Islam, Rationalism and Skepticism
ISLAM, RATIONALISM AND SKEPTICISM.
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First of all it was a very sad news to hear that a couple of days ago an attempt on life of one of our friends Dr Azaad has been made, however, let us gather the courage to carry on the light of reason regardless. Today thanks to courageous people like Dr Azaad, we are celebrating the 1st of March as the rationalist day. I wish all our friends a very happy Rationalists’ Day. I hope and wishes many happy returns of this day to all our colleagues and supporters, especially our brother Dr Azaad. May he live long and carry on his outstanding work in future as well as he has done so far. We are all indebted to such people who carry the torch of reason to help enlighten the confused souls. We are grateful to them indeed and offer our thanks with respect.
Coming to the topic, in order to understand the problems that arise between the followers of Islam and the rest of humanity, it is important that we go through things in a bit more detail, which of course needs a bit of patience on our part and for which this essay is sufficient.
Nonetheless the first and foremost question is, what is the definition of Islam or what exactly is Islam? The answer to this question is impossible, please try yourself as well as ask this question of Muslims and non-Muslims. You may end up with as many different answers as many people we have on this planet. Just as all opposing religions cannot be from the very same God as rule of common sense, nor can it be sensible to accept that all sects with opposing views on Islam within Islam are true Islam. As a result each and every Islamic sect defines Islam in its own way. Just as by cross examining each religion, we should be able to determine whether any of them is true or all of them are false, so can we determine whether any of the Islamic sects is true or all of them are false. A question arises here, why do Muslims fail to define their religion? This gives rise to yet more questions like, is it that Muslims lack common sense or are they ignorant of their own religion? Or is it that their religious texts are themselves confusing and so make no any real sense, leading people to chaos and leaving them therein?
The argument is very clear that Muslims claim that they have been given a message by a God called Allah to deliver to the mankind and convert them to Islam. So one seeks proof that that God really did speak to this man called Muhammad. One needs proof of chain of revelation from that God to these Muslims who are preaching here to us in the name of God as well as the proof that the allegedly divine message is absolutely free of faults. So far none of them is prepared to take a stand in the dock on behalf of Allah to be cross examined for what these people claim. This being the case, the claim remains proof-less and therefore takes away the right of these people to make any such claims while not coming up with any proof to support it, which proves it a baseless claim or in stronger words a false claim. It is a false claim because the proof of any such claim ought to exist along with the claim. The nature of any such claim is such that if you launch such a claim, you ought to have the proof in your hands rather than first launching the claim and then looking for proof for ever and finally dying away without one.
Since Muslims have no proof for any of their claims or declarations as regard the truth of Islam, it is therefore wrong for them to force this message onto anyone including their own children whom these people indoctrinate mercilessly. Besides they also wish to implement their allegedly divine rule and law on entire humanity by declaring war on those who refuse to accept their this proposal due to lack of proof of it being truly divine. These people suppress freedom of expression of thought in their countries, in their media and even on their forums. In fact they campaign to try to shut down anything that may be critical of Islam to prove it false and that clearly shows the extent of their debating skills and divine knowledge. Instead of taking the cross examination of their claims, their declarations and any evidences they put forth as the consequence of determining the truth, they take it as an attack on Islam and on Muslims. It is time we helped them educate themselves about the difference between unnecessary attacks like insults or abuse and actually finding faults in Islam and Muslims with respect to their claims, declarations and evidences. For example, if one says that Muhammad or a Muslim is son of so and so using swearing words for no sensible reason at all, that would be an insult and indeed disrespectful. However, if one in reaction to Muslim claims cross examined the Islamic sources and so proved that Islam is a false religion or Muslims are false claimants, or for that matter Muhammad a false prophet or Allah a false God, that would not be any insult at all nor any disrespect to anyone. That is simply put, result of testing the Islamic or Muslim claim. So accusing critics of Islam of insults or hate mongering is the only way Muslims can try and get away with their false claims and we should be determined enough to not to let that happen. We must make Muslims face the consequences of their false claims about Islam so that they could be stopped from raising false claims and thereby ruining lives through false hopes and aspirations or ambitions.
I mean what more wrong idea a person can have than not accepting the fact that it is absolutely necessary to be critical of ideologies so that you could prove and follow the right one and disprove and discard the wrong one? For proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is easy for Muslims to claim Islam is sent by God as a total way of life and is therefore answer to all our problems yet when you ask, prove what you claim? The answer is, shut up or else. How dare you question the divine word? For this they put people through terrible suffering and even death. Please check out about hudood laws (limits set by Islam) in Pakistan. Find out what is happening to women and apostates in there and why or how? Things are not much better in Saudi Arabia or Egypt, Iran or even in Bangladesh and I can go on and on.
As to those who may accuse me of attacking Islam, I would say, you could not be more wrong than that. I am simply examining or testing Islam for its claims and you for your declaration at least five times daily that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger. It is absolutely necessary that you people prove that your religion and declaration is not false. It is for me to cross examine you as self appointed agents of Almighty Allah and your religion Islam to see whether you are truthful in what you claim about Islam or not. This has nothing to do with attack on Islam or Muslims, it is about knowing the truth about the claims of Islam and Muslims. So my dear Muslim friends, start learning how to argue your case and stop accusing others of things they do not do, for that would be, once again, accusing others falsely. Hate would be if I believed and propagated that Muslims should be harmed for no reason at all. It is because I love Muslims that I am bothered when I see them in terrible state of existence. Is it my hate for Muslims that I want them to become knowledgeable, fair minded, peaceful, progressive and prosperous? If that is hate then you guys are welcome to have such hate towards me and mine as well as all the rest of the humanity.
Let us look at Islam as to what it is in respect of its sources. I would say, Islam is what is in the Quran, the Ahadith books, the Tafaseer books, the books about Sirah of the prophet and the history of Islam books. Isalm is as allegedly told by Allah in the Quran, by the prophet in Ahadith books compiled by Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi, Ibn Maja, Abu Dawud, Nisaee etc etc for Sunnies or by Yaqub Kalini in form of Al-Kafi collection for Shias. It is what is told in Tafseer by people like Ibn Jarir Tabri etc, it is what is told in Sirah by Ibn Is-haq, Waaqdi, Ibn Hishaam etc etc, or what is told in Tabqaat by Ibn Sa’d or in Tarikh by Imaam Ibn Jarir Tabri etc etc. These works were allegedly produced by these people within first few centuries of Islam and they are widely accepted authentic by main stream Muslims.
For those who do not know Islamic scriptures, they are; the Quran, the word of Allah to Muhammad via an angel called Jibreel. Ahadith ie reports by prophet’s followers about his words or deeds. Sirah ie biography or siratunnabi ie biography of the prophet. Tafsir ie an explanation of the Quran according to the prophet and the reasons for revelations of the verses and their background etc etc known as asbaban nuzool. Taarikh=history.
The point is that anyone who claims Islam is from god or it is very nice or has solutions to our problems etc etc etc must prove it so and that we must examine and test that, full-stop. Failing that Muslims should not be allowed to condemn innocent reasonable people as devils deserving punishments including death and burning in hell etc etc etc. Now what happens when we examine Islamic claims can be read in related articles e.g. I have written, Why The Quran Is Not The Word Of God, which includes a few aspects ie origin of the Quran and flimsy nature of its challenges; concept of jehad, slavery and status of women; and Quranic concept of universe and origin of humanity etc etc. I have written a whole lot more as well but for that one needs to visit my site:
Coming to rationality, it is all about reasoning out natural things in a natural way ie the way the world is or the way it works. The natural world works the natural way and not supernatural way ie as if by way of some magic as religious people would have us believe. Now if we accept that world works naturally on the basis of cause and effect then that makes us look at our problems including the ones in our daily life in that context and thus that leads us to look for their solutions in a similar way ie through cause and effect. For example, if one has no food or shelter then one needs to realise why is that so or how to get it? Simply sitting there and crying to some imaginary supernatural power somewhere would not solve one’s problem of food and shelter, for that is simply not the way our world works. This is what rationalism is all about ie to help people educate themselves out of ideas or beliefs that are not helpful in real life situations or that they are down right destructive. This is not to say that there are no such people as try to rationalize the irrational. The idea of rationalization is about putting the information about known things together in such a way that they make sense. This way we can understand natural connections between natural things as we observe them in nature as well as design stuff ourselves eg systems, structures or mechanisms etc etc as the nature does ie we copy it. As for things or their aspects about which we have no knowledge whatsoever, we are curious and doubtful about them in that respect and so we are taken over by skepticism and suspicion or doubt etc.
Let me suppose that there is somebody up there and that miracles do happen, the question is, how often these things happen and to how many or why? Does that justify that we all therefore sit tight and look for solutions of our problems only and only or mainly that way? Just think about how many times in your very own life miracles really did happen when you really needed them as well as in lives of people who you have come across in your life so far. So even if we accept that miracles do happen, they happen too few and far between. Therefore to live in real life we must adopt natural ways not supernatural or magical. Again, I have written an article already about testing religion ie logic, proof and proving etc that one may find helpful in understanding how to be logical and rational. Rationalism is all about making sense of things the way they are found in real world by whatever we observe. The human brain is a machine that processes information only and only logically but the information that reaches the brain may not be logical and we may not wish to test validity of the information by applying proper logic to it if we are so advised through fear of some consequences or incentive for reward etc, for signals from our natural drives are easily influenced by our thought process bringing changes to our motivation and decisions or even change our motives and decisions entirely. For example, a person may be driven to kill somebody for a reward or stopped from killing somebody for an even better reward. Thus one motive can be replaced by another which can influence our end decision for an action.
What is skepticism all about? Skepticism is all about doubting something about which we have no verifiable knowledge. In that case we become curious about it and that motivates us to research and explore about it to see if there is any way we can know or make sense of it. So long as we remain ignorant about it, we cannot form any firm opinion about it. In other words we are in doubt about it as to what it is or how it functions or why etc etc. Again skepticism is all about real world things, circumstances and situations that we do not quite understand at a given time or in a given place. Comparing caveman and present man, we can see that we understand a lot about our world but yet there are things we still know very little about or absolutely nothing. So our research and exploration must continue.
Why we rationalize things or are doubtful about them? What motivates us to do one thing rather than the other? What makes us accept irrational things as rational or believe in doubtful things as absolute truths? The answers to all such questions lie in understanding the human brain, the circumstances and the environment in which it exist that condition it. It would therefore help a great deal if people tried to educate themselves a bit about brain and behavior. The brain is not only affected by its circumstances and environments in which it exists and interacts psychologically but also biologically. For example, if brain did not get its food right from the time of its conception, would it form alright biologically? No, it would not rather if starved, the brain will die away. If we keep a person thirsty for a while, the brain function becomes limited. So food is not only needed for proper function of the brain but also for keeping it alive and to keep it developing till it is fully formed biologically.
Only if brain is biologically fully formed to a necessary stage that it can be expected to function properly as a machine ready to carry out its tasks. The intelligence on one hand is biological ability of the brain to carry out its functions the while on the other hand it is its ability to have a bank of information and to process it at a speed. So people with biologically damaged brains have problems and so do those who fail to develop their bank of information and do not bother putting their brains through thinking processes to become skillful thinkers or critical thinkers etc etc. Just as it is absolutely necessary that brain properly develops biologically so it is necessary that it properly develops psychologically. It is for this reason very wrong of some people to withhold information from others or make decisions on their behalf as many religious people do. I do not accept that they deliberately do that for damaging human beings but that they are driven by their motives that they themselves have not thought through thoroughly. Many a time one will see Muslim Imams telling their congregations, do not listen to non-Muslims, for they will misguide you or lead you astray. They tell these innocent minds that if you do that, you will not only have no reward in hereafter but also a terrible torture for ever.
Thus people who are indoctrinated this way or along these lines from their very childhood could become psychologically damaged for rest of their lives. It is for this reason human rights should ensure that children are not allowed by law to be indoctrinated this way with religious dogmas. If they are allowed then for us to cry extremists are doing terrible deeds in the world is not consistent with our practice. Indoctrination does not stop at faith in God but expands to infidels deserving no mercy from God or his followers. Free flow of information or opposing ideas and views is absolutely necessary for our development as normal human beings. No person, state or ideology that promotes isolation and segregation of human beings should be allowed to do so or the dire consequences will always be the end product. It is time to break down barriers not to erect more. Skepticism as well as rationalism must be allowed along with freedom of religious faith minus indoctrination and segregation, for divided we will surely perish but united we will probably survive. Unity between people is impossible on the basis of fairness for peace to progress and prosper unless things that divide us to bitter end are realised and eliminated from between us. This cannot be done unless people have all the facts in front of them and they look at things rationally free of all wrong motivations. Brain gets all its signals only and only from its internal and external sensors and senses and at any given time or in any given situation it makes its decisions on the basis of its current and already held information. So more of rationality and less of dogmatic indoctrination is the only way forward as I see it but yes, others are free to hold different views according to the same principle that each of us is free to express oneself.
The life in this world is problem enough for humanity to cope with than increasing our problems through unnecessary animosities between ourselves. It is a huge task in itself to motivate ourselves and others to be useful and productive members of the human society than bringing in negativity in our minds that destroys any aspirations and ambitions that we may have to carry on existing and making progress. We all need a positive frame of mind, interest in knowledge of things and progressive attitude if we are to continue living a decent life worth living. We cannot afford to be taken over by ideas that demand simple primitive existence or destruction. We need to be sensible enough to realise what is good for us and what is bad. No such idea including religion can be good for our existence if it demotivates us, demoralizes us, makes us ashamed of our existence and turns our lives to hell. So our objective is not mere existence but to have as pleasant a life as possible. This is why we need a society that is motivated by this goal and brings it about not the opposite. That is where difference shows up very clearly in what Islam is all about and what humanism is all about. What Islamic faith is all about and what human rationality and skepticism is all about.
So if we want better world as our goal, we ourselves must turn fair minded people, be well motivated and progressive putting right systems, structures and practices in place as regard political, social, cultural and economic setup, otherwise there is no escape from what we have been experiencing so far ie pain and suffering or death and destruction some natural and other man-made that could have been avoided had we been sensible and rational human beings rather than religious and faithful bigots. The main point one must remember is that progress speeded up only since people concentrated on life of this world, the while religions have been around for much longer yet they have little or nothing productive to show for it. Even today many religious people are busy either threatening the rationalists or actually killing them. Not realizing the fact that it takes decades and very hard work for such a human being to educate oneself to this level. Such people being unproductive themselves and hell bent on killing the cream of the crop are only trying their best for stifling the human progress. However, the truth is obvious that despite all this carry on they are failing because the world is still moving forward and so it shall continue. Many giant intellectuals have watered the plant of rationality with their blood so that world might be one day a better place for humanity. We shall always be grateful for the sacrifice of these great souls and many more are yet to come, for struggle is not over yet for helping people to be rational human beings.