Towards Understanding IslamWritten by: by Sayyid Abul Ala Al-Mawdudi :: (View All Articles by: Sayyid Abul Ala Al-Mawdudi)
Table of Contents
Ours is an age of anxiety and restlessness. A change is imperceptibly overtaking the world. The old order is disintegrating; the new one is, however, yet to come. And history tells us that such ages of restlessness have also been periods of birth for new movements and cultures. The world is in the grip of a tension and awaits a twentieth-century renaissance of man.
A significant feature of the present century is the new and wide-spread trend of Islam revival. After a long period of stagnation the world of Islam is rising from its stupor. A new awakening has appeared on the horizon; a new life is being infused into the community of Islam. This trend is visible in every country and at every place and has within it the possibilities of its becoming the harbinger of a new age.
But this revivalist trend can become the messenger of a New only if is accompanied by an intellectual revolution-a thorough appraisal of the intellectual and cultural heritage of Islam and its representation to the world in the language of today. Thus the importance of Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and Maulana Maududi as the authors of this new intellectual awakening is immense. Maulana Maududi is the author of more than eighty books and pamphlets on Islam and has written more or less on each and every aspect of Islamic culture. His writings have provided the present-day revival of Islam with its intellectual foundations.
TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING ISLAM also is one of his important book. It is an elementary study of Islam and a simple, understandable and unsophisticated interpretation of the religion for the younger folk. It has not been written in the brow-beaten style of theology books, through which the reader gets enmeshed in a quagmire of legal quibbling and is unable to understand the real spirit and message of Islam. The work is simple exposition of Islam, its approach to life, the articles of faith, its worships and prayers and the scheme of life which it envisages. The method of exposition used in the book is the same as adopted in the Qur'an itself and an attempt has been made to present in it a summary of the teachings of Islam. And as the book is primarily for the students and younger people, the discussion has been made to burden the mind of the reader with difficult or philosophic dissertations.
Originally the book was written in 1932 in Urdu and was intended as a test-book for students of the higher classes and the general public. It filled an important gap and became a primer of Islam. Most of the schools and colleges of the indo-Pakistan sub-continent adopted it as a text- book in theology and made its study a part of their curricula. It has been translated into Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Gujrati, Sindhi, Tamil, Turkish, Japanese and French languages. Realizing its importance for the English-reading public, the late Dr. Abdul Ghani translated it into English in 1940. But for a number of reasons, including the fact that in the latest editions of the Urdu text the author had made certain additions and alterations the need has long been felt for a new translation. I have made an attempt to fulfill this need. The present translation is altogether a new one and only a few pages of the earlier translation have been embodied in it, and these too with necessary changes and alterations. The text on which it is based is that of the sixteenth (revised) edition of the Risala-e-Diniyat.
Strictly speaking it is not a literal world-for-word translation of the original text. I have tried to follow the original as faithfully as possible, but have departed from a strictly literal rendering wherever necessary in the interest of the language. I have also added explanatory notes wherever necessary.
The learned author has, however, been kind enough to go through the translation, which therefore has his approval and the reader can rest assured that the translation is a faithful one.
I am grateful to all those friends who have kindly helped me in the preparation of this book. I am particularly grateful to khwaja Abdul wahid who went through the manuscript and gave me very helpful suggestions and to my friend Mr. Ansar Azam who assisted me in the translation of Chapters 5 and Chapters 6. My thanks are also due to Mr. Shahzad Muhammad who ungrudgingly typed form my badly written manuscript again and again.
1,New Queens Road
23rd March, 1959
THE MEANING OF ISLAM
Every religion of the world has been named either after the name of its founder or after the community and nation in which that religion took its birth. For instance, Christianity takes its appellation from the name of its prophet Jesus Christ; Zoroastrians from its founder zoroaster; and Judaism, the religion of the Jews, from the name of the tribe Judah (of the country of judea) wherein it took its birth. Similar is the case with other religions. But not so with Islam. This religion enjoys the unique distinction of having no such association with any particular person or people. The word ?Islam? does not confer any such relationship-for it does not belong to any particular person, people, or country. It is neither the product of any human mind nor is it confined to any particular community. It is a universal religion and its objective is to create and cultivate in man the quality and attitude of Islam.
Islam, as a matter of fact, is an attributive title. Whosoever possesses this attributive, may he belong to any race, community, country, or clan, is a Muslim. According to the Qur'an (the Holy Book of the Muslims), among every people and in all ages there have been good and righteous people who possessed this attribute of them were and are Muslims.
This automatically brings us to the question: What does Islam mean? And who is a Muslim?
?Islam? is an Arabic word and connotes submission, surrender, and obedience As a religion, Islam stands for complete submission and obedience to Allah and that is why it is called ?ISLAM?. Everyone can see that the universe we live in is an orderly universe. There is law and order among all the units that comprise this universe. Everything is assigned a place in a grand scheme, which is working in a magnificent and superb way. The sun, the moon, the stars and in fact all the heavenly bodies are knit together in a splendid system. They follow an unalterable law and do not make even the slightest deviation from their ordained course. The earth rotates on its own axis and in its revolution round the sun scrupulously follows the path laid down for it. Similarly, everything in the world, from the little whirling electron to the mighty nebulae, invariably follows its own laws. Matter energy, and life-all obey their laws and grow and change and live and die in accordance with those laws. EVEN in the human world the laws of nature are quite manifest. Man's birth, growth, and life are all regulated by a set of biological laws. He derives sustenance from nature in
Accordance with an unalterable law. All the organs of his body from the small tissues to the heart and the brain are governed by the laws prescribed for them. In Short, ours is a law-governed universe and everything in it is following the course that has been ordained for it. This powerful, all-pervasive law, which governs all that comprises the universe, from the tiniest specks of dust to the magnificent galaxies in high heavens, is the law of God, the creator and ruler of the universe. As the entire creation obeys the law of God, the whole universe, therefore, literally follows the religion of Islam-for Islam signifies nothing but obedience and submission to Allah, the Lord of the universe. The sun, the moon, the earth, and all other heavenly bodies are thus ?Muslim?. So is the case with air, water, and heat, stones, trees, and animals. Everything in the universe is ?Muslim? for it obeys God by submission to his laws. Even a man who refuses to believe in God, or offers his worship to someone other than Allah has perforce to be a ?Muslim? as far as his bodily existence is concerned. For his entire life, from the embryonic stage to the body?s dissolution info dust after death, and every tissue of his muscles and every limb of his body follow the course prescribed for each by God?s law. His very tongue which, on account of his ignorance, advocates the denial of God or professes multiple deities, is in its very nature a ?Muslim?. His head which he wantonly bows to other besides Allah is a born Muslim. His heart wherein, through his lack of true knowledge, he cherishes love and reverence for others, is ?Muslim? by intuition. These are all obedient to the divine Law, and their functions and movements are governed by the injunctions of that law alone. This, in short, is the real position of man and the universe. Let us now examine the problem in a different light. Man is so constituted that there are two aspects of his life: two distinct spheres of his activity. One is the sphere in which he finds himself totally regulated by the Divine Law. He cannot budge an inch or move a step away from it. Nor can he evade it in any way or from. In fact, like other creatures, he is completely caught in the grip of the law of nature and is bound to follow it. But there is another sphere of his activity as well. He has been endowed with reason and intellect. He has the power to think and form judgments, to choose and reject, and to adopt and spurn. He is free to adopt whatever course of life chooses. He can embrace any faith, adopt any way of life and formulate his living according to whatever ideologies he likes. He may prepare his own code of conduct or accept one formulated by others. He has been bestowed with free will and can chalk out his own course of behaviour. In this latter aspect, he, unlike the other creatures, has been given freedom of thought, choice, and action.
Both these aspects distinctly co-exist in man?s life.
In the first he, like all other creatures, is a born Muslim, invariably obeys the injunctions of God, and is bound to remain so. As far as the second aspect is concerned, he is free to become or not to become a Muslim. Here he has been given the freedom of choice-and it is the way a person exercises this freedom, which divides mankind into two groups: believers and non-believers. An individual who chooses to acknowledge his creator, accepts Him as his real Master, honestly and scrupulously submits to His laws and injunctions and follows the code He has revealed unto man for his individual and social life, thereby becomes a perfect Muslim. He has, so to say, achieved completeness in his Islam by consciously deciding to obey God in the domain in which he was endowed with freedom and choice. Now his entire life has become one of submission to God and there is no conflict in his personality. He is a perfect Muslim and his Islam is complete-for this submission of his entire self to the will of Allah is Islam and nothing but Islam. He has now consciously submitted to Him whom he had already been unconsciously obeying. He has now willingly offered obedience to the Master whom he already owed obedience unintentionally. His knowledge is now real for he has acknowledged the Being who endowed him with the power to learn and to know. Now his reason and judgment are set on an even keel-for he has rightly decided to obey the Being who bestowed upon him the faculty of thinking and judging. His tongue also is truthful for it expresses with conviction its confession of the Lord who gave it the faculty speech. New the whole of this existence is an embodiment of, in all spheres of life, he voluntarily as well as involuntarily obeys the laws of the same One God with the whole universe for he worships Him whom the whole world is for him and he is for God.
In contrast to the man described above, there is the man who, although a born Muslim and unconsciously
Remaining one throughout his life, does not exercise his faculties of reason, intellect, and intuition for recognizing his Lord and creator and misuses his freedom of choice by choosing to deny Him. Such a man becomes an unbeliever-in the language of Islam a kafir.
Kufr literally means ?to cover? or ?to conceal?. The man who denies God is called kafir (concealer) because he conceals by his disbelief what is inherent in his nature and embalmed in his own soul-for, indeed, his nature is instinctively imbued with ?Islam?. His whole body, every sinew and every fibre, functions in obedience to that instinct. Each and every particle of existence-living or lifeless-functions in accordance with ?Islam? and is fulfilling the duty that has been assigned to it. But the vision of this man has been blurred, his intellect has been befogged , and he is unable to see the manifest. His own nature has become concealed from his eyes and he thinks and acts in utter disregard of it. The reality become estranged form him and he gropes in the dark such is the nature of kufr.
Kufr is a form of ignorance, rather it is ignorance pure and simple. What ignorance can be greater than to be ignorant of God, the creator, the Lord of the universe? A man observes the vast panorama of nature, the superb mechanism that is ceaselessly working, the grand design that is manifest in every nook and corner of the creation-he observes this vast machine, but he does not know who is its maker and Director. He looks to his own body, the wonderful organism that works in the most superb way, and uses it to achieve his own ends but is unable to comprehend the force that brought it into existence, the engineer who designed and produced this machine, the creator who made the unique living being out of lifeless stuff: carbon, calcium, sodium, and the like. He witnesses a superb plan in the universe-but fails to see the planner behind it. he sees great beauty and harmony in its working-but not the creator of this all. He observes wonderful design in nature-but not the Designer! In the universe all around him he observes the choicest demonstrations of skill in science and wisdom, mathematics and engineering, design and purpose, but he blinds himself to the being Who brought all this vast incomprehensible universe into existence. How can a man, who has blinded himself to this great and significant reality, approach the true perspectives of knowledge? How can the vistas of truth and knowledge be opened to such a man? How can one who has made the wrong beginning reach the right destination? He will fail to find the clue to Reality. The Right path will remain concealed for him and whatever be his endeavors in sciences and arts, he will never be able to avail himself of the lights of truth and wisdom. He would be groping in the dark, and stumbling in the gloom of ignorance.
Not only that; kufr is also a tyranny, nay, the wars of tyrannies. And what is ?tyranny?? It is an act of cruel and unjust use of any force or power. If you force a thing to act unjustly or to act against its true nature, its real will and its inherent attitude,-that is tyranny, root and branch.
We have seen that all that is in the universe is obedient to God the creator. to obey, to live in accordance with His will and His Law or (to put it more precisely) to be a Muslim is ingrained in their very nature. God has given manpower over these things, but it is incumbent in the very nature of these things that they should be used for the fulfillment of His will and not otherwise. But one who disobeys God and resorts to kufr is the person who perpetrates the greatest injustice, for he uses all these powers of body and mind to rebel against the course of nature and becomes an unwilling instrument in the drama of disobedience. He forces his head to bow down before deities other than God and cherishes in his heart the love, reverence, and fear of other powers in utter disregard to the instinctive urge of these organs. He uses his own powers and all those things upon which he has authority against the explicit of good and thus establishes a reign of tyranny. Can there be any greater injustice, tyranny, and cruelty than that exhibited by this man who exploits and misuses everything under the sun and unscrupulously forces them to a course which affronts nature and justice? Kufr is not mere tyranny; it is, to say the least, sheer rebellion, ingratitude, and infidelity. After all, what is the reality of man? What is his power and authority? Is he himself the creator of his mind, his heart, his soul, and other organs of his body-or have they been created by God? Has he himself created the universe and all that is within her-or has it been created by God? Who has harnessed all the powers and energies for the service of man-man or God? If everything has been created by God and God alone, then to whom do they belong? Who is their real owner? Who is their rightful sovereign? Verily, it is God and none else. And if God is the creator, the Master, and the sovereign, then who would be a greater rebel than the man who uses God?s creation against His injunctions-who makes his mind think against God, harbors in his heart thoughts against Him, and uses his various faculties against the sovereign?s will. If a servant betrays his master you denounce him as faithless. If an officer become disloyal to the state you dub him as traitor and renegade. If a person cheats his benefactor you have no hesitation in condemning him as ingrate. But what match can this betrayal, this ingratitude, and this rebellion have to the one which the disbeliever commits by his Kufr? After all, who is the real mainspring of all power and authority? Who gave man command over the resources? Who elevated people to positions of high authority and power? All that a man has and all that he uses for the benefit of others is a bestowal of God. The greatest obligation that man owes on this earth is to his parents. But who has implanted the love of children in the parents? hearts? Who endowed the mother with the will and power to nurture, nourish, and feed her children? Who inspired the parents with the passion to spend everything in their possession for the well being of their children? A little reflection would reveal that God is the greatest benefactor of man. He is his creator, Lord, Nourisher, sustainer, as well as his real king and sovereigns. And this being the position of God vis-à¶is man, what can be greater betrayal, ingratitude, rebellion, and treason than Kufr, through which a man denies and disobeys his real Lord and sovereign?
Do not think that bay committing Kufr man does or can do any harm to God Almighty. No, not the least. An insignificant speck on the face of a tiny ball in this limitless universe that man is, what harm can he do to the Lord of the universe whose dominions are so infinitely vast that we have not yet been able to explore their boundaries even with the help of the most powerful telescope; Whose power is so great that myriad's of heavenly bodies, like the Earth, the Moon, the sun and the stars, are at His bidding, whirling link tiny balls; Whose wealth is so boundless that He is the sole Master of the whole universe; and who provides for all and needs none to provide for Him. Man?s revolt against Him can do Him no harm; on the other hand by his disobedience, man treads the path of utter ruin and disgrace.
The inevitable consequence of this revolt and denial of reality is a failure in the ultimate ideals of life. such a rebel will never find the thread of real knowledge and vision; for the knowledge that fails to reveal its own creator can reveal no truth. Such a man?s intellect and reason always run astray; for reason which errs in knowing its own creator cannot illumine the paths of life. Such a man will meet with failures in all the affairs of his life. His morality, his civic and social life, his struggle for livelihood and his family life, in short, his entire living, will be upset. He will spread confusion and disorder on the earth. He will without the least compunction, shed blood, violate other men?s rights, be cruel to them, and create disorder and destruction in the world. His perverted thoughts and ambitions, his blurred vision and disturbed scale of values, and his evil-spelling activities would make life bitter for him and for all around him. Such a man would destroy the calm and poise of life on earth. And in the life hereafter he would be held guilty for the crimes he committed upon his nature, his powers, and resources. Every organ of his body-his very brain, eyes, nose, hands, and feet-will complain against the injustice and cruelty he had done unto them. every tissue of his being will decry him before God Who, as the very fountain of justice, will award him the fullest punishment he deserves. This is the inglorious consequence of Kufr. It leads to the blind alley of utter failure, here and hereafter.
After surveying the evils and disadvantages of Kufr, let us now cast a glance over the blessings of Islam. You find in the world around you and in the small kingdom of your own self innumerable manifestations of God?s divine power. This grand universe, which ceaselessly works with matchless order and in accordance with an unalterable law, is in itself a witness to the fact that its Designer, Creator, and Governor is an Omnipotent, All-powerful Being with infinite, all-embracing, and limit-less power, knowledge, and resources, Whose wisdom is the most perfect, and Whom nothing in the universe dare disobey. It is in the very nature of man, as it is with every other thing in this universe, to obey Him. As a matter of fact, he is unconsciously obeying His Law day in and day out, because the moment he goes against this Law, he is exposed to death and destruction. This is the law of nature, our everyday observance.
Besides endowing man with the capacity to acquire knowledge, the faculty to think and ponder, and the sense of distinguishing right from wrong, God has granted him with a certain amount of freedom of will and action. In this freedom lies man?s real trial; his knowledge, his wisdom, his power of discrimination, and his freedom of will and action are all being tried and tested. In this trial and test man has not been obliged to adopt any particular course, for by compulsion the very object of the trial would have been defeated. Evidently if in an examination you are compelled to write a certain answer to a question, the examination will be of no use. Your merit can be properly judged only if you are allowed to answer the questions freely, according to your own knowledge and understanding. If your answer is correct you will succeed, and will get access to future progress; and if your answer is wrong, you will fail, and your failure will bar the way to further progress. Similar is the situation which man faces in the world. God has given him freedom of will and action so that he may remain free to choose whatever attitude in life he likes and considers proper for himself-Islam or Kufr. Now, on the one hand, there is a man who under-stands neither his own nature nor that of the universe. He errs in recognizing his real Master and in knowing His attributes, and misuses his freedom by pursuing the path of disobedience and revolt. such a man has failed in the trial of his knowledge, intelligence, and duty-consciousness. He has failed to come up to the standard and does not deserve a better a destiny than the one discussed above.
On the other hand, there is another man who emerges successful from this trial. By the correct use of his knowledge and intellect he recognizes his creator, reposes belief in Him, and, in spite of being under no compulsion to do so, chooses the path of obedience to Him. He does not err in distinguishing the right from the wrong and chooses to follow the right despite the fact that he had the power to lean towards evil. He understands his own nature, and realizes the law and realities of nature and, despite the power and freedom of adopting any course, adopts the way of obedience and loyalty to God the creator. He is successful in his trial because he has used his intellect and all other faculties properly. He uses his eyes to see the Reality, his ears to listen to the Truth, his mind to form right opinions and puts all his heart and soul in following the right way he has so chosen. He chooses Truth, sees the reality, and willingly and joyfully submits to his Lord and Master. He is intelligent, truthful, and dutiful, for he has chosen light over darkness, and after seeing the light of reality has responded to its call willingly and enthusiastically. Thus he has proved by his conduct that he is not only a seeker after Truth but is its knower and worshipper as well. Verily, he is on the Right path, and such a man is destined to succeed in this world and in the life to come.
Such a man will always choose the Right path in every field of knowledge and action. The man who knows God with all His attributes knows the beginning as well as the ultimate end of Reality. He can never be led astray, for his first step is on the right path, and he is sure of the direction and destination of his journey in life. In philosophy he will ponder over the secrets of the universe, and will try to fathom the mysteries of nature, but, unlike an unbelieving philosopher, he will not lose his way in the maze of doubt and skepticism. His path being illumined with Divine Vision, his every step would fall in right direction. In science, he will endeavor to know the laws of nature, uncover the hidden treasures of earth and direct all the hitherto unknown forces of mind and matter-all for the betterment of humanity. He will try his level best to explore all avenues of knowledge and power and to harness all that exists in earth and heavens in the interests of mankind. At every stage of his inquiry his God-consciousness will save him from making evil and destructive uses of science and scientific method. He will never conceive himself claiming to be a master of all these objects, boasting to be the conqueror of nature, arrogating to himself the godly and sovereign powers and nourishing the ambition of subverting the world, subduing the human race and establishing his supremacy over all and sundry by means fair and foul.
Such an attitude of revolt and defiance can never be entertained by a Muslim scientist-only a Kafir scientist can fall a prey to such illusions and by submitting to them expose the entire human race to dangers of total destruction and annihilation. A Muslim scientist, on the other hand, will behave in an altogether different way. The deeper his insight into the world of science, the stronger will be his faith in God. His head will bow down before Him in gratitude. His feelings will be that as his Master has blessed him with greater power and knowledge so he must exert himself for his own good and for the good of humanity. Instead of arrogance there will be humility. Instead of power-drunkenness there will be strong realization to serve humanity. His freedom will not be unbridled. He will be guided by the tenets of morality and Divine Revelation. Thus science would in his hands, instead of becoming an instrument of destruction, become an agency for human welfare and moral regeneration. And this is the way in which he will express his gratitude to his Master for the gifts and blessings He has bestowed upon man.
Similarly, in history, economics, politics, law, and other branches of arts and science, a Muslim will no-where lag behind a Kafir in the fields of inquiry and struggle, but their angles of view and consequently their modus operandi will be widely different. A Muslim will study every branch of knowledge in its right perspective, will strive for the right objective, and will arrive at right conclusion. In history he will draw correct lessons from the past experiences of man, and will find out true causes of the rise and fall of civilization. He will try to benefit from all that was good and right in the past and will scrupulously avoid all that had led to the decline and fall of nations. In politics his sole objective will be to strive for the establishment of a polity wherein peace, justice, fraternity, and goodness reign, where man is a brother of man and respects his humanity, where no form of exploitation or slavery is rampant, where rights of the individual are respectfully upheld, and where the powers of the state are considered as a sacred trust from God and are used for the common welfare of all. In the field of law, the endeavor of a Muslim will be to make it the true embodiment of justice and the real protector of the rights of all-particularly of the weak. He will see that everybody gets his due share and no injustice or oppression is inflicted upon anyone. He will respect the law, make others respect it, and will see that it is administered justly, fairly, and equitably.
The moral life of a Muslim will always be filled with godliness, piety, righteousness and truthfulness. He will live in the world with the belief that God alone is the master of all that whatever he and other men possess has been given by God, that the powers he wields are only a trust from God, that the freedom he has been endowed with is not to be used indiscriminately, and that it is in his own interest to use it in accordance with God?s Will. He will constantly keep in view that one day he will have to return to the Lord and submit an account of his entire life. The sense of accountability will always remain firmly implanted in his mind and he will never behave in a carefree and irresponsible way.
Think of the moral excellence of the man who lives with this mental attitude-his will be a life of purity and piety and love and altruism. He will be a blessing unto mankind. His thinking would not be polluted with evil thoughts and perverted ambitions. He will abstain from seeing evil, hearing evil, and doing evil. He will guard his tongue and will never utter a word of life. He will earn his living through just and fair means and will prefer hunger to a food acquired unfairly through exploitation or injustice. He will never be a party to oppression or violation of human life and honour, whatever be their form or colour. He will never yield to evil, however high the defiance may cost him. He will be an embodiment of goodness and nobility and will uphold right and truth even at the cost of his life. He will abhor all shades of injustice and will stand firm for truth, undaunted by the tempests of adversity. Such a man will be a power to be reckoned with. He is bound to succeed. Nothing on earth can deter him or impede his way.
He will be the most honored and the most respected one. No one can excel him in this respect. How can humiliation ever visit a person who is not prepared to bow his head or even spread his hand for any favor before anyone except God the Almighty, the Sovereign of the universe?
He will be most powerful and effective. No one can be more powerful than he-for he fears none but God and seeks blessings from none but Him. What power can make him deviate from the Right Path? What wealth can buy his faith? What force can mould his conscience? What power can coerce his behaviour?
He will be the most wealthy and rich. No one in the world can be richer or more independent than he-for he will live a life of austerity, satiety, and contentment. He will be neither sensualist, nor indulgent, nor greedy. He will be contented with whatever he earns fairly and honestly and even if heaps of ill-gotten wealth are put before him he will not even like to look at them, to say the least of availing them. He will have the peace and contentment of heart-and what can be a greater wealth than this?
He will be the most revered, popular, and the loved one. No one can be more lovable than he-for he lives a life of charity and benevolence. He will do justice to all and sundry, discharge his duties honestly, and work for the good of others sincerely. People's hearts would be naturally drawn towards him and they would like him, love him, and revere him.
He will be the most trusted and honored one. No one can be trustworthy than he-for he will not betray his trust, nor will he go astray from righteousness: he will be true to his word, and straightforward and honest in his dealings. He will be fair and just in all his affairs, for he is sure that God is ever- present, ever vigilant. Words fail to describe the credit and goodwill, which such a man commands. Can there be anyone who will not trust him?-such is the life and character of a Muslim.
If you understand the true character of a Muslim, you will be convinced that he cannot live in humiliation, abasement, or subjugation. He is bound to prevail and no power on earth can overwhelm him or subdue him. For Islam inoculates in him the qualities which cannot be overshadowed by any charm or illusion.
And after living a respectable and honorable life on this earth, he will return to his Creator Who will shower upon him the choicest of His blessings-for he discharged his duty ably, fulfilled his mission successfully, and emerged from the trial triumphantly. He is successful in life in this world and in the hereafter will live in eternal peace, joy, and bliss.
This is Islam, the natural religion of man, the religion, which is not associated with any person, people, period, or place. It is the way of nature, the religion of man. In every age, in ever country, and among every people, all God-knowing and truth-loving men have believed and lived this very religion. They were all Muslim, irrespective of the fact whether they called that way Islam or anything else. Whatever is name was, it signified Islam and nothing but Islam.
FAITH AND OBEDIENCE
ISLAM means obedience to God. And it is a matter of common sense that this obedience cannot ensure in full measure unless man knows certain basic facts of live and reposes firm faith in them. What are those facts? And what are the primary essentials, which a man must know to fashion his life, in accordance with the Divine Way? This we propose to discuss in the present chapter.
First of all, one should have unshakable belief in the existence of God, for unless a man has a firm and unalloyed faith in God?s existence, how can he render obedience to Him?
Then one must know the attributes of God. It is the knowledge of the attributes of God, which enables man to cultivate in him the nobles of human qualities and to fashion his life in virtue and godliness. If a man dose not know that there is one and only one God Who is the Creator, the ruler, and the Sustainer of the universe and there is none else to share with Him even a shred of the Divine power and authority, he may fall a prey to false god?s and offer his homage to them solicit their favor. But if he knows the divine attribute of tawhid (oneness of God), there is not the least possibility of his falling a prey to this illusion. Similarly, if a man knows that God is omnipresent and omniscient and He sees, hears, and knows everything that we do in public or in private-nay, even our unexpressed thoughts!-then how can he afford to be indulgent and disobedient to God? He will feel that he is under eternal vigil and will, therefore, behave in the most appropriate way. But he who is not aware of these attributes of God may be misled, because of his ignorance, into God?s disobedience. So is the case with all other attributes of God. the fact is that the qualities and attributes which a man must possess, if he wants to pursue the way of Islam, can be cultivated and developed only out of profound knowledge of the attributes of God. It is the knowledge of God?s attributes, which purifies a man?s mind and soul, his beliefs, morals, and actions. And a mere cursory acquaintance with or just an academic knowledge of these attributes is not sufficient for the task ahead-there must be an unflinching conviction firmly rooted in the mind and heart of man so that he may remain immune from insidious doubts and perversions.
Moreover, one must know in detail the way of living by following which one can seek the pleasure of God. Unless a man knows the likes and dislikes of God, how can he choose and adopt the one and reject the other? If a man has no knowledge of the Divine Law, how can he follow it? Thus the knowledge of the Divine Law and the Revealed code of Life is also extremely essential in this respect.
But here, again, mere knowledge will not suffice. Man must have full confidence and conviction that it is the Divine Law and that his salvation lies in following this code alone. For knowledge without this conviction will fail to spur man to the Right Path and he may be lost in the blind alley of disobedience.
Finally, one must also know the consequence of be-life and obedience and those of disbelief and disobedience. He must know what blessings would be showered upon him if he chooses God?s way and leads a life of purity, virtue, and obedience. And he must also know what evil and harrowing consequences would follow if he adopts the way of disobedience and revolt. Thus the knowledge of life after death is absolutely essential for this purpose. Man must have an unwavering belief in the fact that death does not mean the end of life; that there will be resurrection and he will be brought to the highest court of justice, to be presided over by God Himself; that on the Day of Judgment complete justice will prevail; and that good deeds will be rewarded and misdeeds punished. Everybody will get his due and there is no escape. This is bound to happen. This sense of responsibility and accountability is quite essential for the full-fledged obedience of the Law of God.
A man who has no knowledge of the world to come may consider obedience and disobedience quite immaterial. He may think that the obedient and the disobedient will both meet a similar end: for, after death both will be reduced to mere dust. With this attitude of mind, how can he be expected to submit to all the inconveniences and troubles that are inextricably associated with the life of active obedience, and shun those sins the commission of which does not apparently bring to him any moral or material loss in this world? With this mental attitude a man cannot acknowledge and submit to God?s Law.
Nor can a man, who lacks firm belief in the life hereafter and in the Divine Court of Judgment, remain firm and steadfast in the turbulent waters of life with its attraction or sin, crime and evil; for doubt and hesitancy rob a man of his will to action. You can remain firm in your behaviour only if you are firm in your beliefs. if you carry a wavering mind you cannot remain firm and steadfast. You can whole-heartedly follow a course only if you are sure of the benefits that will accrue to you by following it and of the losses and grievances that will engulf you if you disobey it. Thus, a profound know-ledge of the consequences of belief and disbelief and of the life after death is extremely necessary for canalizing life into God?s obedience.
These are the essential facts which one must know if one wants to live the life of obedience, i.e. Islam.
Faith is what we have described in the foregoing discussion as ?Knowledge and belief?. The Arabic word Imaan, which we have rendered in English as faith, literally means ?to know?, ?to believe?, and ?to be convinced beyond the least shadow of doubt?. Faith, thus, is firm belief arising out of knowledge and conviction. And the man who knows and reposes unshakable belief in the unity of God, in His Attributes, in His Law and the Revealed Guidance, and in the Divine code of Reward and punishment is called Mo?min (faithful). This faith invariably leads man to a life of obedience and submission to the will of God. And one who lives this life of submission is known as Muslim.
This should clearly bring home the fact that without faith (Imaan) no man can be a true Muslim. It is the indispensable essential; rather, the very starting point, without which no beginning can be made. The relation of Islam to Imaan is the same as of a tree to its seed. As a tree cannot sprout forth without its seed, in the same way it is not possible for a man, who has no belief to start with, to become a ?Muslim?. On the other hand, just as it can happen that, in spite of sowing the seed, the tree may not grow for a multiple of reasons, or if it sprouts, its growth may be impaired or retarded, in the same way, a man may have faith, but due to a number of weaknesses, he may not become a true and staunch Muslim. Thus we find that faith is the starting point and leads man to the life of submission to God, and that a man cannot become a Muslim without faith. On the contrary, it is possible that a man may have faith but, because of the weakness of his will power, poor training, or bad company, he may not be living the life of a true Muslim. As such, from the viewpoint of Islam and Imaan, all men may be classified into four categories:
The above classification of mankind clearly shows that the real success and salvation of man depends on Imaan (faith). The life of obedience (Islam) takes its birth from the seed of Imaan. This Islam of a person may be flawless or defective. But without Imaan there can be no Islam. Where there is no Imaan there is no Islam.
Where there is no Islam there is Kufr. Its form and nature may be different, but in any way it would be Kufr and nothing but Kufr.
This brings home the importance of Imaan vis-à¶is life of true and total submission to God?
Now the question arises: How to acquire the know-ledge and belief in God, His attributes, His Law, and the Day of Judgment?
We have already referred to countless manifestations of God around us and in our own selves, which bear witness to the fact that there is one and only one creator and Governor of this universe and it is He Who controls and directs it. These witnesses reflect the divine attributes of the creator: His great wisdom, His all-embracing knowledge, His omnipotence, His mercy, His all-sustaining power, His force major-in short, His attributes can be traced everywhere in His work. But man?s intellect and his capacity to attain knowledge have erred in observing and understanding them. These are all manifest and clear and our eyes are open to read what is writ large on the creation. But here men have erred. some have declared that there are two gods others began to profess belief in trinity, and still others succumbed to polytheism. Some began nature-worship and others divided into multifarious deities: gods of rain, air, fair, death, etc. As such, although the manifestations of God were quite clear, human reason has faltered on various counts and failed to see the reality in its true perspective. It met deception after deception and resulted in nothing but confusion of thought. We hardly need dilate here on these errors of human judgment.
Similarly, with regard to life after death men have put forward many erroneous notions; for instance, that man is reduced to dust after death and will not rise to life again; or that man is subject to a process of continuous regeneration in this very world and is punished or rewarded in the oncoming cycles of life.
Even greater difficulty arises when we come to the question of the code of life. To formulate a complete and balanced code of life that should conform to God?s pleasure merely with the help of human reason, is an extremely difficult task. If a man is equipped with the highest faculties of reason and intellect and he possesses matchless wisdom and experience of many years of deliberation, even then the chances of his formulating right views on life and existence are not very promising. And even if, after a lifelong deliberation, he succeeds in that he will still lack in the confidence that he has really discovered the truth and adopted the right path.
Although the fullest and fairest test of man?s wisdom, reason, and knowledge might have been to leave him to his own resources without any external guidance so that he those who, through their own sagacious siftings and strivings, might have reached truth and righteousness would have won success and salvation, while those not reaching them would have failed. God, how- ever, spared His human creatures such a hard test. Through His grace and benevolence He raised for mankind men from among themselves to whom He imparted the true knowledge of His attributes, revealed to them His Law and the Right Code of Living, gave them the knowledge of the meaning and purpose of life and of the life after death and thus showed them the way by pursuing which man can achieve success and eternal bliss. These chosen man are the Messengers of God-His prophets. God has communicated knowledge and wisdom to them by means of wahy (revelation), and the book containing the Divine communications is called the Book of God, or the word of God. Now the test of man?s Wisdom and intellect lies in this: does he recognize God's Messenger after thoroughly observing his pure and pious life and carefully studying his noble and flawless teachings? The man who possesses right wisdom and sound common sense would verify truth and accept the instructions given by the Messenger of truth. If he denies the Messenger of God and his teachings, his denial would signify that he was devoid of the capacity to find out truth and righteousness. On account of this denial he would fail in his test. Such a man will never be able to discover the truth about God and His Law and the life after death.
It is an everyday experience that when you do not know a thing, you look for somebody who knows it and
you repose faith in his word and follow him. If you get ill and you cannot treat and cure yourself, look for the doctor and accept and follow his instructions without question. Why because he is properly qualified to give medical advice, possesses experience, and has treated and cured a number of patients. You, therefore, stick to his advice, do whatever he asks you to do and avoid whatever he forbids. Similarly, in matters of Law you believe in whatever your legal advisers say and act accordingly. In educational matters you have faith in your teacher or instructor and you accept his instructions as true. When you want to go to some place and do not happen to know the way to it, you ask somebody who knows it, and follow the way he points out. In short, the reasonable course that you adopt in the whole of your life about matters which you do not or cannot know is that you approach one who knows them, accept his advice and act accordingly. As your own knowledge of that matter or problem is inadequate, you carefully search for One who knows that and then silently accept his word. You take every pain to select the proper person. But After selecting the right man, you accept his advice unquestioningly. This kind of belief is called ?belief in the unknown?. For here you have relied upon one who knows, in matters you do not know. This exactly is Iman-bil-ghaib. Thus believing or having faith in what was previously unknown to you is called ?faith in the UN-known? (Iman-bil-ghaib).
Iman-bil-ghaib, therefore, signifies that you achieve the knowledge of what was not known to you from one who knows. You do not know God and His real attributes. You are not aware that His angels are directing the machinery of the whole universe according to His orders, and that they surround you on all sides. You have not the proper knowledge of the way of life through which you can seek the pleasure of your Creator. And you are in the dark about the life that is to come. The knowledge of all these matters is given to you by the Prophets, who had direct contact with the Divine Being and had been endowed with the correct knowledge. And they are the persons whose sincerity, integrity, trustworthiness, godliness and the absolute purity of whose lives stand as irrevocable witness to the truth of their claim to know-ledge. And above all, the very wisdom and force of their message makes you admit that they speak the truth and their preaching deserve to be believed and followed. This conviction of yours is Iman-bil-ghaib. Such truth discerning and truth-acknowledging attitude (i.e. Iman-bil-ghaib) is essential for obedience to God and for acting in accordance with His pleasure, for you have no other medium than God?s Messenger for the achievement of true knowledge, and without accurate and true knowledge you cannot proceed rightly on the path of Islam.
OUR earlier discussion brings home the following points:
You can see that God has most graciously provided man all that he needs in this universe. Every new-born child arrives in the world endowed with eyes to see, ears to hear, nose to smell and breathe, hands to touch, feet to walk, and mind to think and ponder. All those potentialities, powers, and faculties that a man needs or can need are most carefully provided and marvelously set in his tiny body. Every minute requirement is foreseen and Provided for. Nothing, which he needs, is left out.
Similar is the case with the world he lives in. Everything essential for life is provided here in abundance air, light, heat, et cetera. The child, on opening his eyes, finds his food in the mother?s breast. Parents love him instinctively and in their has been Implanted an irresistible urge to look after him, to bring him up and to sacrifice their all for his welfare. Under the sheltering care of his system of sustenance the child grows to maturity and in every stage of his life obtains From nature all that he needs. All the material conditions of survival and growth are provided for and he finds that the whole universe is at his service and is serving him on every turn and pass.
Furthermore, man is blessed with all those powers, capacities, and faculties-physical, mental, and moral -which he enquires in his struggle for life. Here God has made a wonderful disposition. He has not distributed these gifts to men strictly equally. Their equal distribution would have made men totally independent of each other and marred the possibilities of mutual care and co-operation. Thus although mankind as a whole possesses all that is needed, yet in between men capacities are distributed unequally and sparingly. Some possess physical strength and prowess, others distinguish them selves for their mental talents. Some are born with greater aptitude for arts, poetry, and philosophy, some possess sharpness of tongue, some others military acumen, commercial intelligence, mathematical keenness, scientific curiosity, literary observation, philosophic disposition, etc. These special aptitudes make a man disinters and enable him to grasp even those intricacies which elude the grip of the common man. These insights, aptitudes. and talents are the gifts of God. They are incarnated in the nature of those men whom God has destined to be thus distinguished. They are mostly inborn and cannot be acquired merely be education and training.
Careful reflection upon this disposition of God?s gifts also reveals that the talents have been distributed amongst men in a marvelous way. Those capacities which are essential for the general maintenance of human culture have been endowed to the average human beings, while those extraordinary talents which are required only to a limited extent are given only to a small number of people. The number of soldiers, peasants, artisans, and workers is large; but military generals, scholars, statesmen, and intellectuals are comparatively fewer. Similar is the case with all professions, with all the arts and crafts of culture. The general rule seems to be: higher the capacity and greater the genius, the lesser the number of people who possess them. Super geniuses, who leave an indelible mark on human history and whose achievements guide humanity for ages, are few and far between. Their number is still less.
Here we are faced with another question: Is the fundamental need of human culture confined to the need of experts and specialists in the fields of law and politics, science and mathematics, engineering and mechanics, finance and economics and the like, or does it also need men who may show man the Right Path-the way to God and salvation? Other experts provide man with the knowledge of all that is in the world and of the ways and means to use that, but there must be someone to tell man the purpose of creation and the meaning of life itself. What man himself is and why has he been created? Who has provided him with all the powers and resources and why? What are the proper ends of life and how are they to be achieved? What are the proper values of life and how can they be attained? This is the most cardinal need of man and unless he knows this he cannot erect the edifice of culture on sound foundations and cannot succeed in life here and hereafter. And our reason refuses to believe that God Who has provided man with even the most trivial of his requirements would ignore to provide for this greatest, most paramount and most vital need. Nay, it can never be so. And it is not so. While God has produced men of distinction in arts and sciences. He has also raised men with deep vision, pure intuition, and highest faculties to know and understand him. To them, He Himself revealed the way of godliness, piety, and righteousness. He gave them the knowledge of the ends of life and values of morality and entrusted them with the duty to communicate the Divine Revelation to other human beings and to show them the Right Path. These men are the Prophets and Messengers of God.
The prophets distinguish themselves in the human life is not in accordance with his ideal. Neither his word nor his deed is prompted by any self-interest. He suffers for the good of others, and never makes others for his own good. His whole life is an example of truth, nobleness, purity of nature, high thinking, and the most exalted form of humanity. His character is without any blemish and even the minutest scrutiny fails to reveal any flaw in his life. And all these facts, all these attributes, make it evident that prophet of God and faith must be reposed in him.
When it becomes quite clear that such and such a person is the true prophet of God, the natural dictate of this realization is that his words should be accepted, his Instructions followed, and his orders. Obeyed. It is quite unreasonable to accept a man as God?s true prophet, and yet not to believe in what he says or not to follow what he ordains; for your very acceptance of him as God?s prophet means that you have acknowledged that what he says is from God, and that whatever he dose is in accordance with God?s Will and pleasure. Now, disobedience to him is the disobedience of God-and disobedience of God leads to nothing but ruin and devastation. Therefore, the very acceptance of the prophet makes it incumbent on you to bow to his instructions and accept them without any demur whatsoever. You may not be able fully to grasp the wisdom and usefulness of this or that order, but the every fact that an instruction has emanated from the Prophet is sufficient guarantee for its truth, and there can be no room for doubt or suspicion. Your inability to understand it is no reason for its having flaw or defect; for a common man's understanding is not flawless. It has its own limitations and they cannot be ignored altogether. It is evident that one who dos not know some art thoroughly cannot understand it subtleties, but such a person would be a fool to eject what an expert says, merely on the plea that he himself dose not fully understand the expert, It is noteworthy that in every important worldly affair an expert is needed for advice, and when you turn to the expert you thereafter trust his advice and entirely depend upon it. You rather surrender your own right of judgment and inference and follow him carefully. Every ordinary man cannot be a master in all arts and crafts of the world. The proper way for an average human being is to do what he can and, in respect of things he cannot do, to use all his wisdom and shrewdness in finding out the proper man to guide and help him, and after finding out such a man to accept his advice and follow him. When you are sure that a certain person is the best man available for your purpose, you solicit his advice and guidance, and have complete trust in him. To interfere with him at every step and say, "Make me understand it before you proceed any further," is evidently imprudent. When you engage a solicitor in any legal case, you do not interfere with him on every turn and pass. You rather have faith in him and follow his advice. For your medical treatment you go to the doctor and follow his instructions. You neither poke your nose in medical matters nor test your skill in logic by debating with the doctor. This is the proper attitude in life. So must be done in case of religion. You need the knowledge of God; you require to know the mode of life according to God?s pleasure; and you possess no means for obtaining this knowledge. It is incumbent upon you, therefore, to look for a true prophet of God; and you will have to use utmost care, discernment, and sagacity in your search for him, for if you choose a wrong man for a true prophet, he will put you on the wrong track. If, however, after properly weighing and measuring all considerations, you decide definitely that a certain person is really God?s prophet, then you must trust him completely and obey all his instructions faithfully.
Now it is clear that the Right Path for man is that and that alone which the prophet declares to be so and the correct way of life that only which he informs us to be from God. From this one can easily understand that to have faith in the prophet and to obey and follow him is absolutely necessary for all men, and that a man who puts aside the prophet?s instructions and himself tries to carve out a way for himself, deviates from the Right Path and surely goes astray.
In this matter man guilty of strange errors. There are men who admit the integrity and truthfulness of the prophet, but do not repose Iman (faith) in him, nor do they follow him in the affairs of their life. Such men are not only Kafirs, but also behave in an imprudent and unnatural way: for not to follow the prophet after admitting him to be true means that one knowingly follows untruth. And what folly can be greater than that !
Some people declare, We do not need a prophet for our guidance and we can ourselves find out the way to truth. this too is a faulty view. You have probably learnt geometry, and you know that between two points there can be only one straight line, and all other lines must be crooked or will fail to touch the in point in view. The same is the case with way the to truth, which, in the Language of Islam, is called sirat-i-mustaqeem (the Straight Path). This path begins from man and goes straight up to God, and this Path can evidently be one only one; all other paths would be aberrations and will lead astray. Now this Straight path has been indicated by the Prophet, and there is and can be no straight oath besides that. The man who ignores that path and seeks other errands is only a dupe of his own imagination. He chooses a way and imagines it to be right, but he soon finds himself entangled and is lost in the mazes and meandering created by his own fancy. What can you think of a person who has lost his way and when a good man shows him the right one, he definitely ignores the guidance, declaring, "I will not take your guidance nor accept the way you have shown to me, but I will myself grope in this unknown region and try to reach the object of my search, in my own way"? This, in the presence of the clear guidance of the prophets, is sheer stupidity. If everybody tries to start UP again from the scratch, it would be gross waste of time and energy. We never do so in the field of sciences and arts; why here?
This is a common error, and even a little reflection reveals its flaws and weaknesses. But if you go a little deeper into the matter, you will notice that a person who denies to have faith in the true prophet cannot at all find any way straight or otherwise to reach God. This is so because a man who refuses to believe the advice of a truthful man adopts such a perverse attitude that the vistas of truth become estranged from him and he becomes a victim of his own obstinacy, arrogance, bias, and perversity.
Often this refusal is because of false arrogance, or blind conservatism and obstinate adherence to the way of the forefathers, or slavery of the lower desires of the self, whose gratification becomes impossible by submission to the teachings of the prophets. If a man is engrossed in any of the above conditions, the Path to truth becomes closed to him. He like a jaundiced person cannot look upon things in the encoloured light of reality. Such a man cannot find out any road to salvation. On the other hand, if a man is sincere and truth-loving and if he is not slave to any of the above complexes, the road to reality becomes paved for him, and there is absolutely no ground for him to refuse to believe in the prophet. nay, he finds in the teachings of the prophet the very echo of his own soul and discovers himself by discovering the prophet.
And, above all, God Himself raises the true prophet. It is He who has sent him UP to mankind to convey His message to His people. It His Command to repose faith in the prophet and to follow him. Thus, one who refuses to believe in God?s Messenger actually refuses to follow God?s Commandments and becomes a rebel. There is no denying the fact that one who refuses to acknowledge the authority of the viceroy of a sovereign actually refuses the authority of the sovereign himself. This disobedience turns him into a rebel. God is the Lord of the universe, the true Sovereign, the King of kings, and it is the bounden duty of every man to acknowledge the authority of His Messengers and Apostles and to obey them as His accredited prophets. And one who turns away from the Prophet of God is surely a kafir, be he a believer God or a disbeliever.
As Salam U Alekum,
Now let us cast a cursory glance at the history of prophethood. Let us see how this long chain began, how it gradually unfolded itself and finally culminated in the prophethood of the last of the prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The human race began from one man: Adam. It was from him that the family of man grew and the human race multiplied. All human beings born in this world have descended form that earliest pair: Adam and Eve.1 History and religion are agreed on this point. Scientific investigations about the origin of man too do not show that originally different man came into being, simultaneously or at different points of time, in different parts of the world. Most of the scientists also conjecture that one man would have been brought into existence first and the entire human race might have descended from the same one man.
Adam, the first man on earth, was also appointed as the first Prophet of God. He revealed His religion-Islam to him and enjoined him to convey and communicate it is him descendants: to teach them that Allah is One, the Creator, the Sustainer of the world that He is the Lord the universe and He alone should be Worshipped and obeyed; that to Him they will have to return one day and to Him alone they should appeal for help; that they should live good, pious, and righteous life in accordance with God's pleasure and that if they did so they would be blessed by God with goodly reward, and if they turned away from Him and disobeyed Him they would be losers here and in the hereafter and would be severely punished for this disbelief and disobedience.
Those of Adam's descendants who were good trod the right path shown to them by him, but those who were bad abandoned their father's teachings, and gradually drifted away into devious ways. Some began to worship the sun, the moon, and the stars; others took to the worship of trees, animals, and rivers. Some believed that air, water, fire health, and all the blessings and forces of Nature were each under the control of a different god and that each one of them should be propitiated by means of worship. In this way ignorance gave rise to many forms of polytheism and idolatry, and scores of religions were formulated. This was the age when Adam's progeny had spread fairly over the globe, and formed different races and nations. Every nation had made a different religion for itself, each with formalities and rituals of its own. God the one Lord and Creator of mankind and the universe was altogether forgotten. Not only that; Adam's descendants forgot even the way of life which God had revealed for them and which their great progenitor had taught them. They had followed their own devices. Every kind of evil custom grew, and all sorts of notions of ignorance spread them. They began to err in discerning right from wrong: many evils began to be considered right and many right things not only ignored but dubbed as wrong.
At this stage God began to raise prophets among every people, who preached Islam to them. Each one reminded his people of the lesson they had forgotten. They taught them God-worship, put an end to idol-worship and the practice of shirk, i.e. associating other deities with God, did away with all customs of ignorance, taught them the right way of living in accordance with God's pleasure, and gave them life-giving laws to be followed and enforced in society. God's true Prophets were raised in all countries: in every land and people. They all possessed one and the same religion the religion of Islam. No doubt, the methods of teaching and the legal codes of different Prophets were a little different in accordance with the needs and the stage of culture of the people among whom they were raised. The particular teachings of each Prophet were determined by the kind of evils which he faced and endeavored to eradicate. The methods of reform differed as it suited to fight different notions and ideas. When the people were in the primitive stages of society, civilization and intellectual development, their laws and regulations were simple; they were modified and improved as the society evolved and progressed. These differences were, however, only superficial and apparent. The fundamental teachings of all the religions were the same, i.e. belief in the unity of God, adherence to a life of piety, goodness and peace, and belief in the life after death with its just mechanism for reward and Punishment.
Man's attitude to words God's Prophets has been strange. First he maltreated the Prophets and refused to listen and accept their teachings. Some of the Prophets were expelled from their lands; some were assassinated; some, in face of the people in difference, continued preaching the whole of their lives, and hardly won more than a few followers. In the midst of harassing opposition, derision, and indignity to which they were perpetually subjected, these Apostles of God, however, did not cease to preach. Their patient determination at last succeeded: their teachings did not remain without effect. Large groups of people and nations accepted their message, and were converted to their creed. The erring tendencies of the people, born of centuries of persistence in deviation, ignorance, and malpractice, now took another form. Though during the lives of their Prophets they accepted and practiced their teachings, yet after their death they introduced their old distorted notions in to their religions, and altered the Prophet?s teachings. They adopted quite novel methods of worshipping God; some even took to the worship of their Prophets. Some made the Prophets the incarnations of God; some made their Prophets the sons of God; some associated their Prophets with God in His Divinity. In short, man?s varied attitudes in this respect were a travesty of his reason and a mockery of himself; he made idols of those very persons whose holy mission was to smash idols to pieces. By intermixing religion, custom and rituals of ignorance, baseless and false anecdotes and man-made laws, man so changed and Perverted the ideology of the Prophets that after the lapse of centuries it became a hotchpotch of the real and the fictitious and the teachings of the Prophets were lost in a conglomeration of fictions and perversities so much so that it become impossible to distinguish the grain from the chaff. And, not content with this corruption of the Prophet, they further attached fictitious anecdotes and unworthy traditions to the lives of their Prophets and so polluted their life histories that a real and reliable account of their lives becomes impossible to be discerned. Despite these corruption by the followers, in the work of the Prophets has not been altogether in vain. Among all nations, in spite of all interpolation and alteration, some traces of Truth have survived. The idea of God and of the life after death was definitely assimilated in some form or other. A few principles of goodness, truth goodness and morality were commonly admitted throughout the whole world. The Prophets, thus, prepared the mental attitude of their respective People in such a way that a universal religion could be safely introduced a religion, which is quite in consonance with the nature of man, which embodies all that was good in all other creeds and societies, and which is naturally and commonly acceptable to the entire mankind.
As we have said above, in the beginning separate Prophets used to appear among different nations or groups of People, and the teachings of each Prophet were meant specially and specifically for his each people. The reason was that at that stage of history, nations were situated separately and were so cut off from each other that one was bound up within the geographical limits of its own territories and the facilities for mutual intercourse were just non-existent. In such circumstances it was very difficult to propagate a common World Faith with its accompanying system of the life of this world. Besides, the general conditions of the early nations were widely different from one another. Their ignorance was great, and among the different Peoples it had given different forms to their moral aberration and distortions of Faith. It was, therefore, necessary that different Prophets be raised to preach the Truth to them and win them over to God's ways to gradually eradicate evils and aberrations; to root out the ways and modes of ignorance and teach them to Practice the noblest Principles of simple, Pious, and righteous life, and thus train and bring them up in the arts and crafts of life. God alone knows how many, and developing him mentally, morally, and spiritually. Anyhow, man continued to make Progress and at last the time came when he grew from his infancy, and entered the age of maturity.
With the progress and spread of commerce, industry, and arts, intercourse was established between nations. From China and Japan, as the distant lands of Europe and Africa, regular routes were opened both by sea and land. Many people learnt the art of writing; knowledge spread. Ideas began to be communicated from one country to the other and learning and scholarship began to be exchanged. Great conquerors appeared, extended their conquests far and wide, established vast empires, and knit many different nation under one Political system. Thus nations came closer and to one another, and their differences became less and less.
It became Possible under these circumstances that one and the same faith, envisaging a comprehensive and all-embracing way of life, catering to the moral, spiritual, social, cultural, political, economic, and all other needs of man and embodying both religious and seculars elements be sent by God for the entire mankind. More than two thousand years ago mankind had attained caliber that it all seemed to crave for a universal religion. Buddhism, though it consisted only of some moral principles and was not a complete system of life, emerged from India, and spread as far as Japan and Mongolia on one side, and to Afghanistan and Bokhara on the other. Its missionaries traveled far and wide in the world. A few centuries later, Christianity appeared. A although the religion taught by Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) was none but Islam, his followers reduced it into a hotchpotch called Christianity, and even this overt and Israelis religion was spread in the far- off places of Persia and Asia Minor and info the distant climes of Europe and Africa. From these events it is clearly inferred that the conditions of mankind in that age a demanded a common religion for the whole human race and they were so prepared for it that when they found no complete and true religion in existence, they began to propagate among the nations the prevalent religions, howsoever defective, incomplete, or unsatisfying they might be.
At such a crucial stage of human civilization, when the mind of man was itself craving for a world religion, a Prophet was raised in Arabia for the whole world and for all nations. The religion he was given to propagate was again Islam-but now in the form of a complete and full-fledged system, covering all aspects of individual and material life of man. He was made a Prophet for the entire human race and was deputed to propagate his mission to the whole world. He was Muhammad the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him).
If we cast a glance at the world at the atlas, we find that the other country could have been more suitable for the much needed world religion than Arabia. It is situated right in the middle of Asia and Europe is not far away from it. At the time of Mohammed's appearance the central part of Europe was inhabited by civilized and culturally advanced nations; and thus these people were more or less at about the same distance from Arabia as were the people of India. This fact gave Arabia a central position.
And look at the history of that era and you will find that no other people were more suited for the endowment of this prophethood than the Arabs Great nations of the world had been struggling hard for world supremacy, and in this long struggle and incessant strife, they had exhausted all their resources and vitality. The Arabs were a fresh and virile people. The so-called social progress had produced bad habits among the advanced nations, while among the Arabs no such social organization existed, and they were, therefore, free form the inactivity, debasement and indulgences arising out of luxury and sensual satiety. The pagan Arabs of the fifth century had not been affected by the evil influence of the artificial systems and civilization of the great nations of the world. They processed all the good human qualities, which the people untouched by the 'social progress' of the time, ought to possess. They were brave, fearless, generous, faithful to their promises, lovers of freedom, and were Politically independent -not subject to the hegemony of the imperial Powers. They lived a very simple life, and were strangers to the life of luxury and indulgence. No doubt, there were certain undesirable aspects of their life as well, as we shall maintain later on, but the reason for the existence of such aspects was that for thousands of years no prophet had risen among them, nor had there appeared a reformer who might have civilized them and purged their moral life of all evil impurities. Centuries of free and independent life in sandy deserts had bred and nourished extreme ignorance among them. Nor had there appeared a reform who might have civilized them and purged their moral life of all evil impurities. Centuries of free and independent life in sandy deserts had bred and nourished extreme ignorance among them. They had, therefore, become so hard-hearted and firm in their traditions of ignorance that to make them human was not the task of an ordinary man. At the same time, however, they did possess a capacity that if some person of extraordinary powers were to invite them for reform and gave them a noble ideal and a complete program they would accept his call and readily rise to act effectively for the achievement of such a goal, and spare no strife for or sacrifice in the cause. They would be prepared to face without the least scruple even the hostility of the entire world in the cause of their mission. And verily it was such a young, forceful, and virile people that were needed for disseminating the teachings of the World Prophet: Muhammad (Peace be upon him)
And then look to the Arabic language. If you study that language and fathom deep into its literature, you will be convinced that there is no other language than Arabic which is more suited to give expression to high ideals, to explain the most delicate and subtle problems of Divine knowledge, and to impress the heart of man and mould it into God?s submission. Small phrases and brief sentences express a world of ideas, and at the same time they are so forceful that they steal into the heart, their every sound moves man to tears and ecstasy. They are so sweet that it is felt as if honey were being poured into the ears; they are so full of harmony that every fiber of the listener's body is moved by their symphony. It is such a rich and powerful language that was needed for the Qur'an, the Great Word of God. It was, therefore, the manifestation of God?s great wisdom that He chose the land of Arabia for the birth place of the World Prophet. Let us now see how unique and extraordinary was the blessed personality chosen by God for the mission of the World Prophet.
If one were to close one?s eyes and imagine oneself in the world of 1400 years ago, one would find that it was a world completely different from ours, having not even the least semblance to the rough and tumble that we find around ourselves. How few and far between were the opportunities for the exchange of ideas! How limited and undeveloped were the means of communication! How little and meager was man?s knowledge! How narrow was his outlook! How enveloped was he in superstition and wild and sophisticated ideas!
Darkness held the sway. There was only a faint glimmer of learning, which could hardly illumine the horizon of human knowledge. There was neither wireless nor telephone, neither television nor cinematography. Railways and motor cars and airplanes were undreamed of, and printing presses and publishing concerns were unknown. Hand-written books or copyists alone supplied whatever scanty literary material was there to be transmitted from generation. Education was a luxury, meant only for the most fortunate, and educational institution were every few and between.
The store of human knowledge was scanty, man?s out look was narrow, and his ideas of man things were confined to his limited surroundings. Even a scholar of that age lacked in certain respects the knowledge possessed by a layman of today, and the most cultured person was less refined than our own man in the street. Indeed, humanity was steeped in ignorance and superstition. Whatever light of learning there was seemed to be fighting a losing battle against the darkness prevailing all around. What are considered to be matters of common knowledge today could hardly be acquired in those days even after years of calculated thought and patient research. People used to undertake hazardous journeys and spent a whole lifetime in acquiring that modest information which is everybody?s heritage in the present age of learning. Things, which are classed as 'myth' and 'superstition' today, were the unquestionable truths of that age. Acts, which we now regard as heinous and barbarous, were then the order of the day.
Methods whish appear obnoxious to our moral sense today constituted the very soul of morality, and one different way of life also. Incredulity had assumed such mighty proportions and had become so wide- so read that people refused to consider anything as lofty and sublime unless it the garb of the supernatural, the extraordinary, the uncanny, and even the untenable. They had developed such an inferiority complex that they could never imagine a human being to possess a godly soul and the saint to human.
In that benighted era, there was a territory where darkness lay heavier and thicker. The neighboring country of Persia, Byzantium and Egypt possessed a glimmer of civilization and a faint light of learning. But Arabia could receive no share from their cultural Influences. It stood isolated, cut off by vast oceans of sand. Arab traders plodding great distances, which took them months, carried their wares to and from these countries, but they could hardly acquire any grain of knowledge on their journeys. In their own country, they did not have a single educational institution or library. None seemed to be interested in the cultivation and advancement of knowledge. The few who were literate were not educated enough to have anything to do with the existing arts and sciences. They did possess a highly developed language capable of expressing the finest shades of human thought in a remarkable manner. They also possessed a literary taste of high order. But the study of the remnants of their literature reveals how limited was their knowledge, how low was their standard of culture and civilization, how saturated were their minds with superstitions, how barbarous and ferocious were their thoughts and customs, and how uncouth and degraded were their moral standards and conceptions.
It was a country without a government, every tribe claimed sovereignty and considered to be an independent unit. There was no law except the law of the jungle. Loot, arson, and murder of innocent and weak People was the order of the day. Life, Property, and honour were constantly at stake. Different tribes were al ways at daggers drawn with one another. Any trivial incident was enough to cause blaze out in ferocious fury, which sometimes even developed into a countywide conflagration ceaselessly continuing for several decades. Indeed, a Bedouin could not understand why he should let off a person of another tribe, whom, he thought, he had every right to kill and plunder.
What ever nations they had of morals, culture, and civilization, were primitive and uncouth. They could hardly discriminate between pure and impure, lawful and unlawful, civil and uncivil. Their life was wild, their methods were barbaric. They reveled in adultery, gambling and drinking. Loot and plunder was their motto, murder and rapine their very habits. They would stand stark naked before each other without any qualms of conscience. Even their womenfolk would become nude at the ceremony of circumambulating the Ka'ba. Out of sheer foolish nations of Prestige, they would bury their daughters alive lest anyone should become their son-in-law, They would marry their stepmothers after the of their fathers. They were ignorant of even the rudiments of everyday routine of eating, dressing, and washing.
As regards their religious beliefs, they suffered from the same evils, which were playing havoc with the rest of the world.
They worshipped stones, trees, idols, stars, and spirits: in short, everything conceivable except God. They did not know anything about the teaching of the Prophets of old. They had an idea that Abraham and Ishmael were their forefathers, but they know next to nothing about their religious preaching and about the God Whom they worshipped. The stories of ?Ad and humbed were to be found in their folklore, but they contained no traces of the teachings of Prophets Hud and Sail. The Jews and the Christians had transmitted to them certain legendary folktales relating to the Israelite Prophets. They presented a harrowing picture of those noble souls. Their teachings were adulterated with the figments of their own imagination and their lives were tarred black. Even today, an idea can be had of the religious conceptions of those people by casting a cursory glance at those Israelite traditions which Muslim commentators of the Qur'an have conveyed to us. Indeed, the picture which has been presented there of the institution of prophethood and of the Israelite Prophets is the very antithesis of all that those noble followers of truth had stood for.
In such a Dark Age and in such a benighted country a man is born. In his very childhood his parents die and, a few years later, the sad demise of his grandfather also occurs. Consequently, he is deprived even of that scant training and upbringing which an Arab child of his time could get. In his boyhood he tends he flock of sheep and goats in the company of Bedouin boys. When of age, he takes to commerce. All his association and all his dealings are with the Arabs alone condition has just been described. Education has not even touched him; he is completely unlettered and unschooled. He never gets a chance to sit in the company of learned of learned man, for such men were totally non-existent in Arabia. He dose have a few opportunities to go out of his country, but those journeys are confined to Syria and are nothing more than the usual business trips undertaken by Arab trade caravans. If he men there or has the occasion to observe any aspects of culture and civilization, those random meeting and stray observations cannot be given any place in the making of his personality. For such things can never have that profound influence on anyone which may lift him to tally out of his environment transform him completely, and raise him to such heights of originality and glory that there remains no affinity between him and society he is born. Nor can they be the means of the acquisition of that profound and vast knowledge which may transform an unlettered Bedouin into a leader not only of his own country and age but of the world at large and of all ages to come. Indeed, whatever the measure of the intellectual and cultural influence of those journeys one might suppose, the fact remains that they could in no case impart to him those conception and principles of religion, ethics, culture, and Civilization which were to tally nonexistent in world of those days, and they could in no way create that sublime and perfect pattern of human character which was nowhere to be found in those days.
We may now look at the life and work of this noble man in the context not only of the Arabian society but also of the entire world as it stood in that period.
He is totally different form the people among whom he is born and with whom he passes his youth and early manhood, attaining finally his full stature. He never tells a lie. His whole nation is unanimous in testifying to his truthfulness. Even his worst enemies never accuse him of telling a lie on any occasion whatsoever during his entire life. He talks politely and uses obscene and abusive language. He has a charming personality and winsome manners with him.
In his dealings with the people he always follows the principles of justice and fair play. He remains in trade and commerce for years, but he never enters into any dishonest transaction. Those who deal with him in business have full confidence in his integrity. The entire nation calls him "Al-Ameen" (the Truthful and the Trustworthy). Even his enemies deposit their costly belongings with him for safe custody and he scrupulously fulfils their trust. He is the very embodiment of midst of a society which is immodest to the core. Born and bred among a people who regard drunkenness and gambling as virtues, he never touches alcohol and never indulges in gambling. His people are uncouth, uncultured and unclean, but he personifies in himself the highest culture and the most refined aesthetic outlook. Surrounded on all sides by heartless people, he himself has a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness. He helps the orphans and widows. He is hospitable to travelers. He harms no one; rather, he goes all out to suffer hardships for others? sake. Living among those for whom war is bread and butter, he is such a lover of peace that his heart melts for them when they take up arms and cut each other?s throats. He keeps aloof form the feuds of his tribe, and is foremost in bringing about reconciliation. Bred up in an idolatrous race, he is so clear-minded and possesses such a pure soul that he regards nothing in the heavens and the earth worth worshipping except the One True God. He dose not bow be fore any created thing and dose not partake of the offerings made to idols, even in his childhood. Instinctively he hates all kinds of worship of all creatures and beings besides God. In brief, the towering and radiant personality of this man in the midst of such a benighted and dark environment, may be likened to a beacon-light illumining a pitch-dark night or to a diamond shining in a heap of dead stones.
After spending a great part of his life in such a chaste, pure, and civilized manner there comes a revolution in his being. He feels fed up with the darkness and ignorance massed around him. He wants to swim clear of the horrible sea of ignorance, corruption, immorality, idolatry and disorder which surround him on all sides. He finds everything around him out of harmony with his soul. He retires to the hills, away from the hum and drum of habitations. He spends days and night in perfect seclusion and meditation. He fasts so that his soul and his heart may become purer and nobler still.
He muses and ponders deep. He is in search of a light which might melt away the encompassing darkness. He wants to get hold of that power with which he might bring about the downfall of the corrupt and disorderly world of his day and lay the foundations of a new and better world.
Lo! A remarkable revolution comes over his person. All of a sudden his heart is illuminated with the Divine light, giving him the power he had yearned for. He comes out of the confinement of his cave, goes to the people, and addresses them in the following strain:
"The idols which you worship are a mere sham. Cease to worship them from now on ward. No mortal being, no star, no tree, no stone, no spirit, is worthy of human worship. Therefore, bow not you heads in worship before them. The entire universe with everything that it contains belongs to God Almighty alone. He alone is the Creator, the Nourisher, the Sustainer, and, consequently, the real Sovereign before Whom all should bow down and to whom all should pray and render obedience. Thus worship Him along and obey only His commands. Loot and plunder, murder and rapine, injustice and cruelty-all the vices in which you indulge are crimes in the eyes of God. Leave your evil ways. He hates them all. Speak the truth. Be just. Do not kill anyone. Do not rob anyone. Take your lawful share. Give that is due to other in a just Manner. You are human beings and all human beings are equal in the eyes of God. None is born with the slur of shame on his face, nor anyone has come into the world with the mantle of honour hung around his neck. He alone is high and honored who is God fearing and pious, true in words and deeds. Distinctions of birth and glory of race are no criteria greatness and honour. One who fears God and dose good deeds is the noblest. One who fears God and does good deeds is the noblest of human beings. One who is shorn of love of God and is steeped in bad manners is doomed. There is an appointed day after your death when you shall have to appear before your Lord. Your shall be called to account for all your deeds, good or bad, and you shall not be able then to hide anything. They whole record of life shall be an open book to Him. You fate shall be determined by your good or bad-actions. In the court of the true Judge-the omniscient does not arise. You shall not be able to bribe Him. No consideration will be given to your pedigree or parentage. True faith and good deeds alone will stand you in good stead at that time. He who will be fully equipped with them shall take his abode in the Heaven of eternal happiness; while one devoid of them shall be cast in the fire of Hell."
This is the message with which he comes. The ignorant nation turns against him. Abuses and stones are showered at his august person. Every conceivable torture and cruelty is perpetrated on him. And this continues not for a day or tow but uninterruptedly for thirteen long troublesome years. At last he is exiled. But he is not given respite even there. He is tormented in various ways in his abode of refuge. The whole of Arabia is incited against him. He is persecuted and hounded down continuously for full eight years there. He suffers it all, but doses not budge an inch from the stand he has taken. He is resolute firm and inflexible in his purpose and stand.
One might inquire: how is it that his nation became his sworn enemy? Was there any dispute about gold and silver or other worldly possessions? Was it due to any blood feud? Did he ask for anything from them? No! The whole enmity was based on the fact that he had asked them to worship the One True God and to lead a life of righteousness, pity, and goodness. He had preached against idolatry and the worship of other beings besides God and had denounced their wrong ways of life. He had cut at the roots of priestcraft. He had inveighed against all distinctions of high and low between human beings, and had condemned the prejudices of clan and race as sheer ignorance; and he wanted to change the whole structure of society which had been handed down to them from time immemorial. In their turn, his countryman told him that the principles of his mission were hostile to their ancestral traditions and asked him either to up or to bear the worst consequences.
One might ask: what for did he suffer all those hardships? His nation offered to accept him as their king and to lay all the riches of the land at his feet if only he would leave preaching his religion and spreading his message. But he chose to refuse the tempting offers and to suffer for his cause, instead. Why? Was he to gain in any way if those people became pious and righteous?
Why was it that he cared not a jot for riches and luxury, kingship and glory, and ease and plenty? Was he playing for some higher material gains so that these blessings sank into insignificance in comparison with them? Were those so tempting that he could elect to go through fire and sword and bear tortures of the soul and torments of the body with equanimity for years? One has to ponder over it deeply to find an answer.
Can anyone ever imagine a higher example of self-sacrifice, fellow-feeling and kind-heartedness towards his fellow-beings that a man may ruin his own happiness for the good of others, while those very people for whose betterment he is striving his utmost should stone him, no quarter even in his exile, and that, in this all, he should refuse to refrain from striving for their will-being?
Can any insincere person undergo so much suffering for a false cause? Can any dishonest speculator and visionary exhibit such firmness and determination for his ideal as to stick to his guns to the very last and remain unruffled and unperturbed in the face of dangers and tortures of every conceivable description when a whole country rises up in arms against him?
This faith, this perseverance, and this resolution, with which he led his movement to ultimate success, is, therefore, an eloquent proof of the supreme truth of his cause. Had there been the slightest touch of doubt and uncertainty in his heart, he could never have been able to brave the storm which continued in all its fury for twenty-one long years.
This is one side of the revolution wrought in his being. The other is even more wonderful and remarkable.
For forty years he lived as an Arab among Arabs. In that long period he was not known as a statesman, a preacher, or an orator. None had heard him imparting gems of wisdom and knowledge as he began to do hereafter. He was never seen discoursing upon the principles of metaphysics, ethics, law, politics, economics, and sociology. Not to speak of being a great general, he was not even known as an ordinary soldier. He had uttered no word about God, the Angels, the revealed Book, the early prophets, the bygone nations, the Day of Judgment, the Life after, Death, Hell and Heaven. No doubt he possessed an excellent character and charming manners, and was highly cultured; yet there was nothing so deeply striking and so radically extraordinary in him which could make men expect something great and revolutionary from him in future. He was know among his acquaintances as a sober, calm, gentle, law-abiding citizen of good nature. But when he came out of the cave with a new message he was completely transformed.
When he began preaching his Message the whole of Arabia stood in awe and wonder and was bewitched by his wonderful eloquence and oratory. It was so impressive and captivating that his worst enemies were afraid of hearing it, lest it should penetrate deep into the recesses of their hearts or the very marrow of their beings and carry them off their feet and make them bid goodbye to their old religion and culture. It was so matchless that the whole legion of Arab poets, preachers, and orators of the highest calibre failed to bring forth its equivalent in beauty of language and splendour of diction when he threw the challenge to his opponents to put their heads together and produce even a single line like the one he recited.
His All-embracing Message
Along with this, he now appeared before his people as a unique philosopher, a wonderful reformer, a renowned moulder of culture and civilisation, an illustrious politician, a great leader, a judge of the highest eminence and an incomparable general. This unlettered Bedouin, this dweller of the desert, spoke with such learning and wisdom the like of which none had said before and none could say after him. He expounded the intricate problems of metaphysics and theology. He delivered speeches on the principles of the decline and fall of nations and empires, supporting his thesis by the historical data of the past. He reviewed the achievements of the old reformers, passed judgments on the various religions of the world, and gave verdicts on the differences and disputes between nations. He taught ethical canons and principles of culture. He formulated such laws of social culture, economic organisation, group conduct, and international relations that even eminent thinkers and scholars can grasp their true wisdom only after life-long research and vast experience of men and thing. Their beauties, indeed, unfold themselves progressively as man advances in theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
This silent and peace-loving trader who had never handled a sword before, who had no military training, who had but once participated in a battle and that also just as a spectator, turned suddenly into such a brave soldier that he did not even once retreat in the fiercest battles. He become such a great general that he conquered the whole of Arabia in nine years, at a time when the weapons of war primitive and the means of communication poorest. His military acumen and efficiency developed to such a high pitch and the military spirit which he infused and the military training which he imparted to motley crowd of Arabs (who had no equipment worth the name) wrought such a miracle that within a few years they overthrew the two most formidable military powers of the day and became the masters of the greater part of the then known world.
This reserved and quiet man who, for full forty years, never gave indication of any political Interest or activity, appeared suddenly on the stage of the world as such a great political reformer and statesman that, without, the aid of radio and wireless and press, he brought together the scattered inhabitants of a desert of twelve hundred thousand square miles, -a people who were warlike, ignorant, unruly, uncultured, and plunged in internecine tribal warfare-under one banner, one law, one religion, one culture, one civilisation, and one form of government.
He changed their modes of thought, their very habits and their morals. He turned into the cultured, the barbarous into the civilised, the evildoers and bad characters into pious, God-fearing, and righteous persons. Their unruly and stiff-necked natures were transformed into models of obedience and submission to law and order. A nation which had not produced a single great man worth the name for centuries gave birth, under his influence and guidance, to thousands of noble souls who went forth to far-off corners of the world to preach and teach the principles of religion, morals and civilisation.
He accomplished this feat not through any worldly lure, oppression or cruelty, but by his captivating manners, his endearing moral personality, and his convincing manners, his endearing moral personality, and his convincing teaching. With his noble and gentle behaviour he befriended even his enemies. He captured the hearts of the people with his unbounded sympathy and the milk of human kindness. He ruled justly. He did not swerve from truth and righteousness. He did not oppress even his deadly enemies who were after his life, who had pelted him with stones, who had turned him out of his native place, who had pitched the whole of Arabia against him nay, not even those who had chewed raw the liver of his dead uncle in a frenzy of vengeance. He forgave them all when he triumphed over them. He never took revenge from anyone for his personal grievances or the wrongs perpetrated on his person.
In spite of the fact that he became the ruler of his country, he was so selfless and modest that he remained very simple and sparing in his habits. He lived poorly, as before, in his humble thatched mud-cottage. He slept on a mattress, wore coarse clothes, ate the simplest food of the poor, and sometimes went without any food at all. He used to spend whole nights standing in prayer before his Lord. He came to the to the rescue of the destitute and the penniless. He felt not the least humility in working as a labourer. Till his last moments there was not the slightest tinge of kingly pomp and show or hauteur of the high and the rich in him. Like an ordinary man he would sit and walk with people and share their joys and sorrows. He would so mix up and mingle with the crowd that a stranger, an outsider, would find it difficult to point out the leader of the people and the ruler of the nation from the rest of the company.
In spite of his greatness, his behaviour with the humblest person was that of an ordinary human being. In the struggles and endeavours of his whole life he did not seek any reward or profit for his own person, not left any property for his heirs. He dedicated his all to Millat. He did not ask his adherents to earmark anything for him or his descendants, so much so that he forbade his progeny from receiving the benefit of Zakat (or poor-tax), lest his follower at any future time may dole out the whole share of Zakat to them.
His Contribution to Human Thought
The achievements of this great man do not end here. In order to arrive at a correct appraisal of his true worth one has to view it in the background of the history of the world as a whole. That would reveal that this unlettered dweller of the desert of Arabia, who was born in the ?dark ages? some 1400 years ago, was the real pioneer of the modern age and the true leader of humanity. He is not only the leader of those who accept his leadership but of those also who do not acclaim him as such: even of those who denounce him! the only difference being that the latter are unaware of the fact that his guidance is still imperceptibly influencing their thoughts and their actions and is the governing principle of their lives and the very spirit of the modern times.
It was he who turned the course of human thought from superstition-mongering, love for the unnatural and the inexplicable, and monasticism towards rational approach, love for reality, and a pious, balanced worldly life. It was he who, in a world which regarded only supernatural happenings as miracles and demanded them for the verification of the truth of a religious mission, inspired the urge for rational proof and the faith in them as the criterion of truth. It was he who opened the eyes of those who had been accustomed till then to look for the signs of God in the natural phenomena. It was he who, in place of baseless speculation, led human beings to the path of rational understanding and sound reasoning on the basis of observation, experiment, and research. It was he who clearly defined the limits and functions of senseperception, reason, and intuition. It was he who brought about a rapprochement between the spiritual and the material values. It was he who harmonised Faith with Knowledge and Action. It was he who created the scientific spirit with the power of religion and who evolved true religiosity on the basis of the scientific spirit.
It was he who eradicated idolatry, man-worship and polytheism in all forms so thoroughly and created such a firm faith in the Unity of God that even those religions which were based entirely on superstitions and idolatry were compelled to adopt a monotheistic theme. It was he who changed the basic concepts of ethics and spirituality. To those who believed that asceticism and self- annihilation alone formed the standard of moral and spiritual purity ?that purity could not be achieved except by running away from worldly life, disregarding all the urges of the flesh and subjecting the body to all types of tortures-it was he who showed the path or spiritual evolution, moral emancipation, and attainment of salvation through active participation in the practical affairs of the world around them.
It was he who brought home to man his true worth and position; those who acknowledged only a God incarnate or a son of God as their moral preceptor or spiritual guide were told that a human being like them having no pretension to Godhead could become the vicegerent of God on earth; those who proclaimed and worshipped powerful personages as their gods were made to understand that their false lords were mere. It was he who stressed the point that no person could claim holiness, authority, and overlordship as birthright and that none was born with the stigma of untouchability, slavery, or serfdom on his person. It was he and his teaching which inspired the thoughts of the unity of mankind, equality of human beings, true democracy and real freedom in the world.
Leaving aside this realm of thought and moving a bit further one will find countless practical results of the leadership of this unlettered person firmly impressed on the laws and ways of the world. So many principles of good behaviour, culture and civilisation, purity of thought and deed, which are prevalent in the world today, owe their origin to him. The social laws which he gave have infiltrated deep into the structure of human social life, and this process continues up to this day. The basic principles of economics which he taught have ushered in many a movement in world history and hold out the same promise for the future. The laws of governance which he formulated brought about many an upheaval in the political notions and theories of the world and continue to assert their influence even today. The fundamental principles of law and justice which bear the stamp of his genius have influenced to a remarkable degree the administration of justice in the courts of nations, and form a perpetual source of guidance for all legists to come. This unlettered Arab was the first person who set on foot for the first time practically the whole framework of international relations, and regulated the laws of war and peace. For no one had previously even the remotest idea that there could be an ethical code of war also and that relation between different nations could be regulated on the ground of common humanity.
In the cavalcade of world history the sublime figure of this wonderful person towers so high above all the great men of all times who are famous as heroes of nations, that they appear to be dwarfs when contrasted with him. None of them possessed a genius capable of making any deep impression on more than one or two aspects of human life. Some are the exponents of theories and ideas but are deficient in practical action. Some others are men of action but suffer from paucity of knowledge. Some are renowned as statesmen only; others are masters of strategy and manoeuvring. Some have concentrated on one aspect of social life in a manner that other aspects have been overlooked. Some others have devoted their energies to ethical and spiritual verities but have ignored economics and politics. Some other have taken to economics and politics, but neglect morals and the spiritual side of life. In short, one comes across heroes who are adepts and experts in one walk of life only. His is the only example where all the excellences have been blended into one personality. He is a philosopher and a seer and also a living embodiment of his own teachings. He is a great statesman as well as a military genius. He is a legislator and also a teacher of morals. He is a spiritual luminary as well as a religious guide. His vision penetrates every aspect of life and there is nothing which he touches and does not adorn. His orders and commandments cover a vast field from the regulation of international relations down to the habits of everyday life like eating, drinking, and cleanliness of the body. On the foundations of his theories he established a civilisation and a culture and produced such a fine equilibrium in the conflicting aspects of life that there is to be found not even the slightest trace of any flaw, deficiency, or incompleteness. Can anyone out any other example of such a perfect and all-round personality?
Most of the famous personalities of the world are said to be the products of their environment. But his case is unique. His environment seems to have played no part in the making of his personality. It also cannot be proved that historically his birth synchronised with the order of things in Arabia at that time. What one can say at the most is that the circumstances in Arabia cried aloud for the appearance of such a person who could weld together the warring tribes into one nation and lay the foundation of their economic solidarity and well-being by bringing other countries under their sway-in short, a national leader who would have all the traits of an Arab of those days and, through cruelty, oppression, bloodshed, deceit, and hypocrisy, or by any other fair or foul means, could have enriched his own people, and left a kingdom as a heritage for his successors. One cannot prove any other crying need of the history of Arabia of that time.
What one can say at the most in the light of Hegel?s philosophy of history or Marx?s historical materialism is that the time and environment demanded the emergence of a leader who could create a nation and build up an empire. But the Hegelian or Marxian philosophy cannot explain how such an environment could produce a man whose mission was to teach the best morals, to purify humanity of all dross, and to wipe out prejudices and superstitions of the days of ignorance and darkness, who looked beyond the watertight compartments of race, nation, and country, who laid the foundations of a moral, spiritual, cultural and political superstructure for the good of the world and not for his country alone, who practically, not theoretically, placed business transactions, civics, politics, and international relations on moral grounds and produced such a balanced and temperate synthesis between worldly life and spiritual advancement that even to this day it is considered a masterpiece of wisdom and foresight exactly in the same way as it was considered in his lifetime. Can anyone honestly call such a person as the product of the all-pervading darkness of Arabia?
He does not only appear to be independent of his environment. Rather, when we look at his achievements we are irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that he actually transcends all limitation of time and space. His vision breaks through all temporal and physical barriers, passes beyond centuries and millenniums and comprehends within itself entire human activity and the whole of human history.
He is not one of those whom history has cast into oblivion, and he is not praised only because he was just a good leader in his own time. He is that unique and incomparable leader of humanity who marches with the time, who is modern in every age and in every era, as he was in his own age of history. Truly, his teachings are as modern as tomorrow morn.
Those whom people style as makers of history? are only ?creatures of history?. In fact, in the whole history of mankind, he is the unique example of a ?maker of history?. One may scan the lives and circumstances of the great leaders of the world who brought about revolutions and one will find that on each such occasion the forces of revolution were gathering momentum for the destined upheaval, were taking their course in certain directions and were only waiting for propitious moment to burst out. In harnessing these forces in time for action the revolutionary leader played the part of an actor for whom the stage and the role is set beforehand. One the other hand, amidst all ?makers of history? and revolutionary figures of all times, he is the only person who had to find ways and means to bring together the wherewithal of revolution, who had to mould and produce the kind of men he wanted for his purpose because the very spirit of revolution and its requisite paraphernalia were nonexistent in those people among whom his lot was cast.
He made an indelible impression on the hearts of thousands of his disciples by his forceful personality and moulded them according to his liking. By his iron will he prepared the ground for revolution, moulded its shape and features, and directed the currents into a channel as he wished and desired. Can anyone cite another example of a maker of history of such brilliance and splendour?
One may ponder over this matter and wonder how, in the dark ages 1400 years back in a benighted region of the earth like Arabia, an unlettered Arab trader and herdsman came to possess such light, such knowledge, such power, such capabilities, and such finely-developed moral virtues?
One may say that there is nothing peculiar about his Message. It is the product of his own mind. If it is so, then he should have proclaimed himself as God. And if he had made such an assertion at that time, the peoples of the earth who did not hesitate in calling Krishna and Buddha as gods and Jesus as the Son of God, just out of their own fancy, and who could without compunction worship even the forces of nation like fire, water and air would have readily acknowledged such a wonderful person as the Lord God Himself.
But lo! His assertion is just to the contrary. For he proclaimed that: I am a human being like yourselves. I have not brought any thing to you of my own accord. It has all revealed to me by God. Whatever I possess belongs to Him. This message the like of which the whole humanity is not able to produce, of my own mind. Every word of it has been sent down by Him and all glory to Him Whose Message it is. All the wonderful achievements which stand to my credit in your eyes, all the laws which I have given, all the principles which I have enunciated and taught-none of them is from me. I find myself thoroughly incompetent for producing such things out of my sheer personal ability and capabilities. I look to Divine Guidance in all matters. Whatever He wills I do, what He directs I proclaim.
Hearken! What a wonderful and inspiring example of honesty, truth, and honour it is! A liar and a hypocrite generally tries to ascribe to himself all the credit for the deeds of others also, even when the falsehood of his statement can be easily proved. But this great man does not appropriate the credit of any of these achievements to his own person even when none could contradict him, as there was no method of finding out the source of his inspiration.
What more proof of perfect honesty of purpose, uprightness of character, and sublimity of soul can there be! Who else can be a more truthful person than he who received such unique gifts and embellishments through a secret channel and still he outrightly points out the source of all his enlightenment and inspiration? All these factors lead to the irresistible conclusion that such a man was the true Messenger of God.
Such was our Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was a prodigy of extraordinary merits, a paragon of virtue and goodness, a symbol of truth and veracity, a great apostle of God, His Messenger to the entire world. His life and thought, his truth and straightforwardness, his piety and goodness, his character and morals, his ideology and achievements-all stand as unimpeachable proofs of his prophethood. Any human being who Studies his life and teachings without bias will testify that verily he was the true prophet of God and the Qur?an-the Book he gave to mankind-the Book of God. No unbiased and serious seeker after truth can escape this conclusion.
Furthermore, this must also be clearly understood that, now, through Muhammad (peace be upon him) alone can we know the straight path of Islam. The Qur?an and the only reliable sources that are available to mankind to learn God?s Will in its totality. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of God for the whole of mankind and the long chain of prophets has come to an end with him. He was the last of the prophets and all the instructions which it was God?s will to impart to mankind through direct revelation were sent by Him through Muhammad (peace be upon him) and are enshrined in the Qur?an and the Sunnah. Now, whoever be a seeker of truth and enxious to become an honest Muslim, a sincere follower of the way of God, it is incumbent upon him to have faith in God?s last prophet, accepted his teachings and follow the way he has he pointed out to man. This is the real road to success and salvation.
This brings us to the question of the finality of prophethood. Let us now consider this aspect of the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
We have already discussed the nature of prophethood and this discussion makes it clear that the advent of a prophet is not an everyday occurrence. Nor is the presence in person or the prophet essential for every land, people, and period. The life and teachings of the prophet are the beacon-light to guide a people to the Right path and as long as his teachings and his guidance are alive he is, as it were, himself alive. The real death of a prophet consists not in his physical demise but in the mitigation of his teachings and the interpolation of his guidance. The earlier prophets have died because their followers have adulterated their teachings, interpolated their instructions, and besmirched their life-examples by attaching fictitious events to them. Not one of the earlier books-Torah, Zabur (psalms of David), injeel (Gospel of Jesus), etc-exists to day in its original text and even the followers of these books confess that they do not possess the original book. The life histories of the earlier prophets have been so mixed up with fiction that an accurate and authentic account of their lives has become impossible. Their lives have become tales and legends and no trustworthy record is a available anywhere. Not only that the records have been lost and their life precepts forgotten but even this cannot be said with certainty as to when and when and where a certain prophet was born and bred, how he lived and what code he gave to mankind. In fact, the real death of a prophet consists in the death of his teachings.
Judging the facts on this criterion no one can deny that Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his teachings are alive. His teachings stand uncorrupted and are uncorruptible. The Qur?an-the book he gave to mankind-exists in its original text, without the slightest alteration of letter, syllable, jot, or title. The entire account of his life-his sayings, instructions and actions-is preserved with complete accuracy, so much so that even after the lapse of thirteen centuries its delineation in history is so clear and complete that it seems as if we are seeing him with the eyes under our brows. The biography of no other human being is so well preserved as that of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam (peace be upon him). In each and every matter of life we can seek the guidance of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and take a lesson from his life-example. That is why there is no need of any other prophet after Muhammad, the last prophet (peace be upon him).
Furthermore, there are three things which necessitate the advent of a new prophet; it not just the replacement of a departed prophet. These may be summed up as follows:
These are the three fundamental conditions which necessitate the raising of a new prophet. A careful perusal of the facts shows that none of these conditions exists today. The teachings of the last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), are alive, have been fully preserved, and made immortal. The guidance he has shown unto mankind is complete and flawless, and is enshrined in the Holy Qur'an. All the sources of Islam are fully intact and each and every instruction or action of the Holy Prophet can be ascertained without the least shadow of doubt. Thus as his teachings are totally intact, there is no need of any of new prophet on this count.
Secondly, God has completed His revealed guidance through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Islam is the complete religion for mankind. God has said that, "Today I have perfected your Faith-religion-for you, and have completed My bounty upon you," and a thorough study of Islam as a complete way of life proves the truth of these Qur?anic words. Islam gives guidance for life in this world and in the hereafter and nothing essential has now been perfected and there is no ground for new prophethood on the plea of imperfection.
Lastly, the Message of Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not meant for any particular people, place, or period. He was raised as the world prophet-the messenger of the truth for the entire mankind. The Qur?an has commanded Muhammad (peace be upon him) to declare: "O mankind, I am God?s Messenger to all of you." He has been described as "a blessing for all (the people of) the worlds" and his approach has been universal and human. That is why after him there remains no need for new prophethood and he has been described by the Qur?an as khatam-un-Nabiyyin (the last of the chain of the true prophets). Now there fore, the only source for the knowledge of God and His Way is Muhammad (peace be upon him). We can know of Islam only through his teachings which are so complete and so comprehensive that world does not need any new prophet; it needs only such people as have full faith in Muhammad (peace be upon him) who become the standard-bearers of his message, propagate it to the world at large, and endeavour to establish the culture which Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave to Man. The World needs such men of character as can translate his teachings into practice and establish a society which is governed by Divine Law, whose supremacy Muhammad peace be Muhammad (peace be upon him) and on its success hinges the success of Man.
THE ARTICLES OF FAITH
BEFORE we proceed further, it would be advisable to recapitulate the former discussions and sum up their substance. We can summaries them as follows:
This automatically brings us to the question: What has Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked us to believe in? What are the articles of Islamic faith? Now we shall try to discuss these articles and see how simple, how true, how lovable and how valuable they are and to what high pinnacle they raise the status of Man in this world and the life to come!
The most fundamental and the most important teaching of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is faith in the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is faith in the unity of God. This is expressed in the primary kalima of Islam as La ilaha illallah "There is no deity but Allah". This beautiful phrase in the bedrock of Islam, its foundation and its essence. It is the expression of this belief which differentiates a true Muslim from a kafir (unbeliever), a Mushrik (one who associates others with God in His divinity), or a Dahriya (atheist). The acceptance or denial of this phrase produces a world of difference between man and man. The believers in it become one single community and those who do not believe in it form the opposite group. For the believers there is unhampered progress and resounding success in this world and in the hereafter, while failure and ignominy are the ultimate lot of those who refuse to believe in it.
But the difference which occurs between the believers and the unbelievers is not the result of mere chanting of a few words. Evidently the mere utterance of mere chanting of a few words. Evidently the mere utterance of a phrase or two cannot bring about such a mighty difference. The real force lies in the conscious acceptance of this doctrine and its stipulations and complete adherence to it in practical life. Unless you know the real meaning of the phrase "there is no deity but Allah" and the bearing of its acceptance on human life, you cannot realise the real importance of this doctrine. It would never become effective unless these essentials are achieved. Mere repeating of the word ?food? cannot dull the edge of hunger; mere chanting of a medical prescription cannot heal the disease. In the same way if the Kalima is re0peated without any understanding of its meanings and dictates, it cannot work the revolution which its meanings and dictates, it cannot work the revolution which it is meant to bring about. The revolution in thought and life can occur only if a person grasps the full meaning of the doctrine, realises its significance, reposes true belief in it, and accepts and follows it in letter and spirit. Unless this grasp of the Kalima is developed it cannot become fully effective. We avoid fire because we have a realisation that it burns; we keep away from poison because we believe that its use kills a man. Similarly, if the real meanings of Tawheed are fully grasped, it should necessarily make us avoid, in belief as well as in action, every form and shade of disbelief, atheism, and polytheism. This is the natural dictate of belief in the Unity of God.
In the Arabic language the word ilah means ?one who is worshipped?, i.e. a being which on account of its greatness and power be considered worthy to be worshipped, to be bowed to in humility and submission. Anything or any being possessing power too great to be comprehended by man is also called ilah. The conception of ilah also includes the possession of infinite powers: that may astonish others. It also conveys the sense that others are dependent upon ilah and that he is not dependent upon anyone else. The word ilah also carries a sense of concealment and mystery, that is, ilah would be a being unseen and unperceptible. The word khuda in Persian, deva in Hindi, and god in English bear, more or less, similar signification. Other languages of the world also contain words with a like sense.
The word Allah, on the other hand, is the essential personal name of God. La ilaha illallah would literally mean "There is no ilah other than the One Great being known by the name "Allah". It means that in the whole of the universe, there is absolutely no being worthy to be worshipped other than Allah, that it is only to Him that heads should bow in submission and adoration, that He is the only Being possessing all powers, that all powers, that all are in need of His favour, and that all are obliged to solicit His help. He is concealed from our senses, and our intellect fails to perceive what He is.
Having known the meanings of these worlds, let us now find out their real significance.
From the most ancient known history of man as well as from the oldest relics of antiquity that we have been able to obtain, it appears that in every age man had recognised some deity or deities and had worshipped them. Even in the present age every nation on the face of the earth, from the most primitive to the most civilised, dose believe in and worship some deity. It shows that the idea of having a deity and of worshipping him is ingrained in human nature. There is do so.
But the question is: What that thing is and why man feels impelled to do to do so? The answer to this question can be discovered if we try to look into the position of man in this huge universe. A perusal of man and his nature from this view-point shows that he is not omnipotent. Neither he is self-sufficient and self-existing nor are his powers without limitations. In fact, he is weak, frail, needy, and destitute. He is dependent upon a multitude of forces and without their assistance he cannot make a headway. There are countless things necessary to maintain his existence, but all of them are not essentially and totally within his powers. Sometimes they come to his possession in a simple and natural way, and at times he finds himself deprived of them. There are many important and valuable things which he endeavors to get, but sometimes he succeeds in getting them, while sometimes he does not, for it is not completely in his own power to obtain them. There are many important and valuable things which he endeavors to get, but sometimes he succeeds in getting them, while sometimes he dose not, for it is not completely in his won power to obtain them. There are many things injurious to him; chances bring his hops to a sudden end; disease, worries, and calamities, always threaten him and mar his way to happiness. He attempts to get rid of them, and success and failure both visit him in this quest. There are many things whose greatness and grandeur overawe him mountains and rivers, gigantic animals and ferocious beasts. He experiences earthquakes, storms, and other natural calamities. He observes clouds over his head and sees them becoming thick and dark, with peals of thunder, flashes of lightning and continuous fall of heavy rain. He sees the sun, the moon, and the stars in their constant motion. He reflects how great, powerful, and grand these bodies are, and, in contrast to them, how frail and insignificant he himself is! The vast phenomena, on the one hand, and the consciousness of his own frailty, on the other, impress him with a deep sense of his own weakness, humbleness, and helplessness. And it is quite natural that the preliminary idea of divinity coincides with this sense. He thinks of those hands which are wielding these great forces. The sense of their powerfulness makes him seek their help. He tries to please them so that they may be beneficent to him, and he dreads them and tries to escape their wrath so that he may not may not be destroyed by them.
In the most primitive stage of ignorance, man thinks that the great objects of nature whose grandeur and glory are visible, and which appear to be injurious or beneficent to him, hold in themselves the real power and authority, and therefore, they are diving. Thus he worship trees, and numerous other objects. This is the worst form of ignorance.
When his ignorance dissipates to some extent and some glimmers of light and knowledge appear on his intellectual horizon, he comes to know that these great and powerful objects are in themselves quite helpless and dependent and are in no way better placed than man rather they are still more dependent and helpless. The biggest and the strongest animal dies like a tiny germ, and loses all his power; great rivers rise and fall and become dry; the high mountains are blasted and shattered by man himself; the productiveness of the earth is not under earth?s own control-water makes it prosperous and lack of water makes it barren. Even water is not independent. It depends on air which brings the clouds. Air too is powerless and its usefulness depends on other causes. The moon, the sun, and the stares also are bound up by a powerful law outside whose dictates they cannot make the slightest movement. After these considerations his mind turns to the possibility of some great mysterious power of divine nature which controls the objects he sees and which may be the repositories of all authority. These reflection give rise to belief in mysterious powers behind the natural phenomena, numberless gods are supposed to be governing various parts and aspects of nature such as air, light, water, etc, and some suggestive material forms or symbols are constructed to represent them. And he begins to worship those forms and symbols. This too is a form of ignorance, and reality remains hidden from the human eye even at this stage of intellectual and cultural pilgrimage.
As man progresses still further in knowledge and learning, and as he reflects more and more deeply on the fundamental problems of life and existence, he finds an all-powerful law and an all-encompassing control in the universe. What a complete regularity control in the universe. What a complete regularity is observed in sunrise and sunset, in winds and rains, in the motions of stars and the changes of seasons! How in a wonderfully harmonious way countless different forces are working jointly, and what a highly potent and supremely wise Law it is, according to which all the various causes in the universe are made to work together at an appointed time to produce an appointed event! Observing this uniformity, regularity, and complete obedience to a firm law in all fields of believe that there must be a deity greater than all others, exercising supreme authority. For, if there were separate, independent deities, the whole machinery of the universe would be upset. He calls this greatest deity by different names, such as ?Allah? ?Permeshwar,? ?God,? Khuda-I-Khudaigan,? etc. but as the darkness of ignorance still persists, he continues worshipping minor deities along with the Supreme One. He imagines that the Divine Kingdom of God may not be different form earthly kingdoms. Just as a ruler has many ministers, trusted associates, governors, and other responsible officers, so the minor are like so many responsible officers, under the Great God who could not be approached without pleasing and propitiating the officers under Him. So they must also be worshipped and appealed to for help, and should in no case be offended. Can be made to the Great God.
The more man increases in knowledge, the greater become his dissatisfaction with the multiplicity of deities. So the number of minor deities begins to decrease. More enlightened men bring each one of them under the searchlight of scrutiny and ultimately find that none of these man-made deities has any divine character; they themselves are creatures like man, rather more helpless. They are thus dropped out by one until only one God remains. But the concept of one God still contains some remnants of the elements of ignorance. Some people imaging that has a body as man have, and is settled in a particular place. Some believe that God came down to the earth in human form; others think that God after settling the affairs of the universe has retired and is now taking rest. Some believe that it is necessary to approach God through the media of saints and spirits, and nothing can be achieved without their intercession. Some imagine God to have a certain form or image and they regard it necessary to keep that before them for the purposes of worship. Such distorted notions of godhead have persisted and lingered, and many of them are prevalent among different people even in the present age.
Tawheed is the highest conception of godhead, the knowledge of which God has sent to mankind in all ages through His prophets. It was this knowledge with which, in the beginning, Adam had been revealed to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (God?s blessings be upon them all). It was this very knowledge which Muhammad (God?s blessings be upon him) brought to mankind. It is The Knowledge, pure and absolute, without the least shade of ignorance. Man because he guilty of shirk, idol-worship and kufr, only because he turned away from the teachings of the prophets and depended upon his own faulty reasoning, false perceptions or biased interpretations. Tawheed dispels all the clouds of ignorance and illumines the horizon with the light of reality. Let us see what significant realities this concept of Tawheed-this little phrase: ?la ilaha illallah?-points out: what truth it conveys and what beliefs it fosters. This we can grasp if we ponder over the following points.
First of all we are faced with the question of divinity. We are face to face with a grand, limitless universe. Man?s mind fails to discern its beginning and visualise its end. It is moving on in its chartered course from time immemorial and is continuing its journey in the vast vista of the future. Creatures beyond number have appeared in it-and go on appearing every day. The phenomena are so bewildering that a thinking mind finds itself aghast and wonderstruck. Man is unable to understand and grasp the reality by his unaided vision. He cannot believe that all this has appeared just by chance or accident. The universe is not a fortuitous mass of matter. It is not a jumble of uncoordinated objects. It is not a conglomeration of thing chaotic and meaningless. All this cannot be without a Creator, a Designer, a Controller, a Governor. But who con create and control this majestic universe? Only He can do so master of all; who is infinite and eternal; who is all-powerful, all wise, omnipotent, and omniscient; who is all-knowing and all-seeing. He must have supreme authority over all that exists in the universe. He must possess limitless powers, must be the lord of the universe and all that it contains, must be free from every flaw and weakness and none may have the power to interfere with His work. Only such a being can be the Creator, the Controller and the Governor of the universe.
Secondly, it is essential that all these divine attributes and powers must vest in one being-it is virtually impossible for two or more personalities having all the powers and attributes equally to co-exist. They are bound to collide. Therefore there must be one and only one Supreme Being having control over all others. You cannot think of two governors for the same province or two supreme commanders of the same army! Similarly, the distribution of these powers among different deities, for instance, that one of them is all knowledge, the other all providence and still another life-giver-and each having independent domain in his own field-is unthinkable. The universe is an indivisible whole and each one of such deities will be dependent upon others in bound to occur. And if this happens, the world is destined to go to pieces. These attributes are also untransferable. It is not possible that a certain attribute might be present in a certain deity at one time and at another time it be found in another deity. A divine being who is incapable of remaining alive himself cannot give life to others. The one who cannot protect his own divine power is definitely unsuited to govern the vast limitless universe. Thus the greater you reflect upon the problem, the firmer would be your conviction that all these divine powers and attributes must exist in one end the same Being alone. Thus polytheism is a form of ignorance and cannot stand rational scrutiny. It is a practical impossibility. The facts of life and nature do not fit into that explanation. They automatically bring man to Reality, i.e. Tawheed (the Unity of God).
Now keeping in view this correct and perfect conception of God, cast a searching glance at this vast universe. Exert yourself to the utmost and say if you find among all the objects that your see, among all the things that you perceive, among all that you can think, feel, or imagine-all that your knowledge can comprehend-anyone possessing these attributes. The sum, the moon, the stars, animals, birds or fishes, matter, any man or a group of men-does any of them possess these attributes? Certainly none! For everything in the universe is created, is controlled and regulated, is dependent on others, is mortal and transitory, is not elf-acting and self-propelling-its slightest movements are controlled by an inexorable law and it cannot deviate from that law. Their helpless condition proves that the attire of divinity cannot fit their body. They do not possess the slightest trace of divinity and have absolutely nothing to do with it. They are simply without the godly powers and it is a travesty of truth and a folly of the highest magnitude to attribute to them the divine status. This is the meaning of ?La ilaha,? i.e. there is no god ; no human and material object possesses the divine power and authority deserving worship and obedience.
But this not the end of our quest. We have found that divinity does not vest in any material or human element of the universe, and that none of them possesses even the slightest trace of it. This very inquiry leads us to the conclusion that there is a Supreme Being, over and above all that our unwary eyes see in the universe, who possesses the Divine attributes who is the Will behind all phenomena, the Creator of this grand universe, the Controller of its superb Law, the Governor of its serene rhythm, the Administrator of all its working: He is Allah, the Lord of Universe and has none as associate in His Divinity. This is what "illallah" (but Allah) means.
This knowledge is superior to all other kinds of know ledge and the greater You exert, the deeper will be your conviction that this is the starting-point of all knowledge. In every filed of inquiry-may it be that of physics chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology, zoology, economics, politics, sociology, or humanities, you will find that the deeper you probe, the clearer become the indications of the truth of La ilaha illallah, in every field of knowledge and inquiry. It is this concept which opens up the doors of knowledge with the light of reality. And if you deny or disregard this reality, you will fins that at every step you meet disillusionment, for the denial of this primary truth robs everything in the universe of its real meaning and true significance. The universe becomes meaningless and the vistas of progress get blurred and confused.
Now let us study effects which the belief in La ilaha illallah brings forth upon the life of a man and see why he should always be a success in life, here and in the hereafter.
The study of the differenced between the Qur'an and other divine Books makes one easily understand that the nature of faith in the Qur'an and that of belief in the former Books is not similar.
Faith in the former divine Books should be limited to the confirmation that they were all from God, were true, and had been sent down to fulfil, in their time, the same purpose for which the Qur'an has been sent. On the other hand, belief in the Qur'an should be of the nature that it is purely and absolutely God's own words, that it is perfectly true, that every word of it is preserved, that everything mentioned therein is right, that it is the bounden duty of man to carry out in his life each and every command of it; and that whatever be against it must be rejected.
In the last chapter we discussed that God's Messengers had been raised among every people, and that they all brought essentially that very religion-Islam-which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) propagated. In this respect all the Messengers of God belong to the same category and stand on a stand on a par with each other. If a man confirms and believes in one of them, he must and ought to confirm all. The reason is quite simple. Suppose ten men make one and the same statement; if you admit one of them to be true, you ipso facto admit the remaining nine of them as true, and if you belie anyone of them, by implication you belie all of them. It is for this reason that in Islam it is necessary to have implicit in anyone of the prophet would be a Kafir, though he might profess faith in all the other Prophets.
It occurs in traditions that the total number of all the prophets sent to different peoples at different times is 124,000. If you consider the life of the world since it was first inhabited and the number of different peoples and nations that have passed on it, this number will not appear too great. We have to believe positively in those of the prophets whose names have been mentioned in the Qur'an Regarding the rest we are instructed to believe that all Prophets sent by God for the guidance of mankind were true. Thus we believe in all the prophets raised in India, China, Iran, Egypt, Africa, Europe, and other countries of the world, but we are not in a position to be definite about a particular person outside the list of prophets named in the Qur'an, whether or not he was a Prophet, for we have not been told anything definite about him. Nor are we permitted to say anything against the holy men of other religions. It is quite possible that some of them might have been God's Prophets that some of them might have been God's Prophets, and their followers corrupted their teachings after their demise, just as the followers of Moses and Jesus (God's blessings be upon them) have done. Therefore, whenever we express any opinion about them, it would be about the tenets and rituals of their religions; as for the founders of those religions, we will remain scrupulously silent, lest we should become guilty of irreverence towards a Prophet.
As for the fact of being Prophets of God and having been deputed by Him for teaching the same straight path of 'Islam,' there is no difference between Muhammad and other Prophets (God's blessings be upon them all), we have been ordered to believe in all of them alike. But in spite of their equality in this respect, there are the following three differences between Muhammad and other Prophets (God's blessings be upon them all):
That is why it is now incumbent upon each and every human being to have faith in Muhammad (peace be upon him) and follow him alone. To become a true Muslim (a follower of the Prophet's way of life) it is necessary to have complete faith in Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to affirm that:
The fifth article of Islamic Faith is belief in life after death. Prophet Muhammad (peace is upon him) has directed us to believe in resurrection after death and in the Day of Judgment. The essential ingredients of this belief, as the life of this world and of all that is in it will come to an end on an appointed day. Everything will be annihilated. That day is called Qayamah, i.e. the Last Day. That all the human beings who had lived in the world since its inception will then be restored to life and will be presented before God who will sit in court on that day. This is called Hashr: Resurrection.
That the entire record of every man and woman of all their doings and misdoings-will be presented before God for final judgment.
That God shall finally adjudge the reward of every person. He shall weigh everyone's good and bad deeds. One who excels in goodness will be rewarded a goodly reward; one whose evils and wrongs overweigh his good deeds, will be punished.
That the reward and punishment will be administered judiciously. Those who emerge successful in this judgment will go to paradise and the doors of eternal bliss will be opened upon them; those who are condemned and deserve punishment will be sent to Hell-the abode of fire and torture.
These are the essential constituents of belief in life after death.
Belief in the life after death has always been a part and parcel of the teachings of the Prophets. Every Prophet asked his followers to believe in it, in the same way as the last of the Prophets, Muhammad (peace be upon him ), has asked us to do. This has always been an essential condition of being a Muslim. All Prophets have categorically declared that one who disbelieves in it, or casts doubts on it, is a Kafir. This is so, because denial of life after death makes all other beliefs meaningless. This denial also destroys the very sanction for good life and man is driven to a life of ignorance and disbelief. A little reflection would make this quite clear.
In your everyday life, whenever you are asked to do anything, you immediately think: what is the utility of doing it and what harm is involved in doing it? This is the very nature of man. He instinctively regards a useless action as totally unnecessary. You will never be willing to waste your time and energy in useless, wasteful, and unproductive jobs. Similarly, you won't be very eager to avoid a thing that is harmless. And the general rule is that the deeper your conviction about the utility of a thing, the firmer would be your response to it; and the more doubtful you are about its efficacy, the more wavering and shaky would be your attitude. After all, why does a child put his hand in fire? -Because he is not sure that fire burns. Why does he evade studying? -Because he does not fully grasp the importance and benefits of education and does not believe in what his elders try to impress upon his mind.
Now think of the man who does not believe in the Day of Judgment. Would he not consider belief in God and a life in accordance with His code of no consequence? What value will he attach to a life in pursuit of His pleasure? To him neither obedience to God is of any advantage, nor disobedience to Him of any harm. How, the injunctions of God, Him Prophet, and His Book? What incentive would remain there for him to undergo trials and sacrifices and to avoid worldly pleasures? And if a man does not follow the code of God and lives according to his own likes and dislikes, or what use is his belief in the existence of God, if any such belief he has?
That is not all. If you reflect still deeper, you will come to the conclusion that belief in life after death is the greatest deciding factor in the life of a man. Its acceptance or rejection determines the very course of his life and behaviour.
A man who has in view the success or failure of this world alone will be concerned with the benefits and harms that accrue to him in this life only. He will not be prepared to undertake any good act if he has no hope of gaining thereby some worldly interest, nor will he be keen to avoid any wrong act if that is not injurious to his interests in this world.
But a man who believes in the next world as well and has a firm conviction of the final consequences of his acts would look upon all world look upon all worldly gains and losses as temporary and transitory and would not stake his eternal bliss for a transitory and would his eternal bliss for a transitory gain. He will look upon things in their wider perspective and will always keep the everlasting benefit or harm in view. He will do the good, however costly it may be to him in terms of worldly gains, or however costly it may be to him in terms of worldly gains, or however injurious it may be to his immediate interests; and he will avoid the wrong, however charming it may look. He will judge the things from the viewpoint of their eternal consequences and would not submit to his whims and caprices.
Thus there is a radical difference between the beliefs, approaches, and lives of the two persons. One's idea of a good act is limited to its beneficence in this brief temporary life as a gain in the shape of money, property, public applause and similar other things which give him position, power, reputation, and worldly happiness. Such things become his objectives in life. Fulfilment of his own wishes and self-aggrandizement become the be-all and end-all of his life. And he does not deter even from cruel and unjust means in their achievement. Similarly, his conception of a wrong act is that which may involve a risk of injury to his interests in this world like loss of property and life, spoiling of health, besmirching of reputation, or some other unpleasant consequence. In contrast to this man, the believer's concept of good and evil would be quite different. To him all that pleases God is good and all that invokes His displeasure and wrath is evil. A good act, according to him, will remain good even if it brings no benefit to him in this world, or even entails loss of some worldly possession or injury to his personal interests. He will be confident that God will reward him in the eternal life and that would be the real success. similarly, he will not fall a prey to evil deeds merely for some worldly gain, for he knows that even if he escapes punishment in his short worldly life, in would be the loser and would not be able to escape punishment by the court of God. He does not believe in the relativity of morals but sticks to the absolute standards revealed by God and lives according to them irrespective of gain or injury in this word.
Thus it is the belief or disbelief in life after death which makes man adopt different courses in life. For one who does not believe in the Day of Judgment it is absolutely impossible to fashion his life as suggested by Islam. Islam says: "In the way of God give zakat (charity) to the poor." His answer is: "No, zakat will diminish my wealth ; I will, instead, take interest on my money." And in its collection he would not hesitate to get attached each and everything belonging to the debtors, though they be poor or hunger-stricken. Islam says: "Always speak the truth and shun lying, though you may gain ever so much by lying and lose ever so much by speaking the truth." But his reply would be: " Well, what shall I do with a truth which is of no use to me here, and which instead brings loss to me ; and why should I avoid lying where it can bring benefit to me without any risk, even that of a bad name?" He visits a lonely place and finds a precious metal lying there; in such a situation Islam says: "This is not your property, do not take it" ; but he would say: "This is a thing I have come by without any cost or trouble ; why should I not have it? There is no one to see this pick-up, who might report it to the police or give evidence against me in a court of law, to give me a bad name among the people. Why should I not make use of this valuable?" Someone secretly keeps a deposit with this man, and after that that he dies. Islam says: "Be honest with the property deposited with you and give it over to the heirs of the deceased." He says: "Why? There is no evidence of his property being with me; his children also have no knowledge about it. When I can appropriate it without any difficulty, without any fear of legal claim, or stain on my reputation, why should I not do so?" In short, at every step in life, Islam will direct him to walk in a course of behaviour; but he will take recourse to the opposite direction. For Islam Measures and values everything from the viewpoint of its everlasting consequence; while such a person always has in view only the immediate and earthly outcome. Now, you can understand why a man cannot be a Muslim without belief in the Day of Judgment. To be a Muslim is a very great thing; the fact is that one cannot even become a good man without this belief, for the denial of the Day of Judgment degrades man from humanity to a place even lower than that of the lowest of animals.
So far we have discussed the need and importance of belief in the Day of Judgment. Now let us consider how far the constituents of the belief are rationally understandable. The fact is that whatever Muhammad (peace be upon him) has told us about lift after death is clearly borne out by reason. Although our belief in the that Day is based upon our implicit in the Messenger of God, rational reflection not only confirms this belief but also reveals that Muhammad's (peace be upon him) teachings in this respect are much more reasonable and understandable than all other the following viewpoints are found in the world.
Now let us consider these viewpoints one by one. The first section, which arrogates to itself the authority and support of science, alleges that there is no reality in life after death. They say that they have never seen anybody coming back after his death. There is not a single case of revival. We see that after death a man is reduced to dust. Therefore death is the end of life and there is no life after death: But just think over this reasoning: is this really a scientific argument? Is the claim really founded on reason? If they have not seen any case of revival after death, they can only say that they do not know what will happen after death. But, instead of remaining within this limit, they declare that nothing will happen after death at the same time alleging that they speak out of knowledge! In fact they merely generalise on ignorance. Science tells us noting negative or positive in this respect and their assertion that life after death has no existence is totally unfounded. Their claim is not dissimilar to the claim of an ignoramus who has not seen an airplane and on that "knowledge" proclaims that airplanes have no existence at all! If anybody has not seen a thing, it does not mean that that thing has no existence. No man, not even the entire humanity, if it has not seen a thing, can claim that such a thing does not, or cannot, exist. This claim is illusionary and is out and out unscientific. No reasonable man can give it any weight.
Now look to belief of the second group. According to them, a human being is a human being because in his previous animal form he had done good deeds; and an animal is an animal because previously as a human being he had behaved badly. In other worlds to be a man or animal is the consequence of one's deed's in one's former form. One may well ask: "Which of them existed first, man or animal?" If they say man preceded animal, then they will have to accept that he must have been an animal before that, and given a human form for its good deeds. If they say it was animal they will have to concede that must have been a man before that who transformed into an animal for his bad deeds. This puts us into a vicious circle and the advocates of this belief cannot settle any from for the first creature, for every generation implies a preceding generation so that the succeeding generation may be considered as the consequence of the former. This is simply absurd.
Now consider the third viewpoint. Its first proposition is: "This world will one day come to an end.
God will destroy and annihilate the universe, and in its place will evolve another higher and far superior cosmos."
This statement is undeniably true. No doubt can be cast upon its veracity. The more we reflect on the nature of the cosmos, the more clearly it is proved that the existing system is not permanent and everlasting, for all the forces working in it are limited in their nature, and it becomes a certainty that one day they will be completely exhausted. That is why the scientists agree that one day the sun will become cold and will give up all its energy, the stars will collide with one another, and the whole system of the universe will be upset and destroyed. Moreover, if evolution is true in the case of the constituents of this universe, why it may not be true for the whole of it? To think of the universe becoming totally non-existent is more improbable than that it will pass into another evolutionary stage and another order of things will emerge in a much more improved and ideal order.
The second proposition of this belief is that "man will again be given life". Is it impossible? If so, how did the present life of man become possible? It is evident that God Who created man in this world can do so in the next. Not only is it a possibility, it is also a possibility, it is also a positive necessity, as will be show later.
The third proposition is that "the record of all the actions of man in this world is preserved and be presented on the Day of Resurrection". The proof of the truth of this proposition is provided here in these days by science itself. It was first understood that the sounds which we make produce slight waves in the air and die out. Now, it has been discovered that the sound leaves its impression on its surrounding objects and can be reproduced. Gramophone records are made on the same principle. From this it can be understood that the record of every movement of man is being impressed on all things which come into contact with the waves produced by the movements. This shows that the record of our entire deed is completely preserved and can be reproduced.
The fourth proposition is that "on the Day of Resurrection, God will hold His Court and with just judgment, reward or punish man for his good and bad deeds." What is unreasonable about it? Reason itself demands that God should hold His court and pronounce just judgment. We see here that a man does a good deed and thereby gains nothing in this world. We see another man who does a bad deed and does and does not suffer for it here. Not only this, we see thousands of cases of a good act bringing trouble on the doer, and of a bad deed and not suffer for it here. Not only this we see thousands of cases of a good act bringing trouble on the doer and of the guilty person. When we notice these events happening every day our reason and sense of justice demand that a time must come when the man who dose good must be rewarded and the one who does evil must be punished. The present order of things as you can see yourself is subject to physical law according to which it is quite natural that a man who has got the means to do evil can do so if he chooses and it is not necessary that its evil consequences should react upon him wholly or partly. If you have a tin of petrol and a match-bow you can set fire to the house of your opponent and you can escape every consequence of this deed if the worldly forces are in your favour. Does it mean that such an offence has got no consequence at all? Certainly not! It means only that its physical result has appeared and the moral result is reserved. Do you really think it reasonable that it should never appear? If you say it should the question is where? Certainly not in this world because in the physical world only physical world only physical consequences of this higher category can appear only if there comes into existence another other of things wherein rational and moral laws reign supreme and occupy the governing poison and where the physical laws are made subject to them. That is the next world which as we have said before is the next evolutionary stage of the universe. It is evolutionary in this sense that it will be governed by moral laws rather than by physical laws. The rational consequences of man's action, which are reserved wholly or partly in this world, will appear therein. Man's status will be determined by his rational and moral worth adjudged in accordance with his conduct in this life of test and trial. There you will not find a worthy man serving under a fool or a morally superior man in a position inferior to a wretch, as is the case in this world.
The last proposition of this is the existence of Paradise and Hell, which is also not impossible. If God can make the sun, the moon the stars and the earth, why should He not be able to make Paradise and Hell? When He holds His Court and pronounces His judgment rewarding the meritorious and punishing the guilty there must be a place where the meritorious might enjoy their reward honour, happiness and gratification of all kinds and another place where the condemned might feel debasement pain and misery.
After considering all these questions no reasonable person can escape the conclusion that the belief in life after death is the most acceptable to reason and common senses, and that there is nothing in it which can be said to be unreasonable or impossible. Moreover, when a true Prophet like Muhammad (peace be upon him) has stated this to be a fact and it involves nothing but what is good for us wisdom lies in believing it implicitly and not in rejecting it without any sound reasons.
The above are the five articles of Faith which from the foundation for the superstructure of Islam. Their gist is contained in the short sentence know as Kalima-e-tayyibah. When you declare La ilaha illallah (there is no deity but Allah) you give up all false deities and profess that you are a creature of the One God and when you add to these words Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah, (Muhammad is Allah's Messenger) you confirm and admit the Prophethood of Muhammad (God's blessings be upon him). With the admission of his Prophethood it becomes obligatory that should believe in the divine nature and attributes of God, in His angels in His Revealed Books, and in life after death and earnestly follow that method of obeying God and worshipping Him which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has asked us to follow. Herein lies the road to success and salvation.
PRAYER AND WORSHIP
The earlier discussion has made it clear that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has enjoined us to believe in five articles of Faith:
These five articles make up the bedrock of Islam. One who believes in them enters the Muslim community. But by a mere verbal profession alone, one does not become a complete Muslim. To become a complete Muslim one has to fully carry out in practice the instruction given by Muhammad (peace be upon him) as ordained by God. For belief in God makes practical obedience to Him incumbent; and it is obedience to God which constitutes the religion of alone is your God, and this means that He is your Creator and you are His creature; that He is your Master, and you are His slave that He is your Ruler and you are His subject. After having acknowledged Him as your Master and Ruler, if you refuse to obey Him you are a rebel on your own admission. Along with faith in God you believe that the Qur'an is God's Book. This means that you have admitted all the contents of the Qur'an to be from God. Thus it become your bounden duty to accept and obey whatever is contained in it. Along with that you have admitted Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be God's Messenger, which means that you have admitted that each and every one of his orders and prohibitions are from God. After this admission obedience to him become your duty. Therefore you will be a full-fledged Muslim only when your practice is consistent with your profession otherwise your Islam will remain incomplete.
Now let us see what code of conduct Muhammad (peace be upon him) has taught as ordained by God Al-mighty. The first and foremost things in this respect are the 'Ibadat' the Primary Duties which must be observed by each and every person professing to belong to the Muslim community.
'Ibadat' is an Arabic word derived from 'Abd' (a slave) and it means submission. It portrays that Allah is your Master and you are His slave and whatever a slave does in obedience to and for the pleasure of his Master is 'Ibadat. The Islamic concept of 'Ibadat' is very wide. If you free your speech from filth, falsehood, malice and abuse and speak the truth and talk goodly things and do all these only because God has so ordained to do they constitute 'Ibadat, however secular they may look in semblance. If you obey the law of God in letter and spirit in your commercial and economic affairs and abide by it in your dealings with your parents relatives friend and all those who come in contact with you verily all these activities of yours are 'Ibadat. If you help the poor and the destitute give food to the hungry and serve the ailing and the afflicted persons and do all this not for any personal gain of yours but only to seek the pleasure of God, they are nothing short of 'Ibadat. Even your economic activities the activities you undertake to earn your living and to feed your dependants are 'Ibadat if you remain honest and truthful in them and observe the law of God. In short all your activities and your entire life are 'Ibadat if they are in accordance with the law of God and your heart is filled with His fear and your ultimate objective in undertaking all theses activities is to seek the pleasure of God. Thus whenever you do good or avoid evil for fear of God, in whatever sphere of life and field of activity you are discharging your Islamic obligations. This is the true significance of 'Ibadat, viz. Total submission to the pleasure of Allah, the moulding into the patterns of Islam one's entire life, leaving out not even the most insignificant part thereof. To help achieve this aim a set of formal 'Ibadat (worships) has been constituted which serves as a course of training. The more assiduously we follow the training, the better equipped practices. The 'Ibadat are thus the pillars on which the edifice of Islam rests.
Salat is the most primary and the most important of these obligations. And what is Salat? It is the prescribed daily prayers which consist in repeating and refreshing five times a day the belief in which you repose your faith. You get up early in the morning, cleanse yourself and present yourself before your Lord for prayer. The various poses that you assume during your prayers are the very embodiment of the spirit of submission; the various recitals remind you of your commitments to your God. You seek His guidance and ask Him again and again to enable you to avoid His wrath and follow His Chosen Path. You read out from the Book of the Lord and express witness to the truth of the Prophet and also refresh your belief in the Day of Judgment and enliven in your memory the fact that you have to appear before your Lord and give an account of your entire life. This is how your day starts. Then after a few hours the Muezzin calls you to prayers and you again submit to your God and renew your covenant with Him. You dissociate yourself form your worldly engagements for a few moments and seek audience with God. This once again brings to the fore of your mind your real role in file. After this rededication you revert to your occupations and again present yourself to the Lord after a few hours. This again acts as a reminder to you and you once more refocus your attention an the attention on the stipulations of your Faith. When the sun sets and the darkness of the night begins to shroud you, you again submit yourself to God in Prayers so that you may not forget your duties and obligation in the midst of the approaching shadows of the night. And then after a few hours you again appear before your Lord and this is your last prayer of the day. Thus before going to bed you once again renew your Faith and prostrate before your God. And this is how you complete your day. The frequency and timings of the prayers never let the object and mission of life be lost sight of in the maze of worldly activities.
It is but easy to understand how the daily prayers strengthen the foundations of your Faith prepare you for the observance of a life of virtue and obedience to God, and refresh that belief from which spring courage, sincerity, purposefulness, purity of heart, advancement of the soul, and enrichment of morals.
Now see how this is achieved. You perform ablution and perform it in the way prescribed by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). You also say your prayers according to the instructions of the Prophet. Why do you do so? Simply because you believe in the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and deem it our bounden duty to follow him ungrudgingly. Why don't you intentionally miss-recite the Qur'an? Isn't it so because you regard the Books as the Word of God and deem it a sin to deviate from its letter? In the prayers you recite many a thing quietly and if you do not recite them and make any deviation therefrom there is no one to check you. But you never do co intentionally. Why? Because you believe that God is ever watchful and He listens all that you recite and is aware of thing open and hidden. What makes you say your prayers at places where there is not one to ask you to offer them or even to see you offering them? Isn't it so because of your belief that God is ever looking at you? What makes you leave your important business and other occupations and rush to1wards the mosque for prayers? What makes you terminate your sweet sleep in the early hours of the morning to go to the mosque in the heat of the noon and to leave your evening entertainment's for the sake of prayers? Is it anything other than sense of duty-your realisation that you must fulfil your responsibility to the Lord, come what may? And why are you afraid of any mistake in prayer? Because your heart is filled with the fear of God and you know that you have to appear before Him on the Day of Judgment and give an account of your entire life. Now look! can there be a better course of moral and spiritual training than prayers? It is this training which makes a man a perfect Muslim. It remains him of his covenant with God, refreshes his faith in Him, and keeps the belief in the Day of Judgment alive and ever-present before his mind's eye. It makes him follow the Prophet and trains him in the observance of his duties.
This is indeed a strict training for conforming one's practice to one' ideals. Obviously if a man's consciousness of his duties towards his Creator is so acute that he prizes it above all worldly gains and keep it refreshing through prayers he would certainly be in visiting the displeasure of God which he all along striven to avoid. He will abide by the law of God in the entire gamut of life in the same way as he follows it in the five prayers ever day. This man can be relied upon in other fields of activity as well for if the shadows of sin or deceit approach him he will try to avoid them for fear of the Lord which would be ever present in his heart. And if even after such a vital training a man misbehaves himself in other fields of life and disobeys the law of God it can only be because of some intrinsic depravity of his self.
Then again you must say your prayers in congregation and especially so the Friday prayers. This creates among the Muslims a bound of love and mutual understanding. This arouses in them the sense of their collective unity and fosters among them national fraternity. All of them say their prayers in one congregation and this inculcate in them a deep feeling of brotherhood. Prayers are also a symbol of equality for the poor and the rich the low and the high the rulers and the ruled the educated and the unlettered, the black and the white all stand in one row prostrate before their Lord. They also inculcate in them a strong sense of discipline and obedience to the elected leader. In short prayers train them in all those virtues which make possible the development of a rich individual and collective life.
There are a few of the myriads of benefits we can derive from the daily prayers. If we refuse to avail ourselves of them we and only we are the losers. Our shirking the prayers can only mean one of the two things. Either we do not recognise prayers as our duty or we recognise them as our claim to Faith shall be a shameless lie, for if we refuse to take orders we no longer acknowledge the Authority. In the second case if we recognise the Authority and still flout His Commands then we are the most unreliable of the creatures that ever tread the earth. For if we can do this to the highest authority in the universe, what guarantee is there that we shall not do the same in our dealings with other human beings? And if double play overwhelms a society what a hell of discord it is bound to become!
What the prayers seek to serve five times a day fasting in the month of Ramadhan (ninth month of the lunar year) does once a year. During this period from dawn to dusk we eat not a grain of food nor drink a drop of water no matter how delicious the dish or how hungry or thirsty we feel. What is it makes us voluntarily undergo such rigours? It is nothing but faith in God and the fear of Him and of the Day of Judgment. Each and every moment during our fast we suppress our passions and desires and proclaim by our doing so the supremacy of the Law of God. This consciousness of duty and the spirit of patience that incessant fasting for full one month inculcates in us help us Strengthen our faith. Rigour and discipline during this month bring us face to face with the realities of life and help us make our life during the rest of the year a life of true subservience to His Will.
From yet another point of view fasting has an immense impact on society for all the Muslims irrespective of their status must observe fast during the same month. This brings to prominence the essential equality of men and thus goes a long way towards creating in then sentiments of love and brotherhood. During Ramadhan evil conceals itself while good come to the fore and the whole atmosphere is filled with piety and purity. This discipline has been imposed on us to our own advantage. Those who do not fulfil this relied upon in the discharge of their duties. But the worst are those who during this holy month does not hesitate to eat or drink in public. They are the people who by their conduct show that they care not a trifle for the commands of Allah in Whom they profess their belief as their Creator and Sustainer. Not only this, they also show that they are not loyal members of the Muslim Community rather they have nothing to do with it. It is evident that in so far as obedience to law and regard for a trust reposed in them goes, only the worst could be expected of such hypocrites.
The third obligation is Zakat. Every Muslim, whose financial conditions are above a certain specified minimum, must pay annually 21/2% of his cash balance to a deserving fellow being, a new covert to Islam, a traveler, or one involved in debts. This is the minimum. The more you pay the greater the reward that Allah shall bestow on you.
The money that we pay as Zakat is mot something Allah needs or receives. He is above any want and desire. He, in His benign Mercy, promises us rewards manifold if we help our brethren. But there in one basic condition for being thus rewarded. And it is this that when we pay in the name of Allah, we shall not expect nor demand any worldly gains from the beneficiaries nor aim at making our names as philanthropists.
Zakat is as basic to Islam as other forms of 'Ibadat salat (prayers) and saum (fasting). Its fundamental importance lies in the fact that it fosters in us the qualities of sacrifice and rids us of selfishness and plutolatry. Islam accepts within its fold only those who are ready to give away in God's way from their hard earned wealth willingly and without any temporal or personal gain. It has nothing to do with misers. A true Muslim shall, when the call comes, sacrifice al his belongings in the way of Allah, for Zakat has already trained him for such sacrifice.
The Muslim society has immensely to gain from the institution of Zakat. It is the bounden duty of every well to do Muslim to help his lowly placed poor brethren. His wealth is not to be spent solely for his own comfort and luxury there are rightful claimants on his wealth, and they are the nation's widows and orphans, the poor and the invalid those who have ability but lack the means by which they could seek useful employment, those who have the faculties and brilliance but not the money with which they could acquire knowledge and become useful members of the community. He who does not recognize the right on his wealth of such members of his own community is indeed cruel. For there could be no greater cruelty than to fill one's own coffers while thousands die of hunger or suffer the agonies of unemployment. Islam is a sworn enemy of such selfishness, greed and acquisitiveness. Disbelievers, devoid of sentiments of universal love, know only to preserve wealth and to add to it by lending it out on interest. Islam's teachings are the very antithesis of this attitude. Here one shares one's wealth with others and helps them stand on their own legs and become productive members of the society.
Hajj, or the Pilgrimage to Mecca, is fourth basic 'Ibadat. It is obligatory only on those who can afford it and that too only once in a lifetime.
Mecca today stands at site of a small house that the Prophet Abraham (God's blessings be upon him) built for the worship of Allah. Allah rewarded him by calling it His own House and by making it the center towards which all must face when saying prayers. He also made it incumbent on those who can afford to visit is not merely to be a courtesy call. Even this pilgrimage the its rites and conditions to be fulfilled which inculcate in us piety and goodness. When we undertake the pilgrimage, we are required to suppress our passions, refrain from bloodshed, and be pure in word and deed. God promises rewards for our sincerity and submissiveness.
The Pilgrimage is, in a way the biggest of all Ibadat. For unless a man really loves God he would never undertake such a long journey all his near and dear ones behind him. Then this pilgrimage is unlike any other journey. Here his thoughts are concentrated on Allah, his very being vibrates with spirit of intense devotion. When he reaches the holy place, he finds the atmosphere laden with piety and godliness; he visits place which bear witness to the glory of Islam, and all this leaves an indelible impression on his mind, which he carries t o his last breath.
Then there are as in other 'Ibadat many benefits that the Muslims can enjoy from this pilgrimage. Mecca is the center towards which the Muslims must converge once a year meet and discuss topics of common interest and in general create and refresh in then selves the faith that all Muslims are equal and deserve the love and sympathy of others irrespective of their geographical or cultural origin. Thus the pilgrimage unites the Muslims of the world into one international fraternity.
Though the defense of Islam is not a fundamental tenet but its need and importance have been repeatedly emphasised in the Qur'an and the Hadith. It is in essence a test of our sincerity and truthfulness as believers in Islam. If we do not defend one whom we call our friend against intrigues or assaults from his foes, nor care for his interest and are guided solely by selfishness we are indeed false pretenders of friendship. Similarly if we profess belief in Islam we must jealously guard and uphold the prestige of Islam. Our sole guide in our conduct must be the interest of Muslim at large and the service of Islam in the face of which all our personal considerations must sink low.
Jihad is a part of this overall defense of Islam. Jihad means struggle to the utmost of one's capacity. A man who exerts himself physically or mentally or spends his wealth in the way of Allah is indeed engaged in Jihad. But in the language of the Shari'ah this word is used particularly for the war that is waged solely in the name of Allah and against those who perpetrate oppression as enemies of Islam. This supreme sacrifice of lives devolves an all Muslims. If however a section of the Muslims offer themselves for participating in the Jihad the whole community is absolved of its responsibility. But if none comes forward everybody is guilty. This concession vanishes for the citizens of an Islamic State when it is attacked by a non-Muslim power. In that case everybody must come forward for the Jihad. If the country attacked has not strength enough to fight back then it is the religious duty of the neighbouring Muslim countries to help her if even they fail then the Muslims of the whole world must fight the common enemy. In all these cases Jihad is as much a primary duty of the Muslims concerned as are the daily prayers or fasting. One who shirks it is a sinner. He is plainly a hypocrite who fails in the test of sincerity and all his 'Ibadat and prayers are a sham a worthless hollow show of devotion.
DIN AND SHARI'AH
Up till now we have been dealing with Din or Faith. we now come to a discussion of the Shari'ah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). But let us first be clear about the difference between Din and Shari'ah.
In the foregoing chapters we have said that all the Prophets who made their appearance from time to time propagated Islam. This is a very basic fact. They propagated Islam that is a faith in God with all His attributes faith in the Day of Judgment faith in the Prophets and the Books and asked people consequently to live a life of obedience and submission to their Lord. This is what constitutes al-Din and it was common to the teaching of all the Prophets.
Apart from this Din there is the Shari'ah or the detailed code of conduct or the canons comprising ways and modes of worship standards of morals and life law that allow and prescribe that judge between right and wrong. Such canon law has been undergoing amendments from time to time and though each Prophet had the same Din he brought with him a different Shari'ah that would suit the conditions of his own people and time. This served the purpose of training different people over all ages for a better civilization and equipping them with better morals. The process ended with the advent of Muhammad the last Prophet (peace be upon him) who brought with him the final code which was to apply to all mankind for all times to come. Din has undergone no change but now all the previous Shari'ah stand abrogated in view of the comprehensive Shari'ah that Muhammad (peace be upon him) has brought with him. This is the climax or the final of the great process of training that was started at the dawn of the human era.
We draw upon two major sources in order to acquaint ourselves with the Shari'ah of Muhammad (peace be upon him), viz. the Qur'an and the Hadith. The Qur'an is a divine revelation each and every word of the instructions issued or the memoirs of the last Prophet's conduct and behaviour, as preserved by those who were present in his company or those to whom these were handed down by the first witness. These were later sifted and collected by divines and compiled in the form of books among which the collections made by Malik, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi, Abu Dawud, Nasa'i and Ibn Majah are considered to be the most authentic.
Detailed law derived from the Qur'an and the Ahadith covering the myriads from of problems that arise in the course of man's life have been compiled by some of the leading legists in the past. Thus the Muslim Peoples shall for ever be grateful to those men of leading and vision who devoted their lives to gaining a mastery of the Qur'an and the Hadith who made it easy for every Muslim to fashion his everyday affairs according to the requirements of the Shari'ah. It is due to them alone that the Muslims all over the world can follow the Shari'ah easily even though their attainments in religion are never such that they could themselves give a correct and authentic interpretation to the Qur'an or the Ahadith.
Though in the beginning a large number of religious leaders applied themselves to the task now only four major school of thought remain. They are:
All of these were given the final form within two hundred years of the time of the Prophet. The difference that appear in the four school are but the natural outcome of the fact that is many sided. When different persons employ themselves in interpreting a given event, they come out with explanations according to their own lights. What gives these various schools of thought the authenticity that is associated with them is the unimpeachable integrity of their respective founders and the authenticity of the method they adopted. That's why all Muslims, whatever school they may belong to regard all the four schools of Fiqh goes unchallenged, one can follow only one of them in one's life, though there is the group of Ahl-i-Hadith who believe that those who have the required knowledge and learning should directly approach the Qur'an and the Hadith for guidance and those who are not bestowed with such knowledge and faculties should follow whomsoever they may choose to in a particular matter.
Fiqh deals with the apparent and the observable conduct the fulfilling of a duty in letter. What concerns itself with the spirit of conduct is known as Tasawwuf. For example, when we say our prayers Fiqh will judge us only by the fulfilment of the outward requirements such as ablution. Facing towards the Ka'ba, the timing and the number of Rak'ats, while Tasawwuf will judge our prayers by our concentration devotion purification of our souls and the effect of prayers on our morals and manners. Thus the true Islamic Tasawwuf is the means of our spirit of obedience and sincerity while Fiqh governs our carrying out commands to the last detail. An 'Ibadat devoid of spirit, though correct in procedure is like a man handsome in appearance but lacking in character and an 'Ibadat full of spirit but defective in execution is like a man noble in character but deformed in appearance.
The above example makes clear the relation between Fiqh and Tasawwuf. But it is to the misfortune of the Muslims that as they sank in knowledge and character with the passage of time they also succumbed to the misguided philosophies of nations which were then dominant partook of them and patched Islam with their perverted dogmas.
They polluted the pure spring of Islamic Tasawwuf with absurdities that could not be justified by any stretch of imagination on the basis of the Qur'an and the Hadith. Gradually a section of Muslims appeared who thought and proclaimed themselves immune to and above the requirements of the Shari'ah. These people are totally ignorant of Islam for Islam cannot admit of Tasawwuf that loosens itself out of the Shari'ah and takes liberties with it. No Sufi has the right to transgress the limits of the Shari'ah or treat the primary obligations (Fara'iz) such as daily prayers fasting zakat and the hajj, Tasawwuf, in the true sense is but an intense love of Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) and such love requires a strict obedience to their commands as embodied in the Book of God and the Sunnah of His Prophet. Anyone who deviates from the divine commands makes a false claim of his love for Allah and His Apostle.
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|Title:||Towards Understanding Islam|
|Author's name:||More Articles by Sayyid Abul Ala Al-Mawdudi|
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|Description:||Towards Understanding Islam. by Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi. Translated and Edited by Khurshid Ahmed|
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