M Adam Ahmad, Al Hakam
In times of crisis or calamities, people use different means to lessen the effect or impact of the trauma to try and help them cope. One of the most widely recognised mechanisms that individuals utilise the world over in trying times is to turn towards religion.
Sociologists and researchers have conducted studies to comprehend the response of mankind in stressful times in various kinds of crises. They have found that religion is most commonly used to deal with unprecedented and uncertain cataclysmic situations.
Religion and spirituality are the two terms that are frequently used in researches related to the said subject.
According to their definition, used in almost all studies, religion is a collection of morals, beliefs, practices and symbols that is almost always under the supervision and guidance of a central governing body or an institution; thus, religion is an organised and formal way of man’s communion with God Almighty.
Religions also emphasise the importance of following certain tenets that all adherents follow in the same way, so usually, practicing a religion will transcend racial and geographical divides. (https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-isspirituality)
On the other hand, spirituality is thought of as more of a personal factor and private enterprise. It is an intrinsic relation that a person has with the Supreme Being from Whom they seek help or support in times of need and crisis. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705681/)
Religion plays the most important role in coping with stressful circumstances. It allows a person to count on the support of their God as well as the central authority and other members of their congregation and this, coupled with their intrinsic spirituality, promotes resilience and allows for healing.
Studies have also shown that adherents of religion live longer than non-religious people. The reasons for their longevity include seeking spiritual support, forgiveness and affiliation with social organisation. (www.aau.edu/researchscholarship/featured-research-topics/people-religious-affiliations-live-longerstudy-shows)
When a person is going through a crisis – for example they are in quarantine or a lockdown, and they see that others are dying from an illness for which there is no cure – they may experience depression and suffer anxiety.
It is in times like these that a person, who in other times may not have been an active practitioner or even spiritually inclined, will turn to religion for guidance from the Almighty God and will seek emotional reassurance, trying to cultivate a close relationship with God and other fellow believers in order to alleviate the emotional strain and trauma of such a profound crisis.
Studies carried out by The Guardian in the UK have shown that in the ongoing lockdown and quarantine caused by the coronavirus, more and more people are turning towards religion. Harriet Sherwood writes:
“A quarter of adults in the UK have watched or listened to a religious service since the coronavirus lockdown began, and one in 20 have started praying during the crisis, according to a new survey.” (theguardian.com/world/2020/may/03/british-public-turn-to-prayer-as-one-in-four-tune-in-to-religious-services)
When people turn to religion in flocks, they seek relief from emotional stress and guidance, so it is the duty of religion to provide them with solace and direction. However, if we cast even a cursory glance at religions of the world, we see them lacking when it comes to providing emotional or mental relief to their people in crisis.
Explaining the purpose of religion, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, states:
“The purpose of religion is that man should obtain deliverance from his passions and should develop personal love for God Almighty through certain faith in His existence and His perfect attributes. Such love of God is the paradise, which will appear in diverse shapes in the Hereafter … Thus, the true purpose is to have full faith in Him.
“Now the question is, which religion and which book can fulfil this need. The Bible tells us that the door of communion with God is closed and that the ways of obtaining certainty are sealed. Whatever was to happen, happened in the past and there is nothing in the future … Of what use then is a religion that is dead? What benefit can we derive from a book that is dead? What grace can be bestowed by a god who is dead?” (Essence of Islam, Vol. 1, p. 4, [Chashma-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 20, pp. 352-353])
Explaining the perfect religion that can provide complete satisfaction and spiritual support, the Promised Messiahas states:
“If we look at world religions, we find that each one of them, with the exception of Islam, contains one defect or the other. This is not because they were actually false from the beginning, but because, after the advent of Islam, God stopped supporting them and they became like a garden that has no gardener and no arrangement for its irrigation and management. As a result, flaws gradually crept into these religions …
“Thus these religions came to suffer from such ills, some of which are unspeakable and even repugnant to the purity of the human self. All these symptoms were conditions precedent to Islam. A reasonable person would admit that some time before the advent of Islam, all faiths had become corrupted and had lost spirituality. Thus, our Holy Prophetsa was the greatest reformer, who brought the lost truth back into the world.” (Lecture Sialkot, p. 1-5)
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat was established in light of the prophecies of the Holy Prophetsa and promises of God Almighty by the Messiah of the age to console and guide the anxious and restless people of the time.
The successors of the Promised Messiahas continue to provide the true teachings of Islam that are vital for the spiritual elevation and moral development of mankind.
Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra states:
“All other religions claim that they help build a relationship between man and God, but Islam is superior to them because apart from its teachings, which instil love of God in mankind, it also announces that God shall begin to love you as well.” (The Review of Religions [Urdu], September 1920)
It is our responsibility to spread the true teachings of Islam and rescue the people of the world from the pits of despair and depression. Calling our attention towards this obligation, the worldwide head of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, may Allah be his Helper, said:
“In these circumstances, where we need to reform ourselves, we also need to effectively carry out tabligh [propagating the message of Islam]. We must, more than before, acquaint the world with Islam. Moreover, every Ahmadi should try and inform the world that if you desire salvation, then you must recognise your God Who has created you. If you desire a noble end, then recognise your God Who has created you; because the best end is the life in the Hereafter. Do not hold associates with Him and fulfil the right of His creation. So we must always make this effort; may Allah enable everyone to do so.
“Even the secular world is saying that these pandemics will continue to increase. For this reason, like I have said, for a noble end, it is essential that we also turn towards God Almighty and then tell the world that true end is the life in the Hereafter for which you must return to God.” (Friday Sermon, 20 March 2020)
Hence, as the conditions and circumstances across the globe demonstrate, religion is very important in times of crisis, not just to alleviate physical, mental and emotional suffering in the moment, but as a way to live one’s life even in times of ease. Religion helps to lead mankind towards their Creator, Allah the Almighty, and ultimately guides them to achieve salvation and attain high levels of spirituality.