What is Religion?

Ali Fuad Başgil says the following regarding the issue: “Man, from the most learned to the most ignorant, will ask himself where he comes from and where he is going; he will seek a high ideal support and a principle of action and activity in the superhuman realms. However, he will not be able to find satisfactory and comforting answers in science and philosophy but only in religion. Eventually, he will either be a religious person, give his heart to religion and lead a humane life or become like an animal and lead a life based on physical feelings and mean pleasures. This way of life will take mankind to the edge of precipice.” (Din ve Lâiklik: Religion and Laicism)

• What is Religion?

Religion is a something laid down by Allah for human beings. It informs humans about the aim of their creation and the reason of existence. It teaches them how to worship their Creator. It encourages them to do good deeds and prevents them from doing bad deeds.

Religion is the only source to give satisfactory answers to the questions “Who am I? Where am I coming from and where am I going?” that man always asks himself.

Humans learned their religion from prophets.

Prophets conveyed people the religious decrees that they received from Allah through revelation in the form that they received them. Therefore, the real owner of the religions is Allah, the Exalted. Prophets are messengers that convey the decrees of the religion to people.

• What is the place of religion in man’s life?

Religion emerged together with the emergence of man. It is because in no period of the history of the mankind can one see a nation deprived of the feeling of religion. There was a kind of belief, worshipping and a feeling of religion wherever man lived.

Religion will exist as long as man exists.

The philosopher Auguste Sabatier says the following regarding the issue:

As soon as I ask my soul the question “Why do I have a religion?”, I receive the following answer: I am religious because I cannot be otherwise. To be religious is an indispensable need for my existence and personality.”

Benjamin Constant says the following:

“Religion is the being that had the most sovereignty in the history of the mankind. Religious life is an inseparable quality of our nature. When the nature of man is considered, it is impossible not to think of the idea of religion at once...”

The thoughts of the western scientists and thinkers above show that the feeling of religion is an essential requirement of human nature. In no period of history did irreligious, that is, faithless and unspiritual men exist.

What benefits does religion provide to the individuals and the community?

1. Man has mind and conscience; he can ponder over his existence. When man is alone with his conscience, he always asks himself where he comes from, where he is going, why he was created, what kind of an end life will take him to. He needs to be satisfied about the matter, to be freed from the worries about the future and to reach tranquility. The tranquility can only be provided and taught by religion.

2. Religion is absolutely necessary for man to develop materially and spiritually in his own world and to reach the level of real humanity.

Ali Fuad Başgil says the following regarding the issue:

“Man, from the most learned to the most ignorant, will ask himself where he comes from and where he is going; he will seek a high ideal support and a principle of action and activity in the superhuman realms. However, he will not be able to find satisfactory and comforting answers in science and philosophy but only in religion. Eventually, he will either be a religious person, give his heart to religion and lead a humane life or become like an animal and lead a life based on physical feelings and mean pleasures. This way of life will take mankind to the edge of precipice.” (Din ve Lâiklik: Religion and Laicism)

3. Religion is essential for the mankind as an arranger and regulator of the community life.

Religious feeling is a spiritual guard that never leaves man and always inspects him. Since that guard is very effective on conscience, it prevents man from all kinds of evil, done openly or secretly, and encourages him to do all kinds of good deeds. “Religion is a very strong spiritual rein to control the desires of man.”

Thanks to religion, a strong will forms in man who becomes conscious that Allah knows everything and that he will not be able to hide anything from Him. Peace, stability, order and harmony prevail in a community that comprises of people with such strong will and character.

Religion is the source of all kinds of moral virtues. The importance of the moral system that religion brings is very important for the mankind.

There is no catastrophe more destructive than the moral humiliation of a nation. In history, many nations were destroyed and eliminated because they decayed morally.

4. Irreligiousness destroys the feeling of being moral before everything else. When there is no religion, there remains no imposing force for being moral; thus, irreligiousness leads to the spread and extension of all kinds of evil and consequently the destruction of the community.

Irreligiousness eliminates the idea of law too. An irreligious person who does not feel any moral sanctions will not show respect to any rights or laws. He will not abstain from committing oppression, grabbing others’ rights and committing all kinds of evils.

How many types of religions are there?

Islamic scholars divide religions into two:

1. True religions.

2. False religions.

The religions that are based on belief in one Allah and that command worshipping only Him are called True religions.

True religions are religions sent by Allah. Therefore, they are also called heavenly religions. True religions are also called Oneness religions because they are based on the belief in oneness of Allah and worshipping only Him.

The beliefs and ideas that were not sent by Allah, that were made up by humans, that are not based on belief in only one Allah are called False religions.

Some superstitions and wrong beliefs that were not present in the original of the religion were incorporated into true religions afterwards by humans. The religions that were changed afterwards although they were true in original are called Falsified religions.

Falsified religions are religions that were true religions in the beginning but whose original states were spoiled due to the incorporation of some superstitions and ideas that are contrary to oneness.

What is the first religion of the mankind?

The first religion of the mankind is Oneness religion that was sent to Hazrat Adam, the first man and first prophet, and that was based on the belief in only one Allah. Sociological researches prove that the first religion of the mankind was oneness religion. As a matter of fact, Schmidt, history of religions researcher and sociologist, pointed out that Pygmies had the “belief of one god” as a result of the researches he made on Pygmies, the most primitive human community on the earth. The findings of Schmidt regarding the issue invalidated the claims of Durkheim that the first religion of the mankind was totemism and eradicated the widespread western theses regarding the issue.

How did false religions emerge?

After Hazrat Adam, in time, some people diverged from the belief of oneness, felt alienated from the true religion and fell into wrong beliefs by following their souls and the temptations from the devil. Thus, false religions emerged.

As people diverged from the true religion and fell into false religions, Allah sent them a new prophet and a new religion and called them to the belief of oneness. However, only some people obeyed that call; others insisted on their false religions. They not only insisted on not returning to the true religion but also prevented those who wanted to return by using force, oppression and torture. There always existed a struggle between those who believed in the true religion and those who did not in every age and period. We see that the struggle goes on also today under various names and forms.

What is the last religion?

The last religion of the mankind is the religion of Islam, oneness religion.

Is there a conflict between science and religion?

Science examines the world of matter, how life especially humans existed and finds the divine laws that are valid in this world. Thanks to the application of those laws in the daily life, human beings have the opportunity to make progress in technology and civilization. As for religion, it explains why the universe and the world of matter were created and who the Creator of them is. It especially expresses the privileged position of man among beings, his aim of creation and the nature of his duty in this world.

Then, it can be said that science and religion are two keys that open the chest of the secrets and mysteries of the world of the beings. One explains the beings’ creation form and material qualities; the other explains their reason and aim of creation. In this regard, there is no conflict between them. On the contrary, complementing each other is in question.

Those who thought that religious ideas would die as science made progress turned out to be mistaken. Every forward step that science took and every new invention made the thinking human beings approach religious beliefs and led to understanding the greatness of Allah better:

“Sciences that consist of exploring the laws that the current faultless system is based on and researching the ways of benefiting from those laws” are the strongest proof and evidence for the existence of Allah, who established and who has been running this magnificent system. To deny the existence of that exalted Creator and His matchless power can only be possible through denying that visible magnificent system. If this system is denied, then there remains no science.  On the other hand, sciences find out and reveal the wonders, fine calculations and criteria in the creation and reveal the divine names and attributes that are reflected on beings. In this regard, we can say that sciences are mirrors of Allah’s names and every science depends on a name of Allah and receives its reality from that name.

In fact, it is seen through various examples today that if people do not see or overlook that the realities of science depend on a divine name, then, science will either lead to faithlessness or turn out to be nothing but a useless pastime.

* * * 


                                           MAN IS RELIGIOUS BY BIRTH

Religion does not only give man the things that community life really needs like unity, cooperation, fraternity, patriotism, love of one’s flag, loyalty to one’s country but also meets an indispensable need of individual life.

Today, the analysis of some sociologists and psychologists have put forward that man gets hungry and eats something; getting hungry is something natural. He puts on clothes to protect himself from cold. He needs to reproduce. Similarly, one of the indispensable needs of man is religion.

Man is religious by nature. I want to use the term religionly not religious in order to express the natural religiousness. There are some people who feel to be far away from religion. When we say religious, we understand a person who is the member of a religion and who practices that religion sincerely. This is what religion means. A religious person is someone who practices the requirements of his belief. When we say religionly, we mean something else: natural religiousness. A person who does not regard himself as religious may be hostile to all heavenly religions; however, we say that even such a person is religionly; he cannot be freed from natural religiousness.

I needed to find a new word in order to express that state. I find it appropriate to express that concept using the word “religionly”. Indeed, man is a religionly being. He cannot help being religious.

We see that religiousness or religions are based on some fundamental principles as a result of the analyses made today. For instance, there exists the feeling of “holy”. Some days and some hours are holy; they are not extended. Some places are holy. All places do not have the same value. We divide places time and things; we differentiate one from the other in terms of value; that is, we attach holiness to some, we give some of them special importance.

People and things... They do not have the same value. Then, the foundation of religion is based a kind of “holy” spirit. That kind of an analysis about religions is called “structural analysis”. Structuralism means analyzing events in every field in accordance with their fundamental structures.

Now, let us analyze someone who is away from religion in terms of his spiritual and personal life. We will see that his spiritual life is no different from that of a religious person. As a Muslim, I regard the Kaaba and Makkah as holy. As a religious person, I have the feeling of differentiating some places from others. However, I say ‘who does not have such a feeling?’ 

Even a person who is known to be extremely irreligious has the feeling of holy places. To him, the place he was born is holy; the place where his beloved lives or died is holy. That is, in his life, there certainly exists the feeling of holy places like a religious person.

For instance, people living today say “Mothers’ Day”. They regard that day as holy. They say “Fathers’ Day”, “birthday” and regard them as holy. They attribute holiness to some part of time.

The same thing exists in the legends of first men. In the legends, there are some days; certain things are regarded to have been created or to have happened on those days; they are regarded as holy and various ceremonies are held on those days. For instance, the birthdays of legendary heroes, the day when creation took place, etc are regarded as holy. When we analyze religions acting upon from this point of view, we find common principles in every religion and see some religious manifestations in the lives of all kinds of people, whether they are religious, laic or irreligious. Even the most irreligious person cannot remain outside the manifestations of religionly nature.

We can prove it by asking a question like this: Does an extreme communist who regards religion as opium of the people not visit the grave of Karl Marx, celebrate his birthday, perform some actions in front of his sculpture or mausoleum, regard the book Das Kapital superior to all books?

That is, God Almighty, who created us, created us in need of religion and gave us a religious system in compatible with our nature. Nobody is freed from this natural need. Then, people who say they are laic or they do not believe in religion will attribute holiness to time, places and things due to the natural inclination of making time and places holy. 

Master Hamidullah narrated once : A Russian girl became a Muslim and went to Paris. Master Hamidullah asked her: “How did you become a Muslim?” The girl answered that she was in the Red Square in Moscow during a ceremony that a policeman did not like her posture and told her that she should stand respectfully. She answered, “Respect is a spiritual value. Does it exist in communism?” 

Then, the policeman beat her twice with his baton. Upon the hit by the baton, the girl started to think and fled to France; then, she found out about Islam there and became a Muslim.

Consequently, we can say that religion is meeting a natural need.

(Prof. Dr. İbrahim Cânan)

Some Quotes Explaining Science-Religion Relationship:

“Science gave man the telegraph, electricity, diagnosis and cure for some diseases. Religion gave individuals spiritual tranquility and moral balance.

Science and religion are two real keys that we use to open the treasures of the universe. Man benefits from science but he lives with religion.”

(William James)

“Every formula that expresses a law of nature is a hymn that praises God.”

(Maria Mitchell)

“Everybody who is involved in science seriously, no matter in which branch, will read this writing on the door of the temple of science:  Believe!” Belief is a quality that a scientist cannot give up.”

(Max Planck)

“Belief in the Creator of the Universe is the strongest and noblest stimulating power of the scientific research.”

(Albert Einstein)

“The light of the conscience is religious sciences. The light of the mind is modern sciences. Reality manifests by the combination of the two. With those two wings, the student flies. When they are separated, the former gives birth to fanaticism and the second to deception and doubt.”


“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

(Albert Einstein)

“Science and religion do not deny each other; on the contrary, they complement each other. One of them is the light of the mind and the other the heart. Man does not consist of mind only or heart only. On the contrary, he owns both a mind and a heart. Science without religion may satisfy the mind but it definitely darkens the heart. And religion without science illuminates the spirit and the heart but it leaves the mind in the darkness.

Therefore, the advantage and benefit of man does not depend on being occupied with science only as it is today nor being occupied with religion only as it was in the Middle Age. It depends on being occupied with both.”

(Ali Fuad Başgil)

“The scientists who study the beings that Allah created understand His greatness better than other people.”

(Fakhraddin Razi)

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