The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam – Part 7No Comments | July 2011
Translated from Urdu by Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
One of the natural qualities of man is truthfulness. Normally, unless a person is moved by some selfish motive, he does not wish to lie. He is averse to falsehood and is reluctant to have recourse to it. He is displeased with a person who is proved to have told a lie, and looks down upon him. But this natural inclination cannot be accounted a moral quality. Even children and the insane exhibit it. Unless a person discards those purposes that lead him away from telling the truth, he cannot be considered truthful. If a person tells the truth when no personal interest is involved, but is ready to have recourse to lying where his honour or property or life is concerned, and fails to tell the truth, he is no better than a child or an insane person. Do not the insane and minors speak such truth? There is scarcely anyone in the world who would lie without any purpose. The truth that might be abandoned in order to escape some loss that threatens is not a moral quality. The proper occasion of telling the truth is when one apprehends loss of life or property or honour. In this context the Divine teaching is:
Shun the abomination of idols, and shun all words of falsehood.1 This shows that falsehood is also an idol and he who relies upon it ceases to trust in God. Thus, by uttering a lie one loses God.
When you are called upon to testify to the truth, do not fail to do so;2 and do not conceal true testimony; he who conceals it is sinful at heart.3
When you speak, tell the truth and hold the scales even, though the person concerned be your kinsman.4
Be strict in observing justice and bear witness only for the sake of Allah, even if it should occasion loss to you or your parents, kinsmen or sons, etc.5 Let not the enmity of a people towards you incite you to injustice or falsehood.6 Truthful men and truthful women will have a great reward from Allah.7 They exhort one another to hold fast to the truth.8 Those who do not keep company with the untruthful.9
One of the natural qualities of man is steadfastness during illness and under afflictions. He has recourse to patience after much complaining and sorrowing. It is natural that a person cries and groans under affliction and in the end, after giving vent to his grievance, he beats a retreat. Both these conditions are natural but are not in any sense part of a moral quality. In this context the relevant moral quality is that when one suffers a loss, one should consider it as rendering back to God that which He had bestowed, and should utter no complaint about it. One should affirm that it was a bounty of God which He has recalled and that one is reconciled to God’s pleasure. In this context the Holy Qur’an admonishes us:
O believers we shall surely try you with somewhat of fear, and hunger, and loss of wealth, and lives, and of the fruits of your labour and sometimes your dear children will die; then give glad tidings to the steadfast, who, when a misfortune overtakes them, do not lose heart, but affirm: We belong to God and are His servants and to Him shall we return. It is these on whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy, and it is these who are rightly guided.10
This moral quality is called steadfastness or reconciliation to the Divine will. From one aspect it might be called equity or justice. Throughout a person’s life, God Almighty manifests thousands of matters in accord with the wishes of a person and bestows numberless bounties upon him, so that it would be inequitable on his part that on such occasions when God calls upon him to submit to His will, he should turn away, not pleased with the will of God, and should be critical, or lose faith or go astray.
Sympathy for Mankind
Of the natural qualities of man is his sympathy for his fellow beings. The followers of every religion have natural sympathy for their own people and many of them, under the urge of such sympathy, act wrongfully towards other people, as if they do not regard them as human beings. This state cannot be described as a moral quality. It is a natural urge, which is manifested even by birds. For instance, when one crow dies hundreds of crows flock together. This quality would be accounted a high moral quality when it is exercised on its proper occasion justly and equitably. It would be a great moral quality, which is designated sympathy both in Arabic and Persian. This is referred to by Allah the Exalted in the Holy Qur’an. God Almighty has directed in the Holy Qur’an:
One should show sympathy to, and help one’s people only in the doing of good deeds and at no cost should one assist them in sin and transgression.11
Slacken not in serving your fellow beings.12 Contend not on behalf of the treacherous.13 Plead not on behalf of those who persist in being unfaithful.14 Allah loves not those who are perfidious.15
Search for an Exalted Being
Of the natural conditions of man is his search after an Exalted Being towards Whom he has an inherent attraction, manifested by an infant from the moment of its birth. As soon as it is born, it displays a spiritual characteristic – it inclines towards its mother and is inspired by love for her. As its faculties are developed and its nature begins to display itself openly, this inherent quality is displayed more and more strongly. It finds no comfort anywhere except in the lap of its mother. If it is separated from her and finds itself at a distance from her, its life becomes bitter. Heaps of bounties fail to beguile it away from its mother in whom all its joy is concentrated. It feels no joy apart from her. What, then, is the nature of the attraction, which an infant feels so strongly towards its mother?
It is the attraction, which the True Creator has implanted in the nature of man. The same attraction comes into play whenever a person feels love for another. It is a reflection of the attraction that is inherent in man’s nature towards God, as if he is in search of something that he misses, the name of which he has forgotten and which he seeks to find in one thing or another which he takes up from time to time. A person’s love of wealth or offspring or wife or his soul being attracted towards a musical voice are all indications of his search for the True Beloved. As man cannot behold with his physical eyes the Imperceptible Being, Who is latent like the quality of fire in everyone, but is hidden, nor can he discover Him through the mere exercise of imperfect reason, he has been misled grievously in his search and has mistakenly assigned His position to others. The Holy Qur’an has, in this context, set forth an excellent illustration, to the effect that the world is like a palace, the floor of which is paved with smooth slabs of glass, under which flows a rapid current of water.16 Every eye that beholds this floor mistakenly imagines it to be running water. A person fears to tread upon the floor as he would be afraid of treading upon running water, though in reality the floor is only paved with smooth transparent slabs of glass. Thus these heavenly bodies such as the sun and moon etc. are the smooth and transparent slabs of glass under which a great power is in operation like a fast flowing current of water. It is a huge mistake on the part of those who worship these heavenly bodies that they attribute to them that which is manifested by the power that operates behind them. This is the interpretation of the verse of the Holy Qur’an. 17
As the Being of God Almighty, despite its brilliance, is utterly hidden, this physical system that is spread out before our eyes is not alone sufficient for its recognition. That is why those who have depended upon this system and have observed carefully its perfect and complete orderliness together with all the wonders comprehended in it, and have thoroughly studied astronomy, physics, and philosophy, and have, as it were, penetrated into the heavens and the earth, have yet not been delivered from the darkness of doubts and suspicions. Many of them become involved in grave errors and wander far away in pursuit of their stupid fancies. Their utmost conjecture is that this grand system, which displays great wisdom, must have a Maker, but this conjecture is incomplete and this insight is defective. The affirmation that this system must have a creator does not amount to a positive affirmation that He does in truth exist. Such a conjecture cannot bestow satisfaction upon the heart, nor remove all doubt from it. Nor is it a draught that can quench the thirst for complete understanding which man’s nature demands. Indeed, this defective understanding is most dangerous, for despite all its noise it amounts to nothing.
In short, unless God Almighty affirms His existence through His Word, as He has manifested it through His work, the observation of the work alone does not afford complete satisfaction.18 For instance, if we are confronted by a room the door of which is bolted from inside, our immediate reaction would be that there is someone inside the room who has bolted the door from inside, inasmuch as it is apparently impossible to bolt a door from inside by some device employed for the purpose from the outside. But if, despite persistent calls from the outside over a period of years, no response becomes audible from inside, our supposition that there must be someone inside would have to be abandoned and we would be compelled to conclude that the door has been bolted from inside through some clever device. This is the situation in which those philosophers have placed themselves whose understanding is limited solely to the observation of the work of God. It is a great mistake to imagine that God is like a corpse interred in the earth whose recovery is the business of man. If God has only been discovered through human effort, it is vain to expect anything from Him. Indeed, God has, through eternity, called mankind to Himself by affirming: I am present. It would be a great impertinence to imagine that man has laid God under an obligation by discovering Him through his own effort, and that if there had been no philosophers He would have continued unknown.
It is equally stupid to enquire how can God speak unless He has a tongue with which to speak. The answer is: Has He not created the earth and the heavenly bodies without physical hands? Does He not view the universe without eyes? Does He not hear our supplications without physical ears?
Then is it not necessary that He should also speak to us? Nor is it correct to say that God spoke in the past but does not speak now. We cannot limit His Word or His discourse to any particular time. He is as ready today to enrich His seekers from the fountain of revelation as He was at any time, and the gates of His grace are as wide open today as they were at any time. It is true, however, that as the need for a perfect law has been fulfilled all law and limitations have been completed. Also all prophethoods, having arrived at their climax in the person of our lord and master, the Holy Prophet(saw) have been fulfilled.
1. Shun therefore the abomination of idols, and shun all words of untruth… (Ch.22:V.31)
2. And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called. (Ch.2:V.283)
3. And conceal not testimony; and whoever conceals it, his heart is certainly sinful. (Ch.2:V.284)
4. And when you speak, observe justice, even if the concerned person be a relative… (Ch.6:V.153)
5. Be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. (Ch.4:V.136)
6. And let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. (Ch.5:V.9)
7. And truthful men and truthful women… (Ch.33:V.36)
8. And exhort one another to accept truth, and exhort one another to be steadfast. (Ch.103:V.4)
9. Who bear not false witness, (Ch.25:V.73)
10. And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives, and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient, Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’ It is these on whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy, and it is these who are rightly guided. (Ch.2:Vs.156-158)
11. Help one another in righteousness and piety; but help not one another in sin and transgression. (Ch.5:V.3)
12. And slacken not in seeking these people. (Ch.4:V.105)
13. And be not you a disputer for the faithless; (Ch.4:V.106)
14 . And plead not on behalf of those who are dishonest to themselves. Surely, Allah loves not one who is perfidious and a great sinner. (Ch.4:V.108)
15. Here the Promised Messiah(as) mentions two categories of verses. In the first category are those verses which deal with compassion for God’s creation and with the idea of collaboration in the doing of good deeds. In the second category, the subject of discussion is the punishment of the wrongdoer when the situation so demands. The message being conveyed is that sympathy for humankind does not mean that the culprit merely be punished for his wrongdoings thus securing the rest of society from his transgressions. In fact punishing him is an aspect of sympathy for humankind.
16. It is a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass. (Ch.27:V.45)
17. It is a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass. (Ch.27:V.45)
18. This means that without the Word of God, contemplation of and foresight into the laws of nature cannot be sufficient.