Let us trace the existence of religion in a society consisting of people belonging to various thought, having different cultural background and belonging to different religions. The question arises: ‘what is the role of religion in a person?’ According to Iqbal religion is essentially a mode of actual living and it is the only serious way of handling Reality. ‘Handling Reality’ is searching the Real - in other words ‘to understand God’. Ali, the great companion of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), said once that ‘one who understands himself can understand God’. Towards approaching the Real a Sufi adopts the way of religion. The way of a scientist is spacial i.e. relating to the world of matter. Iqbal says that a scientist is also a Sufi because he is too searching the Real. Paul Davies says that “the scientific quest is a journey into unknown”.
As for the existence of religion in an individual, everybody believes in God in one way or the other. All the great scientists of the world without any exception believe in some sort of existence of a great power which cannot be described. There are a number of scientists who believe in religion and some of them even also practice religion. There is a common view about scientist that they are materialistic persons totally devoid of religion, which is incorrect and misleading. I quote just one example of a scientist known as a non-believer person. His name is Einstein; he is the scientist who brought revolution in certain branches of science. He is usually considered as a non believer person. There is no doubt that he did not practice religion and he was not a religious person. But he had his own view about the existence of God religion. At times he looked quite aggressive toward religion which was practised by his community at that time. In that mood he once told that he should not be buried after his death but his body should be burnt and the ashes be flown in the air. He also had to quit his native country Germany due to his so called unwanted attitude. With all this he left his undying words for the time to come as he said, “Religion without science is lame and science without religion is blind”.
If religion is ‘essentially a mode of actual living’ for an individual, as earlier quoted of Iqbal, then in its broader sense the religion becomes a mode of actual living for a society. The essence of religion is ‘belief in God and in the world hereafter’. Consequently one who believes in God will abide by the commandment of God. The commandment conveyed to mankind through the medium of all religions is like this: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with thy entire mind, and with all thy strength”. Religion also teach us how to love God. Bible as well as the Qur’an, teach us that ‘to love God is to love fellow human beings’. God loves human beings much more than a mother loves her children, according to Qur’an. And believing in the world hereafter keeps a person on the right path. Such an individual will never commit an act harmful to the other.
The existence of religion in a society is demonstrated when its human beings are humane, and to be humane is to be compassionate towards others, it is to be kind hearted, loving and soft in dealing with others. The absence of this quality in a person amounts to lack of spirit. Søren Kierkegaard says that “Spiritlessness is the misfortune of human being”. With that he does not mean a person without spirit but he clarifies that spiritlessness is ‘stagnation of spirit’. Iqbal also believes same way when he says that “God is fed up with spiritless body; He is living God and is God of the livings.”1.
I quote hereunder two beautiful extracts of Iqbal from his book The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. He writes:
- “Religion in its more advanced form moves from individual to society…..We have to trace the uncritical assumption of human thought to their hiding places…..The essence of religion is faith, and faith, like the bird, sees its ‘trackless way’ unattended by intellect which only waylays the living heart of man and robs it of the invisible wealth of life that lies within.” (Extracts from p.1)
- “The modern world stands in need of biological renewal. And religion, which in its higher manifestations is neither dogma, nor priesthood, nor ritual, can alone ethically prepare the modern man for the burden of the great responsibility which the advancement of modern science necessarily involves, and restore to him that attitude of faith which makes him capable of winning a personality here and retaining it hereafter.” (Extracts from p.149)
26 November, 2007.