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Subject: Islam FAQ (Part 4/15): God & Worship

This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:15 GMT

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Archive-name: islam-faq/part4 Posting-Frequency: monthly Last-modified: 1995/3/27 Version: 3.3 Organization: Alumni Association, Caltech, Pasadena, California
Copyright 1993,1994,1995 Asim Mughal (mughal@caltech.edu) Redistribution for profit, or in altered content/format prohibited without explicit written permission of the author. Any other redistribution must include this copyright notice and attribution. Frequently Asked Questions: Part 4 __________________________________ This message is automatically posted to 'soc.religion.islam' every month and when updated. This lists answers to most commonly asked questions on the forum. Contributions & changes are requested and should be directed to: mughal@caltech.edu OVERVIEW: The Frequently Asked Questions document for Islam has been divided in parts. Below is the index. Part 1 - Welcome & Index Part 2 - Info on Islamic News Groups Part 3 - Introduction to Islam Part 4 - God & Worship Part 5 - Islam, Quran & Muhammad (PBUH) Part 6 - Marriage Laws in Islam Part 7 - Women In Islam Part 8 - Life after Death, Moral System & Human rights in Islam Part 9 - Islam: Prophethood, Jesus & Trinity Part 10 - Islam: Farrakhism & Malcom X Part 11 - Islamic Internet Guide: Islamic Resources on Internet Part 12 - Other Islamic Resource Guides on Internet Part 13 - Islamic Literature: Books & Video Part 14 - Islamic Calendar & Prayer Time Table for 1994 Part 15 - Misc: List of Halal Foods ________________________________________________________ PART 4: God & Worship Contents --Articles-- 1. CONCEPT OF GOD IN ISLAM ........................................ from III&E 2. God's Attributes ............................................... from III&E 3. The Oneness of God ............................................. from III&E 4. The Believer's Attitude ........................................ from III&E 5. CONCEPT OF WORSHIP IN ISLAM .................................... from III&E --Announcements-- 6. Archive Info .............................................................. 7. Credits ................................................................... Articles ..................................................................... 1. CONCEPT OF GOD IN ISLAM ........................................ from III&E It is a known fact that every language has one or more terms that are used in reference to God and sometimes to lesser deities. This is not the case with Allah. Allah is the personal name of the One true God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its uniqueness when compared with the word god which can be made plural, gods, or feminine, goddess. It is interesting to notice that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and a sister language of Arabic. The One true God is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to nothing and nothing is comparable to Him. The Prophet Muhammad was asked by his contemporaries about Allah; the answer came directly from God Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Quran, which is considered the essence of the unity or the motto of monotheism. This is chapter 112 which reads: "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Say (O Muhammad) He is God the One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor has been begotten, and equal to Him is not anyone." Some non-Muslims allege that God in Islam is a stern and cruel God who demands to be obeyed fully. He is not loving and kind. Nothing can be farther from truth than this allegation. It is enough to know that, with the exception of one, each of the 114 chapters of the Quran begins with the verse: "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate." In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) we are told that "God is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child." But God is also Just. Hence evildoers and sinners must have their share of punishment and the virtuous, His bounties and favors. Actually God's attribute of Mercy has full manifestation in His attribute of Justice. People suffering throughout their lives for His sake and people oppressing and exploiting other people all their lives should not receive similar treatment from their Lord. Expecting similar treatment for them will amount to negating the very belief in the accountability of man in the Hereafter and thereby negating all the incentives for a moral and virtuous life in this world. The following Quranic verses are very clear and straightforward in this respect: "Verily, for the Righteous are gardens of Delight, in the Presence of their Lord. Shall We then treat the people of Faith like the people of Sin? What is the matter with you? How judge you?" (68:34-36) Islam rejects characterizing God in any human form or depicting Him as favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or race. He created the human-beings as equals. They may distinguish themselves and get His favor through virtue and piety only. The concept that God rested in the seventh day of creation, that God wrestled with one of His soldiers, that God is an envious plotter against mankind, or that God is incarnate in any human being are considered blasphemy from the Islamic point of view. The unique usage of Allah as a personal name of God is a reflection of Islam's emphasis on the purity of the belief in God which is the essence of the message of all God's messengers. Because of this, Islam considers associating any deity or personality with God as a deadly sin which God will never forgive, despite the fact He may forgive all other sins. The Creator must be of a different nature from the things created because if he is of the same nature as they are, he will be temporal and will therefore need a maker. It follows that nothing is like Him. If the maker is not temporal, then he must be eternal. But if he is eternal, he cannot be caused, and if nothing outside him causes him to continue to exist, which means that he must be self-sufficient. And if the does not depend on anything for the continuance of his own existence, then this existence can have no end. The Creator is therefore eternal and everlasting: 'He is the =46irst and the Last.' He is Self-Sufficient or Self-Subsistent or, to use a Quranic term, Al-Qayyum. The Creator does not create only in the sense of bringing things into being, He also preserves them and takes them out of existence and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them. "God is the Creator of everything. He is the guardian over everything. Unto Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth." (39:62, 63) "No creature is there crawling on the earth, but its provision rests on God. He knows its lodging place and it repository." (11:6) 2. God's Attributes ............................................... from III&E If the Creator is Eternal and Everlasting, then His attributes must also be eternal and everlasting. He should not lose any of His attributes nor acquire new ones. If this is so, then His attributes are absolute. Can there be more than one Creator with such absolute attributes? Can there be for example, two absolutely powerful Creators? A moment's thought shows that this is not feasible. The Quran summarizes this argument in the following verses: "God has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him: For then each god would have taken of that which he created and some of them would have risen up over others." (23:91) And Why, were there gods in earth and heaven other than God, they (heaven and earth) would surely go to ruin." (21:22) 3. The Oneness of God ............................................. from III&E The Quran reminds us of the falsity of all alleged gods. To the worshippers of man-made objects, it asks: "Do you worship what you have carved yourself?" (37:95) "Or have you taken unto you others beside Him to be your protectors, even such as have no power either for good or for harm to themselves?" (13:16) To the worshippers of heavenly bodies it cites the story of Abraham: "When night outspread over him he say a star and said, 'This is my Lord.' But when it set he said, 'I love not the setters.' When he saw the moon rising, he said, 'This is my Lord.' But when it set he said, 'If my Lord does not guide me I shall surely be of the people gone astray.' When he say the sun rising, he said, 'This is my Lord; this is greater.' But when it set he said, 'O my people, surely I quit that which you associate, I have turned my face to Him Who originated the heavens and the earth; a man of pure faith, I am not of the idolaters.'" (6:76-79) 4. The Believer's Attitude ........................................ from III&E In order to be a Muslim, i.e., to surrender oneself to God, it is necessary to believe in the oneness of God, in the sense of His being the only Creator, Preserver, Nourisher, etc. But this belief - later on called "Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah is not enough." Many of the idolaters knew and believed that only the Supreme God could do all this. but that was not enough to make them Muslims. To tawhid ar-rububiyyah one must add tawhid al'uluhiyyah, i.e., one acknowledges the fact that is God alone Who deserves to be worshipped, and thus abstains from worshipping any other thing or being. Having achieved this knowledge of the one true God, man should constantly have faith in Him, and should allow nothing to induce him to deny truth. When faith enters a person's heart, it causes certain mental states which result in certain actions. Taken together these mental states and actions are the proof for the true faith. The Prophet said, "Faith is that which resides firmly in the heart and which is proved by deeds." Foremost among those mental states is the feeling of gratitude towards God, which could be said to be the essence of 'ibada' (worship). The feeling of gratitude is so important that a non-believer is called 'kafir,' which means 'one who denies a truth' and also 'one who is ungrateful.' A believer loves, and is grateful to God for the bounties He bestowed upon him, but being aware of the fact that his good deeds, whether mental or physical, are far from being commensurate with Divine favors, he is always anxious lest God should punish him, here or in the Hereafter. He, therefore, fears Him, surrenders himself to Him and serves Him with great humility. One cannot be in such a mental state without being almost all the time mindful of God. Remembering God is thus the life force of faith, without which it fades and withers away. The Quran tries to promote this feeling of gratitude by repeating the attributes of God very frequently. We find most of these attributes mentioned together in the following verses of the Quran: "He is God; there is no god but He, He is the Knower of the unseen and the visible; He is the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. He is God, there is no God but He. He is the King, the All-Holy, the All-Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the All-Preserver, the All-Mighty, the All-Compeller, the All-Sublime. Glory be to God, above that they associate! He is God the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper. To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise." (59:22-24) "There is no god but He, the Living, the Everlasting. Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave? He knows what lies before them and what is after them, and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills. His throne comprises the heavens and earth; the preserving of them oppresses Him not; He is the All-High, the All-Glorious." (2:255) "People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not, 'Three.' Refrain; better is it for you. God is only one God. Glory be to Him - (He is) above having a son." (4:171) 5. CONCEPT OF WORSHIP IN ISLAM .................................... from III&E The concept of worship in Islam is misunderstood by many people including some Muslims. Worship is commonly taken to mean performing ritualistic acts such as prayers, fasting, charity, etc. This limited understanding of worship is only one part of the meaning of worship in Islam. That is why the traditional definition of worship in Islam is a comprehensive definition that includes almost everything in any individual's activities. The definition goes something like this: "Worship is an all inclusive term for all that God loves of external and internal sayings and actions of a person." In other words, worship is everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah. This, of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of one's fellow human-beings. Islam looks at the individual as a whole. He is required to submit himself completely to Allah, as the Quran instructed the Prophet Muhammad to do: "Say (O Muhammad) my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allah; He has no partner and I am ordered to be among those who submit, i.e.; Muslims." (6:162, 163) The natural result of this submission is that all one's activities should conform to the instructions of the one to whom the person is submitting. Islam, being a way of life, requires that its followers model their life according to its teachings in every aspect, religious or other wise. This might sound strange to some people who think of religion as a personal relation between the individual and God, having no impact on one's activities outside rituals. As a matter of fact Islam does not think much of mere rituals when they are performed mechanically and have no influence on one's inner life. The Quran addresses the believers and their neighbors from among the People of the Book who were arguing with them about the change of the direction of Qibla in the following verse: "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward the East or the West, but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets, and gives his beloved money to this relatives and the orphans and the needy and for the ransoming of captives and who observes prayer and pays the poor-due; and those who fulfill their promises when they have made one, and the patient in poverty and affliction and the steadfast in time of war; it is those who have proved truthful and it is those who are the God-fearing." (2:177) The deeds in the above verse are the deeds of righteousness and they are only a part of worship. The Prophet told us about faith, which is the basis of worship, that it "is made up of sixty and some branches; the highest of which is the belief in the Oneness of Allah, i.e., there is no God but Allah and the lowest in the scale of worship is removing obstacles and dirt from people's way." Decent work is considered in Islam a type of worship. The Prophet said: "Whoever finds himself at the nightfall tired of his work, God will forgive his sins." Seeking knowledge is one of the highest types of worship. The Prophet told his companions that "seeking knowledge is a (religious) duty on every Muslim." In another saying he said: "Seeking knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years." Social courtesy and cooperation are part of worship when done for the sake of Allah as the Prophet told us: "Receiving your friend with a smile is a type of charity, helping a person to load his animal is a charity and putting some water in your neighbor's bucket is a charity." It is worth noting that even performing one's duties is considered a sort of worship. The Prophet told us that whatever one spends for his family is a type of charity; he will be rewarded for it if he acquires it through legal means. Kindness to members of one's family is an act of worship as when one puts a piece of food in his spouse's mouth. Not only this but even the acts we enjoy doing very much, when they are performed according to the instructions of the Prophet, are considered as acts of worship. The Prophet told his companions that they will be rewarded even for having sexual intercourse with their wives. The companions were astonished and asked: "How are we going to be rewarded for doing something we enjoy very much?" The Prophet asked them: "Suppose you satisfy your desires illegally; don't you think that you will be punished for that?" They replied, "Yes." "So," he said, "by satisfying it legally with your wives you are rewarded for it." This means they are acts of worship. Thus Islam does not consider sex a dirty thing that one should avoid. It is dirty and sinful only when it is satisfied outside marital life. It is clear, from the previous discussion that the concept of worship in Islam is a comprehensive concept that includes all the positive activities of the individual. This of course is in agreement with the all inclusive nature of Islam as a way of life. It regulates human life on all levels: individual, social, economic, political and spiritual. That is why Islam provides guidance to the smallest details of one's life on all these levels. Thus following these details is following Islamic instructions in that specific area. It is a very encouraging element when one realizes that all his activities are considered by God as acts of worship. This should lead the individual to seek Allah's pleasure in his actions and always try to do them in the best possible manner whether he is watched by his superiors or he is alone. There is always the permanent supervisor, who knows everything, namely, Allah. Discussing the non-ritual worship in Islam first does not mean undervaluing the importance of the ritual ones. Actually ritual worship, if performed in true spirit, elevates man morally and spiritually and enables him to carry on his activities in all walks of life according to the Guidance of God. Among ritual worships, Salah (ritual prayer) occupies the key position for two reasons. Firstly, it is the distinctive mark of a believer. Secondly, it prevents an individual from all sorts of abominations and vices by providing him chances of direct communion with his Creator five times a day, wherein he renews his covenant with God and seeks His guidance again and again: "You alone we worship and to You alone we turn for help. Guide us to the straight path." (1:5,6) Actually Salah is the first practical manifestation of Faith and also the foremost of the basis conditions for the success of the believers: "Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers." (23:1-2) The same fact has been emphasized by the Prophet (PBUH) in a different way. He says: "Those who offer their Salah with great care and punctuality, will find it a light, a proof of their Faith and cause of their salvation on the Day of Judgment." After Salah, Zakah (poor-due) is an important pillar of Islam. In the Quran, Salah and Zakah mostly have been mentioned together many times. Like Salah, Zakah is a manifestation of faith that affirms that God is the sole owner of everything in the universe, and what men hold is a trust in their hand over which God made them trustees to discharge it as He has laid down: "Believe in Allah and His messenger and spend of that over which He made you trustees." (57:7) In this respect Zakah is an act of devotion which, like prayer, brings the believer nearer to his Lord. Apart from this, Zakah is a means of redistribution of wealth in a way that reduces differences between classes and groups. It makes a fair contribution to social stability. By purging the soul of the rich from selfishness and the soul of the poor from envy and resentment against society, it stops up the channels leading to class hatred and makes it possible for the springs of brotherhood and solidarity to gush forth. Such stability is not merely based on the personal feelings of the rich; it stands on a firmly established right which, if the rich denied it, would be exacted by force, if necessary. Siyam (fasting during the day time of the month of Ramadan) is another pillar of Islam. The main function of fasting is to make the Muslim pure from "within" as other aspects of Shariah make him pure from "without." By such purity he responds to what is true and good and shuns what is false and evil. This is what we can perceive in the Quranic verse: "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may gain piety." (2:183) In an authentic tradition, the Prophet reported Allah as saying: "He suspends eating, drinking, and gratification of his sexual passion for My sake." Thus his reward is going to be according to God's great bounty. Fasting, then, awakens the conscience of the individual and gives it scope for exercise in a joint experience for all society at the same time, thus adding further strength to each individual. Moreover, fasting offers a compulsory rest to the over-worked human machine for the duration of one full month. Similarly fasting reminds an individual of those who are deprived of life's necessities throughout the year or throughout life. It makes him realize the suffering of others, the less fortunate brothers in Islam, and thus promotes in him a sense of sympathy and kindness to them. Lastly, we come to Al-Hajj (pilgrimage to the House of God in Makkah). This very important pillar of Islam manifests a unique unity, dispelling all kinds of differences. Muslims from all corners of the world wearing the same dress, respond to the call of Hajj in one voice and language; LABBAIK ALLAHUMMA LABBAIK (Here I am at your service O Lord!). In Hajj there is an exercise of strict self-discipline and control where not only sacred things are revered, but even the life of plants and birds is made inviolable so that everything lives in safety: "And he that venerates the sacred things of God, it shall be better for him with his Lord." (22:30) "And he that venerates the waymarks of God, it surely is from devotion of the heart." (22:32) Pilgrimage gives an opportunity to all Muslims from all groups, classes, organizations, and governments from all over the Muslim world to meet annually in a great congress. The time and venue of this congress has been set by their One God. Invitation to attend is open to every Muslim. No one has the power to bar anyone. Every Muslim who attends is guaranteed full safety and freedom as long as he himself does not violate its safety. Thus, worship in Islam, whether ritual or non-ritual, trains the individual in such a way that he loves his Creator most and thereby gains an unyielding will and spirit to wipe out all evil and oppression from the human society and make the word of God dominant in the world. Announcements ................................................................ 6. Archive Info .............................................................. This FAQ is archived at several sites and is available for public retrieval thru anonymous FTP, E-MAIL, Gopher & World Wide Web. -- Anonymous FTP -- Login: anonymous Password: Your e-mail address Site: rtfm.mit.edu Dir: /pub/usenet/news.answers/islam-faq/ Site: ftp.uu.net Dir: /pub/usenet/news.answers/islam-faq/ Site: ftp.cco.caltech.edu Dir: /pub/calmsa/islam-faq/ -- E-MAIL -- Send E-mail to: mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu Text of E-mail Message: send usenet/news.answers/islam-faq/part4 quit -- GOPHER -- Site: gopher.caltech.edu 70 Path: Computing Information/ CCO anonymous ftp archive/ pub/ calmsa/ islam-faq/ Site: latif.com 70 Path: Resources relating to Islam/ Soc.Religion.Islam -- World-Wide-Web (WWW) -- One recommended interface is 'mosaic,' below are mosaic 'home pages.' URL at USENET Archive site: http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/islam-faq/faq.html URL at Caltech MSA site: http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~calmsa/links.html 7. Credits ................................................................... The author wishes to thank all those who contributed in any capacity for the original one part FAQ or this multi-part FAQ. -- SOURCES -- The basic introduction and literature presented in the FAQ is from brochures on Islam distributed by Institute of Islamic Information & Education (III&E). These brochures were typed in electronic form by Ms.M.Ahmed. The information on soc.religion.islam forum (in Part 2) has been compiled from USENET archives and administrative logs of Soc.Religion.Islam moderator panel. What is III&E? III&E is an acronym for the Institute of Islamic Information & Education which was established in Chicago, Illinois in 1985. The III&E is registered in the State of Illinois and recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a not-for-profit religious organization. More information can be obtained by contacting Dr. M. Amir, III&E, P.O. Box 41129, Chicago, IL 60641-0129, U.S.A.; Fax: (312) 777-7199; or or Tel: (312) 777-7443. -- FORMAT -- The format of the FAQ series has been done by utilizing resources of Islamic Information & News Network (IINN). A custom program, Nebula, written by editors of IINN for generating newsletters has been used. What is IINN? Islamic Information & News Network is a forum dedicated to educate the network community on issues relating to Islam and Muslims in an academic & non-political environment. Weekly digest is available on internet by subscribing to MUSLIMS@ASUACAD.BITnet (A Bitnet listserv list) and on USENET: bit.listserv.muslims. -- Permissions -- Permission to post this multi-part FAQ has been obtained by the following: o Institute of Islamic Information & Education (III&E) o Islamic Information & News Network (Muslims@PSUVM.bitnet) o Moderator(s) of News.Answers (Thomas Khoenig & P.Huang) # End of Islam FAQ Part 4 #