But is it to God I should complain, when God does not feed the hungry, nor help the needy, nor take pity on the oppressed, nor cure the sick? So, I wonder, will He respond to the indolent whose senses are dulled, like us? Indeed, the pious are more worthy of reply than us. Despite that, He doesn’t reply to them. So what do you think about the wicked, if God actually exists? If He doesn’t, then it is all the same.
If God really does exist, there would be some evidence or trace of Him in the world around us, which appears to run by itself as if He does not. They say man is born with an innate faith in God. Faith is self-evident, which man cannot doubt, and they use this verse as evidence: “Is there any doubt about God, the creator of the heavens and the earth?” (14:10)
Yes, there are doubts. There are many doubts about God. If the knowledge of God was intrinsic and intuitive with no doubt about it, then it wouldn’t require hundreds of thousands of books, philosophies, religions, prophets and miracles to prove His existence. If there was no doubt about God, then no-one would doubt it.
However, this didn’t lead me to the truth. I arrived at the truth only through reading the Qur’ān. It was not, however, the reading of a faithful worshipper, which only increases blindness upon blindness, but an analytical reading that looks critically at the structure and composition. A reading that weighs and compares. A reading that doesn’t work from the premise of certainty, but from that of doubt, criticism, and appraisal. This way of reading assesses every verse in it and puts it under interrogation, linking it to other verses. It requires cataloging, indexing, and dividing into topics, and attaching every verse to the subject specific to it.
My only reference is the Qur’ān. I did not refer to anything other than it to analyze the Qur’ān. Of course, I wasn’t deceived by the sayings and views of the Qur’ānic commentators regarding this or that verse. I am very familiar with their rulings, which I mostly reject. I didn’t announce any of the results that I was able to arrive at until I was able to support them with evidence from the required verse together with all other verses similar to it.
It was a truly enjoyable study, and on which led to some very strange results that I didn’t expect, even though I had a vague sense of them ever since adolescence, well before the age of twenty, when I was a student in the heyday of my youth and the prime of my life. Whenever I asked my sheikhs about issues that I found with the Qur’ān, they would just refuse such questions and warn me against going astray. If I ever did get some sort of answer from one of them, I sensed an air of affectation and irritation in their words. Despite that, I was Sufi-orientated and of deep faith—oh, the irony—and I would only decide to take on the matter myself much later in life.
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I went through a severe and choking crisis from the beginning of age seventy. It was the starting point for various conflicts that erupted in my soul, and the critical turning point that turned my life upside down. After a great deal of hesitation and even greater anguish, I finally reached a point where I felt I could express some of my feelings and thoughts in words. I said to myself, “Come on, you must do what you need to do. You are on the path to the truth, and the truth is better and more worthy of being followed.”
I went to Cairo to carry out my plan for this book, without apprehension or caution or fear, due to the insistence of the enlightened revolutionaries among my companions and friends to do so. I did this despite the storms, adversities, and at the risk of provoking the attack of the wolves. If you want to be a man, you must live in danger. That is the most decisive of speech!
This book is a proposal for the Qur’ānic problem from the perspective of a revolutionary. But it is not the final say, nor is it the last word, or even a complete view. It is only an effort to stir dissension and controversy, and should be added to other books that have stirred dissent and controversy to be hurled along with stones into the stagnant waters. I hope that it will open the door a little for more efforts to follow, better and bolder in their dissent, supported with evidence, explanations, and comprehensive analysis. I hope for it to be the basis for a critical, rational awareness, and a program to work towards a brighter and better future for us.
And now, the book has reached its time; I hand it over to you. May it light up its way, and meet its destiny alone in a world fraught with conflict and power struggles. If you find in this book anything that displeases you, I ask you to please forgive me. I only want to do good, and I hand my affairs over to history, which will sooner or later judge me.
Finally, here is the book. Take care of it, and farewell!
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I am in the confessional booth. He who sits in this booth must recount everything, whether good or bad. I have abided by this rule quite literally during the writing of this book. I titled this chapter “My Journey from Faith to Doubt” as a response to an amusing book written for the common man, whose author believed that he had achieved the height of his aspirations, and completely silenced every single doubter and all of the great skeptics throughout history with his book, My Journey from Doubt to Faith (2). Welcome to this journey, by which matters are put into perspective, and rights are returned to where they belong!
It is my duty since the beginning, and before everything else, to bring to the reader’s attention to my upbringing and inner thoughts since my adolescence, and even before then, until I passed my thirties. The reader will then be able to share in my confusion, struggles, and understand the burning in my soul.
I grew up as a zealous young Muslim, spending my developing years in the bosom of Islamic learning. It was my ambition—nay, my dream—to become a preacher of Islam in India. When I think about that now, I cannot fathom why I chose India over all other places to bestow the gift of Islam upon! (3)
(2) By Mustafa Mahmoud.
(3) The term the author uses for Islam is ءاضيبلا ةيفينحل Al-Haneefiyya Al-Bayda: The Pure-White Haneefism. Traditionally, the Haneefs were believed to be those pre-Islamic Arabs who rejected polytheism and followed the ‘pure’ faith of Abraham. The Qur’ān refers to Abraham as a ‘Haneef,’ or of pure faith. Thus, the word Haneefiyya has come to mean Islam itself, i.e. the pure unadulterated monotheism of Abraham. However, this term Al-Haneefa Al-Bayda’ is also from a line of poetry by Salih ben Sharif al-Rundi, lamenting the fall of Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain), usually translated as the white marble ablution fountains of which Al-Andalus is famous: “The tap of the white ablution fount weeps in despair, like a passionate lover weeping at the departure of the beloved.” This reference is also no doubt intended, since Islamic Spain is frequently evoked to re-awaken Muslims to the spirit of Da’wah (spreading the message of Islam), and the dangers of failing in this duty.