Syed Abul A’la Moududi was once asked by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto why he indulged in politics, generally considered to be a dirty game. He answered in his characteristic style: ’Do you think it should be left to dirty people alone or not be cleaned?’ I think the argument can be invoked to apply in every sphere. Religion is a territory of saints and today it has been appropriated for more murky games such as dividing communities, creating new nations. Philosophers of religion ask some hard questions from those who deem themselves to be the advocates of God. We know that the Quran explicitly says that God has hired no advocate. The moment man becomes judgmental one might suspect something fishy. “Judge not,” said the Christ(Hazrat Eesa A.S).
What is religion? Why is it too important to let a certain class usurp the role of its sole interpreter? How come religion is monopolized and, even against its tenets, people fight over trivial legal issues? How come in the name of religion we find competition between moizzins or among loudspeakers of neighbouring mosques? Ego games drive out angels from our worship places. Religion has degenerated into ‘sawaab’ calculus. The fact that it is ecstasy, it is God- consciousness, it is ihsaan, it is self- negation, it is contemplation, it is joy of the highest order, is forgotten. Let us keep the ideal set before us by prophets, saints or mystics and traditional scholars or thinkers and judge what we see around in its name.
Religion is what binds people. It is what binds us to God as the ground of everything. Religion is what we do with our solitude as Whitehead said. And ideally religion would be the greatest business in a classless society. Capitalism smothers human spirit and man will bloom only and god will be born in him (God is the ideal pole of man in Sufism and other mystical traditions), when he is free to pursue his higher needs that Maslow has so well classified. A classless society, it is hoped, will allow man to pursue this dream better. We are all mystics, rather privileged (or condemned) to be mystics. “The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss” as Carlyle said. And the only reason that I think that religion to be respectfully heard by a humanist or secular Marxist is that we miss much if we miss God and that is tragic. Hell is not physical fire but painful realization that we have missed so much. Religion is only an invitation, an open invitation to all of us to Freedom, to Heaven here and now, to Eternity of this Moment. If these things are illusions we must remember that mankind in all climes and ages has entertained these illusions and we owe some of the most beautiful things to these illusions. The greatest thinkers, artists, philosophers, sages and prophets of all civilizations have been cherishing these delusions and have attributed everything grand and noble to them. If delusions, the products of “false” consciousness can be so fruitful for the betterment of man, why opt for reality that produces nausea, despair and horror (which mark modern literature)? Life resists all attempts at its devaluation and negation by those who deem it to be futile and without any significance or meaning. Did Jesus(Eesa A.S) ask for anything more than choosing life and are religions commandments amounting to anything more than not harming life? Esoteric commentaries of scriptural commandments show that in the last analysis all these boil down to affirming and celebrating life. Man is condemned to choose life. Choosing death is relinquishing human status. And man is not prepared to be a stone as otherwise he would not proceed to scan God and judge his creation as absurd.
Men will continue as they have been ever doing to find meaning and fulfillment in love. In a world without illusions, without props, without consolations, there is still the still small voice of love in the depths of our being that allows us to say yes to life with all its disappointments and tragedies, not all of which can be attributed to the misdeeds of capitalism. Even the absurdist Camus lives by this faith in love, the love of relationships. The proposition that ‘love is eternal’ will hardly be questioned by people who have experienced it and fortunately most people have experienced though to most only a few glimpses of it have been given.
So taking religion as pyar kae do boal, as mantra for beautifying life, for connecting people (tu barayi wasl kerdem aamdi) let us contest theologies of killing, of despair and exclusion.