"Speak now or forever hold your peace in pieces."
a person who refuses to believe something or who lacks religious faith.
The problem — and some might argue, fantastic thing — about human beings is that it makes us extremely uncomfortable when we’re presented with something that we don’t know how to explain. We are made to believe in an Omni-God, a Being that holds all Divine attributes. We are also made to believe that we cannot explain this God, that everything we know about Him is nothing more than just an analogical assumption. If there is truly a God out there, He is something that no human mind can ever truly comprehend.
But yet, we give very human attributes to this God. In an attempt to understand the incomprehensible and unintelligible, we end up debasing the Divine by giving Him humanlike qualities. “God works in mysterious ways” is a saying that we hear a lot, yet a lot of us still believe that we can predict God’s actions or decisions. A lot of people have absolutely no qualms in condemning someone to an eternity in Hell for the sole reason that “this is what God will do”. But how do we really know for sure that that is what He will do? How are we so sure of what He feels?
This is how I truly believe Asmaul Husna (99 Names of Allah) came to be. We don’t know how to explain something that is unexplainable, yet we truly feel the need to, so we create a list of things to describe something that is indescribable. The list was created as a result of mere mortals trying very hard to bring a Transcendence down to a level in which we can relate to, which unfortunately, strips Him of His Divinity.
When you digest the idea of Asmaul Husna, you start to see that God is a manifestation of many things, while at the same time, being One. This is why I believe that even disbelievers believe.
We were all raised to think that a ‘disbeliever’ simply means someone who doesn’t believe in God — or in Islamic terms, ‘Allah’ — and religion — in this case, Islam. But these disbelievers still believe in something, be it a different concept of God, or an ideology, or a belief system such as justice, peace, and/or knowledge. Not forgetting, that it is human instinct, and also the foundation of every other religion, to also believe in the idea of goodness — to do good and be good to others.
When people choose to disbelieve the idea of (a particular) religion, Islam, and Allah, more often than not, what they are truly rejecting is its institutionalised concept. They don’t believe in that institutionalised ‘God’, and they don’t believe in that institutionalised religion. However, most conventional Muslims, Christians, Jews, and people of faith, are raised to believe in an institutionalised version of an aesthetic belief system. It is also hardwired into us since young to believe that anyone who does not adhere to our beliefs are ‘infidels’ and ‘astray’.
If we put religious institutions aside and start seeing religious belief systems as a moral concept, we start seeing the world a lot more differently — all of us are striving for the same thing, just under different names.
We cannot describe God, but Muslims adhere to Asmaul Husna as His Divine attributes. This list, however, is actually still not exhaustive enough to describe Him. If you were to look at any disbeliever (the concept that we’ve been made to understand of the term), the things that they believe in — be it justice, peace, love, and/or knowledge — are listed under Asmaul Husna. Ultimately, this means that they believe in ‘God’, they just don’t call this thing that they believe in ‘God’. Is it right for us to condemn someone to an eternity in Hell just because they don’t believe in my concept — or an institutionalised version — of God? I honestly don’t think so.
I believe in a God that is Encompassing, Merciful and Compassionate. I believe in a God that is Good. And if this is the God that I believe in, I would also like to believe that He wouldn’t send someone to Eternal Punishment — for the sole reason of choosing to believe (or disbelieve) in another religion or a different version of a particular religion — even though they are an inherently a good human being. Our purpose on this Earth, from an Islamic point of view, is to live for God. And as a Muslim who believes in God’s Graciousness, I choose to see that a disbeliever believing in moral concepts might actually just be another pathway to Heaven. To me, they are living for God, though to them, they are living for something else. They do, after all, believe in an attribute that is listed under Asmaul Husna. From the way I see it, they are actually doing a service to God, they just don’t realise it.
You only get to believe the things that you have reasons for, and it’s completely fine for you to hold to a certain religious belief system, even if it is institutionalised. However, if you were to use your beliefs and religious scripture(s) to prove the truth of your belief system, a disbeliever will still disbelieve in your concept and have their own reasons and beliefs for doing so. A lot of Muslims may argue that these good people just have not received their hidayah (guidance) yet from God to embrace Islam, but all people of faith say the same thing about their religion. Some might even say things like “Poor thing, he was a nice person but too bad he didn’t receive hidayah to embrace Islam before he died,” thus assuming that this person is destined to go to Hell. What if their good conscience is also a form of hidayah and God has chosen a different path for them? Instead of dumping them all into a negative category, we should try see them in a different light.
This is why I have chosen to detach from religious labels and start seeing religion as a moral concept. When you do that, you are no longer putting people into boxes or separating them into different camps. Instead, you start respecting them as a human being that is equal to you, who is striving through life, just like yourself. You no longer hold arrogant conviction that only you and your people know the Truth and possess a ticket to Heaven, and even in Islam, arrogance is a dirty trait to have.
This is why God is Great to me. He has been Gracious enough to allow us all a chance at knowing Truth, even if it comes in a path that is different from what we know or are used to. We have billions of people roaming the Earth, and from the way I see it, we’re all striving for Truth, for God, just using different roads, under different names. You can hold true to your beliefs, but don’t use it as a justification to condemn others for the way they think.
At the end of the day, we really don’t know Absolute Truth. The way you were raised or were taught can justify why you believe in something, but it doesn’t justify the truth of your beliefs. If that was the case, then every religion — therefore also no religion — can be considered true. Even what I am saying right now might be a false belief, but I figured that it is always best to respect and be kind to people of other beliefs, instead of constant bickering over who we think is right or wrong. Or at least, this was how I was raised to be and that the God I believe in promotes Goodness over all else. This is why I have chosen to see ‘disbelievers’ in a light that promotes unity and tolerance, not segregation and hostility. They are still my brothers and sisters in humanity.
God is Omniscient, which is I have decided to let go and let God. It is not my, your, or our prerogative to decide who goes where in the Afterlife, or how God will react in certain situations. God is beyond us. For me, the best form of worship and appreciation that you can perform for Him is to be kind, gentle, compassionate, and graceful with His Creations — by taking care of the Earth and the people that He has gifted us. At least, kindness and mercy is a concept that we all can agree on. Let’s stop the unholy wars which has done absolutely nothing good but instead further divide us.
Only God knows best. Wallahualam.