My knowledge on this subject is obviously superficial and nothing I say is authoritative. However, in case setting out my understanding of the reasons that Islam is true might help others by communicating the ideas of far better minds than my own, I have done below.

First, belief in the single, unitary God of the Abrahamic tradition (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) is by far the most rational worldview.

There are many arguments, but the one that most avoids the pitfall of supporting only some “God of the gaps”, a useful explanation until further notice, is called the kalam cosmological argument in Western philosophy (“kalam” is in fact an Islamic term roughly meaning “theology” but most of its Western proponents are Christians).

This states that God is the only explanation for why anything in the universe exists at all. Everything in the universe exists contingently, i.e. it could possibly not exist. You can explain one contingent thing with another but eventually you reach an infinite regress – what was the “first cause”? There are three options: the universe is not actually contingent (it’s necessary, i.e. it has to exist), it just exists for no reason at all, or it was caused by something outside the universe that isnecessary.

The first option doesn’t fit with science – we know that the basic structure of the universe is contingent because the particles and forces that make it up don’t have to exist. The second is arbitrary – we don’t accept that things just happen for no reason in the ordinary course of our lives and if we did we could hardly live at all, so why make special pleading for the universe? Only the third is reasonable, because it renders the universe explicable.

Rigorous proofs of this are the preserve of serious scholarship, which some day I hope to be able to explain properly. But whether, on a subjective level, you find them persuasive will depend on what philosophers call “prior commitments”. If you think it’s already very likely that the universe just exists for no reason at all you won’t be convinced; if you think it’s fairly likely it has a reason for its existence, in the same way everything else seems to, you will.

So although belief in God can be shown to be rationally compelling, it remains in a significant sense a choice. But it is also an overwhelmingly good choice. It provides a foundation for morality, which atheism has to say is some kind of evolutionary by-product, and by doing so gives life a purpose, aiming at something infinitely good – which seems to make your life infinitely better.

Second, this simple, philosophical idea of God is already very close to the Islamic concept. Allah (Arabic for God) is utterly transcendent (outside the universe) and exists necessarily by His nature (i.e. He could not fail to exist). Crucially, he is also perfectly unified: if any other transcendent being existed, it would either have power over God (meaning God is not fully necessary because he depends on something else, so is not God), God would have power over it (so it would not be God), or both or neither would have power over the other (so both would be dependent or limited, and neither would be God!) This is is the Islamic idea of tawhid or oneness.

This is pretty much sufficient. Different schools of thought have different opinions, but in general in Islam, there is not much else you can affirm about God apart from what directly follows from this until He reveals His nature to you (e.g. through speech that can be transcribed as a holy book). So this simple argument already gets us very close to Islam.

Here we have one of the great advantages that Islam has over all other religions. Not only is belief in a single God deeply logical, but it avoids all the improbable complications other faiths have added. Unlike in Christianity, God did not become a man; since He is transcendent and necessary, the idea makes no sense. Christians have puzzled over the Trinity for millennia and no proof that the idea is even internally coherent has been produced. Jesus was a prophet, given a sacred mission to teach God’s word, but he was not the “son of God” because that would clearly violate His transcendence.

There is also an ethical argument. Historically, most of Christian thought was based on the theology of Augustine of Hippo. Because of Adam’s sin in eating the forbidden apple, thought Augustine, all humans following him were corrupted by nature, and doomed to Hell by default. The only way to make up for our original sin was for God to become a man and die in agony, and therefore the only way to be forgiven is to accept this sacrifice. Consequently, a baby who died before being christened would–deservedly!–suffer in the fires of Hell.

Original sin offends against the most basic idea of ethics, that it is only just to punish someone for something they actually did. Islam, on the other hand, affirms that you can only be punished for sins you yourself committed. So, both logically and ethically, it fits far better with common sense than Christianity. It seems very likely that one of the main reasons Christianity is declining so fast in its former strongholds is exactly this — once we lose the cultural attachment the implausible doctrines are simply unappealing.

We could make similar comparisons with other religions too. For example, Hindu traditions feature a multiplicity of gods and goddesses who kill, eat, and become “incarnate” as one another, which obviously also falls short of rational monotheism.

Third, and this is Islam’s other great advantage, the historical evidence for Muhammad(pbuh) being a prophet (i.e. receiving a message from God). Qur’anic verses have been carbon-dated, with about 95% certainty, to within the lifetime of Muhammad(pbuh), by secular archaeologists with no vested interest in the subject.

It could have been written by some other of his contemporaries, but this would go against everything we know about the period, from both secular and religious sources. And that he claimed to have received a message from God is as well established as anything else in the history of the period, not only from the collections of hadith (his sayings) that were painstakingly built up by Islamic historians but also from all the available records from Muslim and non-Muslim observers of events. If Muhammad(pbuh), who as is widely known was illiterate, did produce this book, he must have had access to some kind of genius.

What kind of genius? There are three possibilities. Either he was a liar, he was insane, or he really was a prophet. All the available evidence shows that the first two are unlikely. Before he claimed to receive messages from God, he was known to his community as as-Sadîq, “the trustworthy”. Even his most bitter opponents like Abū Lahab did not deny this reputation.

Nor did he ever show any kind of loss of reason, but exhibited consistently good judgement in his twenty-three year career as a religious leader and statesman. All his contemporaries reported that he behaved in a perfectly balanced way as a father, husband, friend, teacher, and leader and never exhibited any evidence of mental disturbance. Moreover, the information Muhammad(pbuh) claimed to receive from God was consistently tested for its reliability in real challenges, and much of it was knowledge he could not have got from any other source. For example, at one point he was asked three questions about ancient history by local Jewish scholars to test his genuineness; without any consultation or research, he was able to eventually answer after an experience of further revelation, and his opponents had no response.

Again, the rigorous historical case is the business of serious scholars. And again, there is an element of choice here. If you already think God exists we can show that he was a genuine messenger; if you’re an atheist, logically a messenger must have been mad or lying, and if you don’t want to accept a message because of some desire not to change your life you’ll find a way to get around it. But it certainly establishes, combined with the evidence for God, that it is unreasonable not to believe that he was genuine.

We can make a positive comparison here too with other religions. The Bible has been shown in the last two centuries not to have the origins claimed for it. It is widely known, and accepted by Christian scholars, that most of the books of the New Testament were not written by the people whose names they have been given, and that all of the surviving Gospels were written long after Jesus’s life by people we know nothing about. This is set out in a series of books by Bart Ehrman, but it is not original research and is completely accepted by leading Christian intellectuals. So we don’t have in Christianity a reliable record of what Jesus actually taught.

Other religions have the same problem. We can probably never know the original message of the Hindu Vedas because they are composed of so many layers and have been revised so many times over the millennia. In the Chinese traditions, most of the words ascribed to Confucius in the surviving texts are now believed not actually to be his, and books were many times moved in and out of the official collections to suit political agendas with the changing of the dynasties.

Finally, there is the question of what you should do if you’re not sure. From the above, Islam is–at very least–pretty likely to be true and a lot more likely to be true than any other religion. Since Islam makes claims about an infinite afterlife, in thinking about it you’re dealing with something of infinite importance for your own life. And you can’t avoid the issue because you have to either act as though it is true or act as though it isn’t. Believing in it, if it is true, makes your infinite afterlife better, so it is overwhelmingly rational from a self-interested point of view to try to do so, because atheists will get nothing if they are right. If there is even a small chance a doctrine so important is right, and you’re genuinely uncertain, it would be almost mad to act as though it is untrue given the awful consequences of being wrong. In other words, if you’re genuinely not sure, it makes overwhelming sense to convert.

This brings us to the end of the fundamental reasons that Islam is true and rationally compelling. There are other reasons, but most of them relate to the insanity of the modern age and will not be persuasive if you do not already have a certain detachment from it. So I’ll finish here with this summary of my reasons for converting, and what is at least a skeleton of a rationally compelling case for doing so. The first serious scholar to write about the subject in English, Henry Stubbe, put it like this:

“This is the sum of Mahometan religion. On the one hand not clogging men’s faith with the necessity of believing a number of abstruse notions which they cannot comprehend and which are often contrary to the dictates of reason and common sense, nor burdening them with performing many troublesome, expensive, and superstitious ceremonies; yet enjoining a due observance of religious worship as the surest means of keeping men within the bounds of their duties both to God and man”.

And this, in a nutshell, is why it is correct.

By Jacob Williams

2 Comments

  1. shaik zubair says:

    assalamu alaikum brother….very informative article 🙂
    three questions i have regarding hadiths please clarify me on this issue

    1)homosexuality-prophet said anybody practises this should be killed in islamic state…but some article i have read it is by birth..how to understand this hadith?

    2)prophet cursed the picture makers…so there is no art in islam?

    3)men are forbidden to gold and silk…what is wisdom behind it?

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