Volume 15-05 No:173
At the time of the advent of the Quran, religious consciousness had not overstepped the group consciousness of the different peoples of the world. Each religious group claimed that its own religion was the true religion and that salvation was only for those who professed it. The criterion of truth was the character of the ceremonial and of the customs and manners which the followers of a religion observed, such as the form of worship or the ceremonial attendant on sacrifices, the type of food permitted or prohibited, and the outward mode of dress or manner of living. Since the outer form of faith and living of one group was different from that of every other, the follower of each group decried, on that account, the religion of every other. The claim of every religious group was not merely that it alone was the bearer of truth, but that the religion of every other group was false. The natural result of such an attitude was hatred of others and mutual warfare and bloodshed in the name of God.
Spiritual Law of Life
The Quran came forward to present to the world at large the principle of Unity in religion. It advanced the view that even as the laws of Nature regulated and sustained the machinery of the Universe, even so, there was a spiritual law of life to govern the life of man, and that this law was one and the same for everyone. The greatest error into which mankind fell was to forget and disregard this spiritual law of life and to divide mankind to rival camps. The primary aim of this spiritual law of life or the way of God, the Deen, was to keep mankind united and not to serve as a force for disunity. The greatest tragedy of man was that he turned an instrument of unity, viz., religion, into a weapon of disunity.
The Quran came to distinguish religion proper from its outward observance. The former it called Deen, and the latter Shar’ia and Minhaj. Deen was but one and the same everywhere and at all times, and was vouchsafed to one and all without discrimination. In respect of outward observance of the Deen, there was variation and this was inevitable. It varied from time to time and from people to people as warranted by varying situations. Variations of this nature could not alter the character of the Deen or the basis of religion. That was the truth which the Quran aimed to emphasise. Its complaint was that Deen had been neglected and variation in Shar’ia and Minhaj or the outward form of observance idealized and made the basis of differences among mankind.
The Quran announced in very clear terms that its function was but to proclaim that all religions, as first delivered, upheld but one Truth, but that their followers disregarded it. Should they return to this neglected Truth, or to the principle of devotion to God and of righteous living, the mission of the Quran was fulfilled. The act would be regarded as indeed the acceptance of the Quran. The truth common to all of them was what was styled Ad-Deen or Al-Islam. It observed that the Deen of God was not meant to divide man from man, but that, on the other hand, it was there to inspire the feeling of fellowship between one and another and let them all live together bound by the common tie of devotion to God.
Devotion to God
The evil of groupism is at work everywhere even today. But how to get rid of it ? The evil has crept in because the basis of religion has been kept out of sight. It is now for the followers of each groupism to retrace their steps and return to the basic teaching of each religion, the Deen common to all. If that were done, says the Quran, all disputes will be set at rest, and everyone will begin to see that the way of all religions is but one and the same viz., the one Deen or way meant for all mankind and to which the Quran gives the name of Al-Islam, or the way of peace, as translated literally, or of devotion to God and of righteous living. That is the only way to restore the forsaken sense of humanity to mankind or revive the idea that for all of us there is but one Providence, and that we should all in unity bow our heads at his threshold only and develop a feeling of unity and solidarity such as shall overcome and dispel from our midst all differences coined by ourselves in the course of history. That such was the purpose of the Quran is clear from the call which went forth to members of all faiths during the time of the Prophet.
O People of the Book (Revealed Scriptures) come to a word fair between us and you, that we worship God only and associate nothing with Him, and do not take each other as Lord to the exclusion of God. (Quran 3:57)
Family of God
The Quran here offers a federal principle for the unification of the human race. It may not be possible to weld the entire world into a single pattern by prescribing a common Shar’ia or a code of social laws for one and all, or a common mode of worship. It only asks mankind to forge a nexus for human society so that believing in one God of all humanity, the several nations of the Earth might enter into fraternal or federal relations with one another and enjoy the good things of the Earth righteously as members of a single family, the ‘Family of God’, as described by the Prophet, or ‘a Fold every member of which shall be a shepherd unto every other and be accountable for the welfare of the entire fold’.
Such has been the standing message of the Quran for over 1300 years!