Islam was revealed by Allah in order to guide people and to secure their interests throughout their life. For achieving this purpose, the Islamic teachings should be put into practice in the day-to-day activities of people. Yet, in case of misunderstanding these teachings, this results in practicing them in a way that does not reflect the true essence of Islam. Throughout the Muslim world, we find that there is an increase in the number of worshippers and women wearing hijab, that is, an increase in the presence of Islamic manifestations in the public life. Yet, away from adherence to the rituals and acts of worship, this article attempts to investigate whether the current practices of Muslims, at the social and political levels, really reflect the essence of Islam or not.
Investigation of the Qur’an and the Prophetic traditions confirms that Islam comes to preserve universal aims. Preservation of life, religion, intellect, offspring and property tops these aims. Yet, anyone who observes the realities of the Muslim world nowadays would find that there are some groups who focus only on the form yet neglect the essence of Islam. Groups like Da’esh, Al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, etc. build their ideology on some concepts such as the necessity of establishing Islamic caliphate, Hakimiyyah (lit. Sovereignty) –meaning that there should be no positive laws and reference should be made directly and only to Shari’ah. However, when they tried to put these ideas into practice, their application violated all the universal aims of the Islamic Shari’ah. For the sake of establishing their so-called Islamic caliphate in the same way it was prevailing at the time of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Companions, they totally destroyed countries and civilizations, killed innocent people- Muslims and non-Muslims alike- enslaved women and tried to revive old debates such as the division of the world into Dar al-Islam (abode of Islam) and Dar ak-Kufr (abode of war). All these actions export to the whole world a distorted image of Islam and reveal that the followers of these groups separated themselves from the realities of the modern world.
At the social level, the Qur’an clearly states that men and women are equal in the Sight of Allah and, in case of fulfilling their religious duties and obligations, there is no supremacy for men over women or vice versa. However, many Muslim societies, influenced by local customs and norms, prefer males over females. Their adherence to such norms goes to the extent that they, for instance, prevent women from their due share of inheritance or, at least, force them to abandon it for a little compensation. Although these shares are clearly stated in the Qur’an and all Muslims are fully acquainted with them, some Muslims strictly abide by the customs and norms, setting aside the respective Islamic teachings, though they may seem religiously devoted and committed Muslims, that is, observe the five daily prayers, fasting, zakat, etc.
At the religious level, well-versed Muslim scholars are the ones who are responsible for educating people about Islam, its teachings and legal rulings (see The Qur’an, 21:7). This is meant to making matters easy for people, as they might be preoccupied with their worldly affairs. Allah makes the issue of acquiring deep knowledge of sharia a collective obligation on Muslims, i.e. in case a group of them is dedicated for this purpose, there is no harm on the others (see the Qur’an, 9:122). However, some scholars tend to adopt an extremist approach in understanding Islam and thus make the matter difficult for people. They do not differentiate between the pillars of Islam that cannot be compromised and the legal rulings that are inferred from texts open for Ijtihad (reasoning) and thus scholars may have different opinions about them.
To conclude, there is a dire need for exerting real efforts for putting the Islamic values and legal rulings into practice in order to communicate the true and real essence of Islam. The state of backwardness and ignorance that prevail in many Muslim countries is not, without doubt, a result of the application of Islam. However, in order to convince people all over the world that Islam is valid for all times and that it is the solution for all the crises that afflict the world, people need to see it correctly applied by Muslims themselves.