By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
Thanks to the likes of Hawkins, Hitchens etc, today Atheism and Religious discourses are the flavour of the month. In the context of Quran, the word ‘Religion’ needs to be explored further.
The word Religion conjures up these images in one’s mind:-
- Churches, that is religious institution and Houses of worship in a generic sense.
- Its operatives, Priests and administrative hierarchy associated with the above.
- Dogma, rites of worship exclusive to the church and administered to the flock. The dogma attributed often to particular god or gods.
- The worship of the above gods as Deities and Superbeing(s) with powers to perform everything and at any time, beyond the realm of science or even logic.
An Atheist is one who rejects the above and therefore the god(s) that belong to the churches that propagate their theology. However what the Atheists leave out is a substitute to fill the vacuum thus created n order for mankind to satisfy its curiosity as how the Universe came about, who created it and why. The Big Bang does not go far enough as it comes to dead end as “it just happened”, without giving the explanation as to how did it happen. Mankind has been grappling with the dilemma for as long as it was given the faculty to think as it seems to be its ingrained curiosity to ask! The Atheists have another objection and that is that the religion prevents that debate on the subject of 'Creation'.
Strange it may seem but it is argued here that a Momin, a Believer is an Atheist at the core of his belief, for he/she proclaims that ‘there is NO god(s)’—given in Arabic as Laa ilaaha- rejecting the man-made or churchy concepts of god(s), that is, all such objects of veneration that in comparison make Believers lesser being. The Book – Quran he/she believes in gives them emphatic permission to proclaim the LAA and then adds that there is a Being illa Allaah – with no associates at all,—who has created this Universe that works like a clock work, as Einstein is reputed to have said. However the Book adds that it is well nigh impossible for them to give that clock-maker any form or shape. This being in accordance with the first true Atheist Messenger Abraham who rebelled against his Church and his father who was a prominent idol carver in Ur ; and invited him and his community to worship only Allah- a word we know in Arabic today; but foreign to them in Mesopotamia then.
But for the limitation of language, any language for that matter, the creed calls that being Allah in Arabic, -- for the simple reason that it was the only word that was and is in common use and that the Messenger Muhammad was born in Arabia and therefore was an Arab. Nothing holy or supernatural in it. In English language we refer to Allah as God.
What is surprising is that the Arabs of the time, both who Rejected (kufr) the above and the Believers (Momin) - understood and comprehended the full implications of illallaah, that is – except God --that replaced the myriads of gods, the worldly ones as well the supernatural ones!
The rejecters (Kafir), particularly the City fathers, elite and the Custodians of the temple vehemently opposed this creed not only because it threatened their livelihood, as the city of Meccain its economy was based on being an important temple city and thriving on the “religious business” and wealth of the Church, but also that their Status and Elitist standing in the community and their life style would vanish. That was the most significant change and brought a momentous revolution.
On the contrary the believers, generally of lower standing, saw in Abraham’s creed propagated by Muhammad now, as creating an egalitarian community based on level playing field composed of a fair social system, rewarding everybody equitably to the efforts they put in it. This then created diametrically opposing conditions with a potential for a revolutionary change.
The revolution of – laa ilaaha illallaah - also appealed to the minority intellectuals, in that they realised that this creed provided a firm base and unchanging datum and base for ‘comprehending laws of universe by studying them’ and thus freed mankind from the superstitions that the churches’ elite had firmly shackled the poor masses in order to keep them under control. This gave the intellectuals an open field to pursue fair and ‘knowledge based’ system and opened a venue for inquiry we call Science, on which the Muslim community made and the world at large made huge progress.
It is ironic therefore to see that the very system that was based on the criteria of dismantling the organised Church, Elitism of all sorts and Superstitions and the establishment of Egalitarianism, Equality, Justice and ‘Knowledge-based working’ of society should in just a couple centuries later revert to the same old precepts of religion that again put a hood on intelligent inquiry and a just society and was based on “we will follow in the footsteps of our ancient forefathers”. It has pushed a large portion of world’s population of Muslims in the Dark ages now for a thousand years.
Now, how to re-establish the original message and its understanding today is a million dollar question. In the age of cyber space communication technology and the planet wise movement of people, mainly West words, one thinks that if our scholars were to talk in the younger generation’s ‘lingo’ and use the media, instead of highbrow scholarly works trying to tell them how it all came about, it would be fruitful to wean them away from religions and adopt the progressive ‘message’ and adapt to the LAA. Thus rejecting the lesser gods that want to re-write the Book, for their own benefits rather than for the good of humanity that would make for its unity in illallaaha.
The example of the Christian church is worth contemplating. At one time it too considered lively music as abhorrent to include in its rites of worship, same as the institutions of mosques today. The churches have realised that to fill them again for mass worship, the only way is to “join them” as the saying goes and now there are nuns, priests and monks topping up the popular music charts. And the churches are now full.
God forbid that the all Muslims priests become the whirling dervishes- who too tour the world now giving shows and making money-- and adopt that practice to fill their mosques; as they are already now brimful of worshippers but for all the wrong reasons. But if Muslim scholars were to adopt some similar stance to get the young ones to listen and understand the message of all Divine Messengers- consisting the basis of pluralism; and wean this generation of youth away from the religions, even if it means that it be done with modern music that they listen to enthusiastically will be worth hundred pages of scholarly work, that preaches to the converted but does not reach the young. After all, Messenger Muhammad is said to have attended a musical function performed by Abyssinian delegation in Masjidul Nabawi in Madinah and that David- Dawood a prophet, propagated his message in poetry and music too!
Rashid Samnakay is an Indian-origin Engineer (Retd.) based in Australia for over forty years.