One of the distinguishing features of our civilization is the presence of a large number of religions and ethical systems. Humankind has always sought to understand the reasons for creation and his place in the scheme of things. Arnold Toynbee studied the history of man through the ages and put his findings in a monumental work consisting of ten volumes. He summarized that in the history of man, religion stood at the center. In an article in The Observer on October 24, 1954 he wrote: “I have come back at the belief that religion holds the key to the mystery of existence.”
Religion, according to the Oxford Dictionary means, “belief in a superhuman controlling power especially in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship.”
A common feature of all major religions is the belief in a Universal God or Supreme Divine Authority that is Omnipotent and Omniscient. Followers of all major religions believe that the God they worship is the same God for them as well as for others.
Marxism, Freudianism and other ‘non-religious’ beliefs tried to attack the roots of organized religions. But these in turn, developed into belief systems themselves. For instance, when communism was adopted by many countries of the world, it was preached with the same commitment and fervor that characterizes the act of preaching and propagation of religions.
Thus, religion is an integral part of human existence. The Glorious Qur’an says in the following verse:
Say: “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than Allah.” If then they turn back, say ye: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will).” (Al Qur’an 3:64)
CATEGORIZATION OF MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS
Religions of the world can be broadly categorized into Semitic religions and non-Semitic religions. Non-Semitic religions can be divided into Aryan religions and non-Aryan religions.
Semitic & Non-Semitic religions:
Semitic religions are the religions that originated among the Semites. According to the Bible, Prophet Noah (pbuh) had a
son called Shem. The descendants of Shem are known as Semites. Therefore, Semitic religions are the religions that originated among the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians and Phoenicians. Major Semitic religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These religions are Prophetic religions that believe in Divine Guidance sent through prophets of God.
Non-Semitic religions are further sub-divided into Aryan and non-Aryan religions:
Aryan & Non-Aryan religions:
Aryan religions are the religions that originated among the Aryans, a group of Indo-European speaking people that spread through Iran and Northern India in the first half of the second Millennium BC (2000 to 1500 BC). Aryan religions are further sub-divided into Vedic and non-Vedic religions. The Vedic religion is given the misnomer of Hinduism or Brahmanism. The non-Vedic religions are Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. Almost all Aryan religions are non-prophetic religions.
Zoroastrianism is an Aryan, non-Vedic religion, which is not associated with Hinduism. It claims to be a prophetic religion.
Non-Aryan religions have diverse origins. Confucianism and Taoism are of Chinese origin while Shintoism is of Japanese origin. Many of these non-Aryan religions do not have a concept of God. They are better referred to as ethical systems rather than as religions.