Q / A
29. Are Religions the same
Religion has always been at the core of human thought, civilization and history. Along history, there has been so many religions everywhere in the world, whether primal mostly pagan or the so-called universal encompassing wider aspects and influencing larger groups and extending along longer epochs of time. The essence of any religion is to try to explain the reality of creation (visible and unseen), the purpose and code of life, and final destiny of human beings. Looking more closely, we find that at the core of religious thought is the ‘unseen’, the infinite existence in terms of space and time. In such an infinite universe, this planet Earth are no more than a minute particle of sand in an endless desert. To illustrate, our milky way galaxy, one of thousands in the visible part of the universe, is 50,000 light years in radius (A corollary to this is that we are not any sure of the very existence of any celestial body, that is tens, hundreds or thousands of light years away). Our lifetime, as well as the whole human history, is no more than a moment of the infinite time of creation (believed to be more than 15 billion years since the so-called big-bang). Hence, it is impossible for human thought alone, through philosophy, meditation not to say mythical thinking, to find a proper answer to the major issues of religion. Of the multitude of religions embraced by human groups in history, none can claim authenticity or truth unless it emanates (and proves to so) from the Super-natural Creator of this marvelous universe. Truth is always one. In contrast, the overwhelming man-made religions are as diverse, disparate and contradictory as their numbers. They can hardly be described as “the same, with different views of the same god, like a snowflake”, as you suggested! A more analytical look into the history, details and features of different religions, you cannot fail to conclude that almost all – apart from Islam – show different degrees and forms of deviation or distortion from a basic (original) thread, i.e. belief or strife to recognize the ultimate (One) Creator, an ideal system of values regarding right and wrong as well as the just reward expected in the after-life. However, human distortions away from this basic thread has produced the multitudes of visions, myths, traditions and codes of life; i.e. religions. Weaknesses of human minds, ignorant submission to myths invented by prominent figures (clergy, philosophers, leaders … etc), and hardships and stresses of life; all combined to lead people to imagine a power that could heal illness, bring rain or hunting game, combat death and achieve either immortality or union with an ever-lasting spirit. Failing to encompass the Ultimate Creator, this led different communities first to seek intermediaries that took the form of sanctified human beings (philosophers, leaders, prophets or pious people), and later idols, pantheons, shrines…etc, and even animals in which sacred souls reside.
Later, these imagined intermediaries, whether mythical figures or secret powers, replaced the truth of the universal One God, Creator, Guider, Preserver Who cares for all his creatures all the time; without intermediaries, without mythical mysteries or philosophical jargon. That simple truth was revealed to, and preached by, a long array of prophets sent with the same divine guidance to nations across history. However, that simple divine truth remained in its pure form only in Islam. All other religions have been admixed with different distortions: regarding the nature of God, His role and relation to all humanity or towards a specific nation, introducing various forms of polytheism, deifying human beings, animals or imaginary beings, consecrating idols, statues, figures or symbols. All religions, except Islam, are practiced through intermediaries: churches; classes like Brahmas; clergy like priests, rabbis … etc; ascetics. Most of these deviations spread epidemically between different religions, either by imitation, political influence or military pressure. Hence, striking similarities can frequently be traced between pairs of religion e.g. between Christianity and Buddhism regarding the story of Christ and Buddha (even their birthdays); and also between Trinitarian beliefs such as Hinduism, Christianity and Mithraism.
Disparity of visions regarding the nature of God between this panorama of distorted beliefs are as wide as their disagreement on every other aspect of these man-made religions. In one major religion, Christianity, the nature of Christ as well as the other components of trinity is widely different between each Eastern and each Western church.
This is not the case with Islam where all Muslims believe in the same God (Allah, the Arabic word for God used by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike), the same “human” prophet Muhammad, and the same Book: the Qur’an (word by word and letter by letter).
Islam is the only religion that believes in a message common with all previous religions (in their original undistorted form), that they are all genuine messages from God, and recognizes and reveres all their prophets.
* Say (O Muslims), “We have believed in Allah, and whatever has been sent down to us, and whatever has been sent down to us, and whatever was sent down to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob and the Grandsons, and whatever was brought down to Moses and Jesus, and whatever was brought to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we are Muslims. (English meaning of Qur’an 2: 136)