﴿و ما كان لمؤمن و لا مؤمنة إذا قضى الله و رسوله أمرا أن يكون لهم الخيرة من أمرهم و من يعصي الله و رسوله فقد ضلّ ضلالا بعيدا﴾ – ألأحزاب: 36.
“No believing man nor any believing woman should exercise any choice in their affair once Allah and His messenger have decided upon some matter. Anyone who disobeys Allah and His messenger has wandered off into manifest error” – (33:36).
Islam is the name of the final revelation that forms the last of many in a sequence spanning the ages since the dawn of humanity. The word Islam comes from the Arabic root silm, from which a number of different, yet somehow related words originate. Although the word salam (meaning peace) is what Muslims associate with Islam and indeed all heavenly religions, the two most recent of which being Judaism and Christianity, the conditions for adherence to Islam however, imply another more important meaning, namely the total submission (tasleem) to the Will of Allah. In other words, although Islam is all about peace even when it participate in a war since this is also aimed at keeping peace, what really lies at the heart of this religion and indeed in every true monotheistic heavenly faith is to give in to the Will of Allah, the All-knowing, the Wise.
When this latter meaning of “Islam the word” and its integration in “Islam the religion” is taken into consideration, together with the belief that Islam is the final message, the entire religion, which consists of a number of necessary revelations can then be seen to be “Islamic” at heart even though the Islamic nature may not manifest in the appearance of most of these revelations in the way that it does in Islam. This is because all the individual revelations in this sequence had the same beginning (Allah) and the same end (Allah) with the same themes running through, for example the belief in the Oneness of Allah, the Day of Judgement and Prophethood. In fact, according to the Quran, the sum of all the revelations with Allah is Islam (a reference to 3:19) since it is about the pervasive submission to His Will, adherence to which He commanded that humanity resides within every individual and not just Muslims, the followers of the final message, Islam.
To totally submit to the Will of Allah is to succumb to that superior status of Allah’s Lordship and to obey as would an obedient slave his wise master. This obedience, at its highest level, would mean that the obedient obeys in such a way that (s)he does not think about a matter or perform an act but to think of Allah before, during and after the execution of that act, something that necessitates total remembrance of Allah and His commands and the subsequent absence of room for disobedience be it the misuse or abuse of His gifts to humans. This total obedience also means thankfulness in its entirety since it means that the thankful thanks Allah by not misusing the gifts that he was endowed with by remembering Allah and adhering to His commands whenever (s)he employs any of His gifts.
For this reason, the Satan (Iblis) according to the Quran excludes the sincere and the thankful from those whom he (the Satan) will exert his authority over when he said: “except for any of Your sincere servants who may be among them” – (15:40) and “… You will not find that most of them are thankful” – (7:17). It is also for this reason that Allah tells the Satan that: “You will not hold any authority over My servants except for those who may follow you from among the misguided” – (15:42). Losing sight of the commandments of Allah leads to disobedience and misuse though not necessarily abuse of His gifts since overlooking His presence is behind every evil. This is why when we study the Quran we find that “Islam” (submission) is considered to be “the religion” to be followed and that: “Anyone who desires something other than Islam as a religion will never have it accepted from him while in the hereafter he will be among the losers” – (3:85). This total submission ultimately means righteous actions and is not, by any means intended to be the prisoner of the mind or the soul.
Perhaps the best description of Islam is that which was given by one of the great leaders of Islam, Imam Ali (as), the cousin of the prophet and his legitimate, non-prophetic successor: “Islam is submission, and submission is certainty, and certainty is belief, and belief is expression, and expression is undertaking, and undertaking is action”. Here Imam Ali (as) proposes six stages for Islam. First, you submit to the absolute truth then you take that concept of submission from its level of perception to that of certainty since purposeful submission as opposed to blind replication cannot be achieved without it. Next you make belief out of that certainty since the mere possession of the knowledge of the certain is not sufficient; the reason why you don’t touch a live wire voluntarily, even if you are at your busiest or have just woken up and not concentrating is because you not only know that it will electrocute you but also because you believe that it will do so.
Once the degree of belief is reached, you must express that which you believe in, since locking it up is ineffective and futile. In order to express that belief you must of course undertake the necessary steps towards achieving that responsibly. Expression by words alone is insufficient although it may sometimes be the only or the most appropriate of options. Action, whenever possible, should therefore be our expression method of choice. The undertakings that Imam Ali (as) states are, of course, the very actions that reflect the very first necessary step i.e. the total submission to Allah’s Will. This latter equation, that religion equals action, is necessarily derived from the fact that obedience and the acceptance of responsibility cannot mean anything but action.
For this reason, those believers who accept Islam as their religion, be it “Islam the final revelation” (Muslims) or “Islam the overall revelation” (Muslims, Christians and Jews) place great importance on obedience and make every effort to ensure that they implement the concept of total submission in their lives. For this to happen, of course, they need to know what Allah’s command is with respect to every act that they wish to perform in the course of their lives.
Those who believe in Allah know very well that there are certain things that please Him and there are other things that do not. They know that Allah has ordered humans to practice certain acts and to avoid others. They understand that there are things that are considered lawful whilst others unlawful. But what makes the importance of knowing what pleases Allah and what doesn’t is the fact that what Allah has made obligatory on them is for their benefit and what He forbids them doing is again for their benefit. This latter certainty, the principle of divine wisdom behind reasons for legislations forms the basis of their belief in His Wisdom and provides a driving force for strictly adhering to Allah’s laws.
The fact that the principles of beneficence (doing good) and non-maleficence (not doing harm) are incorporated within the divine legislative process represents a manifestation of His Grace and Mercy as we are unaware of most of what is in our interest in the same way that we do not know what is potentially or actually of harm to us. Allah does not command what is without interest or benefit and He does not forbid that which contains no evil. None of His laws are without aim and since these laws are directed at excelling humankind to its perfection. The ultimate purpose of creation of humans is stated in the Quran to be the worship of Allah and the adherence to His laws: “I have only created sprites (Jin) and men so that they worship me” – (51:56). Allah is Perfect and likes perfection.