Assalaamu ‘alaikum sister,
Ok so awesome question. I actually LOVE answering this one, but you have to make sure that when you explain it to her, insha’Allah she understands it. When someone says something like that, something we agree with, that you shouldn’t just follow a human being, give her due recognition. Something like, “Exactly! That’s the whole point of Islam, that we believe that you SHOULDN’T just follow a human being. You’re starting to sound like a Muslim!” (I find it’s sometimes good to throw semi-kidding suggestions like that in there, but consider your audience insha’Allah.)
This was actually some thing that, for me, was like an epiphany before I became Muslim. For a long time I was into the whole “anti-organized religion” mindset, and I wouldn’t even consider an established faith because I saw them all as “man-made.” I felt, as many do, that I should instead follow what was in my heart, what I felt was right, until it hit me: all I was doing was making my own personal man-made religion. Who was I to think I was a shining exception to all of humanity, who I had deemed unworthy to dictate religion? It was partly through the realization of my own hypocrisy that I decided to give religion a second chance, because I realized that my own custom religion would be just as false as any other religion invented by people. I accepted that the only possible way to follow the right religion was if it was a God-made religion, and I decided to see if any such religion existed. Alhamdulillah I found that religion in Islam.
So insha’Allah try explaining that to her, in the best and most considerate way you can. Confirm her previous statement by saying something like, “So basically, you feel that we shouldn’t follow any religion made up by human beings, right?” Insha’Allah she will agree to that principle, and then you can explain that a religion is nothing more than a way of life, that we all have a religion that we follow, and that if we make up our religion for ourselves, then we would be guilty of following a religion made by human beings (ie ourselves).
Explain that as Muslims, we believe that Muhammad (saws) is the messenger of God, and so we are not following teachings that he made up, but rather the teachings that he is conveying from God through revelation. Explain that this is how religion is supposed to work, and that all the prophets (name a few) taught the same thing, but it was only when people started to put their own ideas and teachings in, and take away things they didn’t agree with, that the God-made religion was transformed into a man-made religion.
I think introducing her to the Prophet (saws) is a great idea. If she understands who he was, what he taught, and how he lived, insha’Allah it might make her feel more comfortable with him, and with the message he brought. Just make sure that what you give her to read is digestible. In other words, make sure it’s something that someone without a familiarity with Islam would be able to understand and connect to. I know there’s a book by Tariq Ramadan called “In The Footsteps of The Prophet” that might be something she would like. It discusses the seerah by issue rather than in chronological order, telling stories here and there to illustrate their lessons. It’s also very well written masha’Allah. Overall though, as always, be conscious of your audience, and make sure not to overwhelm her.
If she still has some reservations about “following a man,” the issue might be that she would prefer something more “miraculous” or “supernatural” then a human being to convey God’s message to humanity. If this is the case, then this is nothing new. The people at the time of the Prophet (saws) made similar requests, and Allah actually answered them in the Qur’an.
People would criticize the Prophet (saws), asking why Allah would send a mere man instead of sending an Angel, or appearing Himself to the people.
“Those who do not fear to meet Us say, ‘Why are the angels not sent down to us?’ or ‘Why can we not see our Lord?’ Assuredly, they think too highly of themselves and they are uttering a gross insult.” (Qur’an 25:21)
Allah explains clearly in the Qur’an why we were sent human beings as messengers. First, he reminds us that this has always been the case, and that all of the messengers to humanity were always people like us.
“And even before you [Muhammad], We only ever sent men whom We inspired, so ask people who know the Scripture if you [disbelievers] do not know. We did not give them bodies that ate no food, nor were they immortal.” (Qur’an 21:7-8)
Allah explains that we are given messengers from among us, who are like us, and that an angel would only make sense as a messenger if earth were populated with angles rather than people.
“Nothing kept these people from believing, when guidance came to them, except that they said, ‘How could Allah have sent a human being as a messenger?’ Say, ‘If there were angels walking around, living on earth, We would have sent them an angel from Heaven as a messenger.’” (Qur’an 17:94-95)
Think about it. Our messenger is like us, from among us, and so we are able to relate to him, to his experiences, and we can seek to emulate his character and actions. He is the perfect example of a human being. He not only conveys the message, but demonstrates it’s application.
“Allah has been truly gracious to the believers in sending them a Messenger from among their own, to recite His revelations to them, to make them grow in purity, and to teach them the Scripture and wisdom- before that they were clearly astray.” (Qur’an 3:164)
In addition, if Allah had sent an angel down from heaven, or appeared to us Himself, or in some other way revealed the unseen, then it would be like if you were taking a test in school, and the teacher started reviewing the answers while everyone still had their papers! It doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to see the answers until after the test is over, and once the answers are read out loud, it’s too late to fill them in. In the same way, we can’t see the unseen until after we die. This life is a test for us, and we have to show that we will make a sincere effort to seek the truth and follow it. If Allah were to reveal the unseen to us now, then there would be no test. So once you see any part of the unseen world, time is up, and your chance to believe is over.
“They say, ‘Why was an angel not sent down to him?’ But had We sent down an angel, their judgement would have come at once with no respite given. Indeed, if We had sent an angel as messenger, We would still have sent him in the form of a man, so increasing their confusion.” (Qur’an 6:8-9)
Insha’Allah I hope this will help you out in your conversation with your friend, and insha’Allah maybe it will also help others who get into similar situations with dawah. You know, this might just have to be made into a video… insha’Allah.