Doctrines >Dialogue with the Atheists


Dialogue with the Atheists

Dialogue with the Atheists

After the ideological fight with polytheism, Islam stood up to the problem of atheism, although at a much lower scale. Given the fact that atheism was not then as widespread as polytheism, the campaign with which Islam faced the notion of atheism was very low key. This was because in the struggle with the polytheists, Islam had to contend with battling ideologies, viz. Islam and polytheism. What gave the battle that extra edge was the fact that polytheism was a way of life to the majority of members of society then. That ingrained tradition constituted and added hurdle to the norms Islam aspired to establish in that polytheistic society.

As for atheism, the issue was that of two ideological approaches, i.e. Islam vs. atheism, with the latter having no roots in society where the Islamic mission was born, despite the fact that atheism did have a presence in other communities. Thus, atheism did not constitute much of a threat to the fledgling Muslim society. The issue with the polytheists was not that they disbelieved in the existence of God, like the atheists, but that they associated gods with Him. They were aware that their gods were not as great and important as God; rather, they felt that their worth was in their proximity to God, whom no one in this life can reach. To their mind, their worship of those gods was whittled down to believing that they were intermediaries and intercessors, whose job it was to bring people closer to God. The sacrifices they offered their gods were a means to achieving their pleasure and blessings. The following Quranic verse has put this in perspective: "We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah" (39:3).

In consequence, the Qur'an, as has already been discussed, had set out to strip those of any quality, be it subjective or otherwise, which may render them objects worthy of respect in their own right, let alone their attaining a rank that brings them the closest to, and most favored with, God Almighty. This was alluded when we were discussing the style of dialogue that involves poking fun while allowing debate of the issue.


 The connection between atheism and monotheism

This should not mean that polytheism has no connection with the idea of the existence of God; rather it has a bearing on the right conception of divinity, which puts the issue of belief in its natural context. This is because, on its own, the idea is worthless, i.e. without fundamental characteristics that give the whole picture the luster it requires within the frame. For that reason, a great deal of discussion in the Holy Qur'an was dedicated to correcting the idea of divinity that people of old used to hold in their doctrinal conscience. Thus, when the Qur'an described their gods – as being incapable to creating anything, that they could neither reap benefit for themselves nor ward off any harm that could befall them, and that they could not cause death, bring forth life, or bring about resurrection – it aimed at criticizing them for their corrupt idea of their brand of belief in God. It was trying to make clear to them that such qualities as eternity, creation, omnipotence and absolute affluence are among God's most salient ones. As such, we could consider them criteria by which we should judge the truth or falsity of any supposition of divinity.

Insofar as this aspect of Islamic belief is concerned, we consider the previous topic of dialogue with the polytheists as having a connection with this topic of dialogue with the atheists.


The Qur'an lays down the guidelines for dialogue

It is worth mentioning that, at the start of discussing this topic, we stressed that the dialogue dispensed by the Holy Qur'an on the issue of proving the existence of God and rejecting atheism way very low key, compared to the dialogue conducted on the issue of monotheism vs. polytheism.

In this regard, it is notable that the Holy Qur’an started shaping the new way, which it wanted society to consider and espouse in dealing with issues. It started to call on people to ponder the universe and all the phenomena and creation within it, in a bid to search for its secrets and the natural lows that govern it. It desired man to fall back on the purity of his instincts while going about his business, and to his serene mind while thinking. If the purity of man's strongest feeling and the serenity of his intellect join forces and open up on the open book of universe, this is capable of leading man to the conclusive result, i.e. this universe has to have a Wise All-powerful Ruler.

For this reason, we find in the Qur'an a living and comprehensive document containing an abundance of information on cosmic phenomena and procedures that govern man's will as life's development. This is so, because all that can be found in the universe is considered a living matter, which induces thinking that leads, through the shortest possible routes, to belief in the existence of God. It is noteworthy, though, that the Holy Qur'an does not confine it invitation to man to take it at one go, all that is in the universe and let his mind wrestle with it. It tries to guide man's steps in order for these steps to take a firm hold at the beginning of the way.

The universe, the book of belief

In order to discuss this issue, there is nothing better than experiencing the atmosphere of the following Quranic verses, which espouse a style of dialogue that is capable of urging man to examine and see for himself the strength of the Quranic side of the argument.

Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the Night and the Day; in the sailing of the ships through the Ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth; (here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise. (2:146).

It is God Who causes the seed-grain and the date-stone to split and sprout. He causes the living to issue from the dead, and He is the One to cause the dead to issue from the living. That is God: then how are ye deluded away from the truth? He it is that cleaves the daybreak (from the dark): He makes the might the night for rest and tranquility, and the sun and moon for the reckoning (of time): such is the judgment and ordering of (Him), the Exalted in Power, the Omniscient. It is He who makes the stars (as beacons) for you, that ye may guide yourselves, with their help, through the dark spaces of land and sea; We detail Our Signs for people who know. It is He Who hath produced you from a single person: here is a place of sojourn and place of departure: We detail Our sings for people who understand. It is He Who sends down rain from the skies: with it We produce vegetation of all kinds: from some We produce green (crops), out of which We produce grain, heaped up (at harvest); out of the date-palm and its sheaths (come) clusters of dates hanging low and near: and (then there are) gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, each similar (in kind) yet different) variety): when they begin to bear fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! In these things are Signs for people who believe. (6:95-99)

Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; then He established Himself on the throne (of authority); He has subjected the sun and the moon (to his Law)! Each one runs (its course) for a term appointed. He doth regulate all affairs, explaining the signs in detail that ye may believe with certainty in the meeting with you Lord. And it is He who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and (flowing) rivers: and fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two an two: He draws the night as a veil o'er the Day. Behold, verily in these things there are sings for those who consider! And in the earth are tracts (diverse though) neighboring, and gardens of vines and fields sown with corn, and palm trees – growing out of single roots or otherwise: watered with the same water, yet some them We make more excellent then other to eat. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who understand! (13:2-4).

Thus, you can feel life, in all its great aspects and dazzling beauty, moving before your eyes, living in your conscience and mind. All these experiences have come about at the outset of the existence of things, which are continuously kept new and move dynamically to jog your memory and conscience. They are trying to say that they are manifestations of the Omnipotence, demonstrating to you who their Creator is; the Creator who has given all these creations, be they animate or inanimate, all this greatness, beauty, and charm. Such merits bear witness to the secret of creation and the mightiness of the Creator.

It is such an exquisite approach to cultivate - while on the journey of gaining knowledge – sensual perception with brilliance, your delicate taste with beauty, and your conscious intellect with the great secrets heaving within the great vastness of the universe.

Move Quranic verses direct the attention to this truth in an unequivocal tone:

Say: "Behold all that is in the heavens and on earth"; but neither Signs nor Warners profit those who believe not. (10:10).

Men who celebrate the praises of God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the in heavens and the earth, (With the thought): "Our Lord! Not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to These! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire". (3:191).

As also in your own selves: Will ye not then see? (51:21)

It is a genuine invitation to reflect on the truth behind all that is in the earth and the heavens, which recognizes that it does not require man to do more than look and ponder. It is, at the same time, a call to send the mind forth in a drive to make it gain knowledge about the secrets of the universe and its laws on the road to proper comprehension of such laws. This is in an attempt to make use of the new-found knowledge in all the spheres of a changing world and life.

The road of science links up with that of religion

One can maintain that, in Islam, the road of science forms a junction with that of religion in the light of the notion put forward by the verses above. On the issue of belief in God, it is trying to entice man into discovering the Creator through finding out the magnificence of His creation. It can also be said that the way of religion links up with that of science, for the more man becomes knowledgeable the more he becomes cognizant of God; the more he becomes aware of God the more devout he becomes _ God-fearing and compliant with His instructions: this is tersely put in this verse:

Those truly fear Allah, among His servant who have knowledge (35:28).