173 Seeking Meaning to Rituals

Every Religion or you could even say every culture has rituals. What are these rituals? Do they have meaning? why do we strictly follow rituals even if they do not have meaning?
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  1  2 173 Seeking meaning to rituals Dear Friends, Assalamu Alaikum, The world around us is absolutely amazing. If we were to observe what we could refer to as the greater picture, then we have to say that the Universe is amazing amazing amazing! It is quite obvious to me, that there has to be a super power that has planned, designed, created and is sustaining everything in the Universe. When I say ‘everything’ I mean ‘ simply everything ’ . All systems and processes that we see functioning around us are intricately interconnected or you could even say that these are systems within systems, and processes within processes, all working in concert  –   it is simply mind boggling and just too much to even think that all this is the result of a series of evolving random accidents! That just cannot be. There has to be this All-Wise, All-Powerful and All-Magnanimous God planning, designing, creating and putting everything together in this amazing Universe. How many more universes are there? That is something we just cannot even imagine! When this thought or this realization begins to take root in our minds we begin to contemplate on a number of questions. It is a natural curiosity. We now begin to view the world with this thought; ‘It looks like there is a God , so how do we seek God? How do we seek the purpose behind everything that we observe and see?’  So gradually this belief that there is a God begins to make sense and this conviction begins to take root in our minds. So obviously we begin wondering as to why God has created this Universe. Why? There are many connected questions, for example; Why did God create this Universe? Why did God create me? Is there life after death? What is the purpose of my life on Earth? Where was I before I was born? And so on, oh there are so many questions. In today’s world there is always some person or some book or some web sites through which we could learn almost any subject or even any topic that we can think of. Let’s say we want to learn  something very simple  like some recipe, or maybe we want to learn  something very complex  like quantum physics, then where do we turn to? Obviously we turn to those who are familiar with the subject. We also try to refer to books as well as to web sites on the subject. Similar would be our approach to learning about God. We would turn to religions, especially the religion to which we or which each of us would belong to.  3  Now here is where the problem begins. It is not only a problem that is difficult to explain but it is also a sensitive one. So how do I explain this problem? Let me try. We are trying to seek God and through seeking God we are trying to work out the objectives of all those elusive answers to what is known as the fundamental questions. I mentioned some of these questions a few minutes ago.  Now in seeking God and in seeking these so called divine objectives, I would obviously seek or obviously observe God’s  creation and try to get some ideas about God, some clues, some signs.  Now, when I observe His creation I see order, I see beauty, I see consistency, I see cyclic repetition, in other words it is a very orderly, sequential world. If we look at the cosmos, the universe that surrounds us, we are able to predict the time of sunrise, of sunset, of phases of the moon, of seasons even predict the movement of planets and of the constellations and other heavenly bodies. It is so orderly and so predictable. In fact this is what how Wikipedia describes the word ‘ cosmos ’ ; Cosmos  can be defined as a complex and orderly system, such as our Universe; the opposite of  Chaos. It is the Universe regarded as an ordered system. The philosopher  Pythagoras is regarded as the first person to apply the term cosmos to the order of the Universe. If we were to observe the space within our atmosphere, here too we would observe energies and electromagnetic waves all working in concert with pure mathematical precision. It is so  predictable that the field of physics or the study of all these energies and electromagnetic waves can even be described as exciting. Though we do not give it much thought, the space surrounding us and above our heads, or the atmosphere is so full of activity. We observe so many systems and processes working seamlessly. We observe through relevant meters energies such as heat, light, and sound predictably flowing around and then we also have the electromagnetic spectrum. What about gravity and the water cycle? All this is in the atmosphere. And then on earth we have this rich blanket of life. There is life in so many amazing forms. And then we have this human being, a creation vastly superior to all other living beings on earth and the reason for our superiority is our intellect and our ability to use it. It is through the use of this intellect that we observe the universe as well as the workings of its systems and processes and we are able to intelligently work out the how this all works. We have many terms and words to describe this working. We refer to them as the laws of nature, or cause and effect or natural sequence and so on. We see this everywhere. Let us see how the religions draw our attention to these phenomena. I am discussing the topic of religions; however as a Muslim I would be referring to the teachings of Islam. There are many Aayaths in the Quran that draw our attention to these wonderful phenomena;  4 For e xample Aayath No’s 191 and 192 of Surah No 3 (Aal E Imran)   [003:190] Indeed! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding,- ِضْرَْاَو   ِتاَوََسا   ِقْَخ   ِ   َنِ   ِرَهَاَو   ِْَا   ِفَِْخاَو   ﴿   ِبَْَْا   ِوُّ   تََ   [003:191] Those who deeply contemplate on Allah whilst standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, ََا   َنوُُكْَ   َِَا   ْمِهِُُج   ٰَََو   ادُعُَو   َِ   ِضْرَْاَو   ِتاَوََسا   ِقْَخ   ِ   َنوُَََََو   Through observation of how these systems and processes work we try to get these systems and  processes to work in our favor. We refer to these developments as technology. This is mathematically precise. For example, today in the world there are more than 100 million mobile phones being used. However every one of us are sure that if we were to dial a number, then out of those 100 million (plus) mobile phones, only one phone would ring. We take it for granted. We are so sure of the rational, the logic, the mathematics etc that has gone in to putting these phones together. So we observe (most definitely) that God ’ s plans, design and creation are logical and follow rational  plans that could be worked out. We see this rational or this logic being researched in to by very learned personages. This happens in every field of study. (P) However there is a very important field of study where people just do not follow rational or logic, and the most surprising thing is, that this is in the field of religion. Ironically religion is the field where we seek out the truth, we seek out the rationality  of all this rationale, and we seek out the logic  of all this logic. This is really surprising. I have seen so many very learned and astute academics that are so meticulous about their fields of expertise, but when it comes to religion they believe teachings that border on the absurd. This feature in religion and belief does puzzle me. It is unfortunate that within every religion some absurd dogmas, superstitions, symbols and rituals have crept in and these are followed even though they just do not make sense. These absurdities are not in the srcinal teachings. What is even more peculiar is that I would not see the absurdity in some of these teachings in my religion but I could easily point out the absurdities in the beliefs, teachings, rituals and dogmas of other religions. How is it that we are so blind or naïve to these absurdities?


Jul 23, 2017
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