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Is Islam a preordained set of rituals or way of Life!

This topic is particularly a source of paramount importance because many a times what

has been portrayed in many sources about Islam is about the pillars of Islam.

However Islam as we shall see is much more than that, in fact it is filled with many

aspects which are acts of worship in the eyes of God but hardly emphasized. The purpose

of my research is to illustrate how Islam is a meaningful and practical way of life rather

than a strict set of rituals. My goal would be to analyze situations in which Islam

encompasses encouragement of actions, which have nothing to do with worship of God.

In other words, how the most ordinary actions or chores done in a way satisfying certain

characteristics can become "sacred" and one could get reward for the. Thus I would be

focusing on actions and characteristics. The actions being any act committed with the

sincere intention and possessing certain characteristic. The characteristic being the real

reason and purpose of why the action was committed.

In Islam every good action done and every bad action avoided is considered an act of

worship provided it meets certain characteristics. The characteristic being that the action

was committed sole for the purpose of pleasing Allah first and then to achieve the other

objectives. Though this might sound very superficial and one may ask how could one

ever do all actions only for God? This is where a God mercy is enforced where even

small steps taken to do simple acts are rewarded and considered great in the eyes of God.

The following example illustrates this clearly:

Abu huraira Said Allah Apostle Said, A prostitute was forgiven by Allah,
because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about
to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew
out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that.1

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This hadith clearly illustrates even prostitutes,despite being considered major sin

(because of fornitication and adultery), yet it expresses the idea that even someone

working in one of the most despised of professions, in showing mercy to an animal, can

merit the forgiveness of Allah.

Another hadith goes further to show the value Allah places on intentions as source of

validity of an action,the hadith is as follows :

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet of
Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: He was directed to a monk. He
came to him and told him that he had killed 99 people and asked him if there
was any chance for his repentance to be accepted.
He replied in the negative and the man killed him also, completing one
hundred. He then asked about the most learned man on the earth. He was
directed to a scholar.
He [the murderer] told him that he had killed 100 people and asked him if there
was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. The scholar replied in the
affirmative and asked, Who stands between you and repentance
Go to such-and-such land; there (you will find) people devoted to worship of
Allah. Join them in worship, and do not come back to your land because it is an
evil place.
So he went away and hardly had he covered half the distance when death
overtook him; and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the
angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded, This man has come with a
repenting heart to Allah, and the angels of punishment argued, He never did a
virtuous deed in his life. Then there appeared another angel in the form of a
human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbiter between
them. He said, Measure the distance between the two lands. He will be
considered belonging to the land to which he is nearer. They measured and
found him closer to the land (of piety) where he intended to go, and so the angels
of mercy collected his soul 2

Ninety-nine persons and later one hundred persons were murdered by this man. But

perhaps his conscience pricked him and he felt the innate disposition towards good. His

had a intention to correct the situation and was eager to know the correct way to find

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hope. He actually made the decision to repent and followed this decision with the first

practical steps. The above two incident clearly illustrate how Islam consider a simple

action, more valuable in Gods eye than a action done with great material and economic

value or even action that involved day and night worship of God.

So what are these characteristics that can make small actions so great and how major

sins like adultery and murder can be forgiven?

The answer like in the following beautiful hadith

I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "The reward of deeds depends upon the

intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has

intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to

marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for3

This hadith clearly identifies what is required for the acceptance of an action,note that

hadith does not say that action is bad if done with another intention .It emphasis that

person gets rewarded based on the intention of action.

This brings us to question of what are the characteristics of a good muslims and how one

could work towards achieving rewards for simple actions. It kind of airline miles or credit

card points where one could get rewarded for putting anything on a credit card

irrespective of any restriction as long as the credit card is being used. Islam addressees

the rewards and actions system similar in some ways but at the same time with greater

flexibility and openness. Actions which can get rewarded are not all predetermined rather

the actions one could pursue are based ones individual ability and environment. Thus rich

man would not have greater reward because he gives more in charity rather the greater

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the wealth of the person the greater accountability and responsibility the person has to

give charity. The following hadith clearly addressed this:

Each one) of you should save himself from the fire by giving even half of a date
(in charity). And if you do not find a half date, then (by saying) a pleasant word
(to your brethren)4

Honesty,humility ,patience,steadfastness and kindness are all the commandments of the

Quran and Sunnah.All these characteristics are obligatory upon every muslim.Islam is not

a religion which emphasizes only on the spiritual and devotional aspects of life,but a way

of life which includes in its teachings all activities of human-beings and promotes

comprehensive development of the human personality and social life as a whole. Helping

the needy, having good relationship with your kith and kin, yearning to seek knowledge,

having decent work and enjoying our leisure are also commandments of Allah.

Islam is not a common religion, which cuts itself from the day to day life of a person and

confines its scope solely to peoples private lifes. As we shall identify Islam is a

complete way of life, catering to all the fields of human existence, providing guidance for

all walks of life-individual and social, worldly and spiritual, economic and political,

modern and cultural. This is particular visible in Quran and hadith, which talk of man in

all stages of life-from the embryo of the mother to the grave and hereafter. Both the

sources outline the disciple of many prophets and individuals such that one would able to

handle and get insights from it to solve his/her problems, which might arise.

The basic problems of life remain the same or similar, but the ways and means of solving

them and the techniques of their handling have undergone various changes with the

passage of time.

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As Mr. Justice Cardoza once said,

The greater need of our time is a philosophy that will mediate between
conflicting claims of stability and progress and supply a principle of growth5

World religions have many been causes of many wars but at the same time being have

united communities ,countries and people.Similarly Islam has been used many a times as

a reason for many wars and battles however Islam is as we shall see it religion of peace

and unity ,this is evident in the Quran subject of humanity

In which Allah says

I have created the Jinn and the man only so that they may serve me6

Allah commands the believers to have Emaan and dedicate our whole lifes to him, thus

making it a life of worship.However,worship is not confined to the limited circle of

following the rituals of Islam,like reciting the Quran or performing prayers.Worship

spans the entire life of a muslim and all his/her actions.Each and every act of a muslim

becomes an act of worship if done in the prescribed way,like eating,drinking

,working,sleeping and even using the toilet. In other instances, Islam holds a very

significant position on serving others and setting an example of good character and

behavior.The essence of this is visible in many hadiths of prophet, one such hadith is as

follows

Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) said,There is no person who does not have the obligation
of (doing) charity every day that the sun rises.

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Whereupon he was asked, O Messenger of Allah, from where would we get
something to give in charity (so often)? To which he (peace and blessings be
upon him) replied,
Indeed the gates to goodness are many: glorifying God, praising
Him, magnifying Him, saying There is no god but Allah,
enjoining the good and forbidding the wrong, removing (any
source of) harm from the road, making the deaf hear (and
understand), guiding the blind, showing the seeker his need,
striving as far as your two legs could carry you and with deep
concern to give succor to him who asks, carrying with the strength
of your arms (the burdens of) the weak. All these are (acts of)
charity. And he added, And your smiling in the face of your
brother is charity, your removing of stones, thorns, and bones
from peoples paths is charity, and your guiding a man gone astray
in the world is charity for you7

This hadith clearly illustrate how a simple act like smiling in which one need not think or

put effort can be considered charity. In fact in others hadiths,the Prophet, )sallallahu

alayhi wasallam), told that all good deeds are considered as charitable acts. Ordering

good is a charitable act.,Forbidding evil is a charitable act. Helping a man who has bad

eyesight to see things is a charitable act. Removing a stone, rubbish or bones is a

charitable act. Emptying your cup in the cup of your brother is a charitable act. Also in

the hadith it is mentioned that "A man spending money upon his wife is charity". In

another hadith it is mention

"No Muslim plants a plant or soils a seed and has it eaten by a bird, animal or
human except that it will be a charitable act for him" 8

According to Ibn Rajab,a historical Scholar of Islam these hadiths prove that the muslims

are encouraged to do good acts and charitable deeds. He continues to explain that in

Islam one is rewarded and encouraged to actions need not be superficial or only elite

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could do, in fact there so many options that one should at least have the will and desire to

do it even if we cannot do it.

Islam makes sure man lives life to the fullest, making use of each and every

aspect,leading a blessed and decent life by following the commandments of Allah. This

identified in the following hadith

I have been sent to perfect the mannerism or the behavior of muslims9

In another hadith

And lead your life in an honorable manner10

At the same time Islam forbids self-dential, self-destruction and cowardice in regard to

the challenges of life. Material prosperity is desirable, though not a goal in itself.

Moderation is already encompassed in the Islam, the teachings of Islam, since they are

divinely revealed, are balanced in all of their aspects. Even though Islam is a complete

way of life, it preaches moderation and rejects extremism. On the one hand, Islam does

not preach complete rejection of all worldly pleasures in view of the life hereafter; and on

the other hand it does not teach that earthly life is just for pleasure and enjoyment. wealth

and worldly pleasures can be partaken of in this life as long as they are enjoyed in a way

that is in obedience to God following the action and characteristic model explained

above. However, Muslims are taught to maintaining a balance between man's spiritual

and physical needs, the teachings of Islam are best suited for the needs of human beings

in particular and society in general. Since Islam is based on clear guidance from God, it

rejects all man-made religious excesses, such as certain forms of monasticism where

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people try to completely "reject the world" and other forms of extreme self-denial. This

clearly communicate the fact that Islam is truly a balanced and meaningful way of life

and not just a set of preordained rituals. In conclusion, we can realize how many beautiful

aspects of Islam are often unnoticed and unmention how easily we judge religions by its

people when we should in fact judge a religion solely on basis of its scriptures. When

look at these scripture we realize that many acts of rituals in the name of Islam are done

without posses the characteristics of acceptaibilty prescribed by Islam.

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NOTES

1. Abu Abdullah Al Bukhari,A Translation of Sahih Bukhari by M.Muhsin Khan.

Dar-us-Salam Publications ,2002 Vol 4, Book 4,Hadith 538

2. Abul Husain Askar-ud-Din Muslim ,A Translation of Sahih Muslim by Abdul

Hamid Siddiqui,Al Saadawi Publications 1998 Hadith 4968(Haidth number in

Sahih Muslim Arabic only.

3. Abu Abdullah Al Bukhari,A Translation of Sahih Bukhari by M.Muhsin Khan.

Dar-us-Salam Publications ,2002 Vol 1, Book 1. Revelation. Hadith 001(this first

hadith in sahih Bukhari)

4. Abul Husain Askar-ud-Din Muslim ,A Translation of Sahih Muslim by Abdul

Hamid Siddiqui,Al Saadawi Publications 1998 Vol 4,Hadith 43

5. Cardozo, Benjamin. The Paradoxes of Legal Science. New York: Columbia

University Press, 1928. v, 142 pp. Reprinted 2000 by The Lawbook Exchange,

6. Dr. Muhsin Khan and Dr. Muhammad Al-Hilali; The Nobel Quran English

translation, Dar-us-Salam Publications; 1 edition (March 1, 1999) Soorah adh-

Shaariyiat , 51 : 56

7. Abdul Wahid Hamid Companions of The Prophet", Vol.1,Pg-151 Institute of

Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America (1993)

8. Muhyi al_din Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Al- Nawawi Al Nawawi Forty

Hadith,English translation by Jamal Zarabozo (Al Basheer Publications,1998)

Page -48

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9. Abu Abdullah Al Bukhari Iman Bukhari Book Of Morals and

Manners,translated by Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo (Al-Saadawi Publications),Page

-431

10. Abu Abdullah Al Bukhari Iman Bukhari Book Of Morals and

Manners,translated by Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo (Al-Saadawi Publications),Page

-431

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