Effects of Tawhid on Human Life
Abul A'La Mawdudi, Towards Understanding Islam
Now let us study the effects which the belief in La ilaha illallah has on the life of a man and see why he should always make a success of life and why one who denies it becomes a failure in life, both here and in the hereafter.
A believer in this Kalimah can never be narrow in outlook. He believes in a God Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Master of the East and the West and Sustainer of the entire universe. After this belief he does not regard anything in the world as a stranger to himself. He looks on everything in the universe as belonging to the same Lord he himself belongs to. His sympathy, love and service are not confined to any particular sphere or group. His vision is enlarged, his intellectual horizon widens, and his outlook becomes as liberal and as boundless as is the Kingdom of God. How can this width of vision and breadth of mind be achieved by an atheist, a polytheist or one who believes in a deity supposed to possess limited and defective powers like a man?
This belief produces in man the highest degree of self-respect and self esteem. The believer knows that Allah alone is the Possessor of all power, and that none besides Him can benefit or harm a person, or provide for his needs, or give and take away life or wield authority or influence. This conviction makes him indifferent to, and independent and fearless of, all powers other than those of God. He never bows his head in homage to any of God's creatures, nor does he stretch out his hand before anyone else. He is not overawed by anybody's greatness. This attitude of mind cannot be produced by any other belief. For it is necessary that those who associate other beings with God, or who deny God, should bow in homage to some creatures, regard them able to benefit or harm them, fear them and place their hopes in them.
Along with self-respect this belief also generates in man a sense of modesty and humbleness. It makes him unostentatious and unpretending. A believer never becomes proud, haughty or arrogant. The boisterous pride of power, wealth and worth can have no room in his heart, because he knows that whatever he possesses has been given to him by God, and that God can take away just as He can give. In contrast to this, an unbeliever, when he achieves some worldly merit, becomes proud and conceited because he believes that his merit is due to his own worth. In the same way pride and self-conceit are a necessary outcome and concomitant of shirk (association of others with God in His divinity), because a mushrik believes that he has a particular relation with the deities which does not exist between them and other people.
This belief makes man virtuous and upright. He has the conviction that there is no other means of success and salvation for him except purity of soul and righteousness of behaviour. He has perfect faith in God Who is above all need, is related to none and is absolutely just. This belief creates in him the consciousness that, unless he lives rightly and acts justly, he cannot succeed. No influence or underhand activity can save him from ruin. As against this, the kafirs and the mushriks always live on false hopes. Some of them believe that God's son has atoned for their sins; some think that they are God's favourites, and will not be punished; others believe that their saints will intercede with God on their behalf; while others make offerings to their deities and believe that by so bribing the deities they acquire a licence to do whatever they like. Such false beliefs keep them enmeshed in sin and evil deeds; depending on their deities, they do not bother about their souls and living pure and good lives. As to atheists, they do not believe that there is any Being having power over them, to Whom they should be responsible for their good or bad actions; therefore they consider themselves independent to act in whatever way they like. Their own fancies become their gods and they live like slaves of their wishes and desires.
The believer never becomes despondent. He has a firm faith in God Who is Master of all the treasures of the earth and the heavens, Whose grace and bounty have no limit and Whose powers are infinite. This faith imparts to his heart extraordinary consolation, fills it with satisfaction and keeps it filled with hope. Although he may meet with rejection from all sides in this world, faith in and dependence on God never leave him, and on their strength he goes on struggling. Such profound confidence can result from no other belief than belief in one God. Mushriks, kafirs and atheists have small hearts; they depend on limited powers; therefore in times of trouble they are soon overwhelmed by despair and, frequently, they commit suicide.2
This belief produces in man a very strong degree of determination, patient perseverance and trust in God. When he makes up his mind and devotes his resources to fulfilling the Divine Commands in order to secure God's pleasure, he is sure that he has the support and backing of the Lord of the universe. This certainty makes him firm and strong like a mountain, and no amount of difficulties, impediments and opposition can make him give up his resolution. Shirk, kufr and atheism have no such effect.
This declaration inspires bravery in man. There are two things which make a man cowardly: (i) fear of death and love of safety, and (ii) the idea that there is someone else besides God who can take away life and that man, by adopting certain devices, can ward off death. Belief in La ilaha illallah purges the mind of both these ideas. The first idea goes out of his mind because he knows that his life and his property and everything else really belong to God, and he becomes ready to sacrifice his all for His pleasure. He gets rid of the second idea because he knows that no weapon, no man or animal has the power of taking away his life; God alone has the power to do so. A time has been ordained for him, and all the forces of the world combined cannot take away anyone's life before that time. It is for this reason that no one is braver than the one who has faith in God. Nothing can daunt him: not even the strongest tempest of adversity and the mightiest of armies. Where can the mushriks, the kafirs and the atheists get such great determination, force and power from? They hold life the dearest thing in the world; they believe that death is brought about by the enemy and can be warded off by running away from him!
The belief in La ilaha illallah creates an attitude of peace and contentment, purges the mind of jealousy, envy and greed and keeps away the temptations of resorting to base and unfair means for achieving success. The believer understands that wealth is in God's hands, and He apportions it out as He likes; that honour, power, reputation and authority - everything - is subjected to His will, and He bestows them as He will; and that man's duty is only to endeavour and to struggle fairly. He knows that success and failure depend on God's grace; if He wills to give, no power in the world can prevent Him from so doing; and if He does not will it, no power can force Him to. On the other hand, the mushriks, the kafirs and the atheists consider success and failure as dependent on their own efforts and the help or opposition of earthly powers. Therefore, they always remain slaves to cupidity and envy. They never hesitate to turn to bribery, flattery, conspiracy and other kinds of base and unfair means to achieve their ends. Jealousy and envy of others success eat them away, and they will stop at nothing to bring about the downfall of a successful rival.
The most important effect of La ilaha illallah is that it makes man obey and observe God's Law. One who has belief in it is sure that God knows everything hidden or open and is nearer to him than his own jugular vein. If he commits a sin in a secluded corner and in the darkness of night, He knows it; He even knows our thoughts and intentions, bad or good. We can hide from everyone, but we cannot hide anything from God; we can evade everyone, but it is impossible to evade God's grip. The firmer a man's belief in this respect, the more observant will he be of God's commands; he will shun what God has forbidden and he will carry out His behests even in solitude and in darkness, because he knows that God's 'police' never leaves him alone, and he dreads the Court whose warrant he can never avoid. It is for this reason that the first and the most important conditions for being a Muslim is to have faith in La ilaha illallah. 'Muslim', as you have already been told, means one 'obedient to God' and obedience to God is impossible unless one firmly believes in La ilaha illallah.
In the teachings of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) faith in One God is the most important and fundamental principle. It is the bedrock of Islam and the mainspring of its power. All other beliefs, commands and laws of Islam stand firm on this foundation. All of them receive strength from this source. Take it away, and there is nothing left of Islam.
2. To have an idea of what a harrowing situation this despair of heart can create, the reader is referred to the thought-provoking study of modern life by Mr. Colin Wilson: The Outsider (11th impression. London 1957).
The testimony of Prof. Joad is also very explicit on this point. He writes about the West: "For the first time in history there is coming to maturity a generation or men and women who have no religion, and feel no need for one. They are content to ignore it. Also they are very unhappy, and the suicide rate is abnormally high." (C. E. M. Joad. The Present and Future of Religion, quoted by Sir Arnold Lunn., And Yet So New, London, 1958, p. 228).
As to the world of Islam. let the views of a non-Muslim historian not in any way sympathetic to Islam, be read with profit: "In this uncompromising monotheism. with its simple, enthusiastic faith in the supreme rule of a transcendent being, lies the chief strength of Islam. Its adherents enjoy a consciousness of contentment and resignation unknown among followers of most creeds." "Suicide Is Rare in Muslim Lands" (Phillip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 1951, p.129).