Al Muntazar - Online Islamic Course, Imam Husain (a.s.) and Imam Mahdi (a.s.)

Necessity of Religion

The Creator of the universe has not created man and animals alike. The greatest distinction enjoyed by the former over the latter is reasoning and intellect. Intellect is that invaluable bounty which Allah has gifted only to the humans. It is through intellect that man can discriminate good from evil, right from wrong and truth from falsehood. It is through reason alone that man understands the reality behind everything.

When he beholds the universe, his intellect compels him to reflect. Does this universe has a creator? Or has it come into existence on its own? Then if it has not evolved on its own then who is its creator? What qualities does the creator possess? Has He imposed any duties upon us? Or are we free from responsibility? Did those individuals who were supposedly His messengers speak the truth? Or were their claims baseless and false? Is there another world after the present one? Would man be compensated for the deeds of this life?

These are but some of the basic doubts that invade human intellect. Man is compelled to seek their answers because of the very nature of these doubts. Man is hard pressed to find the answers to these queries and unravel the truth behind his creation.

In addition to the above queries, man is constantly searching for answers to a host of other questions. He is also aware of his inherent superiority and the ability to distinguish right from wrong. The intellect is forced to continue its inquiry till it reaches a satisfactory conclusion. It does not rest till its investigation results in some definite answers. These and such other questions relating to man’s creation and existence constitute the very roots of religion. These fundamentals of religion are related to reason and the natural disposition of man. They are explained with the help of rational arguments.

All the activities and actions of man are in fact influenced by the roots of religion. Taqlid (following a Mujtahid-see the section ‘Islamic Practical Laws) is not permitted in the roots of religion. As per the shariah every adult and wise Muslim is required to comprehend the principles of religion with the help of rational arguments and proofs. For, his beliefs influence his actions and therefore must be firmly rooted in his mind. Then his soul and his restless mind will be freed from lust and carnal desires, finding peace and comfort. He will find relief from internal turmoil and anguish. Only then would his life be spent in ease with an awakened conscience.

The most appropriate time for training is childhood and youth. For the soul and the mind both are free from sin and without any pre-conceived notion. Thus, the right impression can then be stamped on it. If these young people with their simple minds and pure souls are trained properly and taught the correct beliefs with rational arguments, they will develop with an open mind, free from prejudice. It will then become an inseparable part of their existence. They will attain a level of certitude and will remain unaffected by their surroundings. If they are compelled to live in an undesirable society, they will not be imbued in its colours. They would rather try to dye the society in their own colours.

All this proves the necessity and importance of religion. Is training possible without a correct religion? Is religion really a natural necessity for man or man has himself made it a necessity? Some people allege that the religious priests and scholars invented religion to have control over the lives of the masses. They feel that religion is a tool of the ruling class and it has been nurtured with their connivance in order to exploit ignorance and simplicity of the people.

There is no doubt that whenever the religious beliefs of the people had become contaminated with deviations, some selfish leaders took undue advantage in the name of religion. The unscrupulous rulers and unjust politicians also exploited the situation and played with the faith of the populace. However, the example of the above allegation is like saying that the house and clothes were invented by the mason and tailor respectively for earning their livelihood and only later did the people begin to make use of these things. One cannot brand a beneficial thing as useless simply because a section of people have misused it. Anything that is needed by the people whether material or spiritual is obtained by them when they make efforts to achieve it and spend their valuable time in its pursuit. Even if some people have their selfish motives in something, that thing itself cannot be berated. For example, a cup of honey does not lose its saccharine flavour nor is there a decrement in its (inherent) value simply because it is surrounded by houseflies.

Though admittedly faith, religion and beliefs are not marketable commodities, but if people assume it as means of livelihood, it will deprive religion of its influence and sincerity. However, it will not affect its importance and necessity. As it is, the Shariah has prohibited receiving wages for performing an obligatory religious act.
Religiousness and worship are the most crucial aspects of human life. For arguments’ sake, we have not confined our discussion to the religion of Islam alone, but to religions in general, though they be polytheist in nature.
Referring to historical records, one concludes that mankind had never been devoid of religion. Even the most ancient documents relating to man’s history point to this fact. The impressions found on the walls of ancient caves and the excavations of pre-historic articles all allude to the presence of religion in every age and in every area of the world. No period of history was without religion.

When something that ancient is found in every era to the extent that even the barbarians belonging to the stone age possessed it, then one can safely say that religion is inherent in man’s nature. It certainly could not have come by chance for a particular situation or a specific era. Moreover it could not have been forced down so many people’s throat. Even today the communities that oppose God and religion are themselves following particular ideologies in place of religion. Instead of religion, they follow their own programs and systems. Not only that, they are even quite dogmatic in their approach, sometimes, more than the followers of some religion.

We know that man and beast differ insofar as their intellects are concerned. The former has it while the latter lacks it. Animals do not attend any religious schools but instinctively follow their exclusive systems without any aberrations. Right from birth, they are able to discern and follow whatever is necessary and beneficial for their survival. For e.g. we observe the duckling that starts swimming once it enters the water. The honeybees create the hexagonal sacs with finesse and effort for storing honey. They even know the particular flowers to nibble for honey. Every animal mates in a suitable climate and at a particular time. The parents begin to make arrangements even before the young ones arrive. The bird lays eggs in an area that is conducive for survival and where necessary provisions are available. Nature has equipped the animal kingdom with every thing necessary for its subsistence and preservation. The animals are completely helpless and are at the mercy of nature and its provisions. However, things are different for man. At the time of his birth, neither has he the complete provisions for his life at his disposal nor can he discriminate good from evil. If an infant is left unattended, even for a minute, he may actually stumble into a pond, fall from the terrace, thrust his hand in boiling water and harm himself..

In comparison to the animal world, man is weak, helpless and vulnerable. This is because nature does not compel us to follow a particular path. It has created us with a free will and intention. Hence from the cradle to the grave man is in constant need of training and guidance. In order to complete the journey of his life, he must follow a particular agenda. If he does not have an objective, he will lose his way and sink into the depths of perdition.

This very system determines his actions and activities thereby shaping his destiny. And this system is referred to as ‘religion’ or a ‘school of thought’. It is called “Deen” (religion) in common parlance; whether it is a true religion or a false one. The weak and ignorant man is in dire need of this religion. Religion alone can deliver him from the darkness of deviations and perils to the path of security. Without religion man is like a bird with clipped wings. Thus the above discussion establishes that religion is a natural need for man.

If viewed objectively, the belief in the creator and nurturer awakens hope, faith and a refreshing spirit in man. The belief in a creator is impressed in him and that belief then percolates down to the depths of his being.
A worshipper of God who loves Him sincerely will not fall a prey to despair even in the most adverse of circumstances. He is prepared to perform the most formidable task. For he is confident that it will finally culminate in success. Sorrows and difficulties bring with them reward and respect. His complete life is spent in striving and endeavour. That is why it is said that religion endows a man with safety and comfort; imbibes love and fervour. At the same time, man is restrained from sins, disobedience and transgression. Religion grants man a strength that protects him in every way.

Society as a whole, too, benefits from a belief in religion. Members of a society that are deeply religious will conduct themselves in an upright manner in line with the tenets of their faith. The fear of God will force them to act justly with their fellow members. An atmosphere of peace and amity is created. In fact it is difficult to conceive a society that is without religion in its midst. Indeed religion and faith are the pillars of the society. If there had been no religion, man would have stooped down to the level of beasts and lived in an atmosphere permeated with hatred and hostility. Just the thought of such a situation is frightful. Indeed society cannot come into existence without religion and culture cannot exist without it.

Considering this from the intellectual point of view we can say that the various resolutions, missions and the revolutionary activities of man have been instrumental in historical developments. It is well known that if a capable, intelligent leader with foresight can motivate the whole community into action; release them from the bondage of ignorance; then the secret of his success lies in his religion’s message or some other lofty ideals.
Thus, we can safely conclude that according to historical records available with us, religion has always existed and is in fact among the fundamental needs of man. It is not an exclusive feature of a particular class of people. Neither can a particular political ideology be termed as religion. Therefore, religion cannot be said to be an invention of this century and nor can it be said to belong to the west or the east.

Only Religion can guarantee Absolute Peace in the World
A common objection to religion in this age is that, even if we accept that religion was a necessity in the past, it cannot command the same importance in this era. Today, the world has developed socially and culturally and all sciences are galloping towards perfection. Human ideals have reached such a state that man now finds this vast world too constricted. Man has landed on the moon and aspires to conquer other barriers. The government seems to have absolute control over the people and hence religion is redundant. If at all it is needed, only the ignorant villagers can benefit from it.

It is true that due to the cultural advancement, we find very few people following strictly the tenets of religion. What remains to be considered are the rights and duties of people living in a society. We find that every society has evolved its own code of moral conduct. It has imposed these rules upon every member of society. It is quite possible nowadays for a child to be born and brought up in luxury; till he reaches old age without having heard of anything called religion. He may spend his whole life in comfort and not hear the name of God or religion at all. However, this is not restricted to religion alone. It is also possible in the case of other principles. As some of the people feel needless of religion nowadays, we also have some people who show disinclination towards other ideals too; like patriotism and nationalism etc. They may be completely opposed to other ethical and social beliefs also. A few of them even go to the extent of opposing these tenets.

We mention here only two points that we had discussed in reply to the above objections.
Looking around us, we observe both religious as well as secular people, uninfluenced by religion, spend their lives in a perfect moral and disciplined way. They tread the path of self-sacrifice and selflessness. As they themselves are aware, their way of life is due to their personal way of thinking that they might have inherited from their forefathers or may have been trained in that way. They have been conditioned such that now it is difficult for them to change their behaviour. Therefore, they have a deep affection towards the pious, righteous and selfless individuals.

Disregarding the fact that the claims of these people is, to some extent, near to reality and general principles and that the qualities present in them are free of extremism and selfishness and have harmful depravation. But the reality is that their motivation is the animal nature in them as also the animal desire. As we all witness that the more civilisation develops, the more people are being dominated by the animal desires. Their natural instinct is being relegated to a lower position. Natural needs are suppressed. Moral conduct and righteousness are being replaced with calculated and vested interests. Greed and selfishness replaces selflessness and the spirit of sacrifice. The most educated and intellectual communities are, in reality, the most deprived ones with regard to righteousness. For example, we see the people of advanced nations priding themselves on their technological superiority. But they live their lives in fear and insecurity and are always prepared for war. These people are given unlimited social freedom that they often abuse. Such instances are especially observed in the West, where the people are steeped in immorality and debauchery. Today their youth are free to do what they wish. Most of the books of philosophy and literature written in the post World War II era advocate the need to be absolutely free from every type of moral restraint and responsibilities. It is regretful that such books are finding currency among the masses.

Therefore, in this era of corruption and depravity, a belief in God, is the only means of salvation for the people. And religion, is as much a necessity today, as it was yesterday in the age of our ancestors. Or shall we say, today’s scientific man is more in need of religion than his ignorant ancestor of yore lest his knowledge without proper discipline and training in humanity may itself become the cause of his doom and destruction.