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بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم

Why religion?

Glossary of term

Religion A particular system of faith and worship
God The creator and supreme ruler of the universe
Truth The state of being true, Something which is true
Heaven The sky, a place of state of great happiness
Knowledge Information or awareness gained through experience or education
Justice Bringing about what is right, fair, according to the law or making up for a wrong that has been committed
Judge A person who makes a distinction between what is right and wrong
Resurrection Raising of the dead on the day of judgment

Core Concept

The basic aim of this lesson is to equip you to fight intellectually with the false propaganda of some, which they have been tactfully spreading against the religion. We should realize that religion is a necessity of life.

Why Religion?

Is Religion necessary?

Why should we investigate about religion and study about God? What provokes us to consider religion?

Many people in this world do not believe in religion. They think that religion is not necessary. They give some baseless arguments in support of their assumption. For instance, they say:

  1. Man knows what is good and what is bad for him. Therefore, he does not need any prophet to teach him.
  2. There are many different religions in this world with entirely different teachings and contradictory concepts. Interestingly enough, all religions proclaim that they alone have all the truth while others are wrong. How can it be true?
  3. Religions restrictions and commandments consume a lot of human energy and time. So religion is a barrier in progress and scientific advancement.
  4. Religion does not allow us to enjoy life.

We can convincingly prove that all these arguments are baseless and have no substance in them.

Let us analyze the contents of each argument one by one.

  1. It is true that Allah (swt) has given man marvelous brain, which can identify good, and bad. Still we find that people greatly differ in their judgment about good and bad things. For instance, many people appreciate nudity, drinking alcohol, gambling, and many other such acts, which are regarded by others as heinous crimes. Moreover, human brain has certain limits beyond which it cannot perceive.

We can know by scientific explorations what is happening on moon, mars, and in all other planets. But we can never know by any sophisticated technology the facts of grave and barzakh, and the events that will occur in the hereafter. For all such information, we need a prophet who has direct communication with Allah (swt), the lord of the universe.

Thus, undoubtedly, men are intelligent beings but they certainly need the help of prophets in almost every field of knowledge.

We can see today that world’s top scientists are doing grave mistakes just because they do not follow the teachings of the Holy Prophets. There is no dispute today that scientific and technological advancement has become a threat to mankind.

Thus, human intellect is not sufficient to discover all the realities of the universe. The true religion teacher us all those things which no one can discover by this efforts.

  1. It is true that there are many different religions with different teachings and none of them are true except one.

The true religion can be discovered by everyone after research. For instance, in market we know pure and impure, real and artificial, good an defective things are sold by the people. Everyone claims that he has the pure, real, and good things, which is not always correct. What do we usually do in all such cases? Do we stop buying things because many are selling impure or defective things and everyone Is claiming that he alone has the best and pure things? Not at all. We make all possible efforts to find the shop, which is selling the right things. Similarly, if one realizes the importance of religion, he or she can identify the true religion after research and studies.

  1. The third argument is also grossly wrong. We spend a lot of time in eating, sleeping, resting, playing and socializing with people. The consumption of time and energy in all these natural functions is quite high. But we never complain that these acts (sleeping, eating and meetings) are wasting a lot of our time and energy and therefore we should stop them in order to progress in science and technology.

In fact, we realize that moderate eating, sleeping, and playing generate energy to do more work. Similarly worshipping Allah increases our potential to do work that is more scientific.

A person who sincerely worships Allah (swt) with understanding will never waste his time in watching useless films, listening music, gambling in casinos or any other hopeless thing. People waste their tremendous amount of energy and time in doing the things, which are prohibited in Islam.

Thus, by following the teachings of the true religion we not only save our precious time and energy but also use them for constructive work.

  1. The fourth argument is also not correct. The true religion makes our life full of pleasure. Many chronic diseases such as AIDS, cancer, and heart problems are making human life miserable. No one can enjoy life with fear that he can be the next victim of any of these killing diseases. But the true followers of the true religion have no fear. They know that life in this world is temporary and ultimately they have to leave this world for another permanent world.

Thus, for a purposeful and prosperous life religion is essential. However, the choice of a wrong religion can destroy the life here and here-after.

Finally, we can prove that religion is necessary by analyzing ourselves. We have a natural instinct to know about ourselves. We can feel this urge in times when we are free of external pressures. For instance, it has been observed in many cases of serous car accidents, that when the unconscious person recovers, he instantly asks many questions to the people standing around him. He asks; where I am? How I came here? Who brought me here? What has happened to me? Am I safe?

All such questions clearly show that man has a natural instinct to know: from where he has come and where he has to go finally. The true religion has the correct answers to these questions. If anyone is ignoring these questions then, it means that he is insensible.

This is what Amirul Momineen Ali bin Abi Talib (as) said in one of his sermons:

“People are sleeping; they will awake after their death.”

The true religion tells us many things, which we can never know from any other source. For instance, Islam gives us correct answers of the following difficult questions:

  • Who has created the universe?
  • Who has created the millions of types of living species?
  • Who has made humans superior over all the creatures?
  • Why has He created us?

No one can know how the universe and everything in it has come into existence. What scientists tell us about the origin of the universe and the living creatures is their guesswork? This is the reason that there are many different theories in science with entirely different explanations. For instance, big-bang theory, steady state theory, and theory of evolution give different stories about the existence of the universe. Until today, no scientist can say with certainty that he really knows about the origin of the universe and life.

But the Holy Quran tells us very clearly about the origin of the universe:

خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ ۖ يُكَوِّرُ اللَّيْلَ عَلَى النَّهَارِ وَيُكَوِّرُ النَّهَارَ عَلَى اللَّيْلِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۗ أَلَا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفَّارُ

He (Allah) created the heavens and the universe…he makes the night overlaps the day and the day overlaps the night. He has subjected the sun and the moon to His laws. Each follows the course for a fixed time— is not He the exalted in Power – He who forgives again and again. (39:5)

We need religion

Three reasons:

(A) Love of Knowledge

We all want to know the truth about the world in which we live: Did the heaven with its beautiful stars, the earth with its glorious landscapes, the beautiful birds, the colorful fish, the blue oceans and the high mountains—did all these come into being by themselves or are they the product of an All-Knowing and Powerful Creator?

Besides all this, the first question that comes to mind for all of us is the origin of ourselves: Where did we come from? Why are we in this world? Where are we heading? The love of knowledge and the searching spirit within us dictates that we must not rest until we find the answers to these questions.

Thus, the first reason that compels us to inquire into religion is our thirst and love for knowledge.

(B) The Sense of Thankfulness

The world around us and the world within ourselves is full of marvelous things. The sun and moon, the plants and trees, the mines and minerals hidden deep in the heart of the earth; all of them are of great benefit to mankind.

Within ourselves, we have the digestive system, the respiratory apparatus, the heart and other organs of the body; but the greatest of all, however, is the intellectual ability of man himself through which he can make a mighty mountain crumble into pieces, and create from water and iron enormous power and the most delicate objects.

Now this question poses itself: Should we not engage ourselves in research and inquiry until, if there is a benefactor, we acknowledge that benefactor, to fulfill our duty and offer him our thanks?

This is the second reason why we should inquire into religion.

(C) Preventing Possible Danger

If a child were to come and tell you that he saw a poisonous snake go into the room you were in, you would immediately jump up from your chair and undertake a thorough search of every nook and cranny until you found it, or until you were satisfied that it was not there.

Similarly, while traveling by night in a dangerous country, if you learnt that bandits were waiting on the road ahead to ambush you–you would without any doubt wait until the way ahead was clear of danger, and would not take a single step forward until then.

In these two examples, we have made clear that reason compels us to investigate conceivable dangers. It is possible that some of the harmful things may turn out to be nothing at all, and that other people may not pay any attention to them; but if an inquiry carries the price of a human soul, then it cannot be ignored.

In the history of mankind, we learn of people who were famous for telling the truth and who lived an honest life. They claimed that they were messengers of God, and they called people towards God and to act in certain ways. As a result of the efforts and the constant sufferings of these special people in all corners of the world, many groups believed in them. Thus, the birth of Jesus became the beginning of the Christian calendar and the migration of the Prophet Muhammad was taken by the Muslims as the beginning of their calendar.

Now, we see that these messengers attracted men to religion and to follow particular rules, caused them to fear punishment of their bad deeds and convinced them that they would be tried in the Great Court of Justice before the Righteous and Wise Judge. They trembled at the hardships and perils of Resurrection and the harshness of the punishment there, and warned men of the dire consequences of evil deeds.

The question is: Do the warnings of these people make us realize the possibility of harm and danger in the same way as did the warning of the small child in the example mentioned above? Is it right to ignore the words of the messengers of God who, after all, were men of high moral standards and who made greatest sacrifices for their cause?

Clearly, the words of the messengers —if they do not make a man certain— at least provoke him to think: perhaps what they say is true. If what they say is true, then what is our duty? What answer will we have in the Court of the Great Judge?

Common sense reckons the necessity of preventing this “possible harm”. What is more, these messengers and prophets call man to a healthy and civilized life, and they also say that after death an extensive new world and everlasting blessings await one who has performed his duty. Does reason allow us to ignore this important message?


There is a similar argument known as the “Pascal’s Bet,” named so after the famous French mathematician, Pascal (d. 1662 CE). Pascal proved the importance of inquiring about religion in the following way:

If you believe in the life-hereafter, you will gain everything if it really exists; and you lose nothing if it does not exist. Therefore, it is better to bet that it does exist.

The theme of this argument was presented by the Shi‘a Imams long before Pascal. We also know that Pascal had read Abu Hāmid al-Ghazāli’s works. It, therefore, seems quite possible that Pascal might have read this argument from Imam ‘Ali (a.s.), the first Shi‘a Imam, as quoted in Mizānu ‘l-A`māl of al-Ghazāli. Imam ‘Ali said:

The astrologer and the physician both say, The dead will never be resurrected.'
I say:
Keep your counsel. If your idea is correct, I will come to no harm;
but if my belief is correct, then you will surely lose.’

What is religion?

Religion means a particular system of faith and worship. When we believe in something strongly and firmly, we say it is my religion. So by definition, if we do not act in accordance to our religious faith and belief, it means that we do not really believe in that religion. If we do things against the teachers of our religion then it means that we do not have faith in our religion. The Holy Quran has told us about such people.

و من الناس من یقول آمنا باللہ وا بالیوم الآخر وما ھم بمومنین۔

“Of the people there are some who say: we believe in Allah and the last day; but they do not (really) believe.” (2:8)

2. Some Necessary Qualities of Religion

The religion, which can fulfill the needs of humankind, must have the following qualities:

(a) It must satisfy the intelligence and intellect of human beings.

Islam gives foremost importance to human intelligence. Islam emphasizes that you must understand the faith and then believe in it. Belief follows understanding, and not vice versa.

(b) It must teach and demonstrate dignity of human beings.

Islam places human beings over and above all other creations of God; it promotes equality among human beings. Islam does not allow human beings to lose their dignity by bowing down in worship to a fellow man, animal, or an inanimate object.

(c) It must be a complete guide to develop the body, mind, and spirit of humans as a whole.

Islam does not only develop the soul at the expense of the body; nor does it promote the care of the body at the expense of the soul. It promotes development of all aspects of human life in a balanced way. Islam not only talks in general terms about the code of life; it gives specific details and provides examples in the lives of the prophets and imams.

(d) It must conform to human nature.

The teachings of Islam consider the human nature. It does not promote, for example, celibacy, which is completely against human nature.

(e) It should not be a tool in the hands of oppressors to suppress the masses.

Islam promotes social justice and rejects the theory of predestination. The oppression of a tyrant ruler is not predestined by God. This leaves no room for the tyrant rulers and oppressors to say that the masses have been predestined for serving the ruling class.

Ways of Knowing God

Tawhid

Overview

  1. Ways of knowing God
  2. The inner way
  3. The outer way
    1. The nature and scope of this method

Glossary of term

Immemorial Long past; beyond the limits of memory, tradition or recorded history
Philosopher A wise person who is calm and rational; someone who lives a life of reason with equanimity
Anthropology The social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings
Indoctrination Teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically
Atheist Someone who does not believe in god; someone who believes that no deities exist
Imam (Islam) the man who leads prayers in a mosque; for Shi’ites an imam is a recognized authority on Islamic theology and law and a spiritual guide
Inventor Someone who is the first to think of or make something
Tangible Perceptible by the senses especially the sense of touch
Gravity (physics) the force of attraction between all masses in the universe; especially the attraction of the earth’s mass for bodies near its surface
Radiation Energy that is radiated or transmitted in the form of rays or waves or particles

Ways of knowing God

From time immemorial, man has found different ways of knowing God. Human beings of various intellectual levels have found their own ways to God. Common people have found simple ways; whereas thinkers and philosophers reached the same conclusion on a higher plane of thought. The two most common ways of knowing the Creator are:

  • The inner way (which is also the closest way).
  • The outer way (which is also the clearest way).

First Method: The Inner Way

God has created the inner light in each and every human being. If we go deep within ourselves and touch our souls, we hear the message of God. History and anthropology has shown that if man is left alone and is not indoctrinated by any school of thought—then, eventually, his inner voice will lead him to believe in a power as the Creator and Maintainer of this world.

However, at times this natural feeling is subdued by external means. But it re-emerges when that person finds himself in difficulties—he naturally prays to a Power whom he believes to be above all powers. This is very well portrayed in the talk which Imam Ja`far as-Sādiq (a.s.), the sixth Imam of the Shi‘a Muslims, had with an atheist.

Knowing that the atheist had gone on sea voyages several times, the Imam asked:

“Have you ever been caught in a fierce storm in the middle of nowhere, your rudder gone, your sails torn away, trying desperately to keep your boat afloat?”

The Atheist: “Yes”.

The Imam:

“And sometimes perhaps even that leaking boat went down leaving you exhausted and helpless at the mercy of the raging waves?”

The Atheist: “Yes”.

The Imam:

“Was not there, in all that despair, a glimmer of hope in your heart that some unnamed and unknown power could still save you?”

When the atheist agreed, the Imam said, “That power is God.”

That atheist was intelligent. He knew the truth when he saw it.

The “inner way”, in spite of being the natural and closest way of knowing God, is also a very personal way. It is only sufficient for the person who has seen the light within himself.

Second Method: Outer way

Experiment beyond Sensation

The second way of knowing God is by studying the signs of His presence and power in the world within us and around us. The Qur’an has mentioned both these signs as follows:

“We shall show to them Our signs upon the horizons (i.e., space) and in their own selves so that it may become manifest to them that He is the Truth.” (41:53)

This method of knowing God is based on the principle of “cause” and “effect”. The signs of nature are the effects of which the ultimate cause is God.

Now, let us try to understand the nature and scope of this method more clearly.


Nature & Scope of this Method

Whenever we see a beautiful building of great splendor and design, we can easily understand that its architect was an expert in his own craft. Similarly, by looking at a car, an airplane, a computer or any other well-designed product or artifact, we are invariably guided to well-informed and knowledgeable inventors, designers and manufacturers, and we are also made aware of their skill and learning.

In none of these instances is it necessary to actually see the builder, the manufacturer, or the designer of such an artifact with our own eyes to testify to his existence.

Moreover, when observing all these things, it is not with any of our external senses that we perceive the knowledge and skill of the builders and manufacturers. But we believe in his expertise and knowledge. Why? Because the design and order which we perceived in the artifacts forces us to recognize the knowledge of their builders. And from this we reach the conclusion that it is not necessary that something whose existence we wish to believe in should be visible or tangible.

There are many things, which are not perceptible to our external senses, but we become aware of them through their effects. For every wise person understands that there can be no effect without a cause, nothing orderly without a wise and knowledgeable designer.

Based on the above, we can divide the things of this world into two categories:

  1. Things which are evident to one or more of the five senses; we observe visible things with the eyes, we hear sounds with the ears, we become aware of pleasant and unpleasant smells with our nose, we know bitter and sweet tastes with our tongue, and we feel hot and cold or rough and smooth with the skin of our body.
  2. Things, which are not perceived by any of the five senses, but whose existence we can deduce by considering their effects. These facts are not all of one kind, some are material, and some are non-material. We shall mention a few of them here.

Electricity: By merely looking at two wires, one of which is electrified, we can never determine which of them has an electric current. We can only discover the existence of this current from the effect of electricity, e.g., a lamp being lit. Therefore, electricity is something, which exists although our eyes cannot directly see it.

Gravity: If you let go of the book, which you now have in your hand, it will fall to the ground, i.e., the ground will pull the book towards itself. This power is something, which we do not directly perceive through our senses. Gravitation is again one of those things, which is not visible, but we come to know its existence by observing its effect: the falling of bodies to the ground.

Magnetism: When we place a magnet beside a piece of iron, we do not see anything except the two objects. But when the iron is pulled towards the magnet, we discover that magnetism exists around the magnet.

Invisible Radiation: If we shine white sunlight through a prism, we see on the other side of the crystal six colors (the spectrum) which are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. No more colors are to be seen on both extremes of the spectrum. However, scientists have discovered that in the place where the eyes see no more light, further colors' exist which have heating and chemical properties. Theselights’ are called infrared and ultra-violet.

Intelligence & Mental Image: All of us are aware of ourselves, i.e., we perceive that we exist; and we arrive at concepts in a gradual manner concerning matters outside ourselves, which we explain by this kind of statement: “I solved the most difficult mathematical problem.” Also, man is aware of his own knowledge: he knows that he knows. Intelligence is not something visible or audible in the sense that man can see it with his eyes or hear it with his ears; but everyone finds it in himself. Others cannot learn about my intelligence through the five senses, but they can deduce its presence from the effect it produces. For example, when a scientist is expounding on a problem, it becomes clear that he has understood it.

People can construct in their own minds any form that they wish, e.g., a tower similar to the Eiffel Tower whose construction in the external world required many years, a thousand sorts of different building materials and substances, and hundreds of workers; this can be built in the mind in an instant. It is clear that others cannot be informed directly of the creations of our minds, because they are not visible and audible, but they can discover their existence from our speech.

Life: A beautiful chicken, moving towards the water, falls into a pond, and, before we can rescue it, it dies. At this very moment, what change has taken place in the chicken; and what difference has occurred that it no longer moves, plays or eats?

There surely was something in the live chicken but which does not exist in the dead—life itself. Life is not an object of the senses. We only perceive the effects of life: movement, feeding, etc., and from these effects, we discover its existence.


The facts mentioned above make it thoroughly clear that over and above the beings that we perceive with our sensory organs, there are also things, which we do not directly perceive, but we know about them only through the effects they produce.

Thus, we draw the conclusion that it is not right for us to reject something, which we do not see only because it is not visible, because invisibility is different from non-existence. Moreover, the way of discovering something is not confined to the eyes or other external senses. The human mind can discover something by means of the effects of those things, as we saw in the examples mentioned above.

We do not wish to say that God is similar to the scientific examples mentioned above, because God is a reality above those things, nothing is equal or comparable to Him. Our intention, however, is to say that in the same way as we discover the existence of those things through their effects, we can also discover the existence of God through His signs.

Discovering the existence of God through His signs is the “outer way” of knowing Him.

Thus, those who deny the existence of God just because they cannot see Him with their eyes, are blind as far as their eyes of wisdom and contemplation is concerned—since we know that His existence can be demonstrated through the precise design and order of creation. To these people we say, with the poet:

Open thy heart’s eye for your soul to see,

And what is invisible will be manifest to thee.


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