Islam In Focus
APPLICATION OF ISLAM TO DAILY LIFE
The Internal Nature
The Spiritual Life
Islam organizes the spiritual or moral life of man in such a way as to provide him with all the spiritual nourishment needed for piety and righteousness, for safety and peace. The Islamic prescription for the spiritual life of man grants, when faithfully applied, maximum positive results as far as man’s spiritual growth and maturity are concerned. The main items in this Islamic prescription are:
1. Prayers (Salah);
2. Zakah or Alms – giving;
3. Fasting (Sawm);
4. Pilgrimage (Hajj);
5. Love for God and His Messenger, love for truth and humanity for the sake of God;
6. Hope and trust in God at all times; and
7. Sacrifice for the sake of God by virtue of actual unselfishness.
Various aspects of these items have already been discussed in some detail, and here we have only to add that without these fundamental elements there can be no true Faith as far as Islam is concerned. The reader is advised to refer to the previous sections of this work.
The Intellectual Life
The intellectual nature of man is made up, as already mentioned, of mind or intelligence or reasoning power. To this aspect Islam pays extraordinary attention and builds the intellectual structure of man on most sound foundations which may be classified as follows:
1. True knowledge based on clear proofs and indisputable evidence acquired by “experience” or experiment or by both. In this connection it is safe to say, beyond doubt, that the Qur’an is the first authority to enjoin zealous quest for knowledge through “experience” as well as experiment, meditation and observation. In fact it is a Divine injunction incumbent upon every Muslim, male and female, to seek knowledge in the broadest sense of the word and search for truth. Nature and the whole universe are open and ever revealing treasures of knowledge and truth, and the Qur’an was the first book to point to these rich sources of knowledge. It does not accept inherited “truths” or claimed facts which have no proof or evidence to substantiate them. As far as we have been able to know, the Qur’an was the first Scripture to say intelligently: “Why” and to demand proof in support of any conviction or contention (Qur’an, 2:111 and 21:24).
The Qur’an itself is an outstanding intellectual challenge; it challenges the human intellect to dispute any Qur’anic truth or produce anything similar to the Qur’an. Open any chapter of the Qur’an and you will find the warmest appeal to search for knowledge through the infinite sources of nature. Devotion to true knowledge is regarded by Islam a devotion to God in the most compensating sense.
2. The second part of this point is faith in God, an ever-revealing source of knowledge and a spiritual insight into countless fields of thought. In Islam Faith in God is the cornerstone of the whole religious structure. But in order to make Faith in God valid, Islam requires that it should be founded on unshakable certainty and convictions. These, in turn, cannot be acquired without the proper investment of the intellect. Any stagnant or indifferent mind and any limited vision cannot possibly reach the height of the Most Supreme Truth, God, nor can it attain the real depth of Faith.
Islam does not recognize faith when it is attained through blind imitation, when it is accepted blindly or unquestioningly. This fact is very important as far as the intellectual life of man is concerned. Islam requires Faith in God; and the Qur’an makes numerous statements calling for Faith in God. But the significance of such statements is not in shelving them in the study room or even in the mind. The significance of such statements is that they constitute a warm invitation and an urgent appeal to the intellect to wake and think, to ponder and meditate. It is true that the Qur’an reveals the essential truth and facts about God, yet it is equally true that it does not want man to behave like a lazy heir who makes no effort of his own. It wants man to enrich his intellectual wealth through serious endeavor and honest earning, so that he may become intellectually secure. “Easy come, easy go,” and Islam disapproves of easy coming faith which is bound to be easy going. Islam wants Faith in God to be effective and permanent, to light every corner in man’s heart and prevail in every aspect of his life. Easy coming faith cannot possibly do that, and Islam would not accept anything less.
When Islam demands Faith in God on the basis of knowledge and research, it leaves wide open all fields of thought before the intellect to penetrate as far as it can reach. It lays down no restrictions against the free thinker who is seeking knowledge to widen his vision and broaden his mind. It urges him to resort to all methods of knowledge, be they purely rational or experimental. By calling on the intellect in this way, Islam shows its high regard for and confidence in the intellectual abilities of man and wishes to free his mind from the tight shackles and limits of tangibility. It wants to elevate the individual and empower him with self-confidence and Heavenly authority to expand the domain of his mind into all fields of thought: physical and metaphysical, scientific and philosophical, intuitive and experimental, organic and otherwise. That is how Faith in God nourishes the intellect and makes the intellectual life prosperous and productive. When the spiritual and intellectual activities of man are organized according to the teachings of Islam as mentioned above, the internal nature of man becomes sound and healthy. And when man is internally secure and sound, his external life will be of the same nature.
THE EXTERNAL NATURE
The External nature of man is as complex, subtle and wide as his internal nature. We need to re-emphasize the fact that the soundness of the former is greatly dependent upon that of the latter and vice versa, because man’s complete nature is made up of both aspects. For the sake of clarification, once more, we have to classify the external nature of man into divisions and subdivisions. But we should always bear in mind that any imbalance in the system of human nature may become destructive and fatal. The fact of the matter is that both the internal and external natures of man act and interact responsively, and that Islam has extended its Divine touch to the internal as well as the external aspects of life.
The Personal Life
Islam deals with the very personal life of man in such a way as to insure his purity and cleanliness; as to give him a healthy diet and show him the proper manners of clothing, behavior, adornment, sports and so on.
1. Purity and Cleanliness
It is an Islamic injunction that before offering the Prayer the Muslim must perform an ablution, unless he has done one earlier and kept it valid. This obligatory ablution is sometimes partial, sometimes complete, depending on his or her condition. Now, if we remember that a Muslim has to offer at least five obligatory prayers every day in pure heart and mind, in clean body and clothes, on pure ground and intention – we can very well realize the vital effect and beneficial results of this single act for man (cf. Qur’an, 4:43, 5:7).
To maintain a pure heart and a sound mind, to nourish an aspiring soul and a clean healthy body, special attention should be given to the diet on which man lives. And this is exactly what Islam does. Some superficial or self-deceived persons may imagine that food and drinking stuff has no direct or important effect on the general condition of the person who fills his stomach regularly. But this is certainly not the viewpoint of Islam which takes the matter in a most serious way. The general principle of Islam in this respect is this: All the things which are pure in themselves and good for man are lawful for diet as long as they are taken in moderate quantities. And all the things which are impure and bad or harmful are unlawful under all ordinary circumstances. There is always room and flexibility for exceptions to meet cases of absolute necessity (Qur’an, 7:157; see the section on Islamic Morals above).
Beyond this general principle, there are certain foods and drinks specified by God as forbidden. Among these are: meat of dead animals and birds, the flesh of swine and that of anything slaughtered with the invocation of any name other than that of God (2:173; 5:4). The drinks which Islam considers harmful and destructive to the human spirit and morality as well as to the physique and morale of man are included in the Qur’anic verse which forbids all intoxicants and all forms of gambling or games of chance (5:93-94).
The prohibition of these foods and drinks is not by any means an arbitrary action or a dictatorial decree of God. It is first and foremost a Divine intervention in the best interest of man and for his own sake. When the Qur’an describes these forbidden things as bad, impure and harmful, it has a vigilant eye on man’s morality and wisdom, on his health and wealth, on his piety and common behavior – all of which are invaluable assets in the estimation of Islam. The reasons behind this Divine intervention are numerous. They are of a nature intellectual and spiritual, moral and mental, physical and economical. And the sole purpose is to show man how to develop himself according to an upright course of life in order to be a healthy unit in the structure of the family, then of society, and eventually of humanity at large. Reliable medical doctors and social scientists should be able now to verify the benefits of these Islamic legislations.
Islam is as orthodox and uncompromising on the quality of the organic nourishment of man as it is on his spiritual soundness and intellectual growth. This point is brought to light by the fact that some dietary items are forbidden in kind, as mentioned above, and some in degree. The things which are lawful for the Muslim should be taken in moderate quantities without indulgence or excess (Qur’an, 7:31). After shunning all the forbidden items in kind and degree, the Muslim is invited by God to enjoy His gracious provisions and to experience gratitude to the Merciful Provider (2:168, 172; 5:90-91). (This partial repetion is meant to re-emphasize the point and may therefore be forgiven. In connection with the whole discussion, see the Concept of Morality above and also Ebrahim Kazim, M.D. “Medical Aspects of Forbidden Foods in Islam,” Al-Ittihad - The Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada - 1391/1971, vol. 8, no 1, pp. 4-6. This article concludes with an excellent bibliography of medical and religious sources.)
3. Clothing and Adornment
In man’s clothing and adornment Islam takes into serious consideration the principles of decency, modesty, chastity and manliness. Anything in clothing or adornment incompatible with the attainment, maintenance and development of these qualities is inhibited by Islam. The clothing material and the dressing manners which may stimulate arrogance or false pride and vanity are strictly prohibited. So are the adornments which may weaken the morality of man or undermine his manliness. Man should remain loyal to his manly nature, which God has chosen for him, and keep away from all the things that are likely to weaken or endanger his character. This is the reason why Islam warns man not to use certain clothing materials, e.g., pure silk, and certain precious stones, e.g., gold, for the purpose of adornment. These are things which suit the feminine nature alone. The handsomeness of man is not in wearing precious stones or flaunting in pure and natural silken clothes but in high morality, sweet nature and sound conduct.
When Islam allows woman to use the things which are forbidden for man and which are suitable for the feminine nature alone, Islam does not let woman go loose or wander unrestricted. It allows her the things which suit her nature and, at the same time, cautions her against anything that might abuse or upset that nature. The manner in which women should dress up, beautify, walk and even look is a very delicate question, and Islam pays special attention to the matter. The vision of Islam in this respect is focused on the general welfare of women. Islam has served advice to both man and woman to help women in particular to retain and develop their dignity and chastity, safe from being the subject of idle gossip or vicious rumors and suspicious thoughts. The advice is imparted in these Qur’anic verses:
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them. And God is well-acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except before their husbands, their fathers …. (and certain other members of the household); and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments (24:30-31).
Islam is very sensitive to the manners of clothing and ornaments. It makes it crystal clear that both man and woman should be confined to their respective natures to safeguard their natural instincts and endow them with modesty and high morality. Prophet Muhammad is reported as having said that God condemns those men who behave or act in a womanlike fashion, and those women who behave or act in manlike fashion. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that Islam lays no restrictions on the harmless or proper items of clothing and ornaments. In fact, the Qur’an calls such things the beautiful gifts of God and reproaches those who look upon them as forbidden (7:32-33).
4. Sports and Amusements
It is gratifying to notice that most of the Islamic forms of worship, e.g., Prayers, Fasting, Pilgrimage, display some sportive characteristics, although they are basically and by nature meant for spiritual purposes. But who would deny the constant interaction between the physique and morale of man? Yet that is not all that Islam has to say on the subject of sports and amusements. Anything that provokes sound thinking or refreshes the mind and revitalizes the body to keep man in healthy shape is encouraged and invited to by Islam so long as it does not anticipate or involve any sin, or cause any harm or delay and hamper the fulfillment of other obligations. The general precept in this matter is the statement in which the Prophet said that all believers in God have good qualities but the strong one is better than the weak. It is also reported that he approved of the sports and amusements which build up the enduring physique and strengthen the morale.
It is a regrettable mistake to associate with sports and amusements things which are not really sportive or amusing. Some people consider gambling and drinking as sports and amusements, but this is not the viewpoint of Islam. Life is worth living and is granted to us for a definite purpose. No one is supposed to abuse it by letting it go loose or become dependent entirely on luck and chance. So it is no intrusion on or violation of the personal rights of man when Islam extends its Divine touch to organize life even in its very personal aspects. Because life is man’s most valuable asset and is designed for noble purposes, Islam has shown man the way to live it properly and enjoyably. Among the measures taken in this respect is inhibition of gambling which is really more tension-accelerating than tension-reducing. It is a grave abuse of life to make it subject to luck and mere chance. It is a deviation from the normal course of life, if one entrusts his lot to the mad wheel of games, and invests his abilities in the most unpredictable moves on a gambling table. To protect man from all these unnecessary mental strains and shattering of nerves, and to enable him to lead a natural life in means as well as in ends, Islam has forbidden gambling of all forms and kinds.
Similarly, it is a shameful retreat from reality and an irresponsible insult to the best quality in man, i.e., mind, to get entangled in the tight strands of intoxication or cornered in the vicious whirl of alcohol. The menaces and tragedies of intoxication are too obvious to be elaborated. Many lives are being lost every day on this account. Many families break up because of this menace. Many billions of dollars are swallowed in the drinking channel every year. Countless doors are closed on misery and unhappiness arising from the drinking habits. Besides the destruction of health, the depression of mind, the dullness of soul, the absorption of wealth, the disintegration of families, the abuse of human dignity, the sabotage of morality, the humiliating retreat from realty; everyone of the so-called social drinkers is a highly potential alcoholic. Islam cannot tolerate these menaces or let man abuse the very sense of life in this tragic way. That is the reason why Islam does not associate gambling and drinking with good sports and refreshing amusements and, instead, has banned them once and for all. To appreciate the viewpoint of Islam in this respect one has only to check any news medium, read any medical report, visit any social service agency, or watch any court proceedings. Of all the agonizing social problems, alcoholism is by far the most serious. More than one-half million Americans become alcoholics every year. One in every ten to twelve people who take their first drink in any given year is destined to become alcoholic. All these painful tragedies and real losses speak much louder than any theological or trade arguments.
The Family Life
There have been many definitions and descriptions of the family. For our purpose, we shall adopt the following simplified definition. The family is a human social group whose members are bound together by the bond of the blood ties and / or marital relationship.
The family bond entails mutual expectations of rights and obligations that are prescribed by religion, enforced by law, and observed by the group members. Accordingly, the family members share certain mutual commitments. These pertain to identity and provision, inheritance and counsel, affection for the young and security for the aged, and maximization of effort to ensure the family continuity in peace.
As can be clearly seen from this, the foundations of the family in Islam are blood ties and / or marital commitments. Adoption, mutual alliance, clientage, private consent to sexual intimacy, and “common law” or “trial” marriages do not institute a family in the Islamic sense. Islam builds the family on solid grounds that are capable of providing reasonable continuity, true security, and mature intimacy. The foundations of the family have to be so firm and natural as to nurture sincere reciprocity and moral gratification. Islam recognizes that there is no more natural relationship than that of blood, and no more wholesome pattern of sexual intimacy than one in which morality and gratification are joined.
Islam recognizes the religious virtue, the social necessity, and the moral advantages of marriage. The normal course of behavior for the Muslim individual is to be family oriented and to seek a family of his own. Marriage and the family are central in the Islamic system. There are many passages in the Qur’an and statements by the Prophet which go as far as to say that when a Muslim marries, he has thereby perfected half his religion; so let him be God-minded and careful with the other half.
Muslim scholars have interpreted the Qur’an to mean that marriage is a religious duty, a moral safeguard, and social commitment. As a religious duty, it must be fulfilled; but like all other duties in Islam, it is enjoined only upon those who are capable of meeting the responsibilities involved. (This discussion is merely an outline of the author’s extensive study of the Family Structure in Islam which is published by American Trust Publications.)
1. The Meaning of Marriage
Whatever meanings people assign to marriage, Islam views it as a strong bond (mithaqun ghaleez), a challenging commitment in the fullest sense of the word. It is a commitment to life itself, to society, and to the dignified, meaningful survival of the human race. It is a commitment that married partners make to one another as well as to God. It is the kind of commitment in which they find mutual fulfillment and self-realization, love and peace, compassion and serenity, comfort and hope. All this is because marriage in Islam is regarded first and foremost as a righteous act, an act of responsible devotion. Sexual control may be a moral triumph, reproduction a social necessity or service, and sound health a gratifying state of mind. Yet, these values and purposes of marriage would take on a special meaning and be reinforced if they are intertwined with the idea of God, conceived also as religious commitments, and internalized as divine blessings. And this seems to be the focal point of marriage in Islam. To paraphrase some Qur’anic verses, the call is addressed to mankind to be dutiful to God, Who created them from a single soul, and from it or of it created its mate, and from the two of them scattered abroad many men and women (4:1). It was God Who created mankind out of one living soul, and created of that soul a spouse so that he might find comfort and rest in her (7:107). And it is a sign of God that He has created for men, of themselves, mates to seek in their company peace and tranquillity, and has set between them mutual love and mercy. Surely, in that are signs for those who contemplate (30:21). Even at the most trying times of married life, and in the midst of legal disputes and litigation, the Qur’an reminds the parties of God’s law; it commands them to be kind to one another, truly charitable toward one another, and above all dutiful to God.
It is noteworthy that the Islamic provisions of marriage apply to men and women equally. For example, if celibacy is not recommended for men, it is equally so for women. This is in recognition of the fact that women’s needs are equally legitimate and are seriously taken into consideration. In fact, Islam regards marriage to be the normal, natural course for women just as it is for men. It may even be more so for women because it assures them, among other things, of relative economic security. This significant additional advantage for women does not, however, characterize marriage as a purely economic transaction. In fact, the least focal aspect of marriage in Islam is the economic factor, no matter how powerful this may be. The Prophet is reported to have said that a woman is ordinarily sought as wife for her wealth, for her beauty, for the nobility of her stock, or for her religious qualities; but blessed and fortunate is he who chooses his mate for piety in preference to everything else. The Qur’an commands marriage to the spouseless and the pious even thought they may be poor and slaves (24:32). On the other hand, whatever dowry (marriage gifts) a man gives his prospective wife belongs to her; and whatever she may have acquired prior to or after marriage is hers alone. There is no necessary community of property of husbands and wives. Furthermore, it is the husband who is responsible for the maintenance and economic security of the family. He must even provide the wife with the kind of help and service to which she was used before marriage, and, according to some scholars, she is under no legal obligation to do the routine housework, although she may do so, and usually does, for some reason or other, e.g. cooperation, economy, etc.
2. The Permanence of Marriage
Because Islam considers marriage a very serious commitment, it has prescribed certain measures to make the marital bond as permanent as humanly possible. The parties must strive to meet the conditions of proper age, general compatibility, reasonable dowry, good will, free consent, unselfish guardianship, honorable intentions, and judicious discretion. When the parties enter into a marital contract, the intention must be clear to make the bond permanent, free from the casual and temporary designations. For this reason, trial marriages, term marriages, and all marriages that appear experimental, casual, or temporary are forbidden in Islam. (We are aware of the complex and intricate arguments used by some Sheea Muslims as regards the so – called mut’ah marriage. We appreciate the scholarly dimension of the problem but see no purpose in pursuing it here. Interested readers are referred to the detailed discussion of the whole matter in our book The Family Structure in Islam.). In one of his most unequivocal statements, the Prophet declared that condemned are the men and women who relish the frequent change of marital partners, that is, the “tasters” who enjoy one partner for a while, then shift to another, then to a third, and so on.
However, to insist on the permanent character of marriage does not mean that the marital contract is absolutely indissoluble. Muslims are designated by the Qur’an as a Middle Nation ??? ? ???? (ummatan wasatan) and Islam is truly a religion of the “Golden Mean”, the well – balanced and well – integrated system. This is particularly clear in the case of marriage which Islam regards as neither a sacrament nor a simple civil contract. Rather, marriage in Islam is something unique with very special features of both sacramental and contractural nature. It is equally true that the alternative to this casual or temporary extremity is not the other extreme of absolute indissolubility of the marital contract. The Islamic course is one of equitable and realistic moderation. The marriage contract should be taken as a serious, permanent bond. But if it does not work well for any valid reason, it may be terminated in kindness and honor, with equity and peace.
3. The Husband – Wife Relationship
With piety as the basis of mate selection, and with the earnest satisfaction of the conditions of marriage, the parties should be well on the way to happy and fulfilling married life. However, Islam goes much further than this in setting the course of behavior for husbands and wives. Many are the statements of the Qur’an and the Sunnah that prescribe kindness and equity, compassion and love, sympathy and consideration, patience and good will. The Prophet goes as for as to declare that the best Muslim is the one who is best to his family, and the greatest, most blessed joy in life is a good, righteous wife.
The consummation of marriage creates new roles for the parties concerned. Each role is a set of equitable, proportionate rights and obligations. The role of the husband evolves around the moral principle that it is his solemn duty of God to treat his wife with kindness, honor, and patience; to keep her honorably or free her from the marital bond honorably; and to cause her no harm or grief (Qur’an, 2:229-232; 4:19). The role of the wife is summarized in the verse that women have rights even as they have duties, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree over them (2:228). This degree is usually interpreted by Muslim scholars in conjunction with another passage which states, among other things, that men are trustees, guardians, and protectors of women because God has made some of them excel others and because men expend of their means (Qur’an, 4:34). This degree may be likened to what sociologists call “instrumental leadership” or external authority in the household due to the division of labor and role differentiation. It does not, however, mean any categorical discrimination or superiority of one sex to the other. (This degree question has been misunderstood by Muslims and non – Muslims alike. We dealt with the whole matter in great detail in The Family Structure in Islam. Our conclusion is that the verse does not say men are better or worse than women. Nor does it say what excellence really refers to, let alone identify it with manhood or womanhood.)
A. The Wife’s Rights: The Husband’s Obligations
Translated into rules of behavior, these ethical principles allocate to the wife certain rights and corresponding obligations. Because the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet have commanded kindness to women, it is the husband’s duty to consort with his wife in an equitable and kind manner. One specific consequence of this Divine command is his responsibility for the full maintenance of the wife, a duty which he must discharge cheerfully, without reproach, injury, or condescendence.
Components of Maintenance
Maintenance entails the wife’s incontestable right to lodging, clothing, nourishing, and general care and well-being. The wife’s residence must be adequate so as to provide her with the reasonable level of privacy, comfort, and independence. Foremost is the welfare of the wife and the stability of the marriage. What is true of the residence is true of clothing, food and general care. The wife has the right to be clothed, fed and cared for by the husband, in accordance with his means and her style of life. These rights are to be exercised without extravagance or miserliness.
The wife’s material rights are not her only assurances and securities. She has other rights of a moral nature; and they are equally binding and specific. A husband is commanded by the law of God to treat his wife with equity, to respect her feelings, and to show her kindness and consideration. She is not to be shown any aversion by the husband or subjected to suspense and uncertainty. A corollary of this rule is that no man is allowed to keep his wife with intention of inflicting harm on her or hindering her freedom. If he has no love or sympathy for her, she has the right to demand freedom from marital bond, and no one may stand in her way to a new life.
B. The Wife’s Obligations: The Husband’s Rights
The main obligation of the wife as a partner in marital relationship is to contribute to the success and blissfulness of the marriage as much as possible. She must be attentive to comfort and well-being of her mate. She may neither offend him nor hurt his feelings. Perhaps nothing can illustrate the point better than the Qur’anic statement which describes the righteous people as those who pray:
ربنا هب لنا من أزواجنا وذرياتنا قرة أعين , واجعلنا للمتقين اماما .
Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the joy and the comfort of our eyes, and guide us to be models of righteousness (Qur’an, 25:74).
This is the basis on which all the wife’s obligation rest and from which they flow. To fulfill this basic obligation, the wife must be faithful, trustworthy, and honest. More specifically, she must not deceive her mate by deliberately avoiding conception lest it deprive him of legitimate progeny. Nor must she allow any other person to have access to that which is exclusively the husband’s right, i.e. sexual intimacy. A corollary of this is that she must not receive or entertain strange males in her home without his knowledge and consent. Nor may she accept their gifts without his approval. This is probably meant to avoid jealousy, suspicion, gossip, etc., and also to maintain the integrity of all parties concerned. The husband’s possessions are her trust. If she has access to any portion thereof, or if she is entrusted with any fund, she must discharge her duty wisely and thriftily. She may not lend or dispose of any of his belongings without his permission.
With respect to intimacy, the wife is to make herself desirable; to be attractive, responsive, and cooperative. A wife may not deny herself to her husband, for the Qur’an speaks of them as a comfort to each other. Due consideration is, of course, given to health and decency. Moreover, the wife is not permitted to do anything that may render her companionship less desirable or less gratifying. If she does any such thing or neglects herself, the husband has the right to interfere with her freedom to rectify the situation. To insure maximum self-fulfillment for both partners, he is not permitted to do anything on his part that may impede her gratification.
4. The Parent – Child Relationship
A. The Child’s Rights : The Parents Duties
Islam’s general approach to children may be summarized in a few principles. First, it is a divine injunction that no child may become the cause of harm to the parents (Qur’an, 2:233). Secondly, by implication the parents should reciprocate and cause the child no harm either. The Qur’an recognizes very clearly that parents are not always immune from overprotectiveness or negligence. On the basis of this recognition, it has, thirdly, established certain guidelines and pointed out certain facts with respect to children. It points out that children are joys of life as well as sources of pride, seeds of vanity and false security, fountains of distress and temptation. But it hastens to stress the greater joys of the spirit and caution parents against overconfidence, false pride, or misdeeds that might be caused by children. The religious moral principle of this position is that every individual, parent or child, relates to God directly and is independently responsible for his deeds. No child can absolve the parent on the Day of Judgement. Nor can a parent intercede on behalf of his child. Finally, Islam is strongly sensitive to the crucial dependence of the child on the parents. Their decisive role in forming the child’s personality is clearly recognized in Islam. In a very suggestive statement, the Prophet declared that every child is born into the true malleable nature of faith (i.e., the pure natural state of Islam), its parents later on make it into a Jew, Christian or pagan.
According to these guidelines, and more specifically, one of the most inalienable rights of the child in Islam is the right to life and equal life chances. Preservation of the child’s life is the third commandment in Islam. (6:151, cf. 17:23 ff).
Another equally inalienable right is the right of legitimacy, which holds that every child shall have a father, and one father only. A third set of rights comes under socialization, upbringing, and general care. To take good care of children is one of the most commendable deeds in Islam. The Prophet was fond of children and he expressed his conviction that his Muslim community would be noted among other communities for its kindness to children. It is charity of a higher order to attend to their spiritual welfare, educational needs, and general well-being. Interest in and responsibility for the child’s welfare are questions of first priority. According to the Prophet’s instructions, by the seventh day the child should be given a good, pleasant name and its head should be shaved, along with all the other hygienic measures required for healthy growing. This should be made a festive occasion marked with joy and charity.
Responsibility for and compassion toward the child is a matter of religious importance as well as social concern. Whether the parents are alive or deceased, present or absent, known or unknown, the child is to provided with optimum care. Whenever there are executers or relatives close enough to be held responsible for the child’s welfare, they shall be directed to discharge this duty. But if there is no next of kin, care for the child becomes a joint responsibility of the entire Muslim community, designated officials and commoners alike.
B> The Child’s Duties: The Parents Rights
The parent-child relationship is complementary. Parent and child in Islam are bound together by mutual obligations and reciprocal commitments. But the age differential is sometimes so wide as to cause parents to grow physically weak and mentally feeble. This is often accompanied by impatience, degeneration of energy, heightened sensitivity, and perhaps misjudgement. It may also result in abuses of parental authority or intergenerational estrangement and uneasiness, something similar to what is now called the “generation gap”. It was probably in view of these considerations that Islam has taken cognizance of certain facts and made basic provisions to govern the individual’s relationship to his parents.
The fact that parents are advanced in age and are generally believed to be more experienced does not by itself validate their views or certify their standards. Similarly, youth per se is not the sole fountain of energy, idealism, or wisdom. In various contexts, the Qur’an cites instances where the parents were proven wrong in their encounter with their children and also where children misjudged the positions of their parents (see Qur’an, 6:74; 11:42-46; 19:42-48).
More significant, perhaps, is the fact that customs, folkways, traditions, or the parents’ value system and standards do not in themselves constitute truth and rightness. In several passages the Qur’an strongly reproaches those who may stray away from the truth just because it is new to them, or contrary to the familiar, or incompatible with the parents’ values. Furthermore, it focalizes the fact that if loyalty or obedience to the parents is likely to alienate the individual from God, he must side with God, as it were. It is true, the parents merit consideration, love, compassion and mercy. But if they step out of their proper line to intrude upon the rights of God, a demarcation line must be drawn and maintained.
The Qur’an sums up the whole question in the master concept of ihsan, which denotes what is right, good, and beautiful. The practical implications of the concept of ihsan to the parents entail active empathy and patience, gratitude and compassion, respect for them and prayers for their souls, honoring their legitimate commitments and providing them with sincere counsel.
One basic dimension of ihsan is deference. Parents have the right to expect obedience from their children if only in partial return for what the parents have done for them. But if parents demand the wrong or ask for the improper, disobedience becomes not only justifiable, but also imperative. Obey or disobey, the children’s attitude toward parents may not be categorical submissiveness or irresponsible defiance.
The last integral part of ihsan to be mentioned here is that children are responsible for the support and maintenance of parents. It is an absolute religious duty to provide for the parents in case of need and help them to make their lives as comfortable as possible.
5. Other Aspects of the Family Life
Closely connected with the family life is the treatment of “servants”, other family members, relations, and neighbors. To those who keep permanent maids Prophet Muhammad has given advice and good tidings. “Masters” are enjoined to treat their servants like brothers, and not like slaves, because whoever treats his servant well, said the Prophet, God will make his death easy and pleasant, a moment which is ordinarily painful and difficult. Servants are entitled to justice, kindness, mercy, food, clothing, accommodation and other personal expenses. The Prophet goes as for as to say that they should be fed and dresses of the same stuff as used by their masters, and this is to be provided by the masters themselves as a part of their obligations to the servants. These are not to be persecuted or disdained or overcharged with work. This stipulation is designed to show how Islam dignifies humanity and honors labor without inviting the class warfare or the despotic authority of the proletariat. Being a servant or laborer does not deprive any person of his rights or affect his dignity as a human being. Nor does it make him addicted to the opium of the utopian proletariat. All citizens of a real Muslim society stands on equal footing, because Islam does not recognize the caste system or the second class citizenship. The only superiority acknowledged by Islam is that of piety and good deeds in the service of God (Qur’an, 9:105; 49:13).
Man is ordained by God to extend his utmost help and kindness to other family members and relations, to show them true feelings of love and care. It might be interesting to note that the world ‘kinship’ in Arabic is derived from a root word which means mercy (Rahim and Rahmah). Kindness to one’s kinsfolk is a short cut to Paradise, which is otherwise forbidden for those who neglect their duties in this respect. The extension of kind treatment to relatives is described by the Prophet as a Divine blessing of one’s life and provisions. It is a sacred duty to be good to the kin even though they may not respond in a similar way. The duty is enjoined by God and should be observed for the sake of God regardless of the kin’s response (Qur’an, 2:117; 4:36; 16:90; 17:23-26).
The status of neighbors is very high in the viewpoint of Islam. Neighbors of all kinds enjoy a great number of privileges conferred on them by Islam. In his elaboration on the Qur’anic teachings relevant to this point, Prophet Muhammad is reported as saying that nobody can be true Believer unless his neighbors feel secure and safe from his side. Also, nobody can be a true Believer, if his neighbors pass the night hungry while he has his belly full. He who is best to his neighbors, stated the Prophet, will enjoy the neighborhood of God on the Day of Resurrection. Presents, gifts and sharing of joys and sorrows should be exchanged between neighbors. In another declaration the Prophet said : “Do you know what the rights of a neighbor are? Help him if he asks your help; give him relief if he seeks your relief; lend him if he needs loan; show him concern if he is distressed; nurse him when he is ill; attend his funeral if he dies; congratulate him if he meets any good; sympathize with him if any calamity befalls him; do not block his air by raising your building high without his permission; harass him not; give him a share when you buy fruits, and if you do not give him, bring your buys right to your house quietly and let not your children take them out to excite the anger of his children”. Moreover, the Prophet is reported as having said that the rights of the neighbors were so much emphasized by the angel Gabriel that he thought neighbors would perhaps be entitled to partake of one’s inheritance. (See also the verse number in the previous paragraph).
The Social Life
The social life of the true Muslim is based upon supreme principles and designed to secure happiness with prosperity for the individual as well as for the society. Class warfare, social castes and domination of the individual over society or viceversa are alien to the social life of Islam. Nowhere in the Qur’an or the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad can one find any mention of superiority on account of class or origin or wealth. On the contrary, there are many verses of the Qur’an and sayings of Muhammad to remind mankind of the vital facts of life, facts which serve at the same time as principles of the social structure of the Islamic life. Among these is the fact that humanity represents one family springing from one and the same father and mother, and aspiring to the same ultimate goals.
The unity of mankind is conceived in the light of the common parentage of Adam and Eve. Every human being is a member of the universal family established by the First Father and First Mother, and is entitled therefore to enjoy the common benefits as he is enjoined to share the common responsibilities. When people realize that they all belong to Adam and Eve and that these were the creation of God, there will be no room for racial prejudice or social injustice or second class citizenship. People will be united in their social behavior as they are united in nature by the bond of common parentage. In Qur’an and the Traditions of Muhammad there is a constant reminder of this important fact, the unity of humanity by nature and origin. This is to eliminate racial pride and claims to national or ethnic superiority, and pave the way for genuine brotherhood (Qur’an, 4:1; 7:189; 49:10-13).
The unity of humanity is not only in its origin but also in its ultimate aims. According to Islam, the final goal of humanity is God. From Him we come, for Him we live and to Him we shall all return. In fact, the sole purpose of creation as described by Qur’an is to worship God and serve His cause, the cause of truth and justice, of love and mercy, of brotherhood and morality (Quran, 51:56-58).
On this unity of origin and ultimate goal as the background of the social life in Islam, the relations between the individual and society are based. The role of the individual is complementary to that of society. Between the two there are social solidarity and mutual responsibility. The individual is responsible for the common welfare and prosperity of his society. This responsibility is not only to the society but also to God. In this way the individual works with a sound social-mindedness and genuine feeling of inescapable responsibility. It is his role to do the utmost for his society and contribute to its common welfare. On the other hand, the society is also responsible to God for the welfare of the individual. When the individual is able he is the contributor and society is the beneficiary. In return he is entitled to security and care, should he become disabled. In this case he is the beneficiary and society is the contributor. So duties and rights correspond harmoniously. Responsibility and concern are mutual. There is no state to dominate the individual and abrogate his personal entity. Likewise, there is no individual or class of individuals to exploit the society and corrupt the state. There is harmony with peace and mutual security. There is a constructive interaction between the individual and society.
Besides the unity of humanity in origin and ultimate goal, and besides this mutual responsibility and concern, the social life of Islam is characterized by cooperation in goodness and piety. It is marked with full recognition of the individual and his sacred rights to life, property and honor. It is also marked with an effective role played by the individual in the domain of social morals and ethics. In an Islamic society the individual cannot be indifferent. He is enjoined to play an active part in the establishment of sound social morals by way of inviting to the good and combating the evil in any form with all lawful means at his disposal. In so doing, not only does he shun evil and do good but also helps others to do the same. The individual who feels indifferent to his society is a selfish sinner; his morals are in trouble, his conscience is in disorder, and his faith is undernourished.
The structure of social life in Islam is very lofty, sound and comprehensive. Among the substantial elements of this structure are sincere love for one’s fellow human beings, mercy for the young, respect for the elders, comfort and consolation for the distressed, visiting the sick, relieving the grieved, genuine feelings of brotherhood and social solidarity; respect for the rights of other people to life, property, and honor; mutual responsibility between the individual and society it is a common thing to come across Prophetic statements like these:
Whoever relieves a human being from a grief of this world, God will relieve him from a grief on the Day of Judgement.
Anyone who has no mercy on the juniors and respect for the seniors is not one of us Muslims.
None of you is a true believer in Islam until and unless he loves for his fellow man what he loves for his own self.
Whoever invites others to good is like the doer of good and will be rewarded accordingly, and whoever instigates evil is like the doer of evil and will be punished accordingly.
In the Qur’an, on the other hand, one finds numerous Divine instructions like these:
O you who believe! Mind God as He should be minded, and die not except in a state of Islam. And hold fast, all together, by the Rope of God, and be not divided among yourselves. And remember with gratitude God’s favor on you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in Love, so that by His Grace you have become brethren; and you were on the brink of the Pit of Fire and He saved you from it. Thus does God make His Signs clear to you that you may be guided. Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity (3:102-104).
O you who believe! Fulfill all obligations . . . and help you one another in righteousness and piety, but help you not one another in sin and rancor. Mind God; for God is strict in punishment (5:1-3).
In addition to what has already been said, the social patterns of Islam could be seen, once more, in the last sermon of Prophet Muhammad during the course of pilgrimage. Addressing the tens of thousands of pilgrims, he said among other things:
O people! Listen to my words, for I know not whether another year will be vouchsafe to me after this to find myself amongst you at this place.
Your lives and properties are sacred and inviolable amongst one another until you appear before the Lord, as this day of this month is sacred for all. And remember that you shall have to appear before your Lord Who shall demand from you an account of all your actions.
O people! You have rights over your wives and your wives have rights over you. Treat your wives with love and kindness. Verily you have taken them as the trust of God, and have make their persons lawful unto you by the words of God. Keep always faithful to the trust reposed in you, and avoid sins.
Henceforth, the vengeance of blood practiced in the days of ignorance and paganism is prohibited and all blood feud abolished.
And your slaves! See that you feed them with such food as you eat yourselves, and clothe them with the stuff you wear; and if they commit a fault which you are not inclined to forgive, then part from them, for they are the servants of the Lord, and are not to be harshly treated.
O people! Listen to my words and understand the same. Know that all Muslims are brothers unto one another. You are One Brotherhood. Nothing which belongs to another is lawful unto his brother unless freely given out of good will. Guard yourselves from committing injustice.
Like this day of this month in this territory sacred and inviolable, God has made the life and property and honor of each of you unto the other, until you meet your lord.
Let him that is present tell it to him that is absent. Haply he that shall be told may remember better than he who has heard it.
Verily, I have fulfilled my mission. I have left that amongst you, a plain command, the book of God, and manifest Ordinances which if you hold fast, you shall never go astray.
The Economic Life
The economic life of Islam is also based upon solid foundations and Divine instructions. Earning one’s living through decent labor is not only a duty but a great virtue as well. Dependence of any able effortless person on somebody else for a livelihood is a religious sin, a social stigma and disgraceful humility.
A Muslim is enjoined by God to be self-supporting and to stay away from being a liability on anybody. Islam respects all kinds of work for earning one’s livelihood so long as there is no indecency or wrong involved. With a clear conscience and due respect from society the Muslim can roll up his sleeves and undertake any kind of work available to provide for himself and his dependents. Prophet Muhammad is reported as having said that it is far better for one even to take his rope, cut wood, pile it up and sell it in order to eat and give charity than to beg others whether they give him or not. According to Islam, the status of honest working men cannot be lowered on account of the kind of work they are doing for a living. Yet the laboring workers have no limited scope for improving their lots and raising their standards as high as possible. They have equal opportunities at their disposal and enjoy freedom of enterprise.
Whatever the individual makes or earns through lawful means is his private possession, which neither the State nor anybody else can justifiably claim. In return for this right of private possession he has only to fulfill certain obligations to the society and pay certain taxes to the State. When this is done, he has full rights to protection by the State, and his freedom of enterprise is secure and guaranteed. Under the Islamic system the menace of greedy capitalism and destructive communism never arises. The enterprising individual is responsible for the prosperity of the State, and the State in turn is responsible for the security of the individual. Class conflicts are replaced by cooperation and harmony; fear and suspicion are remedied by mutual security and confidence.
The economic system of Islam is not drawn in the light of arithmetical calculations and capacities of production alone. Rather, it is drawn and conceived in the light of a comprehensive system of morals and principles. The person who is working for another person or for a firm or an institution is ordained by God to do his work with efficiency and honesty. The Prophet said that if any of you undertakes to do any work, God loves to see him do it well and with efficiency. Once the work is done, the worker is entitled to a fair wage for his services. Failure by the employer to pay the just wage, or attempts to cut it down and waver on it is a punishable act, according to the Law of God.
Business transactions enjoy a great deal of attention from Islam. Honest trade is permitted and blessed by God. This may be carried out through individuals, companies, agencies and the like. But all business deals should be concluded with frankness and honesty. Cheating, hiding defects of merchandise from the dealers, exploiting the needs of customers, monopoly of stocks to force one’s own prices are all sinful acts and punishable by the Islamic Law. If one is to make a decent living, it has to be made through honest ways and hard endeavor. Otherwise, easy come, easy go, and it is not only that, but anybody that is bred with unlawful provisions will be, according to the Prophet, a burning fuel to the Hell Fire on the Day of Judgement. To combat cheating and exploitation, Islam demands honesty in business, warns the cheaters, encourages decent work and forbids usury or the talking of interest just in return for lending money to the needy. This is to show man that he rightfully owns only what he works for, and that exploitation of other people’s pressing needs is irreligious, inhuman and immoral. In the Qur’an God says:
Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the Evil One by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say : ‘trade is like usury’. But God has permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who, after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for God (to judge). But those who repeat (the offence) are Companions of the Fire; they will abide therein (for ever). God will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity; for He loves not creatures ungrateful and wicked (2:274-276).
And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice) in order that you may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance (55:7-9). This is to guide man resort to justice and straightforwardness in all his dealings and transactions. The future of cheaters is grim and their doom is awful. Here is how the Qur’an looks into the matter:
Woe to those who deal in fraud, those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account on a Mighty Day, a Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds (83:1-6)
Besides that, there are numerous Traditions of Prophet Muhammad excluding the cheaters, exploiters, monopolizers and dishonest business people from the band of the true Muslims. Any business deal that involves injustice or cheating or exploitation is strictly inhibited and cancellable by the Law even after it is concluded. The main purpose of the Islamic legislation on economics and commerce is to secure the rights of the individual and maintain the solidarity of society, to introduce high morality to the world of business and enforce the Law of God in that sphere of enterprise. It is logical and consistent that Islam should be concerned with such aspects as these., because it is not merely a spiritual formula but a complete system of life in all its walks.
Proprietors are constantly reminded of the fact that they are in reality mere agents appointed by God to administer their holdings. There is nothing in Islam to stop the Muslim from attaining wealth and endeavoring for material improvements through lawful means and decent channels. Yet the fact remains that man comes to this world empty-handed and departs from it likewise. The actual and real owner of things is God alone of Whom any proprietor is simply an appointed agent, a mere trustee. This is not only a fact of life but also has a significant bearing on human behavior. It makes the proprietor always ready to spend in the way of God and to contribute to worthy causes. It makes him responsive to the needs of his society and gives him an important role to play, a sacred mission to fulfill. It saves him from the pit of selfishness, greed and injustice. This is the true conception of property in Islam, and that is the actual status of proprietors. The Qur’an considers possession of wealth a trying test, and not a token of virtuous excellence or privileged nobility or a means of exploitation. God says: It is He Who has made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He has raised you in ranks, some above others; that He may try you in the gifts He has given you. Verily, your Lord is quick in punishment, yet He is indeed Often Forgiving, Most Merciful (6:165).
Moreover, the Qur’an reports to mankind an interesting discourse between Moses and his people. It runs as follows:
Said Moses to his people, ‘pray for help from God, and wait in patience and constancy; for the earth is God’s. He gives it as a heritage to such of His servants as He pleases; and the end is best for the righteous.’
They said, ‘We have had nothing but trouble, both before and after you come to us.’ He said: ‘It may be that your Lord will destroy your enemies and make you inheritors in the earth; that so He may try you by your deeds’ (7:128-129).
This discourse between Moses and his people does not imply in any sense a recognition of any privileged genus of mankind on account of racial origin or ethnic identity. Nor does it mean that the Qur’an approves completely of the conduct and conceptions of the followers of Moses in later centuries. The tone of the text is rather reproachful and critical of the doubters; and reassuring of the fact that everything in the earth belongs to God, Who distributes it among His servants in the form of inherited trusts and objects of trial. The point is brought home time and again throughout the Qur’an. For example, it says:
To Him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all affairs are referred back to God . . . Believe in God and His Messenger, and spend (in charity) out of the (substance) whereof He has made you heirs. For, those of you who believe and spend (in charity) – for them there is a great reward. And what cause have you why you should not spend in the cause of God? For to God belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth (57:5, 7, 10).
Unlike Communism, Islam replaces the totalitarian artificial supremacy of the Communist State by the beneficial supremacy of God; and the Communist theory of class warfare by sound morals, mutual responsibilities and cooperation. On the other hand, it gives utmost assurances against greedy capitalism and ruthless exploitation by proprietors. The economic system of Islam grants full recognition of the “independent” entity of the individual and his natural aspirations to work and possessions. Yet it does not conceive of him as absolutely independent of God or the universe. It does not deify man or his capital, nor does it deify the proletariat and abolish free enterprise. It accepts man the way he is created and deals with him accordingly, making allowances for his instinctive aspirations and limited power. Man is a man, and he should be accepted and dealt with as such. He is not a god or a semi-god to arrogate to himself absolute powers and unquestionable infallibility. Nor is he countless or insignificant entity. He is someone to be recognized but in his real status and nonexaggerated or belittled nature. He is not above or out of the rest of the universe but a part of a whole system, an element in the total foundation of the universe.
Although man is encouraged to work, is free to enterprise, is entitled to earn and posses, the fact that he is a mere trustee provides the necessary measure to insure proper handling of his possessions, his trusts. He has authority to earn, to invest and to spend. Yet in so doing he is guided by high principles to save him from going astray. An example may be sufficient to illustrate the point. Proprietors are not unreservedly free to spend their money or handle their properties the way they please. There are certain rules of expenditure to be followed. In the words of Qur’an, God enjoins upon the proprietor to fulfill his financial obligations towards his fellow men, and to be moderate in his private spending. He is always reminded of the fact that God is the Real Provider and Actual Possessor. Here is the declaration of the Qur’an:
And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer. But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones, and the Evil One is to his Lord (Himself) ungrateful.
Make not your hand tied (like a niggard’s) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a foolish spendthrift); lest you become rebuked and destitute. Verily your Lord does provide sustenance in abundance for whom He pleases, and He provides in a just measure. For He does know and regard all His servants (17:26-27, 29-30).
The Political Life
Like the social and economic life, the political life of Islam is based on sound spiritual and moral foundations, and is guided by Divine instructions. The political system of Islam is unique in its structure, its function, and its purpose. It is not pragmatic or instrumentalistic. It is not theocracy whereby a certain class of people assumes divine rights, hereditary or otherwise, and poses above other citizens, beyond accountability. Nor is it a proletariat whereby some revengeful laborers capture power. It is not even democracy in its popular sense. It is something different from all that. To appreciate the political outlook of Islam one has only to know that it is based on the following principles:
1. Every deed of the Muslim individual or group of individuals must be inspired and guided by the Law of God, the Qur’an, which is the constitution chosen by God for His true servants. And if any do fail to judge (or rule) according to what God has revealed, they are the unbelievers . . . they are the wrong-doers . . . they are the rebels (5:47-50). Verily this Qur’an does guide to that which is most right and best (17:9).
2. The sovereignty in the Islamic State does not belong to the ruler nor even to the people themselves. It belongs to God, and the people as a whole exercise it by trust from Him to enforce His law and enact His will. The ruler, any ruler, is only an acting executive chosen by the people to serve them according to the Law of God. This is the foundation of the Islamic State and is only consistent with the general outlook of Islam on the universe of which God is the creator and in which He is the Sole Sovereign. In the Qur’an, one comes across statements like these: Authority, power and sovereignty belong to none but God, or Blessed be He in Whose hands is dominion, and He over all things has power (Qur’an, 67:1), or Verily God does command you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due; and when you judge (or rule) between people that you judge with justice. Verily how excellent is the teaching which He gives you! (4:58) or And to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between, and unto Him is the final goal (of all) (5:20).
3. The aim of the Islamic State is to administer justice and provide security and protection for all citizens, regardless of color or race or creed, in conformity with the stipulations of God in His constitution, the Qur’an. The question of religious or racial minorities does not arise so long as they are law-abiding and peaceful citizens. The Qur’an says:
O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is most close to piety, and mind God for God is well-acquainted with all that you do (5:9; cf. 4:135).
Verily God will defend those who believe, - - - - , those who, if We establish them in the Land, establish regular prayers and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid the wrong. With God rests the end (and decision) of all affairs (22:38-41).
4. Formed for the above-mentioned purposes and established to enforce the Law of God, the Islamic State cannot be controlled by any political party of a non-Islamic platform or subjected to foreign powers. It has to be independent to exercise its due authority on behalf of God and in His cause. This originates from the principle that a Muslim is one who submits to God alone and pledges loyalty to His Law, offering utmost cooperation and support to those who administer the Law and observe its stipulations. It is incompatible with Islam, therefore, for a Muslim nation to pledge support to any political party of a non-Islamic platform or to yield to a non-Islamic government of alien origins and aims. And never will God grant to the Unbelievers a way (to triumph or rule) over the Believers (4:141). The answer of the Believers, when summoned to God and His Messenger, in order that He may judge (or rule) between them, is no other than this: they say ‘We hear and we obey’ - - - - God has promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety, make them His vicegerents in the land, as He made those before them; that he will establish in authority their religion – the one which He has chosen for them; and that He will change (their state), after the fear in which they (lived), to one of security and peace: ‘They will worship Me (alone) and not associate any partner with Me.’ (24:51, 55). God has decreed: It is I and My apostles who must prevail. Verily God is one full of strength, able to enforce His will. You will not find any people who believe in God and the last Day, loving those who resist God and His apostles, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers or their kindred. For such believers He has written Faith in their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself (58:21-22).
5. The ruler, any ruler, is not a sovereign over the people. He is a representative employee chosen by the people and derives his authority from his obedience to the Law of God, the Law which binds the rulers and the ruled alike by a solemn contract over which God is the Supervisor. The political contract of Islam is not concluded between the administration and the public alone. It is between these combined on one side and God on the other, and it is morally valid and binding only as long as the human sides fulfill their obligations to the Divine. The rulers who are chosen by their people to administer the words of God are entitled to support and cooperation from the public in as much as they observe the very words of God. Should the public or any member of society fail to render support to and co-operation with such administrators, their act would be considered an irresponsible offense against the administration as well as against God Himself. Likewise, if the administration swerves from the Path of God or fails to observe His Law, it is not only committing a like offense but also has no right to the support and loyalty of the public. The Qur’an says:
O you who believe! Obey God, and obey the Messenger (of God) and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Messenger, if you do believe in God and the Last Day. That is the best, and most suitable for final determination (4:59).
Obedience to those charged with authority is conditioned by their own obedience to the Law of God and the Traditions of His Messenger. In one of his conclusive statements Muhammad said that there is no obedience or loyalty to any human being, ruler or otherwise, who is not himself obedient to God and bound by His Law. The early successors of Muhammad understood this principle very clearly and declared in their first statements of policy that they were to be obeyed and helped by the public as long as they themselves obeyed God, and that they had no claims to obedience from the people if they were to depart from the way of God.
6. The rulers and administrators must be chosen from among the best qualified citizens on the basis of their own merits of virtue, fitness and competence. Racial origin or family prestige and financial status do not in themselves make any potential candidates more or less qualified for high public offices. They neither promote nor hinder the merits of the individual. Every candidate must be judged on his own merits of which family prestige, wealth, race and age as such constitute no significant part. The candidates may be chosen by public consent through general elections, or they may be selected and authorized by public leaders, who are, in turn, entrusted to leadership by the free accord of the various sections of society. Thus, an Islamic State can have as many representative councils or municipal governments as desired. The right of election or selection and the conduct of administration are governed by the Law of God and must be aimed at the best interest of society as a whole. Prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever entrusts a man to a public office where in his society there is a better man than this trustee, he has betrayed the trust of God and His Messenger and the Muslims”. In a political sense this means that the electorate cannot, morally speaking, be indifferent to public events and that they, whenever they cast ballots, vote after careful investigations and premeditated choice. In this way the State could have the best possible safeguard of security and responsible citizenship, something which many democratic states of modernity lack.
7. After the people make their choice through election or selection of their ruler, every citizen is enjoined to supervise, with his means, the conduct of the administration and question its handling of public affairs, whenever he sees anything wrong with it. If the administration betrays the trust of God and the public, it has no right to continue in office. It must be ousted and replaced by another, and it is the responsibility of every citizen to see it that this is done in the public interest. The question of hereditary power or lifetime government is therefore inapplicable to an Islamic State.
8. Although the ruler is chosen and appointed by the people, his first responsibility is to God and, then, to the people. His office is not just symbolic nor is his role simply abstract. He is not a helpless puppet whose function is to sign papers or execute the public will invariably, i.e., whether it is right or wrong. He must exercise actual powers on behalf of the people for their best interest in accordance with the Law of God, because he has a dual responsibility. On the one hand, he is accountable to God for his conduct and, on the other, he is responsible to the people who have put their trust in him. He will have to give full account before God of how he treated his people themselves or their representatives. But both the ruler and his people will also have to give full account before God of how they treated the Qur’an, how they regarded the Law of God which He has given as a binding force. It is by his responsibility to the people that he should handle their affairs in the best common interest, and it is by his accountability to God that he should do so according to the Law of God. Thus, the political system of Islam is fundamentally different from all other political systems and doctrines known to mankind, and the ruler is not to govern the people according to their own desires. He is to serve them by making justice a common law, by making their genuine obedience to the Sovereign Lord of the universe a regular function of the state, and by making sound morality a noble undertaking of the administration.
9. Although the Qur’an is the Constitution of the Islamic State, Muslims are ordained by God to handle their common affairs through consultative methods. This makes room for legislative councils and consultative bodies on the local as well as on the national and international levels. Every citizen in the Islamic State is enjoined to offer his best advice on common matters and must be entitled to do so. To insure fulfillment of this obligation in a practicable and useful way, the rulers must seek the advice of the learned and experienced people in the state. But this does not in any sense deny the right of average citizens who must speak out whenever the occasion arises.
In this way every citizen of the Islamic State has an obligation, in one capacity, or another, to fulfill and is deeply concerned, directly or otherwise, about the conduct of public affairs. Islamic history provides authentic records of how the chief rulers and Caliphs were questioned, advised and corrected by common people, men and women alike. The principle of mutual consultation is so fundamental in Islam that not only has one to speak up his mind, but also to do so in the sincerest and most effective manner, for the best interest of society. Consultative methods in politics, or in any other field for that matter, are not only a democratic formula of government, but a religious injunction and a moral duty enjoined upon the rulers as well as the ruled. Besides his constant practice of this principle, the Prophet said that it is an essential part of religion to give good counsel. The purpose of such counsel is to insure that the Law of God is observed and that the rights of citizen are honored and their obligations fulfilled. To prevent the rise of professional politics and counteract the underground politicians of opportunist platforms, the Prophet, speaking on the authority of God, said that whoever speaks – be it in a form of counsel or any other form – must say the right and good things; or else he had better keep silent. This is to warn counselors and advisers against selfish inclinations or egoistic temptations. It is to guarantee that counsel is given with the sincerest intentions and in the best interest of the public, because it is authorized by God, carried on His behalf and aimed at the common welfare. The seeking of counsel on the part of the ruler and rendering it on the part of the public is not a matter of choice or a voluntary measure. It is an article of Faith, a religious ordinance. Muhammad himself, although wise, “infallible” and unselfish, was not above the maxim or an exception to the rule. God instructs him in this way :
It is by the mercy of God that you dealt gently with them (your people). Were you severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you. So pass over their faults, and ask for (God’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when you have taken a decision, put your trust (in Him) (3:159).
Enumerating the characteristics of Believers, the Qur’an makes clear mention of mutual counsel as an article of Faith. The Believers are those who believe in God and put their trust in their Lord, those who avoid the greater crimes and shameful deeds, and, when they are angry even then forgive; those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular prayer, and conduct their affairs by mutual consultation, and spend out of what We bestow on them for sustenance (by way of charity); and those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, (are not cowed but) help and defend themselves (42: 36-39).
10. Under the political system of Islam, every citizen is entitled to enjoy freedom of belief and conscience, and freedom of thought and expression. He is free to develop his potentialities and improve his lot, to work and compete, to earn and possess, to approve and disapprove of things, according to his honest judgement. But his freedom is not, and cannot be absolute; or else it amounts to chaos and anarchy. It is guaranteed by the Law of God and governed by the very same Law. As long as it is in line with this Law it is the rightful privilege of every individual citizen; but if it transgresses the limits of Law or conflicts with the common interest, it becomes a violation of God’s Law must, therefore, be controlled. The individual is part of the whole universe, so he must adjust himself to the Law and order of God, the Law by which the entire universe is administered. On the other hand, he is a member of his community or nation, and must adapt his own rights and interests to those of others in a mutually beneficial manner. If the individual takes an independent attitude on a certain matter of public concern and finds the majority taking a different attitude, he must in the end side with the majority to maintain solidarity and co-operation, provided the majority’s decision is not contrary to the Law of God. Yet in the process of forming a public opinion he is fully entitled to express his own opinion and persuade others of his convictions without disturbance or distortion. When it becomes clear that the majority have chosen a different course, then he is bound to go along with them, because the matter in question is no longer under individual consideration or deliberation but is undergoing public implementation (3:102-105; 8:46).
11. The governorship of the Islamic State is a public trust, to which the administrators are entrusted by the word of God as well as by the common consent of the people. With God being the Supreme Sovereign of the State, whoever represents Him in the top office must be faithful to the Entrusting Authority, must be a believer in God. And with the majority of the people being Muslims, whoever assumes the office of Presidency or Caliphate must be a true Muslim. These measures are taken to serve the common interest and fulfill all the obligations of the State to God as well as to the citizens. They are able to secure and honor the rights of the so-called religious or racial minorities.
It is unfortunate for humanity that this ruling of Islam has been poorly understood and badly distorted. The fact of the matter is that this ruling is not discriminating against minorities but is rather protective and assertive of their rights. Whoever wishes to be a law-abiding citizen of the Islamic State is welcome to it, and shares with others the duties and prerogatives of responsible citizenship. His being a non-Muslim does not lower his status or drop him down to second class citizenship, as long as he obeys the common Law of the State and exercises his rights in a responsible manner. If he wishes, for example, to pay the religious tax (Zakah) and other state taxes, like the Muslim citizens, towards the maintenance of the State and in return for his own security and welfare, he may do so. But if he thinks that paying the Islamic Tax (Zakah) is humiliating to his dignity or injurious to his feelings on account of his being a non-Muslim, he may pay his taxes in different form known as “tributes” or jizyah – so he in fact enjoys a choice which Muslims of the same state do not themselves enjoy. In return for his contributions to the State, he is fully entitled to protection and security by the State officials and the society.
Similarly, if such a citizen wants to administer his personal life of marriage, divorce, foods, inheritance, and so on, according to the Islamic Law, his desire must be recognized, and his rights must be respected. But if he wishes to administer these affairs according to his own religious teachings, he is absolutely free to do so, and no one can hamper the exercise of his rights in that respect. So in personal or sentimental matters, he may resort to his own teachings or to the public regulations. But in matters of public interest and common affairs he must abide by the Law of the State, the Law of God. No matter what he chooses, he is no less entitled to protection and security than any other citizen. All this is not a dream of a heavenly kingdom yet to come. It is the teaching of the Qur’an, the practice of Muhammad and the record of Islamic history. It is reported, for example, that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph after Muhammad, was once passing by a place where he found an old Jew in pitiful condition. ‘Umar inquired about the man and found out what his state was like. In a regretful tone he said to the man: “We collected tributes (taxes) from you when you were able. Now you are deserted and neglected. How unjust to you ‘Umar has been!” After he finished his remark, a regular pension for the old man was ordered and the order was made effective immediately. ‘Umar and other rulers received their political orientation at the hands of Muhammad, who in turn had been taught by God. These teachings are recorded in the Qur’an in verses like these:
God forbids you not, with regard to those who do not fight you for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them. For God loves those who are just. God only forbids you with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support others in driving you out, from turning to them for friendship and protection. Those who turn to them for friendship and protection are the wrong- doers (60:8-9).
Finally, it is a categorical error to compare the Islamic State and its need for a Muslim head with secular state where it is, theoretically, conceivable to have a head of state who may belong to a minority group. The comparison is fallacious and misleading for several reasons. First, it assumes that secularism, however superficial, is sounder than the Islamic ideology. Such an assumption or premise is pretentious. Secondly, the duties and rights of a head of state under Islam are quite different from those of his counterpart in a secular order, as outlined above. Thirdly, the modern secular spirit is for the most part a redemptive, apologetic restitution, a case which does not apply to Islam. Moreover, a head of secular state, if there can be a real one, may belong to a racial, ethnic, or religious minority. But he almost invariably has to join a majority party. What this does in fact is to substitute a political majority for a religious one, which is hardly an improvement of the minority status as such. Furthermore, the whole secular argument presupposes that the state headship is a right or privilege that may be conferred upon or denied to the individual. The Islamic position is radically different. In Islam, the state headship is first and foremost an obligation, a trying commitment, an awesome responsibility. It would be inequitable, therefore, if Islam were to impose such responsibilities upon non-Muslims.
The International Life
The international life in Islam is the course of relationships between an Islamic state or nation and other states or nations. Like the other aspects of the Islamic life, this one stems from Divine guidance and follows the Godly pattern. It is laid down on the following foundations:
1. An unshakable belief in the unity of mankind in origin, in human status, and in aims (Qur’an, 4:1; 7:189; 49:13);
2. Due respect for other people’s interests and rights to life, honor and property, as long as they do not encroach upon the rights of Muslims. This is because usurpation, transgression and wrong of all kinds are strictly forbidden (2:190-193; 42:42);
3. Peace as the normal course of relations, with exchange of goodwill missions and mutually honest endeavors for the sake of humanity in which all people share equally (see above and Qur’an, 8:61);
4. Intolerance of appeasement and encroachment in international relations. Should someone be tempted to violate the rights of the Islamic State, or disturb its peace, or endanger its security or exploit its peaceful policies, the State must hasten to defend itself and suppress all attempts of such a nature. Only here, under such circumstances, Islam justifies war. But even then there are moral principles to be followed to confine its scope to a minimum and carry its course only as far as it is necessary. The Law of war and peace in Islam is highly moral and unique, comprehensive and sound, it deserves a special study by jurists and moralists alike, something which this work cannot cover. But it should be remarked, however, that Islam neither justifies an aggressive war, nor does it make destruction of crops, animals, homes, etc., an objective of war. It neither allows the killing of non-fighting women, children and aged people, nor does it tolerate the torture of war prisoners and the imposition of its teachings on the defeated. It is only a defensive measure, justified by the practical principles of Islam, as long as wrong, injustice and aggression exist in the world (2:190 - 195, 216:218; 22:39 - 41; see also the discussion on Jihad below);
5. Fulfilling the obligations undertaken by the Islamic State and honoring the treaties concluded between the Islamic State and other states. This is only binding if the other parties remain faithful to their obligations and honor their treaties. Otherwise, there can be no validity of treaties or binding obligations (5:1; 8:55-56; 9:3-4);
6. Maintenance of internal peace and security, and genuine contribution to human understanding and universal to human understanding and universal brotherhood on the international level.
These are the inspiring sources in the making of the international life of an Islamic state. The Islamic State does not live just for itself and its own subjects. It has a wide scope and an important mission in the international field. By the order of Islam it has to endeavor for the prosperity and advancement of its own citizens in every aspect of life, and by the same order it should make valuable contributions to humanity at large. This provides for friendly relations, in the broadest sense of the word, with friendly people and states. It enjoins the Islamic State to play a vital role in the interest of humanity on the international level in education, economics, industry, politics, and so on. This role was initiated by Muhammad himself and maintained by his followers throughout the succeeding generations.
Before we conclude this chapter, it should be pointed out that whatever is discussed here is based on the sound, genuine and true principles of Islam as stated in the Qur’an and the Traditions of Muhammad. This is Islam which Muhammad and his faithful followers practiced and exemplified in the most excellent manner. It is not the Islam of any particular theologian or any particular jurist or ruler. Rather, it is Islam, the writer believers, as it really is, and as it is meant to be.
It should also be borne in mind that the Islamic system of life is unique and different from all other systems and ideologies. Whether one looks at it from a spiritual or moral, intellectual or cultural, political or economic or any other point of view, one can readily see that it is marked with distinguished characteristics. To illustrate, one may mention a few examples:
1. The source of the Islamic ideology is different. It is not man-made. It is not the production of subversive politicians or revengeful economists. Nor is it the work of pragmatic moralists or selfish industrialists. It is the work of God, the art of the Infinite One, created in the best interest of humanity as a whole. And by its nature it is binding and venerated by all the faithful. It is intelligible to every sound mind because it is free from the puzzling mysteries, secret reservations and arrogated prerogatives.
2. The aims of the Islamic ideology are also different. It is not aimed at world domination or physical expansion. Rather, it is aimed at world submission to the Will of God and world confinement to the limits of God’s Law. Its principal objective is to please God and cultivate man in such a way as to help him to obey the Law of the Creator and be a faithful vicegerent of the Lord. To achieve this end, it deals with all aspects of life; its purpose is to develop in man a clear mind, a pure spirit, a live conscience, a healthy body and responsive feelings. A person with these qualities cannot fail to obey God and adopt the most sound course of life. So the objectives of the Islamic ideology are far from being simply human or temporal.
3. The Islamic ideology has all the elements and forces that make it comprehensive and practicable, moderate and flexible. Its Divine origin reveals only the fundamental and inviolable principles, leaving a due scope for the human intelligence to work out details and make the necessary adaptation. In whatever way one looks at it, one can see that the Islamic ideology is composed of comprehensive, practicable and resourceful principles. They are comprehensive because they deal with all the major aspects of life; practicable because they have been put into practice and translated into reality at one time or another; moderate because they do not favor the individual capitalist or the proletariat; they are not exclusively concerned with the mundane or with the spiritual; they are confined neither to this world nor to the Future life. They mark a middle way between all extremes and are a guide to a moderate and stable life. Apart from these established principles, there is a great deal of flexibility for working out details suitable to various regions and ages. This flexibility is a matter of fact, a necessity, because the ideology is the work of God and in it, as in all of His work, there is a wide scope for the human mind and human trial.