Posted by: Dawud Israel | June 12, 2011

Adab with Atheists

Just something I posted on a forum regarding talking to unruly atheists…

It has to do with ghafla (heedlessness) and in not having anything to value, they devalue what others value as a sort of jealousy perhaps. Its a very human trait. In the Qur’an you see this too in how people respond to the Prophets- the people had everything, a great civilisation and wealth, so they felt this ‘qualified’ them to put down religion–same scenario here, levels of prosperity affect the heart. Firawn never got sick once in his life nor did he ever go hungry, and that is one reason why he developed a god-complex.

Actually, most of it is just parroting things and atheist propaganda. Its really no different than the latest song lyric. Its just a fad and the “New Atheists” will die out soon enough. Hitchens is one writer whose writings I quite like, but I can tell he loves to be ornate with his vocabulary, and when it comes to religion I figure he is just rehashing his criticism of everything. So you shouldn’t take it that seriously as you take Islam- they really are not that serious, they just like saying things for shock value, profit and again its little more than an internet fad. Scientists are not happy about this new wave of ‘scientism’ either and if there is one thing common about the new atheists its that they love to be jerks. Edward Said, and many other intellectuals have criticized them for wasting their talents (but I can’t seem to find this piece).

Dead Serious

The way I see it is that Islam is a very serious religion, other religions are very fluffy and feel-good, mirroring the societal norm currently- pleasure-oriented, all about being happy and dodging work, fear, worry, and certainly never discussing Hellfire. Islam is dead serious…or rather Islam is ‘death serious’ since its all about the akhira whereas other religions, and atheism in particular, is ‘life serious’ since its all about the dunya. So, like Progressive Muslims, atheists judge religion on its value in this world, this dunya, the immediate and the current- not the hereafter, not the akhira and not the yet-to-come. And death is as serious as it can get. Death is a completed thing, it is whole and Islam is the only religion that is complete and whole- it is commensurate with the seriousness of death, but other religions have ‘plot-holes’ (pun!) and aren’t satisfying nor fulfilling. If Islam were not as serious as death, then one’s life would have felt cheap, hollow and like a dazed dream. But again, remember its about Islam in this world and in this society that is what people make judgments on.

Often the problem is that its too involved to debate them online and yet you feel awkward not saying anything. And I think it unfair to think God wants us to act on the basis of those 2 extremes. Look to the example of the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam. The best way to deal with them is with dignity and adab. Most atheists have reallllllllyyyy bad adab and are full of spite and I think its just seen as having fun on their behalf. Even if its just through there reciprocity of your politeness, they will respect you if you keep your calm and remain stoic and dignified. Reactionism on the believers part is seen by an atheist as a confirmation of sorts, “see they can’t even discuss or question their religion!” But if you have adab, or at least however much you can, then they will respect you. When everybody around them is getting hammered, stoned, heart-broken, wasted or perpetually sh*t-faced, there is the Muslim who has her/his act together. Atheists see themselves as civilized but then they see the Muslim who is much more civilized than themselves, even if its just the dignity your basic abstinence from drugs, alcohol and sex- that makes them question their conclusions (or what they feel is a conclusion) that perhaps faith does have a power. There is a respectability about religious people, even mild believers, that cannot be ignored. It makes people solid, reliable, clear-minded and anchored in a directionless world.

My first-hand experience with atheists

One staunch atheist I knew in high school and we used to debate on MSN messenger and he obviously said things he wouldn’t have guts to say in person since being a friendly Canadian, saying it in person would go against his self-definition as civilized and polite. Nonetheless, I persevered and eventually got him to visit the masjid. I met him there and talked to him, gave him a bit of a tour and we bumped into some Tableghi Jamat fellows. They invited us to eat with them and they did some dawah to him, explained a little about what TJs do. Now, the guy didn’t convert to Islam, but he was pretty impressed. Was it just the religious persona? Or was it that he finally encountered someone who lived what they preached? I don’t know but by the end of it, the atheist thanked them for the food, praised their work and asked them to continue their work. When people see someone who lives the deen, rather than some shallow idealogue, that is enough of an argument. The Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam convinced people by his face and behaviour. The Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam said, (paraphrased) “if you want people to love  you, then abandon what people love,” and that austerity is key. Often religious folk just love the world (fame, ego, jealousy) but do it vis-avis the route of religion.

The second atheist is one I don’t know well, but he has a Muslim father. We barely spoke just hellos and whatnot. But since he’s on Facebook, he puts up anti-religious posts all the time. Others would argue with him, and I wouldn’t say anything. But from time to time, I would one-up his comments occasionally but be quiet most of the time. That was not because I was stuck but because it requires care and thought. The least you can do is to turn the skepticism back on them, to make them question what they (dis)believe or what they believe they (dis)believe. But maybe he got a glimpse of me and realized I wasn’t a pot-head idiot like some of the other Muslims he knew and developed a little respect. I was talking to him once in person and it was one of those weird moments where you realize how much Facebook has altered how this person views you, since he started saying I was reliable, respectable and smart. That was surprising. Atheists see themselves as smart and they want to be around smart people, and good morales does influence good ideas- great thinkers, whether religious or not, had strong morales. I think it was the fact being a practicing Muslim, even a weak one, makes people respect you and stick out because the rest of society is going down the drain.

There are Muslims who pursue the intellectual side of things and study arguments on the issue but maybe I’ll leave that for another time. 🙂

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


  1. I have a feeling that no one is going to read this cuz it’s long, but I thought I would bring up some serious issues that I feel we have with Atheism and our community, hope I can get some insight/perspective back:

    Jazakallah Khair for writing this, we need more proactive and sophisticated discussion on tackling the atheist/secular/western mindset

    I wanted to express three things:

    1) Muslim Youth – Atheism Crisis

    Atheism/secularism is not only impacting non-Muslims- it has a HUGE impact on many of our youth as well. Our dawah has failed to engage Western Muslims who live in the context of secular norms/values.

    Most of the people in our masjids are immigrants or have acquired an immigrant mindset. How many converts do you see come for Jumas out of the many converts we have? How many kids do you see come for Jumas? What you usually see in the masjids – especially in Toronto, are mostly uncles and TJ’s – the converts that do come along don’t stay for long and feel out of place and out of touch –> this is especially true for converts that aren’t WHITE.

    It’s really sad to see a considerable number of muslim youth gravitate towards atheism, i’ve seen a considerable number that have gone that way. We aren’t really aware of them because we tend to hang around practicing muslims more often in the masjid or msa hangouts or online in muslim forums. Being around good company is a good thing, but when we isolate/ghettoize ourselves – it makes us unable to develop perspective – and it makes us ignorant of what’s happening to the ‘flock of sheep’ that are lost and looking for direction.

    2) Wrong Arguments

    We don’t address the deeper issues that Atheists have with Islam and overuse scientific/logical arguments that don’t result in any kind of understanding or spiritual submission.

    Their initial arguments are always scientific/logical but it’s only a shell covering a much deeper resentment and general misunderstanding of religion,

    We don’t usually address questions like: “why doesn’t God show Himself to everyone if we’re supposed to believe”, and why does religion divide people into believers and non-believers, why is religion so judgmental, is the concept of hell/heaven just there to control people’s lives here on earth?

    There general vibe of religion is not that of a merciful one.

    ^^ It’s important that young Muslims are taught how to think critically to deal with these questions and issues, and try to find answers to any question in Islam themselves.

    3) CONCLUSION – Need for a Dawah that can Engage Western Culture

    We must find a way for Islamic thinking and discourse to engage Western culture –> now that we have established somewhat of a presence with our masjids/wayoflife/halalfood, etc, –> it’s really important that we engage the people in our communities in a language/style that speaks to the Western Identity, and talk about the issues that concern them. It’s a sign of stagnation and decay that most of the masjid boards do not have a) converts and b) young people as large role players in the administration. It shows that our version of dawah has failed to engage the very people that would propagate the message of Islam and push for it’s societal impact.

    Shaykh Le Gai Eaton talks about the difference between the Eastern and Western mindset in “Islam and the destiny of Man”, and the importance of cultural flexibility, and the importance of understanding the Western mindset.

    Contrast the Toronto Muslim-scene with the California Bay-Area Muslim scene –> there’s a huge difference in levels of cultural/spiritual engagement that Islamic dawah has had.

    We reeeeeally need to enage our youth and start teaching and asking them to THINK, and interact with the Quran, to REFLECT, like Allah SWT asks us to do. We can’t have this monkey see monkey do Islam – it’s GOT to be from the heart, and that only comes with personal introspection and dialogue and thinking – there is no submission like the submission of the willing heart – it is not like the lifeless and insincere conformity that most Muslims are demanded to demonstrate.

  2. ^^ That’s probably not entirely coherent, apologize for that…. haven’t really wrote anything in a while…..

    • This is a great post and a great comment by Br. Usman. I would absolutely love to see the post on Muslims who take an “intellectual” approach to Islam learning arguments on both sides, since I think this describes me to some degree.

      I would also encourage us to openly discuss something that gets pushed to the side: sincere questions and doubts. Not doubt that stems from some some internal anger or distrust of religion/Islam, but genuine questions with regards to history, preservation/meaning of the Quran and scientific issues that are usually taboo (evolution and homosexuality mostly). I struggle with reconciling these same issues, but I have no need for an agenda, all I really care about is the truth and sincerely searching for it.

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