There are so many sects, cults, religions, philosophies, and movements in the world, all of which claim to be the right way or the only true path of God How can one determine which one is correct or whether, in fact, all are correct?
One method by which the answer can be found is to clear away the superficial differences in the teachings of the various claimants to the ultimate truth, and identifies the central object of worship upon which they call, directly or indirectly. False religions all have in common one basic concept with regard to God they either claim that all men are gods, or that specific men were God, or that nature is God, or that God is a figment of man’s imagination.
Thus, it may be stated that the basic message of false religion is that God may be worshipped in the form of His creation. False religions invite man to the worship of creation by calling the creation or some aspect of it God. For example, prophet Jesus invited his followers to worship God, but those who claim to be Jesus’ followers today call people to worship Jesus, claiming that he was God.
Buddha was a reformer who introduced a number of humanistic principles in the religion of India. He did not claim to be God, nor did he suggest to his followers that he be an object of worship. Yet today most Buddhists who are to be found outside of India have taken him to be God and they prostrate themselves to idols made in their perception of his likeness.
By using the principle of identifying the object of worship, we can easily detect false religions and the contrived nature of their origin. As God said in the Quran:
“That which you worship besides Him are only names and you and your forefathers have invented for which Allah has sent down no authority: the command belongs only to Allah He has command that you worship Him; that is the right religion, but most men do not understand.” (Quran 12:40)
It may be argued that all religions teach good things, so why should it matter which one we follow? The reply is that all false religions teach the greatest evil the worship of creation. Creation-worship is the greatest sin that man can commit because it contradicts the very purpose of his creation. Man was created to worship God alone as Allah has explicitly stated in the Quran:
“I have only created jinns and men, that they may worship Me” (Quran 51:56)
Consequently, the worship of creation, which is the essence of idolatry is the only unforgivable sin. One who dies in this state of idolatry, has sealed his fate in the next life. This is not an opinion, but a revealed fact stated by God in his final revelation to man:
“Verily Allah will not forgive the joining of partners with Him, but He may forgive (sins) less than that for whomsoever He wishes.” (Quran 4:48 and 116)
Universality of God’s religion
Since the consequences of following a false religion are so grave, the true religion of God must have been universally understandable and universally attainable in the past and it must continue eternally to be understandable and attainable throughout the entire world. In other words, the true religion of God cannot be confined to any one people, place, or period of time. Nor is it logical that such a religion should impose conditions that have nothing to do with the relationship of man with God, such as baptism, or belief in man as a saviour, or an intermediary. Within the central principle of Islam and its definition (the surrender of one’s will to God) lie the roots of Islam’s universality.
Whenever man comes to the realization that God is one and distinct from His creation, and submits himself to God, he becomes a Muslim in body and spirit and is eligible for paradise.
Consequently, anyone at any time in the most remote regions of the world can become Muslim, a follower of God’s religion, Islam, by merely rejecting the worship of creation and turning to God alone. It should be noted, however, that in order to actually submit to God’s will, one must continually choose between right and wrong.
Indeed, man is endowed by God with the power not only to distinguish right from wrong but also to choose between them. These God-given powers carry with them an important responsibility, namely, that man is answerable to God for the choices he makes. It follows, then, that man should try his utmost to do good and avoid evil. These concepts are expressed in the final revelation as follows:
“Verily, those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians (angel-and-star-worshippers) any of these who believe in Allah and the Last Day and work righteousness shall have their reward with their Lord. They will not be overcome by fear or grief.” (Quran 2:62)
If, for whatever reason, they fail to accept the final message after it has been clearly explained to them, they will be in grave danger. The last Prophet said:
“Whoever among the Christians and Jews hears of me but does not affirm his belief in what I brought and dies in this state will be among the inhabitants of hell.”
Recognition of God
The question which arises here is: How can all people be expected to believe in the one true God, given their varying backgrounds, societies and cultures? For people to be held responsible for worshipping the one true God, they all need to have access to knowledge of Him. The final revelation teaches that all humans being have the recognition of the one true God imprinted on their souls as a part of their very nature with which they are created.
In the seventh chapter of the Quran verses 172-173, God explained that when He created Adam He caused all of Adam’s descendants to come into existence and He took a pledge from them saying “‘Am I not your Lord?’ To which they all replied, ‘Yes, we testify to it’” (Quran 172-173)
Allah then explained why He had all of mankind bear witness that He is their creator and the only true God worthy of worship. He said “That was in case you (mankind) should say on the day of Resurrection, ‘Verily we were unaware of all this’” (Quran 7:172)
That is to say, we cannot claim on that day that we had no idea that Allah, was our God and that no one told us that we were only supposed to worship Allah alone. Allah went on to further explain that: “It was also in case you should say, ‘Certainly it was our ancestors who made partners (with Allah) and we are only their descendants; will you then destroy us for what those liars did?’” (Quran 7:173)
Thus, every child is born with a natural belief in God and an in-born inclination to worship Him alone. This in-born belief and inclination is called in Arabic the “Fitrah“.
The Prophet Muhammad reported that Allah said, “I created my servants in the right religion, but devils made them go astray.” The Prophet also said, “Each child is born in a state of Fitrah. Then his parents make him a Jew, Christian or a Zoroastrian.” If the child were left alone, he would worship God in his own way, but all children are affected by the environment. So, just as the child submits to the physical laws, which Allah has imposed on nature, in the same way his soul also submits naturally to the fact that Allah is his Lord and Creator.
But, if his parents try to make him follow a different path, the child is not strong enough in the early stages of his life to resist or oppose the will of his parents. In such cases, the religion, which the child follows, is one of custom and upbringing, and God does not hold him to account or punish him for his religion up to a certain stage of his life.
The signs of God
Throughout people’s lives, from childhood until the time they die, signs of the one and only true God are shown to them in all regions of the earth and in their own souls, until it becomes clear that there is only one true God (Allah). God says in the Quran:
“We will show them our signs In the furthest regions (of the earth) and in their souls, until it becomes clear to them that this is the truth.” (Quran 41:53)
The following is an example of God revealing by a sign to one man the error of his idol-worship. In the south-eastern region of the Amazon jungle in Brazil, South America, a primitive tribe erected a new hut to house their man-idol Skwatch, representing the supreme God of all creation. The following day a young man entered the hut to pay homage to the God, and while he was in prostration to what he had been taught was his Creator and Sustainer, a mangy old flea-ridden dog slunk into the hut. The young man looked up in time to see the dog lift his hind leg and pass urine on the idol.
Outraged, the youth chased the dog out of the temple; but when his rage died down he realized that the idol could not be the Lord of the Universe. God must be elsewhere, he concluded. As strange as it may seem, the dog urinated on the idol was a sign from God for that young man. This sign contained the divine message that what he was worshipping was false. It liberated from slavishly following his traditionally learned worship of a false god. As a result, this man was given a choice: either to seek the true god or to continue in the error of his ways.
Allah mentions Prophet Abraham’s quest for God as an example of how those who follow His signs will be rightly guided:
“So also did we show Abraham the power and the Laws of the heavens and the earth that he might (with understanding) have certitude. When the night covered him over, he saw a star. He said: ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set, he said: ‘I love not those that set’ When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said: ‘This is my Lord.’ But when the moon set, he said: ‘Unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.’ When he saw the rising sun in splendor, he said: ‘This is my Lord this is the greatest (of all).’ But when the sun set, he said; ‘O my people I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah. For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah” (Quran 6:75-79)
As was mentioned earlier, prophets have been sent to every nation and tribe to support man’s natural belief in God and man’s in-born inclination to worship Him, as well as to reinforce the divine truth in the daily signs revealed by God. Although much of these prophets’ teachings became distorted, portions revealing their God-inspired messages have remained untainted and have served to guide mankind in the choice between right and wrong. The influence of God-inspired messages down through the ages can be seen in the “Ten Commandments” of Judaism’s Torah which were later adopted into Christianity’s teachings, as well as in the existence of laws against murder, stealing and adultery in most societies throughout the ancient and modern world.
As a result of God’s signs to mankind through the ages combined with His revelation through His prophets, all mankind has been given a chance to recognize the one only true God.
Consequently, every soul will be held accountable for its belief in God and its acceptance of the true religion of God, namely Islam, which means total submission to the will of Allah.