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Acts of Worship New Muslims

What One Should Do after Pronouncing the Shahadah

By Abdul-Rahman Al Sheha

After pronouncing the Shahadah, it is from the Sunnah that a person do the following things:

It is recommended that one perform a complete bath (ghusl) with pure water a

What One Should Do after Pronouncing the Shahadah

It is recommended that one perform a complete bath (ghusl).

nd then perform a prayer consisting of two rak`ahs. In a hadith, a person named Thumamah Al-Hanafi was taken captive while he was a disbeliever. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would repetitively approach him saying:

“What do you say, O Thumamah?” He would say, “If you decide to kill me, you would be killing (in right) because I have killed; if you let me free, you would be letting free one who shows gratitude; and if you desire wealth, we will give you what you please.” The Companions of the Prophet liked to ransom captives, and so they said, “What would we gain if we killed him?” So finally one day, the Prophet decided to set (Thumamah) free, and [upon that] he accepted Islam. The Prophet untied him and sent him to the walled garden of Abu Talhah, commanding him to take a complete bath (ghusl). He performed a complete bath and prayed to rak‘ahs, and the Prophet said, “Your brother’s Islam is sincere.” (Sahih ibn Khuzaimah)

A Complete Bath (Ghusl)

The Intention (Niyyah). One must intend in his heart that he is performing ghusl to remove himself from a major state of impurity – whether janabah (a spiritual state of impurity which one enters after having sexual intercourse, or after ejaculation of men or the release of orgasmic fluid for women), menstruation or postpartum bleeding – without uttering such intention vocally.

Mentioning the Name of Allah. One should say, ‘Bismillah’ (In the Name of Allah).

He should wash his hands, and then his private parts removing the filth.

Next, he should perform a complete ablution (wudu’) as he would for the Prayer. He may delay washing his feet until the end of his ghusl.

He should pour (at leas) three handfuls of water on his head, running his fingers through his hair and beard so that water reaches the roots of his hair and scalp.

Then he should pour water over the rest of his body, rubbing it, beginning with the right side and then the left. He should take care that water reaches his armpits, ears, navel, and in between the folds of the skin if he were fat, for these folds of flesh which form in the obese prevent water from reaching the areas of skin concealed within the folds, and thus may remain dry. He should then wash his feet if he had not already done so while making wudu’ (before performing the ghusl). `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported:

“When Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) would perform ghusl due to sexual intercourse, he would first wash his hands, then pour water with his right hand into his left, washing his private parts. After that he would perform wudu’ as he would for the Prayer, and then take water and rub it in to the roots of his hair with his fingers. (Lastly) he would wash his feet.” (Muslim)

Ghusl becomes obligatory after one of the following things:

1- Ejaculation, whether the semen of men or the fluid released by women upon having an orgasm, due to desire, nocturnal emission, or the like.

2- Sexual intercourse, even if it does not result in ejaculation.

3- Following the cease of one’s menses, and

4- Following postpartum bleeding.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “How to Become a Muslim”.

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FEATURED New Muslims

The Qur’an and Social Stability

The Qur'an and Social Stability

First of all, the Qur’an gives us the main objective of our existence.

 

When we talk about understanding the Qur’an, we talk about the Angels asking Allah in Surat Al-Baqarah: “Will You place upon it (the world) one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood… ?” (Al-Baqarah 2:30)

This is one of the jobs of the Qur’an: to make society civil. The opposite of spilling blood and oppression and sin is to live a civil life. So, one of the objectives of the Qur’an is a social-political reality of stability in society.

That’s why many of the great scholars, such as Ibn Taymiyah, Imam Ash-Shatibi, Sheikh `Abdullah ibn Bayyah, said that the entire Islamic legislative system came for the benefit of the servants of Allah; to make life good for us. That’s why Allah said in the Qur’an: “Those people who believe and do righteousness, We are going to give them a good life”. (An-Nahl 16:97)

Now specifically, we want to talk about how we should understand the Qur’an in the concept of our lives. What does the Qur’an do for us?

First of all, the Qur’an gives us the main objective of our existence. And those of you who studied philosophy and other similar disciplines, this is what people talk about all the time. Subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah), I went to the library the other day and you can find countless books on the purpose of human beings. Why are we here? What’s our purpose? What’s our cause?

Allah is Al-`Alim (the All Knowing), Al-Hakeem (the Most Wise) and whenever Allah mentions these attributes, He emphasizes that He is the One Who is Knowledgeable and He has wisdom in His knowledge. In one verse of the Qur’an Allah identified the purpose of humanity; the reason that we’re here, the objective of life. Allah said:

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

Our purpose is `ibadah (worship); to worship Allah. In one verse! There’s no need for a long discourse on this. We have been created to worship.

Maybe in your classes, especially the classes that you’re taking in philosophy, you have some atheists and maybe someone would say to you: ‘Well, I don’t believe in this. I don’t believe that we’re here to be servants’.

Tell them: ‘Okay, don’t use the restroom. Don’t sleep. Don’t eat. Don’t get tired. Don’t pick your nose when nobody’s looking. Don’t blink your eyes’.

They’re going to tell you: ‘I can’t. I cannot do that’.

‘Yes, because you are the slave of something. You are enslaved’.

They’re going to say: ‘Oh, this is physics’.

’You can call it what you want to call it, man. We call it enslavement. Stephen Hawking calls it physics. But we call it `ibadah.’

Allah said everything is going to submit to Allah whether by choice or by force -force meaning in the physical realm of life, not in the intellectual realm:

And whoever is in the heavens and the earth makes obeisance to Allah only, willingly and unwillingly, and their shadows too at morn and eve. (Ar-Ra`d 13:15)

So the Qur’an identified the purpose of creation. And there are many logical arguments mentioned in the Qur’an as to why human beings have been created for this purpose.

We should know that in the Qur’an Allah made this `ibadah comprehensive when He said:

Say, ‘Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds’. (Al-An`am 6:162)

This is the purpose of our existence; to be the servants of Allah.

Why? Because if somebody is not the servant of Allah, what will they be? They will be the servant of something else.

I remember, subhan Allah, before I was Muslim I used to be a member of the Bloods and I came into a swap meet wearing all my red and stuff, with my boys. And we ran into these Muslim guys, you know with big turbans and beards, in Oklahoma of all places. So, I went to this brother and I said: ‘You, what’s up, man?’ (I don’t talk like that anymore, al-hamdulillah, thanks to Allah)

So, he responded to me and said: ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ And I was amazed, thinking, ‘This foreign cat can really speak English’. Little did I know that that guy was from Brooklyn, NY. He was an American. And subhan Allah he started giving me da`wah (call to Islam).

He said: ‘You see that money you have in your pocket from selling dime bags? You see that pager you have? You see that car you drive with the Dayton and the beats? You see these girls you’re trying to rap on? All of this is your ilah’.

I said to him: ’What’s an ilah?’

He said: ‘Your god’.

I said: ‘You’re right. You’re correct, this is my god’. At that time, if somebody scratched my car I’d put a cap in their…foot. If somebody tried to talk to my girl we were going to go outside. I said: ‘These are the emotions that should be attached to a deity’.

He said: ‘Exactly, and this is the message of Islam. To attach these emotions, as well as physical actions, to the one who deserves it. La ilaha illa Allah (there is no god but God)’.

So Islam identified this purpose in our lives for us. For thirteen years in Makkah, this was the message of the Qur’an: submission to and worship of the One Who deserves to be worshiped.

The other thing that we should know about the Qur’an is that it is comprehensive. And in university you’re going to be pounded with something called secularism, maybe directly or indirectly. But it will be implanted into your hard-drive. If you use anti-virus it will not work. You have to use the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

This is our anti-virus system. When something comes in to us, and it doesn’t fit our understanding of the world around us, we apply the anti-virus system of the Qur’an. But if we’re not reading the Qur’an, if we’re not studying the Qur’an, if we’re not thinking about the Qur’an, it’s the same as if you leave your computer open without ever using anti-virus on it. What’s going to happen to your computer after six months? So, subhan Allah, how many of us for many years have not used the anti-virus system of the Qur’an? How many? There are so many of us.

Do we have a day-to-day relationship with the Qur’an? Do we have a monthly relationship with the Qur’an? Do we have a yearly relationship with the Qur’an? If not, we are going to be infected cognitively and eventually it will affect al-jawarih (the limbs).

Look at the Qur’an. You’re going to find penal law in the Qur’an. For example, Allah mentioned in the Qur’an that if somebody kills someone you have the right to blood money, or that they should also be killed according to the government system: “O you who believe! The law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder”. (2:178)

We have in the Qur’an inheritance (4:11). We have in the Qur’an charity (zakah). We have in the Qur’an family issues: for example, for our brothers, how did Allah order us to live with women? He said to live with women in a nice, nice way (4:19).

Even bringing up children is mentioned in the Qur’an. One page of Surat Luqman is dedicated to raising children. Allah says: “Oh you who believe, protect yourselves and your families from the hellfire…” (66:6).

Even fun is mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah said: “In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice” (Yunus 10:58). Every aspect of life has been covered in the Qur’an, maybe not in specifics. Because the Qur’an does not deal with specifics, it deals with general principles.

Like, for example, the verse where Allah said to live with your wife nicely. Allah didn’t say: ’Buy her a Gucci handbag’. Allah didn’t say: ‘Bring her roses’. Allah didn’t say: ‘Bring her these clothes’. Why didn’t Allah specify?

Because not every woman is the same. Maybe some women don’t like roses (I haven’t met one yet!) Maybe some women don’t like Gucci (possibly). So Allah left it open with a general principle, ’Live with your families nicely’. Because niceness is wide, and everybody has their own things that they like. The Qur’an gave general principles, very rarely does it deal with specifics; it left the specifics to the Sunnah of the Prophet.

We see the Qur’an is comprehensive, it addresses the individual, it addresses the family, it addresses the social system (the society), it addresses the state, and it even addresses the nation. If you want to know how to build a nation, go to the story of Moses and you’ll find five periods in which a nation is built: that he took them from Egypt when they were nothing, then they went to the next phase. It’s interesting; Allah sent the older people to the desert for forty years to get them out of the way and then brought the youth in to bring out the nation. Then after a battle and struggle you had the birth of Bani Israel (Children of Israel).

Being a just leader is also mentioned in the Quran. Why do you think in the 18th chapter we see the story of Dhul Qarnayn (18:83-98)? Why, in many Muslim countries, do the presidents of those countries not want the quraa’ (those who recite Qur’an) to read these verses about Dhul Qarnayn?  Because it’s going to remind them about being just rulers.

Everything is addressed in the Qur’an. Allah says:

We have not neglected in the Book a thing. (Al-An`am 6:38)

Nothing has been left out of the Book of Allah. That’s why they used to say that the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet), even if they lost the string on their camel, they would go to the Qur’an for the answer. Us, we have to wait until our professor comes and says: ‘Well, you know Abdul it looks like you’re going to get a D’. This is our relationship with the Qur’an.

Whereas the Companions of the Prophet, for the most minute, insignificant problems they would refer to the Qur’an. As Allah mentioned in Surat An-Nisaa’: “…return back to Allah and His Messenger…” (An-Nisaa’4:83)

So how can you return back to Allah, now? It’s by going to the Qur’an.

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Source: suhaibwebb.com

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His Life New Muslims

Muhammad: The First Years of His Message

By: Khalid Muhammad Khalid

Logic and reason were – and still are- the best proof of the truth of Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he said, “I am Allah’s Messenger.” It does not appeal to good logic or to sound reason that a man who lived such a good life lies about Allah.

Early believers who hastened to believe in his message had such a relation with him after their guidance from Allah, which is the best evidence of logic and reason.

We see Muhammad (peace be upon him) before his message, and we see him after his message. We see him in his cradle, and we see him shrouded by death. But, have we seen any contradiction or inconsistency in all his life? Never!

Truth & Eminence

Let us now approach the first years of his message. Those were years one rarely finds an equal to in the annals of history for the constancy, truth, and eminence. Those were the years which revealed, more than any others, all the facets of the teacher and guide of all humanity. Those were years that opened the living book of his life and heroism and, more than any other years, represented the cradle of his miracles.

Throughout those years, the Messenger of Allah was alone. He left all he possessed of comfort, security, and settled life. He approached the people with what they were not familiar, or rather with what they detested. He approached them and directed his words to their reasons, and it is a difficult task for a person who directs his speech to the minds of people instead of their feelings.

The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad did not only do that, since the consequence of addressing the mind might be bearable if you are standing within the circle of common conventions and common aspirations. But when you call them towards a distant future which you perceive but they do not, which you live in and they are not aware of, it is a difficult task.

Indeed, when you address their minds and rise to destroy the essence of their lives from the base, though you do that in a sincere, honest way and not urged by a certain purpose or glory, it is a risk which cannot be taken except by the leaders of the righteous people and messengers.

The Messenger (peace be upon him) was the hero and great master of that situation. The form of worship at that time was worshiping idols, whose rites were observed as a religion. The Messenger (PBUH) did not turn to any maneuvers or intrigues. The unpaved road and the heavy burden would have been good excuses if he had used his brilliant mind to prepare them for the word “monotheism” instead of surprising them with it.

He was able and it was his right to prepare to isolate the community from its idol-gods which had been handed down from generation to generation for centuries. He could have started by going around the issue to avoid as much as possible a direct confrontation he knew would bestir all the envy of his people and draw upon them all their weapons against him.

The Core Message

Yet, he did not. This illustrates that he was a Messenger. He heard a divine voice within him telling him to rise, and he did, and telling him to deliver the message, and he did so without the force of  weapons and without fleeing! He confronted them from the first instant with the essence of the message and the core of the case: “O people, I am the Messenger of Allah unto you, to worship Him and not to set partners with Him. These idols are intellectual falsehood. They are of no harm or benefit to you”.

From the very beginning he faced them with such clear and plain words, and from the very beginning he faced the severe struggle which he had to undergo his departure from life!

Or were the early believers in need of a prompting power to support the Prophet!

What awakened conscience would not be stirred by such a rare and unique scene! It was the scene of a man known to the people to have full intellectual power and immaculate behavior, standing alone, facing his people with a call which could bring mountains down. Words were issuing forth from his heart and lips, obedient and superb, as if in them lay all the power, will, and design of the future, as if it were fate announcing its proclamation!

But perhaps this was the prompting of a good spirit, after which Muhammad (peace be upon him) would worship his Lord as he liked, leaving the deities of his people in their place and leaving his community’s religion alone.

If such a thought occurred to some minds at that time, Muhammad (peace be upon him) soon dissipated it. He made it quite clear to the people that he was a Messenger and had to convey the message, that he could not be silent nor turn into himself after being guided by the truth and enlightenment.

Unwavering Will

All the powers of the world and nature could not have silenced him or stopped him because it was Allah Who made him speak and move and Who guided his footsteps.

The Quraysh’s reaction came as swift as flames stirred by a violent wind. Troubles began to be wreaked upon a soul unaccustomed to anything but absolute grace. The Messenger then began to teach his first lessons with utmost mastery and amazing loyalty.

The image of this scene is paramount in all places and at all times, as well as in history. Those with an awakened conscience in Makkah were pleased, filled with admiration, and came closer. They beheld a lofty and majestic man. They did not know whether his neck had become longer until it was able to touch the sky or the sky had come down to crown his head. They beheld loyalty, steadfastness and eminence.

However, the best scene they beheld was on the day when the noblemen of the Quraysh went to Abu Talib saying, “Verily, we cannot tolerate a person who insults our fathers, mocks our dreams, and finds fault with our deities. You either stop him or we fight both of you until one of the parties is destroyed.”

Abu Talib sent a message to his nephew saying, “My nephew, your people have approached me and talked about your affairs. You have to think of me and yourself and not burden me with what I cannot endure.”

What then was the attitude of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)?

The only man who had stood with him seemed to be abandoning him, or rather seemed unable to confront the Quraysh who sharpened all their teeth.

The Messenger did not hesitate in his reply, and his determination did not waver. No! He did not even search for the words to show his tenacity. It was already there, efficiently rising to deliver one of his most significant lessons to the whole of humanity and to dictate its highest principles.

Thus he spoke: “O uncle, by Allah, if they put the sun on my right and the moon on my left in order to abandon this matter until it is manifested by Allah or I perish by it, I would never abandon it!” Peace be upon you, O Prophet of Islam, you who were colossal among men, and your words were colossal. Abu Talib thereupon restored his courage and the courage of his forefathers at once, clasped the right hand of his nephew with his two hands, and said, “Say what you like, for, by Allah, I will never force you to do anything at all.”

Muhammad (peace be upon him) then did not depend on his uncle for protection and security, though his uncle was capable of that, but he was the one bestowing security, protection and steadfastness on people around him.

Any honest person who beholds a scene like that cannot but hasten to love, be loyal to, and believe in that Messenger.

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The article is excerpted from the book “Men Around the Messenger”, which is a translation based on Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s celebrated work in Arabic “Rijal Hawla Ar-Rasul” which represents the real inspirational stories of sixty-four Companions of the Prophet.

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Acts of Worship New Muslims

The Obligatory Acts of Wudu’ (the Ablution)

By: Sayyid Saabiq

Wudu’ (ablution) has certain components which, if not fulfilled according to the correct Islamic procedures, make one’s ablution void.

The Obligatory Acts of Wudu’ (the Ablution)

Washing the face involves “pouring”” or “running” water from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the jaws.

1- Intention

This is the desire to do the action and to please Allah by following His command. It is purely an act of the heart, for the tongue (verbal pronouncement, and so on) has nothing to do with it.

To pronounce it is not part of the Islamic law. That the intention is obligatory is shown in the following: `Umar related that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Every action is based on the intention (behind it), and everyone shall have what he intended” (Al-Bukhari, An-Nasa’i, Ibn Majahh, At-Tirmidhi)

2- Washing the face

This involves “pouring” or “running” water from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the jaws, and from one ear to the other.

3- Washing the arms to the elbow

The elbows must be washed, for the Prophet, upon whom be peace, did so.

4- Wiping the head

This means to wipe one’s head with his hand. It is not sufficient just to place the hand on the head or to touch the head with a wet finger. The apparent meaning of the Qur’anic words, “…and wipe over your heads…” (Al-Ma’idah 5:6) does not imply that all of the head needs to be wiped. It has been recorded that the Prophet used to wipe his head three different ways:

1- Wiping all of his head. ‘Abdullah ibn Zayd reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, wiped his entire head with his hands. He started with the front of his head, then moved to the back, and then returned his hands to the front. (the group)

2- Wiping over the turban only. Said `Amru ibn Umayyah, “I saw the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) wipe over his turban and shoes.” (Ahmad, Al-Bukhari and Ibn Majah).

Bilal reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Wipe over your shoes and head covering.” (Ahmad) `Umar once said, “May Allah not purify the one who does not consider wiping over the turban to be purifying.” Many hadiths have been related on this topic by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others. Most of the scholars agree with them.

Wiping over the front portion of the scalp and the turban

Al-Mughirah ibn Shu`bah said that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, made ablution and wiped over the front portion of his scalp, his turban and his socks. (Muslim)

There is, however, no strong hadith that he wiped over part of his head, even though Al-Ma`idah: apparently implies it. It is also not sufficient just to wipe over locks of hair that proceed from the head or along the sides of the head.

Washing the feet and the heels

This has been confirmed in mutawatir (continuous) reports from the Prophet (peace be upon him) concerning his actions and statements. Ibn ‘Umar said, “The Prophet lagged behind us in one of our travels. He caught up with us after we had delayed the afternoon prayer. We started to make ablution and were wiping over our feet, when the Prophet said, ‘Woe to the heels, save them from the Hell-fire,’ repeating it two or three times.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Needless to say, the preceding obligations are the ones that Allah has mentioned in. (Al-Ma’idah)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s translated book “Fiqh Us Sunnah”.

 

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Learn the Qur’an in Arabic, Get Rewarded: How?

 By Amy Klooz

It can be intimidating for a new Muslim to be told that the Qur’an has to be read in Arabic when he or she can’t make heads or tails of the Arabic script in the first place. So learning not just letters but pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary seems a daunting task.

Do they know the blessings they are missing out on, that they can't even read the Qur’an in the original Arabic?

Do they know the blessings they are missing out on, that they can’t even read the Qur’an in the original Arabic?

But if I may say so, it is one of the more rewarding endeavors in which a person can dedicate his time. And in actuality, it’s not as difficult as it might seem at the start.

In fact, throughout the Qur’an, Allah describes Arabic and the Qur’an as easy:

So, (O Muhammad), We have only made the Qur’an easy in the Arabic language that you may give good tidings thereby to the righteous and warn thereby a hostile people. (Maryam 19:97)

Verily, We have made this (Qur’an) easy, in thy tongue, in order that they may give heed. (Ad-Dukhan 44:58)

And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember? (Al-Qamar 54:17)

So before we start complaining about it being hard, we should remember that Allah (the Lord of the Worlds) is making it easy for us; making it easy to learn to read Arabic, to speak it, and to understand it in the Qur’an.

Now, for some people the motivation for learning Arabic is more to learn spoken Arabic, perhaps to communicate with Arab Muslims, maybe new family members. In that case, I can’t promise it will be as easy, but the person whose intention is solely for the sake of Allah, to learn the Qur’an, I know will have the help of Allah.

I think it’s sad that to see Muslims who have had years of opportunities to learn and still haven’t made any progress regarding the Arabic language.

Do they know the blessings they are missing out on, that they can’t even read the Qur’an in the original Arabic?

Moreover, I know many converts struggle in trying to memorize the Qur’an, and we know from a hadith that Allah will reward their struggle. But for years, they go by having memorized only one or two surahs (chapters)!

Is it necessary to spend hours listening to audio over and over and over to try to pick up the sounds?

For anyone who wants to start memorizing more Qur’an, I would say they should focus their energy on learning to read Arabic. I can say from my own experience that memorizing became much faster, easier, and fulfilling, once I could read the Arabic. Sounds became words, words became phrases and phrases took on meaning. Being able to read the Qur’an in Arabic, while trying to memorize it, can only facilitate memorization.

So I have come to the opinion that one essential component of any program for helping new Muslims must be helping them to learn the Arabic language–not for speaking, not for conversation, but to start reading the Qur’an. And the minimum responsibility should be to teach them the letters–recognition and pronunciation–and proper recitation of the Qur’an.

A class for new Muslims to teach Arabic, starting with letters, should actively involve the students reading writing words as soon as they know the relevant letters. Seeing letters on a board or in a book is not enough to learn them.

Worksheets, tests and quizzes are good motivational tools to keep the students practicing the letters consistently. Consistency is the only way to make it stick constant use.

For students trying to learn the Arabic alphabet, flashcards are an exceptionally useful tool. Correcting the pronunciation requires a teacher with a good ear and lots of practice. The articulation of some letters is an acquired skill children can learn easily, but with dedication adults can become equally proficient and should not be deterred because a letter is difficult or not present in their native language.

But a person cannot stop their Arabic after learning the letters. They must progress immediately to learning tajweed (rules of Qur’anic recitation). This is to correct and improve their articulation, and to help them begin in reciting Qur’an.

When able to actually read and recite the Qur’an even without understanding, a person is at least establishing a connection with the Qur’an, and is consistently practicing the Arabic already learnt.

This ‘practice‘ keeps the knowledge (of the alphabet, articulation, tajweed, etc.) in the front of a person’s mind, building a skill that will undoubtedly brighten his or her heart and mind. It is a skill that opens up the Qur’an, and opens the heart to the Qur’an.

So I would suggest for new Muslims who haven’t started learning any Arabic yet, to make it a priority. And for anyone involved in educational programs for new Muslims, to incorporate some Arabic into those programs to help our communities build and strengthen their relationship with the Qur’an.

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Islam: Guidance to the Straight Path

Description of the Straight Path

Religious guidance is the greatest gift that a person can possess. It is something that we do not control or own, but rather it is bestowed upon us.

Muslims plead to be guided to the straight path at least seventeen times a day while reciting Surat Al-Fatihah (the first chapter of the Qur’an) in the five daily prayers. How many of us have reflected on the nature of this guidance and the path that we are supposed to be upon?

“Guide us” (Ihdina)

In Arabic the word hidayah does not simply mean guidance, but it means to guide gently. The word “gift” (hadiyyah) in Arabic also comes from the same root letters as the word for guidance (hidayah). Religious guidance is the greatest gift that a person can possess. It is also something that we do not control or own, but rather it is bestowed upon us in an act of infinite mercy and grace of Allah (Exalted is He).

Notice how it is in the plural- not ‘guide me’ but “guide us”. This instills in us a sense of brotherhood by making this request on behalf of fellow Muslims, especially as we stand in prayer as a group.

Types of Hidayah Mentioned in the Qur’an

There are four types of hidayah mentioned in the Qur’an, according to (Ibn Al-Qayyim).

1- General hidayah that is given to all creation. This type of guidance and knowledge is given by Allah to all created things. By this guidance, animals, plants and even inanimate objects fulfill the purpose for which they were created. This also includes the general intellect, wits and inherent intuitive knowledge given to all responsible beings regardless of their faith. This is referred to in the following verse:

He said, “Our Lord is He Who gave each thing its form and then guided (it)”. (Ta-Ha 20:50)

2- Hidayah that is in the form of explanation and education by way of defining the two paths of good and evil. It is when someone guides you by explaining that which is good and warns you from that which is evil according to Islam. This is the type of hidayah referred to in this verse::

And indeed, (O Muhammad), you guide to a straight path. (Ash-Shura 42:52)

3- Hidayah that is tawfiq (a specific type of divine guidance) and inspiration (ilham) from Allah to be guided to the truth of iman (faith), Islam (submission), etc. The following verses refer to this type.

…Thus does Allah leave astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. (Al-Muddaththir 74:31)

No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (At-Taghabun 64:11)

4- Hidayah that is in the next life, by which one shall be guided to Paradise.

And We will have removed whatever is within their breasts of resentment, (while) flowing beneath them are rivers. And they will say, “Praise to Allah, who has guided us to this”. (Al-A`raf 7:43)

Each one of the above types of hidayah has a sequential connection and relationship. Without the first level of guidance you will not have the capacity to attain the second and without the second you cannot attain the third and fourth levels.

We have absolutely no power to guide anyone using any of the above types of guidance except for the second type of hidayah that is explanation and education.  This type of guidance is what is referred to in the following verses.

And indeed, (O Muhammad), you guide to a straight path. (Ash-Shura 42:52)

You are only a warner, and for every people is a guide. (Ar-Ra`d 13:7)

The remaining types of guidance, particularly the third type which is tawfiq from Allah to have iman, are what are referred to in the following verse of the Qur’an, again addressing the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

Indeed, (O Muhammad), you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the (rightly) guided. (Al-Qasas 28:56)

In other words even the Prophets cannot guide whom they choose to become believers in the sense of actually putting faith in a person’s heart.  They can only guide in terms of explanation, exhortation, clarification and instruction regarding the truth.

The first lesson here is that we should seek guidance in every matter with Allah first and foremost before turning to others. Secondly, it should humble those of us who are inviting or ‘guiding’ others to Islam to acknowledge and internalize the fact that we have no real power over this matter, and that true guidance is the sole dominion of Allah, the ‘turner of the hearts’.

However, that should not make us despair of the work we do, for which our reward is with Allah. But rather it should increase our confidence in inviting others knowing that the result is not dependent on ‘my da`wah’ or speech, which is full of weakness and defects, but is in the hands of Allah Who can instantly change the hearts of the most wicked and tyrannical into the most pure and righteous.

The Ten Levels of Guidance

A Muslim may question why he or she has to ask for guidance at least seventeen times a day whilst they have already been guided to Islam. Scholars have explained that it is because firstly we ask for constancy (thabat) on guidance and secondly because there are so many levels and aspects of guidance that we are in need of in every detail of our daily life.

The following will help to clarify. For example, there are a further ten levels of guidance that need to be attained for one to be truly guided. (Ibn Al-Qayyim)

Therefore one should bear in mind when asking for guidance that one is asking Allah to:

1- Be granted guidance of knowledge and clarity, in order for one to know and reach the truth.

2- For the capacity to be guided

3- Make one desirous of guidance

4- Make one act upon the guidance

5- Make one remain steadfast on guidance

6- Remove all barriers and obstructions that impede guidance

7- Be granted a distinctive and detailed level of guidance on the path itself and its stations

8- Be granted sight of one’s ultimate goal along the path, to be alerted to it so that one can perceive it on the journey, catching sight of it without being blocked from seeing it.

9- Make one aware of one’s own destitution and desperate need for guidance (from Allah) over and above all other necessities.

10- Make one see the two misguided paths that veer off from the path of guidance; firstly the path of the people of wrath- those who intentionally, out of rebellion, turned away from following the truth; secondly the path of the people of misguidance- those who turned away out of ignorance and misguidance. One then sees the straight path upon which are all the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them) along with their followers from the truthful (siddiqeen), the martyrs and the righteous.

We are instructed by Allah to ask for guidance to the straight path (as-sirat al-mustaqim). What then is the nature of this path?

Description of the Straight Path

In the language of the Arabs a path (sirat) needs to possess five qualities for it to be called a sirat. The path needs to be:

1- Straight

2- Easy to travel upon

3- A familiar well-trodden path

4- Wide and spacious

5- Leading one to the desired destination

Since the path that we are asking guidance to is Islam itself, notice and reflect on how these qualities apply to Islam. Islam is straight in that it is a correct and firmly established way, pure and protected from any crookedness or deviation from the truth.  Allah describes those who want to block people on the path of Allah:

…Who averted (people) from the way of Allah and sought to make it (seem) deviant while they were, concerning the Hereafter, disbelievers. (Al-A`raf 7:45)

Islam is also easy as Allah has said:

Allah intends for you ease, and does not want to make things difficult for you, (Al-Baqarah 2:185))

and as the Prophet said, “The deen (Islam/religion) is easy…” (Al-Bukhari).

Allah does not burden a soul beyond its capacity. There will be challenges, temptations and difficulties in living as a Muslim but they are things that we ultimately have the capacity to bear. Everything in Shari`ah (Islamic law) benefits us or wards off harm for us in this world and/or the next.

Islam, which is submission to the commands of Allah, is also a familiar and well-trodden path, the path of all the Prophets and their followers. As Allah says:

And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger – those will be with the ones upon whom Allah has bestowed favour of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous. And excellent are those as companions. (An-Nisaa’ 4:69)

The final, universal revelation of Islam is wide and spacious and accommodates all, regardless of color, race or social status. It is us with our parochial attitudes that restrict the vastness of this path to our favorite ‘saved’ group, way of thinking, sheikh or a specific allegiance that excludes others that Islam hasn’t excluded.

Ibn Majah records that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I have left you on a (wide, spacious) clear (white) path, its night is like its day, whoever deviates from this after me will be destroyed….”

Indeed, the path of Islam leads to the desired destination, which is Allah’s Pleasure gained by obeying Him. Allah says:

So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him – He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path. (An-Nisaa’ 4:175)

You will also notice that the word as-sirat (path) in the surah (chapter) has the definite article “Al”. The definite article is close to the meaning of ‘the’ which renders it ‘the straight path’ in English and has several possible meanings in Arabic. Here it is said that it denotes something definite which is in the mind as well as in reality.

For example, when students waiting for their teacher to arrive say ‘the teacher is late.’ The teacher they are referring to is known amongst them and in their minds they know exactly who they are referring to. In that sense, grammatically, ‘the teacher’ is a definite noun phrase and not an indefinite one. They would not say a teacher is late in this case.

Similarly, in this case, it is a specific and definite known path that we are seeking guidance to. It is the path that Allah has ordained for the people that He has favored, the path that leads to His Pleasure and His Paradise, which is in fact His deen (religion) – besides which nothing is acceptable to Him.

It is said that it is also the path that we intuitively know in the deepest core of our hearts that must exist because as human beings we were affirmed, when we were created, that Allah is our Rabb (Lord).

All praise is to Allah Who has gently guided us to the straight path, described to us with crystal clarity its features and guided us to pray for it every day of our lives.

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Source: suhaibwebb.com

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Acts of Worship New Muslims

How to Offer the Funeral Prayer

funeral-prayer

The imam stands beside the body facing the qiblah at Mecca with the followers behind him in lines.

The prayer to God for the deceased Muslim is a common collective duty (Fard Kifayah). This means that some Muslims should offer this prayer, and when it is offered by some of the Muslims present at the time it is sufficient, and the other Muslims become exempt from responsibility.

– When a Muslim dies, the whole body – beginning with the exposed parts washed in ablution (wudu’ ) – must be washed a few times with soap or some other detergent or disinfectant, and cleaned of all visible impurities. A man washes a man and a woman washes a woman. A woman may wash her husband, and a man or woman may wash young children. During the washing, the washer’s hands should be covered by gloves or cloth, and the private parts of the dead body should be washed without being seen.

When the body is thoroughly clean, it is wrapped in one or more white cotton sheets covering all the parts of the body

– The dead body is then placed on a bier or in a coffin and carried to the place of prayer, a mosque or any other clean premises. The body is put in a position with the face toward the qiblah (direction of Makkah).

– All participants in the prayer must perform an ablution unless they are keeping an earlier one. The imam stands beside the body facing the qiblah at Mecca with the followers behind him in lines.

– The imam raises his hands to the ears declaring the intention in a low voice to pray to God for that particular deceased one, and saying Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest). The worshippers follow the imam’s lead and after him place their right hands over the left ones under the navel as in others prayers

– Then the imam recites in a low voice the “Du’ a Thana’” and Al-Fatihah (the 1st chapter of the Qur’an) only.

– Then he says Allahu Akbar without raising his hands and recites the second part of the Tashahhud:

Allaahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali Muhammadin kamaa sallayta ‘ala Ibraheema wa ‘ala aali Ibraheem. Innaka hameedun majeed. Allaahumma baarik ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali Muhammadin kamaa baarakta ‘ala Ibraheem wa ‘ala aali Ibraheem. Innaka hameedun majeed.” (O Allah, exalt Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as You exalted Ibrahim (Abraham) and the family of Ibrahim. Verily You are full of praise and majesty. O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as You blessed Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. Verily, You are full of praise and majesty.)

– Then he makes the third takbir saying Allahu Akbar without raising the hands and offers a supplication (du`aa’ ) in any suitable words he knows, preferably these

O God! Grant forgiveness to our living and to our dead, and to those who are present and to those who are absent. And to our young and to our old folk, and to our males and to our females. O God! whomsoever You grant to live, from among us, help him to live in Islam, and whomsoever of us You cause to die, help him to die in faith. O God! Do not deprive us of the reward for patience on his loss, and do not make us subject to trial after him.”

– Then the fourth takbir (saying Allahu Akbar) without raising the hands is made followed by the concluding peace greetings right and left as in other prayers. It should be remembered that the worshippers behind in lines follow the lead of the Imam step by step and recite privately the same utterances in low voice.

– After completing the Prayer, the body is carried to the graveyard, there the body is lowered in the grave for burial with the face resting in the direction of Mecca. When lowering the body down these words are said:

“In the name of God and with God, and according to the Sunnah (Traditions) of the Messenger of God upon whom be the blessings and peace of God.”

– Besides these, any other fit prayers may be offered. If the deceased is a child under the age of puberty, the prayer is the same except that after the third Takbeer and instead of that long supplication the worshippers recite these words:

“O God! Make him (or her) our fore-runner, and make him for us a reward and a treasure, and make him for us a pleader, and accept his pleading.”

The whole funeral prayer is offered in the standing position.

Whenever a funeral procession passes by, be it of a Muslim or otherwise, every Muslim should stand out of respect for the dead.

The grave should be built and marked in a simple way. The dead body should be covered with white cotton sheets of standard material. Any extravagance in building the grave or dressing up the body in fine suits or the like is non-Islamic. It is false vanity and a waste of assets that can be used in many useful ways.

The custom of some Muslims of offering a big and costly banquet upon burial of the deceased is also non-Islamic and an irresponsible waste of money and effort that can be of infinite benefit If used otherwise.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s well-known book “Islam in Focus”.

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Noah and His People: The Flood and the Ark

Noah’s Prayer

Noah's ark

When what Allah willed had happened and the unbelievers were drowned, the rain stopped and the water sank away.

Noah stayed with his people for nine hundred and fifty years, calling them to Allah, but his people would not believe. They would not stop worshipping idols. They refused to return to Allah.

How long could Noah wait? How long could he watch the earth and its people being ruined? How long could he put up with his people worshipping stones? How long could he watch them eat from Allan’s provisions while they worshipped something else?

Why did Noah not get angry? He was more patient than anyone else could have been! Nine hundred and fifty years: Glory be to Allah!

Then Allah revealed to Noah: “None of your people will believe except those who have already believed.” (Hud 11:36)

When Noah called his people again, “they said, ’Noah! You have disputed with us and you have disputed often with us, so bring us what you promised us if you are speaking the truth’.” (Hud 11:32)

Noah became angry for Allah and despaired of those people. He called upon Allah not to leave even one of the unbelievers on the earth!

And Noah said: My Lord! Leave not one of the disbelievers in the land. (Nuh 71:26)

The Ark

Allah answered Noah’s prayer and He decided what the fate of the unbelievers would be. All of them would be drowned in a great flood.

Allah wanted to save Noah and the believers. He commanded Noah to build a great ship, and Noah began straightaway.

The unbelievers from his people saw him working busily and they mocked: ‘What is this, Noah? Since when have you become a carpenter? Didn’t we tell you not to sit with the carpenters and ironsmiths and now you have really become a carpenter!

‘Where is this ship going, Noah? Everything about you is unbelievable! Is it going to sail in the sand or climb up the mountains? The sea is a long way from here. Will the jinn carry it or will oxen pull it?‘

Noah heard all that and was patient. He had heard worse things and had been patient. But sometimes he would say to them, “If you mock us, we will mock you as you mock.” (Hud 11:38)

The Flood

The promise of Allah came. We seek refuge with Allah!

It rained and rained until the sky was like a sieve which could not hold the water. Water poured down and gushed up and flowed in until it surrounded the people on every side.

Then Allah revealed to Noah, Take with you those of your people and family who believe.’

Allah revealed to Noah to take with him a pair of every animal and bird, a male and a female, because the flood would cover the earth. Neither man nor beast would be saved from it. Noah did so. With him in the Ark were those of his people who believed in him and a pair of every bird and animal.

The Ark rode with them on waves like mountains. The people outside the Ark climbed onto every high place and every hill, fleeing from Allah’s punishment.

But there is no refuge from Allah except in Him.

Noah’s Son

Noan had a son who was with the unbelievers. Noah saw his son in the flood and said, “‘My son, embark with us and do not be with the unbelievers.’ He said, ‘I will seek refuge on a mountain that will protect me from the water.’

Noah said, ‘Today there is no protector from Allah’s command except for the one to whom He shows mercy.’

The waves came between them and Noah’s son was among the drowned.” (Hud 11: 42, 43)

Noah was sad about his son; How could he not be sad about his own son? He wanted to save him from the Fire on the Day of Judgment since he was not able to save him from the water. The Fire is worse than the water.

The punishment of the Next World is harsher. Did not Allah promise that He would save his family? Yes! And Allah’s promise is true. He wanted to speak to Allah on behalf of his son.

“He Is Not One of Your Family”

Noah called on his Lord and said, ‘My son is part of my family and Your promise is true. You are the most just of those that judge.’ (Hud 11:45)

But Allah does not look at people’s family trees. He looks at their actions. Allah does not accept pleas on behalf of idol-worshippers. The idol-worshipper is not part of a Prophet’s family, even if he is his son.

Allah made Noan aware of that. He said,”Noah, he is not part of your family; he is of evil conduct Do not ask of Me that about which you do not know, I warn you lest you be one of the ignorant.” (Hud 11:46)

Nun became aware and turned to Allah, repentant. He said; “My Lord, I take refuge with You lest I should ask of You something about which i have no knowledge. If you do not forgive me and show mercy to me, I will he among the losers.” (Hud 11:47)

After the Flood

When what Allah willed had happened and the unbelievers were drowned, the rain stopped and the water sank away.

The unbelievers of the people of Noah were destroyed. Neither the heavens nor the earth wept for them. It was said, “Away with the wrong-doing people!“ (Hud 11:44)

The Ark stopped on Mount Judi. It was said, ”Noah, get down in peace.” (Hud 11:48)

Noah and the people of the Ark got down and walked on the earth in peace. Allah blessed the descendants of Noah and they spread in the land and filled the earth.

There were communities among them and there were Prophets and kings among them.

Peace be upon Noah among all beings!

Peace be upon Noah among all the worlds! (As-Saffat 37:79)

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 The article is an excerpt from the author’s Stories of the Prophets, UK Islamic Academy publications.

Read Also:

Prophet Noah’s Call and Message

From Adam to Noah: The Need for Guidance

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ABC's of Islam New Muslims

Worldly Life: Meaning & Purpose

Introduction

‘What is the meaning and purpose of life?’  This is, perhaps, the most important question that has ever been asked.  Throughout the ages, philosophers have considered it to be the most fundamental question.  Scientists, historians, philosophers, writers, psychologists and the common man all wrestle with the question at some point in their lives.

Is Reason a Sufficient Guide?

‘Why do we eat?’  ‘Why do we sleep?’  ‘Why do we work?’  The answers we would get to these questions would be similar.  ‘I eat to live.’  ‘I sleep to rest.’  ‘I work to support myself and my family.’  But when it comes to what the purpose of life is, people are confused.  We see their confusion by the type of answers we receive.  Youths may say, “I live for booze and bikinis.”  The middle aged professional might say, “I live to save enough for a comfortable retirement.”  The old man would probably say, “I’ve been asking why I’m here most of my life.  If there’s a purpose, I don’t care anymore.”  And perhaps the most common answer will be, “I really don’t know!”

How, then, do you discover the purpose of life?  We basically have two options.  The first is to let ‘human reason’ – the celebrated achievement of the Enlightenment – guide us.  After all, the Enlightenment gave us modern science based on careful observation of the natural world.  But have post-Enlightenment philosophers figured it out?  Camus described life as “absurd”; Sartre spoke of “anguish, abandonment and despair.”  To these Existentialists, life has no meaning.  Darwinians thought the meaning of life was to reproduce.  Will Durant, capturing the predicament of postmodern man, wrote, “Faith and hope disappear; doubt and despair are the order of the day… it is not our homes and our treasuries that are empty, it is our ‘hearts’.”  When it comes to meaning of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing.  Will Durant, the most noted philosopher of the last century, and Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, both wrote separate books titled ‘The Meaning of Life.’[1] They wrote to the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers, politicians, and intellectuals of their time in the world, asking them, “What is the meaning of life?”  Then they published their responses.  Some offered their best guesses, some admitted that they just made up a purpose for life, and others were honest enough to say they were clueless.  In fact, a number of famous intellectuals asked the authors to write back and tell them if the purpose of life was discovered!

Let the Heavens “Speak”

If the philosopher has no definitive answer, perhaps the answer can be found within the heart and mind that we ourselves possess.  Have you ever looked at the open sky on a clear night?  You will see an incalculable number of stars.  Look through a telescope and you will see gigantic spiral galaxies, beautiful nebula where new stars are being formed, the remnants of ancient supernova explosion created in a star’s final death throes, the magnificent rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.  Is it possible not to be moved by the sight of these countless stars in the night sky shining like diamond dust on a bed of black velvet?  Multitudes of stars beyond stars, stretching back; becoming so dense that they appear to merge into delicate wisps of sparkling mist.  The grandeur humbles us, thrills us, inspires a craving for investigation, and calls for our contemplation.  How did it come into being?  How are we related to it, and what is our place in it?  Can we hear the heavens “speak” to us?

“In the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day, there are surely signs for all who are endowed with insight, who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: “O our Lord, You have not created this without meaning and purpose.  Limitless art You in Your glory…” (Quran 3:190-191)

 

 

When we read a book, we accept that an author exists.  When we see a house, we accept that a builder exists.  Both of these things were made with a purpose by those who made them.  The design, order, and complexity of the universe as well as the world around us are evidence of the existence of a supreme intelligence, a perfect designer.  All the heavenly bodies are controlled by precise laws of physics.  Can there be laws without a lawmaker?  Rocket scientist Dr. von Braun said: “The natural laws of the universe are so precise that we have no difficulty building a spaceship to fly to the moon and can time the flight with the precision of a fraction of a second.  These laws must have been set by somebody.”  Paul Davies, a professor of physics, concludes that man’s existence is not a mere quirk of fate.  He states: “We are truly meant to be here.”  And he says regarding the universe: “Through my scientific work, I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact.  There must, it seems to me, be a deeper level of explanation.”  The universe, the earth, and living things on the earth all give silent testimony to an intelligent, powerful Creator.

 

 

 

Figure 2 Central region of the Trifid Nebula taken by the Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, June 5, 2002.  Located in the constellation of Sagittarius, the beautiful nebula is a much-photographed, dynamic cloud of gas and dust where stars are being born.  One of the massive stars at the nebula’s center was born approximately 100,000 years ago.  The nebula’s distance from the Solar System is generally agreed to be somewhere between 2,200 to 9,000 light years away.

Image courtesy of Gemini Observatory Image/GMOS Commissioning Team.

If we were made by a Creator, then surely that Creator must have had a reason, a purpose, in creating us.  Thus, it is important that seek to know God’s purpose for our existence.  After coming to the realization of this purpose, we can choose whether we want to live in harmony with it.  But is it possible to know what is expected from us left to our own devices without any communication from the Creator?  It is natural that God Himself would inform us of this purpose, especially if we are expected to fulfill it..

 

Alternative to Speculation: Ask God

This brings us to the second option: the alternative to speculation about the meaning and purpose of life is revelation.  The easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the inventor.  To discover the purpose of your life, ask God.

 

Can Christianity Answer the Question?

In Christianity, the meaning of life is rooted in faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in finding Jesus as Savior.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  However, the proposition is not without serious problems.  First, if this is the purpose of creation and the precondition for eternal life, why was it not taught by the prophets to all the nations of the world?  Second, had God turned into man close to the time of Adam all mankind would have had an equal chance to eternal life, unless those before the time of Jesus had another purpose for their existence!  Third, how can people today who have not heard of Jesus fulfill the Christian purpose of creation?  Naturally, such a purpose is too narrow and goes against divine justice.

The Answer

Islam is the response to humanity’s search for meaning.  The purpose of creation for all men and women for all times has been one: to know and worship God.

The Quran teaches us that every human being is born conscious of God,

“(Remember) when your Lord extracted from the loins of Adam’s children their descendants and made them testify [saying]: ‘Am I not your Lord?’  They said: ‘Yes, we testify to it.’  (This was) in case you say on the Day of Judgment: ‘We were unaware of this.’  Or you say: ‘It was our ancestors who worshipped others besides God and we are only their descendants.  Will you then destroy us for what those liars did?’”(Quran 7:172-173)

The Prophet of Islam teaches us that God created this primordial need in human nature at the time Adam was made.  God took a covenant from Adam when He created him.  God extracted all of Adam’s descendants who were yet to be born, generation after generation, spread them out, and took a covenant from them.  He addressed their souls directly, making them bear witness that He was their Lord.  Since God made all human beings swear to His Lordship when He created Adam, this oath is imprinted on the human soul even before it enters the fetus, and so a child is born with a natural belief in the Oneness of God.  This natural belief is called fitra in Arabic.  Consequently, every person carries the seed of belief in the Oneness of God that lies deeply buried under layers of negligence and dampened by social conditioning.  If the child were left alone, it would grow up conscious of God – a single Creator – but all children are affected by their environment.  The Prophet of God said,

“Each child is born in a state of ‘fitra’, but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian.  It is like the way an animal gives birth to a normal offspring.  Have you noticed any young born mutilated before you mutilate them?”[2]

 

Figure 1 The marvel of life.  An unborn fetus sucking its thumb.

So, just as the child’s body submits to physical laws, set by God in nature, its soul submits naturally to the fact that God is its Lord and Creator.  However, its parents condition it to follow their own way, and the child is not mentally capable of resisting it.  The religion which the child follows at this stage is one of custom and upbringing, and God does not hold it to account for this religion.  When a child matures into an adult, he or she must now follow the religion of knowledge and reason.  As adults, people must now struggle between their natural disposition towards God and their desires in order to find the correct path.  The call of Islam is directed to this primordial nature, the natural disposition, the imprint of God on the soul, the fitra, which caused the souls of every living being to agree that He Who made them was their Lord, even before the heavens and earth were created,

“I did not create the jinn and mankind except for My worship.” (Quran 51:56)

According to Islam, there has been a basic message which God has revealed through all prophets, from the time of Adam to the last of the prophets, Muhammad, may God praise them all.  All the prophets sent by God came with the same essential message:

“Indeed, We have sent a messenger to every nation (saying), ‘Worship God and avoid false gods…’” (Quran 16:36)

The prophets brought the same answer to mankind’s most troubling question, an answer that addresses the yearning of the soul for God.

 

What is Worship?

‘Islam’ means ‘submission’, and worship, in Islam, means ‘obedient submission to the will of God.’

Every created being ‘submits’ to the Creator by following the physical laws created by God,

“To Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and the earth; all obey His will.” (Quran 30:26)

They, however, are neither rewarded nor punished for their ‘submission’, for it involves no will.  Reward and punishment are for those who worship God, who submit to the moral and religious Law of God of their own free will.  This worship is the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by God to mankind.  For example, this understanding of worship was emphatically expressed by Jesus Christ,

“None of those who call me ‘Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

‘Will’ means ‘what God wants human beings to do.’  This ‘Will of God’ is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers.  Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship.  Only when human beings worship their God by submitting to His religious law can they have peace and harmony in their lives and the hope for heaven, just like the universe runs in harmony by submitting to the physical laws set by its Lord.  When you remove the hope of heaven, you remove the ultimate value and purpose of life.  Otherwise, what difference would it really make whether we live a life of virtue or vice?  Everyone’s fate would be the same anyway.

Who Needs Worship?

God is in no need of our worship, it is mankind that needs to worship God.  If no-one were to worship God, it would not take away from His glory in any way, and if all of mankind were to worship Him, it would not add to His glory.  It is we, who are in need of God:

“I need no provision from them, neither do I need that they should feed Me for, surely, God Himself is the Provider of all sustenance, the Possessor of mighty power.” (Quran 51:57-58)

“…But God is Rich, and it is you that are poor…” (Quran 47:38)

How to Worship God: And Why.

God is worshipped by obeying the laws He revealed through the prophets.  For example, in the Bible, Prophet Jesus made obedience to the divine laws the key to paradise:

“If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17).

Also Prophet Jesus is reported in the Bible to have insisted on strict obedience to the commandments, saying:

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

Why do human beings need to worship God by obeying the divinely revealed laws?  The answer is simple.  Obedience to divine law brings peace to this life and salvation in the next.

Divine laws provide human beings a clear code to guide every sphere of human life and interaction.  Since the Creator alone knows best what is best for His creation, His laws protect the human soul, body, and society from harm.  In order for human beings to fulfill their purpose of creation, they must worship God by obeying His commandments.

The False Gods of Modernity

God is Who gives meaning and orientation to life.  On the other hand, modern life lacks a single center, a single orientation, a single goal, a single purpose.  It has no common principle or guideline.

Since Islam considers a god to be an entity that is served out of love, deep respect, and anticipation of reward, one can say that the modern world serves many gods.  The gods of modernity give meaning and context to the life of modern man.

We live in a house of language, and our words and expressions are the windows through which we look out at the world.  Evolution, nationalism, feminism, socialism, Marxism, and, depending on how they are employed, democracy, freedom, and equality can be listed among the indefinable ideologies of modern times.  “Plastic words,” to borrow the words of Uwe Poerksen, a German linguist, have been used to usurp God’s power and authority to shape and define the goal of society, or even of humanity itself.  These words have connotations with a ‘feel good’ aura.  Indefinable words become a limitless ideal.  By making the ideal limitless, unlimited needs are awakened, and once these needs are awakened, they appear to be ‘self-evident.’

As it is easy to fall into the habit of worshipping false gods, people then have no protection against the multiplicity of gods that modern ways of thinking demand that they serve.  The “plastic words” give great power to those ‘prophets’ who speak on their behalf, because they speak in the name of ‘self-evident’ truths, so other people keep silent.  We must follow their authority; the axiomatic pundits who lay down the Law for our health, welfare, well-being, and education.

The window of modernity through which we perceive reality today is marked by cracks, smudges, blind spots, and filters.  It covers the reality.  And the reality is that people have no real need except toward God.  But nowadays, these empty ‘idols’ have become the objects of people’s devotion and worship, as the Quran states:

“Have you not seen the one who takes his desires as his god?…” (Quran 45:23)

Each of these “plastic words” makes other words appear primitive and out-of-date.  ‘Believers’ in idols of modernity are proud of worshipping these gods; friends and colleagues consider them enlightened for doing so.  Those who still insist on holding onto the “old” God can cover up the embarrassment of doing so by worshipping the new ‘modern’ gods along with Him.  Obviously, many people who claim to worship the “old-fashioned” God will twist His teachings in this event, so that He also seems to be telling us to serve these “plastic words.”

The worship of false gods entails the corruption not only of individuals and society, but also of the natural world.  When people refuse to serve and worship God as He has asked them to serve Him, they cannot fulfill the functions for which He has created them.  The result is that our world becomes ever more chaotic, just as the Quran tells us:

“Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea because of what the hands of people have earned.” (Quran 30:41)

Islam’s answer to the meaning and purpose of life fulfills the fundamental human need: a return to God.  However, everyone is going back to God willy-nilly, so the question is not merely going back, but how one goes back.  Will it be in shameful agonizing chains awaiting punishment, or joyful and grateful humility for that which God has promised?  If you await the latter, then through the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, God guides people back to Him in a manner that will ensure their eternal happiness.


Footnotes:

[1] “On the Meaning of Life”  by Will Durant. Pub: Ray Long & Richard R. Smith, Inc. New York 1932 and “The Meaning of Life”  by Hugh S. Moorhead (ed.). Pub: Chicago Review Press, 1988.

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim. The Arabs would cut the ears of camels and the likes as a service to their gods in pre-Islamic times.

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The Prophet’s Guidance for New Muslim Youth

Prophet Muhammad came through with the message of Islam, and his target audience, so to speak, revolved around the youth of the time.

Prophet Muhammad came through with the message of Islam, and his target audience, so to speak, revolved around the youth of the time.

By Maria Zain

For new Muslims, it is vital to read up on how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) kept the teenagers around him in good company, enjoining them in doing good deeds. Embracing Islam can be a life-changing experience.

Some new Muslims come to Islam alone, whereas others revert together with their whole family. If a couple decides to embrace Islam and have young children, it is most likely that their children will also become Muslims. For those with older children, especially those well in their teens, the transition can be trickier.

Some teenagers may very well follow in their parents’ footsteps whole heartedly, others may embrace Islam with a certain amount of wariness and there are probably many others who would prefer not to make the change.

However for family members who decide to come to Islam and who join them on their journey in becoming observing Muslims, it is worth to note the Sunnah on how Prophet Muhammad treated the youth. This will enable the transition to become smoother and more of a positive challenge for the family as a whole.

When Prophet Muhammad was given the first revelation in the cave of Mount Hira’, it was well known that he was 40 years old. As many men at that age, he had reached a certain pinnacle of leadership qualities. Men at the age of forty are often seen running their own corporations and enterprises, have attained successful marriages and raised teenage children.

What differentiates the Prophet’s leadership qualities, though, was that an important majority of followers were at the time new Muslim youth.

In the most important mission of any man’s plight, Prophet Muhammad was commanded to change the mindset of the pagan Arabs, to do away with waylay practices, oppressive behavior, corrupted attitudes, and to embrace Islam as their comprehensive way of life.

Islamic history relays that this was a gruelling attempt at changing the culture of stone-cold pagans who were deeply rooted in their traditions. Prophet Muhammad came through with the message of Islam, and his target audience, so to speak, revolved around the youth of the time.

Anas ibn Malik (may God be pleased with him) was one of the young men who grew very close to the Prophet. Anas mentioned that the Prophet never once uttered a word of disgrace upon him, neither any other member of the youth of society. He had worked for the Prophet and grew up observing and learning through the Prophet’s actions and behavior. Anas was recognized as one of the most fluent narrators of hadiths of his time.

Prophet Muhammad had other young companions who flocked with him like feathers of a bird. He often joked with them, calling ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (may God be pleased with him) ‘AbuTuraab’ (father of the dust), for sleeping on the dusty ground. He was also very close to his family members, in particular his youngest daughter Fatimah, and was known to show his affection for her in public.

On several occasions, when Fatimah entered a room where the Prophet was, he would rush over to her, take her by her hands, kiss her and offer her his seat. Fatimah was also known to reciprocate in kind. But as much as the Prophet kept affectionate and jovial relations with the youth, he continuously moulded them to be the leaders of the future.

There is no doubt that ‘A’ishah, Prophet Muhammad’s wife, rose to the ranks of leadership at a very young age and as she outlived her husband for half a century, she became a teacher like no other woman seen in history. Until this very day, Muslims around the world read of her narrations and regard her with the highest respect as one of the feistiest women of the companions. Another young wife, Hafsah, daughter of Umar, was appointed as the keeper of the Holy Qur’an, a grave responsibility for any youth. This shows that though many companions were teens during the Prophet’s lifetime, adulthood was only a stone-throw away.

 How the Prophet did it?

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was also adamant in protecting the youth in public, honoring their opinions during debates, even against the wisest of Muslims.

‘Ali once narrated that youth between the age of fourteen and twenty-one needed to be befriended – treated as friends. Do we teach the Muslim youth the same way? Do we earn their trust by befriending them, respecting their opinions and helping them through difficulty much like good friends would do? Or do we continue to berate them for their mistakes; chastise them for their ignorance; and ignore them when they are in need, with the excuse that they are just ’troubled teenagers’?

The youth face a plethora of social ills today. From drugs to prostitution, from school drop-outs to poor qualifications; from obsession with pop culture to over-indulgences in peer pressure– it can be difficult for the Muslim youth to stand by Islamic principles with so many distractions surrounding them.

As parents of the youth of this chosen religion, we have to realize that education spans further than the walls of the classroom. The youth surrounding the Prophet were continuously surrounded by adults, not by their peers. They learned hands on how to deal with business transactions, travelling for da`wah (calling to God), teaching those who were illiterate (regardless of age) and engaged in household chores the way adults would do.

The Prophet would have frowned at those who removed the autonomy of the youth in making their own decisions, partaking in society, learning from real life scenarios and exploring their own interests and strengths that will eventually help them excel as adults in the real world. The Prophet was also adamant in protecting the youth in public, honoring their opinions during debates, even against the wisest of Muslims and allowing them to join him on even the most dangerous entourages. The youth surrounding the Prophet were definitely very involved in society.

Parents nowadays should not just categorize their teens as hormonal teenagers. For new Muslims, it is vital to read up on how Prophet Muhammad kept the teenagers around him in good company, always enjoining them in doing good deeds and encouraging them gently to ward off evil.

Embracing Islam as a family may be difficult, especially with elder children in tow, but showing how well they are appreciated within the realm of Islam, reinforces individualism, independence and autonomy in making decisions. The upside of a Muslim family coming together to Islam is that parents and children can learn together and teach each other as they journey along to becoming better Muslims. Even if older children decide not to follow their parents’ choice in faith, they still need to be treated with love and respect in light of the Sunnah, as in time they may open up to the beautiful faith and its stance on the importance of the youth.

Prophet Muhammad recognized the youth as important individuals of society. They were encouraged to learn and grow by participating in business trades, much like Anas ibn Malik; scholarly discussions, much like `Ali; and negotiations across nations, much like Usamah ibn Zayd; who led the Muslim army, including men who were old enough to be his grandfathers, at the tender age of fifteen.

The female youth of the time were not excluded from such responsibility. Ruqayyah (daughter of Prophet Muhammad) co-lead the first emigration to Abyssinia during the worst chapter of oppression upon the Muslims. Asmaa’ (daughter of Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with them all) risked her life during the Prophet’s and Abu Bakr’s plight to Madinah. She could have been killed, but due to her strong upbringing based on love for and fear of God, she took it upon her duty to protect the Prophet and her father when they were being hunted down by the Quraish.

Prophet Muhammad always perused kindness and patience in dealing with youngsters, treating them with respect, valuing their opinions and allowing them autonomy to make their own decisions.

Becoming a Muslim family, together, changes a person’s mindset on how they view teenagers. Instead of individuals who are either too young to make their own decision; or individuals who should be doing homework in order to earn straight A’s that will determine their success; or individuals who should be ‘enjoying’ life through partying and gossiping about celebrities, or being obsessed about reality television stars; the youth should be encouraged to be strong and active members of society.

The youth of today do not face the challenges of the youth of the companions. But they do definitely face a whole suite of fitnah (temptations) and conflicting identities in their own right. There are plenty of ways for the youth to become active members in the community; they just need to be befriended and encouraged by adults who wish to raise them as God-fearing adults rather than allow them to be trapped in the confusion of hormonal changes.

However, this has to be done in accordance with the Sunnah. Prophet Muhammad always perused kindness and patience in dealing with youngsters, treating them with respect, valuing their opinions and allowing them autonomy to make their own decisions.

For new Muslims, it is also important for their teenagers to find comrades of a feather, regardless of age and culture. As long as the new Muslim youth find a strong sense of belonging in Islam and a thriving Muslim community, their priorities as Muslims will be set on the right track and they will be able to achieve the same glory as the youth who surrounded Prophet Muhammad in the golden years of Islam.

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Source: islammessage.com

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