The role of merchants in spreading message of Islam

Updated 07 October 2013
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The role of merchants in spreading message of Islam

To call people to Allah is the duty of every responsible and conscientious Muslim. Since there is no priesthood in Islam or sacerdotal class among Muslims, the duty of the call to Allah cannot be limited to an ill-conceived and imaginary group called the "men of religion as is the case with other religions." In Islam, everyone is a man (or woman) of religion and everyone will be accountable to Allah as to whether or not one fulfilled their obligations sincerely and to the best of their abilities.
Urging Muslims to own up to their responsibilities in this respect, Almighty Allah says: "And who is better in speech than one who calls to Allah and does righteousness and says, 'Indeed, I am of the Muslims.'" (Qur’an, 41: 33)
Therefore, one need not be a profound scholar or a great jurist to call others to Islam. A Muslim should better be a caller to Islam by his good conduct than by eloquent oration, for to preach others to do something not practically embodied in the preacher's character is a vain attempt to win hearts and minds. Moreover, doing so incurs Allah's displeasure, as He, the Almighty Says (what means): "O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do." (Qur’an, 61:2-3)
The adage: "Actions speak louder than words" was well embodied in the Islamic history, namely the spread of Islam in many non-Muslim countries, like parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, through the good conduct of Muslim merchants who came into commercial contacts with the people of those countries.
Hereunder is a brief survey of that peaceful spread of Islam:

Southeast Asia
By the 14th century CE, as Islam made its way through Indian and Chinese merchants into the area of today’s Malaysia, Buddhist and Hindu influences gave way. Islam became the source of legitimacy for the Malay feudal rulers. It was during this period that Islamic and Malay identities combined together, though many Hindu and pre-Hindu customs and practices remained part of the Malay cultural and social mix.
Muslim influence in Southeast Asia is at least six centuries old, i.e., it was present by 1400 CE. Some argue that the Islamic presence there goes back to at least 1100 CE in the earliest areas of Islamic influence, such as in Aceh and northern Sumatra in Indonesia. Whatever exact dates and sources one chooses to support, there is no doubt that the acceptance of Islam by many nations in present-day Malaysia, southern Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, and the southern Philippines occurred within a few hundred years.
In the year 1500, the historian Anthony Reid notes that Islamic influence was present in coastal ports of Sumatra, Java, and Malaysia. Southeast Asian peoples came into direct contact with Muslim traders who had been not just to India, but also to Arabia. Arabic scholars also came to Malaysia and Indonesia, facilitating information about the new religion.
The successful spread of Islam in Indonesia,
Malaysia, and the Philippines owed much to the introduction of the Noble Qur’an and other Islamic books and references.
Today, 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslims, while over half of Malaysia's population is Muslim. In the Philippines, where the Spanish (and later Americans) won the war for religious converts, only 5 percent of the population is Muslim.
Africa
The growth of cities was both a cause and effect of the spread of Islam and economic growth in Muslim-ruled areas in Africa.
Cultural developments in literature, arts and sciences, manufacturing and trade accompanied the spread of Islam and its influence on religious, intellectual, economic and political life in those regions.
Although unified Muslim rule lasted only about a century, Islam kept spreading and Muslim culture and society flourished.
Before 1500, Islam spread widely in sub-Saharan Africa.
The first town south of the Sahara that became majority Muslim was Gao on the Niger River in Mali before 990, when a ruler accepted Islam. Over the centuries, many rulers followed. By 1040, groups in Senegal became Muslims. From them Islam spread to the region of today’s Senegal, west Mali, and Guinea. After the Soninke of the Kingdom of Ghana became Muslims about 1076, Islam spread along the Niger River.
Muslims established the kingdom of Mali in the thirteenth to 15th centuries, and Songhai from1465 to 1600. Farther east, Kanem-Bornu near Lake Chad became Muslim after 1100.
In West Africa, as was the case with Southeast Asia, it was traders who introduced Islam, and many rulers accepted it first, followed by others. African Muslim scholars became established in the major towns like Timbuktu, and they taught, wrote and practiced Islamic law as judges. Islam was established in West Africa throughout the Sahel belt and along the Niger River into today’s Nigeria.
It was famous trade routes, which led to the empire of Ghana and connected prominent African places like Timbuktu (in Mali), the present Nigeria, Tripoli and Tunisia.
These routes had made all the above-mentioned places famous trade centers. These centers of trade invariably became centers of Islamic learning and civilization. New ideas came through visiting traders in the field of administrative practices.
In East Africa, traders had spread Islam down the coast by the tenth century, and it gradually developed further in the following centuries. In the Sudan, south of Egypt, the population of Nubia gradually became Muslim during the fourteenth century, through immigration of Muslim Arab tribesmen.
Muslim rule and influence, however, did not extend south of Khartoum, where the Blue and White Niles before 1500.

• Courtesy of islamweb.net


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.