Are Muslims Fideists?

By Dallas M. Roark, Ph.D.

We need to define the word before we can deal with the question. A fideist is a person who stresses faith without requiring reasons for believing. It is defined by the online dictionary as "Reliance on faith alone rather than scientific reasoning or philosophy in questions of religion." (Source) It is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as "reliance on faith rather than reason in pursuit of religious truth." (Source)

My reason for raising this question came out of a rebuttal to my article, "If I were I Muslim I would wonder…" by Sami Zaatari (here). One can view my rebuttal to Mr. Zaatari here.

I had written, "If I were a Muslim I would wonder if the Qur’an was the exact words of God, why would it contain fictional stories that never happened, such as the children in the cave who slept for generations and other stories that are regarded as fictions by the rest of the world. 18:10 "When the youths took refuge in the Cave saying, 'Our lord, give us mercy from Thee, and furnish us with rectitude in our affair.'"

18:25 "And they tarried in the Cave three hundred years, and to that they added nine more." (Arberry)

Sami Zaatari responded by saying, "Actually, if you were a Muslim you would not question these stories and say 'hmmm why are fictional stories in the Quran'."

This response seemed out of character since he has lots of rebuttals on his website trying to give reasons why his position should be accepted as true. Some Muslims claim that Islam is a reasonable religion, but this man declares that a Muslim would not question the stories in the Qur’an.

Is it not strange to not question the Quran? How many books does one read without raising the question, is this true? Is it credible? Is it fiction? Is it hearsay? Many Muslims read the Bible and raise all kinds of objections. Why are no objections raised about the Quran? If the Bible had a story in which a number of youth were sleeping in a cave for 300 years all kinds of questions would be raised. But Sami Zaatari responds that a Muslim would not question these stories in the Quran.

This story has a Christian history and Mohammed twisted the conclusion. In the original story, the youth awoke to find that Jesus was still preached as the Son of God. Mohammed used the story and concluded that Jesus was not the Son of God. Mohammed’s followers did not have a basis for refuting his use of the story. They were ignorant of the source of the story. Even if they knew, who would have dared to tell Mohammed he was wrong. They believed him without evidence. Moreover, they believed him contrary to the truth of the issue. This is fideism.

Let’s begin with a look at some issues that have a fideist overtone.

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet said, "What is wrong with those people who look towards the sky during the prayer?" His talk grew stern while delivering this speech and he said, "They should stop (looking towards the sky during the prayer); otherwise their eye-sight would be taken away." (Sahih Bukhari 1.717)

What can a Muslim do with this? First, the people looking toward the sky did not lose their sight. There is no record of that happening. Second, has anyone since that time lost their eyesight by looking at the sky while praying? Third, does a Muslim have the will to check it out to see if it is really true? Admittedly, it sounds risky to test it, but would it not be better to be blind knowing the truth of this statement than to live with the eye sight and but blinded by a lie and lead astray by a false teacher? Fourth, it does not seem rational that holding one’s head toward the sky during prayer is a risky action.

Fifth, if Mohammed had known the New Testament he would have known that Jesus looked up in prayer. "After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you." (John 17:1) Sixth, apparently Mohammed is still believed without good reason since prayers are made with the head bowed to the ground.

Consider the issue of the setting of the sun.

"Till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout. We said: O Dhu'l-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness." (18:86 Pickthall)

How did Mohammed come up with this statement? Perhaps Mohammed believed that his authority would be undermined if he confessed ignorance on a subject.

However, it would have been prudent to confess ignorance than to make statements that were ignorant, statements that would bring Islam into ridicule, statements that only a fideists would believe, and statements that were wrong.

One other example relates to the shape of the earth. Is it flat or is it round?

The Qur’an seems to declare it to be flat and the major Muslim scholars in the past have interpreted these verses as referring to a flat earth, not a round one. Some have commented that physics is wrong and the Qur’an is right about the earth being flat.

"Will they not regard the camels, how they are created? And the heaven, how it is raised? And the hills, how they are set up? And the earth, how it is spread?" (88:17-20 Pickthall)

15:19 "And the earth We have spread out (like a carpet); set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance." (Yusuf Ali, for this and the rest of the quotes.)

16:15 "And He has set up on the earth mountains standing firm lest it should shake with you; and rivers and roads; that ye may guide yourselves."

18:47 "One Day We shall remove the mountains and thou wilt see the earth as a level stretch and We shall gather them all together nor shall We leave out any one of them."

20:53 "He Who has made for you the earth like a carpet spread out; has enabled you to go about therein by roads (and channels); and has sent down water from the sky." With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from the others."

21:31 "And We have set on the earth mountains standing firm lest it should shake with them and We have made therein broad highways (between mountains) for them to pass through: that they may receive guidance."

43:10 "(Yea the same that) has made for you the earth (like a carpet) spread out and has made for you roads (and channels) therein in order that ye may find guidance (on the way);"

78:6-7 "Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse and the mountains as pegs?"

84:3 "And when the Earth is flattened out"

Now if the Qur’an is to be accepted one must reject the photos from space that the earth is round, a sphere. One must appeal to deception. The pictures were fakes. In this case one must forget rationality and become a fideist.

If you want to see a modern defender of the flat earth go here.

This poses some interesting problems. The great Muslim commentators of the past asserted that these verses describe a flat earth. Modern Apologists seek to interpret them by saying that nowhere does the Qur’an declare the earth is flat. Are those closest to Mohammed to be rejected when it is discovered that the earth is really round? Do they not have the greatest possibility of knowing what Mohammed really said and meant?

Incidently, people from the time of Aristotle knew that the earth is round. If the ancient Greeks knew the earth was round we might ask concerning the state of scientific knowledge in Arabia.

Absolute acceptance of the Qur’an, the hadiths, and the model of Mohammed as a man leads to fideism. Accepting all this without evidence is fideism. Fideism means I don’t think but accept someone else’s view about God, religion, values, and culture.

Fideism makes it easy for people to be used, for religious tyrants to impose their views on others. Fideism leads to a rejection of personal responsibility in which a fideists would say, "it must be right because so and so believes it." In this case, it must be right because Mohammed believed it. A fideist does not look for evidence, reason, or logic. A fideist is blind to reason and evidence.

How many fideists are there in Islam? Ali Sina of Faith Freedom has offered $50.000 to anyone who can disprove his charges against Mohammed. He charges that Islam’s prophet was "a narcissist, a misogynist, a rapist, a pedophile, a lecher, a torturer, a mass murderer, a cult leader, an assassin, a terrorist, a mad man and a looter." (Source) He claims that no one has won the prize.. Does this mean that all the charges against Mohammed are ignored? Does this mean that Muslims do not ask questions about the character of the man?

In contrast the Bible gives a number of examples in which reasoning with Yahweh took place. In the very beginning of the Hebrew people, Abraham reasoned with Yahweh about Sodom and Gomorrah and the possible death of his nephew, Lot. (Gen. 18) In the book of Isaiah (1:18) Yahweh said, "come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Jesus allowed the Pharisees to argue with him about his qualifications as the Son of God. (Mark 8:11)

He declared to people, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6)

When the Apostle Paul traveled preaching the gospel he came to Berea and the people there examined the Old Testament scriptures to see if Paul spoke the truth. (Acts 17:11) They were looking for evidence and assurance. They believed based on the evidence.

History, archaeology, textual criticism, ancient literature and other disciplines have been important for the Christian faith. Christian faith has been criticized by all kinds of opponents from atheists to Muslims. Yet, in the face of criticism the evidence of history, archaeology, and textual criticism is on the side of the Christian faith, not Islam.

Articles by Dallas M. Roark
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