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!

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!

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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