THE HEAVENLY BOOKS and the prophets that teach them are the two great mercies of Allah on humanity. Without a revealed Book, people are lost. Inevitably, they associate false gods with God, the true and only.
Look at the nations, today and historically. Those in possession of a Revealed Book know belief in one God. Those who have none are polytheists.
Allah sent these Books to all people to guide them according to the purpose of the original nature (fiṭra) upon which He created them. That purpose in man is transcendence. This is the given quality that Revelation shapes and matures in man until it perfects it.
Transcendence is the ethereal character that Allah placed in the human spirit that impels man to rise above the mere physical human experience on earth and his material existence in the world. It is the defining quality of the human nature that constantly draws him upright, unlike the animals, and lifts his stereoscopic gaze to the heavens he intuitively knows holds his original, intended home.
It is man’s transcendent nature that tells him he has been purposively created. Not just by the eons of time out of mind that he senses have passed before him. Nor by the bang of existence and rasp of celestial motion whose echoes his soul almost hears behind him.
No. Sublime was his beginning, as was his creation, in the Hands and with the Breath of the Sublime One alone. Something in that divine touch and breath of life impressed itself upon man down deep in his soul, something beyond knowledge that he has been fashioned by One All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Merciful…and, tremblingly, that he is to be adjudged by Him as to the purity of the fealty in his heart and for the worthy intent of all his actions.
Transcendence is man’s secret, the endless murmur in his marrow that lets him know, I mean something central in the function of the world. Thus all his actions, be they ever so small and unnoticed—his every motion, utterance, and inkling—holds a reverberating meaning that defines his everlasting reality, as he truly is—and by the grace or wrath of His Master Maker—as he shall forever be.
Man, Perfected and Unevolved
This is why Allah has given to man His Books because without them he does not know how to perfect and direct his own transcendent nature, until he loses it and becomes less guided than even the animals, for he has nothing like their overriding instincts.
This too is why Allah has sent among us prophets. They received direct knowledge from Allah—the primordial names of things and the revealed words by which they were to remind and guide the rest of us to our inner natures and purpose in the world.
That purpose is two-fold: We are to maintain belief in the unrivaled and unrationalized Oneness of God. And we are to constrain ourselves to steward the earth—all its creatures and creation—according to the wisdom with which Allah has endowed us, a wisdom bequeathed in His revelation, seamless with the Truth He sewed into all creation, a wisdom faultless in all the fine and innumerable balances He has set throughout the earth.
These two charges and all the splendored things they entail in holiness Allah has conjoined. It is this that gives to nature its enchantments. To us, His stewards, He has given a dangerous, tandem will: The power to unjoin what He has enjoined and conjoined, without His condonation, but by His leave. This is our earthly test from our Creator, to clarify who of us is a grateful servant and who of us is not—this, in the fleeting moment of our choice.
To unjoin our two-fold purpose—of faith and creative responsibility—or to disconnect the stipulated relationships that Allah has bound us to and linked together in the world, is to corrupt our primordial natures and the fixed nature of the earth. The wages of this are loss in this life and grief in our permanent abode Hereafter. Behold our moral paradigm, which Allah set in motion with Adam.
For this reason, the first man is also the first prophet. This means that man began his earthly sojourn—not benighted and spiritually bereft, fearing every thunderclap and display of lightening, operating solely on an instinct of survival and an impulse of physical ascent as a way of life, relying on superstition to get through the night.
No. Humanity on earth began as a family, Adam, with his wife and children. They lived in civility as a single society based on knowledge and undisturbed by shirk, the false association of anything or anyone with the sole divinity of the One God, Allah. Human community perfectly reflected this undifferentiated unity of belief in the One God and amity with creation.
Humanity was not other than one faith-community. Then they disputed [Sûrat Yûnus, 10:19].
Shirk and the Shari’ah
Our scholars make a crucial point here. People were one community because they lived according to the guidance—faith and practice—that Allah initially taught Adam, who taught his children, and which the prophets appointed by Allah among them thereafter upheld and taught to the people. Their devolution would not come until some dissented from the divine message.
Listen to how Allah states it, even as he banished Adam and Eve from the Garden—and none other than Allah knows, for He was ever there and we were not:
We [had] said: Descend from it [now], all together! Then whenever guidance from Me comes to you—then those who follow My guidance, there shall be no fear upon them [when they assemble for Judgment]. Nor shall they ever grieve [over the life of the world]. But as to those who disbelieve and belie Our signs—it is these who are the Companions of the Fire [of Hell]. They shall abide therein forever. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:38-39]
People lived willingly submitting their wills to the will of Allah, the very definition of Islam. Their religion was Islam.
Then, as the generations proliferated between Adam and Noah, some of the people “differed” with the guidance of their prophets. That is, they willfully parted from the way of their prophets. They deviated from the prophetic way, which is the Sharîʿah, the Divinely Revealed Law, originally taught to Adam. Thus they fell into shirk, deifying falsehoods in association with the One Divine.
This is the subtle, pivotal point made by our knowledgeable. People did not invent false gods and ways, fall into shirk, and then differ from, and move away from, the prophetic way, the Sharîʿah. They moved away from the teachings and way of life of the prophets and in consequence fell into shirk.
First comes the rejection of the Revelation. Then comes departure from the prophetic way of life, which constitutes the Sharîʿah. Then comes loss of human vision in the world. Misery on earth necessarily follows this sightlessness, as a prelude to punishment in the grave then divine condemnation in the Hereafter to Hell.
… To be continued, Inshâ’ Allah…