By Mahmood Jawaid
For the last 25 years religion has taken a dominant role in the world’s politics. Technically, we may be in the Information Age, but politically we are passing through the Era of Fundamentalism.
Anyone who has read Karen Armstrong’s “The Battle for God” would say that the world has become a battleground for God. Had the battle been for how best to serve fellow human beings, the world would have become a heaven.
Unfortunately, the battle is dogmatic in nature and lacks any spirituality. It is the spirituality that brings compassion for fellow human beings. According to Iqbal, a famous Muslim poet and philosopher, religion devoid of spirituality will only cause mayhem. Sure indeed, we have witnessed genocide, ethnic cleansing and indiscriminate killing, all in the name of religion. The battle still rages. We must ask ourselves: What is the purpose of religion? Is it to demonize and marginalize people who do not agree with us or belong to other faiths, or to make this world a better place to live?
Is the purpose of religion to demonize people who do not agree with us, or to make this world a better place to live?
If we just glance over the Ten Commandments, we will notice that more than half of the commandments deal with human relations. These commandments demand respect for honor, life and property of others. A reading of the Gospels tells us that Jesus during his ministry on Earth was more concerned about the dispossessed and oppressed than about the form of worship one must adhere to.
His statements such as: “Blessed are the poor ...,” “Blessed are the meek ...,” “Blessed are the merciful ...,” “Blessed are the pure in heart ...,” and “Blessed are peacemakers ...,” (Matthew 5:3-9) show his concern for the marginalized people of the world. It was out of his concern about undue importance placed on traditions that he scolded Scribes and Pharisees for giving more importance to washing hands than to honoring parents (Matthew 15:1-6).
It is for same reason that the Holy Quran reminds Muslims: “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward east or west; but it is righteousness to believe in God and the last day and the angels and the book and the messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for him for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering) and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth the God-fearing” (Holy Quran 2:177).
According to Prophet Muhammad, God will complain on the Day of Judgment: “O son of Adam, I fell ill and you visited me not.” He will say: “O Lord, and how should I visit you when you are the lord of the worlds?” God will reply: “Did you not know that my servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you visited him not? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found me with him?”
God will again complain: “O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed me not.” He will say: “O Lord, and how should I feed you when you are the lord of the worlds?” God will reply: “Did you not know that my servant So-and-so asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with me?”
God will complain again: “O son of Adam, I asked you to give me to drink and you gave me not to drink.” He will say: “O Lord, how should I give you to drink when you are the lord of the worlds?” God will reply: “My servant So-and-so asked you to give him to drink and you gave him not to drink. Had you given him to drink you would have surely found that with me” (Hadeeth Qudsi No. 18).
The path to God is paved with the concern and care for fellow human beings. Only by serving mankind can we reach God.
In our enthusiasm for imposing our faith on others and into politics, we have forgotten the real purpose of religion. Yes, God has a pivotal role in religion, but it is only for anchoring our intentions.
When we drive, as we negotiate the traffic around us, we keep our sight on the horizon. In our path of life, God is the horizon and people around us are the traffic with whom we must deal with kindness. Whereas our actions should be focused on serving people, our intention should be focused on serving God. The intention behind any noble cause should not be to seek any reward or favor from people, but only for the pleasure of God.
“And they feed for the love of God the indigent, the orphan and the captive, (saying) ‘We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: No reward do we desire from you nor thanks. We only fear a day of distressful wrath from the side of our Lord’” (Holy Quran 76:8-10). It is the people we must serve for the sake of God to earn God’s pleasure.
Jawaid is a writer who lives in Dunbar.