Faith and Reason

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: Iman (Faith And Belief), Pope Views: 5630

I have a theory about riots: those out on the streets often don't have a clear idea what they're rioting about. And invariably, they have a lot of time on their hands.

After all, how often do you find an employed person asking for leave to join the demo of the day? But when you have time to kill, you'll join any crowd that's out to protest, no matter what the cause. When Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' inflamed the Muslim world, how many people demonstrating had actually read the book? I must confess that neither had I, but it wasn't for lack of trying: struggling manfully, I ploughed through the first hundred pages before admitting defeat. So I never actually read the passages that gave rise to the famous fatwa. But I doubt very much if the people who rioted even saw the book.

The same is true for those up in arms about the Pope's address at the University of Regensburg. I have printed out the speech, and must confess that it's heavy going. The offending section is a tiny part of the paper, and it remains a mystery why Pope Benedict needed such an obscure quotation in his discussion of faith and reason. Having said that, he has addressed an issue that needs to be debated: how should believers reconcile their faith with the dictates of reason? According to him, modern Christianity has bridged the gap, while Islam hasn't.

We can debate his conclusion, and criticize his choice of supporting material, but we can hardly deny his right to hold an opinion. When Muslims demonstrated their opposition to his views, many of them carried placards threatening the Pope with death. In fact, the London police are seeing if they can prosecute some demonstrators for inciting others to violence. It seems that our stock response to the slightest provocation consists of death threats and violent demonstrations. These undignified protests reinforce the worst prejudices others have about Muslims. After all, why should some cartoons in an obscure Danish newspaper, or a papal address at an unknown German university, send hundreds of thousands pouring into streets around the world?

When we were children, when somebody said anything offensive, we would chant: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me." As we grew older, we learned that some words are deadlier than any sticks or stones, festering long after bruises and wounds have healed. But we were also taught to be stoical, and not to complain.

In a letter to the Guardian of September 20, San Cassimally of Edinburgh writes: "As a Muslim, I am much more saddened and shocked by the murder of the Somali nun than by what the Pope said in Regensburg... even if he knew exactly what he was doing."

I would add that I am far more horrified by the endless Muslim-on-Muslim killing going on in Iraq than by anything the pontiff could possibly say. According to UN estimates, an average of a hundred Iraqis are being killed every day, almost invariably by other Iraqis. And all too often, many of the victims are tortured to death. When Israel killed a thousand Lebanese civilians in a month of senseless bombing, Muslims (and others with a conscience) around the world were rightly incensed. But approximately the same number of Muslims are being killed by other Muslims every 10 days in Iraq, and there are no protests anywhere. Before the invasion of Iraq, when Saddam Hussein tortured and gassed his own people with impunity, I do not recall any Muslims condemning him publicly.

Applying these same double standards, when NATO forces accidentally kill Afghans, we are furious. But when the Taliban kill innocent Afghans in suicide bombings, and assassinate teachers for teaching girls, we look the other way. Similarly, when the Iranian authorities rig elections and suppress their own people, we are silent spectators. But when President Ahmedinejad is seen as standing up to the West, we applaud him loudly.

This kind of moral inconsistency is reflected in the treatment non-Muslims generally get in Muslim countries. For instance, while the 300,000 Iraqi Christians were treated as equal citizens in Saddam's secular regime, two-thirds of them have fled the increasingly Islamic nature of the present government. In Pakistan, we are regularly and correctly pilloried by human rights organizations for the wretched social and legal status of our minorities. Saudi Arabia, while funding Wahabi mosques across the West, refuses to permit non-Muslims to build their places of worship on its soil.

I am often asked why Muslims in Pakistan get so worked up about Bosnia, Chechnya and Palestine. I try and explain in terms of the ummah, and the feeling of connectedness between, say, Indonesian Muslims and Turkish Muslims. But I fear this is only a small part of the real answer. The truth is that the problems we face in much of the Muslim world are often so intractable that we escape reality by looking abroad. Matters like poverty, disease, political instability and institutional meltdown are too difficult to be tackled by the inefficient and corrupt elites much of the Muslim world is cursed with. To deflect blame, they fulminate against the West for its perceived anti-Islamic attitudes.

It is this mindless, knee-jerk anti-West sentiment that sustains the extremist groups, and is now propelling us to a very real 'clash of civilizations'. As Islam becomes more heavily politicized, it is evoking a strong reaction in the West. More and more, the Muslims who have migrated to Europe and America, as well as their children, are being seen as a fifth column. The sight of perpetually angry Muslims from London to Lahore, marching with placards calling for the death of somebody or the other, is moving normally liberal people to anger.

For me, the really worrying part of the Pope's address was his demand for the subordination of reason to theology:

"Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought: to philosophy and theology."

Sorry, but I'm not buying this, Your Holiness. This is precisely why I don't think faith and reason can ever be reconciled.

Irfan Husain writes for Dawn, an English daily newspaper from Pakistan

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society
  Topics: Iman (Faith And Belief), Pope
Views: 5630

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Older Comments:
Ibrahim inquires why they don't build churches in Saudi Arabia!The most asinine question surfacing on the net.For whom would they build the churches?There are no Christian Saudi citizens,dah!

As iam sure, there are Hadees, prohibniting churches in arabian peninsula .. so why the writer is so angry about noy building churchs there.

do you think that these millions of people demonstrate world wide for different resons, are jobless ppl?!!!!


Irfan Husain as usual pens another insightful column with passion, logic, and feelings of despair and asking fellow Muslims to think for themselves as to what has gone wrong in today's Muslim world.

No informed observer today can deny the painful truth that that majority of Muslims entertain uncontrollable irrational anger, a profound sense of humiliation, and the will to reason why things have gone so bad in their real world. Islamiyat needs today a hundred more "Irfan Husains" to point out how the plain rot has entered in islamic societies.

Instead of asking the question," what went wrong?' Blame is passed on to others- the West and the Rest. To start with; blame the Mongols for burning down the libraries in Iraq, the west for colonialism, blame Umrika, and blame Israel. It is so easy.

Instead of tackling this tough questions of illiteracy, poverty, corruption and lack of health services etc, most Muslims are interested in finding precise time of moon sighting for fasting and feasting. How ridiculous? One wonders where is itjihad that is long overdue!

Even sensible writers like Irfan Husain who was once jailed, harassed by military dictators , corrupt governments and Beardos are now being hounded. Now It seems 'law-abiding pious Muslims' are not far behind to go after Irfan Husains, Rusdie, Noomani or Taslima Nasreens.....

This behavior won't earn neither the respect nor the sympathy of billions of people outside Muslim world except hardened attitude, disdain and contempt. It is a matter of time. Ultimately Muslims themselves will be the loosers. Then there will not be any Saladins or someone to restore imaginary Andulsia.


If the Pope or any of my fellow Christians are still wondering why Muslims are angry to a point of violence just observe this video of what the Israeli government does daily to savage the lives of the Palestinians not even sparing innocent Palestinian women and infant children. If you are human with even an iota of decency, your blood has to boil. See it and dare ask why Muslims are angry:

This article has very little to do with the relationship between faith and reason. A poorly written article by a "journalist". Muslims are under attack both internally and externally, and we are fending off those attacks. The author is very blind to the self-criticism of Muslims. We are addressing our own problems. Many ulema both sunni and shia are trying to calm the tensions in Iraq. The reaction to the burglar is more severe than to your sibling who steals from you. This is natural. It takes time to put one's own house in order and is more time consuming than kicking out an intruder.

"Saudi Arabia, while funding Wahabi mosques across the West, refuses to permit non-Muslims to build their places of worship on its soil."

Saudi Arabia is the land of Islam, its last Prophet and the place of the Quran's revelation. They (govt of KSA) is justified in not allowing the building of churches, temples, synagogues, etc. When was the last time you heard the Vatican allowing the building of a masjid or a hindu temple in Vatican City?

"More and more, the Muslims who have migrated to Europe and America, as well as their children, are being seen as a fifth column."

May be in Europe but DEFINITELY NOT in America. America's Muslims are not being seen as a fifth column. Muslim Americans are tax paying citizens and are one of the most well off groups in America. Alhamdulillah!

Irfan Husain is better served by traveling, studying Islam, the liberal arts and expanding his knowledge on the natural sciences.

The writer wrote faith and reason can never be reconciled. But Quran says exactly the opposite. God asks you to reason even in faith , even in your belief. To look , to think, to ponder, to ask questions. You cannot have faith until you can reason and know for sure that it is right.

When I see christians questioning Trinity, three in one being monotheism, God having two sons Adam and Jesus but no daughters. They are reasoning , questioning. No one is forcing Islam today as muslims are living in fear themselves. With so many christian missionaries why is Islam rising in the west? Whether it is Judiasm or Christianity or Islam you have to reason, ask questions then alone can you practice your faith. Today you have non practicing muslims , christians and jews. Practicing faithful are very few. You have to reason and I say faith and reason go together.

Yes some people may not reason but most do. You dont need to think much when someone says Islam is evil or the prophet(S) brought evil during a time of war and on 9/11 anniversary. The Pope knows well that 1 out of 5 is a muslim in the world and his words impact a large world population. I think you can reason that this was to instill hate. Where was reason at the time of crusades? How many muslims and Jews were murdered at the hands of christians. Did the Pope apologize for that? I am pleased that now he is having interfaith dialogues etc.but the damage is done. It will time for muslims to trust him.

Muslims had tried to remove autrocratic rulers like Saddam. They ar still trying to remove kingdoms in other places, which have been put in place with lot of force and iron with help from western governments. Sometimes there are left absolutely helpless as they jailed, shot at or tortured by their own governments.

But it comes to their faith being ridiculed, their prophet slandered they stand together. Sometimes by demonstrations they test to see where their autocratic king or puppet governments stand? Sometimes it is a united show of love for their religion and against their own government. Sometimes the government themselves use the people for that show.

No one can justify killing of the nun. When Saddam gassed his own people whether Kurds or Shias, people did revolt. It was put down. Media does not cover much when muslims apologize for 9/11 or anything else. Whom are you thinking will condemn, the so called Islamic governments and kingdoms who want all that strong show of force to exist to put down rebellions and revolutions?

Popes and imams have to weigh each word before they write their speech for they impact the world population.Especially the Kaaba imam and the Vatican pope as they are leaders of two major faiths. They are supposed to build bridges and increase love and understanding.

Alhammdullah the writer says many important things. If faith and reason are compatible, and if spreading the faith is done by convincing others rather than threatening others, then why is there so much violence and attempts as coercion when such a statement happens?

As br. Irfan says, when such a statement occurs the correct response (that is if you believe the emperor's statement is wrong) is for scholars to point that out, and to provide evidence. Burning churches and killing nuns ironically furnishes evidence that the emperor was correct. It's important to realize this and allow this reality to condition the way Muslims respond to such instances.

Carefully and patiently arguing and providing evidence is how you convince. Engaging in uncontrolled violence, unreasoning polemics, and resorting to baseless speculation about conspiracies are the tools of coercion. So how does Islam spread, by the former or the latter? Make your actions the foremost evidence. That is what people will see, and the conclusion they will draw.

M FROM USA said:
Irfan Husain says: "This is precisely why I don't think faith and reason can ever be reconciled."

... Islam wants people to use their reasoning to find the truth and this man says the above statement!

Dear Irfan, though I agree to some of your views but not all. It is indeed a grave things to be violent while protesting some derogatory comments about islam and its prophet but the truth is not what appears in Popes speech. Though the title sounds good, the underlying truth is that he himself believe that what Quran teachs is inhuman and evil. I woder if Pope ever read Quran himself or holding his prejudice that if he reads it his faith will be shaken as taught by the catholic church. Ill humbly request all those who hates muslims and islam, to read Quran with an open mind and with reason. There youll find everything reasonable. I have not seen a single verse in Quran which is not reasonable. Then how islam and reason do not comply? Many will be surprised that even idolaters become furious when they are told that the Universe was created by Jesus (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him), because though they worship some idols, they believe in the Almighty God above what they worship. Then who needs to be more reasonable? Muslims, who believe in Almighty God alone or Christians who believe in something not easy to conceive??

The author is living in the pre 60's mentality.

He NEEDS to educate himself, quite a bit.

In this article , the theme to put others down via disrespecting is very prominent.

The author writes:

"After all, how often do you find an employed person asking for leave to join the demo of the day? "

This is insulting to all protests worldwide and all the revolutions that came before us.

To live a dream life as an employee seems what this author has always dreamnt of. He needs to get out of his small box.

This type of "Putting down others is a way of talk in many so called educated people especially from sub-continent and is one of the biggest reason, they are not taken seriously and in return
put down and discriminated by their own brothers in Arab world.

When Muslims try to realize the image we are portraying ourselves because of our actions, only then will we stop blaming the media and the West for portraying Muslims as hot-headed violent people. To be frank, our actions indicate exactly that!

Dear Irfan, If you are being attacked and slandered, it would be your Islamic duty to defend yourself with the means you have available to you. The same with the Muslim Ummah, if our Holy Prophet (SAW) is being attacked we will defend his honor with protests and placards which is the peaceful means available to us. Yes, protests can get violent and rowdy because emotions can run high, but protest is better than complacency.

Al-Hamdulillah Irfan Husain of Dawn is pointing
out violence is not the solution. This is
exactly what Pro-Israeli Zionists Jews, have
Muslameen believe to become passive without any
resistance or protest or voicing. As they rule by proxy thru installed and paid to passive governments like Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Pakistan.

So Zionists can go leaps and bounds to wipe out Islam and Muslameen from their believe and faith as they did with Cristianity.

The problem with many such Muslim writers is they
take western media reports as gospel truth. All
bombimgs from 911 twin towers to trains are by
Muslameen. They do not investige or research to
find the truth til western media starts to admit the truth. By asking questions how is it possible to find bombers' passports, drivers' license on top of pile of rubble, burnt, wrecked demolished buildings or train and thier whole history flashed in media in minutes from what they had for breakfast to bombing. Muslim writers should be itelligent to check source of the news and understanding and knowledge as to who owns the media, what plan/role/purpose do they have with this news to push their Satanic evil greedy agenda for worldly benefits by using and abusing Muslim and others. As Zionists Jews follow Talmud thinking they are superior race and Allah/God's chosen one, rest are all are animals, inferior and gentiles use them abuse them.

Muslameen must understand the fact governments are controlled, installed and paid by Israeli Zionist Jews thru USA, UK and European governments and its agencies like CIA and Mossad to push an agenda.

The solution as Salahuddin found out and corrected which brought back victory to Muslim
Ummah by asking and teaching mothers to build nations who are illetrate in Quran and Sunnah a practical manual from our manufacturer to read, learn and teach children to act, take action with accountablity on this Earth and and on the Day of Judgement for everlasti

Why everyone is trying to blame Islam? If you blame the Muslims to me is O.K but not Islam is uncalled for.Islam is the natural Religion it is compartable with nature.It came at the time when the controversial comment by the Pope generated anger in the Muslim world at the same time trying to blame Muslims as usual and Islam unnecessarily.Just now an Archbishop from Africa was excommunicated by the Pope for ordaining a Priest who is married.So his crime was he was married this is the only sin.Now the question which I may ask anybody who cares to answer: Is it compartable with nature as the Pope wants to lecture us? Anyhow he has since apologised so we should move forward. Lets leave it as it is we don't want generate another controversy since the
Pope met Muslim Ambassadors Monday to difuse the situation.So please stop blaming Islam for anything rather you can blame Muslims in a constructive way.We are ready to accept any criticism provided it is done sincerely.Muslims are also human beings like every one bound to commit their own mistakes like the Christians and other religious groups but to always single out Islam and Muslims for all evils is very unfortunate. At least now we can go forward,
understand one another with the intention to building bridges that would help the two Divine Religions come together on matters of humanity such as justice,sympathy and peaceful coexistence.

I loved your article and I hope that in future you will keep bringing up such topics as we the muslims are truely not following Islam in its true form as we keep writing articles that just flares more hatret than anything else. Thank you , Thank you.

The DISEASE OF THE UMMAH is one of being harsh towards others but being nice towards yourself while the pious predecessors had the thinking of being good towards others and being reflective and honest towards yourself. We have too much fakeness in the Ummah and too many self-righteous thinking as we are better than others, but thats not the way of our religion as our religion was/is built on modesty and patience.

Dear Irfan,


Your summary, in part, would be prudent for some. However, history has proven us wrong, and people whether Muslims or not, will react to inappropriate statements regarding that which they love, sometimes harshly and sometimes with the commonsense that would befuddle the ordinary.
Thus, one cannot expect that Muslims, some of us, would not sit back and accept at face value without the least questioning, the intentions of an individual, even if he is the Pope. And sometimes the actions chosen by these individuals can have far reaching effects. In the face of adversity, our Prophet, may Allah bless him, choose to await the instructions of Allah before acting. He even forgave the entire Mecca for the atrocities committed against him! Can our nations show the same restraint? We have seen that we cannot! And yes, idle hands can cause such wickedness whereoff the mind cannot imagine!

Human beings are noted to be dramatic! We can do things, say such things and cause such injuries, with little or no effort about a thought process. Wouldn't you be angry if someone should insult your wife, your girlfriend, or your mom? The question is how far would we go to accomplish the deeds of anger? Your guess is as good as mine. But we have seen what some people can do!
Allah is aware of every action! And nothing happens without His permission. It is therefore, not a lost cause should we choose to ignore the Pope's remarks simply because Allah is watching. However, would this inaction cause furhter insults and indignities? Perhaps.
We have to believe in Allah. We must know that He protects the Quran. And He protects us. Can we make everyone see this line of reasoning? No we cannot! They will hear but will not pay heed. And yes, they are some who will definitely sow the seeds of hatred among us. The big question is what do we do and how we do it. Only time will tell!