|[CONTENTS]||After giving the savage the necessary
rules of guidance, the Quran undertakes to teach him high morals. We shall mention, by way
of illustration, only a few of the moral qualities upon which stress has been laid.
All moral qualities fall under two heads: firstly, those which enable a man to abstain from inflicting injury upon his fellow men, and, secondly, those which enable him to do good to others. To the first class belong the rules which direct the intentions and actions of man so that he may not injure the life, property or honor of his fellow-beings through his tongue or hand or eye or any other member of his body. The second class comprises all rules calculated to guide the motives and actions of man for doing good to others by means of the faculties which God has granted him, or in declaring the glory or honor of others, or in forbearing from a punishment which an offender deserves, thus giving him the positive benefit of having escaped a physical punishment or loss of property which he would otherwise have suffered, or in punishing him in such a manner that the punishment turns out to be a blessing for him.
The moral qualities which fall under the heading of abstaining from injuries are four in number. Each one of these is designated by a single word in the Arabic language whose rich vocabulary supplies an appropriate word for different human conceptions, manners and morals.
First of all, let us consider ihsan or "chastity". This word signifies the virtue which relates to the act of procreation in a person. A man or a woman is said to muhsin or muhsina when he or she abstains from illegal intercourse and its preliminaries which bring disgrace and ruin upon the head of the sinners in this world and severe torture in the next, besides the disgrace and loss caused to those connected with them. None is more wicked than the infamous villain who causes the loss of a wife to a husband and of a mother to her children, and thus violently disturbs the peace of a household, bringing ruin upon the head of both, the guilty wife and the innocent husband, not to talk of the children.
The first thing to remember about this priceless moral quality, called "chastity", is that no one deserves credit for refraining from satisfying his carnal desires illegally, if nature has not granted him those desires. The words "moral quality" therefore cannot be applied to the mere act of refraining from such a course unless nature has also made a man capable of committing the evil deed. It is refraining under such circumstances - against the power of the passions which nature has placed in man that deserves to be credited as a high moral quality. Nonage, impotency, emasculation or old age nullify the existence of the moral quality we term "chastity", although a refraining from the illegal act exists in these cases. But the fact is that in such cases it is a natural condition, and there is no resistance of passion and consequently no propriety or impropriety is involved.
This, as has already been said, is an important distinction between natural conditions and moral qualities. In the former there is no tendency to go to the opposite direction, while in the latter there exists a struggle between the good and evil passions which necessitates the application of the reasoning faculty.
There is no doubt then that, as indicated in the foregoing pages, children under the age of puberty and men who have lost the power upon which restrictions are to be imposed, cannot claim to possess a moral quality of so great a value, though their actions might resemble chastity. It is only a natural condition over which they have absolutely no control. The directions contained in the Holy Book for the attainment of this noble quality are described in the following words:
Other means to preserve one's Continence can be employed: fasting or taking light food or doing hard work. However, some people have devised methods of their own for refraining themselves from sexual relations as by adopting celibacy or monasticism and thus deprecating marriage, or by submitting themselves to castration.
Here God negates the assertion of His having prescribed the methods of Castration etc for, had these been the commandments of the Lord, all the people would have had to observe these rules and then the human race would long since have disappeared from the face of the earth. In addition to the disadvantages and immorality attaching to this practice, it is an objection against the Creator for having created such a power in man. Moreover it can be readily seen that there is no merit in being unable to do an act. Credit is due to him only who resists the evil tendency and overcomes the evil passions out of fear of God. The person who has the capacity deserves a twofold credit: for its exercise in the proper place and for refraining from applying it where it is not the proper occasion. But the man who has lost the capacity is not entitled to either one of these. He is like a child and deserves no credit for refraining from what he has lost the power to do There is no resistance, no overcoming and, consequently, no merit whatsoever.
These verses not only contain excellent teachings for the preservation of chastity but also point out five remedies for observing continence: restraining the eyes from looking upon strangers, and the ears from hearing voices exciting lust, or hearing the love-stories of others, avoiding every occasion where there may be risk of being involved in the wicked deed and, last of all, fasting, etc., in case of celibacy. We can confidently assert that the excellent teachings on chastity, together with the remedies for continence, as contained in the Holy Book, are a peculiarity of Islam.
One particular point deserves special attention here: the natural propensity of man, in which sexual appetite takes its roots and over which man cannot have full control except by undergoing a thorough transformation is that, whenever there is an occasion for it, it flares up and throws him into serious danger. The Divine injunction in this respect is, therefore, not that we may look upon strange women and their beauty and ornaments or their gait and dancing so long as we do it with pure intent nor that it is lawful for us to listen to their sweet songs or to the stories of their love and beauty, provided it is done with a pure heart, but that it is not lawful for us to cast glances at them whether with a pure or an impure heart. We are forbidden to do an act in the doing of which we are not treading upon sure ground. We must avoid every circumstance which might make us stumble. Unrestrained looks are sure to lead one into danger and, therefore, it is prohibited for us not only to look at a woman lustfully but not to look at her at all so that the eye and the heart should remain pure and secure against temptation.
For the attainment and preservation of chastity, therefore, there could be no higher teaching and no nobler doctrine than that inculcated by the Holy Quran. The Word of God restrains the carnal desires of man even from smoldering in secret and enjoins upon him to avoid the very occasions where there is danger of excitement of evil passions.
This is the secret underlying the principle of the seclusion of women in Islam. It is sheer ignorance of the noble principles of this religion to suggest that seclusion means shutting up women like prisoners in gaol. The object of seclusion is to restrain both men and women from intermingling freely, and that neither sex should be at liberty to display its decoration and beauty to the other sex. This excellent rule is conducive to the good of both sexes.
Note that ghaz basar ("...lower their gaze..." 24:30) in Arabic means the casting down of one's eyes when the object in view is not one which it is proper for a person to look at freely, and the restraining of one's looks on the proper occasion. A person who is yearning after righteousness of heart should not be looking on all sides. The casting down of eyes on proper occasions is the first requirement of social life. The habit, without causing any disadvantage to man in his social relation, has the invaluable advantage of making him perfect in one of the highest morals called "chastity".
We come next to the second moral quality of refraining from injury, which is called in Arabic amanat or "honesty". This consists in not injuring others by deceiving them or taking unlawful possession of their properties. This quality is naturally met with in man. An infant, free as it is from every bad habit, is averse to sucking the milk of a woman other than his mother, if he has not been entrusted to her when quite unconscious. This habit in the infant is the root from which flows the natural inclination to be honest, which is later developed into the moral quality known as "honesty".
The true principle of honesty is that there should be the same aversion of the dishonest taking of another's property, as the child has to sucking the milk of a woman who is not his mother. In the child, however, this is not a moral quality but only a natural impulse, inasmuch as it is not regulated by any principle or displayed on the proper occasion. The child has no choice in the matter and, unless there is a choice, the action, not being the action of a moral being, cannot be included in the category of 'moral condition'.
A man who, like the child, shows this inclination in obedience to the requirements of his nature without looking to the propriety of the occasion cannot, in the strict sense of the word, be called an honest and faithful person. He who does not strictly observe the conditions which raise this natural inclination to the status of a moral quality cannot lay any claim to it, although his action might, to outward appearance, resemble that of a moral being which is done with all the requisites and after a due consideration of its advisability. In illustration, a few verses from the Holy Quran may be quoted here:
*Minors or orphans, who have not sufficient prudence for the management of their affairs (see next note).
**For which the proper limit is eighteen, and where you perceive that they are able to manage their affairs well. However, if maturity of intellect is not attained at this age, the limit may be extended. These words, moreover, show that marriage should he performed when a person has attained majority, for the age of marriage is spoken as being the age of attaining majority.
***Note that it was a well-known rule among the Arabs that the guardians of an orphan's property, if they had a mind to take any remuneration for their services, took it, so long as possible, out of the profit which the trade brought in and did not touch the capital. The Quran permits the taking of recompense in this reasonable manner.
This, which God has taught, is true honesty and faithfulness, and its various requisites are clearly set forth in the verses quoted above.
Honesty, which lacks any of these requisites, cannot be classed as one of the high morals but a natural condition in its crude stage and not proof against every breach of faith. Elsewhere, we are told
That is, committing theft or dacoity, or picking pockets, or otherwise unlawfully seizing other man's property.
For, as it is unlawful for one person to lay hold of another's substance wrongfully, so is it also unjust to sell thing of an inferior quality.
These are comprehensive injunctions against all sorts of dishonest dealings, and every breach of faith comes within them. Separate offences are not enumerated here, as a comprehensive list of them would have required much space. The Holy Book has, therefore, made a general statement, which comprehends, in its plain meaning all sorts of dishonesty. In short, a person who shows honesty in some of his dealings, but is not scrupulous about it to the minutest degree and does not observe all good rules, is not gifted with the moral quality but acts out of habit in obedience to the natural inclination and without applying the faculty of reason.
Coming to the third stage of morals falling within the first division, we have to deal with the quality known in Arabic as hudna (or hun) or meekness". It consists in refraining from causing bodily injury to another person and thus leading a peaceful life upon earth. Peace is no doubt, a blessing for humanity and must be valued for the great good, which proceeds from it.
The natural inclination, Out of which this moral quality develops, is witnessed in a child in the form of attachment. It is plain that divested of reason, man can neither realize peace nor hostility. A natural inclination towards submission and attachment so early witnessed in the child is, therefore, only the germ out of which grows the high moral quality of peace. It cannot itself be classed as moral as long as it is not consciously resorted to on the recommendation of reason. It is otherwise when reason and judgement come to its assistance. The directions contained in the Quran may be briefly quoted:
The word laghw ("vain"), used in this verse, needs to be explained. A word or deed is said to be laghw (frivolous) when it causes no substantial loss or material injury to its object, although done or said with a mischievous or bad intention. Meekness requires that no notice should be taken of such words or deeds and that a man should behave like a gentleman on such occasions. But if the injury is not trivial and causes material loss to life, property or honor, the quality required to meet such an emergency is not meekness but forgiveness, which will be discussed shortly.
This verse means that the believers should not take up a hostile attitude so long as no material injury is caused to them. The guiding principle of peace is that one should not be offended at the slightest opposition to one's feelings.
The fourth and last of the morals of the first division is rifq or "politeness". The preliminary stage of this quality, as witnessed in the child, is talaqat or "cheerfulness". Before the child learns to speak, the cheerfulness of its face serves the same purpose as kind words in a grown-up man. But the propriety of the occasion is an essential condition in classing politeness as a high moral quality:
Such are the wonderful teachings of the Holy Book on the subject of politeness
Having dealt with the first division of morals - those relating to the avoidance of mischief - we now come to the second heading under which we shall give examples of the moral qualities taught by the Quran for doing good to others. The first of these is 'afw or "forgiveness". The person to whom a real injury has been caused has the right to redress by bringing the offender to law or himself dealing out suitable punishment to him; and when he foregoes his right and forgives the offender, he does him a real good. Thus we read:
It will be noted that these verses furnish the guiding rule as to the occasions of forgiveness. The Quran does not teach unconditional forgiveness and non-resistance of evil on every occasion, nor does it inculcate that punishment is not to be given to the offender under any circumstances. The principle which it lays down commends itself to every reasonable person. It requires the injured person to exercise his judgment, and see whether the occasion calls for punishment or forgiveness. The course, which is calculated to improve matters, should then be adopted. The offender would, under certain circumstances, benefit by forgiveness and mend his ways for the future. But on other occasions forgiveness may produce the contrary effect and embolden the culprit to do worse deeds. The Word of God does not, therefore, enjoin nor even permit that we should go on forgiving faults blindly. It requires us to consider what course is likely to lead to real good. As there are people of vindictive nature, who carry the spirit of revenge to an excess and do not forget an injury for generations, there are others who are ready to yield and prone to forgive on every occasion.
Excess in mildness, like excess in vengeance, leads to dangerous consequences. The person who winks at gross immoralities or forbears an attack upon his honor or chastity may be said to forgive, but his forgiveness is a weakness that strikes at the root of nobility, chastity and self-respect. No sensible person could praise it as a high moral quality. It is for this reason that the Quran places the limits of propriety even upon forgiveness and does not recognize every display of this quality as a moral quality unless it is shown upon the right occasion. The mere giving up of a claim to requital from an offender, whatever the circumstances and however serious the nature of the offence, is far from being a great moral quality to which men should aspire.
The mere presence of this quality in a person, therefore, does not entitle him to any credit unless he shows us, by its use on the right occasion, that he possesses it as a moral quality. The distinction between natural and moral qualities should be clearly remembered. The innate or natural qualities are transformed into moral qualities when a person refrains from doing an act upon the right occasion and after due consideration of the good or evil that is likely to result from it. Many of the lower animals are quite harmless and do not resist when evil is done to them. A cow may be said to be innocent, and a lamb meek, but to neither do we attribute the high moral qualities which man aspires after, for they are not gifted with reason. It is the occasion only upon which anything is done that justifies or condemns a deed, and the Word of God has, therefore, imposed this condition upon every moral quality.
The second moral quality by means of which man can do good (to others) is 'adal or "good for good"; the third is ihsan or "kindness", and the fourth 'itai dhi l-qurba or "kindness to kindred"
This verse calls attention to three stages in the doing of good. The lowest stage is that in which man does good to his benefactors only. Even an ordinary man who has the sense to appreciate the goodness of others can acquire this quality and do good in return for good. From this, there is an advancement to the second stage in which a man takes the initiative to do good to others. It consists in bestowing favors upon persons who cannot claim them as a right. This quality, excellent as it is, occupies a middle position. To it often attaches the infirmity that the doer expects thanks or prayers in return for the good he does, and the slightest opposition from the object of compassion is likely to be felt as ungratefulness. He would fain have an acknowledgement of the benefit conferred and is led sometimes to take advantage of his position by laying upon the other some burden which he would not have otherwise willingly borne. In order to remedy this, the Holy Book has warned the doer of good thus:
In this verse, the sadaqa (charity) is derived from sidq (sincerity). If therefore there is no sincerity in the deed, alms are of no effect, being a mere show. In other words, this is an infirmity attached to the doing of good to another, that the doer is led sometimes to remind the person relieved of his obligation, or to boast of it.
The Word of God has therefore, pointed out a third stage. To attain this perfection, man should not think of the good he has done nor expect even an expression of thankfulness from the person upon whom the benefit has been conferred. The good should proceed from sincere sympathy like that, which is shown by the nearest relatives - by a mother, for instance, for her children. This is the last and the highest stage of kindness to the creatures of God and, beyond this, man cannot aspire to anything higher. This stage has been termed "kindness to kindred". But from the lowest to the highest form of doing good, an essential condition has been imposed upon all: that it should be done on the proper occasion; for the verse affirms that these noble qualities are liable, unless exercised with great care, to degenerate into vices. Adl (good for good) becomes fahsha - an undue excess productive of harm rather than good; ihsan (kindness) becomes munkar- a thing which, when ill-bestowed, conscience rejects and from which reason recoils; itai dhi 'l-qurba (kindness to kindred), when directed to a wrong end, becomes baghi - the rain which, by its excess, destroys the crops. Therefore, any excess or deficiency in the doing of that which would otherwise have been most beneficial is termed "oppression". Nor is the mere doing of good in ally of the three forms mentioned above a high moral quality unless attested to as such by the propriety of the occasion and the exercise of judgment. These are natural conditions and inborn qualities, which are transformed into moral qualities by good judgment and by their display on the right occasion.
Upon the subject of ihsan (kindness), the Holy Book has also the following injunctions:
That is, in which there is no mixture of property acquired by theft or bribe, or misappropriation, or by oppression, or by any other dishonest or unjust means.
In this verse. the word kafur (camphor) is derived from kafr ('to suppress; to cover) and, therefore, by the quaffing of camphor drink is here meant that the unlawful passions of the righteous shall be suppressed, that their hearts shalI be cleaned of every impurity, and that they shall he refrigerated with the coolness of the knowledge of God. The verse goes on to say: "The servants of God (i.e. those who do good) shall drink on the Day of Judgment of a spring which they are making to gush forth with their own hands''. This verse throws light upon the secret, which underlies the true philosophy of Paradise.
This verse recommends the third stage of doing good. which proceeds Out of sincere sympathy and seeks no reward, not even an acknowledgement of the obligation conferred.
It may be noted that "those whom your right hands possess" may be your servants or even your domestic animals.
The fifth virtue, which resembles the instinct of bravery, is shaja'at or "courage". A child, when it has no reason, displays bravery and is ready to thrust its hands into the fire because, having no knowledge of the consequences, the instinctive quality is predominant in it. Man, in a similar condition, fearlessly rushes forth even to fight lions and other wild beasts, and stands out alone in the hour of contest against all armies. People would think that this is the highest courage but the fact is that it is more a mechanical movement than a moral quality. Wild beasts are on equality with him at this level. The virtue which we call "'courage" can be displayed only after due reasoning and reflection and after full consideration of the propriety or the impropriety of the act. It is a quality, which can be classed as an exalted virtue only when displayed on the right occasion. The Holy Book contains the following directions on this point:
Patience in trials is only one of the ideas which sabr conveys.
The courage of these people is not like the bravery of wild beasts, a mechanical movement depending upon passions and therefore flowing in one direction only; they utilize their courage in two ways: through it they resist and overcome the passions of the flesh and again resist the attacks of an evildoer when it is advisable to do so, not in obedience to brute force but in the cause of truth. They do not, moreover, trust their own selves, but have their confidence in the support of God at the time of trials.
The truly courageous do not display their bravery in an insolent manner. Their only consideration is the pleasure of God. All this leads to the conclusion that true courage takes its root in patience and steadfastness. The courageous person resists his passion and does not fly from danger like a coward but, before he takes any step, he looks to the remote consequences of his action. Between the daring dash of a savage and the indomitable courage of a civilized man there is this vast difference that the latter is prepared to meet real dangers but he reasons and reflects, even in the fury of battle, before he proceeds and takes the course best-suited to avert the evil, while the former in obedience to an irresistible passion -makes a violent onset in one direction only.
The sixth virtue, which is developed out of the natural conditions, is sidq or "veracity". So long as there is no incentive to tell a lie, man is naturally inclined to speak the truth. He is averse to lying from his very nature and hates the person who is proved to have told a lie. But this natural condition cannot claim our respect as one of the noble moral qualities. Unless a man is purged of the low motives which bar him from truth, his veracity is questionable. For, if he speaks the truth only in matters in which truth does no harm to himself and tells a lie or holds his tongue from the utterance of truth when his life or property or honor is at stake, he can claim no superiority over children and madmen. In fact, no one tells a lie without a motive, and there is no virtue in resorting to truth so long as there is no apprehension of harm. The test of truth is the occasion when one's life or honor or property is in danger. The Quran contains the following:
It may be recalled that shunning of idols and falsehood is enjoined in the same breath to indicate that falsehood is an idol, and the person who trusts in it does not trust in the Almighty.
Another virtue, which develops Out of the natural conditions of man, is sabr or "patience". Everyone has more or less to suffer misfortunes, diseases and afflictions, which are the common lot of humanity. Everyone has also, after much sorrowing and suffering, to make his peace with the misfortunes that befall him. But such contentment is by no means a noble moral quality.
It is a natural consequence of the continuance of affliction that weariness at last brings about conciliation. The first shock causes depression of spirits and inquietude and elicits wails of woe, but when the excitement of the moment is over, there is necessarily a reaction for the extreme has been reached. But such disappointment and contentment are both the result of natural inclinations. It is only when the loss is received with total resignation to the will of God that the sufferer deserves to be called virtuous:
It is, therefore, owing to the quality of patience that a man declares himself satisfied with God's pleasure. In another sense it is also justice; for when the Lord has made numerous provisions in accordance with the pleasure of man and does, on so many occasions in his life, bring about things as he desires, and has provided him with numerous blessings, it would be highly unjust if a man should grumble because the Creator wills a thing in another way and should not take the good that He provides with cheerfulness but turn aside from His path.
Another quality falling under the same category is muwasat or "sympathy". People of every nationality and religion are naturally endowed with the feeling of sympathy and, in their zeal for the interests of their countrymen or co-religionists, throw scruples to the wind, and do not hesitate to wrong others. Such sympathetic zeal, however, does not proceed out of moral feelings but is an instinctive passion, and is witnessed even in the lower animals, especially ravens in whose case the call of one brings together thousands of them. To be classed as a moral quality, it must be displayed in accordance with the principles of justice and equity, and on the proper occasion:
Existence of God
Of the innate feeling of man, which we see implanted in his very nature, is a search after an Almighty Being to Whom he is drawn by a hidden magnetic power acting upon his soul. Its first manifestation takes place with the birth of the child. As soon as the child is born, it is led by a desire to incline to its mother and, corresponding to the material instinct of love, it shows an instinctive impulse of attachment to its mother. With its growth and the development of its faculties, this instinct is displayed more prominently. It finds no rest but in the lap of its mother, and no peace but in her tender caresses. Separation from her embitters all its pleasures, and no blessing, however great, can atone for the pain caused to it by her loss. It has no consciousness, but is impelled by instinct to love its mother, and finds no repose but in her bosom.
The attraction, which thus draws the child towards its parents, points to the secret magnetism implanted by nature in the soul of man, which draws him to his Creator. It is this same attraction again which excites the affections of man to tend towards, and take their rest in, some external object. Thus we find the principle of attraction towards God deeply implanted within us and instinctively impressed upon our hearts. The emotions of love, however different the objects which call them forth, are all to be traced to the instinct of love for the Benefactor. In fixing his affections upon other objects, man seems only to be searching for the real object. He has, as it were, lost something of which he has now forgotten the name, and seems to be seeking it under every other object that he comes across. The attraction of wealth, the charm of beauty and the fascination of sweet and enchanting voices are only so many indications of some greater power underlying all these which draws all hearts towards it.
But, as imperfect human reason cannot comprehend nor the material eye discover this mysterious Being Who, hidden like heat in the soul, is invisible to all, the true knowledge of His existence has been attended with the greatest difficulties, and mistakes have been made in connection with His recognition. Superstition and gross credulity have accorded the homage due to the Invisible God to frail creatures and material objects. This has been well illustrated by the Quran in a simile where the world is likened to a crystal palace paved with bright glass. Under this transparent floor, a strong current of water is flowing. A superficial eye that witnesses the scene mistakes the glass for the water, being unable to discover the truth. That through which the water is seen, is wrongly taken as water itself:
Same is the case with great heavenly bodies which are seen in the universe, such as the sun, the moon and the stars, which only reveal the existence of the Powerful Being, working behind them all. But faulty human judgment makes a person bow in worship before them under the same delusion as the eye in the above instance mistook transparent glass for water. The Being that manifests Himself through these bodies is quite different from the bodies themselves. The polytheist is unwise enough to attribute the work done by the great Power to the material objects through which that power is manifested.
In short, although God reveals Himself manifestly, He is invisible and hidden. The material universe cannot lead us to an undeniable conclusion - to absolute certainty regarding the existence of its Author. The Consummate order and perfect arrangement which the material eye discovers in the universe, comprising countless heavenly bodies and numerous wonders which are disclosed to a thinking mind in nature, have never led, and can never lead, to the firm conviction, to the perfect certainty that there truly exists a God, the Creator and the Lord of the worlds.
The greatest astronomers and philosophers, who have applied their minds and energies solely to those sciences, have been involved in fatal doubts and skepticism as to the existence of God. All their knowledge, if it ever led them to draw the conclusion of the existence of the Almighty, could never go further than set it down among the probabilities. The creation of the sun, the moon and the stars, the order and design witnessed in those orbs which constitute the host of heaven, the consummate laws of order that regulate the universe, the formation of man's body and mind, the marvelous power and wisdom discernible in the government of this universe, no doubt, lead all to the conclusion of the probability of the existence of a Creator, but probability does not prove actual existence.
There is a vast difference between a probability and a certainty. Unless there is firm persuasion and strong conviction that God actually exists, the darkness of doubt cannot be dispelled and true light can never enter the heart. The rational persuasion, following from observation of a plan in the universe, does not amount to a certainty and cannot lead to peace and contentment of mind. It is not the wholesome cup of elixir, which has the power to wash off every doubt and quench the thirst, which the soul of man naturally feels for a true and perfect knowledge of the Lord. The imperfect knowledge, which is the result of a study of nature, is fraught with danger, for there is in it more of argument than substantial reality.
Unless the Almighty reveals Himself by His word spoken to His servants, as He reveals Himself by His works as witnessed in nature, a rational persuasion of His existence, which is the outcome of an observation of His work, is never satisfactory. If for instance, the doors of a room are all latched from inside, the natural inference would be that there is someone in the room who has bolted the doors. But if years pass by and no sound is heard from within, no voice responds to the repeated calls of the outsider for years, we would have to change our opinion as to the presence of someone within and would ascribe the event to some incomprehensible circumstance. Such is the belief in the existence of God, based upon a study of nature; the whole inquiry brings us but to the conclusion that chances are in favor of the existence of a Creator.
The fact is that an inquiry relating to the existence of God cannot be complete so long as we consider only one side of the question: the work of the Lord. The effort is misdirected which sets before itself the object of discovering the Creator simply from under heaps of matter. It is a blasphemy against the glorious and living Benefactor that, in the midst of all His creation, He should be likened to a dead body, which can Only be discovered by digging it out from under heaps of dust. That God, with all His infinite wisdom and almighty power, should depend upon human effort to be revealed to the world, is a shocking idea. The Supreme Being, viewed in this light, can never be the centre of our hopes and our Supporter in all our infirmities. Does the Creator Himself reveal His face to His creatures, or are they to seek a Clue to His existence for themselves? Does He show us His presence, or are we to search for Him? The external and invisible God has eternally made Himself known by His own clear and blessed voice proclaiming "I am", and has thus invited His frail creatures towards Himself that they may seek their support in Him.
It is presumptuous to assert that the Almighty lies under an obligation to man, because the latter takes the trouble to discover Him and that, but for man's exertions, the Eternal and Immortal Lord of the Universe would never have been known to His creation. To object to the palpable and conclusive proof of the real existence of God as furnished by His voice on the ground that He must have a tongue an idea inconsistent with the concept of God as a Spirit is baseless. Has He not created the earth and the host of heaven without any material hands? Does He not see the whole world without any material eyes? Does He not hear the voice of His servants and yet has no ear like ours? Is it not necessary, then, that He should speak as He creates, sees and hears? To object to one attribute while admitting others is quite illogical.
To say that though the Divine Being spoke to generations of men in the past and made Himself known to them by His clear voice, yet He does not speak now, would be to assert something wholly untenable. The unchangeable Lord, Who spoke in the past, speaks even now, and blesses with His holy word such of His servants as seek Him with all their heart and soul. His chosen ones even now drink deep at the fountain of His inspiration; no one ever set a seal upon His lips. His grace even now flows in abundance and is bestowed upon men as it was bestowed of old.
It is true that revelation of a perfect law and necessary rules for the guidance of mankind has put an end to the need of a fresh revealed law, and apostleship and prophecy have attained perfection in the holy person of Prophet Muhammad, but access to the sacred fountain of inspiration is not thereby barred.
That the Divine Light should have shone from Arabia last of all had been pre-destined by Divine Wisdom. The purpose behind this can be easily explained. The Arabs are descended from Ishmael whom God had cast forth into the wilderness of Paran*, and thus He cut off all connections of this race with the seed of Israel. It was destined that those whom Abraham had cast off from himself should have had no share in the Law of Israel, as it has been said that Ishmael shall not be heir with Isaac. The Ishmaelites were, consequently, isolated from those who were their next of kin and had no relations with any other people. In all other Countries, we meet with traces of laws and doctrines preached by prophets - a fact clearly indicating that those nations had, at one time or other, received their teachings from God - but Arabia does not seem to have benefited by such teachings.
*From the Arabic word faran, meaning the "two fugitives".
So far as the influence of the prophets is concerned, the Ishmaelites were the most backward people. This act of a wise Providence could not be purposeless. Why were the Ishmaelites kept aloof from the whole world and cut off from the prophecy of Israel? The answer is irresistible. Arabia was destined to be the final scene of prophetic law-giving and the mission of its Prophet was destined to be universal. He came last of all and, therefore, he came to bless all the nations, and rectify the errors of every people. The transcendent knowledge, which he gave to the world, is perfect in every respect. The Heavenly Law revealed through him aims at the complete reformation of men without any distinction of creed or color. Its injunctions are in no way meant for one community; on the contrary, it fully deals with all the stages of reformation suited for any people. It gives a universal code, furnishing rules for the civilizing of all men.
To root out a few vices from among a particular community had been the aim of all previous scriptures, but the Quran set before itself the grand and all-absorbing object of supplying a true remedy for all sorts of evil and gives directions for the guidance of all men. Moreover, it describes all the steps necessary for the social, moral and spiritual development of men. It had first to contend with savageness and raise men to the dignity of social beings by inculcating social virtues. The next step was to preach the higher moral doctrines.
The credit of pointing out the true distinction between natural inclinations and moral qualities is also due to the Quran. But it does not stop with the teaching of excellent morals; it aims at raising men a step higher to the perfection of humanity. It not only opens the door to Divine knowledge, to the certainty concerning God's existence, but also raises men to spiritual excellence. It has enlightened millions of men regarding the true knowledge of God, and established them upon a firm foundation with respect to the certainty of His existence. It gives admirable directions with regard to the threefold advancement of man, which has been discussed above. As the Quran is a comprehensive code of teachings and a guidance relating to the perfection of man, it asserts that claim in the following words:
This verse lays down clearly that religion attains its perfection in Islam. In other words, upon reaching a stage in which, as signified by the word Islam*, a person completely submits himself to the will of God, he seeks salvation by the sacrifice of his own self, and not by any other method, and does not allow this sacrifice to remain a mere matter of theory, but demonstrates it in his deeds and practice.
*Note that Islam literally means "submission" or "peace".
The philosophers who trusted in their imperfect reason could not discover the real God. A true knowledge of His existence was given by the Quran, which suggests two methods of attaining to this knowledge: firstly, it teaches the course by adopting which human reason is strengthened and sharpened in deducing God's existence from the laws of Nature and is protected from falling into error; secondly, it points out the spiritual method, which has been discussed earlier.
Under the first heading, the Holy Book has adduced clear and Cogent arguments appealing to human reason in sup port of the existence of God:
Now, if we look to the nature of all creatures from man downward, and consider their constitutions and moulds, we shall find the creation of all things surprisingly adapted to their natures. To enter into any detail upon this point would be trying the patience of the reader. But everyone can think volumes for himself on this subject.
Another argument in support of the existence of God is deduced by the Quran from His being the cause of causes or the first cause:
This argument is based upon the natural order of cause and effect, which pervades the universe. The growth of knowledge and science is the result of the universal dominion of this order over every part of the world, and important laws and principles have been developed out of it. Every cause, which is not itself primary, may be traced to some other cause and this to another, and so on. But as the series of cause and effect taking its rise in this finite world of ours cannot be indefinite, it must terminate at some point. The final cause is, therefore, the Author of the universe. It is to this first or final cause that the verse quoted above calls attention.
Another argument Supporting the existence of the Lord is thus described by the Holy Book:
Had all these heavenly Systems no designer, they would soon have been disorganized and destroyed. The vast masses of matter rolling in space, without disturbing each other, demonstrate, by the regularity of their motions, contrivance and design, hence the Designer. It is not at all surprising that these innumerable spheres, thus rolling on from time immemorial, do neither collide, nor alter their courses in the slightest degree, nor are subject to waste or decay from their constant motion. How could such a grand machinery work on without any disorder for numberless years unless it were in accordance with the contrivance and design of a Supreme Contriver? Alluding to this consummate Divine wisdom, the Quran says:
Another argument relating to the existence of the Creator is thus put forth by the Holy Book:
If we suppose the earth reduced to nothing and the heavenly bodies all brought to destruction and the whole material universe made nonexistent, still reason and conscience require that something should remain, which should never die nor be ever subject to change or decay. Such a Being is God Who brought everything into existence from nothing.
In another place, the Quran has the following argument in support of the existence of God:
In this verse, God relates in the form of a dialogue a characteristic of the soul, which He has implanted in its nature: that it is not in the nature of the soul to deny the existence of the Divine Being. The atheist rejects the existence of God, not because his nature revolts against it, but because he thinks that he has no proof of His existence. Notwithstanding this denial, he would admit that every effect has also a corresponding cause. No sane person holds that a certain disease, for instance, is not attributable to any cause. A denial of the system of cause and effect overthrows all principles and all sciences. All sorts of calculations, which determine the times of eclipses, storms, earthquakes, etc., and all other inferences would become impossible if every effect were not due to a particular cause.
A philosopher, though denying the existence of God, cannot dispute the existence of the first cause as he cannot reject the whole system of the universe. Besides, if a person who denies the existence of God were reduced to a state in which he could be purged of all desires and motives, he would, in this state, admit the existence of God as experience has so often proved. The verse quoted above thus tells us that a denial of His existence is persisted in only so long as the lower desires of man have the upper hand, and that pure nature is strongly impressed with the fact of His existence.
Attributes of God
We shall now consider the attributes of the Almighty Being as taught by the Quran. The following are only a few examples on this subject:
The idea of a partner with God is negated because, if He had a rival, His Divinity would be liable at some time to pass wholly to that rival. Further, the words "there is no one besides Him (to be worshipped)" signify that He is a perfect God Whose attributes, beauties and excellences are so high and exalted that if we were to select a god from among other beings, whose selection depended upon the perfection of his attributes, or if we were to suppose certain qualities as the highest and most excellent Divine attributes, nothing would approach Him in His perfection. Injustice could go no further than to set up a partner or a rival with such a Being.
The next attribute, mentioned in the verse above, is that God is "the Knower of the unseen and the seen". No one can comprehend His person with limited human faculties. We can understand everything that has been created, for instance, the sun, the moon, the stars, etc., in its entirety, but we cannot comprehend the Almighty Being in His entirety.
The verse then goes on to say that "God knows everything, and nothing lies hidden from Him". It would be inconsistent with His Divinity that He should be ignorant of His own creation. He alone can look to every small particle of the universe. He alone knows when He will put an end to this system and bring a general destruction over all things. He alone knows the time of all happenings.
Another attribute is that God provides, out of His bountiful mercy, and not in return for anything done by the creatures, all the means of happiness for all living beings before their creation. We see the manifestation of this attribute in His creation of the sun, the moon, the stars and numerous other things for the benefit of men before they or their deeds ever existed. This gift is due to His attribute of mercy, and it is when this attribute is at work that He is called "the Beneficent" (al-Rah man).
With respect to another attribute, He is called "the Merciful" (al-Rahim) - He gives a good reward for the good deeds of His creatures and does not waste any one's effort.
It may be noted that God is also described as "Master of the day of Requital" (Malik al-Yaumiddin, The Quran I:3). He Himself judges the world. He has not made over the dominion of earth and heavens to anybody, nor has He entrusted the right of judgment to any particular person.
He is also "the King" (al-Malik), "the Holy" (al-Quddus, The Quran 59:23), Who is without a fault or deficiency. His kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms, which may pass into other hands or cease to exist of themselves. The subjects may all emigrate to another country and thus leave a ruler without anything to rule over. A widespread famine may reduce a ruler to something less than a beggar. If the subjects, as a body, rise against the monarch and contest his superiority to rule over them, he may have to give up the reins of monarchy. Such is not, however, the kingdom of God. He has the power to destroy the whole creation and bring new creatures into existence. Had He not been Omnipotent, He would have been obliged to have recourse to injustice in His dealings with His creatures. The salvation of the whole of His first creation would have necessitated the injustice of sending them back to this world to be tried again. If He had no power to create new souls, the world would either have been left without any soul or He would have been obliged to take back the salvation, which He had first granted. Either of these courses would not have been consistent with Divine perfection and, if adopted, would have placed the Lord on a level with imperfect earthly rulers.
Note that the laws which governments make for the management of their affairs can be defective and, when obliged to have recourse to measures of oppression and injustice, they look upon them as being based on principles of justice and equity. Temporal governments, for instance, deem it justifiable that a boat should sink with its crew when it is likely to collide with a ship and thus liable to cause a greater loss of life and property. But it is not consistent with the idea of Divinity that God should be driven to an extremity in which the adoption of one or two defective courses should become inevitable. If He had not the power to create every thing from nothing, we can only liken Him to the ruler of a petty state who must either use oppression to keep up his divinity or, being just, be left without a world to rule over. But the Almighty is free from every such defect, and the mighty ship of His power floats upon the ocean of justice and equity.
The next attribute is contained in His name al-Salam - the real "Author of peace" (The Quran, 59:23.), Who is Himself free from every defect, adversity and hardship, and provides safety for others. The significance of this attribute is evident for, if He Himself had been a prey to suffering and adversity, persecuted by men, or unable to carry out His own designs, no heart would ever have looked up to Him in trials and afflictions with the hope of deliverance. Thus He says of false deities:
Yet another attribute is al-Mu'min "the Granter of Security" (The Quran, 59:23.) - the establisher of arguments in support of His unity and excellence. This attribute calls attention to the fact that a believer in the true God may consider himself safe on every occasion. He is not ashamed before people because he has strong and cogent arguments in support of his assertions. But the worshipper of a false deity is always in trouble. Having no argument in his favor, he takes any assertion which is contrary to reason for a deep mystery, so that under that name his errors may pass for something transcending human reason.
The following verses may be quoted to illustrate some more attributes of God
This verse indicates that there are inhabitants in the heavenly bodies who follow Divine rules of guidance.
This is the real source of comfort for the worshippers of the true God, for how could man centre all his hopes in Him if He Himself were weak?
There is no single word in English carrying the significance of the Arabic word Rabb-"Nourisher unto perfection" would be nearest; but the word Lord has been adopted for the sake of brevity - Publisher.
This verse excludes alI notions of the death of God.
It should be borne in mind that justice in relation to the Creator consists in being firmly established upon the true path of Divine Unity without deviating a hair's breadth from it at all. The moral injunctions, to which attention has already been called, form a part of the ethical teachings of the Quran. The most conspicuous feature of all these teachings is perfect freedom from excess and default. The Holy Book does not categorize any quality as a moral quality unless it is exercised within its proper limits. It need not be demonstrated that virtue lies in the middle course: it is a mean between two extremes. Whatever inclines a man to the middle path and establishes him in the mean course is conducive to good morals. The man who acts on the right occasion follows the mean path, which alone can lead to good. The farmer who scatters seed upon his fields either too late or too early departs, in so doing, from the middle path and the result is a waste of seed. Virtue, truth and wisdom lie in the middle path and he only Can walk in that path who watches for the opportunity.
Between two falsehoods, which occupy either extreme, lies the middle course, the path of truth which can be kept only by the observance of the right occasion. As in other moral qualities, the middle path must be adhered to in the recognition of the existence of the Lord. The mean in this consists in avoiding, on the one hand, the view which divests the Divine Being of every attribute and in rejecting, on the other, the view which likens Him to material things. This is the position, which the Quran has taken with regard to the attributes of the Almighty. It recognizes Him as Seeing, Hearing, Speaking, Knowing, etc., but cautions us at the same time not to liken Him to anything which our senses can comprehend:
Such is the true conception of God! Islam adopts the golden mean in all its teachings. The opening chapter of the Holy Book inculcates the adoption of the mean path when it teaches:
In this verse, three kinds of people have been mentioned. First of all, there are the maghdub 'alaihim by which the Holy Book alludes to people who assume an attitude of willful disobedience towards God and thus, following their own savage inclinations, call down the Divine wrath upon themselves. Then are the dallin by which are intended people who are led astray by following their bestial inclinations and their delusions. Midway between these two extremes are the people who walk in the right (middle) path and whom the Quran denominates an'amta 'alaihim. In fact, to direct people in the middle path is the one object of the Holy Book. Moses laid stress upon retaliation and Jesus upon forbearance, but the Quran teaches the use of both in their proper place. Elsewhere, we read the following:
Blessed are those people who adopt this course for, as the Arabic proverb says: the golden mean is the best!