Religion, in general, is perhaps the most widely misunderstood doctrine in the world. This is clear from the fact that it has been involved in one way or the other in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.
Also, the violence, bloodshed, unrest, and destruction in different parts of the world in the name of religion are a witness to it. However, every religion claims to master and advocate for peace and co-existence in its teachings. The comparative study of major world religions vis Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, etc reveals that all of them indeed emphasize peace.
Then, where does the problem lie? Well, there is no one seed that sowed this misperception. There are multiple causes for this misperception about religion and perceiving it as the main cause of unrest in the world; but, some of them are the root causes of this misunderstanding about religion.
One of the root causes is the misinterpretation of the teachings of a religion by its followers. The reason for such misinterpretations is that almost every religion, at some point, permits to take arms for some noble reason.
In other words, there are three main views of war that a religion might adopt. And those are the pacifist view of war, the just war view, and the holy war view.
The pacifist view propagates utter nonviolence and it is mainly subscribed by Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. While the just war view, and the holy war view, are held by mainly Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
These both views are only different in that the holy view of war is more disposed towards carrying out war as a religious obligation whereas the just war is inclined towards fighting for justice. At some point, they both do intersect.
Bear in mind that these views are only per the teachings of the Holy Scriptures of the religions and not as what is practiced by their followers. The widening gap between the teachings and the practices gives rise to violence, bloodshed, and unrest among different religious groups, and even among different sects of the same religion.
Crusades, protestant-catholic enmity, the rivalry between Hindus and Muslims in British India, bloodshed of Muslims in Palestine, and more recently, the atrocities of Burmese Buddhists on Muslims in Burma are few examples in this regard.
In Hindu Holy scriptures, nonviolence has been considered the highest duty of mankind. In Mahabharata, a Hindu sacred book, it states: “This is the sum duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.”
In Dhammapada, the collection of sayings of the Buddha, it is written: “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world, it is appeased by love.” While Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, yet another advocate of pacifist view, is reported to have said: “No one is my enemy; no one is a foreigner; with all, I am at peace; God within us renders us incapable of hate and prejudice.”
What does the Quran say about war?
All the major religions of the world are focusing on peace and brotherhood. Islam, in particular, emphasizes more on peace and brotherhood than any other religion. Yet, its teachings are often misunderstood in the West, specifically on the matter of ‘Jihad’.
Allah says in Quran in surah Al-Baqarah: “Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you but do not transgress. God loveth not transgressors.”
But, in surah Al-Anfal Allah says: “but if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in ALLAH: for HE is ONE that heareth and knoweth (all things).”
Mostly, the war in Islam is ‘Qital or Jihad Fi Sabeelillah’, which is the lowest degree of jihad in Islam. The highest degree of jihad in Islam is ‘Jihad-bin-Nafs’-personal struggle in devotion to Islam. It is the superlative degree of jihad in Islam.
This shows that every religion in the world preaches the message of love, peace, compassion, and co-existence and holds the spirit of love and brotherhood. However, the ground reality is that more lives have been claimed by sectarian enmity than by any other rivalry through the course of history.
So, it is not religion that is blamed for it. The defaming of any religion can only be attributed to the illegitimate practices of the followers of that religion. As a saying goes: “I am only responsible for what I say, and not for what you understood.”
Quran suggests the solution in surah-e-Imran, 3: 64: “… come to the point that is common between you and us…” So, bringing all the stakeholders to the common terms to live with each other in harmony and peace in the world is the best way to end such sectarian conflicts and misperceptions about religion.
Lack of religious knowledge
Another main cause of misperception about religion is the lack of religious knowledge. Differences between two religious leaders give rise to a dispute between their followers. This dispute sometimes acts as a catalyst for the inception of new factions, unrest, and bloodshed that create a chaotic atmosphere.
To avoid this, people must think for themselves, learn about the real teachings of the religion about that specific matter, and seek religious knowledge. Every human being is born with enough capability to learn and differentiate between good and bad.
This is also pointed out in Quran as: “o ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterward become full of repentance for what ye have done.”
Einstein once said that ‘True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness. It is this important aspect that is missing in society today; the soul of the religion, that is the goodness and righteousness it preaches is ignored and it is employed for political motives.
Read more: Long read: Battle for the soul of Islam
The true teachings of Islam
What has been done in the name of religion in Pakistan in the recent past is not the teachings of Islam. Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) always gave preference to peace over violence and bloodshed.
These are not the teachings of Islam to burn poor people’s property in the name of religion or the love of our holy prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).
Hazrat Anas Bin Malik (RA) said that whenever the Holy Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) reached war destination in the night, he (SWA) did not attack till dawn.
Our Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) even prohibited from destroying crops, harming children, women, aged people, and those who do not participate in the war.
It is the teachings of Islam. Islam is the religion of peace, compassion, and kindness. But, we do not bother to understand true Islam, the teachings of our beloved prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H, the injunctions of the Quran.
The dark side of religious leaders
True believers need to go beyond the Church, Mosque, and Temple to seek the soul of their respective religions and apply that to their daily lives. This soul speaks to human goodness. Blind obedience and irrationality have the potential to damage everything.
Religion, contrary to popular belief, is not about blind obedience but about comprehending and understanding the teachings of God.
It cannot be denied that many religious leaders and seemingly ardent followers have inflicted a great deal of injustice and oppression. They have punished and jailed many great minds and innocents, but religion is not responsible for this injustice.
It is those that feel threatened by the voice of change these great minds bring to their society. These religious leaders fear losing their hold on the masses and they act to protect their power, not to save their religion.
Islam encourages scientific inquiry and continuously shakes human’s rational faculties through Quranic injunctions like “Do you not ponder over this”, and “This is a lesson for those who think.”
Rise of Islamophobia
In recent years, a specific phobia has gripped Western society called Islamophobia. Islamophobia is an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility towards Islam and Muslims, that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life.
Although some historical events have led to Islamophobia in the west, yet, this is the ‘Western Agenda’ of challenging the ideology of ‘Jihad’ with its manipulation through terrorism.
Most Western political scientists view Islam as a threat to Western civilization. Their perception is based upon the theory of western political scientist Samuel P. Huntington.
He has given the theory of clash of civilizations, in which he said that future wars will be among different civilizations in the world, and Islam and Chinese civilizations will be the potential challengers for western civilization; there will be a war between Islam and western civilization in the future.
This idea is completely irrelevant and is a widespread fallacy in western political thoughts, which has led to prejudice in the west against Muslims and Islam. As a result, there exist feelings of anger against Muslims all over the world.
This is defaming religion for obtaining political interests. Similarly, international media unchecked freedom of expression against religious sentiments of communities especially of Muslims creating religious hatred.
What should be done?
In order to dispel negative portrayal of religion or flamed understanding of religion, there is a need of taking some measures at the international level. These measures could include initiating a grand dialogue among civilizations and religions, especially between the West and Muslims.
Moreover, the west should interpret Islam dispassionately. The analysis should not be based upon preconceived notions. Also, Islamic religious scholars should present moderate, and true Islam to the World.
Those Muslims living in the west should consider themselves as the ambassadors of Islam. Because whatever they do abroad will be considered as the teachings of Islam.
Moreover, every Muslim in the world should read about the teachings and way of life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H and read Quran and understand it.
I bear witness that our leader Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is the best of all creation. He was honored with the Glorious Qur’an that has been an enduring miracle throughout the years. He was also sent with his guiding Sunnah that shows the way for those who seek guidance.
The author is a civil engineer and an independent researcher. He can be reached at: Shahfahad1313@gmail.com.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.