Brotherhood in human societies

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Does Islam have a view of universal peace and solidarity and brotherhood in human societies?

Islam, which literally means peace, submission, and obedience, is the religion of the universe. The universe is orderly, a cosmos whose parts are linked together and work together for the same purpose and goal.

Islam and the universe

Everything is assigned a place in the grand scheme of the universe, which works in a magnificent and superb way. The sun, moon, stars, and all heavenly bodies are knit together in a splendid system, follow an unalterable law, and never deviate from their ordained course. Everything in the world, from electrons to nebulae, follows its own laws. The laws of nature are quite manifest in our world, where humanity’s birth, growth, and life are regulated by biological laws. All bodily organs, from small tissues to the heart and brain, are governed by the laws prescribed for them.

The universe, although seemingly monotonous and blindly obeying a set of laws, is neither a factory as thought by eighteenth-century theists nor a chaos as conceived by Existentialist philosophers. Rather, it is a lively and dynamic organism, each part of which works according to the position it occupies and fulfills its share in the system of mutual relationships. On the other hand, God is not a passive power that set up the universe to work automatically, but an “ever-active” Power Who unceasingly reflects His Names in the mirror of the universe. Each such reflection renews the universe, meaning that a new universe is manifested each moment. But this renewal depends on certain immutable principles that allow us to regulate our lives and therefore make human life possible. These principles, which we deduce by observing natural events and call natural laws, have only nominal existence. As the Creator and Ruler of the universe established them, creation obeys them.

This is why Islam is the universe’s religion, for Islam is nothing other than obedience and submission to God, the Lord of the universe. The sun, moon, Earth, and all heavenly bodies are Muslim, as are air, water, heat, stones, trees, and animals, for everything in existence obeys God by submitting to His laws. Even unbelievers and atheists are Muslim as far as their bodily existence is concerned, for each part of their bodies follows the course God established for it, from birth until death and dissolution.

Islam teaches that God, nature, and humanity are not remote, alien to, or opposed to each other. God makes Himself known to humanity through nature and humanity itself, and nature and humanity are two books (of creation) that make God known. Islam is the name of the code according to which nature functions in perfect obedience and by which humanity is required, but not forced, to live by using its free will.

How can we define Islam with respect to the universe?

Islam defined with respect to the universe

Islam, derived from silm (submission, salvation, and peace), is the expression of God’s Grace flowing in the universe’s arteries. Being the Divine system to which all creation, except humanity, has submitted willingly, the universe contains no disorder. Islam is the firm, unbreakable rope stretched from Heaven to which all creatures hold fast and by which humanity will ascend to Paradise, our original home. Islam connects all creatures in a single unity and thus is the religion of universal brotherhood, sisterhood, and solidarity.

Islam can be likened to a string of prayer beads. Each bead stands for a species. When the string breaks, they all scatter. This is how the world is today, for people are divided into various classes, races, nations, territories, and economies. They consider nature as “a prostitute to be used without any sense of obligation and responsibility toward her.”

Tawhid (monotheism) implies the necessity of humanity’s harmony with nature. The universe, which has submitted to God, displays a coherence and harmony of which our world is also a part. Although our world is subject to the general laws of nature as well as its own unique set of laws, it is in harmony with other laws governing those phenomena beyond it. Humanity, which alone does not tread the path of nature, has free will and the gift of freedom, as well as the obligation to harmonize its life with the rest of nature. This harmony, moreover, is also the path of human exaltation and progress, the path upon which God originated human nature:

So set your face to the religion, a man [woman] of pure faith—God’s original nature in which He originated humanity. There is no changing God’s creation. That is the right religion, but most people know it not. (30:30)

Islam seeks to unite us with the vast domain of being, and strives to create an absolute unity between us and the universe. We are the most essential partner in the Realm of Existence, and each Muslim is the co-religionist of all creatures:

What, do they desire another religion than God’s, while to Him has surrendered whosoever is in the heavens and Earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they shall be returned? (3:83)

Have you not seen how all who are in the heavens and in Earth, the sun, moon, stars and mountains, trees and beasts, and many of humanity prostrate to God? (22:18)

Is there a difference between Islam and other religions with respect to universality?

The mission of other Prophets

Religions prior to Islam were not meant to be universal. The fundamental messages and teachings of Moses and Jesus were the same as those of Islam, yet neither contained complete guidance on how people should live, regardless of time and place. Throughout history, groups of people were more or less isolated from each other and no means of rapid communication existed to connect them. Thus God sent national Prophets, just like He sent Moses and Jesus to the Israelites. Dr. Cadoux writes:

The office of Messiahship with which Jesus believed himself to be invested, marked him out for a distinctly national role: and accordingly we find him more or less confining his preaching and healing ministry and that of his disciples to Jewish territory, and feeling hesitant when on one occasion he was asked to heal a Gentile girl. Jesus’ obvious veneration for Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Scriptures indicate the special place which he accorded to Israel in his thinking, and several features of his teaching illustrate the same attitude. Thus, in calling his hearers ‘brothers’ of one another and frequently contrasting their ways with those of ‘the Gentiles,’ in defending his cure of a woman on the Sabbath with the plea that she was a ‘daughter of Abraham’ and befriending the tax-collector Zacchaeus ‘because he too is a son of Abraham,’ and in fixing the number of his special disciples at twelve to match the number of the tribes of Israel—in all this Jesus shows how strongly Jewish a stamp he wished to impress upon his mission.1

Jesus even proclaimed his restricted mission to the Israelites: I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel (Matthew 15:24).

After each nation had been guided to the truth by its own Prophet, it was time to raise the universal Prophet to preach the universal religion. Thus when the world was on the eve of unity, God raised up Prophet Muhammad to transmit the essential message of all Prophets, one shorn of anything temporary and limited, purged of corruption and misinterpretation. God revealed the all-embracing religion as a universal faith containing the pure message of all Prophets, united all people in a single global community, and gave them a complete code of life. And so Islam contains nothing that benefits only the people of a particular region or time, but only that which inspires, edifies, and can be practiced by everyone regardless of location and time, for its principles are universal and atemporal.

All followers of religions prior to Islam tended to believe that they were chosen peoples, for their religions were national in nature. Christians acknowledge the Prophets prior to Jesus, while Jews reject the Prophethood of Jesus and Muhammad. But Islam says that God’s universal providence would be denied if Prophets were raised for one nation only and other nations had no Prophets. The Qur’an states that God is the Lord and Sustainer of all worlds. He did not discriminate among nations when sending His revelation, and so Muslims must not distinguish between any of His Messengers:

The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord. Each believer believes in God and His angels, His Books and His Messengers. We make no distinction between any of His Messengers. They say: “We hear and obey. Our Lord, grant us Your forgiveness. Unto You is the homecoming.” (2:285)

Islam is the consummation of all religions. By accepting the Prophets and Scriptures of all nations, Islam affirms God’s Unity and universal providence, as well as the universality of religious experience, and seeks to bring together all people in one all-embracing faith and community. Muslims are true followers of all Prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

Muslims reject the term Muhammadanism, as it is based upon a false analogy with Christianity: Muslims do not worship Muhammad as Christians worship Jesus Christ. To understand Islam as its adherents do, such words as Muhammadan or Muhammadanism need to be dropped. Muhammad was not a god, an incarnation, or son of God. In fact, he never claimed to be more than a man who received revelations from God. He did not make Islam; he simply received it.

Islam does not accept contradictions

Tawhid, an expression of human existence, implies the equality and unity of all people in their relation with God, and thus indicates homogeneity, equality, and the unity of human origin. Humanness is the one element ingrained in the nature of all individuals. People of different social strata were not created by separate deities with varying levels of power, for this would violate tawhid by allowing possible disparity in their essential nature and erecting insuperable barriers between them. The same God created everyone, and so all people have the same fundamental essence: O humanity, be conscious of your Lord, Who created you of a single soul (4:1).

Given this, Islam rejects legal, physical, class, social, political, racial, national, territorial, genetic, or even economic factors. Tawhid means considering humanity as a unity and working to eliminate all efforts at division based upon such factors as color, social status, occupation, education, geography, religion, and ideology. All such divisions are reconcilable only by replacing tawhid with shirk (dualism, trinitarianism, or polytheism).

The Qur’an declares:

O humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and formed into peoples and tribes to know one another (not to take pride in your color or race, or claim superiority based on your color, race, or socioeconomic status). (49:143)

In fact, the noblest person in God’s sight is the one who is most God-conscious. The Prophet is reported to have said: “Your God is One. You are from Adam and Adam is from dust. An Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, nor a white person over a black person, except for his or her piety and righteousness.”

This belief in human unity is the corollary of God’s Unity. The same God created and nourishes all people, regardless of race, color, creed, and culture. Hence all people are His servants, and those most dear to Him are His best servants. The Prophet is reported to have said:

God says to His servants on the Day of Reckoning: “You didn’t visit me when I was sick.” They reply: “How could I visit You, since You are the Lord of creation?” God says: “Don’t you remember that My servant so-and-so fell sick and you didn’t visit him (or her)? If you had, you would have found Me with him (or her). You didn’t give Me food when I asked you for it.” They respond: “How could we give You food, since You are the Lord of creation?” God says: “Don’t you remember My servant so-and-so who asked you for food but you refused. If you had done so, you would have found Me with him (or her).” God continues: “You didn’t give Me water when I asked you.” They respond: “How could we give You water, since You are the Lord of creation?” God retorts: “Don’t you remember My servant so-and-so who asked you for water but you refused? If you had done so, you would have found Me with him (or her).”

The Prophet informs us that a prostitute entered a road leading to Paradise and deserved it because she gave water to a thirsty dog out of compassion, whereas another woman entered a road leading to Hell because she let a cat die of hunger. This is Islam, with its arms wide open to all creatures, regions, and ages.

Annotations

1. Cecil John Cadoux, The Life of Jesus (Penguin Books: 1948), 81-82.

Bibliography

Choudhury, G. W. Islam and the Contemporary World. London: Indus Thames, c1990.

Izzeti, A. The Revolutionary Islam. 1980.

Al-Mawdudi, Abu’l-A‘la. Towards Understanding Islam. 1970.

Al-Mawdudi, Abu’l-A‘la. Tafhim al-Qur’an (Turkish trans.). 1991.

Morrison, A. C. Insan, Kainat ve Otesi (Turkish trans.). 1973.

Nasr, S. Hossein. Ideals and Realities of Islam. 2d ed. London: Allen and Unwin, 1975.

An-Nawawi, Muhyiddin. An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith: An Anthology of the Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Trans. Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies (Abdul Wadoud). Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1997.

Nursi, Said. Mektubat (The Letters, 2 vols.). Istanbul: n.d.

Samad, U. A. Islam and Christianity. 1977.

 

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