There are yet other Aayaat (Verses) giving the same purport. Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) also stated that he was distinguished from the earlier prophets by five matters. The last he mentioned was:
وَكَانَ النَّبِيُّ يُبْعَثُ إِلَى قَوْمِهِ خَاصَّةً، وَبُعِثْتُ إِلَى النَّاسِ عَامَّةً
“Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Fourth, the laws and teachings of this message had to be fixed in matters that need to be fixed for all of humankind until the Day of Judgment and guiding yet flexible or accommodating in those matters that need to be open to change due to the changing circumstances of humankind. This shall be discussed in more detail below.
On all of these points, one sees that it is the message of the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) that fits all of these criteria. Furthermore, all of these aspects make it quite clear that the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) is qualified and sufficient to be the Messenger for all of humankind and that the religion that all humankind should accept is Islam.
Obedience to him, a must for all
Before discussing how the laws of Islam are universal, it is important to briefly discuss the issue of those who are following earlier confirmed prophets of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). These people may argue that the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) may have been truthful, but that it is sufficient for them to follow the Prophet that they have been following.
In reality, no one has the right to accept the other prophets while rejecting the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam). No one has the right to say that Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) was truthful but, “I chose to still follow Jesus or Moses instead.” Logically speaking, one should not expect this to be acceptable to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has sent His Final Messenger to be believed in and followed, superseding and canceling what is left of the teachings of earlier prophets. In the Quraan, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) describes such an attitude:
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُوا بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ قَالُوا نُؤْمِنُ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْنَا وَيَكْفُرُونَ بِمَا وَرَاءَهُ وَهُوَ الْحَقُّ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَهُمْ [البقرة: 91]
“When it is said to them: ‘Believe in what Allah has revealed’. They say: ‘We believe in what has been revealed to us.’ — and they deny what is beyond it, whereas that is the truth which confirms what is with them…..” (Al-Baqarah 2:91)
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has further declared people of this nature to be disbelievers. He has said:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْفُرُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَيُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يُفَرِّقُوا بَيْنَ اللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَيَقُولُونَ نُؤْمِنُ بِبَعْضٍ وَنَكْفُرُ بِبَعْضٍ وَيُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يَتَّخِذُوا بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ سَبِيلًا ہ أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ حَقًّا وَأَعْتَدْنَا لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابًا مُهِينًا ہ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَلَمْ يُفَرِّقُوا بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِنْهُمْ أُولَئِكَ سَوْفَ يُؤْتِيهِمْ أُجُورَهُمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا [النساء: 150-152]
“Surely, those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers, and wish to make division between Allah and His Messengers, and say: ‘We believe in some (messengers) and disbelieve in some others’. And wish to take a way in between that — those are the disbelievers in reality, and We have prepared a humiliating punishment for the disbelievers. Those who have believed in Allah and His Messengers, and have made no division between any of them, to them He will give their rewards. Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.” (An-Nisaa 4:150-152)
The Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) said:
وَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لَا يَسْمَعُ بِي أَحَدٌ مِنْ هَذِهِ الْأُمَّةِ يَهُودِيٌّ وَلَا نَصْرَانِيٌّ ثُمَّ يَمُوتُ وَلَمْ يُؤْمِنْ بِالَّذِي أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ إِلَّا كَانَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّارِ
“By the one in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad! None from this nation of Jews and Christians hears of me, and then dies without having faith in my message, but that he will be an inhabitant of Hellfire.” (Muslim)
The Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) even told one of his Sahaabah (Companions):
والذي نفسي بيده لو أن موسى كان حيا ما وسعه إلا أن يتبعني
“By the One in whose Hand is my soul! Even if Moosaa was alive, he would have no choice but to follow me.” (Musnad Ahmad)
Hence, the universality of Islam applies to all who were following any of the previous prophets as well. They have no logical option but to accept and follow Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam).
The Universality of Islam and Its Timelessness
As noted above, Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) declared that he was the Final Prophet sent for humankind. At the same time, it is inconceivable knowing the mercy of the merciful that He would leave humans without any form of clear guidance. In other words, what He gave this final messenger must be suitable to guide all of humankind after him after him until the Day of Qiyaamah (Resurrection). In fact, the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) himself made this very same point in essence when he said:
تَرَكْتُ فِيكُمْ أَمْرَيْنِ لَنْ تَضِلُّوا مَا تَمَسَّكْتُمْ بِهِمَا كِتَابَ اللَّهِ وَسُنَّةَ نَبِيِّهِ
“I have left you with two matters which will never lead you astray, as long as you hold to them: the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of his Prophet.” (Muwattaa Imam Maalik)
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has also said:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا [المائدة: 3]
“…..Today, I have perfected your religion for you, and have completed My blessing upon you, and chosen Islam as Deen (religion and a way of life) for you.” (Al-Maaidah 5:3)
Thus, the religion is completed and perfected and there is no need for any alteration or change. The message has come and shall suffice until the Day of Qiyaamah. The Prophet sent for all peoples has already come.
This implies that the Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam)’s teachings are valid and obligatory upon all of humankind. That is, his example and teaching was not simply for the people of Arabia at his time. Rather, it is just as valid and just as important for each and every Muslim today, whether he be in Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, or Africa, or even at Antarctica.
At this point, someone may logically ask: How is it that this Law is able to fulfill the needs for all of mankind until the Day of Qiyaamah? Human society is changing day to day. How is it that one “law” can provide guidance for everyone at all times? The answer to this question has to do with the beauty of the Law. When one studies the law promulgated by Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam), one finds that it has the needed elements of flexibility that allow it to be just as practicable today as it was during time of the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam). In essence, those issues that need to be fixed and permanent are made such by the Islamic Law. Those that need to be flexible so that different peoples at different times may apply them differently are left flexible in the Islamic Law. Hence, it is a Divinely guided way of life that is suitable and practical for all humans until the Day of Qiyaamah.
Thus, first, in reality, human nature actually does not change over time. Laws or guidance covering moral and ethical behavior shall always remain the same, because what is damaging to the soul at one time will always be damaging to the soul, again due to the fact that human nature does not change. For example, lying and cheating are displeasing to the Lord Almighty and harmful to the soul and shall forever remain that way. Thus, laws and guidance related to issues of this nature remain fixed and completely applicable until the Day of Qiyaamah. Ritual acts of worship, which underline the foundation of a human’s character, also do not need to change. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) alone knows how He is to be worshipped, and if He has declared these acts as proper and acceptable to Him until the Day of Qiyaamah, no one can possibly say otherwise. In describing these kinds of laws or guidance, one can say that Islamic Law is rigid, but that is only because it should be rigid on these points. That, in no way, affects its universality and practicality for all times and places.
Second, there are some harmful matters that humans must avoid. These have also been explicitly and permanently forbidden. Alcohol and intoxicants, for example, will always be harmful for humankind. Every now and then, humans may find something beneficial about alcohol, as Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) also alludes to in the Quraan, but overall no society can rightly argue that alcohol consumption is something good. One need only consider the social costs of drinking in the United States alone. Many families are torn apart due to alcohol abuse. Driving under the influence is recognized as a danger to society, and although great steps have been taken to control it, numerous people are still killed or severely injured due to alcohol. Many alcoholics cannot hold down jobs and thus become dependent on the state, putting the burden of their care on the rest of the citizens. When it comes to issues of this nature, Islam forbids such a practice forever as there can be no serious argument given that alcohol should be permitted. Indeed, one can argue that it is only permitted today because the cost of keeping people from this addicting “drug” is prohibitive. This, in reality, is just another sign of how dangerous and evil alcohol is.
Third, beyond that, humans need only some detailed laws but many general principles that allow them to guide their lives in all times and places. This is exactly what Islamic Law provides for them. Thus, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) provides detailed laws about what kinds of food one may eat, inheritance, who is legal as a spouse, international relations and so on. From these detailed laws, a scholar is able to extract rulings for many new occasions. From the general principles, a scholar can derive guidance for various issues that did not occur during, for example, the time of the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam).
Fourth, in the realm of social contracts and business, for example, the general principle is that everything is permissible unless there is evidence to show otherwise. Hence, Islamic Law actually allows for a great deal of freedom within the Law. In business dealings, for example, Islam has prohibited interest, overly risky transactions, gambling, fraud, deception, sale or purchase of illegal items and coercion. In general, these are the harmful aspects that have been prohibited. In other words, the guidance is such that when new forms of business dealings are developed, as in modern times, one can determine which are acceptable according to Islamic guidelines and which are not. Thus, Islamic Law has been proven to be feasible for over 1400 years and, according to Islamic beliefs, will continue to be feasible until the Day of Qiyaamah. Two businessmen are able to come up with any form of contract they wish, as long as the basic forbidden and harmful aspects are avoided. One cannot even imagine how many types of transactions are therefore permissible under Islamic Law.
Finally, it must be recognized that this complete and comprehensive guidance that will remain viable until the Day of Qiyaamah is a great blessing from Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), and is another sign that humans must turn to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) for guidance. Humans on their own would never be able to find a way of life that is suitable even for just one place and time, not to speak of something that would be good for centuries or millenniums — although humans would try to latch on to what they were following in the past. One of the scholars has noted this point:
When a human being tries to construct a metaphysical concept or a system of life through his own efforts, this concept or system cannot be comprehensive. It can only be partially valid, good for one time and place but not for other times and other places, and appropriate for one set of circumstances but not for another. Furthermore, even in tackling a single problem, he is incapable of looking at it from all possible sides and of taking into consideration all the consequences of the proposed solution, since very problem extends in space and time and is connected with precedents and antecedents beyond the scope of observation and comprehension of human beings.
We therefore conclude that no philosophy and no system of life produced by human thought can have the characteristic of “comprehensiveness.” At most, it can cover a segment of human life and can be valid for a temporary period. Because of its limited scope, it is always deficient in many respects, and because of its temporariness it is bound to cause problems that require modifications and changes in the original philosophy or system of life. People and nations basing their social, political and economic systems on human philosophies are forever confronted with contradictions and “dialectics.”
One need only look at one example which has been much debated recently to understand how applying Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s guidance at all places and times is what is best for humanity. Circumcision is a well-known and established practice in Islam. In past few decades, doctors and scientists — due to humans’ very limited understanding of the reality of humans as a whole — keep going back and forth concerning circumcision. One decade they are in favor of it while the next they say that it is useless and harmful to the child. Now they have found — or they think they have found, as perhaps they could be wrong again—that circumcision is a great defense against HIV AIDS. Now, they are rushing to circumcise many of the men in different parts of Africa.
Perhaps, after so many cases like this, more and more humans will realize that there is guidance, complete and perfect, that has come from the Creator, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), that is exactly what all human beings need and require, regardless of time and place.
The Guidance is Complete and Sufficient Forever
In sum, the guidance is complete and suitable for all times and places. It is all that the Muslims need for happiness in this world and in the Aakhirah (Hereafter). It cannot be improved upon. It is, therefore, in no need of additions, alterations or deletions. Those who think that they can improve upon what Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) has revealed are arrogant in the purest sense and going beyond what they can possible ever achieve. For this obvious reason, the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) gave very strong warnings about innovations, heresies and changes to the faith. Such things are not needed at all and they will simply take away from the beauty and perfection of Islam. Thus, the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) said:
وَشَرُّ الْأُمُورِ مُحْدَثَاتُهَا وَكُلُّ مُحْدَثَةٍ بِدْعَةٌ وَكُلُّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلَالَةٌ وَكُلُّ ضَلَالَةٍ فِي النَّارِ
“The most evil matters in religion are those that are newly invented, for every newly invented matter is an innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.”” (an-Nasaaee)
The Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) also said:
مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِي أَمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ فِيهِ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ
“Whoever innovates into this matter of ours that which does not belong to it, it will be rejected.” (Bukhari)
مَنْ عَمِلَ عَمَلًا لَيْسَ عَلَيْهِ أَمْرُنَا فَهُوَ رَدٌّ
“He who does an act which we have not commanded, will have it rejected (by Allah)” (Muslim)