Wednesday, September 10, 2008



To become a Muslim involves far more than observance of rituals. Although the rituals are indispensable, they cannot achieve their purpose unless the entire mental, moral and spiritual outlook of the convert is changed. The most important change which took place after I embraced Islam was the transformation of my mind from a Kafir mind into a Muslim mind. In order that the outsider may gain deeper understanding into the workings of the Muslim mind, I shall attempt to describe from personal experience how a Muslim looks at thee world, how he regards life and the effect of his faith upon his behavior, his tastes, and his aspirations. Much will surprise or even shock the out­sider until he attains sufficient insight into the inner mean­ing and intrinsic merit of genuine Islamic values.

The most essential belief in Islam is the concept of man as the slave of God. The Arabic word for "slave of God" is "Abdallah" which is among the commonest names in every Muslim country. "Islam" itself means literally "submission to the will of Allah" and all who choose to do so are Muslims. Since God is the supreme and only sovereign of the universe, the Christian concept of division of Church and State" appears utterly illogical to the Muslim mind. The purpose of Islamic rule is to enforce the law of God in the Qura,n and Sunnah. The Muslim ruler cannot become a law unto himself nor has he the right to create any new legislation on his own. The Shariah or sacred law can never be changed and only can be interpreted within strict limits. Everything belongs to God, Man owns nothing and is utterly dependent upon Him. All that a man possesses, even his own body, is merely loaned to him by God to put to the best possible use. If a man shirks this responsibility, he will be severely punished. To serve God as His slave, a man must be willing to sacrifice everything, if necessary his personal happiness, his pleasures, his desires, conveniences, wealth, his possessions and even his life. The genuine Muslim will not hesitate to sacrifice all his transitory pleasures for, the greater good. In so doing, he attains lasting happiness and serenity of mind. To be a "slave of God" means freedom from the tyranny of men. A true Muslim does not fear any man. He fears only God.

The Muslim divides the world into two opposing camps- Dar-ul-Islam or the Abode of Islam and Dar-ul-­Harb, or the Abode of the Unbelievers." The worst affliction of mankind is not poverty, disease or illiteracy but Kufr. Teen-age pregnant brides, unwed mothers, venereal disease, abortions, rapes; illegitimate; children, drunken derelicts and chauvinistic nationalism-all reflect {he consequences of Kufr. Whatever is in harmony with Islamic teachings constitutes the supreme good while Kufr is open rebellion against God which can never be tolerated. A Muslim judges his fellow man solely on the basis of the correctness of his belief and its practical implementation in his daily life. A man's race, nationality, wealth or social positions have no relevance to his intrinsic merit as a human being. If a man does not make any attempt to practice what he professes to believe, he is no more than a hypocrite and really has no faith at all. The Muslim is convinced that a man’s deed is utterly dependent upon his creed because he cannot conceive of morality and ethics apart from their supernatural, theological foundations.

The true Muslim has no fear of death, because death is only the passage-way to life eternal with. God. If a Muslim contracts an illness, he will do all medically possible to promote his recovery but after doing all he can, should these medical means fail to restore his health and save his life or those of similarly afflicted loved-ones, he will accept death with serene resignation. The Muslim believes that God has set the span of each life in advance so that nobody can die before his allotted time nor can all the doctors and medicines in the world delay his demise one instant longer.

The true Muslim is not a fanatic. The Holy Quran forbids spying and backbiting. He does not believe in heretic-hunting. No Muslim, however wrong he may be, ever can be ex· communicated by another Muslim unless he publicly renounces his faith. The Muslim does not persecute other religions nor try to convert people by force. Religious minorities in the Muslim state live in autonomous, self-contained communities of their own where they are allowed to follow their religious laws, educate their children as they see fit and perpetuate their culture in addition to the complete safety of their lives and property. However, despite all these rights guaran­teed to the protected minority by the Shariah, although all men are considered by Islamic teachings as deserving of equal justice and fair treatment as human beings, a non Muslim can never be considered as equal to the Muslim. The non-Muslim under Muslim rule is exempt from military service because only those who believe in the cause of Islam can fight for it. For the same reason, the non Muslim is not eligible to occupy strategic positions in the Government. A Muslim feels the closest bonds of kinship with all other Muslims regardless of racial or national origin. He can never feel at home among non Muslims.

“Those who imagine that the morality of Islam makes of it a heavy burden for humanity as to prevent its realization in their lives derive this belief from the tribulations undergone by the individual Muslim living in a society which is not governed by Islam. Under such circum­stances, the morality of Islam is in reality a heavy burden; it almost crushes the individuals who live with their pure Islam in the polluted society of ignorance. A specific environment then is indispensable for the life of this concept, an environment with its own specific values. Islam is a realistic system, and it therefore supposes that the people who live according to its path will be living in an Islamically-governed society. Without this environment, the life of the individual becomes impossible or at least extremely difficult. Therefore whoever wishes to be a Mus­lim should know that he cannot devote himself to his practice of Islam except in a Muslim environment dominated by Islam. He is mistaken if he imagines that he can realize his Islam in the midst of a society devoid of Divine guidance.” (This Religon of Islam, Sayyid Qutb, AI-Manar Press, Palo Alte, California, 1967, pp. 32-34.)

Islam is a universal faith actively seeking converts. Unlike the Christians, we feel no need for professional missionaries. Every Muslim is a missionary. To propagate Islam as far as he possibly can is his sacred duty. It may surprise non-Muslims to learn that vast areas of the world (particularly South-East Asia and Africa) have turned Muslim through the activities of ordinary Arab and Indian merchants and traders. No force or violence was ever used. Nor were any of these countries politically subjected by them. This was possible only because those merchants and traders put Islam first and business afterwards.

Like the strict orthodox Jew, the Muslim believes that man draws closest to God through obedience to His sacred laws. Therefore he draws no sharp distinction between ritual and morality which are inseparably intertwined. The Muslim does not separate the spirit from its outer form because he is convinced that no belief is effec­tive without its tangible expression. Ablution and prayers must be performed in a precise manner after the practice of the Prophet. The Muslim, who performs his Salat as he should, develops a keen conscience and high character because there is nobody but God to see if he does it properly. No other religion places so much emphasis upon the necessity of personal hygiene and cleanliness. Physical purity affects spiritual purity and the outer man is an expression of the inner man.

The penal law of, the Quran and Sunnah is the subject of the greatest misunderstanding on the part of non Muslims. What Islam regards as the worst crimes against society are hardly considered crimes at all in Western countries and, with the possible exception of theft, legal penalties are rarely, if ever, enforced. The Muslim does not believe that the merit of a law depends upon its leniency nor that the criminal deserves greater sympathy than society. To the Muslim, the penal law of the Quran and Sunnah is not the cruel and barbaric product of primi­tive 7th century Arabia irrelevant for today; on the con­trary, he is convinced that it is far more humane than the extreme psychological deprivation and moral depravity of our modern prisons and in the context of a genuine Islamic society, infinitely more effective in combating crime than any man-made law.

A Muslim believes that the strict segregation of the sexes is essential for a wholesome society. This means that men and women are forbidden to intermingle freely. That is why a Muslim cannot tolerate mixed social functions, co-educational schools or courtship before marriage. Men must not look at strange women nor women at strange men. Modest dress is required at all times; women are required to shroud their entire bodies whenever they find it necessary to go out and behave as inconspicuously as possible in public. A woman's beauty is for her only. Her body is not under any circumstances to be on public display exposed to the vulgar gaze of strangers. Public demon­strations of affection between men and women are severely punished. In Islam, the man is responsible for his social duties outside the home while the woman is responsible for everything within the home. Therefore it is not for women to compete with men in business or politics. The Muslim knows only too well that once the woman leaves the home there is no home!

Celibacy is condemned by the Quran and Sunnah and every normal man and woman is expected to marry. Although a man is permitted to marry up to four wives, Islam does not ordain polygamy; it is not even encouraged; it is merely allowed. The overwhelming majority of Muslims have always been monogamous. The restricted polygamy permitted by Islam curtails illicit sex to a minimum be­cause if a man desires relations with another woman, he must marry her first; undertake the responsibility of her support and fatherhood.

Islam differs from all the other religions in its discouragement of the "arts". A Michelangelo, a Rembrandt, a Beethoven or a Mozart would not receive any acclaim in a Muslim community. Consequently, this is why in Muslim cities there is such a conspicuous absence of sym­phony concert halls opera houses, theatres and art museums. The genius of Islamic art has expressed itself most fully in an architecture that has never been surpassed and Arabic calligraphy.

Instrumental music is banned from the mosque and condemned elsewhere. The social status of professional musicians in the Muslim world is extremely low. Instrumental music detracts the mind away from the remembrance of God and eventually leads to lewdness. If a man feels compelled to give vent to his emotions, he is allowed to sing to please himself but it is better if he refrains. No res­pectable Muslim woman will sing in public. The only laudable music is chanting of Holy Quran, Adhan and unaccompanied chants in praise of the Holy Prophet.

Because dancing is the most powerful known stimulus to illicit sex, it is prohibited completely except possibly on the two Eid festivals, to sir up enthusiasm for Jihad or at weddings. Such festivities must never be mixed. Men dance with men and women with women only.

Acting in plays, whether on stage, cinema or television screen is discouraged for the same reason. Islam condemns plays, whether one participates in them as actor or watches them as spectator, because they encourage people to be­come increasingly preoccupied with their private fantasies and less and less with real life Islamic cultural values regard it degrading to the human personality for an actor, to dress up and pretend to be what he is not and utterly unthinkable for a respectable Muslim woman to perform as an actress in public.

Literary fiction in the form of either the drama or the novel is not indigenous to any Muslim country but oratory and poetry are highly developed and eloquent speech most keenly appreciated by Muslims everywhere, especially in the Arabic- speaking world.

True Islamic culture can have no part of the Western mania for sports and games which is their inheritance from ancient Greece. An Islamic state would encourage athletics as part of military training to promote physical endurance. Thus all sports having military value would be included as part of the physical training in schools and colleges. Horseback riding, swimming, fencing, archery, weight­lifting, calisthenics, wrestling, mountain-climbing, etc. would be favored. Cricket, football, base-ball, hockey, basket-ball, rugby, soccer tennis and golf which are, useless for this purpose would be discouraged as a waste of time and energy. Such athletics as are tolerated in an Islamic state would be strictly amateur; Islamic culture does not honour professional athletes. Nothing could be more abhorrent to Islamic values than for whole populations to stop work for hours or even days on end to attend, watch on television or listen on the radio to a cricket or base-ball match and waste large sums of money which could be far more profitably spent elsewhere to construct vast sport stadiums.

The Islamic way of life is based upon transcendental values. Morality and truth are absolute, eternal and uni­versal. They are instituted by God and not by man. Therefore man has no right to tamper with them. To the Muslim, the Quran is God's book-not Muhammad's book. He believes every word in the Quran is literally true and must be obeyed. The Quran is the source of all knowledge and to question any part of it is tantamount to rejection of God's guidance. The Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet, and the Sunnah or the practice of the Prophet, are essential for a correct interpretation of the Quran. One is meaningless without the other. Since the Quran is God's infallible, complete and final revelation. to man, Islam cannot be “reformed" or "'changed". It will never be '"'improved". Islam is complete and self-sufficient. It has no place for eclecticism. The Muslim understands "progress" as bring­ing his life into closer conformity with the letter and spirit of the Quran. His earthly goal is not worldly success but preparation for the Life Hereafter.

Islam demands the Muslim’s total allegiance. A Muslim is a Muslim every minute of the day. Islam is rigorous to a degree inconceivable to a person of any other faith. Its laws control every aspect of his life from birth to death. Awake or asleep, Islam is always with the Muslim. He is never for a single instant allowed to forget what he is.

(ISLAM in Theory & Practice, Maryam Jameelah, Perfect Publication, Ansari Road Darya Gung, New Delhi, 2006, p33-42)

No comments: