Meaning of life in Islam

Updated 21 January 2016

Meaning of life in Islam

Islam is the response to humanity’s search for meaning. The purpose of creation for all men and women for all times has been one: To know and worship God.
The Qur’an teaches us that every human being is born conscious of God: “(Remember) when your Lord extracted from the loins of Adam’s children their descendants and made them testify (saying): ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yes, we testify to it.’ (This was) in case you say on the Day of Judgment: ‘We were unaware of this.’ Or you say: ‘It was our ancestors who worshipped others besides God and we are only their descendants. Will you then destroy us for what those liars did’?” (Qur’an, 7:172-173)
In Christianity, the meaning of life is rooted in faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the proposition is not without serious problems.
First, if this is the purpose of creation and the precondition for eternal life, why was it not taught by the prophets to all the nations of the world? Second, had God turned into man close to the time of Adam all mankind would have had an equal chance to eternal life, unless those before the time of Jesus had another purpose for their existence! Third, how can people today who have not heard of Jesus fulfill the Christian purpose of creation? Naturally, such a purpose is too narrow and goes against divine justice.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) teaches us that God created this primordial need in human nature at the time Adam was made. God took a covenant from Adam when He created him.
God extracted all of Adam’s descendants who were yet to be born, generation after generation, spread them out, and took a covenant from them. He addressed their souls directly, making them bear witness that He was their Lord. Since God made all human beings swear to His Lordship when He created Adam, this oath is imprinted on the human soul even before it enters the fetus, and so a child is born with a natural belief in the Oneness of God. This natural belief is called fitra in Arabic.
Consequently, every person carries the seed of belief in the Oneness of God that lies deeply buried under layers of negligence and dampened by social conditioning. If the child were left alone, it would grow up conscious of God — a single Creator — but all children are affected by their environment. The Prophet of God said, “Each child is born in a state of ‘fitra,’ but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian. It is like the way an animal gives birth to a normal offspring. Have you noticed any young born mutilated before you mutilate them?” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
The Arabs would cut the ears of camels and the likes as a service to their gods in pre-Islamic times.
So, just as the child’s body submits to physical laws, set by God in nature, its soul submits naturally to the fact that God is its Lord and Creator. However, its parents condition it to follow their own way, and the child is not mentally capable of resisting it.
The religion which the child follows at this stage is one of custom and upbringing, and God does not hold it to account for this religion. When a child matures into an adult, he or she must now follow the religion of knowledge and reason.
As adults, people must now struggle between their natural disposition toward God and their desires in order to find the correct path. The call of Islam is directed to this primordial nature, the natural disposition, the imprint of God on the soul, the fitra, which caused the souls of every living being to agree that He Who made them was their Lord, even before the heavens and earth were created, “I did not create the jinn and mankind except for My worship.” (Qur’an, 51:56)
According to Islam, there has been a basic message which God has revealed through all prophets, from the time of Adam to the last of the prophets, Muhammad (peace be upon them). All the prophets sent by God came with the same essential message: “Indeed, We have sent a messenger to every nation (saying), ‘Worship God and avoid false gods...’.” (Qur’an, 16:36)
The prophets (peace be upon them) brought the same answer to mankind’s most troubling question, an answer that addresses the yearning of the soul for God.

What is worship?
Islam means ‘submission’ and worship, in Islam, means ‘obedient submission to the will of God.’ Every created being ‘submits’ to the Creator by following the physical laws created by God, “To Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and the earth; all obey His will.” (Qur’an, 30:26)
They, however, are neither rewarded nor punished for their ‘submission’, for it involves no will. Reward and punishment are for those who worship God, who submit to the moral and religious Law of God of their own free will. This worship is the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by God to mankind. For example, this understanding of worship was emphatically expressed by Jesus ((peace be upon him), “None of those who call me ‘Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
‘Will’ means ‘what God wants human beings to do.’ This ‘Will of God’ is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers. Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship.
Only when human beings worship their God by submitting to His religious law can they have peace and harmony in their lives and the hope for heaven, just like the universe runs in harmony by submitting to the physical laws set by its Lord. When you remove the hope of heaven, you remove the ultimate value and purpose of life. Otherwise, what difference would it really make whether we live a life of virtue or vice? Everyone’s fate would be the same anyway.

To be continued next week

Courtesy: islamreligion.com


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

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.