If on the one hand religion has helped to promote the spirit of service and love, concord and harmony among people, on the other hand, evils like division, hatred, superstition and tyranny and oppression have also been nourished in the name of religion.
As a matter of fact religion in itself is not an end, but a means to achieve an end, the usefulness of which depends entirely upon the character of those who believe in and practices a religion, and they are the ones who can use religion as an instrument of good or evil.
Just as to maintain physical health of man and to protect him against diseases and epidemics the entire system of experiments, information and treatment is called medical science and in this connection importance is always attached to climate and social conditions since the creation of this world: just as through different experiments and ideas, different methods of treatment, such as Ayurvedic, the great methods of treatment, treatment through nature, Homeopathy and Allopathic have come into existence, the main purpose of all these systems of medicine is the same, which is to preserve the health of man, the although each system has a different method diagnosis is and treatment. In the same manner, the aim of religions is one and the same.
Religion has especially been used for the discovery of the universe, the reason and aim of Its creation, the knowledge of matter and spirit and for the social development Of man, his prosperity and for the achievement of peace and harmony. However, very much like medical science, religion has also split into large number of groups and their offshoots due to traditional attachments and associations. As Shah Latif expresses his opinion about this tendency.
Shah Latif was born in a family, which was religious, and at the same time had a tradition of mysticism. As in every important Muslim family special attention was paid during his upbringing that he should fully comprehend that Islam is a perfect religion and the highest philosophy of life and recognition of God, humanitarianism and the service of humanity were stated to be its basic requirements. However, after Shah Latif had reached his intellectual consciousness and he analyzed the practical life of the people around him he discovered that the reality was visibly contrary to the teachings of Islam. He found a significant contrast between what was stated and what he had heard, and what he could observe with his eyes.
Analyzing this quality of precept and practice, he says:
(1) There was discernable contrast between the religious slogans, which the rulers raised, and the teachings and practice of their agents, the priests and the religious guides. In their preaching, they attached very great importance to religion and morality but there appeared to be no practical demonstration in their character. A matter of fact Islam was simply being exploited for the personal and collective benefit of this class, which as a religious system had lost its reputation and attraction on international level. Therefore, its progressiveness, revolutionary character, liberalism and welfare of mankind, the qualities, which are its foundation, suffered a serious setback. Therefore disgusted with the entire situation Shah Latif was constrained to say:
First of all, I would like to present a picture of different groups who wielded power in Sindh, followed by an account of the common people.
1. The Kalhoras Rulers.
The rulers of Sindh at that time were Kalhoras, who were not the chiefs of any notable or brave tribe. They had been successful in acquiring power in the name of religion and Islamic Shariah (Law), and their renown was based on their being religious guides.
One can assume that in the early days of their history their forefathers might have been religious and simple in their living. However, their power as the rulers and abundance of wealth may have been the cause of ruining their practical and religious life and a consequent decline in their moral character. Pretentious religiousness, exhibition of their authority as rulers and leading a life of luxury had become an integral part of their nature. They never allowed themselves to lose any opportunity to resort to conspiracies, hypocrisy, falsehood and bloodshed to maintain their authority and religious influence. They did not have any scruples to victimize even the most pious and the sanity people. They used all kinds of measures to terrorize them with the purpose of getting their approval of their dark deeds. Nevertheless, if anyone of them exhibited determination in resisting their evil designs, they never had any scruples in putting him to death. Instead of paying attention to the welfare of the people and the betterment and progress of the country, they directed their entire attention toward increasing their wealth, dread and forcing the people to accept the authority associated with their seat Islam began to be used merely as an instrument of the religious and political monopoly.
As the people ruling Pakistan today despite having no real conception of Islam, Islamic way of life and character in order to achieve their aims and objectives, to maintain their power and authority, are indulging in all kinds of undesirable activates while at the same time this Islamic government continues to harp upon the unity of Muslims and the domination of Islam, and desires to eliminate every liberal minded citizen and critic of the government by charging him with being the enemy to Islam, Pakistan and the Muslims. In order to consummate this policy, designating a group of Muslims supporting their government, as pious and god-fearing, they are not prepared to tolerate any other party or group, their ideas or views. It was exactly this policy to which the Kalhoras firmly adhered.
If the present rulers lay the foundation of all their policies on the Pan-Islamism of Dr. Iqbal, the Kalhoras had based their policies on the idea of Mehdaviat of Miran Junpuri. The only difference is that of time, place and methodology. However, the same spirit inspires these ideas, and in spirit, they are hardly different from each other. If the present period is that of the "League", during the period of Kalhoras this very movement was known that of "Mianwaliat".
2. The Religious Guides and the Sadaat.
This class had descended from the religious guides, and their forefathers had left no stone unturned for the moral guidance of the people and developing mutual tolerance and love through their own example of precept and practice. But with the passage of time as the religious institution began to undergo a decline, in the same manner the successors of these venerable guides began to exhibit moral decline in their character. During the time of Shah Latif most of the successors (Sajjada Nasheen), of these religious guides began to fully indulge themselves in accumulating wealth and property, living a life of luxury, hunting the boar with the hounds, and increasing their awe and authority. They had considered it an objective of their life to humiliate each other based on racial differences and pride in the affairs of religion and piety they did not find any attraction. Considering the life of these people, the only interest they had left for themselves was to arrange fairs at the shrines and mausoleums of their forefathers, to introduce such activities at these fairs which sharply conflicted with the sanctity of religion like drinking, gambling and patronizing brothels, arranging dancing and musical parties, coming to attend parties riding on the shoulders of the people, inviting themselves at the houses of their devotees attended by large number of people, instead of providing any benefit to the devotees, accepting .gifts from them, praying for the people and giving them charms; making the people to touch their feet as an expression of respect and devotion, making people kiss their hands, and to awe and impress the ignorant and the devoted people with their miracles. Such in short were the activities of this class of people who exploited the ignorant and the poor based on their relation with their pious ancestors.
3. The landlords and the feudal lords
The chiefs of the various tribes and groups usually known by the titles of Waderas, Arbabs, Jams, the relations of the rulers, their favorites, the nobles and the courtiers constituted this class of people.
The wealth, authority and power which this class of people derived from their landed and other property, they used to settle mutual grievances, to enhance their personal authority and influence, to enslave people, to lavishly spend money on luxurious living, drinking, attending dance parties, hunting, watching quail-fighting and cock-fighting and enjoying sumptuous feasts. Their religious activities were concerned with offering gifts to religious guides, regaling them with feasts, construct mosques and other religious buildings, and placing in them prayer mats and portions of the Holy Qur’an, constructing mausoleums on the graves of saints, on having them ornamented, nourishing priests, holding feasts and offering variety of dishes, on religious days like the death anniversaries of a saint tenth of Muharam (the day Hazrat Hussain was martyred) and all the Eid festivals, simply to enhance their personal prestige and influence.
4. The Priestly Class
The religious knowledge of most of these priests was limited, while some of them were justly considered great religious scholars. Their main activities and duties were concerned with calling the faithful for prayers, performing funeral ceremonies, bathing the dead bodies for burial, solemnizing marriages, to dispute problems of peripheral nature, issuing religious dictums against their enemy for blasphemy, and ignoring the real aim and purpose of religion, and giving importance to the affairs which helped to project their personalities. Moreover it was part of their activities to interpret religion to serve the interests of the rulers, to recite the Holy Qur’an without understanding its meanings, to lay emphasis on fasting without maintaining its spirit, to prefer apparent cleanliness to the purity of spirit, to spread hatred and disunity instead of love and tolerance among the people, to confine Islam to a few beliefs and forms of worship, to accept illegal gratification to issue unjust decisions, to impose religious restriction on smoking, deciding whether beating of drums right or wrong, condemning music and singing as a sin, considering wearing long trousers as irreligious, to issue decision about legality or megalith of keeping long or short hair, to dispute over tile size and shape of the beard, to raise’ dispute over the color of hair, growing or removing moustaches, to lay emphasis on becoming a member of’ the Shia, Sunni religious seat, introducing controversy in the question of mourning or not on the tenth of Muharam, (the day commemorating the martyrdom of Hazrat Hussain) to enter a serious dispute over the form and manner of prayer, to initiate disputes over the thirteen century old question of the entitlement of the caliphate, which usually led to armed conflict between the disputants, to conduct debates whether the Syeds should be considered a caste, a tribe or whether they have derived their origin from the Divine glory, to issue lengthy conflicting decrees whether someone should kneel I or bow before another person as a mark of respect, issuing such derogatory epithets against the opponents as Kharjites, Rafzi, Wahabi, apostates, professing their belief in God's oneness, trying to cause disintegration among the Muslims by fanatically dividing them Into Shia, Sunni, Malki, Shafi, the followers of the Hadith of the Holy Prophet, practicing worship, religious guides and graves, trying to avert calamities and disasters by releasing a black rooster or a sheep at the crossroads, praying for the forgiveness of a departed soul and regaling with feasts, declaring it as adherence to the practice of the Holy Prophet, practicing polygamy to justify their luxurious living, and to give arguments to justify retaining slaves and slave girls declaring the existence of kings, feudal lords, and landlords according to the teaching of Islam, and to extend them the greatest support was the main aims and objectives of the religious scholars and the priests of these times.
Therefore, this was the situation of the class, which wielded power at this time, and if we analyze the religious belief of the common people and the conditions prevailing today, we shall find them almost in a similar situation.
Sindh was a province, which could be considered in the corner of India. There existed here no proper roads for easy communication. The majority of the Sindhi people led ~ nomadic life, and there was hardly any urban life to speak of. There being no educational plan by the government, the overwhelming majority of the population was not only un-educated, but at the same time deprived of the blessings of even lowest level of literacy. They were so deeply enveloped in ignorance that they were completely unaware of the life outside the country and the changes, which were taking place. Apart from only a few cities, everywhere semi-literate priests used to teach the holy Qur’an without any understanding. Somewhere Persian was also taught, the standard of which was most ordinary. It was indeed hard to find even one literate person out of one thousand.
Although Kalhora rulers belonged to Sindh, they had developed the habit of blindly following and imitating the people outside Sindh. From the religious point of view, they were the adherents of Mehdvi school of thought of Syed Muhammad Miran Junpuri. This view bore a close correspondence to the idea of present day Pan-Islamism. In the affairs related to religion, they exhibited conservatism, fanaticism, narrow-mindedness and conformity of thought with the priests and placing their belief in the priests. Their political ideas were almost based on the politics practiced by Aurangzeb. Their life was so deeply permeated with this thinking that even the language of the court had become Persian instead of Sindhi. They never took any practical steps to project their own language Sindhi, although Sindhi had secured its place among the people as a language of Sindhi poetry. Persian was primarily used among the more affluent class of Sindhi society and except a few text books the books on mysticism, philosophy and other branches of Knowledge were rarely within the reach of the members of general literate society. The printing press had not yet been introduced in Sindh, and the books generally appeared in the form of manuscripts, therefore books were rarely available to the people. During this period, the looks on modern branches of knowledge practically did not exist.
People’s knowledge about religion at this time was confined to a few forms of worship, beliefs, religious rituals, customs and forms of piety. On the one hand religion was widely used as the platform for debate and an instrument which served to project the religious knowledge of the priestly class while on the other hand the religious guides used it to add to their wealth and to enhance their influence and power. It was therefore quite evident that the people generally had sunk into the abyss of ignorance, the natural consequence of which was spreading of superstitions.
During this period, the tendency toward superstitious beliefs had increased to such an extent that the people always stood in the fear of evil spirits, magic and the malignant influence of curses in their lives. Whenever someone suffered from some disease he was immediately believed to be possessed of an evil spirit, for which it was considered necessary to make an effort to appease the tormenting spirit or to exorcise the sick person of that spirit Large number of religious guides, ascetics and priests practiced it as a profession. People from distant places visited them to get charms to solve their problems. Every one was afraid of being avenged by his rivals or enemies through the use of charms or magic. When someone suspected the influence of these evil practices, it was a custom among the people to secure the services of the practitioner of black magic and the Hindu pundits. There were other superstitious beliefs according to which people hoped for the fulfillment of their desires by visiting the shrines, encircling the tree trunks with thread, to light lamps at the rivers or pool considering such places, buildings, localities, crematories and the trees like Banyan and acacia etc as the haunts of the evil spirits and demons. Then it was a common practice among people to sacrifice roosters, sheep and goats to avert an evil and believe the graves, green trees, the prophet Khizer, the source of miracles, possessing the healing power. The people believed these objects of nature as capable of fulfilling their desires.
At this time, there was a group of beggars famous for practicing exorcism, and even now, there is a number of them still existing in the Kohistan region. They indulged in this practice by beating drums, dancing wildly with the purpose of driving evil spirits out of the people possessed, and they were believed to possess the skill of subduing devils and driving them out Exactly like these superstitions religious teachings also reflected an extreme form of superstitions. Thus, the priestly class never found much difficulty to influence the people using similar methods. The Kalhora rulers exploited the ignorance and superstitious beliefs of the people to consolidate their power.
When the people are totally in the grip of ignorance and superstition the people naturally suffer from an inferiority complex and everything in their life becomes the cause of fear. The cunning and the crafty elements in the society can take advantage of this situation and they make every effort to strengthen their hold on the people. Consequently the entire society is divided into two classes: One, the class in power and its agents and the other the poor and the oppressed. Instead of delivering the people from ignorance, superstitions and oppression, using them for their personal and class interest, the ruling class continues to keep them in a state of misery and enslavement
There is ample evidence in history, which proves that this class of exploiters widely used religion as an instrument to serve their ends. Sindh was therefore no exception to the exploitation of the poor and ignorant masses
History reveals how the high caste Hindus and Brahmins treated the Shudras, the untouchables, with cruelty and contempt The harsh and inhuman attitude of Jewish religious leaders toward their rivals, the cruelty and barbarity practiced by the Roman Catholics and Protestants against each other and then of course the infamous Inquisition, a religious court which tried and punished heretics, and perpetrated all kinds of cruelties, even burning the people at the stake.
Taking advantage of the local conditions and peculiar character of the people, in every country the cunning and crafty rulers, making use of the ignorance, superstition and fear of the people, in their different ways exploited them to serve their interests. This is an established historical truth, which no one can deny. If we take a close look at the history of the Muslims, we shall find a situation quite similar to what we have discussed above.
There is hardly any doubt about the fact that the advent of Islam signified development of equality, freedom and truth among human beings, but due to the weakness of man even its followers deviated from adherence to its real and noble principles. They introduced racial and class differences and the Muslims were divided into two distinct groups, the rulers and the ruled, the rich and the poor, ignorant and the learned and the strong and the week. Its natural consequence was that disunity, and love had replaced unity by hatred.
It has always been the custom of the this world that as the nations fall, their religious beliefs and ideas also suffer a disintegration. The natural weakness of man tremendously contributes to this process at every time and place. The Holy Prophet was a source of light and enlightenment among the Arabs. They were cast in the abyss of obscurity, and he elevated them to a position of recognition and fame. But immediately after the death of the Holy Prophet most of his closest associates and other Muslims were so completely absorbed in settling the problem of the caliphate, which constituted government and power, that for a long time the corpse of the Holy Prophet remained unattended and no one concerned himself with the funeral rites and burial, and at the end only a few people performed the duty of his funeral. Three out of the four closest associates of the Holy Prophet, whose period is known among the Muslims as the caliphate of the righteous (Khilafat-e-Rasheda), were martyred by the people professing the same faith, due to religious differences. Of the grandsons of the Holy Prophet Imam Hassan was poisoned to death and Imam Hussain was martyred after the prolonged torture along with the people of his family and those loyal to him on the battlefield of Karbela. His severed head was lifted on the point of a spear for the people to see it. Thus, history of Islam records the persecution of the Imams and religious guides at the hand of the Ommayads and the Abbasides and in their wars against each other, pitting Muslims against Muslims, causing extensive bloodshed. Mansoor’s death by stoning, flaying of Shams Tabrez, the assassination of Sarmad Shaheed, marring Shah Inayat and crushing Bilawal to death in the oil press: these are some of the innumerable incidents of the History of Islam, which make it amply evident how the rulers and men in power have exploited the name of Islam to achieve their selfish and political aims. Indeed it is interesting to look at the loftiness as well as lowness of the followers of Islam; the supporters of Yazid who usurped the Caliphate in violation of the principles of Islam and all the traditions, were a Muslim majority, who in turn had the whole-hearted loyalty and support of the large number of religious scholars, while on the other hand Hazrat Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet who was a standard-bearer of the principles of Islam, persevering in his mission and refusing to yield before oppression and evil, had the support of a very few people besides the members of his own family.
As a matter of fact even at the present time there is still a majority of the ignorant, superstitious people who live in a state ~f fear. One will not find people of any region or religion who are in exception to this situation. The real Islamic literature is the bearer of high objectives and noble principles, but it becomes quite evident when we look at the history that from the beginning till the present time, that the majority of the Muslims have neither understood its real meanings nor they have been able to practice it. During every period of history the cunning and the selfish people have always hoodwinked people and kept hem in the dark to achieve their aims.
Even during the period of Shah Latif, as in the present time, the influence and effect of the prejudicial and narrow-minded political system of Aurangzeb continued to exist. The Sindhi rulers, the Kalhoras, adhering strictly to this form of politics, taking advantage of the simplicity and ignorance of people, had consolidated their political power. There was also a group of priests and religious guides, who in the capacity of gents of the rulers extended their unconditional support and cooperation for the success of this policy. We can easily understand that Shah Latif was not satisfied with this state of affairs. Seeing the unscrupulous exploitation of religion, he was constrained to express his feelings in the following verse:
Shah Latif had grown up and brought up under the influence of the teachings and training of the mystics. He had never entertained any doubt that Islam is the last and the perfect religion. Following are the ideas he had about Islam:
(1) It was through Islam that this mystery was revealed to him that since the creation of this world there is a law of nature in operation which helps to understand God and for the unity and progress of mankind, the interpretation of which has been made by the mystics and religious guides through different languages, institutions and methods during every period in accordance with the existing atmosphere, human needs and understanding. But their fundamental aims and objectives have been the same. In addition, of course Islam is the other name of this law of nature.
(2) It is also evident from the teachings of Islam that there have always been interpreters of this law of nature in every country, period and nation, and has been engaged in teaching the development of love of humanity and progress in accordance with the local tendencies. Since the aim of their teachings has been the same, to consider any difference between their fundamental teachings based on superficial and apparently different methods, it is incorrect to consider them contrary and antithetical to each other. To regard them all the messengers of the law of nature is an important element of the fundamental principles of Islam.
(3) Just as the light of the sun or air can never be the property of a few people, nations or the countries, in the same manner to make Islam (the law of nature) the inheritance or the possession of a group or confine it t6 a few individuals is basically contrary to the requirements of nature and the principles of Islam. Exactly as the sun and air can never be set aside and confined for the use of the few. It is contrary to the Islamic principles as well as harmful to the interests of mankind.
After Shah Latif was completely convinced of his ideas about Islam and they had taken a firm hold of his imagination, as he looked at the practical shape of Islam around him, he discovered that his concepts about Islam, which have been stated above were completely non existent in the real life of the people. In addition, what was found among people, it was neither possible through it to understand and recognize God nor the unity of mankind and their progress. There appeared to be no attraction in the people who claimed to follow Islam, to draw the attention of other people toward them. Rather they were a major cause of the disintegration among the Muslims due to their iniquitous and evil ways.
Shah Latif must have been sincerely and deeply grieved at this major harm to Islam and its ominous decline, and when under this deep sense of grief, after an analysis of the past and present, he discovered the reasons of this deplorable decline, they must have been the ones mentioned below:
1. Amalgamation of religion and politics
It is said that morality, the motivating force of which is religious sentiment, its influence and effect on the politics of the country is considered right and justified, because if the affairs of the country are not conducted according to the principles of morality, putting all consideration of the public welfare and progress aside, the selfish and greedy individuals and groups will use politics to serve their selfish and class interests. Consequently, the common people will be forced to live a life of slaves and the oppressed. It is therefore essential to conduct the affairs of the country strictly in conformity with the principles of morality. This in fact is the essence of religion, and this indeed is the basis of the demand for the influence and control of religion over politics. Some more arguments which are advanced in support of the amalgamation of religion and politics.
The greatest obstacles in the welfare and progress of countries and nations are selfishness and selfish interests. Every citizen generally and an influential person especially, whether he is a political leader or a government servant, should always adhere to the principles of morality. If the national leader holding ministerial post, the judge in the seat of justice and the police in the performance of its duty, free themselves from the hold of morality, the evils like selfishness, hypocrisy, pride, corruption and love of luxurious living will become endemic among them, the business of the country will deteriorate, the society will be thrown into chaos, and selfishness will become order of the day, and as a consequence the country will move on the course of poverty, ignorance and moral corruption. Therefore in order to conduct the affairs of the country, besides the guiding principles, policies and programs, and making it possible to implement them effectively, there is the need of workers and functionaries who are honest, courteous, have a sense of responsibility, and love to serve the people. It is based on these reasons that emphasis is laid on keeping politics subservient to religion, and maintaining a harmony between religion and politics in conducting the affairs of the state. But the fact is evident from the human history that since the time of creation, during every period and time, a large majority of the people have failed to reach the high standard of spiritual and moral progress, and. that it should be able to forsake and sacrifice its personal and class interest in the interest of the people by freeing themselves, of all the selfishness and evil of seeking self interest, and by adopting a generous and liberal approach to bring about a harmony between the word and action. There is no doubt that common people have reaped the benefits in the past because there had been a harmony of precept and practice in the teachings of the prophets, saints, philosophers and the well-wishers of the nations. But as soon as the people lost sight of these remarkable personalities, they began to use their teachings to achieve their illegitimate aims, because of their defects of character and natural weakness, and gradually it so happened that the things, which were conducive to the prosperity and progress of man, became an instrument of evil because of human weakness and frailties.
The people generally are not capable of analyzing closely and reflecting carefully when they follow others. Once they have developed love and attachment with a person and his teachings, for a long time they will follow and obey some clever and crafty people who exploit them in his name because of their simplicity and a blind faith. The truth is revealed to them after a long experience that they have simply been made fool of by attractive slogans and pleasant speeches, and there exists nothing more than hypocrisy and falsehood in their apparent expressions of sympathy and high-sounding claims. If for a moment we disregard the incidents of the history of the world and we simply make the incidents related to the History of Islam as the subject of our study we shall easily discover the tremendous harm done due to human weakness. In a situation when religion and politics are brought together in the affairs of the state, but there being no harmony between word and practice of the politicians, religion becomes the cause of disunity and reactionary tendencies rather than unity and progress among the people. Even Islam did not remain safe due to the consequences of the differences, which cropped up over the question of the caliphate immediately after the death of the Holy Prophet.
Political strife between the Omayyads and the Abbasides and due to the inclusion of Islam in the tragedy of Karbela, Islam was divided into various religious sects. Therefore religion, rather than developing unity among the Muslims, proved a cause of disintegration among them. Coming into existence of sectarian groups in Islam, killing of Muslims by other Muslims in large numbers in the name of Islam, adopting such heresies as kingship, feudalism, landlordism, interference of the executive in the decisions of the judiciary, destruction of equality due to racial and class differences, restrictions on the freedom of expression and holding public meetings, using the public welfare funds to serve the interests of a few individuals and groups, tribes and classes, giving preference to race or illegal gratification, rather than learning, character and administrative ability in the appointment of nobles, judges and religious scholars: these were the evils which were being committed by the insincere and crafty politicians repeatedly. The government was being run entirely in the name of Islam, but the rulers were completely bereft of moral considerations and respect for principles. There always was a contradiction between their word and practice. Its natural consequence was that instead of there, being any positive influence of religion on politics, religion came under the influence of politics. Under these conditions, among the common people, the idea of religion as a moral force lost its effectiveness, and religion had lost its significance and was left with nothing more than the projection of a few beliefs and the forms of worships. Due to the weakness of men, Islam, the perfect religion, suffered like other religions of the world.
2. Religions System
According to the experiences of history, it is the requirement of a religious system and a government that the influence and control of religion over every department of life be established in complete conformity with the religious law. All the authority and laws of this system remain in the control of the rulers, the religious scholars and the judges, and the common people do not have any share in it. In the name of the interpretation of God, the Holy Qur’an and the tradition associated with the life of the Holy Prophet, the rulers and the religious leaders share between them the power and influence. These are the rulers who live a life of the pharaohs, who thoroughly enjoy themselves at the expense of the blood and sweat of the poor man, and whose daily interests are falsehood, deceit, fraud, conspiracy and oppression. And because they make every effort to please the priests and judges they are in turn honored with the titles signifying their being the standard bearers if Islam. On the other hand sincerely religious, men of character, religious scholars and the judges are either forces to seek a corner of seclusion, or they are confined to the four walls of the prison. The corrupt, sycophant, selfish, ignorant and judges, giving an evidence of their loyalty to the rulers, interpret religion according their convenience.
History of Islam is replete with such examples. Thus, the need of using religion dishonestly is felt at the time when the corrupt desire to take the power into their hands, or wish to consolidate it when they are actually in power. What, therefore, we observe as a consequence is that on the one hand on a superficial level how religion can be introduced, while on the other hand there being no harmony between the word and practice of the people in power, religion begins to lose its moral hold on the common people. It is indeed due to this misuse of religion, that some of the religions through the iniquitous ways of their followers have been made only outdated. No one can deny the fact that there has been the need of a system and a code to conduct every business of the world. No business, economic affair, agriculture, a government, a state can be kept operative and functional without a system and a code. Even this vast Universe is functioning in accordance with some principle and program. In the same manner, there is the need of a system to some extent for the promulgation of religious teachings and principles. However if nature, for the proper operation of the business of this world, has to a degree considered the necessity of a system, a code and a religious law, it has also considered a change, a revolution a freedom and a renewal essential for its freshness, beauty and evolution. The growth and development of the trees, crops, animals, and human beings takes place in accordance with the law of nature, and a very important element of the law of nature is that no object can survive in its existing state beyond the time determined for it. This is simple because nature does not like weakness and staleness, and every object within a certain period becomes stale and weak. This law is equally applicable to the religious laws of different religions, political forms of nations and any other programs, With the change in the conditions of the countries, people and the times, the need for the change and renewal is felt in everything. There is no doubt that Islam is called a complete code of life and in it there is every possibility to bring about international unity and progress, but the influence of politics on religion and the instinctive defects and weaknesses of the rulers, the religious scholars and judges, preferring peripheral affairs over principles and by losing a sense of discrimination between the ends and the means, it finds itself bereft of the capacity for progress and renewal. Thus, it is not in a position to gather all human beings or even Muslims themselves in its all-embracing fold and to arouse in them the spirit of progress and unity. Despite the efforts of a large number of revivalists, Mehdis and reformers and the efforts of just and righteous rulers, there has been progressive diminution in its promulgation and dissemination. So far, two suggestions have been advanced for the renaissance of Islam. The first which advocates religious form of government based on the religious law of Islam and the second which argues that Islam should be completely liberated from the grip and hold of politics, and brought out of the narrow confines of Shariah (Muslim religious law) using it for the moral and spiritual reformation of the common people. The leaders and guides of the first form of government were the religious scholars and the priests while that of the second, the mystics and those who followed a deeply spiritual life.
As for as the priests were concerned they especially emphasized apparent ritualistic aspects, like the forms of worship, the appropriate dress, abstinence and the knowledge of the Islamic faith, for which they stood in help from the government. On the other hand the entire teachings of the mystics was based on oneness of the universe, love of mankind and service of humanity and laid great emphasis on self abnegation, sacrifice and a simple living. Their teachings were thoroughly permeated with the spirit of religion for the promulgation of these principles and teachings and practicing them collectively, they also stood in need of constituting groups and a system. There is no doubt that the rules and regulations prove very useful in making a group very effective through its planning and organization. However, the multiplicity of these groups and their narrow-minded approach impedes all possibility of renewal and revolution. By bringing Islam out of the narrow confines of the religious law, mysticism has tried to introduce the real spirit of religion, but with the passage of time their successors also developed and adopted the character of the priests. With the purpose of propagating the system of mysticism, by introducing the system of the religious guides and their followers, with their own peculiar methods of prayer and devotion, laid the foundation of special institutes of prayer and devotion and then in them they introduced such heresies as the exhibition of piety and holiness, jealousy, selfishness, sensuality, worship of power, and seeking reputation instead of love, service of humanity and self-abnegation. In this manner this group also failed in its mission. By confining Islamic religious law within narrow confines, the Mullahs and the priests made it the arena for the struggle for power and futile controversies. These, so called, religious guides, taking advantage of the superstitious character of the people and their ignorance, had made a mockery of mysticism. Under these conditions Islam was limited to merely a few beliefs and terms of worship and there was a rapid increase of narrow-mindedness, and prejudice in its followers The things had reached such a pass that instead of being united as a nation it was divided into large number of religious sects.
This was the general condition of Islam. But at the same time it was considered a sin to know and understand other religions, which have been mentioned as true and Divine in the Holy Qur'an. Consequently, in comparison with the other religions of the world, there was a visible decline in the unity, national dignity, power, knowledge and the sphere of influence of the followers of Islam. Instead of being the followers of the perfect religion, Muslims were split up into a huge multitude of more than three hundred contentious, narrow-minded, conservative and reactionary sects, and very rightly, they began to be considered as an obstacle in the way of the progress and development of the world. This nation began to be considered undeserving of the blessings of freedom. In their opinion every new invention was regarded a heresy and every form of art or skill, a sin. They were completely devoid of the virtues of tolerance and love. Not only that, they considered music, dancing, painting, removing moustaches and adopting foreign dress and language as blasphemous. From their point of view, the whole world was sunk into blasphemy, heresy and sin, and they had left no capacity to see virtue or goodness anywhere. Every new wave, every voice of opposition and every new thing was fraught with danger for them, and they found no security in anything except by putting Islam within the confines of fear and prejudice.
Shah Latif conducted a careful analysis of these conditions and had an exchange of views with the religious scholars and saints. He went on an extensive tour of the country to examine the entire situation as it existed and after a careful consideration arrived at the following conclusion and ideas.
- Unity of Religions
- Love is the essence of Religion
- The real aim and significance of prayers is the service of humanity.
- The secret of human progress lies in peace and security.
- The real education is the knowledge of the self.
- Only through sacrifice is it possible to achieve the aim.
The hereafter is also always in the process of being shaped. The absolute end of the world is an impossibility. What is usually termed as the hereafter is always in the process of continuation? This world and the other world are the names of different and new appearance of ever"’ time and place in the world of creation, which only appears to the human vision in different forms and shapes. When one form disappears, it assumes a different shape, the kind of transformation, which always continues. Every new object is the reflection of an old one. Some of the verses of Shah Latif can be presented as an evidence of these ideas:
Just as there is multiplicity in the creation, whether man or nature, In the same manner since the beginning to the present time all those prophets, reformers, sages and philosophers who appeared in the world for the guidance of every country and nation, administered their teachings in different manners and methods. They are apparently different from each other, and for any person it is difficult to judge whether it is correct or incorrect, true or false. It appears Shah Latif had also felt disturbed about this problem, but one can understand that when the mystery of Pantheism was revealed to him he had also become aware of the oneness of religions. The truth is quite evident that every object on earth is permeated with the oneness of God, then how there can be any contrariety between the laws of nature and religions.
Just as despite the difference between the shapes of things, which are apparent to our eyes, there exists a oneness in them, in the same manner he discovered that behind the apparent multiplicity of religions here is a hidden oneness in hem. The fundamental aims of all the religions are almost the same. In evidence of this idea some of the verses of Shah Latif are given below:
If religion guides us for the unity and progress of mankind, the essence of its entire teaching is based on one fundamental element; which is love. Love is such an attractive force, which draws human beings towards each other. Nature has introduced two important forces, which dominate all the affairs of the world: One, the power to attract and love the other power to repel and avoid.
The first power draws toward love, union, unity, construction and progress, while on the contrary the other power persuades us to separation, hatred, disunity and decadence. In the language of religion, they are called the Divine power and the satanic power.
The soul of man has to pass through two stages; first, descending from the celestial world down to the physical world and achieving distinction here, and the second returning to one’s riginal world leaving this physical world. The first, in the terminology of the mystics is called "descent" and the second is called ascension. When man looks at the foundation of religion it appears that after leaving his destination of descent moving toward the goal of ascension shaking off satanic tendencies and turning toward divine tendencies, abandoning destructive tendencies for constructive ones, and relinquishing hatred to be completely absorbed in love, are the essence of the teachings of religion. This is the reason all the religious guides and mystics, considering love the real spirit of religion have always made it the subject of praise. Shah Latif also has revealed this basic secret of life. He says:
Shah Sahib observed that religion has merely been made a colorful and beautiful bouquet of beliefs and forms of worship, and the meanings derived from the Qura'nic verse "God has created men and jinn for His worship," usually is prayers, fasting, recitation of the holy name of God and meditation. The consequence of this practice is that after observing all the rituals of prayer and fasting, ignoring all the basic teachings, involving themselves in selfishness and self-interest, people completely destroy the principles of humanity and virtuousness.
Issuing dictums based on falsehood, the Mullahs and the priests, creating commotion and turmoil, earning their livelihood without doing any work, declaring prayers and fasting the only source of salvation, they support tile violation of human rights, and the religious guides holding piety and abstinence, recitation and meditation the real form of worship, instead of serving humanity, desire the people to engage themselves in their service. Observing this entire situation Shah Latif must have reached the conclusion that real worship of God in fact lies in serving humanity selflessly. Man is not created with the aim of merely praying and fasting, but for promoting peace and security in the world, liberating man from animal Instincts and propagating among them spiritual development, courtesy and politeness, justice, equality and construction and development at universal level.
When Shah Latif felt that the people have directed their attention only toward ostentatious practice of praying as a means of salvation and attached no importance to other practical acts of righteousness, he was deeply grieved by it. This sad experience has been expressed in the following verses:
In the light of his knowledge, experience and observation Shah Latif arrived at the conclusion that construction of the world and the progress of mankind is not possible without peace and security. Therefore, he was opposed to everything, which was likely to create hatred, contention and strife between people. He never regarded Islam the religion of conquests and domination. He never said anything to arouse Muslims to occupy or control the countries or properties of other nations, nor did he ever provoke them to assume the leadership of the world. Instead of using oppression and torture as ‘an instrument to subjugate nations he counseled the Muslims to such a position of elevation and honor through the demonstration of spiritual and moral excellence. He says:
Shah Latif had discovered the truth that man is best of world’s creation, and the Divine light was reflected in man more than anything else. He was also in search of the aim and purpose of human life. He never considered that the entire universe and all the creation was without any purpose. He was aware of the mystery of the differences and the fundamental oneness between the part and the whole, Sassi and Punhoo (symbolizing humanity and the creator) and the individual and the nation. He fully understood the meaning of attaining spiritual elevation through the elimination of ego. This is therefore, the reason that he has counseled man, at various places in his poetry, that the part should let itself be absorbed in the whole and the individual should be prepared to make sacrifice for the nation ‘and he has laid stress on the fact that the development of this spirit and character is possible, only when the virtue of true self-knowledge is born among the people. He is of the opinion that man can be elevated to a position of honor, only through proper education, and the sign of proper education is that man should recognize his real self. Only this self knowledge can help to eliminate inbred fears, doubts and misgivings, blaspheming and associating others with God and dualism, and men will then be able to march on the road to progress. Shah Latif has translated these ideas in verse in the following manner:
Shah Latif had arrived at the conclusion that the secret of proper education is knowledge of the self and the road to righteousness can never be found without the offering of sacrifice. He observed as he cast his eyes in every direction, that every small thing sacrifices itself by letting itself be absorbed in a larger thing. Every particle of dust being absorbed in the other particle struggles to appear in the shape of things around us, and the elements of dust sacrifice themselves after being absorbed in vegetable sphere, and vegetation serves to provide strength and energy to the animal world. There is hardly any doubt that if we look carefully, every element of matter helps and co-operates with the other: this help and cooperation in fact is a sacrifice. This process is visible in every aspect of the universe.
Man is also not free from this law of nature. Parents have to make sacrifices for their children. In this, manner individuals for their tribes and nations, and the nations too have to make some kinds of sacrifice for mankind.
Thus if we desire to present the essence of religious ideas presented by Shah Latif, it would be the following:
- Despite the large number and variety of aspects of the universe, their fundamental oneness is always permanent.
- Knowing the secret of this fundamental oneness and the way and the manner of being absorbed in it, is religion.
- Despite their apparent difference, the religions are one and the same since the beginning.
- The essence or the spirit of religion is love.
- Educating humanity in the virtue of love ensures progress, service of humanity, peace and security.
- Knowledge of the self is essential in order to acquire and understand this education.
- Search for the righteous way of life is futile without self-knowledge.
- The secret of the righteous way is sacrifice.