“To Him (Allah) belong the Most Beautiful Names”(Tâ-Hâ, 20:8)
Throughout the history of mankind all religions, the first of which was revealed to Adam, have in essence been the same. The only religious changes that have occurred have been in regard to social laws since the communities of man have been in a continual process of development. Nevertheless, these changes have not pertained to the essence of these faiths. Thus, all religions which have been revealed from Adam (a.s), who was the first human being and the first prophet, up to the last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are in fact at the core level essentially the same as Islam.
Therefore the Prophet (pbuh) said:
Narrated by Abu Huraira:
“I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, ‘I am the nearest of all people to the son of Mary, and all the prophets are paternal brothers, and there has been no prophet between me and him (i.e. Jesus)’.” (Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 651)
Therefore it is a wrong supposition to think that Islam is restricted solely to the Qur’an, since it contains all the previous religions that have been revealed by Allah. Of course, here the word religion signifies their original forms prior to their distortion by human beings. The Qur’an confirms this in the following verse:
“The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will): Nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them. But if any deny the Signs of Allah, Allah is swift in calling to account.”(Al-i Imrân, 3:19)
This verse also demonstrates that Islam is the sole solution for the problems of humanity. Here we are referring to the Qur’anic declaration that it is salvation both in this world and in the Hereafter. The following verse clarifies this fact even more clearly:
“If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).” (Al-i Imrân, 3:85)
Hence, Islam is a religion that has been continually revealed from Adam through to the last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and has been perfected through the stages of human history, finding its most perfect form in the Qur’an.
The description of Islam can be summarized in two principles:
1. Faith (Iman): To believe in the five principles of Islam sincerely.
2. Good deeds (‘amal al-sâlih): To do good deeds that are demanded by Allah with sincere faith.
Islam practiced under these two principles organizes our life, thought, and behavior in a balanced way. Islam is a path that leads the believer to Allah by connecting logic, ear, tongue and heart to divine light. If the beauties of Islam were to fall on a piece of rock, it would turn the rock into soft fertile soil. On the other hand, the hearts of those far from Islam are turned into hard rocks. Only Islam has the ability to soften and cure them.
Islam perfects the intellectual and practical life of human beings and takes them from darkness into light. Those who embrace Islam are elevated from the lowest of states to the highest peak. It has the capacity to transform an ordinary human being into a perfect man. Islam achieves this spiritual transformation by returning man to his original form.
Islam is a robe of guidance extended from Allah to all of humanity. Those who submit to it, will rise above their mortality and will attain the elixir of immortality. Allah has summoned all prophets, who are beings at the peak of servanthood to Allah, to one condition: “When Allah said unto them: Surrender! Each of them said: I have surrendered to the Lord of the Worlds.”
In the personality of the great prophet Abraham (a.s) this reality is declared in the Qur’an:
“When his Lord said unto him: Surrender! he said: I have surrendered to the Lord of the Worlds.” (Baqara, 2:131)
This submission is realized in experiencing the closeness of Allah through mentioning His names. In fact, the aim of all forms of worship is to attain proximity to Allah, to attain to the knowledge and love of Allah.
One preacher was speaking in a mosque about death and its aftermath. He was explaining those questions that we will be asked after burial such as: “How did you spend your life, where did you spend your wealth and health, did you practice what you learned, were you following the commandments of Islam and did you refrain from what was forbidden? He was speaking about details and was not addressing the essence. Among the listeners, the great Sufi Master Shibli was present, and in order to remind the preacher of the essence of the matter he said:
“O preacher! You have forgotten the most important question that Allah will ask His slaves in the Hereafter. When we meet Allah in the Hereafter, He will ask: O my servant! I was with you at all times, whose company were you in?”
Based on this form and level of respect, Islam is to lead a life where we feel the presence of Allah at all times:
“And He is with you wheresoever ye may be.” (Hadîd, 57:4)
The well being of the earth and the sky is dependent upon our obedience to Allah. In the absence of this obedience, the wrath of Allah will descend upon us.
“Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea (the order of the universe has broken, natural calamities appeared) on account of what the hands of men have wrought, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, so that they may return (from the wrong path that they follow).” (Rûm, 30:41)
What this verse means is that abandoning Islam causes corruption of the harmony and order of nature. Here natural disasters are perceived as warnings to return to Islam.
People of insight can perceive the difference between the Creator and His products. Such an individual looks at the outer form while he perceives its inner form. He understands the reality of this world as he remembers the Hereafter. He gazes at the boundless heavens as he leads a life constantly remembering the divine majesty behind them. He knows his weakness as a servant and never ceases behaving like a servant. On his travel to the eternal world, Allah bestows upon him many of His divine secrets. Thus, the servant falls into prostration in yearning for his Lord. In this way, the purpose of creation is fulfilled and the servant gains eternal bliss as stated in the following verse of the Qur’an:
“And whomsoever it is Allah’s will to guide, He expandeth his bosom unto the Surrender,” (An’âm, 6:125)
However, the verse proceeds to go on and state that some of creation runs away from His divine mercy.
“And whomsoever it is His Will to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow as if he were engaged in sheer ascent. Thus Allah layeth ignominy upon those who believe not.” (An’âm, 6:125)
In short, salvation for mankind is only possible in Islam as the Prophet (pbuh) states:
“Whoever accepts Allah as his Lord, Islam as his religion, Muhammad as prophet and is pleased with them Allah rewards him with Paradise.” (Abu Dawud, Salât, 36; Tirmidhi, Salât, 42)
Islam comes from the root of silm and salam, meaning peace, submission, purity and sincerity. The first chapter of the Qur’an, Fatihah, summarizes the essence of Islam. According to this chapter, Islam aims to take mankind to Allah’s bounties and to the right path without attracting His wrath:
“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Master of the Day of Judgement.
Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
Show us the straight way,
The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.” (Fatiha, 1:1-7)
Hence, Islam equally fulfills the needs of faith and reason. It protects man from that which harms his life and his possessions as well as the health of younger generations. The benefits of Islam can be summarized as follows:
– The finest religion of faith: Islam provides the best mode of faith while protecting the honor of man from heretical beliefs such as the worship of idols.
– Islam nurtures the soul of man through acts of worship: The kinds of worship in Islam address both the soul and the body since their performance involves both body and soul. Those fulfilling the obligations of Islam live paradisiacally in this very world.
– Islam is a religion of mercy: Islam strives to carry man to felicity and the mercy of Allah although most of his acts more nearly deserve destruction and punishment. Allah, the Almighty states that His mercy exceeds His wrath.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “When Allah created the Creation, He wrote in His Book -and He wrote (that) about Himself, and it is placed with Him on the Throne- ’Verily My Mercy overcomes My Anger’.” (Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 501)
The basmalah which is mentioned in the beginning of the every chapter involves the names of Allah which enlighten His attribute of mercy: In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. These two attributes are also mentioned in the first chapter of the Qur’an in its second verse:
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Most Gracious, Most Merciful; al-Rahmân, meaning compassionate, merciful. The first two verses of this chapter inform us that due to His mercy Allah taught us the Qur’an:
“The Beneficent Allah, It is He Who has taught the Qur’an.” (Rahman, 55:1-2)
These verses signify in addition that the content of the Qur’an is also a mercy for humanity. In the chapter Isra this reality is clearly stated:
“We send down (stage by stage) in the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe: to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss.” (Isrâ, 17:82)
Not only is the Qur’an a mercy for humanity, but this is also true for the Prophet of Islam who transmitted the Qur’an:
“We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures.” (Anbiyâ, 21:107)
As a matter of fact this reality has been proven in the life of the Prophet (pbuh) since he never cursed those who harmed him. In the town Tâif he was stoned and left bleeding due to injuries. Angels such as Gabriel came to him and told him that he could destroy the inhabitants of this town due to their mistreatment of him. The Prophet (pbuh) did not accept this offer and answered: “No I do not want such a thing. I am a prophet of mercy.”
He even prayed to Allah for their guidance and well-being. We can conclude that the first fruit of Islam is mercy. The friends of Allah who followed this golden rule summarized servanthood to Allah in two principles:
1. Ta’zîm li amrillah: To fulfill the commandments of Allah with full reverence.
2. Shafkat li halkillah: To show mercy to the creation of Allah.
– Islam is a religion of rationality: Although Islam is not a product of human intelligence and reason, since both religion and logic are gifts of the Creator there is no reason they should be mutually exclusive. Islam guides the human mind to the most useful and productive states, hence enabling man to lead a balanced life without falling into extremes.
In other words, human rationality can find its full expression in belief in the unity of Allah and He implores us to use our logic and rational faculties at many points in the Qur’an: “Afala ta’qilun?” (Do you not contemplate?).
The Prophet (pbuh) also invites us to use our mind and contemplate upon the purpose of life. Comparing the reward of worship and contemplation he says: “An hour of contemplation is more valuable than sixty years of worship.”
The human mind has been created as a vehicle to take man to Allah and guidance. It is the interpreter of the divine realities.
– Islam is a religion of love: Mere rationality is not enough in guiding man to divine realities. At times rationality is incapable of guiding man to Allah. Instead it takes him into a pit of doubts. Hence it is necessary for rationality to be under the rule of love and to enlighten it with love. Rumi says:
“He that is blessed and familiar (with spiritual mysteries) knows that intelligence is of Iblis, while love is of Adam.” (Masnawî III, 1402)
“Love is as a ship for the elect: seldom is calamity (the result): for the most part it is deliverance.” (Masnawî III, 1406)
Those individuals, like philosophers, who rely on intelligence as their guide become slaves of their external senses. They serve what their eyes see and what their ears hear without normally reminding themselves of the hidden. Reason may know Allah through love, whereas it alone is only an instrument whereby love may reach to the Creator.
Love engenders sacrifice. A believer who loves his Lord may even give up his life in the path of Allah. The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) sacrificed everything in the path of Allah and His Prophet and thus reached the highest station in the history of mankind. Whenever the Prophet (pbuh) requested something from them they replied: “My father and mother have been sacrificed for you.”
Hence, Islam is a religion of the heart rather than merely a religion of reason. It aims first to reach the heart of man. It is also a religion of equilibrium: The most fundamental aspect of Islam is that it involves balance between the two worlds. As Allah has created the universe in complete harmony and order similarly Islam has provided a road to equilibrium in the life of man. Islam has brought balance between this world and the Hereafter, between body and soul, between men and women, poor and rich, the ruled and the ruler, and too between matter and spirit. These seeming opposites have been transformed into complements through Islam. Islam does not sacrifice or ignore the otherworld for this world, or the body for the spirit. Islam removes the conflict between them and in its place establishes harmony. Through these wings man can fly to higher worlds.
– Islam is a religion of knowledge and wisdom: Islam is not a religion fit for the ignorant. On the contrary, Islam is the last and perfect religion that has been sent to fight ignorance. Therefore, the Qur’an states that knowledge is the most important condition of being a pious and worthy believer.
“Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Fâtir, 35:28)
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says: “The superiority of a scholar over a worshipper is like my superiority over the one who occupies the lowest rank among you.” (Abû Dâwud, Ilm, 1)
Nevertheless, Islam joins knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge without wisdom harms mankind more than it benefits. As an example, knowledge of medicine without wisdom can be used to kill rather than cure. Therefore the Prophet (pbuh) warns: “Whoever increases his knowledge without increasing his asceticism and fear of Allah distances himself from Allah.” (Kanz al-Irfân, 62)
– Islam is a religion of high morality: Man is envisaged as the peak of creation. He is the vicegerent of Allah on earth. Although he was created out of earth, Allah blew his spirit into his body. The holy Qur’an draws our attention to this fact and warns us not to let our souls be contaminated by our base desires. It advises man to purify his soul from vices and to reach Allah with a pure heart. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the best example of one who has achieved this great purpose and has attained to the summit of morality. He has even stated that one of the main purposes of his prophethood was to exhibit the finest example of morality:
“Indeed, I was sent to complete the perfection of morality.” (Muwatta, al-Hulk, 7)
The Qur’an bears witnesses to this fact and praises him with the following verse:
“And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character.” (Qalam, 68:4)
The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) were living witnesses of his bashfulness. He was even more bashful than a veiled young girl. In order to clarify the significance of bashfulness (i.e. from Allah), he said: “Bashfulness and faith go hand in hand. If one leaves (man) the other follows (suit).” (Suyûtî, Jâmiu’s-Saghîr, I, 53)
The following words of Jalaluddin Rumi illuminate the importance of hayâ (i.e. feeling bashful when a sin is committed) in relation to faith:
“I asked my mind, what is faith? My mind answered my heart: Faith is nothing but good conduct (adab), therefore those who have no adab will be further away from the mercy of Allah.”
– Islam is a religion of Creator kindness and good behavior: According to the Prophet (pbuh), kindness which is not given adequate significance by the majority of people, will be taken very seriously on the Day of Judgment. The Prophet (pbuh), whose example is the best in all aspects of life, also has left us with the best example of kindness. When he noticed any of his companions performing a wrongdoing, he would correct it without insulting the responsible one. Instead of directly addressing the wrongdoer, he would address the public: “What has occurred is that I have seen some people doing this or that”, and by introducing the topic in this fashion he would veil the responsible one.
– Islam is a religion of justice: One of the fundamental concepts that Islam emphasizes on all occasions is the concept of justice and law. According to Islam, the most unforgivable sin beyond associating partners with Allah is to violate the rights of other. The Prophet (pbuh) during his worst period of illness, leading up to his death, emphasized the significance of respecting the rights of others by personally going to the mosque and asking to settle any unfulfilled rights by saying: “O my companions! If I have taken the possessions of any of you by mistake, these are my possessions, let him take it. If I have hit the back of any of you by mistake, this is my back. Let him hit me and take his revenge.” (Asım Köksal, Islam Tarihi, v.II, p. 38)
The Islamic concept of justice, which was established on such a strong foundation, has reached to the peak of perfection and fills any scholar who studies it with admiration. After examining all systems of law, the French philosopher Lafayet, who had a significant role in forming the ideological background of the French Revolution, expressed as follows: “O Muhammad! No one reached to your level in bringing justice among people.”
The history of Islam is full of anecdotes proving the place of justice in Islamic societies. One day a man bought a horse from the market. Although the horse was young and strong it died three days after the purchase. The buyer was suspicious that the seller had poisoned the horse since he may have wanted to hurt him due to a personal conflict they had had between them. He went to the court for three days but the judge was away. Consequently, the man took the dead horse to a veterinarian. The veterinarian’s findings proved that the man was justified in his suspicions. When the judge returned from his trip the buyer of the horse went to the judge again. The judge told him: “Why did you not come to me in the first place so as to enable us to see the signs of the horse?” The complainer replied: “Sir I have come to you for three days running but you were absent.” The judge answered: “You are right. My mother had passed away and I traveled to my hometown in order to be present for her funeral.” After contemplating a moment, the judge turned to the secretary and pronounced his verdict. The matter was solved in the following way: Absence of the judge from the court resulted in a loss for the plaintiff. Hence, the damages suffered by the plaintiff will be reimbursed by the judge.
In short, Islam is a religion of justice both materially and spiritually. Therefore, in the past, our ancestors termed people Muslims without religion if they were non-converts who respected justice and behaved righteously. On the other hand, those Muslims who did not behave justly were referred to as disbelieving Muslims. Islam when it is practiced sincerely is capable of purifying the human soul of all sorts of imperfection. Only Islam can transform individuals who have fallen prey to their base desires, from the lowliest of the low stations to the greatest of statures.
The Prophet (pbuh) states: “If a servant of Allah accepts Islam and practices it, all his past good deeds are valued and all his past sins are deleted. From then on, all his good deeds are rewarded from ten to seven hundred fold. However, his sin is only written one time (in the account book of the slave) unless Allah forgives it completely.”
From the very early days of the religion there have always been those who have been unwilling to accept its guidance and instead have preferred to follow their base desires as the slaves of Satan. There are many examples of this in the history of Islam. Although the Meccans admitted the trustworthiness of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) many of them refused to accept his life-giving message. They understood the reality of Islam through their consciousness but unfortunately were dominated by their base desires. Thus they fell into the pit of disbelief. Also, the Jews and the Christians for centuries had been foretelling the coming of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but since he ultimately came from a different nation and they were dominated by their nationalism and racist bigotry, they refused to accept him. In particular, the Jews surpassed others in their rejection of Islam since they had a long history of rejecting prophets and killing them. The following incident demonstrates this fact with great clarity. Once the Prophet (pbuh) read the Jews the following verses from the Qur’an:
“But if they dispute with you, say: I have submitted myself entirely to Allah and (so) every one who follows me; and say to those who have been given the Book and the unlearned people: Do you submit yourselves? So if they submit then indeed they follow the right way; and if they turn back, then upon you is only the delivery of the message and Allah sees the servants.” (Âl-i Imrân, 3:20)
After he recited this verse to them he asked:
“Do you accept Islam?”
The Jews said:
“Yes we accept.”
Upon this the Prophet (pbuh) asked the following question:
“Do you also accept that Jesus (a.s) is Allah’s word, his slave and his messenger?”
“No, may Allah protect us from such a mistake.”
Hence, by rejecting Jesus (a.s) as a prophet of Allah, they became among the unfortunate infidels.
He asked the Christians:
“Do you bear witness that Jesus (a.s) is Allah’s word and His messenger.”
The Christians said:
“How is it possible that Jesus (a.s) is a creature of Allah, He is the son of Allah.”
On another occasion, the Prophet (pbuh), went to a school of Jewish scholars and invited them to Islam. Nuaim b. Harith and Zaid asked him:
“What is your religion?”
The Prophet (pbuh) answered: “I am of the religion of Abraham.”
Upon hearing this answer, they claimed: “Abraham was a Jew.”
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “In that case shall we accept the Torah as our arbitrator.”
They Jews hesitated and did no accept this offer. They had a famous scholar whose name was Abdullah b. Salâm. They always praised him for his knowledge. However, when he accepted Islam they forgot about their praise for him and started cursing him. They altered the chapters that foretold the advent of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Qur’an in addressing this issue states:
“Woe, then, to those who write the book with their hands and then say: This is from Allah, so that they may take for it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn. (Baqara, 2:79) Of the Jews there are those who displace words from their (right) places,” (Nisa, 5:46; Maidah, 4:13)
These activities demonstrate that the Jews and the Christians altered their religions according to their desires, thus destroying the authentic nature of their teachings. Today, the oldest copy of the Torah dates back to the 9th century before Christ. Consequently, there is a great deal of time separating Moses from the period when the Torah was compiled. Those who call for reforms in Islam, unfortunately have the same purpose. As before, they conceal their hidden aims with nice words.
The human mind cannot wholly understand either the wisdom or the hidden purposes behind the universe because it has been created by the omnipotence and omniscience of Allah. Allah knows best the nature of man since He created him. Hence His commandments and restrictions concerning the life of man are in accordance with his nature. A mind that has not been molded by divine revelation is incapable of comprehending these realities. A healthy mind will ultimately never deny the fact that the Creator knows best his creation and is thus capable of leading him to the way of life best fit for him. We can say that Islam is the only religion ideally molded to his nature.
Allah the Almighty through His boundless mercy has sent humanity Islam as a universal religion. In Islam He has designed an ideal and comprehensive system for living. As a religion Islam is capable of answer any question concerning life that may appear in the mind of man. As an example, dreams transcend the reality of our physical lives since they reside in our minds. Even so, Islam evaluates dreams and grants verdicts as to their meanings. Any value system upon which laws are based that has ignored any feature in the fundamental nature of man will be rejected by human nature and will be ultimately ignored by him. As an example, Catholics ignore the need to have a family and forbid monks and nuns from marrying. Such a law conflicts with human nature and in the end leads man towards disobedience.
Human nature contains changeable and unchangeable features. Religious systems ignoring the unchanging characteristics of human nature cannot indefinitely retain their validity. Human nature exceeds any external boundaries imposed upon it. As an example, Western Europe suffered from the pangs of an adulterated Christianity, but in the end they basically eliminated it from their lives and elected to restrict Christianity to inside the boundaries of the church. Unfortunately, many Christians have left religion in entirety due to the unnatural tendencies of the Christian faith. Furthermore, since believing in a divine being is a natural tendency some “Christians” have even started believing in Satan.
Islam, on the other hand, takes into consideration the divine nature of man and thus will not be outdated with the passage of time. To give an example, women are more emotional than men and as a consequence they cannot function legally in certain circumstances as witnesses, otherwise justice might not be fulfilled.
The commandments of Allah prevent the negative characteristics of man from developing and taking control of him. Beyond this, they assist us in developing positive character traits. Nevertheless, Islam grants us the freedom to organize our lives according to new circumstances in that realm of life subject to change and transformation. This freedom is granted for his own good. There are no definitive rulings as to the changeable aspects of life. Hence, Islam is a religion of realism that addresses the reality of human nature. It is also useful to note that human nature naturally tends towards what is positive rather than negative when it is free of contextual pressure to conform. In order to emphasize this point the Prophet (pbuh) states that every newborn baby is born with an Islamic nature. (Bukhari, Janaiz, 92)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “Every child is born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) and his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?” (Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 467)
As a result of Allah’s all-encompassing mercy exceeding His wrath, in general there is peace and tranquility in the Universe. In a forest, we may observe that small and weak animals live side by side with those that are strong and wild. The same circumstance is true for a human being who is the essence of the universe. Although he may possess both positive and negative qualities, so long as the positive attributes exceed the negative, a condition arises where the negative features are unable to freely manifest themselves outwardly. However, this positive nature is always corrupted by the contextual social influences as discussed in the above hadith of the Prophet (pbuh). Islam, through the way of life it points us toward, works to preserve this untarnished human nature thereby allowing the spiritual purity that was bestowed to man by Allah the Almighty to shine through. It is understood in Islam that human nature’s negative features may not be entirely erased. As an example, instead of permitting the complete freedom of our sexual desires as in the case of some modern psychological systems, Islam organizes our sexual experience within the boundaries of marriage and family in order to preserve human continuity. Islam facilitates the expression of natural desires with the condition of marriage and is thus able to direct our sexual drive towards divine purposes as exemplified in the fostering of good offspring.
In relation to the possession of wealth, Islam teaches that everything in reality belongs to Allah. Believers are guided to spend what they have for the benefit of others rather than surrendering themselves to the aim of collecting wealth solely for personal use. Islam directs us to cultivate appreciation and cooperation with others rather than harboring jealousy.
In the same way, Islam organizes the intellectual faculties of man. It roots human mental inquiry on a foundation of revelation for without this support mental reflection is capable of carrying man to ridiculous consequences. It is for this reason that philosophers have always denied each other’s realities. Furthermore, in ancient Athens stealing was an appreciable act if the thief did not get caught. The thieves were tolerated and not punished since their theft was a product of high intelligence. Although stealing is a self-evident wrong, this was not intellectually perceived without the help of divine revelation. If the human mind fails to perceive the self-evident, then how can it hope to perceive what is true in even more complex issues. When reason is accepted as the sole judge then there will be times when both sides will seem right and justice will not prevail. The following is a good example:
In ancient Athens, a student of law had a contract with his professor to be trained as a lawyer. The student would give half of the tuition after his training ended and the other half after he won his first case in court. Nevertheless, the student after having completed his training with the professor told him that the first installment he had paid was enough for his services and that he would not pay the second installment even after winning a court case.
The professor of law took his student to court for his breach of the agreement. On the day their case was presented to the judge, the professor told the judge: “I will get my payment in either case whether I lose this case or win it.” The judge asked” “How?” The professor explained: “If I win the case the student will pay my tuition fee as an obligation to fulfill your judgment. If he does not pay, then he will be refusing your verdict, which is impossible. If I lose the case, then my student will be winning it and according to our agreement I am supposed to take my tuition fee when my student wins his first court case.” The student who had been trained well said: “On the contrary, I will not pay the tuition fee whether I win the case or lose it.” The judge asked him as well to explain his reasoning. He answered: “If I win the case I should not pay him, otherwise it will be against the verdict of this court and this is not acceptable. If I lose this case then according to the agreement I should not pay anything according to the agreement between us.”
As can be seen in the above example, the human mind is capable of reaching absolutely contradictory conclusions with equally acceptable proofs. This is an inevitable consequence if revelation is disregarded. Islam by emphasizing the significance of respecting the rights of others above all else brings a different dimension to the relationship between adversaries. Islam teaches man to think about the needs of others more than his own. The hadith where it is stated that those who sleep well when their neighbors are hungry are not from us clearly testifies to this fact.
In this way Islam made its followers into sharing, caring, and loving brothers and sisters. Before Islam, Arabs were famous for their hatred, enmity, and plundering of other tribes’ wealth through bloody wars. They were even so heartless that they used to bury their daughters alive, since they considered girls to be dishonorable. They had never ending blood feuds. The strong would crush the weak and the law always favored the strong. Describing this horrible social circumstance Mehmed Akif, the most famous Turkish poet said:
“If a human being had no teeth, his brothers might eat him.”
However, with the advent of Islam, they rose to be among the most virtuous and noblest people in the world. Those who had earlier been eager to drink each other’s blood, with the coming of Islam reached to a status that inspired them to consider the good of the other before their own even at the onset of death. The following incident narrated by Hadrat Hudaiyfa shows the level of kindness and generosity that the members of the early community attained. Hudaiyfa was searching the battlefield for survivors at the battle of Yarmuk. He narrates:
“I saw my cousin Harith in a pool of blood. I rushed to him to give him water, but when he was taking the water he heard the voice of Ikrimah:
‘Water, a drop of water for the sake of Allah!’
Harith pointed his eyes to Ikrimah and withdrew his hand from the water, signifying that I should take the water to him. When I reached him this time we heard the voice of Iyâsh: ‘Water, please water!’
Ikrimah like Harith did not accept the water and instead pointed me towards Iyâsh. I rushed to Iyâsh but he did not have time to drink the water before he gave up his life. Then I rushed back to take the water to Ikrimah but he was also dead by that time. In amazement I ran back to Harith, but unfortunately he had also passed away.
Three warriors, who were about to become martyrs, preferred to give up water offered for drink in favor of sacrificing their chance so that another person could drink first. As a result, not one of them was reached before he took his last breath and each became a martyr without drinking a drop of water.”
This exemplifies the high standards of Islamic morality that became embodied in the lives of its early followers. These same people were more than happy to kill one another for the most simple of reasons during the time of ignorance. Through Islam their hearts were enveloped by a divine mercy and grace to such an extent that their time was later referred to by Muslims as the time of felicity (asr al-saadah)
Allah the Almighty reminds us this great favor in the following verse:
“And remember the favor of Allah on you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts so by His favor you became brethren; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it, thus does Allah make clear to you His communications that you may follow the right way.” (Âl-i Imrân, 3:103)
This verse addresses all humanity in the person of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh).
The same story is true in the case of the Turkish people. Before Islam, their name was not good in the annals of history. Atilla left only bloodshed and tears throughout his 7000 kilometers of campaigns. However, after they were honored with Islam this nation became one of the noblest nations and full of love and mercy for humanity. Out of this mercy they have addressed their enemies as follows:
“You are so cruel o mercy! You make my enemy lovable to us.”
THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM
As we have stated before Islam consists of faith and good deeds.
According to Islam man has two kinds of obligations towards Allah, one is to have faith and the other is in terms of practice. The obligations of faith are considered before the practical ones. Therefore the Prophet (pbuh) has said:
“The thing I fear most for my Ummah is associating partners to Allah.” (Musnad, IV, 124,126)
Human beings will be divided into two nations before Allah as believers and non-believers. Faith is rootel in an indivisible unith. In other words, if anyone refuses to believe in any of the principles of faith it is the same as refusing all of them. All the principles possess the same weight since man has no right to call something wrong which is termed right by Allah. In his state of total weakness, can man reject the omnipotent and omniscient Creator? Without faith good deeds are of no benefit. In Islam, faith occupies the highest place among necessities.
However, faith cannot stand alone without good deeds. Through good deeds it is protected from harm. Islam is like a fruit tree. Faith through the heart is its roots. Declaring faith by tongue is the trunk and good deeds are as the flowers and fruits of the tree. As fruit are the purpose behind the tree, similarly good deeds are the necessary consequence of faith. Gnosis and proximity to Allah can be gained through good deeds. In other words, Islam is not a matter of belief it is also a matter of good practice. It is a dangerous path to expect salvation through faith only without having good practice. As a result, four out of five pillars of Islam are practical principles of good deeds. Only the first pillar of Islam is related to faith alone. It is the profession of faith. The following hadith clearly numerates the five pillars of Islam:
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
Allah’s Apostle said:
“Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):
1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle.
2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.
3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity) .
4. To perform Hajj. (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca)
5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.”
(Bukhari,Volume 1, Book 2, Number 7)
However, these five principles are not the whole of Islam. They are the main pillars that support the building but there are also other principles. Islam organizes man’s life from the cradle to the grave, both his spiritual and material life as well as his personal and public life. Even a cursory study of the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) will show that they cover all aspects of life. The above hadith however, provides Muslims with the primary directives that they need to construct their life. Without a building’s main pillars, no structure can stand firmly on its foundation. The other principles however support these main ones thus widening the strength of the whole structure. In keeping with this many other hadiths elucidate additional principles. As an example the following hadith states:
“Islam is made out of eight shares. The first share is believing in Islam, performing salat is one share, paying the poors’ due is a share, fasting is a share, performing pilgrimage is a share, commanding goodness is a share, refraining from evil is a share, striving in the path of Allah is a share…”
The commandments of Islam function as the arms of a compass. One point is fixed and other is moving and mobile. This means that obligatory commandments are incumbent (fixed) upon all believers whereas the superogotary acts of worship are like the. One can freely do these acts as much as he can according to his capacity. Those who have a capacity similar to that of Abu Bakr should do more, it is not correct for them to behave like a weak Muslim. On the other hand, those who do not possess a high capacity like that of Abu Bakr cannot practice Islam as he did. The important principle here is that after having fulfilled the obligatory acts of worship in as perfect of a manner as possible one should then do the superogotary acts to the degree possible so as to reach Allah through renunciation of the world. Throngh doing this we may grow to deserve the role of being Allah’s vicegerent on earth.
As it is important to understand Islam’s apparent rules, so too is it important to understand Islam’s hidden spiritual aspects. Allah the Almighty repeatedly informed us of these principles through His Messenger (pbuh). In this way Allah has empowered us to teach Islam in a correct way and has also extended to us the opportunity to practice it to perfection. The following hadith, which is best known as the hadith of Gabriel, emphasizes this point:
As narrated by Umar (may Allah be happy with him)
“Umar ibn al-Khattab, told me: ‘One day we were sitting in the company of Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) when there appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him. None amongst us recognized him. At last he sat with the Apostle (pbuh)
He knelt before him placed his palms on his thighs and said:
– Muhammad, inform me about al-Islam.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
– Al-Islam implies that you testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and you establish prayer, pay Zakat, observe the fast of Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the (House) if you are solvent enough (to bear the expense of) the journey.
He (the inquirer) said:
– You have told the truth.
He (Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: “It amazed us that he would put the question and then he would himself verify the truth.”
He (the inquirer) said:
– Inform me about Iman (faith).
He (the Holy Prophet) replied:
– That you affirm your faith in Allah, in His angels, in His Books, in His Apostles, in the Day of Judgment, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree about good and evil.
He (the inquirer) said:
– You have told the truth.
He (the inquirer) again said: Inform me about al-Ihsan (performance of good deeds).
He (the Holy Prophet) said:
– That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you don’t see Him, He, verily, sees you.
He (the enquirer) again said:
– Inform me about the hour (of the Doom).
He (the Holy Prophet) remarked:
– One who is asked knows no more than the one who is inquiring (about it).
He (the inquirer) said:
– Tell me some of its indications.
– He (the Holy Prophet) said:
– That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and master, that you will find barefooted, destitute goat-herds vying with one another in the construction of magnificent buildings.
He (the narrator, Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: ‘Then he (the inquirer) went on his way but I stayed with him (the Holy Prophet) for a long while. He then, said to me: “Umar, do you know who this inquirer was?” I replied: “Allah and His Apostle knows best.” He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: “He was Gabriel (the angel). He came to you in order to instruct you in matters of religion.”
In short, Islam is a religion of worshipping the one Allah. Allah the Almighty states in the Qur’an:
“I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.” (Zâriyat, 51:56)
Allah the Almighty commands his Prophet (pbuh) to inform humanity about this fact:
“Say (O Muhammad): Lo! I am commanded to worship Allah, making religion pure for Him (only).
And I am commanded to be the first of those who are Muslims (surrender unto Him).
Say: Lo! if I should disobey my Lord, I fear the doom of a tremendous Day.
Say: Allah I worship, making my religion pure for Him (only).” (Zumar, 39:11-14)
Faith in Allah is not a blind, robotic imitation of religious law. It is to worship the creator of the universe, the owner of life and death, to be happy with His verdict, and to do good deeds in accordance with His will.
Establishing religion is a privilege only given to prophets. Among all of the world’s religions, the sources of Islam have been best preserved. Allah has made the miracle of the Qur’an valid forever.
Islam demolished all myths, all superstitions and removed any vestige of darkness. In the place of ignorance, Islam established justice, high morality and brought forth felicity and peace to the world.
Islam helps one to discover his true identity and to teach him the secret of the verse:
“I breathed him from my own soul”
Islam polishes the mirror of the heart, prepares it to reach to Allah, adorns it with high morality, and is such a powerful elixir that it transforms the night of death into an object of desire as in the case of a young man anxiously awaiting his wedding night.
Mehmet Akif looking at the sad situation of Muslims in his time due to their weakness in submitting to Islam said:
“If Muslims do not want to be crushed by the passage of days
They should return to the bosom of Islam.”