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 The Prophet`s birthday
IS RELIGION FROM GOD OR MAN-MADE? Fateh{puri@ believed in God, and there are various instances in his writings to prove that. However, he was not sure if God had anything to do with religion. As seen in the earlier instance, he tried to rationalize even the divine revelation, and showed that it was possible to see the Qur’an as the personal contribution of the Prophet. This was because, for Fateh{puri@, religion had a more utilitarian purpose, than spiritual. Religion, for him, was to serve as a guide for humanity, to remind them of doing good deeds, being kind to one another, and remembering God, while taking part in worldly pursuits and aiming for progress and success. In reality, all religions of the world were made by humans and were not related to God, revelation or providence. The books that are said to be revealed, are the work of human brain only, and therefore, they have different thoughts and teachings according to different time and place. Neither does God need worship and submission, nor does He need anyone’s prayers.[i] Fateh{puri@’s thesis was that the reasons why some matters have either been forbidden or recommended by religion can be understood by human intellect. Therefore, it is quite possible to say that religious instructions might have been created by human intellect to serve a functional purpose. IS THE QUR’AN REALLY GOD’S SPEECH? As mentioned above, Fateh{puri@ believed that the only thing that could be proven was that the Qur’an came from Muh{ammad’s mouth; whether it was really God’s speech is debatable. The only justification of its divine origin generally given, according to him, was that the grammar, literary quality and style of the h{adi@th and the Qur’an differ markedly and therefore, they are speeches of different entities, the Prophet and God. Fateh{puri@ never found this rationale satisfactory enough to prove such a broad assumption. He agreed that, undoubtedly the Qur’an was truly an extraordinary book in all its aspects and that during that age, nothing like it in either length or quality was produced. However, he argued, it would be going too far to assume that nothing like it could have been produced. Arabic literature and poetry at the time was quite developed, and oral tradition was flourishing. And since Prophet Muh{ammad was related to the Quraish tribe, which was famous for its oral literature and fluency of expression, it should not be surprising that his language was extraordinarily refined. Fateh{puri@ answered the question of the differences in style and quality of the two works by saying that one’s language and actions are determined by the emotion one is feeling, and its intensity. He gave the example of poetry. There can be quite a lot of variety in the different verses written by the same poet, some of them perhaps being of a higher literary quality than others. The reason, he thought, was that the poet reached a certain state of mind when he wrote those particular high-quality verses. Those verses that suddenly come into a poet’s mind, without any effort on his part, are even in literary circles called ilha@mi@ or revelatory.[ii] Coming back to the Prophet and the Qur’an, his basic hypothesis was that the Prophet must have reached a certain state of mind, resulting in the revelation (wahy). He explained that, unlike his contemporaries, the Prophet was born with an acute discernment of good from evil. A person like him would naturally be upset with the situation in which he found himself. This, according to Fateh{puri@, prompted him to get out of his world, hide in caves and think. His deep thinking would lead him into such a state where he would start producing this message. Words burst forth like a spring. The words in that message were obviously his, and in the same language that was widespread during the time and in that area. The only noticeable change was in the style of presentation, which according to Fateh{puri@ was the result of his state of mind. That is what truly constitutes a revelation, according to Fateh{puri@. And this was what made the language of the Qur’an so different from that of h{adi@th.[iii] W.C. Smith was clearly not an admirer of Fateh{puri@’s extreme logic; he did not like the fact that Fateh{puri@ attacked the very idea of divine revelation. “Accordingly, the Qur’a@n was seen as a piece of literature, the personal contribution of Muh{ammad to the thought of the world; all of authority, as well as the ritual and formalism, of the religion was rejected.”[iv] STATUS OF THE PROPHET Prophet Muh{ammad, according to him, was basically a reformer who was very concerned about the state of his society:­ its illiteracy, ignorance, social evils like polygamy, infanticide, drinking (etc.), its material culture and idol worship. After all, he sat meditating in a cave for weeks even before the advent of the revelation. Fateh{puri@ mused that he must have been thinking about ways to cleanse his society of its ills and it seems, Islam turned out to be a good way of doing so. Although other modernists also made an effort to humanise the Prophet, not many would have agreed with him that the Prophet had a personal agenda in bringing about Islam. The Prophet might have been concerned about his society, and there must have been a reason why he used to go to that cave, but there is no reason why these two things should be related. Apparently Fateh{puri@ was venturing here into the realm of pure speculation. Fateh{puri@ asked, “What is the position of the Prophet in Islam? Was he just a messenger, could anybody have become a messenger?” For him the choice of Muh{ammad as the Prophet was crucial. How Muh{ammad acted, how he lived his life, was a topic of primary importance for Fateh{puri. He considered it debatable whether the Qur’an is the speech of God or not, but it was historically proven, according to him, that it did come out of Muh{ammad’s mouth.[v] His earlier point that the Prophet might have had a reformist agenda of his own in bringing about Islam, and then his insistence that our only certain knowledge is that Qur’an came out of the Prophet’s mouth, amounted to placing a question mark on any involvement of God at all. This was one of the instances where he may have taken his logic too far, expressing views that clearly would not be acceptable to any ordinary believer. He appears an agnostic from these views, but seemingly this was not the case. He simply went wherever his logic took him and was not afraid of expressing radically different views.