By Tahir Iqbal
Religion is not the cause of violence and devastation as new atheism believes but it teaches us to be kind and peaceful. Buddha, for example, was a champion of peace and non-violence who promoted love, kindness and spirituality. “A monk should abstain from all types of ill-deeds,” Buddha has said. His ‘Eight Fold Path’ is a way to flourish the spiritual bliss and refrain from violence.
I am not here to promote the Buddhist Weltanschauung but to expound the religious traditions on peace and humanity. Christopher Hitchens, the author of “God is not Great”, sees religion as the root cause of every problem. The renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins, bashes the religion as something irrational and anti-human. His book “The God Delusion” is filled with venom against religions. One can easily feel sad about such notions of atheists but at the same time, nobody could denounce it that people are using religion for their own purpose and political reasons.
Coming to India, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – a right wing Hindu nationalist organisation based on the ideology of Hindutva – is working toward vote bank politics under the garb of religion. The recent cases of lynching of innocent Muslims in the name of Gau-Rakhsa (cow protection) are clear examples of misusing of religion and its sacredness. The killing of innocent people by ISIS in Iraq and the Buddhist monks in Burma; all this mayhem is happening in the name of religion.
The cosmic message of religions is not to create imbroglio and pandemonium but Divine bliss and spirituality. According to Islamic traditions, God has created Adam (A.S) in his own image. Man is not an anthropomorphic representation of the Divine – for the Divine Essence remains absolutely the transcendent – but the manifestation of Godly qualities of kindness and compassion. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is mercy for the whole universe. He has been credited for the re-establishment of lost nexus between man and the Being. He (PBUH) vanished the falsehood with the help of Divine light and promoted peace and stability of human consciousness in relation to the Creator of this whole cosmic world.
According to the Qur’anic tradition, God has appointed the human being as His vicegerent in this world and endowed him with the responsibilities to flourish justice, peace and spiritual harmony under the Divine guidance. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, as Bukhari reported, “(Of the) major sins are: to ascribe partners to Allah, disobey parents, murder someone, and to take a false oath.”
The word of God in Islam is the Qur’an; and in Christianity, it is Jesus (A.S). Jesus Christ’s sermon on mount is the basic edifice of divine message and the seed of morality and human love. It says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,…Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The summum bonum , as well as the golden rule of Jesus(A.S) is “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” Jesus (A.S) not only expounded the human love but also criticized fake religious personalities. He says, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seat in the synagogues and the places of honour at the banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers.” He (A.S) forbade his disciples to injure and hurt others.
The Upanishads of Hindu tradition focus on the Ultimate Reality and the State of Being. S Radhakrishnan, a philosopher and statesman and India’s first vice-president, while expanding upon the subtleties of Upanishad philosophy writes, “They (Upanishads) disclose the working of the primal impulses of the human soul which rise above the differences of race and of geographical position.” He further says, “The Vidya (spiritual wisdom) doesn’t abolish the mundane things but removes our Avidya (ignorance) of it. When we rise to our true being, the selfish ego falls away from us and the true integral self takes possession of us. To live with this consciousness is to live in eternity, divorced of all mundane conflicts and morass.”
The celestial song Gita, a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, is not different. According to Paramahansa Yogananda, Krishna’s message in the Gita is all about the detachment from the mundane entanglements and a meditation for God-realisation. The Gita talks about violence but it is not in the context of inhuman acts but an action against falsehood, injustice and disorder. Karen Armstrong, a world famous scholar of religions, argues that, “ In the twentieth century, during India’s struggle for freedom, the Gita would play a central role in the discussions about the legitimacy of waging war against Britain” . Religion has relationship with politics. Armstrong has rightly said that traditional spirituality did not urge people to retreat from political activity. Even Gandhi believed that those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. We have to understand here that the connection of religion with politics is not to impose some particular creeds and dogmas on masses but to protect them against the injustice, prejudice and violence.
According to Master Confucius, “When one rules by means of virtue, it is like the North Star – it dwells in its place and the other stars pay reverence to it”. He expounded that when men of higher ethics and morality were the leaders of a nation, the subjects under them would also be governed well. The Analects of Confucius further says, “Guide them with policies and align them with punishment and the people will evade them and have no shame. Guide them with virtue and align them with li (the way things should be done) and the people will have a sense of shame and fulfill their roles.”
P.S: “Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible propositions before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It is a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. If you behave in a certain way, you will be transformed. The myths and laws of religion are not true because they conform to some metaphysical, scientific or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice.” – Karen Armstrong
—The Author is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at the Higher Education Department, Jammu and Kashmir. He can be reached at: [email protected]