "Tijara" (trade) between the believer and the Lord. You honour your part of the contract, "9111. And who is truer to his promise than God?"
By submitting to the will of God you will inevitably make  sacrifices, which, in principle, should be rewarded and moreover by fair compensation. But it's not because you have done what God asked you to do that you deserve this reward. He has already given you so many things! The life He has given you is priceless. One eye or one arm or one leg He has given you is priceless. He gave you all this and more without asking him. And on top of that there's a bonus: Paradise. Everyone would normally be entitled to heaven if there was not some kind of competition. You want paradise, well, you make an effort for it?

And even after this competition, we must remain humble. We are before God. That gardener of the great emperor we talked about, could he ask a reward or anything from his master? Should we not simply rely on the justice of God? Imagine a serial killer who repents and does everything to get the approval of God. Even the perfect justice of God cannot save him. This does not mean, though, that he is condemned forever and that God will not forgive him. So we will need much more than just God’s justice. We need His grace and mercy.
The prophet told us that even himself would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven because he deserved it for doing this and that, but it's just by God's favour that the faithful –all the faithful– will get to heaven ––and this for the simple reason that the Lord is free. He is not accountable for what He does. "21.23. He will not be questioned as to that which He doeth, but they will be questioned." For He has absolutely no need of "our works" since ... "35.15. O mankind! Ye are the poor in your relation to Allah. And Allah! He is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise. 35.16. If He will, He can be rid of you and bring (instead of you) some new creation. 35.17. That is not a hard thing for Allah." "6.133. Thy Lord is the Absolute, the Lord of Mercy. If He will, He can remove you and can cause what He will to follow after you, even as He raised you from the seed of other folk."
If God really needs our prayers and praises, why would He not spare at least prophets, apostles and the best faithful of all time? "3.185. Every soul will taste of death."
Precisely, these people, and others, who have reached a certain degree of faith, well, they do not expect that God rewards them for anything.

"31.12. And verily We gave Luqman wisdom, saying: Give thanks unto Allah; and whosoever giveth thanks, he giveth thanks for (the good of) his soul. And whosoever refuseth Lo! Allah is Absolute, Owner of Praise."
And if these people ask God to admit them into heaven it’s because they have the absolute conviction that there is no alternative but hell, and God will be visible only to the residents of Paradise. According to the prophet, the faithful will see God with their own eyes as we Earth people see the moon in the sky. Also, not asking for a place in heaven could be likened to a form of favour done to God, while God has absolutely no need of anything or anyone, and to Him every good work must be duly rewarded in this world and in the hereafter so that this work does not seem as a debt. "49.17. They make it favour unto thee (Muhammad) that they have surrendered (unto Him). Say: Deem not your Surrender a favour unto me; nay, but Allah doth confer a favour on you, inasmuch as He hath led you to the Faith, if ye are earnest." "39.7. If ye are thankless, yet Allah is Independent of you, though He is not pleased with thanklessness for His bondmen; and if ye are thankful He is pleased therewith for you. No laden soul will bear another's load. Then unto your Lord is your return; and He will tell you what ye used to do. Lo! He knoweth what is in the breasts (of men)" "16.30. And it is said unto those who ward off (evil) : What hath your Lord revealed? They say Good: For those who do good in this world there is a good (reward) and the home of the Hereafter will be better. Pleasant indeed will be the home of those who ward off (evil). 16.31. Gardens of Eden which they enter, underneath which rivers flow, wherein they have what they will. Thus Allah repayeth those who ward off (evil). 16.32. Those whom the angels cause to die (when they are) good. They say: Peace be unto you! Enter the Garden because of what ye used to do. 16.33. Await they aught save that the angels should come unto them or thy Lord's  command should come to pass? Even so did those before them. Allah wronged them not, but they did wrong themselves."
Besides, even before creating man, God had already prepared for him his final abode (in Paradise). The prophet told us that every resident of Paradise will be shown his place in Hell and every resident of Hell will be shown his place in Paradise. It’s up to us to choose one or the other. It is precisely this freedom of choice, real or  theoretical, that makes us  God’s favourite creature. "10.99. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers?"  "2.256. There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm hand hold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower."

"11.118. And if your Lord had willed, He would have made mankind one community. But they continue to stand up against each other, 11.119. With the exception of those to whom your Lord granted mercy. And it is to be so different that He created them. " This diversity was then willed by God Himself.

God has given us tremendous power to support us in our earthly adventure without breaking our link to Him, by indicating from the outset that our final destination should be paradise. The first man saw this paradise for himself for having lived there a while. As for us, children of Adam, we have not been so lucky, and that’s good for us. It would not be easy for anyone to be expelled from such a beautiful world. However, in principle at least, we should always have this picture in mind. Maybe Adam ended up in the best place upon his descent from heaven onto the planet earth, but it was obviously not paradise! A baby could be born in the best birthing clinic or in the best palace in the world, but for him, at birth, it's not like in the womb. That's why he cries! What does this mean? It simply means that man should expect danger before quietude, problems before solutions, boos before applause, suffering before deliverance ... Hence the importance of a good relationship between the Lord and the faithful. Even animals and plants are not much better off than us humans in this respect. But going back precisely to that question of God's design, His purpose behind all this creation, and the expulsion of man from paradise to put him on earth, etc., you can never grasp or understand it completely. Even if we started thinking about it in the most complex way we would never be able to understand everything. We cannot even understand who built Stonehenge or how or why, yet it is seen on earth and specifically in England. All we know about it is only assumptions. Scientists still do not fully understand  how quantum physics works, yet it is thanks to it that we had the Internet and other applications. Scientists can send humans onto Mars but cannot ward off earthquakes or hurricanes.
Can we not imagine that God does not even need to have a purpose, because He is free to act as He pleases and nobody has the right to ask Him questions! Where are the non-believers who wanted to challenge God in the past? They all died. "25.58. And trust thou in the Living One Who dieth not, (…) 25.59. Ask any one informed concerning Him! 25.60. And when it is said unto them: Prostrate to the Beneficent! they say: And what is the Beneficent? Are we to prostrate to whatever thou (Muhammad) biddest us? And it increaseth aversion in them."

However, the mere fact of thinking about the world and religion is in itself part of what God’s purpose should be. It’s up to us to guess that purpose, if purpose there be.

This ability to think which we have has helped us fulfill part of our mission: 
"35.39. He it is who hath made you regents in the earth."

We more or less made good use of this land where God has placed us: we have built cities and kingdoms, built splendid civilizations, developed political, economic, social ... systems . We gave free rein to our imagination, with all the inventions we know, the technology, arts, lifestyles, etc. We did all that and more, but unfortunately, oftentimes, we are reluctant to take one more step. When it comes to God, we want to submit Him to our rules, too. We want to check, to see Him. 
Our thinking, which is increasingly fine and sophisticated, should normally lead us to transcend the visible in an attempt to perceive the invisible. This immense power which God has given us, our intelligence, would it be unable to make us see beyond the visible? What good is giving humans all this incredible intelligence if they want on top of that to ask to see what their eyes do not have the ability to see?

"7.143.  And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: My Lord! Show me (Thy self), that I may gaze upon Thee. He said: Thou wilt not see Me, but gaze upon the mountain! If it stands still in its place, then thou wilt see Me. And when his Lord revealed (His) glory to the mountain He sent it crashing down. And Moses fell down senseless. And when he woke he said: Glory unto Thee! I turn unto Thee repentant, and I am the first of (true) believers."

Would it not therefore be enough for man to make an effort to think about the world, to meditate on everything in this universe, to know God through His creation without having to see Him from near or from afar? Should we know all about the physical appearance of William Shakespeare in order to judge his talent? His creation is not enough? At least we know that William Shakespeare went to the toilet. He was a mortal like us.

"5.75. The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how we make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away!" As for God, "42.11. Naught is as His likeness." "6.103. Vision comprehendeth Him not, but He comprehendeth (all) vision. He is the Subtile, the Aware.How can we then visualize Him? Admittedly, I am only quoting the Quran. I do not put forward concrete, tangible, scientifically verifiable evidence. But what does Science know of the Universe? Barely 5%!.

"28.38. And Pharaoh said: O chiefs! I know not that ye have a god other than me, so kindle for me (a fire), O Haman, to bake the mud; and set up for me a lofty tower in order that I may survey the god of Moses; and lo! I deem him of the liars." Is this serious logic?

Besides, believing without seeing cannot be a violation of human intelligence. God says to man: "64.16. So fear God as much as you can!" See how God trusts man’s intelligence? He leaves to each of us the task of assessing his personal ability to comply with God’s orders and prohibitions.  

Moreover, there’s not just the world (everything outside the individual) to lead us to know God. There is also the "personal" relationship between the believer and the Lord. When God tests us, when we go through trials by ordeal, we discover things, more intimate, that we cannot see in the world around us. People see things in dreams that materialize ten years, twenty years later, and science, which wants to put everything under the microscope, cannot explain this. At first, our weaknesses (unemployment, sickness, etc.) or our fears (of poverty, death, etc.) put us on the path of God, lead us unto Him, in spite of ourselves; but, little by little, we discover things we did not know about ourselves and the world. And this is how we begin to "see" this invisible God; we knowingly and willingly content ourselves with believing until believing merges into and becomes one with knowledge. God said : "47.19 Know that there is no god but God." It is not enough to just believe, one should know. Once we have crossed that barrier that separated us from God, we become kind of protected friend of God. Respect and submission against protection and reciprocal love.

We will therefore go "in the footsteps" of God and  avoid taking any other way. "6.153. And (He commandeth you, saying) : This is My straight path, so follow it. Follow not other ways, lest ye be parted from His way: This hath He ordained for you, that ye may ward off (evil)."

The problem is, there are a lot of ways, all attributed, rightly or wrongly, to God. Which one should we take? We can’t count the deities to whom man has attributed the privilege of having created the world. Logically, there can be no more than a single creator. When we agree on a single creator, we credit him with several religions or cults. When we agree on one cult we differ as to the details, we speak of multiple versions of the same cult that are all attributed to the same God. Despite wars and disasters that have always been caused by these differences, there are still among us followers of this cult or that one, of this version of the cult or that one. At one point in history, a third of the German population was decimated in religious wars. Yet one of the most influential German political parties still carries the attribute "Christian". Similarly, in England, half of whose  history is made up of religious wars, it still being said "God Save the Queen". Even the president of the United States say "God Bless America." Even in many of these countries where people fought for the sake of God the common man is still baptized and marries and is buried according to religious rites. Better yet, religion will be more and more important in our lives for at least a century or more. Hijab Day will be recalled as anything but a joke. We must therefore position ourselves in relation to this reality. It's necessary to choose. Whether we have to choose to change  or keep one’s father’s  religion, it's not always easy. Speaking only for myself, there are many Muslims like me for whom I pass for an ungodly for the simple reason that I do not wear a beard and I dress in a manner other than their own. So what do we do? Well, we choose, each according to one’s personal beliefs, and then we assume responsibilty for our choices. Our choices, active or passive, free or coerced, can move us away from each other as they can bring us together where our human intelligence can only bring us together. When Jewish scientists, for example, are trying, in their writings, to understand or explain the purpose of God, when they talk about the beauty and harmony of the world, they do not stray too far from what would be written on the same subject by a Christian or Muslim scholar, Catholic or Protestant, Sunni or Shiite, of XXI century or the sixteenth century. All want to know this wonderful God before Whom they prostrate themselves willingly in the greatest excitement, unable to imagine what He is like or what He could be like. They do not care. They are already dazzled by the beauty and magnificence that other mortals do not get to see or do not want to see in this world. It is this quest  of Divine knowledge which is the basis of all God’s creation. More than worshiping  Him, God wants us to know Him. Because if we know Him we will love Him.  God does not forbid us to ask questions. On the contrary, our questions can only lead us to Him. It’s up to  us to see what is in us and beyond us.
"35.27. Hast thou not seen that Allah causeth water to fall from the sky, and We produce therewith fruit of divers hues; and among the hills are streaks white and red, of divers hues, and (others) raven black; 35.28. And of men and beasts and cattle, in like manner, divers hues? Only the erudite among His bondsmen fear Allah truly. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Forgiving."

We are invited to make use of our intelligence to discern right from wrong. As the prophet said, God is beautiful and loves beauty. It’s up to us to see this beauty in humans, in birds, in streams, in animals, in the starry sky, in the sea, in poetry, in music, in arts, in our clothes, in our differences : physical, cultural, civilizational and other. It’s up to us to see how God gave us the chance to feel and sense the beauty in all its forms.
"15.16. And verily in the heaven We have set mansions of the stars, and We have beautified it for those who want to contemplate." "27.60. Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth, and sendeth down for you water from the sky wherewith We cause to spring forth joyous orchards, whose trees it never hath been yours to cause to grow."

If one is able to see the ingenuity in a painter's or a musician’s creation, can we not see the ingenuity in God’s Creation? Should we be content to be inspired by birds only to make an aircraft and not see God's hand in the beautiful plumage of these birds or in their incredible migration? Should we be content to distinguish colours and shapes and give them names and not  think about the ingenuity of God in all these colours and shapes?

"6.99. He it is Who sendeth down water from the sky, and therewith We bring forth buds of every kind; We bring forth the green blade from which we bring forth the thick clustered grain; and from the date palm, from the pollen thereof, spring pendant bunches; and (We bring forth) gardens of grapes, and the olive and the pomegranate, alike and unlike. Look upon the fruit thereof, when they bear fruit, and upon its ripening. Lo! herein verily are portents for a people who believe." "50.6. Have they not then observed the sky above them, how We have constructed it and beautified it, and how there are no rifts therein?

50.7. And the earth have We spread out, and have flung firm hills therein, and have caused of every lovely kind to grow thereon ? 50.8. all this, as a vision and a reminder for every servant who wants to repent."

That's the Quran. That is Islam. At least, Islam has the merit of having a holy book coming directly from God that enables us to know Him better, to draw closer to Him, be one  a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian, whether one is a Sunni or a Shiite. All we need is a heart and a brain.

35.3. O mankind! Remember Allah's blessings to you! Is there any creator other than Allah who provideth for you from the sky and the earth your livelihoodThere is no god but Him. How can you turn away from Him?" "17.20. We extensively give our blessings to one and all without anyone being excluded." 3.145. No soul can ever die except by Allah's leave and at a term appointed. Whoso desireth the reward of the world, We bestow on him thereof; and whoso desireth the reward of the Hereafter, thankful, We bestow on him thereof. We shall reward the grateful.

We're all human. We're all fragile. We have the same fears, the same aspirations. We have the same eyes to see the beauty of the world. We have the same hearts to love God and to feel our weaknesses. Hunger is the same for all. Unemployment is the same for all. Death is the same for all. Compassion is the same for all. God is the same for all.

"21.107. We sent thee (Muhmmad) not save as a mercy to the universe." "7.158. Say (Muhammad) : O mankind! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah to you all (the messenger of) Him unto whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. There is no God save Him. It is He who giveth life and death. So believe in Allah and His messenger. "

Our eyes do not always have the same colour. Even eyes with the same colour are not identical. Why ? Well, it's because God wanted everyone to be a separate being, regardless of his beliefs. He gave you your own fingerprint and your own eyeprint, and it's not because you are Christian, Muslim or Buddhist. He gave you your own voice, your own heart, your own brain, your own life. At least in Islam, you can talk to Him directly. No one will come in between you and Him. You can pray to Him in public or in private. You can experiment, you can take your time to know Him, however long it takes; take the time you deem necessary to repent, to get closer to Him. He is always there. He is there for you, not for Him. All it takes is a bit of humility.
"82.6. O man! What hath made thee careless concerning thy Lord, the Bountiful, 82.7. Who created thee, then fashioned, then proportioned thee ?  82.8. Into whatsover form He will, He casteth thee ? 
God said of Himself: "9.104. Know they not that Allah is He Who accepteth repentance from His bondmen and taketh the alms, and that Allah is He Who is the Relenting, the Merciful." "57.11. Whoever consents to Allah gracious loan, Allah will repay him tenfold and will grant, in addition, a generous reward." "64.17. If ye lend unto Allah a goodly loan, He will double it for you and will forgive you, for Allah is Responsive, Clement." Is it not for the needy among us that God asks us to consent him a loan? The infidels of the Prophet’s time said : "36.47. Shall we feed those whom Allah, if He willed, would feed? Ye really are in manifest error!"
Without a doubt, God could, if He wished, ensure that there are neither poor nor beggar, no widow nor orphan, no war nor famine. But what would be our merit, we humans, if we did not show our humanity? What interest would God have in causing earthquakes, droughts, floods, volcanic eruptions, economic crises, etc. ? Is it for fun that He does that?

"44.38. And We created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in play. 44.39. We created them not save with truth ; but most of them know not." "10.5. He it is who appointed the sun a splendor and the moon a light, and measured for her stages, that ye might know the number of the years, and the reckoning. Allah created not (all) that save in truth. He detaileth the revelations for people who have knowledge." "21.17. If We had wished to find a pastime, We could have found it in Our presence if We ever did. 21.18. On the contrary, We hurl the Truth against falsehood to clear it, and actually false soon vanisheth." "4.147. Why should Allah punish you if you are grateful and if you have faith in Him, because God will always be grateful to those who are grateful, and His knowledge encompasseth the whole universe." "42.27. And if Allah were to enlarge the provision for His slaves they would surely rebel in the earth, but He sendeth down by measure as He willeth. Lo! He is Informed, a Seer of His bondmen."
"30.41. Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men's hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return."
"10.44. Lo! Allah wrongeth not mankind in aught ; but mankind wrong themselves." "2.251. And if Allah had not repelled some men by others, the earth would have been corrupted. But Allah is a Lord of Kindness to (His) creatures." "2.243. Allah is Full of kindness and compassion to mankind, but most of mankind give not thanks."

Why, in our worst trials, do we see incredible mutual aid, solidarity, compassion, and, at the same time, we see thieves and robbers? Why, in times of war, do we see those who slaughter the innocent, who rape women, and, at the same time, we see people who take incredible risks to save lives? This is the difference between Heaven and Hell, between the people of Paradise and the people of Hell, between the friends of God and the friends of Lucifer. Why should we not therefore see in these events and in our own personal problems kind of alert, a reminder that we have perhaps forgotten too much that we're just passing on this earth and that it is high time that we prepared for eternal life? Should we not thank God for shocking us, upsetting us, pushing us to extremes,  for trying us by all means, for hindering us in our personal lives…, so that we remember that He has prepared for us a better world, beautiful and eternal, and that we must do something to access it? God created Heaven before creating man. It is man who dared to kill humans. A man killed his brother for a matter of jealousy. That same jealousy is still making war and putting on the road millions of refugees. It’s up to us humans to see what is wrong with us. It is not God Who burns down hundreds of tons of wheat or throw them into the sea in order to raise prices. It is not God who imposed to anyone opting for the nuclear or allowed anyone to exploit people. God causes the rain to fall and bring forth wheat even where nobody worships Him. God does not make what He gives conditional upon  faith or praise. The air is free for everyone. The sun is free for everyone. Life is free for everyone. What to ask more?

"25.48. And He it is Who sendeth the winds, glad tidings heralding His mercy, and We send down purifying water from the sky. 25.49. That We may give life thereby to a dead land, and We give many beasts and men that We have created to drink thereof."

"14.32. Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth, and causeth water to descend from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you, and maketh the ships to be of service unto you, that they may run upon the sea at His command, and hath made of service unto you the rivers; 14.33  And maketh the sun and the moon constant in their courses, to be of service unto you, and hath made of service unto you the night and the day. 14.34. And He giveth you of all ye ask of Him, and if ye would count the bounty of Allah ye cannot reckon it. Lo! man is verily a wrong doer, an ingrate."

Allah has shown us the way. He showed us good and evil. He made us a beautiful world that we have polluted ourselves, and we bear witness to that. Allah has given us everything. Should we not give our THANKS to Him?
"16.96. What you have is perishable, but what God has is lasting. We will reward those who have been patient a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do."

"57.20. Know that the life of this 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 matter of illusion. 57.21. Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whereof the breadth is as the breadth of the heavens and the earth, which is in store for those who believe in Allah and His messengers. Such is the bounty of Allah, which He bestoweth upon whom He will, and Allah is of infinite bounty. 57.22. Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before We bring it into being Lo! that is easy for Allah ; 57.23. That ye grieve not for the sake of that which hath escaped you, nor yet exult because of that which hath been given. Allah loveth not all prideful boasters."
"2.186. And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them bear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright."
"10.61. And thou (Muhammad) art not occupied with any business and thou recitest not a lecture from this (Scripture) , and ye (mankind) perform no act, but We are Witness of you when ye are engaged therein. And not an atom's weight in the earth or in the sky escapeth your Lord, nor what is less than that or greater than that  but it is (written) in a clear Book. 10.62. Lo! verily the friends of Allah are (those) on whom fear (cometh) not, nor do they grieve. 10.63. Those who believe and keep their duty (to Allah), 10.64. Theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There is no changing the Words of Allah ; that is the Supreme Triumph. 10.65. And let not their speech grieve thee (O Muhammad). Lo! power belongeth wholly to Allah. He is the Hearer, the Knower. 10.66. Lo! is it not unto Allah that belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth? Those who follow aught instead of Allah follow not (His) partners. They follow only a conjecture and they do but guess."
"14.52. This is a clear message for mankind in order that they may be warned thereby, and that they may know that He is only One God, and that men of understanding may take heed."
We’re all like actors on a stage : a handicapped person on a stage, or a blind person or an orphan or a wretched beggar or a homeless old woman on a stage may be people in good shape and far better off in real life. They may sit at a posh dinner table outside of the theatre and laugh at what they were doing on stage. The play is for them just a good memory. It’s the same with us Earth people. That homeless person you fed on a bad Winter day, that blind person you helped cross the road, that orphaned child you helped with food or clothes, that old man you extricated from under the rubble in the wake of an earthquake, that jobless widow you helped find a job,… all these people may become friends of you if you meet in the Garden of Eden. All of you will be in good shape and each of you will have a book recording all the good things, big or small, that he/she did during his/her Earthly life. It’s like a book of memories. Paradise people will have a book of good memories. Hell people will have a book of bad memories. You will need this book when you are in the Garden of Eden. Life there is eternal. You have everything you want. 50.35. There they have all that they desire, and there is more with Us. But a good experience outside of this wonderful place that is Paradise, a good memory from a much, much less beautiful place, would only enhance your pleasure. It’s like having a good experience while in exile before returing home. What would you say to the people you meet there, in Heaven ? That you only prayed and fasted and made the pligrimage ? Well, all people do that ! Do something special, something that you would be proud to tell people in that world. Don’t rely on politicians and policy-makers ; compete with them. If you can’t build roads and bridges, you can help rebuild broken hearts. So compete with these folks in doing whatever good you can. You are doing this good for you, first to get a place in Heaven, then to have a nice book of good memories.  83.18. Nay, but the record of the righteous is in Iliyin 83.19. Ah, what will convey unto thee what Iliyin is! 83.20. A written record, 83.21. Attested by those who are brought near (unto their Lord). 83.22. Lo! the righteous verily are in delight. That’s what good Muslims are supposed to do. Your suffering here, in this life, is doubtless real ; but if you are a believer, if you have the faith, it’s like «suffering» on a stage on Broadway. God does not want you to suffer for the sake of suffering. He wants you to remember Him, to remember His Design, His purpose, to rememeber that He made Heaven before He made you. He gave you a chance to collect as many good memeries as possible so that your life in Heaven will be much more enjoyable. You may have many, many good things in Heaven, but you’ll have only one book. Make that book outstanding. Embellish it with good deeds. Don’t worry about your past sins. God will change them into good deeds.  11.114. Lo! good deeds annul ill deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful.  25.70. Save him who repenteth and believeth and doth righteous work ; as for such, Allah will change their evil deeds to good deed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. You only have to shed tears, beautiful sincere tears, whenever you recall those sins. These sins may be important in as much as they push you to do more and more good deeds, so that your Book becomes more and more beautiful. God does not try only sinful people. In fact, the more you grow in the faith the harder your trial will be.  So next time you see or hear of a hurricane, an earthquake, a war, a famine, a period of harsh unemployment… next time you see an orphan, a blind or homeless person or an obese person…. then think of what I’ve been telling you. My writings, if accepted by God, are aimed to be a few lines in my Book of good memories. If one person in the whole world finds peace in reading me, that’s much better for me than becoming President of the United States, which I will never be. See what I mean ?

God bless you !


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