Muhammad: Seeker of Compassionate Justice

Muhammad: Seeker of Compassionate Justice

By Dr. Robert D. Crane


        All of the billion Muslims throughout the world regard The Prophet Muhammad as a model for their own lives and as a manifestation of the divine on earth.

        Unfortunately, anything of such potential power can be manipulated to justify extremist ideologies.  Those who seek their own power as an ultimate end in both Islamdom and Christendom have always perverted Islam and Christianity into a parody of their classical and common essence.

        The great majority of Muslims seek the essence of Islam in the favorite prayer of the Prophet Muhammad, “O Allah, I ask You for Your love and for the love of those who love You, and for the love of everything that can bring me closer to Your love”.

        Islam for most Muslims is what Christianity is to most Christians, and Judaism to Jews, and Buddhism to Buddhists.  Each of these religions offers a way to fulfill our primordial and universal instinct to seek a transcendent source of truth, love, and justice, and thereby to find meaning in our own lives and in all of creation.

        Islam, like every other world religion, provides its followers with a means to find one’s true identity, which is the person one was created to be, as well as the incentive and strength to become therefore what one already is.

        Islam as an external path to the essence of a higher reality, provides guidance in detaching oneself from addiction to the physical world so that one can gain awareness of what the Buddhists call nirvana, but others call “nothing” in the sense of “no thing” or the “transcendent”.

        This brings awareness of the sacred nature of the individual person made in the image of God and of the entire universe, so that one’s only wish is to join in the solidarity of interfaith harmony and love to bring peace, prosperity, and freedom for everyone through compassionate justice, in accordance with the verse in the Qur’an, “The Word of your Lord is fulfilled and perfected in truth and justice”.

Justice in classical Islamic jurisprudence is a system of global ethics or natural law based on divine revelation, on observation of the laws of the physical universe, including human nature, and on rational effort or the great jihad, the jahad al kabir, to understand the first two sources of guidance.  This great or third jihad guides the other two forms of jihad, which are the greatest jihad, the jihad al akbar, to purify one’s own life, and the lesser jihad, the jihad al asghar, to defend with force the human rights of oneself and others within the limitations of the just-war doctrine.

The product of this third jihad is a set of irreducible principles, known as the maqasid al shari’ah, which were first developed by Muhammad, when he gathered some of his more intellectual followers around him and asked each of them to give judgment on a moral issue of the day.  After they had given their judgments, Muhammad said, “I am less concerned about your conclusion.  I want to know what principles you used in reaching them”.

Following his example, the greatest Islamic scholars worked for centuries to develop a system of normative jurisprudence unequaled before or since, but which until recently has been moribund or dead in most of the Muslim world for six hundred years.  Perhaps the greatest of the Islamic jurisprudents, Ibn Qayyim, summarized this paradigmatic perspective 650 years ago when he said: “The Islamic law is all about wisdom and achieving people’s welfare in this life and the afterlife.  It is all about justice, mercy, wisdom, and good.  Thus anything that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with its opposite, common good with mischief, or wisdom with nonsense, is a ruling that does not belong to Islamic law”. 

Compassionate justice, as taught by Muhammad and his enlightened followers over the centuries, is a universal path of guidance to understand and respect human responsibilities and human rights.  Justice is the source, not the result, of peace, prosperity, and freedom, because justice is the purpose of education and enlightened education is transformative.  The perhaps spiritually most profound author of the “Great American Experiment” in self-determination, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, “No people can remain free unless they are properly educated.  Education consists of teaching and learning virtues.  And no people can remain virtuous unless both the personal and public lives of the individual person are infused with awareness and love of Divine Providence”, by which he meant God.

The essence of these truths, which is so much needed in the world today, was summarized in the message of Jesus Christ, John 14:6 and 8:32, who spoke to people of all religions: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.


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