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The Hand Book of Islam-1

The book is not meant for scholars and jurists; it is for non Muslims and those Muslims who want to properly understand their faith,  The Islam as preached and practiced by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the light of Qur’an.

The books is very strongly recommended to be read by every Muslim, should also to be taught/read in all the education institutions, establishments and organizations to build the strong foundation of faith of [Ayman], to eliminate ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, sectarianism and violence. This will pave the way for establishment of an appropriately integrated peaceful progressive Islamic society, a role model for ethical and spiritual peace for the humanity.

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The Hand Book of Islam-1

Source: Ta’rif-e-Aam bi-Din-il-IslamBy: Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi

Translated from Arabic to Urdu by Syed Shabbir Ahmad,

In English by Prof.Raja F.M.Majed,

Book URL: http://faithforum4peace.googlegroups.com/web/005-e-Book-Islam-introduction.pdf?gda=GastA1YAAADArLbWJTfG5xoQrnCOdcwIJgQUxWHFNad1PlQbGDZ2g9piaxL4w6ljCMw9Or5E0qbBYhzvPmAi8zj4OOeoUASYMrYifh3RmGHD4v9PaZfDexf3Vt-Lj-lQjUuHRnd2bV8

Faith Forum 4 Peace; is a virtual intellectual Forum, managed by Brig (R) Aftab Khan, MA, MBA, for ethical and spiritual peace, through conceptual insight to Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the light of Holy Scriptures. The Forum is open to  all the rational people. Books and articles are availabvle at following web links:

https://faithforum.wordpress.com , http://endeavour-peace.page.tl

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E Mail: faithforum@live.com , endeavour.peace@gmail.com

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Free e-Books, Articles – Islam Christianity, Judaism By: Brig Aftab Ahmad Khan

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Clear Misconceptions

What is NOT demanded by Islam!

  • Islam does not demand form a Muslim to give up the world altogether.
  • It does not expect Muslims to be ignorant, lacking in knowledge of their faith and other branches of knowledge.
  • Nor does it require one to make the mosque a permanent abode, never to leave it.
  • Islam also does not insist that one should live in a cave and spend his whole life there —- Not at all.

Islam EXPECTS from the Muslims!

  • To inhere in their best civilization and matchless culture in a manner that they surpass all the civilized nations of the world.
  • They should be the most prosperous of all as far as the different branches of knowledge are concerned.
  • Do not use coercion against non Muslims for conversion to Islam.
  • Invite the humanity towards Islam, by conveying the message with wisdom, peacefully, in a logical and convincing way. They should argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.
  • To use the right of retaliation to any injustice or oppression with equality, not exceeding the limits forgiveness and patience is however preferable.
  • Not to kill the innocent people of any faith (including own self, through suicide) except by law, they don’t have to create mischief on earth by creating anarchy or disturbing the peaceful coexistence.
  • Warfare against injustice and oppression and self defence is permissible, to be declared by the Islamic State but the rules lay down for its conduct by Shari’a (Islamic Law) be strictly adhered to. Those who surrender or do not fight or remain neutral are not to be disturbed. The prisoners are to protected and provided peace and security.
  • To fulfill all bilateral and international accords (like UN Charter) for peace and stability of humanity.
  • To treat all members of society with equality fairness and justice.
  • Non Muslims in the Islamic society enjoy complete protections and freedom to practice their faith. The places of worship of other religions are to be protected.
  • Do not abuse or degrade the god/ gods of non Muslims.

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CHAPTER – 1

CHOOSING A COURSE

Imagine that you are travelling alone on a road which eventually divides into two: one track is bumpy and difficult, while the other is a smooth and comfortable path, sloping down to a plain. The first road is uneven, rocky and full of thorny bushes and hidden dangers. It is also steep and hard going. However, the authorities have put up a notice at the beginning of the track which reads: Even though this road may initially seem difficult, it will eventually lead you to your destination. As for the second road, it is well-paved and both sides are lined with fruit trees and flowers, and there are plenty of cafes and places of entertainment. The traveller on this road will find everything he needs to satisfy his senses. But the notice at the beginning of this road warns: This is a dangerous and destructive road. it leads to a chasm and certain death. Which of the two paths would you choose to take? More often than not, human nature opts for the easy way because it seems effortless, enjoyable and does not involve any suffering. It prefers logo its own way and to free itself of all commitments and responsibility. God has created this human instinct, and everyone, if left to himself, would follow the second path. However, the human mind intervenes at the junction of these two roads and applies the brakes. It urges Man to reflect and weigh up his options. Will he choose to enjoy short-lived pleasure followed by unremitting pain, or a brief and temporary period of pain, followed by eternal bliss and joy? Eventually he will choose to take the first road.

These examples illustrate the comparison between heaven and hell. The way to hell is full of pleasures enjoyed by the human heart: temptations such as seductive beauty, sensuous pleasure and wealth, derived no matter from what source, and the kind of material pleasure sought after by so many. Besides this, unlimited freedom of action and renouncement of all forms of control are also experienced on this path, as human beings tend to crave this kind of freedom from all forms of restraint. The path to paradise is certainly no bed of roses. One has to face untold hardships and suffering and to abide by many restrictions and the desire to resist the cravings of the heart. However, whereas the consequence of indulging in what are the temporary pleasures of life lead to constant suffering in hell, the reward for following the more difficult path is eternal joy and pleasure in the life hereafter. It’s rather like a student on the eve of his exams. He is reluctant to leave his family who are watching television, but he has to get on with his revision. However, after this temporary displeasure, he will enjoy the fruits of his success. ‘Another example would be the case of a sick man who has to ‘give up certain delicious foods. His reward is that he will regain his health. God has set the two paths before us and He has created the -faculty within us to enable us to distinguish between the two so ‘that everyone, regardless of his or her educational background, has the ability to discriminate between good and evil. This means that in the same way as when we do something good we feel a sense of relief as we have a clear conscience, we equally feel upset when we do something wrong. This faculty is not restricted to human beings; animals have it too. For example, if you throw a piece of meat to a cat he will eat it in front of you in a perfectly relaxed way. But if he snatches the meat from you he will run off to a comer and gobble it up on his own so that you won’t see him and grab the meat back! So we can see from this example that in the first instance the cat’s conscience is clear because he feels the meat has been given to him, whereas in the second example his reaction shows he knows instinctively that he has acted aggressively. In other words, he has distinguished between right and wrong, and what is ‘lawful’ and what is ‘prohibited’. A dog too will come and lick his master when he has done something good as if he is asking him for a reward. But when he misbehaves the dog looks sheepish, as if he regrets what he has done or expects to be punished. This is the interpretation of the verse in the Holy Qur’an which says: Have We not shown him the two paths (of good and evil)? (Qur’an;90:80).

God has appointed certain men to preach to and guide mankind on the path of paradise. They are the prophets. The path to hell also has those who lure men to it. They are God’s adversaries. The Ulema (scholars and religious leaders) follow in the prophets’ footsteps. Fatima, daughter of our Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), did not inherit property or wealth from him. The ulema inherited the da’wah (the task of spreading the message of his religion) from him. Whoever fulfills this task with absolute sincerity and to the best of his ability deserves the honour of this inheritance. Da’wah is difficult, given man’s strong desire for freedom, which religion wants to restrain. Religion endeavours to curb human nature when it gets out of control and indulges in every pleasure. Religion readily responds to any temptation to commit sins or behave immorally. Human nature is rather like a reservoir full of water, situated on top of a high hill. It’s easy to destroy the reservoir: you merely pierce it with something sharp and the water will overflow in no time, flooding the valley below. But if you want to refill the reservoir, it’s a different matter. You’ll need to go to a great deal of trouble, install a pump and spend a vast amount of money. Here’s another example to illustrate human weakness. If you want to bring a heavy boulder to the foot of a mountain, all you need do is to push it slightly and it will roll down, – but getting it back to the top is a tremendous task! And that is the way of human nature.

A friend who is not adhering to a religious path might tell you about a beautiful woman who performs dancing shows in the nude, and you might be tempted to go along and see her. If a religious person were to come along at this point to advise you against seeing the woman, you might find it difficult to resist temptation and listen to his advice. Those who spread evil hardly have to exert themselves at all in order to spread their mischief, whereas those who uphold moral values and noble actions have to make a tremendous effort. The ‘evil monger’ has all the factors which play upon human weakness at his fingertips: feminine charms unashamedly exposed sexual arousal and easy access to whatever appeals to the senses. How can the preachers of Islam compete with all these attractions? What do they have to offer in their place? Simply restraint and moderation. You may find yourself looking at a girl who is not wearing the veil which Muslim women are required to wear, and you might fantasize about the shape of her body. At that point a preacher would ask you to lower your glance and not to look at her. Another example is of a businessman who finds the practice of lending money at a high rate of interest the best and quickest way of making money. But the preacher would advise him not to make money in this way. An employee might notice a colleague accepting a bribe equivalent to six months’ salary and imagine how much he and his family would benefit if he did likewise. The preacher, however, would intervene at this point advising him to restrain himself from carrying out such an action. Spiritual teachers advise all such people, warning them to keep away from temporary pleasures that cross their path, – to give up temptations in the physical world for the sake of the unseen: that which they cannot perceive at that moment. They encourage them to control their weak wills and the desires of their hearts, even though this is a tremendous task and a heavy burden. It should not be a wonder that we describe religion as a heavy burden. Indeed, Allah the Almighty has described it like this in the Holy Qur’an: “Behold, we shall bestow upon thee a weighty message” (Qur’an;73:5). Every noble act weighs down the human soul.

In the example we looked at, of the student leaving his family watching television in order to revise for his exams, he was no doubt fed up! It is also hard for someone who is a student of knowledge to detach himself from a social gathering when he is enjoying himself, for the sake of reading and teaching. The same goes for a person who is awakened at dawn to perform fajr (dawn prayer). Likewise, a man who sets out on the path of jihad (holy war) also takes a great burden upon himself, when he says goodbye to his wife and family. We therefore find there are far more unrighteous and unworthy people around than the other way round. Those who remember God and let Him guide them are far fewer than those who opt for the ‘easy path’. And this is why it is harmful for us to fall blindly in line with the majority: Now if thou pay heed to the majority of those (who live) on earth, they will but lead thee astray from the path of God (Qur’an;6:116). However, if scarcity and rarity were not qualities of eminence and superiority, diamonds would not be hard to find and coal would not be in such abundance. Nor would great men of genius, brave heroes and men of distinction be so few and far between. For many generations, prophets and men of true knowledge have urged us to follow the right path, while the corrupt and virtue-less have tried to mislead us. And in fact, we have the faculty within us to go either way. There is a part of our inner selves that accepts the teachings of the prophets, and another part that is influenced by those who have been misled. The human intellect is the side that understands truth and the way of the prophets; and there is another side that provokes us into wrong doing. “What’s the difference between the mind and the soul?” you may ask. I do not claim to provide here a clear definition to clarify and distinguish one from the other – and even science has failed to throw a light on them’ However, I shall try to explain.

We all say. “I said to myself or “My mind told me” (or. my intellect}. But what is ‘you’ and what is your ‘self? And what is your mind? Even though these things are still not clear to us, and 1 am not going to discover something unknown, I shall attempt to give a tangible example, The human body is in constant change, and cells which lived in it years ago no longer exist, The self is the same: its hopes, aspirations, pains and sufferings are constantly changing. At this point you may well ask which part of the ‘I’ is unchanging? It is the ‘soul’ and your next question may be “What is the soul?” God has revealed knowledge to us about many mysteries of the human body: the functions of our limbs and cures for many diseases. He has also informed us about sicknesses of the human self (nafas). He has told us that some selves (nafas) are more prone to doing wrong (nafas amara), while others are self-critical (nafase lawama); in contrast, other selves are completely satisfied and peaceful (nafase mutminah). He has also told us that every human (self, nafas) tastes death. But the Almighty has not disclosed anything concerning the human soul, as this knowledge belongs only to God. The soul is not affected by limits of time and space. For example, a person in your presence may drop off to sleep for fifteen minutes. And yet in that time may have ‘traveled’ to America or India, lived there for twenty or thirty years and experienced tremendous joys and sorrow. But how could a span of twenty years or more possibly be contained in fifteen minutes? This example shows how we can undergo great suffering or enjoy blessings beyond the grave. The soul itself is not affected by anything ~ not even disease or health. It was in existence before it was committed to this body and to this self and it will remain even after we depart from our bodies and after the self has vanished.

Here is another example of the conflict between the mind and the self You may be warm and cozy in bed, fast asleep on a cold night when the alarm goes to wake you up for dawn prayer. At that moment an inner voice in you tells you to get up and pray. Just as you’re about to get up, you hear another inner voice which says “Why don’t you sleep for a bit longer?” “But prayer is better than sleeping,” the first voice intervenes. “It would be lovely to go on sleeping,” the second voice retorts, “and there’s plenty of time. You can be a few minutes late.” And so the battle between the two voices continues: “Sleep!” “Get up!” “Sleep!” “Get up!” The former is the mind and the latter is the self. This kind of situation shows up in many shapes and forms. It is the kind of hesitation that comes over a person who wants to jump across a wide ditch. He would like to get across, but is afraid of falling. He hears two different voices in his inner self: “Jump!” “Don’t jump -turn back!” If he responds to the voice that tells him to jump, he will get to the other side. But if he hesitates and waits for the voice that tells him to turn back, and then decides to jump, he is bound to fall into the ditch. ‘In every situation like the ones above, we find ourselves having to make a choice. At times like this, good reason can only prevail if we have faith. It is only when we have Iman (faith) that we can achieve victory of the mind over the body. The force of Iman is proportional to the victory of the power of your mind. However, this does not mean that the mind can always conquer the desires of the body, and that a Muslim will never make mistakes.

Islam is a compassionate religion; it is a practical faith, based on the realities of life. God has not created human beings to be angels, devils, domestic animals or wild beasts. Angels have been created to obey and worship; devils, for disobedience and blasphemy, and domestic and wild beasts are not bestowed with the power of reasoning, but with instincts. This means they are not under obligation to obey the divine commandments and will not be held responsible for their actions. We do not belong to any of these categories. So what are we? What exactly is a human being? Every human being is a unique creation containing some angelic, devilish and even animal-like characteristics. His angelic qualities are predominant when he sincerely worships God and establishes a close relationship with Him. Such a man is like the angels: “who do not disobey God in whatever He has commanded them, but (always) do what they are bidden to do “(Qur’an;66:6). But if a human being turns his back on or shows contempt for his Creator, or worships more than one God, he will fall victim to negative and harmful influences. When such a man gets angry he acts like a wild man, his sole aim being to beat his enemy at all costs, even if this means attacking him physically. On such occasions, a human being behaves like a wild beast. Likewise, if a man is unable to control his sexual urges, the animal side of his nature takes him over completely. These two tendencies form the basis of human nature, one inclining towards good and one towards evil. God, however, has endowed man with the power of reasoning and the will to choose which way is best. If he is able to use his willpower and exercise good sense he will be amongst those who enjoy eternal happiness in the life hereafter. If not, he will bear the consequences and suffer. The self by its very nature is inclined towards freedom. However, religion restricts this ‘freedom’ in order to discipline the self. Without such restriction, we could lose all good values and the self might lose control and act in a completely irresponsible way. With such unrestrained freedom, human society could run amok, with human beings behaving like lunatics. For example, a mad man does whatever comes into his mind: he might strip off his clothes and wander round the streets naked. He might even sit on the shoulders of a bus driver! Or he could take a fancy to your clothes and strip them off you. He may find your daughter attractive and want to have a sexual relationship with her based on passion, and not as ordained by Islam.

A lunatic is the only person who enjoys total freedom. A sane person is governed by his common sense which is rather like a ‘tether or strap that binds him’. This is reflected in the Arabic word aql ‘mind’ which refers to the rope with which a camel is tied. The word hikmah, meaning wisdom, is similar, in that it is also derived from the meaning of a tether. The word ‘civilization’ also reflects the meaning of such a bond or tether, in that it places limits on your conduct in everyday life. It prescribes respect for the rights of others and for the accepted conventions, traditions, etc., of a society. ‘Justice’ is another concept that has the same implication, because it fixes a limit on your freedom with regards to the freedom of your neighbour. The self is constantly being tempted since what is alluring is always attractive. For example, you may enjoy listening to and taking part in gossip, hearing about what people have or haven’t done, and you may derive a vicarious pleasure in it, because you feel that you are better than the person whose weaknesses are being exposed. In the same way, theft may be considered as fun, as it’s an easy and effortless way of bringing in money. The self may find committing adultery an enjoyable way of satisfying its desires. Cheating in an examination helps the person to pass it, without having made an effort. The self may want to shirk its duties, thus becoming lazy and lethargic. But if you really stop and think, you will find that this short-lived freedom is not worth the trouble, because in return you will have to bear the consequences of your misdeeds for a long time. How would a person feel, if he was asked to sign a legal contract granting him whatever he wanted to satisfy his wildest dreams, for a year: he could live in whatever country he chose, and have as many love affairs as he wanted. Imagine that contract stated that nothing would be forbidden but it also stipulated that at the end of the year he would be hanged. Wouldn’t he say “No pleasure lasting for a year is worth being hanged for!”? Wouldn’t he realise that as soon as the noose was tightened round his neck he could not take any of these sources of pleasure with him? Wouldn’t he understand that even though the pain of being hanged may only last for a minute, the torture in the life hereafter would never come to an end? There can hardly be anyone in the world who has not sinned at some point in their life, and enjoyed committing that sin. The least of all sins might be the reluctance to get up and perform the dawn prayer. If we stop and think about all the pleasures we might have enjoyed ten years ago and then ask whether we are left with any of those pleasures now, what’s the answer?… Nothing! To perform any duty is always hard and causes some discomfort. For example, the duty of fasting during the month of Ramadan means we Muslims have to suffer feelings of hunger and thirst. But what effects are we feeling now from those sufferings? What is left of the hunger pangs we underwent during the month of Ramadan ten years ago? The pleasures of sin may have vanished, but the punishment remains. Whereas the pains and sufferings undergone for the sake of performing duties have disappeared, but the reward stays with us.

What consequences await us at the hour of death from all the pleasures we enjoyed and the sufferings we underwent? Deep down in our hearts we always want to repent and return to the path of God, but we put it off and play a waiting game. For example I used to tell myself that I would repent and follow God’s way after performing Hajj. I would perform Hajj regularly, but I still didn’t repent! My fortieth year and my sixtieth years went by and I still hadn’t repented. This does not mean that I have been leading a life full of sin all these years. Not at all, thank God. But that example just shows that man wants to lead a good life, but he keeps finding excuses to put it off. He thinks he has plenty of time ahead and can therefore afford to vegetate – until, all of a sudden, he is struck by death. I myself have had two near death experiences, and this made me repent every moment I had wasted in acts of disobedience to God, and this feeling of repentance persisted for several months and during that time I became a good person. Later on though, I became involved yet again in the rough and tumble of life – and forgot about death. We all forget death. Even seeing funerals go by isn’t enough to remind us that we will die one day. Even during prayers at funerals our minds may wander onto worldly matters. We think that everyone else is going to die except us, and yet, deep down, we know we shall depart from this world one day. A man may live up to sixty, seventy or even a hundred, but he is bound to die one day. You must know people who lived o to a great age, but they all died. Perhaps you know that Noah lived till he was 950, preaching to his people. Where is Noah now? Has he been living in the world all this time? Has he been excluded from death? Why is it then that we do not think about death and prepare for it, since it is inevitable? A person who is going on a journey starts getting ready from the moment a date has been fixed until his departure. I was once in the company of some Jordanian teachers who had signed contracts for employment in Saudi Arabia informed that their flights were scheduled to take off one after the other. Those who had prepared themselves in time were able to leave as scheduled as soon as they had attended to passport formalities and said goodbye to their families. But those who needed more time to get ready for the journey were not given that time and were therefore unable to leave. So what can we say about a call for departure announced by the Angel of Death! It is a call that can be neither put off nor ignored The Angel of Death will seize a person even if he is unwilling and will not allow him any respite. And who knows when the Angel of Death will arrive? What is death exactly? What is the truth about it? Human life is divided into stages: the first stage is the embryo in a mother’s womb; then comes life in this world followed by the stage of barzakh (the interim period between death and resurrection). Finally, there is the eternal stage of the life hereafter. Each successive stage has the same degree of relativity to the one next to it.

The vastness of this world when compared to the narrow space in the mother’s womb is like the vastness of the barzakh when compared to life in the world; the same goes for the vastness of the life hereafter when compared to the barzakh When a child is in the embryonic form he thinks his entire world is his mother’s womb. If the embryo were to be asked about the meaning of his exit from the womb, he might say that it would mean death. If the embryo consisted of twins and one was born before the other, the one who was born late might say] that his twin brother had died and been buried in an unknown world. He would weep if he had seen his twin’s placenta discarded and thrown away in just the same way a mother would grieve over her son’s dead body. A mother who has to keep her child clean and sees him being buried in the earth of his grave breaks down. What she doesn’t realise is that this is like the placenta: it is like a dirty shirt that needs to be ”thrown away. It is a garment whose life is over and is no longer needed. This is what death is. In fact it is a ‘new birth’. It is an exit .into another dimension which is longer and wider in terms of time and space. The world we live in is only a place of transit. Our life in it is similar to the life of a migrant going to the United States by ship. He pays for a pleasant cabin and makes .provisions to ensure he has a comfortable trip. But do you think he would bother to spend all his money renovating the amenities in his cabin and arrive in the United States penniless as a consequence? Or would he say to himself: ‘’I’ will only be staying in this cabin for a week, so I might as well enjoy what’s provided for and save my money for my home in the States as ‘that is where I’ll be taking up permanent residence.” Here’s another example to compare this world with the .world to come. Some years ago the United States announced that it was going to carry out an atomic test on a small island in the Pacific Ocean. This island was inhabited by a few hundred fishermen who were asked to vacate the island and were offered residence in the country of their choice, with the same terms and conditions as those they had been used to. A final date was fixed, giving them time to submit their particulars and prepare for their departure. The inhabitants reacted in different ways. Some of them did as they were advised, some dilly-dallied and neglected the matter till the final date, whereas others said the whole issue was based on lies, that there was no such place as the United States and they were therefore not willing to leave the island.

It did not occur to them that the whole island would be blow to pieces and left in ruins. This example illustrates the different attitudes that may have to life on earth. The believer is aware of what is to come in the hereafter and therefore prepares for it by leading a life of repentance and obedience, and we can compare him to the first; group of fishermen who started to pack up and get ready to go and live in a different place. But the believer who does not obey God and ignores his obligations is like the second group of fishermen, who took no notice of the fact that danger was imminent. As for the non-believer, he is like the third group of fishermen: he rejects and doubts the truth of religion. He is convinced that there is no life after this worldly existence, and that death is a deep sleep, a permanent rest and that he will be extinct. This does not mean that Islam calls upon every Muslim to give up this world completely and free him self of all responsibilities. Islam does not say that mosques provide the only place of interest for Muslims; nor does it say that they should live in caves and lead the life of hermits. On the contrary, Islam calls upon Muslims to set the best example of a civilized people and to strive to be among the richest in terms of material wealth as well as to take a lead among scientists. It urges every Muslim to lead a balanced and healthy life, taking care of his or her body by eating proper food and keeping fit Islam advises Muslims not to overwork and to enjoy life and relax, so long as this recreation does not break the boundaries of Islam. It urges a Muslim to take care of his family and carry out certain duties in the society in which he lives. He should be just as aware of these obligations as of the principles of faith in the Oneness of God and the need to obey Him. In other words, a Muslim may accumulate wealth, provided it is accumulated lawfully. Equally, he may enjoy all the lawfully permitted good things in life. And he should be very much of this world, provided that he remains true to his faith and does not let any form of polytheism, explicit or implicit, infiltrate into his faith. He must keep away from whatever is deemed to be unlawful and perform all his religious duties. Wealth is something which should be carefully possessed in a Muslim’s hands and not in his heart, because his dependence should be on God and not on material possessions. And his one and only purpose in life should be constantly to seek to do what is acceptable to God.

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CHAPTER – 2

WHAT IS ISLAM?

Once I asked my students the following question: “If a foreigner were to come and ask you to explain all about Islam in an hour, what would you do?” This is how they responded: “That: would be impossible! He would have to study the principle of the Oneness of God, commentaries on the Holy Qur’an – and he’d have to learn how to recite from the Holy Qur’an, study the Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the system of Islamic law. He’d also need to delve into problems and issues which could take him fifty years’ I retorted by saying, “Glory be to God! What about the simple and uneducated Bedouin who came to our Prophet and learned all about Islam Just by staying in his company for a day – or even less? And didn’t those very same Bedouin then carry the message of Islam to the desert folk, and in turn become their teachers and guides? Don’t you remember how our Prophet explained our religion in three brief sentences? He spoke about Iman (faith) Islam (the religion) and Ihsun (Man’s realization of his relation to God). So why is it, then, that we can’t explain our religion in an hour in this day and’ age?” So what is Islam – and how does one become a Muslim?

What is Islam? How to be a Muslim?

Every creed, whether its basic principles are based on truth or falsehood, every society, good or bad, and every political party, regardless of whether its intentions are noble or not, operates on certain basic principles and precepts that define its goal and outline its course of action. These principles and precepts are put together in the form of a constitution to guide its members and followers. Anyone wishing to become a member of such an organisation would need to start off by studying these guidelines. If he finds that they satisfy both his conscious and subconscious mind, and believe without any doubt in their validity, he will decide to Join that organisation and become one of its members and supporters. From then on he has to obey the laws laid down in the constitution and to pay the membership fee. He also has to prove, in due course, his genuine commitment to the principles and precepts of the organisation. This means he has to remind himself of them constantly and make sure he does nothing to contradict them. He has to set an example, through his character and behaviour, of one who ardently follows and supports those principles. So we can say that membership to a society means:

  • Knowledge of its system.
  • Belief in its principles.
  • Adhering to its regulations.
  • Conducting oneself in everyday life according to those principles and regulations.

These are accepted conventions which are all applicable to Islam. Anyone wishing to embrace Islam has to accept its intellectual principles with total conviction right from the start. This means he will have developed the faith within himself. The principles he has to accept are outlined briefly as follows:

  • This material world is not the ‘all’ and ‘end of all’ of existence and life in this world is only a part of the eternal life.
  • Man existed even before he was born and will continue to exist after death; he did not create himself but had been created before he was conscious of his human existence.
  • The inanimate objects around him couldn’t have created him, as he is a rational being and they are not; everything in this universe has been created from nothingness by the one God, God the Almighty.
  • God is the only one who grants life and causes death. It is He who created everything, and if He wishes. He will destroy and obliterate it.
  • Almighty God does not resemble His creation in any way. He existed before this creation and He is eternal and has unlimited knowledge.
  • He is completely just in a way that cannot be assessed in human terms; it is He who has laid down what we call the laws of nature.
  • He has created everything according to a well-defined measure before all creation, thus all the phenomena of activity, inactivity, consistency and inconsistency that we can observe in both animate and inanimate beings have been clearly defined and distinct boundaries have been set.
  • Man has been bestowed with the power of intellect to deal with whatever matters he is presented with and he has been given the power of reasoning with which he can make his own choice and will power to enable him to achieve what he wants.
  • God has created an eternal life beyond this temporary life, where the doer of good will be rewarded with a life in paradise and the wrong doer will be punished and exist in hell. This God is One. No one else may be worshipped but Him; no one can take us nearer to Him to plead on our behalf without His permission. Thus we should worship God alone, in all sincerity and purity.
  • All the material beings that we can see and feel which have been created by Him. He has also created unseen beings, some animate and others inanimate, which we cannot see. Among the unseen beings are the angels, who have been created for absolute good; and then there are the Satans, who have been created as dark and negative forces.
  • Apart from these there is a third category of unseen beings, the jinn, who are divided into Satans and ‘good’ or ‘obedient’ jinn and from amongst human beings.
  • God selects certain people to whom the Shari’a (Divine Law) is revealed, so that they can guide humanity towards it, these people are the prophets.
  • This divine law is contained in all the books revealed from the God. God takes us through progressive “steps” in each book until the final book, the Holy Qur’an. Books that preceded it were either distorted or got lost and forgotten. The Holy Qur’an, however, has remained intact. The last of these prophets is Muhammad bin Abdullah, an Arab of the Quraysh tribe. With him there was an end to all the previous divine messages and religions. There has been no other prophet since his time. The Holy Qur’an is the constitution of Islam. Whoever endorses the fact that it has been revealed by God and believes in it completely, is a mu’min (believer). Iman (faith) in this sense can only be seen by God because human beings cannot penetrate into human hearts and know what is in them. Therefore it is essential, in order to be accepted in the fold of Islam, that a man declare his faith by pronouncing two Statements, namely: “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Prophet of God.” The moment he pronounces this statement of faith he becomes a Muslim and is entitled to all the rights enjoyed by Muslims; he also agrees to perform all the duties enjoined upon him by Islam. These ibadat (duties) are the prescribed forms of worship. There are only a few and they are easy to perform and do not require much effort or exertion. There are four, as outlined below:

I).      A Muslim has to pray (obligatory Salah) two rak’ats (prostrations) at dawn, during which time he has communion with his Lord. He asks Him of His goodness and seeks refuge in Him from His punishment. Before making these prostrations, a Muslim has, to perform wudu (ablutions): he washes his face, hands and feet, or takes a bath if he is in a state of ritual impurity. Besides the dawn prayer, he has to pray at four other times four rak’ats at midday; four rak’ats in the afternoon; three rak’ats at sunset; four rak’ats at night: These are obligatory (faradh) prayers, the performing of which will not, on the whole, take more than half an hour per day. There is no particular place or person required for the performance of these prayers, and it is not necessary for a Muslim to have an intermediary when he prays, as he prays directly to his Lord.

II).      In a certain month during the year a Muslim has to fast. This is known as the period of Ramadan. Breakfast is eaten before dawn, lunch is taken after sunset, and during the day all Muslims abstain from food and water and must not have sexual intercourse. Ramadan is a month of self-purification for every Muslim when he purifies his body and soul. It is also a month to fulfill the desire to do good and be generous, and to reflect the brotherhood of man in the material life.

III).      A Muslim has to give 2.5 % of his wealth as alms to the poor and needy. He does this on an annual basis, once his own needs and those of his family have been met. This financial support paid by every Muslim comes as a great source of comfort’ and assistance to the poor, the sick and the needy. It thus helps to alleviate poverty and establishes a form of social security.

IV).      Islam has arranged certain periodical gatherings for Muslims. They congregate together five times a day to offer prayer. There need be no disruption of work for anyone whatever his trade or profession. Those who miss the congregation can pray at home, though they will, in fact deprive themselves of the joyful reward of praying together in a group. Then there is the weekly congregation on Fridays for Jum’a prayer. This lasts for less than an hour, and it is compulsory for all male Muslims to attend. Besides the above, there are mass congregations held twice a year on the occasion of the two Eids (festivals). Attendance is not compulsory and they last less than an hour. Finally there is the annual world congregation known as the Hajj. It is a kind of mammoth public gathering, held once a year at Makkah. This congregation provides guidance in all aspects: spiritual, physical and intellectual. A Muslim is expected to attend once in his lifetime, but only if he is able to do so. These are the duties and acts of worship enjoined upon every Muslim.

Apart from the above, abstention from certain modes of behaviour are also deemed as ibadah (worship). These are actions which any sensible person would deplore, such as killing without a valid reason, intruding on the rights of others, aggressive behaviour and all forms of injustice, any kind of intoxication which would affect the brain, adultery, since it destroys honour and dignity and violates the sanctioned form of blood relationship. Other forms of forbidden behaviour include usury, lying, betrayal and deserting any form of military service which seeks to glorify the Divine Writ, making false oaths or producing false witnesses – and, above all, disobedience to one’s parents or dismissing them and neglecting their needs. However, God forgives a Muslim who fails to carry out some of his duties and disobeys some of the Islamic laws but repents and asks for pardon. On the other hand, a Muslim who does not repent will be considered as a rebel, who will be punished in the next world. This punishment will, however, be only temporary and will not be equal to that of a non-believer. As for a Muslim who refuses to acknowledge any basic Islamic principle or belief, rejects his duties and Islamic regulations or denies even the smallest detail outlined in the Holy Qur’an, he will be considered as an apostate deprived of his Islamic identity. Apostasy is similar to a crime of high treason, from the Islamic point of view. Unless a person gives up his un-Islamic beliefs and repents, he will be given a death sentence.

If a Muslim fails to perform some of his obligations and is remiss in practice or commits some such actions as are forbidden, yet he believes in the liability of all obligations and the impropriety of all unlawful deeds, he will continue to be a Muslim though he will be a sinner.

Faith has to be accepted in totality and, therefore, a denial of any aspect is deemed as a denial of the whole. Therefore, anyone who accepts 99% of the faith but denies 1% is considered an infidel. You may come across Muslims who are nonbelievers. They can be compared with someone who joins a political party or a society, attends all its meetings, pays his subscription – and does whatever is required of a member, but nonetheless refuses to accept its principles and remains unconvinced. It may seem that such a person has joined the party or society simply to find out what’s going on or to create trouble. Such a Muslim is a hypocrite – hypocrisy is defined as “outward profession of faith and concealment of disbelief. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), used to say that a hypocrite can be recognised in three ways: failure to keep his promise, I lying and betraying anyone’s trust. A hypocrite pronounces statements of faith and performs his religious duties, yet deep and down he remains unconvinced. Such a person may be considered a Muslim by the outside world but not by God, Who knows what is hidden in our hearts and innermost beings.

One is a believing Muslims if he/she fully believes in the intellectual and theoretical basses of Islam, which are:-

a)      Giving full testimony to the existence Allah (God) and declares He has no associate nor intermediary.

b)      Belief in the angels, all Prophets and all revealed Holy Books, including Qur’an.

c)      Belief In the destiny.

d)      Expression of the statements of faith (Shahada, kalimah).

e)      Performance of the obligatory prayers.

f)        Fasting in the month of Ramadan;

g)      Payment of zakat (alms);

h)      Performance of Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca once in a lifetime, if this is possible.

i)        Abstention from everything that is forbidden by Muslim consensus.

Generally speaking, adhering to the Iman is more beneficial to us – we feel better and enjoy tremendous rewards. This is why, even though it may be hard to stick to these laws 100%, we feel better in ourselves if we follow them. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) summed up the characteristics of a true Muslim in an eloquent sentence which states the essence of faith and action in a nutshell: “You should worship God as if you can see him.” This means we must strive to be in total awareness of God’s presence all the time. This is the very essence of Islam – to be God conscious in all our actions, whether or not they are serious. God is watching us constantly and is aware of our every move. This is why anyone who is truly God-conscious will obey His laws, and he will not despair either, knowing that God is with him all the time. A person who is strengthened in this way will not need to ask for help from anyone because he can always ask God to fulfill his needs. And, if anyone disobeys God’s laws, As it is in his nature to sin, provided he asks for forgiveness, God will forgive him. This is just a brief introduction to Islam and in to following chapters we shall be looking into all aspects of faith in detail.

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CHAPTER – 3

EXPLANATION OF A FEW TERMS

Before going into the subject of doctrine in detail we should define certain terms which frequently appear in books on this subject and which are often used by scholars of Islam. These terms are ‘DOUBT’, ‘PRESUMPTION’ and ‘KNOWLEDGE’. After we have examined them we shall begin to look into the meaning of faith. Descartes (1596-1650 C.E), the renowned French philosopher and mathematician [His philosophy is based on the rationalistic premise “I think, therefore I am.”.], and, before him. Imam Ghazali (1058-1111 C.E) in his book “Saviour from Misguidance” both chose ‘DOUBT’ as a point of departure for their enquiry into certainty. In fact, Descartes: used ‘Doubt’ as a means to reach certainty. So what do we mean by ‘Doubt’? If someone were to ask you while you were staying in the centre of a city, that whether it was raining in the suburbs?  You would be unable to reply, even though the suburbs are only about twenty miles away. You would have no definite evidence one way or the other. And this is the case with the ‘concept of doubt’. You can make a guess, but you cannot be 100% sure. However, if you were to look into the distance and see some rain clouds you might be inclined to say: “It looks as if it is raining in the suburbs.” This means that it’s very likely that it is raining, and this possibility regarding the existence of something, is known as ‘Presumption’. Should you take a further look and notice that the rain clouds are quite thick and heavy, and also see a flash of lightning, your presumption regarding the possibility of rain increases and your response to the original question will be more positive. At this point you might well reply: “I’m inclined to think it’s raining in the suburbs now.” But if you were to go into the suburbs and actually see the rain failing, your presumption would become a certainty. And this is what scholars term as “KNOWLEDGE’. If we examine the various meanings of the word ‘knowledge’ we see that firstly we have ‘absolute knowledge’ as opposed to ignorance. Knowledge also embraces science in contrast to the arts and philosophy. For example, physics and chemistry are both sciences whereas art and poetry belong to the domain of the arts. In the context of science where the ultimate goal of knowledge is to seek the truth, the intellect is used as a tool to achieve this aim. The methods adopted are ‘enquiry’, ‘experiment’ and “deduction’. In the case of the arts, it is concerned with the appreciation of beauty. Its means are perception and consciousness while a good taste is instrumental to success in it. Definition of Faith needs no proof. We intend to discuss that knowledge which in contrast o doubt and presumption stands for certainty and positiveness. This knowledge is of two kinds:

Obvious Knowledge: It is the Knowledge gained through the senses and observations need no proof. For example there is a mountain before you which does not need any proof. You see it there and it exists. Every san person who sees it will admit of its existence. Its presence is the proof of its existence. This knowledge is called essential or axiomatic knowledge.

Theoretical Knowledge: It is that knowledge which requires proof. For example the formula that the sum of squares of base and height o a right angled triangle is equal to the square of its hypotenuse; is something which requires proof. Any scholar or a student who finds the proof of that will know the fact and will admit it. But an ignorant unlettered person will not know it and will not accept it until he is given vivid proof of that even though the triangle along with squares on its sides are placed before his yes. This knowledge is known as Theoretical Knowledge that is the knowledge which cannot be acquired without proof.

Self Evident Truth and Creed; some theoretical knowledge needs proof because it cannot be perceived merely by logic and observation. Nevertheless, it is common and popular knowledge of which everyone, regardless of age or education, is aware. Such knowledge almost falls into the category of essential knowledge. For example: “A part is smaller than the whole” is a theoretical statement, but, although the category of theoretical knowledge basically needs to be proved, you will hardly find anyone who doubts this statement or needs evidence of it. Even a child will accept it. If you were, for example, to take a bar of chocolate from a child and give him back just a small piece, telling him that the piece you have returned is bigger than the bar of chocolate, he would not be convinced and would not accept it. This is because it is self-evident that any part of any thing is smaller than its whole.

The statement regarding identity-that is, that everything has an identity of its own, is also a self evident truth. If someone were to ask you to prove that the pen you were holding was not a teaspoon, you would respond by saying: “That’s quite obvious and doesn’t need any proof!” So these self evident truths are obvious facts which everyone acknowledges – facts that do not need proof. And when a self evident truth enters the inner consciousness and establishes itself there, it creates an impact on intuition and all aspects of behaviour – and is known as faith. Belief in it is known as Iman. However, we all know that although people often believe in truth, more often than not they believe in ‘untrue’ ideologies. Nowadays there are many breakaway groups with misleading principles not based on truth, and these groups have attracted a lot of ardent followers who sacrifice all they have for the sake; of these groups. Such people cannot be regarded as believers; in the absolute meaning of the word. God says in the Holy Qur’an: Art thou not aware of those who, having been granted their share of the Divine Writ, (now) believe in unfounded mysteries and in the powers of evil.(Qur’an;4:51); “And most of them do not even believe in  God without (also) ascribing divine powers to other beings beside Him (Qur’an;12:106).

As for Iman, and all the derivatives of this word, they are used exclusively to denote belief in all that pertains to the Holy’ Qur’an and the Sunnah (tradition). This belief can be summed up as follows:

To believe that:-

1)      The God (Allah) as the One and Only God, unique and peerless.

2)      He alone is the Master, All-powerful and Almighty, the One Who has supreme ownership of all things.

3)      He alone is to be worshipped, and no one else is to be associated with Him in worship.

4)      All that has been revealed to His prophet (Holy Scriptures), the angels, the prophets and the Day of Judgment and destiny, regardless of whether this destiny is in our favour or full of hardship.

A person who holds the above belief is a Mu’min (believer). But if he makes any compromise regarding them, withdraws from them or hesitates to endorse his beliefs or expresses doubts, he will be lacking in the quality of Iman and will not be deemed a Mu’min (true believer).

1)      Just as one obtains conviction (Yaqin) through one’s observation and senses, so is true news the source of conviction.

2)      We have no right to deny the existence of those truths which we cannot perceive through our senses.

3)      A firm faith in the existence of God is the natural nucleus of and is concentrated in the human nature.

4)      There is a spiritual world at the back of this material world, which we cannot perceive.

The belief in life after death tantamount to belief in the existence of Allah.

[Conviction Yaquin— is the fruit of faith –Iman]

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CHAPTER – 4

THE PRINCIPLES OF CONCEPTUALIZATION OF FAITH

Before explaining the fundamentals of faith, which are the subject matter of this book, I would like to deviate a little and say a few things in connection these fundamentals which are, though not related to this topic, yet will through light on the circumstances which influenced the genesis of these fundamentals and were responsible for their arrangement and compilation. Just before the Second World War when I was teaching Arabic literature in Baghdad, I was asked to teach religious Studies. The syllabus consisted of certain Surah (chapters) of the Holy Qur’an which had to be explained and interpreted. I arrived at my class to find a completely undisciplined group of students who had turned the period designated to religious studies into a time for recreation and idle chat. But when I was teaching “the very same class literature, you could hear a pin drop. I realized that their poor attention in the religious studies class was due to their wavering faith. So I told them to put A way their copies of the Holy Qur’an – and listen. As soon as I started reciting from the Holy Qur’an, I felt inspired by God. This led to my producing a new work on the abject of Iman, in which I incorporated the Principles of Belief. These Principles (of conceptualization of faith) are as follows:-

The First Principle:

We have no doubts about anything that we can perceive through our senses we all accept this fundamental truth. However, if I walk through the desert at noon and see a lake in the distance, but only find sand when I reach that spot, what appeared to be a lake turned out to be mirage. Likewise if I put a pencil in a glass of water it will look as if it is broken, though in actual fact it is not, You might go to a party where, as it gets late, you start talking about the supernatural – ghosts, etc., and get so carried away that you feel as if a ghost or demon is following you, whereas in reality there is nothing there. It’s rather like a conjuring trick. A magician will produce strange objects which seem to be real, even though they are not. So our senses can delude and deceive us. But does this mean that I should doubt the existence of something I can feel? Quite the reverse because if I doubt what I see, hear and feel, there will be a conflict between fact and fantasy that will eventually drive me crazy. But I would like to add another condition here about obtaining knowledge – meaning ‘certainty regarding the existence of what I sense’. The mind may misjudge something the first time it perceives it. For example, it may think a mirage is a lake, but the second time it sees it will not make the mistake. Similarly it will soon realize that even though the pencil on the glass of water looks as if it is broken, in fact it is not. The various ways in which the senses delude us are limited and easy to recognize. This includes the tricks that Pharaoh’s magicians used to perform in the past, and the circus tricks we enjoy in this day and age.

The Second Principle:

Certainty about past and present events received through a reliable source is as reliable as the certainty we would have had if we had been present. There are certain facts about which we are sure, even though we may not have direct experience of them. For example, we all know that India and Brazil are countries that exist though we may not have visited them. We also know for a fact that Alexander the Great conquered Persia, even though we did not witness the battles in which he fought. In fact, if we all looked inward, we would soon realise that the number of facts about which we are sure even though we cannot perceive or experience them directly, far surpass those we have actually experienced, such as countries we have not visited and  events, both past and present, that we have not witnessed directly. What evidence, then, do we have of their existence? Of course we draw certain conclusions from what we have always been told throughout history and our own lives. It would be absurd to think that each generation has fabricated events and ideas to pass on to the next.

The second principle therefore is that; just as we get conviction and belief through perception and observation, so do we get it through the report of a person whom we believe to honest and truthful.

The Third Principle:

How much knowledge can we perceive through our senses? Can our senses comprehend everything that exists? We can compare the human mind in relation to the senses as follows. Imagine that orders have been given to shut us up in a tower. All the windows and doors are shut, so that all we can see of the outside world is through cracks in the wall. If we peep through one crack facing east, we can see a river, looking west through another crevice, we can see a mountain. In a northerly direction we can see a large mansion, and south a playground. The human mind is the prisoner and the body the tower, with the cracks representing the senses. The sense of sight sees colors, the sense of hearing picks up sounds, the sense of taste awakens our appetite for food, the sense of smell introduces us to the world of fragrances, and the sense of touch makes us aware of physical bodies and objects. At this point we can ask certain questions:

1)         Can each sense perceive everything that exists in this universe? Does the river a prisoner sees through a crack in the tower wall represent the entire river? Of course not He only sees a part of it. Similarly the sense of sight cannot perceive the whole spectrum of colours. The fact that I cannot see an ant crawling three miles away from where I am does not rule out its existence. In the same way we are unable to see all the tiny bacteria in a glass of water. Neither are we able to observe the electrons revolving in an atom, or the planets in their orbits, with the naked eye. The vibrations of an ant’s voice are outside the range of our auditory sense, which is from five to twenty thousand whatever, is less than five vibrations or beyond twenty thousand is outside our hearing range. Nor can we pick up the scent of sugar that attracts ants and flies. All this proves that we are only able to perceive a part of what is around us.

2)         Is it not possible that another world exists between the world of colour and sound, which we are unable to observe because we are not equipped with the particular sense of Perception? The prisoner in the tower may not have actually been able to see a beautiful garden between the river and the mountain, but this does not rule out its existence. Again we have the example of someone who is born blind and is only able to learn by what he is told that the sea is blue and the grass is green. Yet physically he is unable to see the Manifestation of these colours. In the same way, someone who is deaf, though he may learn about musical notes, he cannot actually hear them. But this does not mean that a blind or deaf person denies the existence of colour or sound. The room where you are sitting may seem to be free of all sound though, in actual fact, it contains all the sounds that are being broadcast in the air from various radio stations. You are only unable to hear them because they are outside the range of your sense of hearing. They are vibrations which can only be picked up by a radio. And there are other things going on in the atmosphere that humans are unable to perceive. For example, we cannot pick up the slight variations in atmospheric pressure though a barometer can do this. Likewise, a radar picks up mild tremors we cannot feel. So, there are many things which exist outside the range of our senses, but not perceiving them does not mean denying their presence.

3)         The next question we need to look at is whether our senses are all pervading and complete? Until recently it was thought that we only had five senses. Now a few more have been discovered, and it seems there can be more. Therefore, anything that can be increased can be described as being incomplete. I may do things which I do not perceive, but am aware of For example, if I shut my eyes and open or close my hand I am aware that it is open or closed without actually seeing it. And do we perceive our moods of happiness or unhappiness, weakness or sickness through our five senses? Of course not. We perceive them with an inner sense. Similarly, I do not sway from left to right when I am walking because an inner sense infuses me with a sense of balance. The same goes for a cyclist or a trapeze artist who performs amazing balancing acts. This means that there must be an eighth sense – the sense of balance. And it has been discovered that God created this sense in the form of liquid matter in the inner ear. Experiments carried out on rabbits show they lose their balance if this liquid is removed, and totter around as if they were drunk.

This Third Principle is that we have no right o refuse the existence of certain things which are not perceptible thorough senses.

The Fourth Principle:

The human imagination can only perceive that which the senses are able to perceive. We have already discussed the limitations of our senses: we cannot see every visible object with our eyes, etc. But God has granted us with the power of imagination to serve as a supplementary tool. For example, I cannot actually see my home in London if I am in New York – though I can picture it in my mind’s eye. The power of imagination therefore complements our sense of perception. But is this power limited – or is it fathomless? Can I imagine something I haven’t actually seen?

Psychologists classify imagination in two categories:-

1)             Imagination based on reality and creative imagination. The example of imagining my house in London when I am in New York illustrates the former.

2)             The latter is the fertile ground poets, writers, painters and other artists use to create from. Look at what they have achieved. Have they produced anything not based on reality? For example, did the sculptor who sculptor who sculpted the statue of Venus depict someone in real life? No-he did not However; it is not a totally new image but a synthesis of several images. We can trace the end result back to various sources and say .{hat that the sculptor used the best physical features from different women to produce his art form; the nose and mouth represent the perfect female form in real life and so on. As a result the end product though ‘new’ represents different parts already in existence.

In the case of the Winged Assyrian Bull, found in a museum in Paris, the sculptor created a patchwork of a human face and the body of a bull to which he attached the wings of a bird. Again, the result is a new kind of image compiled of existing forms. Poets illustrate their mental images through the use of metaphors, similes, metonyms and, sometimes, deliberate exaggeration. Various strands of their imagination come together to form the poetry they produce. If we were to delve more deeply into such fantasies; however, we would find they have their limitations and that it is not possible to piece together components which are mutually incompatible. For example, we cannot say that a song smells like a rose or that the fragrance of a perfume is red. If you visualize such illustrations you will not be able to relate the image to anything concrete which is already in existence.

We are only able to see three dimensions with our eyes namely, length, breadth and height. We cannot imagine circle without a circumference any more than we can imagine triangle without angles. So how can we possibly imagine the ‘other world’ and everything that is to be found in it?

It is different from ours, and comparing it with this world is like comparing this world to a mother’s womb. If we were able to make contact with a fetus and ask it about its idea of what our world is like, he or she would reply “The universe is the membrane and darkness which surround me.” Even if the fetus were able to understand our description of the sun and the moon, day and night, land and sea, beautiful gardens and fields, etc., he or she would not be able to imagine them. This is why Ibn Abbas, one of the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, said “Things of this world have no similarity to those in the next – except in name”. This means that the wine and women in the next world will be different from the wine and women in this world. Likewise, the fire of hell will not be like the fire we know, and the ‘straight path will not resemble the bridges that span across rivers and valley in this world.

The fourth Principle, therefore, is that the human imagination is unable to encompass things which are beyond the reach of human senses.

The Fifth Principle:

Even though the eye observes that a pencil in a glass of water looks as if it is broken, the mind is not deluded; in the same way that it realizes the mirage in the desert is nothing but sand. When we see a magician take handkerchief out of his mouth and twenty rabbits from his sleeve, our mind being more accurate than our sight, alerts us to the fact that it is a trick. Does this mean that the mind can rule over matters that fall beyond its scope?

The mind rejects anything that does not fall within the framework of time and space. If a history teacher were to tell you ‘that a war between the Arabs and the Persians took place neither before nor after the advent of Islam-yet it still took place, your mind would reject this statement as being completely contradictory. Or if a geography teacher told you that a country existed but was not situated on land or sea, or in the earth or the sky, your mind would take this as a contradiction in terms. So we can see that the faculties of the human mind are finite and refuse to accept anything infinite, which is outside the scope of time and space. Therefore issues concerning the problems of the soul, destiny, (metaphysical) signs of God and His attributes are all beyond the scope of the mind. If we look at the concept of immortality for example, a believer is sure in his mind that immortality is an unshakable truth which has been conveyed to mankind through the divine message. But it is not possible to fit that concept into a framework of time and if we try to do that, we will fail and give up. In fact we may visualise a millennium of centuries, millions, trillions — but then what? Our minds get tired because they fail to reach a final point. And if they claim to have reached such a point it will contradict the very meaning of immortality. The famous German philosopher Kant published a well-known work “Contradictions”, in which he said that the, human mind can only judge the physical world. But Muslim scholars had proved that before Kant’s time and had, on the basis of mathematical theories, proved the falsity of circuits vitiosus (vicious circle). Their simple evidence is evident form this example.

If you draw two straight lines as two rays coming from one point, and you connect these two lines at equal distances, will the line connecting the two infinite ends be considered to be the ultimate line? If you say it is, it will be argued that it is between unending points. If you say that it is infinite, people will reply that this cannot be so, as it is between two finite points. Therefore, it is a contradiction in terms. It is clear that the human mind goes off balance when it tries to dominate the unlimited or infinite; it becomes the victim of impossible contradictions when it delves deeply into anything which is unlimited. The human mind, therefore, cannot go deeply into the realm of metaphysics, as proved by Kant and stated by Muslin scholars earlier. And we can refer to this theme in the works of Islamic scholars, such as al-Ghazali in his books on scholastic theology.

The Sixth Principle:

All human beings, believers and non-believers alike feel worried and anxious in the face of a serious crisis in their life. At such times they find no consolation in their material surroundings and seek solace and comfort in a power beyond the material world, a power that filters through every aspect of our existence, bodies and souls. Examples of such crises are illness, the stress of taking important examinations and so on. Why then do people turn to God at such times? From my own observation of two world wars, I noticed how people cling to religion: everyone, from heads of governments to military generals, it seemed, became devout worshippers of God and impressed their subordinates to do the same. I remember reading a story in a magazine during the war, a story related by a young paratrooper (parachutes were something new in those days). The young man had been born and brought up in a household where there was no mention of God and his family did not pray. He was educated in secular schools where religion was not included in the syllabus and so he grew up rather like a ‘human animal’, eating, sleeping and enjoying himself. But when he found himself descending from a great height and having almost landed before his parachute started to open, he found himself praying involuntarily, and from the bottom of his heart. The words “Oh Lord -Oh creator!” came to his lips instinctively. He was completely overwhelmed and could not explain how he had suddenly acquired this faith.

Stalin’s daughter describes in her memoirs as to how she fumed to religion after many years of living forgetful of God. She marvels at this – but there is no reason to be in wonder, because faith in the existence of God is something which is inborn in every individual. It is a natural instinct and an urge-rather like the sexual drive. So we can say that man is an animal with a religion. This instinct may be overrun by physical desires, passion, ambition and craving for material comfort. However, when overcome by fear, danger or other crises, it rejects these desires and appears in its true and natural form. This is why we describe a non-believer as a kafir, which literally means ‘one who hides’. 1 was surprised to find the same concept by two eminent figures from backgrounds which were entirely different in very way, including the time and place they lived, their circumstances and the purpose for which they expressed this idea, One of them was the Muslim, Rabia al Adawiya, known for her piety, and the other was the famous French writer, Anatole France. While discussing his disbelief an abandonment of faith, Anatole France declared “A person becomes a believer when he learns; as a result of urine tests that he has diabetes”. (He made this statement before insulin was discovered). On the other hand, Rabia al Adawiya replied in answer to a statement made by someone who claimed he had found a thousand proofs of God’s existence, “One proof is enough”. When asked what that proof was, she responded If you were walking alone in the desert and happened to fall in to a well from which you were unable to get out – what would you do?” The answer was “I’d call out – Oh God!”. “Then that’s your proof!” she declared. Faith in God exists in the core of every human being. We Muslims know this fact, because God has informed us that Iman is a natural characteristic that He has created in each of us.

In Europe recently many people have seriously address the question of faith and have recognised its value. Professor Durkheim (1852-1917), the famous Jewish French sociologist who had, like Freud, a negative influence on some minds for some time, has written a book to his credit, where he states that faith in the existence of God is a self-evident truth. No one can go through life without at some time reflecting on the existence of a Lord of this universe. But man, due to his short sightedness, may not find his way to God. He therefore worships certain objects which he imagines to be God, or that he thinks will help take him near to Him. And yet when faced with a major crisis man returns to God and gives up all objects of worship. The polytheists of the Quraysh tribe worshipped various idols, known as Hubal, Lat and Uzza. They were simple stones or statues. Hubal was made of cornelian, a semi-precious red stone transported from the Syrian spa of Himmah. They described the statue as a great almighty god. It was transported on the back of a camel and en route fell off and its hand was smashed. This hand was replaced by a gold hand. But how the hand of God get broken! However, even after that incident, they continued to worship the statue. But even enough they worshipped it in times of peace, this was not the “case when they were at sea, and the sea became rough and danger was imminent. At times like this, they did not call out ‘’Hubal!” but they called out to Allah. Even today during times of disaster and accidents you will notice that proud adversaries of God return to the fold of religion. Why is this? Simply because Iman is a natural instinct, and that, as we have already seen, leaves us with the most precise definition of man: “an animal with a religion’.

Do you imagine that materialists, such as Karl Marx and Lenin, called out to production and manufacturing industries -those ideologies they had worshipped as God, when they were on their death beds? Or did they call out to God? You can be sure they prayed to God when drawing their last breath. Pharaoh, who posed as being high and mighty, used to Declare “I am your supreme lord” But when he was about to drowned he said “I have believed in what the children of Israel have believed”. The sentiment of love expressed by lovers is yet further evidence of Iman being an inborn characteristic of man. Love is a micro-projection of Iman; it is a kind of worship, In fact, when so many of the French turned away from religion they used the word ‘worship’ to mean ‘love’. Arabs influenced by European ideas started to imitate them using phrases such as ‘’He loved and worshipped her” and “He loved her so much that he began worshipping her”. You will find such expressions in Arabic short stories and novels. But this was only because worship is the natural manifestation of belief in God, and because there is a degree of similarity between love and faith. A lover obeys his beloved’s wishes and desires. And this is exactly the same relationship as the one a believer has with God. A lover is never bothered if everyone around him is angry, as long as he is able to please the one he or she loves. That too is the case between a believer and God. What’s more a lover fears the loved one to the extent of not wishing to make him or her angry, and has nothing but praise for whatever the beloved says or does. This is just the same way that a believer accepts what God has ordained. So we can see that love passionate love, is a testimony to the fact that faith is inborn.

The inadequacy of Language:

The above statement does not purport to equate the love of God with the sentiments of passionate love between human beings. We simply need to take into account that a person in a passionate relationship obeys the beloved and is afraid of him or her, and admires and praises whatever the loved one does being able to endure other people’s anger in order to please the loved one. But he does this because it fulfills a desire. In fact, we express our love for our own self through the love we have for our lover. We can look at the example of one of the most famous lovers in Arabic history, Laila. Let us imagine that she was afflicted with leprosy and that the disease had disfigured her face. Would her lover Quais have approached and made advances to seeing her in this state? He wouldn’t even have given her a second glance – and would have abandoned her. This is the difference between love of mortals and love of God.

Although the two forms are entirely different from each other, the same word is used to denote both because the human language lacks a better expression, with a wider scope and range -of meaning, which would include the spiritual aspects of love. We use the same word ‘love’ to denote a variety of meanings from love of the countryside and history to love of rice and curry! A father loves his son. Prince Charming loves Cinderella and the believer loves God. Each one of these loves differs from the other. With regard to this concept of ‘inadequacy of language (words)’ we should also include the word ‘beauty’, which is used to denote so many meanings. The same applies to the words ‘hearer’ and ‘seer’ with reference to God being the Hearer and Seer and a human being a hearer and seer. Referring to a human being, we mean that that person is neither deaf nor blind. But Divine Seeing and Hearing is not like that of mortals, because God is unlike anything in creation. Likewise, nothing in creation is similar to Him. All the Divine attributes given in Qur’an come under this heading. Allah says: “This in nothing whatever like unto Him” (Qur’an;42:11). They are not to be compared with the faculties of mortals.

The Seventh Principle:

Man recognises intuitively that the material world is not every thing. There is a spiritual world beyond that, the nature of which we do not know. Man is only able to catch glimpses of the unseen world when he realises that material pleasures are limited and, after a certain point, they lose their attraction and become a source of boredom and monotony. When a poor man sees the material possessions of a rich man, he feels that the wealthy man has achieved the ultimate in life. However, when the poor man succeeds in acquiring such possessions he loses interest in them. Likewise, a lover who longs to meet his girlfriend, and spends sleepless nights dreaming about being with her believing that all the pleasures of life will be encompassed by his love, is disappointed when he finally marries the girl. The feeling of ecstasy disappears, and within two years the whole affair may be a thing of the past. Another example is of a man who falls ill and gets very depressed, imagining that all the pleasures of life depend on his recovery to health. But once he is well he not only forgets those unhappy days, but he takes his health for granted too. And how about the young artist who seeks fame and popularity, and is overwhelmed with joy when he hears his name being broadcast, or sees his picture in a paper. Yet once he is recognised and established, the attraction for fame loses its charm and becomes part of his everyday life. By the same token we may be moved by a romantic song, which brings up intense feelings of love, stirring our hearts and kindling the fire of our imagination, sending us into raptures. A well written story can have the same effect, carrying us away from reality into a world of fantasy, full of poetry and romance; But at the end of the story we are jolted back to reality, with a sense of longing. We yearn to return to that fantasy world in vain.

During moments of contemplation our souls may rise to sublime heights, where this material world appears trivial and unworthy. The joy of this experience will far surpass the Joy of a starving person finding food, the lover meeting his loved one or the pleasure and satisfaction a poor man when he finally acquires wealth and influence. This self is always eager to rise to sublime heights, to an unknown world, the identity of which can only be acquired. Through the few glimpses we catch of it, as mentioned previously. But it is through such experiences that man realises how trivial and limited material pleasures are, compared with spiritual pleasures. As a consequence, he becomes convinced, intuitively rather than intellectually, that this material life is not the ultimate goal and that there is beyond doubt another world beyond this. This is the world which our souls yearn for and try to reach, but the human body becomes an obstacle and hampers its efforts. This subjective and psychological perception and intellect are the proofs of the existence of another world called Hereafter.

The Eighth Principle:

Faith (Belief) in another world (Hereafter) is a natural consequence to the, belief in the existence of God. The above statement can be further explained by stating that the Lord of this universe is fair, and that anyone who is just will not allow for injustice. He will not let the oppressive person go unpunished, nor will he deny justice to anyone who has suffered unfairly. We find many people in this world who live and die as oppressors without ever being punished (people like Hitler, who killed millions). We can also see people who are victim of unfair treatment throughout their lives. But how can this happen if God exists and is just? It only proves that there is a life after this worldly life where the doer of evil will be punished and the doer of good rewarded. The story does not finish with the end of this world. If a feature film were to be shown on television and were to be stopped abruptly, with the viewers being told that the film ended at that point, they would most certainly complain and want to know what was going on. “What happened to the hero?’’ ‘’What happened to the rest of the film?” would be some of the questions they would ask. These questions would crop up because they would expect the script writer to give a full account of the story. But if this is how people would react to a story on life in this world, can any intelligent person accept the statement that life ends with death? How could it be possible? It therefore becomes clear to the human mind that there must be a Lord of this universe and a life hereafter. That unknown world that we catch glimpses of when we hear romantic music or read a moving story, or experience in moments of intuition, is not ‘the world of ideas’ as depicted by Plato. It is a world created by the Lord of all creation; a world offering everlasting pleasures and not the ephemeral pleasure of this world which are but a mere flavor of what is to come. And what’s more, we will never get used to these eternal pleasures. They will never lose their beauty and become ordinary – as is the case with the pleasure of this world.

These principles can be summarized as follows:-

  1. Anything perceived through senses is accepted as truth.
  2. Past & present events received through reliable source is as reliable as we would have had if we had been present.
  3. Don’t refuse existence of things not perceptible thorough senses.
  4. Human imagination can’t encompass things beyond senses.
  5. The human mind, cannot go deep into metaphysics, it goes off balance when it tries to dominate the unlimited or infinite.
  6. Faith in the existence of God is something which is inborn in every individual. This instinct may be overrun by physical desires, passion, ambition and craving for material comfort
  7. The human language lacks a better expression, which include the spiritual aspects of God, His attributes through normal words.
  8. The human self is always eager to rise to unknown world, man becomes convinced, intuitively, that this material life is not the ultimate goal and that there is another world beyond this. This subjective & psychological perception and intellect are the proofs of the existence of another world called Hereafter.
  9. The Lord of this universe is fair, will not allow for injustice. He will not let the oppressive person go unpunished, nor will he deny justice to anyone who has suffered unfairly in this world. Faith (Belief) in another world (Hereafter) is a natural consequence to the, belief in the existence of God.

The remaining chapters of book are:

5:Iman (Faith) in God 9:Faith in Predestination
6:The Oneness of God 10:Faith in the Unseen
7:Manifestation of Faith 11:Faith in the Prophets
8:Faith in Day of Judgment 12:Faith in the Scripture

For comprehensive understanding of Islam, the complete book: “Ta’rif-e-Aam bi-Din-il-Islam” By: Shaikh Ali Al-Tantawi, translated from Arabic to Urdu by Syed Shabbir Ahmad,in English by Prof.Raja F.M.Majed, should be studied. This is an excellent gift for the people you care. The book [English or Urdu Translation, 364 pages] can be procured through; Qur’an Asan Tehrik, 50 Lower Mall, near MAO College Lahore at cost price, Rs.65] www.quranasan.org, www.asanquran.com.

E Mail: qat@lcci.org.pk, info@quranasan.org, Tel:042-37324904, 37242265-6. The soft copies in the form of digital / e-book in word and pdf format can be down loaded form the following Blogs/ web sites of “Faith Forum 4 Peace”:

https://faithforum.wordpress.com

http://endeavour-peace.page.tl

http://peace-forum.blogspot.com http://groups.google.com.pk/group/FaithForum4Peace.

The Hand Book of Islam-1: http://wp.me/pCgrB-k9

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