I hope you found the title intriguing. Gambling is forbidden in Islam. And a Maulana should always act as an exemplar of Islamic character. So how could a Maulana turn a bet into a sure thing, a wager whose positive outcome is so certain that only a fool would fail to take advantage of it?
One afternoon, Maulana Amjad told me this. I can’t quote this exactly so I ask Allah, and I ask you and I ask the Maulana to forgive my imprecision. He said: “Imagine a Muslim and an atheist are having a serious talk. They both know each other well. They have been to each other’s homes. They know each other’s spouses.
The Muslim says: I am going to explain to you very simply why you should believe in God. Isn’t it true that I have a job and you have a job? And perhaps my job is a little better than yours? And Islam doesn’t keep me from having a better job than you have.
Isn’t it true that we are both married? And perhaps my wife is better than your wife? And Islam doesn’t keep me from marrying and from choosing a better spouse than your own.
Isn’t it true that we both eat? And perhaps my meals are a little better than your meals? And Islam doesn’t keep me from eating a better meal than you eat.
Isn’t it true that we both have homes? And perhaps my home is a little better than your home? And Islam doesn’t keep me from having a better home than the one you own.
However, something is very different between us. In the hereafter, I hope to have a share of heaven because I am a Muslim. But you claim no share of the hereafter as an atheist.
So look, I work, I marry, I eat, and I keep a home, and on top of all that, I hope to enter heaven. But what do you get for your atheism? In this world, you have nothing superior to what I have and in the next world you have nothing at all.”
Now some astute readers probably stopped several sentences ago and thought, “This is Pascal’s Wager (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager).” And if you think that, you are on the right track, but at the wrong station. So Pascal’s Wager means that a rational person believing in God and hoping for heaven is like a gambler betting on a claim and hoping to win. But look at what my clever Maulana did. He turned the wager into a sure thing. Because he is arguing that you win no matter what. The Muslim wins, even if the atheist is right and there is no heaven. Because the Muslim still gets to live in living conditions that are as good, and quite often better, than his atheist counterpart. And if the atheist is wrong, then the Muslim wins big and may Allah allow us all to win big. That is how a Maulana taught me to gamble.