A Trustworthy Religion – 1

The religion that men inherit, is, over the ages defined, developed and modified in such a way as to appear and be acceptable to its adherents as the most rational, reasonable, practical and correct. Every previous generation adherents act as guardians to their religion, building additional walls of arguments and counter arguments around it to defend its rationale and prevent doubts and skepticism from breaching the barriers. The strategy of defense also involves prevention of ideas of a foreign religion coming in without undergoing distortion, so that the people never know them in their real form and shape. The main ideas are given by the priests, details are filled by the elders in the home. Since these defense measures are well adopted to the culture, cliches and ethos of a people, they serve their function well.

As a result, every new generation adherents feel very comfortable within their religion and never doubt that any other could be better than their own. Also, if they come across attractive parts and features of another religion, they try to, through mental exercise, glue them on to their own social, cultural system. They are promptly rejected as ridiculously misfit. Understandably so, because they were originally designed for another culture and ethos. This failed mental act of gluing and pasting gives a fresh proof to the adherents that the religion that they have inherited is the best and most correct.

There is a subjective reason for people to arrive at the opinion that theirs is the best religion in the world. Every religion is so bound to the culture of its followers that often they mistake one for the other. And since people feel most comfortable in their own culture, even if it be the culture of slums and ghettoes, they feel their religion must be true and best suited for the rest of the world too. They believe that if the world could adopt their culture (meaning religion) or their religion (meaning culture), it would get rid of the problems that it faces.

The confusion between culture and religion is because of an improper definition of religion which to the people has a subjective meaning, whether there is any objective proof for that or not. But, if one goes to the definition of what a religion should be, what its function, and what its ultimate goal, then qualification of a true religion becomes easy to state which in turn would lead to its validity check. They are not many. In fact, it is just one, viz., it has to be from God. The logic of this statement is not complicated. Religion is the other name of “the way to God.” And you don’t need anything beyond common sense to believe that “the way to God” can only be “shown by God.”

However, to say that religion has to be from God, is not to be saying that it has to be originally from God, but subsequently modified by men. Rather, it has to be in its pristine state of revelation to be qualified as being “from God.” It should neither be made by man, nor influenced by him. With human touch it becomes human. Now, it might be spiritual men, extraordinary personalities, saintly, more other worldly than this worldly; but, they are humans. So their inspirations, insight, results of decades of physical, mental and spiritual exercises, coupled with righteous selfless ascetic living, or their “walking with God,” etc., despite all these, the religion influenced by them becomes, in the ultimate analysis, human. The way of God has to be free from any human influence to be rightly referred to as “the religion of God.”

Thus, we know what we are looking for: a God-revealed religion. Now, since the source of every religion is a Scripture, all that an inquirer has to do is to find out if of the several Scriptures claimed to be revealed ones, is anyone truly so? We have, e.g., Scriptures such as the Qur’an, the Gospels, the Bible, the Gita, the Vedas, and many others. One needs to investigate if anyone of these is a revealed literature.

Obviously, the unhesitant answer to this question by the followers of every religion will be, “Yes, ours is a revealed literature.”

But someone conducting an inquiry should not ask those who are “believers” in their so-called revealed Scriptures. That will defeat the purpose of inquiry. For it is an inquiry to discover the fact, and not to discover how strong its believers are in their faith. For example, if one asked a Muslim if the Qur’an is a revealed Scripture, he will say yes. Similarly if one asked a Hindu if the Vedas are revealed Scriptures, his reply will be in the affirmative. But they are speaking out their beliefs, not making statements of facts.

Therefore, an inquirer will have to seek the answer from the unbelievers, the non-Muslims, the non-Hindus, etc. That is, from independent sources. If he attempts that, he will get the answer that there is no proof that any of them is a revealed Scripture. It is only the belief of the respective adherents to that effect. They have no evidence beyond saying that everyone (of their faith) believes that they are revealed Scriptures. Therefore, they argue, they have to be revealed Scriptures. Further, since the term everyone includes the intellectual class, their argument is strengthened. Their question is, how can so many people, including the most intelligent be wrong?

One can easily see the error in the above. The only proof they have is that so many millions of people, including the intellectual class, believe that a particular writing is a revealed literature. But, until recent times everybody believed that the sun was going around the earth. There were hundreds of millions who believed in it. And many of them were geniuses of their age, the like of whom the world has not again produced, e.g., the Greek philosophers or early Muslim scientists. But it did not become a fact merely because so many hundreds of millions, including the most brilliant believed in it. To take another example, until recently there were a hundred million people, led by the most brilliant men of the time, who believed in Communism as the wonder drug that would treat all economic and social ills. The disastrous results of the experiment spanning over half a century in a dozen countries refuted the belief. Therefore, so many millions believing in this or that theory does not convert it into a fact.

There is another argument presented by the followers of a few religions. They measure the truth of their religion by the kind and number of people who convert to their faith. For example, Hindus or Buddhists assume that their religion is true because so many Americans, Europeans – meaning people of the advanced nations – regularly convert to their religion. How could such people embrace a religion if it were to be false? But this argument is also not secure of defects. Firstly, if the rate of conversion is any proof, then all other religions are false because Islam is the fastest growing religion. The conversion rate to Islam is about five hundred times more than any other faith in those very regions that the Hindus and Buddhists cite.

Secondly, people in one region of the world are not smarter than people of another region. Those who think that the Westerners are more intelligent than others, suffer from inferiority complex. Further, that a people are scientifically and technologically advanced is no evidence that they are intelligent in every affair. In fact, science and technology do not require more than average intelligence. They are to be backed up by a good economy and a social system that does not hinder material progress, to bear out fruits. Indeed, many of the Westerners can be as imbecile as any other people, when it comes to religious matters. Recently, when a comet was passing by the earth, presenting a dazzling nightly view to the earthlings, a religious faction in America declared that it was sent by God and would head back to God. They said that whoever died during those days will have his soul transported on it to God. Influenced by such ideas, some two dozen Americans committed suicide. Examples can be multiplied to show that being intelligent in worldly affairs does not mean that one is intelligent in religious affairs too.

Thirdly, those who convert to say one of the Eastern religions, do not do it because they have found a Revealed religion. They convert from one man-made religion to another man-made religion. And they are aware that the religion they are converting to is a man-made religion. They are merely convinced that the new religion, although man-made, is superior to their previous religion. Further, they are not aware that there is a Revealed religion too – Islam – and that it is only a revealed religion that can be valid. When they come to realize these points, they adopt it. Many Westerners who became Hindus or Buddhists, converted to Islam as soon as they began to study religions from this point of view.

Fourthly, the conversion of Westerners to any religion is no proof of its authenticity. Tens of thousands of Westerners are embracing Islam. But that is not a proof of Islam’s authenticity. It is only an evidence of its attractiveness, but not a proof of its authenticity.

If the inquirer moves on further, in his effort to find out if the so-called revelations are truly so, he will learn from the experts that there are several evidences to the contrary. That is, the so-called revealed Scriptures were actually either written by human beings or have been heavily doctored by them, even if it is allowed that originally they were revelations from God. There is no difference in opinion over this issue. The Jews agree to this, the Christians admit this, and the Hindu scholars have always said this.

This fact then, of additions, deletions and alterations to what could have been (at best) revealed literatures, once upon a time, has transformed them into human productions. Consequently, the religions that are derived from these Scriptures, are man-made religions. To refer to them as Revealed religions would be wrong.

The above applies to all the Scriptures of the world but one: the Qur’an. The inquirer will discover about the Qur’an that even if it is assumed that its origin is as obscure as that of other Scriptures, which is not the case, one thing is certain about it: since its first appearance, no human has ever added, deleted, or altered its contents. What is in the hands of the people today in India, in England, in New Zealand, in Mexico, is one and the same. The several copies are like photocopies of each other.

The matter can be pursued further. If someone cared to enter into a library and pulled out the oldest possible copy of the Qur’an, it will be found that there is no difference between today’s copy, fresh from the press, and the oldest one – even by a syllable. In the next step, if one were to compare what a Filipino Muslim has memorized of the Qur’an with what another has done in Mexico, he will find that they don’t vary by a diacritical mark. So, no additions, no deletions, and no alterations have been made to the Qur’an since its first appearance. It is as pure and pristine as it was on the day of its revelation. There is no other book in the world that can make a similar claim.

This is the basis of our emphatic and confident claim that Islam is a revealed religion since its basis is in a revealed Scripture. This we do not say in the face of ignorant men who cannot check on the truth of the statement, but in the face of scholars of the world. Muslim scholars are always ready to debate the issue with anyone on an international platform.

The issue of the doctoring of the texts has another aspect. It is not simply the fact that the so-called Revealed Scriptures have had additions, deletions and alterations made to them, but that they all stand in need of such operation. Indeed, they are, so to say, begging for it. They are resplendent with stories and statements that need to be expunged without further delay. For example, they contain stories about gods fighting each other, gods deliberately misguiding the humans, their envoys getting drunk, holy men cohabiting with prostitutes, gambling away their women, etc. They set precedence for the corruption and debauchery of their followers. Bernard Shaw had said about the Bible that it better be kept under lock and key. Some other Scriptures are worse than the Bible from this point of view.

The above applies to all Scriptures, except of course the Qur’an. It does not stand in need of any such operation. It consists of beautiful stories of piety, honesty and integrity, which even non-Muslims can keep before them as examples. It has not a single obscene story or anything near about it. It does not teach or promote dishonesty, hypocrisy, gambling, drunkenness, rape, abduction, prostitution, tyranny, hedonism, oppression, adultery, nudism, incest, kidnap or elopement and so on which are spread over many pages in other Scriptures. Nor has it any of those laws that characterize other revelations. Such laws as are so impracticable that no nation ever adopted them as laws of the land, and no individual ever followed them any time in his life but met with disaster.

The above is an internal, subjective proof that the Qur’an is a true Revelation, and that the religion that grows out of it can be rightly referred to as a religion based in a revelation of God.

What has been stated so far settles the question of the non-alteration aspect of Qur’anic revelation. It does not offer proofs of its revelation. What proof is there that it is in fact a revelation? This follows, Allah willing, in the next part of this article.