The Correct Version of Islam

Question: How can I be certain that I am following the right version of Islam. There are so many sects and diverse views that one tends to get confused and afraid also. The reason is that one might end up with the wrong version of Islam. What should one do then?

Answer: In my humble opinion, one basic thing needs to be understood: Human intellect, you would agree, has its own limitations. It can falter and err and of course be different in different scholars. Hence the different interpretations of certain directives of Islam are but a natural outcome of this premise. In this regard, the real thing is the arguments which are presented in support of a viewpoint. A person is required to weigh these arguments in the scales of sense and reason and decide which one appeals to his intellect the most. He should adopt that particular viewpoint, since he will be held accountable according to his own understanding of religion.

Furthermore, no one is guided by divine revelation after the termination of the institution of Prophethood with the departure of Muhammad (sws) and it is his or her judgement which must be exercised. Therefore, no one can be certain whether he has attained the absolute truth or not. One must keep one's eyes and ears open to criticism and cling to whatever one thinks to be the truth till one has reason to abandon it and accept a new premise as truth. Moreover, in adopting or forming an opinion in religious matters, the real thing is sincerity of judgement. As long as a person is sincere in exercising his judgement, it does not matter what conclusion is reached. As the Prophet of Allah has put it: a person who strives to form an opinion can reach the right conclusion and he can also reach the wrong one; if he reaches the right conclusion he will be rewarded twice in magnitude and if he is led to the wrong conclusion he shall still be rewarded though of single magnitude. This shows that the real thing in this regard is the sincerity of effort put in.

The Mission of "Renaissance"

Question: The title of your journal suggests that you are working for a Muslim revival. However, I would like to know more about the type of work you are doing and the chances of success it has. I would hate to join people who have little chances of success.

Answer: Yes, the team of "Renaissance" is working for a Muslim revival. Our diagnosis is that this revival cannot be achieved unless the ailment of intellectual stagnation so rampant among Muslim scholars is done away with. By this stagnation we mean absence of research and original thinking on religious issues.

Today, unfortunately, the prohibition against directly deliberating and interpreting from the sources of Islam has become no less than the prohibition against liquor. We, however, think that unless competent Muslim scholars are produced who have the ability to break the shackles of this intellectual stagnation very little can be done for the revival of the Muslims. These scholars should be groomed in a manner that they can face the challenge of the modern era. It is because of a paucity of such scholars that in the last few centuries the Muslim world has undergone a sharp decline in its individual as well as its collective affairs. All over the globe, Muslims seem to have lost their identity. They appear to be dispossessed of the real spirit of Islam, and have been stripped of the position of supremacy they once held in the comity of nations. Though they have with them the last and final word of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, yet it no longer plays a vibrant role in their lives.

At "Renaissance", our basic objective is to promote and patronize the work of scholars who have taken up the daunting task of carrying out original research within the ambit of the Qur'an and Sunnah. We consider our endeavour to be a humble service to cause of truth.

As to the last part of your question, I can only say that we consider ourselves victors even if vanquished – for to us success lies not in achieving the goal but in sincerely striving to achieve it.

Obligation to offer the Prayer in Congregation

Question: Why does Javed Ahmad Ghamidi in his book Mizan apply the divine law related to the Messengers to the congregational prayers? He seems to hold that the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws) directing the believers to compulsorily attend the prayers in congregation pertains to his time only and it is no more applicable afterwards? I mean what is the intrinsic evidence within the narratives which points to the fact that the law should be applied?

Answer: In order to understand this issue, we need to consider the fact that narratives in this regard are of two types. Both are authentic yet apparently contradicting.

The first type of narratives gives the message that praying in the mosque is an obligation that must be fulfilled at all costs and there can be no reason for a person who hears the adhan to not come to the mosque. For example:

A blind person once asked relief from the Prophet (sws) in coming to the mosque, he was at first given the permission; and then the Prophet (sws) asked him: "Do you hear the sound of the adhan?" When he answered in the affirmative, the Prophet (sws) said that he would then have to come to the mosque.[1]

The Prophet (sws) warned people: "I would like to burn the houses of those who do not come for the prayer, and would like to have them thrown over these people."[2]

It is narrated by Ibn Mas'ud (rta) that even the sick in those times would come to the congregational prayer by limping on the shoulders of two people.[3]

The second category of narratives give the message that praying in the mosque is highly rewarding though it is not an obligation. Some of the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (sws) in this regard are the following:

The congregational prayer is twenty seven times more rewarding than the individual prayer.[4]

If people knew how highly rewarding reaching the mosque at the time of the adhan is and standing in the first row is, and if for this they had to cast lots, they would have done this. And if they knew the reward of outdoing others for the zuhr prayer, they would have done so. And if they knew the reward for the fajr and 'isha prayer they would have reached the mosque even if they had to drag themselves for this.[5]

A person who prayed the 'isha prayer in congregation is like a person who stood for worship till midnight and a person who prayed the fajr prayer in congregation is like a person who spent the whole night standing in worship.[6]

Both these types of narratives, of course, oppose one another and cannot be true at the same time unless there is some other explanation to them.

A deliberation on the Qur'an shows that in the times of the Prophet (sws), there had come a time after the truth had been conclusively communicated to his addressees when true believers were separated and isolated from the Hypocrites and Disbelievers so that the final judgement of God could be pronounced on the latter two denominations. The first category of narratives seems to be an application of this directive of God: coming to the mosque was a barometer in determining who was a true believer and who was not. Hence this was regarded as compulsory. However, after the departure of the Prophet (sws), this was of course no longer required since the divine practice of God regarding His Messengers had reached its culmination.

In other words, what can be said is that while the first category of narratives relates to the divine practice of God regarding His Messengers, the second category gives a general picture.

Needless to say that all narratives must be related to their basis in the Qur'an and Sunnah or in the norms of sense and reason for narratives cannot give an independent directive of religion. They must be related to their basis in the original sources.

[1]. Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 623, (no. 1486).

[2]. Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 106, (no. 644); Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 263, (no. 1481).

[3]. Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 264, (no. 1488).

[4]. Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 106, (no. 645); Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 262, (no. 1477).

[5]. Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 107, (nos. 653, 654); Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 185, (no. 981).

[6]. Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, 264, (no. 1491).