Islamic Civilization as depicted in the Quran

Taken from "The Life of Muhammad"  by Muhammad Husayn Haykal,

translated by Dr. Ismail Ragi A. al Faruqi

Islamic and Western Civilizations

Muhammad left a great spiritual legacy which enveloped the world in its light and guided man's civilization throughout many centuries, a legacy which will envelop the world again and guide man's civilization once more until the light of God has filled the universe. The legacy of Muhammad had such great effect in the past and will have great or greater effect in the future precisely because Muhammad established the religion of truth and laid the foundation of the only civilization which guarantees the happiness and felicity of man. The religion which Muhammad conveyed and the civilization which he established at his Lord's command for the benefit of mankind are inseparable from each other. Islamic civilization has been raised on a foundation of science and rationalism, and that is the same foundation on which western civilization of today is based. Moreover, Islam as a religion has based itself on personalist thinking and intentional logic. The relation between religion and its propositions on the one hand, and civilization and its foundation on the other, is binding and firm. Islam links metaphysical thought and personal feelings with the rules of logic and the precepts of science, with a bond that all Muslims must discover and grasp if they are to remain Muslims. From this aspect, the civilization of Islam is radically different from that of western civilization which dominates the world today. The two are different in their description of life as well as the foundation on which they base such description. The difference between the two civilizations is so essential that they have developed in ways which are radically contradictory to each other.

The West and the Struggle between Church and State

The difference is due to a number of historical causes to which we have alluded in the prefaces to the first and second editions of this work. In western Christendom, the continuing struggle between the religious and secular powers, or-to use the contemporary idiom-between church and state, led to their separation and to the establishment of the state upon the denial of the power of the church. The struggle to which this will to power led has left deep effects upon the whole of western thought. The first of these effects was the separation of human feeling and reasoning from the logic of absolute reason and the findings of positive science based on sensory observation and evidence.

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Surely the guilty shall not prosper!

 

إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ 

 

The Qur'anic term falah (prosperity, success) used in the above verse (last part of verse 10:17) has been understood by some to signify such things as longevity, worldly prosperity and other worldly attainments. Under this false impression, they tend to believe that if a claimant to prophethood attains material prosperity and longevity or if his message is spread around, then he ought to be considered a genuine Prophet because he has indeed attained 'prosperity'. Had he been an impostor, it is argued, he would soon have been assassinated, or would have starved to death, and, in any case, his message would not have spread around. Such an absurd line of argument can only be pursued by those who are altogether ignorant of the concept of falah (prosperity) as envisaged in the Qur'an, who are unaware of God's law of respite regarding evil-doers, and who are altogether unappreciative of the special meaning in which the term has been employed in the present context.
In order to fully understand what is meant by saying that 'the guilty shall not prosper', a number of things ought to be borne in mind. In the first place, the Qur'anic statement that "the guilty shall not prosper' is not made with a view to providing a yardstick that might be applied by people so as to determine the truth or falsity of the claimants of prophethood. The verse does not seek to stress that all those who 'prosper' after claiming to be a Prophet are truly Prophets, and that those who do not prosper after making such a claim are not so. The point of emphasis here is altogether different. Here the Prophet (peace be on him) is being made to say that since he knows fully that those guilty of inventing lies against Allah could not prosper, he would not dare make any claim to prophethood if such a claim was false.
On the other hand, the Prophet (peace be on him) also knew that the unbelievers were guilty of rejecting the true signs of God and of declaring a true Prophet of God to be an impostor. In view of that monstrous guilt, it was quite apparent to the Prophet (peace be on him) that they would not prosper.
Moreover, the Qur'anic term falah (prosperity, success) has not been used in the limited sense of worldly success. Rather, it denotes that enduring success which admits of no failure regardless of whether one is able to achieve success in the present phase of one's existence or not. it is quite possible that someone who calls people to falsehood might enjoy life and nourish in a worldly sense, and he might even be able to attain a substantial following for his message. But this is not true prosperity or success; rather it constitutes total loss and failure. Contrarily, it is also possible that someone who calls people to the truth might be exposed to much persecution and be overwhelmed by pain and suffering. It is possible that even before he is able to create any significant following, he is continually subjected to persecution and torture. In the Qur'anic view, such an apparently tragic end constitutes the very zenith of such a person's success rather than his failure.
Moreover, it should be remembered that it has been amply elucidated in the Qur'an that God does not punish evil-doers instantly: that He rather grants them a fair opportunity to mend their ways. Not only that, if the evil-doers misuse the respite granted by God to perpetrate further wrongs, they are sometimes granted an even further respite. In fact, at times a variety of worldly favours are bestowed upon such evil-doers in order that the potential for wickedness inherent in them might be fully exposed by their actions, proving that they do indeed deserve a very severe punishment. Hence, if an impostor continues to enjoy periods of respite and if worldly favours are lavished upon him this should not in any way give rise to the notion that he is on the right path.
In the same way as God grants respite to other evil-doers. He also grants respite to impostors. There are no grounds whatsoever for believing that the respite granted to other evil-doers would not be granted to those impostors who lay false claim to prophethood. We may well call to mind that Satan himself has been granted a respite until Doomsday, It has never been indicated that although Satan is granted a free hand to misguide human beings, as soon as he throws up an impostor claiming prophethood such a venture is instantly nipped in the bud.
In order to refute the view expressed above it is possible that someone may refer to the following verse of the Qur'an: Now if he [i.e. Muhammad] would have made up, ascribed some sayings to Us, We would indeed have seized him by the right hand, and then indeed would have cut his life-vein (al-Haqqah 69: 44-6).
Even a little reflection makes it obvious that the verse in question does not contradict the view we have expressed above. For, what the present verse says relates to a principle which God follows in dealing with true Prophets. Were any such Prophet to falsely claim something to be a revelation from God, he would instantly be seized by God's wrath. To argue to the contrary that all those who are not seized by God's wrath are necessarily genuine Prophets is simply a logical fallacy devoid of any justification. For the threat of instant Divine wrath embodied in this verse is applicable only to true Prophets, and not to impostors who, like other evil-doers, are granted a respite.
This can be well understood if we bear in mind the disciplinary rules laid down by different governments for their officials. It is obvious that those rules are not enforced in respect of ordinary citizens. Were the latter to lay any false claim to being a government official, he would be subjected to the normal rules of the criminal code relating to the conviction of those who are guilty of fraud rather than to the disciplinary rules meant for government officials. Under this analogy, an impostor who claims to be a Prophet, would be dealt with by God along with other evil-doers who commit evil, and who, as we know, are not necessarily punished immediately.
In any case, as we have pointed out earlier, the verses quoted above were not revealed so as to provide the criterion to judge the truth of anyone who lays claim to prophethood. This verse should not be considered to mean that if a celestial hand stretches forth to cut off the life-vein of a claimant to prophethood, such a person is an impostor; and if that does not happen, he is a genuine Prophet. Such a weird criterion would have been needed only if no other means were available to judge the genuineness of a claimant to prophethood. But as things stand, a Prophet is known by his character, by his work, and by the contents of his message. (Tafheemul Quran)

A Letter to Chosroes, Emperor of Persia

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“In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allâh to Chosroes, king of Persia.
Peace be upon him who follows true guidance, believes in Allâh and His Messenger and testifies that there is no god but Allâh Alone with no associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. I invite you to accept the religion of Allâh. I am the Messenger of Allâh sent to all people in order that I may infuse fear of Allâh in every living person, and that the charge may be proved against those who reject the Truth. Accept Islam as your religion so that you may live in security, otherwise, you will be responsible for all the sins of the Magians.”

‘Abdullah bin Hudhafa As-Sahmi was chosen to carry the letter. Abdullah got his camel ready and bade farewell to his wife and son. He set out, alone, and traversed mountains and valleys until he reached the land of the Persians.

He sought permission to enter into the king's presence informing the guards of the letter he was carrying. Khusraw Parvez thereupon ordered his audience chamber to be made ready and summoned his prominent aides. When they had assembled he gave permission for Abdullah to enter.

Abdullah entered and saw the Persian potentate dressed in delicate, flowing robes and wearing a great, neatly arranged turban. On Abdullah was the plain, coarse clothes of the bedouin. His head though was held high and his feet were firm. The honor of Islam burned fiercely in his breast and the power of faith pulsated in his heart.

As soon as Khusraw Parvez saw him approaching he signalled to one of his men to take the letter from his hand.

"No," said Abdullah. 'The Prophet commanded me to hand over this letter to you directly and I shall not go against a command of the Messenger of God."

"Let him come near to me," Khusraw said to his guards and Abdullah went forward and handed over the letter. Khusraw then called an Arab clerk who originally came from Hira and ordered him to open the letter in his presence and read its contents. He began reading:

"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Khusraw the ruler of Persia. Peace on whoever follows the guidance . . ."

Khusraw only heard this much of the letter when the fire of anger burst within him. His face became red and he began to perspire around the neck. He snatched the letter from the clerk's hand and began tearing it to pieces without knowing what else it contained and shouted, "Does he dare to write to me like this, he who is my slave". He was angry that the Prophet had not given him precedence in his letter. He then commanded Abdullah to be expelled from his assembly.

Abdullah was taken away, not knowing what would happen to him. Would he be killed or would he be set free? But he did not want to wait to find out. He said, "By God, I don't care what happens to me after the letter of the Prophet has been so badly treated." He managed to get to his camel and rode off.

When Khusraw's anger had subsided he commanded that Abdullah be brought before him. But Abdullah was nowhere to be found. They searched for him all the way to the Arabian peninsula but found that he had gone ahead.

Back in Madinah, Abdullah told the Prophet how Khusraw had torn his letter to pieces and the Prophet's only reply was, "May God tear up his kingdom".

Meanwhile, Khusraw wrote to Badhan, his deputy in the Yemen, to send two strong men to "that man who has appeared in the Hijaz" with orders to bring him to Persia.

Badhan dispatched two of his strongest men to the Prophet and gave them a letter to him in which he was ordered to go with the two men to meet Khusraw without delay. Badhan also asked the two men to get whatever information they could on the Prophet and to study his message closely.

The men set out, moving very quickly. At Taif they met some Quraysh traders and asked them about Muhammad. "He is in Yathrib," they said and they went on to Makkah feeling extremely happy. This was good news for them and they went around telling other Quraysh, "You will be pleased. Khusraw is out to get Muhammad and you will be rid of his evil."

The two men meanwhile made straight for Madinah where they met the Prophet, handed him the letter of Badhan and said to him, "The king of kings, Khusraw, has written to our ruler Badhan to send his men to get you. We have come to take you with us. If you come willingly, Khusraw has said that it will be good for you and he will spare you any punishment. If you refuse, you will know the power of his punishment. He has power to destroy you and your people."

The Prophet smiled and said to them, "Go back to your mounts today and return tomorrow."

On the following day, they came to the Prophet and said to him, "Are you prepared to go with us to meet Khusraw?"

"You shall not meet Khusraw after today," replied the Prophet. "God has killed him and his son Shirwaih has taken his place on such a night and on such a month."

The two men stared in the face of the Prophet. They were completely dumbfounded.

"Do you know what you are saying?" they asked. "Shall we write about this to Badhan?"

"Yes," replied the Prophet, "and say to him that my religion has informed me about what has happened to the Kingdom of Khusraw and that if he should become Muslim, I would appoint him ruler over what he now controls".

The two men returned to the Yemen and told Badhan what had happened. Badhan said, "If what Muhammad has said is true, then he is a Prophet. If not then we shall see what happens to him."

Not long afterwards a letter from Shirwaih came to Badhan in which he said, "I killed Khusraw because of his tyranny against our people. He regarded as lawful the killing of leaders, the capturing of their women and the expropriating of their wealth. When this my letter reaches you, take the allegiance of whoever is with you on my behalf."

As soon as Badhan had read Shirwaih's letter, he threw it aside and announced his entry into Islam. The Persians with him in the Yemen also became Muslim.

That's the story of Abdullah ibn Hudhafah's meeting with the Persian king. His meeting with the Byzantine emperor took place during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab. It too is an astonishing story.

In the nineteenth year after the Hijrah, Umar dispatched an army to fight against the Byzantine. In it was Abdullah ibn Hudhafah. News of the Muslim force reached the Byzantine emperor. He had heard of their sincerity of faith, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives in the way of God and His Prophet. He gave orders to his men to bring to him any Muslim captive they might take alive.

God willed that Abdullah ibn Hudhafah should fall captive to the Byzantines and he was brought before the Emperor. The Emperor looked at Abdullah for a long time. Suddenly he said, "I shall make a proposal to you."

"What is it?" asked Abdullah. "I suggest that you become a Christian. If you do this, you will be set free and I shall grant you a safe refuge." The prisoner's reaction was furious: "Death is preferable to me a thousand times to what you ask me to do."

"I see that you are a bold man. However, if you respond positively to what I propose to you, I will give you a share in my authority and swear you in as my aide."

The prisoner, shackled in his chains, smiled and said, "By God, if you give me all that you possess and all that the Arabs have in exchange for giving up the religion of Muhammad, I shall not do so."

"Then I shall kill you."

"Do what you want," answered Abdullah.

The emperor then had him put on a cross and ordered his soldiers to throw spears at him, first near his hands and then near his feet, all the while telling him to accept Christianity or at least give up his religion. This he refused over and over again to do.

The emperor then had him taken down from the wooden cross. He called for a great pot to be brought. This was filled with oil which was then heated under a fierce fire. He then had two other Muslim prisoners brought and had one of them thrown into the boiling oil. The prisoner's flesh sizzled and soon his bones could be seen. The emperor turned to Abdullah and invited him to Christianity.

This was the most terrible test that Abdullah had to face up till now. But he remained firm and the emperor gave up trying. He then ordered that Abdullah too be thrown into the pot. As he was being taken away he began to shed tears. The emperor thought that he had at last been broken and had him brought back to him. He once more suggested that Abdullah become a Christian but to his astonishment, Abdullah refused.

"Damn you! Why did you weep then?" shouted the emperor.

"I cried," said Abdullah, "because I said to myself 'You will now be thrown into this pot and your soul will depart'. What I really desired then was to have as many souls as the number of hairs on my body and to have all of them thrown into this pot for the sake of God."

The tyrant then said, "Will you kiss my head? I will then set you free?"

"And all the Muslim prisoners also?" asked Abdullah.

This the emperor agreed to do and Abdullah said to himself, "One of the enemies of God! I shall kiss his head and he shall set me and all other Muslim prisoners free. There can be no blame on me for doing this." He then went up to the emperor and kissed his forehead. All the Muslim prisoners were released and handed over to Abdullah.

Abdullah ibn Hudhafah eventually came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and told him what had happened. Umar was greatly pleased and when he looked at the prisoners he said, "Every Muslim has a duty to kiss the head of Abdullah ibn Khudhafah and I shall start." Umar then got up and kissed the head of Abdullah ibn Hudhafah .

Short Quotes

Prophet for all humanity

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ يُحْيِـي وَيُمِيتُ فَآمِنُواْ بِاللّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ النَّبِيِّ الأُمِّيِّ الَّذِي يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّهِ وَكَلِمَاتِهِ وَاتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
(7:158) [Say, O Muhammad]: 'O men! I am Allah's Messenger to you all - of Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no god but He. He grants life and deals death. Have faith then, in Allah and in His Messenger, the ummi Prophet who believes in Allah and His words; and follow him so that you may be guided aright.'