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Willpower between Reliance on God and Self-Confidence

By Khurram Murad

To achieve the ultimate goal in life requires a sustained determination to do so, a willpower that is forever responsive and strong. In Qur’anic terminology this is called iradah. Iradah is basic to all our efforts. Without willing to do something you cannot do anything.

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Self-confidence is borne from the believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive in His way

Iradah is very different from desire. You always hear people reflecting upon unfulfilled aspirations. One of the main reasons why aspirations and dreams remain unfulfilled is that they are no more than desires which faded to assume the status of iradah.

The Qur’an explains that one of the basic weaknesses in human nature which impedes self-development is the weakness of will. While narrating the story of Adam, Allah informs:

And, indeed, long ago We made Our covenant with Adam; but he forgot and We found no firmness of purpose in him. (Ta-Ha 20:115)

Iradah requires strength and consistency and is indeed the antithesis of doubt, hesitation or lethargy. Once iradah is firmly in place, then you must have no doubts and you must not hesitate.

Now, what purpose should iradah serve? The Qur’an makes it clear that this will power must be a firm resolve to seek the pleasure of Allah because this is the part of the bargain that you must deliver:

And whoever desires (arada) the Life to Come, and strive for it as it ought to be striven for, and are (true) believers withal-they are the ones whose striving finds favour (with God). (Al-Isra’ 17: 19)

Reliance on Allah

Self-confidence is borne from the believer’s intimate knowledge and understanding that Allah is ever ready to assist those who strive and struggle in His way. Self-confidence comes from depending upon Allah and knowing that He is there to help you, protect you and shower His mercies upon you:

So he who gives (in charity) and fears (Allah) and (in all sincerity) testifies to the best- We will indeed make smooth for him the path to Bliss. (Al-Layl 92:5-7)

Self-confidence also emanates from knowing that Allah in His infinite mercy has equipped you with all that you require to undertake the tasks set before you. It is not characteristic of the One that is Most Just and Most Merciful to prepare you for a duel without equipping you with the necessary tools.

Self-confidence is thus borne of total reliance and trust in Allah. It is knowing that at every step of your journey Allah is there assisting you. If you constantly hold yourself back believing that you are weak and incapable and blame your incompetence on minor inadequacies, then you are bound to fail. You must never allow yourself to believe or feel that Allah has treated you unfairly or that He has placed upon you a burden you cannot shoulder for “on no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear”. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

Likewise, hope is central to your efforts and your success. You must sincerely hope and believe that everything you do to earn the pleasure of Allah will lead you to fulfillment. A superiority complex negates the task of self-development. An inferiority complex is derived from a lack of confidence in Allah and oneself. You should never allow yourself to believe that you cannot fulfill your obligations nor should you despair of the mercy of Allah.

Confidence, hope and determination are all important ingredients for your success:

Those unto whom men said: Lo! the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them. But it only increased them in faith and they cried.. Allah is sufficient for us! Most Excellent is He in Whom we trust! (Aal `Imran 3:173-174)

You must be wary, however, of the kind of self-confidence that causes a person to proclaim himself self-sufficient. Modern concepts of self-sufficiency are indeed an evil form of shirk or polytheism. To ascribe self-sufficiency to one’s self is to assume for oneself an attribute reserved only for Allah.

For the Muslim, self-confidence is wholly dependent upon the trust one places in Allah; it is not an arrogant proclamation of complete independence from Allah. Allah alone is self-Sufficient. All else is reliant upon Him for existence.

The Best Use of Time

Time is not money or gold; it is life and it is limited. You must begin to appreciate every moment of your life and always strive to make the best use of it. With all the demands of worldly life on your time, you will yet need to find time for self-development and maximize its potential.

The better route towards self-development is, of course, to integrate all your efforts into a structured daily life. Imam Al-Ghazali, may God have mercy on him, in his great work, Ihya’ `Ulum Ad-Deen, gives the following advice:

“You should structure your time, arrange your regular devotions and assign to each function a set period of time during which it is given first priority but which it does not overstep. For if you abandon yourself to neglect and purposelessness, as cattle do, and just do anything that may occur to you at any time it happens to occur to you, most of your time will be wasted. Your time is your life, and your life is your capital; it is the basis of your transactions (with God), and the means to attain to everlasting felicity, in the proximity of God the Exalted. Each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, and when it passes away it never returns.”

Remember also that “the deeds most loved by Allah (are those) done regularly, even if they are few.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

While you must always strive to make the best use of your time, you must always aim for excellence in everything you undertake, whether at school, at home, at work or at play. Indeed, the Prophet has said, “Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (proficiency and excellence) in all things”. (Muslim.)

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.

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Dhikr: God’s Always Open Door

dhikr

Dhikr purifies your heart and makes it sound. And you can only attain salvation and true success by having such a heart.

In a verse of the Qur’an that I love very much, Allah (Most Gracious and Loving) commends:

Remember Me and I shall remember you. Be grateful unto Me and deny Me not. (Al-Baqarah 2:152)

Can you imagine a more gratifying state than this; where, when you remember Allah, the Creator, Sustainer and Lord of the Universe, He remembers you in return?

The same exhortation has been beautifully conveyed in a hadith qudsi:

“I treat My servant as he hopes that I would treat him. I am with him whenever he remembers Me: if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My `heart’; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering far better than that gathering; if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Those who remember Allah standing, sitting and reclining and who reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth are highly commended in the Noble Quran. They are wise in that they fill their hearts with the remembrance of God in every, moment, in every circumstance and in every posture of their lives. (Aal `Imran 3:191)

The exhortation to remember Allah at all times is a reflection of Allah’s all-embracing and overwhelming love for us. The door to Allah is always open to us: Remember Me and 1 will remember you. We need only find our way to and through that door.

The Significance of Dhikr

Regarding the significance of dhikr (of Allah) or the remembrance of God, Allah says in the Qur’an, itself “the ultimate reminder (dhikr) to all the worlds”. (Sad 38:87), the following:

Remember Allah. for He has guided you. (Al-Baqarah 2:198)

O you who believe! Remember Allah often with much remembrance. And glorify Him morning and evening. (Luqman 31:41-42)

And men who remember God much and women who remember – God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. (Al-Ahzab 33:35)

Hadith literature is similarly replete with references to the remembrance of Allah:

“The servant cannot perform a better deed which will save him from God’s punishment than the remembrance of God.” (Malik)

“Whoever wishes to feast in the gardens of Paradise, let him remember God often.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Indeed, with regard to dhikr, the Qur’an concludes: “And the remembrance of Allah is the greatest deed without doubt.” (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)

The significance of dhikr lies in the fact that it is God’s own chosen and recommended mode by which the believers show gratitude for having been shown the straight path. In addition, it is indeed the surest way of attaining God’s forgiveness and achieving the ultimate reward of Paradise.

The importance of dhikr then is not difficult to understand. It is dhikr that purifies your  heart and makes it sound. And you can only attain salvation and true success by having a pure and sound heart.

Heart-based Process

The ‘heart’ referred to here is not the pump in your breast that pushes blood around your body but rather the center or locus of your personality which pumps out your desires and motivations and which makes you conduct yourself as you do. It is this heart that lies at your center and dictates your actions which is the key to your ultimate success. Thus, with reference to the Day of Judgment, the Qur’an declares:

(It will be a Day) when neither wealth nor children shall profit (and when) only he (will be saved) who comes before God with a sound heart (free of evil). (Ash-Shu`ara’ 26:88-89)

This point is more elaborately made in a hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) says:

“Listen (to me) carefully. There is a lump of flesh in the body – if it is set right and made good, the entire body becomes good and healthy; but if it becomes diseased, the entire body becomes diseased. Remember well – it is the Heart.” (Al-Bukhari)

If the heart is the key to ultimate salvation and success, it may, likewise, be the seat of much corruption and open doors to many evils. It may facilitate the corruption of political and economic activities and ultimately the social institutions of a society. Where such a state prevails, the Qur’an suggests that it is because people, individually, have become “diseased in their hearts”. (Al-Baqarah 2:10)

In this state, people stop seeing and doing what is right. The Qur’an explains that this “is not because they have become blind in their eyes but because their hearts have become blind.

Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts. (Al-Hajj 22:46)

This blindness only draws them nearer to the ultimate chastisement.

It is the heart, as the decider of our ultimate fate, that must then be the starting point of any tazkiyah (purification) program, to purify this heart and then summon it to the service of mankind.

Ibn Al-Qayyim, one of the great scholars of Islam, states in his Kitab Al Adhkar (The Book of Remembrance), that “the heart which is devoid of the remembrance of Allah is a heart that is dead’; it is dead even and long before the body carrying the heart reaches its grave. Indeed, this living body that carries the heart is the heart’s grave.”

Ibn Al-Qayyim’s statement is reminiscent of the hadith of tire Prophet which states: “The difference between someone who remembers His Lord and someone who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead.” (Al-Bukhari.)

The statement is also reminiscent of the following verse of the Qur’an: “Do not become like those who forget Allah and Allah makes them forget themselves. It is they who are truly deprived.” (Al-Hashr 59:19)

The purpose of tazkiyah is to ensure that the heart never falls into a sorry state of being and that it is always alive with the remembrance of God. Prosperous indeed is one who purifies himself and remembers the name of His Guardian-Lord, and prays (unto Him). (Al-A`la 87:14-15)

The Prophet further emphasized the importance of dhikr when he said to his Companions:

“Shall I not inform you of the best of your actions, the purest in the sight of your Lord, which raises your rank to the highest, which is better for you than spending gold and silver, better than meeting your enemy so that you strike at their necks and they strike at yours?’ They replied: ‘Yes, indeed,’ and he said: ‘It is the remembrance of Allah.’” (At-Tirmidhi)

Strive then, to fill all your moments, all your thoughts and all your actions with His remembrance. Recite tasbeeh or words of glorification and praise to punctuate all your actions and achievements.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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How to Develop Your Level of Faith through Dhikr

nature-sunrise

Dhikr must not only be felt by the heart and uttered with the tongue, but must also affect and effect good deeds.

What is the precise meaning of ‘dhikr’? What is its scope and what does it entail? Does it simply involve certain utterances of the tongue, like Subhanallah (I glorify Allah’s absolute perfection), Alhamdulillah (All praise be to Allah), Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), La ilaha illa Allah (There is no god but Allah) and the recitation of some other selected verses of the Qur’an, or is there more to it?

Of course, such utterances of the tongue and recitation of verses of the Qur’an are important.

In fact they are very important forms of dhikr for, indeed, the best forms of remembrance are those that involve both the heart and the tongue. You must understand, however, that the scope of dhikr is considerably wider.

Dhikr must not only be felt by the heart and uttered with the tongue, but must also affect and effect good deeds.

All Aspects of Life

Significantly, Ibn Al-Qayyim suggests that dhikr encompasses ‘any and every particular moment when you are thinking, saying or doing things which Allah likes: Hence, if your conversation is filled with the words of God, this is dhikr and if all your actions are in accordance with His will, this is dhikr.

Indeed Allah commands that we remember Him while standing, sitting and even while reclining. This is only possible if dhikr embraces every single aspect of life. Consider for example the following verse of the Qur’an where dhikr is emphasized in both Prayer and business activity:

O Believers, when the call to Payer is sounded on the Day of Congregation, hasten to Allah’s remembrance and leave all worldly commerce. This a for your own good, if you but knew . And when the Prayer it finished then disperse through the land, and seek of the bounty of Allah; and remember Allah frequently that you may prosper. (Al-Jumu`ah 62:9,10)

Attending the Jumu`ah Prayer (Friday Prayer), listening to the khutbah (sermon) and performing the Congregational Prayer are all well known as forms of dhikr. But in our worldly pursuits as well we are urged to remember Allah even more often.

We may thus conclude, that attending to your personal needs, earning a livelihood and spending on your family are all forms of dhikr.

But of course, they can only be dhikr if, alongside with the relevant adhkar (supplications) in the heart and on the tongue, they are done in obedience to Allah, for His pleasure, to attain Jannah. Otherwise, as the Qur’an warns us, far from being dhikr, they may have the opposite effect:

Let not your worldly possessions and your children make you neglectful of Allah’s remembrance. But spend in the way of Allah. (Al-Munafiqun 63:9,10)

Methods of Dhikr

There are basically two forms of dhikr. The first involves continuous and sustained inner awareness of Allah in all that we say and do in our daily lives. The second involves mechanisms, whether performed individually or collectively, that help to develop the first.

Sustained Awareness of Allah

Let us begin with a discussion of the first form and its methods. How can you remember Allah throughout the normal course of your day without withdrawing from the routine of your daily worldly life?

How can you ensure that your personal life, family life, professional life and other activities all continue in full swing, and yet, at the same time, ensure that your life as a whole – every moment of it – is permeated with remembrance of Allah?

Such an all-pervading dhikr can be an onerous task, but one can accomplish – with some ease. Therefore, there’re four states of consciousness that you must strive to develop by remembering certain things, absorbing them and reminding yourself of them often.

1- Say to yourself: I am in Allah’s presence; He is watching me

Have you not seen that Allah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth? There is no secret conference of three but He is their fourth, nor of five but He is their sixth, nor of less than that or more but He is with them wheresoever they may be. (Al-Mujadilah 58:7)

He is nearer to you than your-jugular vein. (Qaf 50:16,18)

He is watching everything that you do and hearing everything that you say. He is ever present and His knowledge is all encompassing.

Remind yourself of this as often as you can, and throughout the day- every time you begin a new task, and every time you speak. Indeed, your aim should be to impress this on your heart in such a way that it ultimately becomes your very breath.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked by a Companion about the best method of purifying himself, he replied: “You should always remember that Allah is with you wherever you are.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

2- Say to yourself: Everything I have has been given to me by Allah

All that there is – surrounding you, on you and in you – comes from Allah alone. There is none that creates or gives anything but Allah.

And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing, and gave you hearing and sight and hearts that haply ye might give thanks. (An-Nahl 16:78)

A sign for them is the dead earth. We revive it, and We bring forth from it grain so that they eat thereof; And We have placed therein gardens of the date-palm and grapes, and We have caused springs of water to gush forth therein, that they may eat of the fruit thereof, and their hands made it not. Will they not, then, give thanks? (Ya-Sin 36:33-35)

Therefore, reflect upon all the blessing that He has created you with and be thankful to Him.

In all the adhkar that the Prophet has taught us, gratefulness to Allah is a constant theme. Many of these adhkar are simple to learn, and indeed, it was the most simple of his adhkar that he used most frequently.

When the Prophet rose in the morning, he would say Alhamdulillah; whenever he ate or drank he would say Alhamdulillah; and even when he relieved himself he would give thanks to Allah.

Learn as many of the adhkar as you can, and throughout the day, as you witness all that Allah has blessed you with, punctuate your day with these adhkar.

If ever you appear to be short of things to be thankful for, recall the hadith of the Prophet: “There are 360 joints in the body and for each joint you must give a sadaqah (thanks/charity) each day”. (Al-Bukhari.)

You must give a sadaqah for each one of them because without any one of them you will be incomplete and handicapped. You must do this on a daily basis for should any one of them

become damaged one day, you will similarly become incapacitated.

Additionally, you may remind yourself that, as we now know from our knowledge of human physiology, your heart beats 72 times a minute. Every time it beats, it does so with the permission of Allah. The moment He withdraws that permission, the heart will stop beating and your life will certainly come to an end.

If you feel that there is nothing else to thank Allah for, then thank him for the life that He has given you – for, so long as there is life, there is hope.

3- Say to yourself: Nothing in this world can happen without His permission

Everything lies in the hands of Allah. No harm can befall you and no benefit can reach you except as Allah ordains. It is as the Qur’an informs us:

If God should touch you with misfortune, none can remove it but He, and if He should touch you with good fortune, He has power over all things. He alone holds sway over His creatures; He is the All-wise, the All-aware. (Al-An`am 6:17,18)

The Prophet Muhammad would supplicate to Allah after each Prayer:

“O Allah, whatever You want to give me, no one can stop it from coming to me and whatever You want to prevent from coming to me, nobody can give to me.”

Prayer after Prayer, you should recite these beautiful words. And beyond that, remind yourself as much as you can and throughout the day, especially as you expect something to happen, or not to happen, that everything happens only as He commands, and by His permission.

4- Say to yourself: I am going to return to Allah one day and that day could be today

You do not know when you will leave this world. It may be that the coming morning is your last morning, or perhaps the coming evening is your last evening.

Indeed, it may be that this hour is your last hour, or even, that this moment is your last moment. Such an uncertainty does not, of course, justify a complete withdrawal from this life so as to prepare for the Next in some monastic fashion.

It is important, however, that you are always conscious of this uncertainty, to the extent that it motivates you to spend every moment of your remaining life seriously, considering it as a gift from Allah and spending the resources He has blessed you with – time, ability and energy – as He has advised.

Then, and only then, will your life have achieved what is required of it, and your return will achieve what is required of it. To help you attain this state of consciousness, recall and reflect upon the following Qur’anic verse as much as you can and throughout the day: “from Allah we came and to Him we shall return”. (Al-Baqarah 2:156)

These are the four states of consciousness that can help us achieve a life completely devoted to the remembrance of Allah. To try to reach these four states simultaneously, and with sincerity, can only purify you. To try in a determined fashion to reach these four states will lead you inevitably to Paradise.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.

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Repentance and Hope: The First Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

(If you find yourself having less hope in God when you make a mistake, then realize you are only relying on your work.)

I have an intention to start a spiritual journey to God (Exalted be He), but the question is: where should I start? What are my necessary supplies and provisions in this journey? Should I recall the good deeds I have done and take them as my provisions in this journey?

The answer given by Ibn `Ata’illah  in this word of wisdom is: No. I should not rely even on my good deeds. I should start my journey to God putting my trust on Him alone, and hoping only for His Mercy and Bounty.

God’s Mercy

One might ask: Is not receiving God’s Mercy a result of my good deeds? Does the Godly Mercy stop? Does the Godly Bounty end?

The answer is: No.  “If God were to take men (immediately) to task for all the evil that they do (on earth), He would not leave a single living creature upon its face.” (An-Nahl 16:61)

Therefore, I should rely on God’s Mercy and Bounties despite my shortcomings. This is the right course for the right start.

The right start has to be accompanied also by offering repentance of sins and errors. According to God’s laws in His Universe, if I want to add something to any place, there should be a space for this addition. If I want to fill my heart with light and God’s remembrance, I should first completely empty my heart of filth, darkness, and sins.

Only then filling my heart with goodness becomes very easy or according to the Sufi expression, (one has to divest his heart of bad characteristics before filling it with good ones, then having peace in his heart deriving from unceasing devotion to God). Therefore, I start the journey with repenting to God of my shortcomings.

And (always), O you believers – all of you – turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state! (An-Nur 24:31)

Hope in God

In addition to repentance, there is another important meaning that Ibn `Ata’illah emphasizes in this word of wisdom, that is of hope. I have to take repentance and hope as my companions in my journey. As for the question on how to relate repentance to hope in this start, this is what Ibn `Ata’illah explains in this word of wisdom.

Ibn `Ata’illah (may God be merciful to him and be pleased with him) says: (If you find yourself having less hope in God when you make a mistake, then realize you are only relying on your work.) This means: among the signs, through which you know that you are relying and putting your trust on you deeds not on God’s Mercy and Bounty, is that your hope in God (Glorified and Exalted be He) decreases when you sin and err, then you start to repent to God.

For Sincere Repentance

There are some conditions attached to repentance. First, you should feel remorseful for the sin you have committed. Second, you should give up that sin. Third, you should have a strong will never to sin again. Fourth, if the sin you have committed has to do with people’s rights, you have to give this right back.

If you want to offer a sincere repentance, you have to meet these conditions.

The first condition is feeling sorry for the sin you have committed. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said; “Repentance means feeling sorry (for having disobeyed God)”. (Ibn Hibban & Ibn Majah)

The second condition is to refrain from committing the sin. You cannot continue committing the sin and at the same time you claim that you are demonstrating repentance. This is clear hypocrisy.

The third condition is to have a strong will never to sin again, i.e. you cannot feel regret about your sin and give it up, while you have an intention to commit the sin again next week or so. If happens that you committed the sin again, you have to renew the repentance, renew your deep feeling of regret and your will not to sin again.

God is Most-Forgiving and Forbearing, Most Merciful and Compassionate. He does not mind accepting one’s repentance again and again. On the contrary, God feels happy when His servant repents to Him every time he sins.

As for the fourth condition, scholars said that if the sin you have committed has to do with people’s rights, you have to give this right back. For example, if you unlawfully take something from someone, you have to give it back. If you do someone an injustice, you have to remedy this injustice. You have also to acknowledge people’s rights and seek their pardon if you take their money or speak ill of them.

Ibn `Ata’illah supposes that you have fulfilled these conditions. But here we are talking about one of the ethics attached to repentance, which is that of hope. Ethics are different from conditions. If you fulfill the conditions, you have also to fulfill the ethics. You should cherish hopes that God will accept your repentance.

These it is who may look forward to God’s grace: for God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. (AL-Baqarah 2:218)

Despite Sins

Sometimes, hope is lost when one asks himself: how should I look forward to God’s grace after committing such sins and how is God going to accept my repentance?

This feeling will affect one’s hope in God’s mercy and eventually may lead him to a state of despair and hopelessness.

And who-other than those who have utterly lost their way-could ever abandon the hope of his Sustainer’s grace? (Al-Hijr 15:65)

In this connection, Ibn `Ata’illah says that, no matter how grave one’s sins are, they should not affect his hope in God’s mercy. If one repents sincerely to God, God, surely, will accept his repentance. The Prophet is reported to have said “One who has repented of a sin (sincerely) is like one who has never sinned at all.” (Ibn Majah)

Rest assured that if you offer a sincere repentance, God will accept it no matter how grave your sins are. These sins are nothing in God’s sight. God says in the Divine Hadith: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I would forgive you.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Therefore, hope should not be affected by the gravity of the sin. Rather, one should make a sincere intention to repent to Allah of the sins and look forward to His Mercy. God says in the divine hadith: “I am as My servant expects Me to be. So, let him think of Me as he wishes.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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Worship, Humanity and Individual Liberties

The idea of servitude has become distasteful to the modern secular mindset which concerns itself with individual liberties. Some might say that humanity has no need to worship, and that doing so compromises freedom.

They forget, however, that absolute freedom is neither possible nor even desirable for all members of a society, and that is why every social order has its laws and restrictions.

Human Nature

Studies in human psychology confirm that man is a worshipper by instinct, that worship is instilled in him as part of his nature, and that he tends to direct it to whatever he considers worthy – other human beings, revered customs or superstitions, materialist ideologies, or his own personal inclinations.

An object of worship is that to which one devotes the greatest portion of his thought and effort. So one either worships God or he worships something other than Him – along with Him or instead of Him. The worship of God alone is liberating in that it frees one from servitude to all else.

Many people misunderstand the concept of worship, assuming that it is merely the practice of certain rituals. But in reality it includes everything done seeking the acceptance of the one worshipped.

Worship Means Obedience

According to Islam, the worship of God means willing obedience to His orders and prohibitions which, besides prayer and other religious obligations, include the fulfillment of promises and agreements, honesty and precision in work, teaching and counseling, encouraging righteousness, assisting others, opposing injustice and so on.

Worship is the right of the Creator upon His Creation. It is based on the perception that everything was brought into existence by God and is dependent upon Him in whose hand is life and death, benefit and harm, and the outcome of every matter.

Accountability

Further, it is based on the knowledge that man is an accountable being in need of God’s continuing guidance and acceptance. Islam confirms that although it is His divine right, God does not gain anything from the worship of His servants, nor is He harmed by their refusal.

He ordains worship for the benefit of the worshipper himself, and this benefit is obtained by him or her in both this life and the next.

When a believer understands that our Creator and Sustainer deserves to be worshipped, he wants to do so because of his gratitude and love for his Lord and because it is inherently right and correct.

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Source: The article is excerpted from the book Clear Your Doubts about Islam, Compiled by Saheeh international.

 

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Tawakkul: The Third Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

Relying on God (tawakkul) is one of the important Islamic concepts that may be misunderstood and therefore might lead to undesirable results. This misunderstanding might also lead to some forms of deviation and introducing innovations in religion. Likewise, it might result in a state of failure in both religious affairs and worldly affairs.

When you leave worldly affairs to unreliable people, neglect the means, or quit your work completely, you are deviating from the path of relying on God and practicing apathy (tawaakul) not relying on God (tawakkul).

Ibn `Ata’illah says: (Save yourself from worrying (tadbir). Somebody else already took care of your affairs for you.) What is meant by tadbir here?

Tadbir in Arabic means considering the results and outcomes of a certain action. Therefore, tadbir is closely connected with outcomes. In their turn, the outcomes are connected with the concept of relying on God. God says:

… so that they answered, “God is enough for us; and how excellent a guardian is He! (Aal `Imran 3:173)

Then, when you have decided upon a course of action, place your trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him. (Aal `Imran 3:159)

In God, then, let the believers place their trust! (Aal `Imran 3:160)

Thus, the virtue of relying on God is mentioned and highly praised in many Qur’anic verses and what is mentioned frequently in the Qur’an is of profound significance and takes high priority.

There is a considerable difference between relying on God and worrying which is the same difference between the means and outcomes. By this I mean that there is a difference between work represented in striving to achieve the goals, exerting efforts and devoting time and the outcome of this work represented in events, figures, and results.

Your role is to strive and rely on God. You do not have to worry about the process of governing such affairs. It is God who governs everything. “And who is it that governs all that exists?” (Yunus 10:31) , this is a clear question raised in the Qur’an.

Take the Means, Leave the Outcomes to God

God governs all that exists. You have to take the means and leave the outcomes to God because taking the means and causes is part of relying on God. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted to give an example of relying on God, he said: “If you had all relied on Allah as you should rely on Him, then He would have provided for you as He provides for the birds, who wake up hungry in the morning and return with full stomachs at dusk.”

You are like the bird. The bird does not stand on one branch of a tree all the time waiting for the grains. But it moves from one branch to another until it gets the grains. The bird has to do its best to get the grains, and providing the bird with the grains is God’s work.

Therefore, you should take the means and leave out the outcomes to God. Some Muslims- even those who are on the path to God- do not take the means, stay at the mosque all the time and ask people for food and clothes. They argue that governing things is not their task. Their argument is correct, but they have to rely on God and relying on God necessities having recourse to the means and the causes of achieving goals.

It is reported that a man used to stay at the mosque all the time arguing that he is devoting himself and his time to worship God. The Prophet asked about the one who takes care of him. The Prophet was told that the man’s brother takes care of him. The Prophet replied: “His brother is better than him.” `Umar ibn al-Khattab advised some people who stayed at the mosque and said “We are relying on God.” He said his common words: “The sky does not rain gold or silver.”

If one cannot attain success after having recourse to every necessary means, this is a proper situation to really rely on God. If the means you have taken fail you, you might say: O God, I have done my best and I left no stone unturned, what should I do? At this point, you are indeed putting your trust in God.

What is not conformable with relying on God is not to do anything or not to have recourse to every kind of means and causes of success. Some ignorant people ignore taking the necessary means intentionally. What is needed from you is to take all the means, and then rely on God.

Sometimes God might withhold form me the causes, the means and take from me my power so that I return to Him and rely on Him. This is a valuable God-given gift.

Relying on God is not inconsistent with what we call nowadays planning, making a feasibility study, studying the market, etc. All this is part of relying on God because by planning, organizing, studying, etc. we are having recourse to the means of success. If you are a trader, you have to make a feasibility study and do your calculations. If you lose, this is God’s decree. If you win, it is also God’s decree. You do not have to worry about the outcomes. To lose or to win, to succeed or to fail, is not your business.

Even in religious issues whether they have to do da`wah (Islamic call) issues, scientific issues, or worship issues, you do the thing and leave the rest to God. For example, you worship God by calling people to do good deeds but guiding those people is left to God. God says:

It is not for you (O Prophet) to make people follow the right path, since it is God (alone) who guides whom He wills. (Al-Baqarah 2:272)

Verily, you cannot guide aright everyone whom you love: but it is God who guides him that wills (to be guided); and He is fully aware of all who would let themselves be guided. (Al-Qasas 28:56)

Ibn `Ataillah says: (Save yourself from worrying. Somebody else already took care of your affairs for you.). What is meant by “somebody else”? Who provides you with the means of living? Who plans for your success? Who decides on the outcomes? It is God the Almighty. Therefore, if somebody else has done something for you, why you go and do it yourself?

This is a very simple rational issue. If there is a specialist in a certain field doing something for you, it is not proper to go and do it yourself. How about if the one who is taking care of this thing is God Himself!

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

How Do We Know the True Religion?

By Hammudah Abd Al-Ati

Throughout history religion has been abused and misunderstood. Some people use it as a means of exploitation and suppression, as a pretext for prejudice and persecution. Some other people use it as a source of power and domination over the elite and the masses alike. But is that the true religion?

In the name of religion unjustifiable wars have been launched, freedom of thought and conscience has been oppressed, science has been persecuted, the right of the individual to maturity has been denied, and man’ s dignity and honor have been flagrantly debased. And in the name of religion an injustice has been inflicted upon humanity with the result that religion itself has suffered many losses.

These are historical facts which no one can deny. But is this the proper function of religion or the right approach to religion? Could this be the purpose of religion?

The indisputable answer is an emphatic no. There are many religions in the world, and each one claims to be the one and only true religion. Each religion is supposed to have come from God for the right guidance of man.

But these claims contradict each other and have caused dissensions among people and vehement reactions to religion – instead of welding mankind into one universal brotherhood under the One Universal Benevolent God.

This situation makes any neutral observer confused and perhaps averse to all kinds of religion.

The Islamic …”Religion”

The Islamic concept of religion is unique in the broadest sense of the word. It is true that genuine religion must come from God for the right guidance of man. And it is equally true that human nature and major human needs are basically the same at all times.

This conception leads to one conclusion, and that is: There is only one true religion coming from the One and the Same God, to deal with the outstanding human problems of all times.

This religion is “Islam”. But it should be borne in mind that Islam was taught by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) alone. On the contrary, Islam had been taught by all the prophets before Muhammad, and the true followers of Abraham and Moses as well as those of Jesus and the rest were all called “Muslims”.

So Islam has been, and will continue to be, the true universal religion of God, because God is one and changeless, and because human nature and major human needs are fundamentally the same, irrespective of time and place, of race and age, and of any other considerations.

The True Religion

Bearing this in mind, the Islamic concept maintains that religion is not only a spiritual and intellectual necessity but also a social and universal need. It is not to bewilder man but to guide him. It is not to debase him but to elevate his moral nature.

It is not to deprive him of anything useful, or to burden him, or to oppress his qualities but to open for him inexhaustible treasures of sound thinking and right action. It is not confine him to narrow limits but to launch him into wide horizons of truth and goodness.

In short, true religion is to acquaint man with God as well as with himself and the rest of the universe. This is by no means an oversimplification of the function of religion. Here is what it means.

When the purpose of true religion is carefully examined, it will be found that religion satisfies the spiritual and moderate material needs of man. It unties his psychological knots and complexes, sublimates his instincts and aspirations, and disciplines his desires and the whole course of life. It improves his knowledge of God – the Highest Truth in the universe, and of his own self.

It teaches him about the secrets of life and the nature of man and how to treat them, about good and evil, about right and wrong.

It purifies the soul from evil, clears the mind from doubts, strengthens the character and corrects the thinking and convictions of man. All this can be achieved only when man faithfully observes the spiritual duties and physical regulations introduced by religion.

The True Purpose

On the other hand, true religion educates man and trains him in hope and patience, in truthfulness and honesty, in love for the right and good, in courage and endurance, all of which are required for the mastery of the great art of living.

Moreover, true religion insures man against fears and spiritual losses, and assures him of God’s aid and unbreakable alliance. It provides man with peace and security and makes his life meaningful.

That is what true religion can do for humanity, and that is the concept of religion in Islam.

Any religion which fails to bear these fruits is not Islam or rather, is not religion at all, and any man who fails to draw these benefits from religion is not religious or God-minded. God is absolutely true when He says in the Qur’an:

Verily the religion with God is Islam. Nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them. But if any deny the Signs of God, God is swift in calling to account. (Aal `Imran 3:19).

And if anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good). (Aal `Imran 3:85)

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

 

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New Muslims Reflections

Reflection: The Fifth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

“Bury yourself in the land of anonymity. A seed that is never buried underground will never produce. There is nothing more beneficial to the heart than an isolation that allows it to enter a state of reflection.”

If we want to understand well the meaning of awe, hope, relying on God, and sincerity and want to turn this rational understanding to a heart feeling, then the way, as Ibn `Ata’illah suggests, is to reflect.

Reflection is a marvelous form of worship that pushes people in their path to God. It helps people achieve their spiritual goals. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Reflection for one hour is better than worship for sixty years.”

This is because the one who spends his time reflecting on God, His creation, His universal laws, His religion, and His legislation, is really converting the mere rational information to sincere conditions and spiritual lights.

Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the succession of night and day, there are indeed messages for all who are endowed with insight, (and) who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and (thus) reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: “O our Sustainer! You have not created this without meaning and purpose. Limitless are You in Your glory! Keep us safe, then, from suffering through fire! (Aal `Imran 3:190-191)

Those who are endowed with insight reflect on the creation of the heavens and earth and on the day and the night based on the knowledge and information they know about the universe. Many people possess such information in their minds only without reaching their hearts.

On the other hand, those who reflect on the universe calling to their minds the Creator of the universe, or reflect on the heavens and the earth calling to their minds the Maker of the heavens and the earth, their reflection will eventually lead them to admit in their hearts “You have not created this without meaning and purpose.” Reflection will make them stand in awe of God, therefore they pray to God: “Keep us safe, then, from suffering through fire!”. Thus reflection has a significant influence on the heart. God says:

Only such as are endowed with (innate) knowledge stand (truly) in awe of God: (for they alone comprehend that). (Fatir 35:28)

True Isolation

In this word of wisdom Ibn `Ata’illah points to another concept that supports the concept of reflection that is of anonymity and isolation. This concept is one of the concepts that many people misunderstand and take them away from the true objectives of religion and the spirit of Islam.

By the Arabic word khumul, Ibn `Ata’illah does not mean laziness, however he means the state of obscurity from fame. This state is achieved when one isolates himself from people. This isolation is for a limited period, as isolation from the world for a long time without any kind of interaction is against the teachings of Islam. The Prophet is reported to have said: “There is no monasticism in Islam.”; “The Muslim who interacts with people and is patient when they harm him is better than a Muslim who doesn’t mingle and is not patient when people harm him.” (Al-Bayhaqi)

Therefore, a Muslim interacts with people, works, gets married, visits his relatives and his neighbors, enjoins good and forbids evil, befriend people, etc.

Then, what does Ibn `Ata’illah mean by “isolation”? Is there evidence in the prophetic tradition to support it? Or is it an innovation?

The clear origin of isolation, in addition to the Prophet’s isolation in the cave of Hira’ before and after the Revelation, is the Prophet’s staying in the mosque to worship God during the month of Ramadan and during other months.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet used to perform I`tikaf (staying in the mosque to worship God) every year in the month of Ramadan for ten days, and when it was the year of his death, he stayed in the mosque for twenty days.

`A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Prophet used to perform i`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until he died, then his wives continued to do i`tikaf after he died. She also reported that the Prophet performed i`tikaf for twenty days during the month of Shawwal.

Ibn `Ata’illah makes a connection between this prophetic tradition and a divine law which states that every plant or animal or even human being that is expected to grow and produce should be buried in the darkness and grow away from external factors.

Thus, a seed is planted in the darkness of the earth until its roots and branches begin to grow, then it splits the soil and comes to the surface. A fetus grows in the darkness of the mother’s womb until its organs and nerves are formed, then it comes to life.

Likewise, the heart and the mind grow through retreat in the mosque or through isolation from the creation until one gets into the state of spiritual and divine thoughts. When one reaches this state, he can travel from the world of the universe to the world of the Originator, from the word of the Creatures to the world of the Creator, from the world of the sings, rules and rituals to the world of meanings, wisdoms and objectives. How beneficial is this to the heart! How great is this isolation that takes one back to the purity of faith and the truthfulness of the connection with God!

Otherwise “a seed that is never buried underground will never produce”, as Ibn `Ata’illah says. This is a constant universal law that will never be changed.

Benefits of Temporary Isolation

Temporary isolation from the creation has other benefits. One benefit is that it helps one to avoid committing sins. This is because most sins are the result of mingling with people. He who is alone does not commit sins.

Another benefit of isolation is that it trains the servant to protect his tongue against its destructive vices. God says: “However, man is, above all else, always given to contention.” (Al-Kahf 18-54)

Isolation also trains the servant to purify his intention to God because he will not occupy himself with how people look at him and what they will say about him. Though showing off may find its way to one’s heart even if one is alone when one occupies himself with how people think about him.

Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah says elsewhere: “Perhaps showing off in good works has entered upon you from where people do not see you.” At any rate, isolation involves a kind of training on how to make the intention purely for God and how to forget the people around you and how they think about it positively or negatively.

If the servant looks for what benefits his heart, he will make progress in his spiritual journey to God. Sometimes we forget the work of the heart and focus on the work of the organs. This hardens the heart and leads to forgetfulness, and puts some obstacles and difficulties in the course of one’s journey to God. However, temporary isolation from the people and reflection on God help one reach his destination quickly. There is nothing more beneficial to the heart than an isolation that allows it to enter a state of reflection.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Cleaning up before Beautification: The Sixth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

There are some conditions and etiquette related to isolation and entering the state of reflection as mentioned in the previous stop. If one abides by such conditions, he can attain the Divine spiritual lights and his heart shines as Ibn `At’illah describes it in the word of wisdom under discussion. Before beautifying the heart with lights and virtues, it has to be cleaned up from flaws and shortcomings.

Ibn `At’illah says: “There is nothing more beneficial to the heart than an isolation that allows it to enter a state of reflection. How can the mirror of the heart shine if the material images are covering it? How can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires? How can the heart ever hope to enter the Divine Presence if it has not purified itself from its forgetfulness?”

We are going to talk about three meanings.

The first meaning is about the heart’s shininess with spiritual illumination and its relation with the universe and material things. Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: how can the mirror of the heart shine if the material images are covering it?

The second meaning is about the desires and how the heart journeys to God despite the existence of such desires. Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: How can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires?

The third meaning is about the Divine Presence. Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: How can the heart ever hope to enter the Divine Presence if it has not purified itself from its forgetfulness?

God’s Presence means God’s always being with the servant. God says; “… behold, God is (only) with those who believe!” (Al-Anfal 8:19) , “… seeing that God is with you, you are bound to rise high (in the end); and never will He let your (good) deeds go to waste.” (Muhammad 47:35), “… and know that God is with those who are conscious of Him.” (At-Tawbah 9:36), “And be patient in adversity: for, verily, God is with those who are patient in adversity.” (Al-Anfal 8:146), “… for, verily, God is with those who are conscious of Him and are doers of good withal!” (An-Nahl 16:128) All those are in God’s Presence.

The question is how should one attain God’s Presence although the heart is filled with desires?

Material things, earthly life, people, and desires are all imprinted in the heart as the picture is imprinted in the mirror. This is a wonderful simile.

If we suppose that this heart is the mirror, then what is there in this heart? Is it filled with people, the money, the job, the family, the food, the car, the house, etc.? Or is it filled with light?

Here I do not mean that we should not care about our families, our job, and other material things. What I mean is: what is there in the depth of the heart? Do we see light in this heart? God says:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is, as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is (enclosed) in glass, the glass (shining) like a radiant star: (a lamp) lit from a blessed tree – an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west the oil whereof (is so bright that it) would well-nigh give light (of itself) even though fire had not touched it: light upon light! God guides unto His light him that wills (to be guided); and (to this end) God propounds parables unto men, since God (alone) has full knowledge of all things. In the houses (of worship) which God has allowed to be raised… (An-Nur 24:35-36)

God’s house is where you isolate yourself to worship Him alone so that you can attain the Divine Light. In the divine hadith the Prophet reports from God that He said: “Neither My Earth nor My Heavens can contain Me, but the heart of a believing Servant contains Me.”

Therefore, only the heart of a believing servant can contain God as the hadith states. Light eliminates darkness and this is the nature of light.

But how the heart is illuminated with God’s Light while its mirror is imprinted with material images and Aghyar. Aghyar is an expression used by those who are journeying to God which means everything other than God. Is this what is in the heart or is it filled with God’s light and remembrance?

Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: how can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires? Not all desires are prohibited. Islam is not against desires and did not prohibit them. However, Islam regulates the issue of desires. God did not create a desire which is prohibited because Universal laws of God and general Islamic rules maintain the instinct and human nature.

God did not prohibit anything that He made a characteristic of our nature such as eating, drinking, sexual desire, speaking, laughing, chanting in a good voice, etc. However, Islam regulates this natural disposition, i.e. eating should be regulated this way, drinking should be regulated that way, etc. Islam prohibited some foods, drinks, and some forms of marriage. Unlike other belief systems, desire, in Islam, is not prohibited in itself and it is not a sin in itself. What is prohibited is some parts of the desire under certain circumstances.

The problem is not desire itself, but how it covers the heart so that it cannot journey to God. God says:

And God wants to turn unto you in His mercy, whereas those who follow (only) their own lusts want you to drift far away from the right path. (An-Nisaa’ 4:27)

Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: how can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires? These desires make you attached to earthly life. If you always think of your desires, they will take you away from God. Therefore, the isolation should be free from desire even if it is a lawful desire. God says:

… but do not lie with them skin to skin when you are about to abide in meditation in houses of worship. These are the bounds set by God: do not, then, offend against them. (Al-Baqarah 2:187)

This is one of the rulings of i`tikaf and this is the only verse that clearly mentions i`tikaf. However, it is a clear evidence for the topic of isolation.

As for how the Prophet (peace be upon him) applied this sunnah, it is reported that he used to do i`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan. In the year in which he died, he did i`tikaf for twenty days. It is reported that he performed i`tikaf in months other than Ramadan. Therefore, i`tikaf is not only confined to Ramadan and it can be observed in other months.

Then Ibn `Ata’illah asks: How can the heart ever hope to enter the Divine Presence if it has not purified itself from its forgetfulness? This is a good expression. Ibn `Ata’illah says forgetfulness is like the state of impurity and the isolation is the washing that will purify you from this state of impurity, the impurity of forgetfulness.

If you neglect remembering God and you remember something else, then you have to seek God’s forgiveness. You have to remember God a lot so that He purifies your heart. This is one of the benefits of isolation.

Every Muslim should devote part of his time to remember God. Do not say that you do not have enough time. This is unacceptable. It is a matter of half an hour or an hour during which you isolate yourself, remember God and reflect on Him. Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah says in the next word of wisdom: “Postponing good deeds until you have free time is an indication of an immature soul.” Do not say “I do not have time, even half an hour, for this isolation.” This is an unacceptable argument.

We ask God the Almighty to purify us form the impurity of forgetfulness and from being chained by our desires. We ask Him also to grant us His Light. We ask God to place light above us, to place light below us, to place light in front of us, to place light on our right, and to place light on our left. Finally, we ask Him to place light in our hearts.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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Divine Unity New Muslims

Allah Is One: Why Do We Believe in That?

One of the many common questions that were asked during the Islamic Awareness Tour was “If Allah does exist, what reasons do we have to believe Allah is One?” The question about the  existence and oneness of Allah is important as it addresses a fundamental concept in Islamic theology, the concept of oneness.

Allah the One

The concept of Oneness of Allah addresses a fundamental concept in Islamic theology.

The Oneness of Allah is a central theme in the Qur’an and a message of all of the Prophets. The Qur’an eloquently describes the nature of Allah and His Oneness in the 112th Chapter,

Say: He is Allah, the One. Allah the Eternal. He begot no one nor was He begotten. No one is comparable to him.(Al-Ikhlas 112:1-4)

Before I begin to answer the question, it is important to add that the concept of Oneness in Islam is not limited to Allah’s singularity and uniqueness. There are many aspects to this concept which involve the way human beings should worship Allah, how they should understand His lordship, and how they should understand Allah’s names and attributes. It doesn’t stop there as these ideas transform an individual’s world view and outlook, as a famous Asian-subcontinent thinker once wrote,

“A believer in this…can never be narrow in outlook. He believes in a Allah Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Master of the East and the West and Sustainer of the entire universe. After this belief he does not regard anything in the world as a stranger to himself. He looks on everything in the universe as belonging to the same Lord he himself belongs to. His sympathy, love and service are not confined to any particular sphere or group. His vision is enlarged, his intellectual horizon widens, and his outlook becomes as liberal and as boundless as is the Kingdom of Allah. How can this width of vision and breadth of mind be achieved by an atheist, a polytheist or one who believes in a deity supposed to possess limited and defective powers like a man?”

In light of this, there are many ways to answer the question referring to Allah’s singularity and uniqueness, thereby providing a positive case for the Oneness of Allah, and they range from theological to philosophical arguments. I will present the following 5 arguments:

1- Occam’s Razor
2- Logical Argument
3- Conceptual Differentiation
4- Uniqueness
5- Revelation

Why He Is One

The Qur’an rhetorically asks the question “Did the universe come out of nothing?” The answer seems quite obvious due to the metaphysical and undeniable logic that whatever begins to exist has a cause, and since the universe began to exist, therefore it must have a cause. It would be irrational to posit more than one cause for the universe, as an infinite regress of causes is impossible. The reasons for this include the absurdity of the actual infinite existing in reality. Take the following examples into consideration:

1- You have an infinite number of people in a room. If I take two people away, how many do you have left? The answer is infinity minus two. However does this make sense? If there are less than an infinite number of people in a room, you should be able to count that number in the real world. But you can’t, in other words, the infinite doesn’t make sense in the real world. In light of this, mathematicians Kasman and Newman state:

“The infinite certainly does not exist in the same sense that we say ‘There are fish in the sea’”.

2- Imagine I am a soldier and I want to shoot an enemy. In order for me to shoot, I have to ask permission from the soldier behind me to shoot, but he has also to ask permission from the soldier behind him to shoot. Now imagine this continued forever, in other words, an infinite amount of time? Will I ever shoot the enemy? The answer is obvious. In the same light, an infinite regress of causes for the universe would mean there would be no universe in existence in the first place.

So, the conclusion that the universe has a single independent uncaused cause seems quite plausible; however, you can still posit a plurality of causes all occurring at the same time. Is this a sound argument? I believe it is not a strong argument if we take Ockham’s Razor into consideration. Ockham’s Razor is a philosophical principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. This principle enjoins “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate”, in English “Plurality should not be posited without necessity.” In other words, the simplest and most comprehensive explanation is the best explanation.

Essentially, it means that in absence of any evidence or in absence of a need for a plurality of causes we should hold onto the most comprehensive and simple explanation.

In this case, we have no evidence to say the cause for the universe is actually a combination of two, three or even one thousand causes, so the simplest and most comprehensive explanation is that this cause is one. Postulating a plurality of causes does not add to the comprehensiveness of the argument.

In other words, to add more causes would not enhance the argument’s explanatory power or scope. For example, to claim that the universe was caused by an all powerful cause is just as comprehensive than to claim it was caused by two all powerful causes. Because one all powerful cause is all that is required, simply because it is all powerful.

A contention to this argument is that if we were to apply this principle to the pyramids in Egypt, we would absurdly adopt the view that it was made by one person. However, this is a misapplication of the principle. Taking the view that the pyramids were built by one person is actually not the simplest and most comprehensive explanation as it raises far more questions than it answers. For instance, how can one man build the pyramids?

It is far more comprehensive to postulate that it was built by many men. In light of this, someone can say that the universe is so complex that it would be absurd to postulate that it was created by only one being. This contention, although valid, is misplaced. A powerful being creating the whole universe is a far more coherent and simple explanation than a plurality of causes.

Now the critic may continue and argue that the pyramids could then have been built by an all powerful being. But the problem with this is that nothing within the universe is an all powerful being, and since the pyramids were built by an efficient cause (a person or persons that act), then it follows that it must be of the same type of cause.

                                                                                                                                                   To be continued….

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Taken with slight modifications form the author’s website: ww.hamzatzortzis.com.

 

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