At the same time, the Prophets guarantee the freedom of the human being in accepting belief; he is free to exercise his will by accepting either unbelief or belief. The Quran says: “O Prophet, say the religion of truth is that which has come unto you from your lord. So let whoever wishes believe, and whoever wishes, be an unbeliever.” (18:29) The Quran explicitly rejects the imposition of belief by saying: “There is no coercion or compulsion in the acceptance of religion.” (2:256). If we examine deeply the content of the teachings to the Prophets, which determine the method to be followed by all true movements of reform and liberation, we will see that their sole aim was guiding human beings to felicity. Because God looks upon his servants with favor, He chooses as Prophets the most perfect human beings, who first enter the arena of human thought and belief, creating there a vast outpouring energy, and then enter the sphere of action and ethics, in order to draw human being’s attention away from the natural realm to that which lies beyond nature. Thereby they liberate the human being from the scandalous and demeaning multiplicity of gods and from infatuation with the world and material phenomena. They cleanse their minds and their hearts and attach them to a source of hope and mercy that bestows tranquility on their souls.
Once the human being recognizes the origin of his creation and believes in the unseen forces of the world that lies beyond the natural realm, he learns a program of advancement toward perfection from guides on the path to truth, the chosen ones of the Divine threshold. For it is they who demonstrate to human society its origin and the goal of perfection toward which it must strive. The human being, then, begins his efforts to reach God, for it is this that is the lofty goal of all being, and he addresses his lord as follows: “We have heard Your command and obey it, O Lord; we seek your forgiveness and know that our movement is toward You.” (2:285). The Commander of the Faithful, Ali, upon whom be peace, says: “God sent the Prophets to remove the veils covering the human being’s innate nature and to bring forth the treasures of thought hidden within him.” He also says in the first sermon of the Nahj al-Balaghah: “God Almighty raised Prophets from among the sons of Adam and took from them a covenant that they would propagate His message. This was after most human beings had perverted the Divine covenant, becoming ignorant of God, the supreme truth, and assigning likenesses to Him, and after Satan had turned them away from the course of innate nature and disposition, preventing them from worshipping God.
“It was den that the Creator sent them a succession of Prophets, to remind them of the bounties that they had forgotten and to demand of them that they fulfil their primordial covenant with God, and to make manifest the hidden treasures and resplendent signs that the hand of Divine power and destiny had placed within them.” The school of thought established by the Prophets contains a specific view of the world and society which sets human thought on a distinctive course. Without doubt, the human being’s interpretation of the world and realities of life is a factor which determines a broad area of his efforts and activities. The first lesson taught by heavenly religions and their most fundamental pillar consists of the Divine unity. At the beginning of their missions, the Prophets raised the cry of Divine unity, seeking thereby to liberate human thought from the bondage of illusion and humiliating subjection to false and mendacious divinities. Within a short period, they conveyed their Divine message to all classes of society in their age-human beings and women, the old and the young, the rulers and the powerful. They strove to sever the bonds of servitude and to rend the veils of ignorance that were obscuring the mind and intellect of the human being. Through monotheism, they sought to advance society and cleanse the spirit of all peoples from the contamination of everything other than God.
Unlike the philosophers, the Messengers of God did not content themselves with training human beings’ minds. Their efforts to convey the message of God’s unity also penetrated human beings’ hearts, and after cleansing their intellects, they filled the dwelling of the heart with that true love which is a necessary consequence of the human beings’ spiritual ascent. It is this veritable love which impels human beings towards dynamic and passionate motion, and makes of them vibrant and creative personalities. Passionate love for the infinite source of existence is like the motor for human life; if it be taken away from the human being, he becomes a lifeless and motionless form. The principle of Divine unity distinguishes the structure of the society in which it prevails from all other societies, with respect to both its internal and its external relationships; it creates a profound structural change in whatever society accepts it, to such a degree that in its ability to reform both the individual and society, no other movement in human history can be compared with it. In addition to the fact that it clarifies the relationship of the human being with the source of being, through restricting all worship to the Creator of the world Who is the absolute ruler and owner of all things, it also determines economic, political and legal relationships among human beings.
The word “mission” (ba’that) is used in Islamic texts to designate the function of the Prophets, a word that contains the sense of an outpouring of energy, swiftness in action, and unrelenting effort. No better or more precise word could be found to designate the profound and fundamental movement that is that of the Prophets. The unity of sovereignty derives from the oneness of the Creator, because the sole authority for the fashioning of laws and the issuing of commands is His unique essence. It is the exclusive right of the Creator of being to command and prohibit, and for this reason the doctrine of Divine unity necessarily implies that none other that God has the right to exercise sovereign power or promulgate laws. A full understanding of Divine unity goes beyond the recognition that the world has only one Creator; we must also recognize that it has only one sovereign and only one legislator, and that precisely this concept brings to an end the tyranny of oppressive and arbitrary ruler.
Whoever, claims to possess sovereignty and powers that flow from it has, in reality, claimed divinity, for one of the indications of polytheism is for the human being to imagine that he possesses sovereignty and an unconditional right to legislate. This contradicts the Divine unity and the fundamental beliefs of religion. It is a basic mission and concern of heavenly religions that they propagate the true meaning of the Divine unity in order to deliver the masses of humanity and save them, by their belief in the oneness of God, from slavery to unjust and arbitrary rule. If it were not for the remarkably profundity and comprehensiveness exhibited by the contents of religion, and if it were not for the purposive movement of the Prophets, and their summons to awareness and perception, the conditions of human societies would never have changed. Today there would be no trace of humanity left, and we would have no path to convey us to the station of true love.
To be continued