By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
21 November 2018
The meaning of Islam is to submit to Allah and His commands and living a life according to His moral code (Deen). His commands include worshiping none other, as everything else is His creation, and subject to His power. Each of the moral principle is counter intuitive and was not available to man in foresight, but the utility value of practicing the moral principle became evident once there was empirical data from practice which showed how everyone had benefited. To make people practice what went against their intuition and apparent self-interest, required the law giving prophets to be rulers with the necessary political power to lay down the law and ensure strict compliance through a system of harsh punishment for any contravention. These ruler-cum-prophets are the ones who also fought in Allah’s way and brought larger number of people under the religion of Allah. (3:146) “How many of the prophets fought (in Allah´s way)”. We see an element of coercion in early stages of religion without which no one would have observed the moral code willingly, since what is right had not become clear from what is wrong.
Purpose of Revelation
To make a moral choice, man needs the criterion for what is right and what is wrong. The criterion of what is morally right and what is wrong is provided by Allah through revelations to His messengers or prophets. Practicing the moral code initially out of fear of Allah the Law Giver, or the ruler acting in the name of Allah, turned into reverence when the benefits of living a virtuous life became clear from practice. This led to firm conviction in what is right and what is wrong and became the beliefs of the people. When a person does something that conflicts with his belief, it creates cognitive dissonance. A person who experiences cognitive dissonance has two choices – to act according to his belief by suppressing the temptation to act otherwise, or to act against his belief and rationalise his act to suppress the uncomfortable feeling created by cognitive dissonance. A person who repeatedly makes the wrong moral choice of giving in to temptation and dampening cognitive dissonance through rationalising, ends up losing faith in Allah and His moral code. 47:16 “Such are persons whose hearts Allah has sealed, and who follow their own lusts”. A person who always does the right thing according to the moral code suppressing his temptation to act otherwise, gains complete mastery over his temptations. Moral uprightness then becomes instinctive for him. (47:17) “But to those who receive Guidance, He increases the (light of) Guidance, and bestows on them their Piety and Restraint (from evil)”.
Uniqueness of Mankind
Adam and his progeny are the only creation of Allah that has moral agency or able to make moral choices. Every other creation lives according to the instinct given by Allah. It is shared values from religion that has enabled man to trust others and to cooperate in large numbers. Without becoming a moral agent, the progeny of Adam would have been no different from any other creation and may have even become extinct. For more detail, read:
Was Allah Unjust in Creating Adam and Favouring His Progeny Over All His Creation?
In between the law giving ruler prophets, there were many reformer prophets who brought no new law, and those who were rulers implemented the law strictly, and those who were not, reminded people of the importance of living a moral life in accordance with the deen or religion of Allah. The name of God varies from people to people and has no significance, since the Quran affirms, that you can call God by any name, if it is a good name.
(20:8) Allah! there is no god but He! To Him belong the most Beautiful Names.
(17:110) Say: "Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names.
The Quran mentions some 25 prophets by name but also says that there were many other whose names are not mentioned and according to a hadith of the Prophet, there were 124000 prophets or approximately 50 to 60 contemporaneous prophets spread across the earth upto the time of Muhammad (pbuh) or thereabouts.
(6:42) Before you (Muhammad) We sent (messengers) to many nations, and We afflicted the nations with suffering and adversity, that they might learn humility.
(43:6) But how many were the prophets We sent amongst the peoples of old?
(23:23) Further, We sent a long line of prophets for your instruction.
(4:164) Of some messengers We have already told thee the story; of others We have not;-
Inspired by the one and only God, the religion of Allah has therefore remained essentially the same throughout history, peoples, cultures and civilizations.
41:43. Nothing is said to you (Muhammad) that was not said to the apostles before you.
10:37 “This Qur´an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book - wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds.” (10:37)
The following verse is a prophesy that mankind will discover sometime in the future, that the religion of Allah is the same even in the furthest regions of the earth.
41:53. Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own being, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that your Lord does witness all things?
This subject is covered in greater detail in my article: The Quran and the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do unto You’
The Quran mentions the prophets the Arab people were familiar with leaving out others they could not identify. The Quran even makes an indirect reference to Buddhism in Surah 95 At-Tin or The Fig where the Fig refers to the fig tree under which Buddha received enlightenment. This is covered in more detail in my article: The Momineen and the Kafirin
Was Hamurabi A Prophet?
Hammurabi[a] (c. 1810 BC – c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of the First Babylonian Dynasty, reigning from 1792 BC to 1750 BC. He brought almost all of Mesopotamia under Babylonian rule.
Hammurabi is remembered for the moral Code he introduced and implemented. He claimed to have received the Code from Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice. The Law of Hammurabi prescribed appropriate penalties for each crime. It is also among the first codes that presumed innocence until the guilt was established through required evidence. Although its penalties may appear harsh, these limited what a wronged person could demand in retribution.
Hammurabi was seen by many as a god within his own lifetime. Hammurabi was a great conqueror who spread civilization and forced all peoples to pay obeisance to Marduk, the national god of the Babylonians. His legacy as the lawgiver of an ideal code overshadows his military exploits although these are impressive. Hammurabi was rediscovered by archaeologists in the late nineteenth century and has become an important figure in the history of law.
Hammurabi has all the characteristics of a King who was a Prophet. If Muhammad’s (pbuh) life and times were equally ancient history forgotten and rediscovered like Hammurabi’s, we may expect the historical narrative to read as follows:
Muhammad rose from humble beginnings to declare himself a Prophet when he was forty. He was bitterly opposed and forced to migrate from his city Mecca but returned militarily triumphant some 10 years later and spread his political influence far and wide with amazing conquests in a very short period. He gave the Book, the Quran, which contains the law as well as the ideal way of living and founded a religion called Islam. He claimed Islam was not a new religion but the only religion of God from the first man Adam, and that his mission was in continuation of the same mission of every prophet. He asked all his followers to exclusively pay obeisance to Allah, who he said was the only true god, and cease worshiping every other god they had previously worshiped along with Allah. He claimed the Book was revealed to him by Jibrail aka Gabriel who is one of the trinitrin gods in Christianity but considered only an Angel in the Quran. He was revered by his followers after his death who brooked no tolerance for anyone who insulted/blasphemed him even through inuendo, while they were more tolerant of insults to Allah.
The Code of Hammurabi, the Law of Moses in the Torah, and the Law of the Quran, contain numerous similarities as they should if they are revelations from the same God.
What is Paganism?
(2:213) Mankind was one single nation, and Allah sent Messengers with glad tidings and warnings; and with them He sent the Book in truth, to judge between people in matters wherein they differed; but the People of the Book, after the clear Signs came to them, did not differ among themselves, except through selfish contumacy. Allah by His Grace Guided the believers to the Truth, concerning that wherein they differed. For Allah guided whom He will to a path that is straight.
(10:19) Mankind was but one nation, but differed (later). Had it not been for a word that went forth before from thy Lord, their differences would have been settled between them.
From being one nation with same beliefs, people for selfish reasons differed, and followed different paths. While the concept of one God is logical, the concept of being one among his numerous creations is cold comfort. People like to have a special and exclusive relationship with their god/parent/boss who is partial to them or favours them over all others. The idea of a god to whom we are special is tempting. People therefore invent and worship their own personal gods or intercessors with the only God. The monotheists prevented from doing so, corrupt the meaning and attributes of the only God and convert Him to a personal God. They then expect their god to take sides even in a game of cricket! The Christians have Jesus Christ who they say is son of God who has a special and exclusive relationship with all those who believe in him and redemption is only through belief in Christ. The Muslims, while prevented from thinking of Muhammad as son of God, are otherwise not far behind in thinking that Muhammad will be their intercessor and get them through to everlasting Heaven although no verse in the Quran supports such a belief. This tendency is described in the Quran in the following verses:
(39:45) When Allah, the One and Only, is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are filled with disgust and horror; but when (gods) other than He are mentioned, behold, they are filled with joy!
The idea of One and only God judging all people equally without favour on the Day of Judgment is abhorrent to most people. They are overjoyed when names of intercessors with whom they think they share a special relationship are mentioned. These are far from the ideal moral person that God wants us to be and are among those who worship their own lusts. The Pagans have a far purer concept of the only God although they neglect worshiping Him because He is seen to be too impartial and indifferent for any practical use.
Self-indulgence is the beginning of immorality and finds expression in shameful acts such as lying, deceit, and the sins of the flesh or adultery. Such people lack belief in One God who will judge all impartially on the Day of Judgment according to His religion and believe that their intercessor will get them through and they only need to keep their intercessor pleased. Understandably therefore, the most heinous sin in Islam is associating partners with Allah followed by adultery, as these sins lead to all other evils.
The punishment prescribed for each crime is harsh of a necessity since every moral principle requires restraint and not giving in to temptation which goes against the pleasure-seeking nature of man and had to be balanced with a prospect of a harsh punishment to ensure compliance. Over a period, the empirical evidence from following the moral principle showed the benefit the people had derived and the strides their civilization had made. The understanding made compliance logical and attractive and the punishment prescribed was lightened over the ages. Mankind reached a stage when compulsion in religion was no longer necessary which is why the Quran says:
(2:256) Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
In the earlier stages of development, truth did not stand out clear from error and therefore an element of compulsion through harsh punishments was necessary without which we would have never followed any moral principle and remained in the same savage state as any other animal. The verse 2:256 could only have been revealed to the last prophet, for once “truth has become clear from error”, there is no need for any more prophet or revelations. The Muslims, by not internalizing this message and meaning, and worse by treating it as abrogated, act as if ‘truth does not stand out clear from error’, and there is still a need for compulsion in religion. We then need another prophet to make ‘Truth stand out clear from error’, and God forbid (Nauzobillah), Muhammad’s (pbuh) prophetic mission was a failure, and Allah was hasty in deciding that Muhammad (pbuh) should be Khatam Nabuwwat. Only those truly believe in Muhammad as Khatam Nabuwwat, who believe and act on verse 2:256.
Why Has Islam Retained Harsh Punishments?
A believer in Islam will not commit any crime/sin to deserve the punishment and the one who does, needs the punishment to correct him. The Quran does not encourage the people to report a crime but to counsel the wrong-doer and correct him. No person will for example report his own child for any wrong-done but correct the child himself. That applies equally to the people who are our responsibility. The harsh punishment prescribed in the Book remains as a reminder of, and a measure of the severity of the crime, and abhorrence for such crimes/sins in Islam and the harsh punishment for these in the Hereafter. For more on this subject, read:
Spiritual Islam Vs Bigoted Islam
The moral principles from religion have permeated all societies and these are incorporated in man-made laws with man-made system of punishments. Without a belief in Allah and the Hereafter, the man-made systems are as effective as their systems of surveillance and their judicial system. It has become a game of “catch me if you can” in place of the belief that “Allah is All-Pervading, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, All-Wise, All-Powerful from whom nothing is hidden, the knower of every secret and our inner-most thoughts, Lord of the Day of Judgment and the Lord of retribution. Every act of ours has consequences in this world as well as in the Hereafter and justice will find perfection in the Hereafter”. From the divine rule-based morality, modern society has moved to utilitarianism and consequentialism. Nothing is moral or immoral for them and their only concern is what maximizes benefit to themselves. If the negative consequences outweigh the positive ones, they will not cheat otherwise they will. Their god is their enlightened self-interest. There is no shame attached to anything and the modern man lies with ease, fornicates without guilt and treats religion as an anachronism.
The rulers and those on power are foremost in self-aggrandizement. Widespread self-indulgence has led to decriminalizing adultery and indeed all forms of consensual sexual acts. Self-indulgence is often the opposite of what is moral and has led to loss of faith in God and His religion. The harsh penal system of corporal punishments has been replaced by the Prison system which although less harsh in theory, is far worse as it deprives the criminal of his freedom and chains him or confines him like an animal. The prisoners are subject to other indignities such as being routinely raped/sodomized by the prison guards and other prisoners. The prison system is neither a deterrent nor a corrective while the divine system has historically proved to be both a deterrent and a corrective. The prisoners do not think that they are expiating for their sins, because they cannot see justice in the rotten system where what is severely punishable (illicit sex) is the order of the day, where the rich and powerful get away with their crimes and only those who cannot buy off witnesses or scare them off, have to go to the prison.
Without religious morality, there is no check on corruption and misuse of power. The society is returning to arbitrariness, oppression and injustice by the powerful. While religion took mankind forward on the scale of civilization, loss of it is taking us back. To feel free to do what we think is right is the only true freedom. The rest is slavery. The modern man has willingly given up this freedom and accepted slavery for its benefits. This has encouraged powerful states to become rogue states, and do as they please, killing millions in the process. They are supported in their lies and unjust acts by the slaves for whom their god is self-interest. Ironically, this modern phenomenon of regression into lawlessness and immorality is seen by the shallow-minded Muslims as progress! Such Muslims are truly regressive, and the anti-thesis of what it means to be a Muslim. A Muslim pays obeisance only to Allah and His Laws and stands for truth and justice always.
The conservative Muslims have no sense of history and connectedness of the religion of Islam with the people of the world. Instead of looking for what unites them with other people and what is common, they act as if the religion of Muhammad has no connection with other people and their religion. They exult in exclusiveness isolating themselves from the rest of mankind. Getting the fundamentals of the religion of Islam right, understanding its origins and development over the ages among various people, is key to becoming a well-adjusted citizen of the world, capable of leveraging the potential of religion for the good of all mankind.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com
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