Some people make the mistake of imagining that there is an antagonistic relationship between religion and daily life. They believe that religion does not address man's duty to matters of daily life or worldly endeavors. After all, God, the one and only, did write in his Holy Quraan: "And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me." Still, ever since He named Adam His heir on earth, He has urged mankind to work towards building up the universe. These verses appear in the Quraan: "And when your Lord said to the angels, 'Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.'" He also wrote: "On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood, for a time," and "Say: Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance?" In another verse, he wrote: "So traverse through its tracts and enjoy the sustenance which He furnishes: but unto Him is the Resurrection." These are among the verses that urge people to live proactively instead of idly.
Still, we cannot deny that rampant misunderstanding of the fundamentals of religion has resulted in a large set of problems. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that an earthquake has shaken people's perception of religion and religious concepts. Many now doubt various aspects of religion, and atheism has spread. Meanwhile, a wave of violence broke out between sects who claim to belong to religion, while they are in fact as far as they can be from religion, such as in the case of ISIS. Such groups have shed a lot of blood in the name of Islam, which resulted in tarnishing its image.
We are witnessing a clear attempt to eviscerate Islamic heritage and demolish Islam, all taking place under the guise of a move to reinstate religious discourse. It's plain for all to see that what they are doing is so far off from this goal. Meanwhile, many people stand confused, caught in a whirlpool of skepticism and doubt, feeling utterly lost.
This poses a pressing question: What is the role of religion in our lives? Its role should be to answer contemporary questions, and respond to the needs of society.
We must admit that there is something wrong. The current representation of religion does not respond to the needs of society, nor does it answer the pressing questions of our time. There is a gap between our understanding of religion and the current era, born as a result of the lack of interaction between religion and contemporary life. Religion has as a result become like medicine that we have stripped of active ingredients, only to then declare: this medicine is not working.
Life has been changing at astonishing speed, and such change has been unaccompanied by attempts to adapt religion to contemporary society. The result is a 70-year gap, at least, because religion simply does not respond to contemporary questions. If you walk into any library of Islamic books and ask, what is the best-selling work in the fields of Fiqh, Quranic Tafsir or Hadith? You would find "Fiqh El-Sunna," the Quranic interpretation "Fee Zelal El-Quraan" (In The Shadows of Quraan), despite its inaccuracies, and "Riyadh El Saleheen." All these books were written at least 70 years ago. Meanwhile, if you pose the question, when was an application last created for your computer or smartphone? The answer would be: 2015.
How can we solve this problem then?
The solution rests in modernization and adaptation, which would render religion more in sync with society, without undermining the basic Islamic principles, for such principles should not be distorted or manipulated. Still, there is plenty of room for development. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said: "God sends someone every century who renews the state of religion."
Where do we start?
We begin with life not with religion, through acknowledging and confronting the problems of our time, and then considering these problems through the lens of religion, in order to find a solution. This is what we have achieved with the project "Faith and The Times," in which we tried to find out the top set of questions that preoccupy young people the Arab world, by sampling 450 youth in four different countries; Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan. The young men and women in the sample represented a various range of ideologies and perspectives; some of them were religious and others were atheists, some were successful and others suffered from unemployment.
We asked them to share the questions, revolving around life and religion, that preoccupy them. We condensed the findings into a list of 100 questions, which revolved around significant topics, including morality, Quraan, Hadith, and pessimism.
Among the most important questions were:
-- Over the past two decades, why has religiosity been on the rise while morality has been on the decline? Isn't religion supposed to inspire the adoption of stronger morals? Why do people become more religious but not any more moral?
-- If the Quraan says "And We have indeed made the Quraan easy to understand and remember," how come youth do not even understand it? And is Quraan a book for the living or a book that's read for the dead?
-- How does religion call for peace, while some groups like ISIS use Jihad-related verses from the Quraan to justify mass murder and killings?
-- Why has atheism spread so far and wide that it crossed the thresholds of religious individuals and families?
-- Why doesn't Quraan fight poverty, which has been a key factor in the failure of states, like it has fought sin? And what led us to this state of lethargy, in which unemployment is met with complacency, and poverty is accepted in the name of religion?
-- Why do some religious principles still work to numb people even after they had been stripped of their active ingredients?
All these questions point to the gulf between religion and daily life, and we have attempted to respond to them through our campaign, "Faith and The Times." God willing, I will do more to tackle these questions in my upcoming posts.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Arabi and was translated into English.