My dear and respected Bernie!
May peace be on you!
Your logic and conviction is wonderful but I fear it is not commonly applicable in this world and most people wonít think the way you think. Why you play rugby or a football match once there is a trophy for the winner?? Why you study hard if there is an academic prize for the position holder?? Why you fight a battle in which you have a victory in the end?? Why you perform an act of bravery once you can fetch a medal at the end?? By virtue of your logic all these actions should be a complete failure for you and rest of the world.
Let me ask you something: If personal conviction is the criterion for wrong and right then why people do wrong things? Surely you will say that because some are unable to differentiate between right and wrong. For some this may be true but most do it even once they know it is wrong. So once we know that it is wrong, why we commit crimes like murder, rape, stealing, torture etc. And if someone refrains from these due to the fear of going to Jail or being punished under the state law, would it be the state failure or success??
Let me answer it as well, because all may not be as positive in their thinking as you are, so if the end result is peace and harmony, whether it be through conviction or threat means justify the end.
We have read the saying of Lady Rabia Basri! But remember she was not an ordinary women, she was one of the greatest of the saints, both among men and women and had completely submitted to the Will of God. Her love for God comes from within and not due to the fear of Hell or love for heaven. Not everyone thinks that.
Islam is not only meant for the intellectuals. An ordinary man may not find it easy to leave the rewards of seen at the cost of unseen or to undergo all these hardships and sacrifice without any tangible reward at the end. For some, this may be a mean deal, but if the end result is achieved it is perfectly acceptable, and the end result in this case is submitting to the Will of God by obeying him.
For the moment let us suppose that there is no reward for our good deeds neither is any punishment for wrong doings, so how many would like to refrain from evil acts like drinking, bribery, stealing, womanizing, murder, rape, torture and snatching own benefits at the cost of others, indeed very few. A lot may not like to sacrifice so many attractive things around just for the simple reason that this is the way it should be and they shouldnít do it for it is not to be done. The sense of sacrifice will evaporate. To sacrifice for what, at least I would never do that. Yes the one who is wealthy and contented may like to do so but not the deprived one, neither the poor nor the mischievous.
These people will argue that what they would achieve by submitting to God once they are deprived of all the benefits and this is the only life why not to live it in comfort and luxury at whatever cost? Why to sacrifice and why to care for others? They will take care for themselves. In fact these questions were posed to Prophet Muhammad (mpubh) by the rich pagans of Makkah.
Similarly we see that the concept of reward and punishment exist in all the tiers of our worldly life. All states follow the same principle. If this clause is removed the world will soon turn into a chaotic and torturous place. Why the United States behaves so arrogantly because she has no fear of punishment and why poor nations have to submit to all the United State illegitimate demands? Because they are fearful of the US military muscle.
Who gave us this life? Indeed God, we owe it to Him. He blessed us with so many of His blessings without which there would have no meaning of life. Like our senses (to hear, taste, talk, see, comprehend and express), feelings to share love and affection, mind and brain to think and prosper (we could have been living like animals without it), sweet water to drink, taste food to eat, warm clothes to wear and you can keep counting.
So if some of your son or grandson behaves very rudely after you had given him shelter, food, clothing etc what will you do to him? Or if he says that I donít recognise you as my grandmother! What will be your feelings? You will be hurt or may even feel like beating him. What would you do to your TV set which doesnít obey you, once you try to put it off it turns on and once you try to put it on it switches off? You will certainly throw it away or break it.
But Godís actions are not reactionary or hasty. He has given us a mandate of submission to His Will (as every other thing and creature do, like all physical laws obeys God by remaining constant and none can defy God, likewise moon canít fall on earth and sun canít run away from this solar system). But we Humans were given the choice to either submit to Godís will or to defy it. And God is not unjust so if someone submits to His orders he will be rewarded and anyone who rejects His commandments will be punished. Both canít be equal.
Another commonly given logic is, (also mentioned by you): ďif they do good, that in itself makes a better world for all. I would believe myself a complete failure if my children or my grandchildren, only did that which was good because something was in it for them.Ē This may be a fine logic for some but not for all. First who is to decide that what is right and what is wrong? One may give absolute logic in favour of drinking or womanising, some may prove bribery as absolute normal; some may declare homosexuality to be a personal and private affair. While others may destroy half of the mankind in the cause of National Interest, (like of the United States), and some may kill thousands of innocent in the name of Nationalism as was done in case of World War 1. All give conclusive logic and reasons to justify their actions. Presently all seems to be convinced that whatever set of rules or religion they follow is the right path. George Bush directs his actions towards eliminating evil and not for any reward while Osama also holds the same claim. So are all individualsí right in their claims? Even once every individual had a varying sense of judgement?
If everyone is not right then who is right and;
What is right? And;
Who set the rules of what is right and what is wrong???
The answer is simple God created this world and He sets the rules for this world. Obviously he has set one set of rules for us.
If there is no divine reward or punishment then God is unjust (and this is absolutely impossible). Why? Because! This world is imperfect, and God canít do that to us, by creating an imperfect world and forgetting us.
Imagine of a child who got birth in the poorest country of Africa or Asia and died in the same very conditions due to hunger, disease and poverty.
He did not opt for this kind of life. He would have also loved to live like of a Saudi King or a Royal family member. But to be born in a family of his choice was not an option for him.
Secondly, how would you deliver justice to special cases like of Adolf Hitler or Genghis Khan or Mussolini etc who killed millions of innocent people?? (You can certainly feel the pain much more than me for being a Jew as it appears to be from your writing). But none of them could ever be brought to justice. Even if they would have, merely by hanging them to death or giving them the lethal injection, by no means can be termed as justice. The only justice for them can be delivered in the Hereafter through the hands of God.
God doesnít act abruptly or hastily. Like if Godís book (Quran) is being desecrated or some one is being murdered or being raped or being tortured and he or she cries for God to seek for His help, will the wrath be let loose on the criminal? Surely, no angel will descend to save him/ her and neither God will immediately come for his rescue. So does this mean that God is unkind or canít see the injustice being done? And if He can see why doesnít He act or react?
Because God is the most wise and he doesnít take abrupt decisions. Certainly all good and evil acts will be registered and the punishment and reward will be given in the hereafter according to the deeds. If God acts abruptly then no one will commit any such act and there will be no test. He certainly gives us time to repent and seek forgiveness, but once he gets hold of someone then itís severe, too severe (hell).
Unfortunately we all think that we have got the ticket to heaven or salvation. Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists etc all think the same way. But this is not the case; salvation is not in keeping particular types of names, or in belonging to a particular race or believing in absurd ideas. The criteria to qualify for heaven has been spelt out by God in the following words:-
ďSwearing by the (age of) time o For surely complete mankind is in loss o Except for those who believe, and have righteous deeds, and exhorts each other to truth, and enjoin each other for patience oĒ
So the conditions are simple:
- Believe in God, that only He is to be worshipped, and in all the Prophets without discrimination, and all His revelations (Torah, Palms, Injeel and Quran) that these are divine revelations (although the Old and New Testament are not in their original form), and in all the angels, day of Judgement and the life after death and finally that God has command over everything.
- Righteous Deeds, like offering prayers, fasting, giving charity, be kind to parents and people and perform pilgrimage to Makkah if capable.
- Preaching Truth in the light of divine revelations and tell people to refrain from evil and do righteous deeds.
- Enjoin each other to be patient. If someone is in trouble help and encourage him/her that this is a test, so be patient and ask forgiveness from God.
So anyone who fails in the above mentioned criteria he has qualified for hell. But we cannot pass a judgement on this because God says that He may forgive all the sins of a person pertaining to Him (not to any other person) except for Associating Partners With Him.
So itís all up to His discretion either to forgive all the sins or to punish for them all which pertains to Him alone. Anyone who associate partners with Him or deny His existence will never be forgiven like Christians have declared Jesus (pbuh) as the son of god. Some Jews proclaim Ezra (Aziz (pbuh)) as son of god, while other says Jacob (pbuh) wrestled with God and God could not overpower him and is equal in strength. Some Muslims proclaim Muhammad (pbuh) as part of God while others claim the Caliph Ali or various saints and Sufis as intermediates between God and man and some even worship them. Hindus worship idols in the name of God while Buddhism and Jainism are not even sure of the existence of God. And worst of all a large portion of population has opted to become an atheist.
So majority of mankind is off the right path and there has to be one righteous path because all canít be right with all these contradictory beliefs.
To conclude; if you follow the above mentioned criteria (4 points) no matter whether, out of the fear of Hell, or for the lust for heaven, or for the reason that you simply think this is what you should be doing as a good human, or out of love for God, you are on the right track and you will Insha-Allah (God Willing) be rewarded in the life hereafter.
Following books can provide a good help to understand the true path and the answers to most common questions troubling the people in the West:-
1. Struggling to Surrender by Jeffery Lang.
2. Even Angels Ask by Jeffery Lang.
3. Road to Makkah by Muhammad Asad (ex name Dr. Leopold Weiss, converted from Judaism)
4. Islam at the Crossroads by Muhammad Asad.
5. Islam Versus the West by Maryam Jameelah (ex name Margaret Marcus, converted from Judaism)
6. Western Civilization Condemned by Itself by Maryam Jameelah.