(Book by Syed Maududi (RA): Understanding Islamic Civilization (Chapter 3: part 2)
The Qur’an has discussed the beliefs in so much detail that it has left no room for differences of opinion about them. But there are some misunderstandings in the minds of those people who could not make themselves familiar with the style of the expression of the Qur’an or could not go through the whole contents of the Qur’an. The Qur’an has a special style, in some places it refers to all the beliefs together, and in some places, it just mentions a few of them, or one of them, with special emphasis.
Being unacquainted with the Qur’anic style, some people wrongly thought that the whole fabric of the “Qur’anic beliefs” could be truncated into fragments. In other words, they thought that people had the option to believe in all Qur’anic beliefs, or in any one of them, or some of them. That even if they denied one of them, the salvation and success could be achieved in the Hereafter. However, the Qur’an absolutely decrees that one has to believe in all the “beliefs” together. The Qur’an does not allow the fragmentation of the whole body of its “beliefs”. The Qur’anic beliefs together make one whole body that is not divisible. This should be accepted as a whole package or rejected as a whole. If you deny one, you are denying the whole.
The Qur’an says, “In the case of those who say: ‘our Lord is Allah,’ and further stand straight and steadfast the angels descend on them” (Hameem Assajda or Fussilat -41:30). In this verse, belief in God (Allah) has been mentioned and on that basis, good tidings of success in the Hereafter has been given. In other places, the belief in God is bracketed with the belief in the Hereafter. The Qur’an says, “Any who believe in Allah and the last day and work righteousness shall have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve” (Al-Baqarah -2:62).
The same contents are found in chapters AI-i-lmran (12), Al-Maidah (10), and Ar-Rad (3). In another place in the chapter Al-i-Imran people have been called to believe in God, and in His messengers. ” So, believe in Allah and his messenger; and if you believe and do right, you have a great reward without measure” (AI-i-Imran 3:179).
The same theme has been repeated in chapter Al-Hadid (section 4). In another place the Qur’an declares that only they are believers who believe in God and in his last messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Only those are believers who believe in Allah and His messenger, when they are with him on a matter requiring collective action they do not depart until they have asked for his leave. (An-¬Nur 24:62)
The same content appears in chapters Muhammad and Al-Fath. In other places four beliefs have been mentioned. The four beliefs are God, His Books, Qur’an, and the Day of Judgment. “And the believers, believe in what has been revealed to you and believe in Allah and in the Last Day” (An-Nisaa -4:162).
In other places, the Qur’an declares that the denial of God, His angels, His messengers and the Qur’an is infidelity and transgression.
Whoever is an enemy to God and His angels and prophets, to Gabriel and Michael. Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject faith. We have sent down to you manifest signs (ayat) and none reject them but those who are perverse. (Al-Baqarah -2:98)
In another place, the Qur’an calls those men believers who believe in God, angels, books of Allah, messengers, and the Qur’an. “The messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord as do the men of faith; each believes in Allah, His angels, His books, and His messengers” (Al-Baqarah -2:255).
In another place, it has been said that belief has five elements:
1. The belief in God 2. The Hereafter 3. Angels 4. Books of God 5. His messengers
“But it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the last day, and the angels, and the book, and the messengers, such are the people of truth, the God fearing” (Al-Baqarah -2:177).
In the chapter An-Nisa along with mentioning the above five beliefs, it has been emphasized that to believe in the Qur’an and the messenger of God Muhammad (peace be upon him) is essential.
At other places, the emphasis is on the life hereafter and its denial has been called ruination. “Lost indeed are they who treat it as a falsehood that they must meet Allah” (AI-An’am -6:31).
The same point is repeated in chapters Al-Araf (7), Yunus (l), Al Furqan (2), Ar-Rad (1), and As-Saffat (1). At other places, it has been declared that denial of the other life and of Allah’s books will invite severe torment. “For that they used not to look for any account (for their deeds) but they (impudently) treated our signs as false” (An-Nabaa -78:27-28).
On a third occasion the Qur’an has emphasized the beliefs in the Hereafter and God’s books. “And who believe in the revelation sent to you, and sent before your time and have the assurance of the Hereafter, they are on true guidance from their Lord and it is these who will prosper” (Al-Baqarah -2:4-5).
In a fourth place it has been admonished that the denial of the Day of Judgment and God’s books will make all deeds and actions unavailing. The man who denies these beliefs will be thrown into the Hell. The belief in the books of God has been mentioned again and again, as in the Torah (Old Testament), the Injil (New Testament, Gospel), Zabur (The Psalms of David), Suhuf Ibrahim (Scrolls of Abraham) -all have been clearly named as books of Allah. But at scores of places it has been clarified that to believe in these books is not enough. The belief in the last book of God, the Qur’an, is also necessary. If a man believes in all the books of God, except the Qur’an, is an unbeliever, in the same way as a man who does not believe in all the books of Allah is an unbeliever. See chapter Al-Baqarah (sections 11, 12, 14, 16) and chapter Al-Nisaa (section 7), Al-Maidah (sections 2, 10), Ar-Rad (section 3), Al-Ankaboot (section 5), Az-Zumar (section 4). Not only this, one must believe in all the books of God and their whole content. If a man believes in some part of God’s books and rejects some other parts of these books, he will also be reckoned as a nonbeliever, Likewise, it has been clarified regarding the messengers of Allah. To believe in all of them is necessary, especially in those messengers whose names have clearly been mentioned. To believe in them in all respects is a must and to believe in messengers whose names have not been mentioned is necessary too, but it can be in an abstract way. However, if a man believes in all messengers of God but refuses to believe in the Prophethood of the last messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him) indeed, he is a nonbeliever (kafir). Not at one place, but at scores of places, does the Qur’an clearly declare that to believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) is as necessary as to believe in all other messengers of God. In other words, it is an inevitable condition. See the chapters Al-Baqarah (section l4), An-Nisaa (section 23), Al-Maidah (sections 3 and 11), Al-Anam (section 19), Al-Araf (sections 19-20), Al-Muminun (section 4), Ash-Shuaraa (section 5), Muhammad (section 1), At-Talaq (section 2). In most of these sections and verses the followers of Moses (peace be upon him) and Jesus (peace be upon him) have been called to believe in the last messenger of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him). Also they have been admonished that until and unless they believe in the Qur’an and in Muhammad (peace be upon him) they will not find the right path, the real guidance from Almighty God.
From these explanations we learn that beliefs are five in number: 1) God, 2) Angels, 3) God’s books, 4) Messengers of Allah, and 5) the life Hereafter, the Day of Resurrection. A sixth belief is also mentioned in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), ‘the Hadith.’ The words used in the Hadith, in Arabic, are “walqadre khairehi wa sharrehi minallahi tala.” The meaning of these words is that destiny or measure of goodness and evil is from Allah. In fact this belief is part of the belief in Allah. The reason for mentioning this separately in Hadith is to show it as an important element of the belief in Allah, thus a hidden element is made explicit. The purpose of mentioning in Hadith was to keep it alive in the minds of the believers. After this brief statement on beliefs we would like to discuss each belief in detail. What is it? How are these beliefs connected with each other and intertwined and why is the denial of one implies the denial of all? What is the usefulness of putting all of them all in one package?
A Rational Review
All five of these beliefs belong to metaphysics and they lie beyond physical things. So according to our classification, these are religious or spiritual beliefs. But, the significance of these Imaniat is that Islam did not prescribe them as a foundation of its spiritual order only; ethical, political and cultural orders also are founded on them. Islam, by correlating the religion and the world, has built an order with it to work in all fields of living. Whatever strength this order needs for its life and stability, it derives from these five beliefs. They are a lasting source for it, which never stops its supplies. Now we may ask about the beliefs which are of such a tremendous significance. What rank do they have according to reason? How far are they able to provide a strong base, and the source of strength for an all-encompassing and advancing system? Before finding an answer to this question, we should understand clearly that I
slam proposes to lay the foundation of a civilization that may prove to be a true human civilization. In other words, it should not be based on country, race, colour, or language. It should aim at the success and prosperity of the whole humanity. Under the shade of such civilization, all useful and beneficial things should have the opportunity to grow and serve humanity in its best interest. Also, harmful things should have no place and be completely eradicated. Beliefs that belong to a materialistic world are not worthy to become the basis of a pure human civilization, because the materialistic world has two conditions. In its first condition, all men are equally related and treated and in its second condition, all men are not treated and related equally. For example, people are uniformly and universally related to the sun, moon, earth, air and light. But all men are not commonly related to a particular native country, race, colour, and language. The things belonging to the first category, such as the sun, moon, etc., are not capable of becoming the objects of belief. To believe in their existence has no meaning. To believe in them as if they have power to reform human beings is not acceptable to reason and knowledge. They have no useful effect on human, spiritual, and ethical life. Regarding the things belonging to the second category as native country, etc., it is obvious, they cannot provide the basis for a common human civilization; because they divide the people, they do not unite them. Therefore, to build a human civilization, it is necessary to find beliefs pertaining to metaphysics but that is not enough, they should have some more peculiarities.
1. They should not be a bundle of superstitious thoughts and nonsense. They should be such entities whose reality could be recognized by reason.
2. They should not be far-fetched stories. They should have a close relation to our living.
3. They should have a kind of hidden power which could help a civilization and its order to dominate and control human intellectual power and power of action.
When we see the beliefs of Islam, we find that they fulfil all above-mentioned requirements. At first, Islamic beliefs, Allah (God), angels, inspiration (Wahi), and the Hereafter are not things such that their existence would be taken as impossible or not acceptable to reason. No doubt, human reason is not able to comprehend them fully and grasp to their essence. But our scientists have recognized so many incorporeal things as energy, life, gravity, and growth. We have not recognized them because we have a full comprehension of them or we have reached fully to their essence and depth. Our recognition of these things is due to our observation of some specific signs and because of these signs; we have to recognize the existence of many incorporeal things. Likewise, Islam calls people to believe in some incorporeal things and it is not necessary to fully comprehend them or to grasp their essence. It is enough to realize that the Islamic concept about humans and the universe is not against reason, more likely, it is true and it promotes the five principles, which Islam has presented as its five beliefs.
Islamic fundamental thought is that,
1. The universe has been created and established by God. He has absolute power and He is the only One running it.
2. Countless powers are working to administer the universe under His orders and guidance.
3. The Creator of human beings blended in them diverse inclinations and attributes, as goodness and evil, wisdom and imprudence, knowledge and ignorance. Man can walk on the right path or on the wrong. Whatever from these diverse attributes or inclinations dominates him, he works under the influence of it.
4. In this battlefield of the world two powers, good and evil, are fighting. The Creator of humans, in order to help the powers of good and to show men the right path, selects a best man among the people and, by giving him right and sound knowledge, appoints him as a guide to all humanity.
5. A man is not an irresponsible and unaccountable creation of Allah (SWT). He is accountable to his Creator for all of the deeds that he performs by using his power of choice. On the Day of Judgment man will have to stand before his Creator, and give an account of all his deeds, and see the consequences of his good and bad deeds. This fundamental thought requires the five beliefs. None of them are against reason and none of them amount to superstition or nonsense. To the extent that we ponder over it we come closer and closer to recognizing it as the truth. No doubt, we cannot comprehend fully the Being of our Creator and His attributes, but we have to accept and believe that there is Almighty God, and He is the One. Without this belief the puzzle of the universe cannot be solved.
We may be unable to describe the angels’ being; but there is no doubt about their existence. All scholars have accepted their existence in one way or another, though they may call them by different names other than the name given by the Qur’an. According to the scientific assumption, a day has to come when the whole structure of the world will fall apart. Thus, the supposition about resurrection is so strong and popular that it brings you very close to certainty. That man is accountable to God and that man will see the consequences of his deeds is a fundamental thought, although this cannot be proved with conclusive or decisive proof. But the sound reasoning is accepted that the Islamic concept about the life after death is more rational, purposeful, and better than all other concepts presented up to the present time.
As far as divine revelation and Prophet-hood is concerned, it is obvious that a scientific proof cannot be produced but those books presented as books of God and those men who are called Allah’s messengers have produced such a deep and vast impact on humanity, its history and civilization, that no other book and no other leader has influenced humanity so immensely. So, it is enough to believe that these books have some extraordinary qualities that are not found in any other book or in any other leader.
From this discussion, it should be quite clear that Islamic beliefs are not contradictory to human reason. The reason has no cause to reject them at all. Islamic beliefs have nothing in them that could be rejected by men in advanced stages of knowledge and reason. Even their advancement in reason will convince them to accept the beliefs. As far as belief is concerned, it does not relate to reason, it is related to intuition and insight. We believe in very many incorporeal and invisible things but the recognition of all of them depends on our intuition and insight. If we do not want to believe in invisible things and our heart does not accept them, no rational proof can force us to recognize their existence. For example, whatever evidence has been presented to prove the existence of ether, none is so strong that it could prove it with certainty and without leaving any doubt. On the basis of a few pieces of evidence, some scientists accept the existence of ether and some reject it. The evidence is not sound or extensive enough for them to accept it. So, it is obvious that recognition and belief depends on intuition and insight. The reason has a role in this process. When an invisible condition fails to get recognition from reason then a conflict arises between heart and mind that results in the weakening of belief. Contrary to this, if anything is recognized by reason, it increases the satisfaction of the heart, which strengthens the belief.
The second point is that most matters related to the invisible world are just academic matters and are not related to our practical life. For example: ether, matter, absolute existence, mass, nature, and laws of nature, the law of cause and effect. There are scores of such proved and unproved theories and hypotheses. Denial or acceptance of them has no effect on the affairs of our daily life. Opposing the Islamic beliefs, Allah, angels, inspiration or divine revelation, the Hereafter, messengers of Allah; these are not academic matters; they are deeply related to our practical life. Therefore, testifying to them has been declared a basic condition to become a believer. The reason for declaring the testifying statement as a fundamental condition is that these beliefs are deeply related to our moral and practical life. They are not merely academically accepted truth; the true knowledge of them and perfect belief in them creates deep effects on our individual characteristics and collective affairs.
The third thing is that Islamic civilization needs the power that could help in keeping a fast grip and strict control over the vastly scattered followers of this civilization; even over private and veiled aspects of life. It is obvious that Islamic civilization can get such power only through Islamic beliefs. The firm belief that there is one God, who is the most Compassionate, and Benevolent, the All-Seeing, the All-Hearing, the Dominant, and the most Powerful, rules over the entire universe and us. His numberless host are present everywhere. The messenger has been sent by Him, the commands given by the messenger have not been framed by him, but all of them come from Allah. You have to see the good and bad consequences of your obedience and revolt. As far as materialistic powers are concerned, they have power to bind your hands and feet. The elite of society may be influenced by education and training. The hands of the law can reach only those places where law enforcement authorities are present. But beliefs have the power that gets possession of the heart and soul. This power brings under its control the whole society, including the elite, the ignorant, the scholars, and the wise or deficient in knowledge. The power of belief pierces even the loneliness of the forest and the darkness of night, where nobody can stop anybody from committing sin; nobody is even there to see the sinner, it is only faith (Iman) which stops man from committing a crime. No policeman with his authority, no professor with his teaching, and no court of justice can stop man from committing a crime; only the belief in God can do so. He Who stops man from crime and sin is the All-Seeing and All-Hearing, the belief that the messengers’ guidance is the truth and the belief that every human being is accountable to God, and the belief that there is a Day of Judgment when man will be answerable for his deeds. These beliefs can stop a human being from committing sin even in a deserted place or in the darkness of night. Another significance of Islamic belief is that it created a great nation by bringing people of diverse ethnicity together as one body. People of different colours, languages, lands, and different races have been turned by this belief into one nation. It is their belief that brought them under the influence of one civilization and made them zealous for one goal, to seek the pleasure of God. They were different from one another in thoughts, in actions, and in their customs; but their common Islamic belief made them united as one organism. It has no match in the history of civilizations up to this time.
It has been explained that Iman, an Islamic terminology, means to believe in Allah, angels, books, messengers, and the Day of Judgment. These five beliefs make a body together that cannot be dismembered. They are interconnected in such a way that denial of the one is the denial of all. It has already been argued critically that the civilization which Islam seeks to establish needs the five beliefs mentioned above. Without these beliefs the civilization that Islam aims at cannot be established. Aside
this, there is nothing in these beliefs that may cause a hindrance in the way of the progress of reason and knowledge.
Now, we have to deal with the third question. What status has belief in Islam, and why does Iman have this status? In tackling this subject, people have often failed to grasp the right concept; even some scholars made mistakes in understanding this subject, so it needs a thorough discussion.
The Importance of Belief in Islam
If the question is raised, “what is the basic goal to which the Qur’an calls mankind?” The answer should be, in one word, “Iman.” The main purpose of revelation of the Qur’an and the apostleship of the last messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) was to call the people toward “Iman.”
The Qur’an calls the messenger by the title “Munadi.” In Arabic this word means the person who calls people toward a particular thing. The Qur’an calls Muhammad (peace be upon him) “Munadi” as it means herald of the belief. “Our Lord! We have heard the call of one calling us to faith” (Al-i-Imran -3:193).
The Qur’an declares about itself: “This is the book it is guidance sure without doubt, to those who fear Allah who believe in the unseen (Al-Baqarah -2:2-3).
The Qur’an employs all kinds of discourse and means of education: sermons, teaching, promising, admonishing, arguing, reasoning, stories. The focus of all these means of teaching is on the calling toward belief. After the calling toward belief the Qur’an proceeds toward purification of soul, reformation, correction in manners, social ways and civil laws. In the view of the Qur’an, belief is the truth, the fact, the knowledge, the guidance, and the light, and unbelief is ignorance, falsehood, injustice, wrong, darkness and deviation.
The Qur’an has drawn a dividing line between two groups of people, the believers and the unbelievers. The Qur’an declares that the first group is truthful and has knowledge and the light. Now the group can clearly see the straight path, the way of guidance and piety is open for them. The people who join this group are successful. The other group of unbelievers is of the wrongdoers, they are ignorant and groping in darkness, the way of guidance is closed to them, they have no share in piety and goodness and they are failures. The Qur’an describes the first group of people as those who can see and listen and the second group of people (unbelievers) as those who are blind, deaf, and dumb.
The Qur’an proclaims the way to belief as the right path: “And verily you do guide men to the straight way” (Ash-Shura -42:52).
“Verily this is my way leading straight, follow it, and follow not other paths” (Al-An’am -6:153).
The Qur’an states clearly and without any ambiguity that whoever believed in God and His messenger has an illuminating lamp in his hand, he can walk on the right path with the help of the lamp and he has no fear of losing his way. In the light of the lamp he is able to distinguish the right path from the misleading ways and will reach the final destination safely and the man who has no lamp of belief is without light. It is very difficult for him to distinguish the right path from the wrong. Surely, he will walk in darkness like blind men groping. He may step on the right path but that is by chance. He has no sure means to lead him to right path. The probability is that he will fall in some ditch or he will get entangled in a thorny brush. The Qur’an says about the first group,
So, it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him. It is they who will prosper. (Al-A’raf -7:157)
O you that you believe, fear Allah and believe His messenger, and He will bestow on you a double portion of His mercy: He will provide for you a light by which you shall walk (straight in your path) and He will forgive you (your past) for Allah is oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (Al-Hadid -57:28)
Remarks of the Qur’an about other group:
Those who follow anything instead of Allah follow not (His) partners. They follow only a conjecture and they do but guess. (Yunus 10:66)
They follow nothing but conjecture and conjecture avails nothing against truth. (An-Najm -53:28)
And who is more astray than one who follows his own lusts, devoid of guidance from Allah? For Allah guides not people given to wrongdoing. (Al-Qasas -28:50)
For any to whom Allah gives not light, there is no light! (An-Nur 24:40)
The full explanation on this subject is found in section 34 of the chapter Al-Baqarah that shows what a great difference takes place between two groups on the basis of belief and disbelief!
Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error, whoever rejects Tagut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks and Allah hears and knows all things. (Al-Baqarah -2:256)
Iman (Belief) Has Precedence over Deeds
According to the Qur’an, belief has precedence over deeds. The Qur’an calls only those persons pious and good who are believers. Without belief (Iman), no deed can be called an act of piety. There is a great difference between belief (Iman) and disbelief (kufr). The same difference occurs between a deed with belief and a deed without belief. A deed may appear very good to people but it might be futile if it is not be based on belief.
The Qur’an says, “And he who brings the truth and he who confirms (and supports) it -such are the men who do right” (Az-Zumar 39:33).
In the first section of the chapter Al-Baqarah, the Qur’an declares,
A.L.M. This is the book. In it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah, who believe in Unseen and establish prayer and spend out of what We have provided for them, and who believe in the revelation sent to you and sent before your time and (in their hearts) have assurance of the Hereafter. They are on (true guidance) from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper. (Al-Baqarah -2:1-5)
To the Qur’an belief (Iman) is the root of piety; the deeds of a believer are like a green tree, laden with flowers and fruits, planted and grown in fertile soil and looked after by an industrious gardener. Oppositely, a person who performs good deeds without belief (Iman) is like a gardener who sows the seeds in a barren soil and hopes that it will flourish; his hopes are bound to fail.
Throughout the Qur’an its verses give precedence to belief (Iman) over deeds. The Qur’an has never said that merely good deeds without belief can lead to success and salvation. If you read the Qur’an with deep pondering, you will arrive at the conclusion that wherever the Qur’an gives commands relating to ethics or to any legal aspect, it addresses only the believers. Such verses of the Qur’an usually begin with the addressing words “O, people of belief.” If somewhere the Qur’an does not use these addressing words, it hints clearly that addressees are the believers. As far as unbelievers are concerned, the Qur’an calls them toward belief not toward good deeds. The Qur’an has declared about unbelievers clearly that their deeds have no value. They will have no weight on the scale, they are in vain.
The Qur’an says, “But the unbelievers, their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts, which the man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing” (An-Nur -24:39).
The Qur’an explains,
Say: ‘Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds?’ Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works. They are those who deny the signs of their Lord and the fact of their having to meet Him (in the Hereafter); vain will be their works, nor shall We on the Day of Judgment give them any weight. That is their reward, Hell, because they rejected faith, and took My Signs and My Messengers by way of jest. (Al-Kahf -18:103-107)
The same subject has been discussed again and again in the various chapters of the Qur’an, as in section 1 of chapter Al-Maidah, section 3 of Al-An’am, section 17 of Al-A’raf, section 3 of At-Tauba, section 2 of Hud, section 2 of Al-Ahzab, section 7 of Az-Zumer, and section 1 of Muhammad. In chapter At-Tauba it has been explained clearly that an unbeliever who performs good deeds cannot be adjudged equal to a believer. The Qur’an says,
Do you consider the giving of drink to pilgrims, or the maintenance of the Sacred Mosque equal to (the pious service of) those who believe in Allah and the Last day and strive with might and main in the cause of Allah? They are not equal in the sight of Allah and Allah guides not those who do wrong. Those who believe and emigrate and strive with might and main, in Allah’s cause with their goods and persons have the highest rank in the sight of Allah; they are the people who will achieve (salvation). (At-Tauba -9:19-20)
A few things emerge clearly from the above-quoted verses of the Qur’an. They are summarized below:
1. The belief (Iman) is the principal stone of the Islamic system. The whole edifice of Islam is built on this cornerstone, and it is the belief and the disbelief that differentiate between Islam and infidelity.
2. Islam’s first demand is to put faith in its beliefs (Imaniat). Whoever accepts this demand is considered within the fold of Islam; all ethical and civil laws are addressed to him. Whoever rejects Islam’s call to put faith in its beliefs (Imaniat) is considered out of the fold of Islam, and Islamic laws will not be enforced on him.
3. To Islam, belief (Iman) is the foundation of all deeds. Islam gives weight only to those deeds that are performed on the basis of belief.
A Clarification to Remove an Objection
Some people do not understand the importance of the Belief (Iman). Their point of view is that giving so much importance to beliefs (Imaniat) is not justified and the division of people into two groups on the basis of belief is not reasonable. To them the basic thing is good character and nice behaviour and this should be the only criterion to judge whether character is good or bad. We can call a man good and pious if he has a gentle and noble character, irrespective of the fact whether or not he holds Islamic beliefs (Imaniat). Oppositely, if someone bears bad character, he can be called bad irrespective of his beliefs. Such people say that to relate deeds with beliefs is absurd. To them it is not acceptable that all good deeds would be in vain only because the performer has no faith in all Islamic beliefs (Imaniat). No doubt Islam has the right to propagate its beliefs, but to relate the good deeds to beliefs alone (Imaniat) is not understandable to them.
On the surface, this argument may seem weighty, and reasonable, but after understanding the nature of relation between man’s character and belief (Iman), the objection is disproved.
To Examine the Objection
At first, we have to realize that the goodness and badness of people can be distinguished on two bases. The first is someone’s natural disposition -their physical, mental, and emotional qualities that distinguish them and that they have been given by nature. It is obvious that goodness and badness of a person about his natural disposition does not lie in his hands. The second basis is related to man’s reason and his or her power of choice. If this goes in the wrong direction, all deeds go wrong and become fruitless. If the power of choice is used in the right direction, all deeds will prove successful and fruitful. These two things, the natural disposition and power of choice, are intermingled in such a way that it is very difficult to differentiate between them and their effects. But intellectually we know that these are the two bases, which exist as the foundation of man’s deeds. Obviously, the deeds done on the first basis, the natural disposition, should not have any weight on the scale. Only those deeds should have weight on the scale that have been performed on the basis of power of choice and reason. In support of this argument we may see that education and training are related to reason and choice, not to the natural disposition, because this is beyond man’s control. The aim of education and training is to enable man, use his power of choice and reason in the right direction and avoid wrong ways. Right education leads man toward the right path and vice versa.
If you want to develop man’s skill to enable him to proceed in the right direction, what is the best help you can give? Is there any best way other than to give him the right knowledge and the right way of thinking, so that he can build his character along the right lines, and can acquire the ability to use his power of reason and choice in the right direction? Nobody can deny that knowledge has precedence over training. Knowledge is the foundation of all actions. Without the right knowledge, it is not possible for a man to act rightfully.
Knowledge is of two kinds. The first kind of knowledge relates to science and technology, which is necessary to prepare men to run worldly affairs. The other kind of knowledge may be called the real or fundamental knowledge in Qur’anic terms. It is called “Al-Ilm” (the knowledge). This kind of knowledge discusses a few fundamental questions: Who are we? What status do we have in this world? Who created the whole universe and us? What relationship do we have with the Creator? What is the right way of life to live in this world? How can we find the right way? What is the final destination of our life’s journey? This kind of knowledge is the fundamental knowledge. All other sections of knowledge are the branches of this root. Righteousness of all other thoughts and actions depends on the righteousness of this fundamental knowledge. Therefore, whatever system of training and civilization that is built should be built on the foundation of this kind of knowledge. If there is anything corrupt in this kind of knowledge, the whole system of training and civilization will be corrupted.
The Beliefs (Imaniat), God, Angels, Books, Messengers, and the Day of Judgment, which the Qur’an calls people to believe in, are related to “the real knowledge” (Al-Ilm). Islam demands belief in these beliefs with great intensity, because its whole structure of training and civilization is founded on these beliefs. Islam recognizes the only system of training and civilization, which is based on the real knowledge (Al-Ilm) and Islam rejects all those systems that are not founded on the real knowledge, because they lead man’s powers and skills in the wrong direction, by crooked ways. Whatever part of man’s energy, time and resources are spent in the wrong ways are in vain and useless. They cannot lead man to success. This is the main reason why Islam claims that its way is the only right path (Siratal Mustaqim) and demands to abandon all other ways based on ignorance.
The Qur’an says, “Verily this is My way leading straight; follow it; follow not (other) paths; they will scatter about from His path” (Al-An’am -6:153).
On the same basis, Islam declares that anyone who rejects faith (Iman) all his deeds will be futile, and he will be among the losers. The Qur’an says, “If anyone rejects faith fruitless is his work, and in the hereafter, he will be in the ranks of those who have lost all (spiritual goods)” (Al-Maidah -5:5).
Islam declares that the beliefs (Imaniat) presented by God’s last Book, the Qur’an, are the knowledge, the truth, the guidance, and the light. Then it can be said that all the other beliefs adverse to Islam must be ignorance, falsehood, lies, darkness, and deviation from the right path. Had Islam not insisted with such an intensity to abandon all of the paths other than its own, and had considered that believers of Islam and the believers of other faiths are equal, then it would be tantamount to admitting that its beliefs are not the total truth and that it itself does not have firm faith in their truth, as the only guidance, and the only light.
If the case had been so, the presentation of beliefs by Islam, the establishing of a system of training and civilization, and inviting the people to be part of it would have been meaningless.
Had Islam accepted that all the sciences which are opposed to Islamic fundamental knowledge are as right as its own real knowledge, then the presentation of the real knowledge by it and calling the people to believe in it would have been meaningless.
Had Islam admitted that man can become successful with any knowledge, or even without any knowledge, calling others toward the Islamic system and establishing it would have been weightless.
In addition, if you recall the discussion about belief, it will be easy for you to understand why Islam insists so hard on belief.
People can build an edifice on sand, on water, and in the air too, but Islam is the religion of great wisdom. It cannot build the system of civilization and training on any weak foundation.
Islam, at first, lays a strong foundation deep in man’s soul and mind, then on this foundation, builds a fortified building which cannot be shaken. First of all, Islam instils in man’s mind that there is one God, Who is the absolute ruler in this universe and in the Hereafter. Man cannot escape from His grip, and none of man’s actions and intentions are hidden from God. He sent His messengers to guide man toward the right path. He sent down the books, and divine law; by accepting and following them, man can seek the pleasure of God. If man rejects His guidance and acts against it, he will be caught and punished by God. After inscribing this imprint of belief deeply in man’s heart, Islam teaches him good manners and tells him what is lawful and what is not. And with this power of belief, Islam makes him obedient to its laws and true follower of its instructions. Man’s obedience will be as strong as his belief and as perfect.
If the belief is weak or totally absent from the heart, the education, and the training of Islamic manners will produce no result and the whole system of civilization with all its beauty, loftiness, and breadth will be deprived of stability. The Qur’an explains this phenomenon with an example:
See you not how Allah sets forth a parable! A goodly word is like a goodly tree whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens, it brings forth its fruit at all times by the leave of its Lord so Allah sets forth parables for men in order that they may receive admonition. And a parable of an evil word is that of an evil tree, the root from the surface of the earth tears it up, it has no stability. Allah will establish in strength those who believe, with the word that stands firm in the world and in the Hereafter, but Allah will leave to stray, those who do wrong; Allah does what he wills. (Ibrahim -14:24-27)
Until this point, the five beliefs (Imaniat) have been discussed as a whole. Now we have to see each belief, in detail, and Islamic concept about it. How far is each belief necessary and beneficial to men? What effect does each belief bring to man’s mind and heart? How healthy and strong a character can be built on the foundation of beliefs? These are the various aspects of Islamic beliefs; we will discuss in the next chapter. First, we take the principal belief, the belief in God.