By Dr Syed Bashir Ahmad Kashmiri — Islam targets developing of a righteous human being so as to qualify him with worthiness of being the vicegerent of Allah, the Creator, on the earth — the highest adornment of honour with which Allah graced the human being. Human being was created in the best form and to him was subjugated all that is in the universe; angels were made to prostate to him in respect; he is the one who besides all divine favours and honours, was equipped with characteristics that distinguished him from the rank of animals and other creatures.
To Islam, such a righteous human being is the foundation of a righteous family, of a righteous society, of a righteous nation and of a righteous mankind. "Personal integrity must lead to a wholeness of character in which narrow partisanship can be banished without curbing individual freedom of thought. Man's many-sided nature must be developed, with special regard to aspects in which our world today may be reckoned backward — the moral and spiritual potentialities that distinguish men from beasts."
Faith and Conviction
In Islam the human being — before any other consideration — is an entity of faith and belief, the one who, in his deliberation, is cognisant of his own being and conscious about the world around him. He is not like a diabolic wild plant that emerges without anyone having sown it; the universe around him has not emerged on its own without a designer having designed it and a creator having created it. He is conscious that he has a Lord, Who created him, then molded him proportionately and then shaped him precisely, Who taught him the expression, Who endowed him with the intellect and the will, Who sent His messengers to him, Who revealed His guidance for him, Who established the evidence for him and defined to him the purpose of the existence and the path to salvation.
"Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between! that were the thought of Unbelievers! but woe to the Unbelievers because of the Fire (of Hell)! Shall We treat those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, the same as those who do mischief on earth? Shall We treat those who guard against evil, the same as those who turn aside from the right?" (Al-Qurān, 38:27-28)
Devotion and Piety
Human being of Islam, similarly, is the human being of devotion and worship. He knows that the universe around him has been created for him, but in turn he himself was created for the servitude of Allah alone. This knowledge unfolds to him the purpose of his life and the secret of his existence on the earth.
Worship and servitude of Allah — who has no partners — is the objective of all his objectives. He has been created for this purpose and for this very purpose, everything existing in the universe, has been subjugated to him. Allah, the Omnipotent, says:
"I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me. No Sustenance do I require of them, nor do I require that they should feed Me. For God is He Who gives (all) Sustenance,- Lord of Power,- Steadfast (forever)." Al-Qurān 51:64)
The creatures serve each other — each of the species serves some other specie or species; solid bodies serve the plants, plants serve the animals and animals serve the humankind. Who then, does the human being — the finest creature - serve?
The Muslim who complies with this divine mission is loved by Allah — for being obedient to Him by submitting to His commands, for abstaining from His prohibitions and for making His fear and piety his prime objectives of his existence.
Devotion to Allah, before anything else, is manifested through establishment of the major practices of worship that Islam has made obligatory and are considered to be its pillars. These are the regular obligatory prayers, fasting the month of Ramadhan, the mandatory charity (Zakāt) and pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj), and are complimented by remembrance, glorification, veneration and exaltation of Allah, supplication to Him and recitation of his book, the Glorious Qurān.
The Muslim remembers his Lord all the time and in every situation and deed; he remembers Him while eating and drinking, upon going to sleep and upon waking up, in mornings and in evenings, upon setting out on journey and upon return, upon wearing his clothes, and upon riding his conveyance; he does not forget remembrance of Allah, the Exalted.
"Men who celebrate the praises of God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides." (Al-Qurān, 3:191)
If followers of other religions worship their gods merely once in a week, the Muslim has to observe his appointments with his Lord through five mandatory prayers each day. Moreover, he is ever in touch with Him through voluntary supererogatory prayers, constant remembrance, supplications and by seeking His forgiveness and blessings.
"O ye who believe! Celebrate the praises of God, and do this often; And glorify Him morning and evening." (Al-Qurān, 33:41-42)
Thus in brief, the Muslim can enjoy the distinction of all his life being an integral part of the uninterrupted precision guided system of worship, provided he truly adheres to the course of Allah and aims at His gratification.
The Muslim — besides being a being of faith and belief, and devotion and worship — is a being of an upright character and noble deeds. He embodies purity with all its denotations, and exemplifies virtues of justice, mercy and altruism. He has taken the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, as his moral compass for him having been sent by Allah to perfect the nobility of character and to personify the apex of morality.
From this greatest guide of humankind in all times, he obtains prudence and guidance, and follows the right path of his ideal role model; from him, he acquires his noble character so as to be nearest possible to him on the Day of Judgment.
Thus having chastened himself by continuous training, struggle and self-monitoring, he triumphs over his negative temptations and cravings, to be transformed from “soul certainly prone to evil” to attain the state of “self-reproaching spirit”.
“By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; - Truly he succeeds that purifies it, And he fails that corrupts it!” (Al-Qurān, 91:7-10)
This unceasing toil entitles him to ultimate success of having his piety triumph over the lewdness of his soul and thereby scale to attain the status of “the serene soul” well pleased and well-pleasing to Him!
“O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back thou to thy Lord,- well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter thou, then, among My devotees! Yea, enter thou My Heaven!” (Al-Qurān, 89:27-30)
Islam teaches that good character and noble attitude are the requisites of the belief and exigencies of faith, just as they are the innate fruits of faithful worship.
If worship does not bear the fruits of nobleness and righteousness, it underlines nothing but fakeness of worship.
The benevolent Messenger enlightens us about inevitability of existence of faith in the form of morals, noble deeds and virtues — for example in two of his luminous commandments, he says:
“He who believes in Allah and in the day of judgment, must brace the bond of kinship; he who believes in Allah and in the day of judgment, must not harm his neighbour; he who believes in Allah and in the day of judgment, must utter good or maintain silence.”
“Faith comprises of seventy-plus branches; the highest of these branches is (declaration of faith) ‘there is no god, but the one and only Allah’ and the lowest of these branches is removing of a harmful thing from the road; modesty is one of these branches.”
The obligatory canonical acts of worship must lead to purification of the soul, so that these acts can bear fruits of virtues and purge vices — exactly as the glorious Qurān has beckoned to this. About the regular prayers (Salāt), it says: “Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds” (Al-Qurān, 29:45) “Of their goods, take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them” (Al-Qurān, 9:7-103) “Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint” (Al Qurān, 2:183)
Many Hadeeth, narrated by al Bukhāri compliment the same spirit: “Whoever does not give up uttering untruth and acting on it, Allah is in no need of him giving up food and drink”. “Many faster gains nothing from his fasting except hunger, and many a person standing (to pray) by night does not gain anything from his standing (to pray) except loss of sleep.”
(Dr. Syed Bashir Ahmad Kashmiri, College of Arts & Sciences, University of Nizwa)