Doctrines >Dialogue Starting With a Question
Dialogue Starting With a Question
Practical outcomes of the approach
This approach provides some good experience, which may
guide the steps of Muslim activists in life:
1. knowledge of the rationale of divine law
People have a natural right to pose any kind of
questions to Muslim activists. The activists should not complain in any
way about the number of questions, their nature, or complexity. They
should not duck any question. They should bear in mind that their
responsibility in life is to carry the Message and impart it. Thus, they
should discharge it to the best of their ability, without letting their
own personal choices or inclinations color their conduct or judgment.
In the dark ages, and it still is the case, religious
activity has been blighted by some unenthusiastic religious scholars, who
think that their fundamental duties are those concerned with personal
status affairs, such as matrimony, divorce, prayer, death, and other
articles of faith. They answer briefly the questions put to them, as
though they are not in the mood to expand on them. This is particularly
so when the questions touch on the philosophical aspect of the religious
laws and precepts, their rationale, benefits, and secrets. They have no
defense against the criticism apart form saying: people have to accept
God's injunctions with neither objecting to them, nor understanding the
reasons underlying the judgements. They quote the following verses in
support of their argument.
It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a
matter has been decided by God and His Apostle to have any option about
But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith,
until they make thee judge in all disputes between them, and find in
their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the
fullest conviction. (4:65).
Yet, what they seem to forget is that the general
ambience of the verses is that of urging the believers to submit to God's
commands and prohibitions and accept His decisions, even if they go
against their own wishes and interests.
The verses do not contain any reference to enquiring
about the rationale of the judgement, the viewpoint from which it was
reached, or its benefit, let alone censuring the question into those
areas. On the contrary, it could be said that, in the varying Qur'anic
style, one can detect a license to do just that. That will be in an
effort to convince people that Islamic lawgiving is based on solid
foundations, which takes into consideration the fundamental interests of
man in life. It also seeks to make people reflect on this, so that they
can achieve clarity of vision that would enable them to evaluate Islam
and other ideologies. This is not going to be achieved unless one gets to
grips with the rational of the law and the benefits derived from it.
We have noticed this trend in many Quranic verses that
discuss legal judgments, such as:
Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they
believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman,
even though she allure you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers do
(but) beckon you to the Fire. But God beckons by His Grace to the Garden
(of Bliss) and forgiveness, and make His Signs clear to mankind: That
they may receive admonition. (2:221).
We can clearly see that the verse ended with stating
the legal basis for the judgment, i.e. the dissimilarity between the
believers and polytheists in each party's outlook, conduct, and aim,
which would influence matrimonial life that should be governed by
compassion and under-standing; its common denominator is unity of
perception, feeling, and aim. The believers respond to God's call to
heaven, which would require a particular type of conduct and thinking;
this is at odds with the polytheists' call to hellfire. So, how is
faithfulness to matrimonial life going to be achieved with the disparity
in the spiritual, ideological and living obligations required by belief?
It may appear to us that the verses have not made the basis for
prohibiting marriage arbitrary, as some may make out of them. It has been
made permanent, even if it meant that it goes against people's wishes. It
has tried to guide the steps of people into weighing sentimental
inclination against the realistic of both faith and life.
The verse concludes that personal inclinations are not
significant compared to the fate man in this world and in the hereafter:
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women,
because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because
they support them from their means" (4:34).
It is clear from the verse that God has not stopped at
pronouncing the judgment that man is the provider of the family. He went
further into giving the reasons for the ruling. Preferring one to the
other is because (a) the man is stronger than the woman, both physically
and mentally, and (b) the man is responsible for winning the family's
"Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful
(deed) and an evil way". (17:32). In this Quranic verse the
justification for prohibiting adultery and fornication is self-evident.
"It is shameful (deed) and an evil way".
That is, both socially and spiritually.
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their
gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them:
And God is well acquainted with all that they do". (24:30). Here,
lowering their gaze and guarding their modesty have been anchored on
spiritual as well as physical ritual purity, as is evident the phrase,
"greater purity for them".
"O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the
believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their
persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known
(as such) and not molested. And God Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful".
In this Quranic verse, reference is made the rationale
behind the command for the wives and daughters of the Prophet and the
wives of the believers to go about covering themselves up in a particular
way. The aim is to avoid putting themselves in harm's way. The ruling is
there, and so are the reasons for it. This is done to assure women that
the aim is to preserve their integrity and comfort. As has already been
mentioned regarding intoxicants and gambling, the Islamic approach to
calling people to embrace the faith attaches great importance to the
subject of making matters known to people.
We present all these Quranic verses, and others, to
those who do not want to make an effort to understand them, on account
that God's injunctions should not be subjected to people's comprehension.
As the tradition (hadith) from the Progeny of the Prophet (a.s.)
goes. "The religion of God is done disservice
to, not only by feeble minds, but also by false opinions".
This should not put us off seeking to understand the injunctions, on the
one hand, and coming closer to gaining insight into the benefits of these
injunctions, should it prove difficult to fathom the reasons for them, on
the other hand. That effort should serve the pursuit of knowledge in the
Law, which would give the believers confidence in it, instead of
remaining a source of worry and bewilderment that could threaten the
innermost should with that which could cause it to stray form the right
We can attribute the reasons for the intellectual
inertia that is besetting Muslims, on the level of understanding Islam to
this inflexible approach of the official representatives of religion,
when they close the wide-open door of religious knowledge to Muslims.
What seems to complicate matters is that some of those
ulema assume that belief is some sort of inspirational intellectual power
that is capable of granting the believers the ability to do away with all
matters of suspicion and skepticism, solve all their problems, and make
them face up to all challenges they may encounter. Thus, they do not
allow the believers to speak about the doubts and unsettling notions that
may linger in their minds. They gag them from discussing thought, creed,
and injunctions under the pretext that the believers should not be asking
about certain things. They consider interest in these matters as a form
of heresy, atheism, or blasphemy. This is bound to scare the believers
away from raising the types of questions that keep haunting them, and,
consequently, lead them to more perplexity and uncertainty, or maybe
harboring more doubt, if not blasphemy and atheism.
We do not find this in the Quranic approach to
dialogue with either the unbelievers, or the believers, for that matter,
it cannot even be found in Prophet Mohammad's style of reasoning with his
followers. It has been related in the Prophetic biography that a man came
to see the Prophet (p.) and said to him:
O Messenger of God! I have gone astray. The Prophet
could tell what his problem was, retorting: Did he (Satan) haunt you,
saying: who created you? And you said: God. he then said: Who created
God? The man said: Ye, O Messenger of God!
That man lived with devastating uncertainty with that
thought, so much so that he was under the impression that his faith had
The prophetic position was in keeping with the main
thrust of the Message, which seeks to remove doubts and uncertainties,
and handle complex issues. "The Prophet (p.) said
to the man towards the end: this is the true belief". Thus, he
turned calamity into prosperity, and apprehension into peace of mind and
2. The value of thought is in its practical results
steering the approach to education towards the
practical side, in the context of what people enquire and gain knowledge
about, is an essential matter, due to the fact that pure theoretical
issues cannot serve the purpose of life either directly or indirectly.
This is true of many other issues that come under the banner of futile
curiosity. Efforts put into them are useless and a waste of time. The
value of thought is in what practical benefits, and related theoretical
aspects, it can yield for man in this life and be hereafter.
The educational approach we can glean from the holy
verses, which have done away with the questions that cannot yield any
benefit in favour of those that are beneficial, is a clear proof of the
extent of the relationship between pursuit of knowledge and life.
Knowledge that is far removed from life is akin to death. This approach
to education is capable of leading the Islamic society to focus more on
the practical side of things, even in ideology, so that it can free it
from the shackles of the times of decadence, which made the Muslim
mentality and style slaves to the theoretical aspect of things. The
situation is so acute that Muslims spend considerable time arguing over
semantics, for no good purpose, but only to kill time, so much so that
the field of linguistic intricacies and interpretations has become an art
in its own right.
Some people may wish to argue that simple and direct
expressions of thought would detract from the integrity and stature of
science and knowledge. Thus, scientific research in juridical issues has
entered the doldrums of ambiguous and far-fetched theories and opinions.
They seek to be apologetic about this by saying: Presupposing the
impossible is not impossible, and this process is capable of sharpening
the wit and opening new horizons for it. However, they seem oblivious to
the fact that in so doing they squander the opportunity, for themselves
and the majority of people, of exploring the practical aspects, which are
the real test for the people. They do not seem to pay due attention to
those practical aspects of Islamic jurisprudence, which call for coming
closer to reality and the suppositions that are likely to prove worth
their while, for this is the way to solving people's problems in life.
As for dissecting the brain and widening its capacity
to discern things, this can be left to disciplines such as mathematics
3. It is essential to get grips with practical rulings
we find in this educational approach guidance to
people to attain advanced levels of practical legal education in the
branches of religion, such as acts of worship and transactions. This is
so, as the individual Muslim would be secure in the knowledge that his
going about this private life and the conduct of his affairs fall in line
with the correct Islamic path. This would ensure that, in this context,
Islam's practical role would remain a force in people's individual lives.
They would feel its presence in their lives, albeit it has been forced
out from social life altogether.
This guidance could take two approaches:
(a) Direct religious instructions imparted in circles,
seminars, schools (private and public), and calling on people to attend
and gain more knowledge in religious matters.
(b) Encouraging people to ask about legal rulings on
each and every sphere of life, to the extent that such rulings become the
believer's main concern in the smallest and the biggest of issues.
You may find all this discussed in many Quranic
verses, by way of question and answer, as has already been discussed,
especially arousing the interest of people in knowing about the
injunctions and drawing satisfaction from the knowledge of their
While we are making reference to this point, we are
trying to do away with what has become commonplace with those working for
the Islamic cause and others. They seem to have lost interest in
imparting religious legal rulings in the conventional way. On the other
hand, they appear to attach more importance to teaching general Islamic
principles, social and political concepts and others. This has led the
majority of Muslim activists to be illiterate or semi-literate in the
knowledge of the practical rulings, and far away from the main
We recognize the danger of this tendency because it is
liable to leave a vacuum in the arena, as a result of the dearth of
believers among the adherents to the practical line of Islam on minute
issues. This will be at the expense of finding the alternative, i.e.
devout Muslims, who can combine the desire and resoluteness to remain
faithful to the ideological line that Islam has drawn for life, and the
practical application of the principles in private as well as in social
The need for pristine open-minded Islamic thought
should not be less pressing than active religious work deep in the
conscience and in life. That is because the ideology provides they way to
live Islam in real life, while religious work secures the free movement
of Islam within the procession of life. Each has its own role, scope and
benefit. No matter how weak one of them may become, the other should
3. The Prophet Asks the Question and Provides the
The other facet of the approach to dialogue we come
across in the Holy Qur'an is the novel way in which the person who poses
the question does not expect to receive an answer from the other party.
Instead, the questioner assumes the role of the provider of the answer. A
series of questions and answers would then follow, so that the idea is
clearly explained to the public at large. All queries and connotations
are dealt with. Below is example of this. The verse revolves around the
debate between Prophet Mohammad (p.) and the idolaters of Quraish. The
format of the questions is put to the Prophet and the expected answers
are provided, thus:
Say: "What thing is most weighty in evidence?" Say:
"God is witness between me and you; This Qur'an hath been revealed to me
by inspiration, that I may warn you and all whom it reaches. Can ye
possibly bear witness that besides God there is another?" Say: "Nay! I
cannot bear witness!" Say. "But in truth He is the one God, and I truly
am innocent of (your blasphemy of) joining others with Him" (6:19).
God has considered it necessary for His Prophet (p.)
to pose the question in an exclamatory manner. He asked the idolaters
first, "what thing is most weighty in evidence?"
God then commanded him to provide the answer, concluding that it is so
evident that it does not need contemplation. That is, the idolaters do
not deny the existence of God, the Creator of all things; rather, they
set up partners to Him, which, to their mind, might facilitate bringing
them closer to Him. Then, the question is directed to the partners and
gods. Do they have any existence? Do the idolaters bear witness that
those partners are cognitive of the nature of divinity and the oneness of
God! In reply, God commands the Prophet to take position on the matter
without waiting for them to announce theirs. That is, the Prophet does
not bear witness that there are other gods beside God and, instead, he
bears witness to the One God and disavows any other gods. This is done so
that he could confirm to them the conclusive truth that he wants them to
recognize, leaving them to try to come to terms with the shock he has
administered to their hearts and minds.
A fair trial
The value of this approach is that it puts the Muslim
activist in the position of a judge whose job it is to weigh the evidence
and opinions of adversarial groups against those of the Message. He may
in the process call to the witness box whoever would serve the course of
justice. After that, he summon God, the Greatest and most Reliable
Witness, to give evidence. He, who revealed the Qur'an to serve warning,
would give His testimony on the truthfulness of the Islamic Message.
While rejecting their claims, He invites the adversaries to give in to
the thought being presented to them, or at least to ponder or discuss,
it. However, no matter, what reaction is in the making, the result of
reflecting on, or discussing, it would be in favour of the Message, with
all the ideology and law it stands for, by virtue the strength,
comprehensiveness, and permeability it possesses.