Romanticism in the Name of Religion
Whenever they commit an indecent act, they say,
Rather than a fully developed ideology itself, romanticism is rather an influence which permeates various other ideologies, proffering them with an emotional quality that allows them to rob people of their rationality. As it has penetrated such entirely irreligious and perverse ideologies as fascism and communism, it also at times makes its influence felt under the guise of religion.
Before broaching this topic, there is an important point that must first be understood. A movement that claims for itself the name of religion may not necessarily be truly religious. On the contrary, in the past, there have been many individuals, groups and ideas which, while operating in the name of God and religion, have intended to do damage to religion and to its followers. God provides us with examples of such instances in the Qu'ran. For example, a criminal was plotting to kill one of God's prophets, the prophet Salih. While devising his plan, he and those with him made an oath in the name of God:
They said, "Let us make an oath to one another by God that we will fall on him and his family in the night and then say to his protector, 'We did not witness the destruction of his family and we are telling the truth.'" (Qur'an: 27:49)
Those pagans who opposed the prophets often accused them of "fabricating lies against God," pointing to the fact that they thought of themselves as religious and God-fearing. (Qur'an, 42:24) For example, Pharaoh, who was perverse to the point of claiming himself to be a god, said this about Moses:
... Let me kill Moses and let him call upon his Lord! I am afraid that he may change your religion and bring about corruption in the land. (Qur'an, 40:26)
This shows that it is possible to think perversely and to carry out perverse acts under the name and guise of religion, and romanticism is at the top of the list of those perversities that are thought to be religious but, in fact, is not related to religion at all.
To understand how romanticism is confused with religion, it is necessary to fully understand the idea of "sincerity." Sincerity is doing something in order to gain the approval of God only. If the act is truly done with sincerity, it is counted as worship in the sight of God. For example, praying, fasting, giving alms, working in the cause of God, and all other acts of service, are to be regarded as acts of worship, only if they are undertaken to gain the approval of God. Worship performed without the intention of gaining God's approval is invalid according to God's command in the Qu'ran: "So woe to those who pray, and are forgetful of their prayer, those who show off" (Qur'an, 107, 4-6) This is also clear in the words of the Prophet Mohammed, who said, "God accepts those deeds which were performed purely for His sake and which were meant to seek His pleasure."12
It is in this manner that romanticism distorts religion. It directs religion towards a purpose other than gaining the approval of God; it represents religion as an emotional experience, in which people may satisfy their emotional needs, not to be practised for the pleasure of God.
By obfuscating this subtle but very important distinction, romanticism leads people to a completely false understanding of religion, the end-result being mysticism. When people cease to understand religion as submission to God, and begin to regard it as a means for "psychological exhilaration," then a number of mystical practices are sought, submerging them even deeper in this false approach.
When we compare romanticised religion with the religion that God has revealed to us in the Qu'ran, we can recognise a number of great difference:
In short, according to the romantic approach, religion is something that encourages one's tendencies to idolize individuals, to be unreflective, nostalgic, self-effacing and self-destructive. It is a counterfeit system, comprised of beliefs and practices totally alien to true religion.
Instead of learning what God wants from them, and living their lives accordingly, people prefer to continue the approach to religion, the behaviour and stereotypical ways of thinking inherited from their ancestors. They do not lead their lives according to a rational assessment of the conditions surrounding them, but hold on to the same old traditional patterns of thought and behaviour. This is a perversity against which God warns strongly in many verses of the Qu'ran. Here are a few examples:
When they are told, "Come to what God has sent down and to the Messenger," they say, "What we found our fathers doing is enough for us." What! Even if their fathers did not know anything and were not guided! (Qur'an, 5:104)
Whenever they commit an indecent act, they say, "We found our fathers doing it and God commanded us to do it too." Say: "God does not command indecency. Do you say things about God you do not know?" (Qur'an, 7:28)
When they are told: "Follow what God has sent down," they say, "No, we will follow what we found our fathers doing." What! Even if Satan is calling them to the punishment of the Blazing Fire? (Qur'an, 31:21)
If a person wants to be able to practise the kind of religion that God wants him to practice, he must first escape the mire of romanticism. As He has commanded in the following verse: "That is because God is the Real…" (Qur'an, 22:62), God is the Real, and to understand this it is necessary to be a "realist." Those who are captivated by romantic ideals, on the other hand, are influenced either by perverse ideologies, such as romantic nationalism or communism, or lose touch with the notions of wisdom and sincerity through a romantic interpretation of religion, or are affected by the kind of romantic idea of love that we shall examine in the next chapters of this book.
Even if those individuals affected by this way of thinking were to start practicing religion, they lack the mental stability to persevere, because of the faltering spiritual condition that romanticism leads them to have. There are numerous individuals who begin to practice religion inspired by a few romantic notions, but who quickly give it up and return to a life without religion.
However, God gives this command to human beings:
He is Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything in between them, so worship Him and persevere in His worship. Do you know of any other with His Name? (Qur'an, 19:65)