Can we strengthen our faith by working for religion?
Some people claim that faith is acquired and strengthened through working for religion and spending time in the company of like-minded people. What do you have to say about it?
True faith, as mentioned in the Quran, is the end result of two things: Sincere intellectual reasoning and good character. While the former leads the journey of faith, the latter makes sure it is not misguided.
The journey towards faith for an intelligent person cannot avoid the path of deep contemplation, reading, discussions etc. Those who avoid this path and seek refuge in the company of like-minded people are not after true faith. They want a sense of satisfaction that what they have been given in the name of religion is correct. What such people normally do in their programs is more of psychological therapy and less of intellectual exercise. No open debate can ever take place in such gatherings. A spiritual, mental solace is what people are seeking there. Comforting smiles, identical looking dresses and faces etc is the key to their success. The end result of such efforts is that there emerges a group which is emotionally attached to a personality and/or a school of thought. Nothing can be said or heard against it, not even from the Quran! This kind of trick is happening amongst many Muslims. It’s equally popular amongst non-Muslims. Many Christian groups follow the same pattern. Our Sufis are masters of this methodology. Exaggerated respect for some elders who are trusted to always be speaking the truth, especially in matters of religion, is a necessary condition for all such religious methods.
Some people claim that they come across extraordinary experiences during the process of their dense spiritual journey which serves as a proof that what they are doing is correct. I can assure you that such experiences are not the monopoly of only one group. Most religious groups, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have remarkable experiences to narrate to support the claim that their point of view is correct. Ask the people who go to the shrines of saints and they will tell you how their prayers were miraculously heard.
Samiree, the one who lead many Jews astray at the time of Musa, alaihissalam, also had some exciting spiritual experiences to narrate to support his claim that the calf he had made was worthy of being worshipped.
The Quran, on the other hand, invites its readers towards a way where all religious claims have to be tested with this question: “Ask them: Bring forth an evidence in favour of (what you are saying) if you are really truthful.” Islam, the religion based on Quran, emphasizes the use of intellect more than anything else. “Indeed the worst beasts in the eyes of Allah are those people who are deaf, dumb, and blind, in that they don’t use their intellect.” (Quran; 8:22) Open dialogue and intelligent choice-making are the key to Islamic learning. Most of our current forms of religious learning are, unfortunately, distantly removed from the true spirit of Islamic learning.
What then is the true way to faith? “Indeed, it is this Quran that guides towards the way that is the straightest.” (Quran; 17:9)