Shirk and the Shari’ah (continued from Part 1)
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.
The scholars who outline for us the operative order of how man comes to shirk are simply verifying the presentation of the Quran and the language that Allah Himself uses to describe the process of how man falls insentient into shirk. In Sûrat >â Hâ, when Allah again recounts the descent of Adam and Eve from the Garden, He locates the origin of the motion away from His message, His divinely Revealed Books, as being in man.
It is this counter-movement, away from the unanimous prophetic pattern of creed-begetting conduc: conduct no-longer flowing from creed that is the cause for man’s fall into shirk and the misery that then ensues in life and the life Hereafter. Note that decisive in this motion to or away from the Divine Message is that this is a voluntary action that Allah has situated within man.
Pay attention to the sequence which Allah outlines regarding Adam and Eve after they together sin (equally, by the way):
Then his Lord chose him [as a prophet], and absolved him [of his sin], and guided him. [God] said: Descend from [the garden], both of you, together [along with Satan]—each of you an enemy to the other. But whenever there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance shall not go astray and shall not suffer misery. But whoever turns away from My remembrance, for him, indeed, there shall be a stringent life. And We shall bring him to assembly, on the Day of Resurrection, blind. He shall say: My Lord! Why have You brought me to assembly blind, though I used to see? [Allah] shall say: So it is! Our signs came to you. Yet you forgot them. And so this Day you are forgotten. Even so do We recompense whoever is exceedingly rebellious and has not believed in the [revealed] signs of his Lord. And, indeed, the torment of the Hereafter is severer still and more lasting. [Sûrat >â Hâ: 20:122-27]
Two things are clear here, one a promise, the other a warning:
- Allah will be sending Revelation, Heavenly Books, to Adam and his children. The Book is the means by which Allah intends to safeguard the advance of man through life back to Him and the Garden. By this divine means, moreover, He will vouchsafe to man a farsightedness that will capacitate his stewardship of life on earth. It is the protection against man coming to misery.
- Those who choose to depart from Allah’s message, to leave the path of the prophets appointed as His guides and emissaries, are guaranteed to bring about suffering in the life of this world that shall pursue them into their graves and forever into the Hereafter.
Clear also is a third, implied, point: The prophets would always be the crucial pivots of this covenant of God…solemnly pledged from day one, beginning with Adam [Sûrat Al-Baqara, 2:27]. For this reason, Allah deprives no people of them, the Quran tells us. Indeed, We have sent forth among every community a messenger [Sûrat Al-Na ḥl: 16:36]. Moreover, each one of them teaches his people God’s Oneness, or taw ḥîd, with the selfsame message: You shall worship God alone and shun all false deities [Sûrat Al-Na ḥl: 16:36].
A Sunnah of Our Own
Step back for a moment and consider all the factors of this covenant:
– Allah will send His message to people in Heavenly Books.
– Allah will send human prophets to convey and explain His Books to their people.
– Allah’s message and that of the prophets consistently and clearly articulates His Oneness and sole divinity.
– People will not fall into shirk and destroy themselves if they uphold His message.
– People will find their way back to God and the Garden if they follow His prophets.
– People will not fail their divine charge of stewardship of the earth—they will not lead themselves and all creation into temporal and perpetual misery—if they adhere to the prophets.
– People will inevitably fall into shirk and corrupt the world and creation if they move away from the path of the prophets.
– People who move away from the path of the prophets inevitably cut the relationships that Allah has commanded them to keep joined, which will necessarily lead to misery in the life of the world, misery in the earth, misery in the grave, and everlasting misery in the Hereafter.
All these factors of the divine covenant remain true and in force today. Indeed, what, in our ragged and wretched times of untold misery, could be more obvious?!
Revisiting The Question of All Times
What is not obvious to most people, including many Muslims, is that the message of the One God to be followed today is contained for all people in the Book known as the Quran, whose letter and spirit remains entirely divinely preserved.
Moreover, the prophet to be followed by all people unto the end of time is the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, a fact also obscured from human vision today, including from many Muslims. Yet his way too remains divinely preserved in the ḥadîth collections of the Sunnah, wherein resides the Sharîʿah, the Divine Way to felicity for all human beings and creation.
You may contend that Muslims well know this. But our scholars tell us something else: Knowledge is not knowledge that finds not the heart to implement it.
This raises for man, as we yet name ourselves, a crucial question that perhaps the witness borne by our tongues does not exempt us from answering: Are we moving away from the path of the Prophet ﷺ, his Sunnah, or upon it? Our answer forms a crucial divide because there is no other record in the treasury of human experience that can bridge for us the chasm between us and the Face of God, between our sins and His grace, between His Hell and His Paradise.
Then what a cataclysmic question this is!
On one hand lies shirk, on the other taw ḥîd.
Upon this way flames the unraveling of society, the loss of civility, and the collapse of creation and the earth. Upon that way shines social integrity, human dignity, and flourishing plenteousness for all.
In this direction lurks paralyzing fear, interminable grief, undying shame, and a painful torment. In that rises Heavenly assurance, blessings of grace, life upon life, and everlasting felicity.
Now rings the question of the ages for the Children of Adam. And never shall we Muslims alive today escape its answer.