Humanity’s need for Religion–Part 3

Now that we’ve answered some fundamental questions, here we commence with the Second Argument for the need for religion and prophets. This argument also requires several introductory points:

1) Man is composed of intellect and carnal desires – We tackled this fact in the First Argument, and proved that Man is made up of both material and spiritual dimension (which is true self and which gives him his human quiddity). Through this spiritual dimension Man is able to reach his intended perfection, feel enjoyment and pain, and achieve happiness or hardship. But this cannot happen without the material body and without passing through the world of trial and austerity.   

The words of the Holy Imams (as) is replete with both praise and condemnation of this world, since it is both a great blessing to allow us to reach our highest potentials of perfection, yet at the same time one must take heed from its temporality and deceptions.

إنّ الدنيا دار صدق لمن صدَقها، ودار عافية لمن فهم عنها، ودار غنىً لمن تزوّد منها، ودار موعظة لمن اتّعظ بها. مسجد أحبّاء الله، ومصلّى ملائكة الله، ومهبط وحي الله، ومتجر أولياء الله. اكتسبوا فيها الرحمة، وربحوا فيها الجنّة. فمن ذا يذمّها وقد آذنت ببينها، ونادت بفراقها، ونعت نفسها وأهلها، فمثّلت لهم ببلائها البلاء، وشوّقتهم بسرورها إلى السرور، راحت بعافية وابتكرت بفجيعة؛ ترغيباً وترهيباً، وتخويفاً وتحذيراً، فذمّها رجال غداة الندامة، وحمدها آخرون يوم القيامة؛ ذكرتهم الدنيا فتذكّروا، وحدّثتهم فصدّقوا، ووعظتهم فاتّعظوا

‘Certainly, this world is a house of truth for those who look into it carefully, an abode of peace and rest for those who understand its ways and moods and it is the best working ground for those who want to procure rewards for life in the Hereafter. It is a place of acquiring knowledge and wisdom for those who want to acquire them, a place of worship for the friends of Allah and for Angels. It is the place where prophets received revelations of Allah. It is the place for virtuous people and saints to do good deeds and to be assigned with rewards for the same. Only in this world they could trade with Allah’s Favors and Blessings and only while living here they could barter their good deeds with His Blessings and Rewards. Where else could all this be done? Who are you to abuse the world when it has openly declared its mortality and mortality of everything connected with it, when it has given everyone of its inhabitants to understand that all of them are to face death, when through its ways it has given them all an idea of calamities they have to face here, and through the sight of its temporary and fading pleasures it has given them glimpses of eternal pleasures of Paradise and suggested them to wish and work for the same. If you study it properly you will find that simply to warn and frighten you of the consequences of evil deeds and to persuade you towards good actions, every night it raises new hopes of peace and prosperity in you and every morning it places new anxieties and new worries before you. Those who passed such lives are ashamed of and repent the time so passed abuse this world. But there are people who will praise this world on the Day of Judgment that it reminded them of the Hereafter and they took advantage of these reminders. It informed them of the effects of good deeds and they made correct use of the information it advised them and they were benefited by its advice’. [1]

Since this earthly life is a place of transience and not a place of permanence, a means and not an end, Imam Ali divided people into two groups: one that took advantage of what it had to offer, and one that missed this opportunity.

And in light of this introduction, the need for religion is, how to benefit from this world, to achieve happiness in the afterlife.

2) Man loves his self innately – Man’s innate nature is a sort of divine blue-print [2] of unchangeable (due to external and internal factors) laws, evolving from potentiality to actuality with Man’s developing intellect. This innate disposition is, however, susceptible to being supressed by distractions, false doctrines and practices, etc. [3]

The clearest aspect of this innate disposition, is Man’s love for perfection, which is a feeling undisputed amongst all of humanity, since everyone tries to avoid deficiency and harm, be it physical, emotional, or intellectual. The source of this love emanates from his love for his self and the perfection of his being, as proven by his constant striving for knowledge and avoidance of ignorance, since he sees it as one aspect of perfecting his existence. This pursuit of personal satisfaction could reach a point, where suicide would seem like an easy way out for avoiding the pain and suffering of this world. Hence, a human being would not pursue the removal of pain and suffering if he did not love his self.

The problem arises in identifying the true perfections and deficiencies, since it could mean wealth and power for one, fame and a high position in society for another, or knowledge and respect to yet another, depending on several factors like culture, environment, traditions etc.

3) Man demands infinite perfections – Experience attests to this point, where we find that there is a feeling in the depths of every human being of his dislike for things that are limited and vulnerable to extinction, and a love for infinite happiness and life. He demands infinite knowledge, infinite abilities and unlimited beauty.[4]

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[1] Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as), Nahjul Balaghah, Short Saying #130.

[2] Qur’an (30:30)

[3] Qur’an (91:10)

[4] This point is one the most important proofs for the existence of the Necessary Being (God), since the concept of unlimitedness and infinity does not exist in the finite created beings, and that the finite cannot become infinite since one that is deficient of something cannot give it. Therefore a being must exist that is infinite, and that is the Necessary One, Creator of all (swt), One possessing infinite ability, infinite knowledge and infinite beauty.

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