Saturday, July 28, 2007

Education budget

It's really great news that the education budget will be increased by 20 percent (The Jakarta Post, July 10). But on April 19, the Post reported that Rp 4.6 trillion (US$516.85 million) disappeared from the 2006 education budget.

So, will the extra funds be allocated for the improvement of severely under funded schools or will it go to corrupt government officials?

There are two things that I would be very interested in seeing. First is a comprehensive audit of all bank accounts owned by officials of the National Education Ministry and those owned by their family members. Second is an audit of where every child of every ministry employee goes (or went) to school or university.

I would be very interested to know just how many of these officials have large sums of money in their bank accounts, even though their salaries are quite low.

How many of them send their children to study at private schools or universities or even at overseas universities (after stealing taxpayer money), while they complain that the budget is too limited to make substantial reforms in the education system here?

If the President issued a decree ruling that all government officials, including ministers, have to send their children and grandchildren to state schools, we perhaps would see immediate and radical improvements in the quality and standards of national education.

GENE NETTO
Jakarta

Published in Jakarta Post on July 27, 2007

Keturunan Rasulullah dan Habaib

Assalamu'alaikum wr. Wb

Ustadz yang insya Alloh senantiasa diridhoi Alloh, saya mau tanya tentang keturunan rasululloh. Dalam bukuThe true love Muhammad "Khadijah" ada ungkapan bahwa keturunan rasululloh dapat ditemukan dengan mudah saat ini.

Dansejak dulu khususnya dikalangan betawi bahwa para habaib diyakini sebagai keturunan rasululloh, sementara saya pernah mendengar bahwa keturunan rasululloh telah berakhir sampai dengan cucu-cucu beliau yaitu Hasan dan Husein. Mohon penjelasan ustadz untuk masalah ini.

Terima kasih.

Abu Hanif

Jawaban

Assalamu 'alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

Keturunan Rasulullah SAW bisa berarti sangat luas, termasuk para habaib juga termasuk di dalamnya. Sebenarnya mereka berasal dari Yaman, bukan dari Makkah atau Madinah.

Bahkan para pemeluk syiah di Iran, Lebanon dan lainnya pun termasuk keturunan beliau SAW.

Klaim-klaim seperti itu boleh boleh saja, tidak ada yang melarangnya. Asalkan masing-masing bisa mempertanggung-jawabkannya, baik kepada sesama manusia, apalagi kepada Allah.

Kita tidak perlu menghujat atau melecehkan mereka yang mengaku sebagai keturunan Nabi, sebab siapa tahu memang benar. Dan kalau ternyata salah, tentu saja mereka harus mempertanggung-jawabkannya.

Yang lebih penting untuk diingat, meski punya derajat tersendiri dan status sosial yang khusus di tengah masyarakat Islam, namun dalam pandangan hukum dan syariah, tidak ada bedanya antara keturunan nabi atau bukan.

Tidak pernah ada misalnya, kalau keturunan nabi lantas punya fasilitas untuk boleh tidak shalat, tidak puasa Ramadhan, boleh tidak bayar zakat atau tidak wajib mengerjakan haji. Itu tidak berlaku.

Seorang anak habib juga tetap terkena larangan-larangan yang berlaku buat anak Paijo dan Paimin yang orang Jawa koek. Anak habib tetap diharamkan membuka aurat, mencuri, menipu, berzina, membunuh, berbohong, minum khamar dan semua larangan yang berlaku untuk semua muslim.

Kalau ada anak habib mengaku keturunan nabi Muhammad SAW yang ke-100 misalnya, tetapi kelakuannya lebih mirip keturunan Abu Jahal, maka selain berdosa, dia juga telah mempermalukan diri Rasulullah SAW secara pribadi dan langsung.

Kalau ada tokoh yang disegani mengaku keturunan nabi, tetapi doyan menjalankan hal-hal syirik, berpraktek seperti dukun, menggunakan jin dan segala hal yang berbau syirik, maka dia bukan keturunan nabi lagi. Orang seperti ini tidak perlu dihormati, sebab dia telah menipu orang lain.

Kalau ada orang yang mengaku sebagai keturunan arab, hidung mancung, rambut keriting, lengkap dengan nama keluarganya yang nasabnya bersambung kepada nabi Muhammad SAW, tetapi pekerjaannya mencela orang, mencari-cari kesalahan orang, memaki, menghujat, menuduh kafir atau ahli bid'ah, maka orang seperti ini telah mencaci maki diri sendiri.

Kalau ada kelompok mengaku sebagai ahli bait Rasulullah SAW, tetapi ingkar kepada hadits-hadits nabawi, mencaci maki para shahabat nabi, wabil khusus Abu Bakar, Umar dan Utsman radhiyallahu 'anhum, maka mereka bukan ahlul bait. Sebab belum pernah ada ahlul bait di zaman ketiga khalifah ini hidup yang mencaci maki para shahabat nabi yang mulia.

Yang kerjanya mencaci maki para shahabat yang mulia adalah kalangan zindiq yang berasal dari keturunan Persia, mereka terpaksa masuk ISlam setelah kerajaan mereka ditumbangkan oleh para pahlawan Islam. Di dalam keIslamanan mereka yang pura-pura itulah mereka memainkan peran busuk dan kotor, yaitu menghasud umat Islam sambil mengobarkan api kebencian. Sehingga terjadilah perang Jamal dan Shiffin serta fitnah kubro yang sempat mencoreng sejarah.

Lalu muncul kalangan yang menyimpang dari manhaj yang lurus, kerjanya memaki-maki para shahabat nabi serta memuja-muja ahlul bait. Kemudian berkembang membuat aliran aqidah sendiri yang menyimpang jauh dari apa yang diajarkan oleh Rasululah SAW. Mereka ingkar kepada Al-Quran dan membuat mushaf sendiri. Sampai mereka mengklaim bahwa Jibril salah menurunkan wahyu, seharusnya kepada Ali bin Abi Thalib dan bukan kepada Muhammad, nauzdu billahi min zalik.

Wallahi, mereka bukan keturunan nabi SAW. Mereka adalah para zindiq yang menyamar menjadi muslim. Siapa pun yang berkelakuan seperti ini, mereka pasti bukan keturunan nabi Muhammad SAW.

Bahkan meski anak kandung seorang nabi langsung, namun bila kelakuannya justru bertentangan dengan apa yang diajarkan oleh sang nabi, maka dia dianggap bukan keturunan nabi. Persis seperti pernyataan Allah SWT kepada anak kandung nabi Nuh alaihissalam yang durhaka.

Allah berfirman, "Hai Nuh, sesungguhnya dia bukanlah termasuk keluargamu, sesungguhnya nya perbuatan yang tidak baik."(QS. Huud: 47)

Tetapi kalau ada seorang alim yang ilmunya mendalam dan luas, kemampuannya dalam ilmu syariah, tafsir, hadits dan lainnya diakui dunia international, kebetulan secara nasab beliau dinisbahkan kepada sulalah (keturunan) nabi Muhammad SAW, maka wajiblah kita menghormatinya. Pertama, kita menghormati ilmunya. Kedua, kita menghormati keturunannya.

Ulama betawi di zaman dahulu berguru dan mengaji kepada para ulama besar yang kebetulan memang keturunan nabi. Bukan semata-mata keturunannya, tetapi karena ilmunya. Habib-habib di Kwitang adalah salah satu yang bisa kita sebut sebagai soko guru, sumber pertama, sanad awal dari ajaran-ajaran agama Islam yang berkembang di Jakarta dan sekitarnya.

Saat itu, habib di Kwitang bukan sekedar orang yang mengaku anak keturunan nabi, tetapi beliau punya ilmu yang dalam dan luas. Kepada beliau, para kiyai dan ulama se Jakarta belajar. Ilmunya berkah dan kemudian berkembang menjadi ribuan majelis taklim, madrasah, pesantren serta ribuan masjid se Jakarta. Itulah tipologi keturunan nabi yang lurus, berkah dan benar.

Tetapi keturunan arab yang jadi bandarjudi, preman pasar, jagoan alkohol, tukang palak, tukang tipu, makelar tanah dan sebagainya juga banyak. Mereka seharusnya malu kalau mengaku-ngaku sebagai anak keturunan nabi.

Wallahu a'lam bishshawab, wassalamu 'alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

Ahmad Sarwat, Lc

Sumber: Eramuslim

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dua Bab Pertama (Indonesia dan Inggris)


Assalamu'alaikum wr.wb.,

Sekarang, dua bab pertama dari buku saya sudah ada di Blog dalam bahasa Indonesia dan bahasa Inggris. Kedua Bab ini sudah direvisi juga dan ada banyak paragraf baru di Bab 2.

Insya Allah buku pertama ini akan diselesaikan dalam 2 bulan lagi.

Semoga bermanfaat.

Wassalamu’alaikum wr.wb.,

Gene

Mencari Tuhan, Menemukan Allah (belum terbit)

Bab 1: Saya

http://genenetto.blogspot.com/2006/04/saya.html

Bab 2: Ingin Melihat Tuhan

http://genenetto.blogspot.com/2006/04/ingin-melihat-tuhan.html

Searching For God and Finding Allah (unpublished)

Chapter 1: About Me

http://genenetto.blogspot.com/2007/07/about-me.html

Chapter 2: Wanting To See God

http://genenetto.blogspot.com/2007/07/wanting-to-see-god.html

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How I Became A Muslim And Why I Wrote This Book

Assalamu’alaikum wr.wb. This is the First Chapter of my book “Searching for God and Finding Allah”. I hope you find it useful. Wassalamu’alaikum wr.wb.
- Gene Netto

[October 2019 – Latest Draft]

SEARCHING FOR GOD AND FINDING ALLAH

CONTENTS
1. HOW I BECAME A MUSLIM AND WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK
2. A SUCCESSION OF PROPHETS
3. A SIGN FROM GOD
4. FOLLOWERS OF JESUS
5. FOLLOWERS OF JESUS AND FOLLOWERS OF MUHAMMAD
6. THE TRUTH OF ISLAM
7. THIS IS WHAT ALMIGHTY GOD SAYS ABOUT THE HOLY QUR'AN
8. A LOGICAL RELIGION
9. A LOGICAL REASON WHY WE CANNOT SEE GOD
10. OUR SPIRITUAL NEEDS AND GOD'S SOLUTION
11. IT IS YOUR CHOICE: YOU CAN ACCEPT GOD OR REJECT HIM
12. CONCLUSION: THIS IS THE END. OR THE BEGINNING.

******************

1. How I Became A Muslim And Why I Wrote This Book

I began writing this chapter because I was always telling the same stories to people in Indonesia who were curious about how I became a Muslim. Whenever I complained about repeating the same story, my friends jokingly said that I should write a book. At the same time, whenever my students asked what I would like to do if I was not an English teacher, then I usually said that I would like to be a writer because I have always enjoyed reading and writing.

I have been living in Jakarta continuously since 1995, so most of my conversations are in Indonesian language, and I always get asked the same questions: How did I become a Muslim? How did I learn to speak Indonesian so well? And why do I live in Indonesia? Like all developing countries, there are many problems in Indonesia, and so some people are confused about why a westerner would choose to live here.

The reason is simple. Other Muslims often comment that my way of explaining Islam is very different to what they usually hear. They were born as Muslims whereas I spent 5 years examining the teachings of Islam in order to make sure that Islam was correct and logical. They just accepted what their parents told them, but I questioned absolutely everything, continuously analyzing Islam with logic, and always asking, "Why?" Many Muslims only pray because their parents told them to do it, and so they believe that Islam is correct, but they did not analyze what they were doing or why. That difference in our approaches to religion made my understanding of Islam seem very unique to them.

Because I explained Islam in a different way, I often felt that perhaps I had an important job to do in Indonesia. I could speak the language and express my ideas clearly, and my explanations about Islam often had a strong impact on many people. For example, one Muslim man who had not prayed for 30 years suddenly started performing the five daily prayers again after only one conversation with me. And that is what normally happens every time I have that same conversation with each new person. So, I decided that I should stay in Indonesia and try to develop and improve the Muslim community rather than seek a comfortable life for myself in a developed country.

In this chapter, I will explain how I went through the slow process of becoming a Muslim, but this is only for the benefit of readers who are curious about my background. After this chapter, the remainder of the book is not about me, but rather it is focused on my analysis of Christianity and Islam. I explain why I consider Christianity unacceptable from a logical perspective and explain that Islam is a religion based on clear, logical, and intelligent teachings. This means that Islam should appeal to everyone who is trying to understand the meaning of life, as long as logic and intelligence are used to search for an Absolute Truth that could only come from Almighty God.


1.1. In the Beginning

I was born in a small city in New Zealand (which is a small country near Australia). As a child, I was very curious and wanted to learn about a lot of serious topics: the pyramids, dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, world history, global politics, wars, religion, and the whole universe. I remember staring at the stars in the sky one night and thinking about where they came from and how long they had been there. So, I was generally interested in topics that were complicated and mysterious.

Like most kids, I had to learn about Christianity in Sunday School, and I was taught all of the standard Bible stories about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and so on. However, I found a lot of things in Christianity very confusing. I was taught about the Trinity, which says that Almighty God is also Jesus, and also the Holy Spirit. All three of them are God, but there is only one God, not three gods, because they are "one", but also separate. God created Himself as a human being named Jesus, and that man was the Son of God, and also God, at the same time. Then Jesus died, but God is immortal, so God should not be able to die, but that man who was also God did in fact die, even though he could not die, because he was also God. So, were God and Jesus separated at that time so that Jesus could die without God dying as well? Or did God also die when Jesus died because they are "one" and cannot be separated? And if God was also dead, then who brought Jesus back to life? Trying to understand all of that using simple logic made me feel that Christianity was extremely confusing.

I also had difficulty understanding the role of a Catholic Priest in forgiving people for their sins, without first discussing that matter with God. What if the priest got it wrong and my sins were not erased? Could I get some written proof from God that my sins had been forgiven? What if I met God on Judgment Day and found out that the priest had made a mistake, and all of my sins still existed? If I protested, and pointed to the priest who had convinced me that all of my sins were forgiven, then God could simply ask me, "Who told you to believe him?" So, who would save me from God's Wrath if the priest was wrong and my sins were still counted by God?

Because Christianity seemed so illogical, I began to think about how I could get clear answers to all of the religious questions that were bothering me, and so I decided that I would have to speak directly to God. I prayed to God, and I asked Him to appear in my bedroom so that I could see Him with my own eyes. Of course, nothing happened, and God did not appear. I concluded that the reason He did not appear was that He did not really exist, and so I decided to become an atheist and not believe in any gods at all.
After that, I did not talk much about the fact that I was an atheist. If anyone asked me what religion I was, then I just said "Catholic" so that I did not have to explain anything. During the rest of elementary school, junior high school, and high school, I ignored Christianity and all other religions. I was certain that studying religion was a waste of time because God was not real, and all religions were illogical. After I finished high school, my parents decided to move to Australia, and so I went with them.


1.2. Learning About Islam and Becoming a Muslim

In Australia, I went to university and started learning Indonesian language in the Faculty of Asian and International Studies. One day, at a social event, a Muslim man from Indonesia started chatting with me about religion, and then he really shocked me when he said, "In Islam, only God can forgive you for your sins!" I did not know what to say. I just froze, and time seemed to stand still for several seconds. Then, I suddenly realized that he had given me a logical answer to a question that I had been thinking about for more than ten years. In Islam, only Almighty God could forgive us for our sins, without the involvement of any priests. That seemed completely logical, but it also had to be impossible because I had already studied every religion in the world when I was in elementary school, and so I was certain that there was no such thing as a "logical religion".

I started to think more deeply. Could Islam be a logical religion, with clear, logical teachings that I could analyze critically, without getting confused? Could Islam give me real answers to my questions about religion? Could there be Absolute Truth in Islam? This is how I started studying Islam, after one comment from a stranger. I began to read books about Islam and started talking with Indonesian Muslims. Slowly, I built up more and more knowledge by asking questions, thinking, and reading. I wanted to find out if Islam was really a logical religion, and if it was, then what would that mean about the possible existence of Almighty God?

When I finished my Bachelor of Arts degree, I studied for an extra year to get a Graduate Diploma of Education, which made me a foreign language and history teacher. Then, I received a scholarship to study for one year at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, in 1995. Soon after I arrived, the fasting month of Ramadan started. One night, I stayed up late to watch the Tarawih prayers live on television, as they were being performed in Mecca. (Tarawih prayers are special optional prayers that are only performed in the evenings during Ramadan.) The Indonesian commentators said that approximately 3 million Muslims were performing the prayers in the mosque and surrounding areas, which included the outdoor courtyard, nearby streets, and even hotel lobbies.

Three million people, in the same location, doing the same prayer, facing the same direction, following the same leader, praying in the same language, with the same words, at the same time, and praying to the same God. I thought to myself, "Where is there anything like this in a western country?" Only about one hundred thousand people would fit into a stadium to watch a football match. But now, I was looking at three million people in and around one building, all moving in unison. It was a truly amazing sight to see for a non-Muslim atheist. I wondered about how many people could gather in one building to hear the Pope speak, and if everyone would be able to understand him because there is no unifying language for Christians. It seemed that there was no comparison in Christianity with what I saw those Muslims doing in Mecca.

While living in Jakarta in 1995, I continued to learn slowly about Islam, not in a formal way, but just by paying attention to what I saw around me. I watched speeches on television and thought about what those Muslim scholars were saying. I bought some books about Islam and read them carefully with a critical mind. I watched people praying and thought about what they were doing and why. From the basic knowledge of Islam that I had developed, I could not see any significant problems with the teachings of Islam, and by the end of 1995, I was finding it harder and harder to refuse what I had learned. I was constantly searching for large, serious, logical flaws in the basic teachings of Islam, but I could not find any. Islam seemed to be a simple, clear, logical, and law-based religion that I thought would appeal to any intelligent mind.

Everything that I had read about Islam was too logical. Islam could not have been created by human beings, so therefore it must have come from God, so therefore God must exist. But I was still an atheist and not sure if I could ever believe in God. Then, a friend suggested that I should just try praying to God and ask Him to help me believe in Him and believe in Islam. So, I tried praying to God, not expecting anything to happen, but then a few days later, I suddenly started to believe. I did not really want to become a Muslim, but I could not deny what I had learned about Islam, and so I felt that I had no choice: I had to become a Muslim because my logical brain was forcing me to accept Islam.

Then I started to think about my future. My time at the University of Indonesia was almost over, and I would have to go back to Australia. But how could I learn about Islam there? It seemed that staying in Indonesia was a better choice, and so I decided to become a Muslim and live in Indonesia for a while in order to learn about Islam more easily.

In February 1996, I said the shahada (the Islamic Declaration of Faith) and formally became a Muslim. I could have easily gone back to my life in Australia, but I felt more comfortable staying in Indonesia so that I could study Islam in a Muslim community. So, I have been living and working continuously in Jakarta from 1995 until now. I have thought about moving to other countries several times, but every time I decide to leave, something always happens to make me change my mind, and I end up staying here.


1.3. What Is the Purpose of This Book?

I wrote this book because I wanted to explain some elements of Christianity and Islam that I have spent many years analyzing and trying to understand, and I hope that this information will be useful for others. As a child, I gave up on Christianity because I found it too illogical, and I could not find any books that presented an alternative religion with logical teachings as a fundamental basis of the religion. So, I gave up on all religions and gave up on Almighty God as well, and I have met many people who experienced the same problem. I hope that this book will help those people find the answers that they have been looking for all of their lives because I believe that logical answers to all of our important questions can be found within Islam.

This book was designed to be useful for various groups of people. First, for those people who were born as Muslims and do not know much about Christianity. Some Muslims find it hard to explain to their non-Muslim friends why Christian teachings are rejected in Islam, so I would like to make it clear for them. Second, for Muslims who are not devout or might be considering converting to Christianity (or have already done so). Hopefully, the explanations provided here will make it clear why they should study Islam more deeply rather than look for another religion. Third, for ex-Christians who are thinking about converting to Islam but are still unsure about the similarities and differences between both religions. And fourth, for non-devout Christians and ex-Christians who do not have a relationship with the Church. Those people probably still believe in Almighty God but do not understand the connection between Christianity and Islam. Most people probably do not know that, according to Islamic teachings, the religion of Islam is simply the continuation of Christianity and Judaism in a new format, that Muhammad PBUH is simply the replacement for Jesus, Moses, and Abraham, and that Muhammad PBUH is the Final Messenger from Almighty God to all of mankind.

I have met some Muslims who are uncertain about their religion, and this was usually the result of a poor religious education in their childhood. Some of them might only pray whenever they feel like it (instead of five times a day), some might not pray at all, some might essentially feel like atheists or agnostics but will still call themselves Muslims for social reasons, and some of them might have become interested in Christianity. For all of those Muslims, the underlying cause of their problem is essentially the same: they do not really understand Islam because it was never explained to them very well.

Whenever I meet Muslims like that, it is obvious that they do not understand much about Islam or Christianity, and so they are usually interested in my analysis of both religions. I hope that after reading this book those Muslims will feel more confident in remaining with Islam and will begin to seek more in-depth knowledge about Islam from numerous sources. I also hope that ex-Christians who have left the Church, but still believe in God, will find ideas here that will encourage them to seriously investigate Islam with an open mind. Once they have learned more about Islam and understand that Islam is just an updated version of the same religion that was given to Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and all of the other prophets of God, then I hope that they will be in a better position to understand how Islam relates to the Almighty God that they already believe in. If any non-devout Christians or ex-Christians read this book and become interested in Islam, then I hope that they will continue to look for more information about the basic teachings of Islam from other sources.

46. And do not argue with the People of the Scripture [Jews and Christians] except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him."
- (Al-Qur'an, Al-Ankabut 29:46)

I would like to make it clear that this book was not written with the intention of insulting Christians or Christianity. Although Christians may not like what I have said about their religion, I have tried to give thoughtful, academic arguments and not emotional ones. Islam teaches Muslims to avoid insulting other religions because the followers of those religions might respond by insulting Almighty God (Allah).

108. And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge. Thus, We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return, and He will inform them about what they used to do.
- (Al-Qur'an, Al-An'am 6:108)

Please note that this book does not explain everything about Christianity or Islam. After many years of studying both religions, I have thought very carefully about how to explain the differences between Christianity and Islam, and so I have presented some ideas here that may help people who are trying to understand both religions in a logical way. Because my intention is to focus only on what is wrong with Christianity, and what is right with Islam, there are certain topics that I do not discuss at all. For example, there is no chapter that discusses the existence of Almighty God, and I just assume that the reader is already familiar with basic monotheistic concepts, such as the existence of God, prophets, holy books, angels, the Devil, Heaven, Hell, and so on.


1.4. All Human Beings Can Be Good or Bad

After being a Muslim for many years, I can honestly say that it has been an interesting experience with many good and bad points. I have seen wonderful human beings who behave in a noble way because they are Muslims, as well as Muslims who do not care about their religion and do not care if their negative behavior is against the teachings of Islam and hurts other people. I have seen Muslims who are kind, caring, honest, sincere, thoughtful, intelligent, generous, and loving, as well as Muslims who are the exact opposite, and this is true in every religion because human beings can choose to behave in any way they like, regardless of what religion they follow.

Unfortunately, the modern media seems to make it hard for non-Muslims to see anything except hatred, death, and destruction when information about Muslims and Islam is presented to the public. Of course, there are Muslims who carry out acts of violence, but violence is not exclusive to Muslims, and the kindness of good Muslims usually does not become a news story because no one dies, and nothing explodes! So, the small number of Muslims who appear in the news because of their negative actions do not represent the majority of good Muslims who lead an ordinary, peaceful life, go to school, go to work, get married, raise their children, and worship God in the way that they believe is correct.

But there is also another perspective to consider. If Muslims were to think of themselves as "salespeople", and the product that they are "selling" is "Islam", then it is very obvious that most people in the world are not interested in "buying" what Muslims are "selling". In other words, a lot of Muslims are not very good at "marketing Islam" so that it can be easily accepted by others. If someone from a developed country wants to debate with me about the Truth of Islam, then he only has to point out the numerous problems (such as corruption) in Indonesia and other countries with a Muslim-majority population and say, "Doesn't this prove that your religion is no good?" Of course, what he is pointing at is human behavior and not part of Islam, but convincing him of that is quite difficult because his next question will be, "If that behavior is forbidden in your religion, then why is it so common in those countries?"

The answer is that no matter what God tells us to do, many human beings will not obey Him. The best example is the Prophet Adam, who was only forbidden to do one thing: eat the forbidden fruit. So, guess what Adam did? Yes, that is correct! With only one rule to break, Adam, a prophet of Almighty God, managed to disobey Him! We are no different to Adam. But many people in this modern era will quickly judge Islam based on the behavior of some violent and aggressive Muslims that are presented negatively in the media, and so it is easy for "Islam" to get a bad reputation because some Muslims do in fact behave quite badly. And there are some Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and followers of every other religion who behave badly as well.

So, I think that those of us who are Muslims have an obligation to explain Islam in the best way possible to others who want to understand it, and the easiest way for us to do that is to demonstrate the Truth of Islam through our own good behavior. If we can do that, then other people may begin to think more favorably about Islam because they will see the correctness of Islam portrayed through our own actions. In addition to that, we need to explain very clearly why we believe in Islam and explain what Islam teaches about other religions, especially Christianity, which is the closest monotheistic religion to Islam. In order to do that, Muslims must understand the problems with Christianity from an Islamic perspective so that they can have a constructive discussion about both religions, which does not involve negative emotions or hatred. If we can succeed in "marketing Islam" in this way, then Islam may end up with fewer enemies and a lot more friends.

In the following chapters, I will try to explain clearly what Islam teaches about the problems with Christianity and then explain why Muslims consider Islam to be the only correct religion available from Almighty God. I hope you will find the journey enlightening!

2. Wanting To See God

Assalamu’alaikum wr.wb.,
This is the Second Chapter of my book “Searching for God, and Finding Allah”. I am still writing and hope to be finished in the next few months. It is already available on my Blog in Indonesian language with the title: Mencari Tuhan, Menemukan Allah.
Wassalamu’alaikum wr.wb.,
Gene

SEARCHING FOR GOD AND FINDING ALLAH:
The Spirtual Journey Of A Convert To Islam, Who Compared Christianity And Islam In A Search For Truth
By Gene Netto

CONTENTS
1. About Me
2. Wanting To See God
3. A Chain Of Prophets
4. A Sign From God
5. Followers Of Jesus
6. Followers Of Jesus, Followers Of Muhammad
7. The Truth Of Islam
8. This Is What Allah Says About The Qur’an
9. A Logical Religion
10. Our Spiritual Needs And Allah’s Solution
11. You Decide What Happens Next
****

2. WANTING TO SEE GOD

When I was younger, I was convinced that God did not exist because I could not see Him, but in fact, I was also willing to keep an open mind and accept any proof of God if I could find any. I asked a lot of questions about the only religion that I knew, namely Catholicism. My questions about religion were not answered well, which made me even more confused. And because there was no proof that I found convincing, I felt that I was forced to not believe in God.

I often noticed that after a certain event occurred, for example, the death of a child or someone getting cancer, I would often hear adults talking and they would say that we had to just accept the situation. They would accept it by saying “God works in mysterious ways!” This meant that they could not understand why God did something, and for us to ask questions about it would be a waste of time. God was mysterious and we could not understand Him.

But if God is so mysterious, then what did He give us brains and logic for? If God gave us brains, intelligence and the power of logical thought, then it is entirely logical for us to use logic to think about God. This suggested to me that there should be a strong logical foundation to God’s religion. If God really existed, and gave us religious teachings, then what would be the purpose of making those teachings incomprehensible to ordinary people?

Does God have to be “mysterious” if He does not want to be? Is God not capable of accepting and answering questions from His own Creation if He wishes to do so? What if God desires us to know Him (within the limits of our understanding) so that we can become closer to Him? What if He does not want us to consider Him “mysterious”?
God is obviously not visible to us, and so I believe that if we analyze this situation carefully, then it is quite possible that we can find a logical reason for why God chooses not to reveal Himself. And perhaps if we understand the reason for why God is not visible, then we may be able to understand that this happens for our own benefit and not for “mysterious” reasons.

In this chapter, I would like to give one possible logical explanation for why God may chose to remain hidden from us, and how that fact is actually a blessing for us from Allah. To discuss this, we need to look at and compare the story of the Prophet Adam AS, the first human created by Allah, the story of Iblis (the Devil), and also the story of a murderer. Before that, it is important that we review the history of the Prophet Musa AS (Moses) who also wanted to see God.

2.1. Moses Wanted To See Allah Too

In speeches given by Muslim clerics, I have often heard the story of the Prophet Musa AS (Moses) who asked for permission to see Allah. According to the story, Allah simply explained that Musa AS was not capable of seeing Him. Allah might have stopped the event there but, instead, He continued by giving “proof” to Musa AS that he was not capable of seeing his Lord. Allah began to appear behind a mountain, which then exploded, knocking Nabi Musa AS unconscious. This event is described in the Qur'an:

143. And when Mûsâ (Moses) came at the time and place appointed by Us, and his Lord (Allah) spoke to him; he said: "O my Lord! Show me (Yourself), that I may look upon You." Allâh said: "You cannot see Me, but look upon the mountain; if it stands still in its place then you shall see Me." So when his Lord appeared to the mountain[1], He made it collapse to dust, and Mûsâ (Moses) fell down unconscious. Then when he recovered his senses he said: "Glory be to You, I turn to You in repentance and I am the first of the believers."
(QS. Al A’raf 7:143)

This verse gives us the understanding that human beings, including Prophets, are simply not allowed to see Almighty God. If a mighty Prophet of God such as Musa AS (Moses) is not capable of seeing Allah, then there is no hope for ordinary people like us. What we do know is that Musa AS was able to have a dialogue with Allah, even though he could not see his Lord. Another character who also has a dialogue with Allah is the Devil, and in the Qur’an, he is called Iblis.

2.2. The Curse Of Allah On Iblis (The Devil)

11. And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being); then We told the angels, "Prostrate yourselves to Adam", and they prostrated themselves, except Iblîs (Satan), he refused to be of those who prostrated themselves.
12. (Allâh) said: "What prevented you (O Iblîs) that you did not prostrate yourself, when I commanded you?" Iblîs said: "I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay."
13. (Allâh) said: "(O Iblîs) get down from this (Paradise), it is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out, for you are of those humiliated and disgraced."
(Surah Al A’raf, QS. 7:11-13)

In these verses, we are introduced to the creature that refused to bow down to Adam AS. This creature is named Iblis or Shaitân in the Qur'an and is known in English as the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, and so on. In the verses above, we can see a situation where Iblis is arguing with Allah and refusing His Direct Command to bow down and show respect to Nabi Adam AS. This refusal by Iblis to obey the Will of Almighty God was an act of extreme arrogance towards Him, and this is the reason why he was punished.

34. (Allâh) said: "Then, get out from here, for verily, you are Rajîm (an outcast or a cursed one)." [Tafsîr At-Tabarî]
35. "And verily, the curse shall be upon you till the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)."
(Surah Al Hijr, QS. 15:34-35)

Iblis (the Devil) then became the first creature to be cursed by Allah until Judgement Day. This event is very exceptional because it is the first time (as far as we know) that a creature created by Allah was cursed until the end of time. And this event is also special because (as far as we know) it is also the last time this happened. There is no mention in the Qur'an of any other creature being cursed by Allah for all time. The verse above only mentions the Curse of Allah until the Day of Resurrection, but after that, Iblis will be thrown into Hell along with anyone who follows him, so Allah’s Curse and His Punishment will be eternal.

A relevant question for us to ask now is why does Iblis receive the Curse of Allah? When Allah pronounces Iblis to be a cursed creature, it is very interesting that Iblis does not protest. He does not accuse Allah of being unjust. He does not try to argue his innocence or protest the severity of his sentence. If we were to receive such a harsh sentence from Allah, then I am sure we would definitely protest and would try to obtain some mercy. On the contrary, Iblis immediately accepts his fate but asks Allah to delay the implementation of his punishment until the Day of Resurrection so that he will have plenty of time to lead humans astray and prove that he is better.

14. (Iblîs) said: "Allow me respite till the Day they are raised up (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)."
15. (Allâh) said: "You are of those respited."
16. (Iblîs) said: "Because You have sent me astray, surely I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your Straight Path.
17. "Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them as thankful ones (i.e. they will not be dutiful to You)."
18. (Allâh) said (to Iblîs): "Get out from this (Paradise), disgraced and expelled. Whoever of them (mankind) will follow you, then surely I will fill Hell with you all."
(Surah Al A’raf, QS. 7:14-18)

What is obvious from this is that Iblis (the Devil) now has the intention of doing everything he can to get all of the descendents of Adam AS to join him in Hell. This is being done merely to prove to Allah that he is better than a human being. So, now we have an interesting situation. Allah has cursed Iblis but instead of immediately throwing him into Hell, Allah actually gives Iblis a lot of extra time so that he can attempt to lead mankind astray.

If we accept that Allah knows everything that will ever happen in advance of the actual event, then He must have known that Iblis would show such arrogance, then be cursed and subsequently be given time to lead mankind astray. If that is the case, then we must logically accept that the existence of the Devil and his followers, and their affect on mankind, is something which Allah knew about in advance and He allowed it to happen. (Allah did not cause Iblis to rebel, but only allowed him to rebel). The reason we have to accept Allah’s implicit Permission for this event is that we must believe that all things can only occur with Allah’s Permission. If Allah does not give His Permission for something to happen, then how is it possible for that event to occur? If something can occur against Allah’s Wishes, then that would mean Allah is not all-powerful, but we know that He is.

29. Say (O Muhammad): "Whether you hide what is in your breasts or reveal it, Allâh knows it, and He knows what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. And Allâh is Able to do all things."
(Surah Ali Imran, QS. 3:29)

So now, in Heaven, we have Adam AS, together with Hawa (Eve), and also Iblis (the Devil). Iblis (who after being cursed is now referred to as Shaitan in the Qur'an) no longer has any other purpose in his very long life except to lead mankind astray so that as many descendants of Adam AS as possible will accompany him into Hell. With Allah’s Permission (because he could not be there without Allah’s Permission), Iblis is allowed into the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam AS and Hawa. And he succeeds, because he convinces them to eat the forbidden fruit, which causes them to be removed from Paradise and placed on Earth.

35. And We said: "O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight, of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zâlimûn (wrong-doers)."
36. Then the Shaitân (Satan) made them slip therefrom (the Paradise), and got them out from that in which they were. We said: "Get you down, all, with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be a dwelling place for you and an enjoyment for a time."
(Surah Al Baqarah, QS. 2:35-36)

In the case of Iblis (the Devil), he made one mistake, was cast out of Paradise and was cursed for all time. Adam AS and Hawa (Eve) also made one mistake, were cast out of Paradise because of their actions, but they were not cursed for all time! Why were they treated differently?

Perhaps one thing that influenced Allah’s Decision is the fact that only Iblis argued with Allah. He did not repent and did not beg for mercy. However, when Adam AS and Hawa were told that they had sinned, they repented and begged for forgiveness:

37. Then Adam received from his Lord Words.[2] And his Lord pardoned him (accepted his repentance). Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful.
[2] (V.2:37): These words are mentioned in the Qur’ân; (Verse 7:23): They are: "Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers."
(Surah Al Baqarah, QS. 2:37)

So, now we can see two clear cases where Adam AS and Iblis made one mistake each and they were punished for those mistakes, although Iblis was punished more severely. In order to understand how this relates to the topic, namely that Allah is not visible to us for a logical reason, then we also need to examine one final case; the case of the murderer who killed 100 people and yet was forgiven for his sins.

2.3. Iblis (the Devil), Nabi Adam AS and the Killer of 100 People

There is a hadith (oral tradition of the Prophet Muhammad SAW) that tells the story of a killer who had murdered 100 people, but before he died, he had already decided to repent and so all of his sins were forgiven.

Narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri:
The Prophet said, "Amongst the men of Bani Israel [the Jews] there was a man who had murdered ninety-nine persons. Then he set out asking (whether his repentance could be accepted or not). He came upon a monk and asked him if his repentance could be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and so the man killed him. He kept on asking till a man advised to go to such and such a village. (So he left for it) but death overtook him on the way. While dying, he turned his chest towards that village (where he had hoped his repentance would be accepted), and so the angel of mercy and the angel of punishment quarreled amongst themselves regarding him. Allah ordered the village (towards which he was going) to come closer to him, and ordered the village (whence he had come), to go far away, and then He ordered the angels to measure the distances between his body and the two villages. So he was found to be one span closer to the village (he was going to). So he was forgiven."
(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 676)[2]

An important question to ask here is why can a murderer who has killed 100 people obtain forgiveness for his sins? Being forgiven by Allah means that his repentance was accepted, and forgiveness usually means that a person will not be punished for his sins. But on the other hand, Nabi Adam AS who only “ate a piece of fruit” was forgiven, but was also punished. And Iblis (the Devil) who only “argued” with Allah was not forgiven at all and was also punished very severely. It is clear that the murderer had not formally repented (by performing a formal act of worship). He was still in the process of finding the place where he would learn how to repent in a formal way. Nevertheless, he still received forgiveness from Allah and was not punished. Nabi Adam AS also repented and his repentance was accepted, but he was punished by being cast out of Paradise. Iblis did not repent and did not want to repent. He received the harshest punishment of all three cases mentioned.

These three separate cases now fall into two different categories. On one hand, we have the murderer whose sins were forgiven and he received no punishment at all. On the other hand, we have Nabi Adam AS and Iblis who both received punishment for committing one sin each, even though their “sins” might not seem as severe as murder.
If we want to find one logical reason for why we cannot see Allah, then I believe that such a reason can be found by comparing these two groups. We need to find a reason for why a murderer can escape punishment after killing 100 people, yet Adam AS and Iblis who only committed one sin each were still punished by Allah.

2.4. The Benefit For Us If God is Not Visible

Nabi Adam AS was punished, Iblis (the Devil) was punished, but a murderer who killed 100 people was not punished, and there seems to be only one real difference between them: the murderer had no absolute proof that Allah existed! He never saw Allah and never spoke with Him, which is the opposite of Adam AS and Iblis who did have a dialogue with Allah. That killer believed in Almighty God based on faith alone, which means that he believed even though he never saw Allah and never spoke to Him.

Did Adam AS and Iblis believe in Allah because they saw Him? Theoretically, we could make an argument that perhaps they did see Him directly with their eyes and therefore knew that Allah was real. But this theory is doubtful because of the verse mentioned above which says emphatically that Nabi Musa AS (Moses) was not able to see Allah, and that the slightest appearance of Allah was enough to make a mountain explode (QS. Al A’raf 7:143). If Nabi Musa AS was not able to see Allah, then perhaps we can assume that Adam AS and Iblis were also not able to see Him.

The theory that they saw Allah can also be doubted because there is a hadith (oral tradition of the Prophet Muhammad SAW) which states that Nabi Muhammad SAW also never saw Allah with his eyes:

It is narrated on the authority of Masruq that he said: I was resting at (the house of) 'A'isha that she said: O Abu 'A'isha [the honorific name of Masruq], there are three things, and he who affirmed even one of them fabricated the greatest lie against Allah. I asked that they were. She said: He who presumed that Muhammad (may peace be upon him) saw his Lord (with his ocular vision) fabricated the greatest lie against Allah. […].
(Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0337)[3]

If Nabi Musa AS and Nabi Muhammad SAW never saw Allah, then we can assume that the possibility of Nabi Adam AS and Iblis (the Devil) seeing Allah is quite small. It is however very certain that both Nabi Adam AS and Iblis had a dialogue with Allah, as did Nabi Musa AS and Nabi Muhammad SAW. In Surah Al A’raf (QS. 7:22-23), Nabi Adam AS speaks directly with Allah after he is admonished for eating the forbidden fruit. Also, in Surah Al A’raf (QS. 7:11-16) there is a dialogue between Allah and Iblis.

From the fact that both Nabi Adam AS and the Devil spoke with Allah, we can presume that there was no doubt in their minds that Allah was real. They were aware of God, spoke with Him and were also conscious of their creation by Him. They were not acting on faith but rather acting on knowledge. That knowledge actually places them in a privileged position, one of which many of us may be envious. However, we should examine the consequences! Both Nabi Adam AS and Iblis were aware of God and both of them disobeyed Him. Adam AS admitted his fault but was still cast out of Heaven as punishment, whereas Iblis did not admit his fault, did not beg for forgiveness and was cursed until Judgment Day.

By comparison, the man who had murdered 100 people was apparently in a far better position to receive forgiveness from Allah. The killer had to believe in Allah’s Forgiveness based on faith alone, and it seems that this fact gave him a much bigger opportunity to be forgiven and not receive any punishment at all. For most of his life, he had acted without God, possibly not believing in God and had committed many crimes because he was not conscious of his Creator or what his Creator wanted him to do. When he was finally able to repent, he was acting out of faith, believing that there was an Almighty God who would accept his repentance and forgive him for his sins. He did not see God, nor did he speak with God. Perhaps as a result of that “faith”, he found Allah to be the Most Merciful!

If we could see Allah, would we definitely agree to worship Him and obey Him? Seeing Him and knowing that He is real does not automatically mean that we would be faithful. We might believe in Allah now, but that belief alone will not guarantee us entry into Heaven free from sin. For example, Iblis (the Devil) also believes in Allah (meaning that he does not doubt the existence of Allah) but he is not faithful and does not obey Him. If we could see Allah, then it is possible that we might end up arguing with Allah, just like Iblis, and so that would make it difficult or impossible for us to obtain forgiveness.
Do you really want to see Allah? Or hear His voice and have a dialogue with Him? I do not want to, not anymore! Not if seeing Him means that I could get into serious trouble for committing just one sin.

When I was a child, I wanted to see God so that I would have proof He was real and it seems that I was not the only one who wanted to see Him face-to face. The disbelievers who rejected the Prophet Muhammad SAW demanded the same thing:

90. And they say: "We shall not believe in you (O Muhammad SAW), until you cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us;
91. "Or you have a garden of date-palms and grapes, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst abundantly;
92. "Or you cause the heaven to fall upon us in pieces, as you have pretended, or you bring Allâh and the angels before (us) face to face;
93. "Or you have a house of Zukhruf (like silver and pure gold), or you ascend up into the sky, and even then we will put no faith in your ascension until you bring down for us a Book that we would read." Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Glorified (and Exalted) be my Lord [(Allâh) above all that evil they (polytheists) associate with Him]! Am I anything but a man, sent as a Messenger?"
(QS. Al-Isra 17:90-93)

If my desire from childhood had come true and I had seen God, or perhaps just heard His Voice and spoken to Him, then I would have been placed in the same category as Nabi Adam AS. And being in that category has a very clear meaning: disobey Allah one time and receive immediate punishment for one sin. As a normal human being, I commit sins all the time, and it is so easy for my sins to increase daily without being noticed. If I was in the same category as Nabi Adam AS then I doubt I would have survived this long without getting into very serious trouble with Allah.

Then, there is a second problem. If I was in the same category as Nabi Adam AS and if Allah got angry with me for the first one of my sins, would I be like Adam AS and instantly repent and beg for forgiveness? Or would I be more like Iblis and protest? What if I did protest? Would I end up with the same punishment as Iblis – cursed for all time?

All of us collect sins every day, but how many of us repent every day? Just imagine one lie, one broken promise, one small theft, or any single action of which Allah disapproves. Would that be enough to get us into serious trouble? And if we could always see Allah or hear His Voice, we would have no way of protesting our innocence. Would you really want to see Allah if that meant that you would receive immediate punishment for only one sin?

If we examine the different cases of Adam AS, Iblis and the murderer, then what can we conclude? It seems that if we cannot see Allah and cannot speak directly with Him then we are in a much better position than those people who can see Him or speak with Him. When it comes to forgiveness, Allah is far more merciful to those of us who merely believe in Him than those who actually know He exists It would seem from this that if you know Allah is real because you have had a dialogue with Him, then you no longer have any excuses for why you choose to disobey Him and subsequently, you will earn greater wrath and punishment than those who simply believe in Him.

If we believe in Allah based only on faith, because we have never seen Him or heard His Voice, then we are still able to give Allah all of our excuses for why our behaviour is not good enough: I forgot; I was busy; I didn’t have enough money; I couldn’t do it; it was raining; I’ll do it tonight; and so on. And we find Allah is the Most Benevolent, the Most Merciful for those of us who continue to believe.

53. Say: "O ‘Ibâdî (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allâh: verily, Allâh forgives all sins. Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
(QS. Az Zumar 39:53)

The fact that we cannot see Allah is a blessing from Him for all of us who have lives full of sin. If we could see Allah and talk directly to Him, then the penalty for disobedience would probably be too severe for us to cope with. Perhaps we would only get one opportunity to commit one sin, and then we would face the Wrath of Allah. But to protect us from that, and as a sign of His Love for us, He never makes Himself visible to us and never speaks directly to us. We cannot see Him and so we must believe. And we continue to sin. And He continues to forgive us, and gives us yet another chance to be better. As long as we still believe!

21. And those who expect not a Meeting with Us (i.e. those who deny the Day of Resurrection and the life of the Hereafter) said: "Why are not the angels sent down to us, or why do we not see our Lord?" Indeed they think too highly of themselves, and are scornful with great pride.
(QS. Al Furqan 25:21)

First Two Chapters of My Book
The first two chapters of my book are available on my blog in English and Indonesian languages. Hopefully I will be able to publish this book soon, and continue with writing others.

Searching For God and Finding Allah (unpublished)
Chapter 1: About Me
Chapter 2: Wanting To See God

Mencari Tuhan, Menemukan Allah (belum terbit)
Bab 1: Tentang Saya
Bab 2: Ingin Melihat Tuhan


[1] (V.7:143) The appearance of Allâh to the mountain was very little of Him. It was approximately equal to the tip of one’s little finger as explained by the Prophet Muhammad SAW when he recited this Verse. (This hadîth is quoted by Tirmidhi).

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