Thursday, May 24, 2012

10 Questions for Allah

1.       How do you explain the contradiction of claiming to be “the most merciful of all who are merciful” whilst at the same time promising an eternity of excruciating agony for those who refuse to believe in you?
2.        If Islam truly is the one true glorious faith, why did your Prophet and his followers need to spread it by the sword?  
3.       Why is Paradise seemingly designed for those who have lived in the heat of the desert (shade and cool streams)? Shouldn’t Paradise appeal to all your creation, even those who have lived their lives in colder climes?
4.      And talking of Paradise, why do you promise us sex with big-breasted virgins and endless wine?  Shouldn’t Paradise be more spiritual? (and appeal to the girls as well?!)
5.      Why do you insist on talking to solitary men in the desert?
6.      Why did you make one city Holy for three religions? Didn’t you foresee the trouble it would cause…of course you did, being omnipotent. ..
7.     Why did you allow the Pentateuch and the Christian Bible to be “corrupted”? If you managed to keep the Qur’an as it was intended, surely you could have looked after your previous two messages to mankind.
8.     Why choose a people (the Jews) above all the other peoples of the world when such favouritism was bound to cause problems, and you knew they were going to mess it up (being omnipotent an’ all)?
9.     If you wanted to put signs in the Qur’an so we could be sure it was from you, why choose science that was already known at the time of the revelation?
10  Why did you perfect evolution but not use it for humans (even though you cleverly left signs in our bodies to strongly suggest we evolved, thus encouraging us to doubt your word about Adam and Eve and thus consign us to Hell?


  1. I bet you won't get a single response to these questions!
    Good job, Spinoza!

  2. Questions 2 and 4 are based on misinformation, I don't understand questions 5 and 10 so if you could rephrase---I can answer the rest of the questions.....

    1---Though Christianity is based on "Belief"---that is one goes to hell for not believing---Judaism and Islam are based on intentions and actions---and it is this criteria that is judged (that is why "law" is important in both religions) Belief in One God facilitates/helps direct ones intentions and actions....that is the importance of "right belief".

    3---Descriptions of Paradise and hell are metaphors/similitudes. The Quran uses many types of literary devises to get its message across. One of them is to use imagery. The Quran juxtaposes the imagery of Paradise and hell so that one image follows the other thus creating a contrast. The contasting imagery of two such opposites creates impact in the minds of the listeners.

    6---Land or resources are for all human beings---we can share them or fight over them---its our choice---we have been given the freedom and the intellect to make choices---if we make foolish choices---we have to take responsibility for the its consequences.

    7---The responsibility for the preservation of the Torah and Injil and other "books" were given to human beings---they did not do a good job....but that's ok....because God sent subsequent Guidance and corrections.... The responsibility of preserving the Quran is kept with God because there will be no further "books" of Guidance sent---this is the last one.

    8---The "chosen people" idea as understood by Jews is a misconception. All of creation is equal under God and no one person or group is superior/inferior to another. The Quran corrects this misconception and explains that when the Jews were "chosen" for Guidance over other groups of people, this did not mean they were superior---it meant they had more responsibility than other people in following God's Guidance.

    9---Signs are pointers for reflection. The Quran discourages blind belief and promotes the example of Prophet Abraham(pbuh) who arrived at the conclusion that there is only One God through his own intellectual (and spiritual) efforts.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Kat. Here are my counters:

      2&4 "based on misinformation" .
      I'll answer 2 in a separate post if I may as it requires a detailed examination of the history of early Islam. 4 - The Qur'an states quite clearly what we can expect in Paradise, of the many verses dealing with Paradise this is typical: "Verily for those who follow Us, there will be a fulfillment of your desires: enclosed Gardens, grapevines, voluptuous full-breasted maidens of equal age, and a cup full to the brim of wine. There they never hear vain discourse nor lying - a gift in payment - a reward from your Lord." 78:31 There are also plentiful ahadith to testify what Muhammad believed was awaiting the believers such as Bukhari:V4B55N544: "Allah's Apostle said, 'The first group who will enter Paradise will be glittering like the moon and those who will follow will glitter like the most brilliant star. They will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be gold and their sweat will smell like musk. Their companions will be houris [virgins]. All of them will look alike and will be sixty cubits (180 feet) tall.'" In what way have I been misinformed?
      "I don't understand questions 5 and 10"
      5 - God's messages are all delivered to MEN, without witnesses, in a very small part of the world. I was just wondering why.
      10 - I understand that Muslims deny that mankind has evolved from an ape-like ancestor and instead believe in the literal truth of Adam and Eve. I was wondering why God should have put so many pointers to an apparent evolutionary history in our bodies (our third eyelid, the plantaris muscle, extra ear muscles, junk DNA, etc etc.) It seems a pretty poor joke to play on those of us who are intellectually curious because belief in human evolution denies faith in Allah; and if we deny faith in Allah we get to taste his eternal punishment!
      1. So Allah allows altruistic atheists who do good works into Heaven? You're the first Muslim to suggest such a thing. Every Muslim I've come across tells me I'm heading for the fire if I die before I accept God. My counter is always: how can any profession of faith be genuine when made under such threats...?
      3. The descriptions of Paradise and Hell are metaphors? It's a nice thought but why should Allah spend so long describing the appalling the tortures in sickening detail he will personally inflict upon sinners, and then fail to explain it's all just a metaphor? Likewise, there is nothing to suggest the Paradise described in the Qur'an is metaphorical. My Muslim friend certainly expects to get his hands on some houris and will be might disappointed when God pops up to tell him it was "just a metaphor"!
      6. It wasn't our choice that one small plot of land should be holy to three religions!
      7. Why is it OK that the Torah and Injil got corrupted? I thought all people received their own guidance suitable for them - it hardly seems fair that the only uncorrupted guidance is in a language that most of us don't understand!(Even though God is apparently really pleased when we recite it without understanding a word! see 9!)
      8. If I choose a child over another for "guidance" I am showing him favouritism.
      9. Why have "pointers for reflection" that encourage those who do some research to question the authenticity of the revelation? Why should Allah have made such a big deal about embryology but only include knowledge already taught by the ancient Greeks? Why talk about the wonders of honey as though it were a magic cure-all when its medicinal properties were well documented? Why suggest birds stay in the air only because Allah will it? Why talk about mountains stopping the earth from shaking when in fact that is wrong?
      Finally, how can you say the Qur'an discourages blind belief when the book itself says that those who recite its verses without understanding are more worthy than those who understand?

  3. counter..(?)....If you are interested in learning/dialogue, I will engage with you---but not if your only interest is in arguing for the sake of an argument.

    atheists/agnostics and Paradise---a) there are Muslims who have an exclusivist view that says only their "version" of Islam is correct and so only they deserve Paradise---all other people (Muslim or not) will go to hell. We Muslims can say and judge others all we want---but only God knows.
    b) A Muslim does not have a "free ticket" to Paradise simply because he self-identifies as a "Muslim". A persons intentions and actions are part of the criteria of Judgement.
    c) the Shahada begins with a negation "there is no God" and continues onto an affirmation "But God". This is because we must rid ourselves of false conceptions of "God/Diety" before we can arrive at truth. As Epictetus said---if we presume "to know" we can't learn. From my understanding---this is what some atheists/agnostics attempt to do---get rid of conceptions of God so they can start from scratch. These types of atheists/agnostics are spiritual seekers and both the Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) and Prophet Abraham(pbuh) were such. There are other types of atheists/agnostics who have firmly closed the door to learning/spirituality.(But then, there are also some Muslims who have done the same as well....)

    Metaphor---The Quran does say parts of it are metaphors/similitudes. The purpose of the horrifying descriptions of hell is to compell the listeners to want to go to Paradise and avoid hell---a pretty description of hell would not serve the purpose.....

    Land and resource use---It is most certainly our choice to share or fight.

    Torah,Injil, other "books"---already explained....

    Choosing Jews for Guidance---was part of the promise between Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and God that his progeny would be Guided---the Arabs as decendents of Ishmael would be included in the promise---hence the arrival of the Quran. However, the Quran says that Guidance has been given to all of mankind---that is all people/communities have been sent wisdom teachers and Guidance from God---not Just Jews or Muslims. God is the God of all human beings---not just Muslims or Jews....his Compassion and Mercy extends to all of his creation.

    pointers of reflection---are these rhetorical or serious questions?---if you want me to reply---inform me and I will do so.

    Houris---the description of this "entity" is given in the Quran. The Arabic language uses the grammatical feminine for this word just as it uses the grammatical masculine for God---However, in Islam, God is neither male nor female nor both male and female but Unique, One. The Arabic language, like Hebrew uses the grammatical feminine for soul(self) as well--whether that soul(self) is in a male body or a female one.......
    If really interested in the subject of Houri---I would recommend that one reads several translations to get an unbiased view of the description....

    God speaks to men?---Incorrect. Tn the Jewish tradition the sister of Prophet Moses(pbuh) was also a "Prophet" (In Judeo-Islam, "Prophet means "messenger of God")because God spoke to her. In the Quran, God speaks to Mary (pbuh) also. The Quran "speaks" to both men and women. The Quran revelations were witnessed by many in the community and Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) lived in a city---though it was in the desert of Arabia, both Mecca and Yathrib/Medina were cities.

    evolution---interesting but complex topic---today there is a growing trend towards "creationism" outlook---this was not always the case in Islam.....

    1. I'm not sure why my countering your arguments should provoke such suspicion, Kat. I'm learning, and enjoying our debate; surely that is what it's all about!
      In any case, herewith "my thoughts" then - if that sounds less confrontational...
      I appreciate your idea of atheists/agnostics being spiritual seekers - it's nice for once not to be told I'm going to roast in hell!
      We'll have to agree to differ on metaphors and Hell, I'm afraid. All I'll say is that my Muslim friend sees no problem with the literal interpretation of such verses, and when questioned about the awful promise that those in heaven will be able to see sinners being tortured, expresses no unease.
      With regard to houris, I have read many translations in many languages (I'm a linguist by profession). None suggests there is any doubt as to the sex of these creatures nor their evident attractions for men! The fact that the ahadith are not reticent in celebrating the sexual prowess of the Prophet (he serviced so many women in one night etc) reinforces my conviction that the Islamic paradise is based around a very male fantasy.
      Evolution is surely not such a complex topic. One either believes the evidence presented to us by scientists or rejects it. I am unsure where you stand. Forgive my ignorance but I thought all Muslims, by definition, were creationists as they were obliged to believe in the literal truth of Adam and Eve. If that is not the case then it seems my friend is on a rather fundamental wing!
      Perhaps God doesn't speak exclusively to men, but he certainly seems to favour having a one-on-one with them rather than women. You say the revelations were "witnessed" by many in the community. By that you mean they saw Muhammad go into a trance like state? These witnesses certainly didn't hear Gabriel, did they? So my point about God (or his intermediaries) talking to men on their own still stands. I was attempting to highlight how rarely, if ever, does God talk to more than one person so that we can be sure that the individual concerned isn't just "hearing voices" or even making it all up!

      I'll try and post something on the history of the spread of Islam soon.
      I hope you'll drop by to give me your thoughts as and when...

  4. I generally enjoy conversations with atheists/agnostics because they ask interesting/challenging questions (a practice the Quran encourages as well) so that I also learn a lot. Born Muslims like myself have a limited capacity to question religion because we take the presumptions that a religion is based on, for granted---it often takes someone from outside the religion to be able to see things from a different perspective. I find such conversations enriching.
    unfortunately, I have recently encountered some people who are interested only in an apologies for misunderstanding your intentions.

    Paradise/Hell---these are descriptions of a situation/place outside of our earth experience. Since it would be out of our ability to understand/comprehend the nature of these things---I think it is ok (in this case) if a Muslim were to use these descriptions as is, to imagine Paradise/Hell. That is why the Quran uses imagery we can relate to and arouse an emotional response.

    Houris---So you are also saying you do not doubt that God (in the Quran)is of a male gender because the Quran uses the grammatical male for God?
    It is true that sources outside of the Quran may provide an image of paradise that might please male fantasy. If female writers and artists were to create an image of Paradise, they might create one that is pleasing to female fantasy---either way, it would serve the purpose of encouraging men and women to WANT to go to Paradise and therefore make CHOICES in their lives that would help them with that desire.

    This is copied from wikipedia---Perhaps my memory is incorrect---but maybe Pickthall and Asad translations may be slightly more nuetral than others......
    "Thus shall it be. And We shall pair [zawajnahoom: pair them, marry them. Note zawj (lit., “a pair” or - according to the context - “one of a pair”) applies to either of the two sexes,a man to a woman and a woman to a man, as does the transitive verb zawaja, “he paired” or “joined”, i.e., one person with another][28]them with companions pure, most beautiful of eye."[Chapter (Surah) Ad-Dukhan (The Smoke)(44):54][29]
    "In these [gardens] will be mates of modest gaze [qasirat at-tarf: Lit., “such as restrain their gaze”, i.e., are of modest bearing and have eyes only for their mates (Tafsir Razi). This phrase applies to both genders.[4]], whom neither man nor invisible being will have touched ere then." [Chapter (Surah) Ar-Rahman (The Most Beneficent(55):56][30]
    "[There the blest will live with their] companions pure and modest, in pavilions [splendid] [Chapter (Surah) Ar-Rahman (The Most Beneficent)(55):72][31]
    "reclining on couches [of happiness] ranged in rows!” And [in that paradise] We shall mate them with companions pure, most beautiful of eye [Chapter (Surah) At-Tur (The Mount)(52):20][32]

    Evolution---I do not have problems with Science or the theory of evolution in general. I think it was sometime in the 8th century that a rudimentary theory (zoology) of evolution and passing on traits to offspring was proposed and later, the ideas were expanded on through the study of chemistry---nevertheless these ideas were still pretty rudimentary compared to Darwins theory. I feel that the evolutionary line of Apes/Chimpanzees...etc is a different line than that of human/homo line of evolution. One does not need to assume that simply because "ape-like" creatures seem more primitive than humans, they are/were our genetic ancestors. This is the case also with 'western" archeology which also assumes a linear model of primitive societies "evolving" into more complex societies....I also have a problem with this type of thinking---that all generations previous to ours were "primitive/inferior"...etc. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea if people were also open to other possibilities?.......


  5. Creationism---I prefer science to the simplistic, reductionist ideas......(though science too can be guilty of thinking in simplistic, reductionist terms sometimes....)

    Adam/Eve---Since the Quran mentions Prophet Adam(pbuh)---though does not mention Eve by name---and the creation of the body through "clay"---that would be the Muslim perspective---however, "clay" can be understood as the carbon-based earth materials used for biochemical makeup of the body....and as the Quran itself explains the "evolution" of this biochemical mass into human form (embryology)---one can assume a similar process to have taken place in the formation of the human body....the Quran also mentions life comming from it is not too farfetched to assume a "process" for the creation of human beings......

    Gabriel---Yes, you are right that God does not "talk" to every individual---(by the way, this question is addressed in the Quran!) But I feel that the Quran is a letter from God to ME--an individual and so God is "talking" to me through the Quran. (Some converts also express how they felt that the Quran was speking to them personally...) I don't think the gender of the messenger is as important as the character. For example, when the Quran adresses this point---it reminds people that the Character of the Prophet(pbuh) was well-known by everyone in Mecca---his nickname was "the trustworthy". The Quran says messengers are sent to people who are their "brothers" not strangers, so that people are already aware of their noble character and trustworthiness.
    ....but, suppose God were to talk to you---an atheist---how would you know it was "God" and not you yourself becomming mentally unhinged?.....would you believe it if a voice said it was "God"!?......Perhaps one has to look at a different criteria for proof that a Creator may exist?.....perhaps a more reasonable, intellectually satisfying one would be a better basis for arriving at conviction than "someone hearing voices"?......

    I look forward to more of your thoughts and questions.

  6. Kat, I am so enjoying your comments, most rational explanations. I agree with you in the non-stop linear thinking. Who says religious people can't be rational.

  7. Re: point 1 in Kat's 1st looks a lot to me (and to ibn Kathir and many Islamic websites) that if you disbelieve in Allah and the prophethood of Muhammad that you're pretty screwed:

    4:150 Lo! those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers, and seek to make distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between;
    4:151 Such are disbelievers in truth; and for disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom. (Pickthall)

    Ibn Kathir says about this verse

    "Allah threatens those who disbelieve in Him and in His Messengers, such as the Jews and Christians, who differentiate between Allah and His Messengers regarding faith. They believe in some Prophets and reject others, following their desires, lusts and the practices of their forefathers. They do not follow any proof for such distinction, because there is no such proof. Rather, they follow their lusts and prejudices. The Jews, may Allah curse them, believe in the Prophets, except `Isa and Muhammad, peace be upon them. The Christians believe in the Prophets but reject their Final and Seal, and the most honored among the prophets, Muhammad, peace be upon him."

    Verse 48:13 says even more explicitly:

    And so for him who believeth not in Allah and His messenger - Lo! We have prepared a flame for disbelievers.


    1. Thanks, Martin
      That is certainly how I have always understood the position of non-believers to be.
      I don't see how such verses can be interpreted in any other way.

  8. @ Martin
    Kaffir---It is a good point. A problem with translating the Quran into another language is that sometimes the nuance is lost in the translation. In early Islam---this word "kaffir" was used as an insult to other Muslims---because in order to BE a kaffir, one has to first know Islam/God in order to reject it----if one is simply ignorant, then it is not "rejection"---because one cannot reject something one does not know. This concept comes from the word itself---it means "one who covers with dirt" (or farmer) and is understood to mean one who covers truth with dirt in order to hide it. The root word (3 letters) also has connotations of "being ungrateful" and the opposite of this attidude is "Shakir"---one who is grateful---and this is related to one of the main themes of the Quran that if we have pride and arrogance (ego) we cannot open our hearts to spirituality.

    4:150---This verse speaks of 3 types of "kaffir" Those that deny God, and his Prophets, outright, those who accept some and reject others, and those who accept but conditionally (tafsir by Yusuf Ali)

    All wisdom teachings come with many layers of meaning----If one reads with care, then one can realize that the verse is talking about intentions/attitudes. Unless these attitudes are expressed outloud---another person will not know---because human beings cannot "read" someone else's mind/thoughts. So, the word "kaffir" can be understood not as a label for judging others---but a criteria for a spiritual state so one can judge oneself.

    .....but ofcourse most of us would prefer to feel-good/superior to another by judging the other as less/ is an egoic attitude that all of us fall into from time to time.........

    @meera ghani----thanks---would like to hear your thoughts too........

    1. But the verses quoted by Martin make no mention of the word "kaffir", do they? - so your etymological musings, although interesting (yes, I'm still learning!), are not strictly relevant. (I long ago learnt not to use the word, when I jokingly referred to myself as such in an email to my Muslim friend and was told exactly what it meant...)
      What the verses do make clear, at least to me, is that there is a very real threat of eternal torture for those who do not believe.
      And hence this begs the question: how can belief be genuine when it is made under such threats?
      "If you don't believe that I am the most merciful of those that are merciful, then I'll burn the skin off your back. And when I've finished, I'll give you a new skin so I can start all over again, inflicting unimaginable agony on you...for ever! NOW will you believe that I'm a loving God?"
      As oxymoronic statements go, surely this is right up there...
      So my answer is: No, sorry God. I can't believe that if you do exist and you are omniscient and wise and wonderful that you would make such despicable threats to your creation.

    2. Kat is right that those verses do use kafir (in various verbal forms). In addition 48:13 uses a form of the word "iman" (where it says "believeth").

      I think you raise an important question, Kat, that it is debateable who exactly would these verses refer to. I guess there would have to be some threshold of knowledge about the idea you are rejecting. I applaud what you and many Muslims say that it would not be for a Muslim to judge what is in another's heart, though I'm not sure that latter point is directly relevant here. However, I'm skeptical about the idea that kafir originally meant those who had initially accepted Islam. IIRC there's another word for such people, usually translated "the hypocrites".

      Either way, the Qur'an, at least in these verses, suggests that if some particular category of people reject Allah and Muhammad, then they face punishment in the hereafter. Even if it means those who reject them when they "know" Islam is true, it is still a difficulty with the idea of maximum mercifulness, which is what Spinoza's q1 was about.

      You could perhaps argue that Allah is maximally merciful within the constraints of justice, but that's seems to be reading quite a lot into the word used to describe him. To me it seems to say that no-one would show more mercy than him. If I was a Muslim I'd probably try to find some evidence for the precise meaning of ar rahman of if other verses shed light on it. Sigh, I usually avoid philosophical / theological arguments as they always seem to hinge on which word definitions you use, for which there's often an assorted choice in Arabic :)


    3. P.S. When I say "arguments", I mean lines of reasoning, nothing adversarial. I saw this as simply an interesting discussion :)

  9. But it seems that (like all the Abrahamic religions) Islam is happy for its followers to live in a state of terror.
    The latest tweet by The Quran Project (Bringing the message of The Quran to the masses by distribution of The Quran Project and broadcasting Islamic Education Messages to the public InshaAllah) is a case in point:
    "Fear Allah! Fear Allah! Fear Allah!"

    No further comment needed...

    1. so what do you want? living freely? doing what one wants? killing anyone, raping anyone and not feeling ashamed? if we live in terror only then we can save ourselves from such bad deeds. but its not like we always have yellow faces, bodies trembling with fear of Allah, its just we faer when doing anything wrong. otherwise Islam is a peaceful religion and its so much easy and lovely to be a Muslim :)

  10. @ martin

    you bring up interesting points.
    ---" kafir originally meant those who had initially accepted Islam"---not sure what you may have meant by "originally"---the early Muslims used this term in their debates with each other.....The Quran does not use these terms as "labels" that is---as an identity category---it is meant in terms of intentions/spirituality. For example the word "muslim" means one who submits (to God's will) and the Deciples of Jesus(pbuh) and Prophet Abraham (pbuh) are referred to as "muslims"----ofcourse Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) did not exist at that time, neither did the Quran...etc....obviously the usage does not refer to a religious doctrine brought by a particular prophet. That does not mean that the usage of the term as an identity-label is incorrect---after all groups like to be defined/identified so that they know who is in and who is not---but that type of usage is different from how the Quran uses terms.

    rejection---A question that might be asked is ---why does God care what we believe or don't believe?...after all, he does not have any needs.....this question is pertinent in Islam because we don't have "original sin"---that is, all human beings are created inherently good. In other words---if we are already good and good people get to go to heaven anyway---what is the point of "believing"? The Quran answers that it is for the benefit of the soul---right actions done with the right intentions benefit the soul by strengthening it in spirituality and wrong intentions and actions weaken the soul/spirituality. So how does "right belief" play into this? Take Charity---a person who is taking out coins from his purse may unintentioally drop some and these may be picked up by a poor person/beggar. This would be accidental charity because even if a good deed was done, it was done without thought. If one donated money with the intention of pleasing God---that would be altruistic charity, If a person helps another with "charity" with the intention of putting the other in a state of obligation for further use---that might be malicious charity and though the deed may be good---the intentions negate its goodness.
    I think no one here will disagree that altruistic intention are the best of intentions....if religion/belief in God can help human beings channel their intentions and actions so that they benefit all of God's creation in the best possible manner---then it will create goodness.
    A person who knowingly rejects the responsibility of bringing benefit to all of God's creation because of his own convenience and benefit---is unable to create goodness---because his intentions will negate his good actions---and any bad actions will only contribute in promoting badness/suffering......we harm ourselves (as well as others) when we do bad/evil.

    Ibn Arabi writes "Every state of being-in accord-with-God that does not bring with it the corresponding appropriate behaviour and attitude can't be relied upon"

    maximum mercifulness---It is true that arabic terms are complex and using english to discuss them brings with it the baggage of presumed connotations or christian-centric assumptions.....In Islam, one does not need an intermediary or some sort of man-god sacrifice or other methods to obtain forgiveness---God forgives if he is asked. When good people do bad things, all they need to do is sincerely ask for forgivenss and strive to reform....but a bad person can also repent and reform and God forgives.

    Iman---Faith/trust....defined as---the use of one's reason and intellect to arrive at conviction. Blind belief is superstition and the Quran discourages superstition.

  11. @ Spinoza
    Can belief made under threat be genuine?---No I don't think so and I believe the Quran agrees with that. So what about all the talk of hell in the Quran. In order for something to be a threat---one has to presume its existence---that is, if one believes it is true--then it is a threat---but if one does not beleive in its existence---then obviously it cannot be threatening. For someone to feel threatened by hell, means he believes in the other related aspects of God, Judgement and Paradise. Therefore this "threat" is for those who beleive. ---why?----because human beings have different levels of spirituality---Some of us walk faster on our spiritual journey and others walk slowly---it is best if Guidance can cater to the spiritual needs of all sorts of people. So, believers can use concepts/images of hell/paradise to whatever degree is beneficial for them---perhaps some need to focus more on hell---perhaps others are fine with thinking about paradise---whatever works---to bring about benefit for their souls.

    1. If the threat is "for those who believe", does that make the threat any less despicable?
      Is it right for billions of people to go through this life believing that such a place of eternal torment actually exists, having their fevered imaginings fed by ever more lurid and sadistic threats?
      Do watch the video in my post on Hell. Is this obsession healthy? Let me answer my own question: No- it's pathological. And it is a direct result of what is written in the Qur'an.

  12. I believe hell exists but I also believe Paradise exists and that people who do bad things will be judged for what they did and people who do good things will be judged for what they did---and that this judgement will be just. Belief in hell isn't isolated but comes with a set of presumptions or a system of concepts that tie into each other. For us Muslims--this "threat" isn't understood as "despicable"---hell/Paradise, Judgement are understood within the framework of Justice. Without these concepts---the Islamic world view would not make sense.

    ....just as within our societies our Justice system would not make sense if people who did very bad things were not put in jail.........

  13. I don't know if I'm too late on these discussions but only found this blog this morning. And must say I am impressed with the writings and good natured discussions.

    @Kat: You say that the verses condemning people to hell are only for the kuffar who cover the true knowledge. But what about those people who die and never heard of Islam. What if they worshipped their idols, elephant gods, ancestors, etc. Will they be spared from hell or will they go to jannat if they did good in this life?

    Also when people go to jail they are given a sentence commensurate with the crime they commit. ie. 1 year, 5years, 20years, etc. And when they are in prison they are treated humanely - fed, clothed, entertained and even educated.
    But hell on the other hand, not only is it eternal, but it is the height of senseless torture. Any sane person would see it for what it is - a made up fantasy to threaten people into belief.

    Kat, you say houris can be any gender, hence they are rewards for women also. But the scriptures clearly say that for women they will get only their husband and will be among the many females that the husband will have to enjoy. Houris are clearly eternal virgins provided for the pleasure of men. In any case Muhammad said most women are going to hell.

    1. Never to late for a good debate! Glad to have you on board, Azim.
      You make many of the points I was about to raise with Kat, myself.
      I hope she's still around to respond.

    2. @ Azim it has been quite clear that in the Islamic paradise, everyone will receive whatever they wish. Just because certain things which may appeal to men are expressed in the Qur'an, this doesn't imply that women will not get whatever they want too. A closer look will indicate to you that your knowledge of the matter is rather limited.

      The Qur’an says the ‘Kafirs’ and Munafiqs (hypocrites) will be sent to the hellfire. The definition of a Kafir/Munafiq is the one who knows and understands Islam, yet despite this, rejects it. It does not encompass people who

      a) Did not receive the message of Islam and are hence ignorant of it, due to them being born/living in a time/place where a prophet or messenger did not reach them.
      b) Mentally challenged individuals
      c) Minors
      d) People who did not receive the message of Islam in its true and correct form (this one is very relevant in this day and age)

      Again, please verify your ideas technically before you judge our beliefs based on them

    3. there have to be two extremes.. if heaven is forever so is hell.. why can't you see the pleasures of heaven and just see the horrible hell? the one who has created us deserves to be worshiped, and the one doesn't must be given more severe punishment.
      about houris, yes they are for men, coz its men who has more such desire their whole lives, women stay happy with just their husbands, also houris for women as reward would never excite a women as it will excite men.

  14. Yes its strange when one can twist a simple concept to conform to their own beliefs/morals.
    Maybe Muhammad's own description of Houris might be enlightening:
    The Prophet said: A houri is a most beautiful young woman with a transparent body. The marrow of her bones is visible like the interior lines of pearls and rubies. She looks like red wine in a white glass. She is of white color, and free from the routine physical disabilities of an ordinary woman such as menstruation, menopause, urinal and offal discharge, child bearing and the related pollution. A houri is a girl of tender age, having large breasts which are round (pointed), and not inclined to dangle. Houris dwell in palaces of splendid surroundings. [Al-Tirmizi, volume 2, pg 35-40]

  15. Sorry didn't see this

    @ Azim--I also find the points you raised interesting (at least the ones about kaffir and hell)....But, as I already explained to Spinoza---I am interested in differring views leading to increased understanding---I am not really interested in argument for arguments sake....

    Houri---Gai Eaton wrote "the Quran is like a mirror: one will interpret the book depending on one's nature and personality". If you want to fantasize about large breasted virgins---that's fine by me....I have a different view. To you is your way and to me is mine.

    Justice--In Islam, one "does". that is "right belief" must contribute to right actions that create benefit.---to give an example. Surah 90 says (in part)---
    "what can tell you of the steep path"
    to free a slave
    to feed the destitute on a day of hunger
    a kinsman, orphan or a stranger out of luck in need
    be of those who keep the faith
    who counsel one another to patience
    who counsel to compassion
    they are of the right."
    what it says is that---Belief, intentions and actions work together to create benefit....or....right belief promotes right intentions that lead to right actions for the benefit of all of God's creations. However, human beings have varying degrees of capabilities, intelligence, spirituality...etc. So,(Divine)justice must take into account not only the beliefs, intentions and actions, but also the variations among indivuduals. In other words, accountability depends on the level of responsibility we have and this responsibility rests on the God-given abilities an individual has and the constraints or freedom his circumstances provide. This means that it is best to leave upto God to Judge and for us to trust in his compassion and mercy. This "general rule" applies to those who are Muslim and (from a muslim perspective)to those who do not know Islam either now, or in the past or those who cannot "know" because of mental inabilities.......further, the rule can also apply to those who "rejected right belief" but who repented and strove to reform. This general rule does not apply to those who after knowing rightness/goodness chose to reject it and continue to create "mischief" on earth (out of pride and arrogance).
    So...who goes to Paradise/hell? Since it is God who judges---God knows the answer......but as individuals, God has given us the freedom to choose our paths for ourselves,...paths that lead to goodness or badness....therefore the best way is to judge yourself and leave the judgement of others to God.

    Timescale---Time in the Quran is not always "earth-centric"---what to us on earth may seem a long time (birth to death), may be a very short while from another perspective. So "time" may be relative.

    Horrifying hell---an interesting point---I do not have an answer that fully satisfies me---but these are my thoughts----When we consider justice (tempered with compassion and mercy) here on earth---going to jail is perhaps understood as repentence and compensation for causing harm. The harm is considered in terms of an individual or group directly effected. But perhaps the Quran (and the Talmud) also consider a larger perspective---which is hinted at in Surah 5 verse 32....if one killed a soul it would be as if he killed a whole people....etc. To give a more concrete example---the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This resulted in direct deaths of many thousands of innocent civilians and children---but it did not end there---radiation sickness effected many survivors who died after much suffering later and in some cases---genetic defects/illnesses carried on to future generations.....are these people also entitled to (Divine) Justice?.....perhaps pondering on this aspect may help us towards a better answer/understanding.....?.....or not?......

    1. Hi Kat,
      The Qur'an may indeed be "like a mirror", but when the words are so clearly describing women when they describe houris (how many [attractive!] men with full breasts do you know?)then I think to accuse those who interpret the houris as sexually alluring women, of creating their own fantasies is disingenuous to say the least!
      Also, surely the fact that the ahadith is full of references to Muhammad's sexual prowess further points to Islam being predicated on the promise of sexual gratification for men in paradise.

    2. Hell is not as horrifyingly unjust when you consider that only the people who truly deserve to go there will be sent there. And no, that doesn't include people who didn't receive the true message and children/mentally challenged people.

      Anyone who can prove that absolutely every human being who is/was/will be ever born is/was/will be free of wrongdoing can argue that there is no need for hell. Looking at the world today, that is clearly not the case.

  16. Houris/breasts---M. Asad---wrote a translation and tafsir of the Quran---he has his own views. Other aspects of houris/gender already discussed in a previous post....

    I am not accusing---I am saying if that is how some people want to interpret Paradise---that is upto them.....and those who want to interpret Paradise differently---thats fine too.....irrespective of gender.....The details/fantasies of Paradise are not as important as the CONCEPT of hell/paradise within a greater framework of Justice.

    Quran is mirror---I prefer the tafsir(exegesis/hermanuetics) of M.Asad and Yusuf Ali----both are very different---but both are grounded in Islamic thought and scholarship.

    Sex---As a general concept, sexual intimacy and gratification within marriage for both men and women is a God-given blessing to strengthen the marital relationship---but this is pretty common sense whether one looks at it from an emotional perspective---or that of human biochemistry...........

    1. @ kat

      There is no evidence in the texts to imply that women will be given anything less than what they wish for in Jannah (yes, that includes multiple men), so don't let anyone use that as an excuse to imply that Islam is sexist. Just because fantasies that may relate to men are discussed in more detail does not necessarily negate the ones for women.

      With regards to sex in paradise, the basis of thought is that every desire a man/woman may have that is not fulfilled in this world (due to various reasons/limitations of worldly life, be they economic, social, religious, etc.) will be fulfilled in paradise.

      Both of the above are based on the being of Allah, Who is defined by his 99 attributes, one of which is that he is infinitely just and incapable of injustice.

  17. You may argue as much as you may please, But as Allah says in the Quran, We have set upon them a veil on their hearts, and they will believe not.
    Is it not ironic that you speak just as arrogantly as did the the disbelievers when the Holy Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed (Peace be upon them all)conveyed the message of Allah to them?
    Allah says in the Quran in Surah Kaafiruun.
    Tell the disbelievers, i do not worship what you worship.
    Nor are you worshippers of what i worship.
    Nor will i be a worshipper of what you worship.
    Nor will you be a worshipper of what i worship.
    Your Religion is with you and My religion is with me.

    1. "You may argue as much as you may please, But as Allah says in the Quran, We have set upon them a veil on their hearts, and they will believe not."
      Which of course begs a further question: If Allah has decided that he's set a veil on my heart so it's impossible for me to believe, isn't it a bit unfair of him to then burn the skin off my back for an eternity for ...NOT BELIEVING?
      Anyway - thanks for the comment Afroz!

    2. @Spinoza

      How do you know that Allah has set a veil on your heart, is it because you actually see the truth in Islam but are too arrogant to accept it?

      Ok, I'll be serious and explain the verse.

      Allah does not set a veil on anyone's heart if he/she sincerely accepts what they know, at the back of their minds, to be the truth. Every individual will be judged on his/her sincerity. If you know that some/all of what Islam is saying is actually correct (and only you can decide that) and yet you continue to argue against it, then this rejection of your is actually what constitutes the 'veil' on your heart. It is insincerity that causes disbelief, not a lack of intelligence.

  18. My answers are short but easy to understand:
    1. Merciful because He will forgive the one who doesn’t believe in Him his whole life and then embraces Islam at his death bed. No matterhow bis the sin,He forgives us if only once we ask for forgiveness by heart. He forgave the pharaoh again and again despite of his mischiefs.
    2. You are so wrongly informed. They never spread it by sword, they did it by showing them miracles and just preaching. But when non muslims interfered and wanted war, sword was the answer, coz Muslims are not coward.
    3. The ones who live in colder climate also want a moderate one. Being cool doesn’t mean that there would be ice everywhere like Antarctica, it means a pleasant weather which won’t be hot.
    4. All his life a man runs after this one thing called “women”, but those who will keep themselves away in this world, just to please them Allah will give them this reward. The wine in heaven will be free from alcohol, as the only bad thing about wine is that person doesn’t know what he is doing after having it, but after having wine of heaven he will be in his complete senses.
    7. He let the people to do changes in the others because He knew that in the end He is going to sent the one which will have it all. In other books its not written that they will be protected, but in Quran it is, and no one in the world has dared to change it which proves it to be true.
    8. Allah knows all but He has also given a very little will to people of their own. He wanted them to thank for His favours but they were the evil doers.
    9. Science was known at that time? Really? Yes, you can say that everything existed but no one knew how it came into being. These thing are being proved now in the 21st century. Like the development of fetus.
    Other questions I didn’t get…

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Dude, you have spent way too much time 'studying' about Islam on the internet! Your kind of people not only waste your time but of others. Like these few minutes of my life, which I am not getting back.
    BTW, your questions to God made me laugh, thanks for that.