Man or Beast?


ARE we human or are we simply a species of animals? This question has perplexed many thinkers.

After all, are we not simply glorified animals, some proclaim? Do we not tend to do the same things that animals do? We go to work, earn money to buy food; animals also hunt or gather food. We eat and drink and so do animals. We sleep; animals also need rest. We live in homes or apartments; animals also have their caves and nests. We get married and raise children; animals also breed.

Animals live in packs or herds or flocks; we humans also tend to live with our own kind.

Animals fight other animals; we have been fighting each other since time immemorial. Animals mark territories, and we, as nations also draw our boundaries. So are we really different from animals?

To live a life beyond animal nature, we need guidance.
Depending on one’s worldview, we actually are. We possess what animals do not, and that is free will. Animals do not have a choice; they simply follow what they are designed to do. And because they simply follow their instincts, they are not held accountable for their actions. One has never come across a cow that was sued because it grazed from a pasture that was not its own. You never hear about a monkey getting arrested and jailed because it stole bananas.

No, we never hear about such things. But we do hear about people getting caught for devouring property that did not belong to them. So essentially, this is the difference between man and beast. We humans have free will, due to which we are responsible for our actions.

And because of responsibility there comes accountability. We have a choice to do or not to do something. We can either work hard to make a living or we can take away somebody else’s property by force or deception. Animals, on the other hand, do not have a choice. When they are hungry, they simply take a bite.

Because we have a choice, we need guidance. We need to know the rules. We need to know right from wrong. If we do not observe right and wrong in life, we will behave as animals and create a chaotic society.

The law of the jungle will prevail. Brute force and ‘might is right’ will become the order of the day. To rise to a human level, to live a life beyond animal nature, we require guidance.

We need to know the moral values that are universal, which have the benefit for all of our fellow human beings and which do not lean towards the selfish interest of a select few. We need to know morality which is absolute and permanent and which transcends time and space. Because humans are temporal beings, it is not within them to give such instructions. Only an intelligent guide who is not fixed in time and geographic location can give such guidance. There is only one being like that, and that is God.

Thus it is the Creator’s guidance that we need. The manufacturer is best suited to issue instructions on a machine. As it is the manufacturer who designed the machine, therefore, he is best qualified to inform us how to operate it without malfunction. So we humans need a manufacturer’s guide for living life peacefully.

We have such guidance from the Creator in the form of the Quran; its rules — if followed — keep a check on emotional recklessness. When people follow their impetuous passions, this leads them to declare: ‘my country right or wrong’. In contrast, the Quran cautions: “…And let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. …” (5:8).

Excessive greed goads people to a selfish and hedonistic lifestyle; on the other hand, the Quran gives the ideal: “… It [surplus wealth] may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you. …” (59:7).

Carnal temptations blur the line between the licit and the illicit, but consult revelation and you find that it proclaims: “Prohibited to you (for marriage) are your mothers, daughters, sisters; father’s sisters, mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters. …” (4:23).

Thus by following Quranic guidance, we become fully human and live a life above animal level. But by choosing to ignore divine guidance, people operate “…Like cattle — nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning)” (7:179).

Revelation is what keeps a check on our passions, gives rules for peaceful living, and provides the parameters for a just and balanced society. It gives values, which have the benefit for all mankind and not a select few. God’s guidance is available on earth. It is our prerogative to consult it and to abide by it and develop our true human potential.

Published in DAWN 18 November, 2016

Related Audio Talk on Soundcloud Man or Beast?

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Is it Sinful To Take The Shahadah?


INTRODUCTION: New converts to Islam often take the Shahadah when they embrace the faith to mark their formal admission into the fold of Islam. This is usually by uttering the words “I bear witness there is no God besides Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.” The Shahadah is also part of the Azaan –  the call to Prayer and is included in the wordings of the Salah, the Islamic daily prayer.

However in recent times some deviant sects are opposing converts from this practice by falsely claiming that such is an act of Shirk (polytheism). They argue that it is sinful to take the name of Allah and Muhammad in the same sentence, and that no one should be mentioned alongside the name of God. Furthermore their claim is that a believer cannot ‘bear witness’ on the messenger. Such are ridiculous claims and have no basis at all in the Qur’an. This is demonstrated briefly as per following.

1. The Qur’an itself shows that Believers bear witness over the messenger:

 

“They who disbelieve say: Thou art no messenger [of Allah]. Say: Allah, and whosoever hath knowledge of the Scripture, is sufficient witness between me and you.” 13:42

The words “..whosoever hath knowledge of the Scripture, is sufficient witness between me and you…” makes it clear that those who have knowledge of the Book are witnesses over the messenger, hence nullifying the claim of those that it is sinful to be a witness on the messenger.

2. “Laa Illah Iallah” and “Muhammad Ar Rasool Allah” are Qur’anic words

37:35

لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ

48:29

مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ

If mention of these words together is shirk, then God mentions them in His Book. Is he also guilty of Shirk according to those who propose such nonsensical ideas?

3. By bearing witness over Muhammad, one by default bears witness and acknowledges ALL messengers, because it is through Muhammad that all messengers prior to him are introduced to believers.

 

“And those who believe and do good works and believe in that which is revealed unto Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord – He riddeth them of their ill-deeds and improveth their state.” 47:2

The words “..that which is revealed unto Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord ..” shows that it is through Muhammad that truth is known, and this includes the truth of all previous messengers as well:

“Messengers indeed have been denied before thee, and they were patient under the denial and the persecution till Our succour reached them. There is none to alter the decisions of Allah. Already there hath reached thee of the tidings of the messengers [We sent before].” 6:34

The words “..Already there hath reached thee of the tidings of the messengers..” shows that it is through Muhammad that messengers before him are known to us. Therefore acknowledging Muhammad is the messenger of Allah is in fact acknowledging all messengers before him, and not excluding them as some ignorant people suggest. It is ONLY through Muhammad’s revelation that messengers true personality is revealed, making it compulsory to acknowledge him as the source of their true knowledge.

4. There is no verse in the Qur’an which says do not “mention” anyone besides God. What it says is do not “call” anyone besides God:

“And cry not, beside Allah, unto that which cannot profit thee nor hurt thee, for if thou didst so then wert thou of the wrong-doers.” 10:106 Pickthall

The word in above verse is ‘Tad’uu’ which is from ‘Du’a’ and means ‘to call’, ‘to invoke’, ‘to pray’ or ‘to supplicate to’. For ‘mention’, the word used in the Qur’an is ‘Dhikr’. Whenever Qur’an issues the command ‘do not call any besides Allah’ it always uses the words derived from ‘Dua’, and never ‘Dhikr’. Sadly some are twisting these words, and not retaining them in the original. How devious of them to do this. They are playing with fire!

There is a difference between mentioning anyone and calling anyone. God Himself mentions messengers alongside His name in the Qur’an. To say otherwise is contradictory to Qur’an.

5. The theory that the Shahada with the name of Muhammad is an act of polytheism was promoted by the (late) Rashad Khalifa and his offshoots. A number of people are simply copying his ideas and using them in argumentation to assert their superiority over Muslims to deride them that they are committing Shirk while the latter are not. The fact of the matter is that it is they who are guilty of distorting words and instead of using accurate meanings they use English words to confuse and mislead people, especially new converts.

CONCLUSION: New converts to Islam are assured that they have not committed any blasphemy or act of polytheism by making the statement of the Shahadah. The words are perfectly correct and in line with Qur’anic wordings. They should dismiss the falsehood spread by deviant sects and check whether what they are told is really based on the original text of the Qur’an or not. This belief is not of their own discovery. They are simply copy and pasting things from websites of the followers of the man, Rashad Khalifa and his offshoot and splinter groups. Playing with words has been prophesied in the Qur’an and a warning has been given to those who engage in such activity:

 

“And lo! there is a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture. And they say: It is from Allah, when it is not from Allah; and they speak a lie concerning Allah knowingly.” 3:78

We should identify those who distort the translations of the Qur’an and confirm the prophecy in the above verse about “..a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture.” Such people are amongst us who are playing with Quranic words and we should beware of them and their deviations.

 

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