Special Features of the Islamic Belief System
The First Feature: Clarity
The beliefs of Islam are clear, without any ambiguity or complications. In brief, all of Creation has one divinity – Allah – Who is alone worthy of worship, Who created the marvelous and orderly universe and determined everything within it. He has no partner, peer, wife, or child.
This clarity is consistent with sound reason, because the intellect always seeks out a sense of unity and interrelationship whenever there is variety and multiplicity. It wants various things to be traceable to a single cause.
The Islamic belief system, being so clear, does not call to blind faith. On the contrary, it calls to reflection and reason. Allah says:
“Say (O Muhammad): ‘This is my way, I call to Allah with clear knowledge, I and those who follow me. Glory be to Allah; I am not one of the polytheists.”
At the same time, issues of belief are beyond
the scope of reason alone and can only be acquired by way of revelation from the
Wise Lawgiver. Many of the Muslim philosophers and theologians returned from
their purely rational methods to the methodology of the Qur’ân and Sunnah. One
of them was Fakhr al-Dîn al-Râzî – among the greatest philosophers in Islam –
who, after spending a lifetime in rational investigations, said in verse:
The outcome of rational undertakings is incapacity
Those so engaged mostly chase after error.
Our souls are in bewilderment of our bodies,
And the consequence of all our droning is injury and harm.
We have gained nothing from our lifetimes spent in research
Except a collection of idle talk.
Thereafter he said: “I have investigated the methods of the theologians and philosophers and found that they neither remedy any problems nor fulfill any needs. I found that the best method is that of the Qur’ân. On the one hand, I read that it makes assertions by saying: ‘The Beneficent is mounted on the throne’ and: ‘Unto Him rises the good word.’ Then, on the other hand, I read that it negates matters by saying: ‘There is nothing like unto Him’ and: ‘Knowledge does not comprehend Him.’ Whoever has had the experience that I have had will have come to know what I know.”
The Second Feature: Conformity with Human Nature
The Islamic belief system is not foreign to the uncorrupted, innate nature of man, nor does it contradict that nature in any way. On the contrary, the two are in complete agreement and harmony with each other. This should not come as a surprise, because the Creator of man – who best knows his nature and disposition – is the One who prescribed for him a religion that is suitable for the nature that He created within him. Allah describes Islam as:
“…the way of Allah upon which He created mankind. There can be no change in Allah’s creation. This is the true faith.”
He also says:
“Does the one who creates not know what He created, and He is the Kind, the Wise.”
What occurs in the world around us testifies to
the fact that human nature is in complete agreement with the Islamic belief
system that is based on sincerity in faith to Allah alone. Whenever any person
is faced with difficulties that are beyond the scope of his physical powers, he
takes recourse to Allah Almighty in absolute humility and submission,
irrespective of whether he is a believer or a disbeliever. This is true even for
a small child, because if he is left to his own devices without being influenced
by his parents or his environment, he will grow up believing that Allah is his
Lord and God, and he will worship no one else.
For this reason, Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Every child is born on the natural path, then his parents turn him into a Jew, Christian, or Magian."
The Third Feature: Having its Basis in Revelation While Being Furnished with Proofs
A distinction of the Islamic belief system is that even though it is based exclusively upon revelation, never exceeding the bounds of the divinely revealed texts that establish it, it is at the same time a belief system that provides proofs for its beliefs, all of its tenets resting on sound arguments and evidence. It does not merely present its tenets by way of confirmed revelation and then require belief in them through stern compulsion. On the contrary, it respects man’s faculty of reason as well as the principles upon which the religion rests.
None of its beliefs, from the most general to the most particular, are established by any proof other than that of the Qur’ân and Sunnah. Moreover, those that follow it are prohibited from delving into issues of belief except with knowledge and proof of this kind. Allah says:
“Do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Verily the hearing, the sight, and the heart, all of those will be held accountable.”
He also says:
“Allah will never mislead a people after giving them guidance until he makes clear to them what they must avoid.”
At the same time, the Qur’ân, when it calls people to believe in the tenets of faith, provides clear proofs from the signs that exist both within the person and all around him. In this way, it does not call to blind faith or to following anything aimlessly. On the contrary, it orders people to ask for the arguments and proofs for any belief or claim. Allah says:
“Say (O Muhammad): ‘Bring your proof if you be truthful.’ ”
This combination of reliance upon revelation and the presentation of proofs
require the following:
1. It limits the sources of Islamic beliefs to the Qur’ân and Sunnah.
2. It necessitates relying upon the words of the Qur’ân and Sunnah that express the tenets of faith.
3. It also requires understanding these words according to their intended meanings.
4. It is prohibits understanding meanings from these words that they do not convey.
5. It requires silence on all matters pertaining to faith that the Qur’ân and Sunnah do not address by leaving the knowledge of these matters to Almighty Allah.
The Qur’ân and Sunnah point to other means of acquiring knowledge, such as reason, the senses, good taste, etc. The following are some examples of the proofs provided by Allah in the Qur’ân that are built upon clear demonstrations:
1. The rational proof: Allah says:
“Were they created without a cause or were they themselves the creators?”
2. The proof within the self: Allah says:
“…and in themselves, do they not see?”
3. The proof in the surrounding environment: Allah says:
“He has let loose the two sees meeting together. Between them is a barrier that neither of them can transgress.”