Blasphemy, freedom of speech, rule of law; these are the familiar topics in discussion these days. I was thinking to write my thoughts on these topics. Hence, I had to think twice, even to think about such topics because there is no room left for tolerance. Fatwas are already set up as soon as you give your opinion about anything which is not acceptable to any other sect.
I would wish to present some excerpts from a dialogue I read years ago in Urdu, recently I have discovered the English version which was originally translated from French to Persian. A dialogue between Ja’far as Sadiq (702-765 CE) was the 6th Imam Of twelve Shias and according to some traditions a teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Wasil Ibn Ata and many more including Jabir Ibn Hayan the alchemist. I would like to request my readers to keep the time of this discussion in mind before I present you more on the subject of blasphemy and other related issues.
Theory about the “Origin of the Universe”. By Ja’far as Sadiq ;
“ The universe was born out of a tiny particle, which had two opposite poles. That particle produced an atom. In this way matter came into being. Then the matter diversified. This diversification was caused by the density or rarity of the atoms.”
Ja’far as Sadiq was a patient and tolerant teachers of his time. After his lectures he would listen and reply to the remonstrances of his critics.
The Dialogue is between Ja’far as Sadiq and Abu Shakir. Abu Shakir used to criticise Ja’far as Sadiq on his Islamic views, specially Tawheed, oneness of God.
Once Abu Shakir, said to him: Would you allow me to ask some questions?
Why not? said Ja’far as Sadiq.
Abu Shakir: Is it not a myth that there is Allah?
You want people to believe in a thing which does not exist. If there was Allah, we could have felt his existence through our senses.
You may say that we can perceive the presence of Allah by our intelligence and not through our inner or outer senses. But our intelligence also needs the assistance of our five outer senses, without which it cannot function. We cannot make any reasoning or come to any conclusion without the help of our senses.
By your imagination you have created a being, which is of your own image. Since you see, talk, hear, work and rest, He also does exactly what you do.
You do not show Him to anyone. To maintain your hold on the people you say that He cannot be seen. You also say that He was not born from the womb of a woman. He does not procreate and that He would not die.
Your Allah is also like the veiled god. You say that the universe was created by Allah. As a matter of fact the universe came by itself. Does anyone create the grass, which grows in the field? Does it not grow and get green by itself? Does anyone create the ants and the mosquitoes? Do they not come out by themselves?
l know that some people, who have been deceived by you, believe in your invisible Allah, but you cannot deceive me and make me believe in Him.
By introducing your invisible Allah to the people, you want to acquire wealth and position and have a respectable, comfortable and luxurious life. These are my last words. I do not want to say anything more.
Ja’far as Sadiq replied:
l would like to start with the last part of your speech. Your accusations that I want money, position and a comfortable life would have been justified if I was living like a caliph. You have seen today that I have eaten a few morsels of bread only and nothing else. I invite you to my house to see for yourself what I will have for dinner and how I live.
Abu Shakir, if I wanted to acquire wealth and have a good life, as you say, I was not obliged to teach and preach to get rich. I would have earned money and got rich by my knowledge of chemistry. Another way to get rich was to do business. I have more knowledge’ about foreign markets than any merchant in Medina.
I have heard, that your father was a pearl merchant. Perhaps you may have some knowledge about pearls. But I know all about pearls and precious stones. I can also appraise their market value. If I wanted to get rich I would have worked as a jeweller. Can you test and recognise a precious stone? Do you know how many kinds of rubies and emeralds there are in the world?
I know nothing about them, replied Abu Shakir.
Do you know how many kinds of diamonds there are and what colours they have?
I am not a jeweller, but I know all about the pearls and precious stones. I also know where they come from. All jewellers must know about gems, what I know, but few of them know their sources. Rough diamonds are cut by experts. This is the cut of a diamond, which gives it its brilliance. Those who are experts in cutting diamonds are trained from the childhood in the profession of their fathers and forefathers. Cutting a diamond is a very delicate and difficult art. A diamond is cut only by a diamond.
I have said all this simply to show to you that if I wanted to accumulate wealth, I could have done so by making use of my knowledge about jewels.
You have said that I have fabricated stories and ask the people to worship Allah, who cannot be seen. You refuse to acknowledge existence of Allah, because He cannot be seen. Can you see inside your own body? If you could have seen what is inside you, you would not have said that you do not believe in Allah, who cannot be seen.
You have said, that a thing which cannot be seen, touched, tasted or heard, does not exist.
Do you hear the sound of the movement of blood in your body? It makes a full circuit of your body. If the circulation of blood stops for a few minutes you will die.
Abu Shakir said: I cannot believe that blood circulates in the body.
It is your ignorance, which does not let you believe that your blood circulates in your body, and the same ignorance does not let you believe in the existence of Allah, Who cannot be seen. Have you seen the tiny living beings, which Allah has created in your body?
It is because of these small creatures and their wonderful work that you are kept alive. They are so small that you cannot see them. Since you are a slave of your senses, you do not know about their existence. If you increase your knowledge and decrease your ignorance, you will come to know that these small beings in your body are as large in number as the particles of sand in the desert. These small creatures are born in your body, multiply in your body, work in your body and die in your body. But you never see them, touch them, taste them or hear them in your life time. If you had known yourself and had the knowledge of what is going on inside your body, you would not have said that you do not believe in Allah.
Pointing his finger to a huge stone Ja’far as Sadiq said:
Abu Shakir, do you see the stone, which is in the foot of that portico? To you it seems lifeless and motionless, because you do not see the brisk motion, which is inside the stone. Again it is lack of knowledge or your ignorance, which would not let you believe that there is motion inside the stone. The time will come when the learned people would see the motion which is in the stone.
Abu Shakir. You have said that everything in the universe came by itself and has no Creator. You think that the grass in the field grows and gets green by itself. You must know that the grass cannot grow without seeds and seeds would not germinate without moisture in the soil and there would be no moisture if no rain falls. The rain does not fall by itself. First the water vapours rise and gather above in the atmosphere in the form of clouds. The winds bring the clouds. Then the water vapours condense and fall down as rain drops. The rain must also fall at the right time, otherwise no grass will grow and become green.
Take the seeds of ten kinds of herbs and put them in a closed jar, which has sufficient water, but no air. Would they germinate? No, in addition to water, seeds need air also. It is possible to grow grass, herbs and fruits in hot houses, when it is very cold, provided there is sufficient air. Without the presence of air no grass will grow in the fields. If there is no air, all plants and animals, including human beings, would die.
Do you see the air, on which your very existence depends. You only feel it when it moves. Can you refuse to believe in the existence of air? Can you deny that to grow and get green the grass needs many things like seeds, soil, water, air, a suitable climate and above all a strong managing power, which may co-ordinate the action of these different elements.
It is not because of one’s knowledge, but it is due to his ignorance that he does not believe in Allah. When a wise man thinks of himself, he finds that his own body needs a controller so that all its organs and systems may function properly. He then realises that this vast universe also needs a controller or supervisor so that it may run smoothly.
Do you think that the mountains are only heaps of stones? The Great Allah has created them to serve some very useful purpose. They were not created so that you may take stones and turn them into idols. Wherever there is a mountain there is flowing water. Rain and snow which fall on the mountain tops produce streams of fresh water. These streams combine together to form big rivers, which irrigate farms and fields.
I am too small and too weak to create Allah with my brain. It is He, who has created my brain, so that I may think of Him and know Him – my Creator. He was there before I came into being and He would be there when I am no more. I do not mean that I would be totally destroyed. Nothing in the universe is totally destroyed. Everything is subject to change. It is only Allah, Who does not change.
Abu Shakir said: I cannot believe that a thing may be everywhere but remain unseen.
Ja’far as Sadiq said: Do you know that the air is everywhere but cannot be seen?
Said Abu Shakir: Although I cannot see the air, I can at least feel it when it moves. But I can neither see your Allah nor feel his presence.
Ja’far as Sadiq said: You do not feel the presence of air when it is not moving. The air is only a creation of Allah. He is everywhere, but you cannot see Him or feel His presence by your senses. You have admitted just now that although you do not see it, but your instinct or your soul tells you that there is something inside the stone, and is not the stone, which can help you. That something is Allah.
I know that you will not accept, or perhaps you do not understand, what I say. A man must have sufficient knowledge to understand complicated problems.
If there was no Allah there would have been no universe and no you and me.
The sentence, “There is no Allah”, is meaningless. The existence of Allah is a must.”
Everything in the universe obeys His laws, which are permanent and eternal. Because of His absolute wisdom and knowledge, He could make such wonderful laws, which will last for ever. Each and every law, made by Him serves some special and useful purpose.
Ja’far as Sadiq asked: Do you now believe that Allah, who cannot be seen, does exist and what you worship is the unseen Allah?
Abu Shakir replied: I am not yet convinced. I am in a quandary. I am full of doubts and misgivings about my convictions.
The above discussion will make me more comfortable to explain my views on blasphemy in my next write up .