Friday, March 28, 2008

The Purpose of the Creation of Human Being.

Dr. Bilal Philips

The purpose of creation is a topic that puzzles every human being at some point in his or her lifetime. Everybody, at some time or another, asks themselves the question: "Why do I exist?" or "For what purpose am I here on earth?"

The variety and complexity of the intricate systems, which constitute the fabric of both human beings and the world in which they exist, indicate that there must have been a Supreme Being who created them. Design indicates a designer. When human beings come across footprints on a beach, they immediately conclude that a human being had walked by their some time previously.

No one imagines that the waves from the sea settled in the sand and by chance produced a depression looking exactly like human footprints. Nor do humans instinctively conclude that they were brought into existence without a purpose. Since purposeful action is a natural product of human intelligence, humans conclude that the Supreme Intelligent Being who created them must have done so for a specific purpose. Therefore, human beings need to know the purpose for their existence in order to make sense of this life and to do what is ultimately beneficial for them.

Throughout the ages, however, there has been a minority among humans who have denied the existence of God. Matter, in their opinion, is eternal and mankind is merely a chance product of accidental combinations of its elements. Consequently, for them there was no answer to the question: "Why did God create man?" According to them, there simply is no purpose to existence. However, the vast majority of humankind over the ages have believed and continue to believe in the existence of a Supreme Being who created this world with a purpose. For them it was, and still is, important to know about the Creator and the purpose for which He created human beings.

Why Did God Create Man?

To answer the question: "Why did God create man?" it must first be determined from which perspective the question is being asked. From the point of view of God it would mean: "What caused God to create human beings?" While from the human point of view it would mean: "For what purpose did God create humans?" Both points of view represent aspects of the intriguing question: "Why do I exist?"

In the following pages, both aspects of the question will be explored based on the clear picture painted by divine revelation. This is not a topic for human speculation, because human guesswork cannot possibly produce the whole truth in this matter. How can human beings intellectually deduce the reality of their existence when they can hardly understand how their own brain or its higher entity, the mind, functions?

Consequently, the numerous philosophers who have speculated on this question through the ages have come up with innumerable answers, all of which are based on assumptions, which cannot be proven. Questions on this topic have even led a number of philosophers to claim that we do not really exist and that the whole world is imaginary.

For example, the Greek philosopher Plato (428-348 CE) argued that the everyday world of changeable things, which man comes to know by the use of his senses, is not the primary reality, but is a shadow world of appearances.

Many others claimed and continue to claim that there is no purpose for the creation of humans at all. According to them, human existence is merely a product of chance. There can be no purpose if life evolved from non-living matter, which only became animate by pure luck. Humankind's supposed 'cousins,' the monkeys and apes are not bothered with questions of existence, so why human beings should be bothered with them?!

The Necessity of the Answer

Although most people put the question of why we are created aside after occasional brief reflection, it is extremely critical for human beings to know the answer. Without knowledge of the correct answer, human beings become indistinguishable from the other animals around them. The animal needs and desires like eating, drinking and procreating become the purpose of human existence by default, and human effort is then focused to this limited sphere.

When material satisfaction develops into the most important goal in life, human existence becomes even more degraded than that of the lowest of animals. Human beings will consistently misuse their God-given intelligence when they lack knowledge of their purpose of existence. The degraded human mind uses its abilities to create drugs and bombs and becomes engrossed in fornication, pornography, homosexuality, fortune-telling etc.

Without knowledge of the purpose of life, human existence loses all meaning and is consequently wasted, and the reward of an eternal life of happiness in the hereafter is completely destroyed. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that human beings correctly answer the question: "Why are we here?"

How to Know the Answer

Humans most often turn to other human beings like themselves for answers. However, the only place that clear and precise answers to these questions can be found is in the books of Divine Revelation. It was necessary that God reveal the purpose to man through His prophets, may Allah exalt their mention, because human beings are incapable of arriving at the correct answers by themselves. All of the prophets of God taught their followers the answers to the question: "Why did God create man?"

From the perspective of humankind, the question "Why did God create man?' implies: "For what purpose was man created?" In the final revelation (i.e. The Holy Quran), this question is answered without any ambiguity. God informed humans that every human being is born with an innate consciousness of God.

Allah Says: "[Remember] when your Lord extracted from the loins of Adam's children their descendants and made them testify (saying): 'Am I not your Lord?' They said: 'Yes, we testify to it.' [This was] in case you say on the Day of Judgment: 'We were unaware of this.' Or you say: "It was our ancestors who worshipped others besides God and we are only their descendants. Will you then destroy us for what those falsifiers did?'" [Al-‘Araf, 7: 172-3]

The Prophet Muhammad SAW explained that when Allah created Adam (Adam) He took from him a covenant at a place called Na'man on the 9th day of the 12th month. He then extracted from Adam all of his descendants who would be born until the end of the world, generation after generation, and spread them out before Him to take a covenant from them. He spoke to them, making them bear witness that He was their Lord.

Consequently, every human being is responsible for belief in God, which is imprinted on each and every soul. It is based on this inborn belief that Allah defined the purpose of humankind's creation:

"I have created the jinn and humankind only for My worship." [Ad-Dhariyaat, 51: 56]

We Are Here To Worship God

Thus, the essential purpose for which humankind was created is the worship of God. However, the Almighty is not in need of human worship. He did not create human beings out of a need on His part. If not a single human worshipped God, it would not diminish His Glory in any way, and if all of mankind worshipped Him, it would not increase His Glory in any way. God is Perfect. He alone exists without any needs. All created beings have needs. Consequently, it is humankind that needs to worship God.

The Meaning of Worship

To understand why human beings need to worship God, one must first understand what is meant by the term 'worship.' The English term 'worship' comes from the old English 'weorthescipe' meaning 'honour'. Consequently, worship in the English language is defined as ‘the performance of devotional acts in honour of a deity’. According to this meaning, man is instructed to show gratitude to God by glorifying Him.

In the Quran, the final revelation, Allah Says:

"Glorify the praises of your Lord." [An-Nasr, 110: 3].

In glorifying God, man chooses to be in harmony with the rest of the creation, which naturally glorifies its Creator. Allah addresses this phenomenon in many chapters of the Quran. For example, Allah states:

"The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them glorify Him and there is nothing which does not glorify His praise. However, you do not understand their glorification." [Al-Isra, 17: 44]

However, in Arabic, the language of the final revelation, worship is called ‘`Ibadah’, which is closely related to the noun ‘`Abd’, meaning ‘a slave.’ A slave is one who is expected to do whatever his master wills.

Consequently, worship, according to the final revelation, means 'obedient submission to the will of God.' This was the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by God to humankind. For example, this understanding of worship was emphatically expressed by Prophet ‘Isa (Jesus) in the Gospel according to Matthew, 7 : 21: "None of those who call me 'Lord' will enter the kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."

It should be noted that 'will' in this quote means 'what God wants human beings to do' and not 'what God permits humans to do', because nothing happens in creation without the will (permission) of God. The 'Will of God' is contained in the divinely revealed laws, which the prophets, May Allah exalt their mention, taught their followers. Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship. In this sense, glorification also becomes worship when humans choose to obey God's instructions regarding His glorification.

The Need for Worship

Why do human beings need to worship and glorify God by obeying the divinely revealed laws? This is because obedience to divine law is the key to success in this life and the next. The first human beings, Adam (Adam) and Eve, were created in paradise and later expelled from paradise for disobeying the divine law. The only way for human beings to return to paradise is by obedience to the law.

’Isa (Jesus, the Messiah) was reported in the Gospel according to Matthew to have made obedience to the divine laws the key to paradise: Now behold, one came and said to him: "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" So he said to him: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but One that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."

Also in Matthew 5:19, ‘Isa (Jesus) was reported to have insisted on strict obedience to the commandments, saying: "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven"

Divine laws represent guidance for humankind in all walks of life. They define right and wrong for them and offer human beings a complete system governing all of their affairs. The Creator alone knows best what is beneficial for His creation and what is not. The divine laws command and prohibit various acts and substances to protect the human spirit, the human body and human society from harm. In order for human beings to fulfil their potential by living righteous lives, they need to worship God through obedience to His commandments.

Remembrance of God

All of the various acts of worship contained in the divine laws are designed to help humans remember God. It is natural for human beings to sometimes forget even the most important things. Humans often become so engrossed in fulfilling their material needs that they totally forget their spiritual needs.

Regular prayer is ordained to organize the day of the true believer around the remembrance of God. It interweaves spiritual needs with material needs on a daily basis. The regular daily need to eat, work and sleep is linked to the daily need to renew man's connection with God. With regard to regular prayer, Allah states in the Quran:

"Verily, I am Allah; there is no god beside Me, so worship Me and establish regular prayer for My remembrance." [Ta-ha, 20:14]

Regarding fasting, Allah stated in Quran:

"O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may become God-conscious." [Al-Baqarah, 2:183]

The believers are encouraged to remember God as much as possible. Although, moderation in all spheres of life, whether material or spiritual, is generally encouraged in divine law, an exception is made regarding the remembrance of Allah. It is virtually impossible to remember God too much. Consequently, in the final revelation, Allah encourages the believers to remember God as often as possible:

"O believers! Remember Allah often." [Al-Ahzab, 33:41]

Remembrance of God is stressed because sin is generally committed when God is forgotten. The forces of evil operate most freely when consciousness of God is lost. Consequently, the satanic forces seek to occupy people's minds with irrelevant thoughts and desires to make them forget God. Once God is forgotten, people willingly join the corrupt elements. The final revelation, the Quran, addresses this phenomenon as follows:

"Satan got the better of them and caused them to forget Allah. Those are the party of Satan. Truly the party of Satan are the real losers" [Al-Mujadalah, 58:19]

God, through divine law, has prohibited intoxicants and gambling primarily because they cause human beings to forget God. The human mind and body easily become addicted to drugs and games of chance. Once addicted, humankind's desire to continually be stimulated by them leads them into all forms of corruption and violence among themselves.

Allah Says: "Satan's plan is to incite enmity and hatred among you with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah and regular prayer. Will you not then abstain?" [Al-Maidah, 5: 91]

Consequently, humankind needs to remember God for their own salvation and growth. All humans have times of weakness in which they commit sins. If they have no means of remembering God, they sink deeper and deeper into corruption with every sin. However, those who follow the divine laws will be constantly reminded of God, which will give them a chance to repent and correct themselves. The final revelation accurately describes this process in Quran:

“Those who, having done something shameful or having wronged their own souls, remember Allah and immediately ask forgiveness for their sins…" [Al-Imran, 3:135]

The Religion of Islam

The most complete system of worship available to human beings today is the system found in the religion of Islam. The very name 'Islam' means 'submission to the will of God.' Although it is commonly referred to as ‘the third of the three monotheistic faiths,' it is not a new religion at all. It is the religion brought by all of the prophets of God, may Allah exalt their mention, for humankind. Islam was the religion of Adam (Adam), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and ‘Isa (Jesus), May Allah exalt their mention.

God addresses this issue in the final revelation with regard to Prophet Abraham saying:

"Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was an upright Muslim who did not worship others besides God." [Al-Imran, 3: 67]

Since there is only One God and humankind are one species, the religion, which God has ordained for human beings, is one. He did not prescribe one religion for the Jews, another for Indians, yet another for Europeans, etc. Human spiritual and social needs are uniform, and human nature has not changed since the first man and woman were created. Consequently, no other religion is acceptable to God besides Islam, as He clearly states in Al-Quran:

"Surely Allah’s religion is Islam." [Al-Imran, 3:19]


"And whoever desires a religion besides Islam will not have it accepted, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter." [Al-Imran, 3:85]

®Islam Web

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Concept of Worship.

The Concept of Worship.

Ibn Abdullāh

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.

A Muslim should engage his life remembering the purpose of his creation and the objective for which he exists in this world. Allāh Almighty Subhānahu wata’ala clarifies to us this objective saying:  “And I created not the jinn and humans except that they should worship Me (alone).” [Adh-Dhariyat, 51:56].  This verse plainly explains the purpose of our creation; that our lives should not be spent except in worshipping Allāh Almighty . Solah, fasting, alms giving, Hajj, truthfulness, trustworthiness, being dutiful to parents, supplication, reading the Qur’an, hoping for Allāh’s mercy and being afraid of His punishment are all acts of worship.

The Best Deeds.

The greatest type of worship is to perform that which Allāh Almighty makes obligatory on His servants and to refrain from all that He forbids.

Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu’anhu) narrated that Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allāh says: ‘The most beloved deeds with which my slave comes nearer to me are what I have enjoined on him.’” [Al-Bukhari].

Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullāh) said: “Since the Salaf lived their whole life in worship, it is then necessary for us to know with which type of worship they started, and which one have they given priority.” He then answered: "The best acts of worship are the most pleasing to Allāh Almighty  in that particular time. The best act of worship during the presence of a guest is to take care of him and not to be distracted from that by other recommended acts of worship. This is also in performing one’s duties towards one’s wife and family. The best act of worship in the night is to be occupied with prayer, reciting the Qur’an, supplication and dzikir. The best thing during the time of the Azan (i.e. the call for solah) is to leave whatever worship one is doing and answer the Mu`asin (i.e. the one calling the Azan) by repeating what he says. The best thing during the time of the five obligatory prayers is to exert one's efforts in their prompt performance. The best thing when the poor is in dire need of assistance is to assist him and give that preference over supererogatory dzikir. The best thing to do when your brother is sick or dead is to visit him, attend his funeral, and give that priority over your supererogatory dzikir. And the best thing to do when you are afflicted and suffer people’s harm is to be patient and not to run away from them."

It indicates that the Muslim should be moving in between stations of servitude. If you see the scholars you see him with them; if you see those who are devotedly performing acts of worship, you see him with them, and if you see those giving generously in charity, you see him with them!

The Conditions of Accepting an Act of Worship.

Indeed what has afflicted Muslims in the course of their long history and what is afflicting them today is a consequence of their deviation from the real concept of worship and application of the two conditions for acts of worship to be accepted, which are: sincerity and following the path of the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). While abandoning sincerity leads to directing acts of worship that are solely Allāh’s to others besides Him; lack of following the path of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) leads to the appearance of various kinds of worship for which there is neither permission from Allāh Almighty  nor recommendation from His Prophet(Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) .

However, some people restrict the concept of worship to rituals only. Whenever this set of people works, they abstain completely from worship and whenever they worship, they keep away completely from work. This is unfortunately the most common belief. It is the people who hold this concept who say, “What does religion have to do with a woman’s dressing and her work?" "What does religion have to do with our personal behaviour?" Their purpose is to remove religion from one’s life and confine it only to the mosque. That is why you see someone who prays, fasts, and reads Qur’an, yet he cheats, bribes, takes bribes and wrongs others. You also see a woman who prays yet she disobeys laws of Allāh Almighty  by dressing immodestly and mingling with men.

Deeds which one performs habitually become acts of worship through good intentions. The farmer in his farm, the laborers, the trader, or the practitioner of any other profession is capable of turning his occupation into an act of worship, provided that he does not tarnish it with cheating, lying, tricking etc. This is the concept of worship in its wider sense. To have a full imagination of acts of obedience makes a Muslim full of good, mercy, and benefits for his fellow human beings, thereby encouraging him to do more acts of worship and assist his nation.

It is possible for you to add a viable brick into the structure of this nation and add to your scale of good deeds weighty works, which may appear insignificant to you. Listen to what the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said: “Do you want me to tell you of what is better than the rank of fasting, solah and charity?” The Companions said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allāh.” He said: “Conciliating between people among whom there is discord. [Abu Dawud]

Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said: “Whoever visits a sick person or a brother of his for Allāh’s sake, a caller will call him thus, ‘You are good and your passage is good. May you take Paradise for an abode’ [At-Tirmidzi].

Abu Hurayrah (radiyAllāhu’anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:  “While a man was walking along the road, he saw a branch of a tree with thorns lying on the road and he removed it, so Allāh appreciated his deed (and thus rewarded him) for that and forgave his sins.” [Muslim].

It is also reported that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said:  “Deeds of my nation – both the good and evil – were shown to me and I found that among their good deeds is the removal of harmful things from the pathway.” [Muslim].

Restricting righteous deeds to special acts of worship makes seekers of piety spend all their time in repetition of limited deeds as if they do not see that other ways lead to the pleasure of Allāh Almighty .

Worship Covers All Aspects Of Life.

Worshipping Allāh Almighty  does indeed necessitate using all one’s limbs in the obedience of Allāh Almighty  and carrying out His orders. One can worship Allāh Almighty  by preventing his eyes from gazing at unlawful things and using them to look at what Allāh Almighty loves, like a copy of the Qur’an, books of knowledge etc. He can also worship Him by preventing his ears, hands and feet from all that Allāh Almighty  forbids and using them in things that He enjoins and loves.

Allāh Almighty says: “Say (O Mohammad); verily my solah, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn’s and all that exists). He has no partner. And of this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims.” [Al-An ‘am, 6:162-163].

As for the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) love of worship has penetrated deep into his heart and the greatest manifestation of his worship is that he submitted his whole life to Allāh Almighty  in all his conditions.

Allāh Almighty says: “And who can be better in religion than one who submits his face (himself) to Allāh and he is a Muhsin (a doer of good).” [An-Nisa’ 4:125].

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to fear Allāh Almighty  and always seek for His forgiveness. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “By Allāh! I indeed invoke Allāh for forgiveness and repent to Him more than seventy times a day.” [Al-Bukhari]

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to worship Allāh Almighty  in the night and would keep on standing until his legs became swollen and when his wife, ‘Aishah (radiyallahu’anha) asked the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) : “O Messenger of Allāh! You do this when your former and latter sins have been forgiven?” Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: “Should I not then be a grateful slave?” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

However, the most wonderful aspect of the Prophet’s (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  worship is that astonishing combination of the highest level of worship and performance of his role as the head of his nation.

Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “By Allāh! I am the most fearful of Allāh among you, but I fast, and eat; I pray and I sleep and I marry women. Whoever differs from my way is not of me.” [Al-Bukhari]

Ibn Taimiyyah (rahimahullah) said: “The heart cannot be good, prosper, have felicity and easiness, enjoy and have tranquility except through the worship of its Lord alone. Even if it attains all pleasures of this world it will not get peace and tranquility, for it has a natural spontaneous need to its Lord because He is its Lord…”

Nullifiers of Worship, And Reasons for Rejecting it.

Not fulfilling the two conditions of accepting a deed (namely, sincerely and coinciding with the way of the Prophet, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), are the foremost reasons one's deed may be rejected as we have mentioned before.

One of the Salaf (the righteous predecessors) said: “Indeed, Allāh has bestowed His favour upon His servants and commanded them to be grateful as much as they can, for gratitude, however little it may be, is a price for the favour, however big it may be. If one is not grateful, he has exposed the favour to extinction…”

The Effort Exerted By the Salaf in Worship.

Our Salaf, people whose hearts were full of love for Allāh Almighty  in all their conditions , they then became delighted, their souls became tranquil … peace ruled over their limbs ,then, thoughts of love replaced those of disobedience … the will to move nearer to Him replaced that of displeasing Him , movements of the tongue became that of obedience or contrary to disobedience.

When Naafi’ was asked about the activities of Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhu) at home, he replied: “He used to perform wudhu’ for every solah and recite Qur’an in between them [i.e. in between wudhu’ and solah.]”

Al-Hasan Al-Basri (rahimhullah) said – while describing efforts of Salaf in worship, “I have met people and I have accompanied groups. They (i.e. the people I have met and accompanied) did not use to rejoice at whatever came their way of the beauties of this world; nor did they use to get sad over whatever departed from them of this world. Rather, the world was less significant to them than the soil over which they walked. They would act by the book of their Lord and the Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). During the night they stood up in prayer, prostrated their faces and wept out of fear of Allāh.”

Whenever Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu) missed a congregational solah, he would atone for that by a day of fasting, a night vigil (in prayer) and manumission of a slave.

The wife of ‘Umar ibn Abdul-‘Aziz (rahimahullah) said: “I have never seen anyone who prayed, fasted and feared Allāh more than him (meaning her husband). He would pray ‘Isya’ prayer and then sit mentioning Allāh until he was overcome by slumber. He would remember some of the issues of the Last Day while he was on his bed and tremble like a sparrow and then sit down weeping. I would then cover him with a sheet.”

Wakee’ said: “Al-A’mash never missed the opening Takbir (in a congregational solah) for almost seventy years and I visited him for more than six years, and I have never seen him performing a missed Rak’ah.”

Suleiman Ibn Hamzah also said: “I have never prayed an obligatory solah alone except twice and even then I felt as if I had not prayed it at all.” It should be noted that he was almost ninety years old when he died.

Through worship, a believer’s soul becomes tranquil, that tranquility energizes it and tells it, “O soul! Be happy, for the home is near and reunion is imminent”. Therefore, do not terminate your journey and thus be denied reaching the home of the loved ones.

The Al-Ihsan before Allāh Almighty 

The word Muhsin (a doer of good) was mentioned in one of the quoted verses of the Qur’an which is derived from Al-Ihsan which is the performance of good; but what then is Al-Ihsan (excellece deeds) that attracts such a high position before Allāh Almighty  and makes the slave deserving of such a great description?

The answer was provided by the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  when he said:

“Al-Ihsan is to worship Allāh as if you see Him. And even though you do not see Him, He sees you!” [Muslim].

This narration means that man should worship Allāh Almighty , mindful of his closeness to Him and his standing before Him just as if he is seeing Him plainly. This state brings about Allāh Almighty -consciousness and love of Allāh Almighty  and purifies ones acts of worship.

Anas bin Mālik (radiyallāhu’anu) narrated that a man said: “O Messenger of Allāh! Tell me a short word that could benefit me.” The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Perform solah as if you are in your farewell solah, for if you do not see Allāh, He sees you.” And the meaning of the phrase “if you do not see Him, He sees you” is that if one cannot worship Allāh as if one sees Him, he should then worship Him with the conviction that Allāh does see him and that none of his affairs is concealed from Allāh.

Harithah related: “The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told me: “O Harithah! How do you find yourself this morning?” I replied: “A true believer.” then the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told me: “Watch what you say, for every word has a reality, so what confirms what you claimed” I then said: ‘O Messenger of Allāh! I keep myself away from the (leisure of this) world, spend my nights in solah and fast during my days. I am now as if I am looking at the throne of my Lord appearing. I am also as if I am looking at the inhabitants of Paradise as they visit one another. And it seems as if I am looking at the dwellers of hell as they howl therein!” The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) then said: “You have indeed seen (what you claimed to have seen). Therefore continue on your state of worship, O slave whom Allāh has illuminated his heart with faith!”

Al-Ihsan is to observe solah in the best form, moving closer to Allāh and beseeching Him secretly during the night when people are asleep, and it is also being benevolent to people.

Allāh Almighty  Says:“Verily, they were before this Muhsins - plural of Muhsin (i.e. Doers of good). They used to sleep but little by night (invoking their Lord and praying with fear and hope). And in the hours before dawn they were (found) asking (Allāh) for forgiveness. And in their properties there was the right of the beggar (who asked) and the poor (who do not ask others).”[Adh-Dhariyat, 51:17-19].

Al-Ihsan also means striving against one’s soul, struggle against Shaytan, hypocrites and unbelievers.

Allāh Almighty  Says:“And many a Prophet fought (in Allāh’s cause) and along with him (fought) large bands of religious learned men. But they never lost heart for that which did befall them in Allāh’s way, nor did they weaken nor degrade themselves. And Allāh loves the patient ones. And they said nothing but, ‘Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and our transgressions (in keeping our duties to you). Establish our feet firmly and give us victory over the disbelieving folk! So Allāh gave them the reward of this world, and the excellent reward of the hereafter. And Allāh loves the Muhsins (doers of good).” [Al-‘Imran, 3: 146-148].

It is also an aspect of Al-Ihsan to spend in the way of Allāh whether one is rich or poor and to suppress ones anger and forgive the ignorant ones when they misbehave.

 Allāh Almighty  Says:“Those who spend (in Allāh’s cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger and who pardon men; verily, Allāh loves the Muhsins (doers of good).” [Ali-‘Imran, 3: 134]

It is a part of Al-Ihsan to surrender to the truth, to love it and to listen to the revealed Book of Allāh with sound and healthy minds and attentive ears.

Allāh Almighty  Says:  “And when they listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognised. They say, “Our Lord! We believe; so write us among the witnesses. And why should we not believe in Allāh Almighty  and in that which has come to us of the truth (Islamic monotheism)? And we wish that our Lord will admit us (in Paradise on the Day of Resurrection) along with the righteous people (Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  and his companions). So because of what they said, Allāh rewarded them with gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), they will abide therein forever. Such is the reward of the Muhsins (doers of good).” [Al-Maidah, 5: 83-85]

Allāh Almighty  has promised a great reward for the Muhsins in this world and the next. He promises them protection and good things of this life when He Says:  Truly Allāh is with those who fear Him (keep their duty unto Him), and those who are Muhsins (doers of good).”[Al-Nahl, 16: 128]

Among the reward of good deeds is that it makes Muhsins win Allāh’s love.  Allāh Says:  “Verily, Allāh loves the Muhsins (doers of good).” [Ali-‘Imran, 3: 134]

Among the rewards of good deeds is that Allāh Almighty  will impart knowledge into the heart of the Muhsins, which will enable him to differentiate between lawful and unlawful things, and between truth and falsehood. Allāh Almighty  Says about Yusuf: “And when he (Yusuf) attained his full manhood, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. Thus We reward those who are Muhsins (doers of good).” [Yusuf, 12: 22].

Allāh Almighty  also rewards Muhsins by praising them and making His slaves praise them as well. The Almighty Says about Prophet Nuh (Noah, ‘alayhissalam) :  “Salam (peace) be upon Nuh (from Us) among the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists).” [As-Saffat, 37: 79]

About the reward of the Muhsins in the hereafter, Allāh Almighty  Says:  “For those who have done Al-Ihsan are the best (reward i.e. Paradise) and even more (i.e. having the honour of glancing upon the countenance of Allāh Almighty ). Neither darkness nor dust nor any humiliating disgrace shall cover their faces. They are the dwellers of Paradise, they will abide therein forever.” [Yunus, 10: 26]

The word “more” means having the prestige of seeing the Countenance of Allāh Almighty  as it has been successively related in many narrations that the believers will see their Lord on the day of Judgement. As a matter of fact, having the privilege of seeing the Gracious Countenance of Allāh Almighty  on the Last Day is a suitable reward for Al-Ihsan, since Al-Ihsan means to worship Allāh Almighty  in this world as if one sees Him. Glancing at His Gracious Countenance plainly on the Day of Judgement then becomes the greatest reward for Muhsins. As regards the unbelievers, their eyes will be screened from seeing Allāh Almighty  on that day, as their hearts were veiled from knowing Allāh Almighty  and fearing Him in this world.

The Consequence of Abandoning Worship.

One should fear Allāh Almighty  and beware of all things that invalidate worship or remove its reward. Among these are associating partners with Allāh Almighty  and showing off.

Allāh Almighty  says:“If they had joined in worship others with Allāh all that they used to do would have been of no benefit to them.” [Al-An ‘am, 6:88].

Another act that invalidates worship is innovation. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever does a deed upon which there is no order from us will have it rejected.”[Muslim]

Injustice to others also Destroys one’s Worship.

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said: “The bankrupt among my Nation is the one who comes on the Day of Resurrection with prayer, charity and fasting and yet has abused someone, slandered someone, taken someone’s money illegally, shed someone’s blood and beaten someone. Each of these people will be given for his good deeds (by way of compensation). If his good deeds however finish before judgement is passed on him, parts of their sins will be thrown on him, and he will then be cast into Hell.” [Muslim].

Of these things that invalidate one’s worship is filthy words uttered by some people without thinking of their consequences.

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  said: “A man may utter a word (carelessly) which displeases Allāh without thinking of its gravity and because of that he will be thrown into the Hell-fire.”  (Ibn Mājah).

The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  also told us of a man who said: “By Allāh! Allāh will not forgive so and so.” Allāh then said: “Who is that person swearing by Me that I will not forgive so and so? I have indeed forgiven him and render your own deeds fruitless!” (Muslim).

The Fruits of Worship.

Worship has many praiseworthy and beneficial results, such as:

1.Making the entire life of the Muslim for the sake of Allāh Almighty and in His service. One of the most obvious results of worship can be noticed in the performance of prayer; Allāh says: “…Indeed, solah prohibits immorality and wrongdoing…” [Al-Ankabut, 29:45]

2. Resulting in one leading a prosperous life, as Allāh Almighty Says: “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” [Al-Nahl, 16:97]

3.Worship is training for the soul and the source of its satisfaction.

4. Freeing the person from being enslaved to other than Allāh Almighty.

5.Purifying the believer.

6.Reforming the community.

7. Being granted victory from Allāh Almighty . He Says:“…And Allāh Almighty  will surely support those who support Him [i.e., His cause]. Indeed, Allāh is Powerful and Exalted in Might. [And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish solah and give Zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allāh is the outcome of [all] matters.” [Al-Hajj, 22:40-41]

Having possessed honour and having been worthy of the support of Allāh Almighty , the Muslims then neglected Jihad and favoured lives of comfort and relaxation over this act of worship. They, therefore, began following their vain desires, endeavoring to fulfil every one of them to the maximum, which resulted in them losing the support of Allāh Almighty  to become subdued, oppressed and controlled by their enemies.

8. Entitling the person to the protection of Allāh Almighty. Jundub bin ‘Abdullah (radiyallahu’anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allāh(Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “When anyone offers the Solah Fajar , in congregation, he is under the protection of Allāh Almighty .” [Muslim]

9.Enabling oneself to be safeguarded and preserved by Allāh Almighty ; Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)said: “Be watchful of (the commandments of) Allāh Almighty  and He will (therefore) preserve you.” [At-Tirmidzi]

10.The angels supplicate for the worshipper.

11.Entitling the person to the love of Allāh Almighty .

12.Attaining tranquility.

13.Relieving the person during times of hardship, as in the story of the three men who were trapped in a cave and received relief from Allāh Almighty  due to their righteous deeds.

14.Elevating one's rank in Paradise.


It has become evident that the most important and the greatest obligation for the slave of Allāh to fulfil is his servitude to Allāh. The core of this servitude is to perform all types of worship such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and others, sincerely and exclusively for Allāh. Included in this is obeying Him in all He has commanded and refraining from that entire He has prohibited. Additionally, these acts of worship must establish according to the teachings and guidelines of the Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)  as adhering to the Sunnah is what leads to people's prosperity.

And Allāh Almighty Knows best.

[Via Islam Web]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Inclusiveness of Islam

Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo

The meaning of “The Inclusiveness of Islam” is that fact none other than that Islam is for all times and places. Regardless of whom a person may be or where he may be, Islam should be his religion and his way of life. This is just as truer for those who lived during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon Him, or those who will live in 2525 if God wills that there shall be such a year.

The correct understanding of this point revolves around a number of issues. The first important issue is that of the finality of Prophethood as vested in the Prophet Muhammad SAW. The second concerns the perfection of the religion and the manner in which it is able to guide humankind during and at all eras.

The Finality of Prophethood

God decreed that the Prophet Muhammad SAW would be His final messenger. God says:

“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of God and the seal of the Prophets. And God is Ever All-Aware of everything” [Al-Ahzab, 33:40]

The Prophet Muhammad himself said:

“I have been sent to all of the creation and the prophets have been sealed by me.” [Sahih Muslim]

Again, he said:

“The Children of Israel were led by the prophets; whenever a prophet died, a prophet succeeded (him). Lo! There will be no prophet after me” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim]

Thus, there finally came the Prophet who explicitly declared that he is the final prophet. The Prophets who came before the Prophet—as far as can be seen from what is narrated from them—did not make such a claim regarding themselves. Thus, for example, in Deuteronomy 18:17-19, God is telling Moses that He is going to send another messenger “like unto him” in the future. In the New Testament, in John 14:15-16, Jesus speaks of “another Comforter” being sent by God. (Also in John 16:7-8 and John 16:12-13 Jesus speaks of someone coming in the future.) On the other hand, the Prophet Muhammad SAW made it very clear that no prophet would come after him.

Being sent as the final messenger for humankind, there had to be some aspects that were unique concerning this last Prophet. These aspects include:

First, since no one could come later to correct any mistakes or distortions, the revelation received by the last prophet had to be preserved in its pristine purity. It is obviously beyond the scope of this short article, but a study of the history of the Quran and Sunnah would demonstrate that both of them were minutely preserved.

Second, the nature of the “sign” of the last prophet would have to be different as well. This is because this sign would have to affect not only the people who were alive during the time of the prophet, but also all those who would come later. The “sign” of the Prophet Muhammad SAW was the Quran, and its miraculous nature can still be appreciated today and will continue to be appreciated in the future.

Third, this final prophet could not simply be sent for one community among humankind—each then having their own final prophet and then differing with one another. This final prophet had to be sent for all of humankind, putting an end to the succession of prophets and being suitable for the world as a whole. The Prophet Muhammad was the only prophet to make it known that he was not sent only for a certain people, but rather for all the various peoples of the world. The Jews, for example, consider themselves to be a chosen race and that their message is meant exclusively for themselves. Thus, many orthodox Jews do not believe in proselytizing their faith. The New Testament also makes it clear that Jesus’ mission was to the Tribes of Israel. Matthew 10: 5-6 read:

“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Jesus is reported to have said when the Canaanite woman came to him for help:

“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). [1]

This limited mission of Jesus’ is also affirmed in the Quran [As-Saf, 61:6]. In the case of the Prophet Muhammad, however, God says:

“Say (O Muhammad to the people), ‘O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of God’” [Al-‘Araf, 7:158].

Another verse reads:

“And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as a giver of glad tidings and a Warner to all mankind” [Saba’, 34:28]

There are yet other verses giving the same purport. Prophet Muhammad SAW also stated that he was distinguished from the earlier prophets by five matters. The last he mentioned was:

“[Before] a prophet would be sent to his own people only, while I have been sent to all of mankind.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim]

, the laws and teachings of this message had to be fixed in matters that need to be fixed for all of humankind until the Day of Judgment and guiding yet flexible or accommodating in those matters that need to be open to change due to the changing circumstances of humankind. This shall be discussed in more detail below.

On all of these points, one sees that it is the message of the Prophet Muhammad SAW that fits all of these criteria. Furthermore, all of these aspects make it quite clear that the Prophet Muhammad is qualified and sufficient to be the messenger for all of humankind and that the religion that all humankind should accept is Islam.

A Religion for All Humanity

Before discussing how the laws of Islam are universal, it is important to briefly discuss the issue of those who are following earlier confirmed prophets of God. These people may argue that the Prophet Muhammad SAW may have been truthful, but that it is sufficient for them to follow the Prophet that they have been following.

In reality, no one has the right to accept the other prophets while rejecting the Prophet Muhammad, May God praise him. No one has the right to say that Muhammad was truthful but, “I chose to still follow Jesus or Moses instead.” Logically speaking, one should not expect this to be acceptable to God. God has sent His final messenger to be believed in and followed, superseding and canceling what is left of the teachings of earlier prophets. In the Quran, God describes such an attitude:

“And when it is said to them, ‘Believe in what God has sent down,’ they say, ‘We believe in what was sent down to us.’ And they disbelieve in that which came after it, while it is the truth confirming what is with them…” [Al-Baqarah, 2:91]

God has further declared people of this nature to be disbelievers. He has said:

“Verily, those who disbelieve in God and His Messengers and wish to make distinction between God and His Messengers (by believing in God and disbelieving in His Messengers) saying, ‘We believe in some but reject others,’ and wish to adopt a way in between. They are in truth disbelievers. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating torment. And those who believe in God and His Messengers and make no distinction between any of them, We shall give them their rewards, and God is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [An-Nisa’, 4:150-152]

The Prophet SAW said:

“[I swear] by [God], the One in whose hand is my soul, there will be none of my addressed people, be he Jew or Christian, who hears of me and dies without believing in that with which I was sent except that he will be from the inhabitants of the Hellfire.” [Sahih Muslim]

The Prophet SAW even told one of his companions:

“If my brother Moses were alive today, he would have no option but to follow me.” [Ahmad and al-Darimi]

Hence, the universality of Islam applies to all who were following any of the previous prophets as well. They have no logical option except to accept and follow Prophet Muhammad.

The Universality of Islam and Its Timelessness

As noted above, Prophet Muhammad SAW declared that he was the final prophet sent for humankind. At the same time, it is inconceivable knowing the mercy of the merciful that He would leave humans without any form of clear guidance. In other words, what He gave this final messenger must be suitable to guide all of humankind after him after him until the Day of Judgment. In fact, the Prophet himself made this very same point in essence when he said:

“I have left with you two things that if you cling to them you will never be misguided after me: The Book of God and the Sunnah of His Messenger.” [Sahih Muslim]

God has also said:

“…This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…” [Al-Maidah, 5:3]

Thus, the religion is completed and perfected and there is no need for any alteration or change. The message has come and shall suffice until the Day of Judgment. The Prophet sent for all peoples has already come.

This implies that the Prophet’s teachings are valid and obligatory upon all of humankind. That is, his example and teaching was not simply for the people of Arabia at his time. Rather, it is just as valid and just as important for each and every Muslim today, whether he is in New York or Malaysia.

At this point, someone may logically ask: How is it that this Law is able to fulfill the needs for all of mankind until the Day of Judgment? Human society is changing day to day. How it is that one “law” can provide guidance for everyone at all times? The answer to this question has to do with the beauty of the Law. When one studies the law promulgated by Prophet Muhammad, one finds that it has the needed elements of flexibility that allow it to be just as practicable today as it was during time of the Prophet. In essence, those issues that need to be fixed and permanent are made such by the Islamic Law. Those that need to be flexible so that different peoples at different times may apply them differently are left flexible in the Islamic Law. Hence, it is a Divinely guided way of life that is suitable and practical for all humans until the Day of Judgment.

A Guidance Complete and Sufficient Forever.

Thus, first, in reality, human nature actually does not change over time. Laws or guidance covering moral and ethical behavior shall always remain the same, because what is damaging to the soul at one time will always be damaging to the soul, again due to the fact that human nature does not change. For example, lying and cheating are displeasing to the Lord and harmful to the soul and shall forever remain that way. Thus, laws and guidance related to issues of this nature remain fixed and completely applicable until the Day of Judgment. Ritual acts of worship, which underline the foundation of a human's character, also do not need to change. God alone knows how He is to be worshipped, and if He has declared these acts as proper and acceptable to Him until the Day of Judgment, no one can possibly say otherwise. In describing these kinds of laws or guidance, one can say that Islamic Law is rigid, but that is only because it should be rigid on these points. That, in no way, affects its universality and practicality for all times and places.

Second, there are some harmful matters that humans must avoid. These have also been explicitly and permanently forbidden. Alcohol and intoxicants, for example, will always be harmful for humankind. Every now and then, humans may find something beneficial about alcohol, as God also alludes to in the Quran, but overall no society can rightly argue that alcohol consumption is something good. One need only consider the social costs of drinking in the United States alone. Many families are torn apart due to alcohol abuse. Driving under the influence is recognized as a danger to society, and although great steps have been taken to control it, numerous people are still killed or severely injured due to alcohol. Many alcoholics cannot hold down jobs and thus become dependent on the state, putting the burden of their care on the rest of the citizens. When it comes to issues of this nature, Islam forbids such a practice forever as there can be no serious argument given that alcohol should be permitted. (Indeed, one can argue that it is only permitted today because the cost of keeping people from this addicting “drug” is prohibitive. This, in reality, is just another sign of how dangerous and evil alcohol is.)

Third, beyond that, humans need only some detailed laws but many general principles that allow them to guide their lives in all times and places. This is exactly what Islamic Law provides for them. Thus, God provides detailed laws about what kinds of food one may eat, inheritance, who is legal as a spouse, international relations and so on. From these detailed laws, a scholar is able to extract rulings for many new occasions. From the general principles, a scholar can derive guidance for various issues that did not occur during, for example, the time of the Prophet.

Fourth, in the realm of social contracts and business, for example, the general principle is that everything is permissible unless there is evidence to show otherwise. Hence, Islamic Law actually allows for a great deal of freedom within the Law. In business dealings, for example, Islam has prohibited interest, overly risky transactions, gambling, fraud, deception, sale or purchase of illegal items and coercion. In general, these are the harmful aspects that have been prohibited. In other words, the guidance is such that when new forms of business dealings are developed, as in modern times, one can determine which are acceptable according to Islamic guidelines and which are not. Thus, Islamic Law has been proven to be feasible for over 1400 years and, according to Islamic beliefs, will continue to be feasible until the Day of Judgment. Two businessmen are able to come up with any form of contract they wish, as long as the basic forbidden and harmful aspects are avoided. One cannot even imagine how many types of transactions are therefore permissible under Islamic Law.

Finally, it must be recognized that this complete and comprehensive guidance that will remain viable until the Day of Judgment is a great blessing from God, and is another sign that humans must turn to God for guidance. Humans on their own would never be able to find a way of life that is suitable even for just one place and time, not to speak of something that would be good for centuries or millenniums—although humans would try to latch on to what they were following in the past. Sayyid Qutub has eloquently noted this point when he wrote,

When a human being tries to construct a metaphysical concept or a system of life through his own efforts, this concept or system cannot be comprehensive. It can only be partially valid, good for one time and place but not for other times and other places, and appropriate for one set of circumstances but not for another. Furthermore, even in tackling a single problem, he is incapable of looking at it from all possible sides and of taking into consideration all the consequences of the proposed solution, since very problem extends in space and time and is connected with precedents and antecedents beyond the scope of observation and comprehension of human beings.

We therefore conclude that no philosophy and no system of life produced by human thought can have the characteristic of “comprehensiveness.” At most, it can cover a segment of human life and can be valid for a temporary period. Because of its limited scope, it is always deficient in many respects, and because of its temporariness it is bound to cause problems that require modifications and changes in the original philosophy or system of life. Peoples and nations basing their social, political and economic systems on human philosophies are forever confronted with contradictions and “dialectics.”[2]

One need only look at one example which has been much debated recently to understand how applying God’s guidance at all places and times is what is best for humanity. Circumcision is a well-known and established practice in Islam. In the past few decades, doctors and scientists—due to humans’ very limited understanding of the reality of humans as a whole—keep going back and forth concerning circumcision. One decade they are in favor of it while the next they say that it is useless and harmful to the child. Now they have found—or they think they have found, as perhaps they could be wrong again—that circumcision is a great defense against HIV AIDS. Now, they are rushing to circumcise many of the men in different parts of Africa.

Perhaps, after so many cases like this, more and more humans will realize that there is guidance, complete and perfect, that has come from God that is exactly what all humans’ need and require, regardless of time and place.

The Guidance is Complete and Sufficient Forever

In sum, the guidance is complete and suitable for all times and places. It is all that the Muslims need for happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. It cannot be improved upon. It is, therefore, in no need of additions, alterations or deletions. Those who think that they can improve upon what God has revealed are arrogant in the purest sense and going beyond what they can possible ever achieve. For this obvious reason, the Prophet gave very strong warnings about innovations, heresies and changes to the faith. Such things are not needed at all and they will simply take away from the beauty and perfection of Islam. Thus, the Prophet said:

“The worst actions are the invented ones. And every innovation is a going astray.” [Sahih Muslim]

He also said:

“And every going astray is in the hell fire.” [Al-Nasa’i]

The Prophet also said:

“Whoever introduces anything into this affair of ours that does not belong to it will have it rejected.” [Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]

[1] In the same context, Jesus in quoted in Matthew 15:26 as saying about helping the Canaanite woman, “It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs.” Again, God alone knows what parts of the Gospels attributed to Jesus were actually said by him.
[2] Sayyid Qutub, The Islamic Concept and Its Characteristics (American Trust Publications, 1991), pp. 85-86.

®Islam Religion.