Islam: Day 6 – Islamic Stoics?

Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned. – Qur’an 21:35

I’m beginning to think that all religions have elements of Stoicism in their teachings.

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam teaches that God is all-knowing, and knows past present and future.

Also like Judaism and Christianity, Islam teaches that just because God knows the future, it does not mean we do not have free will.

As a result, people can choose how they handle the circumstances that befall them, whether or good or bad. Islam views these positive or negative events or circumstances as opportunities to demonstrate your faith in God and to act righteously.

“Even though we often have no control over what happens to us, we do have control over how we fell and respond. When a tragedy strikes, do we blame God? When we see a diamond, does covetous well up within us? When someone does evil to us, do we reciprocate or forgive? When we are alone, do we fell lonely or jubilant? Islam says we have control over our feelings, emotions, and personal actions. Our test lies in how we respond to what happens around us.” – Yahiha Emerick

Now consider these words from Epictetus:

“With every accident, ask yourself what abilities you have for making a proper use of it. If you see an attractive person, you will find that self-restraint is the ability you have against your desire. If you are in pain, you will find fortitude. If you hear unpleasant language, you will find patience. And thus habituated, the appearances of things will not hurry you away along with them.”

Though Islam teaches that one should act righteously for God and Epictetus teaches that one should act virtuously to avoid discontent, the point is the same: success is determined by how you behave when faced with circumstances outside of your control.

Rumi, the great poet and Sufi mystic, wrote, “Suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy.”

“Islam teaches that suffering is a special form of grace, because if we never experienced suffering, we would never feel the need to call out to Allah for mercy.” – Timothy Freke, The Heart of Islam

Turning to God is act of humility that acknowledges that you don’t control everything. Suffering is a nudge towards that realization. When everything is going great, you feel like the world belongs to you, that you can accomplish anything. Suffering is a way to bring you back to reality and gain an understanding of the true nature of things.

The more I study religion and philosophy, the more I feel they are all variations on some core, fundamental truths.

They also differ in many ways, but there must be something to the fact that a 1st century Greek slave turned philosopher and a 6th century Arab prophet say the same the thing in wildly different times and context.

  • Arushi

    Hey there,
    I was just going to comment the same thing that you wrote in the end of the post- all religious beliefs are for the betterment of human civilization and they root from similar ideologies!
    But anyway, what I wanted to ask was that did you strategically choose Islam next, because Ramadan starts this weekend; are you planning to fast as well?

    • Hi Arushi,

      Religions definitely hit on some common ideas, which makes me think those ideas are highly useful and true.

      As far my choice of when to practice Islam, it did not have to do with Ramadan. I actually already finished my Islam month several weeks ago. I am just now publishing the posts I wrote during that time. I’m currently in the middle of my Buddhism month, which I will start posting after I finish posting about Islam.

      -Dale

      • Arushi

        Oh Alright, I didn’t know about the time lag !

  • Alamin Uddin

    Hi Dale,

    Interesting analysis towards the end. If you look at the core of Hinduism, a pagan religion, it’s similar to the Abrahamic faiths. Almost all religions really do share some fundamental truth. Islam’s explanation for it is:

    “Verily! We have sent you with the truth, a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner. And there never was a nation but a warner had passed among them.”
    [Faatir 3524]

    “And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Taghoot (all false deities, etc. i.e. do not worship Taghoot besides Allah)”
    [an-Nahl 16:36].

    “And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you”
    [an-Nisa’ 4:164].

    “There never was a people without a Messenger having lived among them”
    [34:4]

    Prophet Muhammad also said: “From Adam to me, Allah sent a hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets…”

    So, the theory is that all of these ancient religions were originally founded by a Prophet of Allah, who proclaimed unity of God (Islam essentially), but as time went by, the followers diverted from the core message and turned the religion into something else. This is why you still find hints of monotheism and the same fundamental ideals among all of these religions. And of course, Christianity and Judaism are by Jesus and Moses, who are major Islamic prophets, so the resemblance should be obvious.

    Hope this helps.

    • Hi Alamin,

      I love the Islamic idea that all people who have existed in different times and places and have been exposed to some version of some very important and fundamental truths about how to live a good and meaningful life.

      My takeaway is that we should pay close attention when these truths are revealed to us.

      Thanks for commenting!

      -Dale

  • Majed Jarrar

    Hi Dale,

    Beautiful post! It also reminds me of something similar in Islam. The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “All prophets of God are brothers; their religion is one.”

    It’s because we believe that all prophets had the same faith; the pure monotheism, and each messenger was sent was different teachings.

    I met a few native people here in Canada and was listening to stories about their religion, there are so many similarities with Islam, and even they admit that their forefathers used to be monotheistic and they now pray to the spirits of their forefathers instead of the greater being their fathers prayed to.

  • todayistblogger

    The notion of submitting is also a stoic” notion

  • Hi Dale, you might want to study the concept of perennial philosophy… basically Islam can be extrapolated within logical bounds to say that all messengers came with the same truth .. but the message in other religions was corrupted by human interventions and the quran was not.. which brings us to the point that quranic text has not changed one letter since the 6th century.. as we believe God said that he is the preserver of the quran. so that it retains the purity until the day of resurrection. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, by mentioning it within the quran, it was made sure that no one changes a single letter or punctuation (this is verifiable fact). How i see is this, God always sent humans something like an operation manual through inspiring one of their own… thats why the core of all religions are the same.. it is like updating the software.. islam is the last version in a long line of divine software for human beings… may Allah guide you to believe in the truth… take care !

  • FaDiskuser

    what a splendid post. Thanks a lot 😀