By Abul A`La Mawdudi
In Islam, man’s entire individuals and social life is an exercise in developing and strengthening his relationship with God. Belief (iman) the starting point of our religion, consists in the acceptance of this relationship by man’s intellect and will; Islam means submission to the will of God in all aspects of life.
The Islamic code of conduct is known as the Shari`ah. Its sources are the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be on him).
The final Book of God and His final Messenger stand today as the repositories of this truth. Everyone who aggrees that the concept of ‘reality’ stated by the prophet, and the Book of Allah is true, should step forward and surrender himself to the will of God. It is this submission which is called Islam, the result of iman in actual life.
And those who of their own free will accept God as their Sovereign, surrender to His Divine will and undertake to regulate their lives in accordance with His commandments, are called Muslims.
All those persons who thus surrender themselves are welded into a community and that is how the ‘Muslim society’ comes into being. It is an ideological society, radically different from those which are founded on the basis of race, colour or territory. It is the result of a deliberate choice, the outcome of a ‘contract’ which takes place between human beings and their Creator.
Law of God
Those who enter into this contract undertake to recognize God as their Sovereign, His guidance as supreme and His injunctions as absolute Law. They also undertake to accept, without question, His word as to what is good or evil, right or wrong, permissible or prohibited. In short, freedoms of the Islamic society are limited by the commandments of the Omniscient God.
In other words, it is God and not man whose will is the primary source of Law in a Muslim society.
When such a society comes into existence, the Book and the Messenger prescribe for it a code of life called the Shari ‘ah, and this society is bound to conform to it by virtue of the contract it has entered into.
It is, therefore, inconceivable that a real Muslim society can deliberately adopt any other system of life than that based on the Shari ‘ah. If it does so, its contract is ipso facto broken and its becomes ‘un-Islamic’.
But we must clearly distinguish between the everyday sins of the individual and a deliberate revolt against the Shari ‘ah. The former may not mean a breaking up of the contract, while the latter most certainly would.
The point that should be clearly understood is that if an Islamic society consciously resolves not to accept the Shari ‘ah, and decides to enact its own constitution and laws or borrows them from any other source in disregard of the Shari ‘ah, such a society breaks its contract with God and forfeits its right to be called ‘Islam’.
The main objectives of the Shari ‘ah are to ensure that human life is based on ma `ruf (good) and to cleanse it of munkar (evils). The terms ma `ruf denotes all the qualities that have always been accepted as ‘good’ by the human conscience.
Conversely, the word munkar denotes all those qualities that have always been condemned by human nature as ‘evil’. In short, the ma `ruf is in harmony with human nature and the munkar is against nature.
The Shari ‘ah gives precise definitions of ma `ruf and munkar, clearly indicating the standards of goodness to which individuals and society should aspire.
It does not, however, limit itself to an inventory of good and evil deeds; rather, it lays down an entire scheme of life whose aim is to make sure that good flourishes and evils do not destroy or harm human life.
To achieve this, the Shari ‘ah has embraced in its scheme everything that encourages the growth of good and has recommended ways to remove obstacles that might prevent this growth.
This process gives rise to a subsidiary series of ma `ruf consisting of ways of initiating and nurturing the good, and yet another set of ma `ruf consisting of prohibitions in relation to those things which act as impediments to good. Similarly, there is a subsidiary list of munkar which might initiate or allow the growth of evil.
The article is excerpted from the author’s book “The Islamic Way of Life”.