In the Name of Allah the Beneficent the Most Merciful
The Religion of Islam
Dr. Ahmed A. Galwash, Ph. D., litt. D
A standard book,
Companion and Introductory to the Koran
In pursuance of the design alluded to in the preface to Vol. I of this digest of the ‘Religion of Islam,” Vol. II of the said work is now presented embodying the practical devotions, legal transactions, punishments, moralities, foundations of Islamic jurisprudence and theology, together with an exposition of the spiritual aspect of the Muslim religion.
Before giving an account of the contents of the present volume, it may be proper to give some explanation about the Islamic law. The Islamic Law proceeds in its determinations upon two ground: the text of the Koran and the Sunna or the Oral Law or the Traditions of the Prophet.
- The Koran is considered by Muslims as the basis of their law; and is therefore, when applied to judicial matters, entitled by way of distinction” Al-Shari’a” or the Law, in the same way as the Pentateuch is distinguished by Jews.
The precepts of the Koran are of two prescriptions: prohibitory and injunctive. In their application, they are always considered as unquestionable and irrefragable.
Reviewing the Koran in a few words, Bosworth Smith states:”….“It is a book which is a poem a code of law, a book of common prayer, and a bible in one, and is reverenced to this day by a sixth of the whole of the human race as a miracle of purity of style, of wisdom and truth. It is the standing miracle claimed by Mohammad , and a miracle indeed it is”()
- As regards the Sunna, it literally signifies custom, regulation or institution. The Sunna stands next to he Koran in point of authority, being considered as a commentary to the Holy Book. It forms the body of what is termed the Oral Law, because it was not committed to writing by the scribes of the Prophet, it being deduced solely from his traditionary precepts, sayings and practice preserved from mouth to mouth by authorized persons.
After the Prophet’s death, the institutions of the Sunna were at first quoted by his companions merely to settle occasional disputes or to restrain men from certain actions which the Prophet had prohibited: and thus in the process of time, they became a standard of judicial determinations. The Sunna applies to many points of both devotional and temporal natures.
The mode of collection of the standard traditions is fully dealt with in its proper place in the present work. There are beside these, a multitude of traditions cited by Muslim commentators concerning the acts and sayings not only of the Prophet, but also of his companions and immediate successors, which, though not of equal authority, are nevertheless admitted to have some weight as precedents in judicial decisions, when not repugnant to reason or contradicted either by the Koran or the Sunna.
Having explained the foundations of the Islamic Law, we shall next endeavour to give an account of the state of society in Arabia–the birthplace of Islam– when the Arabian Prophet began to introduce the Islamic system of jurisprudence among the followers and subjects of Islam. To enter into this, in detail, would be much beyond the author’s design and would occupy more space than a mere preface would admit of. However, it is sufficient for our purpose to remark that the Arabians were divided into two main classes or descriptions of men: the townsmen and the wandering nomads in the desert. The former pursued commerce and husbandry. Whilst the latter, that is the great body of the nation, followed the usual occupations of the pastoral life; they occasionally made inroads upon their more wealthy neighbours, attacked the caravans, and plundered the travellers. “By the advent of Islam and through its gradual training and guidance, the tribes of the desert united their forces and, issuing from their native wilds, overran the neighbouring nations with an uninterrupted uniformity of success to which history opposes to parallel” 
When the Prophet Muhammad started to exercise his prophetic powers, he found his countrymen, in general, slaves to the most gross and stupefied idolatry. The paganism of the Sabians had overrun almost the whole nation. From Persia, the eastern tribes had caught much of the superstitions of the Magians. There were indeed numbers of Jews and Christians. The former had several considerable establishments and many whole tribes had embraced the Mosaic Creed or the Gospel.” “But their conduct and principles”– writes Prof. Standish Grove Grady –“little deserved the titles they assumed. The Jews paid more regard to the fabulous traditions of their Rabbins than to the severe and unaccommodating precepts of the Pentateuch; and the eastern churches”–continues Prof. Grady- “were divided and convulsed by scholastic disputes in which, instead of the mild and forbearing spirits of Christianity, nothing but mutual rancour, malice and uncharitableness prevailed whilst the pure and simple worship inculcated by its Divine Author had degenerated into mere outward show, expressive only of a debasing and idolatrous superstition”()
Prof. Bosworth Smith remarks: “As to the Pagan Arabs the nice distinctions of property were imperfectly understood; each tribe was governed by its own law and disputed causes were either referred to the determination of the chief or (more frequently) decided by an appeal to the sword.
“Private revenge was not merely tolerated, but encouraged, and the justice and necessity of it inculcated. Hence every dissension was the occasion either of single combat or of civil war, and tradition furnishes us with accounts of above 1,500 battles fought before the introduction of the Islamic system.
“Indeed, half pagan and half Christian, half civilised and half barbarian it was given to Mohammad in a marvelous degree to unite the peculiar excellences of the one with the peculiar excellence of the other.
“Head of the state as well as of the Church, he (Mohammad ) was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope’s pretensions, Caesar without the legions of Caesar. Without standing army, without a fixed revenue, if ever a man had the right to say that he ruled by a right divine, it was Mohammad, for he had all the power without its instruments”().
Dealing with the social changes brought by the Prophet, Dr. Noldeke states:
“One fact among others, by which we can estimate the striking impression the Prophet produced upon the Arabs, is that each tribe once submitted, or adopted his religion, it renounced the right of retaliation for the bloodshed in the struggle. Under other circumstances, this renunciation of blood-revenge, or of wergild at least, would have seemed to the Arab the lowest depth of humiliation. This was, indeed, so striking a feature of the new brotherhood that it could not fail to make a silent but deep impression upon the unbelieving multitude who now began to feel the power of the new religion.
“To those who seek miracles, this glorious result, achieved in less than a decade, constitutes a real and splendid miracle of Islam, which alone gives it the title, to be ranked as a great religion and wonderful civilising agency” ()
In an exquisitely beautiful passage full of grace and wisdom, the Holy Koran, draws a contrast between the life and manners of Arabs in the shade of Islam and those in pre-Islamic times; and urges upon the true believers a true union of hearts, and dwells on the real purpose of the advent of the new religion. Here is a rendering of the verses:
“O ye believers, fear God as He deserveth to be feared; and die not but as true Muslims and hold ye fast by the Cord of God, all of you, and do not scatter yourselves, and remember God’s goodness towards you, and how that when you were enemies. He united your hearts, and through His grace, ye became brethren, and while ye were on the brink of the pit of fire, He saved you from it; thus clearly God showeth His signs, that ye may be guided. And let there be among you some people who invite to the good, and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong; and these are they who shall prosper.” ()
The reader shall find in this volume the numerous rules, regulations, directions, institutions and guidance which have been the basis upon which the Empire of Islam was built. The Prophet Muhammad did not only promulgate a religion, but he also laid down a complete social system, containing minute regulations for a man’s conduct in all circumstances of life, with due rewards and penalties, according to his fulfillment or otherwise of these rulings. The social and the religious parts of Islam are so inseparably bound up that it is impossible to cut off the one from the other without destroying both. Religion according to Islam should not only lay down the law of relation of man to God, but should also regulate and distinctly define the proper relation between man and his fellow-beings.
Hence this Vol. II of the digest of the Religion of Islam is compiled to complete the survey of the religion in its three sides: the devotional, the social and the spiritual.
The attention of the authorities of the Islamic Congress in Cairo was directed to the necessity of having an English simplified digest of the practical institutions and judicial laws of the religion of Islam carefully compiled for the use and benefit of the English-speaking Muslim communities all over the world. They were prompt to grant their reverenced patronage to the author to continue his endeavours towards this end.
Hence the present Vol. II of “The Religion of Islam,” of which Volume I was published a few years ago and universally received with remarkable appreciation.
The advantages to be derived from a development of the institutes of the Islamic religion are not confined only to the use of those Muslims whose lack of knowledge of the Arabic language kept them rather in ignorance of the details of their religious system, but they extend also to the benefit of numerous inquirers in the West who seem unsatisfied with the misleading accounts of the Muslim Religion as given by foreign critics or missionaries, whose writing on a different faith other than their own is naturally bounded with certain party spirit. They desire information derived from the fountain-head and not through adulterated channels.
In a political view, it is humbly presumed that this work will not be found uninteresting. At the present eventual period, when we have seen colonization, fanaticism and despotism are about to eclipse and new conditions of real democracy and tolerance springing into birth, the long-riveted chains of capitalism seem hastening to be broken. Thus it is to be hoped that the development of publications on the Religion of Islam shall be the ambassador of goodwill between East and West.
It is also to be rightly hoped that they will contribute to a fuller knowledge of the great cultural heritage of the East, for only through real understanding will the West be able to appreciate the underlying problems and aspirations of the East today. The author is confident that a deeper knowledge of the great ideals and lofty philosophy underlying the Religion of Islam will help to a revival of that true spirit of charity which neither despises nor fears the notions and teachings of another creed.
The author earnestly trusts that his modest endeavour will serve in some degree to remove misconceptions as to the precept of the message of Islam, particularly with respect to tolerance in Islam and the status of woman. It is a recognized fact of history that in the dark ages of the Crusades, the truth was constantly perverted for the sake of political ends. So far, wherever scientific thought has not infused a new soul, and wherever true culture has not gained a foothold, the old spirit of exclusiveness and intolerance, the old ecclesiastic hatred of Islam, displays itself in writing, and in public speeches.
It is earnestly hoped that the modern spirit of honest inquiry, broadmindedness and tolerance will prevent the acceptance of these old prejudices.
Before bringing this my preface to an end it is pertinent to point out to the reader who will come across my interpretation of several verses of the Koran, that it must be remembered that as a miraculous Divine Book, the Koran, when translated, literally, into any foreign language, necessarily loses a great deal of its supernatural elegance and purity of style.
George Sale himself addresses the reader of his so-called translation of the Koran in the following words.
“…. Though the reader must not imagine the translation to come up to the original, notwithstanding my endeavours to do it justice.”
Hence my having to render into English exclusively the meaning of the verses, while avoiding any literal translation for the sake of the above argument. My interpretation as set forth in this book is simply according to my personal understanding of the meaning of the verses, notwithstanding my endeavours to do it justice.
For further illumination, of the subject I quote Mr. Bosworth Smith’s opinion of the Koran: “Illiterate himself (i.e. the Prophet Mohammad) yet brought forth a book which is a code of law, a book of common prayer, and a bible in one, and is reverence to this day by a sixth of the whole of the human race, as a miracle of purity of style of wisdom of truth. It was the one miracle claimed by Mohammad, his standing miracle he called it, and a miracle indeed it is.” ()
Ahmad A. Galwash
Cairo, October 1966.
(3) Dr. Noldeke’s in his book on “Islam,” p. 126.