By Dr. Mehdi Ben Aboud
1. The rise and fall of a Nation starts from the heart of its people. Credulity, as it has been said, is man’s weakness, but Creed is man’s limitless power. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, has said that if man is determined to possess more and beyond the Throne (Creation), he will have it. In other words, there is no obstacle that resists in the long run to the spiritual energy based on the firm foundation of the Universal Truth.
2. In our daily life, we imagine that we only deal with concrete situations and problems. But in reality we move in an immense ocean of abstractions to the point that even the physicists recognise that they are unable to put a demarcation line between concreteness and abstraction. It is obvious, for example, that a house does not instantaneously rise up without being first an abstract idea in the architect’s mind. The external realizations, before taking their respective material shape, have been an elaborated set of concepts.
3. The transforming power of history has always sprung up from the ever flowing source of beliefs and creeds. Furthermore, the scientific attitude of a laboratory man is inconceivable without the demonstrable postulate, naturally a priori, of the existence of law and order in the immense universe.
Likewise, the human conduct of affairs requires the unavoidable prerequisite of Faith, of an organized creed that stands as a necessary starting point of both knowledge and action.
The conception of our existence, our needs, our desires, our hopes, our duties, our rights is by nature a global one connected with the emotional, spiritual, temporal and intellectual images forming our knowledge of the eternal life inside our souls and the external existence of the surrounding world.
4. The crucial problem is not to question the validity of Faith or the necessity of Creed. The most important and urgent defiance facing mankind is to know and recognize the difference between true and false Faith and Creed, such as painfully shown by the recent tragedy of Jonestown to mention only the most caricatural example of a long series throughout history.
5. It is nowadays admitted with no shadow of doubt that man cannot live in nothingness and emptiness as far as his intellectual and spiritual activity is concerned. A creed to his mind is as necessary as food to his body and oxygen to his breathing. He ought to be adapted to the numerous stages of adaptation to the physical, biological, psychological, rational and metaphysical atmosphere or environment in which he lives materially and morally. Therefore he has to be engaged and to believe in a Creed summing up the global vision of the world and the meaning of his personal existence.
6. To be true, Creed in its organized teachings, has to comply with and to be adapted to the innocent nature of man, in his original unity without division or dichotomy, thus avoiding the painful condition of modern divided man. Man is composed of a tetrad, that is to say of four constituents: body, soul, mind and spirit. His body is made to act, his soul to behave, his mind to decide and his spirit to cast the light on his capacity of indispensable transformation. In short, the decisive power of man stems from his heart. That is why, as Marshall Montgomery rightly noticed, military battles are first won in the hearts of men. It is this spiritual power that makes a Creed able to radically change a people from the state of dispersed tribes to the status of a great power such as illustrated by the astonishing rapidity of the extension of Islam.
7. Faith and Creed are usually considered synonymous, although no exact similarity is possible a hundred per cent. Faith is the global acceptance of the Divine Existence, Supremacy and absolute power, different from every possible concept that can occur in the human minds, while Creed has a broader and somewhat detailed meaning including the organized, wide and open system of theoretical and practical teaching according to the Revelation.
Faith corresponds to IMAN, Creed to Aqeeda, conceived as a doctrinal engagement or adhesion to the total system of precepts as a coherent knowledge. In general use, both words can con- ventionally be admitted as synonymous.
8. In Islam, Creed gathers in one unity both the material and the spiritual, the theoretical and the practical aspects of existence as a unified holy religion and a non-divided man. In short, the Islamic Creed enjoys a distinctive character: con- creteness: Belief in the unseen provides the indispensable, metaphysical knowledge filling the heart of man with the comforting conviction of a lasting ex- istence in three lives: the earthly life, the here- after life and the life in the grave, so that the con- cept of death has no connotation of nothingness or any absurd end.
Therefore, the believer in an attitude of peace of mind and quietude, aware of his value as a free man, lives up to the sense of responsibility and trusteeship to fulfil the requirement of the Covenant between him and the Creator
When thy Lord drew forth From the Children of Adam From their loins Their descendants, and made them Testify concerning themselves (saying:) Am I not your Lord (Who cherishes and sustains you) They said “Yea! We do testify (Sura VII:172)
The Covenant between the Creator and the human creature is a great sign of Divine Mercy and man’s high value as a trustee, as well as the level of dignity in which the Divine Providence has elevated mankind, when they deserve it.
In this framework of thought, the concept of immortality and of distinction over the majority of other creatures provides a source of energy in the form of discipline, readiness and sacrifice that no might whatsoever can defeat. That is why a small number of men will be able to stop an army and, on the contrary, a military power, with the best equipment and training but without strong ideology and justifiable motivations is doomed to failure.
Any army, nation or community lies on three main foundations;
i) trained manpower
ii) adequate equipment
iii) above all, faith in a just cause of the highest spiritual level.
9. In Islam, this tremendous spiritual energy originates from the reciprocity of love between man and God. The practices of devotion draw the human soul nearer and nearer to God who in turn, reinforces man with an incredible transforming power and tremendous influence. History of the first period of Islam is an obvious illustration. Moreover, the meaning of this human and Divine alliance can be seen in the following tradition of the Holy Prophet: “Allah the Almighty has said:
Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I shall be at war with him. My servant does not come near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have imposed upon him, and my servant continues to draw near to me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask (something) of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant it to Him”,
10. If we bear in mind how the Divine Providence governs the entire Creation, and particularly our life on earth, we realise more precisely the relationship between man and his Creator:
1. The world is governed by the KALIMAT (or words of God that is to say the Divine orders) the main principles of which are:
a) the’ Essences and Possibilities
b) the manifestations of beings
c) the various relations between them.
2. The power of growth contained in the human society as it is in the bud of flowers and the seed of a tree. This power shows: the natural potentialities for development, government, individual learning and acting etc.
3. The liberty or freedom of action as a human exclusiveness over other beings which is the major sign of human distinction and a prerequisite to the bearing of responsibility.
4. And above all these principles, the COVENANT between man in charge of a Divine Trust and God in His Merciful and Wise Providence.
11. The wisdom and generosity of this Covenant bestowed as a gift from Heaven, is concreted in the form of reciprocity between the Omnipotent Lord and the dignified Servant. The conditions required for a blessed life and successful endeavours from children’s schooling to military self defence; for example, can conventionally be sumiried up in one word: Compliance with the Universal order of God in His organized Creation: In this respect, obedience, (which is the essence of the word Islam) is constructive. Deviation is destructive. The life of the Universe, in all its components is expressed as compliance by the Our’anic term of Glorification. Man has the privilege and the duty of knowledge and the consciousness of his knowledge.
12. This awareness charges him of a mission, an obligation equivalent to the privileged position of man in the scale of values and creatures. Universal glorification in terms of compliance with the will of God in His government of the innumerable worlds seen and unseen, is shaped in various manifestations. For example:
a) Gravitational attraction
b) The duality of creatures (male, female, positive and negative, electricity and cor- puscules etc.)
c) Rainy, dry or four seasons
d) Constancy in the duration of pregnancy
e) Blood constants etc. etc. Man’s glorification is the enlightened readiness and the effort of vigilance constantly developed in the fulfilment of worship. it is then, and only then, that the reciprocity between man and God gives its fruits.
13. The relationship between man and the Lord is, firstly, that of obedience, then, that of neighbourhood (as was said about Zamakhshari) and, finally, nearness in the form of love. The Qur’an is full of mention of the love between human creatures and the Creator.
The omnipotent power of God whose wisdom and will is the first and final cause of the Creation, is manifested as described in the above mentioned Hadith of the Prophet, in the clearest and most explicit way, to cast a light on the power of Creed and its source in Islam.
14. The human attitude in these circumstances is not only that of compliance but also of reliance on God, who in the Holy Qur’an, has assured the good-doers of his well deserved assistance and help. The prayer of the Holy Prophet in The Battle of Badr, the spirit of sacrifice for a just and transcendent cause has made the few triumph over the many according to the conviction and everlasting golden rule that after the unavoidable difficulties of every beginning, the truth always prevails sooner or later.
15. But a military victory or a social success in the economic, intellectual and moral fields does not at all mean easy comfort and lazy relaxation or absence of vigilance. Many in recent days have painfully observed the fragile character of modern ideologies, the vanity of what is remaining of culture devoid of its spiritual roots, the various complaints of a tired civilization. That is why increased efforts, permanent self-control and fear of God are continuously recalled to the attention of individuals and of nations. A great number of thinkers try to sum up Islamic teachings and methods in one word meaning Maximum effort (the Arabic term of Jihad): itself divided into the small Jihad of legitimate self-defence and the great Jihad or the constant effort of vigilance and improvement from a given state to a higher state, in all fields of endeavour.
16. In this respect, the power of Creed is the dynamic source of the individual education and initiation and the collective energy of Nation builders. The example of the Khalif Omar ibn Abdulaziz, during the short reign of two years and five months provides the most demonstrative proof of the concreteness of the Islamic Faith.
The Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him piece, has taught us that Faith counts, as he said, over seventy branches, the top of which is the profession of Faith that there is no other divinity but God, and the lower stage of which is to move a dangerous obstacle out of the public way.
During his short reign, justice had been meticulously reinforced and generalized so that well-being rapidly followed up to the point that almost no-one in the immense Muslim Community was in need of economic assistance.
17. In conclusion:
1 .The power of Creed in Islam is the manifestation, realized in the human soul, of the two excellent names of God: The Powerful and The Faithful.
2. Its success derives from this right approach, consisting of belief in one Supreme Being different from all beings.
3. This belief is a protection against transgression against oneself and the dignity of other men. The very nature of human beings is to worship something and there is no other alternative than God.
4. The output, to use economic vocabulary, of the power of Creed is proportionate to the depth and density of Faith. God says: “I am with my servant according to his con- fidence in Me”.
5. The deepening of Faith, the right understanding of Creed, as the only valid Universal Knowledge (not human imperfect philosophies like that of Hegel for example), the good behaviour, with no discrepancy between words and deeds, represent the most dynamic factor of the building of men, the building of nations and the building of civilization. It is now more and more evident that the rise and fall of nations start from their heart and depends on the vigour or weakness of their Creed.
I. Translated as Creed in this article.
II. An extract from ‘Proceedings of the International Conference on Defence and the Muslim World, 1979, a publication of the Islamic Institute of Defence Technology,16 Grosvenor Crescent, London SW1.