ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION AND THE WESTERN ORIENTALISTS
Taken from "The Life of Muhammad" by Muhammad Husayn Haykal,
translated by Dr. Ismail Ragi A. al Faruqi
Irving and Islamic Determinism
Washington Irving, one of the greatest writers the United States of America produced in the nineteenth century, is a real credit to his people. He has written a biography of the Arab Prophet in which the material is presented in an eloquent and captivating manner. Although his treatment is well taken at times, it is prejudiced at others. His book ends with a conclusion in which he presents the principles of Islam and what he has taken to be the historical sources of those principles. After mentioning iman in God, in His angels, Books, prophets, and the Day of Judgment, Washington Irving wrote
"The sixth and last article of the Islam faith is PREDESTINATION, and on this Mahomet evidently reposed his chief dependence for the success of his military enterprises. He inculcated that every event had been predetermined by God, and written down in the eternal tablet previous to the creation of the world. That the destiny of every individual and the hour of his death were irrevocably fixed, and could neither be varied nor evaded by any effort of human sagacity or foresight. Under this persuasion the Moslems engaged in battle without risk; and, as death in battle was equivalent to martyrdom, and entitled them to an immediate admission into paradise, they had in either alternative, death or victory, a certainty of gain.
"This doctrine, according to which men by their own free will can neither avoid sin nor avert punishment, is considered by many Mussulmen as derogatory to the justice and clemency of God; and several sects have sprung up, who endeavor to soften and explain away this perplexing dogma; but the number of these doubters is small, and they are not considered orthodox.
"The doctrine of Predestination was one of those timely revelations to Mahomet that were almost miraculous from their seasonable occurrence. It took place immediately after the disastrous battle of Ohod, in which many of his followers, and among them his uncle Hamza, were slain. Then it was, in a moment of gloom and despondency, when his followers around him were disheartened, that he promulgated this law, telling them that every man must die at the appointed hour, whether in bed or in the field of battle. He declared, moreover, that the angel Gabriel had announced to him the reception of Hamza into the seventh heaven, with the title of Lion of God and of the Prophet. He added, as he contemplated the dead bodies, `I am witness for these, and for all who have been slain for the cause of God, that they shall appear in glory at the resurrection, with their wounds brilliant as vermilion and odoriferous as musk.'
"What doctrine could have been devised more calculated to hurry forward, in a wild career of conquest, a set of ignorant and predatory soldiers, than assurance of booty if they survived, and paradise if they fell? It rendered almost irresistible the Moslem arms; but it likewise contained the poison that was to destroy their dominion. From the moment the successors of the Prophet ceased to be aggressors and conquerors, and sheathed the sword definitely, the doctrine of predestination began its baneful work. Enervated by peace, and the sensuality permitted by the Koran-which so distinctly separates its doctrine from the pure and self-denying religion of the Messiah-the Moslem regarded every reverse as preordained by Allah, and inevitable; to be borne stoically, since human exertion and foresight were vain. `Help thyself and God will help thee,' was a precept never in force with the followers of Mahomet ; and its reverse has been their fate. The crescent has waned before the cross, and exists in Europe, where it was once so mighty, only by the suffrage, or rather the jealously of the great Christian powers, probably ere long to furnish another illustration, that `they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.' [Washington Irving, Mahomet and His Successors, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott and Co., 1871, Vol, I, pp. 360-362.]
Falsity of Irving's Criticism
These are the words of Washington Irving. They are the words of a man whose study fell short of grasping the spirit of Islam and of its civilization. Hence, his false interpretation of the problem of divine providence and predestination. Perhaps Irving had some excuse in that some of the Islamic books which he may have read do in fact point in the direction of his interpretation. As for the Qur'an, the dictum "God helps them that help themselves" is far too weak to be even comparable to its emphatic call for self-reliance, its thunderous warning that men will receive exactly what their deeds and intentions had earned for them. God said
"Say, 0 Men, the truth has come to you from your Lord. Whoever is guided thereby is so to his own credit; whoever is not so guided is so to his own discredit."
In another passage God said: "Whoever is guided by the truth will earn the advantage thereof, and whoever goes astray will earn the disadvantage thereof. Do not extrapolate responsibility. No punishment is due until a prophet has been duly sent and men have been duly warned; . . . whoever seeks the advantage of the other world will receive the same and more of it. Whoever seeks the advantage of this world will receive the same, but he will have no share in the other .... God does not change the conditions of a people until that people have changed their conditions by themselves."! [Qur'an, 10:108; 17:15; 42:20; 13:11]
The Qur'an and Determinism
It is, therefore, a clearly Qur'anic position that man's will and action are the sole determinants of his worth, of his punishment or reward. Emphatically, God has urged man to go forth into the world to seek its fruits and to enjoy them.- He commanded self-exertion in His cause in very strong terms as may be seen from many verses quoted in this book. This is all irreconcilable with Irving's claim, which has been repeated by a number of other westerners, that Islam is a religion of lethargy and reliance, that it teaches its adherents that they can in no way influence whatever befalls them, whether good or evil, and hence that there is no point in their trying to do so. This claim argues that will and efficacy are exclusive prerogatives of God; that man's efforts come to naught when the divine decree orders otherwise; and that if it were decreed that somebody would become rich, strong, or a believer, this would surely come to pass without any effort or action on his part. The verses we have already cited all run counter to these claims.
It may also be possible that these western writers and thinkers attribute the lethargy and reliance of the Muslims in the recent period of their history to the Qur'anic verses which pertain to divine providence in the manner of the following: "No man may expire, except by permission of God and at a prefixed term .... every people has a term; so that whenever that term arrives, that people must fulfill that which is proper thereto at its time, neither before nor after it . . . . whatever calamity befalls the earth or your own persons is predetermined before it happens. Such determination is easy for God .... Say, `Nothing shall befall us except that which God has predetermined for us. He is our Lord; and upon Him the believers will rely.' [Qur'an, 3:145; 7:34; 57:22; 9:51] But if this is the line of their reasoning, then they have misunderstood the meanings of these verses and others like them. Misunderstanding these verses, they think Islam calls for resignation, whereas the Qur'an meant to stress the solid bond between God and His dedicated servants. The fact is that Islam is a religion which calls for exactly the opposite, for dynamism and personal initiative, self-exertion and sacrifice, self-respect and dignity, while it founds its civilization on brotherhood and mercy. Islam is the one religion which does so par excellence!
As a matter of fact, these and like verses point to a scientific truth recognized by most western philosophers and men of science in which determinism is ascribed to the general pattern of the cosmos as a whole rather than to God, the Almighty and Omniscient. This view is narrower, more rigid, and less amenable to the good of mankind than the philosophic view deducible from the Qur'an, as we shall see in the sequel. Scientific determinism teaches that man has no freedom except in the narrowest and most insignificant fields and that this little freedom is relative and is evident only as a practical consequence of social needs, but not from any established scientific or philosophical reality. It is not a principle but a provision. For without some provision for freedom of choice, it would be impossible for society to find a basis for its legislation, for the regulations it imposes on all its members under threat of criminal and civil sanction. True, some men of science and jurisprudence do not regard punishment or sanction as based on either determinism or on freedom, and they explain punishment as a response on the part of society to the need for self-preservation, just as an individual would react for his own self-preservation. It is all one for society when it reacts in self-preservation, whether the individual criminal has been free or determined in the perpetration of his crime. Nonetheless, freedom of action is still the foundation for most jurists. Their evidence therefore is the principle that the person devoid of freedom and choice, such as the insane, the child, and the moron, are never judged as the conscious man who distinguishes between good and evil.
If we go beyond these practical considerations of legislation and jurisprudence to reach a scientific and philosophical principle, we are led to conclude in favor of determinism. No man, for instance, has any choice as to the period in which he is born, nor of the nation, community, environment, nor parents to whom he is born. Just as no man chooses his parents, no man chooses them as poor or rich, perfect or imperfect; neither has he chosen his sex nor the happenings which surround his life and determine it to any great extent. The French philosopher Hyppolite Taine expressed this view with the dictum, "Man is the product of his environment." Many philosophers and scientists have adopted this view, insisting that if it were possible to know the laws and secrets of human life to the same extent as we have discovered the laws of movement of the heavenly bodies, it would become possible to predict precisely the destiny of every man and nation, just as astronomers predict with precision an eclipse of the sun or of the moon.
All this notwithstanding, no one in the West or in the East has claimed that this determinist view prevents man from seeking success in life or the nations of the world from bringing themselves up to a position of affluence and prosperity. No one claims that this determinist view leads to the deterioration and decadence of the people who believe in it. This fact remains true in spite of the westerner's subscription to determinism as not being counteracted by such strong religious pronouncements as the Qur'anic verses quoted in this chapter, which assert that "Man acquires nothing but what he himself has earned; none of his deeds is lost and each will count on the Day of Judgment." [Qur'an, 53:40] This point alone constitutes evidence that the western Orientalists' claim that determinism in Islam had led to the deterioration and decay of the Muslim peoples is nothing but a piece of sheer prejudice.
Rather, the determinism of Islam stresses far more than that of the West the need for self-exertion and personal initiative in the actualization of material and ethical values. Both systems are agreed that the cosmos has immutable patterns to which everything in the world is necessarily subject and that man is as subject to these patterns as is all of nature. Further, western determinism subjects man to determination by his environment and inheritance from his parents to such a degree that no escape from natural law is possible. It subjects man's will to this determination so that it is impossible for man to change himself. On the other hand, the Qur'an calls upon every man to govern his will by the judgment of reason and to orient it toward the ethical good. It teaches that even if the good has been predetermined to be the consequence of man's given endeavor, man cannot reach it haphazardly or without effort.
The Absolute Need for Deliberate Self-Change
God-may He be adored-said, "God does not change the conditions of a people until that people have changed their conditions by themselves." [Qur'an, 13:11] It is hence within the capacity of men to think out and to ponder their course in life once God has guided them to their duties. God does this by means of His revealed Books, by His prophets-who show men the road of goodness and truth-or by calling men to look into the universe in order to grasp its laws and the will of God imperative therein, by stirring within them the innate will to know. Whoever believes that the final disposition is God's, and directs himself toward it, will not reach except that which God had predetermined for him. If, therefore, it has been predetermined for a man to fall on the battlefield of truth and goodness that God commanded us to realize, such man has no reason to fear. He and the like of him live with their Lord and enjoy His bounty. What philosophy of progress, advancement and self-exertion, and freedom of will compares with this philosophy of Islam? Where in it is the lethargic reliance upon fate which Irving and his fellow Orientalists claim?
Tawakul, or lethargic reliance upon God, has nothing to do with tawakkul, or trust in God. Trust in God does not consist in man?s lethargic immobility and lack of response to the commandment of his Lord but in the serious and active pursuit of that commandment. That is why God says, ?And if you have resolved on a certain course, then put your trust (tawakkul) in God.? [Qur'an, 3:159] Resolution and will, therefore, must precede tawakkul or trust in God. Indeed, when a man does resolve to put his trust in God, he will surely reach his objective by God?s grace. We may even say that if man seeks God?s sake alone if he fears Him alone, and if he follows His path alone, he will reach the good by reason of God?s necessary pattern in the cosmos. This divine pattern, it must be remembered, is immutable and necessary. In his pursuit of the good, therefore, man must reach his objective since that is the pattern of God in the cosmos regardless of whether he survives his pursuit or perishes in the process. The good thus achieved by man is from God. The bad that he achieves is his own work, earned by following a path other than God?s. The good is all in God?s hands; evil and misguidance are both the inspiration of the devil and his handwork.
As for God?s knowledge of all that happened in the world before its creation, the fact is that ?Nothing, not even an atom in heaven and earth, or even anything smaller than that or bigger, escapes God?s knowledge and attention. Everything is clearly laid out on the divine tablet.? [Qur'an, 34:3] This statement simply means that God has provided for creation immutable patters necessarily followed by everything which is or happens therein. And if, as we said earlier, scientists claim that positive science can predict the future of every individual and every nation with certainty if the secrets and laws of human life be known, just as it is possible to predict the eclipse of the sun and moon, we should also admit that faith in God demands that we stand ever certain of His knowledge of everything before creation. An engineer who lays down a plan for a house or a palace and observes this plan in the erection of the building, knows how long the building will stand and what its various parts may suffer from exposure to the elements.
Likewise, economists claim that their knowledge of economic laws enables them to predict with certainty any future prosperity or crisis in the economic life of the world. Once such an assertion is granted, then there is all the more reason to say that God does indeed know everything big or small in this world and that to deny divine knowledge is unacceptable sophistry. Such knowledge of God, however, does not and need not prevent men from planning their own course of action, from exerting themselves in the pursuit of truth and goodness, or from seeking to avoid misguidance. The knowledge of God is not open to man. But man will reach and know the truth at the end, however distant that end may seem today. God has taken upon Himself to show mercy. He accepts the repentence of His servants and is very forgiving. Since God's mercy envelops everything, man should not despair of receiving guidance to the truth and to the good as long as he constantly studies the universe and seeks to discover its laws. No man may despair of God's mercy, since his study of the cosmos will, in the final analysis, guide him to the path of God. But woe to him who denies his humanity, who is too proud to study the universe, and who fails to seek God's guidance! Such a man offends God and does not seek His face! Such a man has his heart and mind sealed! To him belongs hellfire and evil destiny!
Will then the western Orientalists see the loftiness of Islamic determinism and the wide scope it leaves open for human freedom of action? Will they realize the falsity of their claim that Islamic determinism demands self immobilization, acceptance of humiliation, and satisfaction with submission to any but God? Certainly, Islamic determinism leaves the gate wide open for hope in God's mercy and forgiveness to anyone who repents and changes for better. What then becomes of their claim that Islamic determinism demands of the Muslim to regard whatever evil befalls him as an inscrutable divine decree that he must suffer in patience, however damaging or humiliating it may be? Such a claim stands at the farthest possible remove from Islamic determinism, which calls upon man always to exert himself in the pursuit of God's pleasure and to trust in God only after he has resolved upon a course of action. If man does not achieve the good today, he is commanded to keep on striving that he may achieve it on the morrow. He should fix his hope upon God that He may guide his path, accept his repentance, and forgive him. In this hope, man has the best impulsion to continue his search, his exertion and his pursuit, and will hence come nearer to realizing the utmost level of God's pleasure, the God Whom he worships, Whose help he asks for, and Who is the source of all guidance and unto Whom everything shall return.
The strength of thought which these noble teachings provide is tremendous, and the wide horizons they lay open before them are breathtaking. They regard man as sure to reach the good if, in his action, he seeks nothing but the face of God; and in case man is led astray by the devil, his repentance is acceptable to God as long as his reason and judgment overwhelm his passion and return him to the straight path. The straight path is itself the pattern of God in creation, a pattern discoverable by reason and heart through investigation of God's creation and constant self-exertion in the search for nature's laws. If, despite all this assurance, some men continue not to recognize God, to spread corruption on earth, and to remain blind to the values of brotherhood and immune to their moving appeal, they will sooner or later come to tragedy. Their fate, however, would only constitute God's didactic example to the rest of mankind. That is the justice of God and His mercy to all, which are not affected by the erring of the misguided few who finally receive that which their misdeeds had earned for them.
But, it may be asked: Since every man's hour is written already, why do men act when they know that death is lying in wait for them, that when their term comes, their fate will be fulfilled on the hour? Why do men think and search, exert themselves and work when some are predetermined to happiness and felicity and others to suffering and misery? This is a repetition of the question which we have just answered. We are repeating it deliberately in order to raise another issue, namely that of man's last hour. That which God predetermined as man's last hour was indeed part of the pattern of the cosmos before there was even a cosmos, before God created the world by commanding it to be. This point is evidenced in the divine statement, "God has taken upon Himself to show mercy." [Qur'an, 7:12] This statement means that mercy is an attribute of God and hence part of the cosmic pattern, not an exertion of His will. God says that "We shall impose no punishment until We have sent a prophet." [Qur'an, 17:15] If, therefore, a people have gone astray without God having sent them a prophet, the divine pattern prescribes that none of them shall suffer any punishment. God's knowledge of. the effect of His pattern in the cosmos is evident to anyone who believes that God is the Creator of the cosmos. But if God does send a prophet to a certain people, and the cosmic pattern and God's will prescribe that some of them persist in going astray despite the call to wisdom and guidance, their evil is upon themselves and their suffering will be an example for the rest.
Misguidance Is Injustice to Oneself
It may not be claimed that those who persist in their misguidance have been punished or have suffered an injustice because their misguidance was predetermined for them. Such an assertion would be naive, not deceptive, because the least amount of reasoning leads to the conclusion that whoever goes astray does indeed do injustice to himself. To clarify this argument, it is sufficient for us to consider the example of the compassionate father of a child standing close to a fire. If the child seeks to touch the fire, the father moves him away from it, explaining that it would burn him otherwise. But if he brings his child close to the fire again, the father would do so under the assumption that his child's fingers being burnt will give him a direct sensation of fire, a realization which will persist in his memory throughout his life. Once the child becomes an adult and touches the fire, or throws himself into it, he surely deserves the burns thus inflicted. His father is not to blame, and no one would expect the father to stand between his grown son and the fire in order to stop such a happening. A similar case is that of the father who explains to his son the evils of alcohol and of gambling. If, after attaining maturity, the child violates the commandment of his father and suffers for it, his father may not be declared unjust toward him, even though it may have been within his capability to prevent his son by force from drinking or gambling. Indeed, it would even be the duty of his father not to interfere and prevent such violation if the son's violation provides a moral and example to his brethren and relatives. If one considers as relatives and brethren the hundreds and thousands who inhabit the cities where temptations necessarily abound, it is good and just that some violators do suffer the consequences of their deeds so that the moral health of the community may be preserved, however regretful their personal suffering may be to the community. This example is an elementary case of justice as we apprehend it in our human community. How stronger should it be when we consider the universe as a whole, the millions upon millions of creatures in infinite space and time! Whatever punishment may fall upon any individual or people as the result of their injustice is indeed just in the purview of that vast cosmic picture which our imagination can hardly represent.
Our Personal Ethical Ideals
If we impute injustice to a father who leaves his erring son to meet the consequences which have been predetermined for his misconduct, we should impute injustice to ourselves when we kill the flea in fear of its sting or in fear of contagion with the disease which it may carry and which may be calamitous to us as well as to the community in which we live. Following that reasoning, we should not be surprised if injustice is imputed to ourselves when we break up and dissolve the stones in our liver or kidney in fear of the pain or discomfort which such stones bring, or when we cut off a member or organ of our body in fear of its disease spreading to the rest of the body and bringing about its death. If we do not kill the flea, break up the stone, or cut off the member or organ, and, in consequence, we suffer pain, contagion, calamity, or death, we blame only ourselves on the grounds that the road to cure was wide open.
But so is the road of repentance for the guilty. It is only the ignorant who submit to pain and misery in the belief that it has been predetermined for them. This kind of submission is nothing short of stupidity and naivet頯n their part. But we do kill the flea, break and remove the stone, and cut off the sick organ and yet consider all this perfect justice when it is predetermined in the matter of the cosmos that the flea shall sting and thus carry contagion to man, that the stone shall disturb the organ and cause it to malfunction, that the sick organ shall communicate its sickness to the whole body and thus bring about death. How do we who make such judgments feel so certain of their validity and truth, and yet fail to recognize the implied limitation of justice to our own person and its non-extension to the human community as a whole? Indeed, how do we choose to ignore the cosmos as a whole, as it really is? To do so is an unjustified piece of idiocy and stupidity, a case of extreme narrow mindedness and low intelligence.
Good Works Are Acts of Worship
And what is the flea, the stone, or man himself when compared to the large universe? Indeed, what is humanity itself in this regard? The universe is so great that our mind, incapable of imagining it, turns to such concepts as eternity, infinity, and the like in order to give us an incomplete picture of it, a picture as incomplete as our knowledge is little. Our knowledge is indeed limited, but despite its limitation, it is still great enough to guide us to the divine pattern in the universe, and to understand that divine pattern as orderly, immutable, and determined. God has given us faculties of knowledge, hearing, sight, and a heart that we may learn with them the creative work of His own hand and the patterns He has imbedded in the cosmos. Such knowledge is prerequisite to religious feeling and thinking. We must know God and know His work if we are to praise Him, to thank Him, and to do the good which He commands. To do the good in conviction or iman is the noblest form of worship that any rational creature can offer to God.
Death, Conclusion, and Beginning of Life
As for death, it is the end of one life and the beginning of another. Consequently, it is feared only by those who deny the other life or fear it on account of their ill conduct in this life. Such men never wish for death because they know what awaits them. Those who wish for death sincerely and fearlessly are the true believers, the truly convinced, and the doers of good deeds in the world.
God-may He be adored-says
"He who created death as well as life that you may prove who of you is the better in deed is the Almighty and the Merciful." [Qur'an, 6:2]
Further, addressing His Prophet, He said-may He be praised-. "No human has ever been granted everlasting life. If you will certainly die, will they not? Every man shall taste of death, and the evil and good which befall you are a trial for you. To earth will be your return." [Qur'an, 21:34-35] Further, He says: "Those unto whom the Torah has been revealed but who have not observed its commandments are like a donkey carrying a load of books. Wretched are the people who deny the revelations of God. God does not guide the unjust in their injustice. Say, `0 Jews, if, as you pretend, you are the friends of God and His elect of all mankind, wish for death that you may prove your sincerity.' But they never wish for death, for rejoining their Lord; and that is because they know that their arms have wrought evil and injustice. God knows the unjust." [Qur'an, 62:5-7] God also says, "It is He who terminates your life by night, Who knows every violation you have committed by day, Who will resurrect you after a prescribed term, return you to Himself, and confront you with all the deeds that you have wrought on earth." [Qur'an, 6:60]
These verses are extremely emphatic in their rejection of the Orientalists' claim that Islamic determinism implies immobolization and unconcern for work and acquisition. God created life and death that men may prove who among them is the better worker of deeds. The theater of human achievement is this life; reward and punishment come after death. If men do not work, if they do not strike out into the earth and seek therein God's bounty, if they do not earn and hence do not give in charity of that which God has provided for them, nor perform any good to others, however little their means may be, they have disobeyed God. It is no excuse for them that they have nothing to give, for their duty is to go out and earn. Failure to perform one duty constitutes no justification of their failure to perform another. On the contrary, those who earn and give are the more righteous in God's sight and the more deserving of rewards in the other world. Through good and evil works God gives us the chance to prove ourselves. Upon us devolves the duty of rationally distinguishing between them. Not an atom's weight of good nor an atom's weight of evil done in this world will be lost on the Day of Judgment. If nothing befalls us except what has been predetermined by God, we should concern ourselves all the more to discern the good that we may realize it in the world. It makes no difference whatever whether God chooses to terminate our lives at the prime of youth, vitality, wisdom, and glory, or at old age when we become senile and lapse into childish ignorance. The measure of a life is certainly not the number of years one lives, but the good works which one does that nothing can obliterate. Those who die in the cause of God are alive with their Lord, and they are alive among us inasmuch as we continue to remember them. Many are the men who have written their names indelibly on history because they dedicated themselves to the good. Among us, surely, they are still alive, even though they may have died hundreds of years ago.
"And when their term arrives, men shall meet their death at its prescribed hour, neither before nor after." [Qur'an, 7:13] This, indeed, is the truth. It alone accords with the pattern of the universe. Man has an hour which he cannot outlive, just as the sun and the moon have their terms and their eclipse always occurs according to law, without fail. It is more likely that man's awareness that his life will terminate will incite him to hasten the performance of good deeds and to exert all possible effort. Moreover, the fact that man does not know when his hour will strike will stir his anxiety enough to prepare for that eventuality. Everyday we witness new evidence that man's hour is determined and, when it strikes, inevitable. Some people die suddenly without apparent reason; others fall sick and fight for their lives for decades until they reach a decrepit old age. A number of medical men today claim that the agent which brings about man's death is innate to him and that the period this agent requires to achieve its objective would not be impossible to calculate if the agent itself could be isolated and identified-a problem of no little difficulty-though not impossible. God, who is omniscient, knows the hour of every man by reason of the immutable and eternal pattern he has imbedded in the cosmos as a whole.
Prophets Are Always Folkmen
It is the method of His mercy-may He be adored-that He will inflict no punishment until He has sent a prophet to guide men to the truth and to show them the path to the good. If God were to punish men for the injustices they commit, immediately upon their commission of them, no creature would be left alive on earth. But He defers judgment to a future but definite term in order to give them a chance to listen to the prophet, to follow his guidance, and to resist the appeal of lowly life. The prophets whom God has sent were neither royal nor wealthy. They belonged neither to the rank of the great and glorious nor to that of the men of science. Rather He has chosen His prophets from among the populace. Ibrahim was a carpenter, and so was his father. Jesus was a carpenter in Nazareth. Many others were shepherds, and so was the Seal and last of them, Muhammad-may God's peace and blessing be upon him. God chooses His prophets from among the populace in order to teach that the truth is not the exclusive monopoly of the rich or the strong but is available to whosoever seeks it for its own sake and for its own sake alone. The eternal truth is that man does not fulfill his iman until he has desired for his fellow man that which he has loved for himself, and has acted and lived in accordance with the principle. "The worthier among you in the sight of God is the more pious, the more virtuous .... Work and realize the good, for God will reckon your achievement" and you will be given exactly what you have earned." [Qur'an, 49:13; 4:106. The author does not quote these words in the manner proper to Qur'anic words, but uses them as his own-a perfectly permissive literary feature in Arabic. The last part of the sentence not included within quotation marks sounds Qur'anic in construction and phrasing, but it is not of the Qur'an. -Tr.] The great truth is that God is, and that there is no God but He.
Death is the terminus of one life and the commencement of another. It is the terminus of this life and the beginning of the life beyond. We know but little about this life, namely, that which is accessible to our senses, that to which our reason leads us, and that which our intuitive faculties enable us to behold. As for the life beyond, we do not know anything about it except what God has revealed to us. Of the patterns of the cosmos, many are not given to us that are known to the Omniscient, the Great and Glorious God Who sees all. Sufficient unto us therefore is what God related in His Holy Book concerning the life beyond. He told us that it is the House of Judgment, of Reward and Punishment. Let us then prepare ourselves in this life by our deeds and our resolution to take our affairs into our own hands. Let us put our trust in God and await His just reward. What lies beyond these considerations belongs to God alone.
After all this, will Washington Irving, and the Orientalists and non-Orientalists who follow in his footsteps, realize how deeply erroneous is their understanding of the determinism of Islam? Our foregoing discussion has been limited to what the Holy Qur'an has said on the matter. That is precisely because we do not wish to open a controversy by bringing in the opinions of the Sufis, the mutakallimun, the philosophers, and other Muslim schools. Irving is in deep error when he claims that divine judgment, providence, and man's final hour were all given in those Qur'anic passages that were revealed after the Battle of Uhud and the martyrdom of Hamzah. Actually, many of the verses that we have quoted in this discussion are Makkan and were revealed before the Hijrah and before any battles were fought by the Muslims. As a matter of fact, Irving and his like fall into error because they fail to give adequate scientific consideration to such an important and grave problem as determinism. They understand Islam under categories which accord with their Christian or Western inclinations and prejudices, and then they construct a patchwork of so-called evidence to prove their prejudice, thinking that they can really convince their readers and hoping that no one will take to task their argument and analyze their reasoning.
The Philosophic Value of Islamic Determinism
Had the Orientalists understood Islamic determinism in the manner we have described, they would have appreciated its philosophic worth and profound value. For Islamic determinism regards life in a manner coherent with the most advanced, precise, philosophical, and scientific theories which human thought has achieved in its long and progressive history. The Islamic philosophic idea is synthetic. It does not exclude scientific determinism, nor does it deny the world as will and idea or the doctrine of emergent evolution.["Scientific Determinism," "The World as Will and Idea," and "Emergent Evolution" are philosophic systems advanced by the positivist philosophers, Schopenhauer and Henri Bergson.] Rather, Islamic determinism includes all these views within its system as aspects of the pattern of the cosmos and life. This is not the place to elaborate this point in detail. Nonetheless, we shall try to state it as succinctly and as clearly as possible, hoping that the reader will agree that the greatness, comprehensiveness, and depth of this idea is comparable with any other theory known or discovered until now, and that it leaves the door wide open for any great advance human thought may achieve in the future.
Before we begin our brief statement, two observations are in order and should not be forgotten. First, it is not the intention of this author to contradict any Christian theory. The revelation of Jesus has been confirmed by Islam, as we have had many occasions to see in the course of this work. Islam sought to synthesize the prophecies and divine messages which had gone before and to provide for them a climax and a crowning. As the Gospel substantiates Jesus Christ's claim to his disciples, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law . . . I am not come to destroy but to fulfill," [Matthew, 5:17] just so the Qur'an confirmed the Muslim's iman in Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus, and all the preceding prophets. Islam came as a synthesis of all the previous divine revelations, as a correction and reproof of all the tampering with scripture done by the followers of those prophets. The second point is that the philosophical theory deducible from the Qur'an has been discovered by others before but in a different way than that which I am following in these pages. I have reached it in the way I have because I have opened myself to the guidance of the Qur'an and followed a modern scientific method. If God has guided me to the truth, to Him belongs the praise and the gratitude. And if I have missed the truth in some of my reasoning, then it is all the more cause to pray for my mistakes to be corrected by men of knowledge. But that too is to praise God and to be grateful for His blessing.
The first principle the Qur'an firmly establishes is that God has implanted in the universe immutable patterns and eternal laws. The universe does not only consist of our earth and all that is on it, nor is it limited to all that our senses can reach by way of stars and other heavenly bodies. The universe consists of all that God has created, whether sensory or non-sensory, past, present or future. If we only attempt to imagine God's creation, we will realize that our knowledge is indeed small. The space which stands between us and the stars of heaven, electricity which fills this space as well as our earth, the great vastness of space which separates us from the sun and the stars and other systems of heavenly bodies yet farther than the sun and separated from us by thousands of light years, and the infinity of space lying still beyond these which is beyond our imagination but known to God-all this runs according to changeless and immutable laws. All that we have scientifically known about creation is still very scant; in it the actual has been mixed up with the imaginary. Indeed, the real component of our so-called knowledge is little by comparison with the fictitious. However, it constitutes all that we genuinely know of the universe and serves as foundation for what we call the laws of the universe and of life, and puts a critical brake on our overhasty will to generalize. If, for a moment, we were to lift this brake, our imagination would seek to encompass the whole and the result would be the greatest flowering of science fiction. Supposing, for instance, that the inhabitants of Mars were to build a broadcasting station of a force of one hundred million kilowatts in order to bring to us, the inhabitants of the earth, details of what was taking place on their planet and show it to us by means of television. Would it then be possible for man on earth to restrain his imagination, considering that Mars is not the most distant of the planets nor the most difficult with which to have communication ?
Everything in this vast universe, of which we know so little, exerts some influence on our world and everything it contains. If any one of these heavenly bodies were to change its course or structure in some measure, however little, the pattern of our universe would be equally affected by such a change, and our own short and insignificant life that is already determined by our environment would equally be affected. Naturally, our life is more deeply affected by the greater cosmic forces and changes; even so, in suffering their effects, we may achieve the good as well as its opposite. The final result is not only a function of the influences we suffer, but of our preparation for receiving such influences and our mastery of ourselves in disposing of their effects. Many an identical pattern has determined many people in different ways, propelling some to good, others to evil, with all the variant degrees between them. In this life, good and evil are the effects of a dialectical relation between the elements and factors of the cosmos and the human soul. Thus, both good and evil may be said to result from the immutable pattern of the cosmos and follow necessarily from its existence, just as the positive and the negative are necessary implications of the existence of electricity, and microbes and germs are necessary implications of human bodily life.
Nature of Good and Evil
Nothing, therefore, is evil in itself or good in itself but is so in relation to the purpose which it serves and the consequences which it brings about. What is sometimes regarded as evil may at other times be absolutely necessary, or absolutely good. Many of the devices that in war time serve to annihilate millions of humans and destroy man's greatest monuments may during peace furnish the greatest advantages. Dynamite, for instance, is absolutely necessary for the construction of tunnels, of railways, and for the discovery of mines and the realization of their priceless treasures. Even poison gas that hostile nations hurl at one another in the most shameful and calamitously irresponsible acts of war can be put to many advantageous uses during peacesuch as the use of chlorine gas to purify water and to detect other harmful and dangerous gases.
Men have always been tempted to think that some insects, birds, and animals are absolutely useless. Study and research have changed these prejudices by showing the good purpose each of these species serves. Indeed, some countries have even promulgated legislation for the protection of these species in appreciation of the service they render to mankind. The zoologists have observed that animals can live in peace with their environments as long as their environments do not interfere with the discharge of their natural functions and that they do not harm other creatures except in self-defense or under alien pressures.
Ethical Nature of Human Deeds
As for us humans, our deeds are likewise neither good nor evil in themselves but have value only with reference to the purpose that they serve and the consequence that they achieve. Is not homicide a crime and hence forbidden? Nonetheless, God says, "And do not kill anyone; for God has forbidden it, unless it be a case of right, and after due process of law." [Qur'an, 6 :151; 17 :33] Killing by right, therefore, is morally unassailable. God said, "In punishment, great value-indeed a whole life-may be realized, 0 Men of thought!" [Qur'an, 2:179] The executioner who kills the condemned convict, the man who kills another in self-defense, the soldier who kills in defending his homeland, and the believer who kills resisting those who would force him to abjure his faith, all these are guilty of neither disobedience nor crime when they commit homicide. They are fulfilling a divine duty imposed upon them by God and are deserving of righteous merit. What is true of homicide may also be true of many other deeds of men, as far as good and evil are concerned. The scientist who discovers a destructive force and the technologist who produces the instruments with which to deliver it, whether for the purpose of defending the homeland or for peacetime use, indeed every human operation on earth-none of these is good or evil in itself, but only in reference to the purpose it seeks to realize and the actual consequence it brings about.
The Gateway of Repentance
Such is the will of God and His pattern for the universe. Since God created men with different endowments and hence with varying preparation for understanding this pattern, some men exhaust all their energies usufructing and exploiting the very spot of the environment in which they are born and in which they grow. Some men are endowed with technological skills, others are endowed with faculties necessary for the professions, the arts and the sciences-all of which together are necessary if man is to be guided to the divine pattern. Since knowledge of the divine pattern is absolutely necessary for man if he is to lead a life of righteousness, God has granted to some individuals the gift of prophethood. He has selected some to convey His message to men, to show them the good and the evil. To others, he has granted the faculties with which to pursue science and logic that they may, as heirs to the Prophet, guide mankind to what it ought to do and not to do. Moreover, God has endowed every man with the necessary intellectual and emotional faculties for understanding and grasping the teachings thus offered, for disciplining himself in truth and wisdom and fulfilling in life God's imperative: in short, for doing good and avoiding evil. If, all this notwithstanding, some men fail to understand and commit evil, and if the community punishes them for their misdeeds in order to safeguard itself against their harm, this need not hinder their repentance and return to the straight path. Whoever commits a misdeed in ignorance or weakness, corrects himself, changes his orientation, and returns to God obedient and repentant, God will surely forgive and accept. Hence, the criminal or author of any misdeed ought to learn from the wisdom of the past in order to purify himself; he ought to use this wisdom to enable himself to be rehabilitated. God, the Merciful and Forgiving, will accept his repentance.
This presentation of the moral issue of human life has the merit of synthesizing many philosophical views hitherto deemed beyond conciliation. It clearly recognizes a purposive, efficacious will in all that is. "All being," God says, "is such that if We desire any part of it to exist, We command it to be and it will be." [Qur'an, 16:40] It regards the universe as inclusive of all that is perceivable by sense as well as that which is not so perceivable and as subject to immutable natural laws that, despite the limitation of our capacities, are still discoverable by rational effort, the more so the more we exert ourselves in their study and pursuit. Moreover, it regards the universe as one whose foundation is the good. Though evil is ubiquitous and oft seems to prevail, our view regards the constant victory of good over evil as constitutive of the universe's emergent evolution, the progressive perfection the world has so far achieved through its long history.
Man's Spiritual Development
The reader will recognize that our presentation assumes human progress toward perfection, and regards it as the ideal of the highest philosophical system possible. Furthermore, the Qur'an regards spiritual development as the central principle of God's creation of the earth and all that is in it. God created heaven and earth in six days, it asserts, and then rested on His throne. Were these six days equivalent to our days on earth? Or were they such that "One day with your Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning?" [Qur'an, 22:47] This is not the place to discuss whether such statements imply a theory of evolution, or whether the Qur'an regards evolution as the law of the cosmos. Further, it asserts that God created Adam and Eve and asked the angels to serve them and that all angels did so except Satan who was not moved by the fact that God had told Adam all the names. God said
" `0 Adam, reside with your wife in the Garden. Eat of such of its fruits as you wish, but do not come near this tree and thus be guilty of injustice.' Seeking to misguide them and to make them aware of their shame, Satan told them that God had forbidden them the fruit of that tree in order to prevent them from becoming angelic or eternal. He pledged to them that he only meant to give them good counsel. Thus, by deception he caused them to transgress. After they tasted of the fruit of the tree, their shame became manifest and they covered themselves with leaves. Their Lord called out to them: `Have I not forbidden you the fruit of this tree and warned you of Satan's grave hostility to you?' They answered, `0 God, we have transgressed and thereby wronged ourselves. If You do not have mercy on us and forgive us, surely our fate will be that of the lost.' God said, `Go forth! Some of you will henceforth be enemies of the others. On earth, you will have but a temporary abode. Therein you will spend your lives
you will die and will be raised again.' 0, Men, We have provided for you clothes and raiment with which to cover your bodies. But the raiment of piety and good deeds is far superior. This is another sign and evidence from your Lord that you might remember and observe. 0 Men, let not Satan deceive you anymore, as he succeeded in forcing your ancestors out of the Garden by seeking to show them their shame. Satan and his legion keep a constant eye upon you. You have no awareness of them. Their nature is to be the friends and guides of those who have no faith and no conviction." [Qur'an, 7:19-27]
Adam and Eve departed from the Garden, and their progeny became hostile to one another. They strove and still strive the length of their lives. The powers and faculties with which God had endowed them help them in their effort, but they shall continue to struggle on earth until God's purpose is fulfilled.
Cruelty and prejudice, strife and competition characterize the first attempts of human life on earth. God said
"And relate to them the true story of the two sons of Adam. Each one of them made an offering to God but only one was accepted. The son whose offering was not accepted said to the other, `I shall kill you.' The other answered, `God accepts the offering only of those who are righteous. Should you attack and kill me, I shall not attack you because I fear God, the Lord of the Universe. If you do what you say, yours will be a double guilt-that of being unrighteous in the first place and that of killing me in the second. You will surely then deserve the right punishment as all other unjust men, namely the fire.' Induced by his passion, the son of Adam killed his brother and reaped the fate of the lost. God then sent a raven which scratched into the ground, thereby showing him how to bury the corpse of his brother. As he interred his brother, remorse gripped him and he repented for what he had done, realizing that he was not even as worthy as the raven who had just taught him how to dispose of the dead. On this account We have prescribed, as We did for the Children of Israel, that whoever kills a man for a purpose other than self-defense or legitimate punishment for misdoing is as guilty as he who kills the whole of mankind; and, likewise, that whoever saves a life has saved the lives of all mankind. Repeatedly have Our messengers come to men with clear evidence of this, but many of them still perpetrate their injustice in the world." [Qur'an, 6:27-32]
Jealousy, cruelty, resentment, and hostility are all amply evident in the story of this fratricide. The righteous victim, on the other hand, did not respond with forgiveness and pardon when his brother threatened to kill him. Rather, his response was that he wished to have him carry the double burden of his own misdeeds and of the murder he was contemplating and thus earn the punishment of hell. Undoubtedly, the man spoke in concert with human nature and its overwhelming inclination to seek to punish evil rather than magnanimously to forgive it.
The children of Adam multiplied and spread over the earth. God sent them prophets to remind and warn them of Him. But they persisted in going astray; their spiritual life was dead, and their minds utterly blocked to the truth. God sent Noah to call his people to the worship of the One God, and he warned them saying: "I fear for you the punishment of a painful death." But his people paid him little heed. Following Noah, many prophets came and many divine messages were conveyed, all calling to the worship of God alone. Gradually stagnation became the rule, and men's minds became utterly closed to the divine call. Indeed, they took the creatures of the world for Gods; and whenever a prophet was sent to them by their Lord, they either belied or killed him. Nonetheless, the stagnation of men was repeatedly shaken by prophets, sent from God, who planted good seeds. Although these were slow to grow, they were not without significant effects; for, is truth ever wholly lost? If men happen to be so vain as to avoid the message of truth or to ridicule its conveyor, they will still ponder that message when they are alone and consider what it says. At any rate, those who have apprehended the divine messages have always been few, and these few have often been guilty of false pride.
In ancient Egypt, the priesthood knew and believed the monotheistic truth, but they taught the people something else and multiplied for them their gods. They regarded this practice as necessary for safeguarding their authority and glory. So attached were they to their own powers that they opposed Moses and his brother Aaron's calling them to God and their seeking Pharaoh's permission for the Children of Israel to follow them. Further, the Qur'an relates the stories of the prophets who followed one another across the centuries while the great majorities of their people persisted in their misguidance. In the Qur'anic accounts of the prophets of the past, one significant point ought to be underlined. First, however, we must recall the history of Moses and Jesus and the subsequent history of Muhammad-may God's blessing be upon him.
The Judgment of Reason and Belief in Miracles
The point to be noted is the separation of, or what seems to be the discrepancy between, reason and its logique on one hand, and faith built upon acceptance of miracles and extraordinary events on the other. God confirmed every one of His prophets with some miracle in order to enable him to win the confidence of his people. However, only a few men believed in their prophets or took them seriously. Men's minds were still too undeveloped to understand that God is the Creator of everything, that He is One, that He is the just Lord of the universe, and that there is no God but He. Before God chose to send Moses, the latter had run away from Egypt in fear and found security in the desert with the tribe of Midyan into which he also married. Before God permitted him to return, "He was called from the right side of the valley, from the blessed spot, out of the tree `0 Moses, verily, I am God, Lord of the universe.' Moses was told to lay down his staff ; but when he saw it move as if it were a serpent, he ran away without turning back. Again he was called to approach. He was ordered to search inside his garment, to shed away his fear, and compose himself. God then said to him: `This is the judgment of your Lord which you will convey to Pharaoh and his government; namely, they have become a truly corrupt people.' [Qur'an, 28:30-32]
Pharaoh's magician priests did not respond favorably to Moses' call until his rod devoured all their rods. Only then did they prostrate themselves and declare their faith in God, the Lord of Aaron, and of Moses. Nonetheless, the Children of Israel persisted in their misguidance. Indeed, they even asked Moses to show them God with their own eyes; and as soon as he passed away, they returned to the worship of the calf. Following Moses, their prophets came to call them to God, but they killed them unjustly. When they did return to the worship of God, they expected a Messiah who would return to them a political kingdom and the material power with which to rule the world. This series of events is not so far removed from us that it remains lost in the darkness of early history. Barely twenty-five centuries old, this event clearly shows man's preference of selfishness over reason and his desire for material things over the things of spirit.
A few centuries later, Jesus, confirmed by God's holy spirit, came calling men to God. Since Jesus was a Jew, the Jews first thought of him as their Messiah and expected him to return to the Jews their lost kingdom in the promised land. The hardships they suffered under Roman rule had made them all the more anxious to achieve such a political kingdom. They waited, however, in order to find out more precisely what Jesus was about. Did Jesus appeal to the logic of reason alone? No. Rather, it was a miracle that opened the road to his persuasion of them. If the Christian stories are not mistaken, it was the miracle of transforming the water into wine at the wedding of Cana that first drew public attention to Jesus. Thereafter came the miracles of the loaves of bread and fishes, of curing the sick, and of resurrecting the dead that made it possible for him to teach the public by appealing to their hearts, feelings, and emotions. Reason and its logic played a very minor role in his teaching. Nonetheless, Jesus proved more successful than his predecessors. He had combined his appeal to feeling, mercy, forgiveness, and love with a call to God, devoid of critical evidence and rational proof. Whenever people suspected his cause, God permitted him to perform a new miracle and thus regain their loyalty and appreciation. His miracles included the curing of the leper, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead. They produced such a strong appeal among his followers that some of them thought that he was the Son of God, and others that he was God incarnate coming to expiate the sins of men. This evidence clearly shows that men were not mature enough to comprehend by force of reason alone the supreme truth regarding the Creator-may He be adored-namely, that He is One, Eternal, Unbegotten and Unbegetting, and that nothing is like unto Him.
The Rational Sciences
Long before the times of Moses and Jesus, the science of ancient Egypt as well as its philosophy and law had passed to Greece and Rome, which had then spread their dominion. It was Egypt that contributed to Greek philosophy and literature their noblest ideas. The new rationalist awakening thus produced, warned and convinced the people that miracles constitute no argument at all. It was in consequence of this that Greek philosophy contributed to the multiplication of Christian doctrines and hence to sectarianism diversification in Egypt, Palestine and al Sham, as we had occasion to see earlier. But it was God's pattern that reason shall constitute the apogee of human life, as long as it is not composed of empty logic, not devoid of feeling and spirit, and as long as it martials all these faculties in a synthesized effort to discover the secrets of the universe and achieve intimate knowledge of the cosmic pattern. Thus, it was decreed by God that soon the Prophet of Islam would rise to call men to the truth through reason, complemented by feeling and spirit, and that the one miracle of such a gnoseological synthesis should be the Holy Book revealed to His Prophet Muhammad. With Muhammad's revelation and teaching, God completed for men their religion and granted them His blessings. With it, He climaxed all prophethood, concluded all revelation, and sealed it. But all this took place only after the prophets' great and continuous effort and the messengers' guiding of mankind in its spiritual deportment until it could reach the height of the Islamic call to faith and conviction in one God alone.
To complement and buttress this new conviction in the Divine "Unicity," the duties discussed in the first part of this conclusion were instituted. All were designed to enable the believer to reach this pinnacle of vision. It is also man's duty always to strive after a vision of God's pattern in creation. That is what the Muslims strove to do in the early centuries of their history until they began to decline.
The arguments so far adduced refute the western Orientalists' interpretation of Islamic determinism and the Qur'anic position on fate and the last hour. They prove without a shadow of doubt that Islam is a religion of striving and activism in all the theaters of life-the spiritual, the scientific, the religious, and the worldly. They prove that God's immutable pattern in the cosmos is that man will get what his own deeds have earned for him and that God-may He be adored-will commit no injustice to anyone. Rather, it is men who commit injustice to themselves. Indeed, men do injustice to themselves when they think that they can achieve God's blessing through stagnation and inactivity, through tawakul or lazy dependence, disguised as tawakkul or trust in God.
Material Wealth and Children
Although these arguments have proved this point without a doubt, I am unable to overlook one other argument that I consider extremely important. It is the argument implied in the divine statement:
"Wealth and children are the ornaments and joy of this life; but the good deeds, imperishable as they are, weigh more with your Lord. They are indeed better, and provide a sound basis for greater hopes." [Qur'an, 18:46]
Nothing in the world incites us to greater exertion, striving, and work than the acquisition of wealth. In its pursuit, most men spend the greatest part of their energies. Indeed, they often outdo themselves. One look at our modern world is sufficient to perceive the strenuous persistence, the hardships, the wars, the revolutions, and the disturbances that occur all for the sake of wealth. For its sake monarchies become republics, blood is shed, and men lay down their lives. So much for wealth. As for children, they are pieces of our flesh groping the earth in front of us! What hardship will we not gladly bear for their sake! What bitterness will not taste sweet as long as it leads to their security, health and happiness! Every hardship we encounter on the road to their happiness becomes easy; every conflict becomes harmony. And there are men who for the sake of wealth and children would do that which would otherwise be impossible. Indeed, some people are so committed to such a pursuit that they would sacrifice their own happiness and even their lives.
Wealth and children, therefore, do constitute "the joy and ornament" of this world. An ornament is nothing, however, by comparison to the essence. No one would sacrifice the essence for the sake of an ornament except the ignorant and the insane, vain women and deluded youths. Vain women would expose their health to danger that they might appear beautiful for a few hours or less; and deluded youths would squander their wealth that their companions may applaud and acclaim them as masters. Such people are no less mad than those who pursue wealth and children, the ornaments and joy of this life, at the cost of everything else. To repeat, wealth and children do constitute a joy and an ornament. But the essence of life is the doing of righteous deeds which are imperishable. It is for the sake of this imperishable righteousness that we ought to devote the greater part of our effort and striving.
The nobility of purpose served by the last quoted verse of Holy Scripture is truly arresting. What it purports to say is that if it is natural that man spend his effort and blood for the sake of an ornament, he should spend his whole soul and mind for the sake of the essence; that he should make the ornament subject to the essence and, finally, that he should dedicate his own life, his wealth, and his children to the pursuit of this essence which consists of righteous deeds. For the latter weigh more with God. Righteousness is the worthier ideal. Its merit is greater and its promise is nobler. It is the higher hope of mankind.
How did the thinking of Muslims change so radically from this sane, healthy, and clear logic to the very opposite? We referred to this question accidentally in the first part of this conclusion when we discussed the change that the Muslims underwent as result of being conquered by foreigners at the close of the `Abbasi regime.
Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh's Views
In the preface to the second edition we also mentioned how the government changed from being based upon consultation in the earliest period to a sheer contest of power during the Umawi period, and finally to rule by divine right during the `Abbasi period. On this point, let us quote the late professor and leader, Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh, who wrote in his book, Al Islam al Nasraniyyah, the following passage
"The religion of Islam was once purely Arab. Science was once Greek and then became Arab too. Subsequently, one of the `Abbasi caliphs committed a political mistake when he abused the tolerance of Islamic political theory. Suspecting that an army composed largely of Arabs might readily lend its support to a caliphal contender supporting the cause of `Ali, he sought to build for himself an army of aliens, particularly of Turks and Daylams, whom he thought he could rule by his authority, win with his largesse, and keep loyal to him against all his enemies. Islamic law is tolerant enough to allow the Muslim ruler to take such measures, and it was on this account that Muslim society fell under dominion of foreign elements.
"Thus, an `Abbasi caliph sought to secure himself on the caliphal throne and secure that throne for his progeny. He may have done well for himself and his children, but woe to him for what he did to his people and his religion. He increased the number of aliens in his army and appointed aliens to command it. But no sooner had he done so than these soldiers and their captains seized the upper hand, monopolized the political power, and subjected caliph, people, and state to their whims. These were still brutes not yet disciplined by Islam. Their hearts had not yet been sensitized to religious value. Rather, these frontiersmen came to the world of Islam with crudeness, ignorance, and injustice. Islam was for them a cover; little of it penetrated their consciousness, and only the superficial aspects of it influenced their thinking. Many of them even carried their own gods around with them but prayed with the Muslim masses in order to consolidate their power over them. Later, the world of Islam fell prey to the Tatars who held it in subjection for generations and who saw no other impediment to their sovereignty and power than knowledge which would make the people aware of the state of their masters and expose the immorality of their conduct. As a result, they became openly hostile to knowledge and to Islam itself, which promotes knowledge and requires its cultivation as an act of worship. As for knowledge, science, and wisdom, their cultivators were maltreated and most of them denied any assistance or subsidy. They encouraged their own protagonists to introduce themselves into the ranks of the men of knowledge, to wear their gowns, and pretend to belong to their circles. From this position, these protagonists began to teach in the name of religion such doctrines as would make knowledge hateful to the people and cause men to avoid striving for it. Their propaganda posed as piety, for they claimed that their new doctrines were designed but to safeguard the religion. They claimed that the religion was incomplete and they had set out to complete it; that it was diseased and they had set out to cure it; that it was floundering and they had set out to consolidate it; that it was about to collapse, and they had set out to rescue and support it.
"These newcomers to Islamic leadership wished to imitate some of the pageantry of pagans and Christians, and, therefore, they adopted some of their customs which were inconsistent with Islam. They convinced the ignorant masses that the new practices added glory and aggrandizement to the ritual of Islam. Demagoguery is the resort of the unjust ruler. By recoursing to it, they instituted the celebrations with which we have been plagued. By prescribing the worship of saints and of their own leaders they divided the Muslim community, thus enabling it to fall into complacency and ignorance. They decided that the later generations may never question anything passed down by the former, and they defended this conservatism as a principle of faith precisely in order to freeze man's thinking and to stop deliberation. Throughout the provinces of the Islamic world, they sent their mouthpieces and instructed them to teach such tales, stories, and reports as would convince the masses that public affairs were none of their concern, that all community and state affairs are the jurisdiction of the ruler alone, and that whoever interferes in the ruler's jurisdiction has overstepped the boundaries laid down by the religion. These mouthpieces also taught the masses that corruption, insecurity, hardship, and privation are not the responsibility of the rulers but the fulfillment of prophecies regarding the end of time; that it is futile to seek to change any state, any situation or verdict; that it is salutory to relinquish all responsibilities to God and the rulers, and that the Muslim is responsible only for the upkeep of himself and his immediate family. They found support for their claims in the letter of some prophetic, many spurious and fabricated, traditions which they were quick to exploit for their own purpose, interpreting them only in order to indoctrinate the people with their fictions and delusions. A whole army of such false teachers spread among the Muslims, and the puppet rulers in every province helped them to spread their poison. They misinterpreted the Islamic doctrine of divine decree so as to frustrate human will and to choke every striving for action. The peoples' ignorance of their religion, their naivet鬠their inclination to the path of least resistance, and their desire to satisfy their passions persuaded the Muslims to accept those lethal superstitions and fables. As a result, the truth fell under the darkness of falsehood, and in the people's minds principles which diametrically contradicted their religion and ran counter to its -precepts became the rule of the day and were accepted without hesitation.
"This policy of spreading the darkness of ignorance, injustice, and prejudice is responsible for the corruption of Islam, for mixing the Islamic with the unIslamic in an unholy concoction of faith and superstition. It robbed the Muslim of his will and of the hope which once prompted him to pierce the heavens. It caused him to imitate the despair of the non-Muslims. Most of what goes today under the name of Islam is not Islam at all. It may only have preserved the outer shell of the Islamic ritual of prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage, as well as some sayings which have been, however, perverted by allegorical interpretations. All these sinister accretions and superstitions that found their way into Islam brought about the stagnation that now passes under the name of religion. Accursed be that policy and its men for what they falsely attribute to God and His religion. All that is today blameworthy among the Muslims is not of Islam. It is something else which falsely carries that name. [Muhammad 'Abduh, Al Islam wa al Nasraniyyah Ma'a al 'llm wa al Madaniyyah, Cairo, n.d., pp. 122-125.]
Muslim Views in the Age of Decline
It was this situation, so well analyzed by Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh, that led to the propagation among the Muslims of contradictory principles which their authors claimed to be Islamic and falsely attributed to the Prophet. One of these principles is the doctrine of determinism which later Muslims interpreted in a way which runs counter to the Qur'anic spirit. In the foregoing pages, we have seen how the Qur'an understood that doctrine. Departing from that understanding, the advocates of those specious doctrines taught the virtues of surrender and stagnation. They preached that each man's life is not the result of striving and planning but is predetermined so that man cannot affect its outcome. Such is the false determinism which enables the western critics of Islam to impute to Islam that of which it is innocent. Another such principle is the contempt of matter and condemnation of its pursuit. This was the view of the Greek stoics which spread at certain periods among some Muslims despite its contradiction to the whole tenor of the Qur'anic message expressed in the command, "And do not forget to pursue your share of this world [Qur'an, 28-77]
.Despite its contradiction of the Qur'an, this principle even produced a large body of literature in the `Abbasi period and thereafter. The Qur'an in fact calls for the reasonable satisfaction of all wants. It does not tolerate self-deprivation any more than it tolerates indulgence and license. And yet, Irving falsely supposes that Islam engulfed the Muslims in luxury, distracted them from self-exertion in war and, indeed, brought the Muslim peoples to the state of decline in which they find themselves today.
Islam and Christianity: A Comparison
The American author contends that Christianity calls men to purity and charity and that it is, on this account, the opposite of what he thinks Islam is. This is not the place to compare Islam and Christianity on this point, because, fundamentally, the two religions are in agreement. Comparison in this manner would lead to futile controversy and to a profitless competition between Christianity and Islam. However, I do wish to observe that between Jesus-may God's blessing be upon him and Christianity, as far as this call to stoicism and asceticism is concerned, there is a clear difference. Jesus was certainly no stoic. His first miracle was the transformation of the water into wine at Cana where he was a guest. Obviously, Jesus had not wished that the people go without drinking wine. Neither did he turn down the invitation of the Pharisees to sit at their lavish banquet, for he did not wish the people to deprive themselves from enjoying the blessings of God. Likewise, Muhammad emphasized the need for pursuing one's share of this world. On the other hand, it is true that Jesus used to call the rich to give charitably to the poor and to love the latter in good heart. In this, however, the Qur'an has given voice to the greatest and most eloquent expression ever known to man. The reader may recall that we have quoted from the Qur'an in connection with the zakat and sadaqat which we discussed earlier. Sufficient for us in reply to Irving and his like to say that the Qur'an has called for charity, temperance, moderation, goodness, and love regarding everything.
"They That Take the Sword . . ."
There remains the last sentence of Washington Irving's statement. It is that by which the West indicts us with that which it had better indict itself namely, the sword. The crime is indeed that of the western world, not ours. It is its stain of shame, the sinister seed which will finally destroy its false pride and civilization. Irving says: "That the crescent has waned before the cross, and exists in Europe where it was once so mighty, only by the sufferance or rather the jealously of the great Christian powers, probably ere long to furnish another illustration, that `they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.' "
"They that take the sword shall perish with the sword." This verse of the New Testament Irving directs accusingly toward Islam in the name of Christianity. How strange! Perhaps Irving might have had some excuse had he hurled his accusation a hundred or so years ago when the imperialism of the West (as we like to call it) or of Christendom (as Irving likes to call it) had not reached the terrible degree of greed and covetousness, of conquest and aggression by the sword which it has reached today. When Field Marshall Allenby captured Jerusalem in 1918 in the name of the Allies, he made this terrible proclamation standing on the steps of the Dome of the Rock: "Today the Crusades have come to an end." Doctor Peterson Smith, in his book on the life of Jesus, wrote, "This capture of Jerusalem was indeed an eighth Crusade in which Christianity had finally achieved its purpose." And it may even be true to say that the capture of Jerusalem was not a purely Christian effort, but that it was equally the effort of the Jews, who used the Christians in order to realize the old diaspora dream of making the Land of Promise a national home for the Jews.
Islam Has Never Taken Anything by the Sword
"They that take the sword shall perish with the sword." If these words of the New Testament are true at all, and truly applied to any nation, they certainly apply today to the nations of Christian Europe more than any other. Islam did not take the sword and therefore will not be taken with the sword. Rather it is Christian Europe which has taken the sword throughout the modern period, and it is Christian Europe which gives itself utmost license in the enjoyment of pleasure and comfort which Irving falsely imputes to Islam and to the Muslims. Today, Christian Europe is playing exactly the same role which the Mongols and Tatars played in the past in relation to Islam. The latter had put on the appearance of Islam and conquered its territories without paying any heed to Islamic teaching at all. Jesus's judgment fell rightly upon them as they brought corruption and disintegration to their Muslim subjects. Indeed, Christian Europe stands today even more guilty than those Tatars and Mongols of the past. The countries which the latter conquered quickly entered into Islam as soon as they were able to see its simplicity and greatness. Europe, however, does not conquer in order to spread a faith, nor in order to spread a civilization. What it wants is to colonize; to this end it has made the Christian faith a tool and instrument. That is why the European missions never succeeded, for they were never sincere and their propaganda served ulterior motives. They did not meet with any success at all in the Muslim countries-and indeed they never will-because the greatness of Islam-its simplicity, its rational and scientific character-leave no room in the minds of its adherents for any alien religious propaganda at all.
"They that take the sword shall perish with the sword." That is true. If this dictum was once true of the late Muslims who conquered for the sake of conquest and colonization, not in self-defense nor in defense of the faith, it is all the more true of this Christian West which conquers and vanquishes the peoples of the earth in order to colonize and to exploit. As for the early Muslims, during the time of the Prophet and of his immediate successors, they did not conquer for the purpose of conquest and colonization but in defense of their faith when it was threatened by Quraysh, Arab tribes, Byzantines, and Persians. Throughout their conquests, they never imposed their religion on anyone, for it was a cardinal principal of their faith that "there shall be no coercion in religion." [Qur'an, 2:256]
Forced by the needs of defense against persistent attack, the Muslims' conquests were never motivated by the will to colonize. The Prophet left the kings of Arabia and her princes on their thrones with their territories, economies, and political structures virtually untouched. In conquering, the Muslims sought the freedom to preach the faith. If the Islamic faith spread, it was simply because it of itself was strong by virtue of the truth which it proclaimed, the universalist nondiscrimination between Arab and non-Arab which it commanded and its adherents practiced, and the strict monotheism by which Islam enabled man to have no master except the one true God. It was because of these innate strengths of the Islamic faith that it spread throughout the earth, just as any genuine truth would spread. When the Tatar latecomers to Islam fought only for the purpose of conquest and took men by the sword, they, too, were soon taken by the sword. But Islam never took anything or anyone by the sword, and no one will take it by the sword. On the contrary, Islam conquered the minds, hearts, and consciences of the people by its innate strength. Consequently, the Muslim people have seen many governments, dictators, and tyrants, none of which has changed their faith and religion in the least. Today, Europe is still the ruler of the Muslim peoples and the tyrannic administrator of their affairs. But her tyranny will not change the Muslims' faith in God. And as she has taken the Muslims by the sword, she cannot and will not escape the destiny of being taken by the sword. Matthew's principle will once more prove true, but this time to mete out to Christian Europe her due.
The Muslim League of Nations
We have said that the Prophet reinstated the princes and kings to their thrones and kingdoms. Toward the end of the Prophet's life the Arabian Peninsula was truly a league of Arab-Islamic nations. None of them was a colony either of Makkah or of Yathrib. By virtue of their strong faith in God, the Arabs were all equal to one another before Him. They acted together like one man against anyone who was against them or sought to sway them away from their religious faith. Up to the age of decline, the Muslim peoples remained a league of nations, and the seat of the caliphate was the headquarters of their league. The caliphate never claimed for itself any authority over the Muslim spirit, nor did it ever monopolize knowledge and the search for enlightenment. No Muslim nation submitted to any spiritual authority except that of God. The Muslim capitals were all capitals of science, knowledge, art, and industry. This felicity continued until the Muslims changed their view of Islam, denied its noble principles, violated the brotherhood of the faithful, and forgot that man's faith is never complete until he has desired for his fellow man what he desires for himself. It was then that prejudice did its evil work and destructive contests for power tore up the Muslim brotherhood as the sword became sole judge. But whoever takes with the sword shall be taken by the sword.
After the 15th century, Christian Europe arose to a new life of the spirit which might have brought benefit to all mankind except for the corruption that had quickly found its way to it. Hence, Christianity began to split into many factions. It was in this relatively recent period of its rise that Christian Europe faced a Muslim World that had forgotten its Islam, and took it by the sword. Europe continued to take the Muslim people by the sword, and, indeed, made the sword the sole judge between it and the Muslim people. But when the sword rules, we can then bid farewell to reason, to science, to goodness, to love, to faith, and, indeed, to mankind and to humanity.
It is the rule of the world by the sword which is the cause of the spiritual and psychic crisis from which the world suffers and groans. Those countries which rule the world by the sword realized this unfortunate truth as a result of World War I. They thus sought to bring peace to the world, and, for this purpose, they established the League of Nations. The whole point of the League of Nations is summed up in this verse of the Qur'an
"And if two factions of believers fight each other, reconcile them in peace. If, thereafter, one aggresses upon the other, then fight the aggressor until it returns to the command of God. If it heeds that command, reconcile that faction again with justice, for God loves justice and those who judge accordingly. The faithful are brothers of one another. Reconcile them therefore as brothers. Fear God that you may be shown mercy." [Qur'an, 49:9-10]
The Spirit of World Peace Still Missing
Nonetheless, peace did not rule the world after World War I, for the foundation upon which the dominant civilization is based is that of colonialism, and colonialism is in turn based upon the competition of one nationalism against another and upon domination of the weak by the strong. It is the right of the vanquished people, indeed their first duty, to seek to destroy the yoke of the tyrant. Consequently, colonialism has bred and nurtured the germs of rebellion and war. As long as colonialism is the rule, peace will never be established and wars will be continuous. Colonizing or colonized, the nations of the world will continue to regard one another with suspicion and, in fact, to lie in wait for one another. How then can there be peace? Peace will come to this world only when men everywhere change that which is within themselves; that is to say, when they begin to believe truly in peace, when they base their world views upon peace, and when they agree with one another to defend peace against every attempt at disturbing it.
But all this will happen only when colonialism is no more the basis for world order, when the strong of the earth will regard it as their first duty to come to the assistance of the weak, when the affluent will give to the deprived, when the big will show mercy to the small, and when the more learned will teach the ignorant. Peace will indeed reign over the world when the dominant powers spread knowledge throughout the earth to the end of serving mankind rather than of exploiting them in the name of knowledge or industry or technology. When the whole world comes to believe in this principle and all men come to feel that the earth is their own homeland-that they are all brothers of one another, each of them wishing for his brothers that which he wishes for himself-then will clemency, tolerance and fellowship grow among them. Then will they address one another in a language different from that in which they speak today; they will trust one another though they may be separated by wide spaces. They will all do the good for the sake of God. Then and only then will hatred and resentment dissolve, truth be supreme, peace rule the world, and God be pleased with mankind, and mankind with Him.
World Peace Founded Only on Tolerance
"Those who believe, and those who are Jews, Christians, Sabeans, all those who believe in God and in the Day of Judgment and do the good works, all of them have their merit with their Lord. They have no reason to fear nor will they grieve." [Qur'an, 2:62]
Has the world known any tolerance wider than this? Whoever believes in God, in the Day of Judgment, and in doing good works will have his merits with his Lord. No difference separates the believer from those whom the Islamic call has not reached, whether Jews, Christians, or Sabeans. [Commenting on this verse, al Tabari wrote in his exegesis: "'Those who believe' refers to the people who believed in the Prophet of God.' 'The Jews' refers to those who gave themselves this name as a derivation from their statement, 'We have returned to You,' that is, 'we have repented.' 'The Christians,' are the followers of Jesus. They were called by this name-nasara-in derivation from the name, Nazareth, the village of Jesus in Palestine. According to another view, the derivation was one of Jesus' statements, 'And who are my helpers-ansar in God?' 'The Sabeans' are, according to one view, those who worship the angels. According to another view, the Sabeans were a people who believed that there is no God but God but had neither scripture nor prophet. Their religion may be characterized by no other statement except that there is no God but God. According to a third view, the Sabeans were a people without religion." Al Tabari explained the verse as follows: "Those who believe in God and in the reality of resurrection after death, in the Day of Judgment, who do the good works in obedience to God-such men have their merit with their Lord; that is, they have the merit earned by their good works. As for the statements 'they have no reason to fear' and 'neither shall they grieve,' the meaning which God-May He be adored-intended is that those people have no reason to fear any of the terrors of the Day of Judgment, nor will they grieve for all the good things of the world which they left behind when they come to know all the bliss which God has reserved for them in Paradise." Following these comments, al Tabari mentioned that this verse was revealed in reference to those Christians who guided Salman al Farisi and converted him to their religion, announcing to him that an Arab prophet would come forth and asking Salman to verify the identity of such prophet with given signs and to follow him if he could find him. After Salman converted to Islam, he told the Prophet about those Christians, and the Prophet replied: "0 Salman, those people belong to Hell." Salman was grieved, and on this account, God revealed the verse: "Those who believe, the Christians, etc." According to another view. God had revoked this verse with another verse, namely, "Whoever seeks another religion besides Islam, it will not be accepted of him" (Qur'an 3:85). However, al Tabari adds: "What we have mentioned at the beginning is the closer to the commonsense meaning of the revelation because God-May He be praised-could not have restricted merit for the good works and faith to some of His creatures rather than to others. The predicate of the verse therefore belongs to every subject mentioned therein, including the Muslims." A confirmation of this view of al Tabari is that it may be said in regard to the verse, "Whoever seeks another religion besides Islam, it will not be accepted of him." It applies to those .Muslims who seek another religion besides Islam, after they have been born into Islam or come to believe in it. As to those who are born in another religion, and those whom the Islamic call has not reached without falsification, their case will be like that of those who have gone before the advent of Muhammad and his prophethood, and who have not come to know of his message as it is and without falsification. (See further Ibn Jarir al Tabari, Kitab al Tafasir, Vol. 1, pp. 253-57.)]
God-may He be adored-further says: "Of the people of the Book, some believe in God, in what has been revealed to you, and what has been revealed to them. These revere God and fear Him and do not exchange the revelations of God for a mean price. To them belongs their reward with their Lord. God is quick to take account." [Qur'an 3:199] How far is all this from our world dominated as it is by western civilization? How far is the tolerance of Islam from the national and religious fanaticisms of the West and all the wars and catastrophes which it has contributed to human history!
The Sublime Life of Muhammad
It is this high and noble spirit of tolerance that should dominate the world if the world is to live in peace and men are to live in happiness. It is this spirit that makes every study of the life of Muhammad, to whom God revealed these genuine truths, and of every scholarly study undertaken only for the sake of knowledge, capable of achieving a mastery of such cosmic and spiritual principles as will guide humanity to the new civilization it seeks. Every deep research undertaken in such a study will expose secrets many men believed for a long time to be forever closed to scientific investigations, but on which the investigations of psychology have shed illuminating light. The life of Muhammad, as we have had occasion to see, is a human life that realized in itself the highest ideals of which man is capable. On this account, the Prophet's life constitutes a good example and true guidance to whosoever wishes to reach human perfection through faith and the work of virtue. What highness and nobility can compare with that which made the life of Muhammad-even before his commission to prophethood-the example of truthfulness, dignity and trustworthiness, just as it made that life after the commission to prophethood one long poem of self-sacrifice in the cause of God-the cause of truth and goodness, the final end of all prophethood? Muhammad exposed his life to death many times; his people sought to tempt him with wealth, sovereignty, and all things desired by men; but he resisted them all. He remained the best of all men in nobility, ethical virtue, and dedication to the cause of God.
This human life of Muhammad attained exalted levels of vision and nobility, of power and magnanimity such as no other life has realized. It was a human life which kept itself in communion with the cosmos from eternity to eternity, and with the Creator of the cosmos by His grace and mercy. Were Muhammad not exactingly truthful in the conveyance of his Lord's message, some thinkers throughout the centuries would have come up with some evidence to this effect, and some principle taught by Muhammad would have been exposed as untrue. But 1,350 years [The current year is Islam's one thousand, three hundred, eighty-seventh year, A.H. -Tr.] have passed while that which Muhammad conveyed from his Lord continues to be the model of truth and genuine guidance. Sufficient is it to mention in support of this that what God revealed to Muhammad, to the effect that he was the last of the prophets and messengers of God, has never been successfully overthrown by anybody else's claim to be a prophet and a messenger of God. Throughout the world during all these centuries many men have achieved the greatest possible heights of power and excellence in all aspects of life. None of them, however, has been given the gift of prophethood, of conveying a message from God. Before Muhammad, however, the prophets and the messengers were many, each of whom warned his people that they had gone astray, and each one sought to bring them back to the religion of truth. Yet none of them claimed that he was sent to all men or that he was the last of the prophets. But Muhammad made this claim which was revealed to him by God, and the centuries have proved his claim to be true. What Muhammad conveyed was no fabrication but a true report of a divine message meant to provide guidance and to bring mercy to all mankind.
In conclusion, let me say that the utmost purpose I have hoped my book to achieve is that it may have prepared the road for further researches and studies in these matters. Such researches and studies, we hope, will be wider in scope and deeper in insight than this book. In writing these pages, I have exerted all the effort of which I am capable and explored all the field that my vision could, with God's grace, encompass. God says:
"God only holds a man responsible to the extent of his capacity. He holds every man responsible for what he has done whether good or ill. 0 God! Grant to us that we may not forget, that we may not fall into error. 0 God! Grant to us that we may not have to bear the great burden of those who have gone before us. 0 God! Grant to us that we may not have to bear a burden beyond our capacity. Grant us Your forgiveness, and have mercy on us. You alone are our Lord and Master. Help us therefore to achieve victory over the Godless." [Qur'an 2:286]