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“The main priority of the Church is to work for reconciliation.”
Evaluate this statement considering arguments for and against.
In your response you should:
• refer to Christian teachings
• reach a justified conclusion. (12+3spag)
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QE2
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(Original post by Ayexsha_x)
  • “All suffering is down to humans”
Evaluate this statement considering arguments for and against. In your response you should:
  • Refer to Muslim teachings
  • Refer to non-religious points of view
  • Justified conclusion
From a Muslim perspective, all suffering is down to Allah.
To quote Umar al Khattab - "The outcome of all affairs is determined by God’s decree. If something is meant to go elsewhere, it will never come your way, but if it is yours by destiny, from you it cannot flee.”
The principle of Qadr explains the concept in more detail, but essentially the combination of infallible omniscience (only what god knows will happen, can happen) and predetermination (nothing occurs without Allah's will and decree) means that we are merely following a fixed destiny that is entirely of god's making.

From a rationalist perspective, there are two kinds of suffering. One is down to a combination of genes and environment which shape a person's decisions. The other is subject to random natural events, like drought, disease, earthquake, etc. So basically, some suffering is down to humans.
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Nasir.
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next time anyone has any potential covid-19 symptoms, instead of ringing 111, they should come to you
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(Original post by Nasir.)
next time anyone has any potential covid-19 symptoms, instead of ringing 111, they should come to you, mr know it all.
Yes, if QE2's medical knowledge is anything like his expert dismantling of Islamic apologia. Do you care to rebut his arguments or do you just want to be salty?
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(Original post by Nasir.)
next time anyone has any potential covid-19 symptoms, instead of ringing 111, they should come to you, mr know it all.
I'm not a real gynaecologist, but I'll have a look.
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(Original post by Nasir.)
"insert crap response"
In which case, you will have no difficulty in showing the flaws in my argument.
What's that?
Oh...
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Nasir.
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(Original post by Ascend)
Yes, if QE2's medical knowledge is anything like his expert dismantling of Islamic apologia. Do you care to rebut his arguments or do you just want to be salty?
fangirling, are we?
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(Original post by Nasir.)
fangirling, are we?
rather be a fan of reasoning and critical thinking than a fan of blind faith, that is enhanced by childhood indoctrination
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(Original post by QE2)
In which case, you will have no difficulty in showing the flaws in my argument.
What's that?
Oh...
It's not about 'your argument'. You are finding it difficult to comprehend what I just said and for good reason, because you know yourself you're ignorant.

Multi-quote me, and start your thesis on arguing against me point by point to show off your 'knowledge' and 'power'. I couldn't care. Go ahead, start your 100000 word essay on me. You have all the time in the world to debate random Muslim students on TSR to prove how right you are.

To OP, if you want to find out something about Islam in particular, or any religion, go and ask an expert. Don't ask randomers.
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(Original post by Nasir.)
It's not about 'your argument'. You are finding it difficult to comprehend what I just said and for good reason, because you know yourself you're ignorant.

Multi-quote me, and start your thesis on arguing against me point by point to show off your 'knowledge' and 'power'. I couldn't care. Go ahead, start your 100000 word essay on me. You have all the time in the world to debate random Muslim students on TSR to prove how right you are.
So when you called my post a "crap response", you were just being salty. You have no response to the points I made.
Fair enough. Thought as much.

To OP, if you want to find out something about Islam in particular, or any religion, go and ask an expert. Don't ask randomers.
How do you determine between an "expert" and a "randomer"? If it depends on whether you agree with them or not, you are sadly mistaken.
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(Original post by Ayexsha_x)
  • “All suffering is down to humans”
Evaluate this statement considering arguments for and against. In your response you should:
  • Refer to Muslim teachings
  • Refer to non-religious points of view
  • Justified conclusion
Evil (1) – Why must we suffer?

by Author | Jan 2, 2015 | Life and Philosophy | 0 comments


By M. Nazir Khan and M. Faisal Abideen

Why does evil exist? This is a question that has haunted every human being. Torture, rape, murder, cruelty, disasters, poverty, disease – it all seems too much and too pointless. Personal tragedies are frequently met with the question, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” Could there really be a loving and all-powerful God who would allow such suffering?

The Age-Old Question

Discussion about the problem of evil seems ubiquitous in human thought. One can find major thinkers in every field of knowledge and in every culture and epoch who have commented on it from the dawn of ancient civilizations to the modern scientific age. Moreover, it is an extremely powerful question, for it relates not to an obscure philosophical dilemma but to a living reality that confronts each and every human being. In the modern era, it has become increasingly more common for people of diverse intellectual backgrounds to cite the problem of evil as their primary reason for rejecting faith in God. Historian and New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, noted that it was not his views on the textual corruption of holy scripture which caused him to lose his faith, but rather it was his acceptance of the problem of evil. Sir David Attenborough, one of the leading figures in documentaries about nature and wildlife, dismissed the notion that beauty in nature points to God, instead citing the example of a disease-causing parasitic worm as evidence against a merciful deity. Even one of the great voices of modern Christianity, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, surmised that the 2004 Tsunami raised doubts about the existence of God stating, “It would be wrong if faith were not upset by the catastrophe.”

Indeed, while atheists generally resign themselves to cutting down arguments in favour of God, the one argument that they feel allows them a confident counterattack is the problem of evil. Philosopher Helen De Cruz conducted a survey of some eight hundred individuals in the field of philosophy, in which respondents were asked to rank the perceived strength of arguments for and against God. The problem of evil was ranked as the strongest argument against God by atheists, theists and agnostics alike.1

Historically, this question is traced back in its most ancient form to one of the Greek philosophers, Epicurus. Most famously, the argument has been summarized as follows:

If God is willing to prevent evil, but He is not able, then He is not omnipotent.
If He is able, but not willing, then He is malevolent.
If He is both able and willing, then why does evil exist?
If He is neither able nor willing, then why call Him God?

Religious traditions have seemingly struggled to offer a response to the question of evil, even at the highest level of their scholarship as seen above. Such explanations as to why evil exists are called theodicies. Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga have argued that the presence of free-will results in greater good than evil, the greatest good culminating in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Others like philosopher John Hick have argued that humans are still undergoing a process of creation during which suffering is necessary to achieve “soul-making” and acquire the likeness of God. These theodicies have been met with a number of objections and a sense of dissatisfaction amongst many who see them as overly trivial reasons to permit such gratuitous evil. Moreover, such explanations may seem philosophically contrived and too distant from direct scriptural answers. After all, if God has a reason for allowing such suffering, shouldn’t He have told us about it in His Holy book? Finally, many theodicies seem deficient in that they do not demonstrate a very strong and obvious connection between suffering and the core religious tenets. The religion seems to be saying one thing about the purpose of life, and such theodicies seem to be suggesting something else. If suffering is such a key aspect of our existence, shouldn’t religion tie it into the key religious beliefs?

There is however, a spiritual tradition whose answers on this question have hitherto remained relatively unexamined in the philosophical community, and that is Islam. This tradition holds the distinction of seeing itself as a complete way of life with all of its fundamental answers grounded in the original divinely-revealed sources: the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, the answer that it proposes is not one that is peripherally related to the purpose of life. The fascinating elegance of the answer is that the existence of suffering becomes part of the core theological doctrine about the purpose of life and around which, the entire system of spirituality and theology revolve.

The Spiritual Struggle

The Qur’an first surprises us by making the problem of evil the very first issue addressed in its very first story, which opens as a dialogue between God and the angels. When God announces to the angels that He intends to create humankind on this earth, the angels ask the very same question that haunts human beings: “Would you place therein one who would spread corruption and bloodshed, while we extol Your Praises and exalt Your Glory?” (Qur’an 2:30). It seems incredibly clever of an author to use humankind’s greatest conundrum as the lead-in to the entire moral and spiritual framework to be developed in the book. Indeed, the Qur’anic approach to the problem of evil is what ex-atheist and professor of mathematics, Dr. Jeffrey Lang, found so compelling about the Islamic worldview that he made it the focus of his book, “Even Angels Ask”, discussing his journey from Atheism to Islam.2

So how does the Qur’an approach the problem of evil? While the argument from Epicurus assumes that the existence of evil is absolute and pointless and could never be intended by a moral deity, the Qur’an unequivocally affirms the opposite. Human suffering plays an essential role in our spiritual and moral development and in our journey towards God. “And We will surely test you with some degree of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and provisions, but give glad-tidings to those who persevere. Those who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to God, and indeed to Him we will return.”(Qur’an 2:155-6). Clearly, from the Qur’anic paradigm human suffering is not incidental nor bereft of divine wisdom, but rather it unveils the most noble of human qualities – the valiant determination and perseverance of those few who stand up to defend the shores of innocence from the crushing tides of darkness. “Rather, those with faith who left their homes striving and struggling in the cause of God, and those who gave shelter and aid – it is they who are true believers. For them is forgiveness and noble provision”(Qur’an 8:74).

According to Islamic theology, life is not meaningless.“Do you think that We created you with no purpose and that you would not return to us?” (Qur’an 23:115). The Qur’an seems to amazingly reach out and grab us directly, questioning the very attitude that underscores that way we live our lives. According to the Qur’an, life with all of its hardship and pain represents an opportunity to develop one’s spiritual connection with God and grow as a human being.“O Human, indeed you are labouring painfully towards your Lord, but you shall surely meet Him”(Qur’an 84:6). The purpose of life is to come closer to God through acts of moral virtue, righteousness, compassion, and spiritual submission. All such good deeds serve to build our relationship with God and are termed worship in Islam, which God states is the reason for which we were created (Qur’an 51:56).

But there’s more.

Climbing a mountain of moral virtue

In one particular passage, the Qur’an indicates that there is subtle connection between the human’s cognitive capacity, the arduous struggle to do good, and the spiritual ascent towards God.

“Verily, We have created the human being in a state of constant toil and hardship. Does he think that no one has power over him? He says, ‘I have squandered much wealth and riches!’ But does he think that no one sees him? Have We not made for him two eyes? And a tongue and two lips? And shown him the two paths? But he attempts not the uphill climb. And what would enable you to comprehend the uphill climb? It is the freeing of a slave. Or feeding on a day of severe hunger the close orphan or the needy person lying in the dust. Then he will become one of those with faith, who urge one another to have patience and urge one another to show compassion and mercy” (Qur’an 90:4-17).

From this passage, we can draw a number of conclusions about the inter-connectedness of three dimensions in Islam: rationality, morality and spirituality. First, the Qur’an informs us that all human beings are brought into a world of constant hardship. One can either seek to escape it and surround themselves with worldly pleasures at the expense of others, or elect to make personal sacrifices to bring about greater moral good and embrace the hardships of life. A human being who chases after material riches and worldly pleasures neglects to use two divinely-endowed faculties – observation and communication. These faculties enable a human being to learn, understand, and reflect on the purpose behind one’s existence. They allow a human being to contemplate the meaninglessness of a life devoted to gratifying one’s personal desires by devouring wealth. To behave in such a manner is to adopt the easier path.

The passage above describes that the ‘uphill climb’ is the harder path. The original Arabic word for an ‘uphill climb’, ‘Aqabah (عَقَبَةَ), not only describes something that is very difficult, it also depicts something strenuous, of great difficulty and hardship and it also depicts something that is like a mountain path ascending higher and higher. Hence, the verse portrays our difficulty and our hardship as ascending a steep mountain. Not only is there difficulty and hardship as we are going through life, but that difficulty and hardship is also part of a spiritual ascent towards God. The classical Qur’anic exegete Imam al-Baghawi writes, “And the mention of [the uphill climb] here is a similitude that God presents for the spiritual struggle against temptations and satan when one strives to do acts of righteousness. He portrays it like a person who undertakes climbing a mountain. God is saying that the human being has not chosen such personal hardship by freeing the slave or feeding [the needy].”

So our spiritual ascent towards God involves a moral struggle to alleviate the suffering of others, which we will adopt if we use our rational faculties. From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that the Qur’an espouses the view that absolute evil does not exist. In fact, the Islamic theologian, Ibn Taymiyyah, defined evil as “that whose non-occurrence is better than its occurrence” – a definition which precludes us from judging as evil anything whose existence facilitates our purpose in life. It reminds us that what is perceived as evil may in fact be dictated by Divine Wisdom for our ultimate benefit, regardless of whether we can fathom such Wisdom or not. In the Islamic paradigm, what is perceived to be evil, is an fact an opportunity for us to develop a closer relationship with God and achieve moral and spiritual growth. But how does performing good deeds deepen our relationship with God? The answer has to do with the unique Islamic concept of the Divine Names and Attributes.

Continue reading part 2: Evil (2) – Opportunities for growth.

Evil (2) – Opportunities for growth

by Author | Jan 2, 2015 | Life and Philosophy | 0 comments


By M. Nazir Khan and M. Faisal Abideen

Human suffering is a part of life, but why? What is its value? Is there any way in which it can be positive? How can suffering develop us morally and spiritually and bring us closer to God?


Human suffering and the attributes of God

One of the unique aspects of Islamic theology is the very rich and colourful description it provides of the qualities of God. The Qur’anic verses are punctuated with diverse Names describing the nature of God, the different shades and hues of His love, mercy, compassion, justice, omnipotence, omniscience, generosity, forgiveness, power, sovereignty and so on. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad said, “Verily, God has ninety-nine Names. Whoever encompasses them, will enter Heaven” [Related in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]. What exactly does it mean to encompass them? Each of the Divine Names not only tells us something about God but also informs us about the moral quality that human beings must strive to embody. As the eminent classical Islamic theologian, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah wrote, “God loves those who embody the effects of His Divine Attributes.” Thus, knowledge of God’s name ar-Rahman (the One whose Mercy encompasses everything in existence) entails that we as human beings become the vessels of Divine mercy, allowing it to reach the weak, destitute and suffering people around the world through our good deeds. It is only when we show such relentless mercy that we truly understand and appreciate the meaning of mercy, allowing us to gain a closer relationship with the One who is the source of all Mercy – God Almighty.

And this is the secret of suffering. If there were no suffering in the world, where then would be the opportunity to strive to develop this beautiful capacity for mercy? Where would be the opportunity to grow in one’s understanding of what it means to be merciful, deepening one’s relationship with the Most Merciful?

One can observe that if there was no poverty in this world, where would the opportunity be to show generosity? And in doing so, increase one’s understanding and build his relationship with the One who is the Most Generous. Being able to show generosity gives one the opportunity to truly understand what it means when God says that He is Al-Mannan (المنان) – the One who is the Most Generous and bestows favours upon every creation, and Al-Wahhab (الوهاب) – the One who is continuously bestowing His gifts again and again to His creation. How can one truly appreciate the significance of these qualities if they do not experience the virtue of generosity themselves?

Similarly:

– If there were no injustice or oppression in the world, how would one strives to establish justice and by doing so gain an appreciation and draw closer to God, the One Who is the Most Just – Al-Adl (العدل)?

– If there were no violence in this world, how would one strive to establish and spread peace and by doing so grow in his appreciation and understanding of the One Who is the Source of All Peace – As-Salaam (السلام)?

– If there were no wrongdoing, how would one develop the capacity to show forgiveness and in doing so, he grows in his appreciation and understanding of the One with the Greatest Forgiveness –Al Ghafoor (الغفور)?

– If there were no darkness in this world, how could one strive to be a beacon of light and in doing so draw nearer to the One Who is the Source and Bestower of Light and Enlightment – An-Nur (النور)?

Hence, there is a profound connection between striving for moral growth and building a relationship with the Divine. Through our virtuous deeds we increase in our understanding of God and draw closer to Him. We grow spiritually in our relationship with God, and morally in the good that we show to others. We become the very medium by which Divine Mercy reaches the hapless souls in misery and anguish. In fact, it is hard to imagine any philosophy or religion that offers a more empowering view of humanity than this. Human beings possess an incredible potential to use their intellectual capacities to spread goodness and eradicate suffering, and this is what enables them to come closer to God. This is worship of God in Islam. The cousin of the Prophet and eminent scholar of Islam, Ibn Abbas, stated that in the verse where God states “I did not create the human being except to worship Me” (Qur’an 51:56), the phrase “to worship Me” is synonymous with “to know Me”. Knowledge of God is acquired through an appreciation of His Beautiful Names and Attributes, and embodying the moral virtues which they entail in one’s daily life.

3

Objections Considered

There are three possible objections that one may raise in response to the Qur’anic theodicy outlines above.

(1) The first question would be – is it really necessary? Couldn’t God have made us automatically beings of moral virtue with this understanding? Why go through this journey of suffering to get there? Essentially, this question is that of the angels posed in the first story of the Qur’an. Why make human beings when the angels already exist? The angels are a creation that is incapable of sin and continuously performs worship without pause. God responded to this question by demonstrating the human potential to reach a higher status than the angels – through knowledge, free-will and moral choice. The human being can experience the Divine Names and Attributes to a greater degree through the journey of worship in a life surrounded by temptation and tribulation.

But, a questioner might ask, why not implant all those memories of struggles into the human mind without actually having to experience it? Well, if this is the case – are we not simply redefining reality? If such ‘virtual suffering’ was just as excruciating as enduring the real suffering, would it be any less ‘real’? Indeed, the Islamic tradition affirms that the reality of this life will seem but a dream upon entering into the next life. The Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law and famous caliph of Islam, Ali ibn Abi Talib is reported to have said, “People are asleep and when they die they awaken.” The Prophet Muhammad himself described this when he said, “The most destitute of the people in this world will be brought and dipped once in Paradise, and it will be said to him: ‘O son of Adam, did you ever see anything bad? Did you ever experience any hardship?’ He will say: ‘No, by God, O Lord. I never saw anything bad and I never experienced any hardship’” [Related in Sahih Muslim].

(2) The second possible objection is that there is evil of a category which cannot serve as an opportunity for moral and spiritual growth, or deepening one’s relation with God. Take the evil that befalls children, the mentally handicap or animals, for instance. These beings do not possess the rational capacity to perceive suffering as an opportunity for growth.

The first part of the answer has already preceded – that such suffering of the vulnerable presents a moral responsibility for those around them to care for and protect them.

Secondly, such suffering will seem illusory upon entrance into the unfathomable pleasures in the afterlife.

Thirdly, any suffering that is experienced in this life is associated with a concomitant increase in reward in the afterlife and an expiation of any moral failings a person may have committed. The Prophet said,“No calamity befalls a Muslim but that God expiates some of his sins because of it, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn” [Related in Saheeh Bukhari].

Fourthly, with regard to animals, it needs to be pointed out that there is a philosophical conundrum in assuming a sentient conscious experience for their suffering in the manner that we experience it as human beings. Are we immoral if we do not find ourselves galvanized into action to defend every hapless fly from being devoured by a spider? Most people would say no, and would be content to leave the natural ecosystem to operate without the imposition of our moral values to arbitrate every predator-prey relationship in the world. Nevertheless, we have a moral duty in how we choose to interact with the animal world: the Prophet Muhammad said,“Let anyone who kills even a sparrow for no reason know that it will cry aloud to God on the Day of the Resurrection, saying, ‘O my Lord! So-and-so killed me just for fun; he killed me for no reason!’” [Related in Sunan al-Nasa’i].

(3) The third possible objection would be that evil and suffering has a component that is gratuitous. Yes, some suffering may be necessary for this spiritual journey towards God, but the scale and magnitude of suffering that we see in the world just seems far too excessive.

In response to this objection, one must ask the question – is there any degree of suffering that human beings would find morally acceptable? By which relativistic goldilocks standards should evil be quantified and measured as being ‘too little’, ‘too much’, or ‘just right’? Moreover, again the Qur’an surprises us by addressing this objection directly and informing us that while the intensity and quantity of evil in the world may astonish us, goodness remains vastly superior to it.“Say, ‘Evil and Good are not equivalent, though the sheer quantity of evil might astonish you.’ So develop consciousness of God, O you of understanding, that you may be successful” (Qur’an 5:100).

Indeed, we see clearly from this verse, that God intended to place us in such a world where the forces of good seem hopelessly outnumbered by the forces of evil. It is only in a desperate, hopeless, dismal plight that the brilliance of human courage, love, justice, strength and determination shine forth. This is the unlimited potential that we unlock when we open our minds and hearts to the Qur’anic virtue of taqwa – consciousness of God. In such desperate situations, it is the mind filled with the consciousness of God that advances without hesitation. That is the moment where heroes emerge and legends are born – those who do not cower in the face of such unfathomable evil but rather rise to challenge it. Humans innately admire and aspire towards such examples and hence we feature such examples in our most powerful and moving stories.

Conclusion

The religion of Islam provides an incredibly optimistic and empowering view of the world where one sees every occurrence in life as an opportunity to do good deeds and become a better person. The Prophet Muhammad said, “The situation of the believer is amazing, for no matter what happens it is always good. And that is only for the believer. For when something fortunate happens to him, he exhibits gratitude, and in that there is good for him. And if some calamity befalls him, he endures with patience, and in that there is good for him” [Related in Sahih Muslim]. In the Islamic worldview, one should not be depressed by all the suffering that one sees around him – but rather one should be empowered and strive in order to fill the world with righteousness, virtue and acts of goodness. And in doing so, he will come nearer to God and fulfill the purpose of his creation.

As God says in the Qur’an, “And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our paths. And indeed, God is with the doers of good” (Qur’an 29:69).

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Nasir.
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(Original post by QE2)
So when you called my post a "crap response", you were just being salty. You have no response to the points I made.
Fair enough. Thought as much.


How do you determine between an "expert" and a "randomer"? If it depends on whether you agree with them or not, you are sadly mistaken.
so if you have problems with your brain, would you come to tsr or see a doctor?
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(Original post by Nasir.)
so if you have problems with your brain, would you come to tsr or see a doctor?
But what if the "doctor" is a con man and the person on TSR is a brain surgeon?
You're just making assumptions and committing the genetic fallacy.
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(Original post by Andalusi)
x
LOL! Nice copypasta.
We all know that you haven't read that, and even if you did, you wouldn't understand it.

BTW, that whole argument falls apart because it does not allow for Allah's infallible omniscience or predetermination.
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fangirling, are we?
So you're sticking with salty. A reminder that this is a debate forum.
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(Original post by QE2)
But what if the "doctor" is a con man and the person on TSR is a brain surgeon?
You're just making assumptions and committing the genetic fallacy.
you're more likely to find the con man here than in the nhs
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you're more likely to find the con man here than in the nhs
I will freely admit that there are many people on here who are uneducated or ill-informed about Islam. Your reluctance to say what was wrong with my post suggests that you are one of them.

However, the so-called "experts" of Islam you refer to are the con men protecting their vested interest. Their job is to feed the faithful a sanitised and cherry-picked concoction, backed with platitudes and misrepresentation. We had one on here last week. A self-proclaimed Islamic expert and academic heavyweight. Like so many others, his arguments were highly flawed and fallacious and he legged it pretty sharpish, after throwing about a load if insults and arrogance. It was actually quite embarrassing - not unlike your inability to provide any kind of cogent argument in response to my points.
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(Original post by Nasir.)
It's not about 'your argument'. You are finding it difficult to comprehend what I just said and for good reason, because you know yourself you're ignorant.

Multi-quote me, and start your thesis on arguing against me point by point to show off your 'knowledge' and 'power'. I couldn't care. Go ahead, start your 100000 word essay on me. You have all the time in the world to debate random Muslim students on TSR to prove how right you are.

To OP, if you want to find out something about Islam in particular, or any religion, go and ask an expert. Don't ask randomers.
Experts in religion?

I think we had a chat a little while ago in other religious threads or maybe this one too.

There are no experts in religion unless you mean the ones who have been indoctrinated from a very young age to reproduce the same nonsense that their parents reproduced who learned from their parents and so on.

In a few words the entire rhetoric and claims are based on indoctrination rather than evidence based arguments such as the ones used in science.

What is to learn about Islam or any other religion from the 'experts'??
Islam is a stone age ideology and the most ludicrous around.

It is obvious who is ignorant and indoctrinated with nonsense and stories that a 12 year old kid will find difficult to believe.

We have discussed before why Islam is a ridiculous political ideology and why people should avoid it and instead prefer not to follow any religion. Especially this one...
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(Original post by Andalusi)
Evil (1) – Why must we suffer?

by Author | Jan 2, 2015 | Life and Philosophy | 0 comments


By M. Nazir Khan and M. Faisal Abideen

Why does evil exist? This is a question that has haunted every human being. Torture, rape, murder, cruelty, disasters, poverty, disease – it all seems too much and too pointless. Personal tragedies are frequently met with the question, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” Could there really be a loving and all-powerful God who would allow such suffering?

The Age-Old Question

Discussion about the problem of evil seems ubiquitous in human thought. One can find major thinkers in every field of knowledge and in every culture and epoch who have commented on it from the dawn of ancient civilizations to the modern scientific age. Moreover, it is an extremely powerful question, for it relates not to an obscure philosophical dilemma but to a living reality that confronts each and every human being. In the modern era, it has become increasingly more common for people of diverse intellectual backgrounds to cite the problem of evil as their primary reason for rejecting faith in God. Historian and New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, noted that it was not his views on the textual corruption of holy scripture which caused him to lose his faith, but rather it was his acceptance of the problem of evil. Sir David Attenborough, one of the leading figures in documentaries about nature and wildlife, dismissed the notion that beauty in nature points to God, instead citing the example of a disease-causing parasitic worm as evidence against a merciful deity. Even one of the great voices of modern Christianity, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, surmised that the 2004 Tsunami raised doubts about the existence of God stating, “It would be wrong if faith were not upset by the catastrophe.”

Indeed, while atheists generally resign themselves to cutting down arguments in favour of God, the one argument that they feel allows them a confident counterattack is the problem of evil. Philosopher Helen De Cruz conducted a survey of some eight hundred individuals in the field of philosophy, in which respondents were asked to rank the perceived strength of arguments for and against God. The problem of evil was ranked as the strongest argument against God by atheists, theists and agnostics alike.1

Historically, this question is traced back in its most ancient form to one of the Greek philosophers, Epicurus. Most famously, the argument has been summarized as follows:

If God is willing to prevent evil, but He is not able, then He is not omnipotent.
If He is able, but not willing, then He is malevolent.
If He is both able and willing, then why does evil exist?
If He is neither able nor willing, then why call Him God?

Religious traditions have seemingly struggled to offer a response to the question of evil, even at the highest level of their scholarship as seen above. Such explanations as to why evil exists are called theodicies. Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga have argued that the presence of free-will results in greater good than evil, the greatest good culminating in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Others like philosopher John Hick have argued that humans are still undergoing a process of creation during which suffering is necessary to achieve “soul-making” and acquire the likeness of God. These theodicies have been met with a number of objections and a sense of dissatisfaction amongst many who see them as overly trivial reasons to permit such gratuitous evil. Moreover, such explanations may seem philosophically contrived and too distant from direct scriptural answers. After all, if God has a reason for allowing such suffering, shouldn’t He have told us about it in His Holy book? Finally, many theodicies seem deficient in that they do not demonstrate a very strong and obvious connection between suffering and the core religious tenets. The religion seems to be saying one thing about the purpose of life, and such theodicies seem to be suggesting something else. If suffering is such a key aspect of our existence, shouldn’t religion tie it into the key religious beliefs?

There is however, a spiritual tradition whose answers on this question have hitherto remained relatively unexamined in the philosophical community, and that is Islam. This tradition holds the distinction of seeing itself as a complete way of life with all of its fundamental answers grounded in the original divinely-revealed sources: the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, the answer that it proposes is not one that is peripherally related to the purpose of life. The fascinating elegance of the answer is that the existence of suffering becomes part of the core theological doctrine about the purpose of life and around which, the entire system of spirituality and theology revolve.

The Spiritual Struggle

The Qur’an first surprises us by making the problem of evil the very first issue addressed in its very first story, which opens as a dialogue between God and the angels. When God announces to the angels that He intends to create humankind on this earth, the angels ask the very same question that haunts human beings: “Would you place therein one who would spread corruption and bloodshed, while we extol Your Praises and exalt Your Glory?” (Qur’an 2:30). It seems incredibly clever of an author to use humankind’s greatest conundrum as the lead-in to the entire moral and spiritual framework to be developed in the book. Indeed, the Qur’anic approach to the problem of evil is what ex-atheist and professor of mathematics, Dr. Jeffrey Lang, found so compelling about the Islamic worldview that he made it the focus of his book, “Even Angels Ask”, discussing his journey from Atheism to Islam.2

So how does the Qur’an approach the problem of evil? While the argument from Epicurus assumes that the existence of evil is absolute and pointless and could never be intended by a moral deity, the Qur’an unequivocally affirms the opposite. Human suffering plays an essential role in our spiritual and moral development and in our journey towards God. “And We will surely test you with some degree of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and provisions, but give glad-tidings to those who persevere. Those who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to God, and indeed to Him we will return.”(Qur’an 2:155-6). Clearly, from the Qur’anic paradigm human suffering is not incidental nor bereft of divine wisdom, but rather it unveils the most noble of human qualities – the valiant determination and perseverance of those few who stand up to defend the shores of innocence from the crushing tides of darkness. “Rather, those with faith who left their homes striving and struggling in the cause of God, and those who gave shelter and aid – it is they who are true believers. For them is forgiveness and noble provision”(Qur’an 8:74).

According to Islamic theology, life is not meaningless.“Do you think that We created you with no purpose and that you would not return to us?” (Qur’an 23:115). The Qur’an seems to amazingly reach out and grab us directly, questioning the very attitude that underscores that way we live our lives. According to the Qur’an, life with all of its hardship and pain represents an opportunity to develop one’s spiritual connection with God and grow as a human being.“O Human, indeed you are labouring painfully towards your Lord, but you shall surely meet Him”(Qur’an 84:6). The purpose of life is to come closer to God through acts of moral virtue, righteousness, compassion, and spiritual submission. All such good deeds serve to build our relationship with God and are termed worship in Islam, which God states is the reason for which we were created (Qur’an 51:56).

But there’s more.

Climbing a mountain of moral virtue

In one particular passage, the Qur’an indicates that there is subtle connection between the human’s cognitive capacity, the arduous struggle to do good, and the spiritual ascent towards God.

“Verily, We have created the human being in a state of constant toil and hardship. Does he think that no one has power over him? He says, ‘I have squandered much wealth and riches!’ But does he think that no one sees him? Have We not made for him two eyes? And a tongue and two lips? And shown him the two paths? But he attempts not the uphill climb. And what would enable you to comprehend the uphill climb? It is the freeing of a slave. Or feeding on a day of severe hunger the close orphan or the needy person lying in the dust. Then he will become one of those with faith, who urge one another to have patience and urge one another to show compassion and mercy” (Qur’an 90:4-17).

From this passage, we can draw a number of conclusions about the inter-connectedness of three dimensions in Islam: rationality, morality and spirituality. First, the Qur’an informs us that all human beings are brought into a world of constant hardship. One can either seek to escape it and surround themselves with worldly pleasures at the expense of others, or elect to make personal sacrifices to bring about greater moral good and embrace the hardships of life. A human being who chases after material riches and worldly pleasures neglects to use two divinely-endowed faculties – observation and communication. These faculties enable a human being to learn, understand, and reflect on the purpose behind one’s existence. They allow a human being to contemplate the meaninglessness of a life devoted to gratifying one’s personal desires by devouring wealth. To behave in such a manner is to adopt the easier path.

The passage above describes that the ‘uphill climb’ is the harder path. The original Arabic word for an ‘uphill climb’, ‘Aqabah (عَقَبَةَ), not only describes something that is very difficult, it also depicts something strenuous, of great difficulty and hardship and it also depicts something that is like a mountain path ascending higher and higher. Hence, the verse portrays our difficulty and our hardship as ascending a steep mountain. Not only is there difficulty and hardship as we are going through life, but that difficulty and hardship is also part of a spiritual ascent towards God. The classical Qur’anic exegete Imam al-Baghawi writes, “And the mention of [the uphill climb] here is a similitude that God presents for the spiritual struggle against temptations and satan when one strives to do acts of righteousness. He portrays it like a person who undertakes climbing a mountain. God is saying that the human being has not chosen such personal hardship by freeing the slave or feeding [the needy].”

So our spiritual ascent towards God involves a moral struggle to alleviate the suffering of others, which we will adopt if we use our rational faculties. From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that the Qur’an espouses the view that absolute evil does not exist. In fact, the Islamic theologian, Ibn Taymiyyah, defined evil as “that whose non-occurrence is better than its occurrence” – a definition which precludes us from judging as evil anything whose existence facilitates our purpose in life. It reminds us that what is perceived as evil may in fact be dictated by Divine Wisdom for our ultimate benefit, regardless of whether we can fathom such Wisdom or not. In the Islamic paradigm, what is perceived to be evil, is an fact an opportunity for us to develop a closer relationship with God and achieve moral and spiritual growth. But how does performing good deeds deepen our relationship with God? The answer has to do with the unique Islamic concept of the Divine Names and Attributes.

Continue reading part 2: Evil (2) – Opportunities for growth.

Evil (2) – Opportunities for growth

by Author | Jan 2, 2015 | Life and Philosophy | 0 comments


By M. Nazir Khan and M. Faisal Abideen

Human suffering is a part of life, but why? What is its value? Is there any way in which it can be positive? How can suffering develop us morally and spiritually and bring us closer to God?


Human suffering and the attributes of God

One of the unique aspects of Islamic theology is the very rich and colourful description it provides of the qualities of God. The Qur’anic verses are punctuated with diverse Names describing the nature of God, the different shades and hues of His love, mercy, compassion, justice, omnipotence, omniscience, generosity, forgiveness, power, sovereignty and so on. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad said, “Verily, God has ninety-nine Names. Whoever encompasses them, will enter Heaven” [Related in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]. What exactly does it mean to encompass them? Each of the Divine Names not only tells us something about God but also informs us about the moral quality that human beings must strive to embody. As the eminent classical Islamic theologian, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah wrote, “God loves those who embody the effects of His Divine Attributes.” Thus, knowledge of God’s name ar-Rahman (the One whose Mercy encompasses everything in existence) entails that we as human beings become the vessels of Divine mercy, allowing it to reach the weak, destitute and suffering people around the world through our good deeds. It is only when we show such relentless mercy that we truly understand and appreciate the meaning of mercy, allowing us to gain a closer relationship with the One who is the source of all Mercy – God Almighty.

And this is the secret of suffering. If there were no suffering in the world, where then would be the opportunity to strive to develop this beautiful capacity for mercy? Where would be the opportunity to grow in one’s understanding of what it means to be merciful, deepening one’s relationship with the Most Merciful?

One can observe that if there was no poverty in this world, where would the opportunity be to show generosity? And in doing so, increase one’s understanding and build his relationship with the One who is the Most Generous. Being able to show generosity gives one the opportunity to truly understand what it means when God says that He is Al-Mannan (المنان) – the One who is the Most Generous and bestows favours upon every creation, and Al-Wahhab (الوهاب) – the One who is continuously bestowing His gifts again and again to His creation. How can one truly appreciate the significance of these qualities if they do not experience the virtue of generosity themselves?

Similarly:

– If there were no injustice or oppression in the world, how would one strives to establish justice and by doing so gain an appreciation and draw closer to God, the One Who is the Most Just – Al-Adl (العدل)?

– If there were no violence in this world, how would one strive to establish and spread peace and by doing so grow in his appreciation and understanding of the One Who is the Source of All Peace – As-Salaam (السلام)?

– If there were no wrongdoing, how would one develop the capacity to show forgiveness and in doing so, he grows in his appreciation and understanding of the One with the Greatest Forgiveness –Al Ghafoor (الغفور)?

– If there were no darkness in this world, how could one strive to be a beacon of light and in doing so draw nearer to the One Who is the Source and Bestower of Light and Enlightment – An-Nur (النور)?

Hence, there is a profound connection between striving for moral growth and building a relationship with the Divine. Through our virtuous deeds we increase in our understanding of God and draw closer to Him. We grow spiritually in our relationship with God, and morally in the good that we show to others. We become the very medium by which Divine Mercy reaches the hapless souls in misery and anguish. In fact, it is hard to imagine any philosophy or religion that offers a more empowering view of humanity than this. Human beings possess an incredible potential to use their intellectual capacities to spread goodness and eradicate suffering, and this is what enables them to come closer to God. This is worship of God in Islam. The cousin of the Prophet and eminent scholar of Islam, Ibn Abbas, stated that in the verse where God states “I did not create the human being except to worship Me” (Qur’an 51:56), the phrase “to worship Me” is synonymous with “to know Me”. Knowledge of God is acquired through an appreciation of His Beautiful Names and Attributes, and embodying the moral virtues which they entail in one’s daily life.

3

Objections Considered

There are three possible objections that one may raise in response to the Qur’anic theodicy outlines above.

(1) The first question would be – is it really necessary? Couldn’t God have made us automatically beings of moral virtue with this understanding? Why go through this journey of suffering to get there? Essentially, this question is that of the angels posed in the first story of the Qur’an. Why make human beings when the angels already exist? The angels are a creation that is incapable of sin and continuously performs worship without pause. God responded to this question by demonstrating the human potential to reach a higher status than the angels – through knowledge, free-will and moral choice. The human being can experience the Divine Names and Attributes to a greater degree through the journey of worship in a life surrounded by temptation and tribulation.

But, a questioner might ask, why not implant all those memories of struggles into the human mind without actually having to experience it? Well, if this is the case – are we not simply redefining reality? If such ‘virtual suffering’ was just as excruciating as enduring the real suffering, would it be any less ‘real’? Indeed, the Islamic tradition affirms that the reality of this life will seem but a dream upon entering into the next life. The Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law and famous caliph of Islam, Ali ibn Abi Talib is reported to have said, “People are asleep and when they die they awaken.” The Prophet Muhammad himself described this when he said, “The most destitute of the people in this world will be brought and dipped once in Paradise, and it will be said to him: ‘O son of Adam, did you ever see anything bad? Did you ever experience any hardship?’ He will say: ‘No, by God, O Lord. I never saw anything bad and I never experienced any hardship’” [Related in Sahih Muslim].

(2) The second possible objection is that there is evil of a category which cannot serve as an opportunity for moral and spiritual growth, or deepening one’s relation with God. Take the evil that befalls children, the mentally handicap or animals, for instance. These beings do not possess the rational capacity to perceive suffering as an opportunity for growth.

The first part of the answer has already preceded – that such suffering of the vulnerable presents a moral responsibility for those around them to care for and protect them.

Secondly, such suffering will seem illusory upon entrance into the unfathomable pleasures in the afterlife.

Thirdly, any suffering that is experienced in this life is associated with a concomitant increase in reward in the afterlife and an expiation of any moral failings a person may have committed. The Prophet said,“No calamity befalls a Muslim but that God expiates some of his sins because of it, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn” [Related in Saheeh Bukhari].

Fourthly, with regard to animals, it needs to be pointed out that there is a philosophical conundrum in assuming a sentient conscious experience for their suffering in the manner that we experience it as human beings. Are we immoral if we do not find ourselves galvanized into action to defend every hapless fly from being devoured by a spider? Most people would say no, and would be content to leave the natural ecosystem to operate without the imposition of our moral values to arbitrate every predator-prey relationship in the world. Nevertheless, we have a moral duty in how we choose to interact with the animal world: the Prophet Muhammad said,“Let anyone who kills even a sparrow for no reason know that it will cry aloud to God on the Day of the Resurrection, saying, ‘O my Lord! So-and-so killed me just for fun; he killed me for no reason!’” [Related in Sunan al-Nasa’i].

(3) The third possible objection would be that evil and suffering has a component that is gratuitous. Yes, some suffering may be necessary for this spiritual journey towards God, but the scale and magnitude of suffering that we see in the world just seems far too excessive.

In response to this objection, one must ask the question – is there any degree of suffering that human beings would find morally acceptable? By which relativistic goldilocks standards should evil be quantified and measured as being ‘too little’, ‘too much’, or ‘just right’? Moreover, again the Qur’an surprises us by addressing this objection directly and informing us that while the intensity and quantity of evil in the world may astonish us, goodness remains vastly superior to it.“Say, ‘Evil and Good are not equivalent, though the sheer quantity of evil might astonish you.’ So develop consciousness of God, O you of understanding, that you may be successful” (Qur’an 5:100).

Indeed, we see clearly from this verse, that God intended to place us in such a world where the forces of good seem hopelessly outnumbered by the forces of evil. It is only in a desperate, hopeless, dismal plight that the brilliance of human courage, love, justice, strength and determination shine forth. This is the unlimited potential that we unlock when we open our minds and hearts to the Qur’anic virtue of taqwa – consciousness of God. In such desperate situations, it is the mind filled with the consciousness of God that advances without hesitation. That is the moment where heroes emerge and legends are born – those who do not cower in the face of such unfathomable evil but rather rise to challenge it. Humans innately admire and aspire towards such examples and hence we feature such examples in our most powerful and moving stories.

Conclusion

The religion of Islam provides an incredibly optimistic and empowering view of the world where one sees every occurrence in life as an opportunity to do good deeds and become a better person. The Prophet Muhammad said, “The situation of the believer is amazing, for no matter what happens it is always good. And that is only for the believer. For when something fortunate happens to him, he exhibits gratitude, and in that there is good for him. And if some calamity befalls him, he endures with patience, and in that there is good for him” [Related in Sahih Muslim]. In the Islamic worldview, one should not be depressed by all the suffering that one sees around him – but rather one should be empowered and strive in order to fill the world with righteousness, virtue and acts of goodness. And in doing so, he will come nearer to God and fulfill the purpose of his creation.

As God says in the Qur’an, “And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our paths. And indeed, God is with the doers of good” (Qur’an 29:69)
(Original post by QE2)
I will freely admit that there are many people on here who are uneducated or ill-informed about Islam. Your reluctance to say what was wrong with my post suggests that you are one of them.

However, the so-called "experts" of Islam you refer to are the con men protecting their vested interest. Their job is to feed the faithful a sanitised and cherry-picked concoction, backed with platitudes and misrepresentation. We had one on here last week. A self-proclaimed Islamic expert and academic heavyweight. Like so many others, his arguments were highly flawed and fallacious and he legged it pretty sharpish, after throwing about a load if insults and arrogance. It was actually quite embarrassing - not unlike your inability to provide any kind of cogent argument in response to my points.
(Original post by Nasir.)
you're more likely to find the con man here than in the nhs
Yes the self proclaimed expert in Islam dissapeared after embarrassing himself....

These religious experts make such ludicrous arguments!
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Nasir.
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(Original post by QE2)
I will freely admit that there are many people on here who are uneducated or ill-informed about Islam. Your reluctance to say what was wrong with my post suggests that you are one of them.

However, the so-called "experts" of Islam you refer to are the con men protecting their vested interest. Their job is to feed the faithful a sanitised and cherry-picked concoction, backed with platitudes and misrepresentation. We had one on here last week. A self-proclaimed Islamic expert and academic heavyweight. Like so many others, his arguments were highly flawed and fallacious and he legged it pretty sharpish, after throwing about a load if insults and arrogance. It was actually quite embarrassing - not unlike your inability to provide any kind of cogent argument in response to my points.
Whether his arguments are 'flawed' or not is irrelevant. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. The argument is irrelevant. You have spent years and years on TSR debating Muslims, I'm pretty sure you know what I am discussing, and continue to play dumb. I have already spelled it out to you. Well, continue arguing for the next millennia.......
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