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!

The Need and Role of Prophets.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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