Tremor at the Masjid
Love rejoices with the truth. As a hungry child delights to find nourishment, so does a man rejoice to find bread for his soul. The wisdom of counselors is sought, and a well-thought plan will guarantee success. But, how many among men will direct you to the right path? If we find teachers who speak the truth concerning Allah, we will do well to pay attention to them. Nevertheless, the greatest teacher of all speaks from above, and He has left a counselor among us, who will lead us in all truth.
I can't believe my eyes! This must be a dream. Here I am, standing in front of the greatest defender of Islam: Dr. Shabir Ally. This man has debated proponents of foreign religions, has strengthened the faith of many Muslims, and has stood against the most entrenched enemies of Allah. His beard is much whiter than I remember from the pictures, but his modest smile remains the same. I was told that he never loses control over his voice, his facial expression, or even his emotions. He is gentle with his opponents, even kinder to his students. It seems like nothing could disrupt the peace that Allah has given to him. And now, he is here, at our very own Masjid… and here I am, standing stupidly in front of him. What am I waiting for? I should go and introduce myself.
Nadim – Go and talk to him!
Moe – Why me? Why not you? Why not us?
Nadim – I don't want to embarrass myself…
Moe – Oh, so I'll just go and embarrass myself then!
Nadim – You're used to it.
Moe – Thanks for the encouragement.
Oh, what am I doing? What do I say? I should have practiced. I should have written down some questions instead of just walking into this unprepared. I can't just strike a casual conversation with this man… I have to say something profound. I have to impress him. Maybe I can talk about my experience in Kobani… No. He wouldn't be interested in that. Maybe I can come up with my own arguments for the superiority of Islam. Oh, he's looking at us now…
Moe – As-Salam 'Alaika!
Shabir Ally – Wa 'Alaikuma As-Salam.
Moe – My name is Mojza. I'm one of your biggest fans! Thank you so much for all that you do… I can't believe that I get to meet you in person! … Your presence here at our little Masjid is a testimony of your concern for the least among us. I mean, you must have invitations to speak from important people all over the world…
Shabir Ally – I'm pleased to meet you, Mojza. You can thank Allah for giving me the privilege of doing what I do. I came here today because your Imam knew that I was speaking at Masjid Al-Haram in Al-Hasakah, so he invited me to come here as well.
Moe – What a privilege! Can I talk to you for a few minutes? I would love to learn how to defend Islam like you do. I have a few thoughts of my own…
Shabir Ally – I have a few minutes, but I doubt that this will be enough to teach you everything that you need to know. Even the Prophet Muhammad…
Moe – Peace be upon him!
Shabir Ally – Thank you… Even the Prophet Muhammad had to spend several years with his followers to teach them the way of Allah. We should not expect any less today.
Moe – Of course. It's so important to be careful students of the Qur'an. That takes time and energy, but it pays off.
Shabir Ally – Most definitely. Is there any aspect of my teachings that you would like to discuss?
Moe – Huh… yes… well, I don't understand why people can't see that the Qur'an is so much superior to any other religious book. For example, there are many Christians in Al-Hasakah… They believe the Bible, but it's full of mistakes. How can we convince them that the Bible is corrupted and that they shouldn't believe anything that it teaches?
Shabir Ally – Well, I wouldn't say it quite like that. You see, it's not that simple. It would be more accurate to say that the Bible has not perfectly preserved Allah's revelation, as the Qur'an has. There are many things that are true in the Bible, which the Qur'an affirms. In my earlier years, even I used to say that the Bible had been corrupted, without really understanding what that meant. The truth is that there are many problems for Muslims who claim that the Bible must be completely rejected. One of those problems is that the Qur'an itself affirms in Surah 4:131 that Allah had revealed His will to the People of the Book before Muhammad. Then, Surah 4:136 gives a very strong warning when it says, "And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray." That should make us pause. It's a strong warning.
Moe – It is…
Shabir Ally – The Qur'an itself says that if we reject these previous books and messengers, we are going far astray from Allah. So, the question becomes: "How have the Jews and the Christians failed to preserve the Scriptures?" Certainly, they can fail to see what is before their eyes and pretend that it says something different than what Allah has spoken, as Surah 3:78 states. Also, they can fail to copy accurately what they have received from Allah, as Surah 2:75-79 says. Maybe they can add some of their own delusions to the message that they have received from Allah. However, the message of Allah cannot be lost. It must be preserved, because the Qur'an says in Surah 5:46-47, "And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel [Injil], in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient." This is another very strong warning. Let me explain. The Christians who lived in the days of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were held accountable to the message that they could read from their own Scriptures. And, we know that the Christian Scriptures in the seventh century were the same Scriptures that they have today. This means that Allah's message has been preserved in the Bible, which is why we cannot completely reject it. Instead, we must be more faithful than the Christians are at accepting the message of Allah that is preserved in their own Scriptures.
Moe – Oh…
Shabir Ally – And of course we have the help of the Qur'an to guide us in discerning more accurately.
Moe – I'm confused. If the Christian Scriptures contain Allah's message, though it may have been marred with copying errors and the delusions of deceived men, doesn't that undermine the foundation of Islam? It means that Islam was built on the foundation of Judaism and Christianity.
Shabir Ally – As it was first intended by Allah, not as the Jews and the Christians have made it.
Moe – Yes. But, we can't just ignore what they say. We may even learn some things that are not in the Qur'an…
Shabir Ally – As long as they do not contradict the Qur'an.
Moe – Okay. But, how can we learn the truth from an author if we are unwilling to let the author speak?
Shabir Ally – What do you mean by that?
Moe – Well, the way I see it, we only have two options: Either we reject their Scriptures or we take them at face value. If we accept their Scriptures and try to trace the way in which they were transformed and corrupted through time, at best, we will find that they have added their own perspectives to the message of Allah. But, even then, their perspectives would have to be tested by their own Scriptures. The only way that we could prove that the message of Allah was contrary to what the Christians are currently teaching is if we could read it in their own Scriptures. In this case, even the Qur'an could not teach something that cannot be substantiated from the Christian Scriptures, except to clarify, amplify, and point to the correct passages. But never could the Qur'an simply refute the teachings of the Christian Scriptures without also pointing somewhere in those very same writings.
Shabir Ally – That is logical.
Moe – That's dangerous! I mean, that's a slippery slope… It undermines the authority of the Qur'an. I just can't see how we can find any truth in the Bible, much less the holy message of Allah.
Shabir Ally – Well, like I said, the Qur'an itself points in that direction.
Moe – Maybe we're misreading it. Maybe it's not talking about the Christians in the days of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Maybe it's talking about the Scriptures that the Christians had initially, but were completely lost by the time of Muhammad.
Shabir Ally – But, then, those Surahs would be meaningless…
Moe – No…
Shabir Ally – Don't let that trouble you. Allah will guide you into all truth. I just didn't want you to be embarrassed if you come across some Christians who have looked into these things.
He didn't want me to be embarrassed! I just told Shabir Ally that he has misread the Qur'an! I just made a fool of myself and proved that I would be shred to pieces by both Muslims and Christians alike in a debate. Why did I even walk up to him? It's all Nadim's fault. Where is he anyways? He must have slipped out when I started talking to Shabir. Oh, great, my headache is coming back… It always hurts when I get nervous or when I think too much. Should I leave, or should I stay? Maybe I should end the conversation before I say something wrong again.
Shabir Ally – Don't worry. Allah is merciful and He will not let you go astray if you seek the truth. Allah loves those who want to learn.
Moe – Yes, thank you. I have much to learn.
Shabir Ally – Do you have any more questions?
Moe – Yes, I have questions. Many questions. More questions than answers… Can you logically prove that Allah is one and that there are no other gods? I mean, let's say that I'm talking to a Christian, I can't just quote the Qur'an to prove my point because he does not recognize its divine origin, so how do I prove – using logic – that he is wrong in saying that there are three gods?
Shabir Ally – Well, Christians do not believe that there are three gods. Instead, they believe that there is only one God, but that there are three persons in Allah.
Moe – That doesn't make sense.
Shabir Ally – I know, but we need to properly represent their beliefs if we want to refute them.
Moe – Okay, but how can there be three persons without having three gods?
Shabir Ally – I can only repeat their arguments. Christians always say that Allah is complex and they use that as an excuse when logic cannot fully grasp their concept of the Trinity. They will say that Allah is above the mind, and that it is impossible for human beings to fully comprehend His character.
Moe – Of course! Allah is greater than our ability to conceptualize. But, that is different than saying that Allah is a living contradiction!
Shabir Ally – I agree.
Moe – So, how do they explain what it means that there are three persons in Allah?
Shabir Ally – They will say that Allah is one essence, but that inside Allah, there are three sub-distinctions. Sometimes they call them "subsistences" to emphasize the fact that they are co-dependent and cannot exist separately from one another. You might think of these three entities as the body, the mind, and the soul of a man. You cannot really have a man without the three, and we are only looking at one man with three separate co-dependent entities. But, whenever they use illustrations, they will say that the illustration is not perfect because it is impossible to perfectly explain Allah using an illustration.
Moe – Yes, of course. How convenient!
Shabir Ally – I do not think that they are dishonest. They really believe that there are mysteries in Allah that cannot fully be grasped by the human mind, since the finite cannot hold the infinite, and they do not think that it is a contradiction to say that Allah is one in essence, but three in persons.
Moe – I understand. So, how do we prove that Christians are wrong?
Shabir Ally – Well, you can't really use logic to prove that they are wrong, because they are logical within their system. You must prove it from their own Scriptures. They claim that Jesus is one of those subsistences in Allah, and we must show them that Jesus never made such a claim. Show them that the Bible does not record Jesus saying anything like that. He was clearly human, but not divine.
Oh, my head is starting to hurt again. This is not what I was expecting. This is not what I was hoping for. I thought that it was going to be an easy target. Just aim, and shoot at will. But, now, I can't even see the target. I mean, if the Christians are consistent within their own system and if they do not claim that there are three gods, then how can I prove that their concept of Allah is wrong? Complexity does not necessarily equate error. To be honest, I don't even fully understand Allah! I don't even know much about His essence, except His attributes that He has revealed in the Qur'an. I know that He is Merciful, Compassionate, Benevolent; but what is He? I know who He is – the Creator, the Judge, the Giver of life – and I know what He has done, but I do not know what He is. What are the subsistences within Allah? Does it even matter? How does it affect me? This is too much for me… It's time for me to slip out like Nadim, before my head explodes…
Moe – Dr. Shabir, it was an honor talking to you. Thank you for your time.
Shabir Ally – It was my pleasure.
Moe – Ma'a salama.
Shabir Ally - Ma'a salama.
Ma'a salama? Who am I kidding? There is no peace in me. I am more troubled than ever! Maybe I should just ignore those arguments. Maybe I should let people like Shabir Ally defend Islam with words, and I will fight for Islam with my hands. It's better not to think about false religions. It's better to just keep reading the Qur'an, keep listening to the Imam, and remain faithful in doing my religious duties. Otherwise, I can be led astray. In fact, I'm already confused! Things are so much simpler when you don't have to think about those arguments. They only cause confusion. This must be the work of the devil, Shaytan, the one who puts these thoughts in people's minds. I don't think that Allah wants me to study the Christian Scriptures. It's dangerous to be too curious. But, what am I afraid of? Don't I trust that Allah will lead me in the truth and make it manifest?
Nadim – Moe!
Moe – Oh, where were you? You let me make a fool of myself!
Nadim – Like I said, you're used to it!
Moe – Thanks a lot. Now, Shabir Ally knows that I'm an idiot.
Nadim – You shouldn't say that. You're just mentally challenged because of the accident.
Moe – Thanks, I feel so much better…
Nadim – Any time.
Moe – Can we sit in the back? After all, we don't want to be selfish. There are probably other people who need to hear this more than we do…
Nadim – Haha! You really made a fool of yourself, didn't you?
Moe – Come on, let's go!
Where did all these people come from? This room is getting packed! Did anyone else hear my conversation with Shabir Ally? I hope not. Perhaps it's better for me to listen, rather than to speak. I will take notes, be a diligent student of Islam, and pay my tribute to those who are wiser than I am. It is better to keep quiet than to spew out folly from my mouth. I must trust those who are more educated than I will ever be. After all, they have studied Islam for years and have had time to wrestle with all of these questions. But, I need more than ears to listen; Allah must open my heart, or else I will never gain understanding.
Moe – Allah, please open my heart and my ears, so that I may receive your instruction in all truth. Give me a pure heart, absolve my guilt, and make me faultless before you…
I wonder what Allah thinks about me right now. Is He pleased when I make so many mistakes? Surely He sees the sincerity of my heart. He will surely have mercy on me and give me a reward for my endeavors. But, why would He reward such a pathetic performance? Is He like a parent who applauds his child's musical performance in elementary school? That's probably it. He is so merciful that He elevates the value of our pathetic performance… But, what about my moral failures? It's one thing to elevate the value of an act of service, but it's quite another thing to deal with crimes against His divine Law. No matter how much I do for Allah, it does not remove the fact that I have transgressed His moral standards. Does He simply forget about these crimes against the divine? Maybe He simply decides not to deal with our sins. But, how can that be right? How can He be righteous if He doesn't uphold His divine justice? He has to deal with our sins, one way or another. He must. But how? Is there a platform where the Holy One can deal with the retributions of His moral creatures? How does His divine initiative reach down to us, and how does it cancel our debts towards His moral Law?
Moe – Allah, help me to understand!
Something is happening… people are moving. Outstanding! We're starting and I'm the only one who isn't moving. I can't seem to hear anything over the noise of my conscience. How did I not hear the call to prayer? Pay attention, Moe. Come on! This is an opportunity of a lifetime! Don't screw this up. The truth will be plain to the listening ear. Allah will direct the sincere heart.
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