The Source of Happiness for all Mankind
By Grand Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltout
(from Minbar Al-Islam, Cairo.)
God's Qur'aan communicated to people by Muhammad commanded that its Suras be deeply considered, the rules and wisdom therein thoroughly assimilated, its orders obeyed and fulfilled in the manner specified by the Almighty. The Qur'aan demands that its interdictions be obeyed, its light of guidance pursued, its lessons learnt and its ethics adhered to. If so, people will enjoy their life in this world and look forward to their due in the world to come, master themselves and the world and thus they will not experience oppression. TheQur'aan has carried forth to the whole of mankind a wholesome and immortal system governing both religion and life.
Expounding this fact Muhammad (God's Prayers and blessing be upon him) said:
"God revealed the Qur'aan as an order as well as a restraint, a running tradition and prevailing example. In it you find a prophetic account about yourselves, your predecessors and your successors. In itself, the book is of everlasting novelty and countless marvels; a book of justice void of jest. Who speaks its word is truthful, who judges by its law is just, who disputes by its virtue wins, who vows by it eradicates all doubts, who follows its teachings will be recompensed, who adheres to its guidance leads himself the right way, who seeks another guide is astray, who rules but by its laws will be stopped short by God. It is the true word of wisdom, resplendent light, the right way, a shelter to which those who resort are preserved by the Almighty. It is the salvation for its followers, with no deviations to be put right, no faults to be remedied. The Qur'aan's marvels are everlastingly bountiful and eternally new."
Moreover, the Qur'aan is the source of unbroken youth for the hearts of the believers. Those who learn its Suras, digest their meanings and principles, are always endowed with exceeding strength, the utmost tenacity, and are placed beyond all kinds of humiliation by any man. Thus they live within a framework of freedom - sound freedom - given to them by God, compassionate and cooperative among themselves. In their love and sympathy among themselves they seek no other goal than to be one nation standing compact and closely interlinked as well as an invulnerable barrier in the face of evil, injustice and tyranny. Their enemy cannot avail himself of any gap through the ranks of such people.
Hence, colonialist powers were at all times keen when entering an Islamic country to prevent people from understanding the meaning of the Qur'aan. The representatives of colonialism in many cases openly showed the hatred they carry within themselves when they feel powerless in places where the Qur'aan dominates the hearts of the people.
Our predecessors believed in the sublimity of the Qur'aan as the source of power and the way to all good. Hence they gave the book the highest esteem and sanctification. They bent themselves to the task of learning the book, studying its meanings, drawing and following its precious examples. Some studied the style of the book and learnt the kinds of elocution it comprised. Some others followed up its tales with the aim of learning the lessons therein. Some others made an extensive study of the social rules of the Qur'aan, the aims and objects of these rules which, if followed, lead to the highest standards of progress and perfection. Nevertheless, all have looked through the marvels of the Qur'aan's teachings and guidance, and in turn, realised their effect on the soul and bearing on the hearts of people and thus derived strength of leadership, guidance and inducement for morals and values which are indispensible for a virtuous life.
Learned Muslims made it their aim to study and spread the teachings of the Qur'aan and the legislation of this heavenly book together with its moral laws among the Islamic nations. When this was achieved, the Islamic people lived in abundant happiness. Reaping the fruits of this happiness, Muslims advanced to the forefront of civilized nations. This was because in addition to numerical strength and abundance, Muslims maintained their spiritual strength and liveliness of conscience. The individual endeavoured for the good of the whole, and each Muslim community toiled collectively so that the individual could be endowed with happiness. There existed among Muslims collaboration, cooperation and righteousness dominating all souls and hearts. In an Islamic community, believing only in the traditions of the Prophet, one could find no corruption, no embezzlement, no thieves, no forgers, sly or reckless people. Instead, one could find utter self-denial and love among the individuals who formed the Muslim nation: no dissension or hatred. A Muslim was linked to his co-believers, and this strong link among Muslims was the above all is the fact that dedication to the task of understanding the secrets of God's Qur'aan was in itself the source of progress achieved by the Islamic nation, the lead it took among other nations and the prosperity it achieved for itself.
If, we today, had adhered to those examples, we would have maintained our place in the forefront of nations. We would not have witnessed the backwardness which has become an associate of the Muslim. The cause of this backwardness, however, is that the present understanding of our book is nothing like the understanding of the predecessors and that the present inducement of religion is nothing like the inducement which formerly occupied every heart and accompanied every soul. Muslims fell back when the light of Islam dimmed in their hearts and when the splendour of religion departed from their conscience.
Referring to ancient history, we can easily see the progress achieved by Muslims when Islam was occupying their hearts and not mere words reiterated by them. In those days, Muslims drew the whole world to their side. But when Muslims started to mix up religion with alien traditions; true faith with false mysticism; and when imbecility became piety; and when it became an affixed belief in the hearts that Islam does not pertain to the organisation of life and does not pertain to the knowledge of material - Muslims were made to believe that civilisation is to be sought outside the scope of religion, that advancement and faith are disconnected and that the renaissance lies outside the road of Islamic faith. But the prime fact is that the return to true Islam was and still is the foundation on which we must build the community which we hope will yield good or progress and surpass other communities.
When the Qur'aan filled the hearts of the faithful and dominated the feelings of Muslims, they walked through light which shone from the torch of this book and guided Muslims in their way. When the Qur'aan was recited among the faithful, their eyes were filled with tears, of sinning, their minds were roaming in the celestial kingdom and they subsequently strengthened their belief in God and their confidence in the Almighty:
"For believers are those who, when God is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear his signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put (all) their trust in their Lord."
This Qur'aan leads not but to righteousness, and promises the faithful believers who do good that they will be greatly recompensed.
When priests and monks hear this Qur'aan and realise that it is the word of justice and truth, they pray with tearful eyes:
"Our Lord! We believe, write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in God, and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our God to admit us to the company of the righteous?"
Such was the faith of our righteous predecessors, the foremost believers who followed the Qur'aan dedicating themselves to the learning of its wisdom, plunging deep into its rules which were subsequently made the constitution of life of the foremost Muslims, making the book their guide, and knowing from it the lawful and the unlawful. This was their trend of life, and their souls were elevated by the spirit of God and their hearts enlightened by the light of the Qur'aan. The Qur'aan was their goal in matters of belief and their guidance in morals as well as in legislation and law-making.
Hence their knowledge was sound, their manners became refined, their affairs were led in the right direction, their happiness redoubled, their position became indomitable, their mastery became dominant and the light of the Qur'aan spread from the borders of China in the East to the frontiers of Andalusia in the West.. the realms of the Roman Caesars were subdued by them, the thrones of Persian monarchs were crushed under the heels of their power and the word of God became Supreme and the word of the infidels was downtrodden.
Thus the faithful Muslims were praised by the Almighty and that was the true meaning of the true words:
"As to those who hold fast by the book and establish regular prayer - never shall we suffer the reward of these righteous to perish."
"God has promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that We will, of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance (of power), as he granted it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their religion - the one which He has chosen for them; and that He will change (their states), after the fear which they (lived), to one of security and peace:"
"They will worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me."
If any do reject Faith after this, they are rebellious and wicked. For the Almighty promised to bequeath this world to the faithful and righteous and He bequeathed it to their predecessors, and to affirm the religion chosen by them, and to replace their fears with security so that they shall worship God and make nothing kin to him. Those who deny God after belief, shall be named debauchers.
This is God's Qur'aan as given to the foremost faithful believers. What is the Qur'aan to us, Muslims of today?
Muslims received the Qur'aan. They drew guidance from it for their individual and social life; they were shot through with its arrow and God favoured them greatly.
Such were the foremost Muslims. They have, however, been succeeded by a generation which has gone over the Book casually drawing only the most insignificant knowledge out of it on the pretext that they will be forgiven if ever at fault. They have as well become convinced of all types of ungrounded knowledge. Don't they realise that they are held responsible by the bond stated in the Book not to relate to the Almighty but the truth and only truth? And don't they feel bound by anything they have already studied in the Book?
It is true that the foremost Muslims were succeeded by others who were enslaved by their instincts dominated by their lusty desires and whims, subjugated to certain kinds of poisoned beliefs and illusions. Subsequently, their wills were emaciated, their unity was shattered and they were too weak to march on to perform their duty for the cause of the Qur'aan as their predecessors had done in the past.
Hence, according to the Qur'aan, Muslims have split into their categories:
1) The Haughty: These were snatched by mundane elements from the world of religion, dipped themselves in the luxuries of life, became dazzled by wealth and secular power, and believed that their happiness would not come from any but this material source. In turn, they felt no need for the Qur'aan, they looked down upon it and turned away from it.
The missed the chance to know the value of the wisdom of the Book and indulged, instead, in affairs which were of no use to the cultivation and salvation of their souls:
"But there are among men those who purchase idle tales without knowledge (or meaning) to mislead (men) from the path of God and throw ridicule (on the path): For such there will be Humiliating Penalty."
2) The Category of those deceived by foreign doctrines: These believed there is nothing to equal their learning, their jurisprudence and their philosophy. They lent all their hearts and attention to this alien culture which drove them away from the splendour of the Qur'aan, Qur'aanic sciences and Qur'aanic jurisprudence as well as from Qur'aanic culture. They gave the Book their backs as though they knew nothing about it, reiterating:
"We cannot make out much of his book; it is old folk's tales and the law of nomadic desert Arabs."
They, instead, followed the readings of devils, depended in the organisation of their life on non-Qur'aanic revelations, left the book forlorn and gave preference to other gods based on their suspicions and doubts:
"Then seest thou such a one as takes as his God his own vain desire? God has, knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart (and understanding), and put a cover on his sight. Who, then will guide him after God (has withdrawn guidance)? Will ye not then receive admonition?"
3) The Illiterate and Semi-literates: These were unable to make use of the Holy Book in the manner demanded by God. They used the book in a manner prohibited by the Qur'aan and the dignity of the Qur'aan. When unchecked by those who were entrusted with the duty of the preservation of the Qur'aan, the illiterates and semi-literates found pleasure in pursuing that trend and even were made to believe that they were committing no illegality. They recited the Qur'aan at cemeteries, used it for begging at mosque-doors, by-passes and cross-roads. They also used the words of God in amulets and talismans; for the treatment of serious diseases; either by reciting the Suras, or by inscribing them, or by burning up such inscriptions and using the emanating smoke for incense for the sick, or by washing away written Qur'aanic words and drinking up the solution.
Thus people belonging to this category used the Qur'aan in an unbecoming manner and present the most valuable of their assets within such a ridiculous framework before the eyes of sarcastic foreigners.
The affairs of this nation cannot be adjusted and put right except through the means and style applied by the foremost. The ur'aan was the guidance and leading example of the foremost Muslims. It was also the secret in which they found their happiness and the key to all good. Let the Qur'aan also be the guidance of latter generations of Islam. Through the Qur'aan and only through it, can we open closed eyes and make the deaf hear, make tender obdurate hearts and recover the glory of our nation.
"Has not the time arrived for the Believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of God and of the truth which has been revealed (to them), and that they should not become like those who were given the book before, but long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard? For many among them are rebellious transgressors"...
"May God bestow on us success and Lead us in the right way, the way of those to whom Thou hast been gracious, against whom Thou hast not waxed wrath and who go not astray."
God is the source of all help, the supreme Master and the supreme Supporter.