Small Talk, Deep Meanings


Fred, Bashir and Nouman were sitting at their highschool cafeteria table, enjoying their lunch break. The cafeteria was spacious and bright, with large windows that let in natural light. It was usually crowded and noisy during lunch break, as students gathered to eat, chat, and socialize. However, Fred, Bashir, and Nouman were having a serious and meaningful conversation about their faith and beliefs.

Fred had recently converted to Islam after learning about the religion from his friends and online sources. He was eager to share his thoughts and questions with them.

“Hey guys, so my family has been asking me loads of questions ever since my conversion” Fred said. “How do you know that Islam is the true religion? There are so many other religions and beliefs out there. How can you be sure that you have the right one? Do you know how to go about answering all this the best way.”

Bashir smiled and said, “For sure, Fred! I would start off with talking about how Islam is not just a religion of blind faith. It’s a religion of reason and evidence. Then start explaining the basic beliefs"

“Which specific beliefs would you start with?” Fred asked.

"We believe that universe and cosmos did not just all come about into existence by chance or coincidence but there was a first cause Allah, the Creator of everything" said Bashir. "Allah sent prophets and messengers throughout history from amongst the people to guide us. Allah has sent many prophets to different nations and times, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, peace be upon them all. However, the original teachings of those prophets which was to believe that there is only one God, no partners from the creation and to worship him and follow His guidance alone were changed. Over time, the people put a man or some sort of creation as a partner between themselves and Allah. So the next prophet would be sent to revive the message, right up until the final messenger Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”

“So how do we prove that these prophets were really sent by Allah?” Fred asked.

Bashir said, “We know that because they brought clear signs and miracles that proved their truthfulness and authority. For example, Moses (peace be upon him) split the sea, Jesus (peace be upon him) healed the blind and the leper, and with the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) we have The Quran, the final revelation of Allah to humanity. The Quran is a miracle in itself. It has many features that show its divine origin, such as its linguistic excellence, its scientific accuracy, its historical authenticity, its mathematical precision, its consistency and coherence, its preservation and memorization, its prophecies and challenges, and its universal message and guidance.”

“That’s good stuff,” Fred said. “Can you give me some examples?” he asked.

Bashir said, “Sure. Firstly, the Quran has a unique style and structure that is unmatched by any human speech or writing. It has a perfect balance between rhyme and meaning, between clarity and eloquence, between simplicity and depth. The Quran also contains many scientific facts that were unknown to humans at the time of its revelation but were later discovered by modern science. For example, it describes the stages of human development in the womb, the expansion of the universe, the orbits of planets, and many more. Alot of these facts were only discovered by scientists in the 20th century.”

Fred nodded enthusiastically. “Nice. Can I take notes?” he asked.

Bashir nodded. ““Another example is that the Quran has historical accuracy that is verified by modern archaeological findings." he said. "For example, it mentions ancient civilizations such as Pharaohs, Thamud, and Aad and mentions names of individuals like Haman that were lost or forgotten by humans. Orientalist scholars misunderstood Haman to be taken from the Book of Esthers in biblical history but with later excavations and rediscovery of the ancient Egyptian language that was dead for thousands of years, we find chief of architecture to be named Haman -matching the Islamic narrative".

Frank was quickly scribbling what he heard. “That’s amazing,” he said.

Bashir continued, "The Quran also has mathematical precision that is evident in its numerical patterns and codes. For example, it mentions the word ‘day’ 365 times, the word ‘month’ 12 times - that is pretty good for a book that was revealed over a period of 23 years.” He finally paused.

“There are many more examples like these" he said. "The Quran is full of scientific miracles that prove its divine origin.”

Fred nodded slowly and said, “I see. So Islam is based on rational proofs and evidences that show its truthfulness.”

Bashir said, “Exactly. Islam is not a blind faith. It’s a faith that appeals to both the heart and the mind.”

Fred put his pen down and sat deep in thought. He said, “That makes sense to me. But I have another question now for myself. How can we revive Islamic civilization like it had existed in Andalusia? I heard that Muslims were very advanced in science, art, culture, and tolerance back then. What happened to them? And what can we do to bring back their glory?”

Bashir said, “That’s a very important question, Fred. And it’s one that many Muslims have been asking for centuries. Islamic civilization reached a peak in Andalusia between the 8th and 15th centuries CE. Muslims were pioneers in fields such as astronomy, mathematics, medicine, chemistry, physics, philosophy, literature, and architecture. They also lived in harmony with people of other faiths and ruled them all justly. They contributed greatly to human knowledge and civilization.”

Fred said, “That sounds awesome. But what caused their decline?”

Bashir said, “There are many factors that contributed to their decline. Some of them are external factors such as wars, invasions, colonization, oppression, and discrimination by other powers. Some of them are internal factors such as corruption, division, ignorance, extremism, and stagnation among Muslims themselves.”

Fred said, “That’s sad. So what can we do to revive Islamic civilization?”

Bashir said, “We can do many things, Fred. But I think the most important thing is to revive Islamic intellectual thought. We need to reconnect with our rich heritage of knowledge and wisdom. We need to learn from our past achievements and mistakes. We need to study the Quran and the Sunnah, the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad, with understanding and application. We need to use our reason and logic to understand and explain our faith. We need to be creative and innovative in finding solutions to the problems of our time. We need to be open-minded and respectful of other views and perspectives. We need to be humble and sincere in seeking the truth.”

Fred said, “I agree with you, Bashir. Islamic intellectual thought is necessary for the revival of Islamic civilization. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I converted to Islam. I was impressed by the arguments and evidences that Islam provides for its beliefs. For example, the Kalam cosmological argument originally proposed by Imam Ghazali and Sunni Muslim scholars makes me think that Islam is more logical than Atheism and other worldviews.”

Bashir said, “I’m glad to hear that, Fred. The Kalam cosmological argument is a very powerful argument for the existence of Allah. It basically proves that everything that begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause. And that cause must be Allah, who is eternal, uncaused, powerful, intelligent, and personal.”

Fred said, “That’s right. The Kalam cosmological argument shows that Allah is the best explanation for the origin of the universe. It also shows that Atheism is irrational, because it denies the existence of a cause for the cosmos.”

Bashir said, “Exactly. The Kalam cosmological argument is one of many arguments that Islam offers for its beliefs. Islam is a rational faith that invites people to use their intellect and reason to discover the truth.”

Fred said, “That’s awesome. But what about spirituality and asceticism? Aren’t they also important for Islam?”

Bashir said, “Of course they are, Fred. Spirituality and asceticism are essential aspects of Islam. They are the means by which we purify our souls and connect with Allah. They are the ways by which we attain peace and happiness in this life and the next.”

Fred said, “I see. But how do we balance between intellectual thought and spiritual practice? How do we avoid falling into extremes?”

Bashir said, “That’s a good question, Fred. And it’s one that many Muslims have struggled with throughout history. Some Muslims have focused too much on intellectual thought and neglected spiritual practice. They have become dry and rigid in their faith. They have lost the sweetness and beauty of Islam. Some Muslims have focused too much on spiritual practice and neglected intellectual thought. They have become blind and ignorant in their faith. They have fallen into superstition and straying from core teachings of Islam.”

Fred said, “That’s unfortunate. So how do we avoid these extremes?”

Bashir said, “We avoid these extremes by following the example of Imam Ghazali, one of the greatest Muslim scholars and mystics of all time. He mastered all the intellectual arguments for Allah and for his religion but still ended up with a spiritual void in his heart. He went on a religious journey to fill that void and found it with the ascetics. He learned from them how to purify his heart and soul from worldly attachments and desires. He learned how to worship Allah with love and devotion. He learned how to experience the joy and tranquility of Islam.”

Fred said, “That’s amazing. So Imam Ghazali was able to combine intellectual thought and spiritual practice in his life?”

Bashir said, “Yes, he was able to do that by following the Quran and the Sunnah as his sources of guidance. He was able to balance between reason and revelation. He was able to harmonize between law and spirituality. He was able to integrate between knowledge and action. He was able to achieve both intellect (عقل) and asceticism (زهد) in implementing his religion.”

Fred said, “Wow, that’s inspiring. I want to be like Imam Ghazali.”

Bashir said, “Me too, Fred. Me too.”

Nouman had been listening quietly to their conversation. He decided to join in.

“Hey guys,” he said.

“Hey Nouman,” Fred and Bashir said.

“I’ve been listening to your conversation,” Nouman said.

“And what do you think?” Fred asked.

“I think you guys are awesome,” Nouman said.

“Thanks,” Fred and Bashir said.

“I think you guys are right about everything you said,” Nouman continued.

“Yeah?” Fred asked

“Yeah,” Nouman said. “I think you guys are right about the importance of intellectual thought and spiritual practice in Islam. I think they are both essential for the revival of Islamic civilization. But I also think that there is something else that is equally important.”

“What is it?” Fred and Bashir asked.

“It’s action,” Nouman said. “It’s not enough to just have knowledge and faith. We also need to act upon them. We need to apply what we learn and believe in our daily lives. We need to be good Muslims and good human beings. We need to be honest, kind, generous, just, and compassionate. We need to be responsible, productive, and creative. We need to be active, involved, and influential. We need to be leaders, not followers. We need to be the best that we can be.”

“That’s true,” Fred and Bashir agreed.

Nouman continued, “Action is what makes our faith alive and meaningful. Action is what makes our knowledge useful and beneficial. Action is what makes our civilization flourish and prosper. Action is what pleases Allah and earns His reward.”

“That makes sense,” Fred and Bashir said.

Nouman said, “Look at the examples of the prophets and the companions of Prophet Muhammad. They were not only people of knowledge and spirituality. They were also people of action. They did not just sit and talk. They went out and did. They faced challenges and difficulties with courage and patience. They spread the message of Islam with wisdom and compassion. They established justice and peace with mercy and generosity. They contributed to humanity and civilization with excellence and creativity.”

“That’s inspiring,” Fred and Bashir said.

Nouman said, “We need to follow their footsteps, guys. We need to be like them. We need to act upon our intellectual thought and spiritual practice in Islam.”

“I agree with you, Nouman,” Fred said.

“Me too,” Bashir said.

Nouman smiled and said, “I’m glad we’re on the same page, guys. I think we have a lot of potential as young Muslims in this world. I think we can make a difference if we work together.”

“I think so too,” Fred said.

“Me too,” Bashir said.

They high-fived each other and finished their lunch.

They were happy to have each other as friends.

They were happy to be Muslims.


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