Quite simply, the Universe could not exist were it not for universal laws created by Allah to govern cohesiveness and order within the created realms. Objects, from the very smallest to the largest could not function free from divine immutable laws established to govern their destiny. Thus, life itself would not survive without these internal and external directives which incessantly actualize the salient miracles of divine harmony.
Let us consider something more familiar: the ecosystems. Left alone all ecosystems eventually reach a state of equilibrium. There is balance and harmony among its constituent parts. This is maintained through a complex and intricate set of laws operating in concert throughout all aspects of the system. Nature is thus automatically regulated by divine law to achieve an optimal balance. Of all the species in nature, only humans utilize their unique cognitive abilities to, paradoxically, disrupt this balance. If their overall disruptive activities remain within certain limits the ecosystems are able to withstand the adverse impacts of those activities. But when the cumulative effect of those activities crosses a threshold then there is no stopping the resulting chaos, destruction and misery.
The important conclusion that could be drawn from this is that it is in the interest of human beings to create a human world that preserves balance and harmony in the natural world. Modern science is discovering that the fate of these two worlds is inextricably linked. This, in effect, forces human beings to believe in a larger goal beyond themselves; beyond their own narrow circuit of existence; beyond their own national or community interests.
Could it be that there is some kind of a higher moral law that operates on a level that escapes our imagination and whose grip is somehow beyond our grasp? Is there a common thread that links our selfish actions with destructive effects that are ultimately made evident and unavoidable? Does the Universe, by way of Allah’s leave, possess the power to punish us for pursuing unethical policies in our social and political domains? Are universal laws then operating on a higher level and on a different time scale? Is there a moral threshold of error that once crossed leads ultimately to a collective disaster?
As previously noted, ecosystems will eventually reach equilibrium providing a sustainable living environment to all were it not for our large scale interference and abuse. It is the untoward collective actions of human beings that eventually produce symptoms of disease in an ecosystem. Focusing on individual symptoms and ignoring the basic cause of the disease only slows down the movement toward a threshold of no return, but does not reverse it. We must acknowledge there is no basic cause for this disease other than the destructive impact of our unjust selfish actions.
We must examine if it is possible to get away from the mindset of “my way or the highway”. Is it at all possible to tame our wild temptations that incite us to exploit and dominate? Both history and revelation inform us that those who embark on this path do so only at their own peril. Using the might of power to subdue the weak ultimately fails causing numerous reverberations of negative effect. The graveyards of once mighty civilizations attest to this.
The pursuit of narrow self interests may lead to a temporary advantage but ultimately leads only toward a threshold of disaster. How do we act to reverse the process before this happens? How do we move towards a wellbeing that reflects balance and away from a path that could only lead to disaster?
We need to direct our focus to a higher goal beyond our own short term self interests. It stands to reason then, that the system of life that could achieve this higher goal of long term peace and security in the human world will have to be one whose objective is the welfare of humankind in entirety, not just success for a particular group, tribe or nation.
That which is of benefit to man (humankind, Insaan in Arabic) abides on earth. The Holy Qur’an 13:17 – As translated by Muhammad Asad]
But how is this objective possible to achieve? The Qur’an states that it could only be achieved through the implementation of universal justice and balance-restoring deeds known as ‘Adl-wal-I’hsan:
BEHOLD, God enjoins justice (‘Adl), and the doing of good (‘Ihsan), and generosity towards [one’s] fellow-men (humankind); and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; [and] He exhorts you [repeatedly] so that you might bear [all this] in mind.
[The Holy Qur’an 16:90 – As translated by Muhammad Asad]
The above injunction enjoins Muslims to practice universal justice in a manner that does not discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims and between man and woman. The only way forward in the direction of balance and harmony in the human world is to give equal respect to all human beings regardless of origin, gender, ethnicity, race, language, or religion:
INDEED, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam. [The Holy Qur’an 17:70 – As translated by Muhammad Asad]
Whatever Muslims may be practicing in the name of Islam must be judged in the light of the Qur’an, the primary source of Islam. If their practice goes against the above crystal clear Qur’anic injunctions then obviously it is against Islam. One cannot be for Islam and violate the basic injunctions of the Qur’an at the same time, no matter how sacred the practice.
There can be no strings attached when it comes to giving equal respect to all human beings. This is categorically and unequivocally stated in the Qur’an as such (17:70). This is a universal and permanent value that must be enshrined in an Islamic society. The Qur’an has declared dignity and justice as the sacrosanct fundamental rights of all human beings.
Many recognize that Islam is beautiful as an ideal. But it should be shown to be beautiful in practice too. However, our practice over the centuries, for whatever reasons, has unfortunately made it look not so beautiful. Therefore, it behooves us to at least focus on our current practice and reflect: Does our current practice of Islam have in essence anything to do with that of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) and his companions’ practice of universal justice of ‘Adl-wal-I’hsan, notwithstanding the effusive praises we shower on them? Or, has our practice of Islam been reduced to lifeless rituals and fantastic lip service to our Prophet (PBUH)? The results speak for themselves.
Yes, Islam means peace. But it is meaningless until this peace is established in practice and felt in our individual as well as collective lives. This must be a living and breathing peace in the body politic of a Muslim society. The only way this can be achieved is by establishing justice, harmony and balance-restoring deeds within our own selves, within our own communities, within our own society, and with the outside world at-large. These are the core attributes of a society based on the Islamic principle of ‘Adl-wal-I’hsan that all Muslims must strive to establish at the individual, as well as the collective level.