Friday, January 27, 2012

Questions for comparative study of religions

Zoroaster (also called Zarathustra),
the founder of Zoroastrianism

Excerpt from 'Islam as a Moral and Political Ideal', a paper delivered by Iqbal in April 1909 at the anniversary of Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam, Lahore.
To begin with, we have to recognise that every great religious system starts with certain proposition concerning the nature of man and the universe. The psychological implication of Buddhism, for instance, is the central fact of pain as a dominating element in the constitution of the universe. Man, regarded as an individuality, is helpless against the forces of pain, according to the teachings of Buddhism. There is an indissoluble relation between pain and the individual consciousness which, as such, is nothing but a constant possibility of pain. Freedom from pain means freedom from individuality. Starting from the fact of pain, Buddhism is quite consistent in placing before man the ideal of self-destruction. Of the two terms of this relation, pain and the sense of personality, one (i.e., pain) is ultimate; the other is a delusion from which it is possible to emancipate ourselves by ceasing to act on those lines of activity, which have a tendency to intensify the sense of personality. Salvation, then, according to Buddhism, is inaction; renunciation of self and unworldliness are the principal virtues. Similarly, Christianity as a religious system, is based on the fact of sin. The world is regarded as evil and the taint of sin is regarded as hereditary to man, who, as an individuality, is insufficient and stands in need of some supernatural personality to intervene between him and his Creator. Christianity, unlike Buddhism, regards human personality as something real, but agrees with Buddhism in holding that man, as a force against sin, is insufficient. There is, however, a subtle difference in the agreement. We can, according to Christianity, get rid of sin by depending upon a Redeemer; we can free ourselves from pain, according to Buddhism, by letting this insufficient force dissipate or lose itself in the universal energy of nature. Both agree in the fact of insufficiency and both agree in holding that this insufficiency is an evil, but while the one makes up the deficiency by bringing in the force of a redeeming personality, the other prescribes its gradual reduction until it is annihilated altogether. Again, Zoroastrianism looks upon nature as a scene of endless struggle between the powers of evil and the powers of good, and recognises in man the power to choose any course of action he likes. The universe, according to Zoroastrianism, is partly evil, partly good; man is neither wholly good nor wholly evil, but a combination of the two principles-light and darkness continually fighting against each other for universal supremacy. We see then that the fundamental pre-suppositions, with regard to the nature of the universe and man, in Buddhism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, respectively, are the following:
  1. There is pain in nature and man regarded as an individual is evil (Buddhism).
  2. There is sin in nature and the taint of sin is fatal to man (Christianity).
  3. There is struggle in nature; man is a mixture of the struggling forces and is free to range himself on the side of the powers of good, which will eventually prevail (Zoroastrianism).
The question now is, what is the Muslim view of the universe and man? What is the central idea in Islam, which determines the structure of the entire system?


  1. i guess the central idea of Islam is humanity

  2. Dear Khurram Ali Shafique,

    Thank you for this essay.

    I could cite love and charity toward one's neighbor as a central emphasis of Islam. Drawing upon what I'm recently learning, perhaps I could add that Islam is the culmination, the pinnacle, of the growth of religious systems, subsuming the earlier ones within it.

    I'm certainly not sure of this.

    All good wishes,


  3. "I could cite love and charity toward one's neighbor as a central emphasis..." Thank You for this line, Robert...and thank you as always for your openness to comparative religion here,
    Shafique Sahib.