What Islam Stands For

What Islam Stands For

By S. A. Maududi

Islam is not the name of some unique faith presented for the
first time by Mohammad (peace be upon him) who should, on that
account, be called the founder of Islam. The Quran makes it
abundantly clear that Islam, the complete submission of man
before God, is the one and only faith consistently revealed by
God to mankind from the very beginning. Noah, Abraham, Moses and
Christ – Prophets who appeared at different times and places all
propagated the same faith. They were not founders of faiths to
be named after them. They were each reiterating the faith of his
predecessor.

What distinguishes Mohammad (saw) from other Prophets?

He was the last Prophet of God; God revived through him the
same genuine faith which had been conveyed by all the Prophets;
This original message was corrupted, and split into various
religions by peoples in different ages, who indulged in
interpolations and admixture. These alien elements were
eliminated by God and Islam, in its pure and original form, was
transmitted to mankind through Mohammad (saw); Since there was
to be no messenger after Mohammad (saw), the Book revealed to
him was preserved word for word so that it should be a source of
guidance for all times; The life of Mohammad (saw), and the
manner in which he conducted himself, was also recorded in a
unique manner by his companions and by later compilers of the
Tradition. A more complete and authentic account of the life ,
sayings and actions of any Prophet or historical personage, has
never been compiled; In this way, the Quran and the authentic
Sunnah of the Prophet together became a reliable source of
knowing Islam.

As Muslims, we believe in all the Prophets who preceded
Mohammad (saw).

But for instruction we turn to Prophet Mohammad (saw) alone.
Not on account of any prejudice, but because: As the last of
God’s Prophets he brought us the latest divine dispensation; the
word of God which reached us through Mohammad (saw) is pure
divine language, free of human admixtures, and preserved in its
original form. Its language is a living language, spoken, and
whose grammar, vocabulary, idiom, pronunciation and script have
remained unchanged from the time of revelation till today; As
said earlier, we have a complete historical record of the life,
character, conduct, sayings and action of the Prophet Mohammad
(saw), preserved with meticulous care, accuracy and detail.
Since this cannot be said of other Prophets we can believe in
them, but we cannot emulate them.

Mohammad’s (saw) mission was for the world as a whole, and
for all times;

for Its universality has been clearly confirmed by the Quran;
It is the logical consequence of the finality of his prophethood.
A Prophet , after whom there was to be no other , had to be a
guide and leader for all men and for all ages; God has provided
through him a complete code which man needs, to follow the right
path, and this in itself supports the concept of finality,
because without completeness the need for other prophets would
remain; It is a fact during the last 1400 years no man has
arisen whose life and work bears even the slightest resemblance
to that of a prophet. Nor has anyone presented a book which
could be remotely considered as divine communication. Still less
has there been a man to claim legitimate authority as a lawgiver
for mankind.

Why God communicated with man through His Prophet?

This has to be examined in the context of the sources of
human knowledge. At the preliminary stage we gain knowledge
through empirical observation. At higher levels comes deductive
reasoning accompanied by scientific investigation. Man is
sufficiently well-equipped in these fields not to require direct
divine assistance. Though, no doubt, there is an ever present
Divine Will helping man in his research and innovative endeavors
and revealing to him progressively the mysteries of His
creation. Some gifted individuals achieve, in moments of rare
inspiration, new insights or discover new laws of nature. But
there is another type of knowledge which is beyond the reach of
our senses or scientific study. This sphere of knowledge does
not submit to any instrument of scientific examination.
Philosophy and science can only speculate about it. Human
theories about ultimate realities, based on reason, never
achieve the level of certainty, and their authors, conscious of
their limitations, do not present them as conclusively proved.
In respect of these realities man is dependent on whatever
knowledge is communicated to him by God. How is this knowledge
conveyed? Not through the operations of some publishing house,
where books are printed and handed over to each man, with
instructions to read them, and to discover the truth about
himself, about the universe, and about the manner in which he
should organize his life. To convey this knowledge to mankind,
God chooses prophets as His messengers. He reveals the truth to
them and they communicate it to the people.

The work of a Prophet is not limited.

He has to explain, according to what is revealed to him, the
relationship between God and man and man and man as it factually
is, and as it actually should be. He has to prescribe a moral
code, enunciate the principles of culture and civilization, lay
down the mode of worship, establish a frame-work of belief, and
define the moral imperatives, which must govern our life. The
Prophet determines the rules which should form the basis of
social and cultural relationships, economic, judicial and
political dealings, matters of war and peace and international
affairs. The Prophet does not transmit merely a code of rituals
commonly regarded as ‘religion.’ He brings with him a whole
system of thought and action which is called Al-Deen in Islamic
terminology.

The mission of A Prophet does not end with the announcement
of this way of life.

He has to guide the people who follow him, explaining to them
the implication of the Islamic creed, the moral code, the Divine
Injunctions, and the form of worship that sustains the whole
system. He has to demonstrate, by practice, the faith he
preaches, and his life should be a model which people may be
able to follow to organize their own lives. He must give
training to the individuals and the Muslim society as a whole to
prepare them for practical participation in the evolution of
Islamic culture and civilization. The believers must grow under
his guidance into an organized community engaged in establishing
the Islamic system of life so that God’s word should prevail
over all other words. Every prophet had the same message, and it
is a fact of history that Mohammad (saw) succeeded in
establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in the
heavens.

The audience of the Quran and Prophet Mohammad (saw) was the
whole of mankind.

At no time was the invitation of the Quran addressed to the
people of any particular race, color or language. The Quran
always calls upon the “progeny of Adam” or “mankind” to accept
Islam. The specific instructions and injunctions are meant for
those who have come to believe in Islam, and the are always
addressed as “those who believe.” That the message of Islam was
universal in character is provided by the fact that those who
accepted the message acquired equal rights and status as
believers, regardless of all the differences of origin. The
Quran says, “The believers are all like brothers.” The Prophet
announced, “Listen! You have one God as you have one father
(Adam). There is no distinction between an Arab and a non-Arab.
There is no preference for the black over the light-skinned, or
the light-skinned over the black. There is distinction only in
the submission of God. The most virtuous among you is the most
honorable in the eyes of God.”

Belief in one God.

Not just the conviction that He exists or that He is one –
but that He alone is the Creator, Master, Ruler and
Administrator of all that exists. The universe exists because
God Wills it to exist, it functions because God Wills it to
function, and God provides the sustenance and the energy which
everything in the universe requires for its existence and
growth. All the attributes of Sovereignty reside in God alone.
He alone possesses all the attributes of Divinity. He vies the
whole universe, and all that it contains, in a single
instantaneous glance. He has direct knowledge of the universe,
and all that is there in the universe. He knows not only its
present, but its past and its future as well. This omnipresence
and omniscience is an attribute of God alone and of no other.
There was none ‘before’ Him and there is none ‘after’ Him. He
has been there always and will be there always – eternal and
abiding. All else is transient. He alone is eternally living and
present. He is no one’s progeny and He has no progeny. Whatever
exists, besides His self, is His own creation, and no other can
identify himself in any manner with the Lord of the universe, or
claim to be His son or daughter. He is man’s single Deity.

The Islamic concept of God.

God alone is the real Deity and no one other than God has any
right to be worshipped by man; God alone has authority over the
forces of the universe, and He alone can fulfill or frustrate
man’s hopes. Man should turn to Him alone in prayer. He should
never imagine that prayers can be addressed to anyone but God;
God is the master of man’s destiny and no one else can interfere
with the fate of others or with his own fate. Man’s hopes and
fears must, therefore, be directed only to God; God is the
Creator of the world and He alone has complete and direct
knowledge of the reality of man and of the world. Only He can
guide man through the complicated course of life and instruct
him regarding good and evil. Since God alone is the Creator and
the Master he has exclusive authority over the universe and man.
It is an act of blasphemy for man to become independent or claim
authority over other men. His law has the status of the supreme
law. Man can legislate subjects to His Supreme law.

Belief in Mohammad’s (saw) Prophethood.

God conveyed His message to man through Mohammad (saw). This
took two forms: God revealed the Quran to the Prophet in his own
language; The Sunnah of the Prophet which is an unerring guide
to man in respect to all that is permissible and all that is
prohibited in the eyes of God. Without this belief in the
Prophet, belief in God would become a mere theoretical
proposition. It is the example of practical leadership and the
ideological guidance provided by the Prophet, which transforms
belief in God into a culture and a civilization, and enables man
to evolve a way of life. We get through the Prophet not only
rules of guidance, but a complete scheme of values and a
practical code of conduct. No one can be a practicing Muslim
unless he believes in the prophethood of the Messenger and
follows his life example as he believes in God.

The position of the Prophet.

The Prophet is no more than a servant of God. He was to make
people servants of God and not servants of himself. At least
seventeen times a day Muslims recite in prayers: “I bear witness
that Mohammad (saw) is a servant of God and is His prophet.” The
Quran leaves no doubt that the Prophet is but a human being and
has no share whatsoever in Divinity. The Prophet is neither
superhuman nor is he free of human weaknesses. He owns no
treasure of God, nor does he possess knowledge of the unknown to
make him all knowing like God Almighty. Leave alone being able
to benefit others or cause them harm, the Prophet (saw) cannot
do so even in respect of himself. The precise task of the
Prophet is to communicate the message of God. He has no powers
to make people righteous and faithful. Nor can he call to
account those who refuse to believe, and he certainly has no
power to punish them for their disbelief. Mohammad (saw) is one
of the Prophets of God, and above that he has no status. He
cannot by himself prohibit or permit any thing. Without a
mandate from God he cannot legislate for the people. He has to
strictly conform to Divine commandments. Islam ensured that the
believers should not turn the Prophet into a demi-god. Some of
the earlier prophets suffered this fate at the hands of their
followers. They attributed all kinds of supernatural powers to
their leaders and made them into God’s equal or progeny or
incarnation. By discouraging such exaggeration, Islam has
established the true position of the Prophet as follows: No one
can claim to be a believer without believing in the Prophet. He
who obeys the Prophet, in fact, obeys God. God has not
designated any Prophet except to be obeyed according to His
will. The path of the Prophet is the path of Divine guidance.
Whatever the Prophet ordains must be accepted, and whatever he
instructs to avoid must be avoided. The Prophet clarified this
when he said: I am a mortal like you. In matters revealed to me
by God, you must obey my instructions. But you know more about
your own worldly affairs than I do. The Sunnah of Mohammad (saw)
is, in fact, an exposition of the purpose of the Quran, and this
exposition too was conveyed to the Prophet by God Himself, as
the author of the Quran. The Prophet’s explanation of the Quran
enjoys Divine Sanction, and no one else can interpret the Quran
in a way which may be in conflict with or repugnant to the
explanation given by Prophet. God declared the life of Mohammad
(saw) as a model life. Before deciding any matter Muslims must
ascertain whether any analogous matter was decided earlier by
God and His Prophet, and if a precedent exists they must follow
it. God conveyed, through the Prophet to mankind, not only a
supreme law but also a permanent scheme of values. That which is
good, according to the Quran and the Sunnah, is good for all
times, and that which is evil, shall remain evil forever. In
this law no amendment, deletion, addition or abrogation is
possible unless some person or community decide to renounce
Islam.

The belief in the Hereafter (Akhira).

Denial of the Hereafter is the denial of Islam even though
one may have belief in God, in the Prophet, and in the Quran. In
its detailed form, this belief is composed of the following
essential elements; Man has not been unleashed on the earth as
an irresponsible savage. he is accountable to God for his
actions. Today’s life is only a test and an examination. At the
end we will all be called upon to render a complete account of
our acts of commission and omission to God; The time for
accountability is fixed by God. The tenure allotted to mankind,
on this earth, shall terminate on doomsday, when the present
order will be replaced by another. The whole human race will
rise once again in the new world; That will be the time when all
will appear before God Almighty, and everyone will face the
consequences of this personal acts in his individual capacity;
the judgment will rest not on God’s own knowledge alone. The
requirements of due process of justice will be fully observed. A
complete record of the action of every individual, without the
slightest alteration, will be put in the open Court, and
evidence, of different categories will be presented to prove
what was done by man in private or public, and the motives which
inspired his conduct; There will no undue intercession . No one
will be able to shift his burden to another. Man will stand by
himself helpless and alone and render his account, and await the
pronouncement of the judgment, which shall be in the power of
God alone; The judgment will rest on one question: Did man
conduct himself, in submission to God, in strict conformity with
the truth revealed to the Prophets, and with the conviction that
he will be held responsible for his conduct in life on the Day
of Judgment? If the answer is in the affirmative, the reward
will be Paradise, and if in the negative, Hell will be the
punishment.

Belief in the Hereafter divides people into three distinct
categories.

First, there are those who do not believe in the Hereafter
and regard life on this earth as the only life. Naturally, they
judge good and evil by the results which manifest themselves in
this world. If an action produces beneficial results it is good,
and it brings about harmful results it is evil. Quite often the
same action is regarded as good when the results are good and
bad when its results are bad. Second, those people who do not
deny the Hereafter, but who depend on the intercession or
atonement of someone to absolve them of their sins. Among them –
there are some, who regard themselves as God’s chosen people,
who will receive only nominal punishment however grave their
sins. This deprives them of the moral advantage which they could
have derived from their belief in the Hereafter. As a result
they also become very much like the people who deny the
Hereafter. Third, are those people who believe in the Hereafter
in the form in which Islam presents it. They do not delude
themselves that they have any special relationship with God, or
that anyone can intercede on their behalf. They know that they
alone are responsible for their actions. For them the belief in
the Hereafter becomes a great moral force. A person who has the
conviction that he is fully accountable for all his actions
finds a permanent guard, stationed within himself, who cautions
him and admonishes him whenever he deviates from the right path.
There may be no court to summon him, no policemen to apprehend
him, no witnesses to accuse him, and no public opinion to press
him, but the guard within him is ever on the alert, ready to
seize him whenever he transgresses. The consciousness of this
inner presence makes man feat God even wen he is all by himself.
Should he succumb to temptation, and violate the law of God, he
is ever ready to offer sincere regrets, and to enter into a firm
contract with the future that he will not repeat the mistake.
There can be no greater instrument of moral reformation nor any
better method to help man to develop a sound and stable
character. It is for this reason that Islam attaches great
importance to the belief in the Hereafter, and without it even
the belief in God and the Prophet is not sufficient for men’s
guidance.

Islam represents a whole civilization.

Islam provides moral guidance in all walks of life. That is
why Islamic values are not for the ascetic who renounces the
world, but for him who actively participates in different
spheres of life, and works within them. The moral values which
people look for in convents, monasteries, and cloisters, are
presented by Islam right in the current of life. Heads of
governments, governors of states, judges, members of the armed
forces and police services, elected representatives of the
people in the parliaments, leaders of finance, trade and
industry, college and university teachers and students alike
receive guidance to organize their lives according to the
principles of Islam. There is no distinction in Islam between
private and public conduct. The same moral code which one
observes at home applies to one’s conduct in public. Every
institution of society and every department of Government must
conform to the laws of Islam. Politics must be based on truth
and justice. nations should deal with one another on the basis
of mutual recognition of rights, and due discharge of
obligations. When man decides to submit to the will of God, and
accepts His law as the supreme law, and organizes his life and
laws in accordance with the revealed moral code, on the
principle of accountability of God, the equality and character
of his life cannot be limited to the precincts of prayer halls.
It must extend itself to every sphere of this work as a man of
God.

This, briefly, is what Islam stands for. This is no dream or
Utopia. The Prophet of Islam, and his companions, developed and
established a complete model of Islam on this earth for mankind
to follow.

 

 

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