The nature of religious faith is quite mysterious. As part of their religious faiths, people believe in a variety of deities. There are people who have religious faith in the unseen supreme transcendental power and then there are others who believe in some humans as gods, animals (like monkeys), fire, idols made of stone, and the list goes on.
A lot is associated with having a religious “faith.” Part of it has to do with beliefs passed on through generations. People’s identities therefore get tied to it. Many times, these beliefs and associated feelings are not completely demonstrable by reason or any rational arguments. There is nothing right or wrong with this but that’s just how the nature of religious faith has come to be.
Everyone thinks they are right in their faith and beliefs. Being with people and groups with similar faiths further strengthens people’s faiths and they see it as “right” even though logical reasoning and argument sometimes can’t explain it all. That’s human psychology.
Islamic religion is different in this context. One may argue that similar to other faiths there are aspects of it which are not completely demonstrable by reason but on the other hand, the Qur’anic text, which is Allah’s words addressing the humanity at large, uses intellectual reason, critical thinking, and the process of reflection as a means to not only reinforce the faith of the believers but also to call non-believers to ponder about the authenticity of Islam as the way of life for the humanity at large. Although no religious beliefs can be fully based on logic and reasoning, Islam and Qur’an provide more than enough examples and an opportunity to examine the truth and the soundness of its message through the lens of empirical evidence and knowledge.
No one (Muslim or otherwise) would argue that critical thinking and reflection can be a major catalyst for changing of one’s life. Critical thinking has been used by many to improve their lives simply because a critical thinker asks probing questions about a situation, collects as much information as possible, reflects on the ideas collected and generated in context of the information available, keeps an open and unbiased mind and carefully scrutinizes assumptions and seeks alternatives.
This is the reason therefore that new Muslim converts would attribute the use of intelligent reasoning, reflection and critical thinking when explaining their journey to Islam. Such people cut through the hysteria created by some in the media to view Islam from a critical lens and following the truth thus comes naturally to them as part of this process. How else can one explain the increase in conversions with the increase of anti-Islam rhetoric? How else can one explain that more non-Muslim preachers have been converting to Islam than ever before? Although as Muslims we believe that the guidance (hidaya) comes only from Allah, the use of a person’s God-gifted intellectual reasoning has a very powerful role to play in Muslim converts making that destiny changing decision. And once converted, they rarely go back to their old faiths simply because a faith whose foundations are built on logic and reason is much less likely to be shaken down than one which builds simply upon a set of rites and sacraments.
Reasons attributed by new converts
Some of the reasons attributed by people who convert to Islam are listed below. We can see that most of these reasons can only be attributed to the process of critical thinking and intellectual reflection.
1. Eloquence of Qur’an’s language: The uniqueness and beauty of Qur’anic text has been marveled by the best of Arab linguists and scholars from the days it was revealed until today. The more knowledgeable people are in the language, the more they appreciate the wonders of the textual fluency of the Qur’an.
2. Overwhelming scientific evidence and proofs: The Qur’an, revealed more than 1,400 years ago has numerous scientific facts that are being validated by science only in this era.
3. Divine wisdom behind various social issues: The Qur’an provides a solution to numerous social issues, a deviation from which has known to cause societal chaos at all levels.
4. Arguments rooted in intellectual reasoning: Qur’an is the only known religious text that challenges mankind to think, reflect and ponder over the creation at large, social issues, God’s existence, and more. Qur’an in many instances challenges people to reflect and think on their own rather than heeding to the loose talk of those whose criticism is based on baseless foundations.
5. A confident assertion of one Supreme Being: Qur’an is the only known religious book that has a confident assertion of one Supreme Being on all issues ranging from the creation of the universe to social issues.
6. Divine Text: Qur’an’s language and prose are very different from the language in the Hadith (Prophet’s sayings) thus proving that Qur’an is not the “imagination” or words of Prophet Muhammad, as many doubters have alleged in the past and do so even today.
Stress on thinking and reflection
The Qur’an on numerous occasions challenges humanity at large to think, reflect and ponder over their affairs. Here is some of what the Qur’an states: Thus do We explain the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, laws, etc.) in detail for the people who reflect. (Qur’an, 10:24)
“Do they not think deeply (in their ownselves) about themselves (how Allah created them from nothing, and similarly He will resurrect them)? Allah has created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, except with truth and for an appointed term. And indeed many of mankind deny the Meeting with their Lord.” (Qur’an, 30:8)
“He it is Who has appointed for you the night that you may rest therein, and the day to make things visible (to you). Verily, in this are Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) for a people who listen (i.e. those who think deeply).” (Qur’an, 10:67)
“Does man think that he will be left Suda (neglected without being punished or rewarded for the obligatory duties enjoined by his Lord (Allah) on him)?” (Qur’an, 75:36)
“Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?” (Qur’an, 23:115)
To the rejecters of truth the Qur’an states: “Or do you think that most of them hear or understand? They are only like cattle; nay, they are even farther astray from the Path. (i.e. even worst than cattle).” (Qur’an, 25:44)
“Do they not reflect? There is no madness in their companion (Muhammad). He is but a plain warner.” (Qur’an, 7:184)
“Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and rending asunder by the fear of Allah. Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect.” (Qur’an, 59:21)
When studying the many cases of new Muslim converts, we see that engaging in critical thinking and intellectual reasoning have led people to change their non-Islamic faiths, the same faiths that earlier supposedly could have moved mountains, get diluted by the voices of reason easily heard in the roots of Islam. A mere process of thinking and reflection brings so much to the limelight that otherwise remains veiled by distractions and forces of the anti-Islam pundits. Those who are bent to see only the negative, fail to see the light of truth and instead engage in a never ending superficial analysis to unsuccessfully prove their misguided philosophies.