International media implemented in five languages (Arabic, English, Farsi, Turkish and Urdu) SHAFAQNA.com publishes Mr Adnan Oktar’s (Harun Yahya) interview.
Does religion play a role in today’s modern life?
Of course, religion has a huge influence on modern life. Religion is a fact that has influenced all of life in all periods of human history. And it still affects all of life today. The world’s politics, social thinking and social structure are all founded on religion. Indeed, life and religion are irretrievably bound up with one another. All worldly issues are shaped by religion. Art is based on religion, events are based on religion, science is based on religion; everything is based on religion. State administrations are also based on religion. For example, Turkey is a Muslim country and Islam is highly influential in its foreign policy. Israel is Jewish, and religion again influences its policies. In America, evangelical Christian belief dominates almost all of its foreign policy. Disorders inevitably appear in the spirits of individuals and communities that regard life and religion as independent entities, and life starts to collapse. That is because religion is life itself; and there can be no life where religion is not practiced. Individuals and societies can only find life when they are religious, otherwise, the result is always infertility and loss.
Those who cannot reconcile modern life and religion are people who are unacquainted with religion, who are unaware that religion supports art and modern science and technology, and who are ignorant of the warmth and peaceable spirit of religion. Religion espouses modernity, beauty, joy, happiness, peace among societies and friendship. These are all values that give rise to modern life. Therefore, someone who lives by religion will truly discharge the requirements of modern life.
Is there freedom of religion in the world, and particularly in Europe?
Everyone has freedom of belief and worship. It is very wrong to seek to obstruct people’s beliefs and worship. Yet there are countries today where believers cannot live freely by their beliefs. This is a disgrace, of course. Everyone has the right to live freely by his beliefs, whatever they may be. Anyone who wants to found a church must be free to do so, anyone wishing to found a synagogue must be free to do so, and anyone wishing to found a mosque must be free to do so.
Freedom of religion, or freedom of belief to put it another way, is one of the basic concepts of the Qur’an. In the verses "There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned" and "You have your religion and I have my religion," Allah emphasizes the importance of freedom of religion. Therefore, there is always freedom of religion wherever the moral values of the Qur’an prevail. Indeed, freedom of thought, belief and expression are the heart of Qur’anic moral values. Therefore, true freedom of belief can prevail only when the moral values of the Qur’an are abided by. Islam is a religion that offers freedom of thought, worship and expression, protects people’s all kinds of rights and brings with it true freedom. Some people imagine that democracy entered into human history in Ancient Greece. But it is Allah Who teaches people democracy. Allah taught people democracy and freedom through the true religion. All the prophets since the Prophet Adam (pbuh) have been true representatives of liberty, free thinking and respect to ideas. All the concepts that come to people’s minds when democracy is mentioned, such as liberty, justice, nobody being oppressed, everyone being a first-class citizen, respect, trust and nobody being judged because of his ideas, exist at the heart of religious moral values. Throughout history, people have learned these through the true religions revealed by Allah, and have witnessed the finest examples of these in those times when people have lived by the true religions.
When we look at those times when people were persecuted for their ideas, when people believing in different ideologies were oppressed, when members of different faiths were humiliated, when art, science and architecture died, when people lost the joy of living and literally turned into robots, when books were burned, times of killing, slaughter and genocide, we see the effects of either atheist, irreligious ideologies or else the false interpretations of religious moral values by a radical mindset that broke them away from their essence.
Does religious phobia exist, particularly in Western countries? If so, what are the reasons?
It is of course a fact that in Western countries in particular there is a distance from religion left over from former times. But this was much greater in the past. There has been a positive change in people’s attitudes toward religion in recent years. The Western world used to regard keeping away from religion as a sign of modernity. Western people imagined that irreligion was the basic rule of modernity. They thought they could only be modern so long as they lived without religion, and they therefore believed that they had to develop a materialist viewpoint. But that false idea has been weakened in recent time and is still in decline. People seeing that materialist philosophy brings with it nothing but destruction and unhappiness have begun turning to Allah. This turning to religion is increasing by the day. Societies that believe in Allah and accept the fact of Creation have begun forming. This return that began particularly at the end of the last century has now widely involved the whole world.
A fear of religion that still persists in some circles actually stems from complete ignorance. These people do not investigate the religion in its original source. They seek to define religion in the light of the dark worlds of a few bigots they see as its practitioners. But the fact is that one must look at the Holy Book, the true origin of religion, to understand it. They look at religion in the light of the personal characteristics devoid of any love, affection or compassion of a number of bigots, without looking at the origin of the faith, and therefore imagine that “so religion commands this kind of life.” And they therefore turn away from it. But religion actually condemns the hostile attitudes of the bigots, their hate-filled natures devoid of peace and brotherhood. It curses such people. It is impossible for the faith to support cruelty and wickedness. At the heart of the faith is a deep love for all creation, affection, compassion, respect, sincerity, peace and solidarity. These are features that never exist in the world of the bigot. Westerners influenced by irreligious bigots and who therefore fear religion will see the true facts if they investigate the religion in its real source. Indeed, Westerners are free-thinking people with broad horizons. Their ideas will change in a positive direction when they see the facts. There are also many opportunities for doing that today. Formerly, people’s means of doing research were limited. But we are now in the information age; one can access all kinds of true information about religion online. We must not forget that hostile attitudes are a thing of the past. People today want love, peace and brotherhood. And we are now happily entering the Golden Age when the whole world will live together as brothers in peace and happiness. The Golden Age when peace and security, happiness, love and respect, justice and equality will prevail across the world, and when wickedness will be eliminated, will soon begin and, may Allah grant us long lives, we will witness these things for ourselves, insha’Allah.
Does extremism exist in religions? How do extremists use religion for their own purposes?
Extremism is not something that religion encourages in any way. Extremism has nothing to do with religion. Extremism, or bigotry to give it another name, is the system of satan itself, the system of the dajjal. It is the dajjal’s sharpest sword against religion because it aims to strike religion from inside.
A great many details are provided in the Qur’an about the characteristics of bigots and the bigot mindset is strongly criticized. Many verses speak of the prophets’ struggle against bigotry as well as their struggle against idolaters and unbelievers. This mindset is still around today. These are people who have no fear or love of Allah in their hearts. Their hearts are therefore closed to His Word. They reject the faith in the form it is described by Allah and add on a great many elements that make it difficult. These people, who seek to turn the faith away from its essentials and who resort to all means to stop people living by it, can be seen right through history. Because of their own fanatical practices that have nothing to do with the faith, they have both turned away from the religion themselves and caused others to do so. They reject the fact that religion is easy and everyone can practice it. But what Allah reveals in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet (saas) teach us that it is very easy to live by the faith. In one hadith our Prophet (saas) says: “Beware of excessiveness in religion. Indeed excessiveness in religion caused those [nations] before you to perish.” (Recorded by Ahmad and an-Nassai)
Bigotry can today be found among the members of all three faiths. There are Christian bigots, Jewish bigots and irreligious bigots. They ruin the world and engage in terrible wickedness. And there are also Muslim bigots. For example, when Muslims are mentioned in Europe and America, what comes to mind is a bloodthirsty, savage institution spreading hatred all around. Or rather, it used to. We have done away with that perspective and shown the modern face of the Muslim. We have taught the world that Muslims are the best quality and most perfect people in the world. In that way, there has been a positive change in Westerners’ views of Islam.
Do you think Islam is really understood in Western societies?
Because of the influence of the bigots, people in Western countries had a very false impression of what it is to be a Muslim. They equated the dark world, enmity, wickedness, lovelessness, ruthlessness and unkindness of people with not the least thing to do with Islam, totally lacking in its beauties, with the faith and the Qur’an. People imagined that bigotry was Islam. So an enmity toward Islam naturally began in the West. But the real Islam is the Islam people lived by in the Age of Bliss, based on the Qur’an and the life of our Prophet (saas). Islam is based on love, on brotherhood, on peace between communities, unity and solidarity. Our Prophet (saas) was very affectionate and loving toward everyone, and very protective. Had he lived today, he would have been the noblest, kindest, the most affectionate and loving person in the world. What we must do is to show the true Islam to people in the West, to tell them, patiently and kindly, that the bloody, bigoted mindset that appears in the name of Islam has nothing to do with the real Islam, and is even a lifestyle diametrically opposed to it.
What are the best ways to attract people to religion?
There is actually a predisposition to religion in every person’s conscience. The human soul has a great need to believe in Allah. But some people do not heed the voice of their consciences and take pains to live failing to think that the existence of Allah is an absolute reality and ignoring all the proofs of Creation. The important thing at this point is to be able to address people’s consciences when preaching, and to bring them face to face with their own consciences.
In doing this, in preaching the faith, what people will need most of all is sincerity. Sincerity means people being the same on the inside as on the outside, reflecting what they feel in their hearts, being honest, open and transparent. It is essential for people describing the faith to be as sincere as possible. The natural, heartfelt speech and behavior of a sincere person produces a positive and profound effect in people. Therefore, someone who wishes to describe the beauties of Allah’s religion must first possess those beauties in himself, possess the moral values commanded by Allah, and only then describe the beauty that he himself enjoys to others. Only then can he have a positive effect on others. And only then can the other person feel that the person doing the preaching experiences these himself and be positively influenced by his sincere, honest and trust-inspiring words.