Articles

The Difference Between Religion and Traditions

I was once making a presentation in German language about Islam to a large group of Germans who were visiting our center by saying Islam is:

The faith in one God “the Creator”, Who has no child or any partner, Who does not become incarnatein any of His creature’s image or body nor in any idol. And to have direct connection with Him by worshiping Him directly without any intermediary (priests, saints, prophets or idols, etc.).

One of them asked me: If Islam is that simple and logical as you are saying, why do Muslims cause all these political problems?

His question was in front of the group, and I had to deal with it, so that his attack would not ruin the calm dialogue. 

I told him immediately: For your information, I will die alone. I will be resurrected alone. I will meet my Creator alone, without my family and money.

I shall meet God with answers to three questions which are: who is your God, what’s your religion and who is your messenger?

God will be waiting for my answer which is: Allah the Creator is my God, my religion is believing in Him and worshiping Him alone without any mediator, my Prophet is Muhammad the last messenger.

By recognizing Muhammad as his last messenger, I have recognized all messengers who were before him, and this is a must and obligation to every Muslim.

The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah (the Creator) and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.[7]

I told him: You too, along with every person on earth, will meet God alone, life is short, as death comes suddenly.

When will we learn to differentiate between political problems and religion?

Isn’t it time for us to learn how to decide our priorities?

The man calmed down and the group applauded.

After that I told them: I want to ask you all a question.

It is known that every nation and people have habits, traditions, whims and novelties.

I continued: How can simple person like me here, or another in China, or in Germany or in South America or Africa, primarily differentiate between the simple religion of God, and the traditions and whims of the place where he is, before reading any religious book?

They tried to guess, and after they failed to give me the right answer, I told them: You all know something called the common sense. So, anything logical is from God, and anything complicated is from humans. They all laughed hard and some of them applauded again.

I told them: For example, if a religious scholar, let’s say Muslim, Christian or Hindu, told you that the universe has a Creator, One and Only, without any partner. He does not come to earth in the form of humans or animals, nor a stone or an idol. We have to worship Him alone, resort to Him alone in hard times; this is really the religion of God.

If a religious scholar, Muslim, Christian or Hindu, told you that God incarnates in any form; we have to worship and resort to Him through a person, prophet, priest, or saint, this comes from humans, so don’t listen to him.

I continued: For instance, it is enough that you visit India, and say between the crowds, the Creator is One. They would then reply in harmony, yes, the Creator is One. I added: and this is really what is written in their books.[8]

But they disagree, fight, could even slaughter each other, over one point which is: The form and shape that God comes through to earth. For instance, the Christian Indian says: God is one, but He is incarnated in the trinity (the father, the son and the holy spirit). The Hindu Indian says: God comes in the form of an animal or a human or an idol.I told them: I

f you think carefully, you would find that all problems and differences between religious sects and religions themselves exist because of the mediators that human put between them and their Creator.

Even atheists would unintentionally pray to the power in heavens whenever they encounter a difficult situation.

For instance, Catholic and Protestants sects, Hindu sects, etc. all disagree about how to communicate with the Lord, not on the concept that the Lord (the Creator) himself exists.

If they all worship the Lord directly, they would be united.

Say (O Muhammad): O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians): Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God. Then, if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims.[9]

I continued: In addition to this, you must know that the religion of God is clear and logical with no mysteries in it. If I want to convince you that Muhammad is god whom you have to worship, I should put so much effort to convince you, and you will never be convinced. You might ask me: How is Muhammad a God while he eats and drinks like us?

I would end up saying: you are not convinced because it is a mysterious concept, similar to a riddle; you will understand it when you meet God. This example proves that the right religion of Allah must be free of mysteries, and mysteries only come from humans.

I added: The religion of God is also free. Everyone has the freedom to pray and worship in the houses of God, without paying any subscription to get a membership. The rule of having to register and pay money in any place of worship is created by humans.

However, if any religious scholar told me that I should pay charity directly to people to help them, then the rule comes from the religion of God. In God’s religion, people are equal like the teeth of a comb. There is no difference between Arab or foreigner, white or black, only by piousness.

If you were told that this mosque, church or temple is for whites only while black people have a separate place, then this is a rule created by humans.

I told them: Honoring women and raising their status is an order from Allah, but oppressing them is what humans chose to do.           

One of them asked: Then why is the Afghani Muslim woman oppressed?

If the Muslim woman in Afghanistan is oppressed, then so is the Hindu, Buddhist and Christian woman. This is the culture of people; it has nothing to do with the true religion of God.    

I added: the right religion of God is always compatible and in harmony with natural disposition.

For instance, any smoker or alcoholic asks his kids to stay away from smoking and alcohol, because he is deeply convinced about the danger they cause to health and community.

When the religion forbids alcohol for instance, this is really an order from God. But if the religion forbids milk for instance, it is not logical; everyone knows that milk is good for health. God’s mercy and kindness in his creation allowed us to eat good things and prohibited us from eating bad things.

Another example, head cover for women and decency for men and women are an order from God, but the details of colors and designs are from humans. The rural atheist Chinese woman and the Swiss Christian rural woman are both committed to cover their heads, on the basis that decency is a natural disposition.

Terrorism, for instance, is common in different forms in the world, among sects of all religions. I lived in Africa for a long time and I know that there are Christian sects who kill and practice horrific forms of oppression and violence in the name of religion and God. They represent 4% of world’s Christian population. While who performs terrorism in the name of Islam represent 0.01% of Muslim population. Terrorism is not limited to this, but is also common among Buddhist, Hindus and other religions.

This is how we can differentiate between right and wrong before we read any religious book.

In fact, the way that media highlights bad examples of Muslims and good examples of non-Muslims is totally unjust. It is unacceptable that they call the Muslim who kills others a terrorist, while they call the non-Muslim who kills others mentally ill.

I once told a French journalist during a conversation about the same issue: In media you play a dangerous role in misreporting the image of Islam through your continuous persistence on publishing these bad examples of Muslims.

He said: Excuse me, but we only publish the truth, not fake news.

I said: I don’t claim that your news are fake, I’m saying that when you allocate an article in your news magazines to talk about bad examples of Muslims, you should allocate another article to talk about others. When you call the Muslim killer a terrorist, you should also call the non-Muslim killer a terrorist also.

He said: A lot of what you are saying is correct.

Last word:

The correct religion is believing that the universe has one Creator, who is Allah the One and Only. The religion of God must be one, easy, simple and straightforward, compatible with human disposition, valid for every time and place.

 It is:

  • The oneness: Believing that there is no god but the Creator “Allah”, without any partners or son, He is the Creator, the provider to the whole universe.
  • The servitude: Worshiping God alone, never associate anyone or anything with Him.
  • Believing in messengers: Following messengers and believing in what they brought (in that era). (The messengers prophesied the coming of last Prophet- Muhammad, and urged their followers to believe in him and follow him if they reach his time).[17]
  • Ethics: Doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds.

Therefore, people who took this path deserves the reward, and punishment is for those who go astray.

Say, My Lord has guided me to a straight path, an upright religion, the creed of Abraham the Monotheist, who was not a polytheist.[18]


Notes:

The Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Middle East use the word “Allah” to refer to God, which refers to The Only True God ( the Creator). The word Allah was mentioned in the earlier version of the Old Testament 89 times. (Refer to Genesis 2:4, Book of Daniel 6:20 Hebrew and Arabic Bible).

The reference of God to Himself as WE or US in many verses of the Qur’an denotes Grandeur and Power in Arabic. In the English language this is known as the royal WE, where a plural pronoun is used to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch. For the avoidance of doubt, the Qur’an has consistently reminded us of the SINGULAR pronoun in reference to God, when called upon by His servants.

Reference:

Why Religion? A Journey from Memory

Faten Sabri

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