Surely the worst of beasts in God’s sight are those that are deaf and dumb and do not reason. (8:22)
Social debate regarding racism and religion has become extremely vitriolic, evidenced by the rudeness, foul language, and name calling in social media comments. And yet, those advocating for acceptance and compassion still continue to consistently engage those who are not sincerely seeking to understand the truth. These thread diatribes are a useless waste of time and effort. When a believer determines the person they are debating with does not have sincere intention to derive the truth, then the discussion thread should be immediately stopped. A person who has intention to understand will ask questions, and be open to listening to the answers — these are the people that should continue to be engaged in discussion.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is very clear in the Qur’an regarding how believers should communicate with non-believers:
Surah 16:125 “[Prophet], call [people] to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good teaching. Argue with them in the most courteous way, for your Lord knows best who has strayed from His way and who is rightly guided.”
Surah 3: 64 “Say, ‘People of the Book, let us arrive at a statement that is common to us all: we worship God alone, we ascribe no partner to Him, and none of us takes others beside God as lords.’ If they turn away, say, ‘Witness our devotion to Him.”
Surah 29:46 “[Believers], argue only in the best way with the People of the Book, except with those of them who act unjustly. Say, ‘We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you; our God and your God are one [and the same]; we are devoted to Him.”
A significant problem in our society today is that communication via media is delivered through short sound bytes — our attention spans have shortened due to the technology of our cell phones and social media. Therefore, many people prefer to gain information the quickest way possible from media, and by those in authority. They can easily regurgitate the erroneous information without using their reason to determine if what they are saying is truthful. Research has shown that our society has a significant increase in I.Q. (a subset relating to science and math), but a decrease in E.Q. (emotional quotient), which leads to decreased empathy and compassion. Both of these important character traits produces more effective communication. Furthermore, the brain processing used to process technological information is in a different area of the brain than what is used for reflective thinking, reasoning and intuition. Reflective thinking, reasoning and intuition are all used to discern spiritual/moral truths. So, due to the plasticity of the brain, areas that have a decrease in synaptic activity, will see a lessened capability to access that part of the brain due to a decrease in the number of synaptic connections, while the parts of the brain which are being used more often will not only see an increased number of synaptic neural connections, but shortcuts via myleination.
When reasoning is not used to communicate during a discussion with varying viewpoints, the communication at its onset has already hit a brick wall. The Qur’an emphasizes the use of reason to understand spiritual truths:
10:100 “No soul can believe except by God’s will, and He brings disgrace on those who do not use their reason.”
6:116 “If your obeyed most of those on earth, they would lead you away from the path of God. They follow nothing but speculation; they are merely guessing.”
On following authority instead of using reason to determine the truth:
2:170 “But when it is said to them, ‘Follow the message that God has sent down,’ they answer, ‘We follow the ways of our fathers.’ What! Even though their fathers understood nothing and were not guided? Calling to disbelievers is like a herdsman calling to things that hear nothing but a shout and a cry: they are deaf, dumb, and blind, and they understand nothing.”
The Qur’an on spiritual discernment:
8:29 “Believers, if you remain mindful of God, He will give you a criterion [to tell right from wrong] and wipe out your bad deeds, and forgive you: God’s favour is great indeed.”
What is spiritual discernment? I like this definition by Pastor Alton Stone: “Rejection of all prejudice, class/ethnic/educational barriers, exclusiveness and denomination [sect] warfare. When it follows God’s Spirit, the Body of Believers knowingly chooses to counter-model prejudices by living without regard to them.” http://sfan49.blogspot.com/2010/10/spiritual-discernment_05.html
The Bible in Matthew 7:7–8 also emphasizes the use of knowledge to understand spiritual truths by teaching, “Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it shall be opened to you; for every one that asks, receives, and those who seek will find, and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” And in Proverbs 2:2–4 on wisdom: “…if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding, seek her like silver and search for her as hidden treasure.” Proverbs 3:21, “My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion;”
Unfortunately, most of our youth today are too immersed in social media, video game playing, etc. Book reading has decreased, and certainly just simply reading a book for the pleasure of gaining knowledge has significantly decreased. The fast speed of our technological world has sped up thinking and decreased reflective thinking which disallows for making rational connections. During the period of Enlightenment in the mid 1700’s these philosophers believed, “This taught [Enlightenment philosophy] then that human beings had an innate and infallible ability to see clear connections between moral causes and their effects in public life. Understanding things was simple, a matter of common sense. Even a child could grasp the essence of the gospel and figure out for herself what was right. Enlightenment philosophers had told to people to cast aside the habit of tutelage and work out the truth for themselves, without relying on authoritarian institutions and learned experts” (Fields of Blood, Karen Armstrong, p 275). “Even a child…” — but not our society in today’s world. Even many of our adults are not capable of intuiting spiritual truths in their respective religion’s scriptures.
Obviously, the technological advances in our society has created brain changes to initiate adaptation. However, these particular changes decreases moral reasoning to our spiritual detriment. In Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development, an individual will progress through stages of moral development with most people not making it past the second level which is the most prevalent and is termed “conventional.” The first aspect of this level is moral action based upon seeking approval while, the second aspect is a desire to abide by law and understanding of duty. However, due to brain changes (Kohlberg doesn’t correlate brain changes with moral reasoning in his theory), I believe a significant number of people in our society has gone backward to Level 1, stage 1 which is termed “pre-conventional“ (especially evangelical Christians). This is moral development that is entirely directed by obedience and punishment, or in other words, these people determine their morals based upon what they are told to think and do by authority figures. Due to increased globalization without having risk of destroying ourselves the progression towards level 3 would have been advantageous.
In level 3 is Stage 5: Social Contract Orientation — “In stage 5, the world is viewed as holding different opinions, rights, and values. Such perspectives should be mutually respected as unique to each person or community. Laws are regarded as social contracts rather than rigid edicts. Those that do not promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This is achieved through majority decision and inevitable compromise. Democratic government is theoretically based on stage five reasoning.”
And the highest level (Stage 6) Universal-Ethical-Principle Orientation: In stage 6, moral reasoning is based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles. Generally, the chosen principles are abstract rather than concrete and focus on ideas such as equality, dignity, or respect. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. People choose the ethical principles they want to follow, and if they violate those principles, they feel guilty. In this way, the individual acts because it is morally right to do so (and not because he or she wants to avoid punishment), it is in their best interest, it is expected, it is legal, or it is previously agreed upon. Although Kohlberg insisted that stage six exists, he found it difficult to identify individuals who consistently operated at that level.
Source: Boundless. “Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development.” Boundless Psychology Boundless, 20 Sep. 2016. Retrieved 15 Feb. 2017 from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/human-development-14/theories-of-human-development-70/kohlberg-s-stages-of-moral-development-268-12803/
Muslims debating non-Muslims
If a person is not using their reason nor showing a sincere desire to understand Islam, stop the debate. In fact, many of these people insult Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), so based upon what the Prophet Muhammad(SAW) teaches, it would be advisable to also block them from your feed. When their insulting comments are all over your media feed, others are tempted to reinforce the negative dialogue, and you haven’t been successful in relating the truth of Islam.
Returning to an Age of Reason
Believers must read and study their religion’s Books with the intent to derive greater, deeper spiritual truths. This is accomplished by thinking, reflecting, studying, and praying for discernment from Allah. Allah will always provide spiritual truth and clarity from a sincere heart in prayer. When scripture verses are debated, and there is confusion, again, always go to Allah in prayer. Don’t just listen to scholars, or religious institution leaders to understand truth — but use your reason and discernment to obtain the truth.
Have your children turn off media, and begin by training them to use their reason by asking questions, especially well thought out moral questions. Guide their answers if needed.
Our civilization as a whole needs to return to reflective thinking as a means to rational thought. Imagine libraries where not only are there are quiet areas, but are areas for people to engage in scholarly dialogue with each other. Imagine school teachers using dialogue as a method of increasing their students ability to think rationally and make connections. Imagine these same school using groups to solve problems together (this has already been done in some schools which have seen a dramatic increase in understanding and grades) by asking questions, and learning to effectively communicate with each other. As we move towards a more rational, reflective society, there will be brain changes which will allow for moral reasoning and growth.
So that their hearts have become hard, and many of them are ungodly.” (57:16)
“The Qur’an recommends a sublime, spiritual atmosphere for [humankind], and deems it necessary for every individual to strive to keep it clean and unpolluted. In addition, since an unsound social atmosphere renders fruitless the efforts of most individuals to keep pure and wholesome, the Qur’an recommends that the people should employ all their endeavour in the direction of purification of their social atmosphere.
The Qur’an unequivocally propounds the view that the continued existence of all those sublime values, beliefs and ideas, and continued social receptivity to all its moral advice and counsels, depend upon individual and collective struggle to eradicate all types of meanness, sensuality, and lewdness.
According to the Qur’an, furbishing of the human heart exalts a human being to such a point that, in the words of Ali (A), even if the veils that conceal the Unseen be removed from in front of him, there is nothing that can enhance his faith. The teachings of the Qur’an are meant to educate [humans] to become a being equipped with the power of knowledge and reason on the one hand, and possessed of a pure heart and sound feeling on the other. They aim to train a human being who is able to employ his reason and heart in the most proper and exalted fashion.” https://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/vol1-n1-3/understanding-uniqueness-quran-ayatullah-murtadha-mutahhari/quranic-outlook
Referrals for non-muslims requesting more info about Islam-
M.A.S. Abdel Haleem Qur’an translation. This is easily the most readable translation for Westerners.
Reading the Qur’an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam, Ziaddin Sardar A beautifully written book that clearly explains the Qur’an and expresses the core beauty of Islam.
www.truthpathblog2.com God’s Chosen People: The Journey https://truthpathblog2.com/2016/03/16/gods-chosen-people-the-journey-2/ I provide research/info referencing plasticity of the brain, detrimental brain changes which occur during violent video games, religious brain development research, axial age (frontal lobe development which occurred simultaneously across numerous civilizations during the same time period which led to reflective thinking, and deeper spiritual truths)