Now to Abraham and his seed was the covenant made…and I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before by God, which is the law…cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of no effect." — Holy Bible, Galatians 3:16-17
"And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain Commands (laws) which he fulfilled (obeyed). He (God) said, "I will make thee an Imam to the nations,
He, (Abraham) pleaded, "and also of my offspring?" He, (God) answered, "But my promise is not within the reach of evildoers." — Holy Qur’an, 2:124.
According to the ahadith, the covenant between God and man is that man will obey God, and in return, God will not punish us, which implies a law. Yet, God, along with creating a covenant with mankind, also made a promise, and within that promise is the meaning, and purpose of the Islamic movement. Imam Muhammad Gazzali recognized this difference between law and the promise, and referred to it in his volume of teachings called Ihya Ulum id Din (The Revival of Religious Learning). Imam Gazzali wrote," If a man believes that anything has power over man’s actions other than God, he can’t be counted as a true monotheist. On the other hand, if the intermediary causes are deducted, it is casting aspersion on the prophet’s ways, and Shariat, or law." In other words, according to Gazzali’s observation, unless God and the prophets are one, and also the law, mankind cannot be perfect monotheists, since we must believe that God, prophets and also the Divine law are impacting our acts. He wrote that Tauhid is absolute God reliance, and that such reliance is "the intermingling of the three elements in a proportionate manner." These three elements are called by Trinitarians, "God the father, son and Holy Spirit," while the Qur’an says this is wrong, and identifies these three as the "The Word (the message, including the law), the Prophets and messengers, and the Holy Spirit " (4:171).
This suggests to us that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to guide God’s law in its dissension to man, and it is the prophets and messengers who promulgate the law, and carry out other duties that causes the law to have meaning to us, to be enforceable, and to be voluntarily obeyed. The prophets, and the righteous who have inherited this duty from them, are of God, meaning that they are His tools in the earth, joined in His mission, acting on His behalf, etc., but they are not God. The Qur’an says: "Oh you who believe, if you revere God, He will grant you a criterion (law), remove from you all evil, and forgive you; for God is the Lord of Grace unbounded (8:29), which explains to us the primary purpose and benefit of law which is to purify mankind, and our actions, and also to serve as a basis for our repentance, while teaching us lessons in Mercy, taught by God through His demonstration of mercy to us, as in forgiveness. Gazzali’s idea also seems to imply that he, similar to the Trinitarians, would include God among the three knowable influences governing the existence of mankind, yet the Qur’an makes it clear that God is the only entity that is influencing the acts of mankind. Yet, God can and does utilize human agents in His plan, and also the Holy Spirit, all of whom carry out acts that are achieved in His (God’s) Names, among which are "The Just," "The Lawgiver," "The Merciful," and "The Compassionate." These names describe the Essence of God, or His Nature, and also His Acts. So God, in various observable manifestations, is the only One who is making, sending, and guiding the promulgation, understanding, application, and enforcement of the law, and it is Only God, influencing our actions, when they are righteous. It is God’s criterion that explains to us who among mankind are worthy, and able to serve as Judges, and witnesses, and executioners, etc. If this is true, what Imam Gazzali observed as three influences, might only be God, and rather than say we observe Tauhid as a perfect balance of three worldly influences, we might say that God alone is governing the influences in whatever proportion one might observe their presence and worldly influence, as in "God said to the wind, come into submission either willingly, or unwillingly, and they said we come willingly." Nothing can oppose or resist God unless He (God) has ordained choice, and trust. Only mankind has achieved this supreme existence, and its consequence, which is judgment.
Many scholars have suggested that mankind must know the law, and that we must understand the law, and have a body of men and women who are learned in the law, and who have within their hearts the spirit of that law, and who interpret and oversee our application of the law, according to God’s Will. It might be somewhat obvious that we must also have men and women, who are able to teach us the rituals of repentance and atonement and purification, so that the society, and each person within the society, should know how to pursue forgiveness for violations, and blessings offered as rewards for perseverance in times of trials suffered in pursuit of God’s Grace and Mercy. We must have organizers, and leaders of armies, etc. These men and women enforce, preserve and protect the law, and serve those who have formed communities of people who want to live in obedience to that law, in other ways as well. They, and all men and women who have adopted God’s cause are the movement, and they are the promise. The promise is that in every generation there will be righteous men and women who will work in the cause of God, and who will be guided by the Holy Spirit, and it this movement, this fellowship of God that will triumph against evil, and achieve the supreme achievement. The Qur’an says on this issue in "Al Maidah" Chapter 5 of the Holy Qur’an, verse 56, " The fellowship of God must certainly triumph."
In the original and now ancient religious hierarchy, following the era of prophet Abraham, such men were originally the priests, or clergy, and they seldom were involved in matters, other than those matters concerning man and God’s law, and the rituals of atonement by which the people became absolved of sins (see the Holy Bible, Book of Leviticus as an example). Yet, from among Abraham’s descendants there were many prophets, and not all were lawgivers, or priests. In fact, the promise to Abraham was not a promise of law, since we assume that the law is the covenant, and the promulgation of the Divine law began prior to Abraham, and as far back as the garden when God told Adam not to follow Satan. This was a law that said mankind should not worship Satan. It is possible, that the promise is the promise of a movement, the fellowship of righteous men and women who would lead mankind through various stages of spiritual and material progress towards the realization of One God, or rather the perfect monotheism of prophet Abraham. This realization, as Imam Gazzali and others have so aptly described it, is the absolute reliance of mankind upon God, and our loss of hope in anything other than God. The Qur’an describes this as a sort of freedom from enslavement, saying that prophets were sent to guide mankind from darkness into the light, and to free us from "shackles," a metaphor for anything that prevents us from achieving our true potential, which is possibility put into action by God, and that takes shape and manifests.
The prophet Abraham, who is the patriarch of the monotheist movement, or fellowship of righteous men and women, began his mission with the recognition of God as a single (One) Living God. As a result of his recognition of God, and his obedience to the commands of God, God rewarded Abraham with Imamate, or vice-regency, and Guardianship over the earth, and God promised Abraham that the righteous of his progeny would be prophets and guardians of His (God’s) people, and the earth in which we live, until the day of judgment. Only descendants of Abraham exist in the earth since Noah, and so for our time, the distinction between those who are eligible to serve according to the promise is the distinction of belief, and not race. The monotheist fellowship is a fellowship of monotheists who come from many and different races, and sects of monotheism. The duties of the guardians of this movement and the leaders of the faith varied. There were pioneers like Abraham, and Priests like Aaron. There were Kings, like David and Solomon, and preachers like John the Baptist and miracle workers, healers and teachers like Jesus the son of Maryam, and there were warriors, peacemakers and statesmen like Muhammad, and his righteous descendants, the companions of the prophet Muhammad, and the caliphs, and also the best women, who included the Virgin mother of Jesus, Maryam, and the wife of the Pharaoh, Asiyah, and the prophet Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, and his daughter, Fatima. All, according to the Qur’an were either monotheist prophets, or they were the righteous descendants of Abraham, and all shared a common mission, which was to lead men to God, and to remove the barriers along that path. Among the non-prophetic legions of this fellowship are the righteous who descended from these men and women, and they exist even today.
"And we covenanted with Abraham and Ishmael, that they should sanctify My (God’s) house, for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves therein. And remember Abraham said, "My Lord make this a City of Peace, and feed its people with fruits, such of them as believe in God and the last day." He (God) said, " Yea, and such as reject faith, for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of the fire, an evil destination indeed. And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the house, with this prayer, " Our Lord accept this service from us, for thou art the all hearing and the all knowing. Our Lord, make us Muslims, (servants) bowing to thy will, and of our progeny a people, Muslim, (servants) bowing to thy will, and show us the places for the celebration of rites, and turn unto us in mercy, for thou art the oft’ returning, and most merciful. Our Lord, send unto them messengers of their own, who shall rehearse thy signs to them, and instruct them in scripture and wisdom, and sanctify them, for thou art the exalted in might and the wise "(2:126-129).
According to the Qur’an, a book of law was revealed to Abraham, by which he lived, and also those who followed him. In chapter 87, of the Holy Qur’an, in verses 18 and 19, it says, " And this is in the Books of the earliest revelations and the Books of Abraham and Moses." This means that the first revealed law from God to man was not the Judaic law, but rather it was the Abrahamic law, and Abraham was not Jewish, and he was not a pagan. In the Qur’an, Chapter 3, verses 67-68, it says; " Abraham was neither a Jew, nor yet a Christian, but he was true in faith, and bowed his will to God, and he joined not gods with God. Without doubt, among men, the nearest of kin to Abraham are those who follow him, as are also this prophet, (Muhammad) and God is the protector of those who have faith." So the law of Abraham was a universal law. Abraham prayed that God would send prophets to all races, and groups of people who would teach them their own rites, and laws, according to the time and place in which they lived. This implies that the law is not the same as the promise, and that even though the varying religions may have different laws, and rites, they are of the Abrahamic faith, so long as they are monotheistic.
Later, God revealed a law to the prophet Moses, and Moses taught his brother Aaron, who was the first consecrated Priest of the monotheist hierarchy of the Hebrew tribes, the laws according to God’s revelation to Moses, and the duties of the Priesthood, and also the rules of Priesthood, which included the purification of the temple, and those who would come into the temple. As an example, and to demonstrate the distinction between the Priests and others of the congregation, the Holy Bible says:
"And Moses said unto Aaron, and to Eleazar, and unto Ithamar, his sons, uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes, unless you die, and unless wrath will come upon all the people, but let your brethren, the Bani Israel, bewail the burning which thy Lord has kindled. And you shall not go out from the door of the temple, unless you die, for the anointing oil of God is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses" (Holy Bible, Leviticus 10:6-7).
That the original priesthood was concerned almost exclusively with matters of law, and that the legal culture of that time was communal, and ritualistic is also born out in the Book of Leviticus, wherein the laws, including the Ten Commandments are explained to some extent, along with the methods of ritual and collective repentance, atonement, and punishments for violations of the law, which is more commonly called "sin." Within this Book of ancient religious laws, God repeatedly warned the Bani Israel, who was the first of the monotheist tribes, to stay pure of the false gods of gold, and graven images, and all idolatry, and again and again He (God) described Himself to them as "One God."
The law of God, was and is, essential to the community of monotheist believers, and the movement, since without a law, we have no way of knowing, and understanding God’s will, and intent, yet, as we see through Jesus’ ministry, that law is not static, as in one law for all time and for all, and every people. Jesus said, " …every scribe that is instructed about the kingdom of heaven, is like a man that is a householder, which brings forth out of his treasure, things both old and new" (Holy Bible, Matthew 13:52). We also learned through the ministry of Jesus, that law alone cannot sustain the human soul, and that it is faith that enlivens the law, feeds the soul and leads mankind to good deeds, which open the doors of salvation. On this topic the Bible says, " At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn, and his disciples were hungry and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it they said unto him, "Behold thy disciples do that which is unlawful." Jesus answered saying, " It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days" (Matthew 12:1,2 and 12). So much was this a departure from the ancient laws that had historically governed the rules of the Sabbath, that the Pharisees, according to the Bible, began to plot Jesus’ death, the Bible saying, " Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him (Matthew12: 14).
Surely the penalty for picking and eating corn on the Sabbath was not death, but for a Priest to allow the violation of the rules was very serious, since it not only challenged the authority of the Priesthood, but it also threatened the authority of the ancient law. Jesus is the son of Maryam, who is the niece of Zechariah, who is one of the highest Priests of the Bani Israel, which means that he is of the highest echelon of the Jewish society, and Priesthood. The Pharisees understood that Jesus represented a challenge, and what they felt challenging their authority was the force of "Islamic" (peace, success, salvation through the submission to One God) movement. Jesus himself said to the Pharisees that he was not the first of his class to violate, or allow the violation of the Sabbath. The prophet and King David (Dawood) had also violated the rule of Sabbath when, according to Jesus, David entered the temple, and ate the food that was only for the Priests (Matthew 12:3-8). That causes us to ask why this incident caused the Pharisees to decide that Jesus should die. Perhaps it was what else Jesus said in response to their claim that he was guilty of violating the laws of the Sabbath. Jesus said, " Have you not read in your law, how on the Sabbath days, the Priests profane the law, and are guiltless? I say unto you that in this place, (the temple) there is One greater than the temple. If you knew what that means, there would be mercy, and not injustice, for you would not have condemned the guiltless. The son of man is Lord, even of the Sabbath day (Matthew 12 5-8).
That man is Lord is a revolutionary concept, since it means essentially that no one can be his or her master without his or her consent. To achieve such consent, one must satisfy a certain criterion. For the righteous, it is the criterion of God, which is the only legitimate criterion since God is the only creator, and owner, and is therefore the only entity that has a right to govern. That the righteous, (not to be confused with perfect) man and woman, is warith, (inheritor) and wali, (guardian), and servant of God, no other human being is a legitimate ruler or Lord of God’s creation, but such men and women. That righteous man is Lord is the antithesis of tyranny and despotism, or actions compelled by the force of one the wicked, against the other, the righteous. It is an idea that is contrary to "might makes right," and insists rather that "right makes might." By Jesus uttering these words, associated with his acts, and the acts of his disciples on the Sabbath, it implies that "righteous" man is a slave of God only, and that through His servitude to the owner, he or she, has become a Lord over the Master’s possessions, and that includes the law. Sura "Al Talaq" Chapter 65, of the Holy Qur’an, verse 12 says, " God is He who Created seven firmaments (earths), and of the (this) earth a similar number (ranks of leadership, referring to verse 11). Through the midst of them (the righteous leaders prophets, and descendents), descends God’s command (law): that you may know that God has power over all things, and that God comprehends all things in His knowledge." And in "Sad" Chapter 38, verses 18-29, where it says: "…remember our servant David, the man of strength, for he ever turned to God… We strengthened his kingdom, and gave him wisdom, and sound judgment, in speech and decision…Oh David, we did make thee a vice regent on earth, so judge thou between men in truth and justice, nor follow thou the lusts of thy heart, for they will mislead thee from the path of God. Shall we treat those who believe and work deeds of righteousness the same as those who do mischief in the earth? Shall we treat those who guard against evil, the same as those who do not do what is right? Here is a Book (law) which we have sent down unto thee, that they may meditate on its signs, and that men of understanding may receive admonition."
These verses allow us to see that the vice regents of God, who are the leaders of the fellowship, are not only inheritors of the law, they are also judges who adjudicate the law, and this is a privilege that has been bestowed only upon the righteous believers in God, and this might be one of the meanings of what Jesus (as) said, when he said, "the son of man is Lord, even over the Sabbath, (the law). Faith, not law, promise, and not covenant unite this leadership and its fellows. On a lesser scale, but within the same concept of law in relation to the authority of the righteous leaders, we have the hadith where it is reported that the prophet Muhammad (sa) after teaching his student Muadth the law, and the traditions, dispatched Muadth to serve as leader of a community newly converted to monotheism (Islam). He (Muhammad) (sa), asked Muadth, "how will you lead the people?" Muadth answered, "according to the Qur’an and the teachings of the prophets." The prophet Muhammad then asked Muadth, "and how will you judge, and guide the people in matters where there is no verse of Qur’an, tradition or law to guide your judgment?" Muadth answered, " I will use my own judgment as guided by the Qur’an and Sunnah, " a practice known in Islam as ijtihad. This ijtihad is one of the most powerful examples of the truth that Jesus spoke, that mankind is Lord, even of the law. Mankind is not bound to a law that is static. The righteous are masters of a law that can be interpreted and applied in a way that makes it relevant to all people, and in any time, or era, so long as qualified persons who have as their intent, service and progress, derive that interpretation, and guidance through legitimate means, and methodology.
Another very profound example of how rather than the law, or covenant, the Islamic movement is the promise of God to Abraham, is the story of Peter and Cornelius. God told Peter in a dream to stop calling those things unclean that God had cleaned, referring to the Gentiles. It was against the Jewish law for the Jewish people to teach the Law of Moses to others outside the Jewish race. After the dream, Peter went to meet the Greek Cornelius, and when he met him, he (Peter) said, " You know well how unlawful it is for a Jew to join himself to, or approach a man of another race, and yet God has shown me that I should call no man unclean or defiled" (Acts 10: 28). This of course began the progress of the monotheist movement beyond the Jews, to the nations, beginning with the movement of those Jews who believed in and followed the teachings of Jesus, and who came into fellowship, or the movement with the Gentiles, and became known as Christians.
In the Biblical story of Stephen, who was martyred for his faith, we revisit this same movement, and its powerful theme of belief in God, and faith as the essence of the movement, rather than law. Stephen was accused before the Sanhedrin by a group of Jews who wanted to create a case against him, so his preaching and baptizing among the Jews could be stopped. His crimes were described as, "speaking blasphemous things" and they said, "he does not stop talking things against the Holy place and the law, for instance we heard him say, that this Jesus the Nazarene will throw down this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us (Acts 6:12-14). The Qur’an says about Jesus that every one of the people of the Book must believe in him before we die, and on the Day of Judgment, Jesus will be a witness against us, " They said boasting, "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the messenger of God," but they killed him not… and there is none of the people of the Book but must believe in him before death, and on the day of Judgment he (Jesus) will be a witness against them (Al Nisa, Chapter 4: 157-59).
The Qur’an says that their own people usually reject prophets, and others join with them in advancing new teachings, new ideas, and the ancient truth of One God. This is how the movement advances, takes on new energy, zeal and ideas, and forges new alliances, spreading throughout nations. Abraham separated himself from his father and family, and began the first community of monotheists, a group of people of various races who were joined by their belief in One God. Jesus taught Peter the law, and the gospel, and Peter separated himself from the Jewish traditions and tribes and joined with the Gentiles as the monotheist movement advanced and transformed from ritual atonement, animal sacrifices, and collective guilt and punishment, into a movement of individuals, in movement, spiritually and materially, with faith in God’s mercy, and grace. They believe in human compassion, the sanctity of life, forgiveness, redemption, purification and the forgiveness of sins. They have given up racial and religious supremacies, and accepted the "unity of God," as a metaphor for human equality.
This Islamic movement is represented by men like Stephen, and other prophets and teachers, some that we know about and some that we don’t know, who called mankind to the worship of One God, and away fro the worship of the law, or traditions, or people who claim to be the owners and arbitrators and adjudicators of the law, since the law they make and adjudicate is contrary to God’s law, and leads rather than to justice, to injustice.
When the prophet Muhammad (sa) first began his mission among the Arab tribes, the wealthy and powerful, and their rulers rejected him and accused him of blasphemy, and heresy because he said that there is One God, and that the righteous will inherit His (God’s) earth. Even prior to the prophet Muhammad serving as a statesman and commander of Muslim armies, he was rejected by the Quraish, since he refused to worship the pagan gods of the Quraish, and he rejected their law, and traditions, and their claim to supremacy over other tribes, simply because of their genealogy. Muhammad told the people, "I am not the bringer of a new doctrine," and "I (Muhammad) am the follower of the religion of Abraham." God said, "To those who believe in God, and his messengers, and make no distinction between any of the messengers, soon will we give their rewards, for God is oft forgiving, and Most merciful (4:153).
The religion of Muhammad is monotheism, and the Islamic movement is the continuation of the movement of Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus, and Peter, and other righteous men and women, prophets and others who pick up, generation after generation, God’s banner of love for all of mankind, submission to One God, His laws, and obedience to the prophets and those of the righteous who are placed in positions of authority over us. The aim of the movement is to guide mankind from darkness to the light, and from enslavement to men, and things, and wrong ideas, to the freedom of worshipping the Only God, so we might benefit from His Love, Mercy and Power, which is the realization and fulfillment of human potential and capacity. These men and women serve us, by teaching us the ways of God, so that on the Day of Judgment no one will be able to say that they had not heard the word of God, or had an opportunity to choose, and serve Him. This was God’s promise to Abraham, that in every generation there will be righteous men and women who will issue the call to join this movement, and who will lead. " Oh you who believe, if any from among you turn back from this faith, soon will God produce a people whom He will Love, and they will Love Him…" (5:54). And the movement continues…..