IOS on-line Lecture on Al-Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life: A Review of Dr. Ismail Raji al-Faruqi’s Book

As part of a series of on-line lectures, the Institute of Objective Studies organised a lecture on “Al-Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life: A review of book written by Dr. Ismail Raji al-Faruqi” on August 29, 2020. Introducing the topic, Shah Ajmal Farooq Nadwi, in-charge, Urdu Section of IOS, briefly explained the importance of Dr. Faruqi’s book as it presented the comparative study of Islam and other Semetic religions. It also referred to Hinduism. Dr. Faruqi’s work had been internationally acclaimed, he said. Giving his talk on the subject, head of the department of Islamic Studies, Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad, Prof. Mohammad Fahim Akhtar Nadwi, said that Maqaasid-e-Shariah (purposes of the Shariah) was the area of Dr. Raji’s specialisation. 

Dr. Raji, who died in 1986, had studied at Jamia Al-Azhar, Cairo and universities in the US, and delivered lectures on Islam in several countries. He specialised in concepts and in pursuance of his view of religion, he established several institutions. He deeply studied western religions and presented their critique before the world. His books contained critical analysis of theories that put forth his ideas about religion in an Islamic framework. “The cultural Atlas of Islam” co-written by him and his wife could be described as an Islamic encyclopaedia. He said that this book, divided into 13 chapters, explained Tawhid, which is the indivisible Oneness concept of monotheism in Islam. Tawhid unequivocally held that God is One and Single, he observed. 

Prof. Fahim Akhtar noted that the book elucidated Akhlaq (etiquette), Ummah and the family which had a bearing on different aspects of life. He explained how the spirit of Tawhid came to Islam and how disastrous it could be to abandon this. He made a comparative study of other religions and explained the basic tenets of Islam and its philosophy. Commenting on the Islamic Ummah, Dr. Faruqi admitted that it was full of contradictions. Owing to such contradictions, Muslim countries, despite having abundant resources, commanded no position of consequence in the world today. They had manpower too, but nobody was ready to recognise them. This was due to sharp differences among them that they could not unite on a single issue that could sustain the Ummah for a long period. 

The Quranic injunction that “God never alters the fate of those who do not take an initiative themselves’, held true in the case of Muslims all over the world. He said that Dr. Faruqi attributed the present state of affairs in the Islamic world to the abdication of Muslims’ responsibility as a balanced Ummah. 

According to Dr. Raji, it is only Islam that leads the way to success in this corporeal world and the life after. The whole creation is the handiwork of Allah who created the world and blessed human beings with a system of governance that controlled everything on the earth. As against the Islamic faith that every creature derived its strength from Allah, the western concept believed that the human being was at war with God. According to this belief, human beings were all powerful. Islam presented a concept that emphasised that it is only Allah, who equipped this mundane world with vast resources, so that His subjects could benefit from them. Man was commanded to follow the system created by Allah, which means thereby the entire creation belongs to Allah only and none else, he said.

Commenting on Dr. Raji’s approach to the essence of religious experience, Prof. Fahim Nadwi said that the Quran endorsed Christianity, the pre-Islamic Abrahamic  religion. He noted that the religion diluted the significance of Allah. This belief put the status of Allah even below man. He said that Islam for the first time established the entity of Allah as separate from humans and explained how this religion erroneously conceptualised Allah and His subjects. The concept which Islam preached offered easy entry to an individual into Islamic faith. Tawhid was the soul of Islam, essence of Islam and source of knowledge. Since Shirk (creating entity parallel to Allah) went against the concept of Tawhid, it was unforgiveable. He said that Arabic was ordained to be the language of the Quran which is preserved in that language forever. Referring to the principle of history as enunciated by Dr Faruqi, he said that Tawhid guided people as to how to perform their duty in worldly matters. The world was created with a purpose and that purpose had to be served. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never deviated even an inch from the path of Tawhid. This path was followed by all his companions and the Muslim Ummah. In this respect, Western knowledge was suspicious as this diametrically put religion against knowledge. Imaan (faith) meant belief and it strengthened one’s belief. Prof. Fahim Akhtar Nadwi observed that Muslim institutions today were half Islamic and half Western, and regretted that Muslims failed to establish even a single Western-type institution during the past 200 years. 

Referring to Dr Faruqi’s views on the principles of metaphysics, Prof. Fahim Akhtar said that according to Hindu belief, the entire temporal system was faulty and required separation from the world. Christians too believed that God had to get Himself crucified for this fault. But Dr Faruqi did not endorse such theories and believed that the kaynat (creation) was Allah’s gift to the mankind. Allah created the cosmos all alone for the benefit of His subjects. According to Islamic thought, every creature on earth fulfilled His purpose and functioned in tandem with each other. Every creature was in place to benefit human species, he said. 

Commenting on the principles of ethics as propounded Dr Raji, he pointed out that Allah made man the best among all the creatures on earth. In fact, He appointed man as His representative and ordained him to be courteous to others. By doing so, Allah placed human beings above the angels. This was due to the importance of courtesy that Allah assigned man a big responsibility. Allah is one, His creation is one and His system is one. In the Ummah, the entire world was included as Allah told man that his Ummah was one and it had been visualised to connect each of the human species to it. 

All human beings were equal and they were created to do good to each other and keep away from vices. Underlying the importance of the institution of family, Allah warned that those who destroyed this institution would live like animals. Family, according to Dr Faruqi was an impregnable fortress. In the Quran, Allah commands the faithful not to wish something that he gave to others in preference. Allah asked both men and women to discharge their duties. Everybody who performed his/her duty would be rewarded in return, he added. 

Prof. Nadwi explained Dr Raji’s interpretation of social order as outlined in the Quran. He said that social order meant social life which included performances like Namaz and Hajj. It was Tawhid that spoke of a society in which relationship of love and brotherhood could be established. This was one of bases on which a political or social system rested. Islamic political thought stemmed from this very idea of social cohesion. Masjid, according to him, became the epicentre of social and religious activities. But, unfortunately, an Islamic political system has not as yet come into existence. Dr Fahim Nadwi disagreed with Dr Raji’s idea of linking the spiritual concept of Namaz with feeding of the poor. 

He insisted that while offering Namaz is an act of yielding oneself before the Creator, the Almighty Allah, feeding of the poor is entirely a material act. Thus both of them could not be put together. Referring to the ethics of production, he held that though was wrong to earn profit, the needs of society too should be taken into account at the same time. It should also be ensured that the means of production and the production itself was not Haraam (unfair). 

Commenting on Dr Raji’s views on the principle of world order based on Islamic philosophy of Tawhid, he said that the entire world community was related to each other as brothers and sisters. Tawhid was the best way to connect with the people. Elaborating the point, he observed that the rights enjoyed by the Jews were the same as were enjoyed by other communities, like Christians, Parsis, Hindus, etc. He quoted the Quran in this connection, and held that all the people were commanded to enter Silm (peace). Islam asked the Ummah to accomodate the adversaries if they negotiated peace. He said that Islam prohibited forcible conversion to the faith. Nor should money play a role in bringing non-Muslims into Islamic faith. 

Prof. Nadwi pointed out that calligraphy received a boost due to the concept of Tawhid as propounded by the Quran. Ilm-i-Ghaib (knowledge of the unseen) was based on the concept of Tawhid. Muslims must strengthen their foundations by sticking preaching the Quran and Hadith. Laying stress on interaction with other religions, he said that we had been sent as khairi-i-Ummah (well-wishers of the world community). That was the reason why no migration was allowed after the migration from Makkah. Since all human beings were the progeny of Hazrat Adam, cosmos, life and knowledge formed the part of Tawhid. Economic, social and collective system of reciprocity was also based on Tawhid, he concluded. 

In his concluding remarks, the Finance Secretary, IOS, Prof. Ishtiyaque Danish observed that the concept of Tawhid also found a place in the outlook adopted by the Jamat-i-Islami. Dr Raji believed that Tawhid affected the personal as well as collective life of a person. He said that the aspect of beauty in the Quran was an area that remained untouched by scholars so far. The beauty found in the Quran was found nowhere else in any other language. He said that TV was the best medium of entertainment from the point of view of Tawhid.

The on-line lecture was attended by several Islamic scholars in different parts of the country and abroad. The lecture concluded with a vote of thanks by Shah Ajmal Farooq Nadwi.


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