The foundation of the holy religion of Islam is built upon the belief in monotheism, to the extent that without its acceptance, one cannot be called Muslim at all. This fundamental axiom is basically defined as the fact that God exists and that He is the only one; in other words, one must not only testify to the existence of a creator, a divine source, and a higher power, but also to His absolute uniqueness and singularity.
We might wonder if we are able to understand or imagine God’s existence, the answer is yes but in quite a different way than other things. The concept of a divine source is philosophical and abstract; therefore we cannot feel or imagine it tangibly and vividly, however, our mind can understand such concepts by a kind of rational investigation and scrutiny in a general way.
There are some specific ways to understand the existence of God based on Islamic doctrine, including “innate disposition”, “scientific or pseudo-philosophical reasoning” and “philosophical reasoning”.
Perhaps the easiest form of realizing God’s existence is with the use of “innate idea” which is present in every human being. According to Islamic teaching, all of us have some desires and characteristics with which we were born and that we unconsciously seek in our lives.
One of the most important inborn desires in human beings is the yearning for a God and creator; in other words, every person with his/her special creation and distinctive spiritual characteristics knows his/her God without needing any exterior knowledge. Many psychologists have claimed the existence of a hidden self, called the unconscious, which contains the innate and unknown desires of human beings; the desires that control their actions and influence their decisions. The force in the search of God, also, can be traced in this part of the human mind.
The reasons that are mentioned under this division include the “Teleological Argument”, “Causal Argument”, “Occurrence Argument” and “Guidance Argument”.
According to “Teleological Argument”, a comprehensive and efficient system is the one whose components are in balance and harmony and are ordered in a way to achieve a certain goal. If we consider the universe as an enormous system with complex functions and a web of relations, we could easily notice its sophisticated order and discipline.
Every element in this world is built with a kind of inner structure that enables it to do its job on a regular basis. For sure, this regularity has not happened accidentally. For this huge system to work properly, a wise and powerful creator is required, one who is aware of every incident that takes place in the universe and has control over them.
Based on this argument, this world and all other creatures had not existed before and came to be at a specific point in time. Consequently, since they have occurred and started to exist, they need a creator for their occurrence.
When we look around, we find ourselves surrounded by things whose existence is depended on something else, they go through changes – for better or worse-, and they are described concerning other things – i.e., their attributes are relative. We may first try to justify each incident by another one; however, ultimately we will realize that the summit of this chain must be a higher force who is unique and untainted by any flaw and inconsistency.
Furthermore, everything in this universe –including the universe itself- has initiated and will be terminated at a specific time; in other words, nothing in this world is infinite, and everything is born from its own kind – e.g., A human from a human, a horse from a horse, etc.
Thus the universe cannot be created spontaneously and out of itself or from a pile of dust, an animal or a tree, since the origin of every living creature is always another living creature. If we suppose that every kind of creature gains its existence from single or multiple origins, or consider the initial origin of them an ameba, then again we are faced with this question that how this ameba has been created. Here we arrive at this conclusion that there is a single, omnipotent, divine source who has caused the life on earth [i].
While “Teleological Argument” tries to prove Monotheism with regard to the complex inner structure of the creatures in the world that makes them capable of being in line with their role and objective in the universe, “Guidance argument” focuses on what these creatures actually do and how they do it.
Based on this argument, the creatures in this world, after being perfectly created, are guided by a mysterious insight and intelligent force through their course of actions. However, the path that they follow in their deeds is the result of an external cause, rather than their own built-in features. This sophisticated outer force is no one other than God, the one and only.
The “Causal Argument”, also known as the principle of causality, is one of the primary propositions known to people in their ordinary lives. This principle states that there is a cause for everything. In other words, every single thing that happens and every single effect, or existence, has a cause. But there must be a start to this series of events. It is believed that the beginning of this chain is a power, which is beyond all other powers and can cause everything to exist.
This kind of reasoning, which is totally rational and philosophical, is based on the study of the existence and the existent. Briefly, philosophers claim that the existence of a “Necessary Being” [ii] is essential; meaning that if the “Necessary Being” did not exist, nothing would have started to exist and since there are things here, then a “Necessary Being” must certainly exist.
First of all, as we said before, the creator of this world should be infinite and eternal. Accordingly, we cannot consider a like for an infinite being, since He is dominant over everything and no time or place is empty of Him. Furthermore, plurality necessitates a difference; that is two beings are separate if one has something that the other lacks, so they cannot be considered perfect.
Secondly, since God is an absolute and pure being, then we cannot find any incongruity in Him, and thus there is no need for another being to make amends for His inconsistencies.
Moreover, if there were two “Necessary Beings”, they must have had a gap or lapse among themselves. Consequently, the existence of a third being becomes crucial, and this process goes on endlessly.
Finally, the unity of the universe and its oneness and the fact that there exists no inconsistency and malfunction in the elements of this world, lead us to look for a single and unique being as its creator.
To conclude, monotheism (Tawhid) as the main entry to the religion of Islam which needs to be understood rationally and then fully accepted, rejects any dualistic, Trinitarian or polytheistic beliefs. This axiom is not only the cornerstone of the other Islamic axioms but also a necessity for practicing the practical principles of the religion. Even though individual investigation and understanding will bring faith in monotheism, this belief will not be complete without total acceptance of prophethood (Nubuwwah), and this takes us to the next axiom.
[i]. Charles Darwin, the well-known English naturalist, and geologist, on this matter explicitly states that “life had been occurred through a divine breath.”
[ii]. There are two sorts of existent entities: those that exist but could have failed to exist, and those that could not have failed to exist. Entities of the first sort are contingent beings; entities of the second sort are necessary beings .
Death and the nature of afterlife, have always been mysterious to human beings. Everybody is willing to either find it out himself or to have faith in what has been said and discovered about it. Muslims seek the answer in the Quran, the holy book they believe in. In Quranic thoughts, death is nothing but the transfer of the human soul from the natural universe to the spiritual world, going back to the one who created it all, i.e., God; “Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him do we indeed return” (2:156).
According to the Holy Quran, death is no inexistence or destruction, But a threshold to the next stage of life and existence. However, it is noteworthy that what forms the exact nature of humankind is not the physical and material composition that disintegrates and gets destroyed after death; in fact, our real self is made up of our soul that is seized and released from the captivity of the body and then returns to its origin, the Divine presence, God.
Therefore death in the Islamic viewpoint happens when the immortal soul or self of a human cuts its attachment and relationship from the body and consequently, the body perishes while the soul continues its life without it.
“Say: You will be taken away by the angel of death, who has been charged with you. Then you will be brought back to your Lord” (32:11).
Now one might wonder what happens to us after death; are we going to begin our lives in the hereafter right away, or we will experience a different temporary stage of life that lasts up until the Day of Judgment?
Muslims get the information about this issue, through revelations received by the last Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), in verses of the Quran. Based on what has been revealed to our prophet, the afterlife does not begin right after we die. Human beings will enter an intermediate world called “Barzakh” in which they would feel, see and hear everything differently; there would be things they enjoy and ones they suffer from, based on their deeds in this earthly life. In short, man will go through two different stages of life after death; one temporary that is to come right after death, and one that lasts forever and will never end.
“…And ahead of them is a barrier until the day they will be resurrected” (23:100).
Literally speaking, “Barzakh” is a barrier that stands between two things; Quran, however, introduces it as an interval between the death of a man and the forthcoming hereafter (Ma’ad); a stage at which human leads either a blissful or miserable life, based on his deeds on earth.
The second stage of eternal life starts on the Day of Judgment (Yawm Al-Hisab). Unlike “Barzakh”, at which humans enter individually after death, this occurs to all the beings and the whole universe at the same time; every being starts a new permanent stage of life.
“And you will see the angels surrounding the Throne, celebrating the praise of their Lord, and judgment will be made between them with justice, and it will be said," All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds” (39:68).
Near the time of resurrection, all beings will cease to exist after hearing the first blow of the Horn (Israfil’s Horn). Then there will be a second blowing, and all Creation from the beginning till the end of time will be resurrected. People will be coming out of their graves in their physical bodies, standing and waiting, severely worried, under the sun to be judged by their Lord and to see rewards and retributions for their benevolent and malevolent actions in the earthly life.
“And when the Trumpet is blown, behold, there they will be, scrambling from their graves towards their Lord” (36:51).
That day humans will be either granted admission to enter Paradise, where they will enjoy spiritual and physical pleasure, or sentenced to suffer spiritual and physical torment in Hell forever.
“[To the righteous it will be said], O soul at peace! Return to your Lord, pleased, pleasing! Then enter among My servants! And enter My paradise” (89:27-30).
“... and whoever disobeys Allah and His apostle, indeed there will be for him the fire of hell, to remain in it forever” (72:23).
The nature of Heaven and Hell has been analogously described in the Quran many times. However, there are verses that say:
“No one knows what has been kept hidden for them of comfort as a reward for what they used to do” (32:17).
Accordingly, What Heaven and Hell are really like is far beyond our comprehension and so cannot be explained to us unless they are allegorical.
In fact, the earthly affairs of mankind here are not separable from those of hereafter; that is the otherworldly destiny of a man is determined by himself in this world. Many verses of the Quran indicate that the same good or bad deeds man commits in this life, will return to him, as their own reward or punishment, on the day of requital. People will live with the embodiment of their good or evil deeds, which are going to be their eternal companions.
One of the common features of this earthly life and the hereafter is that they are both real and actual; in other words, human beings are aware of themselves and what belongs to them in both worlds. There are joy and pleasure, suffering and pain, or happiness and misery in both lives. In both worlds, human possesses a physical body and particular instincts. Nevertheless, there are basic differences too.
The reproduction, childhood, youth, senescence, and death we experience here will not exist in the hereafter. Here is the place of action while the hereafter is where we should pay for what we have done and compensate for our deeds. Life in this world is followed by death whereas we will lead an eternal life in the other world. Quran says:
“The life of this world is nothing but a diversion and play, but the abode of the Hereafter is indeed Life, had they known” (29:64).
Man’s perception will be heightened in the afterlife, and he will realize the truth of everything -every action or every being- more vividly. “[It will be said], You were certainly oblivious of this. We have removed your veil from you, and so your sight is acute today” (50:22).
In this earthly life, the man easily gets bored and tired of everything; he is always seeking what he does not have, and once he finds it he soon feels jaded and starts looking for something else. It seems as though he has lost something he can hardly find. In the hereafter, however, he will find what he has always longed for and what he has been attached to deep in his nature; that is Allah, the Lord of the universe.
The Holy Quran is a record of the exact words of the last revelations from Allah Almighty to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). Since he was uninstructed (29:48), he recited the words to his companions, who either memorized them or wrote them down. Here are some facts about this divine Book.
The Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) through the archangel Gabriel (Jibrail) in two forms : all at once and gradually. The Holy Quran was once revealed on the night of Qadr (Laylat al Qadr): “The month of Ramaḍan is one in which the Quran was sent down” (2:185). Also, it was sent incrementally over 23 years until he passed away, which caused the faithless to object: “Why has not the Quran been sent down to him all at once?” (25:32)
During the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the Quran was written on the skin of animals, palm’s wood, and tissue. After Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) demise, there was a need to unify the written texts of the Quran into one specific Arabic dialect and to clarify the reading of the Quran. This happened in the time of the third Caliph, who ordered to collect a unique version of the diacritic the Quran, and other versions were eliminated such that he united the Muslims on one authoritative recension . It should be noted that the actual version of the Quran is the one which was originally collected during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and under his supervision. That is to say, the content of this holy book has remained undistorted since it was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and only its form and diacritic was unified at the time of the third Caliph. Therefore, the longer surahs are found at the beginning of the Quran and the shorter ones towards the end.
The Quran has some other names the most important of which are :
• Al-Kitab, meaning the Book: “This is the Book. There is no doubt about it.” (2:1-2);
• Al-Furqan, meaning the criterion for the right and wrong since it gives Muslims some tools to differentiate between the truth and false, the lawful and unlawful: “Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion (the Furqan) to His servant that he may be a warner to all the nations.” (25:1);
• Al-Dhikr, meaning a reminder because the Quran reminds us of Allah Almighty: “Indeed We have sent down the Reminder, and indeed We will preserve it.” (15:9).
The Quran is composed of 114 chapters, called "Surahs", and 6236 verses, called "Ayats". It is divided into 30 sections called “Joz’” and 60 sub-sections called “Hizb.” The longest surah is Baqarah and the shortest Kawthar.
The surahs of the Holy Quran are divided into two groups: those revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when he lived in Mecca, called Makki, and those from after his migration to Medina, called Madani. Generally, the ayats about the Islamic axioms, such as monotheism, prophethood, and afterlife, were revealed in Mecca since the new Muslims required to get fully acquainted with these principles. The ayats about governing the Islamic society, practical principals, and details were revealed in Medina.
Every surat of the Quran has a specific title. These titles were known from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and he was the one who introduced these titles initially. The titles were determined to represent the concept and topics discussed in that surat or a priority considered in the Quran about that surat .
It is essential to treat the Quran respectfully since it is a divine revelation in every aspect. In this regard, the paper upon which the Quran is written and the Arabic words on its pages should not be touched without having performed ablutions (Wudhu). Moreover, when one is reading the Quran out loud, it is better if the listener keeps silent, listens (7:204), and thinks about the meaning of words.
- M. H. Ma’rifat, “Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an,” p. 64, 2000, Tamhid Qom cultural institute, Qom, Iran.
- M. H. Ma’rifat, “Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an,” p. 133-136, 2000, Tamhid Qom cultural institute, Qom, Iran.