CHAPTER 5: LA ILAHA ILLA ALLAH-THE WAY OF LIFE OF ISLAM
‘La llaha illa Allah”-“There is no deity except Allah” – is the first part the Islamic declaration of faith, meaning that there is no one to be worshipped except God; “Muhammadar Rasul Allah” – “Muhammad is the Messenger of God; – is the second part, meaning that this worship is to be carried out according to the teaching of the Prophet – peace be on him.
A believing Muslim is one into whose heart this declaration has penetrated completely, as the other pillars of Islam and articles of faith are derivatives of it. Thus, belief in angels and God’s Books and God’s Messengers and the life hereafter and al-Qadr (the measurement of good and evil), and al-Salat (prayers), al-Siyam (fasting), al-Zakat (poor-due) and al-Hajj (pilgrimage), and the limits set by God of permissable and forbidden things, human affairs, laws, Islamic moral teachings, and so on, are all based on the foundation of worship of God, and the source of all these teachings is the person of the Prophet- peace be on him -through whom God has revealed to us.
A Muslim community is that which is a practical interpretation of the declaration of faith and all its characteristics; and the society which does not translate into practice this faith and its characteristics is not Muslim.
Thus the declaration of faith provides the foundation for a complete system of life for the Muslim community in all its details. This way of life cannot come into being without securing this foundation first. Similarly, if the system of life is constructed on some other foundation, or if other sources are mixed with this foundation, then that community cannot be considered Islamic. God says:
“The command belongs to God alone. He commands you not to worship anyone except Him. This is the right way of life.” (12:40)
“Whoever obeys the Prophet obeys God” ( 4:80 )
This concise and decisive declaration guides us in the basic questions of our religion and in its practical movement. First, it guides us to the nature of the Muslim community; second, it shows us the method of constructing such a community; third, it tells us how to confront jahili societies; and fourth, it determines the method by which Islam changes the conditions of human life. All these problems have always been and will remain of great importance in the various stages of the Islamic movement.
The distinctive feature of a Muslim community is this: that in all its affairs it is based on worship of God alone. The declaration of faith expresses this principle and determines its character; in beliefs, in devotional acts, and in rules and regulations this declaration takes a concrete form.
A person who does not believe in the oneness of God does not worship God alone.
“Allah commands you not to take two gods. God is only One; hence fear Me. Whatever is in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him and follows His way. Will you the fear anyone other than God?” (16: 51-52)
Anyone who performs devotional acts before someone other than God – in addition to Him or exclusively – does not worship God alone.
“Say, my Salat (prayers), my acts of devotion, my life and my death, are for the Sustainer of the Worlds; He has no associate. I have been commanded this, and I am the foremost to be among the submitters.” (6: 162-163)
Anyone who derives laws from a source other than God, in a way other than what He taught us through the Prophet -peace be on him-does not worship God alone.
“Are there associates of God who have made permissible for them in their religion that which God has not permitted?” (42:21)
“Whatever the Prophet gives you, accept it, and whatever he prohibits you, refrain from it.” (59:7)
This is the Muslim society. In this society, the beliefs and ideas of individuals, their devotional acts and religious observances, and their social system and their laws, are all based on submission to God alone. If this attitude is eliminated from any of these aspects, the whole of Islam is eliminated, as the first pillar of Islam-that is, the declaration, ‘there is no deity except God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’ – becomes eliminated.
Thus, and only thus, can this group become a Muslim group and the community which it organizes be Muslim. Before adopting this purity of attitude no group can be a Muslim group, and before organizing its system of life on this principle no society can be a Muslim society. The reason for this is that the first principle on which Islam is based, that is “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadar Rasul Allah”, is not established in respect to both its parts.
It is necessary, therefore, before thinking of establishing the Islamic social system and organizing a Muslim community, that one should give attention to purifying the hearts of people from the worship of anyone other than God, in the way we have described above. Only those whose hearts are so purified will come together to make a group, and only such a group of people, whose beliefs and concepts, whose devotional acts and laws, are completely free of servitude to anyone other than God can start a Muslim community. Anyone who wants to live an Islamic life will automatically enter into this community, and his belief, his acts of worship and the laws which he follows, will also be purified for God alone. In other words, he will be an embodiment of “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadar Rasul Allah”.
This was the manner in which the first Muslim group was formed which eventually developed into the first Muslim community. This is the only way in which any Muslim group is started and a Muslim community comes into being.
A Muslim community can come into existence only when individuals and groups of people reject servitude to anyone except God-in addition to Him or exclusively-and come into submission to God, Who has no associates, and decide that they will organize their scheme or life on the basis of this submission. From this a new community is born, emerging from within the old jahili society, which immediately confronts it with a new belief and a new way of life based on this belief, presenting a concrete embodiment of the creed, “There is no deity except God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God”.
The old jahili society may become submerged into the new Islamic society or it may not, and it may make peace with the Muslim society or may fight it. However, history tells us that the jahili society chooses to fight and not to make peace, attacking the vanguard of Islam at its very inception, whether it be a few individuals or whether it be groups, and even after this vanguard has become a well-established community. From Noah to Muhammad -peace be on them-without exception, this has been the course of events at every Islamic
It is clear, then, that a Muslim community cannot be formed or continue to exist until it attains sufficient power to confront the existing jahili society. This power must be at all levels; that is to say, the power of belief and concept, the power of training and moral character, the power to organize and sustain a community, and such physical power as is necessary, if not to dominate, at least to hold itself against the onslaught of the Jahili society.
But what is the jahili society, and by what method does Islam confront it?
The jahili society is any society other than the Muslim society; and if we want a more specific definition, we may say that any society is a jahili society which does not dedicate itself to submission to God alone, in its beliefs and ideas in its observances of worship, and in its legal regulations.
According to this definition, all the societies existing in the world today are jahili.
Included among these is the communist society, first because it denies the existence of God Most High and believes that the universe was created by ‘matter’ or by ‘nature’, while all man’s activities and his history has been created by ‘economics or ‘the means of production’; second, because the way of life it adopts is based on submission to the Communist Party and not to God. A proof of this is that in all communist countries the Communist Party has full control and leadership Furthermore, the practical consequence of this ideology is that the basic needs of human beings are considered identical with those of animals, that is food and drink, clothing, shelter and sex. It deprives people of their spiritual needs, which differentiate human beings from animals. Foremost among these is belief in God and the freedom to adopt and to proclaim this faith. Similarly, it deprives people of their freedom to express individuality, which is a very special human characteristic. The individuality of a person is expressed in various ways, such as private property, the choice of work and the attainment of specialization in work, and expression in various art forms; and it distinguishes him from animals or from machines. The communist ideology and the communist system reduces the human being to the level of an animal or even to the level of a machine.
All idolatrous societies are also among the jahili societies. Such societies are found in India, Japan, the Philippines and Africa. Their Jahili character consists first of the fact that they believe in other gods besides God, in addition to Him or without Him; second, they have constructed an elaborate system of devotional acts to propitiate these deities. Similarly, the laws and regulations which they follow are derived from sources other than God and His Law, whether these sources be priests or astrologers or magicians, the elders of the nation, or the secular institutions which formulate laws without regard to the Law of God, and which attain absolute authority in the name of the nation or a party or on some other basis, while absolute authority belongs to God alone, and this can be brought into action only in the way shown to us by the Prophets of God.
All Jewish and Christian societies today are also jahili societies. They have distorted the original beliefs and ascribe certain attributes of God to other beings. This association with God has taken many forms, such as the Sonship of God or the Trinity, sometimes it is expressed in a concept of God which is remote from the true reality of God.
“The Jews say: Ezra is the Son of God’, and the Christians say: “the Messiah is the Son of God.’ These are mere sayings from their mouths, following those who preceded them and disbelieved. God will assail them; how they are perverted.” (9:30)
“They rejected the truth who said; ‘God is the third of three’. Indeed, God is but One God. If they do not desist from what they say, the disbelievers among them will be met with a painful chastisement’ (5:73)
“The Jews have said: ‘God’s hand is limited in what it can do. Limited are their hands, and they are cursed for what they have said. Indeed, His hands are open; he expends how He wills.” (5 :64)
“The Jews and Christians say: ‘We are God’s children and His favorites.’ Say: ‘Why then does He punish you for your offences? In fact, you are people just like others.” (5:18)
These societies are Jahili also because their forms of worship their customs and manners are derived from their false and distorted beliefs. They are also jahili societies because their institutions and their laws are not based on submission to God alone. They neither accept the rule of God nor do they consider God’s commandments as the only valid basis of all laws; on the contrary, they have established assemblies of men which have absolute power to legislate laws, thus usurping the right which belongs to God alone. At the time of Revelation, the Qur’an classified them among those who associate others with God, as they had given their priests and rabbis the authority to devise laws in whatever way they pleased.
‘They have taken their rabbis and priests as lords other than God, and the Messiah, son of Mary; and they were commanded to worship none but One God. There is no god but He, glory be to Him above what they associate with Him!” (5:31)
These people did not consider their priests or rabbis as divine, nor did they worship them; but they gave them the authority to make laws, obeying laws which were made by them not permitted by God. If at that time the Qur’an called them associaters of others with God and rejectors of truth then today they are also the same, because today this authority IS not in the hands of priests and rabbis but in the hands of individuals chosen from among themselves.
Lastly, all the existing so-called ‘Muslim’ societies are also jahili societies.
We classify them among jahili societies not because they believe in other deities besides God or because they worship anyone other than God, but because their way of life is not based on submission to God alone. Although they believe In the Unity of God, still they have relegated the legislative attribute of God to others and submit to this authority, and from this authority they derive their systems, their traditions and customs, their laws, their values and standards, and almost every practice of life. God Most High says concerning rulers:
“Those who do not judge according to what God has revealed are unbelievers.” and concerning the ruled: (5:44)
“Have you not seen those who assert that they believe in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down before you, desiring to take their disputes to idols, while you were commanded to reject them?” (4:65)
“But no, by your Lord, they have not believed until they make you judge regarding their disputes, and then do not find any resentment in their hearts against your verdict, but submit in full submission.” (4:65)
Before this, God accused the Jews and Christians of committing Shirk, (association of other gods with God) and of unbelief, and of taking priests and rabbis as lords in addition to God, only because they had given certain rights and privileges to their priests and rabbis, which today those who call themselves ‘Muslims’ have given to some people among themselves. This action of the Jews and Christians was considered by God in the same category of Shirk as that of the Christians’ making Jesus into the Son of God and worshipping him. The latter is a rebellion against the Oneness of God, while the former is a rebellion against His prescribed way of life and a denial of “There is no other diety except God”.
Among Muslim societies, some openly declare their ‘secularism’ and negate all their relationships with the religion; some others pay respect to the religion only with their mouths, but in their social life they have completely abandoned it. They say that they do not believe in the ‘Unseen’ and want to construct their social system on the basis of ‘science’, as science and the Unseen are contradictory! This claim of theirs is mere ignorance, and only ignorant people can talk like this. [Refer to the discussion in Volume 7 of Fi-Thilal in explanation of the verse: “He has the keys to the Unseen; no one knows it except Him”.] There are some other societies which have given the authority of legislation to others besides God; they make whatever laws they please and then say, “This is the Shari’ah of God”. All these societies are the same in one respect, that none of them is based on submission to God alone.
After explaining these facts, the position of Islam in relation to all these jahili societies can be described in one sentence: it considers all these societies unIslamic and illegal.
Islam does not look at the labels or titles which these societies have adopted; they all have one thing in common, and that is that their way of life is not based on complete submission to God alone. In this respect they share the same characteristic with a polytheistic society, the characteristic of Jahiliyyah.
We have now come to the last of the points mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, and that point concerns the method which Islam adopts – today, tomorrow or in the remote future-in confronting actual human conditions. This method has been described in our discussion on the nature of the Muslim society, which is, in summary, that a Muslim society bases all its decisions on submission to God alone.
After defining this nature, we can immediately answer the following question: What is the principle on which human life ought to be based:-God’s religion and its system of life, or some man-made system?
Islam answers this question in a clear cut and unambiguous manner: The only principle on which the totality of human life is to be based is God’s religion and its system of life. If this principle is absent, the very first pillar of Islam – that is, bearing witness to- “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadar Rasul Allah”-will not be established nor its real influence felt. Unless this principle is accepted without any question and followed faithfully, the complete submission to God as taught by the Messenger of God – peace be on him – cannot be fulfilled.
“Whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it; whatever he forbids you, refrain from it.” (59:7)
Furthermore, Islam asks: “Do you know better, or does God?” and then answers it: “God knows and, you do not know”, and “You have been given only a little of the (true) knowledge”.
The One Who knows, Who has created man, and Who is his Sustainer must be the Ruler, and His religion ought to be the way of life, and man should return to Him for guidance. As far as man-made theories and religions are concerned, they become outmoded and distorted, as they are based on the knowledge of men-those who do not know, and to whom only a little of the true knowledge is given.
God’s religion is not a maze nor is its way of life a fluid thing, as the second part of the declaration of faith, “Muhammad is the Messenger of God”, clearly limits it. It is bounded by those principles which have come from the Messenger of God – peace be on him. If there is a clear text available from the Qur’an or from him, then that will be decisive and there will be no room for Ijtihad (using one’s judgement). If no such clear judgement is available, then the time comes for Ijtihad – and that according to well-defined principles which are consistent with God’s religion and not merely following opinions or desires.
“If you have difference of opinion concerning something, refer to God and His Messenger.” (4:59)
The principles of Ijtihad and deduction are well known and there is no vagueness or looseness in them. No one is allowed to devise a law and say that it is according to the Law of God unless it is declared that God is the Legislator, and that the source of authority is God Himself and not some nation or party or individual, and a sincere attempt is made to find out the will of God through reference to His Book and the teachings of His Messenger-peace be on him. But this right cannot be delegated to a person or persons who want to establish authority by taking the name of God, as was the case in Europe under the guise of ‘the Church’. There is no ‘Church’ in Islam; no one can speak in the name of God except His Messenger-peace be on him. There are clear injunctions which define the limits of the Divine Law, the Shari’ah.
“Al-din lil-waq’i” (“the religion is for living”) is a statement which is quite misunderstood and which is being used in a wrong sense. Certainly this religion is for living, but for what kind of life? This religion is for a life which is based on its principles, which is developed according to its methods. This life is completely harmonious with human nature and satisfies all human needs, needs which are determined only by the One Who creates and Who knows His creatures:
“Does He Who created not know His creatures? He is the All-Subtle, the All-Aware.” (67:14)
It is not the function of religion to provide justification whatever kind of life someone is leading and to bring an authority which he can use to justify his actions. Religion is to be a criterion, to approve what is good and to discard what is evil. If the whole system of life is against the religion, then its function is to abolish this system and to construct a new one. This is the meaning, according to Islam, of the saying “religion is for living”; one ought to understand this with its correct meaning.
The question may be asked, “Is not the good of mankind the criterion for solving actual problems?” But again we will raise the question which Islam raises itself, and which it answers; that is, “Do you know better, or God?” and, “God knows, and you do not know.”
The good of mankind is inherent in the Divine Laws sent down by God to the Prophet- peace be on him-which have come to us through his life. If at any time men think that their good is in going against what God has legislated, then first of all, they are deluded in their thinking.
“they follow but speculation and their own desires, although guidance has come to them from their Sustainer. Or shall man have whatever he fancies? And to God belongs the first and the last.” (53: 23-25)
Second, they are unbelievers. It is not possible for a person to declare that in his opinion good lies in going against what God has legislated, and simultaneously be a follower of this religion, or be considered its scholar, even for a single moment.