Saints and Demons

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines saints as ‘one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent for holiness’, although to a commoner such as me a saint is a person acknowledged as holy or virtuous and typically regarded as being in heaven after death. To the masses the general acceptance is that the saints are endowed with supernatural powers and perform miracles; the vast throngs of humanity at the tombs, memorials and shrines are a testimony to this belief.

For a mere mortal sainthood is well nigh out of his reach unless he or she performs a miracle; out of many definitions of miracle two are mentioned below:

  • ‘An event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God, operating without the use of means capable of being discerned by the senses, and designed to authenticate the divine commission of a religious teacher and the truth of his message ( John 2:18 ; Matthew 12:38 ).’ It is an occurrence at once above nature and above man. It shows the intervention of a power that is not limited by the laws either of matter or of mind, a power interrupting the fixed laws which govern their movements, a supernatural power.

  • An unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God. {Simple definition in Merriam Webster Dictionary)

However, the concepts of Saints  vary from religion to religion and even in sub sects within the religion. In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth. In Roman Catholic teaching, a person does not become a saint unless he/she is “beatified” or “canonized” by the Pope or prominent bishop. In the Bible, everyone who has received Jesus Christ by faith is a saint. In Roman Catholic practice, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshipped. In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.

In Hinduism the term Swami refers to a saint. Swami means “someone who has achieved higher knowledge and is his own master.” Hindu saints are not formally canonized but rather are recognized for their achievements by popular acclaim. Each type of saint has a different focus. Gurus are teachers, and swamis are yogis or religious gurus who also have a formal religious credential. The rishis are sages or poets. Sadhus are ascetics, mendicant monks and others who have renounced the world. Beyond saint, a siddha is one who has attained perfection or magical powers.

The Quran does not mention saints nor gives leeway for a human to be considered a saint. Obeseince on shrines, memorials, and the like are forbidden as bowing to any deity alive or dead is sinful.  However, Sufism, has its “saints”. In some countries inhabited by Muslims we do see the shrines and the tombs of the Sufi “saints.” Muslims influenced by Sufism observe festival days on the anniversary of a saint’s death, and they believe that these so-called dead saints can perform miracles on behalf of the living.

The bottom line is that all religions consider a person as a saint, who through his actions and deeds helped the mankind especially the needy and the helpless. Through their untiring effort they have saved many lives, restored dignity and belief, given shelter and succour and have been a guide and role model. I do not want to delve in the miracle aspect which is a matter of individual and collective belief and faith and I have no reason to debate it.

Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, Dr. Alexander Fleming, Dr. Jonas Salk, Edward Jenner are some of the names that come to my mind out of the many who have performed miracles, an unusual or wonderful event that is considered to be caused by the power given to them by God! Imagine, as on today the absence of discovery of malaria tablets, penicillin, polio drops and smallpox vaccine to name a few! I shudder and so would you! Their discoveries have saved us and given new lease of life, and yet the discoverers are not considered saints! Their recognition in the form of a Nobel Prize and laudatory references in books compares insignificantly with worship and overwhelming respect and adulation of the ‘religious saints.’ For me they are saints and in heaven and may their soul rest in peace!

“I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed. All you have to do is think about what Hitler – and Stalin did. Almost certainly they were possessed by the Devil. You can tell by their behaviour and their actions, from the horrors they committed and the atrocities that were committed on their orders. That’s why we need to defend society from demons.” According to secret Vatican documents, recently released, of wartime pontiff Pope Pius XII.

Most do agree with the Pope, however, a society can not be defended by mere pontification and pronunciations in close quarters by the upholders of the society, they do have a role in openly and unequivocally exposing and condemning the perpetrators of heinous crimes against humanity. Having observed and felt the pain through the catastrophe, the perpetrator needs to be canonized as ‘Demon’ for the benefit of future generations who will identify them  for their cruelty and  misdeeds as they do their Saints for their goodness and good deeds.

I would certainly like my grandson to read in books about Demon Yazeed and forever call him as such!


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