In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
A Glimmer from the Light of Islam
Excerpts from the speech of H.E Sayyed Ali Al-Amin :
- Islam is a heavenly message that complements and intersects with all pervious heavenly messages.
- Islam, in a general sense, means submission to and recognition of Allah as the One True God and the Creator of the entire universe and everything in it.
- Allah is the One Who brought us out of the darkness of nothingness into the light of existence.
- Submission to the Creator God, as an integral part of the meaning of the word Islam, stands in opposition to all forms of Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship), atheism, and idolatry.
- Islam agrees with the previous divine messages in rejecting Shirk and idolatry.
- After professing belief in the One True God, Islam requires belief in all previous prophets, messengers, and heavenly books.
- Islam respects the human mind and its freedom and constantly addresses the power of reason, which is the instrument that enables humans to perceive realities and to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil, true and false.
- Islam equally regards all people, irrespective of their race, color, or gender. Everyone has equal rights and equal duties.
- Islam legalized war for self-defense; this is what Muslim jurists term “defensive Jihad.”
- Islamic laws aim to promote solidarity and cooperation among the different segments of society.
- Islam strictly forbids exploitation and treats it the same as any dishonest or unlawful taking of people’s property.
- Islam, through the practice of ijtihad, remains open to contemporary issues and developments.
What is Islam?
Islam is a heavenly religion and the last of all divine messages that were sent by Allah, the Al-Mighty, to mankind through a long series of prophets and messengers.
Islam is a message revealed by Allah to Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who was the final Messenger and Prophet. He perfectly conveyed Allah’s Message, leaving nothing unclear or missing. Islam confirmed and complemented the previous heavenly messages, thus intersecting at the same goals and instruments of bringing humanity from darkness into light. Islam focuses on the obligation of every human being to adhere to virtues and sublime morals, as stated by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the hadith, “I have been sent to perfect the best of manners.”
Islam comes from the same source as previous divine messages and shares the same truths, core components, and aims that delineate for mankind the right path, and the code of ethics and laws that establish and organize the relationships of human societies on the bases of justice, peaceful coexistence and equality of rights, which fall under the one heading of “working for common good” whether it be at the level of the individual, society, or the world at large.
Islam cannot be correctly understood, both as a religion and a message, apart from its original content and the man who was entrusted to convey it, namely the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah (acts, sayings or approvals of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). These two primary sources, the Qur’an and Sunnah, are the reference and standard to which we must resort in order to know the essential and required behavior of a Muslim, and to identify whether a certain act is compatible with or contradictory to their teachings. Therefore, the behaviors or actions of some Muslim personalities or leaders, past or present, cannot be taken as a source for knowing about Islam. We cannot learn about Islam from wars, conflicts, and clashes that occurred over history, either among Muslims themselves or between Muslims and Christians during certain historical periods.
Imam `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Verily, truth and falsehood cannot be recognized through people’s high status (or rank). Learn the truth (first), and you will be able to know its followers; and learn falsehood (first), and you will be able to know its followers.”
Similarly, Christianity cannot be correctly and objectively understood apart from the Gospel. We cannot say that the wars waged in Europe, or elsewhere, represent the teachings and doctrines of the Holy Book of Christianity simply because they were waged by Christians. So, the conduct of a particular individual or a group reflects the image of that particular individual or group; it does not provide a reliable source for knowledge about creeds and beliefs. This is because the codes of conduct and practice that govern human behavior do not necessarily correspond to the beliefs that people adopt, which are often passed to them by inheritance.
In other words, actual conduct and practice may express the beliefs of a particular individual or a community, but not necessarily the beliefs that ought to be held and practiced by them. Definitely, there is a big difference between “what is” and “what ought to be”; between what the message is about and the misguided and unfaithful application of its teachings by those who bear only its name and none of its ideals.
From this perspective, let us return to the beginning of our discussion, to Islam and the main topics of its message, which started with the worship of the one and only one God (Allah), and contained the call for justice, peaceful coexistence among nations and communities, and equality of human rights, including freedom of thought, speech and belief.
Islam and Acknowledgment of God’s Absolute Oneness
In its general meaning, Islam means submission to and full recognition of Allah as the One True God, and the Sole Creator of this entire universe with all its (visible and invisible) components. He is the One Who brought us out of the darkness of nothingness into the light of existence, as stated in the Noble Qur’an:
“That is Allah, your Lord; there is no god except Him, the Creator of all things, so worship Him.” (Al-An`am 6:102)
“Allah created the heavens and the earth in truth. Indeed in that is a sign for the believers.” (Al-`Ankabut 29:44)
“Certainly I have created you before, when you had been nothing!” (Maryam 19:9)
“Were they created by nothing, or were they themselves the creators?” (Al-Tur 52:35)
“Your god is one God, so to Him submit.” (Al-Hajj 22:34)
These meanings of Islam, namely full submission to and belief in Allah the Creator (Exalted is He), absolutely contradict all forms of Shirk, atheism and idolatry. Therefore, Allah (the Most Exalted) says: “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” (Al-`Imran 3:85)
This means that anyone who associates partners with Allah or believes in atheism will be unworthy of the bliss of the afterlife. Neither denial nor ascription of partners to Allah will be accepted on the Day of standing before Allah and receiving Judgement from Him. The Qur’an clearly states this fact:
“Is it other than the religion of Allah they desire, while to Him have submitted all those within the heavens and earth, willingly or by compulsion, and to Him they will be returned?” (Al-`Imran 3:83)
Allah (the Most Exalted) also speaks about some fanatics to their religious loyalties who restrict Allah’s Mercy to themselves. “And they say, ‘None will enter Paradise except one who is a Jew or a Christian.’ That is [merely] their wishful thinking, Say, ‘Produce your proof, if you should be truthful.’ Yes [on the contrary], whoever submits his face in Islam to Allah while being a doer of good will have his reward with his Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (Al-Baqarah 2:111-112)
According to the above meaning, Islam agrees with the previous divine messages in rejecting Shirk and idolatry. In the Holy Bible, we read:
“The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Mark 12)
Islam and Belief in Previous Messengers and Prophets
After professing belief in the One True God, Islam requires belief in all previous prophets, messengers, and heavenly books. As emphasized in the Holy Qur’an, confirming the truth of all previous prophets and messengers is considered one of the major basic requirements of Islamic belief. The Noble Qur’an establishes this principle when it states:
“Say, ‘We believe in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma’il (Ishmael), Ishaque (Isaac), Ya`qub (Jacob) and the Descendants [the twelve sons of Ya`qub (Jacob)] and what was given to Musa (Moses), `Isa (Jesus) and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one another among them and to Him (Allah) we have submitted (in Islam).’” (Al-`Imran 3:84)
Islam and Religious Freedom
Islam respects the human mind and its freedom [to make choices and exercise its powers]. It presents clear evidence for belief in Allah, as well as His prophets, messengers, and laws. Islam constantly addresses the human reason, which is the instrument that enables the humans to perceive realities and to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil, true and false. The Qur’an makes this point repeatedly:
“We (Allah) have certainly made clear to you the signs, if you will use reason.” (Al-`Imran 3:118)
Allah asks every human being to rely on clear proofs and indisputable evidence, as in His Saying:
“Is there a god with Allah? Say, ‘Produce your proof, if you should be truthful.’” (Al-Naml 27:4)
After urging the human beings to rely on the light of reason and intelligence in respect to whatever beliefs or perspectives they may hold, whether positive or negative, Allah gives them the freedom of belief and the freedom of making choices. Allah has clarified for mankind the path in which they should walk and the path they should avoid. Afterwards it is up to them to choose which to follow, as stated in the verse in which Allah, the Most Exalted, says:
“Have We (Allah) not shown him the two ways (of good and evil)?” (Al-Balad 90:10)
“We (Allah) have showed them the way, whether they (choose to) be grateful or ungrateful.” (Al-Insan 76:3)
“Say, ‘The truth is from your Lord.’ Then whosoever wills, let him believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve.” (Al-Kahf 18:29)
“There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path.” (Al-Baqarah 2:256)
In addition, Allah says: “And whoever invokes besides Allah another god for which he has no proof – then his account is only with his Lord. Indeed, the disbelievers will not succeed.”
The principle of religious freedom is also attested to by the dialogue reported in the Chapter of Al-Kafirun. This dialogue took place between Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the disbelievers of Mecca during the early days of preaching the message of Islam, and his response was in accordance with the teachings given to him by his Lord.
“Say, ‘O disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship. Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.’” (Al-Kafirun 109:1-6)
Islam and Equality
Islam equally regards all people, irrespective of their race, color, or gender. Everyone has equal rights and equal duties. Allah created mankind from one soul (Adam, peace be upon him). This unity of origin of all human beings should dissolve all differences and distinctions and it raises one criterion for superiority: good actions that bring benefit to others – whether they are individuals, groups or communities. These meanings are contained in Allah’s Saying in the Qur’an:
“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul.” (Al-Nisa’ 4:1)
And: “O mankind, indeed We (Allah) have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the Sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” (Al-Hujurat 49:13)
And: “And We have certainly honored the children of Adam…” (Al-Isra’ 17:70)
When Imam `Ali appointed Malik Al-Ashtar as the Governor of Egypt, he advised him, saying, “Habituate your heart to show mercy, kindness, and compassion to the subjects. Do not be to them as a ferocious beast who seeks to devour their food. For people are of two kinds, either your brother in religion or one like you in creation.” [Nahj Al-Balaghah]
Islam in Times of War and Peace
Islam is a call for justice and non-aggression. Islam legalized war for self-defense. This is what is termed by Fuqaha’ (Muslim jurists) defensive Jihad (fighting or striving in the Cause of Allah).
Islam rejects aggression and expansion. It is a religion that fundamentally preaches peace, as the Qur’an says: “O you who have believed, enter into peacefulness, the whole (of you).” (Al-Baqarah 2: 208)
Islam commands that Muslims live with people of other faith in peace and justice, as long as they do not declare war against them. This is stated in Allah’s Saying:
“Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”
And: “Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” (Al-Nahl 16:90)
Islam considers an attack on one person’s life an attack on entire mankind. Allah, the Most Exalted, says:
“Whoever kills a soul – other than in retaliation for a soul (killed) or for corruption done in the land – it shall be as if he has killed all humanity.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)
Allah also says: “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” (Al-Baqarah 2:190)
And: “Indeed We (Allah) have sent Our Messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance (justice) that mankind may keep up justice.” (Al-Hadid 57:25)
Islam and Social Solidarity
Islamic laws basically aim to promote solidarity and cooperation among the different segments of society. Therefore, it obliges the rich to pay charity to the poor and considers giving to the needy a sign of true worship. Numerous verses in the Holy Qur’an indicate the strong connection between prayer and obligatory charity. Among them are the following:
“Establish prayer and give obligatory charity…” (Al-Baqarah 2:43)
“And those within whose wealth is a known right, for the petitioner and the deprived.” (Al-Ma`arij 70:24-25)
“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives obligatory charity; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” (Al-Baqarah 2:177)
Indeed, Islam strictly forbids exploitation and treats it the same as any dishonest or unlawful taking of people’s property. This prohibition is stated in the Qur’anic verse:
“O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent.” (Al-Nisa’ 4:29)
Islam absolutely forbids usury because it exploits people’s needs [to achieve financial gains]. Islam also prohibits monopoly and all kinds of practices and dealings that involve harm to the society.
Briefly, religion, in essence, is good treatment to others and as the hadith says: “The Muslim is the one from whose hand and tongue the people are safe.”
Imam `Ali was once asked about Islam, and he defined it saying, “I shall define Islam in a way that nobody has done before me. Islam means submission, and submission means certainty, and certainty means belief, and belief means recognition, and recognition means action, and action means doing good.”
Islam and Its Openness to Contemporary Issues
Islam remains open to contemporary issues and developments through its School of Ijtihad (expert reasoning for finding solutions to arising legal questions). Ijtihad addresses new legal issues that concern the individual and the community after carrying an extensive and profound study of the Qur’anic verses and religious texts.
We conclude by saying that the topics we have generally tackled here are just a few among the many topics of Islam. There is a large range of subject matters concerning various domains, such as economics, politics, ethics, justice, personal status, acts of worship, contracts, transactions, in addition to several other fields that are beyond the scope of this brief discussion to list or to go into details.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
Note: this is an initial translation of وميض من نور الإسلام. Please, any suggestions to upgrade the translation are welcome. Thank you