Why is Religion Revealed?
From the moment of creation, every man is endowed with the faculty of conceiving the existence of Allah through the use of his conscience and wisdom.
It is a clear fact that everything in the universe, down to the slightest detail, is the creation of Allah. Everything surrounding us is solid evidence of the existence of Allah. Allah created the birds flying in the sky; the fish in the depths of the ocean; the camels of the desert or the penguins which inhabit the south pole; the bacteria in our body, invisible to the naked eye, fruits, plants, clouds, planets, and glorious galaxies in the most complete state, and equipped them all with delicate systems and superior characteristics.
Similarly, all systems supporting life on earth are based on very delicate balances. Very slight, even millimetric variations or deviations in these balances would render life on earth impossible. A brief examination of these balances reveals the extraordinary calculation and order inherent in them. For instance, if the earth revolved at a slower speed around the sun, it would result in huge temperature differences between day and night. A faster speed, on the other hand, would mean the more frequent occurrence of hurricanes and floods, a serious challenge to existence on earth.
Likewise, there are many other delicate balances making the earth a life-supporting planet, and it is impossible that they could have come into existence by chance. Accordingly, it is impossible that a wise man would attribute such exquisite balances and calculations to blind chance. A car or a camera reminds man of the existence of a conscious designer. Similarly, one should conclude that the universe, with its glorious interrelated web of systems, is not a self-governing entity which came into existence all by itself. Allah frequently draws our attention to the evidence of creation:
It is He Who sends down water from the sky. From it you drink and from it come the shrubs among which you graze your herds. And by it He makes crops grow for you and olives and dates and grapes and fruit of every kind. There is certainly a sign in that for people who reflect. He has made night and day subservient to you, and the sun and moon and stars, all subject to His command. There are certainly signs in that for people who use their intellect. And also in the things of varying colors He has created for you on the earth, there is certainly a sign for people who pay heed. (Surat an-Nahl: 10-13)
Is He, then, Who creates like him who does not create? So will you not pay heed? (Surat an-Nahl: 17)
It is Allah, the Lord of all the worlds, Who has created the entire universe, nature and man. Allah is He Who best knows the needs of all living things, including man. That is why the lifestyle most suited to man is the religion Allah sent down to him. Only by having a grasp of the religion of Islam can people lead happy and peaceful lives.
Pondering over the issues mentioned in the above verses surely suffices to make one, albeit, totally deprived of religious knowledge, conceive of the existence of Allah and appreciate His power and might. Just considering one's body, a composition of interrelated complex systems, makes one conscious of the superior creation of Almighty Allah.
Consequently, one, who is even unaware of the book revealed by Allah, can reach Allah through observation and contemplation of his surroundings. For people of understanding, the world overflows with evidence:
In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are signs for people with intelligence: those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth, saying: "Our Lord! You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to you! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire." (Surah Al 'Imran: 190-191)
At this point, the need for religion becomes more apparent. This is simply because one who perceives the existence of our Creator would surely like to feel closer to Him, know Him better and find ways to attain His love and mercy; and the only way to do this is to have a good understanding of the values of the Qur'an, the unchanged word of Allah and the Divine book of Islam, the religion of truth.
In the Qur'an Allah Provides Knowledge for the Most Fundamental Issues One Needs to Know
In every age, Allah has sent down messengers and books to man, thereby introducing Himself to man, instructing him about the attitudes, behavior, moral values and life style He is pleased with. They have informed man about the true meanings of the concepts of good and bad, right and wrong, making us aware of the life after death, the rewards for those who obey Allah and the punishment awaiting rebellious people.
In this way, Allah explained every issue man needs to know throughout his life by means of Divine religions. All information pertaining to a fulfilling and rewarding life both in this world and beyond is provided to man. This basic purpose of righteous religions, conveyed to man through messengers and books, is given in many verses in the Qur'an:
…We have sent down the Book to you making all things clear and as guidance and mercy and good news for the Muslims. (Surat an-Nahl: 89)
We have sent it down with truth and with truth it has come down. We only sent you to bring good news and to give warning. (Surat al-Isra': 105)
Then We gave Moses the Book, complete and perfect for him who does good, elucidating everything, and a guidance and a mercy, so that hopefully they will believe in their encounter with their Lord. (Surat al-An'am: 154)
In the Qur'an Allah Explains the Real Purpose of Life
Throughout world history, billions of people came into being, lived and then died. Only a minority of these people endeavored to grasp the real purpose of life. The rest simply drifted with the daily flow of events and spent their lives in vain pursuits. Basically, fulfilling their own desires became their main purpose in life. An unconscious and irresponsible attitude underlay this dominant mode of behavior in almost all societies throughout the ages. Every generation, with a few exceptions, repeated the errors of the preceding ones and simply adopted the purposes and values of their forefathers. This is a vicious cycle still repeated today.
The majority of people are enslaved by "unvarying" but utterly distorted philosophies and principles, that do them no good and which are mostly based on the following line of reasoning: Man comes into existence, becomes adult, grows old and dies. One is born only once, and death puts an end to everything. This is why people have to "make the most of life" and strive to satisfy their whims and desires throughout their lives.
Thus, the majority of people come to spend their lives which they think to be their one and only opportunity, in adhering to the life style and mode of behavior they inherited from past generations. In a spirit totally deprived of the awareness of death, they make pursuing pleasures and planning for the future the ultimate aims of their lives. Regardless of cultural and social differences, this fact holds true for all people. A prestigious education, an admirable position in business life, high standards of living, a happy family and countless similar goals become the unchanging pursuits of life.
These goals can be further extended and would fill many pages if enumerated. However, the truth is, all these people turn a blind eye to the one and only reason for their existence. Meanwhile, they spend their whole lives, which is a unique opportunity offered to them to accomplish their ultimate purpose, in vain. This ultimate purpose is to be a servant of Allah. This is explained in the Qur'an as follows:
I only created jinn and man to worship Me. (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 56)
The way to be a good servant of Allah is also communicated in the Qur'an. Being a servant of Allah means accepting the unity and existence of Allah; knowing His attributes and appreciating His majesty, serving no other Deity except Him and devoting one's life to earning His approval. In the Qur'an, the moral values and lifestyle favored by Allah are described in detail and people are summoned to this way of living.
A person living within the boundaries set by these values is given the good tidings of a perfect life both in this world and beyond. Otherwise, a bitter end awaits man.
The lifestyle one adheres to in this world shapes his eternal life. After death, there is no opportunity whatsoever to compensate for one's reprehensible deeds. Therefore, behaving with a distorted logic as if man owes his existence in this world to coincidences, as if he is not bounded by any limits, and as if he has come to this world solely to spend his life in the pursuit of vain desires would ultimately lead to his own ruination. Those behaving irresponsibly towards our Creator, ignoring the real purpose of their existence, and remaining unconcerned about the consequences in the life beyond will be chided thus in the hereafter:
Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us? (Surat al-Mu'minun: 115)
In reality, such people are not unaware of their purpose in life: Allah proclaimed it through His messengers and books and provided guidance to the true path. Furthermore, man is granted a lifetime to take warning. A show of regret by those who, having turned a deaf ear to all these opportunities, have deviated from their real purpose in life and pursued their own desires will not save them from torment:
They will shout out in it: "Our Lord! Take us out! We will act rightly, differently from the way we used to act!" But He will answer: "Did We not let you live long enough for anyone who was going to pay heed to pay heed? And did not the warner come to you? Have a taste of it then! There is no helper for the wrongdoers." (Surah Fatir: 37)
Allah Explains How to be a Servant to Him in the Qur’an
Since man has been created to be a servant to Allah, human beings are obliged to learn how to worship Him. This is also communicated in the Qur'an:
We have appointed for every nation a rite that they observe… (Surat al-Hajj: 67)
A detailed account of the type of worship that Allah requires from His servants is provided in the Qur’an. One finds in the Qur'an all the answers pertaining to the questions frequently raised about praying the five daily prayers, regular worship, obligatory alms and so on. Besides these, the attributes of a believer praised by Allah, the type of behavior a believer should endeavor to avoid, and the moral values a believer should display are all explained in the Qur'an. Modesty, willingness to make sacrifices, honesty, justice, mercy, compassion, determination and similar moral characteristics are shown to be the essential attributes of the good servant to Allah. Wicked deeds, wrong attitudes, and improper ways of addressing people are all identified in the Qur'an, and believers are warned against them.
Allah created the whole universe and man from nothingness. Among all the living beings, man especially has been given many favors, among them the "spirit," that being the most important and greatest distinguishing feature. That is what makes man a conscious being. The abundance of favors bestowed upon man is so great that-as Allah informs us-if man tried to number them, he could never count them (Surat an-Nahl: 18). So, man has to ponder upon why all these favors have been given to him, and what is demanded from him in return.
Man is endowed with the faculty of comprehending that all the favors he enjoys are given to him by Allah. Consequently, he easily comprehends that he should feel grateful for them. Yet, he may not know the way to express this gratitude. At this point, it is again the Qur'an that guides him.
...(In) the water which Allah sends down from the sky-by which He brings the earth to life when it was dead and scatters about in it creatures of every kind-and the varying direction of the winds, and the clouds subservient between heaven and earth, there are Signs for people who use their intellect. (Surat al-Baqara: 164)
In the Qur'an, Allah primarily demands that His servants feel the necessity to obtain His approval all throughout their lives. To this end, at every moment of one's life, one must prefer the consent of Allah rather than the fulfillment of one's own will and desires. Otherwise, one would become a slave to one's own desires:
Have you seen him who has taken his whims and desires to be his god?… (Surat al-Furqan: 43)
Accordingly, all through his life, a believer evaluates all the alternatives-be it about an incident, a thought or an attitude -and chooses the one most pleasing to Allah.
Consequently, a believer, who spends his life in attaining the approval of our Creator, may hope to be rewarded with eternal bliss. Therefore, being a servant to Allah is merely for one's own good. Allah is surely in no need of one's prayers, worship or good deeds. As revealed in the Qur'an: "Allah is Rich beyond need of any being." (Surat al-Ankabut: 6)
In the Qur'an Allah Advises Man How to Distinguish between Good and Evil
In an environment where Qur'anic principles are disregarded, various unreliable criteria are employed to establish the difference between good and evil. Reliance on such diverse criteria results in erroneous conduct and harmful consequences. For instance, a person who attempted a crime only once is regarded as more innocent than others who have committed several crimes. A burglar describes himself as a harmless person compared to a murderer, while a murderer thinks that he is not so bad since he has committed murder only once in his lifetime. In his eyes, it is those who make their living from murder who are evil. A professional killer, on the other hand, draws a distinction between himself and a psychopath, and considers himself quite innocent. The same also holds true of those who, although not criminals, are unethical in their conduct. One who gossips regards this offense as a trivial one since he does so with no bad intentions. One bearing malice towards another thinks himself to be good deep in his heart, since he bears malice only when he is in the right. It is possible to extend the list of such arguments. In brief, all these people think themselves innocent and never accept the wickedness of their offenses. However, their excuses are all invalid and they are all seriously in the wrong. This is because what makes an individual faultless is his complete adherence to the book of Allah. Conversely, when he acts against the morality of the Qur'an, he is guilty, no matter what he claims.
As we know, the human soul has two sides: the conscience and the lower soul (ego). The conscience always inspires man to do the good and the right thing, while the lower soul (nafs) drives man to ill-behavior, of which Allah does not approve. The full use of one's conscience, on the other hand, is possible only by a strong faith and fear of Allah.
Religion enables man to acquire the consciousness with which to distinguish between good and evil. Only having faith in what is revealed by Allah and complete compliance with it can endow man with a sound faculty for thinking and a decision-making mechanism. For instance, a believer who fears Allah, as meant in the Qur'an, is granted a criterion by which to judge between right and wrong:
You who believe! If you fear Allah, He will give you a criterion (by which to judge between right and wrong) erase your bad actions from you and forgive you. Allah's favor is indeed immense. (Surat al-Anfal: 29)
The unique source that distinguishes between right and wrong, truth and falsehood is the Qur'an:
Blessed be He Who has sent down the Furqan (the Criterion of right and wrong) to His servant so that he can be a warner to all beings. (Surat al-Furqan: 1)
The Qur'an provides a detailed description of right and wrong and how to use our conscience and consciousness. For instance, in a specific verse, a comprehensive description of the concept of righteousness is given:
It is not righteousness to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, those with true righteousness are those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travellers and beggars and to set slaves free, and who attend to their prayers and give alms; those who honor their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who are true believers. Those are the people who go in fear of Allah. (Surat al-Baqara: 177)
Every belief one inherits from one's family or forefathers, or imbibes from one's social environment, is inherently untrustworthy as long as it does not comply with Qur'anic principles. One example is certain phrases commonly used in society to describe a good man. "He wouldn't hurt a fly" is one such phrase. However, if a man avoids hurting a fly, but fails to comply with the commandments of the Qur'an, it is hardly proper to say that he is a good person. What really matters is to avoid wicked deeds established as such by the Qur'an and to do what is praised as good. For some, feeling pity for the poor, or compassion towards children and helping them are sufficient reasons to qualify a person as "religious". All these are very excellent, but according to the Qur’an, these activities do not entitle a person to be called a true believer. The true believer is a person who meticulously complies with the commandments of the Qur'an and devotes his whole life to earning Allah's approval.
The Qur'an Instructs Man in the Real Nature of this World
In the Qur'an, the last surviving authentic revealed guide to the true path for humanity, Allah informs us that the purpose of our life is to worship Him alone. Meanwhile, the Qur'an also draws our attention to the fact that this world is a place where believers are tried and tested by our Creator to this end. Accordingly, as a requisite of this test, Allah warns man against factors specially created to tempt man away from the true path, explaining their nature to be utterly "deceptive." (Surah Al 'Imran: 185) In the Qur'an, there are many verses describing the real nature of the life of this world. The following are examples:
Your wealth and children are a trial. But with Allah there is an immense reward. (Surat at-Taghabun: 15)
To mankind the lure of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colors: women and children, and heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, and horses with fine markings, and livestock and fertile farmland. And these are merely the comforts of the life of this world, but better by far is the return to Allah. (Surah Al 'Imran: 14)
What you have been given is only the enjoyment of the life of this world and its finery. What is with Allah is better and longer lasting. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-Qasas: 60)
In the Qur'an, Allah informs us that this world is only a temporary place for man, and that every blessing granted him is a means of testing him.
Social status, prosperity, children, good standards of living as well as poverty and poor living conditions are the means by which man is tested in this world. One of the verses is as follows:
It is He (Allah) Who appointed you inheritors of the earth and raised some of you above others in rank, so that He could test you regarding what He has given you. Your Lord is Swift in Retribution; and He is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat al-An'am: 165)
That the creation of life and death is but to test man is related in the following verse:
He created death and life to test which of you acquitted himself best. He is the Almighty, the Ever-Forgiving One. (Surat al-Mulk: 2)
All good as well as the unfavorable conditions surrounding man are created to test him in this world (Surat al-Anbiya': 35). All favors given or taken back from man are a part of this test:
As for man, when his Lord tests him by honoring him and favoring him, he says, "My Lord has honored me!" But then when He tests him by restricting his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me!" (Surat al-Fajr: 15-16)
In this verse, the point of view of an unconscious person who cannot grasp the nature of this test is explicitly described.
Believers are warned against such an unconscious attitude and repeatedly reminded about their real purpose in life:
Do not direct your eyes longingly to what We have given certain of them to enjoy, the splendor of the life of this world, for We seek only to test them by it. Your Lord's provision is better and longer lasting. (Surah Ta-Ha: 131)
Nevertheless, such people are far from comprehending these facts, and are tempted by the deceptive lure of these favors. Attachment to this life and craving for possessions cause them to stop short at nothing in the attainment of their worldly goals. Meanwhile, they feel deep frustration or hopelessness when they encounter trouble and difficulties. In the Qur'an, reference is also made to such a state of mind:
If We let man taste mercy from Us, and then take it away from him, he is despairing, ungrateful; but if We let him taste blessings after hardship has afflicted him, he says, "My troubles have gone away," and he is overjoyed, boastful. (Surah Hud: 9-10)
Those unaware of the facts Allah communicated to man through the Qur'an go astray when they receive an abundance of favors, and become despondent and depressed when deprived of them.
Believers who interpret all incidents in terms of the guidance of the Qur'an turn to Allah under all circumstances, keep in mind the remembrance of Allah and the hereafter and engage in a steady effort to attain the real abode of man. In accordance with the reminder of the Prophet Muhammad (saas), "Be in the world as if you were a stranger or someone on a journey," (Al-Bukhari) they know that they will stay but a little while in this world and that their real abode is the hereafter. That is why true believers never go astray when they receive an abundance of favors, nor become despondent or depressed when they remain deprived of them. Aware that they are being tested in their reactions to favors as well as deprivations, they always endeavor to display the attitudes most favored by Allah. They react to events having the following verse in mind:
Every soul will taste death. We test you with both good and evil as a trial. And you will be returned to Us. (Surat al-Anbiya': 35)
In the face of all these facts, one is again deeply reminded that the Qur'an is an explicit manifestation of Allah's great mercy, since believers learn the most accurate facts by means of the Qur'an.
Allah Informs Us in the Qur'an that the Hereafter is the Real Abode of Man
In regard to issues which are beyond the ability of our perceptions, man is incapable of learning anything; the "future" is one such issue. Nobody can be sure what will happen in the next few seconds. Due to this limited capability in perception, in every age, people have been left curious about issues related to the future, especially about the nature of the life after death.
Surely, the most accurate answers to these questions are given by Allah, the Creator of the universe, of all human beings, death, the Day of Judgment, of Hell and Paradise, the future, the past, and the hereafter. Allah created the universe and all living beings from nothingness and continues to create them moment by moment. Allah also creates time, one of the dimensions of the universe, by which all living beings are bound. Allah, however, is not bound by time; He is surely unfettered by the concepts of time and space. Allah created everything in the dimension of timelessness. Allah knows and creates everything we regard as past and present in a single moment. (For further details, please refer to the book, Timelessness and the Reality of Fate and Eternity Has Already Begun by the same author).
Including the future, everything imperceptible to our senses is referred to as the "Unseen." The hereafter also remains to be a part of the "unseen" for people so long as they live. The Qur'an informs man about the existence of the hereafter and gives a detailed account of it. In every age, philosophers have set forth many assumptions regarding the life after death, along with the various cultures which abound in superstitious beliefs about the next life. However, the most accurate information regarding the hereafter is provided by the religion of truth.
Every living thing will die at a predetermined time, and will stand all alone before Allah to render an account of his deeds in this world. Allah reveals this fact in the Qur'an.
Only the religion of truth informs man about the temporary nature of this world and the eternal life, the hereafter, awaiting man. That a day will come, when everyone will be rewarded or punished by Allah according to one's good or evil deeds, is also revealed by in the Qur'an. The Qur'an is the unique source from which we gather information about the moment of death, the Day of Judgment, Paradise, and Hell. In the Qur'an, the last revelation of Allah, He reminds us in many verses that the real abode of man is the hereafter: Allah reveals in one verse:
The life of the world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The hereafter is better for those who fear Allah. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-An'am: 32)
By the Lord of heaven and earth, it (all that you are promised) is certainly true, as true as you are speaking now! (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 23)