20 June 2013
To understand the essence of Islam is to understand the very essence of humanity. More than a religion, Islam is a complete and comprehensive way of life leading to a balanced way of living. Islam brings civilization and happiness to man. Islamic principles and teachings can provide realistic, fair and objective solutions to the prevention of individual, familial, social and international problems which are threatening the existence of human communities throughout the world.
A spiritual belief that does not deal with social behaviour, economic relations and international organisations is as erroneous as the social doctrine that does not consider spiritual belief, morality and behaviour. Such social doctrines are abortive attempts, incapable of total human guidance or of achieving any coherence or accord among human beings.
Both the individual and the society are in dire need of a belief that accommodates and directs all their vital activities towards construction and growth. When the individual and society adopt such a belief and apply it to life, humanity can accomplish seemingly miraculous achievements which can only occur when man unites himself with the Eternal Power that channels his personality -potential in the right direction.
History has shown that Islam is unique in its ability to provide guidance for the entire range of human activity. It does not separate spiritual and secular life as unrelated entities.
Islam integrates all domains of human life, just like the different systems in the human body integrate to provide a complete human being. If one system does not work properly, it has got to affect the whole body. Likewise, Islam proposes systems of laws that integrate all parts of human society to bring happiness and peace to all its members.
There is no other way or system that urges the active worship of Allah in its general and most comprehensive sense other than Islam. Fox example, Islam teaches that Muslims should fast for a month every year (i.e. Ramadan) in order to acquire piety and self-discipline and to develop awareness of the needs and problems of others who are starving or are in desperate need of food. Such an awareness of the needs of others is not enough on its own. Therefore, Zakaah (obligatory charity) is prescribed to be distributed among the segments of society that are in need of individual and communal assistance.
A very important universal concept in Islam is “Ummah” (Nation). Ummah transcends all limitations implied by the term ‘nation’ by encompassing all people regardless of race, colour, or sex. Allah emphasised this great Islamic principle in the verse (which means);
“Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over it [i.e. Scripture] except those who were given it-after the clear proofs came to them-out of jealous animosity among themselves. And Allah guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.” [Qur’an 2:2 13]
Moreover, Islam has a unique understanding for the concept of Ummah. Ummah is the field for knowledge, ethics, government and positivism. Ummah in Islam is a system in which people integrate, even if they belong to different belief systems. It is a system of universal justice and peace that accommodates everyone who believes in freedom of thinking and in calling people to the truth-whether they are individuals or communities.
Indeed, Ummah in Islam is an apparatus which is more advanced than that developed by the West, the UN, or those apparatuses established by the American-European block merely to bring about a “new world order,” but which in reality often are geared only to maintain Western control over Third World human and material resources.
The Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam, proposed a constitution for the city of Madinah during the first days of his emigration from Makkah. He, Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam, included the rights of both Jews and Christians, thereby safeguarding their freedom and beliefs. History has never known a constitution that represented minorities as this constitution of the Islamic state did. Ummah as an Islamic concept will, Allah willing, bring the advent of universal peace as well as an internal social system. Ummah is the field-ground for civilization to take place. Such an Ummah can be integrated and united, if it derives its doctrines, constitutions, morals, values and the whole perspective of life from the same united source: belief in the only true Allah. This is known as the concept of Tawheed (Monotheism).
The value systems of Western societies will continue to collapse, since they are built on shifting grounds. The Sunday Times of London, in its September 1994 issue, reported about a revolt by women against the values prevailing in Britain: ‘‘British women seek new morality in its religious affairs” correspondent Lesley Thomas stated.
According to the report, this is not the case of British women who are favouring Islam. “Thousands of British women are becoming Muslims in a trend that baffles feminists and causes concern to Christians.” The report continues that “of the estimated 10,000 British converts to Islam over the past decade, most are single, educated women, doctors, college lecturers and lawyers.” The educated in the West are beginning to see that the “full” life is found only in Islam, the universal religion.
And what about the present day Muslim world? Unfortunately, some “educated” Muslims now pay only “lip-service” to Islam. They think that Islam is a slogan to be raised or a word to be uttered. Islam is the way of life that should be implemented in all spheres of life. These hypocrites have forgotten that Allah dislikes those who brag about things that they do not practice. When man’s deeds are not commensurate with their words, their conduct is odious in the sight of Allah.
“O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? Great is hatred in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.” [Qur’an 61:2-3]
May Allah let the Muslim World never forget that Islam provides a complete and comprehensive way of life. Islam creates harmony in the mind, the soul and the body in a marvellous way. The need for Islam emerges from the humanity’s search for a constitution that provides guidance and satisfaction in all spheres of life. It is a code of life that is not limited to partial needs, but rather a way of life that penetrates all barriers to interact with people’s needs in this life and beyond. It is a way of life where there is no discrimination between what is sacred and what is secular.
Islam is unique among the religions and civilizations the world has known. In contrast to the other religions of the world, Islam defines religion itself as the very business of life, the very matter of space-time, the very process of history, and the gift of Allah. Therefore, all these work together to constitute them.
Islam is a divine guidance wherein humans of all nations, colours and tongues feel linked to a Supreme Power and Justice. Its teachings are kept intact and authentic. It is the only way to happiness, dignity, and universal peace. Islam is so unique in its method for solving the problems of humanity. We can say with confidence that the 21st century will be the century of Islam. The everlasting miracle of Islam, THE QUR’AN, is a standing challenge to the intellect of all peoples at all times. In Islam’s four abiding principles - equality, tolerance, promotion of science, and solution to the world’s problems - its universality asserts itself. It calls to all mankind, if only mankind will listen.
“Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? If it had been from [any] other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction.” [Qur’an 4:2]
Some of the Features of Islam
The world is not only densely populated but it is also saturated with different religions in various concepts. Everyone claims that he has a message to rescue the world and that he is the only one who is on the right path - each one asserting as if everybody owns the franchise to the truth!
Faced with such a fact, it is imperative upon us, as Muslims, to know the features of our religion. This is for us to determine our position, as well as, to properly conduct and guard ourselves against the other ones that may either be of divine roots such as Christianity and Judaism or of human origin like Buddhism and Hinduism. Otherwise, we will succumb to a plethora of religions.
Islam has specific features, which distinguishes it from the rest. By understanding these features, we will hopefully realise its merits and Allah’s (God’s) kindness as He guides and immerses us towards Islam. Here are some of these features:
1. Islam Is a Divine Religion
Allah Says (what means): “ And indeed, (O Muhammad), you receive the Qur’an from one Wise and Knowing.” [Qur’an: 27:6] “Alif - Lam - Meem. (This is) the revelation of the Book about which there is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds.” [Qur’an: 32:1-2].
So Islam, by this feature, is essentially distinguished from the other laws and ideologies whose source is the human mind as opposed to Islam’s which is divine (“Godly”). This great difference should not be ignored nor taken for granted.
While Islam is considered a divine revelation, it should be:
A. Perfect and devoid of insufficiency, ignorance and caprice because it comes from Allah the Almighty, Whose perfection is complete and Who is infallible. Therefore, if the effect of Allah’s perfection is shown in His revealed commands, they should also be perfect.
B. Suitable, convenient and sufficient. This revelation is from the Creator Who knows what may benefit or harm His creatures. Allah Says (what means): “Does He Who created not know, while He is the Subtle, the Acquainted?” [Qur’an: 67:14].
C. Highly respected and dignified by believers regardless of one’s social status and earthly power because such positions and influence cannot take them away from the submission to Almighty Allah.
This holds true to a president or a ruler who is not obliged to follow any philosopher’s or intellectual’s opinion but still has to submit to Almighty Allah, regardless of his position, as all other creatures submit to Him.
For instance, Muslims who used to drink wine before Islam gave up their habit when Islam had forbidden it. In contrast, the United States in 1930 spent a lot of money advertising the dangers of wine and even applied hard punishment along the line in order to put a stop to it but still all their efforts failed.
2. Islam Is Comprehensive
Islam unlike human principles and ordered set of ideas is a comprehensive system for all life affairs and human behaviour, as each aspect caters to its own field. So there are no spaces in human life which are apart from his religion and belief.
Muslims cannot do anything without a jurisprudent ruling either by obligation, prohibition, legalisation, recommendation or abhorrence. Therefore, everything in a Muslim’s life submits to and are gauged against these five jurisprudentially rulings, such that whatever comes to one ‘s mind always has a jurisprudential verdict in Islam.
The comprehensiveness of this religious jurisprudential ruling is clear because:
A. Islam includes the Jurisprudence of belief, such as faith in Allah and faith in the Last Day and Judgement.
B. It includes the Jurisprudence of morality, such as honesty and forbidden lie.
C. It includes the jurisprudential ruling of man’s relationship with his Lord, such as prayer and fasting.
D. It includes the regulations of man’s relationship with each other, such as the jurisprudential ruling of the family including the manner of dealing with them.
The effect of this comprehensiveness is reflected in a Muslim’s life because he is always in touch with Allah in all his undertakings. He is connected with Allah in his worship, his relationship with others and his children, his eating, his companionship with his wife, his livelihood and many others of such respect, affirming that this religion concludes and evaluates all these things.
3. It Is General
Another one of Islam’s excellent aspects is its generality or applicability to all human beings. It was not sent solely to a specific group or special race. Almighty Allah Says (what means): “And We have not sent you except comprehensively to mankind as a bringer of good tidings and a warner…” [Qur’an: 34:28]. “Say, (O Muhammad), ‘O mankind! Indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you all…’” [Qur’an: 7:158]
Its suitability at any given time and place is permanent and unchangeable. Unlike the previous divine laws that catered only to a specific period and to a specific group or race.
One might ask: “Why is it that divine laws were not continued in its revelation till the Day of Judgment?”
The answer is that the revelation of these divine laws is not a kind of futility but rather wisdom in order to complete a previous divine law or to meet a specific need for a given specific group. However, Almighty Allah has sent completely and perfectly the Islamic message when the sequence and series of divine messages already nurtured the human beings. Such an Islamic message filled the gaps and completed the previous revelations as well as confirmed the virtues inherent of the previous divine messages. Almighty Allah has provided Islamic messages with continuous characteristics and fulfilment of human needs till the Day of Judgment, demonstrating in effect one of Almighty Allah’s wisdoms.
The Almighty Allah Says (what means): “This day I have perfected for you your religion, and completed My favour upon you, and have approved for you Islam as religion.” [Qur’an: 5:3]
4. Islam Sets Up Rewards As Well As Punishment for Our Deeds
The jurisprudential rulings of Islam are not just abstract pieces of advice or instructions that have no bearing for reward or punishment. On the contrary, it offers good reward for the obedient ones and punishment for the transgressors and violators of its law. Moreover, there are inherent degrees of reward and punishment in it. It is common knowledge that the punishment and rewards are meted out in the Last Day of Judgment but in some cases, the earthly penalty shares in the Day of Judgment’s penalty by applying punishment to the people who violate the jurisprudential rulings of Islam in such cases as murder, theft and adultery.
This special feature of punishment and reward for deeds obliges Muslims to submit wilfully, whether in secret or open, to the jurisprudential rulings of Islam. Muslims obey this for fear of Almighty Allah’s punishment because even if one could escape from his sins in this life, the reality that everyone will be brought before Allah on the Day of Judgment for a fair and decent trial will always hold true in the end.
Therefore, Muslims avoid the forbidden deeds not only because of respect to and shame from Allah, but also out of fear for Allah’s punishment on the Day of Judgment. Allah Says (what means): “ The Day every soul will find what it has done of good present (before it) and what it has done of evil, it will wish between itself and that (evil) was a great distance…” [Qur’an: 3:30].
So Muslims may escape from people that they have wronged while in this life, but they will always be held accountable for it causing them to fear Allah’s punishment on the Day of Judgment.
Reflective of this is the story of Maa’iz who committed adultery and then went to the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam proclaiming he had committed adultery finally asking for purification.
5. It Is Ideal and Practical
Islam hones and gears people for perfection, granting their needs, not ignoring them. This Islamic feature promotes mankind with due consciousness of his nature, reality, interest and desire.
In general, there is moderation more than exaggeration or excessiveness, but it still gives and satisfies each one with his needs.
This is best exemplified when Islam orders Muslims to pay charity or Zakat (“poor due”) and at the same time it cautions man against his human instinct of cherishing money to the point of getting enslaved to it.
Almighty Allah Says (what means): “And (they are) those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, (justly) moderate.” [Qur’an: 25:67]. “And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift)”. [Qur’an: 17:29] For instance, it is forbidden to follow one’s desire by eating prohibited things or having illegal sexual intercourse. On the other hand, it is also forbidden to torture oneself by barring this natural need by fulfilling them in an allowed manner. So moderation must be there all the time.
Three people came to the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam and they asked about his daily program and worship. Upon hearing it, they thought his worship was not enough for them. One of them said, “I will never sleep at night (i.e. spend it solely in worshipping Allah). The other one said: “I will never get married” (so that he can spend his life solely worshipping Allah). The third one said: “I will never eat meat”. (to deprive himself of the pleasure to be derived from it, perhaps that it would please Allah).
When Prophet Muhammad Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam heard them, he denied their deeds and said: “But I fast, break my fast, sleep and wake up (part of night for worshipping) and marry women - the one who refuses my Sunnah (recommended deeds) is not one of my followers.”
Also, the jurisprudential ruling of Islam is practical. It has nothing impossible or hard to do because it is not abstract ideals but rather one that takes care of man’s desires needs and the reality of his life. In this respect, Islam nurtures moulds, guides and polishes man without necessarily forgetting and renouncing his earthly whims and caprices.
Almighty Allah Says (what means): “And eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] lawful and good. And fear Allah, in whom you are believers.” [Qur’an: 5:88]. Also: “…Eat and drink but be not excessive…” [Qur’an: 7:31]. And: “O you who have believed, do not prohibit the good things which Allah has made lawful to you and do not transgress…” [Qur’an: 5:87].
We all know that Islam is the truth, but until and unless we realise all its merits, coupled of course with God’s guidance and enlightenment, we will never be sure if we will always live with or die for it, considering the proliferation of various other religions around us.
The Concept of Monotheism
To an English-speaking audience, Islam is often advertised as a “monotheistic religion in the tradition of Judaism and Christianity,” and we often, with the best of intentions, add: “The difference is, we only believe in One God.”
However, this fails to capture the essence of Tawheed, Islam’s concept of monotheism. It is not that there is only one God and that is that. If this were the case, little is there to differentiate us from Christians and Jews, who also conceptually believe in One God (despite different theological formulations). What makes us different is that we believe in One God and, furthermore, we believe that only Allah is to be worshipped.
The core of Islam is wrapped in the message of ‘Laa Ilaha Illallah’: There is no god worthy of worship except Allah. This means, in other words, that we turn away not only from idols of wood and stone, but also the idols of ideology. Today, humanity, spurred by Western culture, worships many things, but above all, it worships itself.
Secularism is the ideology of Western countries (and even some Muslim countries). The reason it works so well is because it is the best, and latest, way to deceive people away from Allah. Rather than urge people to worship forms and shapes, the new Shirk (polytheism) tells people to worship themselves. Everyone is a god!
The American dream has become the construction of a society in which everyone is his or her own god, and does what he or she wants to do regardless of the consequences. Naturally, it is a very attractive idea. Do what you want - do what you feel - you are always going to be right! Each man is his own judge and jury!
What this fails to realise is that humans are, by nature, fragile beings. Despite being such a self-proclaimed ‘free’ and ‘individualistic’ society, America is more conformist than many other societies in the world. A young woman without a perfect body is an outcast. A young man who cannot party or cannot ‘get enough girls,’ is not a real man - and this is the most interesting example of all.
In Islam, a man’s role is honourable because of his sacrifice and responsibility. A noble and virtuous man is a pious one, who works hard, provides for his family, goes out of his way for his wife and is always faithful to her. Thus, the Muslim character is the responsible and strong one, because the Muslim accepts the Trust from Allah - Islam - and does not shy away from it.
Western society, on the other hand, preaches that everyone is a god, and thus, you never have to discipline yourself. The result is a society made of weak, selfish and narrow-minded people (proven by alarming rates of suicide, violent crime, depression and spiralling divorce rates).
Allah Tells us in the Qur’an: “And I [Allah] did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Qur’an: 51:56] The drive to worship is an intrinsic human need. One attempt to crush worship in all forms was communism, and communism - as history attests - failed and continues to fail miserably. Due to the evolution of Western thought and Western society, the drive to worship has been channelled away from Allah and towards the individual.
However, it does not take long for human beings to realise that we, as individuals, make pathetic idols. At a very young age, we realise we are fallible, and often unsuccessful in many things we wish so sincerely to do. How many kids want to play professional sports, but are never able to?
So, instead, people start to worship ideas. They attribute power to these ideas. They start to believe that governments are all-powerful, or that flags, ethnicities, tribes or languages hold mystical powers.
In Europe, the popular belief is that every linguistic group deserves a country, because a linguistic group is an immortal entity that has had many members come and go but has, at root, stayed the same.
But we, as Muslims reject all of this, because we know that it is simply no more than Shirk - partnership in the worship of Allah - which is the unforgivable sin. Why is it unforgivable? The essence of Islam, as stated earlier, is not only that we believe in Allah, but also that we worship Him and make Him the centre of all our efforts. Should we put anything between Allah and ourselves, then we corrupt the purity of our beautiful faith.
When Prophet Muhammad Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) came to the Arabs of Makkah in 610 CE with a message directly from Allah, the Arabs of that time were not atheists. They believed in Allah, they believed He was the most powerful deity and, most interestingly, they believed He could not be represented by a physical idol. However, they believed that many idols interceded on their behalf (over three hundred lesser gods, in fact!). In other words, the pagans believed that there were channels between the individual and Allah, and that these barriers needed to be worshipped.
Modern Western society is no different. At every turn, American politicians invoke God’s Name. How often do we hear the US President say ‘God Bless America’? Take any US currency out of your wallet and inscribed in prominent letters on it is the American motto: ‘In God We Trust.’ Thus, superficially, American society does not reject God. Rather, it believes in God and claims to acknowledge Him as the Supreme Being. However, American society makes other people gods and intermediaries, to such an extent that eventually God Himself is entirely ignored!
This is also America’s plan for the Muslim world (throughout the world, from right here in America to all the way over to Afghanistan). They will teach us that they have no quarrel with Allah, but they simply want to give us democracy to “modernise” us and give us “progress”.
Should we choose to go down this ill-fated path, we will find, to our horror, that Allah will not be denied. He - and may He be exalted over such comparisons - will just be dismissed so far that people will become like atheists in denial of their atheism. May Allah save us from this fate, and I apologise for the harshness of the prediction, but we know that once the road is opened to the slightest deviation, this deviation snowballs. This is how religions before us were destroyed; how many times has Allah asked us to reflect on history? The choice is, as always, our own!