Jihad Bis Saif (Jihad by the sword)

As noted earlier in the past blog post, the purpose of every kind of jihad is to seek prominence from Islam. The aim of jihad through the sword, i.e., armed jihad, is not to convert anyone to Islam forcefully or to kill someone if he refuses to become Muslim.  Nor does this jihad mean to kill or be killed for forceful conversions.  It means to protect Muslim’s lives, their lands, their property, their interests, their livelihood, and their freedom to practice Islam.  It is also to liberate people who call upon Muslims for help and to clear any hurdles from the way of preaching and propagating Islam.

Armed jihad was and never is aimed at common people, because they generally do not become obstacles to the propagation of Islam. It is always the governing authorities, the aristocrats and elites, and the rich and powerful people who resist, hinder, and prevent the Lord’s message from getting to their people, so as not to give them a chance to embrace it. Armed jihad is directed towards those lords and tyrants who use their power, authority, and rule to resist the commandments and absolute authority of the Lord. In this way, such opponents of Islam do not do any service for their people; instead, they oppress them by preventing them from reaching the absolute reality.  

In fact, armed jihad is in favor of the common man. It liberates from the tyranny of the few and connects people to the one true Lord. Because of a few selfish individuals and their supporters, millions of people should not be left to become ultimate losers. This is one of the main reasons Allah (SWT) instituted the obligation of jihad upon Muslims. Armed jihad is not a much in favor of Muslims as it is in favor of non-Muslims. It saves non-Muslims from everlasting harm and failure if they choose to embrace Islam. Nonetheless, through His loyal servants, Allah (SWT) fulfills His promise of getting the message across to all people.

Throughout history, there have existed, everywhere and in every system, people who resist change either because they are satisfied with the status quo or because their personal motives and interests are involved, which they would like to see remain secured. Thus, even though change may be good for society, some people resist it. When some see benefit in guiding people, there are others who find benefit in keeping them misguided. Therefore, they fight head-on to secure their interest. Some even resist change because they are proud of the system under which they are living.

When Allah (SWT) willed to get His message across through His prophets and through their respective followers, he made it incumbent upon them to fight in His cause for the betterment of all people. As with other nations before Muhammad’s (Peace be upon them) , Allah (SWT) also made it compulsory on Muslims to do armed jihad in the way of Allah (SWT) in order to protect Islam, to provide shelter and security to all those under the umbrella of Islam, and to achieve prominence for Islam.  In that regard, the holy Qur’an constantly reminds and warns its followers to avoid transgression and to abide by the rule of law in every aspect of their lives, especially in jihad; otherwise, their efforts will not be fisabilillah (for the sake of Allah (SWT), as it required to be.

Since no more prophets were to come after Muhammad (Peace be upon them) Muslims had to fulfill this obligation of preaching and protecting the cause of Islam. If this world was a peaceful place and  if it were not in human nature to fight, fulfilling this obligation would be easy, and Muslims could have easily taken the divine message around. However, this was not and is not the case. Human beings fight over every small thing for which they can fight. The duty of carrying the message of the Lord was only attached to fighting if and when there became a need to fight to preach the message of Islam freely.

There have been times in the past when armed jihad was necessary, and it still is in some parts of the world where Muslims’ life, property, and freedom are in danger and where their livelihood is being cut short. But overall, things have changed now, and in major parts of the world people have freedom of religion, freedom of choice, and the free flow of information about religion. So in my humble opinion, in those parts of the world, armed jihad is not needed, is contraindicated, and will not serve its purpose of removing hurdles from the path of propagating Islam.  Still, if in the name of Islam or jihad, someone inflicts pain on people through any means, certainly, this behavior is un-Islamic and cannot be labeled Jihad.

Once a person embraces Islam and embarks on the path to success, Allah (SWT) makes it incumbent upon him to strive for other’s success, too. Allah (SWT) wants success for all of His slaves, and through jihad He makes it possible for all to be successful. He has designated great rewards for the mujahids (those who do jihad) of Islam. Since Allah (SWT) put this duty upon him, since all the rules and regulation of jihad were also established by Him, and since the mujahid is in the service of Allah (SWT), he must not allow his nafs (base-self)to interfere and violate any rule thereof. If he does, then he is not a mujahid; he can be called a terrorist, extremist, or whatever. To do true jihad with the sword, a mujahid first needs to do jihad with his base self and take full control of it.

To elaborate further, Jihad is an effort to eradicate sinfulness, impiety, mischief, and injustice and to employ righteous acts, not for any personal gain, but for the benefit of humanity (as mentioned in the hadith quoted earlier).  Jihad intends to solve the problems of people, to liberate them, to set them free from the bondage of people and society, and to uplift them from oppressive and depressive states. Most importantly, jihad results in connecting people to their Creator and shows them the true purposes of life.

Jihad’s first and foremost purpose is not to kill or cause bloodshed, nor is it to acquire any worldly gain, including wealth, land, etc. It intends to invite people to the lord. Once people receive the message of Islam and decide not to embrace it, Muslims are to leave them alone, because there is no coercion in accepting Islam [e.g, 2:256; 10:99; 15:2-3; 18:29; 42:48; and 50:45] If they do not accept Islam but choose to live under Muslim rule and protection, they have to pay jizyah , a fee/tax for the protection provided to them. These dhimmis (non-Muslims living under Muslim protection) are entitled to full rights as citizens, but unlike Muslims, they are exempted from giving zakah (obligatory charity) and from serving in the military. With regard to dhimmis, the Prophet (Peace be upon them) directed Muslims to:

“Be mindful of the rights of dhimmis, because I will stand on Judgment Day, as a plaintiff on their behalf for any injustice done to them.” [Kanzul –Ammal]

The commandments underlined in the holy Qur’an and the teachings of the holy Prophet (Peace be upon them) clearly state that before the initiation of armed Jiahd, people must first be invited to accept Islam. Before going any further I would like to present a few Qur’anic verses and ahadith in the next section to further correct prevalent misunderstandings and to present a clearer picture of jihad.  This will be available on the next blog posting!

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 Alternatively subscribe to our blog!

Topics to be covered in coming future Insha Allah!:

  • Permission granted to fight back
  • Difference between Jihad and Terrorism
  • Islam and Extremism
  • Is fundamentalism a part of Islam or not?

Concept of Jihad in the Sufi world.


Before explaining jihad, I request that you keep in mind that when Adam (A.S) descended to Earth, Allah (SWT) told him that His guidance would continue to come to mankind; whoever follows it, will be successful and will enter Paradise, and whoever does not, their abode will be Hell [2:38-39]. This clearly means that getting guidance to humanity was included in Allah’s (SWT) greater plan.

Allah’s (SWT) chosen prophets brought that guidance and spread it to their communities. Finally, Allah’s (SWT) guidance was completed and perfected with Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them). Since he was to be the final prophet and no other prophet was to come after him, the duty to advance his guidance to future generations became an obligation upon Muslims. With this, Allah’s (SWT) promise to Adam (A.S) was fulfilled.

Moreover, like many other things, fighting, killing, and spilling blood, for one reason or another, is part of human nature. if these evil aspects of human nature are not controlled and regulated, it is not possible to bring peace and happiness to Earth.  Therefore, since someone will always be looking to fight and kill, then not giving permission to fight back or to prepare to defend one’s self, family, and property would be unjust. Oppressors and tyrants never let a single soul live in peace on Earth; in fact, they wish to bury them beneath it. When people are granted the permission to fight back, it must be accompanied with clear-cut and comprehensive rules to prevent the oppressed from becoming oppressors themselves, once they triumph over their oppressors.  In contrast, if defense is not permitted, then consequently, nor many people will be left alive.  Therefore, it is natural and necessary to grant permission to defend oneself lawfully.

Muslims, as followers of Islam, are assigned the duty of jihad to spread the message of Islam. They are permitted to do qital (Killing) to defend themselves, their land, property, and livelihood and to overcome those who hinder their struggle in the “prophetic” duty of spreading Islam though of course only through religiously sanctioned means.

If the real concept of jihad and qital is not understood completely and properly, then other teachings and philosophies of Islam will seem contradictory to each other. Certainly, there cannot be contradictions in the guidance of the Lord. Once all other concepts of Islam are understood truly and correctly, the concept of jihad and qital can be comprehended easily.

Jihad as per various dictionaries, is literally defined as struggle, strife, fighting, religious war, holy war ( by Muslims), supreme effort, etc. However, jihad is a term that cannot be understood by any of its literal definitions or even what it literally means in Arabic. Jihad is a concept with many physical and spiritual aspects, temporary and ever-lasting effects, and worldly and other worldly dimensions . Thus, on the basis of Islamic teachings, jihad should be more correctly referred to as ” the striving of Muslims with utmost efforts in the way of Allah (SWT) by adhering to every rule and regulation related to it, with the intent of the greater good for Muslims and non-Muslims, and to achieve  prominence for the deen (religion) of Allah (SWT).”

Therefore,every allowable struggle and difficulty Muslims undertake to spread the message of the Lord to humanity can be defined as jihad. [Qur’an 29:69]

Since Deen-e-Islam is the complete way of life covering every aspect of life, then Islam’s various concepts, such as jihad, must include a whole lot as well. As per the above (most appropriate) definition,based on Qur’anic injunctions, the main purpose of jihad is to achieve prominence for the deen of Allah (SWT). Now one might ask, “Is there one or several ways to achieve that prominence?” If there are several ways, as there should be, then there must also be several kinds of jihad. So now the question is, “Are there several kinds of jihad?”

Upon paying close attention to the commandments of Allah (SWT) and carefully analyzing the traditions of the Prophet (Peace be upon them), we find that the main concern of jihad certainly is to achieve prominence for Islam and that jihad should continue to be a duty of Muslims until this goal is achieved. The Prophet (Peace be upon them) said, “…jihad will continue until the last day…” [Bukhari and Tirmidhi] now, to achieve this prominence, let us suppose that there is only one way, which is to kill all disbelievers or convert them to Islam forcefully, even through this is impossible given the current settings of the world and in light of future expectations, but let us suppose this anyway. In this case, jihad will not continue till the Last Day, when the Prophet (Peace be upon them) has stated that it will. Therefore, contrary to the misconception of many, the intent and purpose of the institution of jihad is not to kill disbelievers or convert them to Islam forcefully. So clearly, there are many ways to achieve prominence for Islam;hence there are many kinds of jihad.

Before proceeding, let me explain what is mean be “prominence for Islam.” Allah (SWT) could have left Adam (A.S) and his progeny alone, to spend their lives on Earth in any way they would like, without his guidance. In such a case, they certainly would have all gone astray. In face, even with His guidance, many have gone astray; one can imagine what would happen without it. Allah (SWT) did not want this happen. he wanted His ‘best of all Creatures’ to succeed in the Hereafter. thus, He informed Adam (A.S) about sending guidance to humanity so, as a result, humanity, could have the choice to be successful.

If a religion is doubted, misunderstood, or fails to reach people, how can it ever be practiced for people to receive salvation? Allah (SWT)  took it upon Himself to send his guidance through prophets and through their followers. Once the message of Islam has been successfully conveyed to all people, its true message, philosophy, and practices are understood, and Islam then is realized as the way of life revealed by Allah (SWT) for human salvation; this is thereby the prominence of Islam.

This is an important mission and necessary to be achieved. No doubt, this is quite a difficult course to travel for the betterment and success of humanity. Sometimes, it is difficult to get people to realize something, even when it is to their benefit. Certainly, this effort requires much physical, mental, financial, and spiritual struggle. nevertheless, it can be done individually or collectively and whenever or wherever necessary.Every bit of effort is worth the cause because it can potentially result in the ultimate success for billions of people. That is why the entire concept of struggling in the way of Allah (SWT) i.e., jihad, is established to seek prominence for Islam, so all people can have a chance to benefit from it guidance.

Let me clarify here that achieving prominence for Islam through  jihad does not mean that everyone must convert to Islam. Of course, this would be excellent, but if this were what is meant by prominence for Islam, then why would Allah (SWT) have said:

And if Allah so willed, He would have made you into one ummah (community)…[Qur’an 16:93]

Since He Himself did not make us one ummah, forcefully conversion cannot be the purpose of jihad. Allah (SWT) wants people to choose Islam willingly and not as a result of coercion. Prominence for Islam simply means that people are given  a fair choice to become aware of Islam and to realize that Islam is the only true religion for people and that salvation is only possible through it. After this message has been conveyed to people, they are free to choose whether or not to embrace it. Whatever people choose, they will see the result of their choice.

The intent of a Muslim doing jihad must be to seek prominence for Islam, not for any personal goal. To achieve prominence for Islam,three things are necessary: preservation of Islam, protection of Muslims, and propagation of Islam. It is not possible to take the message of Islam to others and invite them into it without first preserving it and protecting Muslims. if Islam is not preserved in its original form and if Muslims are not well protected, how would it be possible to spread the message, make people realize that Islam is the true religion, and invite them to embrace it? Therefore, all of this is part of the greater goal of achieving prominence for Islam, and since jihad is the way to preserving, protecting, and preaching Islam will continue, and as said earlier, this is why and how jihad will continue until the Last Day.

Muslims have already surrendered their will to the will of Allah (SWT). They did not make jihad incumbent upon themselves; it was Allah (SWT) Who commands muslims to do jihad. This is Allah’s (SWT) will and commandments. Based on islamic teachings, Muslims are to participate in several kinds of jihad, of which the major categories are:

  • “Jihad with one’s Self,” known as jihad bin Nafs. As per the prophet (Peace be upon them), it is jihad al-Akbar, i.e., “The Greater Jihad.”
  • “Jihad with others. ” To the surprise of many, “Jihad with others” is referred to as Jihad al-Asghar, i.e., “The lesser Jihad.”

Jihad bin Nafs means to struggle to purify one’s base self. The base self attempts to focus on the material world and on illegitimate desires, taking a person away from the actual purpose of lie: worshiping the Lord and completely surrendering to his will. Jihad bin Nafs also includes Jihad bish shayta’n, “jihad against Satan,” which is the inner struggle with the Devil,so he canot misguide and lead you away from the Sirate Mustaqim (The straight path). “Jihad with One’s Self” never ceases, even up until the last moment of life.

Jihad with Others is ” The lesser jihad.” It can be done with sword, pen, and wealth, and it is commonly referred to as Jihad bin saif, jihad bil Qalam, and Jihad bil maal, respectively. These kinds of jihad can be exercised one at a time or simultaneously. 

Jihad with pen and with wealth is usually associated with preserving and propagating Islam Jihad with sword, supported by wealth, is utilized to protect and defend Muslims and their territory, and to remove any hindrance in the propagation of Islam. Jihad with sword is applicable only as a last resort, and only when the enemy had gone to extremes, and/or to protect the Muslim ummah and dhimmis (no-Muslims living under Islamic rule).

Before I go any further to explain jihad with sword, “armed jihad,” which is the Lesser jihad, I would like you to be fully acquainted with Jihad bin Nafs (Jihad with One’s self). This jihad is a prerequisite for all other kinds of jihad, and this is why it is called jihad al-Akbar (“The Greater jihad”).

Jihad bin Nafs (Jihad with ones’s self)

Jihad bin Nafs means to struggle with one’s nafs (base self). The human nafs is inherently attracted to this world and to worldly desires, while Islam intends to prepare its followers to be successful in the Hereafter, which means that believers must remove the love of this world from their hearts. This world and our temporary stay in it are not the end but the means to acquire ultimate success, which is the pleasure of Allah (SWT). We must suppress anything and everything that hinders our struggle to that fact. The nafs is a powerful entity that independently and with Satan’s support interferes in performing deeds, in obeying the commandments of Allah (SWT), and in seeking his pleasure.

Since jihad is carried out only for the pleasure of Allah (SWT) and for the greater good of the people, especially non-Muslims, qualities such as selflessness, sincerity, purity of intent, and obedience to every divine commandment are required of those participating in jihad. Since the nafs is always active against such human qualities, they are not easy to adopt without fighting against the base self. Hence the nafs must be suppressed constantly, and this is what is meant by jihad bin Nafs.

From the very beginning, in fact immediately after the Battle of Badr (the first and most important battle between the Muslims and the Makkans), the Prophet (Peace be upon them) established Jihad bis Saif (Jihad with the Sword), as “The Lesser Jihad” and Jihad bin nafs as “The Greater Jihad.” [Bukhari and Muslim] This important distinction should always be kept in mind. 

Most of the time, people only discuss the Lesser Jihad and over look the Greater Jihad. Tragically, some self-proclaimed Muslims kill people indiscriminately, wrongfully thinking that they are engaged in armed jihad when, in fact, they are not engaged in any Islamically sanctioned form of jihad. Because of the unlawful actions of some ignorant “followers, ” sometimes thousands of innocent men, women, and children pay the price.  These murderers ignore the essential Jihad bin Nafs and stubbornly and wrongfully call their armed struggle “Islamic jihad,” and many people even believe them out of their own ignorance about Islam. Jihad bis Saif without Jihad bin Nafs results in chaos and anarchy. 

The Superiority of Jihad bin nafs over Jihad bis Saif can also be understood by the fact that no matter how much good a mujahid (one who does jihad ) brings to Islam and Muslims through his ‘sword,’ if his personal conduct and character are questionable and contradict Islamic teachings and philosophy, his good deed is rejected and does not count. In fact, he will be punished for his misconduct, and he will not be relieved of punishment simply because of his services to Islam [Zia un Nabi, Vol. 4, pg 261-2]. Without successful jihad with one’s self, a Muslim cannot truly perform armed jihad and achieve its true purpose. Therefore, jihad with one’s self is the priority and is far more important than striving for prominence for Islam through arms. 

If one cannot fight with his own base self for the pleasure of the Almighty, then how can he fight with others for the same reason? In such as case, his fight with others would be for personal sake/goals, but not for the sake of Allah (SWT), and it would not be worthy of being called jihad. If he cannot defeat his own desires, which prevent him from becoming a better Muslim,how can he claim to have the right to convert anyone into Islam and to make vows to achieve prominence for Islam? if he cannot tame his own base self, how can he think of correcting others? If he cannot embark on the path to ultimate success, how can he call upon others to surrender their will to the will of Allah (SWT)? Regardless of the kind of jihad pursued, if the base self is not first successfully suppressed through Jihad bin Nafs, any other jihad will bear no fruit. 

Narrated Abu Musa (R.A)

  A man came to the Prophet (Peace be upon them) and asked, “A man fights for war booty, another fights for fame, and third fights for showing off; Which of them fights in Allah’s cause? The Prophet (Peace be upon them) said, “He who fights to achieve prominence for Islam, fights in Allah’s cause.”  [Bukhari]


So it is important that before embarking on armed jihad , jihad with one’s self must be practiced to avoid violating Islamic rules of war and peace and to avoid superseding the limits established by Islam. [Zia-un nabi,  Vol. 4, pg. 365] Armed jihad must not be motivated by any personal reason or wish, including nationalism and geopolitical issues. Only then can that fight be Islamic  jihad, holy war for peace, and struggle in the way off Allah (SWT). Therefore, jihad with one’s self,being the prerequisite, prepares Muslims to be fair, Lawful, and aware of their religious obligations even during the craziness of war. Muslims conditioned through jihad with one’s self maintain the true purpose of armed jihad, which is not to take away disbeliever’s lives, but to struggle to bring Islam’s message to people. [Zia-un nabi, Vol. 7, pages 572-3]


During the Battle of the Trench, and invincible warrior challenged Muslims to fight him. Ali (Karam Allah Wajhu) the Prophets’s (Cousin) and Son-in-Law, agreed to the challenge. During the fight, Ali (Karam Allah Wajhu) pinned his opponent to the ground. Certain of his death, the warrior spat on Ali’s face. Instead of killing him out of rage, Ali (Karam Allah Wajhu) let him free, saying, “Had I killed you for personal rage, it would not have been for the sake of Allah. ” The honorable Ali’s (Karam Allah Wajhu) reaction and behaviour could not have been possible without his successful jihad with self. 


You may be wondering what the nafs is, that a Muslim is required to fight it first, in order to suppress and tame it.  Within the human body, the nafs (base self) is like a king, and worldly wants and wishes are his soldiers. The nafs is blind, cannot distinguish between good and evil, and cannot see matters that cause death and destruction to the human soul. When the nafs invites man towards evil and subjugates him, it is in the state of ammara. A Muslim is commanded to disobey the Nafs -e Ammara, to fight with it, suppress it, and take control of it. [Qur’an 12:53] Once this state of taming is achieved, Allah (SWT) blesses the nafs and enlightens it. At this point, its every negative feature become visible, and the believer recognizes the enemies of the soul and of the body, and it begins to clean erase the vices, evil characteristics, and spiritual diseases. Once a believer cleanses his nafs, he decorates it with divine attributes and becomes worthy of being called the Best of all Creatures. This state of nafs is called Nafs-e-Mutam’inna, ” the satisfied and the contented soul.” 

Jihad bin Nafs is necessary to convert Nafs-e-Ammara to Nafs-e -Mutma’inna, so hat this structure of flesh and bones can develop from a brute to a human and can achieve the purpose for which he was created. Thus certainly on the battlefield as well as elsewhere Muslims maintain their humanity and are not reduced to barbaric beasts. This is why the Prophet (Peace be upon them) declared Jihad bin Nafs  “The Greater Jihad.”  Islam intends to make man righteous before commanding him to fight in the battlefield. Islam recognizes that if the human mind is left unrestricted and independent of the fear of divine accountability, it brings great disaster. History is full of examples of those uncontrolled and independent monsters who brought irreversible harm to humanity. 

When the thinking process is turned upside down and the power of reasoning becomes corrupted, wrong become right, and what is right becomes wrong. This is the worst state of the human mind and is the point of no return for righteousness and humanity. Jihad with one’s self is the most effective tool against reaching this worst state. This is why jihad with one’s self is the greater jihad. When one defeats the base self, it becomes easy to win others. 

It is a very fine point and worth mentioning, that many modern day Muslims ignorantly believer that they are actively engaged in some kind of legitimate jihad, whereas their sayings and actions clearly show that they have yet to overcome their nafs. As a result, instead of bringing prominence of Islam, their “struggle” has defamed it. They are Wrong! to call their actions Islamic. Another important point to note is that whenever jihad is mentioned in the holy Qur’an and ahadith, it is followed with the words fi sabilillah, “in the way of Allah (SWT) or “for Allah’s (SWT) sake,” not for the sake of ones self. 


Jihad bil Qalam (Jihad with Pen/Writing)

The first and foremost objective of Jihad bil Qalam is to preserve and propagate Islam through Literature. This kind of Jihad is proof that fighting is not the only option and that Jihad bis Saif is not the only jihad or way to achieve prominence of Islam.

So do not follow the infidels, but do jihad against them using (the logic ) of this (Qur’an) with your utmost capacity. [Qur’an 25:52]

Here too, Muslims are directed to present the logic and wisdom of the holy Qur’an, and using sword is not the priority. The application of the different kinds of jihad varies based on the circumstances at hand. As said earlier, it is important first to preserve Islam in its original form for later generations of Muslims, and before propagating it to others. 

War between good and evil has existed since the history of mankind, and so it will continue until the end of time. This same war happened between Islam and its antithesis/enemies, and it will continue until the prominence of Islam is achieved. Thousands of Muslim scholars dedicated their entire lives in jihad bil Qalam to preserve and explain Islam and its various philosophies. They provided answers to questions raised about Islam and its teachings, and current Muslim scholars continue to do so

Through Jihad bil Qalam, Muslims interpreted, translated, and explained the wisdom and knowledge contained in the holy Qur’an and in the ahadith of the Propeht (Peace be upon them) in every major language. The prophet’s (Peace be upon them) teachings and traditions have been preserved and explained in such unique ways that people have been awestruck. They extracted both spiritual and scientific knowledge, which helped to understand the message of Islam. 

Jihad bil Qalam popularized Islam throughout the world, and many who were unaware of the religion of Islam understood and embraced it just by reading about it. Had Muslims not utilized this jihad, many people would have remained in the dark. There are no followers of any religion doing as much as Muslims did for Islam for preserving and propagating their religion throughout the world. The importance of Jihad bil Qalam over Jihad bis Saif can be understood through just one saying of the honorable Prophet (Peace be upon them):

The ink of the pen of a true scholar of Islam is holier than the blood of a martyr. [Tibrani]

If anyone still blames Islam for being violent or inciting violence, then that would be unjust, however, Muslims must keep on teaching until the moment arrives for the Lord to decide.


Jihad bil Maal (Jihad with Wealth)

Jihad bil maal means to struggle with wealth, it is a fact that money is required for all projects undertaken. Muslims who provide their wealth to undertake other forms of jihad execute Jihad bil Maal. Of course, not everyone can do every kind of jihad; thus, different kinds of jihad enable all Muslims to participate as per their capacity and position. Wealth, like everything else, is given by Allah (SWT) and as per His commandments is not burdensome. In fact, Muslims merely spend what is given by Allah (SWT) in the way of Allah (SWT) and, in turn, receive rewards for free. 

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 Alternatively subscribe to our blog!

Topics to be covered in coming future Insha Allah!:

Jihad bis saif (Jihad by the sword)

Permission granted to fight back

Difference between Jihad and Terrorism

Islam and Extremism

Is fundamentalism a part of Islam or not?

Value of life and its preservations in Islam

Don't lose hope


Recent events and their coverage by the media have left the impression that Muslims ignore the value of life. Because of their lack of knowledge, some believe that Islam does not attach any value to life or does not provide guidance for its preservation. In this posting, I clarify these misconceptions and discuss the value of life and its preservation in Islam.

It is a matter of fact, as we will see, that Islam is such a kind and caring religion that, not only does it give value to human life, but to animal life as well. Islam provides guidance for Muslims in all circumstances where the preservation of life is necessary.   It protects human life from the embryonic state to the final moments of departure from this world. Islam not only takes into account the physical aspect of life, but its spiritual side as well.

Since it was for the very existence of human beings that Allah (SWT) created the earth and everything else and made all the arrangements for people’s guidance to achieve their purpose during their lifetimes, why would He not command them to safeguard and preserve their lives? Why would he not attach any value to human life? If there were no value to life, then what is the sense of morality, values, rights, and duties? Also, the reason to protect life would be lost; hence, life would soon cease to exist if it were to lose its value.


Islam attached great value to life and makes incumbent upon its followers the preservation of life at every cost. It not only commands people to live a harmless life on Earth, but even guides them to prepare for the same in the Hereafter. Human blood is not cheap to Islam.

Islam promotes the philosophy of “live and let live” [Qur’an 4:29]. Without this principle, Islam cannot create an environment where it can achieve its ultimate goal. Islam punishes those who cause trouble to people’s lives and who violate this basic principle of life.  It was the miracle of Islam that this call was made to a society where the value and respect of life was non-existent, and within a very short period the value and respect for human life was fully established.  In Islam taking life without “just cause” is among the worst sins. The Prophet (PBUH) declared:


  • The greatest among the great sins is to associate someone with Allah (SWT) Shirk, murder, disobeying parents, and lying.
  • A believer stays within the vast boundaries of Islam, until he takes life without just cause, for blood is sacred.
  • On Judgment Day, Muslims will be accountable for their Salah (obligatory prayers of worship) and the first thing decided will be the claims of spilling blood. [Mishkat]

He was not any ordinary man who reported this; he was the Lord’s Prophet (Peace be upon them), backed fully by Allah (SWT) and His commandments, Allah (SWT) instructs His servants:

… and do not cast yourselves with your own hands into destruction….[Qur’an 2:195]


It is strictly prohibited to take any action that is harmful to oneself and that can bring destruction to human life. Islam does not allow taking even one’s own life, let alone that of others. Islam wants us to live our life fully. Suicide is haram (strictly prohibited) in Islam and those who commit it ae condemned to Hell eternally. Allah (SWT) states:

….and kill not yourselves. Verily, Allah is ever mercifully inclined towards you. [Qur’an 4:29]


Life is not our own, it is entrusted to us by Allah (SWT). On the Day of Judgment, we will be punished if we misuse it. Suicide is an extreme and clear sign of hopelessness.  In Islam, even the slightest hopelessness is sinful, let alone suicide. A hopeless person is, in fact, denying the overall power of Allah (SWT) and loses faith in the fact that He is the All-Powerful and can change any situation at any time. Thus, we should try to protect and preserve life at every cost and never lose hope or faith. A true Muslim never becomes hopeless. When Muslims cannot take even their own life, how can they be justified in taking the life of others, except for ‘just reasons’ and through the due process of law: in the holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) commands:

And do not kill any person whose killing Allah has forbidden, except for justice…[Qur’an 17:33]


Therefore, Islam strictly prohibits suicide, mercy killing, honour killing, euthanasia, or any unjustified killing. Islam also prohibits abortions, which many people feel does not constitute the killing of a human. In this regard, Allah (SWT) reveals:


…and do not kill your children out of the fear of poverty. We give sustenance to you as well as to them ….[Qur’an 6:151]


Often, the reason for abortions is the insufficiency of funds to support a child. Allah (SWT), in order to preserve and safeguard life, even of the unborn, not only prohibited abortions, but assures that He Who provides for you will provide for them too [Qur’an 6:151]. Allah (SWT) guarantees sustenance; hence, there is no need to take the law into your own hands and have an abortion.  When Islam does not permit the killing of an unborn out of the fear of poverty, how could it allow abortions in societies where food and other luxuries are taken for granted. Islam completely prohibits abortion. Clearly, preserving life is the wise decision and taking life is not, because the Lord reveals:

That surely, We have created man in the best mould. [Qur’an 95:4]

Allah (SWT) crated this beautiful life, which is the most precious. It is by no means cheap and for anyone to destroy. He created life to preserve it, so humans could fully enjoy the bounties on Earth and prepare for eternal life in the Hereafter. This commandment could not be any simpler and all-encompassing. With regard to the value and respect Islam attaches to human life, Allah (SWT) states:

….so whoever kills a human being neither to avenge for a murder (not) for criminal disturbance in the land, so it is as if he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves from death any (human) life, it is as if he has kept alive all people…. [Qur’an 5:32]


No society or charter of law has ever placed such a high value on human life as the constitution of Islam, the holy Qur’an. There is a limit to how much humans can punish or reward someone for killing or saving lives, respectively. For example, if someone kills ten people only one death sentence can be given to the killer, and the other nine victims can never be avenged. Similarly, rewards for noble acts and achievement are also limited. However, for the almighty Lord, there is no limit. He can appropriately punish and reward as required for complete justice. How can Islam, which accords such a high value to life, allow for indiscriminate killing and not promote and reward life’s preservation: the holy Qur’an states:

And those who do not call upon with Allah other deities and do not kill such persons, who have been made sacred, except for justice, and do not commit adultery, and those who do this will face punishment; whose punishment will be increase on Judgment Day and (they) will remain there humiliated, but he who repents and embraces the faith and does good deeds, so they are those for whom Allah will convert their sins into good deeds. And Allah is the All-forgiving, the All-Merciful. [25:68-70]

Aside from forbidding indiscriminate/unjust killing and outlining sever punishments for murderers, in order to uphold the importance of life, Islam addresses the physical, mental, and spiritual issues of life as well. Islam intends for people to be physically and mentally fit in order to create an environment of peace and harmony.  It wants to protect them from harm and to have them work their way through this world successfully.

Upon closely examining Islamic teachings and forms of worship, it becomes apparent that, in some way, every act done for the sake of Allah (SWT) benefits the human mind and body, both spiritually and physically. Dutifully performing such practices brings about the realization that human life is the most precious gift of the Lord Almighty Subsequently, one begins to respect, honour, and protect human life from all harm.

Mental health and physical fitness are important for the well-being and preservation of life. Amazingly, in Islam, a healthy body and sound mind are achieved automatically through the regular and daily activities of worship. According to Islam, the time to live in this world is fixed by Allah (SWT), and nobody dies before or after their time. However, one should strive to stay healthy until his or her las moments. Islam is highly demanding in matters of preserving and protecting human life. The holy Prophet (PBUT) states:

Humanity is not granted anything superior than forgiveness, health and wellness.  [Nisa’i]


Guidelines regarding health were established by the prophet (PBUT) and when followed bring many physical and mental benefits. For example, many ahadith deal with the intake of food (i.e., when to eat, what to eat, and how to eat and drink), maintaining good hygiene (e.g., washing hands before and after eating, washing hands after using the bathroom, trimming nails, removing public hair, showering frequently, brushing teeth, etc.). Moreover, many ahadith talk about curing illnesses through proper medication and foods, living a routine life, waking up and going to sleep on time, eating on time, and having breakfast and dinner early. Maintaining a simple lifestyle of mental peace is in the ahadith as well.

The following list further shows the importance Islam places on keeping the mind and body healthy and, at the same time, explains how to live according to Allah’s (SWT) prescribed way as exemplified by the Prophet (PBUT) himself.

  • Islam prescribes eating only halal (Islamically permissible) foods.
  • Halal animals must be zabiha (slaughtered in the Islamic way, as stated in the Qur’an)
  • Pork and all of its byproducts are haram (strictly forbidden)
  • Beef is allowed, but not preferred
  • To eat until one has a fully stomach is not recommended
  • Chew food as much as possible before swallowing
  • Meats must be fully cooked and eaten with lots of gravy
  • To drink water before/during eating, but not right after
  • To talk while eating is nor preferable
  • To use the right hand to eat instead of utensils.
  • Even though it may see strange to some, but slightly licking fingers that have come into contact with food is an important part of the food intake process; it has its peculiar benefits.
  • To sit on the floor while eating is a Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUT)
  • To eat/drink while standing or walking is undesirable

The prophet (PBUT) teachings on eating leave a true seeker of knowledge spellbound as to how and why the Prophet (PBUT) would go into such minute detail. One of the main purposes of the Prophet (PBUT) was to inform us about anything and everything that was either beneficial or harmful to live a comfortable and trouble-free life.

If the body and mind are at peace, one can proceed safely and easily to live life. Islam, the religion that addresses every bit of detail, surely intends to preserve life and asserts the highest value to it.

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 Alternatively subscribe to our blog!

Free will and compulsion in Islam

No creature was granted ‘free Will’ by the Creator besides human beings and the jinn. Free will is a powerful tool, and to endow man with it clearly shows that there must be a special purpose attached to human life that is not the case with other creatures. Since no other creature besides humanity and the jinn has free will, this makes human beings far superior and controlling over other creatures. It is said that everything in the universe serves man one way or another, and man’s special purpose is to serve Allah (SWT). Of course, the entire worshiping process is to serve Allah (SWT), as discussed earlier.

According to many dictionaries, ‘will’ is defined simply as the power of making a choice or a decision or the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides on a course of action. Free will is defined as the freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention.

The fact that Allah (SWT) endowed man with free will is in itself sufficient proof that Allah (SWT) does not compel man to do anything. If humans were not granted free will, there would be neither any justification for testing them nor any need for Judgment Day to reward or to punish. By endowing them with free will and making choices available to the, Allah (SWT) is justified in testing them. It is on the basis of these test results that He apportions rewards.

One of the main purposes for Judgment Day is to assess how an individual utilized his power of free will. If there were even a minute interference to man’s free will or if he were compelled in any way to follow a pre-ordained direction, then a ‘just test’ and ‘just reward or punishment’ could not be possible. Thus, there is no coercion, compulsion, or interference with human will.

Allah (SWT) conveyed His Guidance to humanity through prophets and finally completed it in the form of Islam, through Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), His last prophet. Allah gives human beings the chance to choose between rights and wrong via their free will and without any compulsion. Whoever wisely chooses to believe the ultimate truth, acquire ultimate success, earn the pleasure of the Almighty, recognize His prophets, become Muslim, submit and surrender his will to the will of Allah (SWT), and wear the medal of servitude of the Almighty, benefits himself eternally.

The meaning of ‘Islam’ is to surrender and bow down, not to stones or trees, not to stars or the sun, not to animals or fire, but to the Almighty Allah (SWT), the Creator of everything. We cannot see Allah (SWT), witness His majesty, or directly observe His limitless power of any of His other qualities. Thus, it is difficult to surrender to Him unless we ‘will’ ourselves to do it through acts of beliefs and from the depths of our hearts. No compulsion or coercion can play and effective role in that process of surrendering

Now, by saying, “There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah,” Muslims sign a contract with Allah (SWT) out of their own free will. Thus, by being under contract, they voluntarily surrender their free will and choices to conform to the pleasure of Allah (SWT). There is no more selfish ‘my way.’ They now have to abide by all the rules of Islam, and if they do not, they suffer punishment for breaching this contract that they signed of their own accord. The rest of humanity still has free will as to whether or not to choose Islam, but according to Islam the wise choice will not be wilfully to reject the call of prophets and ignore Allah’s (SWT) guidance, resulting to ultimate sufferings. I think this is fair enough, and who can be fairer to us than our own Lord?

The kind of obedience that Allah (SWT) deserves and that which brings ultimate success cannot be achieved without embracing Islam out of one’s own free will. If someone is force into Islam by the sword, coercively, or through any other kind of compulsion, then true submission as required by Islam can never be achieved, and if there is some sort of submission, it cannot be permanent.

Unlike animals, human society needs moral values to survive. The kind of society Islam intends to build and the kind of moral values it advocates cannot come about through compulsion. For example, love, brotherhood, unity, piety, generosity, forgiveness, kindness, simplicity, cooperation, self-sacrifice, charity, chastity, and tolerance are all values that cannot be obtained through coercion. The fact of the matter is that coercion defeats the entire purpose of Islam.

Through the abuse of power and coercion, one cannot rule for long time. It is only through love and compassion that the hearts of people can be conquered permanently. Any intelligent person will not imagine drawing any material benefit from anyone after his death, let alone centuries later. Thus, it was not for any personal reason that the Prophet (Peace be upon them) won the hearts of people through love. It was only so people could join him through their free will for the ‘greater purpose.’ Muhammad’s (Peace be upon them) main mission was to connect humanity to Allah (SWT). This could only be achieved through love. He did not use force or coercion, but he prevailed with the power of love and truth, and so did his true followers.

Islam does not intend simply to increase the number of its followers; it wants people to succeed here and in the Hereafter. The fact is that Islam does not need us, we need Islam. To bring everlasting change in the life of humans, acceptance from the heart and voluntary actions are required. Through coercion, one could only obtain verbal acceptance, but the major part of accepting and certifying by the heart, as required by Islam, cannot be achieved [Bukhari].

According to the Islamic teachings, Allah (SWT) disapproves of the actions of troublemakers and mischievous people. This clearly indicates that Allah (SWT) does not approve of coercion and commands, but He wants people to choose according to their will in reference to accepting Islam. Hundreds of verses in the holy Qur’an allow us clearly to deduce the message.

At the very beginning of the holy Qur’an, Muslims are directed to begin its recitation with:

“In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.”

In another verse, Allah (SWT) says:

      …We do not burden any soul more than it can bear…[6:152]

According to two ahadith of the Prophet (Peace be upon them):

       Allah does not shower His kindness on anyone who is not kind to other people. [Bukhari]

The sign of a momin (true believer) is that he behaves well with his neighbours (both Muslim and non-Muslim).

In another verse, Allah (SWT) commands:

…and show kindness to parents, and kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and the neighbour who is your relative, and the neighbour who is not your relative and the companion by your side and the wayfarer…[4:36]

At another point in the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) describes a momin:

  And the servants of the Lord, Most Compassionate, are those who walk on the earth humbly, and when the ignorant speak to them, they only say: “Peace be upon you.” [25:63]

These verses and ahadith are but a few examples indicating clearly that kindness is the best virtue; to be kind is very much desirable in Islam. If an individual is kind, how could he be coercive? If one preaches kindness, then compulsion is out of the question. Allah’s (SWT) guidance is full of kindness; therefore, Islam is free from compulsion.

The reality is that compulsion and coercion suppress free will. When Allah (SWT) endowed us with free will, why would He suppress it?

One of the greatest commandments Allah (SWT) reveals is:

Call towards the way of your Lord with solid strategy and good counsel and debate with them in the most desirable manner..[16:125]

Now, as Allah (SWT) directs believers to utilize such a manner of calling people to His path, He certainly cannot compel us to coerce or impose His guidance on others.

   In one very beautiful verse, Allah (SWT) says:

There is no compulsion in deen (way of life). Surely, true guidance now stands out clearly from error… [2:256]

There is no compulsion in Islam. This means that if a person lives in an Islamic society/country and does not embrace Islam, he or she should not be compelled to do so.

The issue of Irtidad in Islam

Irtidad is apostasy. A murtad is an apostate; anyone who returns to kufr (infidelity) after being a Muslim. Many have heard about a heavy punishment for irtidad, which is in fact true.

There is a heavy punishment from Allah (SWT) that He Himself brings on a murtad, both here and in the Hereafter. Of course, no one is compelled to enter into Islam, but once you are in, the story changes.

By accepting Islam, a person recognizes Allah (SWT), surrenders his will to the will of Allah (SWT) and literally signs a contract to abide by His rules. Any violation of Islamic principles from thereon is a breach of that contract and is punishable by Allah (SWT).

Now one can ask, since there is free will, how can anyone be punished for apostasy? There is no capital punishment for a murtad, because there is not compulsion in Islam. However, if a murtad denounces Islam publicly, purposely defames Islam, creates mischief, wages war against the Islamic state, and does not repent after repeated warnings, then is due for capital punishment. Anyone purposely undermining and giving rise to instability and committing treasonous activities by waging war against the Islamic state is punishable through due process of law.

Man has free will, and when he enters into the fold of Islam, it is for his own good, and he benefits from it. On the same accord, if he decides to leave Islam out of his own free will, he chooses to become the ultimate loser according to the divine decree. Since there is no coercion in Islam, no one can be forced to embrace it, forced to stay in it, or forced out of it. One cannot even be punished if one decides to leave Islam. An ex-Muslim is not pushed for irtidad but for treason if he goes so far as to commit treason.

There is no historical record showing that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) ever having executed anyone for irtidad (apostasy). However, a hadith states that capital punishment applies to that murtad (apostate) who wages war against the Islamic state. [Bukhari] The issue/crime here is of treason against the state, not of becoming an apostate. Capital punishment for the crime of treason is not only a part of Islam, but is enforced all around the world, including the United States.

According to Islam, as people embrace it, they come to life, to home, and under the grace of the Almighty, but if and when they leave it, they become murtad, lifeless, and are withdrawn from the umbrella of peace and grace of Allah (SWT). Islam is no different when it comes to bringing traitors to justice. Certainly, the road to repentance is always open to everyone until their last breath of life, and as far as Islam is concerned repentance is possible, up until the Ange of Death become clearly visible, whereupon the door to repentance are closed shut.

What is the purpose of Free Will?

Some may ask, what is the purpose of free will if we have to choose between Islam and suffering in the Hereafter? Since there is no way out, where is the freedom of choice? How is Islam free of coercion?

The freedom to choose means that we are free to choose any one of two paths: one is Allah’s (SWT) path, which leads to Heaven; the other is not and leads to Hell. It is not possible to choose the path of kufr (Infidelity) in this world and end up in Heaven in the other world. You cannot take half from one and half from the other. You have to take the whole package, whichever one you like. Allah (SWT) does not present the concept of Hell to make you choose Islam in this world. He simply shows us both paths and their respective destinations.

The mercy and kindness of Allah (SWT) are that He informs us of the two destinations, so that we may choose wisely. Allah (SWT) does not place hurdles even in the path of those who choose the path leading to Hell. Since we clearly know the two paths and their destinations, Allah (SWT) is justified in trying us according to what we choose through our own free will.  Islam recognises our decision making ability and suggests that we make an informed decision.

Allah (SWT) has nothing to lose if all of us choose the right path and end up in Heaven or choose the wrong one and end up on Hell. It is we who win or lose.

Forgiveness and tolerance in Islam

Human history has yet to produce a parallel to the concept of forgiveness and tolerance as defined and practiced in Islam. A few examples in support of this proposition are presented in the following.

After announcing his prophet hood in Makkah and until his forced migration from there to Madinah, Muhammad (Peace be upon them) faced all kinds of suffering and physical pains at the hands of disbelievers, most of whom were members of his own tribe. He never fought back, never raised arms against them, and never permitted his followers to retaliate. In the face of adversity, he and his companions held to a policy of forgiveness and tolerance. Even under such harsh conditions he continued to deliver Allah’s (SWT) guidance to humanity through patience, steadfastness, and absolute faith and determination. 

Forgiveness and tolerance are among the great qualities professed and perfected by Islam and practiced by the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon them). He left indelible marks that attracted millions to Islam and, in a very short period, brought the East and the West under the umbrella of Islam. Among other things, the rapid growth of Islam was due to its basic teachings of tolerance and forgiveness.

Allah (SWT)) reveals:

…And (O men) If you should forgive, it is nearest to piety…[2:237]

Islam considers forgiveness and tolerance to be extremely desirable and laudable qualities. Allah (SWT) offers pardon to those who forgive and tolerate. The holy Qur’an commands:

….And let them forgive and overlook. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? .. [24:22]

Despite continuous infliction of pain and hardship on the Prophet (Peace be upon them) and his followers, Allah (SWT) instructed them to:

Forgive and command what is good and stay aloof from the ignorant. [Qur’an 7:199]

At another place, the Qur’an states:

And never can good and evil be equal. Remove what is to be removed through utmost good…[41:34]

In the same manner, keeping grudges is strictly discouraged both in the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah. Once, a companion of the Prophet (Peace be upon them) requested him to bring a curse upon the Makkans. Upon hearing this, the Prophet (Peace be upon them), a man of tolerance, became filled with anger [Trimidhi and Bukhari]. On another occasion, while preaching in the city of Ta’if, people threw stones at the Prophet (Peace be upon them), whereupon an angle appeared and asked his permission to crush the city with the two bordering mountains. He replied, “I have come as the mercy to mankind and not as a wrath” [Tirmidhi and Bukhari].

He commanded his followers to create ease for people and not to put them in hardship, to make them happy and not hateful. He further stated:

“The one who is not kind, no kindness is brought upon him. [Bukhari]

The Prophet (Peace be upon them) also stated that

If you are kind to people on Earth, Allah will be kind to you in the Hereafter. [Tirmidhi]

Once, the Prophet (Peace be upon them) stood up (in respect) as people passed by carrying a coffin. His companions informed him that the funeral was a Jewish man. He replied, “Was he not a person?” meaning that he was a human, as we all are, and Allah (SWT) had created him just as he created us [Mishkar].

In reality, there are at least three types of commonality among all people. The first is that we are all salves of Allah (SWT). The second is that we are all descendants of Adam (A.S). The third is that we all, Muslims and non-Muslims, are part of the ummah (community) of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them). Here, the ummah means the community to whom a prophet is sent, whether they brought faith in him or not.

The beloved Prophet (Peace be upon them) always respected these relationships. In fact, even during battles, he prayed for his enemies [Bukhari]. Has any general ever prayed in favour of the opposing army? This was nothing short of kindness from the merciful Prophet (Peace be upon them). He never harmed, let alone killed anyone. He never even used foul language or became mad at people at his service. Once, in a battlefield while lining up his companions, he accidentally poked the chest of a companion with his staff. Immediately, he presented himself to the companion to allow him to avenge for this mistake. The prophet (Peace be upon them, with such an elaborate display of equality, justice, tolerance, and mercy, amazed the world and enlightened hearts and minds, permanently changing people’s lives.

While migrating to Madinah from Makkah, his birthplace, the Prophet (Peace be upon them), along with his most beloved companion, Abu-Bakr Siddiq (R.A) was pursued by a non –believer named Suraqa bin Malik, who was promised a great reward for their capture. As he came close to them, his horse was miraculously buried knee-deep into the sand and could not move. He yelled out to the Prophet (Peace be upon them) for mercy and pardon. The Prophet of Mercy (Peace be upon them) forgave him. Moreover, he requested his forgiveness to writing to show to his people upon the return.  Can such a show of mercy to one’s staunchest enemy be duplicated?

Not only granting pardon, the Prophet (Peace be upon them) informed Suraqa that soon he would wear the gold bracelets worn that time by the king of Persia. This prophecy came true just two decades later, when the second Khalifa (caliph) of Islam defected the Persian Empire. The Khalifa took the gold bracelets from the king, put them on Suraqa’s hand, and said, “Is this not of what the Prophet hand informed you?”

When the prophet (Pace be upon them) reached Madinah, he drew up The Madinah Constitution, which included all the tribes, including those of the Jewish faith.  The following are some articles of that charter:

  1. All parties to this agreement will have freedom of religion.
  2. All may practice their religion without any hindrance.
  3. Everyone’s places of worship will be protected
  4. No one shall deceive, be unjust, or conspire against each other.

Every article of the charter expressed and clearly defined the basic philosophy of Islam and its principles of tolerance and mutual respect, as practices and preached by the Prophet (Peace be upon them) This newly formed setting was based on equality, justice, and freedom of religion and choice, with tolerance as its main element.

Even after his migration from Makkah to Madinah, the Makkan leaders/idolaters continued their efforts to undermine Islam and its followers. They conspired against Muslims and made secret alliances with tribes in Madinah and outside of it. Many battles took place between them and the Muslims in the first decade of the Prophet’s (Peace be upon them) migration. Within this period, some tribes breached the treaties made with Muslims, and back in Makkah Muslims’ houses and belongings were plundered.

Eventually, Muslims peacefully conquered Makkah and entered as Victors into the city they had been forced to leave just a decade earlier. The Makkans feared a devastating backlash for their barbaric behaviour towards innocent Muslim men, women and children, but instead the Prophet (Peace be upon them) granted general amnesty to all and pardoned everyone. The Prophet (Peace be upon them) said, “Today, all of you are free, and no charge is upon you” [Bukhari, Muslim, and Tirmidhi].

Among those freed was a woman named Hind, one of the staunchest enemies of the Prophet (Peace be upon them) To avenge her father and brother, who were killed in the Battle of Badr, she had cut open the chest of the Prophet’s beloved uncle, Amer Hamza, and chewed his heart at the Battle of Uhud. The Prophet (Peace be upon them) forgave even her consequently, they all turned from being enemies of Islam to protectors and loyal followers. No one before or since has duplicated this show of forgiveness and tolerance.

Commenting on the unparalleled tolerance and pure heart of Muhammad (Peace be upon them), Stanley Lane Poole, a British orientalist and archaeologist of the nineteenth century, wrote:

“But what is this? Is there no blood in the streets? Where are the bodies of thousands that have been butchered? Facts are hard things, and it is a fact that the day of Muhammad’s greatest triumph over his enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself. He freely forgave the Kureysh (Quraysh) all the years of sorrow and cruel scorn they had inflicted on him: he gave amnesty to the whole population of the Makkah. Four criminals whom justice condemned made up Muhammad’s proscription list; no house was robbed, no woman insulted. It was thus that Muhammad entered again his native city. Through all the annals of conquest, there is not triumphant entry like unto this one.”

When Jerusalem was conquered by the second caliph Umar, he made an agreement with the conquered citizens of that city, clauses of which have not yet produced the parallel in history, that’s what kind of heartfelt generosity and tolerance they displayed with opponents and enemies.

There are numerous opinions, commentaries, articles, and books by non-Muslim historians in recognition of such Islamic characteristics as forgiveness, generosity and tolerance. Unfortunately, however, some have dedicated their lifetime to creating misunderstandings about Islam and its teachings. One of the greatest, misunderstandings of our time is that, Islam was spread with the sword. Therefore, this issue must be addressed.

The rule of the sword in Islam

Putting it simply, to utilize a sword, you need two things. Firstly, you have to possess a sword; secondly, you must know how to use it. The greater the purpose to be achieved through the sword. The more expertise you have to have. If you have a sword but lack swordsmanship and only know how to wave it in the air, you cannot achieve much with it.

As a general principle, anyone interested in pursuing a career in science must take, from the very beginning, every necessary course in the subject of science to reach their goal. Similarly, every field requires relevant studies and training for one to become an expert. However, this is the general rule, and there can be exceptions to it.

According to some, Muhammad (Peace be upon them) was “just an intelligent man” with many good qualities, but was not a Prophet. For them, his Prophethood cannot be verified through empirical means. For argument’s sake, let us suppose that he was “just an intelligent man” and that through his intelligence and other qualities he invented Islam. Then, realistically, we will have to admit that he was not “just and intelligent man,” but must have been “extraordinarily intelligent” because the system he developed, if he developed it, was such a great and fine system that, just an intelligent man” could not have developed it. Moreover, that extraordinarily intelligent man must have devised, well in advance, all the plans necessary to invent such a comprehensive religion.

If people’s contention that Islam was spread by the sword is valid, then we have to suppose that Muhammad (Peace be upon them) must have known he would be utilizing a sword to spread that ideology.  Therefore, he would certainly have thought of mastering an unparalleled skill in using the sword. Moreover, he must have trained himself to be a great swordsman and gathered many other swordsmen in advance, in order to achieve this purpose later on.

The problem is that we do not find anything to support the contention that the Prophet (Peace be upon them) or any of the early converts to Islam possessed any expertise or special training in swordsmanship. We also do not find any group that was trained well in advance that would join him later. Even if we assume that he did have special training expertise in swordsmanship, then the question is, who or what prevented him for defending himself when, for example, Makkan threw filth, specifically camel intestines, on him while he was peacefully praying in front of the Ka’ba? Why did he not protect himself through this swordsmanship when children were led to throw stones at him in Ta’if? If he were a swordsman, why did he suffer all kinds of hardships at the hands of Makkans for thirteen continues years and never retaliate with his sword? Why, even that night when all the chiefs of Makkah, through their representatives, raided his house in an attempt to take his life, did he not defend himself with his sword?

To make the long story short, he was a prophet from the Lord and did not invent Islam; instead, he delivered the message and guidance of the Lord to us. He never acquired any special training and never planned to use the sword. He did not come to fight but to teach the knowledge and wisdom of Islam and to warn about the assured events of the Hereafter. For this purpose, he did not need a sword because he could not have achieved by the sword what he was sent to achieve.

As far as his personal security and protection was concerned, the Lord Who sent him promised his protection. If swords never played any role, even in those early days of Islam when their use would have seemed to be necessary and justified to increase the number of followers, how could they be necessary at the climax of its success?

However, even after emigrating from Makkah in order to practice Islam peacefully in MADINAH, Muslims were not freed from the persecutions of the Quraysh. Soon, the situation became warlike, and the need to defend Muslims against the imminent threats to their lives and property increased.

It was only then that the use of the sword was permitted. At this point, a role for the sword entered into Islam as means of defence. It is to be remembered that even then it was not to promote or impose, but merely to protect, Islam. In the matter of propagation, Islam inherently contains enough qualities and benefits to attract people towards it; swords are not necessary and cannot play any role in the true propagation of Islam.

The first person, a woman, the first wife of the Prophet (Peace be upon them) kadija (R.A) embraced Islam as soon as the Prophet (Peace be upon them) declared his prophethood. She accepted Islam without the sword. The second Muslim, the first adult man to accept it, a successful businessman/merchant, embraced Islam under no coercion. Many other early converts to Makkah embraced Islam out of their free will and without a sword extended above their heads. As a matter of fact, swords were hanging over their heads threatening them if they did not leave Islam, but the firmly-rooted faith did not shake, and these new converts did not budge and stood firm in their commitment to Islam.

For example, when the fortieth Muslim and the second khalifa of Islam, the famous Umar ibn al-Khattab (R.A), a strong and brave man who was feared by many, surrendered his will to the will of Allah (SWT) in front of Muhammad (Peace be upon them) and embraced Islam, the sword was in his hands and he was in fact a great swordsman.

The famous general, Khalid bin Waleed (R.A) fought many battles against Islam, inflicted heavy injuries on Muslims, and was a great warrior and swordsman. It is thus obvious that even if a sword was used against him, it could not convert him to Islam.  He embraced Islam through his own free will, laid his sword at the feet of the Prophet (Peace be upon them) and permanently surrendered himself to Islam. Through these two examples, we witness how swords were laid to rest before embracing Islam. During the lifetime of the Prophet (Peace be upon them), the fear of the sword never converted anyone into being a Muslim; it was always the other way around. Swords were never used to propagate Islam, but were later need to protect it.

Let us suppose that even if a sword were utilized, it could only acquire verbal submission, but could never obtain inner convictions, as it’s required in Islam. Swords may cause one to convert temporarily, but they cannot keep one in Islam permanently. If one does not convert from the heart, what is the sense of forcing him or her to accept Islam? Forceful acceptance brings no benefit to the individual or to anyone else. By the way, how many swords would you currently need, and how many people to hold them, to control and subjugate 1.6 billion Muslims throughout the world? Additionally, how many more swords would one need on a daily basis throughout the world for newcomers? Manufacturing swords would be a thriving business if this were the case.

A sword can slice a heart, but it cannot enlighten it. It can sever the head, but it cannot bend it voluntarily for daily prayers. It can separate one from this world, but it cannot bring any success in the other world. It can fill the heart with fear, but it cannot free it from the filth of this world. It can shut the eyes forever, but it cannot open them to see the truth. It can cause one to surrender everything else, but it cannot cause one to surrender his or her will.  It can rob a person, but it cannot make him generous. It can make a person proud and arrogant, but it cannot make anybody humble and modest. It can exclude one from society, but it cannot make anybody humble and modest. It can exclude one from society, but it cannot make one caring and sharing.

Islam intends to kill the kufr (infidelity), not the kafir (one who commits infidelity).It wants to eradicate shirk (polytheism) not the mushrik (polytheist). It wants to suppress the evil inside of people, not the people themselves. It seeks to build societies, not turn them into graveyards. It wants humans to achieve the higher status, not eradicate people from the face of this earth. The portrayal of a Muslim holding a Qur’an in one hand and sword in the other is not only a misrepresentation of Islam, but is  purposely drawn to deceive and conceal the truth from people. The sword and Islam are not synonymous.

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 Alternatively subscribe to our blog!

Forms of Worship (Ibadat)

Zikr, fikr and ashghal (practices) are the non-
compulsory forms of worship (nafil ibadat). These are
the best means to arouse awareness and to achieve
nearness to God.

For zikr and fikr it is imperative to
have outward and inward purity. The presence of good
fragrance is beneficial. There are several kinds of zikr
and ashghal, but here is a brief description of only a
few of them:
The negating (nafi) and affirming (asbaat) zikr has
two forms -jali (aloud, with a voice) and khafi (secret).
The zikr that combines both the negation and
affirmation is considered best by the sufis and that is:
“La ilaha illallah, Mohammad ur rasoolallah.”
(There is no God but God and Mohammad is the
Prophet of God).
This ‘kalma’ is the beginning of shariat (the religious
law) and the culmination of tariqat (the path of inner
knowledge i.e. sufism).

With patience and perseverance, it leads the seeker to his goal. It is
beneficial to recite this kalma in the solitude of the
night at least 101 times before going to bed or upon
arising at midnight. In this zikr, besides a negation of
all else, there is an affirmation of the existence of God.
The other wazifa is:
Qul hu wallaahu Ahad, Allah hus-Samad
(Say, He is God, the One and Only; God, the Independent,
has no needs).
This wazifa should be repeated every night, without
fail, 1100 times, before going to sleep.

The name of Allah should be repeated under all circumstances, while standing, sitting or ambulating whether it is by tongue or in thought or in the heart


With inhalation Allah’ should be recited and ‘Hu’
with exhalation. Some people believe that ‘Allah’ should
be recited in both instances. Visualisation of the image
of the murshid in the heart is the key to progress while
practising this shaghl..

Shaghl-i-Rab-ul-Arbab involves concentrating on the
attributes of God with body and soul. The real
performer and the Master of the soul is Rab-ul-Arbab
(Master of the masters). He is the preserver of the
universe (Rab-ul-Alameen). Through Him all movements, actions, deeds and words reach the soul and from the soul reach and terminate in the physical body.

A salik (the one treading the spiritual path) should, in
his thoughts, concentrate on the name of Allah, till
that ultimate threshold is reached where he transcends
the connection between the body and the soul and
he perceives nothing but Rab-ul-Aala (the mightiest
Preserver) both inwardly and outwardly

O Friend! Instructions on shaghl-i-aina are imparted
thus; the murshid instructs the murid to sit before a
mirror and look at the reflection of his face, and occupy
himself with repeating the name of God. If the seeker
is blessed by the Almighty, he receives the joy he desires.
Because this shaghl is subtle, the seeker who is of a
subtle disposition will, in his meditation, soon have
experiences of a truly subtle nature.

This zikr (remembrance) is also called the zikr of
the soul (zikr-e-ruh). Late at night, one should lie down
in a quiet place and close the ears with thumbs or with
a piece of cotton wool dipped in either jasmine oil or
attar (fragrant oil). Then, one should try to hear the
subtle inner sound arising from within the head.
Initially this sound also comes from the heart hence
one should try to hear it by bending the head towards
the heart. This is the primordial sound, and the root
essence of all other sounds. The salik who has the
privilege to hear this sound is ahale-sama (one entitled
to attend and understand sama).

AFKAR (MEDITATION – Plural of fikr)
To meditate upon the wonders of nature is fikr. Through
fikr one can, by obtaining the knowledge about one’s
inner-self, reach up to the knowledge of the Almighty.

Allah says in the Holy Quran
Everything is within you, but you do not look.”
Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon them )says
“He who has recognized himself, has recognized God

This establishes that man, a trustee of the Almighty
God, is the essence of the entire creation and an
embodiment of all the Divine Attributes and the Divine
essence. Hence, by knowing one’s own self, one can
obtain the knowledge of the entire creation and the
knowledge of the Almighty God, whether it be hidden
in the Realm of the Invisible (alam-e-ghaib) or apparent in the Realm of Physical Existence (alam-e-wujud).

Alliance of Grace (nisbat-e-ehsan) is the key to this
treasure. At this stage, the various parts of the body
acquire the Divine qualities, as the Holy Prophet quotes God in the Hadith:
“I become my servant’s ears, eyes, hands and feet.”

To the outward eye, the external parts of the human
body (hands, feet, eyes and ears) are visible. A doctor
or a hakim feels the pulse and uses instruments and by
a close examination ascertains the condition of the
internal organs (stomach, heart, brain etc.) of the
human body. A doctor’s vision goes as far as the form,
order and working of the various parts of the body.
Hence they say that man is formed of four basic
elements (air, water, fire and earth) and his life depends
on the orderly arrangement of these elements. And
that death is the name for the disarrangement of these
The spiritually enlightened vision of an arif can reach
further and question the source of intellect, intelligence,
discernment, skill, awareness, and percent
human body. It seeks the ‘soul’ which empowers the
body surrounding the soul with the ability to walk, see
and hear, and the One empowering the soul, the real
Performer or the Soul of the souls.

Sometimes, the vision of an arif arrives at the truth
that the man in reality is made of one element
earth, and that the other three elements are derived from
earth itself. The warm particles of the earth are fire, the
soft particles are water and the subtle particles are air.
Thus, it is the different particles of earth that manifest in
various forms in the entire creation, and it is for our
convenience that we have given them distinct names

Thus, the entire creation is a combination of different
types of earth particles and each independent minute
particle of earth, holds within itself, the essence of the
entire creation. The ultimate limit of its minuteness is
this that, while in the world of physical existence (alam-
e-maujoodat), it is hidden from sight, it continues to
exist in perception and thoughts in the invisible world
(alam-e-ghaib). In other words, the invisible world is
not apparently visible [to the eyes] but it is not non-
existent. That is to say, this invisible yet existent world
lies in the intermediate space between it is and it is
not! This implies, that it is only by the means of
knowledge [of subsistence] that [one can perceive] its
attributes [which] are both existent and apparently non-
existent [simultaneously].
What we know as the atomic bomb, radium or the
sun and moon are, in fact, particles of this earth and
are called thus due to their radiance, speed and other attributes and powers.
At times the vision of an arif goes as far as to
understand the origin and beginning of his own
manifestation, to find the world in which he was hidden before birth and where he will reach after his death.

These thoughts lead him towards the reality of human
life and finally, up to the ultimate Truth.
Sometimes an arif reaches a point, where he knows
from where the first man came and how he came. And
who gave the power to the ‘jewel of his seed’ to produce another human being. In fact, in a drop of the human seed, a complete man is hidden, just like a tree
in a seed. In fertile soil, a seed unfolds itself in the
form of a tree. But who is the cause for its manifestation? Who is the Real Performer? Who is that Omnipotent by whose nature and work the very first
seed has come into existence? This truth makes it
evident that the final result of the flowering and fruition
of a tree is again the seed. Hence, the seed is beginning and the seed is the end.

Sometimes an arif, while seeking the knowledge of
God, reaches the realization that, the entity which he
has so addressed as the Eternal or the Absolute Being,
is in fact, the ultimate limit of this very realization. The
Real truth, is, in fact, far beyond the limits of human
realization, feelings and perception. [The arif realizes]
that he is helpless because of human perception and
wisdom. There is Truth and only Truth. For this reason,
the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon them) has said:
“Do not Meditate on the embodiment of the Almighty, Meditate on the signs and signals.”

When the knowledge of an arif proceeds towards the
realization that everything is contained within man
himself, then the vegetative kingdom (hair etc.), the
mineral kingdom (bones) and the animal kingdom
(microbes etc.) contained within his body testify this
fact. Mountains and rivers are visible within his body.

The light of the sun and the moon, which makes the apparent world visible, seems to manifest itself in his eyes and heart. He can see the sky and the earth within
himself. The hidden secrets are found within man
himself and this testifies that man himself is the secret
of the Almighty. The destructible world (alam-e-nasut)
lies in the human body. The Realm of Angels (alam-e-
) is hidden in man’s conduct. The seat of God
(alam-e-Jabrut) is manifest in the heart of man. And
the realm where only God exists and none else (alam-
e-Lahut) is the hidden secret, in fact, it is the most
hidden mystery.

Man is limited within bounds and the name of the
Almighty (Allah) has its fixed position. But in true
reality both are limitless. Neither is there a limit to the
devotion of the servant, nor is there a limit to the
benevolence and sustaining qualities of the Almighty

The Role and Importance of Intent in Islam

Intentions have great importance in Islam, because, according to a very famous hadith, “Actions are based on intention,” meaning that acts are judged by Allah (SWT) on the basis of the intention with which they are executed. The action has secondary importance. Hence, the intention carries more weight than act itself, and Allah (SWT) is precisely aware of everyone’s intentions.

Many scholars of Islam confirm this hadith and believe it to be half of Islam: whatever is in Islam, half of it is contained in this hadith. Some even claim it to contain the entire philosophy of Islam, and call it Ummul-Ahadith ( The Mother of All Hadith). [Bukhari] As far as my knowledge goes, no other religion can claim to have such a short statement comprising so much.

Intention is the first thought or set of thoughts that come to mind before one proceeds to act,. For example, the idea to spread the knowledge of Islam and defend my religion came to me, so I began to write this post along with the intent to seek Allah’s (SWT) pleasure. According to Islam, whatever is undertaken to seek the pleasure of the Lord is considered a part of worshiping Allah (SWT) and becomes a good deed. The ultimate goal of momin (faithful Muslim) is to seek Allah’s (SWT) pleasure through his or her every action. Thus based on my genuine intention to please Allah (SWT). I am hopeful that a reward for writing this blog in the form of His pleasure will be granted to me.

If my intention were to earn fame and/or wealth through this blog, I could not be eligible to earn His pleasure, because I did not intend to do so. I may earn fame and monetary benefits, but because of the love of material wealth and intending to acquire it, I do not deserve anything in the Hereafter, and this deed would not count as a good one and will be rejected by Allah (SWT).

A famous example to explain this further it that of a Muslim who one day, out of simplicity but with good intent, inserted a few stakes in front of a masjid (mosque) for people to tie their horses, so they could pray peacefully and not worry abut their animals. Instead,people began to trip over them. Although he should have thought about this possible harm, he receives rewards for his good intention. On the other hand, someone who did not like Muslims put stakes at another entrance with the intent to hurt them, and instead worshipers began to tie their animals to them, and no one was hurt. This person does not deserve any reward because of the ill intent, even though his action brought ease to the worshipers.

Anyone who intends to please the Lord in the few years of life he has would continue to please Him if he were allowed to live forever. Anyone who does not have those intentions would continue to live without pleasing the Lord as long as he lives or she lives. The reward or punishments in the eternal life of the Hereafter reflect the kind of life we lived here on Earth. For example, as students, we learn for a semester or an entire year, but the exams that determine our fate last only a few hours, and determine success or failure.

This life is a testing ground for human beings. Every necessary instruction has been provided. If we intended to please the Lord within the few years of life given to us, we will pass the test. The rewards for good intentions during our just few years of life are eternal. If we fail to have good intentions, the loss is for eternity. It is the intent that is the deciding factor of our eternal fate. Of course, no one is going to be tested eternally to receive reward or punishment eternally.

Moreover, a millionaire who gives thousands in charity without intending to please Allah (SWT) does not earn any reward from Allah (SWT).

On the other hand, a poor person giving few dollars to earn Allah’s (SWT) pleasure receivers abundant rewards because of his intention.

Humans are uniquely intelligent and can quite successfully fool their own kind. Very frequently and easily, they can hide the real motives of their filthy minds and their secret and selfish agendas.

Through words and gestures, they know how to portray themselves convincingly and fame their message in such a way that they cannot be proven wrong. Like-minded people at once understand what their fellow means to say. We think such great orators and leaders work for our benefit and seem to be saviours, but only in the end, and only if we are lucky enough, we learn the truth of their inner intentions.

Intentions are deeply rooted in the mind, and only Allah (SWT) truly knows them. As such, even though one’s intention is crucial in Islam, judging one is not permitted unless it becomes obvious. Muslims are only to pay attention to people’s actions. They are to appreciate the good work, accept whatever appears to be good, and leave the matter of intent to Allah (SWT), the All-Knower. He will deal with peoples intentions and properly reward or punish them as per His judgement. We just have to know that according to Islam, a good action becomes a good deed only when one performs it with the intent to seek Allah’s (SWT) pleasure and when one executes it correctly to the best of one’s knowledge and belief.

Islam demands its followers to have the pure intention of pleasing Allah (SWT) when performing every duty to the Lord and to fellow human beings. Since intentions occur inside the human mind, no one can instantly know; however, one can assess the intent after carefully studying the action, behaviour, and outcome.

Islam’s criterion is that a good action must be preceded with the intent to seek Allah’s (SWT) pleasure for it to be included in the roster of good deeds. Similarly, many mistakes can be forgiven, if they were not intended to violate Allah’s commandments. Had a human invented Islam, he would not have required the condition of intention, which he himself could not verify. However, since Allah (SWT) exists with all of His attributes, and since Islam is His guidance to humanity, this condition is absolutely essential for rewarding and punishing.

The demand of Islam for Muslims to have the intention of seeing the pleasure of Allah (SWT) is one of the most obvious proofs that Islam is a heavenly religion and that it was not proposed or invented by a human. There was no need for a personality like the final prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to introduce the concept that actions are based on the intent behind them. If Islam was his own creation, then for Muslims, to follow him and carry out this mission would have been sufficient, and there would be no need to demand the whole business of intention. However, the Prophet (Peace be upon them) came to connect human beings to their Allah (SWT). Thus, it was necessary to emphasize this essential concept so that his followers could truly seek Allah’s (SWT) pleasure and acquire ultimate success.

Some great benefits of intending to seek only Allah’s (SWT) pleasure are that if we succeed in our endeavours (through our actions), we do not become arrogant or ungrateful, engage in illegitimate activities, or demand any reward from our fellow human beings because whatever we did was for Allah (SWT) and only to seek His pleasure. On the other hand, if for any reason we fail in our ambitions and struggles, we are not disheartened or depressed. Not being able to achieve that for which we strove, either because of our limited capabilities, because of unforeseen circumstances or perhaps because it was not a part of the Lord’s master plan, He still rewards us because of our intention to seek his pleasure through our efforts. Allah (SWT) rewards for good intention and motives, even if the actions do not materialize.

Striving for and achieving our objectives are two separate things. Our duty is only to strive, whether we succeed or fail is left to our Lord.

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 Alternatively subscribe to our blog!

Islam’s Concept of the Hereafter

Throughout the blog so far, you have come across words like “Hereafter,” “Day of Judgement,” and “other-worldly,” and you may have somewhat familiarized yourself with the concepts behind them. In this post, I will go into detail because these concepts are central to Islam. The period immediately after death, the Day of Judgment, the process of accountability, eternal life in Heaven or Hell, and everything beyond that are all part of the Hereafter.

According to Islam, when a person passes away from this world, he or she enters into the other world. The body stays here in one form or another, and Malak-ul-Maut (the Angel of Death) takes the ruh (Soul) to A’lam-e-Barzakh (the transitory state, period/place).

Whether the body is buried or disposed of through other means, angels known as Munkir-Nakir bring the deceased back to life in A’lam-e-Barzakh and ask three questions related to beliefs. If the person answers all three questions correctly, the stay in this transitory period/place is made comfortable, while incorrect answers bring pain and suffering. One can only remember the right answers if he or she has lived accordingly and has put into practice the beliefs in question.

Whether the body is under ground or anywhere else on earth, regardless of its state, it remains connected to the soul in A’lam-e-Barzakh. If the soul is at peace, the body is peaceful and feels pleasure, if the soul is in pain, the body feels the pain and suffers tremendously.

Death is the process of separating the soul from the body and is merely the mode of transportation for the soul to get to the Transitory state. The Transitory State lasts until Judgment Day. The human body grows on Earth, and after death it stays in the earth, on one state or another. The soul comes from A’lam-e-Arwah (“the world of spirits,” where souls were kept since their creation), and on separation from the body the soul enters A’lam-e-Barzakh, The time of death is fixed, and Malak-ul Maut (Angle of Death) is never late or ahead of schedule and is capable of being in many places at one time. The three questions of the grave are:

  1. Who is your Lord?
  2. What is your religion?
  3. What did you say about this man? (Pointing towards the Prophet Muhammad – Peace be upon them). [Mishkat]

Whoever responds to the first two questions with “Allah (SWT)” and “Islam” and in response to the third question, recognizes the man shown as Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them) passes the test and is left peacefully. Whosoever fails to answer correctly is left to suffer in pain.

Every soul remains in A’lam-e-Barzakh until Judgment Day. When this Day arrives, Angle Israfil (A.S) will blow into the sur (trumpet) whereupon everyone alive will die and everything else will be  “wrapped up. The holy Qur’an states:

“And (when) the trumpet is blown, they will die-what is in the skies and what is on land-except whom Allah wills. When blown into it again, so at that time, they will all be standing (and) staring.” [39-68]

Then, all will gather in the Mahshar Ground in the presence of the divine throne. All will be given their register of deeds to be weighed. Anyone’s good deeds that weigh more than their bad deeds will be among the successful ones and will enter Paradise. If the bad deeds are heavier, he will be among the losers and will be thrown into Hell.

Having iman (Faith) is the prerequisite for any good act to be considered a ‘good deed’ in Islam and to be rewarded in the Hereafter. Furthermore, iman, as explained in Islam, is in itself, the heaviest among all virtuous deeds, whereas kufr (infidelity) & shirk (polytheism) are the heaviest among all sinful deeds. In the life Hereafter, death will cease to exist. Thus, life in Heaven and Hell will be eternal and infinite. The holy Qur’an mentions the length of Judgment Day to be equal to 50,000 Earth years [70:4]..

The belief in the Day of Judgment and in the concept of the Hereafter, including resurrection, is central to the Islamic belief system.

The concept of the Hereafter and the accountability of deeds, as presented by Islam, make certain that spiritual and moral values are preserved and adhered to by its believers. The fear of painful consequences for criminal behaviour brings crime down and reduces the likelihood of anyone resorting to crime. However, if there is the slight chance that a person could avoid punishment or imprisonment, a criminally minded person tends to commit crime. Since no one can escape from Allah (SWT) and accountability on Judgment Day, good Muslims remain vigiland against violating Allah’s (SWT) commandments.

Man-made laws do not grant a society complete protection against crimes, simply because law enforcement authorities cannot absolutely keep a watchful eye on violators. Man made laws are inherently weak and because of loopholes, they cannot always be enforced, resulting in proper justice not being served. Many inner and hidden crimes committed by people on a daily basis are beyond the scope of man made laws, let alone man’s enforcement and punishment. Sometimes, human rights’ violators are so powerful that they cannot be brought to justice.

However, on Judgment Day, divine justice will be served, and just compensation will be granted to every victim of crime who was deprived of justice. Allah (SWT) is the best of all legislators, and no one can escape from His jurisdiction. His enforcement and His laws are comprehensive, and there are no loopholes in them. Therefore , no one can escape punishment for his or her crimes/sins. Allah is All-Powerful.

On Judgment Day, everyone’s power will be taken away, and no one will be able to prevent Him from delivering proper punishment and due compensation. He is All-Knowledgeable and records every deed; thus, no proof of crime can be inadmissible in His court, Overall, justice will prevail, and whoever did not get or was brought to justice in this life will have it on Judgment day.

On the Day when each one will find, present in front, the goodness earned and the wrongdoings that were done, each one will wish that there were quite a distance between the wrongdoings earned and themselves…[Qur’an 3:30]

Judgment Day is not only to hold people accountable for their deeds in this life, it is also payday for faithful people, Those who were on the right path, suppressed their ill desires for the sake of acquiring the Lord’s pleasure, sacrificed their worldly wishes for the love of the Lord, truly served humanity as per the rules set forth by Allah (SWT), performed all their duties to the Lord and His creatures, and truly observed all of His commandments will be rewarded at this time.

The following are some verses of the holy Qu’an regarding the Day of Judgment and the Hereafter.

“So have you come to think that We created you just for nothing, and that you will not be returned towards Us?” [23:115]

And do not invoke any deity with Allah. There is no deity except Him. All things will be erased except His being. The Command is His, and towards Him will you people be returned. [28:88]

And those who brought faith and their progeny followed behind them with faith, so We joined them to their progeny, and We did not reduce anything from their deeds. Every soul that earned whatever, has full grasp of it. [52:21]

Knowledge of what Allah (SWT), our Creator, has revealed to us regarding accountability causes us to fear, which then makes us do what is right and proper, and this in turn brings success and recognition. Thus, in this case, Islamic knowledge brings fear, fear bring right actions, and ultimately success is achieved. For example, many of us stop our cars at a red light because we fear the law, payment of fines, and points on our license. We fear because of the knowledge of accountability for our actions. Where law enforcement is weak, people do not observe red lights because there is nothing to fear. Certainly, those who stop at red lights and follow other rules because of respect for laws and the wish to protect others, are better citizens, and there is no shortage of them. For others, they truly need fear of accountability to make them law-abiding citizens.

Islam does a wonderful job of placing a great deterrent in the form of Judgement Day, in order to keep people on the right path.

Unfortunately, many Muslims these days are not deterred and have brought much unrest among themselves and others. Muslims will also not escape Allah’s (SWT) justice. Judgment Day will be the day of justice for all and not the day of favours, especially for those who have committed injustice to others. Allah (SWT) states in the holy Qur’an:

“O Faithful Ones! Keep fearing Allah and all are to see what they have sent forth for tomorrow, and fear Allah. Truly Allah is aware of every action you take [59:18]

Has that time not come for them who brought faith that their hearts may yield for Allah for whatever the Truth was revealed to them. And be not like those who were given the Book before, and after much time passed upon them, their hearts became hardened, and many of them are disobedient [57:16]

(They) are in gardens. They will inquire. of the sinners, “What was it that took you to Hell?” They answered, “We were not among the praying ones, did not use to feed the needy, and engaged in profane chat along with immoral jargon, and we used to deny the Day of Judgment, to the point death came upon us.” Now they will not benefit from the intercession of those who are to intercede. [74:40-48]

Some people have difficulty believing that after becoming dust and scattered particles in the earth they will become alive again. They should not forget that Allah (SWT) created us the first time out of nothing; the second time around He will at least have our particles. Creating something for the first time is harder than making it again.

He is our Lord, the All-Powerful. Who possesses unlimited power.He can and will certainly bring us to life again and arrange for the Day of Judgment for justice and retribution. Allah (SWT) reveals:

And he makes examples of Us and forgets his own creation, He asks, “Who will bring the bones to life when they are decomposed?” Answer him, “He will give them life, Who brought them to life in the first place, and He is aware of all life. – Who created for you fire from the green tree, so now you kindle fires for yourself. – Does not the One Who created the heavens and the Earth have the power to create like (a human being again)? Why not: He is the absolute Creator, the All-Knowing. -Whenever He commands something to come into existence, all He says, “Be, ” and it is! – So glory to Him in Whose hand is the absolute right to do what He wills, and towards Him you people will be brought back [Qur’an 36:78:83]

Hundreds of verses of the holy Qur’an warn us to be serious and not overlook this important matter. Allah (SWT) did a great favour and showed kindness in warning us about Judgment Day. He is not cruel nor is He a tyrant. Thousands of signs and prophecies that are coming true prove that Doomsday is approaching. Everything that had a beginning must come to end. If everything were to just end without any purpose, this universal setting would be nothing more than a waste. Such a fine creation with no purpose and no end is absurd. Allah (SWT) does not just create something for no reason.

There is wisdom behind all that is kept “unseen,” which is why there is great reward for believing in the unseen. At the time of death, nothing remains unseen-bringing faith at that moment will be useless and unacceptable. Additionally, admittance of truth on Judgment Day will not bear any fruit.

Heaven is the abode for believers, and Hell is for non-believers. This is the law of the Lord, who is not unjust to anyone. He has nothing to lose or gain from it. He gives us every chance and equips us with every kind of tool and knowledge necessary to choose and make our decisions wisely. Now our fate is in our own hands. Injustice will not come to anyone. After all, each one of us is His creature, and He is our Lord.

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 Alternatively subscribe to our blog!

Obligatory Acts in Islam

In the previous post, we learned the broader meaning of worship in Islam, which is that Muslims must fulfill their duties to Allah(SWT) and to people. Therefore, we now need to know what those obligations under these two categories are. A detailed discussion of these obligations is not necessary, but the following overview will bring about a greater understanding of Islam and of Muslims.

Initially, upon embracing Islam, Muslims declare verbally and recognize from the heart, “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah.” Through this declaration, they enter into a contract with the Lord. They recognize Allah (SWT) as the Lord, the entire concept of tawhid (the Oneness of Allah S.W.T), Muhammad (PBUT) as the Prophet of Allah and as the Seal of Prophet-hood (which is to say that no other prophet of Allah (SWT) will come after him, and that the holy Qur’an is the final word of Allah (SWT). Through this contract, Muslims completely submit their will to the will of Allah (SWT), guarantee that they are not going to disobey Him or insert their own ideas in any way into religious matters, and will follow His commandments.

If Muslims do not totally surrender, then they have not entered into Islam completely. If this is the case, then what can they be considered? Who can tell, and what should one call them: half in, half out; head in, body out; sneaking into Islam: fooling themselves or others or trying to “fool” Alah (SWT) or just hypocritically entering Islam? Regarding this, Allah (SWT) demands in the holy Qur’an:

O faithful believers! Enter into Islam with complete submission and do not follow in the footsteps of Shaytan; undoubtedly, he is for you a manifest enemy. [2:208]

Simply writing one’s initials is not sufficient; one’s complete signature must appear on a contract for it to be valid and enforceable. Upon signing a contract voluntarily and willfully, it is presumed that it will be followed and any breach thereof is dealt with in full force as underlined in the contract. Mistakes here and there may be forgiven, but violations must be cured through appropriate measures. However, completely disregarding a contract renders it null and void, and no benefit can be claimed by the party at fault.

Recently, I have come across terms such as “practicing” and “non-practicing” being used to explain how religious a person is. Even some Muslims are noticed uttering, “We are non-practicing Muslims.” Also it is becoming common for some Muslims to ask each other, “Are you a practicing Muslim?” or “Are you a non-practicing Muslim?” Also, it is becoming common for some Muslims to ask each other, “Are you a practicing Muslim?” or  “Are you a non-practicing Muslim?” or “Are you a not-so practicing Muslim?” Remarks such as “I am not that kind of Muslim” or “Oh, you are that kind of Muslim” have become common. Whatever the reply is, it is said boldly, without any remorse and sometimes with pride.

Let me state very clearly that, Islamically speaking, there are no such terms as a “non-practicing Muslim” or a “not-so practicing Muslim.” One is either Muslim or not; there is nothing in between. However, there are other terms for willful violators in Islam, such as fajir (sinner), fasiq (transgressor), munafiq (hypocrite), and murtad (apostate). Allah (SWT) catergorized people in the Qur’an Himself and revealed:

And some from the general populace say, “We people have come to believe in Allah and the Last Day,” whereas they are not from the believers. They intend to deceive Allah and Muslims, but they do not deceive but themselves and are unaware of it. In their hearts is a disease, so Allah lets them progress in the disease, and for them is a painful torment for they used to lie. [2:8-10]

By intentionally and wilfully declaring the following Cardinal Article of Faith, one becomes a Muslim:

I have faith in Allah; His angels, His holy books, his prophets, the Day of Judgment, (the fact that both) good and bad comes from Allah, and in the resurrection (after death).

I have discussed in detail about Allah (SWT) earlier in this blog.

Angels are Allah’s (SWT) creatures who were created from nur (light) and do not have a nafs (base self). They neither disobey Allah (SWT) nor deviate from their purpose of serving Him. Their purpose in the kingdom of Allah (SWT) is fixed, and they perform accordingly. Their nourishment is the remembrance of Allah (SWT). They do not procreate. It is required for Muslims to have faith in their existence. The most important and exalted angels are Jibrail (Gabriel – A.S), Mekail (Michael- A.S), Izrail (A.S), and Israfil (A.S).

Having faith in the holy books means that Muslims must believe that the Taurat (Torah), Zabur (Pslams), Injil (Gospel) and the holy Qur’an were revealed  by Allah (SWT) to His Prophets and were not written by men.  According to Islam, the Taurat, Zabur, and Injil do not exist in their original form and are no longer valid. Now, only the holy Qur’an remains valid as the guidance from Allah (SWT) for all times to come. The holy Qur’an was discussed briefly earlier in the blog.

To have faith in Allah’s (SWT) prophets means to recognize all of them as chosen men who were sent to guide humankind. As per Islam, Muslims cannot disbelieve in even one of them. They must believe and respect all of them, from Adam (A.S) to Isa (Jesus – A.S) and of course Muhammad (Peace be upon them), the Final Prophet and Seal of Prophet-hood, Muslims must attach proper salutations whenever saying or writing their names, in order to pay utmost respect to them and must have affection in their hearts for them. I discussed the need for and role of prophets earlier in the Blog.

Believing in the Day of Judgement is central to Islam. The matter of accountability, fear of punishment, and expectation of reward, all provide impetus to follow the commandments of Allah (SWT) in this life. Believing in the Day of Judgment and everything that will happen in it brings unique and worthwhile changes to a person’s behaviour. (See the next chapter for more details)

Believing that good and bad comes from Allah (SWT) means that He is All-Powerful, Almighty, and All-Knowing; nobody else brings good to us besides Him, and nobody else can bring misfortune but Him.When good comes to us, it is because of His kindness, blessing, and pleasure. When we suffer from misfortune and come across any pain, although it comes from Him, it is because of our own fault, bad deeds, misbehaviour, crimes, and sins, for which we must pay. In one sense, it is better to receive pain and punishment for unforgiven sins here in this life because punishments and sufferings of this life are only temporary, while the punishment, excruciating pain, and sufferings of the Hereafter are eternal.

The belief that all good and bad comes from Allah (SWT) does not mean that Allah (SWT) has already decided to inflict pain on some and bring pleasure to others. It only means that both good and bad come from Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) is just and never does any injustice.

Having faith in the resurrection means believing in life after death Certainly, without coming back to life, Judgement Day and the concept of accountability to establish punishment or reward are not possible Thus, Muslims must concurrently believe in life after death.

Every now and then, we see dead bodies, either of our own loved ones, friends, and colleagues or of others. In one way or another, when dead bodies are disposed of, it is certainly difficult to understand and believe how a dead body, after it has been buried for so long and turned into dust, ashes, or mixed into earthly soil, can be brought back to life. It is easy to believe that death is some permanent reality, but the fact is that this death is temporary, just like this life of ours on Earth.

Allah (SWT) clarifies in the holy Qur’an that:

Everyone will be tasting death and will be fully given their due only on the Day of Judgement. Whosoever is saved from Hell and is admitted into Heaven certainly becomes successful. And this earthly life is nothing but a deceptive earning. [3:185]

In this sacred verse, only the “tasting” of death is mentioned, and just the “taste” of it does not make it permanent. For Allah (SWT), it is not at all difficult to give life again as He gave it the first time. He can and will give life for the second time.  This is a matter of belief. However, if this process were easily conceivable, believing in it would have been easy as well, and then there would be no reward for having faith in it.

The declaration of Faith brings an individual into the fold of business of rights and duties and the contract between man and Allah (SWT) become effective immediately. Among the duties of  Allahs (SWT) the first and foremost obligation of an adult Muslim is to perform the daily salah (the prayers of worship offered five times a day), the second is to observe saum (fasting during the month of Ramadhan), the third is to give zakah (obligatory charity), and the fourth is the performance of Hajj. These care called the five pillars of Islam, with the Declaration of Faith being the first.

Salah is to be performed five times a day, at prescribed times; it is an obligation of every adult Muslim, as long as he or she remains sane. Adulthood starts at different ages for boys and girls. Boys must start performing their Salah from the age of twelve and girls from approximately the age of nine. Salah should not be missed intentionally, and if missed by chance its qaza (substitute Salah) must be performed as soon as possible. It is important to perform each Salah at its due time. The fajar Salah is before daybreak, Zuhar Salah is at midday, Asr Salah is in the afternoon, Maghrib Salah is immediately after sunset, and the fifth and final obligatory Salah is Isah, which is to be performed in the night, about two hours after sunset.

On the Day of Judgment, the first question asked of Muslims will be about the establishment of salah, According to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them), “Salah distinguishes a believer from a non-believer; it is the shield (that saves Muslims from sin), the key to Heaven, and the pinnacle point at which a slave meets his Master, Allah (SWT)” [Bukhari and Muslim]. Rain or shine, Muslims must perform their salah.

Salah entails physical activity as well as spiritual  nourishment. Establishing it not only fulfills a Muslim’s obligation to Allah (SWT), it also brings inner pleasure and many blessings from Him. During salah, the act of prostration is the closest point to Allah (SWT) and shows utmost humility, which is one of the core purposes of salah. Further more, nearness to Allah (SWT), peace of heart and mind, uplifting of the body, heart, and mind, and many other physical and spiritual benefits are but a few of the bounties of establishing salah.

Hundred of millions of Muslim men and women perform salah every day without any problem, hardship, or disruption in their daily routines of life. Those who intentionally miss salah are not credible. Muslims, regardless of how scholarly, pious, elevated, or spiritual they may seem. According to Islamic sharia (Law), such Muslims are categoriazed fasiq (violator) [Bukhari and Muslim]. They have no right to teach or preach Islam and should never be considered an authority on Islam. How can those who do not first properly learn or practice themselves teach or preach to others?

To observe saum means to fast in Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Ramadhan is an important and blessed month in which there is a night called Lailatul-Qadr (Night of Power). It is widely believed to be the twenty-seventh night of Ramadhan, and it was in this night that Allah (SWT) began to reveal the holy Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them). The reward for praying throughout this night is equivalent to the rewards for praying for a thousand months.

While fasting, Muslims do not eat, drink, inhale other than air, or consume any substance from dawn to dusk. They break their fasts at sunset. The sick and wayfarers are excused from fasting, but they must make up for the days missed, whenever their condition allows them to do so. Those who are weak and cannot fast should feed one hungry person at least two full meals for every day of fasting that they miss.  Intentionally not observing or violating the rules of saum displeases Allah (SWT).

According to a Hadith-e-Qudsi, Allah (SWT) stated, “I Myself am the reward for saum.” Clearly, this is a great blessing that Allah Himself (SWT) becomes its reward. This means that He is very much pleased that the observer has refrained from eating and drinking for His sake and has resisted the pain of hunger all day long just to receive His pleasure and to abide by His rules and commandments. Almost every single adult Muslim throughout the world observes saum in the holy month of Ramadhan. Allah (SWT) reveals:

O faithful believers! Obligatory upon you is fasting, as it was made obligatory upon those before you, that you may now become pious. [Qur’an 2:183]

This verse also informs us that fasting was made obligatory in one form or another, upon earlier nations. According to this verse, the main purpose of fasting is to achieve piety. It is not simply to refrain from food for a certain period and then eat uncontrollably. During fasts, it is necessary to be extra cautious about refraining from sinful acts and to perform acts of worship and other good deeds as much as possible in order to receive abundant blessings. This month is basically the training period for Muslims to achieve piety and to learn how to remain pious throughout the year. If Muslims do not become pious and simply alter their schedules of food intake during Ramadhan, then they have neglected its entire purpose. The training of Ramadhan is lost if throughout the year Muslims do not act as they are supposed to.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of Muslims are celebrating the end of Ramadhan in an un-Islamic fashion that clearly indicates that they did not learn anything during the holy month and did not acquire any level of piety. Islam does not allow celebrating in such a way that violates its basic teachings and that clearly defeats its intended purpose. The blessings and goodness of Ramadhan will stay with those who perform their best during it. As for those who ignore Allah’s (SWT) commandments or indiscriminately  violate them, one can only pray for them to be guided before their time is up.

During fasting, aside from recognizing the pain of starvation, Muslims come to appreciate the value of food and physically feel the pain of poor people who normally never have enough to eat. As humans, we should never take for granted the abundance of food, and we should always be mindful of the less fortunate. The more aware we become of other people’s pains through experiencing the same, the more caring we will be. The more caring we become, the more we will share the bounties of Allah (SWT) with others. The more we share, the more  love there will be in human society, ultimately resulting in real peace and happiness. The means to obtain real peace and harmony are there; we just have to reach out to them.

In the month of Ramadhan, Allah (SWT) is more forgiving and kind. He readily forgives anyone who earnestly repents. He abundantly blesses those who seek His blessings. The reward of a good deed performed in the month of Ramadhan are multiplied seventy times and in some cases seven hundred times.  Throughout the world, Muslims try to reap more reward in Ramadhan by praying abundantly, reciting the holy Qur’an, spending money for the needy, feeding the hungry, and enjoying every single moment of Ramadhan in the true Islamic spirit. Many Muslims even burst into tears when this blessed month comes to end because they fear they may not live to see it the following year. These genuine believers acquire blessings, achieve piety, complete training, and remain faithful throughout the year. Of course, they will also receive the “Reward of Allah (SWT) Himself” on Judgment Day.

Among the other duties of Muslims is to give zakah (the islamic obligatory charity) on their wealth. The rule is that anyone in possession of a certain amount of wealth for a full year is obligated to give 2.5% of its total value as zakah. In the holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) clearly outlines the eight eligible recipients of zakah:

 Charity is (for) the poor and the needy and those employed to collect it and those whose hearts are to be consoled and to emancipate a slave and those in debt and in the way of Allah and the needy wayfarers. These allocations are from Allah and Allah is All-Knowledgeable and All-Wise. [9:60]

This monetary form of duty is incumbent on all able Muslims, in order that Muslims in need can be helped. Since this is a duty of the relatively rich, the rights of those in need are easily and automatically fulfilled. Through the proper distribution of zakah, an entire society can progress easily and prosper. Giving zakah purifies one’s wealth.

When Muslims give zakah willfully, their hearts are cleansed of the love of this material world because the intent is to please Allah (SWT). This proves that they truly believe in Allah (SWT) and in their accountability on Judgment Day. Not only does giving zakah help fellow Muslims, it is a form of worship as well. The Prophets ( Peace be upon them)  stated:

Those Muslims who properly give zakah, never lose their honestly earned wealth; in fact, it is secured and can never be destroyed because  Allah protects it. [Abu Dawud]

The institution of zakah has many inner and spiritual benefits. One of the explicit benefits is that it creates the perfect foundation for a sound economic system.  Zakah benefits every member of a society and leads to relative economic equality. It can be given directly to deserving Muslims (from the categories quoted above) or entrusted to an Islamic government or to any other designated trustee for its proper distribution. Certainly, individual Muslims who personally give zakah fairly and equitably, reap more reward and satisfaction [Muslim].

So far, we have learned about the Islamic acts of worship of daily salah and fasting, which are of physical nature, and of zakah, which has a monetary aspect to it. Now we come to the obligation that comprises both physical and monetary aspects- the Hajj.

Hajj is the sacred pilgrimage to Makkah and is obligatory once in lifetime for Muslims who have the physical and monetary means to do so, provided the route of their travel is peaceful enough to make the journey. Moreover, pilgrims must leave behind enough money and provisions for their family for whom they are legally responsible.

Anyone who is financially able but physically incapable of making he trip can choose another Muslim to fulfill this obligation on his or her behalf and expense. A Muslim woman can only travel to Hajj while accompanied by her husband or a maharam, a man whom she cannot legally marry (e.g., father, son, brother…) [Bukhari].

Hajj takes place in Zul-Hijjah (the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar). Nowadays, about three million Muslims perform Hajj, and this number increases each year.  The experience of Hajj is so unique and full of blessings, spirituality, and inner satisfaction that it cannot be described in words. Pilgrims never wish to leave these holy places; however, they do so with a strong desire to return once again. A Muslim who performs Hajj becomes pure, like a newborn child who has no sins.

Only Muslims are permitted to enter the confines of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Upon watching the Haj pilgrimage through media broadcasts, even non-Muslims witness its uniqueness that reflects the simplicity of Islamic principles and the equality and unity of Muslims.

Aside from the faraidh (obligatory acts) that are to be practiced by all Muslims-jihad, acquisitions of the knowledge of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), joining funeral processions of Muslims, and a’tikaf (Worshiping in seclusion in the last ten days of Ramadhan) are obligatory acts the performance of which by only a few relieves the rest of the Muslim community from fulfilling them. However, if no one performs these obligations, then the entire community become sinful. These obligations are known as Fardh-e-Kifayah. There is great reward for those who take on the responsibility of fulfilling them and for relieving their community.  Besides the faraidh there are many other acts classified in this way:

  • Wajib-obligatory, slightly distinguished from fardh, which are more obligatory
  • Sunah-tradition of the Prophet
  • Mustahab-recommended
  • Nafil- supererogatory (more than what is required)
  • Mubah – neither prohibited nor obligatory
  • Makruh- unbecoming/disgusting (not unlawful, but disapproved of )
  • Haram- prohibited (abstaining is obligatory)

After performing the obligatory acts, Muslims who engage in nafil acts become closer to Allah (SWT) and receive abundant blessings. They, as a result, are endowed with wisdom and spirituality. Through-out the holy Qur’an and ahadith, Muslims ae commanded to practice other good deeds as well; some of which are presented below.

O faithful believers! Enter into Islam completely… [2:208]

O faithful believers! Spend in the way of Allah out of what He has provided for you..[2:254]

O faithful believers! Do not waste your charities by boasting (about)favours and by inflicting pain, like those who spend their wealth to show off to others…[2:264]

O faithful believers! Give from the pure wealth you have earned and that which We took out for you from the Earth, and do not intend to give from what is worthless, which if given to you, you would not accept… [2:267]

O faithful believers! Fear Allah as He ought to be feared, and do not die except in a state that you people are Muslim. And strongly grasp the rope of Allah all together, and be not divided…[3:102-103]

O those who brought faith! Do not consume one another’s wealth unlawfully…[4:29]

O those who brought faith! Stand firmly for justice while testifying, for the sake of Allah, even if it be against yourselves or your parents and immediate relatives…[4:135]

O those who brought faith! Fulfill your covenants…[5:1]

O those who brought faith! Stand firmly as witnesses of justice for the sake of Allah. And let not the enmity of a nation excite you to forego justice, so do justice…[5:8]

O those who brought faith! Whoever among you becomes an apostate in the deen (religion). so Allah shall soon bring forth a people making them His beloved, and they too shall love Allah…[5:54]

O faithful believers! Do not take (as friends) those who have made your religion a mockery…[5:57]

O those who brought faith! Alcohol and gambling and idols and divining are in fact impure works of Satan, so protect (yourself) from them, to acquire success…[5:90]

Those who brought faith and did not mix their faith with evil, for them is peace, and they are the rightly guided…[6:82]

(O Prophet) say that shameless acts have been forbidden by our Lord, those that are visible and hidden, and sins and unjust oppression…[7:33]

O those who brought faith! Fear Allah, and be with the truthful ones. [9:119]

O faithful believers! Do not attach  (yourselves) to the feet of Satan, and he who attaches to the feet of Satan, so undoubtedly he (Satan) commands (them to do) shamelessness and evil doings…[24:21]

O Muslims! Do not go into houses other than your own houses, unless you have asked for permission and greeted the residents with salam (greeting of “Peace”). This is better for you, if you think. [24:27]

O faithful believers! Remember Allah with much remembrance. And glorify Him, morning and evening. [33:41- 42]

O faithful believers! Fear Allah, and speak the most righteous speech [33:70]

O faithful believers! If some transgressor brings to you any news, verify it thoroughly, so that you inflict hardship upon any people unknowingly and are left regretful for what you have don. [49-6]

O faithful believers! Men may not make fun of other men; it is highly possible that they are better than those who make fun. And women may not make fun of women; it is highly possible that they are better than those who make fun…[49-11]

O faithful believers! Do not be goo suspicious, certainly some suspicions are sinful, and do not seek fault, and do not backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother?… [49:12]

O faithful believers! Keep fearing Allah, and everyone should look at what they sent forth for tomorrow…[59:18]

O faithful believers! Why do you say that which you do not do yourself? It is extremely unpleasant to Allah that you say what you do not do yourself. [61:2-3]

O faithful believers! Let not your wealth and your children keep you from the remembrance of Allah. And those who do so, they are the losers. [63:9]

O faithful believers! Save yourselves and your families from that fire, the fuel of which are men and stones….[66:6]

O faithful believers! Repent while facing Allah, a solid repentance. It may be that your Lord will eliminate your sins and admit you into the Gardens..[66:8]

Last, but not least:

And those who brought faith and did good deeds- We do not even give a command except for what is bearable-these are people of Paradise wherein they shall eternally live. [7:42]

What does Islam want Muslims to become?

Allah (SWT) crowned humans as the “Best of all Creatures.” He wants us to become worthy of this status. He provided the necessary tools and knowledge in the form of a manual called the holy Qur’an and through the perfect embodiment of it. i.e., the Prophet (Peace be upon them),so we can easily achieve our goal. Allah (SWT) did His part, and now if we choose to enter into the “contract” and submit our will to the will of Allah (SWT) we must do our part.

Allah (SWT) wants a believer to carve out the sculpture of a momin (believer) from the chunk of meat called ‘human.’ When a human successfully carves himself into a true believer, he achieves the true purpose of life, and only then is he worthy of being called the “Best of all Creatures.” He finally becomes a reflection of Allah’s image, in which he was created. Allah (SWT) has provided the necessary tools and knowledge, just as a sculpture is required to have the proper tools and knowledge in order to carve out a beautiful sculpture from a chunk of stone or wood. Moreover, the believer does not have to begin the carving process from scratch; a complete model and example in the form of Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon them) life is already present, thus making his job easy.

By believing in the Oneness of Allah (SWT), a Muslim saves himself from divergent thoughts and beings to focus on the ultimate reality. His concentration becomes fixated and begins to revolve around the one and fixed center. Through performing daily salah, he equips himself with humility, meekness, and modesty.  Through fasting, he becomes content with his life, grateful for Allah’s (SWT) bounties, mindful of the less fortunate, and caring and sharing towards everyone. He learns to control his desires, strengthen his body, and nourish his soul. He lives a monastic life without ever leaving the state of society. He builds resistance and endurance and becomes able to live under harsh circumstances.

Through giving zakah, he purifies his heart from the love of material wealth. He prevents himself from becoming greedy and from miserliness. He frees himself from the enslavement of this world and strengthens his belief in the fact that actual wealth is the rewards of the Hereafter. By performing Hajj, he realizes that he is not different from others and that his money and he himself are from Allah’s (SWT) sake. He aims for Allah’s (SWT) nearness and pleasure. He genuinely pursues ultimate success and gives himself up to the exclusive service of Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (Peace be upon them).

Through executing the different types of jihad, he saves himself and protects others from the evils of men and Satan, thereby establishing peace and justice for all. He perfects his inner self through continuous introspection. He strives for the success of other fellow human beings which is more important for him in the court of Allah (SWT) than his energies, time, wealth, and even his worldly life. Thus, he becomes a true friend of humanity and the torchbearer of its success.

Through forgiveness and humility, he removes arrogance and pride. Through patience, he builds endurance. Through belief, trust and confidence in Allah (SWT), he achieves rectitude  and uprightness. Through gratefulness, he becomes mindful of Allah’s (SWT) bounties and others’ favors to him. Through controlling his anger, ill desires, and sexual urges, he saves himself from falling below the status of brutes. Through simplicity, he saves himself from competing with others and avoids the enslavement of society,thereby acquiring the true taste of life. Through fulfilling promises, abiding by contracts, and keeping trust, he earns respect and trustworthiness and becomes dignified.

Through fulfilling the rights of others, being just and removing injustices, standing along with the truthful ones, and condemning cruelty, oppression, tyranny, and those who practice such, he earns a higher status in society and becomes its savior. By being sympathetic kind, helpful, merciful, affectionate, and respectful, he draws the love of people and becomes dear to them. Ultimatley, by excelling in and committing good deeds, he becomes dearer and close to Allah (SWT).

When people look at this momin (believer), the delicately carved out sculpture, and embodiment of superior characteristics, they distinguish him from the other chunks of meat. They immediately become attracted to him, begin to imitate him, offer their loyalty to him, and wish to follow his example. He becomes their leader and begins to rule over their hearts, rather than their physical beings.

For a man to become a momin is his true purpose in life for which he was created. A momin is the vicegerent of Allah (SWT) on earth, as  referred  to in the holy Qur’an. He acquires Allah’s (SWT) pleasure and is ultimately placed on the exalted station in the Hereafter. Through Islam, this is what Allah (SWT) wants us to become.

Now, you may astonishingly ask, do Muslims really do all of this? Well, what can I say here other than that this blog is not about Muslims; it is about Islam? So after reading it, you can decide for yourself. I can only say that, through my personal experience, hundreds of millions of Muslims follow their religion of Islam to the best of their knowledge, belief, and ability. Allah (SWT) will only judge them according to their intent and capabilities. Of course, there are “black sheep” everywhere. Among Muslims, they are those who not only clearly violate Islamic principles and collide head-on with the commandments of the holy Qur’an, but also deface Islam and manipulate its true picture for personal and political reasons. Such hypocrites do this in the name of moderation, revivalism, fundamentalism or this or that -ism.

The presence and behaviour of these black sheep, hypocrites, fasiqs (transgressors) and fajirs (sinners) at every level of society should not be a justification for others not to practice Islam or to reject it. To some extent, I can understand “Muslimophobia,” because of some bad elements among self-proclaimed Muslims, but I am not confident that there is no justification for “Islamophobia.” Once the true understanding of Islam and its principles is acquired, only then can related matters be judged accordingly.

One unique aspect of Islam is that everyone will be held responsible and questioned on Judgment Day for their deeds and for any harm they may have caused. No one will be held responsible for anyone else or will be able to get away with blaming others for personal decisions and choices. May Allah (SWT) bless us 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 Alternatively subscribe to our blog!

Worship and its Broader Meaning in Islam

Humans are created with an innate desire to worship, making them naturally inclined to seek a higher authority whom they can worship. This built-in desire and natural urge to worship a higher authority require them to inquire into and know who that being could be or actually is.

Whichever higher authority people, individually or collectively, settle on to worship naturally brings some sort of mental and/or physical satisfaction, and it somewhat fulfills that inherent desire. However, we keep ourselves busy in fulfilling other personal needs and wants and often suppress that innate desire to worship. In our search, we often fail short of seeking and understanding who this higher being is or should be and how we can truly worship to fulfill this inner desire.

We not only seek to satisfy this need of worshiping, but through it seek the pleasure of that higher being and try to build a connection to acquire protection, assistance, favor, and security. Without being certain who this higher being is from whom we can draw these blessings, our worship will be misguided, fruitless, and unproductive, and will not bring any satisfaction to us. Therefore  we must first and foremost, know who that higher being is.

Through the passage of time and as the human intellect progressed people came to realize and believe that there is one single Being, Who is the Creator, the All Controlling, the Almighty, the All-Powerful. Our knowledge, understanding and common sense have brought us to the conclusion that there can only be, and in fact there is, one Supreme Being.

Whether we are religious or not, we believe that there is an Almighty Lord, Whom some call God and some call Allah (SWT). Religion strengthens our belief in Him and gives direction, a path to reach Him. Muslims believe in one Lord Allah (SWT), and others call Him by other names. Whatever the case may be, since we have come to believe in one Lord, then the questions that follow are -how are we to worship Him,fulfill our innate desire, and acquire His pleasure? Who decides what the process of worship should be? How can we strengthen our relationship with Him?

In all honesty, if we do not know what pleases them and what may upset them, it is difficult to strengthen relationships even with our own friends, families, and colleagues. Similarly, if we do not know what pleases Allah/God, then how can we go about pleasing Him and refraining from displeasing Him? Thus, to assure the pleasure of others, it is a prerequisite to find out, know, and be certain about their likes and dislikes before assuming anything on our own.

Every religion has some sort of religious practices and rituals for its followers, through which they can satisfy their inner desire and build connections to the one true Lord. It sets rules, times, and holy places for its followers who gradually become attuned to its way and purpose. Some find satisfaction through it and continue  their practices. Others do not and thus feel no reason to continue practicing.

Today, most religions have become limited to rituals and are confined to places of worship. Many see religion as just a part of life, like any other, that barely governs over any facet of their secular lives. Its followers simply live their lives according to the prevailing norms of society and believe religion has no say in them. This may either be because the religion does not provide guidelines for secular matters or because the followers are not fully aware of its teachings. Another reason may be that they simply do not want religion to interfere in their secular lives (Outside the place of worship). For them, their religion plays a minimal role in their lives and is usually set aside for special occasions or holy days. Thus, the line drawn between the religious and the secular becomes quite distinctive.

However, Islam is the complete way of life. It provides guidance for every facet of life and is not and cannot be limited to a place of worship. It does  let its followers wander outside its system or place of worship. Islam provides for and governs the entire life of its followers, from the cradle to the grave and, spiritually speaking, from the womb to the tomb, and even beyond. This is why Islam is not just a religion,but a deen ( complete way of life) prescribed by Allah. Worship in Islam is not limited to masjid (place of worship) or set aside for special times, days, or occasions. Rather, worship in Islam plays a greater role in the life of a Muslim and has a broader meaning.

Since Islamic acts and everything included in the entire process of worship are not man made, but revealed and prescribed by the Almighty Himself, they provide complete fulfillment and satisfaction to our natural desires. When Muslims abide by every commandment and fulfill every obligation, they acquire complete peace, harmony, and fulfillment. They successfully build a strong connection to Allah (SWT). By this, Muslims do not try to please the Lord through their own way. and understanding, but through divine rules set forth by the Almighty Himself.

Thus, they acquire Allah’s (SWT) pleasure, a contented life in this world, and finally ultimate success in the Hereafter.

Every rule and activity in Islam are interconnected to the actual purpose of human life,’ which is to seek Allah’s pleasure and to prepare for the life in the Hereafter. In Islam, worship and what it entails encompass the entire idea of human life. Whether an act is religious or secular, obligatory or voluntary, directly related to the Lord or to His creatures, a physical act or just a mental thought, a moral act or a matter of business – whatever Muslims do with the pure intent to seek Allah’s (SWT) pleasure becomes worship. The actions of Muslims who mean well and intend to do good turn into constant worship, and they receive reward from Allah (SWT) for everything they do.

As mentioned earlier, Allah (SWT) reveals in the holy Qur’an

And i did not create jinn and man, but to worship Me [51:56]

This holy verse reveals that the purpose of our lives is to worship Allah (SWT). If worship, as commonly understood, were limited to the confines of a place of worship, would we all just be able to sit there our entire lives and worship because it is the purpose of life? Who would do all the other necessary chores of our lives? Clearly, Allah (SWT) must have meant worship of Him to have a broader meaning so that we could simultaneously carry on other necessary activities and acquire Allah’s (SWT) pleasure through them. This is precisely the broader meaning of worship in Islam, for which Allah (SWT) created us. Islam turns man’s every action into an act of worship when it is performed in accordance with Islam.

Humans are called abd in the Qur’an, and Allah (SWT) is our Ma’bood. ‘Abd means slave, and Ma’bood means that Which this ‘abd worships. Thus, the relationship of man to Allah (SWT) is like the relationship between a slave and master. Upon recognizing Allah as our Master, We must keep this relationship in good standing and never cross over it boundaries or break it in any way. It is imperative to establish this relationship of ‘abd and Ma’bood and to embrace the fact that Allah is our Master and we are His slaves. By fulfilling every duty set forth by Him, we keep this relationship in good standing. Through love, loyalty, and performing other good deeds in addition to the required obligations, we strengthen our relationship to Him.

We must prove our relationship to Him by defeating every force of evil within ( nafs, i.e., one’s base self, and Satan) and outside (the material world) us, especially when our faith is put to the test. We must never cross the limits of this relationship by violating His commandments, breaching the contract of ‘abd and Ma’bood,overlooking the duties set forth by Him, abrogating the rights of or inflicting pain on others, stepping out of the boundaries clearly defined by Him, neglecting the rules of conduct set forth by the holy Prophet (Peace be upon them), or through any other way.

In short, every mental and /or physical effort we make to remain within the limits of this relationship of ‘abd and Ma’bood, Islam considers and rewards as part of worshiping Allah(SWT). Fulfilling the rights of Allah (SWT) and the rights of our fellow human beings are all part of the broader concept and meaning of worship in Islam. Allah (SWT) considers every human action as worshiping Him if it is executed with the intend of pleasing Him, whether it is an act of direct worship or executed for His creatures. Where else do we find such a generous and gracious Lord? Allah (SWT) accepts our positive interactions and the good we do to others are being worship of Him and rewards us fro them. Even those acts of direct worship that we do for Him that fulfill His rights do not bring any benefit to Him; rather, they benefit our own self, body, mind, and soul. He rewards us for those acts just because we followed, His commandments with the intent to please Him and for maintaining the relationship between ‘abd and Ma’bood.

Islam places two types of duties on its followers so they may fulfill the greater purpose for which they were created. Muslims are to fulfill Huquq-ul-Allah (the rights of Allah SWT) and Huquq-ul-Ibad (the rights of people). They must perform every duty before they can hope to acquire the pleasure of Allah (SWT) and ultimate success. Fulfilling these rights and performing all related duties becomes, therefore, the ‘broader meaning of worship’ in Islam.


Rights and Duties 

Islam does not emphasize demanding rights any more than it demands and prepares its adherents to fulfill their duties. There is much difference in the outcomes for demanding rights and the demand for performing duties.  The demand to perform duties creates a different kind of society, where its social and moral outlook and the mentality of citizens are uniquely different.

By instilling the sense of fulfilling duties, Islam intends to make its followers sincere and responsible. In contrast, the sense of covering rights may make people demanding and perhaps even dissatisfied. Islam promotes the ideas of fulfilling duties first and to be content and patient. Only secondarily does Islam allow individuals to press for rights, especially if and when they are purposely denied. This does not mean that people should become cowards and never ask for their rights. In fact, this only means that Islam emphasizes the fulfillment of duties more than it does the demand for rights. Certainly, as people fulfill their duties to others, everyone receives what is theirs rightfully.Nevertheless, Islam provides all means to claim one’s right and to struggle against oppressors and their oppression.

When every member of a Muslim society voluntarily and willingly fulfills his or her duty to Allah (SWT) and to others, the government will play only a limited role in that society. However, if rights are fulfilled only through continuous demand, then the government must become a comprehensive overseer and make sure people’s rights are being respected. In Islam, voluntarily fulfilling the rights of others with the intent to please Allah (SWT) turns every act into a good deed, whereas fulfilling other peoples’ rights unwillingly does not bear the quality of fruit designated for the successful ones. Therefore, Islam emphasizes fulfilling duties more than demanding rights.

Islam wants its followers to be ever mindful of Judgment Day, when Allah will deliver His justice according to individual’s performance. The more willingly and humbly we perform our duties, the more love and harmony develop in society, and the more peace and happiness prevail. In contrast, constantly and selfishly demanding rights, even lawfully, gradually makes people arrogant, unhappy, and self-centered, thereby distancing themselves from others and increasing the likelihood of being lonely and depressed. Thus, one may feel and become lonely even among a crowd of millions. Law is cold, and love is warm. Relationships base on love are everlasting and abundantly fruitful.

Everyone is supposed to fulfill prescribed duties on the basis of their individual circumstances, capacity, and capability. On Judgment Day, Allah (SWT) will hold an individual accountable according to his or her capabilities. No one will answer for others or be responsible for them, unless their responsibilities overlapped. The Qur’an reveals;

Allah does not burden any soul with more that it can bear….[ 2:286]

Rights of Allah (SWT)

The rights of Allah (SWT) include, but are not limited to, the following. We must:

  • Have unshakeable faith, recognize tawhid ( the Oneness of Allah -SWT), and never commit shirk (polytheism).
  • Recognise Allah (SWT) as the Lord and recognize all of His attributes.
  • Worship no one but Allah (SWT).
  • Submit our will to the will of Allah (SWT).
  • Engage in constant remembrance of Allah (SWT).
  • Fear Allah’s (SWT) wrath.
  • Glorify  Allah’s (SWT) majesty and sublimity.
  • Invoke Allah (SWT) in our supplications
  • Never call upon anyone besides Allah (SWT) to seek repentance.

Worshiping Allah (SWT) means paying utmost homage to Him, expressing the deepest humility and gratitude to Him, completely submitting to Him, bowing down to Him in recognition of His greatness and glory, continuously remembering Him, and following His commandments. We must take every step towards acquiring his pleasure, especially through spending our wealth, time, and energy. In this process of worship, some practices are made obligatory/ compulsory – such as, for example, the five pillars of Islam- and others are categorized as desirable and voluntary. These duties must be performed on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis or once in a lifetime, as prescribed.

Some of these duties  require physical acts, some require spending of money, and some require both. A follower can perform these duties individually and/or collectively, privately and/or publicly, in a masjid (mosque) or outside of it. Islam clearly outlines rewards for performing these duties and punishments for not fulfilling them. Let me remind you that these actions and fulfillment of duties do not bring any benefit to Allah (SWT),but to the worshiper. Punctually following His rules brings success both here and in the Hereafter.

Rights of People

The second duty is to fulfill the rights of people. In the Qur’an and sunnah, Muslims are warned repeatedly that they will earn the wrath of Allah for violating the rights of others. [Bukhari] On the Day of Judgment, Allah (SWT) will not forgive these violations; instead, the violators will first have to seek forgiveness from their victims in order to receive  Allah’s pardon [Bukhari].In many cases violators will have to forfeit their good deeds to their victims, resulting in depletion of good deeds from their roster [Bukhari].  They may have many good deeds, but because of not fulfilling or abrogating the rights of others, they may end up in Hell, until their punishment is complete.

In the court of Allah (SWT), victims will have the authority to forgive their oppressor and my choose not to take any good deeds as compensation from them. On Judgement Day, when everyone will be looking for salvation and be in need of good deeds, only some will be generous enough to forgive those who inflicted pain on them for nothing in return. These days, when no one lets anyone go free, how can one expect that anybody will let anyone go free at that crucial juncture?

In many cases, Allah may forgive the shortcomings and deficiencies in our duties to Him and may forgive our sins, except the sins of kufr (infidelity) and shirk (polytheism). The main purpose of Judgement Day is to bring justice to the oppressed who suffered at the hands of others and to punish the criminals, sinners, and violators. The obligation fulfilling the rights of people has priority over many matters and is central to the Islamic philosophy of the broader meaning of worship. People to whom duties must be fulfilled include parents, spouses, children, siblings, paternal/maternal relatives, neighbors, wayfarers, distant relatives, friends and co-workers, employers and employees, dependents, especially those whose needs you can fulfill, people entrusted to you, orphans, widows, the elderly and disabled, refugees, the poverty-stricken, the sick, and non-Muslims living under Islamic governments. Islam even obligates Muslims to fulfill the rights of animals.

It is said that, “Heaven is at a mother’s feet.” Thus, by serving her fully, Muslims can earn Heaven easily. A mother deserves her children’s love, respect, care, and assistance because she bore them, endured labor pains,sacrificed many nights of her sleep to keep them warm and well, and much more.

Allah’s pleasure is assured when Muslims serve their fathers well. Fathers work selflessly to raise their children, earn lawful wages, and toil hard to train their children in the best manner and to be fit for society. Thus, the success of children depends on their father’s hard work and sacrifice. According to the Prophet (PBUT), when a father gets two of his daughters married, he is rewarded with Paradise. [Mishkat]

Parents are promised an exalted status in Heaven if they raise their children to be true and sincere Muslims and properly equip them with necessary tools to be protected from Hellfire. Allah directly commands in the holy Qur’an:

O you who believe! Guard yourselves and your families against the fire, the fuel of which are men and stones….[66:6]

Moreover, loyal sincere wife who performs her duties to her husband is guaranteed Paradise. A husband is granted abundant rewards for being trustworthy and just to his wife and for caring for her and fulfilling her needs. A husband and a wife are made for each other, and they must fulfill each other’s rights.

The wrath of Allah (SWT) is removed from those who give to people in need for the sake of pleasing Allah (SWT), and these givers are blessed. Great are the rewards for those Muslims who fulfil their duties to others without discriminating and without selfish reasons. No single deed, however insignificant, will go unaccounted. [Qur’an 99:7-8].

From performing daily prayers to offering a glass of water to the thirsty, from erecting a masjid (mosque) to feeding the Hungary, from leading a country with honesty and justice to providing shelter to orphans, from giving millions in charity to the charity of just a smile,all are part of the broader concept of worship in Islam. Where else can we find such a Lord Who guides people’ interactions with each other and rewards them as being worship of Him? Nowhere! Allah (SWT) is the Lord of us all, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

Spirituality in Islam

Human beings consist of body and soul. The soul alone cannot be referred to as human, and the body without the soul is a dead body that has a place not on earth, but rather beneath it. Islam provides for both, the body and soul. Its teachings fulfill the requirements of the body and teach us how to uplift spiritually. for example, food nourishes the body, and constant and unceasing remembrance of Allah (SWT) nourishes the soul.

As per the principles of Islamic spirituality, the soul, while living in the body, tries to acquire nearness to Allah (SWT). The aim of Islamic spirituality is to seek complete purification of the soul and of the inner self and to try to submerge with the Supreme Source [Kashful Mahjoob]. However, in no way is the seeker permitted to leave the bondage of this life and the duties attached to it, until death comes to the body. In other words the seekers of spirituality-sages saints, and mystics-live in this world but do not let the world live in them. Their famous sayings and teachings are true reflections of Islamic spirituality. For example, they say, “Let the boat be on the water, and let not water be in the boat,” and “Let the heart live in the world, and let not the world live in the heart.” During their lives, they keep their hearts empty of worldly desires and purify themselves to receive divine reflections of the Supreme Being and the light of ultimate truth. They acquire the higher state of nearness to the Almighty and enjoy the true taste of existence and of life.

Islamic spirituality does not permit seekers to renege on worldly obligations, even when they have attained the pleasure of and nearness to Allah (SWT). They just have to exclude this world from their heart and keep Allah’s ( SWT) remembrance in their hearts, while living among people and performing all the duties of this life. Islam gives new meaning to monasticism, one with which the world was not previously familiar.

If you decide  to live in a cave or on a mountain peak, separating yourself from the world, but are negligent of the Lord, then according to Islam you are not living a monastic life and will not acquire spirituality. On the other hand, if you live in society, take care of your worldly responsibilities, fulfill you duties to others, and are not inattentive to Allah (SWT), even through you are not physically separate from the world, you are living a monastic life and can acquire spirituality.

Furthermore, the meaning of the monastic life that Islam presents is the most applicable, practical, suitable, and fitting for human nature. By not separating its followers from the physical world, Islam reminds and reiterates that the world is created for humans and that humans are not created for this world, but for Allah (SWT). They should utilize the wold and its bounties as prescribed by Islam and work to attain spirituality. Islam does not allow its followers completely suppress natural desires and needs for any reason.

To summarize, a human being is the embodiment of both animalistic needs and spiritual qualities. Islam does not advocated for complete suppression of our needs and instincts in order to acquire spiritual uplifting. We must fulfill both needs to obtain the higher and illuminated state for our soul.

From where do true Muslims draw Energy?

It is difficult for a person to live a life of utmost piety, refrain from every harmful act, and attain spiritual advancement. In other words, it is hard to swim in water and not get wet, to play with fire and not be burned, and to pass through the filth of this world and come out clean on the other side. Repelling worldly desires requires lots of courage and energy, patience to persevere, endurance to remain steadfast, and lots of hard work to maintain piety. The reward for this challenge and spiritual advancement is so fruitful and deeply satisfying and the acquisition of divine energy is so immense that man must do what is necessary to achieve it.

Faithful Muslims remember Allah (SWT) with every beat of their hearts and try to imitate every action of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon them). They mold their lives according to Allah’s (SWT) will and build their character through continuously replicating the model presented by the Prophet (Peace be upon them). Even though they live among people, deep down in their hearts and mental states, they are always present in the company of the Almighty and of His Prophet (Peace be upon them). They draw unique pleasure from this spiritual company and acquire the true state of everlasting peace and happiness, which is only felt by them and which cannot be described in words.

Faithful Muslims continuously receive spiritual pleasure and happiness by being in the company of the Lord spiritually and by living among people physically. They are not affected by the pain or oppression inflicted upon them. They are full of energy and are always willing to do whatever is necessary to maintain this spiritual state and strong connection with their Master. They sacrifice their wants and do not wish for any worldly material that may affect this state. They punctually fulfill every duty and do not do anything that may dis-please Allah (SWT), nor do they disobey Him in any way. They never deviate from the straight path and never become hypocrites. Most importantly, out of humility, they never disclose their elevated state of spirituality.

by truly following the Qur’an and sunnah, they prove that they have attained the purpose for which they were created, thus becoming the embodiment of the broader meaning of the worship. At such a purified state, they are the only people living the true life on Earth, while others just exist.

Please note that I just spoke of those mominin (the faithful ones)who truly comprehend the broader meaning of worship in Islam and have applied it to their lives. I am not taking about the saints of Islam, whose state of being is  so much more exalted, as are their achievements, pleasures, happiness, and rewards. Certainly, their duties and obligations are far greater as well.



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 Alternatively subscribe to our blog!

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!


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