Bismillah hirrahman nirrahim
“Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the [wonders of] creation in the heavens and the earth, [With the thought]: 'Our Lord! Not for naught Hast Thou created [all] this!
Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.' (Quran- 3:191)"
“They said, 'Be You glorified! We have no knowledge, except that which You have taught us. You are the Omniscient, Most Wise.' (Quran- 2:32)"
If I have heard it once, I have heard it a million times:
“I don’t understand though why we are supposed to be worshipping a God who keeps threatening humans with so much talk of punishment and pain. Why would anyone want a god like that? Why does He have to be so darn scary? Besides, it doesn’t make sense, if He is so great and we are so insignificant then why does He even care enough to throw us in Hellfire? It seems petty and cruel”
My most recent encounter with the above statement occurred earlier this week at a relative’s house. As is apparent, someone was upset that the Muslim idea of God seemed much more ‘angry’ than the Christian idea of God. Now obviously, anyone who has read the Bible would differ and would retort that the Biblical conception of God is actually quite jealous and vindictive—but that’s a different story. That piece of info would not solve this person’s misunderstanding; it would only make them start doubting the image of God in all three monotheistic faiths. I have no desire to have any of my relatives convert to Buddhism so I feel helplessly obliged to explain to them that they are mistaken. There are reasons why Allah, Glorious and Exalted’s, Word motivates not only with love, but with fear as well. I don’t claim to know all of them, but Alhamdulillah I think I understand enough to keep my faith in place.
The idea of a supreme deity who motivates solely with love and kindness sounds nice and comforting but the problem with that kind of motivation is that it runs contrary to the reality of human nature. I mean lets keep in mind here who and what we are. We NEED fear to understand and follow certain injunctions that are ultimately good for us. I mean think about it, do you know of ANY parent (including yourself) who has successfully raised up children without EVER threatening to punish them or deprive them of something they like if they misbehave or do something wrong? It is highly unlikely.
Why do we expect Allah, Glorious and Exalted, to motivate us differently from the way we motivate our own children? We only have this convenient double standard because of our nafs. We know what realistically we need to do in order to motivate children (i.e. rewards and punishments), but at the same time we hate having someone do it to us because it feels like an affront to our independent adulthood and freedom to live excessively and hedonistically. The nafs HATES to be limited or threatened in ANY way. It HATES to be told what to do. It especially hates to have its own tactics of controlling others used against its own self. It wishes to neuter all concepts of Divine Power and Justice and join hands with a God who allows it to do whatever it wills with a promise of eternal forgiveness and love. Basically it wants to be its own god and relieves the cognitive dissonance it experiences at the hands of religion by making God a puppet-head deity that gives the nod to whatever it wishes to do.
What people don’t realize oftentimes is that different people respond to different things at different times. Sometimes a reminder of divine love is what brings us closer to Him, other times one needs a reminder of divine punishment to get one in a sajdah. Allah, Glorious and Exalted, knows in His Divine Wisdom and Knowledge that our submitting ourselves to Him is the only thing that will benefit us in any world. It is His Mercy and Beneficience that are responsible for His wanting to motivate us towards what is best for us. The point of the reminders of love and punishment are to get us to submit to Him and to come closer to Him. Even Hellfire is a Mercy from Him in that the fear of it is meant to motivate us towards human morality and welfare. In the end, the Divine Word speaks to us in the language of human nature.
…And in the end, He is as He is, and will do as He Wills, and as slaves created for obedience we are in no position at all to question or disagree with His decree. We cannot make Him whatever is ‘convenient’ for us. We cannot alter the fabric of Reality for the sake of our own nafs-comfort. There is a Heaven and there is a Hell and they are both ruled over by a Power Who has told us what it is that will get us placed into either. We are Muslims because Islam appeals to our soul’s desire for a Truth that transcends us. We are Muslims because Islam is the one religion that is holistic and takes care of man on every dimension. We cannot ‘choose’ our religion based on which god caters the most to our nafs because that is only using religion as the means to an end—the end being the worship of the nafs. We lay many things at the altar of the nafs, but when we lay God Himself then there isn’t a doubt in my mind that that is the highest degree of shirk.
Alhamdulillahfor His reminders.
“Allah has (now) revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, (wherein promises of reward are) paired (with threats of punishment), whereat does creep the flesh of those who fear their Lord, so that their flesh and their hearts soften to Allah’s reminder. Such is Allah’s guidance, which He guideth whom He will. And him whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no guide.” [39:23]
I seek forgiveness of Allah, Glorious and Exalted, for my presumptiveness and hypocrisy and seek His Refuge. All good is from Him.
All errors are a result of my own weaknesses.
My own stupidity.
My own insincerity.
My own arrogance.
My own nafs.
“Astaghfirul lahal adheema lladhee la ilaha illa huwa al-Hayyal Qayooma wa atubo ilayh”
“Allahumma innaka Afoowun Kareemun tuhibul afwa fa’foanni ya Ghaffur.”
As Salaamu alaikum
Mashallah.May ALLAH make us among those HE loves and grant us Taqwa.Ameen.
Was Salaamon July 26, 2004 2:56 PM
Asalaam Aleikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatu,
This was a very good article masha Allah. That is the first time I ever thought about the relationship between how we as humans raise our children and the way Allah subhannahu wa taala treats us.
One of my former professors taught a course on Religion and Psychology and mentioned something very good in his book about this very same thing:
"Often when studens have discoursed at great length to me about how they do not believe in God, I ask them to tell me about the God they do not believe in. And they always answer. They have a very clear idea of who or what God is, even though they don't believe in him or her. And I must observe in passing that their images of God are often of a God that I wouldn't believe in either."
Basically what he is saying that almost all the time when he meets his students/patients who claim to be atheists he finds out that it is not that they don;t believe in God, but in reality are just disbelieving in an image of God (usually a wrathful, vengeful image that nobody would believe in if God was actually like that).
on July 27, 2004 8:03 PM
Wasalaam Warahmatullah Wabarakatu
Bro. Rami - SubhanAllah, that quote that you posted sounds extremely familiar. Could you please tell me the name of the professor and the title of the book?
Asalaam Aleikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatu,
The book is 'Religion and Psychology in Transition' by James W. Jones.
Wasalaam Warahmatullah Wabarakatuon September 6, 2004 4:50 AM