Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This I believe

I was recently asked to join a forum founded by some people who I interacted with during my days on ChristianForums. It's definately different from most other boards I've been on, seeing as how they ask you what your superhero name would be when you sign up, among other interesting questions. One of the subsections is titled "This I believe - Non-confrontational discussion of what matters to you." After my introductory post, this was the first place I went. Although I am fairly firm in my beliefs, I've never actually sat down and written them out. It was a very useful exercise, and one I enjoyed. I think it's a little too religious for the NPR "This I believe" series, but I'm pretty proud of it.

At the very base of my belief is la ilaha il Allah, Muhammadur rasul Allah – there is nothing worthy of worship except God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God. But what does it mean to worship only God, and to believe that Muhammad (saws) is His messenger? It means to practice Islam, have Iman (faith) and to strive of Ihsan (excellence).

This is explained in the hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) that is recorded as saheeh (authentic) in the hadith collection of Muslim:

Also on the authority of 'Umar, (ra), who said:
"While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah (saws) there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him, and none of us knew him.

He sat down close by the Prophet (saws) rested his knee against his thighs, and said, O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam." Said the Messenger of Allah (saws), "Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah (ritual prayer), pay the zakah, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House (the Ka'bah at Makkah), if you can find a way to it (or find the means for making the journey to it)." Said he (the man), "You have spoken truly."

We were astonished at his thus questioning him and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, "Inform me about iman (faith)." He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, "It is that you believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in fate (qadar), both in its good and in its evil aspects." He said, "You have spoken truly."

Then he (the man) said, "Inform me about Ihsan." He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, "It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you." He said, "Inform me about the Hour." He (the Messenger of Allah) said, "About that the one questioned knows no more than the questioner." So he said, "Well, inform me about the signs thereof (i.e. of its coming)." Said he, "They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings." Thereupon the man went off.

I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of Allah) said, "O 'Umar, do you know who that questioner was?" I replied, "Allah and His Messenger know better." He said, "That was Jibril (Gabriel). He came to teach you your religion."

This hadith relates the basics of Islam, and if you asked just about any muslim in the world about the contents of this hadith, they would say that they believe what is discussed in it, even if they don’t practice it.

Islam and Iman are rather straight foward. One does the practices, and studies the beliefs. But Ihsan is a bit more tricky. How does one strive for excellence, and remind themselves to always be aware of Allah (swt). On a personal level, I strive for ihsan through adab. Adab is superficially translated as manners, but as with many words in Arabic, a single English word cannot encompass all its meaning. Adab is courtesy, respect, kindness and appropriateness. It is the etiquette and moral code muslims should live their lives by. I am dedicated to adab as a way to live my beliefs in my everyday life, and I hope one day inshaAllah (God willing) to become a scholar in adab and teach it to others. I believe that the muslim community lacks adab, does not understand how to interact with their fellow human beings, and that the root cause of social problems lies in ignorance or just plain ignoring adab.

I believe in the essential goodness and kindness of the Prophet’s message. I also believe that this goodness and kindness is something all muslims should strive to emulate in their daily life. Some people selectively read the Prophet’s biography and see him only as a murdering pedophilic warlord. inshaAllah at a later date, I may write about what I believe about the Prophet (saws), but for this entry, it should suffice that I say that I believe when one reads his whole life story, they will come away with a framework for how to live a good, decent, fulfilling life, in service to God, and with kindness towards fellow man.

There is a hadith that reports that God is beautiful, and that He loves beauty. There is a further hadith that states that “Kindness is not to be found in anything but that it adds to its beauty and it is not withdrawn from anything but it makes it defective.”

I believe every action in our life should be imbued with kindness, thus making us beautiful, and loved by God. If you try to put kindness in every action, it will profoundly affect the way humans interact with each other, from the bottom, all the way up to the top.

So, in conclusion, I believe that la ilaha il Allah, Muhammadur rasul Allah leads me to put kindness in every action, and to treat my fellow man with kindness. This is adab, this is ihsan, this is worship of the Divine.

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