21-40: Questions and Answers
21- How do I know which one of my actions will meet with Allah's approval?
Allah always inspires the most proper course of action through the conscience of one who fears Him. In a verse, Allah says:
You who believe! if you go in fear (taqwa) of Allah, He will give you a criterion (by which to judge between right and wrong) and will cleanse you of your sins and forgive you. Allah's favour is indeed immense. (Surat al-Anfal, 29)
It should not be forgotten that the first voice the individual hears in his heart is the voice of his conscience which helps him to judge between right and wrong, and it is this very voice which tells him the behaviour that will please Allah. People who fear Allah arrive at the truth by listening to the voice of their conscience.
22- Is there any other voice in a person's heart apart from that of his conscience?
All of the other alternatives that surface after the voice of one's conscience are the "voices of the self" that try to suppress the conscience. The self tries with all its might to prevent one from behaving righteously and to make one do evil deeds.
It may not do this very openly. It may outline certain excuses which may seem sensible. It may cause one to say "all this will come to nothing." Allah states this truth in the Qur'an:
By the soul and Him that moulded it and inspired it with the knowledge of sin and piety: blessed shall be the man who has kept it pure." (Surat ash-Shams, 7-9)
As stated in the verse, man is a prey to sin but knows he has a duty to guard against it. Man is tested on his choice between good and evil.
23- How do we see?
Allah brought you out of your mothers' wombs devoid of all knowledge and gave you hearing, sight and hearts so that perhaps you would give thanks. (Surat an-Nahl, 78)
The act of seeing is realised progressively. During the act of seeing, light clusters (photons) travelling from any object to the eye pass through the lens at the front of the eye where they are refracted and fall upside-down on the retina at the back of the eye. Here, impinging light is turned into electrical signals that are transmitted by neurons to a tiny spot called the centre of vision in the back of the brain. This electrical signal is perceived as an image in this centre in the brain after a series of processes. The act of seeing actually takes place in this tiny spot in the posterior part of the brain, which is pitch-dark and completely insulated from light.
When we say, "we see," we are in fact seeing the effects of impulses reaching our eyes and induced in our brain, after they are transformed into electrical signals. That is, when we say, "we see," we are actually observing electrical signals in our minds.
Both the book you are now reading and the boundless landscape you see when you gaze at the horizon fit into this tiny space. This adjustment in scale holds true also for the different perceptions we obtain through our other senses.
24- What does it mean "not to have direct experience of the real matter"?
All the information that we have about the world in which we live is conveyed to us by our five senses. The world we know of consists of what our eyes see, our hands feel, our noses smell, our tongues taste, and our ears hear. Modern research reveals that our perceptions are only responses created in the brain by electrical signals. In this regard, we merely deal with the copy images reaching our brains of people, colours, and everything we own in the external world.
For instance, let us take a piece of fruit: Electrical signals pertaining to the taste, smell, appearance, and hardness of the fruit, reach our brains through our nerves and build up a picture of the fruit there. If the nerves that travel to the brain were disrupted, the perceptions relating to the fruit would disappear. What we perceive as a fruit is actually a collection of perceptions reaching our brains. The fruit exists in the outside world, but we can never know its original external existence. In other words, we can never have direct experience of the original of this "collection of perceptions" that exists on the outside. We have no means of getting outside our brains to contact anything: we have only our perceptions.
25- Can we reach the original of the external world?
We can never reach the original of the external world. Since throughout our lives we merely deal with the electrical signals reaching our brains, we merely know the perceptions in the mind. The only world we know of is the world that exists in our minds: the one that is designed, recorded, and made vivid there; the one, in short, that is created within our minds.
26- Do we not also experience dreams in the mind?
Yes, dreaming is an excellent example to understand the subject. In our dreams, we experience events, see people, objects and settings that seem completely real. However, they are all nothing but mere perceptions. Both of the "dream" and the "real world" are experienced in the brain. While dreaming there is nothing apart from what is in the brain. In the real world, however, the actual matter exists outside us, but we can never reach it and merely know its version perceived in the mind.
27- If we deal merely with perceptions of all matter, then what is the brain?
Since our brains are a part of the physical world just like our arms, legs, or any other object, we deal merely with its perception just like all other objects. An example about dreams will illuminate the subject further. Let us think that we see the dream. In the dream, we will have an imaginary body, an imaginary arm, an imaginary eye, and an imaginary brain. If during our dream, we were asked, "Where do you see?" we would answer "I see in my brain." Yet, actually, there is not any brain to talk about, but an imaginary head and an imaginary brain. The seer of the images is not the imaginary brain in the dream, but a "being" that is far "beyond" it.
28- Who or what is the perceiver?
So far, people have believed that what does the perceiving is the brain. When we analyse the brain, however, we see that there is nothing in it but lipid and protein molecules, which also exist in other living organisms. This means that within the piece of meat we call the "brain," there is nothing there to observe images, to constitute consciousness, or to create the being we call "myself."
It is clear that the being that sees, hears, and feels is supra-material in nature. This being is "alive" and it is neither matter nor an image of matter. This being associates with the perceptions in front of it by using the image of our body.
This being is the "soul." In the Qur'an Allah states:
They will ask you about the Spirit. Say: 'The Spirit is my Lord's concern. You have only been given a little knowledge.' (Surat al-Isra', 85)
29- Since the material world we have experience of is actually perceptions seen by our soul, then what is the source of these perceptions?
The reality that should be noted when answering this question is that we see matter only as an illusion and we can never have direct experience of its external existence. Since matter is a perception to us, it is something "artificial." That is, this perception must have been caused by another power, which means that it must have been created. There is a Creator, Who has created the material universe and continues His creation ceaselessly. This Creator tells us, through the Book He revealed, about Himself, the universe and the reason of our existence. This Creator is Allah and His book is the Qur'an.
The facts that the heavens and the earth are not stable, that their presence has been made possible by Allah's having created them and that they will disappear when He ends this creation, are all explained in the following verse:
It is Allah Who keeps a firm hold on the heavens and earth, preventing them from vanishing. And if they vanished, no one could then keep hold of them. Certainly He is Most Forbearing and Ever-Forgiving. (Surah Fatir, 41)
30- How is it that Allah encompasses everything and He is closer to us than our jugular vein?
Material beings cannot see Allah; but Allah sees the matter that He created in all its forms. That is, we cannot grasp Allah's being with our eyes, but Allah has thoroughly encompassed us from the inside, from the outside, in looks and in thoughts. We cannot utter any word unless it is with His knowledge, nor can we even take a breath.
While we watch these sensory perceptions that Allah shows to us in the course of our lives, the closest being to us is Allah Himself. The secret of the following verse in the Qur'an is concealed in this reality: "It is We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein." (Surah Qaf, 16) When a human being thinks that he has experience of his original and actual body, and fails to remember that every moment he experiences is actually experienced in the mind, he cannot comprehend this important fact. If he takes his brain to be "himself," then the place that he accepts to be the outside is 20-30 cm away from him. However, when he understands that he merely deals with a copy of matter formed in his brain, notions such as outside, inside, far or near lose their meaning. Allah has encompassed him and He is "infinitely close" to him.
31- Is the love of Allah not sufficient? Is fear of Allah a must?
According to the Qur'an, true love requires respect and avoiding things of which Allah does not approve. When we look at the lives and actions of people who believe that love alone is enough, we see that they are not steadfast on the point mentioned above. However, a person who loves Allah sincerely, primarily follows His commands strictly, avoids the things He prohibits and is guided towards actions of which He approves. He shows his love by seeking our Lord's approval at every moment of his life by his deep respect for, trust in, obedience and loyalty to Him.
As a result of such concern, he deeply fears losing Allah's approval and incurring His wrath. Otherwise, expressing one's love only in words, while living a heedless life, transgressing Allah's limits, is certainly a very insincere attitude. In the Qur'an Allah has ordered man to fear Him:
Turn back in repentance to Him, and fear Him: perform salat (regular prayers), and do not be of those who ascribe partners to Allah. (Surat ar-Rum, 31)
32- How intense must the fear of Allah of a sincere believer be?
Everyone who is aware of the being of Allah and who knows Him with His supreme attributes fears Allah deeply. This is because in addition to being infinitely compassionate and merciful, Allah is also al-Qahhar (the Subduer), al-Hasib (the Reckoner), al-Muazzib (the Punisher), al-Muntaqim (the Avenger), al-Saiq (the One Who consigns to Hell). Therefore, Muslims fear Allah in the unseen; they know no one is safe from His punishment. Since they know that they will be accountable for everything they do, they greatly avoid behaving in any way displeasing to Allah. However, it must be added that fear, as referred to here, has a totally different connotation from the typical fear felt in irreligious societies. It is a fear that gives peace to the believer, motivates him and prods him to action to gain Allah's approval. Allah commanded the believers as follows:
So fear Allah as much as you can, and listen and obey and spend in charity for the benefit of your own soul. It is the people who are safeguarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful. (Surat at-Taghabun, 16)
33- Anyone who reads the Qur'an can understand it.
Allah has sent down the Qur'an to all people as a guide. This is why the Qur'an is extremely comprehensible and clear. Allah thus stresses this characteristic of the Qur'an: " … A Light has come to you from Allah and a Clear Book." (Surat al-Ma'ida, 15) Another verse further clarifies this:
In this way We have sent it (the Qur'an) down with Clear Signs. Allah guides anyone He wills. (Surat al-Hajj, 16)
To be able to see the wisdom in the Qur'an and to comprehend its supreme features, one who reads it must be a hundred percent sincere and always think in accordance with his conscience.
However, it needs to be made clear that Muslims must strongly avoid producing pronouncements from the Qur'an on the basis of their own personal interpretations and opinions. The most appropriate thing to do for people seeking answers on these subjects is to make use of the catechisms collected by Ahl al-Sunnah scholars.
34- The Qur'an and the sunnah of the Prophet (saas) are the sole guide for believers.
The Qur'an is the only guide a believer will have recourse to throughout his life. In a verse of the Qur'an where Allah addressed the wives of the Prophet (saas), He commanded them to "remember the Signs of Allah and the wise words which are recited in their homes…" (Surat al-Ahzab, 34), and urged all believers to recite the Qur'an. As this verse makes clear, the believers read the scriptures in their homes and remember their verses. However, more important is reading and then fully practicing and diligently carrying out the Qur'an's injunctions.
The best reference source to see how the Qur'an has been put into practice is the life and actions of our Prophet (saas), in other words, his Sunnah.
35- The Qur'an addresses every age.
Allah sent down the Qur'an as a guide for all worlds and all times:
This is a clear explanation for all mankind, and guidance and admonition for those who fear Allah. (Surat Al-Imran, 138)
Allah gives examples in the Qur'an based on past events so that people who live throughout the ages may take warning and not repeat the same mistakes. One may commonly encounter events similar to those recounted in the Qur'an even today.
36- The verses of the Qur'an have been preserved by Allah until today without any change.
The Qur'an is protected by Allah and has come down to our day without any change for the past 1400 years. Allah informs us of this truth:
It is We Who have sent down the Reminder (the Qur'an) and We Who will preserve it. (Surat al-Hijr, 9)
The Words of your Lord are perfect in truthfulness and justice. No one can change His Words. He is the All-Hearing, and the All-Knowing. (Surat al-An'am, 115)
These promises of Allah are sufficient for those who believe. Yet, Allah has shown us that the Qur'an is the book of truth by including certain scientific and numerical miracles in it.
37- What are the scientific miracles of the Qur'an?
Although the Qur'an was revealed 1400 years ago, it includes many scientific facts which were absolutely unknown at that time and have been discovered only in our day by the help of the latest scientific and technological means. These attributes of the Qur'an clearly demonstrate that it originated in Allah. The following are some of these miracles.
The constant expansion of the universe is one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. Yet Allah proclaimed this truth to us 1400 years ago in the 47th verse of Surat adh-Dhariyat:
It is We who have built the universe with (Our creative) power, and, truly, it is We who are steadily expanding it. (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 47)
The movement of heavenly bodies in unchanging orbits was proclaimed centuries ago in the Qur'an:
It is He Who created night and day and the sun and moon, each one moving in its own orbit. (Surat al-Anbiya, 33)
Interesting properties are revealed when the Arabic wording of the verses that make mention of the sun and the moon is examined. In these verses, the words siraj (lamp) and wahhaj (brightly-burning) are used for the sun. For the moon, the word «munir» (enlightening, shiny) is used. Indeed, while the sun produces an enormous amount of heat and light as a result of the nuclear reactions inside, the moon merely reflects the light it receives from the sun. This distinction is made as follows:
Do you not see how God has created seven heavens in full harmony with one another, and has made the moon a light therein, and made the sun a (radiant) lamp? (Surah Nuh, 15-16)
In the Qur'an, the 22nd verse of Surat al-Hijr refers to the "fertilizing" property of the winds:
And We send the fertilizing winds, then cause water to descend from the sky, therewith providing you with water (in abundance). (Surat al-Hijr, 22)
In Arabic, the word "fertilizing" refers to the effect on both plants and clouds. Modern science for its part has shown that the winds do indeed have both of these functions.
Another miracle of the Qur'an is emphasized in the following verse:
He has created the Heavens and the Earth for the sake of Truth. He wraps the night up in the day, and wraps the day up in the night… (Surat az-Zumar, 5)
In this verse, the day's and the night's wrapping each other up is described by the word "tekvir". In English, this means «to make one thing lap over another, folded up like a garment that is laid away». In Arabic dictionaries this word is explained as the action of wrapping one thing around another, in the way that a turban is put on. Implicit in this verse, therefore, is accurate information about the shape of the world. The expression used can be truly apt only if the earth is round. This means that in the Qur'an, which was revealed in the 7th century, the roundness of the world was hinted at.
38- What are the numerical miracles in the Qur'an?
The Qur'an also has numerical miracles like the insertion of the number "19" in the verses in a coded way and the numbers of repetitions of certain words.
Word repetitions in the Qur'an: Some related words are repeated the same number of times in the Qur'an. For instance:
1. The phrase the "seven heavens" is repeated 7 times.
2. The words, "world " and "hereafter" are each repeated 115 times.
3. The word "day" is repeated 365 times while the word "moon" is repeated 12 times.
4. The word "faith" (iman) (without genitive) is repeated 25 times throughout the Qur'an, as is also the word "infidelity" or the phrase "covering over the truth." (kufr).
5. When we count the word "say", we come up with the result of 332. We arrive at the same figure when we count the number of times the phrase: "they said" is used.
6. The word "shaytan" is used 88 times. The word "angel" is also repeated 88 times.
The miracle of 19 in the Qur'an:
The number 19 is pointed out in the Qur'an in a statement about Hell: "It is guarded by nineteen keepers." (Surat al-Muddaththir, 30) This number is also encoded in certain other verses of the Qur'an. For instance:
"In the Name of God, The Compassionate, the Merciful." This formula, which is found at the beginning of every surah, has 19 letters.
The Qur'an consists of 114 surahs; 114 is a multiple of 19, being equal to 6 times 19.
There are many other such multiples:
The total count of the word "Allah" in the Qur'an is 2698 (19 x 142);
The total count of the word “Merciful” in the Qur’an is 114 (19 x 6);
When we add up all numbers in the Qur'an (without taking repetitions into account), we get the number 162, 146 that is, 19 x 8534;
The first Surah that was revealed had 19 verses. There are innumerable other examples.
39- How do we know of the existence of the hereafter?
Allah currently causes people to live in a world, whose original they do not know and whose perceptions are what they can ever have experience of. Allah, Who created this world,—such a perfect and magnificent creation with three dimensional images that have depth, and are full of colour and light—surely has the power to create that which is far more beautiful.
Just as Allah forms an image of the world in man's brain, so will He transfer him to another dimension after his death and will show him the image of a different environment. That dimension, to which man will be introduced, will be the hereafter.
40- What does reincarnation mean?
Reincarnation is a baseless superstition. It was produced as a result of the concern felt by certain irreligious people in their subconscious about "disappearing after death" or the fear that grips people with poor religious faith when they think about going to the hereafter after death. For either group, it is an attractive prospect, in their own eyes, to come back to the world once again after death.
However, in many verses of the Qur'an, it is stated that there is only one life in this world where man is tested. It is also stated that there is no return to the world after death. That man will die only once is emphasized in the following verse:
They will not taste any death there – except for the first one. Your Lord will through His mercy safeguard them from the punishment of the Blazing Fire. (Surat ad-Dukhan, 56)