Can Humanism replace Religion?

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Can Humanism replace Religion? Today religion is often seen as a source of conflict and intolerance in the world with calls to do away with the theistic philosophies altogether and replace them with the so-called secular or humanist principles. So is it finally time to rid ourselves of religion? Or in discarding it, will we be losing something vital to the human condition?

We need first of all to define Religion and Humanism

Religions are ways of life that are influenced by the belief that something other than the mere material world exists; that every human being has a soul or spirit that is to be nurtured, just as the body must be nurtured. Religions seek to bring harmony within the human being, between mankind and nature, within society, between different nations and –  depending on which form of religion we are talking about –  between mankind and the Divine. As a Being of superior goodness, God is One to be followed and emulated within the limits of one’s humanity.

I want to make it clear from the very beginning that I have not – and indeed cannot –  come to defend every form of religion. In many of its modern forms, religion has been handed down to us full of irrational ideas, superstition, contradictions and teachings that deprive people of some of their human rights. I can only present and defend Islam as expounded by the Ahmadiyya school of thought, a school of thought which abhors superstition, irrationality and dogma.

In our view, Islam is a religion that fulfils three roles – those pertaining to the physical, moral and spiritual states of man, and not just to the physical and moral states.

Not wanting to misrepresent our esteemed Humanist interlocutors, I have taken the short definition of ‘Humanism’ as it appears on the British Humanist Association website:

Roughly speaking, the word humanist has come to mean someone who:

  • trusts to the scientific method in understanding how the universe works and rejects the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic)
  • makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for humans and other sentient animals
  • believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

I propose to go through the qualities of Islam according to the Ahmadiyya school of thought and examine Humanism – according to the definition given by Humanists themselves – to determine whether or not it is capable of replacing our religion.

1. In Islam, we are first of all called upon to begin everything with the اسم “ism” or Name of Allah, God, the Most Gracious and Beneficent One, the Most Merciful.

The word اسم “ism” denotes the mark of the qualities or characteristics of someone or something.

This pronouncement lies at the very basis of all philosophy and understanding in Islam: When we begin anything in the Name of God, Most Gracious, Ever-Merciful, we recognise that it is with His attributes, qualities and characteristics that we are colouring ourselves and leading our lives. God and His qualities are our point of reference for all things.

A human being is not only a physical and moral being. These are only two of the states of humankind, and materialistic philosophies can at best deal with these two and cannot satisfy spiritual yearnings. Human beings are also spiritual creatures of the highest order, and the religion of Islam recognises this and offers a comprehensive teaching that enhances the spiritual state of the human being as well as the physical and moral.

2. Our worldview is shaped by Al-hamdu lillaahi Rabb il-‘Aalameen – the fact that the Supreme Intelligence which is the Cause that has brought the universe into existence is deserving of all praise, for He possesses every excellent quality whether they can or cannot be conceived by human beings. God says that people’s consideration of Him falls far short of what He truly is. He says: Look at the creation; do you see any flaw therein? The order and harmony that pervade the entire universe are but mere reflections of God’s Perfection.

We are further informed that God is al-Rabb, the One Who sustains, nourishes and causes things to go stage by stage from one level to another. In addition, Islam tells us that God is not the Lord Sustainer, Nourisher and Developer of ONE universe but of SEVERAL, as denoted by the word ” ‘aalameen” – universes. Incidentally, the word عالم or universe in Arabic means the thing that is meant to be known. Right from the beginning, we are urged to get to know not only our universe but other universes as well. Throughout the Qur’an, we find hundreds of verses urging us to ponder and reflect and to study ourselves, nature and the cosmos.

Now, does religion impede scientific and material progress or promote it? 

I believe all reasonable people will agree that if a religion teaches its followers NOT to trust to the scientific method and instead to stagnate in superstition, then such a teaching will be harmful to the advancement of the human race.

However, as in the case of Islam according to the Ahmadiyya school of thought, the religious teaching IS to continuously enhance one’s understanding of how the universe works through the scientific method, a rational teaching based upon the Qur’an. It is this rational spirit inculcated by the Qur’an that had inspired Ibn al-Haytham, the 11th Century Muslim scientist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, whom many consider to be the father of the scientific method, to write:

“The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them… but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration and not the sayings of human beings whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, to attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.”

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In these remarkably modern-sounding words from a man who lived a thousand years ago, Ibn al-Haytham is stating that a true scientist is one who is critical of scientific theories and who is just as critical of himself. It is this critical attitude imbued with sincerity that saves science from paradigm stagnation, pushing its boundaries ever further.

Does the world view that I have presented so far, then, seem to require replacement with a similar secular world view? To the extent of investigating HOW the universe works, Islam and Humanism appear to agree. Beyond that, however, there is a difference.

The difference between the two views is of two people analysing a painting, one of whom believes that to know the character and person of the painter is of the utmost importance in understanding the painting, while the other believes that it is in fact harmful, to understand the painter. Art historians, watch out! This is the difference between the scientist with an atheistic worldview and the believing scientist.

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From the debate raging in the world of genetics we can see that attributing the evolution of life to unguided processes will often predispose scientists to expect to see failures and redundancies in biology; junk DNA, the appendix and the coccyx come to mind. “What kind of All-knowing Creator would produce such useless things?” they say.

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In stark contrast, scientists who know the Creator to be One in Whose creation nothing is redundant or useless, will expect to see important functions in those areas of genetics and biology that they do not yet fully comprehend. In this instance, not having God in the equation will hinder the desire of scientists to discover the purpose of a large number of features, and they will be tempted to arrogantly write them off as useless and unworthy of further study.

3. Our way of life is further influenced by the divine quality, Al-Rahman, the Most Gracious and Beneficent One Who offers provision for all creatures without anyone having asked for it. This is a general Grace for all creatures.

Our religion promotes empathy with all the creatures of God, and not just because that is the ethical thing to do, but because we are related to each other, both literally and spiritually as God’s creatures. Indeed, we observe in our common experience that people do not empathise with everyone to the same degree. If a person sees an unknown child, they may empathise with the child. But if they are then told that the child is in fact their sister’s child or brother’s child or very close friend’s child whom they had never met before, their empathy levels will rise to an altogether different level. That is because they have a special link to their sibling or close friend, as opposed to not having one with a total stranger.

We who know God and have a special relationship with Him see all strangers as creations who are linked to us, and not just as mere human beings. This adds to our empathy for every person on earth. Having a Creator is the only way to have an instant and overriding link to all human beings, and indeed all animals. No other means can ever link us all together so potently. Without such a link that transcends all notions of race and culture, a godless philosophy cannot raise our empathy for the whole of mankind.

4. The next divine quality which informs our thoughts and actions is Al-Rahim– the One Who is most Merciful towards those who make efforts and sacrifices in order to nurture their bodies and souls.  Our religion urges us to rise from the lowest level of our soul, which is akin to an animal state, in which instinct predominates. For example, if a mother throws herself into a raging river to save her child from drowning, it may be regarded by some to be a wonderful moral quality, but in reality it is an instinctive action. Many animals would do the same.

Moving onto the moral ladder, some people aim to make themselves happy without hurting others. Islam teaches however that simply refraining from hurting others, is a very low stage of morality, and provides comprehensive guidelines on how we can go beyond that to higher stages of moral excellence.

We are taught that one moral excellence is to reciprocate the good others do to us, and that this is the strict minimum in terms of justice. This is called ‘adl in the Qur’an. Islam teaches that justice is not always served by only meting out equal treatment to all, however. Often to be just and to remove the suffering of others, requires that we move to a higher level of morality, which is to give people more than what they did for us, even if that means we lose out to some degree compared to others. In the Qur’an, this is called Ihsaan, meaning “goodness” or “excellence”. Islam then teaches us that there is an even higher form of moral excellence which is that we do good to others without counting, expecting absolutely no reward in return. This is labelled by the Qur’an as Eetaa’ Dhil Qurbaa, meaning “giving to others as if they were your children or family”. This goes beyond simply pursuing happiness as long as it doesn’t hurt others, or treating others as one would like to be treated, or helping them enjoy things that we enjoy. Islam teaches that the highest stage of morality is that we should cheerfully forego and sacrifice our own happiness in order to bring relief and happiness to others, and so that justice may be served.

There is great talk of equality in the world, but without sacrifice, this alone cannot guarantee justice. The world, due to the materialistic greed of the most powerful, has become fundamentally lopsided in terms of provision and basic needs and cannot be rectified simply by those who have been provided for by ‘not harming others’ or ‘helping others to enjoy what they enjoy’, as Humanism advocates. In order to, for example, end world hunger, given the extreme state of comparative depravation from one place to another will now require individual people who have been given comfort actively sacrificing their comfort, provisions and even their lives in order to restore balance.

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A godless philosophy will have difficulty with regard to inspiring this kind of selfless action. By contrast, the spirit of sacrificing one’s comfort and pleasure for others is at the very root of Islamic teaching. This even requires that we give up our lives for others. The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Ahmad of Qadian, peace be upon him, said: “I would like to make it known to all Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Aryas that I have no enemy in the world. I love mankind as dearly as an affectionate mother loves her children, nay, even more.” Also: “The principle to which we adhere is that we have kindness at heart for the whole of Mankind. If anyone sees the house of a Hindu neighbour on fire and does not come forward to help extinguish the fire, I truly declare that he does not belong to me. And if anyone of my followers, having seen someone attempting to murder a Christian, does not endeavour to save him, I most truly declare that he does not belong to us.” These are the high moral excellences that are taught by Islam.

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Thus, inspired by these divine qualities, and following the teachings governed by them, we strive to rise above instinct, and above mere fair treatment of others, to a level where good is done without care for oneself. This is doing good out of pure love of God. At this level, the believer has only the goodness of God before his or her eyes. It is a mistake to think that at this lofty level, believers do good for fear of Hell or in the hope of entering Paradise. Not at all! As Rabi‘ah, a great mystic from among the women of 8th Century Basra, had declared:

“O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I worship You for Your Own sake, do not deprive me of Your everlasting Beauty.”

5. Islam nevertheless recognises that there will always be people at the lower levels of morality who will refrain from doing evil only out of the fear of being caught and held accountable. This is where the divine quality of Malik Yaum id-Deen  comes into play, the One Who is Master of the Day of Judgment. At the lower levels, Man’s morality is dependent on his belief that he is being watched.

It is known that in public areas where people can see closed-circuit television cameras overhead, they tend to behave. They do not know if anyone is actually monitoring them with those cameras or not. Yet, they will tend to behave because they think they are being watched by authorities who can have them punished for any misbehaviour. Every driver in the UK slows down when they see a yellow camera box on the road!

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The deficiency of surveillance is that they cannot reach the thoughts and intentions of a person. Knowing that the Supreme Consciousness can reach our intimate thoughts and intentions will go a long way to prevent immoral and criminal behaviour in those situations that secular Law cannot. As the fourth Successor to the Founder of our Community emphasised, unless you know that such a God is watching you, the heart breeds all sorts of evils and it is only a matter of time before they come out. Knowing, therefore, that one will be held accountable for all crimes – even those that remain hidden from the eyes of others – is a far better moral strategy to keep the morally weaker ones in society in check and to preserve peace in society. Thus a godless philosophy is less effective as a moral strategy.

6. The next proclamation that Islam teaches us is: Iyyaaka Na‘budu wa Iyyaaka Nasta‘een meaning Thee alone, O God, do we worship and emulate and Thee alone do we Implore for help.

It needs to be said here that many people wrongly assume that because you are an atheist, you have no god. This is not a correct view. As I had stated in the beginning, a god is something which one takes to be superior and because of this, one follows it and in many instances emulates it. It is in human nature to follow others and you either have a deity, or you naturally follow and emulate other human beings who in that sense become your gods. It always amuses me to see young people making a fashion statement with different hairstyles, accessories and clothing, because, they say, they want to be different from the crowd, only to find that they are doing nothing but copying another crowd of people. Others choose to emulate the way certain celebrities talk, and before long, one ends up with thousands of people throwing around the same phrases learnt from the intellectuals they idolise, and wherever they go, one will hear them shouting out this learned repertoire such as: Red Herring! Strawman! No true Scotsman!  etc., copying their idols over and over ad nauseam, never realising that they too have chosen a god to follow.

Some say that they want to be really original and true to themselves. Yet, even the very notion of giving value to being yourself is learnt from others who are practising and preaching that notion in the first place! Hence, it is in human nature to take a god for oneself; and as a person advances in age, they continue to change their allegiance, following a string of different idols or gods whom they wish to follow. Unless one takes a single God which represents fixed morals, one will have innumerable gods through the course of one’s life, and without a point of reference, the stability in one’s moral standards will constantly be threatened.

There is nothing, no single point of reference, in a godless philosophy that prevents a person’s character or values from changing. This is one aspect of the moral relativistic argument. It is not saying that ALL secularists will see their characters and values change for the worse, but that because they have no belief in something outside of them as good or evil, their perspective can change perceptibly or imperceptibly. In such a scenario, there is no guarantee, therefore, of consistency over time in moral values within a single person, let alone a whole nation.

Similarly, when one is in the habit of seeking help from human beings taken as points of reference, knowing that human beings can change from one day to the next, one is often shocked to see apathy and immorality in one’s idols and beloved leaders. Certain biologists and their twitter feeds are an example that springs to mind. Only an unchanging point of reference can guarantee consistency. This is also a basic scientific principle.

7. The next proclamation follows on from the previous one: Ihdinas Siraatal Mustaqeem – Guide us, O Lord, on the straight path, the path of consistency.

We have seen that a human being, over time, is prone to change in his concepts of goodness, and the whole society is threatened by the inconsistency of changing moral standards. One thus requires a teaching which keeps one’s nature in harmony with true goodness, and prevents it from being perverted. Islam declares that it is based on human nature, and that all teachings which appal human nature are not Islamic. Every wise principle is part and parcel of Islam. This is illustrated by the following saying of the Holy Prophet of Islam – peace and blessings of God be upon – which is that wherever a believer finds a word of wisdom, he should take it enthusiastically as if it were his lost property. So apart from the comprehensive guidelines we receive from the Qur’an, in addition, any wise word pertaining to practical situations will be adopted as wholly in line with Islam wherever we find it.

It may surprise some to hear that as Ahmadi Muslims we do not get guidance only from the Qur’an but also from God directly. God communicates with us as individuals in this day and age, through revelations, visual communications and dreams. This is of great importance because in the event that it is discovered that there IS an afterlife and a purpose to the universe, atheism will turn into a dry academic exercise. To illustrate, imagine the dismay of those who laughed about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, if E.T. were to land on earth. Our view is that God is transcendent and is beyond the limits of time and space. He is a non-biological Consciousness and Intelligence that cannot be reduced to or encapsulated in matter of any form. God is therefore not about to land on earth, but He can and does communicate with us.

A non-biological consciousness? I hear you exclaim. “Impossible!” will the narrow-minded ones cry, while the more discerning ones will say: “Highly improbable! And therefore we must reject the proposition.”

This is hardly a scientific way to go about things. That inert matter suddenly sprang to life is also regarded as highly improbable. That consciousness appeared from the same inert matter was highly improbable too. Yet, these highly improbable things are here for all to observe. We are but bunches of atoms, but we are alive and we think and are conscious. Totally inexplicable and defying all that we know about the properties of matter, yet happening right here, right now. It would be extraordinarily unscientific for us to start saying, therefore, that we are not at all willing to explore other things we merely perceive as highly improbable.

To illustrate, let us turn to our good friend, Ornithorhyncus anatinus, more commonly known as the duck-billed platypus.

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When it was first encountered by Europeans in 1798 – and a pelt and sketch were presented to scientists in England – those intellectuals, the product of the Enlightenment, declared it to be an elaborate hoax and refused to entertain the possibility that it may be something real.

If it were suggested that they go to Australia and ask the locals for guidance, the more pompous among them might have exclaimed: What! Those savages? What could they know about anything? They’re so backward and superstitious!!!

A more scientific approach would have been to go to Australia and approach the aboriginal people in a humble fashion; and attempt to benefit from their knowledge in order to arrive at the truth. If they did that, and were persistent, they would catch a glimpse of the platypus, or better still, get hold of a live one for further observation.

This pompous, arrogantly confident attitude leads man to being deprived of the truth. Some people may seem backward and superstitious to you, but they may yet prove to you that something, however improbable in your minds, does indeed exist.

As far as we Ahmadi Muslims are concerned – and we are neither backward nor superstitious – we know that it is essential to mould our lives around the view that there is an afterlife, because God has been showing us, and continues to show us, that it is a reality that, no matter how clever we are, we cannot evade.

I am not talking here of claims made by religious people to the effect that they think God is there because they can feel Him in their heart. Nothing of the kind. That would of course not be a good enough reason to search for God and would bring no real satisfaction.

I am talking about God, that Superior, non-biological Consciousness, actively communicating with us and offering proof of His Omniscience and hence existence, by giving us knowledge of the future: such knowledge as is beyond the capability of human beings. This phenomenon is continuing daily in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. At times, our students are told in advance which questions will appear in their exam papers. At others, Ahmadi Muslims are warned of impending disasters. Sometimes, important future world events are announced years in advance to Ahmadi Muslims living thousands of miles apart, simultaneously.

One of the most amazing aspects of this phenomenon is that people who had absolutely no knowledge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community are shown Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of our community, or one of his Successors or Caliphs, in a dream; and they are told in the dream to join his community.

This has happened for over a century and continues to happen all over the world. Such people are greatly astonished when years later they come across the photograph of the person they were shown in their dreams, and immediately join our community.

Some of these highly improbable experiences, when taken individually, may of course be viewed with scepticism. However, when the phenomenon keeps on repeating itself, and when it contains knowledge that no one can conjure up, we know for sure that we would be fools, indeed mad, to reject it. In fact, many of us were atheists or agnostics who were shaken up by such experiences, and are now Ahmadi Muslims for having witnessed the communication of God within the religion of Islam. Our reason and logic forbid us to be anything but Ahmadi Muslims.

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We invite anyone who doubts this to test our claim by coming to us and living as an Ahmadi Muslim for a short period of time, let’s say a few months, and see for themselves whether God communicates with them or not.

8. We now move on to Siraatal-ladheena an‘amta  ‘alayhim – Guide us, O Lord, on the path of those upon Whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours.

Human beings are in need of examples which reflect all the qualities of God as mentioned previously. Without such excellent exemplars and paragons of virtue and consistent moral and spiritual values, one is condemned to follow a number of idols with changing standards throughout one’s life, as explained earlier. Secular philosophies have never produced such models to follow. The communist Chinese have arguably come up with the closest thing, and that was Mao Tse-tung. Following people whose moral standards can change at a whim cannot guarantee peace and harmony in the individual, or in society, or in the natural world.

Much is made of the relatively high levels of happiness enjoyed by certain European countries. These are brandished as great achievements of secularism. The stark reality is that pursuing a purely materialistic and godless way of life has brought these nations to exploit our beautiful planet in such horrendous ways that in order for certain European nations to enjoy these so-called high levels of happiness, whole forests have to be cut down, peoples displaced and dispossessed, the atmosphere, land and sea need to be polluted, dozens of species of the biological world have to go extinct, and innocent people and their children and babies need to die every single day. Such atrocities can never breed true happiness, and upon closer examination, we will see that those apparently happy societies are also among the top 50 nations with the highest suicide rates, and among the top nations for the rise in anti-depressant use. These so-called achievements in the creation of happy societies have had and continue to have disastrous consequences for the entire planet.

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Those who do not properly know the Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessings of God be upon him – hate him, whereas he remains the most loved and emulated person on Earth today. He is a source of consistent moral guidance for sincere Muslims in every aspect of their lives.

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He was the one who, when he found a mother bird beating her wings in distress, told his companions to return her young to her in her nest. For his teaching was: “May no mother be tormented on account of her child.”

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He it is who, when one day a sickly cat chose to lie down on the sleeve of his coat that he had laid on the ground, preferred, when he needed to leave, to cut off the sleeve and leave the poor cat sleeping on it, rather than shoo it away, and then walk home with only one sleeve on his coat. He it is whose excellent moral standards inspired his successor ‘Umar to place a soldier to guard over a female dog that had just given birth in a public place lest anyone disturb her.

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These examples run into their thousands and cover every aspect of life. So far we have not yet seen any secular philosophy produce a single all-round example, that we would ever be able to happily leave Muhammad and his successors for.

9. We are finally taken to the last declaration, namely: Ghayr il-Maghdoobi ‘AlayhimWa Lad-Daalleen  –  Lord, guide us not on the path of those who incur wrath upon themselves, nor of those who lose their way.

Here we are told to never aspire to be like those who are fully aware of the fact that they are following a path leading to destruction, by wilfully ignoring divine qualities which maintain balance, order and harmony in every sphere of existence. Such people eventually attract the wrath of God which is in other words the consequences of defying the true nature of humankind and the result of creating chaos in society, between nations and in the natural world.

Similarly, we are told to beware of becoming like those who are so far removed from the natural order of things and who have so distanced themselves from the true nature of humankind, that they do not even perceive what is wrong in their behaviour any more. So blind are they that they in fact attack the true and natural order of things which they think is actually perverse! They make up their own ideas of what it means to be happy, and their decisions on the individual, social and international levels, heavily influenced by their relentless pursuit of personal happiness, begin to endanger life and health, and ultimately set humankind on a path leading to the extinction of the human race.

This is the result of distancing oneself from the Perfect attributes and qualities of the One God, the Originator of our universe and of many other universes. The Law of Nature always eventually wipes out whole civilisations who persist in their defiance of the nature which God has instilled in the bodies and minds and souls of humankind. As I had pointed out, a human being is not just a physical and moral creature but is also a spiritual creature. This fact is demonstrated by the existence of so many religions throughout time. Thus, Religion cannot be replaced by any godless philosophies because these underestimate what a human being is. This is one area where secular worldviews cannot offer any satisfaction. There are a great multitude of people in the world, constituting in fact the crushing majority of people on earth, who are interested in God, and in life after death and matters pertaining to it. Secular philosophies have nothing to offer in this regard to such people, the greater part of mankind, ignoring the yearning of our consciousness to find its Creator and giving no answer or satisfaction to our spiritual cravings.

It may surprise you to know that everything I have presented this evening has been based on the opening chapter of the Holy Qur’an, which, taking into consideration the ensemble of meanings that each of its words carries, is as follows:

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

We begin keeping in view the Name, the very qualities, of Allah, the One Most Gracious and Beneficent,  the Ever-Merciful One

ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلْعَالَمِينَ

All praise belongs to Allah (the True God, for He possesses every excellence and perfection), the Lord (In Arabic, Rabb: One Who protects, sustains and maintains order, causing His creatures to progress from one stage to the next) in all the universes

ٱلرَّحْمـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The One Who gives with great beneficence before anyone even asks, showing His Mercy by rewarding the feeble efforts of His creatures again and again

مَـٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ

The One Who alone has mastery over the Day of Perfect Judgment (for only He can assess every aspect of His creatures’ actions, even in the deep recesses of their intentions and thoughts)

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

Thee alone do we worship and seek to emulate and reflect in our persons, and Thee alone do we implore for help to do so

ٱهْدِنَا ٱلصِّرَاطَ ٱلْمُسْتَقِيمَ

Guide us on the straight path (the path of consistency and harmony)

صِرَاطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ ٱلْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِم وَلاَ ٱلضَّآلِّينَ

The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours (such as the Prophets and Messengers and Saints Who were directly guided by that greatest favour of all, namely, divine communication);

not of those who have incurred wrath and destruction upon themselves (for knowingly defying the spiritual, moral and physical principles Thou hast created in this universe), nor of those who have gone so far (from the true nature of Mankind) that they are totally lost (and cannot even identify their error).

This tiny chapter of seven verses and only thirty-one words[1] in the Arabic language provides a comprehensive summary of the entire purpose of religion. This is the divine wisdom which no man has ever been, nor will ever be, able to match let alone replace.

 

[1] Or twenty-nine, depending on how one counts a pronominal compound