Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Search for Truth | Al-Risala May 1988

On an extended tour of the U.S.S.R., an American lady once pointedly registered her dislike and disapproval of the portraits of the Communist Party Chairman which she saw hanging everywhere she went. A travelling companion immediately pointed out to her in an undertone that she was in Russia now, not America.

In one’s own country, one behaves automatically with discretion, because adherence to customs, laws and norms of polite behaviour has become instinctive long before adulthood. But in a foreign country, one is often initially unaware of differences in tradition and etiquette, and must take care to familiarize oneself with their minutiae before embarking on social relationships or even entering into the practical matters of everyday living. This means being constantly on the alert to prevent instinctive behaviour – correct in the home environment, but incorrect in a foreign context – from giving undue offence. When foreign visitors remember to remove their shoes before entering a mosque, they show their awareness of a custom which is alien to them, and their willingness to respect it. As Europeans would say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

The same is true in a broader sense of men in his world environ­ment. Born as he was into a world which, not he, but God created, he must learn the rules of that ‘foreign’ land, and, once having learned them, must respect and obey them. He must always remember that he is living not in a world of his own making, but in the world of God.

If man lives his life according to God’s scheme of things, he is bound to prosper. But if he does not, he will be looked upon as a rebel and will be liable for punishment by his Maker. It is not only punishment that he risks, but the withdrawal of God’s blessings for all time to come.

How should man live in this world if he is to conform religiously to the will of God? It was to answer this question that God sent His Prophets to the world. The Prophets showed man quite plainly, in terms which he could not misunderstand, exactly what was required of him by his Lord: they clearly defined the divine scheme according to which man was to conduct himself.

This prophetic guidance has been enshrined for all eternity in the Quran. Whoever wishes to be counted among God’s faithful servants, and granted a share in His eternal blessings, must read the Quran and be guided by it throughout his entire life.