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Islam and Modern Life

The question of religion and modernity is one of those subjects which do not concern the Muslims alone. Other religions also had to face this question. Many liberal minded people in the world have renounced religion, because they are under the impression that religion and modern life are incompatible. They think that inertia, stagnation and rigidity are the inherent properties of religiousness. In other words, they think that inertia, monotony and the maintenance of status quo are the characteristics of religion.

The late Mr. Nehru, a former Prime Minister of India, had secular ideas and did not have faith in any religion. It appears from his statements that what made him averse to religion was its rigidity and monotony.

Towards the end of his life Nehru felt a vacuum within himself and in the world and believed that it could be filled only by a spiritual force. But still, he was not inclined to accept any religion, because he believed that a state of rigidity and monotony pervaded all religions.

An Indian journalist, named Karanjia, interviewed Nehru towards the end of the latter's life and apparently this was the last interview during which Nehru expressed his views on general world problems. While talking about Gandhi, Karanjia said:

"Some liberal and progressive elements believe that Gandhiji, through his emotional solutions and moral and spiritual ways, weakened and dampened your original belief in scientific socialism".

In the course of his reply, Nehru said: "It is necessary and good to take advantage of moral and spiritual ways. I have always agreed with Gandhiji in this respect. I believe that it is more necessary to take advantage of these means, for now, more than ever, we need moral and spiritual answers to the questions resulting from the moral vacuum caused by the modern culture, which is becoming popular."

Then Karanjia put questions about Marxism. Nehru admitted its imperfection and, in his replies, pointed out some of its failures. He again suggested a spiritual solution to the world's problems. At this juncture, Karanjia said: "Mr. Nehru, does not your present concept of moral and spiritual solutions make you different from yesterday's Jawaharlal (Nehru himself during his youth)? What you have said gives an idea that Mr. Nehru, towards the end of his life, has come out in search of God".

Nehru said: "Yes, I have changed. My emphasis on moral and spiritual values and the solutions is not unintentional". He added: "Now the question is how to raise the morality and spiritualism to a higher level. No doubt, for this purpose, religion is there, but unfortunately it has taken the shape of a short-sighted and rigid ritualism and has been reduced to dry formalities. Only its apparent form and external shell have remained and its real spirit and concept have disappeared".

Adapted from the book: "Woman and Her Rights" by: "Shahid Murtaza Mutahhari"

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