The effect of actions on belief

In the early stages of a person’s faith his tenets/beliefs are considered to be unsettled and tentative, due to lack of sufficient knowledge and experience, and can easily fade at the slightest test or problem.[1] And as has become evident from my previous posts on this subject, it is but the correct actions during our life-time that will form the basis for the right beliefs. Furthermore, it is with consistency of correct actions, that those beliefs become settled and act as a barrier to ‘burning’ those good deeds when faced with any tests.

Imam Ali (‘as) said:

العلم يهتف بالعمل فان اجابه و الا ارتحل 

‘Knowledge (correct doctrines) cries out for action (good deeds), otherwise it abandons (the believer).’[2] 

From here the philosophy of daily repetitive religious practises becomes clear, and it is to establish that knowledge firmly within a believer’s heart, up and above a mere imprint in the mind, which will then lead to a firm and unshakable conviction in this belief. So the more a persons actions are in harmony with is beliefs, the more settled those beliefs are.

Some narrations related to this subject:

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عِيسَى عَنْ حَمَّادِ بْنِ عِيسَى عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ أُذَيْنَةَ عَنْ أَبَانِ بْنِ أَبِي عَيَّاشٍ عَنْ سُلَيْمِ بْنِ قَيْسٍ الْهِلالِيِّ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَمِيرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (عَلَيْهِ السَّلام) يُحَدِّثُ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ (صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِه) أَنَّهُ قَالَ فِي كَلامٍ لَهُ الْعُلَمَاءُ رَجُلانِ رَجُلٌ عَالِمٌ آخِذٌ بِعِلْمِهِ فَهَذَا نَاجٍ وَعَالِمٌ تَارِكٌ لِعِلْمِهِ فَهَذَا هَالِكٌ وَإِنَّ أَهْلَ النَّارِ لَيَتَأَذَّوْنَ مِنْ رِيحِ الْعَالِمِ التَّارِكِ لِعِلْمِهِ وَإِنَّ أَشَدَّ أَهْلِ النَّارِ نَدَامَةً وَحَسْرَةً رَجُلٌ دَعَا عَبْداً إِلَى الله فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُ وَقَبِلَ مِنْهُ فَأَطَاعَ الله فَأَدْخَلَهُ الله الْجَنَّةَ وَأَدْخَلَ الدَّاعِيَ النَّارَ بِتَرْكِهِ عِلْمَهُ وَاتِّبَاعِهِ الْهَوَى وَطُولِ الامَلِ أَمَّا اتِّبَاعُ الْهَوَى فَيَصُدُّ عَنِ الْحَقِّ وَطُولُ الامَلِ يُنْسِي الاخِرَةَ

Muhammad ibn Yahya has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Isa from Hammed from ‘Umar ibn ’Udhayna from Aban ibn abu ‘Ayyash from Sulaym ibn Qays al-Hilali who has said the following:
"I heard Imam Ali (a.s.) narrate from the Holy Prophet (s.a.) who said, ‘The scholars are of two kinds: One kind consists of those who uphold their knowledge and they gain their salvation. The other kind consists of those who disregard their knowledge and they face their destruction. The people of hell will suffer from the bad odor of the scholars who do not act according to their knowledge. Of the people of hell the one who will regret most will be a man who teaches someone and shows him the way of Allah. The student accepts and acts according to such teachings and consequently Allah takes him to paradise but the teacher is sent to hell because of ignoring his knowledge, following his desires and entertaining long hopes. Following ones’ desires bars one from the truth. And cherishing long hopes causes one to forget the next life.’"[3]

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ سِنَانٍ عَنْ إِسْمَاعِيلَ بْنِ جَابِرٍ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ الله عَلَيْهِ السَّلام قَالَ الْعِلْمُ مَقْرُونٌ إِلَى الْعَمَلِ فَمَنْ عَلِمَ عَمِلَ وَمَنْ عَمِلَ عَلِمَ وَالْعِلْمُ يَهْتِفُ بِالْعَمَلِ فَإِنْ أَجَابَهُ وَإِلا ارْتَحَلَ عَنْهُ

Muhammad ibn Yahya from Ahmad ibn Muhammad from Muhammad ibn Sinan from ‘Isma’il ibn Jabir from abu ‘Abdallah (a.s.) who has said the following:
"Knowledge and work are closely related. One who has knowledge he works and one who works he learns. Knowledge invites work and if it is not accepted knowledge departs the deeds."[4]

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنِ الْقَاسِمِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنِ الْمِنْقَرِيِّ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ هَاشِمِ بْنِ الْبَرِيدِ عَنْ أَبِيهِ قَالَ جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إِلَى عَلِيِّ بن الحسين (عَلَيْهما السَّلام) فَسَأَلَهُ عَنْ مَسَائِلَ فَأَجَابَ ثُمَّ عَادَ لِيَسْأَلَ عَنْ مِثْلِهَا فَقَالَ عَلِيُّ بن الحسين (عَلَيْهما السَّلام) مَكْتُوبٌ فِي الانْجِيلِ لا تَطْلُبُوا عِلْمَ مَا لا تَعْلَمُونَ وَلَمَّا تَعْمَلُوا بِمَا عَلِمْتُمْ فَإِنَّ الْعِلْمَ إِذَا لَمْ يُعْمَلْ بِهِ لَمْ يَزْدَدْ صَاحِبُهُ إِلا كُفْراً وَلَمْ يَزْدَدْ مِنَ الله إِلا بُعْداً

Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from his father from al-Qasim ibn Muhammad from al-Minqari from Ali ibn Hashim ibn al-Burayd from his father who has said the following:
"A man came to (Imam) Ali ibn al-Husayn (a.s.) and asked him certain questions and the Imam answered his questions. The man then wanted to ask similar questions but the Imam said, "It is written in the Gospel, ‘Do not inquire to know what you do not know until you practice what you know because not practicing what one knows does not increase to one anything but disbelief and nor it increases anything to one’s relation with Allah but alienation."[5]

 

 

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[1] Refer to [6:98] and [11:6]

[2] Al Kafi, Vol.1, pg 44 (arabic version)

[3] ibid, Vol.1, Ch13, h1 (english transl.); Vol.1, pg 44-45 (arabic)

[4] ibid;

[5] ibid;

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Divine Closeness through Perfection

Allah (swt) is the source of all infinite theoretical and practical perfections and beauties. Based on this, as much as one adorns oneself with the beautiful attributes of the divine essence, like knowledge, justice, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, wisdom and generosity, etc., would one be nearer to Allah (awj), and as much as the self is less reflective of those attributes would one be more distant. And even though these divine attributes are infinite and part of His essentially existent being, and it is impossible for Man to characterize himself with these attributes to their full extent, it would still be possible for him to be close to Allah (awj) relative to his capacity to reflect His divine attributes within his self.

Therefore, this matter of divine nearness and distance is not subjective, but an existential reality, with its peak at the prophetic level:

وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُوا ۖ وَكَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا يُوقِنُونَ

We appointed from among them leaders who guided by Our command, when they became steadfast and believed firmly in Our signs.[1]

So the prophetic status of closeness is on the practical level ‘they became steadfast’, and on the cognitive level ‘believed firmly in our signs’.[2] And in the light of this we can read from the following verse, that what ascends to Allah (swt) is ones convictions and beliefs, not the action (explanation of this verse I posted here):

مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّـهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ وَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ يَمْكُرُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ ۖ وَمَكْرُ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُوَ يَبُورُ

Whoso desireth power (should know that) all power belongeth to Allah. Unto Him good words ascend, and the pious deed doth He exalt; but those who plot iniquities, theirs will be an awful doom; and the plotting of such (folk) will come to naught.[3]

From here we see that the Islamic view is not content just with good deeds, but places importance in the pure intention, and the motivation being closeness to Allah (swt). And there exist several verses in the Holy Qur’an indicating that the result of having wrong doctrines and intentions would lead man to recklessness:

لِّلَّـهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَإِن تُبْدُوا مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ اللَّـهُ ۖ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Unto Allah (belongeth) whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; and whether ye make known what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will bring you to account for it. He will forgive whom He will and He will punish whom He will. Allah is Able to do all things.[4]

and

لَّا يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ اللَّـهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِي أَيْمَانِكُمْ وَلَـٰكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا كَسَبَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ

Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.[5]

In the following verse, Allah (swt) gives an allegory when addressing the believers, which shows the existential correlation between one’s intention and the subsequent action taken in giving Man happiness, peace of mind and perfection in the form of closeness to Him:

وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمُ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ وَتَثْبِيتًا مِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْ كَمَثَلِ جَنَّةٍ بِرَبْوَةٍ أَصَابَهَا وَابِلٌ فَآتَتْ أُكُلَهَا ضِعْفَيْنِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يُصِبْهَا وَابِلٌ فَطَلٌّ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ

And the likeness of those who spend their wealth in search of Allah’s pleasure, and for the strengthening of their souls, is as the likeness of a garden on a height. The rainstorm smiteth it and it bringeth forth its fruit twofold. And if the rainstorm smite it not, then the shower. Allah is Seer of what ye do.[6]

(comment on this verse from DILP):

Spending and giving of what one wants to keep, benefits man twice over; it speeds up the process of inner purification as well as promotes the welfare of the human society. Islam lays special stress on the spending in the way of Allah because it is a universal religion, perfected and completed by Allah who has prescribed mercy for Himself in verses 12 and 54 of al An-am. Islam, when translated into action, takes the form of salat, Zakat and sadqa. And faith, unless proved by actions, is a bogus claim. Neither Allah accepts it nor His servants give it any importance.

If the spirit or the intention behind the spending is to seek pleasure of Allah, then. if the means are large the corresponding spending will also be substantial and big-hearted and if the means are moderate, even then the spending will be sufficient. When heavy rain falls the tall trees of a garden bring forth their fruit twofold, but even light rain is sufficient, because rooted very deep, they draw adequate nutrition from the soil.

In the days of the Holy Prophet, the early Muslims lived in a hostile environment. It was a period of test and trial. The overwhelming forces of falsehood made their lives a bed of thorns, their relentless persecution hunted them, therefore, in the face of the preponderant danger to their lives and property, they had to sacrifice whatever they owned, lives as well as possessions, whenever either or both of them were needed. Under such circumstances the minimum sacrifice deserves maximum reward.

This verse assures the sincere believers in particular and other members of the human society in general that every act of virtue has its own energy to make both the lives (here and hereafter) meaningful and rewarding, even if there were no external agents to nourish them.

_________________________________________________________________

[1] 32:24

[2] ‘believed firmly’ is translated here from the arabic word ‘to be certain’

[3] 35:10

[4] 2:284

[5] 2:225; Comment (DILP): This verse came in a specific context, namely before Islam, it was a custom among the Arabs that when a husband avowed to discontinue conjugal relations with his wife, the wife was left in a lurch – neither a married woman nor a divorcee. The Quran ignores the swearing concerning disassociation with wives and gives four months for reconsideration and reconciliation; after which, if the husband still desires separation he should divorce his wife, otherwise the wife can refer the matter to the hakim shari’a (competent authority on Islamic laws) and obtain freedom from the bond of marriage to wed someone else.

Vain oath means unintentional swearing, which is a common habit with most people in their ordinary conversation. Allah will not hold any one accountable for vain oaths, but He will call His creatures to account for their real intentions and what they do. Verbal swearing has no value. However, swearing with full consciousness of the seriousness of the undertaking, binds the swearer to do as resolved provided the deed to be done is legal and good.

[6] 2:265

Relationship between Faith, Knowledge and Deeds

بسمه تعلى

Faith is to believe in a thing and to abide by its code, and in the Qur’anic doctrine it is the faith in Allah (swt), His Divine Unity, His Prophets and their messages, and the Last Day; faith not just with words, but must be accompanied with the correct deeds as per the laws of the religion of Islam.

When the believers are mentioned in the Qur’an, it is always followed by the link between faith and good deeds, as in the following, and many similar, verses:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

Whosoever doeth right, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily we shall quicken with good life, and We shall pay them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do.[1]

and

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ طُوبَىٰ لَهُمْ وَحُسْنُ مَآبٍ

Those who believe and do right: Joy is for them, and bliss (their) journey’s end.[2]

There are also those that knowingly refuse to believe in what they accept as the truth, due to their pride, arrogance and self-love:

جَحَدُوا بِهَا وَاسْتَيْقَنَتْهَا أَنفُسُهُمْ ظُلْمًا وَعُلُوًّا ۚ فَانظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُفْسِدِينَ 

And they denied them, though their souls acknowledged them, for spite and arrogance. Then see the nature of the consequence for the wrong-doers![3]

  فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُم مَّا عَرَفُوا كَفَرُوا بِهِ

and when there cometh unto them that which they know (to be the truth) they disbelieve therein.[4]

أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَـٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّـهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ وَخَتَمَ عَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَجَعَلَ عَلَىٰ بَصَرِهِ غِشَاوَةً فَمَن يَهْدِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ اللَّـهِ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ

Hast thou seen him who maketh his desire his god, and Allah sendeth him astray purposely, and sealeth up his hearing and his heart, and setteth on his sight a covering? Then who will lead him after Allah (hath condemned him)? Will ye not then heed?[5]

In short, it is not enough to know and be certain of the truth, and then expect faith to enter one’s heart, but it is essential to act upon what one knows, so that the desired effect upon one’s heart and external character becomes manifest.

To explain this further we need to look at the meaning of nearness to Allah (swt) and ascending to Him, nearness not in the spatial or temporal sense, like of A is close to B, B will be close to A in the material sense, yet in the immaterial it is possible that one of the two could be near and the other far, and this is called spiritual or metaphysical nearness. From this point of view we can compare a person’s nearness or distance from Allah (swt), where Allah (swt) is near to His servant, yet His servant could be distant, as in the verses:

وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنتُمْ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ 

and He is with you wheresoever ye may be. And Allah is Seer of what ye do.[6]

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ ۖ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ

We verily created man and We know what his soul whispereth to him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.[7]

وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يَحُولُ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَأَنَّهُ إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ

and know that Allah cometh in between the man and his own heart, and that He it is unto Whom ye will be gathered.[8]

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright.[9]

The reality of closeness to Allah (swt) is absolute submission and awareness of His presence at all times.[10]

In Man’s path to perfection, when he travels from creation to the Real, and from the material intellect to the active intellect, he comes in contact with the Names and attributes of Allah (swt). In other words he attains his goal and true happiness. The depth and faculties of his existence are strengthened and he becomes one of Allah’s (swt) great signs or manifestations. He thus attains the state of sanctity and Divine vicegerency. This spiritual state can be called “nearness to Allah (awj).” [11]

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[1] 16:97

[2] 13:29

[3] 27:14

[4] 2:89

[5] 45:23

[6] 57:4

[7] 50:16

[8] 8:24

[9] 2:186

[10] By narration of Is’haaq ibn Ammar who said: Abu Abdullah Al Hussein (as) said:’ Fear Allah as if you see Him, and if you don’t see Him, verily He sees you.’; Al Kafi, Vol.2, pg.68.

[11] Philosophers divide the intellect into four levels:

Material or Passive Intellect (passive intellect or nous pateticos): In this stage, the intellect is at a potential state of understanding.

Intellect by Proficiency: In this stage, the intellect understands the self-evident concepts and judgments.

Active or Agent Intellect (intellectus agens or nous poietikos): The stage when the intellect understands concepts or judgments needing speculative reasoning through self-evident concepts and judgments.

Acquired Intellect: This is the stage when the intellect understands all self-evident concepts and judgments and those needing speculative reasoning corresponding to the metaphysical and physical worlds in such manner that it keeps them present and is actually attentive of them.

Relationship between Religion and Intellect (العقل)

بسمه تعلى

The intellect is the tool given to Man to understand and distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, and the reason why there are different levels of perfection.

Yet even this magnificent being we call the intellect, has its limits in knowledge of the Divine, to the extent that it is unable to identify the interests of mankind in this world, much less the hereafter and its laws. 

Therefore it needs an external aid, in the form of revelation from God to His noble Messengers and Prophets.

Hence, the relationship between religion and intellect becomes clear, where religion plays the role of guidance on the straight path to perfection, and the intellect the role of the lantern that illuminates this road. This relationship is such that one cannot exist without the other. Without an intellect, one would not be able to identify the correct road that would lead to the desired goal, in the same instant, a person could have an intellect, yet if the correct path is no available to him, he would not be able to create one for himself.  

رُسُلًا مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنْذِرِينَ لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى اللَّهِ حُجَّةٌ بَعْدَ الرُّسُلِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا

Messengers of good news and of warning, in order that mankind might have no argument against Allah after the messengers. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. [1]

This verse indicates that there would have been no need for Messengers if our intellects had the sufficient knowledge capacity to avoid corruption and wrong-doing. Similar verses are numerous, and detailed explanation of which will come when I will post the proofs of the necessity for Prophethood:

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

Who receiveth guidance, receiveth it for his own benefit: who goeth astray doth so to his own loss: No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another: nor would We visit with Our Wrath until We had sent an messenger (to give warning)[2]

وَلَوْ أَنَّا أَهْلَكْنَاهُم بِعَذَابٍ مِّن قَبْلِهِ لَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا لَوْلَا أَرْسَلْتَ إِلَيْنَا رَسُولًا فَنَتَّبِعَ آيَاتِكَ مِن قَبْلِ أَن نَّذِلَّ وَنَخْزَىٰ

And if we had destroyed them with some punishment before it, they would assuredly have said: Our Lord! If only Thou hadst sent unto us a messenger, so that we might have followed Thy revelations before we were (thus) humbled and disgraced![3]

وَيَقُولُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ ۗ إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مُنذِرٌ ۖ وَلِكُلِّ قَوْمٍ هَادٍ

Those who disbelieve say: If only some portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Thou art a warner only, and for every folk a guide.[4]

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[1] 4:165

[2] 17:15

[3] 20:134

[4] 13:7

Understanding the true meaning of Religion

بسمه تعلى

The Holy Qur’an refers to Religion as meaning reward (مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ – Master of the Day of Judgment) [1], and obedience (وَوَصَّىٰ بِهَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعْقُوبُ يَا بَنِيَّ إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَىٰ لَكُمُ الدِّينَ فَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنْتُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ – The same did Abraham enjoin upon his sons, and also Jacob, (saying): O my sons! Lo! Allah hath chosen for you the (true) religion; therefore die not save as men who have surrendered (unto Him)) [2], i.e obedience of divine laws that were revealed to the Prophets and Messengers to guide Man to true happiness in both abodes.

Contents of Religion

Religion can be broken into two parts: Doctrines (اصول الدين – lit. Principles of Religion, or Theology), and Practical Laws (فروع لدين – lit. Branches of Religion, like Jurisprudence, Logic, etc).

Doctrines make up a collection of principles that a person needs to believe in for his faith to have any meaning and his actions to have any value. And these are the concepts of Divine Unity, Prophethood and the Return. They are the three pillars that keep one’s faith upright, where, would one of those pillars collapse, the whole religion would fall apart. And this is where the Qur’an has places most of its emphasis and care in order to make it absolutely clear that without these beliefs, no matter what you did in your life, it will come to nothing.

The role of Religion in our lives

This can be summarized as:

1  – Guiding man to the goal intended for him, which is happiness in this world and the hereafter, with the help of divine laws.

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا

Will they then not meditate on the Qur’an, or are there locks on the hearts? [3]

قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ 

Say: Bring your proof (of what ye state) if ye are truthful. [4]

This is the most profound way to encourage the use of the intellect and rational proofs to attain faith. This is further emphasized by the teachings of the Holy Household (ع), who ascertain the importance of contemplation and the study of the history of human society and the way they interacted with the contemporary Prophets and Messengers, and the lessons we can learn from that to aid us on our path to knowledge and wisdom. [5]

2 – Guiding the intellect to awareness and firmness in opinion, and independent thinking and decision making. The Holy Prophet had said: ‘Don’t be like the ones that agree to everybody’s opinion, you say: if the people do good, we do good; if the people are oppressive, we are oppressive; but accustom yourselves to: if people did good, do the best; and if they do evil, do not oppress.’ [6]

3 – Religion is the foundation of correct moral conduct and defines its fundamental principles for society. If Man were to be left to his instincts and selfish ways, there would be no limit to his lusts and desires, whether he agreed with the values of ethics and morals or not. Whereas his innate disposition (فطرة), brings awareness to safeguard these values and to act upon them. This is where he finds within himself a constant struggle, and in need of some balancing factors to overcome any desires to transgress on other people’s rights. This is where the role of Religion comes to bring balance and harmony to the self of Man, by the belief that all of Man’s actions will be accounted for in the minutest details in this world and the next.

The Religious World View and Ideology 

The world view (or theoretical wisdom), is what Man believes to be perfections for him, as in the view that ‘God exists’.

The ideology (or practical wisdom), are the collection of practical ideas held by Man that define his habits and actions, like the view held that Justice must be upheld at all costs and Oppression avoided.

The relationship between the above concepts, is that of one cannot exist without the other. Without a world view, an ideology cannot be established.  

And there are several verses in the Holy Qur’an that clearly express the importance roles that a world view and ideology play in defining Man’s destiny:

إِنَّ شَرَّ ٱلدَّوَآبِّ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلصُّمُّ ٱلۡبُكۡمُ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يَعۡقِلُونَ

Lo! the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the deaf, the dumb, who have no sense. [7]

Anybody whose ears are deaf to the call of justice, whose tongues are dumb to the protest for justice and who don’t use their intellect to become aware of the truths and realities of this existence, are worse than animals, since animals are devoid of intellect. 

وَلَقَدۡ ذَرَأۡنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ ڪَثِيرً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلۡجِنِّ وَٱلۡإِنسِ‌ۖ لَهُمۡ قُلُوبٌ۬ لَّا يَفۡقَهُونَ بِہَا وَلَهُمۡ أَعۡيُنٌ۬ لَّا يُبۡصِرُونَ بِہَا وَلَهُمۡ ءَاذَانٌ۬ لَّا يَسۡمَعُونَ بِہَآ‌ۚ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ كَٱلۡأَنۡعَـٰمِ بَلۡ هُمۡ أَضَلُّ‌ۚ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡغَـٰفِلُونَ

Already have We urged unto hell many of the jinn and humankind, having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not, and having ears wherewith they hear not. These are as the cattle – nay, but they are worse! These are the neglectful. [8]

Therefore a person that contemplates and reflects and is aware of the reality of his existence, will establish for himself the correct world view and ideology, that secure him happiness in both abodes. And this is the scale to which we measure our humanity; the more rooted we are in the correct doctrines of our religion, the more human we are, and the closer we are to achieving the goal for which we have been created. 

والحمد لله رب العالمين 

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[1] 1:4

[2] 2:132

[3] 47:24

[4] 2:111

[5] (فاعتبروا بما اصاب الامم المستكبرين ن قبلكم من بأس الله وصولاته،ووقائعه و مثلاته ...), Imam Ali ibn Abu Taleb (ع), Nahjul Balaghah, commentary by Muhammad Abdu, Vol.2, pg 143.

[6] Sunan Al Tirmidhi, Dar Al Fikr, Beirut, Vol.3, pg 446.

[7] 8:22

[8] 7:179

Philosophy of Religion

There is no doubt that an individuals’ doctrines and ideologies are what define him and give him a certain perspective on life, and way of dealing with his surrounding environment and society.

قُلْ كُلٌّ يَعْمَلُ عَلَىٰ شَاكِلَتِهِ فَرَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ هُوَ أَهْدَىٰ سَبِيلًا

Say: Each one doth according to his rule of conduct, and thy Lord is Best Aware of him whose way is right.[17:84]

Consequently, correct doctrines produce the best fruit, and great importance is placed on this matter in the Islamic way of life, while it damns those that fail to use their intellect and free will in choosing the correct path for their intended perfection. And even good actions are worthless if they don’t emanate from correct doctrines, as both are interlinked. And therefore, the first question Man is asked when he passes from this world, will be about his beliefs and doctrines, not his actions.

Faith in a doctrine can never be achieved through imitation, hence the most important law in Islamic doctrines is the prohibition of imitation of others without rational proofs. Knowledge should be gained through research and investigation, contemplation and deep thinking, and understanding of each concept in great detail, in order to arrive at a rational conclusion. In a narration Imam Ja’far Al Sadiq (‘as) says: ‘Whoever enters this religion through the influence of men, they will be the cause of his departure from it in the same way as they brought him to it.’ [1]

So, considering the importance of religious doctrines in our lives, I will, God willing, try to tackle the main pillars that establish the foundations of correct Islamic doctrines, which will be aided by a series of lectures held by Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari in the seminary of Qom in Iran, on Imamate (Viceregency of Prophethood) and Tawheed (Divine Unity).

Here’s a brief outline:  

Introduction

1- Role of religion in our lives

2- Contents of a religion

3- World view and ideology of religion and their inter-relation

4- Relationship between religion and intellect

5- Relationship between faith and knowledge

6- Relationship between faith and deeds.

Main Discourses:

A- Discourse One

The need for Religion and Prophets

(i) Chapter 1 – Relationship between rewards and deeds

(ii) Chapter 2 – Laws of the Hereafter

(iii) Chapter 3 – Comparison between the materialistic and divine theories towards realisation of justice.

(iv) Goals of Prophethood

B- Discourse Two

Explanation of the meaning of One Religion with multiple divine laws

(i) Chapter 1 – Islam the seal of all divine revelations

(ii) Chapter 2 – The comprehensive and holistic nature of Islam

(iii) Chapter 3 – The prevalence of Islam and its characteristics as the last religion

(iv) Chapter 4 – The difference between the divine laws and their philosophical theories 

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[1] الغيبة،للنعماني،ص 29

Faith and Reason

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said:

“Almighty God has endowed upon mankind nothing better than reason (wisdom). Sleep of a wise man is better than the waking hours of an ignorant. Rest of a wise man is better than the movement (journeys for Hajj or Jihad) of ignorant. God has not send any prophet or messenger without first perfecting his reason; and his reason stands superior to all the reasons of (the people of) his community. What the Prophet has wished is preferable to all the Ijtihad (striving) of the Mujtahideen (those who strive).

No creature can ever discharge his obligations to God unless he comprehends those (obligations). All the worshippers weighted together can not reach the height of excellence of a wise man. The man of reason who are the possessors of understanding minds about whom Allah said:

يُؤتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاء وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيراً وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلاَّ أُوْلُواْ الأَلْبَابِ

‘He giveth wisdom unto whom He will and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good. But non will grasp the Message except men of understanding. [2:269]’ [1]

[1] Usul al-Kafi, Arabic-English version, part 1, pp 30-31, Tradition #11