Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Atheists must assume their intellectual and social responsibility - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Why do we see the obstinate persistence in reviving the tendency towards atheism? Why is there a drive to resurrect this trend from its grave, after it had been killed and buried by scientific fact, particularly the science of physics?

Before answering this question, I call upon the readers to reflect deeply and intelligently on the following facts:

Firstly, a person’s mind – according to Islam – is safeguarded from inspection and incrimination, for what is in one’s mind always remains “concealed”.

Only God Almighty knows what is in one’s mind. It is God alone who can read people’s minds and hearts. This is something that is for God Almighty alone; not prophets or kings. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (pbuh), said this himself in a clear and frank manner. On one occasion, the Prophet (pbuh) was referring to whether somebody had made the pledge “there is no God but Allah” and whether he had said this genuinely or not, and remarked “Did you open him up to see if his heart said it or not?”. Another hadith also reiterates this view, when the Prophet (pbuh) said “Allah has pardoned my people for what they think in their minds as long as they do not speak about it or act upon it.” That is to say what is in one’s mind or heart is safeguarded, so long as a person does not speak or act upon it. However, should they act upon it, then what was concealed becomes revealed, and the person must take the religious and social responsibility for whatever they have said or done.

Secondly, we must remember that the foundation and purpose of Islam is to introduce people to the religion of God, not cause them to abandon it. Islam is an approach that attracts, not repels. An attractive approach invites people to enter the circle of belief, whilst a repellent one encourages people to enter the circle of disbelief. It is impossible for belief and disbelief to intersect. To put it another way: Islam is an approach of joining together; it brings one Muslim together with another to ultimately form the entire Muslim Ummah. Islam is not an approach that repels, for this eventually leads to nothing; namely a Muslim who is ignorant, disobedient, and wrong. Let us completely discount this type of Muslim, particularly as no Muslim is perfect and free from mistakes, but this approach – the approach that repels – is divisive, and in the end nothing remains. This was the deranged tendency of the Kharijites and Mu’tazilites, and those who become entangled in their trend.

Islam is an approach that attracts, not repels; an approach that unites, not divides; and this is a reality that is corroborated by several pieces of evidence:

• The first piece of evidence is the call to Islam. The purpose of the call is to convert people to Islam: “Say, [O Muhammad], “O mankind, indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, [from Him] to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no deity except Him; He gives life and causes death.” So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered prophet, who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him that you may be guided.” [Surat al-Araf; Verse 158]

• The second piece of evidence is the joy and happiness that occurs when somebody converts to Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) told Ali Ibn Abi Talib, “If a single person embraces Islam at your hands (i.e., through you), that will be better for you than red camels.”

• The third piece of evidence is the sheer human capital of the Islamic world. The Prophet (pbuh) once ordered that the total number of Muslims be counted, saying “write down for me the name of everyone who calls himself a Muslim”. The total number of Muslims is of great significance in Islam for several reasons, and the Muslim population can be utilized from anything from civil construction to defense and so on.

Returning to my previous point, namely facts that the reader should reflect deeply and intelligently upon when addressing the issue of atheism; the reader must also consider a third fact. This is that we are discussing the issue of atheism, disbelief and apostasy from an intellectual dimension, without going into the criminal side of this, which is something for the judiciary to tackle. We are certainly not judges, and it is not our place to issue rulings in this manner.

Thus I have offered my context: I said that what is hidden in a man’s mind or heart is protected and safeguarded, and it is not right, under any circumstances, to violate this sanctity. Knowing what is in somebody’s heart or mind is reserved for God Almighty alone. I also mentioned that the purpose of Islam is to introduce people to religion, not to cause people to abandon faith, and that Islam is an approach of attraction, not one that repels.

However these facts bring a highly significant question to mind: what if someone chooses atheism, disbelief or apostasy, and avows this in an open and explicit manner, for example by blaspheming against God Almighty, or ridiculing the Prophet (pbuh)?

In my opinion, the just and rational position that should be adopted by someone who has chosen disbelief, and publicly announced their apostasy, is as follows.

They must take complete intellectual and moral responsibility for their position; a key aspect of this is for people to know and recognize this individual as a non-believer and apostate. If they didn’t want to be known as such, they should have kept their views in their own hearts and minds, and refrained from speaking or writing this publicly. If they had done this, nobody would have the right to condemn them, whether morally or criminally. This is because Islamic Sharia Law is based on people’s actions, not what they might believe in their hearts. Al-Bukhari narrated that Omar Ibn al-Khattab once said “some people were condemned through Revelation [from God to Prophet Muhammad] during the time of the Prophet (pbuh), however since then…a person is now judged upon his deeds. Whoever displays kindness to us shall be trusted by us and brought closer in our company. We will not try and infiltrate their innermost feelings, for God shall hold them answerable for their hidden intentions. And whoever displays animosity to us shall not be trusted nor believed by us, even if they claim their intentions are good.”

Those who publicly express apostasy or atheism believe that they are displaying moral courage. Well, they should show the same courage in the face of Muslim society and accept being labeled as atheists, infidels, and apostates. They have no right, by the standards of their moral courage, to be aggrieved by this description. If they are angered by this, then they are like someone who, for example, intended to betray their country and declared this publicly, but then protested when they were accused of treason! It is as if they are saying: I do not believe in your Islam and I do not believe in God and His Prophet, nevertheless you must know me as a “Muslim”. Or as if a traitor says, yes I tried to betray my country, but you must know me as a patriot!

Once again, this question leads on to another: Who would choose atheism and publicly declared their commitment to it?

In the past, there were people who did so: “Said those who were arrogant, “Indeed we, in that which you have believed, are disbelievers.” [Surat al-Araf, Verse 76]. Now there are people in modern times who are following this path. Disbelief is a “psychological condition” which struck the ancient people of Thamud, and still afflicts people in the 21st century. The disbelievers of today do not have any privilege over the disbelievers of the past: “Are your disbelievers better than those [former ones], or have you immunity in the scripture?” [Surat al-Qamar, Verse 43].

Regarding the position that we [the believers] must take against those who profess atheism and apostasy, we must inform people of this, and warn them against being influenced by their ideas. This is the duty of religious scholars and intellectuals; isn’t it their duty to enlighten people against deception and superstition, as well as the corrupt interpretation of religion? This is something that also applies to atheism and atheists. In truth, atheism is not a “mentality”; it is a psychological disease that is dependent upon illusions that are excessive in their premises, analogies and conclusions. An example of this is the belief that all the beautiful, diverse and wonderful creations in the universe are in fact evidence of the non-existence of our Creator. It is as if these atheists believe that they alone exist, whilst their Creator does not!

Allow me to conclude the article by giving these atheists even more reason to despair, by telling them that thousands of atheists and non-believers have tried to attack Islam throughout history. They have all perished, whereas Islam has only grown stronger. Ever year thousands of non-Muslims freely convert to Islam, out of love for this religion and faith in Almighty God who revealed Islam to his Prophet (pbuh), who conveyed this message to all of mankind.

Dr. Zein Al Abdeen Al Rekabi

Dr. Zein Al Abdeen Al Rekabi

Dr. Zein Al Abdeen Al Rekabi is a prominent Saudi writer and Islamic affairs expert.

More Posts