Notes on Islam

Notes on Islam

Sir Ahmed Hussain
Sir Ahmed Hussain

Author: Hussain, Ahmed, Sir, 1863-
Notes on Islam




Collected and Edited
Khan Bahadur Hajee Khaja Muhammad Hussain

The fear of the Lord is the beginning
of knowledge.



One of the four for whom these Notes
were first written,
in 1917.


The following Notes were enclosed by the author in his weekly letters to his brother and sons who were students in the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and Birmingham. I persuaded him to allow me to have them printed, as I thought they were suggestive and useful. He has however desired me to say that they should not be regarded as anything but concise memoranda jotted down (at short intervals between the busy hours of his official life) as general answers to questions put to him. They contain some passages which are too concise or abstract, if not vague or enigmatic. But, the author says, he left them designedly so in order to induce his readers to try to understand them or at least to seek explanation and illustration. Numerous foot-notes have been added for the same purpose.
He frankly admits that his view of Islam is neither quite orthodox nor quite heterodox but something midway between the two. It was put forward in order to make his boys think for themselves and argue with him. The first three Notes may be ‘skipped’ at the first reading.
Sincere acknowledgments are due to Nawab Imad-ul-Mulk Bahadur Bilgrami, c.s.i., Mr. J.C. Molony, i.c.s., Khan Bahadur Abdur Rahim, b.a., b.l., Mr. Syed Ross Masood, m.a., and others who very kindly read the proofs and favoured the author with valuable suggestions.

    Banganapalle, K.M.H.
11th August 1922.

Duty is Deity Work is Worship.—Sanskrit Proverb


Foreword 5
Muslim Prayer 9
Note   1.  Introduction 11
   ”      2.  The First Chapter of the Qur’an 15
   ”      3.  What is Religion? 20
   ”      4.  What is true Islam? 25
   ”      5.  What is not Islam 29
   ”      6.  “Islam” and “Not-Islam” 35
   ”      7.  Why is Islam the Best Religion? 43
   ”      8.  Unity & Union 49
   ”      9.  Perfection & Self-help 57
   ”    10.  Moderation & via media 63
   ”    11.  Evolution & Survival 73
   ”    12.  “Religion begins with the Fear of the Lord and ends in the Love of Man” 79
  Muslim Reformation 87
  Our Prayer 97

Worship Truth Love Humanity.—Islamic Maxim


Surai Fatiha

Praise be to Thee my God, Lord of the Worlds! O Merciful, Compassionate art Thou! The King of all on Day of Reckoning, Thee only do we worship and adore, To Thee, most merciful, we cry for help; O guide us ever more on the straight path, The path of those to whom Thou gracious art On whom Thine anger falls not then nor now, The path of them that from Thee go not stray. Amen.

Grant that the knowledge I get may be the knowledge worth having.—Thomas a Kempis.


Note 1.
WO of you—Lateef and Altaf—will recollect that more than a year ago you wrote to me saying that you were puzzled by certain questions which a Missionary had put to you. I remember that Amjud or Mahmood even went so far as to ask what was the good of Islam, when countries and people professing that faith had weak governments and were crumbling to pieces under the influence of Christian Powers.2 I answered your queries only in a general way as your University education had not then advanced far enough. But I think the time has now come when I should try to explain to you what I conceive to be the true spirit of the religion of our fore-fathers.
I firmly believe that Islam is the best3 religion in the world—I mean, Islam rightly understood and interpreted and not the Muhammadanism4 of some of our formularist Maulavies,5 who say that a man goes to Hell or Heaven according as he wears his trousers lower or higher than his ankles! They have degraded our religion by paying undue attention to formulas and forms to the exclusion and neglect of its living spirit and reality6. The poet Hafiz rightly stigmatised their vain controversies when he said that چون نديدند حقيقت ره افسانه زدند “since they did not see the fact, they ran after fiction.”
I am more than ever convinced of two characteristics of Islam:—
1st.—It is not inconsistent with true Christianity, or with any other true religion7 of which the fundamental principle is توحيد One God لا شريك له و حده “the Peerless One.”8
2nd.—It conforms to modern scientific ideas better than any other religion.
I have already explained, in some of my letters9 to you, why I believe that Islam is but a continuation and consummation of Christianity as taught by Jesus himself in his own speeches which are reported in the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. We have nothing to do with the interpretation of his words by his Apostles and others after them. If we take the plain words and the plain meaning of those words reported to have proceeded from his own blessed mouth,10 we clearly see that they teach the same sublime truths as our Prophet himself inculcated. Jesus did not live long to complete his mission, Muhammad completed it. Both were God’s holy messengers رسل ال. Says the Qur’an: “This day I have completed your religion for you.” اليوم اكملت اكم دينكم
I need not now go into details, or refer to other religions, to shew that the spirit of Islam is not inconsistent with their true spirit, if rightly conceived and interpreted in the light of modern science. I hope I shall be able some day to write down the result of my own thought and investigation in the matter. I content myself at present with drawing your attention to the first characteristic of Islam, and I propose to write a few Notes to draw your special attention to its second characteristic which is the more remarkable—the characteristic that it is quite consistent with modern ideas of science.
No scientific idea influenced the thought of the last century more profoundly than the idea of progress or development embodied in what is called the Law of Evolution. It is now widely accepted. You will be surprised to know that many an Islamic tenet is entirely in accord with it. Indeed Maulana Rumi outlined it poetically in his famous Masnavi in the thirteenth century, in the same manner as Lord Tennyson did in his Princess in the nineteenth. I desire that you should try to understand it in its modern form. I strongly recommend that you should read an admirable book by Edward Clodd called The Story of Creation11. When I first read it, some years ago, I felt it was as pleasant and interesting as a novel. Its introduction and Part II are quite easy to read. They will give you a very good idea of the great revolution which Darwin and Wallace, Huxley and Spencer have wrought in the thought of our own times.

Note 2.
The First Chapter of the Qur’an.
HE following is a translation of the “Opening Chapter” of our Holy Qur’an. I have analysed it by placing Roman and Arabic numerals, the first indicating verses آيات and the second indicating sub-divisions of verses.

  Opening Chapter. سورة فاتحة  
  In the Name of God
Compassionate, the
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم  
I. Praise be to God, الحمد لله .I
     (1) Lord (Nourisher)
of the Worlds,
١)   رب العا لمين)  
     (2) the Compassionate,
the Merciful
٢)   الرحمن الرحيم)  
     (3) King of the Day
of Reckoning (= day
of judgment.)
٣)   مالك يوم الدين)  
II.     .II
     (1) Thee only do we
١)   اياك نعبد)  
     (2) and Thee only do
we ask for aid.
٢)   و مالك يوم الدين)  
     (3) Guide us in the
right Path (that is)
٣)   اهدنا الصراط المستقيم)  
III. the Path of those صراط الذين .III
     (1) to whom Thou
art gracious,
١)   انعمت عليهم)  
     (2) who are not objects
of wrath,
٢)   غير تامغضوب عايهم)  
     (3) and who go not
٣)   و لا الضالين)  
  Amen12 آمين  

The whole Sura divides itself into three parts and each part into three divisions thus:—

  Part I.Nature of God.
  Three principal attributes of God:—
     (1) Creator or Nourisher رب  
     (2) Protector رحمن و رحيم  
     (3) Adjuster مالك يوم الدين  
  Part II.Man’s duty to God lies in,
     (1) Worship عبادت  
     (2) Seeking His Protection استعا نت  
     (3) Seeking His Guidance استهدا  
  Part III.—The Straight Path اسلام = مذهب for Man
     (1) the path of Grace (= path of those who obtain Grace)  
     (2) not the Path of Sin (=path of those who deliberately go wrong).  
     (3) nor the Path of Error (=path of those who by mistake go astray).  
  (a) Each of the three duties in the second part corresponds with the three attributes mentioned in the first part.
  (b) The third part, the Path of Grace, i.e., the straight path, is the mean between two extremes—the path of deliberate sinners on the one hand and the path of unwitting stragglers on the other.
  (c) The Islamic prayer is simpler than the Christian prayer. I do not say the one is good and the other is bad. No; both are very good indeed, but the one seems simpler than the other. Compare them.
The Christian Prayer. The Muslim Prayer.
Adoration. Adoration.
(a) Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. (a) Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, the compassionate, the merciful, King of the day of reckoning.
Submission. Submission.
(b) Thy will be done in earth
as it is in heaven.
(b) Thee only do we worship and of Thee only do we ask aid.
Supplication. Supplication.
(c) Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen. (c) Guide us into the right path—the path of those to whom Thou hast been gracious, not the path of those who are the objects of wrath nor of those who have gone astray. Amen.
St. Matthew, vi 9-13. The Qur’an, i.

If you will carefully compare the parts of each Prayer which I have written as separate paragraphs marked (a), (b) and (c), you will observe that there is difference only in the language, but no difference whatever in the real meaning. There is in both Prayers absolutely the same spirit of

a) Adoration,
(b) Submission, and
(c) Supplication.

Both begin with the praise of the Lord to whom all praise is due. This is followed in both by an expression of our entire dependence on Him and submission to His will. Lastly, there is solicitation for guidance, positive and negative, viz., guidance towards right action and guidance for avoiding temptation.
The three parts (a), (b) and (c) of the Christian as well as of the Muslim Prayer are in perfect accord with the results of a comparative study of the religious systems of the world. They correspond to three essential elements in all religions, viz.,

(a) Belief in the existence of a Supreme Power which is Infinite and Absolute,
(b) Feeling of man’s entire dependence on that Power, and
(c) Desire to seek or solicit guidance of that Power in the daily life of man.

You will thus see that both the Lord’s Prayer in the B

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