Mustafa was anxious to get the letter. He was overwhelmed with love and happiness. But as soon as he read it he was stunned and greatly disappointed. He could not believe his eyes. He read it again to assure himself of its contents. Was it really from Hasanat, the girl whom his sister, Zainab had often praised for her righteousness and had herself chosen her to be his wife? Could she be the writer of such a letter? Was she the one with whom his hopes would be fulfilled? Yet she spoke frankly enough to confess that she did not even believe in God! How hard it was for him to accept! how could this have happened? How could his sister have been cheated by her? She was her best friend. What could he do? Mustafa tried to control his feelings after the shock of the letter had passed. He first thought of writing a letter to his sister to blame her for the choice of such a girl and to take steps to divorce her. Then he dismissed the idea. He thought of a quick divorce as a means to escape his responsibility towards her. He had to guide her, to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. Perhaps he could guide her to the right path. He could decide later for divorce. The more he thought of the matter the more he found the idea acceptable. He then wrote to her the following letter:
In the Name of God
I apologize for being late in replying to you. I have tried to overcome the shock that your frank letter caused me, and it was not easy, but my religious duty has caused me to discuss the matter. You say there is no need for religion. Are you serious ? Have you been joking? I don't know how you could have such ideas. I think you are the victim of deviation and misguidance. I am writing to you as a brother writes to his sister. I am bound by social and religious duties to you. You claim, in your letter, that there is no need for religion and belief in God. You should know that belief in God is not the result of injustice or oppression. It came into existence long before injustice or class disputes. What class conflict was there at the beginning of human life, when foodstuff and cloth and land were common for all? Belief in God has been known since the beginning of creation and man's first knowledge about life. You may ask for proof of this. Can't you see that everything has its own qualities and features, drawn on the pages of history ? History has given us sound evidence of that.
If you want examples you can have them. In Egypt, the Egyptians were the oldest people who believed in the spirit and its renewed life after death, in its punishment or reward. That was at a special level in regard to their concepts. They symbolized the spirit, in various ways: a flower, a bird and sometimes a human face. Such symbols are clear from archeology and history. They worshipped the Founder of everything, as is clear from their prayers. They considered whatever the heart and the tongue comprehended as having been given by the Founder of life. One of their Pharoahs, Akhnatoon, was famous for his meditation and thinking. He tried to reform religious rituals, as is clear from his prayers which history records thus: "How countless are your creatures of which we know nothing! You are the One God and there is no other lord but You, You created earth at Your will, and furnished it with men and animals... " This happened in Egypt. In India, the historians are not sure of the age when the worship of God started. Some say it started fifteen centuries before the birth of Jesus (a). Some say six centuries before that. Max Muller, an authority on European languages, says: "Whatever the age of the gathering of the written anthems was, prior to that age, the Indians believed in One God Who was neither male nor female, nor had any human natural limitations." Muller interprets one of their anthems common five centuries B.C., in the following way: "There was neither day nor night. There was none, but the One.
China knew religion through the worship of the Sun and the Moon and the Stars and the Winds. The greatest of their gods was the God of Heaven, who controlled the universe and decided the life course of every human being. In Persia, Zurradasht mentions Honnuz the Worshipped as following:
"Oh Honnuz the Merciful, the Creator of the World, the most Sacred, who is the Mightiest in Heaven and Earth ?" Honnuz answered, "My name, which is dear from the nature of my heaven, is the Mightiest." They also believed in the existence of a passage where good spirits and devils, come together on leaving their bodies (at death), to meet the God of light and King of Justice. They believed that a balance was set up that the spirits were questioned about their deeds and excuses. They believed that one gate opened into Paradise and another to Hell. In Babylon, where in the most ancient civilization was to be found, archeological studies indicate the Babylonians' belief in the Creator. They believed in the God of Water and the God of Heaven and the God of War and the God of Soldiers. In the Hellenistic civilizations of ancient Greece, the idea of one God was mentioned by one of their wise men who blamed his people for their worshipping of several gods, 6 centuries B.C. History proves man's belief in the One God, centuries before the birth of Christ. This itself indicates that the belief in the One God is a very early human idea.
I mention these things without claiming that the idea of religion was clear at all stages, it has always been influenced by the cultural level of the various successive generations and was thus affected by them. Although not monotheism, it indicates a belief in God in a manner that accords to the ideological understanding of those times. I do not wish to disturb you by writing you a longer letter. Perhaps, you could read a book written by the Egyptian writer Al-Aqqad entitled "God". It would give you more information about this matter and help you accept what I have written.
God is our guide, wishing you every good.
Rihab read the letter and spent the night thinking about it. She tried to compare her knowledge with what he had written to her, to see which was the more firmly based on sound evidence. She could come to no conclusion, and so reverted to her natural stubbornness. She awoke early the next morning to write her reply. She tried to avoid seeing her sister Hasanat, incase she should feel sorry for her and change her mind about spoiling her marriage. In fact Hasanat, in recent days had been looking more concerned and unusually silent. She hardly laughed at all and her face had grown pale. Rihab knew the reason for Mustafa's supposed negligence, as Hasanat had never read his letter. Rihab was happy to see her sister suffer silently, although sometimes she felt a prick of conscience. This letter she wrote to Mustafa:
I was sorry to see that my letter hurt you. I was awaiting a similar letter to your first one, but instead, you rushed to defend your ideas, and put aside words of your love. Perhaps you had found me to be worthless of such feelings? Anyway your talk about the origin of man’s belief was quite interesting and the historical evidence that you cited were clear. But I still maintain that belief in God is a means for the weak who feel defeated in the face of the strong. Such a weak person who feels he cannot protect himself, searches for an imaginary Power to protect him from danger. This is the basis for belief in God, and religion. I believe, we are not weak and that we can protect ourselves by various means, why then should we attach ourselves to the unknown in order to get the power that in this day and age, we do not even lack.
I am waiting for your answer.
Rihab waited anxiously for the answer. She wanted to hear his answer after she had agreed with nearly his entire first letter. But she feared her plot might be discovered if his sister returned from her journey. Suppose he wrote to his sister and blamed her for the choice; surely she would contact Hasanat, her best friend, and then everything would become clear. When Rihab thought of this, she became very uneasy. She tried to dismiss such ideas from her mind, and continue her 'game'. Soon she got the following letter:
In the Name of God
I was happy to that you agreed with some of my ideas. I hope this will be the start of our ideological agreement. Yet I am still surprised by your ideas about belief in God. Had that been the case, the prophets would have been the weakest of individuals, whereas we see that all of those who called the people to worship God, were in some way or other strong. For instance, Prophet Noah continued calling his people to believe in God for hundreds of years with persistence and great energy. With great effort he built the Ark, despite the mockery and ridicule of the people; he never gave-up. When the great flood covered the whole earth, he and his family went aboard the Ark with peace and security. He neither feared the vast waves nor was he disturbed by the disappearance of his unbelieving son. These are all clear indications of his strong will and mighty character. Then there is the Prophet Abraham (a) who firmly stood up against his enemies, the pagans. He was not scared by their threat to burn him. His great belief in God turned the raging fire into something harmless to him. Doesn't this indicate a strong will and personality? Could anyone dare to say that Abraham was a weak idle person? What about Moses (a)? He entered Pharoah's court with nothing but his brother and their faith in God. He didn't fear Pharaoh’s threatened horrible revenge. Doesn't such a stance indicate firmness and strength. Jesus (a) as well persisted in calling people to the right path. Our Prophet Muhammad (s) struggled for the sake of God. He never ceased calling people to worship God even when all the tribes of Quraish were against him and bargained with him to give up the message. His reply to them was, "By God, if you were to put the sun at my right and the moon at my left, I wouldn’t give up this issue."
Throughout his life, the Prophet practiced heroic actions. I ask you to read his biography in order to learn more about him. Thus, you should come to know that the prophets were the strongest, the most courageous and the firmest among their people. You should read a book entitled ‘Faith.’ You will surely enjoy it and benefit from it, but I am still ready to answer your questions.
Whilst waiting for Mustafa's reply to her letter, Rihab had sometimes felt uneasy, and had found herself abhorring her wicked behavior. Hasanat bore her pain silently, sometimes feeling depressed and imagining the most awful things. She could not explain her fiancé’s behavior. As a matter of politeness he should at least have written her a short letter, and he should have sent her his photo, as she had not seen him before their engagement. Such feelings overwhelmed her at times, although in her saner moments she did not believe the things that came into her mind and tried to find different excuses for him. She thought, he could be busy or even sick. Perhaps he wrote to her, but his letter had been lost in the post. She found such excuse acceptable, and was happy thinking that he had written to her and thought as much of her, as she did of him. Anyway she awaited his sister's return from holiday; perhaps she would know the reason for his negligence. Hasanat busied herself with reading books.
One day Rihab came to her room. Surprised, Hasanat welcomed her sister. Rihab sat near her, not knowing what to do. Hasanat said, "Have you got a day off? Why aren't you at the office today? I hope you are not ill." Rihab said, "I've a bit of a headache, So I phoned my friend asking her to tell the office, I won't be in today. I'm bored and need something to read. Can you give me a book?" Hasanat was surprised, as her sister was not usually interested in her religious books. She said to her, "Feel free to choose whatever book you like." Rihab got up and stood in front of the shelves while Hasanat watched her to see what books she would take. She was surprised when Rihab took one about 'Faith' and a biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s). Rihab could not explain her choice of books, and so hurriedly left before Hasanat had time to ask her any questions. In fact Hasanat felt happy to see her misguided sister turning to the right path of faith. She forgot her own sadness for a while as she visualized Rihab as a committed Muslim, engaged to a good Muslim such as her own fiance, Mustafa. Then she remembered Mustafa, she felt sad and depressed. What could Mustafa be? She resorted to her book and tried to concentrate on reading.
Rihab read the two books she had borrowed from her sister and feeling in need of his explanations, she wrote to Mustafa the following letter:
Perhaps I have been a bit late replying to your letter. Reading the books you suggested has kept me busy for quite sometime. I have to admit that your style of writing is very convincing. I enjoyed reading a biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s) (as you advised me), for a few days and thus I learnt the details of his life. I have also started reading the story of ‘Faith’ that answered many of my questions.
But I still cannot understand why should I worship a God that I cannot see, or perceive through any of the five senses. Isn't much worship really mere tradition, based on illusions? I am sorry to disturb you with such a question, but I feel I need your answer. Such questions cause me uneasiness. I hope your letter can give me some comfort.
Mustafa received Rihab's letter with the intention of deciding his future relationship with her, according to it's contents. If he found her still negative, his relationship with her would have to come to an end as there was no use in trying to guide her. If he found her understanding and positive he would continue his duty of guiding her, not so that she could be his future wife (he no longer wanted her) but as a person going astray. When he found in her letter that she was responding to his ideas and reading the religious books, he wrote her this letter:
In the Name of God
Thank God that I am now writing to you in optimistic frame of mind. I was happy with what I read in your letter. I am quite ready to answer your questions. They are clear indications of your desire for knowledge. But my answer in this letter will be short and in the form of questions for you to answer:
I. What is the difference between a human being and an animal with regard to comprehension since both have senses?
2. Have you ever considered something to be impossible ?
3. Do you believe in the existent and the non-existent?
I would be grateful to you for answering the questions.
My best regards to you
In great eagerness to read the answer to her question Rihab got Mustafa's letter only to find no answer but amazing inquiries. She found it difficult to understand what had prompted him to ask them. Hasanat was in her room so she went to her, hesitantly. The more Rihab became aware of God, the more she felt uneasy with regards to her sister. She could not find the answers to Mustafa's questions without Hasanat's help and her sister had recently been helpful to her, since she had seen her interest in religious books. Rihab sat near her sister not knowing which book could help her find the answers. She had to ask her sister, but was silent for awhile first.
Hasanat said, "I hope you've finished reading the two books?" Rihab answered, "Yes" Hasanat then said, "Did you find them interesting?" "Yes." replied Rihab. Hasanat guessed that her sister was in a quandary about books, as she had nothing else but books to give to her. She wasn't bothered by Rihab’s brief answers, and only said gently, “You know you are free to choose any book you want from my library anytime. Do you want one?" Rihab, said hesitantly, "Yes. But I am not sure what books I want." Hasanat said calmly, "History books, science, ethical or religious, what books do you want?" Rihab said, "I want religious books." Hasanat was happy at her choice. She gave her three books one about ‘Faith and Reason’ and the second one about ‘Reason and The Hereafter’, and the third was about ‘Science and Faith.’ She took the books and went to her room. Her sister's nice words still echoing in her head. Hasanat's help to her in arranging her room, sewing her clothes and offering her books made Rihab condemn herself saying, "What a wicked person I am! Can't I stop this dangerous game? Why can't I leave the poor girl alone? Now, there is no way out but to see it through to the end. I am in need of Mustafa's knowledge to explain difficult issues for me. If I confess the truth, he and the others will scorn me. No! I cannot retreat."
A few days later she wrote:
I tried to understand your aim behind those questions, and looked for books that dealt with these matters you asked about, to get the answers. Actually, I do not want to be your little student waiting for you to answer every small question. I read nearly three books besides the ones you mentioned to me. I must say quite frankly that my aim behind reading has been to comprehend your opinion before you mention it. Anyway the books dealt with various topics and answered some of my own questions. I found them interesting to read, but unfortunately I could not find the answers to your questions. Hence I wait for you to answer them, along with my answers.
1. Of course the difference between men and animals is not in regard to the five senses but is because of Reason. Man can think reasonably whereas animals cannot.
2. Existence and non-existence are matters clear to everyone who can reasonably comprehend things.
3. Impossible things exist, i.e. to say that it is impossible.