Oct 022016
 

isis crucification

Explaining Chapter 5 verse 33 of the Holy Quran
The verse appears to call for extreme and cruel punishment for those who wage war against God and His messenger.
The verse goes as follows, according to Yusuf Ali’s translation:
5|33|The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;
This verse should however be considered in the light of other verses in the Holy Book which attribute these forms of punishments to the greatest enemy of God, namely Pharaoh.  Look at the next three verses, where these cruel punishments are threatened to God’s Prophet and the believers:
7|124|”Be sure I will cut off your hands and your feet on apposite sides, and I will cause you all to die on the cross.”
20|71|(Pharaoh) said: “Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? Surely this must be your leader, who has taught you magic! be sure I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have you crucified on trunks of palm-trees: so shall ye know for certain, which of us can give the more severe and the more lasting punishment”
26|49|”Said (Pharaoh): ‘Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? surely he is your leader, who has taught you sorcery! but soon shall ye know! Be sure I will cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will cause you all to die on the cross!”

This creates a better context within which to reach a proper understanding of chapter 5 verse 33.  A more correct translation would then be:
5|33|If anyone deserved being massacred, crucified, having their hands and feet cut on opposite sides, or removed from the face of the earth, then it would be those who wage war against God and His messenger, frantically spreading corruption on earth. To them would such humiliation be fit, and for them would there be a severe punishment in the hereafter.

Now let’s apply a modern day context to increase our understanding  of this verse.
Israel has declared that its enemies are fair game for assassination.  The US has declared that its enemies are fair game for drone strikes.  Both of these countries are also known to summarily incarcerate their enemies for lengthy periods.  America and Israel have furthermore been exposed for subjecting their enemies to severe humiliation and torture.
If that verse was to be applied to this modern context, and the language slightly adapted to our times, it would render a meaning such as the following:
”If anyone deserved being blown up by missiles, tortured or locked up indefinitely, it would be those who wage war against God and His messenger whilst vigorously promoting corruption and evil on earth… “
As you can see, the Quran repeats the cruelty of Pharaoh’s unjust punishment on the righteous and projects it back on the perpetrator of such cruelty.
It is useful to note that the Arabic of verse 33 is written in the passive mood.  It nowhere calls for Believers to mete out such punishment, only that such punishment would have been fit for those who spread corruption and engage in aggressive war.  It in fact implies that the same may happen to those who practice such cruelty, in which case they would have brought it upon themselves.

Sep 042014
 

I have put up a comprehensive response to 25 questions (some very offensive) from a self-declared islamophobe.

The Questions include stuff like:

“Marrying a child in Islam”

“Beating one’s wife”

“Allah deceiving Christians”

“The sun sets in a pool”

Download the 1 Meg pdf Here

 Posted by on September 4, 2014 at 10:15 pm  Comments Off on Responses to 25 accusations of an islamophobe
May 152014
 

I have forever pondered over this, and feel the need to constantly re-evaluate the basis for my beliefs. Although I have acquired philosophical and rational justifications for my present beliefs, I used to believe for very practical reasons.  Let me share some of those practical reasons, and how they gradually lost all validity for me.

The number one reason I always followed that which I followed is because I wanted to fit in.  As a child, I am taught the ways of my parents, my uncles and my siblings, and thus observing their rituals and beliefs makes me fit in.  I grew up in a community where the Muslims were a small minority within a larger Christian society.  This meant that the Muslim family had to really establish a very strong attachment to its beliefs to prevent children from growing up and becoming assimilated into the larger Christian community, and thereby losing their original beliefs and identity. The mosque and other places where Muslims gathered were centers of entrenching the Muslim identity and insulating a Muslim psychologically from other members of society.  I suspect this is what traditional Jewish born youngsters experienced in the past. Perhaps this is what all small religious communities do to ensure their survival.  So the first reason I believed was because I had been psychologically and socially conditioned to believe the way I do.   Now what if my parents had it wrong?  What does the child of criminal parents think or do?  Does he or she automatically just imitate their criminal activities?  If I look at infamous crime families, then this indeed seems to be the case.  Believing just to fit with the family or the community can in no way be used as a proof that you believe in the right stuff, and has consequently lost validity to me.

The second practical reason why I believed was because it made me feel better and more elevated than other lost souls. As a child I was always told that being a Muslim means you have higher standards of personal hygiene, higher dietary standards and higher moral standards.  It felt good to be Muslim, because you hardly saw a drunk Muslim, a beggar Muslim or a Muslim lost in some vice like illicit sex or gambling.  The comfort of this belief was disturbed when I first saw very poor (beggar) Muslims in other countries (and now locally.) It was also severely shattered when I learnt that Muslims in Afghanistan, are the biggest producers of opium as the hardest drug in the world. I also heard first hand, and from reliable sources, that prominent Muslim kings and presidents used alcohol, including some who hold prominent positions in Saudi Arabia.  Yazeed, king of the Muslims, within 50 years of the death of the Prophet Muhammad (p), is also known to have imbibed alcohol.  “But”, says the Muslim apologist, “those Muslims are not following the teachings of Islam.” My response is, then why are they elected or tolerated as kings and presidents? There is no law in traditionalist Islamic shariah that makes it unlawful to tolerate a drunk, gambling king.  In fact, Sunni jurisprudence makes it incumbent to obey the authorities no matter how repugnant they are.  (See “Reliance of the Traveller” by Noah Haa Mim Keller.)  Even the bit about we are better because we value hygiene more is devoid of truth in reality.  It is difficult to claim hygiene superiority when looking at many modern Western societies, which seem to reflect a higher standard of public hygiene than Muslim countries and societies.  I have found the toilets in churches to be generally cleaner that those at mosques.  What about dietary standards? Well, in 2012, the MJC, the body that 80% of Muslims in my area recognize, certified more than ten tons of pig hearts for consumption by the Muslim community.  This happened because they just did not uphold the trust they were given to do thorough inspection of the meat they certify as Halaal.  Not a single member of the MJC is known to have been disciplined for this gross violation of the  MJC “Halaal Trust”. The “we are better than them…” basis for clinging to a belief-system turned out to be chauvinistic nonsense.

The third practical reason I believed was because it seems that worshipping and prayers, the way I was taught, guaranteed me a good afterlife.  I would not like to end up in the nasty place called Hell, and by making some sacrifices in time and effort in worship and prayer would seem to be a small price to pay for eternal salvation.  Other religions make the same claim, but as a Muslim, my prayers and my rituals are carefully defined and legislated by thousands of scholars, going back centuries. Certainly, these men cannot all be evil or misguided.  The troubling thought however is that Jews also follow some tough laws and also have a lengthy tradition.  They could not be right however because they oppress the Palestinians and are the masters of the interest-based banking system, I thought.  But what if the Jews who do not oppress Palestinians or promote interest-based banking are then not perhaps on the right path?  The other, more troublesome problem that perplexed me is which Islamic tradition was best? Sunni’s claim that Shi’ites will burn in hell, while Barelwi Sunni’s are condemned to hell by Tablighi Sunni’s.  How do I know which Islam is going to bring me salvation?  I was told to stick with the majority, but what if the majority happened to be Barelwi? Or Shia? It brings one back to reason number 1, above why people believe: “just follow what your parents taught you and hope for the best.”  I have already invalidated this as pure nonsense.

The final practical basis I found to base my religious beliefs on was to identify an upright, heroic figure and to emulate his beliefs.  By associating with such a figure, I could be somewhat in control, as well as experience moral and religious karma for having made some effort to avoid hell.  The concept of Taqleed says that you can emulate a learned man, and delegate your key rational and philosophical life-decisions to him.    There is a similar movement in the Christian world where it seems “charismatic churches” are based on some or other charismatic leadership personality.  Upon closer examination however, I found that there are thousands of people who, in obedience to some leadership figure, end up at war with people that have done them no harm.  By splitting society up into blind emulators seems to be a recipe for the formation of cliques.  The reason for this is that (1) Clearly not all charismatic leaders are good, and (2) no charismatic thinker is perfect, so there will be plenty of conflict if this is the chosen route.

Conclusion

There can be no guarantee of salvation on earth or in the afterlife in

  • following someone blindly,
  • following a religion in order to fit in,
  • following a religion in order to be superior to others
  • or following a religion because it has majority support within society.

In the end, shaping a religious world view for myself will require of me to use my own intellect.  Being an agnostic is no solution.  Being an agnostic is equivalent to burying my head in the sand.  There HAS to be a solution.  Being an agnostic is like taking a tranquilizer and going to sleep.  It does not answer my important questions, only amounts to me saying: “I can’t get answers, just let it be.”

What are those questions?

  1. Is there an objective truth?
  2. If there is such a Truth, how can I access it?
  3. If I can access it, how does it impact on my day-to-day existence?

The scientific and rational philosophical routes are based on the faith in the existence of rational coherence and inter-connectedness in the physical world.  Mathematicians develop proofs, with the subliminal axiomatic faith that it will hold in all cases.  2+2=4 is a belief that holds for all times and spaces.  The rational/scientific method therefore does not shy away from making “ultimate truth” claims.  Why then should one not hope and yearn for the existence of a greater and broader universal Truth that transcends Science and Mathematics? In other words, a truth that transcends the realm of the physical.  In pondering the natural world, which our senses behold, it screams out coherence and rationality.  This to me is the first sign that points to the existence of an objective universal Truth that transcends the physically observable. After all, the temporal nature of all that is observable necessitates the existence of a non-temporal, higher frame of reference.  I cannot conceive of any object without conceiving of its limits, thereby conceiving the existence of the “beyond”.  If the physical universe/multi-verse has a finite existence, then there has to be a greater existence, beyond which these are founded; an Existence or Being beyond physics or nature.    A realm that is of necessity unfathomable and therefore not limitable, because any object that is sensible has boundaries, and is therefore limited.  The existence of an ultimate and transcendent Truth is therefore the natural conclusion one has to arrive at when contemplating the physical universe.

“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.”

[Qur’ān 2:164]

 Posted by on May 15, 2014 at 11:23 pm  Comments Off on Why do religious people cling to their beliefs?
May 032014
 

There is a more detailed treatment of this question here http://free-minds.org/does-god-lead-people-astray , but I wish to add some thinking on the question…

The citation link I provided above offers many verses relevant to the issue.  I can add one extract from the Quran, from chapter 36, verses 7-10:

  • The truth has already been manifested to most of them, but they continue to fail to be secure in it
  • We have made their necks braced, up to their chins, so their heads cannot turn
  • We obstructed their front and their rear, and covered them, so they cannot see.
  • It is the same whether you alert them or not, they will not be secure in belief

Does this mean God misguided these folks, and then will go on to punish them?

Firstly, there are numerous verses that state that each soul shall get what it deserves, such as Quran 41.46:  “Whoever does good, it is for his own soul, and whoever does evil, it is against it; and your Lord is not in the least unjust to his servants.”

So let me explain…

It is not God’s will to lead astray and then to punish people, but it is God’s law to maintain and uphold the immutability, i.e. unchangeability of the laws of nature.

This is perhaps difficult, but let me try a bit more, at the hand of an example.

In the book “Our Godly Struggle”, down-loadable from this site, an explanation is given of how smaller actions and thoughts inevitably leads to greater consequences. For example, if you feed yourself a constant diet of pornography, you will cross healthy sexual practice, and end up crossing boundaries.  Carry on feeding yourself sexual imagery and arousal mechanisms, and you may cross into sexual obsession, then sexual deviancy, and then even sexual sadism.  Eventually, the natural form of healthy sexual fulfillment will make way for criminal predatory or self-destructive behavior.

 

When God states that he has blinded you to the truth, or misguided you, what He is saying is that, due to the path you have chosen to stick to, he has made that reality incumbent or inevitable to you.  HE HAS MADE THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING THE HEALTHY PATH YOUR DESTINY.   In my example, the sexual deviant or predator is blinded or misguided by God, because he or she is rejecting the original healthy course of development, and choosing a shady and murky alternative that is based on satisfying narrow urges.

Now lets read the verses above again:

  • We have made their necks braced, up to their chins, so their heads cannot turn (i.e. We have made them immune to the truth, because of their failure to reason)
  • We obstructed their front and their rear, and covered them, so they cannot see. (i.e. They are frozen in a state of evil, and blinded to anything else, because they refuse to accept reason)
  • It is the same whether you alert them or not, they will not be secure in belief (i.e. as long as they are in this state, nature will take its course, and they will not believe)

Conclusion:

God certainly does not do the illogical and sadistic thing to create people, misguide them, and then throw them in hell for being misguided. Instead God creates people, then offers them the best possible way to end up successfully, and also points out that, should we choose the low road of failure, that His natural law will take its course.

 

 

 Posted by on May 3, 2014 at 9:57 pm  Comments Off on Does God lead people astray, then punish them if they go astray?
Apr 242014
 

Firstly we need to examine the word cruel. What is cruelty? Is there cruelty in the world? Who created the cruelty if it exists?

Let us look at what constitutes cruelty first. Is childbirth an act of cruelty? Is a heart transplant an act of cruelty? Is refusing a child something he or she desires, knowing that it may harm the child, an act of cruelty?  Is toil and labour for the sake of achieving one’s goal cruel? As you would have come to realise, none of the above depictions constitutes cruelty. The common thread through all of them is that they all include pain, fatigue or emotional distress. So cruelty cannot simply be defined as pain or emotional distress.

So what does constitute cruelty? Let’s look at some obvious examples: causing injury to somebody, for no reason except to inflict pain and suffering on the victim would definitely constitute one form of cruelty.  Denying and child access to something that has no potential to harm the child, and that will in fact benefit the child, can also be seen as an act of cruelty. Putting a person through hard labour, without any reward, or without a fair reward, I think you will agree, also constitutes cruelty. What is the inference that we can make from the above? My humble suggestion is that cruelty is where there is pain and suffering, emotional distress or toil and labour without any justifiable moral cause, growth or justification.

Now somebody might argue that the serial killer can justify his acts of cruelty, through deriving psychological satisfaction, even at a psychopathic level.  Again somebody might argue that slavery is regarded as cruel, although the slave driver derives a benefit from the labour of the slave.  Also war can be cruel, but the victorious in war will derive the benefit associated with victory. I will concede this point, and use it to expand on my definition of what it means to be cruel: a cruel person inflicts unnecessary pain for no moral reason or for purely self-serving reasons.  Okay, so I have included the word moral here a few times, without really explaining what we mean by it. Let us at this stage only accept the word moral as what is commonly accepted as being good and acceptable human behaviour.

We come to the second question then namely, if there is cruelty in the natural world. Is a lion hunting its prey being cruel? Is a tsunami that takes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people cruel? Is the staying away of the rains, which causes a severe drought and the loss of thousands and even millions of lives, cruel? Is contagious disease which takes millions of lives cruel?  My humble opinion is that these natural phenomena only appear cruel in the eyes of one that does not understand the workings of nature. Tsunamis are often caused by underwater earthquakes. Earthquakes are the result of plate tectonics of the land masses of the Earth.  If you investigate this carefully, you will find that earthquakes are integrally connected with the growth and the survival of our planet, and therefore the human species. Unfortunately the Earth, which gives life to billions and billions of people, has to exact a cost for its own long-term survival which is perceived as the destruction in the simple mind of man. Pretty much like a child growing up, and experiencing childhood sicknesses and ailments, which might seem debilitating at the time, but in fact prepares the child to be more resilient and resistant to all sorts of threats later on in life.  If you look carefully at all the other examples above listed in nature, you are bound to find an element of transformative growth, or the maintenance of an equilibrium at root of what seems to be nature being cruel to us. My answer to the question of whether nature is cruel is that nature only appears cruel, but is in fact benevolent, and natural disasters always result in a greater good for the planet and for mankind.

From the above few paragraphs it becomes clear that, although pain is a natural phenomenon, cruelty really is a phenomenon to be found exclusively within human society. Some people have argued that a cat is cruel to play with its prey, as it does not benefit from inflicting this unnecessary additional pain.  This is incorrect. I found the answer on a website [http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/why-cats-play-with-prey] which states:

“It turns out that, while cats may seem cruel, capricious or malicious as they toy with a catch, their behavior isn’t indicative of an evil mind lurking within the cute, furry exterior. Cats, rather, wear down prey to avoid sustaining injuries. They’re motivated by self-preservation, just like most other animals, and they know what could happen if they aren’t careful. Mice and rats, for example, can deliver nasty bites that can cause injury or spread disease. Birds, for their part, are able to scratch and peck. So, what’s a cat to do? Rather than playing with their prey for amusement, cats tire out their victims to the point where they’re too worn down to fight back.”

It is humans that are cruel, not nature.  Nature always intends well when it acts in an apparently cruel way, the same of which cannot be said for human beings. When nature is apparently cruel, it is restoring the balance or supporting transformative growth. When human beings are cruel, it is to distort a balance and to stunt transformative growth.  Let me put forward a few examples of the greatest forms of cruelty inflicted by human beings:

Example 1: Inflicting pain for no reason or for personal satisfaction. The Holocaust was cruel because it inflicted severe pain and suffering on many without just cause. The apartheid system was cruel, because it inflicted pain and suffering and denial to millions without a just cause. The Rwandan genocide was cruel because it to result the team severe pain and suffering without a valid cause.  Serious killers or war criminals are cruel because they inflict cruelty for narrow self-benefit and to the detriment of the greater society or environment.

Example 2: Dangerous and unusually hard labour, without any reasonable reward is cruelty because it results in no growth or improvement in the condition of the sufferer. That means the miners that are working in a South African mines and are unable to feed and clothe the families on their salaries, while they face the risk of death every day at work, is in a cruel relationship with the mining bosses.

Example 3: Imposing a paper currency, and enforced banking on ordinary people, and then gradually reducing the purchasing power of that paper notes through printing more and more of it, is an act of cruelty. The result of this is slow creeping poverty over the individuals within that society, which is sometimes referred to as inflation.  The effect of paper currency on society, is almost exactly the same as the effect of the strangulation of a Python. It slow, insidious and barely noticeable but over the years it leads to much suffering and loss.  (The Book “Our Godly Struggle”, available for download on this site, goes deeper into explaining the cruelty of the present day monitory regime in the world.)

Example 4: creating desperation through removing the means by which people can subsist, and then creating derogatory and humiliating work situations for those in desperation.  By replacing nature with concrete jungles in the form of cities, the means by which ordinary human beings can subsist through simple agriculture or husbandry, is taken away from them. Cities are a result of industrialisation, and industrialisation is the result of mass production and consumption, and mass production and mass consumption are the results of the need for economic growth, and economic growth is driven by greed.  When you remove all the natural opportunities for ordinary people, it is an act of cruelty then to create only derogatory and humiliating opportunities such as prostitution or mercenary activity. Let me explain in somewhat more detail: prostitution comes in many forms, most common of which is the selling of one’s most intimate self to strangers for compensation. Mercenary activity refers to people engaging in murder and pillage for compensation. The present day prostitution industry, and the military industry engaged in an unjust wars are sad results of people being desperate to make a living.

I come back to the original question of this article namely is God cruel? People often refer to the scriptures to show how cruel God is. Some passages are taken from the Old Testament where the people of Israel conquered other nations and slayed the innocent in the process of doing that.  They will also point to the holy Quran and cite passages that speak about fighting and slaying the enemy. Furthermore they will cite God’s depiction of hell as a cruel place, to show that God is indeed cruel.  So is God cruel?

Is the pain and suffering which God inflicts devoid of any justification, transformative growth or the general improvement of the human condition? Let us take hell as an example: Hell is a cruel and unfathomably painful place, and is depicted as such within the Holy Scriptures. But is hell not also a deterrent?  And is the purpose of a deterrent not to deter?  And will the one that is deterring, not make the deterrent as effective as possible? It is obviously still left up to God whether He will or will not impose his punishment. And we must remember that hell as a deterrent is meant for those who have committed unspeakable initial acts of cruelty.  Those who caused unnecessary pain and suffering to countless millions and millions of people on the earth, through preventing them from pursuing a livelihood; through making them toil and struggle for an insufficient reward; through barring millions and millions of people from transformative growth by keeping them in bondage; through taking possession of the natural resources of the world and denying them to the rest of mankind; through fermenting and prosecuting unjust wars of dispossession and plunder.  Is the severe pain of hell described in the holy books not a fitting punishment for those who caused such immense pain and loss to so many millions and millions of people over so many thousands and thousands of years?

The religious people miss the point completely by identifying hell as an abode for those who committed petty offences.  In fact the religious impostor priests, imams and rabbis have usurped the concept of hell, to impose their own narrow ideas on society.  Hell is no place for a person who acts in desperation to secure himself or his loved ones. A person stealing a bread, cannot be seen as a future inhabitant of hell. It is the person that denies bread to millions, through artificially inflating the price of grain after taking control of all the grain stocks that is meant for hell.  The young lady forced into prostitution is not intended for hell, but rather the evil ones that caused poverty through unfettered greed by the rich and predatory exploitation of the poor are meant for hell.  The only way that the poor and powerless become culpable, is when they become complicit in their own oppression and exploitation or in the oppression of others. When they are able to kick out their enemies, and refuse to do so out of force of habit, or out of fear, they become partners in oppression.  When they accept the pain inflicted by man as the natural state of things, they become partners in the act of cruelty and oppression perpetrated by man.  In this case they do not even need to go to hell one-day, they will experience hell every day of their lives.

Okay so let us look beyond the concept of hell as we investigate the question of whether God is cruel. God also speaks about war and fighting against those who are evil. The holy Quran has quite a few such verses of fighting and neutralising the enemy. Once again I want to refer you back to the initial cruelty perpetrated by evil human beings in creating poverty, misery and dispossession.  Nothing can explain this apparent cruelty prescribed by God than the following verse:

“Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.”  Quran 22:39

 

So once again this so-called cruelty ascribed to God, is none other than a restorative process that is sanctioned by God for those who believe in justice and abhor pain and suffering, to end the reign of those who want to inflict cruelty and pain on society. We must therefore not conflate the act of cruelty with the act of stopping cruelty. Both instances may involve pain and suffering, but on the side of those who are stopping cruelty there is no personal interest but rather the greater good of mankind.

In summary, God has created pain and discomfort, for transformative and restorative reasons, but man has created cruelty, as unjustifiable pain, for selfish and oppressive reasons.

 Posted by on April 24, 2014 at 9:53 am  Comments Off on Is God Cruel?
Feb 182014
 

Is death a complete mystery? No-one has come back from death to relate his experience, so we might think there is no way of knowing what happens after we exit the world of the living. I’m not counting near death experiences because that’s what they are, “near death” experiences, and not death, i.e. real death. I believe that it is not a completely mystery, just as it’s not a mystery to figure out what distant planets, millions of light years away, or strange phenomena such as a black hole could be like.
It is possible to use our intellect, and the reliable testimonies from men and women who were identified as prophets or saints. We are in possession of thousands upon thousands of words of testimony from these men and women. These are women and men who firstly testified that they were in possession of a very special type of knowledge that transcends the knowledge obtained through direct observation or through rational deduction. We are speaking here about knowledge of a realm that transcends the physical world, and that can be referred to as metaphysical. But I’m not claiming here that the words of any con-artist psychic are to be relied upon. I have very strict conditions as to what the qualifications of a true prophet or saint should be. These qualities can be summarized as follows: Coherence, Consistence, Personal Integrity, Selflessness and Relevance.
Coherence: Their testimony must make overall sense, and all aspects of their testimony must support a central theme. Every single element of their testimony supports the central theme that they espouse.
Consistence: Every dimension of their lives, publicly and privately, when young and when old, reflects a consistent adherence to the ideas, ideals and values they espouse.
Personal Integrity: Absence of harmful or predatory behavior, dishonesty and hidden agendas in their lives.
Selflessness: Clear evidence of a life led in the service of others. Their life as a whole or in part was lived to generally cause an improvement in the existence of others, as opposed to primarily operating in fulfilling their own immediate personal goals.
Relevance: Clear evidence that their overall approach addressed the issues and the problems that faced their societies and humanity as a whole.
If I apply these basic qualifications to any fortune-teller, spiritualist, medium, psychic or clairvoyant alive today, probably all of them will fail the test in some way or another. This leaves us then with the famous historical personalities that played a central role in the established religious or spiritual orders in existence today.
The overwhelming majority of mankind alive today adheres to one of six religious or spiritual traditions, namely Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism. Atheists or Secularist traditions have been excluded because they exclude any meta-physical thinking from their worldview. So let’s consider the six great religious traditions. Between the first three mentioned, there is a great deal of overlap. The first three also are adhered to, to various degrees of commitment, by about half of humanity. It is also important to note that there is a high overlap between the first three, which I will refer to as the Abrahamic traditions. The overlap between the Abrahamic traditions occurs in the following areas: Reliance on revealed texts, commonality of the vast majority of the historical exponents of the central themes. These personalities include the men and women like Abraham, Moses, Mary, Jesus and Muhammad. There is therefore a great deal of coherence between these three. All three places a supreme, singular deity at the centre of their worldview, and seek to cultivate human behaviour that is in conformance of such a deity. They all embrace core values such as love, compassion and good, while shunning injustice and evil.
A questioner may question this position, by pointing at the vast animosity that exists between the three, but I would request a focus on the commonalities instead of the differences. After all, just because Rome, or the USA, or Britain or France experienced civil wars, does not mean that Rome or the USA, Britain or France does not represent a very central tradition. The wars and the infighting take place often on peripheral issues, which detracts from the sameness that really exists between people. In addition, 10 million people died in World War 1, and in 50 Million died in World War 2, when all the nations at war were essentially advancing secular goals, but this does not make the espouser of secularism deny the validity of core secular values.
There is virtually no contradiction in the core message of the Abrahamic protagonists. You can take the authenticated words of Moses, Jesus or Muhammad, and you will find that, when compensating for reasonable errors that crept in, in the process of transmission over many, many centuries, the core values are essentially the same.
Their coherence, consistence, personal Integrity, selflessness and relevance make the Abrahamic tradition’s protagonists the most reliable sources of revealed knowledge. As I mentioned earlier, we are in possession of thousands of pages of information that form part of the legacy of these protagonists. It is within this legacy that I am very confident of finding answers to the greatest question I have, namely “What happens when I die?” To deal with the discrepancies and minor contradictions, that will inevitably surface, I will resort to sound, rational thinking to guide the way forward.
There may still be some of you that find the reliance on men and women who claimed to be in receipt of “revealed” knowledge as nonsense. The sceptic may question how a divine being can communicate with a mortal person. To you, I want to put forward the following analogy. Given the sharing of correct mutual protocols, or mutual codes, two remote computers can very effectively share information. Given the sharing of the correct sharing of the same electromagnetic wave lengths, those two computers can share the same information, even without a visible connection. Given the correct encryption protocols between two computers, those two could share information, without it being detected by any other computer. What if a human mind, which is the most complex object in the universe, under special conditions, could become a decryption device that allowed for the receipt and un-coding of special information from a remote mind? This is exactly how I understand divine revelation. To disprove divine revelation, you will have to do more than just reject the proposed technology through which it occurs. If you do that, you are the same as the cave man calling a wi-fi network nonsensical magic. On those who try to disavow revelation, you have a task, no less than finding the message to be nonsensical.
We are now in a position to attempt to answer the initial question, “What happens to us when we die?”
In the Islamic tradition, death has been related to sleep. Al-Bara’ reported that whenever Allah’s Messenger (Muhammad) (ﷺ) went to bed, he said: ” O Allah, it is with Thine Name that I live and it is with Thine Name that I die.” And when he got up he used to say:” Praise is due to Allah, Who gave us life after our death (sleep) and unto Thee is resurrection” (Sahih Muslim 2711, In-book reference : Book 48, Hadith 80, USC-MSA web (English) reference : Book 35, Hadith 6549).

حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُعَاذٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبِي، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ أَبِي السَّفَرِ، عَنْ أَبِي بَكْرِ بْنِ أَبِي مُوسَى، عَنِ الْبَرَاءِ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ إِذَا أَخَذَ مَضْجَعَهُ قَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُمَّ بِاسْمِكَ أَحْيَا وَبِاسْمِكَ أَمُوتُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَإِذَا اسْتَيْقَظَ قَالَ ‏”‏ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَحْيَانَا بَعْدَ مَا أَمَاتَنَا وَإِلَيْهِ النُّشُورُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

This is our first important clue as to what happens when we die. In this authenticated report from the Prophet, may peace be upon him, we learn that death is akin to sleeping. Let us discuss the implications of this report.
Every night, we experience death in a lesser form. We lay down, and, at some point lose consciousness. Our senses shut down, and we are removed from any further voluntary action in the world. This is exactly the experience that we can therefore contemplate when losing consciousness for a last time at the time of death. Now, there may be much dread about the painfulness of dying, but the process of dying is not painful, though the cause may be. The cause of death could be heart failure, drowing, or blood loss, which all may be painful, but the pain stops at the point where the nervous system becomes inactive. Pain is after all felt and transmitted through the nervous system. Death does not have to be painful. Death on an operating table, while under anesthesia is not painful, while death through a sudden massive trauma could be painful for a second or so. Death is the deepest sleep possible, so it is felt as a supreme, ultimate relaxing of all muscles.
Resurrection
The three Abrahamic traditions (with Judaism somewhat questionably so), support the idea of a resurrection of all humanity after death. This is understood to will be taking place as a grand singular event after all humanity have passed from the physical world. The grand event of resurrection will not only restore every person that ever lived, but will also restore him with all his earthly memories restored intact. Many versus in the Quran refer to this resurrection. One of these being ‘They will say, “O woe to us! Who has raised us up from our sleeping place?” [The reply will be], “This is what the Most Merciful had promised, and the messengers told the truth” (Quran 36:52). Another verse states “And [that they may know] that the Hour is coming – no doubt about it – and that Allah will resurrect those in the graves” (Quran 22:7). The New Testament also supports this view with verses such as “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). In the Old Testament, we find the following words: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).
It is here that the atheist raises his biggest objection, claiming that it is impossible for a person, once dead and decomposed, to be regenerated, while maintaining all memories of his earthly existence. In verse 78 of chapter 36 in the Quran, God speaks and directly quotes the sentiments of the skeptics in the words: “He says: ‘Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?’’’
Let is therefore engage with this extraordinary claim made by our religious traditions. Can every person be resurrected completely, with all his or her earthly experiences intact? How can this be possible? This is certainly a colossal feat. It means that every voluntary action, ever performed is carefully recorded during our lives. Not only is every action ever undertaken recorded in the minutest of detail, but our very biological composition is carefully saved for future regeneration. How can this be possible?
To enter into this discussion, we have to consider the very constructed nature of man and his actions. From science, we have learnt that we are all composed of atoms. Atoms bond to form molecules. The most complex molecules are organic molecules. Organic molecules are the molecules that combine to form our organs. A living organism possesses trillions of molecules that function in various organs to form a functioning living system. The most complex molecule within a living organism if its DNA molecule. This molecule contains a detailed plan for the regeneration of the organism. In theory for now at least, it is possible to make a complete replica of a person, if you can obtain a perfect DNA molecule of that person. However, we will not argue that DNA of each person will be preserved in atomic form until the grand resurrection. We cannot do this simply because DNA may not survive the long time that may elapse from the time of death to the time of resurrection. I am however bringing in the concept of DNA as a perfect plan for the resurrection of a person in another way. This will be a more complicated process, which I will explain as follows.
There are some concepts that need to be explained firstly. The first of these is the absolute conservation of energy in the universe through the first law of thermodynamics. Wikipedia states that “The law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_law_of_thermodynamics). Matter is of course closely related to energy through Einstein’s equation E=mc2, which means that mass and energy are mutually convertible. It also means that mass (represented by matter or atoms or molecules) is convertible to energy.
A second concept that needs to highlighted here is the concept of Quantum Entanglement. This concept, is at present an active area of research within quantum physics, and refers to the instantaneous mimicking of the properties of quantum particles over vast distances (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement). These distances could be much as millions of light years away. Wikipedia states “It thus appears that one particle of an entangled pair “knows” what measurement has been performed on the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by arbitrarily large distances” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement).
A third concept that needs to be highlighted here is the concept of the Higgs Boson. The Higgs Boson was discovered in recent years by thousands of scientists who used data collected at the Large Hadron Collider, near Geneva, Switzerland. The Higgs Boson, in layman terms, refers to an unusual kind of field that exists throughout the universe, and which causes existing particles to acquire mass instead of new massless particles being formed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson). This means that mass is really an “acquired” property when particles are acted upon by the all-pervasive Higgs Boson. The Boson itself has no mass of its own, but “gives” mass to some particles that interact with it in special way. If you remove the Boson, you remove the property of mass.
Postulating the Preservation of an Individual and his or her life record…
Using the above scientific breakthroughs, we can now postulate a possible way in which our very beings are preserved for some future day (or moment) of resurrection. We are composed of atoms and particles, in constant motion. Every quantum particle in the universe can be exactly accounted for, from the first law of thermodynamics. My DNA molecule is nothing but billions of particles possessing unique properties and in a unique relation to one another. Though quantum entanglement, each of these billions of particles can influence billions of particles somewhere else in the universe, thus creating an identical equivalent of my DNA particles somewhere else in the universe. All that is needed is for an encryption-decryption device somewhere in the universe to summon those billions of particles to realign themselves to recreate my DNA. But if this can be postulated to regenerate DNA, then certainly it can be postulated to recreate the entire me. My aim is not to prescribe the process of resurrection, only to advance its plausibility in the light of modern quantum physics.
I have shown how it is plausible that our very beings can be regenerated at a future date. How can we postulate the complete preservation of all memory of our voluntary actions performed during our lives? Our voluntary actions are integrally connected to our conscious minds. Should our brain be resurrected, using the possible suggested route explained in the previous paragraph then we can also suggest that all memories could be resurrected along with our overall resurrection. After all, memories, according to science is nothing else but fine physical imprints deep within our brains.
I have shown that, at the very least, resurrection is not implausible. The sacred scriptures proclaim it as a promised fact and science cannot rule it out, based on the latest developments within quantum physics and cosmology. I remind you of the stringent qualifications that were required for those godly individuals who came to testify about the future resurrection.
Back to the initial question as to what happens to us when we die.
The scriptures establish two facts, firstly that death will be similar to entering a deep sleep, and secondly, that our very beings, including all our earthly memories will be regenerated at some distant future point.
So what happens from the time of death, to the time of resurrection? The scriptures mention numerous reports about experiences after dying. Often they speak about experiences in the grave. However, not every person that dies ends up in a grave. Some bodies are cremated or vaporized in other forms. So it is not really reasonable to refer to experiences, whether positive experiences or negative experiences “in the grave”. In fact, claiming this will create a discrepancy with regard to those who never end up in a grave. The lengthy torment spoken of by some religious traditions seems to also contradict a direct holy text. The Quran after all states: “And on the Day when He will gather them, [it will be] as if they had not remained but an hour of the day, [and] they will know each other. Those will have lost who denied the meeting with Allah and were not guided” (Quran 10:45). And hour is not enough to fit in all the punishment that is contemplated for the grave by some people.
Here is a rational proposed experience that conforms better to the holy texts. Using the analogy of deep sleep, which the texts relate to death. Once we die, we enter a deep sleep. When a person falls asleep, time stops as it were for that person. If you go to bed at 9:00 at night, enter a deep, satisfying sleep, and then awake at say 5 am the next morning, how much time have you perceived (while asleep)? The few people that I have asked, agree with me that it really feels only like a few moments. We awake at 5 am, clearly not having perceived the eight hours that we slept, as eight hours. It feels more like a few minutes. The eight hours have gone by as a few minutes. Time, namely the eight hours, has literally been shrunk to a few minutes. We can apply the same to death. When we depart from this life, our very next consciousness experience, which will, based on the text above (Quran 10:45), seem like an hour or so after we died, will be our regeneration into our former form. We will suddenly awake, regenerated, with memories and all, to face our new existence.
A follow-up post will explore the events that will transpire after we are regenerated.

 Posted by on February 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm  Comments Off on What happens to us when we die?
May 292013
 

Full question: Why is God so cryptic in his scriptures? Could’nt he make it more easy on everyone to believe in Him, by just by putting words in his scriptures that  give all the answers to all our problems, and that even exactly foretell events with names and places.  Then it would be impossible for anyone to reject belief in God or to argue over any matter.

Yes, I also get the feeling that God is sometimes cryptic in the scriptures, but not always.  For example, as far as the story of Joseph is concerned, very little uncertainty remains.  The whole story is told to us loud and clear in the scriptures.  Not so with Jesus though.  The events and circumstances of Jesus’ death are still disputed and shrouded in much mystery.  Even Christians have to dig especially hard to find scriptural narratives that really, in an unambiguous way tell the story of the last days of Jesus on earth.  If you compare the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it shows up much differences in the events prior to, and immediately after the crucifixion.  To make the story worse, the disciples deserted Jesus at the time of his arrest, leaving it to unbelievers and enemies to capture the events first hand.

Now to get to the question.  Crystal clear scriptures that foretell every event and answer every question would remove the gift of free will, and mental exertion from us.  When you want your child to be good at mathematics, you don’t show him the solution to each and every problem.  This would in no way develop his mathematical abilities.  What you rather do is to coach him by offering clues and methods, and then leave him to gain the satisfaction of striving and perhaps finding the solution.  In that way, he will be much more skilled at solving problems.  Mankind is the same.  By leaving a measure of ambiguity, we are given the opportunity by God to, through research, debating, reasoning any other form of mental effort, try to approximate the real truth.  Mankind therefore, even if we experience some distress in the short term, must rejoice that our long term condition is enhanced by our constant efforts to discover more and more truth everyday on our own.

 Posted by on May 29, 2013 at 5:52 pm  Comments Off on Why is God so cryptic in his scriptures?
May 292013
 

jesus2The conference at Nycea, Rome, three centuries after Jesus’ birth, brought an end to all debates around Jesus’ divinity for Christians.  It was there that God was declared a “tri-unity” or a “trinity.”    The creed declares God to possess three distinct personalities or modes, namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.  This creed now forms the basis of almost all Christian churches. No amount of objection to the unfathomability of this claim seems to deter Christians from this creed.  Instead, strange analogies are used to try to justify the belief.  One of these analogies is the Triangle, which is said to possess three angles, yet constituting one triangle.    This analogy is weak since not only is each angle not a triangle, but each angle, though connected to form a whole triangle, is a distinct component of the whole, without which the whole would not exist.  Now the analogy becomes more difficult when applied to a personality.  How do three minds merge into one?  What about the will contained in each mind.  Does God the Father’s will override the Son’s will?  When Jesus, spoke from the cross the words “My Lord why have You forsaken me…”, there must have been two wills in operation, namely  that of the son, expressing a need for help, and that of the Father with the will to grant or refuse the request.

I wish to present a better understanding of Jesus’ role in respect to God and the Holy Spirit.    Jesus was the medium through which the word or the will of God was transferred to mankind.  That makes Jesus an agent or a messenger or a medium to relate to mankind the divine message of salvation.  God is the principal and Jesus the agent.  In law, the agent represents the principal in all but body.  Jesus had the responsibility to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.  In that Kingdom, Jesus, as the messenger and the agent of God, was going to rightfully occupy the highest earthly position of authority.  The will of Jesus, as a noble and pure soul, is perfectly aligned to the will of God; not the reverse! If we claim that God’s will is aligned to Jesus’ will, then we call for the absurd, namely that the infinite must be aligned to the finite.  After all Jesus, by calling for God the Father’s help on the cross represents the finite will.

Jesus therefore represents the spirit, the will, the wishes and the word of the Father within the finite earthly context.  He becomes the Father, not literally, but in will.   In the Islamic traditions of the Prophet, the following words are said to uttered by God: ‘And when I love My servant I become his hearing with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he touches and his feet with which he walks’.  This can definitely be applied to Jesus.  But this does not make Jesus God, only Godly.  Jesus does not become an object of worship, because God still remains the principal in command of him.  An analogy would be a person who is handed a retirement cheque of $1 million by DHL.  Certainly he does not thank DHL for the money .  Yes he can thank DHL for the physical effort to deliver the cheque, but not for the great bounty of a million dollars.

To summarise: Jesus represents the spirit, the word and the wishes of God the Father.  To disobey the Son is to disobey the Father.  To honour the Son, is to honour the Father.  But only God Almighty is ultimately the one and only almighty creator, nourisher and sustainer of the world, not Jesus.  And saying that does not dishonour Jesus.  In fact to raise Jesus to the station of God, would be similar to a presidential spokesman being called Mr President!  The spokesman as well as his principal, the president will be offended if you get the titles mixed up!

 Posted by on May 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm  Comments Off on Is Jesus God or Godly?
May 292013
 

Knowledge is a boon, while faith is to be avoided.  “Knowing” is linked to truth while “faith” has the risk of being construed with subjectivity, myth and superstition.  If we “know” something, we would expect to have followed a reliable method of verification.  There are three ways of making such a verification. (1) By actually having a personal sense perception of that which is claimed to be known. For example the knowledge that “it is raining” is based on the senses feeling, hearing and seeing the rain.  (2) By deducing the fact from another set of facts by reasoning.  For example: “Whenever it rains, there must be clouds in the sky.  It rains, so therefore there must be clouds in the sky”  Here we deduce that there must be clouds outside, even while we do not see, feel or hear the clouds outside.  (3) Lastly, we can obtain knowledge from processing information from a reliable source or witness . This in fact is the most common form of obtaining knowledge by ordinary people.  For example, when reading the weather report for the day, it may say that “it is raining currently”, and I will then operate on the knowledge that it rains.   Obviously, the last means of achieving knowledge is fallible and needs an intense scrutiny of the witness to make sure that he or she is honest and believable. Believability must also be made subject to what is rational as well as what can be confirmed by the senses.  If the weather channel says it is raining here today, and I see no rain, then obviously the weather channel has provided incorrect information.  To summarise the third source then: Information from a witness, or what we call testimony, when processed and verified by the mind, also becomes knowledge.

The word “faith” is only used when perfect knowledge is absent. People claim to have “faith” in the government to sort out the problem or  “faith” in the police to protect them.  This is not the same as “knowing” that the police will protect them or “knowing” that the government will sort out the problem.  From these two examples it is clear that faith is closer related to doubt than certainty.  For the Theist (God Believer), KNOWLEDGE and not FAITH should be the minimum standard for making the declaration of belief.  We should declare that we KNOW God exists instead of that we have FAITH that God exists.  Our knowledge is based on the testimony (witness) of the Prophets, and is verified by the fact that there is no contradiction with reason or with what our senses perceive.  Any knowledge claim must withstand any test of verification.  In other words, the witness must be constantly monitored for reliability, our senses must be constantly monitored for reliability and our logical reasoning must be constantly checked for reliability. If any of these three becomes doubtful, then the knowledge looses validity.

 Posted by on May 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm  Comments Off on What is the difference between Faith in God and Knowledge of God?