How Your Religion Views Extremism: The Lesson For Daily Life: Part 3
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Editorial Note: The following is a continuation of Imam W. Deen Mohammed's public address in Bridgeport, CT, on Sunday, June 11, 1989.)
When Prophet Muhammed sent his armies out to fight those who were fighting him and were fighting to keep the religion of Al-Islam From spreading and to simply stop it, he would caution his army to not damage even trees. His armies were told to not hurt anyone who was not armed against them. They were told to be careful not to hurt the old people, the weak ones, and the little children. This is the recorded (instructions) teachings of the Prophet.
Would I now get into the emotional excitement and join those who say, "Ignore all of those fine principles of civilization/' which have, been established for us in Qur'an and in the life of our Prophet? Will I ignore all of that and just get into the emotional excitement and follow someone who says, "Yes. kill the children, the babies, bomb the homes. You must destroy the innocent to get at the guilty." Am I going to join that? No! It is because I think of myself as a decent person, and I am going to always try to be a decent person. In this religion, 1 have to obey the demands of decency on me.
I cannot immorally follow my own ideas. I cannot follow my own selfish motives. I have to bring my total self under the discipline of the teaching of Qur'an and of the Prophet and that is it! Dear Believers, true faith protects us from extremism. Again, true faith protects us from extremism. The true faith of a Muslim is not an emotional faith by description. It is a rational faith by description.
We have pointed to Prophet Abraham, peace and blessings be on him, to identify the nature of the faith and the kind of faith that we identify with. It is the faith of Abraham, the upright one. When we study the faith of Abraham, we see that Abraham's faith is clearly presented as a faith based upon sound reasoning, the rational nature as well as the emotional. Abraham said to Allah, "O Allah, tell me how the dead will be raised? Not that I have any disbelief or any weak faith, but tell me so that my heart will be at ease. How will the dead be raised?"
Abraham was a rational thinker. He was not just satisfied believing and not understanding. His intellect was asking for understanding. Abraham was pure but had the courage to ask of Allah, "So that I will understand this and so that my heart will be at ease, not that I disbelieve but tell me how will the dead be raised?" It was a legitimate question. Allah accepted from him .the question and gave him a sign of how the dead would be raised. (Quran)
When Prophet Abraham was seeking to know Who was God and where was his Lord, he was observing the heavens. With the sky in their view, people came to an idea of Allah (God), if you study Bible or Christian, Jewish scriptures and scriptures of other religions, you will see that most of them found or thought they found God first in the heavens. They saw the concept of Allah (God) in the heavens and many made the mistake of describing Him by or through heavenly objects.
To symbolize the Divine, they used the sun, the light, and other things. Some of these are still attributes of Allah. He is called The Light. We don't understand it as the light of electricity, we know not to be that far out. He is not the light of the fire that is kindled.
This is a parable in that the light gives us a situation that we can see in, move in, and progress in. The light gives a situation in which we can perform better and be more accurate. The light presents the better situation for us, and Allah also offers the light of virtues and intelligence. Allah is the Source of that and is Light.
We also know that some people actually thought that these heavenly bodies were actually gods. Prophet Abraham, peace and blessings be upon him, was observing the heavens and trying to come to a conclusion. He asked, "Where is my Lord?" It is said that he watched the heavens and thought that the great star was god, but he saw that stars do not stay up. Some of them will fall. Then he said, "No, my Lord cannot be that. My Lord is not One that falls."
Finally, Abraham sat so long until the sun, itself, was seen rising and setting. As it was rising, Abraham said, "What a glorious and splendid thing. This must be my Lord." But as it begin to set (for Abraham stayed watching and observing until the night) then he said, "Oh it is setting, and my Lord is not One Who sets." So he rejected the physical universe and all its parts as being God. Abraham said. "My God is the One that did ail of this." He saw His God as the One behind the things that he could see, and not as the things seen.
We see Allah by indirect observation and not by direct observation. Allah said, "You cannot see Me directly.'' That is what He said to Moses.
Abraham's faith is a faith that allows us the use of our rational faculties, the use of our human intelligence. Our religion is not a religion that says, "Believe and do not think!" It does not say, "Believe and do not follow your intelligent urges or motivations. Believe but do not follow your pursuit of a certain logic."
We can question anything we want to question, as long as our motives are decent and right."
We should understand then, that Al-Islam is a religion that does not allow us to go to drunkened extremes. Faith proper, especially religious faith, is of such nature that it requires of us that our own reasoning acknowledges its limitations. Allah has blessed us with rational faculties, with an intellect and the power of reasoning. But we have to understand that we are not perfect or beyond making an error. We are not Allah and we are not without some limitations. We question but we are not so stupid as to think that our intellect or our reasoning is so complete, is so powerful, is so perfect that it can establish everything conclusively and nothing is above it. That is not the case. Its Creator is above it.
There are some things that my intellect will have to accept that it just cannot do away with or conclude totally. There are still some things that my intellect has not been able to understand or to grasp or to explain fully to my satisfaction. But there is enough evidence, enough proof for my intellect and for my rational side to convince me of matters I should support. When there is enough proof to convince me, although I am not completely free of all questions, I may give my support. I still may have some questions, but sometimes I may feel those questions are not important in the face of all of the other evidence. In that case. I may forget about even asking any more questions.
We are limited. That is what I am saying. We are limited as rational beings and as mortal beings. We are not gods. And in the final analysis, what is the best thing going for us as Muslims? It is our faith. There are a lot of us who claim to be intellectual and claim to be bright and heavy. But the best thing going for us is our faith. If the faith is not right, then everything else is going to be wrong. The right faith gives us a situation for establishing everything else in the right way. Our faith is what enables us to establish our moral life in the right way. It is not our knowledge, it is our faith that makes us able to establish our moral life.
It is our faith that enables us to think right. If your faith is wrong, then you will think wrong. It is not our knowledge that is going to get us into heaven. And I hear you quoting scholars and saying that the scholars are going to be in a room in the heavens next to the prophets, I have heard it and I accept it too. I know you have heard that it is the (learned! scholars that best worship Allah. But I also know other things that Allah has said, and one is this: "It is My sincere devotees who know Me best!" I also know that Allah says, "Those who believe and work righteousness, their Lord will guide them because of..."
And it did not say "because of their intellect." It does not say. "because of their superior intellectual insights." It does not say, "because they have superior knowledge and are scientists/' It says, "because of their faith."
In the final analysis. Allah looks to our hearts. And it is the moral content, the disposition in our spirit to be faithful to Allah. That will get us in heaven. When you do not have that right (rational) faith, then you tend to go to these extremes.
There are those who worship knowledge (light) and become blinded by the (light) knowledge. They leave the world thinking that they are a class of invisible beings. They think their work is outside of our view and consequently become an invisible order working in secrecy. That is not our religion. Many of them are disbelievers in the existence of a Real God. Soon, they think they will come to convince us that they are gods. That is the worse kind of extremism.
On the other hand, how do the Words of Allah in our Qur'an and from our Prophet deal with this tendency in us to misconceive, to wrongly perceive the external world and our role in it? First of all it shows us the encompassing unity of this creation. That Allah is the Creator of all of this. There are no two creators, no two gods. Allah is the Creator and Lord of the material side and . also is the Lord of the spiritual side. All of it before Him is one creation belonging to Him.
To be continued