Professor Nazeer Ahmed
The tenth century scholar, Imam Termidhi wrote: “Allah has indeed favored us with the Qur’an which is His boundless ocean. He has filled it with the gems of subtleties and made it a treasure of His Grace. Blessed is the man or woman to whom Allah grants, openly and in secret, some of the wisdoms which are in it.”
The Qur’an has an inner dimension and an outer dimension. The inner dimension reveals the majesty and bounty of Allah. The outer dimension provides guidance so that humankind may attain its noble destiny and return to the Divine fold.
The Qur’an touches the heart at multiple levels. It is an inexhaustible ocean. As the Qur’an declares: “For every knower there is one who knows more”. The Light of Islam, the Light of Iman, the Light of Irfan, the Light of Tawhid, and the Light of Shahada are some of the Lights that define the stations of the heart. Each one of these has its own inner dimension and its outer dimension.
The inner dimension of Islam is transformation of the self so that the veils that separate the heart from Divine presence are lifted and man realizes Divine presence in his own life. Islam also has an outer dimension that finds its fulfillment in space and time and that is the Shariah.
Shariah is a term that is much misunderstood and maligned in the world today. These are times of trial. Every trial is a Sign from the almighty so that we learn something from it and grow with it. Every challenge is an opportunity. These challenges provide Muslims an opportunity to learn the Quran, understand the Shariah, comprehend its inner and outer dimensions, and apply it with wisdom to their own surroundings.
The root word for Shariah is Shara’ which means a commandment, a prescription, a regulation, a covenant. It can also mean a path, an avenue. Shariah is the evidence of Allah to His creation so that through it mankind may reinforce its faith in the Almighty. Shariah is also the compassion and love of Allah through which God reveals His works to His creation. As such its embrace is all inclusive; it includes in its fold all of creation. God almighty declares in the Quran:
“I will show you My Signs on the horizon and within yourselves until you have certainty of faith.”
On the horizon means nature and history. There are Signs in nature. Those with insight and intellect read these Signs and benefit from them. All of God’s creation follows the laws of the Shariah. The sun rises from the East. That is Shariah. The moon revolves around the earth. That is Shariah. The stars in the heavens and the far off galaxies swim in their own orbits. That is Shariah. Even as I write there is a star somewhere in the universe that is being gobbled up by a black hole. That is Shariah also. The Qur’an teaches us:
“And the sun and the moon move in mathematically predictable orbits. And the heavens has He raised high and established a dynamic balance therein so that you do not violate that balance in your own lives. ”
God is Al Haq (the Truth). His Word is al Haq (the Truth). What He has created is from al Haq (the Truth). The Qur’an declares: Do you not see that God has created the heavens and the earth in Truth? (14:19). Thus, the Truth binds the Creator with His Word and His creation. Shariah is His Word. His creation obeys His Word (His command). Science is the process of discovering the Shariah of nature. The question for science is: How is the Will of God expressed in the majesty of creation? The answers to this question are Signs that point in the direction of the Truth, which is al Haq.
Thus science is a servant of faith. The laws of nature are subject to man’s understanding. Man is enjoined to interact with and reflect upon nature, understand it and use the lessons learned so as to discharge his responsibility as the khalifa (delegate) of God on earth.
There are Signs in nature: In the billions of galaxies that form the universe, in the birth and death of giant stars, in the location of the earth in a niche in the Milky way, in the protective layers around the earth, in the rain that drops from the heaven, in the birds that fly thousands of miles to their destination, in the flora and fauna of earth, in the food that we eat, in the trees that give us shade and sustenance, in the flowers that exude beauty. Will we not see, wonder, ask and learn the Truth?
On the horizon also means history and sociology. History is a Sign from Allah and it should be taught as such. It teaches us something of the past so that we may use it as a guide to chart a course with wisdom for the future. Those who heed the lessons of history, prosper. Those who do not, perish. The Quran admonishes us
“Travel through the earth and witness what was the end of those who denied the Truth.” (6:11)
Shariah enunciates the laws of history, of the rise and fall of civilizations. The Quran teaches us:
Humankind is at loss,
Except such as those who have certainty of faith,
And engage in righteous action,
And work together to establish al Haq (Truth and Justice) ,
And work with one another with patience and perseverance.”
And there are Signs within ourselves, in the beauty and perfection of the human body, the sight that enables us to see, the hearing which enables us to hear, the feet that help us walk, the arms that enable us to work, the skin that protects us, the physical heart that beats from cradle to the grave suffusing the body with life, the spiritual heart that opens up to the Light from the heavens and takes man to the very throne of Allah, in the mind that reasons, in the intellect that basks in the Light from the majesty of God’s presence. There are more than twenty billion cells in a human body. Each cell is a life factory, complete and resplendent by God’s grace, transmitting information through DNA and manufacturing proteins that sustain life. Every eye that sees, every limb that walks, every mind that thinks, every heart that beats reveals the mercy and grace of Allah and follows His laws. It follows the Shariah. Will we not see, ask and learn the Truth?
How ironic that those who were given the Book of Knowledge are themselves oblivious to the universal, all embracing dimensions of the Shariah and have reduced it to a set of do’s and don’ts, to the length of moustaches and beards, which in no way reflect the majesty of the Divine Essence that guides the movement of every string in an atom, every cell in a body, every galaxy in a universe! As a result, the social, intellectual and economic development of Muslim societies suffers. Young men and women are confused by the apparent dichotomy between science and faith, surrounded as they are by the secularization that has overwhelmed the world of man.
Science, properly framed, is a Sign from the heavens. It reinforces faith. History, properly studied, is a Sign from Allah. It reinforces faith. Sociology, properly framed is a Sign from Allah. It reinforces faith. Science and history are a part of the Shariah. They follow Divine Laws which must be studied, understood and utilized for the falah (well being) of humankind.