Towards Understanding Islam

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  • Towards Understanding Islam



    The earlier discussion has made it clear that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has enjoined us to believe in five articles of Faith: 

    1. Belief in one God. Who has absolutely no associate with Him in His divinity. 

    2. Belief in God's Angels. 

    3. Belief in God's Books, and in the Holy Qur'an as His Last Book. 

    4. Belief in God's Prophet, and in Muhammad (God's blessing be upon him) as His Last and Final     Messenger. 

    5. Belief in life after death.

    These five articles make up the bedrock of Islam. One who believes in them enters the Muslim community. But by a mere verbal profession alone, one does not become a complete Muslim. To become a complete Muslim one has to fully carry out in practice the instruction given by Muhammad (peace be upon him) as ordained by God. For belief in God makes practical obedience to Him incumbent; and it is obedience to God which constitutes the religion of alone is your God, and this means that He is your Creator and you are His creature; that He is your Master, and you are His slave that He is your Ruler and you are His subject. After having acknowledged Him as your Master and Ruler, if you refuse to obey Him you are a rebel on your own admission. Along with faith in God you believe that the Qur'an is God's Book. This means that you have admitted all the contents of the Qur'an to be from God. Thus it become your bounden duty to accept and obey whatever is contained in it. Along with that you have admitted Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be God's Messenger, which means that you have admitted that each and every one of his orders and prohibitions are from God. After this admission obedience to him become your duty. Therefore you will be a full-fledged Muslim only when your practice is consistent with your profession otherwise your Islam will remain incomplete. 

    Now let us see what code of conduct Muhammad (peace be upon him) has taught as ordained by God Al-mighty. The first and foremost things in this respect are the 'Ibadat' the Primary Duties which must be observed by each and every person professing to belong to the Muslim community.

    The Spirit of "Ibadat" or Worship

    'Ibadat' is an Arabic word derived from 'Abd' (a slave) and it means submission. It portrays that Allah is your Master and you are His slave and whatever a slave does in obedience to and for the pleasure of his Master is 'Ibadat. The Islamic concept of 'Ibadat' is very wide. If you free your speech from filth, falsehood, malice and abuse and speak the truth and talk goodly things and do all these only because God has so ordained to do they constitute 'Ibadat, however secular they may look in semblance. If you obey the law of God in letter and spirit in your commercial and economic affairs and abide by it in your dealings with your parents relatives friend and all those who come in contact with you verily all these activities of yours are 'Ibadat. If you help the poor and the destitute give food to the hungry and serve the ailing and the afflicted persons and do all this not for any personal gain of yours but only to seek the pleasure of God, they are nothing short of 'Ibadat. Even your economic activities the activities you undertake to earn your living and to feed your dependants are 'Ibadat if you remain honest and truthful in them and observe the law of God. In short all your activities and your entire life are 'Ibadat if they are in accordance with the law of God and your heart is filled with His fear and your ultimate objective in undertaking all theses activities is to seek the pleasure of God. Thus whenever you do good or avoid evil for fear of God, in whatever sphere of life and field of activity you are discharging your Islamic obligations. This is the true significance of 'Ibadat, viz. Total submission to the pleasure of Allah, the molding into the patterns of Islam one's entire life, leaving out not even the most insignificant part thereof. To help achieve this aim a set of formal 'Ibadat (worships) has been constituted which serves as a course of training. The more assiduously we follow the training, the better equipped practices. The 'Ibadat are thus the pillars on which the edifice of Islam rests. 


    Salat is the most primary and the most important of these obligations. And what is Salat? It is the prescribed daily prayers which consist in repeating and refreshing five times a day the belief in which you repose your faith. You get up early in the morning, cleanse yourself and present yourself before your Lord for prayer. The various poses that you assume during your prayers are the very embodiment of the spirit of submission; the various recitals remind you of your commitments to your God. You seek His guidance and ask Him again and again to enable you to avoid His wrath and follow His Chosen Path. You read out from the Book of the Lord and express witness to the truth of the Prophet and also refresh your belief in the Day of Judgment and enliven in your memory the fact that you have to appear before your Lord and give an account of your entire life. This is how your day starts. Then after a few hours the Muezzin calls you to prayers and you again submit to your God and renew your covenant with Him. You dissociate yourself form your worldly engagements for a few moments and seek audience with God. This once again brings to the fore of your mind your real role in file. After this rededication you revert to your occupations and again present yourself to the Lord after a few hours. This again acts as a reminder to you and you once more refocus your attention an the attention on the stipulations of your Faith. When the sun sets and the darkness of the night begins to shroud you, you again submit yourself to God in Prayers so that you may not forget your duties and obligation in the midst of the approaching shadows of the night. And then after a few hours you again appear before your Lord and this is your last prayer of the day. Thus before going to bed you once again renew your Faith and prostrate before your God. And this is how you complete your day. The frequency and timings of the prayers never let the object and mission of life be lost sight of in the maze of worldly activities.  

    It is but easy to understand how the daily prayers strengthen the foundations of your Faith prepare you for the observance of a life of virtue and obedience to God, and refresh that belief from which spring courage, sincerity, purposefulness, purity of heart, advancement of the soul, and enrichment of morals.

    Now see how this is achieved. You perform ablution and perform it in the way prescribed by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). You also say your prayers according to the instructions of the Prophet. Why do you do so? Simply because you believe in the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and deem it our bounden duty to follow him ungrudgingly. Why don't you intentionally misrecite the Qur'an? Isn't it so because you regard the Books as the Word of God and deem it a sin to deviate from its letter? In the prayers you recite many a thing quietly and if you do not recite them and make any deviation there from there is no one to check you. But you never do co intentionally. Why? Because you believe that God is ever watchful and He listens all that you recite and is aware of thing open and hidden. What makes you say your prayers at places where there is not one to ask you to offer them or even to see you offering them? Isn't it so because of your belief that God is ever looking at you? What makes you leave your important business and other occupations and rush to1wards the mosque for prayers? What makes you terminate your sweet sleep in the early hours of the morning to go to the mosque in the heat of the noon and to leave your evening entertainment's for the sake of prayers? Is it anything other than sense of duty-your realization that you must fulfill your responsibility to the Lord, come what may? And why are you afraid of any mistake in prayer? Because your heart is filled with the fear of God and you know that you have to appear before Him on the Day of Judgment and give an account of your entire life. Now look! can there be a better course of moral and spiritual training than prayers? It it this training which makes a man a perfect Muslim. It remains him of his covenant with God, refreshes his faith in Him, and keeps the belief in the Day of Judgment alive and ever-present before his mind's eye. It makes him follow the Prophet and trains him in the observance of his duties.

    This is indeed a strict training for conforming one's practice to one' ideals. Obviously if a man's consciousness of his duties towards his Creator is so acute that he prizes it above all worldly gains and keep it refreshing through prayers he would certainly be in visiting the displeasure of God which he all along striven to avoid. He will abide by the law of God in the entire gamut of life in the same way as he follows it in the five prayers ever day. This man can be relied upon in other fields of activity as well for if the shadows of sin or deceit approach him he will try to avoid them for fear of the Lord which would be ever present in his heart. And if even after such a vital training a man misbehaves himself in other fields of life and disobeys the law of God it can only be because of some intrinsic depravity of his self.

    Then again you must say your prayers in congregation and especially so the Friday

    prayers. This creates among the Muslims a bound of love and mutual understanding. This arouses in them the sense of their collective unity and fosters among them national fraternity. All of them say their prayers in one congregation and this inculcate in them a deep feeling of brotherhood. Prayers are also a symbol of equality for the poor and the rich the low and the high the rulers and the ruled the educated and the unlettered, the black and the white all stand in one row prostrate before their Lord. They also inculcate in them a strong sense of discipline and obedience to the elected leader. In short prayers train them in all those virtues which make possible the development of a rich individual and collective life.

    There are a few of the myriads of benefits we can derive from the daily prayers1. If we refuse to avail ourselves of them we and only we are the losers. Our shirking the prayers can only mean one of the two things. Either we do not recognize prayers as our duty or we recognize them as our claim to Faith shall be a shameless lie, for if we refuse to take orders we no longer acknowledge the Authority. In the second case if we recognize the Authority and still flout His Commands then we are the most unreliable of the creatures that ever tread the earth. For if we can do this to the highest authority in the universe, what guarantee is there that we shall not do the same in our dealings with other human beings? And if double play overwhelms a society what a hell of discord it is bound to become!


    What the prayers seek to serve five times a day fasting in the month of Ramadan (ninth month of the lunar year) does once a year. During this period from dawn to dusk we eat not a grain of food nor drink a drop of water no matter how delicious the dish or how hungry or thirsty we feel. What is it makes us voluntarily undergo such rigors? It is nothing but faith in God and the fear of Him and of the Day of Judgment. Each and every moment during our fast we suppress our passions and desires and proclaim by our doing so the supremacy of the Law of God. This consciousness of duty and the spirit of patience that incessant fasting for full one month inculcates in us help us Strengthen our faith. Rigor and discipline during this month bring us face to face with the realities of life and help us make our life during the rest of the year a life of true subservience to His Will.

    From yet another point of view fasting has an immense impact on society for all the Muslims irrespective of their status must observe fast during the same month. This brings to prominence the essential equality of men and thus goes a long way towards creating in then sentiments of love and brotherhood. During Ramadan evil conceals itself while good come to the fore and the whole atmosphere is filled with piety and purity. This discipline has been imposed on us to our own advantage. Those who do not fulfill this relied upon in the discharge of their duties. But the worst are those who during this holy month does not hesitate to eat or drink in public. They are the people who by their conduct show that they care not a trifle for the commands of Allah in Whom they profess their belief as their Creator and Sustainer. Not only this, they also show that they are not loyal members of the Muslim Community rather they have nothing to do with it. It is evident that in so far as obedience to law and regard for a trust reposed in them goes, only the worst could be expected of such hypocrites.


    The third obligation is Zakat. Every Muslim, whose financial conditions are above a certain specified minimum, must pay annually 2.5% of his cash balance2 to a deserving fellow being, a new covert to Islam, a traveler, or one involved in debts3. This is the minimum. The more you pay the greater the reward that Allah shall bestow on you.

    The money that we pay as Zakat is mot something Allah needs or receives. He is above any want and desire. He, in His benign Mercy, promises us rewards manifold if we help our brethren. But there in one basic condition for being thus rewarded. And it is this that when we pay in the name of Allah, we shall not expect nor demand any worldly gains from the beneficiaries nor aim at making our names as philanthropists.

    Zakat is as basic to Islam as other forms of 'Ibadat salat (prayers) and saum (fasting). Its fundamental importance lies in the fact that it fosters in us the qualities of sacrifice and rids us of selfishness and plutolatry. Islam accepts within its fold only those who are ready to give away in God's way from their hard earned wealth willingly and without any temporal or personal gain. It has nothing to do with misers. A true Muslim shall, when the call comes, sacrifice al his belongings in the way of Allah, for Zakat has already trained him for such sacrifice.

    The Muslim society has immensely to gain from the institution of Zakat. It is the bounden duty of every well to do Muslim to help his lowly placed poor brethren. His wealth is not to be spent solely for his own comfort and luxury there are rightful claimants on his wealth, and they are the nation's widows and orphans, the poor and the invalid those who have ability but lack the means by which they could seek useful employment, those who have the faculties and brilliance but not the money with which they could acquire knowledge and become useful members of the community. He who does not recognize the right on his wealth of such members of his own community is indeed cruel. For there could be no greater cruelty than to fill one's own coffers while thousands die of hunger or suffer the agonies of unemployment. Islam is a sworn enemy of such selfishness, greed and acquisitiveness. Disbelievers, devoid of sentiments of universal love, know only to preserve wealth and to add to it by lending it out on interest. Islam's teachings are the very antithesis of this attitude. Here one shares one's wealth with others and helps them stand on their own legs and become productive members of the society.

    Hajj or Pilgrimage

    Hajj, or the Pilgrimage to Mecca, is fourth basic 'Ibadat. It is obligatory only on those who can afford it and that too only once in a lifetime.

    Mecca today stands at site of a small house that the Prophet Abraham (God's blessings be upon him) built for the worship of Allah. Allah rewarded him by calling it His own House and by making it the center towards which all must face when saying prayers. He also made it incumbent on those who can afford to visit is not merely to be a courtesy call. Even this pilgrimage the its rites and conditions to be fulfilled which inculcate in us piety and goodness. When we undertake the pilgrimage, we are required to suppress our passions, refrain from bloodshed, and be pure in word and deed. God promises rewards for our sincerity and submissiveness.

    The Pilgrimage is, in a way the biggest of all Ibadat. For unless a man really loves God he would never undertake such a long journey all his near and dear ones behind him. Then this pilgrimage is unlike any other journey. Here his thoughts are concentrated on Allah, his very being vibrates with spirit of intense devotion. When he reaches the holy place, he finds the atmosphere laden with piety and godliness; he visits place which bear witness to the glory of Islam, and all this leaves an indelible impression on his mind, which he carries t o his last breath.

    Then there are as in other 'Ibadat many benefits that the Muslims can enjoy from this pilgrimage. Mecca is the center towards which the Muslims must converge once a year meet and discuss topics of common interest and in general create and refresh in then selves the faith that all Muslims are equal and deserve the love and sympathy of others irrespective of their geographical or cultural origin. Thus the pilgrimage unites the Muslims of the world into one international fraternity.

    Defense of Islam

    Though the defense of Islam is not a fundamental tenet but its need and importance have been repeatedly emphasized in the Qur'an and the Hadith. It is in essence a test of our sincerity and truthfulness as believers in Islam. If we do not defend one whom we call our friend against intrigues or assaults from his foes, nor care for his interest and are guided solely by selfishness we are indeed false pretenders of friendship. Similarly if we profess belief in Islam we must jealously guard and uphold the prestige of Islam. Our sole guide in our conduct must be the interest of Muslim at large and the service of Islam in the face of which all our personal considerations must sink low.


    Jihad is a part of this overall defense of Islam. Jihad means struggle to the utmost of one's capacity. A man who exerts himself physically or mentally or spends his wealth in the way of Allah is indeed engaged in Jihad. But in the language of the Shari'ah this word is used particularly for the war that is waged solely in the name of Allah and against those who perpetrate oppression as enemies of Islam. This supreme sacrifice of lives devolves an all Muslims. If however a section of the Muslims offer themselves for participating in the Jihad the whole community is absolved of its responsibility. But if none comes forward everybody is guilty. This concession vanishes for the citizens of an Islamic State when it is attacked by a non-Muslim power. In that case everybody must come forward for the Jihad. If the country attacked has not strength enough to fight back then it is the religious duty of the neighboring Muslim countries to help her if even they fail then the Muslims of the whole world must fight the common enemy. In all these cases Jihad is as much a primary duty of the Muslims concerned as are the daily prayers or fasting. One who shirks it is a sinner. He is plainly a hypocrite who fails in the test of sincerity and all his 'Ibadat and prayers are a sham a worthless hollow show of devotion.



    1 For a detailed discussion of the nature and significance of Salat, see Maulana Maududi's book Islami Ibadat Par Tahqiqi Nazar (A Treatise on Islam Worships). -Editor 
    Zakat is not merely on the cash balance. It is also charged on gold, silver, merchandise, cattle, and other valuables. The rate of Zakat for all these commodities can be known from the books on Fiqh and is not being given here for sake of economy of space. That is why only money-rate has been mentioned here . 
    3 It deserves to be noted that the Holy Prophet has forbidden his own kith and kin from taking Zakat. Though it is obligatory upon the Hashimites to pay the Zakat, they cannot receive it even if they are poor and needy. If anybody wants to help a poor Hashimite, he may give him a gift. He cannot be helped out of Zakat.
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