by M S M Saifullah
It is an Islamic viewpoint that every nation was sent a Messenger for their guidance. The important matter was the concept of Tawheed i.e., in oneness of Allah. The secondary matter was Shariah which kept changing from tribe to tribe and nation to nation. Allah, the most high, alone knows what is good for His creation. As it is mentioned in the Qur'an:
And for every Ummah (a community or a nation), there is a Messenger; when their Messenger comes, the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged. (Qur'an 10:47)
And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): "Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Taghut (all false deities, etc. i.e., do not worship Taghut besides Allah)." Thenof them were some whom Allah guided and of them were some upon whom the straying was justified. So travel through the land and see what was the endof those who denied (the truth). (Qur'an 16:36)
Some of these Messengers are mentioned in the Qur'an by Allah and some of them are not as the Qur'an says:
And, indeed We have sent Messengers before you (O Muhammad(P)); of some of them We have related to you their story and of some We have not related to you their story, and it was not given to any Messenger that he should bring a sign except by the Leave of Allah. So, when comes the Commandment of Allah, the matter will be decided with truth, and the followers of falsehoodwill then be lost. (Qur'an 40:78)
So, we decided to have a look at the issue of Messengers sent to various tribes and nations and taking the advice of the Qur'an So travel through theland and see what was the end of those who denied (the truth).
The content in this post is a discovery by serendipity. The information sometimes came from lazy browsing through the books on social anthropology and sometimes from serious research. As it was mentioned before the Islamic belief is that every nation on the earth was sent a Prophet for their guidance. As the time passed by corruption was introduced in the religion and instead of worshopping one true God, false dieties were worshipped alongwith it. The best example would be of Arabia before the advent of Prophet Muhammad(P). They worshipped idols like al-Uzza along with Allah.
The material below is an attempt to show that how different tribes in different parts of the world had Monotheism, i.e., worship of one true God.But along the true God some subservient gods are also worshipped in some cases.
THE KAPAUKU PAPUANS OF WEST GUINEA
The material is taken from a book called The Kapauku Papuans Of West Guinea by Leopold Pospisil. It is a case study of Stone-Age Kapauku tribe [, pp. 96] who led their aboriginal lives undisturbed by the spreading western civilization until 1938. The Kapauku Papuans are mountain people who belong to one of the several tribes whose members inhabit the central highlands ofwestern New Guinea. Their country, most of which lies 1500m above sea level, is composed of rugged mountain chains and deep valleys.
The Kapauku have an interesting world view. If we have to compare their religion versus Islam, the difference is very little. Regarding the Creatorof the universe, the Kapauku believe:
The universe itself and all existence was Ebijata, "designed by Ugatame", the Creator, Ugatame has a dual nature: He is supposed to be masculine andfeminine at the same time, is referred to as the two entities, and is manifested to the people by the duality of the sun and the moon. To my enquiry whether Ugatame was the sun and the moon I received the answer a firm denial. The sun is conceived as the ball of fire, because it provides light and is warm; moon is believed to be a cold light like that of a firefly or the bacteria that infest rotting wood. Sun and moon are only manifestations of Ugatame who thus makes his presence known to the people. they definitely are not Creator himself. [, pp. 84]
On the nature of Ugatame, the Creator:
Ugatame is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, credited with the creation of all things and with having determined all events. Strangely nough, however, he is not believed to exist himself. When I questioned this contention, a Kapauku defended skillfully by a question: "But how can he exist when he created all the existence?" Obviously Ugatame is beyondexistence, because to Kapauku all that exists must be of phenomenonal nature; one must be able to see, hear, smell, taste or feel it. But theCreator is beyond this phenomenal dimension, because of the simple reason that He created it. because He is so to speak, in the fifth dimension and isnot of phenomenal nature, He is able to be omnipresent." [, pp. 84]
How about good and evil?
From this position the Kapauku "logicians" reason further that evil as well as good have been equally created and determined by Ugatame. Consequently, he can be neither good, nor bad, but he must be indifferent. [, pp. 84]
In the world created by Ugatame everything is real to the Kapauku. Even the evil spirits that belong to the creation of Ugatame are necessarily phenomenal and not supernatural. [, pp. 85]
On the aspect of free will, Kapauku think:
As a further extrapolations from above premises the Kapauku argue that because everything has been determined by Ugatame there can not be anything like a free will in man, and consequently there is no sin. After all, reator created good as well as evil, so why should he punish a man for executing his own will? [, pp. 84-85]
An interesting argument between a Kapauku and a Christian Missionary:
"... a Kapauku is basically logical; he refuses to accept dogmas that either oppose clear empirical evidence or that contradict his commonsense or logic. On this subject an incident in the year 1955 was illuminating to me. A very old man from the mapia region, supported by his two sons, managed to come to see me in the Kamu valley. As he explained to me, his main purpose in coming was a problem he wanted to have clarified before he died. The problem concerned the white man. He could not understand how it is possible that thewhite man could be so clever and ingenious in designing such amazing contrivances as aeroplanes (which the old man could see flying over his valley), guns, medicines, clothes, and steel tools, and at the same time could be so primitive and illogical in his religion. "How can you think," he argued, "that a man can sin and can have a free will, and at the same time believe that your God is omnipotent, that He created the world and etermined all the happenings? If He determined all that happens, and (therefore) also the bad deeds, how can a man be held responsible? Why, if he is omnipotent, did the Creator have to change himself into a man to allow himself to be killed (crucified) when it would have been enough for him just to order men to behave?" The notion that anything can be absolutely bad or good was quite incomprehensible to him. Furthermore, the Christian notion of man resembling God in appearance appeared to him as utterly primitive(tabe-tabe, meaning stupid). [, pp. 85]
It is quite surprising that a tribe from stone age could argue so rationally and logically with a Christian Missionary on the aspect of God. We Muslims also use the same arguments when it comes to the concept of God. And of course, when the Kapauku heard that the God became man they called the concept "primitive" and "tabe-tabe" (stupid). Well, "polemics" against Christianity started in the stone age itself, Muslims are not to be blamed for that!!!
Lastly, now where is this Ugatame, their supreme god, residing? Waiting for the shock:
In the view of Kamu Kapauku the world is a flat block of stone and soil that is surrounded with water and extends indefinitely into the depth thus providing no room for an underworld. Above the earth is a solid bowl of blue sky that limits the known world at the horizon. During the day the sun travels from east to west on the inside of the inverted bowl of sky and thus provides light. In the evening it slips under the edge of the bowl and travels above it from west to east. Because the bowl of the sky is solid, it shields the earth from sun's rays, thus bringing night. an empirical support for this theory according to my informants, is provided by the stars. They are thought to be perforations in the solid sky, through which the rays of the returning sun penetrate at night. In the morning the sun emerges in the east under the canopy of the sky, thus making a new day. Beyond the solid wl of sky exists another world that may be similar to ours, the abode of Ugatame, the Creator." [, pp. 84]
It is quite surprising that the Kapauku knew where their God is, the Pharaoh knew where the God of Moses (as) is as the surah below mentions Fir'aun (Pharaoh) said: "O chiefs! I know not that you have an ilah (a god) other than me, so kindle for me (a fire), O Haman, to bake (bricks out of) clay, and set up for me a Sarhan (a lofty tower, or palace, etc.) in order that I may look at (or look for) the Ilah (God) of Musa (Moses); and verily, I think that he [Musa (Moses)] is one of the liars." (Qur'an 28:38)
But some of the Sufis and Christians do not know where the God is. They say that the God is everywhere, in us and in them. For Muslims it is an important point of Aqeedah and must be known. Know you Lord before everything else!!!
THE RELIGION OF DINKA OF AFRICA
The people of Dinka live in a land which lies in a vast arc around the swamps of central Nile basin in the Southern Sudan. It is a flat country of open savannah and savannah forest, intersected by many rivers and streams converging upon the central basin of the Nile. About the nature of the Dinka's religious philosophy:
The word which any enquirer into Dinka religion will first and most frequently hear is nhialic. Literally, the word is the locative form of nhial, meaning 'up' or 'above', and nhialic is the word used in many contexts in which we shoud speak of 'the sky'. Part of the meaning of nhialic, then, is conveyed by the 'sky' and 'in the above'. But further, nhialic is addressed and referred to as 'creator' (aciek) and 'my father' (wa), and prayers and sacrifice are offered to it. [. pp. 29]
Regarding the attributes of nhialic:
It would be easy, it is true, to translate nhialic aciek and nhialic wa as 'God the creator' and 'God (my) father', for the attributes of nhialic and'God' there closely coincide, as do many others - unity, power, justice, 'highness', for example. [, pp. 29]
In Dinka there are important interconnexions between notions of creation and of fatherhood, through the verb 'to create' is never interchangeable with the verb 'to beget'. Divinity (i.e., nhialic) created (cak) men in the beginning, and the men he created begot or bore (dhieth) children. Divinity id not 'beget' or 'bear' men, and it would be a linguistic mistake in Dinka either to use this express for the creation of men by Divinity, or to say that father and mother 'created' their child. Dhieth means both 'to beget' and 'to give birth to', so that verbally the activities of men and women in procreation are not distinguished from each other. When a man was asked to explain what happened in coitus, he described the physical act, and added 'And that is called begetting (dhieth), and Divinity will then slowly create (cak) the child in woman's belly.' [, pp. 39] And, of course, it goes without saying that when the woman is barren, it means that the Divinity has 'refused' her a child. Other attributes of Divinity are the Absolute Truth and the Judge.
Divinity is specially needed to intervene in human affairs, to put them straight by making the truth appear. Wet nhialic, the 'word' of Divinity, is the truth, or what really and absolutely is so; and the Dinka think that in certain circumstances men may speak this totally objective 'word', representing to others the true nature of things, whether of present, past, of future situations. Cit nhialic, 'like Divinity' or 'as Divinity', is one of the common expressions men used to guarantee the truth of what they say, lying or cheating him and can take no further action of his own in the matter. In some of the invocations reproduced later it will be seen that Divinity is made the final judge or right or wrong, even when men feel sure that they are right. Divinity is thus the guardian of truth - and sometimessignifies to men what really is the case, behind or beyond their errors and falsehoods. [, pp. 47]
The author went on to say:
The Dinka have no problem with the prospering sinner, for they are sure that Divinity will ultimately bring justice. Since among them every man at some time must meet with suffering and misfortune, death or disease among his family or his cattle, there is always evidence, for those who wish to refer to it, of divine justice. It is a serious matter when a man calls on Divinity to judge between him and another, so seriously that only a fool would take the risks involved if he knew he was in the wrong, and to call upon Divinity as witness gives the man who does so an initial presumption of being in the right. [, pp. 47]
Divinity is also considered as the supreme being.
Nhialic, Divinity, has no plural; it is both singular and plural in intention. [, pp. 30]
Some interesting thoughts of Dinka about the Divinity:
Divinity is 'in the above', and what rises into the sky thus approaches Divinity. I have been asked whether an aeroplane ever touches the sky, and if Divinity can be seen from it. This is a clear indication that the Dinka can regard Divinity as distinct from the 'physical' sky, for the sky itself can obviously be seen from the earth. The way in which terrestrail being may approach Divinity is by going high, by levitation, or sometimes by building a mound or 'pyramid'. There are many reports of the rising of holy men into the sky, and sometimes by those who claim that special relations have been established between divinity and themselves. Conversely, Divinity makes contact with the earth by falling, or by letting something fall, or byhurling something down. Such contacts are made in rain, lightning, comets and meteorites, and also in free-divinites which fall and possess men. All these are manifestations of Divinity. [, pp. 32-33]
How about the beginning of relationship of Dinka and Divinity?
Logically, and for the Dinka historically, their relations with Divinity begin with a story of the supposed conjunction, and then division, of the earth and the sky - the emergence of their world as it is. [, pp. 33]
Dinka, to our surprise, have their own 'version' of Adam and Eve story, i.e., the first human beings on the earth.
One of the myths of the separation of earth and sky already given shows that the Dinka also have the idea that Divinity originally created a pair, Garang and Abuk, from whom all men are descended. [, pp. 40]
The first human beings, usually called Garang and Abuk, living on earth had to take care when they were doing their little planting or pounding, lest a hoe or a pestle should strike Divinity, but one day the woman 'because she was greedy' (in this context any Dinka would view her 'greed' indulgently) decided to plant (or pound) more than the permitted grain of millet. In order to do so she took one of the long-handled hoes (or pestles) which the Dinka now use. In raising this pole to pound or cultivate, she struck Divinity who withdrew, offended, to present great distance from the earth, and sent a small blue bird (the colour od the sky) called atoc to sever the rope which had previously given the men access to the sky and to him. Since that time the country has been 'spoilt', for men have to labour for the food they need, and are often hungry. They can no longer as before freely reachDivinity, and they suffer sickness and death, which thus accompany their abrupt separation from Divinity. [, pp. 33-34] There are, of course, other 'versions' of the same story as described above.
From what we have seen above, it is clear that Monotheism existed among the tribes. And when Muslims encounter the Monotheism, we say, Subhaanallah, this is what Allah mentions in the Qur'an. We have to look for His Signs as Allah says:
Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things? (Qur'an
And Allah knows best.
 The Kapauku Papuans Of West Guinea, Leopold Pospisil, 1978, Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
 Divinity And Experience: The Religion Of The Dinka, Godfrey Lienhardt, 1978 (Reprint Of 1961 Edition), Oxford At The Clarendon Press.