Ethics & Values New Muslims

Social Relations: Lessons from the Qur’an

Allah being man’s Creator knows best what might damage cordial social relations, as a result of weaknesses in human nature:

The believers are brothers in faith. So make peace and reconciliation between your brethren. And fear Allah so that you may receive His mercy. O Believers! Let not some men among you laugh at others. It may be that the latter are better than the former. Let not some women laugh at others. It may be that the latter are better than the former. And do not criticize one another, nor call them by offensive nicknames. It is bad to commit sin after professing belief. And those who do not repent are wrongdoers. O Believers! Avoid suspicion as much as possible. For in some cases suspicion is a sin. And do not spy on and backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? You would abhor it. And fear Allah. Allah accepts repentance and is Most Merciful. O mankind! We have created you from a single pair of a male and female. And We have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. The most honored of you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most pious of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things. (Al-Hujurat 49:10-13)

The passage above goes to great lengths in identifying and remedying these human failings.

Against Ridicule

Mention is made first of the fairly common tendency of laughing at others. Both men and women are equally prone to doing this.

Strikingly enough, the Qur’an addresses both men and women separately, asking them to desist from it. For the men or women so ridiculed may be better than those scoffing at them. What actually accounts for issuing this directive separately to men and women is that Islam does not envisage any intermixing of men and women.

It does not, therefore, admit the possibility that men may mock women and vice versa. For they should not and cannot gain such acquaintance with the opposite sex, as may result in taking them as the butt of ridicule and mockery. Repetition of the directive is also aimed at emphasizing the evil of such a practice.

Laughing at others may take many different forms, as is pointed out thus:

Copying someone’s voice, laughing at his words, face or dress, and making gestures so as to attract attention to others’ weaknesses. The underlying idea behind this act is to express one’s superiority by undermining the prestige of others.

This is regarded as character-assassination in Islam, and is abhorred in the same way as physical attack and persecution.

Since mocking others amounts to attacking their honor and prestige, it is bound to strain social relations. The victim too might even resort to revenge. As a result, the social fabric is damaged, giving rise to many more evils.

Islam therefore, strikes at the root of this common human failing of laughing at someone else’s expense.

Not to Slander

Another habit that deals a severe blow to mutual love and understanding is the tendency to criticize and blame others for offences, both real and imaginary. Needless to add, acrimonious remarks made against others are always counter-productive. The blame game is endless, with each party projecting the other in the worst possible light.

Far from promoting the Islamic value system, this tendency creates fissures and ruptures in community life. Such actions and reactions run counter to the Islamic ideal of Muslim brotherhood. At another place too, the Qur’an condemns the practice of slandering:

Woe to every kind of scandalmonger and backbiter, who piles up wealth and lays it by, thinking that his wealth will make him last forever. By no means! He will surely be thrown into that which breaks to pieces. And what would explain to you that which breaks to pieces? It is the fire of Allah kindled to a blaze. (Al-Humazah 104:1-6)

Using offensive nicknames is a variation of slander. The Qur’an makes a point of prohibiting this as well. For, like mocking and slandering others, it disrupts cordial social relations. The victim may avenge himself or he may harbor ill-feelings against those who show disrespect towards him. In either case, social relations are bound to be affected.

quran_prayer beads

Not only does Islam proclaim the sanctity of human life, property and honor, it also expects every member of the community to uphold the same.


The Qur’an is so particular about maintaining and promoting social harmony that it mentions, one by one, these irritants and urges man to shun them.

For curbing these the Qur’an goes a step further in asking man to be conscious all along of the All-Hearing, All-Seeing Allah and of the terrible consequences of such misdeeds in the Hereafter.

At the close of the verse these misdeeds, which harm fellow human beings, are branded as acts of wickedness. Muslims are reminded that after having professed belief, they should have nothing to do with any wicked act. As for those who refuse to pay any heed to these warnings and persist in such misdeeds, they are dubbed as wicked.

The note of warning is clear and emphatic. Little wonder then that one comes across several reports about the Prophet’s Companions that they made a point of shunning such behavior. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud is on record as exclaiming: “I dread laughing at even a dog, lest I be turned into a dog.” (Al-Qurtubi)

Verse 12, “O Believers! Avoid suspicion as much as possible. For in some cases suspicion is a sin. And do not spy on and backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? You would abhor it. And fear Allah. Allah accepts repentance and is Most Merciful (Al-Hujurat 49:12), marks the extension of the same moral code.

The focus shifts to those weaknesses which generally creep into a community as a whole and its behavioral pattern. Once again, the objective is to promote good social behavior among members of the community and also towards others who are not part of the faith community.

The directive starts by striking a blow at the root cause of all quarrels and conflicts – suspecting others and ascribing bad motives to all of their actions. If one does not check this tendency, it might make one’s own life miserable.

While one should be on one’s guard regarding one’s interests and not act in a gullible way, one should not take everyone as an enemy. Suspicion breeds hostility which eventually results in severing ties and relationships.

The Qur’an dubs such suspicion as a sin for it prompts one to doubt someone else’s integrity and to interpret an action in the worst possible terms.

Closely related to suspicion is the human weakness of spying on others in order to find out their secrets. Also included under this heading are the following: “Bugging, reading someone’s letters, peeping into someone’s house, investigating someone’s financial, private and family affairs.”

Collective Responsibility

Not only does Islam proclaim the sanctity of human life, property and honor, it also expects every member of the community to uphold the same. Accordingly, it forbids any interest in others’ personal and private lives. The Prophet brought home the above point thus:

“Do not speak ill of fellow Muslims. Do not look for their failings and weaknesses. For one who looks for their weaknesses, his failings are identified by Allah. Such a person is destined to be disgraced.” (Al-Qurtubi)

The Islamic norm that one’s personal life should not be probed unnecessarily is illustrated best by the following incident in the early history of Islam, involving a person of such exalted stature as the Caliph `Umar.

Once on his nightly inspection round the Caliph ‘Umar passed by a house, resounding with song and music. He jumped over the wall and found inside the house a man in a drunken state in the company of a woman who was playing music. Enraged, the Caliph asked the man to explain his misconduct.

However, the man retorted thus: “O Caliph, if I have committed one sin, you stand guilty of three. Allah has forbidden us to spy on someone. Yet you did the same. He has commanded that one should enter a house after securing permission. You have violated this. Moreover, you have invaded my privacy.” The Caliph realized that in his zeal to check evil he had not followed the social norms spelled out in the Qur’an. He, therefore, did not press charges against the person.

However, he instructed the latter to lead his life in accordance with Islamic morals and manners. The latter assured him that he would mend his ways.


The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s The Qur’an: Essential Teachings, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

Emigration to Madinah: Lessons for New Muslims

The mountain of Thawr

Emigration to Madinah: Lessons for New Muslims. What lessons does the Prophet’s Hijrah offer on the life of a Muslim?

The early Muslim community suffered a lot before they were ordered to leave Makkah and go to Madinah.

The persecution exercised against Muslims increased especially after the death of Prophet Muhammad’s beloved wife, lady Khadijah and his uncle, Abu Talib. At a certain point, it was necessary to look for a new soil to plant the seed of Islam, to spread the word of God, and to practice Islam in a secure and receptive environment.

I am not going to give a detailed account of the events of the Prophet’s emigration to Madinah. Such details can be found in the Hadith Collection of Al-Bukhari (hadith no. 245). However, I am going to mention some lessons that can be drawn from this great event in the history of Islam.

The first lesson is patience. By patience I mean enduring the hardships put forward by the people of Quraish to check the tide of Islam. Muslims were boycotted; they were not allowed to buy and sell in the open market or engage in any business. However, they persevered and accepted the tribulation.

After the command of emigrating to Madinah, Muslims left behind everything they loved, their families, friends, their country, etc. Why did they do that? Because they put their trust in God and cherished hope in His mercy that He will make a way out for them. In Madinah, Muslims were free to practice their religion and they were able to establish a new state.

New Muslims can learn from this lesson that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

You might be treated badly or ridiculed by your families, neighbors and friends. Therefore, do like what the early Muslims did; endure the hardships with patience. Do not lose hope. Rest assured that your decision to take Islam your way of life will not let you down.

Put Your Trust in God

Nothing on earth should make you give up. See how the Prophet behaved when he was in the cave and the people of Quraish were following him. His friend Abu Bakr  reported that: ”I was in the company of the Prophet in the cave, and on seeing the traces of the pagans, I said, “O Allah’s messenger if one of them (pagans) should lift up his foot, he will see us.” He said, “What do you think of two, the third of whom is Allah?” (Al-Bukhari)

Put your trust in God and be sure that He is always there to help you.

Although the people of Quraish were hostile towards the Prophet and wanted to put an end to his life and message, they used to call him the truthful and the trustworthy. They used also to entrust him with their valuables. What a contradiction!

His honesty was put to test when he was ordered to emigrate. What would he do with the valuables entrusted with him? Would he use it to make his emigration plan successful? Would he give it to his followers? On the contrary, the Prophet asked his cousin `Ali ibn Abi Talib to delay his emigration for three days so that he can return to people their valuables.

We learn from this situation that when you are put to test, do not forget your principles. Do not forget what your religion asks you to do. Islam urges you to be honest with all people, Muslims and non-Muslims.

If a colleague or friend entrusts you with something and it happens that you are not in good terms with him, do not give yourself excuses misusing the trust. You have to return it to him immediately. By this you will be teaching him something about Muslim’s ethical code.

A Professional Guide

When the Prophet and Abu Bakr decided to leave Makkah, they wanted to get the job done professionally. Therefore, they hired `Abdullah ibn Urayqit, a non-Muslim who was a professional guide in Makkah, to act as their guide. Lady Aishah reported that:

“Allah’s Messenger and Abu Bakr had hired a man from the tribe of Bani Al-Dil from the family of Bani `Abd ibn `Adi as an expert guide, and he was in alliance with the family of Al-`As bin Wa’il Al-Sahmi and he was on the religion of the people of Quraish. The Prophet and Abu Bakr trusted him and gave him their two she-camels and took his promise to bring their two she-camels to the cave of the mountain of “Thawr” in the morning three nights later. And (when they set out), `Amir ibn Fuhairah and the guide went along with them and the guide led them along the sea-shore.” (Al-Bukhari)

We learn from this situation that there is no problem to seek the help of people of other faiths as long as they are qualified enough and have more experience than Muslims. If it happens that a new Muslim is in trouble and the solution to his trouble is in the hand of someone who belongs to another religion, he should seek his help as long as he is a trustworthy person.

If there is a vacant job for which two persons apply, Islam teaches that proficiency comes before piety. Take the professional even he is not Muslim. By this, you are doing the Muslim who is not qualified enough a favor. He will learn more and gain more experience so that next time he will be accepted.

In Madinah

After the Prophet arrived to Madinah, the people of Madinah welcomed him and protected him as they would protect themselves and their families. The Prophet ordered that each Helper (one of the Ansar) would have an Emigrant (Muhajir) brother.

In their new life after conversion, new Muslims should interact with their Muslim community and they have to adapt to the customs of their community. New Muslims are the emigrants and Muslim communities are the helpers (Ansar). Muslim communities should welcome new Muslims and help them.

Another important lesson of the Hijrah is how the Prophet approached those who showed interest in Islam. When he met the first delegation of the Khazraj he just told them about Islam and only urged them to read the Qur’an. Next year he told them about the acts of worship, manners and virtues. In the second Aqabah pledge, the Ansar accepted to protect the Prophet and his followers as mentioned above.

This is how new Muslims should be approached. First, they have to be convinced of God’s Oneness. In later stages, they can learn how to perform the Prayer, pay the zakah, observe fasting, etc.

It is noteworthy that what we celebrate on the month of Muharram is the beginning of applying the Islamic calendar because the emigration took place in the month of Rabi` Al-Awwal not in Muharram.

So, let’s make the new Hijri year a new start

for all of us.

Let’s make it a turning point in our life.

Let’s start a new leaf.

Let’s purify our intentions in every action we do and make it only to please God the Almighty.

Let’s apply the actual meaning of Hijrah as the Prophet is reported to have said: “An emigrant is the one who abandons what Allah has made unlawful.” (Al-Bukhari)


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New Muslims Worldview

Islam: A Religion of Quality


Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that unkempt, unclean and loutish individuals who spout distorted religious speculations as being wholly representative of Islam.

The Islamic world is wide-spread not only in its geography, but in its various traditions. However, when we look at the world of Islam today, a general coarsening has taken place.

At one time, Muslims were regarded as people of good character; in the Middle Ages, Saladin was regarded by the Crusaders, including Richard the Lionhearted, as a wise and noble figure worthy of respect. Islam led the world in the sciences, the arts and literature.

Now when we gaze upon the Islamic world, we see a degraded culture where shabby-looking men are held up as saints, where beautiful women are commanded by bigots to conceal their beauty, and where unkempt women are held up as paragons of virtue by the very nature of their appearance, as though having bad skin and uncombed hair somehow makes you pious.

It goes without saying that many, especially in the West, look at bedraggled men with long and disheveled beards, wearing rags and semi-literate, as examples of Islam. This occurs because the media has made them so, and these particular men love nothing more than to claim to speak for the whole of the Islamic world.

But it is not only in the West that this has happened; in the Islamic world, far too many Muslims see these same men and think to themselves, “Why, look! He wears filthy rags, and has a long and ungroomed beard. Surely this is a holy man!” Or they see a woman in stylish clothes, wearing makeup or having her hair uncovered, and the immediate reaction of far too many is, “Why, this woman is a prostitute, a Jezebel!”

This kind of foolish thinking is unfortunately commonplace in the Islamic world.

So how has it come to this? How is it that music, art and beauty is condemned, when music, art and beauty are gifts from God? Why are these gifts, which uplift and elevate the mind and soul, looked upon as curses from the devil himself?

Perhaps it is because we have allowed petty and small-minded provincials with peculiar ideas to rule the discussion for too long. We have allowed these people to enjoy a cultural dictatorship, a “tyranny of moral busybodies,” as the Christian writer C.S. Lewis so eloquently said.

We have allowed them to become cultural arbiters. And the results? A world without joy or beauty. A world where those men and women who wish to share the talents given to them by God are told their gifts are sins. What madness is this? Truly, a world in which there is no appreciation of beauty and aesthetics is little more than a manifestation of Hell itself.

There is nothing from the Qur’an that prohibits music or the arts. It is mistaken to say, “The Qur’an prohibits music!” This is bid`ah, or heresy, and those who introduce such things are committing a sin. As it says in the Qur’an:

Say, “Do you see that which God has provided for you – you make some of it unlawful (haram) and some of it lawful?” Say, “Did God allow you to do this, or do you tell lies about God?” (Yunus 10:59)

Our Prophet (peace be upon him) was a man of fine appearance and attribute, and he had an aesthetic appreciation for beauty. He used to grow roses around his house, and in a desert environment growing almost anything is a difficult task.

At that time there existed a fragrant oil and our Prophet used to use olive oil as well as that oil mixed with a beautiful smelling rose extract; he used to wear this in his hair as a brilliantine, and it made him appear more youthful. It is said his clothes, his frock and shirt were white and always kept clean and in good repair. His teeth (owing to the use of a miswak, a natural toothbrush) were white and clean.

All of these descriptions of his appearance come from the hadiths. All these descriptions are notably different from what we so often see, and all are notably different from what we see in Muslim extremists as well.

So to my fellow Muslims, please do not allow yourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that by looking shabby and scowling, that this makes you a more devout Muslim. Do not fall prey to the notion that forbidding music or art or beauty is somehow the commandment of God.

Do not think for one moment that by treating your wife as an object of scorn or contempt, or as your occasional beast of burden when you go to the shops, that you are living the truth of Islam. You are not. You are behaving in an ugly and boorish manner, and this behavior is fodder for those who seek to portray Muslims as savages.

And above all, do not fall into that trap of utopian nonsense which says that if the Muslims were simply to go back to the life of the seventh century A.D., then all would be well in the world, and we would all live in perfect contentment forevermore. This rejection of the modern world is not only profoundly silly and highly reactionary, it is dangerous.

And for the Western reader, I ask you not to fall into the trap of thinking that unkempt, unclean and loutish individuals who spout distorted religious speculations mixed with their own superstitions and cultural peculiarities as being wholly representative of Islam. They are not; overall, they are a minority. They get the attention they do simply because they manage to talk over everyone else.

And do not fall into the trap of the anti-Muslim bigots; while they like to claim they are only opposed to “extremists” and “radicals”, they portray this vocal and extremist minority as representative of the entirety of Islam, when in fact the opposite is true. Extremists speak only for themselves; they are a majority only in their fevered delusions.



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Muslim and True Sense of Belonging


Minarets in America

To believe, along with the recollection of the presence of the Creator, is a way of understanding one’s life within creation and among people.

Muslims today experience, sometimes with a great deal of tension, conflicts of belonging, and if they themselves do not feel it as such, their fellow-citizens sometimes manage to connect them with another belonging – to “their community,” “their brothers” from some other place, as if this attribution were one more sign that they do not really belong to the Western nations.

For decades the same intentional process has been directed in Europe against Jews, whose genuine loyalty has always been suspect. Muslims face the same judgment, and international events push them even more onto the defensive.

So this issue must be dealt with particularly explicitly. Let us ask the questions clearly and simply: should Muslims be defined in the light of the notion of community (ummah), or are they simply Muslim citizens of one or another Western country? To which group or collectivity do they belong first, to the Ummah or to the country in which they live as residents or citizens?

These are sensitive questions, for behind their outward meaning we find the fundamental question: Is it possible for a Muslim to be an authentic European or American, a real citizen, a loyal citizen?

Belonging to the Islamic Ummah

The essence of the Muslim personality is the affirmation of the Shahadah (Declaration of Faith). If we had to look for the minimal element on which Muslims agree for the definition of their common identity, we would certainly find that it was this fundamental profession of faith, which, when declared sincerely, makes the individual a Muslim.

This Shahadah is not a simple statement, for it contains a profound perception of the Creation that itself gives rise to a specific way of life for the individual, as for the society. The permanent link with God, the recollection that we belong to Him and will return to Him sheds an intense light on our person because we understand that life has meaning and that all people will have to account for their actions. This ’intimate thought of every action‘ is one of the major dimensions of Islamic spirituality that, without any form of institutionalized influence, prompts every believer to decide on the markers for his social life.

To believe, along with the recollection of the presence of the Creator, is a way of understanding one’s life within creation and among people, for, from the Islamic point of view, to be with God is to be with human beings. This is the meaning of tawheed (Oneness of God) in Islam.

In Islam, there are four circles or areas that, at various levels and with specific prerogatives, should be highlighted in order to explain the social significance of the teaching of Islam, from the family to the Ummah and finally to the whole of humankind.

Immediately after the recognition of the presence of a Creator, which is the fundamental vertical dimension, a first horizontal area is opened up in matters to do with human relations. The strong affirmation of the Oneness of God and the worship of Him is linked as an essential condition with respect for parents and good behavior toward them.

The first area in social relations, which is based on family ties, is basic for Muslims. The Qur’an connects the reality of tawheed with respect for parents in numerous verses:

Do not set up any other deity side by side with God, lest you find yourself disgraced and forsaken: For your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him. And do good unto your parents. Should one of them, or both, attain old age, in your care, never say ‘Ugh’ to them or scold them, but (always) speak unto them with reverent speech, and spread over them humbly the wings of your tenderness, and say: ‘O my Sustainer! Bestow Your grace upon them, as they cherished and reared me when I was a child.’ (Al-Israa’ 17:22-24)

To serve one’s parents and be good to them is the best way of being good before God. It is one of the most important teachings of Islam, and the Prophet constantly emphasized it with supporting injunctions, such as the famous hadith: “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers.” (Muslim)

Nevertheless, there may be a situation when parents ask something that is against the faith and God’s commands, in which case a son or a daughter should not obey, although they should remain respectful and polite. The most important of these commands is, of course, not to associate any other god with God, and if parents order their children to do this, they should refuse:

But if both try to force you to associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them; keep company with them in this world in an appropriate way, but follow the way of those who turn to Me. (Luqman 31:15)

This refusal to obey certain pressures exercised by one’s parents clearly shows where the priorities lie with regard to authority from the Islamic point of view: one should please both God and one’s parents, but one should not disobey God in order to please one’s parents. This was confirmed in general terms by the Prophet: “There should be no obedience to a creature in disobedience to the Creator.” (Muslim)

This means that despite the importance of parental ties, which are where identity and fundamental belonging lie for a Muslim, they are not the first or the most important criterion in determining and guiding human relations.

If a Muslim has to choose between fairness, which God has commanded should be practiced and respected, and himself, his parents, or his loved ones, he should prefer justice, for such an act bears true witness to his faith:

O You who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own interests or those of your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over (the claims of) either. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort (the truth), behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do! (An-Nisaa’ 4:135)

A Muslim belongs above all to God, and this belonging influences and illumines with a particular light each social sphere in which he or she is involved. To believe in God and to bear witness to His message before the whole of humankind means that the fundamental values He has revealed, such as honesty, faithfulness, fairness, and justice, all have priority over parental ties.

Consequently, Muslims must respect family ties (and by extension ties with community, people, and nation), as long as no one forces or compels them to act against their faith or conscience.

Thus, the first area of social relations in Islam associates father and mother very closely with the concept of the family, which refers, in the broad Islamic sense, to close relations and to everyone with whom one has a family relationship.

The individual affirmation of Islamic faith by means of the Shahadah and the recognition of the family as the first area of social life are the prerequisites for entering into the second circle of social relations in Islam. Each of the four practical pillars of Islamic religious practice has a double dimension, individual and collective.

By trying to excel in the practice of their religion, Muslims are immediately called to face the communal dimension of the Islamic way of life. Most Qur’anic injunctions are addressed to the believers in the plural: “O bearers of the faith. . . .” and when Muslims recite Al-Fatihah (‘the opening chapter’ of the Qur’an) in each prayer cycle, they present themselves as members of a community by saying: “You alone we worship, to You alone we turn for help. Guide us in the right way.”  (Al-Fatihah 1:5, 6)


The article is an excerpt from the author’s Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Oxford University Press (2004).

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The Four Pillars and the Social Message of Islam

By: Tariq Ramadan

What do the pillars of Islam have to do with the social relations? What message do they have for the benefit and well-being of society? How do these pillars impact our relations with others?

Pillars & Social Relations

“Communal prayer is twenty-seven times better than the prayer of a man alone in his house.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Prayer is the most important pillar of Islam. It is its very essence and explains the link with God but also the fundamental equality that exists between believers, brother beside brother, sister beside sister, all asking for divine guidance based on faith and brotherhood, as they have been taught.

This sense of community is confirmed and reinforced by all the other religious practices, particularly zakat, which is essentially a tax raised for the poor and needy. The stronger our relationship with God, the stronger our desire to serve others will become, too.

A right understanding of zakah takes us to the heart of the social message of Islam: to pray to God is to give to one’s brother or sister. These are the very foundations of Islam as Abu Bakr understood it, when he warned after the death of the Prophet that he would fight anyone who wanted to make a distinction between prayer and paying zakat (what is effectively what happened later with the southern tribes).

The same call is found in the requirement to fast during the month of Ramadan. An act of worship in itself, fasting also leads Muslims to perceive, and to feel inwardly, the need to eat and drink and, by extension, to ensure that every human being has the means to subsist.

Thus, the month of Ramadan should be a time during which believers strengthen their faith and spirituality while developing their sense of social justice.

Pilgrimage clearly has this same double significance: the gathering at Mecca is the great witness to this community of faith that exists among Muslims. Men and women together, at the center, praying to one God, members of a community that share the same hope—of pleasing the Creator and of being forgiven and rewarded in the next life.

In Daily Life

For Muslims, the daily practice of their religion gives birth naturally to a deep sense of being members of one community. This is a dimension that is inherent in the Islamic faith and way of life, which in turn are strengthened, guided, and shaped by this communal feeling: “Certainly the believers are brothers,” (Al-Hujurat 49:10), the Qur’an tells us.

Wherever Muslims live, we are present at the birth of a community that is created and confirmed by prayer and the prescribed religious practices and that then develops progressively as the Muslims begin to use their imaginations and to put in place social activities centered around the mosque (or to create an Islamic association).

This process is evident everywhere in the world, in Muslim countries as well as in the West. To pronounce the Shahadah, which is, as we have said, the essence of Muslim identity, is to share in this community spirit with its immediate implication, which is the promotion of social activities.

In philosophical terms, one might say that this feeling has a part in Muslim identity at the heart of the practice and that it constitutes one of the distinctive characteristics of such an identity. As the Prophet said: “Gather together, for the wolf picks off only the sheep that stand alone.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

In Practice

A rereading of this analysis concerning the communitarian aspect of the four practical pillars of Islam shows a development in the sense of belonging and how these pillars reflect our social life in Islam.

Prayer establishes connections with our Muslim neighbor in a specific place, while zakat enlarges the circle of our social relations, for the whole of the sum must be spent on the needy people in the area where it is raised. It even may be spent abroad if all the local needs are met or if there is an exceptional and vital need.

Fasting develops an even broader feeling, for by fasting and by thinking about it, we are in spiritual communion with the poor of the whole world. And this communion finds a final, tangible, and physical realization in the pilgrimage to Mecca, the sacred place of gathering for millions of Muslims, symbolic of the Ummah.

This is in fact the third circle that delineates the belonging of a Muslim: the Ummah is a community of faith, feeling, brotherhood, and destiny.

All Muslims who say the Shahadah should know and understand that their individual actions are part, an essential part, of the Shahada borne by the whole community of believers: all Muslims are individually invested with the common responsibility of bearing witness to the message before the whole of humankind.

This is the exact meaning of the verse already quoted that links the notion of Ummah (the body, in the singular) with the duty of the believers (the members, in the plural):

So we have made you one community justly balanced, so that you might be witnesses before humankind. (Al-Baqarah 2:143)


The article is an excerpt from the author’s Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Oxford University Press (2004).

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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Citizenship in Islam: Rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim (1/3)

By Editorial Staff

Citizenship in Islam Rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim

A Muslim is asked to give his Muslim brother a helping hand and stand with him until he accomplishes his matters.

Rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim are some of the first principles Islam came to instill.

When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions migrated to Al-Madinah, they had to encounter new, even, strange situations. It was similar to the conditions of refugees nowadays although being quite different.

The concept of migration itself was extrinsic to Arabs who have been known to their strong fidelity to their tribes and chieftains. A great deal of Arabs activities, such as marriage, residence, social relations, and litigation were pure tribal. The loyalty to tribe knew no limit to the extent that the history of Arabia recorded long destructive wars that remained for tenths of years and killed hundreds of people, such as the wars of Da`is wal-Ghabra’, and Al-Basus, because of tribal issues.

However, the approach of Islam was completely different. It toned the equity between people, loyalty to Islam, the universality of Islamic messages, the submission to the rulings of Islam alone, the formation of a new social system of equal rights and duties, and the elimination of the improper customs and conventions of the pre-Islamic period.

When Prophet (peace be upon him) arrived at Al-Madinah he established the concept of Islamic brotherhood in its best sense. He (peace be upon him) confirmed up the brotherhood of Islam between the Muslims of Al-Madinah and the migrants, which remained a lasting basis for the Muslim community ever. A Muslim became a brother of a Muslim, regardless of their homeland, tribe, color, gender, and economic level.

This relationship for a Muslim should be stronger and more preferred than any other relationship. It stems from the Islamic creed and touches on the belief of God himself. Almighty Allah blamed those who have loved the hostile non-Muslim fathers and brothers as they have set themselves against Allah and His Messengers:

You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day having affection for those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even if they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred. Those – He has decreed within their hearts faith and supported them with spirit from Him. (Al-Mujadalah 58:22)

Then, He (Glory be to Him) praised the Muslims of Al-Madinah for their perfect application of the principle of Islamic brotherhood with their fellow Meccan Muslims. He says:

And (also for) those who were settled in al-Madinah and (adopted) the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give (them) preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful. And (there is a share for) those who came after them, saying, “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts (any) resentment toward those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Kind and Merciful.” (Al-Hashr 59:9-10)

This concept of brotherhood was consolidated by the revelation. The Qur’an always uses the word brother, in the singular or plural forms, referring to Muslims:

The believers are but brothers. (Al-Hujurat 49:10)

And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (Al-Hujurat 49:12)

O you who have believed, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered – the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. (Al-Baqarah 2:178)

Brotherhood in the Sunnah

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “A Muslim is a brother to a Muslim.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Do not desert (stop talking to) one another, do not nurse hatred towards one another, do not be jealous of one another, and become as fellow brothers and slaves of Allah. It is not lawful for a Muslim to stop talking to his brother (Muslim) for more than three days.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Dharr narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Your smiling in the face of your brother is charity, commanding good and forbidding evil is charity, your giving directions to a man lost in the land is charity for you. Your seeing for a man with bad sight is a charity for you, your removal of a rock, a thorn or a bone from the road is charity for you. Your pouring what remains from your bucket into the bucket of your brother is charity for you.” (At-Tirmidhi)

In these quoted texts, Islamic brotherhood in all its meanings is highlighted. A Muslim is a brother to a Muslim in the full sense of the word with full rights and duties. A true Muslim cares for his Muslim brother, visits him, shares happiness with him, consoles him in case of grief, and cooperates with him in the goodness. In the following lines, we will try to find out these mutual rights between the Muslims and each other as substantiated by the Qur’an and Sunnah.

1- Right of Support

A Muslim is asked to support his Muslim brother and not to disappoint or relinquish him. The Prophet (peace be upon him) maintained that the Muslims should be a means of support and help to their fellow Muslims. Abu Musa? (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “The relationship of the believer with another believer is like (the bricks of) a building, each strengthens the other.” He (peace be upon him) illustrated this by interlacing the fingers of both his hands. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Moreover, the Prophet gives orders to support the Muslim brother, even in case of his wrongfulness in which case the support is different. This is clarified by the hadith narrated by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) who reported:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Support your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed”. A man enquired: “O Messenger of Allah! I support him when he is oppressed, but how can I support him when he is an oppressor?” He (peace be upon him) said, “You can keep him from committing oppression. That will be your support to him”. (Al-Bukhari)

2- Right of Help

Among the rights of Islamic brotherhood is to give your Muslim brother a helping hand and stand with him until he accomplishes his matters. A Muslim person should feel that is not alone in this life but rather every Muslim everywhere is his brother who supports, helps, cares for, defends, likes, assists and looks after him.

Ibn Abu Ad-Dunya narrated from Ibn `Umar that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The most beloved of people to Allah is the one who brings most benefit to people, and the most beloved of deeds to Allah is making a Muslim happy, or relieving him of hardship, or paying off his debt, or warding off hunger from him. For me to go with my Muslim brother to meet his need is dearer to me than observing i`tikaf (seclusion) in this mosque – meaning the mosque of Madinah – for a month… Whoever goes with his Muslim brother to meet his need, Allah will make him stand firm on the Day when all feet will slip.” (At-Targhib wa At-Tarhib)

The hadith states that causing good to a Muslim brother, helping them carry out their matters, paying off their debt, relieving them of hardship, etc. are on the top of the God-pleasing deeds. Also, the most beloved ones to God are those who undertake the rights of brotherhood perfectly.

To be continued..



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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Citizenship in Islam: Rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim (2/3)

In a previous article, we mentioned two of the rights of the Muslim upon his Muslim brother. We highlighted the rights of support and help that are highly confirmed by the Qur’an and Sunnah. In this article, we will explain the rights that Islam has imposed upon Muslims towards each other.

Rights of the Muslim

The Muslim is the one who protects the honor of his fellow Muslim.

Rights of the Muslim

Right of Justice

A Muslim is not allowed to oppress anyone. This is totally prohibited in Islam. Allah has repeatedly stated in the Qur’an that wrongfulness is forbidden and that He does not like the wrongdoers:

But as for those who believed and did righteous deeds, He will give them in full their rewards, and Allah does not like the wrongdoers. (Aal `Imran 3:57)

Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) quoted the Prophet saying among what he narrated from Allah, the Most High, that He has said, “O My slaves, I have made oppression unlawful for myself and I have made it unlawful among you, so do not oppress one another.” (Muslim)

Yet, wrongfulness, which is already prohibited, is more prohibited when it occurs between two Muslims. Ibn `Umar that the Prophet said, “A Muslim is a brother of (another) Muslim, he neither wrongs him nor does hand him over to one who does him wrong.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Right of Concealing the Faults

A Muslim should care for his Muslim brother. He should not uncover his faults, search to know them or encroach upon his brother’s privacy. He should be a means of protection of the dignity and honor of his brother. It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever covers (the sin of) a Muslim, Allah will cover him (his sin) in this world and in the Hereafter.” (Ibn Majah)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned against searching for others faults. Narrated Abu Barzah Al-Aslami: “The Prophet said: “O community of people, who believed by their tongue, and belief did not enter their hearts, do not back-bite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in his house.” (Abu Dawud)

However, this does not mean letting a Muslim go ahead in committing sins where he should be advised and warned of their evil outcome.

Right of Protecting Honor

The most emphasized right of a Muslim upon the other Muslim is to preserve his honor and reputability. This right is stressed by the Prophet, and its violation is graver than anything else. Narrated Sa`id ibn Zayd: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The most prevalent kind of usury is going to lengths in talking unjustly against a Muslim’s honor.” (Abu Dawud)

Also, the Prophet stressed that the honor of a Muslim brother must be kept untouchable and inviolable for the other Muslims. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “The Messenger of Allah said: “The blood, honor and property of a Muslim is inviolable for another Muslim.” (Muslim)

In another hadith, as the Prophet gives the definition and description of a true Muslim. He (peace be upon him) maintains that the Muslim is the one who protects the honor of his fellow Muslim. It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah said: “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and the believer is the one from whom the people’s lives and wealth are safe.” (An-Nasa’i)

Right of Supplication

One of the indications of a Muslim’s love for his Muslim brother for the sake of God is to supplicate God for him, especially in his brother’s absence. This supplication is hoped to be answered by God. Abu Ad-Darda’ (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “The Messenger of Allah said, “The supplication of a Muslim for his (Muslim) brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says: ‘Ameen! May it be for you, too’.” (Muslim)

The above hadith highlights two things: the supplication of a Muslim to his Muslim brother in his absence is certainly answered, and that the angels will respond to his supplication by saying “Ameen” and implore God to give the questioner the same thing he requested for his brother, which is expected to be answered as well.

Right of Preserving the Properties

The Prophet has maintained that it is not permissible by any means to encroach upon other’s properties, even if they are non-Muslims. However, this impermissibility becomes more established if it is between Muslims. Almighty Allah says,

O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only (in lawful) business by mutual consent. (An-Nisaa’ 4:29)

The verse shows us that using up a Muslim’s properties is not allowable in Islam. In his Farwell Hajj, the Prophet declared in his well-known sermon as narrated by Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: “Delivering the sermon during the Farewell Pilgrimage on the day of Sacrifice at Mina, the Messenger of Allah said, “Verily your blood, your property and your honor are as sacred and inviolable as the sanctity of this day of yours, in this month of yours and in this town of yours. Verily! I have conveyed this message to you.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Also, the Prophet (peace be upon him) made it directly that it is a mutual right between Muslims. Abu Hurairah (peace be upon him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “Every Muslim’s blood, property and honor are unlawful to be violated by another Muslim.” (Muslim)

Right of Patience

The life troubles and conflicts naturally bring about undesired situations and problems. Therefore, patience and forbearance are always required. The Prophet explains that a Muslim who mingles with people and endures their harm is better than the one who does not mix with them and does not bear the harm.

Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet said: “The believer who mixes with people and endures their harm is better than the person who does not mix with people nor endure their harm.” (Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

Right of Advice

Offering advice is highly appreciated in Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) made it the core of religion. On the authority of Tamim ibn Aws, “The Prophet said, “The Religion is advice.” We said, “To whom?” He (peace be upon him) said, “To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk.” (Muslim)

Offering advice expresses love and caring for the other and sincere desire for bringing good or removing evil from them. The Prophet made it a right of the Muslim upon his fellow Muslim. Also, Jarir narrated: “I gave pledge of allegiance to the Messenger of Allah on the observance of prayer, payment of Zakah, and offering advice to every Muslim.” (Muslim)

                                                                                                                                                               To be continued…

Read also:

Citizenship in Islam: Rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim (1/3)



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Ethics & Values New Muslims

For a Merciful Society: Rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim (3/3)

This is the third and last article of the series of the “Rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim”. We will continue this interesting topic about the mutual Islamic rights between Muslims and one another.


All texts of revelation have stressed good treatment, kindness and cooperation.

Right of Kind Treatment

A Muslim is always required to deal with others with high morals and pleasant manners. He should not indulge in ill actions or behaviors with other Muslims or non-Muslims. IbnMas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “A true believer is not involved in taunting, or frequently cursing (others) or in indecency or abusing.” (At-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet also warned against cursing or fighting a Muslim because these actions are contrary to the peaceful message of Islam. IbnMas`udreported: “The Messenger of Allah said, “Reviling a Muslim is fusuq (disobedience of Allah) and killing him is (tantamount to) disbelief.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Right of Good Neighborhood

All texts of revelation have stressed good treatment, kindness, cooperation, sharing happiness and sorrow, and mercifulness to neighbors. This right has been repeated in revelation to the Prophet once and once again until he thought that there will be a share of inheritance to the neighbors.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Gabriel impressed upon me (the kind treatment) towards the neighbor (so much) that I thought as if he would soon confer upon him the (right) of inheritance.” (Muslim)

Right of Visiting

The right of visiting between Muslims is most required in case of sickness or troubles. It was narrated that ‘Ali said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah say:

‘Whoever comes to his Muslim brother and visits him (when he is sick), he is walking among the harvest of Paradise until he sits down, and when he sits down he is covered with mercy. If it is morning, seventy thousand angels will send blessing upon him until evening, and if it is evening, seventy thousand angels will send blessing upon him until morning.’” (IbnMajah)

Also, Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “The Messenger of Allah said, “A believer owes another believer five rights: responding to greetings, visiting him in illness, following his funeral, accepting his invitation, and saying ‘Yarhamuk-Allah (may Allah have mercy on you),’ when he says ‘Al-hamdu-lillah(Praise be to Allah)’ after sneezing”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Right of Greeting

It is an act of Sunnah and a right of the Muslim upon his Muslim brother to greet them when they meet. Abu Hurairah (peace be upon him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:

“A Muslim has six duties towards other Muslims: When you meet him, you should salute him; when he invites you, accept his invitation; when he asks for your advice, give it to him; when he sneezes and praises Allah, say May Allah have mercy on you; when he is ill, visit him; and when he dies follow his funeral.” (Muslim)

Once a person asked Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him):“What (sort of) deeds in Islam that are good?” He replied, “To feed (the poor) and greet those whom you know and those whom you don’t know.” (Al-Bukhari)

Right of Accepting Invitation

It was narrated in Al-Bukhari and Muslim that Abu Hurairahsaid: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying: ‘The rights of a Muslim over his fellow Muslim are five: returning greetings, visiting the sick, attending funerals, accepting invitations, and saying Yarhamuk Allah (may Allah confer His mercy on you) when he sneezes.’”

Therefore, accepting the invitation, especially in occasions like marriage celebrations, are required upon the Muslim towards his Muslim brother. Some scholars considered this as an obligation upon the Muslim in case he or she is invited, provided that the place is devoid of sins such as music.

Right of Attending Muslim Funeral

The Prophet impressively clarifies that it is a right of a Muslim, even in case he is dead, to follow his funeral until he is buried. In the aforementioned hadiths, the Prophet said:

“A Muslim has six duties towards other Muslims: When you meet him, you should salute him; when he invites you, accept his invitation; when he asks for your advice, give it to him; when he sneezes and praises Allah, say May Allah have mercy on you; when he is ill, visit him; and when he dies follow his funeral.” (Muslim)

Attending the funerals of Muslim is of great reward. It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet said: “Whoever follows the funeral procession of a Muslim out of faith and in the hope of reward, then offers the funeral prayer for him and waits until he is placed in his grave, then he will have two qirats, each of which is like Mount Uhud. Whoever offers the funeral prayer for him then returns, he will have one qirat.” (Al-Bukhari)

Saying the Dhikr of Sneezing

Among the mutual rights between Muslims is to say “Yarhamuka Allah” (may Allah confer mercy upon you) in case the Muslim is sneezing. Al-Bukhari narrated from Abu Hurairahthat the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“When one of you sneezes, let him say, ‘Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah),’ and let his brother or companion say to him. ‘Yarhamuka Allah” (may Allah have mercy on you).’ If he says, ‘Yarhamuka Allah,’ then let (the sneezer) say, ‘Yahdikum Allah wayuslihubalakum (may Allah guide you and rectify your condition).’”


Read also:

Part 1

Part 2



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Divine Unity New Muslims

He Is One and We Are All Human

perfect nature

A relationship of obligation, trust is fully achieved with God when we cross the threshold of the realm of inner peace.

The notion of tawheed (the Oneness of God, tawheed al-rububiyya), of His names and His attributes (tawheed al-asma’ was-sifat), determines that the conception of human nature will be “a mirror image” and “a contrario,” one may say.

If God is one, everything in creation is in pairs, double, seeking union. Oneness, for the Transcendent, is an expression of the essence of being; union, for created beings, is achieved through marriage, fusion, movement.

The Body & the Soul

Created by the One, humans must go in search of the unity of their own being; their heart, their soul, their mind, and their body.

Put thus, it may give the impression that there is nothing to differentiate this from the Greek, Jewish, or Christian traditions. We well know the approach whose most familiar expression is the opposition between the soul and the body.

But a careful reading of the scriptural sources reveals that there is nothing in the Islamic tradition that can serve as a basis for the dualistic approach that opposes two constituent elements of humankind, each characterized by a positive or negative ethical quality: the soul would be the expression (explicitly or implicitly) of good, the body the expression (explicitly or implicitly) of evil.

Never does the Qur’anic revelation or the Prophetic tradition suggest anything of the sort. The ethical crux is not in the opposition of two elements that are separate and ethically fixed (which would represent the two poles of morality) but rather in controlling and guiding them toward their necessary merger, their inevitable union.

From the beginning, the Islamic tradition rejects this kind of antithetical dualism and bases the measurement of moral categories on the ability of human consciousness to take responsibility for finding balance, establishing harmony, making peace.

Human Responsibility

The human being is, essentially, responsible; awareness of tawheed invites humanity to set out on the quest, along the divine path (sabil Allah), to control, in the midst of the fluctuations of life, the contradictions within its being, its weaknesses, and its deficiencies.

This exercise of responsible control is an education that makes the human being truly human at the heart of a search which is like a virtuous and ascending circle; union, which is at the center of being, brings us toward the oneness of the being.

The opposite here would be an absence of boundaries and morality, a lack of constraint, that would drag the conscience into sleep, into the vicious circle of excess, which may even extend to bestiality.

An interesting passage in the Qur’an speaks of beings who lose awareness completely as being more lost than animals.

They have hearts wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle- nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning). (Al-A`raf 7:179)

Thus, consciousness, when it atrophies to the point of prompting the human being only by means of the same instinct as the animals possess, is dehumanized. It is consciousness and control that define the humanity of humankind.

Thus, there is no moral quality good “in itself” attached to an-nafs (the soul in the body), the heart, or the spirit, and there is no moral quality bad “in itself” attached to the body, the senses, or the emotions.

& Ability

It is the human ability to control, to combine, and to guide that determines the ethical quality of individuals, their nafs, their hearts, their bodies, feelings, each of their emotions, as well as each of their actions.

This perception is the basis of the relationship that Muslims are invited to have with the world, which is not evil in itself (as opposed to the next world, which is presumed to be absolute good). Conversely, motherhood and fatherhood are not good in themselves (as opposed to the solitary life, which is presumed to be evil).

Knowledge is not always positive in itself (in contrast to ignorance, which is by nature negative). Nothing like this is to be found in the Islamic universe of reference. Sexuality may be a prayer and motherhood may be hell, depending on the moral intention that motivates the person.

In other words, the ethical quality of the elements of which we are constituted (nafs, heart, body, and so on), the faculties by which we are characterized (such as perception, intelligence, and imagination) and, of course, the actions we produce are determined only by the guidance our conscience gives them.

Get in Motion

This teaching reveals a perception of the human that is at once very demanding and very optimistic—demanding because the human conscience must acquire alone – “No one can bear another’s burden” (Al-Israa’ 17:15) – responsible control in a world where evil is neither an indelible mark on the being-in-the-world (like original sin) nor in itself a constituent part of the being- like the body or the imagination.

It is above all optimistic, for it requires us not to reject any part of our being, encouraging in us the confidence that the Only One will give us in every situation the means to meet this ethical challenge. “God only imposes on each soul [human being] what it is able to bear,” (Al-Baqarah 2:186) and along the way He provides numerous signs, invitations, and supports.

Thus, a relationship of obligation and trust is established with the divine that is fully achieved only when we cross the threshold of the realm of inner peace.

It remains to discover how to discern the guidance we have spoken of.

The Islamic tradition also offers an original conception of humankind that the sufis (Muslim mystics) have very much emphasized. It contains the idea of movement and dynamism that, as we have seen, characterizes Islamic thought.

Awareness of the divine, far from the dualist thinking which opposes “faith” to “reason,” sets in motion, as we shall see, a quest for the original breath that cannot dispense with reason in order successfully to bring to birth a faith that is both confirmation and reconciliation.


The article is an excerpt from the author’s book Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Oxford University Press (2004).


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New Muslims Worldview

Islam: Beyond Diversity & Cultures


There is one Islam, and the fundamental principles that define it are those to which all Muslims adhere.


Whether they are Western or Eastern, the Muslims of the world refer to a universe of meaning elaborated and constructed around a certain number of fundamental principles.

Above and beyond the diversity of their national cultures, the essence of their faith, their identity, their being in the world, is the same; they define themselves on the basis of points of reference that explain their sense of belonging to the same community of faith and at the same time, more profoundly, root them in the universe of Islam.

The often complex connection between the common principles and the diverse ways of life that one quickly notices if one visits the Muslim countries of Black Africa, North Africa, or Asia has led some orientalists and sociologists to speak of various “Islams” to take account of this plurality of cultures.

Only an in-depth study of the sources and the Islamic sciences can enable us to understand how, across various geographical areas, the oneness of the points of reference and the diversity of their lived manifestations become concrete and overlap.

One Islam

There is one Islam, and the fundamental principles that define it are those to which all Muslims adhere, even though there may be, clothed in Islamic principles, an important margin allowed for evolution, transformation, and adaptation to various social and cultural environments.

Western Muslims, because they are undergoing the experience of becoming established in new societies, have no choice but to go back to the beginning and study their points of reference in order to delineate and distinguish what, in their religion, is thabit (unchangeable) from what is mutaghayyir (subject to change), and to measure, from the inside, what they have achieved and what they have lost by being in the West.

It is a long, difficult, and sometimes dangerous journey, demanding deep immersion in the heart of the sources and the Islamic sciences and at the same time having a knowledge of the West, its history, and the social, cultural, political, and economic dynamics that constitute what one may call its specificity.

But it is a journey nonetheless imperative for those spirits who, while wanting to remain loyal to the principles of their faith and ethic, are no less conscious that they must confront the challenges of their time and their society.

This first part is an essentially theoretical study of the fundamental principles of “universal Islam” and the tools that Muslims have available to confront diversity and change, whether historical, geographical, or cultural. This research, by establishing a corpus of reference, will enable us to suggest in the second part a number of concrete responses to questions asked by Western Muslims in the various areas of their daily lives.

The word “Islam” has often been translated as “submission” to God, or “entering into the peace” of God, for these are indeed the two senses provided by the declension of the root “s-l-m.”

One Universe… One Creator

But what is missing from this approach, which relies on simple translation, is the understanding of the fundamental conceptions of Creator, human being, and universe that underpin this conceptualization.

It is assumed that the meaning is obvious, understood, and immediately accessible, whereas one cannot truly apprehend the meaning of “submission” or of “peace” in the Islamic universe of reference if one does not study, even if only a little, what is meant at the heart of the Muslim tradition by the realities of “God,” the “human being,” and “Revelation.”

If the “act of faith” is in itself simple, and considered, in Islam, as natural, it is because it is born in the depths of time and mind and is considered an essential dimension of the human being, or, more precisely, the being that is becoming human.

It is very precisely at this point that the most perfect expression of the universal, and the possibility of an encounter with it that is spiritual as well as intellectual, is expressed in the Islamic consciousness.

Flowing from it is the development of a conception of existence, of the human, of society, and of death that accompanies the Muslim wherever he may be: so the central question is to know whether this conception is exclusive and closed or, on the contrary, open and respectful of ‘otherness’ and difference.

To be continued…


The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s book “Western Muslims and

the Future of Islam” Oxford University Press (2004).

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