God says in the Quran chapter 2 verse 183: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” Other translations say ….you may become pious.”
Fasting is one of the rules decreed by God for human being. As a matter of fact, messengers of God fasted. It is written in the Bible:
“But he (Jesus) for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” Matthew 4:2
“So he (Moses) was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments." Exodus 34:28
Every year, millions of people obey God’s command of fasting for one month. The ritual is done in Ramadhan month. It is often called Ramadhan fasting. The month of Ramadhan lasts for 29 or 30 days. After fasting in Ramadhan month is over, they celebrate the Ied Day on the 1st of Syawal. Syawal is the next month after Ramadhan month.
There is a goal behind every action. God does not set rules without the goal. As God says in the Quran, the goal of fasting is that we may become pious, righteous, and have good conduct. That means, after completing the 30 days of fasting, we should be pious and righteous. We should not lie, do corruption, cheat, hurt other people’s feelings and we should not get angry, jealous, envy, or disappointed if we don’t get what we want. However, if after completing the 30 days of fasting and it turns out that we still like to lie, hurt other people’s feelings, cheat, utter bad words, be angry, be offended, be upset over things that don’t go along with what we want, then question will arise. What is going on here? God says that the goal of fasting is for us to be righteous and have good conduct. But how come, after the Ramadhan fasting, we are still not pious? Far from righteousness? Why is our attitude still the same just like before Ramadhan fasting?
There are two possibilities here. First, the method of Ramadhan fasting apparently can’t be used to achieve piety. In other words, Ramadhan fasting is a wrong method for that. Second, the way that people implement the Ramadhan fasting is wrong.
God does not lie and does not break promise. When God says fasting is for achieving piety, then we can be sure that the goal can be achieved. Thus, the mistake is not in the method but in the interpretation of the fasting. Wrong interpretation leads to wrong implementation which makes it impossible to achieve the goal.
It is sad to find out that people take Ramadhan fasting only as physical ritual, which is abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset. Merely doing the physical dimension of fasting will only give us hunger, thirst, and tiredness. It clearly cannot make people righteous or God-conscious. If that’s the case, it means the interpretation is not correct. We can see that during Ramadhan people actually eat more than usual and spend more money for food and clothing more. Furthermore, people interpret the Ied Day as the time when they can eat anything and they feel free from bearing hunger and thirst during Ramadhan fasting.
Therefore, reinterpretation of Ramadhan fasting is necessary in order for the goal to be achievable. Since the goal is righteousness, Ramadhan fasting certainly goes beyond physical dimension. It must cover spiritual dimension. From there, Ramadhan fasting must be interpreted as “only following God’s rules and abstaining from our desire”.
Consequently, for 30 days, we only do what God wants us, human being, to do and we give up our desires or ego. We desire food and drink in the morning, during the day or afternoon but God wants us to give up food and drink until sunset. We (married couple) desire sex but God wants us to abstain from sex for a while. When people do mischief to us, we have desire to take revenge or to be angry but God wants us NOT to be angry or take revenge. Instead, God wants us to forgive them and do good deeds to them. When our children misbehave, we usually become upset but God wants us to be patience and remind our children in friendly way. We desire to eat a lot of food and drink when breaking our fast but God wants us to be simple in breaking the fast. We desire new and expensive clothes for celebrating Ied but God wants us NOT to waste money and just wear clean clothes. Also, God wants us to be honest, generous, say good words or be silent, help each other, learn and understand Quran, as well as increase our act of worship in form of praying and remembrance of God.
Imagine, for 30 days, a person only does what God wants. For 30 days he gives up his desires and ego. For 30 days he fills his heart with remembrance of God. For 30 days, he trains himself spiritually. If a person does that, of course he will be righteous. And after 30 days of spiritual training, he will be ready to handle the problems of life until the next Ramadhan (the next training) arrives. That is the true interpretation and implementation of Ramadhan fasting. Correct interpretation leads to correct implementation. Correct implementation leads to fulfilled goal.
I shall close this with a question to myself: “Have I interpreted and implemented Ramadhan fasting correctly?”
- Fasting Revisited -
Videos to watch:
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Have you ever had these questions? Ponder the answers from God as stated in Holy Quran:
Why am I afflicted by trials? “Do the people think that they will be left to say, "We believe" and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.” Quran chapter 29 verse 2-3
Why don’t I get what I want? “…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” Quran 2:216
Why is this calamity so hard for me? “Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” Quran 2:286
Frustrated? “So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.” Quran 3:139
How shall I deal with hardship? “And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah].” Quran 2:45
What will I get in the end? “Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise.” Quran 9:111
To whom shall I rely on? “But if they turn away, [O Muhammad], say, "Sufficient for me is Allah; there is no deity except Him. On Him I have relied, and He is the Lord of the Great Throne." Quran 9:129
I can’t bear with this problem! “Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people." Quran 12:87
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Please fill the blanks…
1. God (Allah) creates LAUGH and….
2. Allah causes DEATH ad gives….
3. Allah creates MALE and …..
4. Allah gives WEALTH and ……
Honestly, most of us will fill the blanks with the following answers:
1. CRY / WEEP
Are those answers correct? Let’s check them with the Qur’an, which is the manual book for human being. Does God have the same answers?
وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَضْحَكَ وَأَبْكَى
"And that it is He who makes [one] laugh and weep." (Quran chapter 53 verse 43).
وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَمَاتَ وَأَحْيَا
“And that it is He who causes death and gives life.” (Quran 53:44).
وَأَنَّهُ خَلَقَ الزَّوْجَيْنِ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَى
“And that He creates the two mates – the male and female.“ (Quran 53:45).
وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَغْنَى وَأَقْنَى
“And that it is He who enriches and suffices.” (Quran 53:48).
It turns out that most of us answer the first three correctly and fill the fourth blank wrongly.
God’s answer for number 4 is not poverty but sufficiency. Praise be to God as He only enriches and suffices. He does not create poverty; He does not make people poor. That is not God’s attribute. One of the attributes of God is that God is The Most Merciful, so, it is impossible for God to do any harm to human being.
Actually, it is us, human being, who create poverty. Such condition happens out of many factors such as economic recession & economic injustice due to corrupt economic system and people’s laziness in making effort to get out of poor condition.
But, in reality, poverty often happens because we are not grateful for what we have. We always want more and more riches… We always want to buy more and more clothes, cars, jewelry, houses, etc. Ingratitude leads to never-ending desire for wanting everything more despite the fact that we don’t need them…
On the other hand, people who are grateful to God are always happy as they are contented all the time. They might not be rich but they don’t feel poor at all. In other words, they feel 'rich' inside (their soul).
Being grateful is one of God’s rule that must be obeyed. It is the act of worship and is the proof of our submission to God’s will. God says, “O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.” (Quran 2:172)
God doesn’t need to be thanked; God doesn’t need to be praised. Yet, God commands us to be grateful to Him because He knows that being grateful is good for our soul. When we are grateful to God, we feel peace, calm, and happiness in our soul. Being grateful brings so much spiritual benefit that money can’t buy.
“And We had certainly given Luqman wisdom [and said], "Be grateful to Allah." And whoever is grateful is grateful for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever denies [His favor] – then indeed, Allah is Free of need and Praiseworthy.” (Quran 31:12)
Poverty, both in spiritual and economical sense, is bad thing. On the other hand, God is the source of kindness. Thus, it is impossible that God, being The Kindest & The Most Merciful, bestow poverty for His servants.
God does not make people poor. God only gives wealth and suffices. Yet, if we are ungrateful to Him, ‘poverty’ will surely come.
Twitter: Maharani Hasibuan
God commands us to ponder about all of His creation, including animals. In the Quran, there are many verses about animals. Some examples are:
“And your Lord inspired to the bee, "Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct. Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you]." There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought.” Quran chapter 16 : verses 68-69
“The example of those who take allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew.” 29:41
“Allah has created every [living] creature from water. And of them are those that move on their bellies, and of them are those that walk on two legs, and of them are those that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.” 24:45
“And indeed, for you in grazing cattle is a lesson. We give you drink from what is in their bellies – between excretion and blood – pure milk, palatable to drinkers.” 16:66
Anyway, out of many verses about animal, I’d like to elaborate on the following in which God says:
“And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like cattle; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.” 7:179
Cattle, such as cows, indeed give benefits to human being through the milk, the meat, and even the excretion that we can use as natural fertilizer. However, unlike human being, animals don’t have hearts. That’s why, one type of animal behave the same way all over the world.
In the verse above, God says that there are people who use their hearts, eyes, and ears but still they can’t understand, can’t see or hear. What kind of understanding, seeing, and hearing that God wants? It is the understanding, seeing, and hearing God’s rules. If we use our hearts, eyes, and ears according to God’s will, it means we use them maximally. People who don’t use them accordingly simply mean that they use the hearts, eyes, and ears based on their desires. And God says that such people are worse than cows. Why does God say that?
Observe the cows when they are queuing to be slaughtered for the meat. We will see that when one cow is about to be slaughtered or killed, then not far from that cow are other cows busy grazing or doing nothing, despite the fact that their turns to be killed are coming soon. The other cows have eyes but they don’t ‘see’ their friend is about to be killed, have ears but they can’t ‘hear’ their friend’s voice when it is dragged to be killed. They are so ‘brainless’ and definitely heartless that it is easy for them to graze or to relax while their friend is slaughtered and their turns are approaching.
Imagine if the scene above are for people! Imagine that my friend is about to be killed and my turn is right after my friend’s! How frightened, anxious, worried, and restless I would be. I would think of something to get away from it, to find a way to escape from death.
So, if we don’t use our hearts to grow God's consciousness, if we don’t use our eyes to see the greatness of God and ponder over it, and if we don’t use our ears to listen and to understand God’s commands, then we are WORSE than the cows. Being the same with cows might be good enough, but here God says that such people are worse than the cows! Can you imagine how low we can be in the sight of God…?
Submitting the using or function of our hearts, eyes, and ears to the wills of God will automatically drive to God’s conscious behavior or action and such action will definitely earn God’s reward, thus increasing the chance for heaven.
What is the consequence of being the same or lower than cows? It is God’s commands to use our hearts, ears, and eyes according to the rules of God, thus, if we don’t obey God’s commands, we are sinful and that will increase the chance for hell. The absence of God’s consciousness in doing daily activities will result in zero reward from God. Such activities might gain appreciation from human being but reward from people is vain in the hereafter.
God warns human being with punishment for not using our hearts and senses. God says, “And they will say, "If only we had been listening or reasoning, we would not be among the companions of the Blaze." Quran 67:10.
Human being is God’s most perfect creation because unlike other creatures, God bestows us with brain and heart that can think, feel, and make choices. We can learn from animals but let us not make ourselves the same level with animals.
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Until now, many christians still believe that Jesus or Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) does not have a place in Islam. They believe that muslims don't believe in Jesus at all. Well, as a matter of fact, muslims do believe in Jesus, but as a prophet not as god in trinity. No muslim is a muslim unless he believes in Jesus as a messenger sent by God Almighty.
Quran, the last revelation of God, speaks higly about Jesus and his mother, Mary. What does Quran say about Jesus?
Quran, in chapter 3 verses 45 – 48, states that Jesus was born without father. He was born from Mary who was still a virgin. God taught him writing, wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel and Jesus was one of the righteous and close to Allah (God):
- [And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ]. (Quran chapter 3: verse 45)
- He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous." (3:46)
- She said, "My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?" [The angel] said, "Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, 'Be,' and it is. (3:47)
- And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel." (3:48)
"And Zechariah and John and Jesus and Elias – and all were of the righteous." (6:85)
"And We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear proofs and supported him with the Pure Spirit." (2:87)
The fact that Jesus was born without father is often considered as the attribute of divinity therefore making him God. However, Jesus was not the only one who was born immaculately. Adam was 'born' even without mother and father. God says in the Quran 3:59, "Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created Him from dust; then He said to him, "Be," and he was."
Then, God clearly says that Jesus is just a messenger of God. God says in the Quran 5:75, "The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded."
One of the tenet of christianity is that Jesus is God, together with the father and the holy spirit. However, the verse above states otherwise. God says, “They both used to eat food.” This sentence wasn’t revealed for nothing. Eating food is the activity of human being, the activity of creatures. The activity of eating leads to other activities such as drinking and discharging. Do those activities represent the attributes of the Creator or God? Of course not. Those are the activities of human being. God does not need to eat or drink or go to the bathroom. The signs have been made clear by God, but some people don’t use their mind and heart and they are still misled.
The divinity of Jesus is further declined in the Quran. All clarify that Jesus is merely the servant of God who followed God's rules. God says that Jesus is a kind person as opposed to some verses in the Bible describing Jesus being rude to his mother, calling her 'woman', and uttering bad words. Also, Jesus did not die in crucifixion. He was raised to heaven by God and he will come again to the world when the end of the world is about to arrive.
- [Jesus] said, "Indeed, I am the servant of Allah . He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.” (19:30)
- “And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive.” (19:31)
- “And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant.” (19:32)
- “And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive." (19:33)
- “That is Jesus, the son of Mary – the word of truth about which they are in dispute." (19:34)
The teaching of Jesus was the same with the teachings of all prophets that came before him. All prophets were sent to spread the message of the oneness of God, to worship God alone and not to take idols as god. Trinity and other types of idolatry are forbidden.
- “It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, "Be," and it is.” (19:35)
"O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs." (4:71)
- And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'" He will say, "Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen." (5:116)
- I said not to them except what You commanded me – to worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness. (5:117)
- And when Jesus brought clear proofs, he said, "I have come to you with wisdom and to make clear to you some of that over which you differ, so fear Allah and obey me. (43:63)
- Indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path." (43:64)
- But the denominations from among them differed [and separated], so woe to those who have wronged from the punishment of a painful Day. (43:65)
Thus, Jesus, or Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) is a messenger of God, a prophet. He didn't call people to worship him, rather, he called them to worship The One and Only God (Allah). Jesus himself worshipped God. During his life, Jesus obeyed all the commands of The Almighty God. He submitted his will to the will of God. And his full submission to God's will is just another term for Islam…
Videos: Jesus can't be the son of God
Twitter: Maharani Hasibuan
God says in the Quran chapter 2 verse 208:
“O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.”
God commands the believers to enter into Islam completely. What does it mean? How to enter into Islam completely?
Islam is the last, perfect, as well as favored religion of God, as stated in the Quran chapter 5 verse 3: “…This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.”
Since Islam is the last and perfected religion of God, the rules in the Qur’an are perfect as well for human being, covering all aspects in daily life. Some of important rules in the Qur'an are:
- rules concerning the acts of devotion or worship towards God such as praying 5 times a day, fasting, and performing pilgrimage to Mecca.
- Rule concerning our relationship with Prophet Muhammad. God has chosen Prophet Muhammad as a role model for all human being and God commands us to follow the moral values of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We must not follow the physical attributes of him as such thing is not universally applicable.
- Rules for human being when dealing with other fellow human being. I, as human being, need to obey God’s rules in how I interact with my parents, my children, my relatives, neighbors, friends, foes, muslims and non-muslims, government, the needy, orphans. In general, I have to be kind, honest, generous, and helpful, yet firm when it comes to the tenet of Islam.
- Rules for human being towards themselves. God does not allow us to destroy ourselves (physically and spiritually) and God forbids us for committing suicide.
- Rules in dealing with animals, plants, and environment, food, drink…
- …and many more.
Here are some commands of God in the Qur'an that human being need to obey:
Rules regarding interactions among human being, human being with nature/earth; and fundamental rule, the tenet of Islam, that we must not worship other than Allah (God):
“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful.” (Ch.4:36)
“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.” (Ch.17:23)O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice.” (Ch.33:70)
“O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” (Ch.49:11)
“…So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” (ch.3:159)
“… and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Ch.24:22)
“And do not deprive people of their due and do not commit abuse on earth, spreading corruption.” (Ch. 26:183)
“O you who have believed, do not consume one another's wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.” (Ch. 4:29)
“The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” (Ch. 49:10)
Rules in inviting disbelievers to the way of God:
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” (Ch. 16:125)
“…And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [ Allah ]." (Ch.20:43-44)
Rules about food, drink, gambling, throwing lot:
“Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah , and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and [prohibited is] that you seek decision through divining arrows. That is grave disobedience. This day those who disbelieve have despaired of [defeating] your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. But whoever is forced by severe hunger with no inclination to sin – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Ch. 5:3)
“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah ], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. (Ch.5:90)
So, entering into Islam completely means following all the rules that God has made for us. Islam is not only about ritual worships such as praying 5 times a day, fasting, giving alms, and performing pilgrimage to Mecca. When I do the ritual worships, I earn reward. But when I lie, backbite, hurt other people, kill each other, damage the environment, or if I am stingy, arrogant, wasteful, envy of others, reluctant to help others, and so forth, which are all against the rules of God, then I earn sins, just like when I don’t pray or fast. Ironically, still many muslims don’t realize it. They think that ruining green environment or littering is not something sinful and will not be accounted for.
Whatever we do, we have to make sure that no God’s rule is broken. In the end, in the hereafter, our good deeds will be scaled against our bad deeds. God says:
“And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as accountant.” (Qur’an chapter 21 verse 47)
“And those whose scales are heavy [with good deeds] – it is they who are the successful.” (Qur’an 23:102)
“But those whose scales are light – those are the ones who have lost their souls, [being] in Hell, abiding eternally.” (Qur’an 23:103)
If the weight of good deeds exceeds the bad ones, then we deserve eternal heaven. If the opposite happens, then eternal hell is for us.
Common perception is that if a person does a lot of ritual worships, people will consider him as a pious man and he will surely go to heaven. But that perception or belief is wrong and is not in agreement with the Qur’an. Focusing on doing a lot of ritual worships doesn’t guarantee a person to enter paradise. On the other hand, a person doing a lot of kindness yet ignoring his interaction with God, then paradise is also not guaranteed for him. It all comes down to the scale of good deeds verses bad deeds in the hereafter.
The Qur'an, which consists of 6,236 verses, is indeed the manual book for human being. And Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the manifestation and reflection in how to implement the Qur'an completely and perfectly in daily life.
God commands human being to enter into Islam completely, to obey ALL God’s rules completely just like our role model, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). If we do that, and surely we are able to do it, undoubtedly the world will be in peace…
Twitter: Maharani Hasibuan
The following is the journey of Prof. Jeffrey Lang to Islam, taken from islam.thetruecall.com
“Dad, do you believe in heaven?”
When young Jeffery asked his father about the existence of heaven as they walked their dog along the beach, it was apparent that this child possessed a highly inquisitive mind. There perhaps was also a sign that he would subject things to a logical scrutiny and validate them from a rational perspective. Little surprise was it, then, that one day he would end up being a professor of mathematics, a matter where there is no place for anything but logic.
During his senior years at the Notre Dam Boys High, a Catholic school, he formed certain rational objections against belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. Discussions with the school Priest, his parents, and classmates could not convince him of the existence of God, and to the dismay of the Priest and his parents, he turned into an atheist at the age of eighteen. He was to remain so for the next ten years throughout his undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies. It was a little before or after his becoming an atheist that he first saw the following dream:
It was a tiny room with no furniture, and there was nothing on its grayish-white walls. Its only adornment was the predominantly red-and-white patterned carpet that covered the floor. There was a small window, like a basement window, above and facing us, filling the room with brilliant light. We were in rows; I was in the third. There were only men, no women, and all of us were sitting on our heels and facing the direction of the window.
It felt foreign. I recognized no one. Perhaps I was in another country. We bowed down uniformly, our faces to the floor. It was serene and quiet, as if all sound had been turned off. All at once, we sat back on our heels. As I looked ahead, I realized that we were being led by someone in front who was off to my left, in the middle, below the window. He stood alone. I only had the briefest glance at his back. He was wearing a long white gown, and on his head was a white scarf with a red design. And that is when I would awaken.
During the next ten years of his atheist life, he was to see the same dream several times. He would not be disturbed by the dream, however, for he would feel strangely comfortable when he awoke. But not knowing what it was, he could not make any sense out of it and thus gave no importance to it despite its repetitions.
Ten years later in his first lecture at the University of San Francisco, he met a Muslim student who attended his mathematics class. He was soon to develop a friendship with him and his family. Religion, however, was not the topic of discussion during the time he shared with that Muslim family, and it was much later that one of the family members handed to him a copy of the Qur’an.
He was not looking for a religion. Nevertheless, he started reading the Qur’an, but with a strong prejudice. “You cannot simply read the Qur’an, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges. From the outset it draws the line of battle, and I was on the other side.” Thus he found himself in an interesting battle. “I was at a severe disadvantage, for it became clear that the Author knew me better than I knew myself.” It was as if the Author was reading his mind. Every night he would make up certain questions and objections, but would find the answer in his next readings as he continued his readings in the accepted order. “The Qur’an was always way ahead of my thinking; it was erasing barriers I had built years ago and was addressing my queries.” He fought vigorously with objections and questions, but it was apparent that he was loosing the battle. “I was being led, working my way into a corner that contained only one choice.”
It was early 80’s and there were not many Muslims at the University of San Francisco campus. He discovered a small place at the basement of a church where a few Muslim students made their daily prayers. After much struggle in his mind, he came up with enough courage to go and visit that place. When he came out of that place a few hours later, he had already declared the shahada, the proclamation of a new life – “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.”
After he made his proclamation, it was the time for the afternoon prayer and he was invited to participate. He stood up in rows with other students behind a prayer leader named Ghassan, and started following them in prayer -
We bowed down in prostration with our faces on the red-and-white carpet. It was serene and quiet, as if the sound had been turned off. And then we sat back on our heels again.
As I looked ahead, I could see Ghassan, off to my left, in the middle, below the window that was flooding the room with light. He was alone, without a row. He was wearing a long white gown and on his head was a white scarf with a red design.
The dream! I screamed inwardly. The dream exactly! I had forgotten it completely, and now I was stunned and frightened. Am I dreaming? I wondered. Will I awaken? I tried to focus on what was happening to determine whether I was asleep. A rush of cold flowed through my body, making me shudder. My God, this is real! Then the coldness subsided, succeeded by gentle warmth radiating from within. Tears welled up in my eyes.
Everyone’s journey to Islam is unique, varying from one another in many different ways, but Dr. Lang’s is an interesting one. From one who challenged the existence of God, he became a firm believer in God. From a warrior who fought a fierce battler against the Qur’an, he became one who surrendered to it. From one who never knew love and who only wanted to live a comfortable materialistic life until he died and became “long-forgotten soil underneath an unmarked grave”, he turned into one whose life became full of love, mercy, and spiritualism.“God will bring you to your knees, Jeffery!”, said his father when he denied the existence of God at the age of eighteen. Ten years later, that became a reality. He was now on his knees, and his forehead on the ground. The highest part of his body that contained all of his knowledge and intellect was now on the lowest ground in complete submission before the Majesty of God.
Like all Muslim reverts, Dr. Lang felt that he was favored by God’s mercy and that it was God Himself who directed him to Islam. “I perceived that God was always near, directing my life, creating the circumstances and opportunities to choose, yet always leaving the crucial choices to me. I was awestruck by the realization of the intimacy and love that reveals, not because we deserve it, but because it is always there and all we have to do is turn to Him to receive it. I cannot say with certainty what the meaning of that vision was, but I could not help seeing in it a sign, a favor, and a new chance.”
Note: Jeffrey Lang is currently an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Kansas. In addition to numerous articles, he has written three books that are widely read among American Muslims.
Struggling to Surrender, Beltsville, 1994
Even Angels Ask, Beltsville, 1997
Losing My Religion: A Call for Help, Beltsville, 2004
He gives lectures at various universities as well as at Islamic conferences and conventions.
My twitter: Maharani Hasibuan
What are human beings doing here on earth? What is the purpose of our existence in this world? What is the purpose of life? Many people try to answer this fundamental question. Some say, a human being exists to go through the normal cycle as a person, that is to grow, to reproduce, to educate his offspring, and finally to die. Some say that living in this world is to be rich, to be successful in career and family and have many children. Some say there is no specific reason why people live in this world, so they can do whatever they want to do.
In the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, the purpose of the creation of human being is clearly stated. But before going any further, let’s have a journey for a while… a journey that every human being did before he was born into the world.
All of us were in our mothers’ wombs before we were finally born. But what happened before that? In the Qur’an chapter 7 verse 172, God says regarding the existence of human beings prior to entering mothers’ wombs:
“And (remember) when your God drew forth from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made their spirits testify concerning themselves, (saying): “Am I not your God (Who cherishes and sustains you)?” They said: Yes! We do testify!”. (This), lest Ye should say on the Day of Judgment: “Of this w re never mindful”.
So, human beings, in spirit form, already existed in the different world, that is the spirit (soul) world. It is the world where all the spirits of human beings bear witness that God is the Creator, Cherisher, and Sustainer.
After taking their oaths, the spirits (souls) of human beings were 'breathed' into the fetuses in the mothers' wombs, as stated by the saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
"Verily, each of you is brought together in his mother’s abdomen for forty days in the form of a drop of fluid. Then it is a clinging object for a similar [period]. Thereafter, it is a lump looking like it has been chewed for a similar [period]. The angel is then sent to him and he breathes into him the spirit."
And after staying for nine months in the mothers’ wombs, babies (human beings) are born into the world.
You see, what had happened in the spirit / soul world is crucial as the testimony of the spirits actually lays the basic foundation of how human beings are going to lead their lives in this world.
To emphasize the testimony of the spirits in the previous world, God clearly says the purpose of creation in the Qur’an chapter 51 verse 56:
“I (God) have only created jinns and men that they serve Me.”
While many people have different ideas of their existence, God The Creator and Sustainer, has made a clear purpose of why people live on earth, that is, to serve or worship Him. This, of course, entails consequences and obligations. Accepting and understanding that God created human beings just to worship Him means it is a recognition that God is The Master whose rules must be adhered to. We, human beings as the servants of God must obey what God asks us to do. Therefore, we have to find out what sort of deed that God loves and hates. We must know the dos and not-to-dos that we have to implement during their lives on earth.
Acknowledging the purpose of life is to worship God also implies that other things cannot be taken as god. For example, when a man works to earn money, he must do it in the corridor of God’s rules, meaning he must earn money honestly and in a good way. So, if there is a person earns money by corruption, money laundering, and cheating, it is clear that he has made money into his god. When a woman obeys whatever her husband says or asks, despite what he says or asks is against God’s rules, it means she has made her husband into god. And when some young people smoke and drink alcohol because they love them, it shows that they have taken their desires as gods to them.
Why is it that human beings have to serve God on earth and have to live by His rules? What is His plan for His servants? God obliges His servants to worship Him because there is judgment day waiting for them. God says in the Qur’an chapter 22 verse 7:
“And verily the day of judgment will come, there can be no doubt about it, or about the fact that God will raise up all who are in the graves.”
What will happen in the day of judgment? God further explains in the Qur’an chapter 21 verse 47:
“We (God) shall set up scales of justice for the day of judgment, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least. And if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it (to account), and enough are We to take account.”
The day of judgment and the scaling of deed only lead to two places, heaven or hell. If a person’s good deed weigh more than the bad deed, surely he will end up in heaven forever. If it is the other way around, then hell is the place, forever as well. There is no turning back or switching places.
By revealing the purpose of creation in the Qur’an, it conveys that God wants His servants (human beings) to go to heaven. God’s willingness for us to go to heaven surpasses our own willingness to go there. And by fulfilling our purpose to serve God only, to obey God only, will lead to the ultimate happiness as God promises in the Qur’an chapter 4 verse 13:
“Those who obey God and His Apostle will be admitted to gardens with rivers flowing beneath, to abide therein (forever), and that will be the supreme achievement.”
If human beings have the awareness of the reason of creation, then the best and the wisest thing to do is to live in accordance to God’s rules so that the eternal loss and suffering in the judgment day will not occur. Having the awareness to always obey God will surely end up in the ultimate victory and joy which cannot be replaced by even the most amazing thing that ever happen in this worldly life.
God (Allah) says: “I (God) have only created jinns and men that they serve Me.”
Twitter: Maharani Hasibuan