Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Suppose someone is born into a family that practices shirk. Consequently, he grows up practicing shirk himself, thinking it to be right. Suppose no one conveyed to him about the oneness of God—at least not in a manner of the level of etmam-e hujjat—and this man dies while still believing in shirk.

Given that God is all-just and all-merciful and that this person did not choose to be born and socialized in a family that practices shirk and that God made him to be born in such a family, can such a person be condemned to damnation in Hell? Is it his fault for not coming out ofshirk if no one came to him to explain to him, in a convincing and proper manner, that shirk was wrong?

A: This question was raised to an Islamic scholar. He replied in short: Jaisi tabligh waisa muhasabah. That is, the person concerned will be judged according to the knowledge he gained. This is because accountability is based on one’s intention.

Q: A fundamental duty of Muslims is to engage in dawah. Many Muslims regularly pray, give zakat and so on but do not engage in dawah, directly or indirectly. In fact, by wrongly considering others as their enemies and entering into conflict with them, they actually work against the prospects of dawah.

Do you think that in this way these Muslims themselves have a major role to play in reinforcing shirk (not only by not engaging in dawah but also, through their actions and attitudes towards other people, actually working against it?). For this, do you think they might deserve Divine punishment? If people who engage in shirk deserve punishment for their shirk, do you think these Muslims deserve similar punishment for not engaging in dawahand convincing these people to abandon shirk?

A: According to my knowledge, such Muslims are not forgiveable. This opinion of mine is based on a verse from the Quran which says: ‘O Messenger, deliver whatever has been sent down to you by your Lord. If you do not so so, you will not have conveyed His message.’ (5:67)

Q: Presently, some Muslims in Kashmir are agitating about a controversy over banning beef.

1:   Do you think banning beef is justified? Is it an infringement on Muslims’ rights, as some might claim?

A: It is not a matter of Muslims’ rights. It is a matter that pertains to the Constitution. Therefore, only the experts of the Constitution can tell whether or not a ban is justified.

2:  From the dawah perspective, how should Muslims respond to such issues? 

A: Muslims need to avoid such issues, because the way of reaction jeopardizes the doing of dawah.

Question: I wrote to you to ask for your time, generosity and wisdom, as I'm greatly saddened by the situation in my country, that have turned my Muslim brothers and sisters against each other.

And the questions that have turned my Muslim brothers and sister against each other is, "Does Islam allows Muslim to vote for non-Muslim to be in the position of governor, in a Muslim majority country? "

Let me introduce myself, my name is Bara, I'm a student of International Relations major, and also an alumnus of Islamic Boarding School during my mid and high school year. And now I'm torn, my Muslim identity is in crisis with my identity as a political scholar. And I'm not alone, with many other Indonesians feel the same way.

In the capital city of Indonesia, there is currently an election going on. And for the first time during our country relatively young age of democracy, we are faced with a dilemma that we have never faced before. We have to choose between a governor candidate that is non-Muslim, that has hailed as one of the finest (but far from perfect) candidates, and one other Muslim candidate that has no proven record yet, but shows great potential to become a good leader.

This situation has never happened before, that a non-Muslim candidate can be a serious challenger for the governorship of Muslim majority country capital province. The stakes are high, and this will put a serious test upon our democratic system, to the greater point this will also answer a long-debated question on the compatibility of Islam with secular democracy.

Those Muslim in my country is split along three lines;

1. Those Muslim who feels that democracy is un-Islamic, this forbid on participating in it, so wouldn't vote on the matter

2. Those who believes that Al-Maidah 51, forbids Muslim to vote for non-Muslim, when there are Muslim alternatives, especially in Muslim majority country. And they also believe that there is no precedence of non-Muslim governor during the Caliph era.

3. And those who are in favor for the principle of 'greater good', of which always supersede any other principal when it comes to fiqh. Many other who will vote for the non-Muslim governor also believes that Al-Maidah 51 is only applicable when it comes to war, but not when it comes to democracy context, especially because the governor doesn't have an authority to intervene in the religious matter, unlike Caliph in Islamic History.

So how should I positioned myself in this matter? as a scholar of political science, my knowledge of political affairs tell me to go with the third group, as I believe that giving a position to those who are not proven to be an expert is a dzalim act, as it will harm public interest, including Muslims.

But my religion is Islam, and as a Muslim, I should follow the guidance of Al-Qur'an, which tell me (at least by interpretation of the second group) to not vote for a non-Muslim leader, under any circumstances. And doing so would put me as munafiq at best, and mushrik at worst.

Many of my peers and fellow Muslim also trapped in this dilemma, many parents are accused of not properly raised their children just because their children are supporting the non-Muslim candidate, and many of my friends are accused of being munafiq or even mushrik for showing their support to a non-Muslim candidate. Which turns brothers and sisters against each other.

As one of the most influential Islamic scholars in the world, I would like your wisdom and guidance upon this matter. On how I should decide on or bridge this dilemma. My understanding on Islamic fiqh and shariah is admittedly scarce and basic, thus I would love and be grateful if you could help me, or show me any text and fatwa or historical precedence on this matter that I could learn and study so I could make up my mind (preferably in English or Bahasa Indonesia, since I'm not fluent in Arabic).

Your help is greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much for spending time reading this letter

May Allah blessed you for your kindness, and may Allah grant you with a wisdom as He granted prophet Sulaiman a.s with it.

The answer to your question is that in Islam there is no absolute model for political rule. The Islamic form of government depends upon the circumstances. Government, according to Islam, will be decided by the circumstances. According to Islam, political form is not a part of belief. It is the prevailing situation that will determine the type of political form that has to be adopted. 

In Islamic history, the political form adopted after the Prophet was based on khilafat. This continued for up to 30 years. Khilafat is one of the forms of government among the many other forms. It is not an absolute form. After Ali ibnAbiTalib, there was a change in the form of government. After Ali, the dynastic model of governance was adopted. This model continued for a long period and all Muslim ulema accepted it. 

The model set by other prophets is also an Islamic model. This is because the Quran accepts all messengers as models (The Quran, 6:90). In this matter, there is an example in the life of Prophet Joseph. In Egypt, Prophet Joseph unconditionally accepted a non-Muslim king (malik). This model set by Prophet Joseph is called the best model in the Quran (12:3).

According to this principle, the democratic model is also an accepted model in Islam. This is supported by the following verse of the Quran: Amruhumshura baynahum. That is, 'Who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation.' (42:38)

According to these precedents (nadhair), if you people select a non-Muslim governor in Indonesia, it would be regarded as a right choice according to Islam. This would not be considered a wrong choice. 

In Islam, political form is not related to belief. Government does not have a set form as prayer has. Rather this matter is related to circumstances or practical wisdom. The demands of practical wisdom will decide the form of government to be adopted. And this form would be in accordance with Islam. 

Ans Inferiority complex is a baseless concept. The root cause for this is that the person who develops inferiority complex wishes to do everything in the ideal sense. But the reality is that the ideal cannot be achieved. In this world, idealism exists only at the level of the mind, while in real life, it is pragmatism alone that works. If you discover this fact, you will immediately be able to rid yourself of inferiority complex. 

I am a great believer of scientific dialogue. By scientific dialogue, I mean free exchange between two different minds, without there being any reservations. I believe in difference. I respect dissent. I am a great advocate of free intellectual discussion with an objective mind and without any preoccupations.

This scientific discussion will certainly lead to a positive result. If there is true learning spirit in both parties, dialogue will surely reach the required goal. A better idea is bound to emerge from such scientific discussion, or help in the development of one’s own mind. In this sense, I am a great believer of scientific discussion.

At present, the term 'Islamophobia' means prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam or Muslims.  

'Islamophobia' is a negative term used against the West. This term is used by Muslims to refer to the West's attitudes towards Islam, but western people never adopted this term for themselves. Therefore, this kind of terminology is haram or unalwful in Islam. In Islamic terms, it is 'calling others by offensive nicknames' (49:11). Thus, first of all, Muslims must abandon using this term for the West. 

The fact is contrary to what Muslims think. Why do Muslims say that the West has Islamophobia? The reason is that Muslims give a negative interpretation to an event involving Islam and the West. However, the West does not mean anything negative. In this case, the responsibility goes to the Muslims, and not the West.

There are two references of secular historians which show that the Prophet Muhammad was a historical figure. These are:

1. The French philologist Ernest Renan wrote in 1851 that, unlike the other founders of major religions, the Prophet Muhammad was "born in the full light of history". (Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History, p.36 )

2. In his book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (pp. 79-80), the historian Edward Gibbon while speaking about the Roman king Heraclius, makes mention of the Prophet Muhammad. He says that Mahomet, an obscure citizen of Makkah, had predicted the victory of the Romans over the Persian Sassanid empire in the first quarter of the seventh century. Here, it is clear that Gibbon recognizes the Prophet Muhammad as a contemporary of Heraclius. And, Heraclius is accepted as a historical figure. Therefore the Prophet Muhammad, being a contemporary of Heraclius, should also be regarded as a historical figure.

The words 'easy' and 'difficult' are irrelevant in this regard. The right question is whether spirituality is achievable or not. If a person is serious about seeking spirituality, he will surely be able to achieve his goal.

You must change your habit of getting distracted into things such as watching TV. It is very much in your power to save yourself from distractions. No other person can help you to get over your distractions. It is all about taking a firm decision to get rid of your distractions.

This subject is completely lawful. You should certainly study B.Com and score good marks. Those who say that studying B.Com is haram or unlawful are themselves saying something unlawful. You should not be concerned about people who speak like this and should devote yourself entirely to studies.

According to Islam, the first choice for such a person is to forgive the person who inflicted harm. Revenge is the second option. However, there is a condition to taking this second option. Revenge cannot be taken on one's own from the person who has caused harm. One should refer one's case to an established court and ask for justice. After the judicial enquiry and hearing of witnesses, the court will issues its order. Then, the person who has inflicted harm will be punished according to law. Without going through this judicial procedure, no revenge or any such act is permissible in Islam.

This kind of thinking is unnatural, and also un-Islamic. It is everyone's natural need to earn so that he can fulfil his basic necessities. It is the lawful requirement of every human being. Even the Prophets earned to fulfil their need. For reference, please see Hadith No. 2073 in Sahih al-Bukhari
For the purpose of life, please read my books. Four of these are raaz-e-hayat, tameer-e-hayat, rahnuma-e-hayat and kitab-e-zindagi. All these are available on the cps website www.cpsglobal.org

''All kinds of communalism is a pheonmenon of reaction. Advise people not to react, thus communalism will automatically disappear. The fact is that difference is part of human life. One cannot eliminate differences. If we see some difference or something that we dislike,we should simply avoid it. This is the only option for us in such matters. Adopt the culture of tolerance, and there will be no communalism.''

The media is not a mission, it is an industry of reporting what is happening in the world. What you have referred to as "negative articles", is nothing but objective reports by the media of Muslim activities. If Muslims are involved in militancy, it is but natural that the media would report it as violence. It is not possible that Muslim themselves be active in perpetrating violent activities and the media report it as a peaceful news.

In such a situation, you have to tell Muslims not to create violent news. If Muslims are busy in engaging in violent activities, then it is not possible to change media's present reporting about them. The blame, in such a scenario, goes to the Muslims and not to the media.

 

This is not a question of region. It is a question of rationality. You have to judge the teachings of the prophets on rational grounds. For example, modern technology was developed mostly in the West, but all the nations of the world have adopted this western technology without questioning it. Then why does this question come up in the matter of religion? In the matter of religion too, you have to judge its teachings on whether or not they are rational, rather than question why one should learn Arabic language or follow the religion of an Arab Prophet. Similarly, today everywhere people are learning English, but they never think that it would lead to the promotion of English culture. They only see that most of the scientific books are in English, so they learn the English language.

Religion is a matter of personal choice. Every person should study different religious books and decide for himself what he should follow. In Islam there is no concept of conversion, rather Islam believes in marefat, that is, selecting one's religion according to one's own realization.

Scientific evidence means experimental evidence. According to Bertrand Russell, there are two kinds of knowledge: knowledge of things and knowledge of truths. Experimental evidence works in the matter of things, but it does not work in the matter of truths or realities. For detail, please refer to my book, Religion and Science.

It is not a matter of conversion, rather it is a matter of cultural harmony. Success in marriage depends on cultural harmony. Due to this, Islam prefers that marriage must be organized between two such partners who have cultural harmony between them. Cultural harmony is the only bond that guarantees success in marriage.

According to the Quran and Hadith there is no punishment for kafir or murtadd or anyone else. Freedom is the unconditional right of every human being. Some Muslims speak about punishment, but it has nothing to do with the Quran and Hadith.

Equal treatment of all human beings is a universal norm. Islam also accepts it. Anyone who speaks against this is not speaking in accordance with Islam, but that will be regarded as his own opinion.

It is the wrong concept. It is not an Islamic concept. According to Islam, the homeland is the basis of citizenship. Any person, Muslim or non-Muslim, is the citizen of the country in which he lives. Citizenship is not a religious matter, it is a national matter.

Being acceptable to God is a question that pertains to every deed, not only dawah work. No one knows whether his kalima was acceptable to God, or whether his worship was acceptable to God. The believer must perform these activities as a duty; whether or not they are acceptable to God will be known only in the world Hereafter. The only thing required is that one must read the Quran and Hadith to find out the commandments of God. And, when he is confident about a command of God, he must stick to it. As far as the question of acceptance to God is concerned, we can only make dua. 

There is a verse in the Quran: "Whatever misfortune befalls you is of your own doing." (42:30). This verse gives us a universal law of nature. According to it, you have to do introspection and find out our own fault. According to my experience, all the responsibility lies with the Arabs. They are going against the divine scheme of things. God wants them to engage in the dawah culture, but they have engaged themselves in the fighting culture. So, they are paying the price of this. A verse of the Quran relevant in this regard is: "Believers! If you succour God, He will succour you." (47:7)

Law of attraction is a totally speculative concept and has no scientific basis. Although some people believe in this law in the present times, but there is no scientific basis to the law of attraction. 
The law of attraction is applicable to the physical world. The proponents of the above idea are applying this physical law to the human world, but this is the drawing of a wrong parallel. It is the same mistake that was committed by Karl Marx. He coined a term "historical determinism", that is, he applied the principle of material determinism to human affairs, which proved to be completely wrong. 

Some people believe that whatever happens in life, be it good or bad, is attracted by the person concerned. However, this is wrong thinking. For example, Muslim leaders founded Pakistan in 1947. They deeply believed that Pakistan would emerge as an ideal Islamic state. But this never happened. 
You have referred to two verses from the Quran. Whatever hardship befalls you is the result of your own deeds" (42:30), and " No misfortune can affect the earth or your own selves without its first having been recorded in a book, before We bring it into being. (57:22)

These verses have no relation with the philosophy of attraction. You can consult any commentary of the Quran, and you will realize that this reference is incorrect. 
 

Dawah work is a widespread work. The basic method is to distribute literature among people. Some people may deny to read this literature, but there will be certain others who are seekers and want to know the truth. These people will take the literature happily and read it to find out the truth. If an individual is not ready to read the literature, then he should be prayed for. While, for others who are ready to respond to your dawah, you should distribute literature to them. 

Both love and religion are equally important. In terms of human relationship, love is important, while in terms of relationship with God, religion is important. 

Happy life is not a result of religious identity. There are ample examples where husband and wife were of the same religion but there were serious problems that consequently led to separation. In fact, the formula of happy married life is adjustment. Difference is a part of life. Learn the art of living with differences and you will surely enjoy a happy life. Make difference a point of discussion and intellectual development rather than of quarrel and alienation.

Ijz (helplessness) and free-will are two different subjects. Ijz is required in relation to God. When you discover the position of the Creator, you also discover the position of man in relation to Him. It is this discovery that is called ijz. When one develops the quality of ijz, it finds expression in relation to other humans as modesty. The word "ijz" is used in relation to God and, the word "tawazu" (modesty) is used in relation to human beings.

Free-will is a quite different quality. It means freedom to make decisions. God Almighty has given us this quality not as a gift, but as a test

Dawah means to call, to convey the message of God. The duty of a dayee ends after he has conveyed the message. A dayee has no right to issue judicial order against one who is not ready to accept his message. There is a clear verse in the Quran: "Your task is only to exhort, you are not their keeper." (88:21)

It is completely wrong. Prayer is a matter between God and man. It is God who will decide regarding both reward and punishment. It is God's domain. Man has no right to decide about anyone's faith, it is beyond his jurisdiction. 

Miserliness is a relative term. If one pays all of his monetary dues according to Islam, and at the same time he leads a very simple life, then this is a case of simple of living and not a case of miserliness. But, if one fails to pay his monetary dues and at the same times he lives as a miser, then this kind of behaviour is unwanted in Islam. It is selfishness, and selfishness, according to Islam, is an evil behaviour.

You must advise to your relatives the same path through which you received the truth. First of all, provide them with reading material. If there is some scholar available to address their minds, then make them meet him. And lastly, pray for them.

This is not a shari masla. It is a psychological issue. Do not take this Hadith in the literal sense. It is only meant to discourage the spirit of arrogance, and to inculcate the spirit of modesty.

"It is everyone's duty to read and contemplate on the issue of truth, and find out the real path. In fact, truth is one, but everyone should discover his truth on his own. Without this discovery, one cannot opt for the truth with conviction. And, conviction is a must for faith."

There is no limit, the only condition is sincerity. Let me explain with an example. Every Muslim reads ‘Alhamdulillah’ every day in the prayer but I have not found a single person who utilised his mind to understand its meaning.

I used my mind and understood that if I want to express my gratitude to God, then how a big thanksgiving will emerge when so many negative experiences come my way every day. Amidst these experiences, how will I thank God?

I realised that “Alhamdulillah” invites an entire culture to forget those things that lead one to negativity. There is no one in the world that does not undergo negative experiences. Everyone lives in the psyche of complaints. In such a scenario, how will he render big thanks to God unless he adopts this culture! He will have to forget negative emotions, hatred and losses so that he is able to thank God. Bernard Shaw said that, ‘The most uneducated man is one who has nothing to forget!” I would say that to be able to thank God, you will have to forget! If I would not have used my mind, I would not have understood this meaning. I realised that ‘Alhamdulillah’ is a killer of all kinds of complaints, negative emotions and feelings. And when man prays as such, he will become a new person, devoid of negativity and hatred because he would realise that unless he purifies himself he will not be able to say true, ‘Alhamdulillah’!

In social sense, good character is “predictable” character. That is, other members of the society are able to predict the response of such a person. It means that people know that if such a person is trustworthy and will not commit fraud. If he is criticized, he would not be angry. Instead he would remain patient and reflect. Such level of predictability would make an individual a good character in the society.

Gratitude is a vast concept. That I am thirsty and drink water, I would feel grateful but I think modern-day science has given man a gigantic framework of thanksgiving. For example, earlier man could only drink water and thank God for it but modern-science made it known to man that to cater to his fresh water requirements, God put in place a complete rain cycle. The original source of this water is the saltwater stored in the seas and oceans. This stored water is saline, nature having mixed ten per cent of salt in this water as a preservative, but saltwater is useful neither for man nor for agriculture. It is nature that initiates a global process of desalination and it is desalinated water that, by the established law of nature, rises in the form of vapour and forms clouds. Then from the clouds there is a downpour of fresh water. Man did not know this earlier. And by realising this gratitude would increase manifold.

Western civilisation actually gave us a bigger framework to express gratitude. It gave us the microscope to observe the realities in the micro world and a telescope to view the grand universe! This was predicted in the Quran as

We shall show them Our signs in the universe and within themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the Truth. (41:53)

The developments in science converted the local shukr into universal shukr. Man always expressed gratitude to God but through secular men, believers got a much wider framework to express gratitude.

Self-respect is not a quality; it is a beautiful name of arrogance. The most important quality of man is modesty. 

Our responsibility is not to make people right-conscious but to make them duty-conscious. When man will fulfil his duty, right shall follow automatically. Islamic rule is that if you arise for right it will only lead to conflict. According to a Hadith:

                Give to others what is due to others; ask for your rights from God. (Al Bukhari)

I have reworded this as: Do your best, find the best! I am perhaps the only person who criticises the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was issued by the United Nations. We must make ourselves duty conscious and inculcate the same in others

The answer can be found in the following saying of the Prophet: “God will not show mercy to one who does not show mercy to his fellow-men.”

Happiness is a state of mind; it is not the result of material growth. People have wrongly associated it with progress; the aim of civilisation was not happiness. It was to give us some more amenities. Change your mind and you will be able to change your life for the better.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010 

A. It is because we do not apply our mind and are only guided by emotions. If you apply reason and adopt a rational approach, you are more likely to accept your limitations. Reason will never allow you to ignore limitations.

Spirituality is not something mysterious. According to my experience, spirituality is a mind based discipline rather than a heart based discipline. According to this definition, it is contemplation rather than meditation that leads to acquiring true spiritual knowledge.

Knowledge is that kind of learning that leads to the truth. There are some supporting branches of knowledge also, such as science and history, etc. All human beings must follow the path leading to knowledge, especially the one to truth.

We need peace as all positive activities can take place only in an atmosphere of peace. As such an atmosphere enables normal relations to be established between people. It makes it possible for feelings of love and friendship to prevail. In a favourable atmosphere constructive activities flourish and the existing resources can be used for development or other creative activities. A positive bent of mind will prevail which will help develop academic and intellectual advancement.

The greatest ill effect of war is that it limits human endeavour, whereas the greatest benefit of peace is that to the ultimate extent it opens up opportunities for improvement. War invariably results in further loss, while peace invariably results in further gain. That is why Islam teaches us to avoid war and confrontation at all costs and commands us to establish peace to the greatest possible degree.

Referring to such verses, there are some who attempt to give the impression that Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is totally untrue. Such verses relate in a restricted sense, to those who have unilaterally attacked the Muslims. The above verse does not convey the general command of Islam. The truth of the matter is that the Quran was not revealed in the complete form in which it exists today. It was revealed from time to time, according to the circumstances, over a time span of 23 years. If this is divided into years of war and peace, the period of peace amounts to 20 years, while that of war amounts only to 3 years. The revelations during these 20 peaceful years were the peaceful teachings of Islam as are conveyed in the verses regarding the realization of God, worship, morality, justice, etc.

This division of commands into different categories is a natural one and is found in all religious books. The same is true of the Quran. When the Prophet of Islam emigrated from Makkah to Madinah, the idolatrous tribes were aggressive towards him. But the Prophet always averted their attacks by the exercise of patience and the strategy of avoidance. However on certain occasions no other options existed, save that of retaliation. Therefore, he had do battle on certain occasions. It was these circumstances, which occasioned those revelations relating to war. These commands, being specific to certain circumstances, had no general application. They were not meant to be valid for all time to come. That is why; the permanent status of the Prophet has been termed a ‘mercy for all mankind.’ (21:107)

The reason is not traceable to some special devotional attachment to Islam, but is due rather to an inimical attitude towards man. As the suicide bomber ties the bombs on to his body, it is not pro-Islamic, but rather anti-humanity sentiments, which motivate him to adopt such a deadly course. This is a reality that no one in his senses can deny.

According to the Quran, a Muslim is one who is man’s well-wisher. But the greatest weakness of the Muslims of today is that they do not in their hearts possess any feelings of well-wishing towards others. They hold all nations to be their foes. This animosity has so increased that they are ready to cross all moral limits when it comes to attacking their supposed enemies. If they think they can harm them by killing themselves, they are willing to take the extreme step of suicide bombing.

The truth is that suicide is totally forbidden (haram) in Islam. It is forbidden to the point where, if someone is dying, and it is certain that he will not survive, even in his final moments Islam does not allow him to take his own life.

An incident, which illustrates this, has been recorded in Sahih Muslim. It took place in the lifetime of the Prophet during the Battle of Khaybar, one of the defensive battles fought between the companions of the Prophet and their enemies. A soldier from the Muslim side, by the name of Quzmaanuz Zufra, fought very bravely and his death. The Muslims said that he was a martyr and would go to Paradise. But the Prophet said that he would go to hell. The companions were astonished.

So the Prophet asked them to find out the cause of his death. On inquiry, it was discovered that he had indeed fought very bravely for the Muslims and then had fallen down gravely wounded. But then, finding the pain of his injury unbearable, he ended his life with his own sword. (Fathul Bari, Commentary Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Maghazi, 7/540)

The Prophet’s disapproval of his action makes it clear that suicide bombing is not lawful in Islam under any circumstances. According to Islam, life is so precious that it can never be terminated at will on any pretext. Islam is a harbinger of life. It gives no license for premature death. That is why suicide is unlawful in Islam.

Islam does give permission to do battle. But such permission is given only in the case of an attack by opponents in spite of the policy of avoidance being followed by the Muslims, thus creating a situation where self-defense is required. The Quran has this to say: “Permission to take up arms is hereby given to those who are attacked because they have been wronged” (22:38). At another place the Quran gives a valid reason for fighting: “They were the first to attack you” (9:13).

This shows that according to the teachings of Islam, war is to be waged not against the enemy but against the aggressor. If Muslims hold someone to be their enemy, that does not give them the right to attack him. The one and only right given to them is to convey the peaceful message of Islam. Islam permits defensive fighting against violent aggression, but only when all efforts at avoidance and reconciliation have failed. The practical example of the Prophet Muhammad provides an incontrovertible proof of the value of this policy.

In Islam, war is not the prerogative of the individual but of an established government. Only an established government can declare war. In other words, individuals can pray on their own, but they cannot wage wars of their own accord. Only when a war is declared by the ruling government, can the public join in and support it, and not before that. Islam does not sanction individual actions on this issue. Therefore no Non-Governmental Organization or NGO can declare a war.

This Islamic principle is that there is no room for non-state warfare, which is what we generally call guerrilla war. A guerrilla war is fought by individuals and individual organizations, not by the State.

As a general principle, the Quran tells us that, even where an external attack is feared, the common man should not act independently, but should take the matter to the ruler, and then under his guidance take proper counter measures. (4:83).

The Hadith also states that ‘the ruler is a shield, fighting is done under him, and security is attained through him.’

This clearly shows that the decision to do battle and its planning are the tasks of an established government. The common man can play his role as need be under government orders, and not independently.

As far as the state is concerned, if it wants to wage a defensive war against any country it has first—in obedience to the Quran—to issue a proper declaration. Only then can it wage a lawful war (8:58). In Islam, there is only ‘declared’ war. Therefore, in accordance with this principle, no proxy war in Islam can be lawful.

Most Islamic actions are governed by certain conditions. The waging of war is also thus subject to certain principles, one being that, even when a defensive war has been declared by the State, it will be aimed only at the combatants. Targeting non-combatants will be unlawful. The Quran enjoins us not to do battle with those who are not at war. Such people have to be dealt with kindly and equitably. But you are free to do battle with those who are fighting against you. (60:8-9)

If, for instance, a Muslim state is at war with a particular nation, and this war is in conformance with Islamic principles, it should still not permit any destructive activities against non-combatants (civilians), as was done on September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington. Similarly in Islamic war, Muslims are not permitted to commit suicidal bombings in order to destroy the enemy. Strapping explosives on to oneself and hurling oneself upon the civilian settlements of even those with whom one is at war, for the purpose of destroying the enemy, and in the process killing oneself deliberately, is totally un-Islamic.

Because of the importance of peace, the Qur’an has clearly declared that no aggressive war is permitted in Islam. Muslims can engage themselves only in a defensive, not in an offensive war, irrespective of the circumstances (2:190).

According to Islam, peace is the rule and war is only an exception. Even in defensive war we have to see the result. If the result is doubtful, Muslims should avoid war, even in a defensive situation. Stray acts of aggression are not enough for Muslims to rush into war. They have to assess the whole situation and adopt a policy of avoidance when war is not certain to achieve a positive result.

On the publication of the Satanic verses by Salman Rushdie, the Muslim reaction was to have him killed forthwith; he had committed an unpardonable offense against Islam and the Prophet. All over the world, Muslims demanded his head. They were not prepared to settle for anything less than that. In a similar incident, when the Denmark cartoon was published, the Muslims reacted in much the same manner.

In the modern age, all campaigns are spread like wildfire. Reactions such these give the impression that Muslims are vengeful and violent people. Consequently, in certain Western countries notice boards are put saying, “Beware of Muslims”. This shows the extreme fear engendered by the Muslim fundamentalist threat worldwide.

In all fairness one can ask, 'Is this Islam?' Never! God has been represented in Islam as an All Merciful, and the Prophet has been proclaimed the Prophet of Mercy. It is ironical that in the name of such a magnanimous religion, a certain section of the fundamentalists could not appreciate such sentiments far less promote them. Islam can never incite people to committing murder in the name of religion, simply because someone had written a book or published a cartoon which ruffled their emotions.

In the days of the Prophet a large number of Rushdies, Taslima Nasreens and cartoon publishers existed, but none of them were beheaded or protested against for having insulted Islam and its prophet. On the contrary, in the times of the Prophet, the principle of countering words with words was followed. That is why those who spoke out against Islam no matter to what lengths they went were not penalised in any way. All that happened was that the Prophet appointed a poet called Hassan to give a befitting answer in verse to the offenders, poetry being the main mode of public expression and sentiments. This is the example we should follow for the resolution of all such problems in true Islamic spirit and earlier traditions.

The Prophet’s name was Muhammad, meaning the praised one or the praiseworthy. But when the Meccans became his most dire opponents, they themselves coined a name for the Prophet, ‘Muzammam,’ on the pattern of ‘Muhammad,’ Muzammam meaning condemned. They used to heap abuses on him calling him by this epithet of Muzammam. But the Prophet was never enraged at this distorted version of his name. All he said in return was: “Aren’t you surprised that God has turned away the abuses of the Quraysh from me. They abuse a person by the name of Muzammam. Whereas I am Muhammad (Ibn Hisham, 1/379).

This meant that abuses were being heaped on a person whose name was Muzammam. Since the Prophet’s name was Muhammad, not Muzammam, their abuses did not apply to him. This shows that Islam does not teach one to be easily provoked, even in cases of extreme provocation.

A western commentator, William Patron, has observed: One of the fruits of Islam has been that stubborn durable patience which comes out of the submission to the absolute will of God.

This observation is indeed very apt. Islam attaches great importance to patience. Most of the verses of the Qur’an have a bearing, directly or indirectly, upon this virtue. In truth, patience is an attribute without which the very thought of Islam is unimaginable.

The present world is designed in such a way that here one has repeatedly to face unpleasant experiences, inside as well as outside the home. Now if people were to fall to wrangling on all such occasions, they would fail to advance along the path of human progress. That is why Islam has placed great emphasis on patience, so that by avoiding all unpleasantness, man may continue his onward journey towards the higher goal — God-realization.

The Qur’an repeatedly stresses the need for patience. In chapter 31, we are enjoined to remain patient in these words, “Endure with fortitude whatever befalls you.” (17) In chapter 8, we are told to “have patience. God is with those that are patient.” (46) Chapter 103 says, “Perdition shall be the lot of man except for those who believe and do good works and exhort one another to justice and to fortitude.

The traditions of the Prophet of Islam laid great emphasis on the importance of patience and forgiveness. The Prophet once said, ‘Listen and obey and be patient.’ On another occasion he observed: ‘God has commanded man to be patient and forgiving.’ A companion of the Prophet said: ‘The Prophet and his companions always remained patient in the face of persecution at the hands of enemies.’ It is true that patience provides the basic quality for Islamic activism. In this world no one can adhere to the path of Islamic virtue without remaining patient. Patience is the exercise of restraint in trying situations. It is a virtue, which enables the individual to proceed towards worthy goals, undeflected by adverse circumstances or repeated provocations. If he allows himself to become upset by opposition, taunts or other kinds of unpleasantness, he will never reach his goals. He will simply become enmeshed in irrelevancies.

The only way to deal with the irksome side of daily living is to exercise patience. Patience will ensure that whenever one has some bitter experience, he will opt for the way of tolerance rather than that of reaction to provocation. It will enable one to absorb shocks and to continue, undeterred, on one’s onward journey.

Patience, as well as being a practical solution to the problems faced in the outside world, is also a means of positive character building. One who fails to exercise patience, gives free rein to negative thoughts and feelings, develops a personality which is likewise negative while one who remains patient is so morally bolstered by his own positive thoughts and feelings that he develops a positive personality.

Sabr is no retreat. Sabr only amounts to taking the initiative along the path of wisdom and reason as opposed to the path of the emotions. Sabr gives one the strength to restrain one’s emotions in delicate situations and rather to use one’s brains to find a course of action along result-oriented lines.

Moderation is the opposite of extremism and is closely interlinked with peace. When people possess the virtue of moderation, they necessarily think in terms of peace and will engage in their struggle in a peaceful manner. Where there is moderation there is peace, and vice versa.

According to a Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad observed: The moderate action is the best of all actions. Hazrat Ali advised the people: ‘Adopt the middle path.’ (Tafsir Qurtubi, 154/2)

The middle path means the path of moderation. One instance of it can be seen in the following verse of the Qur’an:

‘Be neither miserly nor prodigal, for then you should either be reproached or be reduced to penury.’ (17:29)

The same point, worded differently, has been made in another verse which characterizes “the true servants of the Merciful” as “those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but maintain a just balance between those extremes” (25:67).

According to this verse, moderate spending means neither lavishness nor miserliness but rather a balanced expenditure, which will make life much easier to lead. In the same way, as regards optional fasts, prayers, etc., a middle path is desirable for man, as this enables him to maintain such a pattern of behaviour over a long period of time.

The middle path, to put it differently, is the non-emotional way. If a man loses his mental balance when confronted with any difficult situation in life, he goes to one extreme or the other. But if he keeps his feelings under control, he will be able to determine the proper course of action by giving it ample thought. A well-considered deed is always a moderate one. One who does not follow a moderate path will exceed all bounds both in friendship and in enmity. He will also be given to undue optimism and pessimism in respectively positive and negative situations, and will unnecessarily regard some individuals as too bad and others as too good. However, it is the verdict of nature that in this world a moderate approach in life always succeeds, while taking the path of extremes inevitably leads to failure.

Islam is an entirely tolerant religion. Islam desires peace to prevail in the world. The Qur’an calls the way of Islam ‘the paths of Peace’ (5:16). The state of peace can never prevail in a society if a tolerant attitude is lacking in the people. Tolerance is the only basis for peace; in a society where tolerance is absent, peace likewise will be non-existent.

Describing the evil of murder, the Qur’an has this to say:

“Whoever killed one human being, should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind.” (5:32)

This has been expressly stated in the scripture because, when a man commits a crime of this nature, he breaks the tradition of respect for life. This tradition in society serves as a kind of psychological check against one man making a murderous assault on another. Once this check is removed, there is no barrier left in the way of indulging in such criminal activities. People become emboldened when such a precedent is set by a wrongdoer. That is how the murder of one man opens the door to more murders. Thus Islam holds murder to be abhorrent.

Then the first word revealed in the form of the Quran was ‘Iqra’ (96:1). The fourth verse of the first revelation forming part of the chapter Al-Qalam has this to say:

“God has taught man by the pen.” (96:4)

We find more than 1500 derivatives and synonyms of the word Ilm, that is, knowledge. It becomes easy to understand in the light of this how the revelation of the Quran in this almost illiterate nation of Arabia set off such a wave of receiving and imparting education, which can rightly be called a learning explosion.

The revolution brought about by this learning explosion ushered in a new age of highly developed culture and civilization not only in Arabia but also all over the world. This is a fact that has been acknowledged by historians. For instance, Indian historian, T. Rama Rao begins his biography of the Prophet of Islam with these words:

When he appeared, Arabia was a desert—a nothing. Out of nothing of the desert a new world was fashioned by the mighty spirit of Muhammad. A new life, a new culture, a new civilization, a new kingdom, which extended from Morocco to India and influenced the thought and life of three continents—Asia, Africa and Europe (Life of Muhammad).

The Quran and Hadith both hold men of knowledge superior to the ignorant. (39:9) The books of hadith have a whole lengthy chapter devoted to the importance of knowledge, and the rewards of teaching and learning.

For instance, there is a tradition that one who treads a path in search of knowledge has his way paved to paradise by God as a reward for this noble deed (Bukhari, Muslim)

In a tradition recorded by Tirmidhi, angels in heaven, fish in the water and ants in their dwellings pray for the well-being of a seeker of knowledge.

In another hadith the Prophet of Islam observed, those who learn virtues and teach it to others are the best among humankind (Al-Bayhaqi).

Not more than 150 people all over Arabia knew how to read and write. They made the maximum use of their ability to memorise, preserving their entire literary heritage in their memory. There is no trace of any systematic or organised activity of learning or teaching in the society. But soon after the revelation of the Quran, the trend of receiving education set in, and everyone who accepted Islam learnt the Quran from the Prophet, and after learning it himself taught to other converts. In this way the homes of the early Muslims—Abu Bakr Siddiq, Al-Arqam bin Al-Arqam, Fatimah bint Khattab—turned into centres of learning. Moreover, from the very outset, the Prophet appointed scribes who were assigned to write down the Quranic portions as soon as they were revealed. This motivated others as well to learn writing so that they might make their own copies of the holy textbook. It is to be noted that even under life-threatening circumstances, when the Prophet had had the first and second pledge at Al-Aqabah, three years before the migration, he appointed twelve people who were most learned amongst them as teachers of the Quran. These teachers were so sincere and enthusiastic that within a short period of three years they spread the knowledge of the Quran to almost each and every home of the tribes of Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj. Hence when the Prophet arrived at Madinah in the 13th year of his Prophethood, he found all the young and old people of these tribes well versed in the teachings of the Quran.

Knowledge is of two distinct kinds: that which we have been blessed with in the Qur‘an and the Hadith, and that which we acquire as a result of our own research and endeavour. The first kind acquaints us with our Lord, and makes plain the issues to be faced in the everlasting world, which awaits us after death. More important, it shows us how, in the course of our present life, we may prepare ourselves to meet those issues. The second kind of knowledge provides solutions to the social and economic problems, which we encounter in everyday life.

It is imperative that Muslims should seek both forms of knowledge, but they should never lose sight of the fact that they vary considerably in importance. Their primary aim in life should be knowledge of the Qur’an and the Hadith, while the acquisition of knowledge of the other sciences should come about as a matter of worldly necessity. Without a knowledge of religion, what must be done in this world to earn an everlasting reward, will constantly elude one’s understanding, and it goes without saying that one can never then consider oneself a Muslim in the true sense of the word.

The secular sciences guide us only in worldly matters, giving us instruction in the agricultural, industrial and civic practicalities of life. But it is the Qur’an and Hadith, which set our feet on the path to eternal development. Clearly, it is just as important for Muslims as it is for anyone else to study various branches of knowledge, but they must distinguish between ultimate objectives and adventitious necessity. Muslims must not only study the Qur’an and the Hadith, but must be keenly aware that the real reasons for studying them are very different from those which prompt them to seek worldly knowledge: they must constantly bear in mind also that religious knowledge take moral priority over all other forms of knowledge.

The Quran, in fact, has given a new outlook, a new perspective or paradigm as coined by Thomas Kahn (The Structure of Scientific Revolution, 1955). According to this Quranic paradigm, man’s most important activity being intellectual contemplation or reflection, he was not supposed to blindly follow any idea or notion just because it was attributed to his ancestors or some other authority. He had to ponder on it critically and realistically. That is why we find that the Quran is replete with hundreds of inspirational and motivational verses that invite man to reflect on the wonderful creatures of God.

For example: In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are signs for people with intelligence, those who remember God standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying) Our Lord! You have not created all this in vain (without purpose), Glory be to You. (3:190-91, 7:176, 10:24, 13:3, 16:11).

This, we can say, was the intellectual seed, which is called in academic circles the spirit of enquiry. It is this spirit of inquiry, which has played the greatest role in bringing about the age of science. It is the zeal to discover which has led man to knowledge.

According to Toynbee and other world historians, this spirit of enquiry was the first and foremost prerequisite for the inauguration of the scientific era and the elimination of a superstitious outlook on nature and life. So it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is the Quran that has laid down the foundation of modern science. On the other hand, the Prophet himself has dealt with day-to-day problems of life in accordance with this realistic approach taught by the Quran. Consequently the same realistic approach became an integral part of the frame of mind of his companions. They all became curious, inquisitive and realistic in all matters of life.

 Islam attaches such great importance to learning that the Quran has this to say:

“It is the men of knowledge who can truly realise God.” (35:28)

Scholars are considered to be like angels (3:18), in view of their potential for discovering the oneness and the glory of the Creator. To inculcate this importance of knowledge in the minds of the believers, the Prophet once observed that the worship of a learned man is a thousand times better than that of the ignorant worshipper (Mustadrak Al-Hakim). By way of encouraging reflection on the universe and nature in order to explore divine glories, the Prophet is reported to have said: “An hour of reflection is better than a hundred years of worship without reflection.” (Al-Bayhaqi).

It was this interrelatedness of knowledge and worship that made the early Muslims seek and impart knowledge wholeheartedly and religiously.

But knowledge for the sake of knowledge as such may not be an acceptable notion according to Islamic ideology. Instead, a Muslim is supposed to seek knowledge for the pleasure of his Lord on the one hand and for the rendering of better services to the welfare of humankind on the other. In other words, the motto of education in Islam would be knowledge for the sake of serving God and His creatures. That is why from the very beginning almost equal attention has been paid to the learning of both the religious sciences and the worldly or secular sciences.

The Quran says that men are Qawwam (maintainers) of women (4:34). This leads to a common misconception that Islam gives a higher status to men than women. According to this verse of the Quran, it does not mean that men have a distinctive status over women – being maintainers of women has never been intended as a form of discriminatory treatment, it rather concerns the practical management of the home, for which the man is held responsible. However, this does not mean that a woman will never be allowed to shoulder these responsibilities. If she finds that she can bear this burden, no objection will be raised from any quarter. One example of this can be found in the Quran with reference to the people of Sheba. They lived in Yemen. The famous dam of Marib made their country very prosperous and enabled it to attain a high degree of civilization. The Quran tells us that they were ruled by a woman (27:23) without disapproving of her rule. Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba was very wise and sagacious, even more so than the men in her court. She did not want to embroil her country in war, while the men advised her to confront her enemies, namely, Solomon’s army. Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes:

“In Bilqis we have a picture of womanhood, gentle, prudent, and able to tame the wilder passions of her subjects.”

It is an accepted principle with the commentators of the Quran that when the Quran reports something without any disapproval, that means that has been approved of by the Quran.

So when we look at this incident in the light of the Quran, we find the status of woman even higher than that of men. A woman is in charge of men and she has shouldered this responsibility with greater efficacy.

Thus the example of the Queen of Sheba having found mention in the Quran shows that rulership is not man’s monopoly. A woman can be a ‘qawwam’ over a man and the Quran has itself testified to it.

This is a common misconception in Islam. In fact, in the early period of Islam, both the sexes were fully active in different fields of life, from housework to agriculture and horticulture; and from worship in the mosque to the battleground. Everywhere women were visible and active. Gradually there came about a division of labour, which is justifiable not only biologically and physiologically, but also in terms of the ensuing social benefits. One such important benefit is that they can see each other’s lives objectively, without that personal involvement which tends to cloud their judgment and lead to a damaging emotionalism. They are better able to counsel each other coolly and wisely, to give moral support at critical moments, and to offer the daily encouragement with which every successful union should be marked.

In Islamic history, there are many examples of women giving invaluable help to their husbands in critical situations. Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet of Islam was a successful business-woman.

According to this tradition, although males and females differ from one another biologically, they are equal in terms of human status. No distinction is made between women and men as regards their respective rights.

Man and woman in the eyes of Islam then are not the duplicates of one another, but the complements. This concept permits the shortcomings of one sex to be compensated for by the strengths of the other. This is all to the good if they are to be lifetime companions.

It is a fact that women in general are not physically as strong as men, but their physical weakness in no way implies their inferiority to men. The eyes are the most delicate parts of our body, while the nails by comparison are extremely hard. That does not mean that the nails are superior to the eyes.

Just as two different kinds of fruits will differ in colour, taste, shape and texture, without one being superior or inferior to the other, so also do men and women have their different qualities which distinguish the male from the female without there being any question of superiority or inferiority. They are endowed by nature with different capacities so that they may play their respective roles in life with greater ease and effectiveness.

However, in respect of innate talents all individuals, be they men or women, differ from one another. Yet their need for each other is equal. All are of equal value. One is not more important or less important than the other. Similarly when it comes to the establishment of a home and the raising of a family, men and women have their separate roles to play. But each is vital. Each is indispensable to the other. And for them to come together, function in unison and live in harmony, there must be mutual respect and a prevailing sense that a difference of biological function does not imply inequality. For the biological division of human beings into male and female is the result of the purposeful planning of our Creator.

In Islam, a woman enjoys the same status as that of a man. But in ancient times, women had come to be considered inferior and were deprived, among other things, of the right to inherit property. Islam for the first time in human history gave them their due legal rights over property. Neither did it distinguish between men and women as regards status, rights and blessings, both in this world and the Hereafter. Both were considered equal participants in the carrying out of the functions of daily living.

Since the earliest ideal phase of Islam, Muslim women have successfully exploited their talents towards the field of education in particular. Homes had become centres of learning. As women performed their role without going outdoors, there is a general impression that Islam has restricted women’s workplace to performing only domestic chores. But this is not the truth. First of all Islam encouraged them to receive education, and then enthused them with a new zeal. Subsequently, they went out to impart this learning to the next generation. Let’s take the instance of the Prophet’s wives, held up as role models for women in Islam. Preserving their femininity, they participated in all kinds of religious and worldly activities. For instance, the Prophet’s wife Aisha, having gained full knowledge of Islam from the Prophet, was able, after the death of the Prophet, to perform the task of teacher and guide to the Muslim community for a period of about fifty years. Abdullah ibn Abbas, a Companion of great stature, and one of the best commentators of the Qur’an, was one of Aisha’s pupils.

As modern day research tells us women are better with words than men. It is perhaps this reason why they are able to run educational institutions successfully. Besides this there may be many such workplaces where women are able to exploit their full potential. Since earliest days of Islam we find Muslim women working outdoors. Umm Dahdah, wife of a Companion of the Prophet worked in her orchard. Khadija, Prophet’s wife conducted business, to cite only a few of such examples. However, Islam sets great value on the proper management of home. It is because home is the most important unit of any society. Home is the centre of preparing succeeding generations. Thus neglecting home front will amount to neglecting the next generation, which in turn will result in a great national loss.

I would say that Islam grants even more respect to women than to men. According to one Hadith a man once came to the Prophet and asked him who rightfully deserved the best treatment from him.

“Your mother,” said the Prophet. “Who’s next?” asked the man. “Your mother.” “Who comes next?” the man asked again. The Prophet again replied, “Your mother.” “Who is after that?” insisted the man. “Your father,” said the Prophet.

Another example concerns Hajra, the Prophet Abraham’s wife. Hajj, regarded as the greatest form of worship in Islam, entails the performance of Sai, one of the main rites of the Hajj. This is accomplished by running back and forth seven times between Safa and Marwah, two hillocks near the Kaba. This running, enjoined upon every pilgrim, be they rich or poor, literate or illiterate, kings or commoners, is in imitation of the desperate quest of Hajra, Abraham’s wife, for water to quench the thirst of her crying infant, four thousand years ago. The performance of this rite is a lesson in struggling for the cause of God. It is of the utmost significance that this was an act performed by a woman. Perhaps there could be no better demonstration of a woman’s greatness than God’s command to all men, literally to follow in her footsteps.

We can see that the principle implied by the expression ‘ladies first’ in modern times had already been established in Islam at the very outset.

Contrary to the common belief, Islam does not teach violence. It is a religion of peace in the fullest sense of the word. The first verse of the Qur’an breathes the spirit of peace. It reads:

In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.

This verse is repeated in the Qur’an no less than 113 times. It shows the great importance Islam attaches to such values as Mercy and Compassion. Moreover the Qur’an states that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH was sent to the world as a mercy to mankind. (21:107)

A perusal of the Qur’an shows that most verses of the Qur’an (and also the Hadith) are based on peace and kindness, either directly or indirectly. The ideal society, according to the Qur’an is Dar as-Salam, that is, the house of peace (10:25).

The Qur’an presents the universe as a model that is characterized by harmony and peace (36:40). When God created heaven and earth, He so ordered things that each part might perform its function peacefully without clashing with any other part. The Qur’an tells us that “the sun is not allowed to overtake the moon, nor does the night outpace the day. Each in its own orbit runs.” (36:40)

For billions of years, therefore, the entire universe has been fulfilling its function in total harmony with His divine plan.

These are only but a few references to show what great importance Islam attaches to peace. In fact, Islam cannot afford not to be in a state of peace because all that Islam aims at—spiritual progress, intellectual development, character building, social reform, educational activities, and above all Missionary work —can be achieved only in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.

Sulh-e-Kul is a Persian phrase that means ‘Peace with all’. I think it is the best interpretation of Islam given by the Sufis, which truly expresses its spirit.

Human life in Islam is held in such high esteem that if even a single human being is killed, that is considered equivalent to the assassination of the whole of mankind. And the protection of a single human life is equivalent to the protection of the whole of mankind. (5:27-32)

Patience and avoidance are not signs of cowardice or a defeatist mentality. They are simply realistic approaches. This is necessary because the Creator has given man freedom for the purpose of putting him to the test. Man sometimes makes the right use, sometimes the wrong use of his freedom. Even if you start fighting everyone, you cannot snatch away their freedom, as this freedom is given them by the very Creator of the universe. Efforts to deprive others of their freedom are futile and will result only in your own suffering.

In such a state of affairs there is only one possible attitude. And that is known as patience. That is, even when faced with bitterness and unpleasantness from others, you must continue your life’s journey by avoidance.

You should never feel that it is only up to others to practice patience and avoid friction. Patience and avoidance of strife are the social duties of everyone without exception. It should never be forgotten that while patience makes it possible to continue with life’s journey, impatience will ultimately prevent you from reaching your chosen destination.

Huzayfah relates a tradition that the Prophet once advised, “It is not proper for any Muslim to disgrace himself.” People enquired as to how someone might disgrace himself? The Prophet replied, “By challenging an evil he is not competent to fight with.” (Musnad, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, 4/405)

This Hadith of the Prophet reveals an important principle of Islam, that whenever, in a composite society, an evil or unpleasant situation arises, it is not prudent for the law-abiding man to have an impulsive confrontation with wrongdoers. Instead, he should decide pragmatically as to which of two options would be appropriate.

One is that he should see whether he has enough strength to fight the miscreants and compel them to desist from their wrongdoing. If so, he must fight with great determination so that the trouble is eradicated and social uplift becomes possible.

The second option is to make a cool and realistic assessment of the comparative strength of the two sides and if it is found that the odds are too great for any favourable result to be achieved through confrontation or that a disadvantage which initially had been insignificant could turn into a major setback, it will become necessary to adopt the policy of patience and tolerance, and avoid any confrontation with the wicked.

The policy of avoidance simply means refraining from wasting time and energy in a futile conflict. By following this course, one gains the respite to prepare oneself adequately for future action. It provides the opportunity to become so strong and dominant that no one would dare do any harm to one. In the event of attempted injustice, there would be enough accumulated force to effectively repulse any wrongdoer.

The approach of patience, tolerance and avoidance is undoubtedly one of the most important principles of Islam. (8.SS/9.95)

By temperament, all men and women differ from one another in many ways. Everyone has experienced the disagreeable situations, arising from such differences. In social life, be it inside or outside the home, it is but natural that unpleasantness should occur from time to time. This is unavoidable.

Now whenever any negative situation arises one way of dealing with it is a head-on clash, i.e. an attempt to solve the problem by direct confrontation. Such attempts are abortive as they only aggravate the problem. In no way will they improve matters.

Islam tells us that on such occasions instead of behaving violently and fighting, we should opt for the course of tolerance and forbearance; instead of combating violence with violence, we should adopt the policy of avoidance; remaining united in spite of differences.

According to Islam, it is not only a point of social behaviour but also an act meriting great reward. Living with people, and observing their principles are acts which would deserve a reward in normal circumstances, but when one continues to be well-behaved in spite of differences and grudges, by curbing negative sentiments, then the reward is increased manifold. God will count those who sedulously avoid friction among the possessors of a superior character.

Certain Arab countries tried to over-throw corrupt Islamic governments during the Arab Spring. This is totally UnIslamic. This can be seen from the fact that despite the blatant perversion in the Muslim rulers after the pious caliphate, the Muslim ulama did not lead an insurrection against these corrupt individuals. For about a period of one thousand years they remained detached in this matter and continued to engage all their efforts in non-political fields. This was not a matter of accident but in obedience to the express injunctions of the Shariah.

As we know, in the books of Hadith detailed traditions have been set down in the chapters titled Kitab al-Fitan. The Prophet Muhammad observed in plain words that in later times perversions would set in in the rulers, they would become tyrannical and unjust, but that Muslims should not wield their swords against them. They should rather move to the mountains with their goats and camels.

By ‘goats and camels’ are meant the opportunities in non-political fields, which exist, even when the political institutions are corrupted. This injunction given by the Prophet meant that the Muslims should avail of such opportunities by avoiding clash and confrontation in the political field. In short, by ignoring the political problem, they should avail of the non-political opportunities.

These injunctions of the Prophet Muhammad were so clear that the Muslim ulama of later times formed a consensus to make insurrection against the rulers unlawful.

Imam An-Nawawi, commenting upon some traditions as set forth by Sahih Muslim (Kitab al-Imarah) observes: “You should not come into conflict with the rulers in matters of their power. Even if you find them going against express Islamic injunctions, you should attempt to make the truth clear to them solely through words of wisdom and advice. So far as revolt and war against them in order to unseat them is concerned, that is totally unlawful according to the consensus of the ulama, even when the rulers are zalim and fasiq (tyrants and corrupt).” (Sahih Muslim, bi sharh an-Nawawi, 12/229)

Some people portray the picture of Islam as a religion of violence by using the word Jihad. They say that Jihad in Islam is a holy war. But there is not concept of holy war in Islam. Jihad has nothing to do with war or violence; it actually means a struggle, a peaceful struggle. ‘And make Jihad on them, with the help of the Quran’ (25:52), says the Quran. Nowhere does it say, ‘with the help of the sword’.

Clearly, Jihad is an act to be performed by the power of ideology rather than the power of the sword; it is only another name for peaceful activism along Islamic lines.

The Quran says that on the day of the Judgement, God will say: ‘O peaceful soul, come and enter my paradise’ (89:28). And only those who have followed the path of peace in this world will be allowed an entrance into God’s Paradise.

Religious freedom is the basic human right whose violation has caused conflicts, wars and bloodshed in both ancient and modern societies. The Quran, therefore, has declared for the first time in human history:

‘There shall be no coercion in matters of religion.’ (2:256).

The Quran also states clearly, “To you your religion and to me mine.” (109:6).

The principle that we obtain from the above verses of the Quran is generally referred to, in today’s context, as religious freedom.

In view of this prohibition of coercion (Ikrah), all Islamic jurists (Fuqaha) without any exception hold that forcible conversion is under all circumstances null and void. Any attempt to coerce a non-believer to accept Islam is a grievous sin, (Ahkam al-Quran, al-Jassas). According to this principle of ‘non-coercion’, it is not permissible to exploit or manipulate personal weaknesses or calamities (e.g. poverty, sickness, famine, etc.) for religious conversion. That is why old and downtrodden non-Muslims were exempted from taxes and given all monetary support by the Islamic state without ever being asked to embrace Islam just for the advantages it would give them.

According to Islam God is One, Eternal and Absolute. He is everything, everything is from Him. God, the Creator of all things is the Sustainer of the Universe.

God: there is no god but Him, the Living, the Eternal One. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is what the heavens and the earth contain. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows all about the affairs of men at present and in the future. They can grasp only that part of His knowledge, which He wills. His throne is as vast as the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Exalted, the Immense One. (2:255)

Say: ‘God is One, the Eternal God. He begot none, nor was He begotten. None is equal to Him.’ (112: 1-4)

Chapter 112 of the Qur’an, entitled Ikhlas, gives us the essence of monotheism. Not only does it tell us of the oneness of God, but it also makes it clear what the oneness of God means. This chapter presents the concept of God, purified of all human interpolation, for, prior to the advent of Islam, tampering with the sacred text had caused this concept of God to be distorted for all would-be believers. God is not many. He is only one. All depend upon him. He depends on none. He, in his own being, is all-powerful. He is above to beget or begotten. He is such a unique being who has no equal or compeer. All kind of oneness belongs to this Almighty Being. The concept of One God is the actual beginning point and also the only source of Islamic teachings.

Islam means submission to the one God. The religion of Islam is so named because it is based on obedience to God. A true believer in Islam is one who subordinates his thinking to God, who follows God’s dictates in all aspects of his life.

Islam is the religion of the entire universe. For the entire universe and all its parts are functioning in accordance with the law laid down by God.

Such behaviour is also desired of man. Man should also lead his life as God’s obedient servant just as the rest of the universe is fully subservient to God. The only difference is that the universe has submitted to God compulsorily, while man is required to submit to the will of God by his own choice.

When man adopts Islam, first of all it is his thinking, which comes under Islam, then his desires, his feelings, his interests, his relations, his loves and his hatred. All are coloured by his obedience to God’s will.

When man, in his daily life comes under God’s command, his behaviour with people, his dealings all are moulded by the demands of Islam. From inside to outside he becomes a person devoted to God.

Man is God’s servant, and indeed, the only proper way for man in this world is to live as the servant of God. Islam, in fact, is another name for this life of servitude to God. Where the Islamic life is devoted to the service of God, the un-Islamic life unashamedly flouts the will of God. Islam teaches man to lead an obedient life and surrender himself completely to the will of God. It is people who do so who will share God’s blessings in the next world.

The Qur’an is the preserved Book of God. It enshrines the teachings which were basically the same as were to be found in previous revealed scriptures. But these ancient scriptures are no longer preserved in their original state. Later additions and deletions have rendered them unreliable, whereas the Qur’an, preserved in its original state, is totally reliable.

The Qur’an has 114 chapters. Its contents in a nutshell are: belief in one God, and considering oneself answerable to Him; firm belief that the guidance sent by God through the Prophet Muhammad is the truth and that man’s eternal salvation rests thereon.

The position of the Qur’an is not just that it is one of the many revealed scriptures but that it is the only authentic heavenly book, as all other books, due to human additions and deletions, have been rendered historically unreliable. When a believer in the previous revealed scripture turns to the Qur’an, it does not mean that he is rejecting his own belief, but rather amounts to his having re-discovered his own faith in an authentic form.

The Qur’an is a sacred book sent by the Lord of all creation. It is a book for all human beings, because it has been sent by that Divine Being who is the God of all of us.

The Qur’an is no new heavenly scripture. It is only an authentic edition of the previous heavenly scriptures. In this respect, the Qur’an is a book for all human beings, of all nations. It is the expression of God’s mercy for one and for all. It is a complete message sent by God for every one of us. The Qur’an is a light of guidance for all the world just as the sun is the source of light and heat for all the world.

The essence of faith is ma‘arifah, (realization or discovery of God). When a man consciously seeks out and finds God, and thereby has access to divine realities that is what constitutes faith.

This discovery is no simple matter. God is the Creator and Owner of all things. He will award or punish all, according to their deeds; none is free from His grip. The discovery of such a God shakes to the core of the whole life of man. His thinking is revolutionized, for God becomes the centre of all His emotions.

With God as the principal focus of his attention, man becomes God’s servant in the fullest sense of the word. He becomes a man whose living and dying is all for God.

Such a faith ultimately results in all of man’s behaviour and his dealings taking on the hue of God. When the believer speaks, he is conscious of the fact that God is listening to him. When he walks, he does so with modesty so that his gait may not be displeasing to God. When he deals with people, he is always worried lest he deal unjustly and be punished by God in the next life.

The impact of this degree of faith makes the entire life of man akhirat-oriented. In all matters his eyes are focused on the Hereafter. Instead of immediate gain he makes gain in the next life his goal. Whenever there are two aspects of any matter, one pertaining to this world and the other to the next world, he always prefers the latter.

Faith, another name for the recognition of the Supreme God, becomes for the believer a fountainhead of limitless confidence in his Creator. When this recognition takes root in an individual’s heart and soul, his whole personality becomes regenerated. Knowing that in all circumstances he may depend upon God, he becomes a new man.

Jihad literally means to strive or struggle one’s utmost. Any sincere effort for the cause of religion will be called Jihad. Man’s self leads him to evil. So waging war with the self is jihad. Sometimes friends or acquaintances pressurize you into engaging in activities, which are not right from the moral standpoint. At that time, refusing to yield such pressure and sticking firmly to an upright attitude are forms of jihad.

Exhorting people to goodness and making them refrain from indecency are tasks entailing a great struggle. Continuing the dawah campaign whilst bearing all hardship is also jihad.

If having been treated with bitterness by neighbours or acquaintances, or after suffering any other kind of provocation, one refrains from reaction and retaliation and maintains pleasant relations unilaterally; this will also be a form of jihad.

There is another kind of jihad which is called ‘qital’ that is, engaging in war at God’s behest at the time of aggression on the part of the enemies. This jihad is purely in self-defence in order to counter aggression. The literal meaning of jihad is not war. But to fight in self-defence in accordance with God’s commandments also involves a struggle; that is why it is also called jihad.

Jihad, meaning war, is however a temporary and circumstantial matter. If in the real sense any need for defence arises only then will armed jihad be launched. If no such severe urgency arises, no armed jihad will take place.

Just calling an action ‘jihad’ will not morally validate it. The only true jihad is that which is carried out in accordance with Islam. Islamic jihad is, in actual fact, another name for peaceful struggle. This peaceful struggle is sometimes an inward-looking thing, like waging jihad with the self when it takes place at the level of feeling; sometimes it is desired externally, and manifests itself at the physical level through gestures (like kneeling, prostrating oneself before God).

Death will overtake everybody; no one can escape from it. But death is not the same for everyone. Some have made God their goal in life; they speak and keep silence for His sake alone; their attention is focused entirely on the after-life. Death is for them the end of a long terrestrial journey towards their Lord.

Others have forgotten their Lord; they do not do things for God’s sake; they are traveling away from their Lord. They are like rebels who roam at large for a few days, and then death seizes them and brings them to justice.

Death is not the same for both types of people, as it might seem. For one, death is to partake of the Lord’s hospitality; for the other, it is to be cast into His dungeon. For one, death is the gate to paradise; for the other it will be the day when he is thrown into hell’s raging fire, to burn there forever as a punishment for his rebelliousness.

Believers have a different attitude to death from unbelievers. They are concerned with what comes in the wake of death; they focus their attention on gaining an honourable position in the life after death. Unbelievers, on the other hand, are caught up on worldly affairs. Their ultimate ambition is worldly honour and prestige. Under present circumstances, those who have consolidated their position on earth seem to be successful, but death will shatter this facade. It will become clear that those who seemed to have no base in the world were in fact standing on the most solid of foundations, while the position of those who had reached a high status in the world will be exposed as false. Death will obliterate everything; afterwards only that which has some worth in the after-life will remain. We are obsessed with the world, which meets our eyes. We fail to pay attention to the call of truth. If we were to see the next life with our worldly vision, we would immediately submit to God. We would realize that if we do not submit to Him today, we will have to do so in the future world, when submission will profit no one.

When a person works, makes money, builds a house, makes an effort to improve his standard of living, he appears to be engaged in efforts towards some worthy end. But a life of this nature cannot be called a purposeful life, for these activities do not demonstrate man’s unique status. It might seem as if they are the result of deliberation, but if one looks at the matter in depth, one will see that in actual fact the motive force behind these actions is the same urge that motivates an animal in various ways, in its concern for its own survival. It is the driving force of one’s desires; the pressure of one’s needs, and the wish to fulfil the demands of one’s self that underlie such a life. These are the considerations which, in fact, guide a person in his search for his livelihood.

When man grows up, he realizes that there are certain material necessities without which he cannot live. He requires food, clothes, a place to live; he requires a reliable source of income to sustain him throughout his life. He is forced by these considerations to obtain these things. Then he sees that those who have an abundance of these material things enjoy respect and apparently possess every form of happiness and luxury in this world. Thus he is driven on to do more than just seek a livelihood; he desires to earn to a degree greatly in excess of his actual requirements.

In bustling markets, grandiose offices, and opulent buildings, he is not really guided by deliberate thought. Rather, he is being guided by inflated ideas of his own needs, desires, longings and ambitions to achieve fame and high status in this world. For this reason these activities cannot be considered as being directed towards the purpose which sets man apart from the animal and lends him a higher distinction.

To determine the purpose of life is, in short, the effort to make life meaningful. It must surely, therefore, be one which is in accordance with man’s unique status; it must be one which leads man on the path to success and progress in terms of his true nature.

. At a Doordarshan panel discussion on ‘The Scientific Temper’, (New Delhi, June 2, 1998-including, besides myself, a central Minister, a social activist, a professor, an English journalist and a lady educationist), I quoted Pandit Nehru as having said as early as 1947, that what his country required more than anything else was just that—the scientific temper. I further made the point that we need to know exactly what is meant by this expression. Broadly interpreted, it means having a realistic attitude. In one of his prayers, the Prophet is recorded as having asked God to enable him to see things just as they are (Allahuma arenal ashyaa kama heya). This clearly indicates that having the scientific temper, or pursuing a scientific line of thought, is the equivalent of coming to grips with reality.

We live in a world, which has an existence of its own, functioning according to its own immutable principles. Scientific thinking is, therefore, extremely important for the successful development of both the individual and the nation. The secret of success is to see the world around us with an open mind and to acquire an understanding of the laws of nature. This approach will produce positive results, enabling one to form correct judgments about things as they actually are. This is what is meant by having the scientific temper. In this world, the real achievers are those who, by fostering this bent of mind, are able to confront the truth.

Scientific thinking, largely, is a question of ratiocination based on facts. This applies equally to the world of matter and to human affairs. For instance, if you have to build a bridge over a river, the science of engineering will tell you to build it from iron and not from clay. Similarly, if you want to harvest a particular crop, the science of horticulture will tell you not only that you must sow the seeds of that crop (and not for example plastic pellets!) but also how to irrigate and fertilize them.

Similar principles apply in the human world. Good results can be achieved only if full account is taken of all of the relevant facts. Failing this, the desired outcome will remain elusive. If, for example, you want someone to be your supporter, the science of psychology will tell you that you must activate his conscience and appeal to his better feelings. But if, on the contrary, you speak or act in such a way that his ego is hurt, you will turn him into an enemy. If you want to receive something from someone, you shall have to become in his eyes a giver, and not just a beneficiary, for it is a matter of common experience that most people are used to giving only to those from whom they receive. Then, if you aspire to a position of honour, you had best be unassuming in demeanour, because it is the modest man and not the egoist who makes the greatest impression on the better side of human nature. It is the unpretentious individual who is most likely, therefore, to attain to a position of honour and prestige.

Man has been advised in the Qur’an to be steadfast in his prayer, for prayer fends away indecency and evil. When the Prophet of Islam was asked about this verse he said: If a person’s prayer does not fend away indecency and evil then his prayer is not really prayer at all.

What is prayer? It is to remember the fact that man is living before a God who—though man cannot see Him—can see man. Whoever leaves the mosque with this fact firmly embedded in his mind cannot live forgetful of God. In prayer man testifies to the fact that God is the greatest of all beings. If one is truthful in one’s testimony, then one will not claim greatness for oneself when one has finished praying. Whatever one recites in prayer is a covenant before God that one will keep his commandments; then how is it possible that one should leave the mosque and treat people with arrogance and contumacy? The actions of prayer are a manifestation of the fact that one’s heart is full of fear and love for God. How can one claim to be full of fear and love for God in the mosque, and then live as if one knows neither fear or love for Him when one goes outside?

If one prays in the true spirit of prayer, then one’s prayer will surely fend away indecency and evil. But if one’s prayer is devoid of spirit, then it will be no more than a perfunctory action, which has no connection with one’s real life. It will be prayer in form, but not in reality: for it will not fend away indecency and evil.

It is as if one were to say: a son who stays lying down while he sees his father standing does not respect his father; a brother who sees his sister hungry and does not give her something to eat is not really a brother at all; the friendship of a person who hears of his friend’s death and does not stop laughing is not really friendship at all.

Faith, iman, is the first pillar of Islam. For its manifestation one is required to utter his faith in oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad. But its spirit lies in its acceptance. Through this article of faith a man accepts God and all His attributes. He also accepts that God has sent Muhammad to this world as the eternal guide for all the mankind. If this reality reaches one’s heart, it becomes a part of his being. His heart opens to the truth and reality. He is transformed into a man who will overcome any obstacle to reach the truth.

The spirit of Salah, manifested in the daily five times prayers, is humility. A man performing the salah bows before his Creator and thereby creates a sense of humility within himself. A man who is fired by this spirit, will be devoid of pride and ego. He will develop a quality of humility and will be far removed from false sense of pride and importance.

The manifestation of zakat is giving a fixed amount in alms annually, but the spirit behind is the service of mankind. A man who gives alms will develop a zeal in himself to do good to the others. He would like to live a life which is most useful to the others.

The manifestation of Hajj is the annual ritual. But its spirit is the unity and solidarity. A man who performs the Hajj in its real spirit, will do away with the feelings of opposition. He will live in unity and harmony even in the face of provocation.

The inner spirit of the outer manifestation of fasting in the month of Ramzan is to endure. A man who keeps fast will soon learn to tolerate even unpleasant situations. He will ignore what may be objectionable and concentrate on positive aspects of the matter.

Those who adhere to these five pillars of Islam only to the extent of their manifestations, will find that their lives are devoid of the spirit of these pillars.

For example they will repeat the words accepting the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, but beyond these words when they are confronted with truth, they will not accept it, because they have not understood the spirit of what they repeat. They will go through the ritual of prayer (Namaz) but once outside the mosque they will not be able to display the humility in their interaction with others. The reason for this is that they have not imbibed the spirit of Namaz.

Likewise those who take out a fixed amount as alms (Zakat), will not show any compassion while dealing with others. Because the spirit of Zakat is missing. They will go for Hajj, perform the rituals and come back. But they will not be ready to ignore the complaints of the others and forge a unity because the true spirit of Hajj has not touched them. During the month of Ramzan, they will keep the ritual fast. But when they are required to show patience, they will be found lacking. They will be easily provoked. The reason for this is that they have not understood the spirit behind the fasting.

Anyone who has adhered to the five pillars of Islam is a faithful and a Muslim. He has made himself entitled to God’s bounty, in this world as well as in the world hereafter. But the five pillars of Islam have to be accepted in their manifestations and spirits. The rewards, which have been promised, are for their complete and not partial adherence.

In mutual dealings in social life, it often happens that a person gives his word to another. There is apparently no third person or group between the two, yet there is always a third present and that is God who is the supreme witness. That is why every promise becomes a divine promise.

Man should, therefore, be extremely sensitive about giving his word. His conviction is that every commitment made between two persons is under the watchful eyes of God, and that he will be accountable for its fulfilment in the court of God. This compels him to be highly responsible as regards his promises. Whenever he gives his word to anyone he makes a point of keeping it.

People who invariably fulfil their promises are predictable characters in a society, and give their society that particular quality which exists on a vast scale throughout the universe. Every part of this universe is functioning with the most exact precision. For instance, we can learn in advance about any star’s or planet’ s rotation and where it will be moving after a hundred or even a thousand years. Similarly, we know in advance what the boiling point of water will be. In this way the entire universe evinces a predictable character.

Many other virtues come in the wake of the regular fulfilment of promises. One of these is mutual trust. In a society where mutual trust exists, there is no discord and dissension between the people; there is an atmosphere of confidence and peaceability as there is no fear of promises being broken.

Readiness to fulfil promises is a commendable trait and it is spirituality that makes man the possessor of this highest of human virtues.

Avoidance of friction is one of the most important principles of life. Such avoidance means refraining from retaliation on occasions of complaint and dissension.

By temperament, all men and women differ from one another in many ways. Everyone has experienced the disagreeable situations, arising from such differences. In social life, be it inside or outside the home, it is but natural that unpleasantness should occur from time to time. This is unavoidable.

Now whenever any negative situation arises one way of dealing with it is a head-on clash, i.e. an attempt to solve the problem by direct confrontation. Such attempts are abortive as they only aggravate the problem. In no way will they improve matters.

Islam tells us that on such occasions we should adopt the policy of avoidance. That is, instead of behaving violently and fighting, we should opt for the course of tolerance and forbearance; instead of combating violence with violence, we should adopt the policy of avoidance; remaining united in spite of differences.

According to Islam, it is not only a point of social behaviour but an act meriting great reward. Living with people, and observing their principles are acts which would deserve a reward in normal circumstances, but when one continues to be well-¬behaved in spite of differences and grudges, by curbing negative sentiments, then the reward is increased manifold. Those who sedulously avoid friction will be counted by God among the possessors of a superior character.

For the human character to retain its superiority there must be staunch and unceasing adherence to the principle of avoidance.

Good character is the sum of personal virtues, which guarantees correct and agreeable behaviour in daily social interaction. A person of good character will invariably conform in his behaviour to a strict code of ethics.

What should be the underlying principle of this code of ethics? According to a hadith it is simply this—you should like for others what you like for yourself, that is, you should treat others just as you want to be treated by others.

Everyone likes to be addressed with good manners and pleasing words. So everyone should speak gently to others. Everyone wants his existence to be problem-free, so he should avoid creating problems for others.

Everyone wants others to deal with him in a sympathetic and cooperative manner. So what everyone ought to do while dealing with others is to give them his full sympathy and cooperation.

This standard of ethics is very simple and natural. It is so simple that anyone may easily learn it, be he literate or illiterate, able bodied or disabled, and regardless of his likes and dislikes. This hadith has given such a criterion for human ethics that no one can find difficult to understand. In this way Islam has set forth, in the light of everyone’s personal experience, what behaviour may be indulged in and what behaviour has to be refrained from.

According to another hadith, the best of us is one who is best in moral character. Accordingly, becoming a good human being has nothing ambiguous about it. Its simple formula is that of avoidance of double standards. One who lives his life by this formula is indubitably a person of the highest moral character.

Tolerance is a noble humanitarian and Islamic virtue. Its practice means making concessions to others. Intolerance, on the other hand, means showing a self-centered unconcern for the needs of others. Tolerance is a worthy, humane virtue, which has been described in different terms in the Shariah: for instance, gentle behaviour, showing concern for others, being soft-hearted, being compassionate.

When true God-worship and religiosity is born within a person, he reaches above all those evils, which emanate from selfishness. Instead of living within the confines of the self, he begins to live in the world of reality. The truly pious person begins to look upon people with love and compassion. He does not expect anything from anyone, that is why even when others differ from him or do not behave well towards him, he continues nevertheless to make concessions to them, and continues to be tolerant towards them.

Tolerance implies unswerving respect for others, whether in agreement or disagreement with them. The tolerant man will always consider the case of others sympathetically, be they relatives or friends, and irrespective of the treatment he is given by them, be it of a positive or a negative nature.

Tolerance means, in essence, to give consideration to others. In social life, friction between people does occur in every society, differences arising from religion, culture, tradition and personal tastes persist. In such a situation the superior course of action is to adopt the ways of concession and large-heartedness without any compromise of principle.

That is to say that the pious man should be a man of principle as far as he himself is concerned, but should be tolerant towards others. He should judge himself in the light of the ideal but in the matter of his fellow men he should show tolerance and broad-mindedness. This being inseparable from human gentility and nobility, Islam aims to produce this fine human quality of gentlemanliness by preaching tolerance.

"'The concept of merging with God is not a right concept. The creature cannot merge with the Creator, because they are two different entities. The right thinking is that one should yearn to become spiritually, not physically, close to God. This kind of experience is quite possible. The method of attaining this is contemplation. When you read the scriptures and other relevant literature, also when you observe the world around, you will discover the Creator of the world. You will find the signs of the attributes of the Creator in nature and creation. This kind of contemplation makes you closer and closer to God, until you feel that you have found God, you are living in His neighborhood, and you are receiving inspiration from Him. This is realization of God, and it is quite possible for a human being to attain this God-realization."

The boy's family has put up a wrong condition. The stand of the boy's family is wrong. One shouldn't keep relation with one's family only if they prevent one from following Islam. If they do not put obstacles in your following Islam, then you can maintain normal relations with them. This principle is derived from the following verse of the Quran: "We have enjoined man to show kindness to his parents. But if they bid you associate with me something about which you have no knowledge, do not obey them." (29:8).

Therefore, if your family has no problem with your Islam, even then the boy's family puts the condition of not maintaining relations with your family, then the stand of boy's family is incorrect.

This kind of doubt is totally wrong, and also against the spirit of the age. This age is the age of respect and tolerance. We are distributing the Quran on a large scale, and our distributors have never reported such an incident. On the contrary, our distributors tell us that those who are given the Quran receive it with great respect and thankfulness. According to our knowledge, all those so-called events of disrespect were nothing but rumours. Muslims acted against those events of disgrace of the Quran without inquiring into them. This reaction by the Muslims was quite against the teaching of Islam. According to the Quran, no action is allowed before making a thorough inquiry into the event. This commandment is mentioned in this verse: "Believers, if an evil-doer brings you news, ascertain the correctness of the report fully, lest you unwittingly harm others, and then regret what you have done." (49:6)

It is a hypothetical question that if a non-Muslim disgraces the Quran, the responsibility for it comes on the Muslim who had given the Quran to him. But for the sake of argument, I can say that if an event of this sort happens, Muslims will never be accountable. There is a very clear verse in this regard in the Quran: "Believers, take care of your own souls. The misguided cannot harm you as long as you are guided." (5:105)

Concept of customer relationship in Islam

If the complaint of the customer is genuine, then it must be addressed in every system, including Islam.

Can we greet Non muslim with Islamic word "Assalamuallikum"

Yes, there is no restriction in this regard. Assalamualaykum is common for all, both Muslims and non-Muslims.  

Islam permits to give birth more than one child but on the other hand today is population explosion.

It is a wrong conception that Islam preaches giving birth to many children. There is a Hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari. One Sahabi tells us: We were observing birth control (azl) at the time of the Prophet of Islam, but the Prophet never prohibited it. Also, no verse was revealed in the Quran in this regard.

The question has to do with this equality. Recently, a colleague of mine (who is a Hindu) told me he wanted to visit Mecca and Medina as a tourist. I had heard somewhere that non-Muslims are not allowed near the Kaaba. Is that true? Please let me know.

This is not a question of equality, it is a question of safeguarding Mecca from visitor's intrusion. History tells us that in the pre-Islamic period there was no such restriction. But, the idol-worshiping visitors started keeping their idols in the Kaaba, and the number of idols reached 360. After having this experience, Islam imposed the above restriction.

The question deals with a Malaysian court ruling recently that the word Allah can only be uttered by Muslims to refer to God. Please refer to the report here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-24519553
I find this ruling contradictory to the spirit of Islam, the way I understand it. Considering that Islam preaches equality, isn't this ruling akin to saying that only all Muslims are equal?

The verdict of the Malaysian High Court is certainly wrong. It has nothing to do with Islamic teachings. According to report, a lower court of Malaysia had rightly allowed the use of the word Allah. But, in a later verdict, the High Court overturned the 2009 ruling of the lower court.

The word "Allah" is not the monopoly of Muslims. According to history, this word was prevalent among the idol worshipers of Mecca. The Quran itself certifies it. In this regard you can refer to this Quranic verse: "If you ask them who it is that has created the heavens and the earth and subjugated the sun and the moon, they will say, 'Allah.' How then are they turned away?" (29:61) If early Muslims were right in adopting this word from the pagans of the pre-Islamic period, then Christians of Malaysia are also justified in using this word.

Why Muslims want to convert people who love them?

Conversion culture is a Muslim culture, it is not a part of Islam. The word conversion or its equivalent cannot be found in the Quran. According to Islam, religion is everyone's own choice. What Islam teaches is discussion, not conversion. We have to do open discussion on every subject, including religion. Discussion helps in intellectual development. Intellectual development is the greatest requirement of every human being. The goal of discussion is mutual learning. 

Famous cosmologist Prof Stephen Hawking has said he backs the notion of assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses.
In an interview with BBC his argument was : "We don't let animals suffer, so why humans?"
Should we see this as suicide or murder. can this action be justified? I want to know your point of view on this.

If the patient is conscious and he consciously decides to commit suicide for the sake of relief from pain, then this kind of practice is haram in Islam. But, another case is that the patient is living just like a plant with the aid of the life support system, and the doctor decides to remove this system because the patient cannot be revived any further. If the patient automatically dies on the removal of this system, then this will not be suicide.

My question is that every event takes place by the wish of Allah then if any person do wrong work then why Allah punish him. If a person doing wrong work such as murder ,rape then why Allah not take over that. If Allah wish then these event not happen then why this happen.

Man is free. He enjoys total freedom. Your personal experience is enough to make you understand this fact. You must have experienced the feeling everyday that you are free to do anything. According to Islam, both reward and punishment depend upon one's own intentions. When one kills another person, he does this by intention, and due to this intention one is responsible for his deed. 
It is wrong to say that everything happens according to God's wish. The fact is that the infrastructure was provided by God, in this sense, everything is pre-determined. But, when man exploits this infrastructure according to his own intention, it is this intention that makes him responsible for his deeds.

Keralaties are celebrating Onam -the national festival of Kerala- now a days .Our Hindu neighbours invite us for lunch. It is also called Ona sadya. Can we accept their invitation? Some Maulavis say that their food is forbidden to us . what Islam says about this?

You have to certainly accept their invitation. It is a good opportunity to interact with them to convey to them the message of Islam and distribute the translation of the Quran and other Islamic literature in the gathering. I don't think there is any wrong in accepting this kind of invitation. Even if there is something that is objectionable according to tradition religion, you have to accept it as part of talif-e-qalb.

Today, I came across the following lines in your translation of the Quran: 'Indeed you have an excellent example in Abraham and those who followed him, when they said to their people, ‘We disown you and whatever you worship besides God. We renounce you. Enmity and hatred shall endure between us and you, until you believe in the one God.’' (60:4) In many of your writings, you have stressed that Islam does not preach hatred and enmity for others, that it calls for even one-sided love and concern for the welfare of people of other faiths. In this context, how do you interpret the sentence, 'Enmity and hatred shall endure between us and you, until you believe in the one God.'? Does it mean that Muslims must hate others and treat them as enemies until they come to believe in the one God?

In this Quranic verse, the words enmity and hatred are not in their active sense, rather they are in the passive sense. Prophet Abraham used these words as kalima-e-bara'at (words of disowning). After this declaration, Prophet Abraham left Ur (Iraq) and went to the place which is today known as Mecca. He never engaged himself in any negative activities against the people of Ur. The fact is that Prophet Abraham lived up to about 190 years. He carried out his peaceful preaching for a long time until his people threw him into the fire. But God saved him, and after this, he left his people. At that time, he said the words that have come in the above mentioned verse. This shows that his words were not meant in the negative sense, they were meant in the following sense: 'I am leaving you and now there is no relationship between me and you'. In fact, Prophet Abraham's words were not in the literal sense, but they were in the sense of doing hijrah, that is, leaving those people and migrating to some other place. Thus, these were words of hijrat (kalima-e-hijrat) and not words of hatred (kalima-e-nafrat).

For knowing the theory of knowledge according to the Quran, you have to study this verse: “Bring me a Book revealed before this or some other vestige of knowledge, if you are telling the truth.” (46:4). 

According to this verse, the Quranic theory of knowledge is based on two points. First, revealed knowledge, and second the knowledge established by any branch of science. According to the Quran, both the sources are valid. But, there is a difference. Scientist studies the physical universe. The concern of science is nothing other than the physical world. Due to this, it is accepted among scientists that science gives us but a partial knowledge of reality. 

If anything is established by scientific studies or by experimental studies it will be acceptable to Islam, provided it is not only a theory but an established fact. For example, the concept of organic evolution is not acceptable in Islam. Because, it is not based on scientific facts in the real sense, but is adopted only as a workable theory.

Then there is a question. According to Bertrand Russell, there are two kinds of knowledge: knowledge of things and knowledge of truth. Knowledge of things can be achieved through science, but knowledge of truth does not fall in the domain of science. Although we need to have knowledge about this field, but science does not provide help in this regard.

The other branch of knowledge is philosophy. Philosophy is still midway, it is not in the position to provide satisfactory answers to the basic questions regarding existence. It is this fact that is mentioned in the Quran in these words: “You have been granted but little knowledge.” (17:85)

In such a situation, the Quran invites people to go through the revealed knowledge preserved in the Quran. Revealed knowledge gives us knowledge regarding that branch where science and philosophy do not help us.

Islam doesn't claim that revealed knowledge can be justified in the same way as science, which is verifiable knowledge. But, there is another method, that is, inferential method. And, if you apply the inferential method of study, you can reach the truth.

If you are interested in studying this point of view in detail, please refer to my these two books: God Arises and Religion and Science.

As per my experience, discovery of truth leaves no room for frustration. This is because man remains tensed because of matters of the world. But if he finds the truth which next to God is truth, his relation with God is established and then he starts receiving divine succor and inspiration. It is important to note that this is not applicable for self-proclaimed truth. Only that which is truth next to God is what attaches you to God.

Religion is not a matter of rituals. It is a higher form of intellectual activities. Religion develops and engages your mind towards development. Why would you want to limit this?

What are the signs that a person loves God and that God loves a person?

There is no objective criterion for this. The journey begins when man finds out that his sole concern is God. The Quran gives the criterion to discern between those who would be rewarded in the hereafter and those who would not be.

The first criterion pertains to one who would become deserving of punishment in the hereafter. The Quran says for such a person

He used to be happy with his own people. (84:13)

According to this criterion, those who earned and exhausted their resources on their family did not discover God! They could not think beyond their kith and kin.

The second criterion pertains to those who would be rewarded in the hereafter. For such individuals, the Quran says,

When we were among our families, we were full of fear of God’s displeasure. (52:26)

Such people were always actively thinking about their accountability towards God. In other words, despite being with their family, their sole concern was God. 

In social sense, good character is “predictable” character. That is, other members of the society are able to predict the response of such a person. It means that people know that if such a person is trustworthy and will not commit fraud. If he is criticized, he would not be angry. Instead he would remain patient and reflect. Such level of predictability would make an individual a good character in the society.

This is a right observation. When man grows emotional, he develops contradictory behavior. What Muslims are doing is not in conformance with Islam because they only know their emotions and nothing else. The so-called Muslim leaders have found a way to gain cheap popularity by inciting Muslims to react. Let me cite an event from history. Ibn Taimiyyah wrote a book on the topic of disrespect of Prophet Muhammad in reaction to an instance where a Christian had said something disrespectful about the Prophet. He mobilized a crowd of people through speeches and took them to the court of the Turkish Sultan. The Sultan was angry and had Ibn Taimiyaah flogged saying that people were not even aware and it were his fiery speeches that incited them and made them negative. He sent Ibn Taimiyyah back!

Same events are being repeated today. The controversial video was not even known before the so-called Muslim leaders raised such hue and cry. Blameworthy therefore is not the common man but the clerics and leaders who misguide them through emotionally provocative speeches. 

Political expansion and religious expansion are two different things. There is no proof that sword was used to spread Islam. However, there existed dynasties which in order to fulfill their political ambitions conquered newer lands but there is no proof that people were made to accept Islam per force. Swami Vivekananda wrote in his book, “Letters of Vivekananda,” “It is nonsense to say that Hindus were converted to Islam by force.” Similarly Egypt was a large country to enter within the fold of Islam. Sir Arthur Keith, while studying

the phenomenon remarked, “Egyptians were conquered not by sword but by Quran.” History does not prove that sword was used for religious expansion of Islam. Political expansion was a different case, specific to individuals and dynasties.

Objective thinking arouses universal approach. The more objectively a person thinks the more universal he becomes. Normally people think subjectively and are not able to think keeping the entire humanity in mind. They restrict themselves to their family, society and community. Each person therefore must introspect and get to know whether he has a self-centered or a universal approach. A man can get to know this himself and can also work on it himself.

Islam does not have the concept of protesting – neither peaceful nor violent. In both situations, protest is unislamic. The proof of this is that Kaaba, the most sacred mosque, housed over three hundred idols when Prophet was in Mecca but he never protested. 

Present-day clerics are no different from the common man, they too have become emotional. A cleric called me and told that another cleric said in a speech, “If you disrespect me, I would say nothing, if you disrespect Muslims, we would say nothing but if you disrespect the Prophet, we would not be able to bear it!” Throughout the world, I have not found any cleric who is an exception to this because all are seething with negative emotions.

Test means that man is free to perform or not perform an action. His success and failure is determined by use or misuse of freedom. And the test paper is commensurate to man’s situation.

The present day usage of “Insha Allah” is a part of culture. Neither does it have any spirit nor does it have any Islamic value. “Insha Allah” literally means “God willing” and symbolizes man’s faith in God. Faith, that arises when man discovers God’s greatness and realizes that everything is when God wants it to be. Muslims haven’t made this discovery and they use it as a cultural phraseThe present day usage of “Insha Allah” is a part of culture. Neither does it have any spirit nor does it have any Islamic value. “Insha Allah” literally means “God willing” and symbolizes man’s faith in God. Faith, that arises when man discovers God’s greatness and realizes that everything is when God wants it to be. Muslims haven’t made this discovery and they use it as a cultural phrase

This is not a contradiction. As far as your being is concerned, you must live as an idealist. But when you are amidst others, then you should be pragmatic and accommodating. If someone is pragmatic for self-interest, that is evil. But when we realise that we cannot abolish God-given freedom and adjust with that, it is a form of worship. The only point of caution is that it should not be done for one’s vested interests but for disseminating the Word of God.

Gratitude is a vast concept. That I am thirsty and drink water, I would feel grateful but I think modern-day science has given man a gigantic framework of thanksgiving. For example, earlier man could only drink water and thank God for it but modern-science made it known to man that to cater to his fresh water requirements, God put in place a complete rain cycle. The original source of this water is the saltwater stored in the seas and oceans.

This is a result of deficient thinking. Political empire is a ‘political headache’. The rulers of empires remain enmeshed in problems and as a result their thinking does not develop. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (biggest state of India), Mr. Akhilesh Yadav was asked what is it that he misses after becoming the Chief Minister. He said, ‘Freedom”. If freedom is lost upon being the Chief Minister, such a title is of no use. Therefore, you should not run after political empire and instead undertake opportunities for unobstructed intellectual development.

Self-respect is not a quality; it is a beautiful name of arrogance. The most important quality of man is modesty.

Experience is included in discovery. Man does not think in an abstract manner. Experience is ingrained in discovery. There is however a difference between experiment (scientific) and life’s daily experiences. The latter continues irrespective of the situation we are in. Thinking and experience together make you traverse your journey.

This is a false argument and is completely devoid of logic. Such arguments are absurd and we can only pray for them.

This is something that each person knows himself. When you want more than need, it has a price and the price is that you cannot attain a great feat. You would remain engulfed in luxury. A man of mission likes simplicity and remains content on need. I once visited Rajasthan where I came to know about a person who had opened a new hospital for patients of Tuberculosis. The hospital was amidst lush gardens. I decide to visit him.

It is unislamic to consider reconciliation as cowardice. If we opine so, what will we think about Prophet Muhammad? There is no other instance in history where reconciliation was done by unilaterally accepting the terms of the opposing party. This is an extreme example of reconciliation. Mr. Sajid Anwar told of an instance where the distribution of the Quran to non-Muslims was being discussed. An attendee interrupted the discussion and raised the question that if a non-Muslim disrespects the Quran and throws away the copy, who would be liable for punishment?

This is a matter of law of nature. Studies in psychology reveal that if something happens that makes man lose his sanity, his mind will stop working and he would fall prey to negative thinking. Till the time man has sanity, sincerity and seriousness, his mind works fine.

This is a hypothetical question. No one plans just like that. Often people only report half the story. It is only upon provocation and incitement that retaliation is borne. Even animals do not attack without provocation. If you make the other person angry, he may react so you should ensure that you refrain from arousing anger.

The law of apostasy is not an Islamic law. It was inducted in the Islamic system in the later period, namely, during the Abbasid empire. In fact, the concept of apostasy is a Christian concept. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the seventh century, Christians accepted Islam on a mass level. At the time there was no system for education and training. Although these Christians converts accepted Islam by reciting the kalimah, but their mindset remained the same. So, they inducted the concept of apostasy in Islam, with an Arabic name, i.e. irtidad. The Arabic equivalent of apostasy is irtidad. The Quran refers to irtidad (apostasy). But the Quran doesn't command any legal punishment to those people who commit irtidad. In this regard there is a verse in the Quran.The translation of this verse is: "Whoever of you turns back from his faith and dies as a denier of the truth will have his deeds come to nothing in this world and the Hereafter, and he will be an inhabitant of the Fire, to abide therein forever." (2:217) In this Quranic verse, you can see that the Quran envisages natural death for one who commits irtidad, there is no mention of any kind of legal punishment for them. If you want to see more detail on this subject, please see my thirty-page article: "Irtidad ki Saza" in my book Hikmat-e-Islam.

Fear is not a negative word. It refers to the psychology of a sincere person. One who discovers the existence of God, automatically God becomes his sole concern. It is this mindset that is called in Islam taqwa.

Who will go to heaven and who will go to hell is strictly the domain of God. No one knows. Even Muslims cannot claim that they will go to heaven. God will decide it on the Day of Judgment. The Quran says: "It will be a Day when no human being shall be of the least avail to any other human being, God [alone] will hold command on that Day." (82:19)

Rational thinking is the opposite of emotional thinking. While emotional thinking is a result of one’s conditioning, rational thinking takes place when man is able to extricate his mind from conditioning and thinks logically. Majority today, is devoid of rational thinking. Former Prime Minister, Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru said, ‘What India lacks most is the ‘scientific temper,’ that is, the ability to take decision basis facts. According to a tradition, Prophet used to pray to God to show him truth as truth, falsehood as falsehood and the true nature of things, as they are. The first step to rational thinking is to de-condition the mind and make it free of prejudices and obsessions.

By referring to it as ‘intellectual development,’ I merely use a new word for ‘tazkia.’ God created man with unlimited capacity, but this capacity, which is a gift of nature, is in the form of potential. Man needs to turn this potential into actuality by thinking, reflecting and contemplating. When faced with situations, the natural process within man gets activated and leads to intellectual development.

Meditation is not prescribed in Islam. Some claim that the Prophet Muhammad used to practise meditation inside Cave Hira. Even if I accept this for the sake of argument, the fact is that he left everything after attaining prophethood. And, the model period is that which began post-prophethood.

This is a matter of developing one’s art of thinking. Recently, I visited the Islamic centre of a large Islamic organization where I met certain Muslims who have been living there for the last forty years. Despite the huge infrastructure and support they had, this group of Muslims was busy complaining. I asked them that they have developed such an infrastructure in India and should be thankful, why complain? The reason is that they lacked the art of thinking. In Delhi alone, Muslims have big centers, institutions, mosques and seminaries. Irrespective of who ruled, Muslims always had an opportunity. Thinking about this should arouse feelings of gratefulness but the obstacle is that people do not know how to think.

This is a romantic idea, which was propounded by Karl Marx. He said that all the labourers of world are united against colonial powers. But when the Second World War took place, all the labourers supported their own country. This is most natural that where I have been brought up and raised, I would love that land more than any other. Global citizenship is therefore an unnatural concept.

Oneness of God is interwoven in nature and a proof is that science has been searching till date that what is that one law which governs everything. Scientists have also called it the Single String Theory because science is not convinced that there can be multiple forces controlling the universe. They are striving to find out the theory of everything. Man is desperate to reach wahadat (oneness) and researches like the God particle are directed in the same direction. At the time of Newton, it was said that four forces control the universe but today this idea stands discarded. Therefore, I think it is man’s nature that gets reflected in his efforts to find that One force.

It is a matter of thinking; this is what determines your personality and actions. Your thinking process should be directed onto the right path.

There are two kinds of talks - one that revolve problems and issues that exist in the world around us. People sit together to discuss these issues and raise hue and cry about it. It is my understanding that people are already prepared for attending such gatherings and need not be prepared additionally. The other kind is the CPS lectures. In my view, people are not prepared for such lectures. Making a person a prepared mind therefore assumes paramount importance.

The formula is to tell people to adopt contentment (qanaat). Man has unlimited desires and so even when he gets everything, it appears less. In such a scenario, only contentment can be the solution. People live in the psyche of greed (takassur) which is the root cause of tension. They should be extricated from greed-culture and brought to contentment-culture.

My formula is, ‘Save yourself.’ This is the only formula and there is no other formula. This has been given in the Hadith, Alaika nafsat (Baihaqi) Save yourself.

You should become a true seeker but the most difficult job is to become a true seeker. People live in conditioning of different kinds and therefore are not able to make themselves a true seeker. Truth gives man the conviction to talk about it. The way I speak is because I have found the truth. Had I not found it, I would not have had the conviction to speak in this manner. Man discovers truth himself and not by way of someone else telling him about it.

This is distraction that thinking sets out on a different pattern. Quran clearly says that children are a problem whereas you claim that it is a blessing. Nowhere does the Quran say that children are a blessing! People have developed self-styled notions and say that it is religion. Distraction is anything, which takes your attention away from your goal (God-orientedness and realization of God).

In general, I can say that normally people think that they should want an ideal life. A woman wants an ideal husband and an ideal family etc. which is not possible in this world. If this law of nature is understood, there will not be any such stress. I read in the newspaper that Shahrukh Khan travelled to America and for two hours he was detained and checked. People created a lot of hue and cry that Americans should seek forgiveness. I thought that Shahrukh Khan and all others should think that it was only for two hours but soon a day will come when I will be checked for everything and so I should pray that the same happens in the hereafter and we get past quickly. It is because of these things that people take negative lessons. A positive person is one who takes a positive lesson from such instances.

Everything is a test paper. Negative means that if someone provoked you and as a reaction, you became negative. It is of course a part of the test to see, whether you succumb to negativity or not.

Parents play the key role in destroying their own children. They provide easy money, which is the root cause of all evils. Parents cannot blame anyone else because they are responsible themselves.

I believe that it is Arab anarchy, nothing more. There is no base for it; it is only a reaction. Dictatorship was present in these countries since long. However, now they have risen and are standing against their dictators. So, it is a matter of reaction. No positive result can be brought about through reaction. It must be understood that there is a process which must be followed. First, people must be educated, institutions should be established and journalism should be encouraged. This would prepare people’s minds and they would change the way they think. Only when all these stages have taken place can a political change reap positive results. Mere anarchy/ coup cannot lead to any positive result. Americans have coined the term ‘Arab spring’, thinking that is will bring democracy, but no such thing will come, except anarchy. We need a base for bringing in democracy.

This is also a myth. Internet does not have information; it has information jungle. You will have to use your mind in that jungle in terms of what you take and what you leave. Information explosion has actually led man to confusion. If you put a query on the internet, it opens a jungle of information for you and never gives a straight answer. I will give an example. I read the English newspaper every day. The articles featured in the editorial are marred by confusion. In news, I get some ideas but in views I get no ideas, only confusion is passed on. So much information is stored that sorting and understanding is a difficult proposition. People are busy in their jobs and it is not possible for them to leave it all aside and devote themselves to find appropriate information.

Man grasps with ease that which he experiences. It is difficult for him to fathom that which is hidden and can be known through discovery and contemplation.

Material attainments should be done for fulfilling needs and not for providing luxury. Man must know the difference between need, comfort and luxury. Sufis prescribe complete abstinence. I do not subscribe to complete abstinence. According to my understanding, materialism should be adopted so long as it fulfils the need. Attaining luxurious living should not be the goal of striving for materialism. Here I would also like to clarify that comfort and luxury are not haraam (prohibited by religion) but they kills time, energy and money. Therefore, one who makes comfort and luxury his goal will do so at the cost of his intellectual development.

‘Thinking’ and ‘reflecting’ have been used in the Quran numerous times. According to the Quran

There are signs in the creation of heavens and the earth, and in the alteration of night and day for people of understanding.(3:190)

The creations of God therefore present all signs for those who think. Thinking leads to reflection, by way of which man can learn the profound truths of life.
 

These two behaviours cannot be clearly differentiated, it depends on the person. As per my understanding, ‘material need’ is provisioning for those things which are required for staying alive; not for enjoyment and comfort. A man must define the list of such things himself. Additionally, he must think about all those occupations that kill his time and energy and distract him from his goal.

There is no limit, the only condition is sincerity. Let me explain with an example. Every Muslim reads ‘Alhamdulillah’ every day in the prayer but I have not found a single person who utilised his mind to understand its meaning. I used my mind and understood that if I want to express my gratitude to God, then how a big thanksgiving will emerge when so many negative experiences come my way every day. Amidst these experiences, how will I thank God? I realised that “Alhamdulillah” invites an entire culture to forget those things that lead one to negativity. There is no one in the world that does not undergo negative experiences. Everyone lives in the psyche of complaints. In such a scenario, how will he render big thanks to God unless he adopts this culture! He will have to forget negative emotions, hatred and losses so that he is able to thank God. Bernard Shaw said that, ‘The most uneducated man is one who has nothing to forget!” I would say that to be able to thank God, you will have to forget! If I would not have used my mind, I would not have understood this meaning. I realised that ‘Alhamdulillah’ is a killer of all kinds of complaints, negative emotions and feelings. And when man prays as such, he will become a new person, devoid of negativity and hatred because he would realise that unless he purifies himself he will not be able to say true, ‘Alhamdulillah’!

I would like to clarify the meaning of the term ‘character’ in this context. Character in this case refers to divine character. Such a person studies and realises the Creation Plan of God. He leads his life in accordance with it and acts upon it in totality.

This is a common complaint in joint families. In blood ties, when differences emerge, which is almost daily, are managed. But when the ties are not of blood, and differences emerge, then it is difficult to manage them. Marriage happens outside ties of blood. Now in joint family, mother in-law and wife develop differences as difference is a part of life. Then, the wife would want that when she complains to the husband, the husband should side with her. When he is not able to do so, she develops feelings against them. In this case, the responsibility is 50-50. Both should think about the options they have – either they do not live in a joint family or if they do then they should know that this would happen and they must know how to handle it. Greater evil is to become emotional and not be ready to adjust as wherever you go, there will be some differences which will arise. Lesser evil is to be patient and adjust.

All these are self-styled notions developed by the present day political thinkers who have interpreted Islam such that in universe God’s reign shall exist and on earth Muslims shall reign.

Our responsibility is not to make people right-conscious but to make them duty-conscious. When man will fulfil his duty, right shall follow automatically. Islamic rule is that if you arise for right it will only lead to conflict. According to a Hadith, Dusroon ka haq adaa karo aur apne haq khuda se mango (Al Bukhari) I have reworded this as: Do your best, find the best! I am perhaps the only person who criticises the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was issued by the United Nations. We must make ourselves duty conscious and inculcate the same in others

Complex-free soul is one which is free of all forms of negative thinking – prejudice, hatred, enmity etc. He who is able to free his mind of such thoughts is complex free. To make one free is not a mysterious formula, it depends on the act of introspection and contemplation. The following verse in the Quran, An nafsul mutmaiynna (89:27) This verse says how man becomes complex-free. If God gives favour to man, he thinks he is superior. On the other hand, when God withhold something which man has wanted he thinks he has been let down [89:15-16]. Both thinking are wrong. Man should be able to acquit him of both these thinking, only then will he be complex free.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

A person who has discovered the truth cannot remain in frustration. If he is living in frustration, it means that he has not discovered the truth. Truth and conviction are inseparable. Like light cannot be separated from the sun. When the sun rises, darkness vanishes. When one discovers the truth, frustration disappears.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

If it were possible to discover Creation, then it is possible to discover the Creator as well. This is possible only through contemplation. French philosopher, Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I exist.” Following this dictum you can say, “I exist, therefore God also exists.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

That is because people are not ready to pay the price for sincerity. The price for sincerity is saving oneself from unnecessary distractions. Sincerity is the result of a developed mind. Save yourself from avoidable distractions and you will be able to develop sincerity.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

Adopt contentment. If you cannot increase national growth, decrease your needs; otherwise it will lead to problems. Tackling national issues is not just the task of the administration, it is every citizen’s duty. We should develop the spirit of looking on it as our duty and do it with willingness.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

Rational thinking means reason-based thinking. It is the kind of thinking that is based on proven facts. It is based on sound reason. We tend to let our heart rule our thinking and this can cloud our judgement.We need to control our emotions and understand the realities of life objectively; only then will we be able to develop rational thinking.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

Spend a part of your money for your material needs and spend the rest for spiritual uplift. Use it for acquiring knowledge. Money is a great asset. It is not meant just for fulfilling desires; Put it to better use. Spend it for a higher cause. Manage your desires and then you will find you have enough money to achieve higher goals.

When the Prophet emigrated to Madinah, Abdullah ibn Ubayy and his followers put all kinds of obstacles in the Prophet’s path, doing all they could to sabotage his mission. Then came the Battle of Badr, when the great leaders of the Quraysh were slain. “There is no stopping Islam now,” agreed Abdullah ibn Ubayy and his companions. They then put up a facade of entering Islam, but, insincere in their path, they soon took to plotting against Islam.

The Prophet said: “God will not show mercy to one who does not show mercy to his fellow-men.”

The problem with present Muslims cannot by solved by any kind of liberalization; it can only be solved by reviving the spirit of Islam. Present Muslims don’t know anything about Islam except for certain spiritless rituals. To reform the Muslims of today we need to inculcate positive thinking in them, which is completely lacking. Positive thinking will lead to peace and spirituality in true sense of the word.

Traditional religion means form-based religion. Form-based religion cannot lead to the required result. According to me, we need is to revive the spirit of religion, rather than the form of the religion. Rituals are a relative part of the religion and spirit is its real form.

My aim is not simply to entertain the youth. To yield positive results, I want to address their minds and develop their thinking in constructive terms. My method is to make the youth thinking persons. I believe in scientific spirituality, and not ‘entertaining’ spirituality. Fun is meant for temporary enjoyment, while the goal of spirituality is to bring about permanent change in the personality.

The Quran is the word of God, the Creator of all mankind. As such, the Quran is revealed for all mankind. This is why Muslim scholars, the Ulama, have held the translation of the Quran to be lawful, for those who do not know the Arabic language. Translation of the Quran into any language is simply a translation; it is not a substitute for the text of the Quran. If someone claimed that his translation was a substitute for the Quranic text, then that would be objectionable. When the Arabic text is intact, there is no possibility that people would consider a translation to be the Quran itself, so the translation of the Quran is quite permissible if done for the purpose of acquainting those who have no access to the Arabic language with the message of the Quran.

Except for Huroof Muqatta’at, all the verses of the Quran can be translated into any language. But no translation can be treated as Al Quran.

If non-Muslims have a genuine excuse, they can rely on translations but, if they have no excuse, then they must try to learn Arabic, at least to the extent that they are able to understand the basic meaning of the Quran.

To the best of my knowledge, there was a need for a new translation and I have done that new English translation of the Quran. By comparing my translation with other translations, you can understand the difference. There is greater clarity in this translation.

He should have a scholarly knowledge of the Arabic language as well as English idiomatic usage and be familiar with all those disciplines, which are called ilm-e-tafsir. In addition he must offer prayers (dua).

He must be thoroughly acquainted with the modern idiom in order to address the modern mind.

Almost all the earlier translations have some common shortcomings, such as the use of an antiquated style, lack of clarity, lack of simplicity, etc.

According to my experience, for a good translation, a team is necessary. This team should not comprise of professionals but of dedicated persons.

In any translation, any attempt to reproduce syntactical parallels would reduce the final result to gibberish. Phonological similarities are impossible between English and Arabic because of their very different phonetics and philological origins. We are satisfied that, after exhaustive studies, we have conveyed the exact meaning of the Quran in our translation and , since it is the message of the Quran which is of prime importance, we feel that references to phonology and syntax are irrelevant.

As per my experience of translating the Quran I do not know of any moral challenges of translating the Quran.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

We should thank God by acknowledging the bounties He has bestowed on us. This acknowledgement is called shukr or gratefulness. God is the giver and we are the takers. It is the taker’s duty to acknowledge the giver. Acknowledgment is the only thing that is expected of you for all that God has given. One who fails to do this small act of thanksgiving has no right to enjoy the divine blessing.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

God is our Creator and all the things we enjoy in this world are His Creation. You cannot see God, but you can see His Creation. God manifests himself through his Creation. It’s simple: when Creation exists, the Creator also exists. And who can be the Creator of this marvellous world, but God.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

The main reason for negativity is our complex. People suffer from all kinds of complexes, such as prejudice and envy. Free yourself of these feelings and you will be able to come up with a positive response in all kinds of situations. A negative reaction is an emotional reaction, while a positive response is a rational response. A negative response pulls you down, while a positive response produces healthy results.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

It’s not just about God, man cannot have complete knowledge of anything. All kinds of human knowledge are based on the probability theory; if we accept this criterion for other things, why can’t we do the same for the existence of God?

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

People are hesitant to say, ‘I was wrong’, because they believe it’s an admission of their mistake before another person; they are not ready to do that. But it’s not just a question of admitting your mistake; it is also a question of accepting the reality. Accepting reality leads to intellectual growth; it raises your intellectual level. When you say, ‘I was wrong,’ you are helping your own intellectual progress.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

Try to achieve the ideal but, at the same time, be prepared to accept the practical. The ideal should be your goal. But one has to deal with all sorts of people and keep social realities in mind. Non-acceptance of it is bound to lead to disaster.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

If you don’t accept the belief that God is self-existent, then you have to believe that the universe is a self-existent phenomenon. Since we cannot take the universe to be self-existent, we have no other alternative but to accept God as a self-existent being.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

We can do so through contemplation. But contemplation by itself is not enough. You have also to distance yourself from all kinds of distractions. Distraction prevents concentration. So the formula is: Engage in contemplation; save yourself from intellectual derailment, and you will be able to attain the spiritual height you are looking for.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

You can pacify it by exercising patience. Patience is not a passive attitude. Patience is another name for controlled behaviour. You have to control your feelings rather than be controlled by them. This is an elevated intellectual exercise. Do not succumb to your emotions and you will be able to manage the situation quite easily.

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

Speaking Tree | TOI | May 8, 2011

Silent acknowledgement has no meaning. If you receive a favour from someone, you need to acknowledge it verbally. If you don’t do that you will be seen as lacking in noble sentiments. Acknowledgement is not just a matter of the heart, it must be communicated verbally.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

Youth is full of aspirations. One needs to learn the art of controlling one’s desires. Most young people follow their whims and fancies, often with undesirable results. They hanker after things which they think are important in life, but they are mistaken in their belief. Glamour doesn’t last long, but the knowledge they acquire will stand them in good stead all through life.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

Exploitation is misuse of freedom and freedom is an integral part of life. Freedom cannot be abolished. Try to save yourself from exploitation. Accept that this is part of life and it cannot be wished away. Exploitation has a positive angle, too. It leads to competition and competition leads to challenges. And challenges lead to human progress.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

Spend a part of your money for your material needs and spend the rest for spiritual uplift. Use it for acquiring knowledge. Money is a great asset. It is not meant just for fulfilling desires; Put it to better use. Spend it for a higher cause. Manage your desires and then you will find you have enough money to achieve higher goals.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

Rational thinking means reason-based thinking. It is the kind of thinking that is based on proven facts. It is based on sound reason. We tend to let our heart rule our thinking and this can cloud our judgement.We need to control our emotions and understand the realities of life objectively; only then will we be able to develop rational thinking.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

Adopt contentment. If you cannot increase national growth, decrease your needs; otherwise it will lead to problems. Tackling national issues is not just the task of the administration, it is every citizen’s duty. We should develop the spirit of looking on it as our duty and do it with willingness.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

Happiness is a state of mind; it is not the result of material growth. People have wrongly associated it with progress; the aim of civilisation was not happiness. It was to give us some more amenities. Change your mind and you will be able to change your life for the better.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

That is because people are not ready to pay the price for sincerity. The price for sincerity is saving oneself from unnecessary distractions. Sincerity is the result of a developed mind. Save yourself from avoidable distractions and you will be able to develop sincerity.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

Rituals are the external part and spirit is the inner content. Spirit is the essence and rituals are just the form. Spirit is primary; rituals are secondary. Form with spirit is good; form devoid of spirit has no value. People generally tend to take things at face value. It is this habit that develops form-based thinking that gradually overlooks the spirit.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

Well, we do have enormous desires and these can be fulfilled only in the hereafter. We wrongly try to fulfil all these desires in the present world which was not created for this purpose. We have to be realists; we have to control our desires. And make ourselves worthy of a good life in the hereafter. Trying to fulfil all our desires in this limited world leads to frustration.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

Super achievers become what they are by making the best use of resources available to them. They put to good use the natural talent God has gifted them with. Those who are unable to do this fail to achieve success. Some acknowledge this fact while others just keep complaining about lack of opportunities.

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

 

If it were possible to discover Creation, then it is possible to discover the Creator as well. This is possible only through contemplation. French philosopher, Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I exist.” Following this dictum you can say, “I exist, therefore God also exists.”

Speaking Tree| TOI | April 2, 2011

A person who has discovered the truth cannot remain in frustration. If he is living in frustration, it means that he has not discovered the truth. Truth and conviction are inseparable. Like light cannot be separated from the sun. When the sun rises, darkness vanishes. When one discovers the truth, frustration disappears.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

No. on the contrary, emotions are our strength. After deciding on doing something, we need determination to execute it and it is our emotions that give us the determination. But there are two sides to emotions: the plus point is that it gives you incentive to do something; without emotions, we’d be like robots. The negative aspects is that through it activates you, it does not differentiate between right action and wrong. It’s your mind which does the differentiation.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

Yes. It’s a human urge to find out the higher truth, and the higher truth is nothing but the but the Creator of our world. Without finding the higher truth, no one can be satisfied. In that sense, God is the need of every human being; there is no doubt about it.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

It is possible to feel God’s existence through intuition. Of late, science has discovered that there is a unique spot in the human mind- they call it God Spot. The fact is that the consciousness of God is interwoven in the nature of every human being. So, potentially every one possesses this kind of feeling. What is needed is to turn this potential into the actual through deep contemplation.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

Conviction is very important in life. It is conviction that gives you courage and determination. Without conviction, you cannot achieve anything especially in today’s competitive world. And the only source of conviction is trust in God.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

Objective thinking and introspection are the surest ways of discovering your negative points. Negativity goes against man’s basic nature. So, when one develops some kind of negativity, his nature tries to reject it. It is this action and reaction that creates tension. So, by rejection, your mind already does 50 per cent of the task; you need to do only the rest of 50 per cent.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

Adopt a simple life style. A simple life leads to spiritual development. A simple life style means saving yourself from unnecessary distractions. These distractions come In the way of spirituality.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

 

According to Islam, paradise is the goal of every human being. And the purpose of life is to make yourself a deserving candidate in the hereafter.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

 

It is because we do not apply our mind and are only guided by emotions. If you apply reason and adopt a rational approach, you are more likely to accept your limitations. Reason will never allow you to ignore limitations.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

Suffering is not an evil. There’s a positive side to it. It gives you challenge. It gives incentive to work. It activates one’s mind; so suffering is a blessing in disguise. History shows that many of those who faced hardships and disadvantages emerged as achievers. It is rightly said that it is not ease but effort, not facility but difficulty that makes men.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

 

Sensitivity is a born. It is a positive attribute. Sensitivity makes you aware of subtle emotions and helps you develop your mind. It also saves you from a lot of wrongdoing. But a sensitive person needs to learn the art of sensitivity management. Otherwise he could feel wronged and be upset about it.

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

Ritual is the outer form of worship. The body of the human being is important, but without the inner spirit, the body is almost lifeless. By this example, you can understand the significance of rituals.

Khalid Ansari, New Delhi

Speaking Tree | TOI | October 31, 2010

Yes. But redefinition does not mean revision. Redefinition means describing the old teaching in the modern idiom. That is, reapplying religious values to the new lifestyle.

Don't follow emotions and follow reason and you will become a wise person.

It is a two point formula: First, parents must change themselves. Then, parents should try to understand the mind of their children and prepare themselves to address the mind of the children rationally. Simply the language of dos and donts will not suffice.

There is no mysterious method for this purpose. Activate your mind against that evil. The mind is the source of all kinds of desires. So, you have to train your mind, and then the mind itself will control all those evils. At present your evil switch is on, develop the will power and then the mind will put it off. And then certainly you will be saved from committing all those evils.

Spirituality is not something mysterious. According to my experience, spirituality is a mind based discipline rather than a heart based discipline. According to this definition, it is contemplation rather than meditation that leads to acquiring true spiritual knowledge.

Knowledge is that kind of learning that leads to the truth. There are some supporting branches of knowledge also, such as science and history, etc. All human beings must follow the path leading to knowledge, especially the one to truth.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, August 15, 2010

 

The difference between the two is very clear. True hope is based on reality, while false hope is based on sheer romanticism. When you examine a situation and take a realistic view of things, you have the right to be hopeful, but when you ignore the realities and adopt an ostrich-like approach, then, you are entertaining false hopes.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, August 15, 2010

There is a great difference. Adjustment is a principle of wisdom; it is the well considered behaviour of a wise person; while compromise is a form of expediency, designed merely to source one’s interests without following any principle.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, August 15, 2010

No, but self-doubt is not necessarily a bad thing it has a positive aspect, too. Self-doubt awakens your mind; it makes you reassess your plans; your mode of life. If you engage in introspection, it can become a great source of learning for you, but you don’t ever allow self-doubt to over power you.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, August 15, 2010

In my opinion, it is excessive materialism that hampers spiritual growth. Material goods are necessity for comfortable living, but when you start chasing materialism you run the risk of losing your spirituality.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, August 15, 2010

People generally confuse individual peace and social peace. Social peace is an ideal that is difficult to achieve, but individual peace is completely achievable. You cannot control society, but your mind can be completely under your control. Develop the quality of tolerance and you will be able to live in peace, even when there is no peace in the outside world. Peace of mind basically depends on one’s thinking, and not on the state of affairs.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, August 15, 2010

 

Yes. Prayer means establishing contact with the higher reality and that higher reality is the source of all kinds of inspiration. It is also a source of great solace. So prayer, if it is genuine, will certainly help in developing focus and making you a better person.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our desires are unlimited, but our capacity to fulfil those desires is limited. So, it is only realistic to keep our desires in check. If we fail to control our desires, we will fall into despair sooner than later. No one can afford to follow a path which leads to despair. Controlling one’s desires is preferable to falling into despair. It is a fallacy to say that restraining desires leads to the stifling of personality. Human desire can be unlimited and trying to fulfil them can lead to negative rather than positive development of the personality. There are any number of scientific studies to buttress this point.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, August 15, 2010

It is very easy. They say that when a Peacock sees its beautiful feathers, it becomes proud, but when it looks at its ugly feet, it gets modest. The same is true of human beings. Each of us have our plus and minus points. Those who see just their pluses often become egoists, but those who look at both tend to be more modest. So, when you feel like being arrogant about qualities you possess, turn your attention to the other side of your personality and focus on your shortcoming; everyone has some. And you will immediately turn modest. This, to my mind, it’s the easiest formula for remaining modest and humble.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, June 27, 2010

It is very easy. If you become negative when you face problems, you become unable to tackle those problems, while if you remain positive you will be able to tackle it the right way. It is, therefore, quite counterproductive to become negative when facing problems. You simply cannot afford to be negative.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, June 27, 2010

I subscribe to the concept presented by the American psychologist B. F. Skinner, in his book Freedom and Dignity, which is that man cannot afford freedom. Total freedom leads to anarchy, and anarchy is not a workable system for any society. So, the best formula is that which is based on controlled freedom. Uncontrolled freedom is a negative freedom and controlled freedom is positive freedom.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, June 27, 2010

In my experience, there is no difference between the two. Spirit is not an independent entity. Spirit is only a manifestation of the mind. Mind is the basis of every personality. All other things like emotions, thinking, love are different functions of the mind. You are what your mind is.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, June 27, 2010

Silence is the quality of a wise person. Silence means more concentrated thinking. Silence means avoiding immediate reaction and giving a well-considered response. Silence means speaking after thinking.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, June 27, 2010

This thinking is based on a wrong assumption. Guilt means admitting your mistakes, so guilt gives you renewed confidence that henceforward you will do your work in a better way. Feeling guilty means being more cautious and more sincere; so, guilt is an entirely positive quality. There is nothing negative about it.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, June 27, 2010

It is not a matter of condemnation. It is a matter of wise living. A luxurious lifestyle makes you an easy going person. It leaves you unable to understand the realities of life.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, June 27, 2010

Anti-self thinking means constantly reassessing your activities, constantly revising your own plan. It is said that ‘to err is human.’ This being so, it is a must for everyone to discover his errors and concede to having made wrong judgements. So, anti-self thinking is a self-correcting process. It means finding out where you went wrong, where how you missed the bus.

The Speaking Tree | Sunday, June 27, 2010

Remembering death means to remind ourselves that time is very short. We cannot afford to lose any time. You cannot avoid death, so it is wise to plan your life on the basis of urgency. In fact, remembering death makes you more prompt, efficient, and cautious about your time and energy. You know then that it is ‘now or never’.

The first thing we have to take into consideration is why do misconceptions occur in Islam in the first place. We will be able to understand this taking into consideration the following incident.

Once a Muslim scholar from the UK visited India to give a lecture on: ‘Islam and the West.’ During the question hour, an Indian Muslim asked: ‘You have given us so much information about Islam and the West, now, would you please tell us what the Muslims should do, when in the minority, in countries such as India?’ The scholar remained silent for a while and then replied: “It is, indeed, a difficult question. In Islam we find a model for a position of strength. But, there is no model in Islam for the position of modesty.”

This is not just a stray remark. In fact, it illustrates the way of thinking prevalent almost all over the Muslim world today. It clearly shows the mindset of today’s Muslims. Consciously or unconsciously, they look to their glorious history in order to understand their status and role in the world. Their mentality is such that when they find a prominent model of strength, they naturally conclude that what Islam stands for is worldwide Muslim political dominance. It is this attitude, which prevents them from penetrating the veil of their glorious history to seek guidance directly from the Qur’an and Sunnah. Had they done so, they would certainly, have succeeded in finding role models for all human positions including that of modesty. They would further have realized that it is not the political but the ideological spread of Islam through peaceful missionary work that the Muslim Ummah has to struggle for everywhere and under all circumstances.

Contrary to the prevalent misconception that Islam failed to provide its followers with any model of a low-key position, an unbiased study of the Prophet’s biography will reveal that up till the conquest of Mecca in the 8th A.H., 20 of the 23 years of his life as a Prophet, were spent in exactly what is nowadays termed a state of modesty. When, chronologically, more than three-quarters of the Prophetic mission portrays a picture of humility, what is it that makes one remark that there is no Islamic model for Muslim minorities in India or elsewhere? The fact is that such people are so overwhelmed by the political glory built up during the later period of Muslim history, that their eyes are totally blinded to the glory of the modesty in the life of the Prophet.

This shift in later history of drawing inspiration from political glory instead of from the Qur’an and Sunnah, has, unfortunately, blurred the general vision of present-day Muslims to such an extent, that the original Islam has turned for them into an alien religion. They proudly claim that Islam is a complete code of life and that their Prophet had set a perfect role model for all times to come, yet due to their own misdirected approach, they are unable to find any model for the position of modesty which is comparatively much more important than the model for a position of strength, as it is popularly called.

This state of affairs is entirely in accordance with the prophetic prediction: “Islam began as a stranger. And, finally, it will again become a stranger. Let, then, the strangers be blessed” (Muslim). It would be no exaggeration to say that the original version of Islam has literally become totally unfamiliar to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Islam has thus, to be rediscovered. And to rediscover Islam, we have first of all to discover what the factors are that have made Islam a stranger in the world today. In the following pages, the reader will find a thorough analysis of the historical and political reasons for the tragic phenomenon of the alienation of Islam as predicted in the Hadith.

We seldom hear the adherents of other religions complaining about their faiths being misunderstood. For instance Hindus, Buddhists and Christians do not hold that their respective religions are badly understood. One reason is that they do not mix their religions with communal politics, and do not generally try to advance their own worldly interests in the name of their religions—as present-day Muslims are doing on a large scale.

One who studies Islam, directly from its sacred scriptures, is astonished to find that the original Islam is totally different from what it is now generally held to be. Other religions are known to people as they are; hence the need to rediscover them does not arise. The problem of misapprehension applies therefore exclusively to Islam. There is a great need to study Islam from its original scriptures in order to re-discover it in its original form. In modern times many books have been published with the aim of removing misunderstandings about Islam. One title is as follows: ‘Islam, the Most Misunderstood Religion‘.

But titles such as these are not in accordance with the actual state of affairs. These books start with the premise that non-Muslims have mistakenly come to regard Islam as a religion of intolerance and violence and then they attempt to remove these misapprehensions. But the actual question to be addressed is why there should ever have been such misunderstanding. It has to be conceded that it is based not on some allegation but rather on the fact that the Muslims of today, in almost every country, repeatedly display violence and intolerance towards others. They have adopted this course of action in the name of Islamic movements or Islamic Jihad. Were Muslims to do so in the name of their own communal interest and people attributed that to Islam, this would amount to misunderstanding based on an allegation. But when Muslims themselves attributed their activities to Islam, it becomes a case of proper understanding and not that of misunderstanding.

Furthermore, the educated class of modern times is obsessed with the concept of anthropology, which treats religion as a social phenomenon instead of as a vehicle for revealed truth. Therefore, according to their way of thinking, they naturally come to regard the activities of Muslims to be Islam itself. And their thinking is further confirmed when they find that Muslims engage themselves in these activities in the very name of Islam.

The first phase, following in the footsteps of the Prophet was given the utmost importance but in later times, the Prophet was glorified as a national hero, so that Muslims might assert their own superiority over other nations. While the thinking of the first generation was that they could earn paradise only on the basis of their personal deeds, the people of the later period came to hold that mere association with the Ummah (community) was enough to secure them paradise. People of the first generation turned to the original texts as preserved in the Qur’an and Sunnah to seek guidance in every matter; while people of the later generation referred to the commentaries and interpretations produced afterwards. In the first phase self-reckoning and criticism were appreciated, but in later times criticism became a taboo as Muslims became reluctant to accept their own faults, considering themselves above any shortcoming.

Due to these differences, the religion of the first phase of Islam became an unknown religion for the people of the later phase. Indeed, when they were called to the religion of the first phase, they found it so unfamiliar to their thinking and practices that they became dire opponents of such a call.

Contrary to world belief, Islam in reality is a religion of peace. It is a religion of peace in the fullest sense of the word.

Islam is actually a religion of peace and humanism. The very word ‘Islam’ (from Arabic Silm connotes peace). Not only Islam, but also all other religions may be defined in this way. According to a Hadith, “God grants to gentleness what He does not grant to harshness.” That is to say, peaceful activism is distinctly superior to violent activism. There is nothing mysterious about the point made in this Hadith. It is a simple and a well-known fact of life that in a situation of war and violence, feelings of hatred and enmity flare up between the two sides and, in the process, the existing resources are destroyed. People from both sides get killed and the entire society turns into a jungle of negative feelings. It is quite obvious that in such an atmosphere no constructive and consolidated work can be done. There is nothing to be achieved in war and violence, save death and destruction.

On the contrary, an atmosphere of peace enables normal relations to be established between people. It makes it possible for feelings of love and friendship to prevail. In a favourable atmosphere constructive activities flourish and the existing resources can be used for development or other creative activities. A positive bent of mind will prevail which will help develop academic and intellectual advancement.

The greatest ill effect of war is that it limits human endeavour, whereas the greatest benefit of peace is that to the ultimate extent it opens up opportunities for improvement. War invariably results in further loss, while peace invariably results in further gain. That is why Islam teaches us to avoid war and confrontation at all costs and commands us to establish peace to the greatest possible degree.

There are certain verses in the Quran, which convey injunctions similar to the following: ‘Kill them wherever you find them.’ (2:191)

Referring to such verses, there are some who attempt to give the impression that Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is totally untrue. Such verses relate in a restricted sense, to those who have unilaterally attacked the Muslims. The above verse does not convey the general command of Islam.

The truth of the matter is that the Quran was not revealed in the complete form in which it exists today. It was revealed from time to time, according to the circumstances, over a time span of 23 years. If this is divided into years of war and peace, the period of peace amounts to 20 years, while that of war amounts only to 3 years. The revelations during these 20 peaceful years were the peaceful teachings of Islam as are conveyed in the verses regarding the realization of God, worship, morality, justice, etc.

This division of commands into different categories is a natural one and is found in all religious books. For instance, the Gita, the holy book of the Hindus, pertains to wisdom and moral values. Yet along with this is the exhortation of Krishna to Arjun, encouraging him to fight. (3:30) This does not mean that believers in the Gita should wage wars all the time. Gandhiji, after all, derived his philosophy of non-violence from the same Gita. The exhortation to wage war in the Gita applies only to exceptional cases where circumstances leave no choice. But for general day-to-day existence it gives the same peaceful commands as derived from it by Mahatma Gandhi.

Similarly, Jesus Christ said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew, Chapter 10)

It would not be right to conclude that the religion preached by Christ was one of war and violence, for such utterances relate purely to particular occasions. So far as general life is concerned, Christ taught peaceful values, such as the building up of a good character, loving each other, helping the poor and needy, etc.

The same is true of the Quran. When the Prophet of Islam emigrated from Makkah to Madinah, the idolatrous tribes were aggressive towards him. But the Prophet always averted their attacks by the exercise of patience and the strategy of avoidance. However on certain occasions no other options existed, save that of retaliation. Therefore, he had do battle on certain occasions. It was these circumstances, which occasioned those revelations relating to war. These commands, being specific to certain circumstances, had no general application. They were not meant to be valid for all time to come. That is why; the permanent status of the Prophet has been termed a ‘mercy for all mankind.’ (21:107)

Contrary to common belief in the world that Islam sanctions suicide bombings, in actual fact, Islam holds suicide bombings to be totally Unislamic.

Muslims are not permitted to commit suicidal bombings in order to destroy the enemy. Strapping explosives on to oneself and hurling oneself upon the civilian settlements of even those with whom one is at war, for the purpose of destroying the enemy, and in the process killing oneself deliberately, is totally un-Islamic. This can in no way be termed ‘Shahadah’ (martyrdom). According to Islam we can become martyrs, but we cannot court a martyr’s death deliberately.

Religion based terrorism is perhaps the most dangerous phenomenon of Muslim history. Throughout Islamic history, that is, until very recently, action has always meant result-oriented action. But in modern times, for the first time, the Muslim mentality has become so distorted that, on occasion, fruitless action has also come to be considered desirable. Suicide bombing, which shows a preference for death over life, falls into this category. While in the early history of Islam this was an alien concept, in modern times, for Muslims, it has acquired the position of a superior course of action.

How has the act of suicide come to rate so highly as a solution to political problems? The reason is not traceable to some special devotional attachment to Islam, but is due rather to an inimical attitude towards man. As the suicide bomber ties the bombs on to his body, it is not pro-Islamic, but rather anti-humanity sentiments, which motivate him to adopt such a deadly course. This is a reality that no one in his senses can deny.

According to the Quran, a Muslim is one who is man’s well-wisher. But the greatest weakness of the Muslims of today is that they do not in their hearts possess any feelings of well-wishing towards others. They hold all nations to be their foes. This animosity has so increased that they are ready to cross all moral limits when it comes to attacking their supposed enemies. If they think they can harm them by killing themselves, they are willing to take the extreme step of suicide bombing.

The truth is that suicide is totally forbidden (haram) in Islam. It is forbidden to the point where, if someone is dying, and it is certain that he will not survive, even in his final moments Islam does not allow him to take his own life.

An incident, which illustrates this, has been recorded in Sahih Muslim. It took place in the lifetime of the Prophet during the Battle of Khaybar, one of the defensive battles fought between the companions of the Prophet and their enemies. A soldier from the Muslim side, by the name of Quzmaanuz Zufra, fought very bravely and his death. The Muslims said that he was a martyr and would go to Paradise. But the Prophet said that he would go to hell. The companions were astonished.

So the Prophet asked them to find out the cause of his death. On inquiry, it was discovered that he had indeed fought very bravely for the Muslims and then had fallen down gravely wounded. But then, finding the pain of his injury unbearable, he ended his life with his own sword. (Fathul Bari, Commentary Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Maghazi, 7/540)

The Prophet’s disapproval of his action makes it clear that suicide bombing is not lawful in Islam under any circumstances. According to Islam, life is so precious that it can never be terminated at will on any pretext. Islam is a harbinger of life. It gives no license for premature death. That is why the virtue of patience is given the utmost importance in Islam. Patience (sabr) means tolerating the severest affliction rather than taking any such step as putting an end to one’s life.

For further information, contact us at info@cpsglobal.org.

Let us try to understand why Islam is considered a religion of violence.

Today is the age of media. Before the advent of the modern media there were a large number of people in the world who knew nothing of Islam. With the invention of the printing press and the advent of the electronic media it is difficult to find even a single person, today, who is unaware of it.

But there is a clear-cut difference. In previous ages it happened that wherever Islam spread people were so impressed with it that most of them welcomed it. Strangely enough though, the present day coverage given to Islam has produced only a negative effect due to the negative actions of certain Muslims. People are now generally allergic to Islam rather than being interested in it.

Why are certain Muslims behaving negatively? According to Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, this is due to not knowing the limit of freedom. Modern man aspired to freedom as the highest good, but once having reached this goal, he was unable to set reasonable limits to freedom. In consequence, unrestrained freedom descended into anarchy and lawlessness and all other forms of negativity. Unrest starts at the level of the mind. This happens when people become conditioned to living lives, which are self-oriented instead of God-oriented. As a result of this unrest, they either live in a state of insecurity or isolate themselves from society, or in other ways become negative in their reactions. Some go to the extent of taking the law into their own hands, which results in chaos, violence and even global terrorism.

The tragedy of all is that in actuality, it is no exaggeration to say that Islam and violence are contradictory to each other. The concept of Islamic violence is so obviously unfounded that prima facie it stands rejected. The fact that violence is not sustainable in the present world is sufficient indication that violence as a principle is quite alien to the scheme of things in Islam. Islam claims to be an eternal religion and, as such, could never afford to uphold any principle, which could not stand up to the test of time. Any attempt to bracket violence with Islam amounts, therefore, to casting doubt upon the very eternity of the Islamic religion. Islamic terrorism is a contradiction in terms, much like ‘pacifist’ terrorism. And the truth of the matter is that, all the teachings of Islam are based directly or indirectly on the principle of peace.”

For further information, contact us at info@cpsglobal.org.

Contrary to common belief, Islam does not promote war with their enemies.

Under the scheme of the divine trial of human beings, God has granted man freedom. Due to this freedom, enmities may develop between people (20:123), which sometimes lead them to war. But Islam makes a clear difference between enmity and war.

Believers do not have the right to wage wars against their enemies. What the believers have to do as regards their enemies is far from waging war. Their duty is to peacefully convey to them the message of Islam. The Quran gives a clear injunction on this subject:

“And good and evil deeds are not alike. Repel evil with good. And he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend.” (41:33-34)

That is to say, Islam believes in turning one’s enemy into a friend through peaceful means, instead of declaring him an enemy and then waging war against him.

Islam does give permission to do battle. But such permission is given only in the case of an attack by opponents in spite of the policy of avoidance being followed by the Muslims, thus creating a situation where self-defense is required. The Quran has this to say: “Permission to take up arms is hereby given to those who are attacked because they have been wronged” (22:38). At another place the Quran gives a valid reason for fighting: “They were the first to attack you” (9:13).

This shows that according to the teachings of Islam, war is to be waged not against the enemy but against the aggressor. If Muslims hold someone to be their enemy, that does not give them the right to attack him. The one and only right given to them is to convey the peaceful message of Islam. Islam permits defensive fighting against violent aggression, but only when all efforts at avoidance and reconciliation have failed. The practical example of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH provides an incontrovertible proof of the value of this policy.

In Islam, war is not the prerogative of the individual but of an established government. Only an established government can declare war. In other words, individuals can pray on their own, but they cannot wage wars of their own accord. Only when a war is declared by the ruling government, can the public join in and support it, and not before that. Islam does not sanction individual actions on this issue. Therefore no Non Governmental Organization or NGO can declare a war.

As a general principle, the Quran tells us that, even where an external attack is feared, the common man should not act independently, but should take the matter to the ruler, and then under his guidance take proper counter measures. (4:83).

The Hadith also states that ‘the ruler is a shield, fighting is done under him, and security is attained through him.’

This clearly shows that the decision to do battle and its planning are the tasks of an established government. The common man can play his role as need be under government orders, and not independently.

This Islamic principle shows that there is no room for non-state warfare, which is what we generally call guerilla war. A guerilla war is fought by individual organizations, not by the State. As far as the state is concerned, if it wants to wage a defensive war against any country it has first—in obedience to the Quran—to issue a proper declaration. Only then can it wage a lawful war (8:58). In Islam, there is only ‘declared’ war. Therefore, in accordance with this principle, no proxy war in Islam can be lawful.

Most Islamic actions are governed by certain conditions. The waging of war is also thus subject to certain principles, one being that, even when a defensive war has been declared by the State, it will be aimed only at the combatants. Targeting non-combatants will be unlawful. The Quran enjoins us not to do battle with those who are not at war. Such people have to be dealt with kindly and equitably. But you are free to do battle with those who are fighting against you. (60:8-9)

If, for instance, a Muslim state is at war with a particular nation, and this war is in conformance with Islamic principles, it should still not permit any destructive activities against non-combatants (civilians), as was done on September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington. Similarly in Islamic war, Muslims are not permitted to commit suicidal bombings in order to destroy the enemy. Strapping explosives on to oneself and hurling oneself upon the civilian settlements of even those with whom one is at war, for the purpose of destroying the enemy, and in the process killing oneself deliberately, is totally un-Islamic.

Because of the importance of peace, the Qur’an has clearly declared that no aggressive war is permitted in Islam. Muslims can engage themselves only in a defensive, not in an offensive war, irrespective of the circumstances (2:190).

According to Islam, peace is the rule and war is only an exception. Even in defensive war we have to see the result. If the result is doubtful, Muslims should avoid war, even in a defensive situation. Stray acts of aggression are not enough for Muslims to rush into war. They have to assess the whole situation and adopt a policy of avoidance when war is not certain to achieve a positive result.

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Contrary to common belief, Islam does not teach its adherents to react against issues such as that of Rushdie and the cartoon issue. Islam teaches patience in the fullest sense of the word.

On the publication of the Satanic verses by Salman Rushdie, the Muslim reaction was to have him killed forthwith; he had committed an unpardonable offense against Islam and the Prophet. All over the world, Muslims demanded his head. They were not prepared to settle for anything less than that. In a similar incident, when the Denmark cartoon was published, the Muslims reacted in much the same manner.

In the modern age, all campaigns are spread like wildfire. Reactions such these give the impression that Muslims are vengeful and violent people. Consequently, in certain Western countries notice boards are put saying, “Beware of Muslims”. This shows the extreme fear engendered by the Muslim fundamentalist threat worldwide.

In all fairness one can ask, 'Is this Islam?' Never! God has been represented in Islam as an All Merciful, and the Prophet has been proclaimed the Prophet of Mercy. It is ironical that in the name of such a magnanimous religion, a certain section of the fundamentalists could not appreciate such sentiments far less promote them. Islam can never incite people to committing murder in the name of religion, simply because someone had written a book or published a cartoon which ruffled their emotions.

In the days of the Prophet a large number of Rushdies, Taslima Nasreens and cartoon publishers existed, but none of them were beheaded or protested against for having insulted Islam and its prophet. On the contrary, in the times of the Prophet, the principle of countering words with words was followed. That is why those who spoke out against Islam no matter to what lengths they went were not penalised in any way. All that happened was that the Prophet appointed a poet called Hassan to give a befitting answer in verse to the offenders, poetry being the main mode of public expression and sentiments. This is the example we should follow for the resolution of all such problems in true Islamic spirit and earlier traditions.

The Prophet’s name was Muhammad, meaning the praised one or the praiseworthy. But when the Meccans became his most dire opponents, they themselves coined a name for the Prophet, ‘Muzammam,’ on the pattern of ‘Muhammad,’ Muzammam meaning condemned. They used to heap abuses on him calling him by this epithet of Muzammam. But the Prophet was never enraged at this distorted version of his name. All he said in return was: “Aren’t you surprised that God has turned away the abuses of the Quraysh from me. They abuse a person by the name of Muzammam. Whereas I am Muhammad (Ibn Hisham, 1/379).

This meant that abuses were being heaped on a person whose name was Muzammam. Since the Prophet’s name was Muhammad, not Muzammam, their abuses did not apply to him. This shows that Islam does not teach one to be easily provoked, even in cases of extreme provocation.

On another occasion the Prophet of Islam was in the Masjid al-Nabwi in Madinah, the second most sacred mosque in Islam, when a Bedouin, that is, a desert Arab, entered the mosque and urinated inside it. It was obviously a very provocative matter. But the Prophet was not at all provoked. After the nomad had urinated, the Prophet simply asked his companions to bring a bucket of water and wash the place clean (Fathul Bari, 1/386).

A western commentator, William Patron, has observed: One of the fruits of Islam has been that stubborn durable patience which comes out of the submission to the absolute will of God.

This observation is indeed very apt. Islam attaches great importance to patience. Most of the verses of the Qur’an have a bearing, directly or indirectly, upon this virtue. In truth, patience is an attribute without which the very thought of Islam is unimaginable.

The present world is designed in such a way that here one has repeatedly to face unpleasant experiences, inside as well as outside the home. Now if people were to fall to wrangling on all such occasions, they would fail to advance along the path of human progress. That is why Islam has placed great emphasis on patience, so that by avoiding all unpleasantness, man may continue his onward journey towards the higher goal — God-realization.

The Qur’an repeatedly stresses the need for patience. In chapter 31, we are enjoined to remain patient in these words, “Endure with fortitude whatever befalls you.” (17) In chapter 8, we are told to “have patience. God is with those that are patient.” (46) Chapter 103 says, “Perdition shall be the lot of man except for those who believe and do good works and exhort one another to justice and to fortitude.

Similarly, the traditions have laid great emphasis on the importance of patience. The Prophet once said, ‘Listen and obey and be patient.’ On another occasion he observed: ‘God has commanded man to be patient and forgiving.’ A companion of the Prophet said: ‘The Prophet and his companions always remained patient in the face of persecution at the hands of enemies.’ It is true that patience provides the basic quality for Islamic activism. In this world no one can adhere to the path of Islamic virtue without remaining patient.

Patience is the exercise of restraint in trying situations. It is a virtue, which enables the individual to proceed towards worthy goals, undeflected by adverse circumstances or repeated provocations. If he allows himself to become upset by opposition, taunts or other kinds of unpleasantness, he will never reach his goals. He will simply become enmeshed in irrelevancies.

The only way to deal with the irksome side of daily living is to exercise patience. Patience will ensure that whenever one has some bitter experience, he will opt for the way of tolerance rather than that of reaction to provocation. It will enable one to absorb shocks and to continue, undeterred, on one’s onward journey.

Patience, as well as being a practical solution to the problems faced in the outside world, is also a means of positive character building. One who fails to exercise patience, gives free rein to negative thoughts and feelings, develops a personality which is likewise negative while one who remains patient is so morally bolstered by his own positive thoughts and feelings that he develops a positive personality.

Sabr is no retreat. Sabr only amounts to taking the initiative along the path of wisdom and reason as opposed to the path of the emotions. Sabr gives one the strength to restrain one’s emotions in delicate situations and rather to use one’s brains to find a course of action along result-oriented lines.

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Contrary to common belief, Islam does not teach extremism. It, actually teaches its adherents to follow the mean or the balanced path.

In the fourth chapter of the Quran the following injunction has been given:

“Do not go to excess in your religion.” (4:171)

The same point has been made in a hadith. The Prophet of Islam observed:

“You should restrain yourselves from committing excesses (ghulu) in religion. For it was due to their having gone to extremes in religion that the previous communities were destroyed.” (Al-Nasai, Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad, 1/215, 347)

Ghulu means extremism. The way of extremism is wrong, whatever the circumstances, for it goes against the spirit of religion. Indeed, it is proneness to extremism, which at times culminates in war and violence. Those who suffer from extremist tendencies remain dissatisfied with the path of moderation, since this strikes them as being far from the ideal. That is why they so easily incline towards violence, and are ever ready to open hostilities in the name of achieving their objectives.

Moderation, which is the opposite of extremism, is closely interlinked with peace. When people possess the virtue of moderation, they necessarily think in terms of peace and will engage in their struggle in a peaceful manner. Where there is moderation there is peace, and vice versa.

According to a Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad observed: The moderate action is the best of all actions. Hazrat Ali advised the people: ‘Adopt the middle path.’ (Tafsir Qurtubi, 154/2)

The middle path means the path of moderation. One instance of it can be seen in the following verse of the Qur’an:

‘Be neither miserly nor prodigal, for then you should either be reproached or be reduced to penury.’ (17:29)

The same point, worded differently, has been made in another verse which characterizes “the true servants of the Merciful” as “those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but maintain a just balance between those extremes” (25:67).

According to this verse, moderate spending means neither lavishness nor miserliness but rather a balanced expenditure, which will make life much easier to lead. In the same way, as regards optional fasts, prayers, etc., a middle path is desirable for man, as this enables him to maintain such a pattern of behaviour over a long period of time.

The middle path, to put it differently, is the non-emotional way. If a man loses his mental balance when confronted with any difficult situation in life, he goes to one extreme or the other. But if he keeps his feelings under control, he will be able to determine the proper course of action by giving it ample thought. A well-considered deed is always a moderate one. One who does not follow a moderate path will exceed all bounds both in friendship and in enmity. He will also be given to undue optimism and pessimism in respectively positive and negative situations, and will unnecessarily regard some individuals as too bad and others as too good. However, it is the verdict of nature that in this world a moderate approach in life always succeeds, while taking the path of extremes inevitably leads to failure.

So far as Islam is concerned, it is an entirely tolerant religion. Islam desires peace to prevail in the world. The Qur’an calls the way of Islam ‘the paths of Peace’ (5:16). The state of peace can never prevail in a society if a tolerant attitude is lacking in the people. Tolerance is the only basis for peace; in a society where tolerance is absent, peace likewise will be non-existent.

Describing the evil of murder, the Qur’an has this to say:

“Whoever killed one human being, should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind.” (5:32)

This has been expressly stated in the scripture because, when a man commits a crime of this nature, he breaks the tradition of respect for life. This tradition in society serves as a kind of psychological check against one man making a murderous assault on another. Once this check is removed, there is no barrier left in the way of indulging in such criminal activities. People become emboldened when such a precedent is set by a wrongdoer. That is how the murder of one man opens the door to more murders.

In order to understand the full implications of this point, let us take some examples from Muslim Spain. Towards the end of the Muslim rule in Spain, the Muslims, weakened by infighting, had divided themselves into different states, which fell, one after another. Later they established a kingdom in Granada under the rule of Sultan Naser bin Yousuf, better known as Ibn al-Ahmar (It was this king who built the famous palace known as Al-Hamra palace in Granada). Now the most dreadful part of this history is that the third ruler of Granada was put to death by his brother, Naser bin Muhammad in AH 710, as a matter of political rivalry. This killing broke the tradition of respect for life in the royal palace, throwing open the floodgates of murder in high places. Sultan Abdul Walid was subsequently killed by his own nephew in 725 Hijrah. Sultan Ahmad followed him to the throne, but was killed by a relative in AH 733. His successor, Sultan Yousuf, the ruler of Granada, was speared to death in AH 755. The next ruler, Sultan Ismail was killed by his own brother in AH 761.

In short, this chain of killing continued till 1492 AD when the state of Granada itself was eliminated. Safeguarding tradition is safeguarding humanity. The breaking of tradition could mean the end of humanity.

Peace is basic to all religions. Let us all strive then to establish peace in the world, for that is the bedrock on which all human progress rests.

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Contrary to common belief Islam does not teach fanaticism.

What is fanaticism? It is defined by Webster as “excessive and unreasonable enthusiasm or zeal.” Used in the religious context, it connotes “religious extremism.” Zealots may act under the banner of religion, but it must be borne in mind that their actions, are the very negation of the true religious spirit.

Whenever someone adopts a creed, he does so because he regards the as the truth. There is nothing wrong is this. Islam wants us to believe in the veracity of our creed and to practise it as far as possible in our daily living. But this should not be taken to extremes, for Islam does not approve of fanaticism, which it holds to be a kind of ideological madness, a form of ghulu (extremism), which, along with bigotry, has been expressly forbidden. (Qur’an, 4:171).

The Prophet of Islam once observed: “I have been sent with a religion which exhorts gentleness.” That is, he had brought to mankind a religion which make concessions to others and which was completely free of all rigidity. This is not to say that Islam has no distinct ideology: its moral principles are certainly very well defined. But, in practical matters, it advocates dealing gently with others, while adhering strictly to Islamic tenets, as being in the true spirit of religion.

The Prophet of Islam lived for the first thirteen years of his prophethood in Mecca, during which period there were no less than 360 idols within the precincts of the Kabah. By religious persuasion the Prophet believed implicitly in the One God. Even so, he went to the Kabah to say his prayers, He made no attempt to remove the idols, nor did he come into conflict with the idols-worshippers. If the Prophet had been an extremist, he would not have been able to exercise such restraint.

When the Prophet was in Mecca, he used to pray facing in the direction of the Kabah. On reaching Medina, he should have continued, as was his wont, to pray facing towards the Kabah. But, there being many Jews living in Medina at that time, the Prophet bowed to the established Jewish custom by praying in the direction of Baital-Maqdis (Jerusalem). Had the Prophet been a fanatic, he could never have acted in this way.

During the early Meccan period, the city was under the domination of idolaters. Twenty years later, when Mecca was conquered, it came under the rule of the Prophet of Islam. Since ancient times, it has been the custom to place a cover (ghilaf) over the Kabah, and at the time of the conquest of Mecca, this holiest of shrines was shrouded in a cover prepared by the idolaters. In this new age of monotheism, such a symbol must have been anathema, and one of fanatic mentality would have immediately torn down the trappings of polytheism. Not so the Prophet. He left the cover where it was. But then, after some time, it caught fire and was destroyed. Only then did the Prophet have it replaced.

Religious fanaticism falls into two categories. One relates to the self and the other to one’s conduct in society. On the individual plane, no one is supposed to exceed the bounds set by religion. If he does so, this amounts to fanaticism. For instance, fasting is a form of worship in Islam, to be performed for a certain period each year. However, if one started fasting the whole year round that would be transgressing the prescribed limits, which is anti-Islamic. In the second case, fanaticism in relation to others generally arises from being provoked by anything which runs counter to Islam, and then taking stern action. For instance, drinking, unlawful in Islam, is punishable by flogging. But if the would-be reformer started flogging just any drinker he came across, that would be sheer fanaticism and, as such, an un-Islamic act. It is only when all efforts to reform the alcoholic have proved unavailing that he should be punished. Even then, his punishment should not be by some irate individual, but by a properly constituted religious court.

Islam’s first imperative, in fact, is a proper religious education for all in order to ensure correct behaviour at all times, in private and in public.

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Contrary to the misconception that Islam produces an uneducated society, Islam lays utmost importance to education and obtaining of knowledge.

The importance of education in Islam can be seen from the prayer given in the following verse of the Quran:

“My Lord! Increase me in Knowledge.” (20:114)

The mission of the Prophet of Islam has been introduced in the Quran at more than one place as an Instructor of the Book and giver of wisdom. Here is a verse from the Quran:

“He it is who has raised among the unlettered people a Messenger from among themselves who recites to them His signs and purifies them, and to instruct them in the Book and wisdom.” (62:2)

Similarly, on another occasion the Prophet of Islam presented himself before the people saying, “I have been sent only as a teacher.”

Then the first word revealed in the form of the Quran was ‘Iqra’ (96:1). The fourth verse of the first revelation forming part of the chapter Al-Qalam has this to say:

“God has taught man by the pen.” (96:4)

We find more than 1500 derivatives and synonyms of the word Ilm, that is, knowledge. It becomes easy to understand in the light of this how the revelation of the Quran in this almost illiterate nation of Arabia set off such a wave of receiving and imparting education, which can rightly be called a learning explosion.

The revolution brought about by this learning explosion ushered in a new age of highly developed culture and civilization not only in Arabia but also all over the world. This is a fact that has been acknowledged by historians. For instance, Indian historian, T. Rama Rao begins his biography of the Prophet of Islam with these words:

When he appeared, Arabia was a desert—a nothing. Out of nothing of the desert a new world was fashioned by the mighty spirit of Muhammad. A new life, a new culture, a new civilization, a new kingdom, which extended from Morocco to India and influenced the thought and life of three continents—Asia, Africa and Europe (Life of Muhammad).

The Quran and Hadith both hold men of knowledge superior to the ignorant. (39:9) The books of hadith have a whole lengthy chapter devoted to the importance of knowledge, and the rewards of teaching and learning.

For instance, there is a tradition that one who treads a path in search of knowledge has his way paved to paradise by God as a reward for this noble deed (Bukhari, Muslim)

In a tradition recorded by Tirmidhi, angels in heaven, fish in the water and ants in their dwellings pray for the well being of a seeker of knowledge.

In another hadith the Prophet of Islam observed, those who learn virtues and teach it to others are the best among humankind (Al-Bayhaqi).

Not more than 150 people all over Arabia knew how to read and write. They made the maximum use of their ability to memorise, preserving their entire literary heritage in their memory. There is no trace of any systematic or organised activity of learning or teaching in the society. But soon after the revelation of the Quran, the trend of receiving education set in, and everyone who accepted Islam learnt the Quran from the Prophet, and after learning it himself taught to other converts. In this way the homes of the early Muslims—Abu Bakr Siddiq, Al-Arqam bin Al-Arqam, Fatimah bint Khattab—turned into centres of learning. Moreover, from the very outset, the Prophet appointed scribes who were assigned to write down the Quranic portions as soon as they were revealed. This motivated others as well to learn writing so that they might make their own copies of the holy textbook. It is to be noted that even under life-threatening circumstances, when the Prophet had had the first and second pledge at Al-Aqabah, three years before the migration, he appointed twelve people who were most learned amongst them as teachers of the Quran. These teachers were so sincere and enthusiastic that within a short period of three years they spread the knowledge of the Quran to almost each and every home of the tribes of Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj. Hence when the Prophet arrived at Madinah in the 13th year of his Prophethood, he found all the young and old people of these tribes well versed in the teachings of the Quran.

At the Battle of Badr 70 people were taken prisoner. The decision was taken after consultation with the senior companions that on payment of 4000 dirhams each they would be set free. Most of the Meccans being businessmen, knew how to read and write. But the Medinans were mostly farmers, who did not know how to read or write. Owing to the importance of education in Islam it was decided that those prisoners of war who were not able to pay ransom, should be asked to teach 10 Muslim children in order to secure their freedom. This was the first proper school in Islam established by the Prophet himself (Tabaqat, Ibn Sad).

The learning explosion produced by the first divine word Iqra continued non-stop. It initially began at Makkah and gradually spread throughout the world. After the demise of the Prophet, the companions spread out in the neighbouring countries with the same spirit of seeking knowledge and imparting it to others. From Makkah to Madinah to Abyssinia to Iraq, to Egypt, to Baghdad this revolutionary educational movement gradually passed on to Central Asia and the East, then to Spain and the West.

For more than a thousand years these served as international centres of learning, education, medicine and multidimensional development in all spheres of life.

Women were not kept away from these activities. Starting with the Prophet’s own household, Muslim families provided equal opportunities to the female members of the family to learn to grow and play a constructive role in the progress and development of society at large. A large number of learned women have found mention in history as authorities on various Islamic sciences such as hadith, Islamic jurisprudence, seerah of the Prophet, commentary on the Quran, etc. The Prophet’s own wife, Aishah, imparted the knowledge and wisdom she received from the first educator, for almost half a century. She has narrated more than two thousand traditions of the Prophet, and according to the Muslim jurists, these are the source of two thirds of Islamic laws relating to social, political and cultural issues.

Biographers such as Ibn Khallikan (author of Waqeyatul Ayan), Ibn Sa’d (author of Tabaqat), Khatib Bhaghdadi (author of Taarikh Baghdad) and Al-Miqrizi (author of al-Khutal wal-Athar) have mentioned the names of thousands of women and their outstanding contribution in the field of education and development in the Muslim world. Noteworthy among them, for instance, are the two sisters of Al-Fahri of Morocco, Fatimah and Maryam, the daughters of Muhammad ibn Abdullah, who founded the Qayrawan University and the Andalus University in the historical city of Fas in 245 A.H.

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There is a common belief about Islam that it teaches its adherents to be close-minded. In actual fact, Islam teaches the spirit of enquiry and asks its adherents to remove their ignorance by seeking answers to questions.

According to a tradition, the Prophet of Islam once remarked: “The remedy for ignorance is asking questions.” If the ignorant man does not inquire, his ignorance will stay with him. But if he has a questioning mind, some knowledgeable person will answer him, and he will no longer remain ignorant.

There is a saying in Arabic to the same effect: To know that you do not know is half knowledge itself. If an ignorant person is not aware of his ignorance, he will continue to remain in the same state. But when he becomes aware of his ignorance, he sets about seeking for knowledge. He will try to turn his ignorance into knowledge. In this way his awareness of his ignorance will become the stepping-stone leading towards full knowledge.

In ancient times the phenomena of nature were considered to be manifestations of God. The sight of the manifestations of nature, therefore, aroused in man the spirit of worship. It was only when these natural phenomena were divested of their divinity that the spirit of inquiry could be aroused in man. As a result, many of the mysteries of nature now lie unraveled.

An inquisitive mind is a sine qua non for the acquisition of knowledge. Only those who are possessed of this quality will achieve great success in intellectual and academic fields. Those devoid of this spirit will remain static, and will fail to climb to the top of the ladder of success.

It is this spirit, which is the foundation of all scientific progress.

Knowledge is of two distinct kinds: that which we have been blessed with in the Qur‘an and the Hadith, and that which we acquire as a result of our own research and endeavour. The first kind acquaints us with our Lord, and makes plain the issues to be faced in the everlasting world, which awaits us after death. More important, it shows us how, in the course of our present life, we may prepare ourselves to meet those issues. The second kind of knowledge provides solutions to the social and economic problems, which we encounter in everyday life.

It is imperative that Muslims should seek both forms of knowledge, but they should never lose sight of the fact that they vary considerably in importance. Their primary aim in life should be knowledge of the Qur’an and the Hadith, while the acquisition of knowledge of the other sciences should come about as a matter of worldly necessity. Without a knowledge of religion, what must be done in this world to earn an everlasting reward, will constantly elude one’s understanding, and it goes without saying that one can never then consider oneself a Muslim in the true sense of the word.

The secular sciences guide us only in worldly matters, giving us instruction in the agricultural, industrial and civic practicalities of life. But it is the Qur’an and Hadith, which set our feet on the path to eternal development. Clearly, it is just as important for Muslims as it is for anyone else to study various branches of knowledge, but they must distinguish between ultimate objectives and adventitious necessity. Muslims must not only study the Qur’an and the Hadith, but must be keenly aware that the real reasons for studying them are very different from those which prompt them to seek worldly knowledge: they must constantly bear in mind also that religious knowledge take moral priority over all other forms of knowledge.

The emphasis of Islam on learning and teaching was not confined to the Quran or the teachings of the Prophet. The Quran, in fact, has given a new outlook, a new perspective or paradigm as coined by Thomas Kahn (The Structure of Scientific Revolution, 1955). According to this Quranic paradigm, man’s most important activity being intellectual contemplation or reflection, he was not supposed to blindly follow any idea or notion just because it was attributed to his ancestors or some other authority. He had to ponder on it critically and realistically. That is why we find that the Quran is replete with hundreds of inspirational and motivational verses that invite man to reflect on the wonderful creatures of God.

For example: In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are signs for people with intelligence, those who remember God standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying) Our Lord! You have not created all this in vain (without purpose), Glory be to You. (3:190-91, 7:176, 10:24, 13:3, 16:11).

This, we can say, was the intellectual seed, which is called in academic circles the spirit of enquiry. It is this spirit of inquiry, which has played the greatest role in bringing about the age of science. It is the zeal to discover which has led man to knowledge.

According to Toynbee and other world historians, this spirit of enquiry was the first and foremost prerequisite for the inauguration of the scientific era and the elimination of a superstitious outlook on nature and life. So it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is the Quran that has laid down the foundation of modern science. On the other hand, the Prophet himself has dealt with day-to-day problems of life in accordance with this realistic approach taught by the Quran. Consequently the same realistic approach became an integral part of the frame of mind of his companions. They all became curious, inquisitive and realistic in all matters of life.

For example, once the Prophet passed by an oasis where he found the farmers, who were date planters at work. When he asked what they were doing, he was told that they were pollinating the clusters of dates in order to produce a better yield. The Prophet expressed his disapproval of this process. Knowing this, the farmers immediately stopped it. But later on the Prophet was told that due to lack of proper pollination the yield had been very low as compared to the previous years. On hearing this, the Prophet replied. “You know your worldly matters better.” (Sahih Bukhari) In other words, experiment and observation should be the final criteria in such worldly matters.

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Contrary to common belief Islam inculcates the spirit of enquiry in its adherents.

The Quran invites its adherents to enquire about things and the Prophet encouraged people to engage in direct observation and reflection on the other led the Muslims to study everything objectively. Due to this, Muslims started eagerly learning from everyone irrespective of his or her religious and cultural origins. This trend of insatiable curiosity and open mindedness motivated the succeeding generations during the Umayyad and Abbasid times to enthusiastically learn and translate the cultural legacy of other nations, particularly the Persian, Greek and Roman. Abu Jafar Mansur (754-775) established Bayt al Hikmah (the House of Wisdom) where highly paid multilingual scholars were appointed to translate into Arabic books on Persian literature, Greek philosophy, medicine, and other sciences available in those times in different parts of the world.

This was an actualisation of the Prophet’s inspiring words: “Wisdom is a believer’s own property, he should try to take it wherever he finds it. Of the Abbasid Caliphs, Harun Ar-Rashid, Al-Mamun and Mutadid Billah, are reported to have invited doctors, philosophers, and learned scholars from various parts of the world to settle in Muslim cities and help in these activities. They even bought some books by paying for them in gold equivalent to their weight.

This generous appreciation and support of the State accelerated research work, and cultural exchange through translation, which reflected on the general progress and development of the entire Muslim world at that time. Spain, under Muslim rule, witnessed a similar progressive and developmental process. A number of world-renowned historians of science and civilization. (e.g. Hughman) have pointed out that Muslims’ contribution in the development of natural sciences and philosophy were not merely confined to translations from Greek, Persian, Indian, etc. For in view of their inquisitive and critical mind-set, it was not possible for them to accept Greek philosophy or any other sciences without an objective analysis. The fervour shown in authentification of the Prophet’s words was also in action in the field of natural science. Therefore Muslim scientists, doctors and other experts were able to remove so many superstitious notions about nature and life that prevailed among the Greek philosophers. On the other hand they proved to be creative and innovative in the widest sense of the term. They sent missions for exploring new lands. They established observatories. They corrected many false concepts in astronomy, medicine, chemistry and physics. It was the legacy of the Islamic civilization that reached Europe via Spain after the fall of Granada in 1492 A.H., which laid the foundation of the Renaissance in the West.

Islam attaches such great importance to learning that the Quran has this to say:

“It is the men of knowledge who can truly realise God.” (35:28)

Scholars are considered to be like angels (3:18), in view of their potential for discovering the oneness and the glory of the Creator. To inculcate this importance of knowledge in the minds of the believers, the Prophet once observed that the worship of a learned man is a thousand times better than that of the ignorant worshipper (Mustadrak Al-Hakim). By way of encouraging reflection on the universe and nature in order to explore divine glories, the Prophet is reported to have said: “An hour of reflection is better than a hundred years of worship without reflection.” (Al-Bayhaqi).

It was this interrelatedness of knowledge and worship that made the early Muslims seek and impart knowledge wholeheartedly and religiously.

But knowledge for the sake of knowledge as such may not be an acceptable notion according to Islamic ideology. Instead, a Muslim is supposed to seek knowledge for the pleasure of his Lord on the one hand and for the rendering of better services to the welfare of humankind on the other. In other words, the motto of education in Islam would be knowledge for the sake of serving God and His creatures. That is why from the very beginning almost equal attention has been paid to the learning of both the religious sciences and the worldly or secular sciences.

Imam Ghazzali noticing a lack of interest among the youth of his times in learning medicine and other useful crafts and skills, issued a fatwah that doctors, craftsmen, and experts of other human skills are not less important than the scholars of fiqh, hadith and pure religious sciences (Al-Qadim waal Hadith, M. Kurd Ali). If the two-fold purpose of life is to worship God and serve mankind, then a believer cannot succeed in achieving it unless he devotes all his potential to the acquisition of religious and non-religious knowledge. Thus we may conclude that:

a. Iqra being the first word revealed in the Quran, an intellectual process was simultaneously started which we have called the learning explosion.

b. The commandment of Iqra has been linked with the name of God (Read in the name of your Sustainer). This connection has given at the very outset the Islamic concept of education, that is, knowledge should not be sought after for the sake of knowledge, but for the sublime purpose of the realisation of God and the welfare of man.

c. This two-fold purpose of life naturally called for Muslims to strive hard in seeking knowledge both related to their religion and to the progress and development of the human condition in general. Since the Quran and hadith have made no discrimination between men and women concerning their rights and duties, the commandment of Iqra is equally inspiring and motivating to womenfolk. Consequently, they also did their best and contributed to this noble cause with the same spirit, fervour and dedication.

d. The Quran paradigm based on the concept of Tawhid has changed the traditional approach to the universe and human life. An intellectual revolution took place; superstitious thinking was replaced by rationalistic, realistic and objective analysis. Thus in the words of Henry Pirenne, Islam changed the face of the globe. The traditional order of human history was overthrown.

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There is a common belief that Islam gives a higher status to men in comparison to women. This is misconception in the truest sense of the word.

Contrary to the common misconception that Islam holds men superior to women, Islam actually gives equal status to women as that of men. The Quran says:

“You are members, one of another.” (3:195)

This means that there is no difference between the two as regards status, rights and blessings both in this world and in the Hereafter.

The following Hadith gives an apt description of the role of women:

Men and women are two equal halves of a single unit. (Al Tirmizi)

We see that both the sacred scriptures of Islam make it clear that neither sex is inferior or superior to the other. However, studies in biology and psychology show that the sexes are different in nature, each being designed for a different purpose. So, the Islamic maxim runs:

Equal in respect, but different in role.

Each being equal has a different sphere of action. That is, in making their contribution to social activity, the men undertake whatever is harder, while the women deal with whatever is lighter.

The Quran says that men are in charge of, that is, they are ‘maintainers’ of women (4:34). This leads to a common misconception that Islam gives a higher status to men then women. According to this verse of the Quran, it does not mean that men have a distinctive status over women – being maintainers of women has never been intended as a form of discriminatory treatment, it rather concerns the practical management of the home, for which the man is held responsible. However, this does not mean that a woman will never be allowed to shoulder these responsibilities. If she finds that she can bear this burden, no objection will be raised from any quarter. One example of this can be found in the Quran with reference to the people of Sheba. They lived in Yemen. The famous dam of Marib made their country very prosperous and enabled it to attain a high degree of civilization. The Quran tells us that they were ruled by a woman (27:23) without disapproving of her rule. Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba was very wise and sagacious, even more so than the men in her court. She did not want to embroil her country in war, while the men advised her to confront her enemies, namely, Solomon’s army. Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes:

“In Bilqis we have a picture of womanhood, gentle, prudent, and able to tame the wilder passions of her subjects.”

It is an accepted principle with the commentators of the Quran that when the Quran reports something without any disapproval, that means that has been approved of by the Quran.

So when we look at this incident in the light of the Quran, we find the status of woman even higher than that of men. A woman is in charge of men and she has shouldered this responsibility with greater efficacy.

Thus the example of the Queen of Sheba having found mention in the Quran shows that rulership is not man’s monopoly. A woman can be a ‘qawwam’ over a man and the Quran has itself testified to it.

In fact, in the early period of Islam, both the sexes were fully active in different fields of life, from housework to agriculture and horticulture; and from worship in the mosque to the battleground. Everywhere women were visible and active. Gradually there came about a division of labour, which is justifiable not only biologically and physiologically, but also in terms of the ensuing social benefits. One such important benefit is that they can see each other’s lives objectively, without that personal involvement which tends to cloud their judgment and lead to a damaging emotionalism. They are better able to counsel each other coolly and wisely, to give moral support at critical moments, and to offer the daily encouragement with which every successful union should be marked.

In Islamic history, there are many examples of women giving invaluable help to their husbands in critical situations. One of the most notable was Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet of Islam who successfully brought the Prophet back from a state of fear and trembling to a state of normalcy after his receiving the first divine revelation in the solitude of the Cave of Hira from the Archangel Gabriel. She was able to reassure him that his life was not, as he feared, in danger, as she herself was emotionally detached from the incident. She observed: “God will surely never forsake you. You are kind to your kin; you always help the weak; you take care of whoever crosses your threshold; you solace the weary; you speak the truth.” The reassurance that Khadijah gave to the Prophet of Islam on this occasion was one of the most significant contributions to the furtherance of Islam.

Then it occurred to Khadijah that she had best make enquiries of some learned Christians, who, well versed as they were in the scriptures, were bound to have knowledge of revelation and prophethood. She went first to a rahib (hermit) who lived near Mecca. On seeing her, the priest asked, “O noble lady of the Quraysh, what has brought you here?” Khadijah replied, “I have come here to ask you about Gabriel.” To this the rahib said, “Glory be to God, he is God’s pure angel. He visits prophets: he came to Jesus and Moses.” Then Khadijah went to another Christian called Addas. She put the same question to him, and he too told her that Gabriel was an angel of God, the very same who had been with Moses when God drowned the Pharaoh. He had also come to Jesus, and through him God had helped Jesus.

Then Khadijah hastened to Waraqah ibn Nawfal, a Christian convert who had translated part of the Bible into Arabic. When she had finished telling him of what Muhammad had seen and heard, Waraqah exclaimed, “Holy, holy! By the Master of my soul, if your report be true, O Khadijah, this must be the great spirit who spoke to Moses. This means that Muhammad must be the Prophet of this nation.” On a subsequent visit, Khadijah brought Muhammad to meet Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Muhammad related the events exactly as they had taken place and, when he had finished, Waraqah said, “By the Master of my soul, I swear that you are the same Prophet whose coming was foretold by Jesus, son of Mary.” But then Waraqah sounded a note of warning: “You will be denied and you will be hurt. You will be abused and you will be pursued.” He nevertheless immediately pledged himself to the Prophet: “If I should ever live to see that day, I should surely help you.”

Thus we can say that Islam does not hold women inferior to men. Islam considers men and women as equal in respect, but different in role.

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Contrary to the common misconception, Islam does not degrade women. It gives the utmost respect to women.

The following traditions of the Prophet indicate the elevated function of woman in Islam:

“Women are half of men.

Fear God in respect of women.

“Heaven lies beneath the feet of mothers.” (That is, those who serve their mothers well are deserving of Paradise.)

“The best among you is he who is best for his family. For my family, I am the best of all of you.”

“The most perfect man of religion is one who excels in character. The best among you is he who gives the best treatment to his womenfolk.”

These traditions makes it clear that, although males and females differ from one another biologically, they are equal in terms of human status. No distinction is made between women and men as regards their respective rights.

Man and woman in the eyes of Islam then are not the duplicates of one another, but the complements. This concept permits the shortcomings of one sex to be compensated for by the strengths of the other. This is all to the good if they are to be lifetime companions.

It is a fact that women in general are not physically as strong as men, but their physical weakness in no way implies their inferiority to men. The eyes are the most delicate parts of our body, while the nails by comparison are extremely hard. That does not mean that the nails are superior to the eyes.

Just as two different kinds of fruits will differ in colour, taste, shape and texture, without one being superior or inferior to the other, so also do men and women have their different qualities which distinguish the male from the female without there being any question of superiority or inferiority. They are endowed by nature with different capacities so that they may play their respective roles in life with greater ease and effectiveness.

However, in respect of innate talents all individuals, be they men or women, differ from one another. Yet their need for each other is equal. All are of equal value. One is not more important or less important than the other. Similarly when it comes to the establishment of a home and raising of a family, men and women have their separate roles to play. But each is vital. Each is indispensable to the other. And for them to come together, function in unison and live in harmony, there must be mutual respect and a prevailing sense that a difference of biological function does not imply inequality. For the biological division of human beings into male and female is the result of the purposeful planning of our Creator.

In Islam, a woman enjoys the same status as that of a man. But in ancient times, women had come to be considered inferior and were deprived, among other things, of the right to inherit property. Islam for the first time in human history gave them their due legal rights over property. Neither did it distinguish between men and women as regards status, rights and blessings, both in this world and the Hereafter. Both were considered equal participants in the carrying out of the functions of daily living.

Since the earliest ideal phase of Islam, Muslim women have successfully exploited their talents towards the field of education in particular. Homes had become centres of learning. As women performed their role without going outdoors, there is a general impression that Islam has restricted women’s workplace to performing only domestic chores. But this is not the truth. First of all Islam encouraged them to receive education, and then enthused them with a new zeal. Subsequently, they went out to impart this learning to the next generation. Let’s take the instance of the Prophet’s wives, held up as role models for women in Islam. Preserving their femininity, they participated in all kinds of religious and worldly activities. For instance, the Prophet’s wife Aisha, having gained full knowledge of Islam from the Prophet, was able, after the death of the Prophet, to perform the task of teacher and guide to the Muslim community for a period of about fifty years. Abdullah ibn Abbas, a Companion of great stature, and one of the best commentators of the Qur’an, was one of Aisha’s pupils.

As modern day research tells us women are better with words than men. It is perhaps this reason why they are able to run educational institutions successfully. Besides this there may be many such workplaces where women are able to exploit their full potential. Since earliest days of Islam we find Muslim women working outdoors. Umm Dahdah, wife of a Companion of the Prophet worked in her orchard. Khadija, Prophet’s wife conducted business, to cite only a few of such examples. However, Islam sets great value on the proper management of home. It is because home is the most important unit of any society. Home is the centre of preparing succeeding generations. Thus neglecting home front will amount to neglecting the next generation, which in turn will result in a great national loss.

I would say that Islam grants even more respect to women than to men. According to one Hadith a man once came to the Prophet and asked him who rightfully deserved the best treatment from him.

“Your mother,” said the Prophet. “Who’s next?” asked the man. “Your mother.” “Who comes next?” the man asked again. The Prophet again replied, “Your mother.” “Who is after that?” insisted the man. “Your father,” said the Prophet.

Another example concerns Hajra, the Prophet Abraham’s wife. Hajj, regarded as the greatest form of worship in Islam, entails the performance of Sai, one of the main rites of the Hajj. This is accomplished by running back and forth seven times between Safa and Marwah, two hillocks near the Kaba. This running, enjoined upon every pilgrim, be they rich or poor, literate or illiterate, kings or commoners, is in imitation of the desperate quest of Hajra, Abraham’s wife, for water to quench the thirst of her crying infant, four thousand years ago. The performance of this rite is a lesson in struggling for the cause of God. It is of the utmost significance that this was an act performed by a woman. Perhaps there could be no better demonstration of a woman’s greatness than God’s command to all men, literally to follow in her footsteps.

We can see that the principle implied by the expression ‘ladies first’ in modern times had already been established in Islam at the very outset.

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Contrary to the common belief, Islam does not teach violence. It is a religion of peace in the fullest sense of the word.

The first verse of the Qur’an breathes the spirit of peace. It reads:

In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.

This verse is repeated in the Qur’an no less than 113 times. It shows the great importance Islam attaches to such values as Mercy and Compassion. Moreover the Qur’an states that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH was sent to the world as a mercy to mankind. (21:107)

A perusal of the Qur’an shows that most verses of the Qur’an (and also the Hadith) are based on peace and kindness, either directly or indirectly. The ideal society, according to the Qur’an is Dar as-Salam, that is, the house of peace (10:25).

The Qur’an presents the universe as a model that is characterized by harmony and peace (36:40). When God created heaven and earth, He so ordered things that each part might perform its function peacefully without clashing with any other part. The Qur’an tells us that “the sun is not allowed to overtake the moon, nor does the night outpace the day. Each in its own orbit runs.” (36:40)

For billions of years, therefore, the entire universe has been fulfilling its function in total harmony with His divine plan.

These are only but a few references to show what great importance Islam attaches to peace. In fact, Islam cannot afford not to be in a state of peace because all that Islam aims at—spiritual progress, intellectual development, character building, social reform, educational activities, and above all Missionary work —can be achieved only in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.

Not only Islam, but also all other religions may be defined in this way. The best interpretation of Islam has been given by the Sufis. To describe it, they use the Persian phrase, Sulh-e-Kul, meaning ‘Peace with all’, which truly expresses its spirit.

Human life in Islam is held in such high esteem that if even a single human being is killed, that is considered equivalent to the assassination of the whole of mankind. And the protection of a single human life is equivalent to the protection of the whole of mankind. (5:27-32)

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Contrary to common belief, Islam does not teach confrontation. In fact, Islam teaches the principle of avoidance at all times.

If you happen to be in an open field when it starts to rain, you hasten to find shelter. This is not cowardice. This is realism. Similarly, when there is an earthquake, you immediately leave your home for an open space. This too is not defeatism, but an acknowledgement of the reality of nature. Where some difficulty arises between man and nature, the solution to the problem lies only in acknowledgment, not in confrontation.

The system of rains and earthquakes is part of the scheme of God. Man cannot change this. Man only has it in his power to devise strategies to save himself from harm. The only way to do so is to adopt the principle of avoidance and save himself from extinction. That is why in heavy rain you head for a sheltered place, while during an earthquake, you rush for the fields.

Patience and avoidance are not signs of cowardice or a defeatist mentality. They are simply realistic approaches. This is necessary because the Creator has given man freedom for the purpose of putting him to the test. Man sometimes makes the right use, sometimes the wrong use of his freedom. Even if you start fighting everyone, you cannot snatch away their freedom, as this freedom is given them by the very Creator of the universe. Efforts to deprive others of their freedom are futile and will result only in your own suffering.

In such a state of affairs there is only one possible attitude. And that is known as patience. That is, even when faced with bitterness and unpleasantness from others, you must continue your life’s journey by avoidance.

You should never feel that it is only up to others to practice patience and avoid friction. Patience and avoidance of strife are the social duties of everyone without exception. It should never be forgotten that while patience makes its possible to continue with life’s journey, impatience will ultimately prevent you from reaching your chosen destination.

Huzayfah relates a tradition that the Prophet once advised, “It is not proper for any Muslim to disgrace himself.” People enquired as to how someone might disgrace himself? The Prophet replied, “By challenging an evil he is not competent to fight with.” (Musnad, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, 4/405)

This Hadith of the Prophet reveals an important principle of Islam, that whenever, in a composite society, an evil or unpleasant situation arises, it is not prudent for the law-abiding man to have an impulsive confrontation with wrongdoers. Instead, he should decide pragmatically as to which of two options would be appropriate.

One is that he should see whether he has enough strength to fight the miscreants and compel them to desist from their wrongdoing. If so, he must fight with great determination so that the trouble is eradicated and social uplift becomes possible.

The second option is to make a cool and realistic assessment of the comparative strength of the two sides and if it is found that the odds are too great for any favourable result to be achieved through confrontation or that a disadvantage which initially had been insignificant could turn into a major setback, it will become necessary to adopt the policy of patience and tolerance, and avoid any confrontation with the wicked.

The policy of avoidance simply means refraining from wasting time and energy in a futile conflict. By following this course, one gains the respite to prepare oneself adequately for future action. It provides the opportunity to become so strong and dominant that no one would dare do any harm to one. In the event of attempted injustice, there would be enough accumulated force to effectively repulse any wrongdoer.

The approach of patience, tolerance and avoidance is undoubtedly one of the most important principles of Islam. (8.SS/9.95)

By temperament, all men and women differ from one another in many ways. Everyone has experienced the disagreeable situations, arising from such differences. In social life, be it inside or outside the home, it is but natural that unpleasantness should occur from time to time. This is unavoidable.

Now whenever any negative situation arises one way of dealing with it is a head-on clash, i.e. an attempt to solve the problem by direct confrontation. Such attempts are abortive as they only aggravate the problem. In no way will they improve matters.

Islam tells us that on such occasions instead of behaving violently and fighting, we should opt for the course of tolerance and forbearance; instead of combating violence with violence, we should adopt the policy of avoidance; remaining united in spite of differences.

According to Islam, it is not only a point of social behaviour but also an act meriting great reward. Living with people, and observing their principles are acts which would deserve a reward in normal circumstances, but when one continues to be well-behaved in spite of differences and grudges, by curbing negative sentiments, then the reward is increased manifold. God will count those who sedulously avoid friction among the possessors of a superior character.

For the human character to retain its superiority, therefore, there must be staunch and unceasing adherence to the principle of avoidance.

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There is a common belief that Islam permits its adherents to over-throw corrupt Islamic governments. Such an act however, is totally UnIslamic.

This can be seen from the fact that despite the blatant perversion in the Muslim rulers after the pious caliphate, the Muslim ulama did not lead an insurrection against these corrupt individuals. For about a period of one thousand years they remained detached in this matter and continued to engage all their efforts in non-political fields. This was not a matter of accident but in obedience to the express injunctions of the Shariah.

As we know, in the books of Hadith detailed traditions have been set down in the chapters titled Kitab al-Fitan. The Prophet Muhammad observed in plain words that in later times perversions would set in in the rulers, they would become tyrannical and unjust, but that Muslims should not wield their swords against them. They should rather move to the mountains with their goats and camels.

By ‘goats and camels’ are meant the opportunities in non-political fields, which exist, even when the political institutions are corrupted. This injunction given by the Prophet meant that the Muslims should avail of such opportunities by avoiding clash and confrontation in the political field. In short, by ignoring the political problem, they should avail of the non-political opportunities.

These injunctions of the Prophet Muhammad were so clear that the Muslim ulama of later times formed a consensus to make insurrection against the rulers unlawful.

Imam An-Nawawi, commenting upon some traditions as set forth by Sahih Muslim (Kitab al-Imarah) observes: “You should not come into conflict with the rulers in matters of their power. Even if you find them going against express Islamic injunctions, you should attempt to make the truth clear to them solely through words of wisdom and advice. So far as revolt and war against them in order to unseat them is concerned, that is totally unlawful according to the consensus of the ulama, even when the rulers are zalim and fasiq (tyrants and corrupt).” (Sahih Muslim, bi sharh an-Nawawi, 12/229)

This command of the Prophet, as clearly expressed above, was based on extremely important considerations. In actual fact, in the early phase of Islam (as well as in the later phase) missionary and reform works had to be performed, without which the history of Islam would not have been complete. If the ulama of the Muslim community had tried to pose a threat to the political institutions, certainly all this constructive work would have been left undone. That is why the Prophet Muhammad expressly prohibited any clash with political institutions. This avoidance of strife guaranteed that non-political constructive work would continue to be performed without any break.

In every society there are always two systems side by side, one political and the other non-political. The latter is established through various non-political institutions. According to the scheme of Islam, non-political institutions established at the social level have always to remain stable.

In this way there is a continuing endeavour—even when the political institutions have become corrupt, or keep changing—to keep Islam firmly established at the level of the non-political system.

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Contrary to common belief, gaining political power is not the main objective of Muslims. This is a misconception.

When the Quran says, “And religion is wholly for God” it portrays the most important aspect of the change of times. This change has reduced the status of political power to the point where it is no longer necessary for believers to wage a war for its acquisition, as it is no longer needed to secure the desired benefits. Non-political institutions serve this purpose equally well.

In modern time those nations who have understood this have achieved success even without having political power. Some have become established and excelled in the field of education, while others have set up empires in industry, communications or finance. The last in the list of these non-governmental empires is that of computers. This has given man the opportunity to keep his finger on the pulse of human activity not only at the national level, but also at the international level.

This mission was undertaken and brought to a successful conclusion at the internal level within Arabia during the life of the Prophet. Later, during the pious caliphate, the Sassanid and Byzantine empires were dismantled with special divine succour. Consequently, intellectual oppression at the international level was replaced by intellectual freedom.

In this connection those traditions are worth noting which are enshrined in Sahih al-Bukhari. When, after the fourth Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, political conflict ensued between Abdullah ibn Zubayr and the Umayyads, Abdullah ibn Umar, one of the senior-most companions of the Prophet, held himself aloof from the battle. People approached him and, quoting the verse of qital-al-fitna, asked him why he was not joining in the battle. Abdullah ibn Umar replied that ‘fitna’ as mentioned in the Qur’an did not refer to political infighting, but rather to the religious coercive system, that had already been put an end to by them. (Fathul Bari, 8/60)

From this we learn that the war against fitna was a war of limited duration, temporary in nature, meant to be engaged in only until its specific purpose had been served.

Invoking the Qur’anic exhortation to do battle against fitna in order to validate acts of war, which had quite other aims, is highly improper. This verse could be cited only if the same state of affairs as existed at the time of its revelation, were to prevail once again.

The biographers of the Prophet Muhammad have put the number of ghazwah (battle) at more than 80. This gives the impression that the Prophet Muhammad pbuh in his 23-year prophetic career waged about four battles in a year. But this impression is entirely baseless. The truth is that the Prophet Muhammad in his entire prophetic life, engaged in war only on three occasions. All the other incidents described as ghazwat were in actual fact examples of avoidance of war and not instances of involvement in battle.

For instance, in the books of Seerah, the incident of Al-Ahzab is called a ghazwah (battle), whereas the truth is that on this occasion the armed tribes of Arabia, twelve thousand in number, reached the borders of Madinah with all intentions of waging war, but the Prophet and his companions dug a deep trench between them, thus successfully preventing a battle from taking place. The same is the case with all the other incidents called ghazwah. The opponents of the Prophet repeatedly tried to embroil him in war, but on all such occasions, he managed to resort to some such strategy as averted the war, thus defusing the situation.

There were only three instances of Muslims really entering the field of battle—Badr, Uhud and Hunayn. But on all these occasions, war had become inevitable, so that the Prophet was compelled to encounter the aggressors in self-defence. Furthermore, these battles lasted only for half a day, each beginning at noon and ending with the setting of the sun. Thus it would be proper to say that the Prophet in his entire life span had actively engaged in war for a total of a day and a half. That is to say, the Prophet had observed the principle of non-violence throughout his 23-year prophetic career, except for one and a half days.

The Islamic method, being based totally on the principle of non-violence, makes it unlawful for believers to initiate hostilities. Except in cases where self-defence has become inevitable, the Qur’an in no circumstance gives permission for violence.

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There is a common misconception that Islam is a religion of Violence. There is no basis for this in Islam. Islam is a religion of peace.

The very first verse of the Quran reads: In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the most Compassionate. This verse, which is repeated in the Quran 114 times, clearly shows that the God of Islam is the God of Mercy and Compassion, and the book of Islam too is the book of mercy. The people of Islam must also possess the quality of mercy and compassion; otherwise they could not be true believers.

If you go through the Quran you will find that from most verses, either directly or indirectly there emanates the sprit of peace. There is a verse, which says ‘And God calls to the home of peace.’ (10:25) This means that the destination of Islam is peace. All the teachings of Islam are oriented towards the goal of peace.

If you make a detailed study of the Quran you will discover many verses, which deal with the objects and events of the universe, as signs of nature. These verses project the universe as a model of peace and harmony. There are innumerable astronomical bodies in space. All are in motion, but all follow their own orbits without the slightest deviation. Holding up this phenomenon as an ideal, the Quran asks us to follow the same course of peace, that is, to move in one’s own orbit and not trespass (3:83). Thus peaceful living is the religion for both: man and the universe.

Now I would like to present examples from the traditions of the Prophet. Once a man came to the Prophet and asked, “O Prophet, give me a master advice which will enable me to manage all the affairs of my life.” The Prophet told him: “Don’t be angry.”

That is to say, stick to positive behaviour in all situations. In fact, in normal conditions man is governed by his own nature. And nature always takes the course of peace. When people are provoked their nature is upset, and they are derailed into negativity. So the Prophet advised people never to take a negative course of action, and to keep to peaceful and positive behaviour in all situations, even in the face of provocation.

According to another tradition, the Prophet of Islam once observed: Don’t wish for confrontation with your enemy; instead always ask for peace from God.

This means that even when they have enemies. Muslims are not allowed to take the course of confrontation. They must rather seek the way of avoidance. The Quran further states that if you deal with your enemy positively and return good for evil, he will become your closest friend (41:34). These references from the Quran and Sunnah make it clear that peace is the greatest concern of Islam. The Islamic method is a peaceful method. Islamic activism is a peaceful activism.

Why does Islam lay such a great emphasis on peace? Because all the good things which Islam wants to see in human life can be brought about only in peaceful environment. For instance, such constructive activities like spiritual uplift, character building, educational activity, social welfare, worship and prayer — and above all dawah work, can be performed only in peaceful conditions. No peace, no progress; no peace, no development. Peace in Islam is not required for the sake of peace. It is required for the sake of God that is for the sake of a great purpose. It is because no Islamic activity can be carried out except in peaceful conditions. Due to this great importance, the Prophet of Islam always wanted to maintain peace even at the price of unilateral adjustment.

Some people portray the picture of Islam as a religion of violence by using the word Jihad. They say that Jihad in Islam is a holy war. But there is not concept of holy war in Islam. Jihad has nothing to do with war or violence; it actually means a struggle, a peaceful struggle. ‘And make Jihad on them, with the help of the Quran’ (25:52), says the Quran. Nowhere does it say, ‘with the help of the sword’.

Clearly, Jihad is an act to be performed by the power of ideology rather than the power of the sword; it is only another name for peaceful activism along Islamic lines.

The Quran says that on the day of the Judgement, God will say: ‘O peaceful soul, come and enter my paradise’ (89:28). And only those who have followed the path of peace in this world will be allowed an entrance into God’s Paradise.

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Contrary to common belief, Islam is not intolerant to other religions. It teaches its adherents to give mutual respect to, to be tolerant of and to have dialogue with people of other religions.

This can be clearly seen from the following example of the Prophet. When the Prophet reached Medina, it was also inhabited by some idolaters and Jews, who were in a minority. The Prophet decided that some form of law should be established so that there would be no misunderstanding or hostility of any sort, in the future between them and the Muslims. To solve this problem the Prophet of Islam issued a charter, commonly known as the Covenant of Medina. Since the Muslims were in the majority, the Prophet's position became that of a leader, or a head of state. In this capacity, he declared in this charter that all the inhabitants of Medina would enjoy equal rights. Everyone would be free to follow the religion and culture of his or her choice: the affairs of the adherents of each religion would be decided according to their belief.

Here I would like to quote an event in the life of the Prophet of Islam, which illustrates the true spirit of religious tolerance. One day a funeral procession was passing along a street in Medina. The Prophet, who was seated there at the time of its passing, stood up in respect to the deceased person. One of his companions said, ‘O Prophet, it was a funeral procession of a Jew!’ meaning that he should not demonstrate such respect for a non-Muslim. The Prophet replied: ‘Alaisat nafsan’: ‘Was he not a human being?’ This ‘humanitarian’ outlook was typical of the Prophet’s vision of life. He was able to see everyone basically as a human being. In this case, he discovered a commonality between himself and that Jewish person. He felt that just as he was a human being, so also was the Jew a human being. Just as God had created him, so also had God created the Jew. People may have their differences in belief, religion, culture, etc., but a common bond has to be discovered between them, which shows them all to be human beings.

This shows that Islam teaches tolerance and mutual respect. Realizing that religious differences have always existed between people, Islam also teaches us to have open dialogue with people of other religions. That is why inter-religious dialogue has been found in one form or the other since the beginning of Islam. In fact, fourteen hundred years ago, Prophet Mohammad held, what can be said as the first inter-faith dialogue in Medina when a three-religion conference—in modern terminology, a trialogue—to exchange views on religious issues took place between the followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

Such attempts have repeatedly been made in history. The circumstances that unfolded following the Second World War led the Christian Church, in particular, to pay great attention to this matter. Through its continuous efforts dialogues of this nature are regularly being held in various countries, between Muslims and Christians in particular. I too have had the occasion to participate in several of these dialogues. These efforts have borne fruit, at least partially. For instance, it is as a result of these efforts that on the one hand, a Church has appeared once again in Ben Ghazi (Libya) while on the other, a mosque has been built in Rome for the first time in recent history.

If the Qur’an is consulted with this point in view, we find two main principles on which to hold dialogues. One is derived from this verse of the Qur’an:

Say: O People of Book, let us come to a word common to us and you that we will worship none but God (3:64).

The first and foremost principle for any dialogue held to discuss two or more religions is to strive to find a mutual basis for peaceful co-existence.

It is a fact that finding a common ground in secular matters is comparatively easy, for nothing is held as sacred in secularism. On the contrary everything acquires a sacred character in religion. That is why it becomes the most difficult task to find a basis for agreement in religious matters. However, despite all difficulties, we must continue our efforts, peacefully, irrespective of the results.

The second principle given by the Qur’an is purely a matter of pragmatism. That is, matters should be settled on practical grounds by avoiding their theoretical aspects. This principle is derived from this verse of the Qur’an:

To you your religion and to me mine (109:6).

This principle is generally referred to, in today’s context as religious co-existence. This means that whenever common grounds for agreement between two or more parties cannot be arrived at on an ideological basis, then the way of practical co-existence must be adopted.

The Community of Saint Egidio provides a good example of a continuing dialogue of this nature. This promotes interaction on a mass scale between adherents of different religions. In view of its vastness it may be rightly termed a super dialogue. The religious meet held under the auspices of the Community of Saint Egidio on a large scale each year makes a considerable contribution towards the achievement of the goal targeted by inter-religious dialogue.

Here I would like to add another point. We should not judge our efforts in this matter only by the results of meetings held in the name of formally arranged inter-religious dialogue. The truth is that “inter-religious dialogue” is not now limited to specific meetings held in the field of religion. It has rather assumed the form of a vast historical process—spontaneous, ongoing and perhaps never fully recorded. Negotiation in controversial matters is in tune with the spirit of the age. Today, it has permeated all walks of national as well as international life.

Modern industrial revolution and modern communication have added such vast dimensions to human relations that now the entire world has been converted into a global village. People of various persuasions are coming closer, on a universal scale. This interaction serves as an on-going dialogue of an informal nature. In this way with distances narrowed, the confrontational attitude now gives way to compromise.

Interaction in itself is an unproclaimed dialogue. When, as a result of circumstances, interaction between people of different persuasions increases, the purpose of the dialogue is served on its own.

Today, in educational institutions, offices, and factories, in travel, on playgrounds and in national and international activities, adherents of different religious traditions are meeting one another on a scale hitherto unwitnessed.

In the course of this continuous and vast interaction, for the first time in human history, people seem less like strangers to one another. A great gap has been bridged. People are learning one another’s languages. They are becoming familiar with one another’s culture. Making concessions to one another has become a need of the people themselves.

These factors have brought people closer right across the world. And it is a psychological truth that closeness and interaction in themselves serve the purpose of a practical dialogue.

Probably the most signal result of this historical process is that after a long intellectual struggle religious intolerance has been universally rejected. Religious intolerance has now been replaced with complete religious freedom. Today under auspices of the United Nations all the nations of the world have signed the universal declaration of human rights.

In accordance with this declaration religious freedom has been accepted as the natural birthright of all human beings. As opposed to practices in ancient times, no one now enjoys the right to persecute anyone on the basis of religion. This is the change, which has confined the sphere of religious difference to peaceful negotiation.

The effects of this can be seen in all walks of life, whether religious or secular. Every one of us, consciously or unconsciously, plays a part in making religious co-existence a reality.

Interfaith dialogue becoming a part of the historical process holds great promise for us, as in this case its success is assured. This is how every great revolution of history has got under way. Whenever a movement goes beyond the stage of individual or group efforts and joins the historical process itself, then the continuity of that movement is ensured and ultimately nothing can stop it reaching its destination.

In short, inter-religious dialogue had its beginnings in individual interaction, paving the way for discussions held in religious gatherings. Ultimately the time came when it became a part of a world movement. Now, if the course of events is any indication, God willing, that day too will dawn when the world is no more ridden with religious disputes, and we are able to live in a peaceful and harmonious world.

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Contrary to common belief, all non-Muslims are not Kafirs. Kafir literally means a ‘denier’. This term was only used for certain contemporaries of the Prophet.

The word kafir has never been used in the Quran to mean either an unbeliever or an infidel. In fact, this term was applied solely to contemporaries of the Prophet, in particular, to people from the tribe of the Quraysh. The Prophet peacefully conveyed to them the divine message over a long period of time, but they refused to accept the truth of his words. God, therefore, declared those people, the contemporaries of the Prophet as Kafirs. The use of the word kafir for anyone other than the contemporaries of the Prophet is not, therefore, permissible.

The most important thing to be grasped on this subject is that the word kafir denotes an individual rather than a certain race or community. It is in no way a group appellation. However, the generally held view is that those who are not Muslims are kafirs. This is an entirely baseless supposition. The word kafir is not synonymous with non-Muslim. According to Islam, the truth is that those who are not Muslims are simply human beings (insaan). We must look at them from that angle, rather than classify them as kafirs. The right way, according to Islam, is to call each community or group by the name it has adopted for itself. For instance, America will be called America rather than the country of the kafirs and so on.

The Prophet of Islam received prophethood in 610. A.D. At that time all the people, save himself, were non-Muslims. When he addressed them to convey his message, he never said, ‘O Kafirs’, but rather ‘O man’ or ‘O people’ using the plural form. He continued to use this form of address throughout his life. That is, to him, all those who had not entered the fold of Islam were simply human beings.

There are a number of examples in the Quran of references to communities or groups of those times in which the names, they themselves had adopted, were used. Never once was the word Kafir used. Here we give some examples from the sources of Islam.

In the Meccan period, certain verses of the Quran were revealed which mention non-Muslims giving outside Arabia. For instance, at the beginning of Chapter 30, the Quran mentions the Byzantines who had temporarily been conquered by the Persians. The Byzantines at that time were Christians, but the verses do not say “the Byzantine kafirs who have been defeated,” but simply “the Byzantines who have been defeated”. Similarly chapter 105 of the Quran mentions Abraha, the non-Muslim ruler of Yaman, but it does not refer to him as a ‘kafir ruler of Yaman’, but rather as the “man of the elephants”. (Abraha’s soldiers were mounted on elephants when he came to Makkah to attack the Kabah).

There are certain injunctions in the Quran such as: “Fight the leaders of disbelief.” (9:12)

This verse does not mean that you should start fighting whoever appears to you to be a ‘Kafir’. Such a war has never been fought in Islam, nor is it lawful in Islam. It would be sheer madness to take this Quranic verse in any such general sense.

In this verse of the Quran, the word ‘Kufr’ is relates to certain events. That is, the cause of war is not the fact of others being “Kafirs”, but rather to their being aggressors. That is to say that this verse means that those of the deniers, who have waged war with you must certainly be fought, but as a matter of defence. The actual meaning of the verse is clear from the next verse of the Quran itself.

At another place, the Quran has this to say: “Fight in God’s cause against those who fight you, but do not overstep the limits.” (2:190) That is, do not be an aggressor, fight only in defence. There are a number of such verses in the Quran, which show that war in Islam is not against Kafirs per se, but against aggressors. If someone is a ‘Kafir’, Muslims have been commanded to communicate to him the message of truth, peacefully, and as a well-wisher, rather than wage a war against him.

To sum up, according to the Quran, kafirs were solely those of the Prophet’s contemporaries, who were directly called upon to accept the truth by the Prophet himself, and who still did not accept it. Calling anyone else a kafir, besides those particular individuals, is in no way lawful in Islam. Kafir was a term of reference, restricted in place and time, and which is no longer relevant. Now all are equally human beings and they have to be dealt with as human beings.

Similarly, it is also unlawful or haram in Islam to single out some individual or group as unbelievers and then hate them or wage war against them. According to Islam, those who are not Muslims are still human beings. It is the responsibility of Muslims to convey to them the divine message peacefully and affectionately. War in Islam can be waged only against an attacker and nobody else.

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Contrary to the common misconception that Islam denies religious freedom to others, Islam enjoins religious freedom to others.

Religious freedom is the basic human right whose violation has caused conflicts, wars and bloodshed in both ancient and modern societies. The Quran, therefore, has declared for the first time in human history:

‘There shall be no coercion in matters of religion.’ (2:256).

The Quran also states clearly, “To you your religion and to me mine.” (109:6).

The principle that we obtain from the above verses of the Quran is generally referred to, in today’s context, as religious freedom.

In view of this prohibition of coercion (Ikrah), all Islamic jurists (Fuqaha) without any exception hold that forcible conversion is under all circumstances null and void. Any attempt to coerce a non-believer to accept Islam is a grievous sin, (Ahkam al-Quran, al-Jassas). According to this principle of ‘non-coercion’, it is not permissible to exploit or manipulate personal weaknesses or calamities (e.g. poverty, sickness, famine, etc.) for religious conversion. That is why old and downtrodden non-Muslims were exempted from taxes and given all monetary support by the Islamic state without ever being asked to embrace Islam just for the advantages it would give them.

Once a Jewish widow came to the Caliph Umar asking for some financial aid. Umar tried to persuade her to accept Islam. He promised to take care of all her needs if she embraced Islam. But the lady refused. Umar then gave her more than she had asked for. When she departed, Umar raised his hands towards heaven and said:

“O God, bear witness that I have not exercised any coercion on this lady.” (Tarikh Umar ibn Khattab, Ibn al-Jawzi)

The principle of non-coercion mentioned the Quran (2:256) has not been confined to religious freedom alone. Rather, it has been extensively elaborated upon and widely applied to all social, cultural, and political spheres of society. This has led to the development of a new culture in which individuals enjoy freedom of expression, dissent and criticism without any fear or restriction. Two examples may suffice to explain to what extent this essential human right was observed in earlier Muslim societies.

Once Caliph Umar came to a well of the Banu Harithah where he met an outspoken person named Muhammad ibn Maslama. “How do you find me?” he asked Muhammad, “By God, I find you just as I would like you to be and just as it would please any well-wisher to see you. You are good at accumulating money, I see, but you keep your hands clean of it yourself, distributing it equitably to others.” “But,” went on Muhammad ibn Maslama, “If you adopt a crooked course, we will straighten you, just as we straighten swords by placing them in a vice.” At these aggressively critical words, Umar, the second Muslim Caliph, exclaimed:

“Praise be to God, who has put me among a people who will straighten me when I become crooked.” (Kanz al-Ummal)

When Muslims at Madinah, with their increasing affluence, began to settle huge dowers (mahr) on their daughters, Umar, in his capacity as caliph, ordered that no one should demand or pay a dower that exceeded four hundred dirhams, and that anything in excess of this amount would be confiscated and deposited in the public treasury (Baitul-Mal).

After the proclamation of this ordinance, when he came down from the pulpit, an old woman stood up and confidently said:

‘The Quran has set no restrictions on this matter: Umar has no right to set an upper limit to the dowers.”

To back up her contention, she loudly recited this verse of the Quran:

“If you decide to take one wife in place of another, do not take back from her the dower you have given her, even if it be a talent of gold.’ (4:20).

Umar’s immediate reaction on hearing this was to say:

“A woman has quarreled with Umar and has bested him.”

According to another account, Umar said:

“May God, forgive me, everyone knows better than Umar, even this old lady.” (Tirmidhi/Ahmad)

With the advent of Islam in the seventh century, however, it was declared for the benefit of mankind that all greatness was the exclusive prerogative of God, and that in the eyes of God, all human beings were equal. The Prophet Muhammad declared not once, but on many occasions that all were alike, all were brothers.

“The Prophet not only stated the truth but also made it a reality by bringing about a total revolution based on the idea of human equality. On achieving political domination in Arabia, he was able to put this theory into practice in his capacity as ruler of a state. In this way, Islam put an end to discrimination between human beings on the basis of race, colour, status, etc. People were assigned a high or low status according to their moral worth.”

(Islam, the Creator of the Modern Age, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan)

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Contrary to the common perception, monogamy is the rule in Islam and polygamy only an exception.

In terms of the birth rate, men and women are almost equal in number. But subsequently, for a variety of reasons, the number of men in society decreases, leaving an excess of women. Now the question arises as to what should be the solution to this problem. In view of the inevitability of this imbalance, how is a healthy relationship between the sexes to be established? The choice for us, therefore, is not between monogamy and polygamy, but rather, between the lawful polygamy of Islam or the illicit polygamy of non-Islamic peoples.

One of the commandments given in the Qur’an as a matter of social organization concerns polygamy, that is permission for a man to marry up to four women:

If you fear that you cannot treat orphans with fairness, then you may marry such women (widowed) as seem good to you: two, three or four of them. But if you fear that you cannot do justice, marry one only. – Al Qur’an, 4:3

This verse was revealed after the Battle of Uhud (Shawwal 3 A.H.) in which seventy Muslims were martyred. Suddenly, seventy homes in Medina were bereft of all male members, and the question arose as to how all these widows and orphans were to be cared for. This was an acute social problem. It was solved by the revelation of this verse asking the people who could afford it to take care of the orphans, by marrying the widows and keeping their orphaned children under their guardianship.

The background and wording of this verse appear to express a commandment that should be only temporary in effect. That is to say that it applied only to a particular state of emergency when, due to loss of men in battle, the number of women exceeded the number of available men. But the Qur’an, despite its having been revealed at a particular time and place, is universal in its application. One of the great characteristics of the Qur’an is that it describes eternal realities, with reference to temporal issues, this commandment being typical of this special quality of the Qur’an.

One point greatly in need of clarification is the fact that in the matter of marrying more than one woman, the initiative does not lie solely with any individual man. There is always the condition-an inescapable one—that whatever the society, the women should outnumber the men. Suppose the earth were inhabited by one billion people out of which 500 million were men and 500 million were women. It would not then be possible in such a situation for a man to have more than one wife. A second, third or fourth wife would be obtained only by force. But in Islam, a forced marriage is not considered lawful. According to the shari‘ah the willingness of the bride-to-be is a compulsory condition.

Looked at from a practical angle, the above commandment of the Qur’an can be complied with only if that particular situation exists in society that existed in Medina after the Battle of Uhud ¬that is; there is a disproportion in the ratio of men and women. In the absence of such a situation, this commandment of the Qur’an would be inapplicable. But studies of human society and its history have shown that the situation in ancient Medina was not one that existed only at a particular point in time. It is a situation that had almost always been prevalent throughout the entire world. That situation of emergency is, in fact, the general situation of mankind. This commandment is yet another proof of God’s omniscience. His commandment, seemingly elicited by an emergency, became an eternal commandment for the whole of our world.

The Inequality in Numbers

Records show that male and female births are almost equal in number. But a study of mortality shows that the rate is higher for men than for women. This disparity is in evidence from early childhood to extreme old age. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“In general, the risk of death at any given age is less for females than for males.” Encyclopedia Britannica (1984), vol. 7, p. 37.

The proportionately higher numbers of women in society can be traced to a variety of causes. For instance, when war breaks out, the majority of the casualties are men. In the First World War (1914¬-18) about 8 million soldiers were killed. Most of the civilians killed were also men. In the Second World War (1939-45) about 60 million people were either killed or maimed for life, most of them men. In the Iraq-Iran war alone (1979-1988), 82,000 Iranian women and about 100,000 Iraqi women were widowed. All in the space of ten years.

Another drain on the availability of men in society is imprisonment. In the U.S., the most civilized society of modem times, no less than 1,300,000 people are convicted daily for one crime or another. A number of them-97% of whom are men-are obliged to serve lengthy prison sentences.

Encyclopedia Britannica (1984), vol. 14, p. 1102.

The modem industrial system too is responsible for the lower proportion of men in society, death by accident having become a matter of daily routine in present times. There is no country in which accidents do not take place every day on the streets, in the factories and wherever sophisticated, heavy machinery is handled by human beings. In this modem industrial age, such accidents are so much on the increase that a whole new discipline has come into being-safety engineering. According to data collected in 1967, in that year a total of 175,000 people died as the result of accidents in fifty different countries. Most of these were men. Encyclopedia Britannica (1984), vol. 16, p. 137.

In spite of safety engineering, casualties from industrial accidents have increased. For instance, the number of air accidents in 1988 was higher than ever before. Similarly, experimentation in arsenals continues to kill people in all industrialized countries, but the death toll is never made public. Here again, it is men who have the highest casualty rate.

For reasons of this nature, women continue to outnumber men. This difference persists in even the most developed societies, e.g. in America. According to data collected in 1967, there were nearly 7,100,000 more women than men. This means that even if every single man in America got married, 7,100,000 women would be left without husbands.

We give below the data of several western countries to show the ratio of men to women. Figures taken from Encyclopedia Britannica (1984).

Country                       Male                         Female

Austria                       47.7%                       52.93%

Bunna                        48.81                        51.19

Germany                    48.02                        51.89

France                        48.99                        51.01

Italy                             48.89                        51.01

Poland                        48.61                       51.30

Spain                          48.94                        51.06

Switzerland                48.67                        51.33

Soviet Union              46.59                        53.03

United States            48.58                        51.42

The Willingness of Women

This willingness on the woman’s part is a must before a marriage can be lawful in Islam. It is unlawful to marry a woman by force. There is no example in the history of Islam where a man has been allowed to force a woman into marriage.

The Prophet Muhammad’s own view that “an unmarried girl should not be married until her permission has been taken” AI-Bukhari, Sahih, Bab la Yunkihu al-Ab wa Ghairuhu al-Bikra wath-Thayyiba ilia bi Ridaha (Fath al-Bari, 9/157)

The above had been recorded by both Bukhari and Muslim. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, one of the Prophet’s Companions and a commentator on the Qur’an, narrates the story of a girl who came to the Prophet complaining that her father had her married off against her wishes. The Prophet gave her the choice of either remaining within the bonds of wedlock or of freeing herself from them. Abu Dawud, Sunan, Kitab an-Nikah, 2/232

Another such incident narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas concerns a woman called Burairah and her husband, Mughith, who was a black slave. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas tells the story as if it were all happening before his very eyes: “Mughith is following Burairah through the paths of Medina. He is crying and his tears are running down his beard. Seeing him, the Prophet said to me, ‘O ‘Abbas, are you not surprised at Mughith’s love for Burairah and Burairah’s hate for Mughith?’ Then the Prophet said to Burairah, ‘I wish you would take him back.’ Burairah said to the Prophet, ‘Is that a command?’ The Prophet replied, ‘No, it is only a recommendation.’ Then Burairah said, ‘I don’t need your recommendation.”’ Ad-Darimi, Sunan, Kitab an-Ni/wh, 2/170

There was an interesting case of polygamy which took place during the Caliphate of ‘Umar ibn al¬ Khattab. A certain widow, Umm Aban bint ‘Utbah had four suitors for marriage. All four-’Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Ali ibn abi Talib, Zubayr and Talhah¬ were already married. Umm Aban accepted the proposal of marriage made by Talhah and, of course, refused the other three, whereupon she was married to Talhah. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, 7/15’3

This happened in Medina, the capital of the Islamic State. Among the rejected suitors was the reigning Caliph. But no one expressed even surprise or dismay, the reason being that in Islam, a woman is completely free to make her own decisions. This is a right that no one can take away from her-not even the ruler of the day.

These incidents show that the Islamic commandments giving permission to marry up to four women does not mean having the right to seize four women and shut them up inside one’s home. Marriage is a matter of mutual consent. Only that woman can be made a second or a third wife who is willing to be so. And when this matter rests wholly on the willingness of the woman, there is no cause for objection.

The present age gives great importance to freedom of choice. This value is fully supported by Islamic law. On the other hand, the upholders of “feminism” want to turn freedom of choice into restriction of choice.

The Solution to a Problem rather than a Commandment

The above discussion makes it clear that the difference in number of men and women is a permanent problem existing in both war and peace. Now the question arises as to how to solve this problem. What should those women do to satisfy their natural urges when they have failed to find a husband in a monogamous society? And how are they to secure an honorable life in that society?

One way - hallowed in Indian tradition – is for widows to burn themselves to death, so that neither they nor their problems survive. The alternative is to allow themselves to be turned out of their homes on to the streets. The state of Hindu society resulting from adherence to this principle can be judged from a detailed report published in India Today (India Today (New Delhi), November 15, 1987) entitled “Widows: Wrecks of Humanity.”

Now there is no need to discuss this further, because it is inconceivable that in present times any sensible person would advocate this as a solution.

The other possible ‘solution’ to be found in the ‘civilized’ society of the West is the conversion of unwillingness to become a second wife into willingness to become a mistress, often of more than one man.

During the Second World War, in which several western countries such as Germany, France, Britain, etc. took part, a large number of men were killed. As a result, women far outnumbered men at the end of the hostilities. Permissiveness then became the order of the day, to the extent that boards with such inscriptions as “Wanted: A Guest for the Evening” could be seen outside the homes of husbandless women. This state of affairs persisted in western countries in various forms, even long after the war, and is now largely prevalent because of industrial and mechanical accidents.

Unlawful Polygamy

People who would outlaw polygamy have to pay the price. That is, they are forced to tolerate men and women having illicit relations, which is surely a much more unsavory state of affairs. Failure to control a natural process whereby the male population dwindles, leaving “surplus” women, coupled with the outlawing of polygamy, has given rise to the evil of the “mistress” (defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a woman who has sexual intercourse with and, often, is supported by a man for a more or less extended period of time without being married to him; paramour”). This, in effect, sets up a system of illegal polygamy.

The system of keeping a mistress is prevalent in all those countries, including India, where there are legal constraints on polygamy or where polygamy is looked down upon socially. In such a situation, the real problem is not whether or not to adopt polygamy. The real problem is whether or not to legalize its adoption. The problem of surplus women in society can be solved only by polygamy, whether we choose to consider it legal or not.

The Islamic Way

This principle of polygamy, as enshrined in the Islamic Shariah is designed, in actual fact, to save women from the ignoble consequences mentioned above. If the commandment to practice polygamy is seen in the abstract, it would appear to be biased in favor of men. But when placed in the context of social organization, it is actually in favor of women. Polygamy is both a proper and a natural solution to women’s problems.

The permission to practice polygamy in Islam was not given in order to enable men to satisfy their sexual urges. It was designed as a practical strategy to solve a particular problem. Marrying more than one woman is possible only when there are more women than men. Failing this, it is out of the question. Is it conceivable that Islam, just to satisfy man’s desires, would give us a commandment that is neither possible nor practical?

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1984) aptly concludes that one reason for adopting polygamy is the surplus of women. Among most peoples who permit or prefer it, the large majority of men live in a state of monogamy because of the limited number of women. Encyclopedia Britannica (1984),8/97

The choice for us, therefore, is not between monogamy and polygamy, but rather between the lawful polygamy of Islam and the illicit polygamy of non-Islamic peoples. The latter system leaves “surplus” women to lead lives of sexual anarchy and social destruction. The former, on the other hand, permits them to opt on their own free will for marriage with anyone who can give fair treatment to more than one wife.

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There is a common misconception that a man can say Talaq, Talaq, Talaq to his wife in a row and it will lead to Talaq. This is totally an unIslamic practice.

While marriage is the rule of life, and divorce only an exception, the latter must also be accepted as a reality. Indeed there already exist commandments to deal, accordingly, with such cases in both divine and human laws.

The only true, authentic representation of divine law now exists in the form of the Qur’an, it having been preserved in its entirety by God and free, therefore, from all human interpolations. In the Qur’an, and in the Hadith, there are various commandments regarding divorce, the main point being that divorce should be sought only under unavoidable circumstances. The Prophet spoke of it as being the most hateful of all the lawful things in the eyes of God, and said that when it does take place, it should be done in an atmosphere of good will. In no way should one harbor ill will against the other. Abu Dawud, Sunan, Kitab at-Talaq, 2/255

Just think of couples wasting away the whole of their lives in mental torment only because the conditions of separation and its consequences are hard to meet. It is as unnatural as anything can be.

Islam is a natural religion. Such a situation has not developed in Muslim communities because Islamic law on marriage and divorce provides for all, or almost all, eventualities. For example, when a woman wishes to divorce her husband, she has to put her case before a religious scholar, or a body of religious scholars. They then give consideration to her circumstances in the light of the Qur’an and the Hadith, and, if they find that there are reasonable grounds for separation, they decide in her favor. The reason that the woman must have scholars to act on her behalf is that women are more emotional than men-as has been proved by scientific research-and it is to prevent hasty and ill-considered divorces taking place that she is thus advised. If we seldom hear of Muslim women committing suicide, or being murdered by their in-laws, it is because they have the alterative - separation.

Separation, of course, is strongly advised against in the case of minor provocations. Are we not commanded by God to be tolerant and forgiving? It is meant only as a last resort, when it has become truly unavoidable.

Islamic law is thus fair to both husband and wife, unlike occidental law, which places an undue burden on the man, while Hindu society forces the woman into familial rejection, destitution and social ostracism.

Divorce in Islam

Nature demands that men and women lead their lives together. The ideal way of leading such a life is, according to the shari‘ah, within the bonds of marriage. In Islam, marriage is both a civil contract entered into by mutual consent of the bride and groom, and a highly sacred bond to which great religious and social importance is attached.

However, in the knowledge that an excess of legal constraints can lead to rebellion, such injunctions have been kept to a realistic minimum and have been formulated to be consistent with normal human capabilities. Moreover, their enforcement is less relied upon than the religious conditioning of the individual to ensure the maintenance of high ethical standards and appropriate conduct in marital affairs and family life.

The state of marriage not only lays the foundations for family life, but also provides a training ground for individuals to make a positive adjustment to society. When a man and woman prove to be a good husband and a good wife, they will certainly prove to be good citizens in the broad spectrum of their social group. This has been aptly expressed in a Hadith: “The best of you is one who is best for his family.” Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab an-Nikah, 1/636

The family being the preliminary unit for the training of human beings, its disintegration has an injurious effect on the society to which those human beings must individually make a positive contribution, if collectively they are to form a good and just nation. If the family no longer exists, it is the whole of humanity, which suffers.

Once a man and a woman are tied together in the bonds of matrimony, they are expected to do their utmost, till the day they die to honor and uphold what the Qur’an calls their firm contract, or pledge. (Qur’an, 4:21) To this end, the full thrust of the Shariah is leveled at preventing the occurrence of divorce; the laws it lays down in this regard exist primarily, therefore, as checks, not incentives.

Islam regards marriage as an extremely desirable institution, hence its conception of marriage as the rule of life, and divorce only as an exception to that rule. According to a Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad said, “Marriage is one of my Sunnah (way). One who does not follow it does not belong to me.” Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab an-Nikah.

When a mail and a woman live together as husband and wife, it is but natural that they should have their differences, it being a biological and psychological fact that each man and each woman born into this world are by their very nature quite different from each other. That is why the sole method of having unity in this world is to live unitedly in spite of differences. This can be achieved only through patience and tolerance; virtues advocated by the Prophet not only in a general sense, but, more importantly, in the particular context of married life. Without these qualities, there can be no stability in the bond of marriage. According to Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet said, “No believing man should bear any grudge against a believing woman. If one of her ways is not to his liking, there must be many things about her that would please him. “Muslim, Sahih, Kitab ar-Rada’, 2/1091

It is an accepted fact that everyone has his strengths and his weaknesses, his plus points and his minus points. This is equally true of husbands and wives. In the marital situation, the best policy is for each partner to concentrate on the plus points of the other, while ignoring the minus points. If a husband and wife can see the value of this maxim and consciously adopt it as the main guiding principle in their lives, they will have a far better chance of their marriage remaining stable.

However, it sometimes happens, with or without reason, that unpleasantness crops up, and goes on increasing between husband and wife, with no apparent indication of their being able to smooth things out by themselves. Their thinking about each other in a way that is conditioned by their maladjustment prevents them from arriving at a just settlement of their differences, based on facts rather than on opinions. In such a case, the best strategy according to the Qur’an is to introduce a third party who will act as an arbiter. Not having any previous association with the matters under dispute, he will remain dispassionate and will be able to arrive at an objective decision acceptable to both parties.

For any arbiter to be successful, however, the husband and wife must also adopt the correct attitude. Here is an incident from the period of the four pious Caliphs, which will illustrate this point.

When ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib reigned as fourth Caliph, a married couple complaining of marital discord came to him to request a settlement. In the light of the above-mentioned Qur’anic guidance ‘Ali ordered that a board of arbiters, one from the husband’s family and one from the wife’s family, be set up, which should make proper enquiries into the circumstances and then give its verdict. This verdict was to be accepted without argument by both sides.

As recorded in the book, Jami’ al-Bayan, by at-Tabari, the woman said that she gave her consent, on the book of God, whether the verdict was for or against her. But the man protested that he would not accept the verdict if it was for separation. ‘Ali said, “What you say is improper. By God, you cannot move from here until you have shown your willingness to accept the verdict of the arbiters in the same spirit as the woman has shown.”

This makes it clear that a true believer should wholeheartedly accept the arbiters and their verdict in accordance with the Qur’anic injunctions. Once their verdict is given, there should be no further dispute.

Two Ways of Divorcing

However, it has to be conceded that life does not always function smoothly, like a machine. Despite all safeguards, it sometimes does happen that a couple reaches a stage of such desperation that they become intent on separation. Here the Shariah gives them guidance in that it prescribes a specific method for separation. The Qur’an expresses it thus: “Divorce may be pronounced twice, then a woman must be retained in honor or allowed to go with kindness.” Qur’an, 2:229

This verse has been interpreted to mean that a man who has twice given notice of divorce over a period of two months should remember God before giving notice a third time. Then he should either keep his spouse with him in a spirit of goodwill, or he should release her without doing her any injustice.

This method of divorce prescribed by the Qur’an, i.e. taking three months to finalize it, makes it impossible for a man seeking divorce suddenly to cast his wife aside. Once he has said to his wife (who should not at this time be menstruating), “I divorce you,” both are expected to think the situation over for a whole month. If the man has a change of opinion during this period, he can withdraw his words. If not, he will again say, “I divorce you,” (again his wife should be in a state of “purity”) and they must again review the situation for a further month. Even at this stage, the husband has the right to revoke the proceedings if he has had a change of heart. If, however, in the third month, he says,“I divorce you,” the divorce becomes final and the man ceases to have any right to revoke it. Now he is obliged to part with his wife in a spirit of good will, and give her full rights.

This prescribed method of divorce has ensured that it is a well-considered, planned arrangement and not just a rash step taken in a fit of emotion. When we remember that in most cases, divorce is the result of a fit of anger, we realize that the prescribed method places a tremendous curb on divorce. It takes into account the fact that anger never lasts -- tempers necessarily cool down after some time-¬and that those who feel like divorcing their wives in a fit of anger will certainly repent their emotional outburst and will wish to withdraw from the position it has put them in. It also takes into account the fact that divorce is a not a simple matter: it amounts to the breaking up of the home and destroying the children’s future. It is only when tempers have cooled down that the dire consequences of divorce are realized, and the necessity to revoke the decision becomes clear.

When a man marries a woman, he has to say only once that he accepts her as his spouse. But for divorce, the Qur’an enjoins a three-month period for it to be formalized. That is, for marriage, one utterance is enough, but for a divorce to be finalized, three utterances are required, between which a long gap has been prescribed by the shari‘ah. The purpose of this gap is to give the husband sufficient time to revise his decision, and to consult the well-wishers around him. It also allows time for relatives to intervene in the hopes of persuading both husband and wife to avoid a divorce. Without this gap, none of these things could be achieved. That is why divorce proceedings have to be spread out over a long period of time.

All these preventive measures clearly allow frayed tempers to cool, so that the divorce proceedings need not reach a stage that is irreversible. Divorce, after all, has no saving graces, particularly in respect of its consequences. It simply amounts to ridding oneself of one set of problems only to become embroiled in another set of problems.

Despite all such preventive measures, it does sometimes happen that a man acts in ignorance, or is rendered incapable of thinking coolly by a fit of anger. Then on a single occasion, in a burst of temper, he utters the word “divorce” three times in a row, “talaq, talaq, talaq!” Such incidents, which took place in the Prophet’s lifetime, still take place even today. Now the question arises as to how the would-be divorcer should be treated. Should his three utterances of talaq be treated as only one, and should he then be asked to extend his decision over a three-month period? Or should his three utterances of talaq on a single occasion be equated with the three utterances of talaq made separately over a three-month period? There is a Hadith recorded by Imam Abu Dawud and several other traditionists which can give us guidance in this matter: Rukana ibn Abu Yazid said “talaq” to his wife three times on a single occasion. Then he was extremely sad at the step he had taken. The Prophet asked him exactly how he had divorced her. He replied that he had said “talaq” to her three times in a row. The Prophet then observed, “All three count as only one. If you want, you may revoke it.” Fath al-Bari, 9/275

A man may say “talaq” to his wife three times in a row, in contravention of the shari‘ah’s prescribed method, thereby committing a sin, but if he was known to be in an emotionally overwrought state at the time his act may be considered a mere absurdity arising from human weakness. His three utterances of the word talaq may be taken as an expression of the intensity of his emotions and thus the equivalent of only one such utterance. He is likely to be told that, having transgressed a shari‘ah law, he must seek God’s forgiveness, must regard his three utterances as only one, and must take a full three months to arrive at his final decision.

In the first phase of Islam, however, a different view of divorce was taken by the second Caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. An incident that illustrates his viewpoint was thus described by Imam Muslim.

In the Prophet’s lifetime, then under the Caliphate of Abu Bakr and also during the early period of the Caliphate of ‘Umar, three utterances of talaq on one occasion used to be taken together as only one utterance. Then it occurred to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab that in spite of the fact that a system had been laid down which permitted the husband to withdraw his first, or even second talaq, men still wanted to rush into divorce. He felt that if they were bent on being hasty, why should not a rule be imposed on them binding them to a final divorce on the utterance of talaq three times in a row. And he proceeded to impose such a rule.

This act on the part of the second Caliph, apparently against the principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah, did not in any way change the law of the shari‘ah. To think that this led to any revision of Islamic law would be to misunderstand the situation: the Caliph’s order merely constituted an exception to the rule, and was, moreover, of a temporary nature. This aptly demonstrates how the Islamic shari‘ah may make concessions in accordance with circumstances.

Each law of the shari‘ah may be eternal, but a Muslim ruler has the power to make exceptions in the case of certain individuals in special sets of circumstances. However, such a ruling will not take on the aspect of an eternal law. It will be purely temporary in nature and duration.

It is a matter of Islamic historical record that when any such person was brought before ‘Umar for having uttered the word talaq three times on one occasion, he held this to be rebellious conduct and would order him to be flogged on the back. Fath al-Bari, 9/275

Perhaps the most important aspect of this matter is that when ‘Umar gave his exceptional verdict on divorce being final after the third utterance on a single occasion of the word talaq, his position was not that of a powerless ‘alim (scholar) but of a ruler invested with the full power to punish-as a preventive measure-anyone who went against Qur’anic injunctions. This was to discourage haste in divorce. By accepting a man’s three talaqs on the one occasion as final and irrevocable, he caused him to forfeit his right to revoke his initial decision, thus leaving him with no option but to proceed with the divorce.

On the other hand, the Caliph had it in his power to fully compensate any woman affected by this ruling. For instance, he was in a position to guarantee her an honorable life in society and if, due to being divorced, she was in need of financial assistance, he could provide her with continuing maintenance from the government exchequer, baitul mal, etc.

Today, anyone who cites ‘Umar’s ruling as a precedent in order to justify the finality of a divorce based on three utterances of the word talaq on a single occasion should remember that his verdict will remain. Unenforceable for the simple reason that he does not have the powers that ‘Umar, as Caliph, possessed. ‘Umar’s verdict was that of a powerful ruler of the time and not just that of a common man. It is necessary at this point to clear certain misunderstandings which have arisen about the extent of agreement which existed on ‘Umar’s ruling. Of all the Prophet’s Companions who were present at Medina at that time, perhaps the only one to disagree was ‘Ali. As a result of this, certain ‘ulama have come to the conclusion that the Prophet’s followers (Sahabah) had reached a consensus (‘ijma) on this matter. Rawai’ ai-Boyan, 1/334

But the consensus reached was not on the general issue of divorce, but on the right of Muslim rulers to make temporary and exceptional rulings, as had been done by ‘Umar. It is obvious that the Companions of the Prophet could never have agreed to annul a Qur’anic injunction or to modify for all time to come a prescribed system of divorce. All that was agreed upon was that exceptional circumstances warranted exceptional rulings on the part of the Caliph. He was entitled to punish in any manner he thought fitting, anyone who digressed from the shari‘ah. This right possessed by the ruler of the time is clearly established in the shari‘ah. Many other instances, not necessarily relating to personal disputes, can be cited of his exercise of this right.

The Meaning of Provision

In Islamic jurisprudence, the material arrangements that a man makes for his divorced spouse are termed “divorce provision.” There is a consensus among Muslim scholars that this provision in no way means life-long maintenance, there being absolutely no basis for this in the divine scriptures. The concept of maintenance for life is, in fact, a product of modem civilization. It was never at any time enshrined in divine laws, either in Islam, Judaism or Christianity. In material terms ‘provision’ simply takes the form of a gift handed over by the man on parting, so that the woman’s immediate needs may be catered for, and in all cases, this is quite commensurate with his means.

But the Qur’an makes it explicit that the parting must above all be humane and that justice must be done: “Provide for them with fairness; the rich man according to his means, and the poor according to his. This is binding on righteous men. Do not forget to show kindness to each other... reasonable provision should also be made for divorced women. That is incumbent on righteous men.” Qur’an, 2:236.

When divorce takes place before the settling of the dowry and the consummation of the marriage, even then the man must give the woman money or goods as a gesture of goodwill. In this instance the question of his repaying dowry money does not arise. The Qur’an is also quite explicit on this,

“Believers, if you marry believing women and divorce them before the marriage is consummated, you have no right to require them to observe a waiting period. Provide well for them and release them honorably.” - Qur’an, 33:49.

This “waiting period” (iddah) actually applies to a woman who has been married for some time and who may, subsequent to the divorce, discover that she is pregnant. This statutory waiting period of three months makes her position clear and then the man is required to pay her additional compensation if she is expecting his child. But again there is no question of maintenance for life, for the Qur’an seeks a natural solution to all human problems. It would, therefore, be wholly against the spirit of the Qur’an for a woman to be entitled to life maintenance from the very man with whom she could not co¬exist. Such a ruling would surely have created a negative mentality in society. The Qur’an again has the answer: “If they separate, God will compensate each of them out of His own abundance: He is Munificent, Wise.’’ - Qur’an, 4:130

The munificence of God refers to the vast provision that God has made for his servants in this world.

In various ways God helps such distressed people. For example, when a woman is divorced, it is but natural that the sympathy of all her blood relations should be aroused. And, as a result, without any pressure being put on them, they are willing to help and look after her. Besides, a new will power is awakened in such a woman and she sets about exploiting her hidden potentialities, thus solving her problems independently. Furthermore, previous experiences having left her wiser and more careful, she feels better equipped to enter into another marital relationship with more success.

After Divorce

The question that arises immediately after divorce is of ways and means to meet one’s necessary expenses. . One’s answer is to resort to the Islamic law of inheritance. If women were to be given their due share according to Islamic law, there would be no question of a woman becoming destitute. But, sad to say, the majority of Muslim women fail to get their due share of inheritance from their deceased fathers and husbands as stipulated by Islamic law. If they could do so, this would be more than enough to meet such emergencies.

However, Islam has not just left women’s financial problems to the vagaries of inheritance, because parents are not invariably in possession of property that can be divided among their children. Further arrangements have been made under the maintenance law, but this has no connection with the law of divorce. The answer to this question must be sought therefore in the Islamic law of maintenance. Here we shall briefly describe some of its aspects:

1. In case the divorced woman is childless or the children are not earning, according to Islamic law, the responsibility for her maintenance falls on her father. That is, her situation will be the same as it was before marriage.

To quote from Path al-Qadir (A standard book on Islamic Law):

The Father is responsible for bearing the expenses of his daughter till her marriage, in the event of her having no money. The father has no right to force her to earn, even if she is able to. When the girl is divorced and the period of confinement is over, her father shall again have to bear her expenses.

2. If the divorced woman has a son who is an earning member of the family, the responsibility for her maintenance falls entirely upon him.

All that rightfully belongs to a wife will be the duty of the son to provide, that is, food, drink, clothes, house and even servants, if possible. Ibn ‘Abidin, Ramal-Mukhtar ‘ala ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, 2/733

3. In the case of the father being deceased, and where even her children are unable to earn, her nearest relatives such as brothers or uncles are responsible for her upkeep. In the absence of even this third form, the Islamic shari‘ah holds the State Treasury (baitul mal) responsible for bearing her expenses. She will be entitled to receive the money for her necessities.

Because of the number of provisions made under Islamic law for women it has never been the case in Islamic history that Muslim divorced women have been cast adrift, helpless, with no one to look after them.

Indian columnist, Khushwant Singh has remarked that we do not hear of Muslim women committing suicide or being tortured like Hindu women, which is a proof that Islam has already given them adequate liberty and has- made enough provision for them to be supported in times of emergencies.

A new dimension has been added to the issue since the women of this day and age can leave their homes to work, and are therefore not as entirely dependent on men as they used to be in the past: there is no need then to make laws which provide for them at the expense of their men folk. When they are earning like men, what is the point in making such a law? Only in exceptional cases, surely, do they need to be looked after, and ways and means of doing so can generally be worked out quite satisfactorily on a personal level.

Notes

1.  Encyclopaedia Britannica (1984), vol. 7, pp. 163Q64.

2.  Ibid.

3.  Ibid.

4.  Bertrand Russell, Autobiography, (London, 1978), pp. 563-564.

5.  The Hindustan Times, (New Delhi), October 12, 1985.

6.  Abu Dawud, Sunan, Kitab at-Talaq, 2/255.

7.  Qur’an, 2:236.

8.  Qur’an, 33:49.

9.  Qur’an, 4:130.

10.  Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab an-Nikah, 1/636.

11.  Qur’an, 4:21.

12.  Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab an-Nikah.

13.  Abu Dawud, Sunan, Kitab at-Talaq, 2/255.

14.  Muslim, Sahih, Kitab ar-Rada’, 2/1091.

15.  Qur’an, 2:229.

16.  Fath al-Bari, 9/275.

17.  Fath al-Bari, 9/275.

18.  Rawai’ ai-Boyan, 1/334.

19.  A standard book on Islamic Law.

20.  AI-Shaokani, Fath al Qadir, 3/344.

21.  Ibn ‘Abidin, Ram al-Mukhtar ‘ala ad-Durr al-Mukhtar, 2/733.

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God is One, Eternal and Absolute. He is everything, everything is from Him. God, the Creator of all things is the Sustainer of the Universe.

God: there is no god but Him, the Living, the Eternal One. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is what the heavens and the earth contain. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows all about the affairs of men at present and in the future. They can grasp only that part of His knowledge, which He wills. His throne is as vast as the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Exalted, the Immense One. (2:255)

Say: ‘God is One, the Eternal God. He begot none, nor was He begotten. None is equal to Him.’ (112: 1-4)

Chapter 112 of the Qur’an, entitled Ikhlas, gives us the essence of monotheism. Not only does it tell us of the oneness of God, but it also makes it clear what the oneness of God means. This chapter presents the concept of God, purified of all human interpolation, for, prior to the advent of Islam, tampering with the sacred text had caused this concept of God to be distorted for all would-be believers. God is not many. He is only one. All depend upon him. He depends on none. He, in his own being, is all-powerful. He is above to beget or begotten. He is such a unique being who has no equal or compeer. All kind of oneness belongs to this Almighty Being. The concept of One God is the actual beginning point and also the only source of Islamic teachings.

Of the many beings created by God, the angels are of special importance. They have been invested by God with the supernatu¬ral power to keep order in the functioning of the universe. They do not, however, deviate in the slightest from the path of God, for all their functioning is in complete obedience to His will.

Diverse and numerous events are taking place at every moment in the universe, for instance, the movement of the stars, the shining of the sun and moon, the falling of the rain, the alternation of the seasons, and so on. All of these, and many other continually recurring events are attended to by the angels. Working in the universe as extremely faithful and obedient servants of God, they ensure the continued existence of the human and animal species on earth.

As well as running the world’s systems, these angels, a numerous band, take charge of all matters in heaven and hell.

The role of the angels can be understood by the example of a large factory. In any such factory, there are many big and complex machines, which produce the goods for which the factory has been established. But these machines do not run on their own. To facilitate their smooth running many human hands are required. Therefore, in every factory there are always a number of people whose duty it is to attend constantly to their proper and efficient functioning. Similarly, countless angels are appointed to ensure the proper functioning of the great factory of the universe.

The difference between the two factories is only that in the material one, the human hands are visible, while in the metaphorical one—the great mechanism of the universe—the angels remain invisible to the naked eye.

Man may not be able to see the angels, but the angels can certainly see man, and keep a watch on him on behalf of God. It is these very angels who take man’s soul away after death.

A prophet is a person chosen by God as His representative. When God appoints someone as His Messenger, He sends His angel to him to inform him of his new status. In that way, the individual can have no doubts about his appointment as God’s apostle. Later, God reveals His message to him through His angels, so that he may communicate the divine teachings to all his fellow men.

God has given man a mind so that he may be endowed with understanding. But this mind can only grasp things that are apparent. It cannot go below the surface, and there are many things to be apprehended, for which a superficial knowledge is insufficient. The deeper realities of this world are beyond the scope of the human mind, and so far as God and the next world are concerned, they must remain forever invisible-beyond the reach of human perception.

What the prophet does is to enlighten people so that they may overcome this human inadequacy. He tells of the reality of things here and how, and also gives tidings of the next world. He thereby enables the individual to formulate a plan for his entire existence in the full light of knowledge and awareness so that he may carve out a successful life for himself.

Since the settlement of human beings on earth, the prophets have been coming one after another. In every age they have been the conveyors of God’s messages to human beings. However, whatever records of these ancient prophets have survived have been rendered historically unreliable by interpolations. The same is true of the books they brought to mankind. The sole exception was the case of the Prophet Muhammad, who had been chosen by God as His Final Messenger. The Prophet was born in an age when the history of the world was already being extensively chronicled. This in itself made circumstances conducive to authentic records being kept of God’s messages and the Prophet’s exemplary life. The relevant facts were passed on from one generation to the next by both oral and written tradition, and with the advent of the printing press came the modern guarantee that no changes would ever be made in the divine scriptures. This renders unassailable the position of the Prophet Muhammad as God’s Final Messenger and His sole representative on earth till Doomsday.

The Qur’an, the Book of God, enshrines the teachings which were basically the same as were to be found in previous revealed scriptures. But these ancient scriptures are no longer preserved in their original state. Later additions and deletions have rendered them unreliable, whereas the Qur’an, preserved in its original state, is totally reliable.

The Qur’an has 114 chapters. Its contents in a nutshell are: belief in one God, and considering oneself answerable to Him; firm belief that the guidance sent by God through the Prophet Muhammad is the truth and that man’s eternal salvation rests thereon.

The position of the Qur’an is not just that it is one of the many revealed scriptures but that it is the only authentic heavenly book, as all other books, due to human additions and deletions, have been rendered historically unreliable. When a believer in the previous revealed scripture turns to the Qur’an, it does not mean that he is rejecting his own belief, but rather amounts to his having re-discovered his own faith in an authentic form.

The Qur’an is a sacred book sent by the Lord of all creation. It is a book for all human beings, because it has been sent by that Divine Being who is the God of all of us.

The Qur’an is no new heavenly scripture. It is only an authentic edition of the previous heavenly scriptures. In this respect, the Qur’an is a book for all human beings, of all nations. It is the expression of God’s mercy for one and for all. It is a complete message sent by God for every one of us. The Qur’an is a light of guidance for all the world just as the sun is the source of light and heat for all the world.

Islam means submission. The religion of Islam is so named because it is based on obedience to God. A true believer in Islam is one who subordinates his thinking to God, who follows God’s dictates in all aspects of his life.

Islam is the religion of the entire universe. For the entire universe and all its parts are functioning in accordance with the law laid down by God.

Such behaviour is also desired of man. Man should also lead his life as God’s obedient servant just as the rest of the universe is fully subservient to God. The only difference is that the universe has submitted to God compulsorily, while man is required to submit to the will of God by his own choice.

When man adopts Islam, first of all it is his thinking, which comes under Islam, then his desires, his feelings, his interests, his relations, his loves and his hatred. All are coloured by his obedience to God’s will.

When man, in his daily life comes under God’s command, his behaviour with people, his dealings all are molded by the demands of Islam. From inside to outside he becomes a person devoted to God.

Man is God’s servant, and indeed, the only proper way for man in this world is to live as the servant of God. Islam, in fact, is another name for this life of servitude to God. Where the Islamic life is devoted to the service of God, the un-Islamic life unashamedly flouts the will of God. Islam teaches man to lead an obedient life and surrender himself completely to the will of God. It is people who do so who will share God’s blessings in the next world.

Man is an eternal creature. However, his life-span has been divided by God into two parts. A very tiny part of it has been placed in this world, while all of the remainder has been placed in the Hereafter or the Akhirat. The present world is the world of action, while the world of the Hereafter is the place for reaping the harvest of actions. The present world is imperfect, but the world of the Hereafter is perfect in every respect. The Hereafter is a limitless world where all things have been provided in their ideal state.

God has placed His heaven—full of all kinds of blessings—¬in that world of the Hereafter. Those who prove to be God-fearing and pious in this world will enter into that world to find the gates of heaven eternally open for them.

But those who are oblivious of God in this present world or who opt for the path of contumacy in regard to God’s matters are criminals in God’s eyes. All such people will be deprived of the blessings of the Hereafter.

God is invisible in this present world, and will appear in all His power and majesty only in the world of the Hereafter. Then all human beings will bow low before Him. But at that time, surrendering will be of no avail. Self-abnegation and acceptance of God is desired only while God is still invisible. Surrendering before God after seeing Him in the Hereafter will not benefit anyone.

Death is not the end of a person’s life. It is only the beginning of the next stage of life. Death is that interim stage when man leaves this temporary world of today for the eternal world of tomorrow. He goes out of the temporary accommodation of the world to enter the eternal resting place of the Hereafter. The coming of this stage in the Hereafter is the greatest certainty in one’s life. No one can save himself from this fate in the Hereafter.

Jihad means struggle. Any sincere effort for the cause of religion will be called Jihad. Man’s self leads him to evil. So waging war with the self is jihad. Sometimes friends or acquaintances pressurize you into engaging in activities, which are not right from the moral standpoint. At that time, refusing to yield such pressure and sticking firmly to an upright attitude are forms of jihad.

Exhorting people to goodness and making them refrain from indecency are tasks entailing a great struggle. Continuing the dawah campaign whilst bearing all hardship is also jihad.

If having been treated with bitterness by neighbours or acquaintances, or after suffering any other kind of provocation, one refrains from reaction and retaliation and maintains pleasant relations unilaterally; this will also be a form of jihad.

There is another kind of jihad which is called ‘qital’ that is, engaging in war at God’s behest at the time of aggression on the part of the enemies. This jihad is purely in self-defence in order to counter aggression. The literal meaning of jihad is not war. But to fight in self-defence in accordance with God’s commandments also involves a struggle; that is why it is also called jihad.

Jihad, meaning war, is however a temporary and circumstantial matter. If in the real sense any need for defence arises only then will armed jihad be launched. If no such severe urgency arises, no armed jihad will take place.

Just calling an action ‘jihad’ will not morally validate it. The only true jihad is that which is carried out in accordance with Islam. Islamic jihad is, in actual fact, another name for peaceful struggle. This peaceful struggle is sometimes an inward-looking thing, like waging jihad with the self when it takes place at the level of feeling; sometimes it is desired externally, and manifests itself at the physical level through gestures (like kneeling, prostrating oneself before God).

Death will overtake everybody; no one can escape from it. But death is not the same for everyone. Some have made God their goal in life; they speak and keep silence for His sake alone; their attention is focused entirely on the after-life. Death is for them the end of a long terrestrial journey towards their Lord.

Others have forgotten their Lord; they do not do things for God’s sake; they are traveling away from their Lord. They are like rebels who roam at large for a few days, and then death seizes them and brings them to justice.

Death is not the same for both types of people, as it might seem. For one, death is to partake of the Lord’s hospitality; for the other, it is to be cast into His dungeon. For one, death is the gate to paradise; for the other it will be the day when he is thrown into hell’s raging fire, to burn there forever as a punishment for his rebelliousness.

Believers have a different attitude to death from unbelievers. They are concerned with what comes in the wake of death; they focus their attention on gaining an honorable position in the life after death. Unbelievers, on the other hand, are caught up on worldly affairs. Their ultimate ambition is worldly honour and prestige. Under present circumstances, those who have consolidated their position on earth seem to be successful, but death will shatter this facade. It will become clear that those who seemed to have no base in the world were in fact standing on the most solid of foundations, while the position of those who had reached a high status in the world will be exposed as false. Death will obliterate everything; afterwards only that which has some worth in the after-life will remain. We are obsessed with the world, which meets our eyes. We fail to pay attention to the call of truth. If we were to see the next life with our worldly vision, we would immediately submit to God. We would realize that if we do not submit to Him today, we will have to do so in the future world, when submission will profit no one.

Why was this world made? Why was man born into this world? Why, after a certain period of time, does he pass away? What will happen after death? These are the most important questions concerning the origins and fate of mankind, and they should never be far from people’s minds. Finding the correct answers to these questions has always been one of man’s most important quests.

Pondered over for thousands of years, these questions have been variously answered by different people. However, these answers can be placed in two broad categories: one, which holds the great array of wonders in this world to be purposeless, and the other, which asserts that man was created with a purpose and that he has a definite goal.

While the first view tends to be subscribed to by poets, philosophers and secular scholars, the second view is firmly upheld by that very special class of beings called prophets, or messengers of God. The most authentic testament to the second view has been provided by the Prophet Muhammad.

Many arguments can be put forward in support of the answers in both of these categories. It is very obvious, however, that the notion of purposelessness is not in keeping with the structure of life and universe. The idea, on the other hand, of purposeful creation, falls exactly into place, for the simple reason that it contains no inherent contradictions.

The world into which man is born is fraught with significance. There is nothing which is of a meaningless or random nature. It is quite unthinkable that man, with his meaningful life, born into a meaningful universe, should find no purpose in creation. Where there is meaningfulness, there will, of necessity, be purposefulness. This aspect of the universe is a clear verification of the Prophet’s answer.

Man attains his highest distinction only when he leads a purposeful life. Such a life characterizes the most advanced stage of human development. This does not mean that by taking up just any task, which is apparently significant, man’s life becomes truly purposeful. A really purposeful life is one in which man discovers his supreme status; a life in which his personality makes manifest its unique distinctive quality. An animal strives to obtain food; a bird flies in search of a better country when the seasons change; a wasp busies itself building up its own home from tiny particles of earth; a herd of deer takes measures to protect itself from wild beasts of prey. All of these appear to be purposeful actions. But when the phrase ‘a purposeful life’ is applied to man, then it does not refer to efforts of this nature. Without doubt arranging for one’s food, clothes and habitation are some of the tasks that man has to perform in this world; but this is a level of purposefulness in which men and animals, being concerned only with bare survival, are equal. Its true application in relation to man can only be one in which he appears in all his dignity. Man’s life becomes purposeful only when it goes beyond common animalism and takes the form of superior humanism.

God’s creations in this world fall into two categories: animate and inanimate. Obviously, animate objects enjoy a certain superiority over inanimate objects. The former can be divided into three classes: the vegetable, the animal and the human. Modern scientific research has shown that plants also possess life, in that they nourish themselves, they grow and they have feelings.

But animals and men surely represent a higher form of life. In what way does man excel animals? Many theories have been advanced in answer to this question over the ages, and great minds are still studying it. But modern biologists have come to the conclusion that it is man’s capacity for conceptual thought, which distinguishes him from other life forms. Animals lack this quality, whereas man is conscious of the fact that he is thinking. He consciously forms a plan of action in his mind; in his everyday life his actions are determined by himself. Whereas this is not the case with animals. Though many of their actions appear to be like those of men, they are not the result of thought; they all stem from pure instinct. Animals are simply led intuitively by their desires and their needs in a certain direction. Their actions are governed by environmental stresses from without and physical pressures from within.

It is in terms of this unique conceptual quality of man that we can conceive of what his higher purpose in life should be. The latter can only be one, which does not result from the pressures of desire or of immediate exigencies. It must emanate from his own urge to worship God.

Man’s true purpose in life can only be one, which reflects the higher side of his personality; one, which displays him as the superior being, he is.

If one pauses at this stage to take note of what the Qur’an has to say, one will find that it gives us clear guidance in this matter. Man’s purpose in life has been explained in the Qur’an in the following words:

“I created mankind and the jinn that they might worship Me. I demand no livelihood of them, nor do I ask that they should feed me. God alone is the Munificent Giver, the Mighty One, the Invincible.

These verses specify man’s purpose in life as worship. This is a purpose, which elicits from man his uniqueness in its ultimate form. It raises man to a much higher plane than that of animals. Not a trace of animalism contributes to the achievement of such a goal. God does not demand of you a livelihood, the verse states, rather He himself is responsible for your livelihood. This means that worship of God is a purpose, which is motivated neither by inward desires nor outward influences. Rather it comes into being through thought alone. Only when a person goes beyond his self and his environment can he understand that there is a higher purpose on which he should focus his life.

The motive force towards the fulfillment of this purpose is not the urge to satisfy one’s needs or those of others. The worshipper seeks neither to gratify his own desires nor those of the Being he worships. It is a purpose which sets before man a goal far above all these things—a goal which does not follow internal needs or external pressures, but results purely from conceptual thought.

When a person works, makes money, builds a house, makes an effort to improve his standard of living, he appears to be engaged in efforts towards some worthy end. But a life of this nature cannot be called a purposeful life, for these activities do not demonstrate man’s unique status. It might seem as if they are the result of deliberation, but if one looks at the matter in depth, one will see that in actual fact the motive force behind these actions is the same urge that motivates an animal in various ways, in its concern for its own survival. It is the driving force of one’s desires; the pressure of one’s needs, and the wish to fulfill the demands of one’s self that underlie such a life. These are the considerations which, in fact, guide a person in his search for his livelihood.

When man grows up, he realizes that there are certain material necessities without which he cannot live. He requires food, clothes, a place to live; he requires a reliable source of income to sustain him throughout his life. He is forced by these considerations to obtain these things. Then he sees that those who have an abundance of these material things enjoy respect and apparently possess every form of happiness and luxury in this world. Thus he is driven on to do more than just seek a livelihood; he desires to earn to a degree greatly in excess of his actual requirements.

In bustling markets, grandiose offices, and opulent buildings, he is not really guided by deliberate thought. Rather, he is being guided by inflated ideas of his own needs, desires, longings and ambitions to achieve fame and high status in this world. For this reason these activities cannot be considered as being directed towards the purpose which sets man apart from the animal and lends him a higher distinction.

To determine the purpose of life is, in short, the effort to make life meaningful. It must surely, therefore, be one which is in accordance with man’s unique status; it must be one which leads man on the path to success and progress in terms of his true nature.

At a Doordarshan panel discussion on ‘The Scientific Temper’, (New Delhi, June 2, 1998-including, besides myself, a central Minister, a social activist, a professor, an English journalist and a lady educationist), I quoted Pandit Nehru as having said as early as 1947, that what his country required more than anything else was just that—the scientific temper. I further made the point that we need to know exactly what is meant by this expression. Broadly interpreted, it means having a realistic attitude. In one of his prayers, the Prophet is recorded as having asked God to enable him to see things just as they are (Allahuma arenal ashyaa kama heya). This clearly indicates that having the scientific temper, or pursuing a scientific line of thought, is the equivalent of coming to grips with reality.

We live in a world, which has an existence of its own, functioning according to its own immutable principles. Scientific thinking is, therefore, extremely important for the successful development of both the individual and the nation. The secret of success is to see the world around us with an open mind and to acquire an understanding of the laws of nature. This approach will produce positive results, enabling one to form correct judgments about things as they actually are. This is what is meant by having the scientific temper. In this world, the real achievers are those who, by fostering this bent of mind, are able to confront the truth.

Scientific thinking, largely, is a question of ratiocination based on facts. This applies equally to the world of matter and to human affairs. For instance, if you have to build a bridge over a river, the science of engineering will tell you to build it from iron and not from clay. Similarly, if you want to harvest a particular crop, the science of horticulture will tell you not only that you must sow the seeds of that crop (and not for example plastic pellets!) but also how to irrigate and fertilize them.

Similar principles apply in the human world. Good results can be achieved only if full account is taken of all of the relevant facts. Failing this, the desired outcome will remain elusive. If, for example, you want someone to be your supporter, the science of psychology will tell you that you must activate his conscience and appeal to his better feelings. But if, on the contrary, you speak or act in such a way that his ego is hurt, you will turn him into an enemy. If you want to receive something from someone, you shall have to become in his eyes a giver, and not just a beneficiary, for it is a matter of common experience that most people are used to giving only to those from whom they receive. Then, if you aspire to a position of honour, you had best be unassuming in demeanour, because it is the modest man and not the egoist who makes the greatest impression on the better side of human nature. It is the unpretentious individual who is most likely, therefore, to attain to a position of honour and prestige.

Normally people do not like to think of such things. For them, there is one life—that of the world—and they try to live it in as prestigious and comfortable way as possible, for afterwards, neither man, nor anything that concerns him, will remain. Some do think about this matter, but only on a philosophical level. They seek a theoretical explanation of the world. Such explanations are interesting from a philosophical point of view, but they are of no basic value to man. Theoretical discussions about whether a cosmic spirit keeps the whole universe revolving for its own fulfillment, or whether everything is part of some sublime being, do not raise any personal issues for man. Some have a religious answer to the question, but their solution is also of no importance to man. Some religions hold that the son of God was crucified in atonement for man’s sins; others see life as a mysterious, recurring cycle, with man repeatedly being born and dying; some claim that man will be rewarded and punished in this world. These are the creeds of which most religions are made.

All such solutions to the problems of life differ from one another considerably but in so much as none of them raises any serious personal issue for man, they are all the same. They are either explanations of events or a means of providing us with some sort of spiritual satisfaction. They do not issue us with any warning or stir us into any action.

But the answer provided by the Prophet Muhammad is of an entirely different nature. Whereas the other answers do not raise any critical issue for man, the answer provided by the Prophet places every individual in a precarious position from which the next step leads either to an awesome abyss of destruction or to a world of eternal bliss. It requires every man to take a serious view of his situation—even more so than a traveler in the night whose torch reveals a black snake slithering menacingly in front of him.

The message taught by Muhammad, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, contains a greater warning for all mankind. He taught that after this world a vaster world is awaiting us, where every person will be judged and then punished or rewarded according to his deeds. The props which man relies on in this world will not support him there, for there will be no trading, no friendship and no acceptable intercession.

The warning, which the Prophet delivered, to mankind makes his existence a matter of personal importance to everyone. Everyone’s fate, according to his teachings, hangs in the balance. Either one can believe in his message and follow his guidance, thus preparing oneself for everlasting paradise, or one can ignore his teachings, thus resigning oneself to eternal hellfire.

There are two things, which make this matter even more worthy of our attention. Firstly, the arguments of those who have expounded other theories on this matter have been very dubious. Those who consider material aggrandizement to be all that is worthwhile in life have no proof for their theory; their ideas are based on superficial attractions. Those who speak in philosophical terms have only analogies to offer as evidence. They themselves do not have full faith in what they say, so how can others be expected to accept their theories?

Then there are those who speak with reference to the prophets and scriptures. Basically their platform is solid, but the prophets and books to which they refer belong to an age long past. We have no reliable historical information regarding them at our disposal. Even though the original source of these religions is sound, we still cannot rely on their teachings as they are at present. The criterion with which to judge the past is history, and history does not verify the authenticity of their dogmas.

With the Prophet Muhammad, however, the case is quite different. On the one hand, his prophetic credentials stand up to any scrutiny. He was the epitome of everything a prophet should be. There is no doubt about his prophethood; it is an established historical fact, which no one can deny.

The facts of the Holy Prophet’s life and teachings have also been carefully preserved; their historical credibility cannot be contested. The Qur’an exists in its revealed form. The Holy Prophet’s words and actions are recorded in book-form, so one has no difficulty in establishing exactly what he said and did in his life.

The Prophet warned us that we are confronted with a reality, which we can never change; we have no choice but to face it. Death and suicide only transfer us to another world; they do not obliterate us altogether. The Creator has established an eternal scheme for success and failure, which no one can alter or opt out of. We have to choose between heaven and hell; we have no other choice.

If the meteorological department forecasts a hurricane, it is telling us about an impending disaster in which those affected will have no say in the matter; another power will control events. One can either escape or expose oneself to destruction. So, when the earthquake of the Last day occurs there will be no path to safety save that which the Prophet of Islam has laid down. We ignore that path at our own peril.

Along with creating man, God started a chain of prophethood for human guidance. In every age and in every nation prophets have come and conveyed the message of God to men. The Quran says.

Has he not heard of what is preached in the books of Moses and Abraham, who fulfilled his duty: that no soul shall bear another’s burden and that each man shall be judged by his own labours; that his labours shall be scrutinized and that he shall be justly requited for them; that all things shall in the end return to God? (35:35-43)

While provision for the sustenance of life remained constantly available in this world, the principles of how to lead this life were sent to man by God again and again as the occasion demanded. Each prophet was truly a repre¬sentative of God. But, with the passage of time, the books brought by the messengers were altered and marred by the interpolations of their followers. Thus the original divine guidance became veiled by these human additions. Ulti¬mately God sent the Arab Prophet with the Qur’an. And God Himself undertook the responsibility of preserving the Qur’an in toto so that it might remain a source of authentic guidance for mankind for all time to come.

The essence of the reality revealed by God through the Prophet is that everyone will necessarily be rewarded for his actions in this world. None can escape the consequences of his actions, nor can anyone save another. Those who fail to take heed of the warnings by the Prophet are the most foolish in this world.

So far as man’s relation to God is concerned, everyone is responsible for his own actions. None can share in the consequences of another’s deeds. Nor will anyone reap a harvest in the next world other than what he has sown here in this world.

When a machine is produced it is accompanied by a set of instructions for its use. An engineer is also commis¬sioned to give a practical demonstration of how the machine functions. Man is an even more intricately de¬signed but animate machine. When he is born, he suddenly finds himself in a world where no mountain bears an inscription answering questions concerning the nature of the world, or explaining how he should live on earth. No educational institution produces experts who know the secret of life or who can provide man with practical guidance.

To satisfy this need felt by man, God sent His prophets to the world, every one of whom brought with him the word of God. In the scriptures revealed to them, God has explained the reality of life to man, and has made it clear what man should and should not do. They showed man what sentiments and ideas he should adopt; how he should remember his Lord; how he should live with his fellows, what he should associate himself with and disassociate himself from. The prophets’ lives are a practical demonstration of how a person should live a God-fearing life.

God has given everyone the power to distinguish between right and wrong. He has also placed countless signs in space and on earth from which man can learn. Moreover, His revelations have been set down in human language and several of His servants chosen from amongst mankind as prophets, so that there should be no doubt as to the true path.

The Arabian Prophet, may God’s peace and blessings descend upon him, was the last of God’s messengers. No other prophet will now come to the world.

All of God’s prophets have taught one and the same religion. They spoke different languages, but the religion they expounded was one. Since the followers of previous prophets were unable to preserve the prophetic teachings in their original form, messengers of God used to appear frequently in order to revitalize the true religion, and refresh people’s memories of it. The Prophet Muhammad for his part initiated a revolutionary process, which ensured the preservation of religion in its original form and obviated the necessity for other prophets to follow him by preserving the Book of God intact, in its original form.

God’s final Prophet imparted to the true religion a stability, which it had never had before. His own life was exemplary, as has been reliably recorded. It is noteworthy, too, that the community that developed after the Prophet continued to demonstrate Islamic practices, like prayer in a practicable and imitable form. People of every subsequent age have found this religion exactly as it was when God’s messenger preached it.

The preservation and continuity of religion are now ensured without prophets coming to the world. God’s Book and the Prophet’s Sunnah are now serving the same purpose, which it had taken a succession of prophets to accomplish. It is the duty of their followers to carry on their mission.

The greatest issue facing man in this world is how to secure salvation in the life after death so that he may find his true abode and have a share in God’s eternal blessings.

Every man who is born in this present world has to enter another world after death. In this world man was granted life’s opportunities as a matter of being tested by them. Whatever man receives in the next world will be purely on the basis of his deeds in this world. This means that in the world before death, man has been given a great number of things and opportunities, whether or not he deserved them. But after death, the criterion of receiving will only be a matter of his just deserts; nothing will be given to him to try him.

This means that those who are held to be deserving will be granted not out of God’s blessings but more that they actually merited. But those who have done nothing to deserve God’s blessings will have nothing whatsoever in store for them. They will be compelled to live in a state of utter deprivation.

This is man’s greatest problem. To what should he give the greatest attention so that he may not be held undeserving in the life to come? Everyone has to himself exert to the utmost in the consciousness that in the next stage of his life he may by default be considered without merit. Then there would be no further scope for him to earn God’s blessings, salvation would elude him completely.

The next world is the most perfect and eternal world. There, all kinds of pleasures and happiness have been stored up for mankind. It is that world which man should cherish most, and it should be the place to which he most earnestly aspires. But the time for action to secure a place in that blessing-filled world is not the world after death, but the world before death. The present world is the place for action, while the next world is the place for reaping the reward for one’s deeds.

Salvation in the life Hereafter is only for those who prove themselves deserving of it.

Zakat, or the alms-tax, is one of the five basic tenets of Islam. Its payment is obligatory, at the rate of 2.5%, on all wealth that is subject to growth: Eight categories of people, eligible to receive Zakat, have been specified in this verse of the Qur’an:

Alms shall be used only for the advancement of God’s cause, for the ransom of captives and debtors, and for distribution among the poor, the destitute, wayfarers, those that are employed in collect¬ing alms, and those that are converted to the faith. That is a duty enjoined by God. He is Wise and All-knowing. (9:60)

So, as is clear from this verse, one of the ways that Zakat can be spent is “for the cause of God.” Though the words of the Qur’an are general, the consensus of Muslim theologians is that they refer to holy war: it is those who are voluntarily engaged in holy war, and have not been appointed any salary by the government, who should receive alms given “for the cause of God.” (Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Vol. I, p. 393)

If we accept this interpretation, then it means that the instruction to give Zakat “for the cause of God” may, to all intents and purposes, be misapplied. This form of voluntary participation in wars was only possible in ancient times; under modern conditions there is no question of it. In the present age war has become so complicated and technical that only those who have received regular training are able to take any real part in it: to allow untrained people to enter the field of battle is tantamount to inviting defeat. In other words, only those who are employed by the government can participate in war now a days. According to this interpretation, the above injunction is really no longer applicable.

The words “for the cause of God” are general in their application. They include any task that is performed for God’s cause, being especially applicable to that work which the Qur’an calls “calling to the service of God.” The true objective of Islam is preaching, not fighting. Calling people to submit themselves to God is the Islamic point of departure; war is only resorted to when the other party starts hostilities, and forces the preachers of Islam to take up arms to defend themselves.

The Egyptian scholar, Rashid Raza, has noted in his commentary of the Qur’an that the words “for the cause of God” are equally applicable to those who strive to spread the word of God.

The best way to give alms “for the cause of God” in the present age, is to contribute to the training of preachers, and to their dispatch by Islamic organizations to non-Muslim lands, and to continue to give financial support to these preachers, just as non-Muslims do for the propagation of their religion. (Tafseer Manar)

Taqwa means piety, that is, leading a life of caution and restraint in this world.

Umar Farooq, the second Caliph once asked a companion of the Prophet what taqwa was? He replied, “O leader of the believers, have you ever crossed a path which has thorny shrubs, on both sides?” But the companion instead of replying asked another question, “What did you do on such an occasion?” Umar Farooq replied, “I gathered my clothes close to me and moved ahead cautiously.” The companion said, “This is the stuff of taqwa.”

The present world is a testing ground. Here, various kinds of thorns have been scattered for the purpose of testing man, such as negativity, false issues raised by non-serious people, the lure of worldly things. Besides these, there are many unpleasant occurrences, which disturb people’s minds and lead them away from the path of virtue.

All these things are like thorny shrubs lining both sides of the path of life. At any moment it is feared that man may embroil himself in these thorns and then instead of going forward, remain entrapped in these snares of life.

In such a state of affairs the wise man is one who travels the paths of life by gathering up his clothes to avoid becoming, entangled in these unpleasant snares. In this way, he is able to continue his journey unhampered. Yet at all times he must remain conscious of the fact that he must protect himself. He has to adopt the path of avoidance, not of entanglement.

Man has been created with an upright nature. If no hindrance comes in the way, then every man will, on his own, take the right course. That is why; the utmost precaution must be taken against allowing unnatural obstacles to come in the way.

Then, guided by this upright nature, man will continue to walk along the right path until he meets his Lord.

Man has been advised in the Qur’an to be steadfast in his prayer, for prayer fends away indecency and evil. When the Prophet of Islam was asked about this verse he said: If a person’s prayer does not fend away indecency and evil then his prayer is not really prayer at all.

What is prayer? It is to remember the fact that man is living before a God who—though man cannot see Him—can see man. Whoever leaves the mosque with this fact firmly embedded in his mind cannot live forgetful of God. In prayer man testifies to the fact that God is the greatest of all beings. If one is truthful in one’s testimony, then one will not claim greatness for oneself when one has finished praying. Whatever one recites in prayer is a covenant before God that one will keep his commandments; then how is it possible that one should leave the mosque and treat people with arrogance and contumacy? The actions of prayer are a manifestation of the fact that one’s heart is full of fear and love for God. How can one claim to be full of fear and love for God in the mosque, and then live as if one knows neither fear or love for Him when one goes outside?

If one prays in the true spirit of prayer, then one’s prayer will surely fend away indecency and evil. But if one’s prayer is devoid of spirit, then it will be no more than a perfunctory action, which has no connection with one’s real life. It will be prayer in form, but not in reality: for it will not fend away indecency and evil.

It is as if one were to say: a son who stays lying down while he sees his father standing does not respect his father; a brother who sees his sister hungry and does not give her something to eat is not really a brother at all; the friendship of a person who hears of his friend’s death and does not stop laughing is not really friendship at all.

Thanksgiving for man is to acknowledge the blessings of God. This acknowledgement first arises in the heart then, taking the form of words, it comes to the lips of the grateful person.

From birth, man has been superbly endowed in body and mind by his Creator. All his requirements have been amply catered for, every object in the heavens and on earth having been pressed into his service. All the things necessary for his leading a good life on earth and the building of a civilization have been provided in abundance.

Man experiences these blessings at every moment. It is, therefore, incumbent on man to thank God for His blessings at all times. His heart should be eternally brimming with gratitude for these divine blessings.

Thanksgiving is the most comprehensive term of worship: gratefulness is the essence of the godly life. The best expression of that gratefulness is the expenditure of time and money in the way of God. It is God, after all who has given man the reason to worship Him and the means to do so.

Dhikr, meaning remembrance, that is, remembrance of God, is one of the basic teachings of Islam. The opposite state, that of forgetfulness of God, is unpardonable negligence.

Dhikr is a reality of nature. At every moment man experience those things, which are directly related with God. He sees the sun, the moon, the rivers, the mountains, the air and the water. All of these are God’s creations. It is but natural that all the creations that come before man should be reminders of the Creator. Right from the earth to the heavens, all things are manifestation of God’s Beauty and Perfection. With their whole existence they serve as harbingers of God’s Being.

Similarly in the world, as man leads his life, day and night, his attention is drawn at all times to God. Being influenced by God’s creation, his heart and mind produce divine feelings. Dhikr is nothing but the verbal expression of these feelings.

Throughout his life man experiences his attachment to God again and again, and when he ponders over his existence, his heart is filled with rejoicing that God created him in the most noble image and lavished upon him all the best qualities. These feelings well up in his heart in many ways. This is also a form of dhikr.

Man undergoes many kinds of ups and downs in his daily life; he has pleasant as well as unpleasant experiences of all kinds. As he goes through these experiences he repeatedly turns to God and remembers Him in different words, again and again.

Similarly, during his daily obeisance he repeats many prayers. These words of prayer are derived sometimes from the Qur’an and sometimes from the hadith. These words coming spontaneously to his lips are the stuff of dhikr, the remembrance of God.

The Qur’an has this to say regarding parents:

At several places the Qur’an exhorts us to be on our best behaviour with parents, to pay their dues, and, even when scolded by them, to refrain from angry retorts; we should never be found lacking in loving them or in serving them. That is to say: we should at all times conduct ourselves with the utmost propriety, regardless of how our parents treat us.

According to a hadith a man approached the Prophet and asked, “O Prophet, who is more deserving of my good behaviour?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man then asked, “Who after that?” The Prophet again said, “Your mother”. The man again repeated the question and the Prophet again said “Your mother”. When the man asked the Prophet the fourth time, then he said “Your father” (Sahih Muslim 16/102).

There are many traditions, which tell us that after God it is to parents that one has obligations more than to anyone else. One reason for this is that in this world individuals receive the maximum benefits from parents. As such it is incumbent upon a person when he grows up to serve his parents to the best of his ability. He should come to their assistance in their old age as they came to his assistance in his childhood.

Another reason is that serving parents enables a person to become a servant of humanity at large, to look at all human beings with love; to honour them and to pay them their dues.

Abdullah Bin Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said: The foundation of Islam has been laid on five principles; to bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His prophet; to offer prayer (Namaz); to give alms (Zakat); to perform Hajj and to keep fast during Ramzan.

According to this Hadith, these five principles form the pillars of Islam. Like a mansion stands on pillars so does Islamic faith on these tenets. Outwardly these five principles are names given to certain practices, like, to repeat the words accepting the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, to go through the rituals of the prayers (Namaz), to give the prescribed amount of alms (Zakat), to perform the Hajj and to observe the fast of Ramzan. But the manifestation of these rituals is not the sole aim; it is spirit behind them, which is the real aim. Outward manifestation is just one part of the truth, the best way to observe these rituals is in which you get to the reality.

The same principle applies to the other things in this world as well. Take the telephone for instance. As everyone knows the telephone has a definite form. But the form itself is not what is expected of a telephone. Telephone for the sake of telephone is meaningless. Telephone is meant for establishing contact. When you say that you have a telephone it does not imply that you have the shell of a telephone. What it really means is that you have an instrument through which you can establish contact anywhere in the world and talk to distant people.The same thing applies to the five principles of Islam. These principles are principles of Islam only as long as their manifestation and spirit are interwoven. Without the spirit, the form is as good as its not being there at all.

The spirit of Faith. This is the first pillar of Islam. For its manifestation one is required to utter his faith in oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad. But its spirit lies in its acceptance. Through this article of faith a man accepts God and all His attributes. He also accepts that God has sent Muhammad to this world as the eternal guide for all the mankind. If this reality reaches one’s heart, it becomes a part of his being. His heart opens to the truth and reality. He is transformed into a man who will overcome any obstacle to reach the truth.

The spirit of Salah. Its manifestation is the daily five times prayers but the spirit is humility. A man performing the salah bows before his Creator and thereby creates a sense of humility within himself. A man who is fired by this spirit, will be devoid of pride and ego. He will develop a quality of humility and will be far removed from false sense of pride and importance.

The spirit of Zakat. Its manifestation is giving a fixed amount in alms annually, but the spirit behind is the service of mankind. A man who gives alms will develop a zeal in himself to do good to the others. He would like to live a life which is most useful to the others.

The spirit of Hajj. Its manifestation is the annual ritual. But its spirit is the unity and solidarity. A man who performs the Hajj in its real spirit, will do away with the feelings of opposition. He will live in unity and harmony even in the face of provocation.

The spirit of Fasting. Its manifestation is fasting in the month of Ramzan. But the spirit is to endure. A man who keeps fast will soon learn to tolerate even unpleasant situations. He will ignore what may be objectionable and concentrate on positive aspects of the matter.

Those who adhere to these five pillars of Islam only to the extent of their manifestations, will find that their lives are devoid of the spirit of these pillars.

For example they will repeat the words accepting the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, but beyond these words when they are confronted with truth, they will not accept it, because they have not understood the spirit of what they repeat. They will go through the ritual of prayer (Namaz) but once outside the mosque they will not be able to display the humility in their interaction with others. The reason for this is that they have not imbibed the spirit of Namaz.

Likewise those who take out a fixed amount as alms (Zakat), will not show any compassion while dealing with others. Because the spirit of Zakat is missing. They will go for Hajj, perform the rituals and come back. But they will not be ready to ignore the complaints of the others and forge a unity because the true spirit of Hajj has not touched them. During the month of Ramzan, they will keep the ritual fast. But when they are required to show patience, they will be found lacking. They will be easily provoked. The reason for this is that they have not understood the spirit behind the fasting.

Anyone who has adhered to the five pillars of Islam is a faithful and a Muslim. He has made himself entitled to God’s bounty, in this world as well as in the world hereafter. But the five pillars of Islam have to be accepted in their manifestations and spirits. The rewards, which have been promised, are for their complete and not partial adherence.

A book published in America in 1986; entitled Peak Performers, makes study of the lives of a number of individuals in modern America who have played a heroic role in life. One point, which the writer especially emphasizes, is that a great mission can beget in a man the powerful urge to superior effort, which ultimately leads him to exceptional achievement.

America sent its first manned spacecraft to land on the moon in 1967. The launching of the rocket had been the result of the combined efforts of a large number of experts, who had been engaged to work for this mission. One of this team, a computer programmer, said that something extraordinary began to happen as the work got under way. The thousands of ordinary men and women, who had been working to make the space programme materialize, had all of a sudden been transformed into super-achievers. They had started performing with an efficiency that they had never in their whole lives been able to muster.

Within the short period of 18 months, all of the work had been accomplished with exceptional rapidity.

“Want to know why we’re doing so well?” our manager asked me. He pointed to the pale moon barely visible in the eastern sky. “People have been dreaming about going there for thousands of years. And we’re going to do it.”

“Want to know why we’re doing so well?” our manager asked me. He pointed to the pale moon barely visible in the eastern sky. “People have been dreaming about going there for thousands of years. And we’re going to do it.” It is understandable that what inspires a man more than anything is to have a great mission before him. That is what arouses a man’s hidden potential and makes him capable of all manner of sacrifices. It makes him, in short, a peak performer.

Patience is the exercise of restraint in trying situations. It is a virtue, which enables the individual to proceed towards worthy goals, undeflected by adverse circumstances or repeated provo¬cations. If he allows himself to become upset by opposition, taunts or other kinds of unpleasantness, he will never reach his goals. He will simply become enmeshed in irrelevancies.

The only way to deal with the irksome side of daily living is to exercise patience. Patience will ensure that whenever one has some bitter experience, he will opt for the way of tolerance rather than that of reaction to provocation. It will enable one to absorb shocks and to continue, undeterred, on one’s onward journey.

Sabr or Patience, as well as being a practical solution to the problems faced in the outside world, is also a means of positive character building. One who is failing to exercise patience, gives free rein to negative thoughts and feelings develops a personality, which is likewise negative while one who remains patient is so morally bolstered by his own positive thoughts and feelings that he develops a positive personality.

Sabr is no retreat. Sabr only amounts to taking the initiative along the path of wisdom and reason as opposed to the path of the emotions. Sabr gives one the strength to restrain one’s emotions in delicate situations and rather to use one’s brains to find a course of action along result-oriented lines.

The present world is fashioned in such a way that everyone is necessarily confronted with unpleasant matters at one time or another. Things, which are unbearable, have somehow to be borne; harrowing events have to be witnessed and all kinds of pain have to be suffered. In such situations, succumbing to impatience leads to the kind of unnecessary emotional involvement, which is counter-productive, while a demonstration of patience has a healing, beneficial effect, allowing one to tread the path of discreet avoidance. Success in the present world is destined only for those who adopt the path of patience in adverse circumstances.

Differences are a part of life. A divergence of views and behaviour arises between people for a variety of reasons. Just as differences occur among unbelievers and apostates similarly differences occur between sincere and pious people. But even if differences cannot be prevented, that is no reason, for any individual to indulge in negative behaviour. It should be borne in mind that despite differences, positive behaviour is both a possibility and a necessity.

Regarding a person as being wrong about everything just because he holds different opinions and calling him a hypocrite, bad intentioned and insincere are entirely un-Islamic reactions. The true believer looks at the issue of difference as a matter of intentions, and limits any ensuing dissension to the sphere of its origin. He never allows matters to escalate.

Severing relationships due to differences is not in accordance with the spirit of lslam. Mutual relationships should be maintained while continuing serious discussion of contentious issues. Not greeting the person with whom one has differences or refusing to meet such a person is highly improper.

In this present world everything is designed to put man to the test. Differences also serve this purpose. Man ought to be extremely cautious, particularly at moments of contention. He should continuously strive to be tolerant lest he show some improper reaction, which would be displeasing to God.

Remaining impartial in the face of differences is indeed a difficult task. But its reward too is great. Every right act is treated as an act of worship in Islam; it is therefore an act of superior worship when, in spite of controversies one keeps one’s heart free of enmity and vengefulness and adheres strictly to the path of justice.

The emergence of difference is not in itself a bad thing. What is bad is that at the time of differences arising the individuals concerned do not rise to the occasion. They fail miserably in the divine test. Remaining within the confines of decency is a virtue, and crossing the boundaries at such moments is an immoral act of the worst degree.

One of the noble feelings that man should possess is the urge or desire to come to the assistance of others. He should fulfill their needs without expecting any return.

Coming to the assistance of others is, in essence, an acknowledgement of the blessings, which God has showered upon him. It is that person, who helps others who has something more than others. For example, one who has eyes comes to the assistance of one who has not been blessed with the precious gift of sight; an able bodied person will give physical help to the disabled; a wealthy person will give donations to the poor; the man with resources will come to the aid of one who lacks them, and so on.

On all such occasions when one man helps out another by virtue of those blessings, which God has given him, he is in fact showing his gratitude to God for these favours. He is saying within himself, O God, whatever I have is all given by You. Now I am spending it in Your path, I pray You for more blessings and mercy for both of us (the helper and the receiver).

By engaging oneself in social work, one is not only helping another but is actually raising his own moral status. Making use of one’s possessions only for oneself is to live on the plane of animals, for the beasts share nothing with others.

Man, superior to all other creatures, lives on a far higher plane. The proper attitude in accordance with his status is not to keep himself to himself but to embrace the whole of humanity. He should lead his life as a well-wisher to all, ready to help everyone, accepting others’ rights over his own possessions.

Social work is in other words, service to humanity. And after the worship of God, no task is nobler.

In mutual dealings in social life, it often happens that a person gives his word to another. There is apparently no third person or group between the two, yet there is always a third present and that is God who is the supreme witness. That is why every promise becomes a divine promise.

Man should, therefore, be extremely sensitive about giving his word. His conviction is that every commitment made between two persons is under the watchful eyes of God, and that he will be accountable for its fulfillment in the court of God. This compels him to be highly responsible as regards his promises. Whenever he gives his word to anyone he makes a point of keeping it.

People who invariably fulfill their promises are predictable characters in a society, and give their society that particular quality which exists on a vast scale throughout the universe. Every part of this universe is functioning with the most exact precision. For instance, we can learn in advance about any star’s or planet’ s rotation and where it will be moving after a hundred or even a thousand years. Similarly, we know in advance what the boiling point of water will be. In this way the entire universe evinces a predictable character.

Many other virtues come in the wake of the regular fulfillment of promises. One of these is mutual trust. In a society where mutual trust exists, there is no discord and dissension between the people; there is an atmosphere of confidence and peaceability as there is no fear of promises being broken.

Readiness to fulfill promises is a commendable trait and it is spirituality that makes man the possessor of this highest of human virtues.

Avoidance of friction is one of the most important principles of life. Such avoidance means refraining from retaliation on occasions of complaint and dissension.

By temperament, all men and women differ from one another in many ways. Everyone has experienced the disagreeable situations, arising from such differences. In social life, be it inside or outside the home, it is but natural that unpleasantness should occur from time to time. This is unavoidable.

Now whenever any negative situation arises one way of dealing with it is a head-on clash, i.e. an attempt to solve the problem by direct confrontation. Such attempts are abortive as they only aggravate the problem. In no way will they improve matters.

Islam tells us that on such occasions we should adopt the policy of avoidance. That is, instead of behaving violently and fighting, we should opt for the course of tolerance and forbearance; instead of combating violence with violence, we should adopt the policy of avoidance; remaining united in spite of differences.

According to Islam, it is not only a point of social behaviour but an act meriting great reward. Living with people, and observing their principles are acts which would deserve a reward in normal circumstances, but when one continues to be well-¬behaved in spite of differences and grudges, by curbing negative sentiments, then the reward is increased manifold. Those who sedulously avoid friction will be counted by God among the possessors of a superior character.

For the human character to retain its superiority there must be staunch and unceasing adherence to the principle of avoidance.

Good character is the sum of personal virtues, which guarantees correct and agreeable behaviour in daily social interaction. A person of good character will invariably conform in his behaviour to a strict code of ethics.

What should be the underlying principle of this code of ethics? According to a hadith it is simply this—you should like for others what you like for yourself, that is, you should treat others just as you want to be treated by others.

Everyone likes to be addressed with good manners and pleasing words. So everyone should speak gently to others. Everyone wants his existence to be problem-free, so he should avoid creating problems for others.

Everyone wants others to deal with him in a sympathetic and cooperative manner. So what everyone ought to do while dealing with others is to give them his full sympathy and cooperation.

This standard of ethics is very simple and natural. It is so simple that anyone may easily learn it, be he literate or illiterate, able bodied or disabled, and regardless of his likes and dislikes. This hadith has given such a criterion for human ethics that no one can find difficult to understand. In this way Islam has set forth, in the light of everyone’s personal experience, what behaviour may be indulged in and what behaviour has to be refrained from.

According to another hadith, the best of us is one who is best in moral character. Accordingly, becoming a good human being has nothing ambiguous about it. Its simple formula is that of avoidance of double standards. One who lives his life by this formula is indubitably a person of the highest moral character.

One of the important points made in the UNESCO constitution is as follows:

“Since war began in the minds of men it is in the mind that the defence of peace must be constructed.”

This is an indisputable fact. Whether the quarrel is between two people on the street, or between groups or nations, the origin of all such incidents lies in the mind. It is in the mind that feelings of hatred, revenge and anger are produced, and when these spill over into provocation, the result is some measure of conflict, ranging from petty squabbling to full-scale war.

Largely speaking, negative thoughts arise in reaction to untoward behaviour on the part of others. Someone insults us and we become angry. An unpleasant situation is created-—unnecessarily, we think—by someone, and we are provoked by this. Someone damages our prestige and we therefore seek revenge. All these vengeful impulses take shape first of all in our minds and when they are externalized, they wreak havoc. If peace could be established at the level of the mind, before there is any physical escalation of strife, the world would be a much better place to live in.

The only effective way to prevent quarrels, whether at the individual or at the national or international level, is to train people’s minds: patience should be emphasized as the greatest of all virtues.

Such a mentality can be developed only if negative thinking is replaced by positive thinking. This should be directed at resistance to provocation and the avoidance of all unpleasantness and consequent entanglements. It must provide the basis for cool and unemotional decision-making, and, above all, for return of love for hatred.

Such a reform of the mind would lead to the most positive reconstruction of human affairs ever witnessed in human history.

The World champions often possess equal physical strength and capabilities, and receive training of an almost equal standard. Then why does one win and another lose? This question has been a topic of research in America for the past three years. The report of the group of scientists working on this has recently been published.

They chose the top international wrestlers and made comparisons of their physical strength and psychological reserves. They found out that there is one marked difference between the winners and the losers in world competitions. It is not a physical difference, yet it plays the most crucial role in winning or losing a competition. The experts discovered that the winners were more conscientious and in control of themselves than the losers. The report is summed up as follows:

“Losers tended to be more depressed and confused before competing, while the winners were positive and relaxed.”(The Times of India, 26 July 1981). This applies equally to the broader field of life. In life when two individuals or two groups confront one another, their victory or defeat does not depend so much on material resources as on intellectual and psychological reserves.

The conviction that one’s goals are worthwhile, the observation of discipline with no contradiction between words and thoughts, cool thinking, even in times of crisis—¬all these are qualities of mind and heart which determine success, and obviate failure in the wider field of life.

If from a vessel containing water a single drop is found to be brackish, it means that all of the liquid is undrinkable. We need sample only of one drop to know with certainty what the rest will be like. Much the same is true of the human personality. It is like an over brimming vessel which keeps on shedding drops for other people to savour, to find sweet or brackish as the case may be. Small instances of an individual’s behaviour and quite short interludes in his company are generally sufficient to tell us what his overall personality is like. A thoughtless remark, an unfair manoeuvre, a failure to give much-needed sympathy or support, a devious transaction—all these are the plain indicators, like those brackish drops of water from the larger vessel, which indicate the lack of integrity or callousness of the person you are dealing with.

The human personality has the same homogeneity as water. A single human weakness cannot therefore be considered in isolation, as if it were an exception. It has to be looked upon as being representative of the entire personality. If an individual proves unreliable in one matter, he is likely to evince the same unreliability in other matters; if he is guilty of untrustworthiness on one occasion, the chances are that this trait will show up time and time again.

There is only one kind of person who is an exception to that rule, and that is the one who subjects his own behaviour to constant re-appraisal, who is continually scrutinizing himself for weaknesses and faults and who, once having found such faults, wastes no time in rooting them out.

A man who has made a mistake can completely erase the marks of what is an unfortunate experience for others by admitting his mistake and begging forgiveness. Some people are pricked by their consciences, but do nothing to assuage the ruffled feelings of others, thinking that to do so would be sheer weakness and would mean a loss of face. Such people can never have healthy social relationships and can never win the respect of their fellow men. They do not realize that a man displays his true mettle when he sees his own wrong actions for what they are, and humbly asks forgiveness.

It is only he who has learned the art of moral introspection who will, in the long run, prove himself a person of inviolable integrity.

Tolerance is a noble humanitarian and Islamic virtue. Its practice means making concessions to others. Intoler¬ance, on the other hand, means showing a self-centered unconcern for the needs of others. Tolerance is a worthy, humane virtue, which has been described in different terms in the Shariah: for instance, gentle behaviour, showing concern for others, being soft-hearted, being compassion¬ate.

When true God-worship and religiosity is born within a person, he reaches above all those evils, which emanate from selfishness. Instead of living within the confines of the self, he begins to live in the world of reality. The truly pious person begins to look upon people with love and compassion. He does not expect anything from anyone, that is why even when others differ from him or do not behave well towards him, he continues nevertheless to make concessions to them, and continues to be tolerant towards them.

Tolerance implies unswerving respect for others, whether in agreement or disagreement with them. The tolerant man will always consider the case of others sympathetically, be they relatives or friends, and irrespective of the treatment he is given by them, be it of a positive or a negative nature.

Tolerance means, in essence, to give consideration to others. In social life, friction between people does occur in every society, differences arising from religion, culture, tradition and personal tastes persist. In such a situation the superior course of action is to adopt the ways of concession and large-heartedness without any compromise of principle.

That is to say that the pious man should be a man of principle as far as he himself is concerned, but should be tolerant towards others. He should judge himself in the light of the ideal but in the matter of his fellow men he should show tolerance and broad-mindedness. This being inseparable from human gentility and nobility, Islam aims to produce this fine human quality of gentlemanliness by preaching tolerance.

A man was riding his bicycle one day when suddenly his brake jammed. Luckily there was a bicycle repair-shop nearby, so he took his bike there to have it fixed. Thinking that the mechanic would fix the brake at the point where it was jammed, the cyclist was surprised to see him tap away with a small hammer at a completely different place. Before he was able to express his surprise, however, the mechanic handed the bike over. “That’s fixed it. You can take it away now,” he said. And off the cyclist rode, with his bike once again running smoothly.

What was true of this bicycle is true also of human society. When there is something wrong with society, people usually jump to the conclusion that where the malaise lies, there also lies the cure. But this is not the case. Usually the root of the malaise lies in a different place, far away from the symptoms. Until the cause is removed, the malaise itself will not go away.

For instance, there might be a lack of solidarity in society, or one’s people may be the victims of oppression. A society may be beset with an atmosphere of intrigue, with the result that its voice carries no weight in the world. Detecting these symptoms, one who determines to right the ills of society might think that the cure lies in calling meetings and conventions in order to bring people together, feeding them emotional speeches and passing high-sounding resolutions and so on.

But this is not the way to cure the actual ills of society. To do so, one has to work on the cause, not the symptoms, for usually one will find that while a problem seems to be afflicting one part of society, the cure lies elsewhere. If there is a lack of solidarity, for instance, the reason for this is the failure of individuals to stand together. It is the individual, then, who has to be worked on. Solidarity has to be achieved at an individual level before it can come about in society. For it is a law of nature, and human society is no exception, that for a tree to bear good fruit, it is the seed, not the fruit itself, that has to be improved.

“I have reached my present position by climbing a ladder and not by coming up to it in a lift.” This observation was made by a tailor who had started with nothing but his own two hands and the will to work, and who had become eminently successful in his line of business. “Making a good coat is not child’s play. The whole process is so complicated that without detailed information as to how to proceed, long experience and a high degree of skill, it is almost impossible to accomplish. It is only after a lifetime of hard work that I have succeeded in running a prosperous shop in the city.”

The tailor went on to explain how he had served his apprenticeship under the guidance of an expert tailor. Just learning the art of cutting and sewing had taken him five long years. When he opened his own little shop, he discovered that he had difficulty in giving his customers a good fitting. This was because during his apprenticeship he had never really grasped the fact that people could be of such different shapes and sizes. He therefore set himself to the task of studying human anatomy, but it was only after many years of effort that he could make a coat with an absolutely perfect fitting. He eventually became so expert in this that he could even give perfect fittings to those who unfortunately suffered from deformities-such as hunchbacks. “In any type of work, there are many things which one has to learn on one’s own. Often one cannot foresee these things at the outset, and each obstacle has to be overcome by hard work and ingenuity.”

The tailor talked of many things of this nature concerning his skills, and it seemed to me as though I were listening to a lecture on the building of the nation by some very experienced person.

In truth, the only way to solve our economic and social problems is to follow the example of the tailor. After this initial apprenticeship, he had gone ahead and done things on his own. He had gone up by the stairs and not by the lift. There are no buttons, which you can just push and then automatically reach your goals. You can only make progress step by step. Progress can seldom be made by leaps and bounds. By means of the ladder you can progress even to the stage of owning the lift, but you cannot make a success of your life by starting with the lift and expecting it to do everything for you.