era bethat contrast era jahiliyya
the era of be’that is in contrast with the era of jahiliyya
According to the Holy Quran, hadith and Islamic urf, the era of be’that is in contrast with the era of jahiliyya. These terms have been used in the Holy Quran and Islamic narrations. Similarly, in Islamic urf, the Islamic era is contrasted with the era of jahiliyya. Of course, there are certain boundaries and rules set these two eras apart. What are these rules? There are a few rules that separate the Islamic era from the era of jahiliyya and these essential rules are the same as Islamic values .
1. Pure Monotheism
The primary rule is pure monotheism, which means refusing to serve anything or anybody other than God. This is pure monotheism. Monotheism did not just mean that people had to stop worshipping their idols. It has a broad meaning. After all, the idols in Mecca would not exist forever. The idols that were made from wood and stone would not exist forever.
The true meaning and the essence of monotheism is rejection of serving anything or anybody other than God. It means refusing to bow to anything or anybody other than God. This is the true meaning of complete and pure servitude to God. If you look at this issue with insight and with awareness of the sciences that relate to the life of human beings – such as social sciences and education – you will realize that the scope of servitude is very broad.
Each of the limitations that are imposed on human beings forces them into a kind of servitude. Servitude to wrong social systems, servitude to wrong rituals and customs, servitude to superstitions, servitude to autocratic people and powers, servitude to human passions which is the most common kind of servitude, servitude to money, servitude to wealth, servitude to power – these are different kinds of servitude.
Saying “there is no god but Allah, alone with no partner” (1) is pure monotheism. It means that all the different kinds of servitude should be pushed aside, in which case it will be possible to achieve genuine salvation. “Say no god but Allah and achieve salvation.” (2) This salvation is genuine.
It is not just political salvation. It is not just social salvation. It is not just spiritual salvation. It is just salvation on the Day of Judgment. Rather, it is salvation both in this world and in the hereafter. This is one point about Islamic teachings and the Islamic call. It is possible to rephrase this as Islam of surrendering to God, as Islam for the sake of God.
And this is another aspect of monotheism. This is another characteristic of the Islamic call. Wherever this exists, Islam exists as well. Wherever the opposite of this exists, jahiliyya exists as well. Wherever these two opposites exist at the same time, there is both Islam and jahiliyya, and pure Islam does not exist. However, there might a flawed kind of Islam.
2. Establishment of justice
Another point about the Islamic call is the establishment of justice among human beings. The characteristic of the era of jahiliyya was the existence of an oppressive system. Oppression was commonplace.
Oppression was not limited to certain people and certain times. The social system had been built on oppression, discrimination, powerful people bullying weak people, men bullying women, wealthy people bullying the poor and slave owners bullying their slaves. And slave owners would in turn surrender to the bullying of rulers and powerful people.
It was a complex system of bullying. The lives of the people were full of oppression, discrimination and bullying. This was the characteristic of the era of jahiliyya. Wherever such things exist jahiliyya exists as well. Islam introduced the opposite system. It introduced establishment of justice. “Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others).” (3)
This is one of the characteristics of an Islamic society. Justice is not just a slogan. An Islamic society must go after justice. If justice does not exist in an Islamic society, efforts must be made to create it. If there were only two opposite camps in the world – namely, the camp of justice and the camp of oppression – Islam would support the camp of justice, even if it were non-Islamic.
It was the Holy Prophet himself who encouraged Muslims to migrate to Abyssinia, thereby helping them achieve justice under a king who was not a Muslim. In other words, the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) encouraged people to leave their homes and their community because of the oppression that had been imposed on them. And this is another point. That is to say, it is necessary to establish and promote justice and to make selfless efforts for administration of justice wherever possible, even in non-Islamic territories. It is also necessary to condemn injustice in every part of the world.
This is another characteristic of Islam. The best eras in the history of Islam have been characterized with efforts to establish and administer justice. And this is another characteristic of the Holy Prophet’s (s.w.a.) be’that. All the things that I said were only examples to help us start a movement in today’s world. The purpose of the examples was not to discuss an Islamic teaching or part of the history of Islam in order to enlighten minds.
3. Moral virtues
Again, if we imagine a third situation in which there is a movement towards moral virtues, this would be different from the other two cases I discussed earlier. Sometimes a society might have individuals who enjoy moral virtues. The people of that society might be forgiving, intellectual, wise, benevolent, cooperative, patient in the face of problems and hardships, well-behaved and ready for selfsacrifice wherever needed.
The opposite situation may also exist. That is to say, there might a society whose people might formulate their relationships on the basis of self-interest, rather than on the basis of mercy, clemency, justice and good behavior.
In such a society, people tolerate each other only as long as this is in line with their interests, otherwise they would be prepared to annihilate each other. This is another kind of society. Such a society would be a society of jahiliyya and it is very different from an Islamic society in which moral virtues are dominant. One characteristic of the Holy Prophet’s (s.w.a.) be’that was that it called people to moral virtues.
And this is another point about the life and be’that of the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.). Therefore, one can say that ethics is in fact one of the boundaries and characteristics that sets apart Islam and the era of jahiliyya.
4. Not limiting one’s outlook to the material world
Another point, which is the last point, is that people should not limit their outlook to their worldly life. This is an essential point. One of the characteristics of a jahiliyya society is that its people believe that their worldly life is everything.
If they manage to achieve certain things in their lives – such as food, comfort and whatever that is related to one’s personal well-being – they consider themselves winners. But if they make an effort or do something that will not produce results in this world, they believe that they have been deceived, that they have failed, that they have suffered a loss. This is another characteristic of living in jahiliyya.
Doing something for the sake of God, spirituality and the Day of Judgment does not make sense in a jahiliyya society. One of the characteristics of an Islamic society is that one’s entire life and efforts is not limited to this world. This is the characteristic of be’that and the opposite point is jahiliyya.
1. Wasa’il al-Shia, Vol. 1, P. 15
2. Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 18, P. 202
3. Sura an-Nahl, Ayah 90
Reference:Lessons from the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.w.a.) A selection of statements by Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei on the personality and be’that of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.w.a.)