Man and Faith
- :Shahid Murtada Mutahhari
Man and Faith
Shahid Murtada Mutahhari
Man himself being a kind of animal, has many things in common with other animals. At the same time he has many dissimilarities which distinguish him from other animals and make him superior to them.
The main and basic features distinguishing man from other living beings, on which his humanity depends and which constitute the source of what is known as human culture, pertain to two spheres: attitudes and inclinations.
Generally speaking the animals are endowed with a quality of perceiving and knowing themselves and the outer world, and in the light of this knowledge they strive to secure what they want and desire.
Like other animals man also has many wants and desires and in the light of what he knows and understands, he makes efforts to secure and realize them. Man differs from other living beings in that he knows more, understands better and his wants and desires are of a higher level. This characteristic of man distinguishes him from all other animals and makes him superior to them.
Awareness and Desire in Animals
An animal knows the world through its external senses only. That is why, firstly, its knowledge is superficial and seeming. It does not penetrate the things and has no access to their internal relations. Secondly, it is partial and particular, and is neither universal nor general. Thirdly, it is regional, for it is confined to the living environment of the animal, and does not go beyond that. Fourthly, it is limited to the present and is unconcerned with the past and the future. As animal is not aware of its own or world's history, it neither thinks of the future nor does it plan for it.
From the viewpoint of knowledge, an animal cannot come out of the framework of the exteriors, the particularity, the living environment and the present time. It never escapes from these four prisons. If by chance it does, it does so instinctively and unconsciously, and not by its own choice and will.
Like the range of its knowledge, the level of the wants and the desires of an animal also has a limited scope. Firstly, all its desires are material and do not go beyond the limits of eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, mating and building a home or a nest.
For an animal there is no question of any spiritual needs, moral values etc. Secondly, all its desires are personal and individualistic, pertaining to the animal itself or, at the most, to its mate and the young ones. Thirdly, they are regional related to its living environment only. Fourthly, they are instantaneous, pertaining to the present time.
In other words, the dimension of the desires and inclinations of an animal's existence has the same limitations as the dimension of its perceptive existence. From this point of view also, an animal has to live within specific limitations.
If an animal pursues an objective which is outside these limitations and which, for an example, pertains to its species in general and not to one individual or pertains to the future and not to the present, as is observed in the case of certain gregarious animals like bees, it does so unconsciously, instinctively and by the direct order of the power which has created it and which manages the whole world.
Man's domain both in the sphere of his knowledge, information and outlook and in the sphere of his desires, wants and inclinations is very vast and lofty. Man's knowledge passes from the exterior of the things to their inner reality, their mutual relations and to the laws governing them. His knowledge does not remain confined to any particular place or time. It surpasses all such limitations.
On the one hand, his knowledge extends to the events which took place before his birth, and on the other, it extends to other planets and stars. He gets acquainted with his past as Well as his future. He discovers his own history and that of the World, that is the history of the earth, the sky, the mountains, the rivers, the plants and the living organisms.
Not only he thinks of the remote future, but also applies his thought to infinities and eternities, some of which he recognizes. Man goes a step further from identifying the individuality and particularity, and with a view to control nature, discovers universal rules and general truths prevailing in the world.
From the viewpoint of his ambitions and aspirations also man holds an outstanding position, for he is an aspiring, high thinking and idealistic being. He seeks objectives which are not of material and profitable nature; objectives which are in the interest of entire humanity and not confined to himself and his family or to any particular region or to a particular period of time.
Man is so idealistic that he often gives more importance to his creed and ideology than to any other value. He may consider service to others to be of more consequence than his own welfare, and may regard a thorn stuck into the foot of someone else as being stuck into his own foot or even his own eye. He feels sympathy with others and shares their joy and grief. Man becomes so devoted to his creed and sacred ideology that he easily sacrifices his life for them.
The human aspect of the human culture which is considered to be its true spirit is the outcome of such feelings and desires.
Basis of the Distinction of Man
Man's vast and extensive conception of the world is a product of the collective human effort made through so many centuries. The information so acquired has been piled together and developed. This information after it has been processed and regulated has come to be known as "science" in the wider sense of the term that is the sum-total of human ideas about the cosmos. It includes philosophy, a product of the collective human effort which has been given a special logical form.
Spiritual and higher human tendencies are born of man's belief in certain realities of this world and his devotion to them. These realities are neither individualistic nor material. They are comprehensive and general involving no question of any economic gain, and are in their turn the outcome of certain conceptions of the world either presented to mankind by the Divine Prophets or produced by a sort of idealistic thinking initiated by some philosophers.
In any case the higher spiritual and super-animal tendencies of man if based on a doctrinal and intellectual infrastructure take the name of faith. Hence we come to the conclusion that knowledge and faith constitute the main and the basic difference between man and other living beings and that knowledge and faith form the basis of man's humanity which depends on them.
Much has been said on the distinction between man and other species of animals. Some hold that there is no basic difference between the two. According to them the difference of knowledge is that of quantity or at the most of quality, but not that of essence. They attach little importance to man's vast, wonderful and marvellous achievements in the field of knowledge, which have attracted the attention of the great philosophers of the East and the West.
This group of scholars maintains that from the point of view of his wants and desires man is no more than an animal. 1 Some others believe that the main difference is that of life. Man is the only fully living animal. Other animals have no feelings, and are not conscious of pleasure and pain. They are just semi-living machines.
Therefore the true definition of man is that he is the living being Other thinkers do not believe that, and maintain that there are basic differences between other living beings 2 and man. It appears that each group of these scholars has concentrated on one human characteristic and distinction.
That is why man has been defined in so many different ways. He has been described as a rational animal, an absolute-seeking being, an unending being, an idealist, a seeker of values, a metaphysical animal, an insatiable being, an indefinite being, a responsible being, a forward-looking being, a free agent, an insurgent, a social order loving being, a beauty-loving being, a justice-loving being, a double-faced being, an amorous being, an obligated being, an intuitive being, a being believing in double standard, a creator, a lonely being, an agitated being, a fundamentalist, doctrinaire, a tool-maker, a super-naturalist, an imaginative being, a spiritualist, a transcendentalist etc.
Obviously each of these descriptions is true in itself, but if we want to find out an expression inclusive of all the basic distinctions, then we should say that man is an animal endowed with knowledge and faith.
We know that man is a sort of animal. He has many things in common with other animals. But he has many distinctive features also. Because of his similarities and dissimilarities with other animals man has a double life; an animal life and a human life, or in other words, a material life and a cultural life.
Here a question arises: What is the relation between man's humanity and his animality, his human life and his animal life? Is one of these qualities of primary importance and the other of only secondary? Is one of these the basis and the other only a reflection of it? Is one of these the infrastructure and the other the superstructure? Is the material life the infrastructure and the cultural life the superstructure?
Is the animality of man the infrastructure and the cultural life the superstructure? Is the animality of man the infrastructure and his humanity the superstructure?
This question nowadays is initiated from a sociological and not psychological point of view. That is why the discussion centres round the point whether among the social characteristics of man, his economic tendencies related to production and productional relations are more important than all other characteristics of his, especially those which reflect his humanity, and whether his other characteristics and tendencies are only a superstructure of his economic nature? Another interconnected question is whether it is true that science, philosophy, literature, religion, law, ethics and art of every age are only a manifestation of the economic relations of that age and have no intrinsic value of their own?
Though this question is initiated from a sociological point of view, its discussion inevitably leads to a psychological result and a philosophical discussion of the nature of man known in modern terms as humanism. Generally the conclusion drawn is that humanity of man is of no importance. What is important is his animality only. In other words the view of those who deny the existence of any basic difference between man and animal is supported.
This theory not only denies the importance of human tendencies towards realism, virtue, beauty and belief in Allah, but also denies the importance of man's rational approach to the world and truth. It may be pointed out that no approach can be neutral. Every approach inevitably represents a certain material outlook.
It is surprising that some of the schools that support the theory that man is basically an animal simultaneously talk of humanity and humanism also! The fact is that the evolutionary march of man begins from his animality and proceeds towards the highest point of humanity. This principle applies to individuals as well as to society. In the beginning of his existence man is no more than a material organism.
With a basic evolutionary movement he is changed into a spiritual substance. Human spirit is born in the lap of human body and then attains independence. Animality of man is the nest in which his humanity develops and matures. It is a characteristic of evolution that the more a developing being evolves, the more that being becomes independent, self-existing and effective and the more it influences its environment.
As the humanity of man develops, it makes an advance towards independence and gains control of all other aspects. This is true both in the case of an individual and that of a society. A developed individual controls both his internal and external environment. His development means that he has been emancipated from the subjection of internal and external environment and attached to creed and faith.
Evolution of society takes place exactly in the same way as the evolution of soul in the lap of body and the evolution of the humanity of an individual in the lap of his animality.
The development of society mostly begins under the impact of its economic organizations. The cultural and spiritual aspects of society are tantamount to its soul. As the effect of body and soul is reciprocal, there is a similar mutual relationship between spiritual and material arrangements also.
Just as the evolutionary progress of an individual means his march towards freedom, independence and greater supremacy of soul, the evolutionary progress of a society also means the same thing. In other words, the more a human society is developed, the more its cultural life becomes independent of its material life. The man of future will be a man of culture and a man of faith, creed and ideology and not a man of economy, bodily needs and sensual enjoyments.
Of course all this does not mean that human society necessarily advances along a straight line towards the perfection of human values, nor does it mean that at every stage of time it is one step advanced further than it was at the previous stage of time. It is possible that mankind passes through a stage of social life in which despite all technical and technological advancement it is pushed a stage or two backward from spiritual and moral point of view, as is alleged to be the case with the man of our century.
Actually man on the whole is marching forward both from material and spiritual points of view. But his spiritual movement is not regular along a straight line. It is a movement which involves occasional stoppages, retrogressions and deviations to the right and to the left. Nevertheless it is on the whole an evolutionary and forward movement. That is why we say that the man of future will be a man of culture and not a man of economy and the man of future will be a man of faith, creed and ideology and not a man of bodily needs and sensual enjoyments.
According to this theory the human aspects of man because of their fundamentality, developed along with and even prior to the development of the production implements. Consequent upon their development the human aspects have gradually reduced man's dependence on his natural and social environment and have diminished his amenability to the environmental conditions.
The freedom so obtained enhanced man's attachment to faith and ideology and added to his capacity of influencing his natural and social environment. In future as a result of gaining complete independence, man will become more attached and devoted to faith and ideology.
As in the past man was less equipped with the gifts of nature and was not capable of fully utilizing his own faculties, he was a captive of nature and his own animality. But in future man will be able to exploit better the gifts of nature and his own inherent capabilities. Thus to a great extent he will be liberated from the captivity of nature and his own animal tendencies and will add to his sway over nature and himself.
According to this view though man's human reality emerges along with and in the lap of his material and animal evolution, it is in no way the reflection of and subservient to his material development. It is an independent and progressive reality. Though it is affected by material aspect, it influences them also. What determine the final destiny of man is his cultural evolution and his human reality, not the evolutionary progress of the production implements.
It is human reality which in the course of its progress causes the development of the production implements along with the development of other human affairs. It is not true that production implements develop automatically and that humanity of man changes with a change in the tools directing production system.
Relation between Knowledge and Faith
We have studied the relation between man's humanity and his animality, in other words, the relation between man's cultural and spiritual life and his material life. It is now clear that man's humanity has an independent existence and is not a mere reflection of his animal life. It is also clear that knowledge and faith are the two basic parts of the humanity of man. Now let us see what mutual relation these two facets of humanity have or can have.
Unfortunately certain parts of the Old Testament have in the Christian world created an idea of contradiction between knowledge and faith. This idea which has cost dearly to knowledge and faith both has its root in the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament.
Narrating the story of Adam and the Forbidden Tree, the Book of Genesis, Chapter II, verses 16 and 17 says:
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
In the Chapter III, verses 1 - 7 it says:
"Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons". In the verse 22 - 23 of the same chapter it says:
"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever. " 3
According to this conception of man, God, knowledge and disobedience, God wants that man should not be aware of good and evil. The Forbidden Tree is the tree of knowledge. Man attains knowledge only if he rebels against God's command (disobeys the teachings of religion and the Prophets), but for that very reason he is driven out of God's Heaven.
On the basis of this conception all evil insinuations are those of knowledge, and reason is the insinuating Devil.
In contrast, we learn from the Holy Quran that Allah taught all names (realities) to Adam and then ordered the angels to prostrate themselves before him. The Devil was condemned because he refused to prostrate himself before the vicegerent of Allah, who was aware of the realities. The Prophetic traditions have told us that the Forbidden Tree was that of avarice, greed and such like things, that is the things related to the animality of Adam, not to his humanity. The insinuating Devil always insinuates what is against reason and what answers the base desires. It is concupiscence and not reasons that represents the Devil within man. Contrary to all this what we find in the Book of Genesis is really very amazing.
It is this conception which has divided the European history of culture during the past 1500 years into two distinct periods, namely the age of faith and the age of science, and has placed science and faith in opposition to each other.
In contrast the Islamic history of culture is divided into the period of advancement of knowledge and faith and the period in which both of them declined together. We Muslims should keep ourselves away from the wrong conception which has caused an irreparable loss to knowledge, faith and humanity, and must not blindly regard the contradiction between knowledge and faith as an indisputable fact.
We now propose to make an analytical study of this question and see whether each of these two facets of humanity exclusively belongs to a distinct period or age, and whether man in every age is condemned to be only a semi-man and always to suffer the evils ensuing either from ignorance or from infidelity.
As you will see every faith is inevitably based on a particular way of thinking and a special conception of cosmos. There is no doubt that many conceptions and interpretations of the world, though they may be the basis of a faith, are not acceptable because they are not in consonance with rational and scientific principles. Therefore the question is whether there exists any conception of the world and interpretation of life which is rational and at the same time fit to be the infrastructure of a felicitous faith.
If it is found that such a conception does exist, then there is no reason why man should be supposed to be condemned for ever to suffer the evils ensuing either from ignorance or infidelity. The relation between knowledge and faith can be discussed from two angles. One of them is to see whether there exists a faith, producing conception which arouses faith and is rational too, or all the ideas which are scientific are contrary to faith, give no hope and produce no optimism. We will discuss this question later under the heading,Conception of Cosmos.
The second angle from which we can discuss the relation between faith and knowledge is the question as to how each of these two affects man. Does knowledge draw us to one thing and faith to something contradictory to that? Does knowledge want to mould us in one way and faith in another? Or do faith and knowledge supplement each other, taking part in making harmonious whole of us? Let us see what knowledge gives us and what faith gives.
Knowledge gives us light and power; faith gives us love, hope and warmth. Knowledge helps make implements and appliances and accelerates progress; faith determines the purpose of human efforts and gives direction to them. Knowledge brings about outer revolution; faith causes inner revolution. Knowledge makes the world man's world; faith makes life the life of humanity. Knowledge expands the existence of man horizontally; faith lifts it up vertically. Knowledge trains man's temperament; faith reforms man.
Both knowledge and faith give power to man; but the power given by faith is continuous, whereas the power given by knowledge is disjointed. Knowledge is beauty; faith is beauty too. But knowledge beautifies reason and thought; faith beautifies spirit and feeling. Both knowledge and faith give man security.
But knowledge provides outer security, whereas faith provides inner security. Knowledge gives protection against diseases, floods, earthquakes and storms. Faith provides security against restlessness, loneliness, sense of insecurity and low thinking. Knowledge harmonizes the world with man, faith harmonizes man with himself.
The need of man to both knowledge and faith has attracted the attention of religious as well as secular thinkers. Dr Muhammad Iqbal says:
Humanity needs three things today, a spiritual interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual and basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis.
Modern Europe has, no doubt, built a realistic system on these lines, but experience shows that truth revealed through pure reason is incapable of bringing that fire of living conviction which personal revelation alone can bring. This is the reason why pure thought has so little influenced man while religion has always elevated individuals and transformed the societies.
The idealism of Europe never became a living factor in her life and the result is a perverted ego seeking itself through mutually intolerant democracies whose sole function is to exploit the poor in the interest of the rich.
Believe me, Europe today is the greatest hindrance in the way of man's ethical advancement. The Muslim, on the other hand, is in possession of these ultimate ideas on the basis of a revelation, which, speaking from the inmost depths of life, internalizes its own apparent externality. With him the spiritual basis of life is a matter of conviction, for which even the least enlightened man among us can lay down his life". (Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam).
Will Durant, the well-known author of the History of Civilization, despite his being a non-religious man, says: The ancient world differed from the new machine world only in means, not in aims. What will you say if it is found that all our progress consists in the improvement of methods and means and not in the betterment of the aims and goals?" 4
He also says,
"Wealth is boring; reason and wisdom are only a cold dim light. It is only love which with indescribable tenderness warms the hearts" 5 It is now more or less realized that scienticism or pure scientific training is not to make a full man. It can produce a semi-man not a full-fledged one.
This training turns out raw material of man, not a finished man. It can produce a strong, healthy and the unilateral man but not a virtuous and multilateral being. It is now recognized by all that the period of pure science has now come to an end. Society is now threatened with an idealistic vacuum. Some people want to fill this vacuum with pure philosophy and some others are seeking the help of literature, art and humanitarian sciences for this purpose.
In our country also there is a suggestion to fill the gap with humanizing literature, especially the mystic literature as produced by Mowlawi, Sa'di and Hafiz. The proponents of this scheme forget that this literature itself has been inspired by religion and its humanizing spirit, which has made it attractive, is Islamic. Otherwise how is it that some modern literature in spite of its loud claim of being humanistic is so insipid, and lacking in spirit and attractiveness? In fact the human content of our mystic literature is the result of its Islamic conception of the universe and man. If we take the Islamic spirit out of these masterpieces, nothing but a carcass of them will be left.
Will Durant is one of those who realize the existence of vacuum. He suggests that literature, philosophy and art should fill the gap. He says: "The damage done to our schools and colleges is mostly due to the education theory of Spencer, 6 who has defined education as bringing man in harmony with his environment. This definition is lifeless and mechanical, and it stems from the philosophy of the superiority of mechanics. Every creative spirit and brain is averse to it.
The result is that our schools and colleges have been filled with theoretical and mechanical sciences and have remained devoid of such subjects as literature, history, philosophy and art, which are being considered to be useless. An education which is purely scientific can produce nothing except tools. It alienates man from beauty and estranges; him from wisdom. It would have been better for the world if Spencer had not written a book". 7
It is very surprising that though Will Durant admits that this vacuum is in the first place an idealistic one, resulting from a sort, of wrong thinking and lack of faith in human aims and goals, he is still of the opinion that the problem can be solved by anything non-material though it may be merely imaginative. He thinks that occupation with history, art, beauty, poetry and music can fill a vacuum originating from the depths of man's instinct of looking for an ideal and seeking perfection.
We have learnt that there is no contradiction between faith and knowledge. They rather supplement each other. Now there arises one more question: Is it possible that they fill the place of each other?
This question need not be answered elaborately for we already know the respective roles of faith and knowledge. It is evident that knowledge cannot take the place of faith which gives love and hope besides light and power. Faith elevates our desires, and in addition to helping us in realizing our aims and objects, removes the element of selfishness and individualism from our desires and ideals and puts them on the basis of love and spiritual and moral relations. Besides being a tool in our hands, it basically changes our essence. Similarly faith also cannot fill the place of knowledge, which makes us familiar with nature, reveals its laws to us and makes us aware of ourselves.
Historical experience has shown that separation between knowledge and faith has caused irreparable losses. Faith should .be identified in the light of knowledge, which saves it from being mixed up with myths. Faith without knowledge ends in, stagnation and blind prejudice, and can achieve no purpose. Where there is no knowledge, faith of the believer becomes a tool in the hands of the clever hypocrites.
We saw an example, of this contingency in the case of the Khawarij (Kharijites) of the early Islamic era. Other examples in various forms we have seen in later periods and are still seeing.
Knowledge without faith is a sharp sword in the hand of a drunken brute. It is a lamp in the hand of a thief to help him pick up the best articles at midnight. That is why there is not the least difference in the nature and conduct of the faithless man of today who has knowledge and the faithless man of yesterday who had no knowledge. After all what is the difference between the Churchill's, Johnson's, Nixon's and Stalin's of today and the Pharaohs, Genghis Khans and Attila's of yore?
It may be said that as knowledge is light as well as power, it has no special and exclusive application to the external world. It illuminates our internal world also and consequently gives us power to change it. Therefore knowledge can make the world and man both. It can perform its own task that is world-making as well as the task of belief that is man making.
The answer is that all this is true, but the basic point is that knowledge is a sort of implement and its use depends on the will of man. Whatever man does, he can do that in a better way with the help of knowledge. That is why we say that knowledge is helpful in securing objectives and traversing the path man chooses for himself.
It is obvious that implements are used for achieving a predetermined goal. Now the question is on what basis the goal should be determined? As we know, by nature man is an animal. Humanity is his acquired quality. In other words, human talents of man are to be nurtured and promoted gradually in the light of faith.
By his nature man moves towards his animal and selfish objectives which are material and individualistic. He employs the implements available to him for this purpose. Hence he is in need of a separate driving force which may neither be his objective nor his tool.
He needs a force which may explode him from within and put his hidden talents into action. He requires a force which may bring about a revolution in his conscience and give him a new orientation. This task cannot be performed by discovery and knowledge of the laws governing man and nature. The performance of this task is possible only if the sanctity and importance of certain values are embedded in the soul of man.
For this purpose man must have a number of noble tendencies ensuing from a particular way of thinking and certain conceptions of the universe and man. These conceptions and the contents of their dimensions and proofs cannot be made available in any laboratory, and, as we shall explain, are out of the reach of science.
The past and present history has shown what evil consequences the dissociation of knowledge and faith from each other has produced. Where there was faith but no knowledge, the efforts of the humanitarian people were directed to the matters which either were not much fruitful or did not produce good results. These efforts were often the source of prejudices and obscurantism, and occasionally resulted in harmful conflicts.
Where there has been knowledge but faith has been lacking, as in the case of some modern societies, the entire force of knowledge has been used to serve the cause of self-aggrandizement, amassing wealth, and satisfying the lust of power, exploitation, subjugation and craftiness.
The past two or three centuries may be regarded as the period of attaching too much importance to scientific knowledge and ignoring faith. Many intellectuals thought that all human problems would be solved by science, but experience has proved the contrary. Today there is no intellectual denying that man needs some sort of faith. Even if that faith is not religious, it is bound to be ultra-scientific.
Bertrand Russell has materialistic outlook, yet he admits that:
"The work that merely aims at earning income shall not produce good results. For this purpose one should adopt a profession that implants in the individual a faith, a purpose and a goal" 8
Today the materialists feel compelled to claim that they are philosophically materialists and morally idealists. In other words they say that they are materialists from theoretical point of view and spiritualists from practical and idealistic point of view. Anyhow, the problem remains as to how it is possible that a man should be a materialist theoretically and a spiritualist practically? The materialists themselves should answer this question.
George Sarton, the world famous scientist and the author of the well-known book, History of Science, describing the inability of science to humanize the mutual relations of mankind and underlining man's urgent need of the force of faith, says:
"In certain fields science has made wonderful progress. But in other fields related to the mutual relations of human beings, for example the fields of national and international politics, we are still laughing at ourselves".
George Sarton admits that the faith man needs is a religious faith. He says this of man's need for the triad of art, religion, and science: "Art reveals beauty; it is the joy of life. Religion means love; it is the music of life. Science means truth and reason; it is the conscience of mankind. We need all of them art and religion as well as science. Science is absolutely necessary but it is never sufficient".(George Sarton, Six Wings: Men of Science in the Renaissance, p. 218. (London, 1958).
The foregoing discussion has made it clear that without having an ideal and faith man cannot pass a healthy life nor can he render a fruitful service to humanity and human culture. A man not having an ideal and faith will either be submerged in self-seeking or will be converted into a lifeless robot groping in darkness and not knowing his duty in respect of the moral and social questions of life.
He will perforce show queer reaction to such questions. A man who adheres to a school, an ideology or faith, knows his responsibility clearly. But a man, whose responsibility is not made clear by a school or a system, will pass his life in bewilderment and will sometimes be drawn to this direction and sometimes to that.
He will become an incongruous being. In, fact there cannot be two opinions about the necessity of being attached to a definite school or an ideology.
It is important to note that it is religious faith alone that can convert a man into a true believer and can suppress his selfishness and self-seeking under the impact of a doctrine and an ideology. Religious faith creates in the individual a sort of unqualified submission so that he can no longer entertain any doubt even about the most trivial doctrines of his school. He holds his school dear to his heart, regards his life without it as meaningless and absurd and supports his ideology with zeal and fervour.
Distinctions of Religious Faith
Religious tendencies impel man to make efforts even at the cost of his natural and individualistic feelings. He sometimes sacrifices his life and his social position for the sake of his faith.
This is possible only when the ideal of a man attains an aspect of sanctity and gains absolute control of his existence. It is religious force alone which imparts sanctity to an ideal and imposes its authority on man.
It is true that often people sacrifice their life, their property and all that is dear to them not for the sake of any ideal or religious faith but under the pressure of psychological complexes, malice, and revenge or as a severe reaction to the feeling of being oppressed and suppressed. Such cases are common in every part of the world.
But there is a difference between a religious and a non-religious ideal. As the involvement of religious belief imparts sanctity to an ideal, sacrifices are made for the sake of it most voluntarily and naturally. A task performed voluntarily shows a sort of choice, but a task performed under the influence of complexes and perturbing inner pressures, means a sort of explosion. Evidently there is a vast difference between the two.
Furthermore, should the world conception of a man be purely material and based exclusively on perceptible realities, he will find every kind of social and human idealism contrary to the perceptible realities of his relations with the world as felt by him on any particular occasion. The American psychologist and philosopher of the early 20th century, William James says:
"The outcome of a perceptional conception is only selfishness, not idealism. Idealization will not go beyond the limits of fantasy if it is not based on a world conception whose logical result is the ideal in question. Man should make a world of his own ideas, consisting of the realities existing within himself, and live with it happily. Anyhow, if idealism stems from a religious belief, it will be based on a conception of the world, the logical result of which will be the espousal of social ideals.
Religious faith is a sort of friendly relationship between man and the world, or in other words, a sort of harmony between man and universal ideals. In contrast, non-religious beliefs and ideals are a sort of breaking away from the external world and building an imaginary world which in no way finds any support from the former".
Religious belief not only prescribes for man a number of duties irrespective of his natural inclinations, but also completely changes his view about the world, in the structure of which he begins to discern new elements. The dry, cold, mechanical and material world is transformed into a living and conscious world. Religious belief changes man's impression about the universe and the creation.
"The world which the religious thinking presents to us is not only this very material world in a changed form but also includes many features of which a materialist cannot think". (Psychoanalysis and Religion p. 508)
Besides all this, every human being has an innate tendency to believe in truth and sacred and adorable realities. Man has many hidden capabilities ready to be fostered and promoted. All his inclinations are not material. He has spiritual tendencies so which are innate and not acquired. This is a fact which is supported by science.
"Let any number of our motives and incentives have their source in this world, but as most of our desires and inclinations are not in keeping with any material calculations, it is evident that they spring from the metaphysical world". (Psychoanalysis and Religion, p. 508. New York, 1929) As spiritual inclinations do exist, they should be fostered and fostered well and carefully. Otherwise they are likely to deviate from the right course and cause irreparable loss.
Another psychologist, Erich Fromm says:
"There is none who is not in need of a religion and does not want limits for his orientation and a subject for his pastime. A man himself may not distinguish between his religious and non-religious beliefs and may believe that he has no religion. He may regard, his attachment to the apparently non-religious objectives, such as wealth, power or success as simply a sign of his interest in practical affairs and a pursuit of his own welfare.
The question is not, whether a man has or has not a religion. The question is what religion he has". (Psychoanalysis and Religion, p. 508) What this psychologist means is that a man cannot live without hallowing and adoring something. If he does not acknowledge and worship only Allah, he is bound to recognize something else as a supreme reality and to make it the object of his faith and worship.
As man is in need of an ideal and a faith and by his instinct seeks something which he may hallow and adore, the only way open to us is to augment our religious faith, which is the only faith which can really bring man under its sway.
The Holy Qur'an is the first Book which has described religious faith as a sort of concord between man and the entire creation:
"Do they seek anything other than the religion of Allah? But to Him submits whosoever is in the heavens and the earth."Surah-Al-e-Imran, 3:83) The Holy Qur'an has also described religious faith as a part of the innate nature of man:
"Be devoted to the upright religion. That is the nature in which Allah has created man."(Surah ar-Rum, 30:30)
We have already referred to the effects of religious faith. But in order to explain the advantages of this valuable asset of life and a spiritual wealth in a better way, we propose to discuss them more elaborately.
Tolstoy, the Russian writer and philosopher says:
"Faith is that thing with which people live".
An Iranian poet and thinker, Hakim Nasir Khusrow addressing his son says:
"I have turned to religion because to me the world without faith is like a prison. I would never like the domain of my heart to be ruined". Religious faith has many pleasant effects. It creates happiness and delight, promotes better social relations and reduces and relieves worries which are an essential feature of this world. Now let us explain the effect of religious faith from all these three angles:
1. Happiness and Delight
Optimism is the first effect of religious faith from the viewpoint of the creation of happiness and delight. A faithful man is optimistic about the world, the life and the creation. Religious belief gives a particular shape to man's attitude towards the world. As religion maintains that creation has a goal and that its goal is nothing but betterment and evolution, naturally religious belief affects the outlook of man and makes him optimistic about the system of the universe and the laws governing it.
The attitude of a faithful man to the universe is similar to the attitude of a man living in a country about which he is sure that its systems, laws and formations are just and fair, that those who are at the helm of its affairs are sincere and well-intentioned, and that in it opportunities of making advancement are available to everyone including himself. Such a man will naturally maintain that the only thing which may keep him or anyone else backward, is the lethargy and inexperience of the person concerned, and that he and all others owe a responsibility and are required to do their duty.
A faithful man will hold himself responsible for his backwardness and will not blame his country and its administration for that. He believes that if there is anything wrong, that is because he and others like him have failed to discharge their duty properly. This feeling will naturally arouse his sense of self-respect and impel him to move forward hopefully.
In contrast a disbeliever is in the universe like a man living in a country about which he believes that its system, laws and formations are unjust and corrupt, and that he has to accept them against his will. The heart of such a man will always be full of malice. He will never think of improving himself. He will think that where everything is wrong, his own uprightness will be of no use at all. Such a man never shall enjoy the world. For him the world will always be like a dreadful prison. That is why the Holy Qur'an says:
"He who turns away from remembering Me, his life will be burdensome."(Surah Ta Ha, 20:124)
Indeed it is faith which expands our life internally and saves us from the pressure of spiritual factors.
From the viewpoint of the creation of happiness and delight the second effect of religious faith is the illumination of heart. As man sees the world illuminated by the light of truth, his heart and soul are also illuminated. Faith is a lamp, which illuminates his inmost. In contrast, a disbeliever finds the world dark, dingy and meaningless, and as a result his own heart remains dark in his supposedly dark world.
The third effect of religious faith from the angle of happiness and delight is the expectation that good efforts produce good results. From purely material point of view, the world is indifferent as to who goes along the right and just path and who goes along the wrong and unjust path. The result of a deed depends only on one thing, namely the amount of the effort put in it.
But according to the viewpoint of a faithful man the world is not indifferent and neutral in regard to the effort of those who do what is right and those who do wrong. The world's reaction to the effort of these two groups is not the same. The system of the creation supports those who make efforts for the cause of truth, justice and integrity.
The Holy Qur'an says:
"If you help Allah, He will help you."(Surah Muhammad, 47:7) "Allah does not deprive the righteous of their reward "(Surah at-Tawbah, 9:120; Surah Hud, 11: 115; Surah Yusuf, 12:90) The fourth effect of religious faith from the viewpoint of the creation of happiness and delight is mental satisfaction. Man by nature seeks success and the very idea of achieving it delights his heart. The apprehension of dark future frightens him and disturbs his peace. There are two things which make man happy and satisfied:
" Effort " Satisfaction in regard to the conditions prevailing in his environment.
The success of a student depends on two things: firstly, his own effort; and secondly, the suitability of the atmosphere of the school and the encouragement he receives from the school authorities. If a hard-working student has no confidence in the atmosphere of his school and in his examiners, he will all the year round be apprehensive of an unfair treatment and will be seized by a sense of anxiety.
Man knows his duty to himself. This aspect does not cause him any worry because what disturbs a man is a sense of doubt and uncertainty. Man is sure about all that concerns himself. What disturbs him and is not clear to him is his duty to the world.
The questions which perturb him most are: Are good deeds of any use? Do truth and honesty serve any useful purpose? Is deprivation the end of doing one's duty? These are the questions which cause anxiety and concern in the most dreadful form.
Religious faith restores man's confidence in the world and allays his distrust about its behaviour towards him. That is why we say that one of the effects of religious faith is mental peace.
Another effect of religious faith from the angle of delight and happiness is the better enjoyment of the pleasures known as spiritual pleasures. There are two types of pleasures that man can feel. Those of the first type are related to one of the five senses and are felt as the result of a contact between an organ of human body and an external object. The eye gets pleasure through seeing, the ear through hearing, the mouth through tasting and the sense of touch through touching. The other types of pleasures are those which are related to the spirit and the inner senses of man.
They have no connection with any particular organ and are not obtained through contact with any external object. Such is the case with the pleasures which one gets from doing good or rendering service to others, from enjoying respect and popularity, or from one's success or the success of one's child. These pleasures are neither especially related to any organ nor are they under the direct influence of any external and material factor.
Spiritual pleasures are stronger and more lasting than material pleasures. The pleasure which the true worshippers of Allah get from their worship which they perform with humility and in which they are fully absorbed, is of this nature. In the language of religion it has been described as the 'taste of faith' and the 'flavour of faith'. Faith has a flavour which is better than and superior to every other flavour. Spiritual pleasure is enhanced when a virtuous act such as the acquisition of knowledge or rendering service to others is performed or success is achieved in a task actuated by religious sense. Any act which is performed for the sake of Allah is an act of worship and is Pleasurable.
II. Role of Faith in the Improvement of Social Relations
Like some other animals man is gregarious. No individual can by himself meet all his needs. It is essential that life should be led on somewhat cooperative basis. Gains and obligations should be shared and a sort of division of labour should be established. Anyhow, there is one difference between man and other gregarious animals like bees etc. Other animals follow the principle of the division of labours by instinct. They have no power not to abide by this law. In contrast, man is a free agent.
He has a Power of choice and performs his work of his own accord and regards it as his duty. In other words, social instinct has been forced on other gregarious animals. But though man's needs are social, no such instinct has been imposed on him. Man's social instinct exists within him in the form of an urge which can be fostered and promoted by means of education and training.
A sound social life means that all individuals respect the laws as well as the rights of each other, show friendly feelings to each other and consider justice to be sacred. In a healthy society everyone should like for others what he likes for himself and should dislike for others what he dislikes for himself. All should have confidence in each other, and their mutual confidence should be based on their spiritual qualities.
Everyone should consider himself to be responsible to his society, should show the same qualities of piety and chastity in privacy and in public alike, and should do good to others without affectation of kindness. All members of society should resist tyranny and injustice and should not allow any oppressor to create any mischief. All should respect moral values and live together in complete unity and harmony like the organs of one body.
It is religious faith alone which, above all, respects truth, honours justice, encourages kindness and mutual confidence, inculcates the spirit of piety, acknowledges moral values, emboldens the individuals to resist tyranny and unites them into a homogeneous body.
Most of the outstanding men who have shed luster on the world and have shone on the firmament of history, were inspired by religious feelings.
III. Reduction of Worries
Human life consists of successes and achievements, joys and delights as well as failures, afflictions, grief and worries. Many afflictions and failures can be forestalled or remedied, though only after considerable effort. Evidently it is man's responsibility to fight nature and convert the misfortunes of life into good fortunes. Anyhow, many of the bitter events cannot be forestalled, nor can they be counteracted. For example, take the case of old age. One has to become gradually aged and to advance towards decay. Old age, debility and concomitant diseases and disabilities make the life of an aged man difficult. Fear of death and the apprehension of leaving the world to others is always painful.
Religious faith creates in man a power of resistance and makes the bitterness of life sweet. A faithful man knows that everything in this world has a method. Should it not be possible for him to get rid of the bitterness of life, he would be compensated by Allah in some other way, provided he shows right reaction to his misfortune.
To a faithful and pious man old age is pleasant and more enjoyable than young age for two reasons: firstly, he does not believe old age to be the end of everything and secondly, he spends all his spare time with great relish in adoring and remembering Allah.
The attitude of a faithful man to death is different from that of a disbeliever. To a faithful man death does not mean annihilation and total destruction. It is only shifting from the transient and little world to the everlasting and big world. Death is moving from the world of action to the world of obtaining results. As such a faithful man counteracts his fear of death by engaging himself in good deeds called by religion "good work".
It is admitted as an indisputable fact by the psychiatrists that most of the psychic diseases resulting from mental worries and bitterness of life are more commonly found among the non-religious men. The religious men having strong faith are comparatively immune from these ailments. A malady of our modern times which has emerged as the result of the weakening of religious faith is the increase in the incidence of the psychic and neural diseases.
Definition and Necessity of Ideology
What is ideology and how is it to be defined? Is it necessary for a man as an individual and as a member of society to adhere to a school and believe in an ideology? Is the existence of an ideology necessary for an individual or a society? Before answering these questions some introductory remarks are necessary.
There are two kinds of human activity:
The enjoyable activities are those simple activities which man undertakes in order to secure some pleasure or to escape from some pain under the direct influence of his instinct, nature or habit, which is also a second nature. For example when man feels thirsty he stretches his hand to a water-container, when he sees a biting animal he takes to his heels, and when he feels an urge to smoking, he lights a cigarette. Such acts are in keeping with man's own yearnings and have a direct bearing on pleasure and pain. A pleasurable act pulls man towards it and a painful act repels him.
Politic activities consist of the acts which in themselves are neither attractive nor repulsive. Man's instinct or his nature neither pulls him towards them nor pushes him away from them. Man performs these acts or avoids them of his will because he thinks that it is in his interest to do that. In other words, in this case the root cause and the force which drives man to do or not to do something is his interest and not pleasure.
Pleasure is determined by nature and interest by reason. Pleasure stimulates desire and interest arouses will. As for enjoyable acts man takes pleasure in them while performing them. But as for politic acts, he does not take pleasure, though he may feel happy because of the idea that he is doing something that is right and good for him in the long run.
There is a difference between a pleasurable and enjoyable act and an act which does not give pleasure and even may cause some pain and hardship, although man may be performing it willingly and happily. Politic acts are not pleasurable because, they do not produce immediate results. Anyhow they give satisfaction. Pleasure and pain are common to man and animals. But happiness and unhappiness and satisfaction and dissatisfaction are peculiar to man. Similarly to desire something is also peculiar to human beings.
Satisfaction, dissatisfaction and desiring are mental functions. They lie within the sphere of human thinking, not within the area of sense perception.
We have said that man performs his politic acts with the help of his intellect and his will-power. On the other hand, the enjoyable acts are performed by him at the command of his feelings and inclinations. That an act is done at the command of intellect means that the calculating intellectual power perceives some remote benefit, pleasure or perfection, discovers the way of attaining of it, which occasionally may be a tedious one, and then plans to attain it. The accomplishment of an act with the help of will-power means that man has a faculty, the role of which is to execute the actions approved by intellect. These acts may sometimes even be opposed to his natural tendencies and inclinations.
The young nature of a student calls him to eat, drink, be merry, and to enjoy sleep and sex, but his calculating mind warns him against the evil consequences of these acts and urges him to keep awake, do hard work and shun indulgence in luxurious living and the lusts of the flesh. At this time man prefers to obey the command of intellect, which is to his advantage and ignores the command of his nature which implies pleasure only. Similarly a patient dislikes taking a bitter medicine of bad taste, but he still takes it at the command of his rightly directing intellect or by the force of his will which can overpower his natural inclination.
The stronger the intellect and the will, the better they can impose their command on nature, despite its tendencies to the opposite.
In the course of his politic activities man at every stage puts into practice some theory or plan. The more a man is developed from the angle of his intellect and will, the more his activities are politic rather than enjoyable, and the more he is close to the horizon of animality, the more his activities are rather enjoyable than politic, for the enjoyable activities are mostly animal activities.
Among animals also we see certain activities directed to achieve a remote object, such as making nests, migration, mating and reproduction. But the animals do not carry out these activities consciously and of their own choice after determining what they want to achieve and how it should be achieved. On the other hand, they carry out these activities as a result of a compulsory and instinctive inspiration from beyond.
It is possible that the scope of man's politic activities gets so expanded that it may include some enjoyable activities also. Therefore all human activities should, as far as possible, be so planned that pleasure-giving activities also become useful and beneficial besides being pleasurable. Every natural activity while responding to the command of nature, should obey the command of intellect also. If politic activity takes the enjoyable activity under its cover, and if the enjoyable activity becomes a part of the general politic plan of life, nature will become compatible with intellect and the desire with will.
As politic activity revolves round a set of remote objects and aims, it naturally requires a plan, a method and the selection of means to secure the object. As this activity has an individualistic aspect, for it is planned by an individual for himself, it is individual intellect which determines its method and means. The choice, of course, depends on one's knowledge, information and power of judgement.
Though politic activity of man is essential for his humanity, it alone, whatever be its quality, is not enough to humanize all his activities. It is true that intellect, knowledge and planning form one half of man's humanity, but yet they are not enough to make human activity human. Human activity can be called human only if it, besides being rational and intentional, is in keeping with the higher tendencies of humanity or at least is not in conflict with them. Otherwise even the worst type of criminal activities are sometimes very cleverly planned and executed.
The fiendish imperialist plans bear witness to this fact. In religious terms of Islam any planning or effort made to secure a material and beastly goal not in keeping with human and religious tendencies is called abominable and fiendish. Politic activity is not necessarily human. If it is beastly, it is far more dangerous than a purely pleasurable activity. For example an animal in order to fill its belly tears another animal or a man into pieces. But man who can calculate and plan, to secure a similar object ruins so many cities and puts millions of innocent people under fire.
We leave aside the question whether the goals suggested by intellect are or are not enough to meet individual interests. In other words we leave the question as to what is the limit of the effectiveness of individual intellect or reason in regard to pointing out the individual interests. Yet in any case there is no doubt that thinking power is necessary and useful for making partial and limited arrangements of life.
In his life man faces many problems such as the selection of friends, selection of an educational line, selection of a spouse, selection of a profession, travel, behaviour in society, recreation, virtuous activities, fight against immoral and vicious practices and so on. In regard to all these things man is certainly in need of thinking and planning. The more he will think the more success he is likely to gain. In some cases he even requires the help of others' thinking and experience also (the principle of consultation). In all these particular cases man makes a plan and then carries it out.
Anyhow, the question remains whether on a wider scale also man is capable of making a general plan which may cover all the problems of his personal life and which may be applicable to all situations, or his ability is limited to handling some particular cases on a limited scale only and it is beyond the power of human intellect to cover all situations and to ensure all round success.
We know that certain philosophers believe in the theory of 'self-sufficiency'. They claim that they have discovered the way of being happy and unhappy, and can pass a happy life relying on their own intellectual power and will. But we also know that no two philosophers can be found who have unanimity of opinion as to what is this way.
Happiness itself, which is the ultimate goal, is of the most ambiguous things, although its conception appears to be very clear at first glance. It is still unknown what happiness is and what factors cause it. Man himself and his capabilities and potentialities are not known yet. So long as man himself is unknown, how is it possible that we may be able to find out what his happiness is and how that is to be obtained?
Furthermore, man is a social being. His social life creates thousands of problems for him which he has to resolve. His duty in every case should be clear. As man is a social being, his happiness, his aspirations, his standards of good and evil, his way of life, his selection of the means of leading his life are inter-linked with the happiness of others, their aspirations, their standards of good and evil, their way of life and their selection of the means. Man cannot select his way independently of others. He should seek his happiness on the road which leads society to happiness and perfection.
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