THE ARTICLES OF FAITH
Before we proceed further, it would be advisable to recapitulate the former discussions and sum up their substance. We can summaries them as follows:
1. Although Islam consists of submission and obedience to Allah Lord of the universe, yet as the only authentic and reliable source of knowing Him and His Will and Law is the teaching of the true prophet, we may define Islam as that religion which stands for complete faith in the teachings of the prophet and unflinching obedience to his ways of life. Consequently, one who ignores the medium of the prophet and claims to follow God directly is not a ‘Muslim’.
2. In the earlier epochs there had been separate prophets for different nations, and the history of prophethood shows that even in one and the same nation several prophets appeared one after the other. In that age Islam was name of that religion which was taught to a nation by its own prophet or prophet. Though the nature and substance of Islam was the same in every age and country, the modes of worship, codes of law, and other detailed rules and regulations of life were a bit different according to the local and particular conditions of every people. It was not, therefore, necessary for any nation to follow another nation’s prophet and its responsibility was confined only to following the guidance given by its own prophet.
3. This period of poly-prophetism came to an end with the advent of Muhammad (peace is upon him). The teachings of Islam were made complete through him; one basic law formulated for the whole whole world and he was made a prophet unto the entire humanity. His prophethood was not meant for any particular nation or country or period; his message is for all peoples and for all ages. The earlier codes were abrogated by the advent of Muhammad (peace be upon him) who gave the world a complete code of life. Now, neither any prophet is to appear in the future nor is any new religious code going to be revealed till the Last Day. Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) teachings are meant for all the children of Adam, the entire human race. Now Islam consists in following Muhammad, viz. To acknowledge his prophethood, to believe in all that he has asked to his believe in, to follow him in letter and spirit, and to submit to all his commands and injunction of God. This is Islam.
This automatically brings us to the question: What has Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked us to believe in? What are the articles of Islamic faith? Now we shall try to discuss these articles and see how simple, how true, how lovable and how valuable they are and to what high pinnacle they raise the status of Man in this world and the life to come!
The most fundamental and the most important teaching of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is faith in the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is faith in the unity of God. This is expressed in the primary kalima of Islam as La ilaha illallah "There is no deity but Allah". This beautiful phrase in the bedrock of Islam, its foundation and its essence. It is the expression of this belief which differentiates a true Muslim from a kafir (unbeliever), a Mushrik (one who associates others with God in His divinity), or a Dahriya (atheist). The acceptance or denial of this phrase produces a world of difference between man and man. The believers in it become one single community and those who do not believe in it form the opposite group. For the believers there is unhampered progress and resounding success in this world and in the hereafter, while failure and ignominy are the ultimate lot of those who refuse to believe in it.
But the difference which occurs between the believers and the unbelievers is not the result of mere chanting of a few words. Evidently the mere utterance of mere chanting of a few words. Evidently the mere utterance of a phrase or two cannot bring about such a mighty difference. The real force lies in the conscious acceptance of this doctrine and its stipulations and complete adherence to it in practical life. Unless you know the real meaning of the phrase "there is no deity but Allah" and the bearing of its acceptance on human life, you cannot realize the real importance of this doctrine. It would never become effective unless these essentials are achieved. Mere repeating of the word ‘food’ cannot dull the edge of hunger; mere chanting of a medical prescription cannot heal the disease. In the same way if the Kalima is re0peated without any understanding of its meanings and dictates, it cannot work the revolution which its meanings and dictates, it cannot work the revolution which it is meant to bring about. The revolution in thought and life can occur only if a person grasps the full meaning of the doctrine, realizes its significance, reposes true belief in it, and accepts and follows it in letter and spirit. Unless this grasp of the Kalima is developed it cannot become fully effective. We avoid fire because we have a realization that it burns; we keep away from poison because we believe that its use kills a man. Similarly, if the real meanings of Tawheed are fully grasped, it should necessarily make us avoid, in belief as well as in action, every form and shade of disbelief, atheism, and polytheism. This is the natural dictate of belief in the Unity of God.
In the Arabic language the word ilah means ‘one who is worshipped’, i.e. a being which on account of its greatness and power be considered worthy to be worshipped, to be bowed to in humility and submission. Anything or any being possessing power too great to be comprehended by man is also called ilah. The conception of ilah also includes the possession of infinite powers: that may astonish others. It also conveys the sense that others are dependent upon ilah and that he is not dependent upon anyone else. The word ilah also carries a sense of concealment and mystery, that is, ilah would be a being unseen and unperceptible. The word khuda in Persian, deva in Hindi, and god in English bear, more or less, similar signification. Other languages of the world also contain words with a like sense1.
The word Allah, on the other hand, is the essential personal name of God. La ilaha illallah would literally mean "There is no ilah other than the One Great being known by the name "Allah". It means that in the whole of the universe, there is absolutely no being worthy to be worshipped other than Allah, that it is only to Him that heads should bow in submission and adoration, that He is the only Being possessing all powers, that all powers, that all are in need of His favor, and that all are obliged to solicit His help. He is concealed from our senses, and our intellect fails to perceive what He is.
Having known the meanings of these worlds, let us now find out their real significance.
From the most ancient known history of man as well as from the oldest relics of antiquity that we have been able to obtain, it appears that in every age man had recognized some deity or deities and had worshipped them. Even in the present age every nation on the face of the earth, from the most primitive to the most civilized, dose believe in and worship some deity. It shows that the idea of having a deity and of worshipping him is ingrained in human nature. There is do so.
But the question is: What that thing is and why man feels impelled to do to do so? The answer to this question can be discovered if we try to look into the position of man in this huge universe. A perusal of man and his nature from this view-point shows that he is not omnipotent. Neither he is self-sufficient and self-existing nor are his powers without limitations. In fact, he is weak, frail, needy, and destitute. He is dependent upon a multitude of forces and without their assistance he cannot make a headway. There are countless things necessary to maintain his existence, but all of them are not essentially and totally within his powers. Sometimes they come to his possession in a simple and natural way, and at times he finds himself deprived of them. There are many important and valuable things which he endeavors to get, but sometimes he succeeds in getting them, while sometimes he does not, for it is not completely in his own power to obtain them. There are many important and valuable things which he endeavors to get, but sometimes he succeeds in getting them, while sometimes he dose not, for it is not completely in his won power to obtain them. There are many things injurious to him; chances bring his hops to a sudden end; disease, worries, and calamities, always threaten him and mar his way to happiness. He attempts to get rid of them, and success and failure both visit him in this quest. There are many things whose greatness and grandeur overawe him mountains and rivers, gigantic animals and ferocious beasts. He experiences earthquakes, storms, and other natural calamities. He observes clouds over his head and sees them becoming thick and dark, with peals of thunder, flashes of lightning and continuous fall of heavy rain. He sees the sun, the moon, and the stars in their constant motion. He reflects how great, powerful, and grand these bodies are, and, in contrast to them, how frail and insignificant he himself is! The vast phenomena, on the one hand, and the consciousness of his own frailty, on the other, impress him with a deep sense of his own weakness, humbleness, and helplessness. And it is quite natural that the preliminary idea of divinity coincides with this sense. He thinks of those hands which are wielding these great forces. The sense of their powerfulness makes him seek their help. He tries to please them so that they may be beneficent to him, and he dreads them and tries to escape their wrath so that he may not may not be destroyed by them.
In the most primitive stage of ignorance, man thinks that the great objects of nature whose grandeur and glory are visible, and which appear to be injurious or beneficent to him, hold in themselves the real power and authority, and therefore, they are diving. Thus he worship trees, and numerous other objects. This is the worst form of ignorance.
When his ignorance dissipates to some extent and some glimmers of light and knowledge appear on his intellectual horizon, he comes to know that these great and powerful objects are in themselves quite helpless and dependent and are in no way better placed than man rather they are still more dependent and helpless. The biggest and the strongest animal dies like a tiny germ, and loses all his power; great rivers rise and fall and become dry; the high mountains are blasted and shattered by man himself; the productiveness of the earth is not under earth’s own control-water makes it prosperous and lack of water makes it barren. Even water is not independent. It depends on air which brings the clouds. Air too is powerless and its usefulness depends on other causes. The moon, the sun, and the stares also are bound up by a powerful law outside whose dictates they cannot make the slightest movement. After these considerations his mind turns to the possibility of some great mysterious power of divine nature which controls the objects he sees and which may be the repositories of all authority. These reflection give rise to belief in mysterious powers behind the natural phenomena, numberless gods are supposed to be governing various parts and aspects of nature such as air, light, water, etc, and some suggestive material forms or symbols are constructed to represent them. And he begins to worship those forms and symbols. This too is a form of ignorance, and reality remains hidden from the human eye even at this stage of intellectual and cultural pilgrimage.
As man progresses still further in knowledge and learning, and as he reflects more and more deeply on the fundamental problems of life and existence, he finds an all-powerful law and an all-encompassing control in the universe. What a complete regularity control in the universe. What a complete regularity is observed in sunrise and sunset, in winds and rains, in the motions of stars and the changes of seasons! How in a wonderfully harmonious way countless different forces are working jointly, and what a highly potent and supremely wise Law it is, according to which all the various causes in the universe are made to work together at an appointed time to produce an appointed event! Observing this uniformity, regularity, and complete obedience to a firm law in all fields of believe that there must be a deity greater than all others, exercising supreme authority. For, if there were separate, independent deities, the whole machinery of the universe would be upset. He calls this greatest deity by different names, such as ‘Allah’ ‘Permeshwar,’ ‘God,’ Khuda-I-Khudaigan,’ etc. but as the darkness of ignorance still persists, he continues worshipping minor deities along with the Supreme One. He imagines that the Divine Kingdom of God may not be different form earthly kingdoms. Just as a ruler has many ministers, trusted associates, governors, and other responsible officers, so the minor are like so many responsible officers, under the Great God who could not be approached without pleasing and propitiating the officers under Him. So they must also be worshipped and appealed to for help, and should in no case be offended. Can be made to the Great God.
The more man increases in knowledge, the greater become his dissatisfaction with the multiplicity of deities. So the number of minor deities begins to decrease. More enlightened men bring each one of them under the searchlight of scrutiny and ultimately find that none of these man-made deities has any divine character; they themselves are creatures like man, rather more helpless. They are thus dropped out by one until only one God remains. But the concept of one God still contains some remnants of the elements of ignorance. Some people imaging that has a body as man have, and is settled in a particular place. Some believe that God came down to the earth in human form; others think that God after settling the affairs of the universe has retired and is now taking rest. Some believe that it is necessary to approach God through the media of saints and spirits, and nothing can be achieved without their intercession. Some imagine God to have a certain form or image and they regard it necessary to keep that before them for the purposes of worship. Such distorted notions of godhead have persisted and lingered, and many of them are prevalent among different people even in the present age.
Tawheed is the highest conception of godhead, the knowledge of which God has sent to mankind in all ages through His prophets. It was this knowledge with which, in the beginning, Adam had been revealed to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (God’s blessings be upon them all). It was this very knowledge which Muhammad (God’s blessings be upon him) brought to mankind. It is The Knowledge, pure and absolute, without the least shade of ignorance. Man because he guilty of shirk, idol-worship and kufr, only because he turned away from the teachings of the prophets and depended upon his own faulty reasoning, false perceptions or biased interpretations. Tawheed dispels all the clouds of ignorance and illumines the horizon with the light of reality. Let us see what significant realities this concept of Tawheed-this little phrase: ‘la ilaha illallah’-points out: what truth it conveys and what beliefs it fosters. This we can grasp if we ponder over the following points.
First of all we are faced with the question of divinity. We are face to face with a grand, limitless universe. Man’s mind fails to discern its beginning and visualize its end. It is moving on in its chartered course from time immemorial and is continuing its journey in the vast vista of the future. Creatures beyond number have appeared in it-and go on appearing every day. The phenomena are so bewildering that a thinking mind finds itself aghast and wonderstruck. Man is unable to understand and grasp the reality by his unaided vision. He cannot believe that all this has appeared just by chance or accident. The universe is not a fortuitous mass of matter. It is not a jumble of uncoordinated objects. It is not a conglomeration of thing chaotic and meaningless. All this cannot be without a Creator, a Designer, a Controller, a Governor. But who con create and control this majestic universe? Only He can do so master of all; who is infinite and eternal; who is all-powerful, all wise, omnipotent, and omniscient; who is all-knowing and all-seeing. He must have supreme authority over all that exists in the universe. He must possess limitless powers, must be the lord of the universe and all that it contains, must be free from every flaw and weakness and none may have the power to interfere with His work. Only such a being can be the Creator, the Controller and the Governor of the universe.
Secondly, it is essential that all these divine attributes and powers must vest in one being-it is virtually impossible for two or more personalities having all the powers and attributes equally to co-exist. They are bound to collide. Therefore there must be one and only one Supreme Being having control over all others. You cannot think of two governors for the same province or two supreme commanders of the same army! Similarly, the distribution of these powers among different deities, for instance, that one of them is all knowledge, the other all providence and still another life-giver-and each having independent domain in his own field-is unthinkable. The universe is an indivisible whole and each one of such deities will be dependent upon others in bound to occur. And if this happens, the world is destined to go to pieces. These attributes are also untransferable. It is not possible that a certain attribute might be present in a certain deity at one time and at another time it be found in another deity. A divine being who is incapable of remaining alive himself cannot give life to others. The one who cannot protect his own divine power is definitely unsuited to govern the vast limitless universe. Thus the greater you reflect upon the problem, the firmer would be your conviction that all these divine powers and attributes must exist in one end the same Being alone. Thus polytheism is a form of ignorance and cannot stand rational scrutiny. It is a practical impossibility. The facts of life and nature do not fit into that explanation. They automatically bring man to Reality, i.e. Tawheed (the Unity of God).
Now keeping in view this correct and perfect conception of God, cast a searching glance at this vast universe. Exert yourself to the utmost and say if you find among all the objects that your see, among all the things that you perceive, among all that you can think, feel, or imagine-all that your knowledge can comprehend-anyone possessing these attributes. The sum, the moon, the stars, animals, birds or fishes, matter, any man or a group of men-does any of them possess these attributes? Certainly none! For everything in the universe is created, is controlled and regulated, is dependent on others, is mortal and transitory, is not elf-acting and self-propelling-its slightest movements are controlled by an inexorable law and it cannot deviate from that law. Their helpless condition proves that the attire of divinity cannot fit their body. They do not possess the slightest trace of divinity and have absolutely nothing to do with it. They are simply without the godly powers and it is a travesty of truth and a folly of the highest magnitude to attribute to them the divine status. This is the meaning of ‘La ilaha,’ i.e. there is no god ; no human and material object possesses the divine power and authority deserving worship and obedience.
But this not the end of our quest. We have found that divinity does not vest in any material or human element of the universe, and that none of them possesses even the slightest trace of it. This very inquiry leads us to the conclusion that there is a Supreme Being, over and above all that our unwary eyes see in the universe, who possesses the Divine attributes who is the Will behind all phenomena, the Creator of this grand universe, the Controller of its superb Law, the Governor of its serene rhythm, the Administrator of all its working: He is Allah, the Lord of Universe and has none as associate in His Divinity. This is what "illallah" (but Allah) means.
This knowledge is superior to all other kinds of know ledge and the greater You exert, the deeper will be your conviction that this is the starting-point of all knowledge. In every filed of inquiry-may it be that of physics chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology, zoology, economics, politics, sociology, or humanities, you will find that the deeper you probe, the clearer become the indications of the truth of La ilaha illallah, in every field of knowledge and inquiry. It is this concept which opens up the doors of knowledge with the light of reality. And if you deny or disregard this reality, you will fins that at every step you meet disillusionment, for the denial of this primary truth robs everything in the universe of its real meaning and true significance. The universe becomes meaningless and the vistas of progress get blurred and confused.
Now let us study effects which the belief in La ilaha illallah brings forth upon the life of a man and see why he should always be a success in life, here and in the hereafter.
- A believer in this Kalima can never be narrow-minded or shriveled in outlook. He believes in a God who is Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Master of the East and the West and Sustainer of the entire universe. After this belief he does not regard anything in the world as a stranger to himself. He looks upon everything in the universe as belonging to the same Lord whom he himself belongs to. He is not partisan in his thinking and behavior. His sympathy, love, and service do not remain confined to any particular sphere or group. His vision is enlarged, his intellectual horizon widens, and his outlook become liberal and as boundless as is the Kingdom of God. How can this width of vision and breadth of mind be achieved by an atheist, a polytheist, or one who believes in a deity supposed to possess limited and defective powers like a man?
- This belief produces in man the highest degree of self-respect and self-esteem. The believer knows that Allah alone is the possessor of all power, and that none besides Him can benefit or harm a person, or provide for his need, or give and take away life, or wield authority or influence. This conviction makes him indifferent to, and independent and fearless of, all powers other than those of God. He never bows his head in homage to any of God’s creatures, nor does he stretch his hand before anyone else. He is not overawed by anybody’s greatness. This quality or attitude of mind cannot be produced by any other belief. For it is necessary that those who associate other beings with God, or who deny God, should bow in homage to some creatures, regard them able to benefit or harm them, and repose all their hopes in them.
- Along with self-respect this belief also generates in man a sense of modesty and humbleness. It makes him unostentatious and unpretending and unpretending. A believer never becomes proud, haughty or arrogant. The boisterous pride of power, wealth and worth can have no room in his heart, because he knows that whatever he possesses has been given to him by God, and can take away just as He can give. In contrast to this, an unbeliever, when he achieves some worldly merit, becomes proud and conceited because he believes that his merit is due to his own worth. In the same way pride and self conceit are a necessary outcome and concomitant of shirk (association of others with God in His divinity), because a mushrik believes that he has a particular relation with the deities which does exist between them and other people.
- This belief makes man virtuous and upright. He has the conviction that theirs is no other means of success and salvation for him except purity of soul and righteousness of behavior. He has perfect faith in God who is above all need, is related to none, is absolutely just, and none has any hand or influence in the exercise of His divine powers. This belief creates in him the consciousness that, unless he lives rightly and acts justly, he cannot succeed. No influence or underhand activity can save him from ruin. As against this, the kefirs and the mushriks always live on false hopes. Some of them believe that God’s son has atoned for their sins; some think that they are God’s favorites, and will not be punished, others believe that their saints will intercede with God on their believe that their deities and believe that by so bribing the deities they have acquired a license for all frivolities and ill-deeds s and depending upon their deities, they do not live pure and good lives. As to the atheists, they do not believe that there is any Being having power over them, to whom they would be responsible for their good or bad action; therefore they consider themselves altogether independent to act in whatever way they like in this world. Their own fancies become their gods and they live like slaves of their wishes and desires.
- The believer does not become despondent and broken-hearted under any circumstances. He has firm faith in God who is the Master of all the treasures of the earth and the heavens, whose grace and bounty have no limit and whose powers are infinite. This faith imparts to his heart extraordinary consolation, fills it with satisfaction and keeps it filled with hope. In this world he might meet with rejection from all doors, nothing herein might serve his ends,. All means might, one after another, desert him; but faith in and dependence on God never leave him; and upon their strength he goes on struggling. Such a profound confidence can result from no other belief than belief in one God. Mushirks, kafirs, and atheists have small hearts; they depends upon limited powers; therefore in hours of trouble they are soon overwhelmed by despair and, frequently, they commit suicide2.
- This belief produces in man a very strong degree of determination, patient perseverance, and trust in God. When he makes up his mind and devotes his resources to fulfill the Divine Commands in order to secure God’s pleasure, he is sure he has the support and backing of the Lord of the universe, this certainty makes him firm and strong like a mountain, and no amount of difficulties, impediments, and hostile opposition can make him give up his resolution. Shirk, Kufr, and atheism have no such effect.
- On account of man's interference and interpolation, many things have been inserted in those books, which are against reality, revolting to reason, and affronting to every instinct of justice. There are thing which are cruel and unjust and vitiate man's beliefs and action. Furthermore, unfortunately, things have been inserted that are obscene, indecent, potently immoral. The Qur'an is free from all such rubbish. It contains nothing against reason, and nothing that can be proved wrong. None of its injunctions is unjust; nothing in it is misleading. Of indecency and immorality not a trace can be found in it. From the beginning to the end the whole Book is full of wisdom and truth. It contains the best of philosophy ad the choicest of law for human civilization. It points out the right path and guides man to success and salvation. It is on account of these special features of the Qur'an that all the peoples of the world have been direct to have faith in it, to give up all other Books, and to follow it alone, because it contains all that is essential for living in accordance with God's pleasure, and after it there remains absolutely no need for any other divine Book.
The study of the differenced between the Qur'an and other divine Books makes one easily understand that the nature of faith in the Qur'an and that of belief in the former Books is not similar.
Faith in the former divine Books should be limited to the confirmation that they were all from God, were true, and had been sent down to fulfill, in their time, the same purpose for which the Qur'an has been sent. On the other hand, belief in the Qur'an should be of the nature that it is purely and absolutely God's own words, that it is perfectly true, that every word of it is preserved, that everything mentioned therein is right, that it is the bounden duty of man to carry out in his life each and every command of it; and that whatever be against it must be rejected.
The Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has further instructed us to have faith in the existence of God's angels. This is the second article of Islamic faith and is very important, because it absolves the concept of Tawhid from all impurities and frees it from the danger of every conceivable shadow of shirk (polytheism).
The polytheists have associated two kind of creatures with God: (a) Those which have material existence and are perceptible to the human eye, such as the sun, moon, stars, fire, water, animals, great men. (b) Those who have no material existence and are not perceptible to the human eye: the unseen beings who are believed to be engaged in the administration of the universe; for instance, one controls the air, another imparts light, another brings rains, and so on and so forth.
The alleged deities of the first kind have material existence and are before man's eye. The falsity of their claim has been fully exposed by the Kalimah -- La ilaha illallah. This is sufficient to dispose of the idea that they enjoy any share in divinity or deserve any reverence at all. The second kind of things, being immaterial, are hidden from the human eye and are mysterious; the polytheists are more inclined to pin their faith in them. They consider them to be deities, gods and God's children. They make their images and render offerings to them. In order to purify belief in the Unity of God, and to clear it from the admixture of this second kind of unseen creatures, this particular article of faith has been expounded.
Muhammad has informed us that these imperceptible spiritual beings, whom people believe to be deities of gods or God's children, are really His angels. They have no share in God's divinity; they cannot deviate from His commands even by the slightest fraction of an inch. God employs them to administer His Kingdom, and they carry out His orders exactly and accurately. They have no authority to do anything of their own accord; they cannot present to God any scheme conceived by themselves, they are not even authorized to intercede with God for any man.
To worship them and to solicit their help is degrading and debasing for man. For, on the very first day of man's creation, God had made them prostrate themselves before Adam, granted to him greater knowledge than they possessed, and bestowed on Adam His own vicegerency on this earth 3 in preference to them. What debasement can, therefore, be greater for man than prostrating himself before those who had prostrated themselves before him!
Muhammad forbade us to worship angels, and to associate them with God in His divinity. He also informed us that they were the chosen creatures of God, free from sin, from their very nature unable to disobey God, and ever engaged in carrying out His orders. Moreover, he informed us that these angels of God surround us from all sides, are attached to us, and are always in our company. They observe and note all our actions, good or bad. They preserve a complete record of every man's life. After death, when we shall be brought before God, they will present a full report of our life's work on earth, wherein we shall find everything correctly recorded, not a single movement left out, however insignificant and however carefully concealed it may be.
We have not been informed of the intrinsic nature of the angels. Only some of their virtues or attributes have been mentioned to us, and we have been asked to believe in their existence. We have no other means of knowing their nature, their attributes and their qualities. It would therefore, be sheer folly on our part to attribute any form or quality to them of our own accord. We must believe in them exactly as we have been asked to do. To deny their existence is kufr for, first, we have no reason for such a denial, and, second, our denial of them would be tantamount to attributing untruth to Muhammad. We believe in their existence only because God's true Messenger has informed us of it.
The third article of faith which Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) has commanded us to believe is faith in the Books of God; Books which He has sent down to mankind through His Prophets.
God had revealed His Books to His Prophets before Muhammad and these books were sent down in the same way as He sent down the Qur'an to Muhammad. We have been informed of the names of some of these books: Books of Abraham, the Torah of Moses, Zabur (Psalms) of David, and the Injil (Gospel) of Jesus Christ. We have not been informed of the names of Books which were given to other Prophets. Therefore, with regard to other existing religious books, we are not in a position to say with certainty whether they were originally revealed books or not.
But we tacitly believe that whatever Books were sent down by God are all true.
Of the Books we have been told, the Books of Abraham are extinct and not traceable in existing world literature. David's Zabur, the Torah and the Injil exist with the Jews and the Christians, but the Qur'an informs us that people have changed and added to these books, and God's words have mixed up with texts of their own making4. This corruption and pollution of the Books has been so large and so evident that even the Jews and the Christians themselves admit that they do not possess their original texts, and have only their translations, which have been altered over many centuries and are still being changed. On studying these Books we find many passages and accounts which evidently cannot be from God. God's words and those of man are mixed together in these books, and we have no means of knowing which portions are from God and which from man.
We have been commanded to believe in previously revealed Books only in the sense of admitting that, before the Qur'an, God had also sent down books through His Prophets, that they were all from one and the same God, the same God Who sent the Qur'an and that the sending of the Qur'an as a Divine Book is not a new and strange event, but only confirms, restates and completes those divine instructions which people had mutilated or lost in antiquity.(4)
(4) Even a cursory study of the first books of the Old Testament and the four Gospels of the New Testament reveals that they are the productions of men and in these writings some parts of the original Psalms of David and the Gospels of Christ have been incorporated. The first five books of the Old Testament do not constitute the original Torah, but parts of the Torah have been mixed up with other narrative written by human beings and the original guidance of the Lord is lost. Similarly, the four Gospels of Christ are not the original Gospels as they came from the Prophet Christ (peace be upon him). They are in fact, the life-histories of Christ compiled by four different persons on the basis of knowledge and hearsay, and certain parts of the original Gospel also fell into them. But the original and the fictitious, the Divine and the human, are so intermingled that the grain cannot be separated from the chaff. The fact is that the original Word of God is preserved neither with the Jews nor with the Christians. The Qur'an, on the other hand, is fully preserved and not a syllable has been changed or left out of it.
The Qur'an is the last of the Divine Books sent down by God and there are some very pertinent differences between it and the previous Books. These differences may briefly be stated as follows:
1. The original texts of most of the former Divine Books were lost altogether, and only translations exist today. The Quran, on the other hand, exists exactly as it was revealed to the Prophet; not a word -- nay, not a syllable of it -- has been changed. It is available in its original text and the word of God has been preserved for all time.
2. In the former Divine Books man mixed his words with God's, but in the Quran we find only the words of God -- and in their pristine purity. This is admitted even by the opponents of Islam.
3. In respect of no other sacred Book possessed by different peoples can it be said on the basis of authentic historical evidence that it really belongs to the same Prophet to whom it is attributed. In the case of some of them it is not even known in what age and to which Prophet they were revealed. As for the Quran, the evidence that it was revealed to Muhammad is so voluminous, so convincing, so strong and so compelling that even the fiercest critics of Islam cannot cast doubt on it. This evidence is so detailed that even the occasion and place of the revelation of many verses and injunctions of the Quran can be known with certainty.
4. The former Divine Books were sent down in languages which died long ago. No nation or community now speaks those languages and there are only a few people who claim to understand them. Thus, even if the Books existed today in their original and unadulterated form, it would be virtually impossible in our age to correctly understand and interpret their injunctions and put them into practice in their required form. The language of the Quran, on the other hand, is a living language; millions of people speak it, and millions more know and understand it. It is being taught and learnt in nearly every university of the world; every man can learn it, and he who has not time to learn it can find men everywhere who know this language and can explain to him the meaning of the Quran.
5. Each one of the existing sacred Books found among different nations of the world has been addressed to a particular people. Each one contains a number of commands which seem to have been meant for a particular period of history and which meet the needs of that age only. They are neither needed today, nor can they now be smoothly and properly put into practice. It is evident from this that these Books were particularly meant for that particular people and not for the world. Furthermore, they were not sent to be followed permanently by even the people they were intended for; they were meant to be acted upon only for a certain period. In contrast to this, the Quran is addressed to all mankind; not a single injunction of it can be suspected as having been addressed to a particular people. In the same manner, all the commands and injunctions in the Quran can be acted upon at any place and in any age. This proves that the Quran is meant for the whole world, and is an eternal code for human life.
6. There is no denying the fact that the previous divine Books also enshrined good and virtue; they also taught the principles of morality and truthfulness and presented the mode of living which was to God's pleasure. But none of them was comprehensive enough to embrace all that is necessary for a virtuous human life. Some of them excelled in one respect, others in some other. It is the Qur'an and the Qur'an alone which enshrined not only all that was good in the former Books but also perfects the way of Allah and presents it in its entirety and outlines that code of life which comprehends all that is necessary for man on this earth.
7. On account of man's interpolations, many things have been inserted in those Books which are against reality, revolting to reason and an affront to every instinct of justice. There are things which are cruel and unjust, and vitiate man's beliefs and actions. Furthermore, things have unfortunately been inserted that are obscene, indecent and highly immoral. The Qur'an is free of all such rubbish. It contains nothing against reason, and nothing that can be proved wrong. None of its injunctions is unjust; nothing in it is misleading. Of indecency and immorality not a trace can be found. From the beginning to the end the Book is full of wisdom and truth. It contains the best of philosophy and the choicest of law for human civilization. It points out the right path and guides man to success and salvation.
It is on account of these special features of the Qur'an that all the peoples of the world have been directed to have faith in it, to give up all other Books and to follow it alone.
The study of the difference between the Qur'an and other divine Books makes one easily understand that the nature of faith in the Qur'an and of belief in the former Books are not similar.
Faith in the earlier divine Books should be limited to the confirmation that they were all from God, were true and were sent down to fulfill, in their time, the same purpose for which the Qur'an has been sent. On the other hand, belief in the Qur'an should be of the nature that it is purely and absolutely God's own words, that it is perfectly true, that every word of it is preserved, that everything mentioned therein is right, that it is the bounden duty of man to carry out in his life each and every command of it and that whatever be against it must be rejected.
In the last chapter we discussed that God's Messengers had been raised among every people, and that they all brought essentially that very religion-Islam-which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) propagated. In this respect all the Messengers of God belong to the same category and stand on a stand on a par with each other. If a man confirms and believes in one of them, he must and ought to confirm all. The reason is quite simple. Suppose ten men make one and the same statement; if you admit one of them to be true, you ipso facto admit the remaining nine of them as true, and if you belie anyone of them, by implication you belie all of them. It is for this reason that in Islam it is necessary to have implicit in anyone of the prophet would be a Kafir, though he might profess faith in all the other Prophets.
It occurs in traditions that the total number of all the prophets sent to different peoples at different times is 124,000. If you consider the life of the world since it was first inhabited and the number of different peoples and nations that have passed on it, this number will not appear too great. We have to believe positively in those of the prophets whose names have been mentioned in the Qur'an Regarding the rest we are instructed to believe that all Prophets sent by God for the guidance of mankind were true. Thus we believe in all the prophets raised in India, China, Iran, Egypt, Africa, Europe, and other countries of the world, but we are not in a position to be definite about a particular person outside the list of prophets named in the Qur'an, whether or not he was a Prophet, for we have not been told anything definite about him. Nor are we permitted to say anything against the holy men of other religions. It is quite possible that some of them might have been God's Prophets that some of them might have been God's Prophets, and their followers corrupted their teachings after their demise, just as the followers of Moses and Jesus (God's blessings be upon them) have done. Therefore, whenever we express any opinion about them, it would be about the tenets and rituals of their religions; as for the founders of those religions, we will remain scrupulously silent, lest we should become guilty of irreverence towards a Prophet.
As for the fact of being Prophets of God and having been deputed by Him for teaching the same straight path of 'Islam,' there is no difference between Muhammad and other Prophets (God's blessings be upon them all), we have been ordered to believe in all of them alike. But in spite of their equality in this respect, there are the following three differences between Muhammad and other Prophets (God's blessings be upon them all):
1. The Prophets of the past had come to certain people for certain periods of time, while Muhammad (God's blessings be upon him) has been sent for the whole world and for all times to come5.
2. The teachings of those Prophets have either disappeared altogether from the world, or whatever of them remains is not pure, and is found intermingled with many erroneous and fictitious statements. For this reason even if anyone wishes to follow their teachings, he cannot do so. In contrast to this, the teachings of Muhammad (God's blessings be upon him), his biography, his discoursed, his ways of living, his morals, habits, and virtues, in short, all the details of his life and work, are preserved. Muhammad (God's blessings be upon him), therefore, is the only one of the whole line of Prophets who is a living personality, and in whose footsteps it is possible. To follow correctly and confidently.
3. The guidance imparted through the Prophets of the past was not complete and all- embracing. Every Prophet was followed by another who effected alterations and additions in the teachings and injunctions of his predecessors and, in this way, the chain of reforms and progress continued. That is why the teachings of the earlier Prophets, after the lapse of a certain period of time, were lost in oblivion. Obviously there was no need of preserving former teachings when amended and improved guidance had taken their place. At last the most perfect code of guidance was imparted to mankind through Muhammad (God's blessings be upon him) and all previous codes were automatically abrogated, for it is futile and imprudent to follow an incomplete code while the complete code exists. He who follows Muhammad (God's blessings be upon him) follows all the Prophet, for whatever was good and eternally workable in their teaching has been embodied in his teachings. Whoever, therefore, rejects and refuses to follow Muhammad's teachings and chooses to follow some other Prophet, only deprives himself of that vast amount of useful and valuable instruction and guidance in Muhammad's teachings, which never existed in the books of the earlier Prophets and which was revealed only through the Last of the Prophets.
That is why it is now incumbent upon each and every human being to have faith in Muhammad (peace be upon him) and follow him alone. To become a true Muslim (a follower of the Prophet's way of life) it is necessary to have complete faith in Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to affirm that:
a. He is a true Prophet of God;
b. His teachings are absolutely perfect, free from any defect or error;
c. He is the Last Prophet of God. After him no Prophet will appear among any people till the Day of Judgment, nor is any such personage going to appear in whom it would be essential for a Muslim to believe
The fifth article of Islamic Faith is belief in life after death. Prophet Muhammad (peace is upon him) has directed us to believe in resurrection after death and in the Day of Judgment. The essential ingredients of this belief, as the life of this world and of all that is in it will come to an end on an appointed day. Everything will be annihilated. That day is called Qayamah, i.e. the Last Day. That all the human beings who had lived in the world since its inception will then be restored to life and will be presented before God who will sit in court on that day. This is called Hashr: Resurrection.
That the entire record of every man and woman of all their doings and misdoings-will be presented before God for final judgment.
That God shall finally adjudge the reward of every person. He shall weigh everyone's good and bad deeds. One who excels in goodness will be rewarded a goodly reward; one whose evils and wrongs overweigh his good deeds, will be punished.
That the reward and punishment will be administered judiciously. Those who emerge successful in this judgment will go to paradise and the doors of eternal bliss will be opened upon them; those who are condemned and deserve punishment will be sent to Hell-the abode of fire and torture.
These are the essential constituents of belief in life after death.
Belief in the life after death has always been a part and parcel of the teachings of the Prophets. Every Prophet asked his followers to believe in it, in the same way as the last of the Prophets, Muhammad (peace be upon him ), has asked us to do. This has always been an essential condition of being a Muslim. All Prophets have categorically declared that one who disbelieves in it, or casts doubts on it, is a Kafir.This is so, because denial of life after death makes all other beliefs meaningless. This denial also destroys the very sanction for good life and man is driven to a life of ignorance and disbelief. A little reflection would make this quite clear.
In your everyday life, whenever you are asked to do anything, you immediately think: what is the utility of doing it and what harm is involved in doing it? This is the very nature of man. He instinctively regards a useless action as totally unnecessary. You will never be willing to waste your time and energy in useless, wasteful, and unproductive jobs. Similarly, you won't be very eager to avoid a thing that is harmless. And the general rule is that the deeper your conviction about the utility of a thing, the firmer would be your response to it; and the more doubtful you are about its efficacy, the more wavering and shaky would be your attitude. After all, why does a child put his hand in fire? -Because he is not sure that fire burns. Why does he evade studying? -Because he does not fully grasp the importance and benefits of education and does not believe in what his elders try to impress upon his mind.
Now think of the man who does not believe in the Day of Judgment. Would he not consider belief in God and a life in accordance with His code of no consequence? What value will he attach to a life in pursuit of His pleasure? To him neither obedience to God is of any advantage, nor disobedience to Him of any harm. How, the injunctions of God, Him Prophet, and His Book? What incentive would remain there for him to undergo trials and sacrifices and to avoid worldly pleasures? And if a man does not follow the code of God and lives according to his own likes and dislikes, or what use is his belief in the existence of God, if any such belief he has?
That is not all. If you reflect still deeper, you will come to the conclusion that belief in life after death is the greatest deciding factor in the life of a man. Its acceptance or rejection determines the very course of his life and behavior.
A man who has in view the success or failure of this world alone will be concerned with the benefits and harms that accrue to him in this life only. He will not be prepared to undertake any good act if he has no hope of gaining thereby some worldly interest, nor will he be keen to avoid any wrong act if that is not injurious to his interests in this world.
But a man who believes in the next world as well and has a firm conviction of the final consequences of his acts would look upon all world look upon all worldly gains and losses as temporary and transitory and would not stake his eternal bliss for a transitory and would his eternal bliss for a transitory gain. He will look upon things in their wider perspective and will always keep the everlasting benefit or harm in view. He will do the good, however costly it may be to him in terms of worldly gains, or however costly it may be to him in terms of worldly gains, or however injurious it may be to his immediate interests; and he will avoid the wrong, however charming it may look. He will judge the things from the viewpoint of their eternal consequences and would not submit to his whims and caprices.
Thus there is a radical difference between the beliefs, approaches, and lives of the two persons. One's idea of a good act is limited to its beneficence in this brief temporary life as a gain in the shape of money, property, public applause and similar other things which give him position, power, reputation, and worldly happiness. Such things become his objectives in life. Fulfillment of his own wishes and self-aggrandizement become the be-all and end-all of his life. And he does not deter even from cruel and unjust means in their achievement. Similarly, his conception of a wrong act is that which may involve a risk of injury to his interests in this world like loss of property and life, spoiling of health, besmirching of reputation, or some other unpleasant consequence. In contrast to this man, the believer's concept of good and evil would be quite different. To him all that pleases God is good and all that invokes His displeasure and wrath is evil. A good act, according to him, will remain good even if it brings no benefit to him in this world, or even entails loss of some worldly possession or injury to his personal interests. He will be confident that God will reward him in the eternal life and that would be the real success. similarly, he will not fall a prey to evil deeds merely for some worldly gain, for he knows that even if he escapes punishment in his short worldly life, in would be the loser and would not be able to escape punishment by the court of God. He does not believe in the relativity of morals but sticks to the absolute standards revealed by God and lives according to them irrespective of gain or injury in this word.
Thus it is the belief or disbelief in life after death which makes man adopt different courses in life. For one who does not believe in the Day of Judgment it is absolutely impossible to fashion his life as suggested by Islam. Islam says: "In the way of God give zakat (charity) to the poor." His answer is: "No, zakat will diminish my wealth ; I will, instead, take interest on my money." And in its collection he would not hesitate to get attached each and everything belonging to the debtors, though they be poor or hunger-stricken. Islam says: "Always speak the truth and shun lying, though you may gain ever so much by lying and lose ever so much by speaking the truth." But his reply would be: " Well, what shall I do with a truth which is of no use to me here, and which instead brings loss to me ; and why should I avoid lying where it can bring benefit to me without any risk, even that of a bad name?" He visits a lonely place and finds a precious metal lying there; in such a situation Islam says: "This is not your property, do not take it" ; but he would say: "This is a thing I have come by without any cost or trouble ; why should I not have it? There is no one to see this pick-up, who might report it to the police or give evidence against me in a court of law, to give me a bad name among the people. Why should I not make use of this valuable?" Someone secretly keeps a deposit with this man, and after that that he dies. Islam says: "Be honest with the property deposited with you and give it over to the heirs of the deceased." He says: "Why? There is no evidence of his property being with me; his children also have no knowledge about it. When I can appropriate it without any difficulty, without any fear of legal claim, or stain on my reputation, why should I not do so?" In short, at every step in life, Islam will direct him to walk in a course of behavior; but he will take recourse to the opposite direction. For Islam Measures and values everything from the viewpoint of its everlasting consequence; while such a person always has in view only the immediate and earthly outcome. Now, you can understand why a man cannot be a Muslim without belief in the Day of Judgment. To be a Muslim is a very great thing; the fact is that one cannot even become a good man without this belief, for the denial of the Day of Judgment degrades man from humanity to a place even lower than that of the lowest of animals.
So far we have discussed the need and importance of belief in the Day of Judgment. Now let us consider how far the constituents of the belief are rationally understandable. The fact is that whatever Muhammad (peace be upon him) has told us about lift after death is clearly borne out by reason. Although our belief in the that Day is based upon our implicit in the Messenger of God, rational reflection not only confirms this belief but also reveals that Muhammad's (peace be upon him) teachings in this respect are much more reasonable and understandable than all other the following viewpoints are found in the world.
1. A section of the people says that there is nothing left of man after death, and that after this life-ending event, there is no other life. According to these people, this belief has no reality. They say that there is no possibility of it and such a belief is quite unscientific. This is the approach and bring in western science in their support.
2. Another section of the people maintains that man, in order to bear the consequences of his deeds, is repeatedly regenerated in this very world. If he lives a bad life, in the next generation he will assume the shape of an animal, like a dog or a cat, etc, or some tree or some lower kind of man. If his acts have been good, he will be reborn as a man into a higher class. This viewpoint is found in some Eastern religions.
3. There is a third viewpoint which calls for belief in the Day of Judgment, the Resurrection, man's presence in the Divine Court, and the administration of reward and punishment. This is the common belief of all the Prophets.
Now let us consider these viewpoints one by one. The first section, which arrogates to itself the authority and support of science, alleges that there is no reality in life after death. They say that they have never seen anybody coming back after his death. There is not a single case of revival. We see that after death a man is reduced to dust. Therefore death is the end of life and there is no life after death: But just think over this reasoning: is this really a scientific argument? Is the claim really founded on reason? If they have not seen any case of revival after death, they can only say that they do not know what will happen after death. But, instead of remaining within this limit, they declare that nothing will happen after death at the same time alleging that they speak out of knowledge! In fact they merely generalize on ignorance. Science tells us noting negative or positive in this respect and their assertion that life after death has no existence is totally unfounded. Their claim is not dissimilar to the claim of an ignoramus who has not seen an airplane and on that "knowledge" proclaims that aeroplanes have no existence at all! If anybody has not seen a thing, it does not mean that that thing has no existence. No man, not even the entire humanity, if it has not seen a thing, can claim that such a thing does not, or cannot, exist. This claim is illusionary and is out and out unscientific. No reasonable man can give it any weight.
Now look to belief of the second group. According to them, a human being is a human being because in his previous animal form he had done good deeds; and an animal is an animal because previously as a human being he had behaved badly. In other worlds to be a man or animal is the consequence of one's deed's in one's former form. One may well ask: "Which of them existed first, man or animal?" If they say man preceded animal, then they will have to accept that he must have been an animal before that, and given a human form for its good deeds. If they say it was animal they will have to concede that must have been a man before that who transformed into an animal for his bad deeds. This puts us into a vicious circle and the advocates of this belief cannot settle any from for the first creature, for every generation implies a preceding generation so that the succeeding generation may be considered as the consequence of the former. This is simply absurd.
Now consider the third viewpoint. Its first proposition is: "This world will one day come to an end.
God will destroy and annihilate the universe, and in its place will evolve another higher and far superior cosmos."
This statement is undeniably true. No doubt can be cast upon its veracity. The more we reflect on the nature of the cosmos, the more clearly it is proved that the existing system is not permanent and everlasting, for all the forces working in it are limited in their nature, and it becomes a certainty that one day they will be completely exhausted. That is why the scientists agree that one day the sun will become cold and will give up all its energy, the stars will collide with one another, and the whole system of the universe will be upset and destroyed. Moreover, if evolution is true in the case of the constituents of this universe, why it may not be true for the whole of it? To think of the universe becoming totally non-existent is more improbable than that it will pass into another evolutionary stage and another order of things will emerge in a much more improved and ideal order.
The second proposition of this belief is that "man will again be given life". Is it impossible? If so, how did the present life of man become possible? It is evident that God Who created man in this world can do so in the next. Not only is it a possibility, it is also a possibility, it is also a positive necessity, as will be show later.
The third proposition is that "the record of all the actions of man in this world is preserved and be presented on the Day of Resurrection". The proof of the truth of this proposition is provided here in these days by science itself. It was first understood that the sounds which we make produce slight waves in the air and die out. Now, it has been discovered that the sound leaves its impression on its surrounding objects and can be reproduced. Gramophone records are made on the same principle. From this it can be understood that the record of every movement of man is being impressed on all things which come into contact with the waves produced by the movements. This shows that the record of our entire deed is completely preserved and can be reproduced.
The fourth proposition is that "on the Day of Resurrection, God will hold His Court and with just judgment, reward or punish man for his good and bad deeds." What is unreasonable about it? Reason itself demands that God should hold His court and pronounce just judgment. We see here that a man does a good deed and thereby gains nothing in this world. We see another man who does a bad deed and does and does not suffer for it here. Not only this, we see thousands of cases of a good act bringing trouble on the doer, and of a bad deed and not suffer for it here. Not only this we see thousands of cases of a good act bringing trouble on the doer and of the guilty person. When we notice these events happening every day our reason and sense of justice demand that a time must come when the man who dose good must be rewarded and the one who does evil must be punished. The present order of things as you can see yourself is subject to physical law according to which it is quite natural that a man who has got the means to do evil can do so if he chooses and it is not necessary that its evil consequences should react upon him wholly or partly. If you have a tin of petrol and a match-bow you can set fire to the house of your opponent and you can escape every consequence of this deed if the worldly forces are in your favor. Does it mean that such an offence has got no consequence at all? Certainly not! It means only that its physical result has appeared and the moral result is reserved. Do you really think it reasonable that it should never appear? If you say it should the question is where? Certainly not in this world because in the physical world only physical world only physical consequences of this higher category can appear only if there comes into existence another other of things wherein rational and moral laws reign supreme and occupy the governing poison and where the physical laws are made subject to them. That is the next world which as we have said before is the next evolutionary stage of the universe. It is evolutionary in this sense that it will be governed by moral laws rather than by physical laws. The rational consequences of man's action, which are reserved wholly or partly in this world, will appear therein. Man's status will be determined by his rational and moral worth adjudged in accordance with his conduct in this life of test and trial. There you will not find a worthy man serving under a fool or a morally superior man in a position inferior to a wretch, as is the case in this world.
The last proposition of this is the existence of Paradise and Hell, which is also not impossible. If God can make the sun, the moon the stars and the earth, why should He not be able to make Paradise and Hell? When He holds His Court and pronounces His judgment rewarding the meritorious and punishing the guilty there must be a place where the meritorious might enjoy their reward honor, happiness and gratification of all kinds and another place where the condemned might feel debasement pain and misery.
After considering all these questions no reasonable person can escape the conclusion that the belief in life after death is the most acceptable to reason and common sense, and that there is nothing in it which can be said to be unreasonable or impossible. Moreover, when a true Prophet like Muhammad (peace be upon him) has stated this to be a fact and it involves nothing but what is good for us wisdom lies in believing it implicitly and not in rejecting it without any sound reasons.
The above are the five articles of Faith which from the foundation for the superstructure of Islam. Their gist is contained in the short sentence know as Kalima-e-tayyibah. When you declare La ilaha illallah (there is no deity but Allah) you give up all false deities and profess that you are a creature of the One God and when you add to these words Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah, (Muhammad is Allah's Messenger) you confirm and admit the Prophethood of Muhammad (God's blessings be upon him). With the admission of his Prophethood it becomes obligatory that should believe in the divine nature and attributes of God, in His angels in His Revealed Books, and in life after death and earnestly follow that method of obeying God and worshipping Him which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has asked us to follow. Herein lies the road to success and salvation.