When Allahu ta'ala created man, He granted him aql (intellect) and the power of mind and thought. Islamic scholars (rahimahum-Allahu ta'ala) called man "Haywan-i natiq" and the expression in Cartesian philosophy, "I think, therefore I am," clearly expresses this fact.
The major factors distinguishing man from other creatures are: He has a soul besides his body; he can think, assess all events with his mind; he can decide by using his mind and carry out his decisions; he can distinguish good from evil; and he can realize his errors and repent for them, and so forth. But the question is: Can man use this most powerful weapon given to him without a guide, or can he find the right path and understand Allahu ta'ala by himself?
A retrospective view of history will show us that when left alone with no guidance from Allahu ta'ala, men have always deviated into degenerate paths. Using his mind, man thought of the Omnipotent, who created him, but he could not find the way leading to Allahu ta'ala. Those who did not hear about the Prophets sent by Allahu ta'ala first looked for the Creator around themselves. The sun, being the most useful thing to men, provoked some men to think that it was the creative power, and, therefore, they began to worship it. Later on, as he saw the great forces of nature, such as, a gale, a fire, a furious sea, a volcano and the like, he thought they were assistants to the Creator. He attempted to symbolize each of them. This, in turn, gave birth to idols. He dreaded their wrath and sacrificed animals to them. Unfortunately, he even sacrificed human beings to them. Every new event inspired a new idol, increasing the number of idols symbolizing events. When Islam first graced the earth there were three hundred and sixty idols in the Ka'ba. In short, man, by himself, can never understand Allahu ta'ala, the world's real Creator, the One, and the Eternal. Even today, there are still people who deify the sun, as well as fire. This should not be amazing, because without a guide, a light, one cannot find the right way in darkness. It is declared in the 15th ayat of Surat al-Isra in the Qur'an al-kerim: "... nor would We visit with Our Wrath [the worshippers of idols] until We had
Rahimah-Allahu ta'ala: May Allah's mercy be upon them.
Hayvani natik: Creation which is able to speak.
sent a Messenger 'alaihis-salam)."
Allahu ta'ala sent Prophets ('alaihimu's-salam) to teach His human slaves how to use the powers of mind and thought, to teach them about His Oneness, and to distinguish good from evil. Prophets ('alaihimu's-salam) were human beings like us. They ate, drank, slept and felt tired, too. What distinguished them from us was that their intellectual and assessment abilities were much greater than ours. Moreover, they had pure moral qualities and, hence, the ability to communicate Allahu ta'ala's commandments to us. Prophets ('alaihi mu's-salam) were the greatest guides. The final and highest Prophet (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam), who communicated the Islamic religion, is Hadrat Muhammad and his holy book is the Qur'an al-kerim. (The subsequent discourse on Islam will give further information regarding this subject.) The guiding utterances of Hadrat Muhammad (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) are called al-Hadith ash-sherif. They have been collected in many valuable books. Besides the Qur'an al-kerTm and the HadTth ash-sherTfs, there are great religious scholars who also provided us with guidance. But there are people who slight and disregard these religious scholars, saying, "Why should such scholars be necessary? Cannot one find the right way and become a good Muslim by reading Islam's book, the Qur'an al-kerTm, and by studying the HadTth as-sherTf?" This presumption is false. A person who has no knowledge about the fundamentals of the religion cannot properly comprehend the deep meanings in the Qur'an al-kerTm. Even the most perfect athlete will look for a trainer when he prepares to climb a high mountain. A big factory employs master workmen and foremen, as well as engineers. A worker who begins to work in such a factory learns the basic aspects of his job first from this master workman and then from his foreman. If he tries to see the chief engineer before learning them, he will not understand anything from the engineer's words and calculations. Even the best gun expert cannot correctly use a new gun given to him unless he is first taught how to use it. It is for this reason that in matters pertaining to religion and belief, besides the Qur'an al-kerTm and the HadTth ash-sherTfs, we should utilize the works of those great religious scholars whom we call "Murshid-i kamil" (perfect guide). The highest ones of the murshid-i kamils in Islam are the imams (leaders) of the four madhhabs. They are al-Imam al-a'zam Abu HanTfa, al-Imam ash-Shafi'T, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (rahmatullahi 'alaihim ajma'Tn). These four imams are Islam's four pillars. We have to read the books of one of them to learn the correct meanings of the Qur'an al-kerTm and the HadTth as-sherTf. Thousands of scholars have explained the books of each of them. He who reads these explanations will understand the Islamic religion correctly and well. The beliefs revealed in all these books are the same. This correct belief is called "the belief of the Ahl-as-sunna." Those beliefs which were made up later and conflicted with the Ahl-as-sunna beliefs are called "bid'a" or "dalala" (deviation). The common principles in all religions brought by all prophets since Adam ('alai 's-salam) are the principles of belief. Allahu ta'ala has not willed differences in credal principles. In the 159th ayat in Surat al-An'am of the Qur'an al-kerTm. He says to His beloved Messenger (sall-Allahu alaihi wa sallam): "As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allahu ta'ala: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did." (Allahu ta'ala will call them to account and give them what they deserve)..." (6-159)
Who will a person with a sore eye seek help from? From a watchman, from a lawyer, from a math teacher, or from an ophthalmologist? Of course, he will go to an ophthalmologist and find out its cure. Likewise, he who looks for a remedy to save his faith and belief must resort to a religion specialist, not a lawyer, a mathematician, a newspaper, or a movie.
To be a religious scholar one must have a good knowledge of contemporary sciences; be a graduate of both science and letters, and have a master's and doctor's degrees in both; know the Qur'an al-kerTm and its meanings by heart; know thousands of hadTths and their meanings by heart; be specialized in the twenty main branches of Islamic knowledge and know their eighty subdivisional branches as well; be fully knowledgeable about the subtleties in the four madhhabs; reach the grade of ijtihad in those branches of knowledge and reach a stage of perfection called Wilayat-i Khassa-i Muhammadiyya, which is the highest grade in Tasawwuf.
It is almost impossible for an ignorant person who is quite unconscious of his illness and the medicine for the illness in his heart to pick out the appropriate hadTths for himself from the thousands of hadTths. Islamic scholars, being specialists of the
Malik bin Enes passed away in Medina in 179 (795 A.D.)
heart and soul, can extract and write down the right medicine for the soul out of these hadiths and recommend it according to the nature of the person in mind. Our Prophet (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) is like the chief doctor who prepares hundreds of thousands of medicines for the "world pharmacy," and the Awliya and 'ulama' are like assistant doctors under his command who distribute these ready medicines according to the problems of the patients. Since we do not know our illness or its medicine, if we attempt to choose a medicine for our illness out of the hundreds of thousands of hadiths, it may have an "allergic" effect on us, and, thus, we may have to atone for being ignorant by suffering rather than benefitting. As a matter of fact, a hadith declares: "He who, using his reason and knowledge, interprets the Qur'an al-kerim according to his own understanding, [who fabricates interpretations that disagree with what the Ahl as-Sunna scholars wrote based on our Prophet (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and Sahabatal-kiram (radiy-Allahu ta'ala anhum ajma'in)] becomes a disbeliever." Being unaware of this subtlety, la-madhhabi (non-madhhabite) people prohibit us from reading the books of the Ahl-as-sunna savants (rahimahumullahu ta'ala) by saying, "Everyone should read the Qur'an and hadiths himself and learn his faith from them. They should not read the books of the madhhabs." In fact, their absurdity has gone so far that they have begun to call the knowledge in those books "polytheism and disbelief." The fact, however, is that by doing so they have been preventing people from learning Islam's very essence and, thereby, causing great harm instead of being helpful.
Now let's talk about the different religions. Today, there are three major religions on the earth conveying the existence of a single Creator.
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