By Muhammad Jalaluddin Shamil
In the previous part of this article, among many other things, we referred to the all-pervading collective mind, from which various traditions/religions of humanity derive their thoughts. Another point to consider here is, besides the collective mind, our thoughts are also the result of what we gather consciously and (or) unconsciously through the process of socialization. By being a part of society and human civilization we gather experience, data, information and knowledge; and from these gathered data we construct out thoughts.These two are the best possible response to the question, as where our thoughts come from. Looking things in this perspective, it is more than safe to say that many dimensions of Islam share commonalities with other traditions, firstly because of the connection with the collective mind and secondly because of the gathered data as a corollary of the exposure to other civilizations and traditions. This is the reason we can find the influence of Roman Law in the Islamic judicial system, the influence of Neo-platonic thoughts in Islamic Philosophical systems and the influence of Yogic aspects in Islamic Mystical System. Even the concept of Oneness of God (Tauheed) in Islam has similar parallels in other religions. However, Unity of God in Islam is much more precise, which compelled a European write to state, “There is such a geometric precision in Unity of God in Islam that no mythology is possible.”
I have a faint memory of an Urdu book entitled “Taoism or Confucianism ” by Book Home Publishers Lahore, I read during my University days. I was intrigued, when I found the exact translation of Sura-e-Akhlas in the teaching of Confucius, who flourished some 800 years before the dawn of Islam. While giving his sermon to his followers Confucius says that, “The Path is one, there is no path besides The Path. The Path does not originate from any other path, neither other paths originates from The Path.” In other words, what Muslims refer to the attribute of God in Sura-e-Ikhlas, can also be seen in in the similar fashion in the teaching of Confucius. By quoting this, I do not mean to glorify Confucianism over Islam. The point here is to emphasize the commonalities among the teaching of Islam and the understanding of other great traditions. If commonalities are not pondered upon and only differences are emphasized-which has been a hallmark of human civilization since centuries-than this planet would be more fragmented and clash of civilization would be a common norm resulting in wiping out of the human species in the coming centuries. An inclusive approach is needed in our fragmented world to provide the dweller of this planet to live in ease and this ease can only come when commonalities rather than differences are sought.
The message of Islam was not revealed in a vacuum. It was revealed to a human society having a culture and Civilization. Though, it was revealed to an Arab society steeped in many sorts of vices and immoralities, but the society had some way of life, conventions and traditions. In due course of time Islam reformed the society through shunning many prevalent practices, modifying many others and still accepting many aspects of the society where it dawned. The celebrated writer of “Muhamaddan Law”, Sir Abdur Rahim discusses many such aspects of the Arab Society which were stopped, modified or accepted by Islam. The traditional Islamic way of cutting the hands of thieves, stoning to death in case of adultery, proposal and acceptance in marriage, Dower in marriage and many forms of sale, to name a few, were already present in the Arab Society were also readily adopted by Islam. According to Sir Abdur Rahim, about ten types of conducting marital relations were present in Arab Society, but Islam endorsed the only one type, which Muslims practice to date. The Kabba’, the Black-stone (Hajjr-e-Aswad) were there before Islam and the Arabs paid great reverence to both these. What Islam did was that, it gave a new way of reverence and meaning to Kabbah and the Hajjr-e-Aswad. These are just few examples to underscore the point that the ways of Islam have things in common with other systems of understanding. This feature of Islam of deriving understanding from other systems is one of the prominent factor which makes Islam ever applicable and ever-relevant in the face of ever changing human needs and ever-evolving human society.
In Modern International law, one source of international law as enshrined in the statute is the “General Principles of Law Recognized by Civilized Nations”. The International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court use this principle to decide cases when they find no other clause to the effect in other sources of international law (Customs, Treaties/agreement, UN resolutions etc.,).The history of incorporating this principle by modern human civilization to govern human beings has a history of not more than a century, but Islam introduced this principle in its judicial system some 1400 years ago, hence becoming a pioneer in the field of international relations and international law. The Muslim jurists and legal experts who constructed the judicial-legal system of Islam also benefitted a lot from this principal while building the legal system of Islam. The name of the famous Imam of jurisprudence, Imam Abu Hanifa and his two students Abu Yusuf and Abu Muhammad are relevant in this point, who also incorporated “Urf” (Customs and usages of any society not in contrast to Islamic principles) as the source of deriving Islamic Law. This emphasis on Urf resulted in accommodating certain aspects of Roman and other Laws within the Judicial system of Islam. Hence, one can find many commonalities between Roman system and the System of Islam and highlighting such commonalities is the object of these series of articles. To go even further, traces of the Nicomacean Ethics of Aristotle can readily be seen in the ethical/moral system of Islam. The Quranic injunction about punishment which says, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth……” can be traced in the Hammurabi’s Legal Code. Hammurabi was a Babylonian King lived in 1800 BC, who developed a legal system which influenced the legal system of Islam to a significant extent. Such influences are not only confined to legal system, but also encompass the realm of spirituality, philosophy, mysticism, politics etc.
The intention of these articles is to give the interested readers some dimensions of thought which may help to look into things with a different perspective. Developing such perspective is the need and norm of this era and could only ensure peaceful co-existence. Otherwise, Samuel Huntington’s prophesy of the clashes of ideologies would become true in the centuries to come. An inclusive approach based on tolerance and understanding other’s perspectives by looking for commonalities rather than differences can inhibit many ailments of contemporaryhuman civilization.
To be continued…….
(The writer is a Student Counselor, majored in Computer Science and a PGD in Applied Psychology having interest in Philosophy, Comparative Religion, Mysticism and Spirituality. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).