The Qur’an Sets People Free

Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai!  (Iqbal)

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Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai!  (Iqbal)

The fact is that for the first time in their life, the Qur’an set people free. It took human beings from the kind of chattel and personal property that the unholy alliance of the “holy” and the “unholy” men of the world had reduced them to and made them into real people – with full rights and control over their own lives except for the overarching control that God himself had over them. Islam is none of that.

Islam is life as lived by people on a day-to-day basis, in all its richness and diversity, but lived according to the guidance and laws of God Almighty. Put simply, Islam changed the way religion was viewed, understood, followed and practiced in the world.

In doing this, Islam made religion much of what it is today – a central part of human life in all its aspects. Islam took it from obscure corners of life and made it a pervasive force in all of human life. Islam then took the multiplicity of gods that human beings worshipped and paid allegiance to and reduced them to all to one God Almighty.

Islam took superstition and blind belief out of religion and made it a rational enterprise based on sound scientific principles and careful analytical reasoning.

Islam abolished priesthood and punditry in all forms and shapes and made every ordinary human being a full participant and stakeholder in his or her own religious practice and experience. Islam removed all barriers and intermediaries between God and “Man,” with the exception of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and made every human being their own priest.

If ever there was a complete religious and social revolution in the world, this was it. But Islam did not stop there. It broke more new ground and made women full partners in the practice of their own religion. Thus, Islam made the Qur’an, a real book of guidance for all, rather than present it as yet another “holy book” that was accessible only to the “holy” hierarchy of the clergy – the priests and the pundits.

With the clarion call of Iqra, a most powerful global call for universal education and empowerment that was contained in the command of the Qur’an, Islam demolished the foundations of priesthood and punditry for all time to come and erased forever all forms of tyranny over the mind of man, as Thomas Jefferson once put it.

Islam, thus, established the creed and culture of monotheism, the worship of one God, in the four corners of the world, after the Jews had been struggling with it for centuries. That means when it comes to religion and monotheism, Islam pretty much made the world what it is today. And Islam used the Qur’an to do it.

The Qur’an gave the world a new culture – the culture of Tauheed. Pre-Prophet world was a world given to the worship of any and any number of gods. The Qur’an changed all that to make the worship of one true God – monotheism – the dominant culture and belief system of the world. All this summed up in the four words of La Ilaha Illa Allah! So, that is my first illustration to show how the world since the Seventh Century on is a world made in the image of the Qur’an.

 

RELIGION: MONOTHEISM IS US!

If we knew the history of the world, we would know that this was also the core message of the teachings of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and all the other Biblical prophets, May Allah bless them all. Know that there is no God but God, says the Qur’an. Thou shall take no God besides God, commands the Old Testament. And the New Testament says that the most important commandment is: Thou shall take no God besides God. But neither the Jews nor the Christians had the worldly means to make this creed prevail in the world – the creed of La Ilaha Illa Allah! – the creed of “No God but God!”

The Jews were mostly in bondage, exile or under attack and invasion. The Christians were hunted, persecuted and on the run for more than three hundred years till Roman emperor Constantine became a convert and made Christianity the religion of the realm. Moreover, the Christians had, during this period, replaced the original monotheism of Jesus with the idea of trinity that their later leaders had developed. Thus, to the later Christians God was not one, as he was to Jesus, but three in one.

Thus, neither the Jews nor the Christians had the means or might to make “No God but God!” – La Ilaha Illa Allah! – the dominant creed and culture of the world. Only the Muslims did.

The Muslims, unlike Christians, not only had an uncompromising commitment to the message of monotheism – that Jesus, Moses and Muhammad all preached, may God love and bless them all – they also, unlike Jews, possessed the worldly wherewithal to move that message forward in the world. And that is precisely what the Muslims did. They made “No God but God!” – La Ilaha Illa Allah! – the dominant creed and culture of the world. They made monotheism a household idea. And they did so within a few short decades – with the speed of a whirlwind and with the certainty of fate. And they did so from Egypt to China and from Arabia to Spain.

 

NO ONE CAN FORCE ANYONE TO BELIEVE ANYTHING

Not that, as some in this world would have us believe, they forced it down the throat of reluctant, resisting humans. Far from it! No one can really force a human being to believe or not to believe in anything. That is simply not possible.

Besides, the message of the Qur’an rang clear in their ears all the time: Laa Ikraaha Fid-Deen. It means: There is no coercion in Deen. That means, no one can or should force anyone to believe or not to believe in anything.

So, it is a total fabrication for some people to go about trumpeting the false charge that Muslims made people Muslim by force. For, they could not and they did not.

But there is no doubt that Muslims were a powerful military force – and they provided security throughout the world. And they gave the people of the world an opportunity – for the first time in their lives – to think freely and for themselves. And then to choose the kind of belief they really liked – belief that made most sense to them.

Given the opportunity, people – most of them – chose the creed and culture of No God but God – of La Ilaha Illa Allah! Given a choice, people chose Islam.

As the Qur’an puts it, they came in Allah’s Deen in waves upon waves – Yadkhuloona fee deenillahi afwaaja.

Thus, God Almighty blessed the followers of Islam with the global political, economic, cultural and military means, tools, reach and presence that enabled them to plant this central creed in the heart of humanity everywhere.

Not just 800 years of Muslim rule in Europe and not just the presence of Muslim educational, cultural and scientific institutions in that continent, but centuries of Crusades brought this creed home to Europe. It exposed Europe – in many ways for the first time – to a rich and complex culture and civilization founded on the core creed of La Ilaha Illa Allah! No God but Allah.

 

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ISLAM

Renaissance and Reformation are but stops, albeit major ones, for the stage coach of this divinely rooted civilization. They are but details, albeit significant ones, of the unfolding of the message of La Ilaha Illa Allah! – No God but God! – in Europe.

So is the martyrdom of the scientific revolutionary Copernicus and the religious reformer of Prague, Jan Huss. It was not for nothing that intellectual and “religious” dissidents of the day, including Jan Huss and Martin Luther, were vilified as speaking like Muslims.

This was one of the most powerful accusations that could be levelled against a Christian luminary at that time. It was also a most accurate one. For these people did speak the tongue and thought of the Muslims. They had in effect turned Turk!

And here is how each one of them made the teachings of the Qur’an a central part of their own message: Huss invited his fellow Christians to read the Bible – just like Islam invites people to read the Qur’an. Luther asked his fellow-faithful to put the Bible first – and not the Pope. These were Islamic teachings to the core. And they had been making waves in Europe for centuries.

The Protestant Christians of today, as well as the modern scientific community, both of them owe Islam, Muslims and the Qur’an a debt of gratitude. For, it was the Muslims who taught both groups the key elements of their new creed and culture.

Those in our own times who, for reasons of their own that I will not go into here, call for a Reformation of Islam, must take note that the entire Reformation-Renaissance ferment that Europe went through, and that spawned the modern Western civilization, was at bottom a Muslim and Islamic thing through and through. It was Islam, Muslims and the Qur’an happening to that part of the human family which until then had by and large remained innocent of higher learning, culture and religious and scientific freedom and independence.

It was not entirely coincidental that the very day the last Muslim remnants were forced out of Granada was also the day when Christopher Columbus set sail on his voyage across the Atlantic. Islam and Muslims and the Qur’an had prepared and equipped the Spaniards for their great big voyage to the new world.