The Prophet Muhammad
In The Bible
Peace be upon him
Written by: Ali Unal
Part | One
The Prophet Muhammad In The Bible
All the previous Prophets predicted the coming of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. We can still find indications of this in the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospels. Here are some examples:
The Lord said unto me (Moses): I will raise them up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deuteronomy, 18: 17–19).
It is clear from these verses that what is meant by “a Prophet like you among their brethren,” is a Prophet who will come from the line of Ishmael, peace be upon him, since Ishmael is the brother of Isaac, peace be upon him, who is the forefather of Moses’ people, the Children of Israel. The only Prophet who came from the line of Ishmael after Moses, peace be upon him, and resembled him in many ways, for example, in the bringing of a new law and fighting with his enemies, is the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
Also, the verse of the Bible, “Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,” (Deuteronomy, 34: 10) clearly states that no Prophet like Moses ever did appear among the Israelites. The Qur’ān (73: 15) points to the same fact: Surely We have sent to you (O people) a Messenger, a witness against you, just as We sent a Messenger to the Pharaoh (73: 15).
The sentence, “I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I command him,” in the verses from Deuteronomy quoted above, means that the promised Prophet will be unlettered and speak whatever is revealed to him. God restates the same in the Qur’ān (53: 3–4): He does not speak on his own, out of his own desire; that (which he conveys to you) is but a Revelation that is revealed to him.
The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran. (Deuteromony, 33: 2)
This refers to the Prophethood of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad respectively, upon them be peace. Sinai is the place where the Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, spoke to God and received the Torah. Seir, a place in Palestine, is where the Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, received Divine Revelation. As for Paran, it is mentioned in the Torah (Genesis, 21: 19–21) as the area in the desert where Hagar was left by her husband Abraham, upon him be peace, to live with her son, Ishmael, upon the order of God. The well of Zamzam appeared in it. As is stated explicitly in the Qur’ān (14: 35–37), Abraham left Hagar and Ishmael, peace be upon him, in the valley of Makkah, which was then an uninhabited place within the mountain ranges of Paran.
The verse in Deuteronomy continues:
And he came with ten thousands of saints; from His right hand came a fiery law for them.
This verse refers to the promised Prophet, Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, who would have numerous Companions of the highest degree of sainthood. The law is his Sharī‘ah, and its being depicted as fiery alludes to the fact that the promised Prophet would be allowed to fight against his enemies.
Surely God said to Abraham: “Hagar will certainly bear children. There will appear from her sons one whose hand will be above all, and the hands of all others will be opened to him in reverence.”
Although it does not exist word-for-word in the present versions of the Bible, it is recorded by ‘Ali al-Qārī in his Sharh ash-Shifā, 1: 743. However, we read in the Bible the following verses:
Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed (Genesis, 21: 13). (Hagar,) arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand; for I will make him a great nation (21: 18).
These verses explicitly refer to the descendants of Ishmael, peace be upon him. They were made into a great nation only after the Prophethood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
Again, the present versions of the Bible record that the son which God ordered Abraham to sacrifice was Isaac, peace be upon him (Genesis, 22: 2). However, as discussed and proven in Sūrah 37, note: 13, based on the Bible itself, this son was actually Ishmael, peace be upon him, the elder brother of Isaac. So, the following verses, wherein Genesis records God speaking to Abraham, peace be upon him, after he submitte d to the test of sacrificing his son, must be referring also to the descendants and community of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and so corroborates the quotations above from ‘Ali al-Qārī and Genesis:
….because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son– blessing I will bless you, and multiplying, I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gates of their enemies. In your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (Genesis, 22: 16-18)
He will not cry out, nor raise his voice, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench: he will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he has established justice in the earth: and the coastlands will wait for his law. (Isaiah, 42: 1-4)
Although these verses in Isaiah are taken by Christians to be “prophecies” of the Jesus of the Gospels, the predictions they contain refer to the Prophet Muhammad and Islam. For Jesus did not bring a law, nor did he claim to establish Christianity on earth, nor did he set justice on the earth so that the coastlands should wait for his law. In law, he followed the Old Testament, with the exception that he made a few things unlawful in the Old Testament newly lawful by God’s order. And it is the Gospels which report from Jesus, peace be upon him, that he was not sent but “unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew, 15: 24).
He also clearly told his twelve disciples, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew, 10: 5-6). In addition, these verses have great resemblance with the following verse which ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Amr ibn al- ‘Ās, who made extensive studies of earlier Divine books, ‘Abdullah ibn Salām, who was the first to embrace Islam from amongst the famous Jewish scholars, and the renowned scholar Ka‘b ibn al-Akhbār, from amongst the foremost scholars of the Israelites, said they had seen in the Torah:
O Prophet, certainly We have sent you as a witness, a bearer of glad tidings, a warner and a protection for the unlettered. You are My servant; I have named you “the Reliant on God,” who is not harsh nor stern, and not clamorous in the marketplaces; who does not repel evil with evil, but instead pardons and forgives. God will certainly not take away his life until He straightens a crooked nation by means of him (by causing them) to proclaim, “There is no deity but God.” (al-Bukhārī, “Buyū‘,” 50; Ibn Hanbal, 2: 174)
Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomsoever it falls, it will grind him to powder. (Matthew, 21: 42–4)
The “chief cornerstone” mentioned in the verses cannot be the Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, for the verses refer to the crushing victories that the followers of the “chief cornerstone” will win against their enemies. No people were ever broken to pieces or crushed because they resisted Christianity. Christianity gained ground against the Roman Empire only after it had made significant compromises with Roman rites and ways of life.
The Western dominion over the world came after scientific thought’s triumph over the medieval Christian view of nature, and was realized in the form of colonialism. By contrast, Islam ruled almost half of the “Old World” for many centuries as a religion in its original purity, and its enemies were many times defeated before it. It is, again, Islam which is on the rise as both a pure, authentic religion and as a way of life, and which is the hope of salvation for humanity. More than that, the Prophet Jesus himself alludes to this fact by stating explicitly that the kingdom of God will be taken away from the people to whom he was sent and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
Second, in a telling detail recorded in a hadīth in al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, describes himself as the “cornerstone” completing the building of Prophethood.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Paraklit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you. And when he has come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John, 16: 7–8)
In these verses, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is originally referred to as the Paraklit. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Paraklit derives from the word parakletos, meaning “intercessor, advocate, pleader.” However Abidin Pasha, a nineteenth-century scholar from Yanya, Greece, who knew Greek very well and whose works on Greek literature were highly praised by Greek authorities, writes that its real Greek origin means Ahmad, the one who is much praised. (al-Jisrī, 59). Truly, Paráklētos is derived from the Greek word Períklytos and means Ahmad.
The Qur’ān also states that Jesus predicted the Prophet Muhammad with the name Ahmad, a synonym of Muhammad (61: 6). Christians assert that Jesus, peace be upon him, used Paraklit for the Holy Spirit. However, with the functions or attributes of interceding, pleading or advocating refer to principal attributes of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings,not of the Holy Spirit. Adding to the confusion, Gospel translators replace “Paraklit” with different and somewhat inconsistent terms.
For example, they translate it as “Counselor” (New International Version by International Bible Society, placed and distributed by Gideon’s International), “Helper” (American Bible Society), “Comforter” (the Company of the Holy Bible), and other such terms. None of those who have claimed that it refers to the Holy Spirit has ever established whether the Holy Spirit has come down and done what Jesus said it would do. In addition, Jesus gives good tidings of the one to come not only as a Paraklit but also as “the Spirit of truth,” along with many other functions, which must belong to a Prophet and not to a “spirit,” as seen in the following verses:
When the Helper (Paraklit) comes, …. the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify of me. (John, 15: 26)
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. And when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority; but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will tell you things to come. He will glorify me, for he will take of what is mine and declare it to you. (John, 16: 12–14)
It was also the Prophet Muhammad who testified to Jesus, peace be upon him, brought glory to him by declaring his Prophethood against the denial of the Jews and false deification of him by Christians, and restoring his religion to its pristine purity through the Book he brought.
Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you that Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
As understood from this passage, the Children of Israel had been expecting the coming of the Christ (Messiah), Elijah, peace be upon him, and another Prophet (that prophet), who must have been known and who was expected by everyone at that time. So, that Prophet expected was obviously, and appeared as, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. For no other Prophet appeared after Jesus, upon him be peace. It cannot be the Prophet John, peace be upon him, because he had already been chosen for Prophethood before Jesus announced his mission.
Part | Two
Islam and War, and the Main
Factors in the Spread of Islam
Some have criticized Islam because it recognizes war and even commands it in order to put an end to the domination of injustice and tyranny; to rescue the oppressed; and to establish a tolerant social–political environment where Islam can be practiced freely and everyone is free to practice their own religion. The criticism is wholly unjust insofar as, though not in so many words, it seems to be arguing that Islam introduced war into human history.
The criticism is particularly inappropriate when voiced by adherents of Christianity : for although there is not a specific commandment in the Gospels to permit or prohibit war – the Gospels are silent and present no rules for instigating war nor for its proper conduct and containment – western history is replete with examples of extremely bloody wars, wide in scope and ruthless in their intensity, which were conducted in the name of Christianity. Indeed, the religion of Christianity was often employed by Western powers in previous centuries to provide a cover and means for the colonization of two-thirds of the world’s peoples and resources.
The criticism is also entirely inappropriate when voiced by adherents of Judaism, for Jewish history, too, is largely a chronicle of religiously motivated conflicts and wars, and the Old Testament is explicit in sanctioning war . As for other faith communities, such as those in south, east and southeastern Asia, their followers have surely not refrained from waging war, either. Yet in the end, the driving forces behind the “modern secularized world,” which allow and even promote war in the service of individual rulers, nations, and even commercial interests — rather than God– have caused more bloodshed and destruction in the past one hundred years than every single religious conflict combined, throughout the whole of human history before it.
Part of the very meaning of the word Islām is peace; therefore, Islam prefers peace, desires it and seeks to establish it throughout the world. However, war is a reality of human history, a manifestation in the collective life of humankind resulting from the inner condition of those who have not been able to attain excellence in mind, heart (spirit) and conduct. Or, it is a manifestation of the war between the spirit and the carnal soul, or between Satan and the perfectibility of human nature.
What is important and necessary, therefore, rather than denying the reality of war in a vainly idealistic manner, is to establish rules to make war just, in respect to both its motives and purposes, as well as its means and conduct, so that the harm of it is contained, and the good in it may benefit the people in general. War may then be, while not something in itself desirable, rather something capable of serving (versus perverting) a desirable end – like disciplining and training the body to improve its strength or skill, or doing a necessary operation to save someone’s health, or administering upon a criminal the due punishment for the sake of deterrence and the health of the moral environment. Precisely such disciplining of the means and ends of war is what Islam has done.
The verses do not order war, but allow it on condition that it be in God’s cause and for defensive purposes. It also enjoins that the limits set by God must not be exceeded. Those limits are related to both the intention and the practice. For example, Islam does not permit war for motives such as conquest or plunder, or to quench a lust for revenge, or for the sake of some material advantage, or to satisfy racist persuasions. Islam does not seek to compel anyone to change his or her faith. On the contrary, it seeks an environment where all are free to accept faith freely. Islam has also set limitations on the conduct of relations before, during, and after conflict;
- Do not betray any agreements you have entered into.
- Do not plunder.
- Do not commit injustices or use torture.
- Do not touch the children, the womenfolk, the elderly, or other non-combatants of the enemy.
- Do not destroy orchards or tilled lands.
- Do not kill livestock.
- Treat with respect the religious persons who live in hermitages or convents, and spare their edifices. (Ibn al-Athīr, 3: 227)
We should also point out here that people have embraced Islam in very large numbers over very many centuries and in very diverse conditions (from the heights of political and military superiority to the depths of military collapse and subjection), while few have left it to accept another faith. In part because of the psychological difficulty this success has provoked in those who do not wish it, and in part because of prejudices derived from ignorance about Islam, combined with dogmatic conviction about one culture’s superiority over another , some individuals have claimed that Islam is a religion of the sword which was spread by the force of the sword. However, this claim has been consistently refuted by Western unbiased scholarly researchers who have solidly rejected such arguments as simply the result of cultural prejudice:
Many have sought to answer the question of why the triumph of Islam was so speedy and complete? Why have so many millions embraced the religion of Islam and scarcely a hundred ever recanted? Some have attempted to explain the first overwhelming success of Islam by the argument of the Sword. They forget Carlyle’s laconic reply. “First get your sword.” You must win men’s hearts before you can induce them to imperil their lives for you; and the first conquerors of Islam must have been made Muslims before they were made fighters on the Path of God.
In all these explanations the religion itself is left out of the question. Decidedly, Islam itself was the main cause for its triumph. Islam not only was at once accepted (by many peoples and races in) Arabia, Syria, Persia, Egypt, Northern Africa and Spain, at its first outburst; but, with the exception of Spain, it has never lost its vantage ground; it has been spreading ever since it came into being. Admitting the mixed causes that contributed to the rapidity of the first swift spread of Islam, they do not account for the duration of Islam.
There must be something in the religion itself to explain its persistence and spread, and to account for its present hold over so large of a proportion of the dwellers on the earth… Islam has stirred an enthusiasm that has never been surpassed. Islam has had its martyrs, its self-tormentors, its recluses, who have renounced all that life offered and have accepted death with a smile for the sake of the faith that was in them. (Ezzati, quoting from Stanley Lane-Poole, Study in a Mosque, 86–89)
Islam has spread because of its religious content and values, and “its power of appeal and ability to meet the spiritual and material needs of people adhering to cultures totally alien to their Muslim conquerors.” Among other important factors are the tolerance that Islam has shown to the people of other religions, the absence of an ecclesiastic hierarchy, intellectual freedom, the equity and justice that Islam enjoins and that Muslims have striven for throughout the centuries, the ethical values that Islam propagates, its inclusiveness and universalism, as well as its humanity and brother/sisterhood. In addition, the activism of the Sufis, the moral superiority of Muslim tradesmen, the principle of “enjoining the good,” and the dynamism and magnificence of Islamic civilization, have all contributed to the spread of Islam.
The qualities that principally attracted people to Islam were and are still:
- the simplicity of its doctrines based on the strictest and purest Divine Unity;
- the rationality of Islamic teachings;
- the harmony between Islamic ideals and values and natural human conscience;
- the inclusiveness and comprehensiveness of Islam as a way of life covering all aspects of individual and collective being, physical, mental, and spiritual, and the consequent harmony between religion and life lived within its compass and jurisdiction;
- the lack of formalism and mediation in its rites and doctrines;
- the vividness, dynamism and resilience of the Islamic creed, its creativity and universality, and its compatibility with established scientific facts;
- the internal cohesion and harmony of the Islamic principles, and the practicability and practice thereof in everyday life;
A. J. Arberry has pointed out that the reason for the spread of Islam is Islam itself and its religious values (Aspects of Islamic Civilization, 12). He states: “The rapidity of the spread of Islam, noticeably through extensive provinces which had long been Christian, is a crucial fact of history…. The sublime rhetoric of the Qur’ān, that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy….” He continues: “This, and the urgency of the simple message carried, holds the key to the mystery of one of the greatest cataclysms in the history of religion. When all military, political and economic factors have been exhausted, the religious impulse must still be recognized as the most vital and enduring.”
The noted scholar, Brockelman, who is usuall y a less than sympathetic commentator on Islam, also recognizes the religious values of Islam as the main factor for the spread of Islam and suggests that Islamic monotheism, to a considerable extent, is the basis of the proselytizing power of Islam (History of the Islamic Peoples, 37). Rosenthal makes the point as follows:
The more important factor for the spread of Islam is the religious law of Islam (i.e. the Sharī‘a, which is an inclusive, all-embracing, all-comprehensive way of thinking and living) which was designed to cover all manifestations of life. (Political Thought in Medieval Islam, 21)
The tolerance of Islam is particularly relevant to an explanation of why it spread. Another distinguished scholar, Toynbee, praises the Muslim tolerance towards the Peoples of the Book, after comparing it with the attitudes of the Christians towards Muslims and Jews in their lands (An Historian Approach to Religion, 246). In turn, Trevor Ling attributes the spread of Islam to the credibility of its principles, its tolerance, persuasiveness and other attractive elements (A History of Religion, 330).
Makarios, Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch in the seventeenth century, compared the harsh treatment received by the Russians of the Orthodox Church at the hands of the Roman Catholic Poles with the tolerant attitude towards Orthodox Christians shown by the Ottoman Government, and he prayed for the Sultans (Ling, 331). (For all these and several similar quotations, see Ezzati, 2–35)
That is by no means the only example of the followers of other religions preferring Islamic rule to that of their co-religionists. The Orthodox Christians of Byzantium openly expressed their preference for the Ottoman turban in Istanbul to the hats of the Catholic cardinals. Scholar Hans Barth wrote that the Muslim Turks allowed the followers of different religions to perform their religious duties and rituals, and that the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Sultan were freer to live their own lives than the Christians who lived under the rule of any rival Christian sect (Le Droit du Croissant, 143).
And for his part, Popescu Ciocanel pays tribute to the Muslim Turks by stating that it was lucky for the Romanian people that they lived under the government of the Turks rather than that of the Russians or Austrians as, otherwise, “no trace of the Romanian nation would have remained (Revue du Monde Musulman).” (For both quotations, see Djevad, 71–72, 91)
A historical episode recounted by Balādhurī, a famous Muslim historian, tells how pleased the native peoples were with their Muslim conquerors:
When Heraclius massed his troops against the Muslims, and the Muslims heard that they were coming to meet them, they refunded the inhabitants of Hims the tribute they had taken from them, saying: “We are too busy to support and protect you. Take care of yourselves.” But the people of Hims replied: “We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your help, repulse from the city.”
The Jews rose and said: “We swear by the Torah, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Hims unless we are first vanquished and exhausted.” Saying this, they closed the gates of the city and guarded them. The inhabitants of other cities – Christians and Jews – that had capitulated did the same. When, by Allah’s help, the unbelievers were defeated and the Muslims won, they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and players of music, and paid the tribute. (Ezzati, 144)
Part | Three
More on Islam and War
When considered together with other relevant verses of the Qur’ān, verses 1-6 in sūrah 9 present significant principles concerned with the Islamic view of war. In summary:
The purpose of war is not to kill people. On the contrary, Islam, which attaches great value to life and regards the killing of one innocent person as being the same as killing all of humankind, and the saving the life of one person as being the same as saving the lives of all humankind, aims at the survival of humanity and at helping everyone to find truth through education.
Even in warfare, Islam is ready to make peace and a treaty with the opposing side.
A Muslim government must remain faithful to any treaty it has made until the end of its term.
If the opposing side betrays the agreement, the Muslim government must publicly and officially declare to the other side that the agreement is no longer valid. Even though it can declare war as soon as the agreement loses its validity, it should grant them respite so that a new evaluation of the situation can be made.
If the opposing side continues its hostilities and does not change its attitude, even after the end of the term granted, this means that a state of war has begun.
In order to force the enemy to cease hostilities or to defeat them in war, Muslims must be powerful and remain steadfast. However, Muslims must always observe the rules of war that are mentioned in Appendix 2 above.
It should be borne in mind that the expressions in sūrah 9, verse 5, are aimed at people who employ violence and who, as can also be inferred from the conclusion of that verse, do not recognize any rule or law and do not understand any language other than war. Like some commandments of the Islamic Penal Law, these expressions are of a deterring character. The second part of the verse, which mentions repentance and the fact that God is All-Forgiving and All-Compassionate, reveals the main purpose of the verse. In addition, this verse also aims at removing from Makkah and Madīnah the violent, polytheist outlaws and, therefore, is significant with respect to the security of the center of Islam.
It is never the goal of Islam to kill people or conquer lands through war. Therefore, when the enemy side is inclined toward peace and making a treaty, the Muslims should also be inclined this way. They should also give asylum to those who seek it and, without harming in any way the wealth or persons of the asylum seekers, convey them to a place of safety.
War is a legal matter between nations. Islam is, above all else, a religion that arranges the relationship between God and humankind, and this relationship is based on sincere faith. Therefore, its main adherents are the sincere believers. However, as a part of its basic mission, Islam also orders human individual and social life. This is the legal side of Islam. In legal terms, a Muslim is one who professes the Muslim faith and attends the Muslim congregation of Prayer, and who pays the Prescribed Purifying Alms as the fulfillment of the financial duty of being a Muslim citizen.
It is possible that such a person may be not a believer, though, but a hypocrite. But one who professes faith and attends the Muslim congregation of Prayer and who pays the Prescribed Alms is nonetheless legally regarded as a Muslim. So, when an individual or a group of persons at war with Muslims profess faith, the state of war must end. No one is compelled to believe. One who professes faith and lives in a Muslim society is expected to see the truth and become a sincere believer. This is why, even if we know that one who professes faith is, in fact, a hypocrite, that person must be treated as a Muslim as long as she or he does not declare unbelief.
Islam will never apologize to any other religion, ideology, or system for granting such permission to fight. On the contrary, all other religions, ideologies, and systems have a debt of apology and gratitude to Islam. Islam, aiming at universal peace and accepting the reality of human history, realizes that ensuring peace sometimes requires fighting.
As declared in the Qur’ān, (Though killing is something you feel aversion to) disorder (rooted in rebellion against God and recognizing no laws) is worse than killing (2: 191); and disorder (coming from rebellion to God and recognizing no laws) is even more grave and more sinful than killing (2: 217), the conditions that give rise to war and disorder are more grievous than killing itself and, therefore, war, although not inherently a good thing, is permissible if it will remove these conditions.
The reality w hich scholars record is clear. Noted researchers, Graham Fuller and Ian Lesser (Graham E. Fuller, Ian O. Lesser, 41-42), record that the Christians killed by Muslims during fourteen centuries of Islamic history were fewer in number than the Muslims killed by Christians in the twentieth century alone. Christianity began its assaults on Islam while the latter was still a small conclave in Madīnah.
In the 8th year of the Hijrah, the first generation of Muslims had to face a Byzantine army of 100,000 soldiers in Mu’tah with only 3,000 warriors. One year later, the Messenger had to muster all his power against them; this battle was recorded in history as the Tabuk Campaign and is one of the subjects of sūrah 9. Three years later, the Muslim and Byzantine forces once more faced off in Yarmuk, a battle which ended in the decisive defeat of the Byzantines.
As for Judaism and Christianity, both, a few quotations from the Old Testament are enough to see what position the Bible adopts concerning war : “Then Sihon and all his people came out against us to fight at Jahaz. And the Lord our God delivered him over to us; so we defeated him, his sons, and all his people. We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining. We took only the livestock as plunder for ourselves, with the spoil of the cities which we took….
So the Lord our God also delivered into our hands Og king of Bashan, with all his people, and we attacked him until he had no survivors remaining. And we took all his cities at that time; there was not a city which we did not take from them; sixty cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan…. We utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children of every city. But all the livestock and the spoil of the cities we took as booty for ourselves.” (Deuteronomy, 2: 32–35; 3: 3–7)
As for modern times, we only want to mention some facts to clarify the point: Islam has never had the least part in tens of millions of deaths in the communist revolutions, the suppression of freedom movements in several parts of the world at the cost of millions of lives, and in the adventures in several poor countries, costing more than millions of lives during the wars and many more indirectly since. It is not Islam which caused the death of more than 70 million people, mainly civilians, and forced countless millions more to remain homeless, widowed and orphaned, during and after the two world wars.
It is not Islam which gave rise to totalitarian regimes such as Communism, Fascism, and Nazism, and raised war-mongers like Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. Islam is not responsible for using scientific knowledge to make nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Islam was not responsible for the extermination of tens of millions of natives in many parts of the world, for world-wide colonialism which lasted centuries, and for the slave trade, which cost the lives of tens of millions of people. It is not Islam, nor Muslim peoples even, that are responsible for the establishment of the despotic governments that rule over some Muslim countries and for their oppression, injustice, and bloody regimes. Nor is it Islam which is responsible for modern terrorism, mafia organizations, and for the world-wide smuggling of weapons and drugs.
Part | Four
The Status of Women in Islam
It is not necessary to argue in an apologetic manner, contrasting the plight of women in the pre-Islamic era or in the modern world of today, that in Islam women are accorded recognition, rights and privileges that they have not enjoyed under other systems. It becomes clear enough, without apology, if the issue is studied as a whole, rather than partially. Broadly speaking, the rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man, but they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and identity are not the same, and should not be confused. No two people, leaving aside gender differences, are the same: for there to be justice, those differences need to be recognized and affirmed without being made into a pretext for improper discrimination.
Human beings are not created identical, but they are created equal. With that distinction in mind, there is no excuse for any argument that would represent woman as inferior to man. There is no ground for the presumption that she is less important because her rights are not in every respect identical to those of the man. But the woman is not a duplicate of the man, and accordingly there is a difference in rights and responsibilities. The fact that Islamic law gives to the woman equal – but not identical – rights shows that it recognizes the woman’s being a woman, with proper respect for both the difference in constitution and personality and the sameness of her need for social and political dignity.
It will be worthwhile at this point to take a summary look at the rights of woman under Islamic law.
Woman is recognized as a full and equal partner with the man in the procreation of humankind. He is the father, she is the mother, and both are essential for life. Her role is not any less vital than his. Within this partnership, she has an equal share of respect and dignity; indeed, as a mother, she gets greater respect and care from the children, in accordance with the Prophet’s injunction: “Paradise is under the feet of mothers.” (an-Nasāī, “Jihād,” 6)
An adult woman is equal to an adult man in carrying responsibilities, some individual and some shared with others, and she is equal in the recompense due for her actions. She is acknowledged as an independent legal personality, in possession of the moral and intellectual qualities, and the spiritual aspirations, that are characteristic of all human beings. The woman’s human nature is neither inferior to, nor different from, that of a man.
She is equal to a man in the seeking of education, of knowledge. The seeking of knowledge is enjoined upon Muslims as such, without distinction of gender. Almost fourteen centuries ago, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and God’s blessings, declared that the pursuit of knowledge (necessary for every believer) is incumbent on every Muslim, (male and female) (Ibn Mājah, “Muqaddimah,” 17).
She is entitled to the same freedom of expression as a man. Her sound opinions are taken into consideration and may not be disregarded merely because she is a woman. It is reported in the Qur’ān that women not only expressed their opinion freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the Prophet himself (e.g. 58: 1–4; 60: 10–12). There are many hadiths that record similar occasions, and in subsequent history, we know that women objected in public to what Caliphs declared from the pulpit in the mosque.
Historical records show that women participated in public life with the early Muslims, especially in times of emergencies.
A woman has equal rights in law to enter into contracts, to initiate and run commercial enterprises, and to earn and possess wealth independently. Her life, her property, and her honor are as sacred as those of a man. If she commits any offense, her penalty is neither less nor more than a man’s in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she gets due compensation equal to what a man in the same situation would get (2: 178; 4: 92–93).
The law and religion of Islam envisaged the measures necessary to safeguard these rights and put them into practice as integral articles of faith. The faith does not tolerate those who are inclined to prejudice against women or discriminate unjustly on the basis of the differences between men and women. Again and again, the Qur’ān reproaches those who used to believe a woman to be inferior to a man: 16: 57–59, 62; 42: 49–50; 43: 15–19; 53: 21–23.
Apart from the recognition of woman as an independent human being, acknowledged as equally essential for the survival of humanity, Islamic law (derived from the Qur’ān) has stipulated a share of inheritance for female heirs – as is explained in Sūrat an-Nisā’, note: 5.
A woman enjoys certain privileges of which a man is deprived. She is exempt within the household from all financial liabilities. As a mother, she enjoys more recognition and higher honor in the sight of God (31: 14-15; 46: 15). As a wife, she is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She is entitled to support and maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses.
She is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she possessed before it, and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister, she is entitled to support and maintenance by her father and brother respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and to participate in handling the family responsibilities, she is free to do so, provided her integrity and honor are safeguarded.
The faith of Islam does not differentiate between men and women as far as their relationship to God is concerned, as both are promised the same reward for good conduct and the same punishment for evil conduct. Women’s standing behind men in the Prayer is neither intended nor understood as a mark of inferiority. The woman, as already mentioned, is exempt from attending congregational Prayers. But if she does attend, she stands in separate rows made up exclusively of women.
The order of rows in the Prayer is introduced to help everyone to concentrate on their Prayers without distraction. The Prayer includes actions and movements – standing and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, bowing, prostration, etc. If men mix with women in the same rows, it is possible that something disturbing or distracting may occur in the minds of those praying, alien to the purpose of the occasion, and a manifest obstacle to the duty to meditate.
Finally, there is no significance in the fact that the Qur’ān usually uses masculine pronouns when addressing or referring to the community. It is a feature of almost all languages that the masculine pronoun is used for a group formed of both men and women. This may be related to the fact that throughout history, in most societies, most of the time, the man has carried a “degree” of responsibility (for the household and for the collective affairs of the community) “above” that of the woman, and this is undoubtedly a consequence of having different duties and functions centered around maintaining the family and caring for the children, the next generation of the community.
(For explanations for other aspects of the matter, see 2, note 161.) (M. Mutahhari, Woman and Her Rights, trans., M. A. Ansari; Hammuda Abdul-Ati, “The Status of Woman in Islam,” http://www.jannah.org/sisters/statuswomen.html)
Part | Five
The Prophet Muhammad Among His People
The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was born in the heart of a desert; his father had died some time before his birth, and he lost his mother when he was six years old. Consequently, he was deprived even of the scant training and upbringing which an Arab child of the time normally got. Education never touched him; he was unlettered and unschooled.
The Prophet, upon him be God’s peace and blessings, did not leave Makkah to go outside the Arabian Peninsula except for two brief journeys. The first was with his uncle Abū Tālib, when he was still a youth in his early teens. The other was in his mid-thirties, when he accompanied a caravan carrying the goods of Khadījah, a widow who was forty when he married her at 25, and with whom he lived for almost twenty years, until her death.
Because of his being unlettered, he had no opportunity to read any of the religious texts of the Jews or Christians, nor did he become acquainted with these texts. Makkah was an idolatrous city, both in its ideas and customs, into which neither Christian nor Jewish religious thought had penetrated. Even the hanīfs (people who followed some things of the pure religion of Abraham in an adulterated and unclear form) among the Arabs of Makkah, who rejected the worship of idols, were influenced by neither Judaism nor Christianity.
Nothing of Jewish or Christian thought appears to have been reflected in the poetic heritage left to us by the literary men of the time. Had the Prophet made any effort to become acquainted with Jewish or Christian thought, this would have been noticed. We observe, moreover, that the Prophet did not take part, before his Prophethood, in the intellectual forms of poetry and rhetoric which were popular among the people at that time.
There is no mention of any distinction of the Holy Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, over the rest of the people except in his moral commitments, his trustworthiness, honesty, truthfulness, and integrity. He never told a lie; even his worst enemies never accused him of lying on any occasion during his life.
He used to talk politely and never used obscene or abusive language. He had a charming personality and excellent manners with which he captivated the hearts of those who came into contact with him. In his dealings with people, he always followed the principles of justice, altruism, and fair-play. He never deceived anyone and never broke his promise. He remained engaged in trade and commerce for years, but he never entered into any dishonest transaction.
Those who dealt with him in business had full confidence in his integrity. The entire nation called him “Al-Amīn” (the Truthful and the Trustworthy). Even his enemies would deposit their precious belongings with him for safe custody, and he scrupulously fulfilled their trust. He was the very embodiment of modesty in the midst of a society which was immodest to the core. Born and bred among a people who regarded drunkenness and gambling as virtues, he never touched alcohol and never indulged in gambling. Surrounded on all sides by heartless people, he himself had a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness. He would help orphans, widows, and the poor; he was hospitable to travelers.
He harmed no one; rather, he exposed himself to hardships for the sake of others. He kept aloof from the feuds in his tribe, and was foremost in bringing about reconciliation. He did not bow before any other created thing and did not partake of the offerings made to idols, even in his childhood. He hated all kinds of worship devoted to creatures and beings other than God. In brief, the towering and radiant personality of this gentle man in the midst of such a benighted and dark environment may be likened to a beacon of light illuminating a pitch-dark night, or to a diamond shining out amongst a heap of stones.
Suddenly a remarkable change came over his person. His heart became illuminated by the Divine Light. He went to the people, and addressed them in the following strain:
The idols which you worship are a mere sham. Cease to worship them from now on. No mortal being, no star, no tree, no stone, no spirit, is worthy of human worship. Therefore, do not bow your heads in worship before them. The entire universe with everything that it contains belongs to God Almighty. He alone is the Creator, the Nourisher, the Sustainer, and, consequently, the real Sovereign before Whom all should bow down and to Whom all should pray and render obedience. Thus, worship Him alone and obey His commands.
Theft and plunder, murder and rapine, injustice and cruelty – all the vices in which you indulge are crimes in the eyes of God. Leave your evil ways. Speak the truth. Be just. Do not kill anyone; whoever slays a soul unjustly, it will be as if he had slain all of humanity; and whoever saves the life of one, it will be as if he had saved the life of all of humanity.
Do not steal from anyone. Take your lawful share. Give that which is due to others in a just manner.
Do not set up another god with God, or you will sit condemned and forsaken. Be good to your parents whether one or both of them attains old age with you, do not say to them even “uff” nor chide them, but speak to them with respectful words, and lower to them the wing of humbleness out of mercy. Give your kinsfolk their rights and give to the needy, and the traveler, and never squander. Do not slay your children from fear of poverty or other reasons.
Do not approach adultery; surely it is an indecency, an evil way. Do not approach the property of orphans and the weak. Fulfill the covenant, because it will be questioned. Fill up the measure when you measure, and weigh with a true balance. Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge; the hearing, the sight, and the heart will be questioned about it.
Do not walk on the earth exultantly; certainly you will never tear the earth open, nor attain the mountains in height. Say to each other words that are kindly, for surely Satan provokes strife between you because of the use of strong words. Do not turn your cheek in scorn and anger toward people, nor walk with impudence in the land. God does not love the braggart. Be modest in your bearing and subdue your voice.
Let not some people deride another people, who may be better than they are in God’s sight. And do not find fault with one another, nor revile one another with nicknames. Shun most of suspicion, for suspicion is a sin. And do not spy, nor backbite other people. Be staunch followers of justice and witnesses for God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents and kinsfolk, whether the person be rich or poor. Do not follow caprices, which cause you to swerve.
Be steadfast witnesses for God in equity, and do not let your hatred of any people seduce you so that you do not deal justly. Restrain your rage and pardon the offences of your fellow-people. The good deed and the evil deed are not alike, so repel the evil deed with the one which is good, then the person with whom you have enmity will become as though a loyal friend. The recompense for evil committed wittingly is like evil; but whoever pardons and makes amends with the evil-doer with kindness and love, their reward falls upon God. Do not drink alcohol and do not play games of chance; they are both forbidden by God.
You are human beings and all human beings are equal in the eyes of God. None is born with the slur of shame on his face; nor has anyone come into the world with the mantle of honor hung around his neck. Those who are God-revering and pious, true in words and deeds, alone are high and honored. Distinctions of birth and glory of race are no criteria of greatness and honor. There is an appointed day after your death when you will have to appear before a supreme court.
You will be called to account for all your deeds, good or bad, and you will not then be able to hide anything. The whole record of your life will be an open book to God. Your fate will be determined by your good or bad actions. In the court of the True Judge – the All-Knowing God – the question of improper recommendation and favoritism does not arise. You will not be able to bribe Him.
No consideration will be given to your pedigree or parentage. True faith and good deeds alone will stand you in good stead at that time. Those who have performed these fully will take their abode in the Heaven of eternal happiness, while the one devoid of them will be cast in the fire of Hell.
For forty years the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, lived as an ordinary individual amongst his people. In that long period he was not known as a statesman, a preacher, or an orator; none had heard him imparting wisdom or knowledge, as he began to do thereafter. He had never been seen discoursing upon the principles of metaphysics, ethics, law, politics, economy, or sociology.
Not only was he not a general, he was not even known as an ordinary soldier. He had uttered no words about God, the Angels, the revealed Books, the early Prophets, the bygone nations, the Day of Judgment, life after death, Hell or Heaven. No doubt he possessed an excellent character and charming manners, and he was well-behaved; yet . He was known among his acquaintances as a sober, calm, gentle, and trustworthy citizen of good nature, but when he appeared with the new message, he was completely transformed.
In the face of these historical facts, facts which can never be challenged, there are two alternatives: either one can claim that the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is – God forbid!— the greatest liar and meanest trickster of all times; or one must accept that he is a Messenger and Prophet of God. Even Satan and the Messenger’s bitterest enemies of his time never dared to voice the first claim; nor can anyone with sound knowledge of history do so. Therefore, there is no alternative but that everyone with reason should acknowledge Muhammad’s Messengership and Prophethood (Mostly from al-Mawdūdī, Towards Understanding Islam, 56–65)
Part | Six
The Qur’an’s Challenge and
Some Aspects of Its Miraculousness
At a time in history when eloquence was most highly prized, the Qur’ān of miraculous exposition was revealed. Just as God Almighty had endowed Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace, with the miracles which were most suitable to their times, He used eloquence as the most notable aspect of the Qur’ān, the chief miracle of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. At the time that the Qur’ān was revealed, it first challenged the literary figures of the Arabian Peninsula, and then all the people throughout the ages and at every level of knowledge and understanding until Judgment Day, in the following manner:
- If you think that a human being wrote the Qur’ān, then let one of your people who are unlettered as is Muhammad produce something similar.
- If he or she cannot do this, let a learned one or a literary one try to do the same.
- If he or she cannot do this either, then send your most famous writers or scholars and let them come together and produce the like of the Qur’ān.
- If they cannot, let them work together and call upon all their history, “deities,” scientists, philosophers, sociologists, theologians, and writers to produce something similar.
- If they cannot, let them try – leaving aside the miraculous and inimitable aspects of its meaning – to produce a work of equal eloquence in word order and composition, regardless of whether what they write is true or not.
- If you cannot produce the like of it in equal length, then produce only the like of its 10 chapters.
- If you cannot do this, then produce only one chapter.
- If you cannot do that, produce only a short chapter.
Those self-conceited people could not argue verbally with the Qur’ān and chose rather to fight it with their swords, a perilous and difficult course. If such intelligent people could have argued verbally with the Qur’ān, they would not have chosen the perilous, difficult course as they did, risking the loss of their property and lives. It is only because they could not rise to the challenge that they had to choose this more dangerous way.
The Qur’ān is miraculous in many aspects. Here we will indicate only some of them:
There is an extraordinary eloquence and stylistic purity in the Qur’ān’s word order and composition. Just as a clock’s hands complete and are fitted to one another in precise orderliness, so too does every word and sentence – indeed the entire Qur’ān – complete, and fit with, every other.
It is in this way that each of the Qur’ānic verses is not only part of a larger entity; it is also a whole in itself and has an independent existence. There is an intrinsic relation among all the verses of the Qur’ān and between one verse and all the others. In the words of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, “The verses of the Qur’ān are like stars in the sky among which there are visible and invisible ropes and relationships.
It is as if each of the verses of the Qur’ān has an eye which sees most of the verses, and a face which looks towards them, so that it extends to them the immaterial threads of relationship to weave a miraculous fabric. A single sūrah can contain the whole “ocean” of the Qur’ān in which the whole of the universe is contained. A single verse can comprehend the treasury of that sūrah. It is as if most of the verses are each a small sūrah, and most of the sūrahs each a little Qur’ān.”
In many places, like in Sūrat al-Ikhlās (Sincerity) which comprises six verses or sentences, each sentence has two meanings: one a priori (functioning as a cause or proof) with the other being a posteriori (functioning as an effect or result). This means that the sūrah contains 36 sūrahs, each made up of six sentences. One is a premise or a proposition, while the others are arguments supporting it. (See 112, note 4.)
The Qur’ān has a unique, original style that is both novel and convincing. Its style, which always preserves its originality, freshness, and the “bloom of youth,” does not imitate and cannot be imitated.
The Qur’ān’s wording is extraordinarily fluent and pure. Not only is it extraordinarily eloquent when expressing meaning, it is also wonderfully fluent and pure in wording and word arrangement. One proof of this is that it is not boring; rather it gives pleasure, even when recited thousands of times. A child can easily memorize it. Seriously ill people, even if troubled by a few words of ordinary speech, feel relief and comfort upon hearing the Qur’ān. For dying people, the Qur’ān gives their ears and minds a great taste and pleasure.
The Qur’ān feeds the heart, gives power and wealth to the mind, functions as water and light for the spirit, and cures the illnesses of the soul. Reciting or listening to the pure truth of the Qur’ān and its guidance does not fatigue the mind.
The Qur’ān’s expressions contain a superiority, power, sublimity, and magnificence. Its fluent, eloquent pure composition and word order, as well as its eloquent meanings, and original and unique style, give it an unsurpassed excellence in explaining things. Truly, in all categories of expression and address – deterrence and threats, in praise, censure and restraint, in proof and demonstration, in teaching and explanation, and in silencing and overcoming arguments – its expositions are of the highest degree.
As pointed out in a hadith (Ibn Hibbān, 1:146; al-Munāwī, 3: 54), each verse has external and internal meanings, limits and a point of comprehension, as well as boughs, branches, and twigs. Each phrase, word, letter, and even every diacritical point has many aspects. Each person who hears a verse receives their understanding through a different door. In addition to providing resources to exacting jurists, the treasuries of the meanings of the Qur’ān provide enlightenment for those seeking knowledge of God, ways for those trying to reach God, paths for perfected human beings, and schooling of mind and heart for truth-seeking scholars.
The Qur’ān has always guided them and illuminated their ways. It deals with humankind and our duty, the universe and its Creator, the heavens and the earth, this world and the next, and the past, future, and eternity. It explains all essential matters related to our creation and life, from the correct ways to eat and sleep to issues of Divine Decree and Will, and from the universe’s creation in six days to the functions of the winds. For human beings, it is a book of law, prayer, wisdom, worship, and servanthood to God, and it contains commands, invitations, invocations and reflections.
It is a holy book containing comprehensive guidance for all of our spiritual needs—a heavenly book that, like a sacred library, contains numerous booklets from which all saints, eminent truthful people, all purified and discerning scholars, and those well-versed in the knowledge of God have derived their own specific ways—which illuminates each way and answer the needs of its followers. The Qur’ān contains references to all of the knowledge that is needed by humankind. Moreover, it gives people whatever they need, so that the expression Take from the Qur’ān whatever you wish, for whatever need you have, has been widely circulated among exacting scholars.
The Qur’ān is always fresh, and its freshness is maintained as if it were revealed anew in every epoch. As an eternal discourse addressing all human beings, regardless of time or place and level of understanding, it should – and does – have a never-fading freshness. The wise Qur’ān informs all people, regardless of time, place, or level of understanding, about God, Islam, and faith. Therefore, it has to teach each group and level in an appropriate manner. People are very diverse, yet the Qur’ān has sufficient levels for all. It addresses all levels of understanding, regardless of time and place.
The Qur’ān’s conciseness is like offering up the ocean contained in a pitcher. Out of mercy and courtesy for ordinary human minds, it demonstrates the most comprehensive and universal principles and general laws through particular events on particular occasions.
The Qur’ān has an extraordinarily comprehensive aim, subject-matter, meaning, style, beauty, and subtlety. When studied well, its sūrahs and verses, particularly the opening sections of the sūrahs and the beginning and end of each verse, clearly show that there is no trace of confusion. And this is despite the fact that it contains a variety of modes of speech; all categories of elevated style; all examples of good morals and virtues; all principles of natural science; all indices of knowledge of God; all the beneficial rules of individual and social life; and all the laws that enlighten creation’s exalted reasons and purposes.
The Qur’ān gives news of the past, and it has many categories of predictions. It contains information concerning the people of the past and gives news of the people of the future. From one viewpoint, the Qur’ān is full of explicit and implicit predictions. It also speaks about the Unseen Divine truths, and the realities of the Hereafter. It is impossible to contradict its accounts of historical events; therefore, whatever it predicts either has come true or will come true when its time is due.
It was impossible for God’s Messenger to know the histories of the Prophets and their peoples. But, based on Divine Revelation, and with utmost confidence in his mission, he conveyed both the histories of bygone nations and many predictions concerning future important events. This is a challenge to all ages and peoples, including historians and other researchers, and is one of the undeniable proofs of His Prophethood and the Divine origin of the Qur’ān.
Part | Seven
God Wills Good for Humankind
But Humankind Incurs Evil
From one perspective, the Qur’ān anatomizes the spirit or character of humankind. In human life, the periods of health and prosperity are greater in number and last much longer than those of illness and misfortune. Despite this, people complain greatly when some misfortune visits them; it is as if all their lives have passed in hardship and affliction, and they now feel as if the days of health and prosperity will never come again.
Yet, when they are relieved of their misfortune or when they recover from an illness, they are exultant beyond all measure and, in self-glorification, forget to thank God, as if they had not suffered at all. One of the most important reasons why humans act in such a way is that they are unaware of the wisdom in, and Divine reasons for, illnesses and misfortunes, or health and prosperity.
God Almighty always wills good for humanity. In other words, He always gives us mercy, good, and grace. Even in misfortunes that arise as a result of unforgivable corruption or wrongdoing, there are many aspects of good for people, including for believers in particular. But human beings, by misusing their free will, either prevent that grace, good, and mercy from reaching them or transform these things into evil. Let us give an illustration here. Water is inherently a good thing – it quenches our thirst and provides moisture for our crops.
Yet, if we were to dive into the water without measuring its depth or considering whether there may be currents, or without knowing how to swim, then water becomes a means of evil. In the same way, fire can be made into an evil if we allow it to burn a finger because of ignorance or carelessness. Factors such as haste, thoughtlessness, ignorance, inexperience, or not taking due care can all transform something which is good for a person into an evil. Consequently, all the evils that befall humankind are caused by ourselves, by our mistakes and errors.
Here it might be argued that huge numbers of people are born into misfortune of one kind or another, having had no part in causing it – in any meaningful sense of causing (i.e. being responsible or answerable for) it. It may be that collectively, over a large span of generations, human beings cause all the misfortunes that beset some of them; but the fact is that many misfortunes are suffered individually by people who themselves, individually, did not earn them by their intentions or actions – some indeed suffer long before they attain the age of legal responsibility.
It is true that individuals have no part in causing the misfortune they are born into and which has been caused by earlier generations. However, the Divine Religion views the world and its misfortunes from the perspective of the afterlife, and we are here in the world to gain this eternal life. So God tests us here so that we acquire the state appropriate for this life. He tests us according to His blessings upon us.
More blessings mean more responsibility. As God gives us more bounties and blessings, our responsibility grows. For example, almsgiving is compulsory for the wealthy, but not for the poor; while those who have the required power and equipment are required to go to war when necessary, while the disabled, blind, or sick do not have to bear arms in God’s cause.
The Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, says: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell (Matthew, 5: 27-30). When viewed from this perspective, we cannot know what specific circumstances into which we are born are to our good, or to our harm.
God knows, and we do not know. We cannot know if being rich or poor, or healthy or sick, or sound and disabled is better for us. And, the Qur’an tells us that it may be that we dislike a thing although it is good for us, and love a thing although it is bad for us. God knows but we know not (2: 216). This means that we cannot regard as misfortune any circumstances into which we are born.
Evil is destruction, and humans have a great capacity for destruction. Destruction is related to non-existence, and the non-existence of something is possible even if one component is missing. But all the good that comes to humanity is from God. Good relates to existence, and the existence of something is not possible even if only one of the components does not exist. For example, a person can survive and be healthy on the condition that all the cells of his or her body – numbering more than 60 trillion – are healthy.
If only one cell is deformed, it can lead to the death of a person. So the health of a body is dependent on the health of its components. Furthermore, for something to exist, time is required, while its destruction can take place within a minute. A lazy child, by igniting a match, can burn to ashes in an hour a building that it took ten persons a hundred days to build. What all this means is that human beings have little capacity to accomplish good.
As has been pointed out in the example of bread in Sūrah 9, note 23, in order to obtain bread, which is a vital food for humans, a person needs soil, air, water, the sun, a seed of wheat which has the capacity to germinate and grow into wheat, and the ability and power to grow wheat, all of which are provided by God. So whatever goodpeople have, it is from God, while whatever evil befalls them, it is from themselves.
It can be said that human free will works in the direction of evil, while it is God Who causes people to will good and enables them to do it. The human carnal soul always wills evil and to commit sins, but God always wills good and makes people succeed in willing good, provided that they refrain from characteristics such as haughtiness, wrong viewpoints, ill intentions, ill-disposition, evil suspicions, prejudices, wrong judgment, and subjection to carnal appetites. In order to help people refrain from such ills, God has sent Prophets andrevealed Books, and He has established a special way of thinking, belief, and conduct in the name of religion.
As a consequence, people should know and acknowledge that whatever evil befalls them is because of their errors and sins, and therefore they should turn to God in repentance, mending their ways and correcting their errors. They should neither fall into despair nor complain about others or Destiny. When they recover from an illness or are relieved of any misfortune, they should attribute this blessing to God alone, and accept that, like illnesses and misfortunes, health and prosperity are also a test for them. They should be thankful to God, without taking any credit for themselves, refraining from making errors or sinning.
Both of these attitudes – turning to God in repentance and mending one’s ways when visited by illness or misfortune, as well as thanking God in times of health and prosperity – require patience. Patience which is shown in resisting the temptations of the carnal soul and in avoiding sins, and which is displayed when enduring misfortunes without complaint, causes one to acquire piety; patience and perseverance in thanking and worshipping God elevates one to the rank of being loved by God.
Another point to mention here is that a person should attribute to themselves whatever misfortune or evil befalls them, but when another believer has been visited by misfortune, others should not think ill of them; rather they should take into consideration that God has caused this person to be able to attain a higher spiritual rank through misfortune or evil. The greatest of humankind, such as the Prophets and saints, did not remain immune from illnesses and other misfortunes.
Nearness to God is a cause of misfortune, as God always keeps people pure by means of misfortune. As the Prophets and saints always thanked God in patience when a misfortune visited them, they were promoted to a higher rank as heroes of patience and thankfulness. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declares: “Those who are most visited by misfortunes are the Prophets, then come others who are near to God, each according to his nearness.” (at-Tirmidhī, “Zuhd,” 57)
A Companion came to the Messenger and said: “O Messenger of God, I love you very much.” The Messenger replied: “Then be prepared for poverty” (at-Tirmidhī, “Zuhd,” 36). When another one said that he loved God very much, the Messenger replied: “Then be prepared for misfortunes.” That is why it is said: “Nearness to the Sultan is a burning fire.” This is another subtle point that merits much reflection.
Part | Eight
On the Existence and Unity of God
It is very easy to explain existence when one attributes it to One Divine Being. If you try to explain existence by attributing it to various origins, insurmountable barriers are encountered. If you attribute existence to One Divine Being, you can then see that the whole universe is as easy to create as a honeybee, and that a honeybee is as easy to create as fruit. If, by contrast, you ascribe it to multiple origins, creating a honeybee is as difficult as creating the universe, and creating fruit will be as difficult as creating all the trees in the universe.
This is because a single being, with a single movement, can produce an effect that deals with a whole. If that effect or treatment is expected of multiple beings, it will only be obtained, if at all, with extreme difficulty and after much controversy. Which is easier or more difficult: managing an army under a single commander, or letting the soldiers make their own decisions;employing a builder to construct a building, or letting the stones arrange themselves; the revolution of many planets around a single sun, or vice versa?
When all things are attributed to One Divine Being, they do not have to be created from absolute non-existence, for creation means giving external, material existence to things that already exist in the Divine Knowledge. It is like putting in words the meaning in one’s mind, or applying a substance to make letters written in invisible ink be visible. However, if things, most of which are lifeless, ignorant, and unconscious—or, if alive, powerless and lacking in sufficient knowledge—are ascribed to themselves or to their causes— which are themselves lifeless, ignorant, and unconscious—then these things have to be created from absolute non-existence.
This is impossible. The ease with which One Divine Being does this makes the existence of things as easy as is necessary; the difficulty in the latter is beyond measure. The existence of a living being requires that the atoms forming it, which are spread throughout the soil, water, and air, should come together. Therefore, each atom would have to have universal knowledge and absolute will. Anything with such knowledge and will would be independent of any partner and would not need to acknowledge any such partner.
Nowhere in the universe is there any sign of such things or partners to be found. Creating the heavens and the earth requires a perfect, infinite power that has no partner. Otherwise, this power would have to be limited by a finite power, which is inconceivable. An infinite power does not need partners and is not obliged to admit of such even if they were to exist (which they do not).
Tawhīd, that is the Principle of Divine Unity and Oneness, can be clearly observed throughout the universe. Those who take a look at themselves and their environment can easily discern that everything depends upon this basic principle of God-revealed Religion. Parts of the human body, for example, are in close cooperation with one another, and each cell is also interconnected with the whole body, making it impossible not to conclude that He Who has created the single cell is also He Who created the whole body.
Likewise, the elements comprising the universe are interrelated and in harmony with one another and the universe as a whole. One cannot help but believe that the entire universe, from the particles to the galaxies, has been brought into existence by the same Creator, and furthermore that the motion of atoms observed in a molecule is the same as that observed in the solar system. Everything originates from “one” and eventually will return to “one.” The tree, for instance, which grows out of a seed or a stone, will result finally in a seed or stone.
This visible evidence explains why an orderliness and harmony are observed in the whole universe; it operates in strict obedience to the One Who has established that order. In other words, it is directly operated by the Creator, the One, the All-Powerful, and the All-Knowing. Otherwise, as pointed out in the Qur’ān: God has never taken to Himself a child, nor is there any god along with Him; otherwise each god would surely have sought absolute independence with his creatures under his authority, and they would surely have tried to overpower one another (23: 91); and: The fact is that had there been in the heavens and the earth any gods other than God, both (of those realms) would certainly have fallen into ruin (21: 22).
Tawhīd is the highest conception of deity, the knowledge of which God has sent to humankind in all ages through His Prophets. It was this same knowledge which all the Prophets, including Moses, Jesus, and the Prophet Muhammad (God’s blessings and peace be upon them all) brought to humankind. Humans were guilty of polytheism or idol-worship after the demise of their Prophets.
They misinterpreted the religion, mixed it with superstition, and let it degenerate into magical practices and meaningless rituals. The concept of God, the very core of religion, was debased by anthropomorphism, the deification of angels, the association of others with God, the attempt to elevate Prophets or godly people as ‘incarnations’ of God, and the personification of His Attributes through separate deities.
The followers of Tawhīd must not be narrow-minded. Their belief in One God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Master of the east and the west, and the Sustainer of the universe, leads them to view everything as belonging to the same Lord, to Whom they belong as well. Thus, they consider nothing as alien. Their sympathy, love, and service are not confined to any particular race, color, or group; they come to understand the Prophetic saying: “O servants of God, be brothers (and sisters)!”
The followers of Tawhīd know that only God has true power, that only He can benefit or harm them, fulfill their needs, cause them to die, or wield authority and influence. This conviction makes them indifferent to and independent and fearless of all powers other than those of God. They never bow in homage to any of God’s creatures.
The followers of Tawhīd, although humble and mild, never abase themselves by bowing before anyone or anything except God. They never aim at any advantage by their worship, even if that advantage is Paradise. They seek only to please God and obtain His approval. They know that the only way to success and salvation is to acquire a pure soul and righteous behavior. They have perfect faith in God, Who is above all needs, related to none, absolutely just, and without partner in His exercise of Divine Power. Given this belief, they understand that they can succeed only through right living and just action, for no influence or underhanded activity can save them from ruin.
However, some believe that they have atoned for their sins, while others assert that they are God’s favorites and thus immune to punishment. Still others believe that their idols or saints will intercede with God on their behalf, and so make offerings to their deities in the belief that such bribes give them license to do whatever they want. Such false beliefs keep them entangled in sin and evil, and their dependence on such deities causes them to neglect their need for spiritual purification and for living a pure and good life.
The followers of Tawhīd do not become hopeless or disappointed. Their firm faith in God, Master of all treasures of the earth and the heavens, and Possessor of limitless grace, bounty, and infinite power, imparts to their hearts extraordinary consolation, grants them contentment, and keeps them filled with hope. In this world, they might meet with rejection at all doors, nothing might serve their ends, and all means might desert them.
But faith in and dependence on God, which never leave them, give them the strength to go on struggling. Such a profound confidence can come only from belief in One God. Such a belief produces great determination, patient perseverance, and trust in God. When such believers decide to devote their resources to fulfilling the Divine commands in order to secure God’s good pleasure and approval, they are sure that they have the support and backing of the Lord of the universe.
Tawhīd inspires bravery, for it defeats the two factors that make people cowardly: fear of death and love of safety, along with the belief that someone other than God can somehow be bribed into postponing one’s death. Belief in the Islamic creed that “there is no deity but God” purges the mind of these ideas. The first idea loses its influence when people realize that their lives, property, and everything else really belong to God, for this makes them willing to sacrifice whatever they have for God’s approval.
The second idea is defeated when people realize that no weapon, person, or power can kill them, for only God has this power. No one can die before his appointed time, even if all of the world’s forces combine to do so. Nothing can bring death forward or push it back, even for one instant. This firm belief in One God and dependence upon Him makes followers of Tawhīd the bravest of people.
Tawhīd creates an attitude of peace and contentment, purges the mind of subtle passions, jealousy, envy and greed, and it prevents one from resorting to base and unfair means for achieving success.
Part | Nine
The Dairy of a Honeybee
A honeybee, which is female (interestingly enough, the Qur’ān uses the feminine form of the verb in this verse), lives for about two months. At the beginning of her life, she is a white egg, hardly bigger than a full stop. On the fourth day she is a larva. She has about 1,300 meals every day during her growth. She feeds on a sort of jelly that is extremely rich in vitamins and proteins, prepared by her elder sisters in the hive. She gains five times her weight every day. The temperature around her must be 35°C, and this is maintained by her elder sisters, too.
On the seventh day, instead of jelly, she begins to feed on a food prepared with honey and pollen. On the ninth day, the ceiling of her cell is covered with wax. She weaves a silk cocoon around herself the following day, and becomes a pupa.
At the end of two weeks, she looks more like a bee, and on the twentieth day, she is a perfectly-formed honeybee with a head that has antennae to touch and smell, five eyes – three of which are located on the upper part of her head with the other two larger ones on the side of the head – a tongue to suck water and nectar, jaws, legs, wings, and a sting to defend herself.
Her abdomen has been arranged in such a way that it can both digest and secrete. She begins to work according to a strict division of labor. Her first job is cleaning, which she does for two days. Then she is promoted to nurse, looking after the larvae for four to six days. A secretion gland begins to work in her body. She feeds the larvae with the pollen offered to her by her elders.
On the twenty-sixth day, she begins to make jelly and offer it to the larvae, which eat 1,300 meals a day. At the end of the first month, she is a cook, making honey from the nectar her elders have collected from the flowers. The honey is composed of water, sucrose, and glucose and is very rich in vitamins. It contains enzymes to digest carbohydrates.
Thousands of bees die every day in the comb while thousand others are born. This happens in such an orderly way that no confusion is apparent. In the community of bees, the queen bee lays the eggs. She must lay around 2,000 eggs every day. While the female bees are feeding her, she lets them taste from a substance she produces. They go round the comb and allow all the female bees to taste that substance, which enforces a kind of birth control. On the day when the bees do not taste of this substance, they all begin to lay eggs. Since those eggs are not fertilized, only male bees hatch out. Male bees have no task other than inseminating the queen bee. Their number is quite limited.
On the thirty-fifth day, a new factory starts to work in the queen bee’s body. Located in the back, lower part of her abdomen, this factory produces wax. She collects the wax with the hairs on her middle legs and chews it in order to mould it into the cells of the comb. The cells are hexagonal in shape; this is the ideal shape to ensure the greatest amount of storage for the least amount of wax. Also, a hexagonal form has the greatest resistance to external pressure.
Thirty-five thousand cells are made from half a kilo of wax and 10 kilograms of honey are stored in these. They need 3.5 kilos of honey to make half a kilo of wax. While making the cells, they take gravity into account. For example, the cells where the female worker bees lie are horizontal, forming a vertical layer, while the cells where the future queen bee lies are vertical, parallel to the surface of the earth. The cells where male bees grow are larger than those of the females.
On the thirty-seventh day of a bee’s life, she leaves the hive to fly around it and to obtain knowledge of the outer world. Unlike birds, bees do not flap their wings. When bees fly, their wings move automatically in such a way that the wing makes 250 complete turns per second, as well as curving along certain lines so that the bee is able to adjust its body to the air current.
The wings make a figure-of-eight shape in the air. In proportion to the size of their wings, their bodies are heavy (unlike birds), and their bodies grow progressively heavier as they collect nectar from flowers. Despite this, they can fly as fast as 15 kilometers an hour. Not only is a bee’s flight miraculous; the way they land is awe-inspiring as well. Unlike birds, they do not need to decrease their speed before they land. Thanks to the tips of their legs, they can immediately alight wherever they want in mid-flight.
On the thirty-eighth day of a bee’s life, her task is to guard the entrance of the hive. No one, not even bees from other hives, are allowed to enter the hive. Bees recognize one another by smell. The smell of each community of honeybees is different. The entrance of a hive is also marked by the smell unique to that community.
On the forty-first day of her life, she is a fully-matured honeybee. The factories in her body that produce royal jelly and wax have ceased production. From now on, she will spend her days collecting nectar. Bees are attracted to flowers by their colors and smells. The flowers are structured in such a way that it is as if they have been built as landing platforms. When the bees land on a flower, they use their tongues to reach into the source of the nectar in their center.
At the same time, the pollen from the flowers clings to the hairs on their bodies, making the bee look like a thorny twig. They leave some of this pollen on other flowers they visit and thereby assist in the pollination of flowers. They do not visit flowers at random. They continue to visit the same kind of flower in the same environment as the first flower they visited that day.
A bee can visit as many as 20,000 flowers in one day. They store the nectar in their stomach and the pollen in sacs located on their back legs. Since flying home is made more difficult by the weight of their load, they follow a direct route when returning to the hive; this is known as a “bee line.” Even if they pass through places unknown to them, they always follow this direct route. It is extremely easy for a bee to establish a bee line.
The place and position of the sun tells them the direction. The change of the sun’s position does not hinder them. They can easily calculate the exact place and position of the sun at any time of the day. They use atmospheric polarization and find the place of the sun by means of any light that comes from anywhere in the sky.
At the end of her life, a span of two months, the bee has flown more than 2,000 kilometers and has produced 50 grams of honey. This amount should not be considered as trivial, for the population of a hive makes 200,000 flights a day, producing one kilo of honey. Yet if all the human beings in the world were to work together, they could not produce even a single gram of honey.
It is clear that it is impossible for any being other than God Almighty, Who is the All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Willing—even for what some call “nature,” natural forces, or matter— to create the bee and organize her life; all of these are blind, lifeless, and ignorant. They have no will at all and cannot create. (Summarized from The Diary of a Honeybee by Ümit Şimşek, İstanbul.)
Part | Ten
The Ascension (Mi’raj) of
The Prophet Muhammad
During his entire lifetime, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was in continual search for unadulterated minds and hearts to which he could impart God’s Message. He may have offered his Message only a few times to those like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, but he must have offered it to Abu Jahl and his like at least fifty times. Each time he appeared before them, he would say: “Proclaim, ‘There is no deity but God’, and be saved!” He would visit the places where people gathered and carry the fragrance of the same words, “Proclaim, ‘There is no deity but God’, and be saved!”
Fairs used to be held periodically in places around Makkah, such as in ‘Arafāt, Mina, Muzdalifah and ‘Aqabah, which attracted many people not native to Makkah. The Messenger would visit these fairs for the purpose of preaching Islam, and his effort, as well as the measure of success he had in persuading people to listen, angered the polytheists of Makkah.
A time came when reactions, which had begun as indifference, turned to derision and mocking, then to persecution, torture, and boycotting of the Muslims, finally reaching an unbearable point when there was no hope for further conversions among the Makkan polytheists. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, took Zayd ibn Hārithah with him and went to Tāif. Unfortunately, there, too, he was faced with violent anger and terror. The children of Tāif, positioned on either side of the road, threw stones at him. There was not a square inch on his body that was not hit by the stones. However, he finally succeeded in leaving the town and reached a tree in a vineyard, under which he took shelter, bleeding profusely. He held up his hands and supplicated:
O God, unto You do I complain of my frailty, lack of resources, and lack of significance before those people. O Most Merciful of the merciful, You are the Lord of the oppressed and You are my Lord. To whom do You abandon me? To that stranger who looks askance and grimaces at me? Or to that enemy to whom You have given mastery over me? If, however, Your indignation is not against me, I am not worried.
But Your grace is a much greater thing for me to wish for. I seek refuge in the Light of Your “Face,” which illuminates all darkness and by which the affairs of this life and the Hereafter have been rightly ordered, lest Your wrath alight upon me, or Your indignation descend upon me. I expect Your forgiveness so that You may be pleased with me, and there is no other resource nor any power but what is in You.
While he was lying in the Sacred Mosque one night, some time after he had returned from this painful trip, he was taken from there to Masjid al-Aqsā in Jerusalem, and thence through the heavenly dimensions of existence, where he observed the greatest signs of God. That is, he observed the greatest truths and signs concerning God’s Divinity and Lordship, and the original truths of the fundamentals of faith and worship and all existence in archetypal forms.
He also witnessed the original meanings of all events and things in the physical world, as well as the forms they take and their results pertaining to the other world. The Prescribed Prayer was also enjoined on him and his community and was established as five times daily.
The Ascension is one of the greatest miracles of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. The Prophet realized spiritual perfection and full refinement through faith and worship and as a reward God took him to His holy Presence. Escaping from the imprisonment of “natural” laws and material causes and rising beyond the limits of bodily existence, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, crossed distances swiftly and transcended all dimensions of existence until he reached the holy Presence of God.
Existence and the Ascension
In order to clarify subtle matters and abstract truths, we usually make use of comparisons, and we compare such matters and truths to concrete things in the material world. For such comparisons to be possible and potentially worthwhile, there must be some similarity between the things that are compared to each other. However, since both the Prophet’s journeying from Makkah to Jerusalem (the Night Journey) and his Ascension (al-Mi‘rāj) through the dimensions of existence are miracles without equal or like in the material world, the method of comparison cannot be applied.
These events can only be known and understood by God’s teaching. Nevertheless, the names of the “vehicles” mentioned in the Prophetic Traditions with respect to both the Night Journey and the Ascension – Burāq (derived from barq, meaning lightning) – and the very name of the journeying through the dimensions of existence Mi‘rāj (meaning stairway), allude to the fact that we can refer to certain scientific truths to make this miracle understandable by the “restricted” human mind.
Atomic physics has changed many notions in physics and established that the material world is a dimension or an appearance of existence. Alongside this world, there are many other worlds or dimensions of existence, each having its own peculiarities. Einstein put forward the notion that time is only one of the dimensions of existence. Science has not yet reached a final conclusion about existence, and new findings and developments continually change our understanding. Therefore, especially today, it would be irrational to question the event of the Ascension.
In the Ascension, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, must have moved with the speed of the spirit and he traveled through all time and space and all dimensions of existence in a very short period. People may have difficulty in understanding how a mortal, physical being can make such a journey and observe all existence with its past and future. In order to understand this subtle matter, consider this analogy: imagine that you are standing with a mirror in your hand, with everything reflected on the right representing the past, while everything reflected on the left represents the future.
The mirror can reflect one direction only since it cannot show both sides at the same time as you are holding it. If you wish to reflect both directions at the same time, you will have to rise high above your original position, so that left and right are united into one and nothing remains to be called first or last, beginning or end. As in this comparison, the Messenger traveled through the dimensions of existence, including time and space, and reached a point from where he could penetrate all time as a single point in which the past, present and future are united.
During that heavenly journey, the Messenger met with the previous Prophets, saw angels, and beheld the beauties of Paradise and the terrors of Hell. He also observed the essential realities of all the Qur’ānic issues and the meanings of and wisdom in all the acts of worship. He went as far as the realms—where even the greatest of angels, Gabriel, cannot reach—and was honored with vision of God’s “Face,” free from any qualitative or quantitative dimensions or restrictions. Then, in order to bring humans out of the darkness of material existence into the illuminated realm of faith and worship, through which they could realize a spiritual ascension each according to their capacity, he returned to the world where he was made subject to all kinds of persecution.
The Wisdom of the Ascension
A ruler holds two kinds of conversations or interviews, and has two modes of address or favor. One is when he converses with an ordinary subject or citizen about a particular matter or need by means of a direct, private line of communication, such as a telephone. The other is that under the title of supreme sovereignty, being the ruler of the whole country, he chooses an envoy, one whose office is concerned with the matter, to publish and promulgate his royal decree, and this decree carries the authority and weight of his majesty.
Similarly, the Master of the whole of existence has two kinds of conversing and two manners of favoring. One is particular and private—the other, universal and general. The particular and private one occurs in the mirror of the heart by means of one’s particular relationship with the Lord.
Everyone may receive a manifestation of the light and a conversation with the Master of creation in accordance with their capacity and the character of their spiritual journeying in traversing the degrees toward sainthood, and their ability to receive the manifestations of Divine Names and Attributes. That is why there are innumerable degrees in sainthood.
The second is that, by virtue of having a comprehensive nature and being the most enlightened fruit of the Tree of Creation, humans are potentially able to reflect all the Divine Names manifested in the universe in the mirror of their spirit. But not everyone can realize this. Almighty God manifests all His Beautiful Names and Attributes only in the greatest of humanity at the greatest level and most comprehensively, as it is only that greatest one who is able to receive them. It was this form of manifestation that occurred in Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
The Reality of the Ascension
Thus, the Ascension is the journey of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, through the degrees of perfection. That is, Almighty God has various Names or Titles manifested in the arrangement and disposition of creatures, and the diverse works of His Lordship (His upbringing, training, sustaining, and providing) are displayed as the results of the execution of His absolute authority in the invention and administration of creatures in the levels of the heavens where He executes His Lordship according to the different conditions of each level.
Thus, in order to show those works of His Lordship to His special servant, and thereby make him a being encompassing all human perfections and receiving all Divine manifestations—i.e., one who can view all the levels of the universe and announce the sovereignty of His Lordship, and who can proclaim the things of which He approves and unveil the enigmatic meaning of creation—God Almighty mounted him on Burāq (a mount of Paradise) and had him travel through the heavens like lightning, promoting him to higher and higher ranks, and causing him to observe the Divine Lordship from mansion to mansion, and from sphere to sphere, showing him the Prophets, his brothers, whose abodes are in the heavens of those spheres, one after the other.
Finally, He raised him to the station of the distance between the strings of two bows (put adjacent to each other) or even nearer (for the meaning of which, see 53: 9, and the corresponding note 4), and honored him with the special manifestation of all of His Names to the fullest degree.
The Fruits or Benefits of the Ascension
Out of numerous fruits of the Ascension, we will mention only five.
The First Fruit
The vision of the truths from which the pillars of faith originate and of the angels, Paradise and the Hereafter, became the cause of such a treasure of eternal light, such a gift for the universe and humankind, that it has freed the universe from being perceived and experienced as a disordered heap doomed to destruction. This gift showed that, in reality, the universe is the harmonious collection of the sacred “inscriptions” of the Eternally Besought-of-All and lovely mirrors where the Grace and Beauty of the Single One are reflected.
This vision has pleased and delighted the universe and all conscious beings. Again, through that light and gift, this vision has freed humankind from the confused state of misguidance in which all were seen as wretched, helpless and destitute beings, entangled in innumerable needs and hostilities and doomed to permanent annihilation, and showed that, in reality, each human being is of the most fair composition and the best pattern of creation, one who, being a miracle of the Power of the Eternally Besought-of-All and a comprehensive copy of the collection of His “inscriptions,” is addressed by the Sovereign of Eternity, and one who is His private servant to appreciate His perfections, His friend to behold His Beauty in amazement, and His beloved and His honored guest designated for Paradise. This fruit of the Ascension implant infinite joy and enthusiasm in those who are truly human.
The Second Fruit
The Ascension brought to humankind and the jinn the essentials of Islam as a gift, including primarily the prescribed five daily Prayers, which contain all the things pleasing to the Ruler of Eternity, Who is the Maker of creatures, the Owner of the universe, and the Lord of the worlds. People are inevitably curious to perceive what it is that pleases Him, and their perceiving it brings an indescribable happiness.
For everyone is desirous of knowing the wishes of a renowned benefactor or a benevolent ruler; they say: “We wish we had a means of communication so that we could talk to him directly! We wish we knew what he asks of us! We wish we knew what things we have done that are pleasing to Him!”
God has the possession of all creatures, and the grace, beauty, and perfection shared by all creatures are but a dim shadow in relation to His Beauty, Grace, and Perfection. You may understand to what degree human beings, who need Him in infinite ways and receive His endless bounties at every moment, should be curious about and desirous of perceiving His will and the things pleasing to Him.
It was as a fruit of the Ascension that, having left “seventy thousand veils” behind, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, heard of the things pleasing to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe directly, and brought them with absolute certainty to humankind as a gift.
People are extremely eager to learn facts about the moon or indeed other planets. They send explorers there to find out and then to tell them about it. They are ready to make great sacrifices for this end. But the moon travels in the domain of such a Master that it flies around the earth like a fly. The earth flies around the sun like a moth. As for the sun, it is only a lamp among thousands of other lamps and functions like a candle in a guest-house of the Majestic Master of the Kingdom.
Thus, these are the acts and qualities of the Majestic Being and the wonders of His art and the treasures of His Mercy in the eternal world that the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, saw during the Ascension and then told humankind about. You may understand how contrary to reason and wisdom it would be if humankind were not to listen to this person with utmost curiosity and in perfect amazement and love.
The Third Fruit
The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, saw the hidden treasure of eternal happiness during the Ascension and brought its keys to humankind and jinn as a gift. Through the Ascension, he saw Paradise with his own eyes, observed the everlasting manifestations of the Mercy of the Majestic All-Merciful One, and perceived eternal happiness with absolute certainty, and then he brought to humankind and jinn the glad tidings that there is eternal happiness (in an everlasting world).
It is indescribable what great happiness this aroused in the mortal, wretched human beings and the jinn who had regarded themselves as being condemned to permanent annihilation; such glad tidings were given to them at a time when all creatures were emitting heart-rending cries at the thought of being in flux amidst the convulsions of death and decay in an unstable world, of diving into the ocean of non-existence and eternal separation through the flow of time and the motion of the atoms.
Consider how a person would rejoice if they learned that they were to be given a palace by the king in the vicinity of his residence just at the time of their execution. Add to this the instances of joy and happiness to the number of all humankind and jinn, and then you may be able to measure the value of these glad tidings.
The Fourth Fruit
As the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, himself received the fruit of the vision of God’s All-Beautiful “Face,” he brought it to humankind and jinn as a gift that every believer may be honored with the same vision. You can understand how delicious, fine, and beautiful that fruit is when you make the following comparison:
Anyone with a heart loves a beautiful, perfect, and benevolent one. This love increases in proportion to the extent of the beauty, perfection, and benevolence of the being and mounts to the degree of adoration and self-sacrifice. Whereas, when compared to God’s Attributes, all the beauty, perfection, and benevolence shared by the whole of the creation are nothing more than a few flashes of the sun when compared to the sun itself. You may understand from this what a pleasant, beautiful, rejoicing, and blissful fruit it is that one deserves the sight of the Majestic One of perfection, Who is worthy of infinite love in the abode of eternal happiness; such a sight can only inspire infinite eagerness.
The Fifth Fruit
It was understood through the Ascension that each human being is a valuable fruit of the universe and a darling beloved of the Maker of the universe. Though outwardly an insignificant creature, a weak animal, and an impotent conscious being, each person has risen to a position so far above all other creatures that it is the cause of pride for us. The joy and happiness we receive from this is indescribable. If you tell an ordinary private that he has been promoted to the rank of field-marshal, he will feel infinite joy. While being a mortal, helpless, reasoning, and articulating animal knowing only the blows of decay and separation, we were told unexpectedly through the Ascension:
As you may realize all your heart’s desires in an everlasting Paradise, enveloped by the Mercy of an All-Merciful, All-Compassionate, and All-Magnificent One, and in recreation, in traveling with the speed of imagination and in the broad sphere of the spirit and the mind, you also may see His Most Beautiful “Face” in eternal happiness. (Summarized from The Words, “the 31st Word,” by Said Nursi.)
Part | Eleven
Arguments for the Resurrection
Concerning the Resurrection, the following six questions may be asked:
- One: Why will the world be destroyed? Is its destruction necessary?
- Two: Is he who will destroy it, and the builder who will rebuild it, capable of doing this?
- Three: Is the destruction of the world possible?
- Four: If it is possible, will it really be destroyed?
- Five: Is the rebuilding of the world possible?
- Six: If possible, will it actually be rebuilt?
It is possible to destroy the world, and there is a necessary cause for its destruction. He Who will destroy and rebuild it is capable of that, and it will certainly take place, and it will surely be rebuilt. Our arguments are as follows.
The spirit is undoubtedly eternal, and the proofs of the existence of angels and other spirit beings are proofs of the eternity of the spirit. (For the existence and characteristics of angels and other invisible beings, see sūrah 2, note 31, 36, 40; sūrah 11, note 19; and sūrah 15: 27, note 7.) We are too close to the souls of the dead, who are waiting in the Barzakh, the intermediate world between this and the next to go to the Hereafter, to require any proof of their existence. It is commonly known that some can communicate with them, whilst almost everyone encounters them in true dreams. (For arguments concerning the eternity of the spirit, see Appendix 12.)
It is necessary that an eternal world of happiness should be established and the Majestic One Who will establish this world is certainly capable of doing that. The destruction of the world is possible and will certainly occur. Moreover, the resurrection of everything is also possible and, with equal certainty, will take place.
There is a purpose and necessary cause for the foundation of an eternal world of happiness, and the following ten points indicate the existence and necessity of this purpose and cause.
The whole of creation displays a perfect harmony and a purposeful order, and in every aspect of the universe, signs of a will are manifest. It is impossible not to discern, through the testimony of its fruits or results, in each thing and event, an intention and will, and in each composition, an instance of wisdom and choice. If this creation were not meant to produce eternal happiness, then its harmony and order would be a deceptive appearance, and the meanings, relations and connections that are the spirit of the order would come to nothing – for it is eternal happiness which causes this order to be established and the world to be so in its present state.
The creation of the universe displays perfect wisdom embodied in benefits and purposes. Indeed, the Divine Wisdom, being the representation of eternal favor, announces the coming of eternal happiness in the language of the benefits and purposes in the whole universe. If, then, there was no eternal happiness, it would require the denial of all the benefits and purposes observed in every thing and event in the universe.
As pointed out by the intellect, wisdom, experience and deductive reasoning, nothing superfluous or vain occurs in creation, and this indicates the existence of eternal happiness. The Majestic Maker of the universe chooses the best and easiest way in creation, and apportions hundreds of duties and thousands of purposes to any creature, no matter how insignificant it may appear. Since there is no waste and nothing is in vain, there will surely be eternal happiness. Eternal non-existence would make everything futile, and everything would be a waste.
The absence of waste in all creation, and in humankind in particular, demonstrates that humankind’s endless spiritual potential, their limitless aspirations and ideas, and their inclinations will never go to waste. Their basic inclination towards perfection indicates the existence of perfection, and their desire for happiness proclaims that they are definitely destined for eternal happiness. If this were not so, then all the basic spiritual features and sublime aspirations which constitute their true nature would be for nothing.
The alternation of day and night, spring and winter, atmospheric changes, the renewal of the human body each year, and awakening and rising every morning after sleep all indicate a complete rising and renewal. Just as in time, seconds forecast the coming of the minute, the minute predicts the hour, and the hour anticipates the day, so, too, do the dials of God’s great clock – the earth – point, in succession, to the day, the year, a person’s lifetime, and the ages through which the world passes. As they show that morning follows night, and spring follows winter, they intimate that the morning of the Resurrection will follow the death of the whole of creation.
As the daily, seasonal and annual changes, going to sleep and awakening the next morning, and the revivals and renewals which occur during a person’s life can all be regarded as a kind of death and resurrection, so too is the revival of nature every spring a promise of the final resurrection. Hundreds of thousands of different kinds of resurrection take place in the realm of animals and plants each spring; some animals come to “life” after hibernation, while trees burst into leaf and flower. Thus, the All-Wise Creator reminds us of the Resurrection to come.
Each human being is equal in value and comprehensiveness to any other animate species because the light of the human intellect has endowed people with comprehensive aspirations and ideas that encompass the past and future. In other species, the nature of the individuals is particular, their value is local, their view restricted, their qualities limited, their pleasure and pain is instantaneous. Humankind, on the other hand, has a sublime nature and is of the greatest value; its perfection is limitless, and its spiritual pleasures and suffering are more lasting. It can be concluded from these facts that the kinds of resurrection experienced by other species in nature indicate that every human being will be completely resurrected on the Day of Judgment.
Humankind has been endowed with unlimited potential. This potential develops into unrestricted abilities, which give rise to countless inclinations. These inclinations generate limitless desires, and these desires are the source of infinite ideas and concepts. All these together indicate the existence of a world of eternal happiness beyond this material world. Their innate inclination towards eternal happiness makes one sure that this world of happiness will be established.
The all-encompassing Mercy of the All-Merciful Maker of the universe requires that there be a world of eternal happiness. Were it not for such a world of happiness, which is the chief grace of God for human beings, they would unceasingly lament due to the pain of eternal separation, acts of favor would turn into vengeance, and Divine Compassion would be negated. Divine Mercy, however, is found throughout the whole of creation, and is more evident than the sun. Observe love, affection, and intellect, which are the three manifestations of Divine Compassion.
If human life were to result in eternal separation, with unending pangs of parting, then that gracious love would turn into the greatest affliction. Affection would turn into a most painful affliction, and that light-giving intellect would become an unmitigated evil. Divine Compassion (because it is Compassion), however, would never inflict the agony of eternal separation upon true love.
All the pleasure-giving experiences known in the universe—all the beauty, perfection, attractions, ardent yearnings, and feelings of compassion—are spiritual articulations and manifestations of the Majestic Creator’s Favor, Mercy, and Munificence made known to the intellect. Since there is a truth, a reality in this universe, there most certainly is true Mercy. And since there is true Mercy, there will be eternal happiness.
The human conscience, which is humanity’s conscious nature, reflects eternal happiness, and whoever hearkens to this conscience will hear it pronouncing eternity over and over again. If a human being were given the whole universe, it would not compensate him or her for a lack of eternity – people have an innate longing for eternity; it is this for which we have been created. This means that humankind’s natural inclination towards eternal happiness comes from an objective reality, which is the existence of eternity and humankind’s desire for it.
The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, who spoke the truth and whose words have been confirmed over the centuries, preached the coming of everlasting life and eternal happiness, and it was his words which promised this. In his message, he concentrated almost as much upon the Resurrection as he did upon the Divine Unity, referring to the consensus of all the Prophets, peace be upon them all, and the unanimous agreement of all the saints.
The Qur’ān, as well as all other Divine Books, announces the Resurrection and the coming of eternal happiness. It unveils the mystery of creation and offers many rational arguments in support of the Resurrection.
Just as the necessity of the Resurrection cannot be doubted, so too it is without question that the One Who will bring it about is eminently able to do so. He is absolutely powerful over everything. The greatest things and the smallest are the same in relation to His Power. He creates the spring with as much facility as He creates a flower. He is so powerful that the whole of creation, with its planets, stars, worlds, particles, and substances, bear witness to His Power and Majesty.
No one, then, has the right to doubt that He will be able to raise the dead for the Last Judgment. His Power is such that each century, He causes a new environment to come into existence; He renews the world every year—or rather, He creates a new world every day. He hangs many transient worlds upon the string of time, as centuries, years, or even days pass, for a perfect, definite purpose.
He does all these things, and He also displays the perfection of His Wisdom and the beauty of His art by causing the earth to wear the garment of spring, as if it were a single flower which He has decorated with the embellishments of hundreds of thousands of resurrections. Since He is able to do this, how is it then possible for anyone to doubt that He is able to cause the Resurrection to happen and to replace this world with another? (For the infinite capability of Divine Power, see 31: 28 and the corresponding note 6.)
It has been established that there is a necessity for the Resurrection, and the One Who will raise the dead is able to do this. The whole world is exposed to the Resurrection, and there are four matters relating to this subject as follows:
- First: It is possible for this world to come to an end.
- Second: The world will actually come to an end.
- Third: The possibility exists for the destroyed world to be rebuilt again in the form of the Hereafter.
- Fourth: The destroyed world will actually be resurrected and rebuilt.
The death of all of creation is possible. If something is subject to the law of development, then it will certainly evolve to a final end. If something develops to this final end, then that means it will have a limited lifetime, and if something has a limited lifetime, then a “natural” end is certain to be fixed for it. Lastly, if something is destined for a fixed end, then it will inevitably die, and since humankind is a microcosm and nothing prevents us from dying, so too, the whole universe, which can be regarded as a macro-human being, cannot be saved from perishing.
Accordingly, it will perish and be brought to life again on the morning of the Last Day. Just as a living tree, which is a miniature of the universe, is not able to save itself from annihilation, so too will “the branches of creatures” which have grown from “the Tree of Creation” pass away. If the universe is not destroyed by an external destructive event, which could occur by the leave of the Eternal Will, then a day, as also predicted by science, will certainly come when this macro-human being will go into the throes of death. It will give a sharp cry, and what is described in these Qur’ānic verses will take place:
When the sun is folded up (darkened); and when the stars fall (losing their luster; and when the mountains are set moving (81: 1–3).
When the heaven is cleft open; And when the stars fall in disorder and are scattered; And when the seas burst forth (spilling over their bounds to intermingle) (82:1–3 ).
A Subtle but Important Point
Water freezesand loses its essential liquid form; ice changes into water and loses its essential state as a solid; the essence of something becomes stronger at the expense of its material form; the spirit weakens as the flesh becomes more substantial; and the flesh weakens as the spirit becomes more illuminated. Thus, the solid world is being gradually refined by the mechanism of life to the advantage of the afterlife. The Creative Power breathes life into dense, solid, and inanimate substances as a result of astonishing activities and refines that solid world to the advantage of the coming world through the light of life.
A truth never perishes, no matter how weak it is. As the truth flourishes and expands, the form containing it grows weaker and is refined. The spiritual truth which actually constitutes the essence of something is inversely proportional to the strength of its form; in other words, as the form grows denser, the truth becomes weaker, and as the form grows weaker, the truth obtains more strength. This law is common to all creatures that are destined to develop and evolve.
We can conclude from this argument that the corporeal world, which is a form containing the great truth of the universe, will break into pieces by leave of the Majestic Creator and be rebuilt more beautifully. One day, the meaning expressed by the Qur’ānic verse, On the Day when the earth is changed into another earth, and the heavens (also), they all appear before God, the One, the All-Overwhelming (14: 48), will be realized. Finally, it is without a doubt that the death of the world is possible.
The world will certainly die. It is indicative of the inevitable death of the world that its inhabitants are replaced by new ones every day, every year, and in every age. Those who have been welcomed into this worldly guesthouse bid us farewell some time later and are followed by newcomers, a fact which testifies to the final death of the world itself.
If you would like to imagine the death of this world as indicated by the relevant Qur’ānic verses, look at how minutely and precisely the constituent parts of the universe have been connected to one another. Consider how sublimely and delicately they have been organized into a system, so that if a single heavenly body were to be given the order “Leave your axis!” the whole universe would be thrown into its death throes. Stars would collide, planets would be scattered and the sound of the exploding spheres would fill space. Mountains would be set in motion and the earth would be flattened. This is what the Eternal Power will actually do to bring about the next life, upsetting the universe, to separate the elements of Paradise from those of Hell.
The universe can be resurrected after its death because, first of all, the Divine Power is in no way defective. Secondly, there is a strong necessity for this resurrection, and, moreover, it is possible. Consequently, if there is a strong necessity that something should occur, and if that thing is possible, then it comes to be regarded as being something that will inevitably occur.
Another Significant Point
A close examination of what goes on in the universe will make it clear that within it are two opposed elements that have spread everywhere and become rooted. The result of the opposition of these elements, like good and evil, benefit and harm, perfection and defect, light and darkness, guidance and misguidance, belief and unbelief, obedience and rebellion, fear and love, is that they clash with one another in the universe.
The universe manifests, through such a continuous conflict of opposites, the incessant alterations and transformations necessary to produce the elements of a new world. These opposed elements will eventually lead in two different directions to eternity, materializing as Paradise and Hell. The Eternal World will be made up of the essential elements of this transitory world, and these elements will then be given permanence.
Paradise and Hell are, in fact, two opposite fruits which grow on the two branches of the Tree of Creation; they are the two results of the chain of creation. They are the two cisterns which are being filled by the two streams of things and events, and the two poles to which beings are flowing in waves. They are the places where Divine Grace and Divine Punishment manifest themselves, and they will be filled up with their particular inhabitants when the Divine Power shakes up the universe with a violent motion.
People are being tested here so that their potential can develop and their abilities can manifest themselves. This emergence of abilities causes the appearance of relative truths in the universe. In other words, the All-Beautiful Names of the Majestic Maker manifest their inscriptions and make the universe a missive of the Eternally Besought-of-All. It is also by virtue of this testing that the diamond-like essences of sublime souls are separated from the coal-like matter of the base ones.
For whatever sublime purposes God has willed creation to take place (we are aware of some of these purposes and of others we are unaware), He also willed the change and alteration of this world for the same purposes. He mixed together opposites and made them confront one another; He kneaded them together like dough, and made the universe subject to the law of alteration and to the principle of perfection.
The time will arrive when the trial or testing comes to an end, and the Pen of Divine Destiny will have written what it has to write. The Divine Power will have completed its work, all the creatures will have fulfilled their duties and services, and the seeds will have been sown in the field of the afterlife.
The earth will have displayed the miracles of Divine Power, and this transitory world will have hung all the eternal scenes upon the picture-rail of time, while the eternal Wisdom and Favor of the Majestic Maker will require that the results of the test be announced, the truths of the manifestations of the Divine Beautiful Names and the missives of the Pen of Divine Destiny be unveiled, the duties performed by the creatures be repaid, the truths of the meanings expressed by the words of the book of the universe be seen, the fruit of potential be yielded, a supreme court be established, and the veil of natural causes be removed, so that everything is submitted directly to the Divine Will and Power.
On that Day, the Majestic Creator will destroy the universe in order to eternalize it, and He will separate opposites from one another. This separation will result in the appearance of Paradise, with all its beauty and splendor, and of Hell, with all its awfulness;. The People of Paradise will be welcomed with the words, Peace be upon you! Well you have faired and are purified (from the foul residues of sin, and delivered from all suffering), so enter it (Paradise) to abide! (39: 73); whilst the people of Hell will be threatened with the words, And you, O disbelieving criminals! Get you apart this Day! (36: 59).
The Eternal All-Wise One will give, through His perfect Power, an everlasting, unchanging existence to the inhabitants of both these dwelling-places. They will never grow old, nor will their bodies suffer any disintegration or decomposition, because there will be nothing to cause any changes that lead to disintegration.
We have stated in the previous Matter that it is possible for the earth to be resurrected after its death. After its being destroyed, the One Who created this world will undoubtedly create it again more beautifully, and will convert it into one of the mansions of the Hereafter. In the same way that the Holy Qur’ān, with all its verses containing so many rational proofs, and the other Divine Scriptures are unanimously agreed upon this matter, so too are the Attributes of the All-Majestic One pertaining to His Majesty and those pertaining to His Grace, and all His Beautiful Names, clear indications of the occurrence of the Resurrection.
Furthermore, He has promised that He would bring about the Resurrection and the Great Gathering through all His heavenly decrees which He sent to His Prophets, and He will certainly carry out His promise. This is an undeniable truth, which is agreed upon by all the Prophets; the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the foremost in confirming it with the strength of his thousand miracles, as are the saints and righteous scholars. Lastly, the universe predicts it with all the scientific proofs contained in it (From The Words, “the 29th Word”). (For the Resurrection, see also 15: 85, note 17.)
Part | Twelve
The Spirit, It’s Identity and
Arguments for It’s Existence
The interpreters of the Qur’ān have disagreed about what is meant by “spirit” in the verse 17: 85: They ask you about the spirit. Say: “The spirit is of my Lord’s Command, and of knowledge, you have been granted only a little.” Some are of the opinion that it means Revelation, while others assert that it is the essence of living existence or the source of life, movement, consciousness, feelings, and senses in living beings.
If we consider that it is the spirit in a human being which is, as well as being the source of life, the essence that learns, is educated, and believes or denies, and that Revelation is the source or means of spiritual liveliness, then we can conclude that Revelation is the life of spirit. The Qur’ān declares: “O you who believe! Respond to God and to the Messenger when the Messenger calls you (in the Name of God) to that which gives you life” (8: 24).
God has two laws, one issuing from His Attribute of Speech, and manifested as the Divine Revelation or Religion. The other issues from His Attributes of Will and Power, and is manifested as what we call the “laws of nature” and life. The spirit is also a manifestation of God’s Attributes of Will and Power. It is a living law endowed with consciousness and a real, sensible existence. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi writes:
The spirit is a law with consciousness and a real, sensible existence: Divine Power has clothed it in an energetic envelope within a body of sensory organs. This spirit, which exists in humankind, is a counterpart to the “laws of nature and life.” Both are unchanging (unless God wills otherwise for certain wise purposes) and permanent, and both have issued from the world of Divine Commands. If the Eternal Power had clothed the laws with perceptible existence and consciousness, each would have been a spirit; and if the human spirit were stripped of life and consciousness, it would become an immaterial law (The Letters, “Seeds of Truth,”).
Although science is not yet ready to accept it, there are many worlds in the universe, as well as there being subdivisions in the world – like the worlds of plants, animals, and human beings (the plant kingdom, animal kingdom, and human kingdom) and the world of jinn; these worlds lie one within the other or above and enveloping one another. Of these worlds, the visible, material world is that in which we live, the world which addresses itself to our senses. From the tiniest particles to the greatest galaxies, this world is the realm where God Almighty gives life, fashions, renews, changes, and causes to die. The sciences concern themselves with the phenomena of this world.
The sciences attribute almost every phenomenon in the physical world to natural laws. But these laws have no directly perceptible existence. Therefore, attributing creativity to those laws which are only nominal principles deduced from what is going on in nature is the same as denying the existence of the spirit, and is mere prejudice or bias, and deliberate denial. Like the laws that seem to operate in the universe, the spirit is a law that issues from the world of Divine Laws or Commands. Nevertheless, unlike these other laws, the human spirit is a living, conscious law.
Above this visible, material world is the immaterial world of Divine Laws or Commands. In order to have some knowledge of this world, we can consider, for example, how a book, or a tree, or a human being comes into existence. The most important part of a book’s being is found in its meaning; for example, a book can be bound, or can be in audio form, or even found on-line. The physical entity of “a book” has no meaning in and of itself; it is the meaning of the book, the ideas that cause it to exist.
Another example: that thing that stimulates a seed to germinate under the earth and grow into a tree is the essence of life and the law of germination and growth with which the seed has previously been endowed. We can observe the germination of the seed and the subsequent development of the seedling into a tree with the naked eye. If it were not for the essence of life and the laws of germination and growth, which, even if invisible or unobservable, govern the birth and growth of a new living thing, there would be no plants in the world.
We conclude the existence of all these laws from the almost never-changing repetition of all these processes. Likewise, by observing the “natural” phenomena around us, we can also deduce the existence of many other laws, like gravity and repulsion, freezing and vaporization.
Thus, like the laws we have thus mentioned and many others, the spirit is a law issuing from the world of Divine Commands. Nevertheless, unlike the other laws, the human spirit is a living, conscious law. If the spirit were to be stripped of life and consciousness, it would become a law; if, on the other hand, the laws were to be given life and consciousness, they would each become a spirit.
The Spirit Cannot Be Defined or Perceived
through Modern Scientific Information.
While matter or anything in the material world is composed of atoms and atoms are made up of more minute particles, the spirit is a simple entity. Since it is simple, it does not disintegrate. We cannot see it as we see a material thing; we recognize it through its manifestations in the material world. Although we accept its existence and observe its manifestations, we cannot know its nature. Yet our ignorance of the nature of a thing does not mean that this thing does not exist.
It Is the Spirit Which Sees, Hears, etc.
We see with our eyes. In other words, our eyes are simply instruments with which we see. The main center of sight is in the brain. However, it is not the brain itself which sees, as seeing and hearing are conscious perceptions. The brain has no consciousness or perceptiveness. We do not say “My brain sees,” but rather, “I see.”
It is we who see or hear or sense. But who is this being that we call “I”? Is it something composed of a brain, a heart, and other organs and limbs? Why can we not move when we die, although all our organs and limbs are still there? How does a factory work? Does it work by itself or does some other thing, for example, electrical energy, cause it to work?
Any defect in the machinery, or some other problem at the factory which causes a disruption between the electrical energy source and the factory, is enough to reduce a large highly-productive factory into a pile of useless metal. Can this relationship between the factory and electrical energy be, in one way, comparable to that between the spirit and the body?
When the connection of the body with the spirit is cut – what we call death – the body is reduced to something which we do not want to hang on to, even for a few hours, as it will soon rot and decompose.
The Spirit Is a Conscious, Powerful Thing, Which Is Apt to Learn and Which Thinks, Senses, and Reasons, Continually Developing
Of course, the spirit is not the same as electrical power. It is a conscious, powerful thing which is able to learn and which thinks, senses, and reasons, continually developing, usually in parallel with the physical development of the body, both mentally and spiritually, through learning, reflection, belief, and worship. It is also the spirit which determines the character, nature, or identity of an individual, i.e. what makes one person different or distinguishable from others.
Although all human beings, from the first to the last, are essentially made up of the same elements, they all differ from one another in character, nature, and features. Thus, the only thing that can determine this difference is the spirit.
The Spirit Commands the Inner Faculties of the Human Being
Similarly, human conscience, so long as it remains sound, does not lie. If it is not deluded by the human carnal soul or desires, it is deeply aware of the Existence of God and finds peace in belief in and worship of Him. Thus, it is the spirit which directs or commands the human conscience, as well as the other faculties. The spirit seeks the world from which it has come and yearns for its Creator. Unless it is stunted and perverted by sin, the spirit will find the Creator, and in Him, it will attain true happiness.
The Spirit Has Deep Relationships to the Past and Future
Animals have no concept of tim e; in accordance with the primordial nature God has assigned to them, they live only for the present time and they feel neither the pain of the past nor anxiety about the future. But humans are deeply influenced by the pain of past events and misfortunes and are anxious about their future. This is because their spirit is a conscious, sentient entity.
The spirit is never satisfied with this mortal, fleeting world. A person’s accomplishments or worldly possessions, such as money, rank, and the satisfaction of worldly desires, never suffice for the happiness of the spirit. Rather, worldly possessions only increase dissatisfaction and unhappiness. The spirit is only at ease when there is belief in God, and worship and remembrance of Him.
Humankind has a very strong desire for eternity. The source of this desire cannot be the physical dimension of our existence. Physically, we are mortal and the feeling of eternity and the desire for it cannot issue from mortal existence. Rather, this desire or feeling originates in the eternal dimension of our existence, and it is the spirit which constitutes this dimension. It is the spirit which causes a human being to sigh: “I am mortal but I do not desire what is mortal. I am impotent but I do not desire what is impotent. What I desire is an eternal beloved (who will never desert me), and I yearn for an eternal world.”
The Spirit Establishes Its Connection with the Material World through the Body
The spirit is a simple entity which issues from the world of Divine Commands. In order to be manifested and function in the material, visible world, it needs material things. As the body is unable to get in touch with the world of symbols or immaterial forms, the spirit cannot establish any contact with this world without the mediation of the heart, the brain, and other organs and limbs of the body.
The spirit functions, as we have just said, through all the nerves, cells, and other elements of the body. Therefore, if something goes wrong with a system or organ in the body, the relation of the spirit with that system or organ is disconnected and the spirit can no longer command it. If the failure or “illness” that has caused the disconnection is serious enough to sever the relationship of the spirit with the entire body, then what we call “death” occurs.
Although some coarse, meaningless movements can be observed in the hands or fingers as a result of stimulation to certain areas of the brain, these movements are like some confused, meaningless sounds produced by pressing the keys of a piano at random. Or rather, these movements are autonomous responses of the body to stimulation, which come about as the result of the autonomous working of the body. Therefore, in order for the body to produce meaningful movements, the spirit must be present, as it has consciousness and free will.
It Is the Spirit Which Determines the Features of One’s Face
The spirit manifests itself for the most part in the face. One’s face is a window that opens onto one’s inner world. Through all the features, one’s face can disclose one’s character.
Psychologists assert that almost all movements, down to the most natural reflex like coughing, reveal a person’s character. However, the face is such a clear way to discover character, ability, and personality that a science, known as physiognomy, sprang up from its study. Physiognomy is judging the character of a person from the features of the face. What determines the features of the face? It is the spirit.
As is known, the cells of the body are continuously renewed. Every day millions of cells die and are replaced by new ones. Biologists say that all of the cells that make up the body are renewed every six months. Despite this continuous renewal, the main features of the face remain unchanged.
We can recognize individuals through the unchanging features of the face. In the same way, one’s fingerprints also remain unchanged. Neither the renewal of the cells of the fingers nor injuries nor bruises to the fingers can cause the fingerprints to change. It is again the spirit, with its characteristics peculiar to itself, that secures the stability of one’s distinguishing features.
It Is the Spirit Which Receives Moral, Spiritual, and Intellectual Education, and Which Causes Differences in Character Among People
The body undergoes constant change throughout its life. Until a certain period, this change is involved in physical growth and development, making the body stronger and better. However, this growth stops at a certain point and decay sets in. Yet, as far as the spirit is concerned, a human being can continuously grow in knowledge, unlike the physical changes where eventually everything tends to decline.
A human being can also continuously develop or may decay spiritually and intellectually, or, yet again, while developing or decaying, he may stop at any point and then change hisdirection. This means that the moral, spiritual, and intellectual education of a person does not depend on bodily changes. Also, the moral, spiritual, and intellectual differences among human beings have nothing to do with their physical structure. All human beings are composed of the same physical or material elements.
What is it, then, that causes the moral and intellectual differences among them? What part of a human being receives the moral and intellectual education, and what part of him is trained physically? Does physical training bear any relation to learning and moral and intellectual education? Can we say that the more a person is trained physically, and the more he is physically developed, the more he becomes developed in learning and morality?
If we cannot say this is so, and if physical training or development has nothing to do with a person’s scientific, moral, or intellectual level, then why do we not accept the existence of the spirit, and how can we attribute learning, moral, and intellectual education to some biochemical processes in the brain? Are those processes swifter in some people than in others?
If this is so, are some more developed intellectually because those processes are swifter, or are the processes swifter because some study and are more developed intellectually? Also, what relation do those processes have with one’s spiritual and moral education, or with one’s development or corruption? How can we explain the differences that regular worship brings to a person’s face? Why are the faces of some believers more radiant than those of unbelievers and sinners?
It Is the Spirit Which Feels and Believes or Disbelieves
Furthermore, a person is a being who has innumerable, complex feelings. They love or hate, rejoice or grieve, feel happy or sad, hope or despair, cherish ambitions and dreams, and feel relieved or bored…. Also, they like or dislike, appreciate or disdain, and fear or become timid, or become encouraged and feel enthusiastic, and they repent, become excited, and long for things. If we look through a dictionary, we can come across hundreds of words used to express human feelings. And there are great differences among human beings with respect to their feelings as well.
Moreover, they are able to reflect on the events that happen around them or on the beauty of creation and thus develop in learning. People are also able to make comparisons and reason, and therefore come to believe in the Creator of all things. Then, through worship and following His commandments, humans are able to develop morally and spiritually, becoming more perfect human beings. So, how else can we explain all these phenomena, otherthan by acknowledging that there is a part of humanity called the “spirit”? Can we attribute everything to mere chemical processes in the brain?
The Spirit Is the Basis of Human Life
In this world, matter is refined in favor of life. A lifeless body, no matter how large, like a mountain, is lonely, passive, and static. But life enables a body the size of a bee, for example, to interact with nearly the whole world, allowing it to go as far as to say: “This world is my garden and flowers are my partners.” The smaller a living body is, the more active, astonishing, and powerful its life is. A bee, a fly or even a micro-organism, is no different, in this respect, than an elephant. Also, the more refined matter is, the more active and powerful the body.
For example, when wood burns, it produces flames and carbon. When heated, water vaporizes. We come across electrical energy in the atomic or subatomic world. We cannot see electrical energy, but we are aware of how powerful it is through its manifestations. This means that existence does not consist of the visible, material world. Rather, this world is only the apparent, mutable, and unstable dimension of existence. Behind it lies the pure invisible dimension which uses matter to be seen and known. Thus, the essence of life, the spirit, belongs to that dimension and is, therefore, pure and invisible.
The Spirit Has Its Own Cover or Envelope
The body is not the cover of the spirit. Rather, the spirit has its own cover or envelope, and when it leaves the body at death, it is not left naked, without a cover. This cover is like the “negative” of the material body and is called by various names, such as the envelope of light, the ethereal figure of the human individual, the energetic form, the second body, the astral body, the double, or the ghost (Mostly summarized from The Essentials, 41–49).
Part | Thirteen
Islam: God’s Original Pattern on
Which He Has Created Humankind
God created the universe so that He could be known and recognized in all His Names and Attributes, and so His creation includes one creature with free will: humankind. Of all creatures (in addition to the jinn), only human beings can manifest the Divine Name the All-Willing, and more than any other species, His Names of the All-Knowing and the All-Speaking.
That is, humanity excels other creatures in having free will, greater knowledge, and a more articulate and sophisticated mode of communication. God, then, endowed us with the knowledge of things (“names”), and made us His vicegerent to rule on the earth according to His laws. As having free will means that one must make choices, each person’s life consists of choosing between what is right and wrong.
God endowed humankind with three principal faculties fundamental to our survival and carrying out our function as His vicegerent: desire for such things as the opposite sex, offspring, livelihood, and possessions; anger or resolve in defense and struggle; and reason or intellect. We are tested in this worldly life so that we may be able to develop our potential, and become intellectually and spiritually perfected, in order to deserve eternal happiness.
For this reason, and so that we may be able to progress materially, spiritually, and scientifically, God did not restrict these faculties, but has established standards to use them within proper limits so that we may be able to rise to perfection.
According to Islam, human happiness lies in disciplining our faculties so that we may produce a harmonious and peaceful individual and collective life. If these faculties remain undisciplined, they may drive people to pursue immorality, illicit sexual relationships, unlawful livelihoods, tyranny, injustice, deception, falsehood, and other vices. To prevent the ensuing chaos and suffering, we must submit to an authority that guides and regulates our collective affairs.
Since one person should not accept the authority of another just like themselves and cannot be forced to do so, and since all human beings are unable to find the exact criteria and rules for human individual and collective happiness in both worlds, humankind need a universal intellect and guidance from beyond human reason and experience, to whose authority all may assent freely. That guidance is the Religion revealed and perfected by God through His Prophets: Islam.
All Prophets came with the same essentials of faith: belief in God’s Existence and Unity; the world’s final destruction, Resurrection and Final Judgment; Prophethood and all the Prophets, without distinction between them;, all Divine Scriptures; angels; and Divine Destiny and Decree (including human free will). They called people to worship the One God, preached and promoted moral virtue, and condemned vice.
Differences in particular rules and injunctions were connected with the scientific-intellectual development level and the social, economic and political relationships that existed at that time, and it is also because of this that all Prophets prior to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and God’s blessing, were sent to their own people and for their own time.
The Prophet Muhammad, however, came at a time when humankind was on the threshold of a new era, when there would no longer be need for a new Prophet; and, therefore, he was sent to the whole of humankind until the Last Day. With the Prophet Muhammad, Islam, the Religion which God chose for humankind and sent with every Prophet, was perfected and gained a universal form. Thus, to be a Muslim means believing in all the previous Prophets and in the original previous Scriptures.
Faith, or belief, the essence of religion, is not just a simple brief affirmation based on imitation. Rather, it has degrees and stages of expansion or development, just as a tree’s seed is gradually transformed into a fully-grown, fruit-bearing tree. Faith contains so many truths pertaining to God’s Names and the realities contained in the universe that the most perfect human knowledge and virtue are faith with all its degrees and stages of development, and knowledge of God that originates in faith based on argument and investigation.
Such faith has as many degrees and grades of manifestation as the number of Divine Names. Those who attain the degree of certainty of faith coming from direct observation of the truths on which faith is based can study the universe as a kind of Divine Scripture.
Another degree of faith is known as certainty coming from the direct experience of its truths. This depends on God’s consciousness, regular worship, strict obedience to God’s orders and prohibitions, and reflection, and those who possess it can challenge the world. So, the foremost duty of all Muslims is to attain the greatest degree of faith that they can, and to communicate it to others.
Faith engenders different kinds of worship, the basic ones of which are the Prescribed Prayers, Fasting, the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and the Pilgrimage, and requires obeying prohibitions (e.g., avoiding killing, all kinds of unlawful sexual relations, intoxicants, gambling, usury, and deception). Those seeking to strengthen their faith and attain higher ranks of perfection should be careful of acts of their hearts and intellects (e.g., contemplation, reflection, invocation, the recitation of God’s Names, self-criticism, perseverance, patience, thankfulness, self-discipline, and perfect reliance upon God). Moral virtues are the fruits of religious life.
Islam also regulates our collective life. By means of faith and worship, as well as its intellectual, moral, and spiritual principles, Islam educates us in the best possible way. In addition, it uses its socio-economic principles and the virtues it emphasizes, such as solidarity, mutual assistance, and altruism, to establish an ideal society free of dissension, corruption, anarchy, and terror, one that allows everyone to obtain happiness both in this world and in the Hereafter. Its penal law is principally directed toward preserving individual and collective happiness.
The Qur’ān, the universe, and humankind are three manifestations of one truth. Therefore, in principle, there can be no contradiction or incompatibility between the truths of the Qur’ān, described as the Revealed Universe and issuing from the Divine Attribute of Speech, and the truths derived from the objective study of its counterpart, described as the Created Qur’ān, and issuing from the Divine Attributes of Power and Will. If there sometimes appear to be contradictions, they arise from an incorrect approach to either the Qur’ān or the universe and humankind, or to both at the same time.
An Islamic civilization true to its authentic, original roots and dynamics contains no contradiction between science (the objective study of the natural world) and the Religion (the guide for the personal and collective effort to seek God’s good pleasure). True faith is not a dogmatic commitment based on blind imitation, but rather it should appeal to our reason and heart, and combine reason’s affirmation and the heart’s inward experience and conviction.
Islam is primarily based on Tawhīd, absolute faith in God’s Oneness without any partners whatsoever in His Divinity, Lordship, and Sovereignty. Given this, the universe is an integral whole of interrelated and cooperative parts in which a splendid coordination, harmony, and order are displayed, both throughout the universe and within each living organism. This harmony and order come from the Oneness of the One Who created them and Who is absolute, without partner, peer, or like. The universe operates according to the laws God established for it, and therefore is literally Muslim – absolutely submitted to God. Thus, its operations are stable, orderly, and harmonious.
So, Islam is the Religion of all creation, which every thing and every being follows willingly or unwillingly. In this sense, even unbelievers are Muslims, as far as the functioning of their bodies is considered. In addition, as stated in a hadith, the Messenger declares that every human being is born in the original nature or pattern of Islam and is prone to accept Islam as Religion in their life.
However, under the influence of a person’s family, environment, and the education they receive, they may adopt another religion, another way of life. But if they can remain free of prejudices and the misguiding influence of their inclinations, bodily desires, worldly ambitions, the delusions or drives of their carnal self, and especially preserve their primordial, moral purity, they can find Islam or be rewarded by God with Islam.
Part | Fourteen
The Trust Wich Humanity Has Undertaken
Although the Trust mentioned in the verse 33: 72 includes the Divine Religion which humankind must follow in life, it is not restricted to it. Not only humankind, but also the jinn, are responsible for following the Divine Religion. Some commentators are of the opinion that the Trust is human free will or the faculty of volition. This is also included in the meaning of the Trust, but we should bear in mind that the jinn also have been endowed with free will. So, what is meant by the Trust is, first of all, the human ego.
God has absolutely no limits at all. So something absolute and unlimited cannot be determined in such a way that its essential nature can be comprehended. For example, light undetermined by darkness cannot be known or perceived. However, light can be determined if a real or hypothetical boundary line of darkness is drawn. In the same way, the Divine Attributes and Names (e.g., Knowledge, Power, Wisdom, and Compassion) cannot be determined, for they are all-encompassing and have no limits nor anything similar. Thus, what they are essentially cannot be known or perceived. A hypothetical boundary is needed for them to become known.
God Almighty, so to speak, has drawn a hypothetical line before His Names and Attributes and created ego, reflecting in it all His Names and Attributes. Since absolute Independence is the most essential quality of Divinity, ego finds in itself the same quality. It imagines within itself a fictitious lordship, power, and knowledge, and so posits a boundary line, hypothesizes a limit to God’s all-encompassing Attributes, and says: “This is mine, and the rest is His.” Ego thus makes a division.
Through this imagined lordship, ego can and must understand the Lordship of the Creator of the universe. By means of its own apparent ownership, it can understand the real Ownership of its Creator, saying: “As I am the owner of this house, the Creator is the Owner of this creation.” Through its partial knowledge, ego comes to understand His Absolute Knowledge. Through its defective, acquired art, it can intuit the Exalted Fashioner’s primary, originative art. For example, ego says: “I built and arranged this house, so there must be One Who made and arranged this universe.” So, ego is the key to the Divine Names and Attributes and also to solving the enigma of creation.
However, ego has two aspects or faces. One face looks toward its Creator and, therefore, to good. With this aspect, it only receives what is given; it cannot create. It is not the origin of the good and virtues God creates in or through it. The other face looks toward evil. Here, ego is active and is the source and doer of all evils.
Essentially, as stated above, ego is like a measure, a mirror, or an instrument for seeing or finding out. Its real nature is only indicative – like a letter that has no meaning by itself – and indicates the meaning of things other than itself. Its lordship is completely hypothetical, and its own existence is so weak and insubstantial that it cannot bear or support anything on its own. Rather, ego is a kind of scale or measure showing the degrees and quantities of what is measured. The Necessarily Existent Being’s absolute, all-encompassing, and limitless Attributes can become known through it.
Ego must realize that it is God’s servant and that it is to serve the One other than itself, and that its essential nature has only an indicative function. It must understand that it bears the meaning of the One rather than that of itself, and that it can be meaningful only when it points to that One upon Whom its existence depends. Its existence and life depend upon that One’s creativity and Existence. Its feeling of ownership is illusory, for it enjoys only an apparent, temporary ownership by the real Owner’s permission, and it only has a shadow-like reality. It is a contingent entity, an insignificant shadow manifesting the true and necessary Reality. Its function of serving as a measure and balance for its Creator’s Attributes and essential Qualities is a conscious, willing service.
Those who know and realize that this is the reality of their essential nature or the human ego act accordingly; these are included in: He is indeed prosperous who has grown it in purity (away from self-aggrandizing rebellion against God) (91: 9). Such people truly carry out the trust and, through their ego, see what the universe really is and what duties it performs. They also find that their ego confirms the information they have gathered about the universe.
As a result, this information will retain the quality of light and wisdom for them, and will not be changed into darkness and futility. When ego has performed its duty in this way, it renounces its claim to lordship and hypothetical ownership (mere devices of measurement) and proclaims: His is the sovereignty and ownership of all beings, and to Him are due all praise and thanks. His is the Judgment and rule, and to Him we are returning. Thus it achieves true worship and attains the rank of the best pattern of creation.
But if ego forgets the Divine purpose of its creation, abandons the duty of its nature, and views itself as a self-existing being independent of the Creator, it betrays the Trust. Thus, it supposes itself to be a permanent reality that has, as its duty, the quest for self-satisfaction. It falsely assumes that it owns its being and is the real lord and master of its own domain.
Those who see ego in this way fall into the class of those warned and threatened by: And he is indeed lost who has corrupted it (in self-aggrandizing and rebellion against God) (91: 10). This development is responsible for all the varieties of polytheism, evil, and deviation that have caused the heavens, earth, and the mountains to be terrified of assuming the Trust – lest they might be led to associate partners with God, because such an ego grows and swells until it gradually permeates all parts of a human being. Like some huge monster, it completely swallows such people so that they and their faculties consist of nothing more than an ego.
Eventually, the ego of the human race gives strength to the individual ego through mere individualism and national racism. This causes the ego, swollen by support from the ego of race, to contest, like Satan, the Majestic Maker’s commands. Finally, taking itself as a yardstick, it compares everyone and everything with itself, divides God’s Sovereignty between them and other causes, and begins to associate partners with God in the most grievous manner. It is such people that are being referred to in: Surely associating partners with God is indeed a tremendous wrong (31: 13).
This betrayal causes the ego to sink into absolute ignorance. Even if it has absorbed thousands of branches of science, its ignorance is only compounded by its knowledge. Whatever glimmers of knowledge of God that it may have obtained from the universe through its senses or reflective powers have been extinguished, for it can no longer find within itself anything with which to confirm, polish, and maintain them.
Whatever comes to the ego is stained with the colors within it. Even if pure wisdom comes, it becomes absolutely futile within an ego stained by atheism, polytheism, or other forms of denying the All-Mighty. If the whole universe were full of shining indications of God, a dark point in that ego would hide them from view, as though they were invisible.
We will now shed some light on the truth of this subject. Consider the following: from Adam’s time until the present, two great currents or lines of thought have spread their branches in all directions and in every class of humanity, just like two tall trees. One is the line of Prophethood and Religion; the other is that of mere human thinking.
Whenever they have agreed and united (whenever human thinking joins the Religion in obedience and service to it), humankind has experienced brilliant happiness in individual and collective life. But whenever they have followed separate paths, truth and goodness have accumulated on the side of Prophethood and the Religion, whereas error, evil, and deviation have been drawn to the side of human thinking.
Human thinking, whenever it has split from the Religion, has taken the form of a tree of Zaqqūm, that spreads its dark veils of ascribing partners to God and of all other innumerable kinds of misguidance. On the branch of empowered reason, which is one of the three cardinal faculties with which human beings are endowed, it has yielded the fruits of materialism and naturalism for the intellect’s consumption.
On the branch of empowered anger and passion, it has produced such tyrants as Nimrod and the Pharaoh who tyrannized people. On the branch of empowered animal desires and appetites, it has produced the fruits of “goddesses,” idols and those who have claimed Divine status for themselves. This line has shown the “lowest of the low” into which humankind can fall.
In contrast, the blessed line of Prophethood, which takes the form of the Tūbā tree of worship, has borne the fruit of Prophets, Messengers, saints, and the righteous in the garden of earth and on the branch of empowered reason. On the branch of empowered anger, the branch of defense against and repelling of evil, it has yielded the fruits of virtuous and just rulers. On the branch of empowered animal desires or appetites, which have taken the form of empowered attractiveness, it has borne the fruits of generous, benevolent persons of good character and modest bearing throughout history. As a result, this line has demonstrated how humankind is the perfect fruit of creation.
Prophethood considers that the aim and function of human beings is to be molded by the Divine values and to achieve good character. Prophets believed that people should perceive their weakness, and seek refuge with Divine Power and rely on Divine Strength; realize their insufficiency and essential poverty, and trust in Divine Mercy; know their need and seek help from Divine Wealth; see their faults and plead for pardon through Divine Forgiveness; and perceive their inadequacy and glorify Divine Perfection.
According to human thinking that has been deviated, power is approved. “Might is right” is the norm. Its maxims are: “All power to the strongest;” “Survival of the fittest;” “Winner takes all;” and “In power, there is right.” It has given moral support to tyranny, encouraged dictators, and urged oppressors to claim Divinity. By ascribing the beauty in “works of art” to the works themselves, and not to the Maker and Fashioner’s pure, sacred Beauty, it says: “How beautiful it is,” not: “How beautifully it is made,” and thus considers each as an idol worthy of adoration.