The successful prophetic mission of Muḥammad (sws) gave rise to a culture which was based on and dominated by the value of ‘ubudiyyah.[1] It implies that the whole society centred on belief in God and servant-Lord relationship. This centre was the only criterion of validity of all human thought and action. Freedom was no doubt valued, yet dominated by the value of ‘ubudiyyah. The Muslim culture was not unclear on the question of its moral and ethical foundations. These were authenticated by divine revelations. Poets, litterateurs, philosophers, sages, scientists and rulers, all were clear on this issue and recognized this reality in their views and thoughts. The Muslim culture, founded on this clear and uniform model of thinking, governed the collective body of Muslims for more than a decade. hifẓ-i furuj, ḥifẓ-i maratib and ’amr bi al-ma‘ruf and nahi ‘an al-munkar constituted characteristic values of the Muslim culture.

These can be explained as follows:

Hifẓ-i furujimplied that the members of the society would not be allowed to practice and promote sexual promiscuity. Men and women could not openly enter into sexual relations. They could not illicitly live together and were not allowed to reveal their bodies.

Hifẓ-i maratibmeant that though all human beings are originally equal in the eyes of God, yet they are not equal in their family and social relations. The younger have to show respect to the older, the children to their parents, the students to their teachers, the wives to their husbands.  Socially seniors were given the right to correct and censure the juniors in all social layers. The respect and honour of the elders and the seniors was always preferred over individual liberty.

amr bi al-ma‘ruf and nahi ‘an al-munkar entailed that the adherents of the Islamic faith would not, at the collective level, show indifference to the values of good and evil. All such values accorded to the human orientation (fiṭrah) and acknowledged by entire humanity as virtue and good would be promoted at all scales and all such actions, as abhorred by the human nature and termed evil and bad, would be prohibited in all circumstances.

Such was the Muslim culture, the beauty and crown of humanity. The downfall of this culture is nothing less than the downfall of humanity. Alas for man! If only he craved for re-establishing this great tradition as much as he yearns for democratic ideals and rule of law. 

(Translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)

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[1]. The Arabic word ‘ubudiyyah covers all the stages of man’s devotion to God. Internal feeling of submission to the provident and merciful Creator, spontaneous acts of devotion objectified by such a feeling of submission before God, following the divinely ordained rituals of worship and following God’s commands in all spheres of life; all are different yet interrelated manifestations of ‘ibadah.