Freedom of Choice Between Right and Wrong (3)
I do believe we have at last established some connection in our discussion of right and wrong (morality), and I thank you for giving me your best explanation of the issue as I experience it. I don’t think you strictly oppose my notion that God seems, for whatever mysterious reasons, to have willed that we humans be imperfectly good so that our devotion to his laws and his will may be tested. You are not, I think, prepared to concede that God is less than perfectly good for making mankind prone to fail in this testing when he clearly might have made us so good and obedient that failure would have been impossible. I am not ready to accept that God is anything but a purely Loving and beneficent being either, regardless how puzzling the dilemma of evil (disobedience, wrongfulness, etc.) must apparently remain to our provincial and restrained understanding. I agree with you that we may always trust in our merciful God that whatever the nature and reason for our testing, it is just and fair to us even if it should appear possible that it is otherwise; for God is good and merciful.
In fact, God’s first expectation of us, that we be good humans, is very much what the testing of us, that we have been discussing, is about. God’s second expectation of us, that we be good followers of his revealed message, is no less challenging, but I think that this challenge too may best be met by reliance on God’s Love and mercy.
Here, we must answer the daunting question, “Just what is the revealed message of God?” This too is one of those questions that this study circle has long busied itself with, as indeed has all mankind.
The most common wickedness of the human race is the lie, and were any other weapon half so true as a lie in its effect, few victims would ever recover from their wounds. And we are often deceived as much by the deep-set convictions of honest but mistaken men as by the lies of people intent on deception. People who truly believe what is untrue may by force of their conviction spread error and untruth like a plague or pandemic to countless others.
What is the Language of God? Is it the language of the Torah, the Latin Vulgate, the Quran, the Upanishads and Vedas, the Diamond Sutra? Far many more lies than sacred truths have been spoken and written in these and all other human languages. The Language of God arises from no voice and is set down by no hand. It arises from the heart without a word, and requires no ear to hear it and no eye to read it.
The heart will never mislead you if you train yourself to listen to its guidance in a humble and honest frame of mind. Since no other source of spiritual guidance is more direct or reliable, I can only recommend you listen to your heart and trust God to direct you as you trust God to forgive you.
I think we have reached some sort of convergence on the question of good and evil. However, I want to add one dimension to what we have already discussed which might be of help: If you go through a test which is simple and you get a feeling while experiencing it that you are not really being tested, you don’t get a real sense of achievement even on successfully going through it, something you definitely feel after succeeding in a really challenging test. In other words the perception of quality of reward or the real sense of achievement is felt when one succeeds in a difficult test. If the paradise was to be a place of real joy and contentment, the worldly test preceding it had to be really challenging. That probably explains why our good God didn’t keep the test of this life, which primarily revolves around our attitude towards good and evil, quite as simple as we would have wished it to be.
On being presented with the above explanation, one’s mind almost immediately asks another question: Was it really a great idea to enable some people to get the real enjoyment of the paradise at the expense of those others who would roast in the hell simply because the test they were put through was not easy enough to succeed? The answer to it is that no one shall enter the hell if he hasn’t committed serious crimes knowingly and persisted with them despite opportunities of repenting and reforming. In other words, the path leading to the hell has been made morally so difficult that only those who would become incorrigible criminals shall enter it. The good God is going to spare all others.
Now let’s take the question as to what language God speaks? I quite agree with you that God speaks primarily in our heart and that’s where we find Him. But the question as to whether He ever spoke to mankind in human language does arise, especially when there were so many claims insisting that He did. But I am sure that even genuinely good people can disagree on this issue.
According to my understanding of the Quran there are two broad categories of times from the point of view of knowing the true message from God: times when one is living as a contemporary of a messenger of God and the rest of the times. In the former times the likelihood that one can see that God is speaking through His messengers is very high. For the latter times nothing could be said with authority.
How does one know that the same God spoke through a text who speaks in the heart? Well, it’s a co-ordinated effort of your mind and heart that would lead you to a conclusion, one way or the other. The mind would critically examine and the heart would emotionally appreciate; the mind would do the negative task of ascertaining through intellectual scrutiny whether the text seemed to be from God and the heart would respond positively by confirming that the word was making the same impact as the ‘voice of God’ does in the heart.
How do we decide whether a certain message is from God? I am sure it is ultimately the honest conviction of an individual that on reading the text, he gets a feeling that it was His God speaking in it. It is feeling that comes in the heart. But in order for it to be genuine, it has to pass through the scrutiny of mind. In other words, no bogus, unbelievable, second-rate text can be allowed to influence the heart for it would fail the first of the two litmus tests. Your anxiety that lies and concoctions in the name of God may also be accepted as valid would hopefully be adequately addressed in this process.
I don’t deny the possibility that other texts might also be carrying the same quality, but I feel like sharing with you the fact that the Quranic text does satisfy for me the criteria I have mentioned above: When I read it, my mind gets satisfied and I also get the feeling that God is speaking in it.
Given that we are not contemporaries of the messenger of God, I am sure that many others may not share the same feeling without earning a blame from Him. But I can tell you that it is a great deprivation to have God’s unadulterated text in your midst without you realising it.
I must concede that my privilege of getting the priceless feeling of ‘hearing God speaking to me’ owes itself to a great deal to the fact that I know Qura’nic Arabic good enough to understand it. Bear in mind that Arabic is not my mother tongue. However, I must also concede that it is much easier to learn Arabic if one knew Urdu, the language I am most comfortable in.