The first task of the Islamic political system is to eliminate all forms of oppression within economic relationships and to lay the ground for the establishment of a just system of distribution of economic resources. However, the source of the injustice, according to Sadr, is neither social settings nor the means of production, but rather human nature itself, the inner instincts of self-love that drive man to secure survival for himself only. Such an instinct is essential for the survival of human life on earth. Profit, which is the economic manifestation of self-love and is generated from private investment, is the great engine of human economic accomplishment. It gives the individual the personal incentive to work hard and to overcome difficulties and challenges. However, when left without moral control it will manifest itself in different forms of oppression. Man will be concerned only with securing his own interests to the point of abusing the interests of others. Unless a solution to the problem of human nature is found, man will find escape routes to abuse even in a just system of distribution. In fact, the social contradiction stems from the individual instinct of self-love. In the capitalist system, it manifests itself in the form of economic exploitation of others. In the communist system, where private property is eliminated, man’s self-love manifests itself in political oppression, such as the struggle for power and the securing of special social privileges. 22
Religion, according to Sadr, gives humanity the only solution to this basic and deep-rooted problem of human nature. Religion overcomes the problem of human nature by specifying many channels of self-control that properly regulate or direct- man’s instincts into appropriate social behaviour. In other words, it will end the contradiction between social and private interests.
The first of these mechanisms for self-control is a spiritual one, the psychological power that makes man control his behaviour. Man is the vicar of God, which means that he is the representative of the Almighty on earth. In an economic sense, he is the trustee of God for the wealth created for mankind. This sense of vicarage implies that man is responsible for his economic deeds before God. Vicarage also means controlling personal behaviour and directing the use of natural resources according to God’s will. 23 Improper behaviour and the waste of God-given wealth will make man accountable for his deeds and bring severe punishment. In the same manner, abiding by God’s will guarantees a good reward and Divine approval.
It is He Who has appointed you viceroys in the earth, and has raised some of you in rank above others, that He may try you in what He has given you. Surely thy Lord is swift in retribution; and surely He is All-forgiving, All Compassionate. (6:165)
Accordingly, man is expected to receive guidance as to how God given wealth should be distributed and treated. It is this link between the here and now and the hereafter that brings accommodation between social and private interests. Anyone who sacrifices for the sake of others is rewarded. The religious solution, then, is not materialistic, but spiritual and trains man to serve others and to sacrifice private interest for the sake of social benefit. In doing so, he serves and benefits himself as well. In Islam, it is the fear of God and the desire to seek His good pleasure that replaces the competitive, greed of human nature. Once religion succeeds in bringing up men who have control over their inner instincts and passions, the social order can be saved from contradictions and individual abuses and manipulations.
Since this goal is utopian in its outlook, Islam has derived a social mechanism to secure peace and harmony in human society. God has assigned the vicarage role not to the individual per se, but rather to mankind It is the community that is the trustee of God over economical wealth. It, as a group, holds the responsibilities of managing natural resources and human wealth to the benefit and welfare of the group. The following Qur’anic verse refers to such social responsibility.
But do not give to fools their property that God has assigned to you to manage. (4:5)
According to Sadr’s interpretation of the above verse, God considers the financial wealth of the mentally incapable as the wealth of the community. The whole society is then responsible for not allowing any misappropriation of the fool’s wealth. Such social control over economic wealth makes the individual accountable not only before God, but before his own people.
Islam also disavows any values that a society attaches to the possession of economic wealth. Affluence and economic prosperity of the individual are not signs of social prestige. Islam wants the individual to consider wear as burdensome and places a responsibility on the shoulders of the wealthy individual to serve both himself and others. It is a means to achieve the goals of humanity. 24 Affluence should not be the goal for the individual to achieve in his life, as in a capitalist society which makes man use all possible means to increase his possession of wealth even if it brings harm avid oppresses others’ interests. However, if one thinks of wealth as the means to realize the good pleasure of God, then helping others, not oppressing them, becomes the social norm of the rich and wealthy. In other words, Islam is determined to change the social values related to the possession of wealth and private property. There is no need to abolish ownership of private property as suggested by Marxism. The social policy of elimination of private property, according to Sadr, will not be successful because it goes against human nature. The only solution is to reform the social ethos in such a way that wealth is changed from an individual goal to a social means to achieve a higher moral goal.
22. “Al-Nizam al-Islami muqaranan,” 170.
23. Iqtisaduna, 536-537.
24. Iqtisaduna, 568.
All Praises be to Allaah(swt).
Good deeds are those which are in accordance with sharee’ah, and which are done sincerely for the sake of Allaah. Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyah] defined ‘ibaadah (worship) as “a general term which includes all that Allaah loves and is pleased with, be it words or deeds, both inward and outward; these are of many kinds and we cannot list them, let alone enumerate them, but we will mention some of them:
1. Belief in Allaah – which includes belief in Allaah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, and the divine will and decree (al-qadar), both good and bad.
2. Prayer done on time – there are five prayers that Allaah has enjoined during the night and day. The Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with hem) were all agreed that the one who does not pray is a kaafir. It is not permissible to delay the prayers beyond their appointed time. It is obligatory to perform all the obligatory parts of the prayer, and the Muslim should pray as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) prayed.
3. Acceptable Hajj – which means:
a. It should be done with halaal money (earned from permissible sources).
b. One should avoid immoral actions, sin and arguments whilst doing Hajj.
c. He should perform all the rituals according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
d. He should not do Hajj to show off, rather he should do it sincerely for the sake of Allaah.
e. He should not follow it with any act of disobedience or sin.
4. Honouring one’s parents – which means obeying them in acts of obedience towards Allaah; it is not permissible to obey them in matters of disobedience or sin. Honouring them also means not raising one’s voice to them, and not offending them with hurtful words. It also includes spending on them, and serving them.
5. Jihad for the sake of Allaah. Allaah has prescribed jihad in order to establish Tawheed and spread Islam throughout the world. Allaah has prepared a great reward for the mujaahideen.
6. Loving for the sake of Allaah and hating for the sake of Allaah. This means that the Muslim loves his fellow Muslim for the sake of Allaah, not for his colour, nationality or wealth, rather for his obedience to his Lord and his closeness to Him. Similarly he hates the sinner for his disobedience towards Allaah.
7. Reading and reciting Qur’aan – whether that is in the portion he reads each day or what he recites in prayers at night (qiyaam al-layl).
8. Persisting in acts of worship even if they are little. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) loved actions that were done consistently, even if they were little. A small action done persistently is better than a greater action done intermittently.
9. Fulfilling one’s trusts. This is an obligatory action and is one of the greatest of deeds. It is known in Islam that the hypocrite is the one who betrays his trust and does not render trusts back to the people who entrusted them to him.
10. Being forgiving towards people. This means foregoing one’s personal rights, forgiving the one who has done you wrong, if doing so will lead to his changing, or if he has repented and regrets what he did. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A person only increases in honour by forgiving.” Narrated by Muslim, 2588.
11. Being truthful in speech. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A man will keep on speaking the truth and endeavouring to tell the truth until he will be recorded with Allaah as a speaker of truth. Truthfulness is a means of salvation; it is a great characteristic which was one of the features of the Prophets and those who followed them in truth.” Narrated by Muslim, 2607.
12. Spending for the sake of Allaah. This includes spending on jihad, and spending on one’s parents, the poor and needy, on building mosques, on printing copies of the Qur’aan and Islamic books, and spending on one’s family and children.
13. Ensuring that the Muslims are safe from one’s words and actions. That means refraining from gossip, backbiting, slander, insults and curses, and refraining from hitting or beating those who do not deserve such treatment.
14. Feeding the hungry – which includes feeding both humans and animals.
15. Spreading the greeting of salaam to those whom you know and those whom you do not know – except in the case of those whom the texts say we should not initiate the greeting of salaam with, namely the kuffaar.
16. Helping the needy, wayfarers and those who are helpless.
17. Keeping your evil away from people, which is an act of charity that may benefit you.
And there are many other good deeds.
The following hadeeth enumerates several good deeds:
Al-Bayhaqi narrated that Abu Dharr said: I said, “O Messenger of Allaah, what will save a person from Hellfire?”
He said, “Belief in Allaah.”
I said, “O Messenger of Allaah, are there are any deeds that should accompany that belief?”
He said, ‘He should give from that provision which Allaah has granted him.”
I said, “O Messenger of Allaah, what if he is poor and does not have anything to give?”
He said, “He should enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil.”
I said, “O Messenger of Allaah, what if he cannot enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil?”
He said, “He should help the one who is helpless (i.e., has no skills and cannot earn a learning).”
I said, “What if he himself is helpless and cannot do anything?”
He said, “He should help one who has been wronged.”
I said, “What if he is weak and cannot help one who has been wronged?”
He said, “You do not want to think of your companion as having any good in him. Let him refrain from harming people.”
I said, “O Messenger of Allaah, if he does that, will he enter Paradise?”
He said, “There is no believer who does not strive to acquire one of these characteristics, but I will take him by the hand and lead him into Paradise.”
Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Targheeb, 876
And Allaah is the Source of strength.
And We laid emphasis on Ibrahim and Ismail: Purify My House for those who walk around it, and those who use it as a retreat, and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in prayer). (Q2:125)
وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ
Have you ever felt handicapped in saying ‘no’ to people, despite the fact that you are being pulled in various directions simultaneously? You need to complete your projects to please your college professor, have to bake a cake because your best friend requested you and run late for your neighbor’s engagement party. Wouldn’t your life have been much simpler, if you have turned down any of the above commitment?
The reason you didn’t deny any of these obligations was, you wanted people to think you are a nice little fellow. You fear their repudiation or crave for their approval. You might be burdened with peer-pressure, might need to be wanted and accepted or you might dislike being outcast by others when they are mad or upset with you. This sort of mentality might provoke irrational conduct from your side.
Just review your lifestyle for a second and you will yourself realize what great doormats you are! Don’t you think that in the battle of winning the pleasure of people you are loosing the gratification of our Lord? Don’t you feel you should be a little more God fearing?
Don’t you find yourself skipping your daily recitation of the Holy Quran or shortening your prayers because you need to go to shopping with your friend? Don’t you spend your entire day in the kitchen painstakingly trying to make good food for your in-laws while skipping to go for your daily Quranic classes? Yes, it is important to be a good host, but not at the expense of incurring Allah’s displeasure.
Our lives are inundated with such examples of ignorance, in which we forget to remember Allah. Have you ever gone through consecutive sleepless nights because you agreed to do a project for your university, so that you can come in the good books of your principal? But are you a workaholic? Do you abide to all the things that your masjid’s Imaam ask you to do? Did you then do it, just to depict how nice and helpful you are?
There are various behaviors that you adopt when you try to gratify people. You feel guilty in saying no, you put other’s preferences before yours, avoid confrontation with them and so on. These behaviors provide opportunities to others to exploit you.
Some people might as the question “what is wrong in pleasing others? Shouldn’t we act nicely with others?” Yes we should as the Quran says “And no not forget to do good to one another”. But just ponder over the purpose of your life. It is to make Allah happy. If you please other people in seeking your ultimate goal of incurring Allah’s pleasure, then your conduct is acceptable. But if you favor others because you enjoy the limelight from their admiration then this means that your intent to serve Allah was not pure. If you offer your prayers with a fatigued mind and worn out body because you were partying with your friend the entire day you will have to compromise on your religious duties. And mind you, this is wrong!
If we put all our efforts in seeking Allah’s pleasure, Allah will automatically make us nice in the eyes of others. Holy prophet (S.A.W.) said “He who displeased Allah for seeking the pleasure of people, Allah is displeased with him and those people are also displeased, for pleasing whom he had earned Allah’s displeasure. And he who pleases Allah, although by it he displeased people, Allah is pleased with him, and also those people whom he had displeased for pleasing Allah become pleased with him. Allah makes him splendid and his speech and acts in the eyes of others beautiful.” If we strive solely to please others, we must realize that in doing so we earning for ourselves Allah’s wrath.
We set out for our journey of life with the final goal of gaining Allah’s blessings, but the worldly obstacles on our way tempts us and while enjoying them, darkness prevails in our heart that leaves our ultimate real objective in oblivion. It is time we should rectify our intentions and become God fearing servants of Allah, before doing anything and everything. Our every act should be directed primarily to gain Allah’s delight.
The word “itikaf” is used in the Holy Quran in different forms such as “aakifun” or “al aakifeen”. Literally, it means confinement to a specific thing or place, or retreat and seclusion, while technically it means to confine oneself for sometime to a mosque in order to stay there to worship or at least to withdraw oneself from worldly business. This practice of seclusion is almost in each religion, and even the Meccans and the idolaters of the Arabian Peninsula used to perform the same practice for a few days annually or periodically. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to perform itikaf even before receiving the message. He was in seclusion in the cave of Hira when he received the message for the first time. While coming back from the city of Ta’if, he again performed this practice as Messenger in that same cave. The Prophet (pbuh) used to fast in Mecca even before the fasting in Ramadan became mandatory. Upon his migration to Madina, and when fasting in Ramadan became mandatory, he used to perform “Itikaf” in the last 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque. In the last year of his life, he did it for 30 days and nights which was considered an indication that he would not live until the next Ramadan. “Itikaf” is a type of solitude and meditation to reach a state of mental tranquil and spiritual peace, and to clean, purify and sanctify one’s inner self. When one becomes secluded and withdrawn from worldly business in a place of worship, he will be thinking of his Creator and will also feel a connection with his Creator, which will result in mental peace. To perform “Itikaf” is “Sunnah Kifa’I”, which means it was the practice of the Prophet (pbuh), and that at least one individual from each community must perform it. Otherwise, on the Day of Judgment, the entire community would be held accountable for not performing “itikaf”. One may perform a “Nafil” type of “itikaf” in a Masjid for one or two days, or even for an hour according to Imam Shafi, Imam Yusuf, and Imam Muhammad. “Itikaf” should be in a Mosque where the five daily prayers are held and prayed, and it is recommended that Friday prayer also be prayed there. However, if Friday prayer is not held at that Masjid, he may travel to another nearby masjid, but should not waste time outside the masjid while in itikaf (according to the Hanafi School). Imam Ahmad says it must be in a Masjid where the five daily prayers are performed, and Imam Malik and Imam Shafi allow itikaf in any Masjid. One who is in “itikaf” must not go out of Masjid but for a reasonable cause such as using the bathroom if it is outside of the Masjid, or to the kitchen if that is outside as well, as these are unavoidable needs. To travel outside of the masjid without reasonable cause would break one’s itikaf. According to the Hanafi School, one may make it up next time. Women may also perform “itikaf” in their homes at their specified prayer areas. For the purpose of “itikaf”, all mosques are equal, but if someone gave a pledge to Allah that he will do “itikaf” in Haram Makki, or Haram Madani, or in Baitul Maqdis, then he is bound to do it where he said. The prerequisites of itikaf are Islam, sanity, maturity, intention, fasting, to be pure and clean from menses and bleeding after child birth (in the case of women) and from “junabat”, and to be in Masjid (in case of men). In “itikaf”, any type of worship of Allah is recommended. These include recitation of the Holy Quran, remembrance of Allah, asking for forgiveness, the study of religious literature, and the avoidance of useless talk and useless acts. The feeling experienced in itikaf cannot be generalized for everyone, since each individual may experience a different feeling. However, in brief, itikaf brings one mental tranquil, a feeling of self-control, and a connection to Allah swt. The Prophet (pbuh) said whosoever performs itikaf for one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will put 3 trenches between him and the hellfire, and every trench will have the distance between the heavens and the earth.
Another exceptionally remarkable institution and major pillar of Islam is the Zakah.
To the Qur’anic word Zakah and the meaning it conveys, there is no equivalent in any other language as far as we know. It is not just a form of charity or alms-giving or tax or tithe. Nor is it simply an expression of kindness; it is all of these combined and much more. It is not merely a deduction of a certain percentage from one’s property, but an abundant enrichment and spiritual investment. It is not simply a voluntary contribution to someone or some cause, nor a government tax that a shrewd clever person can get away with. Rather, it is a duty enjoined by God and undertaken by Muslims in the interest of society as a whole. The Qur’anic word Zakah not only includes charity, alms, tithe, kindness, official tax, voluntary contributions, etc., but it also combines with all these God-mindedness and spiritual as well as moral motives. That is why there can be no equivalent to the word Zakah because of the supreme originality of the Qur’an, the Divine Book of God.
The literal and simple meaning of Zakah is purity. The technical meaning of the word designates the annual amount in kind or coin which a Muslim with means must distribute among the rightful beneficiaries. But the religious and spiritual significance of Zakah is much deeper and more lively. So is its humanitarian and sociopolitical value. Here is an explanation of the far-reaching effects of Zakah:
Zakah purifies the property of the people with means and clears it from the shares which do not belong to it anymore, the shares which must be distributed among the due beneficiaries. When Zakah is payable, a certain percentage of the wealth should be distributed immediately in the right manner, because the owner no longer has moral or legal possession of that percentage. If he fails to do so, he is obviously retaining something which does not belong to him. This is corruption and plain usurpation from every point of view, moral and spiritual, legal and commercial. It means that the unlawfully retained percentage makes the whole lot impure and endangered. But, on the other hand, if the poor’s dividends are assorted and distributed among due beneficiaries, the remaining portions of the lot will be pure and decent. Pure capital and decent possessions are the first requisites of permanent prosperity and honest transactions.
Zakah does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart, instead, good will and warm wishes for the contributor. As a result, the society at large; will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils.
Zakah mitigates to a minimum the sufferings of the needy and poor members of society. It is a most comforting consolation to the less fortunate people, yet it is a loud appeal to everybody to roll up his sleeves and improve his lot. To the needy it means that it is by nature an emergency measure and that he should not depend on it completely but must do something for himself as well as for others. To the contributor it is a warm invitation to earn more so that he can benefit more. To all parties concerned, it is, directly as well as indirectly, an open treasure for spiritual investment that compensates abundantly. Zakah is a healthy form of internal security against selfish greed and social dissension, against the intrusion and penetration of subversive ideologies. It is an effective instrument in cultivating the spirit of social responsibility on the part of the contributor, and the feeling of security and belonging on the part of the recipient.
Zakah is a vivid manifestation of the spiritual and humanitarian spirit of responsive interactions between the individual and society. It is a sound illustration of the fact that though Islam does not hinder private enterprise or condemn private possessions, yet it does not tolerate selfish and greedy Capitalism. It is an expression of the general philosophy of Islam which adopts a moderate and middle but positive and effective course between the Individual and the Society, between the Citizen and the State, between Capitalism and Socialism, between Materialism and Spirituality.
Every Muslim, male or female, who, at the end of the year, is in possession of approximately fifteen dollars or more, in cash or articles of trade, must give Zakah at the minimum rate of two and one-half percent. In the case of having the amount in cash the matter is easy. But when a person has wealth in business stocks or trade articles, he must evaluate his wealth at the end of every year according to the current value and give Zakah at the same rate of two and one-half percent of the total value of the wealth. If his investment is in immovable property like revenue buildings and industries, the rate of Zakah should go by the total net of the income, and not of the total value of the whole property. But if he puts up buildings and houses for trade or selling, Zakah rate should go by the total value of the entire property. Also if someone is a creditor and the indebted person is reliable one should pay Zakah for the amount he has lent because it is still a portion of his guaranteed wealth.
In all cases it should be remembered that one pays only for his net balance. His personal expenses, his family allowances, his necessary expenditures, his due credits-all are, paid first, and Zakah is for the net balance.
It should also be remembered that the rate of 2.5% is only a minimum. In times of emergency or arising needs there is no rate limit; the more one gives, the better it is for all concerned. The distribution of Zakah serves all purposes for which numerous fundraising campaigns are launched. The Zakah fund substitutes for all the other funds. It is authentically reported that there were times in the history of the Islamic administration when there was no person eligible to receive Zakah; every subject-Muslim, Christian, and Jew- of the vast Islamic empire had enough to satisfy his needs, and the rulers had to deposit the Zakah collections in the Public Treasury. This shows that when the Zakah law is enacted properly it minimizes the needs of the citizens and enriches the Public Treasury to such an extent that there may be no needy or poor, and that enormous amounts of surplus are available.
The unfailing power of this effective measure of public interest stems from the fact that it is a Divine injunction, an ordinance from God Himself. It is not a personal matter or a voluntary contribution; rather, it is an obligation, for the fulfillment of which one will be responsible to God directly. Because Zakah is the legislation of God Himself to be enforced in the common interest, no Muslim is allowed to neglect it. When it is not observed properly, the rightful authorities of the State must interfere on behalf of the public to establish the institution and see to it that it is enforced.
The Due Recipients of Zakah
The Holy Qur’an classifies the due recipients of Zakah as follows:
1. The poor Muslims, to relieve their distress;
The needy Muslims to supply them with means whereby they can cam their livelihood;
The new Muslim converts, to enable them to settle down and meet their unusual needs;
The Muslim prisoners of war, to liberate them by payment of ransom money; 5. The Muslims in debt; to free them from their liabilities incurred under pressing necessities;
Zakah may be distributed directly to individuals of one or more of the said classes, or to welfare organizations which look after them. It may also be distributed in the form of scholarships to bright and promising MUSLIM students and researchers, or in the form of grants to welfare organizations and public service institutions which patronize such causes.
A disabled or invalid poor Muslim is preferable to one who is able and capable of making some earnings. The contributor should use his best judgment in finding the most deserving beneficiaries.
The taxes we pay to governments nowadays do not substitute for this religious duty; it must be earmarked as a special obligation and paid separately, aside from the government taxes. However, the Muslims of North America may take advantage of the tax laws that allow certain deductions for charity. They should pay their Zakah to the deserving beneficiaries and then claim the sums paid as proper legal deductions.
The contributor should not seek pride or fame by carrying out this duty. He should make it as covert as possible so that he may not be victimized by hypocrisy or passion for vanity which nullifies all good deeds. However, if the disclosure of his name or the announcement of his contribution is likely to encourage others and stimulate them, it is all right to do so.
Sadaqa Al-Fitr (also known as Zakatul-Fitr) is a small amount of food to be given in charity at the end of Ramadan, before the holiday (Eid) prayers. This amount is separate from the annual payment of Zakat, which is one of the pillars of Islam. Unlike Zakat, which is calculated annually as a percentage of extra wealth, the Sadaqa Al-Fitr is to be paid equally by every Muslim man, woman and child at the end of Ramadan.
The ideal Muslim is a man of the highest moral character. In his relation with his Rabb (lord), himself, family, parents, relatives, friends, and the community at large, he has a most excellent example in the Prophet of Islam (pbuh). His idealism is further strengthened by the characters of the first generations of Muslims who excelled in all the various fields of human endeavor. He is reassured by the teachings of Islam that he also can reach these noble heights by working to improve his character daily.
In this title, the author gives a clear overview of the practical aspects of the Islamic lifestyle, as exemplified by the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions (raa). Moving from the innermost aspect of the individual’s spiritual life to his dealings with all those around him, one can see how the Muslim is expected to interact with all others in his life.
This comprehensive work by Dr. AI-Hashimi is a valuable contribution to our English readers. He wrote another book on the Ideal Muslimah (female Muslim), and our readers are invited to read both books, because these two books complement each other. May Allah (swta) help us all in making these pure teachings a part of our life.
The Ideal Muslim
I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.” That was what Muhammad Abduh, the Egyptian scholar and jurist, had to say about Islam in the early 19th Century. The essence of the statement is that while we claim to be Muslims we hardly reflect the religion in our actions or talks or behaviour. And I would venture to suggest that it could not apply more in the case of Bangladesh.
We are a Muslim majority country and many of us take pride in the fact that we were the second largest Muslim state, a fact that was not lost upon Bangabandhu, and he had made that known very soon after he landed on the free soil of Bangladesh. Many of us do not hesitate to flaunt our Muslim credentials, although in some instances they are very much seasonal, an act that is intensified during the election season in particular. And some politicians unhesitatingly try to show how better Muslims they are than their opponents by telling public the number of times they pray and the religious diktats they follow.
And in spite of secularism being one of the cornerstones of the constitution we take unending pride being described as a moderate Muslim state, even more the secularists among the politicians who, not being able to muster enough courage to do away with the preamble, are quite happy to live with Islam being the state religion. We are proud to say that the Muslims in Bangladesh are deeply religious without being bigoted, or being extreme in their outlook or behaviour. I do not know about bigotry but I wonder whether as ‘deeply religious’ Muslim Bengalis we reflect the essence of the religion in our behaviour.
Look at the way a Maulana denigrated women in his sermon recently. His comments, which would be most un-Islamic even to his most inveterate apologists, have not only given a sullied picture of Islam to those not fully conversant with what the religion says about women but are also likely to be used as a handy tool for the detractors to flay Islam.
Unlike in other Muslim countries which look upon the advent of the month of Ramadan with positive expectation, as a month to expiate for the past, to me personally the month comes with mixed feeling, a feeling of joy mixed with trepidation, because this is the month when prices will be pushed up inexplicably with the poor having to suffer the agony. And once the prices go up in Bangladesh they hardly assume the state of equilibrium. When in other countries, including non-Muslim countries, prices are controlled if not reduced during such occasions of festivity, it is perhaps only in Bangladesh that prices of some commodities that are consumed more than others in the month of Ramadan see a steep rise. Can anyone explain the reason why prices of chili got so hot to leap five times the normal price at which it was selling before the start of Ramadan this year? What had risen was not the demand for the item but our insatiable greed; even the Holy month could not restrain our excessive profit making proclivity. And we call our self “deeply religious Muslims.”
And how more un-Islamic can one get than calling for strikes in the month of Ramadan, and to indulge in destruction of private and public property. Such acts of violence are anathema in Islam. A land of many Muslims but little of Islam…Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan ndc, psc (Retd)
How often do we experience argument, quibbling, and even ugly dissention because somebody did not do the right thing the right way or did not do it enough! Somebody did not recite the Qur’an correctly; somebody did not pray properly; somebody did not have right size of beard or right length of pajamas! Aren’t these things important? Shouldn’t we do things the way it should be done? Yes, they should be. Islam does emphasize “Amali Salihat” (righteous deeds) and we should never feel that we have done enough.
However, everything, including good deeds, has its proper place. Overdoing it may just be contrary to the intent of Islam and our Benevolent Rabb. Those who elevate the matters of Aqeedah and good deeds to such a level that they do not hesitate to publicize their own correctness or righteousness and put down others actually have a gross misunderstanding about Islam and what it desires from people.
Allah did not create human beings to be perfect. Imperfection is the essence of human existence and it is beautifully illustrated in the Qur’an through the story of Adam and Hawaa. What then is the difference between Satan and human being. Satan transgressed against Allah by refusing to prostrate before Adam and then, instead of mending and repenting, became arrogant and rebelled. Adam and Hawa, on the other hand, transgressed too, but they mended and repented; they were forgiven and blessed. Thus, Allah wants us to be at our best, but He does not expect us to be perfect. Indeed, there is stern warning for those perfectionists, who not only does not realize their own imperfections, but actually look down upon others due to their imperfections. This imperfection is no small matter to our Benevolent Rabb; indeed, He would not have it any other way!
Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “[O people! Had you not sinned, Allah would have created a people that would have sinned, and asked for forgiveness from Him so that He would have forgiven them." [Sahih Muslim, Kitab at-Taubah, #6622]
This is not a license to sin, but a categorical affirmation that Allah does want our best effort in the direction of what is right and good, but He definitely does not expect perfection from us. If so, then it is easy to understand why, despite so much emphasis on good and righteous deeds, ultimately our salvation is not determined by our good deeds alone. Even Prophet Muhammad (s) would not be saved by his good deeds. What then is the ultimate and true determinant of our salvation?
Narrated Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Apostle (p) said, “The deeds of anyone of you will not save you (from the hellfire).” They said, “Even you, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “No, even I, unless and until Allah bestows His Mercy on me. Therefore, do good deeds properly, sincerely, and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the afternoon and during a part of the night, and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course whereby you will reach your target.” [Sahih al-Bukhari; Vol. 8, #470]
If our righteousness and good deeds make us arrogant and induce us to seek fault with others, then we indeed are headed in the wrong direction. Good deeds are very important to us, not merely because they are good for us, but more importantly because they reflect goodness in us. Out of all the good deeds we do, it might just be one good deed that truly reflects the goodness Allah likes in us, and we will be saved. That is why Islam is a source of hope not for just those advanced in good deeds, but also for those who are seriously deficient as well.
Abu Hurairah reported the Apostle of Allah (p) as saying: “A man never did a good deed but removed a thorny branch from the road; it was either in the tree and someone cut it and threw it on the road, or it was lying in it, he removed it. Allah accepted this good deed of his and brought him into Paradise.” [Sunan Abu Dawood; Vol. 3, #5225]
Once again, the idea behind this Hadith is not that we should do just one good deed to save ourselves. Rather, we should be good and do good deeds, particularly being kind to others – human and non-human. For Allah, may be just one such accepted good deed is all that matters. In the above Hadith, it is most likely that the person was not doing that good deed consciously seeking salvation. But it truly reflected goodness in that person.
Let us try to be good and have right creeds and let us try to be the best we can as believers and do as much good deed as possible, but let us also remember that despite our best of good deeds, we have no hope except with mercy and compassion from our Benevolent Rabb. If we believe that certain things are right and good, and if we like others to emulate us, then let us pursue so by being kind and nice, rather than through bickering and self-righteous arrogance. After all, “Allah is Kind and He likes kindness in everything.” [Hadrat Aishah, Bukhari/Muslim, reported in Riyadus Saleheen, #633] Therefore, let us not subject ourselves to hair-splitting scrutiny, because the Prophet (s) said: “A person who would be thoroughly scrutinized (on the Day of Judgment by Allah) is ruined.” [Hadhrat A'isha, Sahih Muslim, #6874].