Message of Islam

By Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri

Thanks to some developments across the globe for last few years, the universal values of great religion, Islam, have come in for denunciation. By invoking the actions of a few individual Muslims to typify the character and conduct of millions of adherents of this divine faith, efforts have been made to equate Islam with bigotry and obscurantism. This is most unfortunate at a time when the need for inter-faith dialogue and harmony cannot be over-emphasized in order to bridge the gulf between Islam and West. The proponents of `clash of civilizations` and their counterparts in the Islamic world are bent upon creating differences aimed at spreading confusion and misunderstanding about the teachings of Islam. In view of these circumstances, it is all the more necessary to bring the message of Islam in correct perspective to serve the cause of coexistence Islam so emphatically lays its stress on.

Let me state at the outset categorically and unambiguously that the message of Islam is peace, tranquility and unity. If one concentrates on the meanings of word `Islam`, it appears that this word takes its origin from saluma (safety) or silm (peace). Etymologically and literally the word `Islam` means `peace, tranquility and harmony`. The word `Imaan` can be translated into or more clearly it means `faith`. Every religion is based on faith. Faith is known as Imaan in Islamic terminology. Imaan has its own root-word and that is amn. Amn again means `peace, tranquility and harmony`. The difference between Islam and Imaan can be explained in the sense that there is a faith to be believed in and there is practical order to be practised. The faith is known as Imaan and the practical order is known as Islam.

In Islam, the word Imaan is used in two dimensions. Firstly Imaan means to be in peace or to live in peace. Secondly, the other meaning is to live for peace and to be peaceful to others. According to Islam a man who does not maintain peace for mankind, cannot be regarded as a genuine Muslim or even a believer. The believer is the man who lives only peacefully for mankind. When he lives for the sake of others, only then he would be blessed by Divine peace from Allah Almighty. The Holy Prophet (saw) was sent not only for the Arabs or a specific tribe or territory but his raising was for the whole of mankind. As declared by the Holy Qur`an:

"O men! I am sent to you all as the Apostle of Allah." (7:158)

In the tradition of the Holy Prophet (saw), it has been mentioned: "I have been raised (as messenger) for the whole creation." Here lies the main point. Since the raising of the Holy Prophet (saw) was for the whole mankind, his message of peace is also for the whole mankind. The Holy Qur`an gives the idea of peace and welfare for mankind on the basis of unity of mankind. The Holy Quran says:

"O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person." (4:1)

The verse has two layers of interpretation namely historical interpretation and scientific interpretation. From the point of view of historical interpretation, the whole mankind has been created from a single father, Adam (as). He is the origin of the whole mankind. Everybody has been created from the same single unit. From the perspective of scientific interpretation, the verse shows that the whole mankind has been created from a single cell of life and that is zygote.

According to the historical and scientific approach, the origin of human life comes into the category of single unity. This unity (historically and scientifically) of the creation of mankind indicates that our destination is also the attainment of unity. We should work for uplift and unity of mankind. This uplift of mankind, its welfare and betterment is absolutely impossible without harmony, reconciliation and unity.

In his last sermon delivered to the believers, the Holy Prophet (saw) eliminated the unjust order imposed upon the mankind. That unjust order at that time was based on human degradation, social injustice, economic exploitation and political suppression. The Prophet of Islam (saw) inaugurated a new world order based upon four concepts namely respect for humanity, social equality, economic justice and political freedom.

The concept of human welfare is the basic target and we need to pool together all our resources for its attainment at personal, social and global levels. Any type of process of reform has to start from the personal level in Islamic scheme of things. Islam instructs and educates us that welfare should be achieved at every level by creating a balance and harmony between mundane and spiritual aspects of life. Human personality is a compact whole consisting of many parts, which are epitomized in the form of division of life between secular and spiritual aspects. Biological dimension of life is manifested in social, cultural, socio-cultural, psychological aspects and there is a need to take these factors into view too at the personal domain.

Efforts should also be made for the achievement of human welfare at the social level; the level of collective environment of our society. We have to work for the elimination of economic exploitation so that human welfare is achieved socially. We have to fight against political oppression and for educational uplift. We have to campaign for economic, social, cultural and spiritual welfare. This is not possible without eradication of hatred. There is no place for hatred in communities. Ideas and philosophies can be different but we need to look at the singularity of origin in spite of differences and plurality of ideas. Allah Almighty has created balance between singularity and plurality. It is this diversity, which brings about perfection, balance, tolerance and moderation in society. Historically speaking, people belonging to various religions have lived in Islamic societies as equal partners in the business of state and this aspect of multiculturalism figures quite prominently in Islamic societies.

From Islamic point of view, peace and human welfare at the global level owes itself to the acknowledgement of the following principles:

Firstly the right of survival and existence should be accepted equally. This right should be given to each and every country, state and society without any difference and superiority. The Holy Prophet (saw) rightly declared this fact:

"An Arab is not superior to a non-Arab and non-Arab is not superior to an Arab. Neither a black anyway better than a red nor a red is better than a black. The criterion for the superiority is only the element of piety."

Superiority does not lie in colours but in character, in conduct and in moral values. Whether one is living a human life or wild life, superiority rests in character only. So we need to work for peaceful coexistence, which is possible only when we recognize the right of others to live. Our motto should be "to live and let others live".

The principle of non-interference is the basis upon which the edifice of global peace and welfare can be erected. If nations and societies respect the sanctities of national sovereignties of others and do not indulge in any type of adventurism, global peace stands ensured.

Islam does not approve of extremism of any kind. It is a religion of balance and moderation. So in true Islamic society, extremism is discouraged at every level because it has the potential of spoiling peace, calmness and order at every level of society.

Since Islamic state believes in equal rights, so it does not believe in any act of coercion. Islamic state disapproves hegemony. It has its faith in equality. Everyone has rights - some by birth and some given by state.

Islam is against terrorism and condemns all of its forms and manifestations. Terrorism negates all such values which Islam espouses. So by definition, Islamic state is a peaceful state where rights of all are secured constitutionally irrespective of one`s caste, creed, colour, race and religion. Islam holds that all members of Islamic society whether rulers or the ruled are equal in the eyes of law.

Given the enormous challenges posed to the peace of world, it is high time we made sincere efforts for peaceful coexistence among nations and religions. It is through joint struggle that we can defeat all such elements who want to create misunderstandings and confusions. We are all children of Adam (as) and have many similarities to share among us. Let our succeeding generations not say that we did not prove equal to the challenges.

Daily ,The Nation, August Saturday, 11, 2007