SATURDAY, 10 JANUARY 2004 00:57 MARWAN BOUSTANY HITS: 1679
I presented the talk below at an interfaith dialogue and I think it is good because it explains the very essence of Islam. I hope it will be of benefit to you all. In what is to follow I hope to achieve two goals:
Describe briefly what is the Qur’anic/Islamic understanding of God, and also of God’s relationship to the reality we see.
Describe briefly the relationship between God and the meaning of life for a Muslim.
By doing this I hope to explain what my religion is. As regards my personal experience of it, I will leave that to the question/discussion time.
But before I start I must explain two things: –
I will soon be quoting from the Qur’an, and you will hear me saying ‘us’ and ‘we’ when quoting God. I wanted to explain that this is plural of respect and not of number, similar to the idea of the royal WE in English.
The word Allah is THE Arabic word for God. As proof of this consider that Arab Christians use the word Allah to refer to God also. To continue…
The core message of the Qur’an is regarding the nature and unity of God, and of the worship to God, everything else falls into place only after this core is established. As an example, this is simply stated in the following verses of the Qur’an:-
“He is Allah besides Whom there is nothing worthy of worship; the Knower of the unseen/hidden and the seen/manifest; He is the Beneficent, the Merciful
He is Allah, besides Whom there is nothing worthy of worship; the King, the Holy, the Giver of peace, the Granter of security, Guardian over all, the Mighty, the Supreme, the Possessor of every greatness; Glory be to Allah from what they set up (with Him).
He is Allah the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; His are the most excellent and beautiful names; whatever is in the heavens and the earth declares His glory; and He is the Mighty, the Wise.” (Surah 59 : 22-24)
The message of the unity and incomparability of Allah is also specifically addressed in a short chapter of the Qur’an:-
“Say: He is Allah, the One!
Allah, the eternal and Besought of all!
He begets not, nor is He begotten.
And there is none like unto Him.” (Surah 112 : 1-4)
Not only is there no-one comparable to Allah, there is also nothing comparable to Allah, this is clarified elsewhere in the Qur’an: –
“The Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatsoever like unto Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things).” (Surah 42 : 11)
By this, we are clearly taught to absolutely differentiate between the creator and created. (Allah is far above his creation) So we will never fall into the trap of anthropomorphism, pantheism or whatever, that is, we will never degrade and disrespect Allah by thinking of him as a human or tree or whatever, because there is nothing and no one like Allah.
So we do not think of God as a man or a woman, or in fact with any image at all. We accept God by his self described attributes and names, and we worship him as such.
From the Qur’an we see Allah’s relationship to reality is as a creator and sustainer. All things owe their origin and continued existence to Allah, e.g., the universe, our planet, animals and humans etc…EVERYTHING. This being in contradiction to materialist philosophy that preaches that matter needs neither a creator nor a sustainer.
We hold that there are no secondary causes; by this I mean that everything that happens anywhere and at any time is as a result of God’s action. Put another way, nothing happens except if God wills it to happen. This does not mean determinism, as it is our actions that are created, not our intentions.
This therefore makes God very personal indeed, for God is always with us with his creative power and knowledge, not only does God see everything we do; he brings into existence everything we do. This is clarified in the Qur’an: –
“And Allah created you and whatever you do” (Surah 37 : 96)
And so, mankind’s relationship to God is one on one, no intermediaries. As God is not somewhere in the sky, waiting to be invoked, he is with us always, that is why it says in the Qur’an:-
“We created the human and We know what his own self whispers to him. We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” (Surah 50 : 16)
Because of this view of God’s relationship to the universe, we can see in the Muslim worldview the ultimate act of Glorification of God. For we do not ascribe power, greatness, mercy or anything else to any but Allah, because for Muslims, the only acts that are ours, are choice, intention and sincerity, and these too by God’s leave and mercy. This therefore subjects us to the requirements of morality.
The fulfillment of our moral responsibility is in fact the definition of Muslim worship. As right and wrong are things that exist only with reference to God’s commandment.
So when God’s commandments are followed as a knowing and intentional act of obedience to God, this then is called worship in Islam.
The Muslim concept of worship is in fact totally focused upon Allah (SWT), as Allah is the only destination for all acts of worship.
So acts like: –
Giving in charity.
Kindness in action and word.
Fighting against falsehood and oppression.
Pleasing one’s spouse.
Patience and perseverance.
Promoting the truth.
Anything good, done as an act of obedience to Allah, is worship. I should also mention that in any of these acts moderation should be practiced.
In a noble verse of the Qur’an, a Muslim’s attitude to life is explained: –
“Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds:” (Surah 6 : 162)
On the other hand, any act that is done for anything or anyone else’s cause instead of Allah’s is an act of shirk. Shirk means to associate partners with Allah. Therefore, people who place a concept, object or person as a deity in partnership with Allah are called mushrikin, those who associate with God. If a mushrik does not stop their association with God and submit to God alone, they are guaranteed hell.
Their action and deeds will also be of no good to them, this is explained in the following verse of the Qur’an: –
“Out of what Allah has created in abundance in crops and cattle, they assigned Him a share: they say; according to their fancies: “This is for Allah, and this – for our partners!” but the share of their “partners” does not reach Allah, whilst the share of Allah reaches
their “partners” ! evil is their judgement!” (Surah 6 : 136)
Which means, that upon dedicating to anything other than God, you annihilate the worth of all your dedication along with simultaneously earning Allah’s wrath.
And in another verse, the emptiness of the actions of those who deny Allah is dealt with beautifully, it says: –
“As for those who disbelieve, their deeds are as a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it to be water until he comes unto it and finds that it is nothing, and finds instead Allah, Who will pay him his due; and Allah is swift at reckoning.” (Surah 24 : 39)
I am now therefore in a position to explain what it means to be a Muslim. To be a Muslim means that you are person who totally submits their will to God’s will.
So from thinking, “I will give this person money because they look poor” the Muslim will think “I will give this poor person money because it’s a command from Allah”. This is explained in a Qur’anic verse:-
“We only feed you for Allah’s sake; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks:” (Surah 76 : 9)
The Muslim motto is therefore, “Not my will, but the will of Allah be done!”.
And finally we come to the issue of how a Muslim looks at this life that we are living. Simply, we see this life as a test of the righteousness and sincerity of mankind. In the Qur’an we are told:-
“Every soul must taste of death, and We test you with evil and with good, as a trial. And unto Us ye will be returned.” (Surah 21 : 35)
In fact we are told that life and death were in fact created for this purpose, it says of Allah: –
“The One Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Oft-Forgiving;-” (Surah 67 : 2)
This test is further elaborated in another verse as follows: –
“Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in yourselves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from the idolatrous nation. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs.” (Surah 3 : 186)
And we will be recompensed in perfect justice for every action we have done. By God’s leave, our intentions and sincerity in acting them out will earn us paradise. We are not responsible for the sins of our forefathers and we are not judged according to ethnicity, all that matters is righteousness. I will therefore finish off with a relevant Qur’anic verse which tells us to consider: –
“That no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another-
And that mankind shall have nothing but what it strives for-
And that its effort will be seen.
Then shall it be rewarded for it with the fullest reward-
And that to thy Lord is the final Goal;” (Surah 53 : 38-42)