The Islamic ideology being very vast and having so many ramifications, it is hardly possible to describe all its features. Anyhow, acting in accordance with the maxim that something is better than nothing, we list hereunder what is conveniently possible:
As compared to other religions comprehensiveness is one of the distinguishing features of Islam. It would be more correct to say that comprehensiveness and all-inclusiveness are the principal characteristics of Islam which is the most developed and perfect religion. With the help of the four sources of Islamic law, the Muslim scholars can find out Islamic point of view about every question. The Muslim scholars do not believe that there can be a situation about which Islam has no rule.
(2) Applicability of Ijtihad:
The general rules of Islam have been so arranged that they are amenable to ijtihad. Ijtihad means the discovery and application of firm and fundamental principles to the particular and changing cases. Further, the task of ijtihad has been made easy by the fact that reason has been recognized as one of the sources of Islamic law.
(3) Liberality and Simplicity:
In the words of the Holy Prophet Islamic law is liberal and simple. There is a hadith in al-Kafi, vol. V, according to which the Prophet said that Allah had not given him the instruction to escape from worldly involvement. He had sent him with an upright, easy and liberal law. Islam has not prescribed any hard and tedious duties. "In the matter of religion Allah has not put on you any undue constraint". As the religious law is characterized by liberality, any rule found to be causing undue hardship, would be regarded as null and void.
(4) Useful and Healthy Life:
Islam advocates a useful and healthy life and condemns extreme austerity and escape from life. That is why it has severely resented monkery and seclusion. "There is no monkery in Islam".
In the ancient societies there existed either of the two tendencies; either monasticism and escape from worldly involvement or indulgence in this worldly life and escape from all that relates to the Hereafter. Islam has made the preparation for the Hereafter a part of this worldly life. The way to the next world passes through the life and the responsibilities of this world.
All Islamic teachings have a social character. Even such individualistic rules as prayers and fasting create collectivism. There are many social, political, economic, legal and penal rules of Islam which have this character. Similarly such precepts as jihad (the Holy War), urging to do good and restraining from evil originate from the collective responsibility of the Muslims.
(6) Rights and Freedom of the Individual:
Though Islam is a social religion, it attaches great importance to society and considers the individual to be responsible to society, it does not overlook the rights and freedom of the individual and does not belittle his economic, legal as well as social rights. From political point of view, an individual has the right of being consulted and elected, from economic point of view he has the right of owning the product of his effort and receiving the remuneration for his labour.
He can sell, lend, donate, endow, cultivate and invest his legal property and can enter into a partnership in regard to it. From the legal point of view he has the right of instituting a legal case, establishing his claim and giving evidence. From social point of view he has the right of choosing a profession, choosing a residence and choosing a course of study etc. From family point of view he has the right of choosing his life-partner.
(7) Precedence of the Right of Society to the Right of Individual:
Where there is a contradiction or conflict between a right of society and a right of individual, the right of social or the public right gets precedence to the private right or the right of an individual. Anyhow, this matter is to be decided by an Islamic court of law.
(8) Principle of Consultation:
From Islamic point of view the principle of consultation is a recognized principle in social matters. In those cases where no Islamic injunction exists, the Muslims should decide their way of action through consultation and collective thinking.
(9) Elimination of Loss:
The rules of Islamic law though general and absolute, are enforceable only to the extent that they cause no undue loss or damage. This rule is universal and constitutes a sort of the right of veto in respect of every rule of law.
(10) Importance of Usefulness:
In the case of every act whether it is individual or collective, the first importance is given to its useful result. From Islamic point of view every action which is not useful is regarded as vain:
"Successful indeed are those who shun all that is vain." (Surah al-Mu'minun, 23:3)
(11) Importance of Lawful Transactions, Circulation of Wealth and Transfer of Money and Property:
All such deals must be free from every kind of fraud and underhand dealing. Any transaction otherwise will be unfair:
"And do not usurp one another's property by unjust means." (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:188)
Transfer of wealth by means of gambling is tantamount to swindling and is unlawful.
(12) Any profit on the capital lying idle, not in circulation for beneficial purposes, and not subject to loss and diminishing which takes the form of a debt or a security is usury and unlawful.
(13) Every financial transaction must be conducted with the full knowledge and prior information of both the parties. Any transaction which involves a loss owing to lack of information is void. "The Prophet has forbidden fraudulent transactions". This hadith originally relates to the fraudulent sale of defective items, but the principle of ijtihad has made the rule general.
(14) Contrariety to Reason:
Islam respects reason and describes it as an inward prophet (guide). The principles of religion are not acceptable unless they conform to the results of rational research. In subsidiary matters relating to religion reason has been recognized as a source of ijtihad. Islam regards reason as a sort of purity and lack of it as a sort of ritual impurity. According to Islamic law insanity or intoxication invalidates minor ablution (Wuzu) just like urination or sleeping. Islam combats the use of every kind of intoxicant, because of its contrariety to reason. Reason is an integral part of religion.
(15) Contrariety to Will:
Just as Islam respects reason, and in Islamic law there are certain provisions to protect it, Islam also respects will, which is the power which carries out the dictates of reason. That is why Islam considers all diverting activities which hinder the use of will-power to be prohibited and unlawful. In the language of Islam such diverting activities are called "Lahw".
Islam is opposed to idleness and lethargy. As man receives much from society, he must do something for the benefit of society as well as for the benefit of himself. It is his duty to exert himself to do some useful work. An idle man's mind is the devil's workshop, as the proverb goes. Islam curses the man who is a parasite or a burden on society. "Accursed is he who throws his burden on other people".
(17) Sanctity of Occupation and Profession:
To have an occupation besides being a duty is something sacred and is liked by Allah. Occupation is semi-jihad.
"Allah likes a believer having a profession".
"A man who works hard for the sake of his family is like a person who fights for the cause of Allah". (Wasa'ilush Shiah)
(18) Prohibition of Exploitation:
Islam resents and censures every form of slave labour and serfdom. It is enough for making a work unlawful, that it has the nature of utilizing the services of anyone else for one's own selfish and unfair ends.
(19) Extravagance and Wastage:
People are allowed to exercise control of their property, but that does not mean more than that they have a freedom to use it within the frame-work allowed by Islam. They are neither allowed to waste it in any way nor to expend it unnecessarily. It is unlawful to spend it on those luxuries and outrageous embellishments which have been described by Islam as squandering.
(20) Comforts in Life:
To provide the family (wife and children) such things which make their life easy is not only allowed, but is also encouraged so long as that does not involve extravagance and does not lead to anything unlawful.
The giver and the taker of illegal gratification have been severely censured by Islam and described as deserving of Hell-fire. Any money received as a bribe is unlawful.
Hoarding of foodstuffs and not bringing them to market, with a view to sell them when the prices go up, is prohibited. The Islamic Government is allowed to seize such a stock and put it on sale at a reasonable price even without the consent of the owner.
(23) Basis of earning is public interest and propriety and not the desire of people. Normally in financial matters importance is attached to the people's wants and inclinations, and for the legality of any profession, it is considered enough that it is in demand by the public. But Islam does not consider a mere demand to be enough for the soundness and desirability of any job or profession. It considers propriety and soundness as a necessary condition. In other words existence of a demand is not enough for the legality of any profession. On this basis Islam prohibits a number of professions and transactions. Such prohibited professions are of several kinds:
Dealing in Things Which Give Currency to Ignorance and False Ideas: Anything which encourages ignorance, perversion of thinking or distortion of belief is unlawful, even if there exists sufficient demand for it. On this basis selling of idols and crosses, adornment of women with a view to deceive their suitors, praising of anybody who does not deserve praise and soothsaying and divining are prohibited. Any income derived through such means is unlawful.
Dealing in Misleading and Stupefying Articles: The sale and purchase of all such books, films and other articles which in some way or other spread misguidance or corruption in society, is prohibited.
Any Action Which May be Helpful to Enemy: To make money through any action which may strengthen the position of the enemy militarily, economically, morally or technologically and weakens the Islamic front is prohibited and is unlawful. Not only the sale of arms and other important equipment to the enemy is not allowed, but the sale of rare manuscripts is also prohibited.
To make money through anything which may be harmful to the individual or society such as the sale of intoxicants, gambling equipment, things which are basically unclean and the things that are forged or adulterated is prohibited. Gambling, defamation of a believer, support of the wrong-doers and acceptance of a post offered by an unjust ruler also come under this category.
There is also another kind of unlawful earning. There are certain tasks for which remuneration must not be accepted. They are too holy to be paid for and hence they should not be turned into a means of earning. Such tasks are 'ifta' (telling the rules of Islamic law), administering justice, giving religious education, delivering a sermon and the like. The profession of a physician also possibly comes under this category.
These jobs are too sacred to be made a source of securing income and collecting money. These duties should be performed without accepting any compensation. The Muslim treasury should ensure that the expenses of those who undertake these sacred jobs are met.
(24) Sanctity of Defending Rights:
It is a sacred duty to safeguard the individual as well as the social rights and to fight against any transgressor:
"Allah does not like abusing others, unless a man has been wronged." (Surah an-Nisa, 4:148) The Holy Prophet has said:
"The best jihad is to say the just word before a despotic ruler".
Imam Ali has quoted the Holy Prophet as having said:
"No nation can occupy a commendable position unless it is able to secure the rights of the weak against the strong without any fear". (Nahjul Balaghah - See Letter 53)
(25) Continuous Struggle Against Corruption and Improving the Existing Conditions:
The principle of enjoining good and restraining from evil is, in the words of Imam Muhammad Baqir, the basis of all Islamic injunctions. This principle keeps a Muslim in a state of seeking continuous reform and making incessant struggle against corruption and disorder:
"You are the best nation that has been raised for mankind, for you exhort to what is good and restrain from evil." (Surah Ale Imran, 3:110)
The Holy Prophet has said:
"You must exhort to do good and restrain from evil, otherwise Allah will put you under the control of the wicked. Then the good among you will be praying, but their prayer will be in vain". (Nahjul Balaghah)
Islam is above all a monotheistic religion. It does not accept any doubt in regard to theoretical and practical monotheism. In Islam all ideas, behaviors and conducts begin with Allah and end with Him.
Islam severely rejects every kind of dualism, trinity, and polytheism and is opposed to every idea that is contrary to monotheism such as the recognition of two independent, fundamental and exclusive principles of Allah and Satan, Allah and man or Allah and matter. Whatever is done, must begin and end with the name of Allah and must be done for His sake and to gain His pleasure. Anything which does not conform to this conception is un-Islamic. In Islam all paths lead to monotheism. Islamic morals spring from monotheism and end there. The same is the case with Islamic education, Islamic politics, Islamic economy and Islamic socialism.
In Islam every act begins with the name of Allah and with His help. "In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful". "All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the universe". Everything takes place with the name of Allah and with His support. "I put my trust in Allah and on Him should the believers rely".
Islamic monotheism is not a mere idea and a dry belief, as Allah is not separate from His creatures. He is with all of them and encompasses them all. Everything begins with Him and ends with Him. The idea of monotheism encompasses the entire existence of a real monotheist. It controls all his ideas, faculties and behavior, and gives them direction. That is why a true Muslim thinks of Allah in the beginning, in the middle and in the end of every act he performs. He never associates anything with Allah.
(27) Doing Away with Intermediaries:
Though Islam acknowledges that Allah's blessings come to the world through certain intermediaries and believes that the system of causation operates both in material and spiritual affairs, it does not recognize any intermediary as far as the question of worship and adoration is concerned. As we know, all other revealed religions have been deformed and altered, and as a result the individual has forgotten the value of his direct contact with Allah. Now it is supposed that there exists a gap between man and Allah, and only the priests and divines can be in direct communication with Allah. Islam considers this idea to be polytheistic. The Holy Qur'an expressly says:
"If My bondmen ask you about Me, tell them that I am close to them and respond to the prayer of those who pray." (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:186)
(28) Possibility of Coexistence with Those Who Believe in Only One Allah:
From the point of view of Islam, the Muslims under certain conditions can live amicably in their country with such followers of other religions, as originally believed in monotheism, though now they have deviated from their original beliefs, such as the Jews, the Christians, and the Magians etc. But the Muslims cannot live together in a Muslim country with the polytheists. Anyhow, in their own higher interest the Muslims can conclude with the polytheists, a peace treaty, a non-aggression pact or an agreement on any specific subject.
Equality and non-discrimination are the principal articles of Islamic ideology. From the point of view of Islam all men are essentially equal. They have not been created in two or more than two strata. Blood, race or nationality is not the criterion of superiority. A Qurayshi Sayyid and a Negro are equal to each other. In Islam freedom, democracy, and justice are the by-products of equality.
From the point of view of Islam an individual can be deprived of his civil rights in his own interest and in the interest of society. But that can be done under very specific condition and that too only for a limited period only. Anyhow this provision has nothing to do with any racial discrimination. From Islamic point of view temporary slavery is allowed only for reformatory and educational purposes. This question has no economic and exploitary significance.
(30) Rights, duties and punishments are bisexual in Islam. Man and woman both are human beings and as such they have many common characteristics. But as they belong to two different sexes, they have some traits which are peculiar to either of them only. Their rights, duties and punishments are common to both the sexes.
In this respect there is no difference between a man and a woman. The right of acquiring knowledge, the right of worship, the right of choosing a spouse, the right of owning and disposing of property are all unisexual. But in some secondary cases where the question of sex has some special significance, the position of man and woman, though equal, is dissimilar and bisexual.