Before proceeding with the issue discussed in the first chapter of this book, it is necessary to keep some facts about Islam in mind. Every one knows this simple fact that Islam is the religion, which was initially preached by the Holy Prophet (SWS) on the soil of Arabia fourteen hundred years ago. But a serious reader does not feel satisfied with this much information. He needs more information to quench his thirst for knowledge.
What does Islam mean?
In Arabic, Islam means submission and peace. It has been named so because it teaches submission to God which in turn gives peace of mind to a human being. When we use Islam as a term, we mean the teachings provided by the almighty to Adam, the first human being with intellect and free will, so that he as well as the whole of the mankind should practice them. God kept on sending Prophets to his creation with regular intervals in order to remind it of his message. All those who acknowledged the validity of these Prophets, were Muslims. It can thus be appreciated that all the Jews were to be considered as Muslims up to the Prophethood of Jesus Christ. In the same way all the Christians prior to the beginning of revelation upon Muhammad (SWS), the Prophet of God, were also Muslims. With the arrival of Muhammad (SWS) the series of Prophets was concluded as he presented before the world the message of God through his teaching in the most accomplished way.
The meaning of “Deen”.
Every human being in this world forms a doctrinal approach towards the universe and its relevance to him and leads his life accordingly. This is “Deen”. So we can say that “Deen” is a fine blend of philosophy and practice which teaches him the relationship between God and him, between all the humanity and the awareness of the Doomsday. The same blend has been explained and elaborated by God through his Prophets. And so it becomes “The Deen”. Islam is nothing else but the sense of “The Deen”.
Origins of Islam
Islam is originated from two sources: the Quran and the Sunnah. The Quran is the collection of the revelations dawned upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SWS) from time to time throughout the twenty-three years of his Prophethood. After the completion of the process of revelation, the Holy Prophet sequenced the “Surah” (the one hundred and fourteen segments of the Quran) in accordance with the commandment of God so that it should assume the status of a complete set of instructions for the mankind till the doomsday.
Sunnah is the practical method introduced among the Muslims by the Prophets of God. This method of “Deen” had been very much there since the time of Ibraham, the Prophet of God. But with the passage of time certain malpractices polluted its purity. Muhammad (SWS) took steps to eradicate these malpractices and introduced the real shape of Islam among the Muslims. The sacred companions of the Prophet had a consensus on it and practiced it. The Sunnah of Islam included the practical method prayers for five times a day, the institutions of Zakat, Fasting and Hajj, more practical methods of praying, cleanliness of body, etiquettes of eating, the manners for the social interaction, the customs to be observed at the time of birth, marriage and death.
THREE BASIC CREEDS OF ISLAM
Belief in God:
The Holy Quran tells us that God is the sole creator and Master of this universe. He rears all its beings and has perfect control over it. He possesses absolute wisdom and intellect and has the capacity to manage every thing. He is therefore, the only one who deserves our total submissions.
Belief in God is the light that enlightens this universe. By means of settling his faith in one God, it becomes easy for a human being to understand true relationship between himself and the universe. It also enables us to determine a definite path of life in terms of thought and practice. This is the light, sans which every thing is mere darkness.
God is perfect and immortal. He is above all deficiencies. He has dominance over everything, but at the same time, He is just and maintains justice. Nothing is beyond the reach of His knowledge. Every-thing is mapped out, brought into being and given the proper shape by God. He is distinctive but a prop of affection for every one. He is neither a son nor a father of anyone and no one is equal to Him. All characteristics of grandeur and nicety exclusively belong to him only. These include mercy, command and control, kindness, benevolence, knowledge, and awareness in their perfect form. All of His qualities have an equal proportion but His benevolence, merey and love for human beings is like a canopy that showers down all other disciplines.
He knows the secrets of our heart. Even a leaf does not move without his will. He is not unaware of our worries. He is the one who listens to what we whisper to Him in the solitude. We can supplicate and pray before Him. Belief in Him brings the wealth of ego and self-respect to us. Reliance upon Him keeps our conscience alive and grants us courage and determination. Our faith in Him fills our hearts with satisfaction and comfort.
Faith in Prophets:
For the guidance of humanity, God has blessed it with two faculties: intellect and conscience. But the facts of this universe and life, which were difficult to be probed into, were unfolded to human-kind through the process of revelation upon some chosen people among human beings. These people are known as the Prophets of God.
A Prophet is by nature an example of sublimity in character before and after his Prophethood. He is so extraordinary and distinctive amongst the people around that every one acknowledges his qualities of truth, honesty, nicety of behavior and manners.
There is no room for improvement in the knowledge of a Prophet. Unlike a layman he doesn’t learn through a gradual growth of observation and experience. The perfect reality dawns upon him from the very first minute of his Prophet Hood. He need not learn more. He is guided directly by God. His thoughts and ideology never change. He is the final authority on philosophy, law and “Deen”.
A Prophet is always a model for the people in terms of character and behavior. There is not even the slightest possibility of any weakness in his character. He is always placed in the highest rank in all walks of life: as a ruler, politician, judge, commander of armed forces, preacher, head of a family and a human being.
Muslims acknowledge all Prophets sacred to Christians and Jews. However, they challenge the credibility of certain immoral references about the Prophets laid down in the Bible. They believe Jesus Christ to be a Prophet of God and not a son of God. Muslims believe that there had been the Prophets throughout the history and in every nation, and Muhammad (SWS) was the last Prophet. The process of Prophethood was over after Muhammad (SWS), because it had now become easy for the whole of humankind to receive the message of one Prophet on account of the sufficient means of communication and a modernized phase of civilization. It was to be an era where similar principles would be the guideline for the practical life of the whole of the world.
In this universe every thing has been created in couples. Each member of a couple complements the other. The co-mate of this world is the dooms-day. This world is in fact a test arena for humankind. It is to be ascertained whether a person makes the right use of his free will through following the path of his conscience and intellect, and chooses the way of God, which is the only way to peace and success. Each and every action of a person in this world will be accounted for on dooms-day. The successful ones would be blessed with the seat of excellence in the eternal dominion of God, while those who declined to choose the way of righteousness revealed through the Prophets shall be penalized for a sufficiently long time.
Some aspects of Islamic directives
Islam has laid down some guiding principles in order to make the individual and collective life of a person beneficial for the whole of humankind and to harmonize it with society. A few of them are as under:
Fundamental human morals are a part of the Islamic thought and philosophy. They are in the instinct of a human being. Even then man has constantly been reminded of these moral values so that he may not forget his nature and keep following his conscience. These include Justice, honesty, merit, hard work, education, tolerance, restraint, dialogue, wisdom, doing good with one’s parents, granting the relatives their dues, helping the traveler and the needy, charity, nice conduct, fulfillment of promise, social service and attitude of forgiveness. The Holy Quran accords all the details about the basic human morality.
The motive behind the prayer is to keep the contact of God and man alive. Such a prayer accords peace and real happiness to man. As per “Deen” the compulsory code of prayers includes five times prayer, fasting during the month the Ramadhan, contributing Zakat and performing “Hajj” (pilgrimage), if the individual has sufficient money to undertake and perform it.
God, in the holy Quran, has issued instructions regarding human relations. Family is regarded as the base of society. The husband-wife relationship has been given greatest significance by the Holy Quran.
Wealth of this world has been bestowed upon man in order to test him. God has declared several principles for the proper chanalization of this wealth. Some of these principles would be discussed in this book at their required place.
The Holy Quran has laid down principles about establishing a state, rights and duties of the ruler, obligation of a state, rights and liabilities of a citizen etc. These would also be discussed elsewhere in this book when required.
Law and punishment:
Free will is an honor for man but its misuse creates fuss and gives birth to crime. Punishments have been determined in the Holy Quran for five major crimes against life, property, and honor, if committed in the extreme form in a true and perfect Islamic society. The state has been given free hand to devise ways and laws for the rest of crimes according to the circumstances and requirement. There would be a discussion about them later on.
Islam tells us the ways and means to bring harmony between different cultures and societies. For instance, to start eating with the name of God, eating with right hand, expressing good wishes at time of meeting, asking “Assala-u-Alaykum” (prayer for peace in this world and the hereafter) and several other things like these.
Four important religious issues
In order to understand the forthcoming discussion in a better way, it is a pre-requisite to keep in mind the four important issues having fundamental nature.
The status of Holy Quran
The Holy Quran is the equity of Islam. We can judge the truth of every thing in this equity. We know all the difference between right and wrong, logic, practicality, thought and philosophy through this Book, which is the basis of Islam. There is absolutely no possibility of any alteration in the text of the Quran. This has been claimed in the Holy Quran very clearly in Surah Furqan:
“Sacred is the being who revealed this book upon His Prophet for the distinction of right and wrong” (Al-Furqan-25:1)
Thus the Holy Quran is the real source of information about Islam. It tells us distinctively what “Deen” is. The matter adjudged right on this equity would be final. Surah Shura says:
“It is God only who revealed this Book with absolute truth and made it a scale”. (Sura 42:17)
The Holy Quran has certain other epithets too, e.g.:
Custodian of belief and practice. (Al-Maidah-5:48)
The best speech and message. (Al-Zumar-39:23)
The stable light and an ever-true logic. (Al-Nisa-4:174)
The message of God for people. (Al-Ibrahim-14:52)
The everlasting and subtle words. (Al-Zumar-43:28, 29)
Final verdict, the origin of law and Jurisprudence.
Thus it becomes clear that the Holy Quran is the final authority in all matters of Islam.
The status of Sunnah
Sunnah has been discussed earlier. To cut short Sunnah is the practical method of “Deen” which was adopted by the Holy Prophet and his companions followed it unanimously. There has been a consensus over it among Muslim Ummah for the last fourteen hundreds years.
The status of Hadith
Several companions of the Holy Prophet remembered all what was said or done by him and at times conveyed it too. Although the Holy Prophet had not issued any such instruction yet his companions did that out of love and respect they had for him. Consequently many books based on these traditions and references were compiled. These traditions are very precious as they not only reflect the Prophet’s way of living but also a record of the history, culture, language and other notable material of those times.
The compilers of these books received these traditions through a chain of four or five persons. It means that an individual heard something from the Holy Prophet and conveyed it to another fellow. That fellow conveyed it to the next one and so on until the fourth one or the fifth one narrated it to the compiler. Obviously such a chain had possibility of a weak or unreliable channel somewhere. So the following standards are essential to test and verify the reference:
- The Hadith must have a reliable source.
- The Hadith must be in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah because these are the only two sources the Holy Prophet instructed to let every Muslim know.
- The Hadith must not be against nature and common sense.
We can conclude that the Hadith is a very valuable source yet it has to be understood in the light of Quran and Sunnah.
Special status of Prophets known as Rasools
Prophet Hood means that a chosen man, through revelation is assigned the work of telling the truth to people, informing them of the promise of God about their happy ending in case they remain obedient to God and vice versa. Every one of them is called “Nabi”
A special group among these Prophets is called Rasool. They are the greatest source of guidance.
Rasool has got a special status. God accomplishes a special task through Rasool, for which Rasool is used as a tool. A Rasool is in fact a court of God on this earth for his direct addressees i.e. his nation. It means that as far as normal people are concerned, the court of God will be established for them on Doomsday but as far as the direct addressees of the Rasool are concerned, when everybody of them has received the message of Din in the most complete form for a sufficiently long time and even then they refuse to embrace Din because of their prejudices and stubbornness, then the court of God is established for them in this very world and they are punished accordingly. When this court is set to announce its verdict, then the general principles of this world are no more applicable. Instead the rules of the Doomsday come into force. This sentence is given to the wrong doers according to the severity of their crimes. Some of them are totally eliminated from this Earth. This death penalty was inflicted upon the wrongdoers and infidels of the nations of Noah, Looth, Ibrahim, Hud, Salih and so many other Rasools. The Holy Quran has narrated in indetail the stories of these Rasools to explain this point. After this the Rasool and / or his companions become triumphant in this World.
In fact this special status is the greatest sign and proof of the Prophet Hood of a Rasool. Right from the start, he proclaims that he has been appointed as Rasool and after the lapse of a specific period; his enemies would be sentenced by the court of God directly.
Prophet Muhammad (SWS) was also a Rasool. The special Godly mission, on whom he was sent, was to accomplish Islam’s predominance over the Arabian Peninsula, to lay the foundation of Muslim Ummah, to make a perfect Islamic society and to make Kaaba a center for all the Muslims permanently.
This special status of the Holy Prophet has been announced many many times by the Quran. During the Mecca period when the number of Muslims was extremely small, Holy Quran claimed again and again that the Rasool will triumph. The following verses are few out of many, revealed during the Mecca period.
“(Muhammad) say to Those who disbelieve: Do whatever lies in your power, and so shall we. Wait if you will, we too are waiting” (Hud-11:121,122)
“Those who disbelieved said to their Rasool: Return to our faith or we will bash you from our land. But Allah revealed to them: “We shall destroy the wrongdoers and let you dwell in the land after them”. (Ibrahim-14:13)
“Say O’ Muhammad: Each one is waiting for the result. So wait if you will. Soon you will come to know who has followed the right path and who has been rightly guided”. (Taaha-20:135)
“(O Muhammad) your opponents are like a small faction which will be defeated as many such factions against the previous Rasools were defeated (Swad-38:11)
“(O’ Muhammad) whether We shall show you, within your lifetime, part of what We promised your opponents, or take to Ourselves your soul before it is all accomplished, your duty is only to make the message reach them. Then it is our part to call them to account. Why don’t these people see that we are gradually reducing the land (of Arabian Peninsula) in their control from the outlying borders (due to the spreading of Islam). Everything is in the command of God. There is none to put back his command. He is swift in calling to account. (Al-Raad-13:40-41)
The same prophecy was proclaimed again and again in the Medina period as well.
“Allah has decreed. I will surely triumph myself and My Rasools” (Al-Mujadilah-58:21)
“These opponents seek to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect his light, much as the disbelievers may dislike it. It is He who has sent his Rasool with guidance and the faith of truth, so that He may exalt it above all religions, much as the pagans may dislike it.” (Al-Saff-61:9)
The task for Rasool is much different from a normal person, so many rules and regulation for a Rasool are different than an ordinary person. Some rules are more strict and some are relaxed for him. So many rules for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SWS) were also different. Many such examples will be discussed in the following pages. Just for instance.
- The Tahajjud (Midnight) prayers were compulsory for the Holy Prophet but they are optional for other Muslims.
- The rules and regulations of marriage were also different for the Holy Prophet.
- It was Holy Prophet’s task to make the Land of Arabia a centre of Islam for which a specific war was allowed for him which is not allowed for other Muslims.
- After Twenty three years of preaching, death penalty was sentenced for his opponent pagans of Islam. If was proclaimed by the Holy Quran that the sentence from the court of God will be promulgated on the pagans through the hands of the companions of the Holy Prophet. No such penalty can be ordered for the opponents of any other preacher.
- Similarly after this preaching, the sentence announced for “The people of the Book” of the Arabian Peninsula was that they will be subdued and will have no share in the government. No such penalty can be announced for “The people of the Book” outside this area and after that period.
- Even some of the rules for the Arabian Peninsula (the Centre of Islam) are permanently different from the rest of the world. Idolatry and paganism are not allowed in the Arabian Peninsula but out side this area; the Muslims are bound to respect the sacred places of every religion including pagans.
There are many more such examples which will be discussed at the relevant places. It is extremely important that this specific and distinct role of the Holy Prophet is understood. If this specific role of the Rasool is misunderstood, then the verses of Holy Quran seem to be erroneously thought as contradictory to one another. And if this distinct role is understood properly, then we can very properly differentiate between the verses specific to the Holy Prophet and the verses for the general mankind.
Here a question may arise: what is its relevance to us now. The answer is: It is the biggest proof and argument in favor of the Prophet Hood of Muhammad (SWS). This biography tells us how a single human being stood up to raise the message of God and claimed that he is last of the Rasool and he will triumph and then within twenty three years he succeeded on every front. In this way this makes it the greatest proof of his Prophet Hood.