We have been studying the word “religion” (deen in Arabic) and trying to understand the difference between “belief” and “religion” as a social construct at the personal or social level. How are we supposed to put belief into our practical and social lives? Deen is mostly known as rituals and the followers of the Quran divide the foundations of religion of Islam into actions and belief, not unique to the teachings of the Quran.
Within the context of the Quran, the word “Islam” is used for anyone who submits to the truth in general. The truth is represented according to the revelation, as the prophets claimed to have received from the Lord of the universe. Whoever follows this revelation and confirms it is called the “submitter” or Muslim.
- Islam in its entirety makes religion i.e. foundations of your understanding, your world-view, basis of personal and societal life settings based on your understanding.
- Practical, ritualistic side is called the religion of Islam.
Traditions known as “far eastern cultures”, we hear that they have sacred books. Historically, the Muslim administration has treated them as “people of the book”. Traditionally in a narrower sense, “people of the book” is limited to Muslims, Jewish, Christian and an Unknown group (Sabians: Qur’an, 2: 62; Zoroastrians: 22: 17). There has been speculation on extending the category of “people of the book” to having some sort of sacred source of guidance above human capacity. For example, Zoroastrians were not mentioned explicitly as the People of the Book, however very early period caliph Omar treated them as people of the book. Later generations interacted with Hindus and many scholars regarded Hindus as a branch of the people of the book.
The Quran, however, does not explicitly list who the people of the book are. It gives examples and mentions three categories known to men and another unknown that we do not know about. Quran uses another word that is open/ambiguous which can be applicable to some others that deserve to be treated as the people of the book.
The principles and foundations/articles of belief is different from the articles of Islam which is the practical side of religion. Interestingly, there is a relationship between the two. The pillar of belief and the articles/principles of Islam are related. The principles of Islam are well known to many – first pillar of witnessing and giving testimony to one’s belief. This is listed in the practical side of Islam usually. Testimony is not an action, rather it has something to do with my conviction: “There is nothing in the universe that deserves the quality of Deity – Divine Being. There must be One who is the source of existence of the whole universe”.
The third pillar of belief is the belief in prophethood, the person that brought the belief message to us. Fundamentally the message brought by Muhammad (pbuh) includes in it all other messages from the other prophets. This ties well into the Islamic articles/principles i.e. the practical side of Islam ties well to the pillars of belief.
Although the pillars of belief are listed separately, they are reduced to a certain number on the practical side. Belief in God is tied to the practical side and cannot be separated from it.
Each pillar of belief (God, Angels, Revelation, Prophets, Resurrection and Determining) links to the principles of Islam i.e. they work both ways linking each other and have equal value. That is, the value is based on belief system but practiced in the principle of Islam as testimony i.e. testifying that nothing in the world can give existence to anything in the universe.
A famous physicist/mathematician stated that give me a point of support and I will move the earth from its existing position. As long as there is a point of support – that statement is correct. In order to change anything in the world that is existing in the order, one needs a point of support apart from the universe. For example, I am on earth, I cannot move the earth and need a point of support which is not on earth. We must understand that there is no point of support for the universe to have this existing order to be found within the universe. Whatever exists, exists within the universe. The Quran specifically mentions that everything is in need of a point of support.
- The point of support is not in the universe but is the source that establishes the order of the universe. That is, the One who establishes the order must not itself be subject to that order as it is the source of this order. Only that source is the point of support (Nuktatu’l-Istinaat principle in Arabic). This is the first requirement to make testimony – one can say there is no point of support for the universe within the universe. Since the universe exists and is subject to an order, there must be a point of support for this existent order.
Fundamental principle: everything comes into existence with its qualities. One cannot say that there is something here and the qualities are attached to it. Createdness of something consists of the combination of its qualities. The combination of qualities represents the order in which things come into existence. There are NO two separate things as it is described in the theological words “essence” and “accident” of a thing, i.e. the qualities, characteristics make the thing itself. The qualities are not inherent to the thing’s essence which is assumed to have a separate existence. If we take out what makes us a human being, the qualities within us, what is left? Nothing. Although, we experience the body in the form of matter, it is nothing but the order, characteristics, classified as accidents (effects) in existence.
- We don’t have an independent existence and some characteristics (accident) attached to us.
What makes an atom, if we take all of its characteristics out, nothing is left. We see as if there is an essence and then accidents/qualities are given to it. Scholars have argued over the essence of God and His attributes – can they be separated, or they are the same? Based on the case being presented here, we should realize that there are no separate things but it’s all together as one entity.
If we understand that we must and can only know the Creator by characteristics/qualities manifested in the universe, then we confirm that everything is like this. That is, there is not something else and it has some other properties on it. When we say, “I believe in God”, it is as if there is some other entity outside of the manifested characteristics/qualities we experience. No, it is not like this!
There is No dualistic entities. There is no such thing as existing before and then the order being applied to it. For example, a mirror and its reflection. If we say that the mirror exists first and then the reflection happens, then we cannot address the question of the existence of the mirror. This dualism supports the materialistic philosophy of matter being eternal. They accept at least one atom exists and later the developments happen, the qualities/event happen. This does not explain the existence of the first atom. The existence of that atom itself must be with qualities – so the qualities are always there and that is what makes that atom, an atom. Interestingly, this dualism also is presented by some who claim to believe in God.
We are here in this world. We observe in the universe almost endless qualities manifesting themselves here. These qualities are constantly being changed as the existence of the universe continues. We can only talk about what we see and come to a conclusion after observing the universe. If we divide the universe into two categories: a particle and the qualities manifested on it. This dualistic approach assumes that the atom (let’s assume that) it is the smallest part of the foundation of the universe. It is impossible to imagine its smallest part is permanent and the qualities are changing. But we miss the point that the atom cannot sustain its existence by itself, let alone that it itself will develop into another form of existence by moving around, turning etc. This idea sounds like a legend; it does not explain at all what the source of atom and its movement or turning, expanding etc. is. These kinds of thinking are nothing, but speculations based on imagination.
Serious scholars have mentioned that whatever we observe in the universe is nothing but the qualities manifested of the Creator of the universe. The Quran frequently mentions that everything glorifies (Sabbaha, Tasbeeh) the qualities of its Maker. That means each being itself glorifies by manifesting the qualities of its Maker.
Can there be any book without any meaning? The meaning that is transferred to us is what makes a book. This is only an analogy to help us understand that the papers are not called the book. What makes the papers a book is the knowledge manifested in it. We need to keep in mind that this analogy is taken from the already existing universe. It does not explain the existence of the paper and meaning in it altogether, which we call a book.
When we think of the existence of the universe, we need to explain existence altogether existing at the same time. If we take away the qualities, nothing is left. Thus, we cannot say that there is something called matter, which has an independent existence from the qualities manifested in it, so that we can claim that it is eternal.
Question: if everything is quality – then isn’t everything the source?
Answer: The universe itself needs its existence to be given, it is subject to change, and every piece of the universe has to follow the order of the universe. This order cannot be the source of its own existence either. The order also needs to be organized consciously. The order, which can only be the result of conscious choice, cannot be the source of consciousness. It has no sign of quality in itself that will produce consciousness. Consciousness needs an intelligent source for its existence because it is a part of the universe, in turn, needs to be given existence. Nothing within the universe has any quality to be the source of consciousness and intelligence. Both the consciousness and the intelligence, like any other part of the universe, are the qualities manifested in the universe pointing to the Origin of Existence of this universe.
An analogy: There is a mirror with reflecting quality and there is the sun. The sun has its independent existence, the reflection has another form of existence. They are not of the same quality – one is reflected, manifested, created and the other must be the source of this light reflected in the mirror. We know that the mirror cannot be the source of light. If the mirror is broken, did anything happen to the sun or its light? No, the sun is of a completely different existence than the mirror. But the light reflected in the mirror demonstrates that the source of its existence is independent of the mirror. This is only an analogy representing that the universe is like the mirror. On the other hand, in the analogy, the light reflecting in the mirror is representing the Source of Existence of the qualities manifested in the universe.
Thus, we can logically ask what the Source of existence of the qualities manifested in the “mirror’ of this universe can be? Is it possible that the universe itself is the source of existence of the qualities manifested here in the universe? Can the matter itself be the source of existence of these qualities? We have to demonstrate this source within the universe if it is claimed to be within the universe. If we cannot demonstrate it in the universe, we have to think about this Source as it is not within the universe. So, human mind must come to conclude that the source must be Absolute which constitutes the essence of belief in the Source which cannot be of the same kind of the universe. That is why we have to conclude that this Source must be undefinable with any terms related to the universe, thus we use Absolute. Religious texts call it “God.”
What is the essence of prayer, fasting, giving charity, pilgrimage for example?
It seems as if there is a prayer, then there are external requirements attached to it. For example, can one think of prayers, a form of worship without belief in God, angels, belief in hereafter…?
What is this world if there is no representation appointed by a Conscious Being tying the meaning of these practices to their Source of Existence? This creation is a temporary place whereas its existence must come from an Eternal Source, must be Eternally Life giving, Eternally Just, Eternally Powerful, etc. I cannot isolate my practical life from belief aspects. My worship must tie into the belief matters.
One pillar of Islam especially emphasized is belief in Divine Determination (Qadr) – following, submitting one’s physical body to the order in which one is created as a human being. Physically practicing belief in God, belief in angels, belief in eternal life and acting accordingly, all these elements must constitute my belief. If there is no belief included in the ritualistic practice of worship, then the physical ritualistic action is left to nothing. Belief in Divine Determining thus ties/bonds human beings to the rituals. We usually isolate the rituals from the essence of belief, regarded as two different lists of responsibilities.
Physical practice of belief starts with Divine Determination (Qadr), everything is in appropriate, measured proportion (mikdar); the measurement is specified by the One who is giving existence. The physical form such as sitting, prostrating, standing, bowing all need to be practiced with the awareness that this form is provided by my Source of existence. We are given a body, power of sight, hearing, thinking, reasoning, sensing and they all need to be exercised accordingly. This realization needs to be perceived and understood. If not, then the action of prayer becomes an action, as something separate from my purpose of existence, which is to be tied to its Source of Existence.
- If the action is seen as my own action, then that understanding is egoistic/satanic – that has no reality.The action is created as a result of my preference by using the freewill given to me. There is a verse in the Quran: “God created you and what you do” (Qur’an, 37: 96.)
Although the actions may seem disconnected from Divine Determining, they are tied and related. Whatever I do, that is what was allotted/measured to my existent being. Do we notice that the Islamic principles (rituals) presented to us as something external to our reality? I am existing here and religion comes and adds on the rituals on me as something external. But it should not be external as everything is tied to each other.
Belief in Divine Determining (Qadr) is the foundation of everything. The whole order in the universe and in my existence is determined by the manifestation of the qualities of the Creator of the universe. We don’t have an independent existence, that is independent of the measurement decided by the source of existence of the universe.
- Belief (Eeman) and Islam as practical rituals are all combined as one and is what constitutes “religion” (deen).
107:2 Such is the one who treats the orphan with harshness
“Yadu’u” – harshness, treating roughly.
The word “Yateem” or orphan is what?
Culture defines “orphan” as someone that does not have parents. This means that the “orphan” is in need of a point of support. What about the existence of the cells in my body? Who is taking care of them? The way this “care” is arranged, and working properly, who arranges it?
What is the point of support for the existence of anything? There is no point of support in the universe, but the universe keeps its order – how does it keep that order? Who has or can be the point of support for any of the qualities manifested in the universe? Everyone of us is an orphan, every single atom is an orphan, with the need of a point of support.
Who treats the orphan with harshness? For example, this atom is worthless, this insect is useless. They perform their duties, manifesting the qualities of their Point of Support. For example, if a person thinks that the mirror is the source of light, then the Point of Support is denied because it is obvious that the mirror cannot be the source of light. Any attitude that denies the reality of anything is transgressing the rights of an orphan.
Reducing the vocabulary of the Quran to the cultural civilization, outside of the purpose of the teachings of the Quran, is a reduction. Rather, my Creator teaches me what I do not know. The essence of the world never tells me what makes it and therefore, guidance comes and introduces me to the fact that everything is an orphan and needs a Point of Support.
Tags: Absoluteness, Ahad, Al-Maun, Full Satisfaction, Ideology, Ma'un Series, Philosophy, Religion, Security, Source of Existence