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Principles of Islam

PRINCIPLES OF ISLAM (Mrs Hamdah Farooqi) In dealing with this subject I will commence by quoting from the writings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, who has explained the real meaning of Islam and that of a true and practising Muslim. He has written: “Islam means losing oneself for the sake of God and surrendering one’s own pleasure for the pleasure of God.” (Essence of Islam). “In the idiom of Arabic, Islam means to commit some affair to some one, or to seek peace, or to surrender a claim or a point. The technical meaning of Islam is set out in the verse of the Holy Quran which reads: The truth is that whoever submits himself completely to the will of Allah and acts righteously shall have his reward with his Lord. No fear shall come upon such, nor shall they grieve (2: 113). This means that a Muslim is one who commits himself wholly to the cause of God Almighty; that is to say one who devotes himself to God Almighty, to follow His designs and to win His pleasure, and then becomes steadfast in doing good for the sake of God Almighty and devotes all his faculties to that cause.” (Ayena Kamalat-e-Islam, pp. 57-58). “The reality of Islam is to present one’s neck to God like the sacrificial lamb; to give up one’s own designs and to be devoted to the designs of God and His pleasure; to be absorbed in the love of God and to obey Him entirely for the sake of His love; to obtain eyes that see only through Him, and to develop a heart that should be wholly devoted to Him, and to obtain a tongue which would speak only at His command. This is a stage where all search ends; human faculties complete their functions and man’s ego dies completely. Thereupon Divine Mercy confers a new life upon the seeker through His living words and His shining light. He is honoured with the delightful converse of God and a fine light, which is not discoverable by reason and is not recognizable by the eyes, approaches close to his heart as God has said ‘We are closer to him than his jugular vein’ (50:17). In this manner God honours mortal man with 8 REVIEW 01′ RELIGIONS His nearness. Then the time comes when blindness is removed and the eyes are given insight, and man beholds God with his new eyes, and hears His voice and finds himself wrapped in the mantle of His light. Thus the purpose of religion is fulfilled and having held God, man casts aside the dirty garment of his lower life and puts on a garment of light and waits for the sight of God and of heaven not merely as a promise to be fulfilled in the hereafter, but in this very life he achieves the bounties of sight and converse and heaven. As God the Almighty has stated. ‘Upon those who confirm; Allah is our Lord; and are then steadfast, angels descend, re-assuring them; fear not, nor grieve; and rejoice in the Garden which you were promised’ (41 :31). This means that angels descend upon those who affirm that their God is One who possesses all perfect attributes and Who has no associate in His Being or His attributes; and after their affirmation, they are steadfast and no earthquake or calamity and no confrontation of death can shake their faith. God speaks to them and reassures them not to be afraid of calamities or of enemies, and not to be sorrowful over past misfortunes. He reassures them that He is with them and that He has bestowed upon them in this very world the paradise that was promised to them in which they should rejoice. This is a promise which has been fulfilled. There is testimony to the effect that thousands of humble ones in Islam have tasted of the spiritual paradise which is promised in this verse.” (Lahore Lecture, pp. 20-22). Writing on the excellencies of Islamic principles and teachings. the Promised Messiah has stated: “A person can be held to be a Muslim when the whole of his being together with all his faculties. physical and spiritual are devoted to God Almighty, and the trusts which are committed to him by God Almighty are rendered back to the True Giver and Bestower. He should demonstrate his being a Muslim not only doctrinally but also in practice. In other words a person claiming to be a Muslim should prove that his hands and feet, heart and mind, reason and understanding, his anger and his compassion, his meekness, his knowledge, all his physical and spiritual faculties. his honour and his property. his comfort and his delight and whatever pertains to him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. together with his motives, his fears, his passions have all been subordinated to Almighty God as a person’s limbs are subordinated to him. It should be proved that his sincerity has reached a stage in which whatever is his, does not belong to him but to God Almighty and that all his limbs and faculties have become so devoted to the service of God as if they had become the limbs of the Divine. A person will truly be called a Muslim only when his whole life I i I I PRINCIPLES OF ISLAM undergoes a total revolution and his evil-directing self, together with all its passions, is wiped out altogether and he is invested with a new life which is characterized by his carrying out all his obligations to Allah and which should comprise nothing except obedience to the Creator and sympathy for His creatures. Obedience to the Creator means to make manifest His Honour and Glory and Unity, and that one should be ready to endure every insult and humiliation, and one should be eager to undergo a thousand deaths in order to uphold His Unity. The love of the grandeur of His commandments and the thirst for seeking His pleasure should make sin so hateful as if it were a consuming fire, or a fatal poison, or an obliterating lightning from which one must run away with all one’s power. In order to seek His pleasure one must surrender all the desire of one’s ego; and to establish a relationship with Him one should be ready to endure all kinds of injuries. The service of one’s fellow-beings means to strive for their benefit purely for the sake of God in all their needs and in all the relationships of mutual dependence which God has established out of true and selfless sympathy for them. Everyone in need of help should be helped out of one’s God-given capacity and one must strive for their betterment both in this world and in the here-after.” (Ayena Kamalat-e-Islam, pp. 59-62). 9 How beautifully has the Promised Messiah commented upon the underlying philosophy of the teachings of Islam. The basic and most important belief that Islam puts forth is the Unity of God with the declaration that “There is none worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad (peace be on him) is His Messenger.” This is sufficient for one to be counted as a Muslim. The second pillar of Islam is the offering of the five daily prayers. Great emphasis has been placed on these prayers (sal at) because prayer is the means of reaching God. In the Holy Quran God says: “Surely, Prayer restrains one from indecency and manifest evil; and remembrance of Allah, indeed, is the greatest virtue.” “Verily Prayer is enjoined on the believers to be performed at fixed hours.” (29:46). (4:104). Once the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said to his companions: “Tell me if one of you had a stream running by outside his door and he should take a bath in it five times daily then would any dirt be left on 10 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS him.” The companions replied “no dirt would be left on him.” The Holy Prophet then said: “This is the case with the five prayers. Allah wipes out all faults in consequence of them.” The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) practised every single instruction which he received from God Almighty to such an extent that God told him that he was an Excellent Exemplar! When this Excellent Exemplar for all mankind was asked which actions are most acceptable to God and liked most of all, he replied that they were the observance of prayers at their appointed times, obedience and service to parents and striving in the way of Allah. The third pillar is fasting. Whereas other religions do not give clear and concise instructions concerning the timings, duration and detailed instructions about fasting, Islam gives very clear and concise directions. God says in the Holy Ouran: “0 ye, who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil. The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation – the feeding of a poor man. And whoso does good of his own accord it is better for him. And fasting is good for you if you only knew. The month of Ramadhan is that in which the Ouran was revealed as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination between truth and falsehood. Therefore whosoever of you is present at home in this month let him fast therein. But whoso is temporarily sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days.” (2:184–186). The instructions are clear and concise. Even the month has been allocated so that the whole community can set it aside for their spiritual uplift and training in perseverence and self-control. Let us turn to some of the sayings of the Holy Prophet on the subject of fasting. He is reported to have said: “Allah, the Lord of Honour and Glory has said that all other deeds of man are for himself but his fasting is purely for Me, and 1 shall reward him for it. The fast is a shield. When anyone is fasting he should eschew loose talk and noisy exchanges. Should anyone revile him or seek to pick a quarrel with him he should respond ‘I am fasting.’ By Him, in Whose hands is the life of Muhammad, the breath of one who is fasting is purer in the sight of Allah than the fragrance of musk. For the one who fasts there are two joys, one PRINCIPLES OF ISLAM when he breaks his fast and the other when he meets his Lord. His breath is purer in the estimation of Allah than the fragrance of musk.” In another tradition the Holy Prophet is reported to have said: “He who observes the fast of Ramadhan out of sincerity of faith and in the hope of earning merit will have his past sins forgiven him.” 11 I have so far discussed three of the five pillars of Islam. Belief in the Unity of God and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was a Messenger of Allah which is the first and foremost article of faith. Then the offering of prescribed prayers followed by fasting for the prescribed number of days during the month of Ramadhan or completing any fasts missed on a corresponding number of days later on in the year. Now I shall move on to the fourth pillar namely Zakat (Charity) the paying of which is obligatory upon a believer. This is a system whereby the poor and needy are to be looked after by the State. Every member of the community is required to pay zakat in accordance with his or her financial position. It is a capital levy prescribed in the Holy Quran: “Observe Prayer and pay the Zakat.” “Observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, and hold fast to Allah.” “Take alms out of their wealth, so that thou mayest cleanse them and purify them thereby.” (2:111). (22:79). (9:103). It is reported that a man asked the Holy Prophet what he should do to be admitted into paradise. He replied: “Worship Allah, associating nothing with Him, observe prayer, pay the zakat and strengthen the ties of kinship.” Again he is reported to have said: “A person having gold or silver who does not pay the zakat due on it should know that on the day of Judgement his gold and silver will be melted into slabs which will then be heated in the fire of hell and his side, forehead and back will be branded therewith. When the slabs have become cool they will be heated up again and the branding wilL be continued during a day the extent of which will be equal to fifty thousand years.” The rewards for doing good are great and manifold while the punishment for not fulfilling this important obligation is very severe because this is the 12 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS institution whereby the needy and poor are to be looked after. If the wealthy kept only their own comforts and pleasures in mind then the needs of the poor could not be fulfilled and one section of the community would become richer and richer while the other would become poorer and poorer. The fifth and last pillar of Islam is pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Ha jj. At various places in the Holy Quran God Almighty has very lovingly described the ‘House of Allah’ and how He blessed it and made it a sacred place. It is known as the Kaba and under instructions from God it was rebuilt by the Prophet Abraham. Nearby there are two hills named Safa and Marva between which his wife, Hager, ran to and fro in search of water for her baby after they had been left in the desert by the Prophet Abraham in accordance with God’s directions. A Muslim is required to visit these sacred places at least once in a life time on which occasion he dresses in the plainest and simplest of clothing holding nothing in mind and heart except love for the Almighty. The performance of these required obligations at the prescribed times constitute the Pilgrimage which serves as a lesson for the whole of one’s life. Besides the Pillars of Islam there are also five basic articles of faith in which a Muslim must believe. The first and foremost is, of course, belief in the Unity of God without any kind of associate; and in the prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) who was a Messenger and servant of Allah. The second is belief in all the prophets that God has sent from time to time for the guidance of mankind. The Holy Quran has mentioned the names of many of them. Then there is the belief that God has been sending guidance from time to time for mankind recorded in various scriptures. This is followed by belief in angels which are spiritual beings that carry out the instructions of God. Last but not least there is faith in the Day of Judgement. Every person will be answerable for his or her deeds whether good or bad. Every single action is recorded and will be accounted. These teachings basically constitute the structure of the Islamic faith. Every teaching has an uriderlying philosophy. Islam may be looked upon as a unit divided into two sections – obligations to God and obligations to His creatures. Worship of God and service to His creatures is the story of Islam.