Sunday, April 23, 2006

Islam is the greatest boon of the world

The greatest rewards bestowed by Allah on his creations is that of Islam and Iman, which is commonly referred to as ‘Guidance’, to which all others of the world stand inferior and insignificant. This is the wealth bestowed by Allah on those he pleases. Receiving this wealth of Allah certainly indicates that Allah has special love for him. Allah does not get influenced by lineage and nobility; family prestige, any honour or exaltation in the society, academic wisdom, financial status and other such criteria in bestowing this supreme wealth. At times, even the children, parents or closest relatives of Allah’s most beloved creations – the prophets and messengers, have been denied it, although the messengers and prophets keep praying for them before Allah. Allah, the Almighty addresses Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the Quran and says’ “O Muhammad (SAW), you cannot impart Guidance to anyone you desire to; in fact, it is the sole prerogative of Allah to bestow Guidance upon those whom He intends to.”

By this, Allah merely wants to emphasize that it is He who decides whom to reward with this wealth and whom to deny. To this end, Allah even, often, rejects the plea of his beloved creations and prophets. To cite some examples, Hazrat Nooh’s son, Hazrat Ibrahim’s father and Hazrat Lut’s wife had been denied this blessing. Even Prophet Muhammad (SAW) own uncle, Hazrat Abu Taalib, who had nurtured the Prophet since childhood and had treated him as his own child, could not have access to it. On the contrary, the strongest enemies of Islam in those days of the likes of Hazrat Umar, Ikramah, the son of Abu Jahl as well as the wife of Pharoah, the extremely tyrant ruler of Egypt, were bestowed with the exquisite guidance.

Such is the charisma associated with this reward that a feeble person who dies of hunger and thirst in the state of Iman is more beloved to Allah than a ruler or emperor who reigns over the whole world and possesses uncountable wealth, yet goes from this world without Islam and Iman.

Even if man understands this reality and bows his head before Allah as a mark of gratitude for all his life on account of this reward, he shall still he unable to thank Allah completely. The benefit of being grateful towards Allah continuously is that Allah lets him keep the wealth of Islam for all his life, otherwise it would also be snatched away by Allah for some misdeed or sin. That is why, Allah familiarized the Muslims with this Dua: “Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate” (from the truth) after you have guided us.” (3:8)
It is not necessary that the guidance bestowed on a person shall remain with him till his death. The Messengers of Allah, too, were scared that their Muslim children and their generations, may be deprived of the Divine Guidance, by Allah. As a result, at the time of his death, Hazrat Yaqub advised his children: “My sons! All of you stay firm on Islam and die on Islam”, although not only was he a Messenger, his father and grandfather also were Messengers of Allah. His children were also in the company of Messengers and well trained. When this is the state of the children of a Messenger, we can definitely imagine, how much do we have to be concerned about it and keep on praying Allah for sustaining it.

Challenging situations after embracing Islam is an indication of Allah’s love

Allah says that no Momin should think that Allah should let him enter the Jannat before putting him in challenging situations.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) says that the more a person is exalted before Allah, the more Allah puts him in challenging situations. Thereafter, by the grace of Allah, he does emerge successful in it. The most beloved and exalted of Allah’s creations are His Prophets and Messengers. That is why, Prophet (SAW) says that, amongst all people, the Messengers have been most tested in the way of Allah. Still further, amongst the Messengers, I was the most troubled and tested one. It was this very Dawah of Iman that culminated in the killing of Hazrat Yahya (A) – the Messenger of Bani Israel, by his people. Hazrat Zakaria was sliced open by a saw while Hazrat Ibrahim was expelled from his country Iraq and thrown into the burning fire. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself had to undergo many a testing times, which are rare in the course of history. He was kept besieged along with his clan for three years continuously in Shaab Abi Talib, a valley in Makkah, where he survived along with his followers on babool leaves. In addition to it, he was dragged in the streets of Taif and rogue boys and urchins pelted stones upon him. He became unconscious. His whole body became smeared with blood and covered with innumerable wounds. Blood flowed like streams of water. His beloved Sahabi Hazrat Bilal, who was native of Abyssinia, an African country, was made to lie on scorching sand bare-bodied while smouldering boulders were thrust upon his chest. He was reiteratively told to declare that Allah is not one. However, he kept on asserting that Allah is one and one alone. Hazrat Sumaiyah was hit with a spear on her private parts and she became a martyr.

The entire Islamic history is full of examples where the beloved creations of Allah, having embraced Islam, were subjected to oppressive treatment by their families, relatives and others. However, by the grace of Allah, people who embraced Islam, chose to brook all pains and oppressions and lay down their lives rather than returning back to the swamps of Shirk and Kufr. This definite picture of patience and tolerance even under the most hostile situations was simply the result of this Iman actually. In return, Allah guaranteed everlasting relief, entry into the Jannat and protection from the Fire of Hell forever for them on account of temporary and oppressions.

Four Primary duties after embracing Islam

After having uttered the Kalimah - e - Tayyibah, ‘La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammadur Rasullallah’ and reaffirming it by the heart, following four basic duties become incumbent on every Muslim. Not following them or being callous towards them is sinful, however he shall not be expelled from Islam. But if he denies the importance of these prime duties, he shall cease to be a part of Islam anymore. In other words, these duties are fundamental pillars of Islam on which its edifice stands.

1. Namaz – Five times a day

It is obligatory upon each and every adult Muslim and Momin to offer Namaz five times a day upto his death. Its timings are duly fixed. It is the most important worship of Islam. To this end, first of all, the body has to be cleansed. He washes his hands and feet; the process is better known as ‘Wudhu’. Thereafter, sometimes he stands before Allah, sometimes he bows down, sometimes he sits down and sometimes he prostrates down accepting and reiterating Allah as the real Lord and Master. During this period, he prays Allah to sustain him on Iman and protect him from the fire of Hell. The advantages of offering these five Namaz per day is that, however busy man is throughout the day, he does not forget Allah. He remembers Allah when he gets up in the morning. He also remembers Allah while going to sleep at night. He does not forget Him even at the peak of his business activities in the day. Another enormous benefit of offering these Namaz is that man gets cleansed of all the sins throughout the day as if the entire dirt gets removed from his body by bathing five times a day. It is the Namaz which distinguishes between a Muslim and Mushrik as well as a Momin and Kafir in this world. Man would be accountable for it the moment he dies. Whoever passes through the first stage, shall find the rest of the stages easier to get through. During one’s lifetime, a Muslim can never be exempted from Namaz at any cost, whatsoever. If he doesn’t have the energy to stand up and offer Namaz, he is permitted to sit down, if he cannot sit down, he can lie down; if cannot move his limbs, he can use his eyes for this purpose. If he cannot perform ‘Wudhu’ with water, he can perform ‘Tayammum’ (dry ablution). Nonetheless, he is bound to offer Namaz under any circumstances whatsoever. The whole concept underlying it, is to remember Allah and be in tune with Him, which is a must for everybody, whether he is healthy or unwell, although some concession has been granted in the timings and magnitude of Namaz during travels.
If there is no hindrance and he is not disabled, then he is supposed to offer Namaz collectively in Jamaat behind the Imam in the mosque of the locality. It is so because the reward for offering Namaz in Jamaat gets multiplied twenty-seven times than offering it individually. Moreover, it is obligatory upon the Muslims of the entire locality to offer Juma (Friday) prayers collectively once a week on Friday. By offering the daily and Friday prayers collectively, Muslims become abreast with the well being of their fellow brethren in every way besides fulfilling the duty of following their leader. Further, the idea of discrimination on different basis fizzles out by offering Namaz in the same row side by side.
Before the Jamaat offers prayers, ‘Adhan’ is called out, whish also declares the greatness and real Lordship of Allah, asserting that He alone is the real Master. It is the Adhan, which not only calls out Muslims to offer Namaz in Jannat but also the fellow brethren towards the soul-stirring message of Islam.

2. Fasting for one month annually

The second obligation upon Muslims after Namaz is that of ‘Roza’ (fasting). The Roza for the whole month of Ramzan is obligatory upon each and every Muslim who is mature and healthy and stays in his house or dwelling and is not a traveller. He has the liberty of not keeping the Roza during journeys, however he is bound to fulfil the obligation later in the form of ‘Qaza’. A Muslim avoids eating and drinking anything from dawn to dusk and sexual intercourse as well.
Here, he gets adequate practice for avoiding food and coitus during Roza period for a month, then why cannot he avoid all impermissible things during his whole life. The entire exercise prepares him for patience, tolerance and self-control. Another very important benefit of Roza is that one gets to experience the same state, the agony and desperation as that of the poor and the needy as well as those who hardly get a morsel of food to satiate their hunger. As a result, he realizes the bitter truth and his sympathy and concern for the poor and the downtrodden augments manifold. Allah has promised special rewards for those who keep Roza.

3. Paying Zakat

Zakah is the third obligation. It means that every Muslim, who possesses adequate amount of wealth or property, is required to give away two and a half percent of his income, business or wealth in the name of Allah positively. He is allowed to donate even above this limit in the form of Sadqat and Khairat. Allah warns in the Quran that if those persons who are supposed to pay Zakah do not do so, shall be subjected to extreme torment after death. This wealth shall become an Achilles’ Heel for him later on. The gold and silver that he had amassed and had not spent duly in the way of Allah shall be melted and he will be branded with this molten alloy over his forehead and sides.
A Muslim believes that the wealth that he possesses is only a deposit, entrusted with him by Allah. A financial crunch cannot happen by spending it in the way of Allah. It is his kindness that he has enjoined us to give away only a miniscule part of the wealth and not the total wealth to his creations like the poor and the downtrodden. Furthermore, he has even promised rewards for fulfilling this obligation.

4. Hajj

It has been made obligatory upon every Muslim who possesses the requisite health and wealth to go on a pilgrimage to Makkah, the native place of Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) and which had been founded by Hazrat Ibrahim (A). This pilgrimage is known as Hajj. The Kaabat-ullah, which is the most revered and foremost house of the world that had been constructed solely for the purpose of worshipping Allah, is situated here. By Allah’s command, Muslims all over the world offer their Namaz in its direction. By performing Hajj, all previous sins get neutralized and one returns back as clean and fresh as if he had just been born on this planet. The Hajj is performed by both rich and poor alike clad in just a couple of white sheets. He visualizes the commitment, adversities and sacrifices of Hazrat Ibrahim and his family in the way of Allah, with his own eyes. He spends the whole day at the world’s largest congregation of Muslims in the grounds of Arafat. It is the holiest and most profound opportunity in the world for the acceptance of one’s Dua. It is also a holy day. One of the biggest benefits of performing Hajj is that Muslims from every nook and cranny of the world gather on a common platform at the global level, providing a brilliant example of Islamic brotherhood and mutual harmony at a macro-level. Here, they get acquainted with each other and get familiarized with the cultural and social conditions of one another.

Some Common Myths

Some Common Myths

Q: Then why is the Muslim subdued today?

The profound impacts that are felt after one embraces Islam have been dealt in detail in the previous pages. However, the generalizations that all the Muslims do not seem to have undergone the sheer change and turning points and despite being Muslims, many of them are still indulged in vices and sins, should not lead to utter confusions. First and foremost, we ought to realize that the way Allah has given the option of selecting between virtue and vice, truth and untruth, guidance and misguidance as well as the inclination to accept Islam or not, similarly, Allah has let the doors of options open even after coming into the folds of Islam, with regard to vice and virtue, that is to chose between the good and the evil. The cardinal sin of Shirk and Kufr can never be committed by a Muslim. As a corollary, he does not remain a Muslim once he returns back into those swamps, notwithstanding that he keeps on understanding himself as a Muslim and the world too assents to his supposition. Before Allah, because of dilution and adulteration of his Iman, he shall always be considered as a Kafir and Mushrik, thereby deserving the Fire of Hell. In contradiction with other sins and misdeeds where the identity of being a Muslim is not hampered, the cardinal sins of Shirk and Kufr leave no room for being identified as a Muslim. As far as the other sins are concerned, if Allah wants, He can excuse the person if he seeks forgiveness in this world before his death. In the most undesirable situation, even if he does not seek so in the world and the sins are not forgiven, he would simply be subjected to temporary chastisement and then allowed to enter the Paradise, as promised by Allah. In the light of the above discussion, we ought to distinguish between Islam and Muslims. Islam, basically is a complete religion and Shariah, which has been bestowed by Allah to the entire mankind. There is no room at all for any loopholes or fissures in this epitome of perfectness. That is why, it has to be always superimposed and domineering. Allah has promised that it shall be so. The Muslims have been assured of complete relief and blessings with a definite entry into the Paradise after death. Nevertheless, the possible effects of their shortcomings, sins and misdeeds in this world shall have an impression on their lives in the world itself.
These misdeeds take the form of adversities, problems and hostilities that befall on them, as a result of which, they may even become subdued in this world. At times, as a result of their bad deeds, Allah may even make way for them to be ruled by oppressive and Kafir rulers, as a part of the worldly chastisement, as has been predicted by Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Today, the feebleness, emasculation and subjugation that we se amongst Muslims is the result of their non-misdeeds basically. As a matter of fact, a large number of Muslims gets diverted by Satan, lose their self-control and self-discipline, fall into the trap of vices for a temporary phase, which is indubitably against the prestige of Islam. Unethical atmosphere and sinful compay also play a detrimental role. Although these vices are present amongst non-Muslims too, yet the basic underlying difference is that Muslims do tend to realize their follies in the light of their Iman and Islam and they seek forgiveness from Allah at some point or the other, as against Mushriks and Kafirs who generally never realize their mistakes under the darkness of Kufr and Shirk. Not realizing the sin is even worse than committing the sin itself, from which the Momins and Muslims are perfected by the grace of Allah. In this context, if you have a deep analysis of Islam, you would realize that Islam has never been subdued in the entire history of mankind, although at times it has preferred momentary losses keeping in view an everlasting victory rather than winning battles and losing the full-fledged war.

You would observe that whenever and wherever Muslims have become subjugated in Islamic history, Islam emerged dominant and strong. In the 7th century A.H, the Tartars attacked Baghdad, the most beautiful and enticing city those days and ravaged it. Moreover, 18 lakh Muslims were killed during the genocide. These Muslims had superceded all their ethical limits and moral turpitude, indulging in the choicest of vices and vulgarities. The whole world thought at that point, that the days of Muslims are over as they have touched their nadir. However, history stands as a mute witness to the fact that the glory of Islam was restored back over there and as time turned a new dimension, the sworn enemies of Islam – the Tartars embraced Islam. A silent transformation took place as the world watched the Tartars defeat the Muslims and Islam conquers the Tartars. In order to understand Islam and embrace it, Islamic teachings have to be the touchstone, rather than following those Muslims today who do not follow the true Islam because of weaknesses in self-discipline and inclination towards satiating their worldly desires. That is precisely why, we notice that as compared to neo-Muslims, those who have been Muslims for long, appeal more callous and wayward towards their obligations. It is because the neo-Muslims have accepted Islam out of sheer effort and commitment. They value the guidance and treasure of Islam more so after having been under the effect of misguidance. On the contrary, the Muslims by birth have received the Guidance from their fathers and forefathers as a part of legacy and they haven’t gone through the challenges in this regard.

No coercive conversion to Islam

Since the principles and tenets of Islam are not based on shaky grounds or guesses and wild interpretations, and since they derive their essence from rationality and wisdom, therefore Allah has not coerced his creations into accepting these truths. Moreover, when the distinctions between Islam and Kufr, Iman and Shirk and the like have become so vivid and clear then where lies the need to coerce a person to have belief in Allah and forsake the path of Kufr and Shirk. Such a thing is similar to the case where the sun is shining clearly yet somebody forcibly coaxes a person to proclaim that it is day and not night. After the sun rises, if one does not accept this undiluted truth, would the world accept him as a same person?
Allah has clearly laid out the line of demarcation between Islam and Kufr from different angles before the people. Further, he has been given the right to chose and accept the Truth for his well-being, success in this life and Hereafter as well as qualify to enter the Paradise and earn eternal bliss after death or set himself firm on the path of vice and misguidance out of utter ignorance, blind judgement and irrationality to qualify for eternal degeneration and the Fire of Hell. Amongst all His creations, Allah has bestowed the right to chose between the Truth and the Falsehood, only to human beings and Jinns, not even to the Angels. He has not granted them the right to be disobedient. About the Quran, that there shall be no coercion in the matters of religion since the paths of Guidance and Misguidance have stood out without any doubt. He further says, “ O Muhammad (SAW), if people do not embrace Islam despite the Truth being crystal clear before them, tell them to stay put on their faith and we shall follow our own faith. Both of us shall be duly adjudged after our death. O Muhammad! You have not been sent as a dictator over them, that you may coercively draw them into the folds of Islam no matter what. If someone does not bring Iman, anyway, he shall have to come to Me and be accountable for each and every deed. Subsequently, I shall make him destined to the most horrifying if chastisements. You keep on with your task of reprimanding and admonition. Whoever has to understand shall understand it invariably. Only an unfortunate shall be bereft of this bounty.”
In the light of these teachings of the Quran, one finds not a single incidence of coercive conversion in the entire Islamic history. Even today, Islam does not permit anybody to be forced into Islam by coercive means. Such a person shall be deemed to be violating the teachings of Islam. On the other hand, the person who is forcibly made to do so, shall not be deemed to be a part of Islam. He shall not be recognized as a Muslim. It is so, because Islam does not entail asserting the oneness of Allah by tongue alone. Its affirmation by the heart is equally important. Let’s make it clear that faith is not the name given to reading the Kalimah by one’s tongue or simulating the Islamic practices simply.

This is the reason why under an Islamic government, non-Muslims cannot be stopped from following erroneous beliefs and irrational rites and rituals. If they wish to stay put on the path of Shirk and Kufr and lend their lives peacefully living along with Muslims, they shall be allowed full freedom to practice their faith by the Islamic government, necessarily. Muslims have ruled in India for nearly 11 hundred years. Had there been any room for coercion or force in Islam, why not did the rulers use all possible strength under their command to convert the entire native population of the country to Islam, despite being ever so powerful? What could have stopped them? It was the teaching of Islam, which was restraining them to go ahead. The five hundred million population of Muslims spanning the Indian sub-continent do not have any foreign origin nor have they been coercively brought into the folds of Islam. They have been natives of this place itself. Their forefathers and ancestors had embraced Islam, having been mesmerized with the impeccable and admirable character of the Muslim saints and scholars, the foremost amongst who was Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia.

Although Islam refutes all concepts of self-proclaimed pseudo-gods and despite the firm belief that non-believers and polytheists are on the wrong track, their religious feelings are given due respect and consideration, such that Muslims were told straightaway in the Quran that, “ O Muslims, do not curse, vilipend or calumniate those gods whom the Kafirs and Mushriks worship leaving Allah. Because, in a fit of reaction, they may also revile Allah and you may unintentionally become the cause for it.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The worldly comforts are not the criteria for Allah’s blessings

From the detailed discussion in the previous chapters on the irrationalities associated with Shirk and Kufr, Allah’s anger and vitriolic reaction as well as the severe chastisements after death leave no room for any misconception whatsoever regarding the fact that although Allah is Omniscient and Omnipotent, hates Kufr and Shirk tremendously and has fixed severe chastisements for those who indulge in it, yet He allows them to draw all kinds of materialistic benefits to the best of their satisfaction and need. Why is it so? Further, why have they been given access to worldly luxuries and materialistic enjoyments and there appears virtually no difference between the extent of access available to those who accept Islam and those who indulge in Kufr and Shirk.
We can certainly find the answer to this question from the chapter dealing with the details of the vast expanse of the universe. We ought to know what is the worth of this seemingly vast world as compared to the sprawling universe in the eyes of Allah. The earth that we live in does not merit even the status of a speck of sand as compared to this vast ocean of Allah’s Creation. This world stands hardly any chance even if we compare the luxuries of the Jannat available to a common Muslim or a Momin after death. It would actually be ten times bigger. The worth of this world before Allah could be readily understood with the following saying of Prophet Muhammad (SAW): If the worth of this world, in the eyes of Allah, was even equivalent to that of a wing of a mosquito, He would not have let any Kafir or Mushrik to have even a drop of water.

The second most powerful evidence of the worthlessness of this world before Allah could be that, had it been of some value, Allah would have bestowed it on his most beloved creations first – the prophets and messengers. Once, Hazrat Jibraeel appeared before Prophet Muhammad (SAW) with the divine message that if he so desired, Allah can convert the Uhud Mountains of Madinah into gold. However, he refused it and chose to go hungry at times and lead an absolutely Spartan and austere life like the poor and the orphans. He always prayed the Almighty in this way: My Lord, Sustain me in this state of poverty, give me death in the state of poverty and make me accountable along with the poor. It is so because the easiest accountability would be that of the poor and the orphans, after death. The more materialistic wealth a person possesses, the more prolonged shall be the process of accountability, similar to a foreigner who is thoroughly checked by the customs officer at the airport owing to his large baggage, taking more time. After death, Allah shall make us accountable for each and every deed performed, such as the sources of income and expenditure. If there would be no wealth, what is the question of accountability?

Obviously, when this world is a testing field for Muslims with reference to the result in Akhirah, then why would Allah bestow it to His beloved creations and above all, why would the Momin or Muslim harbour any desire for it?

From the above discussion, we come to the conclusion that the abundance or scarcity of materialistic splendour is not a criterion for Allah’s pleasure. In other words of the Holy Quran: The worldly materialistic life and its glory ‘n’ glamour is nothing more than merely the recreation ground for man or simply a theatrical play. It is akin to a piece of land which is green only for a few short days and once it becomes dusty or barren, animals trample it under their feet.

Killings of Kafirs is not even permissible in Islam.

Nowadays, many a wild rumours are being spread about Islam, such as, orders have been given in the Quran to kill Kafirs and Mushriks, Such an accusation is absolutely untrue and far away from reality. One cannot show even a solitary verse in the Quran or any part of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), that is the Hadith, which together form the true essence of Islam, where even permissions have been granted, leave alone passing orders for Muslims to kill Kafirs and Mushriks just because they adhere to Kufr and Shirk. Killing is a far-fetched idea; Muslims have not even been permitted to hurt or harass anybody unnecessarily, regardless of the faith he professes.

Allah reminds that the second most heinous crime after Shirk is unjust killing of anybody by someone. The Quran declares explicitly that if somebody kills a person without any reason, it is similar to having killed the entire humanity.

The punishment for killing somebody unjustly is to kill the murderer himself in retaliation. Had Muslims been ordered to kill people at will simply because of Kufr and Shirk, then why not did Allah finish off the Kafirs and Mushriks on His own and why were they given an opportunity to survive on this planet? The Almighty Himself gave them a chance to survive in this world despite their Shirk, then how can Muslims or for that matter anybody be entitled to kill them on this account? Albeit, it has been mentioned in the Quran that an additional tax in the form of ‘Jaziya’ has to be paid by those Kafirs and Mushriks who do not accept Islam and live under an Islamic rule. Jaziya is a sort of Protection Tax, since the State then, becomes responsible for the protection of their life and property. If they deny such a payment, they can be fought with. Similarly, permission has been granted to fight off even those Kafirs and Mushrik who do not let the Muslims live in peace, pose hindrance in their following the course of Islam, obstruct others in staying firm on the righteous path as well as interfere in the process of spreading its message of truth. It is equivalent to stopping a person from adopting and following the righteous and successful path, which has been called ‘Fitna’ (mischief) by the Quran. That is why, such people are allowed to fight off. This has been called ‘Jihad’. In this way, ‘Jihad’ is also a defensive measure rather than an offensive course of action. In the first established Islamic government, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) entered into peace agreements with the Jews and various other tribes living around the city of Madinah, yet when they disregarded the agreements and conspired against the Muslims by teaming up with the foes of Muslim, then the Prophet took the last recourse of war. Such defensive measures to protect themselves were termed as ‘Jihad’. The Quran strictly exhorts the Muslims not to raise weapons against those who adhere by their peace agreements. In other words, the permission for Jihad has also been given for the sake of maintaining peace, not to superimpose one’s religion on that of others or to expand one’s political territories. In this respect, the foremost condition for Jihad is that there should not be any vested interest or ulterior motive. It should only be performed with the sole intention of standing up to the commands of Allah and spreading the Light of Guidance in the form of religion or others.