The Origins of Deism, Islam and Unitarianism:
A Common Denominator
Dear Fellow Brothers/Sisters: Deists and Muslims,
Deism has much in common with Islam and I would say that it is over 95% identical with Islam. By Islam, I do not mean the cultural practices in many Middle Eastern or Far Eastern countries, which are blatantly against the teachings of Quran.
Firstly, let us tackle the commonalities, which will help clear misunderstandings and Straw Man fallacies about Islam.
On one Deist website it states that:
Belief in God + Reason= Deism.
This is the same concept as in Islam. Indeed, the definition of “Muslim” as applied to human beings is that he/she is one who has confirmed the existence of One God and abides by God’s laws, which are based on reason. This is the definition of Islam and this is what “submission” and “peace” mean. One does not need to know the Quran or Muhammad to be a Muslim. This might come a shock/surprise to many Muslims and non-Muslims, but this is really the definition and essence of what the Quran states and what logic (objective reasoning) leads to, independently of the Quran. In my interview with Shabir Ally (see the Optagon website: http://optagon.page.tl/) I tried to tie these concepts together seamlessly from a linguistic perspective (i.e. the language used in the Quran for these concepts) and I’d suggest that the Deists view the first part of this interview at the very least. That many, if not most people who call themselves Muslims, do not realize this fact has nothing to do with the belief system itself. Rather, one of my main efforts and those of my associates over the last 30 years or so, has been in trying to make the Muslims or nominal Muslims understand this basic point which is like Islam 101; they should know it, but do not, for several reasons which I will not get into in this letter in specificity, but which I am sure you will realize after you have read through this letter. Hence, the issue of ‘conversion’ with my initial email to the Deists has nothing to do with why I contacted the Deist group. Indeed, I cannot convert those who already believe what I believe in, for the most part.
Evolution of Deism
The ‘evolution’ of Deism, passed a crucial phase which was structured by the impact of the Quran itself. Basically, in a nutshell, what happened was that God who is Alive and well, and has non-anthropomorphic modes of communication, communicated to exemplary human beings over the ages through pristine methods. Unfortunately, most, if not all of these people who were served by these exemplary humans came to be deified and irrationalities crept in – the ‘misty fog’ of the religions that insulted the intelligence of Man and became increasingly despotic. The prime reason for this was the control of some people by others, these being the priests and the elites/monarchs. For societal control, one needs to create myths, irrational structures and ‘fear’ – fear of the authorities if you question things and fear through concepts such as eternal damnation for not following irrational ideas etc. I need not get into how the Church behaved over the 16 centuries or so of tyrannical domination. The problem was initiated or rather, exacerbated when, after Jesus, who was merely a human being, proclaimed the existence of One indivisible God and challenged the economic exploitation of the masses by some of those wayward among the Jews; after this his fate was sealed, so to speak. The division of the Christian World into the Unitarians and the motley and schismatic amalgamation of Trinitarian interpretations created great conflicts in Europe. As Trinitarianism gained the upper hand, eventually in Europe and with the spread of Islam (peacefully or by the defeat of the Roman and Persian Empires by the Muslims through defensive action) the Trinitarian Popes and Kings saw a threat to the power structure, in the sense that they realized Islam was nothing but Unitarianism rearing its head again, but from a different direction. This one of the main reasons for the Crusades: to wipe out Islam so that the corrupt structure of the Church would dominate and hold sway all over the Earth. However, the Crusades met a devastating defeat at the hands of Saladin and it was, once again, back to square one for these hegemonic materialistic forces who hid their true designs/machinations under the guise of spirituality and chivalry.
The ‘Muslim’ World
In the Muslim world, after the first four Caliphs, who were the Companions of Prophet Muhammed, a totally non-Islamic system of heredity monarch was established. This violated the Islamic concept of electing the best person to lead the community – one who would follow reason, justice, compassion and tolerance that the Quran demands. In fact, there’s actually a Hadith of the Prophet, in which he stated that after the first four Caliph’s a governance system will be set-up of which “I am not a part and neither is it a part of me!” The Muslim world therefore eventually declined from a high position of science (the birth of the experimental method, inductive reasoning etc.) due to ritualism, despotism and mysticism. The Muslim world in fact entered into Mysticism/Sufism etc. where it was held that one cannot use reason to arrive at the truth and syncretistic ideas merged with Islamic ideas, including pantheism. The Muslim world certainly decayed from the 12th century onwards, but since it was falling from a high position, a cross-section of society would still have shown that the inhabitants of such a society were better off than the Europeans in many ways.
In the 12th century, the Europeans discovered the works of Ibn Rushd – Averroes. Now Averroes believed in cause and effect – he believed in laws created by God that operated in the universe and he said that the study of Nature was the duty of Man, in order to realize this God. Secondly, revelation was to correspond to Reason and that which is realized through reason and evidence was the same as that learned through revelation; there were no contradictions. This is why Ibn Tufail, his philosophical friend, wrote the book Hayy Ibn Yaqzan (Alive son of Awake) about a young boy marooned on an Island who determines everything using reason and nature (i.e. Deism) and then meets someone from another Island where they have received a revelatory book which corresponds with Ibn Yaqzan’s reasoned out beliefs. This book was written in the early 12th Century C.E. and influenced the development of European literature greatly. The students at the University of Paris and other institutes of learning at the time, which were being influenced by the Muslim Spanish centres of learning, particularly in Southern Spain, happened to be influenced by Averroes and challenged the Church’s foundational beliefs such as transubstantiation; a great deal of these European Averroists also started to call themselves Humanists (that’s how and where the term originates) – but they were hunted down and killed by the Church. This influence in a chain-like or web-like fashion extended throughout Europe; in Spain Servetus who had read the Quran and was influenced by the Muslims saw no Trinity in the Bible and hoped for peace and unity among both Muslims and Christians; he tried to convince the Protestants (Calvin) to go a step further and reject the Trinity and other ideas like original sin etc. but we all know what happened to him due to Calvin. His tortuous death influenced/galvanized others in Eastern Europe and Italy etc. to spread Unitarianism – the Unitarians on the Continent also had a meeting with the Unitarian scientist Isaac Newton and Newton informed them that their mutual differences in Unitarianism were minor. John Locke and Newton used to meet regularly to discuss these matters but it was all done in secret, as any doctrine in England that went against Trinitarianism was a capital offence. Others included the poet Milton. In the next phase, Joseph Priestly who migrated to the USA was very influential in spreading Unitarianism and of course so was Thomas Paine etc.
Here we can see a direct chain from the Quran to Averroes to Servetus to Newton to Priestly and to Paine, though not necessarily in a linear fashion. Therefore, really, even though it is not known by most people (including Paine himself) the Deist movement and Unitarianism was a direct product of the Quranic impact.
The last point I want to make is that I would urge my Muslim brothers/sisters to look more into Unitarianism and Deism as they have valuable insights and not get hung up by names, but to delve into the essence of things. For Deists I would recommend that they ought to:
..take a read of the Quran so [you] can bypass the propaganda and see how the Deist principles of reason and evidence are embedded within Islam.
to quote one of my colleagues (Anees Munshi). One of the fastest ways to do this is to go to the Optagon Website and check out the basic articles like “Chance or Intelligence”, the one concerning Islam and the Rational Method etc. (a link which Zeshan Shahbaz forwarded to you). In addition, I have written some books (some of which are co-authored) and there are other useful links. If there are any questions my colleagues are ready to answer them.
It has been far too long and we have to build bridges so that we can help usher in a saner age and civilization, one which I identify in its principles with Thomas Paine, where there is complete social and environmental justice and where the strong do not oppress the weak of any species. This can only happen if humans understand God and reason, and the extra reinforcing guidance or ingredient of a proper rational revelation such as the Quran, taken in its full textual context and looked upon objectively, rather than emotionally – with Reason....
Director of IHR/Author