A guide for the new Muslim

A guide for the new Muslim

In the name of Allah, Most
Compassionate, Most Merciful.

All praises are due to Allah; we
praise Him; we seek His help; we seek His forgiveness; and we seek His
guidance. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil in our souls and the badness of
our deeds. For whomever Allah guides, there is none to lead him astray. And for
whomever He allows to go astray, there is none to guide him. I bear witness
that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, for whom there is no
partner. And I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.

I would like to take this
opportunity to express praise and to thank Allah for giving me the opportunity
to write an important work of this nature. May Allah forgive me for my shortcomings
in presenting His religion.

As with What is Islam, this
book’s “sister,” I must express my thanks to the noble Shaikh Muhammad al-Turki
of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da’wah and Guidance for his
support. I would also like to express my thanks to Ahmad Ba-Rasheed for his
continual efforts as well. These two have been the driving force behind this
project.

There are many people that I would
like to thank for their help in this particular work. First, I must express my
thanks to my beloved wife who is always a source of assistance and help.
Special thanks must also go to Dr. Abdulkarim al-Saeed, Br. Nahar al-Rashid,
Dr. Mohammad al-Osimi, Dr. Ahmad al-Teraiqi and Br. Jalaal Abdullah. I can only
pray that Allah rewards them and blesses them in both this life and the
Hereafter.

I must point out that I have
previously written about many of the topics included in this work. I borrowed
or adapted liberally from my earlier works “He Came to Teach You Your
Religion”
and Purification of the Soul: Concept, Process and Means. To
a much lesser extent, I also adapted material from What Is Islam and Commentary
on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi.

I pray that Allah accepts this work
from me as being solely for His sake. As with all such work, the responsibility
for any mistakes lies with the author. I ask Allah to forgive me for my
shortcomings and to guide me to the Straight Path.

Especially in these times with so
many barriers placed in front of Islam and so many negative untruths spread
about it, it is a great blessing from Allah that He gives specific individuals
the ability to see the truth and light of Islam. A new Muslim—and, in fact,
every Muslim—should always be thankful to Allah that Allah has blessed him with
this ever-important knowledge and understanding of His religion.

By converting to Islam, the new
Muslim has entered into a new realm that is most likely very different from his
previous outlook on life. Perhaps most importantly though is that via Islam the
individual has found the means by which the Lord will be pleased with him and
he becomes pleased with his Lord.

As one grows more in Islam and as
one’s knowledge and faith increases, the individual is able to appreciate more
and more of its beauty. In turn, one’s love for Allah, Islam and the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) shall continue to increase. The
result is a spiritual life on a very special plane that only those who know
this faith are able to experience and enjoy.

There is a lot to look forward to.
The embracing of Islam is the significant first step and the rest, Allah
willing, shall come by increasing one’s knowledge, faith and attachment to
Islam.

 The Goal and Motivation for Writing this Book

The goal of this work is to present
the new Muslim with a basic guide that will help him understand and implement
Islam. As already noted, the newly converted Muslim has set himself upon a new
path that, most likely, is very different from the path that he was on before.
The convert understands enough about Islam to recognize that it is the truth
but he usually does not have enough detailed information about Allah’s religion
to guide him in his everyday affairs.

The author sincerely hopes that the
individual will have the best experience in Islam by understanding it properly
from the beginning and by applying it correctly in his life. Many are the
converts to Islam who are bewildered and confused once they convert.
Unfortunately, not every Muslim today is a good ambassador of Islam and not
every Muslim today understands all of the basics of Islam. This can lead to a
great deal of confusion, as some Muslim converts cannot even recognize the
Islam that they see when compared to the Islam that they read about. This work
is a modest attempt at assisting the new Muslim to set out along the correct
path based on the Quran and Sunnah.

 What Distinguishes This Work

Many introductory works on Islam
are currently available. However, it is hoped that this work is distinct from
the others due to a number of characteristics.

First, this is one of the
few books currently available that specifically targets newly converted
Muslims. In other words, it is directed toward those who have already been
convinced of the truth of Islam and, hence, no arguments are presented herein
to attempt to convince the reader of the truth of Islam. On the other hand,
once a person embraces Islam there is still a wealth of information that the
new convert needs. First, he needs to understand properly the foundations of
his new faith. He also needs guidance concerning the most important practices
of his new faith, including a good awareness of what deeds he must avoid as a
Muslim.

Second, the writer himself
is a convert to Islam. Thus, the author is able to draw upon his own experience
as a convert and, by reflecting back upon that after so many years, can provide
insight into what a convert needs to know and what are some of the pratfalls
that he must avoid. This book can be looked upon as the book that the author
wishes he had received when he first became Muslim. Furthermore, the author has
dealt with many converts throughout the years and is aware of many of the
conceptual and practical issues that other converts have had to deal with as
well.

Third, the author has done
his utmost to ensure that all of the information contained herein is verified
and authentic. This is particularly true for any of the words attributed to the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Unfortunately, not everyone
who writes about Islam gives this issue the attention it deserves, thereby
including false information in their introductory works. In reality, one of the
main reasons why this author embraced Islam is because its original teachings
were kept pure:
One can actually claim that the Quran is the word of God and
the hadith are the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
. This religion has come down to this generation in preserved form and it
is a must that it not be distorted in any way. It is, therefore, incumbent upon
those who write or speak about Islam to continue to make sure that what they
are saying is the confirmed truth from Allah and the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
.

 The Sources and Approach of This Book

The most important source for any
work about Islam must be the Quran itself.[1]The
Quran lays the foundation for the entirety of Islamic teachings.[2] Hence, due
emphasis will be placed on Quranic evidence for the views expressed in this
book.

owever, the Quran was not simply
revealed upon a mountainside for anyone to read and understand on his own.
Allah chose to reveal the Quran to

the Prophet Muhammad (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
and within the Quran itself ordered the Muslims
to follow his example and to obey his commands.[3]
His way of life is known as the Sunnah and has been captured in what is
known as the hadith literature. Therefore, the guidance of the Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
as contained in the authentic hadith[4]
literature will also be heavily relied upon.

he Quran and Sunnah, therefore,
form the ultimate sources of one’s understanding of Islam. Any other source
must be secondary to these sources and subject to their overall approval. In
other words, if something is contrary to the Quran and Sunnah, it cannot
justifiably be considered part of Islam.

Furthermore, the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
raised up a generation under this guidance and
direction. Although his Companions were simply humans—and as such had, to some
extent, human faults—their overall understanding and application of Islam was
approved by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself.
Thus, their overall way will be treated here as the proper and correct way of
understanding Islam.

Finally, the author has benefited
from the works of many who have written about Islam, including the leading
scholars throughout the history of Islam as well as many others who have also
written introductory works. Reference to such authors or works will be made
throughout this book.

 The Meaning of the Word “Islam”

The word “Islam” is the verbal noun
of the verb aslama. This verb is defined as, “He
resigned or submitted himself.”
When used with respect to God, it means,
“He became submissive to God.”[5]
Thus, Islam is about an individual recognizing who his Lord is and
recognizing that his attitude toward his Lord and Creator should be one of
submission and worship. In other words, Islam is not simply about the
recognition of the Oneness of God or the fact that the Creator exists, for
example. Islam is about something much greater than that. It is about the
conscious decision made by the individual to worship and submit to the one and
only God.

Thus,
as Nomani wrote,

Literally, Islam denotes
self-surrender or to give oneself up to someone and accept his overlordship in
the fullest sense of the term. The religion sent down by God and brought into
the world by His Apostles has been called Islam for the simple reason that, in
it, the bondsman yields completely to the power and control of the Lord and
makes the rendering of whole-hearted obedience to Him the cardinal principle of
his life. This is the sum and substance of the Islamic creed.[6]

Perhaps it should be noted that the
word “Islam” does not mean “peace.” It is true that the Arabic word for “peace”
(salaam) comes from the same root as the word Islam. It is also very
true that true peace—both internally and externally—can only be the result of
the correct implementation of Islam. At the same time, though, it should be
very clear in the minds of every Muslim that his religion being Islam
represents his commitment and devotion to worshipping and submitting to Allah
alone. This should become the essence of what the individual Muslim is all about.

Before discussing the relationship
between Islam and the other religions, it is important to recognize a more
specific usage for the word “Islam” as a religion. Islam, as stated above,
implies the complete submission to the one and only true God. Thus, anyone who
is truly submitting himself to God—according to what has been revealed from God
and not simply according to his own whims or imagination—is a Muslim.

In this sense, the religion of all
of the prophets of God was Islam and they were all Muslims. Noah, Abraham,
Moses and Jesus, for example, were all Muslims and their religion was Islam,
the true and sincere submission to God. Thus, Allah says in the Quran to the
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “The same religion
has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – that which We
have sent by inspiration to you – and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses,
and Jesus”
(42:13).

he following important passage from
the Quran highlights the fact that Abraham, for example, was a true servant and
worshipper of Allah alone. In other words, he was a Muslim. He was not a Jew or
a Christian. His true followers were Muslims. The true followers of Moses and
Jesus were also Muslims. Allah says,

And (remember) when Abraham and
(his son) Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House [in Makkah],
(saying), “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily! You are the
All-Hearer, the All-Knower. Our Lord! And make us submissive [Muslims] unto You
and of our offspring a nation submissive [Muslims] unto You, and show us our
ceremonies of pilgrimage, and accept our repentance. Truly, You are the One Who
accepts repentance, the Most Merciful. Our Lord! Send amongst them[7] a Messenger of their own,
who shall recite unto them Your Verses and instruct them in the Book and
Wisdom, and purify them. Verily! You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.

And who turns away from the
religion of Abraham except him who befools himself? Truly, We chose him in this
world and verily, in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous. When his
Lord said to him, “Submit (i.e. be a Muslim)!” He said, “I have submitted
myself (as a Muslim) to the Lord of the worlds.”
And this (submission to Allah,
Islam)
was enjoined by Abraham upon his sons and by Jacob, (saying), “O my
sons! Allah has chosen for you the (true) religion, then die not except as
Muslims.”
Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob? When he said unto
his sons, “What will you worship after me?” They said, “We shall worship your
God, the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, One God, and to Him we
submit (in Islam).

That was a nation who has passed
away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you
earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do. And they say, “Be Jews
or Christians, then you will be guided.”
Say (to them, O Muhammad), “Nay, (we
follow)
only the religion of Abraham, of pure monotheism, and he was not of
those who worshipped others along with Allah.”
Proclaim (O Muslims), “We believe
in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent
down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and to the twelve sons of Jacob, and
that which has been given to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been given to
the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and
to Him we have submitted (in Islam).”
So if they believe in the like of that
which you believe, then they are rightly guided, but if they turn away, then
they are only in opposition. So Allah will suffice you against them. And He is
the All- Hearer, the All-Knower. [Our religion is] the Religion of Allah and
which religion can be better than Allah’s? And we are His worshippers.

Say [O
Muhammad to the Jews and Christians]
, “Dispute you with us about Allah while He
is our Lord and your Lord? And we are to be rewarded for our deeds and you for
your deeds. And we are sincere to Him in worship and obedience.

Or do you say that Abraham,
Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve sons of Jacob were Jews or Christians?
Say, “Do you know better or does Allah [know better that they all were
Muslims]
? And who is more unjust than he who conceals the testimony he has from
Allah? And Allah is not unaware of what you do.”
That was a nation who has
passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned, and you of what
you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do. (2:127-141).

In fact, as this passage
demonstrates, Islam was the religion of all of their followers as well. In
other words, every true believer from the time of Adam to the last believer on
earth practices Islam and is a Muslim. Furthermore, it is the only religion
that Allah ever commanded humankind to follow. Islam, therefore, is the only
religion that has ever been acceptable to Allah. Allah says, “Truly, the religion with Allah is Islam (submission to
Him)
(3:19). Allah also says, “And whoever
seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the
Hereafter he will be one of the losers”
(3:85).

Thus, the brotherhood of Islam and
the bond of true faith stretches all the way from Adam until the end of time,
spanning all localities and peoples. The true believers love one another and
support one another. It is truly a blessed and unique brotherhood.

In particular, the true Muslims
throughout all the ages believe in all of the prophets. They support all of
them and defend their honor as well. One would never hear a pious Muslim ever
speak badly about Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Jesus or any of the prophets. Instead,
the Muslim respects, honors and loves them all in the manner they
deserve.

 Islam: The Religion of the Prophet Muhammad

After the coming of the Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), there is a further
distinction that needs to be made concerning the religion of “Islam.”

Before the time of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), one could say that there were many
“Islams.” That is, each people had their prophets, followed their teachings and
were on the path of Islam. At the same time, if a new prophet in the same line
of prophets came to them, they had no choice but to follow that new prophet.
The one who would refuse to accept Allah’s later prophet is not truly submitting
to Allah. If he is not truly submitting to Allah, then he is not a “Muslim.”

There are two very important points
that demonstrate the relationship between the way of the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the way of the true prophets
before him.

 First,
the way of the Prophet Muhammad abrogates the previous laws.

Second, by the wisdom of Allah, Allah did not allow the
teachings of the previous prophets to remain preserved in a completely
undistorted manner.

llah says, “And We have sent down
to you (O Muhammad) the Book in truth, confirming the Scripture that came
before it and a witness over it (old Scriptures). So judge between them by what
Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging away from the
truth that has come to you”
(5:48). This verse demonstrates that the Quran has
been revealed in truth and confirms what has been revealed beforehand of the
revelations and it is a judge and witness over the previous books. In other
words, it preserves, protects and witnesses to the truth found in the earlier
revelations.

At the same time, though, it shows
the falseness of the distortions that have been done to the previous
revelations. Anything that is in conformity with the Quran is true and anything
that contradicts the Quran must be false. Thus, the Quran has been revealed to
affirm what has been preserved of the earlier revelations while correcting any
distortions.

 clear example of this nature has
to do with the supposed crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This supposed act is the
entire basis for raising the Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
to the level of God. The Quran’s view on this issue however is very
clear:
“And because of their saying (in boast), ‘We
killed Messiah Jesus, son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,’ – but they
killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Jesus was put over
another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full
of doubts. The have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture.
For surely; they killed him not”
(4:157).[8]

Distortion of the earlier books has
been alluded to in numerous places in the Quran. For example, Allah says in
reference to the People of the Book, “Then woe to
those who write the Book with their own hands and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’
to purchase with it a little price! Woe to them for what their hands have
written and woe to them for that they earn thereby”
(2:79) and “And verily, among them is a party who distort the Book
with their tongues, so that you may think it is from the Book, but it is not
from the Book, and they say: ‘This is from Allah,’ but it is not from Allah;
and they speak a lie against Allah while they know it”
(3:78).
Therefore, the Prophet said, “Do not affirm what
the People of the Book say nor deny them. Instead, say, ‘We believe in what has
been revealed to us what has been revealed to you. Our God and your God is one
and we submit to Him as Muslims.’”
[9]

It is interesting to note that the
only religion that has kept the name “submission to Allah” or Islam is that of
the final Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The
other well-known religions are all named after individuals, peoples or places.
According to Microsoft Encarta, the term Judaism did not even exist in
pre-modern Hebrew. It is in reference to Judah. Christianity is, of course,
named after Christ as Buddhism is named after Buddha. Hinduism has to do with
the place, Hindustan. But, by Allah’s wisdom and mercy, the name of the only
true religion of submission to Allah—the religion of all the prophets—has been
preserved and kept only in reference to the mission of the final prophet who
was sent for all of humanity.[10]

As a final note, although the
message of the Prophet Muhammad is nothing but a continuation of the message of
the earlier prophets, Christians and Jews are in no way to be coerced to
embrace Islam or to follow its teachings. Allah says, “There
is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from
the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in false gods and believes in Allah, then
he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah
is All-Hearer, All-Knower”
(2:256). They should, though, be called to
the truth of Islam and invited to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
.

 The Final Message

Allah had sent numerous prophets
throughout the centuries. However, He had determined that He should send a
final messenger with a final message. This final messenger would be the
messenger for all of humankind from his time until the Day of Reckoning. There
was to be no later revelation and no later prophet to bring any changes to this
revelation. Hence, this one had to differ from the previous in some ways.

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.

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.

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.

Fourth, 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.

On all of these points, one sees
that it is the message of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
that fits all of these criteria. The Quran and the Sunnah were
preserved in great detail. Similarly, the nature of his “sign,” the Quran, the
ultimate miracle, can still be experienced today.[11]

As for the third issue, the Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was the only prophet to
make it known that he was not sent only for a certain people but he was sent
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).[12] This
limited mission of Jesus’ is also affirmed in the Quran (61:6).

In the case of the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), however, Allah says, “Say (O Muhammad to the people), ‘O mankind! Verily, I am
sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah’ (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”
(34:28). There are
yet other verses giving the same purport. The Prophet Muhammad also stated that
he was distinguished from the earlier prophets by five matters. The last he
mentioned was, “The prophet would be sent to his
people only while I have been sent to all of mankind.”
[13]

Allah decreed that this Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) should be His final
messenger. Allah says, “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he
is the Messenger of Allah and the seal of the Prophets. And Allah is Ever
All-Aware of everything”
(33:40). The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
himself said, “I have been sent
to all of the creation and the prophets have been sealed by me.”
[14] 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”
[15]

Hence, no one has the right to
accept the other prophets while rejecting the Prophet Muhammad. 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 Allah. Allah 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, Allah describes such
an attitude:
“And when it is said to them, ‘Believe
in what Allah 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”
(2:91).

Allah has further declared people
of this nature to be disbelievers. He has said, “Verily, those who disbelieve
in Allah and His Messengers and wish to make distinction between Allah and His
Messengers (by believing in Allah 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 Allah and His Messengers and make
no distinction between any of them, We shall give them their rewards, and Allah
is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”
(4:150-152).

The Prophet 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
Hell-fire.”
[16] The
Prophet even told one of his companions, “If my brother Moses were alive today,
he would have no option but to follow me.”
[17]

 The Universality of Islam and Its Timelessness

The Prophet Muhammad is the final
messenger and 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 message must be suitable to guide mankind after him. 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 Allah and the Sunnah of His
Messenger.”
[18]

In addition to the fact that the
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is the final
prophet, Allah 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”
(5:3). Allah has also declared that the
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is the prophet for
all of mankind: “Say [O Muhammad], ‘O Mankind,
indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you all”
(7:158).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
also said, “I have been given five aspects that were not
given to any prophet before me… [One of which is] every prophet was sent only
to his people while I have been sent to all of mankind.”
[19] 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 (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent for all peoples has
already come.

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

Someone may logically ask: How is
it that this Law is able to fulfill the needs for all of humankind until the
Day of Judgment? The answer has to do with the beauty of the Law. When one
studies the law promulgated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
one finds that it has the needed elements of flexibility
that allow it to be just as practicable today as it was during the time of the
Prophet.

irst, in reality, the nature
of humans actually do not change over time. Therefore, worship, which is the
foundation of a human’s character, does not need to change. These laws are
fixed until the Day of Judgment.

Secondly, there are some
harmful matters that humans must avoid. These have also been explicitly and
permanently forbidden. Beyond that, humans need only some detailed laws and
many general principles that allow them to guide their lives in all times and
places. This is exactly what Islamic Law provides for them.

In essence, those issues that need
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. For example, in business dealings, interest is prohibited forever.

 In addition to that, general
guidelines are given. However, 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.

This means that the guidance is
complete. 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. For this obvious reason, the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) gave very strong warnings about
innovations and heresies. Such things are not needed at all and they will
simply take away from the beauty and perfection of Islam.

Thus, the Prophet (peace be upon
him)
said, “The worst actions are the invented ones. And every innovation is a
going astray.”
[20] He also
said, “And every going astray is in the hell fire.”[21] The
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said, “Whoever
introduces anything into this affair of ours that does not belong to it will
have it rejected.”
[22]

 The Sources of Islamic Law and Guidance

The goal of Islam is for the human
to become a true servant of Allah. Therefore, his source of guidance and the
foundations for his actions must be rooted in the revelation from God. It is
from this vantage point that the scholars speak about the sources of law in
Islam. The two ultimate authorities in Islamic Law are the Quran and the Sunnah
of the Prophet.

The Quran is the speech of Allah
and a revelation that came directly to the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
from Allah via the angel Gabriel.[23] The Quran
was revealed piece by piece over a period of twenty-three years. It guided the
early Muslim community along every step it took. It thus completely transformed
that community into a pious generation. In the meantime, it set examples for
all later Muslim communities who will face some of the same circumstances they
faced. It transformed an Arab people who were on the margins of the civilized
world at that time into the leaders of a great civilization, whose influence
still continues today. When read, understood and applied properly today, it
will also transform individuals or society and exalt them to new heights of
piety and closeness to God.

Upon receiving the words of the
Quran, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would pass those
words onto his followers. In addition, he would have his scribes record the
newly revealed verses. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
said about the Quran, “There was no
Prophet among the Prophets but was given miracles because of which people had
had belief, but what I have been given is the Divine Revelation which Allah has
revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will be more than those of any
other Prophet on the Day of Resurrection.”
[24] In
other words, the Prophet Muhammad’s great sign and miracle was the Quran.

Indeed, the Quran is miraculous in
many ways. For example, the Arabs at the time of the Prophet excelled in
language. However, even though they greatly opposed the Prophet for many years,
they realized that they could not meet the literary eloquence of the Quran.[25]
But the Quran is much more than simply a “literary miracle.” It is
miraculous as well with respect to its fulfilled prophecies of future events,
its internal consistency (although revealed over a period of twenty-three
years)
, its scientific accuracy, its historical accuracy, its precise
preservation, its magnanimous and wise laws, its affect that it had and still
has in reforming and changing humans and so forth.

In addition to the Quran, there are
the sayings and example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him)
, known as the Sunnah. It is also a form of inspiration that was
given by Allah to the Prophet. The Prophet said, “I
have been given the Quran and something similar to it with it.”
[26]

The authority of the Sunnah of the
Messenger of Allah is not because he is some kind of demigod. He was definitely
only a human being, just like all of the other prophets. The prophet’s
authority is related to the issue of submission to Allah:
It is Allah in the
Quran who establishes the authority of the Prophet. Hence, following the way of
the Prophet is nothing but acting in obedience and submission to Allah. Allah
has virtually said such when He said, “He who obeys
the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then we have not
sent you (O Muhammad) as a watcher over them”
(4:80).

In the Quran, Allah makes it clear
that if someone loves Allah and wishes that Allah should love him in return,
the key is to follow the way of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
. Allah says, “Say (O Muhammad to
humankind)
, ‘If you (truly) love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and
forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’”

(3:31).

The Quran says about the Prophet, “Indeed
in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example to follow for him who
hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much”

(33:21). The Prophet was, in a way, a “living Quran.” When the Prophet’s wife
Aishah was asked about his character and behavior, she replied, “His character was the Quran.”[27]

here is a very important
relationship between the Quran and the Sunnah. The Sunnah demonstrates how the
Quran is to be implemented. It is a practical explanation of what the Quran is
teaching. It defines the morals, behaviors and laws of the Quran in such a way
that its meaning becomes clear. This complete, human embodiment of the
teachings of the Quran is a great blessing and mercy for Muslims. It makes the
guidance from God more complete and accessible to all.

Thus, the Quran and the Sunnah form
one united unit that offers all the principles of guidance that humankind will
need until the Day of Judgment.

he Quran, of course, comprises one
book that can be captured in some two hundred pages or so. The Sunnah, on the
other hand, is quite different, covering all of the statements and actions of
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Sunnah is captured
in what is known as the hadith literature. A hadith is a report about what the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said or did.[28]

uslim scholars recognized that the
religion of Allah must be preserved properly. They also recognized that not
everything attributed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
may be correct as even honest people can make mistakes. Hence, they
meticulously and methodically studied the various hadith and statements
ascribed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), sifting
those that can be authenticated from those that cannot be authenticated. Thus,
in Islamic law, not every hadith is considered an authority. Only those that
can meet rigid standards of authenticity are considered authoritative. The
scholars call these types of hadith sahih (authentic) or hasan
(good). Unacceptable hadith are classified as daeef (weak), very weak or
fabricated.

lthough the original Arabic texts
of both the Quran and the Prophet’s sayings are available, one has to resort to
modest translations to convey their meanings to non-Arabic speakers. With
respect to the Quran, two translations in particular can be recommended. They
are The Noble Quran:
English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary,
translated by al-Hilali and Khan[29],
and The Quran:
Arabic Text with Corresponding English Meaning,
translated by “Saheeh International.”[30] These
two are recommended due to their translations being based upon the understanding
of the Quran as can be traced back to the Prophet himself and his closest
Companions.

o truly appreciate the depths of
the Quran, one should also read a commentary of the Quran. Unfortunately, there
are not a large number of excellent commentaries available in English—although
there is a plethora of them in many other languages.

ne very important work available in
English is the ten-volume Tafsir ibn Kathir (Abridged).[31] This is
the translation of an abridgment of a classical work of Quranic commentary by
ibn Kathir (1301-1372 C.E.) In his study of Quranic commentaries, Muhammad
Hussein al‑Dhahabi calls this commentary one of the best of its kind.[32]
In this work, ibn Kathir follows the principles of Quranic commentary as
elucidated by his teacher, the well-known ibn Taimiyyah.[33] Perhaps
the only drawback of this work is that it is a translation of a classic work and
therefore was not written in a style that many today are most comfortable with.

Towards
Understanding the Quran: English Version of Tafhim al-Quran[34]
by Abul Ala Maudoodi is also one of the most complete and extensive works of
Quranic commentary available in English. It was written by Abul Ala Maudoodi,
who died in 1979. Maudoodi wrote numerous books and a large number of them have
been translated into English.

The
goal of the Tafhim al-Quran was to present the meaning of the Quran to
the Urdu speaking populous of Pakistan/India in such a way that its meaning
would be very clear to the masses. Although this work has been the target of
various criticisms, some warranted[35] and some not so warranted, it remains as
the most comprehensive and informative works on the entire Quran available in
English.

Another work that the serious student should take note of
is Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma’ani: Being a Quintessence of Quranic Commentaries
by Syed Iqbal Zaheer. This work is written by a contemporary
author and is quite comprehensive.

As
for collections of hadith or the statements and actions of the Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
, two important collections are available in
complete form in English. They are known as Sahih al-Bukhari[36] and Sahih Muslim.[37]

As stated earlier, Islamic Law has
to be flexible enough to meet the needs of all peoples until the Day of
Judgment. Hence, not every detail of the law has been spelled out in the Quran
and Sunnah. Allah has left some issues for the Muslims to discover on their
own, thus forcing them to learn and study the Quran and Sunnah in great detail.
The conclusions that are derived from the Quran and Sunnah, and not explicitly
stated in the Quran or Sunnah, are known as “personal reasoning” or ijtihaad
(which implies utmost striving to derive a conclusion).

This source of jurisprudence is
obviously not infallible. In fact, it is possible for scholars to come to
differing conclusions—although the truth with Allah will always be only one.
Each scholar’s efforts, if they are sincere, will be appreciated by Allah, as
the hadith states, “If a judge exerts himself and
comes to a correct conclusion, he shall receive two rewards. If he exerts
himself and comes to an errant conclusion, he shall receive one reward.”
[38]

However, this does not mean that
their conclusions become an ultimate authority. Personal judgments must be
evaluated in the light of the Quran and Sunnah and whatever seems to be most
proper according to the Quran and Sunnah should be adhered to. It is important
for the Muslim to always remember that his ultimate goal is to follow the
truth, which means that which is consistent with the Quran or Sunnah.[39]

A historical development occurred
in which specific scholars worked diligently to codify the laws of the Quran and
Sunnah as well as extend those laws through personal reasoning to situations
not explicitly covered in those texts. The work of these scholars continued
until “schools of law” developed based on their teachings. Although these
different schools of law are definitely not sources of Islamic law nor are they
considered infallible in any way, it is important that the new Muslim become
familiar with them because he will most likely here reference often to them.

he most dominant of these schools
of law are four, named after their founders as follows:

(1) Abu Haneefah
(80-150 A.H.[40])
and the Hanafi School: Abu Haneefah was an early scholar who lived in Iraq.
Today, his school is the most predominant in Turkey, Pakistan, India,
Afghanistan, the ex-Soviet Muslim states and parts of the Middle East.

2)
Maalik ibn Anas (95-179 A.H.) and the Maliki School: Maalik ibn Anas lived in
Madinah, the city of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),
throughout his life. Today, his school is the most popular in North Africa and
sub-Saharan Africa. For centuries it was the predominant school of Andalusia or
Muslim Spain.

3)
Muhammad ibn Idrees al-Shafi’ee (150-204 A.H.) and the Shafi’ee School:
Al-Shafi’ee was from the Qurashi tribe, the same tribe as the Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
. He studied and lived in numerous places,
finally settling in Egypt. Today, his school is most influential in Malaysia,
Indonesia and some parts of the Middle East.

4)
Ahmad ibn Hanbal (164-241 A.H.) and the Hanbali School: Ahmad ibn Hanbal lived
in Baghdad and was known to be a great scholar of hadith. Today, his school is
the predominant school in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Arabian
Peninsula.

hese great scholars and others
sometimes came to differing conclusions. It is important to understand that
there are many causes for differences of opinion among the jurists. There are
also some important points to be kept in mind with respect to such differences
of opinion among the scholars that one is bound to run into in Islam.

irst, as stated earlier, the
ultimate goal of the Muslim is “the truth.” Hence, he should exert himself to
discover the truth and follow it in every circumstance. The manner in which the
revelation has come offers the individual the ability to worship Allah by
seeking the truth, via pondering over the revelation as found in the Quran and
hadith. It also tries him by seeing if he does follow the truth and the
strongest views when he finally comes upon them.

econd, these differences in
interpretation are bound to occur. A person may sincerely be seeking to please
Allah and yet come to a conclusion that another finds weak or unacceptable. As
long as a person’s view does not clearly contradict the Quran or Sunnah and has
some basis via some acceptable proof, he, as a person, should be respected. In
fact, the mistaken individual will be rewarded by Allah for his efforts if he
were sincere, as noted in a hadith quoted earlier. Thus, even though one may
disagree with his view and one may even feel the need to refute his view, such
acceptable differences may never be allowed to strike at the root of the
brotherhood of Islam and enter into the hearts of the Muslims, thereby tearing
them apart.

 Finally, it is important to
note that the Quran, Sunnah and “personal reasoning” are not simply the sources
of what is customarily considered “law” today. Instead, many other aspects,
such as morality, ethics and behavior, must also be subjected to these same
sources. In other words, in reality, these sources are not simply the sources
of law but the sources of guidance for a Muslim’s actions encompassing every
aspect of his life. Thus, for example, how to behave towards one’s parents,
neighbors and others are also covered by the Quran and Sunnah, as shall be discussed
later, although traditional “law”
today would not be concerned with such
issues. Hence, when Muslim scholars speak of the sources of “law” in Islam they
actually mean the sources of complete guidance for human behavior in all
aspects of life.

 Some of the Goals of Islam

The teachings of Islam are not
merely rituals or mysteries that have no rhyme or reason to them. Instead, the
revelation has pointed to some very clear, sought after goals. These include
the following:

 (A)The Worship of Allah Alone

Undoubtedly, the greatest goal of
Islam and its greatest contribution to the welfare of humanity is the true and
pure worship of Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him.[41] This
is in reality the ultimate purpose and goal of a human. Allah says, “And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except
they should worship Me (Alone)
(51:56). There can be no goal more
honorable or noble than this goal for a human being.

Pure monotheism is the only belief
system that provides the true answers to the questions that perplex virtually
every human: “Where have I come from? Where am I
headed? For what purpose do I exist?”

As for the question, “Where have I come from?” Islam explains that
humans are honored creatures created by Allah in a very special way and having
the freedom to choose to be among the noblest of creatures or among the basest
of all creatures. Thus, Allah says, “Verily, We
created man of the best stature (mould), Then We reduced him to the lowest of
the low, except those who believe and do righteous deeds, they shall have a
reward without end (Paradise)
(95:4-6).

The answer to, “Where I am headed?” is that the human is headed
back to a meeting with his Lord and Creator. This momentous occasion will occur
after his death in this worldly life. There will be no escape from this
encounter. At that time, the human will be fairly and equitably judged. All of
the deeds that he performed in this life will be weighed. “That Day mankind will proceed in scattered groups that
they may be shown their deeds. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an
atom, shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom,
shall see it”
(99:6-8). This reckoning will start with his most
important deed:
his attitude toward his Gracious and Merciful Creator who
created him, provided for him, sent him guidance, warned him of a punishment
for those who turn away from the truth and promised a great reward for those
who accepted the truth, were grateful to Him and submitted to Him.

Concerning, “For what purpose do I exist,” the human has been created for
the noblest of all purposes: the worship of Allah alone or, in other words, to
become a true and sincere servant of Allah. One can imagine all sorts of goals
that people may have in this world. They may seek to end diseases in this world
or bring about world peace. In general, though, those admirable goals are
usually tainted.

One may seek them just for
egotistic reasons, such as to be remembered or praised as the person who did
such and such. They may be sought while the individual turns his back on his
Creator, thus showing arrogance and ungratefulness as well as demonstrating an
ignorance of how truly noble goals can be achieved. In reality, however, all of
those goals, which can be considered simply subgoals, fail in comparison to the
goal that will lead to excellence in one’s soul and one’s deeds as well as
eternal bliss in the Hereafter. Actually, any truly good goal of this life can
only be part of the true worship of Allah.

Fulfilling one’s true purpose and
being successful upon meeting one’s Lord is completely dependent on adhering to
a true and unadulterated monotheism. This is the monotheism found in Islam.
Many people claim to believe in “monotheism” and the fact that there is only
one God. However, on many occasions, this “monotheism” is tainted in many ways.
In some early pre-modern civilizations, people began to identify “sons” and
“daughters”
with God. Unfortunately, this clear contradiction of pure
monotheism has been carried over into the modern age by no less a popular
religion than Christianity. It is not unusual to hear Christians praise Jesus,
thank Jesus and even pray to Jesus, sometimes virtually forgetting “the
Father.” Although Christians may resort to logical gymnastics to affirm
that this is still worshipping only one God, in reality it cannot be considered
a true monotheism. In fact, most, if not all, of the contemporary trinitarians
will argue that Jesus is co-equal yet unique from the Father. In other words,
they have lost pure monotheism.

t may take some time for the new
Muslim to realize all the ways in which people associate partners with God and
fail to realize true monotheism. The Christian convert to Islam may readily
recognize that the above referred to belief in Trinity is certainly not
monotheism. At the same time, though, he may not yet realize how accepting
priests, for example, as ultimate lawgivers is also a way of associating
partners with God.

o priest—nor any human for that
matter—has any right to overrule or abrogate any of God’s laws. This is also a
contradiction of pure monotheism. Hence, Allah says, “They
(Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords
besides Allah [by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful
according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah]
, and (they also
took as their Lord)
Messiah, son of Mary, while they were commanded to worship
none but One God. None has the right to be worshipped but He. Praise and glory
be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with
Him)
(9:31).

slam is a religion that establishes
pure monotheism completely and eradicates all forms of associating partners
with Allah, from the most obvious to the most obscure. (Undoubtedly, Islam is
the only religion that can make such a claim.)
As the convert learns more and
more about his faith, the light of pure monotheism, Allah willing, will shine
brighter and brighter in his heart.

 (B) Freeing Humans from the Worship of Other Humans or the Worship of Any
Other Object

Obviously, this is a corollary of
the first principle of worshipping Allah alone. However, it deserves separate
mention as humans dominating and subjugating other humans is one of the gravest
tragedies in the history of humankind, second perhaps to the tragedy of the
humans accepting such a situation and willingly submitting to other humans.
There are few things worse than humans submitting themselves, and thus worshipping,
other humans. This is completely degrading because all humans share the same
essential human nature and weaknesses.

No one has the right to put himself
as a God—which would include tyrant, dictator or clergy—over anyone else, with
the others subjected to his decrees regardless of whether they are consistent
with what Allah has revealed or not.

This goal of Islam was eloquently
stated by two of the earliest Muslims. When asked by the Emperor of Persia what
brought the Muslims to their lands, two different Companions of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) answered in similar terms: “Allah has sent us to take whoever wishes from the
servitude of mankind to the servitude of Allah and from the tightness of this
world to its expanse and from the injustice of the ways of life [in this world]
to the justice of Islam.”
[42]

It is interesting to note that
humans readily recognize the evils of such dominance of a human over other
humans when there is a tyrant ruling others but fail to realize it when a group
of elites dominates them and they willingly submit to the manipulation and
oppression of that elite, many times via a façade of democracy. In reality,
both are evil and can only be remedied by accepting Allah alone as the Lawgiver
and ultimate authority. As shall be discussed shortly, it is Allah alone who
can lay down just laws and ordinances as He alone is completely free from
desires and prejudice.

There are many things that humans
have a tendency to “worship” or become “enslaved” to, ranging from one’s own
passions, the state or nation to insignificant material wants. Allah describes
those who take their own desires as a god:
“Have
you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him
astray due to knowledge [that Allah has concerning him] and has set a seal upon
his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him
after Allah? Will you not then be reminded”
(45:23).

 The Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him)
said, “May the slave of dinars, dirhams, qateefah
and khameesah[43]
perish as he is pleased if these things are given to him and if not, he
is displeased.”[44]
This is, in reality, a true form of slavery or servitude—a slavery to
something other than Allah. Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,

If he attains it [that is, what he
desires]
, he is pleased and if he is unable to attain it, he becomes
discontented. Such a person is the ‘abd [slave] of what he desires of
these matters and he is a slave of it, since slavery and servitude are in
reality the enslavement and servitude of the heart. Thus, for whatever enslaves
the heart and puts it under its servitude, the heart is then a slave of that
object. This is why it is said, “The slave [human] is free as long as he is
content [with what Allah has given him] and the free one is a slave as long as
he desires.”
[45]

Islam frees humans from all of such
false forms of worship. It does this by freeing their hearts from such
overriding wants and desires. It frees the heart from such worship by attaching
the heart to Allah alone and building a strong relationship between the
individual and Allah (as discussed later). The individual then simply wants to
please Allah. Whatever is pleasing to Allah, he is happy with and whatever is
displeasing to Allah, he is unhappy with.

This aspect of Islam may be very
clear to a new Muslim. He may easily recognize within himself all of those
false gods that he used to pursue and “worship” in his pre-Islamic days. His
whole life may have revolved around those objects of worship. He would do
virtually anything in pursuit of that goal regardless of whether such means
were ethically sound. Those goals were what made him a person.

He evaluated his entire life in
terms of those goals. If he achieved those goals, that would be his source of
happiness. He was truly enslaved by those goals. Now he can understand how
those goals were actually taking him away from the worship of Allah alone.

 (C) Making Life on Earth Flourishing and Sound

Islam is a beautiful religion that
fulfills the needs of both body and soul. A human is made up of both a
spiritual as well as a material side. Both sides of a human have to be
recognized as “true,” with neither of them being ignored or denied.
Furthermore, the individual needs guidance for both of these aspects of his
personality. If not, one aspect will dominate the other or be in conflict with
the other and the individual will never achieve true happiness. For example,
there are those who stress the spiritual needs and look down upon the material
aspects of this world.

At the same time, though, they are
forced to partake in the material aspects of this world that are part of the
human’s nature. Such individuals are conflicted when they cannot free
themselves completely from the material needs that they so look down upon. On
the other hand, there are economic systems, like capitalism and socialism, that
seek to meet the material needs—in fact, capitalists claim to bring about “the
best of all possible worlds. In reality, though, they can leave a great void in
the psyche of an individual as his material needs are met and yet he feels
empty inside.

Allah is the One who made humans
the successors of this earth: “And (remember) when your Lord said to the
angels: ‘Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on
earth’”
(2:30). Thus, the view of Islam is that humans have been put here on
this earth intentionally by God and they are to use the material means to build
a positive life in this temporary world, which will eventually lead them to a
positive eternal life in the Hereafter. Thus, Allah says, “But seek, with that
(wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget
not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world, and do good as Allah has
been good to you, and do not seek corruption in the land. Verily, Allah does
not love the corrupters”
(28:77).

 In fact, even after finishing the
Friday Prayer, one of the most significant acts of worship in Islam, Allah
encourages them to go out and seek the bounties of this world:
“Then when the (Friday) Prayer is finished, you may
disperse through the land, and seek the Bounty of Allah (by working, etc.), and
remember Allah much, that you may be successful”
(62:10).

In reality, humans are caretakers
of this great creation and they are supposed to behave in the proper manner
with respect to it. They are not the ultimate owners of it who are free to use
it in any way they wish. In fact, they are not supposed to exploit it for their
own personal greed or vengeance. They are not supposed to waste the resources
of this earth in extravagance and non-beneficial purposes. Instead, they should
behave in the manner described by Allah:
“Those
who, if We give them power in the land, establish the prayer, give the Zakat,
enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil”
(22:41).

This teaching of Islam is further
highlighted by the numerous verses in which Allah forbids the spreading of evil
and corruption (fasaad) on Earth (as in 28:77 quoted above). Allah also
says, “And do not do corruption on the earth, after
it has been set in order, and invoke Him with fear and hope; Surely, Allah’s
Mercy is (ever) near unto the good-doers”
(7:56).

Again, “So
remember the graces (bestowed upon you) from Allah, and do not go about making
mischief on the earth”
(7:74). On the other hand, Allah promises a great
reward who live their lives by the principle of not promoting or seeking evil
and corruption. Allah says, “That home of the
Hereafter (i.e. Paradise), We shall assign to those who rebel not against the
truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do corruption by committing
crimes. And the good end is for the pious”
(28:83). Allah makes it clear
that when the people stand in front of Him on the Day of Resurrection, those
who spread evil on the earth will not be treated as equal to those who spread
goodness on this earth. Allah says, “Shall We treat
those who believe and do righteous good deeds like those spread corruption on
earth? Or shall We treat the pious as criminals?”
(38:28).

Unfortunately, what many people do
not realize is that the greatest way of spreading corruption and evil on earth
is by turning one’s back on the revelation from God and encouraging people to
forget about what Allah has commanded, thereby following their own wants and desires.
Turning away from God and His guidance truly corrupts the individual soul and
also corrupts the family, society and entire creation. With a true belief in
God removed from one’s heart, it is a small step to unethical behavior and
unjust practices.

In reality, it is one of Allah’s
laws that if corruption is allowed to spread, it leads to evils throughout the
earth as a wake-up call to humans that they must change their ways. Thus, Allah
says, “Evil has appeared on land and sea because of
what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds), that Allah
may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may
return (by repenting to Allah, and begging His Pardon)
(30:41).
Unfortunately, today very few do wake-up as they put the blame for all evils on
everything except the fact that they have turned away from God.

In the end, it is the corruptors
and evildoers themselves who will suffer:
Allah says, “Those who disbelieved
and hinder (men) from the Path of Allah, for them We will add torment over the
torment; because they used to spread corruption [by disobeying Allah
themselves, as well as ordering others (mankind) to do so]”
(16:88). “Those who
break Allah’s Covenant after ratifying it, and sever what Allah has ordered to
be joined, and do mischief on earth, it is they who are the losers”
(2:27).

 (D) Justice and the Prohibition of Wronging Others

Life on Earth cannot be truly
flourishing and sound without justice. Thus, the call to and the implementation
of justice is one of the most prominent features of Islam. In numerous places
in the Quran, Allah orders the Muslims to fulfill the demands of justice, even
if these should go against their own interests or needs.

For example, Allah says, “Verily!
Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they
are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily,
how excellent is the teaching which He (Allah) gives you! Truly, Allah is Ever
All-Hearer, All-Seer”
(4:58); “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice,
as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents,
or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than
you)
. So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and
if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever
Well-Acquainted with what you do”
(4:135); and “O you who believe! Stand out
firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of
others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear
Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do”
(5:8).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
demonstrated that nobody is above the law and justice in
Islam. One time Usaamah, who was very close and dear to the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
, was convinced to try to intervene with the
Prophet concerning a prescribed punishment and the Prophet told him, “Do you, Usaamah, intervene with respect to one of Allah’s
prescribed punishments? By Allah, if Fatimah the daughter of [the Prophet]
Muhammad were to steal, I would have her hand amputated.”
[46]

Thus, justice is to be applied to
everyone, rich and poor, young and old, ally and enemy, Muslim and non-Muslim and
so forth. In reality, if this were not the case and some sort of double standard
were to be used, it would not be true justice. A Muslim is required to be just
to everyone, friend or foe, and even to his own soul. He is not allowed to
wrong his own soul as wronging one’s own soul is not “freedom” but it is one of
the worst forms of injustice. Actually, a true Muslim has been ordered to be
even more than just; he must also be benevolent and forbearing. Thus, Allah
says, “Verily, Allah enjoins justice and beneficence,
and giving (help) to kith and kin, and He forbids all lewd acts, evil and
oppression. Thus He admonishes you, that you may take heed”
(16:90).

The establishment of justice and
working for justice is one of the heavy responsibilities upon the Muslim
community as a whole. It is by this way that the Muslims are witnesses to the
rest of mankind that this is the true religion of Allah. Thus, Allah has said, “Thus We have made you a wasat (just) nation, that
you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you”

(2:143). One of the meanings of the word wasat is just and balanced,
avoiding the extremes that always accompany exploitation and injustice.[47]

Finally, there is a very important
relationship between justice and following the revelation from Allah. Allah
alone is the only one with the impartiality and just nature to lay down laws
that will not favor one class of people over the other (in particular, the
powerful over the weak)
. He is also the only one with the complete knowledge that
allows Him to lay down laws that are truly just. Someone may have sincere intentions
but due to lacking perfect knowledge of the human psyche and human social
interactions may invoke laws that are actually unfair and unjust. Thus, once
again, if a person is truly interested in pure and adulterated justice, he has
no option but to turn to the revelation from Allah and the law from Him.

 Ibn al-Qayyim therefore wrote,
“Allah sent His Messengers and revealed His Books so that the people could live
by justice. It is the same justice and balance upon which the earth and the
heavens are balanced. Wherever the signs of true justice are apparent and
clear, therein also lies the law of Allah and His religion.”
[48] Fortunately,
for all of humankind, the working of the cosmos is according to the justice and
truth from Allah and is not based on the desires of humans. Hence, Allah says, “And if the truth had been in accordance with their
desires, verily, the heavens and the earth, and whosoever is therein would have
been corrupted! Nay, We have brought them their reminder, but they turn away
from their reminder”
(23:71).

The justice that is so essential to
Islam extends beyond this life to the Hereafter. In other words, Allah will
judge all individuals in the most just way and will not wrong anyone in the
least. Part of this justice includes the fact that no individual will bear the
burden of another’s sin and no one will be held responsible for what is beyond
his means.

Thus, Allah says, “Say: Shall I
seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things? No person
earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall
bear the burden of another. Then unto your Lord is your return, so He will tell
you that wherein you have been differing”
(6:164); “Whoever goes right, then he
goes right only for the benefit of his ownself. And whoever goes astray, then
he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear another’s
burden. And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning)
(17:15);
“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good)
which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned”

(2:286); and, “Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him.
Allah will grant after hardship, ease”
(65:7).

Justice does not only have a positive
aspect to it (the fulfilling and restoring of rights after they have been
infringed upon)
, it must also have a “negative” component to it: the
prohibition of wronging others. Islam places great emphasis on the avoidance of
wronging of others in the first place. Thus, the Prophet stated that God has
said, “O My servants, I have forbidden wrongdoing
for Myself and I have made it forbidden for you. Therefore, do not wrong one
another.”
[49]
Ibn Taimiyyah states that this statement covers all of the religion. Everything
that Allah has forbidden is, in one way or another, a type of dhulm,
while everything that He has ordered is a form of adl or justice.[50] In
fact, Allah has said, “Indeed, We have sent Our
messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the
Balance (justice) that mankind may establish justice. And We brought forth iron
wherein is mighty power as well as many
benefits for mankind, that Allah may test  those who will help Him and His
messengers, while unseen. Verily, Allah is All-Strong, All-Mighty”
(57:25).

Thus, the messengers were sent,
books revealed and the balance made so that humankind may establish and live by
justice. Furthermore, iron has been created so that it may be used for the sake
of truth and justice. The book guides to justice and the sword and iron assists
it.

There is yet another very important
relationship between justice and Islam. In order for humans to be truly just,
they need some internal mechanism that drives them to do what is right. It is
very easy to be swayed and impartial when one’s wealth, family, nation, status
or honor is at stake. Many can recognize the injustice in others but fail to or
refuse to recognize any injustice on their own part.

In such cases, their desires will
not allow them to recognize the truth. However, once true faith enters an
individual’s heart, the situation changes completely. The person understands
that Allah wants justice from him. He also knows that Allah is aware of even
the most minute of his actions or intention. Allah demands justice and has
forbidden all forms of injustice. The true believer, then, will not give
preference to his desires, his wealth, his family, his nation—or whatever—over
what Allah demands from him in the form of justice. He knows that he will meet
Allah and he will desire to do so with a clear conscience. Thus, he will work
for justice and will accept nothing less than it.

Many converts today come from
individualistic societies, where justice is sometimes overridden by the desire
to serve one’s own interests. This has no place in Islam. Again, even if it is
against one’s own interest, a Muslim must always stand out firmly and bravely
for the sake of truth and justice.

 (E)True Peace

The Light and Guidance from Allah
is the path to true peace. Allah says, “Indeed, there has come to you from
Allah a Light and a clear Book wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His
Good Pleasure to ways of peace, and He brings them out of darkness by His Will
unto light and guides them to a Straight Way”
(5:15-16). In fact, Allah is
calling humans to the abode of eternal peace:
“Allah calls to the home of peace
(Paradise) and guides whom He wills to a Straight Path”
(10:25).

True and complete peace can only be
had when the individuals themselves achieve internal peace. This results from
Islam or the true submission to Allah alone. This is the only way of life
consistent with the nature of human beings. In fact, this is what can be called
the “true life.” Thus, Allah says, “O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger
when he calls you to that which will give you life”
(8.24).

Knowing Allah is what can bring
about true contentment in the soul. If the individual does not know his
Creator, his soul will always be yearning for something that is missing in his
life. Unless there is contentment in the soul and the heart, the individual can
never achieve true contentment. All of the wealth and the goods of this world
will not be able to bring the human such true contentment. The Prophet said, “True richness is not via much property and
belongings but true richness is in self-contentment.”
[51] He
also said, “True richness is the richness of the heart.
True poverty is the poverty of the heart.”
[52]

Once an individual is at peace with
himself and free of any internal agitations, he can then enter into truly
peaceful relations with others. This starts with those closest to him in his
family and extends to his neighbors and others in the community, eventually
extending to all of humankind as a whole. Thus, Islam establishes an entire
social structure in which people interact with others, based on relationships,
rights and obligations, in ways that bring about a peaceful coexistence.[53]
Children recognize the rights of their parents upon them while parents
recognize their roles towards their children. Husbands and wives come together
not as competitors but as partners cooperating to produce a home filled with
peace and love.

Indeed, Allah points to this
relationship that He has created as a great sign:
“And among His Signs is this,
that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose
in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are
indeed signs for a people who reflect”
(30:21). Thus, Allah has laid down
stringent laws that protect the sanctity of the home, such as the laws
concerning adultery, fornication and slander. The reason is that the home is
truly the foundation for the society as a whole. If there is no peace in the
home, one can hardly expect that people will exit their home in a troubled
state and be peaceful, fulfilling members of society.

Since the guidance of Islam covers
not only what is traditionally known as “law” but also ethical behavior and
conduct, Islam provides detailed guidance for the manner in which members of a
society should interact with one another. There is a great emphasis on mutual
respect, with each member of society realizing that he is part of a larger
unity entailing rights and obligations. This mutual feeling produces a society
that is filled with peace, wherein each individual looks after the welfare and
needs of the other members of society.

Thus, when Islam is enacted, the
individual finds peace all around him, from within himself and throughout the
entire society. In fact, even world peace can only truly come about when there
is justice. In recent years, more and more people have realized this fact and
emphasize, “There is No Peace Without Justice.”
(Justice is often a slogan used when going to war but it is usually not more than
that, a slogan.)
But there can be no true justice or peace until people raise
themselves above national or ethnic economic or political interests. True
justice can only occur when people dedicate themselves to Allah, applying His
guidance while removing their egos and desires from their decisions.

In the Hereafter, of course, it
will only be through believing in God and following His guidance that one will
achieve eternal peace. Again, Allah makes it very clear that this is what He is
actually calling the humans to:
“Allah calls to the
home of peace (Paradise) and guides whom He wills to a Straight Path”

(10:25).

 A Final Point on Some of the Goals of Islam

One will readily note that all of
the goals of Islam are highly interconnected. This is quite logical. Actually,
they all flow from the foundation of true monotheism. When a person embodies
the teachings of Islamic monotheism, he then frees himself from worshipping
anybody else or anything else.

Furthermore, he will then lead his
life in this world in a way that is best for society and civilization. He will
work for justice and ensure that neither he nor others wrong others. In the
end, he will find true peace and will be able to pass that along to others. But
all of this must start with the true internalization of pure monotheism, where
one worships and submits to Allah, sincerely and devoutly practicing the
religion of Allah in this life.

Thus, clearly, once a person
understands, accepts and applies the true concept of Islamic monotheism concept
in his life, the other aspects are achieved as corollaries to this main goal.
One the other hand, without true monotheism, the other goals cannot be achieved,
even at a superficial level. Hence, it is understandable that, in essence, all
of the Quran is concerning tauheed or pure monotheism. The commentator
on one of the famous expositions of Islamic belief, al-Aqeedah
al-Tahaawiyya, also noted that all of the Quran is actually a discussion of
pure monotheism (tauheed):

Most of the chapters in the Quran
are concerned with the two types of tauheed
[54]; in fact, every
chapter in the Quran [is concerned with tauheed].
The Quran either reports about Allah’s names and attributes. This is the tauheed that one must have knowledge about and
that is reported. Or the Quran calls to His worship, associating no partner
with Him [in that worship] and abandoning any other idol other than Him. This
is the tauheed of intention and will. Or the Quran
orders, prohibits or commands [His] obedience.

These are essential aspects of tauheed and part of its completeness. Or the
Quran reports about how [Allah] honors the people [who adhere to] tauheed and what He does for them in this
world and what He graciously bestows on them in the Hereafter. That is the
reward for [adhering to] tauheed. Or
[the Quran] reports about the polytheists and how He treats them in this world
and what kind of punishment they will receive in the end. That is the
punishment for those who abandon the aspects of tauheed.[55]

 (1) Pure Monotheism:

As noted earlier, this is the main
goal of Islam. It is also one of its excellent features. Islam frees the human
from trying to serve varied objects of worship. His life becomes clear and easy
to follow. He has one Lord and one path to follow. He does not associate anyone
or anything with God.

In a number of places in the Quran,
Allah juxtaposes the ramifications and effects of the correct belief in Allah
with the effects of different incorrect beliefs. In the following passage,
Allah has beautifully described the fruits of the correct belief as well as the
results of all false beliefs. Allah says, “Don’t
you see how Allah sets forth a parable? A goodly word is like a goodly tree,
whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens, it brings
forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord. So Allah sets forth
parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition. And the parable of
an evil word is that of any evil tree. It is torn up by the root from the
surface of the earth. It has no stability. Allah will establish in strength
those who believe, with the word that stands firm, in this world and in the
Hereafter; but Allah will leave to stray those who do wrong. Allah does what He
wills”
(14:24-27).

 It is narrated that ibn Abbaas
said, “The goodly word is the testimony that there
is none worthy of worship except Allah.”
[56] This verse
shows that pure monotheism or proper belief is the foundation upon which all
other good is built. It is a foundation that continues to give and give, with
its proceeds reaching the highest limits. Such is the way with the true faith;
it continually and perpetually benefits the person in this life and eternally
in the Hereafter. It also follows that the stronger and better supported the foundation
or roots, the greater will be the fruits. On the other hand, the false beliefs,
such as associating partners with God, have no solid ground to them. Indeed,
they are not much more than an illusion in the sense that they can never bear
the produce that its followers claim or believe in.

It is therefore no secret and no
wonder that the first portion of the Prophet’s mission, as demonstrated by the
revelations that he received in Makkah, concentrated on purification of belief.
It was dedicated to removing all forms of ignorance, superstition and false
creeds, as a human’s soul cannot rest if it is torn in many directions, seeking
after numerous ultimate goals.

Allah has beautifully described the
similitude of those who fail to see that their soul can only recognize one true
object of worship: “Allah puts forth a similitude:
a [slave] man belong to many partners disputing with one another [like those
who worship more than one god]
and a [slave] man belonging to only one man [like
those who worship only Allah]
. Are those two equal in comparison? All the
praises are to Allah. Yet most of them know not”
(39:29). From an
Islamic perspective, there is no way for a person to please more than one god
as, by the Islamic definition of the word “God”, God must be the thing that is
foremost in one’s heart.

Actually, when a person realizes
that he has only one, clear goal, the effects upon his soul are profound. He
need not chase after an endless array of goals, never being able to satisfy or
achieve any of them completely. (Indeed, many times people’s goals are
contradictory and they can never achieve all of them.)
His energies need not be
exhausted trying to serve a myriad of goals. When he has one goal and one goal
alone, he can easily gauge whether he is moving towards achieving that goal or
not. He can put all of his energy and thought into working towards that one
ultimate goal. He can be certain about his goal and his path will be clear.
Hence, he has no reason to be filled with doubt or confusion.

Then, as he moves closer and closer
to that one ultimate goal, he can experience true joy and contentment. All of
this is part of the beauty and the bounty when humans recognize, receive and
accept true monotheism, the only faith system consistent with their own creation
and nature.

 (2) The Religion of Allah

Islam is not a man-made philosophy
or religion. Its teachings come directly from the Creator. It is the guidance
that the Creator, via His Mercy, has bestowed upon humankind.

In reality, God can be the only one
who knows how He is to be worshipped. He is the only one who knows what way of
living is pleasing to Him. Philosophers and others may ponder over this
question of what way of life is pleasing to God but, in reality, the details of
that way of life are beyond the scope of human reasoning and experimentation.
What humans, independent of revelation from God, declare to be the best mode of
worshipping God is not what is necessarily most pleasing to God but only most
pleasing to the individual who devised it. Thus, only God knows, for example,
the manner by which one should pray to Him.

Being the only way of life that God
has actually approved of, it will also be the only way of life that will be
acceptable to Him in the end. Earlier two important verses of the Quran were
quoted that point to this conclusion:
“Truly, the
religion with Allah is Islam (submission to Him)
(3:19); “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will
never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers”

(3:85).

This point cannot be
overemphasized. The ultimate question must be: What is acceptable and pleasing
to God? No one can seriously claim with any real proof that any path other than
that based on Allah’s guidance is pleasing to Him. Such a claim would be baseless
and absurd.

  (3) Comprehensiveness

Islam is comprehensive in many
ways. It is comprehensive in the sense that it applies to all human beings and
is applicable by all regardless of where or what time they may be living. Islam
or submission to God is the true way of life from the time of the first human
until the time of last human on this Earth.[57]
Furthermore, Islam is for all classes of people. Islam is just as much relevant
to the most knowledgeable scientist as well as the illiterate Bedouin. Allah
says concerning the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
, “Say (O Muhammad to the people), ‘O mankind! Verily,
I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah’ (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”
(34:28). Among
the Prophet’s followers were the rich and poor, nobles and weak, literate and
illiterate. All of them were able to apply Islam and thereby, Allah willing, earn
the pleasure of God.

Islam also covers both this life
and the Hereafter. Islam is not a religion that is only concerned with the
Hereafter. Islam offers complete and practical guidance for the affairs of this
world as well. As noted earlier, one of the goals of Islam is to establish a
sound and proper society in this life. As for the Hereafter, goodness therein
is dependent completely upon Islam and working towards the Hereafter in the
proper way. Allah may give anyone some of the goods of this world but He
reserves the good of the Hereafter only for those who are pious believers.

Allah says, “Those who desire the
life of this world and its glitter, to them We shall pay (the price of) their
deeds therein, without diminution. They are those for whom there is nothing in
the Hereafter but the Fire:
vain are the designs they frame therein, and void
are the deeds that they do”
(11:15-16). In another verse, Allah says, “Whoever
desires the immediate [worldly gratifications], We hasten for him from it what
We will to whom We please. Then We have made for him Hell, [in] which he will
burn, censured and banished. But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the
effort due to it while he is a believer, it is those whose effort is
appreciated”
(17:18-20).

Islam also attends to all of the various
components of a human. It is concerned with the human’s spirit, intellect,
body, beliefs, actions and morality. It protects the human from the diseases of
the heart as well as from the diseases of the body and diseases of society as a
whole. Thus, one can find guidance concerning the disease of arrogance that
appears in the heart, guidance directing humans to balanced eating and drinking
without extravagance and guidance steering humans away from corruption and
social diseases such as adultery and the like. In essence, Islam guides humans
to a balanced life in which no component is ignored or neglected. Instead, each
component receives the attention that it deserves and requires.

Islam is also comprehensive in the
sense that it covers all aspects of a person’s life, from ritual worship to
ethics and moral behavior to acts of business and government. Nothing, by the
grace and mercy of Allah, has been neglected. There is no reason for anyone to
feel lost concerning any area of his life. No matter what the issue, he will be
able to find some guidance to help him.

For the new Muslim, he must accept
Islam in all of its comprehensiveness. He is not free to pick and choose what
aspect of Islam he likes. Concerning such behavior, Allah says, “Do you believe in
part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part thereof? And what is the reward of
those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of
Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom. For Allah is not
unaware of what you do. Such are those who buy the life of the world at the
price of the Hereafter:
Their punishment will not be lightened, neither will
they have support”
(2:85-86).

 For
example, he cannot restrict his Islam simply to the beliefs and the ritual acts
of worship while rejecting what Islam has to say about marriage, business
dealings, alcohol and drugs and so forth. Yes, it is true that one cannot
expect another individual to become a perfect Muslim over night. However, the
goal, the understanding and the acceptance in one’s heart of the entirety of
Islam is the main issue.

The beautiful and consistent
comprehensiveness of Islam is another sign that this religion must be revealed
by God. It is impossible for humans, even in groups, to comprehend all of the
components of this creation in such a way as to give comprehensive guidance for
every aspect of life. Thus, Sayyid Qutb 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 every 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.”[58]

  (4) Taking into Consideration the Welfare of this World and the Hereafter

As noted earlier, Islam is not a
religion that is simply concerned with the Hereafter or what can be referred to
as the “spiritual side” of life.[59]
Instead, it promotes the welfare of humans in both this world and the
Hereafter. Thus, Allah says, “Whoever works
righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer
verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect,
contentment and lawful provision)
, and We shall pay them certainly a reward in
proportion to the best of what they used to do”
(16:97).

Many scholars have studied the
Islamic Law in its entirety and have noted that the Law is geared toward
achieving specific goals in this world (as well as the obvious goals of the
Hereafter)
. One can divide the “wants” and “needs” of this world into three categories:
necessities, needs and amenities. The necessities of life are those components
of life that are required to allow one to truly have a “life.”

In other words, without them, one
may be so miserable that he may wish he was no longer living. Beyond those
necessities become the “needs,” which make life much more bearable, although
one can still live without them. Then comes the amenities, which make life
comfortable and more enjoyable.

 Islamic Law, coming from the
Creator, has identified and emphasized what are the true necessities of life.
When one studies the laws found in Islam and what seems to be the wisdom behind
them, one finds that they have been laid down to establish, protect, reinforce
and perpetuate these necessities. After these are truly protected and
established, the Law then seeks to meet the needs of life. After due
consideration is given to the necessities and needs, the Law then seeks to
provide amenities for the ease of humankind.

Space does not allow a detailed
discussion of these three categories. Therefore, only the five necessities of
life identified via Islamic Law will be briefly touched upon here.

The necessities of life as
envisioned by Islamic Law are: (1)
religion, (2) life, (3) familial ties and relationships, (4) mental capacity and (5) wealth and property. In one eloquent
passage of the Quran, which is representative of the style of the Quran, Allah
touches upon all of these goals of Islamic Law:

“Say [O Muhammad to the people]:
‘Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you: Join not anything in worship
with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because
of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to
shameful sins (or illegal sexual intercourse), whether committed openly or
secretly, and kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause
(according to Islamic law). This He has commanded you that you may understand.
And come not near to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he (or
she)
attains the age of full strength; and give full measure and full weight
with justice. We burden not any person, but that which he can bear. And
whenever you give your word, say the truth even if a near relative is
concerned, and fulfill the Covenant of Allah, This He commands you, that you may
remember.’ Verily, this (way) is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not
(other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has
ordained for you that you may become pious”
(6:151-153).[60]

The most important of these goals
is that of religion. From an Islamic perspective, if people do not have
religion and a sound relationship with their Lord they cannot have a healthy
life. Hence, one is expected to be willing to risk or sacrifice one’s own life
for the sake of religion.

In fact, Allah says, “Is he who was
dead (without Faith by ignorance and disbelief) and We gave him life (by
knowledge and Faith)
and set for him a light (of Belief) whereby he can walk
amongst men, like him who is in the darkness (of disbelief, polytheism and hypocrisy)
from which he can never come out? Thus it is made fair-seeming to the
disbelievers that which they used to do”
(6:122). Many of the laws of Islam are
obviously geared toward the preservation of this ultimate goal, such as the
institution of congregational prayer and so on. Next in importance comes life
itself. Thus, for example, the law of retribution and the death penalty are
part of Islamic law. These laws are not meant simply for the sake of
punishment. Such laws are actually meant to protect life, as Allah says, “And
there is (a saving of) life for you in the Law of Equality in punishment, O men
of understanding, that you may become the pious”
(2:179).

Concerning familial ties mention
has already been made of the stringent laws governing adultery, fornication and
slander. With respect to the protection of wealth, one finds that under
specific conditions, the hand of the thief is to be amputated. The prohibition
of wasting wealth, extravagance and interest are all for the sake of preserving
wealth in the proper manner. With respect to the protection of mental capacity,
all intoxicants have been prohibited and strict punishments are enacted for
violating such laws.

  (5) Ease and Absence of Hardship in the Law

One of the clearest aspects of
Islamic Law is the goal of bringing about ease upon the humans and avoiding
hardship for them while maintaining positive results for all. Hence, this is
not a goal independent of all other goals. In other words, there are a myriad
of goals, such as mercy, justice, equity, balance and so forth. Within the
context of meeting those goals, though, Allah, in His Mercy and Wisdom, has
laid down a law for humans that provides ease for them and is free of any
unwarranted hardships.[61]

Numerous verses of the Quran point
to this very important feature of Islam. For example, Allah says, “Allah
burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he
has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned”
(2:286).
This is part of Allah’s great mercy, as no one could hold Allah responsible if
He burdened humans with actions beyond their capacity. Allah also says, “Allah
intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you”

(2:185). Allah also says, “Allah does not want to place you in difficulty, but
He wants to purify you, and to complete His Favor on you that you may be
thankful”
(5:6). In yet another verse, Allah says, “Strive hard in Allah’s
Cause as you ought to strive. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in religion
any hardship”
(22:78).

Allah sent the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as a mercy for all of mankind, as
noted earlier. Part of his role was to relax some of the laws put on the previous
peoples due to their recalcitrance or put on them by their own religious
leaders and scholars.

Thus, Allah describes the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the following fashion: “Those who
follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write whom they find
written with them in the Torah and the Gospel—he commands them for what is good
and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful all good matters, and
prohibits them as unlawful all filthy matters; he releases them from their
heavy burdens and from the fetters that were upon them. So those who believe in
him, honor him, help him, and follow the light which has been sent down with
him, it is they who will be successful”
(7:157). Thus, the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
also said, “I have
not been sent with Judaism or Christianity but I have been sent with the true
monotheism and easy religion.”
[62]

This principle of ease and removing
hardship is exhibited throughout many branches of Islamic law. Even becoming a
Muslim requires no special indoctrination or ceremony. In fact, it does not
even require anyone’s approval or supervision. With respect to the acts of
worship, one finds numerous rules demonstrating this principle.[63]
For example, an individual is not required to perform the pilgrimage to Makkah
if he does not have the means to do so—in other words, if it would be too much
of a financial burden.

The traveler is allowed to shorten
and combine his prayers in order to lessen his burden—but he still must perform
the prayer as that effort is definitely beneficial for him. With respect to the
fast of Ramadan, those who are traveling or ill can delay their fasts and make
up those days after the month is finished. Those facing starvation are allowed
to eat foods, such as pork, that are normally forbidden. Of great importance is
the issue of repentance. In Islam, repentance never requires one to go to a
priest and beg forgiveness for one’s sins. It is simply a matter of faithfully
returning to Allah and attempting to redress any wrong one has done.

For the new Muslim, it is important
to realize that the relaxation in the laws under certain circumstances does not
open the door to them to relax any law for themselves in the name of the fact
that the religion desires ease. Such laws must be based on the Quran and Sunnah
and will be known to those who are knowledgeable. Furthermore, as mentioned in
a footnote earlier, it is referring to unwarranted hardship or effort. The
effort or “hardship” required to perform prayers five times a day, fast for a
month, and so on, are, in general within the means of most humans and the great
benefits they should produce are well worth their effort.

 (6) A Strong Relationship between the Creator and the Created

The goals and the teachings of
Islam go well beyond any legal issues in this world. Islam seeks to create a
certain type of individual, an individual who has a strong and proper
relationship with Allah. There are a number of important points related to this
feature.

First, in Islam, the Muslim
has a direct relationship with Allah. Allah says, “And when My slaves ask you
(O Muhammad) concerning Me, then (answer them): I am indeed near (to them by My
Knowledge)
. I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me
(without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me,
so that they may be led aright”
(2:186). Allah also says, “And your Lord said:
‘Invoke Me, I will respond to your (invocation)
(40:60).

Thus, there is no priestly class in
Islam. The individual prays directly to God without going through an
intermediary. When a Muslim seeks forgiveness, he seeks it directly from God
with no human having the authority to tell him if his repentance is sufficient
or accepted by God. When a Muslim is in need, he turns directly to God, without
having to put his trust and reliance in anyone other than God. When a Muslim
wants to read the revelation and guidance from God, he goes directly to the
Quran and Sunnah, being able to read them directly by himself.[64]

There are no demigods or clergy
that he has to go through. Everything is actually between the individual and
his Lord. This direct relationship with Allah is very empowering and
reassuring. There is none other than Allah that he is worshipping and there is
none who can interfere with his worship of Allah. Under all circumstances,
Allah is available to him and he can turn to Him at any time to ask for help,
guidance and forgiveness.

This direct relationship with Allah
extends to all of an individual’s deeds. The Muslim knows that Allah not only
sees his outward actions but that Allah is also fully aware of every intention
and feeling that is in his heart. Thus, due to his direct relationship with
Allah, the Muslim attempts to perform every deed with the intention of pleasing
God. In this way, even the most mundane activity can become an act pleasing to
God, if done with the right conditions in the heart. The Muslim sets upon his
day, via his close relationship with his Lord, by ensuring that he performs
acts that are permissible in the sight of his Lord. That is the Muslim’s goal
and intention and as he is conscious of this goal, he is pleasing Allah by the
simplest of deeds. Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “Everything you spend for the sake of Allah
will be rewarded, even if it were a morsel you put in your wife’s mouth.”
[65]

When one understands this concept
of his close relationship to God and the ability to the transform even mundane
activities into acts that are pleasing to God, his whole outlook and behavior
completely change. He begins to perform each act differently, realizing that he
is doing it for the sake of God. Unfortunately, there are many in this world
who are completely negligent of this point.

In Madaarij al-Saalikeen,
ibn al-Qayyim stated, “The most exclusive [group of] people who get close to
Allah are those who change the nature of their permissible deeds into acts of
obedience to Allah.”
He also said, “The customary-mundane deeds of those people
who truly know Allah are acts of worship [for them] while the ritual acts of
worship are customary deeds for the masses.”
[66] What he
said is very true. Unfortunately, many among the masses of Muslims approach the
prayers, fasting and other deeds as common daily practices that they must
perform simply because it is part of the culture or way of life. They have no
strong intention in their hearts or feeling of doing the act for the sake of
Allah. If the quality of the act is poor, it does not matter much to them
because they are doing it just to finish.

Hence, these important rites of
worship become simply customary with no meaning or effect to them. The one who
truly knows Allah is at the opposite extreme. Even the “mundane” deeds he
performs are filled with purpose and intent. Hence, they become acts of worship
that are pleasing to Allah. Thus, for example, even when a person goes to sleep
he does so with the intention of reviving himself such that he can work again
for the sake of Allah. Thereby, his sleep even becomes an act of worship of
Allah.

Actually, one can take this
discussion even one step further. Allah says in the Quran, “Every moment He has a matter to bring forth”
(55:29). In other words, at every moment, Allah is creating, distributing, providing,
bringing forth life and death and so on. However, in general nowadays, the
individual does not see Allah behind all of these actions around him.

The individual today has become
desensitized and thinks that all of these things simply occur on their own due
to some independent laws of nature. In reality, that is not true. These “laws
of nature”
are nothing more than Allah’s activity at every second and moment.
In numerous places in the Quran, Allah asks humans to observe the cosmos around
them. For example, Allah brings the reader’s attention to the tiny bee or the
movement of the shadows.[67] Muhammad
Qutb notes that Allah’s goal was not to present a scientific lesson in such
passages. They are to awaken the human to what is really going on and to tie
his heart and everyday activities to his Lord and Creator. Qutb writes,

Humankind’s concentration on the
apparent cause has distracted them from seeing the greater reality behind it:
the will of Allah who says to something, “Be,”
and it is. They ignore that greater will and call the laws, “natural laws”
and
they say that they are fixed and inevitable. They are stupefied by such limited
experiences and therefore Allah is actually distanced from their hearts. This
is where the Quranic expression begins, taking them from where they are
stupefied and distanced from Allah and taking them back to Allah…[68]

 Qutb then writes,

Science tells us, based on the
outward causes that we see, that the existence of the sun and the rotation of
the earth around it is the cause of the “movement” of the shadows. But the
Quranic expression tells us that it is the will of Allah that moves the shadows
in the first place and then the sun is placed as a guide for the shadow. Thus,
the apparent cause is not the original source but actually comes afterwards…
Indeed, it comes later, by the word “then”
, after Allah decided this matter by
His will, saying to something Be and it is.[69]

In fact, Qutb argues, the end
result of this Quranic approach is very clear. In reality, the knowledge that
one has about, for example, the bee or the shade does not change upon reading
the verses in the Quran in which Allah points to these two. One’s knowledge
does not change but, he argues, the individual changes. Qutb states,

Did your information about the
shadows or bees change when you read these verses? Certainly not! The
information in itself was not new. It was known beforehand. However, that was a
knowledge that was a dead, cold, still and unmoving information. But the Quran
brings this information and presents it in an emotional or moving setting, in a
miraculous fashion, that changes one’s perspective as if it were not what we
knew beforehand. The information did not change but we are the ones who
changed…[70]

For the new Muslim, this may be a
completely new way of looking at the world and may take some adjustment. Many
non-Muslims do not see God’s involvement in this world and therefore they do
not feel any direct relationship with God. As the new Muslim ponders over the
Quran, this feeling may develop within him. He will see Allah’s working in
everything around him. This will remind him of Allah and he will no longer be
negligent of Allah and his duty toward Him. He will be then, God willing,
leading his life in a manner very different from before his conversion to
Islam.

 (7) Ordering Good and Eradicating Evil.

Islam is not a religion in which
one purifies one’s own soul while ignoring or not helping others as well along
the path of purification. As discussed later in this work, Islam stresses the
proper relationship between different individuals of society. One of the most
important interactions between individuals is that of ordering or encouraging
what is good while prohibiting or preventing that which is evil. It is part of
true brotherhood that one wants to assist others to do what is right. It is also
definitely part of true brotherhood that when one sees another Muslim doing
something displeasing to Allah, that he would want to correct and advise his
brother or sister in Islam. Thus, in the Quran, Allah relates the concept of
being true brethren, friends and helpers to one another directly to the concept
of ordering good and preventing evil. Allah says, “The
believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters of one another, they
enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil”
(9:71). Allah also says, “Help one another in righteous dealings and in acts of
piety. But do not help one another in sins or acts of aggression against
others”
(5:2). In fact, Allah makes it clear that encouraging good and
preventing evil should be one of the overriding qualities of the Muslim Nation
as a whole:
“You are the best of peoples ever
raised up for mankind; you enjoin what is good, forbid what is evil, and you
believe in Allah”
(3:110).

 This is not an “optional way” to
behave. It is a necessary part of one’s faith and attitude. This is part and
parcel of what it means to belong to a community. An individual has rights upon
others as well as obligations towards others. Looking out for one another and
assisting one another is essential, especially for those in positions of
authority or whose voices are listened to. Thus, the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
has informed the Muslims, “By the One in whose hand is my
soul, you must order good and forbid evil or Allah will soon send upon you a
punishment from Himself and then you will supplicate to Him and He will not
respond to you.”
[71]

In a beautiful parable recorded by
al-Bukhari, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) demonstrated
the importance of this practice for society as a whole: “The similitude of the one who fulfills Allah’s command [by
eradicating evil]
and the one who falls into what Allah forbids is like a
people who drew lots for places on a boat. Some of them got the upper level of
the boat while others were on the lower level. Whenever the people on the lower
level wanted water, they had to go to the people on the upper level. Therefore,
they said, ‘If we were to make a hole in our portion we would not have to
bother the people above us [to get water].’ If they [the people on the upper
level]
leave them to what they want to do, all of them would be destroyed. If,
instead, they take them by their hands [and stop them from what they plan on
doing]
, they will be saved and they will save all of them.”

Many times people would like to stay
away from evil but they need help in doing so. They need true friends around
them who can act like a support group. Some individuals simply do not have the
strength to remain away from activities that they know are wrong or that they
themselves do not like, especially if there is peer pressure on them. With the
help of others who understand what he is going through and who recognize that
he truly wants to do what is right, he is able to muster up the courage to say
no to wrong activities. Similarly, others are simply lazy or lack the
motivation to do the actions they should perform. Again, with the sincere help
or encouragement from those around him, the individual finds the strength to do
what is right.

If people were individualistic and
only concerned about their own selves, not lending hands to others, it would be
disastrous for society. Those who do evil would dominate and harass others. In
fact, many neighborhoods in the ﷻ‬.S., for example, have recognized this fact.
The neighbors realized that they had to get together to encourage good things
and remove evil things, as otherwise their neighborhoods were being destroyed
by hoodlums. In the same way, true believers come together and assist one
another promoting all good things and blocking all evil things.

Obviously, no one is going to be
free from sin and therefore this principle of encouraging good and preventing
evil does not mean that one has to be perfect before he can speak to others
about their behavior. However, the encouraging of good and preventing of evil,
logically, should begin with one’s own self. One should make oneself do what is
good and prevent oneself from doing evil. In this way, one sets an example for
others and such a person will more likely be listened to when he advises
others. At the same time, though, even if a person has some shortcomings, he
should still encourage others to do good and try to keep them from evil.

It must be noted that there are
some conditions for the practice of encouraging good and preventing evil. One
condition, for example, is that one has knowledge of what is good and what is
evil according to Quran and Sunnah. It is possible that someone, due to
ignorance, may encourage another not to do an act while that act is actually
from the Sunnah.

For the new Muslim, in particular,
he may find himself repeatedly on the end of being told what to do or what not
to do. Many times this advice comes from other Muslims who may seem overzealous
or who do not have the proper tack when speaking to a new Muslim. Many times
language difficulties magnify the manner in which the new Muslim is being
spoken to. It is important for the new Muslim to realize that, in general, his
fellow Muslim means him no harm or humiliation. Instead, he may be simply
acting on the basis of trying to encourage him to do what is right and teaching
others about Islam. If the new Muslim sometimes feels frustrated about such
occurrences, he should remind himself that the others are acting out of love and
want only what is good for their new brother in Islam.

 (8) The Proper Honoring of Humankind

There is no question that in God’s
scheme for this creation, humans have been given many special talents and
skills, making them distinct from other creatures. Thus, Allah says in the
Quran, “And indeed We have honored the Children of Adam, and We have carried
them on land and sea, and have provided them with lawful good things, and have
preferred them above many of those whom We have created with a marked preference”

(17:70). This marked preference is not the result of a random form of
“evolution” but is the intentional determination of the Creator.

Through divine guidance one can
fully understand the many ways by which humans have been honored by their Lord.
Through Allah’s revelation, one discovers that humans are not in a battle
against “nature” which needs to be conquered. One also learns that humans are
not simply the “cousins of apes”
with no particular purpose or goal in this
life. One also learns that this creation is not “inherently evil” or that one is
born with “an original sin” that cannot be removed save through the sacrifice
of another being. Starting from vantage points such as those, it is not
surprising to see the worth of humans being reduced to virtually nothing.

 It is not surprising to see humans
being used as simply tools for economic advantage and profit. Indeed, it is not
even surprising to see thousands of humans killed simply for the sake of
economic advantages and natural resources. After all, coming from such a
perspective, why should humans be treated any differently from other animals
that are similarly exploited, killed and destroyed? Truly, it is via Allah’s
revelation that one becomes to fully appreciate what a human is and how humans
should be treated and respected.

In reality, Allah allowed humans to
bear the great responsibility of being His servants, by which they can attain
the greatest of all rewards. Allah honored humans by revealing books
specifically for their guidance. Allah chose messengers and prophets from among
humans, giving them the noblest task of conveying Allah’s guidance for
humankind. Allah has even subjugated everything in the heavens and the earth to
the needs of humans:
“He has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and
all that is in the earth; it is all as a favor and kindness from Him. Verily,
in it are signs for a people who think deeply”
(45:13).

In addition, He has given the
opportunity to humans to become His devoted servants, martyrs for His cause and
scholars of His religion, giving them special nobility and honor. These great
achievements are equally open to the males and females of this species. Thus,
Allah says, for example, “Never will I allow to be lost the work of any of you,
be he male or female. You are (members) one of another, so those who emigrated
and were driven out from their homes, and suffered harm in My Cause, and who
fought, and were killed (in My Cause), verily, I will remit from them their
evil deeds and admit them into Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise); a
reward from Allah, and with Allah is the best of rewards”
(3:195). Allah also
says, “Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she)
is a true believer verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with
respect, contentment and lawful provision)
, and We shall pay them certainly a
reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do”
(16:97).

In fact, the only real difference
between people has nothing to do with their gender, their ethnicity, their
race, their wealth, their sex appeal or their class. All of those are false
ways of considering humans. Such standards, in fact, do nothing but denigrate
humans. The only real standard for the worth of a human is his relationship
with his Lord. Thus, Allah says, “O humankind! We have created you from a male
and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one
another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who
has piety. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware”
(49:13).

One hears a lot of talk about human
rights nowadays. This seems to be an attempt to treat humans in the most
dignified and respectable manner. However, the biggest problem with human
rights is that God is not given His proper role with respect to humans.
Instead, humans virtually become the ultimate object of worship—and the
“rights” of humans are given dominance over anything else, even the rights of
God. In fact, much talk about human rights is not much more than freeing humans
from the worship of Allah.[72]

 This is not a proper way of
honoring humans. Indeed, this is a type of extremism. Whenever anything is
magnified out of proportion and giving rights or responsibilities above what it
can bear, the result will be harm and suffering. Humans cannot be put into a
role where they are given the choice to decide everything for themselves,
including what rights they must have upon one another. These kinds of issues
can only be decided by their Creator who knows the innermost details of their
creation and the interactions with the rest of creation.

In the law of Allah, by the mercy
of Allah, Allah has given humans all of the rights that they need and deserve,
as only He could possibly determine for them based on His knowledge and
justice. They receive from God the rights that they need to live a prosperous
and happy life. At the same time, though, they are also given responsibilities.
Both rights and responsibilities have to go hand and hand for humans to
interact with each other properly in this creation.

The greatest drawback, though, of
the human rights proponents is that they can only touch upon rights related to
this world. In this way, they are forgetting the most important right because
it is beyond the realm of human experience. This is the right that Islam brings
them—their special right upon Allah. This right is described in the following
hadith:

The Messenger of Allah (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “O Muaadh!”
Muaadh replied, “At your beck and call, O Messenger
of Allah.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then
asked him, “Do you know what Allah’s right is over
His servants?”
Muaadh replied, “Allah and
His Messenger know best.”
The Prophet then told him, “Allah’s right upon His servants is that they worship Him
[alone] and do not ascribe any partners to Him.”
Then after a while, the
Prophet said, “O Muaadh ibn Jabal!” He
replied, “At your beck and call, O Messenger of
Allah.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then
asked him, “Do you know what the right of the servants
upon Allah is if they do that?”
He replied, “Allah
and His Messenger know best.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him)
then told him, “The right of the
servants upon Allah is that He will not punish them.”
[73]

By Allah’s grace, He has made His
religion open to anyone who wishes to enter it. There are virtually no
obstacles to becoming a Muslim. In order to embrace Islam, there is no need for
clergy, baptisms or special ceremonies. In fact, the act that makes one a
Muslim is a simple declaration of one’s faith. Thus, one only need state, “I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship
except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
Upon
stating these sentences, one enters into the beautiful brotherhood/sisterhood
of Islam, a brotherhood/sisterhood that stretches from the time of Adam until
the last days of this earth.

In this chapter, there shall be a
discussion of some of the details concerning the testimony of faith. In addition,
there shall be a discussion of other actions that are mentioned in connection
with the act of becoming a Muslim. This shall be followed by some laws related
to one’s state before becoming a Muslim.

 The Testimony of Faith: There is None Worthy of Worship except Allah

A person becomes a Muslim by
testifying to the truth of the statements: There is none worthy of worship
except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Since this is a testimony
or bearing witness to the truth of something, it must be a “public proclamation”
(or, in other words, not something hidden within oneself but, instead, conveyed
to others[74]). Ibn Abu al-Izz
wrote,

[The
Prophet (peace be upon him)] has made it absolutely clear that a person is
definitely not a believer if it is claimed that he believes in the Prophet
(peace be on him) but he does not profess it with his tongue, even though he
can…[75]

This profession of the tongue plays
a three-fold role. It is first a statement of a fact. One is testifying that he
recognizes the truthfulness of that statement of faith. This would be analogous
to a person giving testimony in a court of law. All he is really stating is
that those are the facts that he believes to be true.

Second, though, it is
statement of commitment to that fact. It is an admission by the person that he
intends to adhere to the requirements and guidance of what he has testified to.

Third, it is a public
proclamation that the individual has now joined the fold of Muslims, accepting
all of the rights and responsibilities that such implies.

Muslims
know that the key to Paradise is the statement, “There is none worthy of worship except
Allah.”
Yet many Muslims simply
rely upon this statement and believe that as long as they have said it, nothing
will harm them. Because of this mere verbal statement of the testimony of
faith, they think they will be granted Paradise However, the mere saying of the
statement is not sufficient for salvation. In fact, the hypocrites used to say,
“I testify that none is
worthy of worship except Allah and…,”
yet
Allah describes them as liars and says that they shall abide in the lowest
abyss of the Hell-fire. Obviously, there are some conditions for
any testimony but in particular for this testimony to be accepted by Allah
there are some particular conditions[76]—and
everyone should be extremely concerned over whether his testimony of faith is
acceptable to Allah or not.

The
famous Follower Wahb ibn Munabbih was once asked, “Isn’t the statement of, ‘There is none
worthy of worship except Allah,’ the key to Paradise?”
He answered, “Yes, but every key has ridges. If you come with the key that
has the right ridges, the door will open for you. Yet if you do not have the
right ridges, the door will not open for you.”
These ridges are conditions that differentiate Muslims
who will benefit from that statement from those who will not benefit from that
statement, no matter how many times a day they may have made that statement.

A
study of the verses of the Quran and the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon
him)
will show that there are a number of conditions for the soundness of one’s
testimony of faith. Again, it is important that every Muslim verify that he is
meeting these conditions in his own life with respect to his own testimony of
faith. The new convert should consider these conditions concerning his
testimony of faith. Preferably (but not necessarily), these would have been
explained to him before he undertook the declaration of faith.

The
first condition is knowledge. One must have the necessary basic understanding
of what is meant by the declaration of faith. One must understand what he is
affirming and what he is denying in the declaration. This is true for any kind
of testimony. When one testifies to something, one must know what it is that he
is testifying concerning. Obviously, a testimony about something that one does
not have any knowledge of is unacceptable. Allah says in the Quran, “Save him who bears witness unto the truth
knowingly”
(43:86).

Therefore,
the basics of the testimony must be understood by the person testifying to it.
If he does not understand, for example, that Allah is the only one worthy of
worship and that all other gods are false gods, then he does not even have the
most elementary understanding of what it is he claims to be testifying to. Such
a testimony cannot be considered a proper one that is acceptable to Allah.

The
second condition is certainty. This is the opposite of doubt and uncertainty.
In Islam, in fact, any kind of doubt concerning anything confirmed in the Quran
or the Sunnah is equivalent to disbelief.[77] One must, in his
heart, be absolutely certain of the truth of the testimony of faith. One’s
heart must not be wavering in any way when one testifies to the truth of, “There is none worthy of worship except
Allah.”
Allah describes the true
believers as those who have belief in Allah and then their hearts waver not.
Allah says, “The (true)
believers are only those who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward
doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah.
Such are the sincere”

(49:15).

Similarly,
the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “No one meets Allah with the testimony that there is none
worthy of worship but Allah and I am the Messenger of Allah, and he has no
doubt about that statement, except that he will enter Paradise.”
[78] On the
other hand, Allah describes the hypocrites as those people whose hearts are
wavering. For example, Allah says, “They alone seek leave of you [not to
participate in Jihad]
who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and whose hearts
feel doubt, so in their doubt they waver”
(9:
45)
.

The
third condition of the testimony of faith is acceptance. If a person has the
conditions of knowledge and certainty, this must be followed by acceptance,
with the tongue and heart, of whatever that testimony implies. Whoever refuses
to accept the testimony of faith with all of its implications, even if he knows
that it is true and is certain about its truth, is a disbeliever. This refusal
to accept is sometimes due to pride, envy or other reasons. In any case, the
testimony is not an acceptable testimony without its unconditional acceptance.

This condition also means that the
Muslim believes in whatever is stated in the Quran or stated by the Prophet
(peace be upon him), without any right to choose what he wants to believe and
what he wants to reject. Allah says in the Quran, “Do you believe in part of the Book and reject part of it? And
what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and
on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom”
(2:85). Allah has also said, “It is not for a believing man or believing
woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have any option
in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed
strayed in plain error”

(33:36).

The fourth condition is submission and compliance. This
implies the actual physical enactment by deeds. This is one of the main
meanings of the word Islam itself, “the submission to the will and commands of
Allah.”
Allah
commands this in the Quran, “And turn in repentance and in obedience
with true Faith to your Lord and submit to Him”
(39: 54).

Allah has made it a condition of
faith that one submits to the command of Allah and His messenger. Allah says, “But nay, by your Lord, they will not truly
believe until they make you [the Messenger of Allah] judge of what is in
dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of that which you
decide, and submit with full submission”

(4:65).

This
does not mean that the true believer never falls into sin. Indeed, true
believers do commit sins. But as long as they recognize that what they did is
not correct and it is inconsistent with their obligation of submitting to
Allah, then they have not violated the soundness of their testimony.

The
fifth condition is truthfulness as opposed to hypocrisy and dishonesty. This
means that when one says the testimony of faith, he is saying it honestly,
actually meaning it. He is not lying when it comes to his testimony of faith or
simply trying to deceive or fool anyone. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one bears testimony to there being no one worthy of
worship save Allah, sincerely from his heart, except that Allah makes the Hell-fire
forbidden for him.”
[79]

The
sixth condition is purity or making this testimony of faith solely for the sake
of Allah. One must not do it for any other reason or anyone else’s sake. In
this manner, the meaning of purity is the opposite of ascribing partners with
Allah. One becomes and remains Muslim solely to serve Allah, to avoid His anger
and punishment and to gain His mercy and reward. Allah says in the Quran, “Worship Allah, making religion pure for
him”
(39:2). The Prophet (peace
be upon him)
also said, “Allah has
forbidden for the Hell-fire anyone who says, ‘There is no one worthy of worship
except Allah,’ and says so desiring the face [and pleasure] of Allah.”
[80]

The
seventh condition is love. That is, the believer loves the testimony of faith,
he loves in accordance with the testimony, he loves its implications and requirements
and he loves those who act and strive on its basis. This is a necessary
condition of the testimony of faith. If a person makes the testimony but does
not love it and what it stands for, then, in fact, his faith is not complete.
It is not the faith of a true believer. If he has no love for this testimony or
if he actually feels hatred for it, he has negated his testimony.

The true believer puts no one as an
equal to Allah in his love. Allah says in the Quran, “Yet of mankind are some who take unto themselves (objects of
worship which they set as)
rivals to Allah, loving them with a love like (that
which is due to)
Allah only. However, those who believe are stauncher in their love
of Allah”
(2:165). Elsewhere Allah
says, “Say: If your
fathers, your sons, your brethren, your wives, your tribe, the wealth you have
acquired, merchandise for which you fear that there will be no sale, or
dwellings you desire are dearer to you than Allah and His messenger and
striving in His way:
then wait till Allah brings His command to pass. Allah
guides not wrongdoing folk”

(9:24).

An
eighth condition is that the person who states the testimony must deny every
other object of worship. Although that is clear in the words of the testimony
of faith, it does not seem clear to everyone who makes that testimony.
Therefore, it needs to be mentioned explicitly.

In soorah
al-Baqara, Allah reminds Muslims of this
important aspect of the testimony. The testimony of faith is not merely an
affirmation but it is both an affirmation and a negation. Allah states, “And he who rejects false deities and
believes in Allah has grasped a firm handhold which will never break”
(2: 256).

The
ninth condition is that the Muslim adheres to the testimony of faith until he
dies. This is a must if the testimony is to mean anything in the Hereafter. One
cannot rest on his laurels of what he may have done in the past. No, indeed,
the declaration of faith must be his banner until death. Allah says in the
Quran, “O believers,
observe your duty to Allah with right observance, and die not save as Muslims
[surrendering yourselves to Allah]

(3:102).

Finally, the testimony does not have to be in the Arabic
language or with specific terms but it must be very clear as to the exact
meaning and purport of what the person is saying.[81]

 The Testimony of Faith: Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

It
is important to understand the meaning and the implications of the second part
of the testimony of faith as well. Indeed, sometimes one strays from the
Straight Path and from Islam itself because he is not implementing the second
part of the declaration of faith properly.

When one testifies that Muhammad is
the Messenger of Allah, he is stating his belief that the Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) was chosen by Allah to be His Messenger and to convey His
Message. Allah specifically chose the Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) to be His Messenger. Allah says, “Allah knows best with whom to place His
Message”
(6:124).

This implies some characteristics
of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as obviously Allah, due to His
justice, wisdom and mercy, would not choose one who is treacherous or lying to
be His Messenger. Allah would not choose anyone for such an important mission
whom He knew would not convey the message or who would use the position to his
own advantage. If anyone claims that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not
actually convey the entire message or that he distorted it in any way, he is
actually saying that Allah did not know who was the correct or best person to
be a messenger. This is obvious disbelief.

Second, when one makes the testimony of faith, he is also
testifying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been sent for all of
mankind until the Day of Judgment. Allah says in the Quran, “Say [O Muhammad]: O mankind! Verily, I am
sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah”

(7:158). It is obligatory upon everyone from the time of the
Prophet (peace be upon him) until the Day of Judgment to believe in and follow
the Prophet (peace be upon him). This also implies that the Prophet’s teachings
and his Sunnah are valid and obligatory upon all of mankind until the Day of
Judgment.

Some people seem to try to resist
the idea that they have to follow the Prophet (peace be upon him). When they do
so, they must realize that they are going against what they have testified to.
They have testified that the Prophet’s message, which includes both the Quran
and his inspired Sunnah, is for all of mankind— including each and everyone
alive today.

Third, when one makes the declaration of faith, he is
testifying that he believes with certainty that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be
upon him)
conveyed the message— he conveyed it correctly, he conveyed all of
it, and he conveyed it clearly. Allah says in the Quran, “The Messenger’s duty is only to convey
(the message) in a clear way”
(29:
18)
. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself said, “I left you on a bright path whose night
and day are alike. No one strays from it after me except he is destroyed.”
[82]

The
Prophet (peace be upon him) conveyed all of the guidance and revelation that he
received from Allah. He conveyed and explained it in a clear manner. Therefore,
one is also testifying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) conveyed all the
aspects of the religion– its fundamental as well as its secondary aspects.
There is no part of the religion that one needs for his guidance that was not
conveyed to mankind or that Allah or the Prophet (peace be upon him) may have
possibly forgotten.

Therefore,
when this complete and clear guidance from the Prophet (peace be upon him) is
present, there is no need for any Muslim to turn to other sources for guidance.
There is no need for one to turn to the books of the Jews or Christians.
Indeed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) told Umar, when he saw him reading the
Torah, that if the Prophet Moses were alive at his time, he would also have to
follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). There is no need for any Muslim
to turn to the Greek philosophers, for example, to learn about theology.

In
fact, there is no need for Muslims to turn the religious or spiritual teachings
of any non-Muslims to get guidance. All that is needed is to be found in the
Quran and Sunnah. This is part of what the Muslim is testifying to. The Muslim
bears witness that the Prophet (peace be upon him) conveyed the entire message.

When one declares, “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,” one is also
declaring that he is the final prophet sent by Allah. Allah says in the Quran, “Muhammad is not the father of any man
among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Last of the Prophets”
(33: 40).

There
is to be no prophet who is going to come after the time of the Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him). No new prophet and no new scripture will come that will
abrogate what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) brought. Furthermore, if
anyone after the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) claims to be
a prophet, it is known automatically that such a person is a liar and a
deceiver.[83]
He must be opposed and it should be declared
to all that his claim to prophethood is false. To accept anyone as a prophet
after the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is to falsify one’s declaration
of the testimony of faith.

It
must also be realized that when one makes the testimony of faith, this not only
implies that he believes in certain things but it also implies that he accepts
certain responsibilities that stem from it. For example, when he says that
there is none worthy of worship except Allah, for that testimony to be true, it
means that he is now taking on the responsibility of worshipping no one other
than Allah.

Similarly,
when one says, “I testify
that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,”
he
is taking on certain responsibilities with respect to the Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him). When he is lacking in any of these responsibilities, then
he is lacking in his complete fulfillment of his testimony of faith. It can
even get to the point that he negates his testimony completely by refusing to
fulfill his responsibility to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

One
of these obligations toward the Prophet (peace be upon him) is to love him.
This does not just imply any form of love but complete faith requires that one
loves the Prophet (peace be upon him) more than anyone or anything else of this
world. Allah says in the Quran, “Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives,
your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a
decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah
and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His cause, then wait until
Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who
are disobedient”
(9:24).

Second, when one makes the testimony of faith, this means
that he is accepting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as his example of
how to live and behave in a way that is correct and pleasing to Allah. Allah
says in the Quran, “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example to
follow for him who hopes in (a good meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and
remembers Allah much”
(33:21). Allah also says, “Say (O Muhammad): If
you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive you your
sins”
(3:31)

It is very strange that some people
actually state the testimony of faith and declare that Muhammad is the
Messenger and Prophet of Allah yet at the same time they do not consider him an
example of the way of life that a believer should follow. Not only do they not
take him as an example for themselves, they actually oppose others who do take
the Prophet (peace be upon him) as their example. This is nothing but a clear
sign that such a person does not have a clear understanding of the meaning and
implications of the testimony of faith that he made.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) has
said, “I swear by Allah that I am the most fearful
of Allah and most conscious of Him than all of you. But I also [as part of my
Sunnah]
fast and break my fast, pray and sleep [at night] and I marry women.
Whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not from me [that is, is not one of my
true followers]
.”
[84]
In this hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that he is the most
fearful of Allah and God-conscious. Therefore, there is no excuse for anyone
not to follow his example and guidance. But he also stated that the one who
turns away from his practice and example is not from him. One cannot truthfully
claim to believe in and accept the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and, at
the same time, refuse to accept his life as the example that one must strive to
emulate.

 Other Deeds Related to the Act of Embracing Islam

There are a few other deeds that
are often associated with the act of declaring one’s faith. These are (1) a complete bathing, (2) removing all of one’s hairs from pre-Islamic
days and (3) circumcision. Each of
these shall be discussed separately below. Before moving on, it must be noted
that none of these actions, however, should lead to a delay in a person’s
embracing Islam. In fact, once a person has decided to embrace Islam, the event
should not be postponed, for example, to a more appropriate time or a time in
which more people will be witnessing and so forth. In reality, no one knows
when a person may be taken by death and, therefore, whenever a person has made
a conclusive decision to embrace Islam, he should embrace it at that time by
making the declaration of faith.

(1)
A Complete Bathing: There are actually four opinions among the scholars
concerning the complete bathing in connection with embracing Islam. Without
going into great detail[85],
the views may be summarized as follows:
One view is that the bathing is
obligatory upon anyone who embraces Islam. This is one opinion found in the
Maliki school and is the well-known opinion of the Hanbali school. Another view
is that this bathing is not obligatory under any circumstances. This is also a
view held by some of the Hanbali school. A third view is that this bathing is
recommended for anyone who embraces Islam. This is one of the views of the
Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali schools. A final view holds that this bathing is
only recommended, unless an individual is in a state of sexual defilement or a
woman has previously experienced menstruation or post-partum bleeding—in which
case it becomes obligatory. In those cases, the bathing is required for the
state of ritual purity required for the prayer.

Part of the reason for the
difference of opinion on this issue is the existence of some reports in which
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told some individuals
who had embraced Islam to perform a complete bathing. However, as stated
earlier, in order for such reports (or hadith) to be considered a proof in
Islamic Law, they must meet very stringent conditions. These reports all have
some minor defects to them and are considered weak by a number of hadith
scholars.[86]

In addition, some scholars note
that numerous people embraced Islam during the time of the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
and there is no record of there being a general
order or understanding that such people were to bathe as part of the process of
becoming Muslim. Furthermore, given this argument, the reports of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) telling some individuals to bathe
may be a sign that such bathing is recommended but not obligatory.

At the same time, though, the new
Muslim is going to be required to perform the prayers.[87] It is a requirement
for the prayer that an individual be in a state of physical purity and the act
of bathing itself requires the intention of entering into a state of purity, as
opposed to being simply for the sake of washing. Although some scholars argue
that the individual’s previous state is overlooked by Islam, this does not seem
to be a strong argument at this point. If the individual is sexually defiled or
if a woman has experienced menstruation or post-partum bleeding, they will have
to make a complete bathing before performing the prayer.

In sum, based on the overall
evidence, it can be argued that bathing after making one’s declaration of the
faith is, at most, a recommended act but not an obligatory act. This should not
be looked at as a mere ritual without any significance. The person who embraces
Islam definitely has had a spiritual rebirth and is setting about on a
transformation of his life. In fact, for most converts, Islam is truly a life
transformation very different from his previous pattern of life. Hence, he
should prepare himself mentally, emotionally and physically. This bathing
metaphorically removes from him all of the different types of physical
impurities that may still be lingering on him. He is now ready to venture on
his new path.

In any case, though—at least to be
on the safe side—before one prays, one has to be in a state of physical purity
which would require a complete bathing on the part of those who were sexually
defiled or women who had experienced menstruation or post-partum bleeding in
the past.

(2)
Removing all of one’s hairs from pre-Islamic days: This action is also based on
a hadith which the vast majority of the scholars reject as weak. This is a
hadith in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported
to have said to a man who had just informed him that he had embraced Islam, “Remove from yourself [or shave off of yourself] the
hairs from [the time of] disbelief.”
[88]

Again, even if the hadith is
accepted as authentic, this was not a practice that was known to be widespread
during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or
afterwards. Thus, some scholars understand this hadith as applying only to
those people who grew their hair for a religious purpose. In that case, they should
remove that hair upon becoming a Muslim.[89]

For example, in contemporary times,
it is well-known that Sikhs do not remove any hairs from their head or body as
a sign of their brotherhood. However, there is nothing explicit in the text
that would support his interpretation. Hence, once again, either the hadith is
weak or if it is accepted, it may be understood to be a recommended but not a
required act. As with the case of the bathing, it is an act by which one
removes the remnants of his pre-Islamic life in order to set about on his new
life as a Muslim and servant of God.

(3)
Circumcision: In some of the narrations that mention the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
telling the new Muslim to remove his hairs of
pre-Islamic days, the individual is also told to be circumcised.[90] There
is also another narration that states, “Whoever embraces
Islam is to be circumcised, even if he is of older age.”
But this is
also a report that cannot be verified as a statement of the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
.

There is no question that
circumcision is an established practice of Islam. It is obligatory or an
emphasized recommended act.[91]
However, the evidence is lacking to prove that one must immediately fulfill
this act upon becoming a Muslim. There are some exceptions that excuse a person
from performing this act.

In the past, scholars mentioned an
adult who embraces Islam and fears negative consequences via the process of
circumcision.[92]
Of course, in contemporary times, this possibility has been reduced, as
circumcision is now a precise and safe medical procedure. At the same time,
though, it is costly in some parts of the world, especially if it is considered
an elective procedure. This financial burden could be more than what some
converts could afford to bear, in which case they can delay the procedure until
they are able to afford it. And Allah alone knows best.

 The Special Rewards and Circumstances for the Convert

There are some statements of the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that demonstrate that there
are some special rewards and circumstances for the Muslim convert.

In general, an individual will
enter Islam while his past will be filled with both good and evil deeds. The
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has explained what will
happen to the individual with respect to those previous deeds.

Al-Bukhari records in his
collection of authentic hadith:
Hakeem ibn Hizaam said, “O Messenger of Allah, what do you think about the acts of worship I
used to perform in the pre-Islamic days of freeing slaves, keeping the ties of
kinship and giving in charity? Will I receive any reward for that?”
The
Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told him, “You have embraced Islam upon what good you had in the
past.”
[93]

One interpretation of this hadith
is that the individual will be rewarded for the good that he did in the past
and this reward is due to his embracing of Islam. It must be noted, though,
that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not explicitly
tell him that he will be rewarded for those actions that he did before becoming
a Muslim. In order for a deed to be acceptable to Allah, it must be done with
the proper intention of pleasing Allah and with the certainty that it is
correct according to Allah’s laws. These two conditions, obviously, are
generally missing when discussing the deeds of disbelievers. Hence, others
interpret this hadith in different ways.

 One explanation is that those good
deeds have developed a good character in the person and demonstrates a leaning
toward doing good that he will greatly benefit from by now being a Muslim. This
tendency toward doing good may have been what led him to Islam. In fact, it may
have been because of those deeds that Allah blessed him by guiding him to
Islam. The hadith may also mean that the person will still be rewarded for
those deeds but in this world. This is part of the great mercy and justice of
Islam that He does not allow any good deed to go unrewarded. Although such good
deeds done by non-Muslims may not meet the conditions of being rewarded by
Allah in the Hereafter, Allah does not ignore them and gives to such
unbelievers in this life. Hence, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
said, “The disbeliever is rewarded in
this life by provisions for what he has done of good deeds.”
[94]

However, there is yet another
statement of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that
clearly states that if a person converts to Islam and does his best to complete
and perfect his faith, he will indeed be rewarded for the deeds that he
performed before becoming a Muslim. This seems to be a special bounty that
Allah has chosen to bestow upon such people and Allah bestows His bounty upon
whom He wills. The text of this hadith reads: “If a servant accepts Islam and completes his Islam,
Allah will record for him every good deed that he performed before [his Islam]
and Allah will erase for him every evil deed that he did before [his Islam].
Then everything after that will be according to a retribution. For every good
deed, he will be recorded ten-fold up to seven hundred fold. And for every evil
deed he will be recorded similarly [one] for it, unless Allah overlooks that
for him.”
[95]

This hadith shows that a person
will be rewarded for the good deeds that he performed before becoming Muslim.
His evil deeds will also be erased after becoming Muslim. However, this is
conditional. This is conditional upon the fact that he perfects or completes
his Islam. That is, it is conditional that he remain away from the evil deeds
after he becomes a Muslim.

This understanding is further
supported by a hadith in both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim
in which ibn Masood asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) if they were to be
held accountable for the deeds that they performed in pre-Islamic times. The
Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) told him, “As
for the one of you who excels in Islam, he will not be held accountable for it.
As for the one who does evil [with respect to his Islam], he shall be held
accountable for what he did in pre-Islamic times as well as in Islam.”

There is also a hadith in Musnad
Ahmad which states, while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was speaking to
Amr ibn al-As, “O Amr, didn’t you know that Islam
wipes away all of the sins that one performed before it.”
[96]
This hadith must be understood in the light of the previously mentioned hadith:
if a person completes his Islam and excels in Islam, then all of his previous
sins will be erased and overlooked. Otherwise, if he continues to perform such
evil acts in Islam, his previous acts will not be overlooked.[97] However,
this only applies to sins and evil deeds with respect to Allah. It does not
include obligations that one still has to fulfill, such as debts or crimes that
one may be punished for in this world.

Furthermore, there is even a
stronger passage in the Quran. Allah says, “And
those who do not invoke any other god along with Allah, nor kill such life as
Allah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual
intercourse and whoever does this shall receive the punishment. The torment
will be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in
disgrace; Except those who repent and believe, and do righteous deeds, for
those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is
Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”
(25:68-70).

Some scholars feel that that verse
implies that previous evil deeds will be turned into good deeds. However, some
say that it means that the person will then do good deeds in this life. Yet
others say that it means that in the Hereafter the evil deeds will be
transformed and the person will be rewarded for them due to the worry and
remorse that he suffered because of them after becoming a Muslim.

In sum, the new Muslim convert is
facing a very great opportunity. He is being given the opportunity to have all
of his previous ills and sins immediately cancelled while possibly still being
rewarded for good that he did before embracing Islam. This is part of Allah’s
grace and mercy. It is conditional though. The convert must take his Islam
seriously, practice it properly and be a true Muslim while keeping himself from
falling into the evils that he practiced before becoming a Muslim. If he somehow
allows himself to fall back into his evil practices of old, he then loses a
great opportunity that Allah has graciously offered him.

Finally, there is a verse in the
Quran and another hadith that deals specifically with the members of the People
of the Book who convert to Islam. These people believed in earlier books and
earlier prophets and then took the further necessary step of also believing
wholeheartedly in the final prophet and book that their own prophets and books
alluded to. Allah says about them, “And indeed now
We have conveyed the Word, in order that they may receive admonition. Those to
whom We gave the Scripture before it, – they believe in it (the Quran). And
when it is recited to them, they say: ‘We believe in it. Verily, it is the truth
from our Lord. Indeed even before it we have been from those who submit
themselves to Allah as Muslims.’[98] These will be
given their reward twice over, because they are patient, and repel evil with
good, and spend (in charity) out of what We have provided them” (28:51-54).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
also said, “There are three who
will receive their rewards twice. [One of them is] a believer from the People
of the Book who believed in his prophet and then also believed in Muhammad. He
will receive two rewards…”
[99]

 A Convert’s Wealth Earned Prior to Islam

When a non-Muslim embraces Islam,
it is very likely that some portion of his wealth has come from sources that
Islam considers illegitimate. For example, the convert could have money that
resulted from interest-bearing transactions and investment, selling or serving
alcohol and so on. What should the new Muslim then do with such wealth that is
already in his possession?[100]

The general rule is that any wealth
that one has in one’s possession at the time of conversion remains the property
of the convert regardless of how that wealth was gained, as long as it was
gained in a legal fashion according to the laws the convert was living by. The
individual is not held responsible for his lack of applying Islamic principles
prior to his conversion. Thus, for example, Allah says, “Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be
pardoned for the past”
(2:275). This verse demonstrates that Allah
overlooks the actions that one performs before the rulings reach him and he is
obligated to follow such regulations.

Numerous people embraced Islam
during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
yet there is no record of him asking any of them about the wealth in their
possession and how they obtained such wealth. Indeed, even marriages that took
place before the conversion were not questioned or examined to see if their
contracts met the Islamic standards. In fact, there are various reports that demonstrate
that the Prophet explicitly approved of the converts keeping the wealth in
their possession. Actually, the person earned such wealth believing that there
was nothing wrong with what they were doing. Hence, they are allowed to keep
such wealth. Their case is different from a Muslim who knowingly deals in
alcohol, for example. Such a Muslim, even after repenting from such an act, is
not to keep that ill-earned wealth.

However, the situation is different
if the convert has, at the time of his conversion, not yet received money that
is from a source that Islam considers illegitimate. For example, the individual
could have sold and delivered someone alcohol on July 1 but the agreement
between them is that he is not to be paid until December 1. In the meantime,
say in September, the one who sold the alcohol converts to Islam. It is
possible to look at this and say that since the contract was concluded before
his conversion, he is still entitled to this money, as this is wealth he earned
before becoming Muslim.

However, the majority of the
scholars state that he no longer has the right to that money. They quote, “Those who after receiving direction from their Lord,
desist, shall be pardoned for the past”
(2:275) once again. Now, the
admonition has come to him and he can only keep what he received earlier and
must forego anything additional. Allah also says, “If
you repent, you shall have your principle”
(2:279). Thus, for example,
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) abolished all of the
interest-bearing agreements during a speech in Makkah after many people had
just embraced Islam. Hence, although those contracts were concluded before they
had embraced Islam, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
clearly voided the forbidden aspect of the contract.

In sum, once an individual embraces
Islam he should from that moment on forego and not accept any wealth that is
earned through forbidden means, regardless of whether the contract for that
wealth took place before his conversion. Actually, now the individual should
believe that such money is forbidden and therefore he himself should no longer
wish to receive it or benefit from it. Given the nature of contracts nowadays,
he may not be able to cancel the contract. If he is forced to receive such
money, he should give it away and free himself from it. (Many mosques have
specific accounts for monies received through illegitimate means but which one
is forced to receive, such as interest on deposits, and will use that money is
very specific ways as recommended by the scholars.)

 Pre-Islamic Marriages

There is no question that Islam
affirms the marriages that took place outside of Islam or before a person
embraced Islam. The evidence for this is numerous. For example, in Soorah
al-Masad, Allah refers to the wife of Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s uncle who
vigorously opposed him, as well as to the wife of the Pharaoh. Numerous
Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) were born
before the advent of Islam and they were considered legitimate children of
their parents. Indeed, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
never ordered married Companions to remarry within Islam. In fact, the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not even ask them about the
circumstances of their marriage contract, such as whether there were witnesses
and so forth.

However, those relationships that
were considered illegitimate by a convert’s previous religion or law are also
considered illegitimate in Islam. Thus, for example, one’s illegitimate child
before embracing Islam remains illegitimate after one’s embracing of Islam.[101] On the
other hand, any children born via a legitimate pre-Islamic marriage will be
considered legitimate children and continue to be the children of the Muslim
convert.

One exception to this general
principle of affirming pre-Islamic marriages is where the husband and wife are
within the prohibited degrees of marriage. Thus, for example, in ancient
Persia, brothers and sisters could marry one another. Such a marriage would be
considered void as soon as either of the couple embraced Islam. Furthermore, in
a polygynous situation, if a man is married to more than four wives, upon
embracing Islam he must separate from some of them and may have, at the most,
only four wives. 

Some other important issues related
to conversion to Islam must be touched upon. If a husband and a wife both embrace
Islam at approximately the same time, then their marriage remains in tact and
there is no need for them to take any further steps. If a man who is married to
either a Christian or Jewish woman embraces Islam, the marriage also remains in
tact and there is also no need for any further steps.[102] Those cases are
clear and non-problematic. The problematic cases are: (1) a male convert married to a woman who is
not Christian, Jewish or accepting of Islam; (2)
a female convert married to a non-Muslim husband.[103]

The pertinent verses of the Quran
related to these issues are as follows: Allah says, “O
you who believe! When believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them,
Allah knows best as to their faith. Then if you ascertain that they are true
believers, send them not back to the disbelievers, they are not lawful (wives)
for the disbelievers nor are the disbelievers lawful (husbands) for them”

(60:10).

Allah also says, “And do not marry polytheistic women till they believe
(and worship Allah Alone). And indeed a slave woman who believes is better than
a (free) polytheistic woman, even though she pleases you. And give not (your
daughters)
in marriage to polytheistic men till they believe (in Allah Alone)
and verily, a believing slave is better than a (free) polytheistic man, even
though he pleases you. Those [polytheists] invite you to the Fire, but Allah
invites (you) to Paradise and Forgiveness by His Leave, and makes His signs
clear to mankind that they may remember”
(2:221).

According to ibn al-Qayyim, when a
woman married to a non-Muslim converts to Islam, the marriage becomes suspended
and non-binding. In other words, she no longer is his wife in the sense of
having marital relations or him being financially responsible for her.[104]
However, the woman is free to choose between ending the marriage (thereby
being free to marry somebody else but only after her waiting period is
finished)
or suspending the marriage in the sense of waiting for her husband to
embrace Islam. In the latter case, whenever the man embraces Islam, the woman
automatically returns to him as a wife with no need for a new marriage
contract, even if the husband’s conversion took place many years after that of
the wife.

The strongest evidence for this
conclusion is the case of the Prophet’s own daughter, Zainab. She embraced
Islam but her husband, Abu al-Aas ibn al-Rabee, refused to do so for many
years. Then, finally, after six years, he came to Madinah and the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) reunited the couple without a new
marriage contract or dower.[105]

If a man embraces Islam and his
wife is not a Muslim, Jew or Christian, then his retaining her as a wife will
be harmful to her, as he will not be allowed to have marital relations with her
or treat her as a full wife. Thus, in this case, the marriage comes to an end
if the woman refuses to embrace Islam. Allah says, “Likewise
hold not the disbelieving women as wives”
(60:10).

 Changing One’s Name Upon Becoming a Muslim

It has become common practice in
some areas for converts to change their names upon becoming Muslims. Sometimes
this is done so that the convert feels more attached and affiliated with the
Muslim community. The obvious question that arises is: Is this changing of the
name required, recommended or simply permissible? On this point, Abdul Azeez
ibn Baaz stated in response to a question he had received,

I
inform you that there is no evidence in Islamic Law that requires one whom
Allah has guided to Islam to change his name to an Islamic name.  [The exception
is if]
there is an Islamic reason that requires that.  For example, if a
person has a name implying the worship of someone other than Allah, such as
“The Servant of Jesus” and so forth, or if the person has a name that is not
good to have and there are better names than that, such as the name “Grievous”
can be changed to “Mild.”
Similar is the case with any other name that is not
considered proper for one to be named.  However, it is obligatory to
change the name that implies worshipping other than Allah. Concerning other
[repugnant] names, then it is simply preferred and recommended to change such
names. Included in this second category of names are those names that are
well-known to be Christian names such that if one hears them he will think that
the person must be a Christian. To change one’s name under those circumstances
is good.[106]

Bilal Philips has some further
insight into this question:

New Muslims,
unaware of the Islamic naming system[107], often adopt Arabic names in the chaotic European
style… In fact, those of African descent often erase even their family names
on the basis that these names are remnants from the days of slavery. That is,
those of their ancestors who were slaves usually adopted the family name of
their slave masters and it was the slave masters’ name which was handed down
from generation to generation. Hence, an individual who may have been called
Clive Baron Williams while his father’s name was George Herbert Williams may,
upon entering Islaam, rename himself Faisal ‘Umar Nkruma Mahdi. However, his
name according to the Islamic naming system should have been Faisal George
Williams, that is, Faisal the son of George Williams. Whether “Williams” was
the name of his ancestors’ plantation owner or not is of no consequence. Since
his father’s name was George Williams, he is, according to the Islamic naming
system, the son of George Williams…  The practice among new Muslims of deleting
their family names has frequently created deep resentment among their
non-Muslim families which could have been easily avoided if the Islamic naming system had been adopted. Actually, the new Muslim is under no
obligation to change even his or her “Christian name”
unless it contains an
un-lslamic meaning. Thus, the given name Clive, which means cliff-dweller need
not have been changed whereas “Dennis” (Fr. Denys), a variation of Dionysius
which means He of Dionysus (the Greek god of wine and fertility who was
worshipped with orgiastic rites)
, would have to be changed… However, it is
perfectly acceptable for a Muslim, whether a recent convert or not, to change
his or her first name. It was the Prophet’s practice to change peoples first
names if they were too assuming, negative or un-lslamic. One of the Prophet’s
wives was originally named Barrah (pious) and he changed it to Zaynab as Allaah
had said in the Qur’aan, “Do not claim piety for
yourselves for He knows best who is God-fearing.”
(53:32)… However, Allaah’s messenger never changed the names of
people’s fathers, no matter how un-lslamic they may have been… Thus, it can be
concluded that erasing one’s family name is against both the letter and the
spirit of Islamic law. The father’s first and last name should be retained and
if the father is unknown, the mother’s first and last name should follow the
Muslim’s given or chosen name.[108]

Earlier many of the important
features of Islam were presented. Before concluding this chapter, the author
would like to emphasize some of the important fruits that are bestowed upon a
Muslim due to his conversion and following attachment to Islam.

It is important to note and
appreciate that all of the benefits of Islam accrue to the human. It is solely
for his own benefit that Allah has provided His guidance to humankind. Allah,
Himself, is not in need of humankind’s worship. He is free of all needs but in
His Mercy He has shown humankind the proper mode of behavior to meet His
approval. Thus, He says, “Whoever goes right, then
he goes right only for the benefit of his ownself. And whoever goes astray,
then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear
another’s burden”
(17:15). In addition, those who reject Islam are only
harming themselves. Allah says, “Truly! Allah
wrongs not mankind in aught; but mankind wrong themselves”
(10:44).

 (A) Knowing Allah, the individual’s God, Lord and Creator

The greatest benefit of becoming a
Muslim and growing in Islam is that the individual is able to truly know Allah.
The believer knows Allah not in some vague, dry, philosophical sense. Instead,
for example, the believer knows Allah in detail via His Names and Attributes,
the knowledge of which Allah has graciously provided in the Quran and Sunnah.
Every one of Allah’s names should lead a person to greater love of Allah as well
as greater fear of Him, accompanied by attempting to get closer to Him with
those great attributes by performing righteous deeds.[109]

Ibn Taimiyyah noted, “Whoever knows the names of Allah and their meanings,
believing in them, will have a more complete faith than the one who does not
know them but just believes in them in general.”
[110] Ibn Saadi
also noted, “Whenever a person’s knowledge of
Allah’s beautiful names and attributes increases, his faith also increases and
his certainty is further strengthened.”
[111] If
one has a good knowledge of Allah’s names and attributes, one will then have an
opening to understanding what takes place in this creation. This fact was
beautifully expressed by ibn al-Qayyim when he said, “Whoever
knows Allah, knows everything other than Him. Whoever is ignorant of his Lord
is even more ignorant of everything other than Him.”
[112]

Indeed, the effect of this knowledge
should be so great that a true understanding of those names and living
according to their implications should lead one directly to Allah’s pleasure
and paradise. In fact, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
clearly told this Muslim nation, “Allah
has ninety-nine names, one hundred less one. Whoever memorized them all by
heart will enter Paradise.”
[113]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
described the type of transformation that takes place when
the individual really knows Allah and has thereby truly tasted the sweetness of
faith. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, [There are] three characteristics that if a person has
them, he has tasted the sweetness of faith: that Allah and His Messenger are
more beloved to him than anything else; that he loves a person and he only
loves him for the sake of Allah; and that he hates to return to unbelief in the
same way that he hates to be thrown into the Fire.”
[114]

There is still another further very
important and fascinating aspect. This is an aspect that some seem to overlook
although Allah has mentioned it in various places in the Quran. This Islam
engenders in the human a special type of relationship with his Creator and God.
It is a relationship which, as Allah Himself describes it, leads the individual
to be pleased with his Lord. In other words, the person develops an
appreciation of Allah. Allah becomes dear to Him. The individual becomes
pleased with Allah because he begins to understand the beauty, excellence and
perfection of Allah and all that Allah wills. It becomes no longer a matter of
submitting to the One who deserves such submission and obedience. It becomes a
matter of appreciating who Allah is, what Allah has decreed, what Allah has
commanded and what Allah will do to the humans.

The individual realizes that he can
experience nothing but pleasure with Allah. Islam, thus, allows the person to
truly understand and appreciate his Lord and Creator, such that he becomes very
happy with his Lord, leading him in turn to want to become pleasing as well to
his Lord. Thus, Allah says, for example: “And the
first to embrace Islam of the Emigrants and the Helpers and also those who
followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are
well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow
(Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success”

(9:100); Allah will say: ‘This is a Day on which
the truthful will profit from their truth: theirs are Gardens under which
rivers flow (in Paradise) – they shall abide therein forever. Allah is pleased
with them and they with Him. That is the great success (Paradise)’”
(5:119); (see also 58:22 and 98:8).

 (B) True Happiness

Allah says, “Whenever there comes
to you Guidance from Me, and whoever follows My Guidance, there shall be no
fear on them, nor shall they grieve”
(2:38). Allah has emphasized these words
when He said, “But if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me,
whosoever follows My guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery. But
whosoever turns away from My Message, verily for him is a life narrowed down,
and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment. He will say, ‘O my
Lord! Why have You raised me up blind, while I had sight (before)?’ (Allah)
will say, ‘Thus did you, when Our Signs came to you, disregard them, so will
you, this day, be disregarded’”
(20:123-127).

God is an individual’s Creator. In
addition, it is the knowledge of Him and the relationship with Him that the
soul is seeking. Hence, without this relationship, sorrow will enter into a
person’s life. On the other hand, knowing Allah and establishing the proper
relationship with Him will bring about true happiness.

Throughout history, scholars and
pious people have tried to express the joy and contentment that enters into
their hearts via knowing their Lord. A famous scholar of Islam, Ibn Taimiyyah,
attempted to express the joy that he felt from his faith in Allah and the deeds
he performed. He once said, “In this world there is
a Paradise that whoever does not enter it will not enter the Paradise in the
Hereafter.”
He also said, “What can my
enemies do to me? Certainly, my paradise and garden are in my chest.”
[115]
In fact, ibn al-Qayyim, ibn Taimiyyah’s closest student who would visit him
often in the citadel prison, stated,

Allah
knows that I have never seen anyone having a better life than him. [This was
true]
even though he was in straitened circumstances and not living in luxuries
and comforts. On the contrary, he was on the opposite extreme. Even though he
faced imprisonment, torture and threats, he still had the most pleasurable life
among the people, with the most relaxed feelings, strongest in heart and
happiest of all of them. The experiencing of joy could be seen on his face.
Whenever we were very fearful, feeling bad expectations and felt the earth
constricting upon us, we would come to him and we only needed to see him and
listen to his words that all of those emotions would leave us. Instead, we
would be filled with rest, strength, certainty and tranquility. Exalted be the
One who allows His servant to witness His Paradise before he meets Him.[116]

Of course, such a beautiful feeling
from one’s faith was not restricted to ibn Taimiyyah. Ibn al-Qayyim quotes
another devout Muslim as saying, “If the kings and
the children of the kings knew what [felicity] we are in, they would fight us
over it with their swords.”
Yet another stated, “The
inhabitants of this world are miserable. They leave this world and they do not
taste the most wonderful aspect that it contains.”
When asked what that
was, he replied, “Love for Allah, knowing Him and
remembering Him.”
Ibn al-Qayyim also quoted another who said, “There comes some times in which I say, ‘If the people of
Paradise are in a state like this, they are enjoying a good life.’”
[117]

One author noted, [The fruits of purification of the soul] are perpetual
fruits for every times. The servant finds their taste, experiences their
sweetness and moves about in its pleasures. Every time the person increases in
the steps of purification, those fruits likewise increase.”
[118] Ibn al-Qayyim further
stated,

Do not
consider that Allah’s words, “Indeed, the righteous will be in pleasure
and indeed the wicked will be in Hell-fire”
[82:13-14] are
restricted only to the pleasures and hell of the Hereafter alone. Actually, it
applies to their [humans’] three stages, that is, the life in this world, the
life in al-barzakh [after death and before resurrection] and the life in
the permanent abode [after resurrection]. Those [purified souls] are in
pleasure while the others are in a hell. Isn’t pleasure only the pleasure of
the heart and punishment only the punishment of the heart? What punishment can
be harsher than fear, worry, anxiety and uneasiness [faced by those whose souls
are not purified]
? [What can be harsher than] its turning away from Allah and
the abode of the Hereafter, its clinging on to something other than Allah and
its being disconnected from Allah?[119]

 (C)Being Just with One’s Own Self:

Associating partners with Allah is
a great form of wrongdoing. In particular, one is completely wronging one’s own
soul and dignity by submitting to and worshipping beings that do not deserve a
human’s worship whatsoever. Allah has stated in the Quran, while quoting
Luqmaan, “Indeed associating [partners with Allah]
is a great wrongdoing”
(31:13). Thus, Allah has said in the Quran, “O believers! Verily, the polytheists are impure”
(9:28). This is a spiritual impurity, illustrating that one is denigrating
one’s soul.

Once the concept of pure monotheism
is truly understood and embodied in a person, there is a certain type of
nobility (for lack of a better word) and feeling of purpose that accompanies
the soul. The person realizes that he is not to submit to, physically bow down or
prostrate to anything or anyone other than Allah. He does not turn in his
prayers to anyone other than Allah, nor can anyone grant him forgiveness save
Allah. He does not turn to dead humans who, in reality, were no more than
humans themselves. He does not sit at the base of wooden or metal idols that
other humans themselves actually created. He does not fear any form of spirits
such that he has to appease them by offering sacrifices to them. Furthermore,
such a person will base his life on his belief in there being only one true
God.

All of these things are forbidden
to him by the concept of monotheism. But they are more than simply forbidden
for him. He understands full well that all of these acts are not becoming a human
being that Allah has created for a very special and noble purpose. All of these
acts are beneath a human and, in fact, it is inconceivable that a person who
has a sane understanding of reality would ever take part in those types of
acts. Why should a human bow down and pray to another human who has to eat and
drink to survive just like himself? How could anyone claim that another being
has any share in the divinity with Allah and therefore is deserving of having
others humble and prostrate themselves before him?

 (D) Being Rescued from Earning Allah’s Punishment

Allah says in the Quran, “Everyone
shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your
wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to
Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment
of deception (a deceiving thing)
(3:185).

Indeed, every human shall have to
face the reality of death. After death, every individual will have to stand in
front of his Lord and will be held accountable for all of his actions. For many
among humankind, their beliefs, attitudes and actions will lead them to only
one fate:
the punishment and wrath of Allah. Being saved from that recompense
is one of the greatest achievements anyone could possibly attain.

On the Day of Resurrection the
difference between those who believed and those who refused to do so will be
great. Note how Allah describes the events of that Day. Allah has said, “O
mankind, fear your Lord! For the convulsion of the Hour (of Judgment) will be a
thing terrible! The Day you shall see it, every mother giving suck shall forget
her suckling babe, and every pregnant female shall drop her load (unformed):
you shall see mankind as in a drunken riot, yet not drunk: but dreadful will be
the Wrath of Allah”
(22:1-2); Allah also says, “Finally, when the Trumpet is
sounded, that will be—that Day—a Day of distress, far from easy for those who
disbelieve”
(74: 8-10).

The disbelievers, due to their
attitudes in this life and their intention to forever behave in the way that
they were living, shall be devoid of all good on that Day. Allah will not bless
them in any fashion and will not even look at them with any pleasure or
approval. As Allah has stated (in more than one place) about the disbelievers, “As
for those who sell the faith they owe to Allah and their own plighted word for
a small price, they shall have no portion in the Hereafter, nor will Allah
(deign to) speak to them or look at them on the Day of Judgment, nor will He
purify them (of sin). They shall have a grievous Penalty”
(3:77).

 (E) Allah’s Pleasure and Paradise in the Hereafter

Allah’s pleasure and one’s
happiness in the Hereafter are the greatest and most important results of being
a true Muslim. The life of the Hereafter is the only real life to be sought.
Yet that real life will only be granted to those who can raise themselves above
the lowly desires of this worldly life by seeking Allah’s pleasure instead.
Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “No one shall enter Paradise except a believer.”[120]

In other words, such a great and
blessed life will only be for those who believed, practice Islam and purified
their souls, thus pleasing Allah and deserving His blessed reward of Paradise
in the Hereafter. It will not be for those who do evil in this life and who
turn their back on Allah’s guidance. Allah reminds all of mankind of this fact
when He says, “That abode of the Hereafter We shall
give to those who intend not high-handedness or mischief on earth: and the end
is (best) for the righteous”
(28:83).

In fact, not only will Allah rescue
the believers and purified souls from such a punishment on that Day, Allah will
further purify them of all or any of remaining sins such that they will then be
in a state where they are allowed to enter into Paradise. This is a special
blessing that only comes to those who sought to purify themselves with belief
and good deeds in this life.

Actually, the true Muslim and
believer will experience happiness in all stages of his life. As noted earlier,
he experiences true happiness in this life while others are seeking imaginary
or mirage-type happiness. At the time of his death, also, his soul will flow
freely from his body surrounded by a beautiful smell as he begins to experience
the first taste of the pleasures of the Hereafter. The angels come to him and
give him glad tidings of the things to come.

Allah has beautifully described
what will occur in the following verse, “In the
case of those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and, further stand straight and
steadfast, the angels descend on them (from time to time): ‘Fear not nor
grieve! But receive the glad tidings of the garden (of bliss) that you were
promised. We are your protectors in this life and in the Hereafter: therein
shall you have all that your souls shall desire; therein shall you have all
that you ask for! A hospitable gift from One Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful!’”
(41:
30-32; also see 10:62-64)
.

In the grave, also, he will
experience happiness as his grave is expanded for him and he can see his seat
in Paradise while the disbeliever’s grave is constricted upon him as he is
viewing his seat in the Hell-fire.

Allah describes the believers on
the Day of Resurrection with the following beautiful words, “Those for whom the good (record) from Us has gone before
will be removed far therefrom. Not the slightest sound will they hear of Hell.
They shall dwell in what their souls desired. The Great Terror will bring them
no grief:
but the angels will meet them (with mutual greetings): ‘This is your
Day, (the Day) that you were promised’”
(21:101-103); and Allah says, “But Allah will deliver the righteous to their place of
salvation: no evil shall touch them, nor shall they grieve”
(39:61).

The believers will be saved all of
the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection until they are granted entrance into
Paradise: (To the righteous soul will be said:) ‘O
soul in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord, well pleased
(yourself), and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter, then, among My servants. Yea,
enter My Heaven’”
(89:27-30); “And those who
feared their Lord will be led to the Garden in crowds: until behold, they
arrive there; its gates will be opened; and its keepers will say, ‘Peace be
upon you! You have done well! Enter here, to dwell therein.’ They will say,
‘Praise be to Allah, Who has truly fulfilled His promise to us, and has given
us (this) land in heritage: we can dwell in the Garden as we will: how
excellent a reward for those who work (righteousness)’”
(39:73-74).

In reality, above and beyond all of
that is that they shall receive Allah’s good pleasure. Allah says, “Allah has promised to the believers—men and
women—gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions
in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of
Allah:
that is the supreme felicity”
(9:72).

Finally, there comes the greatest
reward of all for those who purified themselves in this life via true faith,
good deeds and excellence in faith:
the opportunity to see Allah. Allah has
said, “To those who do right is a goodly (reward),
yea, more (than in measure)! No darkness or shame shall cover their faces! They
are Companions of the Garden; they will abide therein (forever)

(10:26). In a hadith recorded by Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
explained the “more” as being blessed with the
ability to see Allah.

Before discussing the articles of
faith, a couple of introductory topics need to be touched upon. The first
concerns the definition of “faith” or “belief” from an Islamic perspective. The
second concerns the basis of one’s faith.

 The Definition of “Belief”

For many an English speaker,
“belief” simply means the acknowledgment the something is true. Thus, one can
be asked, “Do you believe that God exists?”
and
the reply may be, “Yes.” The same person may
be asked a follow-up question, “Does your belief in
God have any influence or ramifications upon your life, your deeds and your
goals?”
To this question, the same person who says he believes in God
will reply, “No.” Given this common
scenario, the following question must be addressed: Could this type of belief
possibly be equivalent to what Islam means by, for example, “belief in Allah”
?

The foundation of one’s Islam
starts with what is in one’s heart and one’s beliefs. Thus, Islam has put a
great emphasis on what to believe in, as shall be discussed in this chapter. At
the same time, though, Islam also stresses what “belief” is supposed to be.
Belief, from an Islamic perspective, cannot be something that a person claims
is in his heart while it has no influence on the person’s life and behavior. On
the contrary, the beliefs in the heart should be the driving force behind everything
the individual does. The true and effective beliefs never remain at an abstract
level but their influence is manifested on a day-to-day practical level. To
take a simple example, the question of cheating and stealing is directly
related to one’s overall belief system. If a person believes that these acts
are morally wrong and that there is an all-knowing, just God who will hold him
accountable for his deeds, he will most likely refrain from such acts. But if a
person does not believe in any eternal ramifications or any day of judgment,
his deciding factor may only be the chances of being caught and the severity of
the punishment for those acts.

In fact, true belief does much more
than make a person realize the negative or positive ramifications of an act. As
a person develops in his faith and his beliefs become stronger, his faith molds
the very way he looks at thing. His love for something and his hatred for
something is determined by his beliefs about that thing. For example, when he
recognizes that God loves something, he realizes that that thing must be
wonderful and also deserving of his love. On the contrary, if God dislikes
something, the individual realizes that that thing must be filled with traits
that are deserving of his dislike as well.

One can take the example of
smoking. Someone may believe that smoking is harmful and wrong by accepting the
facts showing smoking to be harmful as true but he continues to smoke and he
does not let what he recognizes to be true guide his actions. In other words,
he does not submit to the truth he sees nor does he implement what it implies.
His factual knowledge about smoking has not permeated into his heart such that
he develops a hatred for smoking due to its evils. Hence, his recognition of
the facts is not the same thing as “belief” or, in Quranic terms, imaan.
Imaan necessitates that one has the willingness to submit to or enact
what one recognizes to be true. In the case of true belief or Imaan, if
that Imaan is strong and healthy at that moment, then it will put the
feeling of hatred in the person’s heart for that act that he believes to be
wrong or harmful. It will keep the person from wanting to commit that harmful
act.

At the same time, it will put the
love for all good deeds into his heart. Thus, Allah says, “Allah has endeared the Faith to you
and has beautified it in your hearts, and has made disbelief, wickedness and
disobedience hateful to you. These! They are the rightly guided ones”

(49:7). Such a faith will, therefore, rule his life and it will guide him to
what he should do. (If, however, his faith is weak and can be overcome by other
forces in the heart, it may not have that effect.)

Therefore,
true belief means that one acts in accordance with that belief. When, for
example, an individual says that he believes in the angels, it means that he
knows that the angels are present and that they are actually recording his
deeds. This should affect him in that he will not perform those deeds that he
does not want those angels to see and record.

Thus,
a thorough study of the Quran and Sunnah shows that faith or Imaan
has certain components.  These components
were summed up by the earliest scholars in their saying, “Imaan is statement and action.” Statement here includes both statement of the heart (affirmation)
and statement of the tongue (verbal profession). Action includes both the
actions of the heart (willingness to submit, love and so forth) and actions of
the body (such as prayer and so forth).[122]

For the sake of clarity, over time, these two components
were broken down into the three following essential components of Imaan that have also been stated by many scholars:
(1) Belief in the heart; (2) Profession by the tongue; (3) Performance of deeds by the
physical parts of the body.

In sum, faith, meaning true and
definitive belief in something, should lead to a corresponding submission to
what one believes in. Otherwise, it is simply an acceptance of a fact but it is
not the Islamic concept of “faith” (imaan). Thus, Ibn
Uthaimeen wrote,

Imaan is the affirmation that requires acceptance and
submission. If a person believes in something without acceptance and
submission, that is not imaan. The evidence for that is that the
polytheists [Arabs] believed in Allah’s existence and believed in Allah as the
Creator, Sustainer, Giver of Life, Bringer of Death and the Manager of the
Universe’s Affairs. Furthermore, one of them even accepted the messengership of
the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) but he was not a believer. That person
was Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet (peace be upon him)… But that [belief
in the Prophet (peace be upon him)] will not avail him whatsoever because he
did not accept and submit to what the Prophet (peace be upon him) brought.[123]

 “A Leap of Faith”

The second introductory issue
concerns the basis for one’s faith. In the English language, there is a common
conception that “faith” implies believing in something that one cannot prove.
In other words, “faith”
requires what is known as a “leap of faith,” where one
goes beyond what can be rationally accepted to mere blind acceptance and
belief. This approach is very much contrary to the Islamic conception.

From an Islamic perspective, one’s
faith must be “knowledge-based,” so that both the heart and the mind
find solace in it and submit to it with a firm resolution. Islam does not
demand that humans believe in matters that go against their own nature and
reasoning that God has given them. Instead, Allah calls upon humans to
reflect—look at the creation, at their own selves and everything around them.
Allah points to different aspects of the creation and describes them as signs
for those people who reflect.

When humans honestly reflect upon
the creation around them, very clear conclusions should result: (1) This existence could not have come about
without a wise and intelligent creator and (2)
such a wise and intelligent creator would not create this without some purpose
behind it. Thus, Allah says, “Verily! In the creation
of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there
are indeed signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah standing,
sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of
the heavens and the earth, (saying), ‘Our Lord! You have not created (all) this
without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted be You above all that they associate
with You as partners)
. Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire’”

(3:190-191). Allah also says, “Do they not think
deeply (in their own selves) about themselves? Allah has created not the
heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, except with truth and for
an appointed term. And indeed many of mankind deny the Meeting with their Lord”

(30:8). Again, Allah says, “Did you think
that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not
be brought back to Us?”
(23:115).

The Quranic argument is that it is
not logically possible to come to any other conclusion. Indeed, if a person
believes in God as the Creator, by definition it is unbecoming of such a noble
and great Creator to create all of this order and beauty and yet have no
purpose behind that creation. A person who believes in a creator yet believes
that this creator had no purpose or thought behind his creation is describing a
creator that is childlike and unintelligent. It is hard to believe that a
creator like that could possibly come up with a creation like the one that
everyone witnesses today. No, indeed, the creation points to certain attributes
of the Creator and it points to there being an important and great purpose
behind this entire creation. The whole nature of the existence points to the
Creator being one of very special character who would not create anything of
this nature simply in sport or jest. That Creator could only be Allah with His
perfect and sublime attributes—that is, this creation needs Allah and it could
not be just and proper except under the control of Allah, exactly as Allah is.
Thus, Allah says in the Quran, “Had there been
therein (in the heavens and the earth) gods besides Allah, then verily they
both[124] would have been ruined. Glorified be Allah, the Lord of
the Throne, (High is He) above what they attribute to Him” (21:22).

A second very important conclusion
that one can derive by simply pondering over this creation is that the one who
created this from nothing can easily recreate it. If He has the ability to
recreate things even after their demise, this also means that He has the
ability to resurrect them and bring them all in front of Him. This thought,
obviously, has very ominous repercussions for humans and their behavior in this
world. Thus, Allah points out this fact and reminds humans of its meaning
throughout the Quran.

For example, Allah says, “See they not that Allah, Who created the heavens and the
earth, is Able to create the like of them. And He has decreed for them an
appointed term, whereof there is no doubt. But the wrong-doers refuse [the
truth and accept nothing]
but disbelief”
(17:99). Another set of verses
state, “And he [the human] puts forth for Us a
parable, and forgets his own creation. He says, ‘Who will give life to these
bones when they have rotted away and became dust?’ Say (to them O Muhammad),
‘He will give life to them Who created them for the first time! And He is the
All-Knower of every creation!  He, Who produces for you fire out of the green
tree, when behold, You kindle therewith. Is not He, Who created the heavens and
the earth Able to create the like of them? Yes, indeed! He is the All-Knowing
Supreme Creator. Verily, His Command, when He intends a thing, is only that He
says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is! So Glorified is He and Exalted above all that they
associate with Him, and in Whose Hands is the dominion of all things, and to
Him you shall be returned”
(36:78-83).

The one who negates the
resurrection is expecting that Allah will treat the wrongdoers like the pious
people. This is an unbecoming expectation of Allah. Allah makes it clear that
such will never be the case, highlighting that such thoughts can only come from
those who disbelieve in God. Allah says, “And We
created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between them without
purpose! That is the consideration of those who disbelieve! Then woe to those
who disbelieve from the Fire! Shall We treat those who believe and do righteous
good deeds, as the evildoers on earth? Or shall We treat the pious as the
wicked?”
(38:27-28).

Although it is beyond the scope of
this work, the Islamic beliefs in the Quran and the truthfulness of the Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) are also based on clear and
direct evidence. The belief in the Quran as being a revelation from God is not
a blind belief but is directly related to the miraculous nature and extreme
beauty of this book itself. Similarly, believing in the Prophet Muhammad (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
is also supported by signs pointing to his
coming in earlier revelations, the Prophet’s own noble character, the victory
that God bestowed upon him, the change that was brought about in an entire generation
and afterwards under his guidance and so forth.

The point is that the Islamic
beliefs in God as the only creator and lord, the belief in a purpose of life,
the belief in a resurrection, the belief in the Quran and the belief in the
truthfulness of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
are all based on knowledge and an understanding that is consistent with one’s
human nature. In fact, because they are knowledge-based, any increase in one’s
knowledge related to these beliefs leads to an increase in one’s faith. Thus,
knowledge and faith are never battling against each other in Islam. Again, this
is because there are no mysteries or absurdities that one is demanded to
believe in. Mysteries and absurdities require “leaps of faith” and they are
completely absent and alien from Islamic beliefs.[125]

 The Articles of Faith

The “articles of faith,” or what
general categories a Muslims is supposed to be believe in, have been delineated
by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in a famous hadith
known as the “Hadith of the Angel Gabriel.” In
that hadith, the Angel asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
, “What is imaan (belief)?” The
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied by saying, “It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His
messengers, the Last Day and to believe in the divine decree, [both] the good
and the evil thereof.”
[126]

It is important that every Muslim,
including every convert, have at least a basic understanding of each of these
articles of faith. Thus, each article shall be discussed separately here.

 (A) The Belief in Allah

The Islamic belief in God revolves
around a pure, unadulterated monotheism, commonly referred to in Arabic as tauheed.[127]
In order to clarify matters, the scholars
divided the discussion of tauheed
into different branches, each branch covering or explaining one aspect of the
complete and correct belief in Allah. These branches are clearly and directly
indicated by the Quran and Sunnah.

A
popular way of discussing tauheed is
to divide it into three categories.[128] These three categories are tauheed
al-ruboobiyah, tauheed
al-uloohiyah[129]  and tauheed
al-asma wa al-sifaat.

(1)
Tauheed al-Ruboobiyah: In essence, this is
belief in the uniqueness of Allah with respect to His actions. This is the
belief in the Oneness of Allah with respect to His Lordship. He alone is the
Lord (al-Rabb).[130] He
is One without Partner in His Dominion and His Actions. He is the Only Creator,
Owner, Nourisher, Maintainer[131] and Sustainer of this creation. All creation has been
created by Him and Him alone.

According
to ibn Uthaimeen, all of mankind except the most arrogant and haughty accepts
and recognizes this aspect of tauheed, namely, that there is no Lord and Creator but the One Lord
and Creator.[132] This
is so because this belief is ingrained in the nature of mankind. Mankind
recognizes and realizes that this creation must have had a Creator. Mankind
also realizes that this Creator must only be One. It is clear from numerous
verses of the Quran that even the polytheistic Arabs knew and recognized that
the true and only Creator was above and beyond the idols that they used to
worship. For example, Allah says in the Quran, “Say: ‘Whose is the earth and whosoever is
therein? If you know!’ They will say: ‘It is Allah’s!’ Say: ‘Will you not then
remember?’Say: ‘Who is (the) Lord of the seven heavens, and (the) Lord of the
Great Throne?’ They will say: ‘Allah.’ Say: ‘Will you not then fear Allah (believe
in His oneness, obey Him, believe in the Resurrection and Recompense for every
good or bad deed)
?’ Say: ‘In Whose Hand is the sovereignty of everything (i.e.
treasures of each and everything)
? And He protects (all), while against Whom
there is no protector, if you know?’ They will say:(All that belongs) to
Allah.’ Say: ‘How then are you deceived and turn away from the truth?”
   (23:84-89).

However, this belief concerning
Allah also necessitates or implies the following aspects:
Everything that
occurs in this creation is by the Decree, Permission and Will of Allah.
Sustenance and provisions are from Allah and Allah alone. Life and death are in
the Hand of Allah alone. All blessings come from Allah. Guidance and
misguidance are by the Will and Permission of Allah. Legislation or prescribing
a way of life is the right of Allah alone. Allah alone has knowledge of the
unseen. No one has any rights over Allah unless Allah Himself has laid down
such upon Himself.

(2)
Tauheed al-Uloohiyah: This is the oneness of
Allah with respect to Him being the only one who is an ilaah (God, object of adoration and worship). This is the
actualization of tauheed as
found in the actions of the humans or servants of Allah. This is the meaning of
the testimony of faith, “There is none worthy of worship except Allah.” This is the reason for which the messengers were sent
and the books were revealed. This is the “trial” or test that mankind is facing
in this world. Allah has said, “I have not created jinn and mankind except that they should
worship and serve Me”

(51:56). Allah also says, “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him” (17:23).

This
branch of tauheed is
the real goal or essence of the teachings of all of the messengers and
prophets. The first type of tauheed, tauheed
al-ruboobiyah, is necessary and
essential. In reality, there has been very little dispute or controversy over
that first type of tauheed.
Many people would accept the basic concept that the Lord and Creator is One
Lord and Creator only. However, this belief must lead to this second form of tauheed wherein one directs all of his acts of worship towards
Allah and Allah alone. This is why so many Messengers are quoted in the Quran
as telling their people, “O my people, worship Allah as you have no other God besides
Him”
(7:59, 65, 85; 11:50, 61,
84; 23:
23 and 32)
.

Many
authors have given definitions for this type of tauheed .Al-Qaisi, for example, defined it in the following
manner,

This is the knowledge, belief and recognition that Allah
has the position of God over all of His creation. This category of tauheed—
which is called tauheed al-uloohiyah or tauheed al-’ibaada—
requires that one single out Allah alone for all acts of worship. It is the
singling out of Allah and the specifying of Him as the object of all acts of
worship, external and internal, statements and actions. It is the denial of the
worship of anything other than Allah, whatever that other thing or being might
be. It is the negation of any partner with Allah in any form whatsoever and 
refusal to turn any act of worship to anyone other than Him.

The
concept of worship which must be devoted solely to Allah covers everything that
is beloved and pleasing to Allah, whether it be acts or statements, both inward
or outward, including purity of intention, love, fear, hope, awe, turning to
[Him alone], putting one’s trust [only in Allah], seeking aid and assistance,
seeking a means of approach…[133]

He
goes on to mention many acts of worship, including the obvious ones, such as
prayer, prostration, fasting, animal sacrifice, pilgrimage and so forth. All of
these must be done solely for the sake of Allah. They must also be done in the manner
that is prescribed by Allah and that is pleasing to Him. To perform any of
these acts for anyone other than Allah negates and destroys one’s fulfillment
and implementation of tauheed.

Al-Saadi’s
definition sheds some further light on this concept. He wrote that tauheed
al-uloohiya

Is to
know and recognize with knowledge and certainty that Allah is the only God and
the only one truly deserving of worship. [It is also to verify that] the
attributes of Godhood and its meaning are not found in any of [Allah’s]
creatures. No one is then deserving of worship except Allah. If the person
recognizes that and recognizes it correctly, he will reserve all of his
external and internal acts of servitude and worship for Allah alone. He will
fulfill the external acts of Islam, such as prayer,… Jihad, ordering good and
eradicating evil, being dutiful to parents, keeping the ties of kinship,
fulfilling the rights of Allah and the rights of His creatures… He will not
have any goal in life other than pleasing His Lord and attaining His rewards.
In his affairs, he will be following the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon
him)
. His beliefs will be whatever is proven in the Quran and Sunnah. His deeds
and actions will be what Allah and His Messenger legislated. His character and
manners will be in imitation of His prophet, in his guidance, behavior and all
of his affairs.[134]

This
aspect of tauheed
comprises both the actions of the heart as well as the deeds of the physical
body. There are two aspects in particular that must be combined in the worship
of Allah. Al-Saadi stated,

The
spirit and actuality of worship is by the realization of love and submission to
Allah. Complete love and full submission to Allah is the reality of worship. If
the act of worship is missing both or one of those components, it is not truly
an act of worship. For the reality of worship is found in submission and
yielding to Allah. And that will only occur if there is complete and full love
[for Allah] which dominates all other expressions of love.[135]

Jaafar
Shaikh Idris has aptly described the process that should come about through the
correct belief in Allah and how that should lead to the acts of the heart which
are essential aspects of tauheed.
Idris wrote,

When
faith enters a person’s heart, it causes therein certain mental states, which
result in certain apparent actions, both of which are the proof of true faith.
Foremost among those mental states is the feeling of gratitude towards God,
which could be said to be the essence of Ibadah (worshipping or serving
God)
.

This
feeling of gratitude is so important that a nonbeliever is called kaafir
which means, “one who denies a truth” and also “one who is ungrateful”. One can
understand why this is so when one reads in the Quran that the main motive for
denying the existence of God is that of unjustified pride. Such a proud person
feels that it does not become him to be created or governed by a being whom he
must thus acknowledge to be greater than himself and to whom he must be
grateful. “Those who dispute concerning the
signs of God without any authority come to them, in their hearts is only pride
that they shall never attain”
(Ghaafir :56).

With
the feeling of gratitude goes that of love: “There
are some people who take to themselves [for worship] others apart from God
loving them as they should love God; But those who believe love God more
ardently than they love anything else”
(al-Baqara
:
165)
.

A believer
loves and is grateful to God for His bounties, but being aware of the fact that
his good deeds, whether mental or physical, are far from being commensurate
with Divine favors, he is always anxious lest because of his sins God should
withhold from him some of these favors or punish him in the Hereafter. He
therefore fears Him, surrenders himself to Him, and serves Him with great
humility.[136]

There
is thus no real worship unless the heart is filled with the feeling of love and
glorification for Allah. Along with this flows the other necessity components
of having hope in Allah and fear of Allah in the heart. Fear of Allah comes
about when one truly glorifies and exalts Allah.[137] Hope in Allah flows from a complete and true love of
Allah. All of these components must be present and in a proper balance. If they
are not present at all or if they are not properly balanced, one’s worship
becomes distorted and incorrect.[138]

Allah says about some of His true
and pious servants, “Verily, they used to hasten to do good
deeds. They used to call upon Us with hope and fear. They also would humble
themselves before us”
(21:90).
In reference to the pious and devoted servants Jesus, Uzair and the angels,
Allah has said, “They
hope for His mercy and fear His torment”

(17:57).[139]

This
category of tauheed is
the key to a “real life”, a life that is sound and proper. Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,

You
must know that a human’s[140] need for Allah¾ that he worship Him and not
associate any partner with Him¾ is a need concerning which
there is no comparison that one can make an analogy to. In some matters, it
resembles the need of the body for food and drink. However, there are many
differences between the two.

The
reality of a human being is in his heart and soul. These cannot be prosperous
except through [their relation] with Allah, concerning whom there is no other
god. There is [, for example,] no tranquility in this world except in His
remembrance. Verily, man is heading toward his Lord and he shall meet Him. He
must definitely meet Him. There is no true
goodness for him except in meeting Him.[141] If the human experiences any
pleasure or happiness other than in Allah, that joy and happiness will not
endure. It will move from one nature to another or from one person to another.
The person will enjoy it at one time or only some of the time. In fact,
sometimes the thing he enjoys and gets pleasure from does not bring him
pleasure or enjoyment. Sometimes it even hurts him when it comes to him. And he
is even more harmed by that. But his God is definitely always with him under every
circumstance and at all times. Wherever he is, He is with him [by His knowledge
and aid]

If
someone worships anything other than Allah¾ even if he loves it and
attains some love in this world and some form of pleasure from that¾
[that false worship] will destroy the person in a way greater than the harmful
displeasure that comes to a person who ate poison…

You
must know that if anyone loves something other than for the sake of Allah, then
that beloved thing will definitely be a cause of harm and punishment… If
somebody loves something other than for the sake of Allah, that thing will harm
him whether it is with him or he is without it…[142]

 In
order for any deed to be accepted by Allah, it must be done in accordance with
this aspect of tauheed. In
other words, if a person is fulfilling and understanding this form of tauheed properly, this, by necessity, implies that he is
accepting and applying the other forms of tauheed. Therefore, his deeds may then be accepted by Allah.[143] Allah says, “So whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him work
righteousness and not associate anyone [with Allah] in the worship of his Lord”

(18:110).

One of the acts that must be done
solely towards Allah is prayer or supplication. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
has said, “Supplication is the [essence
of]
worship.”
[144] When a person prays or supplicates to another, he is
showing his trust and reliance in that other. He is demonstrating his need for
the one he is praying to. He is demonstrating his trust in that person or
being’s ability to know, understand and fulfill his need. This kind of feeling
in the heart that is reflected in supplication must be directed towards Allah
only. That is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) called supplication the
essence of worship. Hence, anyone who prays or supplicates to anyone other than
Allah is associating partners with Allah or, in other words, committing shirk. This is the antithesis of Imaan and tauheed.

This type of tauheed is
actually a necessary consequence or result of the correct belief in tauheed al-ruboobiyah. If one realizes that there is no rabb (Lord) except Allah, then one will realize that none is
worthy or deserving of worship except Allah. If none other than Allah is worthy
of worship, then why would anyone worship somebody or something other than
Allah?

On
this aspect of tauheed,
ibn Abu al-Izz al-Hanafi wrote,

The Quran abounds with statements
and parables concerning this type of tawhid. It first affirms the tawhid
al-ruboobiyah, that there is no Creator other than Allah. This conviction
necessitates that no one should be worshipped except Allah. It takes the first
proposition [that Allah is lord] as evidence for the second proposition [that
Allah is the only one worthy of worship]
. The Arabs believed in the first
proposition and disputed the second. Allah then made it clear to them: Since
you know that there is no Creator except Allah, and that He is the One who can
give a person what benefits him or keep away from him what harms him, and He
has no partner in those acts, then how can you worship others besides Him and
associate partners with Him in His Godhead? For example, Allah says in the
Quran, “Say: Praise be to Allah and peace on His
servants whom He has chosen [for His message]. Who is better: God or the false
gods they associate with Him? Or who has created the heavens and the earth, and
who sends you down rain from the sky with which He brings forth beautiful
gardens? It is not in your power to cause the growth of the trees in them. Can
there be another god besides Allah? Yet they are a people who assign equals [to
Him]
(al-Naml 59-60). At the
end of other similar verses, Allah states, “Can
there be another god besides Allah?”
(al-Naml
61, 62, 63 and 64)
. This is a  question with a clearly implied negative
answer. They accepted the notion that no one but Allah does such things. Allah
used that as a proof against them. It does not mean to ask if there is another
god besides Allah, as some have claimed. Such a meaning is inconsistent with
the context of the verses and the fact that the people actually used to take
other gods alongside Allah. As Allah says, “Can you
possibly bear witness that besides Allah there is another god? Say: I witness
it not”
(al-Anaam 19). And they
used to say [about the Prophet], “Does he make all
the gods one? That it is truly a strange thing”
(Saad:
5)
. But they would never say that there was another god [with Allah]
that would “make the earth a fixed abode, place
rivers in its fold, and place firm hills therein”
(al-Naml 61). They accepted the fact that only Allah
did all of those things. Therefore Allah says, “O
people, adore your Guardian-Lord who created you and those who went before you
that you may learn to be righteous”
(al-Baqara
21)
and “Say: Think, if Allah took away your
hearing and your sight and sealed up your hearts, who, a god other than Allah,
could restore them to you”
(al-Anaam 46).
And there are other similar verses.[145]

(3)
Tauheed al-Asma wa al-Sifaat: The
third aspect of tauheed, in
this way of viewing tauheed, is
recognizing and affirming the Oneness of Allah with respect to His names and
attributes. One must affirm that these attributes are perfect and complete in
Allah alone. These attributes are unique to Allah. No one else can attain any
of these attributes.

Throughout
the history of Islam, this is another aspect of tauheed concerning which many sects deviated. Shuaib al-Arnaut
describes the different views that developed in the following passage,

There is no doubt that the topic of
Allah’s attributes must be considered as one of the greatest and most important
topics of the foundations of faith. The views of the Islamicists have differed
on this issue. Some of them followed the approach of complete denial of the
attributes. Others accepted Allah’s names in general but denied the attributes.
Some of them accepted both the names and attributes but, at the same time,
rejected or gave interpretations for some of them, turning away from their
apparent meanings [of the texts found in the Quran and Sunnah]. Some of them
took the approach that it is obligatory to believe in all of the names and
attributes that are mentioned in the Book of Allah and the authentic Sunnah.
They took them and passed them on according to their plain, apparent meaning.
They deny any understanding of their modality (kaifiyah) and deny any
kind of similarity [of those attributes to any other than Allah]. The people of
this last opinion are those who are called the salaf [pious
predecessors]
and ahl al-Sunnah.[146]

The correct belief concerning this
topic that has been passed on from the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
and his Companions was aptly summarized by al-Saadi when he wrote,

As for belief in Allah, it
includes:
belief in whatever attributes Allah has described Himself with in His
book and whatever attributes His Messenger (peace be upon him) has attributed
to Him.  [The belief in those attributes are] without any distortion or
negation, and without stating how or what manner the attributes are.  In fact,
the belief is that there is nothing similar to Allah and, at the same time, He
is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. Therefore, what He has attributed to
Himself is not denied nor are such descriptions distorted from their proper
meanings. In addition, the names of Allah are neither denied, nor is their
manner described, nor are they depicted in a way that makes His attributes
similar to the attributes of any of His creation. This is because there is no
one and nothing similar or comparable to Him.  He has no associate or partner. 
One cannot make an analogy between Him and His creation, glorified and most
High be He.

With respect to belief in what
Allah has been attributed with of attributes and names, there must be a
combination of affirmation and negation. The ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaah
do not allow any straying from what the Messengers preached, as that is the
Straight Path.  Included in this very important principle are all the
statements from the Quran and the Sunnah detailing Allah’s names, attributes,
actions and what should be negated of Him. Included among this is the belief in
Allah’s settling Himself over the Throne[147]
His descending to the lowest heaven, the believers seeing Him in the Hereafter—
as the confirmed, continuous reports have stated. Also included under this
principle is that Allah is close and responds to the supplications. What is
mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah concerning His closeness and “being with” the
believers does not contradict what is stated concerning His transcendence and
His being above the Creation.  For, Glory be to Him, there is nothing at all
similar to Him with respect to any of His characteristics.[148]

In one verse, Allah has pointed out
that both nothing is similar to Him whatsoever and, at the same time, He has
attributes, such as hearing and seeing. Allah has stated, “There is nothing similar to Him and He is
the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing”
(42:11).
Hence, there is a complete denial of anthropomorphism while affirming Allah’s
attributes of hearing and seeing.[149]

This
aspect of tauheed is
very important and should not be underestimated. As Ahmad Salaam points out,
the people before the coming of the Prophet (peace be upon him) accepted the
idea of Allah alone being the only Creator of the Universe. However, they
associated partners with Allah in different forms of worship. Therefore, Islam
came to purify this concept of Allah being the Lord or Rabb and gave it its proper understanding. By doing so, then
they would worship Allah alone properly. But the way to achieve that, or the
beginning point, is to have the knowledge and correct understanding of Allah’s
names and attributes. If one has knowledge of and a correct understanding of
Allah’s names and attributes, then one would never turn to anyone else or
direct any form of worship to anyone other than Allah.

Hence,
a correct and detailed understanding of Allah’s names and attributes is truly
the foundation for the correct fulfillment of the other types of tauheed.[150] He further states that tauheed
al-ruboobiyah is like a tree. Its root,
then, is tauheed al-asma wa al-sifaat. In other words, tauheed al-ruboobiyah stands on a foundation, which is tauheed
al-asma wa al-sifaat. If that root or foundation
is not found, the tree itself may be diseased and weak.[151]

However,
given that parable, the real fruit of tauheed al-asma wa
al-sifaat, once again, is tauheed
al-uloohiyah. The more that one knows about Allah
and His attributes, the more one will love Allah, fear Allah and have hope in
Allah. Definitely, the more one knows about Allah, the more one will love Allah
and desire to please Allah and have Allah pleased with him. Hence, the correct
understanding of the names and attributes of Allah is very important and very
beneficial. Those people who stray on this issue have harmed themselves greatly
and lost a great fortune.

 (B) Belief in the Angels

The second article of faith
mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him) was belief in the angels. Angels
are a type of creation of Allah that is, in general, unseen by man. They have
been created from light but they do have forms and bodies. They are servants of
Allah and have no aspect of divinity to them whatsoever. They submit to His
command completely and never stray from fulfilling His orders.

Salaam
points out that if a person does not believe in angels, he then cannot believe
in the coming of revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This
is because it was an angel, Gabriel, that brought the Quran to the Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him). Therefore, belief in the Quran cannot be
confirmed unless one believes in the angels, as a class, and the Angel Gabriel,
in particular, who brought that revelation to the Prophet (peace be upon him).[152]

According
to ibn Uthaimeen, proper belief in the angels comprises four matters:[153]

First, one must believe in their existence.

Second, one must believe in them in general but also one must
believe in their names that have been explicitly stated in either the Quran or
authentic Sunnah. For example, one of the angels is named Jibreel (Gabriel). He was the angel who brought the revelation
to the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Third, one must believe in
their attributes as stated in the Quran or Sunnah. For example, it is stated in
a hadith that the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw the Angel Gabriel covering
the horizon and he had six hundred wings. This shows that this species of
creation is a truly great and marvelous creation of Allah. It is also
demonstrated, such as in this hadith currently being discussed, that an angel
can appear in different forms, such as in the form of a human. This also
demonstrates Allah’s great power and ability to do whatever He wills.

Fourth, one must believe in the actions that they perform as
mentioned in the Quran or authentic hadith. It is stated in the Quran that they
worship Allah and glorify Him. It is also indicated that specific angels have
been given specific responsibilities. Jibreel is in charge of the “life of the heart” which is a
reference to the revelation that has come from Allah. Israafeel is responsible for blowing the trumpet that will
resurrect the bodies on the Day of Judgment. Hence, he is related to the
reviving of life on the Day of Resurrection. Mikaaeel is responsible for the rain and vegetation. These are
the “sources” of life on earth. Ibn Uthaimeen points out that it is perhaps the
relationship between these three angels and their “life-giving”

responsibilities that led the Prophet (peace be upon him) to open his
late-night prayers with the following supplication, “O Allah, Lord of Jibreel, Mikaaeel and Israafeel, the Originator of the Heavens and the Earth, the Knower of the
Unseen and Witnessed, You judge between Your slaves in that wherein they
differ, guide me to the truth in the matters concerning which they have
differed, by Your Leave. You guide whom You will to the Straight Path.”
[154]

A fifth matter that one must
fulfill in his belief in the angels is to have a strong love for them due to
their obedience and worship of Allah. Furthermore, they declare the Oneness of
Allah and fulfill His commands. They also have strong love and loyalty for the
true believers in Allah. They pray to Allah on behalf of the believers and ask
Allah to forgive them. They support them in both this life and the Hereafter.

An important aspect related to
belief in the angels is that everyone must believe that he has with him at all
times two angels that are recording his deeds. The following verses are in reference
to those angels:
[Remember]
that the two receivers [recording angels] receive [him], one sitting on the right
and one on the left. Not a word does he utter, but there is a watcher by him
ready [to record it]
(50:17-18).

There
are many beneficial results that flow from a proper belief in angels. For
example, knowing about the angels allows one to recognize the
greatness of Allah and His Power. This great creation known as angels is an
indication of the greatness of their Creator. Additionally, one should thank
Allah for His extreme care and concern for humans. He has created these
creatures to support the believers, protect them, record their deeds and other
aspects which are beneficial to the believers.

However, a believer’s belief in the
angels goes much beyond that. The believer knows that the angels are noble
creatures who support and aid whatever is true and just. Therefore, whenever
the believer decides to perform a good deed, stand up for the truth and
sacrifice for what is right, he knows that there are creatures in this world
who are going to support him and help him in his cause, like the angels supported
and helped the believers in the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
. In fact, such is promised from Allah, as the following
verses from soorah ali-Imraan indicate: “Allah
had helped you at Badr, when you were a contemptible little force; then fear
Allah. Thus may you show your gratitude. Remember when you said to the
believers, ‘Is it not enough for you that Allah should help you with three
thousand angels (specially) sent down? Indeed, if ye remain firm, and act
aright, even if the enemy should rush here on you in hot haste, your Lord would
help you with five thousand angels making a terrific onslaught’
(3:123-125).

The angels even ask for the
believer’s forgiveness and pray on behalf of the believer. Allah says in the
Quran, “He it is Who sends
blessings on you, as do His angels, that He may bring you out from the depths
of darkness into light:
and He is full of mercy to the believers”
(33:
43)
.

 (C) Belief in Allah’s Books

Belief in Allah’s books is the
third article of faith mentioned in this hadith. It refers to the revelations
that Allah sent down to His messengers as a mercy and guidance to lead mankind
to success in this life and happiness in the Hereafter. In particular, the
Quran is the final revelation. It is the uncreated speech of Allah.

Ibn
Uthaimeen points out that the belief in Allah’s books comprises four aspects:[155]

 First, one must believe that those books were truly revealed
from Allah.

Second, one must specifically believe in the books mentioned in
the Quran and Sunnah. They are the Quran revealed to the Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him), the Taurah
revealed to the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), the Injeel revealed to the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and
the Zaboor revealed to the
Prophet David (peace be upon him). There is also reference in the Quran to the
“pages” of Abraham and Moses. The books that the Jews and Christians possess
today, which they call the Torah, Gospel and Psalms, may contain some of those
original revelations but there is no question that they have been distorted.
Hence, to believe in the Torah of
Moses, for example, does not mean that a Muslim believes in the first five
books of the Old Testament. The two are different books although the latter may
possess some of what was in the original Taurah.

Third, one must also believe
in everything that Allah has revealed, whether it be in the Quran or in the
previous books. That is, for example, if the Quran states something, then the
Muslim must believe in it. He has no choice in this matter. If he rejects any
statement in it, he has negated his beliefs in the Books of Allah. Allah says, “Then do you believe in a part of the
Scripture and you reject the rest? Then what is the recompense of those who do
so among you, except disgrace in the life of this world. And on the Day of
Resurrection they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment. And Allah is
not unaware of what you do”

(2:85).

Fourth, one must act in
accord with the unabrogated revelation, which is the Quran. One must be pleased
with it and submit to it completely. This is so even if the person does not
completely grasp the wisdom behind the command or statement.

All of the previous revelations of
Allah have been abrogated by the final revelation, the Quran. There is no need
for any Muslim to turn to the remnants of any of the earlier scriptures.
Everything that he needs for his guidance is contained in the Quran and what it
points to, such as the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Allah has stated in the Quran, “And to
you We have revealed the Scripture in truth, confirming whatever Scripture that
came before it, and a watcher and judge over it”
(5:48). Commenting on this verse, ibn Uthaimeen says, “It is a ruler over the previous
scriptures. Hence, it is not allowed to act in accord with any ruling of the
rulings from the previous scriptures unless it is verified and accepted by the
Quran.”
[156]

It is one of the greatest blessings
of Allah that He sent revelations for mankind.  These revelations guide man to
the purpose for which he was created. This is one of the many aspects of this
creation that helps a human being see and recognize the truth. Commenting on
this point, Idris wrote,

God
created men so that they may serve Him. His being a servant of God constitutes
the essence of man. Man cannot therefore attain to his true humanity and
acquire peace of mind unless he realizes this aim for which he was created. But
how can he do this? God, being merciful and just, has helped him in many ways.
He granted him… an originally good nature that is inclined to know and serve
its true Lord. He granted him a mind that possesses a moral sense and the
ability to reason. He made the whole universe a natural book full of signs that
lead a thinking person to God. But to make things more specific and to give him
more detailed knowledge of his Lord, and to show him in a more detailed manner
how to serve Him, God has been sending down verbal messages through His
prophets chosen from among men, ever since the creation of man. Hence, the
description of these messages in the Quran as guidance, light, signs,
reminders, etc.[157]

In fact, not only did He send
revelations for mankind but He also sent specific and different revelations
according to the needs and circumstances of different people over time. This is
another expression of Allah’s great mercy for mankind. This process continued
until the Quran was revealed, containing all the guidance that mankind needs
from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) until the Day of
Judgment. Since it is meant to be a guidance for all times until the Day of
Resurrection, as opposed to the earlier scriptures, Allah has protected the
Quran from any tampering, mistakes or distortions. Allah has said, “Verily, it is We who have sent down the
Reminder [the Quran] and surely We will guard it [from corruption]
(15:9).

 (D) Belief in the Messengers

The
next article of faith is belief in Allah’s Messengers. A messenger is any human
who was chosen by Allah to receive revelation from Him and who was commanded to
pass that revelation on. The first of the messengers was Noah (Nooh).[158]
Every people was sent messengers and these
messengers came with the same fundamental teaching:

 “And verily, We have sent among every nation a Messenger
proclaiming, ‘Worship Allah [alone] and avoid all false deities’”
(16:36). The final messenger and prophet is the Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah has said, “Muhammad is not the father of any man
among you, but he is the Messenger and the Seal of the Prophets”
(33:40).

It
is important to note that all of these messengers and prophets were simply
human beings. They did not have any divine status or attribute.[159]
They had no knowledge of the unseen except
for that which Allah revealed to them. Their loftiest attribute is that of
being a servant of Allah. Such is Allah’s description of them in the Quran.
Indeed, with respect to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), in reference
to three of the greatest events in his life, Allah refers to him as His servant.[160]

Correct
belief in the messengers comprises four aspects[161]

First, one must believe that the message of all of them is the
truth from Allah. If a person today denies any single one of them who is
confirmed in the Quran or authentic hadith, then he is in fact denying all of
them. Allah says about the people of Noah, “The people of Noah belied the messengers” (26:105). However, Noah was the first messenger. This
implies that, in essence, if a person denies one messenger, he is in fact
denying all of them since their message is essentially one and consistent. Hence,
the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “By the One in whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, there will be
no Jew or Christian of this nation[162]  who hears of me and then dies without believing in that with
which I have been sent except that he will be one of the inhabitants of the
Hell-fire.”[163]

This is one of the aspects that
distinguishes Muslims from the earlier peoples. Muslims believe in all of the
prophets. However, the others refused some— whether it be the Jews rejecting
Jesus (peace be upon him) or the Jews and Christians rejecting the Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him)— although, in reality, they had no grounds
whatsoever to refuse the later prophet.  Each messenger came with clear signs and
evidence. Their rejection by the people could only be based on arrogance,
ignorance or hostility to the truth.

Second, one must believe in all of the Messengers mentioned by
name in the Quran or Sunnah. As for those not mentioned, one must believe  in
them at a general level[164], knowing that Allah has sent many messengers although
not all of them are mentioned by name in the Quran or hadith. Allah has stated
in the Quran, “And indeed We
have sent messengers before you. Of them, some We have related to you their
story and some We have not related to you their story”
(40:78).

Third, one must believe in everything that they stated. They
communicated their messages from Allah completely and properly. They exerted
themselves to propagate Allah’s message. They strove for the sake of Allah in
the most complete manner. They were most knowledgeable of Allah and the best
worshippers and servants of Allah.[165] The
messengers “have been
protected from attributing to Allah something of their own invention, judging
according to their own desires, falling into major sins, and adding to or
diminishing from the religion.”
[166]

Fourth, one must submit to,
accept and act in accord with the law of the messenger who has been sent for
his guidance. Allah says in the Quran, “We sent no messenger but to be obeyed by
Allah’s leave”
(4:64). With respect to the
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Allah says in the verse after the verse
quoted above, “But no, by
your Lord, they can have no faith until they make you judge in all disputes between
them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept
them with full submission”
(4:65).

The believer should realize that
the sending of messengers for the benefit and guidance of humankind is a great
blessing from Allah. The knowledge that they conveyed is knowledge that is
beyond the grasp of the human intellect by itself since it deals with matters
of the unseen. Indeed, humankind is in more need of their guidance than they
are in need of food and drink. If they are void of food and drink for any
period of time, they will die, implying loss of this life. But if they are
refusing Allah’s guidance through the messengers, they will lose the
everlasting bounties of the Hereafter.

 (E) Belief in the Last Day and the Hereafter

“The
Last Day”
is called such because there will be no new day after it, as the
people of Paradise shall be in their abode as will the people of Hell. Among
its other names are “The Day of Resurrection,” “The Reality,” “The Event,” “The
Day of Judgment,”
and “The Overwhelming.” This is the greatest day that mankind
shall pass through. Indeed, it will be the gravest and most fearful day. A
person’s new life will be decided on that day. It will mark a new beginning for
each and every soul. This new step may lead to eternal bliss or eternal
damnation.[167]

Belief in the Last Day implies
belief in everything that the Quran or the Prophet (peace be upon him) has
stated about the events of that Day and thereafter. There are some general
aspects (resurrection, judgment and reward, Paradise and Hell) that every
Muslim should be aware of and believe in with certainty. There are also more
detailed aspects that the Quran or the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)
mentioned. The more one has knowledge of that Day and its surrounding events,
the greater the effect this belief will have on him. Hence, it is highly
recommended for each individual Muslim to learn about the events that occur
prior to and on the Day of Resurrection.

As
recorded in Sahih Muslim,
before the Day of Judgment and the destruction of this earth, Allah will send a
wind softer than silk, coming from Yemen, that will take the souls of every
individual who has even the slightest amount of faith in his heart. Therefore,
the events of the end of the earth will only be lived through by the worst of
people, those with no faith whatsoever.

One of the first events to occur is
the sun rising from the West. At that time, all those people will declare their
faith but it will be of no avail to them. Then the Horn shall be blown and all
on this earth shall die. Allah says, “And the trumpet will be blown, and all who are in the heavens
and all who are on the earth will swoon away, except him whom Allah wills”
(39:68). This earth and heaven shall then be destroyed.
After a period of forty— it is not known whether it is forty hours, days or
years— a second Horn will be blown and the people will be resurrected:
  “And the Trumpet will be blown [the second
blowing]
and, behold, from the graves they will come out quickly to their Lord.
They will say, ‘Woe to us! Who has raised us up from our place of sleep?’ [It
will be said to them,]
‘This is what the Most Beneficent [Allah] has promised,
and the Messengers spoke the truth’”

(36:51-52).

According
to ibn Uthaimeen,[168] belief in the last day encompasses three aspects. First
is belief in the Resurrection:
after the Second Blowing of the Horn, the people
will be resurrected in front of Allah. They shall be naked, barefoot and
uncircumcised.[169]
Allah says, “As We began the first creation, We shall
repeat it. [It is] a promise binding on Us. Truly, We shall do it”
(21:104).

The
resurrection is going to be in the same body that the person had in this
worldly life. Ibn Uthaimeen has pointed out the wisdom and importance of this: “If it were a new creation, it would mean
that the body that performed the sins in this world would be safe from any punishment.
To come with a new body and have that body punished goes against what is just.
Hence, the texts and rational argument indicate that the [person] resurrected
is not a new [creation] but a return [of the old creation].”
[170]  He
also points out that Allah has the ability to recreate the bodies even after
they have disintegrated. Humans may not be able to understand how exactly that
is possible— like so many other aspects that humans cannot fathom— but Allah
has stated it and a believer knows full well that it is true and well within
Allah’s ability to do so.

The second aspect is belief in the
accounting or reckoning of the deeds and the reward/punishment for those deeds.
This aspect is mentioned and stressed in numerous places in the Quran. Here are
a couple of examples:
“Verily, to Us
will be their return. Then, verily, upon Us will be their reckoning”
(88:25-26); “And We shall set up balances of justice on the Day of
Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there
be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And sufficient are We as
reckoners”
(21:47).

Allah has made it clear that all
deeds will be weighed on the Day of Judgment. Allah says, “And the weighing on that Day will be the
true weighing. So as for those whose scale [of good deeds] will be heavy, they
will be the successful. And as for those whose scale will be light, those are
they who will lose their ownselves because they denied and rejected Our Signs”
(7:8-9).

One should always recall that the
reward Allah gives to His servants is an act of His mercy as He rewards them
more than what their deeds entail. However, Allah’s punishment is out of His justice
and He does not punish anyone more than what he deserves.

The third essential aspect of
belief in the Last Day is belief in Heaven and Hell. Heaven is the eternal
abode or reward for the believers. Hell is the eternal abode of punishment for
the disbelievers. The stronger opinion is that they both are in existence at
this present time and they both shall exist forever. They are not simply states
of mind as some non-Muslims and a few heretical Muslims believe. Allah and His
Messenger made mention of them and have described them clearly and in
unequivocal terms. There is absolutely no room for any Muslim to deny their
existence or their descriptions.

About Heaven, for example, Allah
has said,

“Verily, those who believe and do righteous deeds, they are the
best of creatures. Their reward with their Lord is gardens of eternity, underneath
which rivers flow, they will abide therein forever. Allah being well-pleased
with them and they with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord”
(98:7-8); “No person knows what joy is kept hidden for him as a reward for
what they used to do”

(32:17).

Concerning Hell, for example, Allah
has said, “Verily, We have prepared for
the wrongdoers a Fire whose walls will be surrounding them. And if they ask for
relief, they will be granted water like boiling oil that will scald their
faces. Terrible the drink and evil a resting place”
(18:29); “Verily, Allah has cursed the disbelievers and has prepared for
them a flaming Fire. They will abide therein forever and they will find neither
a protector or a helper. On the Day when their faces would be turned and rolled
in all sides of the Fire, they will say, ‘Oh, would that we had obeyed Allah
and obeyed the Messenger’”

(33:64-66).

Ibn Taimiyyah
points out that belief in the Last Day also includes belief in everything that
shall occur to a person after his death and before the Day of Resurrection.[171]
This includes the trial in the grave and the
pleasure or punishment in the grave. The trial in the grave is mentioned in an
authentic hadith recorded by al-Tirmidhi. It states that two angels, al-Munkar
and al-Nakeer, come to the person and ask him: What did you use to say about
this man [meaning the Prophet (peace be upon him)]? Other narrations mention
two angels coming and asking three questions: Who is your Lord? What is your
religion? Who is your prophet?[172]

There
are additional detailed aspects related to the Hereafter that a believer should
learn about and believe in. Due to space limitations, they cannot be discussed
in detail here.[173] These matters include: (1) The
Fount or Cistern of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)[174]; (2) The
different intercessions[175]; (3) The
distribution of the books of deeds; (4)
Passing over the siraat
(bridge) over Hell[176]; and (5) The
entrance into Paradise and Hell with all of its related aspects.

The belief in and knowledge of the
great events of the Last Day and the Hereafter should have some very profound
effects on the individual— if he takes the time to remember and seriously think
about that Day.

First, it should make the
believer rush to perform good deeds, knowing the reward that may be in store
for them. The bounties of Paradise are greater than what any eye has seen or
even what any mind could imagine. First and foremost, this great reward includes
the pleasure of Allah and the opportunity to see Him in the Hereafter. If a
person could possibly be conscious of this aspect at every moment of his life,
he would be anxiously seeking and searching for any good deed he could perform.

Second, the threat of
punishment should sway the person from committing any sin, no matter how
“light”. No sin performed in this world could be worth the punishment it could
bring about in the Hereafter. Furthermore, by committing sins, the person may
also be earning the displeasure of Allah, his Lord, Creator and Beloved.

Third, according to ibn Uthaimeen, the reckoning and justice
of the Day of Judgment should bring comfort and solace to the heart of the
believer. It is normal for humans to have a hatred for injustice. In this
world, it appears to occur often. Those who cheat and who are unethical many
times get ahead in this world without ever suffering for what they have done.
However, that is only because, on a grand scale, this world is not the final
place for judgment, reward and punishment. They will not escape the evil that
they are doing. The good deeds of a person will also not be in vain, as they
sometimes seem to be in this world. The time will come for all those matters to
be settled and to be settled in a just manner. And that time is the Day of
Judgment.[177]

 (F) The Belief in Divine Decree

The
next and final article of faith mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him) is
belief in “divine decree” or al-Qadar. Idris discusses the meaning of this word and states,

The
original meaning of the word Qadar is specified measure or amount,
whether of quantities or qualities. It has many other usages which branch out
from this core. Thus yuqad-dir means, among other things, to measure or
decide the quantity, quality, position, etc., of something before you actually
make it. And it is this latter sense which interests us here.[178]

It is obligatory upon every Muslim to believe in the
concept of Qadar or Divine Decree, as it is clearly
referred to in numerous authentic hadith.

Ibn
al-Qayyim shows that there are four “levels” or aspects of belief in Qadar. If one does not believe in these four aspects, he does
not have the correct or proper belief in Allah.[179]

The first level is belief in
Allah’s knowledge of everything, both of universals and particulars, before its
existence. This is related to both, what is sometimes referred to as, the
actions of Allah, such as producing rain, giving life and so forth, as well as
the actions of human beings. Allah has foreknowledge of all of the deeds of the
creation according to His ever-existing knowledge that He is described as
having eternally. This includes His knowledge of all their affairs with respect
to obedience, disobedience, sustenance and life-spans.

This aspect can be concluded from
many Quranic verses, including: “And
with Him are the keys of the Unseen. None knows them but He. And He knows
whatever there is on the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows
it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or
dry, but is written in a Clear Record”

(6:59).

The
second level of belief in Qadar is
belief in Allah’s recording of all things before He created the heavens and the
earth. Hence, Allah not only knew and knows what will happen, but Allah has also
recorded this information in the Preserved Table (al-Lauh
al-Mahfoodh)
. Such an act is not difficult for
Allah whatsoever. Allah says, “Don’t you know that Allah knows all that is in heaven and on
earth? Verily, it is all in the Book. Verily, that is easy for Allah”
(22:70). Allah also says, “No calamity occurs on the earth or among
yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book [of Decrees] before We bring it into
existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah”

(57:22).

The third level is to believe in
Allah’s decreeing of everything that is in existence, and if He does not will
something, it can never come into existence. Once again, this also refers to
all things. It refers to Allah’s actions of giving life, sustenance and so
forth; and it also includes all of the acts performed by human beings. Nothing
can be done unless Allah decrees it and allows it to occur. A person may intend
or try, for example, to shoot and kill another person but such can only occur
if Allah decrees it. The person may take all the necessary steps but if Allah
does not will it to occur, it will not occur. In the case just mentioned, Allah
may will the gun to jam or the shooter’s hand to flinch and miss his target and
so forth.

This
aspect of Qadar may
also be concluded from numerous pieces of evidence. For example, Allah says, “If Allah had willed, succeeding
generations would not have fought against each other, after clear verses of
Allah had come to them. But they differed, some of them believing and others
disbelieving. If Allah had willed, they would not have fought against one
another, but Allah does what He likes”

(2:253). Allah also says, “Verily, this [the Quran] is no less than a Reminder to (all)
the ‘Alamin (mankind and jinn).To whomsoever among you who wills to walk
straight. And you cannot will unless (it be) that Allah wills ــــ the
Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)(81:27-29).

Ibn
Uthaimeen also offers a rational argument for this aspect of belief in Qadar. He says that it must be accepted that Allah is the
Owner, Master and Controller of this creation. Hence, it cannot be the case, as
long as everything is under His Control and part of His Dominion, that
something occurs in His Dominion that He does not want to happen. Therefore,
everything that occurs in His creation is by His Will. Nothing could ever occur
unless He willed it. Otherwise, His control and mastery over His dominion would
be deficient and lacking, as things would be occurring in His dominion that
either He did not will to occur or they occurred without His knowledge. These
hypotheses are unacceptable.[180]

The
fourth level of belief in Qadar is
the belief in Allah’s creating of everything, bringing of everything into
existence and making everything be. This aspect is also demonstrated by numerous
verses in the Quran, including: “Blessed be He who sent down the Criterion to His slave
[Muhammad] that he may be a warner to the Worlds. He to whom belongs the
dominion of the heavens and the earth, and who has begotten no offspring and
for whom there is no partner in the dominion. He has created everything, and
has measured it exactly according to its due measurements”
(25:1-2). Also, “Allah has created everything” (39:62). Another verse states, “Verily, We created all things with
Divine Pre-ordainment”
(54:49).

Ibn Uthaimeen has explained this
point by saying,

Everything
is a creation of Allah. Even the deeds of mankind are creations of Allah.
Although they are by [man’s] free choice and will, they are creations of Allah.
This is because every act of a human is the result of two aspects:
a definitive
will [to do the act] and the complete ability [to do the act]. For example,
suppose that in front of you is a stone weighing twenty pounds. I say to you,
“Lift this stone,” and you say, “I don’t want to lift it.” In this case, your
lack of will has prevented you from lifting the stone. If I said a second time
to you, “Lift that stone,” and you said, “Yes, I will listen and do what you
have said.”
In this case, if you wanted to lift it but you were not capable of
lifting it, you would not have lifted it because you did not have the
capability to do so. If I said to you a third time, “Lift that stone,” and you
complied and lifted it above your head, that was because you had the ability
and the will to do it.

All of our deeds that we perform[181], therefore, are the result of a
definitive will and complete ability. The one who created that ability and will
is Allah. If Allah had made you paralyzed, you would not have the ability. If
you turned your attention to some other deed, you would not have done it…

Therefore,
we say:
All of the actions of humans are created by Allah. This is because they
are the result of definitive will and complete ability. The one who created
that will and ability is Allah. The way in which Allah is the creator of that
will and capability is that the will and ability are two characteristics of the
one who wants something and the one who has ability but the one who created
that person with that ability was Allah. The One who created the person who has
specific characteristics is also the one who created those characteristics.
This makes the matter clear and shows that the actions of human beings are the
creation of Allah.[182]

Actually, there are a number of questions and
misconceptions that have arisen surrounding the concept of Qadar. Due to space limitations, they cannot be dealt with in
detail here. However, in a not-too-lengthy passage, Jaafar Sheikh Idris has
adequately dealt with a number of such issues. He wrote,

God
decided to create man as a free agent, but He knows (and how can He not know?)
before creating every man how he is going to use his free will; what, for
example, his reaction would be when a Prophet clarifies God’s message to him…
“But if we are free to use our will,” a Qadari[183] might say, “we may use it in ways that contradict God’s
will, and in that case we would not be right in claiming that everything is
willed or decreed by God.”
The Quran answers this question by reminding us that
it was God who willed that we shall be willful, and it is He who allows us to
use our will. [He then quotes surah al-Insaan 29-30.] “If so,” says a
Qadari, “He could have prevented us from doing evil.”
Yes, indeed he could, “Had God willed, He would have brought them all together
to the guidance”
(6:35) And Allah says “if thy Lord had willed whoever is in the earth would
have believed, all of them, all together”
[10:99]
But He had willed that men shall be free especially in regard to matters of
belief and disbelief. “Say: ‘The truth is
from your Lord; so let whosoever will believe, and let whosoever will
disbelieve”
[18:29]

“If our actions are willed by God,” someone might say,
“then they are in fact His actions.” This objection is based on a confusion.
God wills what we will in the sense of granting us the will to choose and
enabling us to execute that will, i.e., He creates all that makes it possible
for us to do it. He does not will it in the sense of doing it, otherwise it
would be quite in order to say, when we drink or eat or sleep for instance,
that God performed these actions. God creates them, He does not do or perform
them. Another objection, based on another confusion, is that if God allows us
to do evil, then He approves of it and likes it. But to will something in the
sense of allowing a person to do it is one thing; and to approve of his action
and commend it is quite another…[184]

In the Hadith of the Angel Gabriel,
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explicitly stated that
one must believe in divine decree, [both] the good
and the evil thereof.”
Ibn al-Qayyim points out that what is meant by
“evil” is with respect to the human beings and not with respect to Allah. The
“evil”
is the result of the human’s act of ignorance, wrong, oppression and
sin. However, it was allowed and brought into being by Allah. But no evil is to
be attributed to Allah because, with respect to Allah, the act is good and full
of wisdom, as it must be a result of Allah’s knowledge and wisdom. Any act of
that nature must, in its essence, be good and cannot be pure evil. This is
supported by the Prophet’s hadith, “Evil is not to be attributed to You.”[185]
That is because every act that occurs is the
result of some wisdom and goodness and can never be pure evil. The individual
himself may think it otherwise, but in reality there is wisdom and good in
everything that occurs in Allah’s creation.[186]

Ibn Uthaimeen gives an example
illustrating this point. Allah says in the Quran, “Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of
men have earned, that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have
done, in order that they may return [by repenting]
(30:41). In this verse, Allah states the evil (fasaad) that has appeared, the cause for it and its result. The
evil (fasaad) and the cause of it
are both evil (sharr).
However, the goal of it is good: that Allah may make them taste a part of that
which they have done, in order that they may return [by repenting]. Hence,
there is a wisdom and a goal behind that fasaad. This goal and wisdom makes the entire action something
good and not a pure evil.[187]

Pure
evil, on the other hand, would be one in which there was no benefit or positive
result related to it. Allah’s wisdom and knowledge preclude the existence of
acts of that nature.[188]

 The Fruits of Proper Belief in Divine Decree[189]

(1)
When a person realizes that all things are under the control and decree of
Allah, he is freeing his belief from any form of shirk or associating partners with Allah in His Lordship.
There is truly only One Creator and Master of this creation. Nothing occurs
except by His will and permission. When this is firmly in the heart of the
person, he then also realizes that there is none worthy of praying to, seeking
assistance from, relying upon, and so forth, except that one Lord. Hence, he
directs all of his acts of worship toward that One who has decreed and
determined all matters. Thus, both tauheed al-ruboobiyah and tauheed al-uloohiyah are correctly and completely fulfilled with the proper
belief in al-Qadar.

(2) A
person will put one’s reliance upon Allah. A person should follow the outward
“causes and effects” that one sees in this world. However, he must realize that
those “causes and effects” will not bring about any ends unless Allah so wills
them to do so. Hence, a believer never puts his complete trust and reliance
upon his own actions or the worldly aspects that he might have some control
over. Instead, he follows whatever causes he may know of which lead to a
desired end and then he puts his trust in Allah to bring about that desired
end.[190]

(3) Ibn
Uthaimeen argues that with proper belief in al-Qadar, one does not become arrogant and boastful. If he
achieves any goal that he desired, he knows that such goal only came about
because Allah, in His mercy, had decreed it for him. If Allah had so wished, He
could have put many obstacles in his way and prevented him from reaching his
goal. Therefore, instead of becoming full of himself and arrogant upon reaching
his goal, the person who truly believes in al-Qadar becomes very thankful to Allah for bringing about that
blessing.[191]

(4) The
proper belief in al-Qadar
brings about tranquility and peace of mind. The person realizes that everything
that occurs is according to Allah’s Divine Decree. Furthermore, there is a
wisdom behind everything Allah does. Hence, if the person loses a beloved or
something of this world, he does not go insane, despair or give up hope.
Instead, he realizes that such was the will of Allah that he must accept. He
must also realize that such has occurred for a purpose. It did not occur
haphazardly or accidentally, without any reason behind it. Allah has said, “No calamity befalls on the earth or in
yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book [of Decrees] before We bring it into
existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah. In order that you may not be sad
over matters that you fail to achieve, nor rejoice because of that which has
been given to you. And Allah likes not prideful boasters”
(57:22-23).[192]

(5)
Belief in al-Qadar
gives a person strength and courage. He knows that Allah has recorded his life
and his sustenance for him. Such comes only from Allah and is already decreed.
Hence, he need not fear struggling and fighting for the sake of Allah as the
time of his death is already recorded. He need not fear anyone when it comes to
his sustenance and provision as such come only from Allah and have been already
recorded for him. No human can cut off his sustenance and livelihood if Allah
has decreed that he shall continue to receive provisions and sustenance from
some source.[193]

 Conclusions

This chapter has provided a brief
synopsis of the basic beliefs of a Muslim. Every Muslim must know what he is
supposed to be believe in, at least at an elementary level. However, as his
knowledge of the articles of faith increases, his faith itself will become
stronger and greater.

For more details about the articles
of faith, the author would like to recommend Umar al-Ashqar’s eight part series
that touch upon the various aspects of faith, such as belief in Allah, the
angels and so forth. These books are published by the International Islamic
Publishing House in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and are easily available via the
internet. The books of Bilal Philips and Muhammad Jibaly on aspects of belief
are also well worth reading for the new Muslim.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “Islam is built upon five [pillars]:
testifying that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is
the Messenger of Allah, establishing the prayers, giving the Zakat, making the
pilgrimage to the House and fasting the month of Ramadaan.”
[194] Here,
the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) has given a parable in which he
gives a picture of Islam like that of a house. The foundations or pillars of
the house are five.

These actions are what are known as
the “five pillars of Islam.” The first pillar, the declaration of the testimony
of faith, was discussed earlier. Hence, this chapter is devoted to a discussion
of the other four pillars. Before discussing each pillar separately, a couple
of introductory points need to be made.

First, all of these ritual
acts have both an outward or physical aspect and an inward or spiritual aspect
to them. The scholars have emphasized that before any act of worship is
acceptable to Allah, it must meet two conditions: (1)
The act must be proper and correct according to Allah’s guidance and (2) the act must be done solely and purely for
the sake of Allah. Allah states, for example, “So
whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and
associate none as a partner in the worship of His lord”
(18:110).
Commenting on this verse, ibn al-Qayyim wrote,

This is in reference to the only
type of deed that Allah will accept. The deed must be in accordance with the
Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and done solely for the
Countenance of Allah. A doer cannot possibly fulfill both of these conditions
unless he has knowledge. If he does not know what has been narrated from the
Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), then he cannot intend that. If he is
not knowledgeable of whom he worships, he cannot intend Him alone in his deeds.
If it were not for knowledge, his deed could not be acceptable. It is knowledge
that guides to sincerity and purity and it is knowledge that indicates what is
the actual following of the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him).[195]

Allah asks of His servants purity
in their hearts. Although this purity is reflected in the deeds itself, it is
the purity that is the key to Allah being pleased with a certain deed. Allah
created death and life in order to test humankind to see who are the best in
deeds. He did not create humankind and test them to see who performs the most
deeds with the least quality. Allah has stated, “Blessed
is He in whose Hand is the dominion, and He is the One who Decrees all things,
Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is the best
in deed. He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving”
(67:1-2).

Commenting on this verse, al-Fudail
ibn Iyaad stated that “best in deeds,” means the most pure and most correct. He
stated, “If a deed is sincere and pure but not
correct, it is not accepted. If it is correct but not pure, it is not accepted.
[It will not be accepted] until it is both pure and correct. It is pure if it
is solely for the sake of Allah and it is correct if it is according to the
Sunnah.”
[196]

Second, these ritual acts
are indeed acts of worship in themselves yet, at the same time, they should
have a lasting influence on the individual. The Muslim, for example, should not
complete the prayer and not have that prayer have any effect on his behavior
and actions. In the hadith quoted earlier, the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
stated that Islam is built upon these ritual pillars. That
means that they form a foundation—a foundation that support an entire life
based on the concept of submission to Allah alone.[197]

 Establishing the Prayers     The Meaning of
“Establishing the Prayers”

A very important aspect that one
should note about this pillar is that what is being referred to is not simply
the “performance” of prayer. In the Quran also, Allah is not ordering simply
the performance of prayer.

Instead, Allah
is requiring from the believers iqaamat al-salat (“the establishment of the prayers”). Hence, this pillar
of Islam is not simply praying but it is something special, which Allah and His
Prophet (peace be upon him) called, “establishing the prayer.”
Only if one performs the prayer properly and correctly does one fulfill this
pillar. This points out that the number of people who pray are many while the
number that establish the prayer are few. This is like the statement narrated
from Umar about the Hajj, “The number who performed the Hajj are few
while the riders [present at the Hajj] are many.”
[198]

Al-Dausiri
also pointed out one difference between the two phrases of “establishing the prayer” and “performing
the prayer.”
He said, [Allah] did not say ‘performers of prayer’ but He said,
‘those who establish the prayer.’ Allah distinguished between them in order to
distinguish between the true and real prayer and the prayer in form only. The
true prayer is the prayer of the heart and soul, the prayer of humility, the
prayer of those who stand silently and in fear in front of Allah.”
[199]  The prayer “in form only” was never the goal of the
command.

Definitely
part of the establishing of the prayer is the establishment of the spiritual
and inward aspects of the prayer, as al-Dausiri has alluded to. But that is
certainly not the only difference between the two as can be seen in the
definition or statements about “establishing the prayer” as given by many of the scholars of Islam. For example, the
famous commentator on the Quran, ibn Jarir al-Tabari wrote, “Establishing it means to perform it within
its proper limits, with its obligatory aspects, with what has been made
obligatory concerning it by the one upon whom it has been made obligatory.”
Then he quoted the Companion ibn Abbas as saying, “Establishing the prayer is to perform its
bowing, prostrations and reciting in a complete manner as well as having fear
of Allah and complete attention to it.”
[200] The early scholar Qatada also stated, “The establishing of the prayer is to
stick to and guard its timing, ablution, bowing and prostration.”
[201]

In general, one can say that the “establishing of the prayer” means that one
performs and executes the prayer in the proper manner as prescribed in
the Quran and Sunnah. This includes both the outward as well as the inward
aspects of the prayer. Neither of the two are sufficient in themselves to truly
establish the prayer. One must be in a state of purity for the prayer. One must
perform the prayer in its proper time. One should, in the case of men, perform
the prayer in congregation in a mosque if feasible. One must perform the prayer
according to its rules and regulations, at the same time, though, the physical
acts must be accompanied with diligence, submission, humbleness, calmness and
so on. One must perform all of the acts of the prayer properly and in the
manner demonstrated by the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). These are
all part of establishing the prayer. These are essential aspects of this very
important foundation of the entire structure of Islam.

From all of the above it is clear
that what Allah is referring to is not something light or something that can be
taken lightly.  It is to fulfill the prayers in the best way that one can do
so, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), with the
correct intention and with the proper attention on the prayer.

However, it may be that the person
establishes the prayer to some extent.  The person has, from a legal point of
view, performed his prayer but the reward from Allah for that prayer may be
lacking. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, “A person may finish from [the prayer] and all that is recorded
for him of his prayer is one-tenth of it, one-ninth, one-eighth, one-seventh,
one-sixth, one-fifth, one-fourth, one-third or one-half.”
[202]

The meaning
of “establishment of the prayer” has been stressed here because that is
what the pillar of Islam is. This pillar is not simply the performance of the
prayer. It is not performing it in any way or with just physical motions. Nor
is it simply praying in the heart without any physical parts to it whatsoever.
Nor is it praying the prayer at the time one finds convenient. One must be
careful to perform this pillar of Islam in the best and correct manner. On this
point, Nadwi wrote,

Salat [prayer] is not merely the name of certain physical
movements. It is not a wooden, lifeless ritual or something of a military
discipline in which one’s choice or volition has no place. It is an act in
which all the three aspects of human existence, physical, mental and spiritual,
find their due expression. The body, the mind and the heart participate in it
jointly and in an ideal manner. The acts of standing erect, kneeling and
prostration appertain to the body, recitation appertains to the tongue,
reflection and contemplation to the mind, and fear, repentance and lamentation
to the heart.[203]

The importance of the prayer in
Islam cannot be overstated. It is the first pillar of Islam that the Prophet
(peace be upon him) mentioned after mentioning the testimony of faith, by which
one becomes a Muslim. It was made obligatory upon all the prophets and for all
peoples.

Once
a man asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the most virtuous deed. The
Prophet (peace be upon him) stated that the most virtuous deed is the prayer.
The man asked again and again. The first three times, the Prophet (peace be
upon him)
again answered, “The prayer,”
then on the fourth occasion he stated, “Jihad in the way of Allah.”[204]

The importance of the prayer is
demonstrated in many of the Prophet’s statements. For example, the Prophet
(peace be upon him) said, “The first
matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is
the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it
is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.”
[205]

The
importance of the prayers lies in the fact that no matter what actions one
performs in his life, the most important aspect is one’s relationship to
Allah,  that is, one’s faith (imaan), God-consciousness
(taqwa), sincerity (ikhlaas) and worship of Allah (’ibaadah). This relationship with Allah is both demonstrated and
put into practice, as well as improved and increased, by the prayer. Therefore,
if the prayers are sound and proper, the rest of the deeds will be sound and
proper; and if the prayers are not sound and proper, then the rest of the deeds
will not be sound and proper, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself
stated.

In reality, if the prayer is
performed properly— with true remembrance of Allah and turning to Him for
forgiveness— it will have a lasting effect on the person. After he finishes the
prayer, his heart will be filled with the remembrance of Allah. He will be
fearful as well as hopeful of Allah. After that experience, he will not want to
move from that lofty position to one wherein he disobeys Allah. Allah has
mentioned this aspect of the prayer when He has said, “Verily, the prayer keeps one from the
great sins and evil deeds”
(29:45). Nadwi has described this effect in the following
eloquent way,

Its aim is to generate within the subliminal self of man
such spiritual power, light of faith and awareness of God as can enable him to
strive successfully against all kinds of evils and temptations and remain
steadfast at times of trial and adversity and protect himself against the
weaknesses of the flesh and the mischief of immoderate appetites.[206]

As for the Hereafter, Allah’s
forgiveness and pleasure is closely related to the prayers. The Messenger of
Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Allah
has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, prays
them in their proper times, completes their bows, prostrations and khushu’[207] has a promise from Allah that He will
forgive him. And whoever does not do that has no promise from Allah. He may
either forgive him or He may punish him.”[208]

The prayers are a type of
purification for a human being. He turns and meets with his Lord five times a
day. As alluded to above, this repeated standing in front of Allah should keep
the person from performing sins during the day. Furthermore, it should also be
a time of remorse and repentance, such that he earnestly asks Allah for
forgiveness for those sins that he committed. In addition, the prayer in itself
is a good deed that wipes away some of the evil deeds that he performed. These
points can be noted in the following hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him):
“If a person had a stream outside his door and he
bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on
him?”
The people said, “No filth would
remain on him whatsoever.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away
the sins by them.”
[209]

In another hadith, the Prophet
(peace be upon him) said, “The five daily prayers
and the Friday Prayer until the Friday Prayer are expiation for what is between
them.”
[210]

The essential importance of the
prayer with respect to a Muslim’s faith can be seen in the statement of the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “Between
a man and polytheism (al-shirk)
and disbelief (al-kufr) is
the abandoning of the prayer.”
[211] In this hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used the
definitive al-shirk and
al-kufr, which is a reference to
something known and understood. This is understood to refer to the kufr that takes one out of the fold of Islam. Furthermore,
both the words shirk and
kufr have been used, and this is
another sign that the act must take one out of the fold of Islam.

Siddiqi’s words showing the importance
of prayer are a good summary to this whole discussion. He wrote,

Prayer
is the soul of religion. Where there is no prayer, there can be no purification
of the soul. The non-praying man is rightly considered to be a soulless man.
Take prayer out of the world, and it is all over with religion because it is
with prayer that man has the consciousness of God and selfless love for
humanity and inner sense of piety. Prayer is, therefore, the first, the
highest, and the most solemn phenomenon and manifestation of religion.[212]

The Prophet (peace be upon him)
stated its place in Islam when he said, “The head of the matter is Islam. Its pillar is prayer. And its
apex is Jihad.”
[213]

 Some Important Points Concerning the Laws of Prayer

This is not the proper place to
give a detailed discussion of the laws concerning the prayers. However, a few
points shall be made.

The five daily prayers are
obligatory upon every adult[214],
sane Muslim. However, women who are experiencing their menses or post-partum bleeding
are not to perform the prayers, as they are not in a state of ritual purity
(described below). Furthermore, such women do not make up those prayers at a
later time.

Before commencing with the ritual
prayer, one must also be in a state of physical purity. Allah says, “O you who believe! When you intend to offer the prayer,
wash your faces and your arms up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over)
your heads, and (wash) your feet up to the ankles”
(5:6). The Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The
prayer is not accepted without purification.”
[215] Thus,
for example, if one is “sexually defiled,” either through sexual activity or a
wet dream, of if a woman has just completed her menses or post-partum bleeding,
a complete washing, known as ghusl, must be made before commencing the
prayer. Otherwise, one must be in a state of purity via ablution or wudoo,
which involves washing the face, head, arms and feet. The ablution is to be
repeated before the next prayer if one has relieved oneself, passed gas, had a
deep sleep or lost consciousness. This prerequisite for the prayer further
emphasizes the fact that worship of God involves all of one’s being. However,
outside of the ritual prayer, if one simply wants to supplicate to Allah, then
ablution is not required.

In addition to being in a state of
purity, one’s clothing and place of prayer must also be free of impurities. In
other words, the clothing and area should be free of urine, feces, blood and
any other impure substance. Hence, the entire atmosphere and the feeling of the
individual should be one of purity as he begins to enter into this noble state
of prayers and communication directly with his Lord.

It is important to realize that the
times of the daily prayers are fixed. Allah says, “Verily,
the prayers are enjoined on the believers at stated times”
(4:103).
These timings are delineated in the following hadith:
“The Angel Gabriel came
to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed the Noon Prayer when
the sun had passed its zenith. Then he came in the afternoon and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ Then he prayed the Afternoon
Prayer when every object and its shadow had become the same length. Then he
came at sunset and said, ‘Stand and pray.’
He prayed when the sun had disappeared. Then he came in the night and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed when the twilight had
disappeared. Then he came at dawn and said, ‘Stand
and pray.’ He prayed when the dawn had lit up—or he said became
brightened. Then he came on the next day for the Noon prayer and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed the Noon Prayer when
an object and its shade were the same length. Then he came for the Afternoon
Prayer and said, ‘Stand and pray.’ He prayed
the Afternoon Prayer when the shadow of an object was twice the object’s
length. Then he came for the Sunset Prayer, and it has only one time. Then he
came for the Night Prayer and it was when half or one third of the night had
passed and he prayed the Night Prayer. Then he came in the dawn when it was
very light and said, ‘Stand and pray,’ and
he prayed the Dawn Prayer. Then he said, ‘The
timings [for the prayers] are between these two,’ [that is, between the two
sets of times in which he prayed with him]
.”
[216]

Unfortunately, sometimes some
Muslims find themselves busy during the day and therefore delay all of their
prayers until nighttime, when they combine the Noon, Afternoon, Sunset and
Night Prayers together at home. Converts in particular may find that the prayers
are difficult with their work schedule and, at the same time, they may not have
the confidence to pray in front of others or to ask for space at work to pray
and so forth. This practice of delaying the prayers is incompatible with
Islamic Law. The prayers must be said at their proper times and the individual
should not take this matter lightly. He should exert himself for the sake of
Allah and discover some way by which he will be able to perform the prayers
during their proper times. At the very most, if he does need to combine some
prayers, he may combine the Noon and Afternoon Prayers during the time of
either the Noon or Afternoon Prayers.

Similarly, he may also combine the
Sunset and Night Prayers at the time of either the Sunset or Night Prayers.
However, no other combination is permissible. Furthermore, the individual
should resist combining the prayers as a matter of being lackadaisical and,
again, should strive to perform each prayer in its proper time.

Thus, in order for the prayer to be
sound and proper, the following conditions must be met: (1) One must have knowledge that the time of
the prayer has begun; (2) the
individual must be in a state of purity; (3)
the clothing, body and place of prayer must also be free of impurities; (4) the private parts must be covered in a
proper fashion—for the man, the area between the navel and the knees must be
covered with clothing that does not reveal what is supposed to be covered and
the man should wear a garment that covers at least one shoulder; for the woman,
all of her except her face and hands is to be covered in the prayer; (5) the individual must face the qiblah,
or the direction towards Allah’s Sacred Kaabah in Makkah; (6) the individual must have the proper
intention for prayer.

It is especially important for the
individual to perform the five daily prayers in a congregation in a mosque.
Numerous texts of the Quran and Sunnah indicate the importance of prayer in
congregation. For example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
said, “The prayer of a person in congregation
is twenty-five levels better than the prayer of a person prayed in his house or
in the market. This is because when one of you performs ablution in an
excellent manner and then goes to the mosque desiring only the prayer, he will
not walk a step except that he will be raised a rank and a sin will be
expiated. While he prays, the Angels invoke prayers upon him for as long as he
remains seated in his place of worship, saying, ‘O Allah have mercy on him, O
Allah forgive him, O Allah turn towards him.’ And you are continually
considered in the prayer as long as you are waiting for the prayer.”
[217]
Actually, many scholars state that performing the five daily prayers in a
congregation is obligatory upon men. In addition to the obvious importance of
congregational prayers in general, this author believes, based on his own
experience, that it is extremely important for new converts to attend the
prayers in congregation as much as possible.

First, it demonstrates the
convert’s seriousness in Islam; it shows that he is zealous about performing
the most basic act of his new faith. This will immediately send a good sign to
the Muslims in his community and they will be more willing to invest their time
in such an individual.

Second, it is a good
opportunity for the convert to befriend Muslims and learn from their example.
It is very difficult to try to change one’s life to an Islamic life while
remaining within one’s circle of non-Muslim friends. Hence, attending the
mosque will open the door for the convert to make new Muslim friends.

Third, it is an important
opportunity for the convert to learn about Islam. In the mosques, usually, one
will find people who have knowledge of Islam. The new convert will not have to
feel lost and on his own but will find devout Muslim who will be able to guide
him and assist him. Obviously, these advantages apply equally to the male as
well as the female convert. Hence, the female convert should also take
advantage of this opportunity and try to perform some of her congregational
prayers in the mosque as well.

The Quran, of course, is in Arabic.[218] The
first chapter of the Quran is known as soorah al-Faatihah. This chapter
forms an essential portion of the prayer and is read in every unit of the
prayer. Obviously, it takes time for an individual to learn how to read this
short chapter and to be able to memorize it. Until he is able to memorize this
chapter, he applies the principle found in the following hadith: A man came to
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and told him that he was
not able to learn anything of the Quran and requested that the Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
teach him some words that would suffice
him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught him to say, “Subhaanallah. Wa-l-hamdulillaah. Wa laa ilaahah
illa-llah. Wallahu akbar. Wa la haula wa la quwwata illa-billaah al-Alee
al-Adheem.”
[219] The
individual said, “Those are [words of praise] for
Allah. What can I say for myself?”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
told him to say, “Allahumma,
irhamni. Wa-rzuqni. Wa-‘afini. Wa-hdini.”
[220] When the
man stood and left, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “He has filled his hand with goodness.”[221]

This author would also advise the
convert to learn Arabic expressions and passages of the Quran directly from
people who speak Arabic properly. The convert should not rely upon
transliterations, as such transliterations cannot convey the true manner of
pronouncing the words if the individual is ignorant of the Arabic language in
the first place. This author knows from his own personal experience that if the
convert learns the phrases of the prayer or portions of the Quran incorrectly,
it becomes all the more difficult for him to correct himself later. Thus, from
the beginning, one should learn the pronunciation of the Arabic in the best
manner possible directly from those who speak it correctly.

When the Messenger of Allah (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
would stand for prayer, he would face the
direction of the Kaabah in Makkah, with the intention of performing the prayer.

Then he would begin his prayer by
saying, “Allahu akbar” (“Allah is greatest”)
and would raise his hands with this saying. Then he would put his right hand
over his left above his chest. He would put his sight towards the ground. He
would begin the prayer by reciting various supplications, praising and
extolling Allah therein. Then he would seek refuge in Allah from the accursed
Satan. Then he would recite, “In the name of Allah,
the One Full of Mercy, the Ever Merciful,”
but he would not recite this
aloud. Then he would recite soorah al-Faatihah, the first chapter of the
Quran, reciting each verse separately. When he reached the end of soorah
al-Faatihah, he would say amen. He would say that aloud and lengthen its
pronunciation. Then he would recite another portion of the Quran after
finishing reading soorah al-Faatihah, sometimes making a lengthy reading
while others times a short one.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
would recite the Quran audibly in the Morning Prayer, the
first two units (rakahs) of both the Sunset and the Night Prayers. He
would recite it silently in the Noon and the Afternoon Prayers as well as in
the last two units of the Sunset and Night Prayers. He would also recite it
audibly in the Friday Prayer, the two Eid Prayers, the Prayer for Rain and the
Eclipse Prayers.

He would make the last two rakahs
about half as short as the first two, the length of about fifteen verses or
sometimes he would only recite soorah al-Faatihah in them.

When he would finish the entire
reciting, he would pause a little, raise his hands, say the takbeer (“Allah
is great”
) and then bow. He would put his hands on his knees and separate his
fingers. Sometimes he would put his hands on his knees as if he were grasping
them. He would keep his arms away from his side and would stretch out his back
and keep it straight, such that if one were to pour water on his back it would
settle there.

He would be very calm and still in
his bow. He used to say, “Subhanna
Rabbiyal-Adheem (Exalted and perfect is my Lord, the Great),”
three
times. Also while bowing, he would state a number of words of remembrance and
supplications, sometimes one and sometimes another. He also prohibited the
reciting of the Quran while bowing or prostrating.

Then he would raise his back from
the bowing position and saying, “Sami-Allaahu
liman hamidah (Allah has heard him who praises Him).”
He would also
raise his hands while moving to stand straight. While standing, he would say, “Rabbanaa wa lakal-hamd (Our Lord and to you is
the praise)
.”
Sometimes he would say more than simply that. Then he would
say the takbeer and go down to prostrate. He would put his hands on the
ground before his knees. He would lean on his hands and spread them out. He
would bring his fingers together and direct them towards the qiblah. He would
place them parallel to his shoulders or, sometimes, parallel to his ears. He
would firmly place his nose and forehead on the ground. He used to say, “I have been ordered to prostrate on seven bones: the
forehead—and he pointed to his nose [as well]—, the two hands, the two knees and
the ends [toes] of the two feet.”
He also said,  “There is no prayer for the one whose nose does not touch the ground
in the manner that the forehead does.”
He would remain calm and still in
the prostration. He would say, “Subhanna
Rabbiyal-Adheem (Exalted and perfect is my Lord, the Great),”
three
times. He would also recite a number of words of remembrance and supplications
in this position, varying the different supplications that he would make. He
stated that one should exert himself in making numerous supplications in this
position. Then he would raise his head while pronouncing the takbeer.
Then he would spread out his left leg and sit on it, resting his bones and
being still. His right leg would remain erect on the foot, with the toes
pointing toward the qiblah. At this juncture, he would say, “O Allah, forgive me, have mercy on me, strengthen me,
raise me [in rank], guide me, pardon me and provide for me.”
Then he
would state the takbeer and make a second prostration like the first
one. Then he would raise his head while making the takbeer and sit straight
on his left leg, until all his bones returned to the sitting position, and then
he would get up, pushing up off the ground. In the second rakah he would
do the same that he did in the first but he would make this rakah
shorter than the previous one.

At the end of the second rakah,
he would sit for the saying of the tashahhud. If it were a two-rakah
prayer, he would sit on his left leg like he did so in between the two
prostrations. He would sit similarly in the first tashahhud of the
three- and four-rakah prayers. While sitting for the tashahhud,
he would put his right hand on his right thigh and his left hand on his left
thigh. He would spread out his left hand and make a fist with his right,
pointing with his right index finger and fixing his gaze upon it.

He would recite after each two rakahs,
the tahiyyat[223]
and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would also
state the prayers upon himself[224]
in the first tashahhud as well as later, and he established that for his
Nation as well. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to
make various different types of supplications during his prayer.

Then he would make the salutations
to his right, saying, “Peace
be upon you and the mercy of Allah,”
and to his left as well. Occasionally,
during the first greeting he would add, “and His blessings” at the end of the phrase.

 The Giving of the Zakat

Linguistically, the root of the
word Zakat implies purification, blessing and growth. Allah has stated in the
Quran, “Indeed whosoever purifies
himself (tazakkaa) shall achieve success”
(87:14).
Another word used in the Quran and hadith for the Zakat is sadaqa. This word is derived from sidq (the truth). Siddiqi explains the significance of these
two terms as they are used here,

Both
these words are highly meaningful. The spending of wealth for the sake of Allah
purifies the heart of man of the love of material wealth. The man who spends it
offers that as a humble gift before the Lord and thus affirms the truth that
nothing is dearer to him in life than the love of Allah and that he is fully
prepared to sacrifice everything for His sake.[225]

In
Islamic Law, its technical meaning is in reference to a specific portion of
one’s varied wealth that one must give yearly to a specific group of recipients.

There is no question that among the
pillars of Islam, Zakat ranks very close to that of prayer. They are often
mentioned together in the Quran— in eighty two instances to be exact. One can also see from the Quran, that one of the keys to
receiving Allah’s mercy in the Hereafter is the payment of Zakat. In surah
al-Tauba, verse 71, Allah states, “The believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters
of one another, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, they offer
their prayers perfectly, they give the Zakat and they obey Allah and His
Messenger. Allah will bestow His mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty,
All-Wise.”
(9:71)

The payment of Zakat should purify
a person. It also purifies his wealth. Allah said to the Prophet (peace be upon
him)
, “Take (O Muhammad) alms from
their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it”
(9:103). Beyond that, it can purify a believer’s soul by
cleansing him of the diseases of stinginess and miserliness.

It also purifies the wealth of the
person by removing any evil effect from it. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
once said, “Whoever pays the Zakat on
his wealth will have its evil removed from him.”
[226]

Zakat also has a very important
role to play for society as a whole. There are some obvious factors that may be
stated here. For example, Zakat helps the poor of society as they receive
wealth that they need. This should also help to strengthen the ties of
brotherhood within a Muslim society, as the poor know that the rich will come
to their aid through Zakat and other means of charity. Even for those who are
not very rich, it makes them realize that they can afford to give for the sake
of Allah. They may realize that they will not starve or die if they give some
of their wealth for the sake of Allah. Furthermore, it can make those who
possess wealth realize that such wealth has actually come as a blessing from
Allah. Hence, the person must use it in the way that is pleasing to Allah. One
of the most pleasing aspects is to fulfill one’s responsibility of paying Zakat
upon such wealth.

Muslims who do not pay their Zakat are not only harming
themselves but they can actually harm the entire Muslim Nation. The Messenger
of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “A people do not keep from giving the Zakat
on their wealth except that they will be kept from having rain falling from the
sky.  If it were not for the animals, it would not rain at all.”
[227]

Allah and His prophet have made it
clear that not paying Zakat is an act that is displeasing to Allah. Indeed,
Allah has threatened a great punishment for such behavior. For example, the
following verse of the Quran is a reference to those who do not pay the Zakat
on their wealth:
“And let not
those who covetously withhold of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His
Bounty (wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them.
The things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a
collar on the Day of Resurrection. And to Allah belongs the heritage of the
heavens and the earth, and Allah is Well-Acquainted with all that you do”
(3:180).

The
Prophet (peace be upon him) described the punishment that will come to those
who do not pay the proper Zakat on their wealth. In one hadith in Sahih
al-Bukhari, Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet
(peace be upon him) said, [On the
Day of Resurrection]
camels will come to their owner in the best state of
health they have ever had (in the world), and if he had not paid their Zakat on
them, they would tread him with their feet; similarly, sheep will come to their
owner in the best state of health they ever had in this world and, if he had
not paid their Zakat, would tread him with their hooves and would butt him with
their horns… I do not want anyone of you to come to me on the Day of
Resurrection carrying over his neck a sheep that will be bleating. Then he says, ‘O Muhammad (please intercede for me).’
I will say, ‘I can’t help you for I conveyed Allah’s message to you.’
Similarly, I do not want anyone of you to come to me carrying over his neck a
camel that will be grunting. Such a person will say, ‘O Muhammad (intercede for
me)
.’ I will say to him, ‘I cannot help you for I conveyed Allah’s Message to
you.’”

The
Prophet (peace be upon him) warned of the consequences of not paying such
Zakat.  Note the following hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari: “Whoever is made wealthy by Allah and does not pay Zakat on his
wealth, then on Day of Resurrection his wealth will be made like a bald-headed
poisonous snake with two poisonous glands. It will encircle his neck and bite
his cheeks and say, ‘I am your wealth, I am your treasure.’”
After stating that, the Prophet (peace be upon him) then
recited the above verse from surah ali-Imran.

In another verse that also includes
those who do not pay Zakat, Allah has said, [There are] those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not
in the way of Allah– announce unto them a painful torment. On the Day when that
wealth will be heated in the fire of hell and it will brand their foreheads,
flanks and backs. [It will be said to them], ‘This is the treasure which you
hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard’”
(9:34-35).

 The Amount of Money to be Given as Zakat

Zakat is obligatory upon different
forms of wealth, such as money, crops, fruits, livestock and treasures found in
the earth. In today’s world, the most common form of wealth is that of money.
Zakat is to be paid on one’s money if that amount of money reaches the minimum
required for Zakat and if it has been in the person’s possession for a year’s
time. The amount to be paid on such holding is 2.5%.

The minimum required holding of
wealth before one is obligated to pay Zakat is known as the nisaab.
There is actually a distinct nisaab for gold and for silver. Today,
people hold cash and currency rather than gold or silver. This has led to some
difference of opinion as to whether the nisaab for cash should be based
on its gold equivalent or its silver equivalent. If gold is taken as the basis,
Zakat is only obligatory if the amount of gold one possesses reaches twenty mithqaals[228] or if
a person holds its equivalent value in currency. If the Muslim possesses this
amount of money for a year’s time, he pays 2.5% once in that year as Zakat.

Zakat is distributed to specific
categories of people. Allah has mentioned those categories in the following
verse:
“The alms are only for the poor, the needy,
those employed to collect (the funds), and to attract the hearts of those who
have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in
debt; and for Allah’s Cause, and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off
from everything)
; a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise”

(9:60).

In general, most mosques have
committees and accounts for Zakat. If a Muslim gives them his Zakat payment,
informing them that it is Zakat, it should then be distributed to the proper
recipients and the Muslim would have fulfilled his responsibility to Allah.

 The Fast of the Month of Ramadaan

The
fast of Ramadaan refers to abstaining from food, drink and sexual intercourse
during the days of the month of Ramadaan.

Fasting is a source of
self-restraint, piety and God-consciousness. It was prescribed by Allah for the
prophets before Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In the verses obligating
the fast of the month of Ramadaan, Allah has pointed out its goal or purpose: “O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you
as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa [self-restraint, piety and God-consciousness]
(2:183).

The Prophet (peace be upon him)
said that fasting is a protection from the Hell-fire: “Fasting is a shield from the Hell-fire like one of your shields
used in fighting.”
[229]  Furthermore,
it will also come as an intercessor on the Day of Judgment. The Prophet (peace
be upon him)
has said, “The fast and the Quran shall come as intercessors on the Day of
Resurrection. The fast shall say, ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and
drink during the day, so let me intercede for him.’ The Quran will say, ‘I kept
him from sleep during the night, so let me intercede for him.’ Then they will
be allowed to intercede.”
[230]

It
is an act that demonstrates one’s sincerity to Allah. Only Allah is aware if a
person truly fasted or not. No one can know if he secretly broke his fast. Therefore,
Allah has a special reward for those who fast. This is stated in the following
report:
Allah has said, “He leaves his food, drink and desires
because of Me. Fasting is for My sake and I shall reward it. And every good
deed shall be rewarded ten-fold.”
[231]

By Allah’s grace and mercy, if a person
fasts the month of Ramadaan with faith in Allah and hoping for its reward,
Allah will forgive all of his previous minor sins. The Prophet (peace be upon
him)
said, “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with
faith and hoping for its reward shall have all of his previous sins forgiven
for him.”
[232]

Ibn al-Qayim noted some of the
beneficial and important aspects of fasting when he wrote,

The
purpose of fasting is that the spirit of man was released from the clutches of
desires and moderation prevailed in his carnal self, and, through it, he
realized the goal of purification and everlasting felicity. It is aimed at curtailing
the intensity of desire and lust by means of hunger and thirst, at inducing man
to realize how many were there in the world like him who had to go even without
a small quantity of food, at making it difficult for the Devil to deceive him,
and at restraining his organs from turning towards things in which there was
the loss of both worlds. Fasting, thus, is the bridle of the God-fearing, the
shield of the crusaders and the discipline of the virtuous.[233]

There is also a hadith of the
Prophet (peace be upon him) that warns of the punishment for one who breaks his
fast improperly. In this hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “While I was sleeping, two men came to me
and took hold of my arms. They brought me to a steep mountain and said, ‘Climb.’ I said, ‘I am not able to.’ They said, ‘We will make it easy for you.’ So I climbed until I came to the summit of
the mountain where I heard terrible cries. I said, ‘What are these cries?’ They
said, ‘Those are the
cries of the inhabitants of the Fire.’ Then they took me further until I came to a people who were
strung up by their hamstrings, and their jawbones were torn and flowing with
blood. I said, ‘Who are these people?’ He said, ‘Those are the people who break their fast
before the time it was permissible to do so.’”
[234]

Fasting is obligatory upon every
sane, adult, healthy, non-traveling Muslim. In addition, women must also be
pure of menses and post-partum bleeding. If a person is traveling or ill, he is
not required to fast. If he does fast, that fast will fulfill the requirements
of the fast. However, if he does not fast, he must make up those missed days of
fasting later. If a woman has her menses or post-partum bleeding, she is not
allowed to fast and will make up those days later. The essential components of
the fast are only two.

First, the person must have
the intention of fasting for the sake of Allah. If a person simply goes without
eating or fasts for the sake of losing weight, such would not be an act of
worship of Allah. Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “There is no fast for the one who does not
make the intention to fast before Fajr (dawn).”
[235]

Second, the Muslim must
refrain from anything that breaks the fast from the dawn of dawn until sunset.
The matters that invalidate the fast are the following six:

(1
and 2)
Intentionally eating or drinking: However, if a person
forgetfully eats or drinks, then he does not have to make up the fast nor is
there any expiation in his case. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
said, “Whoever forgets while he is
fasting and eats or drinks something should complete his fast, for it was Allah
who fed him or gave him to drink.”
[236]

(3)
Intentionally vomiting: If a person is overcome by nausea and vomits, then he
does not have to make up the fast nor is there any expiation in his case.

(4
and 5)
Menstruation and post-partum bleeding. Even if these occur at
the last moment before sundown, they break the fast according to the consensus
of the scholars.

(6)
Sexual intercourse. The one who commits this act must perform the expiation
that is described in the following hadith:
Abu Hurairah narrated: While we were
sitting with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) a man came
and said, “O Messenger of Allah, I have been
destroyed.”
He asked him, “What has happened
to you?”
He replied, “I had intercourse with
my wife while I was fasting.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
then told him, “Do
you have a slave that you can free?”
He replied, “No.” He then said, “Can you fast
two months consecutively?”
he replied, “No.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then asked
him, “Can you feed sixty poor people?”
He
replied, “No.” The Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
then kept silent when a big basket full of
dates was brought to him. He said, “Where is the
questioner?”
The man replied, “It is I.” The
Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told him, “Take these dates and give them in charity.”
The
man said, “To someone poorer than I, O Messenger of
Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)? By Allah, there is no family
between Madinah’s mountains poorer than I.”
The Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
laughed to such an extent that his premolars
could be seen. He then said, “Feed your family with
it.”

Muhammad ibn Uthaimeen was once
asked whether a person who embraces Islam during the daytime of Ramadaan must
commence fasting immediately. His response was, “If a non-Muslim embraces Islam during the daytime of
Ramadaan, it is obligatory upon him to fast the remainder of that day as he is
now one of the people upon whom the fasting is obligatory. However, he does not
have to make up that day at a later date [due to the portion of the day that he
missed]
. Similarly, he does not have to make up the days of that month of Ramadan
that he did not fast before becoming Muslim.”
[237]

 The Pilgrimage to the House of Allah in Makkah

The
next pillar of Islam mentioned in this narration of this hadith is making the
pilgrimage to the House of Allah, or the Kaaba. Linguistically, hajj means, “He repaired, or betook himself, to, or towards a person… or
towards an object of reverence, veneration, respect or honour.”
[238]
In Islamic Law, it means a particular journey
at a particular time to a particular place for the purpose of worshipping
Allah. In other words, it is the journeying to Makkah during the months
designated for the performance of Hajj as an act of worship for the sake of
Allah.

The
performance of Hajj is
an obligation upon every Muslim who has the means to perform it. This can be
clearly proven from the Quran and Sunnah. However, it is much more than an
obligation. It is one of the foundations or pillars of Islam itself.

The
reward for the performance of the Hajj is great. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever performs the Hajj for the sake of Allah and does
not commit any lewdness or sins returns like the day in which his mother gave
him birth,”
that is, without any sins.[239]

The Prophet (peace be upon him)
also said, “One Umrah[240]
until the next Umrah is an expiation for what is between them. And the Hajj that is
accepted by Allah and performed properly has no reward other than Paradise.”[241]

Another hadith reads: The Messenger
of Allah (peace be upon him) was asked, “What is
the best deed?”
He stated, “Belief in Allah
and His Messenger.”
He was then asked, “What
next?”
He said, “Jihad in the way of Allah.”
He was again asked, “What next?” He
replied, “The Hajj which is performed correctly and
accepted by Allah.”
[242]

Furthermore, Hajj is equivalent to
Jihad for women and people who are not capable of Jihad. In one hadith, the
Prophet was asked whether or not women are required to take part in Jihad. He
answered, “Yes, upon them is the Jihad
which does not contain fighting:
Hajj and Umrah.”
[243]

Hajj has numerous benefits to it.
Besides those mentioned in the hadith, one can note that it is a place for
Muslims from all around the world to come and worship Allah together. This is
an excellent opportunity for Muslims to meet each other, understand each other
and get closer to each other. Furthermore, all differences between them are
swept away as they all dress in a similar fashion and perform the same rituals.
The poor, the rich and all others are all standing in the same manner in front
of Allah.

Siddiqi describes the significance
of Hajj in the following manner,

It is
rightly said that it [the Hajj] is the perfection of faith since it combines in
itself all the distinctive qualities of other obligatory acts. It represents
the quality of salat [prayer] since a pilgrim offers prayers in the
Kaba, the House of the Lord. It encourages spending of material wealth for the
sake of the Lord, the chief characteristic of Zakat. When a pilgrim sets out
for Hajj, he dissociates himself from his hearth and home, from his dear and
near ones to please the Lord. He suffers privation and undertakes the hardship
of journey— the lessons we learn from fasting and itikaf.[244]
In Hajj one is trained to be completely
forgetful of the material comforts and pomp and show of worldly life. One has
to sleep on stony ground[245], circumambulate the Kaba, run between Safa and Marwa and
spend his night and day wearing only two pieces of unsewn cloth. He is required
to avoid the use of oil or scent or any other perfume. He is not even allowed
to get his hair cut or trim his beard. In short, he is commanded to abandon
everything for the sake of Allah and submit himself before his Lord, the
ultimate aim of the life of a Muslim. In fact, physical pilgrimage is a prelude
to spiritual pilgrimage to God, when man would bid goodbye to everything of the
world and present himself before Him as His humble servant saying:
“Here I am
before Thee, my Lord, as a slave of Thine.”
[246]

Hajj is obligatory once in a
lifetime upon anyone who has the means to perform it. Allah says in the Quran, “And Hajj to the House is a duty that
mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses. And whoever disbelieves,
then Allah stands not in need of any of the worlds”
(3:97). Similarly, when responding to the question of
Gabriel, the Prophet (peace be upon him) also specifically pointed out that
Hajj is obligatory upon the one who has the means to perform it.

Scholars
differ as to exactly how this condition is to be met.  In general, though, it
shows that Hajj is not meant to be a hardship. It is a great act of worship
that people should do their best to perform but only if it is feasible for
them. In general, this feasibility includes having the physical health,
financial well-being and the provisions needed to undertake the Hajj. Some
scholars also add that the journey should not be so treacherous that the
pilgrim’s life is put at risk. In addition, women must have a mahram [male relative or husband] to travel with them as they
are not allowed to travel alone, although some scholars allow them to travel in
“trustworthy” groups made up of men and women.

If one does not meet these
conditions, one is not obliged to perform the Hajj. He must wait until he has
the ability to perform it. When he does have the ability to perform it, there is
a difference of opinion over whether he must perform it immediately at that
time or if he may delay it until a future year. That is the next topic of
discussion.

There is a difference of opinion
over whether or not the performance of Hajj may be delayed. That is, suppose
there is a person who has not fulfilled the obligation of Hajj and he has the
means and ability to make Hajj this year. If he decides to delay its
performance until some later year, is he considered sinful or not? Is it
permissible for him to delay it or must he perform it the first time that he
has the opportunity to perform it?

Malik, Abu Hanifa, Ahmad and some
Shafi’is state that one must perform Hajj at its first feasible opportunity.
Otherwise, one is being sinful. Evidence for this position includes:

The Prophet (peace be upon him)
said, “If anyone breaks [a bone] or
becomes lame, he comes out of the sacred state and he must perform the Hajj the
following year.”
[247]
The deduction from this hadith is that if one
can perform the Hajj whenever he wishes, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would
not have explicitly mentioned that the person should perform the Hajj in the
following year.

Another hadith states, “Hurry to perform the Hajj, that is, the
obligatory one, as none of you knows what may happen to him.”
[248]

It
is also narrated that Umar ibn al-Khattab once said, “I considered sending men to those lands to
see who had the means but did not perform the Hajj. They should have the jizya [249] applied
to them as they are not Muslims, they are not Muslims.” [250]

One of the strongest pieces of
evidence presented for saying that one is allowed to delay his performance of
Hajj, even though he has the ability to perform it, is the fact that Hajj was
made obligatory in the 6th year after the Hijrah and the Messenger
of Allah (peace be upon him) himself did not perform the Hajj until the tenth
year. However, Al-Shaukaani has offered the following response to this
argument,

[First,] there is a
difference of opinion concerning when Hajj became an obligation. One of the
opinions is that it became obligatory in the 10th year. Hence, there
was no delay [on the part of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)]. If it
is accepted that it was obligatory before the 10th year, the
Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) delayed his performance because of his
dislike to perform the Hajj in the company of the polytheists, as they would
perform the Hajj and circumambulate the Kaaba in the nude. When Allah purified
the House of those people, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made
Hajj. Hence, he delayed his Hajj due to an excuse. [That is acceptable,] the
dispute is only concerning one who delays his Hajj without any valid excuse.[251]

The
one who denies the obligation of the Hajj is a disbeliever. The person who intentionally
delays his performance of Hajj, although he had the means, until he dies is an
evildoer. He has left himself open to the punishment and displeasure of Allah
in the Hereafter.

The actual rites of the Hajj are
many and various. Pilgrims come from all over the world. They are required to
wear specific clothing. They perform different rites on specified days. On the
ninth of the Islamic month of Dhu-l-Hijjah, for example, they gather on the
mount of Arafah and pray to Allah, beseeching His forgiveness and mercy.

By the grace and mercy of Allah,
there are many organizations today that arrange the pilgrimage for Muslims from
all over the world. Some of these organizations specialize in taking Muslim
converts to the pilgrimage. The author prays that every new Muslim will be able
to perform this blessed event in the company of learned Muslims who can guide
them and instruct them along the way.

 Conclusions

Obviously, there are many details
concerning the ritual acts of worship that fall beyond the scope of this work.
By the grace of Allah, numerous works are now available in English that provide
those details for non-Arabic speakers. Specifically, this author would
recommend the following works:

The Concise Presentation of the
Fiqh of the Sunnah and the Noble Book by Abdul Adheem ibn Badawi (published
by the International Islamic Publishing House in Riyadh)
is a good, brief
introduction to all fields of Islamic law.

Minhaj al-Muslim by Abu Bakr
al-Jazairi (published in two volumes by Darussalam in Riyadh) covers most of
the basics of all parts of the law.

Fiqh al-Sunnah by al-Sayyid
Sabiq—this five-volume work may be a bit heavy and detailed for the new Muslim.
However, over time, it should become a reference well worth looking into.

There are also a number of
important works concerning specific ritual acts. Al-Albaani’s The Prophet’s
Prayer Described is the most detailed description of the prayer in English.
Mamdouh Muhammad’s The Hajj from A to Z and The Salat from A to Z
are also quite popular.

Allah says in the Quran, “O believers! Enter completely into Islam”
(2:208). As stated earlier, Islam is a comprehensive religion. Its teachings
touch upon all aspects of life. This is because in every aspect of life, the
Muslim should be worshipping and serving Allah. There is no compartment of life
that can ever fall outside of that general precept.

Islam, therefore, goes well beyond
articles of faith and ritual acts of worship. All of a Muslim’s behavior, manners,
ethics and practices must reflect his belief that there is none worthy of
worship except Allah. It is inconceivable that someone should claim to be
worshipping Allah while at the same time he mistreats this person, cheats
another person and harms yet a third. This kind of behavior would demonstrate
that his claim to belief is either outright false or is very diseased.

For a new convert to Islam, this
comprehensiveness may mean that there are many things that he will have to
change about himself in order to be a complete and true Muslim. He may have
many character flaws from his pre-Islamic days that he will have to work on and
correct. He has no choice but to intend to change his ways. He is now stating
his belief in Islam. If his belief is true, it must mean that he is willing to
accept what the faith is teaching him and he is willing to do his best to
implement all of the faith in his life.

As his understanding of Islam
increases and as his faith strengthens, many behaviors may change “automatically,”
as he now has a new view on life and a correct understanding of reality. This
author has witnessed such changes in new Muslims. For example, some non-Muslims
get very upset when participating in sports. Any time things do not go their
way or when they feel that the other team is getting some unfair advantage,
this sets off an angry rage in some individuals. This rage reflects how much
weight and importance they are giving to that sports activity. After becoming
Muslims, some such individuals change completely. Now, all of a sudden, sports
are just for fun and exercise. The new Muslim understands that sports have no
long-term value to a person’s real worth. This new understanding of his reality
automatically—and sometimes even imperceptibly from the individual’s point of
view—changes the person’s behavior and character.

The goal is to make such a
transformation with respect to all interactions one has. This transformation is
assisted by knowledge of how one is supposed to behave. Therefore, in this
chapter, after an introductory section on the importance of behavior and
character, the following interactions will be discussed:

(1) A
Muslim vis-à-vis his own self.

(2) A
Muslim vis-à-vis his/her parents.

(3) A
Muslim vis-à-vis his/her spouse.

(4) A
Muslim vis-à-vis his/her children.

(5) A
Muslim vis-à-vis his/her neighbors.

(6) A
Muslim vis-à-vis other Muslims.

(7) A
Muslim vis-à-vis non-Muslims.

(8) A
Muslim vis-à-vis society as a whole.

(9) A
Muslim vis-à-vis wealth and property.

 Islam’s Emphasis on Proper Behavior, Manners and Etiquette

In an emphatic hadith, the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated, “I have been sent only for the purpose of perfecting good morals.”[252] In this hadith, the Prophet
(peace be upon him) has clearly stated that one of the important aspects of his
being sent as a prophet was to show what the good morals, behavior and manners
are. This is a clear sign that behavior and manners clearly fall within the
scope of the teachings of Islam. A Muslim cannot escape this fact and he must
adjust his behavior accordingly.

There are actually numerous
statements of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) related to
the importance of having good character. Here, just a few will be presented to
simply highlight the importance of this topic.

The Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “I am a
guarantor of a house in the highest part of Paradise for the one who makes his
behavior good.”
[253]
This hadith clearly shows the reward for improving and perfecting one’s
behavior. Some people claim that their character is simply what they are born
with and there is nothing they can do to change or adjust it. That is simply
not true. As demonstrated earlier, much of the driving force behind one’s
character has to do with what one believes about God, this life, the Hereafter
and so on. Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Piety and righteousness is being of good character.”[254] Piety
is achievable but it may take some effort. In fact, when the Messenger of Allah
(peace be upon him) described the hypocrites, those of weak or false faith, he described
them by their actions and behavior:
lying while speaking, breaking one’s trust
and so on.[255]

Once again, the example par
excellence for the behavior of a Muslim is found in the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
. By the grace and mercy of Allah, Allah sent
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), a human being who was a
husband, father, member of society, leader of society and so forth, to
exemplify for the believers who one should behave in a manner that is pleasing
to Allah.[256] He
demonstrated how the Quran is to be applied in practical, daily life. Thus,
Aishah, his wife, said about him, “His character
was that of the Quran.”
[257] Thus, one finds that the Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
was sincere, honest, grateful and
straightforward. He was humble, patient, calm and forgiving. He would not lie,
backbite or slander others. He had a cheerful disposition and would treat all
classes of society with proper respect. This is all part and parcel of what it
means to behave like a believer.

From an Islamic perspective,
character and manners are also comprehensive. In other words, one must have the
proper behavior and actions with respect to his Creator, with respect to his
own soul, with respect to the others he interacts with, with respect to the
other beings on earth and with respect to all parts of creation. (Some of these
categories will be discussed further in this chapter.)

The most important category
is behavior with respect to the Creator, as that will influence all of the
other categories. This embodies having the proper relationship with Allah and
submitting to Him in a sincere fashion with a correct attitude. Aspects of this
relationship have been touched upon throughout this work.

The last two categories
stated above imply good behavior toward all other living creatures on earth as
well as all that Allah has placed within this cosmos. A Muslim is not free to
behave in any way he wishes with respect to animals or inanimate objects.
Indeed, he will be answerable to Allah concerning his behavior towards all
things. Everything in this creation that has been put at the disposal of
humankind is nothing more than a trust from God. There are, for example,
numerous hadith that touch upon how Muslims should treat animals. For example,
even with respect to slaughtering an animal for consumption, which Allah has
permitted humans, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in all things.
Thus, if you kill, kill in a good manner. If you slaughter, slaughter in a good
manner. Each of you should sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal
he is slaughtering.”
[258] This fact was not lost on the early Muslims
as can be seen in the statement of al-Fudail ibn Iyaad, “By Allah, it is not allowed for you to harm a dog or a pig without
just cause, how then can you harm a Muslim?”
[259]

 (1) A Muslim vis-à-vis His Own Self

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
explained that a person’s own self has a right over him.[260] Indeed,
an individual has very important responsibilities with respect to his own self.
Logically speaking, a person’s self has a right and duty to do what is best for
it. It is only reasonable that a person should do what he can to keep his soul
from being destroyed.

Furthermore, every human must
realize that he did not create himself. He is not his own lord. He cannot even
claim for himself the right to use his own self or body in any way that he
wills, although this is something that one hears often nowadays. Islam teaches
that humans have been created by an All-Knowing, All-Merciful God. Thus, even
with respect to his own self, the human must obey its Creator and Lord. In
turn, the Creator has actually commanded the human only to do what is best for
its own self.

Actually, the Creator has shown him
the way to save himself. This is achieved by exerting oneself to accept
wholeheartedly what Allah has revealed and to do what is pleasing to the Lord.
In the long-run, in reality, all of the guidance that has come from Allah—the
religion of Islam itself—is simply for the benefit of the individual himself.
Allah is neither benefited by being worshipped nor harmed by being belied.
Thus, in numerous places in the Quran, Allah makes it clear that all of this
merciful guidance is simply at the disposal of the humans for their own
benefit:
“Verily We have revealed the book to you
in truth, for (instructing) mankind. He, then, who receives guidance benefits
his own soul. But he who strays injures his own soul. Nor are you [O Muhammad]
set over them to dispose of their affairs”
(39:41; see also, for
example, 6:104 and 41:46)
; “Who
receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit. Who goes astray does so to
his own loss. No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another nor would We
visit with Our wrath until We had sent a messenger (to give warning)
(Al-Isra 17:15); “And whoever purifies himself does so for the benefit of
his own soul; and the destination (of all) is to Allah”
(35:18).

Everything explained in this book
is actually for the individual so that he may fulfill his responsibilities
toward his own self and establish the proper relationship with his Creator, God
and Lord. Thus, all of this book that the reader is reading can be considered
an explanation of this particular subsection.

Hence, in this section, the author
would like to speak about a very particular aspect that demonstrates that Islam
attends to the guidance of a human in every aspect of his life. The Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated while speaking to Abdullah
ibn Amr, “Your body has a right upon you. Your eye
has a right upon you…”
[261]
Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has
explained many aspects of personal hygiene and practice that are in tune with
the true nature of humans. In other words, the soul naturally recognizes that
these are good and beautiful practices. The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
therefore referred to them as sunan al-fitra or “the
acts corresponding to the sound, adulterated nature of humans.”
These acts are
mentioned by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the
following hadith: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
said, “Five are from among the natural
practices: circumcision, shaving the pubic hairs, plucking the armpit hairs,
clipping the nails and trimming the moustache.”
[262] In
another statement, he said, “Ten are from among the
natural practices: trimming the moustache, leaving the beard to grow, using the
toothstick, [cleaning] by putting water in the nose, clipping the nails,
washing the knuckles and finger joints, plucking the underarm hairs, shaving
the pubic hairs, using water to clean the private part [after urinating].”
Zakariyyaa
then said, “Musab said, ‘I have forgotten the
tenth, unless it is rinsing one’s mouth.’”
[263] Although
scholars differ as to whether these acts or obligatory or highly recommended,
there is no question that if an individual truly wants to treat his self properly,
with the proper hygiene and outward appearance, he will adhere to all of these
practices that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has praised
in these hadith.

In addition to such hygienic
issues, Islam also guides the individual concerning his eating and drinking.
For example, Allah has prohibited the consumption of alcohol: “O you who believe! Alcohol, gambling, idols, and arrows
for seeking luck or decisions are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So avoid
(strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful”

(5:90). Similarly, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“All intoxicants are forbidden.”[264]
Allah has given instructions as to what types of foods may be eaten as well: “He has forbidden you only the carrion, and blood, and
the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others
than Allah”
(2:173); “Forbidden to you (for
food)
are: carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has
been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered
for idols, or on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering)
,
and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a
headlong fall, or by the goring of horns – and that which has been (partly)
eaten by a wild animal – unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death)
– and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on stone altars. (Forbidden) also
is to use arrows seeking luck or decision, (all) that is disobedience of Allah and sin”
(5:3); “Say (O Muhammad): I find not in
that which has been inspired to me anything forbidden to be eaten by one who
wishes to eat it, unless it be carrion, or blood poured forth (by slaughtering
or the like)
, or the flesh of swine (pork, etc.) for that surely is impure, or
impious (unlawful) meat (of an animal) which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for
others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols, or on which Allah’s Name
has not been mentioned while slaughtering)
. But whosoever is forced by
necessity without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, (for him)
certainly, your Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”
(6:145).

In general, a Muslim can only eat
meat slaughtered by a Muslim, Jew or Christian in specified manners. For that
reason—without going into the debate that has spread concerning this issue—this
author recommends that a Muslim not eat the meat that is sold in the
supermarkets of the West. He should restrict himself to what is known as halal
or zabihah meat (slaughtered by Muslims) or kosher meat (slaughtered by
Jews)
.

 (2) A Muslim vis-à-vis His/Her Parents

Allah has demanded that Muslims
treat their parents in the best possible fashion. Muslims must be grateful
people. They must be grateful to Allah and to all who do them well. After
Allah, there is perhaps no one who deserves a person’s gratitude more than his
parents. Thus, numerous verses of the Quran touch upon the question of the
treatment of parents. Indeed, in more than one place, Allah has closely tied
good behavior towards parents with the command to worship Him alone. Note, for
example, the following verse of the Quran: “Worship
Allah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk,
orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a
stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those
(slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are
proud and boastful”
(4:36).

In this verse, Allah has combined
His rights over His servants with the servants’ rights over each other. Among
the servants, a person must treat the following five classes especially well: (1) those that are related to him, especially
his parents; (2) those who are weak
and in need; (3) those with whom he
mixes and sees on a regular basis, such as neighbors; (4) those who come upon a person on a
temporary basis, such as a wayfarer; and (5)
the slaves that one possesses. In this last category, some of the early
scholars also included what one possesses of animals.[265]

Allah also says, “Say (O Muhammad): Come, I will recite what your Lord has
prohibited you from:
Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful
to your parents…”
(6:151); “And your Lord
has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your
parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to
them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of
honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy,
and say:
‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was
small.’ Your Lord knows best what is in your inner-selves. If you are
righteous, then, verily, He is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn unto Him
again and again in obedience, and in repentance”
(17:23-25); “And (remember) when We took a covenant from the Children
of Israel, (saying): Worship none but Allah (Alone) and be dutiful and good to
parents”
(2:83).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
also emphasized good treatment of one’s parents, putting it
after prayer in its proper time as a deed that is most beloved to Allah:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
was asked, “What deed is the
most beloved to Allah?”
He replied, “Prayer
in its proper time.”
He was asked, “Then
what deed?”
He replied, “Being dutiful to
one’s parents.”
He was asked again, “Then
what deed?”
He then replied, “Jihad for the
sake of Allah.”
[266]

Allah reminds the believers that
their parents, in particular the mother, went through a great deal of hardship
and effort to raise their child and therefore they are deserving of love,
respect and gratitude in return. Allah says, “And
(remember) when Luqmaan said to his son when he was advising him, ‘O my son!
Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily! Joining others in worship with
Allah is a great wrong indeed.’ And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and
good)
to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness
and hardship, and his weaning is in two years ــــ give
thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination”
(31:13-14); “And We have enjoined on man to be
dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship and she
brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of him
is thirty months, till when he attains full strength and reaches forty years,
he says:
‘My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for
Your Favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may
do righteous good deeds, such as please You, and make my off-spring good.
Truly, I have turned to You in repentance, and truly, I am one of the Muslims
(submitting to Your Will)’”
(46:15).

Thus, in particular, the mother is
deserving of the greatest friendship and closeness from her children. The
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was once asked, “Who among the people has the most right for my good
companionship?”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
replied, “Your mother.” The man asked, “And then whom?” The Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him)
replied again, “Your mother.”
The man again asked, “And them whom?”
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once again said, “Your mother.” The man asked once more, “And then whom?” This time the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “Your
father.”
[267]

 Converts and Relations with Non-Muslim Relatives

The relationship between a new convert
and his non-Muslim family and associates can be a difficult one. Many times
there is open opposition from the non-Muslims. This is a great trial for the
convert. He will obviously still have love for those people who were so close
and good to him for many years. An example for the convert under such circumstances
is the early converts to Islam in Makkah. These Muslims faced great opposition
and many of them were even tortured due to their new faith. Eventually, the
small Muslim community was forced to emigrate to different lands to protect
their faith. However, they were patient and persevered, thereby pleasing their
Lord. They understood that their newfound relationship with God must take
precedence over ties with anyone in this world.

When a human meets Allah in the
Hereafter, he will meet him as an individual, responsible for his own actions
and decisions. The fact that others close to him disliked the truth is
obviously not an acceptable excuse to abandon God’s religion or even to
compromise with respect to God’s religion. If such were acceptable to Allah, He
certainly would have made that an option for those early Muslims who endured
torture and banishment from their lands. However, such an option was not given
to them. Actually, such an option implies none other than the destruction of
God’s religion as there will always be numerous people who oppose the truth and
God’s way.

For most converts nowadays, by
Allah’s grace, the situation is not as strenuous as that described above. There
is usually a mixed reaction to a person’s conversion:
The others respect his
choice but may not be completely pleased with the choice that he has made.
Under these circumstances in particular it is important for the individual to
understand the limits of his relationships with those who do not belong to his
faith, even though they do not openly oppose his new faith.

Blood relatives, in particular,
still have rights over the new Muslim convert. Al-Bukhari and Muslim record
that Asmaa bint Abi Bakr came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
and said, “My mother is coming [from
Makkah]
and wishes to see me although she is a polytheist. Shall I keep ties
with her?”
He replied, “Yes, keep ties with
your mother.”
Allah says in the Quran, “Allah
does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against
you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily,
Allah loves those who deal with equity”
(60:8).[268]Allah also says about
non-believing parents in particular, “But if they
(the parents both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others
that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them
in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance
and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do”
(31:15). Of
course, the individual needs to protect his faith and if the parents are
exerting undo pressure on their child, then the son/daughter may have to severe
some of his ties with them. However, even then, he should try to do so in the
most gracious manner.

A Muslim, by his very nature, is
supposed to be grateful. The Prophet said, “The one
who does not thank the people does not truly thank Allah.”
[269]
Thus, a Muslim will always remain grateful and filled with a “natural love”
for his non-Muslim parents due to all the kindness and love they showed for him
over the years. However, he cannot possess a “religious love” for their
actions. That is, from a religious perspective, he can neither condone nor
approve of their following a way other than the way of the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
. Thus, he cannot have love for them for the way
of life that they have chosen. Whenever there is a conflict between this
natural love and religious love, the religious love must take precedence. As
Allah has said, “O you who believe! Take not for
supporters and helpers your fathers and your brothers if they prefer disbelief
to Belief. And whoever of you does so, then he is one of the wrongdoers. Say:
If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth
that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the
dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger,
and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about
His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are the rebellious,
disobedient to Allah”
(9:23-24).[270]

Thus, it is not the right of any
Muslim to show any approval for their false forms of worship. Allah has guided
the convert to the one and only truth and it should be his earnest desire that
those close to him would also embrace the truth. While keeping cordial
relations with all of those around him, the convert must be clear to himself
and to others around him that he can neither approve of nor participate in any
form of worship that he must now recognize as being false. A Muslim then is not
allowed to celebrate Christmas, for example.[271] Their
belief that this is a celebration of the birth of the son of God and the savior
strikes at the very root of the Muslim’s monotheism. A Muslim could not
possibly participate in such a celebration. He also cannot wish that others
enjoy such a celebration nor exchange gifts in joy for such an occasion.
Instead, he leaves the others to their forms of worship and celebration while
making it very clear that participating in such practices would be nothing
short of a compromise and contradiction of his new faith. With a calm and clear
explanation, it would be hoped that those around him would respect and accept
his decision to remain away from such religious practices that are not
consistent with his new faith.

Part of keeping ties with one’s
relatives would include visiting them. Especially if part of the intention
behind the visit is to allow one’s relatives to see a Muslim and learn true
information about Islam, there is no question that such visiting is sanctioned.
The Prophet visited his polytheist uncle Abu Taalib while he was ill[272] as well as
a young Jewish boy who was on his deathbed.[273]
He would accept their invitations for meals. In fact, it is even
confirmed that the Prophet visited Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salool on his
deathbed, even though the Prophet knew that Abdullah was the leader of the
hypocrites and an opponent of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
.[274]

There are obviously some limits to
what types of visits and what activities a Muslim can participate in. Among the
common issues that arises for new converts is that of attending the funerals of
deceased relatives. Based on reports from early Muslim scholars, the Muslim
does pay his condolences to the family and is present during that time but
remains distant from the specific acts of the funeral process, especially
anything of a religious overtone. The obvious goal is to remain away from any
act that may contradict the Islamic faith in any way. When Ali’s father Abu
Taalib died as a non-Muslim, the Prophet told him to go and burry his father.
Ali then did so.[275] There
is also a report that ibn Abbaas, the Companion of the Prophet, was asked about
a Muslim whose Christian father had died and he replied, “He should attend and bury him.”[276]

When offering condolences to
non-Muslims, one may wish them well, hoping that nothing but good reaches them
and encouraging them to be patient. It is not allowed to seek forgiveness for
those who, it is known, died while outside of the fold of Islam. Such has been
prohibited in the Quran. Allah says, “It is not (proper)
for the Prophet and those who believe to ask Allah’s Forgiveness for the
polytheists and idolaters, even though they be of kin, after it has become
clear to them that they are the dwellers of the Fire (because they died in a
state of disbelief)
(9:113)

 (3) A Muslim vis-à-vis His/Her Spouse[277]

Marriage is a very important
institution in Islam. The family is the nucleus for society as a whole. If the
family is on a sound foundation, it is more likely that society as a whole will
be in a good state. Thus, in general, the messengers of God, the prime examples
for humans, adhered to this institution of marriage. Allah states, “Verily, We have sent messengers
before you and appointed for them spouses and children”
(13:38). The
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also established marriage as his way of
life, saying, “By Allah, I am
the most fearful of Allah of you and I have the most piety; however, I fast and
break my fast, pray [at night] and sleep and I marry women. Whoever turns away
from my Sunnah is not of me.”
[278]

The Quran shows that there is a
clear bond between men and women. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah
reminds humans that they are from the same original human being.  It is through
this bond that they are interconnected and through these bonds that some of
their rights upon one another are established.  Allah states at the opening of surah
al-Nisaa’, “O mankind!  Be dutiful to your
Lord, Who created you from a single person, and from him He created his wife,
and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through whom
you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs
(kinship)! Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you”
(4:1).

However, beyond that beginning that
the two sexes have in common, Allah points out that the love and affection that
He has created in the hearts of the spouses towards another is one of His great
signs that act as portents for those people of understanding. In other words,
such people can look at this aspect of creation and be reminded of the
greatness of Allah’s work and power, the perfection of His creation and the
magnificent mercy Allah has placed in this world.  Allah says, “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you
wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose and comfort in them, and
He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed Signs
for a people who reflect”
(30:21). Allah also says, “He it is who created you from a single person (Adam),
and then He has created from him his wife, in order that he might enjoy the
pleasure of living with her”
(7:189).

Thus, according to the Quran, the
relationship between a man and his wife should be one of love, mercy and mutual
understanding.  Allah also commands men to treat their wives kindly in the
verse, “And consort with your wives in a goodly
manner, for if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something
which Allah might yet make a source of abundant good”
(4:19).

A few words about the purpose of
marriage in Islam should be given. This is needed because many times people
enter into marriage or desire to get married without realizing the roles and
purpose of marriage itself.  In turn, they do not realize the kinds of
responsibilities that will be on their shoulders when they do get married. 
However, if the purposes of marriage are known and the responsibilities that
marriage will entail are understood at the outset, once again, the probability
that the marriage will be a successful marriage will be enhanced. The person
will know what is expected of him, both with respect to his responsibilities
and duties and his rights.

Obviously, the purpose of marriage
is not simply “fun” or the release of “animal urges”. There is much more to
marriage than that. Some of the goals behind marriage include[279]: procreating,
experiencing permissible physical pleasure, attainment of one’s complete
maturity, mutually assisting one another in making one’s life in this world,
attaining numerous psychological and physiological benefits, forming the
cornerstone of a moral society, bringing up the next generation in a setting
that is most conducive for moral and spiritual growth and binding peoples and
families together.

 Whom One Can Wed

In soorah al-Nisaa’ verses
22-24, Allah has delineated what women a Muslim man may marry. Those categories
are straightforward. However, there are a couple of issues that may be of
extreme importance for Muslim converts, especially those living in non-Muslim
lands. (Note that the question of remaining with non-Muslim spouses was
discussed earlier.)

One important issue is that of marrying
men or women who are not chaste. There is a difference of opinion among the
scholars over whether or not it is allowed to marry a woman whom one knows to
be a fornicatress.[280] The
majority of the scholars (meaning the Malikis, Shafiis and Hanafis) seem to
think it is disapproved but allowable while a group of scholars say that it is
forbidden. The difference of opinion revolves around the understanding of the
verse, “The fornicator marries none but a
fornicatress or a polytheistic woman and the fornicatress marries none but a
fornicator or a polytheist. Such a thing is forbidden for the believers”
(24:3).
The majority of the scholars state that this verse is showing that the act of
marriage with such a woman is blameworthy but not prohibited. They also based
this on the following hadith:
“A man came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be
upon him)
and said, ‘I have a wife who is most
beloved to me but she does not keep the hand of the toucher[281]
 from her.’ He said, ‘Divorce her.’ The man replied, ‘But I cannot live without her.’ He said, ‘Then enjoy her with that [deficiency].”

However, a number of early scholars
clearly stated that it is forbidden to marry a fornicatress until she repents
from her act of fornication. This was the opinion of Ahmad ibn Hanbal among
others. This seems to be the strongest and correct opinion based on the verse
above. As for the hadith that is quoted, Imam Ahmad considered it a weak
hadith. Assuming it is authentic, as some scholars have stated, it is not
explicit that the woman would actually commit illegal sexual intercourse.
Instead, one could say that the woman was a little promiscuous or free with
other men but not to the extent that she would commit illegal sexual
intercourse. If a man has a wife of that nature, he should divorce her as the
Prophet (peace be upon him) explicitly told the man in this hadith. This, in
fact, is further evidence that one should not marry a fornicatress.

It could be argued that in the case
of a Muslim convert, he should be extremely careful about this issue. If the
person is new to Islam, he should want to be with a spouse who would improve
his faith and strengthen his resolve to worship Allah properly. A spouse of
immoral character would obviously not be the right choice for anyone hoping to
be a true believer but it may be even more dangerous for someone whose faith is
still new and vulnerable.

Another important question is whether
it is allowed for a Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian woman. This has
been a hotly debated question among the scholars, with the majority permitting
it (based on Quranic verse 5:5), a minority prohibiting it and another minority
applying strict conditions to it.[282]
Without getting into the details of that debate, once again, for the
convert, he should consider his particular situation carefully. Being new to
Islam, he should not open up doors to temptation and reverting from his new
faith. It is not expected that non-Muslim women will support him in his faith
and aid him to grow in his faith like pious Muslim women would. Hence, there is
no question that, in general, converts to Islam should refrain from marrying
non-Muslim women.

As for a Muslim woman or a female
convert marrying a non-Muslim man, Al-Ghummaari wrote,
“The marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man is forbidden, as is clearly
stated in the Quran, and this is something that is known by necessity in the
religion. If anyone believes that such a marriage is permissible, he is
definitively a disbeliever.”
[283]
In general, the man is the head of the household. Hence, women marrying
non-Muslim men presents a much greater danger for the woman and is thus
prohibited.

 The Rights of a Husband and a Wife

The first thing that every married
person must realize that one’s spouse is first and foremost another Muslim. He/she
is one’s brother/sister in Islam. Therefore, all the rights that fall upon a
Muslim due to the general brotherhood of Islam are also due to one’s spouse.
There are books on the behavior of a Muslim, brotherhood and love and loyalty
among Muslims and all of those principles apply to a married person as his
spouse is part of that Islamic brotherhood and community. Furthermore, the Prophet
(peace be upon him) also stressed this point when he stated, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his
brother what he loves for himself.”
[284] However,
one’s spouse has even more rights upon a person due to the great and important contract
that has  been contracted between them.[285]

Therefore, when discussing the
rights of the husbands and wives, this matter should not be looked at in a cold
or legal fashion. The relationship between the husband and wife must be much
more than a matter of rights stated by the law that each must abide by.
Instead, it should be a relationship of love, support and mutual understanding.
Each spouse should take into consideration the needs and abilities of the other
spouse. They should attempt to make each other happy, even if they have to
compromise sometimes, and not simply be out to make sure that they are getting
all of their rights in the marriage. Actually, it is usually the case that
neither spouse is completely fulfilling the rights of the other and making the
other happy. Hence, they both have to realize and accept their shortcomings.

The Prophet (peace be upon him), in
particular, advised the husbands to treat their wives in the best way¾ perhaps due to their greater authority or
due to their greater strength, in general. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
said, “The best of you is the one who is best to
his family (wife) and I am the best of you to my family.”
[286] The
Prophet (peace be upon him) also advised, “I advise
you to treat women well for they have certainly been created from the upper
part of the rib and the most crooked part of the rib is the upper part. If you
then try to make it straight, you will break it off; if you leave it, it will
remain crooked. So, I advise you to treat women well.”
[287]

Actually, both spouses, in general,
fail to some extent in their fulfilling of the other’s obligations. Hence,
before criticizing the other or being harsh with the other due to some
shortcoming, the person should look to himself and realize what wrong he himself
is doing.

At the same time, though, Islamic
Law has clearly laid down some rights and responsibilities so that both parties
in the marriage know exactly what is expected of them and know what they need
to fulfill to be a proper spouse. Thus, for example, Allah says, “And they [women] have rights [over their husbands]
similar to those over them according to what is reasonable”
(2:228).

In sum, the rights of the wife or
the obligations of the husband include, among others, the following:

(1)
Receiving her proper dower: Allah says, “And give
the women their dower with a good heart; but if they, of their own good
pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it without fear of any
harm”
(4:4).

(2)
Being fully and completely financially maintained by her husband: Allah says, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because
Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they
support them from their means”
(4:34).  Furthermore, in a hadith
recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (peace be upon him) told Hind
bint Utbah, when she complained that her husband (Abu Sufyan) was very stingy and
was not maintaining her and she asked if she could take from his wealth without
his knowledge, “Take what is sufficient for you and
your child, according to what is customary.”

(3)
Being treated in a proper and kind manner: Allah states, “And consort with your wives in a goodly manner, for if
you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which Allah might
yet make a source of abundant good”
(4:19).

(4)
Having the right to sexual intercourse: In the Sahih of Ibn Hibban there
is the following narration: The wife of Uthman ibn Madh’oon complained to the
Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) that her husband had no need for women. During
the day, he would fast and at night, he would pray.  The Prophet (peace be upon
him)
asked him, “Am I not the best example for you
to follow?”
He answered, “Certainly, may my
father and mother be sacrificed for you.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace
be upon him)
then told him, “As for you, you pray
during the night and you fast during the day. Certainly, your wife has a right
upon you. And your body has a right upon you. So pray and sleep and fast and
break your fast.”

(5)
Having the right to “privacy”: Note the following hadith of the Prophet  (peace
be upon him)
: “Is there any man among you who goes
to his wife, closes the door behind then, covers themselves and conceal
themselves by Allah’s concealing.”
They said, “Yes.”
He then said, “Then he sits after that [with
others]
and he says, ‘I did this and that.’”
They were silent. He then
turned to the women and said, “Do you any of you
talk about such things?”
They were also silent. Then a young girl came
walking on her toes so the Prophet (peace be upon him) could see her and hear
her and she said, “O Messenger of Allah, they [the
men]
certainly talk about it and they [the women] also talk about it.”

He said, “Do you know what they are like? They are
like a female devil who met a devil in the street and they satisfied their
desires with the people looking on.”
[288]

(6)
The right to being taught or learning her religion.

On the other hand, the rights of
the husband or the responsibilities of the women include:

(1)
Being the head of the household: Allah has said, “Men
are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one
more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means”

(4:34). Although this is usually stated as a right of the husband, it is
actually a heavy responsibility on his shoulders, as it means that he has the
responsibility to guide his family and keep them along the straight path.

(2)
Having the right to be obeyed: This goes with the first right. A person cannot
be the head of something if he has no authority.

(3)
Having his wife answer his call to meet his sexual needs: The Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “If a man
calls his wife to his bed and she refuses to come, the angels curse her until
the morning.”
[289]

(4)
That the wife will not allow anyone in his house except by his permission: In a
hadith recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon
him)
said, “Do not allow anyone into his house
except by permission.”

If the husband and wife enter into
the marriage with the right intention of pleasing Allah and pleasing each
other, recognizing their roles and responsibilities in the marriage and
treating each other with proper Islamic behavior, Allah willing, their union
will be a blessed union that will stretch from this life into the Hereafter.

 Dissolution of a Marriage

Having said what was just said
about marriage, Islam, though, is also a practical religion. It takes into
consideration all possible common scenarios. It is possible for a man and woman
to enter into a union with good intentions yet their personalities and likes
simply do not coincide with one another. There are times in which a good
marriage simply cannot be achieved and the spouses enter into a state of
misery. Under such circumstances, Islamic law allows for an end to the marriage
and their suffering.[290] The
goal is to either stay together in a friendly manner or to separate in a goodly
manner. Thus, for example, Allah says, “And when you
have divorced women and they have fulfilled the term of their prescribed
period, either take them back on reasonable basis or set them free on
reasonable basis”
(2:231). Allah also says, “Then
when they are about to fulfill their term appointed [bringing an end to the
divorce]
, either take them back in a good manner or part with them in a good
manner”
(65:2).

There are basically three ways in
which a marriage is dissolved in Islamic Law. The first is talaaq,
commonly translated as “divorce.” This is a pronouncement of divorce made by
the husband. After this pronouncement, the wife enters into a “waiting period”

of approximately three months, during which time they may simply reunite as
husband and wife. However, after the third pronouncement of talaaq, reunification
during the waiting period is no longer permissible and the two must separate
completely. A second form is known as khul’. This is where the wife is
not satisfied in the marriage and offers something to the husband to release
her from the marriage. For example, she may offer to return the dower in
exchange to bringing an end to the marriage. A third form is where the rights
of the wife are not being met by the husband and therefore she turns to a judge
to bring an end to the marriage.

Obviously, divorce is not a desired
goal or a light matter. In a perfect world, all married couples would be in
bliss. However, there are times in which this option is the best for all
parties concerned.

 (4) A Muslim vis-à-vis His/Her Children

Having a child is both a great
blessing and a great responsibility. Allah has said, “Your wealth and your
children are only a trial, whereas Allah—with Him is a great reward (Paradise)

(64:15). Allah also says, “O you who believe, guard yourselves and your
families from the Hell‑fire whose fuel is men and stones”
(66:6). The meaning
of this verse was reiterated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
when he said, “All of you are
shepherds and all of you will be asked about your wards… The man is responsible
for his household and will be asked about his responsibilities. The wife will
be asked about the house of her husband and her responsibilities.”
[291]

Muslim scholars consider that the
rights of children appear long before they are even conceived via the selection
of a pious and righteous spouse. This will be the first step in providing a
good household and environment for the child.

Beyond that, the most important
rights of the child include:
(a)
being maintained and provided for in a healthy manner; (b) being taught the tenets of the religion; (3) being treated with compassion and mercy; (4) being just among multiple siblings; and (5) having a good example set for them by
their parents.

 (5) A Muslim vis-à-vis His/Her Neighbors

Allah says in the Quran, “Worship
Allah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk,
orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger,
the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom
your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and
boastful”
(4:36).

Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever
believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good things or keep silent.
Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be courteous and generous to
his neighbor.”
[292]

The Prophet (peace be upon him)
also said, “Gabriel kept advising me concerning the
neighbor to the point that I thought he would inherit [from his neighbor].”
[293]

In another hadith, the Prophet
(peace be upon him) said,  “By Allah, he is not a
believer. By Allah, he is not a believer. By Allah, he is not a believer.”
It
was said to him, “Who is that, O Messenger
of Allah (peace be upon him)?”
He said, “The
one from whose affairs his neighbor is not safe.”
[294]

One time the Prophet (peace be upon
him)
was asked about a woman who performed lots of prayers, fasted and gave
charity but she used to harm her neighbor by her speech. The Prophet (peace be
upon him)
said that she is in the Hell-fire. Then the Prophet (peace be upon
him)
was asked about a woman who did not fast, pray or give in charity much
[more than what was obligatory upon her] but she would not harm her neighbors.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that she is in Paradise.[295]

The Prophet (peace be upon him)
also demonstrated specific ways by which one is generous or courteous to his
neighbor. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) once said to Abu Dharr, “O Abu Dharr, when you prepare stew, increase its water
and deliver it to some of your neighbors.”
[296]

Being courteous and generous to
one’s neighbor includes helping him when they need assistance, visiting them
when they are ill and general checking on their welfare. Abu Bakr al-Jazairi
wrote,

One
should demonstrate goodness towards one’s neighbor by: helping them when they
seek help, assisting them if they seek assistance, visiting them when they fall
ill, congratulating them if something pleasing occurs to them, giving them
condolences upon afflictions, helping them if they are in need, being the first
to greet them, being kind in speech to them, being gentle in one’s speech to
the neighbor’s children, guiding them to what is best for their religion and
worldly life, overlooking their mistakes, not attempting to look into their
private matters, not constraining them with one’s building or renovations or
along the walkway, and not harming them by letting one’s trash onto their
property or in front of their household. All of those actions form part of the
goodness that one is ordered to perform in Allah’s command [in the verse to be
quoted shortly]
.[297]

Living in non-Muslim environments,
it is very important to recognize that the scholars have concluded that there
are three types of neighbors:
(a) a
neighbor who is also a relative and a Muslim. This type of neighbor has three
types of rights over the person (that of being a neighbor, a relative and a
brother Muslim)
. (b) a neighbor who
is not a relative but is a Muslim. This neighbor has two types of rights over
the person. (c) a neighbor who is
neither a relative nor a Muslim. This neighbor only has the right of a
neighbor.[298] Thus, even if a
neighbor is a non-Muslim, that person has the right to a special relationship
by virtue of being a neighbor.

The Permanent Committee for
Scientific Research, Saudi Arabia, was asked about dealing with non-Muslim
neighbors (accepting gifts from them and so on) and they stated in response:

Response: One should treat well
those who treat him well from among them, even if he be a Christian. If they
give you a permissible gift, you should respond in kind. The Prophet (peace be
upon him)
accepted a gift from the leader of the Romans who was a Christian. He
also accepted a gift from a Jew. Allah says in the Quran, “Allah forbids you
not to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account
of religion and drove you not from your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who
deal with equity. It is only as regards those who fought against you on account
of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you
out, Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whoever befriends them are the
wrongdoers”
(60:8-9).[299]

Ibn Uthaimeen also stated, “There is no harm in
meeting the needs of a disbeliever if it does not contain any action which is
forbidden as the neighbors have rights upon one another and this might even be
a reason for him to accept Islam.”
[300]
Ibn Baaz also said, [The Muslim] must be
neighborly toward his non-Muslim neighbor. If your neighbor is good to you, you
do not harm him and you may even give him charity if he is poor or give him a
gift if he is rich. You may also advise him concerning what is good for him. All
of this may lead him to want to learn about Islam and become a Muslim and
because neighbors have very great rights.”
[301]

The spirit of neighborliness is
something that has been lost in many cultures in the hustle and bustle of
contemporary civilization. It would be excellent if Muslims, new converts or
long-time Muslims, could revive this spirit and revive part of the religion of
Islam.

 (6) A Muslim vis-à-vis Other Muslims

If one were to ask many today as to
what the strongest bond there could possibly be among people, most of them
would probably answer something like blood relationship, ethnic origin,
nationality and so forth.  Actually, the Quran shows that these types of bonds
are not that strong if the foundation behind them is weak. In the Quran, Allah
gives the examples of Cain and Abel, who were two brothers yet one killed the
other, as well as the example of the brethren of Joseph, who cast Joseph into a
well. Those were all blood relatives; however, they put this world above their
relationship with others. Such is occurring today throughout the world. The
ties between the people are subservient to their desires, goals and wants of
this world. Many individuals are quickly and easily willing to sell out their
own kith and kin to get ahead in this world or to get something they want in
this world.

All of this demonstrates one thing:
When the ties between people are based on worldly considerations, even if they
are originally blood ties, then those ties are given up when the worldly considerations
so demand them to be given up.  Hence, those are not the strongest ties that
can be built among people. The strongest ties that can achieved between people
are the ties of Islam and true faith. These are the bonds forged between people
that are solely the result of their belief in Allah and their love for Allah.
This was clearly pointed out by Allah in the Quran when Allah stated, “And He has united their (believers’) hearts. If you had
spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah
has united them. Certainly, He is All-Mighty, All-Wise”
(8:63). Allah
also says, “And hold fast, all of you together, to
the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s
favor on you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts together, so that
by His grace, you became brethren and you were on a brink of a Pit of Fire, and
He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes clear His signs to you, that you may be
guided”
(3:103). The Quran and the Sunnah show that the bond of faith is
the strongest of all bonds. It represents humans from all over the world coming
together for one purpose only:
to establish the worship of Allah alone. To
achieve that goal, Muslims work together and help one another in compassion mercy
and love.

There are actually numerous texts
of the Quran and hadith that demonstrate beyond any doubt that Muslims are to
form one universal, international brotherhood and sisterhood.[302] For the
sake of brevity, only a few examples of those texts will be presented here:

Allah says, “The believers, men and women, are auliyaa (helpers,
supporters, friends, protectors)
of one another, they enjoin what is good and
eradicate what is evil. They offer the prayers and pay the Zakat and obey Allah
and His Messenger. Surely, Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely, Allah is
All-Mighty, All-Wise”
(9:71). Another verse reads, “The believers are nothing else but brothers” (49:10). Allah also says,
“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe
against disbelievers and merciful among themselves”
(48:29). The Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The
believer with respect to another believer is like a building, one portion
strengthening the other.”
[303]
Another hadith states, “The parable of the
believers with respect to their love, mercy and compassion for one another is
like that of the body:
if one of its limbs is hurting, the remainder of the
body is afflicted by sleeplessness and fever.”
[304]

But this great brotherhood of Islam
is not something theoretical. It is, in fact, well defined. It has certain
basic components to it and specific rights and obligations that are spelled out
in the Quran and Sunnah. These rights and obligations are due to every Muslim,
of every time and place.

One of the necessary aspects of
this brotherhood is love. That is, it is an obligation upon all Muslims to love
their brother Muslims. In fact, they should love them in a manner similar to
the way they care for themselves. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his
brother what he loves for himself.”
[305]

A second necessary aspect of this
brotherhood is mutual support, aid and assistance. When his brother is being
oppressed or wronged, he comes to his aid and assistance with his wealth and
soul, if possible. This is described, for example, in the following verses: “And what is wrong with you that you
fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed
among men, women and children, whose cry is, ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this
town whose people are oppressors, and raise for us from You one who will
protect, and raise for us from You one who will help’”
(4:75).

A third essential aspect of this
Islamic brotherhood is mercy and tenderness between the believers. This goes
beyond a simple love for one another but it means that each brother feels in
his heart for what his brother is going through. The Prophet (peace be upon
him)
described the Muslims in the following fashion, “The
similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is
that of a body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches due to fever
and sleeplessness.”
[306]

A final necessary component of our
brotherhood is common acts of courtesy. True brotherhood has to be put into
practice; it cannot simply be a statement of the tongue. One amazing and
beautiful aspect of Islam is that it does not leave matters at a hypothetical
level with each individual attempting to figure out how goals can possibly be
achieved. Thus, for example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
has detailed specific acts that one has the right to expect from one’s
brother and which one should also perform towards one’s brother. Thus, among
those common obligatory acts of courtesy are the six mentioned by the Prophet
(peace be upon him): “Six are the rights of a
Muslim over another Muslim…. When you meet him, offer him greetings; when he
invites you to a feast, accept it; when he seeks your sincere counsel, give it
to him; when he sneezes and says, ‘al-hamdulillah,’ say, ‘May Allah show
mercy to you’; when he falls ill, visit him; and when he dies, follow his
funeral bier.”
[307]

Beyond these six well-known
practices, Islamic Law guides Muslims to many other practices that help gender
love and closeness between the believers, which is an obvious goal of the Law
itself. Thus, for example, if a Muslim loves another Muslim for the sake of
Allah, he should inform the other individual of that feeling. The Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained the reason for doing so
when he said, “If one of you loves his brother for
the sake of Allah, he should inform of that as this will make the bond longer
lasting and the love more confirmed.”
[308]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
also said, “By the One in whose
hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe. And you do not
believe until you love one another. Certainly, let me inform you of that which
will establish such for you:
spreading peace among yourselves.”
[309] This
hadith could mean the spreading of the greetings of peace or doing actual deeds
that bring about peace and togetherness.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
also noted the importance of giving gifts to one another. He
said, “Exchange gifts and you will love one
another.”
[310]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
also encouraged Muslims to visit one another. He stated, “Visit one another occasionally and love [between you]
will increase.”
[311]

In addition to all of these
positive acts, when one avoids the forbidden acts, the results will also be
positive for interpersonal relationships. In other words, when one avoids
backbiting, slandering, lying, cheating, spying and so forth, nothing but good
will result from the avoidance of these evil practices that Islam has clearly
forbidden.

In sum, if Islam is truly applied,
a Muslim will be a brother/sister to all the Muslims in the world and would do
nothing but good toward them and would expect nothing but good in return from
them.

 (7) A Muslim vis-à-vis Non-Muslims

Obviously, Muslims and non-Muslims
are following very different paths. A Muslim’s life revolves entirely around
the proper belief in God. A Muslim’s attitude toward others is likewise
determined by the other’s attitude toward God. A Muslim could not possibly feel
complete affinity and love toward someone who has turned his back on God,
refuses to submit to God or ridicule belief in God. It is simply not natural
for there to be complete love between two such people.[312] However,
even given this possible negative feeling in the heart, a Muslim must deal with
non-Muslims on the basis of just principles. This applies to all
non-Muslims—many non-Muslims are not antagonistic at all toward Muslims while
others exhibit clear and unequivocal scorn and hatred toward Muslims.[313]

One of the basic principles of
behavior toward non-belligerent, non-Muslims is found in the following verse of
the Quran:
“Allah forbids you not to deal justly
and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and
drove you not out from your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with
equity”
(60:8)

Additionally, a Muslim has very
clear responsibilities towards non-Muslims.

First, he must call them to
the way of Allah. It is part of a believer’s attempt to bring good to all
people and to the world as a whole that he thereby actively calls other people
to Islam.[314]
The desire to see others know and worship Allah fills the heart of the true
believer. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), of course,
set the best example. Allah describes in more than one place in the Quran how
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) grieved over the fact
that many refused to become believers. Allah says, for example, “Perhaps, you, would kill yourself (O Muhammad) in grief,
over their footsteps (for their turning away from you), because they believe
not in this narration (the Quran)
(18:6).

In fact, although the Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) suffered so much harm from
the disbelievers of Makkah, when the angel came to him to give him the option
of bringing the mountains of Makkah down upon those people, the Prophet refused
the offer and said, “I hope that from their
descendants there will come a people who will worship Allah alone while not
ascribe any partners to Him.”
[315]
Calling to the religion of Allah is truly the path of the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the path of the believers. Allah
says, “Say (O Muhammad): ‘This is my way; I invite
unto Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me (also must invite
others to Allah)
with sure knowledge’”
(12:108). This is truly the
greatest and best good deed that one could do toward his fellow citizen.

A second obligation toward
disbelievers is proper and just treatment. This is described by Shaikh ibn Baaz
who said, [the Muslim] may not wrong the other
person with respect to his life, wealth or honor, if the non-Muslim is a
citizen of the Islamic state or has attained other protection. He must fulfill
the other’s rights. He may not wrong him with respect to his wealth by stealing
from him, deceiving him or cheating him. He cannot harm him in his body by
beating or killing him. His protection from the state guarantees his safety
from such things.”
[316]

A Muslim can interact with
non-Muslims, buying, selling or renting from them, for example.[317] Even
on a social level, there can be interaction, such as coming together for meals
and the like. However, such interactions are, by nature, going to be limited.
The different views of reality between a Muslim and a non-Muslim easily leads
to disagreements. On a religious level, there is definitely going to be a
feeling of discontent or disappointment with people of other faiths.[318]

However, in addition, the
differences in a Muslim’s outlook and actions are going to prevent him from
truly participating and being close friends with non-Muslims. A Muslim, for
example, does not drink alcohol and does not wish to be around people when they
are drinking alcohol, not to speak of drugs and other activities. A Muslim must
be very restrictive and cautious in his or her interaction with the opposite
sex, which creates barriers for social interaction. Even among members of the
same sex, a Muslim does not engage in inappropriate speech about members of the
opposite sex, a very common practice in social settings these days. Perhaps one
could say that the Muslim’s ultimate goal in his relations with non-Muslims is
to bring them to Islam, thereby opening the door for there to be a complete
relationship of love and brotherhood between them. Even if the non-Muslim is
antagonistic and impolite, the Muslim knows that he should repel his evil with
goodness. Allah says, “The good deed and the evil
deed cannot be equal. Repel [the evil] with [a deed] that is better. [If you do
that]
then verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as
though he was a close friend”
(41:34).

In sum, as ibn Baaz wrote,

It is
obligatory upon Muslims to deal with disbelievers in an Islamic fashion with
proper behavior, as long as they are not fighting the Muslims. One must fulfill
one’s trusts to them, must not deceive them, must not betray them or lie to
them. If there is a discussion or debate between them, one must argue with them
in the best manner and be just with them in the dispute. This is in obedience
to Allah’s command, “And argue not with the
People of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) unless it be in a way that is
better, except with such of them as do wrong”
(29:46). It is sanctioned for the Muslim to invite them to the
good, to advise them and to be patient with them at the same time being
neighborly and polite with them. This is so because Allah has stated, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom (of the
Quran)
and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better”
(16:125). Allah has also said, “Speak
good to people”
(2:83).[319]

Finally, a Muslim may even give
charity to non-Muslims. The Permanent Committee of Islamic Research (Riyadh,
Saudi Arabia)
has stated,

It is
permissible for a Muslim to assist his non-Muslim neighbor by giving him some
meat from his sacrificed animal… It is allowed for us to give food to the
disbelievers living under the Islamic state and wayfarers from the meat of the
sacrificed animal.  It is allowed to give to them on the basis of their
poverty, blood relation, being a neighbor or to soften their hearts… However,
one should not give such meet to a harbi (someone who is fighting against
the Muslim state)
because in their case, the obligation is to suppress and
weaken them and not assist or strengthen them with charity.  In fact, that
is the ruling with respect to all forms of voluntary charity, based on the
generality of the verse in the Quran, “Allah
forbids you not to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you
on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes. Verily, Allah
loves those who deal with equity”
(60:8). Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered
Asma bint Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with her) to help her mother out with
money although she was a polytheist.[320]

 (8) A Muslim vis-à-vis Society as a Whole

When a Muslim accepts to live in a
certain society, he is, in essence, making a pact that with that country that
he will abide by the laws of that state. He does not have the right to violate
the laws of that state simply because he is a Muslim and the state is not an
Islamic state. Thus, all of the principles of proper behavior that have been
described in this chapter apply to a Muslim living wherever he may be living.
In most countries today, many things may be legal that are forbidden to a
Muslim. These legal things a Muslim simply avoids. He should also demand his
legal rights to ensure that he is not forced to do anything forbidden in Islam.
Overall though, he should be from among the law-abiding citizens.

In addition to that, a Muslim
should be a plus for any society he is living in. He should be a model citizen
in many ways. As described earlier, he should be a good neighbor. He has the
obligation to encourage what is good and prevent evil wherever he may be living.
In addition, he must avoid and oppose what most societies see as the greatest
crimes, such as murder, robbery, extortion and so forth. Furthermore, he must
steer clear of alcohol or drug use, thus not burdening society as a whole with
his personal weaknesses and addictions. Finally, he must be just and fair in
all of his dealings with the other members of society.

Even though Muslims should play a
positive role in any society, in many countries of the West today, a Muslim’s
loyalty and patriotism is being questioned. Obviously, a Muslim is not going to
have the same feelings towards a secular government as he would toward a Muslim
government. That, however, does not mean that he is going to work against his
government or seek to harm the country he is living in. Undoubtedly, many a Jew
will feel more loyalty to Israel than to their own home country. In fact, the
recent debates in the United States demonstrate that many Christian groups are
displeased with their government (and with the Supreme Court in particular).
Many a Democrat in the United States, for example, does not feel complete
loyalty for Republican administrations and vice-versa. However, no one seems to
be questioning their loyalty and patriotism.

If patriotism means to simply
follow and support what one’s government is saying and be gung-ho in such blind
allegiance, no intelligent person would be patriotic as all governments are
known to lie and deceive at one time or another. On the other hand, if
patriotism means to wish what is best for one’s country, then the problem is
that everyone differs as to what they see is best for their country. Some feel
that they have the right to speak on behalf of all, but their “right” to do so
may be questioned.

Islam recognizes the fact that it
is natural for an individual to love his country and to have an affinity for
that land in which he grew up. When the Muslims were forced to migrate from
Makkah, which was under the control of the polytheists, many of them expressed
their love for Makkah. Hence, it is natural for Muslims to develop a love for
whatever land they happen to be in, even if the country is not an Islamic
state. It is also natural for Muslims to desire what is best for their
homeland.

But, again, unfortunately, their
idea as to what is best may not be shared or appreciated by others. For
example, the Muslims may wish to see an end to gambling, prostitution and pornography.
The Muslims believe that this is what is best for all the people concerned,
Muslims as well as non-Muslims. However, many non-Muslims will not share this
feeling. Therein lies the crux of the problem. Theoretically speaking, though,
in contemporary “free” societies, this should not be a problem. Muslims should
be able to hold on to their values and customs—without bringing harm to
others—while the others follow the dominant culture in non-Muslim lands. If the
“free”
countries are not willing to give the Muslims that much, it means that
they are not willing to live up to their own ideals. It is not that Muslims are
trying to cause them harm, they are simply trying to be good citizens while
living a different lifestyle than the dominant culture.[321]

 (9) A Muslim vis-à-vis Wealth and Property

In Islam, wealth is not considered
an evil. Wealth is a bounty that Allah bestows upon individuals. It is
definitely not evil nor even a necessary evil, as some other religions teach.
In fact, protecting and safeguarding wealth is one of the goals of the Sharee’ah.
Hence, people are encouraged to engage in earning a livelihood and accumulating
wealth.

However, like many good things,
there has to be limits with respect to wealth. In the hands of a righteous
person, wealth becomes a tool that can be used to please Allah. On the other
hand, it can also be something that may lead to a person’s own destruction.
Hence, it is truly a kind of trial from God. Allah describes it in this manner,
“Your wealth and your children are only a trial”
(64:15). The Prophet said, “The two feet of the
human will not move on the Day of Resurrection until he is asked about his life
and he how he used it, about his knowledge and what he did with it, about his
wealth and how he acquired it and how he spent it…”
[322] For example, one
cannot give wealth priority over the teachings of the faith. Wealth or money
cannot, thus, become one’s ultimate goal in life. Additionally, wealth must be
acquired by permissible means and spent on permissible matters. The ethical
standards of Islam must be adhered to and, as a result, the wealth may be
blessed by Allah, benefiting the individual in both this life and the
Hereafter.

The righteous person understands
that the wealth under his control actually belongs to Allah and the human’s
ownership of wealth is more akin to that of a caretaker. In other words, the
human must use wealth only in the manner approved of by the true owner of that
wealth, Allah. The Muslim understands that he is not free, therefore, to use
his money in any fashion that he wishes. There are some things that are clearly
and obviously forbidden for him. For example, he cannot use his money to bribe
others or wrong others, thus going against justice. Allah says, “And eat up not one another’s property unjustly, nor give
bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may
knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully”
(2:188).

Business dealings in Islam are not
simply a matter of getting ahead in this world. They are not cutthroat
competition or taking advantage of others. Instead, they are based on a very
strong ethical basis. A Muslim realizes that every business transaction is a
question of morals and ethics.

Business transactions are an
essential aspect of any developed society. The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave
a great deal of guidance concerning business transactions. Muslims must heed
this guidance. This guidance will, Allah willing, go a great way in removing
many problems and feelings of hatred that are the result of unjust or improper
business practices. Furthermore, the feeling of brotherhood¾ loving for one’s brother what one loves for
oneself¾ should permeate all business
transactions. How can brothers be considered true brothers to one another when
they are willing to cheat each other or lie to each other simply for the sake
of the dollar?

Thus, the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
stated in a hadith that stresses both
brotherhood and fair business practices: “Do not be
envious of one another; do not artificially raise prices against one another;
do not hate one another; do not turn one’s back on each other; and do not
undercut one another in business transactions. And be, [O] servants of Allah,
brethren. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He does not wrong him. He does
not fail him [when he needs him]. He does not lie to him. And he does not show
contempt for him. Piety is here”
¾
and he pointed to his chest three times. “It is
enough of evil for a person to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. All of a
Muslim is inviolable to another Muslim:
his blood, his wealth and his honor.”
[323]

The Prophet (peace be upon him)
also said, “May Allah have mercy on the one who is
easy-going and generous while buying, while selling and when demanding his
rights.”
[324]

In fact, the key to blessed
business transactions, in which both parties please Allah and receive
blessings, is honesty and straightforwardness. The Prophet (peace be upon him)
said, “The buyer and seller have the right of
option as long as they do not part from one another. If they were honest and
clear, they would be blessed in their transaction. If they concealed facts and
lied, the blessings of their transaction would be destroyed.”
[325]

If a person is ethical and morally
conscious in his business dealings, this is a good sign that he is preferring
the Hereafter to this world. He is not willing to risk Allah’s punishment and
anger for a measly gain. He is also strengthening the trust among the Muslim
brethren. Allah willing, his reward with Allah will be great.

A general principle with respect to
business transactions is that they must be the result of the mutual consent or
approval of the contracting parties: Allah says, “O
you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly except it
be a trade amongst you, by mutual consent”
(4:29). During the Farewell
Pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also
announced, “The wealth of a person is not
permissible except through willing consent.”
[326] In
other words, no one can be coerced into giving up part of his wealth or
entering into a business dealing. Such coercion is illegal and would void the
contract. At the same time, the Muslim is free to enter into any business transaction
that does not violate Islamic law. In general, he is a “free actor,” neither
compelled by the state nor any other force. In this sense, the Islamic economic
system has some characteristics in common with free market capitalism.

Another general principle with
respect to business transactions is that they are permissible unless there is
evidence to demonstrate that they are forbidden; only if it is found that it
contains some forbidden aspect will it be deemed forbidden. Thus, Islamic Law
has laid down some principle guidelines while delineating particular forbidden
aspects that must be avoided. The matters that should be avoided include
unstated or undetermined terms, speculative or overly risky conditions, interest,
gambling and fraud or deception. If any one of these factors is found in a
contract, the contract, depending on the extent to which they are present, may
be rendered null, void and impermissible. It is essential that Muslims be aware
of these forbidden characteristics so that they may live off of pure and
permissible sources. Thus, some of them are discussed in some detail below.

Gharar refers to speculative
or overly risky transactions. Imam Muslim records in his Sahih: “On the
authority of Abu Hurairah who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
forbade ‘sales of speculative nature’ (bai’
al-gharar)
.”
Al-Bukhari and Muslim record: “On the authority of ibn Umar
who said that ‘the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
prohibited the sale of fruits until their ripeness and freedom from
disease were apparent. He prohibited both the seller and the buyer.’”

Commenting on a hadith with similar meaning, al-Nawawi explained why the
prohibition was for both the seller and the buyer. He wrote, “As for the
seller, it is because he is wanting to devour wealth wrongfully. As for the
buyer, it is because he is in accord with him on this forbidden act and because
he is [possibly] wasting his wealth while wasting wealth has been prohibited.”
[327]

From these hadith and others, there
is a consensus among jurists that an overwhelming presence of undue risk or
uncertainty renders a business contract null and void. Such transactions are
ones in which the probability of one or both of the parties being wronged is
great. Concerning the meaning of this concept of gharar, Rayner states,

The Sharee’ah determined that in
the interests of fair, ethical dealing in commutative contracts, unjustified
enrichment should be prohibited. This policy precludes any element of
uncertainty or risk (Gharar).[328]
In a general context, the unanimous proposition of the jurists held that in any
transaction, by failing or neglecting to define any of the essential pillars of
contract relating to the consideration or the object, the parties undertake a
risk which is not indispensable for them. This kind of risk was deemed
unacceptable and tantamount to speculation due to its inherent uncertainty.
Speculative transactions with these characteristics are therefore prohibited…[329]

Although such contracts are
prohibited by Islamic Law, due to their speculative or risky nature and hence
the possibility of making gains from such transactions, they can be very
alluring to individuals.[330]
Thus, ibn al-Atheer, going back to the lexical meaning of the term, says, “Al-Gharar
is that concerning which its apparent component is preferable but its
non-apparent component is disliked to the person. Hence, its apparent component
entices the buyer while its non-apparent component is unknown.”
[331]

According to ibn Juzay, examples of
gharar transactions include:

(1)
“Ignorance of the price and uncertainty about the existence of the object.”[332]

(2)
“Uncertainty about the price of the object and about its characteristics, as in
the example of the sale of cloth in a shop without any specification about its
quality or price.”
[333]

(3)
“Uncertainty related to difficulties of delivery.”[334]

(4)
“Uncertainty about the existence of the object, as in the case of a sickly
animal.”
[335]

One of the well-known great sins is
the taking or paying of riba (interest).[336] Indeed, any Muslim
familiar with the numerous texts censuring riba would undoubtedly do his
best to avoid any trace of riba. For example, Allah has said in the
Quran, “Those who devour interest will not stand
[on the Day of Judgment] save as he arises whom the devil has deranged by (his)
touch. That is because they say, ‘Trade is just like interest,’ whereas Allah
has permitted trading and has forbidden interest. He unto whom an admonition
from his Lord comes, and (he) refrains (in obedience thereto), shall keep [the
money of]
that which is past, and his affair (henceforth) is with Allah. As for
him who returns (to interest), such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will
abide therein forever. Allah destroys interest and gives an increase for
charity. Allah loves not every disbelieving, sinner. Truly, [as for] those who
believe, perform righteous deeds, establish the prayer and pay the Zakat, their
reward is with their Lord. No fear shall come upon them neither shall they
grieve. O you who believe! Observe your duty to Allah, and give up what remains
(due to you) in interest, if you are (in truth) believers. And if you do not,
then be informed of a war from Allah and His messenger. But if you repent, then
you have your principal [without interest]. Do not wrong [others] and you shall
not be wronged”
(al-Baqarah 275-279).

Among the other numerous Quranic
and hadith texts concerning interest is the following: Jaabir stated, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
cursed the taker of interest, its giver, its recorder and its two
witnesses. They are all alike.”
[337]
In this important hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
one sees that the giver and the receiver as well as those who assisted in
this forbidden contract are all equally sinful and have all been cursed by the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Thus, it is forbidden to pay
interest or to receive interest, and this includes the interest that one earns
on one’s checking or savings account. In general, if an individual wishes to
loan money to another individual who is in need, this act should be a brotherly
and charitable act and there should be no thought of reaping monetary benefits
in such a case. If someone wishes to make a “business loan,” hoping to reap
profits, then he should be willing to put his risk and not demand a guaranteed
return for his money. It is not fair that the borrower is at risk in his
business venture while the lender faces no risk at all.

At the same time, Islam opens the
door to many avenues by which injustice is avoided while investment still takes
place. Hence, profit-sharing agreements on business loans are allowed while
fixed interest payments are not.

 Fraud and Deception

Fraud and deception are also
forbidden in Islam. This would include intentionally concealing defects in
one’s merchandise or work. One time the Prophet (peace be upon him) was in the
marketplace and he put his hand into a pile of grains and he found that it was
wet on the bottom. He asked the vendor about it and the man told him that rain
had fallen upon it. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) told him, “Why did you not put it on top of the grain so people
could see it? Whoever deceives is not from me.”
[338]

Ibn Maajah records that the Prophet
(peace be upon him) said in another hadith stressing the aspect of brotherhood
and its relation to business dealings, “A Muslim is
a brother to a Muslim. It is not permissible for a Muslim to sell something
defective to his brother without making that [defect] clear to him.”
[339]

 Other Forbidden Sources of Wealth

There are other obvious forbidden
forms of obtaining wealth. These include robbery, through bribery, gambling and
extremely speculative transactions. A Muslim is also not allowed to sell or trade
articles that are forbidden in Islam, even if he himself does not consume them.
Hence, a Muslim is not allowed to sell alcohol, porn, drugs and the like.

 Conclusions

In this chapter, the interactions
of a believer were discussed. The true belief in God should permeate every
aspect of an individual’s life, especially his interaction with others of God’s
creation. Thus, starting with how he treats himself, the individual realizes that
he is one of God’s creatures and therefore must treat himself in a way that is
pleasing to God. In order to achieve this goal, Allah has mercifully sent
humans clear guidance to teach them how to behave even with respect to their
own selves.

The individual created by God
obviously, then, cannot claim for himself the right to treat others in any way
he wishes. Again, Allah has provided guidance in this area as well. Whether it
is with respect to one’s parents, children, neighbors, others in society—even
animals and inanimate objects such as wealth—there is a way of behavior that is
representative of one’s belief in Allah. It behooves a believer to learn this
proper behavior and to exert himself to live by it in his life to the best of
his ability.

This chapter is a discussion of the
means of fortifying and increasing one’s faith. As has been alluded to earlier,
a Muslim should never be complacent with respect to his faith. Faith increases
and decreases. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
said, “By the One whom there is no other God,
one of you does the actions of Paradise until there is just a hand’s span
between him and Paradise and then the Book [preordainment] overtakes him and he
does the actions of the people of Hell and he enters into it.”
[340]

A Muslim must be very clear about
his goal in life. When he is clear about his goal in life, he must be able to
identify the means and measures that will assist him to meet that goal.
Similarly, he must be aware of the impediments and harmful aspects that harm
him with respect to his goal. Finally, when he does slip, he needs to know the
best way that will put him, Allah willing, right back on the proper track.

 The Concept of Purification of the Soul

In another work, this author has
defined the concept of purification of the soul as,

The
process in which the healthy elements found in the soul are fostered, built
upon and added to while any invading contaminants are removed or controlled
such that the person worships Allah properly and fulfills his purpose in life,
which can culminate in the ultimate expression of true ihsaan.[341]

Purification
of the soul is a “process.” In other words, it is not something static. It is,
in fact, dynamic and it can be volatile. A person may be moving closer and
closer to his absolute potential with respect to purification of his soul or he
may move further away from it.

Again,
the goal is to become as complete and truthful a servant of Allah as one can
be. Allah explains that purpose in life in the verse, “I have only created jinn and men that they may worship
Me”
(51:56).
The goal of life is to worship and please Allah¾thus, to receive His
pleasure in return.

The
most exalted, noble, and honored a human can be is by worshipping Allah. In
reality, there is nothing greater or nobler than that. This is something that
should be clear on every Muslim’s mind. The more he moves to that goal, the
happier he should become and the more honor he should feel by submitting himself
to the only true God and Lord.

Al-Miqreezee
notes that this proper form of worship entails four aspects:

(1) Determining what Allah and His Messenger (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
love and are pleased with;

(2) The embodying of and enacting upon those beloved aspects
in one’s own heart;

(3) Enacting upon those aspects in one’s speech;

(4) Further enacting upon those aspects in one’s actions.[342]

Each one of these aspects is
necessary if a person desires to fulfill his goal of being a true worshipper
and servant of Allah. The individual first recognizes that the manner that he
is to worship Allah is not based on his own individual inclinations, logic or
whims. Instead, it must be based on what comes from Allah Himself. Allah is the
only one who can state how He is to be worshipped. Hence, the first step is to
determine what Allah wants from the individual and what is pleasing to Him.
This is achieved by getting knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah. This knowledge
must then be transformed into an acceptance and desire for those things in
one’s heart. One must recognize those things as the true good things and one,
hence, must have a feeling of love for those things in one’s heart. When this
is accomplished, the proclamation of one’s acceptance and belief as well as the
application of this acceptance via one’s deeds should automatically accompany
it.

Ibn Taimiyyah has expounded further
on the true meaning of ibaadah (“worship, service”). He wrote,

As for ‘Ibaadah,
its original meaning also denotes lowliness and submission. One says, “a
pathway that is mu’abbad”
i.e., it has become smoothed out because of
being treaded upon.     

However,
the ‘Ibaadah that has been enjoined (upon us) encompasses the meaning of
submission along with the meaning of love. It embodies the utmost degree of submission
to Allah through the utmost degree of love of Him…           

One who
submits to a person whilst possessing hatred for him is not an ‘aabid
(i.e., worshipper) of him and (in contrast) if he was to love someone and at the
same time does not submit to him, he is likewise not an ‘aabid of him,
as is the case of a man who loves his child and friend. Consequently, only one
of the two (qualities) is not sufficient as far as the ‘ibaadah of Allah
is concerned. Rather, it is necessary that Allah be the most beloved above all
else to the ‘abd and that he holds Allah to be the greatest of all.
Indeed, none other than Allah deserves total love and submission.[343]

Another very important point to
keep in mind is that purification of the soul is not simply related to the ritual
acts of worship or acts that one may consider “religious” or “spiritual.”[344] As
noted earlier, the goal of purification is to become as complete a servant of
Allah as one can. The correct concept of servitude or ibaadah is very comprehensive. Ibaadah is, as ibn Taimiyyah stated in
his well-known and widely accepted definition of the term,

A noun
comprising every word or deed, internal or manifest, that Allah loves and
approves. This includes prayer, Zakat, fasting, pilgrimage, speaking the truth,
fulfilling trusts, doing good to parents and relatives, keeping promises,
enjoining good, forbidding evil, Jihad against the disbelievers and hypocrites,
good behavior towards neighbors, orphans, the poor, travelers, slaves and
animals, prayer and supplication, remembering God and reading the Quran and so
on; similarly it includes to love Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
, to fear Him and turn to Him in repentance, to be patient in
adversity and thankful in prosperity, to resign oneself to Allah’s decrees, to
put one’s trust in His help, to hope for His mercy, and to fear His punishment.
All of these form part of ibaadah (worship and servitude) to God.[345]

Hence, the purification of the soul
permeates every part of a person. It touches upon his internal characteristics
as well as his outward actions. As Islahi noted, “Tazkiah
[purification] deals with all the apparent and hidden aspects of ourselves… Our
thoughts, our apprehensions, our inclinations, our movements, our eating and
drinking, our engagements, hobbies, and interests, the daily routines in our
lives, in short, no department and nothing that touches our lives is outside
the pale of tazkiah.”
[346]

Murad has noted a very important
point that is actually one of the benefits of this proper understanding of
purification of the soul, reflecting once again the importance of having one
single comprehensive goal in one’s life. He noted,

Unless
you approach tazkiah [purification] as an all-embracing process, you
will find that your life is compartmentalised, certain parts impeding the
development of others. This can only result in a life of disharmony and
unhappiness. Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, however,
you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part. This
should, God willing, make your struggle on the path to God and Janna
[Paradise] easier and full of grace.[347]

 The Increase or Decrease of Faith

It
is very clear from the Quran that a person’s faith increases and decreases. For example, Allah says, “And when His verses are recited to them,
they [the verses] increase their faith”

(8:2); “That the
Believers may increase in faith”
(74:31); “It is He who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the Believers,
in order that faith be added to their faith”
(48: 4);
“Those to whom people
said:  ‘A great army is gathering against you, hence you should fear it,
but such only increased their faith and they said:
‘For us Allah is
sufficient’; He is the Perfect Disposer of affairs”
(3:173).

There is no question that there are
differences in the outward deeds of humankind. This is a reflection and an
aspect of the increase and decrease in faith. One must not believe, though,
that such is the only fluctuation of faith. Actually, all of the aspects of
faith are exposed to this possibility, including— or especially— the deeds of
the heart. Even the level of “belief” in the heart or certainty can change in
one person and certainly is different from one person to the next. Indeed,
one’s love for Allah, fear of Allah, trust in Allah and other aspects of the
heart are probably the most prone to change and fluctuation.

Perhaps every individual has
experienced this fact described in the verses above. At times, a person is very
aware of Allah and of his fear and love for Him. This strong feeling in the
person’s heart brings tranquility and warmth to the person and it also keeps
him from committing sins. Not only that, it drives him to sacrifice and work
harder for the sake of Allah. He becomes very anxious to get up late at night
for prayer, for example, or give freely for the sake of Allah. However, at
other times, perhaps when the affairs of this world are engulfing him, his
remembrance and attachment to Allah is not that great. He does not feel that
great feeling of faith in his heart. His behavior and actions are not of the
same quality as they are at other times.  When he encounters this stage, when
he thinks about getting up at night for prayer or giving charity for the sake
of Allah, his soul becomes too tired or not willing to sacrifice. This is
nothing but the fluctuations of faith in the person’s heart.

There may be times when a person is
at a very high level of faith and remembrance of Allah. When he mixes with
worldly events, his family and friends, he may not be at that same level. This
type of occurrence even happened to Abu Bakr. A hadith in Sahih Muslim
states that Abu Bakr asked Handhalah, another Companion, how he was doing. He
answered that he was committing hypocrisy. He explained that by saying that
when they are with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and reminded of Heaven and
Hell, they are as if they are seeing Heaven and Hell. Then when they retreat to
their families, they forget much of what they felt earlier. Abu Bakr stated
that he also experienced the same. This is something natural. The person should
learn to appreciate those times when he was at his highest level of faith and
seek to maintain them for as long as possible.

Even the level of affirmation and
knowledge in the heart varies from person to person and time to time in one
person. Ibn Taimiyyah states that the affirmation in the heart of the person
who simply knows the general aspects of the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) will not be the same as that of the person who knows the
details of the Prophet’s life and teachings. Similarly, the one who knows more
about Allah’s names and attributes, the life of the Hereafter and so forth will
be at a different level of affirmation and knowledge than the one who is
ignorant of such matters.[348] Ibn Taimiya also
argues that the faith of a person who knows the proofs for his beliefs and
recognizes the falsehood of other beliefs will be stronger and greater than the
one who is unaware of these aspects.[349]

Ibn Taimiya concludes that there is
nothing more variable in the heart of man than faith. He says that people
should be able to recognize this fact when they consider one of the components
of faith, which is love. People recognize their own different levels of love.
Love sometimes simply implies a desire to be with or close to one’s beloved.
However, it can reach the level where one cannot live without being in the
presence of one’s beloved.[350]
Similarly, faith, of which love for Allah is one component, can be extremely
variable.

This question of faith increasing
or decreasing is not simply a theoretical question over which the scholars of
the past differed. If a person feels that he has faith and that it is a fixed
attribute, he will not strive to increase his faith and he will not fear or
notice a decrease in it. This approach in itself can be very dangerous to his
faith as the person may not recognize the signs that his faith is decreasing.

Thus, every believer must keep in
mind the fact that faith increases and decreases. Hence, the believer should
always be on the lookout for any sign that his faith is decreasing. Indeed, he
should take positive steps to increase his faith. One can find an example in
the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). One
Companion took another by the hand and said, “Come
let us [increase our] faith for a period of time.”
[351] This was in reference to
reading the Quran, remembering Allah and so forth, actions which will help one
revive and increase one’s faith.

 The Development and
Growth of One’s Faith

When one first makes the
declaration of faith, he has started on the road to being a true Muslim and a
true believer. The first step is to cleanse oneself of the clear, major,
encompassing form of associating partners with God. This is the first and
absolutely necessary step, such that no other act or step will be of benefit or
use without it. However, this does not mean that it is a once and for all step
or a constant with no room for growth and improvement.

Murad perceptively noted,

You now
have a mission: to become a mumin [true believer] and mujahid
[one who strives for the sake of Allah]. As you embark upon this mission you
may come to feel that your knowledge of Islam is somewhat limited or perhaps
that you are unable to attain those heights of submission and purification that
you desire or others expect of you. This is only natural. You must not,
however, allow these feelings of personal shortcomings to undermine your
efforts to practise Islam. Remember that Islam is a state of becoming not a
state of being. Each day you must strive to improve and better yourself—and you
will improve [Allah willing]

Once
you have committed yourself to Allah, all that you have must be spent in His
way. This is the ideal. Ideals, however, are always difficult to achieve—and
this you must understand and accept. Ideals are always to be pursued; if they
are easily and always achievable, they can hardly remain as ideals. Keeping to
your side of the bargain [mentioned in al-Taubah: 111[352]] then is an ideal that you must always seek to maintain.
It is this seeking and this striving to spend all that we have in the way of
Allah that is known as Jihad and alternatively, in this instance, as tazkiah
[purification].[353]

When a person first embraces
Islam—or when a born Muslim first makes a commitment to Islam—his heart may be
free of the greater associating of partners with Allah and disbelief, but that
does not mean that he understands all of the concepts of pure monotheism or
that in his heart there is not some minor remnants of shirk and disbelief.
Allah says about the Bedouins, “The Bedouins say,
‘We have believed.’ Say [to them], ‘You have not yet [truly believed] but
instead you should say, “We have submitted”
for faith has yet to [completely]
penetrate your hearts. But if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not
deprive you [of the rewards for] your deeds. Verily, Allah is Forgiving,
Merciful” (49: 14).

Indeed, some shortcomings with
respect to the complete concept of pure monotheism even occurred among new
Muslims at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),
although they were fluent in Arabic, thus having an understanding of the basic
meanings of the Quran, and they also lived during the time of the revelation
itself. Note the following report:

Abu Waaqid al-Laithi narrated that
when the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was
going out to the  Hunain [before its battle] they passed by a tree of the
polytheists known as dhaat anwaat on which they would hang their
weapons. They [some Companions] said, “O Messenger
of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), make for us a dhaat
anwaat like they have a dhaat anwaat.”
The Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
said, “Exalted be
Allah. This is like when the people of Moses said, ‘Make for us an idol like
they have an idol.’ By the One in whose Hand is my soul, you shall certainly
follow the practices of the people who came before you.”
[354]

However, as one grows in faith, new
horizons become clear to him—they may actually be related to things that he
already admitted to knowing but he had never really experienced or tasted them
in the past. These new understandings related to his faith purify him even
further and allow him to grow spiritually in matters that have been difficult
for people to describe.

The quote below from ibn al-Qayyim
highlights some aspects of faith that may not necessarily be in the person’s
heart when he first becomes Muslim or when he is practicing Islam. However, as
he grows in the faith, these aspects become stronger and stronger and they
begin to develop in him more and more of their desired effects. For example, a
new Muslim may see the rain come down from the sky and then recall the forecast
on the news the previous night, simply thinking that all of the factors were
there for the rain to come and hence it rained. On the other hand, the believer
whose knowledge and realization of Allah is at a different level, realizes that
Allah has brought about that rain not haphazardly. Perhaps, it was an act of
mercy from Allah or the first moments of some punishment from Allah.

Ibn al-Qayyim wrote,

When
the servant knows that Allah alone is in charge of harming and benefiting, giving
and withholding, creating and providing, giving life and bringing about death,
it produces the acts of worship of completely putting one’s trust and reliance
in Him in one’s heart, and what such reliance necessitates of trust and outward
deeds. The servant’s knowledge about Allah’s hearing, seeing and knowledge—not
even the smallest of physical particles in the heavens and earth is unseen to
Him—and that He knows the secret and hidden and the deception of the eyes as
well as what is hidden in the breasts produces in the person a keen guarding
over his tongue, physical limbs and thoughts in the heart to keep them away
from everything that is displeasing to Allah. Furthermore, it makes him involve
those bodily parts in acts that are beloved and pleasing to Allah. This in turn
produces an inward shyness. It also produces a shyness that makes the person
avoid the forbidden and evil acts. [The servant’s] knowledge of Allah’s
self-sufficiency, generosity, graciousness, kindness and mercy makes the person
become very hopeful in Allah. Furthermore, it produces in him similar acts of
external and inward forms of worship in accord with his level of understanding
and knowledge. Similarly, his recognition of Allah’s grandeur, greatness and
magnificence produces in him humility, submission and love. It also produces in
him internal emotions and feelings of worship as well as the external acts that
these require. Similar, his knowledge of Allah’s perfection, beauty and exalted
attributes manifests itself in a special kind of love found in the different
levels of worship.[355]

 The Path to Increasing One’s Faith and Purifying One’s Soul

The path espoused by the Quran and
Sunnah for purifying one’s soul is amazingly very clear and actually easy to
follow for all those whose intentions are pure. Indeed, it is a path that is
open for every human to follow. It basically is comprised of three components: (1) purification of one’s beliefs; (2) drawing closer to Allah by performing the
obligatory deeds and (3) drawing even
closer to Allah by the voluntary deeds.

 The Proper Belief in Allah

The proper belief in Allah is
without a doubt the first aspect on the road to self-purification and the key
to real success and happiness in this life and in the Hereafter. Allah says, “He has certainly succeeded who has purified himself” (87:14).
The Quranic commentators note that this is referring first to purifying oneself
from shirk (associating partners with Allah) and kufr
(disbelief).[356]
It has been narrated that ibn Abbaas explained this verse by saying, “Whoever purifies himself from shirk.”[357]

Indeed, it has been deviations from
the correct belief in God that has misled most of humankind. In other words,
for much of humankind today, it is not the case that they do not believe in God
but it is the case that their belief, based on their own whims and desires or
their choice to blindly follow others, is distorted and not based on any true
source of knowledge concerning God. For example, many people today believe that
as long as a person is a “nice” person and does not do harm to others, God
would never be displeased with such a person and they will enter Paradise or
achieve some kind of bliss.[358]

Thus, having the proper belief
about God does not even enter into the equation, as long as the person is a “nice”
person. Actually, a person could be a devil worshipper or a believer in one hundred
idols yet all of that does not seem to matter. Although one may commonly hear
such ideas expressed, all such thoughts are simply the people’s own
suppositions about God. They are false and have no proof to support them.

In reality, the acceptance of this
fact—that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, the first statement of
the testimony of faith—is the first step in becoming a Muslim and on the road
to purification of the soul, purifying one’s beliefs and one’s heart from any
form of shirk or associating partners with Allah.

Associating partners with Allah is
a great form of wrongdoing. In particular, one is completely wronging one’s own
soul and dignity by submitting to and worshipping beings that do not deserve a
human’s worship whatsoever. Allah has stated in the Quran, while quoting
Luqmaan, “Indeed associating [partners with Allah]
is a great wrongdoing”
(31:13).

On the other end of the spectrum
there is the committing of shirk, which includes all of the other
beliefs prevalent in the world today. This includes the other “monotheistic”
faiths of Judaism and Christianity. Those who commit shirk go to an
extreme for which, in truth, there is no excuse. Their own souls and beings
know that their shirk is completely repugnant and that they are
following it only to satisfy some lowly desires. Hence, Allah will forgive any
sin except shirk. Allah says, “Allah does
not forgive that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgives whatever
is less than that for whom He pleases; to set up partners with Allah is to
devise a sin most heinous indeed”
(4:48; see also 4:116).

Those who commit shirk are
deserving of an eternal damnation as it was their intention to forever remain
along the path of their false beliefs. Hence, Allah has forbidden His pleasure
and paradise for them, saying, “Whoever joins
others with Allah, Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the Fire will be his
abode. There will for the wrongdoers be no one to help”
(5:72).

Once again, therefore, without this
first step of purification—the purification of one’s beliefs at least to the
extent of removing all forms of shirk—nothing else will be of any avail.
The heart must be purified first with tauheed before one can truly move
on to anything else. If that is not done first, then all of the following steps
will be in vain. Any deed that is not done purely and solely for the sake of
Allah will be in vain and rejected by Allah. A hadith states that Allah has
said, “I am the most self-sufficient and am in no
need of having a partner. Whoever does a deed for My sake as well as for
someone [or something] else will have that action rejected by Me with the one
he associates [with Allah].”
[359]

 The Proper Attitude Toward the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)

Directly related to the belief in tauheed
and directly related to the question of purification of the soul is one’s
attitude toward the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
. One does not become a Muslim and one does not begin on the path of
purification until he makes the testimony of faith. This testimony is composed
of two very different but essential components:
“I
bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear
witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
By making this
testimony, the person is affirming his intent to worship none other than Allah
as well as to worship Allah in the manner set forth by the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). With respect to both matters, the
individual dedicates himself to Allah via the teachings that have come through
the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Hence, everyone has to understand
who the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was and what is his
role in purifying one’s soul. His role is simple: His is the human example that
every Muslim must aspire to as his way was based on guidance from Allah. His
life and behavior is the one showing all Muslims the proper way to purify their
souls. This is true whether one is speaking about how to pray, fast, fight,
order good, become patient, earn Allah’s love, become a devout worshipper, deal
with friends, associates, family, orphans and so forth.

Commenting on the phenomenon of
failing to recognize or turn to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him)
as the teacher of purification of the soul, ibn al-Qayyim wrote,

The
concept of purification of the souls must be submitted to the way of the
messengers. Allah has sent them alone for the purpose of this purification and
has put them in charge of it. He has placed in their hands the call, teachings
and clarification. They have been sent to cure the souls of the nations. Allah
says, “It is He Who has sent among the
Unlettered a messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to
purify them, and to instruct them in the Book and Wisdom, although they had
been before in manifest error”
(al-Jumu’ah 2).
Purification of the soul is more difficult and harder than curing one’s physical
body. Whoever [tries to] purify his soul via spiritual exercises, striving and
seclusion which the messengers never taught is like a sick person who tries to
cure himself based on his own personal opinion. What is the place of his
opinion with respect to the knowledge of the physician? The messengers are the physicians of the hearts. There is no way
to purify the hearts or make them sound except via their paths and at their
hands, with a complete submission and obedience to them.[360]

Furthermore, Allah makes it clear
that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was sent to these
people to be an example par excellence for anyone who wants to come
closer to Allah and be successful in the Hereafter. Allah says, “You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful
pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and
who engages much in the remembrance of Allah”
(al-Ahzaab 21).
Hence, the true believer would do his best to emulate the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
in all matters of his life as sanctioned by the
Sharee’ah.[361] This
desire to emulate is called “pursuance” by Islahi and he explains it thusly,

The scope of pursuance is much wider than that of
obedience. Under obedience fall only those things which are in the nature of
Commandments, highly stressed duties and the do’s and don’ts, but in the ambit
of pursuance fall even the commendatory and non-obligatory acts… Man may obey
something without the least tinge of sincerity and love in it. But in pursuance
the sentiments of reverence and regard for the pursued in one’s life is an
essential condition…

The
reason behind the zest of the Companions in the pursuance of the Prophet was
the love of God, and to become a beloved of His could not be attained only
through obedience to the Prophet, but in fact through following him sincerely
in all walks of life. The Prophet is the embodiment of the cognition of God and
every air and style of his is the sign of such cognition. That is why those who
love God love every iota in the life of the Prophet. In the life of the Prophet
they observe the knowledge that is acquired through the cognition of God; they
notice actions that result from such cognition and they watch habits that God
is pleased with… And since they do it all for the love of God, they are
rewarded by Him and become His beloved. It is this fact brought out in the
following verse of the Quran:
“Say (O
Mohammad)
, ‘If you love God, follow me: God will love you’”
[ali-Imraan 31].[362]

There is another important fact
that definitively needs to be emphasized concerning the belief in the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He is not just an example, but he
is the example. There is no manner
of living and no belief system that is superior to that of the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Furthermore, there is no individual
who was closer and more beloved to Allah than the Prophet Muhammad (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
.[363]

A person will not be able to
completely internalize this and act upon this concept until he has a strong
love and appreciation for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
. In fact, this love for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
is a requirement of the faith itself. In other words, one’s faith cannot
be proper without it and one cannot purify himself without it. The Messenger of
Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself said, “None of you are true believers until I am more beloved to
him than his father, his children and all of mankind.”
[364]

On this point, also, Islahi has
made an excellent comment, noting that the love for the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
is a love based on intellect and principles which
a person comes to foster with a principle or an ideology, and because of which
he keeps that principle and that particular ideology predominant everywhere in
his life, and sacrifices every other principle, way of life or desire to that
cherished principle or way of life, but not vice versa. For the promotion and
upliftment of this principle and ideology he can see everything else degraded
but cannot tolerate the degradation of his cherished ideology. If his own self
is in the way of his ideology he gives it a fight, and if others stand in the
way to block it he fights them, so much so that even if the demands of his own
wife and children and relatives collide with the demands of this ideology, he
stands on the side of his ideology to support it and without any pangs of love
and regards, spurns the wishes of his wife and children and the demands of his
tribe and nation.[365]

When a love of this nature is truly
internalized, it becomes natural for the person to emulate and imitate his
object of admiration. One see this phenomenon in all walks of life. This
explains why fans, for example, want to know so many details about the actors,
athletes or stars that they idolize. Part of the goal is to know about them and
part of the goal is to try to emulate them as much as possible. This feeling of
devotion and willingness to emulate must be even greater for the person who
realizes that via emulation and following of the Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him)
he can conquer the true way to spiritual purification.

In sum, in order to truly purify
one’s soul, one must make sure that one’s attitude toward the Messenger of
Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is correct. One must have
belief in the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and
that belief must be correct. One must also obey the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
, seek to emulate him and love him and his way.[366] When all of these matters are fulfilled,
one is on the firmest path leading to the purification of the soul, which in
itself was one of the main purposes for the sending of the Prophet Muhammad
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Murad offers one more interesting
point concerning the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him)
and his role in the purification of one’s soul. After discussing the
materialism of Western societies, how such societies are even creeping upon the
Muslim world and how the West’s ultimate emphasis upon what can be materially
measured and denial of the unseen is the antithesis of Islam, he noted,

Once
you have chosen to live in a “Western type” society, the only source of light
for you is the Messenger of Allah. He was also faced with an almost similar
situation. As he came down from the cave of Hira’, after his experience of
receiving the light of Divine guidance, he re-entered a culture and society
which were quite “alien” to his Message. His Message began by linking the whole
of life to the name of Allah. That was the starting point. All knowledge, all
culture, all civilisation and all human action must be centred on one pivot and
that is the name of Allah. This was a totally strange Message for the society
in which he had to operate. So, we need to look at the Prophet’s Sunnah in the
context of operating in an “alien”
society and see how we can practise a
genuine Islamic culture…  

Secondly, while living in an “alien” culture, you have to preserve your Islamic
identity—not only through rational arguments, but through emotional, cultural
and civilisational symbols. It is only the Sunnah that can provide these
emotional and civilisational symbols through which you will not only preserve
your identity but strengthen and advance it.[367]

 Performing Righteous Deeds

In numerous places in the Quran,
Allah makes it clear that the key to salvation is not a mere declaration of
one’s faith or a false faith that has no righteous deeds as its fruits.
Instead, the key is a true faith that combines with and is the driving force
behind performing righteous deeds. In fact, the scholars note that faith is
actually comprised of the belief in the heart, the statement of the tongue and
the deeds of the physical body. Hence, a person’s faith cannot be complete
without performing the proper deeds.

Allah clearly relates the
performance of good deeds with having faith. For example, He says, “Whoever works any act of righteousness and has faith,
his endeavor will not be rejected:
We shall record it in his favor”

(21:94). Indeed, the only way to be saved from perdition is through faith and
good deeds, as Allah says, “By (the token of) Time
(through the ages), verily man is in loss, except those who have faith, do
righteous deeds, (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience
and constancy”
(103:1-3). In another verse, Allah clearly shows that it
is faith and deeds that lead one to Paradise or the Hell-fire. Allah says, “Nay, whoever earns evil and his sin has surrounded him,
they are Companions of the Fire:
therein shall they abide (forever). But those
who have faith and work righteousness, they are companions of the garden:
therein shall they abide (forever)
(2:81-82).[368]

Hence, the second obligatory step
in purifying the soul and becoming beloved to Allah is the performance of the
deeds that Allah has made obligatory upon the believers. (This goes hand in
hand with the increase in imaan and tauheed and there is a very
important dynamic relationship between the two that is difficult sometimes to
fathom but which is very clear to the person who experiences it.)
Again, this
point is made very clearly in the hadith just quoted above. In that hadith,
Allah has said, “My servant does not draw near to
Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have imposed upon
him.”

Note that the stress here has been
on the obligatory deeds. This is due to their extreme importance. Indeed,
everyone should dedicate himself to performing those deeds first. In other
words, one has to tend to the obligatory deeds before preoccupying oneself with
voluntary deeds. As al-Toofi stated,

The
order to perform the obligatory duties is a strict one. The one who does not
perform them falls into punishment. On both of these matters, the case of the
voluntary deeds is different. They are similar to the obligatory deeds in that
in both of them one earns a reward. However, the obligatory deeds are more
complete. For that reason, they are more beloved to Allah and take one closer
to Him. The obligatory deeds are like the foundation while the voluntary deeds
are like the branches and the building. If a person fulfills the obligatory
deeds in the way that they are commanded to be fulfilled, with proper respect
and esteem by submitting to Him and demonstrating the greatness of His Lordship
and submission of His worship, one gets closer to Him in the greatest way.[369]

The obligatory deeds are like the
foundation or roots while the voluntary deeds are like the branches. If a
person first fulfills those foundations, he is demonstrating his foundation of being
willing to submit to Allah. Hence, that is the best way that he earns his
Lord’s approval.[370]However,
if one does not first fulfill those deeds that Allah has made obligatory, one
does not demonstrate his willingness to submit and obey whatever Allah has
ordered. In other words, he fails to fulfill one of the greatest steps in the
process of purification. Therefore, the first step must be the fulfillment of
the obligatory duties.

 The Obligatory Deeds May Be Divided Into The Following Four Categories:

(1)
The obligatory deeds (feelings and emotions) of the heart:

(2)
The ritual pillars of Islam:

(3)
The other obligatory acts:

(4)
Abstaining from the forbidden acts:

If a person fulfills only the
obligatory acts in their proper fashion, he should be able to reach a certain
level of spiritual purification. However, most likely, the process of
purification will not stop at the obligatory deeds alone. The feeling and love
for more purifying acts will flow and the believer will seek other righteous
deeds that will bring him even closer to Allah. Hence, the third step in the
purification of one’s soul is the performance of the voluntary deeds after one
has attended to the deeds that are obligatory upon him.

The voluntary deeds include all of
the deeds that are not strictly obligated and which have some sign that they
are praiseworthy acts. These deeds are also at different levels of virtue. Some
virtuous deeds were greatly emphasized by the Prophet (peace be upon him) while
others were not so emphasized. In other words, some voluntary deeds are much
more virtuous than others. The more virtuous a voluntary deed, the closer it
takes a person to Allah.

In referring to the very important
hadith qudsi referred to herein more than once, in which the Allah has
stated, “My servant does not draw near to Me with
anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties that I have imposed upon
him; and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works such
that I love him.”
[371]

Finally, it is very important to
note—and it is a great blessing from Allah—that this path is not a path that
necessarily takes a long amount of time or requires that the person pass
through certain stages. A person can become one of the purified and devoted
servants of Allah very quickly by sincerity and devotion to Allah. This true
sincerity and devotion may come after he performs only a few deeds. Indeed,
from the outset, he may perform those deeds that are obligatory upon him and he
becomes beloved to Allah. Then he continues on that path, with Allah guiding
him to what is good and proper. This will be a sign that he is continuing as
one of Allah’s auliyaa (devoted servants). Again, this “easy path” is
part of the great mercy and blessings of Allah. [372]

A conclusion from the hadith above
is that some believers move even closer to Allah by not only fulfilling the
obligatory duties but by additionally performing the voluntary deeds (and these
are numerous)
. When a person performs the obligatory deeds, he demonstrates his
willingness to submit to Allah. In addition, he is doing what he needs to do to
protect himself from Allah’s punishment. However, if on top of those deeds he
also performs voluntary deeds, this demonstrates his sincerity to Allah and his
true willingness to please Allah. This is no longer a matter of fulfilling a
command from Allah or rescuing oneself from punishment. Now one is doing the
acts to get even closer and become more beloved to Allah.

Therefore, it is no wonder that
such people who perform the voluntary deeds (which includes staying away from
the disliked deeds)
receive a special love from Allah in both this life and in
the Hereafter. Allah says about such a servant in the hadith quoted earlier, “My servant continues to draw near to Me with
supererogatory works such that I love him. And when I love him, I am his
hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which
he strikes, and his leg with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me, I would
surely give him; and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him
it.”
[373]

In this hadith, Allah describes
those persons who have earned His love. This makes this a most important
hadith. This is the goal of the true believers: to purify oneself by
worshipping Allah properly and, thereby, gain the love, mercy, pleasure and
forgiveness of Allah. In other words, the goal is to become a wali (a
true devoted servant)
of Allah. As discussed in a previous chapter, this is the
greatest achievement. Indeed, this is the achievement that no one could ever take
from a person. Anyone, by Allah’s leave, may destroy whatever another person
possesses and prizes of this world but no one can ever touch his religion
(which is first and foremost in his heart) and his relationship to Allah.

Allah, the Creator and Fashioner of
humans, has obligated certain deeds. Those are deeds that are needed by all
humans for the purification of their souls. Beyond those deeds, though, Allah
has left the door wide open for individuals to concentrate on those deeds that
they are most inclined to. For example, some people are dedicated to the
voluntary prayers. They receive great increases in their faith and benefit from
them. They feel sorrow whenever they miss those prayers. Hence, they tend to
them to the best of their ability. Those voluntary prayers¾ in addition to the general obligatory deeds¾ may be the way that they get closer to
Allah. It may be the key to their entering Paradise. Others may be attracted to
fasting, charity or the pilgrimage.

There are yet others who are more
inclined to doing good toward others. They perform the obligatory deeds and
then beyond that they spend their time tending to others’ needs. Those good
voluntary deeds bring them closer to Allah and more beloved to Him. Yet others
are attracted to voluntary Jihad, teaching the religion, calling non-Muslims to
Islam and so forth. When these people tend to those matters, they become the
key by which they come closer to Allah and enter Paradise. Someone else might
do a little of all of the different types of voluntary deeds and that is what
makes him beloved to Allah.[374]

This reality is all by the mercy of
Allah. Beyond the obligatory deeds, people are free to pursue those good
voluntary deeds that they are most attracted to. There are so many areas of
voluntary deeds that it seems inconceivable that a person could not find some
voluntary deed or deeds that he would like to perform in order to get closer to
Allah. Allah’s path to paradise is wide enough to accommodate all of those
different leanings. However, this is all dependent on the individual first
fulfilling, in general, the obligatory deeds. If the person does not do that,
then he may not be on the straight path at all.

 Means to Help One Along the Path

It is admitted that it is much
easier to identify that process than it is to make oneself walk along that
path. Therefore, mention must be made (however briefly) of specific means and
measures that in general should help one follow the path of purification. In
essence, these “means and measures” simply fall into one of the steps described
in the process of purification (that is, they fall into the category of either
obligatory or recommended acts)
. However, within those steps, there are some
acts that seem most prominent in bringing about additional benefit for the
purification of the soul. Hence, they are specifically highlighted here. The
actions include the following:

 (1)
Turning to and praying to Allah for help and guidance: This step usually takes
place before the attaining of knowledge. One should seek guidance from Allah
concerning all matters but especially to know the path that leads to His
pleasure.

(2)
Taking the steps to attain sound and beneficial knowledge: Allah willing,
knowledge will be given to the person by Allah as a result of his sincere
supplication and his taking the steps to attain that knowledge. In particular,
though, the relevant knowledge concerning spiritual purification cannot be
found in detail unless one studies both the Quran and the hadith of the
Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

(3)
Proper dhikr (remembrance of Allah): After the knowledge comes dhikr
which, in essence, means keeping that awareness and knowledge alive and at a
conscious level. Without this awareness, there is no hope in one actually
applying or benefiting from what one has learned.

(4)
Contemplation and reflection: Contemplation moves one to a stronger and greater
level of faith. It builds upon and strengthens the dhikr. It also
assists the individual in developing a more mature understanding of the
knowledge he has received. It also helps him in tying that knowledge into
everything that is happening around him, in turn enhancing his intensity of dhikr.

(5)
Realizing the true nature of this worldly existence: This can really be
considered a result of contemplation or a further development in one’s
spiritual progression. It refers to a deeper understanding that the life of the
Hereafter is the only real life and that this worldly life is not the life that
one has been created to live for or seek after with all of one’s means and
abilities. The realizing of the true importance or lack thereof of this worldly
life assists in repelling the strong temptations found in this world.

(6)
Striving against any evil inclinations in the soul: “Striving against the soul”
(jihaad al-nafs) becomes much easier after the above steps have been
taken. The soul may always present some temptations, diseases or weaknesses.
One must strive but it is very possible and plausible given the right tools to
overcome any weakness that the soul may possess.

(7)
Having righteous companions, friends and spouses: This is to give one further
strength and support. The goal of being surrounded by pious companions is that
they keep that dhikr alive. Such companions also advise each other, give
strength to each other when they become weak and encourage each other to do the
correct deeds. In addition, they can offer each other knowledge and guidance,
especially during troubling or confusing times.

(8)
Attending the mosques: Attending the mosques strengthens the ties with other
righteous Muslims, helps improve one’s prayers (which in itself is a key to
spiritual purification)
, allows one to gain access to sources of knowledge,
provides a place for being reminded of one’s purpose in life and provides a
place to witness pious examples which encourage one to strive harder for
spiritual purification.

(9)
Taking account of one’s deeds, behavior and character: This is the refinement
process that no program can be successful without. One must constantly go over
the different steps that one has taken and the different actions that one has
performed to see where there are faults and what must be improved. One must
never be negligent of this practice as otherwise one may be falling into a deep
abyss and never even realize what is occurring. Without realizing what is
occurring, it is difficult to imagine that the person will be able to do
anything about it.

 Harmful Aspects for the Soul

The major impediments and dangers
to one’s spiritual purification must be recognized by the Muslim. He must be
aware of them so that he may protect himself from them. Some of these may be
summarized as follows:

(1)
Desires, lusts and passions: These are the urges that occur in the soul and drive
a person to commit an act that he knows is displeasing to Allah. Unless one
works to control and overcome these desires, they can be disastrous for his
effort of purification. Indeed, they can even completely overcome the person
and become the “god” which he starts to worship.

(2)
Ignorance, doubts and misconceptions: It is via ignorance that one does not
know what the correct path is. When a person does not realize his own
ignorance, he acts thinking that what he is doing is correct while it may
actually be very harmful. In addition, ignorance can also lead to doubts and
uncertainty. Doubts and uncertainty in turn affect a person’s resolve and
willingness to sacrifice to remain upon the path of purification.

(3)
Innovations and heresies: These are of extreme danger for the purification of
the soul. In essence, they can lead a person down an errant path while he
believes that he is following nothing but the truth. It is only by sound
knowledge and by following the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him)
closely that one can avoid falling into this major pitfall.

(4)
Sins: One gets closer to Allah by acts of obedience and one distances himself
from Allah by sins and acts of disobedience. No matter whether the sin is a
major or minor one, it signifies, at least to some extent, a step back in one’s
journey of spiritual purification.

(5)
Being overcome by this world and its glitter: One of the greatest dangers,
especially in this day and age, is to be overcome with all of the “pleasures
and excitement”
that this world has to offer. This worldly life can make one
lose one’s focus. Instead of concentrating on the Hereafter, one begins to work
to accumulate the goods of this world. The situation can be so bad that the
individual sacrifices the Hereafter for this life. This would sound a crushing
defeat for the soul’s purification process.

(6)
Evil companions, environment and surroundings: One’s surroundings and one’s
friends can greatly influence an individual. For example, at the very least,
evil friends may suggest deeds and ideas that are displeasing to Allah and
harmful to the soul. Beyond that, they may further encourage and even help the
person perform acts that are clearly disliked by Allah. Such friends and
environments can clearly be a hindrance in one’s path of purification.

(7)
Satan and his soldiers: When Allah created man, He had already created an enemy
that was going to test his will and his devotion to Allah. When mankind gives
into Satan, Satan’s only goal is to drag him into the Hell-fire. To protect
himself on the path of purification, the believer must always be aware of Satan
and his ways of operating.

(8)
The enemies of Allah (those who have earned His wrath and those who have gone
astray)
: These are the people who have either knowingly or unknowingly gone
away from the path of purification. One must always be wary of them as they
will either intentionally try to drive a person away from the Straight Path or
they may inadvertently misadvise a Muslim causing him to swerve from the
Straight Path.

 Repentance

Even if one tries his best to
follow all of the steps and means that help one purify his soul, the nature of
man is such that, in general, he is bound to falter every now and then. In
fact, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “All humans continually commit sins. The best of those
who continually commit sins are those who repent often.”
[375]

When a person falters and sins,
though, that is not the end of the matter. As long as he has not reached the
moment of death, the door to repentance will remain open to him. He need not
despair—as long as he brings himself to account and repents to Allah for the
sins and transgressions he has committed. Allah clearly states, “Say: O My servants who have transgressed against their
souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah for Allah forgives all sins, He is
Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”
(39:53).

The true repentance includes (1) stopping oneself from the sin that one is
committing, (2) feeling remorse and (3) having the sincere intention to never
again return to performing that sin.[376]
In essence, it is a true return to serving Allah, as is the human’s purpose in
this life. Without these components, the individual has not truly or completely
repented to Allah.

Ibn
Taimiyyah perceptively pointed out that it is more important to repent from
wrong beliefs than it is to repent from evil desires. He explains his reasoning
behind this argument by stating,

If
someone does not perform an obligatory deed or does perform an evil deed, while
he believes in its obligation [for the former] or its evil [for the latter],
then that belief will urge him on to do the obligatory deed and will keep him
from the evil deed. There will not be something constantly urging him or
keeping him from doing such deeds. In fact, the urging and preventing forces
will be fighting each other. This means that sometimes one will overtake the
other and vice versa and his soul will be watching over him. Sometimes he will
perform the obligatory deed and sometimes he will not perform it. And sometimes
he will perform the evil deed and sometimes he will not perform it. This is the
case with many evildoing Muslims who sometimes fulfill rights and other times
do not and who sometimes do evil deeds and other times do not because the desires
are contradicting in his heart [that is, the desire to do good and the desire
to do evil are both in his heart and are competing against each other]
since he
has in his heart the foundation of faith that orders him to do good and keeps him
from evil. But at the same time he has desires and lusts that call him to the
opposite of that.

But if
the person performs deeds that he [wrongfully] believes are obligatory or he
leaves deeds believing they are forbidden, then the driving forces to leave or
perform the deed will be constant in his heart and that is much more serious
than the first case [mentioned in the paragraph above]. This person must make taubah
to correct his beliefs first and to find the truth. And this can be much more
difficult than the first case if there is nothing driving him to leave his
false beliefs‑ as the person in the first case has something urging him to
leave his evil deeds…[377]

In reality, every time someone
commits a sin, he is actually distancing himself from Allah—as is clearly
implied in the hadith quoted earlier stating that one draws closer to Allah by
fulfilling the obligatory deeds and then the voluntary deeds. If that is the
case, the believer should immediately seek to remove the negative effect of any
sin. This is accomplished by not persisting in sin but by returning to Allah,
repenting to Him and seeking His forgiveness. Indeed, it is truly heart moving
how in the same set of verses, Allah speaks about the believers committing faahishah
(shameful acts) and harming their own souls and yet describing them as the
inhabitants of paradise. Their key is that they stop their sin and earnestly
seek Allah’s forgiveness. Allah says, “And those
who having done something to be ashamed of or wronged their own souls earnestly
bring Allah to mind and ask for forgiveness for their sins—and who can forgive
sins except Allah? And are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in (the
wrong)
they have done. For such the reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and
gardens with rivers flowing underneath, an eternal dwelling. How excellent a
recompense for those who work (and strive)
(3:135-136).

Indeed, Allah is very pleased with
the servant whenever he repents. By repenting, the servant demonstrates his
belief that Allah is compassionate, forgiving and merciful. He is also showing
his awareness that, deep in his soul, he does not wish to displease Allah or to
move away from what pleases Allah. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him)
stated, “Allah is more
delighted by the repentance of His believing servant than [the delight of the
following person]
: A person in a waterless desert having his food and drink
upon his camel who sleeps and wakes to find his provisions having been lost. He
searches for them until he is about to be overtaken by thirst. He says to
himself, ‘I shall return to the place where I was and I shall sleep until I
die.’ He put his head upon his pillow ready to die. Then he awakes to find his
camel and his provisions, food and drink with him. Allah is more delighted with
the repentance of the believing servant than that [person] is with [finding]
his provision.”
[378] Allah’s
great pleasure is a very special reward for the repentant. Indeed, when the
believer realizes this fact and keeps this in mind, the drive to repent from
all of his sins and shortcomings becomes very strong in his heart.

The importance of repentance for
the purification of the soul cannot be overstated. It is the final pouring out
of the human towards his Lord to remove all remaining blemishes and impurities
from the soul, such that the soul is ready to be entered into Allah’s paradise.
No matter how pious a soul is, there will undoubtedly be shortcomings with
respect to the rights of his Lord. These shortcomings, many of which were
already touched upon while discussing contemplation since there is a strong
relationship between such contemplation and the move to repent, include the
following:

(a)
A person’s acts of worship and obedience to Allah will many times (if not almost
always)
fall short of his maximum potential. Indeed, being overly pleased and
satisfied with one’s act of worship is very dangerous for the soul. In fact,
those who are truly aware of their relationship with Allah are even more
earnest in their seeking of Allah’s forgiveness after they complete an act of
worship. They understand that they have some shortcoming in their act of
worship, such as not being completely attuned to their prayers. The Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught all believers to ask for
Allah’s forgiveness three times as soon as one had finished the obligatory
prayers. This practice is reflective of this fact that one can find shortcomings
even in his acts of worship.

(b)
The believer will never be able to thank Allah completely for all of the
bounties that Allah has bestowed on him, no matter how obedient he is to Allah.
For example, how can an individual completely thank Allah for Allah’s bounty
giving him life in the first place? Hence, the individual must repent to Allah
for this inability to thank Him completely or sufficiently.

(c)
There may even be some portion of “acting for the sake of show” (riyaa’)
in some of an individual’s deeds. If this is the case, then he definitely must
repent to Allah for that aspect.

Hence, even the pious must always
seek to repent to Allah and ask for His forgiveness. Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,

The
servant is always between a blessing from Allah that requires his thanks and a
sin that requires the seeking of forgiveness. Both of these circumstances, by
necessity, are always with the servant. He is constantly moving among the
blessings and bounties of Allah and he is always sinful and in need of repentance
and asking for forgiveness. For that reason, the chief of all humans and the
leader of the pious, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), would
seek forgiveness in all situations.[379]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him)
himself used to repent to Allah and seek His forgiveness
more than one hundred times a day (as recorded by Muslim).

Besides removing the sins from a
person, sincere repentance plays other important roles in purifying the soul.
For example, it aids the person in truly humbling himself before his Lord. As
the believer recognizes his weaknesses and sins, he realizes that he has no
rescue except to turn to Allah humbly, seeking Allah’s forgiveness for his
errors. This brings him closer to Allah, even though what led him to this
particular stage was a sin that he had committed (such is the mercy and grace
of Allah)
. As he considers more of his sins (through taking himself to account
for his deeds)
and sincerely repents from them, he realizes how far he has strayed
and his heart sincerely and humbly tries to submit completely to Allah in the
proper way given his abilities.

Repentance is a door that is always
open for the person to rectify his ways. No matter how evil a person has become
and no matter how many sins he has committed, there is no excuse for him not to
mend his ways and to try to purify his soul. A powerful reminder of this fact
is Allah’s words while mentioning those who burned the believers alive in the
incident discussed in soorah al-Burooj. Allah says about them, “Those who persecuted the believers, men and women, and
do not turn in repentance will have the penalty of Hell:
they will have the
penalty of the Burning Fire”
(85:10). Obviously, then, the door to
repentance will be open to any sinner and he need not despair.

Thus, once the person sets himself
on the right path, Allah willing, he need not allow what he did in the past to
prevent him from getting closer to Allah by performing pious deeds. Some
scholars even argue that his state after repenting should be even better than
his state beforehand, as he has experienced the sin, realized how wrong it was,
turned wholeheartedly to Allah and has vowed to change his ways. As long as one
does change and mend his ways, he need not look back at his sins as necessarily
evil in the long-run for his spiritual purification. He may have learned a
great lesson from that act and it may have helped him reform himself in a way
that would not have been possible without his experiencing a need to repent,
while that repentance further uplifted his soul via the joy of returning back
to one’s Lord.

 Conclusions

By the grace and mercy of Allah,
the path of purification and increasing one’s faith is uncomplicated and clear
for whoever wills to follow it:
It is about correction of one’s beliefs and
understandings while following that up with the proper implementation in one’s
actions and deeds.

This is a path consistent with
one’s natural inclinations but one has to be serious about following it. Even
when coming upon the path, one cannot be complacent and assume that nothing
will shake him or remove him from that path. No, indeed, he must always be
conscious of his faith and what state of health it is in. He should constantly
seek those means and measures that he finds support and help his faith.
Additionally, he must be aware of and avoid those factors that damage the
health of his faith and prevent him from following the Straight Path.

All along, he should be seeking
Allah’s guidance. Whenever he slips from the path and errs, he should try to
immediately return to Allah, seek his forgiveness and ask Allah to set him
aright once again on the beautiful path of purification and faith.[380]

The new Muslim convert has
definitely entered into a wonderful new phase in his life. By adhering to
Islam, he will be able to receive the blessings of this life and the Hereafter.

In reality, though, for many
converts, there are numerous distractions to deal with. In fact, there may be
many forces trying to drag the convert back into his previous way of life. A
convert’s own family and friends may be dissatisfied with the life choice that
he has made. The convert feels that he has found the path of truth and right
guidance and yet, even though he realizes that, those pulling him in different
directions may be very influential upon him. Indeed, he may have many difficult
and emotionally wrenching choices ahead of him.

In the face of all of these
distractions, the individual must keep in mind his ultimate goal of converting
to Islam:
the pleasure of his Lord and Creator. He must remind himself that
although there may be fleeting pleasures in this world, in reality, there can
be nothing more satisfying to the soul than worshipping God. He has to raise
himself above lowly desires and accept the true nobility that accompanies being
a true servant of God. This ultimate goal can be refreshed through attending to
the prayers, reading the Quran and increasing one’s knowledge of Islam.

This leads to another important
issue. The Muslim convert should not think that he will be able to fight off
numerous temptations all on his own. He is still new to the faith and his level
of understanding and attachment probably still needs a great deal of support.
Hence, he should cling to the Muslim community and the local mosque. These
should be his sources of refuge during times of toil and difficulties. It is
with the other Muslims that he will be able to strengthen his faith, learn more
about Islam and see how Islam is truly to be applied.

The Muslim convert, however, should
not expect perfection from the Muslim community or local mosque. There is no
official “church” in Islam and many of the mosques, especially in the West, are
run by volunteers who have plenty of other preoccupations. It would be
wonderful if the mosque would appoint a learned Muslim to look after each individual
convert but, unfortunately, such is often not feasible. In general, though,
every Muslim community is happy to add a new member to its fold, whether a
convert or a Muslim new to the area, and does want to help. Allah willing, with
patience, the convert will be able to find good Muslim friends who will help
him along the path.

The Muslim convert should not even
expect excellent Islamic behavior from all Muslims. There are pious Muslims;
they are less than pious Muslims; there are knowledgeable Muslims; they are
ignorant Muslims.[381] Thus,
every Muslim, the convert included, has to deal with a whole range of Muslims.
For example, sometimes a new Muslim is very exuberant about his new Islam and
he wants to express his feeling of brotherhood with the other Muslims. He
enters the mosque, giving the greetings of peace to the others in the mosque.
Some Muslims are simply not used to that behavior and they look at the convert
as if he is very strange, without giving any reply to his greetings, even
though it is obligatory for at least one of them to reply to his greetings. One
can just imagine how deflating that could be where one enters with such
enthusiasm and joy and has his exuberance deflated by his new brothers and
sisters in Islam. There was no evil intent on the part of the Muslims but the
result can still be very disheartening.

In sum, many Muslims that the convert
meets may fall very short of a convert’s expectations. At the same time, the
convert must realize that he has his own shortcomings that harm his interaction
with the other Muslims. He himself probably still has a long way to go. He may
still have many diseases in his heart left over from his pre-Islamic days. A
new Muslim may also unwittingly do things very offensive toward Muslims. For
example, the convert may still speak in lewd ways about the opposite sex or
joke in manners considered inappropriate by Muslims. Thus, for both the convert
and the other Muslims there may be some uncomfortable moments.

Patience and perseverance are
definitely required. The convert should remind himself that he is a new Muslim
and that there may be many aspects of the faith that he yet understands or
applies properly. He must remind himself that other Muslims are simply human as
well and all humans will have some shortcomings. First and foremost, though, he
should remind himself of his ultimate goal:
pleasing his Lord. The minor
problems and issues that one encounters in this world should never deter the
individual when he realizes that enduring such things are definitely well worth
it in the end.

Every Muslim should expect to face
some trials and difficulties in this world. The goal that one is seeking—the
pleasure of Allah and His infinite reward of Paradise in the Hereafter—is very
dear and precious.[382] One
should not expect it nor demand it of his Creator without some effort, patience
and sacrifice on his own part. Thus, Allah says, “Do
people think that they will be left alone because they say, ‘We believe,’ and
will not be tested. We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will
certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly
make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, [although Allah knows
all that before putting them to test]
(29:2-3). Allah also says, “Do you think that you will enter Paradise without such
(trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with
severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and
those who believed along with him said, ‘When (will come) the Help of Allah?’
Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allah is near”
(2:214).

Every Muslim, including the
convert, should prepare himself mentally and emotionally to be able to undergo
any type of trial for the sake of Allah. A Muslim should use all of the means
at his disposal to improve and strengthen himself. This would include, as noted
above, finding one’s local mosque and clinging to the best people who are
living their lives according to the Quran and Sunnah.

This also includes exerting oneself
to increase one’s knowledge of Islam. This can be done by attending lectures in
the mosque, reading books and accessing other sources of knowledge. Nowadays,
in English, for example, there is a great amount of information available to
the convert. Unfortunately, not everything that is said or written about Islam
is of the same quality or level of trustworthiness. It is extremely difficult
to sift through the large quantity of material available today. Some
booksellers, though, do try to be selective concerning the material that they
sell. A couple of the better booksellers would be www.darussalam.com and
www.al-basheer.com. Some websites also have very good material about Islam. One
may explore, for example, www.whyislam.org, www.islamway.com
or www.usc.edu/dept/MSA.

Finally, every Muslim should
continually turn to Allah and ask Allah for guidance and to be confirmed upon
the Straight Path. A Muslim is required to recite soorah al-Faatihah at
least seventeen times a day in his prayers. In this soorah, one prays to
Allah, “Guide us to the Straight Path.” This
supplication includes both being shown the Straight Path as well as being helped
to remain along that Straight Path. Furthermore, the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him)
taught the Muslim Nation a very important
supplication. The Companion Anas narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him)
would make the following supplication often, “O [Allah,] the One who Turns the Hearts, confirm my
heart upon Your religion.”

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