28 mai 2006

Khalifa Abdul Hakim, One God, One World, One Humanity, (full text)

The fundamentals of Muslim culture are derived from the religious experience of the Prophet Muhammad and his interpretations of this in theory as well as practice. The Weltanschauung of the Muslim has been determined by the Qur‘anic revelation. The theologians, politicians, jurists, philosophers and mystics, through all the centuries of Muslim history, have claimed to base their arguments and conclusions on the teachings of the Qur‘an. Even during the periods of the greatest intellectual activity, under the powerful impact of pre-Islamic cultures, the Muslim mind never doubted the essentials of the Qur‘anic outlook.

Auguste Comte, the founder of positivism, described three stages of intellectual development through which humanity has passed: theological, metaphysical, and scientific. The distinguishing characteristic of Islam which was the source and the driving force of its cultural development was a creative synthesis of these three stages. Islam is theological, metaphysical and scientific at the same time. Based on revelation, Islam, in essence, might be considered to be theological, but its theology has a core of metaphysics, and its theistic outlook is an ally of the scientific outlook.

The Metaphysical Basis Of Islamic Culture
The fundamental belief, which according to Islam is the basis of all true religions, is the Unity of the Ultimate Reality. This Ultimate Reality called Allah is infinite, volitional, and rational. It is personal as well as impersonal, transcendent as well as immanent. It is Supreme Consciousness or Knowledge whose chief attributes are Power, Reason, and Love. According to the Qur‘an everything comes into being through the Creative Will of God, Who, "notwithstanding infinite stores of potential power, creates and regulates things and events with a definite measure." "His love covers everything." He is the sustainer and Cherisher of the worlds; all the worlds are unified in Him. Hence we live in a universe and not a multiverse. God, in His essence, being Spirit, Nature as well as Life, has a spiritual basis and a purpose.

God is the Source as well as the Goal of all existence and the purpose of life is the realisation in thought, as well as in practice, of this spiritual basis. This Ultimate Reality is not devoid of intrinsic values; all creation and evolution are the progressive realisation of these values. In the infinity of existence nothing happens by chance. Man’s own ideal nature is a manifestation of this reality; therefore, loyalty to God is loyalty to one’s own ideal nature. God is the principle of change as well as of permanence. The ultimate spiritual basis of life is eternal, though, in the words of the Qur‘an, "Every moment God’s Glory has a new effulgence." Life changes perpetually according to principles that are eternal.

Western thinkers have acknowledged the intellectual unity of all aspects of Muslim culture. Muslim law, ethics, economics, politics, sociology and attitudes towards nature and humanity all are derived from the metaphysical background of a Primeval Unity. The pre-Islamic world had sundered what God had joined. The chief service of Islam was a re-integration of life in all its aspects. The very first line of the Qur‘an described God as ‘God of the worlds’; the world of matter is not separated from the world of the spirit by unintelligible or impassable barriers. The material world, too, is holy ground. As the Prophet said, "The material world is a mosque." Knowledge as well as virtue is an avenue of approach from creation to the Creator. Religion does not consist in belief, in dogmas or mysteries. As knowledge grows, more and more reverence develops along with it. The essentially religious people, according to the Qur‘an, are those who reflect on the workings of nature. Those who want supernatural proofs are directed by the Qur‘an to the obvious, to which they have become blind.

There is nothing like mechanistic, purposeless, blind and dead matter in Muslim thought. "Every creature and every aspect of nature is engaged in communion with the Creator, glorifying Him in a tongue which you do not understand." Islam, therefore, repudiates every type of materialism, by spiritualising matter itself and making it akin to the spirit.

Pre-Islamic philosophies as well as religions had bifurcated existence and sundered the ideal from the actual. Spirit had made abortive attempts to free itself from body and from matter and in this vain attempt had stultified itself. In the attempt to exalt the spirit, matter with its laws and beauties was despised. This led to asceticism in the East as well as in the West. The demands of the body became a temptation and a risk. Nietzsche classified religions in two ways: those that say ‘yes’ to life, and those that say ‘no’ to life. The revolution that Islam accomplished and the outlets for human energies that it created, were due chiefly to this re-evaluation: the ascetic ideal was spurned as a life-negating outlook. Islam is accused by its critics as presenting fascinating pictures of a physical paradise, with beautiful men and women living in a beautiful environment enveloped in peace and beauty, but this overlooks that thereby Islam proclaimed the sanctity of the senses and envisaged the development of the spirit as manifesting itself also in the physical aspects of existence -- value which are derided by pseudo-idealism and hypocritical spirituality.

In the present-day world all practical idealists and believers are engaged in the materialisation of this dream and the creation of conditions of freedom and social justice in order to create this very paradise on earth, where human relations and human environment can assimilate Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. The goal of all human endeavour is the final identification of virtue and happiness. The way is not the suppression, but the realisation and sanctification of all those creative instincts with which life has equipped itself.

The result of this teaching was that the Muslim considered all Nature including his or her body as divine, and it was not derogatory to human dignity to crave for physical beauty and physical well-being, provided it did not violate the laws of physical nature or the laws of social justice. Nature, which was despised by ascetic religions, is mentioned in the Qur‘an as replete with the ‘Signs of the Lord’ and points to the ineffable Unity of Reason and Love, the Creative Urge from which all creation emerges.

And your God
Is one God.
There is no God
But He,
Most Gracious
Most Merciful.
Behold! In the creation
Of the heavens and the earth;
In the alternation
Of the night and day;
In the sailing of the ships
Through the ocean
For the benefit of mankind;
In the rain which God
Sends down from the skies,
And the life which He gives therewith
To the earth that is dead;
In the beasts of all kinds
That He scatters
Through the earth;
In the changes of winds,
And the clouds which they
Trail like their slaves
Between the sky and the earth
Here indeed are Signs
For a people that are wise.
(The Qur‘an, II: 163-4)

He granteth wisdom
To whom He pleaseth;
And he, to whom wisdom
Is granted, receiveth
Indeed a benefit overflowing,
But none will grasp the Message
But men of understanding;
(The Qur‘an, II: 269)

Islam turned the attention of humanity to the phenomena of nature. Instinct as well as reason is a revelation of the Original Life Force. (The word ‘vahi’ is used in the Qur‘an for the prophetic revelation as well as the instincts of animals, whereby they pursue unerringly and, for our present knowledge sometimes miraculously, the purposes of their lives.) The Qur‘an was the first scripture which proclaimed the identity of revelation, reason and nature, and proclaimed that the contemplation of nature within and nature without is the highest act of worship.

The student of history is astounded by the sudden and marvellous metamorphosis of an illiterate people into the greatest seekers of knowledge and the assimilators of all values in human culture wherever they may have originated. This took a breadth of mind which could not have been expected from a society supposed to have a rigid theocratic basis. (Dean Inge, in his outspoken essays, has paid a tribute to the creative and assimilative periods of Islamic culture by saying that the Muslims sought knowledge from everywhere without any prejudice. They proved to be remarkable assimilators of foreign culture, which has not been the case in any society with a theocratic background.) Islam uses the same word, ‘Haq’, for God as well as for Truth. In Islam the search for Truth was identified with the search for God. It was the spirit of its teachings that released human energies in all directions. The Prophet said, "Knowledge is the lost property of every Muslim; he is entitled to get hold of it wherever he finds it." "Seek knowledge even if you have to travel to China."

People who read these verses every day and imbibed their spirit have taught the methods of accurate observation and made the beginnings in experimental science. The Qur‘an says about the seekers of God in nature:

Men who celebrate
The praises of God,
Standing, sitting,
Any lying down on their sides,
And contemplate
The wonders of creation
In the heavens and the earth,
With the thought:
"Our Lord! not for naught
Hast thou created all this;"
(The Qur‘an, III: 191)

It was the repeated emphasis in the Qur‘an on the study of nature in order to discover in it uniformities and adaptations that resulted in the development of a rational outlook. The history of Islam is free from the wars of religious bigotry and persecution except in a few scattered and individual cases where religion was exploited for the purposes of political power. Similarly in the history of Muslim culture there never has been a conflict between religion and science -- unlike the history of the West which offers many examples of intellectual persecution and even martyrdom in the cause of science. The entire body of Greek scientific thought was rescued by the Arabs, and Muslim kings demanded scientific books as tribute in preference to gold. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus were revered as philosophical monotheists. Great philosophers and scientists like Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) were devout Muslims and freethinkers at the same time.

Free and liberal thought was assimilated even by the mystics. It is a peculiar feature of Muslim culture that great Muslim mystics like Rumi, who are at the same time freethinkers and rationalists, tried to define the boundaries between intuition or religious experience and logical thinking, and to create a liaison between them. None of these great men ever suspected that either religious experience or the free exercise of rational activity ran counter to the spirit of Islam.

The spiritual odyssey of a person such as al-Ghazali is one of the most interesting biographies of a great soul. He plunged from dogmatic theology into rationalism and from rationalism into scepticism -- from which finally he was rescued by religious experience. This, according to him, created a direct and intimate contact with higher realities through a more exalted state of consciousness which comprehends wider dimensions of being. This insight which not only solves some of the riddles of perceptual and logical knowledge, but opens up vistas of new values which do not destroy, but fulfil the values of the lower grades of existence. Al-Ghazali, an acute critic of Greek science, is a mystic, a rationalist and a theologian at the same time; this combination and synthesis was made possible by the spirit of Islam.

The Role Of Humankind
The Greek philosopher, Protagoras, said "Man is the measure of all things", to which Socrates and Plato replied that Eternal Reason identified with God is the measure of all reality.

If we take the ideal man of the Qur‘an -- Adam, the prototype of humanity -- these two antagonistic views easily could be reconciled. The Qur‘an says that the essence of the human self is divine: God infused into Adam His own spirit and destined him to understand nature and mould it in the service of ideal values. Through knowledge and right action, the ideal man, participating in the divinity of God, himself becomes divine; through his ideal self and infinite possibilities he becomes the measure of the Universe. Neither the Universe nor the Ultimate Reality is isolated from the human mind, which is the greatest manifestation of that Reality. The Adam of the Qur‘an is not an individual but the ideal common essence of the whole of "humanity which originated in one soul."

Islam has drawn two major corollaries from the Unity of God: the unity of creation or of entire nature, and the unity of humanity. The conflict of ideologies at the present time is concerned less with the concept of God and more with the concept of humanity, but Islam is as much concerned with the nature of man as with the right concept of God. For making ideal humanity the measure of reality along with God who is the source of all reality, the Qur‘an transformed the ancient legend of Adam and Eve, of the Fall and Original Sin, into a doctrine that places humanity at the centre of the universe, making all agencies of nature subservient to it through the power bestowed by knowledge.

Behold! Thy Lord said to the angels: I will create a vicegerent on earth! They said: wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood whilst we celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy name? He said: I know what ye know not. And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: tell me the names of these, if ye are right! And behold, He said to the angels: bow down to Adam! And they bowed down. Not so Iblis! He refused and was haughty. He was of those who reject faith.

There existed before Islam other theologies which had fixed their gaze on the fall of man, made Original Sin an eternally inheritable taint, and laid down that the birth of every human being is a punishment for the original sin committed by the first progenitor of this condemned species. Hence, no amount of virtuous life could suffice for salvation and well-being here and hereafter until God put on flesh Himself and punished Himself vicariously in love for his hopeless creature.

Qur‘anic teaching repudiates the entire basis of this doctrine which drags down all humanity along with its Creator into a slough of despair, from which man can be rescued only by grace. According to Islamic teaching there are no deities or powers of nature to which man has to submit; nor must he submit to any deified man. Man can never become God, nor can God become man. All agencies of nature must bow to man as he progresses in knowledge. But there shall remain one recalcitrant force which he will find hard to subdue, namely, Iblis which is his own selfish ego. The principle of moral evil, which is an inevitable result of the gift of the freedom of the will, is personified and symbolised as a character in the drama. The Qur‘an and the sayings of the Prophet are strewn with examples where every kind of moral as well as physical evil is called Satan, denoting thereby that Satan is not really a person, but a principle. The Prophet said once: "Every man has with him his own Satan". A hearer promptly asked, "Is there a Satan with you, too?" The Prophet replied, "Yes, but I have converted my Satan to Islam."

The Religious Meaning Of Freedom
The word ‘Islam’ means surrender as well as peace. All religions other than Islam are named after their founders and such names do not give the connotation or distinctive character of a creed. All religious experience is the experience of a Reality, which, though akin to the human spirit, transcends it by its infinity. Before Islam in the Arab world, groping humanity was surrendering itself to imaginary deities, revering totems and fetishes; one class, caste, or group surrendering explicitly to another dominant class; some individuals being deified and worshipped either as incarnations or as absolute monarchs with power of life and death over their subjects. Everywhere humankind was enslaved by exploitation, imagination, tradition or fear.

Islam put before humanity an ideal of human freedom unknown to the pre-Islamic world. It declared that all nature is God-created and God-directed, whose will is not subject to any caprice and who works according to set and stable laws, which the Qur‘an calls the ‘habitual modes of the Divine Will’. "Thou shalt find no alteration in the habits of the Lord." All deities are the creations of the human imagination and human desires. Epicurus said that man could not be happy until he is freed from the fear of gods. But belief in the reality of gods was so fixed and firm in the classical pagan mind that even a materialist like Epicurus could not venture to deny their existence. He ventured to think only that in their Olympian aloofness they do not interfere with the life of man. Islam rationalised nature and freed man from all fear; only one rational God was left, Who alone should be loved, obeyed and feared.

Fear of God has nothing in common with the fear instilled by the power and tyranny of a hostile being; it is identical with practical wisdom which is afraid of the violations of the laws of nature and of the laws of human welfare. A person who has attained virtue and wisdom is described in the Qur‘an always as one who is ‘freed from fear and grief.’ He is freed from fear because a wise and virtuous man has nothing to fear except his violations of the laws of his own well-being, and freed from grief because Ultimate Reality is conceived as the Cherisher, Sustainer and Preserver of all real values. Grief for the loss of what has little or evanescent value for life is irrational; grief for the loss of the really valuable is equally irrational because nothing of genuine and lasting value is lost. Belief in a rational and beneficent God is really belief in the conservation of values.

When Islam demands surrender it does not demand the relinquishing of anything that has an abiding value. The lower aspects of life exalt themselves by surrendering to higher aspects; they are not destroyed; rather their real purpose is fulfilled. There is demand for only life-enhancing surrender whereby the physical aspect is spiritualised and sublimated by subordinating itself to a higher ideal.

It is claimed by some materialists and naturalists that man can become free only by repudiating all belief in the reality of God, in the objectivity of an ideal existence. But can a belief in the blindness of existence, where ideals are created only by the wishful human thinking, really make one free and grant that peace of mind which one craves? If the island of human values is surrounded by an infinite ocean of indifferent or hostile forces, all life is reduced to a vain effort and a mockery. Could such a cosmic outlook create inner satisfaction or peace?

It may be argued that the theistic outlook of Islam if proven to be a true interpretation of existence certainly would free one from fear and grief and create an attitude of calm resignation and peace that passeth understanding, but that human knowledge and experience offer no adequate proof or guarantee for this outlook. The thesis of Islam is that besides the religious experiences of saints and the prophets, a wider and deeper study of nature, history and the human mind leads one to belief in a Life Force which is creative, evolutionary and preservative.

The Qur‘an teaches that good has an inherent tendency to multiply itself and evil is ultimately self-destructive. The universe is an ordered whole, in which no event is a product of mere chance and all life is a goal-seeking activity. The Ultimate Goal is God, as the Ultimate Source of all cosmic activity is God. In the words of the Qur‘an, "God is the beginning and God is the end; God is the appearance and God is the reality." The universe is not mechanistically blind as the materialists assert, nor is it volitionally blind as Schopenhauer taught. Islam teaches one to say ‘yes’ to life because life is destined to create value and well-being. Life being a dynamic movement of the unfolding of immense potentialities, man is destined to move to higher things by constantly dying in order constantly to be reborn at every moment on ever higher planes. The infinity of divine existence being the goal, the process of spiritual evolution is infinite. This infinite progress guarantees enhancement of life and consciousness, the constant creation and re-evaluation of values and the immortality of ever-striving egos.

Upon an ego, striving for an infinite ideal, mere adaptation to circumstances can bestow no peace. Biological evolution of the Darwinian category taught that chance variations were the means, and adaptation to environment the goal of life. Islam repudiates the hypothesis of chance and in place of mere adaptation to environment, which is already achieved by the worms, places before man the perpetual assimilation of the attributes of God as his goal and purpose. In such a process there can be no quietistic and static peace; one can only enjoy the peace and satisfaction of moving in the right direction, progressively realising an ideal by perpetual achievement through perpetual surrender: perpetually dying in order to be perpetually reborn in the richer and wider vistas of being. Personal, social and cosmic peace through surrender, with the purpose of divinising and enriching life, here and hereafter, is the meaning of Islam.

The ethics of Islam follows from the Islamic view of Reality. In Islam, ethics cannot be sundered from its metaphysical basis. One is created as God’s vicegerent on earth in order to understand and subordinate the whole of nature, within and without, to an infinite ideal; one is a creator and co-worker with the Infinite Creator. As nothing in existence is alien to God, nothing can be alien to humankind. As "nothing is created in vain", so in the human individuality or personality no aspect is created in order to be utterly repudiated or annihilated. As the cosmic ego is a unity, so too the human ego fundamentally is a unity. One’s body as well as one’s mind is a unity in diversity: the spirit is bound up with the flesh and cannot develop by inflicting indignities on the latter. The body with its senses and its instincts is sacred; God dwells and works not only in the spirit but also in the body.

Among great religions Islam alone raised its voice against the identification of spirituality with asceticism. One cannot attain to God by fleeing from life and neglecting physical existence; the way to God leads through nature and through humanity. One cannot by-pass the creation to reach the Creator; the Creator conceived in isolation from his creation is an abstraction. The individual cannot save his or her soul by meditation in a cave or by ascetic practices; one’s essential self is social. According to the Prophet, "the worker in the everyday business of life is a friend of God." The lengthening of prayers to the extent that man is prevented from the performance of family and social duties is prohibited. Islamic ethics is an ethics of integration of all the aspects of human existence. In the self-realisation of the individual, no aspect is to be neglected. All one’s instincts have definite life-functions, which have to be understood, respected, and regulated so that they work as an organic whole under the guidance of a supreme ideal, the part subserving the whole and the whole strengthening every part.

The fundamental Islamic ethics are given in the Qur‘an. Belief in one God is tantamount to belief in the unity of virtue and the objectivity of life-values. The belief may be acquired either through religious experience or intellectual effort, or it may be inherited from social tradition. The distinction between good and evil must be accepted as a postulate before any moral life becomes possible. But according to Qur‘anic, mere verbal profession intellectual apprehension or traditional acceptance is not enough; knowledge apart from action is a sterile abstraction. Wisdom ceases to be wisdom if it does not mould character.

One of the characteristics of the Qur‘an is that it seldom mentions ‘faith’ without coupling it with good deeds. "Woe to the people who pray but are not charitable." Socrates identified knowledge with virtue; he was of the opinion that a person who knows what is good necessarily will follow it. The Qur‘anic view is that good deeds are the true test of faith and knowledge, and unless a person disciplines himself and creates good habits his faith alone will not suffice when face to face with temptations. What Islam means by Iman or faith is not merely an intellectual assent or belief based on authority. Like the word ‘Islam’, which means both surrender and peace, the word Iman too has a double significance; it has a cognitive as well as a conative side. In Islamic teaching truth is always pragmatic in a higher and a broader sense. Iman is derived from the root amn which used transitively means, "he granted him peace or security"; when used intransitively it means, "he came into peace or security."

The word ‘Islam’ as well as Iman emphasises the idea of peace or harmony, the ideal of human experience. One must strive to be at peace with himself, with one’s neighbours or the society in which one lives, with the universe that forms one’s physical environment, and above all with that Source and Goal of Reality called God reflected in one’s ideal self. One who, by becoming true to his real or higher self, attains inner and other personal peace, qualifies to attain peace and security also for others. Al-Mu‘min, the granter of security, is an attribute of God. Islam is a sum-total of those principles which create harmony in every aspect of life. In a number of sayings of the Prophet good deeds and right attitudes are considered to be a substantial part of faith which sometimes is completely identified with virtue. Some sayings of the Prophet will elucidate his conception of faith. "A person has no faith unless he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." "A man should try to prevent evil and tyranny by action. If he is unable to do this, he should express strong disapproval of it in words. If he is prevented from freely expressing his disapproval he should hate it in his heart. This last attitude is the weakest expression of faith."

Law and justice are the central concepts in Islamic ethics: justice has an intrinsic, and law only an instrumental, value. God’s attributes of beneficence and mercy precede his quality of a law-giver and a judge in the daily prayers of the Muslims. There is a general human tendency to practise a different morality towards friends and foes. The Qur‘anic teaching warns human beings against this weakness: covenants must be fulfilled with allies as well as opponents. Treatises cannot be violated unilaterally at the will of one party, and the code of justice is the same for all. "O ye, who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others make you swerve toward wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety. And fear God, for God is well-acquainted with all that ye do." (The Qur‘an, V: 9)

Islam And Social Reform
As the Prophet conceived humanity as a single organic whole, tribal prejudices must be transcended. He knew that differences of tongues and colours and diversity of conventions existed and would continue to exist. These diversities are called in the Qur‘an, ‘the signs of Allah’, which is a term used in the Scripture in a very exalted sense. He was not an advocate of colourless uniformity; he was convinced that if people could see the unreality of tribal gods and could believe in One Creator and Sustainer of all of nature and humanity, and if the fundamentals of virtue and social justice could be established on a broad and universal basis, the irrational conflicts of creeds and tribes could be ended. He was successful in his lifetime in uniting the tribes, not on a nationalistic, racial or a patriotic basis, but on the basis of a universal creed and universal morality.

The division of humanity into tribes and nations serve only the purposes of recognition. Nations become superior or inferior by their character and their outlook. In his last address, delivered at a time when he was at the acme of his power and when the Arabs had achieved unprecedented solidarity and were intoxicated with success, he said, "Remember! The Arab has no inherent superiority over the non-Arab". Individuals and nations must be evaluated on the basis of their character alone; all pride based on race, tribe or creed is false. The Negro, when he happened to be also a slave, was despised by the pre-Islamic Arabs. The Prophet selected one such Negro slave and made him his dear companion, entrusted with the honoured duty of calling faithful to prayer. He said, "Follow your leader even if he is a Negro slave."

Muhammad (PBUH) cherished the vision of a classless society and of different communities living side by side in peace. He taught his followers to respect the founders of all theistic creeds. The Qur‘an states explicitly that the good life and salvation are not the exclusive monopoly of any creed.

Those who believe in the Qur‘an
And those who follow Jewish scriptures,
And the Christians and the Sabeans,
And those who believe in God,
And the Last Day,
And work righteousness,
Shall have their reward
With their Lord: On them
Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
(The Qur‘an, II: 62)

To God belong the East
And the West: Whitherever
Ye turn, there is the Presence
Of God. For God is All-Pervading,
(The Qur‘an, II: 115)

Different individuals and nations choose different goals. The main thing is that these goals should lead to the Good, the summum bonum. People should choose and strive, even competitively as if in a race, to realise the Good. If they keep that in mind, the diversity of subsidiary aims would not make them hostile to one another.

To each is a goal
To which God turns him;
So, strive together
Toward all that is good.
Wherever ye are,
God will bring you
Together. For God
Hath power over all things.
(The Qur‘an. II: 148)

The Prophet had a definite vision and a plan to create a classless society and a well-harmonised humanity. When the world was groaning under religious persecution he promulgated the principle that there must be complete freedom of conscience. The Qur‘an proclaimed that "there must be no compulsion in religion." A Muslim is prohibited from exercising pressure even on his slave in order to convert to him to Islam. The great Caliph Omar had a Christian slave who, notwithstanding his refusal to accept Islam, lived in peace and freedom in the household of his master. A Muslim could have a Jewish or a Christian mother, who should be loved, respected and obeyed. There were instances of Muslims carrying on their backs their aged Christian mothers to the church. This is the spirit of Islam in action. Conventional differences of creeds should not make human beings hostile to one another. Righteousness is different from dogmas and conventions: it is an attitude of mind dominated by love, compassion and justice. Differences of customs and manners should not blind people to the essentials of virtue, which form the core of all genuine spirituality.

It is not righteousness
That ye turn your faces
Toward East or West;
Righteousness is
To spend your substance,
Out of love for Him,
For your kin,
For the needy,
For the wayfarer,
For those who ask,
And for the ransom of slaves;
To be steadfast in prayer,
And practice regular charity;
To fulfil the contracts
Which ye have made,
To be firm and patient
In pain and adversity
And throughout
All periods of panic:
Such are the people
Of truth, the God-fearing.
(The Qur‘an, II, 177)

Muhammad’s conception of humanity excluded slavery of all types. Ancient civilisation and its entire economic structure were built on this unholy institution. The Prophet saw that it could not be abolished at a stroke, but that it could be eliminated progressively by humane legislation tending towards that end. A philosopher like Aristotle had taught that slavery could not be abolished because it was rooted in the nature of things: some persons were created for slavery. The Prophet thought otherwise. He regarded slavery to be an obnoxious institution created by the artificial need and greed of self-seeking men. The emancipation of slaves was made a moral duty and a number of wrongs done by a person could be expiated by the emancipation of a slave. A slave as such could be allowed to be kept only on the condition that the master fed and clothed him as he fed and clothed himself. Ransoming of captives was made one of the items of state expenditure. The Muslims followed this teaching only partially, treating their slaves as members of the household, conferring on them great positions of power and prestige in the state, to the extent that some of them founded royal dynasties; but they did not take the further step of abolishing this institution altogether, toward which Islam had urged them.

Next to slavery, feudalism which created the division of landlords and serfs. The Islamic law of inheritance prohibited primogeniture, by which the eldest son inherited the whole estate, undivided, depriving all other heirs. Following the Islamic law of inheritance no feudal estates could be created.

After the abolition of feudalism, the Prophet turned his attention towards the restriction of laissez-faire capitalism. Capitalism is a product of the concentration of capital and untaxed hoarded wealth. Islam laid it down that all avenues of unearned income must be closed or narrowed. Usury was prohibited so that wealth might not concentrate in unproductive hands. Society must not be allowed to split up into classes of haves and have-nots. Free initiative of rightful earning of profits by enterprise and labour should not be curbed, but there must be a tax on capital to the extent that is necessary for a healthy levelling of economic resources. Wealth should be taken away from those who have a surplus and spent on the essential requirements of the needy. The Prophet said that poverty must be abolished because it blackens man’s face in both the worlds, and it should be eradicated to the extent that a man may walk through his country in search of those who would accept charity, but find none to receive it. Accumulated wealth, on the one hand, and poverty, on the other, create diseases in the social organism; a healthy society and the state should see that these extremes do not exist. Islam foresaw that with economic disparities of a glaring kind, social justice is impossible. As in everything else, it struck a media between free enterprise and forced egalitarianism.

Muhammad is the only prophet in the history who turned his attention to the reform of the economic order. The definite pattern of a plan for a free humanity was chalked out by him. Monarchy was declared evil; he did not ask his followers to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but said that a man owes nothing to Caesar and society should aim at this, that "there shall be no Caesars."

Similarly, there should be no feudal lords and usurers living on the needy. Wealth may be freely and lawfully earned, but means should be adopted to spread it out so that, in the words of the Qur‘an, "it does not circulate only among the rich." There must be equality of opportunity for all. Disabilities of the weaker sex must be removed. Woman should inherit and hold property in her own name. She should be free to contract marriage and have a right to divorce, if the husband is proved unable to perform his duties. Any conditions that are not immoral or unlawful can be inserted in the marriage contract.

To summarize:
- The Islamic outlook is theistic, considering God as Ultimate Reality.

- Creating, sustaining and developing, motivated by infinite love, are the chief attributes of God.

- No being or power other than this Ideal and Ineffable Reality deserves to be worshipped.

- Islam means voluntary surrender to this Ideal which is also Real in the Being of God, but has to be realised by man through intellectual and moral effort.

- Nature is a system of unities and uniformities, but the ultimate basis of all causation is not purposeless mechanism, but teleological spirituality.

- The Unseen is infinitely more than the Seen, but is organically related to the Seen. The basis or Reality may be ultrarational but is not irrational.

- Truths are revealed to man not only through rational and perceptional channels but also through experiences that transcend them.

- As nature is a unity in diversity, so is humanity a fundamental unity.

- All ethics is based on the theoretical and practical realisation of this Oneness.

- All nations and groups can come together on the basis of two fundamental beliefs: God and the Moral Order.

- Differences of conventions and customs ought not to stand in the way of the acceptance of universal ideals of conduct.

- Freedom is the essence of the human ego. Slavery, servitude, and serfdom of all kinds must be abolished. One must cooperate in the social order, but no one is the master of another.

- All civilised societies must cherish and defend freedom of conscience. There must not be any overt or covert coercion in matters of belief. Variety in conduct and life-attitudes that do not lead to social confusion and tyranny must be respected.

- Human beings are not equal in capacities and achievements. Forcible levelling and attempts to establish unnatural egalitarianism are detrimental to personal and social development.

- Society must be planned and developed as an organic whole without such regimentation as encroaches on personal liberty and individual initiative.

- In Islamic jurisprudence no right is absolute; all rights are subject to public welfare.

- A truly Islamic state must be a democratic republican state. The head of the state is to be elected by the consensus of those who are fit to give an opinion on the basis of knowledge and character. Government by consultation is enjoined by the Qur‘an; hereditary monarchy or autocracy has no place in Islam.

- There must be complete equality before the law. The head of the state can be sued in the court by an ordinary citizen. No invidious distinction is allowed on the basis of race or creed.

- Communities with different cultures within the same body politic may be allowed to be governed by their own personal laws. The Prophet decided the cases of the Jews according to the Torah.

- Fundamentals of the constitution based on broad principles as enunciated above form a constant and stable element. Application of these principles may vary according to circumstances. What is not definitely prohibited is permissible, subject to the public weal. The consensus of the learned can modify laws to any extent demanded by the principles of justice and equity.

- Economic life is to be moulded on the principle that concentration of national wealth in a few hands is to be avoided.

- Hoarded wealth is to be taxed to any extent that is necessary for public weal. Society must not be allowed to be split up into the classes of haves and have-nots. Feudal estates must be split up by inheritance and by prohibition of primogeniture.

- Usury as a main source of living on unearned income is prohibited; private property is allowed, subject to certain restrictions.

- Legitimately earned wealth can be taxed to any extent according to the needs of the state and society, but outright expropriation is not permitted.

- The state is envisaged as a welfare state. Law and order and defence are not its sole functions; relief of poverty and suffering is an essential function of the state.

- War is permitted only to punish aggression and to re-establish fundamental liberties. War for the propagation of creeds compelling another by force to accept its way of life and wars for economic gains or territorial expansion are not permitted.

- The Qur‘an teaches that quarrels between groups should be settled by the intervention and adjudication of neutral groups, and the award enforced by them against the refractory party. This can form the basis of a just league of nations.
In short, Islam is theistic socialism, conceiving humanity as one family. The Prophet said, "God is my witness that I hold the belief that all humanity is one family and no group is specially privileged." There are no Chosen People except those whom God chooses for their vision of Truth and excellence of character. Racial superiority is a myth. Man is destined to develop and assimilate divine attributes through knowledge and love; all rules of life must be subordinated to these two fundamentals.

Islam claims that religion in this form is a universal truth and can form the basis of a universal humanity, free to develop its infinite potentialities unhampered by artificial restrictions and barriers created by superstition and selfishness.
Professor Gibb, the well-known orientalist, is right in his assertion that Islam is in the best position to mediate between the East and the West. Who knows that this outlook, fully realised and practised, might transcend the contradictions of conflicting ideologies. Bernard Shaw, when questioned about the future religion of humanity, expressed his belief that the future religion of the world would be Islam or something very similar to it; not the Islam of Muslim orthodoxies, but the fundamental attitude of Muhammad towards God and man: One God, One World, One Humanity.

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