Mediaeval European conceptions about the universe’s nature and existence were underpinned by the Catholic Church’s authority. The Church, relying upon a Divine Revelation (the Bible) that had been altered over time, considered modern science a threat to its authority and so viewed it with great hostility. The resulting science-religion rift deepened steadily until the two became irreconcilable. Eventually, religion was relegated to a domain of blind belief and consolatory rituals considered alien to science. Thus, science no longer had to defer to the Divine Revelation’s authority. The Darwinian account of evolution sealed and popularized the idea that existence was self-originated and self-sustained, a process that had unfolded by itself according to laws that one day would be understood fully (and therefore to some degree could be manipulated) by humanity.

Not all scientists maintain that natural causes or so-called laws of nature can explain all phenomena. Before discussing this issue, we should point out that all Prophets, regardless of place or time, agree on how existence originated and is sustained, and on all other essential issues pertaining to life and existence. While a considerable number of scientists agree with the Prophets, scientists and philosophers who favor naturalism and materialism differ greatly in their explanations. Some attribute creativity and eternity, as well as life and consciousness, to matter. Others argue that nature is eternally self-existent and that everything can be explained by natural causes and laws. Still others, unable to explain the origin of life, fall back on such notions as chance and necessity.

The following points section points out the impossibility of explaining existence without affirming God’s existence and Unity.

The existence of God is too evident to need any arguments. Some saintly scholars have even stated that God is the most manifest being, but that those lacking insight cannot see Him. Others have said that His Self-manifestation’s intensity conceals Him from direct perception.

However, the massive influence of positivism and materialism on science and on all people of recent centuries makes it necessary to discuss such arguments. As this now-prevalent “scientific” worldview reduces existence to what can be perceived directly, it blinds itself to the far vaster invisible dimensions of existence. To remove the resulting veil, we will review briefly several traditional demonstrations of God’s necessary existence.

Before doing so, let’s reflect on one simple historical fact: Since the beginning of human life, the overwhelming majority of humanity has believed that God exists. This belief alone is enough to establish God’s existence. Unbelievers cannot claim to be smarter than believers. Some of the most innovative scientists, scholars, researchers have been-and are-believers, as are the field’s experts: all Prophets and saints.

Muhasaba literally means reckoning, settling accounts, and self-interrogation. In a spiritual context, however, it takes on the additional meaning of the self-criticism of a believer who constantly analyzes his or her deeds and thoughts in the hope that correcting them will bring him or her closer to God. Such a believer thanks God for the good he or she has done, and tries to erase his or her sins and deviation by imploring God for forgiveness and amending his or her errors and sins through repentance and remorse. Muhasaba is the very important and serious attempt of asserting one’s personal loyalty to God.

It is recorded by Muhy al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi, author of al-Futuhat al-Makkiya (The Makkan Conquests), that during the early centuries of Islam, righteous people would either write down or memorize their daily actions, thoughts, and words, and then analyze and criticize themselves for any evil or sin they had committed. They did this to protect themselves from the storms of vanity and the whirls of self-pride. They would ask God’s forgiveness after this self-analysis, and would repent sincerely so that they might be protected against future error and deviation. Then they would prostrate in thankfulness to God for the meritorious deeds or words that the Almighty had created through them.

Repentance (tawba) means that one feels regret and, filled with remorse for his or her sins, turns to God with the intention to obey Him. According to truth-seeking scholars, repentance signifies a sincere effort to no longer oppose the Divine Essence in one’s feelings, thoughts, intentions, and acts, and to comply sincerely with His commands and prohibitions. Repentance does not mean being disgusted with what is bad or prohibited and thus no longer engaging in it; rather, it means remaining aloof from whatever God hates and prohibits, even if it seems agreeable to sense and reason.

Repentance is usually used with nasuh, literally meaning pure, sincere, reforming, improving, and repairing. Tawba nasuh sincere and reforming repentance means a pure, sincere repentance that perfectly reforms and improves the one who feels it. One who feels such a sincere, heartfelt, and true remorse for the sin committed seeks to abandon it, thereby setting a good example for others. The Qur’an points to this when it mentions true repentance: O you who believe! Turn to God in true, sincere repentance (66:8).

Sofi is used to designate the followers of Sufism, particularly by speakers of Persian and Turkish. Others use Sufi. I think the difference arises from the different views of the word’s origin. Those who claim that it is derived from sof (wool), safa (spiritual delight, exhilaration), safwat (purity), or sophos (a Greek word meaning wisdom), or who believe that it implies devotion, prefer Sufi. Those who hold that it is derived from suffa (chamber), and stress that it should not be confused with sofu (religious zealot), also use Sufi.

The word sofi has been defined in many ways, among them:

– A traveler on the way to God who has purified his or her self and thus acquired inner light or spiritual enlightenment.

– A humble soldier of God who has been chosen by the Almighty for Himself and thus freed from the influence of his or her carnal, evil-commanding self.

– A traveler on the way to the Muhammadan Truth who wears a coarse, woolen cloak as a sign of humility and nothingness, and who renounces the world as the source of vice and carnal desire. Following the example of the Prophets and their followers, as well as sincere devotees, they are called mutasawwif to emphasize their spiritual states and belief, conduct, and life-style.

As the history of Islamic religious sciences tells us, religious commandments were not written down during the early days of Islam; rather, the practice and oral circulation of commandments related to belief, worship, and daily life allowed the people to memorize them.

Thus it was easy to compile them in books later on, for what had been memorized and practiced was simply written down. In addition, since religious commandments were the vital issues in a Muslim’s individual and collective life, scholars gave priority to them and compiled books on them. Legal scholars collected and codified books on Islamic law and its rules and principles pertaining to all fields of life. Traditionists established the Prophetic traditions (hadiths) and way of life (Sunna), and preserved them in books. Theologians dealt with issues concerning Muslim belief. Interpreters of the Qur’an dedicated themselves to studying its meaning, including issues that would later be called “Qur’anic sciences,” such as naskh (abrogation of a law), inzal (God’s sending down the entire Qur’an at one time), tanzil (God’s sending down the Qur’an in parts on different occasions), qira’at (Qur’anic recitation), ta’wil (exegesis), and others.

Thanks to these efforts that remain universally appreciated in the Muslim world, the truths and principles of Islam were established in such a way that their authenticity cannot be doubted.

Question: What points should we consider to avoid doing more harm than good while carrying out ourduty of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil?

Answer: The Qur’an outlines that “enjoining the good and forbidding the evil” is a distinctive characteristic of being the best community. The following verse both conveys glad tidings to us, and reminds us of our lofty and holy responsibility: “(O Community of Muhammad!) You are the best community ever brought forth for (the good of) mankind, enjoining and promoting what is right and good and forbidding and trying to prevent evil…” (Al Imran 3:110).

As it is seen, the Qur’an, the Miraculous Exposition, addresses believers and states that you are a community brought forth not only for Muslims, but for the good of all mankind. You are responsible for teaching human values to humanity. Actually, this feeling in you does not arise from your own will. God, may His glory be exalted, has opened your hearts to the rest of humanity, put you on the stage, and assigned you a rolein the scene He set.

In order to uphold theheritage that God has entrusted to them, and to crown the fulfillment of this responsibility, believers must enjoin the good and forbid the evil. Actually, their delineatingtheir difference from followers of other religions depends on this issue.

Question: The following is related in Al-Munabbihat (The Counsel) with reference to Ali ibn Abi Talib, may God be pleased with him: “The following four virtues are the most difficult of deeds: Being able to forgive while enraged, showing generosity during hardship, remaining chaste in the face of temptation while in private, always speaking up for truth in the face of another whom one fears or from whom one expects a benefit.” Could you expound on the deeds mentioned in this statement, and the Divine rewards to be granted in return?

Answer: When you consider other statements that are ascribed to noble Ali, his words included in Nahj al-Balagha (The Peak of Eloquence) and his style and use of language, and then also consider the fact that the Muslims had newly emerged from the Era of Ignorance so notions and concepts about different fields of knowledge had not fully flourished, and works about language and eloquence had not yet fully appeared, then these words, which require a certain literary background, do not appear so likely to be his. Therefore, one cannot help but imagine that perhaps the people of the third and fourth centuries, when different scholarly fields had been developed, ascribed the words they said to noble Ali, may God be pleased with him. However, when we consider his unique qualities such as being open to spirituality, having dynamic inspirations and his position as the father of a chain of saintly people, then it is highly possible for him to have said these words as a result of inspiration. On the other hand, the previously mentioned possibility should not be dismissed. In addition, it is also possible for those people from a later period to have rephrased his original statements by enriching them with the meanings and concepts of their own period. As it is not easy to have a decisive view on this, let us say “God knows its truth” and discuss the subject of the four deeds that are mentioned.

Question: What way and method should be followed for the purpose of “restoring the stronghold of faith, which has been damaged for years” as Bediüzzaman put it.

Question: What way and method should be followed for the purpose of “restoring the stronghold of faith, which has been damaged for years” as Bediüzzaman put it.

Answer: Firstly, it is necessary to point out that when compared with destroying, restoring is some thousand times harder to achieve. To achieve a restoration, all inner and outer factors required for the desired thing that is to be restored must be present. However, the absence of only one factor will result in destruction. For instance, imagine the daily Prayers. In order to observe them in a thorough fashion, all of the conditions and requirements for Prayer must be perfectly fulfilled; however, neglecting even one of them will invalidate it. For example, if the person has not made ablutions, or forgot the opening takbir, or did not turn toward the qiblah, the Prayer will not be valid, even if all the other conditions are met. The Prayer’s validity in the sight of God, may His glory be exalted, its having value for that person’s afterlife and its being a close companion to that person in the grave depends on it being observed in compliance with the inner conditions; in other words, observing it in awe and reverence. Along with meeting the outward conditions, a possible flaw in this respect will prevent it from being observed perfectly. The same rule also holds true for other acts of worship.

Question: In one of his sayings, the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, states: “Always intend to earn God’s good pleasure when performing your deeds, for God accepts deeds that are done purely for Himself.”[1] How can we attain this virtue enjoined by the noble Prophet, and become conscious and attentive about “purely seeking God’s good pleasure in our deeds?”

Answer: A real believer who truly loves God, may His glory be exalted, needs to seek God’s good pleasure in all of his attitudes and behaviors; he should take no notice of himself, even for a moment; he should not say “I spoke, I did, I achieved…” and he should erase what he achieved even from his memory. Especially when inviting others to the truth, a believer must never try to prove himself. If he is to speak somewhere for the sake of expressing the truth, his words must definitely echo the voice of his heart. When he attains the result in the end, he must not lay the slightest claim to any deeds and achievements that he has performed.

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