Author: Edited by Adil Salahi, Arab News Staff
Q.1. Qur’anic and Hadith injunctions are clear that Muslims must remain united. Yet a Hadith tells us that Muslims will be split into more than seventy groups, which are all in Hell except one. Please comment.
Q.2. In some Muslim countries, we see mosques and Islamic centers functioning freely, while at the same time, places with un-Islamic character, such as drinking and gambling places, discos, etc., enjoy freedom of operation. When officials are asked how can the latter be permitted in a Muslim community, they reply that all types are permitted by law, and people may choose where to go. Please comment.
A.1. It is true what the Prophet said about the division of people who claim to be Muslim. They are split in groups, some well-known, while others are relatively obscure. Since their differences are over matters of faith, then it is only logical that only one is bound to follow the truth contained in God’s message. This is the clear message to which the Prophet points out when he mentions this division. He also mentions that people of earlier religions, particularly the Jews and the Christians, have also been split into too many groupings and sects.
When the Prophet was asked to define which group is the one which will escape Hell and be admitted to Heaven, his answer was very clear. He said: “That which follows what I and my companions follow.” Hence, a strict adherence to what the Prophet followed will bring us in line with his companions who followed his instructions and teachings in an exemplary way. We have a clear and full record of what the Prophet and his companions practiced. So we do not need to pursue any philosophical thought or any man-made creed or doctrine.
We have to give practical evidence of the declaration we make when we state that we believe in Islam, namely the declaration: “I bear witness that there is no deity other than God and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.”
What is the role of a messenger if not to bring a message? And if God has sent us a message, it only stands to reason that we should follow it. The Prophet has given us the perfect example of following that message and his companions followed his guidance and gave us a full social example of that message in practice. When we declare that Muhammad is God’s messenger, then we are committing ourselves to reject every thing that is in conflict with his guidance. Indeed that is the only way to lead to Heaven. The Prophet tells the truth and his Hadith states the issues before us very clearly.
A.2. The attitude the reader describes is like that of a father who places a packet of cigarettes before his young son, and shows him how to smoke and leaves him to try it. When the son picks up the habit of smoking, people blame the father and he protests that he never suggested to his son that he should smoke. He only offered him the choice and it was the son who chose to smoke.
A father who does this is certainly one to be censured by any moral and health standard. By placing the packet of cigarettes in front of his son, he gives him a message that smoking is an acceptable behavior, when it is both seriously injurious to health and forbidden in Islam.
Similarly a government in a Muslim country which allows the public contravention of Islamic principles and gives licenses to places such as bars and gambling clubs to function in full view of the community contravenes Islamic law which it is supposed to uphold. The argument that people may choose what they want does not carry any weight in Islamic standards. It is the responsibility of a Muslim government to help people to remain within the limits of what God has permitted and to steer away from what He has forbidden. By allowing such places to function, a government fails in the fulfillment of this responsibility.
Here we are not treating the public as young children, as in our example of the father and the young son, but we made only this analogy in order to show that failing to do one’s duty may lead others to suffer much harm. The father in our example failed in his duty to protect his son against harmful substances. In the question asked by the reader, the officials failed in their duty to help the population to maintain the path acceptable to Islam.
Some people may wonder how this affects the principle of freedom of choice. Islam certainly upholds this principle in the very basic question of believing in God or rejecting the faith. God says in the Qur’an: “No compulsion is admissible in matters of faith.” (2: 256). Hence, Islam does not compel anyone to follow its teachings. People do so in complete freedom. But what we are speaking about here is the public contravention of Islamic teachings. This is not allowed in Muslim society.
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NOTE BY THE EDITOR: READERS COMMENTS WILL BE APPRECIATED.