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The Islamic Society and Its Characteristics

by Dr. Ahmad H. Sakr

[Dr Ahmad Sakr was born in Beirut, Lebanon and got his PhD from the University of Illinois. He got his Islamic education through tutoring from the late Grand Mufti of Lebanon as well as from a large number of Muslim scholars from neighboring countries. He is a founding member and former President of the Muslim Student's Association of the USA and Canada now known as ISNA. Currently, he is the president of the foundation for Islamic knowledge. Dr Sakr has made numerous radio and television appearances. He is well known writer and has written a series of books and booklets on Islam, food, health, behaviour, terrorism, etc. At last count he had written over fifty six books and booklets not counting the innumerable articles he has authored and published.]

The Islamic Society is unique in its structure, composition and its characteristics. These characteristics are depicted from the Quran and Hadith. The following is a partial list of the characteristics of an Islamic society:

1. Enjoining what is good

2. Forbidding what is bad

3. Faith in Allah

These three characteristics are summarized in the Quran in Surah Al-'Imran (The Family of 'Imran). "You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong and believing in God" (3:110).

4. The fourth characteristic of the Islamic Society is based on Moderation, and it is an Ummah of moderation. This concept of community of moderation is explained in the Quran very nicely. In Surah-Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Allah says, "Thus have we made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Apostle a witness over yourselves,"(2:143).

5. The fifth characteristic of the Islamic Society is one Ummah. This concept of being one Muslim community is explained nicely in the Quran. In Surah Al-Anbiya (The Prophets), Allah says:

"Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your lord and cherisher: Therefore serve me (and no other)" (21:92).

This concept of being one Ummah is explained nicely in Surah Al-Mu'minun (the believers) Allah says:

"And verily this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your lord and cherisher: therefore fear me (and no other) (25:52)

6. Another characteristic of the Islamic Society is based on the concept of Consultation. Allah designated a whole Surah in the Quran under the title of Consultation. In Surah Ash-Shura (Consultation) Allah says: "And who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation; who spend out of what we bestow on them for sustenance," (42-38).

7. Another characteristic is that of Brotherhood. The Islamic society is built on the concept of brotherhood. Muslims are ordained to have the feelings and application of concept of brotherhood. In this regard, the Quran states in Surah Al-Hujurat (The Inner Apartments) the following:

"The believers are but on single brotherhood." (49:10).

This concept of brotherhood is explained in the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)which has been narrated by Al-Nu'man Bin Basheer that prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "The similitude of the believers in their kindness, mercy, affection and compassion toward one another, is like a body, when one organ ails, the whole body is drafted to take care of the problem."

8. Another important characteristic of the Islamic society is that it is built on the concept of Taqwa. This word "Taqwa" may be defined to mean self-discipline, self control, self-restraint, self evaluation and self education. In this regard Allah demanded from the Muslims who are the members of the Islamic Society to have Taqwa. In this regard, the Quran states in Surah Al-Imran. "O you who believe! Fear God as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam," (2:102)

This concept of Taqwa was explained by one of the companions of the Prophet to mean: "Taqwa is the respect (fear) of the Almighty, the doing by what was revealed, the acceptance of whatever little you receive, and the preparation to depart from this world."

9. Another characteristic of this Ummah of Islam is being an International one. Islam merged all nationalities altogether into one Ummah. Islam transcended all types of nationalities, languages, and ethnic backgrounds and hence established an international community committed to the concept of La Ilaha Illallah and Muhammad Rasulullah. This type of international community is being demonstrated during the daily prayers, the Friday congregational prayers, during the two feasts and especially during the time of Hajj Pilgrimage). It should be mentioned here that Allah reminded the Muslims that they are made out of different nationalities. The Quran states in Surah Al-Huiurat the following: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other(not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the site of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. and God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)," (49:13)

10. Another characteristic is the reciprocal responsibility of the individual and the Ummah. The individual is to strive to help and protect the community. On the other hand the community is to take care of the welfare of the individuals. The concepts of Zakat, charity (Sadaqah) and interest free loans (Qard hasana) are among the financial reciprocal responsibilities of the community and the individuals toward one another.

11. The concept of Advice is another characteristic of Islamic Society. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said narrated by Abu Ruqaiyah Tamim BinAwss Al Dari that the Prophet (pbuh)said: "The Religion is Advice. We asked: for whom? He said: for Allah, for his book, for his messengers, for the Imams of the Muslims, and for the rest of the Muslim Ummah." Reported by Muslim.

12. The concept of leadership is another characteristic of the Muslim Ummah. Muslims are commanded to appoint a leader. They are ordained to obey him as long as he is applying the rules of Allah; and as long as he is serving them by him self. Allah says in the Quran in Surah An-Nisa' (The Women): "O you who believe! Obey God and obey the Apostle, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves refer it to God and His Apostle, if you do believe in God and the last day, that is best," (4:59)

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said: "There is 110 obedience to any creature while disobeying the Creator." Reported by Ahmad and Al-Hakim.

It should be pointed out here that the leader is riot infallible. The concept of "The Infallible Imam" does not exist in Islam. The only infallible are the Prophets themselves.

13. One important characteristic of the Islamic Society is the concept of Jihad. Jihad is to be for the sake of Allah, i.e. to apply rules and regulations of Allah, and for the pleasure of Allah. Jihad is meant also to defend the land of Islam and to defend the Muslims themselves. Allah says in Surah-Al-Baqarah: "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits: for God loves not transgressors." ( :190). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said "If any community leaves Jihad behind them, Allah is to prevail punishment on them."

The above mentioned characteristics are by no means all the ones that the Islamic Society is privileged with. However, if Muslims of today do adhere to such characteristics and apply them in their daily lives, many of their daily problems will be solved.

We hope and pray that Muslims abide by the teachings of Islam so as to receive the blessings of Allah in this world, and the bliss of Paradise.


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