Every religion has a certain group of` people who believe that over a period of time, religion becomes distorted, polluted and misinterpreted as a result of` which, it loses its originality, purity and simplicity.
These people then make it their mission to revive the original teachings of religion and implement them to reform the society.
Since they believe that innate human nature leads man to a sinful life; evil must be thus eliminated from the society and people must be led to the righteous path and their wrong doings corrected using coercive methods and severe punishment.
To implement their religious ideals, these groups struggle to capture state power and then use it to transform society according to their particular vision.
History has several examples of individuals who, gripped with religious fervour and zeal and desirous of accomplishing their ideas, strove to seize power and implement their agenda. The followers of these religious movements claim to be `rightly guided people,` assigned by God to convert the world into a `religious utopia` so that everyone would strictly follow divine commands.
One example of this breed is Savonarola (d.1498), the Florentine priest who was a fiery speaker and a religious extremist. He attacked the authority of the church and the spiritual power of the Pope. He condemned corruption and irreligious innovation which he believed had disfigured the teachings of Christianity. In doing so, he won the support of a group of young followers with whom he shared his views of societal change. With their help, he attained the political power needed to implement his religious ideas. He also promulgated a set of laws intended to make a `new Jerusalem` out of Florence. He proposed that exile and capital punishment should be abolished. He wanted Florence to become a glorious, peaceful and prosperous state.
Savonarola also introduced moralistic laws against sodomy, consumption of alcohol, `immodest` attire and `immoral` practices. Young people who followed him patrolled the street and public places to maintain and monitor a strict check on people, a formula that many similar zealots have also followed.
After enduring Savonarola for some time, Pope Alexander invited him to Rome but Savonarola refused to oblige him and continued to deliver his fiery sermons. Finally, the Pope excommunicated him and asked the political authorities of Florence to take action against him. Savonarola was arrested, put on trial and condemned to death. He was publicly burned at stake in the city square in Florence; bringing his short-lived religious utopia to an end.
Another attempt to implement religious ideas was made in Geneva by John Calvin (dl564) who broke away from the Catholic Church and established the Calvinist sect. He was invited by the authorities in Geneva to come and set up a religious utopia in the city based on his religious beliefs and teachings. After assuming political power, he was in a position to implement his religious agenda. As a first step, he exiled people who disagreed with him while those in favour of his beliefs were allowed to stay and observe his laws. In case of refusal, they would be excommunicated from the church, exiled from the city, imprisoned and even awarded the death penalty.
His legislation included prohibition on feasts, dancing, singing, pictures, statues, relics, church bells, organs, altar candles; `indecent or irreligious` songs, staging or attending theatrical plays; jewelry, lace, or `immodest` dress; extravagant entertainment; swearing, gambling, playing cards and hunting.
Traders and shopkeepers involved in adulteration or weighed less were severely punished. The Bible was made available everywhere. Laughing during religious services was regarded as a sin. Every citizen was required to thank God before eating, and those who deviated from these repressive laws were severely punished. During the six years of his rule, 150 heretics were burnt alive. Eventually, the citizens of Geneva became fed up of this religious totalitarianism and conflicts arose, Calvin was exiled and the old political, social and religious order of the city was restored.
[Quran2;256 There be no compulsion in religion. If Allah wanted He could have made all of you a single nation. But He willed otherwise in order to test you in what He has given you; therefore try to excel one another in good deeds. Ultimately you all shall return to Allah; then He will show you the truth of those matters in which you dispute. Say "The Truth is from your Lord": let him who will believe and let him who will reject (it): for the wrongdoers We have prepared a Fire. Quran;67:2 He Who created Death and Life that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might Oft-Forgiving." 18:7 That which is on earth We have made but as a glittering show for the earth in order that We may test them as to which of them are best in conduct. (Added to original here)]
In the subcontinent, Syed Ahmad Shaheed and his zealous followers leda jihad movement, the Tariyah-iMuhhamadiyah, and founded an Islamic state in what is today known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He declared himself caliph and Amir-ul-momineen.
He introduced strict Islamic laws according to the Wahabi interpretation.
Those who protested or refused to abide by these severe strictures were severely punished. Eventually tiring of his fundamentalist religious policies, the Pathans rebelled against him and expelled his followers from Peshawar.
He and most of` his disciples were killed in the battle of Balakot in 1832.
Extremists are resented because they forbid people from enjoying even simple entertainment and merry-making while enforcing a strict code whereby people are required to remain fearful and remorseful; focusing purely on the life after death. According to them, people should devote their entire lifetime to the salvation of the soul. Instead of thinking about this world, they should regard the next world as their final and permanent abode. Unsurprisingly, most people aren’t willing to submit to this kind of rule, except under duress. Instead of thinking about this world, they should regard the next world as their final and permanent abode.
Unsurprisingly, most people aren`t willing to submit to this kind of rule, except under duress.
By Mubarak Ali - Dawn.com
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *