The desire to live a virtuous life is central to the belief system of many religions. While the body of religious dos and don’ts offer the foundations for social interaction, it is nonetheless insufficent for the establishment of a society that has a real soul and is benevelont towards all its members. Islam, with its teachings, is fully congnisant of this reality. Therefore while confirming the necessity of a law (the sharia) it encourages humanity to go beyond it and consider its spiritual and ethical teaching as a supplement to an only legalistic order.
The articles that are presented in this issue of islam today reflect an Islamic worldview that takes into consideration the many aspects of human existance in the pursuit of an ideal society.
Reza Murshid in ‘The earning that attarcts God’s favour’ discusses the importance of rightnousness and having an ethical approch in our work. He reminds us that legitimate work is also a form of worship and that the the work we do has a direct bearing on our spiritual life in this world and the Hereafter.
Similar points are futher emphasised in ‘An ethical community’ by Khadija Lafene. She reflects on the impact of Muslims’ conduct on wider society, and believes that if we want to make any positive impact, we need to align ourselves with Islamic ethical standards and Quranic teachings. She explores the concept of an ethical community which is ‘just towards it members, where the weaker are cared for, discipline and good manners are adhered to and people help each other in difficult times. She expresses criticism of those Muslims who have forgotten how the first society established by the Prophet Muhammad(s) functioned on the basis of respect and honour for all human beings. She describes the underlying principle as: ‘do as you would be done by’; in other words, treat others as you would wish to be treated’.
In the article titled ‘Imam Ali(a) on the welfare state and limited guardianship’, Tahereh Shafiee presents the work of a contemporary Islamic scholar who has introduced the underlying philosophy of governance of Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb(a). She highlights the incredible progressive thinking of Imam Ali(a) whom the author recognises as the first systematic theoretician in the area of human rights. The two concepts of state responsibility towards its citizens and government accountability have been identified in the writing attributed to the Imam as a necessary requirement for good government. According to the author, an ‘Islamic society should be governed by a competent figure who possesses ‘knowledge of Divine laws’, as well as ‘self-restraint’ required for implementing those laws’. Such a position precedes any other in the field of political philosophy.
As this issue falls in the Islamic month of Muharram, we have dedicated the cover story to the great hero of Islamic history, Imam Husayn(a) whose martyrdom is remembered and commemorated every year in this month. In the article ‘Believing in true heroes’, I have tried to rationalise why Imam Husayn(a) stands on a level above all others, and that to recognise true heroes, one needs a degree of humbleness and belief in the sacred dimension of existence.
In our faith section the author Harun Yahya underlines the role that love plays not only at an individual level but within society. Harun Yahya describes the transformative power of love, and how the lack or the abundance of love can transform societies on a global level. But love, like many other virtues, needs to be actively cultivated by the people.
In the section Rev Frank Julian Gelli uses the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta to compare it with the famous Charter of Medina, a document which goes back to the time of Prophet Muhammad(s) and the first state of Islam represented in the agreements signed by the Prophet with the non Muslim population of Medina. In some cases this has been described as one of the first social contracts undertaken by a religious leader.