ORIGINAL RELIGION – – What the Religious Beliefs of a Primitive People tell us about ORIGINAL RELIGION.

By Asiff Hussein

As Muslims we have certain beliefs based on the basic principle of Unitarianism or Oneness of God. Besides belief in a Supreme God, we also believe in the Angels as God’s Agents doing His Will on Earth, the Prophets as His Messengers, the Day of Judgment and an Afterlife where one earns the Bliss of Paradise or the Torment of Hell according to one’s earthly deeds or misdeeds.

We also believe in the creation of Humanity in the form of the first couple Adam and Eve and their temptation in the Garden of Eden, the existence of Satan and his legion of demons or evil jinn as well as other events such as a Great Flood sent to punish mankind for their misdeeds in past times, a tradition which is also found in the religious traditions, legends and myths of people in almost every corner of the globe.

These beliefs are also found in the Bible, and although the Old Testament which is the scripture of the Jews does not seem to know of a Day of Judgment or an Afterlife, the New Testament revealed to Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) certainly does. Likewise the teachings of the Iranian Prophet Zarathusta who lived before the days of Jesus and Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Them) also encapsulate the idea of One God, the Devil, Angels, Day of Judgment and an Afterlife after passing the Chinvat Bridge which is very similar to the Siratul Mustaqeem or ‘Straight Path’ described in Islamic tradition. Although in later times, Zoroastrianism embraced the idea of dualism or counter-creation by the evil spirit Ahriman as seen in the Zend Avesta, the earlier Gathas of Zarathustra himself are clear that there is only One God without any rival.

Such beliefs in more or less corrupted or degenerated forms are found among many races found all over the world.  In fact the Scottish Anthropologist Andrew Lang very convincingly showed that the idea of a Supreme Being or ‘High God” existed even among the simplest of tribes prior to contact with other peoples and made a case for Urmonotheismus ( a German term meaning Early or Original Monotheism) being the original religion of humanity

However it was surprising to me to find that the basic beliefs of the Andaman Islanders in the middle of almost nowhere, in some very isolated islands in the Indian Ocean, have preserved to a great extent not only the monotheistic ideal, but even other beliefs we share in common in a fairly clear and consistent manner though later accretions grounded in natural phenomena and tribal lore have somewhat blurred the purity of their original religion.

What is most surprising is that these Mincopies – as the inhabitants of the Andaman Islands are called – are a dwarfish, dark-skinned, wooly-haired people with a very primitive way of life living an almost Stone-Age like existence. They have been isolated in the middle of the Indian Ocean for thousands of years. And yet they preserve religious beliefs that share so much in common with the Abrahamic or Desert Religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism as well as the Ancient Persian Tradition.

True, some other faith traditions have also preserved these elements in various forms, but they have been overlaid by others that have since corrupted them to almost the core. Still many peoples in various stages of culture and civilization preserve remnants of a primitive monotheism, belief in angelic beings and so on. The commonalties across tribes, races and even continents are too strong to dismiss these as independent developments. There had to be a common origin.

The following seven basic religious beliefs of the Andaman Islanders have been extracted from the writings of Edward Horace Man’s ‘Aboriginal Inhabitants of the Andaman Islands’ and Armand De Quatrefages ‘The Pygmies’ published in the 1800s and prove beyond doubt that an Original Religion based on the commonalties we share existed from the Days of the Dawn of Man:

1. Belief in a Supreme God called Pulugu who lives in the Heavens . He is Invisible. He was never born, and is immortal. He is a Just and Beneficent God. He created the World and all things animate and inanimate. He is Omniscient and knows the very thoughts of the heart. He is angry when one commits sins and He it is who judges the souls after death, pronouncing for each of them its sentence which sends them to paradise or a sort of purgatory. It is from His Hand that the Mincopies say they receive all that sustains them including mammals, birds and turtles.

2. Belief in the Morowin (Spirits of Heaven), angelic beings who throw into the sea fish and crustaceans for human food and are hence like the agents of Pulugu who are sent to benefit these tribes.

3. Belief in Demons such as Eremchawgal who wish man no good and who with his brood wander through the jungle, ready to pierce with invisible arrows anyone in darkness without a firebrand, the light of which scares them off.

4. Belief in the Resurrection. This event will take place after an earthquake brought about by Puluga’s Orders. The Tree which supports the earth will be broken, and the earth itself will turn. All living things will perish in anticipation of an afterlife.

5. Belief in an Afterlife. The soul separates at death and between the earth and the eastern portion of the sky stretches a bridge made of invisible rushes connecting the earth with a place of delights, a paradise called Jereg close to which is Jereglarmugu which is a sort of purgatory or place of torments to where Puluga sends the souls of the dead guilty of crimes such as murder.

6. Creation of Man- Puluga created a man called Tomo who unlike them was bearded. He lived in Wotaemi, the Mincopie Garden of Eden. Puluga made him to know the different kinds of fruit trees scattered over the jungle which then covered only part of the Middle Island. He also taught him how to hunt and make the bow and arrow. Puluga also intervened to create the first woman Elewadi and taught her how to make nets, weave baskets and paint herself with red ochre. Their offspring became numerous even during the lifetime of their father and scattered by couples all over the country, resulting in as great diversity of languages.

7. The Deluge. After the death of Tomo, men started neglecting Puluga’s prescriptions and in His Anger the Divinity sent a Great Flood which covered the whole earth and destroyed all living things. Two men and two women who were in a canoe escaped, and were the ancestors of the present islanders. The God declared that the deluge was a punishment for their disobedience and that they would face the same punishment again if they fell into evil ways. From that time, the Mincopies say the Prescriptions of Puluga have been carefully observed.

For more details see: https://asiffhussein.com/category/writings-on-islam/

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