Guidance of the Prophets (as)
If we browse through the contents of the Old Testament, the Bible and the Quran, we will find their beliefs, laws, tenets and ideologies at complete variance from each other, notwithstanding the fact that all these are divine scriptures. We find a lot of divergence and discrepancies in their places of worship, their modes of worship and their statutes (shariah). But if we brush aside these superfluous variations and ignore the aberrations, then beneath those discrepancies lies an unmistakable similarity in their fundamentals. Essentially, these faiths have three underlying factors that are in congruence with each other viz..
1) Worship of Allah (Tauheed)
2) Day of Reckoning (Qiyamat)
3) Responsibilities and duties of men with respect to each other.
We shall attempt to explain all these in detail.
1) WORSHIP OF ALLAH
The foremost principle imbibed by the Prophets (a.s.) was the existence of an Omnipotent and Almighty Allah. And belief in Allah is not like say, the city of San Francisco in America, that is totally cut off from us and has no direct bearing on our lives. Here, Allah Himself regulates the affairs of the world without any helper and assistant. He is the cause of our good fortune and guidance. He is invincible and exalted and worthy of all our love, veneration and worship.
2) DAY OF RECKONING
Our lives are not terminated with a few years in this world. Moreover, our deeds in this world will not be destroyed or vanished. On the contrary, we will be resurrected (in a different world), wherein we will be called upon to answer for our deeds, minor or major.
3) RESPONSIBILITIES AND DUTIES OF MEN WITH RESPECT TO EACH OTHER
These responsibilities are the obligations that arise with the worship of Allah. All laws and injunctions promulgated by these faiths (Christianity, Islam, etc.) are classified as duties. These laws relate to purification (tahaarah), fasting and lawful sustenance, among other things. Other values like honesty, marriage, justice, etc., come into effect with man’s dealings with each other.
ENDEAVOURS OF THE PROPHETS (A.S.)
Here we shall illustrate a few examples to indicate the endeavours and strivings of the Allah’s Apostles (a.s.). The fact is that the Prophets (a.s.) opposed all pagan customs and traditions persisting in their time with all their might and ability. They fought tooth and nail, the deviant culture, with Allah’s assistance. They strove to obliterate idolatry and guide the populace towards the slogan of Allah’s unity. The first couple of words
"La ilaha illallah" seeks to refute all (false) gods and (manmade) deities and then guide man towards the real God i.e. Allah. This is because unless one cleanses his heart from all false gods, he will never acknowledge the real god, viz. Allah.
Another task performed by the Prophets (a.s.) was to combat disbelief, idolatry and all pagan superstitions. They sought to abolish all other kinds of worship like worship of idols, man, sun, moon, trees, stones, wood, nation, clan, family, etc. They also sought to stamp out other kinds of worship such as worship of one’s wealth and riches and obedience of one’s desires, the latter is also a kind of worship.
Yet another duty of the Prophets (a.s.) was to invite the people towards good and prohibit evil. They also taught the people to cleanse their souls and purify their selves. Purification of self implies that one does not let his carnal desires overcome him, i.e. he cleanses himself of all temptations. It means that one does not become a slave of his lust and cravings. This purification is vital if one wishes to attain proximity to Allah. For the aim of all worship as espoused by the divine faiths, is to gain proximity and nearness to Allah. All other laws are ancillary to this objective.
All our actions must be initiated to gain the pleasure of Allah. This in fact, is a crucial difference between the divine religions and those fabricated by man. For manmade religions strive to solve and alleviate man’s apparent problems. These schools of thought were promulgated with the objective of providing comfort to man for whatever little life he lives in this world. These religions seek to address his grievances and satisfy his desires. Thus, these religions are transient. As opposed to such schools of thought, the Prophets (a.s.) always directed the people towards Allah’s worship and obedience. This was so because their teachings were based on divine revelation and proclamations, and not on man’s flawed perceptions and rationale. The most fundamental principle espoused by the Prophets (a.s.) was the Unity of Allah or oneness of Allah (Tauheed).
UNITY OR ONENESS OF GOD (TAUHEED)
The subject of Tauheed constitutes a very critical part of our discussion. All other discussions will be based on it. We shall deliberate on this topic (of Tauheed) at length, and it shall surface time and again in the subsequent chapters. An attempt has been made to make the discussion easy to the extent possible so as to sustain interest.
Before we move on to reviewing the concept of Tauheed from our point of view, it would be appropriate to discuss this subject vis-à-vis those people who deny and oppose it. Because addressing their objections and disinclination in this regard, will provide us with better insight in this topic.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE ATHEISTS
The atheists contend that if Allah exists, then we should see Him. In other words, since we cannot see Him, He does not exist. These skeptics seem to overlook the many instances that we observe in our daily lives, wherein things apparently invisible, are very much existent. We mention a few such instances to underline our point.
1) One day the acclaimed scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, was sitting by a tree, when he witnessed an apple drop to the ground. This struck him as rather strange. He wondered why the apple fell down on the earth and did not recoil upwards. Further research in this field led to the derivation of the famous law of gravity. This law is not only observed in laboratories, but its effects are apparent even in our day-to-day lives. However, this gravity can neither be seen nor felt. It does not emit any sound or odour. Newton himself did not see or feel the force of gravity. Yet he could deduct its laws based on its effects, i.e. the falling of the apple.
2) Today, electricity is an inseparable part of lives. It flows in our houses, offices, classrooms, hospitals, etc. like blood flows in our bodies. So much so, a life without electricity is inconceivable. We ring bells innumerable times. We switch on our lights and bulbs everyday. Yet how many of us can claim to have seen this electricity? Leave alone us, even Edison who invented electricity did not see or feel it. In fact, if we wish to ascertain whether electric current is running through a particular wire or not, we should switch on the button to see if the bulb is illumined. This is not only restricted to electricity. All forms of energy are apparent only in their effects. Forms of energy can only be perceived through their reaction (with matter) and not by our senses. In other words, these forces are not apparent by themselves, but are deduced through their effects.
3) Today, television and radios have become more of a necessity than a luxury. We all know that these function via transmission waves. These waves are all pervading and there are few places on the earth that have not experienced its impact. However, despite these waves having permeated most of the earth, they can neither be seen nor touched. But no one denies their existence due to their invisibility or insensitivity. When one switches on the radio or transistor, the voice of the speaker (at the other end) is evidence that these waves are being received. Again here, as in the above illustrations, these waves cannot be perceived physically, but are discerned through their effects.
4) Scientific instances apart, even something as basic as pain can only be experienced and not seen. In case of a severe mishap, the consequent excruciating pain and agony can only be experienced (by the person) and not seen or felt by the others. Yet no one would accuse that person of feigning pain and suffering. For pain, agony, poverty, bravery, love, etc. are abstract in nature. These emotions can be experienced only and not perceived with our faculties of touch, sight, taste, etc. Again, they can only be perceived through their effects.
5) Atom is a primary element of matter. The atomic model, is believed to be modern science’s greatest discovery. Yet scientists with all their progress and development have been unsuccessful in freezing this atom in order to see it. And the likelihood of such a breakthrough in the near future is not certain. Despite this, all acknowledge the existence of this basic element, i.e. atom. We do not find any one questioning the existence of the atom. Today, man has constructed ‘Atomic Reactors’ by exploiting his knowledge of atoms. Man has not seen the atom, but has discerned its existence through its effects.
6) Today, geologists explain and reconstruct the events of the past million years with their insight in geology. They are able to elucidate in amazing detail the exact metamorphosis the earth’s layers have undergone to attain their present contours. They seek to illustrate with precision the evolution in the innermost layers of the earth. They are able to do this while they were born more than a million years after the actual turn of events. They can perceive the modifications undergone by the earth, simply by studying its effects.
To acknowledge someone without having seen the person, by simply observing its effects, is by no means restricted to God. Today, science’s greatest challenge is to derive laws of unknown entities, by examining the effects of the known entities. And to a large extent, scientists have been successful in this endeavour, and have explained many a mystery, without actually having been present or witnessing the origin of the enigma themselves. In fact, this is what we have tried to illustrate in all the above instances. As in all instances mentioned above, Allah too, need not be seen by our physical eyes to be believed, although His incomparable Being can be ‘seen’ with the eyes of our heart and nature.
Today, we find the skeptics, who swear in the name of science and civilization, refuting the existence of a Supreme Being, simply because He can not be seen or felt. Their bone of contention is that only such things that can be seen or experienced by man’s senses should be acknowledged, else refuted. Apart from the illustrations mentioned above, our reasoning for such skeptics is that if this is the case, then in your theory of historical materialism, how can you claim that a million years ago, for thousands of years, men lived in a society and then came the period of slavery. After a passage of considerable period, the tribal society came into existence, followed by imperialism, feudalism and finally capitalism. Can we ask you that as you have analyzed human life of a million years ago and termed it to be a primitive society, do you actually feel or experience this society today? What was the standard for your determination? So, just as you have determined the cycle of human society by studying its effects, similarly, we too find our Creator through His effects and His signs.
Despite all these signs of Allah present in the nature, why is man unable to reach unto Him?
Man can recognise his Lord through the structure and fabrication of something as insignificant as an atom. That is, Allah’s presence is apparent in the smallest of His creations and serves as sufficient proof for the belief in His existence. However, man himself should be inclined towards this belief in Allah’s existence. For if man is averse and reluctant to acknowledge this fact, then all the proofs and evidences that are advanced, shall be rendered ineffective. The points highlighted below are noteworthy.
1. Take for instance, a vendor who sells mirrors but has unkempt hair. He glances at the mirror any number of times in a day. However, despite his untidy appearance, he does not bother to adjust his hair. For looking good is not the foremost thing in his mind. All he is concerned about is selling mirrors and doing brisk business.
2. Say you observe a man wiping the glass of a watch with his kerchief. If you ask him the time, he will glance at the watch again before he tells you the time. This is because he was preoccupied with cleaning the glass and was not actually tracking the time.
The above examples stress a point in particular. Man can seek goodness and benefit from something only if he wishes to do so. If there are other concerns fighting for man’s attention, then he is unlikely to benefit from that thing. In the first instance, the vendor was concerned only with the sales of his mirrors. Thus despite being surrounded with mirrors throughout the day, he did not bother adjusting his dishevelled hair. In the second example, despite having the watch staring in his face, the person had to refer to the watch once again for the time. In both these instances, adjusting the hair and tracking the time were not the foremost things on their mind. Thus man if he is not inclined towards seeking goodness, then no amount of favour or virtue will be of benefit to him. Similarly if an atheist is presented with the most convincing proof of Allah’s existence, he will not benefit unless his objective is to acknowledge those signs and believe in Him.
We shall now reflect on Allah’s signs, both big and small, on the earth and in the skies, in the seas and in the deserts. Pondering over these signs will help us realise Allah’s greatness and majesty. It will help us guide our lives, so we may live as Allah wants us to live. This in fact is the objective of Tauheed, the Unity of Allah.
‘Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him, that is for him who fears his Lord.’
(Bayyinah : 8)
WHY SOME PEOPLE DENY ALLAH’S EXISTENCE?
I. INCORRECT ALLUSION TO ALLAH
One of the primary reasons for man’s disinclination towards religion and his denial of Allah’s existence are the corrupted religions that are in vogue today. These depraved religions have introduced God in a most absurd and irrational manner. Even divine texts like the Torah (the Old Testament) and the Bible (due to the distortions made in them) have mentioned God in a very fallacious manner. God, as per these scriptures eats, drinks, sleeps and even wrestles. In other words, he possesses all attributes of humans. Indeed, such a weak and flawed Creator is neither worthy of worship, nor does his veneration hold any significance. Mentioned below are a few instances from these scriptures, wherein God has been degraded and debased to the level of humans.
1. In one place, Allah has been introduced as someone akin to us humans, weak and imperfect. This God adheres to a routine wherein he wakes up in the morning and is seen engaged in his work. He is so oblivious, that he is completely unaware of the incidents that transpire around Him.
2. The Book of Genesis (Old Testament), chapter 32, verse 24, portrays Allah as weaker than man. Here, he is engaged in a wrestling bout with Jacob (Janabe Yaqoob (a.s.)). At the break of dawn, God pleads and implores with Jacob to let go of him. Finally Jacob accedes to God’s requests. God is actually overpowered by Jacob in this bout.
3. ‘And God descended to survey the cities and towers constructed by Adam and his children (i.e. mankind).’
(The Book of Genesis, chapter 11 verse 5)
Here, it is noteworthy that God covers the vast distance between heaven and earth simply to inspect the skills and expertise of his servants.
These were but a few instances of the corruption and depravity that has permeated the Christian and Jewish scriptures. They have reduced God to the level of humans, i.e. the Creator is comparable to His creation. And in the case of the ‘wrestling bout’ with Jacob, the Creator is subdued by His creation. Even a layman can not accept the fabrications and concept of Godhood espoused by these religions. Such a concept will never appeal to their rationale. In fact such a notion about God has proved self-defeating. It has perplexed the people, with the result that they have actually chosen disbelief and atheism, rather than believing in the man-like God of Christianity and Judaism.
II. ROLE OF THE CHURCH
Another factor that deterred the scholars, the intelligentsia and even the ordinary masses from embracing religion was the hostile approach of the Papal authority towards the scientists and intellectuals during the Renaissance in the sixteenth century. The discoveries and inventions innovated by the scientists did not go down very well with the Church. The latter initiated a persecution campaign against these scientists, killing a few, and imprisoning the rest. They tried to curb the influence of science by abusing its religious authority. This suppression of science and erudition disgusted the people, resulting in the overwhelming sentiment in the society that religion was actually inconsistent with science. The inventions during the Renaissance established once and for all that the earth revolved around the sun. This discovery turned the Papal theory on its head which believed that the earth was stationary with the sun revolving around it. Here we say the Papal belief, because this was their distortion of facts and not the teachings of Hazrat Esa (a.s.). Anyway, the scientists were forced to take back their theories and repent and those who refused were consigned to the flames.
Such an oppressive approach had its repercussions on the minds of the people. They were appalled and turned away from religion. They launched a crusade against the Church, castigating its high-handedness. Taking the Church as synonymous with God, they held Him responsible for the anarchy prevalent in the society, while actually it was only the Papal authority that abused its supremacy and were solely responsible for the state of affairs. The people took up arms against God and religion. They failed to realize that, it was not God Who opposed the inventions and discoveries, but the egotistic tendencies of the Christian priests that prevented them from acknowledging the truth.
III. THE MATERIALISTS
The Materialists, who deny the existence of Allah, also claim that the belief in God was only the consequence of fear instilled in man by natural calamities like storms, earthquakes, hurricane, etc. When man is confronted by these and such other disasters over which he exercises no control, he reverts to the so-called God for solace.
If what the Materialists say is true, that religion is a product of man’s fear and insecurity, then the most pious believer should also be the most timid and fainthearted. Also if what they say is correct, then man should not implore Allah in moments of comfort and ease. But we find man submitting to Allah and supplicating to Him, regardless of his physical and mental state. This is because man’s intellect can not turn away from even the most trivial of Allah’s signs, which He has manifested in the world. The precision and perfection of these signs only proclaim the existence of a Supreme Being, namely Allah.
Another accusation levelled by the Materialists is that belief in Allah is a direct result of man’s ignorance.
Firstly, if this is true, then increase in ignorance should fortify one’s faith. Secondly, if ignorance is vital for belief in Allah, then the divine scriptures including the Quran should invite man towards ignorance and not knowledge. Thirdly if being ignorant is necessary for believing in Allah, then as man turns knowledgeable, the intensity of his belief in God must diminish and not strengthen.
If only these Materialists shed their prejudice and read the Majestic Quran sans bias and bigotry, they will witness that Islam and other divine religions summon man towards knowledge and erudition. In fact acquiring knowledge has been made obligatory on every male and female.
IV. SHIRKING RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIONS
One of the causes of denying Allah is the evading of duties and obligations that form an integral and inseparable part of religion. This is because observing those obligations is an important criterion for belief in Allah. These people do not wish to restrain themselves by undertaking the responsibilities and commitments imposed by religion. They perceive this is a threat to their easy lifestyles, since religion necessitates servitude and obedience. What they do not realize is that by turning away from the belief in Allah and His obedience, they are subservient to sin and evil. By evading Allah’s obedience and servitude they make themselves prone to the servitude of the fetters of their desires and cravings. To put differently, true freedom subsists only and only in the belief in Allah.
V. SUPERSTITIONS AND IRRATIONAL BELIEFS
Another factor responsible for driving the people away from religion are the innumerable superstitions that have permeated religious beliefs. Some of these fallacious beliefs have gained currency due to the adherents (of religion) themselves. Take for example, a thirsty man who seeks a glass of water, and is offered one. Unfortunately a fly falls in that glass of water. Now the man despite his thirst, will throw away that water in disgust. For remaining thirsty is better than drinking contaminated water. Similarly people are disgusted with the irrationality and discrepancies that have found their way in religious tenets and fundamentals. Rather than accept such a corrupted religion, they opt for an irreligious doctrine. Also certain actions of the adherents of religion have repelled the skeptics and fortified their disbelief.
VI. SKEPTICISM OF CONTEMPORARY THINKERS
One of the most renowned atheists of our times was Bertrand Russell. His contention was, ‘There was a time when I used to believe that God was the creator of all things. But then I began thinking that if God has created all things, then who has created God? I could not draw a definite inference and I rejected Godhood altogether.’ Russell continues, ‘Now we believe that the source of all creation is matter and not God as previously thought!’
Indeed this argument is as ridiculous as it is inconceivable. We ask Russell the same question that he asked himself. ‘What is the source of this matter, i.e. who has created this matter?’ Russell replies that the matter exists since the beginning of time (i.e. eternity). And that is exactly what we believe, that Allah is Eternal. It is indeed strange that thinkers like Russell are willing to discount the existence of matter which is inanimate and defunct. But are not willing to acknowledge the existence of Allah, Who is all-Aware and all-Knowing. How is it possible that inanimate matter has created an animate philosopher like Bertrand Russell?! Besides how can Russell say with such certainty that all things have been created from matter. What is the proof for such a proposition? The fact is we with our limited knowledge and intellect can never perceive the supremacy of Allah who has no limits to His capabilities. This perplexity is in fact one of Allah’s greatest signs.
VII. UNBECOMING ACTIONS OF RELIGIOUS SCHOLARS
Certain actions of religious scholars are responsible for the people rejecting religion. Initially, people take these scholars as models of faith and piety. But when they observe the actions of these so-called models, they turn away in disgust. These scholars conduct themselves in a manner that runs diametrically opposite to Islamic tenets and the Holy Quran. Soon the people realize that these scholars are in reality transgressors and sinners. These scholars trample the tenets and fundamentals of Islam under their feet, which is evident in their careless demeanour. It is worth reminding the readers that this was the very trait that was observed in the Christian priests of the Renaissance era, that disgusted the populace and compelled them to renounce God and religion. Even in this age, there are such characters in every creed and faith, who knowingly or unknowingly repel the people with their misdeeds and careless conduct. Therefore, we Shias must learn to discern between the righteous and the pretenders. And it is for this reason that the Shia has been given complete freedom in selecting his Mujtahid. The Shia chooses his Mujtahid by applying the criteria of knowledge and piety.
Anyway, we have discussed the objections of the cynics and nullified their skepticism. In the subsequent lessons, we shall commence what will form the heart of our discussion on Tauheed. One thing that needs to be borne in mind at all times is that worship of Allah alone, is the pillar of religion.