The Gifts of Religion to Society
His Eminence’s Lecture at the meeting of
The Religious Summit
5–7 August 1997
24 December 1998
In The Name of God,
the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise be to God, the Lord of all the worlds, and may His best blessings and peace be upon our master Prophet Muhammad, upon all of God’s prophets and messengers and upon their families and followers until the Day of Judgment.
I thank the corporation that has helped to hold this meeting — the summit meeting and religious gathering — on Mount Hiei to pray for peace. I greet all my brothers and sisters, the scholars and clergymen, who have responded to this invitation to discuss all the ways to rectify the situation for humankind in the twenty-first century. I have been asked to talk about the gifts of religion to society. I say that these gifts have several levels: the family, the national and the international community.
With respect to the family, the first thing that religion contributes is that it brings up the family members with high morals, and a high sense of sacrifice and self-denial for the sake of others. This is in compliance with Prophet Muhammad’s tradition, which says: ‘All creatures are God’s dependants, and the ones most loved by Him are the ones most helpful to His dependants.’ Musnad Al-Bazzar.
Building the foundation of a family will not be perfect unless humans believe in God the Creator, Who has given them the abilities to hear, see and think in order to know Him through the universal signs that surround them. This complies with Almighty God’s words:
“Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, are signs for people of understanding.” T.Q., 3:190.
Almighty God commands humans to purify their hearts and souls. He says:
“Whoever purifies it (the soul) is truly successful.” T.Q., 91:9.
This purification of heart and soul can be achieved by performing the five daily prayers. Almighty God says:
“Recite what has been revealed to you of the Scripture and establish regular prayer, for prayer restrains from indecency and evil.” T.Q., 29:45.
God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘If there were a river that passed by the door of any person, and he took a bath in it five times a day, would any dirt remain on him?’ They said, ‘No dirt would remain on him.’ The Prophet (pbuh) added, ‘That is the likeness of the five prayers, with which God abolishes evil deeds.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
One can also achieve the purification of heart and soul through meditating on God’s amazing creation and remembering Him all the time. This is clear in God’s words:
“Those who remember God while standing, sitting and reclining, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth, saying: ‘Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose! Glory be to you (exalted are you above all defects)! Save us from the torment of Hell-Fire!’” T.Q., 3:191.
Thus, a person becomes as close to his Creator as an angel is, having no evil tendencies such as envy, hatred, greed, arrogance or egotism. This would make a person love for others what he loves for himself as the Prophet (pbuh) stated: ‘None of you is a true believer unless he wishes for others what he wishes for himself.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Moreover, human beings can reach a higher level, which is to prefer others over themselves to the extent that they are content to go to bed hungry in order to feed other people. Almighty God expresses this meaning eloquently, and briefly, when He says:
“And they prefer [others] to themselves, even if it means hardship for them. Whoever is saved from the miserliness of his own soul, such are the successful.” T.Q., 59:9.
Indeed, I believe that unless peace is accomplished between a human being and his Lord, peace will never be achieved among human beings. In that case, humans will live evilly and sinfully and will fear their fellow humans more than the beasts of the jungle. They will only be afraid of the police and prisons, but when the sword of law is absent, corruption and oppression will prevail everywhere.
On this issue, Muhammad Iqbal says, ‘If faith is lost, there will be no security. No happy life for those who do not follow faith. When anyone is content to lead a lifestyle void of faith, they bring it to total ruin.’
Therefore, God sent prophets and messengers and made them symbols of purity, sanctity and knowledge so that they would be the role models for humans. Almighty God says:
“Those (prophets and messengers) are the ones whom God guided, so follow their guidance.” T.Q., 6:90.
He also says:
“Verily, you have in God’s Messenger an excellent example for anyone whose hope is in God and the Last Day, and who remembers God a lot.” T.Q., 33:21.
Almighty God also provided them with His scriptures and messages so that they could teach people and guide them to the happiness of soul and body, in this world and the hereafter, using the shortest way. Almighty God says:
“Indeed, We sent our messengers with clear proofs and sent the scriptures and the balance [between right and wrong] with them so that people may conduct themselves with equity.” T.Q., 57:25.
He also says:
“It is He who reveals to His servant (Muhammad) manifest signs so that he may lead you out of darkness into light. Verily, God is to you Most Kind and Merciful.” T.Q., 57:9.
Also with regard to the family, Islam raises spouses to shoulder the responsibilities of caring for each other as well as looking after their children, relatives and neighbours with love and sacrifice. A Prophetic tradition says, ‘Each one of you is a guardian and responsible for what is under your care. A man is the guardian of his family and will be asked about them [on the Day of Judgment]. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s house and will be asked about that.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Islam commands children to be dutiful to their parents by being kind and merciful to them and taking good care of them especially when the parents get old. Almighty God says:
“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them, or both of them, attain old age with you, do not say to them ‘uff’ (the slightest gesture of annoyance and impatience), nor shout at them, but address them in gracious words, and lower to them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say, ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.’” T.Q., 17:23-24.
Almighty God mentions in the Holy Qur’an that the mission of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is to extend mercy to all creatures. This is obvious in God’s words:
“And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but as a Mercy for all creation.” T.Q., 21:107.
All these procedures are taken to establish the world peace that prevails on our globe. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) condemns every Muslim who goes to bed with a full stomach knowing that a neighbour near him is hungry. He even excludes such a person from the circle of true believers. He said, ‘Anyone who sleeps with a full stomach, knowing that his neighbour is hungry, has not truly believed in me.’ Musnad Al-Bazzar.
According to the above Prophetic tradition, we understand that since our earth has become a global village, it is the duty of every rich individual, group, country or international organization to take care of and feed each poor and needy person in this global village since we all have become like neighbours. Indeed, this is what we understand of God’s command:
“Worship God and join none with Him in worship, and do good and show kindness to parents and relatives, to orphans and to the needy person, to related and distant [or unrelated] neighbours, to those that keep company with you (such as your wives), to the traveller in need and to your servants [and those under your care]. Verily, God does not love the arrogant and the boastful.” T.Q., 4:36.
Islam has freed women of oppression and given them their rights. In Islam, a woman might be the winner even if she is alone with the parliamentary majority against her.
This actually happened during the caliphate of Umar bin Al-Khattab. He once wanted to limit women’s dowries to a certain amount of money. Khawla bint Tha’laba stood up and said, ‘You can’t do that, O Ibn Al-Khattab, because Almighty God says:
‘“If you decide to take one wife in place of another, even if you had given the latter a great amount of gold (as dowry), take not the least bit of it back.” T.Q., 4:20.
‘Do you know how much this amount is?’ Caliph Umar said, ‘The woman is correct and Umar is wrong.’ Tafseer Ibn Katheer.
Islam forbids adultery and all unlawful sexual intercourse in order to preserve the sanctity and rights of the family. Almighty God says:
“Do not approach fornication because it is a great indecent sin and an evil way.” T.Q., 17:32.
Therefore, a woman cannot sell her body to men, whether they are single or married because this is an obstacle in the way of many other girls getting married. It also destroys the sacred marital bond and causes loss and fragmentation for children and family. This also results in the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases, which have increased immensely nowadays and are almost impossible to cure.
Islam takes great care of children. In paradise, there is a house called “Joy”. Only those who fill children’s hearts with joy are admitted to it. It is related that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘There is a house in Paradise called the ‘House of Joy’. No one is admitted to it but the ones who gladden children.’ Al-Kamel by Ibn Adi.
Islam does not permit anyone, even the ruler of a country, to violate a child’s rights or to take his or her turn if the child’s turn precedes the ruler’s.
In regard to the community, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) urges all people to cooperate and work for the good of their community. He said, ‘God’s support is for the congregation.’ Sunan At-Tirmithi.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) considered wisdom and knowledge the link connecting the members of his community. It is narrated that he said, ‘The one who is neither learned nor learning does not belong to me.’ Ibn Al-Najjar.
On the issue of wisdom, Almighty God indicates that the mission of His Messenger includes three things: teaching the Scripture, teaching wisdom and purifying the soul. He says:
“It is He who sent the unlettered a Messenger from among themselves to recite to them His verses and to purify them, and to teach them the Scripture and wisdom even if they had indeed been in manifest error before.” T.Q., 62:2.
Good morals are one of the fruits of purifying the soul. The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘The perfect believers are the ones who have the best morals.’ Sunan Al-Termithi.
Because the progress of a society is measured by knowledge and scientific progress, Islam commands a Muslim to seek knowledge continuously from the cradle to the grave. God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim.’ Mu’jam Al-Tabarani.
Islam does not confine seeking knowledge to the religious field solely, but rather it urges and encourages all kinds of useful knowledge, even if it requires a Muslim to travel from one country to another in pursuit of it, as one of our righteous ancestors said: ‘Seek knowledge even if it were in China.’
Islam makes it obligatory on a Muslim to teach the ignorant without monetary gain. It threatens him of a punishment if he is content to be in the company of an ignorant person without imparting knowledge to him. It is related that God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘I swear by God that knowledgeable people must teach their neighbours, draw their attention to the best of their interest, get them to have a deep understanding of religion, enjoin them to do good and forbid them from doing evil. If they do not do that, I will be quick to punish them in this world.’ Mu’jam Al-Tabarani. He also said, ‘Anyone who hides beneficial knowledge, God bridles him on the Day of Judgment with reins of fire.’ Mustadrak Al-Hakem.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) exalts scholars by mentioning that the most honoured people after God’s messengers are those who acquire knowledge and transmit it to others, i.e. they do not monopolize knowledge. This exaltation is clear in this tradition: ‘Shall I tell you who is the most bounteous? God is the Most Bounteous, and I am the most bounteous among Adam’s children, and the most bounteous one after me is a person who acquires knowledge and then spreads it out to others. Such a person will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment equal to a nation.’ Kanzul Ummal.
Islam makes it mandatory on a Muslim to be active and productive and not idle or lazy. A man must exert his effort to earn a lawful and decent living for himself and his family. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Indeed, God loves the believer who has a craft (or any good job).’ Mu’jam Al-Tabarani.
A Muslim should not wait for other people’s help because the giving hand is better than the receiving one as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘The upper (giving) hand is better than the lower (receiving) hand.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Islam forbids a Muslim from being a source of evil or harm to others whether by tongue or by hand. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘A Muslim is the one from whose hand and tongue people are safe.’ Musnad Ahmad.
Islam forbids a Muslim from committing theft. Therefore, God’s penalty for theft is to cut off the thief’s hand under certain conditions detailed in the Islamic Law. Almighty God says:
“Cut off [from the wrist joint] the hand of the thief, male or female, as a recompense for that which they committed, and as a deterrent from God. He is All-Powerful, All-Wise.” T.Q., 5:38.
Almighty God also prohibits the earning of illegal money. It is related that Prophet Muhammad said, ‘Anyone who eats a mouthful of illegal money, his prayers are not accepted for forty days, nor are his supplications answered for forty mornings. Every flesh that is nourished with illegal money, only Hell-Fire deserves it.’ Musnad Al-Dailami.
Islam also forbids aggression against others. All this guidance from Almighty God transforms a Muslim into an angel walking on the surface of the earth. Such a situation led to the resignation of judges from their positions in the courts of law because no adversaries came to them for a long period of time. This actually happened to Umar bin Al-Khattab, who was a judge during the rule of Caliph Abu Bakr. He was in that capacity for a whole year during which no plaintiffs came to him. Therefore, he asked the Caliph to accept his resignation saying, ‘O Emir of believers, there is no need for me in a community where each one keeps to his limits.’ Consequently, security and peace prevailed, and there was no need for police or prisons.
If a Muslim commits a sin, even though nobody sees him, he becomes a judge over his own self. He becomes the police officer who forces himself to keep within the law. We see such a person coming to the Prophet (pbuh) asking him to pass sentence over him for committing adultery. This was also evident in someone who betrayed what was entrusted to him, as in the case of Abu Lubaba bin Al-Munther, who was sent by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to negotiate with the people of Quraiza. Abu Lubaba unwittingly committed a mistake during the negotiations in which he passed on some state secrets. That noble companion felt he betrayed God and His Messenger, so he went to the Prophet’s Mosque, and he tied himself to one of its columns, saying, ‘I swear by God that I am not going to eat or drink until God forgives my sin or I perish.’ He remained so for several days until God revealed a Qur’anic verse accepting his repentance. In reference to this incident, Almighty God says:
“And there are others who have acknowledged their sins. They have mixed a deed that was righteous with another that was evil. Perhaps God will turn to them in forgiveness. Surely, God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” T.Q., 9:102.
This level of self-reproach was also evident when the ruler of Homs wronged a non-Muslim citizen, so he asked Caliph Umar bin Al-Kattab to accept his resignation, for he felt he was not worthy of such a position.
Islam urges the people endowed with wealth to support the needy and the sick and to answer their needs. It is related that God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘Give part of your money as a charity in order that God may purify you, perform prayer, give to the beggar, the neighbour, the poor and the traveller in need and do not squander your wealth in the manner of a spendthrift.’ Kanzul Ummal.
Islam also commands wealthy Muslims to contribute towards the construction of hospitals, orphanages, houses for the disabled and to assist in finding jobs for the unemployed. It also urges the rich to help young people to get married and establish virtuous families. Almighty God says:
“And marry those among you who are single (males and females), and also the pious of your servants and maids. If they are poor, God will enrich them out of His Grace. God is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All- Knowing.” T.Q., 24:32.
Islam enjoins wealthy Muslims to pay out 2.5% of their profits and capital as compulsory charity. This is mentioned in numerous Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions, such as the following verses where Almighty God describes some of the characteristics of believers:
“And those who are payers of Zakat (the poor-due or obligatory charity).” T.Q., 23:4.
“Those who perform regular prayer, give Zakat and believe with certainty in the Hereafter.” T.Q., 27:3.
“O you who believe! Spend of the good things which you have (legally) earned and of that which We have produced for you from the earth.” T.Q., 2:267.
The Prophet (pbuh) also said, ‘In order to complete your adherence to Islam, you must offer the Zakat (obligatory charity).’ Mu’jam Al-Tabarani.
Moreover, this charity is paid yearly by those who fulfil special conditions and is spent for humanitarian purposes and on specific categories of people (such as the poor, travellers in need, etc.), and it is referred to as “Al-Zakat” in Islam.
At the community level, Islam calls Muslims to care about human rights and to make knowledge available to everybody. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘To learn something and then teach it to others is considered as a charity from your side.’ Kanzul Ummal.
It is related that he also said, ‘The best of people are those who are most skilful in reciting the Qur’an and understanding God’s religion, and the most righteous ones are those who enjoin good and forbid evil and those who keep the best relationships with their relatives.’ Musnad Ahmad.
Islam guarantees job for all citizens, Muslims and non Muslims alike. This is confirmed by God’s Messenger’s words: ‘All of you are guardians and responsible for those under your care. A ruler is a guardian and responsible for people under his care.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
So if a citizen is unemployed, the government should support him until he finds a job, and if he becomes indebted and incapable of paying back his loan, the government should pay it on his behalf even if he is non-Muslim. This appears clearly in the ‘Reconciliation Document’ that Khaled bin Al-Waleed made with the people of Hira. In this document, we read: ‘Any man who is unable to work because of old age, or a disease or infection or was rich and became so poor that his own people give him charity, in this case, he is exempted from paying Al-Jizyah (a tax that non-Muslim citizens pay, and it is much less than Zakat), and he (the jobless non-Muslim) and his family are provided for from the public treasury of the Muslim state so long he lives in it.’ Al-Kharaj. It is also said that Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed that a non-Muslim citizen who is unable to make a living must be provided for from the Muslim public treasury.
Islam forbids all types of discrimination or prejudice whether based on ethnicity, faith, religion, language, colour or otherwise. All people are brothers and sisters belonging to the same mother and father. Almighty God says:
“O people! Be dutiful to your Lord who created you from a single man (Adam), and from him (or of the same kind of his) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He scattered many men and women.” T.Q., 4:1.
He also says:
“O people! We created you from a single pair of a male and female and made you into peoples and tribes that you may get to know one another. Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you.” T.Q., 49:13.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) guaranteed justice and equity for all, and he set an ideal example that has never been surpassed. Once he, by mistake, hit one of his companions while lining them up. That companion, named Sawaad, claimed to have been hurt, and he asked for retaliation. The Prophet revealed his abdomen and said, ‘Retaliate, O Sawaad!’ Sawaad immediately hugged the Prophet’s abdomen and kissed it saying, ‘I sacrifice my life for you! I only wanted to touch your skin fearing that I might die and not meet you after this battle.’ Siratu Ibn Ishaq.
The aim of Islam is to establish a sound, strong community which is cooperative, sincere and truthful. Therefore, Islam forbids compelling people to accept any faith. The freedom of thought and belief is guaranteed in a Muslim community. In reference to this, Almighty God says:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion.” T.Q., 2:256.
Islam condemns fanaticism and extremism. Almighty God says:
“O People of the Scripture (Christians)! Do not transgress the limits of your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth.” T.Q., 4:171.
He also says describing the Muslim community:
“Thus We have made you a moderate (just and justly balanced) community.” T.Q., 2:143.
God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘Beware! Those who exceed the limits will be ruined.’ Sahih Muslim. In another tradition he said, ‘This knowledge will be passed on by the elite of every generation; they will clear it from the distortion of extremists, the misrepresentations of the wrong-doers and the misinterpretations of the ignorant.’ Sunan Al-Baihaqi.
Islam urges Muslims to be moderate in everything; in eating and drinking. Almighty God says:
“Eat and drink, but waste not by extravagance. Certainly He likes not the extravagant.” T.Q., 7:31.
In worship, it is related that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘How good moderation is in the case of richness, poverty and worship!’ Musnad Al-Bazzar. He also said, ‘I swear by God that I am more afraid and submissive to God than you all. Yet, sometimes I fast and sometimes I don't. I perform prayers at night, but sometimes I sleep, and I marry women. So, the one who turns away from my way does not belong to me.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
In spending Almighty God says:
“And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), lest you become blameworthy and destitute.” T.Q., 17:29.
Islam fights superstition and irrationality. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘Whoever goes to a fortune-teller and believes anything he or she says, then they have rejected what was revealed to Muhammad (the Holy Qur'an).’ Musnad Ahmad. He also said, ‘Whoever goes to a fortune-teller and asks him or her about something, their prayer will not be accepted for forty days.’ Sahih Muslim.
Islam fights paganism and ignorance in all their forms, and it forbids Muslims from approaching alcoholic beverages or any substance that causes intoxication, such as drugs, so that they do not become victims of such substances. Almighty God says:
“O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling [and games of chance], idols and divining arrows (by seeking luck or decision in them) are abominations [and uncleanness] from the work of Satan. Therefore, avoid them so that you may succeed.” T.Q., 5:90.
This prohibition aims to produce healthy individuals and communities that are sound in body, mind and soul.
Islam calls all people in charge — fathers, mothers, teachers and rulers — to keep away from oppression and injustice and to act according to what is just and even benevolent because a society where injustice prevails will sooner or later break and collapse. These teachings are clear in this comprehensive verse:
“Verily, God commands justice, performing good deeds [purely for God’s sake and to all creatures] and giving help to relatives, and he forbids all indecent and evil deeds and injustice. He admonishes you so that you may take heed.” T.Q., 16:90.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) makes acting justly for one day better than sixty years of ritual worship. Kanzul Ummal.
At the level of the international community, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) confirmed human brotherhood. He sometimes used to supplicate after performing his prayers saying, ‘I testify that all servants of God are brothers and sisters.’ Musnad Ahmad.
Islam does not limit its gifts to humans; it actually enjoins a Muslim to take care of animals and all creatures. This is clear in the following traditions by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): ‘A woman will enter Hell-Fire because of a cat that she imprisoned to death. She did not feed it or leave it to find its own food.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari. ‘God has forgiven a prostitute who passed by a dog at a well about to die of thirst. She took off her shoe, tied it with her scarf and brought up some water for it. God has forgiven her because of that.’ Sahih Al-Bukhari.
Islam also calls us to take care of trees and preserve a clean, green environment. God’s Messenger (pbuh) said, ‘If the Day of Judgment takes place while one of you has a seedling, you should plant it.’ Musnad Ahmad.
Islam prevents people from throwing rubbish under trees and into rivers and emphasizes the need for non-polluted rivers and earth. In this regard, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Faith consists of over seventy parts; the least one is removing waste from roads.’ Sahih Muslim. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also forbade urinating in water. Sahih Muslim. It is also narrated that he forbade urinating in running water. Mu’jam Al-Tabarani Al-Awsat. He also said, ‘Avoid the three deeds that cause a curse to their doer; defecating in watercourses, in the streets and in the shadows.’ Sunan Abi Dawoud. It is related that the Noble Prophet (pbuh) also forbade a person from defecating or urinating under a fruitful tree or at the bank of a river with running water. Kanzul Ummal.
Islam calls for spreading peace among all people. If two parties or states quarrel, Islam urges them to be reconciled and does not allow war to break out between them. Islam forbids us from standing by and doing nothing. Instead, it pushes us to act as a mediator seeking to achieve justice and equity. In the Holy Qur’an, Almighty God says:
“And if two parties of believers fall into fighting, make peace between them.” T.Q., 49:9.
Last but not least, I wonder whether humans are serious in their efforts to study the Heavenly Law that calls to the belief in all prophets and messengers in the light of reasoning, wisdom and useful knowledge so that humans of the twenty-first century can enjoy the heavenly peace and heavenly gifts that result in universal brotherhood with no judges, police or prisons but instead with progress and prosperity.
I think if a committee is formed for the purpose of thoroughly and rationally studying Islam, which raises the banners of all God’s prophets and messengers, that committee will realize that the united message of heaven is intended to construct human beings, families and societies, and even the whole world, on the basis of virtue, compassion, mercy and love.
All of us know that hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent on exploring the surfaces of the Moon and Mars. Why not make a journey led by specialists who love peace and humanity to explore the gifts of religion?
I truly believe that humans will discover treasures that will make them happy not only in this temporal life, but these treasures will accompany them to make them happy when they are transferred to the heavenly world.
I earnestly hope that the mass media will contribute to this humanitarian, earthly and heavenly deed, and use satellite channels to call to goodness, wisdom, science, good morals and purification of the soul from vices and enriching the soul with virtues.
Hence, the Lord of heaven and earth will be pleased with us and our globe will become an earthly paradise where we can all enjoy a happy living before moving to the world of eternity in the Hereafter.
(T.Q. = Translation of the meanings of the Holy Qur’an)
(pbuh = May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, and may Allah exalt his mention and raise his position more and more)