A Man in the Clouds and Other Theological Misconceptions

Big Bang defies laws of physicsI remember one day, while sitting on my lunch break back when I worked in IT at UPenn, I happened to sit near a guy, non-Muslim, who oversaw me reading my Qur’an and we struck up a conversation. In summary, he stated he wasn’t religious because he didn’t, “believe in a man up there in the clouds”. I replied that while I did believe in God I also rejected the notion of the Creator being “a man in the clouds” or a man at all. we must never forget that some people are much closer to Islam than they even know. Their rejection of God being a man is in many ways a confirmation of half the shahadah (Testimony of Faith). They need only confirm illa’Allah (no deity except God!) and of course Muhammad is His messenger.

Dr. Shadee Elmasry posted something on his Twitter feed that reminded me not only of that conversation but also the important need for Muslims to precisely articulate what Islam professes, and simply because we believe in God or the Creator in no way implies we believe as others do. We must struggle to combat the straw-man argument that “all religions are the same”. Indeed they are not.

A Room With No Oxygen

“Those who argue about God after His existence has already been accepted are arguing pointlessly in their Lord’s sight. His wrath is drawn over them, and they’ll receive a strong punishment besides.”Qur’an, 42: 16

Argumentation is to Muslim community life as is fire to a room full of people: it chokes the life out of it. But the interesting thing is that a fire burning in a room does not simply “create a vacuum”, as it is commonly misunderstood, but rather it produces carbon dioxide, a poisonous, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, which if its presence goes undetected, can kill. The reason carbon dioxide is so dangerous is that one simultaneously inhales it while also breathing in oxygen. In other words, there is just as much carbon dioxide produced as there is oxygen used. The result, in our case here, is communal asphyxiation.

Social media has provided an, to quote David Bowie, “unimaginable” and “exhilarating and terrifying” means of communicating. Sadly, it seems to have fostered a spirit of argumentation that has spilled over from our traditional spaces (masjids, etc.) to even our online spaces. The words of the Prophet are a beautiful and necessary reminder at how dangerous the tongue (even if articulated through the keyboard!) can be,

قلت يا رسول الله ما النجاة‏ قال أمسك عليك لسانك وليسعك بيتك وابكِ على خطيئتك

“I asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, ‘How can salvation be achieved?’ He replied, ‘Control your tongue, keep to your house, and weep over your sins’.”reported by ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir, collected in Riyadh al-Salihin

Feeding On A Day of Hunger

feeding the poor Qur'an-1.jpg

“…and We showed him the two highways but he has not braved the steep ascent! And what will convey to you what the steep ascent is? It is freeing a slave or feeding on a day of hunger!”Qur’an 90: 10-14

The Qur’an is replete with verses extolling the importance of feeding the poor as well as admonishing those who do not encourage feeding them. This episode of “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” interviews Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Dariush, on the future of the food systems and how we can rethink our approach to feeding those in need.