Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | The Sunday Guardian | February 07, 2021

A seed–a tiny grain–is put into the ground. From it a mighty tree develops. A seed is just a minute particle, and a tree a massive structure. But would it be true to say that the seed is a limited manifes­tation, and the tree a complete one? No, that is not the nature of the relationship between a seed and a tree. Rather, the seed is the essence and the tree its offshoot. And it is the same with thought and action. Thought is a seed inside a human being. From it stems countless forms of actions. Thought is the essence; actions are its offshoots. Again, it would be wrong to think of action as the completion of thought, just as it would be wrong to think of a tree as the completion of a seed.

So it is with God’s true religion. It too has an essence, just as it has offshoots. The essence of true religion is the belief that God is One. Then there are the multiple injunctions of religion; they constitute the offshoots of this selfsame essence. It would be wrong to say that belief in one God is religion in an incomplete form, and that with all its injunctions and commandments religion becomes complete. Mono­theism is the essence of true religion. We would underestimate its importance were we to think of it as incomplete, with injunctions and edicts presenting a complete picture of religion.

There are only a couple of hundred verses in the Quran which deal with the injunctions of religion. Yet in Islamic jurisprudence we find hundreds of thousands of religious injunctions. Does this mean that the Quran is incomplete, and jurisprudence is religion in complete form? It is not so; the relationship between the Quran and jurisprudence is the same as that between a seed and a tree: the Quran is the essence, jurisprudence its offshoot.

Indeed, Islam has been likened to a tree in the Quran. This is because true Islamic belief first takes root in the heart; from there it spreads to a person’s outward actions. It is the same with the indi­vidual and society. First, Islam blossoms in the individual; only then, can it spread to society. Religion on an individual level is the essence, religion on a mass, social scale the offshoot of that essence.

Such is the nature of the relationship between one thing and another in this world of God: one is the essence of a thing; the other is its offshoot. To bring a thing into existence we have to start with the essence. Only then will the offshoot appear. If we want to see a tree growing before us, we have to plant a seed into the ground, for only then will a tree blossom and grow. And if we want to see religion flourish in society, it has to first find root in the individual, for it is there that the essence of true religion lies.