Sunnipath: Why does God take us to account for being born into the religion of our parents?

25May07

In The Name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate

Beautiful answer MashAllah!

Question:

I am a non-Muslim, looking into the Abrahamic religions. I would be grateful if you could give me a Muslim perspective on the following: I assume most people including Muslims follow their religion because they were born into it. Everyone is convinced that the religion they follow is the right one. However, i find it unfair that on Judgment Day, many people will be entering hell because they followed the religion which was not the truth, but they had believed whole-heartedly that it was true. Will God judge us on our good intentions or on which prophet we believed in? For example, if you were Jewish, but Christianity or Islam turned out to be the right religion, but you still believed in God, and tried to live a good life, would you still go to heaven? How do you know Islam is the truth? I would be extremely grateful if you could reply.

Answer:

I’d like to begin by thanking you for asking this important question. I hope that I’m able to answer it to your satisfaction. Please don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions if you have any.

The Quest for Meaning

Modern scientific discoveries have established beyond doubt that there is order and purpose embedded into the universe. The universe was not created haphazardly, and this teaches us that God acts with wisdom.

Imagine that you are attending the performance of a play. You watch as the villain commits murders and thefts and uses his might to trample the rights of defenseless people. Suddenly, the curtains close.

Not even a five-year old child would, at this point, get out of their seat and assume that the play is over, for if the play were to end at this point, the playwright would not have told us a story at all. He would only have related a haphazard series of events.

This world is like the play: unless we have a higher context in which to place human actions—a divine purpose to our creation and divine judgment in an afterlife—the world appears haphazard and pointless, not the creation of an All-Wise God.

Divine Wisdom Implies Clear Guidance

God, in other words, did not simply create us and leave us unattended. He created us with a purpose and—since we have no way of figuring out our purpose ourselves—He sent us messengers to tell us what it is.

Messengers are sent, in other words, with a clear purpose: to guide us to what God wants of us in this life. This guidance is only possible if they come with clear signs that unmistakably tell us that they are, in fact, communicating to us from God Himself. To receive the guidance of these messengers is to understand these signs and be personally convinced of the truthfulness of their message.

In other words, being guided and receiving the message of God is only possible when one reaches conviction about the truthfulness of divine messengers through unmistakable signs. To unquestioningly accept what one’s parents believe, to imitate what one’s society believes, or to follow mere conjecture, none of this is acceptable because God really has made the way clear for us if we reflect on His signs.

Some Signs

For this reason, it is not correct to say that Muslims are Muslims simply because they were born into their religion. This is, in fact, not a position that is religiously acceptable according to the teachings of Islam. Every single Muslim is religiously required to acquire personal conviction of their religion.

This personal conviction is reached by contemplating the many signs that God has placed for us to prevent us from being confused regarding what He wants of us. Muslims believe that all such signs point to the veracity of their religion to the exclusion of other religions, and someone who receives and understands these signs is responsible for accepting them. Because of the clarity of these signs, such a person will be taken to task in the next life for not believing in Islam.

Here are some of these signs.

The Prophet Muhammad (upon him be blessings and peace)

Unlike other messengers, the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be blessings and peace) lived in the full light of recent history: even the minutest details of his life are verifiably documented. A study of his life reveals a man who was the very embodiment of human perfection in all respects: the possessor of a pristinely pure soul, someone who lived selfless life completely in the service of God and His creatures, someone to whose trustworthiness even his enemies testified, someone who was never known to have personally avenged a wrong committed against him, someone who was humbler than a slave, more generous than the wind, more merciful than a mother, braver than the most fearless warrior. Every page of his life tells of a truthful, sincere and genuine messenger, and belies any accusations of a deceiving impostor. The best place to read more about his life is the book, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, by Martin Lings.

The Quran

God vouchsafed to the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be blessings and peace) many miracles Miracles are divine signs that point to the truthfulness of a person’s claim to prophethood. The greatest of these miracles was the Quran, which, in its original Arabic formulation comprises eloquence whose reproduction is beyond human capacity. The Quran challenged Arabs to produce something that matched its moving eloquence, and this challenge has never been met since its revelation.

Aside from the miracle of eloquence, there are other miraculous aspects to this book as well, including recent scientific vindications of Quranic passages uttered 1400 years ago, as well as the breathtakingly marvelous nature of message of the Quran, whose truth is recognized by people when they read it, almost as if they were rediscovering something that they already knew to be true.

There is a lot of information about the Quran available in libraries and on the Internet. I’ll let you research it and do your own reading on the topic. An excellent starting point is The Essential Koran, by Thomas Cleary.

Other Religions

Most people’s quest for religious truth leads them through many different religions before they find what they are looking for. You will find during the course of your research that God has placed signs within other religions that will push you to Islam.

Unlike Islam, every other religion, you will find, is internally inconsistent, rationally incomprehensible, and overly complex in terms of its theology. Furthermore, the scriptures of other religions—particularly Judaism and Christianity—actually predict the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be blessings and peace). These are points that you should keep in mind as you explore other religions.

The Way Forward

I encourage you to persevere in your search for guidance by exploring and reading widely, and by praying sincerely to God that He guide you to what He wants of you. If, during the course of your search, you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to submit your question at SunniPath.

Sincerely,

Hamza Karamali.

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