واۨلَّذِىۡ خَلَقَ الۡمَوۡتَ وَالۡحَيٰوةَ لِيَبۡلُوَكُمۡ اَيُّكُمۡ اَحۡسَنُ عَمَلًا ؕ وَهُوَ الۡعَزِيۡزُ الۡغَفُوۡرُۙ
Who created death and life that He might try you as to which of you is better in deed. He is the Most Mighty, the Most Forgiving.
It is possible to be an ideal person in this world, but it is not possible to realize an ideal society. A man builds his personality by his own decision. It is enough for a human being to have individual willpower, but it cannot be with the whole society. Because the will is within an individual.
That is why in history there have been many individuals who possessed an ideal character, but it never happened that the whole society or the whole collective system became an ideal society. According to God’s creation plan, every woman and every man here enjoys complete freedom. No individual or government can revoke this freedom. Freedom means having more than one option. Because of this option, it will always be the case that some people will use freedom properly and some people will abuse it. This phenomenon makes it practically impossible to establish an ideal system at the level of society. That is why in Islam the individual is the target of action, not society. If a large number of individuals are reformed, the effect will reach society as well. The fact is that an ideal society will be established in the world to come, not in the present world. In order to create an ideal society in the present world, it is necessary to deprive people of their freedom. And this will happen only when the Angel Israfil blows the trumpet of the Final Hour by the command of God.
Silence and God-Realization
The Prophet of Islam usually observed silence. Many teachings have been recorded on this subject. He(saw) said
“Hold fast to silence.” (Sunan-al-Darimi)
“A believer is one who either speaks good or remains silent.” (Sahih-al Bukhari)
“Anyone who observed silence saved himself.” (Musnad Ahmad)
“My silence should be contemplation.” (Musnad al-Shihab al-Qudhai)
Observing silence means not only to remain quiet but also to contemplate. When a believer remains silent, he will ponder on his Lord. This is marifah or the discovery and realization of God. Silence is the door to marifah. True silence leads man to true marifah. Silence gives man the opportunity to save himself from distractions. It brings greater clarity to his experiences and observations. He transforms ordinary occurrences into meaningful facts. He travels from the outer world to the inner world. He establishes his contact with God and His angels at the psychological level. All these factors strengthen man’s God-realization. Contemplation is the source of God-realization and without silence, the process of contemplation is not at all possible.
Silence brings a person close to God. It provides the opportunity for him to achieve God-realization from the entire universe and this journey continues non-stop.
Man has been created by his Creator in such a way that contradictory attributes are found in him. That is why it is said that man is a mixture of opposites. For example, on the one hand, there are powerful desires within man, and on the other hand, there is a deep awareness of principles as well. Man’s desires lead him to a superficial kind of selfishness, and the awareness of principles creates in him the thought that he should live for higher realities. In the same way, the life of every human being lies between two contradictory requirements: desire and principles. By adopting the desire-based approach to life, the man lowers himself to the level of an animal. On the contrary, a person who adopts a principled life puts himself in the ranks of angels. What is a desire-based life? It is the desire to live under the influence of superficial emotions; namely anger, revenge, malice, envy, violence, intolerance, selfishness, greed, hatred, arrogance, selfishness, and dishonesty, etc.
These are all different forms of desire. In social life, these desires arise time and again in man. Those who fall prey to these desires, their lives are engulfed by the flood of desire. Though they appear as human beings, they begin to live on the level of animals. The second case is that of a principled person. A principled person knows how to love others, who keeps his promises, who is always honest in matters, who speaks the truth in all circumstances, who is free from double standards, who is humble, who knows how to acknowledge others, who has the quality of forgiving, who is selfless, who has the temperament to fulfill his responsibilities. Such a person is a principled person, and only such a principled person deserves to be called a human being.
The Primacy of Prayer
Islam enjoins believers to perform Salat five times daily. Salat is an Islamic form of worship and it has a specific ritual. Performing this ritualistic practice requires the availability of water to perform ablutions, a comfortable space where one can perform all parts of Salat while facing the direction of Kaaba in Makkah. It may happen that a person is traveling and the time to perform Salat approaches. It is also possible that a person is engaged in spreading the word of God and striving his utmost for the cause of God, even in these instances, when the time for prayer approaches, Islam asks one to leave every other thing aside and perform Salat. However, in cases of emergency, believers are permitted to shorten their prayers. They can perform Salat while sitting, lying down, or traveling. It is not necessary to keep facing Kaaba throughout Salat if that is not possible. But believers must perform Salat. There is no exemption from this obligation.
Why is this so? This great emphasis is to remind the believers what is of true importance in this ephemeral world. What is of real value is realizing and remembering God. All acts of religion, whether in the nature of prayer (Salat) and alms-giving (zakat) or the propagation of God’s word or the struggle for God’s cause, have the ultimate purpose of remembering God. Their aim is to create a man who lives with the thought of God at every moment and under all situations; who fears God in moments of apprehension and longs for Him in moments of hope; who relies solely on God; whose attention is focused on God. If he achieves something, he believes it to be from God and if he suffers deprivation, he takes it as being God’s command. The whole of his inner existence should be lost in the majesty and grace of God. This orientation is such an important matter that, even in most critical times one is directed to say one’s prayer in some form or the other. This is to be reminded of what is of real value in any situation, which will be carried along with one to the Hereafter.
Towards Global Peace
We often talk of peace in the context of war. But this is a very narrow and restricted notion of peace. Peace is deeply linked with the entirety of human life. Peace is a complete ideology in itself. Peace is the only religion for both—man and the universe. It is the master key that opens the doors to every success. Peace creates a favorable atmosphere for success in every endeavor. Without peace, no positive action—small or big—is possible.
In chapter 8 of the Qur’an, the Prophet and his Companions are commanded: “Fight them until there is no more fitnah (religious persecution), and religion belongs wholly to God.” (8: 39) It is not a political commandment. This verse explains the principle of Islam in one particular matter of religion. In the verse, ‘fitnah’ means religious persecution. In ancient times, the monarchy was established everywhere. The kings had adopted the religious principle that the religion of the state should be the religion of all the inhabitants of the country. At that time, adopting a religion other than the religion of the state was considered synonymous with rebellion against the state, and people have meted out a harsh treatment of what is known in history as religious persecution. Due to this, it became a common proverb that: People usually follow the religion of their rulers.
This way of making religion a matter of state was against God’s creation plan. According to God’s creation plan, the present world is a world of test and trial. Therefore, every human being has the freedom to adopt any religion he wants. The same thing is stated in this verse of the Qur’an: There shall be no compulsion in religion. (2: 256) Religious coercion, or subjugation of religion to the state, was tantamount to the negation of God’s creation plan. So that man can freely adopt any religion he wants, the Prophet and his Companions were commanded to put an end to religious persecution. Adopting a religion is a matter of individual choice, not of law and politics. This task of ending the fitnah was a one-time task that was accomplished perfectly in the time of the Prophet and his Companions. As history shows, this event took place in the seventh century AD. Events show that twice in history, religion was declared a subordinate branch of the state. The first instance was in the time of the ancient monarchy, and the second instance, in the time of the modern communist empire. Both systems were against God’s creation plan. Therefore, God created such conditions that these two systems came to an end forever. The system established under the ancient monarchy was overthrown by the early Muslims, and the United States was used as a means to overthrow the modern communist empire. It was a divine plan that ended the communist empire without the use of violence. Religious freedom is now enjoyed all over the world. Every country now enjoys religious freedom in the fullest sense. Under the United Nations Charter of Human Rights, all countries collectively recognize the right to religious freedom for all. At the same time, in the constitution of every country, including India, the right to religious freedom is fully granted to every man and woman.
All that is to be done now is to make full use of this freedom and to spread the religion of God within every small and large house in the world, as foretold in the Hadith: “There will be no home remaining, big or small, in which God will not have entered the world of Islam.” (Musnad Ahmad)
According to the Qur’an, ‘He (God) created death and life so that He might test you, and find out which of you is best in conduct.’ (67: 2) It means man has been settled in this world, and he has been given complete freedom so that he can live his life as he pleases. Then, according to his deeds, he will get the eternal reward or eternal punishment commensurate with his deeds. The Qur’an is a vivid description of this divine plan of creation. In this world, the state of religious oppression is against God’s creation plan. It is an interference in God’s natural system. God can never tolerate this kind of interference in His world. He will surely end it; sometimes through one human group and sometimes through another. This is a matter of divine operation. This type of operation is not performed by angels. It is accomplished while maintaining the veil of causes and effects. Both these incidents are historical examples of this.
“Patience is the ground where the blessed tree of Dua is grown.”