The Cultural Process Recommended by the Quran
by Sayyid Abdul Latif
The Islamic Guardian (UK), October to December 1982 Issue (Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 24–25)
Said the Prophet of Islam (Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be on Him):
“God does not accept belief, if it is not expressed in deed: and does not accept deed, if it does not conform to belief.”
The Holy Quran is essentially a code of human conduct. That is the claim which the Book itself advances. It is meant to offer guidance to those who seek. It differs from abstract ethics in this, that it purports to possess a religious sanction for those who choose to follow it, and covers a wider field of activity than that envisaged by the latter. That by itself does not divest it of its value to those who may fight shy of religion. For, however wide and deep the religious character of its background, the line of conduct delineated by the Holy Quran is to be endorsed in action by a rational approach to it, and is on that account a subject for consideration even by those who may not believe in any established religion, but who, nevertheless, dislike anarchy in thought and recognise the need for some standard of conduct to govern their daily activity. To such, it may be told that the essential purpose of the Holy Quran is to develop in man a mind the primary function of which is to enable him to live in peace with himself and in peace with his world of external relations, although in so doing he is to serve a deeper purpose as well.
This wider applicability, which is beyond the purview of abstract ethics or of any exclusively secular concept of life, is warranted by the notion maintained by the Holy Quran that death is not the end of life, but that, on the other hand, it is a gateway to a new sphere of life, marking a further stage in the making of man.
“From stage to stage shall ye, assuredly, be carried forward” (The Holy Quran, 84:19)
is the vista of possibilities disclosed and the life to follow is conditioned by the life already lived. The ultimate purpose is perfection of man. It is this purpose which has to govern the character of the life one has to live in the present. The mind which the Holy Quran aims to build is, therefore, to view in one sweep the entire course of human life, the present and what is to follow, and treat it as a single entity, and adjust its movements accordingly.
“Your creation and your resurrection are but like a single soul,” says the Holy Quran (31:28).
The cultural process recommended by the Quran (19:60) is summed up in but a single directive:
Aminu wa a‘malu-s-salihat,
“Believe and work righteously.”
The line of action suggested is that one has to grow conscious of certain basic realities or truths of life and to see that whatever one thinks or does is in conformity with them. The basic truths are expressed in the form of doctrinal beliefs which every Muslim has to profess and earnestly attempt to implement in his activity. Of these beliefs, some are regarded as of primary importance from the standpoint of ‘righteous living.’
Firstly, one has to believe that the entire universe, both visible and invisible, owes its existence to One Supreme Being and is sustained by Him.
As a corollary to this, one has to accept the idea that the universe and everything therein are created with a definite purpose, and that this purpose has a specific relevance to the life of man, and implies a specific message to mankind as a whole. One has, therefore, to believe that such a message — al-Din, as it is called by the Holy Quran — has been delivered, from time to time, in every part of the world and to every section of mankind by good men styled as Mursalin or Message-bearers or prophets, the Last in the order being Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), through whom this message has been reaffirmed to its Final Form.
Lastly, one has to believe in a Life Hereafter. The present life is to serve as a preparation for what is to follow. The ‘Life Hereafter’ is to be a life of introspection and of burning out the impurities gathered in this life, that man may recuperate thereby for the march onward if he has not already, in this life, equipped himself properly for the journey before him.
Such are the fundamental beliefs which one has to entertain in Islam and express in righteous activity. On the cultural plane, or in the process of implementing them, these beliefs are to develop in man a living sense of God, both in thought and action, and equip him to work for a life of peace — peace within and peace without, peace in one’s own self, and peace in one’s relation with the external world around him, in order that mankind might live together, in the words of the Holy Prophet of Islam, as
“a family of God” (Bukhari),
or as a fold every member of which
“shall be a keeper or shepherd unto every other and be accountable for the welfare of the entire fold” (Bukhari).
To live so is to live Islam. In other words, the cultural process in Islam is to develop in man a sense of inward peace operating for peace among mankind, a sense of peace which shall keep him company in the Life Hereafter as well. States the Holy Quran:
“Those who believe and whose hearts find rest in the thought of God — indeed, it is in the thought of them, and a blissful home to return to” (The Holy Quran, 13:28–29).