The facts highlighted in the last chapter may be summarized as:
- In his primitive stage, man became a victim of various kinds of fear and superstition. Therefore, for his security and satisfaction, he conjured up certain ideas and magical charms according to his comprehension and means. Later, these things were to be responsible for the birth of magic and incantation.
- Experience led to change and the development of human knowledge, consciousness and living conditions. Gradually, time came to exist a belief in spirits and hidden powers.
- To ward off the anger of the hidden forces or to seek their mercy, the primitive man began making animal sacrifices and started to worship, pray and perform rituals.
- The idea of good and evil, luck and bad luck was associated with some particular thing or animal. As unbridled instincts hindered the growth of social life, some social and moral laws were framed in order to regulate human conduct. At last, these factors led to the birth of organized religion. This analysis makes it explicitly clear that, in the beginning, the cause of the birth and objectives of religion were similar to that of magic. This is perhaps the reason that there is not much difference between the means, which the two adopted for the fulfillment of their objectives.
This basic difference in magic and religion afterwards put the two on different paths, pursuing its own methods, reached the stage of reason and science. Religion progressed, but to the extent of heavenly spirits, the Day of Judgment and life after death. It passed through various stages of worshipping a multiplicity of gods and finally Oneness of God. But in spite of this contrast, the objectives of the two were the service, progress and prosperity of mankind.
Now let us try to find out the constituents of’ universal religion. After pondering over the realities and after thrashing out recorded facts, I have discerned the following aspects:
- Belief and knowledge about the universe and spirits which we may call as divinity
- Principles related to morality and self-control, which we may term as ethics
- Religious rites, obligations and prayers.
- Social laws, which are, called theology or jurisprudence.
This aspect of Religion throws light on the following facts:
- Existence of the universe and knowledge of its components.
- Belief in the existence of spirits and continuation of life.
- Explanation of the plan and purpose of creation.
In the world of today, if somebody says that the sun revolves around the earth, the earth is not round. But flat and it has seven stages, that seven skies exist on each other like roofs and the stags are studded in the ceiling of the sky, people will undoubtedly laugh- at him, even if he may cite a holy book or the sayings of the founder of a Religion. Modern astronomy and physics have completely gone out of the sphere of religious belief and have entered the domain of scientific research. On this issue, no religion can now challenge the findings of modern scientists.
Birth and evolution of earth and living beings much like astronomy, religions and their propounds have failed to throw any light on this subject, too. For the acquisition of knowledge on this subject, man is bound to be guided by science.
Birth and evolution of man.
World religions have given two theories or beliefs about the birth of man. On the basis of harmony in these beliefs, we can put them into two groups. One group includes Judaism, Christianity and Islam and the other comprises Hinduism and Jainism.
According to the first group, God created the universe in six or seven days molded Adam out of clay in His own image and infused a soul into him. Adam was the prototype of man. According to these belief scholars of these religions, Adam came into existence seven hundred thousand years ago at the most. Thus, it can be inferred that, before Adam, there existed no human race on earth. Modern scientific knowledge disproves this theory in toto. Positive proofs have been found that man has inhabited the earth for millions of years. The evidence given by science in this regard cannot be rejected by anyone but an obstinate bigot. The religions of the other group accept the existence of human life for millions of years. This acceptance is in conformity with modern scientific findings. But their belief about the birth and evolution of man does not go beyond mythological surmises.
Only the modern science gives a clear idea, which are based on experiments and well-supported proofs? Although these theories cannot be regarded as final or complete, they are more dependable than the religious beliefs of the two groups. Besides religions have ceased to produce any work or research in this regard while science is busy in its pursuit with full devotion and determination. So we have no choice but to depend on the guidance of science alone. The sciences of geography, archaeology, biology is and psychology is serving us better than religions.
(b) Belief in the existence of spirits and continuation of life
For a clearer explanation, I divide this subject into two parts:
In the beginning, the spirit was considered to exist in innumerable things. But gradually, this concept was confined to the angels, devils, genie, evil spirits, human beings and other living creatures. Most of the religions now do believe in the spiritual nature and power of the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets, the mountains, the trees, the seas the rivers, etc., although their own mythologies are replete with tales of a spiritual nature about these phenomena. It is possible that further success of the scientific researchers could considerably decrease the existing number of spirits.
However, faith in spirit is more ancient than the birth of modern religions. World religions have advanced certain theories about it. On the other hand, modern science has not so far been able to produce any solid proof to contradict that there is no spirit. Hence, we find that even today, most of the champions of modern science believe in the original and eternal existence of the spirits.
(ii) Belief in the continuity of life
About the belief prevalent regarding the genesis of spirit and continuity of life among the primitive men and in the old religions, research is still going on in the light of modern science. It is probable that more may be discovered in the near future. At present, there are four theories about it:
Vedantic and pantheistic theory.
Materialistic or atheistic theory.
According to this belief, every spirit is created as singularly exclusive from the very beginning. It remains in the world of the spirits for millions of years. It comes for short time in this world and then goes back.
Theory of unrevealed religions
I put into this croup Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. According to these religions, spirit is created as an entity but they do not fix any time for it. They believe that both spirit and matter are eternal. For millions of years, spirit has been assuming the shapes of different bodies’ accordance to its actions. First it enters into stones, then into vegetables, further into animals and finally into the human body. In this process of sublimation, if its performs good deeds, it is freed from the process of incarnation, that is, it achieves salvation. But if the deeds are not good, punished by, it is being subjected to transmigration. What happens to the spirit after salvation, is not explained by these religions.
Vedantic and pantheistic theory
These two names appear to be different but they represent an identical theory. Apparently, one is used for the Hindu and the other for the Muslim way of thinking. But truly speaking the theory ascribed to these names, is not the work of either. From the beginning to this day, conscientious men in every nation have been advocating it.
According to this theory, spirit and matter did not exist separately in the beginning. The real existence was that of God. Spirit and matter are the attributes and manifestation of the Real and the Absolute. The idea about the separate existence of the spirits of men and animals was but a delusion. Their existence is like the radiant rays of the sun and like the drops of a deep ocean which is God. These beams and drops do not lose their individual existence. The origin and source of all is the Absolute. The Muslim mystics have explained the following verse of the Quran, which says:
[All of us have come from God and unto Him shall we return].
Sachal Sarmast, a great saint and mystic poet of Sindh, expresses this idea thus:
Bedil was very true when he said:
In the light of both logical arguments and scientific experiments, the exponents of this theory have pondered over Reality. They deny the separate existence of spirit on the basis of their own method of deduction. They consider matter as the only reality. They regard life and death as the arrangement or disturbance of the inner harmony of matter. According to Chakbast, a great poet,
This view of the materialists is analogous to that of the Vedantics. Both contradict life after death and life Hereafter. Both regard the world as eternal and unending. Both give importance to equality and welfare of man. The only difference is that the materialists deny the separate existence of spirit and the Vedanta's take spirit and matter to be the two qualities of one Exalted Being.
(c) Explanation of the plan and purpose of the universe
At present, there exist two concepts about the universal order. According, to one, the universe has come into existence under a plan and its system is working, in accordance with a specific law. According to the other concept, the genesis and system of the universe is based on accidents. The first idea is supported by the philosophy of idealism while the philosophy of materialism approves of the second. All the world religions uphold the first concept. As a result, they believe in the existence of a Creator and a pattern and coherence in the universe and call him God.
Faith in God is the foundation or foremost condition of religions. But different religions have presented different concepts regarding the existence and attributes of God. The following three concepts are noteworthy:
- Concept of a personal God.
- Concept of an impersonal God.
- Concept of a God beyond imagination.
a) Concept of a personal God
In the beginning, when man lived as a beast, his immature mind was not good at reasoning. Therefore, he regarded every powerful, useful or harmful thing as a God. Such things included heavenly bodies like the sun, the moon, the stars, and the elements. Besides them, there were hidden powers of gods and goddesses. Also fierce animals, powerful men, magicians and religious leaders were included in this category. The evolution of this concept passed through four stages:
- Period of polytheism.
- Period of dualism.
- Period of trinitarianism.
- Period of Unitarianism.
- Period of polytheism
Later, when man made some more progress, the idea of wrathful and malignant gods was modified into merciful and compassionate gods. In the beginning, this idea did not reduce the number of gods. It divided new the gods into two categories: the merciful gods and the malignant ones. Subsequently, this conceptual change led to the decline of invisible gods. Invisible gods gained currency. This is how dualism evolved. The concept of God and Satan is the product of this idea.
Period of Trinitarians
After dualism, trinitarianism is considered as a more developed form of the personal god. Before dualism, there prevailed the idea of wrathful gods. During the period of dualism, the idea of merciful gods gained currency. Although the concept of God and Satan had reduced the number of the pantheistic gods to two supreme but hidden forces, even then these forces were seen as defying each other. There was no possibility of a compromise between them. The idea of trinitarianism was more appealing to the human mind because it had a certain freshness and novelty about it. Thus, of its unending restlessness, the human mind found solace in this concept for the time being.
Brahma, Vishnu’ and Shiva of the Hindu mythology; Isis, Orisis and Horus of the Egyptian mythology; Father, Son and the Holy Ghost of Christianity were born of this belief.
1. Brahma = supreme god
2. Vishnu = savior of the world
3. Shiva = god of destruction and regeneration
1. Isis = sister & wife of Orisis
2. Orisis = Horus
3. daughter of Orisis = nature goddess
3. The Holy Ghost
Period of Unitarianism
After trinitarianism, the concept of a single God captured man’s imagination. This was the most developed image of a personal god in which all the powers and qualities of the past gods were attributed to one great being. Allah, Ishwar, God and Jehovah are different names of this Supreme Being. It should be borne in mind that these four concepts about gods were, of a personal or material nature. The idea of an impersonal god is a later development. In the Torah, the Bible, the Quran and the Vedas, an image of God, similar to that of man, is presented. Similarly, a specific place has been assigned as His abode. Human qualities have also been attributed to God.
b) Concept Of impersonal god
By impersonal god is meant one who is absolutely non-material, purely spirit or essence. This is an abstract concept. At the very early stage of religion, this concept was confined to a few great men. Later, when the preachers of world religions got under the influence of rational knowledge, especially in the advanced countries, they too set forth the idea of an impersonal god in the light of the Greek, Egyptian, Iraqi and Iranian philosophies. Before presenting this concept, I consider it necessary to explain briefly the meaning of soul and body.
Body or matter
Philosophically, whatever comes under the purview of the five senses - touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing which simultaneously, comes within the range of time, space and cause, is called body or matter. Ancient thinkers believed the body to be a compound of four elements - fire, water air and earth. Modern scholars regard these basic elements as compounds. They have been able to discover around 90 elements so far.
Soul or spirit
According to the philosophical definition, whatever is not felt by the senses and transcends time, place and cause is called spirit or soul. The materialists and most of the scientists do not believe in the separate existence or immortality of soul. But those who know reality the thinkers, Sufis and saints - rationally believe in it. On its basis, they have faith in an impersonal god.
As regards the concept of the impersonal God, such believers regard Him as Timeless, Spaceless, Causeless, Formless, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient and Absolute. According to this idea, God is the Supreme Power who has created everything in the universe. Further, He is the Provider, the Sustainer and the Nourisher of everything. He puts soul into a body and then takes it out. However, He neither possesses His own spirit arid body nor does he beget or is begotten. This idea of God is a developed form of dualism and trinity. The beliefs on the logic of this developed idea of God. The concept of Wahdat-ul-Shahood (myriad manifestations of the Oneness of God) in Islam also gains strength from it. But this concept makes room for further questions such as believer and infidel, truth and falsehood, sacred and profane. These questions serve as a potential source for religious learning called theology. The bigotry of belief in the oneness and plurality of God is the outcome of the same idea. The same bigotry leads to dissent ions among the followers of various religions. At the same time, it leads people to archaism.
c) Concept of God beyond imagination
This idea presents God in such great and all- embracing terms that He gets beyond all comprehension. Intellect as a whole fails to perceive Him. Even the seer and the saint are astounded to observe His manifold -ruminations and myriad manifestations. The knower of truth, however, feels and finds Him everywhere, in every object and in each form. But he cannot define Him in a definite or precise manner. Whatever be the approach of logic and science in this regard, of all the ideas pertaining to the evolution of the concept of one, God, this appears to be the most comprehensive and credible.
Great men of faith, believers in monotheism and pantheism, knowers of truth have been conforming to the same belief for ages. According to it, reality is only one Truth. All other things are His attributes. He is the ultimate source of all Power, Knowledge and Beauty. After this belief, every form of distinction, hatred and petty prejudice becomes meaningless.
As against plurality, the belief in the unity of God is the outcome of the same idea. This belief gives birth to the following views:
I. Body and soul, are manifestations of the same personality
This means that every individual deserves equal treatment love and respect. No one has the right to regard himself superior to others. It is inhuman to create hatred or work against the interests of a group of persons on the basis of color, creed and caste. Shaikh Saadi says in this context:
The real aim of all religions is service to humanity. So do the real followers of all religions desire. Thus, the outward differences or claim to exclusivity are but peripheral. One who meddles with them, he goes astray from the real objective. On the other hand, one who steadfastly holds this objective dear cares the least for such differences and demarcations.
Bedil says aptly in his famous poetical work called Wahdat-Nama:
Scientific research has proved that the organization of the universe is based on some known principles and laws. The sun, the moon, the earth and all other planets are moving around well-defined orbits. There is a principle of harmony among them Chances and accidents are also based on some principles. All these things give evidence of a great plan. The following verse of the Holy Quran lends strength to this idea:
5. Man is the manifestation of God
In support of this idea, the mystics have quoted the following lines from the Holy Quran:
This aspect of religion is related to the following:
c) Intelligence or wisdom and knowledge.
d) Good conduct
- What are the incentives to morality?
- What are their basic principles?
- Are moral laws universal or can they be modified according to the demands of time and circumstance?
Basic principles of morality
Experts are agreed that peace, progress and prosperity of an individual or a nation are the real basis of the principles of morality.
If this problem is viewed in its historical perspective, it will be known that ethical laws have had their origin in religion or in tribal customs. According to the first, small religion tribes gradually merged into great religious groups. This gave birth to a religious morality in which some traditions, new laws under the changed circumstances and rational learning were included.
The religious laws of the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Christians and the Muslims were evolved in this way. The religious laws adopted by these world religions were not all created by them. Manusamurti, the ancient book of the Hindus, shows that its theological laws were enacted according to the religious laws and the living conditions as they then existed. But some were codified to meet the exigencies of time. The moral laws of the
Buddhists were enacted on the basis of rational reasoning. Instead of formulating new religious laws, the Christians adopted the corpus of old Roman law. The Muslims made their religious code by modifying and improving ancient Arab customs according to their requirements. They neither rejected all old laws nor made new ones of their own. Religions employed two methods in order to follow these laws, one curative, and the other preventive, which is also called defensive. Since it is concerned with preaching, teaching and self-control, it will be discussed in detail under the same headings. Similarly, the first method, which concerns with theology, will also be taken up later.
As religious proclivities were responsible for the birth of composite religious laws. Similarly, the social laws of tribes constituted the warp and whoof of national laws. By accepting some and rejecting others, by modifying some for the requirement and in the larger interests of the nation, composite types of constitutions of different countries were enforced with certain additions. Therefore, it becomes clear that all-moral law, whether religious or social, are changed according to circumstances. In future, too, according to the law of evolution, moral laws will be changed in accordance with social chances.
The obstacles, which the bigoted advocates of world religions wish to put in the way of making these changes, cannot be lasting. These narrow-minded people cannot succeed in their unnatural attempt. But their bigotry is sure to harm their own religious orders. Today, anyone who has the ability to understand the factors responsible for the changes and their speed knows very well that the day is not far off when mankind will agree to adopt a single constitution. In such, an eventuality, all laws belonging to all nations and all religious will be integrated.
b) Self or emotional desires
In religious ethics, sublimation of self has a special place. Self, in other words, may be called emotional desires. The have been divided into three parts:
3. The contented self.
This is concerned with the natural desires or instincts of man. A brief account of the instincts has already been given in the first chapter. Modern scholars of psychology have written hundreds of books on them. In this book, the space is too limited to summarize their findings. The gist of all of them can be put into one sentence: the fulfillment of unchecked emotional desires endangers unity, peace and progress as a whole. Further, unrestrained desires create feelings of selfishness, discord, prejudice, violence and self-deceit in the individuals. As a result, society degenerates.
2. The rational self
This is a more developed stage of self, which teaches man how to make the best use of his intellect and experience. Sacrifice and selfishness, unity and discord, love and hatred, persuasion and coercion, pride and humility, prejudice and tolerance, self-deception and realism are distinguished through it. Further, it guides man to differentiate between what is beneficial and what is harmful for him. But moral problems are not solved by the mere recognition of good and evil. What is needed is strength of character and courage of conviction. These are acquired through proper training and sublimation of self. For acquiring right education and self-control, the mystics have recommended four methods: guidance from the company of teachers right knowledge prayers and love. But before I discuss the right type of education, I think it necessary to explain what the guidance and company of a teacher mean.
Guidance and company of a teacher
From the earliest clays, the system of gaining knowledge directly from a teacher has been in vogue in all-religious hierarchies. Even today, millions of men are related in some way or the others, to teachers, preceptors, monks, priests and guides.
Evil body knows the services rendered by this institution in exorcising the evil of prejudice and encouraging tolerance in the past. But today, the conditions are different. Very few men benefit from this institution, it lost its utility long ago and has been reduced into a tradition rather than a movement. Much like the theologians, it is not free of vested interests. Therefore, no good can be expected from this institution. It can neither impart moral education nor can it help. A mystic therefore felt constrained to say:
Just as students have to attend school, college and university for a number of years to attain knowledge, so have men belonging to all religions have been receiving moral and spiritual education since time immemorial. This education is mostly through self-control, which is also called the sublimation of self. These institutions are called by various names such as ‘Khanqah’, ‘Ashram’ etc. Higher moral values in addition to purity of self were sought at such places. The valuable service, which this institution rendered, and the respect, which it commanded, none other have so far been able to achieve. But its popularity and respect unfortunately proved to be chiefly responsible for its decline.
People went to the monks and priests for the fulfillment of their wishes. They went to them because they wanted to be blessed with children, wealth, and relief from diseases and for the solution of other problems. Instead of overcoming greed, the teachers unfortunately started deceiving people and claimed that they held the keys to all the secrets of Nature. They deceived the innocent people through prayers, charms, incantation recitations, etc. Thus, those institutions, too, became centers of fraudulent practices. It was there that different methods of cheating were employed and vested interests were served. The perpetrators of such wrongdoing gained the same position, which the magicians had enjoyed during the primitive ages. In religion observance, there is no place for such ridiculous practices. To claim that one can control the forces of Nature is nothing short of hypocrisy.
The extent of such hypocrisy in modern times is far greater than in any previous era. They are neither men of sound learning nor do they possess insight. Their institutions are centers of exploitation of simple men and women. In these, institutions, if any education is imparted, it is that of ignorance, superstition and distorted beliefs. They have nothing but ritualistic worship, recitations, hermitage and incantations. Even then they claim themselves as the paragons of morality in the source of spiritual bliss. I do not contradict the claim, but the following lines from Ghalib are revealing:
This is the stage when the self attains the highest perfection. One, who attains this height, becomes a model for others. He, whose self rises to such a level, achieves perfection and his heart is free of pride, vanity, and greed ambition, craving for wordily possession malice and violence. The pretty prejudices of faith, nationalism, color and cast being to seem hollow and meaningless. On the other hand, he comes to regard unit of mankind, peace and progress of the entire human race as the sole objective of his life. Not only that he holds fast the virtues of love, tolerance and humanism, but he also preaches others to imbibe them. In the words of Shah Latif Bhitai:
Mind or intellect and knowledge
Much like moral education and the sublimation of self, the development and training of mind is given primary importance in the field of rituals as well. According to scientific research, Nature has been bountiful in bestowing upon the plants and animals some decree of intelligence. The scientists call it "mind". Botany and zoology have thrown much light on it. As compared to all other living things, man has certainly been more fortunate because he has been gifted with the highest intelligence among all living beings.
Intelligence nourishes knowledge and knowledge sharpens intelligence. Eminent scholars and men of learning have divided knowledge into four branches:
3. Rational or comparative knowledge
4. Experimental knowledge or science.
The primitive belief about magic and religion was based on this illusive knowledge. It further led to the belief of considering certain animals as propitious and ethers as unpropitious. The same belief worked in associating effects with certain worship forms of worship and sacrifice. Even today, despite the lapse of hundreds of thousands of years, many people are in the crutches of primitive superstition.
2. Intuitive knowledge
For centuries, men have believed in intuitive Knowledge. The prophets, saints, philosophers, poets and men of lore have always been its votaries. They agree that, like other lores, hard work or experience does not gain it. It is a divine gift. As the poet says:
If such myths were taken to be true, it would mean that the entire system of the universe is but a plaything in the hands of a few individuals. Therefore, it would tantamount to making fun of the laws of Nature. With these notions, the belief -geminated and very many prophets, gods-incarnate, seers, monks and priests were regarded as timeless and spaceless. They were also regarded all embracing and free of all imperfections.
The custodians of religions have been the preachers of this belief. Therefore, the words of some men of extraordinary talent are taken as absolute truth, and testing of those words on the touchstone of reason is deemed as a sin. Thus, a kind of intellectual dictatorship comes into being. The greatness of the prophets, of ‘L-he saints and of the revivalists of religions cannot be denied. However, considering them as the final authority on every subject does create a monopoly of a particular group. The doors of reason, arguments and morality are closed and a particular group in every religion comes forward with vested interests.
An interesting fact is that every group preaches its own creed, presenting it as a symbol of peace, progress and unity of man. But what is really deplorable is that each group regards its own faith as truth and the rest as false. Then each group endeavors to vindicate its own faith and condemns the others. The result is that it becomes an instrument of bigotry violence and decadence.
3. Rational or comparative knowledge
This knowledge is rests on intellect and reasoning. Philosophy, logic, dialectics, etc., are its branches. Rising from Greece and spreading to India, China, the Middle East and Rome- this branch of learning has been a prime source of information and has been largely responsible for the development of the modern world. Men attached to religions have also used it to a limited extent. However, since this knowledge may, prove as a potential danger for the conventional beliefs and faiths a majority of the custodians of religion has declared it inferior to intuitive Knowledge. Hence, they have instructed their followers to keep away from it. Some groups with vested interests use it for the intellectual exploitation of others For example, the capitalists, the socialists, the fascists and the conservatives have employed it for their own selfish ends. This knowledge is organized on metaphysical lines.
4. Experimental knowledge or science.
This knowledge is based on mathematical analyses and experiments of physics. It is not necessary that the results deduced from this source of knowledge be treated as the last word. However, just as most mathematical formula are invariably correct, the results of scientific inquiry are also accurate and reliable. Which of the above branches of knowledge will be most useful for mankind? If we give serious thought to this question, it will be known that illusive knowledge is the product of our primitive past and is useless for the present age. Neither can it give satisfaction to the cultured and progressive men, nor can it find any solution to the present day problems. Obviously, the three kinds of knowledge step toward the expansion of human knowledge. However, to regard and of them as infallible, is against the law of Nature. All branches of knowledge are means to this encl. Hence, it is not good to depend either on intuitive or on rational or scientific knowledge. A broad-minded use of every kind of knowledge is, beyond doubt, beneficial for human beings. The prophets, saints, philosophers, poets and reformers have been extraordinary and venerable. However, each of them had laid emphasis on a particular sphere of activity. The invention of television, radio, airplane, electricity, atomic energy and X-ray or other feats of excellence was not their work. Therefore, the claim of the pundits, moulvis and priests that their religions provide solutions to all human problems and that their creeds represent the ultimate philosophy of life negates the law of evolution. Such a claim has no other purpose except safeguard the vested interests of a few and help tighten their stranglehold (over the masses).
Such knowledge as we possess today is the result of millions, of years of human endeavor. The quest for betterment is the basis of social progress. If this fundamental truth is ignored and the past theories are regarded as immutable, there will be no room for further inquiry and research. It will amount to blocking progress and social well being. It -will also be contrary to the preaching of religions.
If we wish, we can find out the basic unity and the principle of evolution in religion sectarianism, theoretical differences and the apparent conflicts in the field of scientific research.
No knowledge, theory or belief gains anything of it is considered limited or static. Its excellence lies in its continual flow. It should freely accommodate new discoveries and inventions, having the ability to cater at the same time to the new demands and urges.
No nation, individual or religion has the right to claim the monopoly of knowledge, wisdom or welfare of humanity and its salvation. Truth is like a limitless sea. Whoever gets a drop of it, can justifiably feel proud of his good fortune. However, it behooves him not either to show it off or to capitalize on it or deprive others of their natural right to it. The best course for us is to like those aspects of knowledge and beliefs. This strengthen the unity of mankind, promote world peace and social progress. Each branch of learning and ideology should discard all that which fans hatred and prejudice and leads to discord. At the same time, it impedes social profess. Further, it is induces men to work for transient personal gain.
Religion ceremonies, duties and prayers
The third part of religion is prayer. Different religions have different modes of prayer. As already seen, they all have their origin in the primitive era. In the beginning, the purpose of prayer was to control or submit to the hidden powers. However, when human intelligence, society and religion professed, prayer came to have the following purposes:
The Prophet is an eternal reality. He is a blessing for all man kinds. Only that person is likely to gain from his image who has love for humanity, whose heat is free of vice and narrow-mindedness and who works sincerely for the welfare of humanity.
The third purpose of prayer is contentment of the heart. Beyond doubt, millions of people find prayer soothing even today, despite being poverty-stricken or suffering from different maladies. Scientists, philosophers and atheists may call religion an opiate. However, it is a fact that for innumerable people prayer serves as a psychological shield.
The fourth advantage of prayer is hope for salvation. The seers find no merit in prayer, which is made for saving oneself from Divine retribution on the Day of Judgment. Besides, the blurred concept of salvation, which is held by the moulvi, the pundit and the priest, is negated by the Sufis. According to Ghalib:
Apart from prayers as prescribed by different religions, certain thin-s have acquired the status of worship in some quarters. For example, discourse, thinking, contemplation, self-immolation, dance, ecstasy, music and similar other things. It is said that these are also the means to give solace to the heart. Let us accept it, too. However, from this analysis of the purpose of prayer the only thing that comes out is commitment, which is personal and short-lived. Hence, one may ask if all ado about prayer is for this brief and temporary personal gain. No, certainly not.
If we could know the real spirit of prayer as prescribed by all religions and do not get tangled into the outward form regarding it as the ultimate goal, the truth as revealed by Shaikh Saadi will dawn upon us:
Love and passion
The Sufis, poets, saints and yogis have always, in their own way, conveyed the message of love. The main theme of their message has been love. As Ehsan Danish has said:
God-loving saints have divided love into two parts one worldly, the other divine. In fact, they are two branches of the same tree. One may be called a ladder or a bridge to the other.
Worldly love has been most misunderstood. Either it has been called sheer lust or the personal passion of an individual. The main cause of misunderstanding is lack of knowledge regarding its form or shape. In fact, it has three forms:
- Love for paramour
- Love for the nation and the homeland.
- Love for humanity.
Like other living beings, Nature has also endowed man with the instinct of procreation. Owing to this instinct opposite sexes, get attracted towards each other. This attraction may also be called sexual desire. Since it is a natural desire, its fulfillment is neither a sin nor a flaw. The sexual act becomes a sin or an evil when the doer departs from the accepted laws and norms of his or her society. At the same time, his or her objective may not be permanent communion but temporary sexual pleasure. Such an unbridled act may endanger social peace and harmony.
It is, therefore, in the best interest of a society to recognize the natural sexual urge for procreative purposes, which is fulfilled by permanent association with the opposite sex. It not only leads to familial unit but also promotes peace and progress. At the same time, it balances corporate life.
Feeling of companionship
By nature, man is gregarious. Loneliness is a curse for him. Therefore, solitary confinement is considered as a severe punishment. The basis of group-life is social togetherness. This feeling impels man to find out for himself a permanent companion, a mate who shares with him the burden of life and provides him with peace and comfort. Therefore, the necessity of such a mate motivates him to lead a ‘couple life’. In this form, the need for a companion or a beloved is confined only to the feeling of companionship, creating thereby the basic social unit the family.
The mutual love, which is engendered by unity of thought and harmony of mind, is more lasting, more constructive and more invigorating than either sexual desire or felling of companionship. This is the reason that many people give compatibility great consideration while selecting a life-partner. They look for such a match for years and years. However, such unions are generally very rare. The Hindus believe that those couples who have been enamored of each other during previous births enjoy such a union. According to Muslim dervishes, such pairs were made on the Day of Creation. Shah Abdul Latif refers to it in the words of Sohini:
At this stage of temporal love, the beloved's love sublimates into a love which is collective and meaningful. In the first stage, Marvi pines for her beloved country. In the second, it is not her country but her tribe, people, and she becomes restless when she thinks about them. The second stage of love is far nobler than the first. Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai impresses the sublimity of this love through the character of Marvi in these lines:
3. Love for humanity
This is the highest form of worldly love. At this stage, man becomes free from all narrow Prejudices of group, faith and nation. He looks at the world from the humanistic point of view. It is as if the part is lost in the whole, diversity in unity and individuality collectivity. To quote from Ghalib:
The Sufis who understand the meaning of the term Rahmat-ul-lil-Aalameen regard it as a specific attribute of the Holy Prophet, are immersed in love for the Messenger of God. For the grace of the Prophet, it is necessary to be above every prejudice and distinction. Without love for humanity, it is meaningless to claim love for the Prophet.
Divine love is considered much higher than temporal love. It is, therefore, regarded as love of God. The Muslim priest adopting prayer and the rosary as his way of life. The Sufi dancing to the beat of the drum, the spiritual guide (pir) lost in meditation, the yogi practicing self-restraint through regular exercise, the clergyman dedicated to the glory of the Church and the ascetic renouncing the world, all claim divine love. These claims are not only highly exaggerated, but false. Kabir the great Hindi poet, says:
This state has generally been misunderstood. Some have regarded it as annihilation of the self; some have described it as prayer and exercise; some have taken it as renunciation of the world and some have perceived it as death. However, the majority has construed it as the sublimation of the self. For example, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai says:
Sachal Sarmast considers liberation from checks and restraints as the primary condition for attaining divine knowledge. He says:
The first stage of worldly loves which is the ‘negative state’ which leads to -self-recognition. At this stage, the heart becomes the reflector of everything and, to the eye, every hidden thing becomes manifest. Every object now appears to be different and in its original color. Sachal Sarmast describes this state in the following words:
This aspect of religion is related to the conventional and social codes. The religion is which are no longer dynamic and have become static; their advocates generally lay on centuries-old conventional and social codes. The preachers of some of religions regard these codes as the real religion. But since human society and its urges are not always the same and since time keeps on changing most of the laws and codes of the past have lost their usefulness now. Therefore, despite the obstinacy of the misguided is preachers, many countries are enacting new laws in consonance with modern requirements. Most ancient law codes have now become obsolete.
Today, the Christian who talks of tire Biblical period or the Hindu who talks of the period of Manusamurti or the Muslim who talks of the early days of Islam, is either ignorant or is incapable of reading the writing on the wall. In addition, if he is not ignorant, he is using religion to promote his vested interests.