Chapter 3: Islamic Beliefs and Code of Laws by Mahmud Shaltout
(Mahmud Shaltoutis a Member of the Grand Ulama, Professor of Comparative Law, Al Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt)
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Islam is the religion of Allah revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) in order that he might proclaim it to all mankind and men might be able to believe in it and put its teachings and regulations into practice. The Apostle transmitted the Scripture precisely as it was revealed to him, explained its fundamental teachings, and in his own life followed the principles and regulations of the Holy Revelation. Since the time of the Prophet, Muslims have for generation after generation received the Qur’an as it was given to the Apostle himself from Allah, passing it on precisely as it was taught at the beginning -- whereof there is no doubt whatsoever.
It has been definitely proved that the Qur’an could not possibly be the work of Muhammad or of any other human being, as is clearly seen when one considers its style, the treasures of teachings contained in it, and the environment in which Muhammad lived. In the Scripture itself Allah defiantly stressed the impossibility of imitating the Qur’an when He said to the unbelievers, "And if ye are in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a surah of the like thereof, and call your witnesses beside Allah if ye are truthful. And if ye do it not -- and ye can never do it -- then guard yourselves against the fire prepared for disbelievers, whose fuel is of men and stones" (Surah II, 23-24). Such a final demonstration that the Scripture was revealed by Allah to Muhammad is the Muslim’s authority for recognizing the Qur’an as the principle source of Islamic beliefs and the Islamic code governing practices.
After the Apostle had been called by Allah, the ulama -- those leaders who were well-versed in Islam -- recognized that there were two types of texts in the Qur’an: those which are clear and definite and those which could have more than one meaning. The Quranic texts which are clear and definite are concerned with the basic beliefs like belief in Allah and the Last Day. These texts also cover the origin of law, whether religious laws governing prayer, religious tax, and fasting, or prohibitions against such acts as manslaughter or attacks on the chastity of a woman, and laws governing the use of property. For them no freedom of interpretation is allowed. The texts which could have more than one meaning are concerned with subsidiary aspects of Islam, but not its fundamentals, and have given rise to a plurality of Muslim theories and attitudes which are more or less personal points of view and are far from being obligatory.
Islam, except in matters concerning its basic beliefs and the principles of its code of practices, is not limited to one type of thinking or one specific legislative method. It is a tolerant religion which authorizes and permits wise liberality. As it has demonstrated throughout the Muslim world, Islam fits into all major cultures and constructive civilizations -- and will continue to do so forever.
The Qur’an, the principal basis of Islam, shows us that Islam cannot find its way into any heart or mind without the acceptance of its two basic branches: the beliefs and the code of laws. Islam requires, first of all, a deep belief in it without any doubt or suspicion, as is made clear in many texts of the Qur’an and in the general agreement of the ulama of Islam. This emphasis on the primacy of belief was the first message of Muhammad to the Arabs, just as it was the message of all apostles and prophets; as the Qur’an says, "Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered" (Surah II, 136).
The code of laws provides the regulations which create the proper relations between man and God, such as saying prayers, fasting, and other religious duties; they guide man in his relations with his brother in Islam or the non-Muslim community, in organizing the structure of the family and encouraging reciprocal affection; they lead man to an understanding of his place in the universe, encouraging research into the nature of man and animals and guiding man in the use of the benefits of the natural world.
The Qur’an makes clear that the result of belief is faith, and the result of the code of laws is good behavior, as is shown in many texts: "Lo! Those who believe and do good works, theirs are the Gardens of the Paradise for welcome, Wherein they will abide, with no desire to be removed from thence" (Surah XVIII, 108-9). "Lo! Those who say: Our Lord is Allah, and thereafter walk aright, there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve" (Surah XLVI,13).
Islam is both belief and legislation which organizes all the relationships of man. Belief is the basis of the code of laws and the code of laws is the result of belief, for legislation without belief is a building without a foundation -- and belief without a code of laws to put it into effect would be merely theoretical and ineffective. Thus, in Islam there is an intimate interrelation between belief and the code of laws governing all conduct, and those who deny this can by no means be considered to be Muslims.
Islam calls upon all people to accept its beliefs and code of laws regardless of race, sex, color, rank, or any other difference. All people are equal before Allah and must bear their own responsibility to accept the revelations of the Qur’an: "O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct" (Surah XLIX, 13). "It will not be in accordance with your desires, nor the desires of the People of the Scripture [i.e., Jews and Christians]. He who doeth wrong will have the recompense thereof, and will not find against Allah any protecting friend or helper. And whoso doeth good works, whether of male or female, and he (or she) is a believer, such will enter paradise and they will not be wronged the dint in a date-stone" (Surah IV, 123-24).
Those two verses make clear that the descendants or relatives of any of the apostles have no more rights in His sight than any common believer. They also emphasize that men and women bear equal religious responsibility, regardless of their sexual differences. The woman’s responsibility is quite independent of that of her mate; his good behavior will not benefit her and his bad actions will not harm her. Each will receive in the eternal abode the reward or punishment which his -- or her -- actions merit. "Allah citeth an example for those who disbelieve: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot, who were under two of our righteous slaves yet betrayed them so that they (the husbands) availed them naught against Allah and it was said (unto them): Enter the Fire along with those who enter" (Surah LXVI, 10).
The son is also responsible for himself once he attains majority. The belief and behavior of his parents neither benefit nor harm him, nor does his belief and behavior benefit or harm his parents. Thus says the Qur’an, "O mankind! Keep your duty to your Lord and fear a Day when the parent will not be able to avail the child aught, nor the child to avail the parent" (Surah XXXI, 33).
Thus it is clear that it is the individual responsibility of each person to accept the revelation of Allah -- the Islamic beliefs and code of laws governing conduct -- regardless of sex, rank, race, or any other difference.
The Fundamental Beliefs of Islam
A man announces his acceptance of the beliefs of Islam and his commitment to its code of regulations, he manifests the existence of Muslim beliefs in his heart, when he repeats the Word of Witness: I witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Prophet. To witness that Allah is One includes a perfect belief in Him as the source of creation and knowledge and the object of worship. To witness that Muhammad is His messenger includes a perfect belief in the Angels, the Scriptures, the messengers, the Day of Resurrection, and the principles on which the code of laws is based. This witness is the key to Islam, subjecting one to its beliefs and regulations. "The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) the believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers -- We make no distinction between any of His messengers -- and they say: We hear, and we obey" (Surah II, 285). "It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the Prophets" (Surah II, 177).
We must believe in the existence and oneness of Allah, that He is the only creator and disposer of the universe, that He has no partner, that there is no comparable being, and that none but Allah is worthy of worship. "Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begotteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him" (Surah CXII). "Say: Shall I seek another than Allah for Lord, when He is Lord of all things?" (Surah VI, 165). "Say: Shall I choose for a protecting friend other than Allah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, who feedeth and is never fed?" (Surah VI, 14).
We must believe in all the messengers of Allah of whom we are informed by the Qur’an from Noah to Muhammad (Allah bless them and give them peace). Allah selects some of his slaves and prepares them through ideal education to be His messengers to mankind. Some of these apostles are mentioned in the Qur’an and other are not mentioned; we must believe in all of them.
We must believe in Angels, the ambassadors of the revelation from Allah to His apostles, and, of necessity, in the Scriptures, His messages to humanity. The principles of legislation of Allah are His laws that we must follow; we must not sanction that which Allah has forbidden, nor forbid that which He allows us to do. We must believe in the contents of all the messages concerning the code of laws which aims at the organization of human life in a way which meets the needs of mankind and promotes human welfare in accordance with His justice and mercy.
We must believe in the Day of Judgment and the Other World, which is the only eternal life and is the life of reward and punishment.
We have to believe in all of these facts.
Anyone who denies one of these Muslim facts cannot be treated as a Muslim nor subjected to the Muslim rules. Yet it does not follow that he who does not believe in any of these facts would be considered a nonbeliever by Allah and would therefore suffer eternal damnation. It simply means that he would not be treated as a Muslim; he would not be under any obligation to worship Allah according to Muslim rules. He would not be prevented from doing things prohibited by Islam -- such as drinking wine or eating pork -- and on death he would not be washed and prayed for by Muslims.
Man will, however, be considered to be an unbeliever if, after having been freely convinced of the truth of these beliefs, he rejects them, or any part of them, through obstinacy, pride, love of mammon or the pomp of power, or the fear of being criticized. But if these beliefs had not been presented to him at all, or were presented in a hateful way, or were presented in a true and right way but he was incapable of fully understanding them, or even if he were capable but died before being fully convinced -- in such cases a man is not an unbeliever according to Almighty Judgment and will not suffer everlasting punishment. The only disbelief mentioned in the Qur’an for which man will suffer judgment is a disbelief arising from obstinacy and pride. Hence the distant peoples to whom Islam has not been introduced, or those to whom it has been introduced in a hateful way, or those who have not understood the evidence even though they tried, will not suffer judgment. But they will by no means be treated as Muslims for they have not adopted the Word of Witness; they have not said with conviction, "I witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Prophet."
Islam, when it invites one to adopt its beliefs, does not use any compulsion, for it detests compulsion. Faith cannot be attained by force; there can never be true faith through obligation. The Scripture says, "There is no compulsion in religion" (Surah II, 256). "And if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers?" (Surah X, 100). Not only is there no compulsion to adopt Islam, but Islam does not lead people to faith through spellbinding miracles which seek to convince without thought or the exercise of free choice. "If We will, We can send down on them from the sky a portent so that their necks would remain bowed before it" (Surah XXVI, 4).
Islam, in its invitation to accept its beliefs and to submit to its rules, rejects any methods which are not based on liberality and freedom of choice. Everyone has full liberty to embrace Islam voluntarily and through conviction. Thus Islam supports its beliefs through sound evidence and completely logical proofs. The Quranic evidence for the revelation of Allah-concerning belief in the One God, in Angels, the Scripture, the prophets, and the Last Day -- is the Qur’an itself, the Word of Allah, whereof there is no doubt, as we have already seen. The logic of this belief is that all that is mentioned in the Qur’an is a matter of fact because it is supported by a standing miracle which will never cease, the Qur’an itself. "And thou (O Muhammad) wast not a reader of any scripture before it, nor didst thou write it with thy right hand, for then might those have doubted, who follow falsehood. But it is clear revelations in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge, and none deny our revelations save wrong-doers. And they say: Why are not portents sent down upon him from his Lord? Say: Portents are with Allah only, and I am but a plain warner. Is it not enough for them that We have sent down unto thee the Scripture which is read unto them? Lo! herein verily is mercy and a reminder for folk who believe" (Surah XXIX, 48-51).
Belief in Allah.
The basic belief in Islam is belief in Allah -- His existence, His unity, and His perfection. The evidence by which the Qur’an draws people’s attention to the belief in Allah is based on reason and inner consciousness or intuition.
The rational evidence for belief in Allah is based on Islam’s call to ponder on the nature of the universe -- the earth, the heavens, the mysteries, the natural laws, the harmony and unity of the universe. Thus one comes to see that it is impossible that the universe could be self-created, or created by opposed or contradictory forces, or purposeless. This universe was created by an ultimate creative force; it was created by a supernatural force which guides and manages it through ultimate knowledge and wisdom. This universe is attaining its purposes through the will of the Almighty Creator. One of those purposes is its ultimate dissolution, after which comes the eternal abode, as we are told in many places in the Qur’an.
When the heaven is split asunder
And attentive to her Lord in fear,
And when the earth is spread out
And hath cast out all that was in her, and is empty
And attentive to her Lord in fear!
(Surah LXXXIV, 1-5)
When the heaven is cleft asunder,
When the planets are dispersed,
When the seas are poured forth,
And the sepulchres are overturned,
A soul will know what it hath sent before (it) and
what left behind.
(Surah LXXXII, 1-5)
When the sun is overthrown,
And when the stars fall,
And when the hills are moved,
And when the camels big with young
And when the wild beasts are herded
And when the seas rise,
And when souls are reunited,
And when the girl-child that was buried alive is asked
For what sin she was slain,
And when the pages are laid open.
And when the sky is torn away,
And when hell is lighted,
And when the garden is brought nigh,
(Then) every soul will know what it hath made ready.
(Surah LXXXI, 1-14)
By such rational evidence we are instructed in the Qur’an as to the ultimate end toward which the universe is moving, the final destruction which awaits all created things. In almost every Surah we find rational evidence proving that the universe was created and is sustained by Allah. "Lo! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of night and day, and the ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to men, and the water which Allah sendeth down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and (in) the ordinance of the winds, and the clouds obedient between heaven and earth: are signs (of Allah’s sovereignty) for people who have sense’ (Surah II, 164). "And in the Earth are neighboring tracts, vineyards and ploughed lands, and date-palms, like and unlike, which are watered with one water. And We have made some of them to excel others in fruit. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who have sense" (Surah XIII, 4). "We have built the heavens with might, and We it is who made the vast extent (thereof) And the earth have We laid out, how gracious was the Spreader (thereof)! And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect" (Surah LI, 47-49). These are only a few examples illustrating the many texts which give rational evidence of the creative power of Allah.
The intuitional evidence for belief in Allah, the belief based upon the recognition of Allah by our inner consciousness, is brought to our attention in the Qur’an by pointing out the important psychological fact that there is an instinctive feeling of faith in Almighty Allah, the Creator of the universe, which comes to men when they are free from inclinations, or the distractions of dull routines, or when surprised by the question of the origin of the universe, or when faced with hardships or misfortunes which they cannot overcome by themselves. These facts are illustrated by many texts of the Qur’an. "And if thou (Muhammad) ask them: Who created the heavens and the earth, they will surely answer: The Mighty, the Knower created them" (Surah XLIII, 9). "When We show favor unto man, he withdraweth and turneth aside, but when ill toucheth him then he aboundeth in prayer" (Surah XLI, 51). "And if a wave enshroudeth them like awnings, they cry unto Allah, making their faith pure for Him only. But when He bringeth them safe to land, some of them compromise. None denieth Our signs save every traitor ingrate." (Surah XXXI, 32).
The Qur’an illustrates this sudden, instinctive faith in Allah by describing in detail Pharaoh’s feeling when he was faced with death by drowning and realized the impossibility of escape, "And We brought the Children of Israel across the sea, Pharaoh with his hosts pursued them in rebellion and transgression, till, when the (fate of) drowning overtook him, he exclaimed: I believe that there is no God save Him in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of those who surrender (unto Him). What! Now! When hitherto thou has rebelled and been of the wrong-doers? But this day We save thee in thy body that thou mayest be a portent for those after thee. Lo! most of mankind are heedless of Our portents" (Surah X, 91-93). Thus we see that the belief in Allah is based on both rational evidence and intuitive insight, evidence which is available to all men who are not heedless of the Divine portents.
The Scripture also guides us to the Names and Qualities of Allah, all of which refer to His power, His wisdom, and all His perfections. Many of the Names are difficult to translate from the Arabic, for example, Allah is the One, the Eternally Besought of All, the First, the Last, the Beneficent, the Powerful, the Almighty, the Wise, the Knower, the Creator, the Shaper out of Naught, the Fashioner, the Guardian, the Majestic, thc Superb, the Glorified. The Creator names Himself in this manner, "He is Allah, than whom there is no other God, the Knower of the invisible and the visible, He is the Beneficent, the Merciful. He is Allah, than whom there is no other God, the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One, Peace, the Keeper of Faith, the Guardian, the Majestic, the Compeller, the Superb. Glorified be Allah from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him). He is Allah, the Creator, the Shaper out of naught, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifieth Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise" (Surah LIX, 22-24).
These names which show His superiority, mercy, and perfection are recognized by wise men to be true and justly applicable, because a true understanding of the nature of the universe indicates that these are the qualities of Allah. The wise man recognizes also that no other being in the universe is worthy of such names, for all these beings are creations -- changeable, needy, and deficient. In the Qur’an the proper and comprehensive name which emphasizes His individuality is the Ultimate Being, known to Muslims as Allah, or the name of the Almighty and the Sublime.
Muslims call Him and worship Him by such names. For thus He saith: "Allah’s are the fairest names. Invoke Him by them. And leave the company of those who blaspheme His names. They will be requited what they do" (Surah VII, 80). It is forbidden for a Muslim to invoke Him by a name or an adjective that is not mentioned in His Scripture or by His Apostle.
The Ultimate Being can be described, but not conceived by man. When the Qur’an guides men to belief in Allah, it aims at turning man’s thought from the fruitless attempt to know the essence and reality of His Ultimate Being and instead to guide men to know His creative ability and the activities which reveal His qualities, His might and perfection. The Qur’an shows that He is above all qualities possessed by His creation, that His qualities are divine and superior and that attempts to know His essence, to describe Him by such concepts as monism or pantheism, will fail. For He saith, "Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God save Him, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He taketh care of all things. Vision comprehendeth Him not, but he comprehendeth (all) vision. He is the Subtile, the Aware" (Surah, VI, 103-4).
The story of Moses (the Blessing of Allah be upon him) when he asked his Creator to show him Himself, is a good illustration of the impossibility of knowing the essence of the Ultimate Being. "And when We did appoint for Moses thirty nights (of solitude), and added to them ten, and he completed the whole time appointed by his Lord of forty nights; and Moses said unto his brother: Take my place among the people. Do right, and follow not the way of mischief-makers. And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: My Lord! Show me (Thy self), that I may gaze upon Thee. He said: Thou wilt not see Me, but gaze upon the mountain! If it stand still in its place, then thou wilt see Me. And when his Lord revealed (His) glory to the mountain He sent it crashing down. And Moses fell down senseless. And when he woke he said: Glory unto Thee! I turn unto Thee repentant, and I am the first of (true) believers" (Surah VII, 142-43). It is by such texts that the Qur’an makes clear that Allah can be described, His qualities can be partially known, but His essence cannot be conceived of by man.
One final point should be stressed in relation to the Islamic belief in Allah. Islam rejects all forms of polytheism. Allah is One. The Qur’an often reprimands those who believe in the existence of two gods, or in Trinitarianism, and those who worship any part of His creation such as the sun, the moon, or idols. The Qur’an calls upon such polytheists to consider the numerous evidences of His ultimate Unity. "If there were therein Gods beside Allah, then verily both (the heavens and the earth) had been disordered" (Surah XXI, 22). "Allah hath not chosen any son, nor is there any God along with Him; else would each God have assuredly championed that which he created, and some of them would assuredly have overcome others. Glorified be Allah above all that they allege" (Surah XXIII, 91). "Say: O People of the Scripture: Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah" (Surah III, 64). "Lo! I have turned my face toward Him Who created the heavens and the earth, as one by nature upright, and I am not of the idolaters" (Surab VI, 80). Thus it is seen that Islam clearly rejects all polytheism, Trinitarianism, and idolatry and worships only the One.
Belief in Angels, Jinn, and the Soul.
The first of the basic beliefs of Islam is the belief in Allah, as we have said. The second basic belief is the belief in Angels. The Scripture describes Angels as supernatural and says that such is their real nature that they do not appear in the material world generally, but only by divine command. The Qur’an says, "And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. Be He glorified! Nay, but (those whom they call sons) are honoured slaves; They speak not until He hath spoken, and they act by His command" (Surah XXI, 26-27). The Angels’ functions are concerned with spirits and souls. Some of these functions, through which they carry out His orders and His will, are recorded in the Quranic texts. Some of the Angels carry His revelations, His orders, His messages to His prophets and apostles: "And lo! it is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds, Which the True Spirit hath brought down Upon thy heart, that thou mayest be (one) of the warners" (Surah XXVI, 192-94). Other Angels support the prophets and make the believers stand firm. "And we gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear proofs (of Allah’s sovereignty) and We supported him with the holy Spirit [i.e., the angel Gabriel]" (Surah II, 253). "When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying:) I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve" (Surab VIII, 12).
Other Angels are preachers who preach the true and the good and encourage believers by His good tidings of His eternal Paradise. "Lo! those who say: Our Lord is Allah, and afterward are uptight, the angels descend upon them, saying: Fear not nor grieve, but hear good tidings of the paradise which ye are promised. We are your protecting friends in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There ye will have (all) that your souls desire, and there ye will have (all) for which ye pray" (Surah XLI, 30-31).
Others are Angels of Death, such as Azrad. "Say: the Angel of death, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you, and afterward unto your Lord ye will be returned" (Surah XXXII, 11). "Those whom the angels cause to die (when they are) good. They say: Peace be unto you! Enter the Garden because of what ye used to do" (Surah XVI, 32). "Lo! as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wrong themselves, (the angels) will ask: In what were ye engaged? They will say: We were oppressed in the land. (The angels) will say: Was not Allah’s earth spacious that ye could have migrated therein? As for such, their habitation will be hell, an evil journey’s end" (Surah IV, 97).
Other Angels are registers of the deeds of human beings, preserving the records until the Day of Judgment when they are shown to man. "Lo! there are above you guardians, Generous and recording, Who know (all) that ye do" (Surah LXXXII, 10-12).
Such exemplary functions, like all other functions of the Angels, are supernatural. The Qur’an describes Angels as "Messengers with wings and force." "Allah chooseth from the angels messengers, and (also) from mankind" (Surah XXII, 75). "Praise be to Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who appointeth the angels messengers having wings two, three, and four. He multiplieth in creation what He will. Lo! Allah is Able to do all things" (Surah XXXV, 1). As has been demonstrated previously, the Qur’an is the basic resource of Islam and therefore the Muslim’s belief in Angels must be fully limited by definite Quranic texts, which are the only source of such supernatural facts.
Another kind of supernatural creature is the Jinn. The Qur’an differentiates between Jinn and Angels in several ways. Concerning the substance of the Jinn, the Qur’an states several times that He created them from fire. "And the Jinn did We create aforetime of essential fire" (Surab XV, 27).
Some of the Jinn are virtuous, others are wicked. According to the Qur’an, speaking of the Jinn, "And there are among us some who have surrendered (to Allah) and there are among us some who are unjust. And whoso hath surrendered to Allah, such have taken the right path purposefully. And as for those who are unjust, they are firewood for hell" (Surah LXXII, 14- 15). In contrast, we have seen above that the Angels are "honoured slaves."
Angels, as we mentioned previously, are the messengers of Allah to His prophets and apostles, but Jinn, like mankind, receive the revelations through His apostles. This is shown in the Quranic text, addressed to Muhammad, "And when We inclined toward thee (Muhammad) certain of the Jinn, who wished to hear the Qur’an, when they were in its presence, said: Give ear! and, when it was finished, turned back to their people, warning. They said: O our people! Lo! we have heard a Scripture which hath been revealed after Moses, confirming that which was before it, guiding unto the truth and a right road. O our people! respond to Allah’s summoner and believe Him. He will forgive you some of your sins and guard you from a painful doom" (Surah XLVI, 29-31).
Jinn share with mankind the responsibility of hearing and believing Muslim teachings. On the Judgment Day, both mankind and Jinn will be called by Allah in the same way and will be responsible in the same degree. "In the day when He will gather them together (He will say): O ye assembly of the Jinn! Many of humankind did ye seduce. And their adherents among humankind will say: Our Lord! We enjoyed one another, but now we have arrived at the appointed term which Thou appointedst for us. He will say: Fire is your home. Abide therein for ever, save him whom Allah willeth (to deliver). Lo! thy Lord is Wise, Aware" (Surah VI, 129). But the Angels do not share with mankind the same responsibilities.
The Qur’an makes it clear in many passages that Angels possess all the spiritual virtues and none of the shortcomings of human beings, while the Jinn are described as sometimes being whisperers and provocators -- evils which are sometimes found in men.
Concerning the soul, or spirit, the Qur’an says very little. "And (remember) when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am creating a mortal out of potter’s clay of black mud altered, so, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My spirit, do ye fall down, prostrating yourselves unto him" (Surah XV, 28-29). There is another text in which He says, "Why, then, when (the soul) cometh up to the throat (of the dying) And ye are at that moment looking" (Surah LVI, 83-84). All that we can deduce from such texts is that the soul is the source of life, and that it is the vital force of existence without which beings become lifeless. As to the precise nature of the soul, the Qur’an says nothing. However, there is no Quranic text which prohibits searching for such a supernatural spirit, whether or not such researches might be fruitful. His saying, "They will ask thee concerning the Spirit. Say: The Spirit is by command of my Lord, and of knowledge ye have been vouchsafed but little" (Surah XVII, 85), indicates that the identification of the soul is His own concern and that the human mind is too limited to understand such a supernatural reality. This has been a subject of scientific research, but up to now those who have studied the problem have not reached a clear understanding about the soul.
Concerning the soul after death, the texts of the Scripture and the sayings of the Prophet say nothing except that the soul remains after death, either living in ease and comfort or in torment. Thus He saith, "Think not of those, who are slain in the way of Allah, as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provision. Jubilant (are they) because of that which Allah hath bestowed upon them of His bounty" (Surah III, 169-70).
Belief in the Apostles.
Belief in Angels is the highest stage of belief which leads to the right way, the belief in Allah. Belief in apostles is not a belief in the supernatural, for they are men with the same human nature that other men have. They differ from other men in that they have been selected by Allah and authorized to receive His revelations through His Angels in order that they may proclaim them to mankind and lead men in practicing their teachings. Such a divine selection preserves them from error in all that they proclaim of His divine messages. At the same time, their very human nature and qualities make it easy for believers to accept what they say and imitate what they do. He saith, "And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder [i.e., the Jewish Scripture] if ye know not? We gave them not bodies that would not eat food, nor were they immortals" (Surah XXI, 7-8).
It is a divine fact that in all ages Allah has sent His messages to men through His apostles to direct and strengthen human beings toward good. Since the dawn of creation it has been the aim of the divine will to further the spiritual progress of man by providing the guidance which enables man to arrange his daily affairs so that he lives wisely and correctly, "and there is not a nation but a warner hath passed among them" (Surah XXXV, 24). Thus messages have been revealed again and again with the one purpose of guiding man to perfection. Each age had its message and each generation had the chance to hear His words. In all these messages, the principles taught were the same. "He hath ordained for you that religion which He commended unto Noah, and that which We inspire in thee (Muhammad), and that which We commended unto Abraham and Moses and Jesus, saying: Establish the religion, and be not divided therein" (Surah XLII, 13).
The Messenger Muhammad illustrated the unity of divine messages by saying that all the apostles are builders of one house, the earlier apostles laying the foundation for the later ones who build upon their foundation. The Qur’an calls upon mankind to believe in all His messengers as well as in the scriptures revealed to them. To believe in some apostles and reject others is a fallacy from the Islamic point of view. The Qur’an says, "Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered" (Surah II, 136). "And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter" (Surah II, 4).
Those who believe in some apostles and reject others will be punished, for the Qur’an says, "Lo! those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers, and seek to make distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between; Such are disbelievers in truth; and for disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom" (Surah IV, 150-51). On the other hand, those who believe in all of His apostles will receive their reward. "But those who believe in Allah and His messengers and make no distinction between any of them, unto them Allah will give their wages; and Allah was ever Forgiving, Merciful" (Surah IV, 152).
The message of the Apostle Muhammad includes the foundations of all the previous messages which guide humanity to perfection and open the way to human progress, both materially and spiritually. Islam calls mankind to believe that Muhammad is the last of all prophets and apostles, as is made clear in the Qur’an, "Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is Aware of all things" (Surah XXXIII, 40). "This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you as religion AL-ISLAM" (Surah V, 3).
Muhammad’s message, or Islam, is addressed to every human being in all ages and all over the world, regardless of color, race, nationality, or any other difference. "Say (O Muhammad): O mankind! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah to you all" (Surah VII, 158). The messages of the apostles before Muhammad differed from his in that they were limited to the apostle’s people or tribe, as the Qur’an shows. "We sent Noah (of old) unto his people, and he said: 0 my people: Serve Allah. Ye have no other God save him" (Surah VII, 59).
"And unto (the tribe of) A‘ad (We sent) their brother, Hud" (Surah VII, 65). "And to (the tribe of) Thamud (We sent) their brother Salih" (Surah VII, 73). And the Qur’an reveals concerning Jesus (the Blessings of Allah be upon him): "Allah createth what He will. If He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. And He will teach him [Jesus] the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel. And will make him a messenger unto the children of Israel" (Surab III, 47-49). Thus we see that Muhammad, the last of the prophets, brought a message which was unique in that it was addressed to all men everywhere.
It should be clearly understood that, according to the Quranic texts, the function of the apostles is limited to guiding and educating people through revelation. They are worthy of the highest degree of honor and respect, for they are fully authorized to assume spiritual and educational leadership for all men, but they have no authority over people’s beliefs, minds, or hearts. They are in no way responsible for the unbeliever. They have no power to confer any benefit or to inflict any punishment on themselves or other human beings. He saith, "We have not sent thee (O Muhammad) as a warden over them" (Surah XVII, 54). "Thy people (O Muhammad) have denied it, though it is the Truth. Say: I am not put in charge of you" (Surah VI, 66). "Say: For myself I have no power to benefit, nor power to hurt, save that which Allah willeth" (Surah VII, 188).
The apostles are human beings. The Qur’an asserts that the fact that their messages were divine revelations did not change their human nature or make them into supernatural beings. They were highly honored to be selected as messengers, but they remain human; their only infallibility is that given them by Allah concerning the religious facts revealed through them. The Qur’an says, "Say: I am only a mortal like you. My Lord inspireth in me that your God is only One God. And whoever hopeth for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the worship due unto his Lord" (Surah XVIII, 111). As human beings, in all matters other than the messages of Allah, apostles can be right or wrong like any other human beings. It is recorded in the Qur’an that Allah admonished His Apostle Muhammad for some of his actions, as for instance when the Apostle was distracted from his responsibilities to the Muslims by his honorable aim to preach to the idolators (Surah LXXX, 1-10).
We have seen that worship may be offered only to Allah. Islam states that no Angel or human being is entitled to any kind of worship. No human being can be of any assistance in the Day of Judgment, nor can a human being remit any sins, for himself or for others. Only Allah has the power to pardon or punish, only Allah is entitled to worship. And just as no Angel or prophet is entitled to worship, so also no worship may be offered to any of the educated believers, the leaders in Islam, no matter how distinguished. Islam has no saints in the sense of beings with intercessory powers who may be worshiped. Rather than saints in that sense, Islam has Allah’s Aoulia, that is, His constant obeyers, His favorites. According to the Qur’an they have no special distinction which gives them any sort of saintliness or supernatural ability such as the authority to intercede or remit sins. The constant obeyers, or favorites of Allah, are true believers who follow the apostles in all that is revealed to them by Allah, obeying the divine commands and avoiding that which He prohibits.
Some people, influenced by non-Muslim sources, say that Allah has, in addition to the apostles, His distinctive slaves who are authorized by Him to rule the universe and to respond and fulfill the people’s demands. It is even said that when such "saints" die they should have distinctive tombs, high domed, and lighted at night; that one should seek their blessings, offer them pledges, and bow before them. Such errors have become popular among some Muslims and in other religious congregations, but all such errors are entirely rejected by His religion in all His messages.
Belief in the Scriptures.
To accept and believe in the messages of Allah is a mere logical consequence of belief in Angels and apostles. The messages are the contents of all His scriptures, which include instruction concerning true beliefs and the fundamental principles for codes of law which guide men in distinguishing the approved from the forbidden in human actions. Islam calls mankind to believe in all His scriptures which have been revealed through the apostles -- such as Abraham’s Books, Moses’ Bible, Jesus’ Gospel, and Muhammad’s Qur’an. From the Muslim point of view, no one who denies any of these scriptures is considered to be a believer.
It also follows that if Muhammad is the final Apostle, the Qur’an is the final Scripture. The Qur’an, as is known to anyone who is thoroughly acquainted with its contents, States the basic beliefs, the basic principles of worship and of human dealings, and the ideals of morality. The Quranic texts do not give in detail the code of laws regulating dealings -- human actions -- but they give the general principles which guide people to perfection, to a life of harmony -- to an inner harmony between man’s appetites and his spiritual desires, to harmony between man and the natural world, and to a harmony between individuals as well as a harmony with the society in which men live. The means of establishing harmony which are revealed in the Qur’an are based on faith and justice, and a wise understanding of human nature.
It is not the function of the Qur’an to explain in detail the facts of the universe, its secrets and the useful ways in which it can serve mankind. It does, however, urge men to use their minds and skills to gain understanding of the universe, its secrets and its wonderful phenomena. It opens the way for man to use his mind and powers in whatever vocation falls to his lot, to increase his knowledge, and to strengthen his faith in the Almighty. It guides mankind to individual and social welfare and establishes justice among men. The Qur’an limits the human mind only in basic beliefs and principles of legislation, a wise limitation which is necessary to guide the people’s faith and bring them to submission to Allah.
Belief in the Last Day.
The fifth principle of faith in Islam -- after faith in Allah, Angels, apostles, and the scriptures -- is belief in the Day of Resurrection, the Judgment Day. It is the end of man and His goal in the creation of man. "And that man hath only that for which he maketh effort, And that his effort will be seen, And afterward he will be repaid for it with fullest payments (Surah LIII, 39-41). What happens to a man on the Last Day -- his reward or punishment, his pleasure or pain, -- is determined by what he has chosen to do in this world. The Other World is the world of judgment for what man has done. "On the day when We shall summon all men with their record, whoso is given his book in his right hand -- such will read their book and they will not be wronged a shred. Whoso is blind here will be blind in the Hereafter, and yet further from the road" (Surah XVII, 71-72). Thus the belief in the judgment of the Last Day is the strongest motive for man to seek perfection and progress in this world in order that he may be accepted and favored by Allah in the Other World.
The Qur’an mentions in various places the rewards and sufferings which will come to men in the Other XVorld. Although it uses phrases that are commonly used by man in his daily life, Islamic sources emphasize that life in the Other World is a new life that differs from life in this world in everything except the names.
But for him who feareth the standing before his Lord
there are two gardens.
Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that ye deny?
Of spreading branches.
Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that ye deny?
Wherein are two fountains flowing.
Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that ye deny?
Wherein is every kind of fruit in pairs.
Which is it, of the favors of your Lord, that ye deny? Reclining upon couches lined with silk brocade,
the fruit of both gardens near to hand.
(Surah LV, 46-54)
Concerning the sufferings in the Other World, He saith, "The guilty will be known by their marks, and will be taken by the forelocks and the feet" (Surah LV, 41). "While the reward of disbelievers is the Fire" (Surah XIII, 35). "And lo! for all such, hell will be the promised place" (Surah XV, 43). Thus in many passages does the Qur’an describe the blessings and sufferings of the Other World in a way which urges men to believe according to the teachings of Allah’s messages and to act in accordance with the principles of dealings laid down in the Quranic texts.
A Muslim never doubts, nor hesitates to hold a firm belief in, the eternity of the blessings of the Other World. He knows that those who obstinately continue to be disbelievers will be punished for that disbelief which contradicts the natural disposition of man. That punishment, according to the Qur’an, will continue eternally. It is not definitely stated in the Qur’an whether Hell is everlasting or not, but it is clearly stated that Paradise and its blessings are eternal. In all matters of belief concerning the Last Day and the Other World, the human mind is subject to the definite Quranic texts and the sayings of the Apostle.
These, then, are the beliefs of Islam: belief in Allah the One God, in Angels, in the apostles, in the scriptures, and in the Day of Judgment. These beliefs are, according to Islam, the basis of every divine religion; therefore, the religions which are not founded on them are false religions. Allah rejects the disbelievers, those who are polytheists, who do not believe in Angels, or in the apostles, or in the scriptures, or in the Last Day -- and He invites them all to believe in Islam through logical thought and acceptance of the evidence revealed to men.
Man was called by Allah to adopt these beliefs. As an expression of His mercy and His goodness to His slaves, He has made man master of the earth, God’s deputy on earth to make use of its blessings by using and developing its natural resources. Allah has called upon man to study the universe in order that he may see and understand the wonders of His creation which confirm man’s faith and lead him to spiritual and material progress. The Qur’an says, "He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth" (Surah II, 29). "See ye not how Allah hath made serviceable unto you whatsoever is in the skies and whatsoever is in the earth and hath loaded you with His favors both without and within?" (Surah XXXI, 20). "Allah it is Who hath made the sea of service unto you that the ships may run thereon by His command, and that ye may seek His bounty, and that haply ye may be thankful; And hath made of service unto you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; it is all from Him. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who reflect" (Surah XIV, 12-13).
Islam states that Allah created man with a disposition which leads him sometimes to choose the good and sometimes to choose the evil way of life. His good deeds lead him to his own happiness, to social welfare, and to his being acceptable to Allah, while his evil deeds lead him to unhappiness and to destruction in this life and damnation in the next. For thus saith Allah,
Did We not assign unto him two eyes
And a tongue and two lips,
And guide him to the parting of the mountain ways?
But he hath not attempted the Ascent --
Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent is! --
(It is) to free a slave,
And to feed in the day of hunger
An orphan near of kin,
Or some poor wretch in misery,
And to be of those who believe and exhort one another
to perseverance and exhort one another to pity.
(Surah XC, 8-17)
The purpose of Allah’s messages and revelations is to strengthen the good tendencies of men and guide them to perfection in this life, thus laying the foundations for the next life. Islam points out that each man must choose for himself the way to happiness through good deeds or the way to unhappiness and punishment through wickedness. Islam, in placing the responsibility on each individual, makes no distinction between human beings; each is given the same rights and responsibilities regardless of his sex, race, color, or other differences. Blessed are faithful and true believers. The Qur’an says, "Whosoever doeth right, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily We shall quicken with good life, and We shall pay them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do" (Surah XVI, 97).
In the eyes of Islam a man chooses either good or evil by his own free will and is rewarded or punished according to his deeds. He is only guided and advised by the messages of Allah and by the apostles but is still completely free to choose as he wishes. It is quite clear that if Allah wanted to He would have created man wholly good and completely ignorant of all evil. Since man has been created free to choose between good and evil, he will be rewarded or punished on Doomsday according to what he has chosen. There is no supernatural force which limits a man or compels him to adopt any mode of behavior. What is called fate, or testing, is nothing but the operation of natural laws, such as the principles of cause and effect and of the freedom of man.
In former times, disbelievers excused themselves by saying that they had been predestined to certain actions by His will. But the Almighty rejected such an excuse and made it clear that full responsibility is thrown on each man because of his free mind and the guidance given by the apostles. "They who are idolaters will say: Had Allah willed, we had not ascribed (unto Him) partners neither had our fathers, nor had we forbidden aught. Thus did those who were before them give the lie (to Allah’s messengers) till they tasted of the fear of Us. Say: Have ye any knowledge that ye can adduce for us? Lo! ye follow naught but an opinion. Lo! ye do not guess. Say -- For Allah’s is the final judgment -- Had He willed He could indeed have guided all of you" (Surah VI, 149-50). It is true enough that the Almighty foresees how man will act; but this foresight is nothing other than divine knowledge of the freedom of choice, which is a natural law.
Therefore, Islam does not allow a man to wander from the rightful faith and then offer the workings of fate as his excuse. For if that were so, His commandments, the missions of the apostles, the scriptures, and the promise of reward and punishment would all be null and void, impossible to reconcile with the Almighty’s Wisdom and Justice.
The Islamic Code
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Most Compassionate
In the introduction to this chapter it was stated that the Qur’an, the all-embracing source of the true concept of Islam, says that Islam is both a faith and a code. Up to this point we have discussed the beliefs that must be held with the head and the heart if one is to be a Muslim. The acceptance or rejection of these beliefs determines the dividing line between loyalty to Islam and infidelity.
The Islamic code is the name given to the principles and laws which God revealed and which He requires all Muslims to adhere to strictly in all their actions, whether in their relations with Him or in their dealings with mankind. The actions through which Muslims draw near to their Lord, recall His greatness, and show their trust in Him by their observance of His divine rules are known in Islam as worship of God. The actions through which Muslims uphold their interests and repel evils in themselves, between themselves and their neighbors, and between Muslims and non-Muslims, the actions through which they prevent maltreatment, preserve rights, fulfill the general good, and establish peace and security, are known in Islam as dealings. The great number of laws which make up the Islamic code are classified under these two headings: worship and dealings.
Worship of God. The worship of God is made up of prayers, fasting, payment of religious tax, and pilgrimage. Basic to the worship of God is the acknowledgment of God’s oneness and Muhammad’s heavenly purpose in life, the cleansing of the heart and soul, the strict observance of obedience to God in all actions. This is the foundation, these are the pillars on which Islam is built. Therefore the Prophet (may God bless him) has said, "Islam is put upon five principles: belief In the single God and in Muhammad as His Messenger, performance of prayers, payment of religious tax, keeping of the month of Ramadan, and pilgrimage to the Holy Mosque by whoever finds the way clear to do it."
Prayer. Prayer is a form of physical worship assigned to the Muslim five times a day at specified times. In prayer he stands wherever he happens to be at the appointed time and turns his face toward the Divine Mosque in Mecca. He begins his prayer by saying in a fairly loud voice, "God is the Most Great," praying reverently with profound intent to worship God. He then recites the Good Book’s first Surah, along with a passage of the Qur’an which he has learned by heart, trying to understand its inner meaning. He then bows by bending until his back makes a straight horizontal line, holding his knees with his hands, and saying to himself as he bows, "Great God." Then he lifts his head, saying, "God the Most Great," and kneels down, touching his forehead to the floor, saying as he goes down, "God the Highest." He then lifts his head, saying "God the Most Great," and sits comfortably on his heels. Then he touches the floor with his forehead a second time. This process is called one kneeling.
There are five daily prayers. First is the morning prayer which the Muslim performs at the beginning of his day between the small hours of the morning and sunrise. It is made up of two kneelings, at the end of which the worshiper sits to salute his Lord, admitting His oneness and the mission of His Prophet in a manner which has been universally copied from Muhammad (may God bless him). He then salutes the right side and the left side with the words, "Peace be upon you together with God’s blessings." The second prayer is the midday prayer which is performed from noon until halfway between noon and sundown. The afternoon prayer comes between midafternoon and sunset. Each of those prayers is made up of four kneelings. The early evening prayer is three kneelings and is offered between sunset and the vanishing from the horizon of the twilight. The late evening prayer is performed after the twilight disappears; it is the last prayer of the day when the Muslim welcomes the night, and is made up of four kneelings.
With these prayers the Muslim thinks of his Lord five times during each day and night, appearing before his Lord repeatedly and saluting His name within his heart and soul, submitting himself to God, looking forward to His favor. Therefore he perseveres in obeying His commands.
The Muslim can perform these prayers anywhere -- at the mosque, at home, in the field, at the factory, in the office -- wherever he happens to be when the time falls due for prayer. He can pray alone, or he can pray with others standing in a line or lines arrayed closely in straight formation, like a highly-disciplined military parade, behind a leader who is followed by the congregation in all that he does. Congregational prayer in Islam is the best form of prayer because it encourages acquaintanceship, intimacy, cooperation, joint entreaty, remembrance, and cheerful submission to God, the Lord of all peoples.
Muslims are reminded of the time for prayer by the call to prayer which is given from the minaret of the mosque in the form taught by the Prophet, "God is Most Great. God is Most Great. I avow that there is no God other than Allah. I avow that there is no God other than Allah. I declare openly that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. I declare openly that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Welcome prayer. Welcome prayer. Welcome good fortune. Welcome good fortune. God is Most Great. God is Most Great. There is no God but Allah."
Islam also has a weekly prayer, known as the Friday prayer because it is performed at noon on Friday. It is a congregational service with preaching before the prayer, which is made up of two kneelings. There are also two other prayers like the Friday prayer which are performed twice a year on the mornings of the two Islamic feasts, the first day following the month of Ramadan and the tenth day of the month of Dhu‘l Hijja. These two prayers are known in Islam as the prayers of the two feasts, Ramadan and al-Qurban.
In addition to the daily prayers, the Friday prayer, and the prayers of the two feasts, there is in Islam the funeral prayer, a religious ceremony expressing the Muslims’ loyalty toward their dead. Muslims are required to prepare their dead for burial by cleaning the body and wrapping it from head to foot in unstitched cloth; the body is then placed on a bed and the mourners stand in line and, led by one of them, join in the prayer for the dead person. They repeat four times the phrase "God is Most Great" and recite together the preface to the Qur’an; then they ask God’s blessing on the deceased. The body is later buried. According to Islam the grave may be in the ground or on the surface level, but should not be elevated either for a member of the masses or for a prophet who has completed a heavenly mission.
In this connection it should be pointed out that Islam has no other funeral ceremonies than those mentioned above. The elaborate rituals, the special places for ceremonies, the special funeral processions which are sometimes seen, the domes built over graves, all these have nothing whatever to do with Islam. Nor is there any basis in Islam for the great respect paid to certain mausoleums with the object of securing blessings. Islam has nothing to say about visiting graveyards for inspiration or blessing. These customs have been copied by Muslims from others.
Islam is also opposed to the practice of withdrawing into monasteries or caves to repeat prayers. It looks upon the daily work to support one’s family and to improve the life of the community as an obligation as important as prayer. Indeed, the daily prayers are assigned merely to fulfill the debt owed to God, and as a means of securing His aid in the daily struggle in the world. The Islamic code states clearly the everyday obligations of the Muslim which provide him with food for the soul through worship and further his material standing as an individual and promote the welfare of his community. Islamic law provides the best way for a man to maintain the right relationship with his Lord and a proper participation in the life of the world. This is not possible except for the Muslim.
Except for the five daily prayers which distinguish the Muslim from the non-Muslim, the daily routine of the Muslim is like that of other men. He carries on the business for which his talents qualify him, earning his livelihood, guarding his family and his interests, and abstaining from sin in matters of food and drink and evil amusements. Then he retires at night to relax from work and fatigue. Islam does not prevent the Muslim from enjoying the beautiful things of life and the favors of God. "Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing?" (Surah VII, 32).
Fasting. Prayer is the first form of physical worship. The second is fasting -- refraining from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse all day from dawn to sunset during the whole month of Ramadan each year with the intention of showing submission to God’s command. The act of fasting during Ramadan is the means by which the Muslim recognizes the favor God did to His subjects in the month of Ramadan when He began the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him).
Fasting is the means by which the Muslim voluntarily abandons certain legitimate frivolous enjoyments as a means of putting his soul to a test and promoting its capacity for perseverance. thus strengthening his will to keep away from sins, both obvious and obscure. The Muslim thereby samples enough of starvation to make him a warm-hearted, hospitable person, sympathetic with the poor who are in constant want. This is precisely the spirit Islam endeavors to create in the Muslim’s heart and mind by requiring fasting as a mode of worship. Therefore, Islam attaches no significance to the kind of fasting that does not inspire this great humanitarian spirit, and a person fasting for any other purpose has nothing to gain except hunger and thirst.
Religious tax. The third form of worship is the religious tax, zakat. This is a fiscal worship by which Islam requires the well-to-do to care for the needs of the poor and to pay a subsidy to maintain public benefits like hospitals, educational institutions, and a defense force. It is a sacred duty incumbent upon the rich to pay out of their possessions in excess of their requirements, and those of their dependents, portions which are universally recognized by Muslims as fair, and which in the aggregate meet the needs of the poor and the general interests of the community without adversely afflicting the owners. It is customary to give one-tenth of the product of the land if it is watered by rain and one-twentieth if it is irrigated by human effort; two and one-half per cent of savings is suggested, with equal proportions of the increase in cattle or in trade in goods. The motive for giving the religious tax is internal; there is no external pressure.
Worship through the giving of the religious tax is the best means of promoting the welfare of society, linking the classes of the community with reciprocal sympathy and compassion, and spreading throughout the people a sentiment of love and cooperation. Through the religious tax the nation protects itself from creating financial tyranny through the concentration of the bulk of the national income in the hands of a few individuals, or of the ruler who might claim it in the name of the state. The divine legislation which requires the religious tax preserves for the ordinary man freedom of choice as to his means of livelihood and at the same time provides the community with the aid and cooperation owed it by the individual. The Muslim who fails to pay the religious tax is failing in his religious duty and undermining one of the main pillars of Islam.
Pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is also a form of physical, or external, worship in Islam. The pilgrimage is an annual form of congregational worship in which those Muslims who are able to make the trip assemble from all over the world at Mecca, the home of the revelation to Muhammad (may God bless him). There they visit the Holy Mosque and pray to God in Arafat, a narrow defile some thirteen miles from Mecca. It is a public worship expressing the full equality among Muslims gathered together from all over the world with a common objective -- all performing the same actions, all seeking to gain God’s favor. At Mecca all pilgrims stand on equal footing whether rich or poor, rulers or ordinary people, scholars or laborers. There all of them, wearing similar white, seamless robes and shorn of class distinctions, assemble around a single center which inspires them with a strong sense of unity. There their views and aims are unified and their resolution is strengthened to work cooperatively for the fulfillment of the general good.
This, then, is worship in Islam -- based on the beliefs required of all Muslims, worship is performed through prayer, fasting, payment of the religious tax, and pilgrimages. These forms of worship are required by Islam as owed to God in order that Muslims may please Him, observe His commands, and show their gratitude to Him. As Muslims perform their worship they always think of God and of His gifts related to the body, wealth, and society. At the same time the Muslim realizes that these ceremonies performed in honor of God are of benefit to himself. Prayer and fasting give the Muslim discipline which he needs and further the development of his spiritual life; the religious tax encourages communal cooperation to meet the requirements of the poor and of society; and the pilgrimage widens the circle of acquaintances and increases mutual understanding and cooperation under the shadow of revelation and divine guidance.
The mosque. Although the prayers may be performed at the appropriate times wherever a Muslim happens to be, the mosque has since the dawn of Islam been the best environment for Islamic learning and the performance of religious ceremonies. It has been the center for preaching and guidance, it has served as a court of law where disputes are reconciled, and has been like a social club where Muslims assemble to discuss topics of common interest. The mosque was not invented by Islam but is copied from ancient divine establishments. The Qur’an states that the first building set aside for worship for the people was the Holy Mosque erected by Abraham and his son Ishmael. The Good Book says of mosques in general, "He only shall tend Allah’s sanctuaries who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due and feareth none save Allah. For such (only) is it possible that they can be of the rightly guided" (Surah IX, 18).
The Qur’an mentions two mosques by name, the Divine Mosque in Mecca and the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. "Glorified be He who carried His servant by night from the inviolable Place of Worship [Mecca] to the Far Distant Place of Worship [Jerusalem], the neighborhood whereof We have blessed" (Surah XVII, 1).
Among the first things the Prophet did on his return to Medina was to establish his own mosque as a means of bringing the Muslims closer together and forming the Muslim community, and as a place for performing the magnificent communal prayer.
Following the example of the Prophet, the Caliphs set up mosques where Muslims worshiped their Lord on an equal footing without any distinctions whatsoever. Today mosques are found throughout the Islamic world as the symbol of Islam, the center for Islamic worship, teachings, and service.
Within the Islamic code, which provides guidance for all human activities, the distinction between worship and dealings is made for convenience in the exposition of Islam. We have seen the nature of the true worship of Islam; in considering the dealings we shall be concerned with the dealings within the Muslim community -- the family, monetary affairs, relations with fellow Muslims, and government -- and dealings with non-Muslims both as individuals and nations. Islamic law has clearly stated the obligations of the Muslims in all areas of life and the penalties to be inflicted for offenses and irregularities.
Under the guidance of its code of laws Islam preaches the one God and, by acknowledging the principle of equality, asserts the unity of the human race and denounces discrimination based on color, racial, or regional differences. It aims at justice through the eradication of oppression and tyranny. It mistreats no stranger merely because he is a stranger in a strange land, nor the infidel because of his infidelity, nor the enemy because of his enmity; nor is a near relative given special treatment in Islamic law because of his relationship, nor is a friend shown partiality for his friendship, nor is a Muslim treated leniently because of his adherence to Islam. "Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty" (Surah V, 8).
The family. Marriage in Islam requires the full agreement of both parties without compulsion being brought to bear on either person. A marriage which takes place forcibly is considered null and void. When an agreement is reached between the two, the man pays to the woman the bride money, which is a token of admiration, not a purchase price or a form of remuneration. The actual amount of the bride money is determined by agreement and is the exclusive property of the prospective wife; the husband is not entitled to use it in any way without her consent.
The marriage contract is repeated in the presence of two or more witnesses. The bride says, "I marry you to myself," and the groom replies, "I accept your marriage to me." It is quite in order for the two accredited agents for the bride and groom to repeat the phrases of the marriage contract also. If the contract is not authenticated by two witnesses it is unlawful, and no marriage exists between the two. Properly witnessed, this verbal contract completes the marriage and the man and woman may establish their home.
In Islam, the husband, by virtue of his physical strength and ability to secure means of livelihood, is given the responsibility of guardianship of the wife and of the home, within the framework of their reciprocal legal rights and obligations. Such guardianship is not an autocratic authority which excludes the wife from expressing her views or from the right of consultation; it is merely a rank of honor and control which must respect the wife’s point of view.
Thus it is seen that the marriage in Islam is a simple agreement between two parties without any participation by religious or civil authorities. Nor does it curtail the wife’s freedom of action or her control of property, so long as she lives up to the responsibilities of married life and cares for the home and children.
Islam authorizes a man to marry a second wife in special circumstances in which the objectives of the initial marriage, such as the begetting of children, cannot be fulfilled. There can be no doubt that marriage to a second wife is the best solution to the problem in cases in which the first wife, if divorced, might not be able to remarry or might have no one to look after her. Islam permits a man to have not more than four wives and stipulates that he may have not more than one wife unless he is able to discharge the rights of each wife and maintain absolute equity between them. Islam authorizes the woman to bring her case before justice if she believes that by marrying another wife her husband sought to injure her.
Islam permits marriage with Christians and Jews. In the Qur’an He saith, "This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you" (Surah V, 5). But Islam forbids Muslims to marry disbelievers or polytheists, for He saith, "Wed not idolatresses till they believe; for lo! a believing bondwoman is better than an idolatress though she please you; and give not your daughters in marriage to idolaters till they believe, for lo! a believing slave is better than an idolater though he please you" (Surah II, 221).
Islam seeks to stabilize married life and reconcile differences between the husband and wife. It orders, for instance, that when there is a disagreement between husband and wife they should turn to their family or near relatives for arbitration. But if ill feelings gain such a hold on the married couple that their union is endangered, and no arbitration can succeed, and married life develops from a state of tranquillity, love, and compassion into one of anxiety, hardship, and boycott, and indeed is almost hell, then in such a situation, and only in such a situation, the husband is allowed by Islam, against its better judgment, to seek the remedy of divorce. Strictly speaking, divorce is a right bestowed on the husband in view of his ability to shoulder the marriage obligations and because of his aptitude for better self-restraint than the wife can display.
If the shock of divorce fulfills the purpose for which it is intended and both the husband and wife return to their senses, then they are permitted by Islam to resume their marriage within the terms of the Islamic code. Islam permits the husband to resort to the remedy of divorce twice, and to remarry each time if a satisfactory reconciliation is attained, but a third divorce is decisive and a woman so divorced cannot be made a legitimate wife a fourth time unless she first marries a different man and is then divorced by that man of his own free will, and there have been no consequences of that marriage. If that marriage had been arranged with the intention of divorcing him so that she might go back to her original husband, the contract for the second marriage was unlawful.
It is thus seen that Islam has not allowed divorce in order that a man may use the threat of divorce as a sword which he waves in the woman’s face. On the contrary, Islam allows divorce as a bitter medicine to be used by a man to cure a situation or get rid of an association that defies remedy. Islam holds that if a man trespasses on a woman’s rights by divorcing her without cause he is abusing his power and is therefore liable to be held responsible for committing a breach of duty. Islamic courts are allowed to censure the man for misusing the right of divorce.
The law of Islam permits the woman to ask the courts of law to look into her case if her husband maintains an unpleasant association with her, or causes real hardship to her unjustifiably, or if she finds that he suffers from a disease of the body or mind which prevents him from preserving her chastity. The court is authorized to order her to be divorced if she is justified in her contentions and her husband refuses to divorce her.
Just as Islam maintains equality between husband and wife in married life it insists on equality in the termination of the marriage. It does not allow the man in any circumstances to take undue advantage of the woman’s innate weakness to deny her any of her rights or to abuse the rights which she owes to him. At the same time, it does not require a woman to go beyond her obligations to keep intact her purity and to preserve her husband’s property and the home.
The family bears a special responsibility for the education of the children in Islam. The training begins with teaching the child to repeat lessons concerning Islamic beliefs and to perform correctly the worship rites. The family is also responsible for seeing that the child receives further training in the school and the mosque where legitimate and illegitimate actions and beliefs are expounded so that when the child attains maturity he will have been guided along the way to a true understanding of Islam.
Monetary affairs. Inheritance in Islam is based on the blood relationship of parents, brothers and sisters, and children, and on the marriage relationship of husband and wife, without regard for sex or age in the right of inheritance. The parents, the children, and the consorts do not in any circumstances lose this right, though the amount of their share may be affected by the number of heirs. However, brothers and sisters are not entitled to inheritance in case the parents are living. If men and women are both heirs, the man receives twice as much as a woman except in the case of maternal half-brothers and half-sisters, who each get an equal share.
Islamic law has ruled that, since the man bears the support of the woman and the expenses of her children as well as the cost of her marriage, his share of the inheritance should be double that of the woman. Her share is allowed to stand her in good stead in case she loses the source of her livelihood. Islam has taken into consideration the fact that to allocate the inheritance among blood relatives and consorts strengthens bonds of affection and promotes among relatives a reciprocal interest in their common good. Jealousy would prevail and the family structure would be exposed to disintegration if favoritism were allowed among heirs of equal standing. Thanks to this system, Islamic society has been guarded against the threat of financial tyranny which may result when the entire inheritance goes to a single person. It is also guarded against the danger which would come from paying the inheritance into the state treasury, for that would deprive members of the family of the results of the efforts made by parents, children, relatives, husbands, and wives, and would be damaging to society.
Islamic law also sets the standards for financial dealings through its regulations governing such things as the terms of sale and lease, things liable to sale and lease and those liable to neither, ways to employ capital, conditions regulating deposits, authentication of debts, and like matters which could become sources of controversy. All these financial dealings must be based on truthfulness, fidelity, and a willingness to discharge obligations.
Government. The necessity for some sort of government in the Muslim community is indicated by many texts in the Qur’an, such as, "Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered" (Surah II, 178). "Lo! Allah commandeth you that ye restore deposits to their owners, and, if ye judge between mankind, that ye judge justly" (Surah IV, 58). The obligations imposed upon the community by the Qur’an can only be discharged by the community deputizing a spokesman from its midst, a man possessing the mental qualifications, will power, and skills which enable him to secure unity of thought and cooperation in carrying out the tasks required for the common welfare. Such a man is known in Islam as the Caliph or Imam.
It is the duty of the Caliph or Imam, the leader in Islam, to consolidate public opinion, execute judgments, administer state machinery, encourage the faithful in the practice of their faith, such as prayers and the religious tax, and look after affairs of public interest with the guidance of a parliamentary democracy, the basis of government in Islam. The Caliph, in Islamic practice, is subject to control by the nation; he has no authority other than that given to him as a representative of the people and that which is required of him as the enforcer of supernatural laws. If he violates the terms of national representation or breaks God’s orders, it is up to the nation to depose him and replace him. The Caliphate or Imamate in Islam is not based on a heavenly sanction which gives the Caliph power from God to rule the nation; he has no divine authority which makes it the duty of the people to obey him at any cost. The Caliph or Imam is only a member of the society whose actions are determined by divine laws and orders. The Caliph and the nation form an inseparable whole linked together by the strong tie of religious faith, worship of God, fair dealing, and interest in the public welfare. The Prophet (may God bless him) says, "The Muslims are equal before God." The first Caliph in Islam said, "Obey me so long as I obey God and the Prophet in dealing with you. Once I cease obeying them you are no longer obliged to obey me."
Thus in Islam we find no distinction in community life between that which is called religious and that which is outside religion. In Islam religion is concerned with faith and worship, and also with the upbringing, education, and guidance of the people, and with all economic and social dealings as to those which are legitimate and illegitimate, sound or corrupt; and religion is concerned with the government of the people and the administration of state machinery, with the operation of all the functions of the community or nation. Religion provides the guiding principles for the individual and for the state. There can be no state which has a separate framework for the government and for religion. Those Islamic regions which separate the state from religion are following a mere private school of thought, contrary to the teachings of Islam.
Islam recognizes equally the rights and responsibilities of the individual and the community. It has built its legislation on the recognition that a man has a personality independent of his compatriots and his community, a personality which forms an element in the social structure. He has rights and obligations as an independent individual and rights and responsibilities as a part of the nation to which he belongs. As an independent person, man is required by Islam to believe in God, worship Him, and to live in a manner which assures him a clear conscience; it is incumbent upon him to work for a living, to control himself and his children, and to realize his interests and maintain his existence without encroaching upon the life and welfare of other people. It is his right to own property and to enjoy the legitimate pleasures of life. As a member of the community it is the divine duty of man to contribute to the general good, to guide and aid his fellow men, to do his full share in furthering the social amenities of the community, and to take part in fighting the common enemy.
In return for the individual’s fulfillment of his obligations, the community is required by Islam to protect the individual’s life and property, and to safeguard the chastity of his womenfolk. Islam has legislated for this purpose, clearly defining the functions of the legitimate ruler who is representative of the community, and outlining the penalties which the ruler must enforce.
Within the Islamic framework the individual and the community have defined for them the rights and obligations which ensure life and happiness through cooperation and equity in assigning privileges and tasks without encroaching upon the rights of the individual or the community. Should the individual deny to the community any of the rights due to it, he deserves God’s denunciation, and it is the duty of the ruler to censure him on behalf of the nation. And if the society, as represented in the ruler, fails to ensure the rights of the individual, then the individual is entitled to insist upon his rights, and the ruler deserves God’s condemnation and anger. When the ruler does not protect the rights of the individual, the community is empowered to depose him and to replace him with a man who is able to live up to the functions of his high office.
Dealings with non-Muslims. Islam does not hold any enmity or hatred toward non-Muslims. It stands for peaceful coexistence and cooperation in daily life with them. For thus the Qur’an says, "Say: O disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion" (Surah CIX). "Unto this, then, summon (O Muhammad). And be thou upright as thou art commanded, and follow not their lusts, but say: I believe in whatever Scripture Allah hath sent down, and I am commanded to be just among you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. Unto us our works and unto you your works; no argument between us and you. Allah will bring us together, and unto Him is the journeying" (Surah XLII, 15). When non-Muslims are resident in the same country with Muslims, the most important thing is to ensure freedom of belief and the opportunity for non-Muslims to worship God in their own sanctuaries and hold their religious ceremonies, and to maintain full equality between them and their Muslim compatriots in public rights and obligations.
As we have seen, Muslims are permitted to marry Christian or Jewish women, and such wives enjoy the same rights and duties as Muslim wives with full liberty to cherish their own religion and perform their religious duties.
Even if parents are polytheists and even if they strive to mislead their Muslim son to follow them, he is commanded by the Qur’an to be good to them and to treat them gently, for Allah saith, "And We have enjoined upon man concerning his parents . . . But if they strive with thee to make thee ascribe unto Me as partner that of which thou hast no knowledge, then obey them not. Consort with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who repenteth unto Me" (Surah XXXI, 14-15). It is said in history that Abu Talib, the Prophet’s uncle, who was a polytheist until his death, was a good helper and protector of Muhammad.
Islam is strongly averse to resorting to force to expound its cause or to compel people to embrace its faith. Islam’s invitation to non-Muslims to embrace Islam is made by an explanation of its advantages -- its easily understandable faith, its simple obligations in religious ceremonies and dealings, its tolerant ethical principles, freedom of research, deep understanding of the universe, and the fact that it makes no distinction between men except by virtue of piety and good achievements. It points out that in Islam no man has authority over another person’s beliefs, and that only God has authority to introduce beliefs and to require or receive worship.
Islam bases its policy for relations between Muslims and other people of varying beliefs on acquaintanceship, cooperation, and working for the common good. Non-Muslims who live in the community in cooperation and peace are looked upon by Islam as equal to Muslims, each of them holding to his faith and preaching its aims with wisdom and friendly argument without bringing pressure to bear on anyone or encroaching on each other’s rights. Islam requires of non-Muslims only abstention from hostility to Muslims and from sedition or opposition to the Islamic way of life.
In the relations between Muslim and non-Muslim states, Islam stands for "inviting the world to do good." Islam permits treaties and cooperation with non-Muslim powers in time of peace so long as the treaties do not contradict the basic principles of Islam. "Allah forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! Allah loveth the just dealers. Allah forbiddeth you only those who warred against you on account of religion and have driven you out from your homes and helped to drive you out, that ye make friends of them. Whosoever maketh friends of them -- (All) such are wrong-doers" (Surah LX, 8-9).
Islam does not turn from friendly relations with non-Muslim countries unless it is the victim of an aggressive attack, or obstacles are placed in the path of Islam, or attempts are made to seduce the people. When Islam is exposed to such hardships, its believers are permitted, and indeed it is made incumbent upon them, to repel aggression, to restore peace, and to establish a just situation in which people can think and act freely. Islam forbids Muslims to launch aggressive war motivated by a spirit of cruelty, or a desire to drain the resources of a people, or to cause suffering, or to eject people from their homes. After an approved war breaks out, Islam rejects devastation or extermination as methods of war. It does not permit the killing of members of the civilian population who are not actively engaged in hostilities, such as women, children, the old, and the disabled. The Prophet said, "Do not exterminate the young ones." When he was asked, "Aren’t they the children of the infidel?" he replied. "Are not the best among you children of infidels?"
Islam does not permit participation in war until after the causes are clearly known and the enemy has received a warning. Islam condemns maltreatment of prisoners of war, their persecution, or their murder. It is made clear in the Qur’an that the prisoners must be fed in order to win God’s satisfaction. "And feed with food the needy wretch, the orphan and the prisoner, for love of Him" (Surah LXXVI, 8). The termination of an approved war does not require that the enemy forces embrace Islam. It is considered sufficient if the enemy stops his evil aggression and signs a treaty which preserves the rights of the people, and protects them from tyranny or sedition.
Such are the principles which govern the relations of Muslim and non-Muslim nations and the code of jihad -- the Holy Struggle. The basis for the Islamic code of war was laid in the Qur’an and it was carried out in practice by the Prophet and his foremost successors.
Penalties and rewards. Up to this point we have been discussing the Islamic code -- worship and dealings. The code also states the rewards and penalties which are in store in this world and in the Second World. Islam has specified the death penalty for murder, the cutting off of the hand for theft, and flogging for adultery and slander. The punishment is definitely stated for these three categories of offences only; the penalties for other offences and irregularities are left to the ruler who is representative of the nation and who acts after consultation with the people.
Concerning the rewards and penalties in the next world, Allah has said, "Whoso obeyeth Allah and His messenger, He will make him enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow, where such will dwell for ever. That will be the great success. And whoso disobeyeth Allah and His messenger and transgresseth His limits, He will make him enter Fire, where such will dwell for ever; his will be a shameful doom" (Surah IV, 13-14). The penalty for the aggressor and the corrupt is stated in God’s saying, "The only reward for those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom" (Surah V, 33)
Thus we see that in both worship and dealings man stands before his Lord and receives rewards or punishment in the afterlife according to his merits. In Islam, both worship and dealings are religious ceremonies and the Muslim must answer for all his actions before God in the Second World just as he must answer before a court of law in this world.
If a Muslim commits a breach of divine law through intent and premeditation, it constitutes a dangerous sin for which he alone is responsible. Even an accomplice who seduces him to commit the sin cannot relieve him of responsibility; he must, as an accomplice, bear his own sin. According to the Qur’an it is a law of God of long standing that it is only the sinner who bears responsibility, "That no laden one shall bear another’s load" (Surah LIII, 38). One of the clearly established principles of Islam is that only God forgives sins, and that God has given no authorization to anyone whatsoever to pardon sins, "Who forgiveth sins save Allah only?" (Surah III, 135). Another principle is that all sins are pardoned by God as he pleases except the sin of infidelity This is expressly stated in the Qur’an, "Lo! Allah pardoneth not that partners should be ascribed unto Him. He pardoneth all save that to whom He will" (Surah IV, 116). Infidelity includes doubt in God’s oneness and divinity. Therefore those who denounce the Creator, and those who worship other than God, and those who disagree with God’s legislation as to that which is legitimate or illegitimate are all infidels.
It is also a principle of Islam that if a sinner repents and abstains from committing further sins because of fear of God and a determination to uphold His orders, God has pledged to forgive the sin. "And He it is Who accepteth repentance from his bondmen, and pardoneth the evil deeds, and knoweth what ye do" (Surah XLII, 25). And Islam holds to the principle that man is born free from sins and remains free of sin until he is mature and has heard God’s teachings. If, then, he closes his eyes to God’s teachings and refuses to observe them, only then is he regarded as a sinner, with exclusive responsibility for his sins.
The Moral Framework.
Thus far in this chapter we have dealt with Islamic beliefs, Islamic worship, and Islamic dealings. The moral framework of Islam is a fourth element of equal significance in the life of a Muslim, entailing reward or punishment in the afterlife according to its observances or neglect. The moral principles of Islam strengthen the Muslim’s resolve to adhere strictly to Islamic teachings and rules of conduct for polite society. They consolidate the bonds of understanding and unify sentiment and common feeling among Muslims. Allah urges Muslims to speak the truth, forget and forgive, and display compassion, mercy, valor, and love in all their relations with others.
The moral framework of Islam states the principles of etiquette for polite society for the common people as well as for the most advanced. The Qur’an says concerning the etiquette of walking and modesty in one’s bearing, "Turn not thy cheek in scorn toward folk, nor walk with pertness in the land. Lo! Allah loveth not each braggard boaster. Be modest in thy bearing and subdue thy voice" (Surah XXXI, 18-19). Concerning the etiquette of calling on one’s neighbors, "Lo! those who call thee from behind the private apartments, most of them have no sense" (Surah XLIX, 4). And also, "Enter not houses other than your own without first announcing your presence and invoking peace upon the folk thereof" (Surah XXIV, 27). And in closing the door to sexual irregularities, the Qur’an says, "Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest" (Surah XXIV, 30-31). And concerning unkind conversations, "Lee not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), nor let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames" (Surah XLIX, 11).
By these and similar rules of social etiquette Islam guided the steps of people in backward stages of development, urging them to rise to an appropriate standard and attain the level of the more advanced social classes. At the same time Islam invites men of all levels to live up to the highest point of ethical and spiritual progress. "Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant" (Surah VII, 199). "The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better" (Surah XLI, 34). "Those who spend (of that which Allah hath given them) in ease and adversity, those who control their wrath and are forgiving toward mankind; Allah loveth the good" (Surah III, 134). "If ye publish your alms-giving, it is well, but if ye hide it and give it to the poor, it will be better for you" (Surah II, 271).
In calling upon the people to guide their lives by these ethical principles, Islam insists, in the main, that they should be moderate in all things, sparing themselves misery and not lowering their status in life. Islam requires courage of Muslims and warns them against cowardice and extravagance. It demands forgiveness and renounces both submissive humbleness and revenge. It upholds hospitality and condemns spendthrift and miserly economy. It preaches perseverance and rejects panic and defeatism. It constantly urges, "Give the kinsman his due, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and squander not (thy wealth) in wantonness" (Surah XVII, 26). It praises moderation in all things, "And those who, when they spend, are neither prodigal nor grudging; and there is ever a firm station between the two" (Surah XXV, 67).
These illustrate, briefly, the ethical principles which guide the actions of the Muslim.
Sources of Islamic Legislation.
The fundamental source of Islamic legislation is the Qur’an, which has been proved beyond all doubt as God’s own book brought down by His Prophet to guide the people to obey its commands and to refrain from actions which it prohibits. The legislation of the Qur’an is of two kinds: that which has a crystal clear and decisive meaning not open to debate, and legislation liable to have two or more meanings.
The secondary sources of Islamic legislation are the Sunnah and the schools of thought, dealing with those areas not decisively covered in the Qur’an, the areas of probable meaning. After the Qur’an, the chief interpretative authority for Islamic legislation is the Sunnah -- Muhammad’s own sayings, deeds, and legislative decisions which have been correctly and authoritatively transmitted. If a problem arises which is not dealt with clearly in the Qur’an or in the Sunnah, the answer is sought in the schools of thought, the theories worked out by "leaders of thought" who have been careful students of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, have thought profoundly about their inner meanings and understand their general principles, and who have special knowledge of virtue and the general welfare.
The order of merit of the three sources of Islamic legislation has been recognized by Muslims from the days of the Prophet. They will continue to be the basis of Islamic legislation to the end of time.
The Qur’an. In the previous discussions of the Qur’an we have seen that it contains many specific passages calling upon the people to follow its teachings and be guided by its legislation. "Lo! We reveal unto thee the Scripture with the truth, that thou mayest judge between mankind by that which Allah showeth thee" (Surah IV, 105). "These are the limits (imposed by) Allah. Transgress them not. For whoso transgresseth Allah’s limits: such are wrongdoers" (Surah II, 229).
The Qur’an legislates concerning worship, enjoining fixed hours for prayer; it prescribes fasting, the giving of alms, and pilgrimage. It lays down the regulations for family life -- marriage and divorce. It gives clear directions concerning financial dealings, contracts and pledges, relations with the people of the scriptures and with infidels, holy war and fighters and non-fighters, the administration of community life, sources of legislation, and the penalties for disobedience.
Thus the Qur’an is established as the foundation of the faith and of the code of legislation. Although the legislation in the Qur’an which may have two or more meanings is the subject of theory and study, the legislation which is explicit and open to only one meaning is binding on all Muslims. Should the Muslim fail to follow such legislation in his practical affairs, he is looked upon as rejecting Islam. Whoever alleges that the Qur’an is the product of a particular people, or a special age, or a limited aspect of human life is a disbeliever in Islam and in God’s Book.
The Sunnah. There are two aspects to the Sunnah: legislation given by the Prophet on matters not specifically detailed in the Qur’an, and traditions based on the actions and utterances of Muhammad as a human being.
The legislation given by the Prophet is illustrated by the rules stating the form of prayer, the pilgrimage rites, and giving in detail the limits of legitimacy in marriage. For instance, marriage is illegitimate between two people who in their infancy fed from the same breasts, and a man may not be married at the same time to a woman and to her aunt. This type of teaching is based on the tradition of Muhammad’s instructions on matters not specified in the Qur’an.
The second aspect of the Sunnah is not associated with legislation. It deals with the traditions based on the actions and teachings of Muhammad concerning the affairs left to man’s discretion, affairs for which God has given no definite command as to their legitimacy or illegitimacy, such as when to stand up and when to sit, the etiquette pertaining to eating and drinking and sleeping, and matters to be dealt with on the basis of experience or expert knowledge like agriculture, industry, medicine, military discipline, and tactics. It is authentically related that the Prophet, in the course of one of his battles, ordered an army contingent to be dispatched to a particular point, but a group of his disciples objected, "Is it a position God commanded you to choose, or have you chosen it as a strategist?" He replied, "No, it is one of my own choosing." His disciples pointed out that it was not an ideal position and gave their reasons for preferring an alternate location. The Prophet was convinced and dropped his plan. At another time he expressed his views as to the proper way to fertilize palm trees, but the trees failed to produce fruit. When he was informed of the result, he said, "You are better acquainted with your own worldly affairs."
Knowledge which depends on human experience and traditions related to the Prophet concerning such matters are not the basis for Islamic legislation. Traditions attributed to the Prophet can only be a source of legislation that must be obeyed if they are based on revelations given to him to guide the people according to God’s laws.
The Sunnah as a source of legislation is always subordinate to the principles and fundamental laws of the Qur’an; its importance lies in the fact that it expounds specific aspects of the general principles of the Qur’an. Sometimes the expounding may be done by the example of an action; in the case of prayer, the Prophet showed how it is performed, the number of kneelings required for each prayer, and the proper time limits for its performance. The expounding may also be done by adding certain ceremonies not expressly described in the Qur’an. Expounding is also done by the Prophet in expressing opinions concerning general rules, such as the opinion that the simpler of two possibilities should be chosen in following a general principle stated in the Qur’an.
Hence we may assert that the legislative Sunnah is an attempt on the part of the Prophet to teach the real meaning of the Qur’an, its inner implications and aims. Thus, the legislation based on the Sunnah really springs from the Qur’an.
God’s policy in relation to the Prophet’s endeavor to interpret the Qur’an was to endorse his endeavor if it was right and proper, and to direct his attention to the correct interpretation and even to censure him if he was in error. Once when the Prophet out of dutiful regard for his faith was willfully denying himself certain good things allowable by God, He said, "O Prophet! Why bannest thou that which Allah hath made lawful for thee, seeking to please thy wives?" (Surah LXVI, 1). This and similar instances in which the Prophet tried to get at the correct answer but failed provide the best proof that the Prophet used his discretion to determine things about which no revelation was forthcoming, and that whenever he made a mistake God directed him along the correct path.
Thus the Prophet used his discretion and received God’s endorsement when he was right, and the result became law, binding on the people. So, also, his disciples copied his example and used their discretion when necessary, and on being informed of the outcome of their efforts the Prophet endorsed them if they were in order and God agreed with his approval. If they were in error, the Prophet directed his disciples’ attention to the correct answer to which God guided him. In this way the results of his disciples’ endeavors in his time were associated with his own efforts to interpret the Qur’an and became legislative Sunnah which it is incumbent on the people to respect. Thus we see that during the Prophet’s lifetime there was no source of legislation other than the Qur’an and the Prophet’s interpretation of it either through revelation or discretion.
The authenticity of the Sunnah is proved by the Qur’an, for it orders that the Prophet should be obeyed and it made obedience to him a form of obedience to God and a recognition of His love, "But nay, by thy Lord, they will not believe (in truth) until they make thee judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of that which thou decidest, and submit with full submission" (Surah IV, 65).
If the purpose of the legislation of the Sunnah is to expound the legislation of the Qur’an, and if God’s policy with His Prophet was to endorse Muhammad’s interpretation when it was correct and to guide him to what was right when he made a mistake, then the Sunnah legislation is the same as the legislation of the Qur’an, and equally binding on all Muslims.
Schools of thought. In the time of the Prophet there were two sources of Islamic legislation: the fundamental source in the Qur’an, and the interpretative source in the Sunnah. After Muhammed’s death his disciples found themselves in an expanding Islamic world, facing new issues for which they needed the guidance of explicit legislation. They would refer to the Qur’an and if they failed to find a satisfactory answer there they would turn to the Sunnah, which was preserved for them by reliable men who were fully acquainted with the Prophet’s interpretations. If they did not find the answer to their question in either the Qur’an or the Sunnah, they pondered the points at issue -- guided by their knowledge of the aims and guiding principles of Islamic legislation -- and came to conclusions which are consistent with the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and have the authority of legislation. In this way the schools of thought, under carefully controlled conditions, became a third source of Islamic legislation.
The schools of thought, in their interpretations of the probable meanings of passages in the Qur’an and the Sunnah and in their rulings concerning issues not definitely dealt with in those sources, adopted certain general principles found in Quranic legislation as a guide. These are some of the principles on which the schools of thought based their decisions: all things are fundamentally allowable, unless specifically prohibited; toleration and the lifting of restrictions should be the aim of legislation; eradication of mischief is the aim of administration; necessity permits benefiting by things not otherwise allowable; necessity is given due appreciation; preventing mischief has priority over bringing about welfare; commit the lesser of two evils; mischief is not removed by mischief; one should suffer private damage to avert general disaster. Such general principles are the guides for the creation and interpretation of Islamic law.
Under the first two Caliphs. Abu Bakr and Umar, it was the policy when deciding public issues to consult with the leading disciples who were recognized for their accurate thinking, appreciation of the interests of the people, and grasp of the spirit of the legislation of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. When unity of view was achieved among those responsible leaders of the Muslim community, it was put into practice. In this way, the adoption of a law through consultation and a consensus (ijma) of the opinions of the leaders of Islam became a new source of Islamic legislation after the Prophet’s death, covering all matters which were not expressly mentioned or clearly implied in either the Qur’an or the Sunnah.
The authenticity of the legislation of the schools of thought is assured by the Qur’an, for it says that the affairs of the people are matters of counsel and it orders that the people should obey the authority of those who are responsible for the common good and are known for sound interpretation. Such legislation is also authorized by the Sunnah, for the Prophet dispatched his lieutenants to remote regions with authority to use their discretion when guided by the consensus of opinion on all issues not defined in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
During the regimes of the first two Caliphs the differences of opinion were quite limited because of the trouble they took to ascertain the authenticity of the Sunnah and the importance they gave to consultations among the students of the law from among the Prophet’s disciples, most of whom were resident at the Caliph’s headquarters. It is important to note that the regimes of the two Shaikhs Abu Bakr and Umar are the only ones which define the correct use of discretion as a source of legislation. They show that discretion as a source of legislation must reach its conclusions through consultation which arrives at unity of view among Muslims of authority who are qualified to decide issues. Thus unity of view, considered by Islam to be a source of legislation in cases where neither the Qur’an nor the Sunnah is applicable, is the agreement reached by investigation and study by men of thought who understand the spirit of Islamic legislation and are responsible for guiding the interests of the people in the community.
Unity of view as a source of Islamic legislation is not the same as complete agreement among all members of the nation, whether men of thought or mere laymen, scholars or ordinary people. Such general agreement about Islamic principles definitely known to have been enacted is not the subject of thought and discretion and should be held equally by all Muslims. It is simply the general acceptance of the beliefs and code of legislation required of all members of the Islamic community.
For the unity of thought which is considered to be a source of binding legislation, the agreement or disagreement on the part of those not qualified to state views has no weight. Unity of view which can be the source of legislation must be attained through the use of methods of thinking and investigation which have been approved as valid; it must be reached by a limited number of men from among all classes of the nation, whose qualifications for the use of the approved methods are recognized; the views of all the qualified men must be ascertained; and unanimous agreement on a specific ruling must be sought. The unanimous agreement is difficult to attain because of the varying abilities of the men participating and the diversity of interests and regional circumstances influencing each investigator. Therefore it is recognized that unanimity can be achieved only on the basis of the principles that "there is no knowledge of any dissidents," or of "agreement by the preponderant majority." This is all that can be done to attain unity of view which can be a basis for legislation. "Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope" (Surah II, 286). However, in seeking unity of thought as a basis for legislation, freedom of thought must be ensured for all those participating and no authority should bring to bear any pressure which would restrict the liberty of thought.
Islamic legislation based upon the consensus of opinion of the leaders qualified to decide is subject to review and alteration. The interests on which the leaders were called to rule vary in different areas, places, and conditions, making it allowable for the successors of the original leaders to review the position in the light of new circumstances and to make a new decision if the changed situation requires it. The new unanimity replaces the former legislation and becomes the new law which ought to be followed.
Individual private discretion. In addition to the discretion employed in communal consultations concerning issues not specifically covered in the Qur’an or the Sunnah, there is the private discretion of the individual man in which decisions are reached by independent thinking. Private discretion (ijtihad) is not binding on anyone except the individual who uses it. Islam recognizes that the right of private discretion belongs to any individual who possesses the capacity for clear thinking and study, whether man or woman, ruler or subject, leading government civil servant or private citizen. Just as they have an equal right to engage in individual discretion, so do they have equal responsibility for making mistakes. Islam knows of no one who is immune from committing errors except the Prophet insofar as revelation was concerned. If the Prophet was liable to make mistakes in trying to find the correct answer -- and indeed he did try and did make mistakes -- then other Muslims, even those of great accomplishment or near relationship to Muhammad, are more liable to commit error.
The exercise of individual discretion was widespread after the time of the first two Caliphs, particularly after the great sedition arising out of the assassination of the third Caliph, Uthman. In its extreme form it transmuted Muslims into contending sects following their own private tendencies in determining schools of thinking and in conveying prophetic sayings.
It should be clearly understood that Islam does not set aside a specific person with the right to interpret the Qur’an or the Sunnah, nor does it make it a duty of the people to adhere to any person’s individual views on questions which are open to private opinion. Every Muslim qualified to investigate questions has the right to do so. Muslims who are not qualified ought to enquire concerning the qualifications of those who speak concerning the obligations of Islamic law. Islam does not bind any Muslim to follow a particular person, for no. duty is owed other than those duties which were assigned by God and the Prophet. Nor did God or the Prophet order anyone to follow a given religious school of thought -- with the result that since the dawn of Islam Muslims have been asking for right answers from any well-known students of religion they meet, without binding themselves to any specific teacher. Therefore Islam does not recognize as legitimate any tendency to imitate a given school of thought. All those who have legitimately used their discretion have warned others against copying their example unless they have been convinced by proof of the validity of their findings. They have said, "If this talk proves untrue, then it is just my own theory, and it is up to you to disregard all that I have said."
Thus it is understood that the men who hold religious positions in Islam, such as the Caliph or Imam, have no monopoly on thinking and understanding, nor are they immune from making errors, nor do they receive revelation or special inspiration. Such leaders can only advise, and guide, and administer justice within the limits of Islamic laws. The Caliph or Imam is elected to his office by the nation, and he represents the nation while in office. So long as he discharges his functions within the framework of God’s orders, the nation aids and obeys him -- and it deposes him if he deviates from the right course.
The position of the Judge (Qadi), or the Mufti, the Shaikh of Islam, and the Mullak is similar to that of the Caliph in matters of understanding and legislation. The Judge’s responsibility is limited to passing judgment on disputes between parties in accordance with the laws of Islam. The Mufti’s function is to explain questions put to him. If he happens to be a man of discretion, the Mufti expresses his own views; otherwise he copies someone else’s opinions. However, his answers to questions are not binding on those who resort to him; they have the right to insist on proof that the answers are correct and his tradition is authentic, and they are entitled to ask the same or other questions of someone else in whose knowledge they have confidence.
Shaikh of Islam and Mullah are titles which gained popularity among Muslims in certain regions and eras, conferred on men who distinguished themselves in religious and legislative knowledge. Neither of them is depended upon for decisions in legislative matters, and they are not immune from committing mistakes. Islam does not recognize one Shaikh or one Mullah who has authority in Islamic knowledge, and certain religious sects which claim such leadership are deviations from Islamic teachings far from being in order.
Within the area in which private discretion is appropriate, whoever believed himself competent to think clearly did his best to understand the correct implications of Islamic teachings, each thinker following his own style of study and inference. Some thinkers confined themselves to a limited number of prophetic sayings, because of the spread of invented sayings which cast doubt on many widely accepted sayings. They preferred to rely upon general rules and the spirit of Islamic legislation. Such thinkers are known in the history of Islamic jurisprudence as rationalists, or men of thought. Others, known as students of the prophetic sayings, convinced themselves of the authenticity of the transmission of many more of the prophetic sayings and preferred to rely upon them for their decisions. Other thinkers based their judgments on the traditions prevailing in Medina because it was the environment where legislation was made at the time of the Prophet and during the first two Caliphates before the outbreak of the sedition.
Out of such varying uses of the right of private discretion there grew up schools of religious thought which in time gained popularity in Islam and were allowed to spread. In modern times there are four of these schools of interpretation, or schools of Islamic law, which are found living amicably together in the Islamic world. The Hanafi ‘school was founded by Imam al-Nu‘man Ibn Thabit, who died in Baghdad in the year 150 (AD. 767), based on the teachings of Abu Hanifah; the Maliki school was founded by Malik Ibn Anas, who died in Medina in 179 (AD. 795 the Shafi‘i school was founded by Muhammad Ibn Idris al-Shafi‘i, a native of Gaza who died m Cairo in 205 (AD. 820); and the Hanbali school was founded by Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, a Persian who died in Baghdad in 241 (AD. 855).
These four schools of thought are still taught in most institutions of learning in Islamic countries. The Hanafi school is found chiefly in India, the countries which were under the Ottoman Turks, and China; the Maliki school is found today in North Africa and Upper Egypt; the Shafi‘is are found in Indonesia, southern Arabia, lower Egypt, and parts of Syria; the Hanbali school is influential in Saudi Arabia.
The fact that Islam has permitted individual as well as communal discretion -- limited only by the original definite legislation of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which define the roads to justice -- enabled students of the Islamic code to choose freely the laws regulating the affairs of Islamic society. Such toleration has been the basis for the everlasting usefulness of the Islamic code and for its fitness to regulate the affairs of life everywhere and at all times.