The Excellent Features of Islam
(1) Pure Monotheism:
As noted earlier, this is the main goal of Islam. It is also one of its excellent features. Islam frees the human from trying to serve varied objects of worship. His life becomes clear and easy to follow. He has one Lord and one path to follow. He does not associate anyone or anything with God.
In a number of places in the Quran, Allah juxtaposes the ramifications and effects of the correct belief in Allah with the effects of different incorrect beliefs. In the following passage, Allah has beautifully described the fruits of the correct belief as well as the results of all false beliefs. Allah says, “Don’t you see how Allah sets forth a parable? A goodly word is like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens, it brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition. And the parable of an evil word is that of any evil tree. It is torn up by the root from the surface of the earth. It has no stability. Allah will establish in strength those who believe, with the word that stands firm, in this world and in the Hereafter; but Allah will leave to stray those who do wrong. Allah does what He wills” (14:24-27).
It is narrated that ibn Abbaas said, “The goodly word is the testimony that there is none worthy of worship except Allah.”This verse shows that pure monotheism or proper belief is the foundation upon which all other good is built. It is a foundation that continues to give and give, with its proceeds reaching the highest limits. Such is the way with the true faith; it continually and perpetually benefits the person in this life and eternally in the Hereafter. It also follows that the stronger and better supported the foundation or roots, the greater will be the fruits. On the other hand, the false beliefs, such as associating partners with God, have no solid ground to them. Indeed, they are not much more than an illusion in the sense that they can never bear the produce that its followers claim or believe in.
It is therefore no secret and no wonder that the first portion of the Prophet’s mission, as demonstrated by the revelations that he received in Makkah, concentrated on purification of belief. It was dedicated to removing all forms of ignorance, superstition and false creeds, as a human’s soul cannot rest if it is torn in many directions, seeking after numerous ultimate goals.
Allah has beautifully described the similitude of those who fail to see that their soul can only recognize one true object of worship: “Allah puts forth a similitude: a [slave] man belong to many partners disputing with one another [like those who worship more than one god] and a [slave] man belonging to only one man [like those who worship only Allah]. Are those two equal in comparison? All the praises are to Allah. Yet most of them know not” (39:29). From an Islamic perspective, there is no way for a person to please more than one god as, by the Islamic definition of the word “God”, God must be the thing that is foremost in one’s heart.
Actually, when a person realizes that he has only one, clear goal, the effects upon his soul are profound. He need not chase after an endless array of goals, never being able to satisfy or achieve any of them completely. (Indeed, many times people’s goals are contradictory and they can never achieve all of them.) His energies need not be exhausted trying to serve a myriad of goals. When he has one goal and one goal alone, he can easily gauge whether he is moving towards achieving that goal or not. He can put all of his energy and thought into working towards that one ultimate goal. He can be certain about his goal and his path will be clear. Hence, he has no reason to be filled with doubt or confusion.
Then, as he moves closer and closer to that one ultimate goal, he can experience true joy and contentment. All of this is part of the beauty and the bounty when humans recognize, receive and accept true monotheism, the only faith system consistent with their own creation and nature.
(2) The Religion of Allah
Islam is not a man-made philosophy or religion. Its teachings come directly from the Creator. It is the guidance that the Creator, via His Mercy, has bestowed upon humankind.
In reality, God can be the only one who knows how He is to be worshipped. He is the only one who knows what way of living is pleasing to Him. Philosophers and others may ponder over this question of what way of life is pleasing to God but, in reality, the details of that way of life are beyond the scope of human reasoning and experimentation. What humans, independent of revelation from God, declare to be the best mode of worshipping God is not what is necessarily most pleasing to God but only most pleasing to the individual who devised it. Thus, only God knows, for example, the manner by which one should pray to Him.
Being the only way of life that God has actually approved of, it will also be the only way of life that will be acceptable to Him in the end. Earlier two important verses of the Quran were quoted that point to this conclusion: “Truly, the religion with Allah is Islam (submission to Him)” (3:19); “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers” (3:85).
This point cannot be overemphasized. The ultimate question must be: What is acceptable and pleasing to God? No one can seriously claim with any real proof that any path other than that based on Allah’s guidance is pleasing to Him. Such a claim would be baseless and absurd.
Islam is comprehensive in many ways. It is comprehensive in the sense that it applies to all human beings and is applicable by all regardless of where or what time they may be living. Islam or submission to God is the true way of life from the time of the first human until the time of last human on this Earth. Furthermore, Islam is for all classes of people. Islam is just as much relevant to the most knowledgeable scientist as well as the illiterate Bedouin. Allah says concerning the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “Say (O Muhammad to the people), ‘O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah’ (7:158). Another verse reads, “And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind” (34:28). Among the Prophet’s followers were the rich and poor, nobles and weak, literate and illiterate. All of them were able to apply Islam and thereby, Allah willing, earn the pleasure of God.
Islam also covers both this life and the Hereafter. Islam is not a religion that is only concerned with the Hereafter. Islam offers complete and practical guidance for the affairs of this world as well. As noted earlier, one of the goals of Islam is to establish a sound and proper society in this life. As for the Hereafter, goodness therein is dependent completely upon Islam and working towards the Hereafter in the proper way. Allah may give anyone some of the goods of this world but He reserves the good of the Hereafter only for those who are pious believers.
Allah says, “Those who desire the life of this world and its glitter, to them We shall pay (the price of) their deeds therein, without diminution. They are those for whom there is nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire: vain are the designs they frame therein, and void are the deeds that they do” (11:15-16). In another verse, Allah says, “Whoever desires the immediate [worldly gratifications], We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We please. Then We have made for him Hell, [in] which he will burn, censured and banished. But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer, it is those whose effort is appreciated” (17:18-20).
Islam also attends to all of the various components of a human. It is concerned with the human’s spirit, intellect, body, beliefs, actions and morality. It protects the human from the diseases of the heart as well as from the diseases of the body and diseases of society as a whole. Thus, one can find guidance concerning the disease of arrogance that appears in the heart, guidance directing humans to balanced eating and drinking without extravagance and guidance steering humans away from corruption and social diseases such as adultery and the like. In essence, Islam guides humans to a balanced life in which no component is ignored or neglected. Instead, each component receives the attention that it deserves and requires.
Islam is also comprehensive in the sense that it covers all aspects of a person’s life, from ritual worship to ethics and moral behavior to acts of business and government. Nothing, by the grace and mercy of Allah, has been neglected. There is no reason for anyone to feel lost concerning any area of his life. No matter what the issue, he will be able to find some guidance to help him.
For the new Muslim, he must accept Islam in all of its comprehensiveness. He is not free to pick and choose what aspect of Islam he likes. Concerning such behavior, Allah says, “Do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part thereof? And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom. For Allah is not unaware of what you do. Such are those who buy the life of the world at the price of the Hereafter: Their punishment will not be lightened, neither will they have support” (2:85-86).
For example, he cannot restrict his Islam simply to the beliefs and the ritual acts of worship while rejecting what Islam has to say about marriage, business dealings, alcohol and drugs and so forth. Yes, it is true that one cannot expect another individual to become a perfect Muslim over night. However, the goal, the understanding and the acceptance in one’s heart of the entirety of Islam is the main issue.
The beautiful and consistent comprehensiveness of Islam is another sign that this religion must be revealed by God. It is impossible for humans, even in groups, to comprehend all of the components of this creation in such a way as to give comprehensive guidance for every aspect of life. Thus, Sayyid Qutb wrote,
When a human being tries to construct a metaphysical concept or a system of life through his own efforts, this concept or system cannot be comprehensive. It can only be partially valid, good for one time and place but not for other times and other places, and appropriate for one set of circumstances but not for another. Furthermore, even in tackling a single problem, he is incapable of looking at it from all possible sides and of taking into consideration all the consequences of the proposed solution, since every problem extends in space and time and is connected with precedents and antecedents beyond the scope of observation and comprehension of human beings. We therefore conclude that no philosophy and no system of life produced by human thought can have the characteristic of “comprehensiveness.” At most, it can cover a segment of human life and can be valid for a temporary period. Because of its limited scope, it is always deficient in many respects, and because of its temporariness it is bound to cause problems that require modifications and changes in the original philosophy or system of life. Peoples and nations basing their social, political and economic systems on human philosophies are forever confronted with contradictions and “dialectics.”
(4) Taking into Consideration the Welfare of this World and the Hereafter
As noted earlier, Islam is not a religion that is simply concerned with the Hereafter or what can be referred to as the “spiritual side” of life.Instead, it promotes the welfare of humans in both this world and the Hereafter. Thus, Allah says, “Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do” (16:97).
Many scholars have studied the Islamic Law in its entirety and have noted that the Law is geared toward achieving specific goals in this world (as well as the obvious goals of the Hereafter). One can divide the “wants” and “needs” of this world into three categories: necessities, needs and amenities. The necessities of life are those components of life that are required to allow one to truly have a “life.”
In other words, without them, one may be so miserable that he may wish he was no longer living. Beyond those necessities become the “needs,” which make life much more bearable, although one can still live without them. Then comes the amenities, which make life comfortable and more enjoyable.
Islamic Law, coming from the Creator, has identified and emphasized what are the true necessities of life. When one studies the laws found in Islam and what seems to be the wisdom behind them, one finds that they have been laid down to establish, protect, reinforce and perpetuate these necessities. After these are truly protected and established, the Law then seeks to meet the needs of life. After due consideration is given to the necessities and needs, the Law then seeks to provide amenities for the ease of humankind.
Space does not allow a detailed discussion of these three categories. Therefore, only the five necessities of life identified via Islamic Law will be briefly touched upon here.
The necessities of life as envisioned by Islamic Law are: (1) religion, (2) life, (3) familial ties and relationships, (4) mental capacity and (5) wealth and property. In one eloquent passage of the Quran, which is representative of the style of the Quran, Allah touches upon all of these goals of Islamic Law:
“Say [O Muhammad to the people]: ‘Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to shameful sins (or illegal sexual intercourse), whether committed openly or secretly, and kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to Islamic law). This He has commanded you that you may understand. And come not near to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he (or she) attains the age of full strength; and give full measure and full weight with justice. We burden not any person, but that which he can bear. And whenever you give your word, say the truth even if a near relative is concerned, and fulfill the Covenant of Allah, This He commands you, that you may remember.’ Verily, this (way) is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious” (6:151-153).
The most important of these goals is that of religion. From an Islamic perspective, if people do not have religion and a sound relationship with their Lord they cannot have a healthy life. Hence, one is expected to be willing to risk or sacrifice one’s own life for the sake of religion.
In fact, Allah says, “Is he who was dead (without Faith by ignorance and disbelief) and We gave him life (by knowledge and Faith) and set for him a light (of Belief) whereby he can walk amongst men, like him who is in the darkness (of disbelief, polytheism and hypocrisy) from which he can never come out? Thus it is made fair-seeming to the disbelievers that which they used to do” (6:122). Many of the laws of Islam are obviously geared toward the preservation of this ultimate goal, such as the institution of congregational prayer and so on. Next in importance comes life itself. Thus, for example, the law of retribution and the death penalty are part of Islamic law. These laws are not meant simply for the sake of punishment. Such laws are actually meant to protect life, as Allah says, “And there is (a saving of) life for you in the Law of Equality in punishment, O men of understanding, that you may become the pious” (2:179).
Concerning familial ties mention has already been made of the stringent laws governing adultery, fornication and slander. With respect to the protection of wealth, one finds that under specific conditions, the hand of the thief is to be amputated. The prohibition of wasting wealth, extravagance and interest are all for the sake of preserving wealth in the proper manner. With respect to the protection of mental capacity, all intoxicants have been prohibited and strict punishments are enacted for violating such laws.
(5) Ease and Absence of Hardship in the Law
One of the clearest aspects of Islamic Law is the goal of bringing about ease upon the humans and avoiding hardship for them while maintaining positive results for all. Hence, this is not a goal independent of all other goals. In other words, there are a myriad of goals, such as mercy, justice, equity, balance and so forth. Within the context of meeting those goals, though, Allah, in His Mercy and Wisdom, has laid down a law for humans that provides ease for them and is free of any unwarranted hardships.
Numerous verses of the Quran point to this very important feature of Islam. For example, Allah says, “Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned” (2:286). This is part of Allah’s great mercy, as no one could hold Allah responsible if He burdened humans with actions beyond their capacity. Allah also says, “Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you” (2:185). Allah also says, “Allah does not want to place you in difficulty, but He wants to purify you, and to complete His Favor on you that you may be thankful” (5:6). In yet another verse, Allah says, “Strive hard in Allah’s Cause as you ought to strive. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship” (22:78).
Allah sent the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as a mercy for all of mankind, as noted earlier. Part of his role was to relax some of the laws put on the previous peoples due to their recalcitrance or put on them by their own religious leaders and scholars.
Thus, Allah describes the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the following fashion: “Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write whom they find written with them in the Torah and the Gospel—he commands them for what is good and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful all good matters, and prohibits them as unlawful all filthy matters; he releases them from their heavy burdens and from the fetters that were upon them. So those who believe in him, honor him, help him, and follow the light which has been sent down with him, it is they who will be successful” (7:157). Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said, “I have not been sent with Judaism or Christianity but I have been sent with the true monotheism and easy religion.”
This principle of ease and removing hardship is exhibited throughout many branches of Islamic law. Even becoming a Muslim requires no special indoctrination or ceremony. In fact, it does not even require anyone’s approval or supervision. With respect to the acts of worship, one finds numerous rules demonstrating this principle. For example, an individual is not required to perform the pilgrimage to Makkah if he does not have the means to do so—in other words, if it would be too much of a financial burden.
The traveler is allowed to shorten and combine his prayers in order to lessen his burden—but he still must perform the prayer as that effort is definitely beneficial for him. With respect to the fast of Ramadan, those who are traveling or ill can delay their fasts and make up those days after the month is finished. Those facing starvation are allowed to eat foods, such as pork, that are normally forbidden. Of great importance is the issue of repentance. In Islam, repentance never requires one to go to a priest and beg forgiveness for one’s sins. It is simply a matter of faithfully returning to Allah and attempting to redress any wrong one has done.
For the new Muslim, it is important to realize that the relaxation in the laws under certain circumstances does not open the door to them to relax any law for themselves in the name of the fact that the religion desires ease. Such laws must be based on the Quran and Sunnah and will be known to those who are knowledgeable. Furthermore, as mentioned in a footnote earlier, it is referring to unwarranted hardship or effort. The effort or “hardship” required to perform prayers five times a day, fast for a month, and so on, are, in general within the means of most humans and the great benefits they should produce are well worth their effort.
(6) A Strong Relationship between the Creator and the Created
The goals and the teachings of Islam go well beyond any legal issues in this world. Islam seeks to create a certain type of individual, an individual who has a strong and proper relationship with Allah. There are a number of important points related to this feature.
First, in Islam, the Muslim has a direct relationship with Allah. Allah says, “And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then (answer them): I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright” (2:186). Allah also says, “And your Lord said: ‘Invoke Me, I will respond to your (invocation)” (40:60).
Thus, there is no priestly class in Islam. The individual prays directly to God without going through an intermediary. When a Muslim seeks forgiveness, he seeks it directly from God with no human having the authority to tell him if his repentance is sufficient or accepted by God. When a Muslim is in need, he turns directly to God, without having to put his trust and reliance in anyone other than God. When a Muslim wants to read the revelation and guidance from God, he goes directly to the Quran and Sunnah, being able to read them directly by himself.
There are no demigods or clergy that he has to go through. Everything is actually between the individual and his Lord. This direct relationship with Allah is very empowering and reassuring. There is none other than Allah that he is worshipping and there is none who can interfere with his worship of Allah. Under all circumstances, Allah is available to him and he can turn to Him at any time to ask for help, guidance and forgiveness.
This direct relationship with Allah extends to all of an individual’s deeds. The Muslim knows that Allah not only sees his outward actions but that Allah is also fully aware of every intention and feeling that is in his heart. Thus, due to his direct relationship with Allah, the Muslim attempts to perform every deed with the intention of pleasing God. In this way, even the most mundane activity can become an act pleasing to God, if done with the right conditions in the heart. The Muslim sets upon his day, via his close relationship with his Lord, by ensuring that he performs acts that are permissible in the sight of his Lord. That is the Muslim’s goal and intention and as he is conscious of this goal, he is pleasing Allah by the simplest of deeds. Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Everything you spend for the sake of Allah will be rewarded, even if it were a morsel you put in your wife’s mouth.”
When one understands this concept of his close relationship to God and the ability to the transform even mundane activities into acts that are pleasing to God, his whole outlook and behavior completely change. He begins to perform each act differently, realizing that he is doing it for the sake of God. Unfortunately, there are many in this world who are completely negligent of this point.
In Madaarij al-Saalikeen, ibn al-Qayyim stated, “The most exclusive [group of] people who get close to Allah are those who change the nature of their permissible deeds into acts of obedience to Allah.” He also said, “The customary-mundane deeds of those people who truly know Allah are acts of worship [for them] while the ritual acts of worship are customary deeds for the masses.” What he said is very true. Unfortunately, many among the masses of Muslims approach the prayers, fasting and other deeds as common daily practices that they must perform simply because it is part of the culture or way of life. They have no strong intention in their hearts or feeling of doing the act for the sake of Allah. If the quality of the act is poor, it does not matter much to them because they are doing it just to finish.
Hence, these important rites of worship become simply customary with no meaning or effect to them. The one who truly knows Allah is at the opposite extreme. Even the “mundane” deeds he performs are filled with purpose and intent. Hence, they become acts of worship that are pleasing to Allah. Thus, for example, even when a person goes to sleep he does so with the intention of reviving himself such that he can work again for the sake of Allah. Thereby, his sleep even becomes an act of worship of Allah.
Actually, one can take this discussion even one step further. Allah says in the Quran, “Every moment He has a matter to bring forth” (55:29). In other words, at every moment, Allah is creating, distributing, providing, bringing forth life and death and so on. However, in general nowadays, the individual does not see Allah behind all of these actions around him.
The individual today has become desensitized and thinks that all of these things simply occur on their own due to some independent laws of nature. In reality, that is not true. These “laws of nature” are nothing more than Allah’s activity at every second and moment. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah asks humans to observe the cosmos around them. For example, Allah brings the reader’s attention to the tiny bee or the movement of the shadows.Muhammad Qutb notes that Allah’s goal was not to present a scientific lesson in such passages. They are to awaken the human to what is really going on and to tie his heart and everyday activities to his Lord and Creator. Qutb writes,
Humankind’s concentration on the apparent cause has distracted them from seeing the greater reality behind it: the will of Allah who says to something, “Be,” and it is. They ignore that greater will and call the laws, “natural laws” and they say that they are fixed and inevitable. They are stupefied by such limited experiences and therefore Allah is actually distanced from their hearts. This is where the Quranic expression begins, taking them from where they are stupefied and distanced from Allah and taking them back to Allah…
Qutb then writes,
Science tells us, based on the outward causes that we see, that the existence of the sun and the rotation of the earth around it is the cause of the “movement” of the shadows. But the Quranic expression tells us that it is the will of Allah that moves the shadows in the first place and then the sun is placed as a guide for the shadow. Thus, the apparent cause is not the original source but actually comes afterwards… Indeed, it comes later, by the word “then”, after Allah decided this matter by His will, saying to something Be and it is.
In fact, Qutb argues, the end result of this Quranic approach is very clear. In reality, the knowledge that one has about, for example, the bee or the shade does not change upon reading the verses in the Quran in which Allah points to these two. One’s knowledge does not change but, he argues, the individual changes. Qutb states,
Did your information about the shadows or bees change when you read these verses? Certainly not! The information in itself was not new. It was known beforehand. However, that was a knowledge that was a dead, cold, still and unmoving information. But the Quran brings this information and presents it in an emotional or moving setting, in a miraculous fashion, that changes one’s perspective as if it were not what we knew beforehand. The information did not change but we are the ones who changed…
For the new Muslim, this may be a completely new way of looking at the world and may take some adjustment. Many non-Muslims do not see God’s involvement in this world and therefore they do not feel any direct relationship with God. As the new Muslim ponders over the Quran, this feeling may develop within him. He will see Allah’s working in everything around him. This will remind him of Allah and he will no longer be negligent of Allah and his duty toward Him. He will be then, God willing, leading his life in a manner very different from before his conversion to Islam.
(7) Ordering Good and Eradicating Evil.
Islam is not a religion in which one purifies one’s own soul while ignoring or not helping others as well along the path of purification. As discussed later in this work, Islam stresses the proper relationship between different individuals of society. One of the most important interactions between individuals is that of ordering or encouraging what is good while prohibiting or preventing that which is evil. It is part of true brotherhood that one wants to assist others to do what is right. It is also definitely part of true brotherhood that when one sees another Muslim doing something displeasing to Allah, that he would want to correct and advise his brother or sister in Islam. Thus, in the Quran, Allah relates the concept of being true brethren, friends and helpers to one another directly to the concept of ordering good and preventing evil. Allah says, “The believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters of one another, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil” (9:71). Allah also says, “Help one another in righteous dealings and in acts of piety. But do not help one another in sins or acts of aggression against others” (5:2). In fact, Allah makes it clear that encouraging good and preventing evil should be one of the overriding qualities of the Muslim Nation as a whole: “You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin what is good, forbid what is evil, and you believe in Allah” (3:110).
This is not an “optional way” to behave. It is a necessary part of one’s faith and attitude. This is part and parcel of what it means to belong to a community. An individual has rights upon others as well as obligations towards others. Looking out for one another and assisting one another is essential, especially for those in positions of authority or whose voices are listened to. Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has informed the Muslims, “By the One in whose hand is my soul, you must order good and forbid evil or Allah will soon send upon you a punishment from Himself and then you will supplicate to Him and He will not respond to you.”
In a beautiful parable recorded by al-Bukhari, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) demonstrated the importance of this practice for society as a whole: “The similitude of the one who fulfills Allah’s command [by eradicating evil] and the one who falls into what Allah forbids is like a people who drew lots for places on a boat. Some of them got the upper level of the boat while others were on the lower level. Whenever the people on the lower level wanted water, they had to go to the people on the upper level. Therefore, they said, ‘If we were to make a hole in our portion we would not have to bother the people above us [to get water].’ If they [the people on the upper level] leave them to what they want to do, all of them would be destroyed. If, instead, they take them by their hands [and stop them from what they plan on doing], they will be saved and they will save all of them.”
Many times people would like to stay away from evil but they need help in doing so. They need true friends around them who can act like a support group. Some individuals simply do not have the strength to remain away from activities that they know are wrong or that they themselves do not like, especially if there is peer pressure on them. With the help of others who understand what he is going through and who recognize that he truly wants to do what is right, he is able to muster up the courage to say no to wrong activities. Similarly, others are simply lazy or lack the motivation to do the actions they should perform. Again, with the sincere help or encouragement from those around him, the individual finds the strength to do what is right.
If people were individualistic and only concerned about their own selves, not lending hands to others, it would be disastrous for society. Those who do evil would dominate and harass others. In fact, many neighborhoods in the U.S., for example, have recognized this fact. The neighbors realized that they had to get together to encourage good things and remove evil things, as otherwise their neighborhoods were being destroyed by hoodlums. In the same way, true believers come together and assist one another promoting all good things and blocking all evil things.
Obviously, no one is going to be free from sin and therefore this principle of encouraging good and preventing evil does not mean that one has to be perfect before he can speak to others about their behavior. However, the encouraging of good and preventing of evil, logically, should begin with one’s own self. One should make oneself do what is good and prevent oneself from doing evil. In this way, one sets an example for others and such a person will more likely be listened to when he advises others. At the same time, though, even if a person has some shortcomings, he should still encourage others to do good and try to keep them from evil.
It must be noted that there are some conditions for the practice of encouraging good and preventing evil. One condition, for example, is that one has knowledge of what is good and what is evil according to Quran and Sunnah. It is possible that someone, due to ignorance, may encourage another not to do an act while that act is actually from the Sunnah.
For the new Muslim, in particular, he may find himself repeatedly on the end of being told what to do or what not to do. Many times this advice comes from other Muslims who may seem overzealous or who do not have the proper tack when speaking to a new Muslim. Many times language difficulties magnify the manner in which the new Muslim is being spoken to. It is important for the new Muslim to realize that, in general, his fellow Muslim means him no harm or humiliation. Instead, he may be simply acting on the basis of trying to encourage him to do what is right and teaching others about Islam. If the new Muslim sometimes feels frustrated about such occurrences, he should remind himself that the others are acting out of love and want only what is good for their new brother in Islam.
(8) The Proper Honoring of Humankind
There is no question that in God’s scheme for this creation, humans have been given many special talents and skills, making them distinct from other creatures. Thus, Allah says in the Quran, “And indeed We have honored the Children of Adam, and We have carried them on land and sea, and have provided them with lawful good things, and have preferred them above many of those whom We have created with a marked preference” (17:70). This marked preference is not the result of a random form of “evolution” but is the intentional determination of the Creator.
Through divine guidance one can fully understand the many ways by which humans have been honored by their Lord. Through Allah’s revelation, one discovers that humans are not in a battle against “nature” which needs to be conquered. One also learns that humans are not simply the “cousins of apes” with no particular purpose or goal in this life. One also learns that this creation is not “inherently evil” or that one is born with “an original sin” that cannot be removed save through the sacrifice of another being. Starting from vantage points such as those, it is not surprising to see the worth of humans being reduced to virtually nothing.
It is not surprising to see humans being used as simply tools for economic advantage and profit. Indeed, it is not even surprising to see thousands of humans killed simply for the sake of economic advantages and natural resources. After all, coming from such a perspective, why should humans be treated any differently from other animals that are similarly exploited, killed and destroyed? Truly, it is via Allah’s revelation that one becomes to fully appreciate what a human is and how humans should be treated and respected.
In reality, Allah allowed humans to bear the great responsibility of being His servants, by which they can attain the greatest of all rewards. Allah honored humans by revealing books specifically for their guidance. Allah chose messengers and prophets from among humans, giving them the noblest task of conveying Allah’s guidance for humankind. Allah has even subjugated everything in the heavens and the earth to the needs of humans: “He has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all as a favor and kindness from Him. Verily, in it are signs for a people who think deeply” (45:13).
In addition, He has given the opportunity to humans to become His devoted servants, martyrs for His cause and scholars of His religion, giving them special nobility and honor. These great achievements are equally open to the males and females of this species. Thus, Allah says, for example, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female. You are (members) one of another, so those who emigrated and were driven out from their homes, and suffered harm in My Cause, and who fought, and were killed (in My Cause), verily, I will remit from them their evil deeds and admit them into Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise); a reward from Allah, and with Allah is the best of rewards” (3:195). Allah also says, “Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do” (16:97).
In fact, the only real difference between people has nothing to do with their gender, their ethnicity, their race, their wealth, their sex appeal or their class. All of those are false ways of considering humans. Such standards, in fact, do nothing but denigrate humans. The only real standard for the worth of a human is his relationship with his Lord. Thus, Allah says, “O humankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has piety. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware” (49:13).
One hears a lot of talk about human rights nowadays. This seems to be an attempt to treat humans in the most dignified and respectable manner. However, the biggest problem with human rights is that God is not given His proper role with respect to humans. Instead, humans virtually become the ultimate object of worship—and the “rights” of humans are given dominance over anything else, even the rights of God. In fact, much talk about human rights is not much more than freeing humans from the worship of Allah.
This is not a proper way of honoring humans. Indeed, this is a type of extremism. Whenever anything is magnified out of proportion and giving rights or responsibilities above what it can bear, the result will be harm and suffering. Humans cannot be put into a role where they are given the choice to decide everything for themselves, including what rights they must have upon one another. These kinds of issues can only be decided by their Creator who knows the innermost details of their creation and the interactions with the rest of creation.
In the law of Allah, by the mercy of Allah, Allah has given humans all of the rights that they need and deserve, as only He could possibly determine for them based on His knowledge and justice. They receive from God the rights that they need to live a prosperous and happy life. At the same time, though, they are also given responsibilities. Both rights and responsibilities have to go hand and hand for humans to interact with each other properly in this creation.
The greatest drawback, though, of the human rights proponents is that they can only touch upon rights related to this world. In this way, they are forgetting the most important right because it is beyond the realm of human experience. This is the right that Islam brings them—their special right upon Allah. This right is described in the following hadith:
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “O Muaadh!” Muaadh replied, “At your beck and call, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then asked him, “Do you know what Allah’s right is over His servants?” Muaadh replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Prophet then told him, “Allah’s right upon His servants is that they worship Him [alone] and do not ascribe any partners to Him.” Then after a while, the Prophet said, “O Muaadh ibn Jabal!” He replied, “At your beck and call, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then asked him, “Do you know what the right of the servants upon Allah is if they do that?” He replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then told him, “The right of the servants upon Allah is that He will not punish them.”
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