Be Like Adam's Son: The Criterion for Truth and Falsehood

From Jawdat Said

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There is a relation between concepts and behaviors. Concepts and ideas may be put right by learning from the outcomes of behaviors. This may not be clear to many people. Believers or non-believers, we need to comprehend the system of the world. Do we not all need to get over this mischief and bloodshed? It is especially painful that some find in this bloodshed a way to coming close to God. But men will not work out the sense of all this unless they believe that there is a difference between one way and another, as the Qur'an says, "Are the blind equal with those who see? Or the depths of darkness equal with Light?" (13:16).

People will have their nervous system to put to use for distinguishing things. But how do we know that one's nervous system is nearer to truth than the other? The answer is that what is truer is what is more profitable and longer lasting. The pyramids of Egypt are an example. How much did they cost? And what good did they do to how many people?

God provides enough examples, like this one: "After this it is you, the same people, who slay among yourselves, and banish a party of you from their homes; assist their enemies against them, in guilt and rancor; and if they come to you as captives, you ransom them, though it was not lawful for you to banish them. Then is it only a part of the Book that you believe in, and do you reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? – and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what you do." (2:85) It is not a new phenomenon that people are slain, or banished from their homes, as the Qur'an tells us: "And the Unbelievers said to their Messengers: 'Be sure we shall drive you out of our land, or you shall return to our religion.' But their Lord inspired this Message to them: 'Verily We shall cause the wrong-doers to perish!'" (14:13) In fact, very early in the Prophet's career, Waraqah bin Nowfal told him, "I wish I were with you when your people expelled you." The Prophet said, "Will they expel me?" And Waraqah replied, "Yes, no one ever came with a thing like what you are calling for but faced his people's hostility." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The two most prominent crimes in the Qur'an are slaying and expelling from home. I know that nothing is more serious than associating any god with God, but that is for God to punish. But in this world it is these two crimes that should not be tolerated nor connived at in the Muslim community – and how can it be a Muslim community if it tolerates that?

We need to define succinctly when and who has the right to put to death; when it is legitimate; and when killing is prohibited and against religious commands. We need to be very clear as each person has a big claim to be right; and it is easy to fall in a state of chaos, where a human is not holding on to the firm hold-on.

It is especially when you are strong that you do not likely to consider the legitimacy of bringing harm to others. And we live in the midst of confusion, where right and wrong are mixed up, and doing good and doing harm are mixed up, so that the common person is most bewildered. How can we expect the common people to distinguish right sense from bad sense when the cultural leaders do no distinguish them?

Of course it is when our hearts are free from the wish for spilling blood or rejoicing at the spilling of blood that our hands will be clean. As I understand the Qur'an you may not aggress against a person who does not brandish his weapon, "if they withdraw from you, and instead send you guarantees of peace, then Allah has opened no way for you to war against them." (4:90)

So opt for peace and you are eligible for the Qur'an's protection; yourself, your fortune, your family will be protected; and you are safe in this world and the next.

Can we now define what soul is sacred, as we see it in a verse like, "Those who do not invoke, with Allah, any other god, nor slay such life as Allah has made sacred, except for just cause." (25:68) Well, let us imagine a spectacle in which two persons are fighting; we would be in doubt who is in the right and who is in the wrong; but if you see a person assaulting another, and the other person holds back his hand, will there be any doubt? That is why I call to the position of Adam's son, as mentioned by the Messenger, peace be upon him, when he said, "Be like Adam's son," (An authentic tradition, reported by al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood.)

As you see, nobody can force you to deviate from the way of Adam's son; you have only to hold to it, and in this way you show who has good sense. Insist on being in the light, and do not enter the dark tunnel. An aggressor can kill me, but he cannot make a killer of me. That is how we may understand "to hold back their hands (from fight) but establish regular prayers and spend in regular charity;" (4:77); and "Nay, do not obey him: but bow down in adoration, and bring yourself the closer to Allah." (96:19).

This road is the way of light; you do not get involved in spilling blood, feeling uncertain whether your deed was lawful or unlawful. You will be in accord with the tradition, "Break your sword." (an authentic tradition, reported by al-Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawood) Let us also contemplate another tradition, "When two Muslims clash with their swords, both the killer and the killed are destined to enter Hell." Someone asked, "But how is that so, Messenger of God! We understand that the killer must enter Hell; but what about the killed?" He said, "He was intent on killing the other." He was telling what is right for us, was he not? What happens that Muslims forget all about such traditions?

I do not claim to be an erudite scholar of Islam; but I will keep my hand clean. I keep mindful of that statement by Adam's son, as reported in the Qur'an, "If you stretch your hand against me to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against you to slay you: for I do fear Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds." (5:28) I keep to this square foot of the sacredness of the human spirit, and from there I do all my efforts to spread light. Does it strike you how much peace it gives the heart to feel that the other can kill me, but cannot make a killer of me?

And the world is moving in that direction. So, make of your spirit a sacred thing, and hold on to the way of light. Do not let go for one second, for it is the way of good sense. The problem of course is that truth does not occur in life as completely pure, nor does falsehood occur as completely evil. I know that one gets really confused.

Some Muslims are in a hurry; they may quote the verse, "If two parties among the Believers fall into quarrel, you make peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then you fight against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah," (49:9) as if such fighting as happens in our age abides by this verse. Indeed, Muslims have for many centuries lost the sense of good guidance. What we have had for many centuries is misguidance fighting misguidance. Good guidance is the kind of community that was established at the hands of the Prophet and his companions. They did not use violence to establish it. So do not accept to be a gun in the hands of someone. It is not a light thing that one spills blood; and the Messenger was conscious that that would happen; hence his saying, "Do not after my passing revert to misguidance, slaying each other." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

For how many centuries have Muslims tried to establish a well-guided situation with misguided means! It appears that things are just accepted because they have been with us for such a long time.

Do you know enough about the khawarij? Has it occurred to you that Muslims now accept their way and adopt it? They have been described by the Prophet as outside the Islamic peal, though they pray more than the rest of Muslims and fast more. Well, is not the distinguishing mark of this group that they have good intentions but do not mind to abandon Islamic teachings for realizing their purpose?

So please be wary; do not follow their way. Choose the way of clarity and good sense; do not stain your hand. Did not the Messenger establish the Muslim state without shedding the blood of one person? Is it not the way of light? Why do we forget? Let us not be like those who are described in the verse, "even if they see all our Signs, they will not believe in them; and if they see the way of right conduct, they will not adopt it as the Way; but if they see the way of error, that is the Way they will adopt." (7:146)

Is there some light perceived in all this? Even a very little glow would be something. Have we gone forward? Well, let us not lose hope, for if we are far from good sense, were not other nations far from democracy when it was new, but then realized its benefits and adopted it? And history will certainly support that; so it is no use trying to stop history.

But we need to analyze things as they happened to Muslims; they lost both good sense and democracy; and we need to know how. Because there are so many nations which have gone ahead of us. We only see events, but do not get to the laws behind them. We need to understand what deludes us; what makes misguidance alluring in our eyes, and why we are prepared to sacrifice our life and the life of others for the sake of this way.

It will be noticed that our disease is one and the same, a disease that afflicts both the religious-minded and the secularist, though it is displayed in two different contexts. The religious-minded cannot reconsider a life of good sense; nor can the secularist consider a democratic way of life. Is not that curious? How different, how hostile, but they have the same mindset. Can we tackle that?

A human resorts to violence when he/she fails to find the right way. Remember that Adam's other son resorted to killing when his sacrifice was rejected. For an act to be accepted with God, it has to realize two conditions: that it is done for God alone, and that it is done according to rules. This topic is discussed in detail in another book of mine, Action: Ability and Will. Two of the examples of different kinds of action that I listed there are:

1. A mother who is the perfect model of sincerity to her child; but because she is ignorant of the rules of hygiene, she might cause him/her to be disfigured (with polio.) This is a case of sincerity without correctness

2. A doctor who knows the right medicine, but does not care for the patient's cure, so he gives him the wrong orders. This is a case of correctness, without sincerity.

I may now say that the Muslim community, including its two varieties, the devout and the secularist, fail because they are of the first type. I have no doubt as to their good intentions, but they do lack correctness. I am sure that all parties do intend to see their nation prosper and do well, but they, in all their varieties, have no confidence that they can get anywhere through intellectual means. They do not accept the intellectual challenge. They have no confidence that their ideas can do well in the intellectual arena. Both camps are intellectually defeated. They neither have faith in their ideas, nor in human beings. They feel that if people were given the choice, they would not choose the right faith.

And so people resort to physical means. They assume that if truth and falsehood were given equal opportunity, falsehood would prevail – a most dangerous assumption. For what is that truth that you want to devote yourself to if it cannot stand the test against falsehood?

The Qur'an says otherwise, "Nay, We hurl the Truth against falsehood, and it knocks out its brain, and behold, falsehood perishes;" (21:18) "And say: 'Truth has now arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is by its nature bound to perish;'" (17:81) and "Say: 'Verily my Lord casts the mantle of Truth over His servants – He that has full knowledge of all that is hidden.' Say: 'The Truth has arrived, and Falsehood neither creates anything new, nor restores anything.'" (34:48-49); and promises victory to believers, "We will, without doubt, help Our Messengers and those who believe, both in this world's life and on the Day when the Witnesses will stand forth." (40:51)

It must seem paradoxical that the Qur'an promises victory to truth, although we see most wretched facts before us in this world. We should not wonder that so many people are pessimistic; for in their hurry they take truth to be defeated: even a scholar as distinguished as Toynbee is not sure that civilizations can stand the spiritual challenges in their way, and we saw how Nietzsche sees nothing in history but meanness and falsehood. But I refuse to view history within these short terms, nor through scattered situations.

We need to think of history in terms of humankind's progress and development. Are we not descendants of men who ate human flesh, and offered humans as sacrifice? The advance is immense; there must be no doubt about that. We no longer see men being put to death for their ideas (except in the Muslim world.)

So let it not be maintained that truth does not have the strength in itself to prevail over falsehood. We must not just let people believe that if truth and falsehood were given equal opportunity, falsehood would prevail. To think like that is thinking the worst about God, about truth, and about humankind. Nothing is more harmful than to take this idea for granted. We still hear so many people say that truth without the support of physical force is a myth. Indeed, if a human thinks that his/her faith will be defeated, it will be defeated, with or without force. Any idea that does not have in itself the power of survival will not survive. While sound thought will prevail. You see how the Prophet, peace be upon him, prevented his companions from any physical force – it was just pure intellectual debate; and they went on like this to they day they announced their state, never swerving a minute.

Is not this another example of how far we have been unfair to Islam? How far we disfigured it? Do not we have evidence enough in the Prophet's experience that truth, and truth alone, will come out triumphant in the conflict? Does it not show that for good sense to prevail you do not use misguided ways? Not a little and not a minimum – there must be no violent means at all in the bringing about of a community ruled by good sense. Not even by mistake did a Muslim kill a non-believer in Mecca, despite the torture some Muslims were subjected to, that in some cases ended in their death. Have you heard of a polytheist being assassinated?

And this is not weakness. It is that intellectual conflict must be intellectual – no physical element should confuse it. It is in this way that good sense is distinguished from misguidance.

The contrast is striking. The first Muslims felt sure about the light they bore, and they did get it through without resort to force; and we feel weak, and think that with force we can overcome others; but we cannot, neither with force, nor without. But if people do not accept this, then history will have more to inflict on them until they learn. For learn they must. It must settle in their minds that no rule made with force is well-guided, nor will it be at a later stage.

It is not enough that those who believe are really believers in the right faith. One can be very enthusiastic about what he takes to be true, but it is not completely true or completely untrue. For those who believe that Islam can be forced on people are doing great disfavor to Islam; it is not what the Qur'an teaches, "No compulsion!"

It must also be added that truth will itself lead to strength and solidity. A community built on truth is not weak. In a sane, well-built society, people believe by their own volition, and in this way they are not the servile subjects of the strong man who has dictated what they have to believe.

I think I have said enough about a clean hand, about not staining our hands with blood, about letting the faith get home on its own, about Adam's son; and I think I supported that with enough evidence from the Qur'an and the Prophet's, peace be upon him, traditions, both spoken, and his own application, and his companions'. But have I produced the desired change?

Is there solidity enough in the practice of the Prophet and his companions to resist this general trend in our community? We always say that their life is the model for the whole world, and for all humans. It is so. So can we accept their lead in this particular issue? For truth to have its way, it does not need any violence. It is clear enough. And we have the light standing there for all to behold.

It is also the realistic and optimal method for change, clear like the sun and the moon. And the Qur'an provides so many experiences of numerous prophets and believers to support this method. It relates that some believers had to suffer a lot, some paid with their own lives, "Woe to the makers of the pit of fire, fire supplied abundantly with fuel: Behold! They sat over against the fire, and they witnessed all that they were doing against the Believers. And they ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah, Exalted in Power, Worthy of all Praise!" (85:4-8); Pharaoh's sorcerers said, when he was about to execute them, "For us, we are but sent back to our Lord: But you wreak your vengeance on us simply because we believed in the Signs of our Lord when they reached us! Our Lord! Pour out on us patience and constancy, and take our souls unto You as Muslims who bow to Your Will!" (7:125-126). Even in the face of death and torture, believers before us stuck to their way of faith, practicing it, calling to it, not stretching their hand with any kind of violence for its support. This is the way to make sure that the point of conflict is crystal clear.

To bring out most vividly the point of conflict is most vital. It is indeed in a human's nature when he/she sees two persons arguing to probe and see what argument each has to determine who is nearer the truth. This is something that Islam cares for a lot. Many of the pre-Islam Arabs made it a point of pride that they joined the conflict with one side against the other, without asking about the fairness of the issue; this is the famous tribal fanaticism. But Islam set a new principle: You will not side with a person, no matter how dear and near, unless his/her case is right, "O you who believe! Stand firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do;" (5:8) and "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both." (4:135)

The Prophet, peace be upon him, urged his companions to stop a Muslim, even when he happens to be a dear friend, from behaving aggressively or unfairly, "Deter his unfair behavior" he said (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim). It was especially striking as it came after the pre-Islam Arabs' boasting in their poetry that they rushed to help a friend or relative, never asking what the dispute was about. For if you ask, then you are not loyal to the tribe, even when the prey is not the culprit, but someone from his tribe.

The laws developed from there, from protecting the tribe, to being national, to being universal. Let it be said that for Arabs and Muslims, they have not gone beyond the tribal stage; they have not yet developed to the national stage – it is a stage they will have to go through to get to the stage of universality which is the idea of Islam. It is on this basis that I said that the European Union is a new phenomenon in the world, and I bear the responsibility for my claim. But let me add here that there is something lacking in the European Union: they do not view humans as equal. They did prove that they are the most advanced (and I can imagine the Muslim's annoyance at this statement,) but they have not gone far enough.

Something else must be added, although I did mention it at the beginning of this book. It is not enough that one announces that he believes in universality. Do you not see that people speak of justice and equality but in any crisis they revert to their tribal ties, for those are deeper settled in their hearts. That shows you that it will take a lot of work to get the idea of universality to be the basis for people's behavior in real-life situations.