The critics of faith have been arguing that religion has harmed the world more than benefiting it. Yes, it’s true that many of the major wars on the earth have been fought in the defense of religion as the famous Battle of Badr and Battle of Uhud in Islam or the Crusades in Christianity but relating the modern chaos to religion is not right. The difference between the old wars and the current is a matter of intention.
Muhammad (PBUH) fought not only in the name of religion but also against injustice, dishonesty, and oppression. Through the conquest of Makah, he provided the world with the moral that victory does not give you right to oppress others. The only way to achieving peace is by forgiving others and inviting them to the negotiation table for the peaceful resolution of conflicts. He chose to use gentleness rather than force to make people agree with him.
After the conquest, his first words were, ‘’you may go as you please, for you are free’’.
Many even term religion as the main factor behind the ongoing issues like Israel-Palestine conflict, Syrian Civil War, Myanmar Case, Sudanese civil war or the Yemen Crisis. The sanctity of the holy sites is the main focus for both Muslims and Jews living there. Jews believe that they have been assigned this responsibility of the Jewish state by GOD whereas Muslims do not want the third most holy site of Islam to be protected by them.
The irony of the issue is that humans are not ready to give up on their holy site for the sake of their religion but ready to kill innocent humans in the name of it. It can clearly be seen that it is not only a religious but ethnic, national and historical issue.
Because if it was only the fight for the holy sites then the two-state solutions would have done the work a long time ago- the Muslims guard Masjid-e-Aqsa and the Jews take responsibility of their holy sites. The main issue is over who gets what land and who controls it. In the July of 2018, the Israeli forces closed the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque and attacked the worshipers gathered for Friday prayer with tear gas. After a month, in August, they shut down the compound of the mosque after removing the worshipers from there. This year the worshipers were attacked again leaving after the night prayer and banned the Waqf officials of Masjid.
Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, many churches are banned and Christians cannot practice their faith openly. As reported by The New York Times, hundreds of churches have been forced to close in Indonesia.
How can one persecute so many innocent people in the name of religion when the religion itself does not allow it? Why it has become so hard for the religious leaders to sit together and reach a point? because they are the ones showing the wrong picture of religion to the followers.
One of the biggest problems why so many people are turning away from religion and having hatred towards other religion is because of those controlling religion. The clergies and the leaders have turned it into sin for a common man to ask questions on religion or to even joining the gathering of other religion.
Here I would like to quote Benjamin Rush,
‘’Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge. Without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights, and where learning is confined to a few people, liberty can be neither equal nor universal’’
Worship places are promoting ethnocentrism, sectarianism, extremism, hatred, and terrorism. Intolerance, impatience, and bigotry are growing among young minds and they are never ready to accept those who hold different opinions from them. In the past, we have witnessed how the Shia-Sunni conflict has divided not only Muslim countries but the whole world. In the past, we have seen how youth has been distracted in the name of religion and joined a dangerous organization like Al-Qaeda. The young souls feel like they have no one to support them or speak to and that time organization like these come out and present themselves as the direct path the youth needs.
But if we study both outer and inner aspects of different religions closely, we will find nothing but same message; the message of peace and co-existence.
‘’There shall be no compulsion in acceptance of the religion’’ (Quran 2:256)
‘’For you is your religion and for me is my religion’’ (Surah Al-Kafirun , Quran)
‘’And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another’’ (Surah Fatir , Quran)
‘’But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak’’ (1 Corinthians 8:9)
‘’For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serves one another’’ (48; 5; 13)
‘’Truth is on; sages call it by different names’’ (Hinduism)
‘’The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace’’ (Judaism)
Many people perceive religion as something that keeps us moving in this world. The world consists of different religious traditions. Like states, it is religion according to which we live our life. Has it ever occurred to you that why we there are so many religions in this one world? What if there was only one religion for all? Or what if there was no religion at all? Would the world have been different somewhat from today? of course yes but not in a very good system. Like traditions, it is a religion that binds us. Many a time, religion has helped in encouraging a global culture of peace.
For instance every year millions of people belonging to different areas, nationalities, cultures, and races gather in the holy city of Makah for the fulfillment of holy journey. The Maha Kumbh Mela– a Hindu religious festival- held once every twelve years in India with more than 120 million people as an attendee. Shias from around the world gather in Iraq annually to commemorate the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. Despite the border tensions between arch-rivals India Pakistan, every year thousands of Sikhs from India gather in Guru Nanak- a Pakistani city- to celebrate Vaisakhi– a Sikh festival.
On the other hand, If states and nationalities were our only identity, we would have been each other’s biggest antagonists. State-rivalries in today’s world is at a peak. Man of today gets judged according to his level of nationalism. The biggest example can be seen in the spread of hate-speech, anti-immigration policies, and xenophobia in the world.
Religious institutions are an integral part of the social structure. Worship places hold the power of promoting peace, bringing people together, removing differences or xenophobia and in promoting social values. Places of worship can transform the community by assisting the poor and letting them in during the time of distress as it has done on several occasions. For instance after many mosques were told to shut down in the wake of Christchurch, New Zealand terrorist attacks; Te Atatū Baptist Church in Auckland opened its door to Muslims. Churches visited mosques across the country in solidarity. The horrific attack brought the People of different religion together to fight hatred.
Similarly, in April 2019 the Muslim community of Pakistan joined hands with Catholics to help them in the renovation of 175 years old St. Patrick’s Cathedral- one of Pakistan’s oldest churches. Likewise, when Grenfell tower London was struck with the horrific tragedy of catching fire, different Islamic cultural centers and mosque opened their doors to help the people who were affected.
Discrimination is discrimination no matter against whom or which religion it is taking place. In past religion has helped in promoting peace and it can help in creating a peaceful future too if used rightly. Majority of the people on the earth are unmindful of the true aspect of religion. Religion, if studied in its true sense, shows a man with the finest way of living a life with harmony. The role of religious education in removing differences and promoting religious freedom is very much important hence the pen of who should deal with religious issues should be given to the one who understands it in its true aspect. Secondly with education, one can learn how to respect diversity and difference of opinions.
It is sad to see that the world is becoming a mess day by day; people are being killed and tortured on the name of religion as happening in China, Sudan, and Libya but the sadder part is that no religious authorities, clerics- the agents of peace- are raising voice against it. They hold the power to come as mediators and resolve the ongoing conflicts.
Promoting a culture of love and peace should be the top work of religious leaders and institutions as shown by Christians in New Zealand, Pakistan, Muslims in London and many other countries. Also, the worship places the first lesson to its followers should be on Love of humanity. The religion of humanity is above all religion and every religion supports it. It is said in Quran 5:23, ‘’Whoever kills innocent soul as if he has killed all of the humanity’’.
It can be clearly concluded that it is not a religion but the people who close doors to others in its name. Religion calls for light and harmony in the world. Religion is the name of freedom and narrow-minded people must not hold any kind of advantage from its name and spread darkness.