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Islam

Category : Islam

IS ISLAM THE YOUNGEST AMONG THE WORLD RELIGIONS?

Perhaps the most misunderstood of all world religions today is the religion of Islam. There are many historical, political and cultural reasons for this dearth of understanding–especially among people living in the west–that are beyond the scope of this article.  Research on the origin of the Western world’s ignorance of Islam and its often deliberately distorted perspectives on the Islamic faith are well documented and needs discussion in a separate work.  However, for our purpose, this short column will focus not only on Islam’s originality and genuineness but its universality as compared to all other religious faiths.

This commentary will attempt to demonstrate the error of western thinking, which regards Islam as the youngest of the world religions, denies that it was divinely revealed and regards it as something conveniently contrived on the whims of an eccentric, enigmatic zealot otherwise known as the Holy Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah. (pbuh)

On the contrary, Islam is the original religion revealed by God for the guidance and maintenance of all humanity in particular and all things in general, be they animate or inanimate.  The fact that Islam was taught and practiced by all the messengers of God, from the advent of Adam (a.s.) to the prophetic appearance of Muhammad (pbuh), the last and greatest of all the Messengers of God, is the greatest testimony to the truth that Islam is, indeed, the original and not the newest of the world’s religions.

Islam’s rejection of the customary claims put forth by western orientalists and Middle East scholars to the contrary is the most difficult argument for them to grasp.  The key to solving their quandary will not be discovered until they are able to appreciate the very definition of what the word Islam actually means:  total submission and surrender to the Will of God.  By virtue of this definition it is unlikely that a Holy One of God, i.e., a prophet would teach and proclaim a system of beliefs contrary to the principle of total submission and surrender of one’s self to the hallowed dictates of God.  Such a possibility would be unthinkable.  Why?  Because the word Muslim is defined as ‘one who fully submits and surrenders his limited free will to the majestic, unfathomable Will of the Creator.  Anyone who subjects his will to God’s Will observes the religion of Islam and one who observes the religion is called a Muslim.  Therefore, since such a universal concept forms the basis for understanding what constitutes the core of true religion, we can logically conclude that all the prophets of God, including Jesus, son of Mary, practiced what they preached and thus were true Muslims in every sense of the word.

If the foregoing definition is examined closely, the reader will quickly discern that the terms submission and surrender denote a complete as opposed to a rudimentary course of action.  An even closer examination will show that this definition is not limited to the affairs of human beings alone but fully applicable to every dimension of creation in the cosmos.  The definition of the word Islam shows that beyond the sphere of planet earth, there is no Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, nor any of its followers.  Furthermore, the definition shows that the terms submission, surrender and obedience can be used interchangeably as we attempt to comprehend the nature of this universal relationship between the Creator and the created.   Moreover, this special relationship forms the basis for our understanding of how the universal laws of science, as well as those of religion are congruent throughout existence. Whether one is speaking of the life cycle of human beings, the metamorphoses of life within the plant and animal kingdoms or the cosmological forces that shape the dynamics throughout the galaxies and those on planet earth, he is invariably speaking of a system involving the execution of the laws of God.  Why? Because the laws of God encompass all laws of science; they are actually one and the same.  Thus, laws by nature are made to be obeyed completely.  Without the presence of this phenomenon of total obedience to law operating throughout the universe there could be no existence in it.  Appropriately, every act of submission, surrender and obedience of any created thing to laws that govern its behavior constitutes an act of worship, on the part of the law abider, of the law giver.  This system forms the bedrock of the Islam faith. To get a more comprehensive look at this uniquely Islamic concept, please carefully review the following excerpts taken from the seminal work Towards Understanding Islam,  written by the renowned author and lecturer, Maulana Maududi.

He writes, ‘Every religion of the world has been named either after the name of its founder or after the community and nation in which that religion took its birth. For instance, Christianity takes its appellation from the name of its prophet Jesus Christ; Zoroastrians from its founder Zoroaster; and Judaism, the religion of the Jews, from the name of the tribe Judah (of the country of Judea) wherein it took its birth. Similar is the case with other religions. But not so with Islam. This religion enjoys the unique distinction of having no such association with any particular person or people. The word ‘Islam’ does not confer any such relationship-for it does not belong to any particular person, people, or country. It is neither the product of any human mind nor is it confined to any particular community. It is a universal religion and its objective is to create and cultivate in man the quality and attitude of Islam.
‘Islam, as a matter of fact, is an attributive title. Whosoever possesses this attribute, may he belong to any race, community, country, or clan, is a Muslim. According to the Holy Qur’an (the last divine revelation to mankind), among every people and in all ages there have been good and righteous people who possessed this attribute.  All of them were and are Muslims.  This automatically brings us to the question: What does Islam mean? And who is a Muslim?

 

ISLAM – WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?

 
‘Islam’ is an Arabic word and connotes submission, surrender, and obedience.  As a religion, Islam stands for complete submission and obedience to Allah and that is why it is called ‘ISLAM’.   Everyone can see that the universe we live in is an orderly universe. There is law and order among all the units that comprise this universe. Everything is assigned a place in a grand scheme, which is working in a magnificent and superb way. The sun, the moon, the stars and in fact all the heavenly bodies are knit together in a splendid system. They follow an unalterable law and do not make even the slightest deviation from their ordained course. The earth rotates on its own axis and in its revolution round the sun scrupulously follows the path laid down for it. Similarly, everything in the world, from the little whirling electron to the mighty nebulae, invariably follows its own laws. Matter energy, and life-all obey their laws and grow and change and live and die in accordance with those laws. ‘Even in the human world the laws of nature are quite manifest. Man’s birth, growth, and life are all regulated by a set of biological laws. He derives sustenance from nature in accordance with an unalterable law. All the organs of his body from the small tissues to the heart and the brain are governed by the laws prescribed for them.

‘In Short, ours is a law-governed universe and everything in it is following the course that has been ordained for it. This powerful, all-pervasive law, which governs all that comprises the universe, from the tiniest specks of dust to the magnificent galaxies in high heavens, is the law of God, the creator and ruler of the universe. As the entire creation obeys the law of God, the whole universe, therefore, literally follows the religion of Islam-for Islam signifies nothing but obedience and submission to Allah, the Lord of the universe. The sun, the moon, the earth, and all other heavenly bodies are thus ‘Muslim’. So is the case with air, water, and heat, stones, trees, and animals. Everything in the universe is ‘Muslim’ for it obeys God by submission to his laws. Even a man who refuses to believe in God, or offers his worship to someone other than Allah has perforce to be a ‘Muslim’ as far as his bodily existence is concerned.

‘For his entire life, from the embryonic stage to the body’s dissolution info dust after death, and every tissue of his muscles and every limb of his body follow the course prescribed for each by God’s law. His very tongue which, on account of his ignorance, advocates the denial of God or professes multiple deities, is in its very nature a ‘Muslim’. His head which he wantonly bows to others besides Allah is a born Muslim. His heart wherein, through his lack of true knowledge, he cherishes love and reverence for others, is ‘Muslim’ by intuition. These are all obedient to the divine Law, and their functions and movements are governed by the injunctions of that law alone. This, in short, is the real position of man and the universe. Let us now examine the problem in a different light. Man is so constituted that there are two aspects of his life: two distinct spheres of his activity.   One is the sphere in which he finds himself totally regulated by the Divine Law. He cannot budge an inch or move a step away from it. Nor can he evade it in any way or from. In fact, like other creatures, he is completely caught in the grip of the law of nature and is bound to follow it. But there is another sphere of his activity as well. He has been endowed with reason and intellect. He has the power to think and form judgments, to choose and reject, and to adopt and spurn. He is free to adopt whatever course of life chooses. He can embrace any faith, adopt any way of life and formulate his living according to whatever ideologies he likes. He may prepare his own code of conduct or accept one formulated by others. He has been bestowed with free will and can chalk out his own course of behavior. In this latter aspect, he, unlike the other creatures, has been given freedom of thought, choice, and action.  Both these aspects distinctly co-exist in man’s life.

‘In the first he, like all other creatures, is a born Muslim, invariably obeys the injunctions of God, and is bound to remain so. As far as the second aspect is concerned, he is free to become or not to become a Muslim. Here he has been given the freedom of choice-and it is the way a person exercises this freedom, which divides mankind into two groups: believers and non-believers. An individual who chooses to acknowledge his creator, accepts Him as his real Master, honestly and scrupulously submits to His laws and injunctions and follows the code He has revealed unto man for his individual and social life, thereby becomes a perfect Muslim. He has, so to say, achieved completeness in his Islam by consciously deciding to obey God in the domain in which he was endowed with freedom and choice. Now his entire life has become one of submission to God and there is no conflict in his personality. He is a perfect Muslim and his Islam is complete-for this submission of his entire self to the will of Allah is Islam and nothing but Islam. He has now consciously submitted to Him whom he had already been unconsciously obeying. He has now willingly offered obedience to the Master whom he already owed obedience unintentionally. His knowledge is now real for he has acknowledged the Being who endowed him with the power to learn and to know. Now his reason and judgment are set on an even keel-for he has rightly decided to obey the Being who bestowed upon him the faculty of thinking and judging. His tongue also is truthful for it expresses with conviction its confession of the Lord who gave it the faculty speech. Now the whole of his existence is an embodiment of Islam, in all spheres of life, he voluntarily as well as involuntarily obeys the laws of the same One God with the whole of the universe for he worships Him whom the whole world is for him and he is for God.

 

THE NATURE OF BELIEF

‘In contrast to the man described above, there is the man who, although a born Muslim and unconsciously remaining one throughout his life, does not exercise his faculties of reason, intellect, and intuition for recognizing his Lord and creator and misuses his freedom of choice by choosing to deny Him. Such a man becomes an unbeliever-in the language of Islam a kafir.

‘Kufr literally means ‘to cover’ or ‘to conceal’. The man who denies God is called kafir (concealer) because he conceals by his disbelief what is inherent in his nature and embalmed in his own soul-for, indeed, his nature is instinctively imbued with ‘Islam’. His whole body, every sinew and every fiber, functions in obedience to that instinct. Each and every particle of existence-living or lifeless-functions in accordance with ‘Islam’ and is fulfilling the duty that has been assigned to it. But the vision of this man has been blurred, his intellect has been befogged, and he is unable to see the manifest. His own nature has become concealed from his eyes and he thinks and acts in utter disregard of it. The reality becomes estranged from him and he gropes in the dark; such is the nature of kufr.

‘Kufr is a form of ignorance, rather it is ignorance pure and simple. What ignorance can be greater than to be ignorant of God, the creator, the Lord of the universe? A man observes the vast panorama of nature, the superb mechanism that is ceaselessly working, the grand design that is manifest in every nook and corner of the creation-he observes this vast machine, but he does not know who is its Maker and Director. He looks to his own body, the wonderful organism that works in the most superb way, and uses it to achieve his own ends but is unable to comprehend the force that brought it into existence, the engineer who designed and produced this machine, the creator who made the unique living being out of lifeless stuff: carbon, calcium, sodium, and the like. He witnesses a superb plan in the universe-but fails to see the planner behind it. He sees great beauty and harmony in its working-but not the creator of this all. He observes wonderful design in nature-but not the Designer! In the universe all around him he observes the choicest demonstrations of skill in science and wisdom, mathematics and engineering, design and purpose, but he blinds himself to the being Who brought all this vast incomprehensible universe into existence. How can a man, who has blinded himself to this great and significant reality, approach the true perspectives of knowledge? How can the vistas of truth and knowledge be opened to such a man? How can one who has made the wrong beginning reach the right destination? He will fail to find the clue to Reality. The Right path will remain concealed for him and whatever be his endeavors in sciences and arts, he will never be able to avail himself of the lights of truth and wisdom. He would be groping in the dark, and stumbling in the gloom of ignorance.

‘Not only that; kufr is also a tyranny, nay, the wars of tyrannies. And what is ‘tyranny’? It is an act of cruel and unjust use of any force or power. If you force a thing to act unjustly or to act against its true nature, its real will and its inherent attitude,-that is tyranny, root and branch.

‘We have seen that all that is in the universe is obedient to God the creator. To obey, to live in accordance with His will and His Law or (to put it more precisely) to be a Muslim is ingrained in their very nature. God has given manpower over these things, but it is incumbent in the very nature of these things that they should be used for the fulfillment of His will and not otherwise. But one who disobeys God and resorts to kufr is the person who perpetrates the greatest injustice, for he uses all these powers of body and mind to rebel against the course of nature and becomes an unwilling instrument in the drama of disobedience. He forces his head to bow down before deities other than God and cherishes in his heart the love, reverence, and fear of other powers in utter disregard to the instinctive urge of these organs. He uses his own powers and all those things upon which he has authority against the explicit of good and thus establishes a reign of tyranny. Can there be any greater injustice, tyranny, and cruelty than that exhibited by this man who exploits and misuses everything under the sun and unscrupulously forces them to a course which affronts nature and justice? Kufr is not mere tyranny; it is, to say the least, sheer rebellion, ingratitude, and infidelity. After all, what is the reality of man? What is his power and authority? Is he himself the creator of his mind, his heart, his soul, and other organs of his body-or have they been created by God? Has he himself created the universe and all that is within her-or has it been created by God? Who has harnessed all the powers and energies for the service of man-man or God?

‘If everything has been created by God and God alone, then to whom do they belong? Who is their real owner? Who is their rightful sovereign? Verily, it is God and none else. And if God is the creator, the Master, and the sovereign, then who would be a greater rebel than the man who uses God’s creation against His injunctions-who makes his mind think against God, harbors in his heart thoughts against Him, and uses his various faculties against the sovereign’s will. If a servant betrays his master you denounce him as faithless. If an officer becomes disloyal to the state you dub him as traitor and renegade. If a person cheats his benefactor you have no hesitation in condemning him as ingrate. But what match can this betrayal, this ingratitude, and this rebellion have to the one which the disbeliever commits by his Kufr? After all, who is the real mainspring of all power and authority? Who gave man command over the resources? Who elevated people to positions of high authority and power? All that a man has and all that he uses for the benefit of others is a bestowal of God. The greatest obligation that man owes on this earth is to his parents. But who has implanted the love of children in the parents’ hearts? Who endowed the mother with the will and power to nurture, nourish, and feed her children? Who inspired the parents with the passion to spend everything in their possession for the well being of their children? A little reflection would reveal that God is the greatest benefactor of man. He is his creator, Lord, Nourisher, sustainer, as well as his real king and sovereignty. And this being the position of God vis-à-vis man, what can be a greater betrayal, ingratitude, rebellion, and treason than Kufr, through which a man denies and disobeys his real Lord and sovereign?

‘Do not think that bay committing Kufr man does or can do any harm to God Almighty. No, not the least. An insignificant speck on the face of a tiny ball in this limitless universe that man is, what harm can he do to the Lord of the universe whose dominions are so infinitely vast that we have not yet been able to explore their boundaries even with the help of the most powerful telescope; Whose power is so great that myriad’s of heavenly bodies, like the Earth, the Moon, the sun and the stars, are at His bidding, whirling link tiny balls; Whose wealth is so boundless that He is the sole Master of the whole universe; and who provides for all and needs none to provide for Him. Man’s revolt against Him can do Him no harm; on the other hand by his disobedience, man treads the path of utter ruin and disgrace.

‘The inevitable consequence of this revolt and denial of reality is a failure in the ultimate ideals of life. Such a rebel will never find the thread of real knowledge and vision; for the knowledge that fails to reveal its own creator can reveal no truth. Such a man’s intellect and reason always run astray; for reason which errs in knowing its own creator cannot illumine the paths of life. Such a man will meet with failures in all the affairs of his life. His morality, his civic and social life, his struggle for livelihood and his family life, in short, his entire living, will be upset. He will spread confusion and disorder on the earth. He will without the least compunction, shed blood, violate other men’s rights, be cruel to them, and create disorder and destruction in the world. His perverted thoughts and ambitions, his blurred vision and disturbed scale of values, and his evil-spelling activities would make life bitter for him and for all around him. Such a man would destroy the calm and poise of life on earth. And in the life hereafter he would be held guilty for the crimes he committed upon his nature, his powers, and resources. Every organ of his body-his very brain, eyes, nose, hands, and feet-will complain against the injustice and cruelty he had done unto them. Every tissue of his being will decry him before God Who, as the very fountain of justice, will award him the fullest punishment he deserves. This is the inglorious consequence of Kufr. It leads to the blind alley of utter failure, here and hereafter…..’

 

CONCLUSION

 The foregoing paragraphs beautifully illustrate both the genuineness and uniqueness of Islam among all other religions. By virtue of the strength of natural science, philosophic inquiry and reason and logic, the truth of Islam is well established. The nature of existence dictates that everything in the universe–be it animate or inanimate–is subject to the laws formulated for it by its Designer to govern every dimension of its activity. We have seen that every facet of life is in a perpetual state of total obedience to law (Islam) except human beings, by virtue of their capacity to exercise free will.  It is because of this distinguishing feature unique to the human species that the potential and presence of evil is evident in the world.  Thus the only logical conclusion is that Islam is not only the original but, by virtue of its definition, the natural religion for all humankind and all creation:  One God. One Humanity. One Religion. This is the message taught by all the thousands of prophets of God from Adam (a.s.) to Muhammad (pbuh). Just ask yourself would any true prophet of God teach a message to his people other than total submission to the Will of the Creator? The answer is a resolute no, and that fact alone proves that Islam, and Islam alone, has always been the religion revealed by God to his prophets.

Unfortunately, with the passage of time, much of the basic concepts of the Islamic religion metamorphosed into other forms of religious expressions that took on different names and whose tenets bore little resemblance to the original.  The purpose of Islam is to reclaim the truth that has become lost and what constitutes true religion.  It is the purpose of Islam to teach man that he was created to worship Him alone so that he can reach his true potential:  to be Vicegerent of God on earth.  This is the positive consequence of total surrender to the Will of the Creator.  Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: I have created the jinn and humankind only for My worship, chapter 51:56.  In another passage He asks, Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter, chapter 9:38. By obeying the laws of God through his limited free will in worship, man not only joins in concert with the rest of creation that is always in a perpetual state of worship, but ensures that he will be successful in qualifying to receive the vastly superior and permanent life in the hereafter.  He avoids the pitfalls of kufr (unbelief)  through submission and earns the rewards of belief by avoiding the act of becoming a party to rebellion against God’s laws.

Total submission and surrender of one’s will to the Will of God is the definition of Islam.  Understanding that, the definition of Islam is the key to discovering the original and natural religion for all humankind, i.e., all existence everywhere in the universe.  That being said, beyond planet earth one will discover no Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. or any of their adherents–only Islam and Muslims (of whatever form of life).
Editor’s noteAs we have seen, in order for life to exist there must be a system of submission and obedience to law. There are countless confirmations of this truth everywhere in nature. But just mere submission and obedience to the Will of God is insufficient.  There must be total submission and obedience.  One of the numerous examples of this fact can be observed in the formation of water.  We all know that the basic components of water are bound in the compound H2O–two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen.  The law that Allah assigned for those two elements that compels them to combine together to form water demands that no more and no less than two parts of hydrogen be combined with one part oxygen.  This operation can happen because both the elements of hydrogen and oxygen are in total obedience to the law that Allah assigned to them for the purpose of forming water.  Water is the result of obedience to law by both of the elements that comprise it.  If hydrogen and oxygen possessed free will we would suddenly be at the mercy of their whims. For instance, both elements could decide to disobey Allah and not combine together at all, the result of which would make life on earth impossible. In another instance, both could decide to take periodic breaks from their routine. The result would be catastrophic for the inhabitants on earth.  Or, perhaps hydrogen and oxygen might decide to combine equally, resulting in the formation of H2O2 or hydrogen peroxide, a very useful substance but deadly to all earthly life as a replacement for water.   That’s what could happen if one or both elements comprising water had free will.  But don’t forget about the countless other compounds in nature or the countless other forms of life in the plant and animal world, or the timeless celestial activities throughout the universe.  The mind cannot grasp the magnitude of the ominous consequences that would unfold if these properties possessed free will. That is why Allah did not assign this special attribute to any member of His creation besides human beings.  This is why humans, potentially, are the highest form of God’s creation.  In other words, in spite of our possessing free will, those of us who choose to surrender that free will to God’s Will actually become the leaders and true vicegerents of God’s creation. It is easy to see from these fleeting examples why the acts of submission and obedience to God’s law must be a total and complete operation just for life to exist. Anything short of that ideal is completely unacceptable. Total obedience to Divine Law means that every aspect of nature is in a perpetual state of worship, i.e., total submission and obedience to the Creator.  Natures’ total compliance with the dictates of Divine law guarantees that we have a smooth, perfectly functioning universe that will provide the perfect support system needed to sustain all forms of life. This state of perfection in nature is a gift to us from God.  Our earthly abode was meant to provide that perfect environment wherein our physical and spiritual faculties could be cultivated to the fullest, so that our journey to reach our ultimate destination in the hereafter would be facilitated within an environment devoid of encumbrances.  Just like hydrogen and oxygen gases, the prophets of God are also in a state of total and perpetual submission to the Will of Allah, for they, by virtue of their own freedom of choice, elected to join the rest of creation in total obedience to Allah.  That is why they are God’s prophets and that is why they are sinless and possess flawless, God-like character. If everyone lived like the prophets, humanity would experience a blissful existence.  It would be a world where in humans possessing free will would live in perfect harmony with everything else in creation.  Unfortunately, due to the temptations and allurements that have completely engulfed our world the possibility for such a blissful existence is possible but very remote.  However, if everyone would strive to incorporate as many attributes of the God’s prophets in our lives as we could, we all would not only experience a blissful existence but a vastly improved world.  Bringing to fruition such a world is the aim of the oldest and natural religion for humankind.


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