FIRST THINGS FIRST

What are the ways and means of our Lord’s Straight Path (irâ al-Mustaqîn – Q1:6) ? This is the same Path well-trod by our Prophet, his Companions and their Successors. Actually, we well know the basics required of us as Muslims —Belief, Prayer, Fasting, Charity, Hajj— even if, God forbid, carrying out these ways and means might, at times, seem to be inconvenient for us, or at odds with our own preferred personal plans or interests at that time in our lives. At heart, the Islamic social order promotes the sound psychology of a balanced human being, supported by a just and compassionate social order.

You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind: you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and you believe in God.  [Surah Âl ‘Imrân, 3: 111]

Now—fourteen centuries after the Prophet, his Companions, and their Successors— it is our generation’s turn to re-negotiate for our communities the same kind of spirituality and just social order that became their hallmark.

We already have the infrastructure which undergirds our building: We have it’s ‘Five Pillars,’ the revealed Book, the collected Hadith of our Prophet, the writings of generations of our scholars and wise leaders. We have adherents all across the globe, but overall we are not knowledgeable or committed to implementing what we know. Ignorant people have been able to hi-jack our religion and destroy our global reputation —but only when we have been pre-occupied with other things and not stood up to stop them with genuine knowledge of Islam!

We must seriously examine ourselves and commit anew to implementing —with nothing short of the correct intention to please Allah in the best way— the making of the best individual in the best Community, as intended by the Book revealed to Muhammad ﷺ.  Acceptance with Allah begins —as it always has— with the heart’s resolve.

…nothing shall be accounted unto man but what he has been striving for, and that in time [the nature of] all his striving will be shown [to him in its true light]… [Sûrah Al-Najm, 53:39]

It was narrated from Jabir that the Messenger of Allah said: “People will be gathered (on the Day of Resurrection) according to their intentions.” (Ibn Majah 4230)

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah said: “The oath is [accounted] only according to the intention of the one who requests the oath to be taken.”‘ (Ibn Majah 2120)

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet said: “Whoever takes people’s wealth with the intention of destroying it, Allah will destroy him.” (Ibn Majah 2411)

Narrated Abu Huraira:  The Prophet said, “Whoever takes the money of the people with the intention of repaying it, Allah will repay it on his behalf, and whoever takes it in order to spoil it, then Allah will spoil him.” (Bukhari 2387)

Narrated Abu Mas’ud:  The Prophet said, “If a man spends on his family (with the intention of having a reward from Allah) sincerely for Allah’s sake, then it is a (kind of) alms-giving in reward for him. (Bukhari 55)

Narrated `Umar:  I heard the Prophet saying, “The reward of deeds depends on the intentions, so whoever emigrated for the worldly benefits or to marry a woman, his emigration was for that for which he emigrated, but whoever emigrated for the Sake of Allah and His Apostle, his emigration is [accounted as] for Allah and His Apostle.” (Bukhari 3898)

Narrated `Utban bin Malik Al-Ansari, who was one of the men of the tribe of Bani Salim: Allah’s Messenger came to me and said, “If anybody comes on the Day of Resurrection who has said sincerely La ilaha illa-llah, with the intention to win Allah’s Pleasure, Allah will make the Hell-Fire forbidden for him.” (Bukhari 6423)

Alongside correct pure intention is correct pure and plain belief. There is nothing complicated —whether theological, psychological, philosophical, emotional— about belief in the One God (Allah)—other than the profound meaning of the “Most Excellent Name(s)” !   By any of these Names, one can choose to refer to Him or to address Him.

He [alone] is God (Allah), the One besides whom there is no other God —[the Sole] Knower of the [realms of all the] unseen and the seen (Al-‘Âlim Al-Ghaibi wa Al-Shahâdah).

He is the All-Merciful (Al-Rahmân) , the Mercy-Giving (Al-Rahîm). He [alone] is God. There is no God but Him— the King (Malik), the All-Holy (Al-Quddûs), the Peace (Al-Salâm), the Faithful (Al-Mu’min), the Guardian (Al-Muhaimin), the Overpowering [One] (Al-‘Azîz), the Irresistible (Al-Jabbâr), the Sublime (Al-Mutakabbir).

Highly exalted is God [far] above all that they associate as gods [with Him]! He [alone] is God. The Creator (Al-Khaliq), the Maker (Al-Bâri’), the Fashioner (Al-Musawwir).

To Him [alone] belong the most excellent names! All that is in the heavens and the earth gives due exaltation to Him. For He [alone] is the Overpowering [One] (Al-‘Âzîz), the All-Wise (Al-Hakîm).  [Sûrah Al Hashr, 59: 22-24]

Yet to God (Allah) belong the most excellent names. So call upon Him with them. And leave [alone] those who profane His names. They shall be [duly] recompensed for all that they have done [in life]. Thus, of [all] those whom We have created, there is a community that guides [people] by the [revealed] truth, and with it they do justice [to others]. [Sûrah Al-A’râf, 7:180-181]

Islamic tradition enumerates the Most Excellent Names  in several variations, but without conflict or contradiction.  There are various online resources for help on absorbing the meaning of these Names, and memorizing them —with practical spiritual benefit.

Narrated Abu Huraira:  Allah has ninety-nine  Names, i.e., one hundred minus one, and whoever believes in their meanings and acts accordingly, will enter Paradise; and Allah is witr (one) and loves ‘the witr’ (i.e., odd numbers). (Bukhari 6410)

The Quran emphasizes the logical deduction that the Creator —the one characterized for us in something like human terms, that is, by the ‘ninety-nine names’— that Creator must be a single Master-Mind of all that exists (and not a committee of deities nor a sum total of the forces of nature). In fact, the Quran engages, time and again, in this kind of argument.

Indeed, God [alone] is splitter of grain and pit … He brings forth the living from the dead. … the dead from the living …  Splitter of morning light [from the darkness] … made the stars …produced [all of] you from a single soul … made the signs [in creation] utterly distinct [indications] for a people who [would] know [God and His way]. … produced [all of] you from a single soul. … made the signs [in your lives] utterly distinct [indications] for a people who would [reflect on them and] understand [their wisdom]. … sent down from the sky water … plants of every kind …sure signs [of God’s might and mercy] for a people who believe.

Still, they [who disbelieve] have appointed for God associate-gods from among the jinn, though He created them… He is the [Sole] Originator of the heavens and the earth [with no precedent]! … Rather, He created everything [from nothing]. For He is all-knowing of all things. [O humanity!] That is God, your Lord! There is no God but Him, the Creator of everything. So worship Him [alone]. For He is guardian over all things, [directing the affairs of His creation.]

No eye attains Him. Yet He attains all that every eye sees. For He is the Subtle, the All-Aware. Truly, manifest proofs have come to you from your Lord. Thus whoever sees [them], then it is for [the good of] his own soul. But whoever blinds himself [to them], then it is [an offense] against himself. …

And so it is that We vary the [natural and the revealed] signs … that We may [bring forth the truth and] make it clear to a people who know [that it is a revelation from God]. … For had God so willed, [He would not have given them wills to choose with,] and they would not have associated gods with God. …

For to every community We have made their deeds fair-seeming. Then to their Lord is their return. Then He shall tell them [the due recompense] of all that they have been doing [in life]. [Sûrah Al-An’âm, 6:95-108]

Say to them [the disbelievers, O Muhammad], then: Have you ever considered [the desolate reality of] your associate-gods whom you call upon apart from God? Show me what they have created of the earth! Or do they have any share [with God] in [the creation or in the sovereignty of] the heavens? Or is it that We have given them a [Heavenly] Book, such that they hold clear proof [of the truth of their associate-gods] from it? Rather, the [godless] wrongdoers promise one another nothing but [utter] delusion. [Sûrah Al-Fâtir, 35:40-41]

Understanding God as He has informed us about Himself is the pivotal issue in the history of mankind as conveyed to us in the Quran. All further Truth and the purity of our intention hangs upon knowing our origin, purpose and ultimate meaning in relationship to the Cause of our existence.

So then, what is the pivotal truth about our Creator, the crucial one which we are ultimately NOT allowed to reject or negotiate? It is in seeing that the singular, unique, undivided Power —the Creator— could not possibly be “distributed” as various and separated deities throughout His creation. In other words, there is no [separate] god of agriculture or harvest, no god of procreation or family life, no god of war, etc, etc —as found in such prolific abundance in the Greek and Roman pantheon of deities.

Even the Arabs —and previous Semite peoples like those of Noah or Abraham— had mistakenly developed and named their own pantheon of gods. The Quran records the names of some of these idols, and insists upon the complete intolerability and insult, in Allah’s sight, of associating them with Him, the singularly Almighty Creator and Ruler of the Universe. Such other so-called ‘gods’ will be either something from God’s creation or something from man’s imagination or caprice.

Have you seen, then, [O idolaters, the mere stones you worship—the female idols], al-Lât and al-‘Uzzâ—and Manât, the third one, as well? Will you [betake] to yourselves only male [offspring], while to [God you ascribe] female-divines? This, then, is a most outrageous division! Indeed, these [idols] are nothing but mere names you have named—you and your forefathers.  God has not sent down any authority for them [in His revelations]. Those [who worship them] follow nothing but mere conjecture and what their own souls desire—though guidance has truly come to them from their Lord. Or is it that there shall be for every human being whatever  [intercessors] he fancies? Yet to God [alone] belongs [all dominion over] the Hereafter and [this,] the first [life]. [Sûrah Al-Najm, 53:19-25]

There is truly an excellent model for you in [the firm stand of] Abraham and those with him when they said to their [idolatrous] people: We are free of [association with] you and [with] all that you worship, apart from God. We have disbelieved in you [for your ungodly ways]. Thus [open] enmity and hostility have commenced between us and you forever, until you believe in God alone— notwithstanding Abraham’s statements to his father: I shall seek forgiveness for you. Yet I have no control to help you with anything against God. [They prayed:] Our Lord! On You [alone] do we rely. And to You [alone] do we turn. For to You [alone] is the ultimate destiny. [Sûrah Al-Mumtaḥanah, 60:4]

Noah said: My Lord! Indeed, they have rebelled against me and followed [instead] those whose wealth and children have increased them only in loss [of faith]. Moreover, they have plotted an enormous plot [of great evil]. And they have said [to the people:] Do not ever leave your gods! Do not ever leave Wadd, nor Suwâ, nor Yaghûth, or Ya’ûq, or Nasr. Thus, truly, they have led many astray… so they were drowned for their sinfulness… [Sûrah Al-Nûh, 71:21-25]

In the modern, rational world the ‘idols’ that we associate with God tend to be figurative ones: pursuit of status, wealth, belonging; attachment to a charismatic leader, a movement or cause; trust in one’s own rationality and logic, superior knowledge or reasoning, etc. etc.

…To be continued in Part 14

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