Monday, February 21, 2005

ISLAM IN BRIEF Maulana Wahiduddin Khan What is Islam? It is a vast subject. In this article we will try to mention briefly some basic aspects in the light of the Quran and hadith. TRUE GUIDANCE The Quran leads us to the true guidance. In this connection, we quote a passage from the Quran: 'Allah is He besides Whom there is no god, the Ever-living, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His; who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they cannot comprehend anything out of His knowledge except what He wills. His knowledge encompasses the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of them both tires Him not, and He is the Most High, the Great. There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in Satan and believes in God, he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and God is Hearing, Knowing. God is the guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light; and (as to) those who disbelieve, their guardians are Satan's who take them out of the light into the darkness; they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide. (2:255-257) Now, let us try to visualize the above quoted Quranic passage, in its applied form, so that we may have an idea of what kind of individual, what kind of society and what kind of state would respectively emerge, when Islam is consciously accepted and practiced in letter and spirit. A - INDIVIDUAL Islam is the religion of the universe. The Quran says: Do they seek for other than the Religion of God? While all creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willingly or unwillingly bowed to His will. (3:83) It means that submission to God is the only true religion for both man and the universe. All the things on the earth or in the space are following completely the command of God. The revolution of stars, flowing of water, growing of trees, in short, everything is following the same course, which was determined for him by God. Nothing is allowed to deviate from the divine path. The Quran says: "Neither is it allowable to the sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day. Each swims along in (its own) orbit." (36:40) The same is required by all human beings. Everyone should strictly obey the commands of God without any deviation or alteration. The Prophet of Islam has declared: "A believer with his faith is like a horse with its tether. The movement of the horse is restricted to the length of its tether. So is the case with the believer His all words and deeds are restricted by the limitations set by his faith (Mishal Al Masabih, vol. 2/1226) The life of a true Muslim is a highly disciplined life. He always adheres to the set of do's and don't ordained by God Almighty He exercises full control over his speech. He even subordinates his intention and his thinking to the will of God. He always feels himself to be a servant of God. The Quran gives the picture of a Muslim in these words. And the servants of the Beneficent God are they who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace. And they who pass the night prostrating themselves before their Lord and standing. And they who say: O our Lord! Turn away from us the punishment of hell; surely the punishment thereof is a lasting evil. Surely it is an evil abode and (evil) place to stay. And they who when they spend, are neither extravagant nor parsimonious, and (keep) between these the just mean. And they who do not call upon another god with Allah and do not slay the soul, which Allah has forbidden except in the requirements of justice, and (who) do not commit fornication and he who does this shall find a requital of sin; The punishment shall be doubled to him on the day of resurrection, and he shall abide therein abasement; Except him who repents and believes and does a good deed; so these are they of whom Allah changes the evil deeds to good ones; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And whoever repents and does good, he surely turns to Allah a (goodly) turning. And they who do not bear witness to what is false, and when they pass by what is vain, they pass by nobly. And they who, when reminded of the signs of their Lord, do not fall down thereat deaf and blind. And they who say: O our Lord! Grant us in our wives and our offspring the joy of our eyes, and make us guides to those who guard (against evil). These shall be rewarded with high places because they were patient, and shall be met therein with greetings and salutations. Abiding therein; a blessed dwelling and blessed resting place. Say (to the unbelievers) little cares my Lord for you if you do not invoke Him. But you have indeed rejected (the truth), His punishment is bound to overtake you. (25:63-77) B - SOCIETY The foundation of society in Islam is based on mutual well wishing. In chapter Al-Asr (Time) the Quran says: By time, man is in loss, except those who believe and do good works and exhort one another to truth and to patience (103:1-3) How a Muslim should live in a society? The answer given in a hadith is like this: "Anyone of you sees an evil in the society, he must rectify it by his own hand. And if he has no capacity to do so he should do it by his tongue. And if he is unable even to discourage it, then, let him condemn the same in his own heart." (Bukhari) The society based on these principles will naturally be a place wherein good will flourish as a result of mutual reminding, and the roots of evil, if not totally be eradicated; will dry out due to public discouragement. As the truth is openly propagated and the virtue of patience is highly recommended in this society, there will definitely prevail a peaceful atmosphere, which is an essential prerequisite for healthy growth and development of both the individual personality and the social system at large. It is only under such a peaceful social order and atmosphere, that the rights of individuals are secured, communal harmony ensured, higher values of brotherhood, cooperation and altruism are sincerely observed; and, finally, the projects of common welfare, progress and prosperity are successfully achieved. To sum up, when the Islamic ideals are consciously put into practice by its adherents, there will emerge a society that will distinguishably be more secure, free of violence and naturally cooperative, progressive, prosperous, good enhancing and evil-resisting, compared to any their human society in the past or present. C - STATE What is state? It is an organized political community under one Government. Islam does not prescribe any particular form or structure of the state. Nevertheless. Islamic teachings seem to be so comprehensive that they embrace all essential issues of life including state and its related national or international problems as well. What is an Islamic state? Any state governed by the Muslims is not necessarily an Islamic state. Apart from its monotheistic doctrinal basis, an Islamic state would practically be identified with it enumum bonum principle of 'no-compulsion.' No compulsion should be exercised, neither before gaining of power, nor after gaining the power. For the power gained through compulsion or the power used for compulsion in any matter whatsoever, particularly in religious matters, is strictly prohibited and condemned in Islam. That is why the compulsive forms of states, though governed by Muslim dictators, have never been considered ideal Islamic states by the scholars of Islam. Yet, Islam does not allow its followers to rebel against any established state even though it may not seem to be in accordance with the Islamic Ideal. The compulsion on the part of state should never be resisted by means of a counter compulsion, i.e. it has to be countered by means of conviction and negotiation. This ensures the stability of law and order, which subsequently helps promote Islamic values, which may gradually prepare a firm ground for a real Islamic state to stand on. To establish an ideal Islamic state is not the main target of Islam, as wrongly projected by some groups of Muslims. Islamic state is something that may ultimately emerge from a society consisted of sincere practicing Muslims, and that may take any workable form of government, which neither is predictable nor pre-determinable. Such a state according to the Quran (24:55), is a worldly reward of Allah granted to His righteous servants when He wills, not a directly, targeted goal of the Muslim community to struggle for. To conclude, Islam begins when one discovers God as the ultimate truth. This results in a spiritual transformation, which leads to the emergence of a new personality with new thinking and new sentiments. A new man is born, quite different from what he was before. He now becomes a combination of spirituality, compassion and peace. This is like an intellectual and spiritual revolution. This inner revolution finds expression in his external behaviors, in worship, in character, in social relations etc. To produce a person like this is the main target of Islam. All other aspects of Islam are due to the fact that man lives in a society, so when there are a considerable number of such individuals in a society it is bound to bring about some changes at the social level. This process leads to that which may be called the social system of Islam. This revolution among individuals and society goes on developing until on finding favorable conditions it may culminate in what is termed Islamic State. This process is mentioned in the Quran in this word: "God has promised to those of you who believe and work righteous deeds that He shall make them successors on the earth as He made those before them successors and that He shall certainly established for them their religion which He has approved for them, and that He shall certainly change, after the fear in which they lived, to one of security and peace. Provided they worship Me." (24:55) In a garden it is the individual tree, which has the real existence. Garden is only a collective manifestation of a number of trees. So is the case of man. In the Islamic scheme, it is the individual who is the real part of the body of Islam while the society and the state are only its relative part. This kind of individual is called a rabbani person in the Quran. Where there are rabbani individuals in a considerable number, the orchard, that is Islamic society, and state will come into existence on its own. MAULANA WAHIDUDDIN KHAN President, The Islamic Centre, 1, Nizamuddin West Market, New Delhi - 110 013; INDIA Tel. 91-11-4625454, 4611128 Fax 91-11-4697333, 4647980 e-mail: website:
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