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THE FAITH: The Three Stages of being a Muslim – Part II

In Islam on August 9, 2009 at 6:46 am

In the previous post, we have seen how reciting the kalimah is merely a stepping stone to becoming a full Muslim. Once you proclaim the kalimah, you are legally a Muslim and it certainly suffices for all earthly . Still, as the ayah, Al-An’aam 158 testifies, it is not the sole stamp needed on our passport to a happy hereafter.

The four minimum obligatory good deeds, identified in the hadith previously referenced, are well-known. The purpose in this post, however, is to review the inherent demands of these obligations; especially those that highlight the common neglects people today show in the performance of these deeds.

The Muslim scale: Salat

إِنَّ الصَّلوٰةَ كانَت عَلَى المُؤمِنينَ كِتٰبًا مَوقوتًا

The prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times. [An-Nisa, 103]

Five prayers in a day are one of the many gifts that our beloved prophet Mohammad (sallah Allahu alaihi wa sallam) brought back from his night of ascension (lailat-ul-mi’raj) [Bukhari, 1.8.345]. And not only that, they are supposed to be all offered on their appropriate times (as the above ayah testifies); the ones Angel Jibrail himself taught to the Prophet [As stated in a Tirmizi hadith. Reference here].

So an important question for us is:

  • Do we say our prayers five times a day?

This question actually boils down to a series of component questions. So here goes..

  • How frequently can you bring yourself up for faj’r?
  • Out working or studying, care to find time for zuh’r?
  • What about as’r, right in the middle of the afternoon nap?
  • Are you really able to catch your maghrib amidst all that evening fun?
  • And how late is your isha and with how much struggle with sleep?
  • Finally, when you miss one, do you bother to offer it’s qaza before the next prayer due?

Another important issue is the quality of your salat, most effectively summarized in the following verse from Sura Ankaboot:

إِنَّ الصَّلوٰةَ تَنهىٰ عَنِ الفَحشاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ ۗ وَلَذِكرُ اللَّهِ أَكبَرُ

Translation: Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. [Sura Al-Ankaboot, 45]

So:

  • Is your salat really bringing any change in your life? (If not, your heart is really not into it.)
  • and, Do you understand, approach and experience your salat as an act of relating to God? (If not, you are missing on a quality time you may have never experienced in your life.)

The Muslim scale: Saum

شَهرُ رَمَضانَ الَّذى أُنزِلَ فيهِ القُرءانُ هُدًى لِلنّاسِ وَبَيِّنٰتٍ مِنَ الهُدىٰ وَالفُرقانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهرَ فَليَصُمهُ ۖ وَمَن كانَ مَريضًا أَو عَلىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِن أَيّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُريدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ اليُسرَ وَلا يُريدُ بِكُمُ العُسرَ وَلِتُكمِلُوا العِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلىٰ ما هَدىٰكُم وَلَعَلَّكُم تَشكُرونَ ﴿١٨٥

Translation: The month of Ramazan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. [AL-Baqarah, 185]

Al- Muslim, Book 006, Number 2566, Hadith-e-Qudsi, narrated by Hazrat Abu Huraira:

Fasting is a shield. When any one of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise the voice; or if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am a person fasting. By Him, in Whose Hand is the life of Muhammad, the breath of the observer of fast is sweeter to Allah on the Day of judgment than the fragrance of musk. The one who fasts has two (occasions) of joy, one when he breaks the fast he is glad with the breaking of (the fast) and one when he meets his Lord he is glad with his fast.

Al-Muslim, Book 006, Number 2567:

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Every (good) deed of the son of Adam would be multiplied, a good deed receiving a tenfold to seven hundredfold reward. Allah, the Exalted and Majestic, has said: With the exception of fasting, for it is done for Me and I will give a reward for it, for one abandons his passion and food for My sake.

Lailat-ul-Qadar:

Al-Muslim Book 006, Number 2619:

Salim reported on the authority of his father that a person saw Lailat-ul- Qadr on the 27th (of Ramadan). Thereupon Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: I see that your dreams agree regarding the last ten (nights of Ramadan). So seek it on an odd number (of these ten nights).

Al-Muslim Book 006, Number 2621:

Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with them) reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Seek it (Lailat-ul-Qadr) in the last (ten nights). If one among you shows slackness and weakness (in the earlier part of Ramadan), it should not be allowed to prevail upon him in the last week.

No need to give the technical definition of a saum; we all know that. But in this modern, fast-paced, hip-hop world, do we really find time (or concern enough) to try to live the spiritual definition of the exercise?

This saum section deserves a special place both from the writer and reader point of views – not just because Ramadhaan is approaching but because of our growing neglect in observing the spirit of Ramazaan in our individual fasts and in the general society’s attitude during this best of months.

Many years ago when I (along with my siblings) was a ‘conventional’ Muslim in the truest possible sense of the word, I remember we used to watch a music programme Top of the Pops every week… Ramadhaan or not. The last programme that month fell (and was let fallen) on the 27th night, the most reverred of Ramazaan nights by all conventions. Did this fact made us not watch it? I sadly confess, it didn’t. The tentacles of music do not let go hold of the soul so easily unless you start thinking deliberately about your faith.

Last year I was shocked to discover that the advertisement for a certain “Ramazaan festival” proudly displayed a semi-naked dancing woman in a larger-than-life sized poster form. The ad was promptly in place by first Ramazaan on the facade of a major shopping centre in my city (one of the busiest thoroughfares, of course) – and I don’t know where else – and remained dutifully up till Eid. Just who were they trying to mock? Allah? Muslims?

The saddest reflection must be saved for the strength of faith in a society whose passivity allows its business class to knowingly and willingly soil the sanctity of the once in a year month – blatantly in defiance of the warning in Sura Noor:

إِنَّ الَّذينَ يُحِبّونَ أَن تَشيعَ الفٰحِشَةُ فِى الَّذينَ ءامَنوا لَهُم عَذابٌ أَليمٌ فِى الدُّنيا وَالءاخِرَةِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعلَمُ وَأَنتُم لا تَعلَمونَ ﴿١٩

Translation: Those who love that indecency should be broadcast about those who believe – theirs is a painful punishment in this world and in the Everlasting Life. Allah knows, and you do not know.

The authorities in the council where my aunt lives, suddenly decided the last week of Ramadhaan must be made use of with a ‘farewell’ festival. Each night  (including, of course the odd nights and right through till faj’r) the makeshift market in the midst of a residential area was in full blast with music, singing and wild announcements celebrating its own insensitivity and shamelessness.

These were a few stark examples. As for the routine stuff [TV schedules, shopping sprees, behind-the-back talk gatherings, etc.] I remember it took us the 8th October earthquake (in 2005) to induce that true mood of refrain,  abstinence and virtue that a fast alone induces in a truer Muslim.

My western readers shouldn’t feel too smug. These are points to ponder for all of us. So this year,

  • Do you vow to keep all the fasts (if you aren’t fasting regularly still…)?
  • Will, this year too, your Fasts be an occasion for Fun (festivals), Food (‘tablefuls’ of iftari and sehri), and Fluid Money (shopping, redecorations, etc)?
  • What mental preparation are you going through right now to keep yourself away from all those nasty habits (dishonesty, occasional lying, backbiting, being jealous, wishing somebody bad, etc. etc.)?
  • Any more fights with parents (or spouse)?
  • If you are unable to keep a fast due to a valid reason, how long will it take you to make it up (that is execute it’s qaza as clearly mentioned in the ayah above)?
  • What about all that count of qaza fasts from the previous years ever since the saum obligation is due on you?
  • Will you be watching DRAMAS and listening to MUSIC, thereby helping promote unbashful and indecent attitudes (as warned against in Sura Nur) knowing full well that the activities involved in both are also haram?
  • And finally what about the last week – will it succeed in bringing out more from us compared with the rest of the Ramadan?

We all strive to do more in Ramadhan SOME way, so:

  • What about attempting to remove your up-till-now mistakes or neglects in the way of salat and zakat?
  • Are you saving your pocket money and personal savings ONLY for your own myriad expenses OR you care for somebody else’s hunger?
  • Will you be focusing on ‘completing” Quran’s recital as quickly & conveniently (which often means ‘soullessly’) as possible, or will you be including some tajweed or tafseer or hadith?
  • What about taraweeh? Will you wrap it up in ‘7-day’, ‘6-day’, ‘5-day’, ‘4-day’ or ‘3-day’ contrived taraweeh to have it out of your way for the rest of the month?

Finally, the spiritual duties of Ramadan are not actually over after the last saum, so :

  • Will Eid see the complete reversal of our good strivings through the month (like discarding a garment one has had to adorn for the past long hours…)? Unfortunately, the way we live, Eid does have the worse of temptations to overthrow all the lessons and progress we have made in Ramadan. So if you are serious about things this Ramadan, plan ahead of your Eid.
  • The same can be said for the rest of the year… Ramadan is not meant to be a show – a month-long once-in-a-year spiritual festival. Rather, it should be the beginning of an year-long spiritual odyssey. So don’t spend your Ramadan like a month-long once-in-a-year festival. There must be (at the very least) ONE character weakness that we can identify in ourselves and that we can resolve to correct (and to develop the correction into a practise) in Ramazan  and then to keep this new, better and higher level of attitude alive even after Ramadan…

May Allah make this Ramadan an occasion for all of us for our physical, spiritual, psychological, religious, economical, societal, and national (I mean both the nation of Muslims and the nation of Pakistan) well-being! Ameen.

The Muslim scale: Zakat

فَإِن تابوا وَأَقامُوا الصَّلوٰةَ وَءاتَوُا الزَّكوٰةَ فَإِخوٰنُكُم فِى الدّينِ ۗ وَنُفَصِّلُ الءايٰتِ لِقَومٍ يَعلَمونَ ﴿١١﴾ وَإِن نَكَثوا أَيمٰنَهُم مِن بَعدِ عَهدِهِم وَطَعَنوا فى دينِكُم فَقٰتِلوا أَئِمَّةَ الكُفرِ ۙ إِنَّهُم لا أَيمٰنَ لَهُم لَعَلَّهُم يَنتَهونَ ﴿١٢

Translation: If they repent and establish the prayer and pay the obligatory charity, they shall become your brothers in the religion. So We make plain Our verses for a nation that knows (11). But if, after coming to terms with you, they break their oaths and revile your belief, fight the leaders of the disbelief – for they have no oaths – in order that they will desist (12). [Sura Tauba]

Zakat is the 2.5% of our assets that we are required to pass over to the needing ones every year. Since it is farz (i.e. obligatory) utmost care must be excercised in the execution of this duty…

  • How many of you pay out zakat every year with your heart truly in it?
  • Have you bothered to every year to reacquaint yourself with all the delicate issues in the paying out of zakat (some of which are hinted below)?
  • How many execuses your family has created up till now so as to ‘minimize’ the total value of the assets on which you have to calculate the payable dues?
  • Do you carefully bother to count and estimate the current value of the totality of your assets (each and every pair of your gold earrings, for instance) so that you are missing out on nothing?
  • After learning of your errors in the past years, do you intend to correct the mistakes and to carefully reevaluate the amount of zakat unpayed over those past years? Remember all that zakat is still due.
  • Finally, do you just give it away whichever way or do you first investigate whether the subject receiving your zakat is really a legitimate recipient or not? Or, whether the institute you are trusting your zakat with is TRULY forwarding it where it belongs?

Remeber Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddique’s first jihad as a Caliph was to fight those who had refused paying zakat after our Prophet’s (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) death, deciding from the ayah referenced above.

In the next edition of THE FAITH, I will go over a quick overview of the last point on the Muslim Scale and then move over to the Mo’min and Mohsin stages, InshaAllah.

Click here to read other posts from the Islam category in this blog.


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