There seems to be a consensus that the world is becoming a dangerous place
to live in. Its peace is threatened by the very creature expected to
preserve it. Surprisingly, the weapon that has been used to destroy the
tranquility of our ‘home’ is indeed a ‘gift’ from our Creator, to save us
from differences and cultivate peace and serenity in our hearts. This
‘gift’, which was originally intended to be the source of love, tolerance
and forbearance, was somehow taken by men to be the basis for spreading
hatred and disorder in every society across the world. The nature of the
danger is so profound that, in case the world fails to respond to it
properly, it would not only devastate our worldly life but would also take
many away from our Creator since it is in His name that this nuisance is
In my humble opinion, the source of the problem is not one. There are indeed
many factors which have given rise to this destructive behavior. I shall
attempt to cover them all in this article. I have identified certain
questions which I believe, if addressed and understood properly, will
certainly help resolve the crisis. The questions are:
1. What is the ‘reality’ of a religion?
2. Can one ever claim to have stumbled upon the ultimate truth?
3. What is the proper channel to attract people to your viewpoint?
4. What are the criteria for success in the Hereafter?
Each question will be dealt with such that, first, the correct stance in
this respect is presented and then a conclusion is drawn on the basis of the
correct standpoint. In the end, the whole discussion shall be concluded to
highlight the response that I wish to draw from the readers.
1. What is the ‘reality’ of a religion?
Everyone loves their own religion. There is nothing wrong with that, but
what actually prompted God to formalize a religion for mankind in the first
place must be understood in its proper perspective.
The Qur’ān tells us that apart from the respective religions we give
credence to, there is a ‘Universal Religion’ that all mankind share. This is
the religion that is innate to us. We learn it neither in the mosque nor in
the church nor in a synagogue. It is something we receive as inheritance.
This ‘inherent guidance’ helps us differentiate between right and wrong,
good and evil. In other words, every one of us inherently knows what is good
and what is evil. The Qur’ān alludes to this fact in the following words:
Then He inspired the soul to understand what is right and wrong for it.
We showed him the path. It is now up to him to be grateful or ungrateful.
Thus, this guidance has been provided to all mankind by the Almighty
without any distinction. This is why people, the world over, regard justice,
veracity, honesty as virtues and consider lying, oppression, adultery wicked
crimes. Hence, this is the guidance that is common among all humanity.
A study of the Qur’ān reveals that if man had not manipulated his ‘inborn
guidance’ to establish his undue authority and to oppress the weak, the
Almighty may not have chosen to send down His ‘divine guidance’. The Qur’ān
maintains that mankind was initially one single nation but they began to
differ among themselves about the very basic truths that the Almighty had
decreed within each soul. The
Ever Merciful Creator, then, raised a series of prophets who delineated the
basic truths afresh and removed all the misconceptions that surrounded them.
In addition, He substantiated, several times, the veracity of these basic
truths through a special agency of His Rusul by rewarding those who followed
the message and by destroying those who disbelieved in spite of being
convinced about the truth of the message.
This visual divine substantiation was last carried out in the era of the
Prophet Muhammad (sws), which, unlike the previous ones, was formally
recorded and documented. It is also important to remember that these
Prophets also brought with them certain instructions for their followers to
act upon. These instructions coupled with innate guidance took the form of a
formalized religion for the respective addressees of these Prophets.
Unfortunately, when Jesus (sws) called upon Israelites to listen to him and
pay heed to the message that he brought for them from the Almighty, they
defied him and rejected his message. Unlike the opponents of the previous
Rusul, they were spared since they were basically adherents to monotheism,
though, they were given the punishment of living under subjugation for
denying the status of Jesus (sws) as the true Prophet of God. Thus the ‘religion’ of the Israelites remained alongside the ‘religion’ of
the followers of Jesus (sws). Had the Israelites not been the adherents of
monotheism, they would have been destroyed and only one religion would have
prevailed. The same sort of situation arose in the era of Muhammad (sws), in
which the followers of two previous religions, namely Judaism and
Christianity, were spared and allowed to live alongside the religion of
One may think of the other theologies to which a significant number of
people are devoted, for instance, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. It needs
to be appreciated that, as has already been explained above, religion is not
something external to man. Rather, it has deep roots in his soul implanted
by the Almighty Himself. These ideologies must have been developed by some
noble souls on the basis of the inherent guidance that we all have. Since
this was a human endeavor, it could not have been devoid of the shortcomings
to which all human works are subjected. The Qur’ān does not mention any
Prophet who was sent to territories like India, deep southern Africa or
western countries. It is, however, known from the Qur’ān that it is the
established Sunnah of the Almighty to send a Prophet to a central city in
each territory. It seems that, under the same scheme, the Almighty chose the
Middle East to depute all His Prophets in the center of the earth. The
underlying objective being that, like a fountain spreads water around it,
His word would flow and irrigate each and every patch of this world.
Consequently, there are now three main Semitic religions and many other
theologies, whose adherents, upon discovering irreconcilable differences
among themselves and as a result of the natural love for their own, begin to
denigrate people of the other faiths. This innocent hate when exploited by
religious scholars, gives way to deadly encounters and horrible incidents of
which religious history has recorded many examples. If the discussion given
above is understood properly, one is able to construe the following points:
1. We all are the adherents of a universal religion.
2. No nation can ever claim to be the ‘chosen nation’ merely on the grounds
that it received many or a prominent Prophet since it was because of their
faults that the Almighty deputed His representatives among them to rectify
3. When God has been so tolerant in matters related to the adherents of
monotheism, so should those people who put their faith in Him.
2. Can one ever claim to have stumbled over the ultimate truth?
One cannot refute that there is only one truth. It is actually absurd to
claim that Mr. A and Mr. B both have the truth even if what Mr. A has to say
clearly contradicts what Mr. B holds as true. If there is only one straight
line from one point to the other, then there can only be one truth that is
to prevail. The word ‘truth’ itself entails that one aspect of a matter
should win and all others ought to be declared false.
The point that needs to be kept in mind is that we determine truth using our
reasoning faculty and the information available to us and both are
undoubtedly susceptible to errors and mistakes. This follows that while we
may claim that keeping in view the corroborative evidence what we have
arrived at is the truth, it does not preclude the possibility of our taking
things wrongly. In other words, while truth remains the same, our perception
of it varies widely since we perceive it using agents which are prone to
faults and errors. Here, I would like to give a very simple example to
clarify my point. There was a time when people maintained that the earth was
stationery. At that time, no doubt, the truth of the matter was that the
earth was revolving around the sun. However, since people did not have
access to advanced equipment and could not ascertain reliable information,
they held something false as true. Thus, it can safely be concluded that
truth never changes although we, sometimes, mistakenly tend to take
something untrue as truth.
Properly understood, the above discussion suggests that a person must never
be held responsible for not arriving at the right version of the truth. What
should matter and what must be given high value is the sincerity of heart
with which a person embarks on the journey to find truth. While a person
cannot eliminate entirely the obstacles which come his way, he can at least
be true in his search. This is the ultimate requirement that is incumbent on
every person who wishes to enter Paradise. In other words, since the
sincerity of heart is an internal matter not exposed to any other person, we
must not risk our success in the Hereafter on judgment of the sincerity of
others. Consequently, the search for the truth is a matter assigned to each
person and each will be tried and tested for his own understanding of the
truth. This understanding will
be probed to ascertain whether it was acquired sincerely and whether it was
acted upon throughout a lifetime. As pointed out earlier, the sincerity of a
person is something which cannot be precisely determined by another person;
it is, therefore, not appropriate for us to judge anyone. It is the
prerogative of the Almighty and must be left to Him to decide on the Last
3. What is the proper channel to attract people to your viewpoint?
The spirit that should develop when faith grows deep roots in a person’s
heart is naturally calling other people to feel the warmth of the burning
flame of the truth and to pursue their goals under its shining glow. Faith
is like a healthy seed which if sown in a sincere heart grows into a strong
imposing tree, which serves multi-purposes for the community. Not only do
people who live near it benefit from it, others who are miles away also
enjoy the cool breeze which was a hot wind. The most amazing thing is that
the tree happily gives away its most valuable part, for no cost, without
discriminating among the recipients of these parts. The point is that it
innately knows how to live for others and how to breathe what others breathe
without distinguishing between ‘who is who’. This is indeed the attitude
that man is required to develop and live with in this world through unending
struggle and effort. While he is expected to attract people to his
viewpoint, he is never supposed to disparage them. He must share the truth
that he believes in with everyone around him but he must never sneer at the
truth that others hold dear.
The stance of the Qur’ān in this respect is very clear. It totally
disapproves of those people who would impose their beliefs on others because
this amounts to disorder and anarchy in society. It explicitly states that
if such circumstances should arise somewhere, they must be crushed with
force only when diplomatic efforts fail. The Qur’ān terms it persecution and
urges the believers to stand against it since it is a crime against very
basic human values.
What has come upon you that you fight not in the cause of God and for the
oppressed men, women, and children, who pray; ‘Get us out of this town, O
Lord, whose people are oppressors; so raise for us from Yourself one who
will protect and raise for us from Yourself one who will help’. (4:75)
The correct attitude in this regard is also favored by the Qur’ān. It
emphasizes that this exhortation to the truth must be in such a way as is
approved by sense and reason. It must be brimful with soft words of good
advice and also be supported by lucid arguments. Having done this, the whole
matter must be left to the Almighty alone since it is He who knows who is
denying the truth on purpose and who has genuine reasons for not
comprehending it. In the words of the Qur’ān:
Call them to the path of your Lord with wisdom and words of good advice, and
reason with them in the best way possible. Your Lord surely knows those who
stray from His path, and He knows those who are guided the right way.
Thus, the attitude delineated by the Qur’ān, if is developed and adhered
to, will certainly alleviate the tense atmosphere that is created when we
assume the status of the Almighty and jump to judge someone else. It is,
therefore, recommended that our preaching endeavor must remain confined to
humbly presenting our point of view and always adhering to the role of an
4) What are the criteria for success in the Hereafter?
This is an imperfect world. We have to lose what we hold dear and we have to
endure while our aspirations are shattered and our dreams are eroded beyond
repair. We overcome one obstacle and the next one smiles at us standing
right in the middle of our path that we wish so much to tread. Justice, that
is our very basic right, continues to elude us in this world for people of
affluence and good connections often manage to get away with the crimes they
commit. If we succeed to build a prestigious career and amass a great deal
of wealth, death finally overtakes us and we have to leave it all here for
others to enjoy. In this entire discouraging situation, there is only one
hope: Allah and the Paradise He has consummated for the believers. How a
person should feel when he is told that he is not going to make it to the
Heaven just because he does not have the version of the truth that his
contender has? Is this behavior going to create feelings of love and
affection in the addressees’ heart? Will it not sweep away every possibility
of living together peacefully?
The Qur’ān mentions that when the Prophet (sws) and his followers immigrated
to Madīnah, they had to face a similar situation from the two religious
groups that settled there, namely, the Christians and the Jews. In spite of
accepting the long-awaited Prophet, Muhammad (sws), the both factions
started to sing their own praises. The Christians claimed that the way to
Heaven was only through Jesus (sws) and the Jews boasted that they were only
entitled to enter the Paradise. The Qur’ān reprimanded them that they had
better avoid saying things for which they had no evidence whatsoever from
They boasted that no one would ever enter the Paradise save those who are
either the Jews or the Christians. This claim is but their own fabrication.
Ask them [O Prophet] to bring some evidence [from the Almighty] if they are
true in their claim. (2:111)
The implication being that success in the Hereafter is not something that
depends on the ‘label’ that a person is known by in this world. He is not
going to succeed merely on the grounds that he belongs to a particular sect.
Successful is indeed the person who surrenders and submits to God’s will and
who opens his heart sincerely to receive the truth that is presented before
him no matter if it means to destroy his worldly status or career:
Indeed, for those who submit to Allah’s will sincerely is reward with their
Lord. They will not fear nor shall they grieve. (2:112)
What is evident from the verse is that, at times, a person tends to place
other things above his Lord. This is the attitude that is accepted not the
least by the Almighty. In all matters, He must remain on the top of our
priority list. Hence, the verse was in fact a warning sounded to the Jews
and the Christians of Madīnah that how they would be able to enter the
Paradise when they had given priority to the worldly benefits by closing
their eyes and hearts in order to reject the message of their Lord.
It is known from the Qur’ān, while this submission to Allah’s will requires
that our heart should remain open to welcome the truth that is unveiled to
us, it manifests itself in the following:
1. Belief in One God: That there is no one else who shares His attributes or
is able to influence His decisions in any manner whatsoever.
2. Belief in that Day of Judgment: That the wise and sagacious Lord has not
created this world in vain. There is a special objective that shall be
achieved on the Last Day when the good are rewarded fabulously and the bad
are put through the torment of Hell.
3. Performance of Virtuous Deeds: These good deeds are performed in order to
attain inner-purification, which is the ultimate objective that is set for
all believers to achieve in order to win entitlement to Heaven.
It, however, needs to be kept in mind that these are only the basic criteria
of success that every person must comply with in order to succeed on the
Last Day. In other words, this verse puts forth the positive aspect of the
obligations that all believers must fulfill. One of the obvious conditions
of success in the Hereafter is, therefore, that a person is not guilty of
such blemishes as entail eternal punishment in the abyss of destruction. The
Qur’ān at various instances has shed light on these crimes and warned
humankind to be careful not to go even near them. The list includes
intentional murder (4:93), polytheism (4:48), living a life of sin (2:81),
and deliberately denying a Prophet of the Almighty (98:6).
These all obligations may at a first glance seem distinct and disparate but
if are viewed from a holistic perspective, one will be able to see that they
are evidently an offshoot of one’s willingness to surrender to God’s will
alone. Again, since a person’s willingness to submit is an internal matter
and no other person can be aware of that, this must also be left to the
Almighty and no judgment should we pronounce against anyone.
Consequently, the criteria offered by the Qur’ān do not limit success in the
Hereafter to a particular faction because it bases the success on values
that a person knows about intuitively as well as through the testimony of
his sense and reason. It is, therefore, asserted that this criteria be
appreciated and, adopted and propagated across the world in order to curb
the tension that is the outcome of confining success in the Hereafter to a
particular sect alone.
It is evident from the foregoing discussion that the source of society’s
problem is not isolated and that no specific faction can be held responsible
for the present situation. All religious communities have contributed to the
conflicts that we see the world over because they have misplaced some in
respect of their religion. It is, therefore, incumbent on each group to look
inward instead of blaming others. This introspection if sincerely carried
out will surely let them know their faults and mistakes. They had better be
concerned with correcting what is wrong on their part. If each community
performs this task sincerely, there is no reason that we remain unsuccessful
in reducing the problems that we have to face on this earth. What must be
borne clearly in mind is that the day is soon to come when the truth shall
stand unveiled in its ultimate form, then all the defaulters, who in spite
of being aware of their faults made no effort to correct them, shall be
brought to justice.