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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Thanksgiving: The Essence of Belief

How does thanksgiving contribute to one’s belief? Is it just a faith requirement or just moral development? How can we reach the state of thankfulness?

The hadith of Jibreel (Angel Gabriel) is considered by most Muslim scholars to be one of the fundamental texts of our religion. It presents, in a comprehensive way, the foundations of Islam.

the essence of Islam

The spiritual path is not a philosophical picnic. It requires action; the action of the heart, the tongue and the limbs.

This is made clear by the fact that the Prophet (blessings and peace upon him) mentions to `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) at the conclusion of the hadith: “’O `Umar! Do you know who the questioner was?’ Umar replied: ‘Allah and His Messenger know best’. The Prophet replied: ‘Verily, it was the Angel Gabriel. He came to teach you your religion’”. (Muslim)

This narration focuses on four things that are essential to our religion: Islam (Muslim practice), Iman (Muslim dogma), ihsan (states of inner excellence) and the Sa`ah (Doomsday).

To rephrase the focal points of this hadith, we can say that Islam is a religion that demands of its adherents that they do something, that they believe something, that they embody something and that they prepare for something. What we do involves the devotional acts that are enjoined by the religion. This is the essence of Islam, in this particular context.

What we believe involves the dogma that we affirm as agreed upon by the scholars who have mastered the prophetic message and distilled from it the essential beliefs whose affirmation is necessary if a person is to be considered a Muslim. This is the essence of iman, again, in the context of the hadith.

The states of being that a believer embodies are illustrated, in the immediate context of the hadith of Gabriel, by the saying of the Prophet: “…that you worship Allah as if you see Him. If you fail to see Him, be mindful that He observes you”. This is the essence of ihsan.

Finally, by living a life, which encompasses in a real way all of the aforementioned elements, we are preparing for the end of things in the world, or Doomsday.

To expound further on the idea of a Muslim embodying something, we can add that this is an aspect of our religion that many Muslims fail to adequately consider. Specifically, the idea that we are to embody the prophetic virtues is lost by many. Those virtues, which the Prophet embodied, are an articulation of the ontological stations he attained to.

In other words, his very being, for example, embodied the station of patience. This ontological reality then manifested itself in his character as he displayed unmatched patience in his dealings with others. This is what ihsan is about.

Imam al-Qushayri, in his Risala, mentions some of the states a believer should strive to embody: repentance or penitence (tawbah); sincere exertion in worship (mujahada); spiritual insularity (khalwah or `uzlah); God-consciousness (taqwa); religious scrupulousness (wara`); worldly detachment (zuhd); silence (samt); fear of God (khawf); hope for God’s Mercy (raja’); sobriety of heart (huzn); suppression of the appetite for food and drink (Ju`); humility (tawadu`); opposing the whims of one’s ego (mukhalafa an-nafs); avoiding envy (hasad); avoiding backbiting (ghaybah); contentment (qana`ah); trusting in Allah (tawakkul); thankfulness (shukr); being certain of divine truths (yaqeen); patience (sabr); being mindful of Allah’s observation of one (muraqabah); being pleased with Allah’s decree (rida); willing servitude to Allah (`ubudiyyah); strong conviction for truth and religion (iradah); consistency (istiqamah); sincerity in all of the relevant realms (ikhlas); honesty (sidq); shyness (haya’); freedom from the weight of worldly engagements (hurriyyah); constant remembrance of Allah (dhikr); concern for others (al-Futuwwa); viewing things in the light of truth (firasa); good character (khuluq); generosity (jud) and many others. (Abi Al-Qasim Al-Qushayri, Al-Risala)

Thanksgiving: How?

One of the loftiest of stations mentioned by Imam Al-Qushayri, and others, is that of thankfulness (shukr). To fully strive for the actualization of this station in our lives we must know its meaning. The linguistic meaning of shukr is from sha-ka-ra, which means an animal attaining to pasture and then fattening on it.

Thus, the Arabs say, sha-ka-tat al-ibilu, meaning the camels attained to pasture and became fat. The expression hisan shakur means a horse that is fattened up by very little fodder. In general, an animal that is shakur eats little but grows much.

This definition gives us insight into the nature of a thankful person. It does not take much to please them. We find that a person that is truly thankful is appreciative of very little. When we give them the smallest gift they are deeply grateful and seek to express their gratitude in the warmest terms and kindest actions. As for the ingrate, no matter how much they receive they desire more and fail to express any gratitude for what they have received.

Thus, the effect of a blessing, be it pasture or fodder, is seen on the animal who receives that blessing, in its increased size. Likewise, the effect of a blessing given by Allah to His servant manifests itself on the tongue, heart and limbs of a thankful person. Hence, in the technical usage of the religious scholars, as expressed by Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, thankfulness means ‘to manifest one’s appreciation for the blessings bestowed by Allah on the tongue, through praise and acknowledgment; in the heart by witnessing the giver of the blessing and loving Him; and on the limbs by willingly accepting His guidance and obeying Him’.

This definition helps us to understand that the spiritual path is not a philosophical picnic. It requires action; the action of the heart, the tongue and the limbs. Knowledge though, does play its part, in fact, as emphasized by Imam Al-Ghazali in the Ihya’, it is the foundation of the subsequent acts of thankfulness. He says:

‘You should know that thankfulness is among the stations of those journeying to Allah. It is also (like other stations) organized around the categories of knowledge (`ilm), state (hal) and action (`Amal). Knowledge is the foundation and it bequeaths the state, while the state (in turn) bequeaths action. As for knowledge it is the knowledge that the blessing is from the giver of blessings (Allah: Al-Mun`im).The ensuing state is the happiness resulting from His bestowing the blessing. The action is undertaking what is intended and loved by the giver of the blessing’. (Al Ghazali, Ihya’ `Ulum Ad-Deen)

Imam Al-Ghazali outlines a process whereby thankfulness can become actualized in our lives. The foundation of this process is the knowledge that every blessing we have ultimately comes from Allah. In our increasingly ’material’ world people are losing touch with this great reality. Many view their hard work, intellect or creativity as the source of the good they enjoy. They cannot conceive of the role played by the divine in their good fortune.

Hence, we witness the growing disinclination on the part of the wealthy to share their wealth with the less fortunate members of our society. In the face of appeals for greater charity we increasingly hear retorts such as, ’Poor people should work hard as I did…’ ‘Those people should pick themselves up by their bootstraps like we did…’ People uttering such statements may recognize the blessings they enjoy, but they fail to see the giver of those blessings, and because they do not see or acknowledge the giver of the blessing, they neither see nor acknowledge the rights He has established in their wealth.

The various sayings of the scholars we have considered let us know that to really be people of thankfulness we must be people who praise and worship our Lord. When the Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah upon him, was asked why he was standing in prayer at night until his feet were swollen, he replied, as the tears flowed down his cheeks, ”Should I not then be a thankful servant?” (Al-Bukhari) His thankfulness was expressed in his worship. This should be our case.

A final way we can express our thankfulness in indicated by the name of Allah, Ash-Shakur. One of the meanings of this name is one who rewards a small amount of human effort with a great amount of grace. A vile criminal can enter into Islam one moment and then die the next. Having done only one righteous deed, uttering the Testimony of Faith, he is rewarded with eternal bliss in Paradise. How small was his action compared to the magnitude of Allah’s grace?

This should remind us that in all of our relations and dealings in the world we should try to give far more than we take. This is especially important when the dominant ethos is becoming ‘take as much as you can and give as little as possible’.

Let us take time to reflect on what it truly means to be thankful, and let us work to the extent of our capabilities to extend the blessings we enjoy to others, not just on one day, but every day.

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Source: newislamicdirections.com.

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Major Sins New Muslims

The Concept of Sin in Islam

gloomy nature

The idea of ‘Original Sin’ or hereditary criminality has no room in the teachings of Islam.

One of the major troublesome areas of human existence is the problem of sin or evil in the world. It is commonly believed that sin started with Adam and Eve during their life in the Garden of Eden. That event led to the ‘Fall’ and has ever since branded the human race with guilt, stigma, and bewilderment.

The First Sin

Islam has taken a unique position on the whole issue, a position which is not shared by any other religion we know. The Qur’an states that Adam and Eve were directed by God to reside in the Garden of Eden and enjoy its produce as they pleased, assured of bountiful supplies and comfort. But they were warned not to approach a particular tree so that they would not run into harm and injustice.

Then Satan intrigued them to temptation and caused them to lose their joyful state. They were expelled from the Garden and brought down to earth to live, die, and taken out again at last for the Final Judgment. Having realized what they had done, they felt shame, guilt, and remorse. They prayed for God’ s mercy and were forgiven (Al-Baqarah 2:35-38; Al-A`raf 7:19-25; Ta-Ha 20:117-123).

And We said: O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Garden, and eat you freely (of the fruits) thereof where you will; but come not nigh this tree lest you become wrong-doers. But Satan caused them to deflect therefrom and expelled them from the (happy) state in which they were; and We said: Fall down, one of you a foe unto the other! There shall be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a time. Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful. (Al-Baqarah 2:35-37)

This symbolic event is significantly revealing. It tells that the human being is imperfect and ever wanting even if he were to live in paradise. But committing a sin or making a mistake, as Adam and Eve did, does not necessarily deaden the human heart, prevent spiritual reform or stop moral growth.

Human Accountability

On the contrary, the human being has enough sensibility to recognize his sins and shortcomings. More importantly, he is capable of knowing where to turn and to whom he should turn for guidance.

Much more important is the fact that God is ever prepared to respond to the sincere calls of those who seek His aid. He is so Gracious and Compassionate that His forgiveness is encompassing and His mercy all–inclusive: “My mercy embraces all things” (Al-A`raf 7:156). One last revealing reading of the event is that discrimination on the basis of sex and hereditary guilt or sin are alien to the spirit of Islam.

field-nature

Whatever becomes of man after birth is the result of external influence and intruding factors.

The idea of ‘Original Sin’ or hereditary criminality has no room in the teachings of Islam. Man, according to the Qur’an and to the Prophet, is born in natural state of purity or fitrah, that is, Islam or submission to the will and law of God. Allah says:

So set your purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright – the nature (framed) of Allah, in which He has created man. There is no altering (the laws of) Allah’s creation. That is the right religion, but most men know not. (Ar-Rum 30:30)

Whatever becomes of man after birth is the result of external influence and intruding factors. To put the matter in terms of modern thought, human nature is malleable; it is the socialization process, particularly the home environment, that is crucial. It plays a decisive role in the formation of human personality and the development of moral character.

This does not deny to the individual the freedom of choice or exempt him from responsibility. Rather, it is a relief from that heavy burden of hereditary criminality or instinctual sin.

Between Good & Evil

God, by definition, is Just, Wise, Merciful, Compassionate, and Perfect. He has created man by breathing into him of His own Spirit (Al-Hijr 15:29; As-Sajdah 32:9; At-Tahrim 66:12).

So, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My Spirit… (Al-Hijr 15:29)

Since God is absolutely good and His Spirit is absolutely perfect one; since man, through creation, received of the Spirit of God, then man was bound to retain at least some portion of this good Spirit of the Creator. This may account for the good dispositions of man and his spiritual longings. But, on the other hand, God created man to worship Him, not to be His equal, rival, the perfect incarnation or absolute embodiment of His goodness.

This means that no matter how much good and perfect man may be, by the grace of creation, he is still far short of the goodness and perfection of the Creator. Man is not without such qualities, to be sure. But they are limited and proportionate to man’ s finite nature, capacity, and responsibility. This may explain the imperfection and fallibility of man.

However, imperfection and fallibility are not the equivalent of sin or synonymous with criminality – at least not in Islam. If man is imperfect he is not left helpless or deserted by God to fall victim to his shortcomings. He is empowered by revelations, supported by reason, fortified by the freedom of choice, and guided by various social and psychological dispositions to seek and achieve relative perfection.

The constant gravitation between the forces of good and evil is the struggle of life. It gives man something to look forward to, ideals to seek, work to do, and roles to play. It makes his life interesting and meaningful, not monotonous and stagnant. On the other hand, it pleases God to see His servants in a state of spiritual and moral victory.

Sins/Sinful Acts

According to the moral scale of Islam, it is not a sin that man is imperfect or fallible. This is part of his nature as a finite limited creature. But it is a sin if he has the ways and means of relative perfection and chooses not to seek it.

A sin is any act, thought, or will that (1) is deliberate, (2) defies the unequivocal law of God, (3) violates the right of God or the right of man, (4) is harmful to the soul or body, (5) is committed repeatedly, and (6) is normally avoidable. These are the components of sin which is not innate or hereditary.

It is true, however, that man has the potential capacity of sin latent in him; but this is not greater than his capacity of piety and goodness. If he chooses to actualize the potential of sin instead of the potential of goodness, he will be adding a new external element to his pure nature. For this added external element man alone is responsible.

In Islam, there are major and minor sins as there are sins against God and sins against both God and man. All sins against God, except one, are forgivable if the sinner sincerely seeks forgiveness. The Qur’an has stated that truly God does not forgive the sin of shirk (polytheism, pantheism, trinity, etc.).

But He forgives sins other than this and pardons whom He wills. Yet if the polytheist or atheist comes back to God, his sin will be forgiven. Sins against men are forgivable only if the offended pardon the offender or if the proper compensations and / or punishments are applied.

In conclusion, sin is acquired not inborn, emergent not built-in, avoidable not inevitable. It is a deliberate conscious violation of the unequivocal law of God. If man does something that is truly caused by natural instincts or absolutely irresistible drives and uncontrollable urges, then such an act is not a sin in Islam.

Otherwise, God’ s purpose will be pointless and man’ s responsibility will be in vain. God demands of man what lies within the human possibilities and reaches.

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

 

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Major Sins New Muslims

The Unforgivable Sin in Islam

Allah is All-Merciful and Oft-Forgiving. Indeed, He may forgive all sins except for one sin: shirk.

In Islam, shirk is the sin of idolatry or polytheism. i.e. the worship of anyone or anything other than the singular God, or more literally associating partners with Him.

If a person dies in a state of polytheism, every hope for his or her salvation is surely dashed.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked: what is the greater sin , he said: To ascribe partners to Allah even though he created you. (Al-Bukhari)

However, Almighty Allah may forgive every sin, without exception, from a sincere penitent.

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ABC's of Islam New Muslims

Islam and the Meaning of Deen

By Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi 

The word ‘deen’ is used in several meanings. The first is sovereignty, power, lordship, kingship, or rulership. The second is the opposite of this, i.e. submission, obedience, service or slavery. The third is to bring to account, to judge, or to dispense reward and punishment for actions. All those three uses are found in the Qur’an.

Allah says:

The only (true) Deen in the sight of God is (man’s) self-surrender (to Him). (Aal `Imran 3:19)

Here, deen is that way of life in which we recognize Allah alone as the possessor of all power and majesty and surrender ourselves to Him. We must not abase or humble ourselves before anybody save Him. We must regard only Allah as Master, Lord, and Sovereign, and must not be slaves or servants to anybody but Him. We must accept only Allah as the Lord of reward and punishment. We should covet no reward, fear no punishment, except His. Islam is the name of this deen.

Deen is that way of life in which we recognize Allah alone as the possessor of all power and majesty and surrender ourselves to Him.

False Deen

False deen arises when you ascribe real powers to anyone besides Allah, when you take anyone as a real ruler and master, as a dispenser of real reward and punishment, when you bow your heads before him in humility, when you serve him and obey his orders, when you covet his reward and fear his punishment more than Allah’s. This kind of deen Allah never accepts because it is totally contrary to reality.

No other being in the whole universe except God possesses any power and might, nor does anybody else’s sovereignty and kingship exist. We have not been created to be servants and slaves of anyone or anything but God, nor is there anyone else except that real Master who can judge us and award reward and punishment.

In many places in the Qur’an these facts have been explained.

And whoso seeks a Deen other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him. (Aal `Imran 3:85)

Thus, anyone who disregards the sovereignty and kingship of God, acknowledges someone else as his master and ruler, becomes his servant and slave, and considers anyone as a dispenser of reward and punishment in his own right, will never have his Deen or conduct accepted by God because:

They were not enjoined anything but that they should serve God, making submission exclusively His, turning away (from all false gods). (Al-Bayyinah 98:5)

God has not created human beings to serve anyone except Himself. It is, therefore, incumbent on them to turn away from all false gods and reserve their submission, or their true deen, for Allah alone. They should single-mindedly devote themselves to His service and consider themselves as being accountable only to Him:

What! Do they seek a deen other than God’s, whereas unto Him surrenders whatever is in the heavens and on earth, willingly or unwillingly, and unto Him all must return? (Aal `Imran 3:83)

How can we human beings incline to be servants and to submit to someone other than God, when all other things on earth and in the heavens are slaves and obedient servants of God alone, accounting for their deeds to no other authority than God? Does man want to adopt a deviant way for himself, some kind of independent and autonomous existence, in defiance of the entire universe?

He it is Who has sent forth His Messenger with the Guidance and the way of Truth, so that he makes it prevail over all ways (religions), however much mushriks (who take gods besides God) may dislike it. (At-Tawbah 9:33)

God’s Deen

Allah has sent His Messenger with the true deen for the purpose of ending the sovereignty of all false gods and granting us immense freedom so that we live as servants of none but the Lord of the universe, no matter how much the idolaters and polytheists may dislike or oppose such a course.

And fight them, until there is no rebellion (against God) and all submission is to God alone. (Al-Anfal 8:39)

The lesson is clear: we must fight until the sovereignty of all beings other than Allah is brought to an end, until only the law of God rules in the world, until the sovereignty of God alone is acknowledged, until we serve only Him.

Thus these three meanings of deen stand out:

– To acknowledge God as Lord, Master and Ruler.

– To obey and serve only Him.

– To be accountable to Him, to fear only His punishment and to covet only His reward.

Deen also includes obedience to God’s Messengers. For the commandments of God have been given to human beings through His Books and His Messengers.

Children of Adam! If there should come to you Messengers from among you, who convey My revelations unto you, then whosoever refrains from evil and lives rightly no fear shall be on them, and neither shall they sorrow. (Al-A`raf 7:35)

No individual receives Allah’s commandments directly.

Hence, whoever acknowledges Allah as Ruler can be accepted as obedient to Him only when he becomes obedient to His Messengers and lives by the guidance received through them.

Deen consists of these fundamental principles.

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The article is an excerpt from Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi’s Let Us Be Muslims.

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