Islam and Enlightenment
Translated Speech of
His Eminence Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan
Shaikh Silsilah Naqshbandiah Owaisiah
Dar ul-Irfan, 17th September 2004
1. Alif, Lam, Ra. A Book, verses of which are full of logic and then detailed, from before the Wise, the Aware
2. (Say O Prophet): You shall not worship except Allah. Verily, I am a warner from Him and a bearer of glad tidings.
3. and that: ask forgiveness of your Lord, then turn to Him in repentance. He shall let you enjoy a goodly enjoyment until a term appointed and will grant his grace to every possessor of merit. And if you turn away, I fear for you the torment of a Great Day.
4. to Allah is your return and He is Able to do all things.
Today we stand at a crossroads, where a new point is being advanced, both internationally as well within the country, that there should be ‘enlightenment’ in the religion. This point appears strange, also for the reason that, from its beginning till date and till the Last Day, Islam is religion of Light; Islam is not the name of darkness. Darkness denotes Kufr; the Quran has used the word darkness for Kufr. Islam is the light against darkness. Enlightenment is not that people should lead immoral and sinful lives. Nor it is that the stronger class should usurp the rights of the weaker class. It is not enlightenment either, that the rich should grab the morsels and rights of the poor. Enlightenment cannot also mean that the mighty should suppress the feeble, as if the latter were destined to suppression. No sensible person will call such attitudes as ‘enlightenment’. If we want to define enlightenment, its first clause would be that no person should impose his will on any other person. If I have my likes and dislikes, the other person is also a human being; if I want to spend my life according to my will, I should allow the other person to spend his life according to his will. In Islam, the base as well as the most important column is the belief about Allah. In my opinion, the greatest enemy of Islam should be the one who doesn’t believe in Allah - and that is how it should be! Someone may differ, but when the base of Islam rests on the Unity of Allah and Prophethood of the holy Prophet-saws, I think its greatest enemy will the one who doesn’t accept this fact. Now, what should be done to him? Should he be murdered? Should he not be allowed to live? Should he be boycotted completely? Or should he be compelled to become a Muslim? Islam doesn’t allow any such measure!
Enlightenment is the Islamic principle that whether a person wants to believe Allah or not; his human rights should be fulfilled in the same manner as that of a believer. Human rights include the security of his life, to which there should be no danger - this is the responsibility of the state. He may be a believer or a disbeliever, his life, property and honour must be protected. Nobody should be allowed to grab his property, molest his honour or take his life. What can be a greater enlightenment! It is said that, nobody should be compelled to accept Faith. If someone doesn’t want to accept Faith, still he retains the right to live, he has the right to do business, his health should be taken care of, medical attention should be provided for him, and his children should be afforded decent educational facilities. This is his basic right. These are the rights of a believer also, because all human beings have the same basic rights, whether they are believers or disbelievers. Even a disbeliever must be provided with the security of life, property and honour, afforded medical and educational facilities, and the opportunities of a job and a business - Islam allows no discrimination. What can be a greater enlightenment that a person who doesn’t even believe in Allah and His Prophet, who must also be afforded the security of life, property and honour? If you talk about Islam, this is what Islam wants, but if you talk about today’s Muslims, that is different. Here, it is not the non-Muslims who are insecure, here every Muslim is in danger from every other Muslim. Your conduct and mine do not portray Islam. Islam comprises the Book of Allah, instructions of the holy Prophet-saws and the code of conduct described by him. If someone acts contrary to this code, then he alone is responsible; Islam cannot be stigmatised for his conduct. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure the protection of life, property and honour of every citizen. It is the responsibility of the Islamic state to ensure job opportunities for every citizen, so that none remains jobless; similarly this is the responsibility of the state to ensure that everyone gets medical treatment, whether he is a Muslim or a non-Muslim; this is his human right. This is also the responsibility of the state to ensure that every child gets an education. Now, can there be any greater enlightenment?
A Book, the verses of which are full of logic. Islam has granted a syllabus of life, a Book. It is not correct that you cling to this Book because of your reverence for it, that is, you believe whether it says something wrong and you also believe if it says something right -that is not the case. This is a Book, whose every instruction is proved by logic. None of its instructions is without reason. The Science that you brand as the light of modern time, is far behind Islam, far far behind! After more than fourteen centuries, if science discovers a fact, there is instant uproar that science has done a wonder. But the Quran had disclosed that fact much earlier, when there was neither any scientist nor any instrument. Referring to the Companions of the Cave, the Quran mentions: We clamped sleep on their ears for ages. After more than fourteen hundred years, Science has stated that sleep is related to the ears and not the eyes. A person may be feeling very sleepy, but if you started making noise, he won’t be able to sleep. Similarly, someone may be in deep sleep and you started making noise, he will wake up. It establishes that sleep is related to a person’s faculty of hearing. If a child is playing and not wanting to sleep, the mother would sing him a lullaby. Being an infant, he doesn’t understand the meanings of the words, but he hears the tone, the rise and fall of the pitch. These audio effects that reach his ears lull him to sleep. During sleep, the eyes get closed but the ears continue to function. As soon as some sound reaches the ears, one wakes up. After centuries of research, science has established that sleep, rest and peace of mind are related to the faculty of hearing. If that is disturbed, one cannot rest or sleep. The Quran referred to the Companions of the Cave fourteen hundred years ago, We clamped sleep on their ears for centuries, while science discovered the same phenomenon after fourteen centuries. Believing science is considered enlightenment while believing the Quran is branded as fundamentalism. What an enlightenment!
There are hundred of such examples in Hadith. Science has come up with another discovery. The use of fork and knife was started in ‘the land of scientists’. A major part of the western world remains covered with snow during a major part of the year. These people didn’t take the trouble to wash their hands and used forks and knives to eat food, because their hands were dirty. The use of forks and knives wasn’t adopted as a symbol of civility or nobility, but for the simple fact that they were unclean and uncivilised people who didn’t wash their hands for days, and started using forks and knives instead of their dirty hands. Today’s western scientist says that food should be eaten with your hands and that the fingers should be dipped in a curry or soup. If the fingers are so dipped and later sucked, the germs produced from the fingertips greatly help in food digestion. More than fourteen centuries ago the holy Prophet Muhammadsaws had instructed that food should be eaten with the hand, dipping the fingers in the soup and sucking them before washing. If science reiterates the same fact today, it is branded as enlightenment; otherwise it would be considered an act of incivility.
Once Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi was travelling in a train. An Englishman was also travelling in the same compartment, alongwith his dog. Time and again the dog went close to Maulana Thanvi, who reproached it. Ultimately, he asked the Englishman to chain it and keep it away. The Englishman said, “Maulana, I have heard Islam is a religion of accommodation and enlightenment. The dog is also a creation of Allah, but you don’t let it come near you. What kind of enlightenment is it?” Maulana replied, “The reason that is enough for me is that my Prophet, my master-saws has said it is a dirty animal, it should not be touched and should not be allowed to brush up against ones’ clothes. This reason is enough for me. Yes, it is a creation of Allah, it has a right to live. If it is thirsty, it should be given water; if it is hungry, it should be fed. But if it is touched, the hands become dirty. If it brushes up against ones’ clothes, it will pollute them. But this reason is not sufficient for you, because you don’t believe in the holy Prophet-saws. My reason for you is that you Englishmen like those who bite their own genus and wag their tail before you, while we don’t like such scoundrels. The dog bites its own class and wags its tail before everyone who gives it a piece of bread. You like this nature and such people, while we consider them hypocrites and dislike them. This is the reason for you, but for me the instruction of my holy Prophet-saws is sufficient. There is no need for any other reason besides it.”
The Quran is the Book of Allah and this is reason enough for it to be true; there is no need for any other reason. Despite that, it says, the verses of which are full of logic, every verse of the Quran contains wisdom and its truth is established through logic, it expounds everything and explains the details of every action and deed, because its Revealer is the Wise, the Knower. It is the Word of Allah, the Wise, the Knower, Who knows the details of each and everything. The Quran has given a simple formula and hasn’t indulged in any lengthy discussion; it has simply said, Don’t worship anyone other than Allah. Unfortunately, we have confined ‘worship’ to the performance of Salah and Saum only and don’t include our remaining deeds in worship. This is our mistake! Every action of man, including conversation, movement and even earning is either worship of Allah or His disobedience. The holy Prophet-saws said, “Anyone who deliberately leaves Salah has committed Kufr (disbelief).” There is a consensus of religious scholars on the point that leaving Salah is a sin and not Kufr, while denial of Salah is Kufr. So, what shall be the meaning of this Hadith? They opine that this Hadith means that anyone who deliberately leaves Salah has done something that a disbeliever would do. Every action of life is either Islam or akin to Kufr. If a person is a believer and does something outside the obedience of Allah and His Messenger-saws, his act is like the act of disbelievers.
Islam is a simple affair. Don’t worship anyone other than Allah. This defines all principles of life. All aspects of life including friendship, enmity, trade or business should remain within the parameters of Shari‘ah. Anything that is done within the limits of Shari‘ah becomes worship. According to an Hadith of the holy Prophet-saws, even a morsel fed by a believer to his children is considered an act of worship. It was submitted, “O Messenger-saws of Allah! The feeding of his children is an obligatory duty imposed on him by Allah.” He-saws replied, “The discharge of obligatory duties is called worship. If he fulfils his obligation, he performs worship.” Islam, in essence, is this brief and beautiful principle. The rest relates to form and procedure and has been explained by the Quran, Hadith and conduct of the Companions.
Verily I am a warner from Him and a bearer of glad tidings. My responsibility is to forewarn you about the horrifying consequences of your sins and of the greatest bliss and rewards of your obedience to Allah. I have not been deputed to compel you to do something. It is not my status to force you to perform worship. But I tell you something very valuable; you may try to do something good but as a human being you may err, at times you may do something in anger which you shouldn’t have done, you may do something in ignorance that you shouldn’t have done; ask forgiveness of your Lord, then turn to Him in repentance. He is extremely Forgiving. If you commit a sin, turn to Him in repentance. Repentance means the promise to leave a sin and the resolve to never repeat it in the future. It means asking forgiveness for an evil act, promising not to do it again and making a sincere effort to avoid it. ‘If you ask forgiveness and turn towards Allah in repentance when you may err, He shall let you enjoy a goodly enjoyment until a term appointed. He will grant you a blissful life till an appointed time.’
Someone had asked a strange question once: ‘We see that now-a-days many people are buried in the same grave. Many corpses are dumped in the same pit and the dozer levels the ground over them. This way, a pious person may be buried with two sinners in the same grave. How is it possible that he is receiving his Divine reward while the other two are suffering their punishment in the same grave?’ I told him, “My brother, let’s not talk of grave, but let’s talk of this world. Both the husband and his wife live in the same house. They have the closest of relationships. Both are equally responsible to run the affairs of the home. You may see that one of them is happy while the other is sad. Why? They live under the same roof, run the home together, eat, drink and dress in the same way, but both are not equally happy. Normally, they should have been equally happy or equally sad. Similarly, we see two brothers in the lap of the same mother; they live under same conditions, but the likes and dislikes of both are different; one may be laughing, while the other may be crying. Even in this world, each person is living his individual life. If you observe closely, you won’t find even two people spending life alike. Even two brothers who sleep on the same bed, have been raised in the lap of the same mother, under the loving care of the same father, will have different standards of likes, dislikes, comfort and discomfort. We have seen, one says ‘Switch the fan on,’ while the other shouts to put it off. If, living together here, everyone is living his own different life, so shall everyone be in a different state in the grave. Everyone is in his own state, the pious in his own and the evil in his own! What is there in it to wonder?”
If you ask forgiveness from Allah and repent when you err: He shall let you enjoy a goodly enjoyment until a term appointed. He will grant you a blissful life till death. He is Almighty; if He wants to keep a person happy, He will make him happy even under the shower of bullets and if He wants to make someone miserable, He will make him unhappy even on a throne. Everyone has his individual state, which is in the Hands of the Almighty, and only He is Aware of it. And He is so Gracious that will grant his grace to every possessor of merit. He will reward everyone according to his actions, efforts and endeavours. But, if you turn away, don’t believe in Allah, don’t pay thanks to Him, or try to use His universe according to your will, then, I fear for you the punishment of a Great Day. I fear that you may face a heavy punishment.
It is something strange! Jihad is considered as the biggest stumbling stone in the path of Islam’s enlightenment. Western thinkers, as well as the Muslim intellectuals of today dread this world ‘Jihad’. However, killing someone on the street is not Jihad, spraying with bullets or throwing bombs in a place of worship is not Jihad, even if it is house of idol worship; Shari‘ah doesn’t allow you to destroy it. Then, what is Jihad? Jihad is the effort to stop oppression and repression. Jihad means to help the oppressed, restrain the oppressor and bring oppression to an end. Even during the heat of a battle if an oppressor promises to stop his tyranny, the fight must come to an immediate end. There can be no greater enlightenment than Jihad that, the object of dislike should be the evil practice and not the individual. A doctor loves the patient but hates his disease. A human being should be loved and effort should be made to stop him from practising evil; but the evil must be disliked and he should be restrained from doing it. This is the concept of Islamic Jihad. If however, someone starts causing genocide or destruction by his own will and says that he is carrying out Jihad, this is his personal interpretation; it is unfair to label it as Islam. The Jihad that Islam has ordained implies helping the oppressed, restraining the oppressor and ending oppression.
Millions of lives can be sacrificed for each word of the holy Prophet-saws, so sweet are his words: “Help your brother whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed.” The Companions submitted, “Oh, Messenger-saws of Allah, helping the oppressed is understandable, but how should we help the oppressor?” He-saws replied, “Helping the oppressor means restraining him and helping the oppressed means protecting him.” There is no room for personal enmity in Islamic Jihad. A believer fights with the sole motive to restrain oppression. As soon as the tyrant gives up tyranny, the fight comes to an immediate end. Islam portrays the greatest enlightenment even in its concept of Jihad.
The Quran says, ‘You know, you have to return to Allah. You are not the first ones to live on this earth. Millions of nations and billions of humans lived here before you. Many kings, rulers, oppressors and oppressed came and went. You have to go too! And He is Able to do all things. He knows and judges your conduct. He can punish as well as pardon. Therefore, the best counsel is to seek forgiveness from Allah, repent from sins and lead a blissful life. The Gracious Lord will make your life pleasurable.’
May Allah grant us the understanding of this Deen and the guidance to follow it! Ameen!