By: Sayyed Qutb


INTRODUCTION
The Wilderness and the Intellectual Rubbish
The Characteristics of the Islamic Concept
The Divine Origin of the Islamic Concept
The Permanent Realities
Comprehensiveness
Balance
Dynamism
Realism
The Oneness of Allah
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Islambasics Library: The Islamic Concept and Its Characteristics

CHAPTER I

The Wilderness and the Intellectual Rubbish

 

 

Then is he who goes along with his face close to the ground [like a worm} better-guided than he who walks upright upon a straight path? (Al-Mulk 67:22).

 

At the advent of Islam there were in the world huge quantities of beliefs, concepts, philosophies, myths, superstitions, traditions, and Customs in which falsehood was mixed with truth, wrong with right, nonsense with religion, and mythology with philosophy. Under the burden of this rubbish, the conscience of man was groping in obscurities and speculations without finding any certainty. The life of mankind, under the influence of this welter of confusion, was ground down by corruption and chaos, tyranny and oppression, and hardship and misery. It was a life unfit for human beings, unfit even for a herd of cattle!

Life was a trackless wilderness without a guide, devoid of guidance and light, and devoid of rest and certainty. Man was groping helplessly and hopelessly to understand his God and God's attributes, man's relationship with the universe, the ultimate purpose of his existence, the way to attain this purpose, and in particular, the connection between God and man. As a consequence of being lost in this wilder­ ness and drowned in intellectual rubbish, man's life and systems were full of evils and injustices.

It is not possible for the conscience of man to settle issues concern­ing the universe, his own self, the purpose of his life, his role in the Universe, and the relationship between the individual and society, without first settling the issues of his belief, and his concept of his deity, and doing so in a manner that produces certainty in his heart by painstakingly threading his way through that stark wilderness and by sifting through those heaps of refuse.

This matter of religious belief is not merely a medieval mode of thought, as some Western thinkers, parroted by their Eastern im­itators, have made it appear to be. Never! The matter of belief is based on two fundamental realities of the human situation, both inde­pendent of time and place.

First, man, by his very nature, cannot live in this world as a detached, free-floating particle of dust. He must relate to the world in a definite manner by formulating an idea concerning his place in the scheme of things. In the final analysis, it is his belief-concept, that is to say his world-view, which in his own eyes determines his place in his surroundings. This is an intellectual necessity, natural to all human beings, and is independent of the particulars of time and place. In the course of our discussion, we will elaborate how the arrogance of people in their confusion misleads them to misunderstand this basic relationship and its importance in human affairs.

Second, a strong tie exists between the nature of the belief-concept and the nature of the social system. This bond cannot be broken, is not related to the particular circumstances of a given time or place, and is stronger than any other bond. A social system is a product of a comprehensive concept that includes an explanation of the origin of the universe, of man's place in it, and of his role and the ultimate purpose of this existence. Any social system not founded on a concept will be artificial and will not last long, and while it lasts it will bring untold suffering and misery upon the people, since there will of necessity be a conflict between this system and human nature, because a harmony between belief and the social system is both an organiza­tional necessity and an intellectual imperative.

From Nuh (Noah) to 'Isa (Jesus), the Messengers of Allah expounded this truth to people, imparted to them correct knowledge of their Creator, and elucidated for them the position of man and the purpose of his existence. But in every case, deviations from their teachings, due to political circumstances and lusts and passions and other human weaknesses, obscured the truth, burying it under the garbage heaps of false concepts and ideas, and led mankind astray from the straight path. It would not have been possible to remove the rubbish from the minds of people except through a new messenger, a messenger who would cut through the rubbish, dispel the darkness, and blaze a path through this wilderness, by proclaiming the truths of the Islamic concept in its purest form and by building a society on the firm foundation of this sound belief. Those people who were entrenched in their deviant beliefs and corrupt practices would not have aban­doned them, nor would they have separated themselves from the conditions prevailing among them, except through this Message and through the Messenger. Allah Most High proclaimed the truth in saying:

 

Never would the unbelievers from among the People of the book and the polytheists have abandoned their ways until there came to them the clear evidence: a Messenger from Allah reciting from purified pages (Al-Bayyinah 98: 1-2).

 

Man could not have grasped the need for this Message, the need for abandoning the falsehoods and the errors in which humanity was lost, and the need for arriving at a clear decision in the matter of belief until he was informed about the enormity of those mountains of rubbish. Never could he have grasped this Message until he had rejected that tangled welter of beliefs and concepts, myths and philosophies, ideas and superstitions, customs and traditions, and morals and manners which, at the time of the advent of Islam, had blackened the con­science of man in every place. Never could he have seen the truth until he had grasped the nature of the babble, the confusion, and the complexities that had entered into the remnants of the earlier Divine revelations. It was necessary to expose the deviations, distortions, and interpolations that were mixed in with what had been previously revealed by Allah, as well as to expose the influences of the philosophies and myths, and the paganism contained in them.

Our aim in writing this book, however, is not to present these concepts, but to present the Islamic concept and its characteristics. We shall confine ourselves therefore to giving a few examples from the religious concepts of Judaism and Christianity in the form in which they had reached the Arabian Peninsula, as well as a few examples from the days of pre-Islamic ignorance, with which Islam had to contend.

Judaism, the religion of the Children of Israel, was full of pagan concepts and was also greatly affected by their ethnic chauvinism.

Many Messengers of Allah had come to the Children of Israel, among them their ancestor Israel, that is Y'aqub (Jacob), who was the son of Ishaq (Isaac), the son of Ibrahim (Abraham), may Allah's peace be on them all. Israel was one of the earliest bringing the Message of the Oneness of God in the pure form taught to them by their ancestor Ibrahim. Then came the greatest of their Prophets, Musa (Moses), may Allah's peace be on him, who, together with the Message of the Oneness of God, brought the Mosaic Law based upon this belief. But, with the passage of time, the Israelites deviated, and descended to the level of idolaters in their concepts. In their religious books, even in the very heart of the Old Testament, they included tales and notions concerning Allah Most High that are no higher than the lowest concepts of the Greek and other idolatrous people who had never received any divinely-revealed book or message.

On the authority of the Qur'an, we know that their ancestor, Ibrahim (may Allah's peace be on him), expounded to his children the belief in the Oneness of Allah in a pure, luminous, complete, and comprehensive form in contrast to the prevalent paganism of the times. Similarly, his grandson, Y'aqub, prior to his death, imparted to his children the same beliefs. Allah says:

 

And narrate to them the story of Ibrahim, when he said to his father and his people, "What are you worshipping?" They said, "We worship idols, and are always devoted to them." He said' 'Do they hear you when you call or do they benefit or harm you?" They said, "No, but we found our forefathers doing this." He said, "Do you see what you have been worshipping, you and your forefathers? For truly, they (all deities) are my enemy, except the Lord of the Worlds, Who created me and Who then guided me, Who gives me to eat and to drink, and whenever I am ill it is He who heals me, the One Who causes me to die and thereafter restores me to life, and Who, I ardently hope, will forgive me my sins on the Day of judgement. My Lord, bestow wisdom upon me, and unite me with the righteous, and grant me a tongue that testifies to the truth among the people of later times, and place me among the inheritors of the Garden of Bliss, and forgive my father, for he is among those who have gone astray, and do not abase me on the day when all shall be raised up, the day when neither wealth nor sons will be of avail but only that one should bring to Allah a pure heart" (Al-Shu 'ara 26:70-89).

 

And who would abandon the religion of Ibrahim, except one who fools himself? We assuredly chose him in this world, and truly in the Hereafter he shall be among the righteous. When his Lord said to him "Submit," he said, "I have submitted myself to the Lord of the Worlds." And this Ibrahim gave as a legacy to his sons, so likewise did Y'aqub: "My sons, truly Allah has chosen for you the din (the eternal and universal religion). Then do not die without having submitted yourselves to Him." Were you witnesses when death approached Y'aqub? and he said to his sons, "What will you worship after me?" They said, "We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Ibrahim, and Isma'il, and Ishaq, the One God and to Him do we submit! (Al-­Baqarah 2:130-133).

 

But their descendants retrogressed from this pure concept of One­ness, this sublime faith, and this belief in the Hereafter. They remained in this state of retrogression until Prophet Musa came to revive the pure faith. The Qur'an speaks of this creed brought by Musa to the Children of Israel and it also speaks of their deviating from it:

 

And recall when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel: "Worship no one except Allah and be good to parents and to relations and to orphans and to the needy, and speak kindly to people and establish worship and pay the poor-due." After that all of you except a few turned back and you are backsliders. And recall when We made a covenant with you: "Do not shed the blood of your people nor turn your people out of your dwellings." Then you affirmed this and you were witnesses thereto. Yet you are the ones who kill one another and drive out a party of your people from their home, assisting one another against them by sin and oppression (Al-Baqarah 2:83-85).

 

And assuredly Musa came to you with clear evidence, but even after that you took the Golden Calf (for worship) and you became transgressors. And when We made a covenant with you and caused Mount Sinai to tower above you saying, "Hold fast to what We have given you and hearken unto it," they said, "We hear but we disobey," for their hearts were filled to overflowing with love of the [golden] calf because of their refusal to acknowledge the truth. Say, "Vile is what this false belief enjoins upon you, if indeed you are believers" (Al-Baqarah'2:92-93).

 

Thus their deviation began while Musa was yet among them, with their worship of the Calf which the Samiri had fashioned for them out of golden jewelry from the Egyptian women they had brought with them. This is the Calf referred to in the verses quoted above. yet earlier during their exodus from Egypt, upon encountering people who worshipped idols, they had already demanded of Musa that he make an idol for them to worship.

 

And We brought the Children of Israel across the sea. And they came upon a people who were devoted to their idols. They said, "O Musa! Fashion for us a god, even as they have gods." He said, "Truly, you are ignorant people. As for these people their way of life will be destroyed, and all they are doing is in vain" (Al-A 'raf9: 138-139).

 

The Qur'an talks a great deal about their deviations, their blas­phemies in relation to Allah, their associating partners with Him, and their idolatry.

 

The Jews say, "Ezra is the son of God" (Al- Tawbah 9: 30).

 

The Jews say, "Allah's hand is fettered." But in fact it is their hand that is fettered, and they are accursed for what they have said. Nay, rather His hands are spread out wide in giving bounty (Al-Ma'idah 5:67).

 

Assuredly, Allah has heard the speech of those who said, "Truly Allah must be poor, while we are rich." We shall record what they say and their killing of the prophets against all right, and We shall say, "Taste the punishment of fire" (Ale 'Imran 3:181).

 

And when you (the Children of Israel) said, "O Musa! We will not believe in you until we see Allah plainly," then the lightning seized you even as you looked on (Al-Baqarah 2:55).

 

Their ethnic mania was such that they believed that God was their tribal deity! This god of theirs does not call them to account concern­ing their moral behavior except when they deal with each other. As far as strangers, that is, non-Jews, are concerned, he does not hold   them accountable for their shameful behavior toward them.

 

And among the People of the Book is the person who, if you entrust him with a hoard of gold, will repay it, and among them is the one who, if you entrust him with a piece of gold, will not return it to you unless you keep standing over him. That is because they say, "we have no obligation on us to these ignorant people," but they knowingly tell a lie concerning Allah (Ale 'Imran 3:75).

 

In their distorted scriptures matters are attributed to their God which are not much above what the Greeks in their paganism ascribed to their gods.

In Chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis, after Adam had committed the sin of eating the forbidden tree, which according to the author of "Genesis" was the tree of good and evil, we read:[1]

The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the Garden at the time of the evening breeze and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the Garden. But the Lord called and said to him, "Where are you?" He replied, "I heard the sound as you were walking in the Garden and I was afraid, because I was naked and I hid myself" God answered, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I forbade you?" ("Genesis" 3:8-11).

 

He said, "The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; what if he now reaches out his hand and takes fruit from the tree of life also, eats it, and lives forever?" So the Lord God drove him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he had been taken. He cast him out, and to the east of the Garden of Eden he stationed the cherubim and a sword whirling and flashing to guard the way to the tree of life" ("Genesis" 3:22-24).

 

Again, in the "Book of Genesis," the reason for the Flood is described as follows:

 

When mankind began to increase and to spread allover the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of the gods saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, so they took for themselves such women as they chose. But the Lord said, "My life-giving spirit shall not remain in man forever; he for his part is mortal flesh; he shall live for a hundred and twenty years." In those days, when the sons of gods had intercourse with the daughters of men and got children by them, the Nephilium (or giants) were on earth. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. When the Lord saw that man had done much evil on earth and that his thoughts and inclinations were always evil, he was sorry that he had made man on earth and he was grieved at heart. He said, "This race of men whom I have created I will wipe off the face of the earth -man and beast, reptiles, and birds. I am sorry that I ever made them." But Noah had won the Lord's favor (“'Genesis” 6: 1-8).

 

In chapter 11 of "Genesis," after a description of how the world was populated by the descendants of Noah, we read:

 

Once upon a time all the world spoke a single language and used the same words. As men journeyed in the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them hard." They used bricks for stone and bitumen for mortar. "Come," they said, "let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and make a name for ourselves; or we shall be dispersed allover the earth." Then the Lord came down to see the city and tower, which mortal men had built, and he said, "Here they are, one people with a single language, and now they have started to do this. Henceforward nothing they have a mind to do will be beyond their reach. Come, let us go down there and confuse their speech, so that they will not understand what they say to one another." So the Lord dispersed them from there allover the earth, and they left off building the city ("Genesis" 11:1-8).

In the second Book of Samuel, chapter 24, it is stated:

 

Then the angel stretched out his arm toward Jerusalem to destroy it; but the Lord repented of the evil and said to the angel who was destroying the people, "Enough! Stay your hand" (2 Samuel 24: 16).

 

Christianity was no better than Judaism, and, in fact, was even worse and more bitter. Christianity appeared when the Roman Empire was steeped in paganism and corruption. It spread quietly until Constantine ascended the throne in 305 A.C.[2] The Roman Empire Subsequently adopted Christianity not in order to conform to it but to make Christianity conform to the dominant paganism. In this connection, the American author, Draper, in his book, History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science, says:

 

Place, power, profit-these were in view of whoever now joined the conquering sect. Crowds of. worldly persons, who cared nothing about its religious ideas became its warmest supporters. Pagans at heart, their influence was soon manifested in the paganization of Christianity that soon ensued. The Emperor, no better than they, did nothing to check their proceedings. But he did not personally conform to the ceremonial requirements of the Church until the close of his evil life in A.D. 337.[3]

 

 Though the Christian party had proved itself sufficiently strong to give a master to the Empire, it was never suffi­ciently strong to destroy its antagonist, paganism. The issue of struggle between them was an amalgamation of the principles of both. In this, Christianity differed from Moham­medanism which absolutely annihilated its antagonist and spread its own doctrines without adulteration.[4]

 

To the Emperor, a mere worldling and a man without any religious convictions, doubtless it appeared best for him­ self, best for the Empire, and best for the contending parties, Christian and pagan, to promote their union or amalgamation as much as possible. Even sincere Christians do not seem to have been averse to this; perhaps they believed that the new doctrines would diffuse most thoroughly by incorporating in themselves ideas borrowed from the old, the Truth would assert herself in the end, and the impurity be cast off.[5]

 

But the impurity was not cast off, as the sincere Christians had hoped, and the new religion continued to be enwrapped in pagan concepts and myths, political, ethnic, and sectarian controversies, and mythological and philosophical speculations. Under all these con­ tending influences its concept splintered into uncountable pieces. "Christ is a mere man," one sect stated. "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three persons in which God appears to mankind," another proclaimed. According to this sect, God, in the form of the Holy Ghost, descended into Mary and was born from her as Christ. Yet a third sect said, "The Son is not co-eternal with the Father, but was created before the creation of the universe, he is less than the Father and is subservient to Him." Another sect denied that the Holy Ghost was a part of the Trinity. In the Council of Nicaea, held in 325 A.C., it was decided by a majority vote that the Son and the Holy Ghost are equal with the Father in Divinity. As to the Son, he had been born since pre-eternity, while the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son as well. The Eastern and the Western Churches differed on this point and continued on their separate ways. In the Latin Church, there were some sects that deified Mary as the "The Mother of God," as a consequence of deifying Jesus, and so on, ad infinitum.

Dr. Alfred Butler in his book, The Arab Conquest of Egypt, says:

 

This is not the place for a discussion upon either the facts for the sources of Egyptian history during the last two centuries of the Empire: but when that record comes to be fully written, it will prove a record of perpetual feud between Romans and Egyptians -a feud of race and a feud of religion -in which, however, the dominating motive was rather religious than racial. The key to the whole of this epoch is the antagonism between the Monophysites and the Melkites. The latter, as the name implies, were the imperial or the Court part in religion, holding the orthodox opinion about the two natures of Christ: but this opinion the Monophysite Copts, or native Egyptians, viewed with an abhorrence and combated with a frenzy difficult to understand in rational beings, not to say followers of the Gospel.”[6]

 

The conception of the trinity in the new faith must have seemed to the Egyptians a mere duplication of their own triads... the most famous of which was, of course, the triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus.

T. W. Arnold in his book, The Preaching of Islam, says the follow­ing:

 

A hundred years before, Justinian had succeeded in giving some show of unity to the Roman Empire, but after his death it rapidly fell asunder, and at this time there was an entire want of common national feeling between the provinces and the seat of government. Heraclius had made some partially successful efforts to attach Syria again to the central government, but unfortunately the general methods of reconciliation which he adopted had served only to increase dissension instead of allaying it. Religious passions were the only existing substitute for national feeling, and he tried, by propounding an exposition of faith, that was intended to serve as an eirenicon[7], to stop all further disputes between the contending factions and unite the heretics to the Orthodox Church and to the Central government. The Council of Chalcedon (451) had maintained that Christ was “to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, change, division, or separa­tion; the difference of the natures being in nowise taken away by reason of their union, but rather the properties of each nature being preserved and concurring into one per­son and one substance, not as it was divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only begotten, God the Word.”  This council was rejected by the Monophysites, who allowed only one nature in the person of Christ, who was said to be a composite person, having all attributes divine and human, but the substance bearing these attributes was no longer a duality, but a composite unity. The controversy between the orthodox party and the Monophysites, who flourished particularly in Egypt and Syria and in countries outside the Byzantine Empire, had been hotly contested for nearly two centuries, when Heraclius sought to effect a reconciliation by means of the doctrine of Mono the let ism: while conceding the duality of the natures, it secured unity of the person in the actual life of Christ, by rejection of two series of activities in this one person; the one Christ and Son of God effectuates that which is human and that which is divine by one divine human agency, i.e. there is only one will in the Incarnate Word.[8]

 

But Heraclius shared the fate of so many would-be-peace­ makers: for not only did controversy blaze up again all the more fiercely, but he himself was stigmatized as a heretic and drew upon himself the wrath of both parties."[9]

The Qur'an mentions some of these deviations, calling upon the People of the Book to desist from them and to rectify their beliefs. It also describes the original teachings of Jesus as revealed to him by Allah before distortion and deviation entered into them.

They have assuredly rejected the truth who say, Truly, Allah is the third of three, when there is no deity except Him, the One God. And if they refrain not from what they say, a painful punishment shall afflict those of them that reject the truth. Will they not then turn to Allah and seek forgive­ness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. The Messiah, son of Mary, was nothing other than a messenger. Before him other messengers had passed away, and his mother was a saintly woman. Both of them ate food like mortals. See how We make clear for them the signs, and then see how they are turned away! Say, "Do you worship instead of Allah what can neither harm nor benefit? Allah is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. Say "People of the Book, do not go beyond the bounds of truth in your religion, and do not follow the errors of a people who went astray in earlier times and who led many others astray and who have deviated from the straight path" (A1-Ma'idah 5:723-77).

 

And the Jews say, "Ezra is the son of God," and the Christians say, "The Messiah is the Son of God." That is the utterance of their mouths in imitation of the unbelievers who disbelieved before them. May Allah assail them! How perverse are they! (Al-Tawbah 9:30).

 

And when Allah said, "O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say unto men, ‘Take me and my mother as gods, besides Allah?,’” he said, "Glory to You! It is not mine to say what I have no right to say. If I indeed said it, You know it, knowing what is within my mind, and I know not what is within Your mind. You, only You, are the Knower of the things unseen. I said to them only what You commanded me: 'Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.' And I was a witness over them while I dwelt among them; but when you took me, You were Yourself the watcher over them. You are witness of everything. If You chasten them, they are Your servants. And if You forgive them, You are the Mighty, the Wise" (Al-Ma'idah 5: 116- 118).

 

Thus we see that the deviations which entered the teachings of Jesus increased due to historical circumstances with the passage of time until Christianity incorporated many pagan mythological concepts, and for centuries the Christian peoples went through cycles of theological controversies and subsequent massacres.

We turn now to the situation in the Arabian Peninsula, the place chosen by Allah for the revelation of the Qur'an. In addition to these distorted forms of the teachings of Moses and Jesus, known as Judaism and Christianity, there were other concepts carried there from the intellectual trash of Persia, and there was also their own brand of paganism. They were completely oblivious of the true religion of Ibrahim, because they had grossly distorted it. The Prophet Ibrahim taught the Oneness of Allah and surrender to Him, but they were steeped in gross idol worship. The Qur'an explicitly mentions these deviations in order to refute them.

Although hating to have daughters themselves, they held that angels are daughters of God. They worshipped angels or the idols repre­senting them, believing that they had influence with Allah and their intercession would not be rejected by Him.

 

Yet they have assigned to His servants a share with Him. Indeed, man is clearly ungrateful. Or has He taken to Himself, from among His creation, daughters, and favored you with sons? And when one of them is given the news of the birth of what he has likened to the Merciful One, his face is darkened, and he chokes inwardly. Is the one who is brought up amid trinkets and is unable to reach clarity in a discussion to be likened to Allah? And they make into females the angels, who are the obedient servants of the Most Merciful. Did they witness their creation? Their tes­timony will be recorded and they shall be questioned. They say, "Had the Most Merciful so willed, we would not have worshipped them." Of that they have no knowledge. They do nothing but speculate (Al- Zukhruf43: 15-20).

 

Surely, the pure religion is for Allah alone. Those who choose protectors besides Him (say), "We worship them only so that they may bring us near to Allah." Assuredly, Allah will judge between them concerning their differen­ces. Truly, Allah does not guide the person who is a liar, an ingrate. Had Allah desired to take to Himself a son, He would have chosen whatever He willed of what He has created. Be He glorified! He is Allah, the One, the Absolute (Al-Zumar 39:3-6).

 

They worship, apart from Allah what neither harms nor benefits them, and they say, "These are our intercessors with Allah." Say, "Are you informing Allah of what He does not know in the heavens or in the earth?" Glory be to Him! High be He exalted above all that they associate with him"(Yunus 10:10).

 

They also believed that the Jinn were relations of Allah, that He had taken a wife from them and the angels are His children from this wife. Thus they worshipped the Jinn too. Al- Kalabi in Kitab Al-Asnam (The Book on Idols) says, "Banu Malik, a branch of Khuza'ah worshipped the Jinn" (p 34).

Concerning this myth, the Qur'an says:

 

Now ask them' 'Has your Lord daughters while they have sons?" Or did we create the angels female while they were present? Is it not assuredly from their inventions that they say, "Allah has begotten?" Truly they are liars. He has chosen daughters rather than sons? What ails you? How do you judge? Will you not then reflect? Or have you a clear proof? Then produce your divinely- revealed Book, if you are truthful. And they imagine kinship between Him and the Jinn, whereas the Jinn know very well that they will be brought before (Him). Glorified be Allah from what they attribute (unto Him)! (Al-Saffat 37: 149-159).

 

On the day when He will gather them all together, He will say to the angels, "Did these worship you?" They will reply, "Glory be to You! You are our protector from them. Nay, but they worshipped the Jinn. Most of them were believers in them" (Saba 34:40-41).

 

Idol worship proliferated among them, some of the idols repre­senting angels, others their ancestors, and yet others imaginary deities.

The Ka 'bah, which had been built solely for the worship of Allah, was filled with idols, their number reaching three hundred and sixty. In addition, there were major idols of other kinds. Among them were Al-Lat, Al-'Uzza, and Manat, which are mentioned in the Qur'an, and Hubal, on whose behalf Abu Sufyan, on the day of Uhud, shouted "May Hubal be exalted!"

Have you considered Al-Lat and Al-'Uzza, and Manat, the third, the other? Are yours the males and His the females? That was truly an unfair division. They are but names which you have named, you and your forefathers, for which Allah has revealed no authority. They follow but conjecture and what they themselves desire. And now the guidance from their Lord has come to them -or shall man have whatever he covets? But to Allah belongs the latter and the former. And however many angels there may be in the heavens, their intercession is of no avail except after Allah gives permission to whomever He desires and is pleased with. Surely it is those who do not believe in the hereafter who call the angels by feminine names, and they have no knowledge of it, merely following conjecture, and conjec­ture can never take the place of truth (Al-Naim 53: 19-28).

 

Idol worship degenerated to the extent that they worshipped any stone. Al-Bukhari has reported that Abu Rija Al-'Utaradi said, "We worshipped stones. When we found a better stone than the one we had, we picked it up and threw away the old one. If we could not find a stone, we gathered a handful of dirt, milked a goat over it, and then worshipped it."[10]

 Al-Kalabi says, "When a traveler halted at a place, he collected four stones. He worshipped the most beautiful of them and used the other three to place his cooking pot on. When he left the place he left the stones behind.”[11]

They also worshipped planets and stars as the Persians also did. Sa'ed says, "The tribe of Hamir worshipped the sun, Kananah the moon, and Tamim Aldebran, Lakhm, and Judham worshipped Jupiter, Tayy the Dog-star, Qays, Sirius, and Asad, Mercury.”[12]

Allah says concerning this:

 

Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah who created them, if you worship him (Fussilat 41:37).

 

He it is who is Lord of Sirius (Al-Nairn 53:49).

 

Many other verses in the Qur'an likewise point to the creation of the planets and stars, emphasizing Allah's sovereignty over them as over the rest of His other creation in order to deny the divinity of stars and to prohibit their worship.

In general, polytheistic beliefs permeated their lives. Many of their nonsensical customs pointed out in the Qur'an were based on such beliefs, such as consecrating some produce and some newborn animals to their gods, with no share for Allah, making the eating of some animals taboo for themselves or for women but not for men, or making it taboo to ride on or slaughter certain animals. Sometimes they even sacrificed their sons to propitiate their deities. For example, it is reported that' Abdullah, the Prophet's father, was saved from death by the sacrifice of one hundred camels in his place. Soothsayers played a prominent role in deciding such matters. In this regard the Qur'an says,

 

And they assign Allah, of the crops and cattle that He multiplied, a portion saying, "This is for Allah" -so they assert -"and this is for Our partners!'" But the share of their partners reaches not Allah, whereas the share of Allah reaches their partners. Evil, indeed, is their judgement! And, likewise their belief in beings or powers that are supposed to have a share in Allah's divinity makes [even] the slaying of their children seem good to many of those who ascribe divinity to others than Allah, thus bringing them to ruin and confusing them in their faith. Yet, unless Allah had so willed, they would not have done so; so leave them to their devices. They say, "Such cattle and crops are sacrosanct; none shall eat them except those whom we wish" [to do so] -so they assert, and [they declare that] it is forbidden to put burdens on the backs of certain kinds of cattle; and there are cattle over which they do not pronounce Allah's name -falsely attributing [the origin of these customs] to Him. But He will requite them for these forgeries. And they say, "What is within the bellies of these cattle is reserved for our males and is forbidden to our wives; but if it be born dead, then they will all share in it." He will surely recompense them for their attributing (these or­dinances to Allah), surely He is All-Wise, All-Knowing. Lost are those who slay their children in folly, without knowledge, and have forbidden what Allah has provided them. Inventing a lie against Allah, they have gone astray and are not guided (Al-An 'am 6: 136- 140).

 

The idea of the absolute Oneness of Allah was quite foreign to them, as were also the ideas of revelation and resurrection. Although they believed in Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, they did not want to acknowledge the consequences of this belief. They did not want to admit that the decision concerning their ways of living and moral behavior belongs to Allah alone, that what is prohibited and what is permissible must be taken from Him alone, that all their affairs pertaining both to this world and the hereafter return to Him alone, and that they should judge among themselves according to His Shari'ah and His prescribed Law. Without these, there can be neither faith nor religion.

The Qur'an mentions their strong objections to these truths, thus:

 

They marvel that a warner has come to them from among them, and the unbelievers say, "This is (only) a lying sor­cerer. What, has he made the gods One God? That is an astounding thing." The chiefs among them go away saying, "Go! Be steadfast to your gods. Surely this is a thing to be desired. We heard nothing of this in the latter-day religion. Truly, this is nothing but an invention" (Sad 38: 3- 7).

 

The unbelievers say, "Shall we show you a man who will tell you that, when you have been utterly dispersed in the dust, still even then you will be created anew? He has forged a lie against Allah, or is there in him a madness?" Not so; but those who do not believe in the hereafter are in torment and deeply in error (Saba 34:7-8).

 

Such was the repulsive collection of concepts in the Arabian Penin­sula. We may pile this refuse on top of the distorted beliefs remaining from the Divinely-revealed religions to form some idea of the enor­mity of the conceptual rubbish heaps that were present in the East and the West at the time of the advent of Islam. Everywhere on earth the conscience of man was weighed down under these heavy loads, and on such concepts were based the systems, manners, customs, and morals of peoples:[13]

This is why the main effort of Islam was directed toward the correct formulation of belief concerning the reality of the Creator, the reality of His creation, and the mutual relationships between these two realities. Only when men have a clear concept and certainty of this belief, do their consciences have a solid foundation; and only then will their systems, morals, manners, and laws, and their social, economic, and political relationships also have a solid foundation. It is not possible to establish all these things except through a clear conception of the reality of Allah and His attributes.

Islam's particular concern was to clarify the nature of the Divine attributes and characteristics that are related to creating, willing, governing, and administering, and then the reality of the connection between Allah and man. Undoubtedly, the biggest rubbish heap in this wilderness of thought, in the midst of which religions and philosophies were stumbling blindly, was related to this matter of the Divine attributes and of the relationship between man and Allah. Yet precisely the nature of Allah and of His relationship to each individual person has a decisive impact on man's conscience and on man's system of life in all of its aspects.

The pristine religion of Islam was restored through the final Revela­tion -and this requires proper emphasis and due thought -to remove all kinds of confused ideas that had arisen in the many distorted religions and speculative philosophies of the time, and to eliminate all these deviations and errors for all time, whether they originated before the advent of Islam or afterwards. This astounding aspect of Islam is one of the proofs of its source, because this source comprehends all that has passed through human minds and anticipates all that is yet to pass through them, and then corrects and criticizes all' errors and deviations to be found either in the past or in the future.

Many people are amazed at the great emphasis in the Qur'an and the great effort expended by it on the exposition of the Person of Allah Most High and His relationship with His creation and that of the creation with Him. This effort is apparent in a great many, prominent verses of the Qur'an, especially in the Makkan surahs but generally throughout the Qur'an. One can appreciate this great effort only if one is first aware of the great welter of concepts and the vast wilder­ness of ideas in which mankind was stumbling blindly, even among such peoples as had previously received guidance from Allah but who had deviated from the straight path. A person who contemplates this effort without surveying these piles of intellectual rubbish cannot understand why in the Qur'an Allah found this exposition necessary with so much repetition and emphasis, and with such a detailed concern for the workings of the human conscience and peoples' way of life.

Since all of man's life, both personal and social, depends on a concept, i.e., on an underlying belief-concept, we can then under­stand the immense role that this sublime faith in Allah, played in liberating man's conscience, thought, and life, from the conceptual strait-jackets and intellectual quicksands of the pre-Islamic cultures. Only after studying this cultural wilderness can we grasp the value of the freedom Islam brought for the building of life in a sound and strong fashion, unburdened by persecution, oppression, injustice, and degradation. Only then can we grasp the significance of the saying by the second caliph, 'Umar (r.a.), that' 'The one who is born in Islam not knowing the pre-Islamic Ignorance will unfasten the robes of Islam button by button." Only the one who has known jahiliyyah, the state of ignorance bereft of Divine guidance, can truly grasp the value of Islam and cherish the mercy of Allah embodied in it and the favor of Allah realized by it.

Indeed, the beauty of this faith, its perfection and harmony, and the simple but profound truth embodied in it is manifest only after studying the rubbish heaps of jahiliyyah, whether of the pre-Islamic period or in the world today. Then this faith appears as a mercy, a true mercy, a mercy for the heart and for the intellect, a mercy for the life of an individual and for the life of a community, and a mercy through its beauty and simplicity, its clarity and harmony, its familiarity and closeness, and its complete congruity with human nature.

Surely Allah Almighty spoke the truth in His saying:

 

Then, is he who goes prone upon his face [like a worm] better guided than he who walks upright upon a straight path? (Al-Mulk 67:22)


 



[1] Quotations from the Bible are from The NeuJ English Bible, corrected impression (1972), Cambridge University Press, New York.

 

[2] After Christ

[3] William Draper, History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science, pp.34-35.

[4] Ibid, p. 40.

[5] Ibid. pp. 40-41.

 

[6] Alfred T. Butler, The Arab Conquest of Egypt, Oxford University (1978), p. 29.

[7] Eirenicon is a statement that attempts to reconcile conflicting doctrines.

[8] I. A. Dorner: A System of Christian Doctrine, vol. iii, pp. 215.216. (London, 1885). J. C. Robertson: History of the Christian Church, vol. ii, p. 226. (London 1875).

[9] T. W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, Constable and Company, London (1913), pp. 52-54.

 

[10]Sahih Al-Bukhari "Kitab Al-Mahazi."

[11] Kitab Al-Asnam, p. 34

[12] TabaqatAI-Umamby Sa'd. p. 430.

[13] The concepts, philosophies, and religions that were found after Islam, especially the ones on which Western thought and life are based, and which are current in Eastern as well as Western countries today, are no better than the rubbish heaps of earlier times. We will discuss some of these at some other place.

 


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