By Zaira Ashraf Khan
Religion, due to its overwhelming adherence and devotion, has been a subject of debate, not just among the theists but also the atheists (obviously for more of a critical reason in latter). In the era of modernism, religion is despised and abominated for being irrational and supposedly impeding human desire in leading lives according to their own instincts resulting in an attempt to shift the paradigm from the law of the creator to the law of the creation, land, nation, country and the fascist government. Religion and religiosity then have becomes talk of the town for the most banal reasons. Religion is ridiculed and mocked for being a delusion and insanity, by some (like Richard Dawkins); in fact even looking religious in any form or conduct elicits derisive reactions.
The entire discourse of the phobia towards religion, started with skepticism and snowballed into sheer intolerance and non- acceptance. The counter narrative against religion (by certain sections of society) lies in denouncing religion.
Should religion be blamed?
The blame game of demeaning religion is akin to extinguishing the source of light and enlightenment. One such attempt has been made by the newly elected President of United States of America, Donald Trump. The reference here is to Trump’s barring of immigrants from Muslim countries in an alleged bid to eradicate terrorism. But this is fallacious reasoning on part of Trump. None of the episodes flagrant violence in Iraq, growing Hindutva regime in India, ISIS in Iraq and Syria is a product of religion. Then why blame religion? It could be said that it is irreligiosity, failure to adhere to the divine scriptures and incompetence in upholding the moral character that is responsible for much of the disarray that bedevils the modern world.
We must not forget that this is an age where consumption of narcotics, drugs, and alcohol beverages has become common leading to death and misery. This has been a sink for the huge investments which could have been used for other productive and salubrious areas like enhancing the education system and eradication of poverty.
Here Religion comes to our rescue and aids us in putting things into perspective. Islam, for instance defines the purpose of life and by spelling out our role as a khalifah (vicegerent of the Creator on earth) and a human being ‘You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient (Qur’an 3:110).
Religion transforms our attitude from being callous to being compassionate, from miserliness to generosity, from ferociousness to moderation and from being unproductive to being constructive. It not only disciplines our life but also enables us to practice restraint. The characteristics of piety and responding evil with good are only born from religious conviction. As the Holy Quran states, ‘The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and you there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend’(Qur’an 49:34). This balance of body and soul is attained through continuous meditation and contemplation -prayers five times a day in Islam).
Moreover religion instills a sense of gratitude, and wards off arrogance. The Holy Qur’an states: ‘So let man contemplate on from what he is created!”(Qur’an – 86:5) ”. The Holy Book also states: “Let the human being think about (how We produce) his food’ (Qur’an 80:24). Mention of God does not only fill one with gratitude but also prevents from extravagance and ingratitude to the blessings of Creator.
However, religion has been misunderstood and labeled as an irrational and a fallacious doctrine which does not encourage questioning. In fact in my view, there is no other book parallel to religious scripture that responds to the rationality of a human being than the Quran. There are ample verses in Qur’an that stimulate reason and reasoning in the reader. Consider the following verse: ‘And it is He Who gives life and causes death, and His is the alternation of night and day. Will you not then understand?’ (Qur’an 23:80).
Religion also helps fight anxiety and directs us in the worse possible situations and facilitates our connection with the Divine Being thus shielding us from the detrimental effects of our own bad actions. According to Centre for Disease control and Prevention(CDC), one in ten deaths occur due to alcohol consumption every year,(Alcohol consumption invites many other evils as well) Similarly, a WHO report of 2014 which presents a list of 150 countries and rates of alcohol consumption) , Muslim countries like Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia have shown an insignificant response to the sale and consumption of alcohol (0-0.2 %) visa-vis other countries (4- 12 %). This is because of the Quranic injunction: ‘O’ you who have Faith! Verily wine, gambling, idols, and (dividing by) arrows are an abomination of the Satan’s work, so avoid it, that you may be prosperous’ (Qur’an 5: 90).
Last but not the least, we need to understand that it is the absence of religion that leads to and escalates violence and chaos. It is only in religion that our salvation lies. Moreover, as human beings , we are bound to submit. Now the question lies in the nature of submission. For some ,it is the Creator while for others it is the creation. For atheists it is the self and desires. In the final analysis, it is the love for the Creator that breeds compassion for the creation. Au contraire, s love for one’s self-interests breeds ego-centrism. Evidence of this is writ large in the contemporary world where human blood is cheap.
The war against religion is futile and absurd. Attempts should be made in promoting real religious and ethical values by educating masses about the scriptures. It is only by associating with the source of peace, that peace can be found and restored in this ravaged planet.
Zaira Ashraf Khan is a Research Scholar at the University of Kashmir and Assistant Professor, Department of Islamic Studies at the Government College for Women. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org