The teachings of Qur’ān can be divided into two major categories:
Practices are further divided in three sub-categories:
Similarly, beliefs can also be divided in three sub-categories:
- Unity of God
- Accountability in the afterlife
(along with the line of arguments for each)
- Salāh (prayer) and Ḥajj (pilgrimage)
- Zakāt and its individual-oriented branch, Fasting
- Good moral behaviour, which consists of doing pious acts, adhering to good norms, and avoiding its opposite i.e. munkar (the evil)
- Witnessing to the truth
- Upholding justice and equity
- Helping God and His cause.
The first four practices are personal in nature even when they are carried out communally.
The issues of free will and predetermination, and waḥdat al-wujūd (concept of unity of being or pantheism) are directly related to and come under tawḥīd (Unity of God). Concept of intercession comes under tawḥīd and Prophethood. Belief in resurrection covers the concepts of reward and punishment, and Heaven and Hell.
Laws of inheritance, marriage contracts, and related issues, plus other social affairs fall under the heading of upholding justice and fairness.
Helping the cause of Allah includes establishing the institution of khilāfah, political cannons of Islam, and Jihād.
Another fact that needs to be mentioned is that all the practices are rooted in ethics. Love, commitment, perseverance, patience, God-consciousness, justice and fairness are values which engender good acts taught by Islam.
Many of the above mentioned beliefs and practices are mutually interwoven and rooted in one another and require some explanation. In this regard, I will try to explain below whatever I have understood from the Book of God.
Many of the commentators of Qur’ān from among the earlier generations held that the verse of fighting (9:5) repeals many Qur’ānic verses which enjoin wise counsel and exhortations to the non-believers and the polytheists. On the other hand, some theologians of our time view that the verse did not abrogate the directives of good will but that Islam only permits defensive war. According to them, all the battles the Holy Prophet (sws) fought were defensive in nature; they were not initiated by the Messenger himself. The wars fought by the Successors of the Holy Prophet (sws) can therefore be best termed monarchical aggressions. They can no way be termed Jihād.
I believe that both of these views are untenable: the truth is quite the contrary. God sent the Prophet Muhammad (sws) in fulfilment of the promise He contracted with Abraham. The Prophet Muhammad (sws) was thus charged with the responsibility that was put on Abraham as mentioned in the following verse:
We enjoined Abraham and Ishmael to keep our House clean for those who circumambulate it, use it as a retreat, and kneel and prostrate themselves (2:125)
It needs to be appreciated that the Prophet Muhammad (sws) was the last Prophet of God. The religion he taught had to reign supreme over all other religions. In order to fulfill this divine scheme, the Prophet was first directed to preach the religion of God to the people around him so that they might adopt his teachings and improve their religious and moral behaviour. He was not allowed to wage war until he had explained his message fully and had established the veracity of the religion of God to the extent that no one was left with a valid excuse to reject it. It was only when the Prophet (sws) had fulfilled this duty of preaching and explaining the religion of God that he was commanded to liberate the house of God, the Ka‘bah, from the hold of the polytheists, and to revive the religion of Abraham in peninsular Arabia. He was allowed to use force if needed for the fulfilment of this objective. This permission of use of force, it must be noted, was granted after he had migrated to Madīnah. This point is important to consider because Jihād, before migration, unless it is in self-defence, undoubtedly becomes a form of coercion and nuisance in the land. Jihād was, therefore, not required only in self defence, rather the Almighty commanded fighting for the cause of liberating the House of God from the polytheistic powers and reviving the religion of Abraham in Arabia.
This Jihād, as is obvious, was to be launched against the children of Ishmael. The other nations whom the Muslims fought were subjected to similar use of force in order to establish justice and uproot iniquity and oppression from the earth. The People of the Book, and with them other nations, were given the choice to adopt any religion they preferred. They were free to follow any other religion but they had to pay jizyah (tax). The Ismaelites were, however, not left with any such choice. They had to choose between embracing the religion of God and death. This, it should be reiterated, was enforced after the truth was unveiled to them in its ultimate form and they were left with no legitimate excuse to reject it. Truth was explained to them in this manner by an individual from among themselves. The Prophet (sws) was their own heart and soul; he was not an alien imposed from the outside over them. He was a sound, exuberant tree rising in the middle of their natural grove of palms. He was born among them and grew pure in the same environment. He assimilated all the good that which the environment offered and shunned all the evil it was marred with. He was like pure oil ready to burn up even if not touched by the fire. He was the hub of their qualities, a criterion for them to choose from between good and evil, and a firm heart to help decide upon serious affairs. By guiding him to the truth, the Almighty Allah in fact made the entire ummah of the Holy Prophet (sws), of which he was a miniature and for which he occupied the stead of a heart, to submit before Him. Once the heart surrenders all the limbs of the body have to submit with it. This issue will further be elaborated upon under the discussion on prophethood.
Considering the issue in another approach leads us to the same conclusion i.e. the Arabs of the time were required to accept his call. The Quraysh were the religious leaders of the Arabs and the Family of Muṭṭalib held the seat of leadership amongst the them. Thus, this right of leading the Arabs naturally passed over to the Prophet Muhammad (sws). Hence the Prophet’s (sws) saying:
I am son of Abdul Muṭṭalib.
I am a prophet, not an impostor (Bukhārī, No: 2709)
He was calling the Arabs to the millah (religion) of Abraham, which they already acknowledged. He was calling people to fulfil the contract God had sworn to Abraham. They had no excuse to reject him. In this perspective whatever he preached was right. The rejectors and the opponents of this call were the ones who rebelled and who created nuisance in the land.
Jihād is basically launched against oppression and nuisance. Those who take up arms for this purpose must first of all cleanse themselves of this evil. They must not bear even a trace of such hideous crimes. Unless a ruler, who intends to launch Jihād, and his subject as well, do not follow justice and fairness they have no right to force others to observe these values. Plus, if such an operation is deemed indispensable one has to first migrate to some other land and launch the offensive after having settled there. The story of Abraham and some other details regarding ḥijrah (migration in the cause of God) make this fact clear. This is further corroborated by the events of the life history of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). The reason for this is that Jihād, if not conducted by a sovereign power with full administrative control of the country on the offensive, is mere disruption and nuisance. It adds but to chaos and disorder in the land.
Jihād may not be waged until after this sovereign entity has acquired enough power to launch a successful offensive. The story of Prophet Shu‘ayb in the Holy Qur’ān contains arguments for this.
If a party among you has believed in the message I have been sent with, while another has disbelieved, then be patient until God shall judge between us (7:87)
If the above mentioned three conditions are fulfilled, Jihād becomes an obligation on Muslims till the Day of Judgment. The religion of God does not allow coercing people in religious matters and creating disorder in the land. But testifying to the truth, propagating it, and entering into a dialogue with the opponents in a wise and effective manner is a universal obligation.