THE IMPORTANCE OF DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN THE LAWS OF NATURE AND RELIGIOUS LAW

 

An argument advanced by atheists is that the law of nature cannot be the creation of a Highly Conscious or Wise Being, because it sometimes acts blindly and with great cruelty. They say that all of it seems to be running under an inherent system of cause and effect. For example, accidents which result in innocent people being killed or injured, the spread of epidemics and diseases, or the downfall of a person after a long successful career, etc., prove that there is no God, otherwise such blind and cruel destruction would never take place.

The above objection is raised because people think that the whole world is functioning under the same laws. The truth is that God has ordained two laws for the running of the world. One of these being the law of nature, which is responsible for the working of the universe and follows the system of cause and effect and the properties of different objects, whose effects we observe all around us. The second law is religious law, which pertains to the moral and spiritual condition of man and is brought to the world by Prophets and Messengers of  God. The consequences of this law, in the form of reward and punishment, shall be experienced in the next world. Those who raise the above objection, erroneously mix up these two laws.

What is the law of nature? The law of nature is that everything, every action, each simple or compound object in this world has a specific natural characteristic which manifests itself as a result of natural causes. For example, arsenic has the characteristic that it kills living things. Whenever a sufficient amount of it is introduced into the body of a living organism, it produces its natural effect, unless some other law of nature comes into play and negates it. Likewise, it is but natural that if the roof of a house becomes weak to a certain degree, it collapses. If someone is standing under that roof, he will be killed or injured, unless some other law comes into operation and supersedes it. It is also in keeping with the law of nature, that if someone goes into deep water without knowing how to swim, he will drown, unless some other law of nature intervenes to counteract this law. It is under such laws of nature that the great wheels of the world are perpetually set in motion. These laws know no friends or foes. Anything which comes within their sphere of action will be affected one way or the other.

As opposed to this what is religious law? Religious law is a code of life claimed by different  religions as having been sent by God for people to follow, so that they can improve their morals, get closer to God and receive the blessings and rewards which are reserved for the righteous. This law leaves everyone free as to whether they wish to follow it or not. Under this law, the reward or punishment of the deeds performed in this world is reserved for the hereafter.

Religious law urges people to pray to God in a prescribed way in order to gain His nearness and pleasure, but it does not force them to do so. If someone chooses to go against this law, there is nothing to stop him. Apart from some minor effects that appear in this very world, the real and final consequence is deferred till the hereafter. The sages have said that this world is the place of deeds, and the next world is the place for reward and punishment. In this sense, the law of nature differs from religious law, for under the law of nature this world is both the place of deeds and the place of reward and punishment. These two laws never interfere with each other—save in exceptional circumstances. Anyone who violates the law of nature is usually not spared punishment on the grounds that he did not violate religious law. Consider, for example, two people sitting under a ramshackle roof which is about to collapse. One of them happens to be pious while the other is wicked. In normal circumstances, were the roof to collapse, both would die. If the law of nature has some provision for saving them, they would both be saved. Similarly, if some pious and God-fearing person, who does not know how to swim, jumps into water, his piety will not save him from drowning. His piety belongs to  religious law, but now he is under the law of nature, which does not normally yield religious law. The general rule is that any good deed done under religious law contributes towards the reward of religious law, but has no bearing on the laws of nature, and vice-versa.

Atheists sometimes base their arguments on certain incidents: for instance, that a pious person went to the river and got drowned, while an evil person, who was bathing in the same river at the same time, did not drown and returned home safely. They also tell us of some chaste and dutiful girl who died on the second day of her marriage, while another girl of bad character got married on the same day and lived happily ever after. From many other such instances these atheists try to prove that there is no God.

But when we carefully consider the above objections, we find them weak and baseless, because even though the person who drowned or died was obedient to religious law, he or she somehow violated the law of nature and was duly punished. Nature takes its own course and is the same for everyone. The laws of this world are not cruel and we are not living in a blind world. It would be blind if no laws of nature had been broken yet someone was punished by nature; or if the laws of nature were broken, but the punishment came from religious law.

I wonder how people who boast of wisdom and intelligence can raise such objections. The abovementioned instances do not break any religious laws. The two laws, as I have explained, do not usually interfere with each other; and this is exactly what justice demands. Unfortunately, when something transpires under the law of nature, people look for its cause in religious law. When they fail to find it, they declare the world a blind game of chance. Explanation for an act of nature must be sought in the laws of nature. The effects of religious law should be referred to religious law. It is not a blind world. But it is Man who is blind because when someone drowns or is burnt to death for going against the laws of nature, Man alleges that he or she was unjustly treated as he or she did not violate any religious law. It is Man who is unjust in conferring the rights of the law of nature on religious law, and vice-versa, and then putting the blame on God.

Remember, nature and religious law are like two separate States. Like all civilised and sovereign States, they do not interfere in the affairs of one another. In everyday life, the law of nature and religious law act independently of one another, and are bound to their respective spheres. The only exception is when God, by special decree, chooses to save people from the effects of the laws of nature, despite the odds being stacked against them, often in answer to their prayers. However, the general rule is that the laws of nature will run their course whether a person obeys religious law or not.

This particular argument of atheists against God therefore stems from their failure to distinguish between the two laws.

Adapted from “Our God”, by Mirza Bashir Ahmad.

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