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FAITH
THE PROCESS OF BELIEF

Like in every aspect of life, we are faced with crossroads on a daily basis. Even though most of these decisions might seem trivial, others weigh in heavy. But one question dominates over all others: What do I believe in?

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About the

Book

What do I believe in? For some, this question might take a lifetime to answer, others might never find the answer they sought to find, and for others… This book raises awareness on this pivotal question and sheds light on the matter.

This book is basically a step by step inquisitive approach on existential questions. It is a user’s manual, a how to guide, a pathway to navigate through all the different beliefs and philosophies. It is full of anecdotes, science, religion, stories and logic. Although it is long, it is not lengthy. Basically, it gets straight to the point from page one and most chapters are a page long which keeps the reader captivated. It is intriguing as it is engaging; it is informative as it is entertaining; it is liberating as it is compelling.

 

What’s inside

^

Introduction

Introduction
^

Section II

Evolution

^

Section IV

Monotheistic Religions

^

Section I

Different Philosophies

^

Section III

Personal Thoughts

^

Section V

Islam

Introduction

Like in every aspect of life, we are faced with crossroads on a daily basis. Even though most of these decisions might seem trivial, others weigh in heavy. But one question dominates over all others: What do I believe in? For some people, it might take a lifetime, others might never find the answer they sought to find, and for others… This book might raise awareness on this pivotal question, and hopefully shed light on the matter.
This book shares the way I came about my conclusions on what I believe in.
My origins, my background, my upbringing and my life in general have all had an impact on my views on this subject. My father is an Egyptian immigrant; my mother is a Polish immigrant. I was born and raised in Canada as a Muslim. As a result, from a young age, I was questioned and challenged on my way of life and my religion. This query allowed me to better acquaint myself with my own faith. My father always told me to understand why you do something; not to be a parrot or a monkey. It is not because someone says or does something, you must repeat or mimic. Therefore, I had to resource myself with the knowledge and tools to answer interrogations, critics and attacks on my faith.
Later on, I pursued my education in science, biochemistry to be precise. I was always intrigued on how things, especially living creatures function. This only further cemented my convictions and beliefs. I then started working as a lab technician in a high school in my hometown; there, I found another reason to share this book at large… At a certain age, often at adolescence, one starts to ask him or herself existential questions: Why are we here? What happens when we die? How did we appear? Questions that practically every single person has asked at one point or another of one’s life. What I have noticed is that there is a void of faith (especially in western societies); an uncertainty that often leads to despair. Kids that have everything yet are empty inside; many acquaintances, but little friends. Adults with busy lives, but unfulfilled aspirations; beautiful houses, yet vacant homes. Some contemplate suicide, some go through with it.
So, I started writing all my discussions, experiences and events that were linked to my faith and faith in general; the way I approached it and the way people approached me about it. At first, I thought I would have a couple page pamphlet, or at most a research paper, but the more I wrote, the more it seemed like a book, a sustainable book; with chapters, and stories, and meaning. Unfortunately, I had to be selective about each topic and cut back not to have a dictionary sized paperweight. For when you open your eyes to faith, you are entering a vast, vast realm of knowledge and wisdom; and the more you explore, the more you discover. In the end, when I put it all together, this is what it gave.
So for anyone who has ever asked himself an existential question, I hope you come out with an answer; or, at least, aspire to an answer on your own.
Enjoy!

Divine, or not?

When writing a book, not a story, but an introspection. There is no beginning, middle and end. It is more of a process than a predefined route. Therefore, finding the best beginning is a tedious proposal. Nonetheless, since we are talking about existential questions, let’s hit it off at the source by asking this simple question: Divine, or not?
Rationally, if you believe something is true, you could rationalize anything. Whether it be to say there is something greater than man, to say there is a driving force in the Universe, to say clearly there is a God, or to deny all of the above; it can all be rationalized. Let’s see how…
In order to explain different ways of thinking we must go back in time and do some “anthropological psychology”. When man was hunting, scavenging and living in caves, it must have been a terrifying existence. So in order to make things more familiar, man personified the unknown through spirits. Eventually, the God of lightning, the wind goddess, the ocean spirit and the fire demon all appeared. Now all these deities can’t possibly coexist together; how could water and fire even dare glance at each other? Therefore, they must be at constant war with one another.
But wouldn’t that cause chaos and eventually total destruction… To remedy this situation, there must only be one supreme deity that controls all, so everything stays in check. And don’t forget, this being is all knowing, so you must fear it.
Once again, fear consumes man. So why not just do away with all this mumbo-jumbo and establish that there is nothing superior to man, that there is nothing divine to this Universe and that science can rationalize anything; therefore, there is nothing left to fear. Pretty good way to go about things, right? Except for one teeny tiny detail… Death!

The Muslim Biochemist

As I was about to enter University in Biochemistry, one of my sports buddies was intrigued in my field of studies. How could I enter the domain of science if I am a Muslim; isn’t there a contradiction? I told him jokingly, that’s where the chemistry part comes into play; I wasn’t interested in the bio part, just interested in bomb-making, the rest was irrelevant. I’m sure that Muslim student pilots get the same kick out of the reaction of people when they say they’re not interested in landings; just in takeoffs. After a couple of chuckles, I explained to him that there are no contradictions between science and Islam, more specifically creation and science. The only contradiction involving science and creation is evolution; for everything else, especially for Muslims, science and religion go hand in hand. As Muslims believe that there were laws given to man to follow, God has also instituted laws that maintain the Universe. So extrapolating and understanding these laws are encouraged in Islam. On the other hand, all that is not explicable by being a one-time phenomenon is characterized by being a miracle.

Forget about Shock and Awe; how about Wonder and Awe

When it comes to wonder and awe, I share some common points of view with psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Wonder and awe are not like any other family of emotions. Why not? Because often these emotions and sensations include the divine; they move you in a way that is different than other emotions. They give you a sense of overwhelming greatness; they make you lose sight of your own self. They involve a change from within; instead of without.
Other emotions tend to make you change your situation, in a physical and adaptive manner. Anger gets you to fight or flee; Happiness makes you all giddy with joy; even Sadness makes you amorphous and breaks into tears. But when it comes to wonder and awe, you don’t do anything at that moment, it is a contemplative emotion; where you absorb, ponder, and think. It is only later, while one revisits the memory, that one feels compelled to do something.
Throughout history, wonder and awe have generally had implications with the divine. Nowadays, since spirituality has taken the back seat (specifically in western or “modern” societies), wonder and awe have been simmered down, played down, dumbed down… trivialized. The single most powerful and transformative human emotion is being excluded. Wonder and awe have become synonym with: “Wow, that was intense!” or “Way cool!” or even “Gooder”. It is as if it has become a self-serving emotion, just to please our eyes and satisfy our daily dose of endorphins.
Wonder and awe are not based on self-concern, but concern in higher truths and standards; they make us forget about ourselves and think of others; they help us transcend our mere physical being focused on one’s needs and desires; they make us give what we have instead of take what we want; they help us become better since they relativize how insignificant we really are (i.e. there are greater and more important things than one’s self, even greater than human kind in general).

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Monotheism

Once you have accepted that monotheism is the right path or at least best available avenue, you pretty much have it narrowed down to three options: Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. For this, I will only discuss the origins of each religion, their main foundations and beliefs. I will not discuss about different branches or sects derived from each religion, because ultimately, they are but deviations or derivatives; getting to the root of things brings out the essence of each religion. Basically, I will base my arguments on the major scriptures and doctrines of each religion, historical background and last but not least, common sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Meaning of Islam

It is difficult to translate a word without losing part of its meaning; the saying lost in translation comes to mind. More often than not, you need a whole sentence to do so. In the case of Islam, I like to use the definition of Yusuf Estes to do so. And instead of using a phrase, he just uses 5 simple words; however, each word is essential to complete the meaning of Islam.
Surrender: Surrender your entire self to Allah, since your faith is in His hands.
Submission: Submit only to Allah, for He is greater than you or anything else.
Obedience: Follow Allah’s laws and commandments.
Sincerity: Being sincere with Allah in your actions words and thoughts; He knows what is in your hearts.
Peace: Being at peace by accepting whatever comes your way from Allah; good or bad.
Simple, isn’t it! Yet it takes all these concepts to fully embrace Islam as a religion, as a way of life. That is something Yusuf Estes found out for himself. Imagine, a Christian born American. And not any American, a Texan; I mean, you can’t get more redneck than that! Questions himself about the Christian faith, and faith in general; ends up becoming a Muslim.
I encourage everyone to read and find out about his story, because it is interesting and it is full of great anecdotes. Yet, there is nothing anecdotal about his story, or the story of many others like him that embraced Islam: it is the norm.
Throughout history, so many non-Muslims converted to Islam, unlike most other religions. It is not only people that are within the religion that tally up the numbers, but the people that become Muslim. In Great Britain, there is an estimate of about 100 000 Muslim converts (about 5200 in 2010-11). In the U.S.A., projections state that Islam will become the second largest religious domination before 2040.
The whole point of this is not to acclaim Islam via a popularity contest, but to underline the irrelevance of someone’s background. You can be white, black, red or yellow, or any shade of grey; you can be European, Indian, Arab or Chinese; you can be a clerk, a rocket scientist or a student; none of these matter in becoming Muslim. It is a religion, a way of life; not a race or an origin: it is a mindset.

Divine, or not? 

When writing a book, not a story, but an introspection. There is no beginning, middle and end. It is more of a process than a predefined route. Therefore, finding the best beginning is a tedious proposal. Nonetheless, since we are talking about existential questions, let’s hit it off at the source by asking this simple question: Divine, or not?
Rationally, if you believe something is true, you could rationalize anything. Whether it be to say there is something greater than man, to say there is a driving force in the Universe, to say clearly there is a God, or to deny all of the above; it can all be rationalized. Let’s see how…
In order to explain different ways of thinking we must go back in time and do some “anthropological psychology”. When man was hunting, scavenging and living in caves, it must have been a terrifying existence. So in order to make things more familiar, man personified the unknown through spirits. Eventually, the God of lightning, the wind goddess, the ocean spirit and the fire demon all appeared. Now all these deities can’t possibly coexist together; how could water and fire even dare glance at each other? Therefore, they must be at constant war with one another.
But wouldn’t that cause chaos and eventually total destruction… To remedy this situation, there must only be one supreme deity that controls all, so everything stays in check. And don’t forget, this being is all knowing, so you must fear it.
Once again, fear consumes man. So why not just do away with all this mumbo-jumbo and establish that there is nothing superior to man, that there is nothing divine to this Universe and that science can rationalize anything; therefore, there is nothing left to fear. Pretty good way to go about things, right? Except for one teeny tiny detail… Death!

Evolution

As I was about to enter University in Biochemistry, one of my sports buddies was intrigued in my field of studies. How could I enter the domain of science if I am a Muslim; isn’t there a contradiction? I told him jokingly, that’s where the chemistry part comes into play; I wasn’t interested in the bio part, just interested in bomb-making, the rest was irrelevant. I’m sure that Muslim student pilots get the same kick out of the reaction of people when they say they’re not interested in landings; just in takeoffs. After a couple of chuckles, I explained to him that there are no contradictions between science and Islam, more specifically creation and science. The only contradiction involving science and creation is evolution; for everything else, especially for Muslims, science and religion go hand in hand. As Muslims believe that there were laws given to man to follow, God has also instituted laws that maintain the Universe. So extrapolating and understanding these laws are encouraged in Islam. On the other hand, all that is not explicable by being a one-time phenomenon is characterized by being a miracle.

Personal Thoughts

Forget about Shock and Awe; how about Wonder and Awe
When it comes to wonder and awe, I share some common points of view with psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Wonder and awe are not like any other family of emotions. Why not? Because often these emotions and sensations include the divine; they move you in a way that is different than other emotions. They give you a sense of overwhelming greatness; they make you lose sight of your own self. They involve a change from within; instead of without.
Other emotions tend to make you change your situation, in a physical and adaptive manner. Anger gets you to fight or flee; Happiness makes you all giddy with joy; even Sadness makes you amorphous and breaks into tears. But when it comes to wonder and awe, you don’t do anything at that moment, it is a contemplative emotion; where you absorb, ponder, and think. It is only later, while one revisits the memory, that one feels compelled to do something.
Throughout history, wonder and awe have generally had implications with the divine. Nowadays, since spirituality has taken the back seat (specifically in western or “modern” societies), wonder and awe have been simmered down, played down, dumbed down… trivialized. The single most powerful and transformative human emotion is being excluded. Wonder and awe have become synonym with: “Wow, that was intense!” or “Way cool!” or even “Gooder”. It is as if it has become a self-serving emotion, just to please our eyes and satisfy our daily dose of endorphins.
Wonder and awe are not based on self-concern, but concern in higher truths and standards; they make us forget about ourselves and think of others; they help us transcend our mere physical being focused on one’s needs and desires; they make us give what we have instead of take what we want; they help us become better since they relativize how insignificant we really are (i.e. there are greater and more important things than one’s self, even greater than human kind in general).

Monotheistic Religions

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Monotheism
Once you have accepted that monotheism is the right path or at least best available avenue, you pretty much have it narrowed down to three options: Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. For this, I will only discuss the origins of each religion, their main foundations and beliefs. I will not discuss about different branches or sects derived from each religion, because ultimately, they are but deviations or derivatives; getting to the root of things brings out the essence of each religion. Basically, I will base my arguments on the major scriptures and doctrines of each religion, historical background and last but not least, common sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Meaning of Islam

It is difficult to translate a word without losing part of its meaning; the saying lost in translation comes to mind. More often than not, you need a whole sentence to do so. In the case of Islam, I like to use the definition of Yusuf Estes to do so. And instead of using a phrase, he just uses 5 simple words; however, each word is essential to complete the meaning of Islam.
Surrender: Surrender your entire self to Allah, since your faith is in His hands.
Submission: Submit only to Allah, for He is greater than you or anything else.
Obedience: Follow Allah’s laws and commandments.
Sincerity: Being sincere with Allah in your actions words and thoughts; He knows what is in your hearts.
Peace: Being at peace by accepting whatever comes your way from Allah; good or bad.
Simple, isn’t it! Yet it takes all these concepts to fully embrace Islam as a religion, as a way of life. That is something Yusuf Estes found out for himself. Imagine, a Christian born American. And not any American, a Texan; I mean, you can’t get more redneck than that! Questions himself about the Christian faith, and faith in general; ends up becoming a Muslim.
I encourage everyone to read and find out about his story, because it is interesting and it is full of great anecdotes. Yet, there is nothing anecdotal about his story, or the story of many others like him that embraced Islam: it is the norm.
Throughout history, so many non-Muslims converted to Islam, unlike most other religions. It is not only people that are within the religion that tally up the numbers, but the people that become Muslim. In Great Britain, there is an estimate of about 100 000 Muslim converts (about 5200 in 2010-11). In the U.S.A., projections state that Islam will become the second largest religious domination before 2040.
The whole point of this is not to acclaim Islam via a popularity contest, but to underline the irrelevance of someone’s background. You can be white, black, red or yellow, or any shade of grey; you can be European, Indian, Arab or Chinese; you can be a clerk, a rocket scientist or a student; none of these matter in becoming Muslim. It is a religion, a way of life; not a race or an origin: it is a mindset.

Sections

Pages

This is just a taste of what to expect in this book. If you like what you’ve read till now, you will surely enjoy what is inside.

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About the author

Islam Touni was born and raised in Canada, but he was brought up as a Muslim-Canadian and not vice-versa. His unique background and interests in science, education and religion all transpire in his writing; not to mention his wit, his irony and his gifted hand.

To learn more about his work and get to know him better, follow him on his weekly blog.

Islam Touni

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Chapter : Personal Philosophy

Truth is of greater substance than knowledge.

Chapter : Knowledge

The important thing is that you’ve learned from this ordeal, but come next week and you are still browsing the same website…

Chapter : What You save for is More Rewarding

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Faith

the process of belief