Be Like Adam's Son: Abraham: The Forefathers Are not the Reference

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It will be useful to remember Abraham, as the progenitor of the universal law: that the forefathers are not the reference; the reference is in how much good or mischief something will do.

It is not only a law of worship; it is the law of history; it is even the law of what is enjoined and what is forbidden in religion. When God prohibits alcoholic drinks and lottery, He makes it clear that they are forbidden for they do more harm than good: "They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: 'In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the benefit;'" (2:219) and somewhere else: "Intoxicants and gambling, dedication of stones, and divination by arrows, are an abomination, of Shaitan's handiwork: eschew such abomination, that you may prosper." (5:90). And about both the permitted and the forbidden: "for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil." (7:57) Therefore, it was stated by some Muslim jurists: "That which is beneficial, in all or in most cases, is enjoined; and that which is harmful, in all or in most cases, is forbidden."

We find the same law in the Bible: "For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes." (Luke, 6:44) The followers of all three religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims tend to believe that they are privileged, but the Qur'an assures us that there is no lineage to God that does us good, "Not your desires, nor those of the People of the Book can prevail: whoever works evil, will be requited accordingly." (4:123)

But though Abraham did lay the law, men have not benefited much from it; they still hold on to some reference other than that of what does good and what does harm. There were great men, though, who urged people not to let their idolization of their forefathers impede their going forward and dealing with things in a realistic manner. Toynbee, the great historian, identifies six personalities who have been, and still are the most influential. Four of them are Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. And he finds the common factor among their messages to be that they called on men to renounce their idolization of society.

It has been a landmark of human history when some came upon this principle of renouncing the forefather's position as reference, a kind of idolization. But it has not yet taken root in the world. And the Veto Right that we still find in the highest council in the world, the UN Security Council, is another manifestation of idolization. The principle here is the same as that of the primitive people's: As long as I am stronger, then we are not equal as human beings.

It is a fact about human beings that as long as they are the weaker party, they call for equality and justice. So let each one of us test himself/herself to see if he/she can accept to deal with the other on an equal footing when he/she happens to be in stronger position. But when we accept the principle of distinguishing the intellectual conflict from the physical one, we can accept to deal with people even-handedly. One must test himself/herself with regard to the prophets' stance when they said, as the Qur'an reports, "We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us;" (14:12) and "Rejected were the Messengers before you: with patience and constancy they bore their rejection and their wrongs, until Our aid reached them." (6:34) A major test to our holding to the value of ideas is when we do have the upper hand – will we then use force to stifle other ideas than our own? Muslim history is a witness that we again and again suppressed the opposing ideas.

So will you stand the others' giving you the lie? And will you hold on to putting up ideas to counter ideas? Are you sure to restrain yourself from any resorting to physical conflict in that case?

Another point in this connection is that even if one comes out victorious in the conflict of ideas, and without any intervention of physical force, his/her battle is not finally won! To conform to ideas after one has won his/her battle is even harder than at the time he/she used to be weak. About that we may cite this debate between Moses and his people, as reported by the Qur'an: "they said: 'We have had nothing but trouble, both before and after you came to us.' He said: 'It may be that your Lord will destroy your enemy and make you inheritors in the earth: that so He may try you by your deeds.'" (7:129)

I hope you appreciate now why I say that the age of the prophets has not yet come, that their call is still in the womb of history. But that it will come out into light is a certainty.

How vast a stride humankind had gone when it came to accept "Let there be no compulsion in religion!" Indeed the historian Toynbee admitted that the idea of "Let there be no compulsion in religion" was laid down a long time ago by Islam but "we in Britain did not accept it until quite recently." Well, but the idea is born. When an idea that is quite novel and unlike anything in people's consciousness and practice is born, then it will be received as odd or even perverse. Then a few, who have the talent to reflect, begin to take it up and to discuss it, then more people begin to accept it – and then there will be a time when people are so familiar with it that they no longer mention it. They behave in accordance with it as part of their subconscious.

The idea of 'Let there be no compulsion in religion' (2:256) is already accepted in many parts of the world, but, paradoxically, not in the Muslim world, although it was revealed in their Scripture before any other nation was conscious of it. Muslims do assert that they accept it on the level of religions, but even there it has no root in our part of the world. The truth is that man is quite immature in the domain of ideas. The Muslims hold doggedly and tenaciously to compulsion in thought and politics, in the same way as they surrender to tyrants.

Followers of the prophets, those who urge men to be just and fair are there in the world, but they are disunited and they do not manage to work in harmony. There is nothing like an authority or agency that keeps an eye on mischief and corruption in the world. Those who know enough to uphold the prophets' message do not do what is incumbent on them; they do not seem to feel the heavy duty that is waiting for them to fulfill. How badly does humankind need to be reminded that they can be liberated from idolizing falsehood, and are capable of standing for truth!

At least those whose duty is to uphold justice and truth should exhort men not to be dragged into physical conflict in the name of supporting ideas, and not to be like a gun in the hand of the advocates of privileges, or a stick in the hands of the tyrant. It is a simple enough demand, but of such potent effect. Do you not see how all the armies of the world train their soldiers to be like guns in the hands of their commanders, like senseless beings that are devoid of discrimination or sensibility? That is more evidence that the prophets' age, that is their teachings, has not yet arrived.