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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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Articles of Faith New Muslims

Worship: A Lifelong Service

By Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi 

The `ibadah (worship) for which God has created you and which He has enjoined upon you is this: you must follow at every step in your lives the law of God and refuse to obey all laws which conflict with His law. Everything you do must accord with the guidance given by God. Only then will your entire lives turn into lives of worship.

Life of Worship

In such a life, everything is `ibadah: whether you sleep or are awake, whether you eat or drink, whether you work or rest, whether you are silent or talk, are all acts of worship. So much so that in going to your wives and kissing your children, too, you serve God.

All these actions which are usually considered secular and worldly become religious, provided that during their performance you observe the limits laid down by God and remain conscious every moment and at every step of what is approved by God (halal) and what is forbidden by Him (haram), what is a duty and what must be avoided, which actions please God and which displease Him.

For instance, easy opportunities to earn money in a forbidden way may occur during your life. If you resist this temptation and, in obedience to God, confine yourselves to earning money in approved ways only, then your work is itself worship.

And you deserve rewards. And the earnings you bring home for yourselves, your wives, your children and other have-nots will be blessed by Allah.

God’s Way

Indeed whatever you do and whatever time you spend in doing His will and in pleasing Him, you worship Him: when you remove from the road a stone or other obstacle which might hurt people; when you nurse an ill person or guide a blind man or help a person in distress; when you avoid lying, gossiping about people behind their backs, making sarcastic remarks and slandering; when you refrain from hurting people; when you talk truthfully and justly.

Real worship of God, therefore, is to follow the way laid down by God and lead lives according to His commandments from childhood to death. There can be no fixed time for this worship; it must be performed all the time. Nor does it have one particular form; in everything you say and do, you must serve God.

Since you cannot say: ‘I am a servant of God at such a time and 1 am not a servant of God at such a time’, you cannot say that such and such a time is earmarked for God’s service and the remaining time is not. If you truly honour and adore, love and fear God, all your actions will be motivated by these feelings and they will all constitute worship.

Why Worship Rituals?

Brothers! You may now ask: What then is the position of prescribed worship rituals like the prayer (salah), alms-giving (zakah), Fasting (sawm), pilgrimage (hajj) and so on?

These acts of worship, which Allah has enjoined upon us, in reality prepare us for that greater overall `ibadah that we have to perform throughout our lives. They are the means which turn our lives into lives of worship. Prayer reminds you five times a day that you are slaves of Allah and that Him alone you must serve.

Fasting prepares you, for an entire month once every year, for this very service. Alms-giving repeatedly brings home to you the truth that the money you have earned is a gift of God. Do not just spend it on physical pleasures or even solely on material needs; you must render what is due to your Master.

Pilgrimage engraves on your hearts such a love and awareness of the majesty of God that once they take root, they remain with you all your lives. If, by performing all these acts of worship, you grasp their true inner significance and your entire lives are transformed into an unceasing act of worship, then undoubtedly your Prayer is real prayer, your Fast is real fast, your Alms-giving is real charity and your Pilgrimage is real pilgrimage.

But if you do not, no purpose is possibly served by merely bowing, kneeling and prostrating yourselves (ruku` and sujud), by spending days in hunger and thirst, by going through the formalities of the Pilgrimage and by setting aside money for the Alms-giving. These worship rituals are like a human body: it is a living human being so long as it has a soul and moves about and does work; but if it is soulless, it is no more than a corpse.

A corpse has hands and feet, eyes and nose, but you bury it under the earth because it is devoid of soul. So are worship rites if they are devoid of meaning, if they do not generate love and fear of God, loyalty and obedience to Him.

We should try to find out how each act of ritual worship prepares us for a life spent totally in worship; what a great and wonderful difference each can make to our lives if we perform them in full understanding of their meaning and purpose.

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

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Islam and the Meaning of Deen

By Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi 

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

Allah says:

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

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

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

False Deen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Deen

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

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

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

Thus these three meanings of deen stand out:

– To acknowledge God as Lord, Master and Ruler.

– To obey and serve only Him.

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

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

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

No individual receives Allah’s commandments directly.

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

Deen consists of these fundamental principles.

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

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