Islamic Studies

Class Reunion: Lunch With My Agnostic High School Buddy

By Ustadh Fred Amir

Salam all,

I recently had lunch with a high school friend.

He had been a defiant atheist in college. Later in
life, as he faced many challenges and difficulties, he
came to believe in God. But he believes in a God who
created the world and went on vacation, leaving human
beings to themselves.

Once he was arguing with me. “How would anyone know
who is God or who has the way to God? It is next to
impossible to know. Religions are all the same anyway:
man’s way of explaining life! And what about all the
wars fought in the name of religion?”

“Here’s a simple approach,” I explained. “I approach
learning about God the same way that I treat learning
about any other matter. Take, for example, learning
about mechanical engineering.” (I used this example
because my friend is a mechanical engineer.) I went on
to say, “I have four options.”

1. On my own: I could try to understand it and
discover it from my own thinking and what makes sense
to me without asking anyone or reading any books. Of
course, this can take a lifetime and at the end I may
or may not uncover some aspects of mechanical
engineering. Most would say this approach is an unwise
waste of my time. Some would say this is how a person
not serious about studying mechanical engineering
would approach the subject. (Amazingly enough, this is
a common approach to learning about God.)

2. Ask the experts: I could ask others about
mechanical engineering. Of course, logically I would
need to ask an expert on the subject or someone who
has studied it. It would not make sense to ask a
genetic engineer or a chemical engineer, much less an
economist or a historian, about mechanical
engineering. Asking a mechanical engineer is more
helpful than the first approach, but still does not
result in a deep level of knowledge.

3. Read about it: I could read books and articles on
mechanical engineering written by mechanical engineers
since they are the experts on the subject, ponder what
I read, and ask questions to understand and learn.
This results in a deep level of knowledge.

4. Take a class: I could learn about mechanical
engineering in a structured way by taking a class or
several classes. This is the way to acquire
comprehensive and deep knowledge of the subject.

So I had the same options when it came to learning
about my Creator:

1. On my own: As I mentioned earlier, this would not
be a wise approach, so I decided not to go this route.
However, I have heard many people say, “All I need to
do is follow my conscience, be a good person, and
don’t hurt anyone. That is all God requires of me.” Or
“I’ll meditate and ponder over the magnificence of the
creation in order to know God.” Certainly we do not
follow our conscience or meditate to learn about
mechanical engineering, George Washington, driving
laws, or anything else we want to know about. This is
only logical. And who gave us our sense of logic? Of
course, the One who created us. If we want to depend
on our own thinking to discover who God is and why He
created us, it could take a lifetime with uncertain
results. If God gave us our lives, it is incumbent on
us to find out why He gave us our lives, how He wants
us to live, and what will happen to us after this
life. Those who subscribe to such an approach are
either not using their God-given faculty of reason and
logic or are not serious about learning about their

2. Ask the experts: I decided to ask the experts to
tell me about God. However, who are the experts? This
was quite challenging. After some thinking, I
concluded that I needed to ask those who claim or have
claimed that they have received a message from God
(that’s assuming that God has sent us a message).
There have been people in the past and there are
people today who claim God has given them a message.
The simplest and most logical approach would be to
start with the five major world religions: Hinduism,
Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Since the
original recipients of the message lived hundreds or
thousands of years ago, I asked the knowledgeable
followers of these faiths. Of course, it is very
important to determine if the original message has
remained intact after so many centuries. If I did not
receive a satisfactory answer, I continued asking
people of other faiths. What is amazing is to me is
the number of people trying to learn about God by
asking philosophers and poets, none of whom claims or
has claimed to have received a message from God and
who readily admit that what they say or have said is
the result of their own thinking. Asking a philosopher
or a poet or reading their works is like asking a
genetic engineer about mechanical engineering! So
asking experts is a good start to gain some knowledge
and understanding of various faiths, but it does not
provide a deep level of knowledge.

3. Read about it: Today we have access to the written
texts of world religions. In my search for God, I have
read books of many faiths, from the Bhagavad Gita to
the Book of Mormon, pondered over them, and asked
questions of their followers in a sincere desire to
learn—not to argue and prove my own point of view. By
reading, pondering, and asking, I was able to attain a
deep understanding of each religion.

4. Take a class: I took a comparative religion class
in college and attended several others. I read the
required textbooks, which covered all five major
religions and many of the minor ones, such as the
Baha’i faith, Unification Church, Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and others. I have also
visited various houses of worship.

Steps 3 and 4 are certainly the most comprehensive
Approaches, and the one that those serious about
knowing the One who created them, gave them eyes, ears
and a heart, and continuously feeds them and showers
them daily with all kinds of blessings would take.

Of course, there is a major difference between trying
to learn about mechanical engineering and trying to
learn about God, the Creator, Lord, and Sustainer of
all things who loves and cares for His creation. So
when we try to learn about Him out of sincerity and
love, He will reach down to us and guide us to His

“And those who strive for Us—We will surely guide them
to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of
good.” (Qur’an, 29:69)

Br. Fred

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  • Ust. Fred- Barik Allahu feek. That was amazing logic masha’Allah. May Allah increase your sincerity and love for the da’wah, and make you a means of guidance for katheer min annaas. ameen

  • Mashallah, going through all the trouble of explaining this was rather charitable of you considering his “God went on vacation” spiel.

    I will confess that more than a few times, still abundant with patience, thinking that the best way to respond to the ludicrous assertion of the prospective Muslim before me was, with the best of intentions of course (and a mischievous smile), to bluntly and indecorously declare that said point, statement or hogwash was by any criteria, utterly and completely, stop, drop and roll foolish that to utter it must have been a joke. (Whoa, get an english professor in here, we have a rampant run-on on our hands.)

    Has this worked often, ill admit the negative, but yes it is one of my guilty pleasures. Alhamdulillah, that I am a Muslim and that ALLAH has spared me their kind of foolishness. Though I have my own share of other “foolishnesses.” (If that’s not a word then I coined it!)

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