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Last Updated: 2008/10/12
Summary of question
How can there be a religion that contains all of man’s needs for salvation?
Considering the fact that man is always experiencing change and development, how can there be a religion that contains all of man’s needs for salvation till the end of time? How can a single non-changing religion always be a means of guidance to mankind?
Concise answer

The first question that needs to be answered is: Is man truly always experiencing change in his life and is it true that every aspect of his life is usually going through alteration? Or can one say that behind man’s outer self and appearance which is always changing, there is an unchanging and stable inside; the same inside and essence that links his past, present and future, creating a continuous identity throughout time for him, that also gives meaning to human civilization and culture?

Detailed Answer

Not being able to answer this question has caused some to go to the extent of saying that such a claim is false and that the reason behind why God has sealed all religions and will no longer send a new one, is because man is no longer in need of divine guidance as a result of his intellectual development!!! This group of individuals says that the “sealing of religions” and not sending anymore new ones means that man reaches a level of development and “maturity” that makes him needless of religion[1], and in order for such a statement that isn't a new one and has been claimed previously by Iqbal Lahuri and others preceding him to have a fresh look, this/these individual(s) make this claim using the following rhetoric: “There are two types of needlessness; good and admirable needlessness and undesirable and bad needlessness. The first being when one is truly in need of something but doesn’t go after it and falsely claims his/her needlessness towards it. Such needlessness is bad and undesirable. If someone is sick and in need of a doctor and a cure, yet refuses to see a doctor and says that he/she is in no need of a doctor nor a cure, this is a bad and undesirable needlessness. Nevertheless, there is also an admirable and good type of needlessness as well and that being when for instance a sick person goes to the doctor and the doctor tries to cure him/her.  After becoming cured, the patient becomes needless of a doctor. Here, what the doctor has done in reality is something that breaks the link between him and his patient. If the doctor ever desires to maintain his relationship with his patient, he has to strive to keep his patient sick so that he continues to visit him. Yet, the caring doctor tries to cure his patient even though it ends in him not seeing the patient anymore.  That is because if he does his job correctly, the patient will feel better and no longer be in need of him. The same goes with the student and his teacher. Doing his job correctly for the teacher means for him to elevate his student to the level that makes him needless of a teacher. Therefore, the caring teacher also does something that eventually ends in the termination of his relationship with his student, and this student will become another teacher alongside his former teacher.

They go on to say: The prophets also did the same thing. Meaning that they resemble the caring doctor in teaching man different issues that resulted in him reaching certain level of culture making him needless of prophets, just like the story of the doctor and teacher. This group of people believes that this is the only reason behind the seal of religions and why no more are to be sent, and this is how they interpret the saying of Iqbal Lahuri when he said that after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) the people will no longer be in need of another prophet. They said what he meant was that a time was to come when the prophet’s teachings would spread amongst the people resulting in them becoming needless of another prophet and anymore teachings.[2]

Man's need towards religion is caused by more than one thing that he cannot reach by himself using his mind, experience and senses. In other words, it has been proven in philosophy that the instruments that man possesses for comprehension are limited, and the Quran has also pointed to this fact by saying:   علّمکم مالم تکونوا تعلمون (He [Allah (swt)] taught you what you knew not)[3]. According to this, man will never reach a point in which he will no longer be in need of religion.

Also, if such a claim were to be true, man should have been able to gain his needlessness of religion centuries after the advent of Islam, yet we see and contemporary history is good proof for this, that such a remark is totally false and man is yet to reach such a level of needlessness. Not only has man not reached the level of needlessness towards religion, but after disobeying religion after the renaissance, and going through major hardships in the way, man finds himself edging ever closer to religion and in more need of it.

Others have accepted the theory of the “developing religion” and believe that the seal of religions (the final religion) completes and perfects as man perfects over time, and is always getting adjusted with man's needs. This theory says that religion is always changing, rejecting its stability.

Another group puts a difference between “religion” and “religious teachings” in an effort to answer the abovementioned question and at the same time not make the mistake others have made by saying that religion is always in change. This group says that religion itself is always stable while religious teachings are always developing along with other sciences! This entails them saying that religion is sacred, but religious teachings aren’t, because they are unstable and always in change (they believe that anything that goes through change can't be sacred). At the same time, what man is able to reach are religious teachings and religion itself is in a corner by itself and will never be within reach for anyone. Such a religion doesn’t fall under the category of “mursal” religions, because as was said before, the mursal religion is a set of subjects and issues which are sent by God for the guidance of man through the prophets. If what was said is the true definition of religion, yet one still insists on the instability and constant development of religious teachings, in reality, he is saying that religion itself is also unstable and in change, which was the same answer that was given to the question before this one, in addition to another problem which is the unsacredness of religion.[4]

In order to correctly answer this question, one must first ponder man himself and figure out the answer to this question: Is man and all of his aspects and the different things pertaining to him constantly in change? Or is there a stable and unchanging essence under his changing outside and appearance; the same essence that links his past, present and future and creates a constant and stable identity for him in time, giving human culture and civilization true meaning?[5]

For further information, see:

Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani, Velayat va Diyanat, The Cultural Institute of Khaneye Kherad.

[1] See: Abdul-Karim Soroush, Rishe dar Ab Ast, Negahi beh Karnameye Kamyabe Payambaran, Keyhan Farhangi Magazine, no. 29, pg.14.

[2] See: Ibid, pp.13-14.

[3] Baqarah:239.

[4] See: Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani, Mabaniye Kalamiye Ijtihad, pp.317-380.

[5] Index: Religion and man, Index: Religion, stability and change.

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