Archive for islam

The Concept of Worship in Islam

Posted in All 'Bout Islam, Unique with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by rizkymygift

The concept of worship in Islam is misunderstood by many people including some Muslims. Worship is commonly taken to mean performing ritualistic acts such as prayers, fasting, charity, etc. This limited understanding of worship is only one part of the meaning of worship in Islam.

The traditional definition of worship in Islam is a comprehensive definition that includes almost everything in any individual’s activities.

The definition goes something like this: “Worship is an all inclusive term for all that God loves of external and internal sayings and actions of a person.” In other words, worship is everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah. This of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of society.

Islam looks at the individual as a whole. One is required to submit oneself completely to Allah, as the Qur’an instructed the Prophet Muhammad (p)1 to do: Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds. No partner hath He: this am I commanded, and I am the first of those who bow to His will.” [Al-Qur’an 6:162-163]

The natural result of this submission is that all one’s activities should conform to the instructions of the One God to whom the person is submitting. Islam being a complete way of life requires that its followers model every aspect of their life according to its teaching, religious or otherwise. This might sound strange to some people who think of religion as a personal relation between the individual and God, having no impact on one’s daily activities.

As a matter of fact, Islam does not think much of mere rituals when they are performed mechanically and have no influence on one’s inner self.

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and give Zakat, (obligatory annual charity), to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing.” [Al-Qur’an (2:177]

The deeds in the above verse are the deeds of righteousness and they are only a part of worship. The Prophet told us about faith, which is the basis of worship, that it “is made up of sixty and some branches: the highest of which is the belief in the Oneness of Allah. (i.e., there is no God but Allah) and the lowest in the scale of worship is removing obstacles and dirt from people’s way.”

The Prophet said: “Whoever finds himself at the nightfall tired of his work, God will forgive his sins.” Seeking knowledge is one of the highest forms of worship. The Prophet said, “seeking knowledge is a (religious) duty on every Muslim.” In another saying he said: “Seeking knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years.” Social courtesy and cooperation are a part of worship when done for the sake of Allah as the Prophet told us:

“Receiving your friend with a smile is a type of charity and putting some water in your neighbor’s bucket is a charity.”

It is worth noting that even performing one’s duties is considered an act of worship. The Prophet told us that whatever one spends for his family is a type of charity. Kindness to the members of one’s family is an act of worship as is putting a piece of food lovingly in the mouth of one’s spouse, as the Prophet informed us. Not only this, but even the acts that we enjoy, when performed according to Divine instructions are considered acts of worship.

Thus Islam does not consider the sexual urge as inherently dirty or sinful. It is dirty and sinful only when it is satisfied outside the marital union of man and wife. The Prophet told his companions that they would be rewarded even for having sexual intercourse with their wives. The companions were astonished and asked: “How are we going to be rewarded for doing something we enjoy very much?” The Prophet asked them: “suppose you satisfy your desires illegally, don’t you think that you would be punished for that?” They replied, “Yes.” So, he said: “by satisfying it legally with your wives you are rewarded for it.”

It is clear that the concept of worship in Islam is comprehensive. It includes all positive activities of the individual. This of course is in agreement with the all-inclusive nature of Islam as a way of life. It regulates the human life on all levels: the individual, the social, the economic, the political and the spiritual. All activities are considered by Allah as acts of worship, if done in conformance to His guidance. This should lead us to seek Allah’s pleasure in our actions and always try to do them in the best possible manner, whether we are being watched or we are alone. There is always the permanent supervisor, Who knows, hears and sees everything and that is Allah.

Discussing the non-ritual worship in Islam first does not mean under-evaluating the importance of the ritual ones. Actually ritual worships, if performed in true spirit, elevate the individual morally and spiritually and enable one to perform one’s activities in all walks of life according to the Guidance of God . Among ritual worships, Salah (prayer) occupies the key position for two reasons. Firstly, it is the distinctive mark of a believer. Secondly, it prevents an individual from all sorts of abominations and vices by providing him chances of direct communication with his Creator five times a day, wherein he renews his covenant with God and seeks His guidance again and again.

Salah (Shalat) is the first practical manifestation of Faith and also the foremost of the basic conditions for the success of the believers:“Successful indeed are the Believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers.” [Al-Qur’an 23:1-2] The Prophet (p) further emphasized:“Those who offer their salah with great care and punctuality, will find it a light, a proof of their faith and cause for their salvation on the Day of Judgment.”

After Salah, Zakah (obligatory annual charity) is an important pillar of Islam. In the Qur’an, Salah and Zakah have mostly been mentioned together. Like Salah, Zakah is a manifestation of faith that affirms that God is the sole owner of everything in the universe and what men hold is a trust in their hand that God expects them to discharge.

In this respect Zakah is an act of devotion that, like prayer, brings the believer nearer to his Lord. Apart from this, Zakah is a means of redistribution of wealth in a way that reduces differences between classes and groups. It makes a fair contribution to social stability. By purging the soul of the rich from selfishness, and the soul of the poor from envy and resentment against society. It closes down the channels leading to class hatred and makes it possible for the springs of brotherhood and solidarity to gush forth. Such stability is not merely based on the personal feelings of the rich: it stands on a firmly established right.

Siyam (fasting during the day time of the month of Ramadan) is another pillar of Islam. The main function of fasting is to make a Muslim pure from “within”. By such purity, one promotes what is good, and shuns what is evil. The glorious Qur’an confirms, “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” [Al-Qur’an 2:183]

In an authentic tradition, the Prophet reported Allah as saying, about the one who fasts: “He suspends eating, drinking, and gratification of his sexual passion for My sake.” Thus his reward is going to be according to God’s great bounty. Fasting awakens one’s conscience, and reminds an individual of the suffering of the less fortunate, and thus promotes a sense of sympathy and kindness to them.

Lastly, we come to Al-Hajj (pilgrimage to the House of God in Makka). This very important pillar of Islam manifests a unique unity, dispelling all kinds of differences. Muslims from all corners of the world, wearing the same dress, respond to the call of Hajj in one voice and language: Labbaik Alla humma Labbaik (Here I am at your service O Lord!). During Hajj there is a strict exercise of self-discipline, where not only sacred things are revered, but even the lives of plants and birds are made inviolable so that everything lives in safety:“Whoever honors the sacred Rites of Allah, for him it is good in the sight of his Lord…” [Al-Qur’an 22:30]

Pilgrimage gives an opportunity to all Muslims from all groups, classes, organizations, and governments from all over the Muslim world to meet annually in a great congress. The time and venue of this congress has been set by their one God. Invitation to attend is open to every Muslim. No one has the power to bar anyone. Every Muslim who attends is guaranteed full safety and freedom as long as he himself does not violate its safety.

Thus the concept of worship in Islam, encompasses every aspect of human life, and is central to the goal of freeing the individual as well as society, from the worship of created things to the worship of the Creator of all things. It is this concept of worship that humanity needs so desperately, and wherein lies the key to our collective salvation.

[Source : WAMY2 Series on Islam]

1 (p) here stands for “peace be upon him”
2 World Assembly of Muslim Youth

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What does Islam say about Terrorism? This is the Answer

Posted in All 'Bout Islam with tags , , , , on April 13, 2010 by rizkymygift

One of the distinctive characteristics of the times we live in is the overwhelming presence of violence in our societies. Whether it is a bomb going off in a market place, or the hijacking of an aircraft where innocent people are held at ransom to achieve political ends, we live in an age, where the manipulation and loss of innocent lives has become commonplace.Such is the all-pervasive nature of indiscriminate violence, that “terrorism” is considered as one of the prime threats to peace and security in our societies.

The word terrorism came into wide usage only a few decades ago. One of the unfortunate results of this new terminology is that it limits the definition of terrorism to that perpetrated by small groups or individuals. Terrorism, in fact, spans the entire world, and manifests itself in various forms. Its perpetrators do not fit any stereotype. Those who hold human lives cheap, and have the power to expend human lives, appear at different levels in our societies. The frustrated employee who kills his colleagues in cold-blood or the oppressed citizen of an occupied land who vents his anger by blowing up a school bus are terrorists who provoke our anger and revulsion. Ironically however, the politician who uses age-old ethnic animosities between peoples to consolidate his position, the head of state who orders “carpet bombing” of entire cities, the exalted councils that choke millions of civilians to death by wielding the insidious weapon of sanctions, are rarely punished for their crimes against humanity.

It is this narrow definition of terrorism that implicates only individuals and groups, that has caused Muslims to be associated with acts of destruction and terror, and as a result, to become victims of hate violence and terror themselves. Sometimes the religion of Islam is held responsible for the acts of a handful of Muslims, and often for the acts of non-Muslims!

Could it be possible that Islam, whose light ended the Dark Ages in Europe, now propound the advent of an age of terror? Could a faith that has over 1.2 billion followers the world over, and over 7 million in America, actually advocate the killing and maiming of innocent people? Could Islam, whose name itself stands for “peace” and “submission to God”, encourage its adherents to work for death and destruction?

For too long, have we relied on popular images in the media and in Hollywood films, for answers to these pertinent questions. It is now time to look at the sources of Islam, and its history to determine whether Islam does indeed advocate violence.

Sancitity of Human Life

The Glorious Qur’an says:

“…take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.”
[Al-Qur’an 6:151]

Islam considers all life forms as sacred. However, the sanctity of human life is accorded a special place. The first and the foremost basic right of a human being is the right to live. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“…if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”
[Al-Qur’an 5:32]

Such is the value of a single human life, that the Qur’an equates the taking of even one human life unjustly, with killing all of humanity. Thus, the Qur’an prohibits homicide in clear terms. The taking of a criminal’s life by the state in order to administer justice is required to uphold the rule of law, and the peace and security of the society. Only a proper and competent court can decide whether an individual has forfeited his right to life by disregarding the right to life and peace of other human beings.

Ethics of War

Even in a state of war, Islam enjoins that one deals with the enemy nobly on the battlefield. Islam has drawn a clear line of distinction between the combatants and the non-combatants of the enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet are as follows: “Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman”[1]. “Do not kill the monks in monasteries” or “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship.”[2] During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed: “She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?” Thus non-combatants are guaranteed security of life even if their state is at war with an Islamic state.

Jihad

While Islam in general is misunderstood in the western world, perhaps no other Islamic term evokes such strong reactions as the word ‘jihad’. The term ‘jihad’ has been much abused, to conjure up bizarre images of violent Muslims, forcing people to submit at the point of the sword. This myth was perpetuated throughout the centuries of mistrust during and after the Crusades. Unfortunately, it survives to this day.

The word Jihad comes from the root word jahada, which means to struggle. So jihad is literally an act of struggling. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that the greatest jihad is to struggle with the insidious suggestions of one’s own soul. Thus jihad primarily refers to the inner struggle of being a person of virtue and submission to God in all aspects of life.

Secondarily, jihad refers to struggle against injustice. Islam, like many other religions, allows for armed self-defense, or retribution against tyranny, exploitation, and oppression. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“And why should ye not fight in the cause of God and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? – Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”
[Al-Qur’an 4:75]

Thus Islam enjoins upon its believers to strive utmost, in purifying themselves, as well as in establishing peace and justice in the society. A Muslim can never be at rest when she sees injustice and oppression around her. As Martin Luther King Jr. said:

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Islam enjoins upon all Muslims to work actively to maintain the balance in which God created everything. However, regardless of how legitimate the cause may be, the Glorious Qur’an never condones the killing of innocent people. Terrorizing the civilian population can never be termed as jihad and can never be reconciled with the teachings of Islam.

History of Tolerance

Even Western scholars have repudiated the myth of Muslims coercing others to convert. The great historian De Lacy O’Leary wrote:

“History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims, sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.”[3]

Muslims ruled Spain for roughly 800 years. During this time, and up until they were finally forced out, the non-Muslims there were alive and flourishing. Additionally, Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan all have significant Christian and/or Jewish populations.

This is not surprising to a Muslim, for his faith prohibits him from forcing others to see his point of view. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.”
[Al-Qur’an 2:256]

Islam – The Great Unifier

Far from being a militant dogma, Islam is a way of life that transcends race and ethnicity. The Glorious Qur’an repeatedly reminds us of our common origin:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
[Al-Qur’an 49:13]

Thus, it is the universality of its teachings that makes Islam the fastest growing religion in the world. In a world full of conflicts and deep schisms between human beings, a world that is threatened with terrorism, perpetrated by individuals and states, Islam is a beacon of light that offers hope for the future.
———-

[1] Narrated in the collection of traditions of Abu Dawud
[2] Narrated in the Musnad of Imam Ibn Hanbal
[3] Islam At Crossroads, London, 1923, page 8