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Islamic Doctrine

Islamic Doctrine

by :

Abdul Husain Muhammad

What is Islam?

Islam is the final religion revealed to humanity. The Islamic Message was delivered through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny). He received the first revelation in the year 610 after Christ.

Islam is a principle. A principle is defined as a doctrine plus a system of life in harmony. The system is in harmony with the doctrine when the system is built upon and derived from the doctrine.

A person who does not believe in anything except in this world would be inclined to care for his own pleasure regardless of other people's welfare. Such a person would find no point in making sacrifices for others, because materially this means a loss to him.

Yet there are some people who would be moved emo- tionally by idealistic motives sometimes but such people are usually few and their work is inconsistent and uncertain. On the other hand, a person who believes in God and a life after death would provide for the Hereafter.

He would refrain from bad deeds knowing that great punishment might be inflicted upon him in the life after death. He would be willing to sacrifice for others because there is a promise of a reward in the next world. Hence the behaviour of people is moulded as soon as they decide which doctrine they adhere to.

Islam is a direct enlightenment of the Creator to humanity. It deals with all fields of their activity, whether on the individual or collective level. Special care is given to individ- uals and their behaviour in order that their spiritual side is strengthened and made sublime.

This is done through explaining the ideology first, then binding them to God in prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, etc. The collective aspect is given due importance, where the social, eco- nomic and political systems were clearly for- mulated and minutely explained.

Islamic legislation defines two kinds of laws, namely, the constitutional type and the regulative type. The constitutional laws are basic and permanent. For instance, the concept of defence against enemies is a permanent law, but the means of defence are changing with time and place.

In the past the means of transport and defence were horses, camels and elephants, etc. But now rockets, aeroplanes, nuclear ships and weapons are used. Therefore, the consti- tution is concerned with the basic needs while the - regulative laws are concerned with the best means and ways to satisfy these require- ments.

a. Results of Philosophy

The eminent British philosopher Francis Bacon said: "A little of philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth man's mind to religion." Why?

It is better to let one of the most distinguished and productive representatives of `Logical positivism' (logical empiricism), Rudolf Carnap answers this question.

He said: "We may soon come to a degree of certainty sufficient for all practical purposes, but absolute certainty we can never attain."

In fact, it amounts to the question: Do we know anything at all? The answer may seem simple, but when examined, it would be one of the most difficult questions which ever con- fronted man, Professor Ayer (the chairman of the Humanist Association and Professor of logic at Oxford University) said: "I believe in science" but he went on, "though I believe in science, I do not believe that science is infallible."

He concluded, "Since we can never have a logical guarantee that any such theory will not be falsified, we are never in a position to claim that we are in possession of the final truth."

It seems that the best summary of the result of philosophy is that given by the eminent philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

He said: "My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognises them as senseless, when he has climbed l out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw the ladder, after he has climbed over it). He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.

Whereof one can't speak, thereof one must be silent."

Bertrand Russel said: "One can't be certain of anything and if he is certain of anything then he is certainly wrong." He also said: "The job of the 'philosopher is to help people to fight their doubt." Even a great rationalist like Des- cartes started by saying that he was doubting the only thing that he did not doubt - his doubt itself.

His way of tackling the problem can be taken as follows. (Since I doubt, there- fore I am thinking. Since I think therefore I exist. Since I exist, therefore God exists for a thing cannot happen without a cause).

The weak points in his argument are the following:

i. He assumes that his doubt is absolutely true which is an arbitrary proposition.

ii. He assumes causality without offering a reason for such assumption.

To throw more light on the uncertainty question, the following points could be added:

a) The known means of knowledge that is our five senses and mind are all liable to doubt simply because they have cheated us many times and we cannot exclude any particular occasion from doubt.

b) Our reasoning can be reduced to the apriori propositions of logic. The truth of these propositions might be subjected to analysis and hence they are not considered as instinctively basic. For instance, some concepts were con- sidered as axioms at one time like the absolute- ness of time and the Eucledian geometry; then it was found that they were not absolute.

c) It seems that it is impossible to conceive a thing without affecting it as suggested- by, Kant. Hence we can never have an exact image of anything.

d) ~ It will be worse when uncertainty becomes dominant. Then doubt extends to the concept of uncertainty itself which leads to the Wittgenstein's declaration, "Whereof one can't speak, thereof one must be silent."

b. Islamic Theory of Knowledge:

A theory in epistimology which was worked out by the famous Muslim philosopher Abu Nasr al-Farabi (870-950 A.D.) classified human knowledge into two types:

i. Imaginative knowledge (at-Tasawwur): These are the mental images that are formed in our minds irrespective of external conditions. The basic premises like causality and the law of contradiction are within this category of knowledge. Imaginative knowledge is taken as absolutely certain for it is not susceptible to any confusion of doubt.

ii. Decisive knowledge (at-Tgdiq): This includes all our knowledge which comes as a result of a mental decision (i.e., all inferred knowledge).

This cannot be taken as absolutely certain because our senses have de- ceived us many times and mental inefficiency cannot be discarded.

It could be proposed that the best defini- tion of a certain proposition is that which the mind cannot but see. That includes the mental images in our brain. Hence the existence of these mental images is absolutely certain.

Doubt remains about their representation of external realities. The premises of human knowledge such as "causality" could be considered as properties and interaction characteristics of the mental images and hence they are absolutely true.

Doubt creeps in about the course of analysis, synthesis and deductions by the brain, because of its liability to errors and its imperfect nature. When we see something it is absolutely certain that there is a mental image in our brain for there is no excuse for doubt about the existence of the image, but it is not neces- sary that what we see has an external reality.

Our doubt about its external reality comes from our empirical experience. Hence we are in possession of certain facts, namely the prem- ises of knowledge which we have considered as characteristics of the mental images. An applica- tion of these' premises in a probability con- sideration may allow a logical decision in favour or against a proposition.

Hence rationally speaking a proposition is acceptable if it is more probable. I am in a position now to say that a doctrine is worth adhering to if it is logically favoured by higher probability considering its essence and conse- quences of adaptation. The following pages could then be considered as an attempt to explain the rational support of the Islamic doctrine.

It must be added that belief (iman) is a state of mind which God bestows on good Muslim (i.e., those who submit to His will). Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.a.h.p.) was not a philosopher.. It is well known that he was illiterate. The Islamic message was inspired in him by revelation.

Islam encourages rationalism. Throughout the holy Qur'an man is encouraged to think and reason out, but rationalism alone (i.e., without the purity of the soul which results from acting according to the will of God) is not sufficient for belief (iman).

I am more concerned here with the rational support of the Islamic doctrine, bearing in mind that acting according to the will of God is a necessary requirement for a firm and lively belief.

The Islamic doctrine - is based on the following foundations:-

1. Belief in God

God is the ultimate of the existence of the universe. He is the Creator whose essence and form is beyond perception. It is only some of His characteristics that we have knowledge of through experience and prophesy.

The Crea- tor's intrinsic characteristrics are infinite and absolute. He is eternal and cannot be limited to space or time, because He is the Creator of both. He is One and Just. The characteristics of God can be classified into two divisions:

i) Positive: such as Almighty, Powerful, Creator, Benevolent, Willing, Knowing, Wise, etc.

ii) Negative: such as indivisible, unseen, etc.

Islam stresses two concepts, namely the Unity and Justice of God. The first concept assumes order and harmony in the universe. The second concept furnishes the ground for prophethood and man's free will.

Man is born neutral in his intentions concerning good and evil. Islam considers man as potentially able to do either of the two. When he pursues one path, then he will experience an acceleration in that path as a natural consequence.

Man is made aware of the nature of the two paths through his instincts, prophets, the callers for righteousness, and the callers for evil.

2. Belief in Islamism* and Prophecy

God created nature including man, as a natural phenomenon, according to definite laws. These laws may be statistical in some fields, and may include control of tire evolutionary process in nature. "isldm" is an Arabic word which means submission.

"muslim " is a word which means that which submits to the laws of God. Thus the non-willing things in the world such as lifeless objects, like atoms and stars are Muslims. Man is given a high capacity of think- ing, and his activities fall into two categories. The first kind is instinctive, such as his heartbeat which obeys the laws set by God.

The will is given to human beings and exercises its power within a special sector of life. This sector *Islamism means in this context submission to the will of God.

includes all human activities except those mat- ters which are beyond human control. However, even this part of human activity has some ideal laws which enable human beings to achieve optimum control.

These laws are given to man by God, and conforming to them means that we are Muslims - i.e., submitting to the will of God.

These are the Islamic laws. Other Godly religions are also God's laws, but either their role had finished or they have been altered by men. Islam is the last religion God has chosen for humanity.

A prophet is a good man, fit and able to deliver the message of God. He should be faultless in order to be a model for others to follow.

In other words, he ought to be an efficient person to conduct a cultural trans- formation within the society. Prophets have appeared throughout history to perform their duty as witnesses, heralds of mercy and warners.

They conduct the cultural change and warn people against going astray.

3. Belief in the Hereafter

Man consists of a material body and a soul. The latter is called in modern psychology "mind." After death the material body goes back to the physical world as chemical com- pounds while the mind or soul goes to a world of its own type.

It is believed that during the period between death and the day of judgement people are classified under three categories.

Those who have been extremely good by obey- ing God and His Prophet will be in a state of happiness during that period which is called "barzakh. " Other people who have been ex- tremely sinful -during their life, will get the torment of "barzakh.

" The rest of the people who are in between, their soul would be static. The second stage is the day of Judgment, people will be reminded of their good and bad deeds in this world, and prepared to receive their reward or punishment.

Good people will be rewarded by being sent to Paradise, while the evildoers will be sent to Hell, In Paradise, people will receive wonderful pleasure and happiness:

"Allah has promised the believers, men and women, gardens underneath which rivers flow, forever therein to dwell, and goodly dwelling places in the gardens of `adn (of perpetual bliss); and ,greater, Allah's good pleasure; that is the grand achievement" (Qur an, 9:72).

In * Hell people would get every torment, and the fuel of the fire is human beings and stones.

A person commits sins when he behaves against God's laws. Everyone is responsible for his own deeds. He is not charged with sins committed by other people.

Belief in God

Islam does not require faith without being logically convinced. In this section, the con- sistency and the rational positivity of the doctrine will be shown.

Existence of God and His Characteristics: There are four ways to prove the existence of the Creator:

a. Personal Experience

There are some events which we encounter in our lives that cannot be explained except by the existence of God. Many people en- counter incidents which convince them of the existence of God.

It must be admitted that this type of conviction is applicable on a small scale and hardly considered by others who are not related to that particular event. But its importance cannot be discarded, specially if we are to use probability measures.

b. Religion

Many good people have appeared through- out history and preached belief in God. Those people are called prophets. Prophets must have unique qualities such as wisdom, piety, truth- fulness, trustworthiness, etc.

These qualities must be known to people before they are sent as prophets. All prophets claimed to have some extraordinary communication with God. It is established that their intentions and works were consistent and support their claims.

c. Philosophy (The first cause, argument)

Considering the "Law of cause and effect," take matter in general. It certainly needs a cause for its existence now. This argument might be objected to by saying that its cause needs a cause, and that will end up in an infinite series.

However, this objection can be countered by proving that the chain of causes must terminate in an ultimate cause. This ulti- mate cause should be self-sustained and requires no cause for its existence. In other words, there should be a cause different in nature and essence from those in the chain.

Now, let the cause of the existence of matter be A and its effect be B and so on. Thus a chain (A, B, C, D, E, F, . . . .) is formed. If A disappears then matter disappears. Similarly the existence of D is necessary for the existence of A and so on.

Now take an arbitrary link in the chain say N; however, the status of N in the series is subjected to three possibilities: i) Must not exist. ii) May exist. iii) Must exist.

The first and second assumptions require the non-existence of matter as explained above. Hence, we are left with the last assumption.

The circle argument can be disproved also. The circle of causes implies a series A, B, C, D, . . . . then back to A, B.... etc., going round in a circle. Take any pair in the circle, say A and D. There are three possibilities: i) A exists before D. ii) D exists before A. iii) A and D exist simultaneously.

If A exists before D then there is no meaning in saying that A is dependent on D, simply because D used to have no existence before it was caused to exist by A.

The second assumption can be disproved by a similar argu- ment. The third assumption means that neither of the two are the cause of the existence of the other. Hence they require a cause beyond their existence.

A further objection might be raised on the account of the arbitrary proposition of N for it might be taken as the very matter itself. This assumption contradicts the premises of logic, namely the apriori proposition like causality.

It is needless to go further, but it can be proved easily that matter has the same essence but different forms, then it may be asked, "What are the causes which have given different forms to the same essence?" If it is said that there was no original form, then matter needs a factor beyond its essence to provide its present form. If it is said that these forms were eternal, then what were the causes which made them differ- ent.

If they were intrinsic, then they must have been either potential or active. The former requires an agitating cause, while the latter needs the existence of contradictory things simultaneously, which is against the premises of logic. Hence the fact that matter has both an essence and a form necessitates that it is contingent.

d. Science

It is known by intuition that for every intelligent work there is a maker. Consider any example in nature such as the human brain.

Then compare it with a highly sophisticated invention, like the computer. It is obvious that the latter is a product of the human brain. It is then impossible for the brain to exist without an intelligent maker. Some people like to escape towards an imaginary thing called accident. If accident can be discarded as an impossibility, then the only way left is to attribute it, as Max Planck, the great physicist puts it: "to God."

Probability and chance is a very well defin- ed branch of mathematics. If a specific card is to be drawn from a pack of ten cards at random, then the probability of drawing that card is 1/10.

Consider the cards are numbered from one to ten, and it is required to find the probability of drawing the cards in sequence.

The probability of that event is 1 / 10 1°. In com- paring the peculiarity of this simple operation with that of a living cell, the denominator becomes very large. In other words, the proba- bility of its being born by accident becomes very remote.

However, if the comparison pro- ceeds to the creation of a human being, it becomes much more remote. To clarify this point, imagine someone tells you that his car came about by an accident through some peculiar circumstances. One would think that he is mad. Going further in comparing the peculiar- ity of the whole universe, the denominator approaches infinity.

It might be objected that the universe is finite. The answer is that ap- proaching infinity is sufficient for a mathemati- cal proof. Also we are dealing with design and not the finite material used in the design.

Indeed, there is no place rationally or emotionally for a blind accident to make a human eye, that is, putting its lens and pupil in their positions, a retina to reflect light, two types of fluid and millions of cones and rods behind the retina to analyse light.

There is no place for a blind accident to make the genes which transfer the biological characters of the ancestors to the descendents. It is said that the genes of the whole human population would not fill a thimble used by a tailor!

It is now established that God is the cause of existence of the universe, hence it cannot be said that He is limited in a space or time. His characteristics can be envisaged through His work. It is seen that there is a good order and purpose in the world, hence He is wise. There are great forces in the universe, therefore He is powerful, etc.

Evil is a word which has a relative meaning. God's acts, and His work are perfect in every respect. They contain all the factors of mercy and benevolence.

Evil is a deficiency which cannot be attributed to God. If someone gives ten pounds, then takes one pound back he is still generous and good.

God is one. If it is assumed that there are many then they should have either the same will or different wills. If they have the same will, then there is no meaning in saying they are many. If it is assumed that they have differ- ent wills, then they are either equal or differ- ent.

When they are equal, then the limit of their behaviour is the same, and consequently they have the same will. When they have differ- ent powers, then the strongest will overcome the weakest.

God is just. Injustice is a weakness which cannot be attributed to the Creator, who is perfect in every respect.

1. Islamism and Prophecy

The word "Islam" has two concepts. The first concept could be realised linguistically. The Arabic word "isldm" means "submitting willingly." It refers to the submission to God in general, and in this sense it includes all the religions and looking at it from a still broader view it includes all non-willing objects.

The second concept is a formal definition which refers to Islam as a community and any person who declares "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah," is a Muslim.

Islam fits man's nature and is in harmony with his needs and hopes. Human experience shows that it is harmful to behave against one's nature. For example, not getting married and wronging others.

Religion calls this state "sin." It is an empirical experience that being in harmony with natural laws (God's laws) is a good thing, for instance being truthful, trust- worthy, kind righteous, etc. Religion calls this state "good."

Prophecy is necessary for the following reasons:

i) Man is distinguished from animals by his mental capacity and freedom of choice. The mental capacity is high but limited. His ques tions range from the origin of the universe to the life after death. He searches for the best means of securing his present and future life.

Furthermore, he puts his knowledge under test and examines its origin and value. He even questions his own perception. Then it can be seen that there is a big scope for debate and difference on any subject! Philosophers who have a deep insight into matters differ about basic concepts! !

All kinds of contradictory i deas are found co-existing in the world of phi- l osophy. There is a universe, says realism. Ideal- ism claims that there is no real universe at all, it is all a matter of imagination to Berkley and David Hume! Marx claims that our perception is a mere reflection of our environment.

Im- manuel Kant and Descartes said there is some basic instinctive knowledge. Hence this confu- sion must be ended in some way.

Therefore, sending prophets is inevitable to rescue humanity from being lost in doubts. It is necessary to show them the way of life in conforming to God's laws; these laws are pre- sented by the Godly religions throughout his- tory.

ii) The high standard of behaviour and moral conduct which the prophets used to display before experiencing revelation. As an example of a typical prophet the case of Proph- et Muhammad (p.b.u.h.a.h.p) is outstanding. The following points are in favour of the Prophethood of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.a.h.p.).

a. He was known as truthful and trust- worthy before he claimed Prophethood. His moral character was unique and beyond any question or doubt.

b. He never doubted his message. 'Where were many attempts to divert him from his course by offering him bribes of money, women, followers, etc., but he was never shaken or moved by these offers. He lived for twenty- three years after his Prophethood,, conforming to his ideals in every respect.

c. He was an illiterate person. The Qur'an is the miracle that God has given him to con- vince people of his message and Prophethood. The fine literature, the magnificent social, eco- nomic, political and spiritual systems presented in the Qur'an are well perfected and defined.

There are more than 750 verses in the Qur'an which state facts most of which could never have been known to people at the Prophet's time.

d. He knew the year of his death. He also prophesied many things which were fulfilled.

e. He waited for two years after he had received the first few chapters of the Qur'an.

During this period he did not receive any revelation. This historical fact strongly supports that the Qur'an is God's revelation.

2. Life After Death

The following points support the existence of a life after death.

a. The investigation of modern psychology in the field of clairvoyance, precognition (proph- ecy), psychokinesis (effect of mind on mat ter) and extrasensory perception have shown that man does not consist of this material body only, but there is something behind and beyond it: psychologists call it the "mind" (which is different from the physical brain). Religion calls it the "soul." It is only a matter of ter- minology.

b. Para-psychology works together with spiritualism in modern psychical investigations. The following are some scientists who did some research in this field.

Sir Oliver Lodge (Winner of Rumford medal of the R.S., President of the Physical Society of London, and of the British Association for Advancement of Science).

He stated that: "Speaking for myself with full and cautious responsibility I have to state that as an outcome of my investiga- tion into psychical matters, 1 have at length and quite gradually become convinced, after more than thirty years of study, not only that persist- ent existence is a fact, but that occasional communication across the chasm - with dif- ficulty and under definite conditions - is possible.

The evidence has thoroughly convinced me (i) of human survival, (ii) of the possibility under favourable circumstances, of communica- tion between the dead and living, (iii) that death is only an episode in continuous existence. I also think it fairly established that some kind of help, guidance or inspiration reaches us at times across what is sometimes called `the gulf or through what is often called `the veil.' "

Professor Hart (in his book "The Enigma of Survival") who was quoting Lodge said: "The hypothesis of continued existence in another set of condition,

and of a possible communica- tion across the boundary is not a gratuitous one made for the sake of comfort and consola- tion or because of a dislike to the idea of extinc- tion; it is a hypothesis which has been gradually forced upon the author - as upon many other persons - by the stringent coercion of definite experience; the foundation of atomic theory is to him no stronger. The evidence is cumula- tive and has broken the back of all legitimate and reasonable scepticism."

Sir William Crookes (Inventor of the Crookes tube in electric- ity, President of the R.S., of Chemical Society, of The Institute of Electrical Engineering and of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, discoverer of Thallium, etc.).

He began in 1869 a scientific investigation of psychical phenomena which led him to the conclusion "that invisible and intelligent beings exist who say that they are the spirits of dead persons." He made the following statement in his presidential address before the British Asso- ciation in 1898: "Thirty years have passed since I published an account of experiments tending to show that outside our scientific knowledge there exists a force exercised by intelligence deffering from the ordinary intelligence common to mortals. I have nothing to retract, I adhere to my already published statement. Indeed I might add much thereto."

Sir William Barrett (F.R.S. Professor of experimental physics in the Royal School of Science in Ireland). He is another scientist who spent decades in physi cal research.

He commented on some experi- ments where an automatic writer produced messages purporting to come from people who had died. He says: "Certainly, for our own part, we believe there is some active intelligence at work behind, and apart from the automatist, an intelligence which is more like the deceased person, it professes to be, than that of any other we can imagine. It is an attempt at intelli- gent co-operation between certain disembodied minds and our own."

There are many other scientists who believe in the above-mentioned results. For example Professor Rhine, a biologist and plant psycholo gist, and Sir Alister Hardy, present professor of zoology in the University of Oxford.

In his book "The Living Stream," (1962) he supports very strongly these results and states that there is a new movement in modern biology which is aiming at what he calls "natural theology." Even an opponent to religion like. Russel declar- ed in "Why I am not a Christian" that he does not doubt the scientific manner in which psychical researches were carried out.

Harnell Hart, professor of Sociology in the University of Kentucky, said in his book, "The Enigma of Survival": "That something corre sponding to `the astral world' emerges logically from combination of clear dreams and telep- athy is recognised in the writing of at least two distinguished philosophers - C. J. Ducass, of Brown University, Providence R.I., U.S.A., and H. H. Price, of Oxford University, England (1956) (P.238):

"The existence of some sort of Astral world appears to be a logical necessity. Vivid . dreams do, of course, occur, and telepathy is a scientifically established phenomenon. Hence, there is no reason to reject as inherently incredi- ble the numerous accounts of shared dreams.

Eminent philosophers both in America and England have pointed out the rationality of conceiving the life beyond death in terms of telepathy and shared experience." (P.245). Many people suffer and they are not com- pensated for in this world.

Many others do mis- chief and commit crimes but they have not been punished while living on this earth. It has been already stated that God is just because He is perfect. Then, it may be asked, "is it justice to let good people suffer without compensa- tion?" The natural answer is that there is a life after death where people will receive reward or punishment for what they have done.

Some points in favour of this beneficial nature:

a. Islam provides hope to people to live and a purpose to pursue - a hope which ties them to God, a purpose which can vary from aiming at the satisfaction of the Creator to mere selfish interest.

The purpose of satisfying the Creator is a sublime thought. Imam `All (p.b.u.h.) said: "I worship God neither out of fear nor for gains, but because He is worthy of worship."

The selfish interests are manifested in the desire to enter Heaven and avoid the torment of Hell.

b. Islam fulfills the instinctive need for a religious belief. The need for religion is a fact which is admitted by all those who study religion in human society.

c. The Islamic attitude towards "Sin" is a rational one. It places the responsibility of committing sin on those who indulge in it. In other words, Islam denies the inheritence of sin. This attitude frees man from the sense of guilt of evil deeds which he has not committed.

d. The believers tend to respect themselves as dignified human beings and have the same feelings for others. This respect is the result of their communication with the Creator, through prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.

e. The Islamic philosophy about life im- plants good and tender feelings in the Mus- li m's outlook. Muslims' view of life is that of co-operation:

"And how many a moving creature that do not carry its sustenance; Allah sustains it and yourselves; ..............." (Qur an, 29:60) "Who made the earth a bed (resting place) for you and the sky a structure and causes water to descend from heaven and thereby produces fruits for your sustenance; ..............." (Qur an, 2:22).

It is assumed that there is order, harmony and co-operation in the world. On the other hand, the materialistic view of life is that of struggle, vicious competition and war.

Therefore the Islamic philosophy inculcates the feeling of peace and tranquility. The materialistic philoso- phy injects tension, competition and conflict among people.

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