The Characteristics of Islam
· “Al-Hiwar M’aa Ahlil-Kitab”, Dialogue with the People of Scripture,” by Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Qasim.
· Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur’an, by Muhsin Khan.
· Summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari, translated by Muhsin Khan.
1st Characteristic: The preservation of Islam by preserving its sources the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
A- The Qur’an
Allah’s wisdom requires preservation of the Noble Qur’an because there will be no Prophet after the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) to mend (repair) any misinterpretation, should any occur. Therefore, Allah, the Exalted, promised to preserve the material foundation. He, the Exalted, said in Surat Al-Hijr (15:9):
“Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’an) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption).”
This verse is a challenge to mankind, and everyone is obliged to believe in the miracles of the Qur’an. It is a clear fact that more than 1400 years have elapsed and not a single word of this Qur’an has been changed, although the disbelievers have tried their best to change it in each and every way, but they have failed miserably in their efforts. We see mentioned in this Holy verse: “We will guard it.” By Allah! He has guarded it. On the other hand, all the other Holy Books (the Torah, the Gospel, etc.) have been corrupted by additions or subtractions or alterations in the original text. Why? Because the rabbis and the priests were entrusted with the protection of Allah’s Book, but they didn’t keep or preserve the Trust. They were dishonest, therefore their religion was lost (as well as their Books), as Allah mentioned in the Noble Qur’an in Surat Al-Ma’idah (5:44).
B- The Prophetic Traditions (The Sunnah)
All the narrations have been recorded with their chain of narrators that related the Hadiths, back to the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him). The scholars emphasized the accuracy in these narrations and memorization of the chain of narrators of each Hadith to distinguish the authentic from the inauthentic.
Except for a few, the narrations were not recorded at time of Prophet Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him), and the reason behind that is:
· The Arabs, at that time, were famous for memorizing as opposed to writing due to their strong memory.
· The Prophet Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) forbid them from writing other than the Qur’an, as reported by Muslim that Abu Sa’eid al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Prophet Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) said: “Don’t write anything from me except the Qur’an, and whoever wrote anything other than the Qur’an, let him wipe it.”
The wisdom behind this prohibition is quite obvious as noted by as-Sama’ani: “The dislike for writing the narration, at the beginning, is primarily to avoid the possibility of it (the Hadith) being mixed with Allah’s Book, and when the risk of mixing was over, after the Prophet’s death. Then it became permissible to write it down.”
One of the characteristics of this nation (Muslim nation) is the care in reporting the narrations and the traditions of its Prophet, his companions and those who followed them (the Tabi’un).
Abu Hatim ar-Razi said: “There are no scholars in any nation of the previous nations, since Allah created Adam, whose quotations of their Messengers have been preserved except in this Ummah (nation).”
Ibn Taymiyah (May Allah have mercy upon him) said that: “The Jews and the Christians have no knowledge of Isnad in all what they quote (i.e. For Muslims, the chain of narrators who narrated the text of the Hadith is preserved completely, starting with the last narrator, who recorded the Hadith in a book, and ending with the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him)).” The scholars do not accept any Hadith that does not have a Sanad because in the past liars have deliberately introduced many fabricated Hadiths. So, the Isnad (or Sanad) is one of the characteristics of this nation.
2nd Characteristic: The generality of Islam. Islam is a comprehensive religion:
A. It provides a complete concept and a comprehensive belief for all that man needs to know about his God, the Universe, human beings, life after death, etc.
B. It encompasses all the practical and theoretical (scientific) aspects of life. And it guides man to the best way in his worldly affairs and his death (or guides man to what is the best for him in this life and Hereafter).
This characteristic is not found in any other religion, for instance, Christianity is concerned primarily and may be only with the spiritual aspects of life without regards to worldly matters (i.e. it does not provide law). Also, we find in some of the political creeds or philosophies emphasis on the political aspects or the economical aspects of life only. Islam, however, is concerned about all the aspects of human life; therefore it came completely perfect as Allah, the Exalted, stated in Surat Al-Ma’idah (5:3):
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”
About this majestic verse, once a Jew said to ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him): “O chief of believers! There is a Verse in your Holy Book which is read by all of you (Muslims), and had it been revealed to us, we would have taken that day (on which it was revealed) as ‘Eid (festival) day.” ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) asked, “Which is that verse?” The Jew replied, “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) replied, “No doubt, we know when and where this verse was revealed to the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him). It was Friday and the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) was standing at ‘Arafat (i.e. the day of Hajj).” [Al-Bukhari]
For whoever seriously contemplates the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the characteristic of the comprehensiveness of this religion would be crystal clear, and he would know that this religion is the true religion, and that it is from Allah, the most High, the most Honoured. Because this level of comprehensiveness cannot be achieved by mere human beings who are limited by time and place. Also humans are limited in knowledge, experience and intelligence. In addition to being weak and having inclinations, desires and ignorance, man brings beliefs (thoughts) suitable or fit to certain times and places which may not fit another time or place.
I- Islam is comprehensive in regards to the belief (creed) and legislation:
· The existence, its initiation, motion, changes, development, disposing the affairs, etc. of all beings is subject to Allah’s eternal Will. It is notable that most verses of the Qur’an are ended with “Allah is All Hearer, All Seer” or “Allah is All Hearer, All Knower.” This is in addition to attributing Allah with the perfect attributes and with Beautiful Names, as Allah has negated the resemblance of His creation to Him.
“There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All Seer.” Surat Ash-Shuraa (42:11)
· The Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions give a complete picture of the initiation of the creation and Allah’s wisdom in His creation. Surat Fussilat (41: 9-12)
Allah, the Exalted, informed us about the angels and their creation, that they are created from light, and that He created the Jinn (demon) from fire (Surat Al-Hijr 15:27). Also Allah informed man about the nature of the universe that he is living in and its characteristics (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:22).
· Allah, the Exalted, informs us in His Noble Book about man, his qualities and all that which concerns him (Surat Al-Mu'minoon 23:12-16), Surat Al-Nahl 18:54), (Surat Al-Isra 17:11), (Surat Al-'Alaq 96:6-7), (Surat Ash-Shams 91: 7-19). These inform us of the extent to which man is violent in the love of wealth. There is nothing of man’s nature and qualities, be it large or small that the Qur’an did not point to.
II- The legislation or the Islamic law has many comprehensive forms:
· The law is ordained for the benefit of mankind in one way or another, whether they recognize it yet or not.
· Islamic law includes the acts of worship like prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, remembrance of Allah, etc. besides showing and explaining the wisdom behind these acts. (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:45), (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:183), and (Surat Al-Ra'ad 13:25).
· Islamic law includes the economic aspects and establishes a comprehensive economic plan:
(i) Islam encourages work and discourages laziness (Surat Al-Jumu'ah 62:9). Prophet Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) said: “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, it is better for anyone of you to take a rope and cut the wood (from the forest) and carry it over his back and sell it (as a means of earning his living) than to ask a person for something and that person may give him or not.” (Al-Bukhari)
(ii) Islam forbids some kinds of transactions which do not avail any good to the Ummah or which cause enmity such as usury, cheating, monopoly, or eating up others properties unjustly (in any illegal way, e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc.). (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:275) and (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:188)
(iii) Islam ordained (legislated) the Zakaah (obligatory charity)- which is the poor due, and made Zakaah to be one pillar of Islam which is obligatory on the rich. Also Islam endeared the voluntary charity and spending in Allah’s cause, for those who can afford it. (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:43) and (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:110). On the other hand, Islam discouraged misery and greed. (Surat Muhammad 47:38) and (Surat Al-Hashr 59:9)
(iv) Islam forbids extravagance, and wasteful spending of wealth, and calls people to spend wealth wisely without being miserly or spendthrift. (Surat Al-Isra 17:29). Islam considers spendthrifts as brothers of the devils. (Surat Al-Isra 17:26-27).
· Islamic law lays emphasis on social aspects, especially family matters.
It explains the rules concerning marriage, put conditions for marriage contracts, set up the rights and duties of the husband and wife, and put forth solutions for the problems that may arise between spouses. Islam also legislated divorce in case of failure or disagreement of the two parties to come to terms. Islam orders dutifulness to parents, and taking the responsibility in rising up the children, by explaining the rights of the parents and the children. Also Islam emphasizes keeping good relation with one’s kin. (Surat An-Nisa 4:3), (Surat An-Nisa 4:19), (Surat An-Nisa 4:35), (Surat Al-Isra 17:23), (Surat An-Nisa 4:11) and (Surat An-Nisa 4:12)
· The political aspects:
Islam made clear the duties of the ruler towards protecting the rights of his people, rendering back the trusts to those to whom they are due, setting up penalties, defending the country, etc. On the other hand, Islam made clear the duties of the people towards those who are in authority, of obedience, advice and fulfilling the duties that they have been entrusted with. Also Islam made clear the relationship between Muslim countries and other countries. (Surat An-Nisa 4:58-59) and (Surat Al-Ma'idah 5:38). The Prophet Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) said: “Religion is sincerity and good will.” We asked: “For whom?” He said: “To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, the leaders of Muslims and the Muslims in general.” [Muslim].
It is enough for us to know that Allah’s Messenger (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) established the Muslim country practically and established all the rules, which all the caliphs and succeeding Muslims followed.
· Islamic law emphasizes manners and stresses the importance of good conduct with others.
It orders helping the needy, giving food, spreading the greetings, etc. Islam calls to truthfulness and fulfilment of trusts, and forbids lying and treachery. There are many verses regarding this matter, e.g., (Surat Al-Hujurat 49:10), (Surat An-Nisa 4:86). Allah’s Messenger (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) said: “None of you will have faith till he likes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.” [Al-Bukhari].
A man asked Allah’s Messenger (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him): “Whose Islam is good or what sort of deeds in Islam are good.” The Messenger of Allah (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) replied: “To feed (others) and to greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know.” [Al-Bukhari]. (Surat At-Tawbah 9: 119) and (Surat Al-Anfal 8:58).
Allah’s Messenger (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three:
1. Whenever he speaks, he lies.
2. Whenever he promises, he breaks it (his promise).
3. If you keep something as a trust with him, he will not return it.” [Al-Bukhari]
· Islam encourages us to acquire knowledge and praises the scholars and knowledgeable people.
Islam disparages ignorance and the knowledge which does not avail his seeker.
3rd Characteristic: Characteristics of Islam are adopting the middle course in all affairs. It discourages excessiveness and negligence.
Islam, fulfils the need of the body, mind and soul with perfect balance. It takes care of the worldly affairs as well as the Hereafter. Also, Islamic law is characterized as being moderate. There are no extremes or difficulties in performing the acts of worship and there are also no deficiencies or extreme ease. Ibn Taymiyah (May Allah have mercy upon him) said: “The Muslims are in the middle between the Jews and the Christians as regards the Monotheism. The Jews attribute the Lord with deficient qualities as they claimed that He is a miser, poor, and that He became tired after creating the Heavens and the earth, etc. The Christians attribute the creation of Allah with qualities which only befit the Creator, and they compare the creation with the Creator. They did this when they claimed that Allah is the Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, and that Allah is the third of three (in a Trinity); and when they said that Jesus is the son of Allah, and they took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah).”
· As for the Prophets, the Jews killed some of their Prophets, belying them, and they were arrogant followers. Additionally, the Christians claimed non Prophets were Prophets and Messengers, as they say regarding the disciples, calling them Messengers. Muslims believe in the Truth and reject falsehood. They free Allah from all the attributes of His creation and do not compare anyone to Him. Muslims never exalt anyone to the degree of Lordship, though they believe in all the Prophets and they follow them and give them their rights without being extreme or denying them.
· Muslim scholars clarify Islamic law to people without concealing or hiding any evidences or proofs.
· As regards the acts of worship: Islam has ordained prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, Zakaat, etc. to be offered moderately. Islam did not make the acts of worship difficult or impossible. One example is fasting: Islam did not prolong observing the fast such that it causes weariness (boredom) like in the fasting of the Christian monks, nor did it make it very short like the fasting of the magians. It did not make it like the fasting of the Christians who believe that fasting is abstinence from eating meat or certain kinds of food, nor did it make it like the fasting of the Jews who have no regular/stable system or time for fasting. Islam ordained fasting as a means of purifying the human soul and keeping us away from the Naffs (self desires) (of food, drink, and having sexual intercourse with one’s spouse). Fasting in Islam has a fixed time and for special fasts, like Ramadan, it has a clear beginning and end. It starts with the sighting of the crescent moon. Islam in its recognition of its great diversity in strength and status of humans has exempted some categories of people from fasting like the sick, the old, and the traveller, etc.
4th Characteristic: Islam is the religion of Fitrah (nature)
This means that every human being is born with a disposition to accept Islam. It does not mean that he is born knowing the Islamic creed or the details of the law, that would not make sense.
Fitrah means the soundness of the heart and its readiness to accept the truth. Ibn Taymiyah (May Allah have mercy upon him) said in his definition of the Fitrah: “It is the soundness of the heart towards accepting the truth, which is Islam.”
Islam is the religion of human nature. It is the religion of monotheism which all the Prophets conveyed and called to. (Surat Ar-Rum 30:20). Allah’s Messenger (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) said: “Every child is born on the Fitrah (i.e. Muslim). Then his parents make him either a Jew, or a Christian or a magian.” [Al-Bukhari]. He (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) did not say “They will make him Muslim,” because Fitrah means Islam.
The conformity (agreement) of Islam with Fitrah (human nature) can be seen in many matters such as:
(a) The Creed:
Belief in one God (Allah), to submit to Him Alone and to return to Him Alone in all our affairs and needs. Also it means to believe in the previous Books, the Angels, the Messengers, and the Hereafter. (Surat Al-Bayyinah 98:5) and (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:285). Where is the clear creed in Christianity’s belief in the Trinity, that the lords of the universe is three gods, and that Jesus was crucified for the sins of the people? Where is the clear proof that priests can give an open ticket (indulgence paper) for the sinners, and made the lawful unlawful without being it ordered by Allah?
The Islamic creed is established on the concept that the individual is responsible for his actions (Surat Al-An'am 6:164), (Surat An-Najm 53:39-40) and (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:286)
(b) The Acts of Worship:
One can easily see the abundance of ease and simplicity in the acts of worship.
· The prohibition of monasticism and extremeness.
· The pardoning of the one who did an action forgetfully, forcibly or by mistake. Also Islam pardons one his thoughts as long as they are not accompanied by an action.
· The ability to offer prayer (Salat) in any clean and pure place, as opposed to the other religions which require from its people to offer prayer in certain places.
· The one who repents from a sin is like a person who has no sin. It is only required from him to quit the sin immediately, to repent from it, to have the resolution to not return to it, and to return the rights of others to them, if his sin was related to the rights of people. In contrast, according to the law of Prophet Musa (May Allah's peace be upon him), the sinner should kill himself in order to purify himself from his sin (in some cases).
(c) Islamic Law:
· Islam legislated the penalties, and encouraged pardoning the guilty.
· Islam Forbade all kinds of evil and harmful matters.
· Allah, the Exalted, denied those who forbid the allowable adoration (of clothes, etc.)
· Islam permitted the marriage of Muslim men with the women of the people of the Scriptures (the Jews and the Christians), and made their food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals, etc.) lawful for Muslims.
Islam, in its recognition of human nature and capabilities does not ignore despise human role in this life, nor exalts him to the rank of lordship.
· Islam warns man from committing sins, while at the same time, does not close the gate of forgiveness and mercy to him (Surat Al-Furqan 25:68-70) and (Surat Al-Ma'idah 5:39)
· Islam never fights the human instinct in desiring and striving for worldly pleasures (wealth, marriage, children (Surat Al-Kahf 18:46)). Actually, Islam even encourages a moderate level of this (Surat Al-'Imran 3:3). Also human nature loves Qisas (the law of Equality in punishment) (Surat An-Nahl 16:126). Islam even recognizes the dislike human beings have for fighting (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:216).
· Islam never contradicts the intellect. It (Islam) encourages the seeking of the useful and beneficial knowledge, which benefits one in this life and in the Hereafter, upon which results a righteous and good deed. Therefore, we don’t seek the knowledge for its own right rather knowledge is acquired for the sake of benefiting from it and applying it, for the sake of Allah.
5th Characteristic: The Universality of Islam
Islam is the religion for all mankind. It is not for a particular people at the exclusion of others, but it is incumbent on everyone who hears about it to believe in it. Islam is a religion which does not differentiate between people based on their colour or race. It is a religion for all mankind and Jinn, as Allah, the Exalted, mentioned in the Surat At-Talaq (65:52):
“But it is nothing but a Reminder to all the Alamin (Mankind, Jinns and all that exists).”
Allah said in the Surat Al-Anbiya (21:107):
“And We have sent you (O Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him)) not but as a mercy for the Alamin (Mankind, Jinns, and all that exists).”
Also in Surat Al-Saba' (34:28), and Surat Al-A'raf (7:158).
Islamic teachings are for all people. Islam regards all people as equal except on the level of their Taqwa (fear of Allah, piety, righteousness, etc.). (Surat Al-Hujurat 49:13)
Jesus was sent to the children of Israel (the Israelites) and not to all mankind and same for Moses.
Islam is the religion of equality. Whoever looks at Islamic ceremonies cannot help but notice this fact:
Muslims pray in equal rows with no differentiation between rich and poor. Fasting is ordained upon every person able to fast regardless of race, colour, or status. When performing Hajj, all men wear a specific garment, congregate together in one place, performing same rites. Our Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon Him) informed us that Islam is the religion of equality and justice. There is no superiority of an Arab over non Arab except in piety or righteousness.