The question of religion is as old as antiquity itself. It is directly related to our everyday life. The issues of religious institution vs. the individual, in addition to science vs. religion have always been brought to the table. Their direct and indirect impacts on the several aspects of our lives will always be a matter that arises man’s curiosity and stimulates his critical thinking abilities.
Is religion considered an outdated concept? To what extent can faith influence our lives and shape our thinking? Is the Islamic faith, in particular, in harmony with the scientific context? In an interview conducted with Sayyed Ja’far Fadlullah, a compelling insight regarding the scope of the aforementioned questions is offered.
Skeptics tend to believe that, since religions are basically mythical, they will not continue to exist forever. However, when considering the matter from a scientific view, we conclude that religions in reality are scriptures that are interpreted; and thus, it is capable of evolving and developing. The jurist would introduce an innovation, or an interpretation of a notion that he failed to digest in the past times. Because the matter is directly pertinent to our reality, it poses lots of questions and inquiries.
It follows that the relation between science and religion is that of complementarity rather than contradiction. Science and religion go hand and in hand: scientific facts and updates definitely impact religious Fatwas. After all, the Creator of the universe is the One Who set its rules and laws. In other words, the scientific laws governing the world can be set as bases for deducing religious rulings. Science and religion are harmonious with one another. When interpreting a religious text, in case a conflict between religion and science was detected, then ultimately the rules of science will prevail; in other words, the interpretation must be in accordance with scientific laws.
What is more intriguing is the claim that the Islamic mind has diverted to the extent that it has started holding ancient religious texts in the highest regard; in the sense that they have become as Holy as God Himself. The truth is that the act of sanctification or sacredness, whether an object, a person, or a book, is derived from the belief that it represents the ultimate truth which is irrefutable, absolute, and conclusive. Sacredness itself is inspired by the concept of holiness, and the direct connection with God.
Accordingly, the issues that are considered sacred by a certain belief group vary from one group to another. However, belief groups may share some sacred concepts. For instance, the three heavenly religions share the sacred concept of monotheism. In general, all religions share the concepts of morality, ethics, and spirituality. These common sacred matters constitute a middle ground upon which religions can converse and reach an agreed basis accepted by all religions.
We can fairly say that the sacred concepts that an individual believes in are the standards of his belonging to a faith group or a religion. When it comes to the Heavenly religions, the sacred element common between the three of them is monotheism. Accordingly, those who believe in monotheism definitely are considered as followers of one of these religions. While those who do not believe in monotheism are considered agnostics or atheists. In the same sense, believing in the sanctity of Prophet Mohammad (p) is an essential element in defining if one is considered a Muslim or not. One who denies this sanctity is not considered a Muslim. And the same applies to any sect political party.
A contemporary definition of sanctity proposes that it constitutes the set of principles upon which a group of individuals agree and adhere to. Since they all believe in the same concepts, then they shall be all governed by the same laws and terms of agreement.
Based on what we have explained, we conclude that the act of sanctification is a tendency, not necessarily religious, since man’s belonging is based, first and foremost, on a set of principles and values.
Regarding the issue of dealing with ancient religious texts, including the Quran, with utmost sanctity, we must differentiate between the literal and the figurative meanings of the text. Naturally, any Muslim would view the Quran as a scared book, in the sense that its text cannot be falsified: “Falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor from behind it; a revelation from the Wise, the Praised One.” (41:42) Thus, the text itself is sacred, but the different interpretations of the text are not considered so. If one regarded them as sacred, then he would be ascribing partners to Allah. Moreover, the meanings implied in the verses shall not be treated as if they were rigid concepts incapable of being interpreted away from their literal meanings. A single verse might be interpreted in several ways by several scholars. Nonetheless, all the interpretations must still be limited with what the verse itself proposes.
This tendency to treat a single interpretation with sanctity means that we are actually treating the scholar who interpreted the verse with sacredness; that is another form of polytheism.
It is important to note that the Quran does not intend to cancel any effort done by man to interpret it. It rather represents a motive which pushes man to take bigger strides towards civility and transcend beyond sins and vices. It will always present a doctrine of life for people no matter how far the complexities of the modern world reach.