By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009
July 26, 2012.
In the Qur’anic vocabulary, the din al-Islam or the moral law (religion in popular vocabulary) of Islam has a specific (exclusive) as well as universal (inclusive) connotation. In its specific sense, it is the religion of the followers of the Prophet Muhammad. This is defined by one of the concluding revelations of the Qur’an:
“…This day, those who reject (this Qur'an) despair of (ever harming) your religion. Therefore, do not fear them; fear Me. This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour on you, and have chosen Islam for your religion…” (5:3).
In its generic sense, it is the universal din (moral law) that all the prophets who came before Muhammad (pbuh), whether or not mentioned in the Qur’an, preached to their followers. The Qur’an defines the essence of this common religion as follows:
“Indeed! Whoever commits (asslama) his whole being [lit., face] to God, and is compassionate (muhsin) - will get his reward from his Lord. There will be no fear upon them nor shall they grieve.” (2:112).
“And who can be better in faith* (din) than the one who orients (asslama) his whole being to God, and does good deeds (ya‘mal min al sualihat), and follows the way of Abraham, the upright one, and God took Abraham as a friend” (4:125).*[In Qur’anic vocabulary, din is the embodiment of moral laws]
“And who is finer in speech than the one who invites to God, does good deeds (‘amila sualihan) and says: ‘I am of those who orients himself to God (muslimun)’” (41:33).
Accordingly the Qur’an describes ‘din al-Islam’, as the universal faith that was enjoined on earlier prophets, who were all true Muslims (2:131-133), and conveyed the same essential message.
“When his Lord said to him (Abraham), ‘Submit (aslim)’, he said, ‘I submit (aslamtu) to the Lord of the worlds’ (2:131). Abraham enjoined his sons to do so, as did Jacob: ‘O my sons, God has chosen the religion (din) for you; so you should not die unless you have oriented yourself to God (muslimun)’ (132). Were you witnesses when death came to Jacob? He said to his sons, ‘What will you serve after I am gone?’ They said, ‘We will serve your God; the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac - the One God; and to Him we have truly oriented ourselves (muslimun)’” (2:133).[See also verse, 3:52, 28:52/53]
These verses employ different grammatical forms of the word Islam – asslama, Muslim (pl. muslimun) to define Islam as a universal religion that is based on two fundamental criteria – orienting oneself to the divine will and doing of good deeds. The Qur’an’s repeated reference to good deeds  as distinct from purely religious obligations, such as salah, Zakah, hajj and fasting indicate that the Qur’an treats all those deeds or actions as good, which bring about good to human beings or serve humanity. Accordingly, the Qur’an sets good deeds as the common criteria for divine approval for all humanity (2:62, 4:124, 5:69, 64:9, and 65:11)
The Qur’an, however, complements the notion of good deeds with moral uprightness (taqwa). At an early stage of the revelation the Qur’an conflates taqwa with the obverse of moral depravity (91:8). Connoted divergently as fearing God, heeding God/His guidance, being conscious of God (God consciousness), preserving or guarding against evil, self-restraint and piety, in Qur’anic usage, it is emblematic of human awareness to one’s social, moral and ethical responsibilities and his preservation against all that is gross, immoral and unjust. Thus, in the Qur’anic worldview, a good Muslim is a believer in God who is active in good deeds, is conscious of his social, moral and ethical responsibilities and preserves against all that is gross, immoral and unjust.
The Qur’an privileges taqwa over the symbolism associated with some of its spiritual rituals, such as taking provisions and slaughtering cattle for hajj (2:197, 22:37), describes fasting as a gateway to taqwa (2:183, 2:187), and extols taqwa as the best dress (7:26). It also declares that in God’s sight, those imbued with taqwa will stand above those who obsessively acquire the good things of life (2:212, 47:36). Thus, like good deeds, taqwa is not the prerogative of the followers of the Prophet Muhammad alone. Accordingly two of its keynote verses (5:93, 49:13) revealed in its conclusive phase declares:
“O People! We have created you as male and female, and made you into races and communities for you to get to know each other. The noblest among you near God are those of you who are the most active in taqwa (atqakum). Indeed God is All-Knowing and Informed” (49:13).
“Those who believe and do good deeds shall not be blamed for what they may eat (or drink) so long as they practice taqwa (attaqu), and believe, and do good deeds; so long as they practice taqwa (attaqu), and believe; so long as they practice taqwa (attaqu), and do good (Remember,) God loves the compassionate” (5:93).
Conclusion: An introspective probe into the Qur’an as advocated by the Qur’an (38:29, 47:24) and tabled in this discourse, shows that in the Qur’anic worldview, a good Muslim is a believer in God - regardless of religion, race, cast, creed or affiliation with a spiritual fraternity, who is active in good deeds, is conscious of his social, moral and ethical responsibilities and preserves against all that is gross, immoral and unjust. Since God alone can judge human’s faith (Iman), deeds (‘aml) and moral uprightness (taqwa), a non-Muslim in the divisive human language can be a better Muslim in divine record than a Muslim (follower of Prophet Muhammad). Hence the Muslims have absolutely no basis to call the non-Muslims as kafirs (denier of truth), individually or collectively.
1. The Ulama may attempt to refute the foregoing conclusion (in bold) by citing the statement of the verse 3:85: “If anyone seeks other than Islam as a din (religion), it will not be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be among the losers.” Traditional scholarship disconnects the verse from its immediately preceding verses 3:83-84, which categorically declare that “all in the heavens and on earth have submitted (asslama) (to God), willingly or unwillingly” (3:83) and expounds Qur’anic universalism quite unambiguously:
“Say, ‘We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us, and in what has been revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and to Jesus and Moses and (other) prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them; and surely to Him do we all orient ourselves (muslimun)’ (3:84).
2. The Ulama may charge that the foregoing conclusion exempts a Muslim from observing the pillars of faith or even reciting the Qur’an, or wearing strictly Islamic dress. This is not tenable because i) the Qur’an is a perfected divine writ of guidance (5:3) – a book of Wisdom that guides to the upright path (sirat al mustaqim)– the path to taqwa (36:1-3), the salah incorporates the devotee’s singular plea to God to guide him/her to the upright path (sirat al mustaqim) (1:6) and fasting and hajj are both spiritual and physical avenues for cultivating taqwa (2:183, 2:187, 2:197, 22:37).
3. How can people who do not have their original scriptures with them be good Muslims (in the generic sense)? Answer: From the Qur’anic perspective each human being regardless of religion or even if he or she is irreligious is recipient of a portion of God’s breadth (15:29, 32:7-9, 38:72) and is imbued with a polarity of ego (nafs) – the nafs al lawwama (75:2) and the nafs al ammara (12:53) - the former representing his conscience or ingrained taqwa and the latter his base or animal instinct (12:53). It is for individual humans, regardless of his religious affiliations to hone his taqwa or succumb to his animal instincts. Thus a non-Muslim can be superior to many Muslims in taqwa and stand ahead of them on the Day of Judgment (2:212).
4. What about the divine warning to the ‘Mushrikun’ (idol worshippers) and ‘Kafirun’ (those bent on denying truth), at times in most dire terms? Answer: The Qur’an intrinsically bears out their existential dimension, having been addressed to an idol worshipping and recalcitrant audience. Furthermore, as noted in a recent exegetic publication  “the deterrent of punishment is essential to establishing justice and morality. So the Qur’anic references to punishment awaiting the sinners – no matter how they are described, were essential to its discourse that primarily aimed at establishing justice in the society and protecting the weak and the historically oppressed classes.”
1. 2:25, 3:57, 4:57, 4:122, 4:173, 5:9, 7:42, 10:4, 10:9, 10:26, 11:23, 13:29, 14:23, 17:9, 18:2, 18:30, 18:107/110, 19:59/60, 19:76, 19:96, 20:75, 20:112, 21:94, 22:23, 22:50, 22:14, 22:56, 22:77, 24:55, 28:67, 28:80, 29:7, 29:9, 29:58, 30:14/15, 30:44/45, 31:8, 32:19, 34:4, 34:37, 35:7, 38:28, 39:10, 39:33/34, 40:58, 41:8, 41:33, 41:46, 42:26, 44:22, 45:15, 45:21, 45:30, 47:2, 47:12, 67:2, 77:41-44, 84:25, 85:11, 95:3-6, 98:7, 99:7/8, 103:2/3.
2. Muhammad Yunus and Ashfaque Ullah Syed, Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA 2009. p. 80/81.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
Dear Aiman Reyaz, May your wish be granted and New Age Islam crosses all limits of popularity and is successful in enlightening the path of true Islam through its untiring efforts.
All the respected commentators, Let there be discussion on the site not arguments. You all must know, "Jawab e Jahilan Bashad Khamoshi". Answer to an ignorant is 'silence'. Discussion brightens the horizon of our intellect. And argument confuses.
Most of the comments on the pages of such an intellectual article like this, does not do justice to either the scholarly knowledge and attitude of you nor is of any use to people like me who are here to learn, "What real Islam is". Regards to all.
It is a joy to read your article,
as all other articles.
Islam can be understood to be a
system of keeping the creation as created; in balance. All our efforts to preserve
and maintain that balance amounts to submission to God, the ultimate goal is perfect
harmony of all the elements to function cohesively - to create peace - a perfect
union where there is no injustice or oppression, nor fear or apprehension.
I really like your statement, “Qur’an
describes ‘din al-Islam’, as the universal faith that was enjoined on earlier
prophets, who were all true Muslims (2:131-133), and conveyed the same
Your mention of “The Qur’an’s repeated reference to good
deeds  as distinct from purely religious obligations, such as salah, Zakah,
hajj and fasting indicate that the Qur’an treats all those deeds or actions as
good, which bring about good to human beings or serve humanity.” Also points to
the item above and that has been my take all along. 3:85 is generic, Muhammad
Asad does the right translation.
The analogy of Xerox to mean photo copy, Islam means a system to keep one in balance with
himself and what surrounds him, it is a generic word politicized as an entity
like a private club where the appointed managers decides who is a member or
not. Islam is not a private club.
You put that perfectly, “Thus, in
the Qur’anic worldview, a good Muslim is a believer in God who is active in
good deeds, is conscious of his social, moral and ethical responsibilities and
preserves against all that is gross, immoral and unjust.”
And I have worked that up as “ A
Muslim is one who seeks to mitigate conflicts (social, moral, environmental,
spousal, business) and nurtures goodwill
to bring about and sustain an equilibrium.” - its at: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/01/mission-of-world-muslim-congress.html
Indeed, you are right about a “few”
Ulema, who will refute this understanding. Their rightness is based on other’s wrongness,
and that is a short sighted understanding of the diversity of the creation.
An average Muslim is insecure; he
cannot fathom the idea that other religions are as beautiful as Islam and that
each system works for the believer. Ours is not a negative faith, it is an all embracing
faith and truly universal. For most
people their faith is the right faith because others are wrong, that is the
weakest of Imaan.
All are committed to preserving
that elusive equilibrium, in essence submission to that goodness.
Thank you, Insha Allah, I will
share this with my groups and post it on my sites.
Mohtaram Janab Muhammad Yunus sb,
Thanks a lot for your concern about the state of my
health. By the grace of God and the blessings of well-wishers, I am much better
now. Please do pray that Allah gives me the opportunity to serve the community
and the humanity for the rest of my life.
I am short of words to describe my happiness at seeing
your highly researched articles. I know that it is personally very valuable to
me and it also gives me a relief that somebody so knowledgeable and competent
is on my side of the fence in the defense of Truth. I have just read the
article on the originality of the holy Quran, referred by you, and was
pleasantly surprised, how you have defended the issue with such convincing
reasons and evidences, which attempt was also made by me in the past with quite
meager defense material. Before reading your article, I had posted a comment
today under the following thread, which will give you an idea of what I stand
for. I hope it finds favor with you.
Islamic Personalities (14 Jul
a Muslim Who hasn’t Attended a Madrasa Speak for the Community?’ Asks Sultan
there is no question my drawing you in a debate. Please take it from me, that I
shall not utter a word if does not lead to value addition by drawing arguments
from the totality of knowledge of today. Another point which has already been
resolved, was with reference to Janab
Naseer Ahmed sb. I was to write that I find him an original thinker with great
deal of Islamic knowledge too. I think he makes a good addition to the team of
scholars like Mr. Shahin, Dr. Dudeja and you, to help evolve the themes on this
website further. Regards.
Dear Janab Sultan
I am in agreement
with what you have written about the usefulness of these postings. If you see I
send detailed replies on apparently flimsy and nonsensical questions and
perhaps I have already expressed twice the reasons why I do so, which are not
very different from the ones you have cited.
Actually I have a
sense of humour which sometimes transforms into sarcasm (my fault and weakness
entirely). I just do it to pack the exchange with some ‘patakha’ for the
joy of discussion on a dreary subject, but if some innocent person is hurt with
my remarks, my advance apology to him/her. I hope this would take care of your
To Janab Muhammad
Yunus sb I am replying separately.
Janab Naseer Saheb, My very sincere apologies to you for taking you to be an intruder who passes a comment not related to the issue to divert the attention from the theme. I have seen exchanges of long long comments between people holding opposite views that are not conducive to any advancement of thought.
I do not want to put any name as i do not want to create any animosity and do not give any opportunity to anyone to drag me into unproductive arguments. Only now I understand that you responded to those who questioned me - one of whom even implicated me with a political group that has association of Islamic radicalism. I have handled him honorably with my reply, though under normal circumstances I could sue him for character assassination. As you know, dudh ka jala maththa phuk kar khata hai.
Anyway, it is too late now for me to write more words of apology. But my unwitting error in comprehending the addressee of your comment caused by the absence of addressee in the comment is once again deeply regretted. God knows our intention best and He knows I took you a European intruder - as you spelled Ahmed as Ahmec.Thank you janabe a'ali.
Sometimes I wonder, where from I reached
all these conclusions that I am with. Was it all intuition? Is it because I
do not stick to literal meaning of things? But anyway, I am happy to find my
conclusions proved correct from the writings of Mr. Muhammad Yunus (1) Sir. His
comments are technical while I say the same thing in my street language, (can be
read as, earthy language). His comment on 7/27/2012 5:59:44 AM I liked very
much where he says to Dear Mr. Raihan Nezami Sir that it is up to Allah to
identify who is/was a Muslim who is/was not.
v) “a good Muslim is a believer in God - regardless of religion, race, caste,
creed or affiliation with a spiritual fraternity, who is active in good deeds,
is conscious of his social, moral and ethical responsibilities and preserves
against all that is gross, immoral and unjust.”
vi) Since God alone can judge human’s
faith (iman), deeds (‘aml) and moral uprightness (taqwa), a non-Muslim in
the divisive human language can be a better Muslim in divine record
than a Muslim (follower of Prophet Muhammad). [Note, the qualification in bold
implies that those non-Muslims who qualify to be good Muslims in God’s record
because of their iman, ‘aml and taqwa but we call them non-Muslim)
From the Qur’anic perspective each human being
regardless of religion or even if he or she is irreligiousis
recipient of a portion of God’s breadth (15:29, 32:7-9, 38:72) and is imbued
with a polarity of ego (nafs) – the nafs al lawwama (75:2) and the nafs al ammara (12:53) - the former representing his conscience or
ingrained taqwa and the latter his base or animal instinct (12:53).” This
statement pairs those with iman and without iman in being intrinsically
ingrained with the polarity of good and evil. Just having iman but succumbing
to the negative pole can fail the believer in the divine court. The statement
does not say that not having iman and excelling in taqwa will win the day for
the non-believer (one who does not have iman). It also does not say that people
who have no iman will end up in Hel. God can say this. It is not for the mortals
to speak like God. God alone will judge all humans, believers and atheists on
the day of judgment, and it is for Him to decide the fate/Destiny of all. We
Muslims have to be concerned about our own fate and not about the fate of those
who have no iman.
Janab Mohammad Younus Sb (1): I think your contribution to this site is just like the axis of the articles and the comments around which the writers and the commentators (not to undermine anyone's contribution) are rotating, sometimes we go out of bound, but then the magnetic power of your learning drags us within the circle.
Just thanking you for your unparalleled endeavour for the sake of humanity is not enough, unless we imbibe the inherent qualities of our religion in ourselves learnt through NewAgeIslam, we can't pay our debt to the scholars like you. Insha Allah our mission will be accomplished.
Dear Manzoorul Haque saheb,
the work Muhammad Yunus Saheb is doing is not just for "these
gentlemen" who in your view "don’t deserve" his "detailed
This is a public forum and the questions asked are those that
may be in the minds of many more people. And all others who may have these
questions in mind may not be motivated Islam-haters and Muslim-baiters, as in your
view these gentlemen are. Indeed some of them may even be Muslims getting influenced
by a lot of anti-Islam rhetoric available on the internet. Most people who read
and benefit from the site do not post their comments or queries but do read and
Also, these detailed replies
help those Muslims who have to face these questions in the multicultural
societies around the world they inhabit.
Let us just be grateful to
Yunus Saheb for his hard work and benefit from that. One person may not need
that and the questioner himself may not benefit from that but others may.