Islam is the last of the great religions – those mighty movements that have revolutionised the world and changed the destinies of nations. But it is not only the last, it is an all-inclusive religion, which contains within itself all religions that came before it.
One of the most striking characteristics is that it requires its followers to believe that all the great religions of the world that preceded it have been revealed by God: “And who believe in the revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time…” (2:4).
“Say ye: we believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them…” (2:136).
“The Apostle believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in God, His angels, His books and His apostles. We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles…” (2:285).
THE PLEASURE OF UNITY… A volunteer carries trays of food in Karachi as people wait for iftar. — AFP
Thus a Muslim believes not only in the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) but in all other prophets as well. And prophets were, according to the teachings of the Holy Quran, sent to all the nations: “And there never was a people without a warner having lived among them (in the past) – (35:24).
Islam is, therefore, an all-comprehensive religion within which are included all the religions of the world; and similarly, its sacred book, the Holy Quran, is spoken of as a combination of all the sacred scriptures of the world: “…Scriptures kept pure and holy: wherein are laws (or decrees) right and straight” (98:2).
In addition to being the last and an all-inclusive religion, it is the perfect expression of the Divine Will. Thus the Quran says: “…This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (5:4). Like every other form of consciousness, the religious consciousness of man has developed slowly and gradually down the ages, and the revelation of the great truth was thus brought to perfection in Islam.
Thus it is the great mission of Islam to bring about peace in the world by establishing a brotherhood of all the religions, to bring together all the religious truths contained in previous religions, to correct their errors and sift the true from the false, to preach the eternal verities which had not been preached before on account of the special circumstances of any race or society in the early stages of its development and, last of all, to meet all the moral and spiritual requirements of an ever advancing humanity.
With the advent of Islam, the concept of religion received a new significance. Firstly, it is to be treated not as a dogma, which a man must accept if he must escape everlasting damnation, but as a science based on the universal experience of humanity.
It is not a particular nation that becomes the favourite of God and the recipient of divine revelation. On the contrary, revelation is recognised as a necessary factor in the evolution of man. Hence, while in its crudest form it is the universal experience of humanity, in its highest, that of prophetical revelation, it has been a divine gift bestowed upon all nations of the world.
And the idea of scientific in religion has been further strengthened by presenting its doctrines as principles of human conduct and action. There is not a single religious doctrine, which is not made the basis of action for the development of man to higher and yet higher stages of life.
Secondly, the sphere of religion is not confined to the next world; its primary concern is rather with this life. That man, through a righteous life here on earth, may attain to the consciousness of a higher existence. And so it is that the Quran deals with a vast variety of subjects, which affects man’s life in this world.
It deals not only with the ways of devotion, the forms of worship, and the means which make man attain communion with God, but also, and in richer details, with the problems of the world around us, with questions pertaining to relations between man and man, his social and political life, institution of marriage, divorce and inheritance, division of wealth and relations of labour and capital, administration of justice, military organisation, peace and war, national finances, debts and contracts, rules for the service of humanity and even treatment of animals, laws for the help of the poor, the orphan and the widow, and hundreds of other questions, the proper understanding of which enables man to lead a happy life.
Source: ‘The Religion of Islam’ by Muhammad Ali