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171 Religions Are So Confusing!


Dear Friends,
Assalamu Alaikum,
We live in Sri Lanka where we mix with people belonging to a variety of religions.
We call it a plural society.
The main religions of the people of Sri Lanka are Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.
Of course there are some Sri Lankans professing other religions as well, but generally speaking
what I have mentioned are the 4 main religions amongst the people of Sri Lanka.
Globally too there are many religions, but these four religions, that is Buddhism, Hinduism,
Christianity and Islam are probably the most widespread all over the world and may even be
considered as the four main or the four dominant religions of the world.
You would have observed that when we promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination this multi
religious or multi cultural factor has great appeal.
Humans from all over the world delight in experiencing the flavors of different cultures.
The more exotic the better!
Do we not talk about as well as prepare for the many different Holy days and festivals of different
religions and cultures?
Do we not enjoy tasting the varieties of foods, music, dance and even dress associated with the
many different cultures?
Do we not sort of get the feeling that this multi religious environment would actually blossom
with refrains of peace and harmony because of the presence of different religions, and especially
because of the energies that would flow through the efforts of those communities in practicing
their different religions?

Now when I use the word religion, the picture or the explanation to that word that arises in my
mind is something wonderful.
Why is it wonderful?
What is it that I expect or anticipate from religions?
Let me list my thoughts on this subject;
1. It is through religions or through our religion that we learn the truth of this world, the revealing
or the enlightening truth of life.
2. We learn to prepare for and to face death and to learn the truths and to prepare for that
otherwise frightening unknown, which we refer to as life after death.
3. We learn great human or we could even describe them as divine values. These are values that
have been cherished and protected over many generations, and in fact has now been and handed
over to us as our heritage
4. It is through religions that we learn peace, to live in harmony, to practice tolerance and
patience.
5. Religions teach us not to look at faults of people, not to harbor jealousy or other evil qualities.
6. It is through religious learning that we recognize good qualities as well as learn to inculcate
these qualities in to our lives.
7. It is through religions that we learn the objective of our life and how to achieve or reach that
objective.
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8. It is through religions that we learn how to respect our parents and our elders. 9. It is through
religions that we learn the true rights of the weak, even the rights of women, the poor the
differently abled and even of orphans.
Actually to put it in a nut shell; Religion is the essence of everything that is good.
Irreligiosity, or to go contrary to religious teachings, is the field or the foundation of all evils.
Oh it is so wonderful to listen to or to read the virtues of our religion and the wisdom of a
religious person and the amazing harmony in a religion based society, a sort of a utopian state
where all its citizens are knowledgeable, law abiding and happy.
People are always smiling, courteous and helpful and where there is no poverty or weaknesses
and no one to oppress or even to bully.
Wonderful isnt it?
But then do we see it?
Do we not think that through religion the Buddhist is becoming a better person, the Hindu is
becoming a better person, the Christian is becoming a better person and that the Muslim is
becoming a better person?
Or on the other hand, are we thinking that only we who belong to our religion are becoming better
persons whilst all those who belong to and are following the teachings of other religions are in
fact on the course of moral decay?
Is it that all of us, whether we are Buddhist or Hindu or Christian or Muslim are thinking that it is
only we who belong to our specific religion are on the path of a true religion whilst all others
belonging to the other religions are on the paths of an evil and way that they have been duped in
to believing that it is a religion?
Should we not be honest with ourselves and do some long overdue soul searching?
Is it that very subtly we are progressing not from only practicing our religion but gradually
moving in to efforts that oppose those who practice other religions or oppose what we perceive as
the progress of other religions?
In other words in our intensity to demonstrate or to establish the truth of our religion or the
superiority of our religion are we in fact, without realizing, actually moving away from practicing
the teachings of our religion?
Frightening thought, isnt it?
Should we not be honest with ourselves and do some long overdue soul searching?
So then just think!
From what I have observed in this world, almost every society or community claims the practice
of a religion, and they claim that it is this religion that is the truth and it is this religion that
moulds us in to being good and it is this religion that is so wonderful.
But then astonishingly I do not see this wonderfulness in the practice of any of these religions.
Now how do I explain this?
I am sure many of you listeners would also agree with me that in practice we do not see this
wonderfulness of religions.
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But then again, just like me, I am sure that many of you listeners would be wondering as to how
you too could explain this?
How could we even dare say that religions do not appear to be wonderful and then say that we are
not talking about the other religions, but in fact we are also including our religion in that
description.
How could we even dare to say that!
It is a great paradox!
We listen to sermons on religion we read so much about religion, oh the descriptions are so
wonderful, but then, what we see being practiced just does not make sense!
So then, let me attempt to explain.
I am a Muslim. Now obviously when I talk about religion or religions, I am referring to all
religions, especially the 4 major religions of Sri Lanka as well as the World.
However in my talk I will as far as possible, refer to points that draw my attention to my religion,
to Islam; However I am sure that through my descriptions, listeners would be able to identify
parallel problems flowing from within their own religion, as well as from other religions.
Being a Muslim, from my childhood I have been listening to the virtues of Islam and the virtues
of Muslims.
It is obvious to me that there are many virtuous Muslims in my community, however I also notice
that there is global attention being focused on atrocities being carried out by Muslims under the
claim that they are carrying out the injunctions of the religion.
All religions enjoin tolerance, patience and forgiveness.
As Muslims we are reminded again and again as to how Merciful God is and how forgiving He is
and we are also instructed that God expects us or has even enjoined upon us to be tolerant,
merciful and forgiving.
How then could we explain the act of the Nigerian organization which has labeled itself with a
rather imposing banner, as the The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism
and Jihad (Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad), and is now globally recognized by
localized name Boko Haram; figuratively meaning "Western education is sin"
What have they done?
They have kidnapped over 200 Nigerian school girls claiming that western education is against
Islam. Could this act, by any stretch of imagination be described as religious?
This is one act of this organization that is getting global attention but there are many other acts of
terrorism that this group is accused of or is claiming responsibility for in Nigeria.
This is not the act of one individual but appears to be the work of an organization or a movement
which apparently has some support and appeal from a section of Muslims from some parts of
Nigeria. Maybe you could not describe this as a mass movement but you could describe it as a
movement that has some following, as well as some degree of appeal as well as clout.
This is what makes it even more astonishing.

I am quoting this case because it is very much in the news, but then there are many other atrocious
acts being committed both by groups as well as by individuals under the guise that they are
carrying out the commands as enjoined in the religion of Islam.
Muslims are spread out all over the World and a number of such atrocious or unjust acts have
been reported in the media over the last few decades and as can be expected Islam and Muslims
are gradually bringing on a rather frightening or an unfriendly image of themselves.
We find Muslims being stereotyped as terrorists, as anti-west, as anti progressive and so on.
In fact we have seen words such as Islamophobia being used more and more often in the media.
Now what is Islamophobia?
Wikipedia describes Islamophobia as follows;
Islamophobia is prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of Muslims or of ethnic groups
perceived to be Muslim. While the term is widely recognized and used, both the term and the
underlying concept have been criticized.
That is how Wikipedia describes Islamophobia.
Why is it that in the name of religion and in the name of Islam that such horrible crimes can be
committed?
We see these atrocities at state level, at district level, at village level and even at family level.
It is also shocking to realize that many of these atrocious acts have now been institutionalized and
governments as well as organizations carry out these acts under the guise that they are carrying
out religious injunctions.
I am sure many of us could list out quite a number of these atrocious acts that are being
committed by States under the name of Islam. In fact many of these states are even called Islamic
States.
Similarly I am sure that many of us could list out a number of cruel injunctions that are being
enjoined by the Muslim leaders or the Muslim elders of a village to their very own brethren, the
Muslim residents of that village.
And similarly many of us could list out the wickedness or cruelty being committed within families
under the belief that they are practicing Islam.
I recall the words of Martin Luther King, who has said History will have to record that the
greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and the violent
actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people and he
was not referring to religion but to the practice of racial discrimination.
But then could not these same words be used for all the atrocities that are being unleashed on
people under the name of the different religions?
Why is it that all of us just turn a blind eye or do not go to inquire in to all these obvious
injustices that are being committed under the name of religion?
Though because I am a Muslim I am citing the case of Islam and Muslims, I am sure people
belonging to other Religions too would recognize similar atrocities being committed in the name
of their Religion. This happens all over the world.
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For example the world has seen around four and a half centuries of European colonizers
committing huge atrocities on populations of countries that they subjugated under the guise of
forwarding their religious cause.
Is there some weakness in the human psyche or in the psyche of societies or in the collective
social psyche that prevents us from speaking against any evil act that is being presented to people
under the guise of religion?
Do not all our basic instincts and reasoning inform us that what we are observing just cannot be
classified or described as an act of any reasonable, acceptable, appealing religion?
Is it not obvious to all of us that these acts are very very irreligious?
Because I am a Muslim, I am pointing out what is obvious to me as irreligious acts, which are
being committed by Muslims, under the guise that these acts are enjoined by the religion.
I am sure that many Buddhists, Hindus and Christians too would be able to point out acts by
followers of their own religions that go against the very themes of their religion, and the very
unfortunate part is that they are being presented to the world as acts of religiosity!
So why are we going wrong, where are we going wrong or how are we going wrong?
Or, on second thoughts, could it be that actually what is being done is religious, but because of
my weak intellect I am unable to grasp this sacred message?
How do I find out?
It is interesting isnt it?
Again, how do I find out?
One method that appealed to me was that I should attempt to find out what a religion really was.
My reasoning was that if I could find the definition of a religion or some sort of a template of
what a religion should be, then maybe I could match these so called unacceptable actions of these
religious people, and then, maybe I could recognize those actions that were actually religious as
against those that went against the very spirit of all religions.
So then what is a religion?
How do I find a definition that describes religion?
Obviously I turned to seek from Google and Wikipedia.
Guess what?
There are literally thousands of articles on religion and every one that I read more or less says that
religion is too complex to define. So there is no definition for religion or in other words there is
no one size fits all type of description or definition to religion.
Now, in a way I am sort of confused.
Why?
Because on one hand, from what I have observed about religions and religious practices, it made
sense to me that there was no description that could describe all these religions in one definition.
Then on the other hand I was having this feeling of disappointment, that we could not find a nice
definition to describe religions.
So, in my mission to seek, where do I go now?
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What is a religion?
Or, how do I find a definition that describes religion per se?
Rather than seek out a definition to the word religion I decided to turn my attention to trying to
identify what I would describe as the ingredients that go in to the making of a religion.
I found this to be an easier task and Alhamdulillah; I found it to be a very stimulating exercise.
There are many interesting points, but I have wish to list out just 12 of them.
I am well aware that listeners would find this list a little over powering.
You may even complain that it is too heavy.
But if you would patiently listen and try to absorb what I am trying to explain, I am sure you
would find it very interesting.
I will try to describe the ingredients in this list in as simple a manner as possible.
My objective is to try to seek out the truth in religion and Insha Allah I hope this can be achieved.
So here is my list of those 12 points that make up religions, as we observe them;
1. Every religion is based on its own belief system Every religion has its own set of rituals.
2. Every religion has its own set of symbols, which are held to be sacred.
3. Every religion has its own set of divinely inspired moral codes.
4. Every religion has its own scripture as its primary source.
5. Every religion has a series of commentaries made sacred and written by well recognized
and glorified religious personalities over the ages.
6. Every religion has its own set of dogmas.
7. Every religion has its set of superstitions.
8. Every religion has its time hallowed institutions.
9. Every religion has as its leaders a hierarchal set up of preachers.
10. Every religion is practiced in three tiers.
We have the religion of the scripture, we then have the religion of the preacher and finally
the religion of the practitioner that is you and me.
11. Every religion has a variety of groupings within it, which could actually be described as
cults, and the members of these groups display cultish behavior as well as cult loyalties.
Now when I read this list I do realize how complex religion has really become.
I wonder that if imperfections or distortions have been introduced to a religion then it is through
these ingredients that would have been those gateways.
At this point I would like to quote Richard Dawkins from his book the God Delusion, where he
says Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of
institutions and the passage of time
Is this true?
Let us find out.
Now when I read this list of the 12 ingredients of religions, I begin to realize that maybe by going
in to this list I would be able to seek out what a true religion really prescribes.
But what really excites me is that I also get the feeling that maybe I would be able to also seek out
as to how irreligious practices are slowly being introduced to religions and then getting sanctioned
as religious practices.
Now that is an exciting thought and worth exploring isnt it?
Maasha Allah!
My objective is not to tarnish religions, but to seek the purity in religions.
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My objective is not to take people away from being religious, but to encourage them to be more
religious, in the true sense and meanings of their religion.
My objective is to seek as to what a religion really should be and hopefully, Insha Allah, give me
insight in to bringing the true religion, the true set of beliefs and other true ingredients in to my
life.
Is this not a worthy venture?
How is it that Prophet Moses (or Moosa AS) and Lord Buddha and Jesus Christ and Prophet
Muhammad explained a religion that made so much sense to people and today to me I do not find
rationality or sense to how these religions are being practiced and projected.
So what happened or what has been happening over these many centuries since these noble
teachings were introduced to this world?
This is what I wish to find out.
Dear listeners, Insha Allah over the next few weeks I hope to discuss those 12 points that I
described a few moments ago.
I hope you would join me by listening to these talks.
I sincerely pray and hope that all of you benefit from these talks as much as I benefit from
preparing and then presenting these talks to you.
May Allah Taaalah guide us all and accept us all.
Jazza Kalla Khairan.
Assalamu Alaikum

Imtiaz Muhsin
Colombo Sri Lanka
crescent786@hotmail.com
You Tube Channel - HaneefanMusliman