Islam, the Religion for mankind



Islam: the Religion for mankind


Ruby Amatulla


The essence of Islam is to submit to One unseen God and comply with His Will and moral Laws. There is absolutely no passivity in the concept of ‘submission’ to God. It requires the utmost vigilance against one’s own bad inclinations as well as against the onslaught of immoral and unjust circumstances a life often goes through in order to stay committed to God’s moral Laws. In order to submit one must remain conscious about Almighty [muttaqin], believe in the Day of Judgment and accountability and remain steadfast on righteous path in spite of the difficulty and danger of life. According to Islam this is the recipe for salvation and this recipe is universal irrespective of race, creed, gender, etc.

“Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. [Quran 2:62].

A contemporary famous scholar, Mohammad Asad, who translated the Quran says in his note to  this and similar verses [2:62, 5:69, etc.]:  “The above passage – which recurs in the Quran several times – lays down a fundamental doctrine of Islam. With a breadth of vision unparalleled in any other religious faith, the idea of “salvation” is here make conditional upon three elements only: belief in God, belief in the Day of Judgment, and righteous action in life. ……..”

The state in which one does not have fear or grief is the state of peace [islam] or ultimate success. And this state is attained only when one is in compliance with God’s Laws.  A ‘muslim’ is one who surrenders to God, in essence that is complying with God’s moral laws. The Quran further expounds that the entire universe –seen and unseen – is in a state of Islam as it complies with the laws of God.

Asad emphasizes the universal meaning of the terms ‘muslim’ and ‘islam’ the Quran uses which are different from the meanings that are in currency in the Muslim world. He writes in his note to verse [68:35]   “Throughout this work, I have translated the terms ‘muslim’ and ‘islam’ in accordance with their original connotations, namely “ one who surrenders [ or “has surrendered”] himself to God” and  “man’s self-surrender to God”: the same holds good of all forms of the verb ‘aslama’ occurring in the Quran. It should be borne in mind that the “institutionalized” use of these terms – that is, their exclusive application to the followers of the Prophet Muhammad – represents a definitely post-Quranic development and, hence, must be avoided in a translation of the Quran.”

How anyone is supposed to know what is right and what are God’s Laws? The Quran proclaims that God has given humans an enormous capacity to sense Truth and to make the right choices. This endowment consists of a ‘superior’ nature [‘fitratulla’ meaning the nature of God or God Given nature] if complied with helps one to avail God’s guidance to achieve salvation. This higher nature includes the faculty of reason, the spiritual and intuitive abilities to sense Truth, the ability to remain conscious, etc.. The Quran proclaims that by virtue of this empowerment humans command the highest status in the entire creation of God. And God has commanded the angels to prostrate before humans. Because of this enormous empowerment a human remains accountable before the Creator on the Day of Judgment.

 “And so, set your face steadfastly towards the one ever-true faith, turning away from all that is false, in accordance with the natural disposition [“fitratulla”] which God has instilled into human: not to allow any change to corrupt what God has thus created – this is the purpose of the one ever true faith; but most people know it not.” [30:30]

These ideas are fundamental and valid for anyone irrespective of culture, creed, etc. These fundamental parts of faith are the basis of Islam. The core part of this faith is to believe in One unseen Creator Who is the ultimate reality on which all transitory realities are sustained.

Countless Messengers [nabi] and/or prophets [rasul] were sent to convey and preach the same core values to almost every community in human civilization one time of another. The Quran proclaims that only few are mentioned and the rest are not known. Scriptures were sent to different Messenger at different times to confirm these fundamental truths in different cultures and contexts. This is clarified in the Quran in 41:43

Nothing is said to thee [Prophet Muhammad] that was not said to the Messengers before thee

(addressing Muhammad) [Quran 41:43].

The core Message to Adam, the first human prototype, and to countless Messengers down through time remains unchanged: believing in One unseen God, doing the right things among which upholding justice and being compassionate to fellow human beings are paramount.

The scripture explains that diversity is the Will of God, if God Willed entire humanity would be one nation followers of one creed but He did not. However the fundamentals remain same and it is unity on these fundamentals that believers should strive for in humanity. The outcome of this mindset is humility, tolerance, cooperation and peace.


And unto you [O Prophet] have We vouchsafed this divine writ, setting forth the truth, confirming the truth of whatever there still remains of earlier revelations and determining what is true therein. Judge, then, between the followers of earlier revelation in accordance with what God has bestowed from on high, and do not follow their errant views, forsaking the truth that has come unto you.

“Unto every one of you have We appoint a [different] law and way of life. And if God has so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ.” [Quran 5:48]


Muhammad Asad elaborates on this verse as follows: [note 66]: The expression “every one of you” denotes the various communities of which mankind is composed. The term ‘shirah’ signifies, literally, “ the way to a watering-place” (from which men and animals derive the element indispensable to their life), and is used in the Quran to denote a system of law necessary for a community’s social and spiritual welfare. The term ‘minhaj’, on the other hand, denotes an “ open road”, usually in an abstract sense: that is, “ a way of life”, The term ‘shirah’ and ‘minhaj’ are more restricted in their meaning than the term ‘din’ , which comprises not merely the laws relating to a particular religion but also the basic, unchanging spiritual truths which, according to the Quran, have been preached by every one of God’s  apostles, while the particular body of laws (Shirah or shariah) promulgated through them, and the way of life (minhaj) recommended by them, varied in accordance with the exigencies of the time and of each community’s cultural development. This “unity in diversity” is frequently stressed in the Quran. Because of the universal applicability and textual incorruptibility of its teachings – as well as of the fact that the Prophet Muhammad is “the seal of all prophets” , i.e., the last of them – the Quran represents the culminating point of all revelation and offers the final, perfect way to spiritual fulfillment.

This uniqueness of the Quranic message does not, however, preclude all adherents of earlier faiths from attaining to God’s grace: for – as the Quran so often points out – those among them who believe uncompromisingly in One God and the Day of Judgment and live righteously “need have no fear, and neither shall they grieve”. 

Two fundamental concepts dictate the course of self-surrender and the level of piety: The idea about God and His moral Laws?

The highest emphasis has been given to maintain the purity and absoluteness of the Creator in faith: He is the Ultimate reality [‘huq’] on which all transitory realities are based. He is the primary Creator Who commands to “be’ and the reality comes into existence. He is the One Supreme Being Supremely powerful who does not share power with anyone or anything else and there is nothing like Him. This Oneness of God [‘tawhid’] is the basis of Islam: "There is no god but God."

Any corruption of or deviation from this absolute idea of God is called ‘shirk’ or   "associationism". Shirk is the highest sin in Islam. Wrong actions and lifestyle originate from wrong mindsets. Erroneous ideas about the Cause of all causes mislead one in the most fundamental ways and lead to falsehood and failure in life. Besides the obvious idol worshipping there are other not so obvious but equally erroneous and damaging forms of “shirk” such as  taking intermediaries or intercessors like saints, dead relatives, etc. to try to approach God. Another insidious but most detrimental form is taking wealth, power, etc. as the deliverer and measure of success in life.

The real criterion of success is piety and only God is the judge of that and not a human being. It is blasphemous to pass a judgment as to the piety of a person including oneself. One of the fundamental components of faith consists of remaining non-judgemental as the uncertainty one feels about the level of piety. Only God knows and a human does not regarding how close one is to God. The arrogance resulting from the feelings that one knows God’s mind is utterly blasphemous and self-destructive.

To understand God’s moral Laws God has given human beings the faculty of ‘fitratulla’ that consists of reason [aql] and conscience. There is absolutely no blind following in Islam. It is repeatedly emphasized that one cannot absolve one’s own responsibility in following an Imam or scholar or leader who led him/her to wrongdoings on the Day of Judgment. It is also indicated that one would go to hell for not exercising one’s own intellect including the faculty of reason and conscience that God has empowered him/her with. Finally the Quran emphatically clarifies that there is no compulsion in the matters of faith [2:256]. In order for one’s faith to be valid it must be out of one’s own free will exercising reason. The right to freedom of faith is based on the ideas that God has empowered a human being to sense Truth and to make himself/herself available to receive God’s guidance to achieve salvation.

Moreover, in Islam one is not responsible for another, no one bears burdens of others. The Christian concept of ‘vicarious atonement’ of Christ is rejected in Islam. Even the prophets were not given the jurisdiction over their people regarding faith. One is responsible for oneself only.

Piety is the vehicle towards success. Therefore all the worldly standards –such as wealth, power, fame etc. that most of the people see as the yardsticks  are made invalid standards of success of a life in Islam. Therefore no one is supposed to know who is ahead and who is behind in piety except God. The obvious outcome of this is that all true believers remain non-judgmental on others –irrespective of their brand of faith, outward culture, lifestyle, etc. that often fail to expose the inner-self enough–and remain humble in dealing with others. This is the basis of pluralism in Islam. As far as human vision is concerned everyone is on a level plain field as to be treated equally.


“God has ordained that you should serve nothing but Him: this is the one ever-true faith; but most people know it not.” [Quran 3:19, 12:40]


The Quran repeatedly addresses mankind   as the children of Adam establishing a greater bonding of brotherhood in humanity. The Quran exhorts the followers to enter other places of worships such as synagogues, churches, temples, etc. with reverence saying that those are the places where God is being worshipped [22:40, etc.]. This again is validating different ways to reach piety.

In this fundamental way Islam is very democratic: all human beings are equal before God and each is responsible for oneself and no one else, one stands before God one-to-one, and one believes with his/her free will: “there is no compulsion or coercion in the matter of religion” [Quran 2:256]. God has granted each human the free will for which he/she is going to remain accountable before God. All human beings are given the faculty of conscience and reason or the higher true nature [‘fitratullah’] that he/she must exercise in order to be pious and to achieve salvation. Therefore all humans irrespective of race, color, creed, gender etc. are given the same equal status of being the vicegerent of God on earth and holds equal dignity and position before God and society just by being a human being.  We humans are all servants of God. Only God knows who is superior and who is inferior as to piety. That is the only criterion that matters to God. All else are false standards. Since only God can judge piety of a person, one human being cannot feel superior or inferior to anyone else by dint of social ranks of education, wealth, reputation, etc. There is no rank as to human dignity and rights Islam provides. All are equal. In Islam therefore how one person looks at anther is democratic and pluralistic.

However, it is important to note here that there are also some verses in the Quran against some of the non-Muslims [Jews, Christians, and others] during the period of the revelation that may appear to be contradicting these universal ideas of Islam. The contexts of these verses are critical for understanding the true meanings. These verses are harsh against their wrong doings and not against their identities. Serious misconceptions may arise if the contexts are not seriously considered. That is why the Quran itself warns against distorting truth by disregarding the contexts [5:13]. There are verses that were revealed in a state of war. The enemies were committed to the annihilation of the entire Muslim community at that time and launched repeated wars and violence against the Muslims. At other times the new community faced various stressful times of treason, hypocrisy and dissention that also threatened the stability and harmony of the society.  The ways the fanatics and the extremists often use these contextual verses are inconsistent with the spirit and the narrative of the Quran and therefore must be rejected. Otherwise the Quran itself would become inconsistent and therefore invalid. The Quran claims that there is no inconsistency in the Scripture if understood right. Therefore the critical test in translating and understanding a verse in the Quran is that it must be consistent with the rest of the Quran. It often is utterly misleading when verses are taken out of their context or misunderstanding those that are without contexts.

A Muslim offers peace “salaam” and God’s blessings to others at the conclusion of each prayer in a day by facing right and facing left meant to cover the entire reality. There is no limit or category implicated in that wishing peace. A true ‘muslim’ should not say something just for the sake of saying it or performing a ritual. The ‘salaam’ or ‘peace’ a muslim offers at the end of each and every prayer requires one to desire it from the core of his/her heart. This daily repeated action, if done with the true understanding, is geared towards transforming the well-wisher himself/herself to work from generosity and the moral high grounds. An inner transformation within an individual conducive to peace in humanity and harmony in reality is the goal Islam aims at by instituting such activities in its system.

Islam therefore, is a non-sectarian, non-racial, non-doctrinal, universal religion at the core: For Islam is just submission to the Will and Moral Law of God. Whoever does this is a muslim irrespective of whatever one calls himself/herself.