Many of you know of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand for her beautiful stance on interfaith tolerance (1).
But have you met Princess Alice from New Zealand? Probably not, because she is not an actual princess, only an imaginary one.
To meet her, I want you to watch a National Geographic video (2). You can watch the video in the references mentioned here (3, 4).
But, before you meet her, let me share a little bit of background.
Agnostics and atheists argue against accountability and stress that they can also be moral without belief in God. They can certainly be. As every human being has a conscience, and each one of us embellishes it to a variable degree, in that sense, both theists and atheists can be moral.
However, theists have an additional factor driving them to be moral, namely a belief in an All-Seeing God. I do not want to argue this issue at length here. Still, I would only suggest watching 6 minutes of a recent 50-minute documentary by National Geographic starring Morgan Freeman, “The Story of God,” season 1, episode 5. Starting at minute 32 of this video and focusing on the work of a New Zealand researcher, Jesse Michael Bering, with 6-year-old children to see how a belief in invisible Princess Alice affects their behavior and honesty (3,4).
Jesse Michael Bering (born 6 May 1975) is an American writer and academic. He is an Associate Professor in Science Communication at the University of Otago (where he serves as Director of the Centre for Science Communication) and a frequent contributor to Scientific American, Slate, and Das Magazin (Switzerland). His work has also appeared in New York Magazine, The Guardian, and the New Republic and featured on NPR, the BBC, and elsewhere.
Just as a belief in invisible Princess Alice makes the 6-year-old more honest, genuine faith in an All-Seeing God can improve the believers’ actions, character, and morality.
From Princess Alice, let us catapult to the All-Knowing God of the Abrahamic faiths.
In the three great monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, God is viewed as a Supreme, transcendent being, beyond matter, space and time. Yet, the foundation of all that meets our senses is described in terms of matter, space, and time. That is the Al-Batin or the Hidden God of monotheism. Furthermore, this God is not the god of Deism, who created the world and then left it alone, or the god of pantheism, who is equated with all of existence. On the contrary, the Islamic and the Judeo-Christian God is a nanosecond-by-nanosecond participant in each event that takes place in every cubic nanometer of the universe. He has full knowledge of all things. God listens to every thought and participates in each action of His very special creation, a minute bit of organized matter called humanity that moves around on the surface of a tiny pebble in a vast universe.
As indicated above, just as a belief in invisible Princess Alice changes the behavior of 6-year-olds, the faith in the Abrahamic God can change our conduct and eventually our lives and inspire us to the most charitable and selfless deeds. But a superficial belief in God will not suffice. It has to be a deeply felt firm faith that affects our behavior and actions. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Only those of His servants who possess knowledge are fully God-conscious. Indeed, Allah is Mighty, Most Forgiving” (5).
So, for genuine faith that is rooted in truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth that is fully capable of affecting our behavior, we need to study and investigate and find the best and the most authentic Abrahamic tradition and follow that. This is indeed a lifelong mission of overcoming personal biases and societal divisions in pursuit of the truth. But, I will not dwell on the different sects of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam here today.
Human nature is such that merely theoretical ideas do not move our hearts and minds. Therefore, Islam stresses the correctness of ideas and beliefs and emphasizes our deeds and practices and even what the modern world calls rituals. Today, I want to highlight only three activities in Muslim lives by quoting two verses of the Qur’an, and I will conclude with that.
According to Islamic teachings, Salat (five daily ritual prayers), Saum (obligatory and voluntary fasting), and Zikr-e-Ilahi (meditating on attributes of God constantly), embellish our God-consciousness:
“Recite that which has been revealed to you (Muhammad) of the Book, and observe Salat. Surely, Salat restrains one from indecency and manifest evil, and Zikr-e-Ilahi indeed is the greatest virtue. And Allah knows what you do” (6).
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become God-conscious” (7).
5. The Holy Qur’an (35:29)
6. The Holy Qur’an (29:46)
7. The Holy Qur’an (2:184)
Last modified: January 2022