Islam means to surrender absolutely to the Divine Will, as manifested and expressed in the Holy Qur’an and the Prophetic life model known as the Sunnah.
This absolute surrender to the Divine will in all possible life experiences, and in all facts of life, is based on a fundamental premise Allah, whose essence and attributes are perfect, and who is the source of all good, represents absolute wisdom. Allah is therefore the supreme legislator. Allah (whose essence and attributes cannot be fully perceived by man) has prescribed through the Holy Qur’an and prophetic life-model (“Sunnah”), a comprehensive and all-encompassing code of life to enable man to recognize and perceive his creator, and to enable man to follow the Divine will.
The true test is the recognition of Allah in the unity of his essence, and in the perfection of his essence and attributes, and as the true cause of all actions and omissions, which flow from His absolute wisdom.
Allah, in his infinite Wisdom, and to enable man to undergo this true test, has endowed man with the special inner cognitive capacity known as the soul which directly connects the human being to his creator. The soul is exposed, at the same time, to the inner impulse to do good or bad, and here lies the true test : the person who resists and controls the inner impulse to do bad, and at the same time, acts on the impulse to do good, has passed the test : his or her soul is like a irror which reflects the Divine light, and which has truly become connected with his or her creator. That soul, purified of the lower bad qualities, both inner and outer, has truly recognised Allah.
This world is but a means for the soul’s onward time-less journey into the hereafter where it will return to its Lord and Creator.
Once it is accepted that Allah is the supreme Legislator, because He is Absolute Wisdom, then, the human intellect is his gift : it must be used productively for the benefit of mankind, but, at the same time, the intellect, in weighing benefits and harm, must surrender to the Divine will as manifested in the Holy Qur’an and the Prophetic life-model.
The essence of the Islamic teaching is that all the Divine Commands and prohibitions are based on benefits to the individual and to society. What appears to be outwardly harmful (“SHARR”) to an individual is, on closer analysis, beneficial to society as a whole. Hence, capital punishment for murder, althought harmful to the perpetrator, is beneficial to society in protecting and preserving it, and in preventing it from descending into chaos. Similarly, the prohibition against drinking alcoholic beverages is directed at protecting a greater sociaetal interest, as apposed to individual benefit in the form, for example, of commercial gain through trade therein. Allah alone, Absolutely Wise, and Absolutely free of limitations and needs, and absolutely meciful and Compassionate, decides for man what is truly beneficial and what is truly harmful. In weighing benefits and Harm, Allah is the ultimate arbitor as to whether the social interest, in a specific case, outweighs the individual benefit.
Because Allah is perfect in his essence and attributes, He alone is the true Giver and source of all the bounties and blessings in every from, and he alone fulfills, and has the capacity to fulfill, all the needs of creation (whether humankind, animals, plants or otherwise). The logical corollaryof this, is that Allah alone is worthy of worship. (“Ibadah”)
The Ibadah, which is an aggregate of duties and responsibilities, ordained by Allah, are simply means to achieve the pleasure of Allah, and are not ends in themselves. Man’s status, in his relationship with Allah, is that of a slave whose only function is to obey the divine commands (the “faraid”) as embodied in the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, in absolute humility and absolute submission.
The true question for a Muslim, therefore, is: What is the Ibadah that is required of him at the particular point of time? The Ibadah, as the great scholar Ibn Qayyim states, in his well-known work, Madaarigh-us-Saalikeen, constantly changes from one point of time to another, based on the demands of the time. In other words, the Ibadah has priorities, and it is the function of the individual to identify the Ibadah that Allah requires of him or her at a particular point of time, and discharge that Ibadah exclusively for the pleasure of Allah. For example, a companion came to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) and sought this permiss-
ion to participate in jihad, the highest level of self sacrifice. In response, the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) instructed him instead of participating in jihad, to return and serve his aged parents becuase his Ibadah, at that point of time, was to devote his time in the service of his parents who required his affection and care. Ibadah, viewed in this way, will establish a true connection with Allah.
At the same time, the individual is enjoined to constantly seek the Tawfiq of Allah to discharge the Ibadah itself. Tawfiq, which is the mainspring of Ibadah, comes from Allah only. Hence, we are instructed in the Surah Al Fatihah, “Thee alone we worship, and thee alone, we seek help”. Without such Divine assistance, no individual would be able to discharge the Ibadah required of him in all fields of human activity.
The individual must also understand that his deeds alone are not sufficient for attaining the Divine pleasure. Whilst the good deeds are necessary means to attain the Divine pleasure, the ultimate acceptability thereof before Allah is based on his mercy and Fadl, as appears from the Holy Qur’an and the Hadis.
Finally, the great jurist, Imam Muhammad (R.A), the student of Imam Abu Hanifah, has summarized the Islamic teachings by reference to four cardinal principles. He states that a person can reach the highest levels of earthly excellence, without restriction, if he or she adheres to the following :
1. Abstention from the major transgressions, whether flowing from the physical limbs, or the inner self.
2. The fulfilment of the fard obligations, the constancy in their fulfilment, at their appointed times.
3. Abstention from all sources of haram acquisition and illegitimate economic gains.
4. Abstention from oppression in any form, whether against a Muslim or non-Muslim.
See : Kitab-ul-Kasb (concluding portion)
Finally, the scholars have emphasized that the discharge of the Faraaid (the Fard obligations) must always assume priority over the Nawaafil. The Faraaid are the capital of a business, the Nawaafil being the profits. As the great companion Abu Bakr (R.A) Advised the great Companion Umer (R.A.), the Nawaafil will not be accepted until the Faraaid are first discharged.
M. S. Omar