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American Muslim

Daily Democrat – July 23, 2005

Standing up for justice, truth


To show solidarity with fellow Americans, the Muslim Mosque in Woodland invited all Woodlanders to an open house to celebrate the 229th Independence Day. Many Christians, Jews and even an atheist visited the mosque, enjoyed a barbecue lunch and joined in the celebrations with American Muslims. It was a true vision of friendship and proof that people of different religions, races and colors can get along.

However, if we look at the contemporary world we find it clearly baffled by numerous problems, and we are equally baffled by the conflicting diagnoses and prescriptions to cope with these problems.

Blas Pascal, the French thinker, mathematician and scientist once said, "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." Time and again we see leaders and followers of religions incite aggression, fanaticism, hate and xenophobia - even inspire and legitimize violent and bloody conflicts.

In the Holy Quran God reminds us, "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)." Quran 49:13.

The philosophy that underlines the Islamic principles is to create a perfect balance between individual and collective responsibility. In other words, there are individual duties and there are societal obligations, and the two go hand in hand. Human beings are social animals by nature, and as such must be integrated into societies. For this reason sociologists find two important elements for the development of the society: A system that governs society as a whole with justice and fair play, and components of the same system that result in individual security, peace and harmony to achieve full human potentials.

Islam is based on the principles that address both the individual and the society, as can be derived from the Quran and the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The primary goal of Islam is the establishment of a society based on peace, security and justice.

Quran says that man is commissioned to be God's viceroy on earth. "It is He Who hath made you the inheritors of the earth," (165:4). He is so chosen to cultivate the land and enrich life with knowledge, virtue, purpose and meaning.

Knowledge is a unique faculty of human being and is an integral part of his personality and his being. Man is a free agent endowed with a free will. This is the essence of his humanity and the basis of his responsibility. Without man's relative free will, life would be meaningless and God's covenant with man would be in vain. Without human free will, God would be defeating His own purpose and man would be completely incapable of bearing any responsibility.

Life emanates from God. It is neither eternal nor an end in itself, but a transitional phase, after which all shall return to the Creator as Quran says: "Inna lil Allahi wa inna ilaihi raaji'un ("Verily, unto God do we belong and, verily, unto Him shall we return") (Quran 2:156). Man is a responsible agent. But responsibility for his deeds and wrong doings, or we may call them sins, is borne by the actual offender alone. Sin is not hereditary, transferable or communal in nature. Every individual is responsible for his own deeds.

And while man is susceptible to wrongdoing, he is also capable of redemption and reform. Individual means little or nothing when severed from the social context as the individual has different sets of roles to play. He must play them in such a way as to guard his moral integrity, preserve his identity, observe the rights of God, and fulfill his social obligations.

Man is a dignified and honorable being. His dignity derives from the fact that he is created by God as the best of creatures (Quran 28,29/15). What is more important is that the human dignity is not confined to any special race, color, religion or class of people. It is the natural right of man, every man, the most honorable being on earth. Man's highest virtues are piety and knowledge, that when such knowledge is acquired and invested according to the divine guidance, man's blissful destiny will be assured and his life will be serene.

In the holy Quran God commands all humans to "enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong." We must strive to be the best of creation by looking after all of creation, by enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.

This means that we must always stand up for justice and speak the truth, regardless of the consequences. The Quran says: "... stand firmly for justice, against yourself or your parents or your near relations whether he be rich or poor," (4/35).

Khalid Saeed is the American Muslim Voice Director for Northern California.