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What is Islam's take on the relationship of humanity with religion?

Shahul Hameed
10/4/2011
1438 views

 

Islam teaches that God Almighty is the Creator and the Sustainer of the whole universe and everything in it. Of the numberless creations of God, only humans are given freedom, though within limits.
 
That is to say, within the framework of God's scheme, humans are placed on earth for a limited period of time. They are given certain scope for action and potential, as well as freedom of choice.
 
God has also given humanity capabilities to make the God-given freedom meaningful. This idea is succinctly expressed in the Islamic concept that humanity is God's "khalifah" (vicegerent) on earth. God in the noble Quran, says what means:
 
[Behold, your Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Will You place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- while we do celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (name)?" He said: "I know what you know not."] (Al-Baqarah 2:30)
 
[It is He Who has created for you all things that are on earth; Moreover His design comprehended the heavens, for He gave order and perfection to the seven firmaments; and of all things He has perfect knowledge.] (Al-Baqarah 2:29)
 
[We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of our creation.] (Al-Israa'17:70)

The Arabic word "khalifah" can be rendered vicegerent, or ambassador. The question raised by angels in the context is about the freedom given to humans — as to how they are likely to misuse it to spread corruption and shed blood.
 
The second verse quoted above indicates that God intends humans to be the beneficiaries of everything He has created on earth, as well as the trustees of the blessings bestowed upon them.
 
And the "special favors" mentioned in the third verse above points particularly to humanity's higher intelligence, analytical skill, imagination and other creative talents, as well as to its freewill, which makes it so "special" among God's creatures, including angels.
 
Unlike other creatures on earth, humans, from the very beginning, were not satisfied with mere creature comforts. They have always been restless and anxious. They harbor hopes and fears. And they have the habit of indulging in "daydream" as well. And humans are constantly yearning for an ideal world.
 
Humanity was from the beginning in search of answers to a number of questions arising, such as:
 
"Who am I?"   
 
"Where did I come from?"
 
"Where am I going?"
 
"What is the meaning of life and death?"
 
"Is there a life after death?"
 
These were eternal questions; and there were no easy answers. So humans went exploring and looking for answers. They wandered in the deserts, crossed the seas, climbed the mountains, and sat in contemplation for days on end in the loneliness of the mountain caves.
 
And in the end, God gave the answers to them in revelation. Thus it was that religion came into being.
 
Humanity's search for God, according to Islam, is to use a modern term, "by default". It is "built-in" and natural.
 
In the utter "loneliness of the universe" (as an existentialist would describe it), humans cannot find any peace. Only God can give people real peace. Hence, Islam calls God, "the source of peace".
 
A Muslim is taught to supplicate:
 
"O my God! Certainly You are the source of peace; as peace comes from You, and returns to You. Our Lord! Make us live in peace; and admit us by your grace into the home of eternal peace." (Muslim)
 
Secular theorists aver that the belief systems of religions were based on hunches, and that the various religions which developed in different areas of the world were in conflict with each other. They also allege that inter-religious understanding is difficult or impossible.
 
From an Islamic viewpoint, all religions were originally God-given, and hence, basically the same. Islam respects and honors all the prophets mentioned in the Bible, and believes that all the scriptures of the earlier religions were revealed by God. God in the Noble Quran commands believers:
 
[Say you: "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)."]  (Al-Baqarah 2:136)
 
This means that a Muslim is a person who believes that all religions are basically God-inspired. Because, a Muslim is taught that God, out of His infinite mercy, had been sending down His Guidance to mankind through His prophets, and that there was no people to whom God had not sent a prophet:


[Verily We have sent you in truth, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner: and there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past).] (Fatir 35:24)
 
And thus Islam teaches that all the so-called "religions" cannot basically differ, as they are all from God. And humanity should acknowledge that it needs God; for only God can guide it to attain peace here on earth and eternal peace in the life hereafter. So, it needs to accept the necessity of living here on earth in accordance with Divine guidance.
 
The foregoing in short is the view of Islam regarding the relationship of humanity with religion.
 
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