The viability of a people and a civilization depends on their understanding of life and their application of their philosophy on life. The endurance or death of a civilization also depends on the essence of their basic teaching. If this civilization invites those who become attached to it to abandon this world, it will certainly progress in the spiritual realm; however, its adherents will not make their physical and mental talents their natural duties and thus they will disintegrate before reaching their potential. If civility is stressed as being dependent on the material realm alone, humans may show progress in some areas at the expense of others, but this civilization will turn into a boomerang responsible for its own death.
It is known that the motto of Islam is, prosperity and happiness in this world is prosperity and happiness in the other world. (Surah Al-Baqara, 201). This formula keeps us far away from those who are in one extreme, advising the abandonment of this world and see suffering as a duty and the extreme materialists on the other hand, who don't believe in the rights of others. On the contrary this view can be easily applied by the majority of people as it sands in between two extremes, developing the body and spirit and establishing a harmonious balance all humane sides of man.
Islam didn't stop at adamantly stressing the needs of both sides of man, but asked for both the spiritual and physical aspects of man to be developed in a way where one is not favored at the expense of the other. Man has been ordered spiritual worship, but the physical benefits of these have been highlighted as well. If there has been a responsibility put on man that is dependent on financial gain, it has also been noted that there is a spiritual initiative involved in this as well.
A religion of balance
Islam, the name given to this religion in which one submits to Allah and bows to his will, has two identifiable qualities. One is the balance it establishes between meaning and material: the spirit and the body. In this respect, while it gives the opportunity to fully benefit from the blessings which Allah has created, it also expects everyone to repay the debt which Allah's servants owe Him. This debt is fulfilled by acts of worship such as prayer, fasting and zakat (alms-giving). To this end, Islam emerged as a religion not just for the privileged, but on the contrary, a religion for the masses.
While Islam orders that daily acts of worship be meticulously performed, it never asks man to suffer and volunteer their misery. Contrarily, the Qur'an condemns this attitude with the following words, "Say: Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand." (Surah Al-Araaf, 32)
A universal religion
The second of Islam's distinctive qualities is all Muslims are considered brothers and sisters in Islam. Everyone is equal, regardless of race and language. The only way one can achieve superiority to another believe is on an individual basis; and this superiority calls on the individual to be more mindful of Allah, be careful in behavior and live with both the fear and love and Allah. It depends on taqwa - the fearing of Allah. (Surah Hujurat, 13)
The Qur'an speaks to all of mankind and aims to function as a guide to all of humanity, irrespective of race, religion and historical era, in finance, spirituality, individuality and social structure. The Qur'an contains directives for the heads of state, plain civilians, the rich, impoverished, times of peace and times of war, spiritual and commerce education, in addition to personal behavior. The Qur'an stresses individual development first and foremost. Every individual is personally responsible for themselves before Allah the Almighty. The Qur'an does not suffice with placing this purpose as an order, it goes on to convince mankind of this. The Qur'an calls upon human logic, shares tales and uses examples and metaphors.
Belief in Allah
Man appears to have always struggled to know his Creator and search for ways to follow his orders. The religious leaders of every era and every civilization have placed certain behavioral guidelines to this end. In the first centuries people were worshipping the images of God's mighty and blessings and thus hoping for God to be pleased with them. Some societies believe in two deities: one good and one bad and they overlooked the logical consequences of this differentiation which would translate to an internal war. Some people would surround the Creator with mysteries and these very secrets would at times overshadow the very being of the Creator. And then some filled their religions with symbols, formulas and rituals; their religions become almost inseparable from idolatry.
Islam holds a distinguished spot in this regard as well. Islam belies in the absolute oneness of Allah. It orders worship and supplication which doesn't accept pictures and symbols as it sees these as remnants of idolatry. Allah is not just above everything and matter; He is also everywhere and at every time. He is capable of everything at any time. The relations between mankind and the Creator are direct and personal; they don't require an intermediary. Similar to prophets, even the most sacred of people are only guides and messengers. The choice is left up to the individual; each person is directly responsible for themselves before Allah.
There is clear information presented about the essential qualities of Allah in the Holy Qur'an: He is one, the creator of everything, he is all-knowing and all-powerful. He will resurrect us after death and hold us accountable for our actions in this word, he is just and merciful, to name of a few of his qualities. Furthermore the Qur'an teaches us the best methods of supplication and expressing gratitude to him. There is complete information given on the duties of man to Allah, other creatures and himself. As we are not in possession of our own ourselves; we belong to Allah. He has entrusted us to ourselves as his own property. For this reason, we must exercise care when protecting this entrustment.
The Belief-behavior relation
The frequent use of the dual formula of the Holy Qur'an, "those who believe and do good deeds," is the direct outcome of a balanced understanding of life. There is little value in a simple understanding of faith without worship and application. Islam insists on both of these. Performing good deeds without belief in Allah is preferred to doing bad deeds with regard to the welfare of society, however, when evaluated spiritually, good deeds performed without belief in Allah will not bring salvation in the hereafter.
Since this is the value given to action (application, deed) then there must a differentiation made between good deed and bad deed. What should be the measure in this matter? It is only Allah who can qualify a deed - an act or behavior -- as being good or bad. What falls on our shoulders is to take into consideration the divine ruling with each of our acts. This divine order has been delivered to us through his messengers by Allah. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not just the last of these messengers, but he is also the messenger whose teachings have been best preserved.
The purpose of spiritual applications and spiritual worship is to stress our existence, bring us closer to our Creator and Lord and facilitate his being pleased with us. As stated in the Qur'an (Surah Al-Baqarah, 138) we try to cleanse ourselves with the water of Allah, see with His eyes, speak with His tongue, desiring that which is aligned with His will, in short, to act in a way that is appropriate with his will, as much as human weakness can withstand and until we are similar to Him.
Submitting to the orders of Allah is an act of worship in and of it's self. We can say with certainty, without going to into detail and careful examination, there are material and spiritual benefits of all of the orders placed and worship ordained by Islam. In other words, everything done solely for Allah has double value: While such an act does not deduct from material possession, it also adds spiritual benefits. On the other hand, if the same move has been made for material gain, it may be attained, but one will be completely deprived of spiritual gain. Let us recall a hadith by Prophet Muhammad: "Surely acts are measured according to their intentions."
The fundamental value which shapes the lives of Muslims regarding religious worships is this: Developing the whole and facilitating cooperation between the pieces. In almost 20 different verses in the Qur'an, the order "Pray and give charity," is repeated. Is there more obvious evidence required to display the unity between body and spirit and the inseparability between material and meaning? Just as spiritual duties are not void of material benefits, material orders are not separate from spiritual benefits. Furthermore, all of the said benefits are closely tied to the intention and reason for the fulfillment of these duties.
The understanding of sin and repentance
Islam accepts that man is weak and possesses the tendency to do both good and bad; these tendencies are in constant battle with one another. However, it does not concede that people come into this world with sin because of the first sin committed by Adam (pbuh) and Eve. This would only be unfair and injust. If Adam has committed a sin, this does not mean that other humans should be held responsible for it because each person is accountable for only their own deeds.
Humans, because of their weakness, can commit crimes and injustices against Allah, humans and other creatures. In principal, there is a penalty for every crime. However, Islam also knows how to forgive. The prerequisite for forgiveness is feeling remorse, repenting and mending the mistake that was committed. If the crime committed has harmed man, then this error needs to be compensated as much as possible. The person who the crime was committed against may chose to forgive unconditionally, with the condition that the damage is compensated for by another means. However, when it comes to a crime that was committed against Allah, a person may either have to suffer a long punishment or be unconditionally forgiven by Allah. However, Islam clearly states that Allah does not need to punish an innocent person - such as Jesus (pbuh) - in order to forgive the guilty who have asked for repentance.
Allah has equipped individuals with different talents for reasons that are only known to him self. The two children of one couple don't have the same qualities and talents. Not all soil is similarly fertile. No two same kinds of trees give the same amount of quality of fruit. Every being carries qualities that are unique to it's self. Islam, to this end, accepts that all human being are equal and there is such as a thing as individual freedom. Everyone is a servant to the same Creator, however, taqwa - fear of Allah - which is the greatest provider of divine pleasure, or flawless piety, is the only measure of the greatness of an individual.
In the context of this understanding, Islam denies seeing a ‘society dependent on lineage and blood ties' as the basis for solidarity. Because in this understanding, fate does not allow for the personal choice of mankind. Islam has a progressive understanding to this end as it takes the choice of an individual as a basis. Because Islam suggests a unity and solidarity that depends on a common ideal which does not discriminate based on race, language or location.
Islam denies compulsion and pressure of all kinds where religion is concerned. Furthermore, Islam sees it a duty to give non-Muslims living on Islamic lands autonomy as an Islamic requirement of religion and religious ruling. All of the teachings in the Qu'ran, hadith as well as historic applications require that non-Muslims have their own rules and stand trial in front of their own judges in their own courts, without the intervention of Muslims officials on religious and social matters.
The Qur'an determines the best rules in social life in areas such as commerce, marriage, inheritance, criminal law and international law.
Thinking of just one's self list is not a human act, it is animalistic. It is normal and natural to think of the needs of others after fulfilling one's own; however, the Qur'an, praises those individuals who "Prefers others over themselves even if they are in need." (Surah al-Hashr, 9). Certainly, this is just an advice and not obligatory for an average man. If a person can't do this, they will not be guilty or considered a sinner. A similar advice is one given by the Prophet Muhammad: "The best among humans is one who is best to others."
Islam does not accept a person abandoning work [productivity] and becoming a parasite. On the contrary, in order to take advantage of Allah's creations, Islam requires that humans use all of their natural talents and skills. One must earn as much as possible. Because what is left after our needs are met may go towards helping those who cannot meet their own basic needs. Prophet Muhammad said the following: "It is better for you to leave behind relatives that are living in prosperity instead of relatives who beg of others."
Islam is a lifestyle. Because Islam does not stop at giving the essentials of belief, it also shares rules of social behavior. It also concerns it's self with the application of its system and its smooth application at that. It doesn't stop at praising goodness and condemning evil; it also foresees material and spiritual rewards and punishments for these. Islam embeds Allah, the day of Judgment following resurrection, and a belief in Heaven and Hell on to the minds of man. But it goes a step further and takes precautions against human injustices through material punishments. Because man, which Islam aims to keep on the straight path, comes in all different kinds. This religion was revealed not just to people who are morally developed and have the inherent capacity to choose what is right, but all people on earth so that they may attain the truth.