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> Islam -- The Universal Religion by Mrs. Ulfat
Articles Section > Islam -- The Universal Religion by Mrs. Ulfat Samad
-- The Universal Religion:
The Christianity of Jesus Christ was not meant to be a universal religion. Though as far as its fundamental teachings were concerned, the religion of Jesus was not different from Islam, yet it did not contain complete guidance for all aspects of human life and for all nations and ages. During the countless centuries of human history, when the different races of mankind were living in more or less complete isolation and there were no swift means of communication between the nations, God was sending different prophets to the different nations. Jesus was one of these national prophets. He was the Messiah of the people of Israel. This is what C. J. Cadoux writes about this restricted (national) scope of Jesus mission:
"The office of Messiahship with which Jesus believed himself to be invested, marked him out for a distinctly national role: and accordingly we find him more-or-less confining his preaching and healing ministry and that of his disciples to Jewish territory, and feeling hesitant when on one occasion he was asked to heal a Gentile girl. Jesus obvious veneration for Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Scriptures indicate the special place which he accorded to Israel in his thinking: and several features of his teaching illustrate the same attitude. Thus, in calling his hearers brothers of one another (that is, fellow-Jews) and frequently contrasting their ways with those of the Gentiles, in defending his cure of a woman on the Sabbath with the plea that she was a daughter of Abraham and befriending the tax-collector Zacchacus because he too is a son of Abraham, and in fixing the number of his special disciples at twelve to match the number of the tribes of Israel in all this Jesus shows how strongly Jewish a stamp he wished to impress upon his mission" (C. J. Cadoux, The Life of Jesus, pp. 80-81).
Each nation having been separately guided to the truth by the "national" prophets, the time was ultimately ripe in the plan of God to raise the World-Prophet and reveal the Universal Religion. And so, when the world was on the eve of becoming one, God raised the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to represent the essential message of all the prophets, shorn of all that was of temporary or limited nature and purged of all the later accretions and misinterpretations. He amalgamated the religious traditions of the different nations into a single universal faith and brought together the people of all races and lands in a single worldwide brotherhood. He gave the world the perfect religion and a complete code of life for all mankind.
To establish the truth of his religion, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not resort to miracles, which may win over the few who witness them but fail to carry conviction to those of subsequent generations. The appeal of his religion is to the reason and conscience of man. To carry the truth home to us he draws our attention to the phenomena and laws of nature, the lessons of history, and the teachings and experiences of prophets of various nations. There is nothing in Islam which is of significance or value only to the people of a particular region or age. The Quran enjoins nothing which is not uniformly inspiring and edifying to the people of all lands and does not provide adequate guidance to man in all stages of a changing and advancing society. It meets the religious, spiritual, moral and social needs of all nations and ages. The teachings of Islam are of universal nature.
In considering the proposition that Islam and not Christianity is the universal religion, readers must bear the following facts in mind:
+ The mission of Jesus was for the people of Israel alone, but the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came with Gods message for the whole of mankind. Jesus clearly stated:"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matthew 15:24).
Let us compare some aspects of Islam and Christianity to see why we regard Islam and not Christianity as the perfect religion for all mankind.
St. Paul, who is the real founder of Christianity, regarded woman primarily as the temptress; he thought of her mainly as the inspirer of impure lusts. He laid the entire blame for the fall of man and genesis of sin on woman. In his Epistles, which are included in the Bible as holy scripture, he wrote:
"Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor" (1 Timothy 2: 11-14).
The combined influence of the Old Testament writings, and of the Epistles of Paul in the New Testament (both of which are included in the Holy Bible), was shown in those fierce invectives against woman which form so conspicuous and so grotesque a portion of the writings of the Christian Fathers and saints of which the following is a fair sample:
"Women, you are the devils doorway. You have led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It is your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and in rags" (Tertullian).
Woman had no separate identity, no legal status, in Christianity. In England, which was the most advanced Christian country, "up till the 1st of January 1883, it was true to state that, as a general rule, the contract of a married woman was void." She could not sue or be sued apart from her husband. The Married Womans Property Act, giving her the right to possess property in her own name, was passed in England as late as 1882.
As regards marriage, the teaching of Christianity has been, and still is, that celibacy is best. "To the unmarried and the widows I say," writes St. Paul, "that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (1 Corinthian, 7:8-9). It was in the same spirit that St. Jerome wrote: "Let us take axe in hand and cut of at the roots the fruitless tree of marriage." Nevertheless, the Bible has nowhere made polygamy unlawful for the average Christian believer. (See John Milton, A Treatise on Christian Doctrine.)
When we turn from Christianity to Islam, we find that the Quran clears woman of he responsibility for the fall of Adam and vindicates her honour and dignity. It raises the status of woman to make her mans equal. Islam gave woman the same rights as those of man:
And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner (2:228).
The modern man recognises that there can be no true freedom and dignity without economic rights. Fourteen hundred years ago Islam gave woman the right to inherit the property of her father and husband and to acquire, own and dispose of wealth as she liked. The Quran says:
For men is a share of what the parents and the near relatives leave, and for women a share of what the parents and the near relatives leave, whether it be little or much an appointed share (4:7).
In marriage, woman is considered by Islam to be an equal and free partner. Marriage in Islam is a sacred contract between a man and a woman and the consent of both parties has to be taken before marriage can take place. The Quran describes woman as the companion of her husband an object of love and source of peace and solace to him, as he to her:
And of His signs is this, that He created mates for you from yourselves that you might find quiet of mind in them, and He put between you love and compassion. Surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect (30:21).
Islam is the first religion to put restriction on polygamy. It allows a man to marry more than one wife in rare circumstances and under conditions which make it a well nigh impossibility. It says:
If you will not do justice then marry only one (4:3).
And a little later it adds:
You cannot do justice between wives, even though you wish it (4:129).
From this it is clear that Islam disallows polygamy to men in normal circumstances. However, in abnormal circumstances, as after a devastating war, in which numerous men have died, leaving behind homeless widows and orphans and an excess of female population Islam allows conditional and limited polygamy. It does this to provide homes to homeless women, to protect them from being exploited by men, and to save society from moral corruption.
To impress upon his followers the exalted position of the mother and sacredness and dignity of womanhood, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) declared:
"Paradise lies at the feet of the mother."
"Women are the twin-halves of men,"
and that men and women are made of the same essence and have the same soul. Islam makes no distinction between them as regards their intellectual, moral and spiritual capabilities and rewards:
The believers, men and women, are friends one of another. They enjoin good and forbid evil and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and obey God and His Messenger. As for these, God will have mercy on them. Surely God is Mighty, Wise (9:71).
"Servants (that is, slaves), be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly" (1 Peter, 2:18).
Christianity failed utterly to abolish slavery or to alleviate its evils. The Church itself held slaves and recognised in explicit terms the lawfulness of this baneful institution. Under its influence, the highly cultured Christians of America practised the cruellest inhumanities upon the unfortunate beings whom they held as slaves and shed torrents of blood for the maintenance of the curse of slavery in their midst.
The first religion to improve the condition of slaves and to take steps for the total abolition of slavery is Islam. To begin with, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made kind and brotherly treatment of slaves obligatory on the Muslims. They were to be considered as members of ones family:
"Your slaves are your brothers. So if any one of you happens to have a slave, let him give him the same food that he himself eats, and the same clothing that he himself wears. And do not give them such work as is beyond their power to perform; and if you ever happen to give them such work, you should help them in doing it" (Maulana Muhammad Ali, A Manual of Hadith).
The following are just two of the many verses of the Quran exhorting men to emancipate slaves:
And what will make you comprehend what the uphill road is? It is to free a slave, or to feed in a day of hunger an orphan nearly related, or the poor man lying in the dust. Then he is of those who believe and exhort one another to mercy (90:12-17).
The institution of slavery being opposed to the Islamic teaching of the equality and dignity of men, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) prohibited the taking of fresh slaves in very strong words:
"God says, There are three persons whose adversary in dispute I shall be on the Day of Judgement: a person who makes a promise in My name then acts unfaithfully, a person who enslaves a free person, sells him and devours his price, and a person who employs a man to do a work and exacts full work from him but does not pay him his full remuneration."
Finally, came the categorical command of God not only to emancipate slaves, but also to give them a part of ones wealth to rehabilitate them:
And those of your slaves who ask for a writing of freedom, give them the writing, if you know any good in them, and give them of the wealth of God which He has given you (24:33).
Jesus Christ is reported to have said: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods (Matthew 22:21). The result of the separation of religion and politics in Christianity has been the growth of Machiavellism in the West. In Islam, there is no dichotomy between the temporal and the spiritual. Being the last revealed religion and foreseeing the eventual evolution of humanity, Islam has formulated a basic code of comprehensive guidance for mankind in all their activities and relations, whether they fall within the public or the private sphere. Islam ensures justice and social and international harmony by regulating the political, economic and international affairs according to the laws of God and morality and by defining the basic duties of the State and of one state towards another state. It laws down some basic political, social and economic principles which every community is enjoined to adopt and them gives each the liberty to develop its structure according to the needs of the age, provided this superstructure observes the basic principles and remains within their scope.
The constitution of the Islamic state rests on the following fundamental principles:
The final picture, therefore, that emerges is that an Islamic State is an ideological state set up by the will of the people in a constitutional manner following the democratic principle of decision-making in which every citizen has an equal right to participate and governance is a trust which has to be regulated on he principles of equality, liberty and fraternity enunciated in the Quran with absolute fairness and impartiality, without giving any preference to anyone, for the welfare of the entire community and in such a manner that the basic needs of all are satisfied and everyone enjoys equality of opportunity without distinction of race, colour, birth or rank.
Islam considers God to be the Absolute Owner of all wealth. Men are only trustees. They can keep and make use of their honestly acquired property only if by their doing so the interests of other individuals and of the society as a whole are not unjustly affected and if their economic activities are carried on within the limits prescribed by God.
Islam regards all forms of unearned income as unlawful. According to the Quran, Man shall have only that for which he works and makes effort (53:39). It upholds the dignity of labour. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
"No one eats better food than that which he eats out of the work of his own hands."
There is nothing more reprehensible in the sight of God than the exploitation of man by man. Islam severely condemns profiteering, black-marketing, hoarding, speculation, gambling, manufacture and sale of goods that are harmful to man, and all such practices by which a man takes undue advantage of the needs of others. It is opposed to the formation of cartels and monopolies and takes necessary measures to prevent the concentration of wealth in few hands. It wants the wealth of a nation to be fairly and equitably distributed among all the citizens, so that it may not circulate only among the rich of you (59:7).
Most important of all, Islam interdicts riba. That is, the practice of investing or lending money with a view to increasing it by exploiting others or by appropriating to oneself the fruits of the labour of others, without employing ones own physical and mental powers to productive or creative use. Says the Quran:
O you who believe, devour not riba (interest, usury, surplus value), doubling and redoubling, and keep your duty to God, that you may be successful (3:129).
On the one hand, Islam is against hoarding, miserliness and avarice, and, on the other, it censures squandering of wealth on vanities and luxuries and all forms of wasteful expenditure. It requires every man to be personally responsible for the well-being of the society. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said:
"He is not a Muslim who eats his fill and leaves his neighbour hungry."
In order to reduce inequality and make sure that everyone gets the basic necessities and has equal opportunities in life, Islam imposes a tax, called zakat, on the capital of the rich for the benefit of the poor and the needy. Moreover, it repeatedly exhorts men to spend generously out of what God has given them to help the less fortunate and for the welfare of the society. The wealth that a man has earned is not absolutely his. It is a trust with him from God. He has acquired it by employing his God-given faculties and talents and by the aid and facilities provided by the society. He must repay his debt to the society and spend as much as possible, out of what he has honestly earned by his own labour, in the way of God.
There is no compulsion in religion (2:256).
The fact is that Islam not only preaches toleration but it also enjoins upon its followers equal faith in the founders of all the great religions of the world. It invites people of all religions to join Muslims in forming a league of Faiths to uphold the principles of the unity of God, moral integrity and the brotherhood of man.
In Muslim countries, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Zoroastrians have enjoyed the freedom which, till recently, was totally denied to non-Christians in Christendom.
"Doctrines and implications in Christianity, forming a solid rampart against the advance of knowledge, blocked the paths of science in the Middle Ages and obstructed its progress till the latter half of the nineteenth century. In every important field of scientific research, the ground was occupied by false views which the Church declared to be true on the infallible authority of the Bible" (A History of Freedom of Thought, pp. 46-47).
The Christian emerged from the night of ignorance and superstition only when the light of learning from the Muslim universities penetrated the darkness of Europe and led to the Renaissance.
"It is to the Mussalman [i.e., Muslim] science, to Mussalman art, to Mussalman literature that Europe has been in great measure indebted for its extrication from the darkness of the Middle Ages" (Marquies of Dufferin and Ava, Speeches Delivered in India, p. 24).
Islam, unlike Christianity, makes the acquisition of knowledge and exercise of reason a duty of the believers. Said the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
"The acquisition of knowledge is a duty incumbent on every Muslim, male and female."
The Quran repeatedly exhorts the believers to observe and investigate the phenomena of nature:
In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, and the ships that run in the sea with that which profits men, and the water that God sends down from the sky, then gives life therewith to the earth after its death and spreads in it all kinds of animals, and the changing of the winds and the clouds made subservient between heaven and earth, there are surely signs for a people who understand (2:164).
Islam gives the greatest possible impetus to scientific research by declaring that all that is in the heavens and the earth is subservient to man, and that it is mans duty to control and harness the forces of nature for the benefit of the human race:
And He has made subservient to you the night and the day and the sun and the moon. And the stars are made subservient by His command. Surely there are signs in this for a people who understand (16:12).
The result of these teachings was that all over the Islamic world outstanding centres of learning sprang up in no time and produced great scientists and scholars. There is no branch of learning to which Muslims did not make valuable contribution. But more important than their contribution to particular branches of science, according to Rober Briffault, is their invention of the scientific method itself. He writes:
"It is highly probable that but for the Arabs, modern European civilization would never have assumed that character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution. For although there is not a single aspect of human growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the paramount distinctive force of the modern world and the supreme source of its victory the natural science and the scientific spirit . Science owes its very existence to Arabic culture .What we call science arose in Europe as a result of a new spirit of inquiry, of new methods of experiment, observation, measurement, of the development of mathematics in a form unknown to the Greeks. That spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world by the Arabs" (Making of Humanity, pp. 190-191).
O mankind, surely We have created you male and female and made you nations and tribes that you may know each other. Surely the noblest of you with God is the best in conduct. Surely God is Knowing, Aware (49:13).
In his famous Farewell Sermon, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) declared:
"No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, and no non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; no white man has any superiority over a black man, and no black man has any superiority over a white man. The criterion of superiority in the sight of God is greater piety and righteousness."
Never in their long history have Muslims in any part of the world been guilty of racial discrimination, colour or apartheid. According to the famous historian Arnold Toynbee:
"The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue (Civilization on Trial, p. 205).
Nor does Islam recognise the distinction between the so-called clergy and laity, which is a prominent feature of other religions. There is no priesthood in Islam.
The Quran enjoins love and sympathy among human beings and unites them as brothers. It says:
And hold fast by the covenant of God all together and be not disunited. And remember Gods favour to you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts, so by His favour you became brethren. And you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it. Thus God makes clear to you His messages that you may be guided (3:102).
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
"All Gods creatures are His family, and he is the most beloved of God who tries to do the greatest good to Gods creatures."
Thus it will be seen that Islam gives guidance regarding many matters about which Christianity is silent. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) completed what was left incomplete by Jesus. Islam is the true religion of Jesus, revived by a fresh revelation and perfected to cover all aspects of human life and to provide guidance to men of all times and all nations. It is, in short, the Universal Religion. It does not only respond to mans devotional urges but to human life as a whole. It does not only give an infallible metaphysics, but also a comprehensive and sublime code of individual and social ethics, a sound economic system, a just political ideology, and may other things besides. It is not a solitary star, but a whole solar system, encompassing the whole and illuminating the whole.