018 What is a RELIGION?

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018 What is a RELIGION?
Imtiaz Muhsin 21-Jan-11

The main objective of these talks (and therefore the scripts of these talks), is to stimulate thinking. Sensible, rational and logical thinking. So, my message, think, think & think! Be sensible, be rational and be logical.


018 What is a Religion?

Please Note
1. I have had the great privilege, (since Aug 2010), of presenting talks on the weekly Radio Program ‘Culture of Islam’ [Every Friday 8 to 8.30 pm, Radio Sri Lanka - FM 97.4] 2. Since these are Radio Talks, I refer to, or address the audience as ‘listeners’ 3. I am well aware that the audience to these talks would consist of people belonging to a variety of faiths. So as to make people of all faiths feel included, I very often use words and names that are common to all religions. 4. For these reasons, I use the name GOD, as well as Abraham, Moses, Jesus etc as well as the names Allah, Ibrahim (Alaihis Salaam), Moosa (Alaihis Salaam), Easa (Alaihis Salaam) etc 5. Muslims by habit usually say ‘Sallallahu Alaihiwasallam’, when the name of Prophet Muhammad is mentioned, and ‘Alaihis Salaam' when the name of a Prophet is mentioned. However, in these series of talks I have reduced the use of these prayers & sayings to the bare minimum. 6. Muslims, also by habit, use a number of Arabic prayers or sayings, such as Alhamdulillah, Insha Allah and so on. Again, I have reduced the use of these prayers or sayings to the bare minimum. 7. Sometimes I have to write Arabic words in the English script. I have devised my own way of writing Arabic in English, as follows;

‫ت‬ ‫ط‬

th TH

‫س‬ ‫ث‬ ‫ص‬

s Ss SW

‫ض‬ ‫ظ‬


‫ه‬ ‫ح‬

H h

‫ع‬ ‫غ‬


    

Information on these talks along with all download links can be found on my on my Blog (http://imtiazm.wordpress.com/) The dates or the schedules of these talks can be viewed on the Facebook Page (http://www.facebook.com/ImtiazMuhsin786) The Scripts of these talks can be downloaded from www.ScribD.com (www.ScribD.com Author – Imtiaz Muhsin) The audio files of these talks can be downloaded from YouTube (YouTube Channel – Imtiaz Muhsin) The YouTube Link to this talk is at

All Praise and Thanks is due to Allah and Allah alone Alhamdulillah!


018 What is a Religion?

018 What is a Religion?
Dear Friends, Assalamu Alaikum, Alhamdulillah! Today, I wish to discuss a topic that fascinates me, and I hope would fascinate all you listeners too viz. What is a Religion? Why is it that human beings, tenaciously hold on to a Religion? We may even observe the irony that many of us even hold on to what we call “our religion” in a most irreligious manner. Why is it that we all yearn for a religion? Why is it that all of us, even those who do not apparently practice a religion, have a surety deep inside us that sinners or those who do wrong would be punished, and people who do good will be rewarded, but at the same time are confused as to why those who are soaked in sin and corruption are apparently enjoying the best that life can offer? Is this not confusing? Is this not a paradox? There is a deep moral in our logic. But then, what we observe does not always match our logic. This confuses us, making us easy prey to the very same acts of corruption and sin that we want so much to keep away from. We then find ourselves compromising, appeasing our conscience with the argument that what we are doing is not really bad because we are in fact providing so much good to so many persons. But then, we find ourselves gradually getting sucked into the quagmire, where even simple business transactions are riddled with hidden elements of evil and dishonesty, and we fool ourselves that we are actually doing good and finally because it is the intention that counts, we are OK because our intentions are pure. Whiter than white! Whom are we fooling? We grope around the World with a heavily troubled conscience. But then, we reassure ourselves by taking delight in the results of our profitable transactions, telling ourselves that so many are benefitting, therefore what I am doing has to be good! This is the plight that every one of us are in. To get out of this frightening situation we need courage, we need determination, we need patience and we need clear thinking. We need lots of time to think out as to where we are going wrong and also to think out what we are doing right. And most importantly, we need a reference. Some person or some book that explains to us what is right from what is wrong. Some person or some book, which explains to us the purpose of our lives. We need guidance, not simple guidance from mere mortals but divine guidance.


018 What is a Religion?

How wonderful and reassuring to think or to know that we are being divinely guided to the correct path. What must we do, or how do we get on to that condition where we deserve or qualify for this divine guidance? Our thoughts need to be stimulated we need to be invigorated. As an introduction I would like to share with you listeners a line of thinking that has appealed to me. So let us just try to visualize as to how religions have had such impact on the ‘psyches’ the ‘personalities’ the hopes and especially the beliefs of people. Let us begin by taking our thinking to India, to a period around 2500 years ago, to a place in present day Nepal, called Lumbini, where the Royal Family of the Shakyas Kingdom ruled. It was here that Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born. He lived the initial 29 years of his life in Kapilavastu. He lived these 29 years in comfort and luxury. It was at this stage of his life, that on a journey outside the Palace that he observed sufferings of the people and this had an enormous impact on him. He became restless; he could not live anymore in the palace and wanted to search for the ‘truth’ – the purpose of life and the guidelines necessary to involve us in this search. His disciplined reasoning with his conscience convinced him that this ‘truth’ could not be found in a Palace. He thus decided to leave the Palace and go out in search of this ‘truth’ Obviously leaving the Palace and his wife would have created a huge amount of talk, both in Royal circles as well as amongst the common folk. His sacrifice in the mission to find out the ‘truth’ was enormous. It was epic. He spent his time in meditation and encouraged people to follow a path of balance rather than extremism. He called this ‘The Middle Way’ At the age of 35 his preaching’s or teachings took on a new dynamism, words and logic that appealed to peoples innermost hidden hopes and fears were being addressed – he had been enlightened, and people were amazed at the elusive but simple teachings of ‘truth’ that he described and lay out before them. People now called Prince Siddhartha Gautama by the noble name Lord Buddha – this word Lord in no way reflects the word ‘Rabb’ to which we Muslims often refer to Allah Ta’ala, nor do the Buddhists refer to the term ‘Rabb’ when they use the word ‘Lord’ when referring to ‘Lord Buddha’ - it only signifies nobility, wisdom and high esteem. There was such appeal in his words that large crowds flocked to listen to him, to learn from him and to apply these fundamental truths to their lives and they all experienced the transformations and the satisfaction that accompanied these changes. Society then began to speak about how they had been living a life of sin and misery and after following the teachings of Lord Buddha they were able to build a peaceful and productive society. Historians show volumes of evidence and artifacts to show us that Ashoka the Great built the Ashokan Empire based on the principals and teachings of Lord Buddha.


018 What is a Religion?

Parents who realized the value of the teachings of Lord Buddha began to instruct their children ‘never to give up the teachings of Lord Buddha’ Parents would say, “You can give up your wealth, your family, your health. You can give up anything but do not give up these teachings, because this is what is going to give you ultimate success” And this tenaciousness is handed down from generation to generation. This is how Buddhists hold on to their religion. Similarly, we now go 2,000 years back in time to Jerusalem, where a miraculous birth took place – that of Easa (AS) whom the Christians refer to as Jesus Christ. Easa (AS) was of virgin birth in that his Mother Mariyam (AS) was not married nor had any man touched her. Easa (AS) as an infant spoke to the people that gathered to see him as the baby born from a miracle birth to a pious virgin lady. The combination of two miracles, firstly a virgin birth and secondly the enlightened words from a new born infant had a great impact on those people who were eager to search for the ‘truth’ People began to flock around Easa (AS) to learn as well as to practice with conviction his Message describing the truth about the purpose of this life and the certainty of the life hereafter. After Easa (AS), his dedicated followers continued to preach his teachings and message. Those who listened with yearning witnessed the truth of this message and were ready to undergo any amount of sacrifice to protect and foster these teachings. Parents who realized the value of the teachings of Easa (AS) began to instruct their children ‘never to give up these teachings’ Parents would say, “You can give up your wealth, your family, your health. You can give up anything but do not give up these teachings, because this is what is going to give you ultimate success” And this tenaciousness is handed down from generation to generation. This is how Christians hold on to their religion. We now go back in time to around 1425 years ago to the Arabian deserts to the city of Mecca where Muhammad (Sal) lived. There was nothing spectacular to mark his life like giving up a Palace life or of virgin birth and enlightened speech as an infant. His was an honest, disciplined, no fuss type of a life. However he stood out through his integrity as someone very different from the normal citizen of Mecca. The city of Mecca has two identities, firstly as the place where Ibrahim (AS) also known as Prophet Abraham, built the House dedicated to Allah – the Baithullah, and secondly as a vibrant commercial center. Everyone in Mecca was busy in trying to reap from commercial dealings whilst Muhammad (Sal) possibly influenced by the presence of the Baithullah in Mecca and the thoughts of his ancestor Ibrahim (AS) was drawn into meditating on the ‘truths’ of this world.


018 What is a Religion?

Muhammad (Sal) was different – his father died before he was born. His mother died when he was just 6 years old. He was looked after by his grandfather. He successfully managed a business caravan belonging to Lady Khadija, a wealthy Widow, whom he subsequently married. It is logical for us to think that one main objective of this marriage was for an astute businessman to look after the business matters of Lady Khadija. But it would take anyone by surprise to find that the business interests were not pursued and historical reports indicate that the wealth of Lady Khadija was given away in charity and that Muhammad (Sal) spent his time, contemplating or meditating on the ‘truths’ of this world. It was at this stage, when he was 40 years old, had three daughters and was spending his time meditating in a small cave atop Mt Hira located a few miles out of Mecca in harsh environment, when he received messages from Allah Ta’ala through Arch Angel Jibreel (AS). His personal circumstances aptly portray the deep worry and the commitment and focus he has displayed in his intense efforts to arrive at the ‘truth’ The support he had from his wife Lady Khadija is in itself a testimony to her love and devotion for him and the desire to help him with whatever sacrifice on her part to arrive at this elusive but formidable truth. Well, Prophet Muhammad (Sal) began his mission of inviting people and explaining to them the truths of this world and the purpose of our lives. This message preached by Muhammad (Sal) was Islam and its adherents were called Muslims. Those who listened with yearning witnessed the truth of this message and were ready to undergo any amount of sacrifice to protect and foster these teachings. Parents who realized the value of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Sal) began to instruct their children ‘never to give up these teachings’ Parents would say, “You can give up your wealth, your family, your health. You can give up anything but do not give up these teachings, because this is what is going to give you ultimate success” And this tenaciousness is handed down from generation to generation. This is how Muslims hold on to their religion. This is how we view the many different religions. There is so much common in a large part of the teachings of all these founders of these great religions and we find a few differences mainly in the core beliefs as espoused by these religions. When we view the teachings of these religions it becomes obvious that these teachings have so much in common that they have to have originated from one source. Then we could ask, ‘Why the differences?’ It becomes obvious that all religions have preached one message, but over time parts of these messages have got corrupted. The belief of Muslims is that the only religious book that is not corrupted nor has any different versions or any challenged text, is the Holy Quran. Over 1.5 billion Muslims living in over 200 countries all follow just one standard Quran – there are no differences in any of them, even in a single word.


018 What is a Religion?

So Muslims believe with conviction that the pure and uncorrupted truth is in the Holy Quran and is available to anyone who is sincerely eager to search for the truth – and we Muslims believe that Insha Allah he would not be disappointed. But still it will be interesting to look into the reasons as to why there are differences in the core beliefs of all religions when what we refer to as the commentary, agree almost on all points. Thus far we have been discussing what religious leaders have done and the impact it has had on mankind. Sometimes, in our quest to find out ‘What is a Religion?’ it is necessary for us to consider what other world leaders; especially those of contemporary times have observed about these great religious leaders, those who initiated and established these religions. We all have heard about Napoleon Bonaparte who lived from 1769 to 1821. He was a military and political leader of France and Emperor of the French as Napoleon I. He began his career as a mere artillery officer in the French Army, and within a few years had risen through the ranks, staged a coup, dominated most of Europe and was proclaimed as the Emperor of the then powerful French Empire. During his lifetime itself he lost his position and lived in exile in an island. It is reported that Napoleon Bonaparte said the following at his deathbed: He said, “I raised an army, marched into Russia and dominated most of Europe, but I saw my empire crumble before my eyes, yet Christ raised no army and did not walk more than 80 kilometers from His home but continues to inspire millions to live and even die for Him, who is this man?” Could we not say the same about Lord Buddha and Prophet Muhammad as well? How it that their words and actions inspire people, gave them direction and energized their yearning to live a life of religiosity. So we now ask the question, what did these religious leaders teach? It is actually another way of asking our original question, the topic of this discussion ‘What is a Religion?’ They taught us the truths of this world and its creation. They taught us the truths of life and its objective. They taught us the truths of what is good and what sin is They taught us how to recognize good and how to recognize sin. They taught us how to do good and to be focused on good and how to avoid sin and to keep away from sin. So then we ask the pertinent question: What is Sin? Theoretically anyone can answer that question: ‘Telling lies is a sin, backbiting is a sin, treachery is a sin, adultery is a sin, disobeying parents is a sin’…..the list goes on and on But then isn’t it also possible that we could be doing good without realizing, that our actions can be classified as Sin? How can we identify these actions?


018 What is a Religion?

What must we do to realize that what we are doing, with the belief that it is good, actually has elements of evil or sin in it; and then ultimately when it is too late, without seeing good coming out of these actions, we see disappointment? How can we describe or define Sin? There are many ways of describing or defining sin. I wish to share with you listeners a definition of sin that I read in the Editorial of the recent Christmas Edition of the Ceylon Daily Mirror. The meaning that emerges gives me many hours of satisfying contemplation. Sin can be defined as a lie that promises pleasure, security, happiness and a trouble free life, while it actually does the very opposite. It enslaves and makes its victims desperately unhappy. Now isn’t that an eye-opener? With this definition in mind everywhere we look, around us, we see sin, even in every simple advertisement that surrounds us – in magazines, newspapers, posters and billboards which in fact actually proclaims lies that promises pleasure, security, happiness and a trouble free life, while it actually does the very opposite! Does this not make us think about all these projects that we are working on – our career, our education, our values are all these actually going to deliver what we are hoping they would. All of us know deep inside that many of these promises we are chasing are in fact deceptions. And deep inside we harbor insecurity and fear that we are going to be disappointed with the outcomes. Would it not be a wonderful thing, if we could have the insight, wisdom and patience to cull away the chaff from the grain or the disappointments from the truth so that in our life we could peacefully, securely and confidently follow that which will give us success and not disappointments?! That my friends; is the message of all Religious Leaders and that my dear listeners is the reason why we need Religion. The purpose of today’s discussion was to promote thinking on the truths of the world, the teachings of all great religious leaders and for our own intellectual stimulation. Dear listeners, there is one great truth preached by every religious leader and that is that we are being deceived by everything in this world. However, there is much to be learnt, truths to be sought after and wisdom to be imbibed – all of which can be done by regularly taking some time, making some sacrifice, detaching ourselves from the worldly glitter and trying think out for ourselves the truth of this world. Teachings of religious leaders and sayings in religious books will help but it is through our determination and sincerity that Allah Ta’ala will guide us – Insha Allah! I sincerely pray and hope that all of you benefit from these talks as much as I have benefitted from doing research from the Quran and then preparing and presenting these talks to you. May Allah Ta’aalah guide us all and accept us all. Jazza Kalla Khairan. Assalamu Alaikum


018 What is a Religion?

Imtiaz Muhsin Colombo Sri Lanka [email protected]

You Tube Channel - HaneefanMusliman


018 What is a Religion?

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