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Allah: the only source of existence and human values
By Zafarul-Islam Khan

Allah, or ‘the God,’ is the central theme of Islam. In fact, the word ‘Islam’ itself means ‘surrender’ to Allah alone, which clearly implies the rejection of any other authority as an object of worship or law-giver regarding any aspect of life on this planet.

Allah created ‘Man,’ or the human race, as His vicegerent or deputy on the Earth (2:30*) and gave us the best profile (64:3). The purpose for sending us down was to see how do we behave in various situations of life - according to His laws and guidance or according to our own whims and fancies (11:7). God will judge us on the Day of Judgement and will send us to Paradise or Hell according to our deeds or misdeeds here without doing us the slightest injustice (17:71).

Having placed on us such a heavy duty and obligation, Allah sent down His prophets and divine scriptures to guide mankind along the right path. Prophets were sent to each and every region and people. The final version of these scriptures is the Qur’an sent down through His messenger, Muhammad (570-8 June 632CE). Allah undertook the responsibility of safeguarding the Qur’an for ever (15:9). It is a fact vouched by any scholar of Islam, Muslim or non-Muslim, that the Qur’an which we hold in our hands today is the same book, word for word and letter for letter, which was revealed to the Prophet fifteen centuries ago. Moreover, unlike founders of earlier religions, Muhammad son of Abdullah of Mecca, is not any mythical character. He is a historical personality in the complete sense of the word. He lived, walked, struggled and died in the full light of history. We can pinpoint all places, routes and stages of his life on this earth with precise dates and geographical details. Even his birth-place and his final abode are well known and clearly identifiable.

Islam is characterized by this authenticity and clarity of the divine source. This is coupled with the deeds and sayings, Hadith, of the Prophet which, too, were meticulously collected and preserved as a distinct and authentic source clearly distinguished from the divine revelation which has precedence over the Hadith. This authenticity has been responsible for the clarity and simplicity of Islamic beliefs.

The corner-stone of all Islamic belief is that Allah is one and the only God (2:163). He has no partners (6:163) and that those who associate any ‘god’ with Him commit great injustice (31:13). Indeed, it is stated in the Qur’an that Allah forgives all sins except the sin of associating someone else with Him (4:48). Since Allah alone is the Creator and the Benefactor, there is no excuse to associate anyone or anything with Him.

A basic Islamic belief is that Allah created all things in the universe (2:29) and that He alone is the Sustainer of all things in the Universe (1:2 / 6:164).

Sustenance, or rububiyah, is one of the ninety nine attributes of Allah who is called The Sustainer, Al-Rabb, of not only Muslims or believers or of those who happens to be on the Earth, but of all things in the whole universe (26:192 / 78:37). He is the Sustainer of the Heavens and Earth (44:7). In many places the Qur’an reiterates that Allah is the Sustainer of the worlds (in plural) (e.g., 26:192) --__ not of the inhabitants of this world or Earth alone.

It is clear from these references from the Qur’an that Allah, or the God, is the ultimate source of all forms of existence in all parts of the universe and that this is not limited to Muslims or believers alone. Rather His sustenance covers all creatures and all people including those who reject Him or rebel against Him. As a result all forms of life are to be respected and treated according to the laws of Allah (6:151).

According to the Prophet of Islam, even wild animals and birds should not be killed unless they are to be consumed or pose a danger to human beings. The Prophet has informed us that utterly sinful people showing mercy to animals, like cats and dogs, were forgiven by Allah and admitted to Paradise, and good people being cruel to animals like cats were committed to Hell (e.g., Al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Anbiya’ and Bad’ al-khalq).

If Islam holds the life of even animals and birds as sacrosanct and worthy of respect, it is not strange that humans are treated as the most exalted of all of Allah’s creatures, ashrafu’l-makhluqat. Allah tells us that He created sons of Adam as different nations and tribes only so that they are easily identified and recognized but the best of them in the sight of Allah are those who are most fearful of Allah (49:13). No people are superior because of their race or origin. It is their deeds and intentions alone which make them superior in the sight of Allah. Allah tells us that killing one person is tantamount to killing the whole human race, and that one who saves one person from death is like one who saves the whole human race (5:35).

Allah says that social peace and tranquility are very important goals of life and human society. A person loses his right to life if he is proved to be responsible for engineering serious dissension and turmoil in society (2:191). Of course this will be decided by a proper legal authority after due legal process. No ruler has the right to take any human life without due legal process.

Islam does not force itself on others and offers no worldly inducements for embracing it. The only inducement is that whoever does good deeds will inherit Paradise which should be the ultimate goal of every human being.

In an Islamic state non-Muslim have the full freedom to adhere to their religions and they are offered autonomy in religious matters as witnessed by the unparalleled Millat System of the Ottoman State. No one is to be forced to follow Islam. It is a clear rule of Islam that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256). Muslims are ordered to treat well even those non-Muslims who live outside an Islamic state and not to wage war against them unless those non-Muslims had already fought Muslims on a religious ground or had expelled them out of their homes (2:191 / 60:9), as happened in Mecca during the Prophet’s time, and witnessed recently in Palestine, Bosnia and Kosovo and currently in Chechnya.

Because Muslims put these principle into practice, there was peace and communal harmony in all Muslim societies throughout history. The values of justice and equity emanate from Allah Himself. One of Allah’s attributes is ‘The Just’ (al-‘Adil). The Qur’an says that Allah does not do any injustice whatsoever (50:29). It also tells us that whosoever does an iota of good or bad deeds will get his due reward or punishment (99:7-8). The Muslim psyche is made up of these basic beliefs.

There is no ‘original sin’ in Islam. It is utterly unnatural and unjust that someone be punished or rewarded for an act done or committed by someone else. Islam tells us that no one bears the responsibility for acts of others (6:164). Every child is born according to nature. It is his/her parents who christianize him or judaize him, as the Prophet said.

In all Muslims societies over the ages religious minorities not only lived in peace and security but also flourished in all fields. Eastern Jewry’s golden age was in Muslim Spain. There were Jewish prime ministers in Egypt and Spain under Muslim rulers, so much so that a poet in the Fatimid Egypt said that if you want to become prime minister convert to Judaism! Personal physicians of many Muslim rulers were Jews and Christians (like Maimonides, or Musa ibn Maimun (d. 1204 CE), the famous Jewish philosopher who was the physician of Salahuddin).

On the contrary, we find that whichever Muslim country was overrun by Christians in Europe, like Spain, Portugal, South Italy, Sicily and Malta, its Muslim population was butchered or expelled or forcibly baptized. There is no such example in the entire history of Islam. The Crusaders, according to their own accounts, had butchered the whole population of Jerusalem when they captured it in 1099 CE. In sharp contrast, when Salahuddin regained the holy city in 1187 CE, he did not kill anyone. Rather, all Christians of Jerusalem and Palestine were allowed to stay in peace or depart with dignity. This was due to his obedience to the orders of Allah that only those who commit a specific crime are to be held responsible for it.

Love for humanity and respect for all sons and daughters of Adam is a basic teaching of Islam. A saying of the Prophet tells us that on the Day of Judgement Allah will say: ’I was hungry but you did not feed me; I was sick but you did not visit me... ‘(Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Birr, 43-55). This teaches us that as Muslims we have to take care of all humans regardless of their faith and race.

Rahmah, or mercy, is an attribute of Allah and He enjoins us to be merciful in our behaviour towards others. The Prophet has said that ’Allah will not show mercy to those who do not have mercy for the people of Earth‘ (Al-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Birr, 16; Al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tawhid, 3 and Kitab al-adab, 18).

To sum it up, Islam teaches us that Allah, or the God, is the only source of all forms of existence in our universe and from Him alone stem the supreme values of peace and human brotherhood. These are enshrined in the Qur’an, Allah’s last revelation to the humankind.

* Unless otherwise stated, all references are to the Qur’an.

Having studied at Al-Azhar and Cairo universities, the author did his PhD in Islamic Studies at Manchester Uni. This talk was delivered at the Muslim-Christian dialogue for peace and communal harmony held at the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, on 11 March 2000.

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