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Ethics & Values New Muslims

Self-development between Purity of Heart & Worldly Conduct

road_nature

Even though spiritual purification is important seclusion and neglect of worldly responsibilities are not condoned by Islam.

Islam is a way of life that teaches Muslims to focus on bettering themselves by following the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, and the teachings of the final Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Prophet Muhammad once said, “Truly I was sent as a Prophet for the purpose of perfecting human character.” (Ahmad) This prophetic tradition defines a very important aspect of Islam: self-improvement through spiritual and physical purity.

An old Arab proverb aptly states: “The one who lacks something cannot give it to others.” This saying establishes the fact that in order for one to spread “good” in terms of his or her character, manners, words or actions, he or she must first strive to possess it. One should not neglect to improve one’s own faults even as they attempt to assist others.

Of course, this does not mean that one has to be perfect in order to be of benefit to others; for instance, some people think that they cannot spread knowledge because they are not scholars. Instead, this adage goes hand in hand with the English saying, “Practice before you preach.” As Prophet Muhammad said, “Who are the learned? Those who practice what they know.”

In Islam, it is of utmost importance for Muslims to seek self-improvement in regards to every aspect of their lives. As a result, one’s good character will impact others and therefore improve society as a whole. This dynamic change all begins at the individual level. In this regard, God says:

Truly God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (Ar-Ra`d 13:11)

Pure Intentions

Before an individual consciously embarks on this journey, he or she must define and cleanse their intention. A pivotal teaching of Islam is derived from the prophetic statement, “All actions are judged by their intentions, and each person will be rewarded according to his or her intention.”

Hence, a desire to genuinely improve oneself, please God, and provide benefit is paramount. On the other hand, having impure intentions such as seeking the admiration of other people or showing off is counterproductive. For these reasons, purifying one’s intentions is critical to the success of one’s pursuit of self-development.

Cleansing of the heart is also a large component of self-improvement because it directly impacts one’s actions. God says in the Qur’an:

God did confer a great favor on the believers when He sent among them an apostle from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the signs of God, sanctifying them, and instructing them in scripture and wisdom, while, before that, they had been in manifest error. (Aal `Imran 3:164)

This verse demonstrates the role of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the importance of self-improvement in Islam. Prophet Muhammad taught the pagan Arabs of Makkah to believe in the One God and to live righteously; he implored them to renounce idolatry and their impulsive lifestyles. Over the course of 23 years, his message uplifted the status of women, brought God-consciousness among people, and safeguarded the poor and needy.

In doing so, not only did he help individuals to attain self-improvement, he rehabilitated an entire society: racial discrimination was practically eliminated, tribal warfare was replaced with united ties of brotherhood, usury and alcohol were completely forbidden.

Righteous Actions

Self-development begins at the individual level and requires a vast amount of discipline. Along with striving to become more physically pure by maintaining a healthy and clean body, it is equally important for an individual to maintain his or her spiritual health through righteous actions. Purification of the soul allow an individual to become closer to God and exhibit more positive behavior which will translate into his or her deeds.

In order to purify and enhance oneself, Islam outlines several pragmatic steps:

Core worship, such as prayer, fasting, supplication, etc. Performing these allows Muslims to draw closer to God by increasing the individual’s awareness of God throughout the day.

This will, in turn, decrease his or her likelihood to commit acts that would displease God, enabling people to raise their moral and ethical standards.

Smiling, being kind, and staying positive when interacting with others. This leads to mercifulness and forgiveness, which are attributes which God loves in human beings.

Prophetic traditions mention that smiling is an act of charity and removing obstacles from the road is a sign of faith; others encourage people to spread good news and exchange gifts as a way of increasing love between people.

Having self-discipline and managing one’s time so that the person is more productive throughout the day:

By (the token of) time (through the ages), verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy. (Al-`Asr 103:1-3)

Lending a helping hand to those in need. Once Prophet Muhammad was asked: “What actions are most excellent?” He answered: “To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured.”

Striving to increase one’s knowledge whether it be religious or academic. Working towards becoming an informed and proactive citizen.

According to Prophet Muhammad, “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” (Ibn Majah)

Maintaining good company and friends that will influence the individual in a positive manner.

Prophet Muhammad has stated, “It is better to sit alone than in company with the bad; and it is better still to sit with the good than alone. It is better to speak to a seeker of knowledge than to remain silent; but silence is better than idle words.”

Performing sincere repentance for one’s sins and seeking the mercy and forgiveness of God. Feeling guilty for transgressions that one has made, and then making an active effort to learn from one’s mistakes and never repeat them again:

Your Lord has inscribed for Himself (the rule of) mercy: verily, if any of you did evil in ignorance, and thereafter repented, and amend (his conduct), lo! He is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (Al-An`am 6:54)

As you may have noticed, many of these steps involve interacting with others. Even though spiritual purification is important, it is critical to note that seclusion and neglect of worldly responsibilities are not condoned by Islam.

Prolonged seclusion for the purpose of spiritual purification is in fact inconsistent with Islamic teachings. A large component of self enhancement involves treating others with compassion and respect, and helping the less fortunate. This is not possible if one leads the life of a recluse.

One of the prophetic traditions encourages people to look at those less privileged when making worldly comparisons with others: “When you see a person who has been given more than you in money and beauty, look to those who have been given less.”

This advice is very important because it enables us to be grateful for the blessings we have and be less greedy or miserly. Such an attitude allows one to remain focused on the quest of attaining self-improvement and eternal success in the hereafter rather than the transient materials of this temporary life.

The Virtues of Selfishness!

Self-improvement plays a significant role in the lives of Muslims also due to another key Islamic concept: that every individual will be held accountable for only him/her self in the hereafter. On the Day of Judgment, God will question each soul on its actions, and how it spent time on earth. On that day, each person will solely be concerned about the magnitude of his or her deeds.

The importance of self-development cannot be overemphasized in Islam although it may seem like a selfish endeavor on the surface. However, such “selfishness” may actually be considered a virtue rather than a vice. When one is constantly struggling for self-improvement, he or she becomes more willing to help others and disperse the good that he or she has gained to society at large.

As a result, one person’s efforts contribute towards collective development. Such commitment is not possible in the individual who is self-absorbed for the sake of self-gratification. Therefore, “selfishness” for the purpose of self-improvement and the greater good is the first step to selflessness.

Indeed, the essence of all good deeds stems from a pure and tranquil soul.

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Source: whyislam.org.

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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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Acts of Worship New Muslims

What Did the Prophet say about Congregational Prayer?

By Editorial Staff

The Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged Muslims to attend the congregational prayer at the mosque, warning against staying away from it, and that it is fard kifayah (collective obligation).

Congregational Prayer

“The prayer in congregation is twenty seven times superior to the prayer offered by person alone.”

Superiority of Congregational Prayer

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The congregational prayer  is twenty seven times superior to the prayer offered by person alone.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The prayer of a man with another man is better than his praying alone, and the prayer of a man with two other men is better than his praying alone or with only one other man, and the more people there are, the more beloved it is to Allah.” (An-Nasa’i and Abu Dawud)

Also, it was narrated that Ma`dan ibn Abu Talhah Al-Ya`muri said:

Abud-Darda’ (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying:

“If three men in a village or in the desert, make no arrangement for Salah (prayer) in congregation, Satan must have certainly overcome them. So observe prayer in congregation, for the wolf eats up a solitary sheep that stays far from the flock.” (Abu Dawud)

Anas bin Malik narrated that:

Allah’s Messenger said: “Whoever performs prayer for Allah for forty days in congregation, catching the first takbir, two absolutions are written for him: absolution from the Fire, and absolution from the Fire, and absolution from hypocrisy.” (At-Tirmidhi)

`Isha’ & Fajr

Uthman ibn `Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger said:

“Whoever attends `Isha’ (prayer) in congregation, then he has (the reward as if he had) stood half of the night. And whoever prays `Isha’ and Fajr in congregation, then he has (the reward as if he had) spent the entire night standing (in prayer).” (At-Tirmidhi)

`Uthman ibn `Affan reported:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying: “One who performs `Isha’ (Night) prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed prayer for half of the night. And one who performs the Fajr prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed prayer the whole night.” (Muslim)

Narrated Abu Hurairah:

The Prophet said, “Allah will prepare for him who goes to the mosque (every) morning and in the afternoon (for the congregational prayer) an honorable place in Paradise with good hospitality for (what he has done) every morning and afternoon goings. (Al-Bukhari)

Narrated Abu Hurairah:

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said:

“If the people knew the reward for pronouncing the Adhan and for standing in the first row (in congregational prayers) and found no other way to get that except by drawing lots they would draw lots. And if they knew the reward of the Zhuhr prayer (in the early moments of its stated time), they would race for it (go early). And if they knew the reward of `Isha’ and Fajr (morning) prayers in congregation, they would come to offer them even if they had to crawl.” (Al-Bukhari)

Congregational Prayer

“For when one of you is walking for Salah, he is, in fact, engaged in Salah.”

More Virtuous

It was narrated that Ibn `Umar said:

“The Messenger of Allah said: “The prayer of a man in congregation is twenty-seven levels more virtuous than a man’s prayer on his own.” (Ibn Majah)

It was narrated that `Uthman ibn `Affan said:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: “Whoever does wudu’ (ablution) properly, then walks to (attend) the prescribed prayer, and prays with the people or with the congregation or in the Masjid, Allah will forgive him his sins.” (An-Nasa’i)

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying, “When the Iqamah is pronounced, do not come to it running, you should walk calmly with tranquility to join the congregation. Then join in what you catch for and complete what you miss.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Narrated Abu Hurairah:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Allah will prepare for him who goes to the mosque (every) morning and in the afternoon (for the congregational prayer) an honorable place in Paradise with good hospitality for (what he has done) every morning and afternoon goings. (Al-Bukhari)

Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,

“The person who will receive the highest reward for Salah (prayer) is the one who comes to perform it in the mosque from the farthest distance. And he who waits for Salah to perform it with the Imam (in congregation) will have a greater reward than the one who observes it alone and then goes to sleep.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Messenger of Allah peace be upon him) said, “For when one of you is walking for Salah, he is, in fact, engaged in Salah.” (Muslim)

Abu Hurairah reported Allah’s Messenger as saying:

“The servant is constantly in prayer so long as he is in a place of worship waiting for the prayer (to be observed in congregation), and the angels invoke (blessings upon him in these words): O Allah! pardon him. O Allah! show mercy to him, (and they continue to do so) till he returns (from the mosque having completed the prayer) or his ablution breaks. I said: How is the ablution broken? He said: By breaking of the wind noiselessly or with noise. (Muslim)

Narrated Abu Hurairah:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

“The prayer offered in congregation is twenty five times more superior (in reward) to the prayer offered alone in one’s house or in a business center, because if one performs ablution and does it perfectly, and then proceeds to the mosque with the sole intention of praying, then for each step which he takes towards the mosque, Allah upgrades him a degree in reward and (forgives) crosses out one sin till he enters the mosque. When he enters the mosque he is considered in prayer as long as he is waiting for the prayer and the angels keep on asking for Allah’s forgiveness for him and they keep on saying: ‘O Allah! Be Merciful to him, O Allah! Forgive him, as long as he keeps on sitting at his praying place and does not pass wind.” (Al-Bukhari)

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