March 13, 2016
There are two aspects of human life – individual and collective. A workable formula for both these areas of life is necessary in order to achieve success. Every religion contains teachings related to them and they are quite similar in nature.
Formula for Individual Life
Jesus Christ said: ‘Man cannot live by bread alone.’ This is a formula for individual life. Here, the word ‘bread’ symbolizes all kinds of physical needs. This saying means that man’s needs are not merely physical in nature. In my understanding, it implies that we should convert every physical item into ‘item plus’.
Every item of nature has two aspects – a physical or material aspect and an inner or spiritual aspect. For example, flower is a material phenomenon. At the same time, flower contains nectar. This nectar is the sole concern of the honeybee. When the honeybee enters a garden, it goes straight to the flower and extracts its nectar. Similarly, human beings must extract the spiritual content in every item of nature.
This principle is referred to in the Quran in these words: ‘The provision of your Lord is better and more lasting.’ (20:131) This means divine food is better for a believer. Everything in nature has a divine content in it. For example, water quenches our thirst. But water has an inner content as well which we can discover by way of contemplation. We realize the miraculous power of the Creator who created water by combining two gases. Thus, we discover the Creator, and His immense wisdom and planning. As material food provides physical nourishment to our body, in the same way the inner content of things can provide spiritual nourishment to us. This is possible only by practicing the art of contemplation.
Those who are able to extract the spiritual content present within every item of nature will enjoy spiritual health and will be free of tension and stress. They will harbour no complaint or hatred in their hearts, nor will such people indulge in violence. Those who are involved in negative activities, in hate campaigns, or violence have failed to extract the spiritual or divine content that is present within everything in this world. Such people do not enjoy spiritual health even if they have physical health.
Formula for Collective Life
As regards social or collective life, it is necessary to have an ideology to build a peaceful society. Jesus Christ taught: ‘Love your enemy.’ This saying means love all, including your enemy. This is a formula of universal brotherhood. Every religion has the same teaching. The Prophet of Islam said, ‘The entire humanity is the family of God.’ (Mishkat al-Masabih) The Hindu tradition teaches vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means ‘the world is one family.’ Such teachings put an end to the ‘we’ and ‘they’ concept and give rise to the ‘we’ and ‘we’ concept. Thinking in terms of ‘we’ and ‘we’ fosters tolerance, peace and love in society.
Once, the Prophet Muhammad stood up at the sight of a funeral procession. A companion said, ‘O Prophet, it was the funeral of a Jew, not a Muslim.’ The Prophet replied, ‘Was he not a human being?’ The Prophet was thus able to discover a commonality between himself and that Jew. Every one is a human being. Every human being is a creation of God. At the one end is the Creator and at the other are His creatures. This equality of all human beings is the only real basis for building a better society.
At a church in New Jersey, I was asked whether there were any teachings in the Quran similar to the Christ’s teaching of ‘Love your enemy’. I cited a verse from the Quran which states, ‘Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.’ (41:34) This means that there are no enemies. Everyone is either an actual friend or a potential friend. So, we have to turn this potential into an actuality. Thus, Christ’s teaching of ‘Love your enemy’ is not a poetic idea. It is based on a law of nature, that is if we do good with others, then everyone will become our friend. A society that adheres to this principle will turn into a society of friends. All kinds of positive values will exist in such a society.
The source of wars, violence and intolerance is not religion. Its source is misuse of freedom by human beings. God bestowed freedom upon mankind in order to put us to the test in this world. It is the misuse of this God-given freedom which creates all kinds of problems in society. Evil is not a part of creation. It is a result of misuse of freedom by man.
In my book The Age of Peace, I have described the present age as an age of de-monopolization. In previous ages, kings and landlords exercised monopoly over everything. They were the privileged class. The greatest achievement of the modern age is the de-monopolization of everything. It brought an end to the age of monopoly. Now, everything is for everyone. All opportunities are open for everyone. Today, there is no reason to engage in war or violence. In the present age, peace has in itself become the greatest strength. We only need to discover the opportunities and, by wise planning, avail of these opportunities and this will lead to success. Wise planning is very important for success. The planning that does not work is nothing but wishful thinking.
The Vatican Principle
There is turmoil in the Muslim world because they failed to follow an excellent example set by Christians in the past. There was a time when the Pope ruled as the uncrowned king of Europe. But in the time of Galileo, there developed a conflict between the scientific community and the Catholic Church in Europe. However, through wise planning, the Church accepted to withdraw to a small area in Italy called the Vatican. This wise decision sustained the influence of the Pope over Europe.
Muslims, however, did not adopt this wise principle. In the age of nationalism, the institution of caliphate had become outdated. Had the Muslims adopted the ‘Vatican principle’, that is to accept what is practically possible, the title of Caliph would have still been in existence, just as the title of the Pope has existed in history. ISIS’s claim over the caliphate is nothing but an act of usurpation.
Peace is everyone’s concern but it requires wise planning to establish a peaceful society.