Man And Religion
This article covers the relationship between man and religion.
The earthly life of man manifests itself in two aspects, one individual, the other ‘social’-by ‘social’ l mean the whole circle including ‘human and natural’-. The individual aspect implies the inner perfection of each man and struggle for this sake, migrating from the outer world to the inner or, in other words, from the flesh to the spirit, because of which both Divine religions and human systems give priority to this aspect of man, for a community is a lively, dynamic being consisting of individuals, in other words, a community is lively and dynamic proportionally to the liveliness and dynamism of its members; therefore it is of great importance to bring up the individuals in the direction of the community that is aimed to form.
Man is a tripartite being composed of the spirit, the carnal soul and the body. These three constituents are so interrelated to one another that neglecting one results in man’s failing in attaining to ‘perfection.’ Man has been accordingly endowed with three faculties, namely ‘intellect, reason and will’. He, during his life continuously experiences an inner struggle to make a choice between two opposite things, which are called by religions, and even by man-made systems ‘good and evil’, or ‘right and wrong’. The motor of this struggle is ‘will’, and it is directed by ‘reason’, with the exception that ‘reason’ cannot always make a good choice between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and can be influenced by ‘carnal desires’, personal feelings, interests and such emotions as ‘wrath and grudges’ so it needs a guide, which is ‘intellect’. Intellect is the source of moral values and virtues, and as all the human history has witnessed, they have been always religions, Divine religions that have determined what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, and what is a ‘virtue’ and what is not.
The Holy Quran, which is the last revealed Scripture of God to mankind, expresses the qualifications of the guides appointed to educate men and the foundations of a perfect community as follows:
“Thus, we appointed for you a messenger from amongst you so that he will recite to you Our signs, purify you, and teach you the Book, wisdom and teach you what you don’t know”. (2:151)
“No doubt, we sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and sent with them down the Book and the Balance, so that human beings subsist by absolute justice, and we sent down the Iron, in which there is power and uses for mankind…” (The Holy Quran, 57:25).
As expressed by the verses we have quoted above, man, first of all, needs signs. Every fact including scientific, social and psychological ones and every event in the Universe and in human life is a sign, on which man must contemplate and with which he can find ways to the Sublime Creator, Who is one, needy of nothing and hasn’t begotten and hasn’t been begotten, for the one who has begotten and been begotten is by its nature a created being and accordingly cannot be a creator. Again, by means of these signs that man can, and has been able to found modern sciences, which take their sources in ‘signs’, in other words ‘Divine laws’ in nature. Besides, man’s body, as a microcosm corresponding, on a largest scale, to the Universe, that is the Macrocosm, senses and feelings, mind, reason, intellect and all faculties are signs of the same kind, too. Man, by contemplating on these signs is to attain to faith and a virtuous life based on his faith, thus purifying his soul of evils and sins. Only a soul that has been purified can be beneficial to mankind by means of sciences; otherwise, as witnessed in the last phase of human history, science and technology can be so deadly to mankind that millions of people have lost their lives, and another millions of them have been left homeless and as orphans and widows. When a purified soul is endowed with sciences, this means a true salvation and felicity for mankind.
Man, because of his worldly nature can be too obedient a servant of his lusts. When such men as are in the captivity of his lusts gain enough power to rule over their fellowmates, they light fires of oppression on the earth and reduce the poor and the weak to being their slaves or servants. The human history is full of such instances. God is the All- just and never approves oppression, so He sent prophets in some phases of history. These chosen servants of God were charged with guiding their nations in the True Path, purifying men and establishing justice among them. All of the prophets came with the same doctrine, the fundaments of which are believing in one God, Prophethood, the Resurrection, Angels, Divine Scriptures and the Divine Destiny. In this sense, all the Divine religions are one and the same, but the flow of history through some eras varying in cultural, geographical, social and economical conditions required that various prophets would be sent to each nation and some slight differences be made in subdivisions of the law until the time when these conditions allowed that the seal of the Prophets could be sent and his religion, the same in fundaments as those of other prophets, could be enough for and applicable to all nations. There is an important point here, too. When a prophet passed away, his nation in time altered some of the principles of his religion, borrowed some polytheistic elements from paganic ‘religions’, and went astray, thus corrupting and spoiling the Divine Religion. It is also this historical fact that was responsible for prophets coming one after the other in course of time.
The Children of Israel, or the Jewish People established a great state just after the demise of Prophet Moses (p.b.u.h.). They lived the brightest era of their history in the reign of Prophet Solomon (p.b.u.h.). But later, as time passed, they did obey their lusts and neglected the principles of their religion, and the Scribes, their religious scholars, didn’t prevent them. This caused the Torah (their Divine Scripture) to be almost completely neglected, and centuries later to be lost during the invasion of Jerusalem by Ebokadnazer, an Assyrian King. Following this tragic event, Persians defeated the Assyrians and let the Jewish People return their home: Some Jewish scribes felt obliged to write down from memory what had remained of Torah in their minds in order to meet the religious needs of their people. But that new version of ‘Torah’ was naturally not the same as the Original. This is quite clear in the very first verses:
God created the Universe in six days. On the first day He created the light; on the second He created the Dome (the Sky); on the third day the dry Earth… And He rested on the seventh day…(Genesis).
It is also stated in the Quran that the Universe was, or has been created in six days, with the exception that the meaning of ‘day’ (yowm) is not so concrete as to imply ‘Sunday, Monday and so forth’; it rather means geological eras or/and time in its abstraction and relativity, implying the ‘unit of time’ particular to the earth, other planets and even to ‘electricity’. We believe that this was the same in the Original Torah, but the Scribes who, due to the time they lived in, couldn’t perceive the symbolic meaning, symbolic because the Divine Scriptures address every level of understanding and all the times. They wrote down what they understood of ‘day’, thus altering the Divine Scripture in essence and reducing it to the scientific level of their time. This very fact, which was adopted the same by Christian priests centuries later, became responsible for the doubts having arisen in the minds of Western intellectuals of the Scientific Era regarding the authenticity of Bible and, worse, of the essence of the Divine Religion itself. We, by the way, must state that if their eyes hadn’t been blinded by priests during a long history to immortal, unchanged expressions of the Quran, they would have been able to learn the essence of the matter, and it is a more tragic reality that this blindness is still prevailing in the Christian world.
“Thou seest many of them vying in sin and enmity and how they consume the unlawful; evil is the thing they have been doing.” (5:62). “Why do the masters and the rabbis not forbid them to utter sin, and consume the unlawful. Evil is the thing they have been doing.” (5:63). “O believers, many of the rabbis and monks indeed consume the goods of the people in vanity and bar from God’s way…” (9:34).
Jesus was expressing almost the same:
“You snakes -how can you say good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good person brings good things out of his treasure of good things; a bad person brings bad things out of his treasure of bad things.” (Matthew 12:34-35).
“Take care: be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
“The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of Moses’ Law. So you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not, however, imitate their actions, because they don’t practice what they preach. They tie onto people’s backs loads that are heavy and hard to carry, yet they aren’t willing even to lift a finger to help them carry those loads. They do everything so that people will see them. Look at the straps with scripture verses on them which they wear on their foreheads and arms, and notice how large they are. Notice also how long the tassels of their cloaks. They love the best places at feasts and the reserved seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them ‘Teacher’… How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees. You hypocrites. You lock the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, but you yourselves don’t go in, nor do you allow in those who are trying to enter.
“How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees. You hypocrites. You sail the seas and cross whole countries to win one convert and when you succeed, you make him twice as deserving of going to hell as you yourselves are… How blind you are… How terrible for you. You give to God one tenth even of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill, and cumin, but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as Justice and mercy and honesty. These you should practice, without neglecting the others. Blind guides. You strain a fly out of your drink, but swallow a camel… You clean the outside of your cup and plate, while the inside is full of what you have gotten by violence and selfishness… You make fine tombs for the Prophets and decorate the monuments of those who lived good lives; and you claim that if you had lived during the time of your ancestors, you would not have done what they did and killed the prophets. So you actually admit that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go on, then, and finish up what your ancestors started. You snakes and sons of snakes. How do you expect to escape from being condemned to hell?” (Matthew; 23:2-8, 13-15-16, 23, 26, 27, 29, 31, 12:34-35, 16:6).
When Jesus was sent to the Israelites, the spirit of the Religion had been blown up and the Religion itself had been reduced to a system as to be used by Scribes to rob the common people, because of which Jesus began his mission with purifying people’s souls, insisting on the spiritual principles of the Religion to pass on to applying the Law afterwards:
“Blessed He has made me, wherever 1 may be; and He has enjoined me to pray, and to give the alms, so long as I live, and likewise to cherish my mother: He has not made me arrogant, un-prosperous.” (The Holy Quran, 19: 31-32).
“And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus son of Mary, confirming the Torah before him; and We gave to him the Gospel, wherein is guidance and light, and confirming the Torah before it, as a guidance and an admonition unto the god fearing. So let the people of the Gospel judge according to what God has sent down therein (5:46).
In the Bible:
“Do not think that l have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets, l have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with -not until the end of all things. So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the Kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew:5:17-19)
“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor;
The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Happy are those who mourn:
God will comfort them.
Happy are those who are humble:
They will receive what God has promised.
Happy are those whose greatest desire to do what God requires:
God will satisfy them fully.
Happy are those who are merciful to others:
God will be merciful to them.
Happy are the pure in heart:
They will see God.
Happy are those who work for peace:
Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires… (Matthew, 5:3-10)