Continuity and Change in Islam

Nov 12, 2007

But that is what true revolutions are made of. And those are the kind of improbable things associated with Islam, the Qur'an and the life the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, that I call miracles - true and lasting miracles that you can see with your own eyes.

Islam, thus, showed up in this world, 1400 years ago, as the originator and guarantor of these five basic freedoms for human beings of all races, genders, classes and creeds. Thus, Islam declared liberty to be a defining characteristic of human life in this world.

Islam, thus, made freedom a fundamental foundation of peace on earth. That means take away people's rights and freedoms, and you will be sowing the seeds of discord, trouble and turmoil in the world.

God's Boundaries Save Lives

It is also comforting to know that Islam comes with certain essential boundaries clearly drawn. Once again, no one can say it better than the Qur'an itself.

Qur'an: Tilka hudoodullahi fa-laa taqrabooha.

Paraphrase: "Those are Allah's boundaries, so don't go near them."

In life, boundedness is often a blessing. It is what defines and delimits things and gives them their character and shape. It is what makes life on earth possible. It is also what distinguishes the so-called higher forms and stages of life from the amoeba and the larvae and the blob.

Where boundaries are indistinct or porous, result is chaos and confusion, which is the opposite of Hidaayat or guidance, or Rushd as the Qur'an called it in the earlier passage that I cited above, to provide which God sent down Islam from heaven to earth.

Thus, in a sense, Hidaayat - or Rushd - is the knowledge of where the boundaries are with regard to everything. One of Islam's major contributions to human life on earth is to provide that knowledge to human beings with regard to things that matter most in life.

Often, these are things the details and inner workings of which they are not able to figure out by themselves.

That is why in Islam many things come with their own boundary definitions attached to them. For example:

Qur'an: Kuloo washraboo wa laa tusrifoo.

Paraphrase: "Eat and drink but do not cross the boundary into profligacy and wastefulness. Do not overindulge. Do not waste."

Moderation, Thy Name Is Islam:
How Islam Nips Totalitarian Tendencies in the Bud

No system on earth has more iron-clad guarantees of moderation and reasonableness built right into its core than does Islam.

Nor does a system provide its adherents stronger incentives, guarantees, opportunities and mechanisms for the exercise of liberty and freedom of choice in their affairs.

The flexibility in the above example - Eat, drink but do not be wasteful! - clearly reflects the need to give individuals the freedom to make their own personal determination as to what behavior is or is not wasteful, and where exactly those lines are located that should not be crossed.

It is an attempt by Islam - and the Qur'an - to nip in the bud totalitarian and authoritarian tendencies in individuals, groups, societies and cultures that often seek all kinds of excuses to control and truncate individual human rights, dignities, choices, freedoms - and lives.

Imagine edicts from heaven that might say: "Thou shalt not spend more than $10 on food per day!"

Or "Thou shalt eat only two loaves of bread a week!"

Or "Thou shalt only travel by donkey cart!"

If the Qur'an had shown up with statements like that, it would be no different from any other book in this world. The Qur'an, then, would have betrayed itself as a document of human roots and authorship and thus of limited use and validity.

In that case, its claim of being a direct divine revelation of universal and timeless validity and applicability will no longer be credible.

Islam Is Not Guesswork:
It Is Direct Divine Revelation

At the same time, Islam is not guesswork to be reinvented by each generation to fit its own special wishes, preferences and proclivities or to suit the whims and fancies of specific coteries of various elites-de-jour.

Nor does Islam allow itself to be modified or reinterpreted to fit the requirements of a particular political, social or cultural climate, even though Islam is a perpetually living and dynamic system that continually meets and accommodates the challenges of change and growth in every age and place.

Thus, Islam is a set of firmly documented teachings, concepts and practices - documented in a book: fi kitaab.

And that kitaab is in our hands today, the same in every way that it was in the hands of the Companions, May Allah bless them, of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, who received it directly from him in Seventh Century Arabia, who in turn received it from the angel Gabriel, peace and blessings be on him, who in turn was given it by God Almighty himself.

The same angel Gabriel that had brought divine revelations to all the other prophets and messengers of God Almighty, may God bless them all, before Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.

Islam, thus, is not a record of humanity's cumulative wisdom. Nor is it the fruit of combined authorship on the part of specialists and experts over the ages. But rather it is divine wisdom in God's own words.

That is why from the time the Qur'an first began its revelation 1400 years ago to this day, no one has been able to surpass or match the Qur'an in either its diction or its content and meaning, even though the Qur'an repeatedly challenges those who question its authenticity or divine origin to do so.

A System Rooted in Original Divine Text

Islam thus is raw transmission of a body of divine texts and teachings directly from the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, to the rest of humanity in every age and place.

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