Muhammad (S.A.W.) in the Mirror of Islam
Muhammad (S.A.W.) in the Mirror of Islam
ISLAM AND OTHER RELIGIONS: THE SHI'ITE VIEW
Islam is based on two realities: the blessed personality of the Prophet Muhammad, who was chosen exactly fourteen lunar centuries ago to deliver God's message and to be the leader of mankind; and the Quran, the Book from God which is the Prophet's enduring miracle and which contains God's words in the form of intellectual and practical teachings of a universal nature. These two realities must be considered as one of the most important factors in the development and perfection of human life, or rather, they are the most important factor to have manifested itself over the course of fourteen centuries in the faith and practice of hundreds of millions of men, extending its influence deep into every aspect of their society.
It is true that of the world's religions Islam is the youngest and that its followers are fewer in number than the sum of the adherents other faiths, yet Islam is possessed of certain distinguishing characteristics which sets it apart from other religious ways. For example, if we refer to the sacred books of Hinduism, and in particular the Veda, we see that the religious teachings presented there are almost exclusively of an ascetic nature and at the same time that they are directed towards a minority of the religion's followers. Thus, the majority of Hindus are excluded from deriving direct spiritual benefit from these sacred books.
Buddhism and also Christianity display with Hinduism the same exclusively ascetic outlook in their teachings. In the case of Christianity this is obvious from the four Gospels and the other basic religious texts. There are no practical injunctions or social laws and moreover philosophy and rational thought are looked upon with disfavor. The Divine Sacrifice and the remission of the sins of mankind are doctrines which reduce the relevance of injunctions concerned with this world.
Other religions have either ceased to draw men to themselves, such as Sabeanism and Manicheanism, or else are limited to a particular race of people, such as Judaism.
Thus it is only Islam which gives first importance to rationally demonstrable beliefs and positive individual and social injunctions, as, it is hoped, the present paper will make clear.
The Prime Importance of the Individual from the Point of View of Human Nature
Human nature seeks no more than to perpetuate as far as possible its own existence and to achieve its instinctive desires. If the first step man takes in his development is to form social groupings, and if he preserves these societies by acting in accordance with their laws-thus surrendering to the same extent a degree of his individual freedom-, it is in order that by depriving himself of one portion of his freedom he gain and benefit from another portion by being better able to provide for his innate requirements and his subsistence.
The first goal of creation is the happiness of the individual; the happiness of society follows upon this. In other words the purpose of creation is the perfection of human nature, and this perfection is realized in the being of the individual, not in the shape and form of society. Thus, man is directed towards the formation of social groupings to preserve the individual. For in order that he may realize the fundamental purpose of life-happiness and well-being-it is necessary that he should follow an orderly system of living, a system which inevitably must be social. He must eat, drink, clothe himself, sleep, rest, wed, bear offspring, secure his needs, and through the use of his mind provide the means of his own subsistence.
The Effect of the World View of the Individual upon his Activity
The form and characteristics of this orderly system which man follows in his life is dependent upon his conception of the nature of the Universe and of himself, who is an inseparable part of that Universe. Thus we see that a group of men do not admit the existence of a creator for the world and imagine that the world came into being accidentally and that man is only this material form which comes into existence at birth and ceases to exist at death. These men organize their way of life and rules for living with a view to the material needs of their ephemeral earthly existence, and this alone . They follow a path which can lead to no more than a limited material happiness and well-being.