THE MEANING OF ISLAM
Every religion of the world has been named either after its founder or after the community or nation in which it was born. For instance, Christianity takes its name from its prophet Jesus Christ; Buddhism from its founder, Gautama Buddha;Zoroastrianism from its founderZoroaster-, and Judaism, the religion of the Jews, from the name of the tribe Judah (of the country of Judea) where it originated. The same is true of all other religions except Islam, which enjoys the unique distinction of having no such association with any particular person or people or country. Nor is it the product of any human mind. It is a universal religion and its
objective is to create and cultivate in man the quality and attitude of Islam.
Islam, in fact, is an attributive title. Anyone who possesses this attribute, whatever race, community, country or group he belongs to, is a Muslim. According to the Qur’an (the HolyBook of the Muslims), among every people and in all ages there have been good and righteouspeople who possessed this attribute - and all of them were and are Muslims.
Islam - What Does it Mean?
Islam is an Arabic word and connotes submission, surrender and obedience. As a religion, Islam stands for complete submission and obedience to Allah.1
Everyone can see that we live in an orderly universe, where everything is assigned a place in agrand scheme. The moon, the stars and all the heavenly bodies are knit together in a magnificent system. They follow unalterable laws and make not even the slightest deviation from their ordained courses. Similarly, everything in the world, from the minute 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 paramount. 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 smallest 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 of the heavens, is the law of God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe. As the whole of creation obeys the
1. Another literal meaning of the word Islam is ‘peace’ and this signifies that one can achieve real peace of body and mind only through submission and obedience to Allah. Such a life of obedience brings with it peace of the heart and establishes real peace in society at large. Editor.
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 are the air, water, 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 necessarily to be a ‘Muslim’ as far as his existence is concerned.
For his entire life, from the embryonic stage to the body’s dissolution into dust after death, every tissue of his muscles and every limb of his body follows the course prescribed 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 ‘Muslim’. His head which he wantonly bows to others besides Allah is born ‘Muslim’. His heart, which, through his lack of true knowledge,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.
Let us now examine the situation from a different angle. Man is so constituted that there are two distinct spheres of his activity. One is the sphere in which he finds himself totally regulated by the Divine Law. Like other creatures, he is completely caught in the grip of the physical laws of nature and is bound to follow them. But there is another sphere of his
activity. He has been endowed with reason and intellect. He has the power to think and form judgements, to choose and reject, to approve and spurn. He is free to adopt whatever course of life he chooses. He can embrace any faith, and live by any ideology he likes. He may prepare his own code of conduct or accept one formulated by others. Unlike other creatures,he has been given freedom of thought, choice and action. In short, man has been bestowed with free will.
Both these aspects co-exist side by side in man’s life.
In the first he, like all other creatures, is a born Muslim, invariably obeying the injunctions of God, and is bound to remain one. As far as the second aspect is concerned, he is free to become or not to become a Muslim. 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 achieved completeness in his Islam
by consciously deciding to obey God in the domain in which he was endowed with freedom of choice. He is a perfect Muslim: his 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 to involuntarily. 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 judgement 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 is also truthful for it expresses its belief in the Lord Who gave it the faculty of speech. Now the whole of his existence is an embodiment of truth for, in
all spheres of life, he voluntarily as well as involuntarily obeys the laws of One God - the Lord of the Universe. Now he is at peace with the whole universe for he worships Him Whom the whole universe worships. Such a man is God’s vice-regent on earth. The whole world is for him and he is for God.
The Nature of Disbelief
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 to recognise his Lord and Creator and misuses his freedom of choice bychoosing 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 his nature is instinctively imbued with ‘Islam’. His whole body functions in obedience to that instinct. Each and every particle of existence - living or lifeless - functions in accordance with ‘Islam’ and is fulfiling 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 obvious.
His own nature has become concealed from his eyes and he thinks and acts in utter disregard ofit. Reality becomes estranged from him and he gropes in the dark. Such is the nature of Kufr.
Kufr is a form of ignorance, or, rather, it is ignorance. 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 aspect of creation - he observes this vast machine, but he does not know anything of its
Maker and Director. He knows what a wonderful organism his body is but is unable to comprehend the Force that brought it into existence, the Engineer Who designed and produced it, 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. He observes a wonderful design in nature - but not the Designer! How can a man, who has so blinded himself to reality, approach true knowledge? How can one who has made the wrong beginning reach the right destination? He will fail to find the key to Reality. The Right Path will remain concealed for him and whatever his endeavours in science and arts, he will never be able to attain truth and wisdom. He will be groping in the darkness of ignorance.
Not only that; Kufr is a tyranny, the worst of all tyrannies. And what is ‘tyranny’? It is an unjust use of force or power. It is when you compel a thing to act unjustly or against its true nature, its real will and its inherent attitude.
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 the nature of things. God has given man power over these things, but it is incumbent that they should be used for the fulfilment of His Will and not otherwise. Anyone who disobeys God and resorts to Kufr perpetrates the greatest injustice, for he uses his powers of body and mind to rebel against the course of nature and becomes an instrument in the drama of disobedience. He
bows his head before deities other than God and cherishes in his heart the love, reverence and fear of other powers in utter disregard of the instinctive urge of these organs. He uses his own powers and all those things over which he has authority against the explicit Will of God 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 rebellion, ingratitude and infidelity. After all, what is the reality of man? Where do his power and authority come from? 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 in it - 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 rightful sovereign? 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 - and who makes his mind think against God, harbours 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 becomes disloyal to the state you brand him as a traitor and renegade. If a person cheats his benefactor you have no hesitation in condemning him as ungrateful. But such acts cannot begin to compare to the one which the disbeliever commits by his Kufr. All that a man has and all that he uses for the benefit of others is a gift of God. The greatest obligation that a man owes on this earth is to his parents. But who has implanted the love of children in the parents’ heart? 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 King and Sovereign. So 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 by committing Kufr man does or can do the least harm to Almighty God. 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 myriads of heavenly bodies, like the Earth, the Moon, the Sun and the stars are, at His bidding, whirling like 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 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 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 about 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 existence, will be unsatisfactory. He will spread confusion and disorder. He will, without the least compunction,shed blood, violate other men’s rights and generally act destructively. His perverted thoughts and ambitions, his blurred vision and distorted scale of values, and his evil activities will make life bitter for him and for all around him.
Such a man destroys the calm and pose of life on earth. And in the life hereafter he will be held guilty for the crimes he committed against his nature. Every organ of his body - his brain, eyes, nose, hands and feet will complain against the injustice and cruelty he had subjected them to. Every tissue of his being will denounce him before God Who, as the fountain of justice, will punish him as he deserves. This is the inglorious consequence of Kufr. It leads to the blind alleys of utter failure, both here and hereafter.
The Blessings of Islam
These are the evils and disadvantages of Kufr. Let us now look at some of 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 unalterable laws, is in itself a witness to the fact that its Designer, Creator and Governor is an Omnipotent, All-Powerful Being with infinite power,knowledge and resources, a Being of perfect wisdom, Whom nothing in the universe dares disobey. It is in the very nature of man, as it is with every other thing in this universe to obey Him.
Besides endowing man with the capacity to acquire knowledge, the faculty to think and reflect,and the ability to distinguish right from wrong, God has granted him 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. Man has not been obliged to adopt any particular course, for by compulsion the very object of the trial would have been defeated. 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 questions freely, according to your own knowledge and understanding. If your answer is correct you will succeed; if it is wrong you will fail, and your failure will bar the way to further progress.
The situation which man faces is similar. God has given him freedom of Will and action so that he may choose whatever attitude in life he likes and considers proper for himself - Islam or Kufr.
By the correct use of his knowledge and intellect a man recognises 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 understands both his own nature and the laws and realities of nature itself; despite the power and freedom to adopt any course, he 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 and his mind to form right opinions. He puts all his heart and soul into 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. Thus he
has proved by his conduct that he is not only a seeker after Truth but is the knower and worshipper as well. Such a man is on the right path, and is destined to succeed in this world and in the world 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. He will reflect on the secrets of the universe, and will try to fathom the mysteries of nature, but he will not lose his way in mazes of doubt and
scepticism. His path being illumined with Divine Vision, his every step will be in the right direction. In science he will endeavour to learn the laws of nature and uncover the hidden treasures of the earth 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 on earth and in the heavens in the interests of mankind.
At every stage of his enquiry his God-consciousness will save him from making evil and destructive uses of science and the scientific method. He will never think of himself as the master of all these objects, boasting to be the conqueror of nature, arrogating to himself 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 fair means or foul. Such an attitude of revolt and defiance can never be entertained by a Muslim scientist - only a Kafir scientist can fall prey to such illusions and by submitting to them expose the entire human race to the danger 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 a strong realisation of the need to serve humanity. His freedom will not be unbridled. He will be guided by the tenets of morality and Divine Revelation. Thus science will 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 on man.
Similarly, in history, economics, politics, law and other branches of arts and science, a Muslim will nowhere 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 true perspective. He will strive to arrive at the right conclusions.
In history he will draw correct lessons from the past experiences of man, and will uncover the true causes of the rise and fall of civilisations. He will try to benefit from all that was good and right in the past and will scrupulously avoid all that led to the decline and fall of nations. In politics his sole objective will be to strive for
The situation which confronts modern man today is similar. Dr. Joad says: “Science has given us power fit for the gods, and to its use we bring the mentality of schoolboys and savages.” The famous philosopher Bertrand Russell writes: “Broadly speaking. we are in the middle of a race between human skill as to means and human folly as to ends, every increase in the skill required to achieve them is to the bad. The human race has survived hitherto owing to ignorance and incompetence: but. given knowledge and competence combined with folly. there can be no certainty of survival. Knowledge is power, but it is power for evil just as much as for good. It follows that unless man increases in wisdom as much as in knowledge, increase of
knowledge ‘will be increase of sorrow.” (Impact of Science on Society, pp. 120-121.)
Another leading thinker has put the paradox in these words: “We are taught to fly in the air like birds, and to swim in the water like fishes:but how to live on the earth we do not know
“(Quoted bv Joad in Counter attack From the East, p.28.)
the establishment of policies where peace, justice, fraternity and goodness reign, where man is a brother of man and respects his humanity, where no exploitation or slavery is rampant, where the rights of the individual are 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 endeavour 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 on anyone. He will respect the law, make others respect it, and will see that it is administered equitably.
The life of a Muslim will always be filled with godliness, piety, righteousness and truthfulness. He will live in 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 implanted in’ his mind and he will never behave irresponsibly.
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 will 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 lie. 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 any form of oppression or violation of human life and honour. He will never yield to evil, whatever the cost of defiance. He will be an embodiment of goodness and nobility and will defend right and truth even at the cost of his life. Such a man will be a power to be reckoned with. He is bound to succeed.
He will be highly honoured and respected. How can humiliation ever visit a person who is not prepared to bow his head before anyone except God the Almighty, the Sovereign of the universe? 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 shape his conscience? What power can compel him to behave as he does not want to?
He will be the most wealthy. No one in the world can be richer or more independent than he - for he will live a life of austerity and contentment. He will be neither a sensualist, nor indulgent, nor greedy. He will be contented with whatever he earns fairly and honestly and however much ill-gotten wealth is heaped before him he will not even look at it. He will have peace and contentment of heart and what can be a greater wealth than this?
He will be the most revered, popular and beloved. No one can be more lovable than he - for he lives a life of charity and benevolence. He will be just to everyone, discharge his duties honestly, and work for the good of others. People’s hearts will be naturally drawn towards him.
No one can be more trustworthy than he - for he will not betray his trust, nor will he stray 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. For Islam inculcates in him the qualities which cannot be driven out.
And after living a respectable and honourable life on this earth, he will return to his Creator Who will shower on him the choicest of His blessings - for he will have discharged his duty ably,fulfiled his mission successfully and emerged from his 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 every country and among every people, all God-knowing and truth-loving men have believed and lived this very religion. They were all Muslims, irrespective of whether they called that way Islam. Whatever its name was, it signified Islam and nothing but Islam.
FAITH AND OBEDIENCE
Islam means obedience to God. And it is common sense that this obedience cannot be
complete unless man knows certain basic facts of life and places firm faith in them. What are those facts? And what are the 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 an unshakable belief in the existence of God; without this,obedience to Him is clearly impossible. Then, one must know the attributes of God. It is the knowledge of the attributes of God which enables man to cultivate the noblest of human qualities and to fashion his life in virtue
and godliness. If a man does 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 Divine power and authority, he may fall prey to false gods, and offer his homage to them in search of favours.
But if he knows the divine attribute of tawhid (Oneness of God), there is no possibility of this. Similarly, if a man knows that God is Omnipresent and Omniscient and sees, hears and knows everything that we do in public or private - including our unexpressed thoughts! - then how can he afford to be disobedient to God? He will feel that he is under eternal vigil and will,therefore, behave accordingly. But he who is not aware of these attributes of God may be led, because of his ignorance, into disobedience. It is the same with all the 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 - 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 the one and reject the other? If a man has no knowledge of the Divine Law, how can he follow it?Thus knowledge of the Divine Law and the Revealed Code of Life is essential. But here, again, mere knowledge is not enough. 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, man must also know the consequences both of belief and obedience and of disbelief and disobedience. He must know what blessings will 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 consequences follow if he adopts the way of disobedience and revolt. Thus, 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 Judgement complete justice will prevail; and that good deeds will be rewarded and misdeeds punished. Everybody will get his due; there will be no escape. This is bound to happen. A
sense of accountability is essential for fully-fledged obedience to 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: 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 avoid committing those sins which do not apparently bring 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 Judgement,remain steadfast in the turbulent waters of life with its temptation to sin, crime and evil; for doubt and hesitancy rob a man of his will to action. You can remain consistent in your behaviour only if you are firm in your beliefs. 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 that will engulf you if you disobey it. Thus, a profound knowledge of the consequences of belief and disbelief and of the life after death is crucial.
These are the essential facts which one must know if one wants to live the life of obedience, that
Faith - What Does it Mean?
Faith is what we have described in the foregoing discussion as ‘Knowledge and Belief’. The Arabic word Iman, 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 Mu'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.
It is therefore clear that without faith (Iman) 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 Iman 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, for many reasons, not grow, or if it does grow, its development 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.
From the viewpoint of Islam and Iman, men may be classified into four categories:
1. Those who have firm faith - a faith that makes them whole-heartedly submit to
God. They follow the way of God and devote themselves heart and soul to seeking His pleasure by doing all that He likes and by avoiding all that He dislikes. In their devotion they are even more fervent than is the common man
men are true Muslims.
2. Those who do have faith, who believe in God, His Law and the Day of
Judgement, but whose faith is not deep and strong enough to make them
totally submit to God. They are far below the rank of true Muslims, deserve
Punishment for their defaults and misdeeds, but are still Muslims. They are wrongdoers but not rebels. They acknowledge the Sovereign and His Law and, although they are violating the Law, they have not revolted against the Sovereign. They admit His supremacy and their own guilt. Thus they are
punishment, but Muslims they remain.
3. Those who do not possess faith at all. These people refuse to acknowledge
the sovereignty of God and are rebels. Even if their conduct is not bad and even
if they are not spreading corruption and violence, they remain rebels and their
apparent good deeds are of little value. Such men are like outlaws. Sometimes
outlaws may act in accordance with the laws of the land, but this does not make
them loyal and obedient citizens; in the same way the apparent good deeds of those
who revolt against God cannot compensate for the gravity of the real
4. Those who neither possess faith nor do good deeds. They spread disorder in
the world and perpetrate all kinds of violence and oppression. They are the worst
of the people; for they are both rebels and wrongdoers and criminals.
The above classification of mankind shows that the real success and salvation of man depends on faith (Iman). The life of obedience (Islam) takes its birth from the seed of Iman. This Islam of a person may be flawless or defective. But without Iman there can be no Islam. Where there is no Iman there is no Islam. Where there is no Islam there is Kufr. Its form and nature may vary, but it remains Kufr and nothing but Kufr.
How to Acquire Knowledge of God?
Now the question arises of how to acquire knowledge of and belief in God, His Attributes, His Law and the Day of Judgement?
We have already referred to the 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 manifestations reflect the divine attributes of the Creator: His great wisdom, His all-embracing knowledge, His omnipotence,His mercy, His all-sustaining power - in short His attributes can be traced everywhere in His works. But man’s intellect and capacity for knowledge have erred in observing and understanding them. Some men have argued that there are two gods, others have professed belief in a trinity, and still others have succumbed to polytheism. Some have worshipped nature and others divided the Creator into the gods of rain, air, fire, life, death and so on.
Similarly, men have put forward many erroneous notions about life after death; 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 world and is punished or rewarded in future cycles of life.
Even greater difficulty arises when we come to the question of a code of living. To formulate a complete and balanced code that conforms to God’s pleasure merely using human reason is an extremely difficult task. Even if a man is equipped with the highest faculties of reason and intellect and possesses matchless wisdom and experience, the chances of his formulating the correct views on existence are slight. And even if, after a lifetime of reflection, he does in fact succeed he will still lack the confidence that he has really discovered the truth and adopted the right path.
The fullest and fairest test of man’s wisdom, reason and knowledge might have been to have left him to his own resources without any external guidance. But this would have meant that only those with the determination and ability to find the path of truth would find salvation. God,therefore, 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 life after death and thus showed them the way by which man can achieve success and eternal bliss.
These chosen men are the Messengers of God - His Prophets. God has communicated
knowledge and wisdom to them by means of revelation (Wahi), and the book containing the Divine Communications is called the Book of God, or the Word of God. The test of man’s wisdom and intellect therefore lies in this: does he recognise God’s Messengers after observing their pure and pious lives and carefully studying their noble and flawless teachings? A man of wisdom and common sense would accept instructions given by the Messengers of truth. If he denies the Messengers of God and their teachings, his denial would
signify that he was devoid of the capacity to discover truth and righteousness. He would fail his test. Such a man will never be able to discover the truth about God and His Law and life after death.
Faith in the Unknown
It is an everyday experience that when you do not know a thing, you look for somebody who does know. If you get ill and you cannot treat and cure yourself, you go to a doctor 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. Similarly, in matters of law you accept whatever a legal expert says and act accordingly.
In educational matters you trust in your teacher. When you want to go to some place and do not know the way, you ask somebody who knows it, and follow the way he points out. In short, the course that you adopt in your day-to-day life about matters which you do not or cannot know is that you approach someone who does know about them, accept his advice and act accordingly. You make every effort to select the proper person. But from then on you accept his advice unquestioningly. This kind of belief is called “belief in the unknown” (Iman-bi’l-ghayb).
Iman-bi'l-ghayb signifies that you get 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 to come. Such knowledge is given to you by the Prophets, who have had direct contact with the Divine Being. They are the persons whose sincerity, integrity, trustworthiness, godliness and absolute purity stand as irrevocable witnesses to the truth of their claim to knowledge. And above all, the wisdom and force of their message makes you admit that they speak the truth and deserve to be believed and followed.
This conviction of yours is lman-bi’l-ghayb. Such a truth-discerning and truth-acknowledging attitude is essential for obedience to God and for acting in accordance with His pleasure; for you have no other medium than God’s Messengers for the achievement of true knowledge, and without true knowledge you cannot proceed on the path of Islam.
Our discussion so far has made the following points:
1. The right course for man is to live in obedience to God, and for such a life of obedience knowledge and faith are absolutely essential; knowledge of God and His attributes, His likes and dislikes, His chosen way and the Day of Judgement; and unflinching faith in this knowledge; this is Iman.
2. God has graciously spared man the arduous task of acquiring this knowledge
through his personal effort alone. Instead, He has revealed this knowledge to
the Prophets He has chosen from amongst men and commanded them to convey
the Will of God to other human beings and show them the right path. This has
saved man from much great misfortune.
3. The duty of men and women is to recognise a true Prophet of God, to have
faith in him and his teachings and to scrupulously obey him and follow in his footsteps. This is the road to salvation.
In this chapter we shall discuss the nature, history and other aspects of prophethood.
Prophethood: Its Nature and Necessity
God has most graciously provided man with all that he needs in this Universe. Generally every new-born child arrives in the world endowed with eyes to see, ears to hear, a nose to smell and breathe, hands to touch, feet to walk and a mind to think. All those potentialities, powers and faculties that a man needs or can need are most carefully provided and marvellously set in his tiny body. Every minute requirement is foreseen and provided for.
It is the same with the world he lives in. Everything essential for his life is provided: air,light, heat, water and so on. A child on opening his eyes, finds his food in his mother’s breast. His parents love him instinctively and in their hearts 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 at every stage of his life obtains from nature all that he needs. All the material conditions of survival and growth are provided for, he finds that the whole Universe is at his service.
Furthermore, man is blessed with all those powers, capacities and faculties - physical, mental and moral - which he requires in his struggle for life. But God has not distributed these gifts equally. This would have made men totally independent of each other and would have excluded mutual care and co-operation. Thus, although mankind as a whole possesses all that is needed, between men capacities are distributed unequally and sparingly.
Some possess physical strength and prowess, others distinguish themselves for their mental talents. Some are born with a greater aptitude for arts, poetry and philosophy, some possess sharpness of tongue, others military acumen, commercial intelligence, mathematical keenness,scientific curiosity, literary observation or philosophical bent. These special aptitudes make a man distinct and enable him to grasp those intricacies which elude the common man. These insights, aptitudes and talents are the gifts of God. They are innate in the nature of those men
whom God has destined to be thus distinguished. They cannot be acquired merely by education and training.
Reflection on this disposition of God’s gifts also reveals that man’s talents have been distributed in a marvellous way. Those capacities which are essential for the general maintenance of human culture have been endowed to most people, while extraordinary talents which are required only to a limited extent are given only to a small number. There are many soldiers, peasants, artisans and workers; but military generals, scholars, statesmen and intellectuals are comparatively few. The general rule seems to be: the higher the capacity and greater the genius,
the fewer people who possess them. Supergeniuses, who leave an indelible mark on human history and whose achievements guide humanity for centuries, are fewer still.
Here we are faced with another question: do people just need specialists in the fields of law and politics, science and mathematics, engineering and mechanics, finance and economics and the like? Or do they also need men to show them the right path - the way to God and salvation?
There must clearly be someone to tell man the purpose of creation and the meaning of life itself: what man himself is and why he has 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 they can be attained.
Our reason refuses to accept that God, Who has provided man with even the smallest of his requirements, would not provide for this greatest and most vital need. It can never be so. And it is not so. While God has produced men of distinction in arts and science, He has also raised men with deep vision, pure intuition and the highest faculties to know and understand Him. To them, He revealed the way of godliness, piety and righteousness. He gave them the knowledge of the aims of life and values of morality and entrusted them with the duty to communicate Divine Revelation to other human beings. These men are the Prophets and Messengers of God. The Prophets distinguish themselves in human society by their special aptitudes, natural bents of mind and a pious and meaningful way of life, more or less in the same way as other geniuses in art and science distinguish themselves by their extraordinary capacities and natural aptitudes. The genius in man is its own advertisement and automatically persuades others to recognise and acknowledge it.
Thus, a Prophet’s mind grasps problems which defy other minds; he throws light on subjects which no one else can; he has insights into such subtle and intricate questions that no one else would have even understood after years of deep thought and meditation. Reason accepts whatever he says; the heart feels its truth; and experience of the world testifies to every word that flows from his mouth. If, however, we ourselves try to produce the same or a similar work, we inevitably meet with failure. In all affairs his attitude is that of truthfulness, straightforwardness and nobility. He never does or utters wrong, nor does he commit any evil.
He always encourages virtue and righteousness, and practices himself what he preaches to others. Neither his words nor his deeds are prompted by self-interest. He suffers for the good of others, and never makes others suffer for his own good.
When it becomes quite clear that a person is a true Prophet of God, the natural dictate of this realisation is that his words should be accepted, his instructions followed and his orders obeyed. It is illogical to accept a man as God’s true Prophet and yet not to believe in what he says and 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 does is in accordance with God’s Will and Pleasure. Disobedience of him is disobedience of God - and disobedience of God leads to ruin.
Therefore, the very acceptance of a Prophet makes it incumbent on you to follow his instructions unconditionally. You may not be able fully to grasp the wisdom and usefulness of this or that order, but the very fact that an instruction has emanated from a Prophet is sufficient guarantee of its truth. One’s inability to understand it does not mean there is something wrong with it. Rather it is our understanding which is at fault.
Some men admit the integrity and truthfulness of a Prophet, but do not put faith (Iman) in him,nor do they follow him in the affairs of their life. Such men are not only Kafirs, but imprudent:
for not to follow a 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 the way to truth.” This, too, is a wrong view. You have probably learnt geometry, and you know that between points there can be only one straight line; all other lines must be crooked or will fail to touch the points in view. The same is the case with the way to truth, which in the language of Islam, is called the Straight Path (al-Sirat al-Mustaqim). This path begins from man and goes straight up to God, and this path can by definition be one and only one; all other paths
must be aberrations. This Straight Path has been indicated by the Prophets, and there is and can be no straight path besides that. The man who ignores that path soon finds himself lost in the maze created by his own fancy. What can you think of a person who loses his way and,when a good man shows him the right one, defiantly declares: “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 tried to start from scratch, it would be a gross
waste of time and energy. We never do so in the sciences and arts: why here?
If you go a little deeper into the matter, it will become clear that a person who disbelieves in a true Prophet cannot find any way, straight or otherwise, to God. This is because a man who refuses to believe the advice of a truthful man adopts such a perverse attitude that he ceases to understand the difference between truth and falsehood and becomes a victim of his own obstinacy, arrogance, bias and perversity. This refusal may be due to false arrogance, or blind conservatism and obstinate adherence to the way of one’s forefathers, or to slavery to the lower
desires of the self, whose gratification becomes impossible by submission to the teachings of the Prophets.
On the other hand, if a man is sincere and truth-loving, the road to reality opens up to him. He will find in the teachings of the Prophets the very echo of his own soul and discover himself by discovering the Prophets.
Above all, a true Prophet is raised by God Himself. It is He Who has sent him to mankind to convey His message to His people. It is His Command that one should put one’s faith in the Prophet and follow him. Thus, one who refuses to believe in God’s Messenger refuses to follow God’s Commandment and becomes a rebel. There is no denying 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. Anyone who rejects the Prophets of God is a Kafir, be he a believer in God or a
Brief History of Prophethood
Now let us look 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 Prophets,Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 from that earliest pair: Adam and Eve.1 History and religion are agreed on this point. Nor do scientific investigations into the origin of man show that originally different men came into being,simultaneously or at different points of time, in different parts of the world. Most scientists conjecture that one man would have been brought into existence first and the entire human race might have descended from that one man.
Adam, the first man on earth, was also the first Prophet of God. He revealed His religion - Islam - to him and told him to convey and communicate it to his descendants: to teach them that Allah is One, the Creator, the Sustainer of the world; that He is the Lord of the Universe and He alone should be worshipped and obeyed, that to Him they would have to return one day and to Him alone they should appeal for help; that they should live righteous lives in accordance with God’s pleasure and that if they did so they would be blessed and if they did not they would
suffer both here and in the hereafter.
Those of Adam’s descendants who were good trod the right path, but those who were bad
abandoned their father’s teachings. 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 the favour of each one could be won by 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 over the globe, and formed different races and nations.
Every nation had created a different religion for itself, each with rituals of its own. God - the one Lord and Creator of mankind and the universe - was forgotten. Every kind of evil custom grew; many evils began to be considered right and many right things were either ignored or condemned as wrong.
At this stage God began to raise Prophets among every people. Each one reminded his people of the lesson they had forgotten. They put an end to idol-worship and the practice of associating other deities with God (shirk), did away with all customs of ignorance, taught them the right way of living in accordance with God’s pleasure, and gave them laws to be followed and enforced in society. God’s true Prophets were raised in every land and among every 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 varied:
1. This is a very important and revolutionary concept. Its logical outcome is unity of mankind and the equality of human beings. It is stupid to distinguish and discriminate between men on grounds of class, colour, race or territory. In an age when nationalism. narrow racialism and bloodthirsty anti-Semitism have torn the world into shreds. this creed of the unity of mankind is a powerful ray of hope for the future.
2. This view of the history of religions is diametrically opposed to the so-called evolutionary view of religion which regards nature-worship as the first stage. More modern scientific studies are confirming the view that worship of one God (Tawhid) was the earliest form of worship and all other forms are perversions of that original religion. Those who want to pursue the topic may refer to Prof.W. Schmidt’s valuable research treatise, The Origin and Growth of Religions, English translation by H. J. Rose (London, Methuen).
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 was trying to eradicate. When people were in the primitive stages of society, civilisation and intellectual development, their laws and regulations were simple; they were modified and improved as the society evolved and progressed.
Such differences were, however, only superficial. 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 life after death with its just mechanism of reward and punishment.
Man’s attitude towards God’s Prophets has been strange. He has ill-treated them and refused to accept their teachings. Some of the prophets were expelled from their lands; some were assassinated, some, faced with indifference, preached the whole of their lives without winning more than a few followers. But despite the harassment, derision and indignity, to which they were perpetually subjected, these Apostles of God did not cease to spread their message. Their patient determination at last succeeded: large groups of people and nations were converted to their creed.
The false tendencies, born of centuries of deviation, ignorance and malpractice, now took
another form. Though they accepted their Prophets during their lives and practiced their
teachings, after their deaths they introduced their own distorted ideas into their religions. They
adopted novel methods of worshipping God; some even took to the worship of their Prophets.
They made the Prophets the incarnations of God or 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.
By intermixing religion, rituals born of ignorance, baseless and false anecdotes and man-made laws, men so changed and perverted the teachings of the Prophets over the centuries that
they became lost in a welter of fictions to the extent that it became impossible to distinguish the
grain from the chaff. Not content with this, they made up so many stories about their Prophets
that real and reliable accounts of their lives became impossible to discern. Despite all this, the
work of the Prophets was not altogether in vain. Traces of truth survived. The idea of God and
of life after death was assimilated in some form or other. A few principles of goodness,
truthfulness and morality were accepted throughout the world. The Prophets thus
3. There is a common misconception, mostly among Western writers. that Islam owes its origin
to the Prophet Muhammad (Blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and some of the writers
even go to the extent of calling him ‘the founder of Islam’. This is a travesty of the truth. Islam
has been the religion of all the Prophets of God and all of them have brought the same message
from Him, Prophets have not been the founders of lslam, they have only been the messengers of
it. Islam consists of the Divine Revelation conveyed to mankind by the truthful Prophets. -
repared the mental attitude of their respective peoples in such a way that a universal
religion could be safely introduced - a religion which accords with the nature of man, which
embodies all that was good in all other creeds and societies, and which is acceptable to
As we have said above, in the beginning separate prophets appeared among different
nations or groups of people, and the teaching of each Prophet was meant specially and
specifically for his people. The reason was that at that stage of history, nations were so cut off
from each other geographically that opportunities for mutual intercourse were non-existent. In
such circumstances it was very difficult to propagate a common World Faith with an
accompanying common system of law.
In addition, the ignorance of the early nations was so great that it had given different forms
to their moral aberrations 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; to gradually
eradicate evils and aberrations; to root out ignorance and teach them the simple, pious and
righteous life. God alone knows how many thousands of years were spent in thus educating
man, and developing him mentally, morally and spiritually.
With the progress and spread of commerce, industry and the arts, intercourse was established
between nations. From China and Japan, as far 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 another and learning
and scholarship began to be exchanged. Great conquerors appeared, extended their conquests
far and wide, established vast empires, and knit many different nations under one political
system. Thus nations came closer and closer to one another, and their differences became less
It became possible under these circumstances that one and the same faith, envisaging a
comprehensive and all-embracing way of life, meeting the moral, spiritual, social, cultural,
political, economic and other needs of men and embodying both religious and secular
elements could be sent by God to the whole ‘of mankind. More than two thousand years
ago mankind had reached such a mental awareness that it seemed to be craving for a universal
Buddhism, though it consisted only of a set of 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
Afghanistan and Bokhara on the other. Its missionaries travelled far and wide in the world. A
few centuries later, Christianity appeared. Although the religion taught by Jesus Christ (peace
be upon him) was pure Islam, his followers reduced it to a hotch-potch called Christianity, and
even this overtly Israelised religion spread to far-off Persia and Asia Minor and to the distant
climes of Europe and Africa. From these events it is evident that the conditions of mankind in
that age demanded a common religion for the whole human race. Indeed, when people
found no complete and true religion in existence they began to develop existing religions,
however defective, incomplete and unsatisfying they might have been.
At such a crucial stage of human civilisation, 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
fully-fledged system, covering all aspects of the life of man. He was Muhammad, the Prophet of
Islam (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him)!
The Prophethood of Muhammad
If we cast a glance at the world atlas, we find that no other country could have been more
suitable than Arabia for the much-needed world religion. It is situated right in the middle of
Asia and Africa, and Europe is not far away. At the time of Muhammad’s (blessings of Allah
and peace be upon him) appearance central ‘Europe was inhabited by civilised and culturally
advanced nations; these people were about the same distance from Arabia as were the people
Look at the history of that era, too, and you will find that no other people were more suited to
be endowed with this Prophet than the Arabs. Great nations of the world had long been
struggling for world supremacy; as a consequence they had exhausted their resources and
vitality. The Arabs were a fresh and virile people. So-called social progress had produced bad
habits among the advanced nations, while among the Arabs no such social organisation existed,
and they were, therefore, free from the inactivity, debasement and decadence 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
social systems and civilisations of the great nations of the world. They possessed all the good
human qualities of a people untouched by the ‘social progress’ of the time. They were
brave, fearless, generous, faithful to their promises, lovers of freedom and politically
independent - not subject to the hegemony of any of the imperial powers.
There were also certain undesirable aspects of their life as well, as we shall mention later
on, but the reason for this was that for thousands of years no prophet had risen among them,
nor had there appeared a reformer who might have civilised them and purged their moral life
of its impurities. Centuries of free and independent desert life had bred and nourished
extreme ignorance among them. They had, therefore, become so fixed in their traditions of
ignorance that to humanise them was beyond an ordinary man.
At the same time, however, if some person of extraordinary powers were to give them a noble
ideal, they would readily rise to act for the achievement of such an ideal. They would be
prepared to face the hostility of the entire world in the cause of their mission. It was just such
a young, forceful and virile people that was needed to disseminate the teachings of the World
Prophet, Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him).
Take also the Arabic language. The more you study its literature, the more you will be
convinced that there is no other language more suited to express high ideals, to explain the most
subtle aspects of Divine knowledge, and to impress the heart of man and mould it into
submission to God. Small phrases and brief sentences express a whole world of ideas; they are
so powerful that their very sound can move men to tears and ecstasy. They are so sweet that it
is as if honey were being poured into one’s ears; they are so full of harmony that every fibre of
the listener’s body is moved by their symphony. It was a rich and powerful language such as
this that was needed for the Qur’an, the Great Word of God.
It was, therefore, a manifestation of God’s great wisdom that He chose Arabia as the birth-
place of the World Prophet. Let us now see how unique and extraordinary was the blessed
personality chosen by God for this mission.
Muhammad’s Prophethood: A Rational Vindication
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. How few and far between were the
opportunities for the exchange of ideas! How limited and undeveloped were the means of
communication! How meagre was man’s knowledge! How narrow his outlook! How
enveloped was he in superstition and wild ideas!
Darkness held sway. There was only a faint glimmer of learning, hardly strong enough to light
up the horizons of human knowledge. There was neither radio nor telephone, neither television
nor the cinema. Railways and cars and aeroplanes were undreamt of, and printing presses
were unknown. Hand-written books or copyists alone supplied what little literary material there
was to be transmitted from generation to generation. Education was a luxury, meant only
for the most fortunate, and educational institutions were very few and far between.
The store of human knowledge was scanty, man’s outlook was narrow, and his ideas of men
and things were confined to his limited surroundings. Even a scholar of that age lacked in some
respects the knowledge possessed by a layman of today, and the most cultured person was less
refined than the modern 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.
People used to spend a whole lifetime acquiring the modest information which is now
everybody’s heritage. Things which are classed as ‘myth’ and ‘superstition’ today were the
unquestionable truths of that age. Acts which we now regard as barbarous were then the order
of the day. Methods which appear obnoxious to our moral sense today constituted the very
soul of morality; incredulity had assumed such proportions and had become so widespread
that people refused to consider anything as sublime unless it appeared in the garb of the
supernatural, the uncanny and even the impossible. They had developed such inferiority
complexes that they could not imagine human beings possessing saintly souls.
Arabia - The Abyss of Darkness
In that benighted era, there was a territory where darkness lay even heavier than elsewhere.
The neighbouring countries of Persia, Byzantium and Egypt possessed a glimmer of civilisation
and a faint light of learning. But Arabia stood isolated, cut off by vast tracts of desert.
Arab traders travelling great distances, which took them months, carried their wares to and from
these countries, but they had little chance to find out anything about them. In their own country,
they did not have a single educational institution or library. No one seemed interested in the
cultivation and advancement of knowledge. The few who were literate were not educated
enough to understand the existing arts and sciences. Although they did possess a highly
developed language capable of expressing the finest shades of human thought in a remarkable
manner, a study of the remnants of their literature reveals how limited was their knowledge, how
low was their standard of culture and civilisation, how saturated were their minds with
superstitions, how barbarous and ferocious were their thoughts and customs, and how decadent
were their moral standards.
It was a country without a government. Each tribe considered itself to be an independent
sovereign unit. There was no law except the law of the strongest. Loot, arson and murder of
innocent and weak people was the order of the day. Life, property and honour were
constantly in jeopardy. Tribes were always at daggers drawn with one another. Any trivial
incident was enough to spark off a ferocious war. Indeed, Bedouins from one tribe thought they
had every right to kill people from other tribes.4
Whatever notions they had of morals, culture and civilisation were primitive in the extreme.
They could hardly discriminate between pure and impure, lawful and unlawful. Their lives
were barbaric. They revelled in adultery, gambling and drinking. Looting and murder were
part of their everyday existence. They would stand stark naked before each other without any
qualms of conscience. Even their women-folk would strip nude at the ceremony of
circumambulating the Ka’bah. They would bury their daughters alive lest anyone should
become their son-in-law. They would marry their step-mothers after the death of their fathers.
They were ignorant of even the rudiments of everyday life such as proper eating, dressing and
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 knew nothing about the teachings of the Prophets of old. They had an idea that Abraham
and Ishmael were their forefathers, but they knew next to nothing about their religious
preachings and about the God Whom they worshipped. The stories of Ad and Thamud were to
be found in their folklore, but they contained no traces of the teachings of the Prophets Hud and
Salih. The Jews and Christians had passed on to them certain legends 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. Some
idea of the religious conceptions of those people can still be got today by looking at those
Israelite traditions which Muslim commentators of the Qur’an have conveyed to us. The picture
presented of the institution of prophethood and of the character of the Israelite Prophets is the
very antithesis of all that those noble followers of truth stood for.
The Saviour is Born
In such a dark age and in such a benighted country a man is born. His parents die when
he is very young 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 flocks of sheep and goats in the company of
Bedouin boys. When of age, he takes to commerce. All his associations and all his dealings
are with the Arabs alone, whose condition has just been described.
He is completely illiterate and unschooled. He never gets a chance to sit in the company of
learned men, for such men were non-existent in Arabia. He does 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 meets any learned men there,
such random - meetings are so rare as to play no part in the forming of his personality. Nor can
they be the means of the acquisition of that profound and vast knowledge which transformed an
unlettered Bedouin into a leader not only of his own country and age but of the whole world and
of all ages to come. These journeys cannot have given him those conceptions and principles of
religion, ethics, culture and civilisation: they were non-existent in the world of those days. And
they cannot have created that sublime and perfect
4. Prof. Joseph Hell writes in The Arab Civilisation (P. 10): “These struggles destroyed the
sense of national unity and developed an incurable particularism; each tribe deeming itself
self-sufficient and regarding the rest as its legitimate victims for murder, robbery and plunder.”
human character which was nowhere to be found in those days.
Diamond in a Heap of Stones
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 from the people among whom he is born and passes his youth and early
manhood and attains finally his full stature. Even his worst enemies never accuse him of telling
a lie. He never uses obscene and abusive language. He has a charming personality and
winning manners with which he captivates the hearts of those who come into contact with him.
In his dealings with people he always follows the principles of justice and fair play. He remains
engaged 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-Amin (the Truthful and the Trustworthy). Even his enemies deposit their valuable
belongings with him for safe custody.
He is the embodiment of modesty in the 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 the highest culture and the most refined aesthetic outlook.
Surrounded on all sides by cruelty, he himself has a heart overflowing with the milk of human
kindness. He helps orphans and widows. He is hospitable to travellers. He harms no one;
rather, he suffers hardships for others’ sakes. 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 stays aloof from the feuds of his tribe, intervening only to bring about
reconciliation. Brought up in an idolatrous race, he regards nothing in the heavens and the earth
worth worshipping except the One True God. He does not bow before any created thing and
does not partake of the offerings made to idols, even in his childhood. Instinctively he hates all
worship of any creature and being except 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.
A Revolution Comes
After spending a great part of his life in such a pure and civilised manner there comes a
revolution in his being. He has had enough of the darkness and ignorance around him. He
wants to swim clear of the horrible sea of corruption, immorality, idolatry and disorder which
surround him. He finds society out of harmony with his soul. He withdraws alone to the
hills, spending days and nights in total seclusion and meditation. He fasts so that his soul and
his heart may become still purer and nobler.
He muses and ponders deeply. He is in search of a light to melt away the encompassing
darkness. He wants the power to bring about the downfall of the corrupt and disorderly
world of his day and lay the foundations of a new and better world.
Suddenly his heart is illuminated with the Divine Light giving him the power he has yearned for.
He comes out of the confinement of his cave, goes to the people, and addresses them thus:
“The idols which you worship are a sham. Stop worshipping them from now on. No mortal
being, no star, no tree, no stone, no spirit is worthy of human worship. Therefore bow not your
heads in worship before them. The entire universe with everything that it contains belongs to
God Almighty. 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 alone 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 what is due to
others 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 has anyone come into the world with the mantle of honour
hung around his neck. He alone is high and honoured who is God fearing and pious, true in
words and deed. Distinctions of birth and race are no criteria of greatness and honour. One
who fears God and does good deeds is the noblest of human beings. One who does not love
God and is steeped in bad ways is doomed.
“There is an appointed day after your death when you shall have to appear before your Lord.
You shall be called to account for all your deeds, good or bad, and you shall not be able then to
hide anything. The whole record of your life shall be an open book to Him. Your fate shall be
determined by your good or bad actions. In the court of the True Judge - the Omniscient
God - the question of unfair recommendation and favouritism does not arise. You will 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 has them shall take his
abode in the Heaven of eternal happiness, while he who is 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. Abuse and
stones are showered on his august person. Every conceivable torture and cruelty is
perpetrated on him; and this continues not for a day or two but uninterruptedly for thirteen long,
troubled years. At last he is exiled. But he is not given respite even there. He is tormented in
various ways in his place of refuge. The whole of Arabia is incited against him. He is persecuted
and hounded continuously for fully eight years there. He suffers it all, but does not budge from
the stand he has taken. He is resolute, firm and inflexible in his purpose.
Why all that Enmity?
One might ask: 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 lives of righteousness, piety and goodness. He had
preached against idolatry and the worship of other beings besides God, and had denounced
their way 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 tribe 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 countrymen told him that the principles of his mission were hostile to their
ancestral traditions and asked him either to give them up or to bear the worst consequences.
Why 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 stop preaching his religion and spreading his
message.5 But he chose instead to refuse the tempting offers and to suffer for his cause.
Why? What had he to gain, if those people became pious and righteous?
5. The Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) had to face tempests
of adversity in the cause of truth. He faced all the opposition and oppression with a smile. He
stood firm. undeterred by criticism and coercion. When the natives saw that the threats
failed to frighten him and the severest tribulations heaped upon his person and his followers
could not make them budge. they played another trick - but that too was destined to fail!
A deputation of the leading Quraish called upon the Holy Prophet and tried to bribe him by
offering him the worldly glory they could imagine. They said: “If you want to possess wealth,
we will amass for you as much as you wish; if you aspire to win honour and power we are
prepared to swear allegiance to you as our overlord and king; if you have a fancy for beauty.
you shall have the hand of the most beautiful maiden of your choice.”
But they wanted him to abandon his mission. The terms were extremely tempting for any
human mortal. But they had no significance for the Great Prophet. His reply fell like a bomb
shell upon the deputation: “Pray! I want neither wealth nor power. I have been commissioned
by God to warn mankind. I deliver His message to you. Should you accept it, you shall have
joy in this life and eternal bliss in the life hereafter, should you reject it, surely God will decide
between you and me.”
On another occasion he said to his uncle, who, under pressure from the leaders of Arabia.
was trying to persuade him to abandon his mission: “O Uncle! Should they place the sun in my
right hand and the moon in my left in order to make me renounce this mission, it would not be
so. I will never give it up till it should please God to make it a triumph or I perish in the
This was the character of the Prophet of Islam! - Editor.
Why was it that he cared nothing for riches and luxury, kingship and glory, and ease and
plenty? Was he playing for some higher material gain so that these blessings sank into
insignificance in comparison with them? Were those gains 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 these questions deeply to find the answer.
Can anyone imagine a higher example of self-sacrifice, fellow-feeling and humanity than that a
man may ruin his own happiness for the good of others, while those very people for whose
betterment he is striving should stone him, abuse him, banish him and harass him even in his
exile, and that, in spite of all this, he should continue striving for their well-being?
Can anyone who is insincere undergo so much suffering for a false cause? Can anyone who is
dishonest exhibit such determination to stick to his guns in the face of dangers and tortures of
every description when a whole country rises up in arms against him?
The faith, perseverance and resolution with which he led his movement to ultimate success is
eloquent proof of the supreme truth of his cause. Had there been the slightest doubt and
uncertainty in his heart, he could never have been able to brave the storm which continued
unabated for twenty-one long years.
This is one side of the revolution wrought in his being. The other is even more wonderful and
A Changed Man at Forty - Why?
For forty years he lived as an Arab among Arabs. During that long period he was not known
as a statesman, a preacher or an orator. No-one had heard him imparting gems of wisdom
and knowledge as he began to do hereafter. He was never seen discoursing on metaphysics,
ethics, law, politics, economics and sociology. Let alone being a great general, he was not
even known as an ordinary soldier. He had uttered no word about God, the Angels, the
Revealed Books, the early Prophets, the bygone nations, the Day of Judgement, Life after
Death, Hell and Heaven.
Although he possessed an excellent character and charming manners, and was highly cultured,
there was nothing so striking about him which could make men expect something great and
revolutionary from him in the future. He was known among his acquaintances as a sober, calm,
gentle, law-abiding citizen of good nature. But when he came out of the cave with his Message
he was 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 persuasive
that his worst enemies were afraid of hearing it, lest it should penetrate deep into their hearts
or the very marrow of their beings and convert them from their old religion and culture. It was
so unique that the whole legion of Arab poets, preachers and orators of the highest calibre failed
to match it in beauty of language and splendour of diction when he threw the challenge to his
opponents to produce even a single line like the ones he was reciting.
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
desert dweller, spoke with learning and wisdom, the like of which none had said before and
none could say after him.
He expounded the complex problems of metaphysics and theology. He delivered speeches on
the decline and fall of nations and empires, supporting his thesis with historical fact. He
reviewed the achievements of the old reformers, passed judgements 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 laws of social culture, economic
organisation, group conduct and international relations whose wisdom even eminent thinkers
and scholars can grasp only after lifelong research and vast experience of men and things. Their
beauties, indeed, unfold themselves progressively as man advances in theoretical knowledge and
This silent and peace-loving trader who had never even handled a sword before turned
suddenly into such a brave soldier that he was never known to retreat however fierce the
battle. He became such a great general that he conquered the whole of Arabia in nine years, at
a time when the weapons of war were primitive and the means of communication very poor.
His military acumen and his ability to transmit the skills of war to a motley crowd of Arabs (who
had no equipment worth the name) meant that within a few years he had overthrown the two
most formidable military powers of the day and become the master of the greater part of the
then known world.
This reserved and quiet man who, for fully forty years, never gave any 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 the media, he brought together under one
banner, one law, one religion, one culture, one civilisation and one form of government 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.6
He changed their modes of thought, their customs and their Morals. He turned the
uncouth in the cultured, the barbarous into the civilised, the evil-doers and bad characters into
pious God-fearing and righteous persons.
Their unruly and obstinate 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
He accomplished this feat not through any worldly lure, oppression or cruelty, but by his
humanity, his moral personality and his 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 deviate from truth and
righteousness. He did not oppress even his deadly enemies who were after his life, who had
stoned him, who had turned him out of his native place, who had set the whole of Arabia against
him - nay, not even those who had chewed the raw liver of his dead uncle in a frenzy of
vengeance.8 He forgave them all when he triumphed over them. He never took revenge on
Although 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 mud-cottage.
He slept on a mattress, wore coarse clothes, ate either the simplest food of the poor or went
without food at all. He used to spend whole nights standing in prayer before his Lord. He
came to the rescue of the destitute and the Penniless.9 He felt not the least insult in working
like a labourer. Till his last moments there was not the slightest tinge of royal pomp or hauteur
of the high
6. Sir William Muir. a staunch critic of Islam, admits in his book, The Life of Mohammad (p.
xciv): “The first peculiarity, then. which attracts our attention is the subdivision of the Arabs into
innumerable bodies ... each independent of the others restless and often at war amongst
themselves; and even when united by blood or by interest. ever ready on some insignificant
cause to separate and give way to an implacable hostility. Thus at the era of Islam the
retrospect of Arabian history exhibits, as in the kaleidoscope, an ever-varying state of
combination and repulsion, such as had hitherto rendered abortive any attempt at a general
union ... The problem had yet to be solved, by what force these tribes could be subdued, or
drawn to one common centre; and it was solved by Mohammad” (emphasis ours).
7. It would be instructive to refer here to an important speech of Jaffar ibn Abi Talib. When
the oppression of the Muslims of Makka reached its height, the Prophet Muhammad (blessings
of Allah and peace be upon him) asked some of them to migrate to the adjoining state of
Abbyssinia. A group did so. But the Quraish who were perpetrating every conceivable
oppression against the Muslims did not sit by idly. They pursued the Muslims and asked King
Negus of Abyssinia to forcefully return his immigrants. In the court of King Negus, Jaffar made
a speech which threw light on the revolution that the Holy Prophet had brought about. He said:
“O King! We were ignorant people, given to idolatry. We were used to eating corpses even of
dead animals, and to doing all kinds of disgraceful things. We did not carry out our obligations
to our relations, and ill-treated our neighbours. The strong among us would thrive at the
expense of the weak, till, at last, God raised a Prophet for our reformation. His descent, his
righteousness, his integrity and his piety are well known to us all. He called us to the worship of
God and exhorted us to give up idolatry and stone-worship. He enjoined us to speak the truth,
to make good our trusts, to respect ties of kinship, and to do good to our neighbours. He
taught us to shun everything foul and to avoid bloodshed. He forbade all manner of indecent
things: telling lies, misappropriating orphan’s belongings, and bringing false accusation against the
chastity of women. So we believed in him. followed him, and acted upon his teaching..”
8. On the occasion of the Battle of Uhud, Hinda, the wife of the chief of the pagan Arabs,
actually chewed the raw liver of the Prophet’s uncle, Hamza.
9. The Prophet said: “Anyone who, dies in debt or leaves behind dependents who are
in danger of becoming destitute should come to me because I am their guardian.” His whole
life bears ample testimony to this.
and mighty in him. Like any ordinary man he would sit and talk with people and share their joys
and sorrows. He would so mingle with the crowd that a stranger would find it difficult to single
out the leader of the people and the ruler of the nation from the rest of the company.
He never sought any reward or profit for himself, nor left any property to his heirs. He
dedicated his all to his Millah. He did not ask his adherents to earmark anything for him or his
descendants, so much so that he forbade his progeny to receive the benefit of poor-tax (Zakah).
His Contribution to Human Thought
The achievements of this great man do not end here. To arrive at full appreciation of his
worth one has to view them against the background of the history of the world as a whole. This
reveals that this unlettered dweller of the desert of Arabia, who was born in the ‘dark ages’
some 1400 years ago, is the real pioneer of our modern age. He is not only the leader of those
who accept his leadership but also of those who do not, even of those who denounce him - the
only difference being that the latter are unaware that ‘he is still imperceptibly influencing their
thoughts and their actions and is the governing principle of their lives and the guiding spirit of the
It was he who turned the course of human thought from superstition-mongering, love for the
unnatural and the inexplicable, and monasticism towards a rational approach, love for reality,
and a pious, balanced worldly life which regarded only supernatural happenings as miracles and
demanded them for the verification of the truth of a religious mission, urged that rational proof
should be the criterion of truth. It was he who opened the eyes of those who had been
accustomed to look for the signs of God in natural phenomena.
10. Arthur Leonard says: “Islam, in fact, has done a work. She has left a mark on the pages
of human history, which is so indelible that it can never be effaced . . . that only when the world
grows will be acknowledged in full.”
John Devenport, a leading scientist, observed: “it must be owned that all the knowledge.
whether of physics, astronomy, philosophy or mathematics, which flourished in Europe from the
10th century, was originally derived from the Arabian schools, and the Spanish Saracen may be
looked upon as the father of European philosophy.” - Quoted by A. Karim in Islam’s
contribution to Science and Civilisation.
Bertrand Russell, the famous British philosopher, wrote: “The supremacy of the East was not
only military, science, philosophy, poetry and the arts all flourished ... in the Muhammedan
world at a time when Europe was sunk in barbarism. Europeans, with unpardonable insularity,
call this period ‘The Dark Ages’: but it was only in Europe that it was dark - indeed only in
Christian Europe, for Spain, which was Muhammedan, had a brilliant culture.” - Pakistan
Quarterly, Vol. IV, No. 3, (emphasis ours).
Robert Briffault, the renowned historian, acknowledges in his book The Making of Humanity:
“It is highly probably that but for the Arabs, modern European civilization would never have
assumed that character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution. For
although there is not a single aspect of human growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic
culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power
which constitutes the paramount distinctive force of the modern world and the supreme source
of its victory - natural sciences and the scientific spirit ... What we call science arose in Europe
as a result of a new spirit of inquiry: of new methods of investigation, of the method of
experience, observation, measurement, of the development of mathemaics in a form unknown to
the Greeks. That spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world by the
Stanwood Cobb, founder of the Progressive Education association, says: “Islam ... was the
virtual creator of the Renaissance in Europe.” - Quoted by Robert L. Gullick, Jr., in
Muhammad the Educator.
It was he who, in place of groundless 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 sense perception, reason and intuition. It
was he who brought about a rapprochement between spiritual and material values. It was he
who harmonised Faith and Knowledge and Action, who, in short, 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 superstition and idolatry were forced to adopt a monotheistic approach.
It was he who changed the basic concepts of ethics and spirituality. Those who believed that
asceticism and self-annihilation alone led to moral and spiritual purity - that purity could only
be achieved by running away from life, disregarding all the desires of the flesh and subjecting the
body to all types of tortures - he showed the path of spiritual evolution, moral emancipation
and attainment of salvation through active participation in the affairs of the world around them.
It was he who brought home to man his true worth; those who acknowledged only a God-
incarnate or a son of God as their moral preceptor or spiritual guide were told that human
beings with no pretensions to Godhead could become vicegerents of God on earth; those who
proclaimed and worshipped powerful personages as their gods were made to understand that
their false lords were mere ordinary human beings and nothing more. It was he who stressed
the point that no person could claim holiness, authority and overlordship as his birthright and that
no-one was born with the stigma of untouchability, slavery or serfdom. It was he and his
teaching which inspired thoughts of the unity of mankind, equality of human beings, true
democracy and real freedom.
Laws which he gave have penetrated deep into the structures of society, 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 upheavals in political theories and
continues to have 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. This unlettered Arab was the first person to formulate a framework
of international relations and lay down laws of war and peace. No one previously had even the
remotest idea that there could be an ethical code of war and that relations between different
nations could be regulated on the basis of common humanity11.
11. For details, see Abul A’la Mawdudi’s Al-Jihad fi’l-Islam.
The Greatest Revolutionary
In the cavalcade of world history the sublime figure of this wonderful person towers so high
above all others that they appear to be dwarfs when contrasted with him. None of them
possessed a genius capable of making a deep impression on more than one or two aspects of
human life. Some are brilliant theoreticians but are lacking when it comes to practical action.
Some are men of action but with little knowledge. Some are renowned as statesmen only,
others are masters of strategy. Others again have devoted their energies to ethical and spiritual
problems but have ignored economics and politics. In short, one comes across heroes who are
expert 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 as well as 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. 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 personal hygiene. On
the foundations of philosophy he established a civilisation and a culture without the slightest trace
of a flaw, deficiency or incompleteness. Can anyone point to another 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. At most one might accept in the light of Hegels philosophy of history or Marx’s
historical materialism that the time and environment demanded the emergence of a leader
who could create a nation and build an empire. But Hegelian or Marxist philosophy cannot
explain how such an environment could produce a man whose mission was to teach the highest
morals, to purify humanity and to wipe out prejudice and superstition, who looked beyond the
artificial compartments of race and nation-state, who laid the foundations of a moral,
spiritual, cultural and political superstructure for the good of the whole world, who
practically, not theoretically, placed business transactions, civics, politics and international
relations on moral grounds and produced such a balanced synthesis between worldly life and
spiritual advancement that even to this day it is considered to be a masterpiece of wisdom and
foresight. Can anyone honestly call such a person a product of all-pervading darkness of
He does not only appear to be independent of his environment. When we look at his
achievements we are irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that he actually transcends the
limitations of time and space. His vision breaks through all temporal and physical barriers,
passes beyond centuries and millenniums and encompasses within itself the whole of human
He is not one of those whom history has cast into oblivion, and he is not praised only because
he was a good leader in his own time. He is that unique and incomparable leader of humanity
who marches with time, who is modern in every age and in every era.
Those whom people style makers of history’ are only ‘creatures of history’. In fact, in the
whole of 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 such occasions the forces of revolution were gathering momentum for
the destined upheaval, were taking their course in certain directions and were only waiting for
the right moment. In harnessing these forces the revolutionary leader played the part of an actor
for whom the stage and the role is set before hand. On the other hand the Prophet is only a
person who had to genuinely create a revolution; he had to mould and produce the kind of
men he wanted because the spirit of revolution and its necessary conditions were non-
He made an indelible impression on the hearts of thousands of his disciples by his forceful
personality and moulded them to his way of thinking. By his iron will he prepared the
ground for revolution and directed events into the channels he wanted. Can anyone cite
another example of a maker of history of such distinction, another revolutionary of such
brilliance and splendour?
The Final Testimony
One may wonder how, in the dark ages 1400 years ago in a benighted region of the earth like
Arabia, an illiterate 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, that it is the product of his own
mind. If this is so, then he should have proclaimed himself God. And if he had done so at that
time, the peoples of the earth who did not hesitate in calling Krishna and Buddha gods and
Jesus the Son of God, and who could without compunction worship such forces of nature
as fire, water and air - would have readily acknowledged him as such.
But he argued just the opposite. For he proclaimed: I am a human being like yourselves. I
have not brought anything to you of my own accord. It has all been revealed to me by God.
Whatever I possess belongs to Him. This message, the like of which the whole of humanity is
unable to produce, is the message of God. It is not the product 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
incompetent to produce 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, integrity, truth and honour those
sentiments are! Liars and hypocrites often try to take all the credit for the deeds of others, even
when they can easily be found out. But this great man does not claim any of these
achievements for himself even when no-one could contradict him as there was no way of
establishing 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 more truthful than he who received such unique gifts through
a secret channel and still pointed out their source? All these factors lead to the irresistible
conclusion that such a man was the true Messenger of God.
Such was our Holy Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). He was a
prodigy of extraordinary merits, a paragon of virtue and goodness, a symbol of truth, a great
apostle of God and His Messenger to the entire world. His life and thought, his truthfulness and
straightforwardness, his piety and goodness, his character and morals, his ideology and
achievements - all stand as unimpeachable proof of his prophethood. Any human being
who studies his life and teachings without bias will testify that he was the true Prophet of God
and the Qur’an - the Book he gave to mankind - the true Book of God. No serious seeker
after truth can come to any other conclusion.
It must also be clearly understood that now, through Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace
be upon him) alone can we know the straight path of Islam. The Qur’an and the life-example of
Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) are the only reliable sources that are
available to mankind to learn God’s Will in its totality. Muhammad (blessings of Allah and
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 (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and are enshrined in the Qur’an
and the Sunnah. Anyone who seeks to become a sincere Muslim must have faith in God’s last
Prophet, accept his teachings and follow the way he has pointed out to man. This is the road to
success and salvation.
The Finality of Prophethood
This brings us to the question of the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (blessings of
Allah and 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 of
the Prophet essential for every land, people and period. The life and teachings of the Prophet
are the beacon 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 ending of the influence
of his teachings. The earlier Prophets have died because their followers have adulterated
their teachings, distorted their instructions, and besmirched their life-examples by attaching
fictitious events to them. Not one of the earlier books - Torah, Zabur (Psalms of David), Injil
(Gospel of Jesus), for example - exists today in its original text and even the adherents of these
books confess that they do not possess the original books. 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 available anywhere. It cannot even be said with certainty when and where a certain
Prophet was born, how he lived and what code of morality he gave to mankind. Thus, the real
death of a Prophet consists in the death of his teachings.
By this criterion no-one can deny that Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him)
and his teachings are alive. His teachings stand uncorrupted and are incorruptible. The Qur’an
- the book he gave to mankind - exists in its original text, without a word, syllable or even letter
having been changed. The entire account of his life - his sayings, instructions and actions-is
preserved with complete accuracy. It is as though it all happened yesterday rather than thirteen
centuries ago. The biography of no other human being is so detailed as that of Muhammad, the
Prophet of Islam (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). In everything affecting our lives
we can seek the guidance of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and the
example of his life. That is why there is no need of any other Prophet after Muhammad, the last
Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him).
Furthermore, there are three conditions which necessitate the advent of a new Prophet over and
above the need to replace a deceased Prophet. These may be summed up as follows:
1. That the teachings of the earlier Prophets have been distorted or corrupted or they
have died and their revival is needed.
2. That the teachings of the Prophet who has passed away were incomplete and it is
necessary to amend them, improve on them or add something to them.
12. Another may be the situation when a Prophet is raised to help and assist another Prophet,
but as the instances of such Prophets are very few - in the Qur’an only two such instances are
given - and as this kind of prophethood seems to be the exception rather than the rule, we have
not added this as the fourth condition. - Author.
3. That the earlier Prophet was raised for a particular nation or territory and
a Prophet for another nation, people or country is required.12
None of these conditions exist today. The teachings of the last Prophet Muhammad (blessings
of Allah and peace be upon him) are alive, have been fully preserved and made immortal.
The guidance he has shown onto 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.
Secondly, God has completed His revealed guidance through the Prophet Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and Islam is a 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 for human guidance has been left out. There is no ground for new
prophethood on the plea of imperfection.
Lastly, the Message of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) was not meant
for any particular people, place or period. He was raised as the World Prophet - the
messenger of truth for the whole of mankind. The Qur’an has commanded Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and 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 world” 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-an-Nabiyyin (the last of the
chain of the true Prophets).
The only, source, therefore, for the knowledge of God and His Way is Muhammad (blessings of
Allah and peace be upon him). We can know of Islam only through his teachings which are so
complete and so comprehensive that they can guide men through all ages to come. The world
does not need a new prophet; it needs only such people as have full faith in Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), to become the standard-bearers of his message,
propagate it throughout the world, and endeavour to establish the culture which Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and 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 (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him)
came to establish.
This is the mission of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and on its success
hinges the success of Man.
THE ARTICLES OF FAITH
Our discussion so far can be summarised as follows:
Universe. Since the only authentic source of knowing Him and His Will and Law is
the teachings of the true Prophet, we may define Islam as that religion which stands for
complete faith in the teachings of the Prophet and steadfast obedience to his ways of life.Consequently, one who ignores the medium of directly is not a ‘Muslim’.
the Prophet and claims to follow God
2. In earlier epochs there had been separate Prophets for different nations, and
the history of prophethood shows that even in one and the same nation several
Prophets appeared one after the other. In that age Islam was the name of that
religion which was taught to a nation by its own Prophet or Prophets. Though
the nature and substance of Islam was the same in every age and country, the
modes of worship, codes of law and other detailed rules and regulations of life varied
according to local and particular conditions. It was not, therefore, necessary for any
nation to follow another nation’s Prophet and its responsibil-
following the guidance given by its own Prophet.
3. This period of poly-prophetism came to an end with the advent of Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). The teachings of Islam were made
complete through him; one basic law was formulated for the whole world and
he was made a Prophet for all mankind. His prophethood was not meant for any
particular nation or country or period; his message was for all peoples and for all
ages. The earlier codes were abrogated by the advent of Muhammad (blessings of
Allah and peace be upon him) who gave the world a complete code of life. This means
there will be no new Prophets and no new religious code
until the Last Day.
Muhammad’s (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) teachings are meant for all the
children of Adam, the entire human race.
Now Islam consists in following Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), that is,
acknowledging his prophethood, believing in all that he has asked us to believe in, following him
in letter and spirit, and submitting to all his commands and injunctions, the most fundamental of
which is La- ilaha illallah “There is no deity but Allah”.
This brings us to the question: What has Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him)
asked us to believe in? What are the articles of Islamic faith? We shall 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 world to come.
Tawhid: Faith in the Unity of God
The most fundamental and the most important teaching of Prophet Muhammad (blessings of
Allah and peace be upon him) is faith in the unity of God. This is expressed in the primary
Kalimah of Islam as “There is no deity but Allah” (La- ilaha illallah). This beautiful phrase is 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), mushrik (one who associates others with
God in His Divinity) or dahriyah (an 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 an
opposing group. For the believers there is unhampered progress and success in this world and
in the hereafter, while failure and ignominy are the ultimate lot of those who refuse to believe in
But the difference between the believers and the unbelievers does not result from the mere
chanting of a few words. Obviously, the mere utterance of a phrase or two is not in itself
important. The real difference lies in the conscious acceptance of this doctrine and complete
adherence to it in practical life. Mere repetition of the word ‘food’ cannot dull hunger; mere
chanting of a medical prescription cannot heal the disease.
In the same way, if the Kalimah is repeated without an understanding, it cannot work the
revolution which it is meant to bring about. This can occur only if a person grasps the full
meaning of the doctrine and accepts and follows it in letter and spirit. We avoid fire because we
know that it burns; we keep away from poison because we know that it can kill. Similarly, if the
real meanings of Tawhid are fully grasped, we avoid, in belief as well as in action, every form of
disbelief, atheism and polytheism. This is the natural consequence of belief in the Unity of God.
The Meaning of the Kalimah
In Arabic the word ilah means ‘one who is worshipped’, that is, a being which on account of its
greatness and power is 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 concept ilah also includes the possession of infinite powers and conveys
the sense that others are dependent on ilah and that he is not dependent on anyone else. The
word ilah carries, too, a sense of concealment and mystery. The word Khuda in Persian, Deva
in Hindi and God in English have similar connotations. Other languages also contain words with
a similar meaning.1
1. For instance, in Greck it is Oeo’s, in Latin Deus, in Gothic Guth, in German Gott. For
reference. see Encyclopaedia Britiannica (Chicago. 1956) Vol. X, p. 460. - Editor.
The word Allah, on the other hand, is the essential personal name of God. La ilaha illallah
literally means “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 we are all in need of His favour, and that we are
all obliged to seek His help. He is concealed from our senses, and our intellect cannot perceive
what He is.
Now we know the meaning of these words, let us look more closely at their real significance.
From the earliest 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 recognised some deity or
deities and worshipped them. Even today every nation, from the most primitive to the most
advanced, believes in and worships some deity. Having a deity and worshipping him is
ingrained in human nature. There is something within man’s soul which forces him to do so.
But the question is: what is that thing and why does man feel impelled to do so? The answer to
this question can be discovered if we look at the position of man in this huge universe.
Neither man nor his nature is omnipotent. He is neither self-sufficient nor self-existing; nor
are his powers limitless. In fact, he is weak, frail, needy and destitute.
He is dependent on a multitude of forces to maintain his existence, but all of them are not
essentially and totally within his powers. Sometimes they come into 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 endeavours 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 things injurious to him; accidents destroy his life’s work in a single moment; chance brings
his hopes to a sudden end; illness, worries and calamities are always threatening him and
marring his way to happiness. He attempts to get rid of them, and meets with both success and
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
disasters. He observes clouds over his head and sees them becoming thick and dark, with
peals of, thunder, flashes of lightning and heavy rain. He sees the sun, the moon and the stars in
their constant motions. He reflects how great, powerful and grand these bodies are, and, in
contrast to them, how frail and insignificant he himself is!
These 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 a primitive idea of divinity should coincide with this sense. He thinks of the
hands which are wielding these great forces. The sense of their greatness makes him bow in
humility. 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 fears them and tries to escape their wrath so that he
may not be destroyed by them.
In the most primitive stage of ignorance, man thinks that the great objects injurious or beneficent
to him, hold in themselves the real power and of nature whose grandeur and glory are visible,
and which appear to be authority, and, therefore, are divine. Thus he worships trees, animals,
rivers, mountains, fire, rain, air, heavenly bodies 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 as helpless and dependent, or 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 highest mountains are blasted and shattered by man himself;
the productiveness of the earth is not under the earth’s 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 stars are also bound by a powerful law outside whose dictates they cannot make
the slightest movement.
After these considerations man’s mind turns to the possibility of some great mysterious
power of divine nature which controls the objects he sees and which may be the repository of
all authority. These reflections give rise to belief in mysterious powers behind natural
phenomena, with innumerable gods governing various parts and aspects of nature such as air,
light and water. Material forms or symbols are constructed to represent them and man begins
to worship these forms and symbols. This, too, is a form of ignorance, and reality remains
hidden to the human eye even at this stage of man’s 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 existence, he finds an all-powerful law and all-
encompassing 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! With what a
wonderful harmony countless different forces are working jointly. And what a highly effective
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 one great law in all fields of Nature, even a
polytheist finds himself obliged to believe that there must be a deity greater than all the 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-
Khuda’igan. 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 from earthly kingdoms. Just as a ruler has many ministers, trusted associates,
governors, and other responsible officers, so the minor deities are like so many responsible
officers under the Great God Who cannot be approached without winning the favour of the
officers under Him. So they must also be worshipped and appealed to for help, and should in
no case be offended. They are taken as agents through whom an approach can be made to the
The more a man increases his knowledge, the greater becomes 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, though
rather more helpless. They are thus eliminated one by one until only one God remains.
But the concept of one God still contains some remnants of the elements of ignorance. Some
people imagine that He has a body as men have, and is in a particular place. Some believe
that God came down to earth in human form; others think that God, after settling the affairs of
the universe, retired and is now resting. Some believe that it is necessary to approach God
through the media of saints and spirits, and that nothing can be achieved without their
intercession. Some imagine God to have a certain form or image, and they believe it necessary
to keep that image 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 today.
Tawhid is the highest conception of godhead, the knowledge of which God has sent mankind in
all ages through His Prophets. It was this knowledge with which, in the beginning, Adam was
sent down to earth; it was the same. knowledge that was revealed to Noah, Abraham, Moses
and Jesus (God’s blessings be upon them all). It was this knowledge which Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) brought to mankind. It is Knowledge, pure and
absolute, without the least shade of ignorance. Man became guilty of shirk, idol-worship and
kufr only because he turned away from the teachings of the Prophets and depended on his own
faulty reasoning, false perceptions or biased interpretations. Tawhid dispels all the clouds of
ignorance and illuminates the horizon with the light of reality.
Let us see what significant realities the concept of Tawhid - this little phrase: La ilaha illallah
embraces: what truth it conveys and what beliefs it fosters.
First, we are faced with the question of the universe. We are face to face with a grand, limitless
universe. Man’s mind cannot discern its beginning or visualise its end. It has been moving along
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. It is so
bewildering that a thinking mind finds itself wonderstruck. Man is unable to understand and
grasp its 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 unco-ordinated objects. It is not a conglomeration of chaotic and meaningless things. All this
cannot be without a Creator, a Designer, a Controller, a Governor.
But who can create and control this majestic universe? Only He can do so Who is 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 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
Second, it is essential that all these divine attributes and powers must be vested in One Being:
it is impossible for two or more personalities having equal powers and attributes 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 army! Similarly, the distribution of these powers among different
deities, so that, for instance, one of them is all knowledge, the other all-providence and still
another life-giver - and each having an independent domain - is also unthinkable. The
universe is an indivisible whole and each one of such deities will be dependent upon others in the
execution of his task. Lack of co-ordination is bound to occur. And if this happened, the world
would fall 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 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 cannot be suited to govern the vast
The more you reflect on the problem, the firmer must your conviction be that all these divine
powers and attributes must exist in one and the same Being alone. Thus, polytheism is a form of
ignorance that cannot stand rational scrutiny. It is a practical impossibility. The facts of life
and nature do not fit in with it. They automatically bring men to Reality, that is Tawhid the
Unity of God.
Now, keeping in mind this concept of God, look closely at this vast universe. Exert yourself to
the utmost and say if you find among all the objects that you 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 sun, the moon, the stars, animals, birds
or fishes, matter, money, any man or a group of men - does any of them possess these
attributes? Most certainly not! For everything in the universe is created, controlled and
regulated, is dependent on others, is mortal and transitory; its slightest movements are
controlled by an inexorable law from which there can be no deviation. 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. It is a travesty of truth and a folly of the highest
magnitude to attribute divine status to them. 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 is not the end of our quest. We have found that divinity is not vested in any
material or human element of the universe, and that none of them possesses even the slightest
trace of it. This leads us to the conclusion that there is a Supreme Being, over and above all that
our eyes see in the universe, Who possesses 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 workings: He is Allah, the Lord of the Universe
and no one and nothing is associated in His Divinity. This is what illallah (but Allah) means.
This knowledge is superior to all other kinds of knowledge and the greater you exert yourself,
the deeper will be your conviction that this is the starting-point of all knowledge. In every field
of inquiry - be it that of physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology, zoology, economics,
politics, sociology or the humanities, you will find that the deeper you probe, the clearer become
the indications of the truth of La- ilaha illallah. It is this concept which opens up the doors of
inquiry and investigation and illumines the pathways of knowledge with the light of reality. And if
you deny or disregard this reality, you will find that at every step you meet disillusionment, for
the denial of this primary truth robs everything in the universe of its meaning and significance.
Effects of Tawhid on Human Life
Now let us study the effects which the belief in La ilaha illallah has on the life of a man and see
why he should always make a success of life and why one who denies it becomes a failure in
life, both here and in the hereafter.
1. A believer in this Kalimah can never be narrow in outlook. He believes in a God Who is the
Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Master of the East and the West and Sustainer of the
entire universe. After this belief he does not regard anything in the world as a stranger to
himself. He looks on everything in the universe as belonging to the same Lord he himself
belongs to. His sympathy, love and service are not confined to any particular sphere or
group. His vision is enlarged, his intellectual horizon widens, and his outlook becomes as liberal
and as boundless as is the Kingdom of God. How can this width of vision and breadth of mind
be achieved by an atheist, a polytheist or one who believes in a deity supposed to possess
limited and defective powers like a man?
2. This belief produces in man the highest degree of self-respect and self-esteem. The believer
knows that Allah alone is the Possessor of all power, and that none besides Him can benefit or
harm a person, or provide for his needs, or give and take away life or wield authority or
influence. This conviction makes him indifferent to, and independent and fearless of, all powers
other than those of God. He never bows his head in homage to any of God’s creatures, nor
does he stretch out his hand before anyone else. He is not overawed by anybody’s greatness.
This attitude of mind cannot be produced by any other belief. For it is necessary that those who associate other beings with God, or who deny God, should bow in homage to some creatures, regard them able to benefit or harm them, fear them and place their hopes in them.
3. Along with self-respect this belief also generates in man a sense of modesty and humbleness.
It makes him unostentatious and unpretending. A believer never becomes proud, haughty or
arrogant. The boisterous pride of power, wealth and worth can have no room in his heart,
because he knows that whatever he possesses has been given to him by God, and that God can
take away just as He can give. In contrast to this, an unbeliever, when he achieves some
worldly merit, becomes proud and conceited because he believes that his merit is due to his
own worth. In the same way pride and self-conceit are a necessary outcome and
concomitant of shirk (association of others with God in His divinity), because a mushrik believes
that he has a particular relation with the deities which does not exist between them and other
4. This belief makes man virtuous and upright. He has the conviction that there is no other
means of success and salvation for him except purity of soul and righteousness of
behaviour. He has perfect faith in God Who is above all need, is related to none and is
absolutely just. This belief creates in him the consciousness that, unless he lives rightly and acts
justly, he cannot succeed. No influence or underhand activity can save him from ruin. As
against this, the kafirs and the mushriks always live on false hopes. Some of them believe that
God’s son has atoned for their sins; some think that they are God’s favourites, and will not be
punished; others believe that their saints will intercede with God on their behalf, while others
make offerings to their deities and believe that by so bribing the deities they acquire a license to
do whatever they like. Such false beliefs keep them enmeshed in sin and evil deeds; depending
on their deities, they do not bother about their souls and living pure and good lives. As to
atheists, they do not believe that there is any Being having power over them, to Whom
they should be responsible for their good or bad actions; therefore they consider themselves
independent to act in whatever way they like. Their own fancies become their gods and they
live like slaves of their wishes and desires.
5. The believer never becomes despondent. He has a firm faith in God Who is Master of all
the treasures of the earth and the heavens, Whose grace and bounty have no limit and Whose
powers are infinite. This faith imparts to his heart extraordinary consolation, fills it with
satisfaction and keeps it filled with hope. Although he may meet with rejection from all sides in
this world, faith in and dependence on God never leave him, and on their strength he goes on
struggling. Such profound confidence can result from no other belief than belief in one God.
Mushriks, kafirs and atheists have small hearts; they depend on limited powers; therefore in
times of trouble they are soon overwhelmed by despair and, frequently, they commit
6. This belief produces in man a very strong degree of determination, patient perseverance
and trust in God. When he makes up his mind and devotes his resources to fulfiling the Divine
Commands in order to secure God’s pleasure, he is sure that he has the support and backing of the Lord of the universe. This certainty makes him firm and strong like a mountain,
and no amount of difficulties, impediments and opposition can make him give up his resolution.
Shirk, kufr and atheism have no such effect.
7. This declaration inspires bravery in man. There are two things which make a man cowardly:
(i) fear of death and love of safety, and (ii) the idea that there is someone else besides God
who can take away life and that man, by adopting certain devices, can ward off death. Belief
in La ilaha illallah purges the mind of both these ideas. The first idea goes out of his mind
because he knows that his life and his property and everything else really belong to God, and he
becomes ready to sacrifice his all for His pleasure. He gets rid of the second idea because he
knows that no weapon, no man or animal has the power of taking away his life; God alone
2. To have an idea of what a harrowing situation this despair of heart can create the reader
is referred to the thought-provoking study of modern life by Mr. Colin Wilson: The Outsider (
11th impression. London 1957).
The testimony of Prof. Joad is also very explicit on this point. He writes about the West: “For
the first time in history there is coming to maturity a generation of men and women who havc no
religion. and feel no need for one. They are content to ignore it. Also they are very unhappy,
and the suicide rate is abnormally high.” (C. E. M. Joad, The Present and Future of Religion,
quoted by Sir Arnold Lunn. And Yet So New, London. 1958. p. 228).
As to the world of Islam, let the views of a non Muslim historian not in any way sympathetic to
Islam. be read with profit: “In this uncompromising monotheism, with its simple, enthusiastic faith in the supreme rule of a transcendent being, lies the chief strength of Islam. Its adherents
enjoy a consciousness of contentment and resignation unknown among follower of most
creeds”. “Suicide is Rare in Muslim Lands” (Phillip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 1951. p.
as the power to do so. A time has been ordained for him, and all the forces of the world
combined cannot take away anyone’s life before that time. It is for this reason that no one is
braver than the one who has faith in God. Nothing can daunt him: not even the strongest
tempest of adversity and the mightiest of armies. Where can the mushriks, the kafirs and the
atheists get such great determination, force and power from? They hold life the dearest thing in
the world; they believe that death is brought about by the enemy and can be warded off by
running away from him!
8. The belief in La ilaha illallah creates an attitude of peace and contentment, purges the mind of
jealousy, envy and greed and keeps away the temptations of resorting to base and unfair means
for achieving success. The believer understands that wealth is in God’s hands, and He
apportions it out as He likes; that honour, power, reputation and authority - everything - is
subjected to His will, and He bestows them as He will; and that man’s duty is only to endeavour
and to struggle fairly. He knows that success and failure depend on God’s grace; if He wills to
give, no power in the world can prevent Him from so doing; and if He does not will it, no power
can force Him to. On the other hand, the mushriks, the kafirs and the atheists consider success
and failure as dependent on their own efforts and the help or opposition of earthly powers.
Therefore, they always remain slaves to cupidity and envy. They never hesitate to turn to
bribery, flattery. conspiracy and other kinds of base and unfair means to achieve their
ends. Jealousy and envy of others’ success eat them away, and they will stop at nothing to
bring about the downfall of a successful rival.
9. The most imortant effect of La ilaha illallah is that it makes man obey and obsesrve God’s
Law. One who has belief in it is sure that God knows everything hidden or open and is nearer
to him than his own jugular vein. If he commits a sin in a secluded corner and in the darkness of
the night, He knows it; He even knows our thoughts and intentions, bad or good. We can
hide from everyone, but we cannot hide anything from God; we can evade everyone, but it is
impossible to evade God’s grip. The firmer a man’s belief is in this respect, the more observant
will he be of God’s commands; he will shun what God has forbidden and he will carry out His
behest even in solitude and in darkness, because he knows that God’s ‘police’ never leaves him
alone, and he dreads the Court whose warrant he can never avoid. It is for this reason that the
first and the most important conditions for being a Muslim is to have faith in La ilaha illallah.
‘Muslim’, as you have already been told, means one ‘obedient to God’ and obedience to God
is impossible unless one firmly believes in la ilaha illallah.
In the teachings of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) faith in One God is
the most important and fundamental principle. It is the bedrock of Islam and the mainspring of
its power. All other beliefs, commands and laws of Islam stand firm on this foundation. All of
them receive strength from this source. Take it away, and there is nothing left of Islam.
Belief in God’s Angels
The Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has further instructed us
to have faith in the existence of God’s angels. This is the second article of Islamic faith and is very important, because it absolves the concept of Tawhid from all impurities and frees it
from the danger of every conceivable shadow of shirk (polytheism).
The polytheists have associated two kinds of creatures with God:
(a) Those who have material existence and are perceptable to the human eye, such
as the sun, moon, stars, fire, water, animals, great men.
(b) Those who have no material existence and are not perceptible to the human
eye: the unseen beings who are believed to be engaged in the administration
of the universe; for instance, one controls the air, another imparts light, another
brings rain, and so on and so forth.
The alleged deities of the first kind have material existence and are before man’s eye. The
falsity of their claim has been fully exposed by the Kalimah - La ilaha illallah. This is sufficient
to dispose of the idea that they enjoy any share in divinity or deserve any reverence at all. The
second kind of things, being immaterial, are hidden from the human eye and are mysterious; the
polytheists are more inclined to pin their faith in them. They consider them to be deities, gods
and God’s children. They make their images and render offerings to them. In order to purify
belief in the Unity of God, and to clear it from the admixture of this second kind of unseen
creatures, this particular article of faith has been expounded.
Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has informed us that these
imperceptible spiritual beings, whom people believe to be deities of gods or God’s children, are
really His angels. They have no share in God’s divinity; they cannot deviate from His
commands even by the slightest fraction of an inch. God employs them to administer His
Kingdom, and they carry out His orders exactly and accurately. They have no authority to do
anything of their own accord; they cannot present to God any scheme conceived by themselves,
they are not even authorised to intercede with God for any man.
To worship them and to solicit their help is degrading and debasing for man. For, on the very
first day of man’s creation, God had made them prostrate themselves before Adam, granted to
him greater knowledge than they possessed and bestowed Adam His own vicegerency on this
earth in preference to them.3 What debasement can, therefore, be greater for man than
prostrating himself before those who had prostrated themselves before him!
Muhammad (blessing of Allah and peace be upon him) forbade us to worship angels, and to
associate them with God in His divinity. He also informed us that they were the chosen
creatures of God, free from sin, from their very nature unable
3. See Al-Qur’an, ii, 34 and vii,11.
to disobey God, and ever engaged in carrying out His orders. Moreover, he informed us that
these angels of God surround us from all sides, are attached to us, and are always in our
company. They observe and note all our actions, good or bad. They preserve a complete
record of every man’s life. After death, when we shall be brought before God, they will present
a full report of our life’s-work on earth, wherein we shall find everything correctly recorded, not
a single movement left out, however insignificant and however carefully concealed it may be.
We have not been informed of the intrinsic nature of the angels. Only some of their virtues or
attributes have been mentioned to us, and we have been asked to believe in their existence. We
have no other means of knowing their nature, their attributes and their qualities. It would
therefore, be sheer folly on our part to attribute any form or quality to them of our own accord.
We must believe in them exactly as we have been asked to do. To deny their existence is kufr
for, first, we have no reason for such a denial, and, second, our denial of them would be
tantamount to attributing untruth to Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him).
We believe in their existence only because God’s true Messenger has informed us of it.
Faith in the Books of God
The third article of faith which Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has
commanded us to believe is faith in the Books of God, Books which He has sent down to
mankind through His Prophets.
God had revealed His Books to His Prophets before Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace
be upon him) and these books were sent down in the same way as He sent down the Qur’an to
Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). We have been informed of the names
of some of these books: Books of Abraham, the Torah of Moses, Zabur (Psalms) of David,
and the Injil (Gospel) of Jesus Christ. We have not been informed of the names of Books
which were given to other Prophets. Therefore with regard to other existing religious books, we
are not in a position to say with certainty whether they were originally revealed books or not.
But we tacitly believe that whatever Books were sent down by God are all true.
Of the Books we have been told, the Books of Abraham are extinct and not traceable in
existing world literature. David’s Zabur, the Torah and the Inji’l exist with the Jews and the
Christians, but the Qur’an informs us that people have changed and added to these books, and
God’s words have been mixed up with texts of their own making. This corruption and pollution
of the Books has been so large and so evident that even the Jews and the Christians themselves
admit that they do not possess their original texts, and have only their translations, which have
been altered over many centuries and are still being changed. On studying these Books we find
many passages and accounts which evidently cannot be from God. God’s words and those of
man are mixed together in these books, and we have no means of knowing which portions are
from God and which from man.
We have been commanded to believe in previously revealed Books only in the sense of
admitting that, before the Qur’an, God had also sent down books through His Prophets, that
they were all from one and the same God, the same God Who sent the Qur’an and that the
sending of the Qur’an as a Divine Book is not a new and strange event, but only confirms,
restates and completes those divine instructions which people had mutilated or lost in antiquity.4
The Qur’an is the last of the Divine Books sent down by God and there are some very pertinent
differences between it and the previous Books. These differences may briefly be stated as
1. The original texts of most of the former Divine Books were lost altogether, and
only their translations exist today. The Qur’an, on the other hand, exists exactly as it
was revealed to the Prophet; not a word - nay, not a syllable of it has been changed. It
is available in its original text and the Word of God has been preserved for all time.
2. In the former Divine Books man mixed his words with God’s, but in the Qur’an
we find only the words of God - and in their pristine purity. This is admitted even by the
opponents of Islam.
3. In respect of no other sacred Book possessed by different peoples can it be said on the basis of authentic historical evidence that it really belongs to the same Prophet to whom it is attributed. In the case of some of them it is not even known in what age and to which Prophet they were revealed. As for the Qur’an, the evidence that it was revealed to Muhammad (blessings
of Allah and peace be upon him) is so voluminous, so convincing, so strong and so compelling that even the fiercest critics of Islam cannot cast doubt on it.
This evidence is so detailed that even the occasion and place of the revelation of
certainty many verses and injunctions of the Qur’an can be known with
4. The former Divine Books were sent down in languages which died long ago.
No nation or community now speaks those languages and there are only a few
4. Even a cursory study of the first books of the Old Testament and the four Gospels of the
New Testament reveals that they are the productions of men and in these writings some parts of
the original Psalms of David and the Gospels of Christ have been incorporated. The first five
books of the Old Testament do not constitute the original Torah, but parts of the Torah have
been mixed up with other narrative written by human beings and the original guidance of the
Lord is lost. Similarly. the four Gospels of Christ are not the original Gospels as they came from
the Prophet Christ (peace be upon him). They are in fact, the life-histories of Christ compiled
by four different persons on the basis of knowledge and hearsay, and certain parts of the
original Gospel also fell into them. But the original and he fictitious, the Divine and the human,
are so intermingled that the grain cannot be separated from the chaff. The fact is that the original
Word of God is preserved neither with the Jews nor with the Christians. The Qur’an on the
other hand, is fully preserved and not a syllable has been changed or left out of it.
people who claim to understand them. Thus, even if the Books existed today in their original
and unadulterated form, it would be virtually impossible in our age to correctly understand
and interpret their injunctions and put them into
practice in their required form. The
language of the Qur’an, on the other hand, is a living language; millions of people speak it,
and millions more know and understand it. It is being taught and learnt in nearly every
university of the
world, every man can learn it, and he who has not time to learn it can
everywhere who know this language and can explain to him the meaning of the
5. Each one of the existing sacred Books found among different nations of the world
has been addressed to a particular people. Each one contains a number of commands
which seem to have been meant for a particular period of history and which meet the needs
of that age only. They are neither
needed today, nor can they now be smoothly and
properly put into practice. It is evident from this
that these Books were particularly
meant for that particular people and not for the world. Furthermore, they were not sent
to be followed permanently by
even the people they were intended for; they were
meant to be acted upon only for a certain period. In contrast to this the Qur’an is addressed
to all mankind; not a single injunction of it can be suspected as having been addressed to a
par- ticular people. In the same manner, all the commands and injunctions in the Qur’an
can be acted upon at any place and in any age. This proves that the Qur’an is meant for the
whole world, and is an eternal code for human life.
6. There is no denying the fact that the previous divine Books also enshrined good
and virtue; they also taught the principles of morality and truthfulness and
mode of living which was to God’s pleasure. But none of them was comprehensive enough
to embrace all that is necessary for a virtuous
human life. Some of them excelled in
one respect, others in some other. It is the Qur’an and the Qur an alone which enshrined not
only all that was good in
presents it in its entire
the former Books but also perfects the way of Allah and
ty and outlines that code of life which comprehends all that is
necessary for man on this earth.
7. On account of man’s interpolations, many things have been inserted in those
Books which are against reality, revolting to reason and an affront to every instinct
of justice. There are things which are cruel and unjust, and vitiate man’s
actions. Furthermore, things have unfortunately been inserted that are obscene, indecent
and highly immoral. The Qur’an is free of all such rubbish. It contains nothing against
reason, and nothing that can be proved wrong. None of its injunctions is unjust;
nothing in it is misleading. Of
indecency and immorality not a trace can be found.
From the beginning to the
end the Book is full of wisdom and truth. It contains the best
of philosophy and the choicest of law for human civilisation. It points out the right path
and guides man to success and salvaion.
It is on account of these special features of the Qur’an that all the peoples of the world have
been directed to have faith in it, to give up all other Books and to follow it alone.
The study of the difference between the Qur’an and other divine Books makes one easily
understand that the nature of faith in the Qur’an and of belief in the former Books are not
Faith in the earlier divine Books should be limited to the confirmation that they were all from
God, were true and were 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.
Faith in God’s Prophets
In the last chapter we explained that God’s Messengers had been raised among every people,
and that they all brought essentially that same religion - Islam - which the Prophet Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) propagated. In this respect all the Messengers of
God stand on a par with each other. If a man belies any one of them, he, as it were, belies all,
and if a man affirms and believes in one of them, he must and ought to affirm all. The reason is
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 as true, and if you belie any one of them, by
implication you belie all of them. It is for this reason that in Islam it is necessary to have implicit
faith in all the Prophets of God. One who does not believe in a particular Prophet would be a
Kafir, though he may profess faith in all the other Prophets.
Tradition has it that the total number of 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 been on it, this number will not appear too great. We
have to positively believe in those of the Prophets whose names have been mentioned in the
Qur’an. Regarding the rest, we are instructed to believe that all the Prophets sent by God for
the guidance of mankind were true.
Thus we believe in all the Prophets raised in India, China, Persia, 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,
and their followers corrupted their teachings after their demise, just as the followers of Moses
and Jesus (peace be upon them) have done. Therefore, whenever we express any opinion
about them, it should 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.
All the Prophets of God have been deputed by Him to teach the same straight path of ‘Islam’.
In this sense there is no difference between Muhammad and other Prophets (blessings of Allah
and peace be upon them all), and we have been ordered to believe in all of them alike. But in
spite of this equality, there are the following three differences between them:
1. The Prophets of the past came to certain people for certain periods of time,
while Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has been sent for
the whole world and for all time to come.5
2. The teachings of those Prophets have either disappeared altogether from the
world, or whatever of them remains is intermingled with many erroneous and
fictitious statements. For this reason, even if anyone wishes to follow their
teachings, he cannot do so. In contrast to this, the teachings of Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), his biography, his discourses, his way of
living, his morals, habits and virtues, in short, all the details of his life and work, are
preserved. Mubammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), therefore, is the only
one of the whole line of Prophets who is a living
possible to follow correctly and confi- dently.
personality, and in whose footsteps it is
3. The guidance imparted through the Prophets of the past was not complete.
Every Prophet was followed by another who effected alterations and additions in the
teachings and injunctions of his predecessors and, in this way, the chain
of reform and
progress continued. That is why the teachings of the earlier Prophets, after the lapse of
time, were lost in oblivion. Obviously there was no need to preserve earlier teachings when
amended and improved guidance had taken their place. At last the most perfect code of
guidance was imparted to mankind through Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be
upon him) and
all previous codes were automatically abrogated, for it is futile and
imprudent to follow an incomplete code when the complete code exists. He who
Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) follows all
the Prophets, for whatever was good and eternally workable in their teachings
has been embodied in his teachings. Whoever, therefore, rejects and refuses to
follow Muhammad’s (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) teachings, and
chooses to follow some other Prophet, only deprives himself of that vast amount
of useful and valuable instruction and guidance which is embodied
5. This point has been discussed in detail in Chapter Three.
in Muhammad’s (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) teachings, which
existed in the books of the earlier Prophets and which was revealed only
Last of the Prophets.
This is why it is incumbent on each and every human being to have faith in Muhammad
(blessings of Allah and 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
(blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and to affirm that:
(a) He is a true Prophet of God;
(b) His teachings are absolutely perfect, free from any defect or error
people till the Day of Judgement, nor is any such personage going to appear
in whom it would be essential for a Muslim to believe.
Belief in Life After Death
The fifth article of Islamic Faith is belief in life after death. The Prophet Muhammad (blessings
of Allah and peace be upon him) has directed us to believe in resurrection after death and in the
Day of Judgement. The essential ingredients of this belief, as taught to us by him, are as follows:
That 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 Qiyamah, i.e. the Last Day.
That all the human beings who have lived in the world since its inception will then be restored to
life and will be presented before God Who will sit in judgement on that day. This is called
That the entire record of every man and woman - of all their doings and misdoings - will be
presented before God for final judgement.
That one who excels in goodness will be rewarded; one whose evils and wrongs outweigh his
good deeds will be punished.
That those who emerge successful in this judgement will go to Paradise and the doors of eternal
bliss will be opened to them- those who are condemned and deserve punishment will be sent to
Hell - the abode of fire and torture.
The Need of this Belief
Belief in life after death has always been an integral part 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 (blessings of Allah and 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 does not believe 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 a
good life and man is driven to a life of ignorance and disbelief. A little reflection makes this quite
In your everyday life, whenever you are asked to do anything, you immediately think: what is the
use of doing it and what harm is involved in not doing it? This is in 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 and unproductive jobs. Similarly, you will not 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 will be your response to it; and the more doubtful you are about
its efficacy, the more wavering will be your attitude. After all, why does a child put his hand into
fire? Because he is not sure that fire burns. Why does he evade study? Because he does not
fully grasp the importance and benefits of education and does not believe in what his elders try
to impress on his mind.
Now think of the man who does not believe in the Day of Judgement. Will 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, then, can it be possible for him to
scrupulously follow the injunctions of God, His Prophet, and His Book? What incentive will
there be 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, of what use is
his belief in the existence of God, if indeed he has any such belief?
That is not all. If you reflect still deeper, you will come to the conclusion that belief in life after
death is the most decisive 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 success or failure in this world alone will be concerned with immediate
benefits and ills. 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 it is not injurious to
his interests in this world.
But a man who believes in the next world as well and is convinced of the final consequences
of his acts will look on all worldly gains and losses as temporary and transitory and will not put
his eternal bliss at stake for a passing gain. He will look on things in their wider perspective and
always keep the permanent benefit or harm in view. He will do the good, 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 tempting it may look. He will judge things from the
viewpoint of their eternal consequences and not according 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 whether in this brief temporary life it will bring 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-aggrandisement become the be-all and end-all of his life.
And he does not draw back even from cruel and unjust means to achieve his ends.
Similarly, his conception of a wrong act is one which may involve a risk or injury to his interests
in this world such as loss of property and life, harming of health, blackening of reputation or
some other unpleasant consequence.
In contrast to this man, the believer’s concept of good and evil will 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 will be the real success. Similarly, he will not fall
prey to evil deeds merely for some worldly gain, for he knows that even if he escapes
punishment in his short worldly life, in the end he will be the loser because he will not be able to
escape punishment from 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 world.
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 Judgement it is absolutely impossible to fashion
his life as suggested by Islam.
Islam says “In the way of God give charity (zakah) to the poor.” His answer is: “No, zakah will
lessen my wealth; I will, instead, take interest on my money.” And in its collection he will not
hesitate to take everything belonging to the debtors however poor or hungry they may be. 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 will 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 me pick this up, no one who might
report it to the police or give evidence against me in a court of law, or 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 eventually he dies. Islam says: “Be honest with the property
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 of it. When I can appropriate it
without any difficulty, without any fear of legal claim, or stain on my reputation, why should I not
In short, at every step in life, Islam will direct him to walk in a certain direction and adopt a
certain attitude and course of behaviour; but he will go in the opposite direction. For Islam
measures and values everything from the viewpoint of its eternal 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 Judgement. 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 Judgement degrades man from humanity to a place even lower than that of
the lowest of animals.
Life After Death: A Rational Vindication
So far we have discussed the need and importance of belief in the Day of
Judgement. Now let us consider how far the constituents of the belief are rationally
understandable. The fact is that whatever Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon
him) has told us about life after death is clearly borne out by reason. Although our belief in that
Day is based on our implicit trust in the Messenger of God, rational reflection not only confirms
this belief but also reveals that Muhammad’s (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him)
teachings in this respect are much more reasonable and understandable than any other viewpoint
about life after death.
The following viewpoints are found about life after death:
1. Some people say that there is nothing left of man after death, and that after this life-
ending event there is no other life. According to these people, belief in life after death has no
reality. They say it is scientifically impossible. This is the view of the atheists who also claim
to be scientific in their approach and bring in Western science to support their arguments.
2. Other people maintain that man, in order to bear the consequences of his deeds,
is repeatedly regenerated in this world. If he lives a bad life, he will assume in the next
generation the shape of some animal, such as a dog or a cat, or some tree or some
lower kind of man. If his acts have been good, he
will be reborn as a man into a higher
class. This viewpoint is found in some Eastern religions.
3. There is a third view-point which calls for belief in the Day ofJudgement, the
Resurrection, man’s presence in the Divine Court, and the meting out of
punishment. This is the common belief of all the Prophets.
Now let us consider these viewpoints one by one.
The first group, which arrogates to itself the authority and support of science, alleges that there
is no life after death. They say that they have never seen anybody coming back from
the dead. After death a man is reduced to dust; therefore, death is the end of life
and there is no life after death. But consider this reasoning: is this really a scientific argument?
Is the claim really founded on reason? If they have not seen a single 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 nothing - 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 aeroplane and on that ‘knowledge’ proclaims that aeroplanes do not exist at all!
Because somebody has not seen a thing, it does not mean that that thing does not exist. No
man, not even the whole of humanity, if it has not seen a thing, can claim that such a thing does
not, or cannot, exist. This claim is out and out unscientific. No reasonable man can give it any
Now look at the beliefs 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 words, to be a man or an
animal is the consequence of one’s deeds 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 was given a human form for its good
deeds. If they say it was animal they will have to concede that there must have been before that
a man who was transformed into an animal for his bad deeds. This leads to a vicious circle;
the advocates of this belief cannot settle on any form 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: that “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 on it. 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; all the forces working in it are limited in their nature, and will one day be exhausted.
That is why the scientists agree that one day the sun will become cold and will give up all its
energy, 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
may it 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, much-
improved order of things will emerge.
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 positive necessity, as
will be shown later.
The third proposition is that “the record of all the actions of man in this world is preserved and
will be presented on the Day of Resurrection”. The proof of the truth of this proposition is
provided today by science itself. The sounds which we make produce slight waves in the air
and die out. It has been discovered that the sound leaves its impression on its surrounding
objects and can be reproduced. Gramophone records are made on this principle. From this it
can be understood that the record of every movement of man is being impressed on everything
which comes into contact with the waves produced by the movements. This shows that the
record of all our deeds 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 judgement, reward or punish man for his good and bad deeds”. What is unreasonable
about this? Reason itself demands that God should hold His court and pronounce judgement.
We see men doing good deeds and gaining nothing in this world. We see other men doing bad
deeds and not suffering for it. Not only this, we see thousands of cases of good acts bringing
trouble on the doer, and of bad deeds resulting in the happiness and gratification 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 does good must be rewarded and the one
who does evil must be punished. If you have a tin of petrol and a matchbox, you can set fire
to the house of your opponent, and apparently escape every consequence. Does this
mean that such an offence has no consequences at all? Certainly not! It means only that its
physical outcome has appeared, and the moral outcome is hidden. 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, where only the physical consequences of actions manifest themselves fully, and
rational and moral consequences do not become apparent.
Results and consequences of this higher category can appear only if there comes into existence
another order of things wherein rational and moral laws reign supreme and occupy the governing
position 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
the sense that it will be governed by moral rather than by physical laws. The rational
consequences of man’s actions, which are hidden wholly or partly in this world, will then
appear. Man’s stature will be determined by his rational and moral worth judged 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
The last proposition of this belief 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 just judgements,
rewarding the meritorious and punishing the guilty, there must be a place where the
meritorious may enjoy their reward - honour, happiness and gratification of all kinds - and
another place where the condemned may feel debasement, pain and misery.
After considering all these questions, no reasonable person can escape the conclusion
that belief in life after death is highly acceptable to reason and commonsense, and that
there is nothing in it which can be said to be unreasonable or impossible. Moreover, when a
true Prophet like Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 in it implicitly
and not in rejecting it without any sound reasons.
The above are the five articles of faith which form the foundation for the superstructure of
Islam. Their gist is contained in the short sentence known as Kalimah-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 (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). With the admission of his
Prophethood it becomes obligatory that you 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 the Prophet Muhammad (blessings of
Allah and peace be upon him) has asked us to follow. That way lies the road to success and
PRAYER AND WORSHIP
The earlier discussion has made it clear that the Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and
peace be upon him) has enjoined us to believe in five articles of faith:
1. Belief in one God Who has absolutely no associate with Him in
2. Belief in God’s Angels;
3. Belief in God’s Books, and in the Holy Qur’an as His Last Book
4. Belief in God’s Prophets, and in Muhammad (blessings of Allah and
peace be upon him) as His Last and Final Messenger; and
5. Belief in life after death.
These five articles make up the bedrock of Islam. One who believes in them enters the fold of
Islam and becomes a member of the Muslim community. But one does not become a
complete Muslim by mere vocal profession alone. To become a complete Muslim one has to
fully carry out in practice the instructions given by Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 Islam. By this belief you profess that Allah, the one God, 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. Having
acknowledged Him as your Master and Ruler, if you refuse to obey Him you become a self-
admitted rebel. 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 becomes
your bounden duty to accept and obey whatever is contained in it. Along with that, you have
admitted Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 becomes your duty. You will therefore
be a fully-fledged Muslim only when your practice is consistent with your profession.
Now let us see what code of conduct Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him)
has taught as ordained by God Almighty. The first and foremost things in this respect are the
‘Ibadah - the primary, duties which must be observed by each and every person professing to
belong to the Muslim community.
The Spirit of ‘Ibadah or Worship
‘Ibadah is an Arabic word derived from ‘Abd (a slave) and it means submission. 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 ‘Ibadah. The Islamic concept of ‘Ibadah 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 this
only because God has so ordained, they constitute ‘Ibadah, however secular they may appear.
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, friends and all those who come into
contact with you, all these activities of yours are also Ibadah. If you help the poor and the
destitute, give food to the hungry and serve the afflicted and do all this not for any personal gain
but only to seek the pleasure of God, this is all ‘Ibadah. Even your economic activities - the
activities you undertake to earn your living and to feed your dependents - are ‘Ibadah if you
remain honest and truthful in them, and observe the law of God.
In short, all your activities are ‘Ibadah if they are in accordance with the law of God and your
ultimate objective 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 ‘Ibadah, that is, total submission to the pleasure of
Allah, the moulding into the patterns of Islam one’s entire life, leaving out not even the most
To help achieve this aim, a set of formal ‘Ibadah (worships) has been drawn up as a course of
training. The more assiduously we follow the training, the better equipped we are to harmonise
ideals and practices. The ‘Ibadah are thus the pillars on which the edifice of Islam rests.
Salah is the most fundamental and the most important of these obligations. Salah are 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 Prophets and also refresh your belief in the Day of Judgement 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. After a few hours the muezzin calls you to prayers and you again
submit to your God and refresh your covenant with Him. You dissociate yourself from your
worldly engagements for a few moments and seek audience before God. This once again brings
to the fore of your mind your real role in life. After this rededication you revert to your
occupations before presenting yourself to the Lord again a few hours later. This again acts as a
reminder to you, and you once more refocus your attention on the stipulations of your Faith.
When the sun sets and the darkness of the night begins to shroud you, you once more submit
yourself to God in prayers so that you may not forget your duties and obligations in the midst of
the approaching shadows of the night. After a few hours you again appear before your Lord for
your last prayer of the day. Thus before going to bed you once again refresh your faith and
prostrate yourself before your God. And this is how you complete your day. The frequency
and timings of the prayers never let you lose sight of the object and mission of life in the maze of
It is easy to understand how 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
springs courage, sincerity, purposefulness, purity of heart, advancement of the soul and
enrichment of morals.
Now see how this is achieved. You perform ablution in the way prescribed by the Holy
Prophet (blessings of Allah and 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 (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and deem it your
bounden duty to follow him ungrudgingly.
Why do you not intentionally misrecite the Qur’an? Is it not because you regard the Book as the
Word of God and deem it a sin to deviate from even a letter? In prayers you recite many things
quietly and if you do not recite them or make any deviation from them there is no-one to check
you. But you never do so intentionally. Why? Because you believe that God is ever watchful, is
listening to all that you recite and is aware of things both open and hidden. What makes you say
your prayers at places where there is no one to ask you to offer them or even to see you
offering them? Is it not because of your belief that God is always looking at you? What makes
you leave some important business and hurry towards the mosque for prayers? What makes
you break your sweet sleep in the early hours of the morning, come to the mosque in the heat of
noon and leave your evening entertainment for the sake of prayers? Is it anything other than your
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 your 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 Judgement
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 reminds him of his covenant with God,
refreshes his faith in Him and keeps the belief in the Day of Judgement 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 matching one’s practice to one’s 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 keeps refreshing it through prayers, he will be honest in all his
dealings for, otherwise, he will be inviting the displeasure of God which he has all along striven
to avoid. He will abide by the law of God in all aspects of his life in the same way as he follows
it in the five prayers every day. This man can be relied on in other fields of activity as well, for if
the shadows of sin or deceit approach him, he will try to avoid them. If even after such training,
a man 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 Muslims a bond of love and mutual understanding. It arouses in them a
sense of collective unity and fosters among them national fraternity. 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 a row and prostrate themselves before
their Lord. Prayers also inculcate a strong sense of discipline and obedience to an elected
leader. In short, prayers train people in all those virtues which make possible the development
of a rich individual and collective life.
These are a few of the myriads of benefits we can derive from our daily prayers.1 If we refuse
to avail ourselves of them we, and only we, are the losers. Shirking the prayers can only mean
one of two things. Either we do not recognise prayers as our duty or we recognise them as our
duty and still shirk them. In the first case, our claim to faith is a shameless lie, for if we refuse to
take orders, we no longer acknowledge God’s Authority. In the second case, if we recognise
His Authority and still flout His Commands, we are the most unreliable of the creatures that ever
trod 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 fellow human beings? And if double
dealing dominates a society, terrible discord will be the certain outcome!
What prayers seek to do five times a day, fasting in the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of
the lunar year) does once a year. During this period we eat not a grain of food nor drink a drop
of water from dawn to dusk, no matter how delicious the dish or how hungry or thirsty we feel.
What is it that makes us voluntarily undergo such rigours? It is nothing but faith in God and the
fear of Him and the Day of Judgement. Each and every moment during our fast we suppress
our passions and desires and proclaim, by so doing, the supremacy of the Law of God. This
consciousness of duty and spirit of patience that incessant fasting for a whole month
1. For a detailed discussion of the nature and significance of salah, see Maulana Mawdudi’s
book: Islami ‘Ibaadat Par Tahqiqi Nazar (A Treatise on Islamic Worship). - Editor.
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 fast during the same month. This emphasises the essential
equality of men and thus goes a long way towards creating in them sentiments of love and
brotherhood. During Ramadan evil conceals itself while good comes to the fore and the whole
atmosphere is filled with piety and purity.
This discipline has been imposed on us for our own advantage. Those who do not fulfil this
primary duty cannot be relied on to discharge their other duties. But the worst are those who
during this holy month do not hesitate to eat or drink in public. They show by their conduct
that they care nothing for the commands of Allah in Whom they profess their belief as 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. Only the worst can be expected of such
The third obligation is Zakah. Every Muslim whose finances are above a certain specified
minimum must pay 2.5 per cent of his cash balance annually2 to a deserving fellow-being, a
new convert to Islam, a traveller or a person with debts.3 This is the minimum. The more you
pay, the greater the reward that Allah will bestow on you.
The money that we pay as Zakah is not something Allah needs or receives. He is above any
want and desire. He, in His benign Mercy, promises us manifold rewards if we help our
brethren. But there is one basic condition for being thus rewarded: when we pay in the name
of Allah, we shall neither expect nor demand any worldly gains from the beneficiaries nor aim at
becoming known as philanthropists.
Zakah is as basic to Islam as other forms of ‘Ibadah: Salah (prayer) and Sawm (fasting). Its
fundamental importance lies in the fact that it fosters in us the quality 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 some of their hard-earned wealth willingly and without any temporal or
personal gain. It has nothing to do with misers. A true Muslim will, when the call comes,
2. Zakah is not merely on the cash balance. It is also charged on gold, silver,
merchandise, cattle and other valuables. The rate of zakah for all these commodities can be
found in the books on Fiqh and is not given here for the sake of economy of space.
3. It should be noted that the Holy Prophet has forbidden his own kith and kin to take zakah.
Though it is obligatory on the Hashimites to pay zakah, they cannot receive it even if they are
poor and needy. If anybody wants to help a poor Hashimite, he may give him a gift. He cannot
be helped out of zakah.
his belongings in the way of Allah, for Zakah has already trained him to do so.
Muslim society has much to gain from the institution of Zakah. It is the boundenduty 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 the ability but lack the
means to get useful employment and those who have the talent but not the money to acquire
knowledge and become useful members of the community. He who does not recognise the call
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 others die of hunger or suffer the agonies of
unemployment. Islam is a sworn enemy of selfishness, greed and acquisitiveness. Disbelievers,
devoid of sentiments of universal love, know only how to preserve wealth and to add to it by
lending it out on interest. Islam’s teachings are the antithesis of this attitude. Here one shares
one’s wealth with others and helps them stand on their own feet and become productive
members of society.
Hajj or Pilgrimage
Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Makkah, is the fourth basic ‘Ibadah.
Makkah today stands at the 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 centre towards which all must face when saying prayers. He also made it
obligatory on those who can afford it to visit this place at least once in a lifetime. This visit is not
merely a courtesy call. This pilgrimage has its rites and conditions to be fulfiled 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 ‘Ibadah. For unless a man really loves God he
would never undertake such a long journey leaving all his near and dear ones behind him. And
this pilgrimage is unlike any other journey. Here his thoughts are concentrated on Allah, his very
being vibrates with the spirit of intense devotion. When he reaches the holy place, he finds the
atmosphere filled with piety and godliness-, he visits places which bear witness to the glory of
Islam, and all this leaves an indelible impression on his mind, which he carries to his last breath.
Then there are, as in other ‘Ibadah, many benefits that Muslims can derive from this pilgrimage.
Makkah is the centre towards which Muslims must converge once a year, meet and discuss
topics of common interest, and in general create and refresh in themselves 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
Defence of Islam
Although the defence of Islam is not a fundamental tenet 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 open assaults from his foes, or are guided in our actions towards him solely by
selfishness, we are indeed false friends. Similarly, if we profess belief in Islam, we must
jealously guard and uphold the prestige of Islam. The sole guide in our conduct must be the
interest of Muslims at large and the service of Islam, in the face of which all our personal
considerations must take a back seat.
Jihad is part of this overall defence of Islam. Jihad means to 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 a war that is waged solely in the name of Allah against those who practise
oppression as enemies of Islam.
This supreme sacrifice of life devolves on all Muslims. If, however, a section of Muslims offer
themselves for the Jihad, the community as a whole 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 enough strength 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 such 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. His very claim to being a Muslim is doubtful. He is a hypocrite whose ‘Ibadah and
prayers are a sham, a worthless, hollow show of devotion.
DIN AND SHARI’AH
So far we have been dealing with Din or Faith. We now come to a discussion of the Shari’ah of
the Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). But let us first be clear
about the difference between Din and Shari’ah.
Distinction Between Din and Shari’ah
In the foregoing chapters we said that all the Prophets who have appeared from time to time
propagated Islam, that is a belief in God with all His attributes, faith in the Day of Judgement
and faith in the Prophets and the Books; they asked people to live a life of obedience and
submission to their Lord. This is what constitutes al-Din and it was common to the teachings of
all the Prophets.
Apart from this Din there is the Shari’ah, the detailed code of conduct or the canons comprising
ways and modes of worship, standards of morals and life and laws that allow and proscribe,
that judge between right and wrong. Such canon law has undergone amendments from time to
time and though each Prophet had the same Din, he brought with him a different Shari’ah to
suit the conditions of his own people and time. This process ended with the advent of
Muhammad, the last Prophet (blessings of Allah and 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 all the previous Shari’ahs stand abrogated because of the comprehensive
Shari’ah that Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) brought with him. This is
the climax of the great process of training that was started at the dawn of the human era.
The Sources of Shari’ah
We draw upon two major sources to learn about the Shari’ah of Muhammad (blessings of
Allah and peace be upon him), the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Qur’an is a divine revelation
- each and every word of it is from Allah. The Hadith is a collection 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 witnesses.
These were later sifted and collected by divines and compiled in the form of books
among which the collections made by Malik, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i
and Ibn Majah are considered to be the most authentic.
Detailed law derived from the Qur’an and the Hadith covering the myriads of problems that
arise in the course of man’s life have been compiled by some of the leading legislators of the
past. The Muslims should forever be grateful to those men of learning and vision who devoted
their lives to gaining a mastery of the Qur’an and the Hadith, and 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 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 of the Qur’an or the Hadith.
Although in the beginning many religious leaders applied themselves to the task, only four major
schools of thought remain. They are:
1. Fiqh Hanafi: - This is the Fiqh compiled by Abu Hanifa Nu’man bin Thabit
with the assistance and co-operation of Abu Yusuf Muhammad, Zufar and
others, all of whom had high religious attainments to their credit. This is known as the
Hanafi School of Fiqh.
2. Fiqh Maliki: This Fiqh was derived by Malik bin Anas Asbahi.
3. Fiqh Shafi’i: Founded by Muhammad bin ldris al-Shafi’i.
4. Fiqh Hanbali: Founded by Ahmad bin Hanbal.
All of these were given their final form within two hundred years of the time of the Prophet. The
differences that appear in the four schools are but the natural outcome of the fact that truth is
many-sided. When different persons employ themselves in interpreting a given event, they come
out with different 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 is why all
Muslims, whatever school they may belong to, regard all the four schools of thought as
correct and true. Even so one can normally follow only one of them in one’s life (there is the
group of Ahl-d-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 whichever school they like in any
Fiqh deals with observable conduct, the fulfiling of a duty to the letter. That concerning 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’bah and the timing and the number of Rakaahs. Tasawwuf will judge our prayers by our
concentration and devotion and by their effect on our morals and manners. An ‘Ibadah devoid
of spirit, though correct in procedure, is like a man handsome in appearance but lacking in
character and an ‘Ibadah 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 the 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 takes liberties with the Shari’ah. No Sufi has the right to transgress
the limits of the Shari’ah or treat lightly primary obligations (Fara’id) such as daily prayers,
fasting, Zakah and the Hajj. Tasawwuf, in the true sense, is an intense love of Allah and
Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE SHARI’AH
Our discussion of the fundamentals of Islam will remain incomplete if we do not cast a glance
over the law of Islam, study its basic principles, and try to visualise the type of man and society
which Islam wants to produce. In this last chapter we propose to undertake a study of the
principles of the Shari’ah so that our picture of Islam may become complete and we may be
able to appreciate the superiority of the Islamic way of life.
The Shari’ah - Its Nature and Purport
Man has been endowed with countless powers and faculties and Providence has been very
bountiful to him in this respect. He possesses intellect and wisdom, will and volition, faculties of
sight, speech, taste, touch and hearing, powers of hand and feet, passions of love, fear, anger
and so on. These faculties have been bestowed on him because they are indispensable to him.
His very life and success depend on the proper use of these powers for the fulfilment of his
needs and requirements. These God-given powers are meant for his service and unless they are
used in full measure life cannot become worth living.
God has also provided man with all those means and resources to make his natural faculties
function and to achieve the fulfilment of his needs. The human body has been so made that it
has become man’s greatest instrument in his struggle for the fulfilment of his life’s goal. Then
there is the world in which man lives. His environment and surroundings contain resources of
every description: resources which he uses as a means for the achievement of his ends. Nature
and all that belongs to it have been harnessed for him and he can make every conceivable use of
them. And there are other men of his own kind, so that they may co-operate with each other in
the construction of a better and prosperous life.
These powers and resources have been conferred so that they may be used for the good of
others. They have been created for your good and are not meant to harm and destroy you.
The proper use of these powers is that which makes them beneficial to you; and even if
there be some harm, it must not exceed the unavoidable minimum. That alone is the proper
utilisation of these powers. Every other use which results in waste or destruction is wrong,
unreasonable and unjustified. For instance, if you do something that causes you harm or injury,
that would be a mistake, pure and simple. If your actions harm others and make you a nuisance
to them, that would be sheer folly and an utter misuse of God-given powers. If you waste
resources, spoil them for nothing or destroy them that too is a gross mistake. Such activities are
flagrantly unreasonable, for it is human reason which suggests that destruction and injury must be
avoided and the path of gain and profit be pursued. And if any harm be countenanced, it must
be only in such cases where it is unavoidable and where it is bound to yield a greater benefit.
Any deviation from this is self-evidently wrong.
Keeping this basic consideration in view, when we look at human beings, we find that there are
two kinds of people: first, those who knowingly misuse their powers and resources and through
this misuse waste the resources, injure their own vital interests, and cause harm to other people;
and, second, those who are sincere and earnest but err because of ignorance. Those who
intentionally misuse their powers are wicked and evil and deserve to feel the full weight of the
law. Those who err because of ignorance, need proper knowledge and guidance so that they
see the Right Path and make the best use of their powers and resources. And the code of
behaviour - the Shari’ah - which God has revealed to man meets this very need.
The Shari’ah stipulates the law of God and provides guidance for the regulation of life in the best
interests of man. Its objective is to show the best way to man and provide him with the ways
and means to fulfil his needs in the most successful and most beneficial way. The law of God is
out and out for your benefit. There is nothing in it which tends to waste your powers, or to
suppress your natural needs and desires, or to kill your moral urges and emotions. It does
not plead for asceticism. It does not say: abandon the world, give up all ease and comfort of
life, leave your homes and wander about on plains and mountains and in jungles without
bread or cloth, putting yourself to inconvenience and self-annihilation. This viewpoint has no
relevance to the law of Islam, a law that has been formulated by God Who has created this
world for the benefit of mankind.
The Shari’ah has been revealed by that very God Who has harnessed everything for man. He
would hardly want to ruin His creation. He has not given man any power that is useless or
unnecessary, nor has He created anything in the heavens and the earth which may not be of
service to man. It is His explicit Will that the universe - this grand workshop with its multifarious
activities - should go on functioning smoothly and graciously so that man - the prize of creation -
should make the best and most productive use of all his powers and resources, of everything
that has been harnessed for him on earth and in the high heavens. He should use them in such a
way that he and his fellow human beings may reap handsome prizes from them and should
never, intentionally or unintentionally, be of any harm to God’s creation. The Shari’ah is meant
to guide the steps of man in this respect. It forbids all that is harmful to man, and allows or
ordains all that is useful and beneficial to him.
The fundamental principle of the Law is that man has the right, and in some cases the bounden
duty, to fulfil all his genuine needs and desires and make every conceivable effort to promote
his interests and achieve success and happiness - but (and it is an important ‘but’) he should do
all this in such a way that not only are the interests of other people not jeopardised and no harm
is caused to their strivings towards the fulfilment of their rights and duties, but there should be all
possible social cohesion, mutual assistance and co-operation among human beings in the
achievement of their objectives. In respect of those things in which good and evil, gain and loss
are inextricably mixed up, the tenet of this law is to choose a little harm for the sake of greater
benefit and sacrifice a little benefit, so avoiding a greater harm. This is the basic approach of the
Man’s knowledge is limited. Every man in every age does not, by himself, know what is good
and what is evil, what is beneficial and what is harmful to him. The sources of human
knowledge are too limited to provide him with the unalloyed truth. That is why God has spared
man the risks of trial and error and revealed to him the Law which is the right and complete
code of life for the entire human race.1
The merits and the truths of this code are becoming more and more clear to man with the
passage of time and of knowledge. Even today some people do not appreciate all the merits of
this code, but further progress of knowledge will throw new light on them and bring their
superiority into even clearer perspective. The world is willy-nilly drifting towards the Divine
Code - many of those people who refused to accept it are now, after centuries of gropings and
trials and errors, being obliged to adopt some of the provisions of this law. Those who denied
the truth of the revelation and pinned their faith on unguided human reason, after committing
blunders and courting bitter experience, are adopting in one way or another the injunctions of
Shari’ah. But after what loss! And even then not in their entirety! On the other hand, there are
people who repose faith in God’s Prophets, accept their word and adopt the Shari’ah with full
knowledge and understanding. They may not
1. It would be instructive to refer here to an example. Look at the colour problem. The world
has not yet been able to adopt a rational and human approach towards coloured people.
Biology. for a time. was used to sanction colour discrimination. In the United States for the last
two centuries the courts upheld the differentiation. Thousands of human beings were coerced,
gagged and tortured for the ‘crime’ that their skin was black. Separate laws were administered
to the whites and the blacks. They could not even study under the same roof in the same school
or college. It was only on May 17, 1954 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colour
discrimination in universities was unjust and against the principle cf equality of man. After
committing heinous blunders for centuries man came to the view that such discriminations are
unjust and should be abolished. But even now there are many who have not realised the truth of
this assertion and still stand for segregation, for instance. the Government of the Union of South
Africa and the Western population of the African continent. Even in the United States a large
number of’civilised’ people have not as yet accepted desegregation. This is how the human
mind has dealt with this problem. The Shariah, on the other hand, declared this discrimination
unjust from the very first day. It showed the right path, the noble course and saved man from
error and blunder. The Holy Qur’in says: “We have made all the children of Adam, i.e. all
human beings, respectable and dignified.” The Qur’an again declares: “O ye people! surely We
have created you of a male and a female and made you tribes and families so that ye may
identify each other. Surely, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is one who is most pious,
most mindful of his duty” Similarly, the Holy Prophet says: “O people, verily your Lord is one
and your Father is one. All of you belong to Adam, and Adam was made of clay. There is no
superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab nor for a non Arab over an Arab: nor for a white-
coloured over a black-coloured nor for a black-skinned over a white skinned, except in piety.
Verily the noblest among you is he who is the most pious” (vide Oration of the Prophet on the
occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage).
This is the clear truth which the Shari’ah told to man more than thirteen cepittiries ago, but
unguided reason has succeeded only in touching the fringe of it after centuries of waste, losses
and blunders, after subjecting hundreds of thousands of people to indiscriminate segregation and
after degrading men and corrupting human society. The Shari’ah gives the simplest and the
shortest approach to reality and its disregard leads to utter waste and failure. - Editor
be aware of all the merits of a certain instruction, but on the whole they accept a code which is
the outcome of true knowledge and which saves them from the evils and blunders of ignorance
and of trial and error. Such people are on the right path and are bound to succeed.
The Shari’ah - Rights and Obligations
The scheme of life which Islam envisages consists of a set of rights and obligations, and every
human being, everyone who accepts this religion, is enjoined to live up to them. Broadly
speaking, the law of Islam imposes four kinds of rights and obligations on every man: (i) the
rights of God which every man is obliged to fulfil; (ii) his own rights upon his own self; (iii) the
rights of other people over him; and (iv) the rights of those powers and resources which God
has placed in his service and has empowered him to use for his benefit.
These rights and obligations constitute the corner-stone of Islam and it is the bounden duty of
every true Muslim to understand them and obey them carefully. The Shari’ah discusses clearly
each and every kind of right and deals with it in detail. It also throws light on the ways and
means through which the obligations can be discharged - so that all of them may be
simultaneously implemented and none of them violated or trampled underfoot.
Now we shall briefly discuss these rights and obligations so that an idea of the Islamic way of
life and its fundamental values may be formed.
1. The Rights of God
First of all we must study the ground on which Islam bases the relationship of man to his
Creator. The primary and foremost right of God is that man should have faith in Him alone. He
should acknowledge His authority and associate none with Him. This is epitomised in the
Kalimah: La- ilaha illallah (there is no god but Allah).2
The second right of God on us is that man should accept whole-heartedly and follow His
guidance (Hidayah) - the code He has revealed for man and should seek His pleasure with both
mind and soul. We fulfil the dictates of this right by placing belief in God’s Prophet and by
accepting his guidance and leadership.3
The third right of God on us is that we should obey Him honestly and unreservedly.
We fulfil the needs of this right by following God’s Law as contained in the Qur’an and the
The fourth right of God on us is to worship Him. This is rendered by offering prayers and other
‘Ibadah as described earlier.5
2. This point has already been discussed in detail in Chapter Four.
3. This has been discussed in Chapter Three,
4. See Chapter Four.
5. See Chapter Five.
These rights and obligations precede all other rights and as such they are discharged even at
the cost of some sacrifice of other rights and duties. For instance, in offering prayers and
keeping fasts man has to sacrifice many of his personal rights. He has to get up early in the
morning for his prayers and in so doing sacrifices his sleep and rest. During the day he often
puts off important work and gives up his recreation to worship his Creator. In the month of
Ramadan (the month of fasts) he experiences hunger and inconvenience solely to please his
Lord. By paying zakah he loses his wealth and demonstrates that the love of God is above
everything else. In the pilgrimage he sacrifices wealth and takes on a difficult journey. And in
Jihad he sacrifices money, material and all that he has - even his own life.
Similarly, in the discharge of these obligations one has to sacrifice some of the ordinary rights of
others and thus injure one’s own interests at large. A servant has to leave his work to worship
his Lord. A businessman has to stop his business to undertake the Pilgrimage to Makka. In
Jihad a man takes away life and gives it away solely in the cause of Allah. In the same way, in
rendering God’s rights one has to sacrifice many of those things which man has in his control,
like animals, wealth, etc. But God has so formulated the Shari’ah that harmony and
equilibrium are established in the different fields of life and the sacrifice of others’ rights is
reduced to the barest minimum.
This is achieved by the limits prescribed by God. He has allowed us every facility in the
fulfilment of the obligation of Salah. If you cannot get water for ablution, or you are sick, you
can perform tayammum (dry ablution). If you are on a journey, you can cut short the Salah. If
you are ill and cannot stand in the prayer, you can offer it while sitting or lying. The recitation of
the prayer is so manageable that they can be shortened or lengthened as one may wish; at times
of rest and ease we may recite a long chapter of the Qur’an, at busy times we may recite a few
verses only. The instruction is that in the congregational prayers and in those prayers which
occur during business hours, the recitation should be short. God is pleased with the optional
devotions (Nawafil), but He disapproves our denying ourselves sleep and rest and the sacrifice
of the rights of our children and of the household. Islam wants us to strike a balance between
the various activities of life.
It is similar with fasts. In the whole year there is only one month of obligatory fasting. If
you are travelling or ill you can omit it and observe it at some other convenient time of the year.
Women are exempted from fasting when they are pregnant and during their menstrual or
suckling periods. The fast should end at the appointed time and any delay is disapproved of.
Permission is given to eat and drink from sunset to dawn. Optional fasts are highly valued and
God is pleased at them, but He does not like you to keep fasts continuously and make yourself
too weak to do your ordinary business satisfactorily.
Similarly, look at the case of zakah; the minimum rate has been fixed by God and man has been
left free to give as much more as he likes in the cause of Allah. If one gives zakah, one fulfils
one’s duty, but if one spends more in charity, one seeks more and more of God’s pleasure. But
He does not like us to sacrifice all our belongings in charity or to deny ourselves and our
relatives those rights and comforts which they should enjoy. He does not want us to
impoverish ourselves. We are commanded to be moderate in charity.
Then look at the pilgrimage. It is obligatory only for those who can afford the journey and
who are physically fit to bear its hardships. Then, it is obligatory to perform it only once in
one’s life, in any convenient year. If there is a war or any other situation which threatens life,
it can be postponed. Moreover, parental permission has been made an essential condition,
so that aged parents may not suffer in one’s absence. All these things clearly show what
importance God has Himself given to the rights of others vis-a-vis His own rights.
The greatest sacrifice for God is made in Jihad, for in it a man sacrifices not only his own life and
property in His cause but destroys those of others also. But, as already stated, one of the
Islamic principles is that we should suffer a lesser loss to save ourselves from a greater loss.
How can the loss of some lives - even if the number runs into thousands - be compared to the
calamity that may befall mankind as a result of the victory of evil over good and of aggressive
atheism over the religion of God. That would be a far greater loss and calamity, for as a result
of it not only would the religion of God be under dire threat, the world would also become the
abode of evil and perversion, and life would be disrupted both from within and without.
In order to escape this greater evil God has, therefore. commanded us to sacrifice our lives and
property for His pleasure. But at the same time He has forbidden unnecessary bloodshed,
injuring the aged, women, children, the sick and the wounded. His order is to fight only against
those who rise to fight. He enjoins us not to cause unnecessary destruction even in the enemy’s
lands, and to deal fairly and honourably with the defeated. We are instructed to observe the
agreements made with the enemy, and to stop fighting when they do so or when they stop their
aggressive and anti-Islamic activities.
Thus Islam allows only for the minimum essential sacrifice of life, property, and other people’s
rights in the discharging of God’s rights. It is eager to establish a balance between the
different demands of man and adjust different rights and obligations so that life is enriched with
the choicest of’ merits and achievements.
2. The Rights of One’s Own Self
Next come man’s personal rights, that is, the rights of one’s own self.
The fact is that man is more cruel and unjust to himself than to any other being. On the face of
it this may seem astonishing: how can a man be unjust to himself, particularly when we find that
he loves himself most? How can he be his own enemy? It seems unintelligible. But deeper
reflection shows that it contains a large grain of truth.
The greatest weakness of man is that when he feels an overpowering desire, instead of resisting
it, he succumbs to it, and in its gratification knowingly causes great harm to himself. There is the
man who drinks: he cannot stop his craving for it and does it at the cost of money, health,
reputation and everything that he has. Another person is so fond of eating that in his eating
excesses he damages his health and endangers his life. Another person becomes a slave to his
sexual appetites and ruins himself in over-indulgence. Still another becomes enamoured of
spiritual elevations: he suppresses his genuine desires, refuses to satisfy the physical needs,
controls his appetite, does away with clothes, leaves his home and retires into mountains and
jungles. He believes that the world is not meant for him and abhors it in all its forms and
These are a few of the instances of man’s tendency to go to extremes. One comes across such
instances of maladjustment and disequilibrium in one’s everyday life and there is no need to
multiply them here.
Islam stands for human welfare and its avowed objective is to establish balance in life. That is
why the Shari’ah clearly declares that your own self also has certain rights upon you. A
fundamental principle of it is: “there are rights upon you of your own person.”
The Shari’ah forbids the use of all those things which are injurious to man’s physical, mental
or moral existence. It forbids the consumption of blood, intoxicating drugs, flesh of the pig,
beasts of prey, poisonous and unclean animals and carcases; for all these have undesirable
effects on the physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual life of man. While forbidding these
things, Islam enjoins man to use all clean, healthy and useful things and asks him not to deprive
his body of clean food, for man’s body, too, has a right on him. The law of Islam forbids nudity
and orders man to wear decent and dignified dress. It exhorts him to work for a living and
strongly disapproves of him remaining idle and jobless. The spirit of the Shari’ah is that man
should use for his comfort and welfare the powers God has bestowed on him and the resources
that He has spread on the earth and in the heavens.
Islam does not believe in the suppression of sexual desire, it enjoins man to control and
regulate it and seek its fulfilment in marriage. It forbids him to resort to self-persecution and
total self-denial and permits him, indeed, bids him, to enjoy the rightful comforts and pleasures
of life and remain pious and steadfast in the midst of life and its problems.
To seek spiritual elevation, moral purity, nearness to God and salvation in the life to come, it is
not necessary to abandon this world. Instead, the trial of man lies in this world and he should
remain in its midst and follow the way of Allah in it. The road to success lies in following the
Divine Law in the midst of life’s complexities, not outside it.
Islam forbids suicide and impresses on man that life belongs to God. It is a trust which God has
bestowed for a certain period of time so that you may make the best use of it - it is not meant to
be harmed or destroyed in a frivolous way.
This is how Islam instils in the mind of man that his own person, his own self, possesses
certain rights and it is his obligation to discharge them as best he can, in the ways that have been
suggested by the Shari’ah. This is how he can be true to his own self.
3. The Rights of Other Men
On the one hand the Shari’ah has enjoined man to fulfil his personal rights and be just to his own
self, and on the other, it has asked him to seek their fulfilment in such a way that the rights of
other people are not violated. The Shari’ah has tried to strike a balance between the rights of
man and the rights of society so that no conflict arises and there is co-operation in establishing
the law of God.
Islam has strictly forbidden the telling of a lie in any shape or form, for lies sully the liar, harm
other people and become a source of menace to society. It has totally forbidden theft,
bribery, forgery, cheating, the levying of interest and usury, for whatever man gains by these
means is obtained by causing loss and injury to others. Back-biting, tale-telling and slander have
been forbidden. Gambling, lottery, speculation and all games of chance have been prohibited,
for in all of them one person gains at the expense of thousands of losers.
All those forms of exploitative commerce have been prohibited in which one party alone is to be
the loser. Monopoly, hoarding, blackmarketing, holding of land from cultivation and all other
forms of individual and social aggrandizement have been prohibited. Murder, bloodspilling
and spreading of mischief, disorder and destruction have been made crimes, for no-one has a
right to take away the life or property of other people merely for his personal gain or
Adultery, fornication and unnatural sexual indulgence have been strictly prohibited for they not
only vitiate the morality and impair the health of the perpetrator but also spread corruption and
immorality in society, cause venereal disease, damage both public health and the morals of the
coming generations, upset relations between man and man and split the very fabric of the
cultural and social structure of the community. Islam seeks to eliminate, root and branch, such
All these limitations and restrictions have been imposed by the law of Islam to prevent a man
encroaching on the rights of others. Islam does not want a man to become so selfish and self-
centred that for the attainment of a few desires of the mind and body he unashamedly assails the
rights of others and violates morality. The law of Islam so regulates life that the welfare of one
and all may be achieved. But for the attainment of human welfare and cultural advancement,
negative restrictions alone are not sufficient. In a peaceful and prosperous society people
should not only not violate the rights of others and injure their interests but should positively co-
operate with each other and establish mutual relations and social institutions that contribute
towards the welfare of all and the establishment of an ideal human society. The Shari’ah has
guided us in this respect as well. We therefore propose to give here a brief summary of those
injunctions of Islamic law which throw light on this aspect of life and society.
Family is the first cradle of man. It is here that the primary character-traits of man are set. As
such it is not only the cradle of man but also the cradle of civilisation. Therefore, let us first
consider the injunctions of the Shari’ah relating to the family.
A family consists of the husband, the wife and their children. The Islamic injunctions about
the family are very explicit. They assign to man the responsibility for earning and
providing the necessities of life for his wife and children and for protecting them from all the
vicissitudes of life. To the woman it assigns the duty of managing the household, training and
bringing up children in the best possible way, and providing her husband and children with the
greatest possible comfort and contentment. The duty of the children is to respect and obey
their parents, and, when they are grown up, to serve them and provide for their needs.
To make the household a well-managed and well-disciplined institution,
Islam has adopted the following two measures:
(a) The husband has been given the position of head of the family. No insti
tution can work smoothly unless it has a chief administrator. You cannot think
of a school without a headmaster or a city without an administrator. If there is
nobody to control an institution, chaos results. If everybody in the family goes
his own way, nothing but confusion will prevail. If the husband goes one way
and the wife another, the future of the children will be ruined. There must be
someone as the head of the family so that discipline may be maintained. Islam
gives this position to the husband and in this way makes the family a well-
disciplined primary unit of civilisation and a model for society at large.
(b) The head of the family has responsibilities. It is his duty to work, and do
all those tasks which are performed outside the household. Woman has
been freed from all activities outside the household so that she may devote
herself fully to duties in the home and in the rearing of her children - the
future guardians of the nation. Women have been ordered to remain in their
houses and discharge the responsibilities assigned to them. Islam does not
want to tax them doubly: to bring up their children and maintain the house
hold, as well as to earn a living and do outdoor jobs would be a clear
injustice. Islam, therefore, effects a functional division of labour between the
But this does not mean that the woman is not allowed to leave the house at all. She is, when
necessary. The law has specified the home as her special field of work and has stressed that
she should attend to the improvement of home life. Whenever she has to go out, certain
formalities should be observed.
It is a general rule that the sphere of the family widens through blood relations and marriage
connections. To bind together the members of the family into a unity, to keep their mutual
relations close and healthy, and to make each one of them a source of support, strength and
contentment to the other, the law of Islam has formulated certain basic laws and rules which
embody the wisdom of the ages. They may be summed up as follows:
I. Marriage between those persons who have naturally and circumstantially the closest
association and affiliations with each other have been prohibited. Marriage is forbidden
between: mother and son, father and daughter, step-
father and step-daughter, step-
mother and step-son; brother and sister, foster-
and his niece, aunt (father’s or mother’s
brother and foster-sister, paternal uncle
6. After tasting the bitter consequences of destroying this functional distribution, even some
Western thinkers are talking in terms of women going back to their homes. Here are the views
of two leading thinkers:
Dr. Fulton J. Sheen writes in Communism and the Conscience of the West: “The disturbance of
family life in America is more desperate than at any period in our history. The family is the
barometer of the nation. What the average home is that is America: if the average home is living
on credit, spending money lavishly, running into debt, then America will be a nation which will
pile on national debt until the day of the Great Collapse. If the average husband and wife are
not faithful to their marriage vows, then America will not insist on fidelity to the Islamic Charter
and the Four Freedoms. If there is a deliberate frustration of the fruits of love, then the nation
will develop economic policies of growing undue cotton, throwing coffee into the sea and
frustrating nature for the sake of economic prices. If the husband and wife live only for
themselves and not for each other, if they fail to see that their individual happiness is conditional
to their mutuality, then we shall have a country where capital and labour fight like husband and
wife, both making social life barren and economic peace impossible. If the husband and wife
permits outside solicitations to woo one away from the other, then we shall become a nation
where alien philosophies will infiltrate, as Communism sweeps away that basic loyalty which
was known as patriotism. If husband and wife live as if there is no God, then America shall
have bureaucrats pleading for atheism as a national policy repudiating the Declaration of
Independence and denying that all our rights and liberties come to us from God. It is the home
which decides the nation. What happens in the family will happen later in Congress, the White
House and the Supreme Court. Every country gets the kind of Government it deserves. As we
live in the house, so shall the nation live.”
Professor Cyril Joad goes to the extent of clearly saying that: “I believe the world would be a
happier place if women were content to look after their homes and their children, even if some
slight lowering of the standards of living were involved thereby.” (Variety, December 1, 1952).
sister) and her nephew, maternal uncle and his niece, mother-in-law and her son-
and father-in-law and his daughter-in-law. This prohibition strength- ens the bonds of the
family and makes relations between these relatives absolutely pure and unalloyed: and
they can mix with each other without any
restraint and with sincere affection.
2. Beyond the limits of the forbidden marriage relations given above, matrimo- nial
relations can be effected between the members of kindred families, so that such
relationship may bind them still closer. Marriage connections between two families which
are freely associated with each other, and which therefore know
each other’s habits,
customs and traditions, are generally successful. Therefore the Shari’ah has not only
permitted them but also encouraged and preferred relations with kindred families to those
of entirely strange families (though this is not forbidden).
3. In a group of kindred families, there usually co-exists the rich and the poor, the
prosperous and the destitute. The Islamic principle is that a man’s relatives have the
greatest right on him. Respect for the tie between relatives is tech nically called Silah-al-
rahm. Muslims are enjoined to respect this bond in every
possible way. To be disloyal to
one’s relatives and to be negligent of their rights
is a great sin and God has disapproved
of it. If a relative becomes poor, or is
beset by some trouble, it is the duty of his rich
and prosperous relatives to help
enjoined in Zakah and other charities.
him. Special regard for the rights of relatives has been
4. The law of inheritance is so formulated in Islam that property left by the
deceased cannot be concentrated in one place. It is distributed in such a way that all
near relatives get their share. Son, daughter, wife, husband, father, mother, brother and
sister are the nearest relatives and they get the first
priority. If such near relatives do not exist, shares are given to the next nearest
relatives. After the death of a man, therefore, his wealth is distributed amongst
his kith and kin and a fatal blow is struck against the capitalistic concentration of
wealth. This law of Islam is of unique excellence, and other societies are now taking
similar action. But the sad irony is that Muslims themselves are not fully aware of its
revolutionary potentialities and some of them, through
ignorance, are even avoiding it in practice. In several parts of the Indo-Pakistan
subcontinent daughters are being deprived of their share of inheritance; this
is a palpable injustice and a flagrant violation of the Qur’an’s injunctions.
After the family and its connections come man’s relations with his friends, neighbours,
dwellers of his own locality, village or city, and persons with whom he comes into constant
contact. Islam recognises these relations and enjoins a Muslim to treat them all honestly,
truthfully, equitably and courteously. It bids believers to respect others’ feelings, to avoid
indecent and abusive language, to help each other, to attend to the sick, to support the destitute,
to assist the needy and the crippled, to sympathise with the trouble-stricken, to look after
orphans and widows, to feed the hungry, to clothe the under-clad and to help the
unemployed in seeking employment.
Islam says that if God has bestowed upon you wealth and riches, do not squander it on
luxurious frivolities. It has prohibited the use of gold and silver vessels, the wearing of costly silk
dresses, and the wasting of money on useless ventures and extravagant luxuries. This injunction
of the Shari’ah is based on the principle that no man should be allowed to squander on himself
wealth that could maintain thousands of human beings. It is cruel and unjust that money which
can be used to feed teeming, starving humanity should be frittered away in useless ostentation.
Islam does not want to deprive a man of his wealth and belongings. What one has earned or
inherited is beyond doubt his own property. Islam recognises his right and allows him to enjoy it
and make the best use of it. It also suggests that if you are wealthy, you should have better
dress and good accommodation and a decent living. But Islam insists that the human element
should not be lost sight of.
What Islam totally disapproves of is conceited self-centredness, which neglects the welfare and
well-being of others and gives birth to an exaggerated individualism. It wants society as a whole
to prosper, and not merely a few individuals. It instils in the minds of its followers social
consciousness and suggests that they live a simple and frugal life, that they avoid excesses and,
while fulfiling their own needs, keep in mind the needs and requirements of their kith and kin,
their near and distant relatives, their friends and associates, their neighbours and fellow-citizens.
This is what Islam wants to achieve.
So far we have discussed the nature of man’s relations with his close relatives and friends. Now
let us look at the wider perspective and see what kind of community Islam wants to establish.
Everyone who embraces Islam not only enters the fold of the religion but also becomes a
member of the Islamic community. The Shari’ah has formulated certain rules of behaviour for
this as well. These rules oblige Muslims to help each other, to approve good and forbid evil,
and to see that no wrong enters their society. Some of the injunctions of the law of Islam, in this
respect, are as follows:
I. To preserve the moral life of the nation and to safeguard the evolution of
society on healthy lines, free mingling of the sexes has been prohibited. Islam effects
a functional distribution between the sexes and sets different spheres of activity for both of
them. Women should in the main devote themselves to
their homes and men should attend to their jobs in the
household duties in
Outside the pale of the nearest relations between whom marriage is forbidden men and
women have been asked not to mix freely
with each other and if they do have to have
contact with each other they should do so with purdah. When women have to go out of
their homes, they should
wear simple dress and be properly veiled. They should also
cover their faces
and hands as a normal course. Only in genuine necessity can they
unveil, and they must re-cover as soon as possible.
Along with this, men have been asked to keep down their eyes and not to look at
women. And if someone accidentally looks upon some woman, he should turn away his
eyes. To try to see them is wrong and to try to seek their acquai-
tance is worse. It is the
duty of both men and women to look after their personal
morality and purge their souls
of all impurities. Marriage is the proper form of sexual relationship and no-one should
attempt to overstep this limit or even think of any sexual license; the very thought and
imagination of man should be purified from such perverse ideas.
2. For the same purpose it has been enjoined that proper dress should always be
worn. No man should expose his body from the knees to the navel, nor should a
woman expose any part of her body except her face and hands to any person other than her
husband, however closely related to her he might be. This is tech-
nically called satr
(cover) and to keep these parts covered is the religious duty of every man and woman.
Through this directive Islam aims to cultivate in its
followers a deep sense of modesty
and purity and to suppress all forms of immodesty and moral deviation.
3. Islam does not approve of pastimes, entertainments and recreations which tend to
stimulate sensual passions and vitiate the canons of morality. They are a sheer waste of time,
money and energy. and destroy the moral fibre of society.
Recreation in itself is
certainly a necessity. It acts as a spur to activity and quickens the spirit of life and adventure.
It is as important to life as water and air; one particularly requires rest and recreation after
hard work. But it must be recreation which refreshes the mind and enlivens the spirit, and
must not depress
the spirit and deprave the passions. Absurd and wasteful
in thousands of people witness depraving scenes of crime and
immorality are the
very antithesis of healthy recreation. Although they may be gratifying
to the senses, their effect upon the minds and morals is horrifying. They can have no place in
an Islamic society and culture.
4. To safeguard the unity and solidarity of the nation and to achieve the wel- fare
and well-being of the Muslim community, believers have been enjoined to
hostility, social dissensions and sectarianism of all kinds. They have been exhorted to settle
their differences and disputes in accordance with
the principles laid down in the Qur’an
and the Sunnah, and if the parties fail to
reach a settlement, instead of fighting and
quarrelling amongst themselves,
they should bury their differences in the name of
Allah and leave the decision to Him. In matters of common national welfare they should
help each other,
obey their leaders, and avoid wasting their energies in bickering over
trivial things. Such feuds and schisms are a disgrace to the Muslim community and a
potential source of national weakness. They must be shunned at all costs.
5. Islam regards knowledge and science as the common heritage of mankind and
Muslims have absolute liberty to learn them and their practical uses from
source they can. But as far as the question of culture and the way of life is concerned, it
forbids them to imitate the modes of living of other peo- ples. The psychology of imitation
suggests that it springs from a sense of infe- riority and abasement and its net result is the
cultivation of a defeatist mentali-
ty. Cultural aping of others has disastrous
consequences on a nation; it destroys its inner vitality, blurs its vision, befogs its critical
faculties, breeds an inferiority complex and gradually but assuredly saps all the springs
of cul- ture and sounds its death-knell.
This is why the Holy Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has
positively and forcefully forbidden Muslims to assume the culture and mode of life of
non-Muslims. The strength of a nation does not lie in its dress, etiquette
or fine arts; its
power and growth owe themselves to right knowledge, science,
and energy for action. If you want to learn from others,
take lessons from their will to
action and social discipline, avail yourselves of their knowledge and technical accomplishments
but do not lean towards those arts and crafts which breed cultural slavery and national
inferiority. Muslims have been enjoined to guard against such influence.
Now we come to the relationship of Muslims with non-Muslims. In dealing with them, believers
have been instructed not to be intolerant or narrow - minded. They have been commanded not
to abuse or speak ill of their religious leaders or saints, nor to say anything insulting about their
religion. They have been instructed not to seek disputes with them unnecessarily but to live
in peace and amity. If the non-Muslims observe peace and conciliatory attitudes towards
Muslims, and do not violate their territories and other rights, they also should keep congenial
and friendly relations with them and deal with them fairly and justly.
It is the very dictate of our religion that we possess greater human sympathy and politeness than
any other people, and behave in most noble and modest ways. Bad manners, ill-behaviour,
oppression and narrow-mindedness are against the very spirit of Islam. A Muslim is born in
the world to become a living symbol of goodness, nobility and humanity. He should win the
hearts of people by his character and example. Then alone he can become a true ambassador
4. The Rights of All Creatures
Now we come to the last kind of rights. God has honoured man with authority over
His countless Creatures. Everything has been harnessed for him. He has been endowed with
the power to subdue them and make them serve his objectives. This superior position gives
man authority over them and he enjoys the right to use them as he likes. But that does not mean
that God has given him unbridled liberty. Islam says that all creation has certain rights on man.
They are: he should not waste them on fruitless ventures nor should he unnecessarily hurt them
or harm them. When he uses them for his service he should cause them the least possible harm,
and should employ the best and the least injurious methods of using them.
The law of Islam embodies many injunctions about these rights. For instance, we are allowed to
slaughter animals for food but have been forbidden to kill them merely for fun or sport. To
slaughter them, the method of dhabh (slaughtering) has been fixed, the best possible method
of obtaining meat from animals. Other methods are either more painful or spoil the meat and
deprive it of some of its useful properties. Similarly, killing an animal by causing continuous pain
and injury is considered abominable in Islam. Islam allows the killing of dangerous and
venomous animals and of beasts of prey only because it values man’s life more than theirs. But
here, too, it does not allow their killing by resort to prolonged painful methods.
Regarding the beasts of burden and animals used for riding and transport, Islam distinctly
forbids man to keep them hungry, to put intolerable burdens on them and to beat them cruelly.
To catch birds and imprison them in cages without any special purpose is considered
abominable. Islam does not approve even of the useless cutting of trees and bushes. Man can
use their fruits and other produce, but he has not the right to destroy them. Vegetables, after all,
possess life. Nor does Islam allow waste among even lifeless things; so much so that it
disapproves of the wasteful flow of too much water. Its avowed purpose is to avoid waste in
every conceivable form and to make the best use of all resources - living and lifeless.
Shari’ah - The Universal and Eternal Law
In the foregoing pages we have given a very brief resume of the law of Islam - the law which
Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) delivered to mankind for all
times to come. This law admits of no difference between man and man except in faith and
religion. Those religious and social systems and political and cultural ideologies which
differentiate between men on grounds of race, country or colour can never become universal
creeds or world ideologies for the simple reason that someone belonging to a certain race
cannot be transformed into another race, one born in a certain country cannot tear his identity
from that place, nor can the whole world condense into one country; the colour of a negro, a
Chinese and a white man cannot be changed. Such ideologies and social systems must remain
confined to one race, country or community. They are bound to be narrow, limited and
nationalistic. Islam, on the other hand, is a universal ideology. Any person who declares belief
in La ilaha illallah Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah (there is no other god worthy of worship than
Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet) enters the pale of Islam and entitles himself to the same
rights as those of other Muslims. Islam makes no discrimination on the basis of race,
country, colour, language or the like. Its appeal is to the whole of humanity.
Its law is also eternal. It is not based on the customs or traditions of any particular people and
is not meant for any particular period of human history. It is based on the same principles of
nature on which man has been created. And as that nature remains the same in all periods and
under all circumstances, law based on it is applicable to every period and under all
This universal and eternal religion is Islam.
Further Recommended reading !
1) The Holy Qur’an, Arabic text: English translation and commentry;
By Abdullah Yusuf Ali
2) The Meaning of The Glorious Qur’an with brief explanatory notes;
By Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall
3) The Bible the Qur’an and Science
By Dr Maurice Bucaille
4) The Position of Women in Islam
By Dr J.A. Badawi
5) The Islamic Way of Life
By Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi
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