Quran, the messenger of peace and tolerance

Quran, the messenger of peace

 

The Quran, the living messenger:

● insists on the ultimate Oneness of Humanity and asks people not to divide into conflicting factions (2:36-38, 3:103, 3:105, 4:1, 6:159, 7:189, 23:52, 30:19-22, 30:32, 42:13, 49:13);

● declares that humans have been made into nations and groups so that they may know and understand each other – and not to convert or subjugate others (49:13);

● acknowledges equal human rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their status and identities, and recognizes superiority only by awareness (2:30-34, 4:32, 17:70, 33:35, 46:19, 49:13, 95:4);

● calls on people to focus on their common goals as humans and to strive with one another as in a race in good works (2:139, 2:148, 5:48, 10:41, 29:2);

● acknowledges the rainbow of the collective human consciousness, or mind’s universe, which is knit with countless heavenly paths (6:107-108, 6:149, 13:17, 23:17-20, 23:32, 51:7-8, 70:3-5);

● asserts that there are infinite ways that lead to the Divine and spiritual awareness (‘plural paths’, 29:69; cf. 2:111-115, 2:274, 3:199, 11:52, 16:9, 18:24, 70:3-5, 92:4-10);

● states that, while there is only one universal principle of islam (peace-seeking), there are plural paths of peace to achieve that principle (subul as-salaam, 5:16; cf. 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:177, 3:57, 3:199, 4:94, 5:69, 6:52-53, 13:17, 19:96, 70:3-5);

● upholds the notions of a pluralistic society with peaceful intercommunal coexistence and cooperation (2:208, 2:136-139, 2:143, 3:64, 3:103, 5:2, 5:48, 15:70, 17:84, 21:71, 23:52, 26:164-165, 42:8-10, 42:15);

● condemns prejudice and bigotry and promotes acceptance of the differences (2:111-113, 2:148, 3:75, 4:94, 5:48, 5:65-66, 10:99-101, 18:29, 42:15, 74:11);

● recognizes the right of everyone to enjoy the full freedom of thought, opinion and expression, without being controlled by others, since everyone’s caretaker is God (2:272, 2:42, 3:71, 6:102-104, 6:107-108, 42:5-6);

● promotes the concepts of peaceful coexistence of all religions, or religious pluralism, and multidimensionality of the Truth (2:135-136, 2:148, 3:57, 3:64, 5:48, 5:65-66, 6:52-53, 6:149, 6:159, 13:4, 21:92-94, 22:17, 22:67, 23:17-32, 24:41, 42:8-10, 42:15, 70:3-5, 74:11);

● recognizes the sanctity of all places of worship – monasteries, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and the likes (2:114-115, 5:48, 22:40, 22:67, 24:36, 24:41, 72:18);

● offers complete freedom of choice either to accept or reject the guidance (2:256, 2:272, 10:108-109, 18:29, 32:13, 74:11, 109:6);

● denounces coercion in matters of faith and supports everyone’s right to freedom of creed, religion and vision (2:256, 6:102-104, 6:149, 10:99-101, 18:29, 22:40, 42:8-10, 50:45, 74:11, 88:21-22, 109:6);

● asks not to insult others’ gods lest others insult God out of ignorance (6:108);

● acknowledges the need to allow people to worship their chosen idols – for the sake of intercommunal peace and harmony (7:150, 14:35-36, 20:90-94, 37:95-96, 38:5, 74:11, 109:6);

● asks to focus on our own behaviour, instead of judging other people’s behaviour, while leaving the final judgment to God alone (2:113, 2:141, 5:105, 6:149, 20:135, 22:17, 22:67, 27:78, 45:14, 49:11, 68:7, 74:11);

● recommends peaceful engagements and dialogues with differing religious groups by means of wisdom and in the kindest manner (3:159, 10:99-101, 16:125, 17:53-54, 20:43-44, 29:46);

● asks to avoid conjecture and not to argue with differing groups in matters of which one has little information (3:66,10:36, 2:111, 6:116, 18:22-26, 21:24, 45:24, 49:6, 53:28);

● calls for tolerance and peaceful cooperation even if dialogues fail or messages fall on deaf ears (3:186, 5:2, 6:70, 7:199, 10:41, 109:6);

● asks to always resort to a better response and repel evil with good, which could turn an enemy into a friend (3:103, 7:199, 13:22, 28:54-55, 41:34, 73:10-11);

● instructs to deal with mockers and bullies in a most peaceful manner – with patience, tolerance and restraint (25:63, 25:72, 4:140, 6:68, 3:186, 25:63, 25:71-72, 33:48, 109:6);

● prescribes no blasphemy law and no punishment for apostasy or rejection, while reassuring that there is always room for repentance (3:89, 3:85-90, 4:10, 4:137, 6:54, 7:180, 33:57);

● unequivocally denounces any act of hatred, aggression, corruption, homicide and mischief on Earth (2:190, 5:2, 5:32, 7:56, 7: 74, 13:25, 16:90, 26:151-152,  26:183, 27:48 -49, 28:77, 42:42 , 47:22 -23);

● asks to always stand for justice, without influence of hatred or bias, even if this goes against ourselves or our parents or relatives, or against rich or poor (3:18, 4:135, 5:2, 5:8, 6:152, 16:90);

● asks to speak to each other only that which is best and kindest (17:53-54, 20:43-44, 41:33-36);

● tells to do good to all people, including those who are bad (2:224, 2:272, 4:36, 4:85-86, 9:6, 16:90, 28:77, 42:23);

● asks to help others by spending from the goodies and not to give them things that we dislike for ourselves (2:267);

● asks to make due allowance for human nature, which is inherently weak and forgetful, and not to be harsh with those who err (4:28, 7:199, 9:6, 11:115, 20:115, 73:9-10);

● tells to restrain anger and forgive others for their wrong doings, and thereby to let go of resentments and move forward (2:109, 2:263, 3:134, 4:149, 5:13, 7:199, 15:85, 24:11, 42:37, 42:40, 42:43,  45:14,  64:14);

● asks to make things easy for people – without causing them undue hardship or demanding of them excessive efforts (2:286, 6:152, 7:42, 23:62, 42:23);

● calls on to deal kindly and equitably with everyone, unless one has to address an aggressor (4:36, 16:90, 42:23, 60:8-9);

● calls on to stand up for human rights against oppression and persecution; and thus sanctions war only for self-defense and as the last resort, while reminding that hostilities must be brought to an end as quickly as possible and the minute the enemy sues for peace (2:190-193, 2:2116-217, 4:75, 8:61-65, 22:40, 42:41, 60:7-8; cf. 2:216, 4:89, 5:33, 8:12, 8:39, 9:5, 9:29, 9:123, 47:4);

● tells to protect anyone who seeks safety and peace, even if s/he is from the hostile camp and in times of war (9:6, 60:7-9);

● encourages to continuously strive for making peace with all and also to mediate peace processes with opponents, especially with those who come with an offer of peace (2:208, 2:224, 4:85-86, 4:90, 4:94, 8:61-62);

● asks to greet with peace everyone, including idolaters, mockers and rejecters (6:54, 13:24, 20:47, 33:44, 24:61, 28:55, 43:89, 51:25);

● advises to return any greeting of peace with ‘a better greeting or at least a similar one’ (4:86);

● asks to observe the balance throughout the universe and to become an epitome of this balance by following the golden mean (2:143, 2:219, 2:238, 17:29, 25:67, 55:7-9, 68:28);

● asks in all dealings to measure with a just balance and not to deprive others of what is rightfully theirs (2:188, 2:274-275, 3:18, 4:29-30, 6:152, 26:181 -183, 53:38-41);

● portrays God mainly as an infinitely merciful and all-forgiving god rather than a cruel, vengeful deity, which requires us to incarnate these divine attributes of mercy and compassion in our interactions with others (1:1-3, 2:274, 6:12, 15:56, 36:58, 39:53, 53:38-41, 17:20, 40:7, 42:5-6); and

● constantly emphasizes that there are infinite paths that lead to the ultimate Good and so towards salvation (2:62, 2:111-115, 2:121, 2:135-136, 2:140-141, 2:148, 2:286, 3:57, 3:64, 3:199, 4:94, 5:16, 5:43-45, 5:46-48, 5:69, 5:77, 6:52, 6:107-108, 6:165, 10:41, 11:115, 16:9, 18:24, 19:96, 21:92-94, 22:17, 22:40, 22:67-69, 24:41, 29:46, 29:69, 39:10-11 , 42:15-16, 42:23, 45:15, 49:13, 53:39, 70:3-5, 92:4).

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Here are some of the verses cited above:

The Quran calls for peace and tolerance: verse examples

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Pursue pleasure and happiness and mind the balance

Pursue pleasure and happiness and mind the balance

 
So Eat and Drink and Be Happy. 19:26

Islam is originally meant to be simple and easy1 (2:185, 2:189, 2:286, 4:28, 5:6, 6:152, 7:42, 22:78, 23:62, 57:27, 87:8), free of any dogma or mystical proposition, of all self-mortification and exaggerated asceticism, and of all complicated ritual or system of taboos which would impose undue restrictions on man’s everyday life2 (2:67-71, 2:189, 5:101-103, 57:27, 87:8).

The Quran claims to have come to liberate minds from the bondage of religion and from the shackles of too many do’s and don’ts. As the final testament, it considers current humanity, its target audience, as grown-up and hence primarily appeals to his reasoning and conscience, instead of legislating meticulous rules and regulations. Over and over again, it asks to keep the deen simple and easy and free from burden of rituals and unnecessary prohibitions – similar to those inflicted on earlier religious communities, imposed through their clerics3 (2:286, 7:157, 64:16, 5:15, 5:87).

No wonder the Quran repeatedly condemns those clergymen, who decree fabricated laws in God’s name – and thus import false obligations and prohibitions in religion – as falsifiers, transgressors and idolaters4 (2:165-172, 5:87, 6:21, 6:118-119, 6:140, 6:145-155, 7:32, 9:37, 10:59, 11:18-21, 16:116).

Now, God is portrayed in the Quran mainly as an infinitely merciful god rather than a cruel, vengeful deity. While thus reminding man of God’s infinite compassion and benevolence, the Quran cheers him up with a jolly tune, and asks him to be ever optimistic and to never despair5 (1:1, 1:2-3, 2:143, 6:12, 6:54, 6:160, 14:34, 15:56, 38:54, 39:53, 65:3,17:20, 40:7,  71:13-14).

In line with this extremely positive worldview, the Quran encourages man to pursue happiness by freely enjoying all the pleasures of life (2:168, 2:172, 5:96, 7:31-32, 7:156, 11:3, 16:114, 23:51, 28:77), though with an Epicurean attitude of prudence and moderation (2:143, 2:168-172, 2:219, 2:238, 7:31, 17:11, 17:18-19, 17:29, 25:67, 68:28) and justice and balance (16:90, 17:35, 42:17, 55:7-9, 57:25) – rather than with a mere hedonistic pursuit of sensual pleasures or overindulgence6 (23:51, 7:31-32).

For instance, the Quran asks to enjoy all healthy foods without making any unreasonable restriction (5:3-4, 6:145-150, 16:115-116); presents conjugal love, sexuality and sexual pleasure in a positive light (2:187, 2:222, 2:223, 7:189, 13:38, 25:74, 30:21, 56:35-37); promotes all the beauty of life and encourages all harmless forms of cultural and recreational activities including painting, sculpture, literature, sports, dance and music (2:185, 4:163, 5:4, 5:87, 6:151, 7:32- 33, 10:59, 16:116, 17:9, 21:79, 30:15, 34:10, 34:13, 42:21); and even calls for such undertakings like travel and tourism for the purposes of education, trade and recreation (2:164, 17:61-70, 36:41-42, 31:31, 45:12, 47:10, 22:46, 29:19-20, 62:10, 10:22, 5:96, 30:46).

We observe, for example, how the Quran promotes cheerful worldly activities as it applauds Prophet Solomon as an art enthusiast who was decorating his kingdom with “arches, sculptures, paintings … and joyous music”.7 These activities it describes as a way of thanksgiving by “the descendants of David” through a display of their divine blessings, i.e., their material and cultural affluence topped up with art and crafts. The Quran asks us to act in the same spirit, in gratitude for what we have been given (34:12-13; note: “Work, O the spiritual family of David, in gratitude”, 34:13).

In sum, while the Quran inspires us to appreciate and enjoy this divine gift of life to the full, without being constrained by religious zealots who bring numerous prohibitions through false authorities8 (7:31-32, 2:165-172, 6:150), it asks us to live our life in such a rational way that wisely strives for the lasting (akhirat) instead of getting absorbed in the instant9(ajilat; 17:11, 17:18-19, 17:20-21, 58:11).

Finally, despite the weakness of our human nature, which is prone to evil and excess, we are reassured that God remains all-forgiving and ever-merciful as always10 (4:28, 12:53, 14:36, 39:53, 42:5).

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Note 1

Islam is originally meant to be simple and easy:

God wants to bring you ease and not to bring you hardship. 2:185

God does not burden any self beyond its capacity. 2:286

God wants to make easy for you; and humankind was created weak. 4:28

God does not want to make any hardship over you. 5:6

And He has laid on you no hardship in your religion, the creed of your father Abraham. 22:78 

Note 2

Islam is originally meant to be free of any dogma or mystical proposition, of all self-mortification and exaggerated asceticism, and of all complicated ritual or system of taboos which would impose undue restrictions on man’s everyday life (Asad’s note):

They ask you regarding the new moons, say: They are a timing mechanism for the people as well as for the Pilgrimage. Piety is not that you would enter a house (system) through the back (through formal rules and rituals), but pious is he who is aware. Hence, enter houses through their doors, and remain conscious of God that you may succeed. 2:189

But they invented monastic asceticism which We never decreed for them. 57:27

And We shall make easy for you the way. 87:8

Say: Not equal are the foul and the pure, even if the abundance of the foul may dazzle you. So be aware of God, O you who understand, that you may succeed./ O you who acknowledge, do not ask about things which, if prematurely appears to you, would burden you (with non-essential rules and rituals). But if you ask about them while the Quran is being gradually revealed (to your mind), then they will be clarified to you (with deeper layers of meanings). God pardons for them, and God is Forgiving, Compassionate./ Some people before you did ask such questions (e.g., Israelites asked about the cow, 2:68), and on that account lost their faith. 5:100-102

Note 3

The Quran claims to have come to liberate minds from the bondage of religion and from the shackles of too many do’s and don’ts. Over and over again, it asks to keep the deen simple and easy and free from burden of rituals and unnecessary prohibitions – similar to those inflicted on earlier religious communities, imposed through their clerics:

God does not burden any self beyond its capacity. In its favour is what it earns, and against it is what it earns. “Our Sustainer, do not mind us if we forget or make mistakes. Our Sustainer, lay not upon us a burden such as You did lay upon those before us.” 2:286

Those who follow the messenger, the gentile prophet, whom they find written for them in the Torah and the Gospel; … he makes lawful for them the good things, and he forbids for them the evil, and he removes their burden and the shackles that are upon them. 7:157

Therefore, be aware of God as much as you can, and listen, and obey, and give for your own good. 64:16

O people of the Book, Our messenger has come to you to clarify for you much of what you have been concealing of the Book, and to pass over much (i.e., non-essential rules and rituals). Now there has come unto you from God a light, and a clarifying Book. 5:15

O you who acknowledge, do not forbid the good things that God has made lawful to you, and do not transgress; God does not like the transgressors. 5:87

Note 4

The Quran repeatedly condemns those clergymen, who decree fabricated laws in God’s name – and thus import false obligations and prohibitions in religion – as falsifiers, transgressors and idolaters:

And among the people are some who take other than God as equals to Him …/ O humankind, enjoy of what is lawful and good on Earth, and follow not devil’s footsteps …/ He only orders you evil and vice, and that you may say about God what you do not know. 2:165, 168-169

Say: Have you considered that, out of the provision God has sent down for you,  you have made some of it unlawful, and some lawful? Say: Has God allowed you, or do you fabricate a lie about God? 10:59

O you who acknowledge, do not forbid the good things that God has made lawful to you, and do not transgress; God does not like the transgressors. 5:87

And speak not about what your tongues falsely describe, “This is lawful and that is forbidden”, so as to fabricate a lie against God. Surely those who fabricate lies against God will not prosper. 16:116

Who is more wicked than one who fabricates lies about God? … Alas, God’s rejection is the due of all evildoers./ Those who repel others from the divine path and seek to twist it; and regarding the End they are in denial. 11:18-19

Note 5

While reminding man of God’s infinite compassion and benevolence, the Quran cheers him up with a jolly tune, and asks him to be ever optimistic and to never despair:

With the attribute/s of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. 1:1 (routinely appears at the beginning of every chapter in the Quran)

All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of the worlds./ The Beneficent, the Merciful. 1:2-3

Most certainly God is unto humankind Merciful and Compassionate. 2:143

Say: Unto whom is all that is in the Heavens and the Earth? Say: To God, who has ordained mercy on Himself. He will gather you to the day of Resurrection in which there is no doubt. 6:12

Your Sustainer has ordained mercy on Himself. 6:54

Whoever brings a good deed will receive a tenfold reward. And whoever brings an ill deed will be requited for only one. And no one will be wronged. 6:160

And He gave you of all that you have asked of Him. And should you try to count God’s favours, never will you be able to number them; yet the human is indeed transgressing, unappreciative. 14:34

He said: And who despairs of the mercy of his Sustainer, except the misguided? 15:56   

Such is Our provisions, it does not run out. 38:54

Say: O My servants, who have transgressed against their own selves, despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He is the Forgiver, the Merciful. 39:53

And He provides for him when/ce he imagines not. … indeed God has appointed for everything a due measure. 65:3

On all, these as well as those, do We freely bestow some of your Sustainer’s gifts, since your Sustainer’s giving is never confined. 17:20

Our Sustainer, You encompass all things with mercy and knowledge. 40:7

What is the matter with you, that you hope not the greatness from God,/ When He has created you in successive stages? 71:13-14

Note 6

In line with this extremely positive worldview, the Quran encourages man to pursue happiness by freely enjoying all the pleasures of life, though with an Epicurean attitude of prudence and moderation and justice and balance – rather than with a mere hedonistic pursuit of sensual pleasures or overindulgence:

Eat and drink from the provisions of God, but do not roam the Earth as corrupters. 2:60

“O our Sustainer! Grant us good in the immediate, and good in the End, and spare us from the torment of fire.” 2:201

O mankind, enjoy of what is lawful and good on Earth, and follow not the footsteps of the Devil: for, verily, he is your open foe. 2:168

O you who acknowledge, enjoy of the good things We have provided for you, and render thanks unto God, if it is only Him you worship. 2:172

So enjoy all the lawful, decent things which God has provided for you, and thank God for His blessings, if it is Him you truly serve. 16:114

So eat and drink and be happy. 19:26

O messengers, enjoy of the good things and do right. 23:51

And seek the future abode by means of what God has granted you, and forget not your own share in this world, and do good to others as God has done good to you. And spread not corruption on Earth, for God loves not the corruptors. 28:77

Lawful for you is all water-game, and all the catch of the sea, as enjoyment (provision) for you and for those who travel. 5:96

“And ordain for us the good in this world and in the Hereafter; we have turned to You for guidance.” He said,“My chastisement is but through My law. But My mercy encompasses all things.” 7:156

He will make you enjoy an enjoyment until a term set. And He gives His grace to those who are of grace. 11:3

Leave Me alone with him whom I have created alone,/ And to whom I granted resources vast,/ And children as witnesses,/ And to whom I have spread out so wide a scope,/ And yet, he desires that I give yet more./ Nay, surely it is against Our messages that he has been stubborn. 74:11- 16

Surely We have placed all that is on the earth as an ornament thereof that We may test them as to which of them is best in conduct.18:7

And if they separate, then God will provide for each of them from His bounty. God is Vast, Wise. 4:130

Note 7

People have translated 34:13 variously, but its generally understood message is thanksgiving by Solomon and “the family of David” through display of their divine blessings, i.e., their material and cultural affluence topped up with art and crafts. The ancient lexicon Mufradat-Ul-Quran by Imam Raghib Isfahani, whose work is closer to Classical Arabic, defines the words in 34:13 broadly. For example, the words Jifanin Kaljawab = Any work of utility or enjoyment and entertainment; Jif = a stringed instrument with a drum attached. A relatively broad-spectrum translation of the verse is suggested by Muhammad Ahmed – Samira: They make/do for him what he wills/wants from the centers of the assemblies/sanctuaries and images/statues/pictures, and eyelids/fragments/pieces/small wells as the trough/tub, and pots anchors/firm (heavy) fixtures, David’s family do/work/make thanking/gratefulness, and little/few from My worshippers/slaves (is) the thankful/grateful (E).

Note 8

The Quran inspires us to appreciate and enjoy this divine gift of life to the full, without being constrained by religious zealots who bring numerous prohibitions through false authorities:

O children of Adam, take your adornment at every time and place of prayer; and eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters./ Say: Who has forbidden the adornment/ beauty that God has brought forth for His creatures and the good things of provision? Say: They are in this worldly life for those who acknowledge, and they will be exclusive for them on the day of Resurrection. We thus explain the messages unto the people who know. 7:31-32

And among the people are some who take other than God as equals to Him, they love them as they love God; but those who acknowledge love God more than all else; …/ When those who were followed will disown those who followed them, they will see the retribution, with all attachments cut off. …/ O humankind, enjoy of what is lawful and good on Earth, and follow not devil’s footsteps: for, verily, he is your open foe,/ He only orders you evil and vice, and that you may say about God what you do not know./ And if they are told: Follow what God has sent down, they say: Nay, we follow that wherein we found our forefathers. What! even though their forefathers had no understanding of anything, and if they were not guided?/ And the parable of those who are unappreciative is like that (of a herd of sheep) which hears the shepherd’s call, but hears in it nothing but a sound and a shout; deaf, dumb, and blind, for they do not reason./ O you who acknowledge, enjoy of the good things We have provided for you, and render thanks unto God, if it is only Him you worship. 2:165-172

Say: “Bring your witnesses who bear witness that (through His associate/s, 6:19) God has forbidden this.” If they bear witness, then do not bear witness with them, nor follow the desires of those who have given the lie to Our messages, and those who do not acknowledge the End; and they make equals with their Sustainer! 6:150

Note 9

The Quran asks us to live our life in such a rational way that wisely strives for the lasting (akhirat) instead of getting absorbed in the instant:

And man calls to evil with his call to good, for man has been too hasty. …/ Whoever seeks that which hastens away, We hasten for Him what he wishes, then We appoint inferno for him, he burns therein, despised, rejected./ And whoever seeks the End and strives for it with striving, while acknowledging (the End), then their effort is appreciated. 17:11, 18-19

On all, these as well as those, do We freely bestow some of your Sustainer’s gifts, since your Sustainer’s giving is never confined./ Observe how We prefer one of them above another, and certainly the End is higher in degree and greater in excellence. 17:20-21

When you are told, “Make room for one another in your collective life”, do make room: God will make room for you. 58:11

Note 10

Despite the weakness of our human nature, which is prone to evil and excess, we are reassured that God remains all-forgiving and ever-merciful as always:

God wants to make easy for you; and humankind was created weak. 4:28

I do not claim innocence for myself: for the self is inclined to evil, except for those upon whom my Sustainer bestows His grace. Surely, my Sustainer is Forgiving, Compassionate. 12:53

O My Sustainer, these (idols) have misled many people. So, whoever follows me, then he is of me, and whoever disobeys me, then You are Forgiving, Compassionate. 14:36

Say: O My servants, who have transgressed against their own selves, despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He is the Forgiver, the Merciful. 39:53

The Heavens are about to rent asunder from above themselves; and the Forces hymn the praise of their Sustainer and seek for­giveness for those on Earth: Behold! Verily God is the Forgiving, the Merciful. 42:5

Islam is not about any particular messenger

(Reason 15 of22 serious reasons shahada should contain no name except God’s’)

Islam is not about any particular messenger

 
Islam is not about any particular messenger

Islam is peace-seeking through submission to the Truth, i.e., submission to God’s will or messages manifested through His natural laws (2:131-133; 2:163-165; 3:2-7, 18-27, 52-53, 62-65, 79-83; 4:65, 125; 5:111; 6:14, 71-81; 7:172; 10:100-101; 33:7, 22, 44, 56; 40:65-66).

So, for Islam, or peace-seeking, we need to find the Truth by understanding the natural laws by acquiring knowledge and then to submit to it by acting accordingly by doing justice. Only a continuous journeying along the path of knowledge and justice – which the Quran calls the straight path or Islam – can free our mind from all idols and fallacies and lead us towards the desired Peace (salam).

The faith system of Islam is simple: shahada or witnessing to God’s absolute oneness (3:18, 3:81, 7:71, 12:40, 19:65, 39:45, 40:12, 72:18) and, for further cognizance, accepting the five truths that reflect humanity’s relationship with the Divine (the five articles of iman1: God, final judgment, controllers, all scriptures and the equality of all messengers of all times and places; 4:136, 2:177, 2:285).

The shahada, the core of Islam, is simply an enlightened state of mind of consciously witnessing the oneness of the Divine (3:18-19). It implies witnessing the Oneness of The Reality, and therefore the oneness of nature, and therefore the oneness of life, and therefore the oneness of humanity, and so forth. By definition, this can have no name in it except God’s. Clearly, the shahada, a state of awareness, was never meant to be a credo or religious formula as later misconstrued by the followers of the sectarian add-ons.

Because this awareness of Oneness is the sole basis of Islam, bearing it in mind is the only ideological requirement to be or become a Muslim – one who seeks peace through submission to the Truth of Oneness (2:111-112, 2:130-131, 3:18-20, 6:71, 18:110, 27:44, 40:66). So anyone from any religious/non-religious background – Hindu, Pantheist, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Confucian, Taoist, Shinto, Jain, Buddhist, Christian, Muhammadan, Sufi, Sikh, Bahai, Mormon, Agnostic, and so on – whoever bears in mind this awareness and acts accordingly, is a Muslim and qualifies for salvation (2:111-112, 41:30, 46:13). That is why the Quran designates all messengers from all times and places2 and all their true followers as Muslims (10:72; 2:128; 10:84; 27:31; 5:111; 72:14).

All the core messages of Islam are derivatives of and revolving around this one single message of oneness, incorporated in shahada, which demands knowledge and balance (6:115; cf. 3:18, 4:135, 5:8).

Hence, in line with its faith system that requires seeking knowledge, most of Islam is doing good work, the mainstay of which is birr, i.e., kindness and justice. Often translated as righteousness, as in the example below, the word actually includes all good works and has a rich plethora of meanings throughout the Quran, like goodness, kindness, compassion, mercy, justice, care, virtue, dutifulness, piety, righteousness etc (2:224, 2:189, 3:92, 3:193, 3:198, 5:2, 19:14, 19:32, 58:9, 60:8, 76:5, 80:16, 82:13, 83:18):

Righteousness is not to turn your faces towards the East or the West; but righteous is he who acknowledges God and the Last Day and the Controllers and the Book (scriptures of all religions, 2:285) and the prophets (of all times and places, 4:136); and spends out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the traveller and the seekers and sets necks free; and establishes social order; and contributes towards betterment; and they fulfil the contracts that are made; and are firm and patient in pain and adversity and in time of stress. It is they who are truthful, and it is they, they who are conscious. 2:177

Thus, true spirituality or piousness consists in higher human values and rational morality of compassion and justice (2:60, 3:104, 4:36, 4:135, 5:8, 16:90, 49:13) rather than in formal rituals or superficial aspects of traditional religions (2:142, 2:148, 2:177, 5:101-103).

Since God belongs to everyone and everywhere, it doesn’t really matter as such whether we turn our face towards Kaba or Jerusalem, or Varanasi or Brindavan, or whether we dwell in East or West or share a culture oriental or western (2:115, 2:177). The reason the Qiblah was changed was quite simple:  it was only to enlighten us that the Qiblah itself means nothing as it doesn’t matter which way we turn our faces (2:142). This change was no more than a pragmatic response to the socio-political issues of the time; it was NOT to tell that the new direction was sacred or better than the old one (2:143). Likewise, accepting a non-Israelite messenger didn’t mean accepting the new messenger as greater than any of his predecessors. It only meant that what is truly important is the message itself rather than who bears it. Time and again, the Quran calls us to break the traditional boundaries and see beyond the horizon (2:170, 4:97, 5:104-105, 7:70, 21:52-58,   26:70-77,   37:69-71, 43:22-24).

This is how Karen Armstrong describes the essence of Islam: “What is the Qur’an but a call to action? When the Qur’an talks of faith it doesn’t mean that we have to accept a whole lot of ideas, but it follows it up always with its performing the works of mercy, or the salihat, wherein the Qur’an asks people to do good and look after the poor and the vulnerable, to free slaves, and care for orphans and widows.”

This essence of Islam – submission to the Truth of one God alone, by turning-away from all that is false, and then mercy and justice to all of His creation – constitutes the deen or ‘one moral law’ for all people, inspired to all messengers (98:5). The Quran calls it the straight path, which is defined as the straight path of all messengers (1:6, 6:39, 6:87, 6:126, 6:153, 6:161, 22:54, 42:52, 43:43, 46:30) that consists of the same basic moral commandments found in the previous scriptures, including the Torah and the Gospel (6:150-153, 6:154-156, 17:22-39).

That is why the Quran insistently calls to regard all messengers as equal and to respect all inspired texts/ messages/ scriptures of all religions, while acknowledging unity of all revelations, accepting them as integral constituents of ‘one Book of God’ (‘al-kitab’, e.g., 2:113, 2:136, 3:19, 3:100, 3:119, 6:91-92, 6:154-157, 10:37, 21:7, 23:68, 39:18; cf. 18:27, 10:94).

Thus Islam is not the path of any particular messenger.

Muhammad is NOT central to Islamic faith system

Now, Muhammadur rasulullah (‘Muhammad is God’s messenger,’ 48:29) in the Quran is a phrase or statement of fact, which is a part of one of the ‘articles of iman’ – i.e., the truth about the equality of all messengers – but not a part of the shahada or bearing witness. Though an acknowledger (mumin) is asked to acknowledge and respect Muhammad as a messenger and the deliverer of the final testament (47:2, 33:40,10:47-48), s/he is also asked to similarly acknowledge and respect all messengers without making any distinction (2:136, 2:285, 3:84, 4:152, 21:92, 23:51-53, 33:40). As the Quran thus never designates Muhammad in superlative terms and never puts him in comparison or competition with others, it never describes him as the best messenger or the best human on Earth (2:136, 2:285, 3:144, 38:65, 46:9, 47:19).

The Quran further asserts that Muhammad, a mere mortal, doesn’t serve as any spiritual link with God (3:79-80, 3:144, 6:19, 6:50, 6:164, 16:51, 17:57, 18:110, 19:81-82, 38:65, 39:3, 40:12, 46:9, 46:28, 72:21-23, 79:42-44) and doesn’t serve as an additional guide apart from the Quran (10:35-36). While rejecting all intercessors and intermediaries between human and God (2:48, 2:254, 2:257, 6:51, 6:94, 6:164; 7:53, 19:95, 25:3, 39:43-45, 50:16, 66:10), the Quran puts full responsibility on every individual to use their own mind to personally know and act (10:100, 17:36, 5:104-105, 90:4-13) and to directly commune with their Sustainer without seeking a middleman (6:94, 6:161-164,  50:16, 2:257).

Please note that, rather than describing Islam as ‘the way of Muhammad’, the Quran constantly describes it as ‘the way of Abraham’ (‘Millat Ibraheem’; 2:120, 2:130, 2:135, 3:95, 4:125, 6:161, 12:37, 12:38, 16:123, 22:78). So Muhammad, as a devoted adherent of Abrahamic system that he was inspired to diligently follow, was neither an introducer of Islam, nor he has brought anything fundamentally new in the system (4:125, 6:159-164, 22:78; cf. 16:123, 46:5-6, 9, 28). All that was revealed to him was previously revealed to his predecessors (Nothing is being said to you but what has been said to the messengers before you. 41:43; cf. 10:94, 23:66-68). His impact on Islam was not as a pioneer, since, as the Quran insists, he did not contribute to Islam by innovating or changing any of the principles or essentials as all those were already known through the earlier messengers (Say: I am no innovator among the messengers, nor know I what will be done with me or with you. 46:9; cf. 3:144, 38:65, 47:19).

Muhammad’s duty, according to the Quran, was nothing except as a messenger conveying to the humanity the divine message, the final testament (42:48, 5:99; cf. 5:92, 5:99, 13:40, 16:35, 16:82, 24:54, 29:18, 38:65, 42:48, 64:12; note the double negative used in ‘nothing … except’ for emphasis). Thus his actual contribution to Islam was the delivery of the Quran, through which the same eternal deen that had been inspired to all the previous messengers was authenticated and re-established (3:3, 3:81, 10:37, 35:31, 46:12), while the existing religion of the Arabs was perfected3 as their prevalent practices were brought back into the folds of Islam through simplification and purification (5:3, 7:157).

However, this doesn’t constitute any ground for associating Muhammad’s name with God’s name in shahada, because, like other messengers, he was also only kindly chosen by God for this duty of delivery (16:2-3, 16:35), a mercy which God could have withdrawn from him anytime if so willed (17:86).

Islam is NOT centred on the glorification of a human

Finally, it is important to remember that Islam, unlike traditional Christianity or Muhammadanism, is a not a faith system whose core formula is centred on the deification and glorification of a human. This explains why The Quran doesn’t authorize any added name in shahada.

Summary

Islam is not about any particular messenger

Islam is peace-seeking through submission to the Truth, i.e., submission to God’s will or messages manifested through His natural laws (2:131-133; 2:163-165; 3:2-7, 18-27, 52-53, 62-65, 79-83; 4:65, 125; 5:111; 6:14, 71-81; 7:172; 10:100-101; 33:7, 22, 44, 56; 40:65-66). Only a continuous journeying along the path of Islam – through acquiring knowledge (to find the Truth) and doing justice (to submit to the Truth) – can free our mind from all idols and fallacies and lead us towards the desired Peace (salam).

The faith system of Islam is simple: shahada or witnessing to God’s absolute oneness (3:18, 3:81, 7:71, 12:40, 19:65, 39:45, 40:12, 72:18) and, for further cognizance, accepting the five truths that reflect humanity’s relationship with the Divine (the five articles of iman: God, final judgment, controllers, all scriptures and the equality of all messengers of all times and places; 4:136, 2:177, 2:285).

The shahada, the core of Islam, is simply an enlightened state of mind of consciously witnessing the Oneness of the Divine with its related implications (3:18-19). Because this awareness of Oneness is the sole basis of Islam, anyone from any religious/non-religious background, whoever bears it in mind and acts accordingly, is a Muslim and qualifies for salvation (2:111-112, 41:30, 46:13). That is why the Quran designates all messengers from all times and places and all their true followers as Muslims (10:72; 2:128; 10:84; 27:31; 5:111; 72:14).

In line with its faith system that demands seeking knowledge (3:18), most of Islam is doing good work, the mainstay of which is birr, i.e., kindness and justice (2:177; cf. 2:224, 3:92, 5:2, 19:14, 58:9, 76:5, 83:18). Thus, true spirituality or piousness consists in higher human values and rational morality of compassion and justice (2:60, 3:104, 4:36, 4:135, 5:8, 16:90, 49:13) rather than in formal rituals or superficial aspects of traditional religions (2:142, 2:148, 2:177, 5:101-103). This essence of Islam – submission to the Truth of one God alone, by turning-away from all that is false, and then mercy and justice to all of His creation – constitutes the deen or ‘one moral law’ for all people, inspired to all messengers (98:5). Hence the Quran insistently calls to regard all messengers as equal and to acknowledge unity of all religions, accepting all revelations as integral constituents of ‘one Book of God’ (‘al-kitab’).

Thus, Islam is not the path of any particular messenger, including Muhammad. Though an acknowledger (mumin) is asked to acknowledge and respect Muhammad as a messenger and the deliverer of the final testament (47:2, 33:40,10:47-48), s/he is also asked to similarly acknowledge and respect all messengers without making any distinction (2:136, 2:285, 3:84, 4:152, 21:92, 23:51-53, 33:40). The Quran also asserts that Muhammad, a mere mortal, doesn’t serve as any spiritual link with God and doesn’t serve as an additional guide apart from the Quran (6:50, 6:164, 10:35-36). While rejecting all intercessors and intermediaries between human and God (2:48), the Quran puts full responsibility on every individual to use their own mind to personally know and act (10:100, 17:36, 5:104-105, 90:4-13) and to directly commune with their Sustainer without seeking a middleman (6:94, 6:161-164,  50:16, 2:257).

Muhammad, as a devoted adherent of Abrahamic system, Millat Ibraheem (2:130, 2:135, 3:95), was neither an introducer of Islam nor he has brought anything fundamentally new in the system (4:125, 6:159-164, 22:78; cf. 16:123, 46:5-6, 9, 28). His duty, according to the Quran, was nothing except delivering the divine message, the final testament (42:48, 5:99), through which the same eternal deen of all the previous messengers was authenticated and re-established (3:3, 3:81, 10:37, 35:31, 46:12), while the existing religion of the Arabs was brought back into the folds of Islam through simplification and purification (5:3, 7:157).

However, this doesn’t constitute any ground for associating Muhammad’s name with God’s name in shahada. It is important to remember that Islam, unlike traditional Christianity or Muhammadanism, is a not a faith system whose core formula is centred on the highlighting or glorification of a human. This explains why The Quran doesn’t authorize any added name in shahada.

 

***********************************

Note 1

The Quran makes a clear distinction (3:52-53, 5:111-113) between shahada (3:18) and the articles of iman (4:136, 2:177, 2:285). Through shahada, or witnessing God’s oneness, one becomes Muslim, while by acknowledging the articles of iman, or the five truths reflecting humanity’s relationship with God, one becomes mumin. The full status of mumin is higher than the basic status of Muslim: a Muslim needs to strive in order to attain the status of mumin (49:14-17). The basics of iman are acknowledgement of God and akhirat (End, Whole, Ultimate, ‘holistic’; 2:62, 3:113-114, 5:69), which, accompanied with good work, are declared sufficient for human salvation (2:8, 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:126, 3:113-115, 5:69, 95:6, 20:112). In addition, a mumin also accepts human’s perceived links with God and her constant striving to connect with Him via revelation: i.e., controllers, all scriptures and the equality of all messengers of all times and places.

Note 2

Messengers, i.e., sages and visionaries as finest representatives of human minds, have been reflecting throughout the ages the light of ‘one universal truth’ (‘heavenly rain’), splitting it into a very wide spectrum of diverse colours in the form of a splendid variety of philosophical and socio-cultural concepts and spiritual experiences, thus endlessly widening the range of human’s perceptions of the truth.

Note 3

Please note that it was not Islam but the existing religion of the Arabs that was perfected and completed after the advent of Prophet Muhammad (5:3). As the same eternal system that was recurrently delivered by all messengers, Islam was always perfect and complete, and needed no further improvement with any particular messenger.

True Islam

Book review: Abdur Rab’s “Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding”

As a major contribution to the correct understanding of the Quran, this should be a must-read book for all who are interested in gaining a short-cut access to the introduction of genuine Islam.

Islam in the Bible

The Prophet was neither an introducer nor a transformer of Islam. Islam was well-known to and well-practiced by the Biblical prophets.

Islam in the Bible

Islam in the Bible

 

ISLAM WAS PRACTICED BY THE BIBLICAL PROPHETS

It is important to keep in mind that Islam is not a ‘religion’ of any particular messenger.

Muhammad was a devoted adherent of Abrahamic way, which he was inspired to closely follow (6:159-164, 4:125, 22:78). Thus he was neither an introducer of Islam, nor he has transformed it by bringing anything fundamentally new in ‘religion’ (46:9).

For instance, all the traditional rituals of Islam, while formally introduced by Abraham (16:123), were all practiced by other pre-Muhammad prophets and their followers (21:73). There was nothing unique that occurred with them when they were picked up and practiced by the Prophet himself. Nothing significant was added to or subtracted from them.

This explains why, during or before the revelation of the Quran, these classical rituals and duties of Abrahamic tradition, including sala, zaka, siyam and hajj – with or without some distortion – were well known to the religious people of Mecca as well as to the Jews of Medina.

This becomes evident when we observe that the Quran, which constantly describes Islam as the creed of Abraham (‘Millat Ibraheem’; 2:120, 2:130, 2:135, 3:95, 4:125, 6:161, 12:37, 12:38,16:123, 22:78), smartly uses these terms in the language of the local Arabs without requiring to further explain to them:

(Abraham prayed:) Our Sustainer, and let us submit to You and from our progeny a community submitting to You, and show us our rites, and forgive us; You are the Forgiving, the Merciful.” 2:128

We made them leaders who guided by Our command, and We inspired them to do good works and to keep up prayer (sala) and to practise charity (zaka), and they were in service to Us. 21:73

O you who acknowledge, fasting (siyam) is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you that perhaps you may be conscious. 2:183

And We appointed to Abraham the site of the temple, saying: Do not set up anyone with Me, and purify My Temple for those who will visit, and those who will stand, and those who will bow and prostrate.

And call out to people with the pilgrimage (hajj), they will come to you walking and on every transport, they will come from every far-away point. 22:26-27

This observation is further supported e.g. by references found in the Jewish Scriptures as well as in the Christian Bible that all the Islamic rituals – including ablution, prayer in prostration, raising the hands and saying ‘God is great’, alms, fasting and pilgrimage – were equally practiced by the biblical prophets with almost all the same details as practiced by the Prophet himself.

Here we are not rejecting the understanding of many researchers that the broader and deeper meanings of the terms sala, zaka, siyam etc in the Quran encompass multiple concepts and are not defined or restricted by their traditionally understood meanings as rituals.

‘ISLAM IN THE BIBLE’:

A study by Thomas McElwain

Interested readers may find an in-depth study on this subject in Thomas McElwain’s ‘Islam In The Bible’. We quote below a few extracts from the ‘Introduction’ of his invaluable book:

“I first came to the conclusion that the Bible might reflect Islamic features in unexpected ways through a reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. A closer look at this text will reveal how the Bible can express Islamic values even on a structural level. This passage contains the texts which the greatest numbers of Christians know by heart.

“… Some Christian sects, notably those who have descended from the Anabaptists, seem to base the core of their doctrine on this passage alone. The Sermon on the Mount is beloved by Christian and non-Christian alike. The non­religious person in Christian societies often appeals to its words. It is said that Gandhi based his practice of non­violent resistance on it. …

“The whole Sermon on the Mount implies time and again that there is only one being who is God, the one Jesus calls `Our Father’. Because we live in a world of permissive child-rearing, we fail to notice immediately that the basic relationship referred to is the relationship of submission and obedience. The God of the Sermon on the Mount is one to whom people owe submission and obedience. No trinity is mentioned at all. In no place in Matthew five to seven does Jesus even remotely suggest that he himself is God Almighty. …

“After establishing his authority on the law and the prophets, and before warning about the Day of Judgement, Jesus gives us a beautiful summary of his own teaching. Matthew six is above all the very teaching of Jesus Christ as presented in the Christian Scriptures. Anyone who truly desires to follow the faith of Jesus Christ can find the pillars of practical faith right here in this chapter. They are few and simple. …

“Islam is summed up as confession of one God, daily prayer in prostration, alms in charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. So how does Jesus sum up his faith according to the Christian Scriptures?

“When we turn to Matthew six, the first subject is cov­ered in verses one to four. We may be surprised to find that the first pillar of practice mentioned is giving alms in charity. Jesus warns us, aptly enough, to avoid hypocrisy in the giving of alms.

“When we read on, the next pillar of practice appears in verses 5-15. That second pillar is prayer. Jesus does not tell us here how to pray. All of his listeners already knew this. They knew it from the law and the prophets. They knew that Daniel prostrated himself in prayer toward the house of God morning, afternoon and evening (Daniel 6:10). They knew from the Psalms of David, called The Prayers in Hebrew, that prayer should be done at set times in the day and should be preceded by ablutions. They knew from the same Psalms that prayer should be done standing, bowing, and prostrating. They knew that prayer, according to the Psalms, included raising the hands and crying time and again, Yigdal Adonai’ or in English ‘The Lord be magni­fied’ or in Arabic `Allahu akbar’.

“What Jesus did tell the people was to avoid hypocrisy in prayer, to pray briefly and simply, and then he gave them a list of appropriate subjects for prayer. The so-called Lord’s Prayer is that list. It is not a model prayer to be repeated word for word, or the version of it given in Luke would have been identical. So the second pillar of practice mentioned in Matthew six is prayer in brevity, simplicity, and lack of hypocrisy.

“The third pillar in the practice of the faith of Jesus is found in Matthew 6:16-18. Here he mentions fasting, again with the warning that we must avoid hypocrisy. He does not tell us how to fast. But we already know how to fast, just as his listeners did. Is it the Christian fast of avoiding certain foods? No. It is a fast of total abstention from food and drink, just as Moses did on the mount (Exodus 34:28). That tradition came unbroken all the way down to Jesus, who practised it himself according to Matthew 4:1-2.

“So far Jesus has attacked hypocrisy in the practice of faith. Now he comes to an entirely different problem. In Matthew 6:16-34 we are not faced with hypocrisy, which is the plague of almsgiving in charity, prayer, and fasting. We are faced with fear and excuses. Those are the plagues of pilgrimage.

“Jesus goes straight to the problem of how to convince people to go on pilgrimage to the house of God as they should by the example of the Christian Scriptures and as they were commanded to do in the law of Moses. The first excuse he meets is, ‘Somebody might break in our house and steal our silver and gold while we are gone.’ Matthew 6:19-21. The next excuse he meets is, ‘What are we going to eat and drink on the way? And how am I going to make up the lost time from work? I have to support my family. I have to buy new clothes for the children before school starts and I don’t see how we are going to make ends meet. We can’t go on pilgrimage this year.’ Matthew 6:22-34.

“In sum, Matthew six gives in order four of the tradi­tional Islamic pillars of practice as the very core of Jesus’ message. Embedded as they are in the very structure of the passage, they suggest that other parts of the Bible might well be hiding features that may become clear only as we view them from an Islamic perspective.

“ … Judaism and Christianity share many beliefs and prac­tices, some of which are considered fundamental to Islam. Among such fundamental beliefs in common are the belief in Scripture-bearing prophets, angels, and sacred Scriptures as such. The Day of judgement is a belief common to all three traditions as well. These fundamentals are copiously represented in the Bible.”

Book review: Abdur Rab’s “Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding”

by Siraj Islam

Book review Rediscovering Genuine Islam

 
Abdur Rab’s “Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding” is, in my opinion, one of the most enlightening books of our time on original, true Islam.

It is an independent, in-depth study of the Quran by a freelance researcher, a truth-seeker who is not prejudiced – neither by any of all those spurious, stereotyped, traditional Muslim interpretations nor by any so-called ‘pro-modern’ or ‘pro-western’ bias.

This book provides many invaluable insights and explores and shares some serious wisdom underlying the divine writ, often ignored or unnoticed by many.

Unfortunately, the current so-called Islam is a distorted religion severely polluted by medieval ignorance, irrational human interference, and misinterpretations by hadiths and traditions. This pseudo-Islam has little to do with the simple rational monotheism of original, genuine Islam, preached by all messengers and freshly delivered by Muhammad through the Quran. No doubt, rediscovering the genuine Islam as incorporated in the Quran is important for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and for people of various backgrounds, particularly in this time of great turmoil.

Rab’s “Rediscovering Genuine Islam” deals with some of the most important debates about Islam in modern time. The rich plethora of its contents becomes immediately obvious when we go through the headings of its chapters: The Latest Book of God: How Does It Read?; The Central Message of the Quran: The Road to Spiritual Progress; Spiritual Evolution and Conceptions of Heaven and Hell; The Real Meaning of Prayer in the Quranic Light; The Scope of Socioeconomic Welfare Spending in the Quranic Light; The Place of Tolerance, Pluralism, and Human Rights in Islam; What Makes Us Righteous?; Marriage, Divorce , the Status of Women, and the Treatment of Slaves; Implications of the Quran’s Message for the Economic System; The Hadith is Unreliable: Earlier Hadith Criticism and Theological and Historical Tests of Hadith Authority and Authenticity 197 Annex to Chapter X: Criteria for Hadith Evaluation; The Hadith is Unreliable: The Objective Test; Epilogue: The Rise of Religious Fanaticism and The Direction For True Islamic Revival.

The central focus of this work, however, is the spiritual message of the Quran that promotes faith in God’s oneness and high moral standards as it stands for kindness, tolerance, peaceful co-existence, equality, mutual cooperation, deterring from wrong doing, honesty, and service to all humanity.

If one wants to get the whole book in a nutshell, one needs to ponder on Rab’s answer to the vital question: ‘What makes the Quran’s core message spiritual?’ Here is his answer:  “What makes the Quran’s core message spiritual? … when we come across verses in the Quran such as those that say, for example, that the Quran’s inherent purpose is to purify or civilize humankind and make it wise (62:2), or that it is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that are blind (22:46), or that turning to the East or the West is not righteousness (2:177), or that it is not the flesh or blood of sacrificed animals that reaches God (22:37), or that they think that they are deceiving God and believers; nay, they are deceiving none but themselves, but they do not realize (2:9), we cannot but conclude that the Quran’s central message for us is spiritual. We need to care about the inner meanings, the kernel and essence of things, not the outward and superficial structures and forms. We need to ask about the deeper, more fundamental, questions: Why are we here, what is the meaning and significance of our life’s existence, how can we make our life worth living, how can we make it more enriched and blissful? And so on. We need to concentrate on things that make for our real progress on earth in terms of piety, knowledge, creativity, benevolence, and real contentment and happiness.” pp. 25-26.

Many Muslims place excessive emphasis on certain rules and rituals. But they often fail to realize that these traditionally accepted forms of religious practice, even when not distorted, are only a small, superficial aspect of Islam. As a complete way of life in accordance with the natural laws, Islam is much more than that. Rab notes that the Quran prescribes several simple, relatively structured forms of worship that include salat (regular contact prayers with purpose to commemorate God), siam (fasting, abstinence programme), zakat/ sadaqa (spending in God’s way for social betterment) and hajj (pilgrimage). However, while going through a deeper interpretation of these practices, he argues that the Quran persistently lays stress on the rationality and simplicity about religion, while it calls to concentrate on the true, profound meaning of faith, which is more than mere rituals like formal prayers or fasting. Moreover, the Quran insists that the true religion, which should be based on knowledge and reasoning, is not actually rituals but submission to one God alone, expressed by all thoughts and actions in all aspects of life. It thus instructs its readers to make spirituality an essential, integral part of religion and to keep religious practice simple and free of any dogma or mystical proposition, of all self-mortification and exaggerated asceticism, and free from burden of complicated, extra rituals.

Rab notes that “It is misleading to limit the main obligatory religious duties only to five things and omit altogether so many other things of right conduct or righteousness, which have been mentioned and emphasized in the Quran. One cannot be a good Muslim without strictly observing such prescriptions of righteousness.”

The genuine Islam, according to Rab’s understanding, outlines a socio-economic order that is consistent with “the capitalist system with a socialistic overtone, i.e., with a safety-net system that adequately cares for the genuine needs of the poor and the dispossessed.” This Islam demands a socio-economic order with proper, obligatory taxation system (much more than the traditional fixed ‘zakat’) for fair distribution of wealth and social welfare, while stressing on the social responsibility of voluntary charity and caring for the deprived and the weak. While protecting conditional right to inheritance as well as conditional right to private ownership and enterprise and economic freedom, it discourages non-productive economy and asks humankind to be in harmony with nature in order to prevent wastage and environmental pollution.

Rab’s study also sheds light on the traditional Muslim confusion about the Quranic concept of ‘usury’ (riba). He observes that the Quran makes a clear distinction between ‘usury’ (riba) and ‘interest’, which are basically two very different concepts. Usury (riba) is forbidden because it exploits the needy. Interest (commercial or bank interest), on the other hand, is allowed because it is not exploitative as it is based on mutual profits, changing value of money and inflation. His observation is similar to Edip-Layth-Martha’s note on Quran 2:275: “The interest that the Quran prohibits is not the interest collected from money lent for businesses, but rather the money lent for consumption of necessities. When considered with its context, this prohibition is about usury. The Quran does not treat this subject in the context of business or trade, but in the context of the charity to the needy.” Rab argues that interest plays such a vital role in the modern trade and banking system that it is difficult to conceive a modern economy without interest in some form or other.

Rab makes some real contribution to the on-going debate ‘Islamic state or secularism?’.  He notes that, while rejecting all sorts of monarchy, oligarchy and dictatorship, the Quran promotes a political system, translatable in modern terms as parliamentary democracy, with consultation and representation in public affairs, where participation of all citizens is encouraged and facilitated. In this regard a state can get the best guidance to the right direction if it simply follows the general Quranic principle of inductive reasoning: ‘listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it’. 39:18. Thus, for decision making in political matters, a state should listen to every citizen in order to reach the best consensus out of all various opinions. Obviously, this full representation of all the members of a society – irrespective of race, religion, age, gender and socio-economic status – will then tend to spontaneously generate a fair political system: a parliamentary democracy with secularism, pluralism, equal human rights and justice for all.

Analysing various aspects of the issue, Rab puts strong emphasis on secularism. He observes: “One important requirement to safeguard and guarantee peaceful interreligious tolerance, pluralism, and basic human rights is that the state should be faith-neutral or secular. Emory University Professor and human rights activist Abdullahi An-Naim makes a powerful, ingenious case for a secular state by arguing that religious freedom itself, as mandated by the Quran, subsumes voluntary compliance on the part of individuals and rules out use of any coercive religious edict by the state. He also points out the abuses and dangers of religious edicts used by the state. … Secularism does not mean absence of, or animosity to, any religion. It simply works as a guarantor of freedom of religion to all faith followers. The same reasons why Muslim minorities in non-Muslim majority countries require full freedom to practice their religion are also applicable to non-Muslim minorities in Muslim majority countries.”

The Quran constantly declares a most clear message: Emancipate yourself and others from all forms of subjugation and exploitation – social, economic and political – and from all bondage – physical, mental and moral. This genuine, Quranic Islam, as perceived by Rab, upholds impartiality, justice and human rights. It unifies humanity by promoting gender and race equality; and stands against slavery, misogyny, patriarchy and all socio-economic inequality and injustice in a view to abolish them eventually. While standing for the oppressed, it pursues the golden-plated brazen rule of equivalence, i.e. right of retaliation within its limits, balanced with responsibility and forgiveness; and prescribes a legal Code – apparently in response to the specific needs of the time and place of its revelation – including a criminal justice system, which is flexible and which can transcend according to the guidance of reason. This genuine Islam promotes peace, while deterring the aggressive parties; insists that the entire world belongs to God and thus to all humanity; and offers far-reaching peace and co-operation among nations.

As expected from the name of the research itself, “Rediscovering Genuine Islam: The Case for a Quran-Only Understanding”, Rab derives his inferences by using the Quran as the only religious source of Islam. While rejecting Hadith as a religious authority, he argues that Islam has been misinterpreted and distorted throughout the ages by hadiths and various other man-made so-called secondary and tertiary sources.

As a major contribution to the correct understanding of the Quran, this should be a must-read book for all who are interested in gaining a short-cut access to the introduction of genuine Islam.