Monday, March 25, 2013

Rules as moral signposts

Recently I participated in the 2nd Annual Conference (Islam and the Institutions of a Free Society) of the Istanbul Network for Liberty, which was held in Islamabad from 28th February to 2nd March.

The following paper was read in its 1st Session: Sociological, Philosophical and Legal Considerations of Shariah: The Rule of Law in Islam, on 1st March. The Session was chaired by Dr. Khalid Masood.   

Rules as moral signposts – a brief sojourn in the realm of philosophy of religion

The initial and original inspiration the entity of religion resorts to take advantage of, and exudes is moral.

The spirit religions imbibe is ultimately moralistic.

That gives them an aura of appeal irresistible to their audience.

However, with time, spread, reach, following, politicking, and the unexpected encounters on the road, they start losing that moral exuberance.

So much so that a day comes when there remains no trace of that moral purity.

The skeleton survives the soul! The house is empty now!

In the words of a French critic: religion is like pointing out into a direction while standing on a mound. But what happens people settle at that mound – forgetting, and in a sense deviating from the direction.

That tries to say the same thing: that is, the entity of religion ossifies into its letter, and the spirit evaporates.

Simply put: religion consists of four elements:

- Metaphysics (Beliefs)

- Ethics (Morality)

- Rituals (Acts of worship)

- Social Dicta (Commandments relating to the social life)

As for Metaphysics, it is always in flux. In other words, no Metaphysics, be it secular or non-secular, can claim finality. That’s not characteristic of religious metaphysics only.

With the growth of critical scientific knowledge, beliefs / propositions about the universe and the things in it, including man, undergo alterations. And usually at a point of time most of them become redundant.

In consequence, the entity of religion is left without a metaphysics.

Likewise, all the rituals or the acts of worship are prone to be formalized.

With increasing distance of time and space from the event of its origination, the acts of worship go dried of their substantive content.

The stalk deprives itself of its fiber.

The element of Social Dicta is one which changes in a manner not detectible over the shorter periods. But it does change, moment to moment, under the burden of the logic of life.

That is, over time and on the span of geography, it adopts as well as adapts to the spatial attractions, eases, and requirements.

In short, Social Dicta of a religion keeps a good number of its identities intact, nominally or in semblance.

Thus, it’s the cloak of a religion that continues to survive, and is considered as the sole inspiration by its adherents.

With the secular and non-spiritual progress of a religion, i.e. on the stage of real politick; the first victim which is left behind is Morality.

The old and the first ally is abandoned first.

That is, in its forward march on a worldly road, what a religion leaves behind – meets it head on on the next step.

Thus, it’s morality which challenges a religion most crucially and fatally.

It’s morality which challenges a religion to effect a moral regeneration of it.

That means ultimate submission to universal moral rules.

That, among other things, requires for the entity of religion to come down on the ground to a meeting of open rational debate.

An overview of the above contentions lends support to the proposition: the moral worth is the real essence of a religion!

In case, an entity of religion keeps it moral worth alive within its body, it may live long; otherwise, it’s already stagnating.

From this proposition, it follows that in times when religiosity dominates, morality recedes.

Actually, as in other worlds, in the world of ideas and its systems, every entity ages, and with it loses its aboriginal vigor.

The entity of religion also, while sliding on the historical path, loses its initial and original moral vigor, gradually or in jerks. This is born out by historical observation.

Hence, it’s the moral fiber, the moral spirit, which enlivens the entity of religion.

That amounts to saying that since the entity of religion derives its inspiration from moral rules and it is this inspiration of it that lends it credence, so while growing it ought to remain true to morality, its conjoined partner.

In another sense, it may be worded thus: the entity of religion ought to give vitally due weight to its moral heart through every thick and thin.

No doubt that presumes that the rules which enjoy and exhibit moral standing be regarded as signposts for humanity – signposts guiding the world of ideas and its systems lest they should be misled.

In the cases of other-worldly, non-secular entities of thought, when they are put into a form intelligible and practicable for various communities of human beings, that exercise ought to be mindful of the immense value of these signposts.

In conclusion, the notion of rules as moral signposts pleads for a moral regeneration of the entity of religion.

That means back to basics! That means back to the moral nature of rules!

[This paper was completed on January 30, 2013]

© The Blogger
All rights reserved. No part of the contents published on this Blog – Notes from Pakistan may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of The Blogger.

No comments:

Post a Comment