I’m currently reading Tarif Khalidi’s new book, Images of Muhammad.
I found the following excerpt interesting:
The portrait of man in the Qur’an may be summarized as follows: man is forgetful, inconstant, impatient, fickle, frivolous (Q. 4:137). Without belief, man is jahili, a creature of whim, running after shadows and illusions. Man is quick to call on God in misery and quick to abandon Him when he is at ease (Q 41:51). Man is by nature argumentative (Q 18:54), boisterous, torn in different directions, divided in desires.
In a striking image, the human soul is compared by the Qur’an to a personality (in whom quarreling partners share) (Q 39:29). Man is habitually prone to factionalism, and is often hypocritical. The beliver’s soul, by contrast, is steadfast, patient, remembering.
This portrait of man highlights not sinning man but frivolous man. It does not pass a blanket psychological judgement on man as does, say, the doctrine of original sin. Rather, it views man as a fragmented and deeply divided personality in need of discipline, the discipline of patience, communal prayer in ranks, of obedience to God, of steadfastness, of reflection.
I find this portrait fascinating. On the one hand, it fits with what I perceive human nature to be – neither good nor bad but easily influenced by context, i.e. society. On the other hand, does this mean that humans cannot be good without the discipline provided by worship or belief in God? Or is this referring a different type of goodness?
I have long been against arguments that suggest that morality can only stem from religion/belief and worship in a God/Gods. I believe that an atheist can be just as good of a person as a believer, and in fact it is often the case that believers take religion to an extreme whereby they become bad people. It is very unfortunate that today many Muslims go on & on about how non-believers are evil and “bad” when in fact we see just as many Muslims being unfriendly, stealing, raping, etc. I don’t think morality is tied directly to a religion. That said, I do see the benefits in being disciplines, which is one major reason why I love prayer, especially communal prayer. It is humbling and brings the community together in a way nothing else can. However, I do not believe that discipline through religious worship is the only way to inner peace/reflection/goodness.
What do you guys think?