The Universal Message of the Holy Quran

  1. There is one unseen God [Allah in Arabic] who created the entire reality – the seen and the unseen universes –the Sustainer who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient and beyond human comprehension.
  2. There is One God, one humanity, and there is one ever true religion [al-Din al-Hanif] for mankind is defined in the Quran in universal term: God has implanted fitratulla or 'God's nature' or 'God given nature' in a human, if one follows the dictate of that ‘nature’ he/she is following the right religion [30:30]. The Quran also warns mankind that most of the people do not know this pivotal concept of faith.  
  3. Fitratullah or  ‘God's nature’ or 'God given nature' may consist of the faculty of reason, the spiritual and intuitive ability and can collectively be called the faculty of conscience. A human being is empowered to make the right decisions to stay on the straight path [siratul mustakim] to become successful in life and in the Hereafter. However if one succumbs to bad inclinations he/she drifts away from that straight path. If one fails to bring himself/herself back to the straight path and let go of oneself in indulging in bigger and bigger sins, he/she ultimately can drift away to darkness and become disconnected from God's grace and guidance altogether. 
  4. The Quran repeatedly addresses mankind as the children of Adam establishing a greater bonding of brotherhood in humanity. Addressing mankind the Quran exhorts (23:52): “And, verily, this community of yours is one single community, since I am the Sustainer of you all: remain, then, conscious of Me!
  5. Islam is not a new religion, the Book explains, it is the same religion that was given  to countless prophets sent to across the length and breath of humanity one time or another. Only few are known, but most of them are not known. Nothing is said to thee [Prophet Muhammad] that was not said to the Messengers before thee .” [Quran 41:43].
  6. God's creation is not accidental or without a purpose.  Everything is well planned, well fitted and well balanced to render this reality. The Quran is exhorting the believers to take a serious note of God's creation in which they should see the signs of His Presence. The reality itself, if noted, points to the Ultimate Reality of God’s existence.
  7. The purpose of each of the created things, including humans, is to serve [ibadat] God. Each has its laws to comply with in order to fit into the greater scheme of creation.  God gives each the nature and the capacity to attain its own purpose [91:7]. The Quran alludes that the entire universe – except those to whom the freedom of choice is granted -- is in a state of peace as it submits to the Will and Law of God. Angels, even though they are very powerful, are not given liberty: they can just carry out God’s commands. God does not grant them free will.
  8. However God does grant a human free will. And in order to exercise free will to reach his/her potential and purpose that is to attain the state of ‘success’ or salvation, a human being is endowed with enormous capacity and is immensely empowered with God’s own spirit [15:29] and a God given ‘nature’ or fitratulla [30:30].  Therefore a person has the ability to discern right from wrong and to sense truth. A human is given inherent knowledge [2:31] and the angels are commanded to prostrate before the human prototype Adam. Therefore God assigns a God-like status to a human being as the gesture of prostration is generally reserved only for God. The Quran proclaims that God has made humans his representatives [khalifa] on earth [2:30]. Therefore the duty of a human is to take care of God’s creation the way God does: with compassion, justice, balance and care according to the best of his/her ability. One can do that only if he/she can submit to the Will of God and comply with His moral law [din]: this is only possible when one avails God’s guidance. There is an unseen umbilical cord between the Creator and a human being: the purer the ‘nature’ [fitratulla] remains through the right choices the better connected one is with God to receive His Mercy and Guidance. If one becomes corrupt the cord becomes increasingly dysfunctional until the tie is completely severed and the person is left in the dark to approach towards eternal damnation or doom. Repeatedly the Quran warns mankind that at that failed state one’s mind is sealed and he/she is cut off from God’s Grace.
  9. There is a huge range along which a person can move depending on the choices he/she makes: from the best state to the worst in the creation [95:4 & 5 ].
  10. The idea of ‘ibadat’ or worship of God is comprehensive in Islam: it includes anything and everything one does to please God, to comply with His Moral Law and to strive for the purpose. Feeding an indigent person, helping a relative, smiling at a friend to make him/her feel welcome, praying, fasting, fighting against injustice, etc. – small and big – all can be part of God’s worship or service if done with the right intention.
  11. The idea of the Day of Judgment rests on God’s giving human beings free will. The Quran exclaims that humans are God’s best creation. Entire creation is subjected to serve humans. The enormous empowerment and status given to humans make them remain accountable for their actions. If the right choices are made one can achieve success [muflihun] or salvation. If the wrong choices are made one can end up to receive eternal damnation [jahannam]. 
  12. The meaning of Islam is peace: the root idea in the Quran is that one cannot attain peace or salvation without complete submission to God in which God will lead him/her to the goal. A muslim is one who submits to God. Erroneous ideas about two root terms ‘muslim’ and ‘islam’ – that are in currency in the Muslim world for a very long time  -- distort the entire religion, its universal message and the spirit of brotherhood it promotes in humanity. In giving a clear idea about these concepts laid down in the Quran Muhammad Asad, one of the most respected Islamic scholars of our time, who translated the Quran wrote: 
  13. “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.” [note to verse  68:35]
  14. This also leads to the fundamental Islamic principle that a human being cannot judge the piety of anyone including oneself. Only God can judge whether a person is a ‘muslim’ or not – irrespective of what he/she calls himself/herself -- and the piety level of that person. No believer should commit blasphemy by even daring to think of making a judgment on others. Different names, identities, cultures all are surface elements whereas faith is an internal matter. Only God knows one’s mind and all the complexities of life it endures, not another person.
  15.  Islam, therefore, is the religion of man’s self-surrendering to God.   Therefore in order to achieve true success in        life and attain its purpose [muflihun] one’s complete submission to God is the only way.  There is nothing passive              about  submission to God. To the contrary it requires one’s constant vigilance and steadfastness against one’s own              weaknesses  and wrong inclinations to comply with God’s Laws. It is said that the greatest Jihad is the struggle against        one’s own self  to defeat wrongs.
  16. These concepts are critical how a Muslim view the world and look at another human being. The basis of prejudices, extremism, intolerance, too dogmatic and ritualistic approach, and belligerence come from ignorance about the spirit and essence of Islam. If we can help remove some of these misconceptions there is a hope that the Muslim world would be in a much better shape and the lives of Muslims immensely better. The more knowledgeable Muslims are the better believers they become. They then can become better conveyer of the Message of the Quran to others. The Quran equates knowledge and wisdom with righteousness. A truly knowledgeble person [a'alim] cannot fail to be a believer and a true believer is led to be a wise person [hakim]. A fundamental duty of all Muslims is that they strive for knowledge and they be examples of the faith they practice.
  17. Even though the fundamentals of religion [din] is one and the same, there are different ways [sirat or minhaj] to approach  ‘din’ [5:48]. For the followers of the Prophet Muhammad, there are specific rituals: daily prayers [salat] , charity [zakat], fasting and pilgrimage [hajj].
  18. The scripture explains that diversity is the Will of God, if God so Willed entire humanity would be one nation following one creed but He did not Will that. Even though the essence of a religion remains same, the Quran asserts, that there are differnt ways [‘sirat’ and ‘minhaj’] assigned to different people to approach the ultimate goal of success [yuflihun] or salvation. Believers, facing others, should remain focused on the commonalities of fundamentals rather than differences of surface elements. The outcome of this mindset is humility, tolerance, cooperation and pluralism.  
  19. “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]
  20. Why the Quran is Stern in Giving Warnings . The Quran is stern and severe in its tone of warnings about the consequences both in this world and in the Hereafter. It is indicated in the Quran that warnings are severe to have deterrence effects on wrong doings. If warnings help one to reclaim himself/herself then the purpose of warning is served.
  21. God’s Forgiveness.  However, the most repeated characteristics of God in the Quran is God’s compassion, mercy and forgiveness. It is said that God has Willed upon Himself the law of Mercy. Time and again the Book is exhorting the transgressors not to lose hope about receiving God’s mercy and forgiveness [39:53]. If one realizes, stops the wrong doing, repents, amends and does good work he/she may find God most forgiving. It is often repeated that punishments are what one deserves, but rewards of good work could be many times its merit. It is also indicated few places that God can forgive all sins as He has kept the right to forgive everyone [11:107].
  22. Billions of factors are synchronizing in precise measure and manner with billions of other factors, often unrelated, to render this reality. It defies reason to think that all these countless and ceaseless intense synchronizations and co-ordinations in reality are just meaningless successions of coincidences. Everything in the entire universe originating in one point are complying with set laws to render this reality. A mind must get corrupted and deluded by arrogance, ignorance, carelessness and self-indulgence to fail to sense the Presence of God. One rational human being using the faculty of reason and considering everything into account cannot fail to see the Message. Those who reject the existence of God argue that God is not provable. It is important to note here that the most advanced scientific theory that can explain the working of the universe better than others is called the “string” theory. However the scientists say that this theory is not provable, yet it is well accepted for its coherent ideas about how the universe works. If the most advanced theory of science can be accepted on ground of its sound explanations about the existence of the universe then why is it so difficult to accept the  Creator whose existence explains this highly synchronized reality -- where the laws, energies & elements are behaving consistently and precisely throughout the universe --better than anything else? The Quran is full of exhortations to ponder on the nature of the reality to find that explanation.
  23.  A faith should be based on reason in order to be accepted by God. There is no blind faith or followings [taqlid] in Islam. One needs to exercise his/her free will in accepting faith. The more convinced one is about the existence of God the stronger the faith is. The Quran’s unequivocal declaration is “la iqra ha fiddin” [2:256] meaning there is no coercion or compulsion in the matters of faith. One is free to choose as he/she pleases. If the choice is based on knowledge and reason, one finds the One Ever true faith.   
  24. A truly knowledgeable person is bound to be righteous and a righteous becomes knowledgeable by virtue of his/her purity. Knowledge and wisdom comes from God alone. A human is given inherent knowledge that can be retrieved if the ‘nature’ or ‘fitratulla’ remains purer. If it gets corrupted it fails in its capacity to sense and receive God’s Guidance. Acquired information is not knowledge: how information is sorted and viewed depends on one’s wisdom that in turn comes from God. The purer this ‘nature’ remains the more forceful the connection with God to receive His Guidance to acquire knowledge and wisdom.
  25. The enables one to reach one’s potential and fulfill his/her goal through a straight path -- is The ultimate success is to ‘return’ to the Creator in pure form in which the soul was created. The successful ‘return’ to God is life’s ultimate goal.  The Quran time and again mentions that. A believer’s lifelong effort then should be to maintain purity of ‘nafs’ as close to the original sinless state of a soul. Our sins will be forgiven and our faults wiped out if we strive to comply with our true ‘nature’ and remain steadfast complying with the dictate of God’s moral laws [din]. The state of ‘nirvana’ can be achieved with pious intentions and righteous activities of life.
  26. There is no reason for hopelessness in this life.  Even the transgressors are consoled in the Quran that they still can find God Merciful to forgive their past if they repent and amend [39-53, 12-87]. Human beings are not expected to be perfect. If one fails even in a big way but after that repents and amends the Quran gives him/her assurances of God’s mercy and forgiveness. God is the nearest to one, therefore one does not need an intercessor to approach God. If the difficulties of life if one can keep the trust in God, remain steadfast and continue hope for His forgiveness and mercy, the success both in this world and Hereafter is assured.
  27. The Quran claims that if it is understood right one would not find any inconsistency or discrepancy whatsoever in the Quran. Therefore a believer must find the meaning of a verse that is also consistent with other verses and differentiate the fundamental straight forward verses from the ones revealed in a particular context such as a war. This is the critical test in understanding the Quran.
  28. There are verses that were revealed while a war was going on or right before or after the war or in a state of war. These verses address enemies –Christians, Jews, Pagans -- who were determined to annihilate the then young Muslim community. At the same time there were Christians, Jews, Pagans who were friends and allies of the Muslims also. Therefore those verses that command to fight against the then enemies are not addressing Christians, Jews, Pagans categorically but only as vicious enemies who launched three major wars against the Muslims to destroy them. Tremendous disservice would be done to Islam and to others if these verses are taken out of the context to mean Christians, Jews, Pagans of all time. Many Muslims today erroneously and most unfortunately think like that and deliberately develop a wall of prejudices and hatred against these non-Muslim groups. This misconception also becomes the breeding ground for extremism, intolerance and even terrorism. The consequent confrontational culture is a disservice to Islam as it becomes a roadblock to peace and conveying Islam to others.
  29. However there are some verses with timeless universal message that do not have any context. These “pop up” verses generally have not much connection with the preceding and the following verses of these verses that lays down fundamental principles and ideas of the Quran. For example “la iqra ha fiddin” meaning no compulsion in the matters of faith [2:256], and 30:30 where the definition of One ever true religion for mankind is laid down fall into this category. These verses are not meant for any particular context but for all people and all time to come. That is perhaps why these do not have any context.
  30. The Quran proclaims that Quran is a continuation of the past revelations and the confirmation of the previous scriptures. Islam is the same religion that was given to Adam--the first human prototype--and to all the subsequent prophets. The Quran declares to Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]: “Nothing is said to thee that was not said to the apostles before thee.” [41:43].  The Book also gives validity to other scriptures and recognizes the sanctity of Synagogues, Churches, Temples etc. where God is being worshipped. [22:40] 
  31. The Quran unequivocally asserts that there is nothing fundamentally new that is revealed to Prophet Muhammad that was not revealed to all other prophets before [41:43]. This is an extremely important proclamation. It essentially conveys that the fundamental ideas and teachings have remained same throughout human history. Different religions, different dogmas, different sects, different schools of thoughts, etc. have all emerged because human beings have failed to stay with the main Message of God. The differences appeared because man has changed God’s words. The Book says all the prophets and their people [mankind] belong to one brotherhood [23:52]. The Quran condemns human tendency to break up unity, create dissension and establish different sects out of the same religion sent to mankind through different prophets [23:53].
  32. Therefore the Quran warns that the worst transgressors are those who change God’s words and give lies to His Message. Also serious warning that there are dreadful penalties for those who create divisions and cause dissension in humanity [3:105].
  33. The Quran proclaims that all human beings, irrespective of their differences in terms of creed, color, gender, etc., are  'khalifa' or viceroys or representatives of God on earth [Quran 6:165, 27:62]. One therefore comes into this world with  certain God given or 'inalienable' rights that must be defended by the society. There are also inherent responsibilities  assigned to this enormous position of 'khalifa' for which one remains answerable to God.
  34. Now an obvious corollary of this fundamental concept appears to be of extreme importance in the affairs of social governance. A khalifa or vicegerent of God cannot be a subject of a ruler, he or she can only be a citizen of self-rule in which people or all khalifa collectively holds the ultimate power for self-governance. Since the ruler and the ruled are all God’s khalifa and are of equal status, the ruling group in order to rule must take the consent from the people it would rule. This consent taking process may be in the form of an election.  Without this collective consent there is no legitimacy to rule. 
  35. There is no scope for any arbitrary human system that can circumvent this fundamental concept without violating the Quran. The right to equality, dignity and liberty that a God’s representative should possess on earth must be upheld in any socio-political system.
  36. This is the Book that remains unchanged since it was first collected and compiled 20 years after the Prophet’s death. The Quran claims that God is going to protect the Book for mankind and the true followers are going to inherit the earth.
  37. Following the command of the Quran to progress in knowledge, the Muslims acquired the pinnacle of success during the 8th through 12thcenturies during their Golden Age. Afterwards they lost it all by closing the door on ‘ijtihad’ [analytical reasoning] due to the fear of facing difficult issues the process place before the Muslim community.  Truth is powerful and it prevails. In the long run truth stands out clear penetrating and nullifying all false ideas and practices. ''Ijtihad" is an effective tool in the pursuit of knowledge and Truth. Scholars, thinkers and Imams should face challenges with the spirit of progress and justice. Neither justice served nor progress achieved with stagnant dogmatic mindsets.  
  38. It is long over due we change. Our mindset change, our teaching methods change, our modus operandi  -- of focusing on petty issues while failing to comply with the major principles and ideals of the Quran -- change. We have produced more than 50 Muslim majority societies most of which are degraded, downtrodden, mismanaged, undemocratic and corrupt. Rampant violations of human rights and dignity in these societies reflect that we collectively have failed Islam. We must look up the Quran for answers.  

 

 

Editor,  Ruby Amatulla