“The religious instinct is common to all human races, including the most primitive and the closest to animal life. Interest in the concept of God and in the metaphysical is one of the permanent universal human concerns”.
This religious instinct “never disappears. Indeed it neither weaken nor fades away except in periods of affluent civilisations and only with a very small number of people”.
Only one true God, but worship has been offered to a variety of deities: trees, stones, humans, natural phenomena, real or imaginary forces, etc. all these have been given some superior status by people in different generations, cultures and communities. They all sought an answer to the urgent need they felt within themselves to find the eternal and perfect truth that transcends human knowledge and remains beyond it. They all yearned to find this truth so as to turn to it in fear and hope. They realised that this truth is beyond their material and physical world.
The Creator of the universe who conducts all its affairs did not abandon His servants and leave them without guidance. He sent them messengers to guide them to their true Lord, when they lost their way. The messengers taught their communities that God combines all attributes of perfection, and that He is close to His servants and bestows His mercy on them. They told them about His attributes of kindness, compassion, mercy and power, as well as the severe punishment He administers to those who are hardened in disobedience.
God’s messengers provided complete and perfect models for true believers and how they should conduct their lives. They showed them how to submit to God, acknowledging His names and attributes, and how to combine glorifying God with loving Him, patience and certainty, reliance on Him and seeking His help.
Take the case of a great army led by a tyrant monarch who shows no mercy. They are chasing a group of civilian believers whose strength is only their belief. They are led by a noble prophet. Some of those civilians look behind them and see the army catching up with them. They realise that they have no way of escape and they cry: “We shall certainly be overtaken”. Their prophet gives them a firm and reassuring answer: “No, indeed! My Lord is with me and He will guide me”. Indeed, help is forthcoming and they are saved:
“We saved Moses and all who were with him, while We caused the others to drown”. (26: 61-66)
Is there a greater desperate situation than that of a person swallowed by a whale, when no one knows what has happened? Even if they know, they are helpless. This is exactly what happened to the Prophet Jonah, when he found himself inside a whale. What did he do? He turned to God with a sincere prayer, saying: “There is no deity other than You! Limitless are You in Your glory! I have done wrong indeed!” God’s mercy was soon forthcoming and his problem was over:
“So We responded to him and delivered him from his distress. Thus do We deliver those who have faith”.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) leaves his hometown, Makkah, with Abu Bakr, his trusted friend. They are chased by their own people who wanted nothing less than killing him. He seeks refuge in a cave, and his chasers get very close. They are at the entrance to the cave. Should any of them look where they are stepping, he would see who were inside. Abu Bakr is so worried that they might catch the Prophet, but the Prophet gives him firm reassurance, saying: “Do not grieve, for God is with us”. Indeed, the difficulty is removed and help is close at hand:
“Thereupon God bestowed on Him the gift of inner peace, and sent to his aid forces which you did not see. He brought the word of the unbelievers utterly low, while the word of God remained supreme. God is mighty, wise”.
No one will have a life free of trials and misfortunes. Were that to be granted to anyone, the first to be entitled to such easy life would be God’s prophets and messengers. The fact is that firm faith, and reassurance that God’s mercy and help are always close at hand, in addition to belief in what He has in store for His obedient servants who remain patient in adversity are sufficient to alleviate all misfortune and reduce all hardship.
Every human being is liable to slip into sin. This will be followed by regret and grief. A believer who commits a sin feels himself in disgrace, but then he remembers God’s mercy:
“Say: ‘[Thus speaks God]: You servants of Mine who have transgressed against their own souls! Do not despair of God’s mercy: God forgives all sins; He alone is much forgiving, ever merciful’”.
When we remember this, we shall certainly seek God’s forgiveness.
The way is clear then. To remember God and glorify Him is the way available to all to free themselves of all distress, to cast away the darkness of sin and regain the reassurance imparted by obedience of God.
Food, drink and exercise ensure a healthy body, but many a physically healthy person is overwhelmed by worry and anxiety. The reason is overlooking the most important factor that gives contentment and reassurance:
“It is indeed in the remembrance of God that people’s hearts find their comfort”.