How do we live out religion? Can we develop a common religious approach to the world, the challenges of world peace and reconciliation, the pandemic and the climate crisis? Religions teach that we should help each other. Many religious people and bodies are doing as much as they can. We can do more together if we have built good relationships, understanding and see the common tasks ahead of us.
In a seminar organised by Abrar Islamic Foundation, I presented my thoughts on this topic, My religion, My life. The Seminar was chaired by my friend Julian Bond a well-known name in Christian-Muslim interfaith circles. The purpose was to share the common teachings of the two great religions (click HERE to watch the seminar).
In this talk I argued how religion is inseparable from economic activities, the two are intertwined. Beliefs, moral values and spiritual devotions naturally influence our attitudes and behaviour. So, economic activities that lead to the climate crisis and threaten human survival must be avoided. Similarly, social engineering that threatens traditional family values, human relations and gender differences must be challenged as they endanger human survival too.
Shu’ayb warns his people against the fraudulent practices
The Majestic Quran says: To Madyan, We sent their brother Shu’ayb, who said, “My people worship Allah. You have no god but Him. Do not cheat by giving in short measure or weights, you are well-off, I fear for you the punishment of an overwhelming day. My people be scrupulously honest in your weights and measures and do not defraud people out of what is theirs or cause conflict in the land. The profit margin permitted by Allah would be better for you if you were believers, and I am not sent to watch over you.” They said, “Shu’ayb, does your religion tell you to forbid us from worshipping what our forefathers worshipped and doing as we please with our wealth? You are, indeed, gentle and sensible!” (Hud: 84-87).
In this dialogue between the man of Allah, the prophet, and the worldly, carefree people of Madyan we notice an invitation to honesty and generosity, but the response is, this is none of your business. Religion is one thing and our economic activities are something else, stop mixing the two. For them, religion was mere rituals since “they regard their religion a play and an amusement.” They scolded Prophet Shu’ayb “Are we not free to spend our wealth as we like?” We don’t want to be told how to spend our wealth. Why does your religion interfere with our economic and commercial activities? This question is really a masked way of mocking Shu’ayb, you think you are sensible and in your mind, your own opinion, you are good. We don’t think so! They say we don’t understand you, they are expressing contempt.
There is a popular video on social media among the Pakistani diaspora, which is a parody of “the religious person”. In one scene a young man is committing fraud as he sells his goods in the marketplace and in the next scene, he is sitting on a prayer mat with a tasbih in his hand and when asked what is this? He says, “that’s my livelihood, my economic well-being depends on that, and this is my religious life. My religion has no bearing on my life.”