Islam and Issues Concerning the Individual
- What is the relationship between God and man in Islam?
- What are Islam's rulings regarding the human mind and intellect?
- Does the Faith of Islam advocate fatalism?
- What are Islam's rulings on Democracy and human rights?
- What are Islam's rulings regarding art?
(I) What is the relationship between God and man in Islam?
1- God created man and established him as His vicegerent on earth and made the universe with its heavens and Earth and all that lies between them subservient to him and instructed him to populate the earth. This indicates that God intended that man should be the master in this universe, but at the same time he should not forget that God created him. In this sense only is he a slave to God his Creator whom he is expected to serve as one who worships Him and not as a servile or abject slave. God Almighty gave man the freedom of choice between obeying Him or disobeying Him, between believing in Him or rejecting His Faith and this is stated in the following Quranic verse:" Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it)" (18/29).Freedom of choice is the opposite of slavery. Man has always been granted the right and freedom of choosing his way in life and is consequently responsible for his actions: "If any one does a righteous deed, it is for the benefit of his own soul; and if he does evil, it works against (his own soul)." (45/15).
2- God has honoured man and preferred him to many of His creatures as is stated:" We have honoured the sons of Adam"(17/70). This honour with which God has blessed Man is the exact opposite ofservility, and when God created man and breathed into him of His spirit, he ordered the angels to prostate themselves before him: "When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, Fall down in obeisance unto him." (15/29) In this process of divine spiritual animation lies the intimate relationship between man and his Creator, and every human being retains within his soul the essence of this divine process which always assures him that he is in the Divine presence of God, wherever he may be: "And He is with you wheresoever you may be."(57/4)
3- The Quran also assures us that God Almighty is nearer to man than his own jugular vein (50/4), and that He is always near to him and that He answers the prayers of every person who invokes Him (2/186), and that His Mercy extends to all things (7/156), and that He is Most Merciful. Although God Almighty has been described in the Quran as being All-Compelling once and as being the Supreme Controlling power twice and as being Irresistible six times, He has been described as being the Most Gracious and Beneficent fifty seven times and as being the Merciful one hundred and fourteen times, in addition to being described as the Most Merciful of the merciful four times. God Almighty has also been described as kind and affectionate and the attribute of His Mercy has been mentioned innumerable times. The aforementioned verses all prove the intimate relationship between man and his Creator for it is a relationship of proximity, mercy and response to man's prayers and invocations, God Almighty is more merciful and compassionate to His creatures than a mother is to her child and this mercy is felt by every Muslim in the depths of his heart.
(II) What are Islam's rulings regarding the human mind and intellect?
1- Islam is the only religion which has elevated the status of the human mind and declared its importance. The human mind is the faculty through which man can be charged with duty and responsibility. It is man's intellect that makes him acknowledge his Creator, the mysteries of creation and the Supremacy of his Creator. The Quran addresses man's intellect and urges him to look at the Universe and meditate upon its existence in addition to studying it for the benefit of mankind and to strive to make the earth prosper and thrive. Moreover there is nothing to indicate that Islam prohibits Muslims to use their sense of judgement or that it is against scientific or academic thought.
2- It behoves us to state that Islam commands man to use his faculties of thinking and reasoning: "Travel through the earth and see how God did originate creation "(29/20). Islam also blames those people who do not employ their intellectual faculties of thinking, reasoning and meditating and the Quran describes such people as: "They have hearts where with they understand not, eyes where with they see not and ears where with they hear not they are like cattle-may more misguided: for they are heedless of warning." (7/179) Furthermore the Quran considers not using one s' sense and reason a sin, and describes what will happen on the Day of Judgement to those who refused to believe in God: "They will further say: Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not (now) be among the companions of the Blazing Fire'' (67/ 10).
3- The faith of Islam draws mans' attention to the fact that God has made the entire universe subservient to him. It is consequently his duty to use his powers of intellect for the welfare of mankind and the fruitfulness of the earth. The following Quranic verses confirm this matter: "It is he who has produced you from the earth and settled you therein'' (11/61). Also: "And he has subjected to you as from Him all that is in he heavens and on earth: behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect"(45/13).
Therefore the whole universe is a domain where man can exercise his powers of intellect without any prohibition or opposition to his thought providing that it is for the welfare of mankind. Everything that benefits mankind or entails prosperity and well being is encouraged by Islam.
4- The Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet are the two sources of the Faith of Islam, and to follow the religious rulings and observances stated in them is compulsory upon every Muslim. However, he is perfectly free to think, meditate, ponder and study everything in the world in which he lives. This is what the Prophet referred to when he said: "You are better acquainted with the affairs in the world in which you live".
Freedom of thought and academic or scientific research is guaranteed by Islam, provided that it does not violate the sanctity of the Faith and its beliefs and divine texts such as the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet. Any attempt to change, distort, add, omit or ridicule any of these holy texts is not only forbidden but is an unforgivable sin. For the rest everything in the world may be researched, studied or investigated.
(III) Does The Faith of Islam advocate fatalism?
1- Anyone who reads and meditates upon the verses of the Quran shall realize that Islam is a religion that urges man to action, for work is life and without work life shall cease to exist. Consequently we find in many Quranic verses that God Almighty linked righteous deeds and true Faith. Righteous deeds are every good deed or act performed whether it be of a religious or a worldly nature which benefits mankind or repels evil: "And say: work (righteousness); soon will God observe your work, and His Apostle and the believers (in the Faith)" (9/105).
The Quran urges people to work even on Fridays, the day of rest and worship of the Muslims: "And when the (Friday Noon) prayer is finished, then you may dispense through the land and seek the Bounty of God" (62/10).
2- The Prophet urged people to work until the last moment of their lives and till the end of the world. He is related to have said:
"Should the last our come upon you while you have a palm shoot in your hand that you are about to plant, plant it if you can". The prophet also refused to approve of people who spent all day and night long praying in mosques and depending on others to provide for them and maintain them. He also praised and blessed the person who earned his livelihood from his own toil and he said that the hand that toils in labour is blessed by God and by his Apostle.
3- The Prophet, who is the ideal of all Muslims, as stated in the Quran, used to work, plan, deliberate and prepare everything that was needed and then put his trust in God. Putting trust in God does not mean neglecting work and praying to God to fulfill our hope. The reason for this is that faith and trust in God is not only necessary but also obligatory, to remind us of God Almighty which inspires us with a spiritual energy that enables to overcome obstacles or problems with determination and resolution. This trust and dependence on God should be a strong and positive force and not a passive and an apathetic attitude.
Relying completely upon God, without making any effort to realize one's aims on the pretext that God's Will will be done as He Wills, is not accepted by Islam, for God does not assist a person who makes no effort to help himself. God, however, aids the person who strives to attain his aim: "Verily God will never change the condition of a people until they change it themselves'' (13/11).
Omar ben Al khattab expressed his great displeasure concerning a group of men who spent all their time praying in a mosque and depending upon others to work to maintain them and he exclaimed: "The sky does not rain gold or silver. ''He supported his statement by relating one of the sayings of the prophet and said: "Do what birds do. They go out every morning with empty craws and return at the end of the day with full craws''. People should learn a lesson from the birds that go out every morning in search of food and return at the end of the day with full craws.
(IV) What are Islam's Rulings on Democracy and Human Rights?
1- Islam was the first religion to call for Human Rights emphasizing the necessity of safeguarding them. Any scholar of Islamic Legislation learns that it declares the fundamental Rights of Man which include man's life, belief, his opinions, his wealth and his family, all of which are safeguarded by Islam. The history of Islam records 'Omar ben Khattab's decisive stand against the violation of human rights when he aid: "Why do you enslave people after their mothers gave birth to them as free individuals".
2- The Human Rights in Islam are based upon two fundamental principles:
(a) Equality among all human beings.
(b) Freedom which is the right of every human being.
Islam bases equality on two foundations namely that all human beings originated from the same Human origin, and human dignity which is granted to all mankind. As for the common origin of all mankind, Islam declares that God created mankind from one soul so all human beings are brothers and sisters in one large family in which there is no scope for privileges on account of wealth or status. The difference that exists between human beings does not affect their origin and essence, which are one and the same. The differences that exist between human beings in the world should urge them to become acquainted with each other and to cooperate with each other in various walks of life: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other'' (49/13).
The second foundation is that equality is based on the honour and dignity with which God Almighty graced all mankind: "We have honoured the sons of Adam'' (17/70).
God made man a vicegerent on earth and orderedthe angels to prostrate themselves before Adam and made him a master in this universe. God also rendered all that is in the heavens and the earth subservient to man. These privileges honoured and elevated him above other created beings. God conferred this honour and dignity in principle on all human beings without exception so that it would immune and protect every single human being, or rich or poor, rulers or subjects are all equal in the sight of God and in the eyes of the law. The second principle upon which the Human Rights are founded in Islam is freedom. God created man as a responsible human being for populating the earth and establishing civilization. Naturally responsibility cannot exist without freedom even in the matter of the choice of believing in God or rejecting to believe in Him, which is left to man's free will: ''Let him who will, believe, and let him who will reject (it).'' (18/29)
Freedom includes all aspects of human freedom whether religious, political, intellectual or concerning civil matters.
3- Passing judgement in Islam is based upon justice and consultation as is declared in the Quran: "And when you judge between man and man, judge with justice" (4/58).God Almighty ordered justice and benevolence in dealing with others: "God commands justice, the doing of good and liberality... " (16/90)
There are also many other verses in the Quran which illustrate this point.
As for consultation, it is a fundamental and obligatory principle in Islam. When the prophet was not inspired by Divine Inspiration in any matter, he consulted his companions and acted according to the opinion of the majority, even if it were contrary to his own opinion. An example of this was the consultation concerning the Battle of Uhud. The Prophet was of the opinion that the Muslims should not set out to fight yet he submitted to the opinion of the majority who advocated fighting and the result was defeat. Despite this the Quran emphasized the necessity of consultation and addressed the prophet in the following Quranic verse:" So pass over (their faults) and ask for(God's) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs"(3/159).
Accordingly we must not be misled by the opinion held by a minority of jurists who maintain that consultation is not obligatory, since their opinion is inconsistent with the religious texts of the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet.
Islam left to the judgement of the Muslims, the method of consultation in keeping with the interests of the community. If the welfare of a Muslim nation should require that consultation should follow the acknowledged system currently practised by modern nations, Islam does not object to that system, the application of which must necessarily take into account the circumstances of every era on the national and international level. The aforementioned facts illustrate the extent of Islam's concern for safeguarding the Human Rights and the application of the principle of consultation or democracy as it is understood today.
4- Islam permitted people to have different opinions and allowed interpretative judgement in religious matters providing that these people fulfilled the necessary qualifications to do so. Islam declares that the person who uses his judgement in the matter and errs is rewarded by God, whereas he who uses his judgement and arrives at the correct result is doubly rewarded by God. The scholars of the doctrines of jurisprudence will come across many different opinions concerning many matters and nobody has ever claimed that a difference of opinion is prohibited by Islam. Islam therefore allows the expression of differing opinions without any limitations, provided that they are sincerely concerned with the welfare, security and peace of their community.
(V) What are Islam's rulings regarding art?
1- Islam is a religion which admires beauty which exists everywhere. The Prophet himself once declared that God is perfection and He loves beauty. Nevertheless Islam gives priority to morals over beauty, and that in itself does not signify that Islam is against art. Islam thus considers that beauty should be dependent on morals. This is the attitudes taken by Islam concerning all branches of art. Islam's criterion when judging any branch or work of art is based upon the rule that what is right is good and what is evil is wrong.
The Quran draws our attention in many verses to the beauty of the Universe and the perfection of its creation which is admired by everyone who sees it, (15/10; 16/6; 41/12). Accordingly Islam does not condemn any branch or work of art if is beautiful. However, should it display any from of morally or materially repulsiveness Islam condemns it.
2- If the aim of any work of art to appeal to one's intellect and finer feelings, Islam naturally does not object to it. However, if it appeals to the carnal instincts of man and is not a manifestation of decent art, by spreading vice and an active factor in the deterioration of morals, Islam will condemn it.
3- When musical melodies, singing, and the worlds of songs are refined and harmonious, they are approved by Islam provided that they do not induce the people who listen to them to succumb to any form of temptation forbidden by God. In other words if art aspires to elevate the human emotions and the spirit of man, it is not only approved, but is also admired. The prophet admired the voice of Abu Moussa Al Ash'ary when he recited the Quran. The prophet also chose, from among his companions those who were gifted with melodious voices to proclaim the time of prayer. He also listened to musical instruments such as the tambourine, the pipe and the flute without making any remarks that could be interpreted as his dislike for music.
On the day of the Feast, Abu Bakr entered the Prophet's house and found his daughter 'Aisha - the Prophet's wife- listening to the singing of two bonds maids who were also beating drums. When Abu Bakr objected, the Prophet replied:" Leave them Abu Bakr: today is the day of the Feast''.
The Prophet himself also asked his wife 'Aisha to send for someone to sing at the wedding procession of her relative who was married to one of the inhabitants of Al Madina. There were numerous occasions when the prophet indicated that neither music nor singing are prohibited in Islam, unless they are accompanied by a form of immorality or vice.1
4-Regarding dancing Islam differentiates between men's dancing and women's dancing. For example men dancing in a group is approved of by Islam, and the prophet allowed his wife 'Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, to watch a group of Abyssinians dancing on the day of the Feast. Women dancing before other women is permitted by Islam, but their dancing in front of men is prohibited in order to eliminate any possibility of temptation, that may lead to immorality.
5- Acting is not prohibited providing it adheres to morality. No one can deny the important role played by the art of acting in its dealing with and treatment of many problems of the community. It also criticizes the vices rampant in society and presents solutions to many matters that concern the community. Also any form of reasonable and decent entertainment that does not exceed the limits of decency is permitted by Islam. Photography is also permitted by Islam and has come to be a necessity in the world of today.
6- There are definite religious rulings that prohibit sculpture and statues. The reason for this prohibition goes back to the advent of Islam when most people worshipped idols. Islam feared that statues might be worshipped by those whose belief was superficial and that they might revert to the worship of idols.
Currently such a possibility does not arise and consequently no sin is committed. However, Islam in order to prevent a recurrence of what took place in the pre- Islamic era in the future or even in the distant future, has laid down its ruling, since it legislates for all generations and eras and what may seem impossible in one era may become a reality in another era, be it sooner or later.