Thoughts after reading The Brothers Karamazov

A quick summary of the events of the novel “The Brothers Karamazov” along with my thoughts and reactions after reading the book.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

I recently finished reading The Brothers Karamazov, a book written in the year 1880 by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It’s one of the famous classical books, although it was a challenging read and quite long (took me nearly 2 months), so I wanted to get my thoughts & reactions down in this blog post. This post isn’t really coherent so please forgive me for that. I might also edit or add more as I continue to reflect on the book.

Continue reading “Thoughts after reading The Brothers Karamazov”

Is Hell Just?

Whether eternal punishment in Hell (may Allah save us from it) is just.

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

One of the more controversial ideas, in some circles, is that God will punish wrong-doers with eternal damnation in Hell. In this blog post, I will first explain why it is Allah’s right to reward and punish, and we are in no position to question His judgement. I will then talk about the Islamic theory of salvation and how to attain it. Finally, I’ll answer the question: why will good people who were non-believers in God go to Hell?

Preface: Hell, does it even exist?

Obviously, a sizable number of people do not believe that Hell even exists. The purpose of this post is not to prove or disprove the existence of Heaven/Hell because the post would become too long in that case. I’m just talking about whether or not it is just. Long story short: yes, Hell is real; if you want to discuss this further just leave a comment below.

Defining Justice

Those who claim that Hell is unjust are making a claim about justice. But who gets to decide what justice even is? Humans have come up with innumerable definitions of justice throughout the millennia, and will continue to do so. In any case, a human-made definition of justice cannot be used to “judge” God, which is what people who claim Hell is unjust do. It’s unjust according to their particular set of beliefs. Which are man-made and probably false anyway.

However, there are certain aspects of morality that humans share across cultural and temporal lines. One of them is the idea of reciprocity. You go to work, you get paid. You do a favor for someone, you get thanked. Et cetera. Most humans would agree that if you do a favor for someone and they don’t even say “Thank you,” then that’s pretty rude on the part of that person.

Compensation for God’s Favors

Allah said in the Qur’an: “If you should count the favors of Allah, you cannot enumerate them” (14.34 and 16.18). In other words, Allah’s blessings on us are literally infinite. Every molecule of air you have breathed your whole life is a blessing; every beat of your heart is a blessing; every cell in your body is a blessing; everything bad that could have happened to you but didn’t is a blessing; and the list goes on and on and on. Yes, it’s literally infinite.

We can only thank God for a finite number of these favors. An infinite number minus a finite number is still an infinite one. Even if we were to be recompensed a very, very small amount of Hellfire for not thanking and praising God for each one of these, it would still entail an eternity in Hell.

You might be thinking: doesn’t this mean everyone should go to hell? Theoretically, yes. If Allah (SWT) were to throw all of humanity into Hellfire, it would be 100% justified. It’s only through His mercy that He kept the door of salvation open.

Salvation in Islam

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but there are two prerequisites for salvation in Islam: iman (faith) and good deeds. Those who have both will enter Paradise, In Sha Allah (God willing). Those with iman but too few good deeds, or too many evil deeds, may go to Hellfire for some time. Those who have no iman at all, regardless of their deeds, may end up in Hellfire indefinitely. And Allah knows best.

One question that frequently comes up is: what about people who have no iman, but do good deeds? For example: a polytheist who gives a lot to charity, or an atheist who strives for justice?

My answer to this: everyone is judged according to their intentions. People, Muslims included, should constantly be asking themselves: with what intention am I doing what I’m doing? The true believer will always work for the sake of Allah. If they’re feeding a poor person, they’re doing it for God, not the poor person. This is how Allah described them in the Qur’an:

And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive; (saying) “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude. Indeed, We fear from our Lord a Day austere and distressful.” So Allah will protect them from the evil of that Day and give them radiance and happiness. [76.8-11]

Only work done solely for the sake of God will benefit us on the Day of Judgement. The people who we help today will not be able to help us on that Day. This also applies to Muslims who commit riyaa – doing acts of worship for other than the sake of Allah.

Conclusion

Some people might still not be satisfied, saying that the punishment described in the Qur’an is “too harsh” or “excessive.” What I would say to them is this: listen, you can sit here and complain about how “harsh” it is all day if you want. That won’t change anything. Allah has described everything that might happen to us, in exact detail, if we don’t follow what He has revealed. And He also calls Himself the “Most Merciful, Most Compassionate,” and has told us what will happen if we follow His religion. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to be a grateful servant and dedicate your life to the sake of God.

Salaam,

~ Yousuf

10 June 2015


Update: I’ve learned some new information that I have been reflecting upon, so I decided to update the post.

Almost everyone, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, considers themselves to be a good person. But every single one of us has an utter disregard for other life forms. Consider the following: on average, the human body breathes in 860,000 micro-organisms every day, many of which are murdered by the body’s immune system. We’re all killers

The difference in power and intelligence between the human being and a microbe is smaller than the difference between the human being and God, the creator of the universe. So if God is unjust for putting people in Hell, or allowing suffering to happen on Earth, then remember this next time you take a breath: you’re committing a genocide.

~ Yousuf

17 June 2015

Olaudah Equiano on the Ottomans

An excerpt from Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography where he describes his experience in Turkey in the 18th century.

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Islamic history is a fascinating subject. And one of the most interesting things to read is an account of a foreign land written by a traveler. This book excerpt combines both of those elements.

The book is called The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. It’s an autobiography first published in 1789 by a former slave. He traveled and experienced a lot in his life, but here I want to focus on Equanio’s visit to the Ottoman Empire.

The source for this excerpt is courtesy of Project Gutenberg. A link can be found here.

Instead of using the block-quote feature, which would become inefficient for a very long excerpt, I just added lines before and after the quote. I also added my notes using a superscript (like this0) which you can read at the bottom. And I split up some long paragraphs as well. Enjoy! Continue reading “Olaudah Equiano on the Ottomans”

The Diversity of Religion

Humans follow many diverse religions, each of which claims to be the truth. What’s the best explanation for this?

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Human beings follow many, many religions, and each one claims to be the truth. Obviously, these claims to absolute truth are, for the most part, irreconcilable. Christianity and Hinduism can’t be true at the same time. Same for Islam and Zoroastrianism. Either there is one God, or many deities, or none. The mutual exclusivity of the world’s religions (and for the purposes of this post I’ll count atheism/agnosticism as a “religion” even though they’re technically not) should be quite clear to most people, hopefully.

So how do we explain this diversity? Continue reading “The Diversity of Religion”

Review: Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer

My review of “Signature in the Cell,” which argues for intelligent design as the best explanation for the origin of life.

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

I recently finished reading a book titled Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen Meyer. I got it from the library, but you can view it on Amazon here if you need to. I liked the book a lot but I’ll try to be as objective as possible in this review.

Continue reading “Review: Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer”

Ways to better the ummah

A few suggestions to better the state that we find the ummah in today.

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

I just watched a khutbah by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan (about the Paris shooting) which gave a relatively grim outlook on the current state of the Muslim ummah. You can see the khutbah here. I left some comments which you can read/reply to here and here. I will reprint the second comment below.

Some ideas to better the ummah: Continue reading “Ways to better the ummah”

Round-up and summary of responses to Bill Maher

A collection of articles, blog posts and videos which responded to Sam Harris and Bill Maher’s bigotry about Islam.

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

The controversy over Bill Maher’s show seems to be dying down a bit. That being said, I’d like to organize a list of good responses to Maher and Sam Harris and the people that think like them in this post. This is mostly for reference, or to send to someone who might agree with their views.

Continue reading “Round-up and summary of responses to Bill Maher”