It is difficult to give a comprehensive review of the principles of Islam in one chapter of this small book and hence the heading of this chapter.
The readers will be able to just get a peep into Islamic principles. However such topics have been selected, as are most fundamental and also, as are relevant to some of the complicated problems, which the modern world is facing today. So, let us begin:-
“In the name of Allah, who is merciful to the greatest extent.” (Quran 1:1)
In articles 1 and 2 below, we shall discuss some of the personal beliefs, which a Muslim must have.
UNITY OF GOD
The most basic principle of Islam is the “Unity of God.” This is very important, because when we consider Him to be one and only one, we realize His supreme authority over this complicated universe. This logically leads to the idea, that He must have created this universe with a purpose. Our intellect immediately tells us, that we shall be accountable before God on the Day of Reckoning.
Every Prophet has also been emphasizing the doctrine of accountability and the Day of Reckoning. If we do not believe in one God, these essential concepts are dimmed, the importance of His prophets is overlooked and human beings leave the right path and are involved in sinful activities, damaging the “Kingdom of the Lord”. (This matter has been dealt with in Part I in some detail.)
Hence Islam makes ‘Unity of God’ as the pivot of its faith. In contrast, other religions also proclaim Unity of God but damage this concept through various contortions. Islam insists on “Purity” of Unity. Chapter 112 of Quran is headed “Purity”. It says:-
“Say (O believers) God is One and only One. He is absolutely independent in every respect. He is not related to anyone by birth. And NO ONE can be His equal in any way.
Together with the Unity of God, a Muslim must also proclaim, that he believes in the Prophet-hood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), because it is only through the Prophet that one can receive the Message of God.
ISLAMIC TEACHINGS IN A NUTSHELL
Chapter 1 of Quran is a brief introduction.
Chapter 2 directly starts by enunciating the basic principles of Islam:-
“There is not the least doubt in it, that this Book (Quran) provides guidance to those, who fear God. They are the people, who:-
- believe in the unseen God,
- who regularly pray to God to assure obedience,
- who spend in the way of God, from what God has given them,
- who believe in the revelation sent to you (O Muhammad), and
- who believe in the Revelation sent to other Prophets before you, and
- who have faith in the Day of Judgment. These are the persons, who have received guidance from their Lord and these are the persons, who will be triumphant on the Day of Judgment.” (Quran 2: 1 – 5)
These six clauses give the gist of Islamic teachings, and hence they require some consideration.
(i) “Who believe in the unseen God”.
This clause rules out the idea of the worship of any idol made of stone or metal and also of giving the mantle of God to a living or dead human being. These were two forms of idolatry found in the society, when Islam appeared. One (material idols) was practiced by pagans and the other (human gods) was preached by Christians and Jews.
(ii) Who regularly pray to God to assure obedience.
Clause (i) deals with the concept of unseen God and stresses His pure unity.
Clause (ii) “Regular Prayers” deals with the spiritual relation between the Creator and the created. We shall consider clause (ii) in some detail.
Saying regular prayers is one of the most important pillars of Islam. In addition to the verses quoted above, emphasis has been laid on prayers at many other places in Quran. All believers have to present themselves before God five times every day and to reaffirm their allegiance to Him in the set words, which have been prescribed by the Prophet (PBUH), in accordance with God’s revelation, thus committing themselves before God to carry out His orders. This is just like the Oath of Allegiance taken by all important persons like ministers, judges etc, when they assume an office.
Some people may think, that five times a day every day is rather a repetition, but it is not so. Human nature is such, that a man forgets his duty very soon and constant reminder helps him in sticking to the right path. Whenever he is enticed to go wrong, he is reminded of his promises, which he has made before God only a short while ago.
Regular prayers also train the believers to be alert and ever ready to respond to the call of duty given for prayers five times every day, just as the soldiers of an efficient army are always ready to respond to the bugle call given for a parade or for an emergency.
For those who say prayers regularly, it becomes their second nature to give preference to obedience to Allah, setting aside the daily worldly engagements. When it is time for prayers, they suspend their routine activities, their entertainments and even their profitable commercial dealings. Through this constant obedience to God’s orders, they are programmed to be ready for any emergency, when their services are required in the way of God for protecting their faith and their country. They respond to the call of duty leaving their daily affairs to the care of God. It was this spirit, which enabled small armies of Islam to defeat the legions of the Great Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. In fact when in the battle field it was time for prayers, Muslim soliders said their prayers by turns – half of the army saying prayers and the other half engaging the enemy.
This direct dialing with God, gives moral support to the will of a believer, and he is not afraid of anything or anybody. Regular prayers form one of the most important factors in modeling the character and personality of a Muslim.
To a non-believer the routine of prayers, five times a day, may appear to be harsh and impracticable. In fact when we like a thing and believe in its utility, we do not consider its routine to be harsh. On the other hand, we take pleasure in it.
Does an office goer consider the routine harsh – bath, shave, change of clothes, shoe polish and what not?
Does a lady consider the routine harsh, which she undergoes in the beauty parlour, or while applying mud packs on her face for the whole night or while undergoing plastic surgery for face lifting?
Does a person consider it harsh, when to improve his health, he rises early, leaving his warm bed and runs and jogs for hours.
However it may be added, that the routine of prayers is not so hard, as it may appear to a person not offering prayers. Each prayer is not carried out at a fixed point of time; there is a sufficient margin in the timings prescribed for each prayer, so that you can make adjustment within the time limit according to your worldly engagements. Also going to the Mosque for saying prayers, though preferable, is not compulsory: Prayers can be said at any convenient place. Thus, it may be seen, the routine of prayers can be carried out without any difficulty.
For the benefit of my Christian readers, it is pointed out, that the Jews said their prayers several times a day and Prophet Jesus (PBUH), as given in the Gospels, prayed with them in their synagogue. It was St. Paul, who reduced these prayers to only one visit to the Church per week, when he overhauled all observances of the Christian faith in order to attract pagans. (Fully discussed in a previous chapter).
We have dealt with clause (ii) regarding ‘Regular Prayers’ in some detail, as the philosophy of Islamic Prayers is unique and is generally not understood properly.
We now come to Clause (iii)
Who spend in the way of God, what God has given them
This clause pinpoints two important principles. First of all we should understand very clearly, that whatever wealth there is with us in any form, it has been given to us by God. God is the real owner of all wealth. Nobody should foster the misunderstanding, that he has got it through his intelligence and hardwork. These qualities are essential for earning wealth, but who gives these qualities to a person? Your real brother may be completely different from you. And then, you will find many persons around you, if you look carefully, who are equally intelligent and hardworking, but they earn much less than you. So it is really God, who gives us what we have, and therefore, He asks us to spend out of it in His way.
How much is to be spent and in what manner, has been explained in other verses, which we shall discuss later.
At present it is to be clearly understood, that Islam considers God to be the real owner of all wealth, which, in His kindness, He has bestowed on any person.
This clause lays down, that man, being only the custodian of wealth, should part with it in accordance with the instructions of the Real Owner. We shall consider this matter fully, a little later under Monetary System of Islam.
Whereas clause (ii), (Regular Prayers), moulds the character of a Muslim and helps him to get a personal liaison with the Creator, implementation of Clause (iii), (Charity), provides a vigorous base of welfare in the Muslim society.
Clause (iv) stresses the belief in Quran, which contains the total Revelation received by the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). For Muslims it is compulsory to know the Word of God and to act on it.
Belief in Quran
In these six clauses, the basic principles of Islam have been mentioned briefly. Naturally a believer in Islam will have to believe in Quran, which contains the full message, as revealed by Allah to His Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him).
Belief in the Revelations of previous prophets.
Under this clause, the recognition of all previous Prophets has been mentioned briefly, but it has also been stressed at several other places in Quran:-
Say (O Prophet! We believe in God and in what has been revealed to us and in what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Issac and Jacob and on some members of his family and in what was given to Moses, Jesus and other Prophets of God. We do not differentiate between them. We are all Muslims.
(Muslim means, one who surrenders him self to God)’. (Quran 3:84)
We have to give full respect to the Revelation of every Prophet, since that is the word of God. There is a core of essential beliefs common to the Revelations of all Prophets, namely: Unity of God, Prophet-hood System, Day of Judgment and the usual list of virtues. But the code of everyday routine brought by the previous Prophet is replaced by the one, which the new Prophet brings with him. If the previous code had retained its effectiveness in the changed conditions of the world, there would have been no need to send a new Prophet.
“And no Prophet has the power to bring even one verse without the orders of God and He issues special orders for each period”. ( Quran 13:88)
This is the only way, in which all believers in God can join together to form a formidable power, which can establish the ‘Kingdom of God’ in this world, and side by side can meet the requirements of the changing world. The Christian creed of offering the second side of the face, when you are struck on one side, was a suitable way of influencing the non-believers in the days of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) but in the modern world only the Islamic principle of equal retaliation can have a controlling effect on the aggressor.
The Day of Judgment
This topic has been fully discussed earlier in part I without any reference to Islam. Our intellect tells us, that in order to keep human beings on the right path, it is necessary to accept the concept of the “Day of Judgment”. This is one of the key principles of Islam.
In fact it is in our own interest, that we should believe in the ‘Day of Judgment’, always remembering that one day we shall have to stand trial before God and will be accountable for our deeds and for blessings which were bestowed on us by God. This is a very effective check, which can keep us on the “Right Path” and will ensure a welfare society in this world and our emancipation in the next.
Thus in these six clauses of this verse, we come across the most basic principles of Islam in condensed form.
In the following articles, we shall discuss some matters dealing with the problems faced by the modern world. We now give another basic tenet of the Islamic creed.
ISLAM AS THE FINAL RELIGION
Islam means “Surrender to God’s Will” and Quran uses this world ISLAM for the religion of every Prophet sent by God. The reader may refer to a previous quotation under: Belief in the Revelation of previous Prophets:-
“ …… We do not differentiate between them. We are all MUSLIMS”. (Quran 3:84)
Referring to Prophet Abraham (PBUH) the Quran says:-
“And Abraham ordered his sons and Jacob: O my sons! God has chosen this faith for you, so you should not die except as MUSLIMS. (Quran 2:132)
Referring to the People of the Book, Quran says:-
“There is no doubt that Islam is the only religion recognized by Allah and if the People of the Book (Christians & Jews) refuse to accept the message, which they have received, simply on account of personal pride, Allah is very soon going to put them on trial. (Quran 3:19)
Quran also declares:
“…… Muhammad is a Prophet of God and he is the last Prophet and God is all knowing.”
Thus Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the last prophet and that Islam, as embodied in Quran, is the future religion of the whole world. The
“I (God) have this day completed for you your religion to perfection and My blessings for you have reached the highest point and I have selected Islam to be your religion.” (Quran 5:3)
In the discussion, which follows, we shall consider some of the revolutionary principles of Islam, which entitle it to become the future religion of the whole world.
We shall also quote the opinions of some of the well known non-Muslim intellectuals on these topics.
THE LAST PROPHET
Since Quran conveys the word of God, a Muslim immediately accepts the fact, that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the Last Prophet, but an objection may be raised by a non-Muslim reader, that Prophets have been coming in this world one after another, then why should Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) be the last Prophet?
The Reader should realize, that God does not do any thing without any purpose. In olden times, means of communication were scarce. Nor had the paper been invented, thus the message could not be conveyed to distant places through written form. Therefore, it was necessary to send Prophets to various areas. Again with the passage of time, the oral traditions of a prophet lost their shape through transmission from one generation to the other. Even as late as the days of Prophet Jesus (PBUH), these difficulties were there and hence Prophet Jesus (PBUH) was sent only to look after Israel.
The Bible says:-
“ Go nowhere among the Gentiles (non-Jews) and no town of the Samaritans (another non-Jew group) but go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.”
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of lsrael.”
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born in the 6th century A.D. and by that time the human race had entered the stage of maturity through evolution shace not the monkey-to-Man evolution of Darwin but the real intellectual and spiritual maturity as ordained by God.
The Modern Age had been ushered and God desired to send his Message in the final form based on Rationalism suited to the temperament of the new intellectual generation, who would not be satisfied with miracles, but would like their religion to have sound scientific basis, and whose working principles should be progressive enough to meet the needs of the future.
God Himself has taken the responsibility of preserving his Message. (There are Quranic Verses on this subject). In contrast with the record of Revelation received by previous Prophets, the text of Quran has been preserved unchanged correct to a dot. Also, as already mentioned, millions of Muslims, called “Huffaz” have memorized the whole Quran and they continuously keep cross checking through recitation.
Enough writing material had been searched out by scholars at the time of advent of Islam. Also, paper became available soon after, so that there was not the least chance of the Message being mutilated and consequently it has been permanently preserved.
Also the followers of the Prophet spread out to every corner of the known world at that time using land routes and the sea. The Arab sailors developed the science of navigation and explored far off seas carrying not only merchandise, but also the Message of Islam from Spain to Indonesia and China.
Thus it can be seen, that there was no need to send local Prophets to various parts of the world and God decided to send the final Prophet and the final Message.
Our attention is drawn to an interesting fact. More than 1400 years have passed and no Prophet has appeared, thus proving the finality of the Prophet-hood of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
We shall now examine the Islamic principles critically, and see how they substantiate the claim of Islam to be the Religion of the World.
A COMPREHENSIVE RELIGION
Most religions are concerned only with the personal beliefs of an individual or of a society dealing with their day to day private activities and their relation with God – whatever the status of God may be in their religion.
You can look at the history of any society before the advent of Islam and you will always find two separate groups – one which was the custodian of religion and the other which had political power. The ruling individual – and sometimes a group – had no obligations towards religion and God, and the situation gave them a free hand to do, whatever they liked. This situation holds good even today. To cover up their selfish activities, they ridicule religion and put on a mantle of superiority under the title of Secularism.
Islam, on the other hand, is a comprehensive religion, giving a complete code of life concerning the relation of man and the Creator, relation of man with other fellow beings, form of Government, monetary system and in fact every aspect of human life. All these laws are embodied in Quran and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was not only a religious guide, who explained the principles of religion, but he was also the head of the Islamic State, which covered vast regions of the world, and thus he practically demonstrated the universality and practicability of the principles of Islam. In fact all aspects of human life are considered by Islam as integral parts of religion. This comprehensive achievement of Islam is recognized by every scholar, who cares to study history.
“it is this unparalled combination of secular and religious influence, which, I feel, entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.” (‘The 100’; by Hart, Page 40).
It is really surprising how some people, assuming the role of intellectuals, preach to keep religion separate from worldly affairs. Do they mean to say, that God sends His prophets and His message only to guide His creatures to say their prayers and that He is not interested in other matters, which concern the welfare of humanity? But these Godless people have succeeded in deceiving humanity and are running most of the world according to their own whims and preferences under the cover of secularism, and the results are before the world. The world stands divided on the basis of Racial, Regional and Parochial prejudices and is continuously involved in warfare, famine and exploitation of all sorts.
Islam has set an example of providing complete guidance to humanity in all spheres of life and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers, by implementing the principles of Islam, demonstrated practically that God, by sending his final message through Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), has bestowed on humanity His beneficent gift, which provides the solution of all human problems – spiritual, political, economical and social.
ISLAM AS THE RELIGION OF THE WORLD
Modern thinkers have realized that this division of the humanity into different sectors on the basis of race, language etc. is the greatest obstacle in establishing an era of peace and progress in the world.
For some time now, the concept of “World Government” and “Universal Citizenship” is being discussed by intellectuals. Some practical steps have also been taken in this direction – the League of Nations and the United nations are good examples. Though these bodies have gained some success, but a real break-through has not been achieved, one of the main causes being racial prejudice and partisanship.
World intellectuals have now realized that the remedy lies in Islam.
Prof. Hargronje writes: “The League of Nation founded by the Prophet of Islam put the principle of international unity and human brotherhood on such universal foundations, as to show candle to other nations. The fact is that no nation of the world can show a parallel to what Islam has done towards the realization of the idea of the League of Nations.”
The famous international historian, A.J. Toynbee says:-
“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 virtue.” (A.J. Tyoynbee: “Civilization on Trial” New York)
Another famous historian says:-
“Islam has a still further service to render to the cause of humanity. It possesses a magnificent tradition of inter-racial understanding and cooperation. No other society has such a record of success in uniting, in an equality of status, of opportunity and of endeavours, so many races of mankind.”
(H.A.R. Gibbs: “Wither Islam”, London)
These opinions of world famous non-Muslim historians are based on solid facts preserved in History.
The basis of Islam is that God is the Creator of the whole humanity and therefore all men are equal.
“All human beings belong to the same community. (Quran: 2:213)
Naturally they must be equal and have equal rights. However there is one thing, which God has ordained in Quran, which can give one person superiority over others. It is not race, nor power, nor wealth. It is “Righteousness”, that is, devotion and reverence to God.
“O human being! We created you from one man and one woman. Nations and clans are meant only to enable you to distinguish one another between yourselves. There is no doubt that before God, only He is more exalted who is more righteous. God is all-knowing and is fully informed. (Quran 49: 13)
That is not enough. The Muslims surprised the world by putting these concepts into practice.
The Arabs were very class-conscious and were very proud of their lineage, yet after accepting Islam they were completely changed.
A Persian was one of the closest companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). His advice was highly rated in planning the defence of Medina.
A freed Negro slave was very high in rank and was deputed to call the faithful to prayers five times every day, in super-session of Arabs belonging to highly respected class.
A cousin of the Prophet himself was married to another freed slave, setting aside the false pride of Arabs.
Thus the whole atmosphere was electrified and the entire body of the faithful stood up just like one family.
Muslims had to fight many battles with their opponents, who were out to destroy the new faith. Thus Muslims had to defend themselves not only against local Arab chiefs, but also against big world powers like the Great Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. While organizing Muslim armies, Generals were appointed on merit, irrespective of their race or colour or age and nobody ever hesitated to fight under them.
History is full of the successes of Islam. In a very short time Islam had overcome opposition and even powers, running world wide empires, were defeated and Islam was able to spread its message all over the known parts of the world.
When Muslims reached foreign countries they were not proud and their behaviour with the local people was not that of superiority generally adopted by conquerors, but was that of equals and brothers.
And this brotherhood and equality is firmly established in the Muslim society all over the world.
The most important point to be considered is, how racialism has been overcome by Islam as pointed out by Toynbee and Gibbs.
This has been achieved by accepting the Word of God and by agreeing, that all our matters – worldly as well as spiritual – are to be governed by the ‘Word of God’. It is only by agreeing to surrender before God, that we can overcome our prejudices.
Two very well known international authorities Toynbee and Gibbs – have been quoted above. Many enlightened non-Muslims all over the world have now arrived at the conclusion, that in the interest of the welfare of humanity and in order to attain peace and justice in the world, it is imperative that Islam should be adopted as “Religion of the World.”
Below are given some more opinions of well known non-Muslim intellectuals:-
“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 phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age. “ I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad, that it would be acceptable to Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.
(G.B. Shaw, The Genuine Islam Vol.I)
Montgomery Watt says:-
“I am not a Muslim in the usual sense, though I hope I am a Muslim as “one surrendered to God”, but I believe that, embedded in the Quran and other expressions of the Islamic vision, are vast stores of divine truth, from which I and other occidentals have still much to learn and Islam is certainly a strong contender for the supplying of the basic framework of the one religion of the future.
(W. Montgomery Watt, “Islam and Christianity Today” London)
Mrs. Sarojini Naidu of India says:-
“Sense of Justice is one of the most wonderful ideals of Islam, because as I read in Quran, I find those dynamic principles of life, not mystic but practical ethics for the daily conduct of life suited to the whole world”.
(Sarojini Naidu “Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu”. Madras, India)
Now that the modern intellectuals have been convinced of the need of Islam for the peace and progress of the world, we pray to God that He may, in His kindness, provide guidance to all educated common men to accept the invitation of Islam.
It will be possible to establish a “World Government” only, when the world accepts Islam as a universal religion and rejecting the distinctions of colour, race and languages, accepts the final Message of God as a guide. All legislation is to be made within the limits laid down by God, subjecting the “Will of the people” to the “Will of God”. This will lead to equality, justice and prosperity for every one.
FORM OF GOVERNMENT UNDER ISLAM
Government under Islam is not “Theocracy” which is defined in the dictionary as “Government by God regarded as the ruling power, or by priests claiming divine sanctions.”
The Godless may bring this point against Islam, crying at the highest pitch of their voices, that Government under Islamic principles will destroy Democracy.
In this connection two points are worth noting:-
Islamic form of government is NOT ‘Theocracy’ as defined above. Naturally God need not come down to the Earth to rule it, not does Islam have any priest class. The first person elected as head of State, after the Prophet (PBUH) had left this world, was a cloth merchant.
The concept of Theocracy, as defined above, has developed on account of the Church occupying the controlling position of kings or king makers in the political field of Europe for several centuries. There is no Church in Islam in the Western sense of the world.
Supporters of Western Civilization cry themselves hoarse as pioneers of democracy declaring Greeks to be the first to introduce Democracy. They completely close their eyes to the fact that in Greece, only the richer class had the right to vote and the huge slave population was completely deprived of their vote. Is it Democracy?
Then ‘Magna Carta’ is proclaimed to be a pioneering contribution of the West towards introducing modern Democracy in the world. This charter of civil liberties was granted by King John as late as 13th Century.
They completely close their eyes to what happened in the 7th Century, when after the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for the first time in human history, the first Caliph was elected publicly to become the head of the Islamic State. And this was not an isolated event. The second, third and fourth Caliphs were all elected in this way.
Previously in every country of the world, a person could become the Head of a State either by conquering that country militarily or by inheriting the Headship like family property.
It is really surprising, how this important contribution of Islam to democracy has been completely blacked out by the Westerners.
There is a clear cut instruction from God given to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):-
“….and consult them in every important matter.” (Quran 3:159)
And this instruction was fully put into practice by the Prophet (PBUH) and later by his companions.
No specific form of democracy has been prescribed by Islam. The principle has been laid down and details can be worked out according to specific requirements of the time. The vote may be oral, by show of hands or through a ballot. It may be Presidential form of government or there may be a Prime Minister. The forms may be different but the spirit of democracy must be there.
“it is a general characteristic of Islamic Code, that only principles have been laid down, and the details can be worked out through mutual consultation according to the particular requirements of that area and according to the changing needs of the time, but the basic soul of the principle is to be maintained.
This characteristic of the Islamic Code is dictated by the Universality of Islam, as Islam has to be valid for all places and all times.
THE MONETARY SYSTEM OF ISLAM
This is a complex subject and only some of the most important topics can be discussed here briefly.
It has developed all over the world on account of feudalism/land holding and the Industrial Revolution. Due to the concentration of wealth in limited hands, two distinct classes have developed – the rich and the poor. The rich are becoming richer and the poor poorer. Since the number of poor is much larger, the sense of deprivation and injustice is creating all sorts of unrest in the world.
Some thinkers developed the concept of Communism as a remedy of the ills of Capitalism. Bread and shelter was promised at the cost of right to own property and freedom of thought, nay, infact, at the cost of everything dear to human nature. For a few decades, communism was a fad amongst fiery souls having revolutionary tempers, but very soon they have calmed down in the face of facts.
Recently, the whole of Europe has risen against Communism, as they find it not only personally unbearable, but on the national level also they find, that in the economic field, in general, they can not compete with capitalist countries.
The Islamic System:
The monetary system of Islam is very balanced and is a good solution of the problems, faced by these systems.
A person is free to choose any profession and he can earn to the best of his capacity. Thus his freedom is maintained, and the attraction being there, it brings out the best in him, leading to better production as well as increased national income.
These conditions are also available under Capitalism, but there being no restraints, they lead to injustice and exploitation. Islam lays down effective checks and restraints, which discourage the accumulation of wealth and provide for channels to get the wealth distributed over a large portion of society. The most important of these restraints are discussed below:-
The first and very important check is the principle, that no believer should obtain money by usurping the rights of others, or by using any other unfair method. An Islamic Government makes laws specifying such practices and punishes the miscreants.
“Do not usurp other people’s wealth or property, which is not your right and do not institute law suits in order to obtain any benefit illegally, while you know the facts.” (Quran 2:188)
Distribution of property amongst heirs.
When a Muslim dies, his or her property is distributed over several claimants according to the laid down rules.
“There is a share for men from what is left by parents and kinsmen, and there is a share for women from what is left by parents and kinsmen, whether it be little or much – and it is a determinate share.”
A long list of inheritors has been prescribed in accordance with relationship ensuring wide circulation of wealth.
Here some points deserve special notice. Women also have been authorized to receive their share. Can any civilization of the world present such recognition of the rights of women inspite of their loud proclamations in this respect?
Also of great importance is the phrase: “Whether it be little or much,” thus assuring the break up of concentration of wealth. This is in glaring contrast to the Western practice of declaring the eldest son to be the sole heir of the estate, so that he could maintain the grandeur of the Lordly Manor, while his younger brother may lead his life in abject poverty.
Every Muslim has to pay Zakat annually at the rate of 2½ percent on prescribed assets. While prayer is a personal and spiritual worship, Zakat is a monetary worship. Prayers and Zakat have been jointly emphasized at numerous places in Quran as essential duties of a Muslim. Zakat is collected totally or partially by the Government. In any case, the government or the individual has to spend it on prescribed items, the major being aid to the needy.
Ushr is a form of Zakat, but it is levied on agricultural produce under prescribed rules. It is spent on the same items as Zakat.
Zakat and Ushr together form a solid base for social welfare but most important of all, they provide a great channel, whereby wide circulation of wealth is assured.
Infaq – Charity in the way of God.
Earlier a verse of Quran was quoted, giving six clauses, which form the basis of Islam. Clause No. 3 states:
(iii) who spend in the way of God what God has given them.”
This clause is quite separate, from Zakat and Ushr, which can be collected by the Government compulsorily.
Infaq is a purely voluntary item. It is voluntary not in the sense that a Muslim may or may not give away money under this head according to his wishes. No. It is voluntary only in the sense, that a person has himself to determine, what he should give; otherwise it is a necessary condition for being a Muslim.
The beauty of keeping Infaq voluntary lies in the fact, that though everybody has to pay a compulsory tax, if dictated by law, (sometimes unwillingly) but when a person parts with his money voluntarily, just to seek the pleasure of God, it purifies his character resulting in the development of virtue.
INFAQ is such an integral principle, that quite a large number of verses, explaining its various aspects are spread over the whole of Quran.
Below are given only a few of them, which will bring out the importance of Infaq.
First of all it has been emphasized that all wealth, in whatever form, belongs to God.
“Give to them from the property of Allah, which He has bestowed upon you.” (Quran 24:33)
The agricultural wealth is also a gift of God:
“Have you considered what you till? Is it you, who make it grow, or is it We who make it grow?
A question also arises, as to how much one should spend under Infaq. It has been left to the discretion of the individual:-
“People ask you, how much they should spend. Tell them: as much as is over and above their requirements. Thus Allah explains His orders clearly so that you may give your thought to them. (Quran 2:219)
This is a very important verse. It makes it clear that Infaq is not meant to put a person in difficulties. One can spend on himself and his family reasonably and can save for the future.
There is no ban on saving, but at the same time he must find out some money, which he should spend in the way of God to help needy persons. Naturally each person will determine the amount in proportion to his financial position and his faith in God. Though the amount under this head has been left to the discretion of a person, he has been plainly told that others have a right to get their share in his money:-
“In their wealth there is a known right for those who ask for it and who have need for it.
Thus the needy have a right to get and the believer can determine the amount which he can afford. Another verse, enumerating virtues, says:-
“Virtue lies in …. And in spending one’s wealth in the love of God on one’s relatives, orphans, poors, travellers and those who beg ……… These are the people on the right path and who fear God.” (Quran, 2:177)
6. Various dispensations.
Besides all the heads described above, a Muslim has been enjoined to give out a specific amount of money on particular occasion.
At the festival after the month of Fasting, you have to give a specific amount to the poor.
If you break a vow or break a fast in the month of Fasting and in several other cases you will have to dispense a fixed amount of money to the poor in order to seek the pleasure of God.
So, it will be seen that the total atmosphere of Islamic life is permeated with the spirit of giving. On the other hand grabbing of money and hoarding of wealth is resented and discouraged.
“Woe be on him….and who hoards wealth and counts it again and again. He thinks that this wealth will remain with him for ever. No, it is not so. He will be put in the hell… (Quran 104: 1-4)
“Profusion of wealthy makes you careless, till one day you reach your graves…. And when you will see the hell with your eyes you will be convinced of hell’s existence and on that day you will have to account for all the wealth, which was given to you. (Quran: 102: 1-8)
These and several other verses prepare a Muslim to fear God and to spend as much in His way, as is possible.
The Monetary system of Islam has been discussed only in outline. It will be clear that Islam provides a very balanced and comprehensive view in monetary matters. While maintaining all freedoms of individuals and groups, it encourages production and formation of resources and yet it discourages concentration of wealth and provides several channels for distributing the wealth equitably over a larger part of the population ensuring the welfare of the common man.
RATIONALISM IN ISLAM
Islam has heralded the Modern Age, wherein God has ordained, that intellect will reign supreme. A modern educated youth will attach no importance to anything, which is not dictated by reason and so God has sent the “Final Religion – Islam” which is Rational and Scientific.
Describing the movement of the Sun and the Moon, the surface features of the Earth, creation of male and female plants and their fruits and the changes of day and night, the Quran says:-
“….in these phenomena there are signs for those who use their intellect.”
In a different context the Quran says:-
“……Fear from God, O people, who have intellect.” (Quran 2:197)
And now in another field:
“And many of you have been misled in their actions by Satan. Did they not have intellect?”
So, it can be seen that God appeals to man to use his intellect and ponder deeply at natural phenomena to increase his knowledge. On another occasion He wants man to use his intellect to ensure obedient attitude towards God and then again He wants that intellect should be used by man in order to chalk out a proper course of action in his practical life and not to come under the evil influence of Satan.
These are just a few verses which have been quoted by way of example, otherwise there is a large number of verses, in which man has been asked to use his intellect in almost every sphere.
It may be mentioned here, that the arguments used by me in Part-I for establishing the Unity of God the imminence of the ‘Day of Judgment’ and the importance of the “Prophet-hood System” have all been based on Quranic verses, though they have not been quoted.
Natural phenomena were declared by Quran as “signs from God” and the faithful were ordered “to use their intellect” to understand these phenomena, since their conquest will be beneficial for them. Thus the Muslims have been asked to consider scientific investigation as their religious duty:-
“In the creation of heavens and Earth, in the changing of day and night and in the movement of ships for the benefit of humans and coming down of the rain for revival of the dead earth, and in the change of direction of winds and in the clouds which have been restricted in the proximity of Earth, there are signs of God for the nations who use their intellect.”
It can be seen that in this one verse alone, Muslims have been encouraged to apply themselves to the study of almost a dozen signs using their intellect for the mastery of these signs of God.
In contrast with this approach of Islam towards intellect and knowledge, I give below some quotations depicting the attitude of other religions, specially European Christianity towards scientific enquiry:-
“Science for the citizen” is a book of History of Science. Author Prof. Lancelot Hobgen. Publishers: George Allen & Unwin, London.
“As late as 1664, one traveller records the spectacle of nine old women dying at the stake on the same day in leith (Scotland) for dispensing herbs – contrary to Scripture.”