The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam – Part 8No Comments | August 2011
Translated from Urdu by Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
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That the last Divine guidance should shine forth from Arabia was determined by Divine wisdom. The Arabs are descended from Ishmael(ra) who was cut asunder from Israel and had, under Divine wisdom been cast into the wilderness of Paran (Faran), which means two fugitives. The descendants of Ishmael(ra) had been cut asunder from Bani Isra’il by Abraham(ra) himself and they had no part in the law of the Torah, as was written that they would not inherit from Isaac(ra). Thus, they were abandoned by those to whom they belonged and had no relationship with anyone else. In all other countries there were some traces of worship and commandments which indicated that they had at one time received instruction from prophets. Arabia alone was a country that was utterly unacquainted with such teachings and was the most backward of all. Its turn came last of all and it received the benefit of a universal prophethood, so that all countries might share again in the blessings of prophethood, and the errors that had become current in the meantime among them might be weeded out. The Holy Qur’an is the Perfect Book which undertook the entire project of human reform and is not addressed only to one people. It seeks the reform of all and has set forth all grades of human development. It teaches savages the manners and ways of humanity and thereafter instructs them in high moral qualities. Thus there is no need of any other book beside the Holy Qur’an.
What the World Owes to the Holy Qur’an
It is a bounty of the Holy Qur’an upon mankind that it has set forth the distinction between man’s natural state and moral qualities and that it does not stop merely at leading man from his natural conditions to the elevated palace of high moral qualities, but also opens the doors of the holy understanding that leads man to the spiritual heights. In this way it sets forth in an excellent manner the three types of teaching that we have already mentioned. As it comprehends all the teachings which are necessary for religious training, it claims it has discharged this function to perfection.
It says that this day have I perfected your religion for your benefit, and have completed My favour unto you and have been pleased to appoint Islam as your religion.1 This means the climax of religion has been reached in Islam, which is that a person should be committed wholly to God and should seek his salvation through the sacrifice of his self in the cause of God, and not through any other means, and should demonstrate this motive and determination in his conduct. This is the stage at which all excellences arrive at their perfection. Thus, the Holy Qur’an has presented the God Who was not identified by the philosophers.
The Qur’an has adopted two methods for the understanding of God. First, the method whereby human reason is strengthened and illumined for the purpose of setting forth reasons in support of the existence of God, and thus saves a person from falling into error. Secondly, the spiritual method which, we shall set forth in answer to the third question.
Proof of the Existence of God
We now proceed to draw attention to the excellent and matchless proofs of the existence of God that the Holy Qur’an has set forth. At one place it has said that our Lord is He Who has bestowed upon everything its appropriate faculties, and has then guided it to the achievement of its appropriate purposes.2 If we keep in mind the purport of this verse and then reflect upon the shape and form of man and all the animals on land and in the sea, and the birds, we are impressed with the power of God Who has bestowed its appropriate form on everything. This is a vast subject and we would urge our listeners to reflect deeply upon it.
The second proof of the existence of God that the Holy Qur’an has set forth is that God is the ultimate cause of all causes, as it is said that if we observe carefully we find that the entire universe is bound together in a system of cause and effect. This system is at the root of all knowledge. No part of creation is outside this system. Some things are the roots of others and some are branches. A cause may be primary or may be the effect of another cause, and that in its turn may be the effect of still another cause, and so on. Now, it is not possible that in this finite world this pattern of cause and effect should have no limit and should be infinite. We are compelled to acknowledge that it must terminate with some ultimate cause. The ultimate cause is God. This verse sets forth this argument very concisely and affirms that the system of cause and effect terminates in God.3
Another proof of Divine existence set forth in the Qur’an is in that the sun cannot catch up with the moon, and the night, which is a manifestation of the moon, cannot prevail over the day, which is a manifestation of the sun. Neither of them can move outside its orbit.4 Were there not a Regulator of the whole of this system behind the scenes, the system would fall into chaos. This proof is very striking in the estimation of astronomers. There are so many grand heavenly bodies that are gliding through space that the slightest disorder in their movements would bring about the ruin of the whole world. What a manifestation of Divine power is it that these bodies neither collide nor change their speed, nor alter their courses in the slightest degree, nor have they been worn out by their circulation during such a long period, nor has their machinery suffered any disorder. If they are not under the supervision of a Guardian, how is it that such a grand organisation continues to carry on through numberless years entirely on its own? At another place in the Qur’an God Almighty draws attention to this in the words that can there be a doubt in the existence of God Who has originated the heavens and the earth?5
He has set forth another proof of His existence in the words that all that is on the earth will perish and only the countenance of thy Lord, Master of Glory and Honour, will survive.6 If we assume that the earth might be reduced into particles and the heavenly bodies might be broken down and everything might be overtaken by a blast that would wipe out every sign of these bodies, yet reason acknowledges and right conscience deems it necessary that after all this destruction there should survive One, Who is not subject to destruction, and can undergo no change and Who should continue in His pristine state. That One is God, Who has created everything mortal and is Himself immune from mortality.
Another proof of His existence that God has set forth in the Holy Qur’an is when God enquired from the souls, that I asked the souls, am I not your Lord? They answered: Indeed.7 In this verse God Almighty sets forth, in the form of question and answer, the characteristic with which He has invested the souls, and that is that by its very nature no soul can deny the existence of God. Those who deny God do so because they can find no proof of His existence according to their own fancy. Yet they acknowledge that for everything that is created there must be a creator. There is no one in the world so stupid that if he falls ill he would insist that there is no cause for his illness. If the system of the universe had not been made up of cause and effect, it would not have been possible to predict the time of a tornado, or of the eclipse of the sun or the moon, or that a patient would die at a certain time, or that a disease would be reinforced by another disease at a certain stage. Thus, a research scholar who does not acknowledge the existence of God, in effect does so indirectly, for he too, like us, searches for the causes of effects. This is an acknowledgment of a sort, though it is not perfect. Besides, if, through some device, a person who denies the existence of God could be made unconscious in such manner that he should pass under the complete control of God, discarding all fancies, emotions, and impulses of his earthly life, he would, in such a state, acknowledge the existence of God and would not deny it. This is testified to by eminent experts. The verse that we have cited also indicates that a denial of the existence of God is only a manifestation of this earthly existence, for the true nature of man fully confesses His existence.
Attributes of God
We have set forth these few proofs of the existence of God by way of illustration. We now call attention to the attributes of God to Whom the Holy Qur’an calls us, which are as follows:
That God is One, without associate and no one else beside Him is worthy of worship and obedience.8 This affirmation is made because, if He were not without associate, there might be an apprehension that He might be overcome by a rival, in which case Godhead would always be in peril. The affirmation that no one is worthy of worship beside Him means that He is so Perfect and His attributes are so excellent and exalted that if we were to select a god out of the universe who would be equipped with perfect attributes, or were to contemplate in our minds the best and most exalted attributes that God should possess, He would be more exalted than all our fancies. Whom no one can exceed and then Whom no one can be more exalted. That is God, to associate anyone in Whose worship would be the greatest wrong. Then he said: He is the Knower of the unseen, that is to say, He alone knows Himself. No one can comprehend His Being. We can comprehend the sun and the moon in their entirety, but we cannot comprehend God in His entirety. Then he said that is He is the Knower of the seen, that is to say, nothing is hidden from Him. It is not to be imagined that He should be unaware of anything. He has every particle of the universe within His sight; but man does not possess such comprehensive vision. He knows when He might break up this system and bring about the Judgement. No one else knows when that would happen. It is God alone who has knowledge of all those times. Then it is said: He is the Gracious One. This means that before the coming into being of animates and before any action proceeding from them, out of His pure grace and not for any other purpose, nor as a reward for any action, He makes due provision for everyone; as for instance, He brought into being the sun and the earth and all other things for our benefit before we came into being and before any action had proceeded from us. This Divine bounty is designated Rahmaniyyat [the quality of being Gracious] in the Book of God, and on account of it God Almighty is called Rahman [the Gracious]. He rewards righteous action richly and does not let go waste anyone’s effort. Then He said: on account of this attribute He is called Rahim [the Merciful], and the attribute is designated Rahimiyyat [the quality of being Merciful].
Then it is said: He is Master of the Day of Judgement.9 This means that He keeps the recompense of everyone in His own hand. He has appointed no agent to whom He has committed the governance of the heavens and the earth, having withdrawn from it altogether, being no longer concerned with it, leaving to the agent the determination of all recompense at all times.
Then it is said: That He is the Sovereign without any default.10 It is obvious that human sovereignty is not without default. For instance, if all the subjects of an earthly sovereign were to leave their country and to migrate to another country, his sovereignty would come to an end. Or if all his people were afflicted with famine, how could any revenue be collected? Or if the people were to enquire from him what is it that he possesses beyond that which they possess on account of which they should obey him, what could he say in answer to their question? But God’s sovereignty is not subject to any default. He can destroy everything in one instant and can create another kingdom. Had He not been such a Creator, possessing all power, His kingdom would not have endured without injustice. For instance, having forgiven and having bestowed salvation upon the people of the world once, how would He have acquired another world? Would He have sought to catch those upon whom He had already bestowed salvation so that He might send them back into the world, and would have revoked His forgiveness and salvation unjustly? In such case, His Godhead would have proved defective and He would have become an imperfect ruler like earthly sovereigns who frame ever new laws for their people and are put out of temper time after time; and when they find in their selfishness, that they cannot carry on without injustice, they have recourse to it without compunction. For instance, in terrestrial sovereignty it is considered permissible to let the passengers of a small vessel be destroyed in order to secure the safety of a large vessel, but God is under no such compulsion. If God had not been All-Powerful and had not the power to create out of nothing, He would have been compelled either to have recourse to injustice like weak sovereigns, or would have clung to justice and lost His Godhead. God’s vessel continues its voyage with full power on the basis of justice.
Then he said: that He is the Source of Peace, that is to say, He is safeguarded against all defects, and misfortunes, and hardships, and provides security for all. If He had been liable to being afflicted with misfortunes, or to be killed by His people, or could have been frustrated in His designs, how could the hearts of people in such cases have been comforted by the conviction that he would deliver them from misfortunes?
God Almighty describes the condition of false gods in the following words:
Those on whom you call beside Allah cannot create even a fly, though they should all combine together for the purpose; and if a fly should snatch away anything from them, they cannot recover it therefrom.11 Their worshippers lack intelligence and they themselves lack power. Can such as these be gods? God is One Who is more powerful than all those who possess power. He is the Mighty, Who is supreme over all. No one can apprehend Him or kill Him. Those who fall into such errors have not a true concept of God’s attributes.
Then he said: then God is the Bestower of Security and sets forth proof of His attributes and His Unity.12 This is an indication that he who believes in the True God is not embarrassed in any company, nor would he be remorseful in the presence of God, for he is equipped with strong proofs. But he who believes in a false god finds himself in great distress. He describes every senseless thing as a mystery so that he should not be laughed at and seeks to hide demonstrable errors.
Then He safeguards all and is supreme over all and sets right all that might have gone wrong and is completely Self-Sufficient.
This means that He is the Creator of the bodies as well as of the souls. He determines the features of a baby in the womb. To Him belong all the beautiful names that can be thought of.
The dwellers of the heaven and the dwellers of the earth glorify Him.13 This is an indication that the heavenly bodies are also populated and their dwellers follow Divine guidance.
Then he said: that He has the power to do all that He wills.14 This provides great comfort for His worshippers, for what can be expected of a god who is weak and without power?
Then it is said: He is the Lord of the worlds, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, Master of the Day of judgement.15 This means that He provides for the universe and is Himself the Master of the Day of Judgement and has not committed Judgement to anyone else.
Then it is said: I respond to the call of him who calls on Me.16
Then he said: He is the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting, and the Self-Sufficient; the life of every life, and the support of every being.17 He is the Ever-Living, for if He were not Ever-Living, His worshippers would be apprehensive lest He should die before them.
Then it is said: Proclaim: He is Allah, the Single. He begets not, nor is He begotten; and there is no one who is His equal or like unto Him.18
To believe in the Unity of God correctly, without the least deviation, is the justice that is due from a man towards his Maker. We have set out the moral
Teachings of Islam from the Holy Qur’an, the basic principle of which is that there should be neither excess nor deficiency; it is the characteristic of a moral quality that it does not exceed or fall short of its appropriate limit. It is obvious that virtue lies in the middle of two extremes.
Only that habit which seeks to establish itself in the middle promotes a high moral quality. To recognise the proper place and occasion is itself a middle. For instance, if a farmer does his sowing too early or too late, he departs from the middle. Virtue and truth and wisdom are the middle and the middle is appropriateness; in other words truth is always in the middle of two opposing falsehoods. There is no doubt that watchfulness for the proper occasion keeps a person in the middle. Keeping to the middle in relation to God means that in expounding Divine attributes one should not lean towards negating Divine attributes nor describe God as resembling material things. This is the way that the Holy Qur’an has adopted with reference to Divine attributes. It affirms: that God sees, hears, knows, speaks; and as a safeguard against His being understood as resembling His creation it also affirms: Meaning there is nothing like unto Him; and Fabricate not similitudes concerning God. This means that there is no partner in the Being and attributes of God and that He bears no resemblance to His creatures. To conceive of God as being between resemblance and transcendence is the proper middle. In short all Islamic teachings observe the middle. The Surah Fatihah [opening chapter of the Holy Qu’ran] also inculcates adherence to the middle.
It teaches the supplication to be guided along the path of those on whom God has bestowed His favours, and not of those who have incurred His wrath, nor of those who have gone astray. By those who incurred His wrath are meant people who in juxtaposition to God yield to the wrathful faculty and act savagely; and by those who have gone astray are meant people who behave like animals. The middle way is that which has been described as the way of those on whom God has bestowed His favours. In short, for this blessed people the Holy Qur’an has prescribed adherence to the middle. In the Torah God Almighty had laid emphasis on retribution, and in the Gospel He laid emphasis on forbearance and forgiveness. The Muslims have been directed to seek appropriateness and to adhere to the middle path, as is said:
Thus have We made you the people of the middle, meaning that the Muslims have been directed to keep to the middle path. Thus blessed are those who proceed along the middle.
1. This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion (Ch.5:V.4).
2. Our Lord is He Who gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function. (Ch.20:V.51)
3. And that to your Lord do all things ultimately go… (Ch.53:V.43)
4. It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day. All of them float in an orbit. (Ch.36:V.41)
5. Are you in doubt concerning Allah, Maker of the heavens and the
6. All that is on it (earth) will pass away. And there will remain only the Person of your Lord, Master of Glory and Honour. (Ch.55:Vs.27-28)
7. Am I not your Lord?’ They say, ‘Yea… (Ch.7:V.173)
8. He is Allah, and there is no God beside Him, the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Gracious, the Merciful. (Ch.59:V.23)
9. Master of the Day of Judgment. (Ch.1:V.4)
10. The Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. (Ch.59:V.24)
11. Surely, those on whom you call instead of Allah cannot create even a fly, though they combine together for the purpose. And if the fly should snatch away anything from them, they cannot recover it therefrom. Weak indeed are both the seeker and the sought. They esteem not Allah with the estimation which is His due. Surely, Allah is Powerful, Mighty. (Ch.22:Vs.74-75)
12. The Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer…(Ch.59:V.24)
13. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Ch.59:V.25)
14. Allah has the power to do all that He wills. (Ch.2:V.21)
15. All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, The Gracious, the Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment. (Ch.1:Vs.2-4)
16. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. (Ch.2:V.187)
17. The Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. (Ch.2:V.256)
18. Say, He is Allah, the One; Allah, the Independent and Besought of all.
He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. (Ch.112:Vs.2-5)