Islam: Basic principles and characteristics

Khurshid Ahmad

World Assembly of Muslim Youth

This is a revised version of an earlier pamphlet published by

Islamic Publications Ltd., Lahore, Pakistan.

Islam is the religion of truth. It is the embodiment of the code of life which

God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, has revealed for the guidance

of mankind.

For the proper development of human life, man needs two elements: (a) the

resources to maintain life and to fulfill the material needs of the individual

and society, and (b) knowledge of the principles of individual and social

behavior to enable man to fulfill himself and to maintain justice and

tranquillity in human life. The Lord of the universe has provided for both

of these in full measure. To cater to the material needs of man, He has put

all of nature's resources at his disposal. To provide for his spiritual, social,

and cultural needs, He has raised His prophets from among men and has

revealed to them the code of life that can guide man's steps to the right

path. This code of life is known as Islam, the religion preached by all of

the prophets of God.1

God said:

Say, "[0 Muhammad] we believe in God and in the Revelation given to us,

and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac Jacob and the Tribes. We believe in the

Revelation that was sent to Moses, Jesus and all other Prophets from their

Lord. We make no distinction between them, and to Him we surrender."

(3:83; 2:136)

1 The Qur'an says:

"He has instituted the (same) religion for you (Muslims) as He

recommended for Noah, and which We have revealed to you and

recommended for Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Keep up religion and do not

create any divisions in it." (42:13).He has revealed to you (O Muhammad) the scripture with truth,

confirming that which was revealed before it even as He revealed the

Torah and the Gospel before as a guide to mankind and has revealed the

Criterion (for judging between right and wrong). (3:3-4)

All of them called humanity to the way of the Lord, the way of submission

to God. All of them gave the same message, and all of them stood for the

same cause: Islam.

The Meaning of Islam

Islam is an Arabic word that denotes submission, surrender, and

obedience. As a religion, Islam stands for complete submission and

obedience to Allah—that is why it is called Islam. The other literal

meaning of the word "Islam" is "peace." This signifies that one can achieve

real peace of body and of mind only through submission and obedience to

Allah.2 Such a life of obedience brings peace of the heart and establishes

real peace in society at large.

Those who believe and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of God-indeed

it is in the remembrance of God alone that the heart of man finds

rest-those who believe and act righteously, joy is for them, and a blissful

home to return to. (13: 28-29)

2 The word "Islam" is from the root SLM (pronounced silm), which means

"to surrender, to submit, to yield, to give one's self up. Thus aslama

amrahu ila Allah means "he committed his cause to God" or "he resigned

himself to the will of God." Aslama alone would mean "he committed

himself to the will of God" or "he became a Muslim." The othr major

shade of meaning in the root is "to become reconciled with one another" or

"to make peace." Salm means "peace." So does silm, which also means "the

religion of Islam." See Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written

Arabic (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1971), pp. 424-25. Imam Raghib

says in alMuiradat fi Gharib al Qur'an: "Islam, in law, is of two kinds: one

is a simple confession with the tongue ... the other (is) that along with

confession, there is belief in the heart and a fulfillment in practice, and

resignation to God in whatever He brings to pass or decrees." Raghib

further says: "Islam means entering into salary, and salary and silm both

signify peace.".This message was preached by all the Prophets of God, who guided man to

the right path. But man not only veered away from the right path again and

again, but also lost or distorted the code of guidance that the prophets had

bequeathed. That was why other prophets were sent to restate the original

message and guide man back to the right path. The last of these prophets

was Muhammad, who Presented God's guidance in its final form and

arranged to preserve it for all time. It is this guidance that is now known as

Islam and is enshrined in the Qur'an and the life-example (Sunnah) of the


The basic Islamic concept is that the whole universe was created by God,

whom Islam calls Allah, and who is the Lord and the Sovereign of the

universe, which He Alone sustains. He created man and appointed for each

human being a fixed period of life that he is to spend upon the earth. Allah

has prescribed a certain code of life as the correct one for mankind, but

has, at the same time, conferred upon man the freedom of choice as to

whether or not he adopts this code as the actual basis of his life. One who

chooses to follow the code revealed by God becomes a Muslim (believer)

and one who refuses to follow it becomes a kafir (disbeliever).

A man joins the fold of Islam by honestly believing in and professing faith

in the oneness of God and the prophet hood of Muhammad. Both of these

beliefs are epitomized in the kalimah (the article of faith):

La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasul Allah.

(There is no god except Allah; Muhammad is His Prophet.)

The first part of the kalimah presents the concept of tawhid (the oneness of

God) and its second part affirms the prophet hood of Muhammad.

Tawhid: The Bedrock of Islam

Tawhid is a revolutionary concept and constitutes the essence of the

teachings of Islam. It means that there is only one supreme Lord of the

universe. He is omnipotent, omnipresent and the sustainer of the world and

of mankind.

Now can one observe the inexhaustible creativity of nature, its

purposefulness, its preservation of that which is morally useful and

destruction of that which is socially injurious, and yet fail to draw the

conclusion that behind nature there is an all-pervading mind of whose.incessant creative activity the processes of nature are but outward

manifestations? The stars scattered through infinite space, the vast

panorama of nature with its charm and beauty, the regular waxing and

waning of the moon, the astonishing harmony of the seasons—all of these

point towards one fact: there is a God. We witness a superbly flawless plan

in the universe—can it be without a planner? We see great enchanting

beauty and harmony in its working—can they be without a creator? We

observe wonderful design in nature—can ~t be without a designer? We feel

a lofty purpose in physical and human existence—can it be without a will

working behind it? We find that the universe is like a superbly written,

fascinating book—can it be without an author? Truly, God said:

O, Mankind: worship your Lord, Who created you and those before you,

so that you may ward off evil; Who has made the earth a resting place for

you, the sky a canopy and Who causes water to pour down from the

heavens, thereby producing fruits as food for you. So do not set up rivals

to God, when you know better. (Qur'an 2:21-22)

This is the basic tenet to which Muhammad asked humanity to adhere. It is

an important metaphysical concept and answers the riddles of the universe.

It points to the supremacy of law in the cosmos and the all-pervading unity

behind the manifest diversity. It presents a unified view of the world and

offers the vision of an integrated universe. It is a mighty contrast to the

piecemeal views of the scientists and the philosophers and unveils the truth

before the human eye. After centuries of groping in the dark, man is now

coming to realize the truth of this concept, and modern scientific thought is

moving in this direction.3

But it is not merely a metaphysical concept: it is a dynamic belief and a

revolutionary doctrine. It means that all men are the creatures of one God

and that they are therefore all equal. Any discrimination based on color,

class, race, or territory is unfounded and illusory. It is a remnant of the

days of ignorance that chained men down to servitude. Humanity is one

single family under God, and there can be no sanction for those barriers.

Men are one—and not bourgeois or proletarian, white or black, Aryan or

non-Aryan, westerner or easterner. Islam gives us a revolutionary concept

of the unity of mankind. The Prophet came to unite humanity on the word

of God, which says:

Cling firmly together by means of God's rope, and do not be divided.

Remember God's favor towards you when you were enemies; He united

3 See Francis Mason (ed.), The Creat Design, Duckworth..your hearts so that you became brothers because of His favor. (Qur'an


This concept also defines the true position of man in the universe. It says

that God is the Creator and the Sovereign, while man is His vicegerent on

the earth.4 This exalts man to the noble and dignified position of being

God's deputy on earth and endows his life with a lofty purpose: to fulfill

the will of God on earth. This will solve all the perplexing problems of

human society and establish a new order wherein equity and justice, as well

as peace and prosperity, will reign supreme.

The starting point of Islam is the belief in the oneness of God


Prophet hood and Life after Death

The second part of the kalimah, on the other hand, signifies that God has

not left man without any guidance for the conduct of his life. He has

revealed His guidance through His prophets, and Muhammad was the last

prophet. To believe in a prophet means to believe in the revelation that he

has received, to accept the law that was transmitted to him by God, and to

follow the code of conduct that he was instructed to pass on to humanity.

Thus the second basic postulate of Islam is to believe in the prophet hood of

Muhammad, to accept the religion that he presented, and to follow his

commands and his example.

Every prophet of God, according to the Qur'an, strove to build man's

relationship with God on the principle of His sovereignty and the

individual's acknowledgment of the authority of the Prophet as a source of

divine guidance. Every one of them said: "I am to you God's apostle,

worthy of all trust. So be committed to God, heed Him, and obey me."5

The guidance is revealed through the prophets. It is a part of their mission

to translate it into practice in their own lives and in the society they try to

reform. All of the prophets are representatives of God, but they are human

beings and their lives are models for mankind. Muhammad, since he was

the last prophet, is the final model for mankind. To believe in him as a

prophet of God means to accept his authority as representative of the

4 Qur'an 2:30-39.

5 Qur'an 26:107-8, 110, 125-26, 131, 143-44, 150, 162-63, 178-79..Supreme Ruler and to follow his example in thought and behavior. The

code of behavior, the standard that determines rightness or otherwise (halal

or haram) of any particular thing, was revealed to the Prophet and is

known as the Shari'ah (the path). Belief in the Prophet involves acceptance

of the Shari'ah and the attempt to implement it in all matters of daily life.

This is how the will of God is fulfilled on earth.6 The Qur'an says:

We have not sent any Messenger but that he was to be obeyed with God's

permission. (4:64)

And about the Prophet, it is explicitly stated that:

Yet by your Lord, they will never believe until they make you a judge

concerning what they are disputing among themselves; then they will find

no inconvenience for themselves concerning whatever you have decided

and submit completely. (4:65)

The test of one's acceptance of God and His Prophet lies in conducting all

human affairs in accordance with the Law revealed to them:

And those who do not judge by what God has sent down are disbelievers.


Thus belief in God and His Prophet means commitment to obey them and

to fashion individual and collective life in the light of the law and the

guidance that God revealed to His Prophet.

This automatically raises the question: Are those who follow the law and

those who refuse to accept or abide by it on the same level of existence?

Are they going to be treated in the same way? What are the consequences

of differing attitudes and behaviors? This brings us to the third basic

postulate of Islam: belief in the Hereafter.

The world, according to Islam, is a place of trial, and man is being judged

in it. One day, he will have to give an account of all that he did during his

lifetime. After his death, he will be resurrected in a new world, and it is

here that he will be rewarded or punished for his deeds and misdeeds.

Those who live a life of obedience to the Lord in the present world will

enjoy eternal bliss in the Hereafter, and those who disobey His commands

6 Jesus, like all other prophets, presented the same message. This is what he

means when he says: `'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it

is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10)..will have to face the bitter fruits of their disobedience. According to the


And every man's deeds have We fastened around his neck, and on the day

of resurrection will We bring forth a book which shall be proffered to him

wide open: (It will be said to him) "Read your record: This day there need

be none but yourself to make out an account against you." (17: 13-14)

Whoever comes with a good deed, for him there shall be the like of it

tenfold, while whoever comes with an ill-deed, he shall be required with

only one like it, and they shall not be treated unjustly. (6:160)

Thus the basic articles of Islamic faith are: (a) belief in the oneness of God,

(b) belief in the prophets and in the guidance that they bequeathed, (c)

belief in the angels, (d) belief in the books, (e) belief in the Day of

Judgment, and (f) belief in fate. Whoever professes these beliefs is a

Muslim. And all of these concepts are epitomized in the kalimah: There is

no god but Allah; Muhammad is His Prophet.

Some Basic Characteristics of Islam

George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said:

"I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because

of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to

possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phases of existence which

can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him—the wonderful

man—and in my opinion far from being an Antichrist, he must be called

the Savior of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the

dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems

in a way that would bring it much needed peace and happiness. I have

prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the

Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of


The question is, what are those characteristics of Islam which have won

millions of followers to the Faith in the past and which make it so

appealing to the modern age? Some of the major characteristics of Islam

are given in the following pages.

7 G. B. Shaw, The Genuine Islam 1, no. 8 (Singapore: 1936)..Simplicity, Rationality and Practicality. Islam is a religion without any

mythology. Its teachings are simple and intelligible. It is free from

superstitions and irrational beliefs. The oneness of God, the prophet hood

of Muhammad, and the concept of life after death are the basic articles of

its faith. They are based on reason and sound logic. All of the teachings of

Islam flow from those basic beliefs and are simple and straightforward.

There is no hierarchy of priests, no farfetched abstractions, no complicated

rites and rituals. Everybody may approach the Qur'an directly and

translate its dictates into practice.

Islam awakens in man the faculty of reason and exhorts him to use his

intellect. It enjoins him to see things in the light of reality. The Qur'an

advises him to pray:

O, my Lord! Advance me in knowledge (20:1 14).

It asserts that those who have no knowledge are not equal to those who

have (39:9),

that those who do not observe and understand are worse than cattle (7:179),

that the meanings of revelation become manifest to those who have

knowledge (6:97)

and who have understanding (6:98),

that whosoever has been given knowledge indeed has been given an

abundant good (2:269),

that the basic qualifications for leadership are, among other things,

knowledge and physical strength (2:247),

and that of all things it is by virtue of knowledge that man is superior to

angels and has been made vicegerent of God on earth (2:30).

The Prophet of Islam said: "He who leaves his home in search of

knowledge walks in the path of God" (Tirmidhi and Darimi)8 and "To seek

8 According to Tirmidhi, this hadith is weak. See Da'eef Sunanal

Tirmi~lhi, no. 494 in AlAlbani..knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim" (Ibn Majah and Bayhaqi). 9

This is how Islam brings man out of the world of superstition and darkness

and initiates him into the world of knowledge and light.

Again, Islam is a practical religion and does not allow indulgence in empty

and futile theorizing. It says that faith is not a mere profession of beliefs,

but rather that it is the very mainspring of life. Righteous conduct must

follow belief in God. Religion is something to be practiced and not an

object of mere lip-service. The Qur'an says:

Those who believe and act righteously, joy is for them, and a blissful home

to return to. (13: 29)

And the Prophet Muhammad said:

"God does not accept belief if it is not expressed in deeds, and does not

accept deeds if they do not conform to belief." (Tabarani)

Thus Islam is a simple, rational and practical religion.

Unity of Matter and Spirit. A unique feature of Islam is that it does not

divide life into watertight compartments of matter and spirit. It stands not

for denial of life but for the fulfillment of life. Islam does not believe in

asceticism. It does not ask man to avoid material things. It holds that

spiritual elevation is to be achieved by living piously in the rough and

tumble of life, not by renouncing the world. The Qur'an advises us to pray

as follows:

"Our Lord! Give us something fine in this world as well as something fine

in the Hereafter." (2:201)

God strongly censures those who refuse to benefit from His blessings. The

Qur'an says:

Say: "Who has forbidden God's finery which He has produced for His

servants and the wholesome things from (His) provision?" (7:32)

Islam's injunction is:

9 This hadith is saheeh according to Al-Albani. See Saheeh.lami-ul-Sagheer,

no. 3913. According to al-Nawawi and Yahya al-Qattan, it is

weak. See Takhreej Aha~leeth Ihyaa Uloom u/Deen, no. 43..Eat and drink, but do not be extravagant. (7:31)

The Prophet said:

"A Muslim who lives in the midst of society and bears with patience the

afflictions that come to him is better than the one who shuns society and

cannot bear any wrong done to him."10


"Keep fast and break it (at the proper time) and stand in prayer and

devotion (in the night) and have sleep—for your body has its rights over

you, and your eyes rights over you, and your wife has a claim upon you,

and the person who pays a visit to you has a claim upon you."11

On another occasion he said:

"These three things are also enjoined upon the faithful: (a) to help others,

even when one is economically hard-pressed, (b) to pray ardently for the

peace of all mankind, and (c) to administer justice to one's own self."

Thus Islam does not admit any separation between "material" and "moral,"

"mundane" and "spiritual" life, and enjoins man to devote all of his

energies to the reconstruction of life on healthy moral foundations. It

teaches him that moral and material powers must be welded together and

that spiritual salvation can be achieved by using material resources for the

good of man in the service of just ends and not by living a life of asceticism

or by running away from the challenges of life.

The world has suffered at the hands of the one-sidedness of many other

religions and ideologies. Some have laid emphasis on the spiritual side of

life but have ignored its material and mundane aspects. They have looked

upon the world as an illusion, a deception, and a trap. On the other hand,

materialistic ideologies have totally ignored the spiritual and moral side of

life and have dismissed it as fictitious and imaginary. Both of these attitudes

have resulted in disaster, for they have robbed mankind of peace,

10 This is reported by Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi, and al-Bukhari in Adab al

Muirad Saheeh. See Silsilat al-Ahadeeth al-Saheehah, Al-Albani no. 939.

11 Reported by Bukhari and Muslim. See Riyod as-Saliheer', no. 150

(1:102)..contentment, and tranquillity. Even today, the imbalance is manifested in

one or the other direction. The French scientist Dr. De Brogbi rightly says:

"The danger inherent in too intense a material civilization is to that

civilization itself; it is the disequilibrium which would result if a parallel

development, of the spiritual life were to fail to provide the needed


Christianity erred on one extreme, whereas modern western civilization, in

both of its variants of secular capitalistic democracy and Marxist socialism,

has erred on the other. According to Lord Snell:

"We have built a nobly-proportioned outer structure, but we have

neglected the essential requirement of an inner order; we have carefully

designed, decorated and made clean the outside of the cup; but the inside

was full of extortion and excess; we used our increased knowledge and

power to administer to the comforts of the body, but we left the spirit

impoverished ."12

Islam seeks to establish an equilibrium between these two aspects of life—

the material and the spiritual. It says that everything in the world is for

man, but man was created to serve a higher purpose: the establishment of a

moral and just order that will fulfill the will of God. Its teachings cater to

the spiritual as well as the temporal needs of man. Islam enjoins man to

purify his soul and to reform his daily life—both individual and

collective—and to establish the supremacy of right over might and of

virtue over vice. Thus Islam stands for the middle path and the goal of

producing a moral man in the service of a just society.

A Complete Way of Life. Islam is not a religion in the common and

distorted sense, for it does not confine its scope to one's private life. It is a

complete way of life and is present in every field of human existence. Islam

provides guidance for all aspects of life—individual and social, material

and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, and national and

international. The Qur'an enjoins man to embrace Islam without any

reservation and to follow God's guidance in all areas of life.13 In fact, it

was an unfortunate day when the scope of religion was confined to the

private life of man and its social and cultural role was reduced to naught,

as has happened in this century. No other factor, perhaps, has been more

important in causing the decline of religion in the modern age than its

12 Lord Snell, The New Wor/d (London: Watts & Co., 1947), 11.

13 Qurtan 2:208..retreat into the realm of private life. In the words of a modern


"Religion asks us to separate things of God from those of Caesar. Such a

judicial separation between the two means the degrading of both the secular

and the sacred ... That religion is worth little if the conscience of its

followers is not disturbed when war clouds are hanging over us all and

industrial conflicts are threatening social peace. Religion has weakened

man's social conscience and moral sensitivity by separating the things of

God from those of Caesar."

Islam totally denounces this concept of religion and clearly states that its

objectives are the purification of the soul and the reform and

reconstruction of society. As we read in the Qur'an:

We have sent our messengers with explanations, and sent the book and the

balance down with them, so that mankind may conduct themselves with all

fairness. We have sent down iron wherein is great violence as well as

benefits for mankind, so that God may know who is supporting Him and

His messenger even though (He is) unseen. (57:25)

Discretion belongs only to God. He has ordered you to serve Him alone;

such is the right religion, even though most men do not realize it. ( 1 2: 40)

(Muslims are) those who, if We establish them in the land will keep up

prayer (salah) and pay the welfare due (zakah); command what is proper

and forbid what is improper. (22:40-41)

The Holy Prophet said:

"Each of you is a keeper or a shepherd and will be questioned about the

well-being of his fold. The head of the state will be questioned about the

well-being of the people of the state. Each man is a shepherd to his family

and will be answerable about every member of it. Each woman is a

shepherd to the family of her husband and will be accountable for every

member of it. And each servant is a shepherd to his master and will be

questioned about the property of his master." (Bukhari and Muslim).Thus even a cursory study of the teachings of Islam shows that it is an all-embracing

way of life and does not leave out any field of human existence

to become a playground for the forces of evil.14

Balance between the Individual and Society. Another unique feature of

Islam is that it establishes a balance between individualism and collectivism.

It believes in the individual personality of man and holds everyone

personally accountable to God. It guarantees the fundamental rights of the

individual and does not permit anyone to tamper with them. It makes the

proper development of the personality of man one of the prime objectives

of its educational policy. It does not subscribe to the view that man must

lose his individuality in society or in the state.

According to the Qur'an:

Man shall have nothing but what he strives for. (53:39)

And whatever suffering you suffer, it is what your hands have wrought.


God does not change what any people have until they change what is in

themselves. (13:11)

God only assigns to a soul what it can cope with: in its favor stands

whatever it has earned, while it is held responsible for anything it has

brought upon itself. (2:286)

For us are our deeds and for you are yours. (28:55)

On the other hand, it also awakens a sense of social responsibility in man,

organizes human beings in a society and a state, and enjoins the individual

to subscribe to the social good. Prayer, in Islam, is offered in

14 For a more thorough study of different aspects of the Islamic way of

life, see Abul A'la Mawdudi, Islamic Law and Constitution (Lahore:

Islamic Publications, Ltd, 1960) and his l.slamic Way of Life (Lahore:

1967); Khurshid Ahmad, (edited), Studies in the Family Law of Islam

(Karachi: 196()) and his Family Life in Islam (Leicesater: Islamic

Foundation, 1974), M. B. Siddiqui, Some A.spects of the Islamic Economy

(Lahore: 197()); M. Umer Chapra, The Economic System of Islam

(Karachi: University of Karachi, 1971); K. Ahmad (ed.), Islam: Its

Meuning and Message, 2d ed. (Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 1976); M. M.

Ahsan, Islam: Faith and Practice (Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 1977)..congregation, a situation that inculcates social discipline among Muslims.

Everyone is enjoined to pay zakah, and it has been laid down in the Quran


The beggar and the destitute have due rights in their (i.e., the rich man's)

wealth. (51:19)

Jihad has been made obligatory, which means that the individual should,

when the occasion arises, offer his life for the defense and protection of

Islam and the Islamic state. The Prophet said:

"All mankind is a fold, each member of which shall be a keeper or

shepherd to every other, and be accountable for the entire fold."

"Live together; do not turn against each other; make things easy for others

and do not put obstacles in each other's way."

"He is not a believer who takes his fill while his neighbor starves. " 15

"The believer in God is he who is not a danger to the life and property of

any other."16

In short, Islam neglects neither the individual nor society—it establishes a

harmony and a balance between the two and assigns to each its proper


15 Al Targheeb wa al-Tarheeb, al Mundhiree, classed as saheeh by al-Albani

in Silsilat al-Ahadeeth al Saheeha, no. 149.

16 ``A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe."

(Bukhari and Muslim). The version he quotes is close to the one reported

by alHakim in al-Mustadrak.

17 It might be worthwhile to recall here what the late Professor H. A. R.

Gibb said some time ago:

"Within the Western world Islam still maintains the balance between

exaggerated opposites. Opposed equally to the anarchy of European

nationalism and the regimentation of Russian communism, it has not yet

succumbed to that obsession with the economic side of life which is

characteristic of present-day Europe and present-day Russia alike. Its social

ethic has been admirably summed up by Professor Massignon: 'Islam has

the merit of standing for a very egalitarian conception of the contribution

of each citizen by the tithe to the resources of the community, it is hostile.Universality and Humanism. The message of Islam is for the whole of the

human race. God, in Islam, is the God of all the world (Qur'an 1:1) and the

Prophet is a Messenger for the whole of mankind. In the words of the


O People! I am but a Messenger from God to you all. (7:158)

We have sent you only as a mercy for everybody in the universe. (21:107)

In Islam, all men are equal, regardless of color, language, race, or

nationality. It addresses itself to the conscience of humanity and banishes all

false barriers of race, status, and wealth. There can be no denying the fact

that such barriers have always existed and continue to exist today in the so-called

enlightened age. Islam removes all of these impediments and

proclaims the ideal of the whole of humanity being one family of God.18

to unrestricted exchange, to banking capital, to state loans, to indirect taxes

on objects of prime necessity, but it holds to the rights of the father and the

husband, to private property, and to commercial capital. Here again it

occupies an intermediate position between the doctrines of bourgeois

capitalism and Bolshevist communism."

"But Islam has a still further service to render to the cause of humanity. It

stands after all nearer to the real East than Europe does, and it possesses a

magnificent tradition of inter-racial understanding and co-operation. No

other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status,

of opportunity, and of endeavour so many and so various races of mankind

....Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements

of race and tradition. If ever the oppisition of the great societies of East

and West is to be replaced by co-operation, the mediation of Islam is an

indispensable condition. In its hands lies very largely the solution of the

problem with which Europe is faced in its relations with the East. If they

unite, the hope of a peaceful issue is immeasurably enhced. But if Europe,

by rejecting the co operation of Islam, throws it into the arms of its rivals,

the issue can only be disastrous for both. " H. A. R. Gibb, Wither Islam

(London: 1932), p. 379.

18 The Prophet said: "All creatures of God form the family of God and he

is the best loved of God who loves best His creatures."

"Lord! Lord of my life and of everything in the universe! I affirm

that all human beings are brothers to one another.".Islam is international in its outlook and approach and does not admit

barriers and distinctions based on color, clan, blood, or territory, as was

the case before the advent of Muhammad. Unfortunately, these prejudices

remain rampant in different forms even in this modern age. Islam wants to

unite the entire human race under one banner. To a world torn by national

rivalries and feuds, it presents a message of life and hope and of a glorious


The historian, A. J. Toynbee, has some interesting observations to make in

this respect. In Civilization on Trial, he writes:

"Two conspicuous sources of danger—one psychological and the other

material—in the present relations of this cosmopolitan proletariat, i.e.,

[westernised humanity] with the dominant element in our modern Western

society are race consciousness and alcohol; and in the struggle with each of

these evils the Islamic spirit has a service to render which might prove, if it

were accepted, to be of high moral and social value.

"The extinction of race consciousness between Muslims is one of the

outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world

there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic

virtue ... It is conceivable that the spirit of Islam might be the timely

reinforcement which would decide this issue in favor of tolerance and


"As for the evil of alcohol, it is at its worst among primitive populations in

tropical regions which have been 'opened up' by Western enterprise ... the

fact remains that even the most statesmanlike preventive measures imposed

by external authority are incapable of liberating a community from a social

vice unless a desire for liberation and a will to carry this desire into

voluntary action on its own part are awakened in the hearts of the people

concerned. Now Western administrators, at any rate those of 'Anglo-Saxon'

origin, are spiritually isolated from their 'native' wards by the

physical 'color bar' which their race-consciousness sets up; the conversion

of the natives' souls is a task to which their competence can hardly be

expected to extend; and it is at this point that Islam may have a part to play.

"Respect God and be affectionate to the family of God."."In these recently and rapidly 'opened up' tropical territories, the Western

civilization has produced an economic and political plenum and, in the

same breath, a social and spiritual void ...

"Here, then, in the foreground of the future, we can remark two valuable

influences which Islam may exert upon the cosmopolitan proletariat of a

Western society that has cast its net around the world and embraced the

whole of mankind; while in the more distant future we may speculate on

the possible contributions of Islam to some new manifestation of


Permanence and Change. The elements of permanence and change coexist

in human society and culture and are bound to remain so. Different

ideologies and cultural systems have erred in leaning heavily towards one

or other of these ends of the equation. Too much emphasis on permanence

makes the system rigid and robs it of flexibility and progress, while a lack

of permanent values and unchanging elements generate moral relativism,

shapelessness, and anarchy.

What is needed is a balance between the two-a system that could

simultaneously cater for the demands of permanence and change. An

American judge, Mr. Justice Cardozo, rightly says "that the greatest need

of our time is a philosophy that will mediate between conflicting claims of

stability and progress and supply a principle of growth."20 Islam presents

an ideology which satisfies the demands of stability as well as of change.

Deeper reflection reveals that life has within it elements of permanence and

change—it is neither so rigid and inflexible that it cannot admit of any

change even in matters of detail, nor it is so flexible and fluid that even its

distinctive traits have no permanent character of their own. This becomes

clear from observing the process of physiological change in the human

body, for every tissue of the body changes a number of times in one's

lifetime even though the person remains the same. A tree's leaves, flowers,

and fruits change but its character remains unchanged. It is a law of life

that elements of permanence and change must co-exist in a harmonious

equation. Only such a system of life that can provide for both these

elements can meet all of the cravings of human nature and all of the needs

of human society. The basic problems of life remain the same in all ages

19 Arnold J. Tovnbee. Civilization on Trial (London: 19571 205-99 See

also 87-88.

20 Justice Cardozo, 37, H. L. R., p. 279..and climes, but the ways and means to solve them as well as the techniques

of handling the phenomenon undergo change with the passage of time.

Islam brings to focus a new perspective on this problem and tries to solve it

in a realistic way.

The Quran and the Sunnah 21 contain the eternal guidance given by the

Lord of the universe. This guidance comes from God, Who is free from

the limitations of space and time and, as such, the principles of individual

and social behavior revealed by Him are based on reality and are eternal.

But God has revealed only broad principles and has endowed man with the

freedom to apply them in every age in the way suited to the spirit and

conditions of that age. It is through ijtihad (intellectual effort to arrive at

the truth) that people of every age try to implement and apply the divine

guidance to the problems of their times. Thus the basic guidance is of a

permanent nature, while the method of its application can change in

accordance with the peculiar needs of every age. That is why Islam always

remains as fresh and modern as tomorrow's morn.

Complete Record of Teachings Preserved. Last, but not least, is the fact

that the teachings of Islam have been preserved in their original form. As a

result, God's guidance is available without adulteration of any kind. The

Qur'an is the revealed book and word of God, which has been in existence

for the last fourteen hundred years. It is still available in its original form.

Detailed accounts of the life of the Prophet and of his teachings are

available in their pristine purity. There has not been even one change made

in this unique historic record. The sayings and the entire record of the life

of the Prophet have been handed down to us with unprecedented precision

and authenticity in works of the hadith and the sirah.22 Even a number of

21 The Sunnah is the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as recorded

authentically in his sayings, actions, silent approvals, and his physical and

moral attributes before and after the revelation of the Qurtan. The Sunnah

has legislative authortiy for Muslims as do his sayings, actions, and silent

approvala after he was commissioned by Allah with prophethood.

22 The sirah is the biography of the Prophet (pbuh). The earliest extant

work is that of Ibn Hisham, which was based largely on the work of Ibn

Ishaq, a hadeeth scholar of the second generation after the generation of the

Companions of the Prophet. The difference between hadeeth and sirah is

that the sirah is arrayed chronologically and covers major events. The

hadeeth are frequently organized according to subject matter and include

statements devoid of context. Both are related with chains of narrators..non-Muslim critics admit this eloquent fact. Professor Reynold A.

Nicholson, in his A Literary History of the Arabs, says:

"The Koran is an exceedingly human document, reflecting every phase of

Muhammad's personality and standing in close relation to the outward

events of his life; so that there we have materials of unique and

incontestable authority for tracing the origin and early development of

Islam, such materials as do not exist in the case of Buddhism or

Christianity or any other ancient religion."23

These are some of the unique features of Islam that establish its credentials

as the religion of man—the religion of today and the religion of tomorrow.

These aspects have appealed to millions of people in the past and the

present and have made them affirm that Islam is the religion of truth and

the right path for mankind. There is no doubt that these aspects will

continue to appeal to even more people in the future. Men with pure hearts

and sincere longing for truth will always continue to say:

"I affirm that there is none worthy of worship except God, that He is One,

sharing His authority with no one, and I affirm that Muhammad is His

Servant and His Prophet."

23 Nicholson, R. A., A Litera~y History of the Arahs (Cambridge: 1969),


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