Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Last Sermon ...

The Last Sermon of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is a landmark sermon in the history of Islam. It was delivered by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) at the occasion of the Final Hajj (pilgrimage) performed by him. That the sermon is a landmark is obvious from the very words of the sermon that have reached us through the centuries, unadulterated and unedited. The following are main extracts from the Last Sermon.


`O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I don't know whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be here. O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity.'

'Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things. O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with his permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never be unchaste. O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers (salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in zakat. Perform hajj if you can afford to. All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.'

'Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim, and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not go astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. O People, no Prophet or Apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand my words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to all others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.'


The sermon summarises the Message of Islam in a nutshell. As such, the words, 'All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to all others and those to others again', mean that the sermon was meant for an unlimited audience. Besides, the prophetic statement, 'All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action', is a clear indication that the intended audience is not only the Arab nation but in fact it is the whole of humanity.

The Last Sermon gives us the specialist's prescription by which an Islamic Renaissance can be achieved in an individual, in a family, in a community, in a nation, and finally, in the Ummah. The formula has the advantage that it has the full endorsement of God and His Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him). Therefore, it is the only viable working algorithm that can lead to success. The formula constitutes the following main points.
  • Belief in the Finality of Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): There will be no prophet after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Any claimant to this position will be considered nothing more than a crook and the religion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) will be considered final and binding.
  • Belief in the sanctity and utility of the Qur'an: The Qur'an will be considered the final, unaltered Word of God and will be followed in letter and spirit.
  • Belief in the sanctity and utility of the Sunnah: The prophetic example will be followed as the "gold-standard".
  • Belief in the Reckoning: God will undoubtedly reckon our deeds, so we should be prepared for it.
  • Fundamental rituals of Islam: The five daily prayers (salah), the daily fasts of Ramadan, the wealth tax (zakat), and the Hajj (pilgrimage), will be obligatory and binding on all Muslims.
  • Position of women in Islam: Women have the right to be fed and clothed in fairness and be treated with kindness. Those people who think that Islam is "unfair" to women think so only out of ignorance or sheer prejudice.
  • Equality of the human race: The fact that the Qur'an is in Arabic and that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) preferred to speak in Arabic does not make Islam racist or myopic in any sense.
  • Equity within the human race: There will be zero tolerance for injustice; neither will we allow ourselves to be unjust nor will we allow injustice to be done upon us.
  • Brotherhood within Islam: The more than one billion Muslims in today's world are all one brotherhood. Like brothers, we should be concerned for each other's welfare; like brothers, we should help each other; and like brothers, we should be united as one family.
  • Be honest: Do not hurt people's trusts.
  • Do no harm: 'Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you' is a universal statement that extends to non-Muslims too; that is, a Muslim is not allowed to hurt a non-Muslim under normal circumstances. Those people who think that Islam is out there to hurt non-Muslims should shut up their mouths after listening to this prophetic statement.
  • Interest (usury) is outright illegal: No matter what the gurus of today's economics say, the fact remains that interest is illegal. Interest is one of the most heinous means to enslave humanity, as can be witnessed by the plight of nations that are under debt to the big financial institutions. The brilliant success of Islamic banks has proven through experiment that Islamic banking is a better alternative to interest-based banking.
  • Islam is for all times: The prophetic statement, 'And may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly' clearly indicates that the Last Sermon is meant to be passed on to future generations till eternity. It is meant to be understood and followed by all who listen to it.

2 comments:

George Carty said...

Could the Islamic prohibition of interest be the cause of the Islamic world's backwardness?

I read an interview by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, head of the libertarian "Minaret of Freedom Institute", where he claimed that Shariah-compliant finance has no means of funding innovations so radical that no-one else at the time sees any possibility of profit.

http://www.reason.com/interviews/minaret.shtml

Quoting:

" Very little. It's amazing. It's the one issue I have a very hard time with. I think that's because it's so widespread in the Muslim mind that interest is prohibited that people are not willing to look at it rationally. Also, I haven't gotten much help from non-Muslim economists; they tend to shrug their shoulders because the prohibition on interest is so easily gotten around."

"But I can think of two areas where you can't get around it. One is in government bonds, which may actually be a good thing. Unfortunately, there's another one I can't think of a way around, and that is when you have an entrepreneurial idea that is so radical that you can't convince anyone that there is a profit to be shared in it. I believe this may be why Islam never had an industrial revolution. If you look at Islamic history, they had strong business, they had international trade, they had factories, science, innovation. Yet somehow they never made that final leap to an industrial revolution. And when I look at the fact that the steam engine was called Fulton's Folly, I can't help but wonder, to what degree did the availability of interest play a role in the commercialization of the steam engine? And is it possible that the Islamic prohibition on interest meant that that just wasn't gonna happen in the Muslim world? "

Renaissance Scientist said...

My apologies for the delayed response. I have been having some problems with my internet connection ...

Your question is:

Could the Islamic prohibition of interest be the cause of the Islamic world's backwardness?

To answer this question, we'll first have to define the term 'backwardness'. I think that the Human Development Index (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN_Human_Development_Index) would be a good indicator of a country's 'forwardness' or 'backwardness'. It is the indicator that is used by the United Nations. When we analyze a list of countries by the Human Development Index (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index), we observe that most Muslim countries fall in the 'Medium human development' category. There are very few Muslim countries in the 'High human development' category, and likewise, very few Muslim countries in the 'Low human development' category.

Thus, it would not be correct to characterize the Muslim countries as 'backward'. The right question to ask would be why the Muslim countries tend to fall in the middle.

Whatever the answer to that question, the backwardness of some Muslim countries is certainly not due to the Islamic prohibition of interest, since the vast majority of banks in Muslim countries do not follow the Islamic prohibition of interest. (A list of Islamic banks worldwide is given at http://www.islamic-banking.com/ibanking/ifi_list.php)