Experiences, Questions, Analyses

I am narrating my experiences with some devout Christians that I had while I was staying in Britain for my studies. I am mentioning a brief account of them followed by some questions that come to my mind on those experiences; at the end, I have mentioned my own analyses of the situation arising out of the fact that religious Muslims and religious Christians both behave in the same manner.

I stayed in Britain in Lampeter, a small university town in Wales, where there was a milk vendor who would move from house to house to drop milk bottles at the doorsteps of his customers. The gentleman would always wear a broad, genuine smile on his face. I saw him several times and on all occasions I saw him with his familiar, impressive smile. One day, I decided to visit him to find out what could be the reason behind the overwhelmingly beaming face he had. I also had another agenda in mind: to introduce him to the teachings of Islam. On meeting him it transpired that He was a Born-Again Christian. He mentioned to me that prior to his spiritual rebirth he was fully indulged in various kinds of sins. However, one day he had an experience wherein the Holy Spirit visited him and cleansed him inside out in a way that he no more felt inclined towards sinning. He mentioned that he was thereafter a completely transformed person. He started going to the church regularly and did all his work with a view to please his Lord. He was particularly impressed by Mr DiPartisan, the priest of his church, who used to deliver regular sermons on Sundays. I am a witness to the fact that Mr DiPartisan was a particularly impressive speaker.  

His story reminded me of the spiritual experiences of many people back home who met with, and were later helped by, their respective spiritual masters in going through similar experiences that helped them in completely transforming their lives. The spiritual experience narrated by the Born-Again ‘special-smile man’ and many of our Tasawwuf-inspired Muslims are strikingly similar. My question is: Why should the smiling milkman be considered misguided and the smiling Sufis be considered guided when their experiences of transformation are the same spiritual, non-rational in nature? Is it just because of the fact that the members of one group were born Christians and therefore they were misguided and that the other group members were born Muslim and therefore, by virtue of that, they were guided?

Now take the other experience: While in Britain, I was regularly visited by Mr and Mrs Elsworthy, a retired couple in their sixties, who would take the advantage of their visit from their village to the church in Lampeter on Sundays to come to my place for evangelizing. Mrs Elsworthy would be the one who would preach and her husband would invariably weep on being emotionally touched by the effective description of his Christian faith by his wife. Mrs Elsworthy once said to me: “Khalid, how could it be that a good person like you could stay away from benefiting from the all-embracing mercy of Lord Jesus?” Her persuasive urging used to be extremely sincere. I would keep responding to her presentations by putting across my views based on the Qur’anic teachings. At some point however I realized that we were heading towards nowhere. I presented this difficulty before them thus: “I believe we have reached an impasse: You keep mentioning your understanding from the Bible and I keep talking about my views from the Qur’an. While I believe some part of the Bible to be from God, you don’t believe the Qur’an to be from Him at all. How can we reach any common understanding unless we resolve this issue? I would suggest that you pray to your God during the next week and ask Him if the Qur’an too was His book, He should open your hearts for its guidance. I would do likewise for the Bible.” They agreed to my suggestion. When they visited me the next time, Mrs Elsworthy started the proceedings by apologizing that she was unable to pray to God in the previous week the way she had promised, because as soon as she made the intention to do so, the Holy Spirit reminded her of the fact that praying for the purpose of seeking guidance from outside the Bible was against the commitment she had already made to God.

I thought to myself that such a suggestion was unlikely to be from God and His angel. My God tells me that if somebody claims to have been gifted with a better truth than the one I have, I should be open to listening to it. The Qur’an tells the prophet, alaihissalaam: “Ask them: (If your claim to truth is correct) then bring forth a book that is straighter than these two books (Torah and Qur’an), I will be the first to follow it.” (Qur’an; 28:49)

The thought of the Elsworthys continues to bother me when I think of their sincerity towards their faith on the one hand and their complete confidence that nothing other than the Bible could be a source of guidance from God on the other. If I should consider them misguided despite their sincerity, why then should I consider many Muslims guided who are equally convinced that their religious point of view is correct and that any view different from theirs is sheer misguidance? We come across many Muslims who are initially inclined to be convinced that some other point of view is correct but, like Elseworthys were cautioned by the Holy Spirit, they are warned by their religious leaders not to seek guidance from any source other than the one they are already attached to. In fact, I must admit that I came across devout Christians like Elsworthys as more tolerant than many devout Muslims who would react far more aggressively at the mention before them of religious views different from theirs.

The truth of the matter is that Allah Almighty is not biased against, and unfair towards, any human being. He would judge all humans according to the merit of their performance. He has made a firm vow that He has created this world, and is running it, on the principle of justice (Qur’an; 3:18). Like Muslims of today, some of the Jews and Christians of the earlier days (and of the contemporary times too) believed that their judgment in the Almighty’s court of justice would not be based on merit. The Qur’an clarified this misconception by saying this: “It is neither (O Believers) your wishful thinking nor that of the people of the Book that would matter: Whoever would do evil shall be made to account for it and he would not find (in the hereafter) anyone, besides Allah, neither a friend nor a helper.”  (Qur’an; 4:123) To sum it up, at the end of the day, it is not who you are or by what religious group you are identified with, but your performance and attitude which is going to count for your final judgment at the time of accountability before the Almighty. The Qur’an says: “Indeed those who believe (in Islam), and the those who became Jews, and Christians, and the Sabeans, whoever (from amongst them), believed in Allah and the Day of Judgment and did good deeds, for them would be a reward before their Lord: they shall neither have any fear (of the future in the paradise) nor shall they have any grief (of the past).” (Qur’an; 2:62) Of course, all good people, when they are presented with the teachings of the genuine messengers of God, are inclined to accept them. However, no good individual can be blamed for not accepting a message from God if it was not presented properly by believers in a way that the individual was convinced that it was from His Creator.

8 thoughts on “Experiences, Questions, Analyses

  1. Affan Rauf

    You write: “He has made a firm vow that He has created this world, and is running it, on the principle of justice (Qur’an; 3:18)”

    However, I was listening to one of the recordings of Mr. Ghamidi’s lectures (available on http://www.tv-almawrid.org) in which he stated that this world is not created on the principle of justice but on the principle of test. It is the hereafter that will be created on the principle of justice i.e. every person will be rewarded/punished on the basis of his deeds. I guess he was answering to the question that why innocent people suffer during desasters. His said that it was the case so that other people may learn a lesson (Ibrat) and turn towards the right path.

    Please remove this confusion.

    [Dr. Khalid’s Response to this comment.]

  2. Shabaz Zia

    The essay is quite thought provoking, but how can you convince some one using your holy text if they don’t believe in it in the first place. In my opinion, in case of Mrs Elseworthys, you should have pointed out the discrepancies in her book, but, with wisdom. Once the foundation on which the speaker is making his or her argument is challenged or nullified, then you can quote the Quran.

  3. Aprakat

    You have shown courage in putting devout christians on equal footing with devout muslims. You seem to be a rational person, but the fact that you believe in Quran belies that impression.

    You seem to think that life has only two parts: here and after. What about before? Do you have any evidences, apart from Quran, about afterlife? If you bother to look, you will find more convincing evidences about previous lives than after lives.

    After your debate with Ali Sina and the way you turned tail, your views do not sound convincing. Be honest with yourself man. If there is a God, he wouldn’t like the way you are deceiving yourself and others.

    [Dr. Khalid's response to this comment.]

  4. Amir

    Excellent article. At the same time it contradicts the understanding I have always had (by no mean I am saying that my understanding was correct, but it was based on a common notion). That only Muslims are entitled to Heaven based on their deeds. And that one of the prerequisites for entering Heaven is to believe in oneness of Allah and to believe that Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last messenger of Allah. This meant that you had to be a Muslim. But by reading your article, it seems that even a non Muslim can enter Heaven if his deeds are good.

    [Dr. Khalid's response to this comment.]

  5. Mohammad Shamim Akhter

    I have read a book “Shaitaan kee Sawaan-e-umree. It states that Allah had created each human being’s image and placed it on this planet we call earth. Belzebub, the “Iblis” used to visit this cite; it may have been a few inches above the earth’s surface. This Satan is not an angel but a jinn, a being whose existence is denied by the Christians.

    Another life form before birth is in the womb; this is after the soul is imbibed the Almighty.

    I sometimes wonder if dream, including nightmares, is another form of life; because I have read that sleep is a form of death.

  6. Farhan

    The issue is serious and has distorted some of my views. Being a resident of predominantly non Muslim society, I spend some of my time and wisdom ( whatever Allah has granted me )on the non-Muslims and atheists to fulfill my duty that Allah has ordained on every Muslim. ( Ref: Surah Asr )

    Most of the time I get a very positive and keen response. The most usual reply from them is that we are leading an honest and straight life, we can differentiate between the good and bad deeds, restrain ourselves from harming fellow human beings and do believe in God. ( Off course last part is not from the atheists )

    Allah says in Quran in Chapter 7 verse 171, 172

    171: “When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): “ Am I not your Lord (Who cherishes and sustains you)?”- They said: “Yea! We do testify!” (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: “ Of this we were never mindful”:

    172: Or lest we should say: “It was only our father aforetime who took others as partners as worship along with Allah, and we were (merely their ) descendants after them; you will then destroy us because of the deeds of men who practiced falsehood?”

    It means that God has actually created all the souls, which have come into this world and which will come into this world, and an oath has been taken from them, about His oneness. By the passage of time, and due to the influence of Satan, people tend to forget it. But the truth is actually embedded inside the souls of every human being; once the right message is forwarded to him, he will feel the truth-ness in it. Whether, he accepts it or not ( due to his current standing among his people or to any other worldly reasons) its up to him.

    No doubt, that I myself is a Muslim by birth, but that have not stopped me, being inquisitive of other religion. This made my belief stronger in Quran and the sayings of the prophet Mohammad ( May peace be upon him )

    Allah has said that all sins can be forgiven apart from Shirk “ Associating partners with Allah “. Hence, Any Christian or Jew or Hindu or a Budhhist …, if has not been informed about the message of Islam and he did not get this knowledge from any source, and he is not an evil doer, I suspect, may fall into the category of which you think, would be eligible for paradise. ( By the Grace, Rehma and Will of Allah off-course), but if the message has been conveyed to them, and they still persist to stick to their old faiths, it is clear that there is no room for them in the heavens.

  7. Waheed

    Mr. Zaheer:

    I appreciate your intelligence, scholarly ideas, and reasoning.
    But I regret to say, that you desperately fail to realize that all the religions in the world have “elements of shirk”.

    How can you say that non-Muslims will also go to heaven. (Their religions are not monotheistic anymore.)
    Do you have any passage from Quran to support your idea.

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