Azizi Khalid

April 2, 2021

Why religion?


"Azizi, why did God create religion? The way I see it, religion makes life difficult and complicated. There are so many rules; if you do this, you go to hell; if you don't do that, you go to hell. It is as if God is just setting traps for us to fall so that He can throw us into the Fire," asked a young gentleman in one of my talks with a group of Muslim youth.

Before I answer this question about religion, we first need to understand our relationship with God. God is our Creator and our Master. We are His servants, His slaves. But our Master is merciful. Among His greatest attributes are ar-Rahman and ar-Raheem. These two attributes are the ones that we are told to repeat often.

What is ar-Rahman?

Ar-Rahman is one of the greatest names and attributes of God. It is commonly translated as most generous or most merciful. But that doesn't capture the depth of the word. First of all, every word in the Arabic language has a triliteral root word origin. And the origin of ar-Rahman is R-H-M. It shares the same root word as the womb. In one hadith Rasulullah s.a.w. said that Allah carved the rahim, or the mother's womb, from His name ar-Rahman.

But why the womb? The womb is the only place where a human gets to experience unconditional love from another human. When a baby was in the womb, the baby did not have to do anything. All his or her needs were provided for by the mother through the womb, totally free of charge. Food, water, and oxygen - you name it, the womb will give it. But what does the baby do in return? A fetus never says thanks to the mother. Instead of gratitude, we gave our moms backaches, sleepless nights, and worse, we kick our mothers. Not only did the mother not complain, but she also gets excited every time she gets kicked. That is unconditional love. 

What is the relationship between the womb and Allah's name? The word Rahman is a hyperbolised form of R-H-M, so if we can appreciate the great love a mother has for the baby in her womb, Allah's love is much greater than that. Start with the unconditional love a mother has for her baby in her womb and take it to infinity. He created us, He provides for us, honoured as the highest form of creation, and ask nothing in return.

Infinite Unconditional Love

It is from His infinite unconditional love that Allah reveals Islam. The prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, is mentioned in the Quran as the Prophet of Mercy. In fact, Allah said that He did not send Prophet Muhammad but as a mercy to the universe.

Got in His infinite wisdom knows the limitations of our intellect. So He sent some fundamental guidelines on how to live successfully in this world and the hereafter. Most of the things in life are permissible, and we get to decide whether it is good for us. But some are crucial to our wellbeing, as individuals and as a society, that they are made obligatory. Some others are very detrimental to our existence, and Allah made them haram. The number of things that are made haram is small when you compare to everything else in life.

Some people may obey Allah out of love. After all, shouldn't we love a God that is infinitely kind to us? But not all people are capable of love to that level of abstraction. So He prepared Paradise for us. If we obey Him, we get rewarded with eternal bliss. However, some people may not even be motivated by the promise of Jannah and needs another form of motivation - the threat of Jahannam.

Yes, God is not just ar-Rahman. He is also al-Jabbar (The Compeller), al-Muntaqim (The Avenger) and other majestic attributes. But even in His majesty, you see mercy. The accounting system with God is in favour of us going to paradise. If you do a good deed, the reward is multiplied by at least ten. And it can go up to seven hundred, and in some cases, beyond our ability to compute. But if we do a bad deed, the sin is never multiplied.

Religion as Manifestation of Love

Religion is not a trap that God has laid down to send us to the Fire. It is a manifestation of His infinite love for us. He sends us guidance because He loves us. God doesn't need our obedience. Even if all of humanity collectively decide to disobey Him, He remains great. And should all humans choose to worship Him, it doesn't add anything to His greatness.

The guidance is sent down for our good. God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, knows us better than we know ourselves. He prohibits certain things and made obligatory some things - all for the benefit of humankind. Yet He leaves most things permissible for us to apply our intellect to decide.

Azizi Khalid
Making Islamic education fun at Qaswa House
Towards the Middle Path