Irfan Ahmad Khan Ph.D.
The following is an effort to develop an agenda for true religiosity. True religiosity, is seriously concerned with human destiny. It invites all conscientious people _ even those who have, apparently, rejected religion _ to work together to save humankind. True religiosity is both progressive and authentic. Religion and Science are good friends.
What is the real issue?
There is no war between the East and the West or between the “Muslim” World and the Non-Muslim World. Nor does there exist, in the real world, such an issue as “Clash between Two Civilizations” i.e. between Islam and the West _ as is (sometimes) very ignorantly proclaimed. Rather, the ideals and the higher values in Islam and the West are very much the same. It is so because Islam stands for the Divine Guidance revealed to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and other messengers of God; while “the West” expresses the yearning, in modern times, of the human mind and spirit toward very similar higher concerns. The West as such is a movement which was initiated as an awakening in the geographical west, at a time when the followers of these messengers were failing in their duty to liberate humans from their mutual slaveries and to lead the world toward peace, prosperity and progress.
Maybe, there is a war between two groups: one of these _ in spite of huge opposition of conscientious people of the West _ claims to be a custodian and representative of the “Western Civilization” without practicing the higher values for which the West stands. The other group, some of whose members are not ashamed of committing a most heinous crime i.e. creating terror through murder of innocent civilians, (which according to the Qur’an (25: 68-70), would bring to its doers, unless they repent and correct themselves, eternal punishment of Hell,) still considers itself a defender of Islam and Muslims. However, the rest of humankind agrees that they have done the greatest disservice to Islam
The emergence of such a group within the community which, believes that the Qur’an is its most basic source of guidance, became possible because the present generation of believers has lost its direct and fresh touch with their Book. The contemporary believers, instead of deriving _ in their own situation and with their own minds _ any fresh inspiration from the Divine Words, have, in-authentically, inherited an understanding of the Book, from their various “pious” forefathers. One wonders that it is the case in spite of serious Qur’anic criticism of those who blindly follow their leaders, just as a herd of sheep would follow their shepherd. The Qur’an calls these blind followers, “disbelievers” (2: 170-171). The believers, on the other hand, reflect upon signs of God or ayat- Allah. They ponder over the signs/verses of the Divine Book and continue discovering meanings in the phenomena of nature and human history. Everywhere they see Hands of God, The Wise and The All-Knowing, working all the time. They believe that they have to answer to God for the use of their intellectual faculties. Hypocrites do not reflect; their hearts/minds are locked (46: 24). Lack of authenticity helps the growth of pseudo religiosity.
What is Pseudo-Religiosity?
Pseudo-religiosity is the enemy of Religion in the garb of religion.
True religiosity is concerned with human life. While pseudo-religiosity makes people forgetful of their social obligations and their duty to the Earth and its inhabitants. The pseudo-believers would display great irresponsibility during their manipulation of Earth’s physical, botanical and zoological resources. False religiosity is showy. It is a cover to hide people’s greed for power, wealth and lust. Pseudo-worship is merely a social function. The Qur’an makes these points repeatedly and with great emphasis. Just consider Surah al- Ma’un (107) and 4:37-39; 90:6-17.
When pseudo-religiosity pretends to be other-worldly, the purpose is to make the worshippers neglectful of their duties, assigned from God, for which they are accountable to God as well as to their fellow humans! They fail to see, Divine promises of reward in the Hereafter are for those believers who are seriously engaged, here on earth, in creating a better future for humankind. The love of the Hereafter helps the virtuous in their striving for peace and justice, in the presence of all kinds of hardship and in spite of persecution by the unjust powers. They continue their struggle even when there is no hope for success.
The Qur’an reports presence of a group of activists who falsely claim to be believers. They are further aggravating the situation for the remedy of which the Quranic Movement was initiated. Due to their inability to see the corruption, these pseudo-believers have been creating, they say ‘we are only setting things right’ (2:11-12). In spite of all the injustice they commit, they say they are fighting for justice. Today’s pseudo-believers of the East or the West manifest similar traits.
The other cover under which these pseudo-believers hide themselves is that of tradition. They are unable to look forward toward a bright future; so they always look backward and feel proud of a past which they see as their Golden Age. Pseudo-religiosity fails to be progressive.
True religiosity is both authentic and progressive (14:24-25). It is firmly rooted in the Revealed Guidance and it meets the challenges of the existing human situation with wisdom, courage and patience. It is like an ever-growing, evergreen tree, which is firmly rooted in the ground and, all the time, keeps bearing fresh fruits. Islam is the continuing process of understanding and living the Revealed Guidance. It is concretized in the Model of Sunnah _ process of twenty three years of understanding and living the Text by the first generation of believers under the guidance of the Prophet. The Global Muslim Community keeps this Model before its eyes and continues its striving as reader of the Book, in changing human situations and with its growing abilities to understand, i.e. with the progress in science, technology, philosophy, law, art and literature. Through advancement in human knowledge, God is preparing their minds to develop a better understanding of Divine Words. Likewise, a religiously plural world is another opportunity to learn through interaction with those who carry different religious traditions.
The believing community needs good teachers. However, after the Prophet, no scholar or imam _ neither from within nor from without the community _ is above criticism. A follower of the Prophet is duty-bound to reflect over the signs (ayat) of the Book, building direct relationship with Divine Words, understanding, afresh, their meanings and practical implications from the perspective of one’s own experience, and learning from all genuine criticism.
Like the progress in the field of science, the progress in Islamic thought, is the outcome of Ummah’s collective effort to authenticate its understanding of the Divine Text. The Global Muslim Community does not alienate itself from the rest of humankind. It fully shares all of its intellectual endeavors.
True religiosity has a tradition of thinking with open minds. We present Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and the first generation of their believers as witness. That is really the Golden Age. Pseudo-believers alone are people with closed minds.
In a plural world of degenerated faith communities, the West is also conducting as an umbrella faith community:
The above is not a picture of our real world. It deals with the ideal world. The world, we want to create. What we want to be. And this time we open the discussion with the thesis I presented in 1997 in Granada, Spain, in a seminar organized by UNESCO, on ”Education for the Culture of Peace”. This author advanced the idea that faith communities, like those which follow Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are, in fact, peace missions, initiated by great messengers of God. Today these missions are in a state of degeneration. For their regeneration, they need movements on intra-faith as well as interfaith level. Our interfaith work and intra-faith work will enlighten and empower each other _ giving us both, authenticity and progress and thus helping the development of true religiosity. Together, we shall work for a world where there is peace, prosperity, and justice as well as freedom and progress.
This work is already initiated on both levels so we do not have to start from scratch.
It was due to the impact of the West that so many revivalist movements arose in various faith communities in the twentieth century. In the same century, the present progress of interfaith movements became possible. By the end of the twentieth century, we developed a clear understanding that we have to liberate ourselves from both, pseudo-science as well as pseudo-religion. We realized humanity is not better off after ousting Religion from human life and limiting the role of Religion to worship places. However, there should be no more fighting in the name of Religion. Rather, people of various faiths should develop a better understanding among themselves and work together for common objectives.
The above is an achievement. God is making all this happen, the way God has been leading the progress in science, technology, art, literature and philosophy, and the way God sent prophets and messengers throughout the world, according to a systematic plan.
However, if God has been doing all this, people of good intention should also come forward to work together. This is the call of true religiosity. If we respond to this call, we qualify for more of Divine Help.
The world is going the wrong way because pseudo-religiosity has taken hold of worldly affairs. But pseudo-religiosity does not have any solid ground to stand upon.
When The Reality arrives, the Falsehood will fade away (17:81).
If truly religious people will work together, the pseudo-religiosity will wither away. Contemporary Interfaith Movement has to be a striving toward true religiosity; as such it should focus on the real problems of humanity. The most central of these is wealth’s being accumulated in fewer and fewer hands. Hunger, poverty, and other related issues are only byproducts of increasing economic disparity. Those, who are well-off, have a duty towards those who are economically broken and they are accountable for it to the humankind as well to the Lord of humanity. Charity and relief are not sufficient, systematic-change is required. The next in line is social injustice and discrimination, due to differences in sex, race, etc.
However the other problem which has produced a state of emergency throughout the Globe, has been created by pseudo-religiosity itself _ perhaps, to divert our attention from the above real issue. It is “The Terror-War” problem, which calls for our first attention.
Through the First and Second Great Wars, the West changed the meaning and concept of war. Now ‘war’ necessarily involves killing of innocent civilians _ something totally unacceptable to human conscience. The situation became worse after the invention and use of the nuclear weapons on August 6 and 9, 1945 _ also by a major power of the geographical west and in spite of the opposition of all conscientious people of the East and West.
Those who have the ability to think in human terms, who have a real concern with such issues and who can rise beyond their own sectarian/nationalistic considerations, are, according to our definition, truly religious people – even if pseudo-religiosity has turned them into secularists. This Dialogue is an invitation to all conscientious people to share their concerns, to take a clear stand concerning these issues and to work out a plan for future collective action.