The Religion of Islam

The Meaning of the Word “Islam”

The word “Islam” is the verbal noun of the verb aslama. This verb is defined as, “He resigned or submitted himself.” When used with respect to God, it means, “He became submissive to God.”5 Thus, Islam is about an individual recognizing who his Lord is and recognizing that his attitude toward his Lord and Creator should be one of submission and worship. In other words, Islam is not simply about the recognition of the Oneness of God or the fact that the Creator exists, for example. Islam is about something much greater than that. It is about the conscious decision made by the individual to worship and submit to the one and only God.

Thus, as Nomani wrote,

Literally, Islam denotes self-surrender or to give oneself up to someone and accept his overlordship in the fullest sense of the term. The religion sent down by God and brought into the world by His Apostles has been called Islam for the simple reason that, in it, the bondsman yields completely to the power and control of the Lord and makes the rendering of wholehearted obedience to Him the cardinal principle of his life. This is the sum and substance of the Islamic creed.6

Perhaps it should be noted that the word “Islam” does not mean “peace.” It is true that the Arabic word for “peace” (salaam) comes from the same root as the word Islam. It is also very true that true peace—both internally and externally—can only be the result of the correct implementation of Islam. At the same time, though, it should be very clear in the minds of every Muslim that his religion being Islam represents his commitment and devotion to worshiping and submitting to Allah alone. This should become the essence of what the individual Muslim is all about.

Before discussing the relationship between Islam and the other religions, it is important to recognize a more specific usage for the word “Islam” as a religion. Islam, as stated above, implies the complete submission to the one and only true God. Thus, anyone who is truly submitting himself to God—according to what has been revealed from God and not simply according to his own whims or imagination—is a Muslim.

In this sense, the religion of all of the prophets of God was Islam and they were all Muslims. Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, for example, were all Muslims and their religion was Islam, the true and sincere submission to God. Thus, Allah says in the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah - that which We have sent by inspiration to you - and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus” (42:13).

The following important passage from the Quran highlights the fact that Abraham, for example, was a true servant and worshiper of Allah alone. In other words, he was a Muslim. He was not a Jew or a Christian. His true followers were Muslims. The true followers of Moses and Jesus were also Muslims. Allah says,

And (remember) when Abraham and (his son) Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House [in Makkah], (saying), “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily! You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. Our Lord! And make us submissive [Muslims] unto You and of our offspring a nation submissive [Muslims] unto You, and show us our ceremonies of pilgrimage, and accept our repentance. Truly, You are the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful. Our Lord! Send amongst them7 a Messenger of their own, who shall recite unto them Your Verses and instruct them in the Book and Wisdom, and purify them. Verily! You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.

And who turns away from the religion of Abraham except him who befools himself? Truly, We chose him in this world and verily, in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, “Submit (i.e. be a Muslim)!” He said, “I have submitted myself (as a Muslim) to the Lord of the worlds.” And this (submission to Allah, Islam) was enjoined by Abraham upon his sons and by Jacob, (saying), “O my sons! Allah has chosen for you the (true) religion, then die not except as Muslims.” Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob? When he said unto his sons, “What will you worship after me?” They said, “We shall worship your God, the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, One God, and to Him we submit (in Islam).

That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do. And they say, “Be Jews or Christians, then you will be guided.” Say (to them, O Muhammad), “Nay, (we follow) only the religion of Abraham, of pure monotheism, and he was not of those who worshiped others along with Allah.” Proclaim (O Muslims), “We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and to the twelve sons of Jacob, and that which has been given to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam).” So if they believe in the like of that which you believe, then they are rightly guided, but if they turn away, then they are only in opposition. So Allah will suffice you against them. And He is the All- Hearer, the All- Knower. [Our religion is] the Religion of Allah and which religion can be better than Allah’s? And we are His worshipers.

Say [O Muhammad to the Jews and Christians], “Dispute you with us about Allah while He is our Lord and your Lord? And we are to be rewarded for our deeds and you for your deeds. And we are sincere to Him in worship and obedience.

Or do you say that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve sons of Jacob were Jews or Christians? Say, “Do you know better or does Allah [know better that they all were Muslims]? And who is more unjust than he who conceals the testimony he has from Allah? And Allah is not unaware of what you do.” That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned, and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do. (2:127-141).

In fact, as this passage demonstrates, Islam was the religion of all of their followers as well. In other words, every true believer from the time of Adam to the last believer on earth practices Islam and is a Muslim. Furthermore, it is the only religion that Allah ever commanded humankind to follow. Islam, therefore, is the only religion that has ever been acceptable to Allah. Allah says, “Truly, the religion with Allah is Islam (submission to Him)” (3:19). Allah also says, “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).

Thus, the brotherhood of Islam and the bond of true faith stretches all the way from Adam until the end of time, spanning all localities and peoples. The true believers love one another and support one another. It is truly a blessed and unique brotherhood.

In particular, the true Muslims throughout all the ages believe in all of the prophets. They support all of them and defend their honor as well. One would never hear a pious Muslim ever speak badly about Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Jesus or any of the prophets. Instead, the Muslim respects, honors and loves them all in the manner they deserve.

5 E. W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Cambridge, England: The Islamic Texts Society, 1984), vol.1, p.1413.

6 Mohammad Manzoor Nomani, Meaning and Message of the Traditions (Lucknow, India: Academy of Islamic Research and Publica ons, 1975), vol. 1, p. 54.

7 The descendants of Ishmael. Ishmael was the son of Abraham and Muhammad was a descendant of Ishmael.

Islam: The Religion of the Prophet Muhammad

After the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), there is a further distinction that needs to be made concerning the religion of “Islam.”

Before the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), one could say that there were many “Islams.” That is, each people had their prophets, followed their teachings and were on the path of Islam. At the same time, if a new prophet in the same line of prophets came to them, they had no choice but to follow that new prophet. The one who would refuse to accept Allah’s later prophet is not truly submitting to Allah. If he is not truly submitting to Allah, then he is not a “Muslim.”

There are two very important points that demonstrate the relationship between the way of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the way of the true prophets before him.

First, the way of the Prophet Muhammad abrogates the previous laws.

Second, by the wisdom of Allah, Allah did not allow the teachings of the previous prophets to remain preserved in a completely undistorted manner.

Allah says, “And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and a witness over it (old Scriptures). So judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging away from the truth that has come to you” (5:48). This verse demonstrates that the Quran has been revealed in truth and confirms what has been revealed beforehand of the revelations and it is a judge and witness over the previous books. In other words, it preserves, protects and witnesses to the truth found in the earlier revelations.

At the same time, though, it shows the falseness of the distortions that have been done to the previous revelations. Anything that is in conformity with the Quran is true and anything that contradicts the Quran must be false. Thus, the Quran has been revealed to affirm what has been preserved of the earlier revelations while correcting any distortions.

A clear example of this nature has to do with the supposed crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This supposed act is the entire basis for raising the Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to the level of God. The Quran’s view on this issue however is very clear: “And because of their saying (in boast), ‘We killed Messiah Jesus, son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,’ - but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Jesus was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. The have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not” (4:157).8

Distortion of the earlier books has been alluded to in numerous places in the Quran. For example, Allah says in reference to the People of the Book, “Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ to purchase with it a little price! Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for that they earn thereby” (2:79) and “And verily, among them is a party who distort the Book with their tongues, so that you may think it is from the Book, but it is not from the Book, and they say: ‘This is from Allah,’ but it is not from Allah; and they speak a lie against Allah while they know it” (3:78). Therefore, the Prophet said, “Do not affirm what the People of the Book say nor deny them. Instead, say, ‘We believe in what has been revealed to us what has been revealed to you. Our God and your God is one and we submit to Him as Muslims.’”9

It is interesting to note that the only religion that has kept the name “submission to Allah” or Islam is that of the final Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The other well-known religions are all named after individuals, peoples or places. According to Microsoft Encarta, the term Judaism did not even exist in pre-modern Hebrew. It is in reference to Judah. Christianity is, of course, named after Christ as Buddhism is named after Buddha. Hinduism has to do with the place, Hindustan. But, by Allah’s wisdom and mercy, the name of the only true religion of submission to Allah—the religion of all the prophets—has been preserved and kept only in reference to the mission of the final prophet who was sent for all of humanity.10

As a final note, although the message of the Prophet Muhammad is nothing but a continuation of the message of the earlier prophets, Christians and Jews are in no way to be coerced to embrace Islam or to follow its teachings.

Allah says, “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in false gods and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower” (2:256). They should, though, be called to the truth of Islam and invited to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

8 This author is an ex-Christian and he has noted on many occasions that a proper understanding of passages of the Bible can be found via the preserved Quran and Arabic language, which is related to the Semitic language Hebrew. For example, one passage of the Bible that is critiqued o en is Genesis 2:2-3. The King James Version (with the New King James Version being essentially relithe same) of this verse reads, “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The critique of this verse is that obviously God is not in need of resting. However, the Hebrew of the relevant portion of that verse is transliterated as, bowshaabat. The Arabic word for the day of the Sabbath is al-sabt, which comes from the root sabata, which means a cessation of activities. Hence, the Biblical passage properly understood probably means that God ceased the activity of creation in the manner that He was doing it on the previous “days.” In fact—and this author does not know if the translator was helped by a knowledge of Arabic—Young’s Literal Translation of 1898 translates these same verses of Genesis as, “And God completeth by the seventh day His work which He hath made, and ceaseth by the seventh day from all His work which He hath made. And God blesseth the seventh day, and sanctifieth it, for in it He hath ceased from all His work which God had prepared for making” (emphasis added). For the meaning of sabata, see Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Qurtubi, Tafseer al-Qurtubi (Beirut: Daar Ihyaa al-Turaath al- Arabi, n.d.), vol. 19, pp. 171-172. The different transla ons and translitera on of the Bible were taken from The Bible Library [So ware] (Oklahoma City, OK: Ellis Enterprises, 2001).

9 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

10 In the 1800s and early 1900s, it was common for missionaries and Orientalists to refer to Islam as Mohamedanism and to Muslims as Mohamedans. They were giving this religion a name in the same way that they had names for their own religions. But such is not acceptable for Islam and the use of these terms has, for the most part, been successfully squashed. In reality, such terms are actually an affront to the religion as Muslims do not worship Muhammad in any way.

The Final Message

Allah had sent numerous prophets throughout the centuries. However, He had determined that He should send a final messenger with a final message. This final messenger would be the messenger for all of humankind from his time until the Day of Reckoning. There was to be no later revelation and no later prophet to bring any changes to this revelation. Hence, this one had to differ from the previous in some ways.

First, since no one could come later to correct any mistakes or distortions, the revelation received by the last prophet had to be preserved in its pristine purity.

Second, the nature of the “sign” of the last prophet would have to be different as well. This is because this sign would have to affect not only the people who were alive during the time of the prophet but also all those who would come later.

Third, this final prophet could not simply be sent for one community among humankind—each then having their own final prophet and then differing with one another. This final prophet had to be sent for all of humankind, putting an end to the succession of prophets and being suitable for the world as a whole.

Fourth, the laws and teachings of this message had to be fixed in matters that need to be fixed for all of humankind until the Day of Judgment and guiding yet flexible or accommodating in those matters that need to be open to change due to the changing circumstances of humankind.

On all of these points, one sees that it is the message of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that fits all of these criteria. The Quran and the Sunnah were preserved in great detail. Similarly, the nature of his “sign,” the Quran, the ultimate miracle, can still be experienced today.11

As for the third issue, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was the only prophet to make it known that he was not sent only for a certain people but he was sent for all the various peoples of the world. The Jews, for example, consider themselves to be a chosen race and that their message is meant exclusively for themselves. Thus, many orthodox Jews do not believe in proselytizing their faith. The New Testament also makes it clear that Jesus’ mission was to the Tribes of Israel. Ma hew 10: 5-6 read: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus is reported to have said when the Canaanite woman came to him for help, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).12 This limited mission of Jesus’ is also affirmed in the Quran (61:6).

In the case of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), however, Allah says, “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). There are yet other verses giving the same purport. The Prophet Muhammad also stated that he was distinguished from the earlier prophets by five matters. The last he mentioned was, “The prophet would be sent to his people only while I have been sent to all of mankind.”13

Allah decreed that this Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) should be His final messenger. Allah says, “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the seal of the Prophets. And Allah is Ever All-Aware of everything” (33:40). The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself said, “I have been sent to all of the creation and the prophets have been sealed by me.”14 Again, he said, “The Children of Israel were led by the prophets; whenever a prophet died, a prophet succeeded (him). Lo! There will be no prophet after me”15

Hence, no one has the right to accept the other prophets while rejecting the Prophet Muhammad. No one has the right to say that Muhammad was truthful but, “I chose to still follow Jesus or Moses instead.” Logically speaking, one should not expect this to be acceptable to Allah. Allah has sent His final messenger to be believed in and followed, superseding and canceling what is left of the teachings of earlier prophets. In the Quran, Allah describes such an attitude: “And when it is said to them, ‘Believe in what Allah has sent down,’ they say, ‘We believe in what was sent down to us.’ And they disbelieve in that which came after it, while it is the truth confirming what is with them” (2:91).

Allah has further declared people of this nature to be disbelievers. He has said, “Verily, those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers and wish to make distinction between Allah and His Messengers (by believing in Allah and disbelieving in His Messengers) saying, ‘We believe in some but reject others,’2009 and wish to adopt a way in between. They are in truth disbelievers. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating torment. And those who believe in Allah and His Messengers and make no distinction between any of them, We shall give them their rewards, and Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (4:150-152).

The Prophet said, “[I swear] by [God], the One in whose hand is my soul, there will be none of my addressed people, be he Jew or Christian, who hears of me and dies without believing in that with which I was sent except that he will be from the inhabitants of the Hell-fire.”16 The Prophet even told one of his companions, “If my brother Moses were alive today, he would have no option but to follow me.”17

11 A discussion of these points is beyond the scope of this work. The author has dealt with them in What is Islam (Riyadh:Ministry of Religious Affairs, 2006).

12 In the same context, Jesus in quoted in Ma hew 15:26 as saying about helping the Canaanite woman, “It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs.” Again, God alone knows what parts of the Gospels attributed to Jesus were actually said by him.

13 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

14 Recorded by Muslim.

15 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

16 Recorded by Muslim.

17 Recorded by Ahmad and al-Daarimi. According to al-Albaani, this is a good hadith. al-Albaani, Irwa, vol. 6, p. 34.

The Universality of Islam and Its Timelessness

The Prophet Muhammad is the final messenger and it is inconceivable knowing the mercy of the merciful that He would leave humans without any form of clear guidance. In other words, what He gave this final message must be suitable to guide mankind after him. In fact, the Prophet himself made this very same point in essence when he said, “I have left with you two things that if you cling to them you will never be misguided after me: The Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger.”18

In addition to the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is the final prophet, Allah has also said, “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (5:3). Allah has also declared that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is the prophet for all of mankind: “Say [O Muhammad], ‘O Mankind, indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you all” (7:158).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said, “I have been given five aspects that were not given to any prophet before me... [One of which is] every prophet was sent only to his people while I have been sent to all of mankind.”19 Thus, the religion is completed and perfected and there is no need for any alteration or change. The message has come and shall suffice until the Day of Judgment. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent for all peoples has already come.

This implies that the Prophet’s teaching and his Sunnah are valid and obligatory upon all of mankind. That is, his example and teaching was not simply for the people of Arabia at his time. Instead, it is just as valid and just as important for each and every Muslim today, whether he be in New York or Malaysia.

Someone may logically ask: How is it that this Law is able to fulfill the needs for all of humankind until the Day of Judgment? The answer has to do with the beauty of the Law. When one studies the law promulgated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) one finds that it has the needed elements of flexibility that allow it to be just as practicable today as it was during the time of the Prophet.

First, in reality, the nature of humans actually do not change over time. Therefore, worship, which is the foundation of a human's character, does not need to change. These laws are fixed until the Day of Judgment.

Secondly, there are some harmful matters that humans must avoid. These have also been explicitly and permanently forbidden. Beyond that, humans need only some detailed laws and many general principles that allow them to guide their lives in all times and places. This is exactly what Islamic Law provides for them.

In essence, those issues that need be fixed and permanent are made such by the Islamic Law. Those that need to be flexible so that different peoples at different times may apply them differently are left flexible in the Islamic Law. Hence, it is a Divinely guided way of life that is suitable and practical for all humans until the Day of Judgment. For example, in business dealings, interest is prohibited forever.

In addition to that, general guidelines are given. However, the guidance is such that when new forms of business dealings are developed, as in modern times, one can determine which are acceptable according to Islamic guidelines and which are not. Thus, Islamic Law has been proven to be feasible for over 1400 years and, according to Islamic beliefs, will con nue to be feasible until the Day of Judgment.

This means that the guidance is complete. It is all that the Muslims need for happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. It cannot be improved upon. It is, therefore, in no need of additions, alterations or deletions. For this obvious reason, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) gave very strong warnings about innovations and heresies. Such things are not needed at all and they will simply take away from the beauty and perfection of Islam.

Thus, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The worst actions are the invented ones. And every innovation is a going astray.”20 He also said, “And every going astray is in the hell fire.”21 The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said, “Whoever introduces anything into this affair of ours that does not belong to it will have it rejected.”22

18 Recorded by Muslim.

19 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

20 Recorded by Muslim.

21 Recorded by al-Nasaa’i.

22 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

The Sources of Islamic Law and Guidance

The goal of Islam is for the human to become a true servant of Allah. Therefore, his source of guidance and the foundations for his actions must be rooted in the revelation from God. It is from this vantage point that the scholars speak about the sources of law in Islam. The two ultimate authorities in Islamic Law are the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet.

The Quran is the speech of Allah and a revelation that came directly to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) from Allah via the angel Gabriel.23 The Quran was revealed piece by piece over a period of twenty three years. It guided the early Muslim community along every step it took. It thus completely transformed that community into a pious generation. In the meantime, it set examples for all later Muslim communities who will face some of the same circumstances they faced. It transformed an Arab people who were on the margins of the civilized world at that time into the leaders of a great civilization, whose influence still continues today. When read, understood and applied properly today, it will also transform individuals or society and exalt them to new heights of piety and closeness to God.

Upon receiving the words of the Quran, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would pass those words onto his followers. In addition, he would have his scribes record the newly revealed verses. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said about the Quran, “There was no Prophet among the Prophets but was given miracles because of which people had had belief, but what I have been given is the Divine Revelation which Allah has revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will be more than those of any other Prophet on the Day of Resurrection.”24 In other words, the Prophet Muhammad’s great sign and miracle was the Quran.

Indeed, the Quran is miraculous in many ways. For example, the Arabs at the time of the Prophet excelled in language. However, even though they greatly opposed the Prophet for many years, they realized that they could not meet the literary eloquence of the Quran.25 But the Quran is much more than simply a “literary miracle.” It is miraculous as well with respect to its fulfilled prophecies of future events, its internal consistency (although revealed over a period of twenty-three years), its scientific accuracy, its historical accuracy, its precise preservation, its magnanimous and wise laws, its affect that it had and still has in reforming and changing humans and so forth.

In addition to the Quran, there are the sayings and example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), known as the Sunnah. It is also a form of inspiration that was given by Allah to the Prophet. The Prophet said, “I have been given the Quran and something similar to it with it.”26

The authority of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah is not because he is some kind of demigod. He was definitely only a human being, just like all of the other prophets. The prophet’s authority is related to the issue of submission to Allah: It is Allah in the Quran who establishes the authority of the Prophet. Hence, following the way of the Prophet is nothing but acting in obedience and submission to Allah. Allah has virtually said such when He said, “He who obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then we have not sent you (O Muhammad) as a watcher over them” (4:80).

In the Quran, Allah makes it clear that if someone loves Allah and wishes that Allah should love him in return, the key is to follow the way of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Allah says, “Say (O Muhammad to humankind), ‘If you (truly) love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’” (3:31).

The Quran says about the Prophet, “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much” (33:21). The Prophet was, in a way, a “living Quran.” When the Prophet’s wife Aishah was asked about his character and behavior, she replied, “His character was the Quran.”27

There is a very important relationship between the Quran and the Sunnah. The Sunnah demonstrates how the Quran is to be implemented. It is a practical explanation of what the Quran is teaching. It defines the morals, behaviors and laws of the Quran in such a way that its meaning becomes clear. This complete, human embodiment of the teachings of the Quran is a great blessing and mercy for Muslims. It makes the guidance from God more complete and accessible to all.

Thus, the Quran and the Sunnah form one united unit that offers all the principles of guidance that humankind will need until the Day of Judgment.

The Quran, of course, comprises one book that can be captured in some two hundred pages or so. The Sunnah, on the other hand, is quite different, covering all of the statements and actions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Sunnah is captured in what is known as the hadith literature. A hadith is a report about what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said or did.28

Muslim scholars recognized that the religion of Allah must be preserved properly. They also recognized that not everything attributed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) may be correct as even honest people can make mistakes. Hence, they meticulously and methodically studied the various hadith and statements ascribed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), sifting those that can be authenticated from those that cannot be authenticated. Thus, in Islamic law, not every hadith is considered an authority. Only those that can meet rigid standards of authenticity are considered authoritative. The scholars call these types of hadith sahih (authentic) or hasan (good). Unacceptable hadith are classified as daeef (weak), very weak or fabricated.

Although the original Arabic texts of both the Quran and the Prophet’s sayings are available, one has to resort to modest translations to convey their meanings to non-Arabic speakers. With respect to the Quran, two translations in particular can be recommended. They are The Noble Quran: English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary, translated by al-Hilali and Khan29, and The Quran: Arabic Text with Corresponding English Meaning, translated by “Saheeh International.”30 These two are recommended due to their translations being based upon the understanding of the Quran as can be traced back to the Prophet himself and his closest Companions.

To truly appreciate the depths of the Quran, one should also read a commentary of the Quran. Unfortunately, there are not a large number of excellent commentaries available in English—although there is a plethora of them in many other languages.

One very important work available in English is the ten-volume Tafsir ibn Kathir (Abridged).31 This is the translation of an abridgment of a classical work of Quranic commentary by ibn Kathir (1301-1372 C.E.) In his study of Quranic commentaries, Muhammad Hussein al-Dhahabi calls this commentary one of the best of its kind.32 In this work, ibn Kathir follows the principles of Quranic commentary as elucidated by his teacher, the well-known ibn Taimiyyah.33 Perhaps the only drawback of this work is that it is a translation of a classic work and therefore was not written in a style that many today are most comfortable with.

Towards Understanding the Quran: English Version of Tafhim al-Quran34 by Abul Ala Maudoodi is also one of the most complete and extensive works of Quranic commentary available in English. It was written by Abul Ala Maudoodi, who died in 1979. Maudoodi wrote numerous books and a large number of them have been translated into English.

The goal of the Tafhim al-Quran was to present the meaning of the Quran to the Urdu speaking populous of Pakistan/India in such a way that its meaning would be very clear to the masses. Although this work has been the target of various criticisms, some warranted35 and some not so warranted, it remains as the most comprehensive and informative works on the entire Quran available in English.

Another work that the serious student should take note of is Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma’ani: Being a Quintessence of Quranic Commentaries by Syed Iqbal Zaheer. This work is written by a contemporary author and is quite comprehensive.

As for collections of hadith or the statements and actions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), two important collections are available in complete form in English. They are known as Sahih al-Bukhari36 and Sahih Muslim.37

As stated earlier, Islamic Law has to be flexible enough to meet the needs of all peoples until the Day of Judgment. Hence, not every detail of the law has been spelled out in the Quran and Sunnah. Allah has left some issues for the Muslims to discover on their own, thus forcing them to learn and study the Quran and Sunnah in great detail. The conclusions that are derived from the Quran and Sunnah, and not explicitly stated in the Quran or Sunnah, are known as "personal reasoning" or ijtihaad (which implies utmost striving to derive a conclusion).

This source of jurisprudence is obviously not infallible. In fact, it is possible for scholars to come to differing conclusions—although the truth with Allah will always be only one. Each scholar's efforts, if they are sincere, will be appreciated by Allah, as the hadith states, “If a judge exerts himself and comes to a correct conclusion, he shall receive two rewards. If he exerts himself and comes to an errant conclusion, he shall receive one reward.”38 However, this does not mean that their conclusions become an ultimate authority. Personal judgments must be evaluated in the light of the Quran and Sunnah and whatever seems to be most proper according to the Quran and Sunnah should be adhered to. It is important for the Muslim to always remember that his ultimate goal is to follow the truth, which means that which is consistent with the Quran or Sunnah.39

A historical development occurred in which specific scholars worked diligently to codify the laws of the Quran and Sunnah as well as extend those laws through personal reasoning to situations not explicitly covered in those texts.

The work of these scholars continued until “schools of law” developed based on their teachings. Although these different schools of law are definitely not sources of Islamic law nor are they considered infallible in any way, it is important that the new Muslim become familiar with them because he will most likely here reference often to them.

The most dominant of these schools of law are four, named after their founders as follows:

(1) Abu Haneefah (80-150 A.H.40) and the Hanafi School: Abu Haneefah was an early scholar who lived in Iraq. Today, his school is the most predominant in Turkey, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, the ex-Soviet Muslim states and parts of the Middle East.

(2) Maalik ibn Anas (95-179 A.H.) and the Maliki School: Maalik ibn Anas lived in Madinah, the city of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), throughout his life. Today, his school is the most popular in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. For centuries it was the predominant school of Andalusia or Muslim Spain.

(3) Muhammad ibn Idrees al-Shafi’ee (150-204 A.H.) and the Shafi’ee School: Al-Shafi’ee was from the Qurashi tribe, the same tribe as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He studied and lived in numerous places, finally settling in Egypt. Today, his school is most influential in Malaysia, Indonesia and some parts of the Middle East.

(4) Ahmad ibn Hanbal (164-241 A.H.) and the Hanbali School: Ahmad ibn Hanbal lived in Baghdad and was known to be a great scholar of hadith. Today, his school is the predominant school in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

These great scholars and others sometimes came to differing conclusions. It is important to understand that there are many causes for differences of opinion among the jurists. There are also some important points to be kept in mind with respect to such differences of opinion among the scholars that one is bound to run into in Islam.

First, as stated earlier, the ultimate goal of the Muslim is “the truth.” Hence, he should exert himself to discover the truth and follow it in every circumstance. The manner in which the revelation has come offers the individual the ability to worship Allah by seeking the truth, via pondering over the revelation as found in the Quran and hadith. It also tries him by seeing if he does follow the truth and the strongest views when he finally comes upon them.

Second, these differences in interpretation are bound to occur. A person may sincerely be seeking to please Allah and yet come to a conclusion that another finds weak or unacceptable. As long as a person’s view does not clearly contradict the Quran or Sunnah and has some basis via some acceptable proof, he, as a person, should be respected. In fact, the mistaken individual will be rewarded by Allah for his efforts if he were sincere, as noted in a hadith quoted earlier. Thus, even though one may disagree with his view and one may even feel the need to refute his view, such acceptable differences may never be allowed to strike at the root of the brotherhood of Islam and enter into the hearts of the Muslims, thereby tearing them apart.

Finally, it is important to note that the Quran, Sunnah and “personal reasoning” are not simply the sources of what is customarily considered “law” today. Instead, many other aspects, such as morality, ethics and behavior, must also be subjected to these same sources. In other words, in reality, these sources are not simply the sources of law but the sources of guidance for a Muslim's actions encompassing every aspect of his life. Thus, for example, how to behave towards one's parents, neighbors and others are also covered by the Quran and Sunnah, as shall be discussed later, although traditional “law” today would not be concerned with such issues. Hence, when Muslim scholars speak of the sources of “law” in Islam they actually mean the sources of complete guidance for human behavior in all aspects of life.

23 A recommended work dispelling the claims that the Quran is not a revelation from God is: Hamza Mustafa Njozi, The Sources of the Quran: A Critical Review of the Authorship Theories (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:World Assembly of Muslim Youth, 1991).

24 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim. The Quran has also put out a challenge for anyone to produce anything similar to the Quran. For example, Allah says, “And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down [i.e., the Quran] to Our servant [Muhammad], then produce a chapter of the like thereof and call your supporters and helpers besides Allah, if you are truthful” (2:23). To this day, this challenge has not been successfully met.

25 The best discussion in English of this aspect of the miraculous nature of the Quran is Muhammad Abdullah Draz, The Quran: An Eternal Challenge (Leicester, United Kingdom: The Islamic Founda on, 2001), pp. 65-179.

26 Recorded by Abu Dawood. According to al-Albaani, it is authentic. See Muhammad Naasir al-Din al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami al-Sagheer (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islaami, 1986), #2643.

27 Recorded by Muslim.

28 Actually, hadith may also describe the physical characteristics of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and other details of his life.

29 Muhammad al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, trans., The Noble Quran: English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary (Madinah, Saudi Arabia: King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran, n.d.). This translation has also been published by others and is easily available over the internet.

30 Saheeh International, The Quran: Arabic Text with Corresponding English Meaning (London: AbulQasim Publishing House, 1997).

31 Tafsir ibn Kathir (Abridged) (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2000).

32 Muhammad Hussein al-Dhahabi, al-Tafseer wa al-Mufasirun (Dar al-Kutub al-Haditha, 1976), vol. 1, p. 247.

33 For more details on his principles of Quranic exegesis, see Roy Young Muhammad Curtis, “Authentic Interpretation of Classical Islamic Texts: An Analysis of the Introduction of Ibn Kathir’s ‘Tafseer al-Quran al-Azim,’” (Ph.D. Disserta on, University of Michigan, 1989), passim.

34 Abul Ala Maudoodi, The Meaning of the Quran (Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publica ons, 1982).

35 For example, Maududi stresses the importance of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in understanding the Quran, however, his commentary itself does not have a great reliance on hadith. The most common usage of hadith is when he discusses some of the fiqh rulings. Furthermore, sometimes the hadith he uses are not of acceptable quality. In addition, he also only occasionally quotes the explanations of the verses as given by the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Finally, he does have a tendency to reinterpret some of the attributes of Allah in ways that are not consistent, for example, with the understanding of the Companions and their followers.

36 Muhammad Muhsin Khan, trans., Sahih al-Bukhari (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Darussalam Publishers and Distributors, 1997). Available via many sources on the Internet.

37 Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, trans., Sahih Muslim (Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers& Booksellers, n.d.). Also widely available.

38 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

39 Another important concept is that of ijmaa or consensus. The Prophet said, “Allah will not bring together My Nation upon an error.” (Recorded by al-Tirmidhi and considered authentic by al- Albaani.) Thus, if all the Muslim scholars should agree on an issue, the agreed upon point also becomes authoritative.

40 “A.H.” stands for after the Hijrah or migration of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) from Makkah to Madinah. This event marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

Some of the Goals of Islam

The teachings of Islam are not merely rituals or mysteries that have no rhyme or reason to them. Instead, the revelation has pointed to some very clear, sought after goals. These include the following:

(A) The Worship of Allah Alone

Undoubtedly, the greatest goal of Islam and its greatest contribution to the welfare of humanity is the true and pure worship of Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him.41 This is in reality the ultimate purpose and goal of a human. Allah says, “And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone)” (51:56). There can be no goal more honorable or noble than this goal for a human being.

Pure monotheism is the only belief system that provides the true answers to the questions that perplex virtually every human: “Where have I come from? Where am I headed? For what purpose do I exist?”

As for the question, “Where have I come from?” Islam explains that humans are honored creatures created by Allah in a very special way and having the freedom to choose to be among the noblest of creatures or among the basest of all creatures. Thus, Allah says, “Verily, We created man of the best stature (mould), Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low, except those who believe and do righteous deeds, they shall have a reward without end (Paradise)” (95:4-6).

The answer to, “Where I am headed?” is that the human is headed back to a meeting with his Lord and Creator. This momentous occasion will occur after his death in this worldly life. There will be no escape from this encounter. At that time, the human will be fairly and equitably judged. All of the deeds that he performed in this life will be weighed. “That Day mankind will proceed in scattered groups that they may be shown their deeds. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it” (99:6-8). This reckoning will start with his most important deed: his attitude toward his Gracious and Merciful Creator who created him, provided for him, sent him guidance, warned him of a punishment for those who turn away from the truth and promised a great reward for those who accepted the truth, were grateful to Him and submitted to Him.

Concerning, “For what purpose do I exist,” the human has been created for the noblest of all purposes: the worship of Allah alone or, in other words, to become a true and sincere servant of Allah. One can imagine all sorts of goals that people may have in this world. They may seek to end diseases in this world or bring about world peace. In general, though, those admirable goals are usually tainted.

One may seek them just for egotistic reasons, such as to be remembered or praised as the person who did such and such. They may be sought while the individual turns his back on his Creator, thus showing arrogance and ungratefulness as well as demonstrating an ignorance of how truly noble goals can be achieved. In reality, however, all of those goals, which can be considered simply sub goals, fail in comparison to the goal that will lead to excellence in one’s soul and one’s deeds as well as eternal bliss in the Hereafter. Actually, any truly good goal of this life can only be part of the true worship of Allah.

Fulfilling one’s true purpose and being successful upon meeting one’s Lord is completely dependent on adhering to a true and unadulterated monotheism. This is the monotheism found in Islam. Many people claim to believe in “monotheism” and the fact that there is only one God. However, on many occasions, this “monotheism” is tainted in many ways. In some early pre-modern civilizations, people began to identify “sons” and “daughters” with God. Unfortunately, this clear contradiction of pure monotheism has been carried over into the modern age by no less a popular religion than Christianity. It is not unusual to hear Christians praise Jesus, thank Jesus and even pray to Jesus, sometimes virtually forgetting "the Father." Although Christians may resort to logical gymnastics to affirm that this is still worshipping only one God, in reality it cannot be considered a true monotheism. In fact, most, if not all, of the contemporary trinitarians will argue that Jesus is co-equal yet unique from the Father. In other words, they have lost pure monotheism.

It may take some time for the new Muslim to realize all the ways in which people associate partners with God and fail to realize true monotheism. The Christian convert to Islam may readily recognize that the above referred to belief in Trinity is certainly not monotheism. At the same time, though, he may not yet realize how accepting priests, for example, as ultimate lawgivers is also a way of associating partners with God.

No priest—nor any human for that matter—has any right to overrule or abrogate any of God’s laws. This is also a contradiction of pure monotheism. Hence, Allah says, “They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah [by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah], and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Mary, while they were commanded to worship none but One God. None has the right to be worshiped but He. Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)” (9:31).

Islam is a religion that establishes pure monotheism completely and eradicates all forms of associating partners with Allah, from the most obvious to the most obscure. (Undoubtedly, Islam is the only religion that can make such a claim.) As the convert learns more and more about his faith, the light of pure monotheism, Allah willing, will shine brighter and brighter in his heart.

41 Since this is truly the essence of what Islam is all about, this goal of pure monotheism and being a true servant of Allah alone will be touched upon at different locations in this work.

(B) Freeing Humans from the Worship of Other Humans or the Worship of Any Other Object

Obviously, this is a corollary of the first principle of worshiping Allah alone. However, it deserves separate mention as humans dominating and subjugating other humans is one of the gravest tragedies in the history of humankind, second perhaps to the tragedy of the humans accepting such a situation and willingly submitting to other humans. There are few things worse than humans submitting themselves, and thus worshiping, other humans. This is completely degrading because all humans share the same essential human nature and weaknesses.

No one has the right to put himself as a God—which would include tyrant, dictator or clergy—over anyone else, with the others subjected to his decrees regardless of whether they are consistent with what Allah has revealed or not.

This goal of Islam was eloquently stated by two of the earliest Muslims. When asked by the Emperor of Persia what brought the Muslims to their lands, two different Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) answered in similar terms: “Allah has sent us to take whoever wishes from the servitude of mankind to the servitude of Allah and from the tightness of this world to its expanse and from the injustice of the ways of life [in this world] to the justice of Islam.”42

It is interesting to note that humans readily recognize the evils of such dominance of a human over other humans when there is a tyrant ruling others but fail to realize it when a group of elites dominates them and they willingly submit to the manipulation and oppression of that elite, many times via a façade of democracy. In reality, both are evil and can only be remedied by accepting Allah alone as the Lawgiver and ultimate authority. As shall be discussed shortly, it is Allah alone who can lay down just laws and ordinances as He alone is completely free from desires and prejudice.

There are many things that humans have a tendency to “worship” or become “enslaved” to, ranging from one’s own passions, the state or nation to insignificant material wants. Allah describes those who take their own desires as a god: “Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge [that Allah has concerning him] and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah? Will you not then be reminded” (45:23).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “May the slave of dinars, dirhams, qateefah and khameesah43 perish as he is pleased if these things are given to him and if not, he is displeased.”44 This is, in reality, a true form of slavery or servitude—a slavery to something other than Allah. Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,

If he attains it [that is, what he desires], he is pleased and if he is unable to attain it, he becomes discontented. Such a person is the ‘abd [slave] of what he desires of these matters and he is a slave of it, since slavery and servitude are in reality the enslavement and servitude of the heart. Thus, for whatever enslaves the heart and puts it under its servitude, the heart is then a slave of that object. This is why it is said, “The slave [human] is free as long as he is content [with what Allah has given him] and the free one is a slave as long as he desires.”45

Islam frees humans from all of such false forms of worship. It does this by freeing their hearts from such overriding wants and desires. It frees the heart from such worship by attaching the heart to Allah alone and building a strong relationship between the individual and Allah (as discussed later). The individual then simply wants to please Allah. Whatever is pleasing to Allah, he is happy with and whatever is displeasing to Allah, he is unhappy with.

This aspect of Islam may be very clear to a new Muslim. He may easily recognize within himself all of those false gods that he used to pursue and “worship” in his pre-Islamic days. His whole life may have revolved around those objects of worship. He would do virtually anything in pursuit of that goal regardless of whether such means were ethically sound. Those goals were what made him a person.

He evaluated his entire life in terms of those goals. If he achieved those goals, that would be his source of happiness. He was truly enslaved by those goals. Now he can understand how those goals were actually taking him away from the worship of Allah alone.

42 Ismaaeel ibn Katheer, Al-Bidaayah wa al-Nihaayah (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, n.d.), vol. 7, pp. 39-40.

43 These four are different forms of money and expensive clothing.

44 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

45 [Ahmad ibn Taimiyyah,] Ibn Taimiyyah’s Essay on Servitude (Birmingham, United Kingdom: al- Hidaayah Publishing and Distribu on, 1999), p. 100-101.

(C) Making Life on Earth Flourishing and Sound

Islam is a beautiful religion that fulfills the needs of both body and soul. A human is made up of both a spiritual as well as a material side. Both sides of a human have to be recognized as “true,” with neither of them being ignored or denied. Furthermore, the individual needs guidance for both of these aspects of his personality. If not, one aspect will dominate the other or be in conflict with the other and the individual will never achieve true happiness.For example, there are those who stress the spiritual needs and look down upon the material aspects of this world.

At the same time, though, they are forced to partake in the material aspects of this world that are part of the human’s nature. Such individuals are conflicted when they cannot free themselves completely from the material needs that they so look down upon. On the other hand, there are economic systems, like capitalism and socialism, that seek to meet the material needs— in fact, capitalists claim to bring about “the best of all possible worlds. In reality, though, they can leave a great void in the psyche of an individual as his material needs are met and yet he feels empty inside.

Allah is the One who made humans the successors of this earth: “And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: ‘Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth’” (2:30). Thus, the view of Islam is that humans have been put here on this earth intentionally by God and they are to use the material means to build a positive life in this temporary world, which will eventually lead them to a positive eternal life in the Hereafter.

Thus, Allah says, “But seek, with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world, and do good as Allah has been good to you, and do not seek corruption in the land. Verily, Allah does not love the corrupters” (28:77).

In fact, even after finishing the Friday Prayer, one of the most significant acts of worship in Islam, Allah encourages them to go out and seek the bounties of this world: “Then when the (Friday) Prayer is finished, you may disperse through the land, and seek the Bounty of Allah (by working, etc.), and remember Allah much, that you may be successful” (62:10).

In reality, humans are caretakers of this great creation and they are supposed to behave in the proper manner with respect to it. They are not the ultimate owners of it who are free to use it in any way they wish. In fact, they are not supposed to exploit it for their own personal greed or vengeance. They are not supposed to waste the resources of this earth in extravagance and non-beneficial purposes. Instead, they should behave in the manner described by Allah: “Those who, if We give them power in the land, establish the prayer, give the Zakat, enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil” (22:41).

This teaching of Islam is further highlighted by the numerous verses in which Allah forbids the spreading of evil and corruption (fasaad) on Earth (as in 28:77 quoted above). Allah also says, “And do not do corruption on the earth, after it has been set in order, and invoke Him with fear and hope; Surely, Allah's Mercy is (ever) near unto the good-doers” (7:56).

Again, “So remember the graces (bestowed upon you) from Allah, and do not go about making mischief on the earth” (7:74). On the other hand, Allah promises a great reward who live their lives by the principle of not promoting or seeking evil and corruption. Allah says, “That home of the Hereafter (i.e.Paradise), We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do corruption by committing crimes. And the good end is for the pious” (28:83). Allah makes it clear that when the people stand in front of Him on the Day of Resurrection, those who spread evil on the earth will not be treated as equal to those who spread goodness on this earth. Allah says, “Shall We treat those who believe and do righteous good deeds like those spread corruption on earth? Or shall We treat the pious as criminals?” (38:28).

Unfortunately, what many people do not realize is that the greatest way of spreading corruption and evil on earth is by turning one’s back on the revelation from God and encouraging people to forget about what Allah has commanded, thereby following their own wants and desires. Turning away from God and His guidance truly corrupts the individual soul and also corrupts the family, society and entire creation. With a true belief in God removed from one’s heart, it is a small step to unethical behavior and unjust practices.

In reality, it is one of Allah’s laws that if corruption is allowed to spread, it leads to evils throughout the earth as a wake-up call to humans that they must change their ways. Thus, Allah says, “Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds), that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah, and begging His Pardon)” (30:41). Unfortunately, today very few do wake-up as they put the blame for all evils on everything except the fact that they have turned away from God.

In the end, it is the corruptors and evildoers themselves who will suffer: Allah says, “Those who disbelieved and hinder (men) from the Path of Allah, for them We will add torment over the torment; because they used to spread corruption [by disobeying Allah themselves, as well as ordering others (mankind) to do so]” (16:88). “Those who break Allah's Covenant after ratifying it, and sever what Allah has ordered to be joined, and do mischief on earth, it is they who are the losers” (2:27).

(D) Justice and the Prohibition of Wronging Others

Life on Earth cannot be truly flourishing and sound without justice. Thus, the call to and the implementation of justice is one of the most prominent features of Islam. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah orders the Muslims to fulfill the demands of justice, even if these should go against their own interests or needs.

For example, Allah says, “Verily! Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching which He (Allah) gives you! Truly, Allah is Ever All-Hearer, All-Seer” (4:58); “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do” (4:135); and “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do” (5:8).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) demonstrated that nobody is above the law and justice in Islam. One time Usaamah, who was very close and dear to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), was convinced to try to intervene with the Prophet concerning a prescribed punishment and the Prophet told him, “Do you, Usaamah, intervene with respect to one of Allah’s prescribed punishments? By Allah, if Fatimah the daughter of [the Prophet] Muhammad were to steal, I would have her hand amputated.”46

Thus, justice is to be applied to everyone, rich and poor, young and old, ally and enemy, Muslim and non-Muslim and so forth. In reality, if this were not the case and some sort of double standard were to be used, it would not be true justice. A Muslim is required to be just to everyone, friend or foe, and even to his own soul. He is not allowed to wrong his own soul as wronging one’s own soul is not “freedom” but it is one of the worst forms of injustice. Actually, a true Muslim has been ordered to be even more than just; he must also be benevolent and forbearing. Thus, Allah says, “Verily, Allah enjoins justice and beneficence, and giving (help) to kith and kin, and He forbids all lewd acts, evil and oppression. Thus He admonishes you, that you may take heed” (16:90).

The establishment of justice and working for justice is one of the heavy responsibilities upon the Muslim community as a whole. It is by this way that the Muslims are witnesses to the rest of mankind that this is the true religion of Allah. Thus, Allah has said, “Thus We have made you a wasat (just) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you” (2:143). One of the meanings of the word wasat is just and balanced, avoiding the extremes that always accompany exploitation and injustice.47

Finally, there is a very important relationship between justice and following the revelation from Allah. Allah alone is the only one with the impartiality and just nature to lay down laws that will not favor one class of people over the other (in particular, the powerful over the weak). He is also the only one with the complete knowledge that allows Him to lay down laws that are truly just. Someone may have sincere intentions but due to lacking perfect knowledge of the human psyche and human social interactions may invoke laws that are actually unfair and unjust. Thus, once again, if a person is truly interested in pure and adulterated justice, he has no option but to turn to the revelation from Allah and the law from Him.

Ibn al-Qayyim therefore wrote, “Allah sent His Messengers and revealed His Books so that the people could live by justice. It is the same justice and balance upon which the earth and the heavens are balanced. Wherever the signs of true justice are apparent and clear, therein also lies the law of Allah and His religion.”48 Fortunately, for all of humankind, the working of the cosmos is according to the justice and truth from Allah and is not based on the desires of humans. Hence, Allah says, “And if the truth had been in accordance with their desires, verily, the heavens and the earth, and whosoever is therein would have been corrupted! Nay, We have brought them their reminder, but they turn away from their reminder” (23:71).

The justice that is so essential to Islam extends beyond this life to the Hereafter. In other words, Allah will judge all individuals in the most just way and will not wrong anyone in the least. Part of this justice includes the fact that no individual will bear the burden of another's sin and no one will be held responsible for what is beyond his means.

Thus, Allah says, “Say: Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things? No person earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another. Then unto your Lord is your return, so He will tell you that wherein you have been differing” (6:164); “Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for the benefit of his own self. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear another's burden. And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning)” (17:15); “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); and, “Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease” (65:7).

Justice does not only have a positive aspect to it (the fulfilling and restoring of rights after they have been infringed upon), it must also have a “negative” component to it: the prohibition of wronging others. Islam places great emphasis on the avoidance of wronging of others in the first place. Thus, the Prophet stated that God has said, “O My servants, I have forbidden wrongdoing for Myself and I have made it forbidden for you. Therefore, do not wrong one another.”49 Ibn Taimiyyah states that this statement covers all of the religion. Everything that Allah has forbidden is, in one way or another, a type of dhulm, while everything that He has ordered is a form of adl or justice.50 In fact, Allah has said, “Indeed, We have sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance (justice) that mankind may establish justice. And We brought forth iron wherein is mighty power as well as many benefits for mankind, that Allah may test those who will help Him and His messengers, while unseen. Verily, Allah is All-Strong, All- Mighty” (57:25).

Thus, the messengers were sent, books revealed and the balance made so that humankind may establish and live by justice. Furthermore, iron has been created so that it may be used for the sake of truth and justice. The book guides to justice and the sword and iron assists it.

There is yet another very important relationship between justice and Islam. In order for humans to be truly just, they need some internal mechanism that drives them to do what is right. It is very easy to be swayed and impartial when one’s wealth, family, nation, status or honor is at stake. Many can recognize the injustice in others but fail to or refuse to recognize any injustice on their own part.

In such cases, their desires will not allow them to recognize the truth. However, once true faith enters an individual’s heart, the situation changes completely. The person understands that Allah wants justice from him. He also knows that Allah is aware of even the most minute of his actions or intention. Allah demands justice and has forbidden all forms of injustice. The true believer, then, will not give preference to his desires, his wealth, his family, his nation— or whatever—over what Allah demands from him in the form of justice. He knows that he will meet Allah and he will desire to do so with a clear conscience. Thus, he will work for justice and will accept nothing less than it.

Many converts today come from individualistic societies, where justice is sometimes overridden by the desire to serve one’s own interests. This has no place in Islam. Again, even if it is against one’s own interest, a Muslim must always stand out firmly and bravely for the sake of truth and justice.

46 Recorded by al-Bukhari.

47 See al-Qurtubi, vol. 2, p. 153.

48 Muhammad ibn al-Qaayim, Al-Turuq al-Hukumiyyah fi al-Siyaasah al-Shar’iyyah (Beirut: Dar al- Kutub al-Ilmiyyah), p. 14.

49 Recorded by Muslim.

50 Ibn Taimiya, Majmoo, vol. 18, p. 166.

(E) True Peace

The Light and Guidance from Allah is the path to true peace. Allah says, “Indeed, there has come to you from Allah a Light and a clear Book wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of peace, and He brings them out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to a Straight Way” (5:15-16). In fact, Allah is calling humans to the abode of eternal peace: “Allah calls to the home of peace (Paradise) and guides whom He wills to a Straight Path” (10:25).

True and complete peace can only be had when the individuals themselves achieve internal peace. This results from Islam or the true submission to Allah alone. This is the only way of life consistent with the nature of human beings. In fact, this is what can be called the “true life.” Thus, Allah says, “O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life” (8.24).

Knowing Allah is what can bring about true contentment in the soul. If the individual does not know his Creator, his soul will always be yearning for something that is missing in his life. Unless there is contentment in the soul and the heart, the individual can never achieve true contentment. All of the wealth and the goods of this world will not be able to bring the human such true contentment. The Prophet said, “True richness is not via much property and belongings but true richness is in self-contentment.”51 He also said, “True richness is the richness of the heart. True poverty is the poverty of the heart.”52

Once an individual is at peace with himself and free of any internal agitations, he can then enter into truly peaceful relations with others. This starts with those closest to him in his family and extends to his neighbors and others in the community, eventually extending to all of humankind as a whole. Thus, Islam establishes an entire social structure in which people interact with others, based on relationships, rights and obligations, in ways that bring about a peaceful coexistence.53 Children recognize the rights of their parents upon them while parents recognize their roles towards their children. Husbands and wives come together not as competitors but as partners cooperating to produce a home filled with peace and love.

Indeed, Allah points to this relationship that He has created as a great sign: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect” (30:21). Thus, Allah has laid down stringent laws that protect the sanc ty of the home, such as the laws concerning adultery, fornication and slander. The reason is that the home is truly the foundation for the society as a whole. If there is no peace in the home, one can hardly expect that people will exit their home in a troubled state and be peaceful, fulfilling members of society.

Since the guidance of Islam covers not only what is traditionally known as “law” but also ethical behavior and conduct, Islam provides detailed guid2009 ance for the manner in which members of a society should interact with one another. There is a great emphasis on mutual respect, with each member of society realizing that he is part of a larger unity entailing rights and obligations. This mutual feeling produces a society that is filled with peace, wherein each individual looks after the welfare and needs of the other members of society.

Thus, when Islam is enacted, the individual finds peace all around him, from within himself and throughout the entire society. In fact, even world peace can only truly come about when there is justice. In recent years, more and more people have realized this fact and emphasize, “There is No Peace Without Justice.” (Justice is often a slogan used when going to war but it is usually not more than that, a slogan.) But there can be no true justice or peace until people raise themselves above national or ethnic economic or political interests. True justice can only occur when people dedicate themselves to Allah, applying His guidance while removing their egos and desires from their decisions.

In the Hereafter, of course, it will only be through believing in God and following His guidance that one will achieve eternal peace. Again, Allah makes it very clear that this is what He is actually calling the humans to: “Allah calls to the home of peace (Paradise) and guides whom He wills to a Straight Path” (10:25).

51 Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

52 Recorded by ibn Hibbaan. According to al-Albaani, it is authentic. See al-Albaani, Saheeh al- Jaami al-Sagheer, #7816.

A Final Point on Some of the Goals of Islam

One will readily note that all of the goals of Islam are highly interconnected. This is quite logical. Actually, they all flow from the foundation of true monotheism. When a person embodies the teachings of Islamic monotheism, he then frees himself from worshiping anybody else or anything else.

Furthermore, he will then lead his life in this world in a way that is best for society and civilization. He will work for justice and ensure that neither he nor others wrong others. In the end, he will find true peace and will be able to pass that along to others. But all of this must start with the true internalization of pure monotheism, where one worships and submits to Allah, sincerely and devoutly practicing the religion of Allah in this life.

Thus, clearly, once a person understands, accepts and applies the true concept of Islamic monotheism concept in his life, the other aspects are achieved as corollaries to this main goal. One the other hand, without true monotheism, the other goals cannot be achieved, even at a superficial level. Hence, it is understandable that, in essence, all of the Quran is concerning tauheed or pure monotheism. The commentator on one of the famous expositions of Islamic belief, al-Aqeedah al-Tahaawiyya, also noted that all of the Quran is actually a discussion of pure monotheism (tauheed):

Most of the chapters in the Quran are concerned with the two types of tauheed54; in fact, every chapter in the Quran [is concerned with tauheed]. The Quran either reports about Allah’s names and attributes. This is the tauheed that one must have knowledge about and that is reported. Or the Quran calls to His worship, associating no partner with Him [in that worship] and abandoning any other idol other than Him. This is the tauheed of intention and will. Or the Quran orders, prohibits or commands [His] obedience.

These are essential aspects of tauheed and part of its completeness. Or the Quran reports about how [Allah] honors the people [who adhere to] tauheed and what He does for them in this world and what He graciously bestows on them in the Hereafter. That is the reward for [adhering to] tauheed. Or [the Quran] reports about the polytheists and how He treats them in this world and what kind of punishment they will receive in the end. That is the punishment for those who abandon the aspects of tauheed.55

54 What is meant by the “two types of tauheed” is tauheed with respect to (1) what one believes in and acknowledges as true and (2) one’s devotions and worship in his life.

55 Sadr al-Deen Abu al-Izz al-Hanafi, Sharh al-Tahaawiyya fi al-Aqeeda al-Salafiyyah (Fairfax, VA: Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, forthcoming), p. 35