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New Muslims Society

Fatwa: Its Meaning and Characteristics

books of fiqh

Fatwa must be formulated in the light of the context of life, the environment, and the specific situation that justifies its being made.

To understand what a fatwa is, we should keep in mind that a fatwa is a part, an element, and, more precisely, a legal instrument, which must be understood in the light of the corpus of Islamic law and jurisprudence.

Fatwa (plural fatawa) means, literally, “legal decision,” “verdict,” or, following the definition of Ash-Shatibi, “A reply to a legal question given by an expert (mufti) in the form of words, action, or approval.”

Authenticity of Fatwa

A fatwa has two essential aspects: it must, first and above all, be founded on the sources and on the juridical inferences and extractions arrived at by the mujtahidin who practice ijtihad (personal reasoning) when the sources are not clear or explicit (that is, when they are zanni, the one who committed illegitimate sexual intercourse) or when there is no relevant text. It must also be formulated in the light of the context of life, the environment, and the specific situation that justifies its being made – and which is in fact its cause.

The place of the mujtahid and the mufti is of prime importance. As Ash-Shatibi said: “The mufti, within the community, plays the part of the prophet. Numerous evidences support his assertion. First there is the proof of hadith: ”Truly the scholars are the heirs of the prophets, and what one inherits from prophets is not money, but knowledge (`ilm).’ Second, he (the mufti) is the source of transmitting rulings (ahkam) in conformity with the words of the Prophet: ”Let the one among you who is witness transmit (that to which he is witness) to those who are absent” and ”Transmit from me, even if it is only one verse.“ If this is the case, it means that he (the mufti) stands in for the Prophet.

In fact, the mufti is a kind of legislator, for the Shari`ah that he conveys is either taken [insofar as it has already been stipulated] from the Lawgiver (by way of the Revelation and the Sunnah) or inferred or extracted from the sources. In the first case, he is simply a transmitter, while in the second he stands in for the Prophet in that he stipulates rulings.

To formulate judgments is the function of the legislator. So, if the function of the mujtahid is to formulate judgments on the basis of his opinion and efforts, it is possible to say that he is therefore a legislator who should be respected and followed: we should act according to the rulings he formulates and this is vicegerency (Khilafah) in its genuine implementation.”

Ash-Shatibi underlines the importance of the mujtahid who stands in for the Prophet in the Muslim community after the death of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Sources of Fatwa

In this way, the mujtahid or the mufti represents the continuity of knowledge (`ilm) guided by the two sources, so that it may be rightly applied throughout history. Ash-Shatibi made a distinction between clear and explicit evidence (that stipulated in the sources) and that which requires the exercise of deduction and inference and puts the mujtahid in the position of legislator (even though he must seek the guidance of God, the Supreme Legislator, and follow the example of the Prophet).

The distinction drawn by Ash-Shatibi has the great advantage of setting out the two different levels of fatwa: when questioned on legal issues, the mujtahid will sometimes find a clear answer in the Qur’an and the Sunnah because there is an explicit text. Then the fatwa consists of a quotation and a restatement of the authoritative proof.

If there is a text that is open to interpretation, or if there is no relevant text, the mufti must give a specific response in the light of both the objectives of the Shari`ah and the situation of the questioner. Ash-Shatibi underlines that the mufti really does play the role of vicegerent who must come up with a legal judgment for the one who calls on him.

The more the issue is related to an individual or a particular case, the more precise, clear, and specific it must be. Consequently, a fatwa is rarely transferable, because it is a legal judgment pronounced (in the light of the sources, of the maslaha (good/interest), and of the context) in response to a clear question arising from a precise context. In the field of law, this is in fact the exact meaning of “jurisprudence.”

Many questions have been raised in the course of history about the diversity of fatawa. If Islam is one, how could there be differing legal judgments on the same legal question? The ulama have unanimously affirmed that if geographical or historical contexts differ, it is no longer the same question, for it must be considered in the light of a new environment.

Thus, properly considered responses should naturally differ, as is shown by the example of Ash-Shafi`i, who modified some of his legal judgments after traveling from Baghdad to Cairo. So, even though Islam is one, the fatawa, with all their diversity, and sometimes contradiction, still remain Islamic and authoritative.

This kind of diversity was understood, accepted, and respected, while the problem of disagreement between scholars faced with an identical legal question has given rise to endless debates. Is this possible in the area of religious affairs, and if so, how can Islam be a unifying force for Muslims?

To be continued…

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 The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s book “Western Muslims and

the Future of Islam” Oxford University Press (2004).

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Categories
New Muslims Society

Fatwa… Different Opinions and Authentic Sources (2/2)

Part 1

fiqh books

Guided by the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the Muslim scholars should do their best to discover the truth when the texts are not clear or simply do not exist.

Concerning the issue of authenticity of fatwa there are two essential points have been emphasized by the vast majority of scholars:

1- There is no divergence of opinion on the principles, the fundamentals (usul) of Islamic law. There is a consensus among the jurists on the fact that these principles constitute the essence, the frame of reference, and the benchmark of the juridical corpus of Islamic Law and fiqh (jurisprudence).

However, it is impossible to avoid differences of opinion on points related to secondary issues (furu`), for a legal judgment on these points is dependent on and influenced by many factors, such as the knowledge and understanding of the scholars and their ability to deduce and extrapolate judgments.

The natural diversity in their levels of competence inevitably gives rise to divergent interpretations and opinions. This even happened among the Companions at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and, according to the scholars, such divergences should be recognized and respected, within their limits, as based upon the fundamentals of Islam.

Fatwa Validity

2- A question naturally arises from this consensus: even if there are various “acceptable” legal opinions on one and the same problem (even a secondary problem), does this mean that all the fatawa have the same value; in other words, are they all correct?

If that were the case, it would lead to the conclusion that two divergent opinions could both be true at the same time, in the same place, and in respect of the same person, which is rationally unacceptable.

The majority of scholars, including the four principal imams of the Sunni schools of law, are of the view that only one of the divergent opinions pronounced on a precise question can be considered correct. This is indicated in the passage in the Qur’an that relates the story of Prophets David and Solomon, where it is clear that, although they had made judgments on the same case and although both of them had received the gift of judgment and knowledge, only Solomon’s opinion was correct:

We made it understood to Solomon. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:79)

This position is also confirmed by the hadith about the mujtahid’s (the one who formulates judgments on the basis of his opinion and efforts) reward – ”Truly the scholars are the heirs of the prophets, and what one inherits from prophets is not money, but knowledge (`ilm).’ – he will receive two rewards if he is right but only one if he is wrong, because his effort and sincere research will be taken into account by God.

One Truth

So, to accept that there may be a diversity of legal opinions on precise questions (formulated in the same context, at the same time, and for the same community or individual) does not in the least lead to the assumption that there are several “truths” and that all these opinions have the same value and correctness.

There is only ’one truth,’ which all the scholars should try to discover, and they will be rewarded for the effort they make toward this. As long as there is no indisputable proof applicable to the problem in question, each Muslim should, after consideration and analysis, follow the opinion whose evidence and worth seem to him the clearest and most convincing.

Two Sources

Guided by the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet, which are for Muslims the sources of truth, the Muslim scholars should do their best to discover the truth when the texts are not clear or simply do not exist.

In fact, the meaning and content of the delegation granted by God to humankind reaches its peak and is fulfilled when the scholars struggle constantly and tirelessly to arrive at the most correct judgment, or that which is closest to what is correct and true.

So these scholars, both mujtahids and muftis, must be determined, demanding, and confident in their own judgments, while remaining humble and calm to face and accept the fact that there will necessarily and inevitably be a plurality of opinions.

Imam Ash-Shafi`i aptly said, concerning the state of mind that should characterize the attitude of the scholars: “(As we see it) our opinion is right though it may turn out to be wrong, while we consider the opinion of our opponents to be wrong though it may turn out to be right.”

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 The article is an excerpt from the author’s “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam” Oxford University Press (2004).

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Categories
New Muslims Reflections

This Is What I Love the Most about Islam…

What thing do you know by heart and mind, believe in, and fascinated by in Islam?

What is your favorite thing about Islam? What thing do you love most about this religion? And why do you love it?

This Is What I Love the Most in Islam… What is yours?

Below is an episodes of IBN’s “100 Muslims, 1 Question” where some fellow American Muslims were asked about their favorite thing in Islam, and here are their responses…

Share your opinions and thoughts here…

 

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Source: ibn.net

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Categories
New Muslims Reflections

This One Surah Is Mine…What Is Yours?

Given that every single human has a unique nature, each and every one of us connect with God in their own way, from their own perspective.

We all get in touch with God through the Qur’an, the message for all and for each one of us. Still, the Qur’an addresses each one of us individually.

Is it the first surah you learned or memorized?

What is your favorite surah of the Qur’an, and why? Is it the first surah you learned, recited or memorized?

What is the first thing you think about when you hear or read that surah? In what way does it impact or affect you on a personal level?

Some fellow American Muslims were asked about their favorite surah of the Qur’an, and why they are attached to it, and here are their responses…

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Source: ibn.net

 

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Categories
New Muslims Pilgrimage

Hajj 2013: In Pictures

Millions of Muslims converge yearly to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Hajj, one of the world’s biggest displays of mass religious peaceful devotion. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have started to leave the Kingdom after peacefully performing the journey rituals.

The number of pilgrims this year has been put at almost 1.5 million, according to Saudi authorities. Hajj officially began on Sunday, 13 October when pilgrims from all over the world began travelling from the holy city of Makkah to Mina, which is roughly 8 kilometres away.

On the second day, Monday, 14 October, pilgrims were staying in `Arafat until sunset before heading to Muzdalifah, where they spent the night before moving on in the morning to start the ritual of symbolically stoning the devil by hurling pebbles at the three walls of Jamarat.

Hajj, which officially ended on Friday, 18 October, must be performed by every Muslim with the physical and financial means to do so, at least once in their lifetime. Among the rites Muslims must perform during the soul-searching journey are circumambulating the Ka`bah, praying at nearby Mount `Arafat (the most essential ritual in the hajj journey) and stoning the devil.

 

Hajj-20130

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as they pray inside the Grand Mosque during the hajj, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 15, 2013. The hajj, a central pillar of Islam and one that able-bodied Muslims must make once in their lives, is a four-day spiritual cleansing based on centuries of interpretation of the traditions of Prophet Muhammad.

 

Hajj-2013-0

Muslim pilgrims head to the “Jamarat” ritual, the symbolic stoning of Satan, where they throw pebbles at pillars, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, on Oct. 16, 2013. Pilgrims pelt pillars symbolising the devil with pebbles to show their defiance on the third day of the hajj as Muslims worldwide mark `Eid Al-Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isma`il on God’s command.

A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat

A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Mercy on the plains of `Arafat during the peak of the annual Haj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Makkah early on Monday morning. An estimated 2m Muslims were in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the start of the annual Haj pilgrimage.

 

A Muslim pilgrim prays at Mount Al-Noor ahead of the annual haj

A Muslim pilgrim prays at Mount Al-Nur ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah.

 

APTOPIX Mideast Saudi Arabia Hajj

The Friday before the Hajj, Muslim pilgrims attended Friday Prayers at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Makkah. (AP)

 

Mideast Saudi Arabia Hajj

On the first day of Hajj, Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise with their hearts tilted toward the Ka’bah (the cube-shaped structure that Muslims around the world face in prayer five times a day) in the Grand Mosque. (AP)

 

Mideast Saudi Arabia Hajj

Male pilgrims are required to wear Ihram (two white cloths) while female pilgrims usually dress simply and leave only their faces and hands uncovered. The customary dress is a symbol of purity and unity, as socio-economic distinctions are no longer apparent. (AP)

 

Mideast Saudi Hajj Photo Essay

On the second day of Hajj, Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called `Arafat or the Mountain of Mercy, 12 miles from the holy city of Makkah. It is here that the Prophet Muhammad was believed to have given his last sermon. (AP)

 

Mideast Saudi Arabia Hajj Photo Essay

A Muslim pilgrim reads verses from the Qur’an on the Mountain of Mercy. (AP)

 

SAUDI-RELIGION-ISLAM-HAJJ

Muslims believe that on this day of the Hajj, the gates of heaven are open, prayers are answered and past sins are forgiven. (AFP/Getty Images)

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Categories
Ethics & Values New Muslims

Between Religion and Daily Life in Islam

Between Religion and Daily Life in Islam..

Islam does not recognize any kind of separation between soul and body, spirit and matter, religion and life.

Faith without action and practice is a dead end, as far as Islam is concerned. Faith by nature is very sensitive and can be most effective.

When it is out of practice or out of use, it quickly loses its liveliness and motivating power. The only way to enliven faith and make it serve its purpose is practice.

Meaningfulness

Practice provides faith with nourishment, survival and effectiveness. In return, faith inspires man to be constant in his devotion, and persistent in his practice. This is because the interrelationship between faith and practice is very strong, and their interdependence is readily understandable.

A person without faith has no real source of inspiration and, consequently, has no worthy objectives to attain or even aspire to. The life of such a person is meaningless, and he lives from day to day, which is no life at all.

On the other hand, the person who confesses faith but does not practice it is self-deceiving person, and in fact has no faith, in which case he is no more than a helpless straying wanderer

The interrelationship between faith and practice in Islam has vivid reflections on the entire setup of the religion and manifests the deep philosophy of its teachings.

Islam does not recognize any kind of separation between soul and body, spirit and matter, religion and life. It accepts man the way God has created him and recognizes his nature as composed of soul and body. It does not neglect his spiritual nature; else he would be like any animal. Nor does it underestimate his physical needs; else he would be an angel, which he is not and cannot be.

According to Islam, man stands in center of the stream of creation. He is not purely spiritual because the purely spiritual beings are the angels, nor is he beyond that, because the Only Being beyond that is God alone. He is not entirely material or physical, because the only beings of this class are the animals and other irrational creatures.

So being of such a complementary nature, man has parallel demands and parallel needs: spiritual and material, moral and physical.

The religion which can help man and bring him close to God is the religion which takes into consideration all these demands and needs, the religion which elevates the spiritual status and disciplines the physical desires. And this is the religion of Islam. To oppress either side of human nature, or upset the balance, or lean to one direction only, would be an abusive contradiction to human nature as well as an irresponsible defiance of the very nature in which God has created man.

Because Islam grants complete recognition of human nature as it is, and takes deep interest in the spiritual as well as the material well-being of man, it does not consider religion a personal affair or a separate entity from the current general course of life.

In other words, religion has no value unless its teachings have effective imprints on the personal and public course of life. On the other hand, life is meaningless, if it is not organized and conducted according to the divine law.

Between Religion and Daily Life in Islam..

Islam penetrates into all walks of life to conduct all human activities in a sound and wholesome manner.

This explains why Islam extends its sense of organization to all walks of life: individual and social behavior, labor and industry, economics and politics, national and international relations, and so on. It also demonstrates why Islam does not recognize “secularism” or separation of religion from man’ s daily transactions.

Wholeness

The interaction between true religion and meaningful life is vital. And this is why Islam penetrates into all walks of life to conduct all human activities in a sound and wholesome manner, acceptable to God and benevolent to man

As a result of this necessary correspondence between true religion and daily life, Islam does not attend to the doctrine of “six days for me or the world and one day for the Lord” . This doctrine amounts to nothing in the long run, and makes the liveliness of religion turn pale and faint.

Besides, it shows serious injustice to God on man’s part and afflicts detrimental injuries on the latter’ s soul. It is a serious negligence of the spiritual and moral needs which are as important as, if not greater than, the material desires. It is a dangerous disruption of the nature of man, and any such imbalance is a symptom of degeneration.

Similarly, if man earmarks six days for monkery (monastic practices) or exclusive meditation and one day for himself, he would be better in no way. The balance would still be upset. The natural and logical course, then, is the course which Islam has offered.

Being of a complementary nature and standing in the center of the stream of creation, man will plunge into serious troubles, if he neglects either his soul or his body, or if he lets either one outweigh the other.

To nourish both, to foster both in a well-balanced and sound manner is the hardest test of man’ s sense of justice and integrity as well as of his willpower and truthfulness. And to help man to pass this test, Islam has come to his rescue with the regular exercises of faith.

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Source: The article is excerpted from the author’s Islam in Focus.

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Categories
Divine Unity New Muslims

The Oneness of God and Man’s Recognition of It

The Transcendent, His Names

The Oneness of God and Man’s Recognition of It

The knowledge of God leads us to our self, as the knowledge of our self leads to God.

There is no “Islamic theology.” It is meaningless, and in actual fact wrong, to compare the often peripheral discussions that took place among Muslim scholars (particularly from the tenth century) with the radical reflections that gave birth to “Christian theology.”

Admittedly, some debates were lively, and in the course of history in the Islamic schools the meaning and significance of the names of God and of His attributes, and the status of revelation have been discussed, but the boundaries of these controversies, in contrast to the history of Catholic dogma, for example, have remained circumscribed and have never gone as far as to open to question three fundamental principles: the absolute Oneness of the Creator, the impossibility of there being a representation of Him, and the truth of His word revealed in the Qur’an.

An authentic “theology” would first and foremost have discussed these three principles. But a careful study of the history of the debates among the schools shows that the disputes took place mainly in separation from these three principles, which, at the heart of the Muslim understanding, are the basis of what is called tawheed (Oneness of Allah).

Islam begins just here: to understand Islam is to grasp the meaning and significance of the multiple dimensions of tawheed.

The concept of tawheed expresses first and essentially the fact of the absolute Oneness of God: the first principle, Creator of all, eternally present in history and at each moment, He is the Most High (Al-`Ali), beyond all that is (Al-Kabir, Al-Wasi`, Al-Jami`), infinitely Near (Al-Qarib), closer to each of us than his jugular vein:

We verily created man and We know what his soul whispers to him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. ( Qaf 50:16)

He is the One (Al-Wahid), the Only One (la ilaha illa Hu, there’s no God but Him), the Absolute (As-Samad), Justice (Al-`Adl), Truth (Al-Haqq), and Light (Al-Nur).

Natural Faith

The whole of creation, in its most natural state, is the most immediate expression of the order intended by the Transcendent. Here, in the universe of the “laws of nature” and “rule of instinct,” everything is in itself already and eternally “Islamic”; submissive to and at peace with the Living One (Al-Hayy), the Eternal (Al-Qayyum), who grants life (Al-Muhyi) and brings death (Al-Mumit).

Nature is a book abounding in signs (ayat) of this essential link with the divine, this “natural faith,” this “faith within nature” that is chanted by the mountain and the desert, the tree and the bird:

Are you not aware that it is God whose limitless glory all (creatures) that are in the heavens and on earth extol, even the birds as they spread out their wings? Each (of them) knows indeed how to pray unto Him and to glorify Him; and God has full knowledge of all that they do. (An-Nur 24:41)

The seven heavens extol His limitless glory, and the earth, and all they contain; and there is not a single thing but extols His limitless glory and praise: but you (O men) fail to grasp the manner of their glorifying Him! (Al-Israa’ 17:44)

“You” refers here to human beings, beings endowed with consciousness and freedom, yet who “do not see” and “do not understand” the celebration that the creation, simply by being what it is, addresses to God, as too are the “jinn” of the Islamic tradition—beings created from fire who, like human beings, can choose to accept or refuse to hold to faith in the Creator.

Thus, with consciousness and freedom, another dimension is opened up, a dimension of faith, nature, submission, and peace, where one must listen, hear, understand, search, begin, resist, reform. Here we must learn to celebrate, learn to pray.

Inherent Recognition of Him

Humans are beings that have knowledge as well as ignorance, memory as well as forgetfulness. In contrast with the rest of creation, they have to live with dignity, risk, and freedom, all at once. What the Transcendent demands of their consciousness is to know Him or, more precisely, to recognize Him, and He has given them the means by which they can meet His demands.

The idea that an intelligent being may find itself alone, abandoned, a prey to doubt with no landmarks in the midst of the “tragedy of life” is alien to Islam: God always makes available to humankind tools and signs on the road that leads to recognizing Him.

The first space that welcomes human beings in their quest is creation itself. It is a book, as we have said, and all the elements that form part of it are signs that should remind the human consciousness that there exists that which is “beyond” them.

This revelation in and through space is wedded to revelations in time, which, at irregular intervals, came as reminders of the origin and end of the universe and of humanity. The Qur’an, the last of these revelations in the Muslim view, has as its main purpose to remind and to direct; to recall to memory the presence of the Only One, to direct the intelligence toward the knowledge of Him.

In the natural order, distinct from all the other creatures by virtue of consciousness, intelligence, and free will, human beings express needs according to the measure of their qualities and nature.

With regard to the latter, the most natural of human quests is, when all is said and done, to know the source of the power and energy that give life to the world – in fact, it is the search for the divine. The first teaching we may draw from revelation is to understand the absolute necessity for the revelation itself.

Knowledge of Him

Basically, we learn from this that we can say of God only what He says of Himself. In other words, we must be listening for what He has said and communicated to humankind throughout history about recognizing and approaching Him. By this means, the Being has offered His names to human intelligence in order to direct it toward the knowledge of Him, but never toward the definition of Him.

Nothing is like Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (Ash-Shura 42:11)

Thus, all the divine names- there’s ninety-nine names, and more, on the basis of the Qur’an and various traditions- of which we have mentioned some, make it possible to meditate and gain access to His transcendence, His closeness, His kindness, and His mercy, but all reveal, in the human heart, human insufficiency, dependence, and “need of Him.”

The second teaching of the Revelation is to invite individuals to a deep study of their own inner lives. The search for God and the sense of “the need of Him” may also arise from the indefinable work of looking inward that is required of each of us.

The knowledge of God leads us to our self, as the knowledge of our self leads to God. What is uncovered through the two revelations, al-Kitab al-mastur (the written Book) and al-Kitab al-manshur (the Book that is spread out; the universe), is a profoundly harmonious conception of the human being.

With the turning of the pages and the passage of time, it takes shape and allows us better to find an order in divine commandments, human characteristics, and the meaning of the effort toward bringing about harmony and justice, which is required of humankind.

The encounter with the Only One, the “full and natural faith” of the created universe, the “need of Him” as the essence of being human, are, I suggest, the three fundamentals of the universal at the heart of Islamic civilization. Flowing from our observations about the Transcendent and His names, we find a special concept of humankind.

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The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s book “Western Muslims and

the Future of Islam” Oxford University Press (2004).

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Categories
Articles of Faith New Muslims

How to Find Allah in Your Life

Allah tells us to search for Him. Where should we search for Him? What tools and equipment do we need to find Allah?

Allah says in the Qur’an:

Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! You has not created this in vain! Glory be to You; save us then from the chastisement of the fire.

Our Lord! surely whomsoever You make enter the fire, him You has indeed brought to disgrace, and there shall be no helpers for the unjust

Our Lord! surely we have heard a preacher calling to the faith, saying: Believe in your Lord, so we did believe; Our Lord! forgive us therefore our faults, and cover our evil deeds and make us die with the righteous. (Aal `Imran 3:191-193)

So, there’s search, and that search begins with knowledge. And whatever knowledge one has, they never know enough. In your search for God one always feel thirst.

The enlightening video below explores the issue of finding Allah in our life and how not to lose our way to Him…

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Source:  TheProphetsPath  Youtube Channel

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Categories
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 Society

Muslim and True Sense of Belonging

 

Minarets in America

To believe, along with the recollection of the presence of the Creator, is a way of understanding one’s life within creation and among people.

Muslims today experience, sometimes with a great deal of tension, conflicts of belonging, and if they themselves do not feel it as such, their fellow-citizens sometimes manage to connect them with another belonging – to “their community,” “their brothers” from some other place, as if this attribution were one more sign that they do not really belong to the Western nations.

For decades the same intentional process has been directed in Europe against Jews, whose genuine loyalty has always been suspect. Muslims face the same judgment, and international events push them even more onto the defensive.

So this issue must be dealt with particularly explicitly. Let us ask the questions clearly and simply: should Muslims be defined in the light of the notion of community (ummah), or are they simply Muslim citizens of one or another Western country? To which group or collectivity do they belong first, to the Ummah or to the country in which they live as residents or citizens?

These are sensitive questions, for behind their outward meaning we find the fundamental question: Is it possible for a Muslim to be an authentic European or American, a real citizen, a loyal citizen?

Belonging to the Islamic Ummah

The essence of the Muslim personality is the affirmation of the Shahadah (Declaration of Faith). If we had to look for the minimal element on which Muslims agree for the definition of their common identity, we would certainly find that it was this fundamental profession of faith, which, when declared sincerely, makes the individual a Muslim.

This Shahadah is not a simple statement, for it contains a profound perception of the Creation that itself gives rise to a specific way of life for the individual, as for the society. The permanent link with God, the recollection that we belong to Him and will return to Him sheds an intense light on our person because we understand that life has meaning and that all people will have to account for their actions. This ’intimate thought of every action‘ is one of the major dimensions of Islamic spirituality that, without any form of institutionalized influence, prompts every believer to decide on the markers for his social life.

To believe, along with the recollection of the presence of the Creator, is a way of understanding one’s life within creation and among people, for, from the Islamic point of view, to be with God is to be with human beings. This is the meaning of tawheed (Oneness of God) in Islam.

In Islam, there are four circles or areas that, at various levels and with specific prerogatives, should be highlighted in order to explain the social significance of the teaching of Islam, from the family to the Ummah and finally to the whole of humankind.

Immediately after the recognition of the presence of a Creator, which is the fundamental vertical dimension, a first horizontal area is opened up in matters to do with human relations. The strong affirmation of the Oneness of God and the worship of Him is linked as an essential condition with respect for parents and good behavior toward them.

The first area in social relations, which is based on family ties, is basic for Muslims. The Qur’an connects the reality of tawheed with respect for parents in numerous verses:

Do not set up any other deity side by side with God, lest you find yourself disgraced and forsaken: For your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him. And do good unto your parents. Should one of them, or both, attain old age, in your care, never say ‘Ugh’ to them or scold them, but (always) speak unto them with reverent speech, and spread over them humbly the wings of your tenderness, and say: ‘O my Sustainer! Bestow Your grace upon them, as they cherished and reared me when I was a child.’ (Al-Israa’ 17:22-24)

To serve one’s parents and be good to them is the best way of being good before God. It is one of the most important teachings of Islam, and the Prophet constantly emphasized it with supporting injunctions, such as the famous hadith: “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers.” (Muslim)

Nevertheless, there may be a situation when parents ask something that is against the faith and God’s commands, in which case a son or a daughter should not obey, although they should remain respectful and polite. The most important of these commands is, of course, not to associate any other god with God, and if parents order their children to do this, they should refuse:

But if both try to force you to associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them; keep company with them in this world in an appropriate way, but follow the way of those who turn to Me. (Luqman 31:15)

This refusal to obey certain pressures exercised by one’s parents clearly shows where the priorities lie with regard to authority from the Islamic point of view: one should please both God and one’s parents, but one should not disobey God in order to please one’s parents. This was confirmed in general terms by the Prophet: “There should be no obedience to a creature in disobedience to the Creator.” (Muslim)

This means that despite the importance of parental ties, which are where identity and fundamental belonging lie for a Muslim, they are not the first or the most important criterion in determining and guiding human relations.

If a Muslim has to choose between fairness, which God has commanded should be practiced and respected, and himself, his parents, or his loved ones, he should prefer justice, for such an act bears true witness to his faith:

O You who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own interests or those of your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over (the claims of) either. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort (the truth), behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do! (An-Nisaa’ 4:135)

A Muslim belongs above all to God, and this belonging influences and illumines with a particular light each social sphere in which he or she is involved. To believe in God and to bear witness to His message before the whole of humankind means that the fundamental values He has revealed, such as honesty, faithfulness, fairness, and justice, all have priority over parental ties.

Consequently, Muslims must respect family ties (and by extension ties with community, people, and nation), as long as no one forces or compels them to act against their faith or conscience.

Thus, the first area of social relations in Islam associates father and mother very closely with the concept of the family, which refers, in the broad Islamic sense, to close relations and to everyone with whom one has a family relationship.

The individual affirmation of Islamic faith by means of the Shahadah and the recognition of the family as the first area of social life are the prerequisites for entering into the second circle of social relations in Islam. Each of the four practical pillars of Islamic religious practice has a double dimension, individual and collective.

By trying to excel in the practice of their religion, Muslims are immediately called to face the communal dimension of the Islamic way of life. Most Qur’anic injunctions are addressed to the believers in the plural: “O bearers of the faith. . . .” and when Muslims recite Al-Fatihah (‘the opening chapter’ of the Qur’an) in each prayer cycle, they present themselves as members of a community by saying: “You alone we worship, to You alone we turn for help. Guide us in the right way.”  (Al-Fatihah 1:5, 6)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Oxford University Press (2004).

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