Sacrifices for the sake of God

Updated 24 September 2015
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Sacrifices for the sake of God

Sharing is one of the most important characteristics of Islam, so much so that Muslims have a duty to share what they possess, “even if they themselves are in need.”

Even prisoners of war are no exception to this: Muslims are encouraged to give aid to captives, too: “They give food, despite their love for it, to the poor and orphans and captives.” (Qur’an, 76:8)
Eid Al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) is one of the greatest examples of solidarity in our faith. Sacrificing an animal for God is one of the observances that encourage sharing.
The performance of sacrifices is found in all the Divine faiths throughout history. Most people therefore possess at least some knowledge about this act of worship: “We have appointed a rite of sacrifice for every nation so that they may invoke God’s name over the livestock He has given them. Your God is One God so submit to Him. …” (Qur’an, 22:34)
The meaning of the word sacrifice is, “Something which is instrumental in leading to a closeness to God.” In Islamic terminology it means, “Something which draws one close to God in spiritual terms.” In other words, it means, “Killing the sacrificial animal with the intention of performing a religious observance, at a specific time and under specific conditions.” God reveals the following in a verse: “We have appointed the sacrificial animals for you as one of the sacred rites of God. There is good in them for you, so invoke God’s name over them, as they stand in rows. And then when they collapse on their sides, eat of them and feed both those who ask and those who are too shy to ask. In this way We have subjected them to you so that hopefully you will be thankful.” (Qur’an, 22:36)
The sacrifice expresses that everything, one’s life or possessions, may be given up on the path of God, as well as submission to God and being filled with gratitude toward Him. The sacrifice is a physical act of faith. It also means spending one’s material possessions on the path of God. It is a symbolic expression of the fact that believers can even give up their lives for God when necessary. The sacrifice is one of the forms of giving in Islam. It is a campaign for sharing and humanitarian aid. It is an explicit manifestation of the fact that life is not a thing of conflict, but rather, meaning is to be found in solidarity, mutual aid and blending.
The sacrifice is an instrument of plenty, not only for the people of the country concerned, but for all. Indeed, many of the animals sacrificed in Turkey are sent abroad as food aid. In this way, the religious observance of the sacrifice is also an act of worship resulting in the spreading of Islam and praising of the name of God across the whole world. It thus encourages preaching the word and raises awareness of spending on the path of God.
The sacrifice is an instrument whereby characteristics such as brotherhood, mutual aid and solidarity, which all societies need and which represent the solution to many of the problems we’ve seen of late through the world, can be preserved. Of course, the sacrifice also makes a significant contribution to social justice, and thus shows the practicability of this moral virtue and the abundance that results when it is applied.
The observance of the sacrifice means that wealthy people become used to sharing their assets with others, and purges people of parsimony and devotion to this world. It is also instrumental in the needy giving thanks to God.
The intention within the performance of the sacrifice is of the greatest importance, because the act must propel a Muslim in the direction of piety and fear of God. As our Lord reveals in His holy verses:
“Their flesh and blood does not reach God but your piety does reach Him.” (Qur’an, 22:37)
The Holy Qur’an describes the proper intention with which the animal must be sacrificed: “Say: “My prayers and my rites, my living and my dying, are for God alone, the Lord of all the worlds.” (Qur’an, 6:162)
As revealed in this verse, a believer does everything for God’s sake, and strives for His approval throughout the day. Acts of observance performed at specific times, such as fasting, the daily five prayers and the sacrifice, are instruments of joy and happiness for Muslims.
All Muslims therefore await the blessed Feast of the Sacrifice with great excitement and preparations typically begin weeks ahead. When the day of the sacrifice dawns, there is great excitement in the home. The meat of animals ritually sacrificed to the accompaniment of prayers is joyously handed out to the needy and to relatives.
The 10th, 11th and 12th days of the month of Dul Hijja are those when animals are to be sacrificed. This period extends to the sunset of the twelfth day of the month.
As with all things done to attain the approval of God, the essential thing in the observance of the sacrifice is to have the proper intention and sincerity, because our Lord reveals in the Qur’an that He will only accept the worship of those who have piety. There is also a command of expiation if one cannot perform this observance. This act of worship, which has fine results in the social and economic spheres, is a sign of dedication to God.
The alms we donate during this Feast of the Sacrifice can also, at least partially, lighten the sufferings of our refugee brothers and sisters across the world, and once again allow them to experience the joy of being one community, the peace of mind of brotherhood and the plenty of mutual solidarity. May God accept all our acts of worship!

The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.