Adopting Rational Principles as the Basis of Religious Conduct [1]

Seyyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad

In today’s world, due to the behaviour of certain believers, religions have become coupled with violence. Sadly, the Religions that used to be accounted as the messengers of peace, friendship, morality and tranquillity, have become, in many parts of the world, as the cause for bloody and violent feuds. Therefore, I believe that the arch duty of religious leaders, today, is to wipe out these emerging ugly and hideous “appearances” of the religions, to try clarifying and showing the real beauties and righteous facets of all holy faiths, and to return this divinely- given gift to its real status.

Once we indulge into the covert political, cultural and sectarian agenda for these unfortunate atrocities, we must admit, with all honesty, that their beliefs and actions are rooted in their misjudgements from the principles of the divine religions and their instructions.

The reality is that all Abrahamic religions are scriptural, and one can perceive their principle teachings by referring to their original texts; and alike any other text requires human interpretation, exegesis, and explanation.

 

History of every religion is the chronology of the existence of a vast variety of different oral, mystical, and ecclesiastical interpretations.

The reason that one interpretation of a similar text differs from the other is the fact that one can put emphasis on a particular part of a text and selectively accentuate it. For the sake of this discussion, one would refer to certain verses of Quran, when it says for example:

«وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاکَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِینَ: [انبیا/ ۱۰۷]

We did not send you but as a mercy to all the nations.( 107 /anbeia)

فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ کُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِیظَ الْقَلْبِ لاَنفَضُّواْ مِنْ حَوْلِکَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ [آل عمران/ ۱۵۹]

 It is by Allah’s mercy that you are gentle to them; and had you been harsh and hard-hearted, surely they would have scattered from around you. So excuse them, and plead for forgiveness for them, and consult them in the affairs, and once you are resolved, put your trust in Allah. Indeed Allah loves those who trust in Him. (159/ale imran )

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِکِینَ اسْتَجَارَکَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّى یَسْمَعَ کَلاَمَ اللّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ: [توبه/ ۶]

If any of the polytheists seeks asylum from you, grant him asylum until he hears the Word of Allah. Then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.( 6/taoubeh )

وَإِن جَنَحُواْ لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا: [انفال/۶۱]

 And if they incline toward peace, then you [too] incline toward it, and put your trust in Allah. Indeed He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing. ( 61/anfal )

One who would establish the aforementioned verses as his principal and arch outlook, and align his manners and activities accordingly, may have totally different attitude from the one who considers some other verses.

I, myself, am not an expert on the Christian holy script.  Although, based on historical information, I am aware of the horrendous crimes that took place during the Middle Ages, in the name of religion and Christianity, by certain “believers”. Great men and dignified scientists were sentenced to death, or forced to abandon and to repent their just beliefs. Hundreds like Galilee, Copernic, and Giordano Bruno were among the victims of such appalling practices. Certainly, those so-called Christians, then the members of the Catholic Churches, who ordered such crimes, were have their rationale justified by a specific readings of the religious texts. Church’s court sentenced Jeanne d’Arcto be executed by burning, only because she had been “wearing men’s clothing and had repented her Christian beliefs”. Similarly, we witness shameless and hideous crimes committed by those who, kidnap girls, prevent and deprive women from having education, and behead innocent people, in the name of Islam.

In fact, those Muslims who perform these denouncing violent and horrible acts, would certainly have justifications based upon “references to religious texts”.

I would like to mention some verses in the Holy Quran when for example it says:

مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِینَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاء عَلَى الْکُفَّارِ رُحَمَاء بَیْنَهُمْ [فتح/ ۲۹

] Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah, and those who are with him are hard against the faithless and merciful amongst themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating[ in worship ], seeking Allah’s grace and[ His ]pleasure. Their mark is[ visible ]on their faces, from the effect of prostration. Such is their description in the Torah and their description in the Evangel. Like a tillage that sends out its shoots and builds them up, and they grow stout and settle on their stalks, impressing the sowers, so that He may enrage the faithless by them. Allah has promised those of them who have faith and do righteous deeds forgiveness and a great reward.( 29/fath) )

 «یَا أَیُّهَا الَّذِینَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْمُشْرِکُونَ نَجَسٌ فَلاَ یَقْرَبُواْ الْمَسْجِدَ الْحَرَامَ: [توبه/ ۲۸]

O you who have faith! The polytheists are indeed unclean: so let them not approach the Holy Mosque after this year. Should you fear poverty, Allah will enrich you out of His grace, if He wishes. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all-wise.( 28 /toubeh)

 «یَا أَیُّهَا النَّبِیُّ جَاهِدِ الْکُفَّارَ وَالْمُنَافِقِینَ وَاغْلُظْ عَلَیْهِمْ: [تحریم/ ۹]

O Prophet! Wage jihad against the faithless and the hypocrites, and be severe with them. Their refuge shall be hell, and it is an evil destination. ( 73 tahreem)

 

Today Fanatic and extremist Muslims, without considering the context, by ignoring the realities of the modern world, and in total inconsideration that the above mentioned verses are solely refer to certain circumstances, selectively apply them to proceed their goals; something that was similarly practices by certain Christians at the medieval period.

I do not want to infer that understanding of religion does not follow any norm and that the religious texts differ according to various precepts. What I mean is that there should be “measuring tools” capable of weighting these perceptions and interpretations.

 

It is for the religious leaders to act, so that their faiths would not to be “confined and secluded” [from the masses or believers]. On the other hand, we must present correct measurements and understanding of our principles for the sake of world peace and tranquillity.

Therefore, I propose that we adhere to the “rational principles”, as the core device in understanding of the religious values and the societal life, and abide by these principles. Considering this, we would enter into a religious life that does not surpass “rational principles”, and at the same time leads us to “live rationally”.

We, the followers of the Abrahamic religions, believe in a God who wishes good and prosperous life for his disciples. We, the followers of Abrahamic religions, believe in a God who is  the true meaning of generosity, love, affection, friendship, and justice. God, apparently in all divine  books, is referred to as: Affectionate (ودود) full of kindness (الرئوف) Peace ((السلام All compassionate (الرحیم) All-beneficent (الرحمن), All-conserver,(المومن) All-excusing,(العفو) All-forgiving.(الغفور) All-wise(الحکیم), and All-laudable.(الحمید).

All these qualities have been enumerated for God. But the meaning of piety for people worshiping God is that they try to “acquire” these values, these divine qualities. Worshiping God according to these principles and qualities, will never lead us to violence.

On top of these rational principles, which I consider  them as the priory to the principles of each religion, stands the notion of human dignity. In other word, prior to considering the concept of the religion, we have to acknowledge that: first, we are all human beings, and also, we want to become pious; that humanity is by its nature respectable, privileged with dignity, and that dignity is inherent in all human beings.

 

Taking this fact into the account, then we have to consider that to cherish the rights of human beings is our red line; that we will admit the rights of others and will never violate them, for whatever cause. It is noteworthy that the Holy Quran has established the “human dignity” as a divine matter and not a legal one; it is to conclude that dignity is inherited in the nature of human beings and has not been bestowed upon them, in a way one can take it back!

 

To this end, a verse of the holy Quran reads as follow:

وَ لَقَدْ كَرَّمْنا بَني‏ آدَمَ وَ حَمَلْناهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَ الْبَحْرِ وَ رَزَقْناهُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّباتِ وَ فَضَّلْناهُمْ عَلى‏ كَثيرٍ مِمَّنْ خَلَقْنا تَفْضيلاً (/الاسراء70)

Indeed We honoured the Children of Adam; provided them with means of Transportation on land and sea; and also Provided them lawful and pure Sustenance and bestowed them priority Above many of Our creatures.)alisra/70)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]-Rome, Dec.2-4/2014

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