We often hear about a deserted house present mostly in villages or small towns. There are stories associated about these houses. People report to have seen a man wandering in the house, wearing white clothes. Others have seen a lady whose eyes were red or blood was dripping down her lips and many more similar to these. Numbers of people who have witnessed such things never exceed one or two but entire population of the village or town is scared of them.
In day time, people try to avoid going near to that house and as the darkness of night falls, people run away from it as if the ghost in it would come out any moment and would attack them. For most of the people, there may not be anything at all as they have not seen anything from their own eyes but fear of the house equally grapples every living being in the neighborhood. In majority of such cases, with the exception of any courageous person, nobody tries to discover if any such thing really exists or not. Fear is a very impulsive power that keeps the people away from such houses.
On the other hand, equal reputation is gained by a place that is beautiful and has lush green gardens, rhyming fountains and soothing pleasant air. The fame of it spreads to far distances and thus people from far flung areas come there for picnics and recreation. Contrary to the above scenario, here a good name or feeling prevails among the people that attract the minds and bodies of people. As fear is a factor that never lets the people to discover a reality, love and pleasant feelings make the people come closer to a place and thus eliminates the distances between them.
An internationally acclaimed Muslim author shares with us some of the unique feelings and ideas associated with his childhood or teenage in one of his books. According to him, he had developed the picture of Allah to be something very frightening. It appeared like a person that had a big frying pan, full of boiling oil and water and used to catch the people and throw them into the pan. He used to get annoyed on very small things and thus punished people on petty mistakes. According to the author, he had developed these feelings after reading the books in which the punishments were repeatedly mentioned and frightened the people. The lectures or sermons he had listened from Mullahs or religious scholars also frightened the people of the harsh and severe punishments in the grave and the following different stages of the life of hereafter.
With such feelings in mind, he was not able to come closer to Allah till he grew mature enough to read and discover for himself that the two most repeated attributes of Allah were 'Rehman o Raheem' which means kind and merciful. It was also mentioned that the kindness of Allah towards his creatures was 70 times more than that of a mother. These findings were absolutely new to him as he was never shown this true picture of Allah by anyone. Then he entered into a salvation with his mental fear and started loving Allah. And no need to mention that, all the good things happen after an air of love is established.
This feeling of fear of people about religion and its punishments came to my mind the other day when we were having a study camp with students. Every day, teachers give brief lectures to the students about moral guidance and good habits. When I was giving a lecture about some of the benefits of offering prayers or Namaaz, a student by name of Hamza stopped me to ask a question. Seriousness of his tone and look made me to cease my lecture and listen to his question.
He said that he wanted to offer prayers but once he had listened to a lecture in a mosque that one who deliberately misses prayers of one time will be thrown into a burning fire of hell where he would be left to burn for eighty years and each day of the hell would be longer than our one year. Like any of our teenagers, he has also missed some prayers and this frightening reality had put him into hesitation as if he should offer the prayers anymore or not. I told him that our Allah is the most merciful and on the dooms day, would look for any small reason to forgive people and save them from punishment or fire of the hell. If he just repents for his missed prayers, Allah would definitely ignore his mistake and pardon him. With this, a feeling of relief and contentment came on his face.
This is only one of the storiesthat can be found in bulk in our youth. Making the people afraid of the punishments is no doubt a part of our religious teachings but this is a tool that needs to be used very carefully and with utmost delicacy so that we should not be responsible for chopping down the hope of people from religion. Just like a frightening deserted house, worst condition would be there when people would keep distance from realities of religion because of fear and without realizing the relevant realities.
Baba TahirUryan, a historic Persian poet has written a very beautiful poem, depicting the kind and merciful picture of Allah. According to this, Prophet Mosses was on his way to speak to Allah that he met a shepherd on his way. The shepherd loved Allah too much but was illiterate and simple. According to his thinking caliber, he had thought Allah to be like other human beings. He asked Mosses to convey his sincere sentiments to Allah and tell that he would be glad to receive him in his small hut which he has finely swept and cleaned for his arrival. He then would slaughter a sheep in his honor and would cook a delicious food of its meat.
He would massage his legs and would make a fine tea for him. Mosses scolded the shepherd for his thoughts and told him that Allah is not something that he has imagined and he might have infuriatedAllah by his stupid ideas. Realizing these, the shepherd became so frightened that he left his flock and ran to the jungle, crying in disappointment and repentance. When Mosses went and talked to Allah, Allah told him that he had disappointed a friend of Allah. Now he should go to shepherd and tell him that Allah is very much pleased from his sincere feelings. Mosses went to jungle and found the shepherd and told him about the greetings of Allah. Then shepherd got happy and praised the Lord of heavens.
Majority of our religious teachings are about good things making us happy about good returns here and in the hereafter. Majority of the names of our kind Allah are also comforting the believers, making their hearts and souls happy. In the presence of so many good things, that would be really disappointing if we make the people disappointed from religion by mentioning the punishments and other frightening things.