God’s presence is around us, every minute, every second
Posted September 19, 2009on:
published by Jakarta Globe, September 18, 2009
The holy month of Ramadan is a time when many people are inclined to reassess some of their most basic assumptions about Islam. It’s a time when Muslims are encouraged to pray more, give more, interact more and fully explore their religion, inspiring them to become better people.
But just as Muslims have Ramadan, people of other religions also have ways of recharging their faith. Christians have Christmas, Hanukkah for Jews and solstices for modern pagans.
In addition to these special occasions, many believers also practice complicated prayers and rituals on a daily basis.
It’s a big question for atheists as to why people are so devoted to their faith. They are curious why billions of people believe in something they can’t see or touch.
A nonbeliever once asked me, “Why do you believe in God? You haven’t even seen him.”
“Because belief is something you can feel in your heart and you don’t have to see to believe,” I replied.
But my answer didn’t satisfy him. He wondered why I needed to listen to all that talk about heaven and hell when the clerics themselves have no certain proof of an afterlife.
He confronted my faith: “I don’t understand why you, and all the other people of faith in the world, believe in the words of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. They were just ordinary people like you and me, who just happened to be smart enough to create some of the world’s greatest poetic books.”
It’s obvious that due to dramatic changes in the world, the major religions are having a hard time after a few centuries in the safe zone. People have started to question the validity of religion on various issues.
Islam is being attacked from every direction due to the terrorist acts committed by Muslim fundamentalists. Western society started to accuse Islam of being an irrational religion after the 9/11 tragedy. And with suicide bombs occurring everywhere, including in this country, Islam finds itself in an increasingly uncomfortable position.
Other religions are having the same problems: Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,’’ for example, attacked the pillars of Christianity, while some people have become suspicious of Judaism because of the issues surrounding Israel and Palestine.
Living in an era where the trend is toward atheism can be tough for the devout. You can forget your religious commitments and feel happy about it, because it’s easy to find the information you need to hate your faith.
If you are a person of faith, try not to be offended by what nonbelievers think of you and your religion. And who knows, at some point those nonbelievers might have a good point that you can learn from.
We believers don’t always have all the answers. We may think we have the answers, but with all the scientific research out there, I think we have to accept the fact that sometimes we can’t always provide the world with good answers.
I remember asking my Islamic studies teacher during my first semester at university, “Why do non-Muslims go to hell when they die?”
My teacher said, “Because they are sinful for being non-Muslims.”
Unsatisfied with his answer, I tried to dig out some more information, and asked him, “What if those people don’t know anything about Islam, let’s say they live in a very remote area in the mountains where the word Islam has never even been heard of? Will they still go to hell?”
He said, “Don’t go too far. There are things people have no need to find out. They are God’s secrets.”
And that’s where the main problem lies. We believers think we have the answers to everything, because when we are stuck we can always say things like, “Because God says so.” But that’s something that people on the other side can’t accept.
But with all the doubts and accusations, I still believe in my faith. It’s not easy, of course. Especially when you are young and there are so many temptations out there. I want to prove to people that I’m Muslim but not just because I was born one.
To blame religion for all the wrongdoings in this world is easy. But we also need to look at honest and humble religious people who try to make this world a better place.
It’s a challenge for religion and all people of faith to prove that we can indeed bring peace to this world. Through our long and complicated prayers, we have to show that God does exist. As my mother always says, “People say God can’t be seen. They’re wrong. God’s presence is around us, every minute, every second.”