How often do we hear people say that Islam is not a religion but a way of life? Christianity too is a way of life, as is Sikhism, Hinduism and sheep farming. Using a cliché to describe Islam is woefully inadequate. All religions have rites, rituals, worship and commandments or tenets that forbid bad things such as stealing and telling lies and encourage other things such as charity, helping others and being kind to one another.


Religions are like chameleons that change with the environment, and despite the separation of church and state, religions, or at least the people who run them, are often in bed with politicians to ensure people’s compliance through doctrines and dogmas that benefit the rich and powerful. Through time religions evolve and morph to fit in with the needs of the ruling elite and indeed the priest.


The Bible condemns homosexuality and at one time it was illegal in Britain, but now there are openly gay priests and it is frowned upon to consider gays and lesbians as sexual deviants. The caste system has been an integral part of Hinduism for centuries but now in India it is made illegal although still practised by the devout. The Bible forbids women to preach, but in modern Christianity women priests are commonly ordained.


There is no permanence in these values or rules. The satirical novella ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell depicts this excellently to show how rules change with the changing demands of those in power.


We know from the Quran that Islam is not a religion, but a holistic social system: the Deen-Islam. What then is the unique distinguishing factor that other social systems or indeed religions do not have?


While Deen-Islam may share some aspects with other social structures, the inimitable features of Deen-Islam lie in its exceptional set of Permanent Values that are underpinned by ultimate accountability to God: unchanging principles for changing times. A code of life for all people in all times.


It is the Permanent Values that guard us from inflicting damage to our moral Self. Living by these values produces measurable results that benefit the individual as well as the community. This is the mechanism that tells us something is harming our moral wellbeing. Permanent Values, like the laws of nature, are absolute. But we can only adopt these values by choice; there is no automated screening to prevent us from any distress that might follow should we make the wrong choice. Once a choice has been made, we have to live by the consequences; the law of requital ensures that.


The Quran clearly tells us that the human Self develops and advances according to its deeds, the positive action that raises the measure of human value by developing the Self, making it fit for this life and the life yet to come. This development can be made by anyone who aligns his or her values with the Permanent Values found in the Quran, and the Quran alone, with ultimate accountability to the One God, and to God alone.[1]


Unlike religion, where the process of salvation is liberation from sin and rescue from evil, the Quran confirms that salvationfor those who follow this guidance is not the regaining of a state of bliss which was forfeited through the ‘original sin’, but a positive achievement; the acquisition of a new value. Each individual creates a new paradise by realising his or her potentialities. The reward of salvation is not a well-earned rest but a greater zeal for action and renewed outlook to an ambition, which is the life yet to come. To achieve salvation is to prove one’s fitness for entering on a higher plane of existence in the next life.


Only a developed Self is truly free and attains this salvation. Salvation is the positive content of an individual’s achievement. It is encapsulated in the sense of fulfilment, the feeling of realisation and the thrill of expansion. Man is endowed with a number of potentialities. By Self-discipline and conquering his ego a person develops his personality. By developing this he can reach his full stature and qualify for still higher stages that await him. The underlying message appears to be: most things still remain to be done; what a glorious future!


According to Christian belief everyone is born sinful. This doctrine of the Original Sin is an important Augustine doctrine within the Roman Catholic Church and means that people are born with a built-in urge to do bad things and to disobey God. The Quran negates this concept of the original sin and tells us that each person is responsible for their own crimes and no Self bears the wrongs of another. Each person is responsible for their own reckoning and each community is responsible for what they earn. The Quran declares that non-one can take your sins, you must pay for your own wrongdoings.[2]


While looking at the Permanent Values it is important to also understand some basic concepts from the Quran which are shown below along with the list of Permanent Values. This is not an exhaustive listing so it is important to read the Quran: it not only gives the complete Absolute Laws and all the Permanent Values, it also puts them into context of developing the Self, which should really be the goal of each individual and all societies.


  • God: The concept of God as revealed in the Quran is an external objective standard for us to follow as far as it relates to the development of the human Self. “Do not be like those who forgot God, so He made them forget themselves…”[Verses 59:19; 112:1-4].
  • Equality as a human being (unity in humanity): At birth we are equal and it is how we respond to the world around us that changes our Self. The Quran declares: All of the mankind used to be one community…” [Verse 2:213].
  • Respect as a human being: Every human being possesses a Self which has the attribute of free will. This entitles every human being to equal respect, so that there can be no discrimination due to reasons of family, tribe, race, community, nationality, religion, gender, colour, language, culture, tradition: “We have honoured the children of Adam …” [Verse 17:70].
  • Freedom: Since every human being is born free, then he or she should remain free. According to the Quran, freedom means that no-one can extort obedience from another human being. Only the Quranic Values should be followed as it is only by operating within the confines of these Values that the Self can develop. [Verses 2:256; 4:137; 9:115; 10:99; 11:118; 13:40; 18:29; 109:1-6].
  • Freedom to choose (no compulsion): Responsibility for the act of a human being is determined by his own volition and intent. It is our choices in life which define us. The Quran invites us to use the power of our intellect and reasoning to acquire evidence to then make informed decisions. ‘When reminded of their Sustainer’s guidance, they never react to it as if they are deaf and blind..” [Verse 25:73].
  • Righteousness as a criterion: The level of development of the self and individual conduct should be the criterion for higher responsibility within a society. The Quran declares: “O people, We created you from the same male and female and rendered you distinct peoples and cultures, that you may recognise one another, but the best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is all-knowing and aware of all things.” [Verse 49:13].
  • Tolerance: Freedom to choose means that we need to be tolerant and accept the choices made by others in their lives. The Quran asks us to understand this at a fundamental level i.e. by being in possession of a Self with freedom to choose, we need to recognise this state exists in others and accept it.[Verses 17:53; 29:46; 42:37; 16:125; 73:10; 6:108; 109:1-6; 18:29; 25:63; 7:199; 3:90; 4:137; 41:34; 60:8].
  • Existence of the human Self:We all have a strong sense of identity and are aware of our existence. We have self-consciousness and the ability to make decisions. Our inner attributes of emotions, thinking, memory etc. help us to live our lives and in the process we gain experiences which help to develop our Self-concept [Verse 39:41].
  • Responsibility cannot be shared at the level of the Self: At an individual level each one of us is a complete unit therefore none can share our responsibility at this level. The Quran asks us to follow this value in our interactions as well [Verse 53:38].
  • Free will: The use of this value is up to us as individuals to use by exercising our freedom to choose. However our choices have consequences and we are accountable for these. The Quran tells us that this is your world and you can live your life as you wish. “….do what you will: verily He sees what you do.” [Verse 41:40].
  • Warning/admonition: We need to warn each other about the consequences of what we think, say and do in our lives. The Quran asks us to think of the consequences of every action we take in our lives both in the short term and the long term. The Quran calls its message a warning to mankind – to be accepted or rejected and then to live with the consequences of those choices:To warn those who are alive and to expose those who reject this guidance.”[Verse 36:70]. See also Verses 6:70, 7:51. The Quran asks us to keep reminding each other about the purpose of life [Verses 103:1-3].
  • Justice: When dispensing justice, no distinction is allowed between friend and foe, us and them: “Do not be provoked by your conflicts with some people into committing injustice. You shall be completely equitable because it safeguards your righteousness. You shall follow God’s guidance. God is fully aware of everything you do.” [Verse 5:8]. See also verses 2:283; 4:135; 4:105; 4:135]. The changing of Allah’s laws is declared to be injustice by the Quran [Verse 50:29].
  • Good deeds replace the effects of bad deeds: The Quran declares: “…The good works rescind the evil works. This is a reminder for those who take heed. …’ [Verse 11:114]‘Therefore, prevent their evil works with integrity and justice; We are fully aware of their claims.” [Verse 23:96].
  • What is good for mankind remains on earth: “…while that which benefits the people prospers the earth …” [Verse 13:17].
  • Knowledge:The Quran has referred to both perceptual and conceptual knowledge and encourages mankind to explore both the visible and the invisible worlds to understand the truth and the purpose behind human creation.“He teaches man what he never knew..”[Verse 96:5] ‘He gave Adam the ability to distinguish all things’. [Verse 2:31].
  • Science: The Quran directs us to make efforts to discover both the visible and the unseen worlds and bring them into use for the good of mankind at large:“…He committed in your service everything in the heavens and the earth; all are bounties from Him. These are signs for people who reflect.”[Verse 45:13].
  • Aesthetic sense: As human beings we have an aesthetic sense, an appreciation for beauty. The Quran acknowledges and respects this and considers it as a necessary element in the growth and development of human personality: “Say: “Who prohibited the beautiful things God has created for His creatures and the good provisions?…” [Verse 7:32].However, the pursuit of the aesthetic sense should be within the confines of the Permanent Values.
  • History as a model:The Quran asks mankind to study history and the rise and fall of civilisations with a view to learning lessons. This helps us to study the Permanent Values and see that violations of these values leads to wars and conflicts and leads to a waste of valuable human time. “Have they not travelled the earth and noted the consequences for those who preceded you? They used to be greater in number, greater in power and possessed a greater legacy on earth than you. Yet, all their achievements did not help them in the least.”[Verse 40:82, 10:39].
  • Subsistence: Basic necessities[3] for all human beings must be met and an environment should be created for the development of the human Self. Meeting the physical needs of the human body is essential before intellectual reasoning and creative activity can be brought into play. This is the reason why the Quran declares that the aim is to establish an economic system (social welfare) in which there is no accumulation of wealth: “They also ask you what they should give in expenditure for the welfare of society, say, “Be clement and give the excess part of your disposable income or goods.” God thus clarifies this guidance for you, that you may reflect.”[Verse 2:219].
  • Reward is for the work and not the capital: This value defines the economic system proposed by the Quran. The capital must remain in continuous flow and must not be accumulated. Reward for work must meet the necessities of life. [Verses 6:141; 53:39; 59:7].
  • Patience and perseverance: Since the Self takes time to develop, as it has to gain knowledge and overcome the challenges of life, it therefore needs time to build up its inner conviction and strength. It needs guidance as an external criterion of reference to signpost its progress towards its development: “…Follow what is revealed to you and be patient until God issues His judgment; He is the best of evaluators..” [Verse 10:109]. An analogy of this is that the Self is like a seed which needs to be nurtured to grow to its full potential.
  • No restriction on human movement: The world belongs to each and every one of us and should be available for the use by anyone within the remit of the Permanent Values. No human being owns this world – the fact that with death we leave it all behind proves this. The world is ‘loaned’ to human beings to use it for a short time only: we are its custodians – not owners. The Quran declares: “(God) The One who made the earth habitable for you and the sky a structure. He sends down from the sky water, to produce all kinds of fruits for your sustenance. You shall not accept any authority to equal or rival God, now that you know.” [Verses 2:22, 29:56, 39:10]
  • Relationships: Human beings need the presence of other human beings within individual relationships and at the level of community in order to function, grow and develop the Self. All people used to be one community, but they fragmented. [Verse 10:19]. This is why hermitism and monasticism is forbidden. [Verse 57:27].
  • Marriage: This is primarily a contract between two equal individuals (male and female) to live their lives within the confines of the Permanent Values [Verse 2:221]. Chastity is one of the permanent values within this context and the Quran demands observance from both men and women [Verse 24:30-31]. Although there is no encouragement of polygamy, men are permitted to marry more than one woman, but not to the detriment of a previous relationship. There are specific conditions for all relationships between men and women.
  • Freedom from fear: For free will to operate effectively, there has to be freedom from fear as this constrains it. The Quran declares that living within the Permanent Values will eliminate all fears [Verse 2:38].
  • Freedom from grief: Grief is caused by events affecting human beings within a society. Most events causing grief can be linked directly or indirectly to human actions e.g. economy, wars, oppression, exploitation, slavery etc. The Quran recognises this and refers to it in many verses [Verses 2:38, 3:138; 15:77].
  • Death: This is a deadline to remind us that we have a finite time to live in this life and our conduct here in this world will define the status of our next life after death. When we consider the event of death at the level of the Self, the Quran declares: “…Every Self will taste death, then to Us you will be ultimately returned.” [Verse 29:57].
  • Hereafter: The life of the ‘emerged’ human Self continues beyond death and into the life yet to come. The ‘emerged’ human Self is one that has reached a minimum threshold according to the Quran, when on balance the effects of the good deeds exceed those of the deeds that have negative effects: “…O you who believe, you shall uphold your duty to God and let every Self examine what it has sent ahead for tomorrow…” [Verse 59:18]. ‘…Every Self will find out what caused it to advance and what caused it to regress.” [Verse 82:5].
  • Enjoin what is just and forbid what is wrong: The Quran has repeatedly directed us to keep doing this to remind people about their conduct. This is part of righteousness which mu’mineen are expected to display through their conduct. See for example Verse [49:15] and [Verses 3:104; 3:110; 3:114; 31:17].
  • Do Not Say That Which You Don’t Do: Deeds should be commensurate words: “O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do? Most abominable in the sight of God is that you say what you do not do.” [Verse 61:2-3].


And finally…


Accountability (the Law of Requital): Human beings possess free will, emotions, and the ability to critically think – even to think about thinking, and memory. Our thinking, decisions and actions leave an impact on our Self i.e. it changes our personality and the way we think and act. The Quran declares that every cause has an effect in the everyday life of human beings. This is called the Law of Requital that does not leave any of our deeds unaccountable and none of us is dealt with unjustly [Verses 3:162; 4:95; 6:50; 32:18; 45:21; 47:14]. The purpose of every human being, the very meaning of life, is to turn our good deeds to the development of our Self and make it fit for the life ahead; both in this world and in the state of being yet to come. Only progressive action enriches the Self and only the developed Self can move forward and enjoy a better life.


The Quran, the only book to contain the Permanent Values, says that every action produces a result and those who give up the good for the great – a lower value for a higher value – are fully recompensed, and no one suffers injustice. Those who, after receiving the profound guidance, understand this will experience that the measure and esteem of their Self increases with the goodness of their actions, and this makes them fit for the life yet to come. [4]


What worth is a deed if its true value is not fully realised?


Every individual can, through his or her own free will, realise the measure of his or her endeavour. This is what makes Deen-Islam better over and above any other social system, or indeed any religion.


[1]The Quran states unequivocally that anyone who does good will be rewarded and each individual creates a heaven or hell according to their own deeds. Peace and security in this life and the life yet to come, the Quran says, is a right of those who do good. They do not need pity, grace or intercession, they are already honoured by their deeds. [Verse 21:28].However, the Bible says that a person is saved not by works of righteousness but according to mercy [Titus 3:5] and that you are saved by grace and not of yourselves. [Ephesians 2:8]. This is in contrast with the Quran which tells us that each individual can raise the esteem of his or her Self by the measure of their own endeavour. We do the deed and the Self progresses or regresses accordingly. This shows that the aim and the focus of a religion, such as Christianity, not only contradicts itself, but different religions are also in conflict with each other. To accept one religion is to be in conflict with all others. See verses and footnotes 71:28, and 2:183; 11:52; 57:10; 63:11; 73:20; 75:40.

[2]Original Sin: See verses and footnotes .  2:134; 6:52 ; 11:35. 29:12; 35:18.


[3]Basic necessities will include food, shelter, security, medical treatment, education, job, freedom of expression, freedom to practice religion, etc.

[4]The Qurancontains optimum standards of good conduct: the Permanent Values and Absolute Laws. Unchanging principles for changing times. According to traditionalists a Muslim’s ‘faith’ is not complete without pilgrimage, fasting and other such rituals. But the Quran says this is the same Deen as given to Abraham, Moses and Jesus [Verse 42:13]. The messenger also said that this guidance (the Quran) is no different to what previous messengers brought [Verse 46:9]. If a person cannot be a Muslim without believing in and performing these rituals, how then could the earlier messengers and all the people have been muslims who did not perform these rituals?