The Purpose of Human life

 

It is commonly known that human life is a precious gift. It is not just life, but specifically human life that is precious. What is so special about human life that makes it precious, and why not the life of animals? Like animals, we are born, and we eat and build shelters with a few differences here and there. We work to bring food and other necessities, and animals look for their food and needs as well. They fulfill their sexual needs and we do the same.  They protect and defend themselves and watch and safeguard their territories just as we do. They care for their offspring and get old, sick, injured, and die, and all these things happen to us, too. What then is so special about human life, why is it precious?

If I were to give you a ten-ton rock as a gift to be placed in your already rocky backyard, would you call it precious gift? Normally, it would not even be called a gift, let alone a precious one, because there is no purpose attached to it. Since there is no purpose to it, it has no value, and as a result it is not precious. Whereas, if I were to give you a diamond ring or a Rolex watch, you would certainly say it was precious gift. The purpose of the diamond ring and the Rolex watch is what makes them valuable and worthy to be called precious. These items will certainly be of use to your life, and they will beautify your appearance, increase your wealth, reflect your personality, and so on.

Now we know that the purpose of something is what makes it valuable and precious-the greater the purpose, the more the value and preciousness. Furthermore, purposes and their values vary according to each person’s taste, choice, and use. One must know the purpose of anything before attaching any value to it. Therefore, it is the purpose of human life that makes it a valuable and precious gift from our Lord. If our purpose is the same as that of animals, then their life should be equally valuable and precious as ours.

Human life is more valuable than any other life and is correctly called precious because there is a grater purpose attached to it. Islam teaches us that Allah (SWT) created the universe to serve man and created man to serve Allah (SWT). Man has every animal quality and habit, but the difference is that man is granted a special purpose in life, which is to worship and please Allah (SWT). To fulfill this special purpose, humans must first control and suppress those animalistic qualities that hinder then from their purpose, and they must simultaneously develop, purify, and promote those qualities that assist them. At this point, man truly becomes worthy of this status as the best of all creatures, and only then does his life become precious, How we choose to live this life determines what our end will be in the Hereafter.

Allah (SWT) states in the holy Qur’an :

And I did not create jinn and men, but worship Me. [51:56]

Surely We have created man in the best mold (form). [95;4]

(I swear) By time! Verily man is necessarily in loss- except those who believe and do good deeds, and enjoin one another to accept the truth and to be patient. [103:1-3]

 

The Lord created us in the best manner possible and equipped us with every quality necessary to live as humans and prepare ourselves for the success of the Hereafter. Whoever fulfills this greatest purpose of life – to worship the Lord as He taught us-will become the guided and successful one; otherwise, he will be a loser. The choice is ours.

From man to Machine

Forgetting the greater purpose for which he was created has led man to think of this world as his permanent abode. In making arrangements to live in this supposedly permanent home, man has become a machine, and he does not control his life anymore.

Willingly or unwillingly, intentionally or not, he has become a slave, either of society or of his self-created artificial life. Competing for success, wealth, luxuries of life, fame, and other material desires has turned him into a machine, by which he has lost the inherent and necessary charm of real life.  In fact, the earth and everything else were created to serve him, but instead of enslaving them, he became their slave. He was supposed to use them to fulfill his divine purpose; yet, he gave himself into their service and became a subordinate. This servitude caused him to ask, “Why this?” and “Why that?” when he should have been looking into him-self and asking “Why me? and “What for?” Instead of appreciating the perfection of Allah’s (SWT) creativity and invoking His good name, he forgot his main purpose and lost himself to the temporary charm of this deceptive world.

Those who are lost in this world have become like machines that do not observe or think, have a heart, or worry about accountability for their actions. Machines are not mindful of their “death” or ponder what will happen to them thereafter. They do not need to ask about their creator, their purpose, or what will happen to them in the end ( when they are junked or wrecked). Humans, however, should inquire into these realities.

Considering the same example from a different angle shows  that machines, which are the creation of man, never deviate from their purpose.  They follow the orders of their owner and, even without having a mind of their own, function properly and perform tasks according to the intent of their inventor/purpose. Humans, on the other hand, even after becoming like machines, do not completely perform like them. This is, of course, because humans still have free will. Even though they can think, observe, ponder, and have a mind of their own, they fail to function properly, deviate from their course,and do not act according to the orders of their Creator and Master.

Man’s fall from humanity to barbarism is a global  phenomenon and is not limited to any one specific area or society. Even most animals do not kill their own kind, but people through unjustifiable reasons and purposes, individually and collectively, in one way or another, kill other humans ruthlessly and without any remorse. In one place, there are kings who use toilets forged in gold; yet, there are people elsewhere who barely have enough to cover their basic needs.

In some places, so much food is thrown in the garbage and wasted through other means that, if it were saved, it could easily feed millions of people who are starving elsewhere.

Forget about other creatures; look what man has himself become! Even among millions, he is alone. Regardless of different relationships and friendships, he is lonely. True friendships no longer exist, and he therefore had to replace them with artificial ones to pass the time. Sometimes, even with abundant wealth, he seems needy because he cannot buy those things that he truly needs, such as love and affection. Even those nearest to him, such as his spouse and children seem to be after his money and wealth and have no regard for his life and hard work. We are such intelligent beings, but we seem to be fooling ourselves. Fooling others is a day-to day business for some, but the fool of all fools is the one who fools himself.

Even after all the scientific and technological advancements in every aspect of human life, we fail to recognise our true status in this universe. Even with our immense power, we fail to rule over hearts and are unable to solve our own problems. This condition seems to be worsening day by day. Even with all the luxuries in the world, man is not at peace and is often fearful.

Mankind has walked on the moon and has gone far out into the universe, something that no other creature can even imagine doing. In my opinion, and forgive me for saying this, he has not even learned how to properly live on Earth, in his own habitat. Had he found a living being on the moon and had it asked, “Have you even learned others?”what response would he have?

We have all the right to explore whatever we like and need and to know the purpose of everything, but we should know our own purpose first.  To ask “why this” and “why that” is justifiable only once we have found out ” why me” and “what for.”

Instead of utilizing our faculties and applying the knowledge to determine our proper status in the universe, our purpose, and our destination, we went astray and became busy in denying basic truths. Such truths indicate that there is a purpose to human life and that there is a destination to which we all are headed.

Some think that death is the end of life, but in fact it is just a mode of transportation for the soul to get to the other world. Through death, the soul and the body are temporarily separated until the Day of Judgement when everyone will be resurrected. On the Day, souls will rejoin their bodies and will be held accountable for their actions. Divine justice will be served, and everyone will be held accountable for every iota of injustice that he may have brought upon himself or others. After all, human beings are not machines that are free from accountability. They are animate beings who have been created for a specific purpose. Whether humans choose through free will to fulfill their specific purpose or do otherwise dictates whether Allah (SWT) will reward or punish them in the Hereafter.

It is impossible for people to acquire success by going against the forces of nature. The will of Allah (SWT), through these forces of nature will always prevail. Why? Because He is the Creator of these forces.This is His world and His universe/ people do not have any overriding authority over His plans. They may devise plans to shape the world in unique ways and take actions accordingly, but they end up causing more problems and more unrest. The duty of every human being is to follow his commands and apply the rules set forth by Him.

People should not interfere with the forces of nature, and they should let the physical world be as it is. The duty is to learn about their obligations and figure out what role they have to play. A study of Islam will clearly show what people’s roles are as human beings and how they can avoid a head-on collision with the will of Allah (SWT) both individually and collectively. Islam also clearly states the answers to such questions as: What are people’s limits? How much must they submit their will to the will of Allah (SWT)? How much choice do they have? How much freedom do they require? What is the result of their choice if they do not choose wisely? What are the outcomes of the extra freedoms they sometimes demand and /or acquire? A true understanding of Islam helps in molding the decision-making process and in wisely choosing the steps to be taken, individually and collectively, to bring peace, prosperity, and happiness for all.

 


This post is in a series of many to come on the topic of Islam from a Sufi Perspective. More articles are to follow. Please follow in the Category : Islam as a Sufi Perspective, or subscribe to our blog!

 

The Sources of Islamic Knowledge

There are two primary sources of Islamic knowledge:

The Holy Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), i.e. what he said and did. The secondary sources of knowledge are ijma, qiyas, and ijtihad, all of which are explained towards the end of this chapter, must find their basis in the Qur’an and sunnah and must not reject or contradict the Qur’an and sunnah. These secondary sources were initially derived by and from the noble companions of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon them), and Islamic scholars and jurists thereafter.

The two Primary sources

The Holy Qur’an is the living Word of Allah of which every letter of every verse was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) through Archangel Jibra’il (Gabriel) A.S. Many verses of the holy Qur’an are clear and to the point, and the message, rules, and regulations contained in them can be easily understood. At the same time, the Qur’an contains many verses with terms that can have multiple meanings, and some terms can never truly be interpreted to show there meaning. A consensus has been reached among exegetes to leave them as is to avoid controversies over their definitions However, if it becomes necessary to explain what they may mean,they should be interpreted in such a way that their definition does not contradict other verses of the holy Qur’an. In any case, the safer route is to leave their underlying meaning to the Revealer Himself.

To truly comprehend the divine message in the holy Qur’an and to see its commandments in practice, we need to focus on the life of the holy Prophet(Peace be upon them). If we ignore the ideal example of the Prophet and his explanation of the holy Qur’an, interpret the holy Qur’an as per our own initiative, and set our own precedents, we will certainly be misguided. As such, Muslims rely upon the sunnah, which is what Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) said and did.  To determine the sunnah, Muslims turn to reports by the Prophet’s (Peace be upon them) companions as to what the sunnah was. The reports are known as the ahadith (sing. hadith). Thus, the ahadith and sunnah are the second primary source of Islamic knowledge.

The holy Qur’an

At the age of forty, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) received the first verses of the holy Qur’an from Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) later commanded him to proclaim prophethood and to begin calling people to the One God, Allah (SWT). For the next twenty-three years, Allah (SWT) sent revelations to the holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) as they were needed. After the entire Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet (Peace be upon them) and had been well preserved, he passed away at the age of sixty-three.

Every word with its proper pronunciation was revealed by Allah (SWT) to Prophet Muhammad(Peace be upon them), who after receiving it, memorized it almost instantly through the grace of Allah (SWT). The prophet (Peace be upon them) immediately communicated every word and message of the holy Qur’an to his companions. Those who were literate among them wrote it down and some memorized it. Since the revelations came as they were needed , the prophet (Peace be upon them), according to Allah’s direction, instructed and designated seventeen of his companions to compile them.  Even though its chapters and verses were revealed in a different order, the Qur’an was complied according to the way it is written in the Lauh-e-Mehfuz (Sacred Tablet in the Heavens), of which the holy Qur’an is a small portion. The holy Qur’an has 114 chapters consisting of about 6,600 verses. Not only the text, but also the way it was written and pronounced is preserved in its original form since its inception.

The third caliph, Uthman (R.A) compiled a complete copy of the holy Qur’an (Mas-hafe Uthmani) on papyrus fourteen hundred years ago, and it is currently available for public viewing at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Moreover, not only is the Qur’an preserved in book form, but millions of Muslims have also memorised the entire Qur’an, word for word. Preservation through memorization has continued from the days of its first revelation and will continue until the last day. If every written copy of the holy Qur’an were destroyed (May Allah SWT forbid), which is highly unlikely, no force or individual can erase it from the hearts of millions of Huffaz-e-Kiram, the honorable Muslim adults and children who have memorised it.

A miracle of the holy Qur’an is that Allah (SWT) made it easy to be memorized by anyone who intends to do so. [Qur’an 54:17] In the Muslim ummah (community), millions memorise the entire Qur’an in Arabic, some as early as ten years of age, regardless of their mother tongue. This is one of the great miracles of the holy Qur’an and the best way to preserve and safeguard it. No other book on the face of this earth, heavenly or not, can match this divine quality or duplicate this miracle of its followers’ and their affection for the Qur’an.

Allah revealed the holy Qur’an in Arabic, the language of the holy Prophet (PBUT) and of the Arabs. Previous holy books were not protected from human interference, and the language in which they existed became obsolete. Those books only exist in much later manuscripts by which one cannot verify the authenticity of their contents. However, the holy Qur’an is protected and remains in its original form, and Arabic is well preserved and widely spoken throughout the world.

Almost every single Muslim, regardless  of his or her  mother tongue,learns to recite the holy Qur’an in Arabic from childhood.  During salah (Daily Prayers), the Qur’an must be recited in Arabic. To understand the meanings of the Qur’anic verses, translations are available in almost every language. However, it is preferred that one know  the Qur’anic Arabic in order to concentrate on and grasp the wisdom of the holy Qur’an, and it is very beneficial and rewarding to do so.

Arabic is a complex language. A slight error in pronunciation and / or misplacement of the diacritical marks can change the meaning of a word. When used in different contexts, Arabic words can have different meanings, and in just a few words one can say and mean a lot.

Allah (SWT) reveals in the holy Qur’an that it contains the knowledge of everything we need to know to reach our ultimate goal. To reveal the holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) chose the Arabic language, because it is inherently unique and has the capacity to hold such an ocean of knowledge in a compacted form. No other language could have encompassed the Qur’an’s vast knowledge and wisdom. This may be the reason why it was revealed in Arabic. As human faculties progress,especially in the fields of science and technology, new and amazing information and miraculous knowledge from the holy Qur’an are continuously unfolding, proving its universality, the divinity of Allah’s book and His choice of the Arabic language.

 

The literal meaning of the word Qur’an is ‘read a lot.’ This also explains why the Qur’an is the most read book in the world. Tens of millions of Muslims recite the holy Qur’an five times a day in salah and may millions recite a considerable portion of it on a daily basis. The holy Qur’an is continuously recited throughout the world in millions of masjids (Mosques), especially in the two holiest places of Islam ( Makkah and Madinah). It is recited in thousands of holy shrines and in Islamic educational institutions. Ever since its inception, this practice has been ongoing and continuous. When a Muslim passes away, friends and family members recite the holy Qur’an abundantly and convey its earned blessings to the deceased.  In the holy month of Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the month of fasting, almost every single Muslim recites the entire Qur’an at least once, and some do it many times more.

People who constantly read the holy Qur’an feel an indescribable pleasure, peace, and contentment, making them want to read more and more. No other book has drawn so much attention, and the privilege given to the holy Qur’an is unique. The name Qur’an says it all. Such a befitting name could not be chosen by any man, but only by its own Author, the All-Knowledgeable Allah (SWT). The proof of its holiness is within it, and man’s natural attraction to it shows that the Maker of both humanity and the Qur’an is One. Let alone recitation and contemplation, just touching the holy Qur’an with clean hands brings many blessings.

The holy Qur’an is a miracle. Miracles become possible only through supernatural qualities. Allah (SWT), the All-Powerful, gives the power of miracles to His prophets to prove the claim of prophet hood. Allah (SWT) revealed the holy Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them). It is, therefoe, his miracle, and no man can ever produce a chapter or even a verse of its kind, thereby proving that it is the book of Allah (SWT).

To defeat and overcome the disbelieves, Allah (SWT) granted miracles to almost every prophet. The kinds of miracles shown by prophets were the kind needed in their specific times. Ibrahim (Abraham) (A.S), Musa (Moses) (A.S), Isa (Jesus) (A.S), and other prophets were given various miracles to make people believe in their prophet hood.

 

The time of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) was the time of literary excellence and eloquence in the Arabic language. To prove his prophet hood,among other miracles,  a miracle full of eloquence and linguistic qualities was needed. The revelation of the holy Qur’an fulfilled the need for that miracle and miraculously provided everlasting guidance to mankind. It was revealed orally to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), who had not acquired any education from any person, not did he read or write.

The holy Qur’an was written as it was being revealed, in the order established by the Prophet (Peace be upon them) and as instructed to him by Allah (SWT). It was later complied in the same order in the form of a book, shortly after the Prophet’s passing. Then again, within a matter of years, during the leadership of the third righteous khalifa (caliph), Uthman (R.A), More copies from that original were drafted and sent to different parts of the Islamic world to be copied as needed. To make it easy for non Arabic-speaking Muslims to read the Qur’an precisely and to pronounce each word without error, diacritical marks were placed within the Qur’anic text.

 

Those well versed in the Arabic language were spellbound upon hearing the unique coherence, style and prose of the holy Qur’an. The holy Qur’an’s compilation, coherence, relevance, rhetoric, eloquence, perfect order, and arrangement of words, phrases, and inner meanings were completely unique to the contemporary Arab style of prose and poetry. The orators and masters of linguistics were awestruck by the miraculous Qur’an.

 

The way the holy Qur’an laid down the authentic stories of the previous nations, especially of bani Israil (Nation of Israel) and the past prophets, amazed even the scholars of Ahle Kitab (Primarily Jews and Christians). They themselves did not know for certain the ture accounts of those authentic narratives and held varying views about them. Moreover, future events revealed in the holy Qur’an happened as predicted, proving it to be a miracle and the book of Allah (SWT). It is not possible for a man to compile such creativity, rarity of words and meanings, and hundreds of other qualities with such precision.

Throughout the history of Islam, Muslim scholars have dedicated their entire lives with love and affection, without intending to earn fame or money, but only to serve the holy Qur’an in every way possible. Thousands of translations came to the fore and guided Muslims throughout the ages by explaining the teachings of the holy Qur’an.

Many people have served the holy Qur’an in unique ways. Some translated it into poetic form, and others inscribed it in gold lettering. Some carved it on gold plates, and some inscribed it on huge parchments, making it the largest and heaviest edition. Some wrote it so minutely that it became the smallest, legible version. Some became experts in Qur’anic calligraphy, developing thousands of different designs. Muslims created and perfected the art of recitation of the holy Qur’an. In summation, Muslims have served and continuously serve the book of Allah (SWT) in every way possible to gain the pleasure of Allah (SWT). No other book besides the holy  Qur’an can claim such a unique love and affection from it followers.

The Qur’an is unlike any other book. It is the word of Allah (SWT) and must be respected in every possible way. There are uniform rules and regulations about its safekeeping, transportation, and even how it should be placed on a shelf.  Its utmost care and protection bring many spiritual benefits, and even a slight gesture of care pleases Allah (SWT). Even the thought of disposing it with everyday garbage or intentionally placing it on walkways or  on the floor earns Allah’s wrath, and there are grave consequences of doing so. Old and worn-out copies of the Qur’an and any of its verses, no matter what material it is written on should be recycled with other holy material, buried in the ground or submerged in a body of water, i.e., pond, river, or ocean. It must not be taken into bathrooms, placed under beds, or put close to any filth. Muslims must be in the state of tahara (purity) before touching the holy Qur’an. In any case, great care must be utilized when handling holy verses of the Qur’an, and any and all disrespect must be avoided.

Compared to other books, whether sacred or secular the holy Qur’an surpasses every book in every respect. It is the most published,decorated, read, researched, and analyzed book in the world. To this day, new knowledge and wisdom are being extracted from it, and its mysteries are being disclosed as the science of every field progresses and makes new discoveries. Science brings to light what the Qur’an informed us of some 1,400 years ago. Numerous examples of this fact can be found.

 

The contents of the Holy Qur’an

As per the holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) states:

…and We have sent down to you this book explaining in detail everything… [Qur’an 16:89]

And there is not a grain in the dark recesses of the earth, nor anything wet or dry, but it is written in the Luminours book. [Qur’an 6:59]

Allah (SWT) reveals Himself in the holy Qur’an and tells us how and why He created the universe and, most importantly, human beings [Qur’an 41:9-12 & 51:56] The Qur’an underlines the main purpose of our earthly life, i.e., how and why we will pass on to the Hereafter and what are the next and final phases of human life. It guides us in how to live life successfully on Earth and teaches us how to achieve ultimate success in the Hereafter. It tells us how to obtain the pleasure of Allah. It informs us of our inner and external enemies, about our physical and spiritual aspects, and about the positive forces that assist us and the negative forces that oppose us in life.

The Qur’an establishes rules and regulations for every human affair, from the most personal and private to those that affect society as a whole, It explains forms of direct and indirect worship. It discloses to us what Allah (SWT) likes and dislikes. It describes reward and punishment for good and bad behavior. It reminds us how previous nations disobeyed Allah’s (SWT) prophets and earned His wrath. It recounts how the prophets struggled to deliver Allah’s (SWT) message to humanity. It discusses human nature and the nature of everything, the creation process, the powers of the Almighty, the relationship of the Creator to His creations and every bit of matter that is required for man’s journey through this temporal state to the state of eternity.

On the other hand, the Qur’an is divine guidance for believers and remains with them all the way to their final destination. On the other hand, the Qur’an is guide for all other people whom it informs, but then does not remain with them all the way,. Taking one to his destination and simply giving him directions are two different things. Islam is the complete way of life, and all relevant information, knowledge, wisdom, and guidance are revealed in the holy Qur’an.

Here, I include the translation of the opening chapter of the holy Qur’an, which in a few short verses is believed to contain the entire message of the Qur’an [Tibrani]. Many scholars have written volumes to explain this preamble to the holy Qur’an.

In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

All praise is due to Allah indeed – Sustainer of all the worlds – the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. – Master of the Day of Judgment. – You alone we worship and You  alone we ask for help. – Walk us on the straight path, – the path of those upon whom you (have given) blessed favours, – not of those who were put under wrath, nor of those who are astray. [ Qur’an 1:1-7] (Ameen!)

 

What does the holy Qur’an say about itself?

In several places, the holy Qur’an testifies to its own authenticity and absolute divinity. The following verses illustrate this fact. That book in which there is not doubt of any kind; it is guidance for the fearful ones. [Qur’an 2:2]  And this is a book We have sent down, a blessed one, confirming those that were before it…[Qur’an 6:92]

 

Announce that “If all people and jinns united on that to bring the like of the Qur’an, they cannot bring  one like it, even if they become each others back support.”  And without a doubt, We clearly explained to people everything in the Qur’an in many ways; yet many of them, indeed, rejected (it) ungratefully. [ Qur’an 17:88-89]

And We sent the Qur’an bit by bit, so you can read it to people little by little, and We revealed it slowly and slowly. [Qur’an 17:106]

Had We sent this Qur’an on a mountain, certainly, you would see it humbled, split asunder in the fear of Allah…[Qur’an 59:21]

It is but a glorious Qur’an, in the sacred tablet [Qur’an 85:21-22]

And if you are in any doubt about what We have sent upon Our exclusive being (Muhammad), then bring just one chapter like it and call your own helps besides Allah, if you are truthful. But if you cannot do it – certainly, you will not be able to do it-so fear the fire, whose fuel is people and stone idols, prepared specifically for disbelievers.  [Qur’an 2:23-24]

And this is not a Qur’an produced by anyone, besides Allah….[Qur’an 10:37]

And without a doubt, We have explained for people in this Qur’an in every way so they may embrace guidance. [Qur’an 39:27]

Those who rejected guidance when it came to them (are going to lose) and this certainly is a dignified Book. Falsehood cannot come from before it nor from behind it – sent from the All- Wise, the All- Praiseworthy. [Qur’an 41:41-42]

“Do they not use intellect in (evaluating) the Qur’an?” Had it been from other than Allah, they would have found much contradictions in it. [Qur’an 4:82]

 

Interpreting the Holy Qur’an

Most people who are interested in learning about Islam turn to the holy Qur’an. Perhaps this is because of its accessibility, because they do not know of any other book that may fulfill their need to know about Islam, or maybe because they just prefer the holy Qur’an. Since the holy Qur’an is in Arabic, and not everyone knows Arabic, people choose a translation in the language with which they are most  familiar. At this point, it is important to note the difference   between a translation and interpretation of the holy Qur’an.

To translate simply means to convert one language into another, and to interpret means to explain in terms in which the matter can easily be understood.  The holy Qur’an is the Word of Allah (SWT) in the Arabic language therefore, a true translation is not possible. Now, if someone insists on taking a literal meaning of every word of the holy Qur’an, it will create confusion and the intended message of the holy Qur’an will not be understood. To understand the underlying meanings of the Qur’anic text, we need the help of a legitimate interpretation; a translation does not suffice.

The proper Arabic terms for the ‘explanation of the holy Qur’an’ is tafsir. Anyone who genuinely desires to study the holy Qur’an must resort to its tafsir. It is also important to note that not everyone is qualified to do the tafsir of the holy Qur’an, even if one is an expert in the Arabic language. An unqualified or a less qualified person who writes tafsir only interprets what he understands and does not bring forth the actual of closest meaning; therefore, he should never be entrusted with the work of tafsir.

Many Qualified people have attempted to explain the holy Qur’an according to their poor judgment had have thereby caused great harm to the religion and divided the Muslim ummah (community) into many factions. Presently, many individuals and groups refer to literal meaning of the Qur’anic text and its interpretations to promote their personal/political agendas in Muslim and non-Muslim communities. I fear that if this practice continues, it will bring forth irreparable damage to peace and harmony.

Thus, before forming opinions or making decisions about the holy Qur’an or any of its verses, a thorough study of legitimate explanation is necessary. Only a tafsir written by a qualified mufassir (one who does tafsir) sufficiently explains the actual meaning of the Qur’anic text.

As stated earlier, the holy Qur’an is an ocean of knowledge and wisdom, and it is full of guidance. Therefore, new information from it will continue to surface according to the needs of the time until the Day of judgment. The process of this flow of knowledge will be ongoing, as it has been, through proper tafsir of the holy Qur’an.   Every unqualified interpretation only brings harm and causes misunderstandings abut Islam, the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon them), and about the Qur’an itself.

There are established guidelines to translate/interpret the holy Qur’an and set requirements for an individual to become a certified mufassir. Allah (SWT) revealed the holy Qur’an to the sacred heart of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) and made it compulsory for him to teach Allah’s (SWT) word to his companions and, subsequently, to all of humanity. Allah (SWT) verifies this in the holy Qur’an:

Undoubtedly, Allah conferred a great favour on Muslims when He raised a prophet from among them, who recites to them the revelations of Allah and purifies them and instructs them in the Qur’an and Sunnah, whereas before, they were in manifest error. [Qur’an 3:164]

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) fulfilled this duty. He taught the Qur’an in its entirety, to his companions in the best manner possible. Therefore, he became the first Mufassir-e-Qur’an (Authorised commentator on the Qur’an) and, at the same time, he established rules to undertake further work of tafsir.  Why would he not be the first mufassir, since the Qur’an was revealed and well taught to him by Allah Himself [Qur’an 55:2] and why would he not establish rules to further the work of tafsir through his sayings that safeguard the final book and guidance of Allah (SWT)? If anyone deviates from the Prophet’s (Peace be upon them) way and attempts to write tafsir through his own judgment, opinions, and explanations of choice or convenience, he will not only become a sinner, but the proper message of the holy Qur’an will never be understood that way.  In this regard, a hadith states that if anyone misquotes the Prophet (Peace be upon them) intentionally, he secures a place in Jahannum (Hell) for himself [Bukhari and Muslim].

 

Some basic requirements for becoming a certified scholar of tafsir are listed below. Only once someone has mastered these skills and fields of knowledge can he begin the arduous process of explanation. Can you imagine what would become of a philosopher’s thesis or arguments if “Joe the Plumber” were to break it down and explain its meaning? Similarly, what would happen to the living word of Allah (SWT) if an unqualified person attempts to define it?

A Person must be an expert in the following areas before undertaking the task of Qur’anic tafsir. [al-Itqan]

  1. He must first be a righteous believer
  2. Knowledge of the Arabic lexicon and etymology (derivation)
  3. Knowledge of Arabic syntax (Grammar)
  4. Knowledge of Arabic morphology (internal construction of words)
  5. Knowledge of Arabic rhetoric, eloquence, and manners of oration.
  6. Knowledge of Qur’anic recitation
  7. Knowledge of the principles of Islam (dogmas, axioms)
  8. Knowledge of the principles of Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence)
  9. Knowledge of the fiqh (Jurisprudence- to interpret laws)
  10. Knowledge of the reason for revelation of a specific verse (To know proper context; Makki, Madni, Muhkam and Mutashabih)
  11. Knowledge of those verses (that annul other verses or are annulled)
  12. Knowledge of principles of hadith
  13. Knowledge of hadith (at least those related to tafsir of a verse)
  14. Knowledge of history (of past prophets,nations, and peoples)
  15. Knowledge of Arab culture (prevailing norms and practices)
  16. Ilm-e-Ladunni – divine knowledge bestowed by Allah (SWT); usually granted to only a select few.
  17. Knowledge of the fundamentals of Islam (beliefs)
  18. To some, the main ingredient is the love Allah (SWT), His Prophet (Peace be upon them). The holy Qur’an, and the propagation of Islam – this love brings the light necessary to acquire and spread the knowledge of Qur’an
  19. Ikhlas – Purity of intent – through which Allah’s (SWT) help is granted.

 

Even with these qualifications, one must embark on this tasks with utmost care, common sense, foresight, and complete knowledge and command of the language in which he attempts to write tafsir. Attempting to guide just a few at the inadvertent cost of misguiding many, through unqualified work of tafsir, is disastrous and unacceptable. Anyone insisting on doing tafsir without fulfilling these core prerequisites is not serious in serving the Qur’an and Islam and is in clear violation of the rules of Allah (SWT) and of the prophets (Peace be upon them). Thus, before choosing a translation/interpretation/explanation of the holy Qur’an, it is important to verify the author’s qualification, and not to accept  a tafsir just because it is widely available, commonly referred to, or free-of-charge.

The holy Qur’an is the word of Allah (SWT), and prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them) is the complete reflection of the message of the holy Qur’an. Thus the Prophet’s sunnah (sayings and actions) became the second main source of Islamic knowledge.

 

Sunnah of the  Holy Prophet (Peace be upon them)

The collected actions and practices of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them) are called his sunnah, and Muslims are required to follow them. The Sunnah is also used to explain Qur’anic verses and the message and the guidance of Allah (SWT). Whatever he said or did became his hadith (pl ahadith). Furthermore, whatever actions taken or performed by his companions that the prophet (Peace be upon them) took notice of or was informed of and did not overrule or object to were also included in his sunnah.

During the holy Qur’an’s revelation, the common practice of Muslims was to memorise it;nevertheless, many companions were assigned to transcribe in written form. In the early days, the Prophet (PBUH) prohibited the writing of his words (ahadith), except for the revealed verses of the Qur’an. Later, when the difference between the Qur’anic text and ahidith was fully established and understood by the noble companions, the Prophet (PBUT) permitted the writing of ahadith separately from the holy Qur’an.

Let me digress a bit at this point and indicate that the holy Qur’an is the word of Allah (SWT). If it were not Allah’s (SWT) word and were put together by Prophet Muhammad (PBUT) himself, then why was the distinction between the Qur’an and the hadith necessary? If both originated from the same source, contained the teachings of the same person, and were unconditionally accepted by the companions of the Prophet (PBUT) then this distinction would be unnecessary. The separation of the ahadith from the Qur’an clearly shows that the Qur’an is the word of Allah (SWT) as revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUT) through Angel Jibr’il (Gabriel-A.S) and that the Qur’an was not written by Prophet Muhammad (PBUT).

It is well-recorded history, supported by authentic proofs and conveyed through reliable sources, that some companions continuously wrote down ahadith of the Prophet (PBUT) in his lifetime with his permission and separately from the holy Qur’an. The Islamic nation was emerging; therefore, everyone close to the Prophet (PBUT) kept him self busy doing essential work. After the Prophet’s (PBUT) passing, the emergence of the new Islamic nation, stretching from East to West, occupied almost every companion in such activities as governmental affairs, teaching and preaching Islam, and solving issues related to the responsibilities of defending Islam. Under these Circumstances, only the compilation of the holy Qur’an into one volume could be achieved and up to that point, no considerable need arose to compile the ahadith collectively.

As time progressed, and due to the publicizing of false ahadith the prophet’s companions and the rightly guided  scholars after them to compile the ahadith in various orders and categorical sequences. They developed rigorous methods to verify the authenticity  of narrations and to test and establish the credibility of the narrator in order to avoid preserving false sayings. With such standard in place and with the application of other stringent procedures, individuals and collectively, formally and informally, scholars compiled a treasury of ahadith. A new field of knowledge and many sub-fields related to it evolved, in which thousands of researchers became extensively engaged from the latter part of the first century of Islam and continuing until this task was completed and brought in order.

This topic  itself requires a separate book to be fully explained. It is sufficient to say that due to extensive efforts of the companions and later scholars, a huge treasury of authentic ahadith was compiled and published. Now anyone interested in Islamic knowledge can refer to this treasury of ahadith and know anything and everything contained therein. Most verses of the holy Qur’an could now be understood through relevant ahadith of the Prophet (PBUT). Because of these efforts many great works on ahadith became available in which every hadith was placed into relevant categories/subjects.

The famous authentic books of ahadith are referred to as Al-Sihah al-Sittah (“The Authentic Six”), which includes Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan an-Nasa’i, sunan Abu Dawood, Jami Al-Trimidhhi and Sunan ibn Majah. They have been translated from Arabic into all major languages, and their shuruh (explanations/commentaries) are available worldwide. Besides Prophet Muhammad (PBUT), no other personality can be accounted for in such detail; his every action and sayings is well-preserved. His ahadith are the second primary source of Islamic knowledge.

The companions and religious scholars who came immediately after them not only transmitted the ahadith in their most authentic version, but they also gave explanations and defined them and their historical context, i.e., what the occasion, circumstance, and purpose were when the Prophet (PBUT) said it or executed an act. Many books of ahadith, along with their explanations and with explanations of those explanations to clarify them further, have been written to enhance the Islamic knowledge.

Allah (SWT) makes it incumbent upon Muslims to follow the sunnah (Sayings and actions) of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) in addition to the teachings of the holy Qur’an. Allah (SWT) states:

Any obey Allah and His Prophet in order that you may be shown mercy.  [Qur’an 3:132]

As stated earlier, the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) is the second of the two primary sources of knowledge. If we are unable to locate or understand anything from the Qur’an, we have to consult the sunnah of the Prophet (Peace be upon them). For example, the holy Qur’an obligates Muslims to establish salah (daily prayers of worship), but it does not explain how to do it. It is only in the sunnah that Muslims can find how to perform salah. Thus, we find in the sunnah how to perform correctly and practically our religious duties. According to a hadith: Ibn Abbas (R.A) narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon them) in his Last Sermon said,

“I leave two things amongst you. If you strongly hold on to them, you will not go astray.

One is the book of Allah (Qur’an), and the other is the sunnah of the Prophet of Allah.”[Al- Mustardark]

This shows the importance of sunnah/ahaidth for Muslims. The knowledge contained in them is essential to understand and apply the message of the holy Qur’an. Leaving aside the sunnah will make an understanding of Islam incomplete and will result in the holy Qur’an being misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Upon sending the honorable companion Mauz (R.A) to Yemen to resolve a matter of distributing alms to the poor, the Prophet (PBUT) asked him, “O Muaz, by what rule will you act?” The companion replied, “By the law of the Qur’an.”  The Prophet (PBUT) said, “If you find no direction therein?” He replied, “Then I will act according to the sunnah of the Prophet.” The Prophet (PBUT) said, “What if you do not find it there?” to which he replied, “Then I will make ijtihad and act on that.” Approving of his response, the Prophet (PBUT), bade him farewell and , raising his hands, said, “Praise to be Allah, Who guides His Prophet in what He pleases.” The Prophets’s (PBUT) approval of the companions ijtihad (use of best judgment based on Qur’an and sunnah) set a precedent and became a permissible way to make decisions. According to the Qur’anic injunctions, whatever Allah’s Prophet (Peace be upon them) approves of becomes legitimate and is made into law, and whatever he disapproves of becomes prohibited and is made unlawful.

 

Ijma, Qiyas, and Ijtihad

The act of deducing and formulating injunctions based on the Qur’an and sunnah is called ijihad (the use of personal judgement) and qiyas (logical deduction by way of analogy). The one who does ijtihad is called mujtahid (pl. mujtahidun). Ijma is the majority consent of the mujtahidun. These three standards interchangeably are considered the secondary sources of Islam knowledge.

Whenever learned scholars of Islam are unable to locate specific religious injunctions because the holy Qur’an and sunnah are silent and do not clearly define a course of actions, they have been permitted to exercise their judgment and formulate a course of action for new circumstances/issues. The verdict of a mujtahid is widely accepted because it is deducted from the primary sources.  If any individual or collective judgment contradicts the Qur’an and sunnah, it is unacceptable, no matter how sound or appropriate it may seem.

After the passing of the Prophet (Peace be upon them), ijtihad and qiyas became a normal practice of his companions as new issues surfaced. The first and second generations of scholars after the companions were also authentic mujtahidun because they came immediately after and were direct descendants and students of the companions who learned Islam directly from the Prophet (PBUT).

 

The notable Imam Abu Hanifa strongly supported qiyas to deduce judgments as new and unusual needs and circumstances arose. Since these needs will continue to come abut, the use of qiyas can be utilized. For example, a Muslim wants to know whether a kidney transplant is allowed in Islam or wants to obtain a fatwa (religious edict) from a mufti (Muslim jurist) on what Islam says about selling beer. It is a religious duty of a mufti to issue a fatwa on the basis of Islamic sharia law and properly guide the inquirer. In Islam, no human being has authority to insert ideas into Islam. Thus, the original message and guidance of Allah (SWT) remain preserved.

Some of the initial qualities required for mujtahid or serve Islam are piety, religious and spiritual knowledge, inner wisdom, compassion and affection for the Prophet (PBUT), iklas (Purity), dedication, and determination. At this point, it is fair to say that since these authentic saintly and selfless beings who served Islam have now become scarce, it is necessary to keep ijtihad off-limits to incapable Muslims in order to preserve and maintain the validity of the authentic teachings of Islam.

The holy Qur’an, the Prophet’s (PBUT) sunnah, ijma, and qiyas cover every aspect of human life. Nothing is left out for Muslims to search anywhere else for religious and ethical answers. A well-regulated system and knowledge base to legislate laws have been established by the historical mujahidun. Every Muslim scholar of law must refer to those when making new laws for the the ever-changing needs of the Muslim society.

 


 This post is in a series of many to come on the topic of Islam from a Sufi Perspective. More articles are to follow. Please follow in the Category : Islam as a Sufi Perspective, or subscribe to our blog!

The Need and Role of Prophets.

As we learned earlier, Allah (SWT) willed to be known; therefore, He created everything for Him to be known. A creature, later to be called human, was a part of His will from the beginning and a part of the process of creation. It was also included in His will that humans be given a fixed time to live on earth and be granted free will and the power to choose, They are taught right from wrong and tested to see if they follow Allah’s (SWT) will or their own will. Then, finally, on the basis of the results of their actions, they will be given permanent life in Heaven or Hell. All of this was included in His will from the moment “Allah willed to be known” and thereafter began to create according to His will.

Only Allah (SWT) knows how many millions of years later the time arrived to create Adam (A.S), the first human. Soon thereafter, it became necessary to send him and his wife Hawwa (A.S) to Earth. Eventually, the need arose to teach and guide humans, so they could distinguish right from wrong and choose to be successful; the process of teaching and guiding people had to be undertaken. Thus, those who had been chosen by Allah (SWT) to fulfill this great task of teaching preaching, and guiding humankind are the messengers and prophets of Allah (SWT). These people are among the best of humankind.

At the time the father of us all, Adam (A.S), was created, every human soul that had to come to life on earth was also created. Allah(SWT) assembled every soul  and asked, “Am I not your Lord?” All replied, “Why not.” Allah (SWT) had knowledge that they would soon forget this covenant upon reaching earth [Qur’an 7:172]. Therefore,arrangements were made to teach, preach, guide, and remind people about the ‘Great Gathering’ to take place in the end, where undoubtedly everyone will witness or at least feel His presence and be held accountable for their actions.

However, had we remembered our reply to “Am I not your Lord?” we would be much better off. Had we remembered, how could we have done so much wrong in this life? How could we have gone astray? How could we now have denied the existence of Allah  (SWT)? How could we have committed the sin of Kufr  (Infidelity) and shirk (Polytheism), and disobeyed His commandments? Had we remembered Allah (SWT) all along, why would we be tested? Had we remembered this, we would never have deviated from the righteous path, and acquiring success would not have been a problem. Hence, there would have been no need for prophets to teach, preach, and guide us, because we would know and remember Allah (SWT), the Almighty, our Lord.

As we came to live on earth and grew, we forgot the covenant we made with Allah (SWT) [Qur’an 9:67]. However, as soon as we depart from this life, we will come to realize it. Remembering our prior covenant with Allah (SWT) at the time of our departure from this life cannot bring us back to the beginning to fulfill our covenant. There is no coming back: it is either now or never. 

 

The essence of Islam is to believe in the unseen/metaphysical/ spiritual, which is invisible to the naked eye, but visible to positive reasoning. To believe in the unseen/hidden, it is necessary to received Allah’s (SWT) assistance, guidance, signs, and symbols that are evidence of His existence. We also need them to satisfy our curiosity and to provide answers to all of our questions, so we can confidently believe in the unseen. Each one of us, by ourselves, is unable to receive that guidance directly from Allah (SWT), because if such were the case, nothing would remain unseen or hidden.

Therefore, there was a need for someone to: receive guidance from Allah (SWT) and convey it to us, learn from Allah (SWT) and teach us, store Allah’s (SWT) energy and energize our soul, and be enlightened by Allah’s (SWT) radiance and lift us from the darkness of ignorance and bring us into the light of knowledge. These beings were to be trusted beyond any doubt, to be worthy and capable of this great deed, to relate to us and to the Lord Almighty at the same time, to remind us of our purpose and our destination, and to show us how to follow in their footsteps in practical manner.

Who can these exalted beings be? Could they be any other than those chosen by our Lord? No. Then, they are quite obviously His prophets and messengers. They came and fulfilled their duties with utmost diligence, selflessness, and steadfastness. Now, it is all up to us, because this lifetime is our only chance; we must use it or lose it.

Adam (A.S)  was the first prophet. Right from the beginning, he had to be the first one to teach the message of Allah (SWT) to his children. Later, other prophets came to every nation, one after another, to guide them and deliver the message of Allah (SWT). Finally, from among them, the last one was Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them).

All Prophets were human beings, but chosen ones, exalted among the people. They had to come from among humankind because if it were otherwise, they could not relate to us, and we could not follow them. It  would have become easy for us to deny them and their teachings, simply because we could say to Allah (SWT), ” O Lord! How could we replicate their life, their sacrifices and their trials and tribulations, when we are just humans and they are different from us?”

   And if We had made the prophet and angle, even then We would have made them (in the form of) a man, and thus We would have confused them in a matter wherein they are now confused. [Qur’an 6:9]

This is why the All-Knowing Allah (SWT) chose His prophets from among humans, so people can follow their example and emulate their lives. It was also necessary to give the prophets the power of miracles, so people who chose to believe in the prophets could have unshakeable faith in them, and those who chose to deny them would have no excuse on Judgment day by saying that they could not verify them to be Allah’s (SWT) prophets. Certainly, through prophets, Allah (SWT) completely conveyed His guidance to humanity. It is now our choice to be righteous or to be evil, to be successful or to fail, and to live the eternal life in Heaven or in Hell. The burden to choose and act falls on us individually. No one else benefits or loses by what we choose for ourselves. Islam teaches us to choose wisely and for our own good.

Allah (SWT) sent prophets from amongst their own people. They called their nations towards one Lord and explained to them the purpose of life on Earth. They taught them how to live and worship Allah (SWT) how to fulfill their duties to Allah (SWT) and to their fellow humans. The prophets delivered to humanity whatever they were assigned and were required to do.

 

Allah (SWT) required people, as prerequisite, to have faith in His prophets and recognize them as beloved beings of Allah [Qur’an 4:80 & 2:253]. Not a single prophet demanded anything in return from his people for the favour of conveying Allah’s (SWT) guidance to them. The prophets did not seek monetary benefit, power, or adulation; instead, they sacrificed their time and energy, endured pain and suffering, and were humiliated to save their people from evil doings, grave sins, shirk, and being disobedient to Allah (SWT).

As one prophet passed away, Allah (SWT) would send another one. According to a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), Allah (SWT) sent about 124,000 prophets. During their lifetime, the prophets and their followers suffered greatly at the hands of disbelievers, who many times forced them to leave their homeland or even killed them. However difficult the environment became, the prophets remained steadfast and never gave in or disavowed their divine obligations.

As prophets passed away, their teachings were corrupted and in many cases purposely changed to legitimize the rule of the elites over the less fortunate.  The true believers always remained steadfast to the teachings of their respective prophet, and Allah (SWT) brought countless rewards and blessings upon those steadfast believers. In contrast, Allah’s (SWT) wrath destroyed those who disobeyed prophets, so that future generations and other nations would learn of their fate and avoid following their example. Whether or not people followed past prophets, Allah (SWT) completed His guidance to humanity through His Final Prophet (Peace be upon them).

His Final Prophet (Peace be upon them) completed the divine guidance. He was to be successful and fulfill his duties, and his nation would completely surrender to the will of Allah (SWT). His teachings would last forever. His people, language, holy book (Qur’an), teachings/practices and sacred words would be preserved forever and would become the beacon of light and guidance for all humanity until the end of time. He is no other than Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), whose book is the holy Qur’an, whose teachings are Islam, and whose followers are Muslims, He testified to past prophets, recognized the authenticity of their revealed scriptures, eradicated shirk, and now forever rules over the hearts of his followers, leader of all prophets.

Islam recognises every prophet. In fact, denying or disrespecting any one of them is un-Islamic, because they are all Allah’s prophets. All are dear to Muslims. Some among them are Adam (A.S), Idress  (A.S; Possibly the same as Enoch), Nuh (Noah; A.S), Hud (A.S), Saleh (A.S) Ibrahim (Abraham; A.S ), Isma’il (Ishmael; A.S), Is-haaq (Isaac; A.S), Yaqoob (Jacob; A.S), Yusuf (Joseph; A.S), Ayyoub (Job; A.S), Shu’aib (A.S), Musa (Moses; A.S), Harun (Aaron; A.S), Lut (Lot; A.S), Yunus (Jonah; A.S), Al-Ya’sa (Elisha; A.S), Zulkifl (Ezekiel; A.S), Dawud (David; A.S), Sulayman (Solomon; A.S), Ilyas (Elijah; A.S), Zakaria (Zachariah; A.S), Yahya (John the Baptist; A.S), Isa (Jesus; A.S), and the ‘Seal of the Prophethood,’ Muhammad (Peace be upon them). They are to be honored, loved, remembered, and respected to the extent that, when saying or writing their names, Muslims must attache proper attributes and salutations next to their names, such as shown above.

The prophets’ main purpose was not to teach us what we could learn on our own, but what we could never comprehend by ourselves. When our intellect fails, the prophets’ teachings take charge. When our reasoning comes to a dead end, the prophets’ wisdom opens new dimensions for us to proceed forward. When our faculties fail, their teachings rescue us from the darkness of failure. Whenever we are in need of a model or an ideal, the best resource is Allah’s (SWT) prophets, who are the best models and icons of wisdom.

The holy prophet came to connect us to the Creator, since we could not do it on the basis of our limited intellect. They came to tell us who the Lord is, since we could not fully know by ourselves. They came to reach us how to please the Lord because we could not find this out without the Lord telling us through them. They came to show us how to worship the Lord because we could not develop the system of worship by which the Lord could truly be pleased. They came to declare the Oneness of the Lord and stop us from committing shirk because we could not have come to believe in one Lord by ourselves. The prophets came to warn us about the Day of Judgment and the trials of that Day because by the time we would have figured it out on our own, it might have been too late for us.

The prophets informed us about halal and haram (Permitted and forbidden), good and bad, virtues and sins, benefits and harm, rights and duties; and all other prescriptions and proscriptions. On our own, we would have reversed the entire system of life, misunderstood the whole idea of existence, misused the bounties of Allah (SWT), increased our spiritual diseases, put in place improper justice systems, and failed an achieve the ultimate success of the Hereafter. We needed help from the Lord, which came through His prophets.

The prophets did not come to teach us how to build skyscrapers, but to find peace and prosperity within simplicity. They did not come to show us techniques on becoming millionaires, but how to love our fellow human beings and share our wealth. They did not come to teach us how to make airplanes, but to uplift the suffering humanity. They did not come to give us ideas on how to explore outer space, but how to explore our inner self and discover Allah’s (SWT) great Workmanship.

None of what we could have learned, invented, explored, designed, manufactured, thought of, formulated, and discovered by ourselves was on the agenda of any prophet. Eventually, we would naturally do these things as the need arose, and human history is witness that we did.

Rather, the prophets informed us well in advance of whatever we were incapable of finding out on our own. They fulfilled their duty of guiding people, and they are not responsible for anything beyond that. They will not be questioned for our wrongdoings, bear the burden of our mistakes , and suffer for our kufr (Infidelity), shirk (Polytheism), and deviation from the righteous path. They are already the chosen ones, the rewarded ones, and the blessed ones. They have done the job well and have nothing to lose.

 


   This post is in a series of many to come on the topic of Islam from a Sufi Perspective. More articles are to follow. Please follow in the Category : Islam as a Sufi Perspective.

Allah (SWT) Loves His Creations.

Allah (SWT) created everything in the best manner and according to its purpose. Each creature lives by natural rules and plays specific roles set forth by Allah (SWT). As such, He provided creatures with everything necessary to fulfill their purpose. Since human beings have a higher purpose, He endowed them with free will, intelligence, morality, common sense, etc., and He created them in His own image. To be created in His image does not mean that He looks like man, but that humans have been endowed with His qualities in accordance with their capacity and ability [Qur’an 30:30]. No other creature has been bestowed with this honor. How can all this be devoid of Love?

WE apparently love what we make with our won hands, even though we are not creators of anythings. We simply put together what is provided to us as raw material by Him. Since we love what we make, He must love us more, because He made us the best among His creatures.  How is it possible for us to achieve the purpose of our life without His caring and love?

In the very beginning of the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) reveals Himself as Ar-Rahman ‘the Most Compassionate’ and Ar-Rahim ‘the Most Merciful.’ How can He be compassionate and merciful without love? He could have chosen his other attributes at this place to introduce Himself, but He chose Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim precisely to show His love and mercy.

Since we are His creatures, however much love we need from Him comes unconditionally. We do not have to do anything special to receive this love;everyone gets it equally. When we require more love and compassion from Him, we have to go out of our way and beseech His mercy, and then work hard and strive to become eligible for it.  Certainly, our Lord is full of love for His creations. Besides being beneficent, Compassionate, Merciful, He is Al-Wadud, The Most-Loving. Many other attributes of our Almighty Lord also reflect His love for us .

He knew definitely that in this world we would commit sins, therefore, in the holy Qur’an He says:

And ask for forgiveness from your Lord; then bow down towards Him; without a doubt my Lord is truly Forgiving and profoundly Loving. [Qur’an 11:90]

When He warns us, it is to our own benefit. When He mentions His absolute power and comprehensive majesty, He simultaneously reveals Himself to profoundly love all of His creatures. Although He has power to do anything He wills, He prefers to love us. He reveals in the Qur’an:

Without a doubt your Lord’s hold is quite severe. Without a doubt, He creates the first time and He is to do it the second time around. And He is All-forgiving and Most-Loving, the owner of the magnificent Throne; the Doer of whatever He wills. [Qur’an 85:12-16]

 

The Qur’an also tells us that Allah (SWT) loves:

  • Those who do good [Qur’an 2:195 & 3:148],
  • The Repentant and the pure [Qur’an 2:222],
  • Those who are mindful (of Him) [Qur’an 3:76],
  • Those who love Him and follow Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon them) [Qur’an 3:31],
  • Those who are good [Qur’an 3:134; 5:13; 5:93],
  • Those who Patiently persevere [Qur’an 3:146],
  • Those who trust in Him [Qur’an 3:159],
  • Fair judges [Qur’an 5:42],
  • Those who are mindful (of their obligations) [Qur’an 9:4 & 9:7],
  • Those who make themselves pure [Qur’an 9:108],
  • Those who believe and do what is morally right [Qur’an 19:96],
  • Those who are evenhanded [Qur’an 49:9],
  • The tolerant [Qur’an 60:8], and
  • Those who fight in His cause in tight formations [Qur’an 61:4]

In addition to these Qur’anic testimonials to Allah’s (SWT) love for us, numerous sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) bear witness that Allah (SWT) loves us.

The prophet of Allah said: “Allah, the blessed and exalted, said: ‘My love is obliged for those who love each other in Me, and those who sit with each other in Me, and those who visit each other in Me, and those who give to each other generously in Me.” [Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik, hadith #15.51]

The prophet said that Allah Himself said, “My servant draws closer to Me through the religious duties I placed upon him. My servant then continues to draw closer to Me with voluntary (Good actions) until I love him. When I love him, I become his ears that he uses to hear, his eyes that he uses to see,his hands that he uses to hold and his feet that he uses for walking. If he then asks Me for anything. I would surely grant it to him, and when he asks for My protection, I will surely give it to him…”    [Hadith-e-Qudsi]

Still further, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) informed us that Allah (SWT) loves those who practice abstinence in the world and those who are Allah-Conscious, free from want, and hidden from the view of people.

A man came and said: “O Prophet of Allah, direct me to a deed for which I shall be loved by Allah & by people when I have done it.” He replied: “If you practice abstinence in the world, Allah will Love you, and if you abstain from people’s possessions, people will love you. ” [ Al-Tirmidhi, hadith #1350; also transmitted by Ibn Majah]

Allah’s prophet said: “Allah loves the servant who is Allah-conscious and is free from want and his hidden (from the view of people). ” [Muslim, hadith #1384]

The message of Allah’s (SWT) love that is to be found in Islam, both in the Qur’an and in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), is clear and unmistakable. Allah (SWT) is The Loving, full of loving tenderness. He is The Most Compassionate, enveloping us in a womb-like protection and throwing out to us a rope of salvation whenever we start to stray. He is The Most Merciful, full of mercy to the believers, merciful to all people, and His mercy extends over all things.

On the Day of Resurrection, His mercy to His servants will be 99 times that of all the mercy that all of creation has ever shown to each other. He is also The forgiving, and He loves to forgive us and He will continue to forgive us as long as we ask for forgiveness and repent sincerely. He is ever ready to run towards us if we will just take a few steps towards Him. This is the Islamic concept of Allah.

Allah (SWT) naturally endowed us with common sense and other qualities to find, connect, and relate to Him and to worship Him, It would be quite difficult had He not done that for us. He helped us and saved us from the hassle and pain of trying to discover Him ourselves. This is another sign of His love for us.

Allah (SWT) sent prophets, one after another, to rightly guide and teach us how to work towards achieving ultimate success. He revealed a complete system of life through divine books, so we can know what is good and bad for us in this life and in the Hereafter. He equipped us with every faculty necessary to explore, know, and utilize His bounties in order to be thankful to Him and to achieve the purpose of this life.

He created love and affection in us so that, for example, parents can raise their children, children can care for their parents, husbands and wives can live happy, peaceful and productive lives, and other happy relationships could be established.

Nothing could be possible without His love. Now, that love requires us to understand our Master, to know Him, to properly follow His guidance, to recognize His being, to worship Him properly for His pleasure, and to thank Him for what He has granted us and what He ultimately wishes to give us: success in the Hereafter.

Where else do we find a Lord Who rewards us for treating ourselves well? Before requiring us to fulfill our obligations to Him, He directs us to fulfill our duties to each other. When true believers fulfill their duties to other humans beings for His pleasure, He considers it worship of Himself and fully rewards them, too.  Even the activities that are part of direct worship bring unlimited benefits to the worshiper and not to Allah (SWT). Where else do we find such a Lord? Nowhere, but He himself is the One and Only.

The ‘lords,’ ‘masters,’ and ‘bosses’ of this world demand personal service and favours before doing favours for us, but not the Lord of all lords. He is there to give and does not take anything in return for Himself. That Lord is compassionate, Merciful, and Just. Islam requires its followers to invite other to Allah (SWT) and to His way. It wants people to recognize that fact, so they too can become His true servants and work their way to success, the ultimate success.

Since it is human nature to attempt to perceive the Supreme Being, people ask numerous questions regarding His form and being. The following should give a well rounded idea and understating of Allah (SWT) the Almighty Lord.

 

Q&A About Allah (SWT)

  1. What is the Gender of Allah (SWT)?

Gender is for creatures, not for the Creator. Allah (SWT) is free from any gender category or other classification. He is not like us or like any of His creations. Allah (SWT) is not male or female. He is the Supreme Being, above and beyond any gender categories. When we use a pronoun in place of Allah (SWT), we use a masculine pronoun not to show that he is male, but as He Himself used it in the divinely revealed books.

 

      2.  Does Allah (SWT) know our actions before or after they occur?

One of Allah’s (SWT) attributes is the All-Knower. He knows whatever is taking place and whatever will take place in the future, including our actions and our intentions. His infinite knowledge covers everything from the beginning to the end, and even that which is certainly beyond our conception.

 

      3. Can we see Allah (SWT)?

We are not given the power to see Him. If we could see Him, everyone would have automatically believed  in His existence, and the whole purpose of having faith would have been invalidated. On the Day of Judgment, only the ‘Successful Ones’ will be able to see the Lord, and it will be a great disappointment and unimaginably painful for the faithless, the losers, not to be able to see Him, even on that day. So close, yet so far!

 

       4. How do you know if he is please with any of our actions?

When we perform an action, a good deed, with the pure intent of pleasing Him and as per His instructions, we should have unshakeable belief that Allah (SWT) is pleased with our action. The true satisfaction of heart and mind and an unexplained contentment and joy felt within the soul indicate acceptance of that good deed and that it has earned the pleasue of Allah (SWT). For example, a simple smile on our parents face, a thumbs-up gesture from our coach, or a handshake with our boss is a sign of contentment and joyful victory. An indication of Allah’s (SWT) acceptance of our good deeds is felt within our soul and shows up brightly on our faces.

         5. What difference does the belief in the ‘Oneness of Allah’ (SWT) make in Muslims?

Belief in the Oneness of Allah (SWT) causes undivided attention towards the Supreme Being when: submitting to His will, performing the acts of direct worship, following His commands, maintaining a spiritual connection, and being fearful being accountable. This belief clears away confusion and satisfies the soul. It assures us that there is only one place form where we can find help, justice, and the fulfillment of our desires, It provides strength, confidence, a sense of belonging,peace of heart, mind and soul, hope, dignity, and unshakeable belief.

Since Allah (SWT) is One, His message and guidance must also be one. The way of life prescribed by Him is also one. The unity of Allah (SWT) brings unity to all, and the powerful energy that radiates is immense. The Unity of Allah is perfection, and anyone who comes close to this perfection finds absolute satisfaction.

 

      6. Why does Allah (SWT) not have children?

The short and simple answer is that Allah (SWT) does not need children, but this short and simple answer may not be satisfactory to all, so I will elaborate further.

Having children is naturally a sign of weakness and ultimate recognition that a father/mother will eventually die and children will take over. A human father is naturally weak and eventually requires the help of a child to remain strong. A child fulfills the needs of his father who may suffer from many inherent deficiencies, or if a father is rich he needs a child to inherit his wealth and prolong his name or business. All these are sings of weaknesses.

However, Allah (SWT) is not weak, and He thus does not need children, All of His attributes are clear proof to that effect. According to the biological process of reproduction, a male requires a female to have children. Allah (SWT) has never taken a female companion; therefore, He does not have children.


This post is in series of many to come on the topic of Islam from a Sufi Perspective. More articles are to follow. Please follow in the Category : Islam as a Sufi Perspective.

TAWHID: The Oneness of Allah

The Belief in the Oneness of Allah (SWT)  is central to Islam, & all other beliefs revolve around it [it]. However, it is not simply a matter of belief, but of firm conviction. Even though Allah (SWT) is hidden & invisible to the naked eye, He is clearly visible to positive reasoning and common sense. Wherever we look and explore, we find a unified system and an immaculate work of definite calculations and precise movements. Allah’s art of creation cannot be the work of more than one Lord, more than one Supreme Being. He has to be one; otherwise, there would bound to be a clash in the universal systems. There could not be natural symmetry, balance, and the existing fundamental similarities among creatures if there were more than one creator.  Even human nature could have been divided and be concretely different in its most fundamental aspects, but since this is not the case, it shows that the Creator is one. If there were more than one god, various creatures, systems of life, and the very nature of humans would not only be very different, it would be impossible to coexist fro even a moment.

The more they try to disapprove His existence, the more they end up confirming it.

 

That is why all religions throughout human history, in one form or another, teach of one Supreme Being, one great God, even when some of them believe in lesser gods, and goddesses. Experience shows that even people who claim to believe in no god, deep down in their hearts, believe that this phenomenal universe must be the work of a Supreme Being.

Every field of science seems to accept that this universe and everything in it are a creation of some supreme and powerful being, and the results of their research point in this same direction, i.e., there is supreme being. Some, intentionally or unintentionally, in their attempt to disprove the existence of a supreme being, ironically end up proving its existence or at least fail to deny its existence concretely. The more they try to disprove His existence, the more they end up confirming it.

Humans are naturally connected to the Creator. Hence, no matter how much they have forgotten Him, they still call on him, especially when in need of help and when no else can help. They submit to Him whenever their power and intelligence fail and return to Him when there is no other place to go and no one else for whom to look or to whom to turn. This and many other experiences of daily life truly indicate that a mighty Lord exists and that He is one and cannot be more than one. Every divine revelation professes this unity, as do all of our natural faculties.

 

It is not just a matter of belief; it is a matter of fact that when we willfully and verbally declare the ‘Oneness of Allah’ (SWT) and recognise/ certify it by heart, we declare the truth and prepare to enter into Islam and return “home.” In Islam, tawhid (The Oneness of Allah SWT) is the centre of the Islamic belief system. The opposite of tawhid is Shirk. Shirk is not a forgivable sin,but it is forgiven only if Allah’s Oneness is embraced, along with the rest of Islam in its entirety. The heavenly guidance from Allah (SWT) that no one should commit shirk is clear, complete, and convincing, Thus, according to Islam, there is no other place for a mushrik (One who commits shirk), but eternal Hell.

The concept of tawhid is that Allah (SWT) is one and has no partners. Shirk is to associate an idol or human with Allah’s being and to relate someone or something with Allah as His partner, parent, son or daughter, to consider someone equal in power and in attributes or to believe someone has the personal power or ability to interfere or intercede in Allah’s will or in His work.

The main purpose of every prophet from Adam (A.S)  to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), the Final Prophet, including but not limited to Nuh (Noah) (A.S), Ibrahim (Abraham) (A.S), Dawud (David) (A.S), Saleh (A.S), Musa (Moses) (A.S), and Isa (Jesus) (A.S), was to prevent their people from committing shirk (polytheism). They called upon their people to declare the tawhid (Oneness of Allah -SWT), to condemn shirk and to abandon the worship of anything else beside Allah (SWT). In light of the prophets’ sacrifices, hard work, proselytizing under adverse conditions, and teaching people about Allah (SWT)  and His Oneness, every punishment from the Lord is justified for those who continued to commit shirk.  Even today this is a matter for real concern and man must refrain from shirk, if he does not want to become the ultimate loser.

The clear, divine revelations about the Oneness of the Lord and those revelations denying the existence of any other god clearly conclude that none is worthy of worship besides Allah (S.W.T), the Omniscient and Omnipotent Lord. To worship anyone besides Allah (SWT) is another form of shirk. Muslims do not worship any prophet or associate prophets in Allah’s worship in any way, Although the prophets are all chosen men,  some are closer to Allah (S.W.T) than others, and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) is the most beloved.

Prophets, angels, saints, and others are to be loved, honored, respected, and remembered, but not worshiped. Worship is due exclusively for Allah (SWT) .

Islam, as taught by the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), sums up the description of the Almighty. Allah (SWT) is the Lord, the Creator, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent, the Sustainer, and providence is only from Him. Only Allah (SWT) is Eternal. He gives life and takes it away, forgives sins and punishes wrongdoers; He is All-Knowing, and nothing is hidden from Him. Therefore, Allah (S.W.T) is the only one worthy of worship.


This post is in series of many to come on the topic of Islam from a Sufi Perspective. More articles are to follow. Please follow in the Category : Islam as a Sufi Perspective.

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