The ideology of the Quran is to make a man or woman virtuous for harmony in society. It preaches political and social justice and economic fairplay. Who is a virtuous person? A virtuous person is one, who fulfills the rights of Allah and rights of mankind.
A virtuous man or a woman is one who does not exploit the week or the needy, does not swallow the property of orphans. Islam preaches to establish a society where minimum needs of all the members of society are met. Quran wants Zakat to be established for this very purpose. Zakat is not charity. Sadaqa is charity. Zakat can be compared to the present day tax system. After the passing away of the prophet, certain tribes refused to pay zakat, saying it was only applicable during prophet’s period. Hazrat Abubakr insisted that it be collected though some others requested for liniency to keep the tribes together. This incidence goes to show that the zakat was collected centrally and was used for welfare and protection of the people. While Muslims paid zakat what non-Muslims paid for the same purpose was jiziya.
For establishing social and economic justice, quran instructs on proper weighment in trade, forbids excessive profits, accummulation of wealth. Wealth is considered a trust that Allah has bestowed on certain people for proper use. These are the rights of mankind.
There are certain rights of Allah just as there are certain rights of mankind. Allah is one and He alone is worthy of worship. Allah is defined by His attributes; there are 99 of them. Some of them can be listed as:
1) He is self sufficient and self-subsisting.
2) He is eternal.
3) He neither begets nor is He begotten.
4) He is the creator.
5) There is none like unto Him.
Quran is not a book of phylosophy. It is a book of guidance. Certain verses in the Quran are definite in meaning while some others are metaphorical. To understand the ideology one has to be clear about the distiction. Sayed Abdul Lateef has written very well on the approach to reading the Quran in his introduction to his own translation of the Holy Quran.
The ideology of the Quran has to be traced in the verses which are ( muhkamat) definite in meaning . Mutashabih means a similitude of something which otherwise is not possible to know or even to visualize .
If this view is accepted the descriptions of heaven ,hell , resurrection may be treated as figurative . The role of the prophet in the beginning , being that of a ‘nazir’ warner against evil and ‘bashir’, herald of good tidings . The picture of suffering which followed an evil deed or of happiness which followed a good deed was necessarily drawn in the form of physical pain or pleasure easily intelligible to them . What pain or pleasure should signify in a spiritual or non-physical state was beyond their comprehension .
It is well if the readers of the Qur’an keep this purpose of the ‘mutashabihat’ in view , if they are to profit by the rest of the Qur’an designated by it as its ‘muhkamat’ and endeavour to trace its ideology therein . A good portion of it deals with the stories of the prophets . The stories as stories are not of material importance to the student of ideology , except for the lesson drawn from them that deliberate flouting of Divine injunctions leads to the inevitable ruin of those who disregarded them openly . This principle applies equally to the descriptions given in the Qur’an of the several battles forced on the Prophet by the Meccans which properly belong to the history of the Prophets’mission . It is only the few verses dealing with the ethics of war which have a direct bearing on the ideology of the Qur’an .
All those verses that deal with creation, resurrection, the hereafter, heaven and hell are metaphorical and not literal.
Allama Iqbal has this to say on creation of man:
Thus we see that the Quranic legend of the Fall has nothing to do with the first appearance of man on this planet. Its purpose is rather to indicate man’s rise from a primitive state of instinctive appetite to the conscious possession of a free self, capable of doubt and disobedience. The Fall does not mean any moral depravity; it is man’s transition from simple consciousness to the first flash of self-consciousness, a kind of waking from the dream of nature with a throb of personal causality in one’s own being. Nor does the Qur’«n regard the earth as a torture-hall where an elementally wicked humanity is imprisoned for an original act of sin. Man’s first act of disobedience was also his first act of free choice; and that is why, according to the Quranic narration, Adam’s first transgression was forgiven. Now goodness is not a matter of compulsion; it is the self’s free surrender to the moral ideal and arises out of a willing co-operation of free egos.
Quran preaches that all mankind is family of Allah. Each nation or society has been guided through prophets. Quran mentions only those prophets in and around Arab penensula. But Quran also says there have been interpolations or deletions in what was revealed earlier to various prophets. For instance in the case of chritianity Jesus has been made son of God. This concept is not acceptable to Islam.
The Creator and His creations are different and there is no non-duality. Allah is Infinite while creation is finite. Creator is in his creation just as a carpenter is in his chair. The concept or vision of the carpenter is in his chair and not himself. To say that God exists in everything is pantheism. Islam does not recognise this concept.
Creation of universe was in 6 days. The word used in the Quran is ‘yaum’ which, apart from day also means ‘a period of time’. A day is also not an earth day.
In Islam men and women are equal. There are two students A and B and both get 80% marks in let us say 10th class examination. Where %is concerned they are equel. But if you see the marks card you find A has scored more in certain subjects while B has scored more in some other subjects. Though they are equel, they are not equel in every field. Same is the case with men and women.
Hijab or pardah is actually an Arab tradition. No one has ever seen a picture of Holy Mary without her head cover. It is not part of religion. The verse qouted in favour of hijab is liable to interpretations.
The best dress code for a woman is her virtue and modesty, says the Quran.
Every individual has freedom of choice. If there is no freedom of choice then that person cannot be accountable for his actions. Islam does not accept predestination. It is an individual who makes his own destiny with the freedom of choice Allah has given him.
Every right has its duties. The rights have to be exercised without infringing on the rights of others. Iqbal explains it thus: a tree in a garden is free to grow but without shifting its place where it is rooted, similarly an individual has to exercise his freedom within the constraints.
Quran stresses more on the rights of fellow individuals.
Islam does not advocate asceticism. One has to lead a normal life amidst temtations and still strive to be aright. This is a great test for achieving spirituality.
The quran says that each community has been given its rituals. Rituals do not make a religion. Islamic rituals such as namaz and roza (prayer and fasting) are to remind the Muslims of their obligations. Quran says that one must have thought of Allah constantly. It means one must think of Allah before any action so that one does not go astray. Prayer and fasting in themseves do not make one virtuous. It is the good deeds that make one virtuous.
Life hereafter is dealt with similitudes and metaphors. But it is certain that there is life beyond death.
Quran is a book of revelations from Allah to prophet Mohammad. There were followers of prophet who started recording whatever prophet said and did during his lifetime. It is on record that the prophet warned them not to do it and ordered the burning of whatever was recorded. A distinction is necessary between prophet as a man and prophet as a messenger of Allah. Quran asks us to follow the prophet. Prophet was a human being and there are verses in the Quran admonishing the prophet where he went wrong. But certain associates of prophet, despite prophet’s warning, went on passing on the traditions of prophet by word of mouth. The result was in about 200 years after the prophet there were nearly 8 lac traditions. The number was increasing by the day. To stop the oral additions Khalif Omer ibn Rashid ordered compilation. Hazrat Bukhari and Hazrat Muslim said to have scrutinised all the available traditions and came out with a list of authentic and fabricated traditions. Surprisingly, there were hardly 3000 authentic traditions. How they decided on this selection is a mystery. One does not know how many declared authentic are fabricated ones.
In the matter of food Quran forbids:
Forbidden to you are : carrion and blood and swine’s flesh and whatever that hath been sacrificed in the name of any other than Allah ,and also the strangled and that which is killed by a blow or a fall or by goring and anything that hath been partaken of by a beast of prey unless you have ( slain it in due form before its death ) and that which hath been slain on any alter and also that which has been apportioned by means of divining arrows . All this is evil.
Quran says, Lawful to you is the food prepared by those who have received the scriptures and lawful to them is food you prepare .
There are four verses on alchohol consumption. One says there is great harm as well as advantage. Another verse says not to come for prayer in a drunken state until you know what you utter. Yet another says wine, game of chance, stone alters and divining arrows are handiwork of satan and are abominable so avoid them. The fourth one says satan desires to breed enmity and spite and the verse questions—will you abstain from them? But the Quran does not forbid alchohol as it catagorically forbids flesh of swine or blood ect.
Quran has made sacrifice of cattle compulsory only during pilgrimage to Mecca. Cattle sacrificed should be of no use otherwise is also stated.
Many verses on jihad rightfully belong to the history of prophet’s mission. When a Muslim is not permitted to practice his religion jihad is necessary. The greatest jihad is against evil within oneself.
Islam is the first religion to give property and divorce rights to women.
Islam as it is practiced
Over the years Quran came to be respected and read only by rote as a ritual, as a result the religion has become just ritualistic.
Today a devout or practicing Muslim is one who prays five times a day, observes fasting during the month of Ramadan, pays two and a half percent of his accummulated wealth as zakat, gives fitra (alms in the form of wheat etc for whch the quantity is fixed.), performs Hajj if capable and reads Quran by rote. In addition grows beard and wears pajama above ankle level (these are considered part of traditions of the prophet). Faithfully offers sacrifice of cattle during Id-ul-adha (though accoding to Quran it is compulsary only for Muslims on pilgrimage) and terms the ritual as tradition of Abraham. Performs aqeeqa, a ritual sacrifice of cattle—two if boy is born and one if it is a girl child. Performs Bismillah, a ritual of initiating a child of four years plus to the reading of Quran (by rote). Some with good memory power commit the entire Quran to memory (knowledge of what is memorised is optional). They are called Hafiz-e-Quran. There are some who recite rhythmically and they are called Qari. All Muslims follow shariat, Islamic jurisprudence in matters of inheritance of property and divorce. Many rulings in the shriat are not in accordance with the guideline of the Quran.Among Sunni there are four different shariats. They differ from one another in many things. Quite understandably no one asks for enforcement of criminal code of shariat.
There are two major sects—Sunni and Shia. Sunnis believe that apart from Quran traditions of the prophet should be followed. There is no imam (guru) among Sunni. Imam’s duty is only to lead the prayes in a mosque. Shias believe that Hazrat Ali was a rightful successor to the prophet, but he was denied his right. They have imams to guide them. They believe that Quran and the family of prophet should be followed. They too have their shariat. There are four sects among shias just as there are four sects among Sunni. There are shias who believe in six imams while another group believes in twelve. They all believe that imam Qasim is going to come back before Qayamat. Ismailis are also shias and their imam is Agha Khan. Bohras are also shias whose imam is Sayadana Burhanuddin.
These days the month of Ramadan has almost become a month of food festival. Choicest dishes are made. All seasonal and non-seasonal fruit is made available in the market. Devout Muslims argue that fasting is to make one realise what hunger is. But he knows what awaits him for breaking the fast. The poor do not know what their next meal is going to be. Quran does not give any reasons though. It is a command from Allah.
Shias observe mourning during the month of Moharram. It was in the month of Moharram that the grandson of prophet was martyred. Moharram is the first month of Islamic calender but both shias and sunnis do not observe new year day as they all consider it a month of mourning.