Dr. M. Rafat
Human life has always been associated with questions and problems, however human beings tend to view the problems of their particular time and age as somehow unique and unprecedented. They appear to see the past as being comparatively simple and free of grave problems. To them, the ‘present’ seems to have become far more complex when compared to the past. This feeling is no doubt illusory, but is quite natural.
The last of the messengers of God, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) is the guide and teacher of the whole mankind. Hence the perplexed humanity today should expect that the particular problems of their age however complex would find their satisfactory resolution in the message conveyed by the Prophet. This expectation is indeed justified.
Today, the human society is beset by a number of problems; a long list could be made of the issues that require diagnosis and resolution. However any important list of today’s problems is most likely to include the following issues which surpass others in their urgency and gravity:
1) The problem of uncertainty
2) The norms needed for a global society
3) The elusive peace
4) The conflict with nature
5) The distribution of resources
All these areas need the light of the Prophetic guidance to enable mankind to overcome the problems associated with these areas.
THE ERA OF UNCERTAINTY
The era of uncertainty began with a glorious promise of certainty. With the advent of Renaissance, the wisdom of the west proclaimed that mankind has finally discovered a perfectly certain method of deciphering the truth – the scientific method. The method was based on observations and experiment and promised to reveal the secrets of nature and universe. With same extension and extrapolation, the same method was also expected to solve the problems of human society, by suitable use of human reason and intellect.
This indeed was a glorious start. But today after four centuries the scientific method does not promise certainty any longer. Indeed the human reason has proved singularly incapable of providing norms for guiding the human individual and social behaviour. This sense of failure has now dawned on the western mind with outstanding clarity. It is best expressed in the philosophy of ‘postmodernism’. In simple words, ‘postmodernism’ means that “things are uncertain and there are no absolute truths”.
Uncertainty inevitably leads to despair, cynicism, gloom, pessimism and hopelessness. This seems to be the leading trait of the ideas which prevail today.
The Prophetic message opens new doors of hope in this context where otherwise despair prevails. The Prophet announced to mankind that revelation is the certain and reliable source of knowledge and guidance. This assertion of certainty is the hallmark of the Prophetic mission. The Divine book brought by the Prophet announces in the very beginning that “indeed this is the book (of guidance, from the Almighty). There is no doubt in it” (The Qur’ān, chapter 2, verse 2).
About himself, the Prophet also announced that, “I am indeed the messenger of God. There is no falsehood in this claim.”
One may well ask, “Granted that the Prophet announced the certainty of revealed knowledge. But why should we accept this claim.”
The Qur’ān presents a detailed reply to this natural query. The Prophetic claim should be accepted as true because of the following five grounds;
a) The prophet is a person of exemplary character; never known to utter a falsehood. At the same time, he is a man of great wisdom and sensibility. His claim cannot be dismissed as outpourings of an insane person.
b) The Prophet has no material gain in his view. He does not work for any reward, from any human agency. He is completely selfless in his mission. He has no axe to grind.
c) All Prophets, right from the first to the last, bring the same message. How could they all agree with one another if their message had been false!
d) The Prophetic message makes sense. It is in perfect harmony with reliable knowledge obtained by people through use of their senses and reason.
e) The Prophetic message when put into practice purifies human life, individual as well as collective and ushers in an era of peace and tranquillity.
Today’s humanity groping in the darkness of uncertainty should reach towards the light and peace provided by the Divine guidance, which promises certainty.
The Qur’ān invites mankind thus: “March towards Allah.”
THE GLOBAL SOCIETY
Technology, travel and communication have now made the human family into a global society. This is a radical transformation as compared to the society of the past and the transformation seems to be irreversible. For this global society, human beings need universal norms. In this age of globalisation it is impractical to propose varying norms, peculiar to the particular regions of earth or to some segments of humanity. The Prophetic teachings are eminently suitable for this era of global society. These teachings provide a universal worldview as well as a set of universal norms and the code of conduct.
The universal worldview presented by the Prophet asserts
a) The unity of the Creator;
b) Existence of harmony and balance in the universe; and
c) The unity of human family (which arose from the first human pair Adam and Eve.
The universal norms presented by the Prophet are:
a) Justice and moral excellence (Adl and Ihsan);
b) Integrity and truthfulness (Sidq and Amanah);
c) Consultation in social and political affairs (the principle of Shura);
d) Comprehensive growth of individual and society (the principle of Tazkiyah); and
e) Promotion of Maroof (whatever is ethically desirable) and elimination of Munkar (whatever is unacceptable behaviour to the unpolluted human nature).
This beautiful matrix of concepts presented by the Prophet is universal in character. The Prophet presented it to the whole mankind. This matrix has no regional, racial or sectarian overtones, and is explicitly global in its nature.
The code of conduct naturally arises from the universal worldviews and the set of norms. This code of conduct is therefore also universal. The Qur’ān and the Prophetic teachings presented the code of conduct as follows:
a) None is to be worshipped except the Almighty God.
b) One should serve one’s parents in the best possible manner.
c) One should be good towards one’s neighbours, be they temporary or permanent.
d) Haya (chastity and modesty) should guide one’s behaviour and action.
e) Cleanliness of body, attire and surroundings is to be ensured.
f) All unproductive financial activities such as gambling are prohibited.
g) Interest (usury or Riba) is strictly prohibited, on individual as well as collective dealings.
h) Wealth should not remain concentrated in particular segments of society. It should circulate.
i) Public policies should be based on reliable information and unbiased analysis.
j) All the agreements, pacts and promises should be honoured.
k) The weak and the deprived in the human society should be given due dignity, protection and support.
Human beings have always instinctively regarded war as undesirable and have sought to avoid it. This instinctive desire has assumed greater significance in today’s context; when nuclear and biological weapons have become a terrible reality. To avoid war, on a durable basis, three conditions are clearly necessary:
a) Formulation of international norms which should be respected by the governments;
b) Existence of a mechanism to ensure the implementation of the above international regulations.
c) Political and economic justice; because injustice inevitably leads to restlessness, clash and conflict.
The Prophetic guidance provides the necessary basis for progress in the above three arenas. Learning from the Prophet’s framework, the Muslim scholars and jurists of the past took the initiative in evolving the international law. The western scholars came much later on the scene.
Today’s accepted international law exists only in the form of some ‘agreements’ and ‘declarations’. The sum total of these is however incomplete and insufficient and in some respects even lopsided. The world today needs to learn from the rich legacy produced by Islamic scholars. A well formulated international law to regulate the relations between States is an urgent need of today’s world. Muslim intellectuals and scholars may demonstrate their commitment to the Prophet by taking a lead in speedily evolving a just international law.
International law needs for its successful implementation, a viable mechanism. This mechanism has to assume the form of an effective international forum. In practice, such effectiveness naturally arises from the organisational character of the international forum and the existence of healthy traditions of the forum’s functioning. In both respects, the existing UNO is defective. Its organisational character is faulty because it treats various States unequally which is manifestly unjust. Its record is also far from exemplary. It has not been able to pursue its resolutions, even when they were just and reasonable, to their logical end. An effective international forum is therefore obviously needed in today’s world. The Muslim governments should take the initiative in evolution of such a forum.
Finally, political and economic justice has both dimensions; the dimension internal to a country and the international one. The former is the responsibility of each government individually and the latter is the responsibility of the powerful States. The Prophet has advised everyone who enjoys authority over others (irrespective of the scale and scope of such authority) to be mindful of his responsibilities. He would be answerable for the same. The most important of these responsibilities is justice.
CONFLICT WITH NATURE
One of the major misconceptions created by the western secular worldview is of the conflict of man with nature. The secular conception puts forward the objective of conquest of nature – which is an ill-conceived and impossible project. In contrast to this, the Divine guidance reveals the correct relation between natural objects and mankind; this relation is rooted in the basic fact that both man and nature are creations of the Almighty God. However, God has created natural objects in such a way that they serve man. Moreover, man may learn, by using his faculties of observation and reasoning, about many of these natural objects and then use them in beneficial ways.
This novel conception of the relation of man and nature was explained by the Prophet to mankind. In Divine guidance, the term used for this unique relationship is Taskheer.
DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES
The Prophet, in the light of Divine guidance, taught the people that resources of the world are to be shared. The weak, the poor and the deprived deserve the attention and support of the well-to-do. Ultimately the aim is that all human beings should get enough from these worldly resources in order to enable them to develop their human potential to the fullest extent.
When the Prophet migrated from his native city Makkah to Medinah, the Muslims of Makkah migrated with him. They were new to the town of Medinah. The Prophet initiated the institution of brotherhood (mawakhat). Accordingly, a native Muslim of Medinah was associated with a migrant Muslim from Makkah, in a manner that the two were made ‘brothers’. This is a fine example to “sharing of resources”.
The Prophet’s message provides the principles which enable mankind to analyse today’s problems in a fresh light. In addition, this message also provides the method which leads to the successful resolution of these problems. Indeed, the Prophet is the guide par excellence, of the modern age.