Below is the text of an address he delivered at Cornell University on May 2, 1974.
(All verses of the Holy Qur’an quoted in this article are from the translation by Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan)
I deem it an honour and a privilege to be invited to address this distinguished gathering this evening on Ways to One World, and am most grateful to the Inter-religious International Ministry at Cornell and the Temple of Understanding, Washington DC, for the invitation. We are all distressed that due to illness our beloved friend, His Excellency, Dr. U. Thant, has been prevented from giving us the benefit of his great knowledge, experience and wisdom this evening as had been intended. We all pray humbly for his speedy restoration to health and strength. I am deeply conscious of my own shortcomings as a poor and very inadequate substitute, but rely on your generosity to overlook them.
On a purely geographical sense we are fast becoming one world. The means and speed of communications are multiplying and accelerating at a fantastic rate, and the problems to which the phenomenon has given rise are clamouring for a solution that may be denied or delayed only at dire peril.
The search for the solution must be pursued through sympathy, understanding and persuasion at all levels and all the time. Indeed, these three; sympathy, understanding and persuasion, are needed in every sphere and sector: social, communal, national, international, global and universal. This need which perceptive intelligences had begun to grasp before the end of the first quarter of this century became clamant by the end of the Second World War and inspired the Charter of the United Nations, and the setting up of the Organisation and its Specialised Agencies. Much has been achieved through them and outside of them, but a vast deal more remains to be achieved, much of it urgently, with great speed and on an extensive scale.
It has been said that in the United Nations there is too great an emphasis on Nations and not enough on United. The obvious retort is that there must be nations before they can unite. It must be appreciated that the Organisation has stimulated and accelerated the process of peoples becoming masters in their own homes so that they might unite in working together for the common good. The process has been almost completed and in consequence thereof the Organisation has arrived at the threshold of universality. There are still a few hard, apparently unyielding, obstructions to be overcome, but the current is too strongly set in the direction of human freedom and the dignity of man to permit of prolonged resistance. Let us hope that resistance will be overcome reasonably early through a deepening of understanding and that no further human suffering may be involved. Once the process is completed we shall arrive much closer to the realisation of our vision of the kind of one world we desire to see in operation.
In the political sphere, the United Nations has evolved a third group of non-aligned states, which has already helped to defuse some of the tensions resulting from the polarisation of the world into which the great powers had drifted soon after the setting up of the United Nations. This group is also insistent upon the rapid elimination of hunger, disease and ignorance from every part of the world, and raising the average standard of living to a reasonable level throughout. These objectives are now universally agreed upon; the differences that still persist relate to methods and pace.
When we talk of one world, what is the type of world that we have in mind, the kind of world that would be worth striving for? Surely, not a world of hunger, disease and ignorance; and equally not, I hope, a world of the alcoholic, the drug addict, the gambler and the pervert. We desire a world of gentleness and compassion, of sharing and co-operation, of sobriety and good behaviour, of justice and mercy, of equality and non-discrimination, of peace and orderliness, of cheer and goodwill, of progress and prosperity. The way to such a world is only through God. We must put forward the necessary effort, and our striving must be sincere, patient and persistent, but success will come only through Divine Grace.
Hunger, disease and ignorance are today not ineradicable. A tithe of the effort, energy and resources that are being diverted towards the manufacture of the weapons of destruction, if employed in the service of man would eliminate hunger, preventable or curable disease and ignorance. What is needed is a deep sense of accountability to God, for all His bounties.
Every accession of knowledge is a divine bounty and His law regulating is:
If you will use My bounties beneficently, I will surely multiply them unto you, but if you misuse them, My punishment is severe indeed. (Ch.14:V.8)
There is here a clear warning that a misuse of divine bounties would convert them into instruments of ruin and misfortune. Of that also we have before us clear illustrations, if only we would heed them and draw the obvious lessons from them.
Despite Malthus and those of his way of thinking, and making due allowance for the population explosion, total food production today, thanks to the application of scientific and mechanical methods of agriculture, does not by any means fall short of requirements. Famine conditions that are encountered from time to time in different parts of the world, resulting from failure of harvests, have their roots in remediable causes, which can be foreseen and provided against, given greater willingness to help, more sympathy for human suffering, more imagination and a keener sense of obligation. Vast areas of arable land are waiting to be brought under the plough, a great quantity of life-giving river waters flow into the oceans which could be utilised for irrigation in the drier regions of the earth, flood control projects could safe-guard crops from devastation in alluvial parts, more intensive utilisation of scientific methods and fertilisers could at a modest estimate, quadruple present yields within a matter of years, provided only priority is assigned to human needs over political aims and policies.
In the matter of food, clothing and housing a word of caution needs to be addressed to affluent societies. While it is most desirable that every effort must be made to raise standards of living everywhere, as early as possible, to a level ensuring reasonable comfort for all as befitting the dignity of man, care must be taken that those who are richly blest in the goods of this world use them moderately and do not flaunt them in the face of their less fortunate fellows. All extremes must be averted or avoided. Moderation in everything is a wholesome rule. Besides, it is good manners. There is a wise Dutch proverb: Enough is enough, but much is too much!
Prevention and cure of disease present a slightly more complicated problem, but here too I have been greatly heartened by the astounding success of a combined experimental programme of educational and medical assistance in four countries of West Africa launched three years back by the Ahmadiyya [Muslim] Movement at a very modest scale. This has demonstrated how much might be achieved through how little, if the effort is inspired by the sole motive of winning the pleasure of God through devoted and selfless service of His creatures. One striking feature of this programme is its purely voluntary character entirely divorced from any official or governmental strings. The success it has so far achieved encourages the hope that it might be both extended and intensified in the immediate future, so as to serve as a model instrument in the fight against disease and ignorance in areas where the need is most urgent and intense.
With the advent of one world, human intercourse should become smoother and easier. Artificial barriers should be removed or lowered, as far as and wherever possible. While tidiness in all things would be appreciated and its cultivation should be encouraged, formality and ceremonial must be reduced to a minimum wherever they would tend to obstruct the meeting of man with man. I recall an occasion many years since when I was invited to a dinner meeting of World Brotherhood in Washington DC, and being a Vice-President of the Organisation, was expected to say a few words in support of its objective. The invitation card specified black tie as the dress to be worn. I attended in a lounge suit and, when my turn came to speak, pointed out that the cause of world brotherhood would not be promoted if I could not sit down to a meal with a fellow being unless both of us were attired in a certain fashion. That was the end of black tie suits in dinner meetings of World Brotherhood!
Most of us are apt to make the facile assumption that the nearer we approach to one world the more the rest of the world will adopt the patterns and assume the trappings to which we ourselves have become accustomed, and that the world at large will take on ways that conform to the desires of our heart. We must persuade ourselves that whatever our diversities of tongue, colour, creed, race, dress or manners might be, the truth remains that despite all this diversity “a man is a man for aw that”.
So much for the elimination of hunger, disease and ignorance. Today we possess ample means to that end. What are needed are the will and the resolve. Given these it would not be difficult to overcome these ills that result from want. A different approach is needed for the elimination of the ills to which affluence has given birth. We can, if we choose, bury our heads in the sand in a vain effort to ignore them, or we can summon courage enough to acknowledge and face them and then reach out to seek a remedy and apply it. We must confess, however, that our experience so far in that regard is not very encouraging.
The discipline to which I have the honour to belong, namely Islam, teaches that man is a unity of body, mind and spirit, and that these components constantly act and react upon each other. If one is corrupted the others are correspondingly affected. To ensure a completely healthy organism it propounds regulations designed to that end. For instance, it regulates food and drink, forbids that which is likely to do harm and directs that out of that which is not forbidden only the pure and wholesome might be partaken of and that sparingly.
Eat freely of that which God has provided for you of lawful and wholesome things and be mindful of your duty to God in Whom you believe. (Ch.5:V.89)
Children of Adam, put your minds and bodies in a state of tidiness at every time and place of worship, and eat and drink of that which is lawful and wholesome, but be not immoderate, surely He loves not the immoderate. (Ch.7:V.32)
The Prophet of Islam(saw) observed on one occasion:
We are a people who eat only when we are hungry and stop eating while we are still hungry. We have little need of physicians.’
Now, medical opinion the world over is unanimous that smoking, and more particularly cigarette smoking, is unwholesome. Yet at the threshold of the last quarter of the twentieth century, when Homo sapiens is supposed to have arrived at the pinnacle of his sapience, this unwholesome practice exhibits no decline. No one asserts that indulgence in it does the least good to anyone, and its ill effects are testified to both by those who pursue the practice and those who are its innocent but helpless victims at second hand. This augurs ill with regard to the chances of ridding modern society of some of its graver ills like alcoholism and drug addiction.
Recently, there has been an outcry on both sides of the Atlantic over the increasing number of those afflicted. So far as alcoholism is concerned, one must express one’s deep appreciation of the good work being done by Alcoholics Anonymous. But is that enough and is that the true remedy for the ill? Every alcoholic starts as a moderate drinker and thus every moderate drinker is a potential alcoholic. Nay, he is more than that. He shares in the guilt of abetment of every unfortunate one who slides down the slope to alcoholism. If he were to keep off altogether there would be one fewer potential alcoholic and possibly, by virtue of his example, one or more fewer alcoholics. With the utmost and most laudable effort of Alcoholics Anonymous, the number of alcoholics has not been checked. It is on the increase. Therefore, it must be acknowledged that the cure of alcoholism is only a partial and precarious alleviation of the disease, and the only effective method of prevention is total abstinence on the part of everyone. Instead, there is a steady and substantial increase in the per capita consumption of alcohol. The prospects, therefore, of an early striking alleviation of the situation does not appear very bright.
The same applies to drug addiction, particularly among the younger generation, though in this case the emphasis does appear to be on prevention. Yet the effort on prevention has not so far caught up with the spread of the habit, and in this case also the prospect is bleak.
Gambling in its multifarious forms is not even looked upon as much of an evil; indeed in some cases it is considered a social grace and participation is deemed an obligation and a virtue as, for instance, in the case of lotteries in aid of beneficent projects. Yet, the canker at the heart is undeniable.
The weakness in all these and other similar cases is that a strong moral sanction is lacking, and the pressure of the herd habit is not to be easily withstood. The case is different with Islam. There is a strong moral sanction and the tendency to ape the West in these matters out of a desire to gain social credit and to be accounted civilised in the estimation of the sophisticated is to some degree restrained by the uncomfortable consciousness of the odium that would thereby be incurred in Muslim eyes. Islam is clear and uncompromising in its condemnation of these practices. For instance:
O ye who believe, intoxicants, gambling idols and divining arrows are but abominations and Satan’s devices; therefore, shun each one of them that you might prosper. (Ch.5:V.91)
The Holy Prophet(saw) has interpreted this to mean that of that of which a certain quantity would intoxicate, the least is altogether forbidden. This has induced so strong an antipathy in the minds of the faithful towards these abominations that some of the mystics have gone so far as to declare that a tongue and a mouth soiled and sullied by even a drop of liquor are not worthy of uttering the praise and glorification of the Divine.
Perversion and promiscuity, fed by pornography, are another set of social problems which have so far eluded prevention or cure. They are part of the pattern that we have been appraising, which itself is a by-product of affluence. The pattern has been described as permissiveness, thus reducing its pejorative implications. One observation might here be ventured. Social habits and practices which when persisted in are bound to produce a particular result, which is the inevitable unavoidable consequence of the process, would require to be radically altered and controlled if the end is to be avoided. If the approaches are left open the consummation becomes inevitable. Regulation and control must be instituted and brought into play at the initial stages if they have to be effective. Part of the regulation and control instituted by Islam in this direction may be cited:
Direct the believing men to restrain their looks and to guard their senses. That is purer for them. Surely, God is well aware of that which they do. Direct the believing women to restrain their looks and to guard their senses and not to disclose any part of their beauty or their embellishments, save that which is perforce apparent thereof. They should draw their head-coverings across their bosoms; and should not disclose any part of their beauty save to their husbands or to those related to them within the prohibited degrees, or to gentlewomen or their maidservants or such children who have no understanding of the relationship between the sexes; nor should they strike their feet on the ground in such manner as to disclose their charm which they ought not to disclose. Turn ye to God all together, O believers, that you may prosper. (Ch.24:V.31-32)
Wedded life is the normal way in Islam.
Monasticism is prohibited. (Ch.57:V.28)
The Holy Prophet(saw) has said: Marriage is our way. He who turns away from our way is not of us. The Qur’an directs:
Those who find no means of marriage should safeguard their chastity, until God grants them means out of His bounty. (Ch.24:V.34)
Adultery and fornication are prohibited under severe penalties, and all approaches thereto are forbidden.
Do not even approach adultery; surely it is a foul thing and an evil way. (Ch.17:V.33)
Flog the adulteress and the adulterer, each one of them, with a hundred stripes, and let not pity for them restrain you from executing the judgment of God, if you believe in God and the last Day. (Ch.24:V.3)
We have so far referred to some aspects of the world that we do not desire. Some reference to the kind of the world we do desire would be in order. I have ventured to submit that the only way to such a world is through God. Yet today the mutually strifing sectors of mankind, even when professing allegiance to a Beneficent Creator, are in practice alienated from Him. What is needed is a lively consciousness of our entire dependence upon Him every moment, and a deep and penetrating conviction that we are all, every one of us without exception, His creatures and servants, and thus brethren one to another through our common allegiance to Him in humility and without any suspicion of arrogance.
Our first and foremost concern should be to re-establish communion with our Maker. All His attributes are eternal and are in operation all the time. He is the Creator and continues to create:
He brings forth the living from the dead, and He brings forth the dead from the living; and revives the earth after its death. In like manner shall you be brought forth. Of His Signs it is that He created you from dust, and lo! You are human beings spread over the earth. Of His Signs it is that He has created mates for you of your own kind that you may find peace of mind through them, and He has put love and tenderness between you. In that surely are Signs for a people who reflect. Of His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours. In that surely are Signs for those who possess knowledge. Of His Signs is your sleep by night and by day, and your seeking of His bounty. In that surely are Signs for a people who listen. Of His Signs it is that He shows you the lightning to inspire fear and hope, and He sends dawn water from the clouds and quickens therewith the earth after its death. In that surely are Signs for a people who understand. Of His Signs it is that the heavens and the earth stand firm by His command. Then when He calls you to come forth from the earth, at once you will come forth. To Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and in the earth. All are obedient to Him. He it is Who originates the creation and then repeats it, and it is most easy for Him. His is the most exalted state in the heavens and the earth. He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Ch.30:V.20-28)
Has not He Who created the heavens and the earth the power to create the like thereof? Yea, and He is indeed the Supreme Creator, the All-Knowing. His power is such that when he intends a thing He says concerning it: Be; and it is. (Ch.36:V.82-83)
Every one of His creatures has the capacity to establish, maintain and strengthen communion with Him.
Your Lord has said: Call on Me; I will respond to you. (Ch.40:V.61)
When My servants enquire from thee concerning Me, tell them I am close. I respond to the call of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So should they respond to Me and have firm faith in Me, that they may be rightly guided. (Ch.2:V.187)
On them who affirm: Our Lord is God, and then remain steadfast, angels descend, reassuring them: fear not nor grieve, and rejoice in the Garden that you were promised. We are your friends in this life and in the Hereafter. Therein you will have all that you desire, and therein you will have all that you call for; an entertainment from the Most Forgiving, the Ever-Merciful. (Ch.41:V.31-33)
From this country has been announced the self-contradictory enormity that God has died as a historical event in our age; whereas the truth has long been proclaimed as a clarion call:
Put your trust in the One Who is Everlasting and is the Source of life, He dies not, and glorify Him with His praise. He is fully aware of the errors of His servants. (Ch.25:V.59)
God is He Who has made the earth a resting place for you, and the heaven a canopy, and has endowed you with facilities and capacities and has made them strong and perfect and has provided you with good things. Such is God your Lord. Blessed is God, the Lord of the worlds. He is Ever-Living, the Bestower of Life, there is no God but He. So call on Him in utter sincerity of faith. All praise belongs to God, the Lord of the worlds. (Ch.40:V.65-66)
Not only is He not subject to death, He is Ever Watchful:
God is He save Whom none is worthy of worship, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that dare intercede with Him, except by His leave? He knows all that is before them and all that is behind them, and they cannot encompass aught of His knowledge, except that which He pleases. His knowledge comprehends the heavens and the earth, and the care of them wearies Him not. He is the Most High, the Most Great. (Ch.2:V.256)
His are the most beautiful attributes:
God is He besides Whom there is no god, Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Most Gracious, the Ever-Merciful. God is He besides Whom there is no god, the Sovereign, the Most Holy, the Source of Peace, the Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is God, far above that which they associate with Him. He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him. He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Ch.59:Vs.23-25)
He is the light of the universe:
God is the Light of the heavens and of the earth. His light is as if there were a lustrous niche, wherein is a lamp contained in a crystal globe, the globe as bright as a glittering star. The lamp is lit with the oil of a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west. The oil would well-nigh glow forth even though no fire were to touch it. Light upon light! God guides to His light whomsoever He wills. God sets forth all that is needful for mankind. God knows all things well. (Ch.24:V.36)
Without Him there is no light:
The works of those who disbelieve are like a mirage in a wide plain. A thirsty one imagines it to be water until, when he comes up to it he finds it to he nothing, and he finds God near him, Who then pays him his account in full. God is Swift in reckoning. Or, their works are like thick darknesses spread over a vast and deep sea, the surface of which is agitated by waves rolling upon waves, above which are clouds; layers of darkness one upon another so thick that when a person holds out his hand he can hardly see it. For him whom God grants not light, there is no light at all. (Ch.24:V.40-41)
He sends down revelation for man’s guidance, though man goes on wrangling about Him; Holy is He, and exalted far above that which they associate with Him. He sends down the angels with revelation by His command upon whomsoever of His servants remain steadfast:
…angels descend, reassuring them; fear not nor grieve, and rejoice in the Garden that you were promised. We are your friends in this life and in the Hereafter. Therein you will have all that you desire, and therein you will have all that you call for: an entertainment from the Most Forgiving, the Ever Merciful. (Ch.41:V.31-33)
He sends down revelation for man’s guidance, though man goes on wrangling about Him:
Holy is He, and exalted far above that which they associate with Him. He sends down the angels with revelation by His command upon whomsoever of His servants He pleases, directing: Warn people that there is no god beside Me, so make Me alone your shield against all ills. He has created the heavens and the earth in accordance with the requirements of truth and wisdom. Exalted is He far above that which they associate with Him. He has created man from a drop of fluid, and lo! he becomes a bold wrangler. (Ch.16:V.2-5)
Does not man know that We have created him from a mere sperm-drop? Then he becomes a persistent disputer; he forgets the process of his own creation but has a lot to say concerning Us. (Ch.36:V.78-79)
Man is chided for his ingratitudes:
Ruin seize man, how ungrateful he is! Let him reflect: out of what did He create him? Out of a sperm-drop! He created him and set a measure for him; then he made the Way easy for him, then He causes him to die and assigns a grave to him. Then, when he pleases, He will raise him up again. Nay, man has not yet completed that which He had prescribed for him. (Ch.80:V.18-24)
Time does not permit even a brief comment on the vast implications of that which has just been quoted. Though these passages deal mainly with some of the divine attributes, they also contain many prophecies, some of them in the course of fulfilment all the time.
The word of thy Lord shall be fulfilled in truth and justice; none can change His words. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. (Ch.6:V.116)
All mankind are creatures of the same Lord and this is the basis of their common humanity. It is only the lively consciousness of the reality that every human being is the creature of my Lord that can bring about accord between different sections of mankind and lead us to one world. Man’s relationship to his fellow beings through God is the only guarantee that can serve to unite mankind and to eliminate discord. This is the tie that can alone survive and surmount every tension and crisis, even when ties of closest, kinship and the most intimate friendship might snap and be cut asunder.
Take fast hold all together, of the rope of God, and be not divided. Call to mind the favour of God which He bestowed upon you when you were at enmity with each other and He united your hearts in love so that by His grace you became as brethren. You were on the brink of a pit of fire and He rescued you from it. Thus does God explain to you His commandments that you may be guided. Let there be from among you a party whose business it should be to invite to goodness, to enjoin equity and to forbid evil. It is these who prosper. (Ch.3:V.104-105)
This demands being knit together like pearls strung along the same silken thread. A default would expose the scattered and contending groups and units to the hazard of slipping into a pit of fire. Could an admonition be more strikingly expressed and illustrated? The beneficent implications of holding fast all together to the rope of God are so vast as to be almost without limit.
In the hierarchy of values, allegiance to the Divine has absolute primacy; all other values are subordinate to it. In fact other values have validity only so far as they are subservient to this supreme value. I must embrace and pursue righteousness because God loves righteousness and it is a means of approach to Him. I must discard and shun evil for God loves not evil and it would pull me farther away from Him. The Qur’an repeatedly emphasises this fundamental motivation. For instance:
The truth is that whoso fulfils his pledge and is mindful of his duty to God is righteous, and God loves the righteous. (Ch.3:V.77)
God loves those who are mindful of their obligations (Ch.9:V.5,8)
God loves the benevolent (Ch.2:V.196; Ch.3:V.135)
God loves those who do their duty to the utmost. (Ch.3:V.149
God loves those who turn to Him often and loves those who are clean and pure. (Ch.2:V.223)
God loves the steadfast. (Ch.3:V.147)
God loves those who put their trust in Him. If God help you, none shall overcome you; but if He forsake you, then who is there who can help you beside Him? In God, then, let the believers put their trust. (Ch.3:V.160-1)
Those who obey God and His Messenger, and fear God and are mindful of their duty to Him are the ones who will triumph. (Ch.24:V.53)
God will prepare a way out of his difficulties for him who is mindful of his duty to God, and will provide for him whence he expects not. God is sufficient for him who puts his trust in Him. God is sure to attain His purpose. God has appointed a measure for everything. (Ch.65:V.3-4)
God will provide facilities in the matter of him who is mindful of his duty to God. (Ch.65:V.5)
God will remove the ills of him who is mindful of his duty to God, and will enlarge his reward. (Ch.65:V.6)
On the other hand:
God loves not disorder. (Ch.2:V.206)
…and those who create disorder. (Ch.5:V.65)
…the mischief makers. (Ch.28:V.78
…the unjust. (Ch.3:V.141)
…the wrongdoers. (Ch.3:V.57; Ch.42:V.40)
…the transgressors. (Ch.2:V.191)
…those who exceed the bounds. (Ch.7:V.56)
…confirmed disbelievers and arch-sinners. (Ch.2:V.277)
…those who exult. (Ch.28:V.77
…the arrogant. (Ch.16:V.24)
…vainglorious boasters. (Ch.31:V.19; Ch.57:V.24)
…the treacherous. (Ch.8:V.59)
These are some of the values that must be upheld, and some of those that must be eschewed. They are not enjoined or forbidden pell-mell. There is a gradation both among those that are enjoined and those that are forbidden, which would enable one who seeks the pleasure of God to check his progress along that path and to institute remedial measures wherever he discovers a default or deficiency. There is a regular hierarchy which serves as a course of practice and training.
God enjoins equity and benevolence and graciousness as between kindred, and forbids evil designs, ill behaviour and transgression. (Ch.16:V.91)
At the bottom of the scale is transgression, that is to say every form of trespass against person, property, honour, security, peace of mind of the individual, society or mankind. Most of such conduct would in any civilised state constitute a punishable offence. But the sanction behind the law is penalty of a type which may prove an effective deterrent in many cases, as is indeed demonstrated on a large scale today. Besides, the imposition of a legal penalty is rightly subject to proof of the offence, in conformity with its definition, through relevant and admissible evidence at the end of a procedure studded with safeguards against a hasty or wrong conviction. This is no fault of the law. It does mean, however, that the law is not capable of providing complete deterrence against even manifest evil.
Next is ill-behaviour, that is to say, conduct which would annoy or irritate others, bad manners, churlishness, etc. The greater part of this is beyond the reach of civil law.
Finally, not only is overt ill-conduct forbidden, but the very source of all evil is sought to be cleansed out by the prohibition against indulgence in evil thought or evil design.
The sanction behind these prohibitions is the displeasure of God, the strongest and most effective in its operation upon the mind of one who truly and sincerely believes and whose sole purpose in life is to win the pleasure of God.
Shunning evil, however, is not the sum-total of the effort required of a believer. Indeed it is not even the half of it. Assuming that a person were to achieve it in full, it would by itself only serve to shield him against divine displeasure. He would still be a long way off from having won the pleasure of God. In other words he would still be way behind the achievement of his goal and purpose in life. He must strive to the utmost after the doing of good. He must perfect himself in beneficence. In fact the two processes, shunning evil and developing beneficence, march along together, one supporting and helping the other. There is a gradation in both.
Beneficence has also three broad grades. The elementary grade has been described as equity; the connotation of the term so translated is the doing of good in return for good. It may be described as the repayment of one’s moral debts; the discharge of one’s moral obligation; the doing as one would be done by: the so-called golden- rule.
The next higher grade is benevolence, that is to say, the voluntary doing of good without any desire or expectation of receiving good in return.
The highest grade is the involuntary doing of good, as that which flows from a mother towards her children. This requires no effort. On the contrary, it operates as a quality, a characteristic, which would be frustrated if restrained. It is this stage which is described as:
God well pleased with them and they well pleased with God. (Ch.98:V.9)
Thus the dominant motive behind all action must be the winning of God’s pleasure.
The Qur’an ordains that the exercise of public authority should be committed into the hands of those who are best fitted for the purpose. Those into whose hands such authority is committed are admonished to exercise it justly and impartially. There is a warning that departure from these standards would have grievous consequences. The people are urged to respect authority and obey it. Differences are to be resolved in accordance with the guidance set out in the Qur’an as illustrated and expounded by the Holy Prophet(saw). All authority is in the nature of a trust and should be exercised in that spirit.
God commands you to make over the trusts to those best fitted to discharge them and that when you judge between the people, you do it with justice. Excellent indeed is that with which God admonishes you. God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. O ye who believe, obey God and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you. Then if you differ in anything refer it to God and His Messenger if you are believers in God and the Last Day. That is the best and most commendable in the end. (Ch.4:V.59-60)
Public administration should be carried on by mutual consultation. (Ch.42:V.39)
Basic provision is here made for the exercise of all public authority, legislative, executive and judicial. The legislative organ could be the principal consultative organ also. The only qualification laid down in respect of its members as in respect of everyone who is to be entrusted with the exercise of any type of public authority, is that they should be best fitted to discharge their responsibilities. This, in turn, places a heavy responsibility upon the electorate. The exercise of the franchise thus becomes a sacred function. In order that this function might be properly performed the electorate must be duly instructed and trained to that end.
Is he who lays the foundation of his structure on fear of God and His pleasure better off, or he who lays the foundation of his structure on the brink of a tottering hollow bank which tumbles down with it into the fire of hell? (Ch.9:V.109)
Those entrusted with administrative or judicial authority are also admonished to exercise the authority vested in them with justice. The opening words of the verse predicate that so far as the human source of public authority is concerned it is derived from the people. It is the people that are commanded to make over the trusts to those best fitted to discharge them. Those into whose hands authority is committed are then commanded to exercise it with justice.
Islam inculcates a very exalted concept of justice. Justice is the due of friend and foe alike:
O ye who believe, be steadfast in the cause of God, bearing witness in equity. Let not a people’s enmity towards you incite you to act contrary to justice: be always just, that is closest to righteousness. Be mindful of your duty to God; surely, God is aware of all that you do. (Ch.5:V.9)
The availability of true evidence is an essential element in the administration of justice. The Qur’an lays great stress upon it.
O ye who believe, be strict in observing justice and bear witness only for the sake of God, even if it be against your own selves or against parents or kindred. Whether the person be rich or poor, in either case God is more regardful of him than you can be. Therefore, follow not vain desires so that you may act equitably. If you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that God is well aware of that which you do. (Ch.4:V.136)
The only effective remedy of any widespread default in these respects is to rouse the moral consciousness of the people so that anyone guilty of such a lapse should realise that he has lost the esteem of those among whom he moves and with whom he keeps company. So long as his delinquency entails no opprobrium or disapproval, a fear or even risk of incurring a legal penalty will not prove a deterrent. A people that is anxious to maintain a decent standard of moral values must be alert in that regard. Failure to restrain or disapproval of mis-conduct is evidence of a general decline of moral and spiritual values which is disturbing. The Qur’an has laid emphasis on it by citing the case of an earlier people.
They did not try to restrain one another from the iniquity which they committed. Evil indeed was that which they used to do. (Ch.5:V.80)
A person who commits a breach of his obligation to serve the State and the community honestly and diligently, brings the administration into disrepute by his failure. The evil of his conduct reverberates in ever widening circles.
In the one world that we desire we must start from the premise that all human beings are equal. No one can claim any privilege and the only badge of honour is righteousness.
O mankind, We have created you from male and female; and we have divided you into nations and tribes for greater facility and intercourse. Verily, the most honourable among you in the estimation of God is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Ch.49:V.14)
Diversity has its purpose and is part of the divine scheme, but it confers no privilege. We have already been reminded:
Of His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours. In that surely are Signs for those who possess knowledge. (Ch.30:V.24)
No people or group may, therefore, look down upon another people or group by virtue of any difference of colour, race, language or descent.
O ye who believe, let no people deride another people, haply they may be better than them; nor let one group of women deride another, haply the last may be better than the first. (Ch.49:V.12)
The Prophet of Islam(saw) in his farewell address on the occasion of the pilgrimage announced an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab nor is a non-Arab superior to an Arab; nor is a white person superior to a dark one, or a dark one superior to a white one. You are all brethren, one to another. Islam and the Muslims may therefore be described as colour blind!
In our one world there should be complete cooperation rather than a struggle for superiority or domination,
Assist one another in piety and rectitude, and assist not one another in sin and transgression; and be mindful of your duty to God; surely, God’s punishment is severe. (Ch.5:V.3)
A spirit of competition in the pursuit of righteousness is, however, to be encouraged. Competition is inherent in human nature but should be directed into beneficent channels.
Everyone has a goal which dominates him; do you, then, vie with one another in good works. Wherever you be God will bring you all together. Surely, God has the power to do all that He wills. (Ch.2:V.149)
One world is on the way and is bound soon to overtake us. Our efforts should be, and so also our preparation, that it should prove the ushering in of the dawn of beneficent co-operation among the different sectors of mankind rather than the sunset of strife and mutual destruction. The choice lies with us. Let us hope and pray that we shall rise to the full height of our responsibilities and make and carry through the right choice.