Imam Shamsi Ali (Presiden Nusantara Foundation/Pendiri Pondok Pesantren Nur Inka Nusantara Madani USA)
Yesterday, November 26, I had a chance to visit very briefly Ibagué City in Colombia.
My visit was made because for the last two months my daughter has been here teaching English to Colombians in a program she likes to participate with to gain some more experience in her life.
In addition, I also made the visit to meet with someone who claims to be an atheist, but is also learning Al-Quran. I have been informed that he is very much interested to know Islam and has many questions about it.
And so we met over lunch, and later we continued at a Colombian coffee shop to exchange ideas about God and religion.
He raised a lot of questions about religion or to be more precise, about Islam. And for me having many questions also means having many doors to know and eventually to hopefully accept it by the Almighty’s guidance.
And truly he had a lot of questions that he had prepared in his notebook over the last few months since he began reading Al-Quran.
In the beginning, he was completely blank and in denial of God and religion. He read Al-Quran only to fulfill his curiosity and not because he wanted to discover the truth.
He then began to ask his questions in a very critical way but also presented intellectually and academically. And so I did try my best to answer on the same level in the way he asked his questions.
I may not be able to present all the questions he raised from the issue of God being selfish (in his words), that He want to be pleased and praised all the time, to God being severely harsh threatening those who reject to praise Him.
From the issue of why all prophets are male to why most of the prophets were sent to the Middle East?
One of the issues he raised was that he has been trying to be a nice and kind person: honest, cheerful, kind, and so forth. And so if he can be a good and kind as a human, why it is necessary for God to be involved in ruling his life?
I then responded saying that I do not dispute the possibility of each human being good and that is because in each one of us there is an “initial inclination” to be good. That’s what we Iknow in Islam as fitrah. So there is no contradiction between our natural inclination or basic human values (fitrah) and the religion.
Religion is here to confirm and affirm, and to help us maintaining that basic natural inclination of human beings. Therefore, for instance, among the names of the Holy Quran is “adz-dzikra” or “the Reminder”. Which means that among the missions of the Quran is to remind us about our fitrah.
Another reason why religion is necessary because of the fact that humans are weak and limited. Therefore out of God’s love and mercy He sends Prophets, and revealed His Books to guide us to be consistent with that basic natural human inclination (fitrah).
Another critical issue he raised was about God’s justice. He gave an example of himself saying “I am honest, cheerful, helpful and kind. With all these qualities in me, but not believing in God, am I entitled to enter heaven? And if not, where is the justice that God claims to offer?
I responded that apparently you have a paradoxical view about God. On the one hand you believe in goodness and kindness. But on the other hand you tend to deny God’s existence. How it is possible for someone to claim that they are kind and good while rejecting his Creator? Isn’t it this the most ignorant attitude?
In a nutshell, we had a very long and interesting exchange. Alhamdulillah, after some serious discussion, but in a very friendly setting of exchange, Omar Angela (his name), who was born Catholic but the more he studied his religion the more he became confused, began to acknowledge the importance of religion.
After three hours of deliberation he then said: I have learned a lot today. Finally I met someone with whom I is patient and that I can talk to openly. I leaned today more than I expected.
He ended by saying: I am happy Sir. But give me some more time to search, think and learn….
I responded: I am here not to make you a Muslim. I am here to expose your mind and heart to Islam. You and the Almighty are ultimately the decision maker.
Friends, Please do pray for him. Again his name is Omar Angel. He is an English teacher in this City. Currently he is reading the translation of the Holy Quran and has begun to explore some websites on Islam. Hopefully Allah will guide him to His Path. Amin!