Arguments between Believers and Unbelievers
The Lord tells us about the unbelievers’ arguments in the Qur’an as follows:
Say: “Do you argue with us about Allah when He is our Lord and your Lord? We have our actions, and you have your actions. We act for Him alone.” (Surat al-Baqara: 139)
Satan’s argumentative character is reflected in unbelievers, for they argue with believers about Allah as well as the Qur’an and Islam. Allah reveals how such people regard believers:
When they are told: “Believe in the way that the people believe,” they say: “What! Are we to believe in the way that fools believe?” No indeed! They are the fools, but they do not know it. When they meet those who believe, they say: “We believe.” But then when they go apart with their satans, they say: “We are really with you. We were only mocking.” But Allah is mocking them and drawing them on as they wander blindly in their excessive insolence. (Surat al-Baqara: 13-15)
We see in these verses that those who argue with and ridicule the believers may have a spiritual relationship with satan. They may go apart with their satans and may be his intimate followers. Those who argue with each other frequently lie and distort the facts, or else say something “off the top of their head” and then go on to argue it away. Arguing does not stay on any real topic and has no meaningful purpose. Everyone tries to impose their own view on others with clichés and stereotypical ideas.
Shall I tell you upon whom the satans descend? They descend on every evil liar. They give them a hearing, and most of them are liars. (Surat ash-Shu‘ara’: 221-223)
Unbelievers sometimes launch a propaganda campaign to point believers and those with religious tendencies toward an alternative to true religion. Seeking thereby to destroy the credibility of true religion, they incite arguments about it because they desire to extinguish Allah’s Light with their mouths (Surat as-Saff: 8). Arguments are incited in all possible open media venues to target religion, and anti-religious articles, writings and pictures denying the truth of creation are regularly placed in some newspapers and magazines to extinguish Allah’s light. They deliberately attempt to disparage Islam and the Qur’an, shake people’s belief in religion, and deter them from religious morality. No doubt, these activities are designed to prevent the spread of religion, to put pressure on those who communicate it, and to stop the spread of religious morality. However, in the same verse Allah says that “He will perfect His Light, though the unbelievers hate it.”
Arguments between believers and unbelievers normally break out after a believer tries to introduce religion. Either because they see that the believer presents an undistorted and superior religion, or because they arrogantly reject religious morality even though they are equipped by nature and conscience to accept it, unbelievers are drawn into loud arguments instead of engaging in a civilized and useful exchange of ideas. Generally, their examples are untenable and are brought forward just for the sake of argument.
When an example is made of the son of Maryam, your people laugh uproariously. They retort: “Who is better then, our deities or him?” They only say this to you for argument’s sake. They are indeed a disputatious people. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 57-58)
When encountering such people, Allah’s advice is to walk away before they can say another word:
It has been sent down to you in the Book that when you hear Allah’s Signs being rejected and mocked at by people, you must not sit with them until they start talking of other things. If you do, you are just the same as them. Allah will gather all the hypocrites and unbelievers into Hell. (Surat an-Nisa’: 140)
We can see that such people really know nothing about religious morality. In fact, they say: “Follow our way, and we will bear the weight of your mistakes” (Surat al-‘Ankabut: 12), even though Allah says: “…No burden-bearer can bear another’s burden” (Surat al-Isra’: 15).
Unbelievers try to win an argument by bringing their power or material wealth to bear, or on the basis that most people think like they think. However, Allah says: “If you obeyed most of those on Earth, they would misguide you from Allah’s Way. They follow nothing but conjecture. They are only guessing” (Surat al-An‘am: 116).
In other words, just because most people believe something does not mean that it is true. In this regard, Allah frequently mentions such stubborn and ungrateful people, those who do not thank Him, do not use their minds, and hate the truth. This shows that most people are rebellious and, therefore, the number of those who follow a fallacious idea is not important. But unbelievers think that an idea’s truth and power has something to do with how many people believe it. We often hear this fallacy expressed as: “Most people don’t know, but you know!”
In arguments about religion, unbelievers argue to find a “logical” basis for their unbelief. And, just as satan said: “You created me from fire and him from earth,” they say something from their distorted logic and argue on the basis of it. Their purpose is to find an excuse to deny what they know to be true but cannot accept. The Qur’an tells us that they have copied this method from satan:
... Though they see every Sign, they still have no faith, so that when they come to you, disputing with you, those who do not believe say: “This is nothing but the myths of previous peoples!” They keep others from it and avoid it themselves. They are only destroying themselves, but they are not aware of it. (Surat al-An‘am: 25-26)
It is easy to recognize the unbelievers by the kinds of examples they use. In the Qur’an, we see that they claimed to have never heard of Islam as the Prophet (saas) explained, that they had never heard about it from their elders, and that they believed in Allah. Most unbelievers are very violent and aggressive in their arguments, for they threaten “to drive believers from their land unless they return to their religion” (Surah Ibrahim: 13), “to stone them” (Surah Maryam: 46), “to murder and torture them” (Surah Ta Ha: 71), “to throw them into prison” (Surat ash-Shu‘ara’: 29), or “to burn them” (Surat as-Saffat: 97). These examples can be multiplied.
So far, we have examined their arguments about Allah, how they regard believers, how they distort the truth, and how they try to extinguish Allah’s light. Furthermore, we have outlined the various pretexts for their arguments that the Qur’an is untrue. We now turn to another type of argument:
What about the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord, on the basis that Allah had given him sovereignty? Ibrahim said: “My Lord is He Who gives life and causes to die.” He (Pharaoh) said: “I also give life and cause to die.” Ibrahim said: “Allah makes the sun come from the East. Make it come from the West.” And the unbeliever was dumbfounded. Allah does not guide a wrongdoing people. (Surat al-Baqara: 258)
The person presented here as arguing with Ibrahim (as), is a wicked person who has been spoiled by prosperity. Elsewhere in the Qur’an, it is stated that those who argue and contend with believers are wealthy, prominent individuals. Of course, the members of this ruling circle fear that their established order will be destroyed and that their freedom to flout justice and right will be curtailed. Thus, it is natural for them to oppose any change. The wealth that Allah gave them from His abundance made them perverse and led them to associate Allah with His creatures.
No matter how much they claim to believe in Allah, they are in truth faithless people who desire only the wealth of this world. Allah may give them what they desire here, but their situation will be quite different in the Hereafter, because they did not practice religion, ignored the calls, and thus persisted in their unbelief. Thus they should fear their reward: the eternal pangs of Hell. Believers also desire wealth and riches from Allah: “Our Lord, give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire” (Surat al-Baqara: 201).
But believers do not desire wealth only to satisfy their lower selves or to live a life of decadent luxury. Like Sulayman (as), they desire riches so that they may be close to Allah and communicate His religion effectively. Sulayman (as) said: “Truly do I love the love of good, with a view to the glory of my Lord...” (Surah Sad: 32). In return for his sincerity, Allah made him the ruler of the land.
In the past paragraph, we mentioned the unbeliever who argued with Ibrahim (as). He was unaware of his fate and did not understand that Allah encompasses all things and that no one can do anything except by His will. He presumed to tell Ibrahim (as): “I also give life and cause to die.” Of course, it is satan who opens the way to such arrogance: “I (satan) will make things on Earth seem good to them and I will mislead them all, every one of them” (Surat al-Hijr: 39). In this way, he rebelled against Allah and His Messenger. The door of worldly desires and possessions was opened to him, and he was attracted by their appeal. But Ibrahim (as) wisely said: “Allah makes the sun come from the East. Make it come from the West,” and the unbeliever “was dumbfounded.”
Allah will help every sincere believer who turns to Him. The Qur’an tells us how believers are supported in their conversations with unbelievers: “They bring you no similitude, but We bring you the truth and the best of explanations (as against it)” (Surat al-Furqan: 33). So, by Allah’s will, believers are always victorious in such encounters.
The Qur’an tells us that the society’s ruling circle, which has lapsed into unbelief, always create the occasion for an argument. These prominent people are all wealthy, from the viewpoint of worldly possessions, and have a high political and/or economic profile. Their activities will be explained below.
Those who do not believe in the Hereafter think that the wealth they have acquired will be theirs forever. They may fall into a careless state in which they deny the coming of the Day of Judgment and claim that, like the rich vineyard owner in the Qur’an, their situation will be even better in the Hereafter. On the one hand they say they are Allah’s devoted servants; on the other hand they are afraid of death and “would love to be allowed to live a thousand years”: “... life seemed long and good to them...” (Surat al-Anbiya’: 44). And the intimations of satan are at the root of this desire for immortality.
As we read in Surat al-A‘raf 20, satan tried to deceive Adam (as) with the promise of eternal life. His additional promise concerning the “tree of Everlasting Life and a kingdom that will never fade away” (Surah Ta Ha: 120) is consistent with everything we have said so far. One of satan’s most lethal traps is the promise of eternal life and wealth; this is the main thing that leads his “squadron” to perdition. The human spirit is immortal anyway; it is the body that is mortal. The spirit came into being when eternal life was created. Whether a spirit will go to Paradise or Hell is determined by the good works done in this transient world. We cannot expect that a person whose mind has been clouded by satan’s deceitful promises will be able to discuss matters in a logically consistent way. Rather, they will engage in endless argument, shouting and bawling to intimidate the person with whom they are speaking.
When confronted by such people, believers should realize that any further discussion at that point in time is useless and thus leave the person alone. In fact, this follows the Qur’anic command to avoid arguments:
Say: “Do you argue with us about Allah when He is our Lord and your Lord? We have our actions and you have your actions. We act for Him alone.” (Surat al Baqara: 139)