Religion appears to have a short history. The origin of the major religions and prophets known to us today only stretches back to a few thousand years. Three prophets have disproportionately influenced the course of human history. They are Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Them). Yet there are signs that many other individuals received divine inspiration before the advent of the monotheistic faiths. Apart from the handful of recorded prophets, it is impossible to quantify the number of other prophets who have existed. This is especially true if you bear in mind the divine principle that throughout history no nation or tribe was ever destroyed until a messenger had been sent for their guidance. What is more, each messenger spoke the language of his people. A brief glance at history shows that there have been thousands and thousands of tribes and communities each with their own language which no longer exists. This would make the number of prophets in human history to be very high. Every region on Earth has had individuals who received divine inspiration.
Even today, within the Non-Abrahamic religions, it is possible to find the names of some personalities that are respected and revered in a manner similar to the prophets. Ramchandra, Krishna, Zarathustra, Plotinus, Tao and Buddha are some of these great names whose approach is enlightened and whose manner resembles the prophets. The distortion of their teachings is also well documented. The unprincipled manner in which King Ashoka (304 BCE – 232 BCE) manipulated the teachings of Buddha is a historical fact. Despite the monotheistic teachings of Manu, Hindu theology was also made to incline towards polytheism and the rejection of One God, evident from the Bhagavad-Gita. It is false to claim that monotheism started with Judaism. To the children of Adam and Noah, the unity of God was not a long forgotten fairytale. The ‘break-up’ of God was motivated by the primitive desires of religious leaders who worshipped status and had a lust for wealth and riches.
Jewish theology has been the most dominant force against the unity of religion. Its scholars started confining the universal message of God, going to extreme lengths in instilling prejudice and favouritism into His teachings. They were prepared to kill even messengers of God in order to achieve their selfish aims and goals. The misinterpretation of scripture became a common practice. As a nation, the Jewish people became like a parasitic organism feeding on society. In order to protect their interests they shrouded religion in secrecy and manipulated it as a tool to gain power and status. Viewing God as a personal possession, they did not allow religion to go beyond their own ethnic group. They transferred their own habits onto God, and placed limits and boundaries on Him.
Driven by the need to protect their self-interest, not only did they try to manipulate other tribes and nations, they also tried every trick and subterfuge to sabotage the interests of others. The Jewish people confined the search for God to their tribe and promoted religious hatred. Had they accepted Jesus (who was one of them) as a prophet and viewed Christianity as a continuation of divine inspiration, and had the Christians not turned away from Islam, this would have led to the organic evolution of religion; humanity would not have become divided. Those who base their religion on ethnicity, they insult the message of God and are very unlikely to escape annihilation unless they realise and correct themselves.
In general, the Jews of ancient times appear as ignorant and bigoted people. The countless miracles performed by Moses are evidence of the fact that only a robust and shocking response could ever mellow their qualities of ignorance, self-obsession and love of money. The calamities inflicted on Pharaoh, the splitting of the Nile, the raising of Mount Sinai, the hardships of the wilderness, internal discord and bloodshed were all forceful measures designed to eradicate their complacency and craving for wealth. But this did not stop them from reverting to their reptilian instincts; even today they have not managed to rehabilitate their primitive dispositions.
Christianity appears to be a religion of peace, humility and acceptance. In its early periods it also possessed a strong element of bigotry, inherited from Jewish thought. As time passed by, this underlying element became more entrenched, leading it to reject Islam. Religion has been hijacked by its leaders. God could no longer be found in revealed religion. But the search for God did not stop. This was the quest of Salman al-Farsi and Abu Dharr. To the seekers of God, religion is purely a road and pathway not the destination: any religion will not act as an obstacle in the path of finding God. Salman Farsi laid down principles and guidelines of this search. Relying on his road map, the traveller to God did not stop until he reached his destination. Christianity and Judaism had changed the goals of religion. Instead of seeking God they made religion into an institution governed by principles which agreed with their personal ambitions and desires. Knowledge was sacrificed to bigotry. Open-mindedness gave way to shallow thinking. God was pushed out of these religions. The personal rule of the rabbi and priest had begun. It is this that led Salmaan al-Farsi to look for God outside the institutionalised religions of his time.
Incomplete knowledge can never lead to the destination. Nor does it allow complete self-realization. Islam does not claim that it was or is the first religion. In fact it acknowledges the truth of all religions: regarding them as different stages in the search for the Universal God. It revised the scriptures of the past, removing the redundant and the irrelevant. It re-emphasized the message; and by correcting the facts and figures, it brought back into balance the ‘equations’ of religion. Having done this, it told us plainly and clearly that the Quran was the most accurate narration of the message of all the revealed books. The Quran is now the only reliable source which can offer direction and guidance to the person who wants to discover God or religion. After Muhammad, no prophet has influenced the world in a way that his teachings could be regarded as a religion, followed by a large number of the world population, nor has there has been a book which could be declared as divinely revealed. The story of revelation has reached its conclusion with the Quran. No longer is there a need for miracles. The human race is proud of the progress which science and knowledge has made; humanity has reached the peak of its intellect. Lack of knowledge and understanding is not an excuse for people today. In reality, the deeper understanding of Nature’s hidden laws, ‘miracles’ of research and technology touching every aspect of life, voyages of discovery into space, the mass exploitation of the Earth’s resources, and lifting the veil from ignorance and mystery, have all fuelled the intellectual pride of Man. He has discovered a new dimension of himself, leading him to assert his Godhood. The modern-day Abraham faces a challenge of a different kind.
Early Man made polytheism a habit. He looked for God in everything - and made a God out of everything. Modern Man has abandoned this habit of describing external things as partners of God. Now he wants to become God’s partner himself. Freedom of thought and popular democracy display a dislike for the ethical requirements inspired by God. The idea of God seems like a heavy burden on people’s shoulders, which constantly weighs them down. Error and misunderstanding have become one and the same. Modern Man cannot accept God as anything more than a fairy tale from long ago. Alongside other superstitious and false notions he regards the concept of God as an obstacle in the path of progress. The only difference is that in declaring these other superstitious beliefs as false, modern Man had some justification in the form of evidence. Yet he is prepared to declare the concept of God as false without any serious research. He is happy to accept it as a psychological device that gives comfort in times of crisis, but will not allow it to become part of his theories.
Does modern Man accept the existence of God? Of course, the answer is no. But is this denial based on sound reasoning or deep understanding? The answer is absolutely not. The whole discussion on the subject of God consists of immature self-centred assertions. Modern Man cannot accept that processes of cause and effect have to be created by some external intelligence. He also cannot allow for the fact that he himself is created; nor does he regard it relevant to explore the purpose of his existence. He allows no room for the possibility that he is accountable for his life and actions.
This is a bizarre crisis of intelligence. In a vast and expanding universe Man regards this planet and himself as the only form of intelligence that exists. To him the stars, the solar system, life and consciousness on planet Earth are all an accidental event. The honouring of Mankind is an extraordinary but random act of chance: a miraculous event that is unlikely to ever occur again. The astonishing fact is that modern Man believes in the initial ‘miracle’ of creation but cannot permit himself to even imagine an event or a force which made the Earth, all that exists on it, and human societies to be outside the workings of wider cosmic processes of change. Life on Earth is a cosmic anomaly. Looking at the facts of existence, the possibility of such an external force or event is much greater than the wishful thinking of Man.
The population of the Earth has never been greater than it is today. Within this population it is hard to find a common value shared by all. Religion, like a convenient excuse, seems to be causing divisions between the human race. But religion is not the real cause. The developed nations of the world are becoming anxious about the limited reserves of the Earth’s natural resources. Under the cover of religion and religious bigotry a new form of colonization is under way, driven by selfish ambitions and upheld by force and oppression. Peace and security seem to be a distant dream. The battle to control the supply of resources that are needed for survival, by force if necessary, seems to be advancing without any caution or restraint. The survival of the human race seems to depend on the destruction of each other! The governing instincts of the human species are marching towards one destination. The apocalyptic crisis of death and destruction has entered like a genetic virus into the minds of Mankind. The tragic outcome is crystal clear, yet the intelligence to save humanity from this outcome is absent. Unfortunately the instruments of destruction are now so varied, that the scale of destruction is unimaginable. Towns and cities can be totally wiped out in an instant, with ease. Earlier human civilization was decimated by the Ice Age; today’s human civilization seems to have been sacrificed to the fire of hell. Life is totally insecure. The steps which are being taken to make it safe are changing a spark into a raging fire. Time seems to be slipping away, but we are helpless: having lost our grip on the reins and missed our footing in the stirrup. I recall a verse of the Quran which informs us that God has created the Heavens and the Earth according to a particular design that cannot be altered, and if this is so then God alone can restore the balance.
An English Edition of Muqaddama-tul-Quran (pp.148-153)
An English Edition of Muqaddama-tul-Quran by Prof.Ahmad Rafique Akhtar