Men and women should marry freely with their own choice, and that free choice is the highest and holiest of all blessings. The witnesses come only to insure the legal consequences of the marriage. And if it fails — as it must fail in some cases, given the essential nature of the instincts on which the attraction is founded — a healthy, wholesome, unashamed divorce with stain on neither man nor woman but leaving each free to seek new and happy union is the only solution.

If, rightly, the Muslims have kept till now to the forms of prayer and fasting as practised at the time of the Prophet, it should not be forgotten that it is not the forms of prayer and fasting that have been commanded, but the facts, and we are entitled to adjust the forms to the facts of life as circumstances changed. It is the same Prophet who advises his followers ever to remain Ibnu ‘l-Waqt (i.e. children of the time and period in which they were on earth), and it must be the natural ambition of every Muslim to practise and represent his Faith according to the standard of the Waqt or space-time.

Al-Hajj Qassim Ali Jairazbhoy, the author of this volume, who is to be congratulated on the pains he has taken in giving a faithful portrait of the simple and noble life of the Prophet of Islam, is a well-known figure in Islam and requires no introduction from me. His anxiety to render service to Islam is commendable; and I am glad that lie devotes his leisure to the study of the principles for which Islam stands and explaining the true message of. the Prophet of Islam to the world. The author has done well in showing the great principles of Islam and the mission of its Prophet as a true messenger of the Most High.

He has made considerable sacrifices for Islam, and his donation of one lakh and twenty-five thousand rupees for founding a chair for Science and Philosophy in the Aligarh University bears witness to his catholic charities and his love for science and philosophy. His various other charities for his co-religionists as well as his contributions to the progress of Islam show his earnest desire to be of service to humanity.

[I]t is essential to remember that the Prophet asked for Faith — Iman — and not like some other religious teachers for Iqan (1) a point that should be remembered by all Muslims …

As he has pointed out, the Holy Prophet of Islam is to us Muslims the last and greatest messenger from the Creator, and through him man is to find salvation in both this world and the next. Our reasons for holding firmly to this Faith (and it is essential to remember that the Prophet asked for Faith — Iman — and not like some other religious teachers for Iqan (1) a point that should be remembered by all Muslims) are that this message is in its nature the essence of man’s spiritual nature. The great religious teachers before and since Muhammad have all limited the area of truth by excluding either some or all of their predecessors. Muhammad, on the other hand, by a full recognition of all his predecessors and by admitting that no people, race, or nation had been left without some kind of divine illumination, gave his Faith universality in the past, and in fact made it coexistent with human history.

If, now, we turn from its historic background to its doctrine and to its possibility of development in the future, we will find the same potential universality. Take the central principle of “Allah O Akbar.” Here we find on one side divinity, on the other side infinity. For what is the greater — time, space, the starry heavens, intelligence, knowledge? — wherever existence goes there His greatness extends. Greaterness here, to anyone who understands the implications of the Arabic language, does not mean “greaterness” as literally translated into English. It means that everything else is within the womb of the greater — everything else is maintained and sustained by Divine Power, including the furthest spaces of imagination.

Muhammad told mankind first that the infinite sustainer and container of all existence had justice, mercy, and love as well; secondly, that man through these qualities and through gentleness and kindness, prayer, awe or wonder could get — howsoever infinitesimal proportion — direct communion with the all-embracing power in which he lived and moved and had his being.

I submit that this doctrine will have a universality that can be accepted as long as man is man and as long as intelligence as we understand it survives on earth.

The enemies of Islam have attacked its outward manifestations and constantly attempted to show that its practice (even such essentially elevating manifestations as prayer, fasting, alms, etc.) is impossible in modern and civilised conditions. Unfortunately, the “Ulama” — the savants — have played into the hands of the enemies. The present practices of Islam took shape and form at the time when the schoolmen reigned supreme in East and West alike. The Ulama of Islam, like the schoolmen of Europe, built up a fabric which had no relationship with reality. The Renaissance and the intellectual revolutions that followed (and are still going on) have cleared the West from such thraldom, but the Muslim East is only now starling its renaissance. Not only non-Muslims but some Muslims, appalled by the extent and variety of the non-essentials (Furu’at) have almost followed the example of the man who in emptying the waste water from the tub threw the baby with it out of the window. They have almost thrown out the Usulat (essentials). If Islam is ever to fulfil its mission it must have a universality not only in space, namely, throughout the earth, but in time, namely, as long as mankind exists on this globe.

We maintain that the Prophet only ordered prayer, fasting, and gentleness in all human relations, kindliness and consideration for all beasts and animals from the smallest worm to the largest mammal. By the institution of the Ulu ‘l-Amr — who can be interpreted as Imam and Caliph — and by placing obedience to Ulu ‘l-Amr immediately after that to God and Prophet, he ensured that the Faith would ever remain living, extending, developing with science, knowledge, art, and industry.

Unlike some of his predecessors he has condemned repression, renunciation, torture (either self-inflicted or on others), dirt and physical corruption. Man is to go through life not indulging in an impossible code of “Resist not evil” but with patience, forbearance, argument, and kindliness — qualities which as even so unfriendly a witness as Mr. H. G. Wells in his History of the World admits, have always been greater in Muslim Society than in any other.

Unlike some of his predecessors he has condemned repression, renunciation, torture (either self-inflicted or on others), dirt and physical corruption. Man is to go through life not indulging in an impossible code of “Resist not evil” but with patience, forbearance, argument, and kindliness — qualities which as even so unfriendly a witness as Mr. H. G. Wells in his History of the World admits, have always been greater in Muslim Society than in any other. They have, in fact, been the outward signs of Islamic countries. This absence of violence, this sweet reasonableness, this readiness to recognise that sex, marriage, parenthood are our highest duties and not sins that can only be legitimised by the fumblings of a priest or by idle ceremonies that invoke fire and rain and the elements to clean up something that is essentially unwholesome. In Islam this is not the attitude towards instincts which are as natural as eating and drinking. Men and women should marry freely with their own choice, and that free choice is the highest and holiest of all blessings. The witnesses come only to insure the legal consequences of the marriage. And if it fails — as it must fail in some cases, given the essential nature of the instincts on which the attraction is founded — a healthy, wholesome, unashamed divorce with stain on neither man nor woman but leaving each free to seek new and happy union is the only solution.

If, rightly, the Muslims have kept till now to the forms of prayer and fasting as practised at the time of the Prophet, it should not be forgotten that it is hot the forms of prayer and fasting that have been commanded, but the facts, and we are entitled to adjust the forms to the facts of life as circumstances changed. It is the same Prophet who advises his followers ever to remain Ibnu ‘l-Waqt (i.e. children of the time and period in which they were on earth), and it must be the natural ambition of every Muslim to practise and represent his Faith according to the standard of the Waqt or space-time.

Signed: Aga Khan, Geneva, Sept 1934

His Highness the Aga Khan III

NOTES IN THE TEXT

  1. Iqan signifies to be sure, to become certain.

END NOTES BY K.K. AZIZ

  1. The Foreword is autographed by the Aga Khan, The author of the book was a Muslim of Bombay, The frontispiece of the book is a nice photograph of the author.

SOURCES

  • Text: Muhammad: A Mercy to All the Nations, EAl-Haji Qassim Ali Jairazbhoy, Luzac, London, 1937, pp.11

    [Text verified and/or corrected from this source by NanoWisdoms]

  • Reprinted in A Collection of Some Recent Speeches and Writings of H. H, the Aga Khan Sultan Nazerali El-Africu (ed.) Mombasa, 1955, pp. 81 and also in Platinum, pp. 10.
  • Selected portions appear in Aga Khan III: Selected Speeches and Writings of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Edited by K.K. Aziz., Kegan Paul International, 1997, Vol II, pp.1045

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