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Mosques in Islam: Purpose and Role

The masajid should be places wherein Muslims learn how to prostrate their hearts before Allah.

The masajid should be places wherein Muslims learn how to prostrate their hearts before Allah.

As the primary religious institution, the masjid has the greatest role in community building, and its success in performing this role is essential for the wellbeing of the community, particularly where Muslims live as minorities.

Sadly, the role of the masjid in many Muslim communities around the globe has recently been reduced to being a physical place where prayers are offered. It is time to reverse that trend and revive the role of this institution to what it was in the early history of Islam. Such a revival cannot be fully realized without first developing a clear understanding from the revelation, the Qur’an and Sunnah, about the importance, virtue, and role of the masjid in Islam.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The best patches (of earth) are the masajid (mosques) and the worst are the markets.” (Ibn Hibban)

Thus, Allah chose His Prophets to establish them, He said:

And (mention) when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and (with him) Ishmael. (Al-Baqarah 2:127)

And He commanded them to purify them and keep them clean, He said:

And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, (saying), “Purify My House”… (Al-Baqarah 2:125)

Furthermore, Allah made the reward of building the masajid most abundant. Regarding this, the Messenger of Allah said:

“Whoever builds a mosque for Allah, though it be the size of the ground nest of a sand-grouse, Allah will build for him a house in Paradise.” (Ibn Majah)

Refuge for Hearts

Allah made the masajid a refuge for the hearts of His righteous servants, as the Prophet said:

“There are seven (types of people) whom Allah will protect with His Shade, on the Day (of Resurrection) when there will be no shade except His Shade.” Of them is, “A person whose heart is attached to the masjid.”

It should suffice the caretakers of the masajid that Allah praised them with this description,

The mosques of Allah are only to be maintained by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and establish prayer and give zakah and do not fear except Allah, for it is expected that those will be of the (rightly) guided. (At-Tawbah 9:18)

It was not a coincidence that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) started his mission in Madinah by building the masjid, which he made in its center.

The masjid takes its name from one of the actions of salah (prayer), which is sujud (prostration). It is the action wherein the believer shows the utmost humility to Allah. The salah is the best of our actions, as the Prophet told us in the hadith of Thawban.

Beyond Prayer

However, the role of the masjid is not limited to the performance of salah. The masajid should be places wherein Muslims learn how to prostrate their hearts before Allah, and not only their bodies. They are places of tarbiyah (refinement) of the Muslim character.

To the Prophet  and his Companions, the masjid was not only a place where they prayed, but it was also a place where they learned, recited the Qur’an, made dhikr (remembrance) and du`aa’ (supplication), met with each other, socialized, received the delegations, prepared the expeditions and raised funds for various good causes.

In fact, it was sometimes even a place for tending to the sick, and a shelter for the homeless. In the physical world, it was at the center of their lives. At the same time, it was the cradle of their learning and spiritual growth.

Whatever can be said about the importance of the masjid for Muslim communities throughout the world it is even more magnified when we talk about the Muslim minorities, to whom the masjid is truly the ark of Noah. In America, for example, Muslims are a small minority scattered throughout a large continent. For some of them, weeks or months may pass by without getting a chance to see another Muslim except in the masjid.

The masjid, therefore, constitutes the link between them and their deen (religion). In it, they develop that emotional bond with their community, which is vital to the wellbeing of their allegiance to the Ummah and faith in Allah. Many youth may find in the masjid the role models they lack at home.

In addition to this, for Muslims to see a masjid– especially the youth who did not grow up in Muslim countries– is vital because it’s the most evident symbol of Islam in their tangible world.

What Else?

The pressing question now is how to revive the role of the masjid in our times, particularly where Muslims live as minorities? Here are some of the things we need to do as a community.

We need to educate ourselves regarding what may be done at the masjid…

To begin with, one must emphasize that the primary actions in the masjid are salah (prayers), dhikr (mention of Allah), du`aa’ (supplication), tilawah (recitation), and education.

In light of that, priority must be given to the main jama`ah (congregants) of the masjid and activities led by the designated imam. Those who do anything else, or do something other than what the main jama`ah does, should not cause disruption. Abu Sa`eed narrated that the Prophet was in i`tikaf and heard them raising their voices with recitation, so he said:

“Each one of you is in munajah (soft conversation) with his Lord, so don’t bother one another, and don’t raise your voices above each other in recitation (or salah).” (Abu Dawud)

If it is prohibited for someone who is praying or reciting the Qur’an to bother the other worshipers, then it is more prohibited for someone doing something inferior to that to bother them.

Having said that, there is still room for much to be done at the masjid, and while many actions are prohibited in it, such as conducting business, advertising, announcing lost items, many other practices are thought to be prohibited when they are not.

Some of us Muslims have this mental image of the masjid as a sterile, extremely quiet place where people pray together and disperse thereafter. This causes some to enforce many restrictions in the masjid that would eventually make it an unwelcoming place for children and families, and even to adult men. However, a tour through the masjid of the Prophet (peace be upon him) during his time may help us rid ourselves of this false conviction.

To be continued…

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Source: muslimmatters.org

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Islam: Guidance to the Straight Path

Description of the Straight Path

Religious guidance is the greatest gift that a person can possess. It is something that we do not control or own, but rather it is bestowed upon us.

Muslims plead to be guided to the straight path at least seventeen times a day while reciting Surat Al-Fatihah (the first chapter of the Qur’an) in the five daily prayers. How many of us have reflected on the nature of this guidance and the path that we are supposed to be upon?

“Guide us” (Ihdina)

In Arabic the word hidayah does not simply mean guidance, but it means to guide gently. The word “gift” (hadiyyah) in Arabic also comes from the same root letters as the word for guidance (hidayah). Religious guidance is the greatest gift that a person can possess. It is also something that we do not control or own, but rather it is bestowed upon us in an act of infinite mercy and grace of Allah (Exalted is He).

Notice how it is in the plural- not ‘guide me’ but “guide us”. This instills in us a sense of brotherhood by making this request on behalf of fellow Muslims, especially as we stand in prayer as a group.

Types of Hidayah Mentioned in the Qur’an

There are four types of hidayah mentioned in the Qur’an, according to (Ibn Al-Qayyim).

1- General hidayah that is given to all creation. This type of guidance and knowledge is given by Allah to all created things. By this guidance, animals, plants and even inanimate objects fulfill the purpose for which they were created. This also includes the general intellect, wits and inherent intuitive knowledge given to all responsible beings regardless of their faith. This is referred to in the following verse:

He said, “Our Lord is He Who gave each thing its form and then guided (it)”. (Ta-Ha 20:50)

2- Hidayah that is in the form of explanation and education by way of defining the two paths of good and evil. It is when someone guides you by explaining that which is good and warns you from that which is evil according to Islam. This is the type of hidayah referred to in this verse::

And indeed, (O Muhammad), you guide to a straight path. (Ash-Shura 42:52)

3- Hidayah that is tawfiq (a specific type of divine guidance) and inspiration (ilham) from Allah to be guided to the truth of iman (faith), Islam (submission), etc. The following verses refer to this type.

…Thus does Allah leave astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. (Al-Muddaththir 74:31)

No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (At-Taghabun 64:11)

4- Hidayah that is in the next life, by which one shall be guided to Paradise.

And We will have removed whatever is within their breasts of resentment, (while) flowing beneath them are rivers. And they will say, “Praise to Allah, who has guided us to this”. (Al-A`raf 7:43)

Each one of the above types of hidayah has a sequential connection and relationship. Without the first level of guidance you will not have the capacity to attain the second and without the second you cannot attain the third and fourth levels.

We have absolutely no power to guide anyone using any of the above types of guidance except for the second type of hidayah that is explanation and education.  This type of guidance is what is referred to in the following verses.

And indeed, (O Muhammad), you guide to a straight path. (Ash-Shura 42:52)

You are only a warner, and for every people is a guide. (Ar-Ra`d 13:7)

The remaining types of guidance, particularly the third type which is tawfiq from Allah to have iman, are what are referred to in the following verse of the Qur’an, again addressing the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

Indeed, (O Muhammad), you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the (rightly) guided. (Al-Qasas 28:56)

In other words even the Prophets cannot guide whom they choose to become believers in the sense of actually putting faith in a person’s heart.  They can only guide in terms of explanation, exhortation, clarification and instruction regarding the truth.

The first lesson here is that we should seek guidance in every matter with Allah first and foremost before turning to others. Secondly, it should humble those of us who are inviting or ‘guiding’ others to Islam to acknowledge and internalize the fact that we have no real power over this matter, and that true guidance is the sole dominion of Allah, the ‘turner of the hearts’.

However, that should not make us despair of the work we do, for which our reward is with Allah. But rather it should increase our confidence in inviting others knowing that the result is not dependent on ‘my da`wah’ or speech, which is full of weakness and defects, but is in the hands of Allah Who can instantly change the hearts of the most wicked and tyrannical into the most pure and righteous.

The Ten Levels of Guidance

A Muslim may question why he or she has to ask for guidance at least seventeen times a day whilst they have already been guided to Islam. Scholars have explained that it is because firstly we ask for constancy (thabat) on guidance and secondly because there are so many levels and aspects of guidance that we are in need of in every detail of our daily life.

The following will help to clarify. For example, there are a further ten levels of guidance that need to be attained for one to be truly guided. (Ibn Al-Qayyim)

Therefore one should bear in mind when asking for guidance that one is asking Allah to:

1- Be granted guidance of knowledge and clarity, in order for one to know and reach the truth.

2- For the capacity to be guided

3- Make one desirous of guidance

4- Make one act upon the guidance

5- Make one remain steadfast on guidance

6- Remove all barriers and obstructions that impede guidance

7- Be granted a distinctive and detailed level of guidance on the path itself and its stations

8- Be granted sight of one’s ultimate goal along the path, to be alerted to it so that one can perceive it on the journey, catching sight of it without being blocked from seeing it.

9- Make one aware of one’s own destitution and desperate need for guidance (from Allah) over and above all other necessities.

10- Make one see the two misguided paths that veer off from the path of guidance; firstly the path of the people of wrath- those who intentionally, out of rebellion, turned away from following the truth; secondly the path of the people of misguidance- those who turned away out of ignorance and misguidance. One then sees the straight path upon which are all the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them) along with their followers from the truthful (siddiqeen), the martyrs and the righteous.

We are instructed by Allah to ask for guidance to the straight path (as-sirat al-mustaqim). What then is the nature of this path?

Description of the Straight Path

In the language of the Arabs a path (sirat) needs to possess five qualities for it to be called a sirat. The path needs to be:

1- Straight

2- Easy to travel upon

3- A familiar well-trodden path

4- Wide and spacious

5- Leading one to the desired destination

Since the path that we are asking guidance to is Islam itself, notice and reflect on how these qualities apply to Islam. Islam is straight in that it is a correct and firmly established way, pure and protected from any crookedness or deviation from the truth.  Allah describes those who want to block people on the path of Allah:

…Who averted (people) from the way of Allah and sought to make it (seem) deviant while they were, concerning the Hereafter, disbelievers. (Al-A`raf 7:45)

Islam is also easy as Allah has said:

Allah intends for you ease, and does not want to make things difficult for you, (Al-Baqarah 2:185))

and as the Prophet said, “The deen (Islam/religion) is easy…” (Al-Bukhari).

Allah does not burden a soul beyond its capacity. There will be challenges, temptations and difficulties in living as a Muslim but they are things that we ultimately have the capacity to bear. Everything in Shari`ah (Islamic law) benefits us or wards off harm for us in this world and/or the next.

Islam, which is submission to the commands of Allah, is also a familiar and well-trodden path, the path of all the Prophets and their followers. As Allah says:

And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger – those will be with the ones upon whom Allah has bestowed favour of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous. And excellent are those as companions. (An-Nisaa’ 4:69)

The final, universal revelation of Islam is wide and spacious and accommodates all, regardless of color, race or social status. It is us with our parochial attitudes that restrict the vastness of this path to our favorite ‘saved’ group, way of thinking, sheikh or a specific allegiance that excludes others that Islam hasn’t excluded.

Ibn Majah records that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I have left you on a (wide, spacious) clear (white) path, its night is like its day, whoever deviates from this after me will be destroyed….”

Indeed, the path of Islam leads to the desired destination, which is Allah’s Pleasure gained by obeying Him. Allah says:

So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him – He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path. (An-Nisaa’ 4:175)

You will also notice that the word as-sirat (path) in the surah (chapter) has the definite article “Al”. The definite article is close to the meaning of ‘the’ which renders it ‘the straight path’ in English and has several possible meanings in Arabic. Here it is said that it denotes something definite which is in the mind as well as in reality.

For example, when students waiting for their teacher to arrive say ‘the teacher is late.’ The teacher they are referring to is known amongst them and in their minds they know exactly who they are referring to. In that sense, grammatically, ‘the teacher’ is a definite noun phrase and not an indefinite one. They would not say a teacher is late in this case.

Similarly, in this case, it is a specific and definite known path that we are seeking guidance to. It is the path that Allah has ordained for the people that He has favored, the path that leads to His Pleasure and His Paradise, which is in fact His deen (religion) – besides which nothing is acceptable to Him.

It is said that it is also the path that we intuitively know in the deepest core of our hearts that must exist because as human beings we were affirmed, when we were created, that Allah is our Rabb (Lord).

All praise is to Allah Who has gently guided us to the straight path, described to us with crystal clarity its features and guided us to pray for it every day of our lives.

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Source: suhaibwebb.com

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Worldly Life: Meaning & Purpose

Introduction

‘What is the meaning and purpose of life?’  This is, perhaps, the most important question that has ever been asked.  Throughout the ages, philosophers have considered it to be the most fundamental question.  Scientists, historians, philosophers, writers, psychologists and the common man all wrestle with the question at some point in their lives.

Is Reason a Sufficient Guide?

‘Why do we eat?’  ‘Why do we sleep?’  ‘Why do we work?’  The answers we would get to these questions would be similar.  ‘I eat to live.’  ‘I sleep to rest.’  ‘I work to support myself and my family.’  But when it comes to what the purpose of life is, people are confused.  We see their confusion by the type of answers we receive.  Youths may say, “I live for booze and bikinis.”  The middle aged professional might say, “I live to save enough for a comfortable retirement.”  The old man would probably say, “I’ve been asking why I’m here most of my life.  If there’s a purpose, I don’t care anymore.”  And perhaps the most common answer will be, “I really don’t know!”

How, then, do you discover the purpose of life?  We basically have two options.  The first is to let ‘human reason’ – the celebrated achievement of the Enlightenment – guide us.  After all, the Enlightenment gave us modern science based on careful observation of the natural world.  But have post-Enlightenment philosophers figured it out?  Camus described life as “absurd”; Sartre spoke of “anguish, abandonment and despair.”  To these Existentialists, life has no meaning.  Darwinians thought the meaning of life was to reproduce.  Will Durant, capturing the predicament of postmodern man, wrote, “Faith and hope disappear; doubt and despair are the order of the day… it is not our homes and our treasuries that are empty, it is our ‘hearts’.”  When it comes to meaning of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing.  Will Durant, the most noted philosopher of the last century, and Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, both wrote separate books titled ‘The Meaning of Life.’[1] They wrote to the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers, politicians, and intellectuals of their time in the world, asking them, “What is the meaning of life?”  Then they published their responses.  Some offered their best guesses, some admitted that they just made up a purpose for life, and others were honest enough to say they were clueless.  In fact, a number of famous intellectuals asked the authors to write back and tell them if the purpose of life was discovered!

Let the Heavens “Speak”

If the philosopher has no definitive answer, perhaps the answer can be found within the heart and mind that we ourselves possess.  Have you ever looked at the open sky on a clear night?  You will see an incalculable number of stars.  Look through a telescope and you will see gigantic spiral galaxies, beautiful nebula where new stars are being formed, the remnants of ancient supernova explosion created in a star’s final death throes, the magnificent rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.  Is it possible not to be moved by the sight of these countless stars in the night sky shining like diamond dust on a bed of black velvet?  Multitudes of stars beyond stars, stretching back; becoming so dense that they appear to merge into delicate wisps of sparkling mist.  The grandeur humbles us, thrills us, inspires a craving for investigation, and calls for our contemplation.  How did it come into being?  How are we related to it, and what is our place in it?  Can we hear the heavens “speak” to us?

“In the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day, there are surely signs for all who are endowed with insight, who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: “O our Lord, You have not created this without meaning and purpose.  Limitless art You in Your glory…” (Quran 3:190-191)

 

 

When we read a book, we accept that an author exists.  When we see a house, we accept that a builder exists.  Both of these things were made with a purpose by those who made them.  The design, order, and complexity of the universe as well as the world around us are evidence of the existence of a supreme intelligence, a perfect designer.  All the heavenly bodies are controlled by precise laws of physics.  Can there be laws without a lawmaker?  Rocket scientist Dr. von Braun said: “The natural laws of the universe are so precise that we have no difficulty building a spaceship to fly to the moon and can time the flight with the precision of a fraction of a second.  These laws must have been set by somebody.”  Paul Davies, a professor of physics, concludes that man’s existence is not a mere quirk of fate.  He states: “We are truly meant to be here.”  And he says regarding the universe: “Through my scientific work, I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact.  There must, it seems to me, be a deeper level of explanation.”  The universe, the earth, and living things on the earth all give silent testimony to an intelligent, powerful Creator.

 

 

 

Figure 2 Central region of the Trifid Nebula taken by the Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, June 5, 2002.  Located in the constellation of Sagittarius, the beautiful nebula is a much-photographed, dynamic cloud of gas and dust where stars are being born.  One of the massive stars at the nebula’s center was born approximately 100,000 years ago.  The nebula’s distance from the Solar System is generally agreed to be somewhere between 2,200 to 9,000 light years away.

Image courtesy of Gemini Observatory Image/GMOS Commissioning Team.

If we were made by a Creator, then surely that Creator must have had a reason, a purpose, in creating us.  Thus, it is important that seek to know God’s purpose for our existence.  After coming to the realization of this purpose, we can choose whether we want to live in harmony with it.  But is it possible to know what is expected from us left to our own devices without any communication from the Creator?  It is natural that God Himself would inform us of this purpose, especially if we are expected to fulfill it..

 

Alternative to Speculation: Ask God

This brings us to the second option: the alternative to speculation about the meaning and purpose of life is revelation.  The easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the inventor.  To discover the purpose of your life, ask God.

 

Can Christianity Answer the Question?

In Christianity, the meaning of life is rooted in faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in finding Jesus as Savior.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  However, the proposition is not without serious problems.  First, if this is the purpose of creation and the precondition for eternal life, why was it not taught by the prophets to all the nations of the world?  Second, had God turned into man close to the time of Adam all mankind would have had an equal chance to eternal life, unless those before the time of Jesus had another purpose for their existence!  Third, how can people today who have not heard of Jesus fulfill the Christian purpose of creation?  Naturally, such a purpose is too narrow and goes against divine justice.

The Answer

Islam is the response to humanity’s search for meaning.  The purpose of creation for all men and women for all times has been one: to know and worship God.

The Quran teaches us that every human being is born conscious of God,

“(Remember) when your Lord extracted from the loins of Adam’s children their descendants and made them testify [saying]: ‘Am I not your Lord?’  They said: ‘Yes, we testify to it.’  (This was) in case you say on the Day of Judgment: ‘We were unaware of this.’  Or you say: ‘It was our ancestors who worshipped others besides God and we are only their descendants.  Will you then destroy us for what those liars did?’”(Quran 7:172-173)

The Prophet of Islam teaches us that God created this primordial need in human nature at the time Adam was made.  God took a covenant from Adam when He created him.  God extracted all of Adam’s descendants who were yet to be born, generation after generation, spread them out, and took a covenant from them.  He addressed their souls directly, making them bear witness that He was their Lord.  Since God made all human beings swear to His Lordship when He created Adam, this oath is imprinted on the human soul even before it enters the fetus, and so a child is born with a natural belief in the Oneness of God.  This natural belief is called fitra in Arabic.  Consequently, every person carries the seed of belief in the Oneness of God that lies deeply buried under layers of negligence and dampened by social conditioning.  If the child were left alone, it would grow up conscious of God – a single Creator – but all children are affected by their environment.  The Prophet of God said,

“Each child is born in a state of ‘fitra’, but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian.  It is like the way an animal gives birth to a normal offspring.  Have you noticed any young born mutilated before you mutilate them?”[2]

 

Figure 1 The marvel of life.  An unborn fetus sucking its thumb.

So, just as the child’s body submits to physical laws, set by God in nature, its soul submits naturally to the fact that God is its Lord and Creator.  However, its parents condition it to follow their own way, and the child is not mentally capable of resisting it.  The religion which the child follows at this stage is one of custom and upbringing, and God does not hold it to account for this religion.  When a child matures into an adult, he or she must now follow the religion of knowledge and reason.  As adults, people must now struggle between their natural disposition towards God and their desires in order to find the correct path.  The call of Islam is directed to this primordial nature, the natural disposition, the imprint of God on the soul, the fitra, which caused the souls of every living being to agree that He Who made them was their Lord, even before the heavens and earth were created,

“I did not create the jinn and mankind except for My worship.” (Quran 51:56)

According to Islam, there has been a basic message which God has revealed through all prophets, from the time of Adam to the last of the prophets, Muhammad, may God praise them all.  All the prophets sent by God came with the same essential message:

“Indeed, We have sent a messenger to every nation (saying), ‘Worship God and avoid false gods…’” (Quran 16:36)

The prophets brought the same answer to mankind’s most troubling question, an answer that addresses the yearning of the soul for God.

 

What is Worship?

‘Islam’ means ‘submission’, and worship, in Islam, means ‘obedient submission to the will of God.’

Every created being ‘submits’ to the Creator by following the physical laws created by God,

“To Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and the earth; all obey His will.” (Quran 30:26)

They, however, are neither rewarded nor punished for their ‘submission’, for it involves no will.  Reward and punishment are for those who worship God, who submit to the moral and religious Law of God of their own free will.  This worship is the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by God to mankind.  For example, this understanding of worship was emphatically expressed by Jesus Christ,

“None of those who call me ‘Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

‘Will’ means ‘what God wants human beings to do.’  This ‘Will of God’ is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers.  Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship.  Only when human beings worship their God by submitting to His religious law can they have peace and harmony in their lives and the hope for heaven, just like the universe runs in harmony by submitting to the physical laws set by its Lord.  When you remove the hope of heaven, you remove the ultimate value and purpose of life.  Otherwise, what difference would it really make whether we live a life of virtue or vice?  Everyone’s fate would be the same anyway.

Who Needs Worship?

God is in no need of our worship, it is mankind that needs to worship God.  If no-one were to worship God, it would not take away from His glory in any way, and if all of mankind were to worship Him, it would not add to His glory.  It is we, who are in need of God:

“I need no provision from them, neither do I need that they should feed Me for, surely, God Himself is the Provider of all sustenance, the Possessor of mighty power.” (Quran 51:57-58)

“…But God is Rich, and it is you that are poor…” (Quran 47:38)

How to Worship God: And Why.

God is worshipped by obeying the laws He revealed through the prophets.  For example, in the Bible, Prophet Jesus made obedience to the divine laws the key to paradise:

“If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17).

Also Prophet Jesus is reported in the Bible to have insisted on strict obedience to the commandments, saying:

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

Why do human beings need to worship God by obeying the divinely revealed laws?  The answer is simple.  Obedience to divine law brings peace to this life and salvation in the next.

Divine laws provide human beings a clear code to guide every sphere of human life and interaction.  Since the Creator alone knows best what is best for His creation, His laws protect the human soul, body, and society from harm.  In order for human beings to fulfill their purpose of creation, they must worship God by obeying His commandments.

The False Gods of Modernity

God is Who gives meaning and orientation to life.  On the other hand, modern life lacks a single center, a single orientation, a single goal, a single purpose.  It has no common principle or guideline.

Since Islam considers a god to be an entity that is served out of love, deep respect, and anticipation of reward, one can say that the modern world serves many gods.  The gods of modernity give meaning and context to the life of modern man.

We live in a house of language, and our words and expressions are the windows through which we look out at the world.  Evolution, nationalism, feminism, socialism, Marxism, and, depending on how they are employed, democracy, freedom, and equality can be listed among the indefinable ideologies of modern times.  “Plastic words,” to borrow the words of Uwe Poerksen, a German linguist, have been used to usurp God’s power and authority to shape and define the goal of society, or even of humanity itself.  These words have connotations with a ‘feel good’ aura.  Indefinable words become a limitless ideal.  By making the ideal limitless, unlimited needs are awakened, and once these needs are awakened, they appear to be ‘self-evident.’

As it is easy to fall into the habit of worshipping false gods, people then have no protection against the multiplicity of gods that modern ways of thinking demand that they serve.  The “plastic words” give great power to those ‘prophets’ who speak on their behalf, because they speak in the name of ‘self-evident’ truths, so other people keep silent.  We must follow their authority; the axiomatic pundits who lay down the Law for our health, welfare, well-being, and education.

The window of modernity through which we perceive reality today is marked by cracks, smudges, blind spots, and filters.  It covers the reality.  And the reality is that people have no real need except toward God.  But nowadays, these empty ‘idols’ have become the objects of people’s devotion and worship, as the Quran states:

“Have you not seen the one who takes his desires as his god?…” (Quran 45:23)

Each of these “plastic words” makes other words appear primitive and out-of-date.  ‘Believers’ in idols of modernity are proud of worshipping these gods; friends and colleagues consider them enlightened for doing so.  Those who still insist on holding onto the “old” God can cover up the embarrassment of doing so by worshipping the new ‘modern’ gods along with Him.  Obviously, many people who claim to worship the “old-fashioned” God will twist His teachings in this event, so that He also seems to be telling us to serve these “plastic words.”

The worship of false gods entails the corruption not only of individuals and society, but also of the natural world.  When people refuse to serve and worship God as He has asked them to serve Him, they cannot fulfill the functions for which He has created them.  The result is that our world becomes ever more chaotic, just as the Quran tells us:

“Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea because of what the hands of people have earned.” (Quran 30:41)

Islam’s answer to the meaning and purpose of life fulfills the fundamental human need: a return to God.  However, everyone is going back to God willy-nilly, so the question is not merely going back, but how one goes back.  Will it be in shameful agonizing chains awaiting punishment, or joyful and grateful humility for that which God has promised?  If you await the latter, then through the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, God guides people back to Him in a manner that will ensure their eternal happiness.


Footnotes:

[1] “On the Meaning of Life”  by Will Durant. Pub: Ray Long & Richard R. Smith, Inc. New York 1932 and “The Meaning of Life”  by Hugh S. Moorhead (ed.). Pub: Chicago Review Press, 1988.

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim. The Arabs would cut the ears of camels and the likes as a service to their gods in pre-Islamic times.

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Related Video

The Purpose of Life By Khalid Yasin

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FEATURED New Muslims

Islam and Preservation of Human Life

Physical Security and Protection

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One’s soul or own body is a sacred entity entrusted to him by God on a temporary basis.

Human life is sacred and a gift from Allah, the Creator. For the protection of human life Islam has legislated capital and corporal punishments and retribution unto those transgressing criminals who murder and physically harm others. Killing falls into three types: intentional and/or premeditated murder,manslaughter, and total mistake.

Islam commands the execution of anyone who commits premeditated murder of an innocent person, seeking to place as strong a deterrent as possible to eradicate the temptation of intentional murder.

Unintentional manslaughter and mistaken killings are separate categories with separate lesser sentences and blood money is paid to the close relatives of the victim. The family or the heirs of the killed victim are given a diyyah (blood money) unless they choose to forgive the killer. The killer must repent to Allah and make atonement by the freeing a Muslim slave, and if this is not possible, by fasting for two consecutive months.

All such penalties are for preservation of life. No one has the right to possessions or estate without legitimate cause. All oppressive or abusive must be warned against unjust killing, victimizing or harassing other innocent members of the Islamic society, and these strict punishments should be made clear. If the retaliation is not similar to the crime itself, criminals become emboldened in their criminal activities.

All other corporal punishments have the same rationale, wherein the punishment is proportionate to the crime with specific measurements of retribution predetermined to stop all arguments and confusion.

All capital and corporal punishments are oriented for the preservation of human life and property in an Islamic society. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

And there is (a saving of) life for you in al-qisas (the law of equality in punishment), O men of understanding,that you may become pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:179)

The penalty of the Hereafter for the intentional murderer who does not repent will be the wrath of Allah. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (forever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. (An-Nisaa’ 4:9)

Prescribed Duties

Islam has imposed certain specific duties on everyone in respect to protection of human life. The following are some of these duties:

1-Man does not own his soul or his own body: rather it is a sacred entity entrusted to him on a temporary basis. It is not allowed for anyone to intentionally torture or harm himself, or carry-out any type of suicidal crime or reckless act leading to his destruction.

Life is only given in sacrifice for the cause of Allah. Allah says:

O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly: but let there be among you trade by mutual good-will: nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful! (An-Nisaa’ 4:29)

2-Man must maintain proper nutritional care to satisfy the minimum requirements essential for decent health. He is not allowed to deprive himself of permissible food, drink, clothing, marriage and proper care under any pretexts, if that causes him harm. Allah, the Exalted, states in the Qur’an:

Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah,which He has produced for His servants, and the things,clean and pure, (which He has provided) for sustenance?
Say, they are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Requital.
Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand.
(Al-A`raf 7:32)

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Man may enjoy the lawful bounties offered by Allah to man on earth in moderation within the limits of the Islamic laws and without wastage

Halal in Moderation

Allah, the Exalted, admonished the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he abstained from eating honey in order to please one of his wives, and this became an eternal lesson for all Muslims. Allah states in the Qur’an:

O Prophet! Why do you make forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to you? You seek to please your wives but Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (At-Tahrim 66:1)

Moderation is between stinginess and extravagance. Man may enjoy the lawful bounties offered by Allah to man on earth in moderation within the limits of the Islamic laws and without wastage. Allah states in the Qur’an:

O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters. (Al-A`raf 7:31)

It is forbidden to neglect the physical needs of the body and cause harm through negligence or self-torture:

On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than itcan bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

It is reported that Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said that, “Three men came to the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mosque to inquire about the worship of the Prophet. When they were informed, they considered their worship insignificant and said: ”Where are we in comparison with the Prophet while Allah has forgiven his past sins and future sins“. One of them said: ”As for me, I shall offer salah all night long.” Another said:”I shall observe sawm (fasting) continuously and shall not break it”. The third one said: ”I shall abstain from women and shall never marry.”

The Prophet came to them and said,“Are you the people who said such and such things? By Allah, I fear Allah more than you do, and I am the most obedient and dutiful among you to Him, but still I observe fasting and break it; perform salah and sleep at night and take wives. So whoever turns away from my Sunnah does not belong to me.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Human Rights in Islam and Common Misconceptions.

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His Legacy New Muslims

The Prophet, New Muslims and Us

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How will the Muslim community welcome that new Muslim? What advice(s) will be given to them?

We all like this moment, when a brother or sister enters the masjid on a Friday, and announces the Shahadah (Declaration of Faith), and the whole masjid start saying “Takbir, Allahu Akbar”; I cannot deny that this is such an amazing moment, to witness someone who just found the right path, and took that extra step closer to God.

The bitter question is: What is next? How will the Muslim community welcome that new Muslim? What advice(s) will be given to them and how are they going to start their long journey in learning the deen of Allah.

I tried to search the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to examine what approach he used with newly converted companions after they became Muslims. Sometimes this aspect is overlooked when we focus on the event itself (saying the Shahadah) and consider it to be the ultimate goal of da`wah (Islamic outreach), and we neglect – or consider it to be less important – the post-Shahadah advice or curriculum given to new Muslims.

1- Recognizing New Muslims Talents

“The best among you in the days of ignorance are  the best in the days after accepting Islam, provided that they acquire true knowledge and understanding of Islam (fiqh; jurisprudence)”, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Every human being has their unique sets of talents and skills, and the Prophet recognized that fact and motivated people from the moment they accepted Islam. Two legends of the Muslim history, Khalid ibn Al-Waleed and `Amr ibn Al-`As, embraced Islam at the same day and gave a huge boost to this deen.

Khalid was the one who led the Muslim army to conquer `Iraq, Persia (Iran), Armenia, and Shaam (Syria & Lebanon). `Amr ibn Al-`As was the one who spread Islam in Palestine and Egypt.

Imagine the huge impact that these two men gave to Islam, and how many people were introduced to Islam and later on contributed to it and to humanity. All that was influenced by those new (and in comparison to other companions, late) converts.

It is interesting to note that both fought the Prophet and the Muslims fiercely in their early days; both had Muslim blood on their hands, especially Khalid ibn Al-Waleed, who was a main reason behind the defeat of the Muslims in the battle of Uhud. Despite all that, look at how the prophet welcomed the two new additions to the Muslim family:

– “O Allah, he (Khalid) is one of your swords, so support him”. From that time on, Khalid used to be called ‘the Sword of Allah’. (Al-Albani)

– “All people became Muslims, but as for `Amr ibn Al-`As he became a believer” (indicating that he immediately entered into a higher rank of faith than other new Muslims. (At-Tirmidhi and Al-Albani)

Khalid was given the leadership of the Muslim army in many battles, without this being a concern to those Companions who knew more Qur’an than him and embraced Islam years and years before him.

The seerah (Prophet’s biography) tells us about some battles where Khalid did take a wrong decision, due to his lack of knowledge; this did not discredit him or let the Prophet overshadow his talents and potential contribution to the Muslim nation.

2- Giving New Muslims Special Attention

`Amr ibn Al-`As was amazed by the special attention that the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave him. He actually thought that he is the most beloved Companion to the Messenger of Allah, and asked him a direct question one day: “Oh Prophet of Allah, who is the most beloved person to you” and the Prophet said: “`A’ishah (the Prophet’s wife)”;

– From the men?

– Her father (Abu Bakr As-Siddiq)

– Then who?

– Then `Umar, ..

In `Amr’s words: “After that, the Prophet started listing names and names of people, and this made me remain silent, fearing that he will place me at the end of the list…” (Al-Bukhari)

The Messenger of Allah had this gentle effect on all those around him, especially the new comers to Islam that made `Amr seriously think he is the best Companion in the eyes of the Prophet.

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We note his wisdom in recognizing the weaknesses in people and dealing with them based on that.

3- Da`wah Mission from Day One

Some Companions were commissioned to preach Islam from day one, and were given “ad-hoc” da`wah courses for that purpose. At-Tufail ibn `Amr Ad-Dawsi accepted Islam in the early days of Makkah, and immediately went back to his tribe to deliver the message of truth. He had a tough way of preaching Islam where he tells people: you either follow Islam or I will never talk to you again!

While this method may not work in year 2013 in downtown Manhattan or Paris, apparently it worked for some members of his tribe but not to all of them.

He came back to the Prophet (literally this was his second meeting with the Messenger after accepting Islam) and complained about his people. The Prophet made du`aa’ for Daws (his tribe) and told him: “Go back to your people, call them to Allah and be lenient with them”. (Ibn Ishaq)

4- Gradual Change in People’s Behavior

People might accept the idea of submitting to the one God, but they might have problems in some of the commandments (such as hijab, fasting the long days of Ramadan, etc…). The tribe of Thaqif agreed to embrace Islam but told the Prophet: “We will not give out any charity, and we will not fight in the way of Allah (jihad)”.

The Prophet accepted that from them, and he told his Companion: “They will (willingly) pay charity and perform jihad when they embrace Islam” (Abu Dawud and Al-Albani).

Again, we note his wisdom in recognizing the weaknesses in people and dealing with them based on that.

Other Companions had certain demands, such as praying with sujud (prostration) but no ruku`(bowing) (Ibn Rajab, Jami` Al-`Ulum Wal-Hikam), and others requested permission to pray only two prayers a day instead of five.

It is really important here to note that the Prophet did not ‘customize’ the religious teachings for those individuals; he rather considered that to be an introductory stage that was given to a particular person in their new journey in Islam.

Such exceptions were not given during a Friday sermon, for example, and were not taught and spread by other Companions; all those incidents and others teach us how the messengers of the Messenger of Allah (i.e. us) should have wisdom in inviting people to this great deen.

Sometimes and in certain situations with certain people, raising the bar and challenging people will produce the best out of them. In other occasions, we have to understand the human weaknesses and give people a gradual plan while they get up to speed, of course without compromising the basics and essentials of our deen.

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Source:  mohakeem.com

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