Universal Islamic Teachings
Islamic teachings cover the entire human life. On the whole, they are divided into two parts:
1. Man's relation with Allah
2. Man's relation with man
Acts of Worship and Adoration
In acts of worship, man, by turning his mind to Allah and praying to Him with his heart, tries to make his soul transcend the material world. He tries to purge it of the impurities of sin and to cultivate high human qualities within himself. He seeks the help of Allah, the Majestic and Almighty to overcome the causes of despair and despondency, and keeps remembering Him to maintain his own sense of responsibility towards Him. The Holy Quran says:
“And keep up prayer for my remembrance.” Hence it is evident that it is the worshipper himself whom the benefit of all acts of worship goes.
Instructional Effect of Worship
Acts of worship are performed with particular attention and certain formalities. Allah does not require our worship. It is we, who through His worship and adoration obtain great moral and instructional benefits.
According to the well-known scientist, Alexis Carrel, when it is not possible to find any logical words to infuse hope, it is worship and prayer which generate a feeling of trust and enable man to face the complex problems of life with confidence. This feeling can manifest itself in everybody.
Worship leaves a definite mark on habits and manners, and for that purpose we must perform acts of worship regularly.
The societies which have killed the spirit of worship, usually are not safe from corruption and decay.
The effects of worship and adoration are so quick and wonderful that their manifestation can be felt physically.
According to the same scientist, the result of adoration can be established scientifically also. Acts of worship affect not only emotional, but also physical conditions and sometimes even heal bodily ailments in a few moments or a few days. Islamic acts of worship are very simple and easy to perform. There are ample facilities for the sick and the weak.
It is worth-noting that Islamic acts of worship, besides their emotional, psychological and moral effects, which have an individual aspect, produce remarkable social effects also.
Prayer which is one of the most important Islamic acts of worship and is performed five times every day and night with great simplicity and devotion, produces very significant moral and practical effects in strengthening the spirit of faith and purging worshippers' head and heart of the impurities of sin. As one of its conditions is cleanliness, it enjoins upon every Muslim to keep his body and dress always clean and tidy.
As the dress of the person performing prayer and the place where he is performing it must not have been acquired by unlawful means, it teaches man not to wrongfully encroach upon other's property or to misappropriate it. As prayer is to be performed at the appointed timings, it teaches discipline and punctuality, and accustoms man to early rising which is the secret of the success of many world personalities.
We know that it is preferable to perform prayer in congregation at which all stand in a row without any distinction before Allah and carry out the significant and enthralling ritual in a brotherly manner . Congregational prayer is a lesson in equality, fraternity, harmony and unity.
Fasting is another Islamic act of worship, which teaches self-control and resistance to passion.
From the social point of view, it induces people to show practical sympathy to the deprived and the starving. Moreover, from the point of view of health and hygiene, its curative and preventive value cannot be denied. It cleanses the bodily system internally and shakes off the unconsumed food material which usually takes the form of surplus fat and over weight, and become the cause of many diseases and discomforts. Fasting is a good precautionary measure against the incidence of a number of diseases. It has curative value too.
The holding of a great conference of world Muslims is another masterpiece of the Islamic teachings in respect of worship. The ceremonies of pilgrimage are so exciting, pure and interwoven with fraternity and equality that they deeply impress everyone without any exception.
This gathering in which even now every year more than a million Muslims from all quarters of the world take part, affords an opportunity to the people of all races, color, languages and nationalities to meet on a common ground without any discrimination. Its ceremonies take a man out of his material shell which is marked with harshness and antagonism, and lifts him to an atmosphere full of devotion and virtue. They soften the emotions and enliven the feelings.
The Hajj gatherings also serve the purpose of a national conference on a world level and contribute to Muslim homogeneity, both political and economic. They serve as a unifying force and a common bond among the Muslims belonging to diverse social segments, and provide them an opportunity to meet together and exchange ideas. A study of all acts of worship and devotion in Islam will show that everyone of them has both moral and social aspects. This confirms what we said earlier that the benefit of all our acts of worship goes to ourselves.
Man's Relation with Other Men
This part of Islamic teachings includes all social questions. Islam with its distinctive system, teaches its adherents what they should be, how they should live and how they should discharge their duties to society.
The rights which a Muslim is enjoined upon to respect are very wide and varied. They extend from the rights of the teachers, of parents, of friends and neighbors, of brothers in religion, of fellow human beings, to the rights of the animals etc .
From the Islamic point of view man, being an organ of the social body, has so much importance that nothing can be equal to his life and blood. The Holy Quran says: “He who killed any person, unless it be a person guilty of man slaughter or of spreading chaos in the land, should be looked upon as though he had slain all mankind, and he who saved the life of any person, should be regarded as though he had given life to all mankind.”
There is no doubt that in view of the homogeneity of all the organs of the body of a human society, the loss of one individual effects the whole society and thus in a way, the individual and the society become identical.
The Holy Prophet has said that all the faithful are the organs of one body. If one organ suffers pain all other organs feel uneasy.
The celebrated poet, Saadi Shirazi, was inspired by this very Prophetic saying when he said in. his well-known couplet that all human beings are the organs of one another.
As we know, in Islam there is no problem of race, color or geographical region. It is possible that all human societies on the basis of adherence to a common ideology (Faith in Allah and the prophets and adherence to good deeds) set up a world government with one law and one policy in which all racial and geographical units may be submerged.
Relations of Muslims with Other People
Here again Islamic teachings have two aspects:
1. To preserve Muslim Identity.
2. To establish peaceful relation with the non- Muslims.
With a view to maintaining the independence and solidarity of the Muslim society, arrangements have been made to save the Muslims from being merged in non-Muslim societies and to protect them against all alien influences in their vital affairs. Hence instructions have been given that the Muslims must not completely rely on non-Muslims and must not disclose their secrets to them. The Holy Quran says ; “O Believers, do not take into your confidence any other than the people of your own community. For they never miss any opportunity for exploiting any weakness of yours.”
Islam instructs the Muslims not to make friends with those who are hostile to Islam, unless they change their policy and give up their hostile attitude.
The Holy Quran says: “You will not find people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, making love with those who fight Allah and His Messenger. Even though the latter be their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their relations.”
At the same time, with a view to enabling the Muslims to live as a powerful and active world unit and to be benefited by the positive aspects of others in a healthy atmosphere of mutual respect, Islam allows the Muslims to pursue a policy of peaceful co-existence with all people of the book (followers of the previous prophets). It even enjoins upon Muslims to protect them as a minority in Muslim countries and to respect their rights so long as they do not commit a crime.
Such minorities are known in Islamic jurisprudence as Ahl al-Zimmah (people of covenant). Any how, there are certain conditions which they have to observe strictly.
If the interests of the Muslims so demand, they can enter into treaties with the non-Muslims provided these treaties do not in any way endanger their self respect, independence and interests. The Muslims are bound to strictly adhere to the treaties concluded by them and are not allowed to violate them unless they are violated first by the other party. Adherence to treaties and agreements is a general rule of Islam. It is equally applicable in respect of both Muslims and non-Muslims. Violation of a treaty on the pretext that the other party is not Muslim is not allowed.
Islam Enjoins Universal Vigil
Every Muslim has two obligatory duties:
1. To invite others to do the right
2. To combat corruption
These two duties, which are known in Islamic jurisprudence as ‘Amr bil-Maruf’(exhortation to do good) and 'Nahy anil-Munkar' (restraint from doing evil) enjoin upon all Muslims to keep a constant watch on the society. If they find anybody deviating from the path of justice and truth, they must invite him to the right path and if they find anybody committing a crime or sin, they must restrain him from doing so.
This rule is considered to be an important law of Islam. In this respect, the Holy Quran says:
“You are the best community which has been raised for the guidance of mankind. You exhort the people to do good and restrain them from doing evil.”
Imam Sadiq (A) has said :
“He who does not fight corruption, neither with his hand nor with his tongue or heart is pseudo alive.”
In fact, the performances of these two important duties is one of the obligations of collective life. In collective living, the happiness and misery of each member of the society is shared by all others and hence they cannot be indifferent to the conduct of fellow members.
Islam asks every Muslim to keep his social spirit fully alive and always have an eye on collective interests. It wants every individual to be responsible to all other members of the society and wants the society to be responsible to all the individuals. All Muslims should criticize and reform each other and play their role in the formation of a healthy society.