(1) Pure Monotheism
(2) The Religion of Allah
(4) Taking into Consideration the Welfare of this World and the Hereafter
(5) Ease and Absence of Hardship in the Law
(6) A Strong Relationship between the Creator and the Created
(7) Ordering Good and Eradicating Evil
(8) The Proper Honoring of Humankind
(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.”56 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.
56 Quoted in ibn Katheer, Tafseer (Daar Taibah), vol. 4, p. 491.
(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 worshiped. 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.57Furthermore, 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.”58
57 Actually, the comprehensiveness of Islam, or the way of life that is submission to God alone, extends beyond humans to include all creation, animate or inanimate. Allah says, “And to Allah prostate all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, of the living, moving creatures and the angels, and they are not proud [i.e. they worship their Lord (Allah) with humility]” (16:49); “See you not that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and moving living creatures, and many of humankind? But there are many (men) on whom the punishment is justified.
And whomsoever Allah disgraces, none can honor him. Verily! Allah does what He wills” (22:18); “The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft- Forgiving” (17:44).
58 Sayyid Qutb, The Islamic Concept and Its Characteristics (American Trust Publica ons, 1991), pp.85-86.
(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.59 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:
(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).60
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.
59 In reality, as shall be demonstrated shortly while discussing the building of a strong relationship between the Creator and the created, there is no need for anything to be considered out of the “spiritual side” of life. For the time being, though, the traditional division between the material and spiritual is being followed here.
60 Another similar passage is al-Israa 23-36.
(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.61
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.”62
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.63 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.
61 The words “unwarranted hardships” are used here because any obligatory act could be claimed to be a hardship. Thus, some have actually claimed that prayer five times a day is too much of a burden and a hardship. However, like any job or goal in life, one must undergo some effort to achieve one’s final goal. This effort or “hardship” is justified and beneficial. This type of effort or “hardship” is not what is being described above. In fact, life cannot truly function without such “hardships.” The above is discussing hardship via which there is no true or overriding benefit or justification.
62 Recorded by Ahmad.
63 The ritual acts of worship have to do with what the scholars have termed the “rights of Allah,” as opposed to what can be termed the rights of individuals or of humans. In order not to cause undue harm to other individuals, the laws related to the ritual acts of worship are many times more flexible than the laws related to the rights of others.