The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam — Part 2No Comments | February 2011
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After this digression I revert to my earlier discussion. It is absolutely true that the soul is a fine light developed inside the body and which is nurtured in the womb. To begin with it is hidden and imperceptible and later it is made manifest. From the very beginning its essence is present in the sperm. It is related to the sperm in a mysterious manner by the design and command and will of God. It is a bright and illumined quality of the sperm. It cannot be said that it is a part of the sperm as matter is part of matter, nor can it be said that it comes from outside or falls upon the earth and gets mixed with the matter of the sperm. It is latent in the sperm as fire is latent in the flint. The Book of God does not mean that the soul descends from heaven as a separate entity or falls upon the earth from the atmosphere and then by chance gets mixed with the sperm and enters the womb with it. There is no basis for such a notion. The law of nature rejects it. We observe daily that thousands of germs infect impure and stale foods and are generated in unwashed wounds. Dirty linen secretes hundreds of lice and all sorts of worms are generated inside a person’s stomach. It cannot be said that all these come from outside or can be observed as descending from heaven. The truth is that the soul is developed in the body and this also proves that it is created and is not self-existent.
The Second Birth of the Soul
Now what I mean to emphasise here is that the design of the Almighty Who has created the soul from the body with His perfect power appears to be that the second birth of the soul should also take place through the body. The movements of the soul follow the movements of the body. If the body is drawn in a particular direction the soul automatically follows it. It is, therefore, a function of the Book of God to direct itself to the natural state of man. That is why the Holy Quran pays so much attention to the reform of the natural state of man and gives directions with regard to everyone of his actions; his laughing, weeping, eating, clothing, sleeping, speaking, keeping silent, marrying, remaining celibate, walking, standing still, outward cleanliness, bathing, submitting to a discipline in health and in illness etc. It affirms that man’s physical condition affects his spiritual condition deeply. I cannot undertake a detailed exposition of all those directions as time is not available for such an undertaking.
Gradual Progress of Man
When I reflect upon the Holy Word of God, it becomes clear to me how He bestows on man, through His teachings, rules for the reform of his natural condition and then gradually lifts him upwards and desires to raise him to the highest spiritual state, I realise that the principle of profound spiritual insight is that first God desires to teach man the rules of social behaviour like sitting, standing, eating, drinking, talking etc., and thus to deliver him from a state of barbarism and distinguish him from the animals and thus bestow upon him an elementary moral state which might be described as social culture. He then desires to regulate his elementary moral habits so that they should acquire the character of high moral qualities. Both these methods are part of the same process as they are related to the reform of man’s natural condition. There is between them a difference only of degree. The All-Wise One has so arranged the moral system that man should be able to rise from a low to a high moral condition.
The True Meaning of Islam
The third grade of progress is that a person should become wholly devoted to the love of his True Creator and to the winning of His pleasure. The whole of his being should be committed to God. To remind Muslims constantly of this grade their religion has been named Islam, which means to devote oneself wholly to God and to keep nothing back. As God, the Glorious, has said:
Nay, whoever submits himself completely to Allah, and is the doer of good, shall have his reward with his Lord. No fear shall come upon such, neither shall they grieve. (Ch.2:V.113)
Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. ‘He has no partner. And so am I commanded, and I am the first of those who submit.’ (Ch.6:Vs.163-164)
‘This is My path leading straight. So follow it; and follow not other ways, lest they lead you away from His way. (Ch.6:V.154)
Say, ‘If you love Allah, follow me: then will Allah love you and forgive you your faults. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Ch.3:V.32)
Salvation means that a person should commit himself wholly to God, and should offer himself as a sacrifice in the cause of God, and should prove his sincerity not only through his motive but also through righteous conduct. He who comports himself in this manner will have his recompense from God. Such people shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.
Tell them: My prayer and my sacrifices, my living and my dying are all for the sake of God, Whose providence comprehends everything and Who has no associate. So have I been commanded and I am the foremost of those who fulfil this concept of Islam and offer themselves as a sacrifice in the cause of Allah.
This is My straight path then follow it and do not follow any other path which will lead you away from His path.
Tell them: If you love God then follow me and walk along my path so that God may love you and forgive you your sins. He is Most Forgiving Ever Merciful.
Distinction between the Natural and Moral States
I shall now proceed to describe the three states of man. But before I do so, it is necessary for me to voice a reminder that, as indicated in the Holy Word of God Almighty, the natural state of man, the fountainhead of which is the self that incites to evil, is not something divorced from his moral state. The Holy Word of God has classified man’s natural faculties and desires and urges, as natural conditions. These, when they are consciously regulated and controlled and are brought into action on their proper occasions and places, become moral qualities. In the same way, moral conditions are not entirely distinct from spiritual conditions. When moral conditions develop absolute devotion to God and complete purification of self and, cutting asunder from the world, turn wholly to God and to perfect love and complete devotion and full serenity and satisfaction and complete accord with the Divine will, they become spiritual conditions.
So long as his natural conditions are not converted into moral conditions, man deserves no praise, inasmuch as they are to be found in other animates and even in solids also. In the same way the mere acquisition of moral qualities does not bestow spiritual life upon a person. A person who denies the existence of God can yet exhibit good moral qualities, such as to be humble of heart, to seek peace, to discard evil and not to resist the evil-monger. These are all natural conditions which may be possessed even by an unworthy one who is utterly unacquainted with the fountainhead of salvation and enjoys no part of it. Many animals have a gentle disposition and can be trained to become wholly peaceful and not to react savagely to chastisement, and yet we cannot call them human, let alone humans of high status. In the same way, a person who is entirely misguided and even suffers from some vices, can exhibit these qualities.
The Refutation of the Doctrine of Preservation of Life
It is possible that a person may develop mercy to a degree in which he would not permit himself to kill the germs that might be generated in his wounds, or might be so mindful of preserving life that he may not wish to harm the lice in his hair or the insects that are generated in his stomach and his arteries and his brain. I can believe that a person’s mercy might impel him to discard the use of honey as it is procured by the destruction of many lives and by driving the poor bees out of their hives. I can believe that a person may avoid the use of musk as it is the blood of a poor animal and is procured by slaughtering it and separating it from its young. I do not deny that a person might refrain from wearing pearls or silk as both these are procured through the death of worms. I can even understand that a person in pain might refuse to be bled by leeches and might prefer to suffer pain himself rather than desire the death of poor leeches. I can even believe that a person might carry his mercy and regard for life to a degree that he might refuse to drink water in order to spare the germs in the water. I can accept all this, but I cannot accept that these natural conditions can be regarded as moral qualities or that they can serve to wash out the inner impurities which obstruct a person’s approach to God. I cannot believe that to become harmless to a degree in which some animals and birds excel man can become the means of the acquisition of a high degree of humanity. Indeed, I consider this attitude as amounting to opposition to the law of nature and inconsistent with the high moral quality of seeking the pleasure of God. It rejects the bounties that nature has bestowed upon us. Spirituality can be achieved only through the use of every moral quality in its proper place and on its proper occasion.