I believe that my role on this blog [the St. Louis Post Dispatch Civil Religion blog] is to try to present what an American Muslim sees in his religion and how it interacts and coexists with other religions and belief systems. I made it clear from the beginning that I expect it will to be difficult to stay away from politics. It did not take a lot of brains on my part to expect that. I will continue to shy away from explicit political arguments, but it is impossible to avoid it totally as you may have guessed if you have read some of my latest postings and responses to comments by one reader (1, 2).
Our inclinations (likes and dislike) decide for us what we ’select’ to read and what we ’select’ to believe. If we trust our inclinations 100% of the time then we will always pick facts that support our views as further evidence that our views are correct, a circular logic trick. In that case, critical thinking in us dies. And life becomes a process of reinforcing what we have already known and believed. And that is not wise for those who seek the truth.
Google and other search engines are a blessing to humanity, but also a curse if we do not search with equal dedication to test all that we believe in rather than for what proves our predetermined point of view.
My humble advise to those who seek the truth is to make an effort to understand the issues for themselves, rather than take pre-digested opinions to adopt as their own. This stands true whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, atheist, republican or democrat. Once you lock yourself in with like-minded people, and take as possibly true only what you knew before as true, then you are on a dangerous slope to being a ‘copy cat’ believer and that has its dangers.
God criticizes in the Quran (5:105) those who say “Enough for us is that which we found our forefathers believing in and doing”. To me, this verse encourages challenging any established dogma in which we believe just because our elders, teachers, clergy or forefathers passed on to us as ‘the truth, the whole truch and nothing but the truth’. I believe that God rewards us more for truth seeking than for truth reaching.
Moreover, a discussion with anyone - blog readers, colleagues or friends - is only worthwhile if the engaging parties start at a point where they are open to new facts so there position is at least modifiable. It also requires some background knowledge of the subject discussed. You are either debating or trying to learn basic facts. It is not very productive to do these in parallel, or in the reverse order.
I am bound, as a Muslim, to be challenged every now and then by vehement opposing opinions. I do encourage those who intend to engage in any discussion about what Islam is (as opposed to what some Muslims do) to read a couple of short essays I wrote relying almost exclusively on Quranic verse. The essays are heavily references and have an accompanying PDF file with all the used Quranic verse.
The essays are not preachy, and I do not expect anyone to accept them as the ultimate truth 9feel free to search for better source and let me no where these are). But I think they will present enough original scriptural material that may come handy if you engage I discussions about Islam. It may also bring to your attention some interesting facts about my religion, and will make it hard for someone to feed you half truth, or straight out lies, passing it as the only truth about Islam. Give it a try.
- Islam Q&A introduction and why I composed the essays.
- What is Islam?
- Islam and social Justice.
- Islam, violence and war.
All the Quran verse used in these essays are in one PDf file here.