Frithjof Schuon on Why Many Atheists Reject God

imgresHere are some extracts from one of the most interesting books written on religion in the 20th century, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, by the metaphysician Frithjof Schuon.

Schuon is the founder of the Perennialist school, which, as his book suggests, believes in the unity of all religions.

Unlike many religious scholars who have argued against promoting esoterism to the masses – out of fear that people might be misled – Schuon believed it was necessary for a society to understand both religion’s outward and inward dimensions. If a religion’s intellectual, esoteric tradition isn’t known about, the inevitable result, according to Schuon, is atheism. Continue reading

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A reply to Richard Dawkin’s ‘make sense’ tweets

Dear Professor Dawkins,

Today you tweeted a lot and also retweeted a lot. Below are my responses to most of those anti-religious tweets.

“God couldn’t think of a better way to forgive the sin of Adam (who never existed) than to have his son (aka himself) executed. Makes sense.”

Continue reading

Twitter, Facebook, Food, Life and God

Today is probably the first time in about a year where I have had hardly anything to do. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sitting around doing nothing, Tweeting, Facebooking and grazing like a cattle, you know, searching the fridge every 25minutes. Instead I’ve occupied my mind with fairly useful activities: reading and thinking. Here are some random thoughts from today, some arbitrary but others perhaps intuited from something deeper. Continue reading

What Our Love of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s Tells us About God

It is said that the quality which differentiates human beings from animals is the that of rationality – although many would dispute this. While we possess rationality and intellect, we don’t always use these faculties: we turn them off and instead quite often act in complete accordance with our animal nature. Continue reading

The Higgs-Boson and why God created the universe

Know your Lord

This is the essential question which lies at the heart of all religious traditions. In the Abrahamic religions, human beings are created in a state of servitude; to glorify, worship and manifest God’s greatness. However, the quintessential, underlying message which runs through all religions, is for human beings to come to know God. Each religion teaches us different ways how to reach the divine, but the goal is one: knowing our Lord. But to come to know God, we must first purify ourselves to reach the level of the “perfected human”. All the religious and spiritual traditions have a head figure – whether it be: Jesus, Buddha, Moses or Muhammad – who ultimately represent human perfection or is used as a role model. Continue reading

The Hidden Secrets Why Muslims Pray

Prayer is often performed in a purely ritualistic and robotic way, this isn’t how it should be.

Timothy Winter, Islamic scholar and academic has described the prayer as having three levels: 1) being a form of worship for beginners 2) a form of purification for the wayfarers and 3) communion with the Divine for the saints. Continue reading

The Quest For Meaning: Belief and Disbelief

Philosopher Roger Scruton argues in his new book The Face of God: The Gifford Lectuers, that “when we hunt only for the cause and never for the reason of things, God disappears from the world” (1). And it’s true: if one doesn’t believe in God, he or she will live in a Godless world and, as a result, everything becomes a proof that God doesn’t exist. A believer in God, however, lives in a world where God is omnipresent, and therefore everything becomes a proof for God. This is one of the fundamental reasons why believers and atheists are so diametrically opposed in their worldview.

Believers will often point to the seemingly “miraculous” nature of the universe and its uniformity. The New Scientist has described the universe as “unfathomably uniform”, however, atheists will point to certain aberrations in the universe like the inherent cosmic chaos and killer asteroids, which make it seem as if there is not an all-wise Creator behind this all. This is why scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, an agnostic, once reportedly said: “When I look at the universe and all the ways the universe wants to kill us, I find it hard to reconcile that with statements of beneficence.”

The famous Muslim poet and sufi, Jalaluddin Rumi, once told a parable of an ant creeping along a carpet and complains to God, asking him what is this, these bumps, and strange colours, and patterns, this must have been created just as a meaningless obstacle course, what a futile thing to have made.” However, as Cambridge academic Timothy Winter says: “But of course the carpet maker, looking at it from above, can see the patterns and the purpose of it, and can see that the whole thing is perfect and is good. And God is often like that. We often can’t make sense of the misfortunes because we are two dimensional, we are at ground level, we can’t see what it all means.”

There is a saying in the Islamic tradition that is believed to be God’s words, it says that “I am what my servant thinks of me”. This statement can be understood on many levels but what we can infer from this, is that if one doesn’t believe in God, he or she will use the “aberrations” in our universe as further “proof” for the non-existence of God.

The discourse between theists and atheists has been skewed for too long. We vociferously debate with each other not to understand each other, or to come to a mutual understanding, but to attempt to prove each other wrong. Consequently, when we argue, our minds become preoccupied with trying to think of a counter response to what has just been propounded during the debate, instead of rationalising what the other has said.

While theists and atheists can both be as closed-minded as each other, both constantly looking for proofs to further their belief or disbelief, we must understand the plurality of life. There isn’t just one way of understanding things, there are many. There is a reason why we are all different; it is because life can, and should, be approached in many different ways. One of the fundamental misunderstandings of many atheists is that they forget religion has as its purpose to serve the whole of humanity. If this is the case, religion has to serve all the uneducated and stupid people in the world, which is, unfortunately, a large percentage of humanity. This is why, on the surface, religion may seem simple for simple people, when, in fact, it can be understood on many levels; the job of the intellectual should be to discern the profundity of divine revelation and explore the deeper, esoteric meanings.

When we are pushed to our extremes something strange often emanates from within us. Sometimes, when our life is in danger, we call on God. Interestingly, Oxford academic, Justin Barrett, says that research over the past ten years suggests that children are born with an innate disposition to believe in God. However, when we force ourselves to certain extremes, we often go mad, literally. Philosophers of the past have entered into a state of depression or madness because they try to push their mind to an extent that is not possible. Likewise, mathematicians have gone insane trying to understand the concept of infinity. We push ourselves to these extremes for no other reason but to find meaning. Meaning, however, can only be found within the depths of our innermost being, according to Rumi. He once said: “ The universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”

What we are often guilty of doing is trying to fill the void in our lives – a void that occurs due to our inability or unwillingness to find meaning – with something physical. But how can we fill something immaterial with something material? We must recognise that the materialistic idea of consciousness is probably not the correct way to understand who we are. Things don’t always happen purely on the psychological level, they happen on the spiritual level, too. We all know that with every second that passes by, we edge closer and closer to our departure from this world, essentially, we are dying with time.

While we all agree that we must die, we differ on the concept of death. Some of us believe death is just the beginning of eternity, either in the divine Presence or in divine alienation; others believe that death is the end and there is nothing else. Leo Tolstoy once said: “Life is a dream, death is wakening.” While this may or may not be true, we only have limited time to search for any sort of transcendent, ultimate meaning. Journalist Matthew Parris poignantly said in an article in The Spectator that: “If I seriously suspected a faith might be true, I would devote my life to finding out.”

Our existential search for meaning needs satisfying and our perennial search for God will never end. Time is running out, hurry.

1) Into the void, Richard Holloway, page 43, New Statesman, 2 April 2012

The Book of Life & The Game of Chess

Although my life is probably only half way through its course, the remaining chapters don’t particularly interest me. My soul yearns to return to its Author, where the book of life shall be explained and I will exist in a state of plenitude, tranquility and happiness. However, I have no say over how much time my Author has allotted me; but I must continue to play my part as the protagonist in this sorrowful story.

As I entered this realm and began playing out my character, I was still fresh from the divine Presence. But one loses the affinity with his or her Author upon getting too caught up in one’s own story.

My book, however, is a microcosm in the grand book of life, amounting to nothing more than a mere sentence. How I wish I could comprehend my own book let alone the grand book of life. The characters that I began with in my life are slowly disappearing, and returning to the Author who removed them from both my book as well as theirs. And with every day that passes, another page is turned and the end of the book gets closer and closer.

While it seems that my father’s book was not yet complete – dying only at 47 – every book has an end and every character finishes his or her story – no matter what age they depart.

Suicide is when one rips out the remaining pages of the book and, with it, rip themselves out – which is, of course, still part of the storyline. We cannot always understand why the Author, in His divine Imagination writes what He does, but we must accept it and upon returning to Him, all shall be revealed.

Life is like a game of chess and we, as an individual piece on the board, are free, in a limited sense. We must obey the rules set by the Creator of the game and we cannot transgress the limits set by the Creator – all our moves are therefore completely free yet completely determined. This is the paradox of our existence.

Sooner or later, we will be knocked off the board  – sometimes we will know it is coming and other times we won’t. We will return with the other pieces with whom we started with who were on our side: our friends, our family. We will not return to the board: it was just a short-lived experience to see how we, in our limited movement, could survive in the game of games.

Be prepared to be knocked off the board at any time; we will return to the Creator of the game and the Author of our stories. From Him do we originate and to Him shall we ultimately return.

Is praying to God useless?

When we are distressed or when we need sudden help, we often call on our Lord. Non-believers sometimes do, too. There seems to be an innate disposition within the human psyche telling us that we are not alone and that there is something above us. However, what we don’t realise is that we tend to call upon our Lord only when we need help, not when times are good.

The reasons behind praying are multifaceted and can be understood on many levels. Indeed at the heart of all the major world religions is the act of prayer, whether it be in the form of mediation or otherwise.

Praying can be seen as an act of gratitude for the blessings we continually receive; or an act of praising our Creator, simply because He is worthy of praise and, in doing so, we fulfill a primary function as human beings; or simply because we, as the creation, feel the innate tendency to worship that which is above us. Simply put: prayer is natural to us.

For Christians, there is no standardised prayer that one must perform but the purpose — like all the other dispensations — is to gain an awareness and closeness to God.

Buddhism — unlike the Abrahamic faiths — does not propound the body/soul dichotomy but teaches us about focusing the mind through deep meditative practises to attain ‘peace of mind’ – quite literally. Meditation is now used by the religious and the non-religious alike and is widely believed to help the human mind find peace and relieve worry and anxiety.

The Islamic tradition is arguably the only dispensation that has a formalised pattern of prayer that one must follow. While it may come across as a mere ritual, the perfunctory nature that many Muslims treat it as is actually abhorrent to God. The prayer, or Salah, is all about having a connection with one’s Lord, attempting to gain experiential knowledge of the Divine and cleansing oneself spiritually in the process.

Salah should begin by one emptying the mind so that full concentration can be given to one’s Lord. The prayer consists of standing, kneeling and prostrating and is therefore a physical activity as well as a spiritual one.

The prayer begins with Allah hu Akbar, God is the greatest – reminiscent of the ontological argument propounded by the Christian philosopher Saint Anselm. One is immediately reminded that there is none greater than He, and while in the state of prayer, is in the complete protection of his or her Lord.

The prostration — an act also performed by Moses (see the book of Numbers chapter 16 verse 4 in the Old Testament) and Jesus (see the book of Matthew chapter 26 verse 39 in the New Testament) — is one of deep symbolic significance. By putting one’s head on the ground, the most important part of the body and the home of the ego, we are effectively disempowering the ego – forcing ourselves to become humble and freeing our mind from the pride that often permeates it. Furthermore, it is believed that when one is prostrating, it is the closest one can be to the Divine – not physically but spiritually.

Hamza Yusuf, intellectual and Muslim scholar, says that has been mentioned in the Islamic traditions that when we prostrate ourselves before our Lord, we are symbolically (and literally) elevating our heart above our mind.

It is never too late to start praying.

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Atheism is The Answer: Why I Reject The Existence of God

I’d first like to tell you a bit about my past. I grew up in a middle class family: I went to a private school, received a good education and lived with my parents. My upbringing was a bit confusing though. My dad is an atheist but my mother is a Christian, albeit not a very practising one. On the one hand, my father told me there is no God and on the other, my mother told me Jesus is God. I felt a bit confused growing up but ,when I was 17, I made a decision for myself: I decided there isn’t a God, He is made up. In the same way there isn’t — as far as we know — unicorns, werewolves or pixies, what reason is their to believe in a God?

Let’s face it: the universe is far too complex and mysterious for us to say there is a ‘God’. A few hundred years ago, way before the recent developments in modern-day science, a belief in God would have seemed plausible. However, due to the rapid advancements in society, we no longer have any reasons to believe in a Supernatural Being. If I have any belief, it is in science; one day we will eliminate God from the equation. It’s foolish and, in fact damaging to our society to believe in such a mysterious Being when, really, we should be concentrating on the here and now.

Furthermore, I don’t need a moral code or a religious scripture to dictate to me how to behave, I can rely on my own moral compass, thank you.

Karl Marx once said that his idea of misery is “submission“. And it’s true, why should I worship and obey this ‘God’ when, not only is there no evidence for ‘His’ existence, but I have no knowledge of this mystical entity. Why does ‘He’ want us to worship Him anyway, is He that greedy for praise? I once heard someone say: ‘When we worship Him, it doesn’t benefit Him, it benefits us’. Well, that makes no sense, how exactly does it benefit us? All it does is keep us in a state of heedlessness and delusion. It benefits us in that it helps to dismiss our deep-rooted, psychological need for a father-figure and provide us comfort from the inevitable: death.

If ‘God’ really does exist, why can’t He just come down and show himself to us, is He not able to? And the very reason we say ‘He’, shows the inherent sexism indelibly marked in our Judeo-Christian heritage and, in particular, religious scriptures.

Why would God put restrictions on us and tell us what to do if He gave us free will? Why would I believe in a God who tells me that I can’t go out and drink alcohol or eat pork but then implores me to kill non-believers and accept his other barbaric codes of living?

I am not perfect, but who is? I am sometimes accused of being arrogant and having a bit too much pride, but I would like to think I’m a good person. I don’t go round killing or hurting anyone – religious extremists and suicide bombers, however, can’t exactly say the same, can they? But then they are the ones who go to ‘Heaven’? I remember reading the Bible years ago and thinking: what a pile of tripe; the Old Testament in particular is so vociferously condemning of anyone who opposes the Law, and the New Testament is riddled with contradictions. And, if Christians can’t even explain the concept of the Trinity to me, why should I believe it? Admittedly, I agree with the great man himself, Richard Dawkins, when he says Jesus was a great moral preacher. While Jesus may have been a nice person, what reason is there to believe any of his metaphysical theories? I’ve read the Quran too, well half of it, I felt uncomfortable reading it and it was too incoherent to bother with. Muslims sometimes say to me: ‘Look at all these scientific miracles in the Quran, look how amazing linguistically it is’, or worse, ‘look how amazing the Prophet Muhammad’s life was: his kindness, humility and sincerity’ – yeah, he was pretty amazing, at being a war Lord, I’ll give him that.

I don’t need a ‘God’ to make me happy: I have women and money; I live in a big house and I’ve got a great car – I’m happy with all the things I’ve got in life; although I feel a bit disquieted when I’m alone sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever believe in ‘God’, in fact, I’m willing to place a pretty large bet that I’ll never believe in ‘Him’.

If you have taken what I said at face value, you have not understood this – read it again, think and look at the italicised words.

The Tube Journey and Life Metaphor

During rush hour, it is often the strongest or the most determined that guarantee themselves a place on the tube: sometimes people will push and shove their way on to the carriage. Others, however, are left behind and have to wait for the next tube to arrive. When on the tube, some will rush to an empty seat in an attempt to get there before others – somewhat reminiscent of the battle of the fittest idea. It seems that we have a kind of instinctual inclination to do what serves our personal and temporary interests at the expense of others. But, then again, many will get up from their seat when an old lady or a pregnant woman steps foot inside the carriage. Others ask fellow passengers whether they would like to sit down first – even if they are around the same age as them.

The tube will stop every other minute; people will leave and new people will come on – reminiscent of the fact that people will always leave your life while new people will come into your life. Some people will be on the tube for only one or two stops while others will remain on the tube for a long time – just like some people will be on this earth for a very brief moment while others will be here for a longer time. Both, however, will depart from this earth sooner or later.

The people on the tube are dependant on the driver who is in control; he starts and stops the tube every now and then. We often forget the driver is there but his or her role is essential for us to arrive at our destination. However, the driver has no bearing on our conversations, moods or what we do on the tube. This is similar to the relationship believers have with their Lord who is believed to be in complete control but His Omnipotence does not affect His creations free will. Furthermore, we often forget He is there but we are still heavily reliant on Him.

In the morning and in the evening, the tube often becomes packed; there is little space to move – you’re often squashed and uncomfortable. But this is only for a short period of time until the majority of people get off or a seat becomes available. However, during the afternoon, the tube is empty, one sits comfortably and can think, contemplate and day dream whilst gazing out of the carriage window. In life, the inevitable vicissitudes we’re confronted with will mean that we are bound to face hardship. But in between the moments of hardship are periods of ease. And, most importantly, we realise that no hardship lasts forever.

This extended metaphor may seem hyperbolic to some, but there is some truth to be delineated from it.

Omar Shahid

Twitter: omar_shahid

Understanding the Muslim festival of Eid-Al-Adha

Millions of Muslims in this country will be celebrating the festival of Eid-Al-Adha today, but what is its significance? And what can Muslims and non-Muslims learn from this special day?

The Quran expounds the story of Prophet Abraham who was told in a dream to sacrifice his one and only beloved son, Ismaeel. After much confusion, doubts and inner disquiet, Abraham decided to surrender to the call – which he knew was from his Lord. But those who are familiar with the Biblical and Quranic story will know that God was not interested in the sacrifice: He wanted to test Abraham and provide humanity with an invaluable lesson.

The Quran differs from the Biblical narrative in that Abraham first told his son that he was going to sacrifice him. However, what is fascinating is Ismaeel’s response, the young boy said: “Oh my father! Do as you have been commanded. You will find me, God willing, amongst the patient and steadfast.” This highlights that both Abraham and Ismaeel were in complete submission to the Divine.

However, God is not a Shylock. Upon raising the knife to sacrifice his son, God made the knife blunt, Abraham received a lamb instead and the test was complete. Abraham, according to Muslims, is our exemplar and the spiritual father of the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All the prophets of Islam: Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad et al, where all given great tests, but the test given to Abraham is unparalleled. Tests are an inevitable part of life, whether it be the death of a loved one, the loss of wealth or being betrayed by someone you trusted – we all go through hardships. But every test and vicissitude can be seen through, and often, the outcome benefits us. “Verily God is with those who are patient”- as the saying goes

Eid-Al-Adha also commences the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca by Muslims who are financially, physically and mentally able to do so. Hajj is the single biggest human gathering in the world, it is believed that more than 3 million Muslims gather together in Mecca in unity. The pilgrimage, which Malcolm X famously went on, is unlike any other human event.

Malcolm X said: “During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.”

And:

“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures.

Islam is thus the continuation of the messages brought by Moses and Jesus and all the other prophets of God. It is not merely a religion but more a way of life; practising the faith in a purely perfunctory manner misses the point and understanding the profoundly nuanced traditions within the faith is essential.

Eid Mubarak!

I’m 20: My Life So Far

So I’m 20. Hmmm. It seems as if each year, birthdays become less and less important. But having lived for 20 years now, I want to share some thoughts with everyone.

I have noticed an increased maturity about myself over the last year. It may not be noticeably obvious, but mentally and spiritually I have definitely changed. It’s actually quite weird writing this because I keep using the personal pronoun ‘I’ – a despised term in my vocabulary. I don’t know if I will come across slightly psychotic saying this, but I really don’t like using the terms ‘I’ or ‘me’ – it makes me feel a little egotistical. Recently, I have been becoming more and more selfless. I don’t see myself as anyone important in the grand scheme of things. I’m just another one of God’s small creations in this universe. You and I are merely parts of this creation. Nothing more, nothing less.

I didn’t do anything for my birthday – not necessarily because I couldn’t – but because I didn’t want anything. If I was to get a birthday present, I would have liked to have something like ‘world peace’ or ‘an end to poverty’ you know, something along those lines. Alas, I don’t expect any of those any time soon.

But anyway back to my life. When I was seven, I told my mum I wanted to be a journalist. She was shocked and she replied: “Where did you learn that word from.” I replied: “The journalist that speaks to me in my head told me.” She must have either thought ‘damn it, I have given birth to a deluded child’ or ‘aww he has an imaginary friend.’ Neither really answered her question of where I heard the word ‘journalist’ at such a young age, though. Perhaps I am still deluded…

Anyway enough cynicism. One thing I have learnt in life is that to get what you want, not only do you have to believe you can get it, but you have to work for it. Scientists have long known about the great wonders that can occur from ‘thinking positively’. People can cure themselves from ‘incurable diseases.’

The subconscious is undoubtedly something incredible. So too is the human soul.

I often feel a sense of disquiet – discord even, between my mind/body and my soul. A debate often sparks between the two. The soul, which predates the human body, knows the secrets of the universe and yearns to return to return to its Lord. Mine certainly does. I sometimes feel estranged in this world, feeling a sense of unease about my very existence. ‘Is this my real home’? – I often ponder.

My attitude towards religion has also changed. Mostly because of listening to intellectuals and academics and reading their works. I started reading properly about one and a half years ago – before that I thought reading to be something mundane and tedious. How wrong I was. Reading can have the most profound change on an individual. It can literally liberate the mind and get one to think in profound ways.

So back to religion. I had a very simplistic and regressive perception of Islam. I thought it to be something very literal, and not open to interpretation. How wrong I was again. At the heart of the deeply intellectual and nuanced faith of Islam is a plethora of possible understandings. God knows who is right. And God alone knows our intentions. And it is our intentions that, ultimately, we will be judged. It doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe -nobody knows what is in the the heart, what somebody has been conditioned to think, and why a human being acts in the way that they act. Nobody human being has the right to judge.

Many people can’t fathom why some live lives of luxury whilst other live in abject poverty. One woman died last year from drinking too much water in a water drinking competition. At the same time, those in Somalia, as we speak, are dying because they have no water. What sort of world is this? A world without a God? It sounds possible. But once we understand our purpose: to know our Lord, to be vicegerents of this world (helping one another) and to do as much good as possible, everything starts to make more sense.

Life is just a short soujourn. It’s transient and ephemeral. We will all soon be gone and be replaced. So this is why we shouldn’t take anything for granted. Especially your health, money but most importantly, your time.

I await the next 20 years of my life.

*By the way I wrote this in under ten minutes, sorry for any mistakes, grammatical or otherwise.*

Are atheists morally superior to believers?

I just heard a believer in God say: “Let’s be honest, we’re human being right, we’re selfish creatures. I give charity because I want to go to heaven.’ But if he is doing it because he wants to ascend to the delights of the celestial world, but an atheist gives charity out of the goodness of their heart, doesn’t that make the atheist morally superior?

As I elucidated in my post ‘Do we need Religion in the 21st century‘, one of the main purposes of religion is not only to wake people up out of their somnolent slumber, but it trains a person’s ego and helps them redress their innate personality defects. One such innate personality flaw is the predisposition of selfishness. For religious believers, selfishness is sometimes accentuated because of the promise of heaven. But religion is not a one-dimensional, simplistic ideology created to appease people’s fears and desires. It’s a transformative training programme designed to elevate a human being so that they can reach their highest being. True, God does tell people to do good to attain heaven, but God knows our psychology.

If we weren’t given an incentive, human beings, generally, wouldn’t do good. Of course, this is a generalisation, but it applies to many, many people world-wide. Many atheists do good out of the goodness of their heart, and although they may not know it, they may be greatly in-tune with their spiritual side. Others, however, aren’t in tune with their spiritual side and therefore need an incentive to do good. The point is this: by constantly doing good, one eventually learns to do it without much thought, and eventually, they will do good – not because of a reward –  but because goodness will emanate from them naturally. This is the highest state of awareness a religious believer can achieve: when goodness emanates from them naturally.

This is the ultimate purpose of religion: it is suppose to wake a human being up and get them to stop performing religious rituals in a perfunctory manner, but in a way that exudes spirituality.

Why is the world in such a bad state?

From rapists to murders to the gangstas who walk around with permanent wrinkles on their forehead as they look to intimidate others, to girls who walk around in the skimpiest of clothes, to the university student, to every professional and every homeless person, you, me and every other person on this planet- what do we all have in common..? We’re all searching for meaning, for happiness, for love and for peace.

Our soul – which predates our physical body – replied in the affirmative when our Lord asked us the following question in our primordial existence: ‘Am I not your Lord? ‘Yes, we do testify!’ we all said. This primordial covenant is ingrained deep down within our consciousness.

Our descent into this lowly existence caused us to forget our Lord and the covenant. Because most of us lack this intrinsic bond with the Divine, we are in a natural state of agitation and disquietude. We search far and wide in our quest for meaning, and often, we end up lost, in strange places and even more confused.

There can be no world peace if we do not first find peace in ourselves. [click here to read my article on the search for inner peace]

If we look around the world, we can see that some of the most devoutly religious countries are plagued with corruption, whereas some of the most secular, like Finland, don’t suffer from such problems. Hamza Yusuf (pictured left), the American intellectual believes – and so do I –that religion is not the absolute solution per se, but what’s important is a strong middle-class in society and tax laws that help prevent the vast accumulation of wealth to an elite few. This, in turn, prevents wealth disparities; a society can therefore become much more just and secure. Peace and security are synonymous and one often fails without the other.

When poverty and corruption become endemic in a society, seldom is peace attained. Why? Because people are not free. Poverty prevents people from reaching their potential and corruption causes anger and hostility amongst the people.

There therefore needs to be a more just economic system, not one based on capitalism or any other permutation of a system which allows for greed and the neglect for the poor, and not one based on Pharaonic corporate and individual wealth. Economics governs most of our day to day affairs and a just system is imperative. There needs to be some modifications in our use of fractional reverse banking; we shouldn’t sell on debt neither should we exploit people through interest re-payments, for example. By no means am I an economics expert, but these things are two examples of unjust policies.

The way we elect our leaders also needs, perhaps, a rethink. Even though, in the west, we elect our leaders in a democratic fashion, we still find that our leaders often become war-mongers, and, really, are just as bad as the tyrants in the East (just a bit less crude and more sophisticated).

Our leaders, in my opinion, should be people who are asked to become Prime Ministers and Presidents, not those who are determined to become our leaders at any cost. Of course, the leaders we ask should be qualified to do the job, but most importantly, they should be people of honour and prestige. These leaders (hopefully) will be less concerned about the countries’ interests, but the countries’ virtues. And as Socrates believed, if a country is more concerned about its virtues than its interests, its interests will naturally be taken care of.

The paradox of being perplexes even the most profound philosophers: we find it hard to comprehend life. But, really, all the answers we need lie within us. Although intellect is important, it is not everything. The most important thing is to understand and learn who we are, so we can work on our inner state. Once we realize who we are, we can then start to find peace within ourselves. Then, of course, we’ll find peace elsewhere.

Omar Shahid

Follow me: @omar_shahid

What Will Heaven Be Like?

Whether one believes in metaphysical realities is down to one’s own volition, but a religious believer lives their life in order to get to heaven. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other religious traditions may have different names for the other realm, nevertheless it is through understanding our purpose in this existence and living a life of goodness and penitence that one achieves true success. The following description of heaven is my simplified and shortened summary from religious and philosophical texts.  

Because we can’t see heaven- nor have we experienced it- any description of it is somewhat allegorical, in the sense that we can only use human language to describe it, when, really, it is beyond human comprehension. The Greek Philosopher Plato believed that everything in this transient sojourn is a bleak version of what exists in the world of forms- or what many would call ‘heaven’.  We do however, receive glimpses of what exists within the heavenly realm in this life. We have colours like red, blue, green and yellow, but in heaven their will be colours that will be new to us.

After the Day of Judgement when all human beings would have been questioned for their deeds and all matters that were unresolved in this life would have been resolved by our Lord, we will, through God’s justice, enter our final destination. For those who chose to live a life worthy of being admitted into heaven, will have the gates of paradise opened before them, and will run towards their home-you will instinctively know where you live. This home will be a palace, better than Buckingham palace, or should I say, better than all the palaces in this world combined. The ‘bricks’ of your house will be made from gold and silver. Architecture unlike you can imagine.

Men will be reunited with their wives, and will find that their partners are more beautiful than they could ever have imagined. So beautiful in fact, that you could sit their for ‘years’ admiring her beauty, although ‘years’ doesn’t really make sense in a realm which is outside time, space and matter.

There will be flowing rivers beneath your feet, some rivers of water, some milk, and others honey and wine. One can drink from the rivers as much as they want, but it will be purely for pleasure, not necessarily to satisfy the bodily needs. The food will be readily available, you can take anything of the trees, and anything you desire will be yours.

In heaven there are no meetings, no school, no work, no appointments, just an infinite amount of time. We will not be in the bodily form we inhabit now, and therefore our state of mind will be different and wont be subject to the mundane thoughts we currently exhibit.

There is no summer or winter, no sun or moon as such, but will just be the constant light which will emanate from the throne of our Lord.

What form will we take? We will be the height of Adam (approximately 90 yards tall), the age of Jesus when he ascended to the heavens (33) and the men will be as beautiful as the prophet Joseph. The philosopher John Hick believes that once we die, and take on a new form, we will not take on the form we currently inhabit, but we will have this recognition device which will instinctively tell us who people are.

If our inner state is not willing to ascertain the truth of this life then our heart cannot gain experiential knowledge of the divine. The heart has the ability to see things which are not always outwardly manifest and can at times gain a piercing insight into the metaphysical realities. Heaven may seem like a wild fantasy created to appease our psychological needs and something which fills the void in our life.  But even if one doesn’t believe in heaven, one should still live their life as if there is one.

Omar Shahid

My Theory on the Soul (part 2)

My first post on the human soul outlined what the soul is, what its basic functions are, the link between the soul and God as well as the soul and the body. The following analysis is a combination of ancient Greek philosophy, Islamic philosophy and, of course, my own thoughts.

The soul’s dimensions can be categorised into three. The first is the ‘satisfied soul’. This level is reached once the soul enters a state of calmness and tranquillity. And this is attained by distancing oneself from the onslaught of passions and desires. The second dimension is the ‘self accusing soul’. This is a state where the soul is in conflict and disharmony. The soul knows that it should worship its master, the divine, and although refrains from indulging in bodily passions, it has not yet entered a state of calmness. The third dimension of the soul can simply be called the ‘evil soul.’ This is where the soul abandons its fight to resist the call of passion and Satan and becomes a complete slave to itself.

The soul is naturally something high and ascendant, after all, it originates from God’s essence. This does not mean, however, that it is incorruptible. As I mentioned in my previous post, the soul was bestowed with free choice, and if this free choice is abused and used to do injustice, the soul becomes low and despicable (in the sight of God).

Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, propounded his theory on the ‘World of Forms’. This theory denotes that everything in this transient life is a mere shadow of the true reality in the World of Forms. Say, for example, milk, water or wine-these drinks which we consume in this life, are a shadow of what they truly are like, or taste like, in the other realm.

The soul has a secret within it. And it is this secret, which is ingrained deep down within it, which a human being should struggle to discover. The soul was in the presence of the divine before it descended into this lowly life, or the ‘dunya’ in the Islamic faith, which, consequently, caused the soul to foget this secret. While the soul was in the divine presence, it testified to the Oneness of its master, but forgot when it was placed within the human body.

The soul is immaterial, and cannot be destroyed. It predates the human body, and will continue its life for eternity once it departs from this world. The fate of the soul is determined by the decisons it made in this world. If it wronged itself, it will face God’s wrath, if, however, it followed the ‘straight path’ it will live with God’s pleasure for eternity.

Omar Shahid

Reality vs Deception

 The concepts of reality and deception are discussed in most religious traditions, spiritualites and philosophical thought.  The underlying theme which seems to be present in all schools of thought, is the fact that it is of great importance that one distinguishes the difference between reality and deception. The Greek philosopher Plato provided us with food for thought with his ‘allegory of the cave’ which discusses the idea of reality, and how we are often decieved by what we see. Theists, rationalists, secularists and atheists will all generally agree that this ephemeral yet (often) deceiving world, which we inhabit, makes us forget the bigger picture (whatever that may be). But theists will go a step further and claim that one cannot afford to forget that this life is short-lived, and just a mere journey we all have to go through in order to get to the next life. 

 It is easy for a human being to become engrossed, consumed and then swallowed up by this life. The Hindu and Buddhist concept of ‘Maya‘ generally denotes the idea of an illusion, in particular, the illusory nature of this life. People misunderstand themselves and reality, we believe objects and everything around us to be independently real. In the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, ‘Maya’ is purely physical, limited, and deceives our everyday consciousness. Similarly, in the Islamic tradition, the world for this world is ‘dunya’-which, in fact, has a negative connotation. The word ‘dunya’ purports that we live in an illusory world that will constantly delude you. This life makes you think you can transgress, that you are here permanently, and you are dependent from God. One of the root meanings of the word ‘dunya’ is to reach for grapes you will never be able to grasp. And this is the exact essence of this life-we will never be satisfied nor will we be able to achieve all that we want in this life, and, essentially, it will always elude us.

In the Bible, a similar message is given, in the book of Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

One of the names of Satan in the Quran is the ‘chief deceiver’. Satan is the one who makes us forget our purpose and reason for being here, and causes us to forget ourselves, which, in turn, corrupts our minds/ souls. ‘’Know thyself’’ the Delphic oracle told the philosopher. If one does not know themselves, their purpose and where they are heading, our lives become meaningless and wasteful.

Science also confirms that we are constantly beguiled by deceptions, because, as I said in a previous post of mine: The way in which we see is by watching images inside our brain. We observe images through electrical signals transmitted through our brain which then forms a picture. The same thing applies to all our other senses-touch, smell, hearing etc, they are all perceived in the brain as electrical signals. So it is reasonable to presume that we do not confront matter in its original form- which exists outside of us- but rather we produce an electrical copy of it which is produced as a signal formed inside our brain. We are therefore mislead in assuming these copies are instances of real matter outside of us. To imagine matter to have an existence outside the mind is a deception, but it is the Being that created the mind, and transcends the transient creation which is the only reality-and this is God.

The fourth caliph of Islam once said that: We are sleeping now (in this life) but it is once we die that we will truly wake up.

Omar Shahid

Do We Need Religion in the 21st Century?

 Having been brought up in a moderate religious tradition, I have been able to question, ponder and reflect over the purpose of religion. Many see religion as a sort of control mechanism, restricting the followers to blind belief, enhancing prejudice and, essentially, an outdated concept for people who are scared of death; so they choose to invent ideas about: a God, heaven and hell and all other sorts of methaphysical concepts. I, however, believe that religion is essential for society, as well as for the human psyche-and I will tell you why. Continue reading