The Lost Documents of Abu Bakr Al-Razi, “The Atheist”
By Hamad al-Rayes
In our history, there have been those who have believed in reincarnation, under the unholy influence of their Greek “masters.” There have also been those, who were to be found anywhere between the green meadows of Persia to the golden shores of Mediterranean Africa, whose “love” of God, Allah, went to such extremities that they believed themselves, as well as all Nature and the Universe, a Reflection of Him, and Him a Reflection of themselves. “There is nothing in thy dress but Allah,” they professed. Such blasphemies have been courtesy of the Sufis, that unique sect of mystics that made absolute asceticism the starting point of the eternal stairway to God. I have never subscribed to such profanities.
Upon one of my visits to the local bookshop, a visit fatefully engineered to be one of my last, I fell upon a book the title of which I found immediately appealing: A’Alaam Al-Nubuwwa: Ar-Radd ‘Ala “Al-Mulhid” Abu Bakr Ar-Razi Proofs of Prophethood: The Response to “The Atheist” Abu Bakr Al-Razi. It was written by Abu Hatam Al-Razi; perhaps motivated not only by religious zeal, but also by the suggestion of kinship; an ancient book, meant to refute an age old set of arguments. Many of Abu Bakr Al-Razi’s writings have been obliterated, wiped out of existence, confiscated, burnt, destroyed, despite the cultural diversity in which the Islamic world prospered back then.
“It has preserved much of the thought of that irreverent individual,” said the shopkeeper's voice behind me. I turned around; the man looked like an antique. I never saw him before. There was an abnormality in his presence that I could not grasp. The sentence was spoken in a scholarly accent, much like that used by scholars in religious institutes, only more refined. His face was sharp-featured; the whiteness of his short beard was obviously premature; his smile implying cunning and eloquence; his eyes piercing, profound, and burning with discontent; yet despite all that, an air of peacefulness and reserve surrounded him. He struck me as merely foreign, especially given the turban on his head, which suggested Iranian origins. My opinion was bound to change. I reflect upon his visage now with terror.
All the tension created by a glance at the strange man was intensified by his noticing my outward disinterest towards his comment. He glanced sideways as if snatching an idea, then added: “Of course, what is wonderful is the invincible defense of the Faith which Abu Hatam has provided; indeed, a priceless gem for all the Believers.” His words again rung with unfamiliar bells. Irritated by the subtle sarcasm in his tone, and the eeriness of the situation as a whole (simply reading the words might render it quite normal; the actual experience was something else), I decided to get through with my business and buy the book immediately. I picked up a copy, went to the counter, and paid. He, in turn, insisted on slipping the book in a bag. The exchange was conducted in an impenetrable silence, as if sealing a secret deal. I turned around, bag in hand, as quietly as I paid; the sudden hush that befell the man made me nervous. As I pulled the door open, he said behind my back: How about the Arabic books? a question as out-of-place as the man who said it. I ignored it, and walked on.
I returned home and let the bag lay on the kitchen table for a while. When I was ready to read my book I was surprised to find it accompanied by another book inside the bag. The other book was of morbid dimensions, its bindings made from a poorly treated skin of an anonymous creature, its pages as if written by the hand of a ghost, its papers covered with the ancient dust of history. The book which I had originally purchased immediately lost all appeal in front of this spectacle. The signature which I glimpsed between every few pages declared that what I beheld was the manuscripts of Abu Bakr Al-Razi, the atheist whom the other book refutes. Suddenly I felt a terrible thirst in my brain, my curiosity pulsating and begging to be fed. The ice around my heart started to melt. I read that which was burnt hundreds of years ago. I read that which was made only for the eyes of the Devil. I read what was supposed to be a refutation of my religion, my God; that is, of my whole past, identity, and existence.
The changes that took place in me upon reading the manuscripts are beyond my descriptive abilities. I found in my mind a relentless hunger for the words and thoughts of this ancestral heretic. My spirit extended beyond the boundaries of my carnal existence to the preeminence of metaphysical certainty, uncertainty. Word by word my faith was shattered, my doubt nourished (doubt, not disbelief, is the antithesis of faith). Soon, I found myself alone in the universe. Alone and Godless.
Time rendered it more impossible for me to survive. The way I have been raised, God is to be relied on throughout. The independence I saw many of my fellow people beseech has turned out to be, indeed, a terrible burden, a cross unbearable to carry. Yes, for once in my life I have been completely independent, an absolute individual. Life became a living hell. In everything I saw the bleak spark of futility staring back at me from a dark corner. In all attempts of reasoning I found inevitable contradiction. I stopped going to work. I could not endure anything anymore. I even stopped reading the manuscripts themselves. A few days later, on the verge of suicide, I burned them. Today, I like to believe, despite what might prove it otherwise, that it all was a dream. I now understand why those writings had a similar fate in the past… either the papers survived or our sanity.
(Entry by Hamad al-Rayes)