Saturday 21st of May 2022
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The ways of understanding Islam

methods of rreligious thought

By "religious thought" we mean that form of thought which is concerned with any of the problems of a religious nature within a particular religion, in the same sense that mathematical thought is the form of thought which deals with mathematical questions and solves mathematical problems.

Needless to say religious thought, like other forms of thought, must have reliable sources from which the raw material of its thought originates and upon which it depends. Similarly, the process of reasoning necessary for the solution of mathematical problems must have a series of established mathematical facts and principles.

The single source upon which the divinely revealed religion of Islam depends and upon which it is based, inasmuch as it is based on a revelation of celestial origin, is none other than the Holy Quran. It is the Quran which is the definitive testament of the universal and ever-living prophethood of the Prophet and it is the content of the Quran that bears the substance of the Islamic call. Of course the fact that the Quran is alone the source of Islamic religious thought does not eliminate other sources and origins of correct thinking, as will be explained later.

There are three methods of religious thought in Islam. The Holy Quran in its teachings points to three paths for Muslims to follow in order to comprehend the purposes of religion and the Islamic sciences: (1) the path of the external and formal aspect of religion (the Shari'ah); (2) the path of intellectual understanding; and (3) the path of spiritual comprehension achieved through sincerity (ikhlas) in obeying God.

It can be seen that the Holy Quran in its formal aspect addresses all people without providing any demonstration or proof. Rather, depending on the unique sovereignty of God, it commands people to accept the principles of faith such as divine unity, prophethood, eschatology; it gives them practical injunctions such as the daily prayers, fasting, etc.; and at the same time it prohibits them from committing certain other actions. Yet if the Quran had not provided authority for these commands it would never have expected man to accept and obey them. It must, therefore, be said that such simple utterances of the Quran are a path toward the understanding of ultimate religious ends and the comprehension of the Islamic sciences. We call such verbal expressions as "Believe in God and His Prophet" and "Perform the prayers," the external or formal aspect of religion.

In addition to guidance in the external aspect of religion, we see that the Holy Quran in many verses guides man toward intellectual understanding. It invites man to meditate, contemplate and deliberate upon the signs of God in the macrocosm and the microcosm. It explains many verities through unfettered intellectual reasoning. It must be said in truth that no sacred book praises and recommends science and intellectual knowledge for man as much as does the Quran. In many of its words and utterances the Quran attests to the validity of intellectual proof and rational demonstration, that is, it does not claim that man should first accept the validity of the Islamic sciences and then through intellectual proofs justify these sciences. Rather, with complete confidence in the truth of its own position it proclaims that man should use his intellect to discover the truth of the Islamic sciences, and only then accept this truth. He should seek the affirmation of the words contained in the Islamic message in the world of creation which is itself a truthful witness. And finally man should find the affirmation of his faith in the results of rational demonstration ; he should not have to gain faith first and the, in obedience to it, seek proofs. Thus philosophical thought is also a way whose validity and efficacy is confirmed by the Holy Quran.

Also, in addition to guidance in the external and intellectual aspects of religion, we see that the Holy Quran in subtle terms explains that all true religious science originates and comes from Divine Unity (tawhid) and the knowledge of god and His Attributes . The perfection of the knowledge of God belongs to those whom He has drawn from all places and elevated solely to Himself. It is these men who have forgotten themselves and all things and as a result of sincerity in obedience to God have been able to concentrate all their powers and energies upon the transcendent world. Their eyes have become illuminated through the vision of the light of the Pure Creator. With the eye of discernment they have seen the reality of things in the kingdom of heaven and earth, for through sincerity of obedience they have reached the station of certainty (yaqin). As a result of this certainty the kingdoms of heaven and earth and the immortal life of the eternal world have become revealed to them.

Deliberation upon the following holy verses illuminates fully this claim: "And We sent no messenger before thee but We inspired him (saying): There is no God save Me (Allah), so worship Me" (Quran, XXI, 25); and, "Glorified be Allah from that which they attribute (unto Him), Save single-minded slaves of Allah" (Quran, XXXVII, 159-160); and, "Say, I am only a mortal like you. My Lord inspireth in me that your God is only One God. And whoever hopeth for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the worship due unto his Lord" (Quran, XVIII, 111); and, "And serve the Lord till the inevitable [al-yaqin] cometh unto thee" (Quran, XV, 99); and God says, "Thus did We show Abraham the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth that he might be of those possessing certainty" (Quran, VI, 76); and "Nay, but the record of the righteous is in 'Iliyin - Ah! what will convey unto thee what 'Iliyin is! - A written record, attested by those who are brought near (unto their Lord)" (Quran, LXXXIII, 18-21); and, "Nay, would that ye knew (now) with a sure knowledge ['ilm al-yaqin]! Ye will behold hellfire" (Quran, XII, 5-6).

Thus it may be said that one of the paths for the comprehension of religious verities and sciences is the purification of the carnal soul and sincerity in obedience to God.

From what has been said it becomes clear that the Holy Quran proposes three methods for the comprehension of religious truths: the external, or formal aspects of religion; intellectual reasoning; and sincerity in obedience leading to the intellectual intuition which results in the unveiling of the truth and its inward vision. Yet it must be understood that these three methods differ from each other in several ways. For instance, since the external forms of religion are verbal expressions in the simplest language, they are in the hands of all people, and everyone benefits from them according to his own capacity. On the other hand, the other two paths, which are appropriate to a particular group (the elite - khawass), are not common to all. The path of the external forms of religion leads to the understanding of the principles and the obligations of Islam and results in knowledge of the substance of the beliefs and practices of Islam, and of the principles of the Islamic sciences, ethics, and jurisprudence. This is in contrast to the other two paths. The intellectual path can discover the problems connected with faith, ethics, and the general principles governing practical questions, but the intellectual method cannot discover the specific religious injunctions given in the Quran and the Sunnah. The path of purification of the carnal soul, since it leads to the discovery of God-given spiritual truths, can have no limits nor measure of its results or of the truths revealed through this divine gift. Men who have reached this knowledge have cut themselves off from everything and forgotten everything but God and are under the direct guidance and dominion of God Himself - May His Name be Glorified. Whatever He wants and not what they want is revealed to them.


on the knowledge of god

The World Seen from the Point of View of

Being and Reality ; The Necessity of God

Consciousness and perception, which are intertwined with man's very being, make evident by their very nature the existence of God as well as the world. For, contrary to those who express doubt about their own existence and everything else and consider the world as illusion and fantasy, we know that a human being at the moment of his coming into existence, when he is already conscious and possesses perception, discovers himself and the world. That is to say, he has no doubt that "He exists and things other than he exist." As long as man is man this comprehension and knowledge exist in him and cannot be doubted, nor do they undergo any change.

The perception of this reality and existence which man affirms through his intelligence, in opposition to the views of the sophist and skeptic, is immutable and can never be proven false. That is to say, the claim of the sophist and the skeptic which negates reality can never be true, because of man's very existence. There is within the immense world of existence a permanent and abiding reality which pervades it and which reveals itself to the intelligence.

Yet each of the phenomena of this world which possesses the reality that we discover as conscious and perceiving human beings loses its reality sooner or later and becomes nonexistent. From this fact itself it is evident that the visible world and its parts are not the essence of reality (which can never be obliterated or destroyed). Rather, they rely upon a permanent Reality through which they gain reality and by means of which they enter into existence. As long as they are connected and attached to it they possess existence and as soon as they are cut off from it they become nonexistent. We call this Immutable Reality, which is imperishable (that is, the Necessary Being), God.

Another Point of View Concerning the

Relation Between Man and the Universe

The path chosen in the previous section to prove the existence of God is a very simple and evident one which man treads with his God-given nature and intelligence without any complication. Yet, for the majority of people, because of their continuous preoccupation with material things and their being drowned in the pleasures of the senses, it has become very difficult to return to their God-given, simple, primordial, and untainted nature. That is why Islam, which describes itself as universal, and which believes all people to be equal in religion, has made it possible for such people to find another way to prove the existence of God. It seeks to speak to them and to make God known to them by means of the very path through which they have turned away from their simple, primordial nature.

The Holy Quran instructs the multitude of men in the knowledge of God through different ways. Most of all, it draws their attention to the creation of the world and the order which reigns over it. It invites men to contemplate the "horizons" and "their own souls," for man in his few days of earthly life, no matter what path he chooses or what state he loses himself in, will never step outside the world of creation and the order which reigns over it. His intelligence and power of comprehension cannot overlook the marvelous scenes of heaven and earth which he observes.

This vast world of existence which stretches before our eyes is, as we know, in its parts and as a whole continuously in the process of change and transformation. At each moment it manifests itself in a new and unprecedented form. It becomes actualized under the influences of laws which know no exception. From the farthest galaxies to the smallest particles which form the parts of this world, each part of creation possesses an inward order and runs its course in a most amazing manner under laws which do not admit any exceptions. The world extends its domain of activity from the lowest to the most perfect state and reaches its own goal of perfection.

Above these particular orders stand more universal orders and finally the total cosmic order which brings together the countless parts of the universe and relates the more particular orders with each other, and which in its continuous course accepts no exceptions and permits no breaches.

The order of creation is such that if, for example, it places a man upon the earth, it constitutes him in such a way that he can live in harmony with his environment. It arranges the environment in such a way that it raises him like a loving nurse. The sun, the moon, the stars, water and earth, the night and the day, the seasons of the year, the clouds, wind and rain, the treasures beneath the earth and on its surface, in other words all the forces of nature, use their energy and resources in providing well-being and peace of mind for him. Such a relation and harmony can be discovered among all phenomena and also between man and his neighbors near and far, as well as within man's own habitat.

Such a continuity and harmony can also be observed within the internal structure of every phenomenon in the world. If creation has given man bread, it has also given him feet to seek it, hands to grasp it, a mouth to eat it, and teeth to chew it. It has related man through a series of means, which are connected with each other like the links of a chain, to the final goal envisaged for this creature, which is subsistence and perfection.

Many men of science have no doubt that the countless relations among things which they have discovered as a result of several thousand years of effort are but humble samples and a foretaste of the secrets of creation and their myriad ramifications. Each new discovery declares to man the existence of an endless number of unknown elements. Could anyone say that this vast world of existence, all of the parts of which either separately or in unity and interconnection bear witness to an infinite knowledge and power, need not have a creator and cold have come into being without reason and cause? Or could it be said of these particular and universal domains or order and equilibrium, and finally of this total cosmic order which through innumerable interrelations has made the world a single unit running its course according to laws which know no exceptions, that all this has occurred without plan and only through accident and chance? Or could anyone say that each of the phenomena and domains in the cosmos has chosen for itself, before coming into being? Or could anyone claim that this world, which is a single unit and which possesses complete unity, harmony and the interconnection of parts, could be the result of multiple and different commands issuing from different sources?

Obviously, an intelligent man, who relates every event and phenomenon to a cause, and who sometimes spends long periods in investigation and efforts to gain knowledge of a cause that is unknown to him, will never accept the possibility of a world existing without a Being as its cause. Such a person, who by observing a few bricks placed upon one another in an orderly manner considers them to be the effect of an agent possessing knowledge and power and who denies the possibility of chance and accident in the putting of the bricks together and therefore concludes that a plan and purpose must have existed beforehand, will not regard the cosmic order as being the result of an accident or the play of chance.

A deeper awareness of the order reigning in the world is enough to show that the world, along with the order reigning over it, is the creation of an omnipotent Creator who has brought it into being through His limitless knowledge and power and who directs it toward an end. All the partial causes which bring about individual events in the world ultimately end in Him. They are in every way under His dominance and are guided by His wisdom. Everything that exists is in need of Him, while He has need of nothing and does not depend on any causes or conditions.

God, the Exalted, says, "Lo! in the heavens and the earth are portents for believers. And in your creation, and all the beasts that He scattereth in the earth, are portents for a folk whose faith is sure. And the difference of night and day and the provision that Allah sendeth down from the sky and thereby quickeneth the earth after her death, and the ordering of the winds, are portents for a people who have sense. These are portents of Allah which we recite unto thee (Muhammad) with truth. Then in what fact, after Allah and His portents, will they believe?" (Quran, XLV, 3-6).

Every reality in this world which we can possibly imagine is a limited reality, that is, one whose actualization depends upon certain necessary causes and conditions. If these do not exist that reality cannot exist in the world. Every reality has a boundary beyond which it cannot extend its existence. Only God is such that He has no limit or boundary, for His reality is absolute and He exists in His Infinity no matter how we try to conceive of Him. His Being does not depend upon and is not in need of any causes or conditions. It is clear that in the case of something limitless we cannot conceive of multiplicity, for any supposedly second reality will be other than the first, as a result of which each would be limited and bound and would set a boundary to the reality of the other. For example, if we consider a limitless volume we cannot conceive another limitless volume alongside it. And if we do suppose another, it will be the same as the first. Therefore, God is one and has no partner.

We have already mentioned the Bedouin who approached Ali in the middle of the fighting during the Battle of the Camel and asked if he asserted that God was one. In answer Ali said, "To say that God is one has four meanings: Two of those meanings are false and two correct. As for the two incorrect meanings, one is that one should say 'God is one' and be thinking of number and counting. This meaning is false because that which has no second cannot enter into the category of number. Do you not see that those who said that God is the third of a trinity [i.e., the Christians] fell into infidelity? Another meaning is to say that so and so is one of this people, namely a species of this genus or a member of this species. This meaning is also not correct when applied to God, for it implies likening something to God and God is above all likeness.

"As for the two meanings which are correct when applied to God, one is that it should be said that God is one in the sense that there is no likeness unto Him among things. God possesses such uniqueness. And one is to say that God is one in the sense that there is no multiplicity or division conceivable in Him, neither outwardly nor in the mind nor in the imagination. God possesses such a unity." (Bihar al-anwar, vol. II, p. 65)

Ali has also said, "To know God is to know His Oneness." (Bihar al-anwar, vol. II, p. 186) This means that the Being of God is unlimited and infinite suffices to prove His Oneness, for to conceive a second for the Infinite is impossible. There is therefore no need of any other proofs, although there exist many others.

Man from the Qur'anic point of view

The story of Adam as portrayed in the Qur'an shows that in the course of his material development and physiological changes,(1) man reached a stage where he obtained a new birth(2) with the infusion of the Divine spirit.(3) Then in the course of his normal development, he suddenly experienced a divine change as the result of which he was transformed into such a super being(4) that even the angels were asked to pay obeisance(5) and the world forces were made subservient to him.

The Forbidden Tree of Paradise is not that of knowledge which should not be approached, but it is a tree of lust which should be controlled. It is a means by which man tests his will-power and the power of self-control. Even man's disobedience is a symbol of the freedom granted to him by Allah.

To have access to 'knowledge' is not forbidden to him: In fact, it is a gift with which he has been especially blessed. Allah taught him that which none else knew.(6) Knowledge is one of the factors by which man gained superiority over the angels.(7)

Even Adam's expulsion from Paradise was a forerunner of a sort of self-sufficiency, the blooming of his talents and the beginning of his creative struggle.(8) It was a stage preliminary to his self-making. Though 'fall' came in the wake of disobedience, but it did not culminate in condemnation and permanent contempt. As the result of seeking forgiveness and attaining self-consciousness, it became a matter of blessing.(9)

Man's relation with Allah is not that of hostility or rivalry, for Allah is Self-sufficient and All-powerful. Even if all men disobey him, He is going to lose nothing.(10) He is far away from jealousy and any kind of anxiety. Therefore man cannot place any restraint on Him through his disobedience. Man's disobedience is only a manifestation of his free will and power of choice granted to him by Allah.

Allah appointed man as His vicegerent on the earth,(11) that is to say that He gave him authority and power. Not only that, whatever man could use and could control in the heavens, was also subdued to him.(12)

Allah is not apprehensive of man. He urges him to settle on the earth(13) and make use of all the forces hidden in its mountains and plains.(14)

Man's domination over land and sea and his control of them is one of the requirements of his dignity.(15)

According to the Qur'an man is neither a predestined being(16) nor has he been given a free reign to pass an aimless life.(17)

He has been endowed with many capabilities, dispositions and motives accompanied by a sort of inner direction(18) and innate guidance(19) which if nut corrupted, lead him to truth, knowledge,(20) and all stages of creative skills, including those of new discoveries based on previous experience, those of the invention of new tools and equipment for the expansion of. his control of nature and those of increasing his efficiency in overcoming any hurdles which he may have to face.

Besides that, man is also the bearer of the `Divine trust'(21) representing consciousness, will and power of choice, which are the symbol of his humanity and make him a responsible being. This Divine trust is that magnificent gift of Allah, which the heavens, the earth and the mountains were not competent enough to accept. Only man could bear the responsibility of having the power of conscious choice and free will.


In order to know the conditions, limits and the field of man's choice, to ascertain the effects of this power on him, and to find out what factors influence his way of thinking, we must take the following points into consideration:

(1) Innate nature of man and his disposition

Man has many motives and instincts which pull him towards themselves. Some of his instincts are derived from a material source, and some others from a Divine spirit. You may call these instincts propensity, disposition, natural urge, tendency or inclination. Some most important of these instincts are as under:

• Inclination towards and need of food, clothing and


• The instinct of self-defence;

• Sexual urge;

• Aesthetic sense;

• The instinct of gaining position and respect;

• The instinct of seeking truth and liking it;

• Love of knowledge;

• Love of justice;

• Fellow-feeling;

• Love of perfection and a desire to seek it.

Such instincts and urges are interwoven with the innate nature of man,(22) and hence they are not transient and acquired. But still their existence does not mean that man is a captive of them. These instincts only bring about a sort of inclination and attraction. They work as a motive force, but they do not tie the hands of man. Man has the power to follow or not to follow them. It is within his power to satisfy his instinctive desires or to restrain them, to supervise and guide them or to change their direction.

These urges are actually controlled by man's will based on his way of thinking.

(2) Modification of Propensities

The modification of propensities and instincts is essential, though it is very difficult and requires a great deal of effort, awareness and hard work.

It may be easily understood that each of the abovementioned instincts is in itself a need of life.

Should there be no sexual urge, there shall exist no motive for procreation and formation of a family.

Should there be no inclination to food, man shall take no steps to meet his nutritional requirements and consequently he shall perish.

Should man have no desire to gain honour and social position, he shall succumb to disgrace and humiliation.

A desire to secure position and social respect can impell one to make fruitful efforts and to do social work etc. But if this very desire becomes too excessive, it may overcome all other motives and may turn into a lust for power and position. In that case man begins to worship the idol of power and becomes a tyrant. He may go to any extent and may adopt any means, including spending money, making flattery and taking any mean action. In some cases one may even bear hunger and any other hardships to gain one's selfish ends.

Even after gaining power in order to maintain and enhance it, such a person may commit any crime and resort to telling lies, and intimidating and slaughtering people.(23) In other words he may trample upon the high values of justice, realism and benevolence. (24)

We observe how one instinct can overpower a man if it is not properly checked and is allowed to exceed the proper bounds; but we must not forget that in this case the instinct becomes an idol which man creates for himself(25) by misusing his power of choice, and it is he himself who can break this idol and can promote his higher tendencies. He can check and reform those instincts which exceed the proper bounds, so that he may save himself from sinking into sin.

'As for him who repents, believes and does what is right, it is boped that be will prosper". (Surah al-Qasas, 28:67).

"But be who fears the position of his Lord and curbs his base desires, shall surely dwell in Paradise" . (Surah al-Nazi'at, 79:40-41).

"Those who are saved from their own greed sball surely be prosperous" . (Surah al-Hashr, 59:9).

There are many other verses which strongly censure imbalance in tendencies and declare that the problem should be solved by making positive efforts to promote higher tendencies.

The Qur'an considers man to be always responsible to make efforts to reform himself and to guide all his tendencies so that none of them may exceed its limits and shrivel the freshness of human nature.


(3) Role of natural and geographical environment

It is not possible that the natural and geographical environment of a man should have no effect on his spiritual and emotional life. just as the features and muscles power of all men cannot be the same, similarly the spirituality of a man who has grown up in the scorching heat of a desert amidst sand-dunes cannot be similar to that of another man who lives in a coastal region having humid climate and dense forests. There is no doubt that hot climate, salt water, or mountainous region cannot have the same effect on human tendencies as for instance, cold climate, sweet water or marshy land has. This is just as the physique of the people of all regions cannot be the same.

However these varied natural and physical conditions do not compel a man to go in a particular direction though they may provide him to some extent a conducive atmosphere to induce him to adopt a certain way of life. No region compels a man to maintain or lose his self-respect, to defend his freedom or succumb to subjugation, to be virtuous or wicked or to be laxy or industrious.

It is man himself, who in spite of all difficulties and unfavourable conditions, can find his way and use his will-power to strengthen his constructive spirituality.


(4) Role of historical, social and economic factors

The historical factors, social atmosphere, economic relations and social conditions also play a basic role in giving direction to man's tendencies, his motives, his outlook and his way of life. Some times they set iip hurdles in the way of man's freedom and his power of choice.

But we should not forget that the present conditions were brought about gradually by some people and other people can fight the existing evil factors under the banner of freedom and knowledge, can add to their intellectual matureness, and by using what remains of their will and decision-making power can fight corruption. This subject will be discussed further while dealing with the historical outlook of Islam.


(5) Role of the rules and regulations in the field of choice

We have come to know that man has certain tendencies

and instincts which must be guided and modified. As

natural factors and environmental conditions affect his

choice and his mode of life, he must take steps to improve

his surroundings and change them for the better. The

principles and rules on the basis of which this modification

and improvement should take place, are one of the most

important topics connected with the question of man's

choice and his will.

How should he mould his life and in what direction should he turn himself? What should he choose and on what basis? Should he allow others to impose certain principles on him and then of his own accord choose those very principles and go the way to which he is led in an invisible manner, as normally is the case in modern democracy?

Or should he allow himself to be involved in an ideological conflict on the basis of the theory of material compulsion and historical dialectic as advanced by certain schools of thought, and by bringing about further contradiction in this process, invigorate the movement and development of history?

Or should a man, as a principle, free himself from all principles already enunciated, get rid of his own preconceived ideas, and then with complete freedom make his choice and create leis own principles and rules, because there exists no principle other than that which one himself chooses? Or is there any other way out? If so, what is that?

From Islamic point of view, man has been created free from all such compulsions and no pre-concieved principle or view can be imposed on him to deprive him of his free will and power of choice.

Man should himself choose the rules and principles for moulding himself rightly and to serve his society in the light of his expanded knowledge. All the emphasis which the Qur'an lays on thinking, -understanding and reasonableness and that too on the thinking free from whims, myths and the wrong notions prevalant in the environment or inherited from forefathers, is aimed at paving the way for finding the truth.


(6) Divine revelation

One of the most important sources of knowledge and the domains of thinking is Divine revelation.

The world is not dark and void. In addition to those inner faculties with which Allah has provided man in order to help him find the truth. He has sent Prophets to guide him aright. This guidance does not mean forced imposition of Allah's will, nor does it mean the suppression of the creative will of man. It only means a sort of exhortation and Divine help. It shows kindness and graciousness of Allah. This guidance is a light which adds to the insight of man and does not restrict his will.

Man should get benefited by this guidance with his eyes wide open, and for that purpose, he should use his knowledge and insight. He should first think and evaluate, and only then make his choice. If even after identifying the truth, he persists in his disbelief, he shall stand condemned.

In support of these points, there is enough evidence "in the Qur'an. We have already quoted some verses.


(7) Man's own deeds make his destiny

Another question which gives direction to man's will and choice is his giving attention to the fact that his deeds make his destiny and that every action of his shall have a reaction sooner or later. Man's future actually depends on his own deeds.

The Qur'an says:

" Man gets only what be strives for". (Surah al-Najm, 53:39) "Corruption has become rife on land and sea because of the misdeeds of the people". (Surah al-Rum, 30:41).

It is the resistance of the people which prevents corruption.

"If Allah bad not repelled by the might of others, the earth would have been corrupted". (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:251).

Paradise and Hell are the outcome and the reflection of the deeds of the people. "Tbis is Paradise which you have inherited by your righteous deeds ". (Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:72). "In fact those who commit evil and are engrossed in their transgression, shall be consigned to the fire in which they shall abide". (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:81).

In fact the deeds of the people are preserved accurately and carefully. "Tbese shall have a share of what they have earned. No doubt Allah is swift at reckoning". (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:210).

As in this world everything is well-planned and well-managed and there is nothing futile and haphazard, all human deeds have a role and a constructive effect.

This view makes it very clear that a man has to be very careful while making his choice. He is not allowed to set his hand to anything haphazardly and carelessly.

It is also essential that he should choose only what is right. He must not take a decision light-heartedly. That is why he is anxious and apprehensive. Perhaps it is this fear of Allah that leads one to practical piety.(26)


(8) Aim of Man's efforts

Now let us see what should be the aim of man's efforts. We know that

Islam proposes certain goals and principles and calls man to adopt them. This in itself is a blessing of Allah. But it is man himself who should choose his way thoughtfully.

Prosperity and salvation

According to the Qur'an one of the aims of the efforts of man is to achieve falah which means salvation and prosperity.

Fallah means the cultivator, who cleaves the land, prepares it for cultivation and arranges for all the conditions necessary for the growth and development of seed, which under the favourable conditions of soil and water shoots forth from land and with the help of natural forces increases in height and size.

Similarly if man arranges the conditions conducive to his human growth the perfection in every sphere and all dimensions of his nature, he will become free from the shackles of selfishness and base desires. He will be able to take full advantage of his talents and potentialities and his higher instincts will take a firm root. Such a man is said to have achieved falab and to have `prospered'. The Qur'an declare that this prosperity depends on self-making(27) modification of natural urges,(28) good deeds,(29) constructive and positive efforts,(30) resistance against the evil, co-operation for the good, piety,(31) betterment of the environment, diffusion of virtues, prevention of corruption(32) and the like.


(9) Ideals and values

With one evolutionary jump man begins to hold an ideal for the sake of which he forgets himself, concentrating his attention on faith and the service of humanity. A stage comes when for the realization of ,his ideal he not only forsakes his pleasures and comforts, and his position and wealth, but even lays down his life.


A scientist makes sincere efforts to make a discovery, not to serve a tyrant or to get fame or secure a reward, but to add to knowledge and to serve humanity.

A sincere social worker makes efforts for the treatment of the sick for helping the afflicted and the hungry and for defending the oppressed, not for the sake of any reward or publicity and not in a just formal or a professional way, but for the sake of humanity and service.

An ideological worker faces all sorts of hardships and dangers and makes sacrifices for the deliverance of a nation. What name will you give to such a man and how will you interpret his working for an ideal?

There is no harm if you call him an idealist, for what he strives for, does not already exist as a reality, neither in nature nor in society. He only perceives it as an ideal in his mind and makes it a part of his life. This ideal becomes a driving force which moves him to continue his efforts till what was a mere idea, is realized and becomes a historical fact.

Every ideological school must have an ideal, which though does not already exist as a reality, but sacrifice should be made to achieve it. This is a thing which no theory of material compulsion can explain. It cannot be judged by any scientific standard, nor can it be interpreted by any material or natural law.

These very ideals are the high values to which one should dedicate himself and for the sake of which-one should make sacrifice. If you want to find a person who really possesses `human' qualities, you should look for one who is dedicated to these ideals and values, which are beyond

the scope of physiological and biological laws.


(10) Seeking Allah and Truth

Islam maintains that these values in their highest form are concentrated in Allah, and the man of Islam is enamoured of this absolute perfection. He is fit to yearn for and move towards and source of all virtues and values. A man having a perfect faith actually moves towards this goal. This absolute perfection is a pure reality and the essence of existence, which has created values and power. This truth cannot be perceived by material thinking, which cannot go beyond matter and energy and cannot think of reality and value or the source of power and motion.

As far as man is concerned, it is he himself who begins his move towards perfection, though he is invited and attracted towards it by Allah, but not to the extent of compulsion and imposition, for in that case his move will have no value. He himself is responsible to make the journey with untiring efforts to reach his goal. How encouraging this promise is!

"Man, strive hard to get closer to your Lord, and so you will certainly receive the recompense (of your deeds) ". (Surah al-Inshiqaq, 84:6).,


The Divine Essence and Qualities

If we analyze the nature of a human being, we see that he has an essence which is his individual humanity and also qualities through which his essence is known, such as the quality of being born in such a land, or being the son of such a person, or being learned and capable, or tall and handsome; or he possesses the contrary of these qualities. Some of these qualities, like the first and second, can never be separated from the essence, and others, like being learned or capable, have the possibility or separation and alternation. Yet all are different from the essence and at the same time different from each other.

This point, namely the difference between the essence and qualities and between the qualities themselves, is the best proof that an essence that has qualities, and a quality that makes known an essence, are both limited and finite. For if the essence were limitless and infinite it would encompass the qualities as well, and also the qualities would include each other, and as a result all would become one. For example, the essence of man would be the same as capability and also capability the same as knowledge; height and beauty would be the same; and all of these would possess the same meaning.

From this example it is clear that the Divine Essence cannot be conceived to have qualities in the sense that human beings have qualities. A quality can come about only through setting limits and the Divine Essence transcends all limitations (even the limitation of this transcendence which in reality is a quality).

The Meaning of the Divine Qualities

In the world of creation we are aware of many perfections which appear in the form of qualities. These are positive qualities which, wherever they appear, make the object of which they are the quality more perfect and increase its ontological value, as can be seen clearly in the comparison between the live being such as man and a lifeless one such as a stone. Doubtless God has created and bestowed these perfections upon creatures; if He had not possessed them in their fullness Himself He could not have bestowed them upon others and perfected others through them. Therefore, if we follow the judgment of sound reasoning we must conclude that God, the Creator, has knowledge, power, and every other real perfection. Furthermore, as has already been mentioned, the marks of His knowledge and power and, as a result, the marks of life are seen in the order of the cosmos.

But because the Divine Essence is limitless and infinite these perfections which are shown to be His Qualities are in reality the same His Essence and one with each other. The difference observed between the Essence and the Qualities and at the same time between the Qualities themselves is only on the plane of concepts. Essentially there is but one Reality involved which is one and indivisible.

In order to avoid the inadmissible error of limiting the Essence through attributing qualities to it or denying the principle of perfection in it, Islam has commanded its followers to preserve a just balance between affirmation and negation. It has ordered them to believe that God has knowledge but not like the knowledge of others. He has power but not like the power of others. He hears but not with ears. He sees but not with eyes like those of men, and so on.

Further Explanation Concerning Qualities

Qualities in general are of two types : qualities of perfection, and qualities of imperfection. Qualities of perfection, as mentioned above, are of a positive nature and give higher ontological value and greater ontological effect to the object that they qualify. This is clear from the comparison between a live, knowing and capable being and a dead being which lacks knowledge and capability. Qualities of imperfection are the reverse of such qualities. When we analyze these imperfect qualities we see that they are negative and show a lack of perfection, such as ignorance, impatience, ugliness, illness, and the like. Therefore, it can be said that the negation of the quality of imperfection is the quality of perfection. For example, the negation of ignorance is knowledge and the negation of impotence is power and capability.

For this reason the Holy Quran has related each positive quality directly to God and negated every quality of imperfection from Him, attributing the negation of such imperfections to Him, as He says: "He is the knower, the Omnipotent," or He says, "He is the Alive" or "Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him," or "Know that ye cannot frustrate Allah."

The point that must never be forgotten is that God, the Most Exalted, is Absolute Reality without any limit or boundary. Therefore, a positive quality attributed to Him will not possess any limitation. He is not material and corporeal or limited to space and time. While possessing all positive qualities He is beyond every quality and state which belongs to creatures. Every quality which in reality belongs to Him is purified from the notion of limitedness, as He says, "Nought is as His likeness." (Quran, XLII, 11)

Qualities of Action

In addition, qualities are also divided into qualities of essence and qualities of action. A quality sometimes depends only on the qualified itself, such as life, knowledge and power, which depend on the person of a living, knowing and capable human being. We can conceive of man in himself possessing these qualities without taking into consideration any other factor.

At other times a quality does not depend only on the qualified in itself, but, in order to qualify, it also requires the existence of something external as in the case of writing, conservation, desire, and the like. A person can be a writer if he possesses ink, pen, and paper, and he can converse when there is someone with whom to speak. In the same way he can desire when there is an object of desire. The sole existence of man is not sufficient to bring these qualities into existence.

From this analysis it becomes clear that the Divine Qualities which are the same as God's Essence, as already pointed out, are only of the first kind. As for the second kind, whose actualization depends upon an external factor, they cannot be considered as Qualities of the Essence and the same as the Essence, for all that is other than God is created by Him and so, being situated in the created order, comes after Him.

Qualities that pertain to God after the act of creation such as creator, omnipotent, giver of life, giver of death, sustainer, etc., are not the same as His Essence but are additional to it; they are Qualities of Action. By Quality of Action is meant that after the actualization of an act the meaning of a quality is understood from that act, not from the Essence (that performs the act), such as "Creator", which is conceived after the act of creation has taken place. From the creation is understood the quality of God as Creator. That quality depends upon creation, not upon the sacred Essence of God, the Most Exalted, Himself, so that the Essence does not change from one state to another with the appearance of that quality. Shi'ism considers the two qualities of will (iradah) and speech (kalam) in their literal meaning as Qualities of Action (will meaning wanting something and speech meaning conveying a meaning through an expression). Most of the Sunni theologians consider them as implying knowledge and thereby take them to be Qualities of Essence.

History of the Principle of Justice in Islamic Culture

The Shiah believe the doctrine of justice to be an article of their faith. In the preface of the Divine Justice, we have stated that the doctrine of justice has two aspects: Divine Justice and Human Justice. Divine Justice is again divided into two parts: (i) Creational and (ii) Legislative Human Justice.

Legislative Human Justice also has two phases: (i) Individual justice and (ii) Social Justice.

The justice which is considered to be the characteristic of the Shi'ah creed and is believed by the Shi'ah to be an article of their faith is Divine justice.

It is this justice which is an integral part of the Islamic conception of the world.

Divine justice means that Allah does no injustice and in both of His creational and law-making systems acts according to what is right and fair. The reason why the principle of justice became an article of faith among the Shi'ah was that a section of the Muslims denied it in a way that was totally contrary to human freedom. They denied the working of the principle of causation in the world system as well as human affairs, and maintained that Divine destiny operated direct and not through the media of cause and effect. According to them, fire did not burn. It was Allah who burnt it. Similarly a magnet had no role in attracting iron towards it. It was Allah who attracted iron to it. Man did not perform good or bad deeds. It was Allah who accomplished them direct through the agency of human beings.

Here an important question arises: If the system of causation did not exist and man had no power of choice, why should an individual be recompensed for evil or good done by him? Why does Allah reward some people and send them to Paradise and why does He punish some others and despatches them to Hell, when He Himself performs all good and bad deeds? If the human beings have no freedom and no choice of their own, it is unjust and contrary to the indisputable principle of Divine justice to punish them for the deeds over which they have no control.

Most of the Shi'ah and a section of the Sunnis, known as the Mu'tazilah reject the theory of human compulsion and direct operation of Divine destiny in the world. They consider this view to be contrary to the principle of justice, and besides advancing arguments based on reason quote from the Holy Qur'an and the hadith in support of what they maintain. That is why they have come to be known as 'Adliyah, that is the supporters of the justice.

From the above it is evident that notwithstanding the fact that the principle of justice is a Divine principle and is related to one of the attributes of Allah, it is also a human principle, because it equally concerns human freedom and power of choice. Therefore a belief in the principle of justice on the part of the Shiah and the Mutazilah means a belief in human freedom, human responsibility and the constructive role of man.

The question which often disturbs the minds in connection with Divine justice, especially during modern times, concerns certain cases of social inequality.

It is asked how is it that some individuals are ugly, while some others are handsome; some are healthy while some others have poor health; some are well-off and influential, while some others are poor and of little consequence?

Is this inequality not contrary to the principle of Divine justice? Does not Divine justice demand that all individuals should be equal in regard to wealth, duration of life, number of children, social position, fame and popularity, and there should be no disparity among them in regard to these things? Can the disparity in respect of these things be explained by any means other than believing in Divine destiny?

The root of this question lies in not paying attention to the way the Divine destiny operates. It appears that the questioner thinks that Divine destiny works direct and not through the medium of causes, and that health, beauty, power, position, popularity and other bounties of Allah are distributed to the people at their doorsteps by a hidden hand direct from the Divine treasures.

Enough attention has not been paid to the fact that no bounties, whether material or spiritual, are distributed direct. The Divine destiny has set up a system and appointed a number of laws and norms. Whosoever wants something he should seek it through that system and according to those laws.

Another cause of misunderstanding is that due attention is not paid to the position of man as a responsible being who makes struggle to improve the condition of his life, combats the natural factors and strives against social evils and human tyranny.

If there exist inequalities in human society and if there are some who have everything at their disposal and there are others whose lot is only to struggle for their subsistence every moment, the responsibility for this situation does not lie with Divine destiny. Man, who is free is himself responsible for the inequity.


Destiny and Providence

The law of causality reigns throughout the world of existence without any breach or exception. According to this law each phenomenon in this world depends for its coming into being upon causes and conditions which make its actualization possible. If all of these causes, which are called the complete cause (the sufficient and necessary cause), are actualized, the coming into being of that phenomenon, or the assumed effect, becomes determined and necessary. And assuming the lack of all or some of these causes, the actualization of the phenomenon is impossible. Investigation and analysis of this thesis will clarify this point for us.

(1) If we compare a phenomenon (or effect) with the whole, complete (or sufficient) cause, and also with the parts of the complete cause, its relation to the complete cause is based on necessity and relation to each of the parts of the complete cause (which are called incomplete or partial causes) is one of possibility and lack of complete determinism. These causes provide the effect only with the possibility of existence, not with its necessity.

The world of existence, in its totality, therefore, is governed throughout by necessity because each of its parts has a necessary connection with its complete cause by the very fact of coming into being. Its structure is composed of a series of necessary and certain events. Yet, the character of possibility is preserved in its parts if we consider each part separately and in itself in the phenomena which are related and connected to partial causes which are other than their complete cause.

The Holy Quran in its teachings has called this reign of necessity Divine Destiny (qada'), for this necessity issues from that Source that gives existence to the world and is therefore a command (hukm) and "Divine Decree" that is certain and is impossible to breach or disobey. It is based on justice and accepts no exception or discrimination. God Almighty says, "His verily is all creation and commandment" (Quran, VII, 54), and "When He decreeth [qada] a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is" (Quran, II, 117), and also "(When) Allah doometh there is none that can postpone His doom [hukm]" (Quran, XIII, 41).

(2) Each part of the cause provides the appropriate measure and "model" for the effect, and the coming into being of the effect is in accordance with the totality of the measures determined for it by the complete cause. For example, the causes that make respiration possible for man do not cause respiration in the absolute and unconditioned sense ; rather they send a determined amount of the air around the mouth and nose through the respiratory channel to the area of the lungs in a determined time and with a determined shape. Likewise, the causes of man's vision (including man himself) do not bring into being vision as such without limits or conditions, but rather a vision which, through the means and organs provided, is limited and measured for men in every respect. This truth is to be found without exception in all the phenomena of the world and all the events that occur in it.

The Holy Quran has called this aspect the truth "Providence" (qadar) and has related it to God Almighty who is the origin of creation, as has been said, "And there is not a thing but with Us are the stores thereof. And we send it not down save in appointed measure [qadar]" (Quran, XV, 21).

In the same way that according to Divine Destiny the existence of each phenomenon and even which occurs in the cosmic order is necessary and cannot be avoided, so also according to Providence each phenomenon and event that occurs will never trespass or disobey in the least degree the measure which God has provided for it.



(1) "We created you from clay, then from a living germ, then from a clot of blood and then from a lump of flesh". (Surah al-Hajj, 22:5)

(2) " . . . Then from et We produced a new being". (Surah al-Mo'minun, 23:14).

(3) "He completed him and breatbed His spirit into bfm". (Surah al-Sajdah, 32:9).

(4) "Indeed We bane bonoured the children of Adam and bane definitely given them superiority above many of Our creatures': (Surah al-Isra, 17:70).

(5) "When I bave completed him and breatbed My spirit into him, then fag prostrate before him": (Surah Sad, 38:72).

(6) "He taught man what be did not know": (Surah al-Alaq, 96:5).

(7) "He taught Adam all the names, then He presented those (things) to the angels . (Surab al-Baqarah, 2:31).

(8) 'The earth will provide you dwelling and sustenance for an appointed time". (Surah al-A'raf, 7:24).

(9) "Adam acted contrary to the counsel of bit Lord and tbus be erred. Tbereafter his Lord forgave him. He accepted his repentance and rightly guided him". (Surah Taha, 20:121 - 122).

(10) "If you aft those who are on the earth prove to be ungrateful, Allah does not at all need your thanks. He is Laudable". (Surah Ibrahim,14:8).

(11) "When your Lord said to the angels: I am appointing on earth a vicegerent' : (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:30).

(12) "Have you not seen that Allah bas put at your service wbateaer there is in the heavens and the earth ". (Surah Luqman, 31:20).

(13) "He produced you from the earth and settled you there". (Surah Hud, 11:61).

(14) "It is He who bas made the earth subservient to you. So walk about in its regions and eat what Allah bas produced". (Surah al-Mulk, 67:15).

(15) "Indeed We have bonoured the children of Adam. We carry them on the land and the sea ". (Surah al-lsra, 17:70).

(16) "Does man think that he will be left unchecked". (Surah al-Qiyamah, 75:36).

(17) "Did you think We have created you in vain and that you would never be returned to Us" (Surah al-Mo'minun, 23:115).

(18) "Indeed We have created man from the union of sperm and egg, to test him. We gave him the faculties of bearing and seeing". (Surah al-Dahr, 76:2).

(19) "By the soul and its Creator wbo inspired it as to what is

right and what is wrong for it". (Surah al-Shams, 91:7 - 8).

(20) "Follow the dictates of (true) human nature as created by Allah. Allah's creation is not to be changed. This is surely the upright religion". (Surah al-Rum, 30:30).

(21) "We offered the trust to the heavens, the earth and the mountains, but they declined to bear it and were afraid of it. And man undertook to bear it ... ". (Surah al-Ahzab, 33:72).

(22) "Follow the dictates of (true) buman nature as created by

Allah". (Surah al-Rum, 30:30). "Surely man was created restless". (Surah al-Ma'arij, 70:19).

" Alluring for people is the love of the joys that come from women, sons, boarded beaps of gold and silver, borses of mark, cattle and plantations ": (Surah Ale 1mran 3:14).

"He is passionate in his love for wealth ". (Surah al-Adiyat, 100:8).

(23) "Look! indeed man rebels, wben be considers bimself to be independent and self-sufficient". (Suurah al-Alaq, 96:5-6).

(24) 'Judge rightly between people and do not follow your own caprices, which will deviate you from the path of Allah ". (Surah Sad, 38:26).

(25) "If we give him a taste of affluence after adversity that bad befallen, be says: My bad days are over, and becomes proud and insolent; except those who are steadfast and do good deeds ". (Surah Hud, 11:10).

(26) "This is the punishment of which Allah warns His slaves.

Therefore, my slaves! Have fear of Me". (Surah al-Zumar, 39:16).

(27) "The prosperous is he who purified himself". (Surah al-Ala. 87:14).

(28) "Those who are saved from their own greed, shall surely be

prosperous". (Surah al-Hashr, 59:9).

(29) "Worship Allah, and do good so that you may prosper". (Surah al-Hajj, 22:77).

(30) "Prosperous. indeed are the believers, who are humble in their

prayers, who keep themselves aloof from what is absurd . . ."

(Surah Mo'minun, 23:1-11).

(31) "Believers, have patience, help each other with patience, establish good relations with one another and have fear of Allah so that you may prosper". (Surah Ale Imran, 3:200).

(32) " . . . .They call to virtue, exhort to what is good and restrain from evil. It is such people who shall prosper".(Surah Ale Imran,3:104).

- Shi'a

- Allamah Seyyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai..





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