الاسلامIslam – A Concise Introduction
The True Religion
1. The Sources of Religion Religion is the guidance which was first inspired by the Almighty in human nature and after that it was given by Him with all essential details to mankind through His prophets. Muhammad (sws) is the last of these prophets. Consequently, it is now he alone who in this world is the sole source of this religion. It is only through him that man can receive divine guidance and it is only he who, through his words, deeds or tacit approvals,1 has the authority to regard something as part of Islam until the Day of Judgement. From the Prophet Muhammad (sws), this religion has been given to the ummah through the consensus2 of his Companions (rta) and through their perpetual practice and perpetual recitation3 in two forms: i. The Qur’ān ii. The Sunnah i. The Qur’ān The Qur’ān was revealed by Allah to Muhammad (sws) – the last of the prophets – and it has since then remained with the ummah with the unanimous verdict from the ummah itself that it is this very book which was revealed to the Prophet (sws), and which his Companions (rta), through their consensus and through their perpetual recitation, delivered to the world without the slightest alteration. ii. The Sunnah By Sunnah is meant that tradition of Prophet Abraham’s (sws) religion which the Prophet Muhammad (sws) instituted among his followers as religion after reviving and reforming it and after making certain additions to it. There is no difference between it and the Qur’ān as far as its authenticity is concerned. Just as the Qur’ān has been received by the ummah through the consensus of the Prophet’s Companions (rta) and through their perpetual recitation, the Sunnah has been received by it through their consensus and through their perpetual practice and stands validated like the Qur’ān in every period of time through the consensus of the ummah. 2. The Essence of Religion The essence of religion, in Qur’ānic terms, is ‘ibādah (worship) of God. Worship means humility and servility. If this humility and servility exists in a person with a true comprehension of the mercy, power, providence and wisdom of the Almighty then it is instrumental in totally humbling a person before Him with His great love and great fear. This humbling of a person before the Almighty is, in fact, an internal feeling. Remembering God, expressing gratitude to Him, fearing His displeasure, devoting one’s self to Him, showing trust in Him, submitting one’s self and all of one’s affairs to Him and pleasing Him at every step – all of these are the inner manifestations of this relationship between the worshipped God and His worshippers. In the external self, this humility and servility appears in the external manifestations of worship: kneeling, prostrating, glorifying and praising the Almighty, supplicating before Him and devoting life and wealth for His pleasure. However, since a person is not mere beliefs; he also has a practical existence in this world, this worship relates to this practical existence as well and in this manner becomes inclusive of obedience. It now requires that a person’s outer-self also bow before the Creator before Whom his inner-self has bowed. 3. Definition of Religion When “worship”, in order to fulfill the rights of the relationship between a servant and His Lord, prescribes metaphysical and ethical bases, determines rituals and stipulates limits, then in the terminology of the Qur’ān, this is called “religion” (dīn). The form of this religion which the Almighty has explained to mankind through His prophets is called “the true religion” (dīn [email protected]) by the Qur’ān, and its followers are directed by the Qur’ān to fully and faithfully adopt it in their lives and not create any divisions in it. 4. Content of Religion The metaphysical and moral bases of this worship which have been prescribed by religion are called al-Hikmah, and the rituals and limits prescribed for it by religion are called al-Kitāb by the Qur’ān. The latter is also called sharī‘ah, which means law. al-Hikmah has always remained the same in all revealed religions; however, al-Kitāb has remained different due to evolution and change in human civilizations and societies. A study of divine scriptures shows that sharī‘ah constitutes the major portion of the Torah and hikmah generally constitutes the Injīl. The Psalms are hymns which glorify the Almighty and are a forerunner to the hikmah of the Injīl. The Qur’ān was revealed as a masterpiece of literature comprising both sharī‘ah and hikmah giving warning to those who evade it and glad tidings to those who follow it. al-Hikmah basically comprises the following two topics: i. Faith ii. Morals and Morality al-Kitāb comprises the following ten topics: i. The Sharī‘ah of Worship Rituals ii. The Social Sharī‘ah iii. The Political Sharī‘ah iv. The Economic Sharī‘ah v. The Sharī‘ah of Preaching vi. The Sharī‘ah of Jihād vii. The Penal Sharī‘ah viii. The Dietary Sharī‘ah ix. Islamic Customs and Etiquette x. Oaths and Atonements This is all as far as the content of religion is concerned. 5. Prophets and Messengers The envoys of God who have brought this religion are called “Prophets”. A study of the Qur’ān shows that besides being assigned the position of “Prophethood” (nubuwwah), some of them were also assigned the position of “Messengerhood” (risālah). “Prophethood” means that a person after receiving divine revelation teaches the truth to his addressees, and gives glad tidings of a good fate in the Hereafter to those who accept the truth and warns those among them who reject it that an evil fate awaits them. In the terminology of the Qur’ān, giving such glad tidings is called bashārah and giving such warnings is called indhār. “Messengerhood” means that a prophet is assigned to his people such that he decides their fate through divine sanction so that if they reject him, he practically enforces the supremacy of the truth upon them by implementing on them God’s Judgement in this very world. The way this established practice about Messengerhood manifests itself is that the Almighty selects His Messengers so that reward and punishment can be meted out in this world through them before the actual Day of Judgement. It becomes a miniature rehearsal of what is going to take place on that Day. These Messengers are told that if they honour their covenant with God they will be rewarded in this very world and if they do not do so, they will be punished in this very world. The result is that the very existence of these Messengers becomes a sign of God, and it is as if their people can observe God walking on earth with these Messengers and delivering His verdicts. They are also directed to propagate the truth they have seen from the mind’s eye to the people and deliver with full certainty the very guidance of God the way they have received it from Him. In the terminology of the Qur’ān, this is called shahādah. Once this is established, it becomes a basis of the judgement of the Almighty both in this world and in that to come. Consequently, the Almighty grants dominance to these Messengers, and punishes those who reject the message presented by these Messengers. This position of shahādah was bestowed, besides Messengers, upon the progeny of Abraham (sws) too. For this reason, the Qur’ān called them an intermediate group between God’s Messenger and His creation, and asserted that they have been chosen for this position just as the Almighty chooses some great personalities among mankind and grants them the status of a Prophet or a Messenger. 6. Purpose of Divine Books Generally, the Almighty has also revealed His books with Prophets and Messengers, and, according to the Qur’ān, the purpose of their revelation is to judge between what is right and what is wrong so that people can resolve their differences through them. In this manner, they are able to adhere to justice regarding the truth. 7. The Responsibility of Indhār The chain of Prophets and Messengers began with Adam (sws) and ended on Muhammad (sws). After his departure, divine revelation ceased and the institution of Prophethood was terminated. Consequently, the responsibility of indhār ie, to warn people to adhere to their religion now lies with the scholars of the ummah till the Day of Judgement. 8. Islam: The Name of this Religion The religion introduced in the foregoing paragraphs is called “Islam”, and the Almighty has asserted in the Qur’ān that no other religion is acceptable to Him. Just as the word “Islam” is used for the whole corpus of religion, it is also sometimes used to imply its outer form. As regards its outer form, it consists of the following five things: 1. Bearing witness that there is no god besides Allah and Muhammad (sws) is His Messenger. 2. Offering the prayer 3. Paying zakāh 4. Keeping the fasts of Ramadān 5. Offering the hajj of the Baytullāh 9. Īmān: The Inner Aspect of Religion The inner aspect of religion is “īmān” (belief). As per its details mentioned in the Qur’ān, this inner aspect also consists of five things: i. Belief in God ii. Belief in the Angels iii. Belief in the Prophets iv. Belief in Divine Books v. Belief in the Day of Judgement 10. Permanent Requirements of Īmān When this īmān, in its essence, enters the heart and receives its confirmation from it, then on the very basis of its presence requires two things: i. Righteous Deeds (a‘māl-i sālih) ii. Urging one another to the truth and urging one another to remain steadfast on it (tawāsī bi al-haqq wa tawāsī bi al-sabr) i. Righteous Deeds All deeds which result once the morals of a person are purified are called righteous deeds. All their bases are found in human nature and intellect, and the sharī‘ah of God has been revealed to guide mankind towards these righteous deeds. ii. Urging one another to the truth and urging one another to remain steadfast on it Urging one another to the truth and urging one another to remain steadfast on it relates to one’s immediate surroundings. This is an obvious requirement of accepting the truth and is also termed as amr bi al-ma‘rūf and nahī ‘an al-munkar by the Qur’ān, implying the fact that a person should urge those in his surroundings to what is ma‘rūf (good) according to human nature and intellect and forbid them from what is munkar (evil) according to it. 11. Contingent Requirements of Īmān Described above are the requirements of faith in ordinary circumstances. However, there are certain circumstances in which three other requirements can arise. They are: i. Migration for the Cause of Religion (Hijrah) ii. Supporting the Cause of Religion (Nusrah) iii. Adhering to Justice (Qiyām bi al-Qist) Their details follow: i. Migration for the Cause of Religion (Hijrah) If it becomes difficult for a person to worship the Almighty, he is persecuted for his religious beliefs and it becomes impossible for him to live as a declared Muslim, then his faith requires him to shift to another place where he can openly practice his faith. In the terminology of the Qur’ān, this is called hijrah (migration), and a person who evades it when it becomes necessary, even after a prophet of God gives a call for it, has been promised the dreadful doom of Hell by the Almighty. ii. Supporting the Cause of Religion (Nusrah) If there arise circumstances in which for the purpose of protection or dissemination of religion some action is required to be taken, it is a requirement of faith that one should present this support by offering his life and wealth for this purpose. In the terminology of the Qur’ān, this is called nusrah of the Almighty and it asserts that if at some time this requirement arises, a true believer should give it the foremost priority and nothing in this world should be dearer to him. iii. Adhering to Justice (Qiyām bi al-Qist) If emotions, vested-interests and biases try to divert a person from justice in some worldly or religious matter, his faith requires him not only to adhere to justice but also if his witness is required in these matters, he should do so even at the expense of his life. He should uphold the truth by saying what is the truth and surrendering before it. He should adhere to justice and bear witness to it, and stick to it in his beliefs and deeds. This is called qiyām bi al-qist (adhering to justice) by the Qur’ān. 12. The Objective of Religion The objective of this religion stated in the Qur’ān is tazkiyah (purification). It means that the individual and collective lives of people should be purified and their beliefs and deeds be developed in the right direction. At many places in the Qur’ān, it has been mentioned that the objective of mankind is to enter Paradise and only those people have been promised Paradise who have purified their souls. Therefore, it is tazkiyah which is the objective and purpose of religion. It is for this end that the prophets were sent and the whole religion was revealed to guide man in attaining this objective. 13. The Correct Religious Attitude The correct attitude which the followers of this religion should adopt is called ihsān. It means to do something in the best possible way. It manifests itself when a person worships the Almighty while considering himself to be standing before God because if he is not able to see Him, at least He is observing him.
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