Islam’s Unique Features
Islam is a religion without any mythology. Its teachings are simple and intelligible. It is free from superstitions and irrational beliefs. The oneness of Allah, the prophet hood of Muhammad, and the concept of life after death are the basic articles of its faith. They are based on reason and sound logic.
All of the teachings of Islam flow from those basic beliefs and are simple and straightforward. There is no hierarchy of priests, no farfetched abstractions, no complicated rites or rituals.
Everybody may approach the Qur’an directly and translate its dictates into practice. Islam awakens in man the faculty of reason and exhorts him to use his intellect. It enjoins him to see things in the light of reality. The Qur’an advises him to seek knowledge and invoke Allah to expand his awareness : “… My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (20: 114) Allah also says: ” … Are those who know equal to those who know not? It’s only men of understanding who will remember.” (39: 9)
It is reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that: “He who leaves his home in search of knowledge (walks) in the path of Allah.” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi) and that “Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim.” (Reported by Ibn Majah and al-Bayhaqi) This is how Islam brings man out of the world of superstition and darkness and initiates him into the world of knowledge and light.
Again, Islam is a practical religion and does not allow indulgence in empty and futile theorizing. It says that faith is not a mere profession of beliefs, but rather that it is the very mainspring of life. Righteous conduct must follow belief in Allah. Religion is something to be practiced and not an object of mere lip service. The Qur’an says: ” … Those who believed (in the Oneness of Allah) and work righteousness, Tuba (all kinds of happoiness or name of a tree in Paradise) is for them, and a beautiful place of (final) return.“ (13: 29)
Thus Islam’s simplicity, rationality and practicality are what characterize Islam as a unique and true religion.
Unity of Matter and Spirit
A feature of Islam is that it does not divide life into watertight compartments of matter and spirit. It stands not for denial of life but for the fulfillment of life. Islam does not believe in asceticism. It does not ask man to avoid material things. It holds that spiritual elevation is to be achieved by living piously in the rough and tumble of life, not by renouncing the world. The Qur’an advises us to pray as follows: ” … Our Lord! Give us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good …” (2: 201)
But in making use of life’s luxuries, Islam advises man to be moderate and keep away from extravagance, Allah says: “… and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance).” (7: 31)
On this aspect of moderation, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said : “Observe fasting and break it (at the proper time) and stand in prayer and devotion (in the night) and have sleep, for your body has its right over you, and your eyes have rights over you, and your wife has a claim upon you, and the person who pays a visit to you has a claim upon you.”
Thus, Islam does not admit any separation between “material” and “moral,” “mundane” and “spiritual” life, and enjoins man to devote all of his energies to the reconstruction of life on healthy moral foundations. It teaches him that moral and material powers must be welded together and that spiritual salvation can be achieved by using material resources for the good of man in the service of just ends and not by living a life of asceticism or by running away from the challenges of life.
Islam seeks to establish equilibrium between the two aspects of life – the material and the spiritual. It says that everything in the world is for man, but man was created to serve a higher purpose: the establishment of a moral and just order that will fulfill the will of Allah. Its teachings cater for the spiritual as well as the temporal needs of man. Islam enjoins man to purify his soul and to reform his daily life – both individual and collective – and to establish the supremacy of right over might and of virtue over vice. Thus Islam stands for the middle path and the goal of producing a moral man in the service of a just society.
Islam, a Complete Way of Life
Islam is not a religion in the common and distorted sense, for it does not confine its scope to one’s private life. It is a complete way of life and is inclusive of every field of human existence. Islam provides guidance for all aspects of life – individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, and national and international. The Qur’an enjoins man to embrace Islam without any reservation and to follow Allah’s guidance in all areas of life.
In fact, it was an unfortunate day when the scope of religion was confined to the private life of man and its social and cultural role was reduced to naught, as has happened in this century. No other factor, perhaps, has been more important in causing the decline of religion in the modern age than its retreat into the realm of private life. In the words of a modern philosopher: “Religion asks us to separate things of God from those of Caesar. Such a judicial separation between the two means the degrading of both the secular and the sacred … That religion is worth little if the conscience of its followers is not disturbed when war clouds are hanging over us all and industrial conflicts are threatening social peace. Religion has weakened man’s social conscience and moral sensitivity by separating the things of God from those of Caesar.”
Islam totally denounces this concept of religion and clearly states that its objectives are the purification of the soul and the reform and reconstruction of society.
Thus even a cursory study of the teachings of Islam shows that it is an all-embracing way of life and does not leave out any field of human existence to become a playground for the forces of evil.
Another unique feature of Islam is that it establishes a balance between individualism and collectivism. It believes in the individual personality of man and holds everyone personally accountable to Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Everyone of you is a guardian, and responsible for what is in his custody. The ruler is a guardian of his subjects and responsible for them; a husband is a guardian of his family and is responsible for it; a lady is a guardian of her husband’s house and is responsible for it, and a servant is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it.” The Prophet also said, “A man is a guardian of his father’s property and is responsible for it, so all of you are guardians and responsible for your wards and things under your care .“(Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Islam also guarantees the fundamental rights of the individual and does not permit anyone to tamper with them. It makes the proper development of the personality of man one of the prime objectives of its educational policy. It does not subscribe to the view that man must lose his individuality in society or in the state.
In Islam, all men are equal, regardless of color, language, race, or nationality. It addresses itself to the conscience of humanity and banishes all false barriers of race, status, and wealth. There can be no denying the fact that such barriers have always existed and continue to exist today in the so-called enlightened age. Islam removes all of these impediments and proclaims the ideal of the whole of humanity being one universal family.
Islam is international in its outlook and approach and does not admit barriers and distinctions based on color, clan, blood, or territory, as was the case before the advent of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Unfortunately, these prejudices remain rampant in different forms even in this modern age. Islam wants to unite the entire human race under one banner. To a world torn by national rivalries and feuds, it presents a message of life and hope and of a glorious future.
Complete Record of Teachings Preserved
Last, but not least, is the fact that the teachings of Islam have been preserved in their original form. As a result, Allah’s guidance is available without adulteration of any kind. The Qur’an is the revealed book and word of Allah, which has existed for the last fourteen hundred years. It is still available in its original form. Detailed accounts of the life of the Prophet and of his teachings are available in their pristine purity.
There has not been even one change made in this unique historical record. The sayings and the entire record of the life of the Prophet have been handed down to us with unprecedented precision and authenticity in works of the Hadith and the Sirah (the Prophet’s Biography). Even a number of non-Muslim critics admit this eloquent fact.
These are some of the unique features of Islam that establish its credentials as the religion of man, the religion of today, and the religion of tomorrow. These aspects have appealed to millions of people in the past and the present and have made them affirm that Islam is the religion of truth and the right path for mankind.