Lessons from inter-religious conflicts
Discovering Patterns of Unity in diversity leads to Intellectual as well as Spiritual growth
SULTAN SHAHIN, Editor, New Age Islam
We squander a large part of our national energy, that could have been expended more fruitfully in pursuit of more worthwhile goals, in inter-religious conflicts. This is not a new development, not for India, not for the world at large. Humanity has been involved in conflicts of this nature since ancient times. But why do such conflicts take place at all, if religions, all religions, teach us to believe in the oneness of the universe, brotherhood of man and so on? This is perhaps because we have made our religions a part of our egos, indeed our negative egos. This is a tragedy. For all religions teach us to go beyond our egos. Try to kill your egos, or suppress them, but do transcend them -- is the universal religious message.
It is time we in India, both Hindus and Muslims, try to understand our religions and follow them rather than just fight over one religion’s superiority over another. We Muslims, in particular, suffer from an unwarranted superiority complex that keeps us from coming to terms with other religious communities.
This would evaporate if only we were to go to our own religious teachings. "If it had been thy Lord's will, they would all have believed - all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind against their will, to believe! No soul can believe except by the Will of Allah", says the Holy Quran (10:99-100).
This message is repeated in a different context: "To everyone have we given a law and a way.... And if God had pleased, He would have made you all [all mankind] one people [people of one religion]. But He hath done otherwise, that He might try you in that He hath severally given unto you: wherefore press forward in good deeds. Unto God shall ye return, and He will tell you that concerning which ye disagree". (The Holy Quran, 5:48)
But why has God created so many religions in the first place? Obviously, for the same reason that He has created so many varieties of His other manifestations, everything including large celestial bodies like stars, in billions and trillions. So that we can divine the One from the Many! Mankind has been divided into myriad communities with different races, cultures, habits, faiths, etc., so that in spite of these barriers, we can ourselves reach the following conclusion: "Mankind is but one single community" (The Holy Quran, 2:213 and 10:19).
But how does the ability to reach this conclusion help us? It helps because the ability to see patterns underlying a variety of objects causes us to grow intellectually and spiritually. Look at any questionnaire for testing IQ. How does a psychologist find out our intellectual level? He tries to find out how capable we are of discovering patterns of unity in diversity.
Another important lesson for us, Muslims in particular, is that later revelations of God do not cancel the previous ones. We cannot be Muslim unless we revere all previous prophets and all previous messages equally. The Holy Quran asks us to "stand fast by the Torah, The Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from Your Lord." (5:68). It is not for nothing that the Holy Quran makes this exhortation again and again in different contexts: And those who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Mohammed) and that which was revealed before thee, have the assurance of the Hereafter.(2.04) Gabriel hath revealed (this Scripture) to thy (Mohammad's) heart by Allah's leave, confirming that which was (revealed) before it.(2.97) None of Our revelations (even a single verse) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We bring ( in place) something better or similar: (2.10) Say ye: "We believe in God, 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 distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.(2.13)
A spiritualist must remember one thing always. Everything that happens to us, individually or collectively, good or bad, big or small, contains a message from God. We have to try and divine that message. Therein lies spiritual, and, of course, intellectual growth.