Because God Said So.

Bismillah Calligraphy pic image 10
In the name of Allah [God], the benevolent; the merciful
I’ve noticed a really interesting trend. When people ask Muslims about why a particular Islamicpractice exists, Muslims respond by trying to use science or logic to explain it.

The conversation usually goes like this:

Person: ‘Hey, why don’t Muslims eat pork?’

Muslims: ‘Well, pigs are filthy animals and eat their own poops. Also, did you know that pigs have a lot of diseases and worms? Really bad. Scientists say that the diseases might not even die when you cook the meat! SO bad.’

Person: ‘Oh. Okay.’

/end.

The real answer is actually far more simple than that. Muslims follow a religious way of life because we believe that God said so. And we almost never say that.

And I understand why we don’t it. It can be uncomfortable to say ‘because God said so’ because it feels like that’s not a real answer. It also brings up the question about  why we even believe in God and what God means to us. It makes us have to think about answering questions about what our most private beliefs are and what drives us to believe in the unseen.

But that’s faith.

We’ve elected to carry that banner and hold those beliefs and commit to these practices that are driven by the motivation of satisfying the God that we worship. It’s really as simple as that. I think it’s perfectly fine to bring rationality into religious conversations because we all want to believe that our God would only ask us to do or not do things for our own sake, or for the sake of humanity. However, for the most part, religious people follow religious rules because they believe that they are following God’s directions for life.

The conversations that we have with people aren’t going to be as difficult as we think. If we rehash the conversation above in a more truthful world, it would sound a little something like this:

Person: ‘Hey, why don’t Muslims eat pork?’

Muslims: Because God says so. Muslims believe that the Quran is the word of God, and the Quran says that we can’t eat pigs, animals that die on their own, blood, animals that have been killed violently or anything that’s killed without invoking the name of God.

Person: ‘Oh. Okay.’

/end.

That’s it. That’s all it has to be. And sure, the conversation might be a little longer – but both versions of those conversations would be longer. People ask questions because we’re naturally inquisitive little things. We want to know why people hold a particular view. That’s totally okay. When we do particular things for the sake of God, we need to be able to own that decision.

This isn’t just about empowering people to own their identities. It’s far more important than that. By not invoking the name of God for the mediocrity of our day to day decisions, we lose the ability to own what the average Muslim believes their God has told them to do.

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This means that that our religious beliefs become mischaracterised and skewed from a harmless religious code that helps Muslims navigate their day-to-day affairs to something more sinister. It means that the label of ‘Shariah Law’ becomes more broadly reserved for violent, obnoxious behaviour because ‘God said so’ is always invoked in these behaviours but not used for everything else.

By not invoking the ‘because God said so’ reason for our regular actions, Muslims have created a vacuum that allows terrorists to own the phrase. Terrorists are always saying that they commit the crimes they do ‘because God said so’.

And people believe it.

Society at large believes it and associates Islam and Islamic perceptions of God with violence and socially unacceptable beliefs. Islam is not associated with behaving ethically or being kind or being grateful or not eating pigs or not drinking alcohol or donating money and time to those in need or maintaining familial relationships – because we never say that we do those things because God says so. That’s despite the fact that all of these things can be connected to clear, solid verses from the Quran and stories from the Prophet Muhammad. We give broad social and scientific reasons for that behaviour despite doing it first and foremost as part of our religion.

This in turn has meant that large anti-Islamic groups have formed and grown in the Western world, advocating for the banning of Sharia law. Could you imagine how different that conversation would be if people readily associated Sharia with donations to the poor? How insane would these bigots sound??? Instead, when they protest against Sharia, people  are likely to think that they are protesting against violent retribution and the oppression of women.

We are at risk of having our beliefs misconstrued and losing our ability to argue that most Muslims are peaceful people. We need to regain what it means to believe in God and what the Islamic holy scriptures tell us to do.

Ordinary Muslims need to be willing to attribute their actions to God because our refusal to do so means we lose more and more of our symbols and our collective identity. We need to own the ability to say that we’ve done something ‘because God said so’.

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3 comments

  1. As a Christian, I’ve found the “because God said so” approach has met too often with “When will you learn to think for yourself and not just accept everything blindly, you stupid brainwashed fundamentalist?!?!!” to think every time it’s a viable alternative. Okay, so I might have exaggerated the response a bit, and it’s only happened once or twice, but there’s such a perception among non-religious people that religious people just don’t think, and follow teachings because they’re too brainwashed to question them, that I’m always cautious that my own answers to questions don’t leave that impression. “Because God said so” is often the real reason I’m doing something, but having a response something more along the lines of “why” God maybe said so is sometimes more useful in witnessing my faith to others.

    • That’s a really good point and one that I’ve considered also. I talked to one of my friends about this too and I think the position I settled on is that it can be a little bit tricky to project our own reasoning onto God. Human advances in science and technology means we learn more and more about ourselves and our surroundings, which means that any reason we give is likely to be incorrect or incomplete.

      I think the safer (and probably the truer) approach is to start with an explanation of the fact that we believe that God said a particular thing, and then suggest that we think the reason may be X. As a legal person, I compare the process of attributing intention and reasons to God with our willingness to let witnesses attribute intention and reasons to other people. A judge will stop a witness who does this because we believe that you cannot project intention onto another person because we can’t get into their minds – but we can look to evidence that suggests likely intention. Ergo, I think it’s an even bigger and more insane task to try and explain God’s reasons based on our idea of his intentions.

      I hope that thought bubble made sense!

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