Islam: An Overview [First Edition]. Fazlur Rahman. Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed.
Lindsay Jones. Vol. 7. 2
ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. p4560-4577.
Islam: An Overview [First Edition]. [ABBREVIATED]
ISLAM: AN OVERVIEW [FIRST EDITION]
THE SYSTEMATIC CONTENT OF ISLAM
With the rise of Islamic legal and theological thought in the eighth century CE, a
framework had to be articulated within which religious developments were to be set. The
most basic sources in this framework were the Qur’ān and the
of the Prophet.
The God of the Qur’ān is a transcendent, powerful, and merciful being. His
transcendence ensures his uniqueness and infinitude over and against all other creatures,
who are necessarily characterized by finitude of being and potentialities. Hence God is
all-powerful, and no creature may share in his divinity (belief in such sharing is called
and is condemned in the Qur’ān as the most heinous and unforgivable sin). This
infinite power is expressed, however, through God's equally infinite mercy. The creation
of the universe, the fact that there is plenitude of being, rather than emptiness of nothing,
is due solely to his mercy. Particularly with reference to humanity, God's creation,
sustenance, guidance (in the form of revelations given to the prophets, his messengers),
and, finally, judgment, are all manifestations of his power in mercy.
God created nature by his command "Be!" In fact, for whatever God wishes to create,
"He says, Be! and there it is" (36:82). But whatever God creates has an orderly nature,
and that is why there is a universe rather than chaos. God puts into everything the proper
"guidance" or "nature" or laws of behavior to make each part fit into the entire pattern of
the universe. "All things are measured" (e.g., 54:49), and only God is the measurer; hence
he alone is the commander, and everything else is under his command. This command,
which is a fact of automatic obedience in the case of nature (3:83), becomes an "ought" in
the case of humans, for whom moral law replaces natural law. Nature is, therefore, a firm,
well-knit machine without rupture or dislocations.
Here it is interesting and important to note that while the Qur’ān patently accepts
miracles of earlier prophets (67:2–3), in response to pressure from Mu
opponents for new miracles (e.g., 2:23, 10:38, 11:13), the Qur’ān insists that it is itself
the Prophet's miracle, and one that cannot be equaled. As for supernatural miracles, they
are out of date because they have been ineffective in the past (17:59, 6:33–35). Nature is,
therefore, autonomous but not autocratic, since it did not bring itself into being. God, who
brought nature into being, can destroy it as well; even so, although the Qur’ān, when
speaking of the Day of Judgment, often invokes a cataclysm that strongly suggests
destruction (see, for example,
81), in many verses it speaks instead of a radical