The Spirit in Islam
in actual fact, most religions did not survive for a number of generations without becoming polluted by some kind of idolatry. even if it were not of the same ignoble kind prevalent in early days in the arabian peninsula, it was still some form of idolatry. islam is diametrically opposed to idolatry in any form or kind. from the earliest days of church history christianity has accorded to the priesthood a special status in the religion itself; islam has never given such position to anyone. on the contrary, islam both condemned the priesthood and transcended it. then as now, islam has remained precisely the religion which enables the human soul to rise to the greatest heights. it has not tolerated any link between man and god except a person's own piety and good works and his wishing for his fellow men that which he wishes for himself. nothing neither idols nor priesthood, diviners nor officiators-could prevent the human soul from rising to a consciousness of unity with ultimate reality and to a unity of good will and good works, and, thereby, from winning its great reward with god. the human soul! that spirit which is from god! that spirit which is connected to eternal time! that spirit, which as long as it does the good, is not separated from god by anything whatever and is subject to no being whatever other than god. the rich, the mighty, and the evil can all lay hold upon the body. they can torture it and prevent it from realizing its passions and pleasures. they can even destroy it and rob it of its life. but they can never reach the soul as long as that person wants the soul to rise above matter, above power, and above time to link itself with ultimate, total reality! only on the day of judgment will the human soul receive the punishment or reward that is its due. on that day no father may take the place of his son, and no son may replace his father. on that day neither the wealth of the rich, the strength of the mighty, nor the argument of the eloquent will avail them. good works will be the only witness and the only defense for or against their author. on that day, all being its eternal past as well as its eternal future will stand as one integral unit. on that day none will be done an injustice, and none will receive aught except his due.
how could muhammad fear that his companions would abjure the spiritual meaning and values which he had so well inculcated upon their hearts? why should he fear that they might be diverted from this conviction and faith when his example was ever present to them in his own person, so beloved of them that they cherished him more than themselves, their families and people? how could there be any chance of their deviation from the faith when muhammad's resolution not to abjure the cause even if they should place the sun in his right hand and the moon in his left hand is a living reality, ever present to their minds? how could they abjure their faith when the spirit of muhammad filled their being with the light of conviction, wisdom, justice, goodness, truth, and beauty; when their character and ethos had been molded by muhammad's humility, charity, loving kindness, and compassion? muhammad felt at ease toward the emigration of his companions to abyssinia. the religious freedom and security the emigrants enjoyed under the negus had caused the quraysh no little embarrassment. that the muslims were free among total strangers but persecuted by their own relatives, despite the closest bonds of family and tribe, must have been an annoying spectacle for quraysh. it must have hurt their tribal pride to see their fellow tribesmen enjoy security and peace after having been subjected to all kinds of injustice and injury. after the victims had suffered much despair and helplessness, they began to see in suffering and patience, although this view runs counter to the logic of islam, a very rapprochement to god, an attunement of themselves to his mercy.