The following is a translated excerpt from an article entitled, Four Important Questions about Religion and the Answers thereto.)
Religion is the path that takes human beings to their ultimate destination. Logic demands that whatever one’s goal in life, there should be a means for reaching that goal. Man is dependent on so many things for the maintenance and preservation of his life. The body and all its constituents, the soul and all its strengths and sensitivities were not created by humans. Similarly, those things which are essential for the preservation and maintenance of life were neither created nor purchased by him as they came into existence long before he was born. Careful observation will reveal that there is a deep and strong inter-connection between man’s abilities and the system of the universe. For example, the eye has a relationship with the sun, the ear with the atmosphere. Without light the eye cannot see. Sound is carried through the air to reach the ear. Oxygen is essential for maintaining all bodily functions.
Such a complete and perfect system that requires knowledge and absolute authority proves the need for a Being Who possesses complete knowledge and absolute power and Whose glory is unparalleled and unique.
Man was not born through his own volition or at his own behest. Hence, he does not have the right to determine the purpose of his life. That right belongs to his Creator. One of the Creator’s countless gifts to him is that every particle of the universe has been pressed into his service. This shows that man’s Creator is indeed a great benefactor. It is only natural that one’s heart should be inclined towards one’s benefactor. To respect and love the Benefactor is the natural religion.
Man is endowed with a great capacity to attain knowledge and wisdom. For his physical develop-ment and upbringing, he is dependent on his parents and other factors. To gain worldly knowledge – be it medicine or philosophy, botany or history – he needs guidance and teaching. He could conceivably educate himself without the aid of tutors, but that is very difficult. And even then, he would still need someone to teach him a language. So at the very least he needs someone who can teach him the rudiments of a language. Is it possible then that he could do without a spiritual guide when it comes to spiritual and godly matters?
The mind, like the eye, is no doubt very useful. But in the dark, the eye sees nothing. Without an external source of light, no eye has the power of sight. In the dark it is like the eye of a blind person. Similar is the case of the mind. Without religious and spiritual knowledge conveyed through divine revelation and containing various degrees of light, it cannot reach the true knowledge. If the mind is compared to the eye, then divine light and religion can be compared to the lens of a telescope. Using microscopes and telescopes, man can examine minute particles and far away objects. He cannot see these same things with the naked eye. Similar is the case of the light of prophethood. The insight that Prophets and Messengers achieve through the light of divine visions cannot be achieved by otherwise learned men. Nor, in uncovering the truth, can they reach the stage of absolute certainty; this can only be acquired through the light of prophethood. God’s Messengers and Prophets have been sent, and are still being sent, in different eras, to different countries and to various nations. Each and every one of them came armed with logical arguments. Prophets always preached that Allah alone should be worshipped and that false idols be discarded. They all came with the teaching of the Unity of God. Each presented his nation with the message, ‘There is no God but Allah’. But whenever the human mind perverted the truth, the message of the Unity of God became distorted. Some people took to worshipping two gods – Ahriman and Yazdan. Others adopted the false ideology of trinity and were led into the depths of ignomy. Some nations took to worshipping the elements, others the heavenly bodies or earthly objects. No two idolatrous nations share the same ideals. Such divisions arose because the human mind was taken as guide. It is the teachings of the Prophets that bring the world together under the banner of the Unity of God.
The laws devised by the human mind are far less than perfect. The nations of this world then have to live with the consequences of these deficient laws. These laws regularly need modification. What man requires is a comprehensive legal code which meets the needs of all human beings and is free of narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness. Human laws have failed to prevent man from falling into evil and immorality. But spiritual laws have proven successful in keeping man away from wrongdoing. This proves the need for a religion.
The answers to some questions generally raised about religion are given below:
First Question: Does religion make the mind dull?
The mind is like the eye. Does light improve sight? Do telescopes and microscopes improve vision or make it worse? Just as microscopes and tele-scopes and external sources of light help to us see things clearly, similarly religion and revelation are beneficial to the mind.
Prophecies made by the Prophet(saw) of Islam are, to this day, still being fulfilled. Against all odds, events foretold by the Prophet(saw) have come to pass, word for word and letter for letter. The human mind could never have conceived such things. This proves that divine revelation sharpens the mind. Human deduction and reasoning is limited to evidence and experimentation. The light of revelation of the true religion goes beyond the laws of nature; the source of revelation is the knowledge and word of the Omniscient God.
Before the advent of a prophet, people tend to be in a state of decadence and disarray. The unity and oneness and the true compassion that is born in a community through the prophet is nowhere to be found. Unity cannot be born of human schemes and plans. It can only be engendered through religious teachings and spiritual guidance. All prophets were bitterly opposed by powerful forces and yet they were successful in creating a spiritual community in this world. The relatively weak prophet always overcomes his opponents. He eventually is victorious over those who rely on the human mind and the schemes it devises. Does this not prove that the light of revelation is far superior to the human mind?
When the Prophet Moses(as) and his spiritual counterpart (i.e. the Prophet(saw) of Islam) came into this world they were powerless, helpless and without material resources. They declared that they were God’s Messengers. Now, using worldly logic and reasoning to study the events of their lives, one could never conclude that such apparently weak and helpless people would be successful in establishing reli-gious communities. On the one hand we have the opponents of the prophets – resourceful, powerful, mighty, grandiose and with the most awe-inspiring and fear-inspiring armies and legions. On the other we have the Prophet Moses(as). Who would believe that Moses(as) could be victorious over Pharaoh and his legions? Or that Moses’ spiritual counterpart, i.e. the Prophet(saw) of Arabia, could become so powerful as to overcome not only the whole of Arabia, but the governments of Caesar too? These victories were not merely coincidental. While still weak and without resource, the prophets proclaimed the Unity of God and foretold the defeat and destruction of their enemies. Is it not then patently obvious that religious teachings and the light of revelation is far, far superior to anything that the human mind can devise? Religion does not dull the mind; rather it sharpens it and improves its vision and discernment.
Prior to the advent of the Holy Prophet(saw) the Arab people were considered uncivilised and no better than beasts. Then after the advent of the Holy Prophet(saw), through their obedience to him and through his teachings, their hearts and minds became so illuminated that they have been acknowledged as masters in every kind of science and art. Before accepting Islam, Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra) was a camel herder. After becoming a Muslim, his intellectual capabilities and wisdom developed so greatly that in the few years of his Khilafat his amazing political projects transformed the world. His new administrative system gave birth to a new world. His great works and his excellent planning added to the lustre of his Khilafat. Do not the advanced worldly political systems of Europe believed to be the most superior, actually borrow their ideas from Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra)? Hadhrat ‘Umar Farooq(ra)‘s political and religious planning rendered him peerless in his time. Did religion dull his mind or develop it? The truth is religion does not make the mind obtuse, rather it sharpens it.
Second Question: Does religion cause war and strife?
Peace cannot be attained without adhering to the teachings of the true religion. Do the books of the prophets, for example the Torah or the Bible, advocate war and strife? The Bible goes so far as to exhort its followers to ‘turn the other cheek’. And then there are the holy teachings of the Qur’an with which no culture or political system can compete. As an example, only one verse of the Holy Qur’an is presented:
Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency and manifest evil and transgression. (Ch.16:V.91)
If the admonitions in the above verse are heeded, every country and every nation would know nothing but peace. Allah exhorts us to:
- abide by justice;
- be benevolent;
- show compassion to others as though they were our kith and kin;
- refrain from, and admonish others to refrain from, such vices as can be harmful and are known as blatant evil;
- not transgress against good, beneficent, peace-loving governments and to exhort others likewise.
In other words we should be just, benevolent and compassionate; we should avoid indecency, blatant evil and transgression and we should save others from falling prey to these evils. These are the six basic commandments for the establishment of peace. If these six do’s and do not’s were put into practice, every country and every nation would see nothing but peace. Should hundreds and thousands of learned people deliberate with one another and finally come up with some laws aimed at establishing peace, they will not be able to produce anything over and above this succinct, complete and comprehensive teaching of the Qur’an.
Strife in this world comes about when justice is contravened, or when the beneficence of a bene-factor is denied or when we fail to show compassion to others as though they were our kith and kin. If these contraventions are removed, peace will certainly be established.
It can be said that strife and disorder in the world is created by the negation of justice, i.e. injustice. Or it is created by ingratitude to the benefactor, which is the opposite of benevolence. Or it comes about as a result of transgression against one’s parents or against a benevolent government, which is the opposite of Ita’i Dhil Qurba or human compassion. If these negative factors are removed from society peace can certainly be established. If we look at the same verse from a different angle, we can say that indecency is the opposite of justice, blatant evil the opposite of benevolence and transgression the opposite of human compassion. Whenever and wherever peace was truly established it was through God’s Messengers and Prophets. In what state did the Prophet(saw) of Arabia find his people? Were they in a state of peace or strife? Then the community the Holy Prophet(saw) created enjoyed the highest order of peace. It is the way of God that He does not punish a people until after the advent of a prophet; then God destroys the mischief-makers.
The people of Noah, Hud, Saleh, Lot and Shuaib (may peace be on them all) and Pharaoh were punished and destroyed because they opposed the prophets and sought to destroy the peace by any means available to them. They became ferocious and left no stone unturned in their attempts to become Lords of the Land. They tried their utmost to annihilate God’s pious and peace loving people. God tried to reform them through His prophets, but they would not take heed and would not mend their ways. So God inflicted His punishment on them and destroyed them and established peace on earth. The communities which accepted and follow God’s prophets have always been secure from the mischief makers as well as from God’s wrath. The believers from among Noah’s people were safe in the Ark, where God protected them. Similarly the followers of Hud(as), Saleh(as) and other prophets enjoyed every kind of peace. This proves that it is through the prophets, religion and religious teachings that peace and security are established on this earth – not strife and disorder. God’s wrath only manifests itself as a result of irreligion.
We see today that atheists and other groups have removed religion from their lives. Are the present day wars then not a result of the schemes devised by materialistic minds? Does this not show that religion bears the tidings of peace and security while irreligion destroys the peace of the world? In Europe, the West and the entire world, peace will only be established through religion.
Religion and the practice of religion have never led to war and violence. Not even one example can be presented where this has happened. We accept that wars have taken place in the name of religion, but these have been the result of forsaking the faith and because its teachings were discarded. The wars that were undertaken for the establishment of peace cannot be objected to; in fact they should be applauded. In every age, small communities consisting of only a handful of people took their lives in their hands and without any reserve fought against the most powerful armies. Their only aim was to establish peace and to save the oppressed from the cruelties of the enemy.
Critics should give consideration to the following questions: If a few selfishly motivated people smear the name of religion with their unjust acts, does this call on one to turn one’s back on religion? After all, wars are undertaken for worldly reasons too. Does this mean we should forsake this world?
Third Question: Is there a need for religion in the modern age?
Although people of every day and age needed religion, yet in my opinion, that need is far greater today than it has ever been before. The true and essential aim of religion is to guide man into becoming a servant and a manifestation of God. God’s attributes should become the touchstone for our moral values and should be imbibed in every aspect of our lives. The situation of the world today is not hidden to the wise and learned people. Not only are God’s attributes and virtues ignored, His very existence is denied. The need for, and the glorious teachings of religion are swept aside by those who would have mankind follow only the deceptions of the human mind.
What human nature has been seeking since time immemorial is nowhere to be found in the world today. People of the present age regard their intellectual contrivances as the touchstone for virtue. The end result is patently obvious. Promiscuous behaviour is in their estimation, noble and cultured. The existence of nudist colonies and the support given to people who produce children outside the confines of wedlock are regarded by some as the hallmarks of civilisation and morality. And then there are governments who consider it lawful to forcefully misappropriate the fruits of others, thereby keeping their countrymen in virtual slavery. When great and small have sunk to such low standards of morality, when immorality is regarded as virtue and when transgression is equated to justice – that is when the need for religion is most acute.
In this day and age, every nation and every individual yearns for peace and tranquillity in human life. But nations that reject religion and take human reasoning as their only guide are witnessing that such guidance has destroyed entire nations, has left whole countries in desolation and turned cities into ruins. When a weaker government tries to make peace with a stronger one, the powerful and victorious governments insist on the unconditional surrender of the defeated one. They do not stop to consider that had they been the defeated party, they would not have wanted to surrender unconditionally. If circumstances render one nation defeated today, is it not possible that it may be victorious tomorrow? And is it not possible that today’s victorious nation is tomorrow’s vanquished one? Being ignorant of the waxing and waning of human fortunes they fail to realise that neither day nor night lasts forever. Who has been able to check the march of revolution? It is quite possible that a future revolution may catapult the vanquished into power. The oppressive laws that find so much favour with the stronger governments may one day become the noose around their own necks, only with much greater severity. Keeping such an eventuality in view, and bearing in mind one’s national and individual interests, could one’s instincts ever favour such an oppressive political stranglehold and destructive laws? To the contrary, one would feel hatred and aversion to them and would look for ways of removing them. Nothing ever stays the same. So at the time of victory, the victorious should show mercy to the vanquished, and this is the natural thing to do.
To treat others with belligerence and cruelty in preference to mercy and kindness is akin to inviting one’s own destruction. At the very least the triumphant nations should accept the terms of peace proffered by the vanquished nations. The Qur’anic teaching in this regard is full of wisdom and is conducive to the establishment of peace, i.e. if the enemy is prepared to make peace then you should do likewise.
A decent, right-minded person deliberating on the establishment of peace on earth would, in the end, have to agree with the principles propounded by divine teachings: i.e. if one party extends its hand in peace it is appropriate that the other party should, without hesitation, do the same. Keeping a war alive after peace has been offered is sheer vengeance, nothing more. Such actions do not conform to any sensible strategy or to decent thinking.
As long as their anger is not satiated, wild beasts do not refrain from attacking and destroying others. And this is exactly what these vengeful human beings do. Their wars are fought not to establish peace or to quell disorder. No, their sole aim is to use their plenitude of weaponry to subjugate the country of the weaker government. As long as the supply of weapons continues, the war will continue.
Is this mode of thinking not in need of rectification? If it does need rectification, does this not prove that such attitudes are responsible for war and disorder? Who created the war and disorder, religion or human intellect? The World Wars have left the world in tatters. Dictators and intellectual leaders have swept religion aside and engulfed the entire earth in the flames of war. These ever-growing flames take the planet as fuel and turn it into ashes. Those who give so much credence to the human intellect should by now realise that it is alienation from religion that has led us to this dire situation.
In the face of these calamities and afflictions is it not easy for a wise person to ascertain the true roots of peace on earth? Is it difficult to see the differences between the outcome of following human intellect and the outcome of taking religion as a guide? The results are there for all to see. Hence, this present age is peerless in that it highlights clearly the deficiencies of the human intellect and the benefits of religion. Blessed are they who try to understand this clear and evident difference and hence feel the need for religion.
Fourth Question: What guidance have past religious leaders provided for the world?
The missions of God’s Prophets and Messengers were always in accordance with the prevailing needs and conditions. Every Prophet and every Messenger lays the foundation of a new religion under the guidance of divine visions and revelations. With religious teachings, each Prophet and Messenger creates a balance in the beliefs, deeds and values of his followers; his own morals and conduct are exemplary. He removes excesses and deficiencies and establishes his community on the path of moderation.
The filth of idolatry and impiety are removed somewhat by the shining example set by the religious community and some-what by God’s wrath which destroys the idolaters. Thus the land becomes pure and clean. In the past eras and times, the followers of every Prophet and every Messenger achieved, through religion, the best of this world and the hereafter. They enjoyed peace while the opponents of true religion and divine teachings always tasted the bitter fruits of their opposition. Apart from divine retribution, destruction, desolation and ruin they achieved naught. They them-selves were destroyed and they led others to destruction too. This demonstrates the outcome of the leadership of past Prophets and Messengers. It demonstrates the outcome of the leadership provided by dictators and opponents of the Prophets and Messengers. The Qur’an presents the dictatorship of Pharaoh and the democracy of the people of Thamud as examples of the unhappy endings of those who rebelled against religion.
In truth, a life of comfort is accompanied by the tendency to follow one’s own desires, which in turn strives to keep one free of the discipline imposed by the system of religion. This is why during the mission of every Prophet and every Messenger the worldly people perceive the institution of religion as a threat to their natural freedom and desires and become its sworn enemies. They pursue the religion with a vengeance, intent on its destruction. The situation is like that of robbers, thieves and vagabonds on the one hand and the system of government on the other. The government aims to maintain peace and security through legislation, while robbers, thieves and vagabonds do not want the government to devise policies and procedures for the protection of the people, as this would result in laws hindering their activities. This is why the twisted personalities of such outlaws cannot even perceive what is virtue and what is the true meaning of human life. That nobility can only be achieved through religion and divine teachings.
True religious teachings conveyed to the world through divine revelation, immerse man in the vast ocean of spirituality. The teachings enable him to navigate this ocean like an expert swimmer. He converses with God and is drawn near to Him. This is something which worldly people cannot comprehend. The dictators and so-called powerful leaders and those who carp at religion cannot, as far as true arguments and the spirit of sacrifice are concerned, compete with these teachings.
It is easy to deceive materialistic people with the incorrect and worldly views of philosophers. In contrast the Messengers and Prophets traverse the wilderness and deserts of despair, armed only with their holy powers and divine guidance. Then, with the glad tidings conveyed to them by God, the Prophets and Messengers and their followers reach the destination of victory. Can anything like this be found amongst the worldly people?
The divine teachings put forward by God’s Messengers and Prophets explain fully the rights due to Allah and the rights due to His servants. In other words, the notions of reverence for the divine law and kindness towards Allah’s creation are fully expounded upon.
Islamic teachings are presented in full glory through the character and conduct of the Prophet(saw) of Islam. Apart from human rights, Islam teaches us to be kind to animals and animates. Followers of Islam show mercy to the needy, the orphans and the captives, who due to lack of resources find themselves in want of food simply because they are God’s creatures. Muslims feed them with whatever resources they have at their disposal. And in addition to human beings, they also take care of animals incapable of expressing their needs. According to Islam, it is imperative upon Muslims to regard all the above categories of humans, as well as animals as rightful shareholders in their assets. Hence they are expected to discharge their duties in this regard.
An incident recorded in Sahih Bukhari well illustrates the above teaching. A woman gave a thirsty dog some water to drink. She drew the water out of a well. This deed of hers was so appreciated by her Benefactor and Creator that this single action became the source of her success and forgiveness.
Islam forbids Muslims from being belligerent and cruel to their fellow human beings. Similarly it does not permit them to show cruelty towards animals and animates. Sahih Bukhari records another incident about a woman who held a cat captive in a confined space. She did not feed it adequately and eventually the cat died of thirst and starvation. God expressed displeasure at this cruelty shown towards His creation. He castigated the woman and ordered that she be put in Hell as a punishment for her crime.
This is the perfect, complete and comprehensive teaching presented to the world by Messengers and Prophets. Cruel dictators and tyrannical leaders are only concerned with self-interest and self-worship and selfish desires. Their ideals extend no further than the love of praise and love of aggrandisement for themselves. So how can they comprehend the kind of noble communities and true religions that stem from divine teachings?
We pray that Allah opens the eyes of the people of today to realise the need for religion, and that by accepting the true religion they win God’s pleasure.