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Newsletter October 2006  -   the Message Continues ... 6/62


Towards Understanding Islam






Towards Understanding Islam

By Nasir Shamsi


 Islam is simple

Islam is a way of life. It is neither a state nor statecraft. Islam is simple very simple. People came to Madina to accept Islam. They stayed in the city of the Prophet for half a day or a full day, perhaps for a night at best. During this short stay, they learnt to say the Kalimah (there is no god except, Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet). The Prophet told them: he was Allah's Prophet like there were Prophets before him. He had come with a Book, called Quran, just as some Prophets before him had come with Scriptures. He asked them to do good, avoid the bad, pray to God and God alone, fast,give charity, be good to your parents, wives and children; there will be reward for good deeds and punishment for the bad deeds, on the Day of Judgment.

 During this short stay, the travelers prayed with the Prophet once or twice and left Madina, many of them never to return. Yet these were the first emissaries of Islam who carried new faith to the distant lands. Unless Islam was simple, how could it be possible for these one time time visitors to go and impart the message of Islam to thousands others ?

 A Code of Conduct

Islam lays down a code of conduct. Its purpose is to guide humans on the right path, the path that leads to God. The Prophet was once asked why he had been sent as Prophet, replied, " to perfect your conduct " (le-otummi ma makarim al akhlaq). God is Merciful and He loves His creation. To guide us all, He sent His Prophets, His Chosen People, with a defined code of conduct. Some of them had written Scriptures. Each Prophet was thus given a set of rules, a code of conduct, according to the circumstances of the time and the place. As the human consciousness developed over time, God sent new Scriptures to redefine their way of life. That explains an abiding relationship and a continuous and uninterrupted chain of Divine guidance in the names and form of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, the last Prophet. They all represented ONE AND ONLY ONE GOD...only with a Scripture to conform to the changing world. The Last of them came to reconfirm the previous Scriptures and to redirect and guide the people who had drifted. Anybody therefore who believes in One God and ALL Prophets is a Muslim, regardless what he calls himself.  

 Tauheed (Unity of God)

The key to complete surrender (islam) to God is the belief in His ONENESS ( Tawheed) and the belief in all Prophets, including the Last and the Final Prophet and the Last book, Quran. As a Muslim, we enjoy a special relationship with people of the Book, the Jews and the Christians and a human tie with all other human beings, characterized by human love and compassion. We cannot hate even an animal because it too shares with us this space on earth. Just as God is One, we  all are One under Him, the One and Only One God. To me, Islam is as simple as that. Anybody who is willing to follow these simple rules is Muslim. The late Syed Saeed Akhtar Rizvi , the renown Scholar of East Africa was once invited to address the UCLA students in California, in the 70's. He defined Islam in most simple terms. During the Q&A session,  a student asked him, " Mr. Syed, it sounds pretty simple. I am a Christian. If I say there is only One God and agree that Muhammad too is His Prophet, besides Jesus, will that mean I am a Muslim ?" The learned scholar replied, " Yes, Sir,  by all means ".

 Tradition VS. Traditionalism

The problem with the religious zealots--- who tarnish the image of religion through its misinterpretations-- is that they confuse traditionalism with tradition. Tradition, simply speaking is the way of living of a people, their folkways and mores; sociologically speaking, it is  the ' culture ' of a certain people living on the planet earth in a certain era. The tradition is therefore a living phenomenon, a flowing river-- ever moving and changing its course while going up and down the valleys, the plains and the mountains.

 Traditionalism, on the other hand, is an abiding obsession with the past, characterized by pathetic indifference to the living realities, a kind of  backward phenomenon. It is what the Minister, Chuck Windall called the ' dead faith ' of the  living, like a person's  fixation with the past.  Tradition is healthy and leads to prosperity. Traditionalism is sick and  breeds adversity. Tradition embraces change; traditionalism abhors change. One is forward moving, with eyes on front, the other is  static, with eyes on the back.. One  embraces change and moves with the time; the other resists change and defies the changing times. Tradition is like a flowing river with fresh waters, a sign of living faith, while the traditionalism resembles a stagnant pond, '  the dead faith of the living '. Now we know what is the problem.  

While you reflect on this, you can better appreciate, while living in this free country, the wisdom of the Fathers of the American Constitution, who guaranteed the basic human rights in the Bill of Rights under the United States Constitution , which is guided by the most well known guarantee--- ensuring every citizen the right to preservation of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. They were guided, I am sure, by the wisdom inherent in the primordial nature of man, the " fitra ", which is by itself  Islam.






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