Ever since the history of mankind began, man has been practicing different forms of worship and piety.
There was no nation on the earth unattached to a religion and performing its rites in one-way or another. This is because piety is an instinct, a natural feeling deeply rooted in man's being. It can neither be hushed, nor muted in an individual's conscience, nor can the human conscience be prevented from sensing it, or going towards it.
Yet, the instincts of piety and worship have not always been guided by soundness and purity; rather they, in most instances, have been deviated expressions and abnormal practices of worship; religion, in its pure state, is that which is represented by monotheism, the path announced by the prophets and heralded by the apostles, for maintaining the correct mode of worship and to lead the caravan of mankind towards the shores of goodness and peace.
So, the observer of the history of religious myth, and of devious worship in man's life, finds a variety of religious expressions. He finds heliolatry, astrolatry, idolatry, zoolatry, pyrolatry, worship of monarchs, etc.
Analyzing the rise of these deviated religions, and studying the elements, which conspired in developing them, one finds them all connected to a superstitious interpretation of the universe and the afterlife. This in turn discloses the lowness of those peoples knowledge and their ability to fabricate fancy fables that stemmed from their own ignorance and superstition. These rites also illustrate the social customs and the imaginative traditions of those peoples, and their stifled mental and moral capabilities.
History is full of such religions, rituals and superstitious rites. Taken as a whole they reveal man's ignorance and the lowness of his conscience and feelings in such a way as to cause both astonishment and disgust. Some used to slay their sons in sacrifice to their imagined gods, presenting them as offerings at the alter of a false sacredness. They supplicated and requested the idols grace and the blessings of those stony, silent structures.
History tells us of many ignorant nations, peoples and civilizations such as the Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Chaldeans, the Pharaohs, the Greeks, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Romans, the Arabs (of Jahiliya). History also stresses that all those exterminated nations had some sort of worship, religion, and rites which they used to practice, but they were unnatural, superstitious and deviated forms.
The Glorious Qur'an notes abundantly the dark and tragic side of the lives of the perished primitive ignorant groups. It draws our attention to the missions of the messengers and prophets, the inviters to true worship and the saviors and reformers of humanity as a whole.
Considering these facts and other historical evidences, we realize that the existence of religion and worship in the course of man's history is clear proof that religion is not a passing phenomenon, nor is it an imaginary compensation for his sufferings from the hardships of his painful life. Neither is it an expression of his failure in understanding the universe and life and in logically and scientifically explaining them; nor is it an opiate for the downtrodden and subjecting them to the injustice of oppressors and exploiters as Marx, the founder of Collapsed Communism, asserted by saying that "Religion is the opium of the people".
All these assumptions and biased interpretations, which are being presented by the propagators of materialism and infidelism, with the purpose of falsifying the objectives of religion and destroying the mental and spiritual fundamentals on which it is based, are but futile and refutable allegations which are disproved by objective historical evidence.
Herein, we reiterate some of the numerous and most important realities that the mind has but to accept: -
1. The Natural Proof:
By this we mean man's instinctive inclination towards religion. This is an inborn proclivity (tendency) found in man since his existence on earth. It explains the genuine driving force and the inner compulsion present in man's constitution, pushing him towards worshipping a being greater than himself.
He feels the mighty superintendence dominant over the whole of existence. He feels the need to be patronized, to appeal to something grand and holy, to which man may expose his desire for worship. This exercise grows and changes man's internal being in an attempt to understand the existence of a truth that is the greatest truth. This practice is accompanied by an anxious quest for this truth, which fills man's soul and attracts him to it, as he feels its richness and the possibility of its filling up all the dimensions of the vacancy, contrasted with his own feelings of deficiency. He feels its superiority over the whole world, whose boundaries he is inclined to cross and beyond which he wants to eternalize his being. This world is unable to respond to the absolute expansion in his soul, nor can it be a substitute for that truth which is sought by him. Thus, he always tends to proceed ahead to the truth which is much more eminent than this tangible world, comprehending that this truth has all the ability to satisfy his innate longing which presses upon both his conscience and sub-conscience.
This innate feeling is a true objective one, because it is a natural instinctive tendency. Its existence in man is supported by three objective facts. They are:
- Thinking of the abstract of time and place, as well as of the attributes of the tangible world.
- The inclination to sanctify the Perfect Absolute, seeking to come under His greatness and to feel small in His Presence.
- Feeling imperfect while imagining the idea of perfection, searching for it and wanting to march in its direction.
All these feelings are accepted scientific facts proved by psychological studies, in the same way as the intuitive truths and the verbal utterances coined by man to refer to these essential, innate feelings are.
If we comprehend that being religious is a native force deeply rooted in man's self, we will also comprehend that man's devotional tendency is a fact, not legend or superstition. This is because man's natural genesis knows nothing of superstition, nor of legends.
It is in this respect, as it is in respect of his other instincts and tendencies born in him, such as the instincts driving him to knowledge, sex and food.
The mythical and legendary aspect of human life, expressed through different forms and peculiar rituals, appears only when man suffers from a state of loss and of deviation from the true Allah. In this condition man's imagination plays havoc and he draws a picture of religion and of god as was typical during the era of Jahiliyah (Pre-Islamic Ignorance). The Qur'an, confirming this fact, says: "They are Hanifs (tend) to Allah, not polytheists", which Imam Al-Sadiq (A.S.) explained, saying that. Allah's creation never changes. He has made them to instinctively know Him."
Imam Ali (A.S.), in a speech explaining piety and the inborn inclination to worship Allah, explicitly says:
"Allah sent prophets - after Adam - with revelations to guide mankind, when many people broke their given promises to Allah and went against their word, forgot their duties and divine rights and began accepting others as their gods and worshipping them, Satan had instigated them to give up the ways of Allah and forsake His worship. Allah sent His apostles successively, one after another, so that they may remind the human beings of the duties which nature has cast upon them as part of the plan of their existence and in redemption of the pledges made by their souls in the spiritual world on the day of creation. These Prophets were to draw the attention of humanity towards the blessings and bounties bestowed by Him, to convey His message to them, to teach them to intelligently and wisely use the treasures hidden in their intellect..." He further adds: "The best thing that the beseechers plead with Allah the Exalted is faith in Him and His Messenger and fighting (the Polytheists) for His sake, as this is the highest degree of Islam, and the word of unity which is in the innate nature..."
2. The Scientific Proof:
By this we mean the testimony of the sciences and knowledge, presented through their programs, ways of thinking, conclusions, and the results of their researches, which have discovered the composition of matter and the nature of life, and which interpreted the genesis of the universe and existence. All of these are reason enough to believe in a Creator, Innovator, Organizer, and Manager of this universe, and to reject the idea of things happening at random, haphazardly and by mechanical evolution. These concepts of things happening at random are the results of the preaching of the apostates and materialists, in the adolescent period of science, as a theory explaining existence and life.
3. The Historical Proof:
This can be discerned in the long history of religion and messages; in the numerous prophets and messengers, ever since the dawn of humanity till this day. Mankind, even during the darkest periods of ignorance and blindness, and with every era and generation, has beheld some guiding prophet, a preaching messenger, and a changing message, as an expression of Allah's grace, His beneficency to His servants.
This successive coming of the prophets, spread over a long time, generation after generation, alongside man's progress, and parallel to his historical existence, is an explicit proof of the truthfulness of the Prophet's mission and the soundness of their preaching. Otherwise, there would not have been such an enormous number of prophets during different historical stages, all of them proclaiming a similar truth and forwarding the same principles. It is incredible that so great a number of men, in diverse ages, nations and places, should falsely claim to be prophets, and yet they should all be identical in their message. Were the preaching's of those prophets false and groundless, contradictions and differences would have been quite obvious in them. Every message would have borne its special specifications, contradicting those of the other, and the objectives of those prophets and their concepts of Allah, religion and the hereafter would have also been contradictory. Actually, it is the contrary, which we see. We discern a unity of call in the messages of all those prophets; the call to believe in the Oneness of Allah, to have faith, to believe in the other world, to be interested in reforming mankind and in correcting its conduct and the order of its life. This confirms the unity of the source, Allah, and the unity of the call and goal.
4. The Objective Proof:
This proof can be inducted by scrutinizing the message of religion and monotheism, and the final code of divine laws (the Islamic laws). By induction and studying the Islamic laws individually, in detail and aims, one can recognize the truth of the divine message, and discover its humanistic and reformative side, its keen interests in the welfare of man and in delivering him, regardless of color, social position, time and place. Then, one would realize the falsity of the accusations attributed to religion, as a consequence of explaining it vis-à-vis the ignorance of the materialist interpretation, some aspects of which we related earlier. We know religion to be a message of deliverance, a call to salvation and luminous sign on the dark road. Its purpose is to save mankind, to break the bonds of slavery and open the channels of light and a happy life before a straying humanity.
"Those who follow the Apostle-Prophet the Ummi, (one who neither reads not writes), whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel (who) enjoins them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and makes unlawful to them impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which were upon them; so (as for) those who believe in him and honor him and help him, and follow the light which has been sent down with him, these it is that are the successful." Holy Qur'an (7:157)
"But the chiefs of those who disbelieved from among his people said: We do not consider you but a mortal like ourselves, and we do not see any have followed you but the most abject among us, at first thought, and we do not see in you any excellence over us: nay, we deem you liars. He said: O my people! Tell me if I have with me clear proof from my Lord, and He has granted me mercy from Himself and it has been made obscure to you; shall we compel you to (accept) it while you are averse from it? And, O my people! I ask you not for wealth in return for it; my reward is only with Allah and I am not going to drive away those who believe; surely they shall meet their Lord, but I consider you a people who are ignorant: And, O my people! Who will help me against Allah if I drive them away? Will you not then mind? And I do not say to you that I have the treasures of Allah; and I do not know the unseen, nor do I say I am an angel; nor do I say about those whom your eyes scorn (that) Allah will never grant them (any) good - Allah knows best what is in their souls - for then most surely I should be of the unjust." Holy Qur'an (11:27-31)
"And do not drive away those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, they desire only His favour; neither are you answerable for any reckoning of their, nor are they answerable for any reckoning of yours, so that you should drive them away and thus be of the unjust." Holy Qur'an (6:52)
Thus, the Glorious Qur'an presents verses speaking of the aims of religion, of its role in man's life, of its attitude towards the poor and the deprived who are the followers of the prophets, and the first to respond to the call of Faith, the call of rescue, liberation and delivery. It also clarifies the attitude of the proud, arrogant and influential against the weak, and the calls of the prophets and their objectives. It likewise registers the prophet's reactions towards the proud whose thoughts are filled with conceit and haughtiness. In this way the Qur'an proves to us that religion supports the weak and the deprived, and is the power that strikes justly and sincerely at the greed and the pride of the criminal despots, so that we may realize that religion is not a means of persecuting the poor, nor is it the peoples opium, a passing phenomenon in man's life, or a social activity, like other costumes and traditions which appear for a short span or specific period, then disappear altogether without a trace. Nor is it an illusion used by man to convince himself of another world that compensates for his failure in this present one.
Religion is a law inseparable from man's nature just as the laws of physics and life are inseparable from matter and living beings. This is because the Creator of the world has given man the longing for his Creator and directed man towards Him.
"Then set your face upright for religion in the right state - the natural disposition..." Holy Qur'an (30:30)
Yet, this natural or inborn disposition, as such, is subject - through ignorance and obstinacy - to deviation, impurity, and diversion from the path of true religion, as is the case with many of man's instincts and inclinations which deviate from their natural orbit, causing man, to follow diverse types of harmful and perverted customs. Hence the coming of apostles and religions to set right such deviations, restore man's natural inclination to Allah, the Exalted, and satisfy the natural instinct in man for truthful worship upon which rests mankind's happiness. This natural inclination is, actually, the starting point for receiving the principles of religion and adhering to them.
Once again we repeat here that this natural disposition in man cannot be looked upon as a legendary or mythical idea, since legends and myths are the offspring of an invalid imagination and illusion that subvert man's thinking. Man's native inclinations are a true case, met in the world of reality by an actual existence to which they turn, and which is the source of its satisfaction. Thus, the existence of Allah and worshipping Him becomes an outstanding fact, a counterpart of which, inside man, is the deep tendency to worship and the natural direction towards this Great Originator.
Superstition and myth originate when man is ignorant of his actual destination, and his mind is void of any clear vision. The Glorious Qur'an calls such deviation of beliefs as.
"...they are gone away from us, nay, we used not to call upon anything before..." Holy Qur'an (40:74)
"Have you then considered him who takes his low desire for his Allah, and Allah has made him err having knowledge..." Holy Qur'an (45:23)
"And when Abraham said: My Lord! Make this city secure, and save me and my sons from worshiping idols: My Lord! Surely they have led many of mankind astray; then whoever follows me, he is surely of me; and whoever disobeys me, You surely are Forgiving, Merciful." Holy Qur'an (14:35-36)
Thus, the Glorious Qur'an considers the abnormal and superstitious expression of man's ignorant inclination as erroneous and straying, since it is imaginary, and unreal, and a wandering expression that would not realize man's objective. Hence the saying of the Qur'an: "...they are gone away from us, nay, we used not to call upon anything before..." Holy Qur'an (40:74)
MIND'S NEED FOR RELIGION
It is not possible to separate man's way of thinking from his way of living and his dealing in life. Man is a wise and understanding being who thinks for himself, wants to comprehend his surroundings and tries to know the beginning and the end of everything, in order to be able to understand the mysteries of the world and the beings around him. He tries to discover:
- How did this world begin?
- Where is it going to?
- Why is he here in this life?
- What is the goal of his existence?
- Where will he end to?
- What does life itself mean?
- How should he conduct his life?
Man has always been looking for convincing answers to these questions. The answer to them either leads him to happiness and welfare, or wretchedness and misfortune.
The answer, though short in their form and brief in their expression, are yet great in their meanings, important in their reality and deep in their effects.
It is these answers, which define how man should live, behave, understand life and estimate the importance of his own existence.
By providing correct answers one may resolve an important crisis of thought-the crisis from which man has long been suffering, unable to find correct answers he has been tormented by anxiety and uncertainty and forced to wander through as abyss of erring.
Therefore, the right answers form the basic principles of the philosophy of life, and soundly evaluate life and man's existence. The correct answers to these questions have always been confined to two contradictory theories, both in their truth and in the resulting constructions that are based upon them. The two answers are: The first given through religion, lighting the path of righteousness and faith with rational proof; the second given by error and denial, aiming at invoking mist to obliterate clear visibility, to envelope man's conscience and prevent is from directing itself towards Allah, the Beginning and the End of existence. Religion's answer offers, through its call and message, and interpretation of the universe and life, and an explanation of man's existence, and of his links with them; while the other answer bases its explanation in retort to the idea of faith, denying its reasoning and explanation. Religion bases its interpretation and viewpoint on believing that this universe, life and man have a Creator, a Lord, a God head; and that man's existence on this earth is neither a meaningless and aimless one, nor is it random happening. Life and man have their goals and values exceeding the time span of man's existence on the earth's surface. He has a supreme objective to pursue, embodying it through his attitudes, his deeds and his general activities in a world that goes beyond perception and the time spent in this world. It is the other eternal world and the eternal extension of the absolute:
"Whoever disbelieves, he shall be responsible for his disbelief, and whoever does good, they prepare (good) for their own souls". Holy Qur'an (30:44)
"And all have ranks according to what they do..." Holy Qur'an (6:132)
In this way, religion presents to man a correct explanation of his existence, and gives him a lasting vision that plucks out the roots of his doubt, mental anxiety and fear of perishing, losing, and uselessness in this life.
Thus, by this explanation, religion opens to man the door to the expanses of life. He then organizes his life according to a perfect and unified ideological basis, taking him to results and objectives in life free of disorder, contradiction and objectives in life free of disorder, contradiction and disappointment. It offers him, besides other things, a sound ideological program, perfect in its order and movement, leading him to understand life and to adhere to a defined and explicit conduct.
The believer believes in the existence of a Just, all-knowing, all-powerful and Wise Creator. He further believes in the Day of Judgement and in the responsibility rested upon him for all of his deeds, and he expects rewards on the Day of judgement for his good deeds in this world. Therefore, he behaves according to this belief, and on this basis he forms every detail of his life, such as his ideas, attitudes, feelings and relations, formulating them within this unified ideological frame.
What a wonderful expression is used by the Qur'an in reference to this fact, describing the faithful elite who recognize the value of life and know the meaning of existence. The Holy Qur'an says:
"...and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou have not created this in vain! Glory be to You; save us then from the chastisement of the fire:" Holy Qur'an (3:191)
As to the answer of the second group, it is the viewpoint expressed by the disbelievers. They view this world and this life only from inside, disregarding all ties and connections with the invisible world and the Creator, having built their opinion on a faithless interpretation denying the existence of the Creator, the Innovator; they have sentenced mankind to lasting annihilation and transformation into dust, mixing with the elements of the earth, (lost in every nook and cranny) without return or resurrection. In this way the living feelings of man are pushed down to lowest pitch of death, despair and eternal destruction. It is a disaster that befalls the optimistic and hopeful feelings, and man becomes a prey of despair, goes astray, and submits to decay and decline. Life becomes an arena for conflict and a chance to partake of transient sensual pleasures and appetites, accompanied by a complete death of any feeling of happiness or knowledge of the meaning of life. Life, to them, is but a period of futile misery, with no hope or expectation and since there would be no other world, no divine justice, no punishment, no reward, no responsibility, no retribution, and no immortality, man is reduced to the level of the plants of the earth and the worms of the ground. Thus, this interpretation has done away with all human values.
There is no doubt that man has never been subjected during his lifetime to a more dangerous catastrophe than the deluge of this devastating one which sentences him to live and die within this terrestrial prison, returning to the terrible soil of destruction. So, what would, then, life mean? What would be its value? Why does not man do whatever he wants, even if such practices meant misery for others and ended their lives with the most horrible types of torture? They say that man's life does not go beyond this limited secular period, which is lost in the timelessness of the universe, which swallowed millions of generations and consumed the entire ancient humanity. How wonderfully the Qur'an illustrates this tragedy of the intellect, which the rejecting and ignorant mind imagined, while trying to fabricate its argument and speak its ideology:
"Far, far is that which you are promised with. There is naught but our life in this world; we die and we shall not be raised again." Holy Qur'an (23:36-37)
And how exact is the Qur'an in drawing the tragic picture to which this miserable, straying man reached: "...(as for) those who have lost their souls, they will not believe." Holy Qur'an (6:12)
"Say: Shall We inform you of the greatest losers in (their) deeds? (They are) they whose labor is lost in this world's life and they think that they are well versed in skill of the work of hands. These are they who disbelieve in the revelations of their Lord and the Day of Resurrection We assign no weight to them." Holy Qur'an (18:103-105)
So, as the Qur'an describes them, it is these folk of disbeliever's who have lost themselves, and lost their lives, turning life into a hell of misery, instead of making it a blessing and full of happiness, just because they deceive themselves with their distorted understanding of life and existence, and think that it does them good, while actually it takes them away from the path of Allah and His message. They think that they have discovered the right path and have put their feet on the right track. But it is this self-deceit to which the Qur'an refers by saying:
"The life of this world is made to seem fair to those who disbelieve, and they mock those who believe..." Holy Qur'an (2:212)
So, what other disaster to which man is subjected can be more devastating than losing oneself, leading to the loss of humanity, the loss which befalls man because of this mental wandering, ideological abnormality, and systematic deviation.
Therefore, no sane man doubts the necessity of abolishing this ideology and changing this materialistic way of comprehending life, and resorting to a realistic way of thinking, that is coordination with the cosmic reality of nature, thought and society.
This way of thinking is not to be found except in mental reasoning, through mind's innate originality and exact theoretical activity. Mind is the actual thinker, the conscious power that moves according to the general universal existence, and co-ordinates with it, since it a part of it - the highest example of its movement and order.
This is why the Qur'an addresses the mind and argues with it as it is the only force in harmony with the logic of the Qur'an, and is able to comprehend its course and hear its call. It says:
"...thus do We make the signs distinct for a people who understand." Holy Qur'an (30:28)
"...Most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect." Holy Qur'an (39:42)
When the mind is given freedom of thinking and contemplation, away from influences, deviations, and factors of misinterpretation, it will be able to discover the mental climate, which assists its growth, and to properly understand life. That climate is the way of the Qur'an and religion. Only under its light the mind can explain life and estimate it as required. In this way man would discover his inefficiency ad his need to follow the path of religion and to be guided by it.
Courtesy: Al-Balagh Foundation