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ABC's of Islam New Muslims

Why Do We Worship and Obey God?

nature way

By walking on the straight of God you will receive dignity in this world as well as in the Hereafter.

Brothers in Islam! I have frequently emphasized that ‘Islam‘ means total surrender to Allah and the Messenger, and that no one can become truly Muslim unless he gives up obedience to anyone or anything apart from God.

But why is so much stress laid on obedience to God and His Messenger? You may ask: Does God need our obedience so badly that He has to demand it so insistently from us? Is He, too, like the rulers of the world so power-hungry that He has to insist His rule cannot be sustained without subjugating us?

Let us try to examine these questions.

Our Well-being

Essentially, the demand for obedience to Allah is intended for the well-being and betterment of man himself. He is not like the rulers of the world. They subjugate people to benefit themselves, but Allah needs nothing from anybody.

He is not in need of taxes from you, nor does He require to build mansions, buy cars and amass luxury articles at your expense. He is not dependent on anyone for anything. Whatever is in the world belongs to Him alone and He alone is the Master of all treasures.

He demands obedience from you only because He does not want man – that creation of His whom He has declared to be the noblest – to be the servant of another man like him, or of Satan or bow his head before unworthy things.

He does not desire that His vicegerents on earth grope in the darkness of ignorance and, like animals, become slaves to their desires and thus degrade themselves to the level of the lowest of the low. Therefore He urges: You obey Me and walk by the light I have sent through My Messengers. You will find the straight path. By walking on it you will receive dignity in this world as well as in the Hereafter.

No coercion is there in religion. Distinct has become the right way from [the way of] error. So whosoever rejects false gods and believes in God has indeed taken hold of the most firm handle which shall never break. God is All-hearing, All-knowing. God is the Friend of those who have faith; He brings them out of darkness into the light. And the disbelievers their friends are false gods that bring them out of the light into darkness; those are the inhabitants of the Fire, therein to abide forever. (Al-Baqarah 2:256, 257)

Obeying Others Besides Allah

Why will a man plunge into darkness by obeying others besides Allah and why is it that only by obeying Allah can his life be illumined?

Let us look into this important question…

Our lives are made up of countless relations and transactions. Our first relationship is with our own bodies: these hands, these feet, these eyes, these ears, this tongue, this heart, the mind, this belly – all these have been entrusted to you by Allah to serve you. You have also been given freedom to decide to what end to employ them.

What to put in your bellies, and what to avoid. What to make your hands do, and what to keep them away from.

Where to let your feet walk, and when to hold back. What to let your eyes see and ears hear, and what to refrain from.

What to allow your tongues to say, and when to fall silent. What kind of thoughts to make your hearts and minds reflect upon, and what to shun. These servants of yours you can make do good work or bad, as you choose. In return, they can make you ascend great heights or plunge you into abysmal depths.

Then you have relationships with the members of your family; with your fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, children and other relatives with whom you have to deal continuously.

You have to decide how to behave with these people, what rights you have over them, and what rights they have over you. Your comfort, your happiness and your success in this world as well as in the Hereafter depend very much on how correctly you behave with them. If you behave wrongly, you will make this world a Hell for yourselves. And in the Hereafter, too, you will have to answer to God.

You have relationships with many other people. They are your neighbours, friends and enemies. There are also many who work for you in various ways. To some you have to give something and from others you have to receive something.

Some entrust you with their works while you entrust Your works to others. You are in command over some people and others are in command over you. In this world, your happiness, your honour and your good names all depend entirely on your ability to maintain these relationships properly.

In the Hereafter, too, you can acquire places of honor near God only by scrupulously avoiding abusing the rights of others and doing them injustices. There, let no one charge you with having ruined his life or having illegally harmed his honour, life or property.

You therefore have to maintain these relationships in a proper manner; actions which may spoil or disrupt these relations should be avoided.

open book before the sun

If you try to find this knowledge with the help of your reason and feelings alone, you will not find it.

Following One’s Desires

Now consider: in order to maintain proper relationships with your own bodies, with the members of your families and with all other people, you need the light of knowledge at every step.

You have to know what is right and what is wrong; what is true and what is false; what is just and what is unjust; what rights you have over others and what rights others have over you; in what there is real benefit and in what lies real harm.

If you try to find this knowledge with the help of your reason and feelings alone, you will not find it. Because yourself is overpowered by the urge to immediate gratification of desires. Your reason and feelings are therefore ruled by physical pleasure and immediate temptations.

They will tempt you to earn money by doing illegal things, drink alcohol and commit adultery. They will lead you to usurp the rights of others and withhold things due to them on the grounds that such behaviour will profit you: take everything and give nothing. They will also make you exploit others to serve your ends while avoiding the doing of any service to anybody, arguing that this will make life easy and comfortable.

If you allow yourselves to be led by a self which gropes in such darkness, it will drag you down to the level of selfish, depraved, and corrupt persons and your lives both on earth and in the Hereafter will be ruined.

Alternatively, instead of following the self, you may rely on other human beings like yourselves, and place yourselves in their hands to take you in whichever direction they like.

The dangers in such a course are obvious: selfish persons may make you slaves of their own desires, and ignorant men, who have themselves gone astray, may mislead you also. Tyrants may use you to perpetrate oppression and injustice on others.

From human beings like yourselves, too, you cannot get that light of knowledge which can guide you to distinguish between right and wrong, between good and bad, and direct you on the right path.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book Let Us Be Muslims.

 

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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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