By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Life is a test. A test means an evaluation. The Quran tells us about the concept of test in these words: “He created death and life so that He might test you, and find out which of you is best in conduct.” (67:2)
God Almighty created Paradise, which is an ideal world. It is the perfect habitat of man. The present world is a selecting ground. God Almighty has put every person on planet earth for a limited period, during which angels are watching man every moment and preparing the record of every individual. In the end, God will select all those individuals who stood up to this test and proved to be of good conduct. These individuals will find entry into Paradise. This is the concept of test, or Ibtila, according to the Quran.
Someone may argue, ‘If one’s success in this test depends on whether or not one accepts and follows Islam, the Deen of Truth, not everyone has the same starting point, and so this test is not just.’ They may say that some people have better chances of passing this test simply because God willed them, and not others, to be born in Muslim families, because of which they were socialised to believe in Islam as the truth.
But the fact is that having been born into a Muslim family is not an advantage. God’s selection of an individual is not based on birth, but, rather, on his or her on conduct. The criterion of selection for both Muslims and non-Muslims is one and the same—that is, discovery of truth and not birth into any religion. Thus, both Muslims and non-Muslims are required to stand up to the same test. For non-Muslims, it should be discovery of truth and for Muslims it should be re-discovery of truth.
Someone might argue, ‘If someone is born in a family that does not follow the religion of Truth, presumably through no fault of his own and perhaps because of the will of God, and is socialised, from infancy onwards, to believe that his religion is true and he dies in that state, it is against the notion of a just God for such a person to be sent to hell. After all, the child was born and reared in that particular family perhaps for no fault of his, and possibly only because God willed this to be.’
In this regard, an Islamic scholar has expressed the formula for salvation in these words: “Jaisi Tabligh, Waisa Mahasabha” (Accountability depends on one’s knowledge). Man must honestly follow his conscience and the realization that he has attained to. If he sincerely and earnestly follows his conscience and the knowledge he possesses, then he will be treated according to the above mentioned criterion, and not any other criterion. There is no single criterion on which to judge a person. Everyone will be treated according to their knowledge of the truth.
Both Muslims and non-Muslims are born on nature. Every human being is initially Mr Nature, and the nature of every human being yearns to discover the meaning of life. Every person, by nature, seeks answers to questions such as: Who am I? What are life and death? What will happen to me after death? All these questions are interwoven in every man and woman. Every person, without exception, is born with these questions. It is, therefore, everyone’s duty to try to find out the answers to these questions. Due to this nature, everyone will be answerable before God. That is, every person will be questioned whether he ignored his nature or tried to find answers to the questions it raised.
Someone might ask, ‘If people born in non-Muslim families must seek the truth to be saved, is it that those born in Muslim families must seek the proper understanding of the Truth and must also convey the Truth in the proper way to be saved. If the latter fail in this task of dawah, what is their punishment, according to Islam? Can, “inherited Islam”, rather than conviction in Islam born out of genuine introspection and reflection, be adequate for salvation?’
In this regard, it should be noted that one of the responsibilities of every believer is Tabien (2:160), that is, Tabligh, or Dawah work. According to the Quran, failure in this regard is doing kitman (3:187). Kitman means to conceal the truth, and this is an unforgivable crime in the eyes of God. Not doing Dawah work is a punishable act, but the punishment will be given out in the Hereafter and not in the present world. Not doing Dawah work is not a cognizable offence in the legal sense of the word, but it will certainly be punishable in the Hereafter. Such a person is, therefore, risking his salvation.
But, this doesn’t mean that non-Muslims have no responsibility. If dawah work is Muslims’ responsibility, non-Muslims’ responsibility is to seek the truth.
And as for ‘inherited Islam’—it is nothing. Islam is an item of discovery, not something to be inherited.
Dawah is basically conveying the message of God to people. Simply distributing Islamic literature, for instance, is not enough, though. Muslims must also prepare and maintain an environment for Dawah work. For example, it is obligatory for Muslims to abandon all negative activities against non-Muslims like demanding, protesting, engaging in violence and fighting, and complaining against others. This kind of policy has to be entirely abandoned. These actions on the part of Muslims vitiate the environment for Dawah work and affect the relationship between the Dai and the Madu. Thus, maintaining normalcy in the relationship between Dai and Madu is as important and crucial as the Dawah spirit itself. Dawah work is certainly dependent on the general atmosphere between the Dai and the Madu. An essential condition for doing Dawah is that the relationship between the Dai and the Madu at the community level should be normalized. Dawah work is based on a two-point formula: first, bringing an end to all those activities that have created a negative environment between Muslims and non-Muslims, and second, doing Dawah in a peaceful manner.
Here there is something important to be learnt from the Sufis. Their basic character was that they were peace-loving people. They had no hatred for others. It was this trait of theirs that caused people to come to them. At present, the greatest hindrance in doing Dawah is the adopting of a culture of hate for, and violence against, others by Muslims. This is the main obstacle in spreading Islam.
If one’s success in the Hereafter depends on us following the true Deen, then, someone might ask, what is the wisdom behind the fact that God seems to have permitted so many conflicting interpretations of the Deen of Islam. This, someone might say, may seemingly make it even more difficult to recognise the Truth.
My answer to this is that the presence of different interpretations is related to human freedom. Moreover, it is not an evil. It is for the sake of intellectual development. These differences are nothing but intellectual challenges. One should face these challenges and activate one’s mind. In fact, difference is a part of life. In every sphere of life there is difference. For example, there are different jobs, different economic branches, and different ways of getting health care. But no person takes this phenomenon as an excuse. He exerts all his effort to know which one is best suited for him and then adopts it. So, people must adopt this pattern in the matter of search for truth as well.