Would you kill your child if God ordered you to?

I hope the title was click-baity enough to drag unsuspecting peeps reading the wordpress Reader.

But anyways, I had intended to write an article about revelation and how it’s obviously difficult to believe anyone saying that “God has spoken” to them. The Prophets and founders of the major religions usually claim that they have a connection with God. But also it seems do every Tom, Dick and Harry. We have heard of cultists and new religions forming because the founder “has heard God”. And there was even the case of a woman who murdered her 4 children after “being told by God to do so”.

There is an interesting story that I had wanted to discuss to illuminate how we should really understand this.

In sufism there is a well-known man called Abdul-Qaadir Al-Jelaanee. He is quite a mystical figure in sufism. But there is one particular story in his life that I want to highlight.

One day he is travelling with his followers in the hot desert during the month of Ramadan (so they were all fasting). Suddenly a cloud comes and gives them shade and a spring and date palm appears. A shining ball of light brighter than the sun appears and a voice from the direction of the ball of light said, “O people of Abdul-Qaadir, I am your Lord! Eat and drink, for I have made lawful for you what I have made unlawful for others.”

Abdul-Qaadir’s followers went forward to eat and drink when he told them to stop and shouted in the direction of the voice, “I take refuge in Allah from the accursed Devil!”.

The cloud, light, spring and date-palm all disappeared and the Devil was standing before them, ugly. He asked Abdul-Qadir how he knew and he explained that when Allah speaks it is not a sound that one hears with the ears nor does it come from outside. Moreover the laws of Allah are constant and apply to everyone, and He never changes them nor makes lawful what is unlawful for the ones He favours (The Secret of Secrets, translator’s introduction, page 29).

If you want to learn more about Abdul-Qaadir then go here to read it on wikipedia, or get the book Secret of Secrets.

So I heard about the woman who killed her children because she heard God from  Lawrence Krauss in a debate with Hamza Tzortzs and I wanted to say to him if I got the chance that God would never order such a thing but then I remembered that actually He does. Two examples come to mind and it is when Abraham (on him be peace) gets told in a dream to sacrifice his son Ishmael (on him be peace); and Khidr (on him be peace) has to kill a boy because as he explains to Moses (on him be peace), the boy would have grown up to be a great torment for his parents.

Before I go into those two examples in more detail I want to frame it in terms of what the benefits and actual results of those two events were which are laid out in the Quran and compare that with a woman who was apparently told “to get her house in order” for the “end of the world”.

With the woman, Deanna Laney, she was part of the choir in the Assemblies of God church and the year prior to the murders she had told fellow church members that the world was going to end. In the end her actions led to the death of two sons, and critically disabling a third son, and then being classed as insane and put into a mental hospital for 8 years. And the world is still around…So, one has to wonder who she heard, and more importantly why she followed through what she clearly regrets (as shown by the fact that she cried in court). The thing that really strikes me is the arrogance of imagining God would speak directly to you. God is certainly free to do as He pleases but really He interacts with us extremely subtly. The reason why the interaction is subtle is because there are veils of “darkness” and “light” between us and God. Our hearts are so consumed with this world that we can’t pay attention and understand the subtle. But when we train ourselves to keep God-centered and to purify our actions, then we will be more attuned to what God is inspiring within us all time, though our hearts aren’t polished enough to reflect and understand those inspirations in our ego-driven lives.

Compare this with Abraham (on him be peace). At the age of 86 years he is blessed with Ishmael (on him be peace) and then when Ishmael reaches the age of discernment and able to work, Abraham gets a dream where he sees himself sacrificing Ishmael. He tells Ishmael about this dream and Ishmael tells his father that he should do what God has commanded of him. (The difference between this and the woman’s story so far is that firstly Abraham is an actual Prophet and Friend of God, and he consulted with his son about the dream so it was something that they were both prepared to do). They prepared for the sacrifice, and as Ishmael was laid down brow on the ground they were told to stop and that they had filfilled the vision, and a ram was sent to be sacrificed instead. This event signified a trial from God for Abraham and Ishmael as a chance for them to show their self-sacrifice for the sake of God (Quran 37:102-105). Because ultimately God is the only thing wotth striving for, since everything else is transient and dependent on God anyways.

(A special note: In the Old Testament this story is written but instead of Ishmael it is with Isaac, Abraham’s second son. However the wording in the Old Testament is inconsistent. Abraham got Ishmael when he was 86 (Gen xvi. 16) and Isaac at 100 (Gen. xxi. 5). Therefore Ishmael was 14 years older than Isaac, and for those 14 years was the only son of Abraham, and Isaac was never the only son of Abraham. Yet when speaking about the sacrifice the Old Testament says (Gen. xxii. 2):”And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah: and offer him there for a burnt offering…”)

What was the result of this trial? Of course Abraham and Ishmael were both honoured and Ishmael went on to sire the Arabs, whereas Abraham was blessed with another son (Isaac) who also was honoured and sired the Jews.

The next story I want to lay out is the one between the Prophet Moses and Khidr (on them be peace). Moses wanted to seek out Khidr as God informed him that Khidr was more knowledgeable than Moses. When Moses found Khidr and asked to accompany him, Khidr told him that he could do so but he won’t be able to bear with him (Khidr) patiently. But Moses assured him that he will be patient, so Khidr told him that he can follow him but not to question him about what happens until he makes mention of it to Moses.

So Moses and Khidr get on board a wooden ship, when Khidr then breaks a hole in the ship with an axe. Moses chided him for this as he thought Khidr did something wrong and was trying to drown those in the ship. Khidr reminded him that he wouldn’t be able to patient, and then Moses apologised. They continued until they came upon a child playing with other children, and then Khidr killed the boy. Moses was shocked and asked him if he has slain an innocent and chastises him for doing an evil thing. Again Khidr reminds Moses, and Moses again apologises and says if he questions Khidr again then they will part ways. They continue until they reach a town and the people would not offer them food when they asked. There they found a lopsided wall which Khidr then righted. Moses then asked Khidr why he did not charge for the service of fixing this wall since the townspeople had not been hospitable.

At this point Khidr told Moses that it was time to part ways since Moses wasn’t patient enough but then he explained to Moses the underlying reasons for all these actions. 1)The ship belonged to hard-working but poor men and their ship was in danger of being seized by an evil king who was going to use it for his own nefarious plans. Rendering the ship useless for the time being allowed the ship to escape being taken by the king (and Khidr likely had paid the men a generous fare which could then be used to repair the ship later)

2) The boy was in actual fact a scourge in society (likely murdered and stole) and was very ungrateful and a source of humiliation towards his parents. God desired that this boy be replaced with another son who would be righteous and loving towards his parents (who were also righteous believers).

3) The wall was hiding buried treasure which had been left behind by a righteous father for his now orphaned two sons when they reach adulthood. If the wall had collapsed the treasure would have been seized by the selfish townsfolk.

In all of these cases Khidr was in fact following the mandate of God and not his own whims, all to protect the people involved as a mercy to them for being righteous (Quran 18:65-82).

So, what are we to make of all this? The people with faith should remain faithful but should understand that they are flawed, and aren’t going to be used directly as instruments for God (plus it would be arrogant to believe we can be an instrument for God when we disobey Him all the time).

Finally God doesn’t want us to kill, but rather for us to cut our attachments and dependency on the world and the things in it. At least for the world not to be the primary focus. Another important point, the true servants of God don’t publicise themselves. They just are, and most of them remain hidden behind a facade of ordinariness.

I highly recommend reading the book Signs on the Horizons which is an autobiographical account of the authors interactions with various illumined and enlightened individuals in his life. It will give you a really good understanding of what I mean when I refer to faithful, clean and enlightened souls.

Anyways, this article got deeper than I thought it would but I hope I illustrated at least part of what I wanted to convey. If you enjoyed reading this article and found it informative, please leave a like. I welcome questions and discussions so please feel free to comment below. 🙂

A rational critical way to examine faith and religion

Many people see Islam as just another man-made religion and just another generic arbitrary religions in a history of men making generic arbitrary religions that all seem to say they have “the truth” and to follow their “God/gods”. Dr. Lawrence Krauss puts it best when he says that there are about a 1000 religions, all making mutually exclusive claims, so at best one is correct, so Islam has a 0.1% chance of being correct, if any are correct at all. What do we do in the face of all these “competing” religions? If we were to sincerely examine them all how do we know which would be correct? Is there even a “correct” religion?

Well the approach you take really does depend on your personal paradigm, on your personal viewpoint of which reality makes the most sense overall of which there are 3 possibilities:

  1. There is no divine being or supernatural elements outside of the physical, and what we see is what exists.
  2. There is a god, and everything we experience has been created by him.
  3. There are multiple gods and the universe is a result of this multiple gods system.

In a way these 3 possibilities can really be reduced to two alternative views: a) the universe is an independent existent which doesn’t owe its existence to a previous cause b)the universe is a dependent existent which owes its existence to a previous cause.

The universe as we know it in actual fact had a beginning. This is essentially a fact from astronomy deduced by extrapolating the starting point of all the galaxies in the universe. Basically what astronomers have found is that galaxies are moving away from each other. If we go back in time, then the galaxies would be closer together. Go back far enough then they reason it all must have started from a single point. There is further evidence for this picture such as the cosmic microwave background radiation. This is radiation at the microwave frequency which is basically everywhere in the universe. As the universe expanded the original radiation (from the origination of the universe) which would have been gamma radiation has since been stretched into microwaves.

If something began, then it follows that it was caused. To say something that began doesn’t have a cause is not a reflection of reality, because we observe that every effect has a cause or causes. In my view this is why I think atheism to be an untenable position because there’s no logical materialistic explanation for the origin of the universe because we know atoms can’t just spring into existence by themselves. (Oh but in a vacuum matter and anti-matter spring into existence all the time! ,_, You do realise that all that is the conversion between matter and energy according to Einstein’s formula E=mc2) A vacuum is free of matter, but energy can still exist, and energy can turn into matter, just as matter can turn into energy such as when a nucleus goes boom (and for your information a particle of matter and anti-matter always spring into existence in a pair and then cancel each other out). Some physicists think that one of these events ballooned up into a universe. There are two objections to that: 1) why hasn’t that happened “again” within our universe in 14 billion years? 2)Where did the energy that converted into matter actually come from in the first place?

So, to clarify the point and bring our discussion back into focus, a theistic view of reality makes more sense than an atheistic one, because the universe (being finite and having a beginning) really requires and uncaused Causer (uncaused because this eliminates the absurdity of a causer being caused by a previous causer in an infinite regression).

This is really the best position to explore the world’s religions in my view.

So, let’s say we are someone who certainly believes in a supernatural being who started the universe but we don’t really know what this being is and what his/her relationship to the universe and us as human beings is. We would hope that such a being has or does communicate with mankind. At least this is what the various religions claim isn’t it? Really for us to be convinced that anything came from this supernatural being is evidence of supernatural events. Now what is a supernatural event or a miracle?

Apparently David Hume defined a miracle as something that breaks the natural laws or happens in spite of the natural laws. I prefer the Islamic scholarly definition of a miracle (according to Hamza Tzortzs) which is that it cannot be produced using naturalistic means or explained using naturalistic methods, i.e. it originated and caused supernaturally which is more intuitive.

Evidence of miracles that points towards the supernatural is just one component of what we need as sincere seekers of truth. Because these religions start with a man who comes with a set of teachings, and the miracles that we are looking for seem to manifest around these individuals, then it becomes important for us to be able assess these individuals in a rational and objective way. Basically we are interested to know who is telling humanity the truth? Who amongst them can we trust and believe in, and then follow in this short life that we have?

Well we have to check the motives of the person and gauge if he is telling the truth. We can’t base this on how “believable” the man is, since we are dealing with unbelievable things to begin with. Rather we should examine the motives and the resulting conduct of the man, and the people who follow him. If a man was motivated by money then as soon as there is no money he would not continue to exert the effort. If there was a worldly motive, then many or most of the man’s actions could be explained away in this way. In any case this is the critical mindset we should examine anyone with especially people connected to matters of import.

In this way I would like to discuss the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (blessings and peace upon him). I’ll also tie in other religions and historically significant men such as Jesus (on him be peace) and Moses (on him be peace) since in reality all the major significant religions have a real connection and they aren’t just arbitrary copies and competitors.

In the next article I want to discuss what we know about the character of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

If you found this article informative and interesting please leave a like, and if you have anything you want to discuss further, please leave a comment below. 🙂