Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) preached to the people to trust in Allah (swt). His whole life was a sublime example of the precept. In the loneliness of Makkah, in the midst of persecution and danger, in adversity and tribulations, and in the thick of enemies in the battles of Uhud and Hunain, complete faith and trust in Allah (swt) appears as the dominant feature in his life. However great the danger that confronted him, he never lost hope and never allowed himself to be unduly agitated. Abu Talib knew the feelings of the Quraish when the Prophet (s.a.a.w.) started his mission. He also knew the lengths to which the Quraish could go, and requested the Prophet (s.a.a.w.) to abandon his mission, but the latter calmly replied,
"Dear uncle, do not go by my loneliness. Truth will not go unsupported for long. The whole of Arabia and beyond will one day espouse its cause." [Ibn Hisham, Sirat-ur-Rasul]
[Taken from Introduction to Islam by Muhammad Hamidullah (Centre Culturel Islamique, Paris, 1969), with some changes to make it more readable. The changes are marked by pairs of brackets like around this paragraph.]
IN the annals of men, individuals have not been lacking who conspicuously devoted their lives to the socio-religious reform of their connected peoples. We find them in every epoch and in all lands. In India, there lived those who transmitted to the world the Vedas, and there was also the great Gautama Buddha; China had its Confucius; the Avesta was produced in Iran. Babylonia gave to the world one of the greatest reformers, the Prophet Abraham (not to speak of such of his ancestors as Enoch and Noah about whom we have very scanty information). The Jewish people may rightly be proud of a long series of reformers: Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, and Jesus among others.Read more...
American economist Robert Samuelson recently made an interesting observation about the American society in his Newsweek column: "America's glories and evils are tightly fused together." Quoting sociologist Seymour Lipset, he asserts that America's economic vitality and progress come from the same source as do crime, family breakdown, inequality, and vulgarity. Freedom and individualism have fired economic advance, yet have also inhibited social control. But why the qualities that bring the best in a nation also should bring the worst in it? Is humanity doomed by having its vices and virtues so intricately mixed?
Samuelson does not probe the issue. Instead he seems to be happily resigned to it. "We are burdened as well as blessed by our beliefs," he says. Economics, we may be reminded, is the dismal science.
Actually the world is not doomed by design. Samuelson comes very close to the truth but he confuses approaches or tools with attributes. A tool that works great in one area is also being used in another for which it was never designed. The problem lies with the user who keeps on insisting on its use in the second area citing its success in the first. To put matters simply, it's the free use of reason and intellect that is behind most of America's (and West's in general) phenomenal scientific and material progress. It's the use of the same tool in moral, and religious life that has caused its equally phenomenal moral degeneration!
Every tool has a designated area of application. Outside, it will fail to work. A 4 bit computer is good for some elementary math involving whole numbers. It may multiply 2 by 20 and give the correct answer instantly. But burdened with complex calculations involving several decimal digits, it will give the WRONG answers. A weighing scale meant for gold will not work for iron and vice versa. Their resolution and capacity are inappropriate for those applications.
Same with the tools we use for learning about the world. Our senses and intellect are wonderful things. Science and technology are all about their use. Certainly it was free inquiry driven by reason that led to so many of the discoveries of science. It happened at an accelerated pace during the past four centuries and the results are everywhere around us to be seen.
But a tool that is so great in one area may be totally useless, even dangerous, in another. Pure Reason, uninformed by Divine Guidance, is a defective tool for deciding purpose of life or suggesting its values. What is Right and what is Wrong? These questions require knowledge beyond what we can acquire by using our senses and reasoned analysis. As a direct result, everyone's reasoning is different. That is why philosophers have never been able to agree upon what should be the goal of life. Happiness? Survival? Pleasure? Love? Self-fulfillment? You name it. In addition, it is impossible for us to separate our reasoning in these matters from our feelings. Pure or uninformed reason becomes just a tool to justify what we desire.
Today West's problem is that it has accepted the wrong tool for developing its moral compass. Probably the majority of its people abhor homosexuality. They may know that it is an abomination and evil. Yet today same-sex marriages are getting legal sanction in the West. And they are helpless in trying to stop its advances. Why? Because they cannot argue that it is wrong based on pure reason. It is easier to make a case against smoking in public places, then against the worst forms of immorality. Such is the result when pure reason becomes the accepted arbiter of right and wrong.
There is nothing modern about this either. Several centuries ago, Obaidullah Hasan Qirwani, a leader of the renegade batani cult declared it foolish for a brother to marry his beautiful sister to a total stranger, while trying to be content with a less qualified wife -- another stranger. She would be much more suited to be wife of her own brother, with whom she may be a lot more compatible, he argued. His argument is, no doubt, sickening. But is there a counter argument based on pure reason?
Certainly mankind needs a superior tool for determining the values and purpose of life. A source of guidance that is based on certain knowledge, not conjecture. One that can inform our desires rather than being subservient to them. This is what Prophets, Alayhim assalam, came with. They claimed to have access to the higher source of knowledge, the Divine Revelation. Those who accepted them used reason and observation to verify their authenticity and character. But they accepted Divine Revelation as a SUPERIOR source of knowledge! That is why a son can tell his father:
"O my father! To me has come knowledge that had not reached you. So follow me. I will guide you to a Way that is even and straight." (Maryam, 19:43).
All this is obvious, except in implications. We accept this is Right and that is Wrong because the Revelation TOLD us, not because it PROVED it to us. What is wrong with riba? Gambling? Pork? Alcohol? Revelation told us that they were wrong. Why is hijab necessary? Allah and His Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, ordered that. What are the rights of men and women? Those given to them by Allah and His Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The attribute of the Muslims is that they "listened and followed" (Al-Baqarah, 2:285). It is not that they listened and questioned, and argued, and investigated and then if they felt like it, they followed. That is also THE message of Prophet Ibrahim, alayhi assalm's, sacrifice, a defining event for Islam. For the Qur'an describes the moment when the father and son were ready for the ultimate sacrifice by saying: "When they surrendered" (Al-Saffat, 37:103). Literally it can also be translated: "When they accepted Islam." For pure reason could have raised a million questions about the command for that sacrifice.
Normally it is difficult for us to say "I don't know." It is even more difficult for nations to admit a weakness in their celebrated tools of inquiry. That is the dilemma of the modern world, which sees so much wrong with itself but cannot bring itself to admitting the problem with its basic approach. But a Muslim is the person who has both the wisdom and the courage to surrender before the higher source of knowledge and guidance. For him Revelation informs his reason and his reason controls his emotions. Such is the person who is blessed, but not burdened, by his beliefs.
Reference url: http://www.albalagh.net/food_for_thought/reason.shtml
إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ
The Qur'anic term falah (prosperity, success) used in the above verse (last part of verse 10:17) has been understood by some to signify such things as longevity, worldly prosperity and other worldly attainments. Under this false impression, they tend to believe that if a claimant to prophethood attains material prosperity and longevity or if his message is spread around, then he ought to be considered a genuine Prophet because he has indeed attained 'prosperity'. Had he been an impostor, it is argued, he would soon have been assassinated, or would have starved to death, and, in any case, his message would not have spread around. Such an absurd line of argument can only be pursued by those who are altogether ignorant of the concept of falah (prosperity) as envisaged in the Qur'an, who are unaware of God's law of respite regarding evil-doers, and who are altogether unappreciative of the special meaning in which the term has been employed in the present context.
In order to fully understand what is meant by saying that 'the guilty shall not prosper', a number of things ought to be borne in mind. In the first place, the Qur'anic statement that "the guilty shall not prosper' is not made with a view to providing a yardstick that might be applied by people so as to determine the truth or falsity of the claimants of prophethood. The verse does not seek to stress that all those who 'prosper' after claiming to be a Prophet are truly Prophets, and that those who do not prosper after making such a claim are not so. The point of emphasis here is altogether different. Here the Prophet (peace be on him) is being made to say that since he knows fully that those guilty of inventing lies against Allah could not prosper, he would not dare make any claim to prophethood if such a claim was false.
On the other hand, the Prophet (peace be on him) also knew that the unbelievers were guilty of rejecting the true signs of God and of declaring a true Prophet of God to be an impostor. In view of that monstrous guilt, it was quite apparent to the Prophet (peace be on him) that they would not prosper.
Moreover, the Qur'anic term falah (prosperity, success) has not been used in the limited sense of worldly success. Rather, it denotes that enduring success which admits of no failure regardless of whether one is able to achieve success in the present phase of one's existence or not. it is quite possible that someone who calls people to falsehood might enjoy life and nourish in a worldly sense, and he might even be able to attain a substantial following for his message. But this is not true prosperity or success; rather it constitutes total loss and failure. Contrarily, it is also possible that someone who calls people to the truth might be exposed to much persecution and be overwhelmed by pain and suffering. It is possible that even before he is able to create any significant following, he is continually subjected to persecution and torture. In the Qur'anic view, such an apparently tragic end constitutes the very zenith of such a person's success rather than his failure.
Moreover, it should be remembered that it has been amply elucidated in the Qur'an that God does not punish evil-doers instantly: that He rather grants them a fair opportunity to mend their ways. Not only that, if the evil-doers misuse the respite granted by God to perpetrate further wrongs, they are sometimes granted an even further respite. In fact, at times a variety of worldly favours are bestowed upon such evil-doers in order that the potential for wickedness inherent in them might be fully exposed by their actions, proving that they do indeed deserve a very severe punishment. Hence, if an impostor continues to enjoy periods of respite and if worldly favours are lavished upon him this should not in any way give rise to the notion that he is on the right path.
In the same way as God grants respite to other evil-doers. He also grants respite to impostors. There are no grounds whatsoever for believing that the respite granted to other evil-doers would not be granted to those impostors who lay false claim to prophethood. We may well call to mind that Satan himself has been granted a respite until Doomsday, It has never been indicated that although Satan is granted a free hand to misguide human beings, as soon as he throws up an impostor claiming prophethood such a venture is instantly nipped in the bud.
In order to refute the view expressed above it is possible that someone may refer to the following verse of the Qur'an: Now if he [i.e. Muhammad] would have made up, ascribed some sayings to Us, We would indeed have seized him by the right hand, and then indeed would have cut his life-vein (al-Haqqah 69: 44-6).
Even a little reflection makes it obvious that the verse in question does not contradict the view we have expressed above. For, what the present verse says relates to a principle which God follows in dealing with true Prophets. Were any such Prophet to falsely claim something to be a revelation from God, he would instantly be seized by God's wrath. To argue to the contrary that all those who are not seized by God's wrath are necessarily genuine Prophets is simply a logical fallacy devoid of any justification. For the threat of instant Divine wrath embodied in this verse is applicable only to true Prophets, and not to impostors who, like other evil-doers, are granted a respite.
This can be well understood if we bear in mind the disciplinary rules laid down by different governments for their officials. It is obvious that those rules are not enforced in respect of ordinary citizens. Were the latter to lay any false claim to being a government official, he would be subjected to the normal rules of the criminal code relating to the conviction of those who are guilty of fraud rather than to the disciplinary rules meant for government officials. Under this analogy, an impostor who claims to be a Prophet, would be dealt with by God along with other evil-doers who commit evil, and who, as we know, are not necessarily punished immediately.
In any case, as we have pointed out earlier, the verses quoted above were not revealed so as to provide the criterion to judge the truth of anyone who lays claim to prophethood. This verse should not be considered to mean that if a celestial hand stretches forth to cut off the life-vein of a claimant to prophethood, such a person is an impostor; and if that does not happen, he is a genuine Prophet. Such a weird criterion would have been needed only if no other means were available to judge the genuineness of a claimant to prophethood. But as things stand, a Prophet is known by his character, by his work, and by the contents of his message. (Tafheemul Quran)
Islam Makes Reason the Final Judge
Islam made reason the judge in everything, whether in religion or in conviction and faith itself. God said: "And the case of those who disbelieve is like that of a person who hears the sound of a call but who does not distinguish any word or idea. To talk to them is like talking to the deaf, dumb, and blind. Those who disbelieve simply do not use their reason and neither do they understand." [Qur'an, 2:171] Commenting on this verse, Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh wrote: "This verse clearly asserts that taqlid? [Imitation of the ancestors, conservatism. -Tr.] without reason or guidance is the prerogative of the disbelievers, that man is not a convinced Muslim unless he has reasoned out his religion, known it in person, and become personally convinced of its truth and validity. Whoever, therefore, has been brought up so as to acquiesce without reason and to act without knowledge and wisdom-even though he may be virtuous-is not a convinced Muslim. Religious conviction does not have for its purpose the subjugation of man to the good as if he were an animal. Rather, its purpose is that man may, by the use of reason and the pursuit of knowledge, rise to the level where he will do the good because he fully knows that it is in itself good and acceptable to God, and avoid the evil because he fully knows its undesirable consequence and harm."
The foregoing claims of Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh given in exegesis of this verse are all to be found in the Qur'an itself in a number of other verses. The Qur'an has called upon men to look into the universe and to discover its construction and structure. It commanded men to do so in the conviction that their investigation of the structure of the universe would lead them to the discovery of God as well as of His unicity-may He be adored! God-to Whom is the praise-says: "In the creation of heaven and earth, in the succession of day and night, in the phenomena of the ships sailing across the seas with goods-for the welfare of men, in the fall of rain water from heaven to quicken a dead earth, in populating the earth with all species of animals, in the ordering of winds and clouds between sky and earth in all these there are signs and pieces of evidence for men who reason." [Qur'an, 2:164] Further, God says
Indeed, the call to look into the universe to discover its laws and to arrive at the conviction that God is its creator is repeated a hundred times in the various Surahs of the Qur'an. All these Qur'anic invitations are directed to man's rational faculties in the expectation that he will consider, search for and discover the truth, so that his religious conviction might be rational and truly supported by the facts. The Qur'an constantly warns its readers not to adopt uncritically and blindly the ideas and principles of the forefathers, but to have faith in man's personal capacity to reach the truth.