Muslims’ struggle between spirituality and rationality

Although Islam enables us to donate as much as we desire in our lifetime, However, being religiously rewarded is certainly different.

“Do you know better than God?” was a provocative statement by a friend of mine when I voiced unease about the distribution of my father’s inheritance. In Islam, my mother, a devoted housewife for over half a century, got one-eighth of her husband’s legacy, while the remainder was split between the children, despite the son (me) earning twice that of the daughter. In my case, I am an independent professional with over thirty years of decent earnings and have nearly received half of my father’s legacy.

Although Islam enables us to donate as much as we desire in our lifetime, However, being religiously rewarded is certainly different. The dilemma of Muslims who abide by the good faith of Islam is that they tend to stay away from raising their concerns over certain religious articles and obligations that could help them to better comprehend it. Meanwhile, we, Muslims at large, believe that rituals on their own will improve our lives without employing the right efforts to fulfil it.

Muslims are customary, following rituals at the expense of using our minds! We are obliged to pray at 7 years old and fast a few years later, making rituals practically part of our DNA. Meanwhile, we are deliberately discouraged from thinking at large, which might lead us to ask for our political rights and convert us from a follower society. In parallel, corruption and inefficiency are widespread in most Islamic nations, wherein citizens behave good and bad in equal measure, believing that God will eventually even out the balance. We bribe in the morning and pray at night, asking God to forgive our morning’s sins.

“Go and buy a lottery ticket, so I can help you win,” is a storyline that exhibits what we have to do to evolve. Before requesting God to improve our lives, we need to do our homework. Being an unproductive society, that values corruption and inefficiency won’t move us forward. Many Muslims argue that rituals calm them down, but the same applies to other Abrahamic religion or even atheists. Religion, in essence, is meant to shape us into a better society, the expansion of immorality in many Islamic nations, means that Muslims are not comprehending the virtues of Islam correctly.

Human beings’ brains are the most sophisticated on earth –  created by God, at least for believers, to be so. Mankind’s dominance over this world is clear proof of this. The brain is designed to think, doubt, affirm, and hopefully act wisely. Some Muslim scholars argue that when it comes to religion, believers should switch off their minds and follow Islamic guidelines instinctively. However, if God wanted us to be a mindless society, he wouldn’t have given us a brain in the first place.

Muslims, on average, are the least knowledgeable, least wealthy, least innovative, and least developed when compared to other world religions. Although many Muslim nations are blessed with abundant oil and gas resources, tourism sites, and other natural resources, these privileges have never positively reflected on lives of their citizens due to poor governance and corruption. Many Muslims argue that Western nations conspire against us, but even if this is true, they shouldn’t win if God is backing Islam.

“Read” was the first word Allah spoke to Prophet Muhammad, commencing the Qur’anic revelation. The Prophet was illiterate, but it was his miracle to become the messenger of the word of God. “Read”, in my opinion, has plenty of meaning;  it entails being knowledgeable and acting intellectually. We, as Muslims, tend to inadvertently refrain from doing so while holding closely to strict observance of rituals. Meanwhile, non-Muslim nations are rapidly growing due to their dependence on science and the mind.

Should a human’s life revolve around religion, or is religion meant to shape our lives to be better people? In other words, who should drive whom? As a true believer, in my opinion, our minds shouldn’t conflict with our religion. Muslims who are at a distance from knowledge might be misunderstanding a given Islamic obligation such as “jihad” by translating it as a holy war to defend Islam instead of building a good Muslim society, which will value Islam better than engaging in a war.

Certainly, I don’t know better than God, but maybe God’s devotees are misperceiving his message. Islamic rituals, on their own, won’t boost our lives and could unintentionally lead us to avoid confronting our failures in life. Connecting the dots of religion in a constructive way will only happen if we use knowledge and mind. Asking God to improve our lives while we are still an unproductive, corrupt society simply won’t work.

Mohammed Nosseir
Mohammed Nosseir
Mohammed Nosseir is an Egyptian liberal politician, living in Cairo and advocating for political participation, liberal values and economic freedom. He tweets @MohammedNosseir