BY SAYYID QUTB
Translated by Amre Muhammed
Islam establishes its own doctrinal structure both in the human conscience and in practical life on the basis of pure submission to God alone. It also requires that this submission be reflected in faith, worship and law alike, considering that such pure submission, in this particular combination, constitutes the practical significance of the belief in the unity of God.
Similarly, the way to learn the proper details of this submission is to follow the teachings of the Prophet (peace be on him). In this way alone can the importance of the belief in his prophethood in practical life be realised.
On this basis, therefore, the declaration of belief in the unity of God and the prophethood of Muhammed (peace be on him) symbolises the Islamic way of life, underlines its aspects and delineates its characteristics. In this, Islam is unique among all other codes of learning known to humanity. It stems from a more comprehensive outlook of existence as a whole, and it ordains a code of living for the whole Universe, not for man alone.
The Islamic view is that this Universe is God’s creation; He willed that it should exist, so it did. He sets its laws and its functions. These laws provide for harmony between its different parts, and also make their operation, as one whole, harmonious:
“For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word ‘be’ and it is”. (The Qur’an 16:40) “It is He who created all things and ordered them in due proportions”. (25:2)
The Universe submits readily to the governing will, to the motivating destiny and to the harmonising law. It never thinks of rebelling against the will, or violating the law. That is why it is a controlled Universe …
“Your Guardian-Lord is God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days and is firmly established on the Throne (of authority). He draws the night as a veil over the day, each seeking the other in rapid succession. He created the Sun, the moon, and the stars, (all) governed by laws under His command. It is He who has the power to create and govern. Blessed be God, the Sustainer of the worlds”. (7:54)
Man is an individual being in this Universe. His nature is determined by factors which are not isolated from the law governing the Universe. God has created man with a physical structure originally made from the clay of this earth. God has bestowed on him some characteristics which have made him MAN. Biologically and physically, he is subject, whether he likes it or not, to natural laws laid down by God, the All-mighty. He was created initially because God had so willed; it was not by his parents’ volition that he was brought into existence.
Man’s birth is accomplished according to the laws which God has set for the period of pregnancy, process of childbirth and the length of the confinement. God created earth for man to live on. It is He who ordained its quality, quantity and composition, and it is He who has made man breathe in the manner he does. Man feels, suffers, eats, drinks, digests and in one word, lives according to God’s law. He has no say in all that; he is simply, as all the other beings in the Universe and the Universe itself, a subject of God, His will, His laws and the destiny He has stipulated. Similarly, God has set a ‘law’ for man to organise his life in which he can employ his own free will-in harmony with his natural life.
Consequently, the law is only a part of the general Divine rule which determines man’s nature and the nature of the Universe, and harmonises them.
All that God has pronounced; all His injunctions, promises, warnings, legislation’s and instructions are parts of the general Divine rule. All are true and consistent in what we call the ‘natural laws’ (or, the laws God has laid down for the material Universe) which we see working all the time because God made them so and wanted them so.
The ‘LAW’ that God has made for man for the organisation of his life is then ‘universal’ in the sense that it is related to, and harmonious with, the general rule of the Universe. To apply it and to adhere to it is essential to make man’s life harmonious with the functioning of the Universe he lives in. Moreover, it is essential to achieve coherence between the rules determining man’s nature and the rules of his daily life. It is vital for the balance between his inner and outer personalities.
Man cannot by any means acquire perfect knowledge of all the rules of the Universe, nor can he understand the general rules, not even that part of it which decides his nature and to which he is subject. So, man cannot lay down a system to harmonise his nature and his daily life, let alone make his life and the operation of the Universe absolutely harmonious. The only being who can do this is God, the Almighty for He created the Universe and man, and has organised their lives according to the general rule He chose and laid down.
Thus the application of the Divine law ordained for man is a necessity for the achievement of this harmony, and consists of putting Islam into practice. For Islam does not exist (in the life of the society or the individual) unless submission to God is pure, and acquired from the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
The absolute coherence between man’s life and that of the Universe, when achieved, results in endless years of good for man. It protects his life against corruption. It is in this case alone that man fives in peace with himself and with the Universe. Peace with the Universe results from the fact that both their functions will be compatible and unidirectional. No clash between man and his nature would take place; for both become smoothly harmonious. Consequently the individual relationships between human beings and their public lives would also be in harmony, because they would all be acting according to the same law which is a part of the general rule of the Universe.
Moreover, humanity would also benefit from its knowledge (acquired easily through God’s guidance) of the secrets of this Universe, its inner potentialities and its treasures. It would result in using all those treasures and potentialities according to the Divine law, for general human welfare, without any confusion or conflict resulting from selfish desires. For, opposing the Divine law are man’s selfish desires:
“If the Truth had to yield to their desires, truly the heavens and the earth and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption”. (23:71)
From the Islamic viewpoint, the Truth, which is the essence of this religion, is the same as that behind the existence of the earth and heaven, and by which both here and in the hereafter are set aright. It is the one and the same truth; it is the general rule laid down by God for the Universe. All that exists in the Universe are subject to it.
“We have revealed for you (O men) a book In which is a message for you: will you not then understand? How many were the populations We utterly destroyed because for their iniquities, setting up in their places other peoples? Yet when they felt our punishment (coming) behold, they tried to run away from it. Flee not, but return to the good things of this life which were given to you, and to your homes, in order that you may be called to account. They said: ‘Ah, woe to us We were indeed wrong doers’.
And that cry of theirs ceased not, till We made them as a field that is mown, as ashes silent and quenched. Not for (idle) sport did We create the heavens and the earth and all that is between. If it had been Our wish to take (just) a pastime, We should surely have taken it from the things nearest to Us, if We would do (such a thing). Nay, We hurl the truth against falsehood, and it knocks out its brain, and behold, falsehood perishes.
Ah, Woe be to you for the (false) things you ascribe (to Us). To Him belong all creatures in the heavens and on earth: even those who are in His (very) presence are not too proud to serve Him. Nor are they (ever) weary (of His service). They celebrate His praises night and day, nor do they ever flag or intermit”. (21: 10-20)
Human nature, at its greatest depth, realises the Truth, The structure of man and the very nature of the world around him makes him feel that this Universe is based on the Truth, and that the Truth is inherent in it. The Universe is ordered, does not transgress and is not subject to contradictory powers. Its movement is unchangeable; its parts do not collide; it does not act according to changeable desire or impulsive urges. It is not the outcome of a ‘coincidence’ nor subject to ‘coincidences’.
It follows elaborately knitted rules. Hence, when man chooses a law of his own as a substitute for the Divine law, and when he rebels against the pure submission to God which all the Universe concedes, he deviates from the Truth in response to selfish desires. The result would be, first of all, a collision with his own nature, for at the depth of this also lies the Truth. Similar conflict would occur between individuals, groups, generations, and nations, as well as a conflict between man and the Universe. Thus its treasures and potentialities change into means of destruction and misery.
Hence, the apparent aim of the Implementation of the Divine Law In this world is not merely ‘to work for the hereafter’; for both this life and the hereafter are but two stages in the life of man, and between human life and the general rule of the Universe. This harmony does not only promise a happiness postponed to the hereafter; it achieves it and establishes it as a reality in this stage as well. It is however perfected in the hereafter.
This is the essence of the Islamic concept of man’s existence within the framework of the Universe. Its nature is fundamentally different from that of any other concept humanity has known. Hence, the obligations it imposes differ from those of all other creeds and regimes. In this concept, both the perfect relation between the life of man and the Universe, and the harmony between the rule of the Universe and that of human nature require the implementation of the Divine law in man’s life.
For the concord between the general rule and the law organising man’s life cannot be achieved except by such implementation which means pure submission to God alone. From another viewpoint, no man can claim that the submission of the Universe is to him.
The father of this Muslim nation, Ibraheem (peace be on him) referred to the vitality of this harmony and concord in his argument with Nimrod, the tyrant who claimed that he had the right of subjecting his nation to his own authority. In spite of this claim he could not claim any authority over the stars in the sky. He was startled when lbraheem (peace be on him) said to him that he who has the power over the Universe, is the only one who has the power over man’s life. Nimrod was dumbfounded and could not reply:
“Have you turned your eyes to the one who disputed with Ibraheem about his Lord, because God granted him power? Ibraheem said ‘My Lord is He who gives life and death’. He said: ‘I give life and death’. Ibraheem said: ‘My Lord causes the sun to rise from the east, can you make it rise from the west?’ Thus the arrogant disbeliever was confounded God does not give guidance to a people unjust”. (2:258)
“Do they seek for other than the religion of God ? -while all creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willingly or unwillingly, submitted to His Will (accepted Islam); and to Him shall they all be brought back”. (3:83)
From MA’ALIM FIT-TAREEQ (MILESTONES)