Exploring the role of religion as the source of human values and solidarity
Religion and humanity have been treated as two distinct guiding principles standing independently of each other. It is often said and heard that if one is not religious, he/she should be human, placing humanity separately and above religion. This division has been concocted out of the secular intentions of scholars who had preferences and inclinations towards secular social setups and wanted a division between religion and humanity.
Shaheed Mutahhari refutes this division and propounds that humanity, morality, and ethics arise from religion and cannot exist independently of religion. It is religion that gives birth to and teaches what is humanity, morality, and ethics. The complete code of life is offered to us by it. If reason had been enough to govern human lives, the philosophers of the state of nature would not have proposed that laws of governance are mandatory to be devised for peace and prosperity to prevail. These laws emanate from the religious scriptures. Although a human being has the potential to be humane, this potential is only realized in a propitious atmosphere that is created and promoted by the tenets of religion. The pedestal of humanity is climbed only through the stairs of religion. There are no shortcuts at all. Religion creates an ambience in which humanity, morality, and ethics grow and develop. The separate exclusive development is impossible. If Mother Teresa was a good human being, she became so after being a religious lady. She had spent a lot of time in the abbey and was trained there to be a good human being. To be human, one primarily needs to be religious. The stream of human values flows from the sea of religion that aims to wash away inhuman tendencies and to inculcate human values among its receivers.
Another concoction that prevails, stunning everyone, is that religion and the liberty of humans are separate. The inclination to sin makes us think that religion is inverse to freedom. Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi differentiates between Western freedom and Islamic or religious freedom. Western freedom is a freedom to sin, and Islamic freedom is a freedom to protect oneself from sin. It is falsely and amateurishly considered a restraint, but it is actually freedom from sin that religion proposes and promotes. The existence of real freedom doesn’t exist without religion. It issues forth from religion to uplift human beings morally, spiritually, and socially.
Shaheed Mutahhari deems spiritual freedom as the mother of all freedoms, but Westerners call corporal freedom the absolute freedom that overrules spiritual freedom. Religion incorporates every aspect of human life and caters to every need and requirement of a human being so that he wants nothing that is necessary for his complete growth and development. As Alexander Pope puts it, “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring: their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.” We have not comprehended the tenets of religion. We mistakenly think it restricts us from doing various desirable things, but we don’t know the consequences of the fulfillment of our desires that degenerate us as human beings and devalue us as the ambassadors of God on earth. The abstemiousness to commit sins makes us think that religion demotes freedom and imposes stringent rules on us.
Religion proposes those laws that elevate our stature as human beings and inhibit us from every devaluing and degenerating freedom that abashes our human stature. Abdul Ahad Azad denounces human beings who, instead of being the light of intellect, became the fire of this intellect and blazed it. Misunderstanding of religion and its apostle and its disobedience cripples our lives and halts our growth and development.
The concept of solidarity also issues forth from religion. It is not cut off from religion. Support for the oppressed and condemnation of the oppressor is taught in every religion to every human being. As Nelson Mandela says, both the oppressed and the oppressor need to be freed. Both are manacled in the chains of oppression. One perpetrates it, and another receives it. Everyone in the world cherishes one or another religion. The religious ideas circulate so rapidly that even if one wants, one can’t be immune to ideas from any religion. It is a sin not to support the oppressed, but the bigger sin is not to condemn the oppressor. It is a sin to begin the war, but not to stop it is a bigger sin. One can’t say that solidarity exists independent of religion. It is the religion that teaches us to stand in favour of the oppressed and against the oppressor. Every good value that is promoted and every bad value that is demoted is brought forth from religion. Freedom and restriction are both issued from religion. The way of good and bad, the path of truth and falsehood have clearly been shown to the human being, and then he was blessed with the choice to choose and tread on one. Both cannot be chosen and tread. As Robert Frost says in “The Road Not Taken”, “You have to choose the road that makes a difference in your life. That makes your life better. That makes you a better human being.”
Religion and humanity are not separate from each other. The latter is drawn out from the former. Religion is a comprehensive concept encompassing everything that is necessary for life. If we say that human values exist independently of religion, it is not true; otherwise, there would have been no need for religion. More than four thousand religions prevail in the world, and people espouse either one or another.
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