By Ali Unal
Islam, literally meaning peace, submission, and obedience, is first of all, the religion for the whole universe.
Islam as the religion for the whole of the universe
We see that the universe is an orderly universe, a cosmos, whose parts are linked together and are working together towards the same purpose and common goal. Everything in the universe is assigned a place in a grand scheme which is working in a magnificent and superb way. The sun, the moon, the stars and in fact all the heavenly bodies are knit together in a splendid system. They follow an unalterable law and do not make even the slightest deviation from their ordained course. Everything in the world, from the little whirling electron to the mighty nebulae, invariably follows its own laws. Even in the human world the laws of nature are quite manifest. Man’s birth, growth, and the life are all regulated by a set of ‘biological’ laws. All the organs of his body from the small tissues to the heart and brain are governed by the laws prescribed for them.
The universe, although it seems monotonous, blindly obeying a set of laws, is neither a factory as thought of by theists of the eighteenth century, nor is it a chaos as conceived by the existentialist philosophers, which has nothing to say to man. Instead, it is a lively, dynamic organism each part of which works according to the position it occupies in the whole, and fulfills its share in the system of mutual relationships. God, on the other hand, is not a passive power which has left the universe to itself so that it should work automatically but is an ever-active Power the theophanies of Whose Names reflect in the mirror of the universe unceasingly. By each reflection of the Divine Names or, in other words, by the incessant flashes of the Divine theophanies is the universe renewed so that each moment a completely new universe is manifested. This renewal, however, depends on certain immutable principles without which it would have been impossible for man to live since he must have some unchanging principles according to which he could regulate his life. These principles, which we deduce by observing the natural events, do not have real and external existence but have nominal existence only, are called natural laws. They have been all laid down by the Creator and Ruler of the universe, so that the entire creation obeys these laws of God. That is why Islam is, first of all, the religion of the universe, for Islam signifies nothing but obedience and submission to God, the Lord of the universe. The sun, the moon, the earth, and all other heavenly bodies are thus ‘Muslim’. So is the case with air, water, and heat, stones, trees, and animals. Everything in the universe is ‘Muslim’ for it obeys God by submission to His laws. Even a man who refuses to believe in God, or offers his worship to someone other than God, has perforce to be a Muslim as far as his bodily existence is concerned. For his entire life, from the embryonic stage to the body’s dissolution into dust after death, and every tissue of his muscles and every limb of his body follow the course prescribed for each by God’s law. Thus, in Islam, God, nature, and man are not remote from each other nor are they alien to each other, and they certainly are not opposed to each other. It is God Who makes Himself known to man through nature and man himself, and nature and man are two books (of creation) through each word of which God is visible. Islam is the name of the code according to which nature operates without any disobedience, and man is required, but not forced, to live by using his free will.
Islam as God’s grace flowing in the arteries of the universe and as the religion governing human life
Islam, being a word derived from ‘silm’ meaning also salvation and peace as well as submission, is the expression of God’s grace flowing in the arteries of the universe. Islam being the Divine system to which all the creation except man has willingly submitted itself, there is no disorder observed throughout the universe. Islam is the firm, unbreakable rope stretched from Heaven, to which all creatures hold fast and, by means of which, man will be able to ascend Paradise, from where he came down to earth. Islam is a link which connects all creatures into a single unity, and this explains why it is the religion of universal brotherhood and solidarity.
Islam can be likened to a string of prayer beads. Each bead on the string stands for a species. When the string breaks, they will all scatter. This is just the case with the world, especially with the Muslim World at present, where people have been divided into groups of different classes, of races, nations, territories and economies. They look upon nature as “a prostitute to be used without any sense of obligation and responsibility toward her.”
The principle of Tawhid in Islam implies the necessity of man’s being in harmony with the world around him. The vast realm of the universe, which is in submission to one God only, displays a coherence and harmony of which the human world is also a part. Although the human world is subject, in addition to the general laws of nature, to a particular set of laws special to itself, yet it is also in harmony with other laws governing the rest of the phenomena beyond it. Man, unlike his fellow creatures who tread the path of nature, is endowed with the power of free will. He carries the gift of freedom together with the obligation to harmonize his life with the rest of nature -a harmony which is also the path of his exaltation and progress. This is the path upon which God has originated the nature of mankind:
So set thy face to the religion, a man of pure faith - God’s original nature in which He originated mankind. There is no changing God’s creation. That is the right religion; but most men know it not. (30:30)
Islam seeks to unite man with the vast domain of being, and strives to create an absolute unity between the universe and man. Man is the most essential partner in the realm of existence; and a Muslim is the co-religionist of all creatures in the universe:
What, do they desire another religion than God’s, while to Him has surrendered whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they shall be returned? (3:83)
Have you not seen how to God prostrate all who are in the heavens and all who are in the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars and the mountains, the trees and the beasts, and many of mankind?.. (22:18)
The mission of other Prophets
The religions prior to Islam were not meant to be universal religions. As far as their fundamental messages and teachings are concerned, the religion of Moses and of Jesus was not different from Islam, yet neither did contain complete guidance for all aspects of human life for all nations and ages. During the countless centuries of human history, when the different nations of mankind lived in more or less complete isolation, there was no means of rapid communication between one nation and another, so God sent different Prophets to the different peoples. Moses and Jesus were two of these national Prophets, both were the Prophets to the Israelites. This is what DR. C.J. Cadoux writes regarding the limited scope of the mission of Jesus:
The office of Messiahship with which Jesus believed himself to be invested, marked him out for a distinctly national role: and accordingly we find him more or less confining his preaching and healing ministry and that of his disciples to Jewish territory, and feeling hesitant when on one occasion he was asked to heal a Gentile girl. Jesus’ obvious veneration for Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Scriptures indicate the special place which he accorded to Israel in his thinking, and several features of his teaching illustrate the same attitude. Thus, in calling his hearers ‘brothers’ of one another and frequently contrasting their ways with those of ‘the Gentiles’, in defending his cure of a woman on the Sabbath with the plea that she was a ‘daughter of Abraham’ and befriending the tax-collector Zacchaeus ‘because he too is a son of Abraham’, and in fixing the number of his special disciples at twelve to match the number of the tribes of Israel -in all this Jesus shows how strongly Jewish a stamp he wished to impress upon his mission.” (The Life of Jesus, pp. 81, 82)
Jesus himself declared his mission to be restricted to the Israelites by saying: “I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.” (Matthew, 15:24)
Each nation having been separately guided to the truth by the national Prophets, the time ultimately became ripe for the World-Prophet (peace be upon him) to be raised to preach the universal religion. Thus, when the world was on the eve of becoming one, God raised up the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to transmit the essential message of all the Prophets, shorn of all that was of a temporary and limited nature and purged of all the later adulterations and misinterpretations. God revealed to him the all-embracing religion as a universal faith, containing the unadulterated message of all the Prophets. He united the peoples of all nations and lands into a single world-wide brotherhood and gave the world a complete code of life for the whole of humanity. So there is nothing in Islam which is of benefit only to the people of a particular region or age. The Holy Qur’an enjoins nothing which is not of uniformly inspiring, edifying and practicable for peoples of all nations and times. The religious and moral teachings of Islam are of a universal nature.
Islam is the consummation of all religions: A good Muslim is also a good follower of Moses and Jesus
Since the religions prior to Islam were of a national character, their followers tended to believe that they were chosen peoples. The Christians acknowledge only the Prophets of Israel while the Jewish people reject the Prophethood of Jesus. Islam says, however, that it would be a denial of the universal providence of God to assert that Prophets were raised for one nation only. According to the Holy Qur’an, God is the Lord and Sustainer of all the worlds. As He has not discriminated between nations in sending His revelations, so Muslims make no distinction between any of His Messengers:
The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers; each one believes in God and His angels, and in His books and His Messengers; we make no division between any of His Messengers. They say, ‘We hear, and obey. Our Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto You is the homecoming. (2:285)
Islam is the consummation of all religions. By accepting the Prophets and Scriptures of all nations, Islam affirms the unity and universal providence of God and the universality of religious experience, and also seeks to bring together people of all races and creeds in a single all-embracing Faith and Brotherhood. Further, a ‘Muslim’ is also the true follower of all Prophets including Moses and Jesus. Such being the case, while Christian means ‘the one who follows Jesus Christ’ and Judaism has completely turned into the racial religion of Jewish people only, Muslims totally reject the term of ‘Muhammadanism’, a term used of them by non-Muslims. To understand Islam as its adherents do, one should purge the word ‘Muhammadan’ or ‘Muhammadanism’ from one’s vocabulary. The labeling of Islam as Muhammadanism is the result of a false analogy with Christianity. Muslims do not worship Muhammad as Christians worship Christ. Muhammad was neither a god, nor an incarnation, nor the son of God. He never claimed to be more than a man who received revelations from God. He did not make Islam, he simply received the Message of Islam.
Islam does not accept contradictions in any field of life
Since Islamic Tawhid, as an expression of human existence, implies the equality and unity of all human beings in their relation with God, it bears the notion of homogeneity, equality and unity of human origin. Humanness is the single basic element ingrained in the nature of all human individuals. Human beings associated with the different social strata are neither the creations of different gods so that any disparity could exist in their essential nature, thus giving rise to insuperable barriers between them; nor do the upper classes of society have a more powerful god than the lower classes. All are the creation of one and the same God, and all are uniform in their fundamental essence:
O mankind, fear your Lord, Who created you of a single soul.. (4:1).
Thus, Islam cannot accept legal, physical, class, social, political, racial, national, territorial, genetic, or even economic contradictions. The Islamic world-view of Tawhid implies a mode of looking upon all human beings as a unity and eliminates all contradictions between black and white, ruler and ruled, employers and employees, intellectuals and the masses, noble and vile, clergy and laity, eastern an western, Arab and non-Arab, capitalist and proletarian etc. All such contradictions are reconcilable only with the world-view of shirk -dualism, trinitarianism or polytheism, and are absent with the philosophy of Tawhid. The Holy Qur’an declares that mankind have been created male and female and formed into races and tribes so that they may know one another and not take pride in their color or race or claim superiority over others on account of their color, race or social or economic status; the noblest among them in the sight of God is the most God-fearing of them. The Holy Prophet (God’s peace and blessing be upon him) is also reported to have said: “Your God is one, you are from Adam and Adam is from dust; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor white over a black except on account of piety and righteousness.”
The Islamic belief in the unity of mankind is the corollary of the doctrine of the Unity of God. The self-same God is the Creator and Nourisher of men and women of all nations, races, colors, creeds and cultures. Hence all mankind are slaves of God and the most dear to Him is one who is the best of them. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said:
God says to His slaves on the Day of Reckoning: “O man, you did not visit Me when I was ill.” Man responds: “How could it be that I would visit You since You are the Lord of the creation?” God says: “Do you not remember that my servant so-and-so got ill but you did not visit him. If you had visited him, you would have found Me with him. O man, you did not give Me food when I asked you for it.” Man responds: “How could it be that I would give You food seeing that You are the Lord of the creation?” God says: “Do you not remember that my servant so-and-so asked you to give him food but you did not do so. If you had given him food, you would have found Me with him.” God continues: “O man, you did not give Me water when I asked you.” Man responds: “How could it be that I would give You water since You are the Lord of the creation?” God retorts: “Do you not remember that my servant so-and-so asked you to give him water but you did not. If you had given him water, you would have found Me with him.”
The Prophet (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) informs us that a prostitute finally deserved to go to Paradise since she gave water to a thirsty dog out of compassion, whereas another woman went to Hell because she had left a cat dying of hunger.
This is Islam with its arms wide-open to all creatures, regions and ages.
Said Nursi, Mektubat (The Letters 1, The Letters 2), Istanbul
Muhyiddin an-Nawavi, Forty Hadiths
Abu’l-A‘la al-Mawdudi, Tafhim al-Qur’an, (Turkish trans), 1991
Towards Understanding Islam, 1970
G. W. Choudhury, Islam and the Contemporary World, London, 1990
A. Izzeti, The Revolutionary Islam, 1980
U.A. Samad, Islam and Christianity, 1977
A.C. Morrison, Insan, Kainat ve Otesi (Turkish trans.)1973
S.H. Nasr, Ideals and Realities of Islam, London, 1966