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Guidance is God's gift


By Prof Mohammed Rafi



Belief in the divine guidance is the necessary corollary of belief in God. The Muslims believe that the Quran is the final Revelation and that it is the only book which has not been tampered with. "Ramazan is the month in which the Quran was (first) revealed as a guidance unto mankind and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false" (2:185).

Man has always been puzzled by certain fundamental questions like what is the purpose of life, and why the claims of different individuals and interests of different nations are often mutually contradictory, and how these can be reconciled. He has often thought about the common values of humanity and questioned how these are related, and what are the fundamental rights of man and how these can be protected?

Evidently, human reason and its manifestations of science and technology do not help in solving these problems. Einstein says "science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain, value judgments of all kinds remain necessary." The Quran says, "The God that has created all the objects in the universe has also undertaken to make them aware of their goal and guide them towards it" (20:50).

In all religions, theologians have discussed the nature of creation. In Islam every created being has a definite place in the overall pattern of creation and in that sense, it is good. But it is not intended to remain the same throughout its span of life. It is endowed with a number of potentialities and tends to realize them.

It is through divine guidance termed 'Rububiyyah' in the Quran, that things develop and finally attain their goal. The guidance of God is essential for the development of humanity. This guidance is at work everywhere in the universe. "He inspired in each heaven its mandate" (41:12).

In the animal world divine guidance is reflected in the form of instinctual drive as the following verse indicates, "Your Rabb inspired the bee saying: choose your habitation in the hills and in the trees and in that which they thatch" (16:68). And "Have you not seen that thou who are in the heavens and the earth serve God, and the birds also, their wings spread out. Each one knows its appointed task (salaat) and the way in which it is to be performed (Tasbeeh) (24:41). And "There is no living being on the earth, nor a bird that flies with its wings which is not (God's) creature like you. No single thing have we neglected in the decree" (6:38).

We have to realize that divine guidance carries each and every creation from stage to stage until it has reached its full development. Man too needs divine guidance, otherwise he will go astray. He is free to choose the right or wrong path. But once he chooses his path, he cannot alter the ultimate results.

These results are in accordance with the Divine natural laws and apply to all human beings. If he controls the animal instincts, he will definitely attain sublime heights; but if he does not, he may easily sink below the animal level. Self-fulfilment is the reward of following the Divine guidance.

History tells us that relative values prevailing in the world shall never solve the problems of mankind. Only permanent values which are for all societies and all times can guide man on the right path. These permanent values are offered to man through a messenger called the nabi. This divine guidance is a gift of God which He bestows on the man whom He selects.

The purpose of wahi is not to compel man to choose any particular way. It merely informs him about the right and wrong paths and leaves him free to choose. The Quran says "Say it is the truth from Allah. Then whosoever will let him believe; and whosoever will let him reject" (18:29).

Throughout his life Muhammad (PBUH) never changed a single word of the Revelation for reasons of expediency. The Quran bears witness to this fact: "Say (O Muhammad) it is not for me to change it of my own accord. I only follow which is revealed to me" (10:15).

The divine guidance transcends human intellect but does not conflict with reason. It rather supplements it. Man is exhorted to ponder and reflect over it in the light of reason. "Those who, when the Revelations of their Rabb are presented, do not fall thereat deaf and blind." (25:73) "Will they not ponder over the Quran?" (4:82).

Those who deny reason are described in this way: "Will they not then meditate on the Quran or there are locks on their hearts" (47:24). Muhammad (PBUH) was asked to say, "This is my way. My invitation to you to follow Allah's path is based on reason and insight" 12:108).

No doubt it is possible to doubt the existence of God and the reality of the Hereafter. But then, it is also possible to doubt the existence of the world. The rational test will take the form of determining whether it furthers the interests of humanity. It is needless to say that the Quran has stood the test of reason and proved itself to be in harmony with the best in man.

Secondly, the Quran invites people to judge it in the light of history. It asks them to ponder over the rise and fall of nations. It assures them that if they seek the causes of the downfall of a people, they will find that the people had contravened the principles of right conduct and permanent values which were communicated to them by the nabi of their age.

"But they deny the knowledge that they could not compass and whereof the final result had not come unto them. Even so did those before them deny. Then see what the consequences were for the wrong doers" (10:39).

The unbelievers are repeatedly urged to apply this test and satisfy themselves about the truth and value of divine guidance. The Quran repeatedly exhorts man to think and think hard. Those who do are honoured. "The blind man is not equal with the seeing, nor is darkness equal to light" (35:19) "Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed" (39:9).
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Human rights in Islam


By Sidrah Unis



Islam is an all-encompassing religion that focuses upon both the spiritual and practical aspects of life. It promotes a lifestyle of religious devotion, simplicity, sacrifice, unity, and brotherhood, which is of benefit to an individual not only in this world, but also in the hereafter.

It is an established principle that the right of one is the duty of another, and vice versa. Islam not only lays down duties owed to God, but it also defines duties owed to individuals. Muslim jurists have classified rights into: rights of God; and rights of men.

The rights of God are the religious acts of devotion and faith, which we owe to God Almighty. For example, the offering of namaz, performance of Haj, etc. The rights of men are those that individuals enjoy against each other. These are also referred to as human rights. This article only aims at explaining the concept of human rights in Islam.

It is, unfortunately, believed in the West that the values and ideals prescribed by Islam are contrary to the norms of human rights. This wrong concept has taken root not only due to the West's ignorance of the Quran and the Traditions, but also due to the irresponsible, at times even outrageous, attitude of some Muslims.

In fact, Islam recognized and enforced the principles of human rights centuries before their acknowledgment by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. History reveals that Islam's role with reference to the introduction and enforcement of human rights is that of a pioneer.

An in-depth study of ancient civilizations shows that although vast efforts were made to promote studies in the arts and sciences, in most cases, there was no consistent development or the promotion of human rights.

It was in the 16th and 17th centuries that the masses in the West were made aware of fundamental rights and civil liberties by their political thinkers and jurists. When the subjects demanded these rights to be granted and acknowledged, the rulers stubbornly refused. This resulted in the subjects engaging in a bitter tussles with them.

Islam, on the other hand, took a different course by granting these rights from its very advent. In fact, it is mandatory on every Muslim ruler to enforce these rights in accordance with the provisions of Islam.

And for the one who fails to do so, the Quran clearly says: "...And whoever judges not by what Allah has revealed, those are the dis-believers." (The Quran, 5:44). "...And whoever judges not by what Allah has revealed, those are the transgressors." (The Quran, 5:47).

Some of the human rights ordained by the Quran and the traditions are:

1. Right to life: "...Whoever kills a person, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he had killed all humanity..." (The Quran, 5:32) "...And kill not the soul which Allah has made sacred except in the course of justice..." (The Quran, 6:152). "And kill not the soul which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause..." (The Quran, 17:33).

2. Right to equality: The Prophet (PBUH), in his farewell sermon, declared: "Righteous actions are the only mark of distinction, and not wealth, birth, or status in life."

Similarly, it is given in the Quran: "O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into tribes and families that you may know each other. Surely, the noblest of you with Allah is the (one who is the) most righteous of you. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware." (The Quran, 49: 13).

3. Right to respect and reputation: "And those who malign believing men and believing women undeservedly, they bear the guilt of slander and manifest sin." (The Quran, 33: 58).

"O you who believe, let not a folk deride a folk, perchance they may be better than they (are); nor let women (deride) women, perchance they may be better than they (are); neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith... Neither backbite one another..." (The Quran, 49: 11, 12).

4. Right to privacy: "O you who believe, enter not houses other than your own houses, until you have asked permission... This is better for you that you may be mindful." (The Quran, 24: 27) "O you who believe, avoid most of suspicion... and spy not..." (The Quran, 49: 12).

5. Right To justice: "O you who believe, be maintainers of justice..." (The Quran, 4: 135) "O you who believe... let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably.

Be just: that is nearer to observance of duty..." (The Quran, 5: 8) "...And if thou judge, judge between them with equity. Surely Allah loves the equitable." (5:42) "Say: My Lord enjoins justice..." (The Quran, 7: 29).

6. Right to freedom of religion: "There is no compulsion in religion..." (The Quran, 2:256). "And say: the truth is from your Lord; so let him who please believe, and let him who please disbelieve..." (The Quran, 18: 29). "Say (O Prophet): O dis-believers, I serve not that which you serve, nor do you serve whom I worship... Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion. (The Quran, 109: 1-6).

7. Right to education: A tradition of the Prophet that describes the significance of education is reported by Ibn Majah in the following manner: "Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said, 'Search for knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim man and woman."

8. Right to protest against injustice and oppression: Citizens of the Islamic state have the right to resist and protest against injustice, tyranny, and oppression. There are several traditions of the Prophet in this regard: "Abu Sayeed reported that the Messenger of Allah said, 'The best jihad is that of one who says a true word before a tyrant'."

Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, on assuming the office, declared: "Cooperate with me when I am right, but correct me when I commit error; obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Prophet, but turn away from me when I deviate."

9. Right to earn: "...For men is the benefit of what they earn. And for women is the benefit of what they earn..." (The Quran, 4:32). The right to earn also means the right to get a job if a person has no employment.

It is the responsibility of the Islamic state to provide employment to the citizens if they have none. The following tradition of the Prophet, reported by Abu Daud, elaborates this:

"Anas reported that a man came to the Messenger of Allah and requested alms. The Prophet said, 'Have you got anything in your house?' He replied, 'Yes, I have a woollen carpet... and a cup...' The Prophet said, 'Come to me with both these things.' The man did so. The Prophet took them and asked the people around him, 'Who will buy these two?' ...A man said, 'I will take them both for two silver coins.'

The Prophet gave the things to that man and took the coins. He then tuned to the man, who had come for help, gave him the coins, and said, 'Buy food for your family with one of them and buy an axe with the other, then come to me with the axe.'

The man did so. The Prophet fixed a handle to it and said, 'Go, cut wood and sell it. Come to me after fifteen days.' When the man came to the Prophet after the prescribed time, he had earned ten silver coins... The Messenger of Allah said to him, 'This is better for you...'"

The above-mentioned are some of the numerous rights provided to people under Islamic law. It must have been noticed that the expression of Islam, while recognizing and protecting the basic rights of a human being, is quite different from that of the western legal systems.
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Human rights in Islam

By Syed Imad-ud-Din Asad


IT is a popular belief in the West, owing to their deficient knowledge of the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet (PBUH), that Islam supports values and structures that are incompatible with the principles of human rights. In fact, Islam established the sanctity of human rights and advocated their promotion and enforcement, about 1400 years before the United Nations embodied them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If we consider human rights as a yardstick for evaluating civilizations, we would come to the conclusion that the world was not very civilized before the advent of Islam. Though there were great civilizations before Islam, they are held high in regard mainly because of their contributions in the fields of arts and sciences — none of them did anything to place human rights in a permanent manner. Advancement in human rights, if there were any, would derive their legality from a particular ruler whoever is in place and his successor would not be bound to extend them: human rights granted by a ruler could be taken away by another if deemed necessary or expedient.

It was in the 16th and 17th centuries that the western political thinkers and jurists educated the masses about the notions of civil liberties and fundamental rights. This awareness prompted the people to strive for their rights resulting in a bitter series of tussles between the rulers and the subjects. Privileges were stubbornly withheld by the rulers, whereas, the subjects fought vehemently for them. Revolutions took place, and with each revolution the people won a new concession. In this way, through the ordeal of bloodshed and struggle, a growing body of rights developed.

Islam, on the contrary, took a significantly different course. First of all, as God Himself had conferred them, the people did not have to violently snatch these rights from some ruler. Secondly, being the rights ordained by God, human rights cannot be abolished or abrogated by any man or group of men. Every Muslim ruler or government must recognize and enforce them as they are part and parcel of the Islamic faith. If one omits to do so, or denies them, or practically violates them while paying lip-service to them, the verdict of the Quran in such a case is clear and unequivocal: “...And whoever judges not by what Allah has revealed, those are the disbelievers.” (5:44). “...And whoever judges not by what Allah has revealed, those are the transgressors.” (5:47) Some of the rights that Islam declares all human beings should possess are:

Right to life: The Quran upholds the sanctity of human life and accords full protection to it. All forms of manslaughter are regarded as heinous crimes. It is said in the Quran: “...Whoever kills a person, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he had killed all humanity...” (5:32). “...And kill not the soul which Allah has made sacred except in the course of justice...” (6:152).

Right to equality: Islam disregards discrimination between persons on the basis of colour, race, nationality, nobility of birth, wealth, political status, gender, etc. Superiority of a person is determined only on the basis of piety, righteousness, and moral excellence. In his farewell sermon, the Prophet declared: “Righteous actions are the only mark of distinction and not wealth, birth, or status in life.”

Similarly, the Quran proclaims: “O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into tribes and families that you may know each other. Surely the noblest of you with Allah is the (one who is the) most righteous of you. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.” (49:13)

Right to justice: Immense stress has been laid by the Quran on the right to seek justice and the duty to perform justice: “...When you judge between people, you judge with justice...” (4:58) “O you who believe, be maintainers of justice...” (4:135) “O you who believe... let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably. Be just; that is nearer to observance of duty...”(5:8)

Right to respect: Islam declares that each person, irrespective of his faith, race, gender, or wealth, is worthy of respect. The right to honour and self-respect is inviolable. The Quran says: “And those who malign believing men and believing women undeservedly, they bear the guilt of slander and manifest sin.” (33:58)

“O you who believe, let not a folk deride a folk, perchance they may be better than they (are); nor let women (deride) women, perchance they may be better than they (are); neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nick names. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith... Neither backbite one another...” (49:11,12)

Right to privacy: An individual’s right to domestic and personal privacy has been clearly recognised by the Quran: “O you who believe, enter not houses other than your own houses, until you have asked permission... This is better for you that you may be mindful.” (24:27) “O you who believe, avoid most of suspicion... and spy not...” (49:12)

Right to freedom of religion: In an Islamic state every citizen is free to profess and practise any religion that he has adopted. Individuals and government have been strictly forbidden to interfere in the religious affairs of non-Muslim citizens. It is said in the Quran: “There is no compulsion in religion...” (2:256). “And if thy Lord had pleased, all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them. Wilt thou then force men till they are believers?” (10:99) “And say: the truth is from your Lord; so let him who please believe, and let him who please disbelieve...” (18:29)

Right to protest against oppression and injustice: Every citizen of the Islamic state has the right to resist and protest against oppression and injustice. There are numerous Traditions of the Prophet in this regard: “Abu Sayeed reported that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘The best jihad is that of one who says a true word before a tyrant’.” (Ibn Majah, Tirmizi, Abu Daud). “Abu Sayeed reported that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘Whoever from among you comes across a certain undesirable thing, must stop it by his hands. If it is not possible for him, he must stop it by his tongue. And if this also is not possible, he must condemn it in his heart — and this is the weakest position of belief’.” (Muslim)

Right to education: The pursuit of knowledge is considered a task of great importance in Islam. It is pointed out in the Quran: “...Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed.” (39:9)

Following are some traditions of the Prophet that describe the significance of education:

“Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘Search for knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim man and woman’.” (Ibn Majah). “Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘Whoever goes out in search of knowledge, is in the path of Allah till he returns’.” (Tirmizi).

Right to earn: Islam grants an individual the right to do any lawful work and to pursue any lawful profession for earning his livelihood. The rewards of labour belong to the one who has made the effort. The Quran decrees: “...For men is the benefit of what they earn. And for women is the benefit of what they earn...” (4:32)

The right to earn also implies the right to get a job if one has no employment or occupation. The following Tradition of the Prophet is evident of it: “A man came to the Messenger of Allah and requested for alms. The Prophet said, ‘Have you got anything in your house?’ He replied, ‘Yes, I have a woollen carpet... and a cup...’ The Prophet said, ‘Come to me with both these things.’ The man did so. The Prophet took them and asked the people around him, ‘Who will buy these two?’... A man said, ‘I will take them both for two silver coins.’

The Prophet gave the things to that man and took the coins. He then turned to the man, who had come for help, gave him the coins, and said, ‘Buy food for your family with one of them and buy an axe with the other, then come to me with the axe.’ The man did so. The Prophet fixed a handle to it and said, ‘Go, cut wood and sell it. Come to me after fifteen days.’ When the man came to the Prophet after the prescribed time, he had earned ten silver coins... The Messenger of Allah said to him, ‘This is better for you...’” (Abu Daud)

Following this precedent set by the Prophet, the Islamic state is responsible to provide employment to its citizens if they have none.

Islam has conferred and acknowledged other human rights also. Their details and illustrations can be seen in the Quran, the Traditions, and the teachings of the pious caliphs and other Muslim jurists.
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Human values in Islam

By Bilal Ahmed Malik


FROM time immemorial humanity has been divided into groups owing to vanity and self-conceit, based on race, caste or creed. In early times Greeks hated the non-Greeks, Romans despised the non-Romans and Arabs held the non-Arabs in contempt, calling them “Ajam” (meaning dumb).

Similarly, Egyptians under Pharaohs treated Israelites as helots, reducing them to social and political serfdom. When the Israelites rose to power they tried to crush the Christians and other people. The Christians in their turn, left no stone unturned to eliminate the Jews from the face of the earth.

It is really one of the saddest moments for humanity that in the present age, considered to be the age of advanced civilization and culture, the evil effects of regional and racial discrimination continue create tensions in different parts of the world. The UN which originally aimed at stopping the exploitation of the weak by the strong and ensuring fundamental rights for mankind, has failed in its objective simply because some of its prominent members are still indulging in their old games of differentiating between whites and blacks, high caste and low caste people.

Going back through history, one finds that the concept of human values in Islam and its practical application have been totally neglected. Islam contains a message of human values as its basic law. Islam has a complete and comprehensive code regarding honour of human beings and there are injunctions of the Holy Quran and Sunnah in this respect. In Islam the right to honour is also guarded and much significance has been given to it in the Holy Quran. Muslims are commanded to respect others and not to abuse others. In this regard Allah says, “O ye who believe, let not some men among you laugh at others. Do not defame nor be sarcastic to each other by offensive nicknames ... nor speak ill of each other behind their backs.” (46:11-12)

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in his farewell pilgrimage, delivered a lecture at the pulpit of Kaaba in which he said, “No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a white man have any superiority over a black man. You all are children of Adam and Adam is created from clay.”(Sahi Muslim)

Islamic teachings give importance to moral virtues and human values. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said, “The Lord has sent me down as His Messenger in order that I may evolve the moral virtues to the highest perfection.” He also said, “The Muslims who possess better morals are the most perfect in faith.” The Holy Quran stresses the importance of human values in the following way: “Verily, we have honoured the children of Adam” (Surah al-Isra: 70)

Even in respect of persons who are hostile and maliciously disposed towards the Muslims they are directed to be kind and considerate and to return evil with good as far as possible: “the goodness and the evil deed cannot be equal (for goodness is the virtue and evil deed is a sin). Return the evil deed with one which is better.” (41:34)

At another place Allah says: “Return thee with that which is best. We are well acquainted with the things they say (against you).” 23:96 The Holy Quran declares at one place that those devout servants of Allah who practise returning evil with good will be given a double reward:

“Such persons will be given their reward twice over, for that they have kept patience, that they return evil with good and that they spent (in charity) out of what We have given them.” 28:54

The spirit of the teaching of the Holy Quran can well be observed from the fact that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself was advised by Allah to be kind and forgiving to his enemies and those who deceived him: “....Thou wilt not cease to discover treachery from all (of them) except a few (persons). But (in spite of this) forgive them and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loveth those who are kind.” (5:14)

If one wants to see the “Love thine enemy” in practical form he should see it in Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) life. Not only on one or two occasions but several times the merciful Prophet demonstrated it. For instance, Abu Sufyan, the worst enemy of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Islam, the instigator of the battles of Badr, Uhud and Ahzab, the one whose sword had fed on Muslims’ blood, the person who had plotted the Prophet’s (PBUH) assassination several times, who opposed Islam at every step of its progress, was brought as a prisoner before the Prophet (PBUH) on the occasion of victory of Makkah. His record of heinous crimes deserved severe punishment, but the Holy Prophet, instead of taking revenge, not only forgave him but made his house a place of shelter and general pardon.

The wife of Abu Sufyan, the woman who sang songs of war to encourage the soldiers of Quraish against Muslims, the woman who treated with cruelty the corpse of Hazrat Hamza, the beloved uncle of the Holy Prophet, chewed his liver, cut his heart, nose and ears to make a garland of them, and when she came in front of the Prophet, he forgave her too. And she exclaimed, “Muhammad (PBUH)! I hated no tent more than yours but now I love no tent more than yours.”

Thus promotion of human values is one of the basic aims of Islamic teachings. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has taught mankind to cultivate human values and moral virtues such as politeness, kindness, love, mercy, forgiveness, generosity and humility, etc. And if one was malicious, the Prophet also taught us how to deal with such a person, and how to bring about a change in him while practising Islamic teachings.

Islam does not approve the concept of “tit for tat”. It is a religion of peace and harmony, which spreads love not hatred. Let’s pray that Allah gives all of us wisdom to understand the teachings of Islam and act on them accordingly as exemplified by the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
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Humour & joy in Islam

By Qazi Faez Isa


The ease and certainty with which people have been packed off to hell has made many lose their faith. The devil probably never smiles but arrogantly raves and rants and collects a similar crew to lead through the gates and into his kingdom. In contrast, the "inhabitants of Paradise are joyful" (36:55). Paradise is the reward for "those who spend (charity) whether in prosperity or in adversity, who restrain their anger and pardon men" (3:134).

On the day of the Final Judgment the faces of the believers will be "beaming" (80:38). But today the wells of joy, laughter and humour are running dry as most who take religion seriously mistakenly believe that a necessary accompaniment is a serious expression if not a perpetual frown. The frown, in turn, beckons anger, and from there it is a short fuse igniting a burning rage.

The Quran depicts unbelievers in a state of rage (48:29, 3:119). Happiness is associated with belief and Paradise. Those entering Paradise will be "laughing, rejoicing" as this two word verse of the Quran states (80.39). And unbelief and Hell are connected with rage. Those who do not believe will "perish in their rage" (3:119). And the Beneficial Creator commends those who restrain their rage (3:134).

The Quran informs that the inhabitants of Paradise would be "joyful", "rejoicing", in a state of "brightness and joy", "happy", and "enjoying themselves" (36:55, 43:70, 88:8, 76:11, 84:9, 52:18 and 30:15). The book of the Last Revelation also records in happy and joyful language incidents of earlier Prophets. The lady Sarah, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim, on overhearing that she would become the mother of Ishaq in her advanced years, "laughed" (11:71).

The amusing encounter of Solomon (Hazrat Sulaiman) with the ants was heavenly revealed and recorded for posterity. Solomon was amused and smiled on hearing the protest of the talking ants when he said, "O ye ants get into your habitation, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you without knowing it" (27:18).

Chapter 80 of the Quran is titled 'He frowned' (Abasa). The title records an incident when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was explaining the revelation of the Quran to the notables of the Quraish and was interrupted by a poor and blind man (Abdullah ibn Umm-i-Muktum) who wanted to learn the Quran but the Prophet frowned upon his interruption. The Prophet of Allah undoubtedly regretted his own behaviour as "without the least hesitation published this revelation" that was received by him.

In our times the sight of a pleasant, bearded and smiling face is somewhat of a rarity. In the mosques sermonizers rarely look happy or pleased. The priestly exhortations of fire and brimstone that have rained down from many a pulpit seem to have infiltrated our mosques. Rare is the glad and happy sermon, uplifting the heart and soul. The environment is mostly one of sombre retribution and severe punishments.

The threat of damnation and wrath reverberates. The amplification provided by the loudspeaker is not considered sufficient by the sermonizer who must also shout into it. With the advent of Ramazan the eardrums are assailed by thunderous voices driving sleep away and putting reason on a similar flight. In exhorting believers to scripture and practising 'naat' at all hours of the night the teaching itself is ironically violated. The merciful Creator castigates loud voices: "Lower thy voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the ass" (31:19).

Gentle angelic qualities of joy, laughter and sweetness, best reflected in the blessed prophet of Allah, are in sharp contrast with devilish severity and its accompanying tears, heartache and bitterness. Through the Companions (sahaba) of the Messenger of God we have received reports about the Messenger's sayings and demeanour. "Whoever is without gentleness is devoid of good" is a famous saying of the Prophet (pbuh).

"I have never seen anyone who smiled more than the Envoy of Allah", said the Companion Abdullah, son of Harith. Another Companion Jarir said that "he [the Prophet] never saw me without smiling." And the Companion Anas informs us that, "I never saw anyone more kind to children than Rasul Allah."

There are a few reported incidents of the Prophet either joking or appreciating a humorous incident. 'Usman will enter paradise laughing, because he made me laugh', said the Prophet. The Messenger of Allah saw Hazrat Usman [the third Caliph] eating dates while one of his eyes was afflicted with ophthalmia and remarked "What! Eating dates when your eye is afflicted?" Hazrat Usman answered "I am eating from the other side." The Prophet laughed heartily.

The Traditions (hadith) compiler, Abu Dawud, records that Amr ibn al As said that he avoided a bath on a cold night after having become impure for prayer and instead performed dry ablution (tayammum) and the Prophet, upon learning of this, remarked "Amr, you performed prayers while in a state of impurity" (junub)? Amr responded by citing the Quranic verse: "And kill not yourselves. Indeed God has been most Merciful to you." The Prophet laughed and said nothing further.

In the very same circumstances our self-styled ulema would probably admonish and issue a declaration (fatwa) that the person was an unbeliever (kafir). A Sufi's response to one such castigator was: "You call me an unbeliever. I shall therefore call you a True Believer - since a lie is best met with one of similar magnitude."

Sufi teachers would employ simple anecdotes to disarm, teach and convert. Humour and kindness played a significant role in the spread of Islam. Anger, clenched fists, cursing and threats of God's retribution have not helped in the spiritual conquest of any new lands. Hazrat Ali, said, "Minds get tired, as do bodies, so treat them with humour." And Abu al-Darda said, "I entertain my heart with something trivial in order to make it stronger in the service of the truth."

Most Sunni Muslims in the subcontinent profess to be the followers of Imam Abu Hanifa's theological school but forget his advice. In a letter to his student Yusuf ibn Khalid as-Samit he wrote: "Show affection to people as much as possible and greet even blameworthy people... When you meet others in a gathering or join them in a mosque and questions are discussed in a way different to your position, do not rush to disagree... But friendly with them and joke with them sometimes and chat with them. Love encourages people to persevere in knowledge."

Abu Hanifa refused to accept appointment as chief judge (qadi) from Al-Mansur, the Abbassi Caliph, and told him that he was not fit for such an appointment. Al-Mansur told him, "You lie, you are fit." Abu Hanifia retorted that in that case, "How can it be lawful for you to appoint someone who is a liar as qadi?"

For disobedience, Abu Hanifia was arrested and received 110 lashes. Before his death he left instructions that he should not be buried in any land misappropriated by Al-Mansur. When the Caliph heard this he exclaimed in exasperation, "Who will save me from Abu Hanifia, both when he was alive and now when he is dead?" Abu Hanifia died a martyr for not having compromised his principles and had the last laugh at Mansur's expense.
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Importance of obligations

By Khalid Durrani



Inour life we undertake many mutual obligations, expressed or implied. We make promises, we enter into commercial and social contracts including those of marriage. But do we realize the importance of faithfully fulfilling these obligations? Perhaps not.

The result is evident in the form of rapidly deteriorating social and moral values, in discipline and chaos. Surah Al Maaidah (5), Ayat 1, categorically and candidly commands, "You who believe! fulfil all obligations."

Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his commentary on this Ayat has written that this verse is so comprehensive that it forms a paragraph or a chapter by itself. The Arabic word "uqud" (translated as obligations) implies so many things that a whole chapter of commentary can be written on it.

There are mainly two types of obligations. First, there are divine obligations that arise from our spiritual nature and our relation to Allah. Then, there are worldly obligations that govern the very existence of human society. Allah made nature responsive to our needs.

He further sent messengers and teachers for the guidance of our conduct in individual, social and public life. All these gifts create corresponding obligations in our material relationships. If for example, a group or a state enters into a treaty, every individual in that group or state is bound to see that such obligations are faithfully discharged. Living in a civil society, we must respect its tacit conventions, unless they are morally wrong, and in that case we must get out of that society.

There are tacit obligations of hosts and guests, wayfarers and companions, employers and employees, which every man of faith must discharge conscientiously. And, of course, any individual commitments or promises must be honoured and fulfilled with the same sanctity.

Ayat 152 of Surah Al Anaam (16) commands us to ensure fulfilment of commitments of all types. It reads, "...Whenever you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned; and fulfil the covenant of Allah: Thus does He command you, so that you may remember."

The covenant of Allah must be taken in its wider meaning that encompasses all obligations toward the Almighty and also towards His creatures. The sacred duty of fulfilling all obligations of all kinds, to Muslims and non-Muslims, in public as well as private life, is a cardinal feature of Muslim ethics.

Cases of those who abuse this principle, by failing in their duties but expect the Muslims to do their part, are not to be settled (in case of treaties) by a general denunciation of treaties but by a careful consideration of cases where there has been fidelity and not treachery.

There we are enjoined to give the strictest fidelity as it is a part of righteousness and our duty to Allah. Ayat 4 of Surah At-Tauba (9) explains the above principle in these words, "(But the treaties are) not dissolved with the pagans with whom you have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you, nor aided anyone against you.

So fulfil your engagement with them to the end of their term: for Allah loves the righteous." The importance of truthfulness in word and deed is further mentioned in Ayat 119 of Surah At-Tauba (9), "You who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true (in word and deed)."

Ayat 34 of Surah Al-Asra (17) reads, "...and fulfil (every) engagement, for every engagement will be enquired into (on the day of reckoning)." The engagements referred to in this particular Ayat relate to beneficial contracts connected with the orphan's property or promises or undertakings given by the guardian or implied in the terms of his appointment. But the words may also be interpreted in the general sense.

The Holy Quran commands us to be consistent in our words and deeds. Ayaat 221-226 of Surah Al-Shuara (26) say, "Shall I inform you, (o people!), on whom it is that the evil ones descend? They descend on every lying, wicked person... and that they say what they practise not."

At Uhud there was some disobedience, and therefore breach of discipline. People had talked much, but had failed to back up their resolution in words with firmness in action. But on all occasions when men's deeds are not commensurate with their words, their conduct is odious in the sight of Allah, and it is only due to Allah's mercy, if they are saved from disaster.

Ayaat 2-3 of Surah As-Saf (61) read, "O you who believe! Why do you say what you do not practise? Saying what you do not practise is grievously odious in the sight of Allah."

The hypocrite element that exists in any society is a source of weakness and danger to its health and its very existence. The hypocrites of all times appear to be plausible people.

Their words sound fair-spoken, and as truth does not check their tongues, their flattery and deception know no bounds. But all this is on the outside. As they have no sincerity, nothing that they say or do is worth anything.

Ayat 4 of Surah Al-Munafiqoon (63), talking about the hypocrites says, "Pleasing seems their persons when you look at them; and when they talk, you listen to their speech.

Yet they are like the wooden panelling of wall. They imagine every rebuke to be directed against them. They are the enemies, beware of them." Those who fulfil their promises and honour their commitments have been categorized in the Holy Quran, among those who will be honoured with an abode in the gardens of Paradise.

Ayaat 32-35 of Surah al-Maarij (70) say, "And those who fulfil their trusts and covenants, who uphold their testimonies, and those who are mindful of their devotional obligations, they will live in gardens with honour." Again in Surah Al-Dahr (76), such people have been promised protection from the evil of the day of judgment and the reward of eternal happiness and joy.

Ayaat 7-22 of this Surah say, "Those who fulfil their vows and fear the day whose evil shall be defused far and wide, and feed the needy for love of Him, and the orphans and the captives, (saying): "we feed you for the sake of Allah, desiring neither recompense nor thanks.

We fear the dismal day calamitous from our Lord." So Allah will protect them from the evil of that day, and grant them happiness and joy, and reward them for their perseverance..."

Obligation of fulfilling trusts, promises, commitments and covenants, express or implied, is just as sacred in everyday life as it is in special spiritual relationships.

In addition, our life itself and the talents that we are bestowed upon, as well as our wealth and possessions are trusts, of which we must fulfil the duties punctiliously.
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In search of meaning

By Khalid Chaudhry



It is not uncommon for a person to be assailed by doubts or feelings of confusion during the study or practice of his or her religion. When some misgivings arise, or one feels troubled by certain cogitation which one finds "unacceptable", one sets about earnestly to tackle these.

However, some of us, when faced with a religious precept or practice that we fail to comprehend properly, reject it out of hand and, what is worse, may criticize or even ridicule it. The proper and safe thing to do, particularly when it pertains to some well-established teachings or practices of Islam, would be to consult some books or an enlightened religious scholar.

A couple of articles appearing in newspapers in recent months have raised some interesting, if confusing, questions about certain aspects of Islamic worship.

The first issue that was raised by a Pakistani lady residing abroad pertained to the inability of a woman to go for Haj or umrah (major and minor pilgrimage to Makkah), in spite of a sincere desire to do so, merely because there was no mahram (one's spouse or a close relative with whom marriage is permanently prohibited) to accompany her.

One can understand the frustration and sadness felt by a Muslimah faced with this situation, because Haj is not only obligatory for those whose financial, physical and mental conditions and family obligations permit it, but is also the heartfelt desire of devoted Muslims, and one that is often cherished for years before it is fulfilled. Without being a religious scholar, one can offer the following guidance, based on one's understanding of Islam.

A cardinal principle of our religion is that, "actions will be judged according to intentions." In other words, the reward will depend upon the intention.

This means that if a person had intended to do a good deed, but was thwarted by factors beyond his or her control, the reward would still be admissible for the good intention itself. If one is also able to perform the intended work, there will be an additional reward for that.

According to an aalim (religious scholar) of the Hanafi school that I checked with, it is not compulsory for such a woman to perform Haj even if she meets the other criteria listed above.

However, he added that the Shafi'i school allows the individual to proceed along with a group that has a majority of women in it. Furthermore, if that lady or her mother, sister or brother's wife has nursed a particular man during his childhood, he could accompany her.

But that is not all. There is a saying of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) narrated by Hazrat Ibn Abbas (R.A) according to which any pious offspring who look at their mother and father lovingly will be granted the reward of Haj that has found acceptance with Allah.

What is more, if the son or daughter do so a hundred times, he/she will earn the reward of a hundred (acceptable) pilgrimages. Isn't that wonderful? So, there is really nothing for that lady to worry about.

Another argument that was recently raised is that what is the use of reading the Holy Quran in Arabic if we do not understand what is meant by it. One agrees that it would be much better if we knew the language and could, therefore, grasp the message.

Failing that, translations, which are available in numerous languages, could also serve the purpose. Nevertheless, the benefits of reciting the Book without comprehension must not be depreciated.

Many readers must have noticed how moving the recitation of the Holy Quran is, even when one is listening to somebody else reading from the Book.The beauty of the sound that results from the recitation and correct intonation of the verses can and does make listeners ecstatic.

The same is also true for the person who is reciting it. It has been aptly said, the "Remembrance of God" (zikr) is like breathing deeply in the solitude of high mountains.

The morning air laden with the purity of the eternal snows dilates the breast and heaven enters this space in our heart. What could be a better way to remember Him than through a beautiful recitation of His own words, leading to a virtual union?

The renowned Orientalist and convert to Islam, Frithjof Schuon, has called the Arabic text of the Holy Quran "majestic" and its resonances "almost magical", which exhaust human disquiet, infusing into the believer silence, serenity and peace.

Behind the literal text is a concrete and active spiritual presence, which goes beyond the words and the mind. He says it is by virtue of this power that certain verses can chase away demons and heal the sick - even when they can't understand Arabic.

Since this is a vital topic and the misunderstanding appears to be particularly widespread amongst those educated in western-oriented institutions, it seems necessary to explain it in some detail.

The recitation of a scripture, like anything else, involves sound and breath. The mystics of all religions are especially aware of the supreme importance of these two.

Breath links the spirit and the body; it is the life current. Our voice is the most living of sounds since its origin is in the breath. From this it follows that when we modulate our breath through sound, specifically with divine words, the impact that it has on our spirit should be obvious, even if we do not comprehend the language. The sound and vibration immediately touch our heart. Thus, our soul gets attuned to God.

The last point of contention is that the khutba (sermon) of the Friday prayers should be delivered in a tongue understood by the worshippers, rather than in Arabic.

Here, it ought to be noted that the talk lasting 30 minutes or so, preceding the khutba in Arabic, be it in Urdu or a regional language, is very much a part of the sermon, and it is obligatory to listen to it.

The imams do this in English in the English-speaking countries. The unchangeable Arabic part is less than ten minutes long and nobody should grudge it. Anyone desirous of knowing its meaning can easily read it somewhere.

Many of the controversies arising in the minds of people are because of a lack of knowledge and, more importantly, a lack of understanding of Islam. It would behove us to engage in a deeper study of religion to be able to perceive its merits, which are real and enormous. Many contemporary converts to Islam have attained a profound understanding of religion and have put this into practice.

Some writers residing in the West have lamented the difficulties faced by them in learning about or practising Islam. They need not lose heart, for, Allah Almighty will surely reward their good intentions. A great deal of missionary work is being done there and Islam is, for good reasons, the fastest spreading religion.

Emma Clarke, a great-granddaughter of Lord Asquith (who was the British premier during the First World War), and more than 14,000 other compatriots from the upper strata of British society have recently acknowledged their conversion to Islam, while many more of their peers are keeping it confidential. It will certainly become the religion of the 21st century worldwide.
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Inheritance in Islam

By Dr. Abdul Karim



Islamic economic system is primarily based on justice. It discourages concentration of wealth in a few hands and provides for its diffusion. It prohibits accumulation of wealth by dishonest and devious means. the lawfully acquired wealth is to be used for the benefit of the widest possible circle.

The system of inheritance is an important mechanism and is unique in the range of beneficiaries to include even uncles, aunts, and, in some cases, even living grand parents. Islam encourages to give something even to non-heirs. It ensures that the corpus is not unnecessarily reduced to the disadvantage of the heirs.

Before the advent of Islam, women suffered tremendously and one of the injustices was denial of any share in inheritance of their parents. One such incident was the occasion (shan-i-nazool) for the revelation of Quranic teachings about inheritance.

Jabir bin Abdullah reports, "Sa'd bin Rabee's wife took along with her two daughters to the Holy Prophet and said, 'These are two daughters of S'ad bin Rabee who was with you in the battle of Uhd and was martyred.

Their uncle has taken away all the property, not leaving anything for them. They cannot be married without wealth.' The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, 'Allah will decide this matter.'

Thus were revealed the Quranic verses about inheritance and he directed their uncle to give to the girls two-thirds and their mother one-eight and to keep the rest.

The Quran says, "For men is a share of that which parents and near relations leave; and for women is a share of that which the parents and near relatives leave, whether it be little or much - a determined share.

And when other relations and orphans and the poor are present at the division of heritage, give them something therefrom and speak to them with word of kindness. And let those fear God, who, if they should leave behind their own weak offspring, would be anxious for them.

Let them, therefore, fear Allah and let them say the right word. Surely, they who devour the property of orphans unjustly only swallow fire into their bellies, and they shall burn in a blazing fire.

"Allah commands you concerning your children; a male shall have as much as the share of two females; but if there are females only, numbering more than two, then they shall have two-thirds of what the deceased leaves; and if there be one, she shall have the half.

And his parents shall have each of them a sixth of the inheritance, if he has a child; but if has no child and his parents be his heirs, then his mother shall have a third; and if he has brothers and sisters, then his mother shall have a sixth, after the payment of any bequests he may have bequeathed, or of debt.

" This fixing of portions is from Allah. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, Wise. And you shall have half of that which your wives leave, if they have no child; but if they have a child, then you shall have a fourth of that which they leave, after the payment of any bequests they may have bequeathed, or of debt.

And they shall have a fourth of that which you leave after the payment of any bequests that you may have bequeathed, or of debt. And if there be a man or a woman whose heritage is to be divided and he or she has neither parent nor child, and he or she has a brother or a sister, then each of them shall have a sixth.

But if they be more than that, then they shall be equal sharers in one-third, after the payment of any bequests, which they may have bequeathed, or of debt, without prejudice to the debt. This is an injunction from Allah, and Allah is All-Knowing, Forbearing.

"These are the limits set by Allah; and whoso obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will make him enter Gardens through which streams flow; therein shall they abide; and that is a great triumph. And whoso disobeys Allah and His Messenger, and transgresses His limits, He will make him enter into Fire; therein shall he abide; and he shall have a humiliating punishment." (4:8-15)

"They ask thee for instructions. Say, 'Allah gives His instructions concerning "Kalala.' If a man dies leaving no child and he has a sister, then she shall have half of what he leaves; and he shall inherit her if she has no child.

But if there be two sisters, then they shall have two-thirds of what he leaves. And if the heirs be brethren - both men and women - then the male shall have as much as the portion of two females. Allah explains this to you lest you go astray, and Allah knows all things well." (4:177).

"It is prescribed for you, when death comes to any one of you, if he leaves much wealth, that he make a will to parents and near relatives to act with fairness; it is an obligation on those who fear God.

And he who alters it after he has heard it, the sin thereof shall surely lie on those who alter it. Surely, Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. But whoso apprehends a partiality or a wrong, and makes peace between them, it shall be no sin for him. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful." (2:181-3).

Who can understand the Quran as much as the Holy Prophet (PBUH)? Abu Umama Al-Bahili reports, "I heard Allah's Messenger say during the course of his sermon in the year of the farewell pilgrimage; 'Verily Allah has granted every one who has a right what is due to him. So there can be no will in favour of a heir." "Give equal treatment to your children. Give equal treatment to your sons."

The Holy Prophet has forbidden gift to a heir by a person in his life time, as this would deprive other heirs. Nau'man ibn Bashir relates his father took him to the Holy Prophet and said, "I have gifted one of my slaves to this son of mine."

He inquired, "Have you made a similar gift to every one of your children'? He said, "No." The Holy Prophet said, "Then take the gift back." One version is that he said, "Be mindful of your obligation to Allah and do justice between your children."

Another version is that he asked Bashir if he had other children beside that one. As he answered in the affirmative, he first asked whether he had given the gift to all of them.

Hearing "No" from him, the Holy Prophet said, "Do not make me a witness, for I will not be witness to a wrong. Would you desire that they should behave equally well towards you?" As Bashir said, "Certainly," the Holy Prophet said, "Then why do not you?" According to another Hadith, the Holy Prophet inquired from Nau'man himself about the slave and directed him to return the slave.

Sa'ad ibn abi Waqas, a fabulously rich companion relates that once he fell seriously ill and when the Holy Prophet came to enquire after his health, he said, "Messenger of Allah, you see how it is with me. I am a man of means and my sole heir is my daughter.

May I give away two-thirds of my property in charity?" The Holy Prophet said, "No" "Then half of it, Messenger of Allah." He said, "No' "Well one-third, Messenger of Allah."

He said, "One-third, and one-third is ample. It is better you should leave your children in easy circumstances rather than in want, reduced to soliciting alms from others."

This set the outside limit for gifts by way of will for non-heir or any other purpose however noble it may be like charity. Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) was of the view that this should be less than the prescribed outside limit and preferred one-fifth.

He said, "I like one-fifth more than one-fourth and one-fourth more than one-third. Whoso wills one-third, he does not leave any thing for the heirs" "One-fifth is normal, one-fourth is hardship and one-third is permitted by the court."
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Inter-faith relations

By Haider Zaman



The report about the initiative of some leaders to seek a common path for promoting harmony and tolerance among the followers of various religions could be the most welcome message of the 21st century. We, as Muslims, being the followers of the last monotheist religion which remains intact in all respects, should play a leading role in this noble cause.

No other religion has as much potential for promoting inter-faith harmony as Islam. This is evident from its very name which is neither associated nor interlocked with any person, people or place. And from its very meaning which in the literal sense implies "submission" and in the Quranic sense implies "submission to the Will of Allah" (2:128) (3:85) the Cherisher and Sustainer of all (1:1).

Submission to the will of Allah was the main theme of every monotheist religion by whatever name called (3:19). Islam was, in fact, not prescribed for Muhammad (peace be upon him) alone. As the Quran says, "He laid down the same religion for you as He enjoined on Noah: that which We revealed to you which We enjoined on Ibrahim, Moses and Jesus Christ" (42:13). Thus, depending on the context, the reference to Islam in the Quran, can also be taken as reference to the religions of all the Prophets of Allah.

The Quran being the latest in the series of Divine scriptures confirms all the scriptures that were revealed before it (3:3). It enjoins belief in all the Divine scriptures and Prophets of Allah in the same way as it enjoins belief in itself and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) (2:177).

It further says "those who deny Allah and His Messengers and (those who) wish to separate Allah from His Messengers saying we believe in some and reject others and (those who) wish to take middle course, they are in truth not believers" (4:150,151). It means that when the Quran speaks of belief or faith in Allah, it automatically implies faith in Allah and all His Prophets without any distinction.

This is evident from another Quranic verse which says "whoever among the Muslims, or Jews or Sabaeans or the Christians believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment and does the righteous deeds will have no cause for fear or grief" (5:69).

According to a saying of the Prophet, anyone among the followers of other scriptures who having belief in His own Prophet also believed in him i.e. in Muhammad, will be entitled to double reward (Bokhari). That is why, the Quran specifically refers to the existence of righteous people (3:113,114) and people on the right course (5:65,66) among the followers of other scriptures.

The Quran does not exhibit any kind of hostility or animosity towards other scriptures or monotheist religions, nor does it hold their laws (sharia) in contempt.

Rather it exhorts the followers of other scriptures to follow their own law (sharia) (5:44-47), wishes them to be true to their religions (5:65,66) provides indication about how to promote cooperation and better understanding between Muslims and the followers of other scriptures (29:46) and emphasizes the protection of all places where the name of Allah is taken whether they be mosques, churches, monasteries or synagogues (22:40).

When the Romans, who were Christians, were defeated by the Persians, the Muslims of Makkah got very disappointed as the idolaters started joking with them that in the same way in which the Persians defeated the believers in the Unity of Allah, they (the idolaters) too will defeat the Muslims if they fought with them.

During this period, a few verses of surah Ar-Room of the Quran were revealed which predicted that very soon the Romans will emerge as victors and on that day the Muslims will rejoice (30:3,4). And the Romans did emerge as victors as predicted by the Quran.

The Quran says "To each among you We have prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah willed, He would have made you a single people but His plan is to test you in what He has given you. So strive as in race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah" (5:48).

The verse clearly says that it is Allah's own plan that to each of the people has been given their own law (sharia) so that He may test them in what has been given to them. Hence, it is not for them to hate, or fight with, each other on account of any differences in their laws (sharia). Their ultimate goal is one and the same i.e. return to Allah, for which they should strive as in race in all virtues.

The Quran further says "O people of the Book, come to common terms as between us and you that we worship none but Allah, that we associate no partner with Him, that we raise not from amongst ourselves lords and patrons other than Allah" (3:64).

Through this verse the Quran invites the followers of all scriptures to develop a common understanding on one point and that is the Unity of Allah. It does not preach any of them to relinquish their religions but exhorts them to have a common understanding on one point, a point that is common to their religions, the Unity of Allah.

There are some verses of the Quran which exhort the Muslims not to take their friends and patrons from among the people of other scriptures (5:51,57). But each of these exhortations pertained to the peculiar situation prevailing at that particular time.

In fact, the conditions at that time were so volatile that the friends of today could be the foes of tomorrow and vice versa. Quranic verses were revealed cautioning the Muslims as to who their friends and foes were at the particular time.

For example, another verse said that nearer to Muslims in love were the Christians (5:82). Hence the verses (5:51,57) should not be taken in the sense that the Muslims were forbidden from taking the followers of other scriptures as their friends for ever or on account of their religions.

The Quran did allow the Muslims to fight with the people of other scriptures but the object was certainly not to force them to accept Islam but was to make them acknowledge the sovereignty of the newly created Muslim state and to pay tax (jizyah) as its citizens (9:29). The first Caliph fought against those of the Muslims who refused to pay zakat.

The charter of Madinah in which the Muslims and Jews were declared as one ummah (Ibn-i-Hisham) could be one living example of cooperation and peaceful co-existence of Muslims and the followers of other scriptures. Besides, the Prophet allowed the members of the Christian delegation of Najran to pray in the mosque.

In his letter addressed to the four Himyarite princes who had accepted Islam, the Prophet particularly stressed that if a Jew or Christian desired to retain his religion he shall be allowed to do so provided he agreed to pay tax (jizyah) (Ibn-i-Ishaque). All the letters addressed by the Prophet to the Christian heads of states and tribes started with due emphasis on the common elements of faith.

In regard to other religions i.e. religions other than the monotheist religions, the Quran also preaches observance of the same degree of tolerance and forbearance. It does not even allow reviling of idols and such other things or objects which the followers of such religions may be worshipping as their lords or patrons (6:108).

In short, there can be no better lesson of tolerance, harmony and co-existence than the one spelled out by the three verses of the Quran which say "there is no force or compulsion in regard to religion" (2:256)," (telling the Prophet) you are not there to compel them into believing" (50:45) and "(asking the Prophet to tell the unbelievers) for you is your religion and for me is mine" (109:6).
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Islam: God's gift

By Jafar Wafa



It is a unique distinction of Islam that, unlike Christianity or Buddhism, it is not named after the founder of the religion. Nor the word Muslim restricts the followers of the Islamic faith to a particular race or nationality.

The reason of this uniqueness is not far to seek as 'Islam' and 'Muslim' are God-given words, not coined by humans.

Islam, now a proper noun in Arabic language, was used by the Almighty to specify the religion revealed to His last Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him). The word means, in reference to this particular religion, 'surrender unto God'. From this word are derived the proper nouns Muslim (plural Muslimoon or Muslimeen), again used in the Quran to specify the followers of the Prophet. So, prior to their use in the Quran, neither Islam nor its derivatives were commonly spoken or written in Arabic to denote a religion and its followers.

Islam and Muslim (and its plurals) are used in the Quran not only to specify the religion revealed to His last Prophet but also the religion of pre-historic Prophet Noah, and then Prophet Abraham, the patriarch of Syriac Hebrew people, the first Divinely-inspired person who, in the words of historian Arnold Toynbee, "arrived at a particular concept of God which is common to Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam" ('Study of History'). It will not be out of place to mention here that Montgomery Watt says, alluding to Prophet Abraham's "belief in a living God", that "it is Islam alone that has preserved this reality" ('Muhammad at Madina').

The Almighty Allah, while introducing to mankind the words 'Islam' and its derivatives through His revelations preserved in the Quran, narrates their origin in Al-Baqra, the second Sura (or chapter of the Book) following the seven 'opening' verses (Al-Fatiha). This narrative appearing in Ayaat (or verses) 128-32 of the second Sura is summed up here:

While Abraham and Ismael were raising the foundation of the Kaaba, Abraham prayed: 'Our Lord! make us 'Muslims' (meaning literally: 'submissive to God') and make from our seed a nation of Muslims and raise up in their midst a Prophet from among them who shall recite unto them your revelations and shall instruct them in the Scripture, and in wisdom and shall chasten them and make them grow.' Responding to the prayer, Allah asked him to become a 'Muslim' which he did and the same thing he enjoined upon his sons, acting upon which Jacob told his sons that God had chosen for them the (true) religion and, therefore, they should die not save as Muslims.

Further, in the fourth Sura (Al-Nisa) there is a clarification that it was not for the first time that the form and substance of Islam as a religion was conveyed to Prophet Muhammad through Divine inspiration. The relevant verses (163-65) of the said Sura can be rendered in English thus: "We inspire thee (Muhammad) as We inspired Noah and the Prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon and as We imparted unto David the Psalms. And Messengers (or Prophets) We have mentioned to you before and Prophets We have not mentioned to you. And God spoke directly to Moses."

According to Islamic authorities, the third Ayat of the fifth Sura (Al Maidah) announcing the completion of the religion for Muslims and the choice of Al-Islam as their religion was, chronologically, the latest revelation conveyed to the Prophet during his Farewell Pilgrimage while he was addressing the assemblage of thousands at Arafat (Suburb of Makkah) where the whole of Arabia had embraced Islam, shortly before his demise after a brief illness at Madinah. The relevant verse can be translated in English thus: "This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favour unto you and have chosen for you as religion Al Islam."

According to verses 161-63 of the sixth Sura (Al-Anaam), believed to have been revealed in the year before the Prophet's migration to Madinah after thirteen years of his effort at Makkah, he was asked by Allah to declare: "My Lord has guided me to a straight path, a right religion, the community (millat) of Abraham, the upright, who is not an idolator."

Prophet Abraham was, like Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon both) born in a family of idolators and like him struggled and suffered hardships in preaching monotheism among his people. Prophet Muhammad was further asked by Allah to declare to the Makkans: "God has no partners. This I am commanded, and I am the first of those (in Makkah) who has become a Muslim."

The theosophical approach of Islam, the respect and veneration of all the Prophets and specially gifted and Divinely-inspired men, based on Quranic pronouncements, like the one quoted hereunder, is generally overlooked by the critics of Islam and, regrettably, not duly emphasised by the Muslim clerics.

The Quran says that "the Prophet (Muhammad) believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and so do the believers, in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord. Each one believes in Allah, his angels and His Scriptures and his Prophets (messengers) - We make no distinction between any one of His messengers." (Al-Baqra: 285).

The distinction between Messengers is, however, interpreted by Muslim theologians as referring to the chronological sequence of the various Messengers' appearance on the worldly scene. The basis of this view is provided by another Ayat (253 of Al-Baqra) to the effect that God has caused some of His Messengers to excel others - 'some to whom Allah spoke while some of them He exalted in degree'.

The above is the synopsis of the Quranic account of the origin of Islam, and the recognition of the greatness and important roles of other Messengers of God, as named in the Bible with whom the first listeners of the Quran were fairly familiar, with an unequivocal assertion that God sent His Messengers to other parts of the world as well whose names have not been clearly spelt out for the obvious reason that the Arabs had absolutely no knowledge of them during the period of revelation.

The following excerpt from the Quran inculcates tolerance of other faiths and their true followers who have been promised their due reward for good deeds performed in this world with belief in their Creator and in the final accountability in the next world. The literal translation of the verses, as given in Marmaduke Pickthal's work, is this:

"Those who are Momins (i.e. Muslims who believe in Prophet Muhammad and that which has been revealed unto him) and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeens - whoever believe in God and the Last day and do good deeds - surely their reward is with their Lord and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve" (Al-Baqra: Ayat 62). The same message is repeated in Ayat 69 of Al-Maida to reinforce this particular idea or theme.

But this does not detract from the universally-accepted view of the Muslim theologians that Islam - the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad and the Scripture revealed to him - supersede all previous Scriptures and teachings of the earlier Prophets. This is supported by numerous verses in the Quran.
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