The Impact of Religion on Ghanaian Society

43The Review of Religions – March 2006 Assalaamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakaatuh! May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you all. Our special welcome goes to His Excellency Alhajj Aliu Mahama, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana who despite his pre- occupation with enormous State duties, has honoured our invitation to be with us this morning. The theme for this year’s Convention is ‘The Impact of Religion on Ghanaian society’. A human being is like any other lesser creature. He feels hungry and therefore eats to satisfy his hunger. So does he feel thirsty and drinks to quench his thirst. He feels sleepy and, therefore, sleeps. Man shares all these instincts with all other lesser creatures. What, then, what is the difference between man and the other creatures? Man has been given the intellect to distinguish between good and evil. This is also called conscience. It enables him to distinguish what is good from what is bad; what is proper from what is not proper, what is appropriate from what is not appropriate. Then on top of it all, he has been given the capacity to choose what is right from what is wrong. It is the capacity to choose that raises man above the angels. The Holy Qur’an says: So when I have fashioned him The Impact of Religion on Ghanaian Society By Maulvi A. Wahab Adam, Amir (Head) & Missionary-In-Charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Ghana on 76th National Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Ghana, held at the Mission’s conference centre, Bustan-e-Ahmad, (Garden of Ahmad), Ashongman, Accra, on 8th- December, 2005. 44 The Review of Religions – March 2006 in perfection and have breathed into him of My Spirit, fall ye down in submission to him. (Ch.15:V.30) With these qualities, he becomes a moral being. He may feel hungry and thirsty but unlike the lesser creatures, he will not consume what does not belong to him. Besides, he will not consume what is not wholesome. So will he not have intimacy with his mother or sister as do lesser creatures. By the same token, he is expected not to have intimacy with one who is not his legitimate married partner. When man is said to have been created in God’s image, that is what it means. It does not mean that God has a nose like that of man or a mouth like man’s mouth! What it means is, man has been endowed with the capacity to imbibe the attributes of God. To help us attain to these heights, God has been sending guidance to all nations. This guidance from God is what constitutes religion. Religion teaches purity of thought and of action. The basic teachings of all religions are the same. It must be stressed that Allah is not a partial God. Ever since the creation of the world, God has been providing guidance for all nations. He cares for all His creation. He cares not only for the people of Israel but also for the people of India, Arabia, Europe, Australia and Africa. According to the Holy Prophet or Islam(saw) there have appeared 124,000 prophets in the world. The Holy Qur’an says: Verily, We have sent thee with the truth, as bearer of glad tidings and as a Warner; and there is no people to whom a Warner has not been sent. (Ch.35:V.25) The Holy Qur’an also says: Say ye: ‘We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob and his children, and what was given to Moses and Jesus, and what was given to all other Prophets THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 45The Review of Religions – March 2006 from their Lord. We make no difference between any of them; and to Him we submit ourselves.’ (Ch.2:V.137) So we hear of Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Budhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All these great religions have made a tremendous impact on society. It is generally believed that religions have been the cause of wars and conflicts in the world. This may be true of followers but not of the teachings. In Ghana, two of these great religions are predominant, i.e. Islam and Christianity . The theme of this year’s Convention is to enable us to make a frank, honest and unbiased assessment of the impact of the two great religions on the Ghanaian society. I am a personal witness to the collaboration of leaders of Religious Bodies in ensuring relative peace and stability in the country. I am aware of the Joint Pastoral Letters that leaders of Religious Bodies in this country have been signing to bring hope and solace to the people of Ghana in times of great fear and despair. I also know the efforts of leaders of Religious Bodies in organising programmes of Compassion for those living with HIV/AIDS. There is also no gainsaying the fact that religion has made invaluable contribution to the provision of quality education, health care facilities and has also developed agriculture in the country. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, for instance, is well-known for its schools and hospitals: It is the first religious body to have set up homeopathic clinics in the country. It the first in the country to have made successful experiment of wheat cultivation. As from this year, a special Department has been opened at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Missionary Training College at Ekrawfo – a Department whose first intake is 41. The students will commit the THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 46 The Review of Religions – March 2006 entire text of the Holy Qur’an to memory. Apart from other advantages, the forty-one Ghanaians committing the entire text of the Holy Qur’an to memory will provide an irrefutable proof to Ghanaians, as it has to many countries across the world, that the Holy Qur’an is the one Scripture that is indestructible because it can be reproduced, word for word, by at least 41 individuals, here in Ghana, should the need arise. Already, students from 12 countries of the sub-continent are pursuing courses in theology at the College. Contributions of various religious bodies, therefore, are no doubt, highly commendable when viewed against the background of religious leaders in other countries who for political and other considerations create disunity, conflict and pain to the detriment of their respective countries. What needs to be noted, however, is the fact that there abound in the world today, many institutions whose avowed aim is to provide material prosperity to their clients. These institutions are not only concerned with the provision of material wealth but are also experts in the field. What such institutions lack, and to which they do not make any claim, is the ability to equip their clients with morality and communion with the Creator. It is religion that makes these claims. In this age of spe- cialisation, it is easy to understand that the principal responsibility of religion is to lift man from an animalistic state to a moral being. That is why it would be tragic if the high-sounding claim of religion to develop man morally and link him to his Maker remains a dead letter as is the case with mundane institutions and organisations. It is in this light that one needs to evaluate the impact of religion on the Ghanaian society. Here is a country where super- stition is so deep-rooted that religion or no religion, we still THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 47The Review of Religions – March 2006 believe in a concept which is well captured by a University Professor that ‘if you do not perform funeral rites properly, the passage of the ancestors becomes a little difficult.’ The result is, we spend hours, days, weeks and even months so as to ‘ease’ the passage of our dead. Time aside, we also spend scarce resources that are better reserved for orphans and widows on the purchase of expensive coffins, choicest drinks and in recent times, sumptuous ‘take away’ meals! In our part of the world, more money is spent on the dead than on the living! The story of the man who connived with his doctor to inform his relatives that he is dead in order to get them to pay his hospital bills is still fresh in our minds. None of the relatives paid him a visit when he was lying in pain at Korle Bu. The moment the doctor informed the family that he was dead, they did not only find the money to purchase an expensive coffin, but also enough to settle the hospital bill. It was after settling the hospital bill that the man was presented to the members of the family as a living being! They were terribly disappointed to see him alive! Excessive drinking is the bane of our society. Most of the accidents on our roads are caused by drivers who either do not heed the oft repeated warning: ‘Don’t drink and drive’ or through vehicles that are not road-worthy or both. Yet superstition is so deep-seated in our society that we ascribe these tragic accidents to the devil! Widows are tortured and humiliated in our society. They are turned out of the homes they helped their husbands to build. Pepper is literally put into their eyes because it is taken for granted that it was the wife who ‘killed’ the husband. So she must be punished! All these boil down to superstition and it is a pity that adherents of religion indulge in these practices in the name of culture. Culture is dynamic, not static. So every cultural practice that is THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 48 The Review of Religions – March 2006 inimical to society should be discarded. And it is religion that should help us do that. Imagine that in the 21st Century we spend a lifetime ‘catching’ witches. Yes, always witches, not wizards, and generally, old and vulnerable women. In so doing, we ascribe to these poor women things that they cannot even dream of doing – eating up young grandchildren, placing ‘barrels’ in the wombs of their daughters so that they become barren, afflicting prosperous relations with deadly diseases, and hanging poverty perpetually around their necks! These are ‘secrets’ which are ‘uncovered’ only by men of God, with devastating consequences. Seeds of suspicion and hatred are sown in the hearts of close relations. Houses of suspected witches are set on fire. Some are beaten to death. The result is the witches’ village at Larbanga. It is a blot on the face of an otherwise beautiful body called religion. If out of many hours of worship, only a fraction is devoted to instilling true moral values, or if, in some cases, sermons are delivered in a language that the congregation does not understand, how are worshippers expected to know the fundamentals of religion? Who is a prophet? What moral attributes does he possess? Can one see the footprints of angels on sand in a wakeful state? What is prayer? Do we have to shout at the top of our voices before Allah or God hears us? Do we please Allah or God by offering ill-gotten money to Him? If not, is there a system of retribution in this world and in the world to come? If we knew such simple fundamentals of religion, we would not be persuaded to believe that prayers are best answered if a man of God places his hands on his subject when she is stark naked. So would one not be persuaded to believe that the way to fertility is to abandon one’s husband to have intimacy with a man of God. It is unbelievable that a wor- shipper can be persuaded to THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 49The Review of Religions – March 2006 pretend to be ‘blind’ or ‘lame’ in order that he or she could be declared as ‘seeing’ or ‘whole’, in public, through the ‘miracle’ of a man of God! How surprising that a worshipper can be made to believe that a man of God can predict his or her future merely by looking into a bowl of sand! What a pity that the celebration of an important religious observance cannot be complete without amorous dance and public nuisance! Let us admit that, so far, we, as Religious bodies, have not found any satisfactory answer to the oft- repeated question that if the majority of the people of the country are worshippers of Allah or God, how come there is so much of indiscipline, immorality, and embezzlement in our society? While we have every right to celebrate the achievements and successes of religion, we should also be honest and humble enough to admit the failures. Such an admission is battle half-won because we would, from then on, not behave like the ostrich that buries its head in the sand but tackle the problem head-on with a view to solving it. According to the Holy Qur’an, the problem lies in disbelief in life after death: that there is life beyond this material world, that every deed of man is recorded and that the All-Knowing Allah or God will sooner or later call each one to account for his or her stewardship while in this transient world. Then each will be, without doubt, rewarded or punished in strict accord with his or her deeds. The Holy Qur’an says: As to those who believe not in the Hereafter, We have made their deeds appear beautiful to them, so they are wandering blindly. (Ch.27:V.5) It also says: And We will certainly question those to whom the Messengers were sent and We will certainly question the Messengers. THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 50 The Review of Religions – March 2006 Then will We certainly relate to them their deeds with knowledge, for We were never absent. And the weighing on that day will be true. Then as for those whose scales are heavy, it is they who shall prosper. And as for those whose scales are light, it is they who shall have ruined their souls because of their being unjust to Our Signs. (Ch.7: Vs.7-10) It is only with such a realisation that materialism will give way to spirituality, immorality to morality and indiscipline to discipline. Religious bodies must view with justifiable concern the recent calls for legalisation of prostitution as a check against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Whatever reasons lie behind these calls can only be found in philosophies that fail to take into account the teachings of God. The Holy Qur’an is explicit on this: And come not near unto adultery; surely, it is a foul thing and an evil way. (Ch.17:V.33) In other words, all avenues through which adultery can be committed should be carefully watched and avoided. These include free intermixing of the sexes, indecent dressing and lewd or profane songs. When any of these is projected through the radio or television, it has the same effect. Indeed the Holy Prophet of Islam(saw), has said: ‘It never happens that permis- siveness overwhelms a people to the extent that they display their acts of sex shamelessly and they are not uniquely punished through the spread of such diseases the like of which have never been witnessed by their forefathers.’ (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah. Kitabul- Fitan, Baabul Uqoobah) That should be the rationale of accepting abstinence as the THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 51The Review of Religions – March 2006 number one line of action as a check against the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Not only that the call to legalise prostitution will not be the correct antidote against the spread of the dreadful disease but also it will encourage immorality and the break-up of families. It is equally important that Religious Bodies should be seriously worried about the growing acceptance of same-sex relationship as a fact of life. When the matter was raised at the Lambeth Conference some years back and the Bishops from Africa and Asia dismissed it as unsupported by Scripture, they were branded as backward and superstitious. However, a few days ago, the South Africa Constitutional Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriages. The Court went further to define marriage not as ‘a union between man and woman’ but as a union between two persons. So the trend which seemed distant is getting closer and closer. How true are the words of Dr. Giles Frazer: ‘God created two persons male and female. Now the world of homosexuals has created a third – a homosexual, neither male nor female – strange two-in- one human.’ These trends present a serious challenge to Religious Bodies and all men and women who are concerned about morality in the Ghanaian society. The idea of same-sex marriages defeats the purpose of marriage which is holy matrimony and ordained by the Almighty for procreation and the continuity of the human race. Ghana is a great country, the first in Africa South of the Sahara to have gained Independence. It is destined to play a pivotal role in the affairs of Africa and the world at large. To do that the citizens of Ghana, each and all, need to play his or her part, not in talking but in doing what it takes to bring to Ghana peace, stability, honour and above all, a deep consciousness of morality and accountability that will make Ghana truly great. Here, THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 52 The Review of Religions – March 2006 religion has an important role to play. Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV (Allah’s mercy be on him) has lamented in these words: ‘As far as human moral conduct is concerned, it seems to be universal in its sinfulness. Those who claim to be religious are unfor-tunately no less immoral than the irreligious. The so-called believers in God are no longer clearly distinguishable from those who do not believe………’ The Holy Qur’an pronounces its judgement on the people of the latter days: We call that age to witness, That man is most certainly at loss. Save for those who believe and do good deeds and admonish righteousness by righteous means, and admonish patience with patience.’ (Ch.103:Vs.2-4) (Revelation Rationality Knowledge and Truth, Page 651-2) Let all the Religious Bodies in this, vigour, steadfastness and in all sincerity, pursue that objective, and the country will witness a positive impact of religion on the citizenry. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), had prayed for all those who participate in these Conventions whose only aim is to develop ourselves morally and spiritually. It is our humble prayer that Allah may, out of His grace, make each one of us a recipient of the blessings of those humble supplications. Once again, it is my honour and privilege to welcome you all to this Convention. Thank you. THE IMPACT OF RELIGION ON GHANIAN SOCIETY 53The Review of Religions – March 2006 Advertise your business in The Review of Religions and see sales scale to new heights. 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