SHAFAQNA- Believers, both in the past and in the present, constantly need guidance to discover the right path of life. In the modernity era, man has the same material and spiritual needs of the past, with the difference that in terms of form, their fulfillment is done with modern tools, but in terms of nature, there has been no change in the demands of individuals.
Religious freedom requires that if man is convinced of the existence of God, he chooses the best and most complete religion through comprehensive research and study. If religious propositions can be refuted by scientific or experimental methods, religion can be doubted, but so far none of the religious beliefs have been refuted by scientific and experimental methods, rather, the growth of science has made it easier to prove the existence of God, the Ruler of the world, and has also activated religious revival movements.
Man at any time and any place needs to be guided to evolution, because the search for evolution is rooted in human nature. In this rule, there is no difference between those who believe in God and those who deny God, and in what time and place they live, but believing in God changes the course of man’s evolution. Therefore, in the first place, it must be determined whether a person believes or not, and in the second place, it must be determined what tools such a person needs for his life on the path to evolution?
Naturally, the answer to these questions will show that man considers his happiness only in meeting “material needs”, or in addition to material happiness, he will also seek “spiritual happiness”. Even those who do not believe in God seem to seek spiritual peace, and therefore do so by doing good to others. So the above question has three parts: Does modern man need religion? And if the answer is yes, it remains to be seen whether modern man can meet his needs with an old religion. And which of the religions, all of which are based on ancient times, should be chosen?
1. Does modern man need religion?
To answer this question simply, by emphasizing the rational hypothesis, we can say that in the absence of God, man’s need for religion is completely eliminated, because then the concept of good and evil and the need to distinguish them with the help of reason or religion disappear and man acts in his life based on purely material needs or with his personal spiritual dimensions. However, in this case, many questions remain for human beings, the most important of which is who is the creator of this great world who maintains it with extraordinary order? And that if the world does not have a creator, then how will human existence be justified? What is the purpose of creation? And tens and hundreds of other questions.
However, by removing the origin of creation, the goal and its end will be meaningless. But if there is a God, and we consider him the creator of the universe, then the purpose of the origin and end of creation finds meaning and man has to become acquainted with the causes and purpose of creation, the system and rules governing it and the framework of the relationship between the Creator and the creature through intermediaries in order to be able to choose his path in life based on beliefs.
Since God is considered a non-material being in all heavenly religions and man is a material being, we need a two-dimensional mediator who, on the one hand, is as material as man so that he can communicate with him and convey God’s message to his fellow man, and on the other hand, has such a spiritual dimension that can receive the message of God and transmit it to man. On this basis, the relationship between material man, spiritual man and God can be called “religion”, although the definition of religion from this perspective is a monotheistic definition of religion and other religions may not accept it.
However, God transmits the message that guides man to salvation through the spiritual man (Prophets) to the material man (human being). This logical relationship is valid for every human being at any time, in other words, it is enough to prove the existence of God to prove the human need to determine the purpose and path of life, and this need is not met except by religion, because God only through his prophets has spoken and defined the good and the bad for him and has shown him the right path of worldly and otherworldly happiness. Therefore, the believer must follow a religion for his own happiness in any era he lives.
The main question here is which religions should one follow in order to be successful? This is where you need to study religions thoroughly and choose the best religion for yourself in a scientific environment, honestly and without prejudice.
“…So give good tidings to My servants, Who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah (SWT) has guided, and those are people of understanding.”
Therefore, the wise man tries to choose the right path for himself by examining all religions with the help of God.
2. Can modern man meet his own needs with a religion?
By accepting the principle of man’s need for religion based on reason and wisdom regardless of time and place, it must be seen what human needs are met by the heavenly religions to examine whether modern man has the same needs or not? And whether the existence of God and religious beliefs can be denied with scientific and experimental data, which is the way of knowing the majority of human beings in the modern world or not? The heavenly religions have many points in common whenever they are revealed: First, they all claim to pay attention to the two material and spiritual dimensions of man; Second, all religions seek to convince man of the worship of God and consequently his salvation in Earth and after death. In the Holy Quran, the story of the previous prophets is narrated and according to it, all the prophets have a single message for human beings.
“[We sent] messengers as bringers of good tidings and warners”.
And since human beings should be able to choose their path freely, but need perfect human beings to make the right choice, the purpose of sending the prophets is to help human beings choose, so that human beings cannot invoke the absence of guides from God and justify their misguidance. :
“… so humanity should have no excuse before Allah (SWT) after ˹the coming of˺ the messengers. And Allah (SWT) is Almighty, All-Wise.”
Since believing human beings in all lands and at all times need both material and spiritual dimensions and seek salvation on earth and after death, then religions must be able to meet their constant needs, otherwise religions are not defensive. What is certain is that man’s needs in the material dimension are defined in the context of religious behavior, and his spiritual needs are met by communicating with God and carrying out God’s commands. For example, modernity has been able to bring the field of buying and selling from the market into smart devices and facilitate it, but the laws of buying and selling are the same as those of the former domestic or international trade, and the economic rights of individuals have not changed at all.
Or the man of today, like the man of yesterday, responds to his spiritual, psychological, family and social needs through marriage, and there is no reason to change this rule. Spiritually, human beings, both in the past and in the present, need communication with family, friends, spending time in happiness and joy, etc., and in the modern world, it is the type of communication and joy that has changed and their inherent nature has not been disrupted. It seems that the only changes that seem acceptable and real are the transformation of relationships and the introduction of modern tools to facilitate human interaction in the material dimension, which not only does not destroy the spiritual dimension of man, but also strengthens or even revives spiritual feelings in the industrialized world. Therefore, there is no logical reason for modern man to be without material needs based on religion and spiritual needs in order to be free from the need for religion.
On the other hand, although modern man is increasingly searching for the scientific and practical discovery of phenomena, not only can he not prove the existence of God by scientific means, rather, he discovers many of the things that the heavenly religions have endorsed with more scientific data. For example, the discovery of supernatural galaxies billions of light-years away with their stunning order without the slightest disturbance in their orbit has made it easier to prove the existence of a regulator, or the discovery of gravity is just the discovery of one cause-and-effect relationships that God has placed in phenomena.
So, first of all, one should doubt the view that the material and spiritual needs of modern man have completely changed, and secondly, if science could refute one of the religious beliefs, then other religious beliefs can also be doubted. Nowadays, in the Western world, more than denying the existence of God, they seek to separate religion from society and turn it into a personal bond between God and individuals, which is reflected in the constitutions of most countries. If this attempt to abandon Christianity and Judaism, which in the opinion of many thinkers do not meet the needs of today’s societies, is possible, it is not possible in the case of Islam, which is a comprehensive social, political, economic, legal, etc. religion, except with a partial or total closure of Islam, because if the last heavenly religion can not provide a solution to these matters, can not be considered a complete religion and will be unwittingly set aside.
3. Which religions should be chosen?
Now that it has become clear that the existence of religions in all times and places and in both material and spiritual dimensions is necessary for all human beings, it must be seen which religion can better meet these needs. Rationally, God, who is believed by all the heavenly religions to be Al-Hakim (The All-Wise), will never replace a religion with a new one unless he has made it more complete and adapted to the new conditions. If we consider the God of all the Abrahamic religions as one God, then God’s Will can be considered to complete the religion of Abraham with the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, respectively, otherwise we must either believe in several Gods, which are neither compatible with ‘Aql (reason) nor with the truth, either the new religions must be denied by the perpetrators to the previous religions.
In today’s world, Jews deny Christianity and both deny Islam, while Muslims, relying on their source of revelation, the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) and the infallible Imams (A.S), believe in other prophets and religions before them, and only Islam have been considered to complete those religions. In this regard, we cite these Quranic propositions:
1. “… But We had already given the family of Abraham the Scripture and wisdom and conferred upon them a great kingdom.” (Quran 4:54)
2. “And [recall] when We gave Moses the Scripture and criterion that perhaps you would be guided.” (Quran 2:53)
4. “Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH)] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (Quran 2: 62)
5. “Do you covet [the hope, O believers], that they would believe for you while a party of them used to hear the words of Allah and then distort it [i.e., the Torah] after they had understood it while they were knowing?” (Quran 2:75)
6. “Indeed, the religion in the sight of Allah (SWT) is Islam. And those who were given the Scripture did not differ except after knowledge had come to them – out of jealous animosity between themselves.” (Quran 3: 19)
7. “Indeed, it is We who sent down the message [i.e., the Quran], and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (Quran 15: 9)
8. “And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down [i.e., the Quran] upon Our Servant [i.e., Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses [i.e., supporters] other than Allah (SWT), if you should be truthful.” (Quran 2: 23)
According to the above verses, firstly, Islam refers to other Abrahamic religions and confirms their legitimacy in their own time, and secondly, due to the deviation created in the religions, God has abrogated the previous religion and introduced a more comprehensive religion. Thirdly, He introduced Islam as the last religion and for this reason, unlike other religions, He promised to protect it from the deviation and aggression of others. Fourthly, the Quran has challenged others to fight in such a way that if they doubt the authenticity of the Quran, they bring only one surah like it, but no one will be able to win such a struggle against God and the strong Quran.
*The series of articles “Shia answers” has been prepared and compiled by the Shafaqna International News Agency in order to provide short and simple answers to common questions about Islam and Shiism in different parts of the world. Answering these questions are done in collaboration with researchers and Islamic centers and based on online and library resources.