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Thursday, June 30, 2011


By Syed Abul A'ala Mawdudi


Moral sense is inborn in man and through the ages it has served as the common man's standard of moral behavior, approving certain qualities and disapproving others. While this instinctive faculty may vary from person to person, human conscience has given a more or less uniform verdict in favor of certain moral qualities as being good and declared certain others as bad. On the side of moral virtues, justice, courage, bravery and truthfulness have always elicited praise. History does not record any period worth the name in which falsehood, injustice, dishonesty, and breach of trust may have been upheld. Fellow-feeling, compassion, fidelity, and magnanimity have always been valued while selfishness, cruelty, miserliness and bigotry have never received the approval of the human society; men have always appreciated perseverance, determination and courage and have never approved of impatience, fickle-mindedness, cowardice and imbecility. Dignity, restraint, politeness, and amiability have throughout the ages been counted among virtues, whereas snobbery, misbehavior and rudeness have never found recognition as good moral qualities. Persons having a sense of responsibility and devotion to duty have always won the highest regard of men; never have people who are incompetent, slothful and lacking in sense of duty been looked upon with approval. Similarly, in respect of the standard of good and bad in the collective behavior of society as a whole, the verdict has always been almost unanimous. Only that society has been looked upon as worthy or honor and respect which possesses the virtues of organization, discipline, mutual affection and fellow feeling and has established a social order based on justice, freedom and equality of men. As opposed to this, disorganization, no-discipline, anarchy, disunity, injustice and social imbalance have always been considered as manifestations of decay and disintegration in a society. Robbery, murder, larceny, adultery, fraud and graft have always been condemned. Slandering, scandal mongering and blackmailing has never been considered as wholesome social activities.

Contrary to this service and care of the aged, help of one's kith and kin, regard for neighbors, loyalty to friends, assistance of the weak, the destitute and the orphans, and nursing the sick are qualities which have always been highly valued ever since the dawn of civilization. Virtuous, polite, mild and sincere persons have always been welcomed. Individual who are upright, honest, sincere, outspoken and dependable, whose needs conform to their words, who are content with their own rightful possession, who are prompt in the discharge of their obligations to others, who live in peace and let others live in peace and from whom nothing but good can be expected, have always formed the core of any healthy human society.

This shows that human moral standards are in fact universal and have been well-known to mankind throughout the ages. Good and evil are not myths to be hunted out. They are well- known realities and are equally well-understood by all. The sense of good and evil is inherent in the very nature of man. Hence, in the terminology of the Qur'an virtue is called "Ma'roof ' (something to be announced) and evil is designated as "Munkar" (something to be denounced); that is to say virtue is known to be desirable for every one and evil is not known to commend itself in any way. This fact is mentioned by the Qur'an when it says:

" And (Allah gave to the Soul) its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; ..... (Quran, 91:8)

Why Differences ?

The questions that arises are: if the basic values of good and evil have been so well-known and there has virtually been a universal agreement thereon, then why do varying patterns of moral behavior exist in this world? Why are there so many and do conflicting moral philosophies? Why do certain moral standards contradict each other? What lies at the root of their difference? What is the unique position of Islam in the context of the prevailing ethical systems? On what grounds can we claim that Islam has a perfect moral system? And what exactly is the distinctive contribution of Islam in the real of ethics? These questions are important and must be squarely faced; but justice cannot be done to them on the brief span of this talk.

To cut a long story short, I shall briefly sum up some of those important points which strike us at the very outset when we undertake a critical examination of the contemporary ethical systems and the conflicting patterns of moral behavior.

(a) The present moral system fail to integrate various moral virtues and norms by prescribing their specific limits and utility and assigning to them their proper place. That is why they fail to provide a balanced and coherent plan of social conduct.

(b) The real cause of their differences seems to lie in the moral systems offering different standards for good and bad actions and enunciating different means of distinguishing good form evil. Differences also exist in respect of the sanction behind the moral law and in regard to the motives which impel a person to follow it.

(c) On deeper reflection, we find that the grounds for these differences emerge from different peoples conflicting views and concepts about the universe, the place of man in the universe, 'and the purpose of man on the earth. Various theories of ethics, philosophy and religion are but a record of the vast divergence of views of mankind on these most vital questions, viz. Is there a God and a Sovereign of the universe and if there is, is He One or are there many gods? What are Divine Attributes? What is the nature of the relationship between God and the human beings? Has God made any arrangements for guiding humanity through the rough and tumble of life or not? Is man answerable to God or not? If he is, then what are the matters for which he is to be answerable? What is the ultimate aim of man's creation which he should keep in view throughout his life? Answers to these questions will determine the way of life, the ethical philosophy and the pattern of moral behavior of the individual and the society.

It is difficult for me in this brief talk to take stock of the various ethical system prevalent in the world, indicate what solutions each one of them has proposed to these questions and what has been the impact of these answers on the moral evolution of the society believing in these concepts. Here I can confine myself to the Islamic concept only and this I shall try to propound.

Islamic Concept of Life And Morality

The viewpoint of Islam, however, is that this universe is the creation of God Who is One. He created it and He alone is its unrivaled Master, Sovereign and Sustainer. The whole universe is functioning under His Divine Command. He is All-Wise, All-Powerful and Omniscient. He is Subbooh and Quddoos that is, free from all defects, mistakes, weaknesses and faults and pure in every respect). His God-hood is free from partiality and injustice. Man is His creature, subject and servant and is born to serve and obey Him.

The correct way of life for man is to live in complete obedience to Him. It is not for man to determine the mode of worship and obedience; it is for God to decide this. God, being the master, has raised from time to time prophets for the guidance of humanity and has revealed His books through them. It is the duty of man to take the code of his life from these sources of divine guidance. Man is answerable to God for all his actions in life. The time for rendering an account will be in the life-hereafter and not in this world. The short span of worldly life is really an opportunity to prepare for that great test. In this life all efforts of man should be centered on the object of soliciting the Pleasure and Blessings of God in the Hereafter. During this test every person is responsible for all his beliefs and actions. He, with all his faculties and potentialities, is on trial. There will be an impartial assessment of his conduct in life. By a Being Who keeps a complete and correct record not merely of his movements and actions and their influence on all that is in the world from the tiniest speck of dust to the loftiest mountains but also a full record of his innermost ideas and feelings and intentions.

Goal of Moral Striving

This is Islam's fundamental attitude towards life. This concept of the universe and of man's place therein determines the real and ultimate goal which should be the object of all the endeavors of mankind and which may be termed briefly as "seeking the pleasure of God". This is the standard by which a particular mode of conduct is judged and classified as good or bad. This standard of judgment provides the nucleus around which the whole moral conduct should revolve. Man is not left like a ship without moorings, being tossed about by the blows of wind and tides. This dispensation places a central object before mankind and lays down values and norms for all moral actions. It provides us with a stable and flawless set of values which remains unaltered under all circumstances. Moreover, with making the "pleasure of God" as the object of man's life, a highest and noblest objective is set before humanity, and thus, unlimited possibilities are opened for man's moral evolution, unstained at any stage by any shadow of narrow selfishness or bigoted race or nation worship.

While providing a normal standard Islam also furnishes us with means of determining good and evil conduct. It does not base our knowledge of vice and virtue on mere intellect, desire, intuition, or experience derived through the sense-organs, which constantly undergo shifts, modifications and alterations and do not provide definite, categorical and unchanging standards of morality. It provides us with a definite source, the Divine Revelation, as embodied in the Book of God and the Sunnah way of life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). This source prescribes a standard or moral conduct that is permanent and universal and holds good in every age and under all circumstances. The moral code of Islam covers the smallest details of domestic life as well as the broad aspects of national and international behavior. It guides us in every stage of life. These regulations imply the widest application of moral principles in the affairs of our life and make us free from exclusive dependence on any other source of knowledge, expect as an aid to this primary source.

Sanction Behind Morality

This concept of the universe and of man's place therein also furnishes the sanction that must lie at the back of every moral law. Viz., the love and fear of God, the sense of accountability on the Day of Judgment and the promise of eternal bliss and reward in the life hereafter. Although Islam wants to cultivate a powerful and strong mass opinion, which may induce individuals and groups to abide by the principles of morality laid by it and also aims at the evolution of a political system which would enforce the moral law, as far as possible, through its legislative and executive power. Islam's moral law does not really depend on these external pressures alone. It relies upon the inherent urge for good in every man which is derived from belief in God and a Day of Judgment. Before laying down any moral injunction, Islam seeks to firmly implant in man's heart the conviction that his dealings are with God Who sees him at all times and in all places. That he may hide himself from the whole world but not from Him. That he may deceive everyone but cannot deceive God. That he can flee from the clutches of any one else but not from God's. That while the world can see man’s onward life, only God probes into his innermost intentions and desires, that while he may, in his short sojourn on this earth, do whatever he likes but in any event he has to die one day and present himself before the Divine court of justice where no advocacy, favor, recommendation, misrepresentation, deception or fraud will be of any avail and where his future will be decided with complete impartiality and justice. There may or may not be any police, law court or jail in the world to enforce the observance of these moral injunctions and regulations but this belief firmly rooted in the heart, is the real force at the back of the moral law of Islam which helps in getting it enforced. If popular opinion and the coercive powers of the state exist to give it support so much the better; otherwise, this faith alone can keep a Muslim individual and a Muslim community on the straight path of virtue, provided, the spark of genuine faith dwells in their hearts.

Motives and Incentives

This concept of Islam about man and his place in the universe also provides those motivating forces which can inspire a person to act in conformity with the moral law. The fact, that a man voluntarily and willingly accepts God as his own Creator, and the obedience to God as the mode of his life and strives to seek His Pleasure in his every action, provides a sufficient incentive to enable him to obey the commandments which he believes to be from God. Along with this, the belief in the Day of Judgment and the belief that whosoever obeys Divine Commands is sure to have a good life 'in the Hereafter, the Eternal Life, whatever difficulties and handicaps he may have to face in this transitory phase of life, provides a strong incentive for virtuous life. On the other hand, the belief that whoever violates the Commandments of God in this world and dies in a state of Kufr (unbelief) shall have to bear eternal punishment however superficially nice a life he may have led in this temporary abode, is an effective deterrent against violation of moral law. If this hope and fear are firmly ingrained, and deeply rooted in one's heart, they will provide a strong motive-force to inspire one to virtuous deeds even on occasions when worldly consequences may appear to be very damaging and harmful, and it will keep one away from evil even on occasions when it looks extremely attractive and profitable.

This clearly indicates that Islam possesses a distinctive criterion of good and evil, its own source of moral law, and its own sanction and motive force, and by them its virtues in all spheres of life after knitting them into a balanced and comprehensive plan. Thus, it can be justifiably claimed that Islam possesses a perfect moral system of its own. This system has many distinguishing features and I shall refer to the three most significant ones which, in my opinion, can be termed its special contributions to ethics.

Distinctive Features of Islamic Moral Order

By setting Divine pleasure as the objective of man's life, it has furnished the highest possible standard of morality. This is bound to provide limitless avenues for the moral revolution of humanity. By making Divine Revelation the primary source of knowledge, it gives permanence and stability to the moral standards which afford reasonable scope for genuine adjustment, adaptations and innovations though not for perversions, wild variations, atomistic relativism or moral fluidity. It provides a sanction to morality in the love the fear of God which will impel man to obey the moral law even without any external pressure. Through belief in God and the Day of Judgment, it furnishes a motive force which enables a person to adopt the moral conduct with earnestness and sincerity, with all the devotion of heart and soul.
It does not, through a false sense of originality and innovation, provide any novel moral virtues nor does it seek to minimize the importance of the well-known moral norms nor give exaggerated importance to some and neglect others without cause. It takes up all the commonly known moral virtues and with a sense of balance and proportion it assigns a suitable place and function to each one of them in the total plan of life. It widens the scope of their application to cover every aspect of man's individual and collective life his domestic associations, his civic conduct, and his activities in the political, economic, legal educational and social realms. It covers his life from home to society, from the dining table to the battlefield and peace conferences, literally from the cradle to the grave. In short, no sphere of life is exempt from the universal and comprehensive application of the moral principles of Islam. It makes morality reign supreme and ensures that the affairs of life, instead of being dominated by selfish desires and petty interests, should be regulated by the norms of morality.

It stipulates for man a system of life which is based on all good and is free from all evil. It invokes the people, not only to practice virtue, but also to establish virtue and eradicate vice, to bid good and to forbid wrong. It wants that the verdict of conscience should prevail and virtue must not be subdued to play second fiddle to evil. Those who have responded to this call and gathered together into a community (Ummah) are given the name "Muslim" and the singular object underlying the formation of this community (Ummah) is that it should make an organized effort to establish and enforce goodness and suppress and eradicate evil. The Qur'an is quite explicit on this fact as can be seen from the following verse:
"Ye are the best for Peoples, evolved For mankind, Enjoining what is right, Forbidding what is wrong, And believing in God. If only the People of the Book Had faith, it were best For them: among them Are some who have faith, But most of them Are perverted transgressors." (Qur'an, 3:1 10)

And also in the following verse:

"(They are) those who, If we establish them In the land, establish Regular prayer and give Regular charity, enjoin The right and forbid wrong: With God rests the end (And decision) of (all) affairs." (Qur’an, 22:41)

It will be a day of mourning for the community and a bad day for the entire world if the efforts of this very community were at anytime directed towards establishing evil and suppressing good.link

Thursday, June 16, 2011



Melayu itu orang yang bijaksana
Nakalnya bersulam jenaka
Budi bahasanya tidak terkira
Kurang ajarnya tetap santun
Jika menipu pun masih bersopan
Bila mengampu bijak beralas tangan. Melayu itu berani jika bersalah
Kecut takut kerana benar,
Janji simpan di perut
Selalu pecah di mulut,
Biar mati adat
Jangan mati anak.

Melayu di tanah Semenanjung luas maknanya:
Jawa itu Melayu,
Bugis itu Melayu
Banjar juga disebut Melayu,
Minangkabau memang Melayu,
Keturunan Acheh adalah Melayu,
Jakun dan Sakai asli Melayu,
Arab dan Pakistani, semua Melayu
Mamak dan Malbari serap ke Melayu
Malah muaalaf bertakrif Melayu

Dalam sejarahnya
Melayu itu pengembara lautan
Melorongkan jalur sejarah zaman
Begitu luas daerah sempadan

Sayangnya kini segala kehilangan
Melayu itu kaya falsafahnya
Kias kata bidal pusaka
Akar budi bersulamkan daya
Gedung akal laut bicara

Malangnya Melayu itu kuat bersorak
Terlalu ghairah pesta temasya
Sedangkan kampung telah tergadai
Sawah sejalur tinggal sejengkal tanah sebidang mudah terjual
Meski telah memiliki telaga
Tangan masih memegang tali
Sedang orang mencapai timba.

Berbuahlah pisang tiga kali
Melayu itu masih bermimpi
Walaupun sudah mengenal universiti
Masih berdagang di rumah sendiri.

Berkelahi cara Melayu
Menikam dengan pantun
Menyanggah dengan senyum
Marahnya dengan diam
Merendah bukan menyembah
Meninggi bukan melonjak.

Watak Melayu menolak permusuhan
Setia dan sabar tiada sempadan
Tapi jika marah tak nampak telinga
Musuh dicari ke lubang cacing
Tak dapat tanduk telinga dijinjing

Maruah dan agama dihina jangan
Hebat amuknya tak kenal lawan
Berdamai cara Melayu indah sekali
Silaturrahim hati yang murni
Maaf diungkap senantiasa bersahut
Tangan diulur sentiasa bersambut
Luka pun tidak lagi berparut

Baiknya hati Melayu itu tak terbandingkan
Selagi yang ada sanggup diberikan
Sehingga tercipta sebuah kiasan:

"Dagang lalu nasi ditanakkan
Suami pulang lapar tak makan
Kera di hutan disusu-susukan
Anak di pangkuan mati kebuluran"

Bagaimanakah Melayu abad dua puluh satu
Masihkan tunduk tersipu-sipu?

Jangan takut melanggar pantang
Jika pantang menghalang kemajuan;

Jangan segan menentang larangan
Jika yakin kepada kebenaran;

Jangan malu mengucapkan keyakinan
Jika percaya kepada keadilan

Jadilah bangsa yang bijaksana
Memegang tali memegang timba
Memiliki ekonomi mencipta budaya
Menjadi tuan di negara Merdeka

-usman awang

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blair Baca Al-Quran Setiap Hari

LONDON 13 Jun - Bekas Perdana Menteri Britain, Tony Blair yang sebelum ini terkenal dengan pendirian tegasnya untuk tidak bercakap mengenai agama semalam mendedahkan bahawa beliau membaca al-Quran setiap hari.

Pemimpin Parti Buruh itu berkata, beliau membaca kitab suci yang dianggap sebagai 'perkataan' Allah oleh umat Islam itu bagi memastikan kefahamannya terhadap agama terus kukuh.

Dalam satu wawancara dengan majalah Observer yang disiarkan semalam, Blair berkata, adalah penting untuk memastikan kefahaman pada agama terus kukuh dalam keadaan dunia global.

"Saya membaca al-Quran setiap hari. Sebahagiannya untuk memahami perkara yang berlaku di dunia, tetapi paling penting kitab ini sangat penuh dengan maklumat dan boleh menjadi sumber rujukan," katanya.

Blair berkata, pengetahuan agama yang dipelajarinya dapat membantu beliau menjalankan tugas sebagai utusan Asia Barat untuk Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (PBB), Amerika Syarikat (AS), Kesatuan Eropah (EU) dan Rusia.

Blair sebelum ini pernah memuji Islam sebagai sebuah agama yang indah dan Nabi Muhammad SAW sebagai 'penggerak dunia bertamadun'.

Pada 2006, bekas Perdana Menteri Britain itu pernah melambangkan al-Quran sebagai sebuah kitab yang penuh dengan sumber maklumat dan merangkumi pelbagai aspek kehidupan termasuk dalam soal perkahwinan, wanita dan pemerintahan.

Dalam wawancaranya itu, Blair turut menolak dakwaan yang mengatakan beliau melaksanakan 'Perang Salib' Kristian semasa mengetuai pencerobohan Britain di Iraq.

Bekas ejen kawasan pilihan rayanya, John Burton dua tahun lalu berkata, Blair 'percaya ketika itu bahawa campur tangan di Kosovo, Sierra Leone dan Iraq merupakan satu perjuangan Kristian, kebaikan harus mengatasi kejahatan bagi membuatkan kehidupan lebih baik'.

Bagaimanapun bekas Perdana Menteri itu berkata, 'orang ramai masih bertanya jika keputusan berperang di Iraq dan Afghanistan dibuat berdasarkan arahan Tuhan.

"Mengarut sama sekali. Sudah tentu bukan. Kalaulah saya boleh duduk di satu sudut untuk berdoa, saya akan bertanya kepada Tuhan apakah upah minimum yang boleh saya perolehi," katanya. - Agensi


Monday, June 6, 2011


Chapter I
By Syed Abul A'ala Mawdudi


The chief characteristic of the Islamic Concept of Life
is that it does not admit a conflict, nay, not even a significant separation between life-spiritual and life-mundane. It does not confine itself merely in purifying the spiritual and the moral life of man in the limited sense of the word. Its domain extends to the entire gamut of life. It wants to mould individual life as well as the social order in healthy patterns, so that the Kingdom of God may really be established on the earth and so that peace, contentment and well-being may fill the world as waters fill the oceans. The Islamic Way of Life is based on this unique approach to life and a peculiar concept of man's place in the Universe. That is why it is necessary that before we proceed to discuss the moral, social, political and economic systems of Islam, we should have a clear idea of the Islamic Concept of Life.

There are certain basic postulates which should be understood and appreciated at the very outset. These postulates are as follows:


1. Allah Who is the Creator, the Ruler and the Lord of the entire Universe has created man and provided him with temporary station in that part of His vast kingdom (cosmos) which is known as the earth. He has endowed man with the faculties of thinking and understanding, and has given him the power to distinguish right from wrong. Man has also been invested with freedom of will and choice and the power to use the resources of the world in any manner he likes. In short, man has been given a sort of autonomy while being appointed by God on earth as a successor to the beings that had previously populated it.

2. Before assigning to man the inheritance of the earth, God made it explicitly clear to him that He alone is the Lord, the Ruler and the Deity. As such, the entire Universe and all the creatures in it (including man) must submit to Him alone. Man must not think himself totally free and should know that this earth is not his permanent abode. He has been made to live upon it only during the period of his probation, and in due course, he will return to his Lord, to be judged according to the way he has utilized the period of probation. The only right course for man is to acknowledge Allah as the only Lord, the Sustainer and the Deity and to follow His Guidance and His Commands in all walks of life. Man must live this life with the realization that he is to be judged and his sole objective should be to merit the pleasure of Allah so as to emerge successful in the final test. Conduct which is contrary to this would lead man astray. If man follows the course of piety and Godliness (which he is free to choose and follow) he will succeed in this world and in the next, in this world he will live a life of peace and contentment, and in the Hereafter he will qualify himself for the heaven of eternal bliss, al-Jannah. And if he chooses to follow the other course, i.e., that of Godlessness and evil (which he is equally free to choose and follow) his life will be one of corruption, disruption and frustration in this world and he will meet colossal misfortune in the life to come - that abode of pain and misery which is called Jahannam (Hell).

3. After administering the warning, God set man upon the earth and provided the very first human beings (Adam and Eve) with Ms Guidance in accordance with which men were to live on the earth. Thus, man's life on this earth did not begin in utter darkness. The very first man was provided with a burning torch of light and guidance so that humanity might attain its glorious destiny. The very first man received revealed knowledge from God Himself. He had knowledge of the reality and was given the code of life by following which he could live a life of bliss and success. This code of life was Islam, the attitude of complete submission to Allah, the Creator of man and of the whole universe. It was this religion which Adam, the first man, passed down to posterity. But later generations gradually drifted away from the right path and adopted different erroneous paths. Because of negligence, they lost the original teachings, or due to folly or mischief they adulterated and perverted them. They associated with God innumerable human beings, non-human objects and imaginary entities as deities and indulged in Shirk (polytheism) of the worst type. They mixed up the pure teachings of God with strange myths, ideas and philosophies and thus produced a jungle of religions and cults. They discarded the God-given principles of social ethics and collective morality, the Shari'ah, and deprived the human life of peace and tranquility.

4. Although men departed from the path of truth, disregarded and distorted the Shari'ah and some of them even revolted against the code of Divine Guidance, yet God did not destroy them or force them to the right course. Forced conversion to the right path was not in keeping with the autonomy He had given to man. Instead, God appointed certain virtuous persons from amongst the people themselves, to discharge the responsibility of recalling and guiding men to the right path during their sojourn on the earth. These men believed in God, and lived a life of obedience to Him. He honored them by His revelations and gave them the knowledge of reality. These men, known as prophets (peace be upon all of them), were assigned the task of presenting the message of truth to humanity and of asking the people to come to the path of the Lord.

5. These prophets were raised in all epochs, in all lands and in all nations. Out of numerous prophets sent by God, the Qur’an explicitly mentions twenty-five. All of them brought the same message, all of them advocated the same way of life (Deen) i.e., the way which was revealed to man on the first day of his existence. All of them followed the same guidance: the guidance which was prescribed by the Lord for man at the outset of his career on the earth. All of them stood for the same mission: they called men to the religion if Islam, asked those who accepted the Divine Guidance to live in accordance with it: and organized them into a movement for the establishment of the Divine Law, and for putting an end to all deviations from the Right Path. Every prophet tried to fulfill this mission in the best possible way. But quite a number of people never accepted this guidance and many of those who accepted it gradually drifted astray and, al lapse of time, lost the guidance or distorted it through innovations and perversions.

6. At last, God raised Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) in the land of Arabia and assigned to him the completion of the mission for which earlier prophets were ordained. The message of Mohammed (peace be upon him) was for the whole of mankind. He presented anew the teachings of Islam in their pristine form and provided mankind once again, with the Divine Guidance which they had lost in its original form. He organized all those who accepted his message into one Ummah (Nation) which was charged with reconstructing its own life in accordance with the teachings of Islam, by calling mankind to the path of righteousness and with establishing the supremacy of the word of God on the earth. This guidance is enshrined in the Holy Qur'an which constitutes the only right code of conduct for mankind.


We have discussed above those basic postulates of Islam which, on the one
hand, revealed God's plan for providing guidance to man in this world and, on the other, defined the nature, position and status of man in it. Now, let us study the foundations on which the Qur'an wants to develop man's relationship with Allah and the concept of life which naturally follows from that relationship.

The Qur’an deals with this problem on many occasion but the entire concept of life envisaged as epitomized in the following verse:

" God hath purchased of the Believers. Their persons and their goods; For their (in return) Is the Garden (of Paradise) They fight in His Cause, And slay and are slain: A promise binding on Him In Truth, through the Law, The Gospel, and the Qur’an: And who is more faithful To his Covenant than God? Then rejoice in bargain Which ye have concluded: That is the achievement supreme. "(Al-Qur'an, IX:II1)

In the above verse the nature of the relationship which comes into existence between man and God because of Imam (the act of reposing faith in Allah) has been called a "bargain". This means that Iman in Allah is not a mere metaphysical concept; it is in the nature of a contract by which man barters his life and his belongings with Allah in exchange for Paradise in the life Hereafter. God so to say, purchases a believer's life and property and promises, by way of price, the award of Paradise in the life after death. The concept of bargain has important implications and we should, therefore, first of all clearly understand its nature and meanings.

The fact of the matter is that each and every thing in this world belongs to Allah. He is the real owner of them all. As such, man's life and riches, which are part of this world, also belong to Him, because it is He Who created them and it is He Who has assigned them to each man for his use. Looking at the problem from this angle; the question of His purchasing what is already His: Man is not their real owner; he has no title to sell them. But there is one thing which has been conferred on man, and which now belongs fully to him, and that is his free will, the freedom of choice of following or not following the path of Allah. As man has been endowed with free will in this respect, he is free to acknowledge or not to acknowledge the reality of things. Although this freedom of will and choice that man possesses does not automatically make him the real owner of all the energies and resources on which he has command. Nor does he acquire the title to utilize them in any way he likes. Nor does his acknowledgment of reality or refusal to do so in any way affects reality as such. Yet it does mean that he is free to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and His over lordship on his own life and belongings or refuse to acknowledge it and to arrogate to himself the position of total independence. He may, if he so likes, regard himself free from all obligations to the Lord and may think that he enjoys full rights and powers over all that he has, and thus, may use them according to his own wishes unfettered by any higher command. It is here that the question of bargain comes in. This bargain does not mean that God is purchasing something which belongs to man. Its real nature is this: All creation belongs to God but He has bestowed certain things on man to be used by him as a trust from God. And man has been given freedom to honestly fulfill the trust or if he so likes, to betray it or misuse it. Now, God demands that man should willingly and voluntarily (and not under duress or compulsion) acknowledge those things as His which really belongs to Him and man should use them as a trust from God and not as something his own to be used as he pleases. Thus, a man who voluntarily renounces the freedom even to refuse God's supremacy and instead acknowledges His sovereignty. So to say, "sells" his "autonomy" (which too is a gift from God and not something which man has acquired of his own) to God, and gets in return God's promise of eternal bliss that is Paradise. A man who makes such a bargain is a "Mu'min” (Believer). And Iman (Belief) is the Islamic name for this contract; while the one who chooses not to enter into this contract, or after making such a contract amounting to its gross breach, is one who has followed the course of the devil. Thus Allah says:

"Say if it be that your fathers, Your sons, your brothers, Your mates, or your kindred; The wealth that you have gained; The commerce in which you fear a decline: or the dwellings in which you delight Are dearer to you than God, Or His apostle, of the striving In His cause; then wait until Allah brings about His Decision. And God Guides not the rebellious." (Al-Qur’an, IX:24)

The attempt to avoid or abrogate this contract can lead to Kufr (total disbelief). Such is the nature and the contract. Now let us briefly study its various aspects and stipulations.

1. God has put us to serious trail on two counts:

1. He has left man free. But even after giving him that freedom He wishes to see whether or not man realizes his true position. Whether he remains honest and steadfast and maintains loyalty and allegiance to the Lord, or loses his head and revolts against his own Creator; whether he behaves like a noble soul, or tramples under foot all values of decency and starts playing fantastic tricks.

2. He wants to see whether man is prepared to have such confidence in God as to offer his life and wealth in return for what is a promise. That is to materialize in the next world and whether he is prepared to surrender his autonomy and all the charms that go with it, in exchange for a promise about the future.

1. It is an accepted principle of Islamic law that Iman consists of adherence to a certain set of doctrines and whosoever reposes faith in those doctrines becomes a Mu'min. No one has a right to denounce such a man as non-believer or drive him out of the fold of the Ummah (Islamic Community), save when there is explicit proof of falsity or of renunciation of the belief. This is the legal aspect of the problem. But in the eyes of the Lord, only that Iman is valuable which consists in complete surrender of one’s will and choice to the Will of Allah. It is a state of thought and action wherein man submits himself fully to Allah, renouncing all claim to his own supremacy. It is something that comes from the heart. It is an attitude of the mind and prepares man for a certain course of action. If a man recites the Kalima, enters into the contract, and even offers his prayers and performs other acts of worship, but in his heart he regards himself as the owner and the sovereign dispenser of his physical and mental powers and of his moral and material resources, uses them to his own liking and upholds his freedom of will, then, however much of the people may look upon him as Mu'min (believer), in the eyes of God he will be a non-believer, for he has, in fact, not really entered into the bargain which according to the Qur'an is the essence of Iman (belief). If a man does not use his powers and resources in the way God has prescribed for him, and instead uses them in pursuits which God has prohibited, it clearly shows that either he has not pledged his life and property to Allah, or even after pledging them to Him, he falsifies the pledge by his conduct.

2. This nature of Iman makes the Islamic way of life distinct from, nay, the very opposite of, the non-Islamic way of life. A Muslim, who has real faith in Allah, makes every aspect of his subservience to the Will of Allah. His entire life is one of obedience and surrender and he never behaves in an arrogant or an autonomous way, except in a moment of forgetfulness. And after such a lapse as soon as he becomes conscious of it, he again re-addresses himself to his Lord and repents his error. Similarly, a group of people or a society which consist of true Muslims can never break away from the Law of their Lord. Its political o, its social organization, its culture, its economic policy, its legal system and its international strategy must all be in tuned with the Code of Guidance revealed by Allah and must, in no way, contravene it. And if ever, through error or omission, any contravention it committed, they must, on realizing this, correct this immediately and return forthwith to the state of subservience to the Law of God. It is the way of the non-believers to feel free from God's Guidance and to behave as one's own master. Whoever adopts such a policy, even though he may bear a name similar to that of a Muslim, is treading the satanic path and is following the way of the non-believers.

3. The Will of God, which is obligatory upon man to follow, is the one which God Himself has revealed for man's guidance. The Willof God is not to be determined by man himself. God has Himself enunciated it clearly and there is no ambiguity about it. There, if a person or society is honest and steadfast in its contract with Allah, it must scrupulously fashion its entire life in accordance with the Book of God and the Sunnah (practical example) of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

A little reflection will show that these aspects and stipulations are logically implicit in the bargain and it is also clear from the above discussion why the payment of the "price" has been postponed tot he life after death. Paradise is not the reward for the mere profession of the bargain, it is the reward for the faithful execution of the contract. Unless the contract is fully executed and the actual life-behavior of the "vendor" complies with the terms of the contract he does not become entitled to the reward. Thus, the final act of the "sale" is concluded only at the last moment of the vendor's life, and as such, it is natural that the reward should be given to him in the Life Hereafter.

There is another significant point which emerges from the study of the verse quoted above (Al-Qur'an, IX:24) when it is read with reference to its context. In the verses preceding it, reference has been made to the people who professed Iman and promised a life of obedience, but when the hour of trail came they proved unequal to the task. Some neglected the call of the hour and betrayed the cause. Others, played tricks of hypocrisy and, refused to sacrifice their lives and riches in the cause of Allah. The Qur’an, after exposing these people and criticizing their insincerity makes it clear that Iman is a contract, a form of pledge between man and God. It does not consist of a mere profession of belief in Allah. It is an acknowledgment of the fact that Allah alone is our Sovereign Lord and Ruler and that everything that man has, including his life, belongs to Him and must be used in accordance with His directives. If a Muslim adopts a contrary course he is insincere in his profession of faith. True believers are only those who have really sold their lives and all that they possessed to God and who followed His dictates in all fields of activity. They stake their all in obedience to the Commands of the Lord, and do not deviate even an inch from the path of loyalty to God. Such only are the true believers.


This discussion makes it clear that Islam begins with laying down the proper lines on which man's relationship with the Lord is to be reared; his entire individual and social life is an exercise in developing and strengthening this relationship. Iman, the starting point of our religion, consists in the acceptance of this relationship by man's intellect and will. Thus, Islam is actual submission, the way of surrender to the Will of God in all aspects of life and behavior. Now, we are in a position to cast a glance over the plan of life which Islam envisages. This plan - the code of conduct - is known as the Shari'ah. Its sources are the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Final Book of God and the Final Messenger stands today as a repository of this truth, and they invite the whole of humanity to accept the truth. God Almighty has endowed men with free will in the moral domain, and it is to this free will that this acceptance bears reference. Consequently, it is always a voluntary act and not of compulsion. Whosoever agrees that the concept of Reality stated by the Holy Prophet and the Holy Book is true, it is for him to step forward and surrender his will to the Will of God. It is this submission which is called "Islam", the fructification of faith (Iman) in actual life. And those who do so, i.e., those who of their own free will, accept God as their Sovereign, and surrender to His Divine Will and undertake to regulate their lives in accordance with His Commandments, are called "Muslims".

All those persons who thus surrender themselves to the persons who thus surrender themselves to the Will of God are welded into a community and that is how the "Muslim society" comes into being. Thus, " is a principled society - a society radically different from those which are founded on the basis of race, color or territory. This society is the result of a deliberate choice and effort; it is the outcome of a "contract" which takes place between human beings and the Creator. Those who enter into this contract, undertake to recognize God as their sovereign, His Guidance as Supreme, and His injunctions as absolute Law. They also undertake to accept, without question or doubt His classifications of Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Permissible and Prohibited. In short, the Islamic society agrees to limit its volition to the extent prescribed by the All-Knowing God. In other words, it is God and not man whose will is the primary Source of Law in a Muslim society.

When such a society comes into existence, the Book and the Messenger prescribe for it a code of life called the Shari'ah, and this Society is bound to conform to it by virtue of the contract it has entered into. It is, therefore, inconceivable that any Muslim society worth the name can deliberately adopt a system of life other than the Shari'ah. If it does so, its contract is ipso facto broken and the whole society becomes "un-Islamic".

But we must clearly distinguish between the everyday sins or violations of the individuals and a deliberate revolt against the Shari'ah. The former may not imply breaking up of the contract, while the latter would mean nothing short of that. The point that should be clearly understood here is that, if an Islamic society consciously resolves not to accept the Shari'ah, and decides to enact its own constitution and laws or borrows them from any other source, (in utter disregard of the Shari'ah) such a society breaks its contract with God and forfeits its right to be called "Islamic".

1.The Objectives and Characteristics of the Plan

Let us now proceed to understand the plan of life envisaged by the Shari'ah. To understand that, it is essential that we start with a clear conception of the objectives and the fundamentals of Shari'ah.

The main objective of the Shari'ah is to construct human life on the basis of Ma'rufat (virtues) and to cleans it of the Munkarat (vices). The term Ma'rufat proclaims as good and right everything declared by Allah and by His messenger to be so. Taking this definition as the norm, the term Ma'rufat should denote all the virtues and good qualities that have always been accepted as "good" by the pure and unadulterated human conscience. Conversely, the word Munkarat refers to everything that Allah and His Apostle (peace be upon him) have denounced as evil. In the light of this understanding, it denotes all the sins and evils that have always been condemned by pure human nature as "evil". In short, the Ma'rufat are in harmony with human nature and its requirements in general, whilst the Munkarat are just the opposite. The Shari'ah gives a clear view of these Ma’rufat and Munkarat and states them as the norms to which the individual and social behavior should conform.

The Shari'ah does not, however, limit its function to providing us with an inventory of virtues and vices only; it lays down the entire plan of life in such a manner that virtues may flourish and vices may not pollute and destroy human life.

To achieve this end, the Shari'ah has embraced in its plan all the factors that encourage the growth of good and has recommended steps for the removal of impediments that might prevent its growth and development. The process gives rise to subsidiary series of Ma’rufat consisting of the causes and means initiating and nurturing the good, and yet another set of Ma'rufat consisting of prohibitory commands in relation to those things which act as preventives or impediments to good. Similarly, there is a subsidiary list of Munkarat which might initiate or allow growth of evil.

The Shari'ah shapes the Islamic society in a way conducive to the unfettered growth of good, virtue and truth in every sphere of human activity, and gives full play to the forces of going all directions. And at the same time it removes all impediments in the path of virtue. Along this, it attempts to eradicate evils from its social plan by prohibiting vice, by obviating the causes of its appearance and growth, by closing the inlets through which it creeps into a society and by adopting deterrent measures to check its occurrence.

2. Ma'rufat (ma'roof)

The Shari'ah classifies Ma'rufat into three categories: the Mandatory (Fardh and Wajib), the Recommendatory (Matlub) and the Permissible (Mubah).

The observance of the mandatory (Ma’rufat) is obligatory on a Muslim society and the Shari'ah has given clear and binding directions about them. The recommendatory Ma’rufat are those which the Shari'ah wants a Muslim society to observe and practice. Some of them have been very clearly demanded of us, while others have been recommended by implication and inference from the sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Besides this, special arrangements have been made for the growth and encouragement of some of them in the plan of life enunciated by the Shari'ah. Others still have simply been recommended by the Shari'ah leaving it to the society or to its more virtuous elements to look to their promotion.

This leaves us with the permissible Ma'rufat. Strictly speaking, according to the Shari'ah everything which has not been expressly prohibited by it is a Permissible Ma'ruf (i.e., Mubah). It is not at all necessary that an express permission should exist about it or that it should have been expressly left to our choice. Consequently, the sphere of permissible Ma'rufat is very wide so much so that except for the things specifically prohibited by the Shari'ah, everything is permissible for a Muslim. And this is exactly the sphere where we have been given freedom and where we can legislate according to our own discretion to suit the requirements of our age and conditions, of course in keeping with the general spirit of the Shari'ah.

2.Munkarat (Munkar)

The Munkarat (or the things prohibited in Islam) have been grouped into two categories: Haram, i.e., those things which have been prohibited absolutely and Makruh, i.e., those things which have been disliked and discouraged. It has been enjoined on Muslims by clear mandatory injunctions to refrain totally from everything that has been declared Haram. As for the Makruhat the Shari'ah signifies its dislike in some way or another, i.e., either expressly or by implication, giving an indication also as to the degree of such dislike. For example, there are some Makruhat bordering on Haram, while others bear affinity with the acts which are permissible. Of course, their number is very large ranging between the two extremes of prohibitory and permissible actions. Moreover, in some cases, explicit measures have been prescribed by the Shari'ah for the prevention of Makruhat, while in others such arrangements have been left to the discretion of the society or of the individual.

3.Some other Characteristics

The Shari'ah, thus, prescribes directives for the regulation of our individual as well as collective life. These directives touch such varied subjects as religious rituals, personal character, morals, habits, family relationships, social and economic affairs, administration, rights and duties of citizens, judicial system, laws of war and peace and international relations. In short, it embraces all the various departments of human life. These directives reveal what is good and bad, what is beneficial and useful and what is injurious and harmful. What are the virtues which are the evils for which we have to suppress and guard against. What is the sphere of our voluntary, untrammeled, personal and social action and what are its limits. And finally, what ways and means we can adopt in establishing such a dynamic order of society and what methods we should avoid. The Shari'ah is a complete plan of life and an all embracing social order - nothing superfluous, nothing lacking. Another remarkable feature of the Shari'ah is that it is an organic whole. The entire plan of life propounded by Islam is animated by the same spirit. Hence, any arbitrary division of its plan is bound to harm the spirit as well as the structure of the Islamic order. In this respect, it might be compared to the human body which is an organic whole. A leg pulled out of the body cannot be called one-eight or one-sixth man, because after its separation from the living body, the leg can no longer perform its human function. Nor can it be placed in the body of some other animal with any hope of making it human to the extent of that limb. Likewise, we cannot form a correct opinion about the utility, efficiency and beauty of the hand, the eyes or the nose of a human being separately, without judging its place and function within the living body.

The same can be said in regard to the scheme of life envisaged by the Shari'ah. Islam signifies the entire scheme of life and not any isolated part or parts thereof. Consequently neither can it be appropriate to view the different part of the Shari'ah in isolation from one another and without regard to the whole, nor will it be of any use to take any part and bracket it with any other "ism". The Shari'ah can function smoothly and can demonstrate its efficacy only if the entire system of life is practiced in accordance with it and not otherwise.



Published by Tajul Islam
Friday, 27 May 2011 18:18
Ismail Razi al-Faruqi

That nothing is rerum natura can serve as a vehicle for expressing the divine, does not by itself rule out the possibility of an object of nature serving as a vehicle for expressing that very truth itself, namely, that the divine is indeed infinite and inexpressible. It is one thing not to express the divine because it is inexpressible, and another to express the truth embodied in this preposition. Admittedly, the challenge to express sensorily the truth that God is sensorily inexpressible staggers the imagination of any artist. But it is not impossible. Indeed, it is here that the artistic genius of Islam scored its triumphal breakthrough. We have seen that stylization, which was known and practiced in the ancient Near East was pushed to a new level of perfection in the reaction to Hellenic naturalism imposed by Alexander and his successors. Under Islam, now confronting that same Hellenism in Christian disguise, the Semitic reaction was as strong in the field of esthetic endeavor as in that of theological endeavor.

Islam's vehement denial of the divinity of Christ is matched by its denial of naturalism in the esthetic representation of nature, by its encouragement of stylization. A stylized plant or flower is a caricature of the real object of nature, a not-nature. By drawing it, the author seems to say "No" to nature. May it not be a fitting instrument to express not-naturalness, i.e., the mere negation of naturalism? Given alone, however, the stylized plant or flower would express non-nature but in an individuated way which suggests that the death of nature in that object is itself individuated. By giving the denaturalized state of the natural object, it may even express a heightened naturalism, the very opposite of the Islamic purpose, as health is often represented through sickness and life through death. Something else therefore is needed to preserve the inexpressibility of the divine being if Islam was to succeed where Judaism had failed."

It is to this challenge that the Muslim artist now rose. His unique, creative and original solution was to represent the stylized plant or flower in indefinite repetition in order, as it were, to deny any and all individuation, and in consequence, to banish naturalism from consciousness once and for all. An identically repeated object of non-nature does express non-natureness. If the artist could, in addition, express esthetically by means of a repeated object of non-nature infinity and inexpressibility, then the result might well be tantamount to the witness, la ilaha illa Allah expressed verbally and discursively, for the inexpressibility and infinity which are the content of artistic representation would suggest themselves as qualities of non-nature. The Islamic soul therefore thought that there is a way for the visual arts to conform with the primal dictate of Semitic consciousness. But the major hurdle here is how can anything in rerum nature, however stylized, be the vehicle for expressing infinity or inexpressibility?

1. Arab Consciousness: Islam's Historical Substrate
To achieve a solution, Islamic consciousness fell back upon its own historical substrate, namely, Arab consciousness. This was the historical matter which the divine revelation informed and used as a Sitz-im-Leben for its occurrence, as a vehicle and carrier of divine truth. It was this consciousness, concretized in the person of Muhammad (SAAS), that
received the revelation and communicated it to mankind in space and time. It was the medium of prophecy. Its achievement in the art of language and letters was indeed a miracle before Islam, and this fact determined that the mode of the new revelation be that of the literary sublime, for it was ready for and capable of carrying it.

The first instrument of Arab consciousness and the embodiment of all its categories is the Arabic language. Essentially, Arabic is made up primarily of three consonant roots, each of which is susceptible of conjugation into over three hundred different forms by changing the vocalization, adding a prefix, suffix, or "middle-fix." Whichever conjugation is affected, all words which have the same conjugal form have the same modal meaning regardless of their roots. The meaning of the root remains; but attached to it is another, a modal meaning, given to it by the conjugation and remaining always and everywhere the same." The language then has a logical structure, at once clear, complete and comprehensible.

Once this structure is grasped, one is a master of the language, knowledge of the meaning of roots being then of secondary importance. The literary art consists in the construction of a system of concepts related to each other in such ways as to put into play the parallelisms and contrasts engendered by conjugation of the roots, while enabling the understanding to move through the web in continuous, unbroken line. An arabesque in which a thousand each of triangles, squares, circles, pentagons, hexagons and octagons are all painted with different colors and interlace with one another dazzles the eye, but not the mind. Recognizing each figure for what it is, the mind can move from one pentagon to another despite their color variance and cross the tableau from end to end, experiencing some delight at each stop with realization of the parallelism provided by the identical shapes, i.e., by the identical modalities of the various root-meanings, and of the contrast provided by the root-meanings themselves.
This constitutive character of the Arabic language is also constitutive of its poetry. Arabic poetry consists of autonomous, complete and independent verses, each of which is an identical realization of one and
the same metrical pattern. The poet is free to choose anyone of some thirty patterns known to the tradition. But once chosen, his whole poem must conform in each part to this pattern. To hear and enjoy Arabic poetry is to grasp this pattern and, as the poem is recited, to move with the metrical flow, to expect and to receive what the pattern has anticipated. Surely the words, concepts and percept-constructs are different in each verse. That is what provides the color variation. But the structural form is one throughout.

This basic geometry of the Arabic language and of Arabic poetry enabled Arab consciousness to achieve a grasp of infinity on two dimensions. The root words are many, indeed infinite, since any new combination of any three consonants could by convention be assigned any new meaning. Arab consciousness adopts foreign roots with impervious equanimity, relying upon its conjugation mill to Arabize them thoroughly. The infinity of their number is matched by an infinity of their conjugation. There are known patterns of conjugation; a limited number of roots have been conjugated and their conjugations known and used. But a dictionary of the Arabic language such as Webster or Oxford, wherein all the words can be gathered and listed, is categorically impossible. For not all the traditionally known roots have been conjugated; the root list is never closed; not all modalities of conjugation have been used; and the list of modalities is not closed. New modalities are not ruled out by tradition-consensus, but await the genius who can justify and use them to his advantage. The Arabic language, therefore, like the Arab stream of being, is a system bright at the center (because of tradition) and fuzzy at the edges which spread indefinitely in all directions."

To return to poetry. The metric pattern of the verses being constitutive, it does not matter for the verses of a poem whether they are read in the order the poet had composed them or in any other order. Read forward or backward, the poem is just as sweet, for the poet has taken us through the pattern with every verse; and the repetition has delighted us by disciplining our intuitive faculty to expect and to realize what we expected in the variety of facts of meanings and percept-constructs. By definition therefore, no Arabic poem is finished, closed and in any sense completed so that no addition to or continuation of it could be affected or conceived. Indeed, the Arabic poem can be extended in both directions, at its beginning and at its end without the slightest offence to its esthetique, if not by any man on account of personal style, then surely by its own composer. Indeed, if we are good listeners, we would be supposed first to join the poet in his poetry-making as in a live performance and second, to continue his poem for our own benefit now that his recitation has wound us up in the momentum it generated and launched us into its own infinite poetical space. It is not an uncommon phenomenon in the Arab world for a poet, when attended by a good audience, to be "assisted" extemporarily by that audience in the recitation of his poetry which they have never heard before, or to be commented upon by addition to his poetry of more of the same."

2. The First Work of Art in Islam: Al Qur’an at Karim

It was this Arab consciousness which served as substrate and matrix of Islam. The Islamic revelation, al Quran al Karim, came as the chef d’oeuvre, the sublime fulfillment of all the ideals and norms of that consciousness at once.

If anything is art, the Quran certainly is. If the mind of the Muslim has been affected by anything, it was certainly affected by the Qur’Én. If this affecting was anywhere deep enough to become constitutive, it was so in esthetics. There is no Muslim whom the Qur’anic cadences, rhymes, and awjuh al balaghah (facets of eloquence) have not shaken to the very depth of his being; there is no Muslim whose norms and standards of beauty the Quran has not rekneaded and made in its own image.
This aspect of the Quran the Muslims have called its i‘jaz (power to incapacitate), its "placing the reader in front of a challenge to which he can rise, but which he can never meet:' In fact, the Quran itself defied its audience, the Arabs, with their highest literary excellence, to produce anything "like the Quran" (2:23), and chided them for their failure to do so (10:38; 11:13; 17:88). Some of the enemies of Islam among the Prophei's contemporaries rose to the task and were humiliated by the judgment of their opponents as well as by that of their own friends. Muhammad (SAAS) was called "a man possessed" (18:22) and the Qur’Én "a work of magic" (21:53; 25:4) precisely on account of its effect upon the consciousness of its hearers (69:38-52).

Everybody recognized that although the Qur’anic verses did not conform to any of the known patterns of poetry, they produce the same effect as poetry, indeed, to a superlative degree. Every verse is complete and perfect by itself. It often rhymes with the preceding verse or verses and contains one or more religious or moral meanings embedded in literary expressions or articulations of sublime beauty. So mighty is the momentum it generates that the recitation impels the audience irresistibly to move with it, to expect the next verse and to reach the most intense quiescence upon hearing it. Then the process starts again with the next one, two or group of three or more verses.

Did then the Muslim Arab come out of Arabia in the seventh century with any art? Did he contribute anything relevant to the subsequently developed arts of the conquered peoples? In ignorance or prejudice, and often in a pitiable combination of both, every Western historian of Islamic art has answered, "No." The grandfather of the discipline asserted: "The men who formed these armies [the first Arab armies of Islam] were mainly Bedouin, but even those who came from permanent settlements, such as Makkah and Madinah, knew nothing of the art of architecture." The younger generation repeat after him ad nauseam: "From its Arabian past, the new Muslim art could draw almost nothing."

How contradictory to their allegations is the truth! All the new Islamic arts obtained from the Arab past, all that is constitutive and important, namely their spirit, their principles and method, their purpose and the way to achieve that purpose. Surely, Islamic art needed materials and themes for its efforts in the visual fields, and it got these wherever it found them. But it is offensively superficial to point to this as "borrowing" in any discussion of the meaning and significance, history or theory of the art. An art is an art by virtue of its style, its content, its manner of rendering, not by the materiaux it uses which, in most part, are derived by geographic or social accident. Islamic art is a unity at all because of this foundation, through Islam, in Arab consciousness. It is the categories of Arab consciousness that determined the artistic productions of all Muslims."


Western visual art has relied almost totally on human nature, whether expressed in the human figure, the landscape, the still life or even the abstract design or no-design. Islamic visual art was not interested in human nature, but in divine nature. Since its purpose was not to express new facets of human nature, it did not esthetically discuss the figure, i.e., it did not portray the infinitesimal shifts in human appearance expressive of human nature. Human character, the a priori idea of man analyzable into a million details revelatory of another depth or height in the human personality-all this was for the Muslim artist just beside-the- point. The divine is his first love and his last obsession. To stand in the presence of divinity is for him the hallmark of all existence and all nobility and beauty. For this end, Muslims surround themselves with every prop and stimulus inductive of an intuition of that Presence.

First, since stylization produced a denaturalization of nature, the first Arab Muslims pushed that device to its conclusion. Further, stylization means the absence of variation, and of development from trunk to branch and leaf extremities as occurs in the vegetal kingdom. Trunk and branch became of the one thickness, one texture, and one share or shape throughout the drawing. Development was annulled also by the absence of variation. All the leaves and flowers in the same drawing were made alike. Finally, the deathblow to naturalism is repetition. By repeating the stalk, leaf and flower over and over again, and making them proceed one from another indefinitely in a manner impossible in nature, all idea of nature is banished. Repetition produces this effect so assuredly and unmistakably that it even tolerates its own enemy i.e., development provided what has developed within a portion of the work of art is repeated in the work of art as a whole. Thus, nature in annihilated from consciousness, and un-nature is presented. If stalk, leaf and flower still leave a vestige of nature in the consciousness of the beholder, then the line, straight, broken, circular, jetting or trajecting, in free-lance designs or geometrical figures, will do the job better, beyond all doubt. It may be combined with the stalk-leaf-flower material to tell the beholder still
more eloquently the "geometrizing;' un-naturalizing aspect intended. Finally, if repetition is subjected to symmetry, so that it extends equidistantly in all directions, then the work of art becomes in essence an infinite field-of-vision. By accident, only a part of this infinite field is arbitrarily singled out by the artist and framed by the physical extremities of the page, wall, panel or canvas. Where animal of human figures are used, as in the miniatures of Persia, un-nature is achieved by stylization of the animal, and by giving the human faces and bodies no individuation, no character and no personality. A man, like a flower, can represent un-nature, through stylization. But this is precisely the effacement of personality and character. That is why the greatest Persian miniatures always have a plurality of human figures indistinguishable from one another." Like the Arabic poem, the miniature is made of many parts, detached from one another and each constituting an autonomous center of its own. As the audience takes its delight in holding in consciousness the literary jewels set up in the patterned body of the verses, so the spectator contemplates the minor arabesques in the carpet, door, wall, horse saddle, man's turban or clothes, etc. within a given center in the miniature, bearing in mind that there are other centers ad infinitum to which he may move."

In all painting and decoration in Islamic art there is movement, indeed compelling movement from one unit in a design to another, and then from one design to another, indeed, from one whole field of vision to another as in the great portals, facades or walls, is beyond question. But there is no work of Islamic art where such movement is conclusive. It is of the essence that the vision of the spectator continue; that it seen the production of the continuation in the imagination; that the mind set itself in motion requesting to behold infinity. Mass, volume, space. enclosure, gracity, cohesion. tension-all these are facta of nature to do away with if an intuition of un-nature is to be gained. Only a design, a momentum generating pattern will surround the Muslim lover of beauty, bursting into infinite space in all directions. This puts him in the contemplative mood requisite for an intuition of the divine presence. Not only the design on the cover of a book, an illuminated page he is reading, the carpet under his feet, the ceiling, front, inside and outside walls of his house, but its floor plan as well, constitute such an arabesque where the garden, patio, vestibule, and every chamber is an autonomous center with its own arabesque generating its own momentum. But what is an arabesque? We have used the term above assuming the reader's knowledge of it. Rightly so! For the arabesque is immediately distinguishable from any other artistic form. It is ubiquitous in all Muslim constitutes the definitive characteristic or element in an Islamic art. It is rightly called "arabesque" because it is Arab as Arabic poetry and the Arabic Quran are Arab in their esthetique. Its presence transforms any milieu into something Islamic, and it is what gives unity to the arts of the most diverse peoples. It is readily recognizable, indeed unmistakable. Essentially, it is a design composed of many units or figures which join together and interlace in such way as to cause the spectator to move from one figure or unit to another in all directions, until the vision has crossed the work of art from physical end to end. The figure or unit is indeed complete and autonomous; but it is joined to the next figure or unit. The vision is compelled to move on, having followed the outline and perceived the design of the one figure, to seek those of the next. This constitutes its "rhythm." The movement can be dull the more detached the figures are from one another. It can be uninvolving as in the case of a simple weave of straight lines. However, the more closely related the figures are, thus compelling movement, punctuation and rhythm, and the more resistance to the movement is put up by the circuity and brokenness of the lines, the more power is the arabesque's momentum. The greater the momentum, the easier will the mind generate the "idea of reason" for the imagination's take-off beyond the physical boundary of the work of art, as it attempts to produce what the mind has demanded. It is necessary for this process to be repeated, and so there are many different arabesques in any work of art, each covering one structural part. The purpose is obvious: the launching of the imagination upon its doomed flight. It may come with the second, third, or tenth arabesque, if' not with the first.

Arabesques are floral or geometric, depending on whether they use al tawriq (the stalk-leaf-flower), or the geometric'rasm (figure) as artistic medium. The geometric figure can be khatt (linear)if it uses straight and broken lines, or rami (trajectory) if it uses multicentred curved ones. It may also combine all these together and be called then rakhwi. Arabesques are planar if they have two dimensions, as most decorative ones on walls, doors, ceilings, furniture, cloth and carpets, book covers and pages have. They can also be spatial, or three-dimensional, constructed with pillars and arches and the ribs of domes. This kind is the distinguished specialty of architecture in the Maghrib ami Andalusia, and has reached its highest exemplification in the great Mosque of Cordoba and al fIamrii' palace in Granada. In al Hamra, a whole dome is made of innumerable interlacing arches standing on visible columns, which only the most fervid imagination can see and trace in their course. There, the momentum is so mighty that it can propel and launch anybody willing to move with its rhythm to immediate intuition of infinity. The grand facade of a tremendous mosque, the portal in a large wall, the
panel in the portal, the knob on which vision happens to fall, the miniature on a page of a book, the design on a carpet, or one's own clothes, or belt, or buckle of a belt express to the Muslim: la ilaha illa Allah by causing him to perceive the infinity and inexpressibility of the transcendent realm of not-nature, of not-creation.



For Europe and Western civilization the contributions of Islamic Spain were of inestimable value. When the Muslims entered southern Spain - which they called al-Andalus - barbarians from the north had overrun much of Europe and the classical civilization of Greece and Rome had gone into eclipse. Islamic Spain then became a bridge by which the scientific, technological, and philosophical legacy of the 'Abbasid period, along with the achievements of al-Andalus itself, passed into Europe.

In the first century of Islamic rule in Spain the culture was largely derived from that of the flourishing civilization being developed by the 'Abbasids in Baghdad. But then, during the reign of 'Abd al-Rahman III (912-961), Islamic Spain began to make its own contributions.

'Abd al-Rahman III was passionately interested in both the religious and the secular sciences. He was also determined to show the world that his court at Cordoba equaled in greatness that of the caliphs at Baghdad. Sparing neither time nor expense, he imported books from Baghdad and actively recruited scholars by offering hand some inducements. Soon, as a result, scholars, poets, philosophers, historians, and musicians began to migrate to al-Andalus. Soon, too, an infrastructure of libraries, hospitals, research institutions, and centers of Islamic studies grew up, establishing the intellectual tradition and educational system which made Spain outstanding for the next four hundred years.

One of the earliest of the scholars drawn to al-Andalus was 'Abbas ibn Firnas, who came to Cordoba to teach music (then a branch of mathematical theory) and to acquaint the court of 'Abd al-Rahman with the recent developments in this field in Baghdad. Not a man to limit himself to a single field of study, however, Ibn Firnas soon began to investigate the mechanics of flight. He constructed a pair of wings out of feathers on a wooden frame and made the first attempt at flight, anticipating Leonardo da Vinci by some six hundred years. Later, having survived the experiment with a back injury, he also constructed a famous planetarium. Not only was it mechanized - the planets actually revolved - but it simulated such celestial phenomena as thunder and lightning.

As in the 'Abbasid centers of learning, Islamic Spain's interest in mathematics, astronomy, and medicine was always lively - partly because of their obvious utility. In the tenth century Cordoban mathematicians began to make their own original contributions. The first original mathematician and astronomer of al-Andalus was Maslamah al-Majriti, who died in 1008. He had been preceded by competent scientists - men like Ibn Abi 'Ubaydah of Valencia, a leading astronomer in the ninth century. But al-Majriti was in a class by himself. He wrote a number of works on mathematics and astronomy, studied and elaborated the Arabic translation of Ptolemy's Almagest, and enlarged and corrected the astronomical tables of the famous al-Khwarazmi. He also compiled conversion tables in which the dates of the Persian calendar were related to Hijrah dates, so that for the first time the events of Persia's past could be dated with precision.

Al-Zarqali, known to the West as Arzachel, was another leading mathematician and astronomer who flourished in Cordoba in the eleventh century. Combining theoretical knowledge with technical skill, he excelled at the construction of precision instruments for astronomical use and built a water clock capable of determining the hours of the day and night and indicating the days of the lunar months. He also contributed to the famous Toledan Tables, a highly accurate compilation of astronomical data. Arzachel was famous as well for his Book of Tables. Many "books of tables" had been compiled before then, but his is an almanac containing tables which allow one to find the days on which Coptic, Roman, lunar, and Persian months begin, other tables which give the position of planets at any given time, and still others facilitating the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses. He also compiled valuable tables of latitude and longitude.

Another important scholar was al-Bitruji, who developed a new theory of stellar movement, based on Aristotle's thinking, in his Book of Form, a work that was later popular in the West. The names of many stars are still those given them by Muslim astronomers, such as Altair (from al-tair, "the flier"), Deneb (from dhanab, "tail"), and Betelgeuse (from bayt al-jawza, "the house of the twins" or "Gemini"). Other terms still in use today such as zenith, nadir, and azimuth are also derived from Arabic and so reflect the work of the Muslim astronomers of al-Andalus and their impact on the West.

Scientists of Islamic Spain also contributed to medicine, the Muslim science par excellence. Interest in medicine goes back to the very earliest times (the Prophet himself stated that there was a remedy for every illness), '' and although the greatest Muslim physicians practiced in Baghdad, those in al-Andalus made important contributions too. Ibn al-Nafis, for example, discovered the pulmonary circulation of blood.

During the tenth century in particular, al-Andalus produced a large number of excellent physicians, some of whom studied Greek medical works translated at the famous House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Among them was Ibn Shuhayd, who in a fundamental work recommended drugs be used only if the patient did not respond to diet and urged that only simple drugs be employed in all cases but the most serious. Another important figure was Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, the most famous surgeon of the Middle Ages. Known in the West as Abulcasis and Al-bucasis, he was the author of the Tasrif, a book that, translated into Latin, became the leading medical text European universities during the later Middle Ages. Its section on surgery contains illustrations of surgical instruments of elegant, functional design and great precision.

Other chapters describe amputations, ophthalmic and dental surgery, and the treatment of wounds and fractures. Ibn Zuhr, known as Avenzoar, was the first to describe pericardial abscesses and to recommend tracheotomy when necessary as well as being a skilled practical physician, and Ibn Rushd wrote an important book on medical theories and precepts. The last of the great Andalusian physicians, Ibn al-Khatib, also a noted historian, poet, and statesman, wrote an important book on the theory of contagion in which he said: "The fact infection becomes clear to the investigator, whereas he who is not in contact remains safe," and described how transmission is effected through garments, vessels, and earrings.

Islamic Spain made contributions to medical ethics and hygiene as well. One of the most eminent theologians and jurists, Ibn Hazm, insisted that moral qualities were mandatory in a physician. A doctor, he wrote, should be kind, understanding, friendly, and able to endure insults and adverse criticism. Furthermore, he went on, a doctor should keep his hair and fingernails short, wear clean clothes, and behave with dignity.

As an outgrowth of medicine, Andalusian scientists also interested themselves in botany. Ibn al-Baytar, for example, the most famous Andalusian botanist, wrote a book called Simple Drugs and Food, an alphabetically arranged compendium of medicinal plants, most of which were native to Spain and North Africa, and which he had spent a lifetime gathering. In another treatise Ibn al-'Awwam lists hundreds of species of plants and gives precise instructions regarding their cultivation and use. He writes, for example, of how to graft trees, produce hybrids, stop blights and insect pests, and make perfume.

Another important field of study in al-Andalus was the study of geography. Partly out of economic and political considerations, but mostly out of an all-consuming curiosity about the world and its inhabitants, the scholars of Islamic Spain started with works from Baghdad and went on to add such contributions as a basic geography of al-Andalus by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Razi and a description of the topography of North Africa by Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Warraq. Another contributor to geography was al-Bakri, an important minister at the court of Seville but also an accomplished linguist and litterateur. One of his two important geographical works is devoted to the geography of the Arabian Peninsula, with particular attention to the elucidation of its place-names. It is arranged alphabetically, and lists the names of villages, towns, wadis, and monuments which he culled from the hadith and from histories. The other was an encyclopedia of the entire world, arranged by country, with each entry preceded by a short historical introduction. It included descriptions of the people, customs, and climate of each country, the principal features, the major cities, and even anecdotes.

In the study of geography such figures as Ibn Jubayr, an Andalusian traveler, and the most famous traveler of all Ibn Battutah, also made important contributions. Born in North Africa, then in the cultural orbit of Islamic Spain, Ibn Battutah traveled extensively for twenty-eight years and produced a travel book that proved to be a rich source for both historians and geographers. It included invaluable information on people, places, navigation, caravan routes, roads, and inns. But the most famous geographer of the period was al-ldrisi, who studied in Cordoba. After traveling widely, al-ldrisi settled in Sicily and wrote a systematic geography of the world, usually known as the Book of Roger after his patron Roger II, the Norman King of Sicily. The information contained in the Book of Roger was also engraved on a silver planisphere, a disc-shaped map that was one of the wonders of the age.

Innumerable scholars in al-Andalus also devoted themselves to the study of history and linguistic sciences, the prime ''social sciences" cultivated by the Arabs, and brought them to a high level. Ibn al-Khatib, for example, who distinguished himself in almost all branches of learning, produced more than fifty works on travel, medicine, poetry, music, politics, and theology, as well as writing the finest history of Granada that has survived. The most original mind of the period, however, was undoubtedly Ibn Khaldun, the first historian to develop and explicate general laws governing the rise and decline of civilizations. In the Prolegomena, an introduction to a huge, seven volume universal history - an introduction longer than some of the volumes - Ibn Khaldun approached history as to a science and challenged the logic of many accepted historical accounts. In a sense, he was the first modern philosopher of history.

Photo: Al-Idrisi's planisphere is considered the first scientific map of the world.

Another great area of Andalusian intellectual activity was philosophy, where an attempt was made to deal with intellectual problems posed by the introduction of Greek philosophy into the context of Islam. One of the first to deal with this was Ibn Hazm, who as the author of more than four hundred books has been described as "one of the giants of the intellectual history of Islam." There were other philosophers too, such as Ibn Bajjah, known to the West as Avempace, who was also a physician and Ibn Tufayl, the author of Hayy ibn Yaqzan, the story of a child growing up in complete solitude on a desert island who, entirely by his own intellectual efforts, discovers for himself the highest physical and metaphysical realities. It was however, Averroes - Ibn Rushd - who earned the greatest reputation. He was an ardent Aristotelian and his works had a lasting effect, in their Latin translation, on the development of Western philosophy.

The list of Islamic Spain's contributions to the West, in fact, is almost endless. In addition to Islamic Spain's contributions in mathematics, economy, medicine, botany, geography, history, and philosophy, al-Andalus also developed and applied important technological innovations: the windmill and new techniques in the crafts of metalworking, weaving, and building.