Question from viewer:
"If Allah wanted mankind to follow Islam and abide by its rules, then why did he send prominent prophets with their scriptures to the Middle East region only, leaving America, Australia, India, China, and many other areas? Allah tells us in the Quran that he sent prophets to every nation in every age, but clearly the prophets sent to America, Australia, India, et cetera, couldn't have had much of an impact on their people, as most of these people follow Christianity or other religions. Did Allah intentionally send influential prophets to certain areas to ensure the people in these areas were Muslim and purposefully leave the other lands with insignificant prophets and no scripture?”
Response by Dr. Shabir Ally:
Video response here.
There are some presuppositions which are widely shared among #Muslims, and these presuppositions, when put together, lead to this sort of question that faces us at the moment. One presupposition is that #God desires everybody to be Muslims. And then the question is, well, why isn't God doing more to get the message of Islam across to the rest of the people? This presupposition is a common one among Muslims, and it's often preached by Muslim preachers. But when we examine the matter more carefully, we realize that God is more tolerant than the rest of us. And he allows for a wide variety of approaches to him.
People are seeking God in many different cultures in many different ways. And God is accepting people from these various cultures, given their backgrounds, their levels of understanding and their exposure to revelation from God. Let’s say somebody grows up on an island. They have no interaction with anybody else. They have never received any message from God. That person looks up into the sky and he sees the vastness of space and says, you know, there is a God who made all this. And whoever you are, God, you must be up there somewhere. Wherever you are, I want to reach out to you. It’s hard to imagine that this person's devotion to God, in that very simple way, without any of the trappings of #religion, will be turned away by God.
The #Quran tells us in fact that God does not demand of any individual more than is within the capacity of that individual. And capacity is not only physical but also mental. The Quran in 5:48 says, for each one of you, meaning each community, we have given a law and the path to follow. Had God wished, He could have made you all one, a religious community, but He has left it such that He may judge you according to what has reached you. So everyone is going to be judged according to what has reached them.
So let's imagine some people got the #Christian message, but not the #Islamic message. And now they come up for judgment. So the question could very well be, did you follow the Christian message as it should have been followed? What was the original Christian message? Did you bother to investigate? Did you try to find out what was the correct message that you ought to have followed? And how sincere were you towards whatever you understood to be the correct message after your search and finding? So whatever the convictions people have, did they reach their convictions through reasonable methods? Did they do their due diligence in finding the right way? And then once they have found the right way, did they sincerely follow that path for the pleasure of God? I think these are two very basic questions in religion.
So then why did God send messengers in the first place? Let's think from God's point of view for a moment. Let's say we're looking down on Earth. God is not necessarily up there looking down, but let's think of it this way. Let's say we are having this bird's-eye view of the Earth and we see that there is corruption on Earth. So we want to minimize that corruption or end it altogether. And so we're going to introduce light in the darkness that is there. But how much light depends on what we're trying to accomplish. So we have God sending a #prophet. The prophet is going to bring light, and God is going to bring that light in a particular place, knowing that this light will have a radiating effect and transmit to other regions. We can almost think of it as a pool. Let's say we have a pool of water and we want to color this water blue. So we can go about sprinkling the blue evenly all around the pool, or we can drop it in one place, knowing that it will have a rippling effect and eventually color the entire pool. So how does God do it? It looks like God does it by inserting the light or the message in one area, but with the imperative to preach this to other areas as well, knowing that eventually the message will get out to a greater or lesser extent.
God is doing it within God's wisdom, to the extent that God feels is necessary at the time and place where God feels it's necessary. And it's not God's intention apparently to eradicate all evil. Because if he wants, he could do that. He could make our world an angelic world. In the Islamic conception, the angelic world is a world of total perfection and obedience of God, whereas on Earth, we have human beings who are prone to error, and God knows that. And it is said that to err is human, and to forgive is divine. So it's God’s place to forgive and it's in our nature that we're going to err. So there will be error, false beliefs, and mistaken beliefs and assumptions. People will reach out to God in ways which are not necessarily pleasing to him, but He will see the devotion and the sincerity that comes from them. And He's tolerant to all of that. He's accepting that. But every once in a while, when there is a need to introduce more light, he is going to send a prophet. In Islamic tradition, since our Prophet #Muhammad, peace be upon him, has been the last of all prophets, God is not going to send another prophet. but God might send inspired preachers to bring people back to the right path. And so this is all within God's wisdom.