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Old Wednesday, August 24, 2005
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Default Friday Features (Dawn)

Salaam Fellows,

I am reserving this space for weekly Friday Features. It is my humble request to the respected members of this forum to paste the weekly articles in case I forget to update this area.

Regards,
Adil Memon
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A model for humanity

By Prof. Mohammed Rafi

IN contemporary times, people in general and Muslims in particular need to emulate Mohammad’s (peace be upon him) humane and practical approach to life. He showed that Islam is not a theoretical philosophy. He preached and practised a code of life, its commandments and prohibitions, and rendered good actions and service to mankind in all spheres of human activity.

Within a short span of time, he had successfully ushered in an era of tolerance and liberalism and had revitalized a decadent social order. He was able to mould the character of his fellowmen, reform them and change their thoughts, put new ideals before them and elevate them to the higher plane of a better, harmonious life. Subsequently, the Muslim ummah, not based on relations of blood, race, colour or class, came into being through sheer adherence to permanent divine values.

He never compelled anyone to become a Muslim. Through his exemplary behaviour people were drawn to him. He lived for 40 years among the people before inviting them to Islam. It was quite difficult for them to accept a human being like them as a nabi. He would plainly say that he was but a man like others and that he had no treasures, nor did he claim to know the secrets of the future. The Quran testifies to this: “Say (O Muhammad) I am only a man like yourselves” (18:110).

The Prophet always showed composure and balance while confronting the tribulations of life. The insistent demand of the people that he should work miracles to convince them made him despondent. He changed the attitudes and characters of people through his behaviour. They were astonished to see his reaction towards the citizens of Taif who had been very unkind to him. He did not curse anyone, but prayed “may Allah guide the people of Taif”. Following the defeat at Uhud, the companions asked him to curse the people of Makkah. He said, “I was not sent to curse people. I was sent as an inviter to the truth and as a mercy to the people.”

Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) writes, “Even at the zenith of his worldly power the good sense of Mohammad despised the pomp and royalty — he submitted to the menial offices of the family, he kindled the fire, swept the floor, milked the ewes and mended with his own hands his shoes and his woollen garments. He observed the abstemious diet of an Arab and a soldier.”

How many of us claiming to be his followers practise these? His life was very simple. He would put on whatever kind of cloth he could get. He would eat whatever was placed before him. He would sit wherever he could find room, whether on a mat, carpet or the ground. He was a model family man, very loving to the children.

As a role model we must remember that he taught us to obey Allah’s commands, give alms, speak the truth, to give back safe and whole what is entrusted to us by others, to be affectionate to our neighbours, to shun wicked acts and to avoid bloody quarrels.

To the Christians of Najran and the adjoining areas he promised the security of God and his own pledge. “No cross or image shall be destroyed, they shall not be oppressed, they shall not be required to furnish provisions for the troops” were his standing orders.

Contrary to some modern-day notions, he disliked wars and when he migrated to Madina he brought an end to the tribal wars which had been rampant for more than a century. He invited the followers of all faiths and advised them to unite and establish a city-state to forge a common defence and security against all adversaries. Surprisingly, his advice was readily accepted even by the tribes of Aws and Khazraj.

The Meesaq-e-Madina (charter) is the first constitution of the world. Today, as the world’s population is increasing and the number of people adhering to different faiths continues to grow, this document should be widely propagated. It stifles all forms of priestly and clergy rule. Following this ideal, the Islamic commonwealth included within its fold Jews, Sabians, Christians and others as citizens like the Muslims. They were accorded religious, social and political rights through this charter.

Today, when extremism and fanaticism have engulfed all faiths, it must be remembered that Mohammad strictly obeyed the divine command, “Revile not those unto whom they pray besides Allah, lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance” (6:109). But Muslims seem to have forgotten this important aspect of Islam, and as a result, we see many bloody conflicts and the needless loss of life in the name of Islam. Mohammad had taught that the greater holy war is the war inside us against our own weaknesses and failings.

One of his sayings shows his respect for all religions. “When the bier of anyone passes by thee, Muslim or non-Muslim, rise to thy feet”. As a result of his teachings which laid the foundation of human rights and values, Muslim communities all over the world, even as far as China, India, Japan, Africa and the West, show that Islam still has the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If Muslims truly follow his teachings in all aspects of social life, the opposition between eastern and western societies can be replaced by cooperation.

Islam upholds the dignity of labour and Mohammad himself worked along with others in the construction of the first mosque at Quba and in the digging of the trench in the battle of Khandaq. He emancipated slaves and women from bondage. The slaves were placed on an equal footing with their masters and they were elevated to the rank of generals and commanders. Bilal was appointed the first muezzin of Islam and was respectfully addressed as Syedna (chief) Bilal. Women were given the right of divorce and inheritance in the property of their deceased husbands and fathers.

The Prophet was successful in bringing into existence a new type of man — self-respecting, self-reliant, conscious of his worth and desirous of enhancing it with the ambition to set up a better social order in the world. Jeffery Lang in his book Struggling to Surrender writes “To swear that Mohammad is the messenger of God is to accept his life as an example and to affirm that his actions set the standard for mankind’s conduct regardless of time and place. If Muslims are to convince western civilization that Islam provides a better way, then they would have to either soften their commitment to Mohammad’s example or invest their time and effort to argue their case convincingly.”

A model which can serve as a standard for every class of people under different circumstances and states of human emotions will be found in the life of Mohammad. For the rich there is his example as a tradesman; for the poor is his example as an internee of Shu’ayb Abi Talib and the emigre of Madina. For the vassal, there is the man who endured the hardships imposed by the Quraish of Makkah; for the conqueror there is the victor of Badar and Hunayn. In defeat, one can take a lesson from the discomforted at Uhud. As a teacher, one can learn from the holy mentor of the school of Suffah; as a student from the man who sat before Gabriel.

As a preacher, direct your vision to the man delivering sermons at Madina; if you are an orphan, do not forget the child of Aminah and Abdullah left to the tender care of Halimah. As a travelling salesman, cast a glance at the leader of caravans on the way to Basra; as a judge or arbiter, at the Prophet entering the Kaaba before sunrise and installing the Hajr-i-Aswad. If you are married, draw a lesson from the behaviour of the husband of Khadijah and Aisha; if a father, go through the biography of a tender and loving man who rejoiced at the birth of girls.

Whenever anyone came, he moved quickly to give him a seat. He was quick to smile and greet the person, and was never harsh or offensive, and rarely angry. He was generous in praise, averse to conflict or too much comfort. He always rose to the challenge of history.

Abdullah Ibne Ubaiy withdrew one-third of the Muslim army in Uhud, but Mohammad did not seek slaughter or vengeance. He said, “We will have mercy and treat him kindly as long as he remains with us”. Fadallah came with the intention of killing him and felt nervous when Mohammad met him with calm and a smiling face. Mohammad advised him kindly to seek God’s forgiveness and Fadallah lived the rest of his life saying, “I came to kill him and left with no man more beloved and dear to me.”

In short, whoever and whatever you may be, you will find a shining example in the life of Mohmmad. All that Muslims need to know of him is readily accessible. There was never a span of time, howsoever small, that he spent away from the gaze of his companions.

Mohammad laid the greatest emphasis on human rights and tolerance. He made his followers realize the importance of observation and knowledge, and was able to divert man’s attention to the vast and limitless universe and find the clue to God’s greatness. He disclosed a concept of life compatible with nature. Through his lifetime of struggle and exemplary behaviour he emphasized that the Quran was not a collection of dogmas, but a code of life which regulated everything that involved human life. He never preached what he could not practise. His last words were not about property, dominance or kingdom, but the protection of the weak and downtrodden. Today Muslims all over the world are miserably placed. This is because they have failed to live up to the ideals set forth by Mohammad.


Seerat, a perfect model

By Muhammad al-Ghazali

THE entire history of mankind in the post-Muhammadan period provides testimony to the Prophet’s impact on humanity. With the emergence of the Prophet (SAWs) on the stage of history, humanity clearly entered a new decisive and final stage of religious consciousness and cultural development.

When the Qur’an proclaimed in unmistakable terms that the institution of Prophethood had reached its final stage with Prophet Muhammad (SAWs), this proclamation was also fully attested by the subsequent course of human history.

No new Prophet or messenger, nor any other Divine scripture succeeded the Prophet (SAWs) or the Qur’an. The Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sirah remain the authentic touchstone of the truth and the reliable source of Divine call to humanity.

The foremost thrust of the Prophet’s teaching that changed the erstwhile religious perspective was to liberate humanity from the animistic notions of the past that involved a deification of the phenomenal world. The primitive religiosity of man largely prevailing in the world before Prophet Muhammad (SAWs), was to invest everything beneficial or harmful in this universe, with a supernatural sanctity or even at times with divinity.

Thus, man humbled himself before sun and moon, stars and galaxies, sky and earth, rivers and oceans, even beasts and animals. This pantheistic notion constructed for man’s servitude and compelled him to bow before millions of gods and deities.

Another less primitive but equally obscurantist view that was held by a number of other creeds was to see this world as an evil satanic scheme which undermines the spirituality of man. These creeds also enfeebled man before the diabolical and devilish influences of this world represented by corporeality and matter and body and flesh and thus took a negative view of man and this phenomenal world.

These creeds and cults projected this world as a prison house in which man is placed by destiny and from which the deliverance should be sought by emancipating oneself from all sanguine, social, marital and material involvement. While one view imposed on man a direct servitude of this material world, the other painted the world in evil and adversarial terms.

The Prophet’s sound and rational teaching dealt a powerful blow to all such obscurantisms and superstitions. He taught in unambiguous terms that man’s habitat and environment have been created for the service of man. He reminded that this world has been created, designed and tailored to suit the survival of man and to serve the needs of human life. Said he in one of his oft-quoted sermons: ‘indeed this immediate world has been created for you, but you have been created for the ultimate world of the hereafter’. For the eternal home of lasting bliss which will be the final abode of mankind is really worth man’s while.

It was precisely this teaching of the Prophet (SAWs) clearly articulated in the Qur’an that gave rise to the crystallization of the empirical methodology of natural sciences. For unless one has the satisfaction of knowing that this world is not essentially man’s enemy, but friendly and compatible to humanity’s well-being and amelioration, natural science is hardly tenable. Science and all its modes and methods of inquiry and investigation seem to proceed clearly from the monotheistic doctrine of Islam taught by the Qur’an and the Prophet. The Qur’an contains profuse statements that fully substantiate this contention.

All these statements of the Qur’an as explained by the Prophet’s teachings are premised on the doctrine that nothing created by Allah is futile and fruitless. But on the contrary, everything that He has created, He has created for a definite purpose. And the noblest of these purposes has been assigned to man under the terms of his august office of ‘vicegerent’. In this way, the Prophet (SAWs) emerges as a great benefactor of humanity.

People might still be persisting in their polytheistic or pantheistic views of religion, but the enterprise of science is definitely a monotheistic enterprise. Sooner or later, humanity is going to reach the stage when it is no longer possible to disbelieve in One Supreme God Who alone is the Creator, Sustainer and Controller of this cosmos.

The logical flow of the overwhelming scientific evidence that is continuously pouring in will also eventually shatter the myth that reason and revelation or theology and science were incompatible. Those shallow interpreters of science in post-medieval Europe who, fascinated by Newtonian physics, Darwinian biology and Freudian psychology, tried to dismiss theo-centric worldview and circulated the view that science had rendered god irrelevant, are now open to serious criticism by scientists themselves. The findings of ecological sciences, inter-alia, have furnished an un-controvertible evidence that the entire cosmos is serving the interest of human kind.

Another conspicuous impact of the Prophet’s dispensation which is a logical corollary of the first doctrine is the elevation of the status of man. In the first place, the emergence of a man of the Prophet’s calibre on the scene of history in itself brought the status of man to great heights unknown to mankind previously. The Prophet repeatedly reiterated the lofty locus of man. He reminded him that his destiny lay in his own hands. He put great premium on the value of human endeavours and achievements. The Prophet rejected all erstwhile claims to pre-natal distinctions of race or colour, or clan or caste. He blotted out from the innocent face of humanity the stigma of original sin.

Moreover, he declared in his last public sermon that all notions of mutual superiority among humans are false, and that man had been created in the best form and invested with unlimited potential for self-development. Thus he was fully eligible to fashion his own destiny. He could make or unmake success or failure by his own conscious deeds and misdeeds. What is more, the Prophet equalized genders. He recognized full value of woman and her natural God-given gifts and talents.

The course of human cultural career subsequent to the Prophet (SAWs) is an ample self-evident commentary on these monumental cataclysmic reforms introduced by the Prophet (SAWs) and fully promulgated in the socio-cultural, moral and spiritual dispensation established by him and by his companions.

These are only some aspects of the many significant changes in thought and behaviour, vision and perspective that the Prophet of Islam effected in the world. Humanity as a whole and not merely the community of his loving followers owe to the Prophet (SAWs) a great debt.

Mercy for the worlds

By S.G Jilanee


EVEN after the passage of nearly fifteen hundred years the personality and character of Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) continues, still, to amaze and fascinate thinkers, historians and intellectuals. And not only Muslims but even those who have little love lost for him — even the Jews, Christians, and others — are impressed and charmed. Countless treatises have been written on the subject but there always remains something more to be said.

If you look for any unusual factor or any spectacular feature such as in the field of miracles, that distinguished him from his “colleagues,” — the other Messengers of Allah, you may be disappointed. For Muhammad was a “plain,” down-to-earth human, and the message he propagated was equally plain and down-to-earth. There was nothing supernatural about either his person or his work.

Yet, this very factor, this want of any superhuman traits, this absence of incredible performances, was what separated him from other Prophets. For example he performed no such miracles as Noah, Abraham, Swaleh, Hud, Loot, et al. He did not sail in an ark over an all-consuming flood. He was not swallowed by any fish. He was not thrown into a pit of flaming fire. He was not asked to sacrifice his son in the way of Allah. He was not a king like David and Solomon. His club did not turn into a snake, nor did the palms of his hand emit any effulgence.

Born like any other human, Muhammad did not speak in his cradle. He did not make birds with clay and breathe life into them. He did not heal lepers and congenitally blind people nor bring the dead to life. Nor were there jinns to do his biddings nor did he communicate with birds. Yet, he was designated as “Mercy for the worlds,” the “Seal of the Prophets,” blessed with “Me’raj,” — the celestial journey by night into Divine presence, and he stood “on an exalted standard of character.”

As a Messenger of Allah, Muhammad was like unto all other Messengers. Men of faith “make no distinction between one and another (2:285).” However, the miracles his predecessors performed were, by their very nature, beyond human comprehension. But they were also transitory, ephemeral, like a flood or a rain of rocks or other calamity. It came and went and became history. On the other hand, what Muhammad performed and achieved was something tangible; concrete; comprehensible. His miracle was reality, enduring, abiding, permanent.

He transformed a wild people into law-abiding citizens, disciplined the undisciplined, civilized the uncivilized, and established a “modern” society with a working system of governance all within a span of about ten years. In response to defiance, denial and persecution he did not invoke Divine retribution upon his tormentors and have them wiped out like the ‘Aad, Thamud and others. This is the most glaring testimony to his being an embodiment of mercy, and one that largely distinguishes him from other Prophets.

Answering those who wanted him to perform miracles, he pointed to the miracles scattered all around them, in the earth and in the sky. As truth can be stranger than fiction so realities can be miracles, calling for open-jawed amazement. Look over the world, says he; is it not wonderful, the work of Allah; wholly “a sign to you,” if your eyes were open! This earth, Allah made it for you; “appointed paths in it;” you can live in it, move about in it.

Great clouds, black, awesome, with their thunder and lightning, — where do they come from! They pour down copious showers on a parched, dead earth, and grass springs, and “tall leafy palm-trees with their date-clusters hanging round, wherein is a sign.” Your cattle too, he points out, Allah made them; serviceable dumb creatures; they change the grass into milk; you have your clothing from them. Ships, like huge moving mountains, with their cloth wings spread out, go bounding over the waves, driven by Heaven’s wind, His wind, under His command. And when Allah has withdrawn the wind, they lie motionless, dead, and cannot stir!

These, indeed, are miracles par excellence! Besides, look at the creation of humans. Is that anyway less than a miracle? Allah made you, he says, “created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a morsel of flesh partly formed and partly unformed.” (22:5). Ye were small once; then ye grew. Ye have beauty, strength, thoughts and then old age overtakes you; your strength fades into feebleness; ye sink down, and again are not. And, above all, “Ye have compassion on one another.” Is that not a great miracle in itself, — mutual compassion? What if Allah had made you having no compassion on one another?

As among Allah’s Messengers, so with other people; Muhammad (S.A.W.) was like a common human, yet uncommon; similar, yet different. Totally free from cant, he never pretended to be what he was not. He therefore repeatedly emphasized, “I am a human like unto you.” (basharum mithlukum).

But Muhammad (S.A.W.) was not an ordinary person. The purpose of emphasizing the likeness was to generate empathy with his interlocutors and his audience and to reassure them that he was on the same grid with them. He felt the anguish of pain and the comfort of pleasure, hunger and thirst, joys and sorrows, same as any human. Another reason for repeating this reminder, frequently, was to prevent his followers from lapsing into the same pitfall as the Christians, who, in their zeal called him the son of God. So he pointed out that what distinguished him from ordinary humans was that he received wahi, — the Revelation. “I am like unto ye, (but) on whom Divine Revelation has come that assuredly there is no other deity for you but only One, Allah!”

Events about his birth and childhood are too well-known to require any detailed treatment. The man who was to be ordained as the last Messenger of Allah and who would testify to the credentials of all other Messengers of Allah before him, was yet born an orphan. His mother also died when he was only a child. His grandfather, a hundred year old man, Abdul Muttalib, deeply loved the little orphan boy, the child of his youngest and most beloved son, Abdullah. But Abdul Muttalib also died when Muhammad (S.A.W.) was only two years old, leaving him to the care of his eldest uncle, Abu Talib.

What put him way above other humans was Muhammad’s character. That was his forte — character born of Sincerity and nurtured by truth. His companions, friends and relatives named him Al Amin, “The Faithful, the Trustworthy.” Even at a young age, he was recognized as a man of truth and fidelity; true in what he did, in what he spoke and thought. From an early age he had been remarked as a thoughtful man. He was silent when there was nothing to be said; but pertinent, wise and sincere, when he did speak; always throwing light on the matter. Throughout his life he was regarded as an altogether solid, brotherly, genuine man, a serious and sincere character; amiable, cordial, and companionable.

Why would the Bedouins obey him, recognize him unless he had the mesmerizing power of sincerity, the magic of truth and plain words? They were wild men, bursting ever and anon into quarrel, into all kinds of fierce fights; no one without right worth and manhood could have commanded them. Yet they accepted him as Prophet of Allah, because, there he stood face to face with them; “bare, not enshrined in any mystery; visibly clouting his own cloak, cobbling his own shoes; fighting, counselling, ordering in the midst of them.” They had seen what kind of a man he was, judged him and then bowed before him. “No emperor with his tiaras was obeyed as this man in a cloak of his own clouting.”

Muhammad had to deal with the ferocious bloodthirsty Arab heathens, who drove him out of his home. He had to deal with the plots of the scheming Jews. It was a life-and-death war with them. Carlyle takes note of the fact that in such situations “cruel things could not fail,” but asserts that “neither are acts of mercy, of noble natural pity and generosity wanting.” Such acts were each the free dictate of his heart; each called for, there and then, on the spur of the moment, yet each done not as a self-seeker, not for personal aggrandizement or ambition but in the way of Allah.

A tender heart was another facet of his character. His emancipated and beloved slave, the first among slaves to embrace Islam, had fallen in the Battle of Tabuk. He said it was well of the man. He had done his Master’s work and has now gone to his Master. Yet the martyr’s daughter found him weeping over the body, melting in tears! “What do I see?” said she. “You see a friend weeping over his friend,” answered the Prophet.

Muhammad personally led at least nineteen engagements with the heathens. There was booty from those battles. Yet, his household was the most frugal; his common diet barley-bread and water and occasionally some dates: sometimes for months there was not a fire once lighted on his hearth. He would mend his own shoes, patch his own cloak, — a true paradigm of the man who “having nothing yet hath all.”


A man of truth and lofty morals

By Dr. Fazlur Rahman

“NAY, by God, it would never be so! He would never sadden you. You have always been kind to your relatives. You speak truth. You clear the debts of others. You help the poor. You are hospitable. You assist your fellow men. You bear the afflictions of those in distress.”

These words of solace came impulsively, without least hesitation, from the mouth of a lady who had known him inside out, experienced him through thick and thin, for fifteen years as his wife. This was Khadijah comforting her husband, Muhammad (PBUH) when he returned from the cave of Hira, exhausted and terrified, fearing for his life, after the first ever encounter with the arch-angel Gabriel and receiving the first Divine Revelation. She adduced as her witness his past career when though he was not a prophet yet was reputed far and wide as al-Sadiq al-Ameen, the truthful, the trustworthy, the faithful.

“A man of Truth and Fidelity, true in what he did, in what he spoke and thought,” (Carlyle). How could such a noble soul, bearing such lofty morals, be forsaken, left uncared-for, by God! She related what she had observed, experienced, felt and heard. The approach was rational, the argument convincing, the reasoning sound. And what testimony could be more reliable, more dependable than one’s own wife’s. So this was the man Muhammad, prior to when the mantle of prophethood adorned his shoulders. And what after that?

Ali was the nearest and dearest of all his blood relations. He had been with the Prophet since his childhood. It was he who as a lad had stood up out of all the kinsmen, whom the Prophet had called at the mount of Safa in compliance with the Divine commandment “Admonish the nearest of your kinsmen” (Q:26:214), and declared fearlessly, when others had refused to believe in the prophetic call, his belief in his prophethood. He describes the Prophet that he was benevolent, extremely generous, truthful and very kind-hearted. It was a pleasure to be in his company. A man was over-awed by his first contact with him but came to love him after remaining in constant touch with him.

‘Ayesha, his next beloved wife after Khadijah expired, who remained with him for nine years, in his advanced age till death, thus acknowledged his graceful manners and high morals: He did never cast reflection upon anybody. He never spoke ill of any one. He was never revengeful. Instead he forgave those who offended him. He never turned down any seemly request. He was always miles away from unjust behaviour.

Anas bin Malik, who as a boy had been appointed by his mother to attend upon the Prophet just after his arrival in Madinah, and who remained attached to him for ten years, informs us that during this long period the Prophet did never so much as scold him or find fault with him, nor he ever reprimanded him for any lapse which he happened to commit.

These are the impressions of some of the many persons who had the opportunity to have long and most intimate connection with him. But far more eloquent and emphatic is the testimony of Allah Himself, Who, calling to witness all the historical records written and preserved, or to be penned down at any time, by human hand declared: “Verily there is in store for you a great reward unfailing, never-ending, beyond expectations. And you, for certain, stand on the most exalted pedestal of morality,” (Q: 68:4).

At another place his virtuous character is extolled in the following words. “It is by virtue of Allah’s compassion alone that you deal with them gently and leniently. Had you been gruff or harsh-hearted they would have certainly broken away from about you,” (Q3:159).

This was the practical manifestation of the Prophet’s own teachings. He had instructed the faithful, “Do not envy one another. Do not hate one another. Do not turn away from one another. Be you O ! servants of Allah brothers. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither lies to him nor does he hold him in contempt. It is evil enough for a man to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. Every thing of a Muslim is inviolable for another Muslim : his blood, his property, and his honour.” And this was how he acted upon his own advice.

The Quran has been revealed to enable the mankind to differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong, virtue and evil, and to guide it to the right path which leads to the eternal bliss, the real success in this life and the hereafter. Prophet Muhammad through whom this Divine message has been communicated is at the same time commissioned with the task of putting it into practice, enacting its instructions, presenting his own self as the paragon par excellence of its teaching.

He preached and practised and rose to the heights of being the role model for humanity at large. “Verily there is in the person of the Messenger of Allah the best of the patterns of conduct for every one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day and who deeply engages in the remembrance of Allah,” (Q:33:21)

The life-blood of religion is the remembrance of Allah. The Quran’s Olul-albab, Men of deep understanding, are those “Who remember Him standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides,” (Q:3:191). The Prophet has also instructed that “Your tongue should always remain wet with the remembrance of Allah.” We are told that there was no moment when he was not engaged in the remembrance of Allah.

The supplications of the Prophet which have been handed down to us, preserved in the Hadith books and also found in several independent works show that on every possible occasion and in all positions he maintained communion with his Lord and that at no time he was lost in forgetfulness. He told the people to be ever vigilant in asking forgiveness from Allah for their sins and shortcomings or substandard performance of their duties. What he himself did was to ask forgiveness from Allah seventy or hundred times in just one sitting.

He said that every Muslim had to offer his prayers five times a day. He himself offered prayers at least eight times a day. The night-prayer, Tahajjud, which was optional for every one else was offered compulsorily by him. While offering night prayers he stood for such a long time that his legs became swollen. When once Ayesha remarked that why did he take so much trouble when Allah had already redeemed him, his modest reply was, “Should I not act as a thankful servant!” He did never miss his congregational prayers. He was so particular about it that even during his last illness which ended in his departure from this world he attended the mosque while reclining on his two companions.

Fasting during the month of Ramazan was made incumbent upon every believer. The Prophet himself fasted during Shabaan and Ramazan. He also fasted on Mondays and Thursdays as well as on the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth of every month. During the month of Shawwal he fasted for six days after Eid-ul-Fitr. He also fasted during the first ten days of Muharram.

It was enjoined on the well-to-do Muslims to spend a fixed portion of their wealth as Zakat, (Q:2:215,254). It was made optional for any one to give in charity as much as he could afford after satisfying his needs, ((Q:2:219). None was required, however, to give away all of that which he possessed. “Make not your hand tied to your neck (be niggardly), nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach so that you become blameworthy and distressed,” (Q:17:29). The Prophet also explained that the best act of charity was that which did not result in destitution. The Prophet’s life was however that of giving preference to other’s needs, sacrifice, generosity, magnanimity and self-denial.

Extremely frugal concerning his own needs he gave away whatever he had to the poor, the destitute, the needy and the have-nots. Though he himself led a life of privation and bare subsistence for others he was magnanimous beyond imagination. According to Ibn Abbas “More generous than all of us was the Apostle of Allah who gave away freely especially during Ramazan. He never said ‘no’ in reply to any request, and never took his food alone. No matter in what small quantity the food was available, he invited all those present to share it with him.

He had asked us to inform him if any Muslim died without clearing his debt, for he always took the responsibility to get it repaid. The legacy of the deceased, evidently, devolved on his heirs.” Abu Dhar, a companion of the Prophet relates that once he said to him, “Were the mountain of Uhud turned into gold for me, I would not like three nights to pass with a single dinar in my possession except whatever I may keep for clearing away somebody’s debt.”

The greatest and the most common weakness of those in power and high position is that they are prone to fall an easy prey to the onslaught of nepotism. They are tempted to oblige their incompetent relatives and undeserving friends by appointing them to responsible posts where they could enjoy power and pelf, or out of public exchequer they squander money upon those who have no right to it. According to the Quran it is a criminal breach of trust, (Q:4:58). It has been condemned by the Prophet.

Once his companion Abu Dhar, about whom the Prophet said that he was the most truthful of all those who walked on earth, requested him to appoint him on an administrative post. The Prophet declined to oblige him saying he was too weak to shoulder the responsibilities of that office.

On another occasion his beloved daughter Fatimah, much distressed by the hardships of continuously drawing water from the well and grinding the hand-mill, requested him to provide her with a maid-servant, he very politely turned down the request saying “No provision has yet been made for the poverty-stricken people of Suffah. Moreover, the orphans of Badr have already made a request before you.”

It is easy to say “Love thy enemy” but very difficult to practise, especially when the enemy is in your grip. The life of the Prophet abounds with examples of showing mercy, compassion and forgiveness when the deadliest and lifelong enemies were on their knees. General amnesty for Abu Sufyan, the lifelong enemy, to his wife Hind who had chewed the liver of his uncle Hamzah, and to his killer Wahshi, to the Makkans after the conquest of Makkah with the words “Go your way, you are the freed ones, forgiveness to Abd Yalail, the stone-hearted chief of Taif who nearly killed him, are only a few examples of his humane and merciful attitude towards his enemies. His entire life-span is an eloquent testimony to the undeniable reality that he practised what he preached.

A perfect reformer

By Prof Mohammed Rafi

Today, more than ever, the Muslim world needs to look back at the practical aspects of the Prophet Mohammad's (PBUH) life and try to imbibe them in our daily lives for peace and harmony. This is what Islam is all about. When Muslims accept some person as a Nabi (Messenger), they must as well believe in emulating the example set by the Nabi.

It is understood that anything actually taught by the Nabi was either done or would have been done by him had the occasion arisen. The Quran tells us that all Messengers were charged by Allah with the same mission (2:136). It is also written that all people are a single nation, so Allah raised Messengers as bearers of His news and as warners and He revealed unto them the Book with truth (2:213).

In other words the message that comes from Allah of human guidance is a practicable verity and not a dreamer's ideal. Prophet Mohammad received Divine Revelation and translated it into action through his own example (2:129 & 151). He was the first to obey these laws (39:11-14) and led others to pursue the path of guidance.

Earlier Messengers had come with Allah's message and guidance, but people changed these, corrupted them or simply hid them. The Quran says 'O people of the Book there has come to you Our Messenger revealing to you much that you used to hide in the Book' (5:15).

Pre-Islamic Arabia was a seat of different religions and sects, each decrying the other as is being done nowadays. Prophet Mohammad denounced division and sectarianism and decried the hostile attitude of the followers of these separate religions and sects.

'And the Jews say that the Christians do not follow anything good, and the Christians say that the Jews do not follow anything good while they recite the same book' (2:213). People were more inclined, like today, on rituals which were supposed to be the essence of all religions.

The Quran says, 'It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East or West, but righteousness (Taqwa) is that one should believe in Allah, the day of judgment, the Malaika, the Book and the Messengers and give away wealth out of love for Him to the nearest of kin and to the orphans, the needy and the wayfarer.

The captives pray and pay Zakat and fulfil the performance of their promises and be patient in distress and adversity and in time of conflict. Such are the righteous ones' (2:177).

Prophet Mohammad did not propagate Islam through miracles. He worked what was more than a miracle: striving against odds and achieved success never seen before or since in history, and in the adverse circumstances to which he had been subjected. But to achieve this unique success he did not resort to things beyond human reach, in which case he could not have acted as an exemplary personality.

He used all honest and honourable means that were open to others. He would plainly say that he was a man like others (18:1110) and 'It is not in my power to cause you harm or bring you to the right path' (72:21) and 'The unseen is only known to Allah (10:20) 'with Him are the keys of the unseen, the treasures no one knows but He' (6:59).

One supreme quality that shows he had achieved the zenith of character and morality that must be the final goal of human endeavour, where man reflects Divine values, was his steadfastness.

In victory or in defeat, in power or in adversity, he remained the same. According to Washington-Irving 'His military triumphs awakened no pride or vain glory, as they would have done had they been effected for selfish purposes.

If he aimed at universal dominion, it was the dominion of the faith'. Gibbon writes in the "Rise and fall of the Roman empire" that even at the zenith of his worldly power, the good sense of Mohammad despised the pomp of royalty.

How many of us claiming to be his followers practise what he advised to do? In Madinah he had the opportunity of practising what he had preached at Makkah. He ennobled and enlarged the laws of Moses and brought upon earth the kingdom of heaven prayed for by Jesus.

He established a state with those at helm of affairs not ruling but serving the citizens. There was no prejudice of class, colour, race or descent.

To demolish this long prevailing social injustice, it was emphasized that the noblest in the sight of Allah was he who was most virtuous among men. The state belonged equally to one and all, male and female - and all, in turn, belonged to one universal God, all obeyed one law, not man-made but sent down from the All Merciful and impartial God, which was the same for rich and poor alike.

His life was very simple. He would put on whatever kind or quality of cloth he could get. He would eat whatever was placed before him. He would sit wherever he could find room, whether on a mat, carpet or the ground (Tirmizi 'Shumail').

Unlike the rulers of the modern world, he entered into treaties with his enemies and honoured them. Following the treaty of Hudaybiah in 6 A.H., he discouraged the Muslims of Makkah to flee the city.

The surrender of Makkah offered him ample opportunities of revenge, but he did not avail himself of them. As a role model we must remember that he ordered us to obey Allah's commands, give alms, speak the truth, give back safe and whole what is entrusted to us by others, to be affectionate to our neighbours, to shun wicked acts and avoid bloody quarrels.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says: "It is easy to make good and far reaching plans, but more difficult to carry them out. Moses, Jesus and many of the prophets before Mohammad did not live to see the success of their respective missions.

The emancipated children of the Egyptian bondage repeatedly disobeyed Moses; Peter and other disciples denied their Master and left him in the moment of his dire need. But Mohammad the humble preacher to the haughty Makkans, who had only the other day been ridiculed, stoned and hunted out of their city of his birth, had within the short span of nine years after his flight from Makkah lifted up his people from the abysmal depth of oral and spiritual degradation to a conception of purity and justice.

"These who had dwelt in a state of permanent warfare among themselves and had revelled in bloodshed and murder on the most trifling pretexts became wedded into a unique brotherhood. Those who cherished no respect for women became the foremost champions of female rights."

The spirit infused by Mohammad enabled the Muslims to face courageously the most formidable foes that a man has to grapple with - one's own corrupt nature and evil habits.

He understood human nature and mind and did not propose to kill our instincts or crush our passions. Instead he propounded a system to control them so that they may function to our best advantage and pass from the bestial to the noble.

Muslims today are more inclined towards an individual and self-conceited Islam for entry into heaven which lies somewhere beyond the sky. Mohammad pointed out the error of such crude notions.

Heaven is the evolved condition of our soul, the casting or not casting of human passion into the mould of divine attributes that makes our Heaven both here and in the hereafter - for the Quran promises two Heavens (55:46) and also its reverse - Hell. He repeatedly said that every person who seeks to observe good morals must tread God's earth reflecting Divine attributes.

Every Muslim should examine, search and assess his deeds and review his conduct several times a day. For this we were ordered to establish the system of 'Salaat' five times a day. This involves the total submission to the laws of Allah in a practical shape.

Mohammad also proposed greetings through "Salaam Alaikum" (Peace be upon you) as As-Salaam is one of the attributes of Allah and means peace. The western equivalent of this is 'Have a nice day' which is oft repeated.

He also quashed a centuries old system of invoking God's mercy through an intermediary. This belief had crept into almost all religions. No religion of Divine origin in its subsequent stages remained free from it.

Islam has no priestly class. Addressing Mohammad (PBUH), Allah says, "And when my servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am near; I answer the prayers of the supplicant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me, that they may find the right way" (2:186).

For the first time, the principle of 'No compulsion in religion' was enunciated and acted upon by Mohammad. Differences of opinion in religious matters were respected and freedom of conscience was allowed. History is full of religious persecutions of the worst type and that is evident even today.

Mohammad preached religious tolerance that had never been known before. To the Christians of Najran and adjoining areas he promised the security of God and his own pledge 'No cross or image shall be destroyed, they will not be oppressed, they shall not be required to furnish provisions for the troops' were his standing orders.

Today a large part of the wealth and brain of the West is expended in discovering ways in which they may utilize destructive weapons to pander to the spirit of aggression.

Mohammad allowed the use of force in three conditions only 1) To protect a house of worship from destruction be it Christian, Jew or Muslim (22:40) (2) In self defence (22:39). (3) To establish freedom of conscience and fight religious persecution.

He was the first leader of a religion that made religion and science help-mates. He abolished dogma and made reason and logic the test of religious truth. He placed the cultivation of knowledge on top.

For him, exploring the realms of nature for the benefit of humanity was the real glorification of God. He gave such an impetus to learning that it brought forth within a century after him a tremendous upheaval in the world of scientific research work.
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A test of true faith


By S.G. Jilanee


"Ramazan is the month in which was sent down the Quran," which is a "guidance to all mankind," says The divine proclamation. (2:185). The call is irresistible. Those who have attained such a state of piety that their "skins tremble" when they listen to the Quran so that "their skins and their hearts do soften to the celebration of Allah's praises" (39:23), are a class apart.

They are the ones who, not only say by word of mouth, "Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are (all) for Allah ...." (6:162), but demonstrate it in practical life. So, when Ramazan comes they recall the Message, "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you" (2:183), they prostrate themselves like obedient servants and say, "We hear and we obey" (2:285). "Not for them to question, why."

Such people rejoice at the advent of Ramazan, for which they had been waiting in eager expectation for eleven months. They spend the month in fasting, reciting the Quran, giving alms and in prolonged prayers, particularly in the late hours of the night, when man can communicate with Allah in absolute quiet.

But this should not at all be understood to mean that such people skip their normal chores and duties during the month. On the contrary, they perform all those acts of piety side by side with their normal daily business, reflecting the prayer, "Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the hereafter." (2:201).

However, all believers are not at the same level of piety. Most of us are ordinary, sinful, people. Actually, we are "Muslims," not "Momins," in the real sense of the term. To us applies the anecdote of some desert Arabs who had claimed, "We believe (aamanna)," only to be reminded "Ye have no faith. But say 'We have submitted our wills to Allah (aslamna),' because faith has not yet entered your hearts." (49:14).

The Ramazan fast is for the whole month - thirty days or twenty-nine, at a stretch. No break is permissible except in certain clearly defined cases. It was natural that this command to trigger the feeling among some people that this stressful duty was imposed on the followers of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), only. Therefore, to put their minds at rest, believers were reminded that such was not the case.

Ramazan fast was not an innovation exclusively for the ummah. Fasting was ordained on others before Islam - the Jews and Christians. "O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you," Allah pointed out. He even explained the purpose behind prescribing the fasting, namely, "that ye may (learn) self-restraint." (2:183).

But a few other questions would still bother the common Muslim. For example, "even if it had to be thirty days, why consecutively? Why not allow the period to be spread out all over the year, at the individual's own will?"

Turning to the question of consecutive fasting versus its alternative, first, the former is more convenient if you ask anyone who fasts this way. The reason is simple. When people all around are fasting, and food and drink are not on display, it creates a congenial ambience. So an individual who fasts becomes a part of the crowd. He forgets the pressure of hunger or thirst and completes his fast without any discomfort.

By contrast, if one were to fast at any other time, he would feel singled out, and become self-conscious. He would also experience the stress of resisting food and drink when it will be available aplenty, all over the place. If he is a smoker, the "aroma" of tobacco when others around him are smoking would hit his olfactory senses to torment him. And above all it would not be possible to offer taraweeh prayer in a congregation and listen to the recitation of Quran.

Besides, in case of consecutive fasting, after the initial few days, it would become a routine. A sort of habit would form after one has adjusted to the new schedule of daily meals. On the other hand if one were to observe the fast by fits and starts, every time it would be new exercise, and he would feel its rigour more acutely.

Another very tangible benefit of a full month of fasting is that it reduces air pollution to the lowest level. There is no smoking either inside offices and stores or in the open. This result could not be achieved by spreading out the thirty days over the full year.

And finally, due to its full month of fasting, Ramazan is a "culture." It touches every Muslim and turns him towards piety, so that even those who do not offer prayers at other time during the year, offer congregational prayers during this month.

Ramazan also creates its own peculiar ambience. Mosques wear a festive look and overflow with people offering prayers. Even little children throng to the mosques. In the afternoons everything wakes up into activity. Nights are full of life as stores and eateries keep open till late hours. Nothing of this kind can happen if it is not a full month of fasting.

But, far more importantly, consecutive fasting is necessary to discover the wisdom of the Divine purpose, namely, "that ye may (learn) self-restraint." Evidently one can't "learn" any lesson in one sitting or casual, occasional sittings, and especially a lesson such as self-restraint. Every lesson requires practice to imbibe its benefits and understand its virtue. The same applies to self-control. Indeed, the virtues of self-restraint have been lauded through the ages in all religions and societies.

Many Muslims spend money to feed the poor, but in a detached sort of way. They do not know the agony of a hungry stomach and a thirsty throat. Ramazan fast offers them the unique opportunity to voluntarily undergo the experience so they may genuinely feel for the poor.

Fasting is not starvation. Starvation means suffering from lack of food. But in the case of fasting there is no lack of food. It is a case of self-denial. It is a lesson in self-restraint which is Allah's declared purpose behind prescribing Ramazan fasting. And even yet, it has been made as convenient as could be. Thus, between the breaking of one fast and the start of the next, people are free to eat and drink and partake of whatever bounties Allah has endowed him/her with including performing their marital functions.

Fasting has many benefits both in the physical and the spiritual spheres. On the practical side, it has been admitted to be one of the oldest therapies. Hippocrates believed that in fasting the body heals itself. Eminent physiologists have hailed fasting as "the single greatest natural healing therapy", and nature's universal "remedy" for many physical problems. These problems include hypertension and heart disease, allergies, diabetes, and cancer. Fasting has a therapeutic and preventive effect for many of these conditions. The most common everyday application of fasting is in the case of indigestion.

Hardship there is in fasting. No question about that. Fast begins from the time when "the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread, until night appears" (2:187). During this period of at least twelve hours, (longer during summer) not a grain of food, nor a drop of water, must pass down the throat. Every Muslim, who is at his home, is bound by the command, (2:185), except sick people, women during their period and those on a journey. But they must complete the count later.

But then, Ramazan is a test of faith. And every test, even the most mundane one, imposes some hardship. It is also a rewarding experience, both for the purification of the soul, for which it acts like a catharsis, and for the prevention and cure of many a physical ailment. The length of time it requires to go without food and drink may appear too discouraging to a prospective entrant. But that is true of every adventure. No lecture can convey the real purport of Ramazan fast, as fasting itself.
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Belief in the 'Hereafter'

By Jafar Wafa


Belief in God and in the Day of Judgment and noble deeds are the three prerequisites of reward from the Lord - immunity from any kind of fear and all kinds of sorrow (Quran 2:62 & 5:69). Thus, belief in the Hereafter is second only to belief in God.

According to Muslim theologians, belief in the life hereafter rests on five articles of faith: (1) human beings are a responsible species and, thus, accountable to the Creator for all actions - good, bad and indifferent; (2) The present world is ephemeral, destined to end with a few bangs on the 'last day' known only to the Creator; (3) another universe will come into being in place of the present one and the entire race of mankind that had once lived on the earth from the inception of human life till its end will be recreated and assembled at one place for accountability of every individual soul, in a transparent, fairest and most judicious manner.

(4) Those adjudged as good will be ushered in a delightful, pleasurable and permanent resort called Heaven and those adjudged as bad will find themselves in a place of torment, called Hell; (5) acquisition of luxuries or inability to acquire them in earthly life is, in the final analysis, not the criterion of real success or failure.

Belief in resurrection and accountability predates the Abrahamic faiths that originated in the land of the Syriac Semites, the land known as the 'cradle of civilization'. The ancient Egyptians, having no association with the Semitic people, buried their dead monarchs in huge pyramids with all their precious jewels and other belongings to be used by them after resurrection.

The ancient Greeks believed in an underworld called Hades, the abode of the dead as well as a dark purgatory. The Zoroastrians of Persia who were of Aryan stock held similar beliefs of reward and retribution as the Semitic people had. The South Asians believed in transmigration of soul, an unending chain of birth and rebirths till attainment of Salvation or Mukti.

Coming to Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - the Jews believed in Heaven and Hell with the stipulation that, being God's chosen people, they will suffer the torment of Hell for a limited period ranging from three days to a few months.

Christianity's Book of Revelations, included in its New Testament, contains a graphic description, in symbolic language, how six angels will blow the trumpet, one after another, signalling the destruction of the universe and finally the seventh angel's trumpet heralding the completion of "God's secret plan" and proclamation of power being dedicated to the Messiah, and so on.

The way the Quran presents the idea of the Hereafter is entirely different from the mythological approach of other faiths. It argues the main points that arise in one's mind as to why the life hereafter is necessary, who the sceptics are, who are inclined to disbelieve resurrection for reckoning and accountability and on what grounds they reject this idea.

The Quran offers three cogent reasons for life hereafter: (1) Those who realize, after pondering over the creation of galaxies after galaxies, all studded with planets and stars gliding safely on their defined orbits without deviation, that this complex universe was not created in vain but with a purpose - [3.190] (2) Such rational human beings also have no doubt that the Being that produced the existing creation can re-produce it for satisfying the purpose of creation, i.e., judging the performance of the best of His creations - the human kind - [10-4]; (3) life hereafter is necessary "to explain to mankind as to wherein they differed among themselves and to show to the unbelievers that they were liars" - [16:39].

Similarly, the Book categorises the main objectors of Hereafter. One is the group of those who opine, "without sound knowledge and on mere guess work" that "there is nothing beyond our life of this world - we die and we live and nothing destroys us except Time" (45:24). The second group comprises those who consider resurrection of the dead as a scientific impossibility, saying "who will revive those bones when they have rotted away?" (36.78).

The answer to both the groups of 'intellectuals' who are inclined towards incredulity is provided in words meaning that such persons do not ponder over their own creation or have forgotten the fact of their own creation "from a drop of seed" and yet graduating into "open opponents" of the Creator.

As to who will resuscitate the rotted bones, the doubter should be told that "He will revive them (the bones) who produced them in the first instance." (36: 77-79). There is no effort to dictate from a high pedestal but to furnish argument against a wrong notion and flawed impression.

Muslim mystics (Sufis) and those who are disposed to be swayed by their reasoning, mostly based on their muraqiba or contemplation in search of hidden truth, visualize three abodes, not two - the present world and the world hereafter.

They interpose an abode called Barzakh (which begins from the grave till doomsday) between the present world and the Hereafter. They base their judgment on two verses of the Quran: One is in regard to the last wish of repentant agnostics in the throes of death to be given a respite and sent back to earth so that they could then do right kind of deeds. God's answer to their last moment prayer is, "Nay behind them is a barrier ('barzakh') until the day when they are raised." (23:99-100).

So, there is a buffer zone between earthly life and eternal life after resurrection. The second verse from which the mystics derive support is God's words: "We know them (the hypocrites and agnostics) and we will chastise them twice thereafter they will be relegated to the painful doom" (9:101).

This two-time chastisement before 'painful doom' meaning torment in Hell after the Day of Judgment, suggests chastisement in the earthly life and in the buffer zone after death and before resurrection.

They further suggest that in this world physical body is prominent while the soul is hidden and whatever pleasure or pain affects the soul is through the medium of the body. In the second abode (Barzakh) the pleasure and pain will be experienced by the soul directly, the body being non-existent.

In the third and final abode, the world after the Day of Judgment, both the soul and the body will become prominent, but the body will be quite different from this world's physical mould; they will be in accordance with the nature of deeds performed by every soul during life on earth.
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Beyond dogmas & rites


By Jafar Wafa


Even those Islamists who are campaigning for political power to establish a Shariat-compliant civil administration and financial system lay all the emphasis on dogmas and observance of religious rites which are already followed with amazing uniformity by Muslims throughout the world. This not withstanding minor differences in modalities and irrespective of where and under what form of government they live.

This over-emphasis on the observance of religious rites, which promises a berth in paradise, has made them completely neglectful of their duties as responsible and honest citizens of the state and unmindful of their rights as human beings. Consequently, most of them are being ruled by dictators, hereditary monarchs and a corrupt bureaucracy.

It may appear paradoxical but is, unfortunately, a fact that the people who pray five times a day, fast for a month and go for Umra and Haj at least once happen to be the citizens of such states (barring notable exceptions) where, according to prestigious international agencies, corruption is rampant and social development indices are touching rock bottom.

It is for the religion political leaders to ponder why this baffling contradiction in terms stares them in the face and what corrective approach is indicated.

This is a typical case of missing the wood for the trees. The sheer frequency with which the Quran exhorts the believers to 'establish Salaat (worship in all its forms) and pay Zakat (poor-due)' was led to the false assumption that this is the be-all and end-all of faith.

The fact, however, is that this repetitive exhortation covers, symbolically, the requirements of both worlds - present and the hereafter - Zakat to alleviate poverty and mitigate economic hardship and salaat for reward in the next world. But this should not obscure other ideas and axioms which are present in Islam from the very beginning but have remained out of our theologians' focus in spite of the fact that these have been "one by one" and generally, accepted by the West.

"These are the duty of free thought and free inquiry, the duty of religious tolerance, the idea that conduct and not creed or class distinction should be the test of a man's worth in law and social intercourse, women's right to full equality with men before the law, her rights to property, the licence to divorce and remarry, the duty of personal cleanliness, the prohibition of strong drinks..."

These quotations are from the British Muslim scholar, Marmaduke Pickthall's "Madras Lectures". These well-known ingredients of the Shariat have been adopted in stages, by the modern civilized societies without acknowledging the debt to Islam.

What is lamentable is that our learned clerics have not treated this subject with the importance it deserves, as it would have acquainted the laymen and students of religious seminaries with the valuable contribution their religion has made to reclaim the West from its barbarism of the Middle Ages and as an example for other non-Muslim societies in respect of social and legal rights of their male and female citizens.

To the ulema such axiomatic principles enunciated originally by Islam, which have now been accepted and adopted universally, are purely secular in character and are outside the purview of religion.

This is the main reason why they do not highlight them as Islam's contribution to reform other societies that had no inkling of gender equality in the sense that women have the same rights and duties as men, and that there being "no compulsion in the matter of religious belief" (according to Quranic pronouncement) lacked religious tolerance. Thus they waged the infamous crusades, erratically, dragging on for three centuries to finish off a rival religion.

In short, our ulema compartmentalize the secular and the sacred separately, the way the Christian church did in its heyday and viewed with disdain the Islamic axioms and ideas mentioned by Pickt hall and called them irreligious and outside the domain of religion. The matter, according to them, concerned itself only with dogmas and doctrines of Christian faith and tenets governing prayers and worship.

Our ulema also overlook the fact that, much before the French Revolution, Islam laid the foundation of a socialist system enunciated by 'revealed' guidance which not only stressed economic justice but also piety and God-consciousness.

Allama Iqbal, contrasting Islam with Marxist Communism - "equality of stomachs", as he calls it in Javed Nama - says that the latter is "lacking in the illuminating flash of divine revelation".

Therefore, one can call the Islamic system, which lasted in its pristine purity for about 60 years during the lifetime of the earliest four caliphs, as a happy blend of social and economic morality.

Political theorists of post-Renaissance Europe like Rousseau, Voltaire, and Hobbes, standing on the opposite extreme end, ignored entirely the spiritual aspirations and sensibilities of mankind, just at our present - day 'ulema' overlook the economic and other mundane aspects, considering them irrelevant to their mission.

The banishment of communism from Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet system, proves that a system which has no moral or religious basis and seeks to provide only a square meal a day to all citizens and health care and education to those who need it is bound to collapse like a house of cards once an economic crisis develops in the land.

Another lesson that one can draw from the disintegration of the Soviet Union after 70 years of its enforced initially by means of repressive organs (like the dreaded KGB) and exemplary punishments, can work satisfactorily only as long as there is economic satisfaction in the country.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the polemics of whether Shariat can be adopted as the law of the land. It is difficult to convince the majority of right-thinking persons that Shariat, as interpreted by our ecclesiastical class today, which is not different from how it was interpreted by our venerable jurists eight centuries ago, can look after the requirements of the complex fabric of a political-cum-financial-cum-administrative infrastructure in the present age where globalization is the buzz-word and no state, however strong militarily and economically, can carve for itself a completely independent path.

A path based on ideas and traditions of the remote past is not likely to satisfy the global concerns of human rights. For instance, in respect of harsh punishments like the death penalty which are now being outlawed.

It is inconceivable that the world community will not feel outraged if corporal punishments like flogging, amputation of human limbs and stoning to death, according to Hudood laws, are awarded by the judiciary and implemented by the executive arm of the government.

Similarly, restricting all overseas trade and commerce to riba-free transactions may not be feasible unless the intention is to stand alone on the world stage, come what may. This introduces the subject of ijtehad, or re-interpretation on the basis of Qiyas, or analogy, so as to make the divinely-revealed injunctions applicable in the situation prevailing today on the planet as a whole.

It is an encouraging aspect of our history that, during the last 13 centuries from the Khilafat originating in Madinah till its abolition on the dismemberment of the Ottoman caliphate in the first quarter of the 20th century, Muslim thinkers and administrators displayed an amazing genius in adaptation and transformation of the Byzantine, Sassanid and post-Renaissance European principles and art of government and their application in running and managing the Khilafat successfully.
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Blessings of fasting


By Sirajuddin Aziz


Even before the advent of Islam, it was customary for Arabs to devote a certain period of the year to exclusive worship and prayer. Muhammad Hussein Heykal in his biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has referred to this tradition as, "the Arabs annual retreat".

He states that much before the revelations, the Prophet would each year spend the whole of Ramazan in the cave of Mount Hira, devoting himself uninterruptedly to his spiritual pursuits in peace, solitude and tranquillity.

The sacred month of Ramazan is in fact an annual invitation to delinquents to shed evil ways and put on the garb of humility. The Holy Quran states, "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off evil" (2:183).

The regulations pertaining to Ramazan in Chapter II of the Holy Quran are coupled repeatedly with the emphasis on two aspects: facilities and concessions given in respect of fasting and the spiritual significance of fasting.

The verse i.e. II: 187, that follows the ordinance about Ramazan, is of particular significance to the concept of self-denial and offers limitless assurances to those who fast, "when My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me..."

According to a tradition, the Prophet said, "Verily, a month of blessing has come to you... Allah has made obligatory the fast of it on you. The doors of paradise are opened during it, while the doors of hell are closed.

Satan is put in fetters. There is a night in it, which is better than one thousand months. Whoever is deprived of the goodness of it is really a deprived person."

Thus fasting has been enjoined and made incumbent upon every Muslim adult but with the condition that he must be fit physically for it. A sick person, one who is travelling, an old person and one who finds the severity of fast hard to bear on account of age or other infirmities are exempt. But for the sick and the traveller this is a temporary exemption, they have to complete the period on other days. "And whosoever of you is sick or on a journey let him fast the same number of other days." (2:185).

Yusuf Ali, in his commentary on the Holy Quran, writes, "Illness and journey must not be interpreted in an elastic sense; they must be such as to cause pain and sufferings."

On the other hand, Allah does not wish to burden the man who has permanent infirmity. For such a person the Quran states: "And for those who cannot afford it there is ransom, the feeding of a man in need." (2.184).

Fasting infuses in man a great degree of determination and trust in Allah, imparts loftiness to his character and personality. There is a tradition related by Abu Hazim, that the apostle of Allah once said, "In Paradise there is a gate named ar-Rayyan through which on the Day of Reckoning those who fast will enter, and through which none but they will enter." It is said that the Prophet during Ramazan was more generous than the rain-bearing wind.

Ramazan is a month of patience. Every Muslim during the course of this holy month has to observe utmost patience against all provocations. "The object of fast is to attain righteousness, patience in adversity, steadfastness in deprivation and to increase one's power of resistance.

Fasting places everybody the rich and the poor; the high and the low on the same pedestal. Both the well to do and the less favoured experience in common the pangs of hunger and privation to an equal degree.

"Muslim fast is not meant for self-torture. Although it is stricter than other fasts, it also provides alleviations for special circumstances. It is not merely a temporary abstention from food and drink but this abstention enables the attention to be directed to higher things" writes Yusuf Ali.

Fasting accustoms us to face hardships of life - by renouncing everyday comforts; we give strength to our resolve and increase our power of resistance. It must not be forgotten that the whole purpose of fasting during Ramazan is to promote righteousness, which is a progressive cultivation of spiritual values.

The Prophet was very particular and emphatic in drawing attention to this aspect of fasting. He said, "He who abstains from food and drink during the period of fasting but does not strive to abstain and safeguard himself against moral lapses, starves to no purpose."

Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar in his eloquent discourse "The Religion of Islam" comments, "the injunction laid down in the Holy Quran runs as follow: "the month of Ramazan is that in which the Quran was revealed..." (2:185).

It will be seen from the words of the injunction that the choice of this particular month is not without reason. It is well known that the Holy Quran was revealed piecemeal during a period of 23 years; therefore, by its revelation in the month of Ramazan is meant that its revelation began in that month. And this is historically true. The first revelation came to the Prophet during Ramazan when he was in the cave of Hira. The month which witnessed his greatest spiritual experience was thus considered to be the most suitable month for the spiritual discipline of the Muslim community which was to be effected through fasting."

During Ramazan falls the night of al-Qadr on which day the Prophet received his call and the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed at Mount Hira. "Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. (97.1).

It is on this night that God's decree for the year are brought down on the earthly plane. "And angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees."(97.4).

"The Night of Power is better than a thousand months." That is how this verse is interpreted "A thousand nights must be taken in a very indefinite sense as denoting a very long period of time. One moment of enlightenment under God's light is better than a thousand months/years of animal life and such a moment of enlightenment translates into a period of spiritual glory."

The Holy Prophet said about al-Qadr that whosoever rises up for vigil and prayers during the night of al-Qadr with faith, and in hope of recompense, will have all his previous sins forgiven.

The most significant aspect of "fasting" is the reformation of the "self" through a conscious management of the "self". It is this process, which is to receive our utmost attention, while we engage in fasting.

If this objective is not achieved, then fasting would be a ritual without a purpose. The object is to make our behaviour symbolic of the virtues attending to fasting such as mercy, generosity, truthfulness, endurance, patience and fortitude.

We should not defeat and outrage the primary teaching underlying this fundamental injunction of Islam, because in the final analysis, fasting erases from the believing soul every evil, it perfects and liberates the human spirit and directs it towards common welfare, thus helping in the establishment of a righteous and stable society.
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Book of guidance


By Haider Zaman



Besides being a book of guidance (2:2), the Holy Quran is also a book of wisdom and knowledge (36:2). This is evident, among other things, from the most scientific, yet easily comprehensible, way in which the Quran guides us towards a definite goal.

The entire scheme of guidance has been summed up just in one verse which says "Who has created and then proportioned: Who has measured and then guided" (87:2,3). The words "created" and "proportioned" in the verse imply the creation of human beings in the best possible form (95:4), a form that could suit the objectives of their creation.

The word "measured" in the verse implies that Allah took calculated account of both the capabilities and frailties with which human beings were born so as to devise a proper scheme for their guidance. The word "guided" implies the provision of appropriate guidance.

The rationale for guidance is manifest from the verses which say: "He it is who made you vicegerents in the earth" (6:165) and "does the man think that he will be just left to himself" (75:36).

What is spelled out by these verses combined, is that human beings were created to act as Allah's vicegerents on earth for which they had to be provided necessary guidance with a view to attain the desirable level of development - the level that could enable them to discharge their responsibilities as Allah's vicegerents in a befitting manner.

The desirable level of development has been explained by the Quran thus: "In fact the one who repents and does righteous deeds returns to Allah as he rightly should" (25:71). Return to Allah means submission to the Will of Allah. The highest level of development has been explained with reference to Hazrat Ibrahim which could be total submission to the Will of Allah and doing righteous deeds (4:125). These two levels have been further explained by the Quran as people on the right hand (having attained the desired level of development) (56:8) and people being foremost in the race (having attained the highest level of development (56:10) and supplemented by reference to two kinds of paradises (55:46,62) and the principle of recompense, namely, that for all there will be ranks according to what they do (46:19).

The Quran also tells us about the inclinations of human soul that have direct bearing on the levels of development. One is the inclination towards doing wrong and evil deeds, termed as Nafs-i-Ammarah (12:53).

The other is towards realization and repentance i.e. to realize immediately if one does something wrong, that what he has done is termed as Nafs-i-Lowwamah (75:2). The third is towards doing good and righteous deeds, termed as Nafs-i-Mutmainnah (89:27) also called the soul at peace.

These inclinations of the soul are in turn influenced by two elements. One of them consists of frailties and weaknesses common to all human beings. They are: inability to resist lust (4:27,28), leaning towards injustice and unfairness (14:34), hastiness (17:11) ingratitude (17:67), contentiousness i.e. not prone to accepting one's own faults or shortcomings (18:54), niggardliness i.e. reluctance to part with what one has (17:100) and anxiety (70:19,20).

These frailties influence these inclinations in the sense that they activate Nafs-i-Ammarah and suppress the other two inclinations of the soul. For example, inability to resist lust, leaning towards unfairness, and contentiousness activate Nafs-i-Ammarah and thereby impel one to do wrong and evil deeds.

At the same time they suppress Nafs-i-Lowwamah and Nafs-i-Mutmainnah as a person under the influence of these frailties neither repents over whatever wrong he does nor is he ever inclined to do any good or righteous deeds.

The other element having direct impact on these inclinations consists of faculties that the human beings have been endowed with. They are: the hearing, sight, affection and intelligence (16:78), mercy and love (30:21), the ability to make distinction between right and wrong in regard to one's own conduct (91:8) and above all the provision of guidance (76:3) (20:123,124).

There exists direct relationship of cause and effect between the criteria of desirable level of development, namely, repentance and doing of righteous deeds, and the three inclinations of the soul as described above.

A person repents over whatever wrong he does and vows not to do any wrong again only when his Nafs-i-Lowwamah is activated and Nafs-i-Ammarah is suppressed or controlled.

Repentance in this context involves two things. One is the activation of Nafs-i-Lowwamah because the person realizes his fault or mistake and reproaches himself for it.

The other is the suppression of Nafs-i-Ammarah because repentance involves not merely the expression of regret over the wrong done but also firm determination of not doing any wrong again which implies nothing but suppression of Nafs-i-Ammarah.

Repentance without solemnly undertaking not to repeat any wrong cannot be treated as repentance. Likewise, a person is impelled to do righteous deeds only when his Nafs-i-Mutmainnah is activated.

Repentance in the true sense could be reflective of three things. One is firm faith in the existence and Unity of Allah and in the fact that Allah is All-knowing and takes note of every thing one does.

The other is the fear of Allah. The person repents over what he has done because he knows that Allah is well aware of what he has done and will duly requite him for it. The third is the faith in the graciousness and compassion of Allah, that Allah will certainly forgive him if he sincerely repents over what he has done and vows not to do any wrong again.

Pardoning of Adam (A.S) when he did that which he was forbidden to do (7:23) and of Moses (A.S) when he killed a person by chance (28:16) and of Yunus (A.S) when after deserting his mission he was swallowed by a fish, after repentance, could be the best examples in this regard. One thing which was common in the expression of their regret was the unequivocal admission that it were they who had wronged themselves.

Thus, in order to attain the desirable level of development, Nafs-i-Lowwamah and Nafs-i-Mutmainnah have to be activated and Nafs-i-Ammarah has to be suppressed or controlled to a desirable extent if not to be completely suppressed (the occasion for repentance arises when one does something wrong).

In other words, Nafs-i-Ammarah has to be controlled to avoid the commission of major sins at least if it is not possible to avoid the commission of all the sins. The Quran treats the persons avoiding the worst of sins, not all the sins, as being rightly guided (42:37).

The suppression of Nafs-i-Ammarah and the activation of other two inclinations of the soul will depend largely on how we make use of the faculties that Allah has bestowed on us and the guidance He has provided us.

Hazrat Yusuf controlled his lust and thereby Nafs-i-Ammarah when he perceived the Divine argument (12:24). He was helped by four elements in perceiving the Divine argument and avoiding what he was invited to do.

They were the use of reasoning and conscience coupled with guidance that enabled him to know that what he was invited to do fell in the category of major sins and its outcome. The other was the fear of Allah that impelled him to refrain from doing that which he was invited to do.

The use of appropriate faculties coupled with guidance and the fear of Allah on the one hand and firm faith in the Mercy and Magnanimity of Allah, on the other, could be of great help in activating Nafs-i-Lowwamah and Nafs-i-Mutmainnah.
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Caliph Umar's pivotal role

By Dr Dildar Ahmed


Despite much rhetoric on the part of governments of various hues, good governance, rule of law and real democracy is a dream that unfortunately does not seem to come true in the Islamic world. For a sincere government, however, there is a lot to learn in the way Hazrat Umar, the rightly-guided second caliph, ruled more than 14 hundred years ago.

The total area of his caliphate was around 23 lakh square miles with continuously expanding its frontiers. To rule over such a big caliphate stretched from Libya to Makran and from Yemen to Armenia, Hazrat Umar had to establish an entirely new administrative system. For the Arabs, in fact, it was for the first time that such a central government was established.

Hazrat Umar believed in shura and what today we call the devolution of power. He would take no decision without the consultation of the assembly of the great Companions. Common people were also consulted on matters of special significance.

He used to say: "There is no concept of caliphate without consultation". The roots of modern democracy can be clearly seen in the administration of Hazrat Umar at a time when the whole world was ruled by despotic kings and emperors.

Hazrat Umar divided the whole country into provinces and smaller units. He followed a very strict standard for the appointment of governors, and took particular care to appoint men of approved integrity to high offices under the state.

He kept a watch over them like a hawk, and as soon as any lapse on their part came to his notice, immediate action was taken. Before assuming his responsibility, a governor was required to declare his assets and a complete inventory of his possessions was prepared and kept in record.

If an unusual increase was reported in the assets of a governor, he was immediately called to account and the unlawful property was confiscated by the state. At the time of appointment, a governor was required to make the pledge: (1) that he would not ride a Turkish horse; (2) that he would not wear fine clothes; (3) that he would not eat sifted flour; (4) that he would not keep a porter at his door; and (5) that he would always keep his door open to the public. This is how it was ensured that governors and principal officers would behave like common people and not like some extraordinary or heavenly creatures.

The governors were required to come to Makkah on the occasion of the Haj. In public assembly, Hazrat Umar would invite all those who had any grievance against any office to present the complaint. In the event of complaints, inquiries were made immediately and grievances redressed on the spot.

The rightly-guided caliph also established a special office for the investigation of complaints against the governors. The department was under the charge of Muhammad bin Maslamah Ansari, a man of undisputed integrity. In important cases Muhammad bin Maslamah was deputed by the caliph to proceed to the spot, investigate the charge and take action. Sometimes an inquiry commission was constituted to investigate the charge. On occasions the officers against whom complaints were received were summoned to Madinah, and put to explanation by the caliph himself.

Hazrat Umar was a man of inflexible integrity. He believed in simplicity and had contempt for pomp and luxury. Strong sense of justice, accountability before law, and equality for all were some of his cherished ideals. He took particular pains to provide effective, speedy and impartial justice to the people.

He was the first ruler in history to separate judiciary from the executive. Qazis/judges were appointed in sufficient numbers at all administrative levels for the administration of justice. They were chosen for their integrity and learning in Islamic law. High salaries were fixed for them and they were not allowed to engage in trade.

In one of his ordinances issued to judicial officers, Hazrat Umar laid down the following principles: "Verily justice is an important obligation to God and man. You have been charged with this responsibility. Discharge the responsibility so that you may win the approbation of God and the goodwill of the people. Treat the people equally in your presence, in your company, and in your decisions, so that the weak despair not of justice and the high-placed have no hope of your favour..."

Hazrat Umar took particular steps to build a social order according to the teachings of Islam. He brought about far-reaching reforms in the social, economic and political sphere of collective life. It is but he who could say: "If a dog dies at the bank of Euphrates, Umar will be responsible for that".

As a consequence of large-scale conquests in Iraq, Persia and elsewhere a question arose as to the administration of land in the conquered territories.

The army following the old maxim "spoils belong to the victors" insisted that all agricultural lands should be distributed among the conquering army, and the inhabitants should be made serfs and slaves. However, Hazrat Umar, after prolonged counselling and contemplation, rejected army's demand and decreed that the conquered land would be the property of the state and not of the conquering forces and the former occupants of the lands would not be dispossessed.

This was a revolutionary decision. His general decree was that land belonged to the person who could cultivate it, and that, a person is entitled to possess only that much land that he could cultivate.

The caliph upheld the principle that there is no coercion in religion and the non-Muslim population was guaranteed life, liberty, and property. The non-Muslims were treated as full citizens of the state. There was to be no discrimination between Muslim and non-Muslim in the eyes of law. Even on his death-bed, the caliph thought of the state's responsibility to the non-Muslim citizens.

In his bequest to his successor, he said: "My bequest to my successor is that covenants with ahl-ud-dhimma i.e. the People of the Covenant or Obligation, should be observed faithfully. They should be defended against all invasions. No injustice should be done to them. They should be treated as full-fledged citizens and should enjoy equality before law. Their taxes should be fair, and no burden should be imposed on them which they cannot bear."

The high standards of integrity that Hazrat Umar set for himself and his family members should be emulated by the rulers of today, particularly those of the Muslim world. The allowance that he drew was just enough for a person of average means. When the people around him insisted that his allowance should be raised, he refused to accept any increase. He ate the most ordinary food, and wore clothes of the coarsest cloth.

Once he was late for the Friday prayer and the explanation that he offered was that he had his clothes washed, and that took some time to dry which delayed his departure for the mosque. When the envoy of the Byzantine emperor came to Madinah, he expected that the caliph would be living in a heavily guarded palace. The envoy found no palace and no guard.

He found the caliph sitting in the mosque in the company of ordinary people. When he went to Palestine to receive the surrender of the city of Jerusalem the world witnessed the strange spectacle of his slave riding the camel, and he himself walking on foot holding the reins of the camel.

Once Hazrat Umar's wife, Umm Kulsum, purchased perfume for one dirham and sent it as a gift to the Byzantine empress. The Byzantine empress returned the empty phials of perfume filled with gems. When Hazrat Umar came to know of this, he sold the gems. Out of the sale proceeds he handed over one dirham to his wife and the rest was deposited in the state treasury. Hazrat Umar's son Abdullah was a very talented man but he refused to give him any office.

Hazrat Umar was a great social and political reformer, and a man of extraordinary vision. He was the first Muslim ruler to establish public treasury, courts of justice, appoint judges, set up an army department and assign regular salaries to the men in the armed forces.

He created a land revenue department and was the first ruler under whom survey and assessment work of land was undertaken. He was the first Muslim ruler to take a census, strike coins, organize police department, and set up jails. He established guest houses in all cities, rest houses on road-side from Madinah to Makkah for the comfort of travellers.

Hazrat Umar took special measures to minimize slavery. He ordered that any female captive who had given birth to a child should not be sold as a slave. He established schools throughout the country, and allowed generous salaries to school teachers. He fixed stipends for the poor and the needy, and provided for the care and upbringing of orphans. His caliphate was, in fact, a great welfare and egalitarian state.

Hazrat Umar (581-644 A.D.) was a great companion and a loyal friend of the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Before his death, Hazrat Abu Bakr, with the consultation of the Companions, had appointed him as the caliph. During the ten years of his rule from 634 to 644 A.D., Hazrat Umar changed the course of history.

Under his wise and courageous leadership, the Islamic caliphate grew at an unprecedented rate, taking Iraq and parts of Iran from the Sassanids, and thereby ending that empire, and taking Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa and Armenia from the Byzantines. He was assassinated by a Persian free slave, Abu Lulu Fairoz, and embraced shahadat on first of Muharram, 24 Hijri.
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Case against polygamy

By Qazi Faez Isa


The caricature of a Muslim man in non-Muslim societies is of a husband having four wives. The Muslim response is invariably apologetic. But can a Muslim man marry more than once? This very question was asked on television of a lady armed with a doctorate from the West who runs a network of Islamic schools.

She tersely replied that a man can marry more than once and does not require permission. An emphatic response, which brooked no doubt and slammed shut the discussion. The conviction with which an educated lady from one's faith endorsed a prejudice, saddened and hurt.

The majestic words of the Most High are often forgotten or else subjected to uninformed, whimsical and arbitrary pronouncements. The Almighty directs us "to study" the Quran (2:121). In addressing the question of polygamy, guidance can be had from a number of Quranic verses.

The Quranic verse pressed into service to justify a man marrying up to four wives is verse 3 of the fourth Surah (chapter) entitled Nisaa (women). This verse is often selectively read and mistranslated. To best appreciate the issue, the entire verse and its preceding two are reproduced:

"O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you."(4:1)

"To orphans (yatama) restore their property (when they reach their age), nor substitute (your) worthless things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by mixing it up) with your own. For this is indeed a great sin."(4:2)

"If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans (yatama), marry from amongst them women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one.... That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice". (4:3)

In certain translations the aforementioned verse 3 is translated by leaving out the words "from amongst them" rendering it, "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans (yatama), marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four."

Such a truncated translation leaves the text meaningless and it cannot be stated, as the exponents of four marriages contend, that the part of the text "marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four" stands alone, and has no nexus with the earlier part of the same verse.

This translation also offends the latter part of the verse, which uses the words "fear" and "justly" words which are also found in the opening of the verse, and therefore, clearly demonstrate that the verse must be read as a whole.

Those canvassing polygamy attempt to refute this by stating, "then the word 'women' appearing in the text adds nothing?" However, if the term "women" (menan nisaa) did not follow orphans (yatama) then "yatama" appearing alone would cover boys and young girls, since the term yatama includes both.

The earlier verse (4:2) which warns about safeguarding the property of yatama extends to protect the property of both girls and boys, as the word "yatama" is not qualified. Moreover, the term that follows yatama is not simply "women" but "those women" (menan nisaa), which means the women amongst the yatama, and therefore, the reference to two, three, or four" can only be to yatama women and not women generally.

The term yatama is usually translated as "orphans"; however, the Arabic word is rich in meaning. In English, an orphan is one whose parents are dead, but in Arabic a child whose mother is dead but whose father is alive is not a yatim (singular, the plural of which is yatama).

Women whose husbands are dead are also covered by the term yatama as the Quran itself makes clear by use of the term yatamal nisaa (4:127). Girls whose fathers are dead would continue to remain "yatama" until they get married.

This verse prescribes the protection of not only women whose fathers are dead but also other categories of females who are in a precarious or vulnerable position such as maids and widows, who may be more open to exploitation. Or the hunger in their bellies or those of their children may force them to walk a scarlet street.

Only in marrying a yatama (adult lady) can a man marry more than once. However, there is an almost impossible condition to fulfil before marrying more than one yatama lady; the mandate to deal with all such wives justly and equally.

Because "if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one". The equal-treatment requirement is a continuous one for the entire duration of the marriage. Our Benevolent Creator does not want any man to slip up and cautions man again that a single wife will "be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice".

Can a man treat two wives fairly and justly? Almighty Allah, tells man, later in the same Surah (4:129), that, "ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire".

Would then a God-fearing man embark on a perilous journey where he must continuously and forever attempt the impossible - to act fairly and justly between two or more wives? To be able to act fairly with two wives would require two hearts in one body and "Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body" (33:4).

Other than the aforesaid verse (4:3) there is no verse in the Holy Quran which permits a man having more than one wife. There are, however, a number of verses which suggest monogamy.

"Marry those amongst you are single" (24:32) is a command applicable to both men and women. If a woman is marrying a man who already has a wife she would not be marrying a man who is "single".

Verse 40 of Surah Nisaa is again suggestive of monogamy - "If ye decide to take one wife in place of another", since there is only one "place" to occupy or take, next to the husband. If it were permissible for a man to marry more than one woman then it would not be a question of substitution but of addition.

It is surely not without significance that the first verse of Surah Nisaa starts by telling us about how the human race began; with the creation of a "single person" (Hazrat Adam) and from him "his mate" (Bibi Hawwa). A monogamous relationship and a perfect pair.

The pairing of the first man and woman populated the world. "O mankind! "We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female" (49:13). The theme of pairs runs throughout the Holy Quran. "We ... produce on the earth every nobler creatures, in pairs" (31:10). "He made you in pairs" (35:11). "He has made for you pairs from among yourselves" (42:11). "And (have We not) created you in pairs" (78:8).

With trepidation, one inquires the purpose of Almighty Allah repeatedly telling us that He has created us in pairs. The answer, too, is found in the Book of Wisdom: "Thus does Allah set forth for men their lessons by similitudes" (47:3). And "do not treat Allah's Signs (ayah or verses) as a jest"(2:231).

The Lord of the Worlds explains through the Quran that He has made His creation in perfect proportion, measure and balance. "Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure" (27:49).

"He has created the heavens and the earth in just proportion and has given you shape, and made your shapes beautiful" (44:3). In a world of such perfect order and balance, where men and women are found in roughly equal numbers, harmony could not be maintained if each, most or even some men were to marry more than one woman. And monasticism is neither prescribed nor recommended (see 57:27).

The relationship between spouses is one of companionship, love, beauty, joy and comfort, which harbours not a third, or a fourth, or a fifth. "It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love).

When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about. When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord: 'If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful' " (9:189).

The source of affection between a husband and wife is a gift from our Supreme Lord, the Source of Peace, who bestows "hearing and sight and intelligence and affections" (16:78).

"He hath put affection between their hearts: not if thou hadst spent all that is in the earth, couldst thou have produced that affection, but Allah hath done it" (8:63). An affection that only a pair can share, like the intimacy, texture, feel and smell of a garment next to one's body - "They are your garments and ye are their garments" (2:187).

The due proportion and balance of creation may at times be imperfect, with the dead left in the battlefields and the widows at home, or in the form of the impecunious young orphan lady whose hunger contemplates prostitution.

In a world of perfect balance there must be a mechanism to repair the fabric of society. And in the Perfect Book (in verse 3 of Surah Nisaa) there is for the purpose just such a needle and thread.

The needle is there to mend not to harm, to stitch a tear not to pierce open another. But those who take more than one wife, do they take them from amongst the yatama, from among widows, and unmarried orphans who no one wants to marry? Or does one witness in the second, third or fourth wife youthful freshness and comely forms? An abandonment of "the command of self-restraint" (48:26) and a rejection of Allah's message - "they reject (the warning) and follow their (own) lusts" (54:3).

The only time that the Lord of Righteousness places the burden of another on a soul is when such a one misleads those without knowledge. "Let them bear, on the Day of Judgment, their own burdens in full, and also (something) of the burdens of those without knowledge, whom they misled. Alas, how grievous the burdens that they will bear" (16:25).

The Quran prescribes monogamy and the only exception is in respect of unmarried ladies whose fathers are dead, or are widows. This exception cannot replace the rule, nor be used to indulge in lust. It is there, as it states, to justly restore a balance.
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Character in Islamic context

By Prof. Mohammed Rafi


THE character of a person consists of all the qualities that make him distinct and reflect his nature. Character is also reflection of truth. All over the world the Muslims feel angry at the misconceived notions of the West about them and Islam. On the other hand, among the Muslims emphasis is laid on rituals and not on the true message of the Quran, which places man and his character on a higher level of life.

When Islam is judged in the light of character, attitude and behaviour of Muslims, the net result is abysmally low and discouraging. The outward signs of a weak character are commonly believed to be corruption, injustice and exploitation, but they do not reflect the true nature of and significance of the term. Ultimately a man’s character is judged in terms of his moral behaviour which for a Muslim must be based on permanent values of the Quran.

Moral action is generally considered to be an action freely performed for the sake of an unconditionally and universally binding law. This law should be such that we can sensibly, reasonably and conscientiously recognize. Preservation of life is an animal instinct, but the preservation of honour is not. It is unknown in the animal world; it is a specific human value and elevates the character and level of life of a human being.

Honour as an important ingredient of character signifies a number of things like chastity, good reputation and respect. Its standard varies from society to society. For example in an island on the Pacific there is a tribe with whom dishonesty is the best conduct and the cleverest cheat is held in the highest esteem. Another example is that of nationalism which is recognized the world over as a political and social creed and those who serve their nation by exploiting other nations are regarded as patriots. On the contrary thee Quran says that human values are the same everywhere and unchangeable.

It is the Divine revelation that gives abiding universal values and provides a universal standard of character called ‘Taqwa’. According to Hastings Rashdall, That there is one standard set of values which is the same for rational beings is just what morality means’ (Theory of good and evil). A true Muslim adheres to the truth in all circumstances.

The Quran says, “O you believers be the securers of justice. If you are summoned as a witness for God regardless of your relationship with the parties, whether your evidence goes against yourself or your parents and kinsmen and whether the party affected is rich or poor, God’s law is the best protector. Let not caprice, personal gain, relationship or regard for riches swerve you from the path of justice” (4:135).

A lot of hue and cry was rightly raised over the desecration of the Holy Quran by Americans at Guantanamo Bay camp. It is, however, a pity that nobody thinks about the actual disregard in letter and spirit of the Holy Book that goes on everyday in all walks of life. For example our courts are full of witnesses willing to lie under oath. A struggle between material gains and Islamic values confronts Muslims at almost every turn in day-to-day life and the test of their character lies in the kind of choice they make. How can a society, which ignores Divine Laws of justice, survive? This is an important question. Is it possible to sacrifice self-interest? Definitely a man will preserve human values if there is a reasonable prospect of greater gain.

A hungry man will eat anything he can get hold of even if it is dirty; but the moment someone tells him that it contains poison he will throw away the food. He would prefer the pangs of hunger rather than risk his life. In our everyday life if we realize that ill-gotten wealth is a deadly poison in the divine Universal system, we will avoid it.

Majority of the western and far eastern countries are progressing because they have moulded their lives in accordance with this universal law. Man is free to observe and accept or reject the dictates of the Quran; but once he makes the choice, he cannot change the consequences. According to the Quran there are two concepts of life. One concept is that man is only an animal and lives and dies as any other living being. This concept completely excludes human values.

On the other hand man is a social being who preserves his physical self and also enhances his character by obeying the Divine commands. Man’s inescapable desire is to live a life of eternity. Satan took advantage of this weakness and affectionately offered immortality and power through his (man’s) progeny generation after generation. This weakness in man’s character is evident all over the world, especially in Muslim countries.

Character also depends upon how a person develops his insight to differentiate between immediate and long lasting gain. Allama Iqbal draws a distinction between two phases of intellect. When it cares only for the satisfaction of physical urges, he calls it ‘Aql-e-Khud Been’ (Self seeking intellect) and when it cares for the satisfaction of the urges of both body and character he calls it “Aql-e-Jehan Been” (All seeing intellect) Thus anything done under the influence of ‘self-seeing’ intellect would be an act of wisdom; but what is done in pursuance of the ‘all-seeing’ intellect would be wisdom cum character. A human being through improvement in his character and attitude has the potentiality of reaching a state higher than the angels; but at the same time he also possesses the power to deny God. It is up to him to choose the right path or reject it. Everything is situated on a particular level of existence; only man can stop being man. He can ascend above all degrees of universal existence and by the same token fall below the level of the basest of creatures.

According to H. Nasr ‘Man is presented with the unique opportunity by being born in the human state and it is a tragedy for him to fret away and waste his life in pursuits which distract him from the essential goal of his life’ (Islam, the Last religion).

Islam stresses achievement. This achievement is a life-long pursuit of knowledge through which he improves his character and delivers to other human beings what he has received from the Almighty. With regard to the permanent values of life, Hastings Rashdall (The theory of good and evil) says that the universe has been created with the purpose of helping humans in all positive matters and the acts of man in this context proceed from and express the nature of his character.

Man’s present actions affect his future. If he sees nothing beyond present life, he will consider Islamic values of no importance. If he believes that character comes to an end with the last breath of life, why should he worry about improving his character? Only those who believe in God and an absolute moral law can develop their character and benefit the whole humanity. The Quran says that faith and character are inseparable, that is why the words ‘Amelu as salehat’ (Do good deeds) are always preceded by ‘Al lazeena amanu’ (Those who have faith).

The Quran also makes the state responsible to see that every citizen is provided with the basic needs of life and the means for the development and realization of every citizen’s capabilities. Weaknesses of character arising directly from want and poverty are thus eliminated. As opposed to communism, there is no regimentation is Islam; conviction is brought home rationally through education and knowledge. The concept of blind faith is alien to Islam.

The laws of nature apply to all irrespective of their faith and belief. The everlasting value of a man’s actions depends upon the faith he has in the Law of Retribution and the Day of Judgment. At times we have also seen that secular societies exploited by religious bigots, take refuge in the mystical approach, which by itself aims at annihilation and not integration of self. It claims purification of self or spiritual advancement through various practices performed in seclusion with no incentive for man to work for a social order. It discards society, relations and desires.

Iqbal calls it “an alien plant in the land of Islam” True character is reflected when man interacts with man. For this Islam gives utmost importance to society and social life. Even the affairs of the state have to be decided on the basis of consultation with men of character. The application of Quranic principles does not deprive one of the physical gains. In a social order constituted on the basis of these principles, an individual has physical gains along with the means of developing his character. The Quran says. ‘Our Nourisher give us good in this world and in the hereafter’ (2:201).

A balanced character is beauty in proportion which practically shows a positive aspect of life, masters nature through education, knowledge and wisdom; establishes justice, rejects sectarianism and fights religious and racial prejudices and attains his destiny by following the straight path (Sirat-e-Mustaqeem). These in essence are some of the shining facets of a developed self that shape a character and can bring back the respect which Muslims have lost.
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