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Reflections on Islam

 

Reflections on Islam

Dr. Pasha

(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It --
And which One Does Not?)

 

Islam Is from God

From and to Allah. That is what and that is how all things are in this world. From God they all come. And to him do they all return.

So does Islam. Islam is from Allah. And it is Allah who shall decide on what happens to Islam in this world. It is he who gave the Muslims the name “Muslims” or “Muslimeen.” As the Qur’an says: Huwa sammaakumul Muslimeen.

Simply stated, Islam is the manifestation of God’s design, the working of his will, in his creation – and in the lives of human beings. It is involuntary on the part of most of his creation, while it is voluntary on the part of humans, should they choose to embrace it. And should they adhere to it, dutifully and obediently, in their day-to-day life, as a matter of rational and considered choice.

That is, as an exercise of their own free will, to the extent it exists and to the extent they are able to use and express it.

That is what Islam is.

Islam is not a “religion” in the ordinary and traditional sense of that word. It is inclusive of every single aspect of human life on earth, from the most private to the most public; from the most individual to the most collective, social and organized; at all times of day and night; all seven days of the week. Including people’s innermost thoughts and covering their most open and visible acts.

Islam Is Working of God’s Will in the Universe

If the sun, moon and stars are expressions of Islam in the universe, so is the shape of our eyes and the form of our nostrils and the structure and functioning of our brains and the coursing of blood streams through our veins.

They are all from and to Allah. And they all are expressions, evidence and proof, in what we consider to be real world, of God Almighty’s presence, power and attributes.

And in our own lives, wherever we may be living, and in whatever age.

God – the only one there is or can be – who does it all and who knows exactly what and how to do it and why. Who else can it be? The Qur’an answers that question like this: Balaa wa huwal khallaaqul ‘aleem!

He is the one – and the only one – in whom all beautiful names and attributes inhere beyond infinity and in full perfection.

For, the universe is nothing but a living and ongoing Tafseer – argument, commentary, expression, evidence and proof – of his divine attributes of beauty and perfection. All 99 of them that most Muslims have been taught in the Qur’an and Hadith. The Qur’an calls them Al-Asmaa-ul Husnaa.

These and any and all special names and attributes beyond that which God Almighty may have chosen and kept for himself in his own limitless knowledge to which no one is privy; or imparted to anyone specially selected from his creation; or sent down in any of his books and revelations.

That is what the universe is and that is what all creation is.

Who but he – regardless of by what name you may decide to call him – can be God? Laa ilaaha Illaa hoo, as the Qur’an states repeatedly. There is no God but him? How can there be?

God is witness to that fact. So are the angels. And so indeed are fair-minded and courageous scholars. This is my paraphrase of the glorious Aayat: Shahidallahu annahoo laa ilaaha illaa hoo, wal malaa-i-katu, wa oolul-ilmi qaa-i-mam bil-qist.

Thus, the universe, in its design and functioning, expresses and adheres to God’s laws and will. And it does so by the very nature of its creation – inherently and involuntarily that is.

That is what Islam is in the universe.

At the same time, Islam also is the message from God Almighty to that part of his creation that he has endowed with a measure – a modicum – of free will, to choose and implement in their lives, and to observe in all their dealings with his creation.

Islam in that sense is a message directly from God to human beings.

Islam Is a Message from God to Humans

Islam, thus, is a message that God Almighty sent down. He did so through a long chain of specially chosen messengers from the first man and prophet Adam to the last of the messengers, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.

God sent these messengers to deliver the message of Islam to human beings. And to show them how it works in everyday practice.

These messengers of God came to every people in every culture and land, and they spoke every language in the world. Yet, the basic message they delivered never changed through the ages. It remained remarkably – miraculously – invariant across all the vagaries of time and space.

And that message was, as the Bible puts it: Thou shalt take no other God before me! That is the first of the Ten Commandments in the Bible.

This was proof from Almighty God, through the ages, of his own existence. In the same way, it was also proof of the fact that the message all these prophets and messengers brought – Islam that is – throughout history was indeed from God.

However, time took its toll on the message that the messengers brought from God, as it must. Their message atrophied through disuse and neglect and it was distorted through abuse.

Over time, people’s memories faded and their recollections became an amalgam of the real and the imaginary. People died and nations perished and disintegrated. What original documents or earthly evidence of the lives and teachings of prophets may have existed disappeared over time and became inaccessible to subsequent generations.

And where the message itself was still alive and available, its own professed followers often failed to follow it.

Finally, time and circumstance were ripe for the arrival in the world of the last and final prophet of God to humanity, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, who came in Arabia in the Seventh Century of the Christian Era. May God Almighty bless him and all the other prophets of God that came before him!

A Man Called Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam

Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was the greatest institution builder this world has ever seen. He revived, refurbished and updated the message of the earlier prophets. He preached and taught Islam to those around him. He practiced and modeled Islam in his own life.

He thus breathed new life in the old Biblical message that said: Thou shalt take no other God before me!

In the Seventh Century, he created and established, on the firmest footing, the widest and most comprehensive set of social, political, economic, military and other institutions that were needed for nation building and for the preservation and continuation of his teachings into perpetuity.

Islam today is a continued flowering of this most amazing and absolutely miraculous institutional structure Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam established on earth 1400 years ago. Taken together or examined individually, everything about the institutions of life Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, created and left behind is nothing short of a full-fledged miracle.

And these are miracles that, though completely divine in their origin and nature, are at the same time completely accessible to human beings to this day. And they are all miracles – living miracles – that continue to be put in practice in every age and in every place since their establishment on earth all those long centuries ago.

A Near-Perfect Generation

Not only that, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, also trained a near-perfect generation of the best people around him to establish Islam in society in all its forms and aspects. And he filled the world with the life-giving message of truth, justice and equality for all human beings regardless of their birth, gender or status.

These things will be completely unbelievable if they did not have the kind of solid and unshakable historical foundation they do. And also, at the same time, if they did not continue to our day in the form of living and ongoing actual practices of hundreds of millions of Muslims in all parts of the world.

And if they had not been immortalized, as people would say, in the form of the most comprehensive social and institutional structure the world has ever seen: Namaz, Roza, Hajj, Zakaat, family life, death and everything else Islamic.

A Message of Liberty and Equality

To make his teachings of human liberty and equality a reality on earth, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, abolished all forms of tyranny over the minds, bodies and souls of men and women. And he did that by completely cleansing human society of the most poisonous institutions of hereditary priesthood and hereditary monarchy.

The notorious European-Christian doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings to rule is thus a complete abomination in the system of Islam and the Islamic sociopolitical structure that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, built on earth in 7th Century Arabia.

At that time, he declared and showed in practice that all humans were created equal and that they all could and should communicate with God directly and without an intermediary. And they should do so both through inner contemplation and meditation as well as through public and congregational acts of worship and daily living.

For, according to Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, all life was an unbroken stream of human beings either worshipping God or turning away from him and worshipping other things.

Besides, he unleashed a full-fledged social, political and economic revolution in the world by commanding everyone everywhere to read – and to acquire an education.

“Iqra’: Read!” he said. And till then, and until centuries later, no one had issued that command to humanity. He made education compulsory for all men as well as women.

Kindness and Respect

He invited all humanity to serve, obey and worship no one but God, the maker and master of the universe. Just how the Ten Commandments in the Bible say it: Thou shalt have no other God before me!

He asked people to free their slaves; to be kind to their women; to help the needy; and to share their wealth on a regular and systematic basis with their family and with those less advantaged than them.

“If you shall not show kindness and compassion to those younger than you and also show respect and regard to those older than you,” he declared, “then you are not one of us.”

What a way to divide up the people of the world into those younger and those older and giving each their due and appropriate share of human consideration!

Control Your Destiny

He taught and showed, in private as well as through public practice, that God had placed human destiny in human hands, even though it was God who made human destiny what it was. And that God, though he remained in control all the time, had made human beings masters of their own fates.

Laisa lil-insaani illaa maa sa’aa, said the Qur’an without ambiguity or prevarication. Paraphrase: What human beings will get is what they work for.

Kullu nafsim bimaa kasabat raheenah, the Qur’an declared elsewhere. Paraphrase: Everyone must shoulder the burden and carry the consequences of their own doings and efforts.

He did all this in an unbelievably short period of barely over two decades. This is one of the greatest miracles of human history. For, no one in history was able to do it before or since.

And when, after completing his mission on earth, he died quietly and peacefully in his own bed, he had accomplished everything on earth his God – the God of all humanity and all creation – had sent him in this world to do, he had built a new world.

He had reshaped the world in his own image and according to his own teachings: according to the commands and doctrines God Almighty had sent him to preach and practice.

That was Islam.

And he left behind two things to power, propel and guard over the continued flourishing of Islam on earth forever. Those two things are Qur’an and Sunnah.

A Book Called the Qur’an

The Qur’an is the complete, unedited and unadulterated book that he brought from God. The Qur’an exists to this day in its original form and language, every letter and dot in it exactly the same as during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.

What the world doesn’t know is that the Qur’an exists in its first draft format in our hands to this day. That means what we have in our hands today is the first draft and first edition of the book that he brought from God and left behind – unrevised and unedited.

That means the Qur’an today exists in the same form it first came out of the mouth of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, 1400 years ago. Its first draft was also its last draft.

And it exists in the same original form to this day. No one edited or revised it; no one changed or tampered with it; and no one added anything to it.

It is the same Qur’an we read today – all the 1.5 billion of us Muslims in the world (1,500,000,000) today, from Europe to Asia and from America to Africa and Australia – that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and his noble Companions read 1400 years ago.

Thus, anyone can see how every detail associated with the Qur’an is a miracle in its own right.

A Mother Source of All Divine Teachings

The Qur’an is thus a mother-source of all the teachings that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, received from God Almighty. At the same time, many of them were also the same teachings that were brought by earlier prophets of God before him and were contained in their books.

But sadly many of the teachings of other prophets had by now mostly disappeared in their original and complete form, leaving behind little more than fragments, imitations, substitutions and approximations of the originals. The Qur’an came and vouched for them.

The Qur’an affirmed and authenticated those left-over teachings of earlier prophets and rejected those that were interpolations and add-ons by others after them.

This Qur’an now, as it was at all times, the greatest sourcebook of Islam – all of Islam, from beginning to end.

Qur’an: A Miraculous Blueprint for World Progress

And this Qur’an remains open, beckoning and available to all humanity in all parts of the world to come to it; to read it with a mind that is open and free from prejudice and hate of all kinds; and to make use of its teachings to build a better life for themselves, their societies and peoples and for all human beings everywhere.

However, what needs to be clearly understood today, and what needs to be openly and fearlessly acknowledged, is the fact that the Qur’an presents the world with a perfect blueprint for its progress.

That means all the progress that the world has made over the past 1400 years, since the departure of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, from this world, in any good sense of that expression “progress,” is the result of the world following the teachings of the Qur’an.

The world progress thus is the result of the various peoples, societies and individuals of the world embracing and implementing in their lives and affairs the teachings of the Qur’an. The sad part, however, is that the world has mostly tended to do so without acknowledging its debt to the Qur’an or Islam.

Or, for that matter, to the Muslims.

It Is God Who Keeps the Qur’an Going

The Qur’an continues to exist in its original form and at the same time continues to exert its inexorable influence on the world for one simple reason: because God almighty himself undertook to protect and preserve the Qur’an in all forms and aspects.

So, the Qur’an continues as God’s last, final and eternal living testament in this world. And it shall stay with humanity till the end of time.

Innaa nahnu nazzalnaz zikra wa innaa lahoo la-haafizoon, is how the Qur’an itself records this manifest and unambiguous divine undertaking to protect and preserve the Qur’an. Paraphrase: We revealed it and we shall protect and preserve it.

Among some of the most unique features of the protection and preservation of the Qur’an on earth in its pure and perfect form are the following facts, which no unbiased observer can deny or question:

The Qur’an always existed in written form.

Countless people memorized the Qur’an from cover to cover in all ages and societies and they continue to do so to this day.

Practically every Muslim everywhere recited – and continues to recite to this day – parts of the Qur’an in daily prayer or worship routine, at the bare minimum of five times a day.

Muslim communities everywhere gathered, and continue to do so to this day, in one or more area mosques every night during the month of Ramadan to do a complete recitation of the Qur’an from cover to cover.

A Miracle Called the Sunnah

When Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, died, Islam was a done deal. It was complete and perfect in every sense and in every aspect. The world had received, embraced and implemented the message of God in its life.

And a complete society consisting of several generations of young and old had come into existence that was as complete a personification of the teachings of Islam in every single aspect of its life as it is possible for any human society to be.

Thus, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, left the world with two aspects of his Sunnah – or model or example or record and practical illustration of his ideals and teachings – fully alive and accessible to the world.

One called Hadith. The other called Ummat.

Hadith was a comprehensive compilation of as complete a record of his life – sayings, teachings and doings – as humanity has ever been able to assemble of anyone, anywhere at any time.

And the other called Ummat was the human embodiment of his teachings and sayings – and of the Qur’an. It was a vibrant, powerful and dominant human society and state that was as complete a personification of all that he taught, preached and practiced as it is possible for any society or state in the world to be.

Simply stated the Ummat was Qur’an and Sunnah come alive in human life: in the life of Muslims as individuals as well as in the form a full-fledged society and state with all their social, political, economic and so-called “religious” institutions, models and practices.

The Miracle of Hadith

Hadith is what the world can neither contemplate nor fully comprehend. For, it is a miracle in its own right.

For, the Hadith is nothing short of a complete, word by word, record of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam’s, life and teachings.

Hadith is all primary, eyewitness account of everything – repeat everything – that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, ever said or did. Nothing like Hadith exists about anyone or anything in this world.

What the world doesn’t know about Hadith is that it is all primary data. It is not a set of interpretations or conclusions by historians or scholars. All of human history on the other hand is mostly analysis, interpretation, conclusions and findings by one or more historians at one time or another.

That is why and how Hadith is completely and fundamentally different from any and all historical documents and their sourcebooks.

That is why I maintain that the only true history in existence anywhere in the world is the Hadith. Just like the only true, error-free, book in existence in the world is the Qur’an.

Everything else is guesswork or patchwork or reconstruction or approximation. And subject to error.

That is what Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, left behind. He left behind the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

The Sunnah in turn consisted of the Hadith as well as a composite Ummat of multiple generations of Muslims that embodied the Qur’an and Hadith in their individual and family lives as well as in their society and state as a whole.

That was the miraculous legacy of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, that lives to this day.

A People Called the Ummat

The Ummat is the body of Muslims who, generation after generation, personify the Qur’an and Hadith in their individual and collective lives – in their families; in their society; and in their state and its institutions.

The Ummat is thus the human side of Islam and it acts and behaves very much like human beings on earth generally do.

As a result, the Muslim society and the Islamic state that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, founded right here on earth have, on the one hand, scaled great and unimaginable heights of success, achievement and glory. On the other hand, they have also gone through all the inevitable vicissitudes, decay and degeneration that human society is heir to over a period of time.

Rendered fragile by internal weaknesses and subjected to never-ending assault and aggression by external forces, the Islamic society and state that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, created, nurtured and bequeathed, fell prey to physical fragmentation, moral decay and intellectual shallowness and rigidity.

Today, even though the Ummat continues and the world is full of Muslim communities and societies, they are at best a pale and, in many instances, formless shadow of their original self.

They all live what they perceive or claim to be a Muslim or Islamic life, of one kind or another, to one degree or another. They are all happy and proud of who they are and what they do. Each of them represents a shade of Islam they say they are and of the fragment of Islam they claim they own.

But these are at best partial and anemic imitations of the original model left behind by Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. And they are removed, by different degrees, from the true and comprehensive teachings of the Qur’an and Hadith.

Islam Lives On

And yet, in and through these fragments of the Muslim Ummat, as individuals and societies, such as they are, that Islam lives on. For, in spite of all their imperfections and ineptitude, they all aspire and work to implement the teachings of Islam in their lives.

At the same time, Islam also lives on through the Qur’an and the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, in our midst, free from all imperfections as they are. They continue to shed their blessings on the world.

And they continue to flash a steady and unblinking divine light along and at the end of the tunnel of misery and despair in which humanity finds itself.

Islam is thus alive and well.

And it continues to be vibrant and thriving, even as it awaits a better day for humanity to dawn – a day when Islam will be embraced not just by some but by all, and not just in shards and shreds but in its glorious totality and fullness.

The world awaits a day when Islam will be implemented not just in some selected parts of the world but all over the globe. A day when Islam – and God of Islam – will make life on earth better for all human beings regardless of race or religion, gender or nationality.

So, Islam lives because the Qur’an lives. And Islam lives because the Hadith lives. And Islam lives because the Muslim Ummat is around.

And the world of God is continually blessed by their existence, whether anyone knows this or not and whether anyone acknowledges it or not.

END

© 2010 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.