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?



5 thoughts on “Man

  1. I have found many atheists who are better muslims then me and the many that i have seen on tv or in my surrounding, with that said, i do think that its easier to be with high morales if you are a religious person.
    If its fear of Allah or respect, you have something that enforces the “right” morales. If you are an atheist, you have nothing to fear, nothing to look forward to, you can do as you wish and if you are a good person, then great, because you dont need a God to tell you how to be, but if you go wrong, you can do a lot of harm.

    I have often been mistreated, but its with my belief in Allah and in trying to be patient due to his laws, that i keep myself from doing something bad. If i didnt believe in Allah, what would make me keep myself from hurting those who hurt me?

  2. I like Sophia’s link. I read something similar somewhere else that showed that religion is hardwired into our genes through a mutation because the earliest humans realised that they could monopolise others through belonging to a religion. They created a group of people with common goals and aims and the brotherhood resulted in looking after each other’s backs. That realisation became part of evolution.

    A very, otherwise, pious and religious person may also rape someone while an atheist may believe that it is something evil without believing in God Vs Satan.

  3. I think the psychological breakdown is very Freudian and accurate.

    Reagarding good and bad, in my world – I treat “faith” and “religion” as different things. This thought process was inspired by a hadith I read in which the Prophet (pbuh) said

    “He who does not trust has no faith, and he who cannot be trusted has no religion”

    When I read this hadith (and I have no knowledge as to it’s source or authenticity) what struck me most about it was that faith and religion are spoken of as seperate things. Faith, being the internal pull toward goodness and religion being the external control of behaviour.

    I realised in that moment, that religious people who are bad – are practising religion and have no faith. And people who are really good, but do not adhere to religion, have a great deal of faith and hardly no religion.

    I guess the ideal state of being is when you find a harmonious balance between the two. I also read an essay in the introduction of one of Rahman’s books about the nature of the revelation and the different views on what happened and how it occurred and what makes it happen. The argument that most affected me was that God speaks to us all, but only some are so pure of heart as to recognise it.
    “recognise” being the key word here.

    And I felt that yeah, we all have these moments of inspiration to do good things, be good people – but we don’t go “yes, this is God talking to me”

    But what bothers me most about a lot of few bits of the scholarly work on these topics I have read (with the exception of Karen Armstrong) is that they have an underlying agenda to make one religion better than the other, and argue the case for it.

    When, if I could read something that talked ONLY about Islam, without comparing it to the other religions: it would be better. If we could see the good without comparing.

    Its like a mother comparing her children – using one’s qualities to highlight the others: wouldn’t it be better if goodness alone was enough to justify or express something? Why must we always find something worse to express a positive?

    Positive should be positive and negative should be negative.

    I’m rambling.

    My message is:

    Religion and faith are separate. The former is outside of you: you can only access it through being taught – through books, education, reading etc. The latter is inside of you: no teaching required: it’s just there or not there – naturally.

  4. The comments that preceded mine by “Sophia”, “Bahlool”, “Achelois” and “Jasmine” have echoed many of the thoughts that I want to place especially Jasmine’s that has wrote what I believe in.

    I too believe in what you’ve mentioned in your post that humans are neither good nor bad because they are humans. On the other hand, the difference between (theists) and (atheists) is the acceptance of The Creator for our lif, not the aggrement about having ethical systems. Thus, the reference is different for both but the end is the same. The end I mean here is adhering to Ethics.

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