Is Religion Man-made?

Among the deniers of ‘Religion’ are also those who argue that religion is created by man for his so many needs, especially psychological. They argue that man himself is above ‘Religion’.

In light of Islam man has no role in the making of religion. The source of religion is external. It is Allāh – the Almighty God, Who, with His utmost Beneficence and Mercy guided man through His Messengers towards the Absolute Truth which could not be known through the senses.

Absolute reality is beyond. The physical world is only an evidence for the existence of that reality. In order to acquire knowledge of the physical entity man has been bestowed with some important faculties through which he gains knowledge. These faculties include: senses and reason.

The arrangement between the sources of knowledge, senses and reason, is such that each one has its limits, and a particular sphere of activity beyond which it does not work. In natural sequence, the knowledge of things man collects through his senses cannot be deduced through bland reason. Similarly, the knowledge of things that comes through reason cannot be discovered by senses alone. In short, reason gives no guidance as far as the five senses work efficiently, and when the five senses become helpless, reason starts functioning. However, this demarcation is not a watertight one. In fact reason operates simultaneously with the senses and also works on the pedestal of the senses. Without senses reason has but a very meager role. The guidance given by reason is not unlimited. This too stops at a certain limit. Then there are things the knowledge of which can neither be acquired through senses nor through reason. In order to find out answer to such questions, we cannot move further without a divine source.

Reason and sense perception alone are not enough to show the ultimate way to God. It is all the more necessary that some other superior source be there for such guidance. Since that superior knowledge isbasically needed where reason does not work, it is, therefore, not necessary that everything communicated through that superior sourcebe compulsively comprehended through reason; what is beyond sense perception cannot necessarily be reasoned out through material evidence.

The source of Truth is beyond this world and beyond man’s own faculties. As said, absolute Truth is not subject to reason. Since it is beyond, its knowledge is not a subject of human experience and observation. As the source of light is the Sun but its light is reflected by the objects it falls on, so is God the ultimate source of Truth which reflected by the creation.

The means through which the absolute divine knowledge comes to man is the revelation. It is the real revelation, not the supposed revelation, which serves as the basis of the True Religion — the single divine guidance for the whole mankind.

Essence of Revelation

Revelation (Arabic: Wahi) is thus man’s spiritual need which helps him to the highest issues of his life. The concept, nature and purpose of this Divine revelation have been expressly stated in the Glorious Qur’an and the Hadith.

Besides being a spiritual necessity, Wahi is also a rational need. Believing that Allāh has created mankind for test and He will judge between them on the Day of Judgement, it is quite reasonable to believe that He did not forsake man in the dark. He has surely instituted some regular system for his guidance. Wahi and the institution of Risalah (Prophethood) constitute the divine scheme to guide man in matters beyond senses and reason. Therefore, Wahi is not only a religious belief but also quite tenable the rejection of which amounts to a rejection of the ultimate Wisdom of Allāh.

The method it follows is that Allāh selects one of His servants, ordains him as His messenger and to him reveals His Word, the Wahi.

The physical world, as an object of observation, investigation and experimentation, is not the whole in itself. It can only serve as the evidence for the absolute truth enshrined in the revelation. The holy Qur’an states that the universe is creation of Allāh. On and off the objects and the natural phenomena are presented as evidences of the Divine, Unity, Power and Providence. Hence the statements in the revelation has signs of its genuineness in the creation. Thus says the Wahi:

“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allāh  Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.”                   (al-Baqarah 2:164)

Tradition says that the holy Prophet of Islam used to retreat for days in the cave of Hira to go in seclusion and needed solitude to ponder over the mysteries of nature. His very substance was becoming saturated with the ‘signs’ in the heavens so that he might serve as an entirely adequate instrument for a revelation already inherent in these ‘signs.’ Sometimes he would to see pleasant dreams which in turn proved true.  But certain and unambiguous knowledge of the Ultimate Truth beyond this physical world which provided ample evidence for that Truth was yet far away. So in order to express the deep and intimate personal relationship of the Divine Grace, Mercy and Tenderness with man, Allāh sent down revelation as Divine Guidance to him (Al- Qur’an, Al-Baqarah 2:38) so that it could act as criterion to judge between right and wrong (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah 2:213, Al-Tariq 86:13).

Wahi is the highest source of knowledge which answers a lot of metaphysical questions which cannot be answered by the rational knowledge alone. Such question include, for example,

Such questions shave been bewildering human mind ever since man set foot on this planet. Such questions are directly related to our overall understanding of the world and life.

Revealed knowledge

Revealed knowledge provides answers to these bewildering questions and addresses the liturgical and eschatological issues, answers the questions regarding Allāh ﷻ’s purpose behind creating mankind, and acts as guidance for the mankind to choose the correct way with certainty.

As Din (Absolute Reality) is divine, belief on the other hand, is essentially the matter of heart and mind. Therefore, the Qur’an does not allow any coercion in matters of religion and declares in clear terms that nobody can be forced to accept any faith.

Islam gives equal importance to both the aspects of human life i.e. the worldly life and the life after death. It, in fact, considers the life after death as continuation of this life. In fact Islam warns those people who are after the luxuries of worldly life of great loss in the hereafter and gives glad tiding to those who ask God for good in both the stations of life. The Holy Qur’an testifies this in these words:

“There are some who say, ‘Our Lord, give us abundance in this world.’ These shall have no share in the world to come. But there are others who pray, ‘Our Lord, grant us good in this world as well good in the world to come, and protect us from the torment of the fire.’ They shall have a good share from what they have earned.”

(Al-Qur’an, al-Baqarah 2:200-2)

True religion must broadly govern five fields of human life including the imaniyyat (the belief system) ‘ibadat, (worship), mu‘amalat (transactions), mu‘asharat (mutual sharing in day to day social life) and akhlaqiyat (moral behavior). Islam has a well-defined system of belief and rituals. It governs mutual human relationships and economic transactions on the basis of a well-organized system of moral and ethical value.

True belief is a matter of conviction. It is therefore, a learned thing involving the believer’s free consent and deliberate judgment, “not a narrow-minded addiction to a single track of thought, certainly not a ‘pre-judgement’ ”. Therefore, a sincere believer is always on the way to the actualization of his belief.

It needs almost three steps for a man to actualize his faith and become a true Muslim: al-tasdiq bi al-jinan (believing by heart), al-iqrar bi al-lisan (giving witness by tongue), al-‘amal bi al-arkan (acting by body organs). The Muslims therefore, need to be called first to the actualization of their Iman. This is an unending process. Yaqin (certitude) has no fixed state. It goes on increasing day by day, moment by moment. That is what the Holy Qur’an points to in clear terms:

“Believers! Believe in Allāh and His Messenger and in the Scripture He sent down to His Messenger, as well as what He sent down before.”

(Al-Qur’an, al-Nisa’ 4:136)

Rational Knowledge

Rational knowledge comprises two spheres: science and philosophy. Both of these human spheres of knowledge have no role in answering the above questions. Science and religion have nothing to do with one another, being two entirely different realms. The one has to do with observable phenomena and the other with matters that are beyond the grasp of observation or experiment. As such, they do not conflict, but neither can the one be used to confirm the other. Similarly philosophy, although endeavors to engage with the metaphysical realm, has never come up with any certain knowledge about it except some hearsay and conjecture.