“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent but he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also Clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during the month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way.” (Al-Baqarah 2:183-186)
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is giving us another opportunity in our life to witness the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a great time of Allah’s blessings and His mercy. Every Muslims should take full advantage of this time. We should get ready now to welcome this month and receive it with happiness. Following are some ways to welcome this month:
1. Special Du’a: Pray to Allah that this month reaches you while you are in the best of health and safety so that you can fast and do all your acts of devotion (‘ibadat) with ease and enthusiasm. It is reported by Anas bin Malik that the Prophet – peace be upon him - used to say from the beginning of Rajab in his prayers:
"O Allah bless us in Rajab, bless us in Sha’ban and bless us in Ramadan." (Musnad Ahmad, 2228)
When he used to see Ramadan’s crescent, he used to pray:
"O Allah, make this crescent to shine on us with safety, faith, security, Islam and good fortune to do what is beloved and pleasing to our Lord. Our and your Lord is Allah." (Al-Darmi 1625)
2. Thanks and Happiness: When the month comes, then you should be thankful to Allah and show happiness. The Companions of the Prophet – may Allah be pleased with all of them - used to greet each other on the beginning of Ramadan. The Prophet – peace be upon him - used to say:
The Prophet – peace be upon him - said giving the good news of the month to his Companions, "The month of Ramadan has come to you. It is a blessed month. Allah has made obligatory on you to fast during this month. The gates of heaven are opened in this month and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained. In this month there is a night that is better than one thousand months. Whosoever is deprived of its blessings is indeed deprived." (Musnad Ahmad 8631)
3. Planning and Determination: You should make a good plan for the whole month about how you are going to organize your days and evenings during Ramadan. Plan special schedules for your work so that you can pray on time, read the Qur’an and take Sahur and Iftar on time. Have sincere intention and determination to take full advantage of this time. Also have a full determination and commitment that you will not do any sin or anything wrong during this time. Make sincere repentance and seek the forgiveness of those whom you might have offended. In this way you can benefit much more from your fasting and prayers.
4. Learn about the Rules of Fasting: Fiqh of fasting is very important so that you do not do anything that will spoil your fasts. Learn the way of Prophet Muhammad in fasting. That is the best way. Fast is not spoiled only by eating and drinking during the fast, but also by speaking bad words and doing wrong things. The Prophet – peace be upon him - said, "Whosoever does not give up bad words and bad deeds, Allah has no need in that he leaves his food and his drink." (Al-Bukhari 1770)
5. Charity, Generosity and Kindness: The month of Ramadan is the month of kindness, charity and generosity. Plan to invite your neighbors, co-workers, friends, Muslims and non-Muslims to have Iftar with you. Let your non-Muslims friends and neighbors know about this month and its blessings. Be more generous and help the poor and needy. Plan to give your Zakat and Sadaqat at this time and help others as much as you can. It is reported in a Hadith:
The Prophet – peace be upon him - was the most generous person, but in Ramadan he used to be more generous when Jibrael(a.s.) used to meet him. Jibraeel(a.s.) used to see him during Ramadan every night and he used to read the Qur’an with him. The Prophet –peace be upon him - was then more generous with goodness than the blowing wind." (Al-Bukhari, 5)
Another exceptionally remarkable institution and major pillar of Islam is the Zakah. To the Qur’anic word Zakah and the meaning it conveys, there is no equivalent in any other language as far as we known. It is not just a form of charity or alms-giving or tax or tithe. Nor is it simply an expression of kindness; it is all of these combined and much more. It is not merely a deduction of a certain percentage from one’s property, but an abundant enrichment and spiritual investment. It is not simply a voluntary contribution to someone or some cause, nor a government tax that a shrewd clever person can get away with. Rather, it is a duty enjoined by God and undertaken by Muslims in the interest of society as a whole. The Qur’anic word Zakah not only includes charity, alms, tithe, kindness, official tax, voluntary contributions, etc., but it is also combines with all these God-mindedness and spiritual as well as moral motives. That is why there can be no equivalent to the word Zakah because of the supreme originality of the Qur’an, the Divine Book of God.
The literal and simple meaning of Zakah is purity. The technical meaning of the word designates the annual amount in kind or coin which a Muslim with means must distribute among the rightful beneficiaries. But the religious and spiritual significance of Zakah is much deeper and more lively. So is its humanitarian and sociopolitical value. Here is an explanation of the far-reaching effects of Zakah:
1. Zakah purifies the property of the people with means and clears it from the shares which do not belong to it anymore, the shares which must be distributed among the due beneficiaries. When Zakah is payable, a certain percentage of the wealth should be distributed immediately in the right manner, because the owner no longer has moral or legal possession of that percentage. If he fails to do so, he is obviously retaining something which does not belong to him. This is corruption and plain usurpation from every point of view, moral and spiritual, legal and commercial. It means that the unlawfully retained percentage makes the whole lot impure and endangered. But, on the other hand, if the poor’s dividends are assorted and distributed among due beneficiaries, the remaining portions of the lot will be pure and decent. Pure capital and decent possessions are the first requisites of permanent prosperity and honest transactions.
2. Zakah does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart, instead, good will and warm wishes for the contributor. As a result, the society at large will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils.
3. Zakah mitigates to a minimum the sufferings of the needy and poor members of society. It is a most comforting consolation to the less fortunate people, yet it is a loud appeal to everybody to roll up his sleeves and improve his lot. To the needy it means that it is by nature an emergency measure and that he should not depend on it completely but must do something for himself as well as for others. To the contributor it is a warm invitation to earn more so that he can benefit more. To all parties concerned, it is, directly as well as indirectly, an open treasure for spiritual investment that compensates abundantly.
4. Zakah is a healthy form of internal security against selfish greed and social dissension, against the intrusion and penetration of subversive ideologies. It is an effective instrument in cultivating the spirit of social responsibility on the part of the contributor, and the feeling of security and belonging on the part of the recipient.
5. Zakah is a vivid manifestation of the spiritual and humanitarian spirit of responsive interactions between the individual and society. It is a sound illustration of the fact that though Islam does not hinder private enterprise or condemn private possessions, yet it does not tolerate selfish and greedy capitalism. It is an expression of the general philosophy of Islam which adopts a moderate and middle but positive and effective course between the Individual and Society, between the Citizen and the State, between Capitalism and Socialism, between Materialism and Spirituality.
The Rate of Zakah
Every Muslim, male or female, who, at the end of the year, is in possession of the nisab (minimum Zakah - able wealth) approximately the value of 85 grams of gold or more, in cash or articles of trade, must give Zakah at the minimum rate of two and one-half percent. In the case of having the amount in cash the matter is easy. But when a person has wealth in business stocks or trade articles, he must evaluate his wealth at the end of every year according to the current value and give Zakah at the same rate of two and one-half percent of the total value of the wealth. If his investment is in immovable property like revenue buildings and industries, the rate of Zakah should go by the total net of the income, and not of the total value of the whole property. But if he puts up buildings and houses for trade or selling, Zakah rate should go by the total value of the entire property. Also if someone is a creditor and the indebted person is reliable, one should pay Zakah for the amount he has lent because it is still a portion of his guaranteed wealth.
In all cases it should remembered that one pays only for his net balance. His personal expenses, his family allowances, his necessary expenditures, his due credits – all are paid first, and Zakah is for the net balance.
It should also be remembered that the rate of 2.5% is only a minimum. In times of emergency or arising needs there is no rate limit; the more one gives, the better it is for all concerned, the distribution of Zakah serves all purposes for which numerous fund-raising campaigns are launched. The Zakah fund substitutes for all the other funds. It is authentically reported that there were times in the history of the Islamic administration when there was no person eligible to receive Zakah; every subject – Muslim, Christian, and Jew - of the vast Islamic empire had enough to satisfy his needs, and the rulers had to deposit the Zakah collections in the Public Treasury. This shows that when the Zakah law is enacted properly it minimizes the needs of the citizens and enriches the Public Treasury to such an extent that there may be no needy or poor, and that enormous amounts of surplus are available.
The unfailing power of this effective measure of public interest stems from the fact that it is a Divine injunction, an ordinance from God Himself. It is not a personal matter or a voluntary contribution; rather, it is an obligation for the fulfillment of which one will be responsible to God directly. Because Zakah is the legislation of God Himself to be enforced in the common interest, no Muslim is allowed to neglect it. When it is not observed properly, the rightful authorities of the State must interfere on behalf of the public to establish the institution and see to it that it is enforced.
The Due Recipients of Zakah
1. The Holy Qur’am classifies the due recipients of Zakah as follows:
2. The poor Muslims, to relieve their distress;
3. The needy Muslims, to supply them with means whereby they can earn their livelihood;
4. The new Muslim converts, to enable them to settle down and meet their unusual needs;
5. The Muslim prisoners of war, to liberate them by payment of ransom money;
6. The Muslim in debt, to free them from their liabilities incurred under pressing necessities;
7. The Muslim employees appointed by a Muslim governor for the collection of Zakah to pay their wages;
8. The Muslims in service of the cause of God by means of research or study or propagation of Islam. This share is to cover their expenses and help them to continue their services;
9. The Muslim wayfarers who are stranded in a foreign land and in need of help.
The due recipient of Zakah is one who has nothing to meet his necessities or has little (less than the nissab) at the end of the year. If one has approximately the nissab or more he must be a contributor, not a recipient of Zakah. If a recipient receives his share and finds that it is sufficient for his immediate needs with a balance of about the nissab he should not accept any more, he should return whatever he may receive to other eligible recipients.
Zakah may be distributed directly to individuals of one or more of the said classes, or to welfare organizations which look after them. It may also be distributed in the form of scholarships to bright and promising Muslim students and researchers, or in the form of grants to welfare organizations and public service institutions which patronize such causes.
A disabled or invalid poor Muslim is preferable to one who is able and capable of making some earnings. The contributor should use his best judgement in finding the most deserving beneficiaries.
The taxes we pay to governments nowadays do not substitute for this religious duty; it must be earmarked as a special obligation and paid separately, aside from the government taxes. However, the Muslims of North America may take advantage of the tax laws that allow certain deductions for charity. They should pay their Zakah to the deserving beneficiaries and then claim the sums paid as proper legal deductions.
The contributor should not seek pride or fame by carrying out this duty. He should make it as covert as possible so that he may not be victimized by hypocrisy or passion for vanity which nullifies all good deeds. However, if the disclosure of his name or the announcement of his contribution is likely to encourage others and stimulate them, it is all right to do so.
Zakah is also obligatory on cattle and agricultural products. The shares payable in this regard vary from case to case, and need a detailed discussion. So the reader may be advised to consult the elaborate sources of law and religion.
By: Dr. Hammudah Abdalati
From his book: Islam in Focus
The final pillar and one of the finest institutions of Islam is the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. The performance of the Hajj is obligatory, at least once in a lifetime, upon every Muslim, male or female, who is mentally, financially and physically fit. The Muslim who is of responsible age, in fairly good health, and is financially capable and secure must make the Hajj at least once in his or her lifetime. The financial security here means that he should have enough to cover his own expenses and those of his dependents, and to pay his debts, if he is in debt, until he completes the course of Hajj.
The course of Hajj is another unique characteristic of Islam, it is enjoined by God to serve many purposes among which are the following:
It is the largest annual convention of Faith where Muslims meet to know one another, study their common affairs and promote their general welfare. It is also the greatest regular conference of peace known in the history of mankind. In the course of Hajj peace is the dominant theme; peace with God and one’s soul, peace with one another and with animals, peace with birds and even with insects. To disturb the peace of anyone or any creatures in any shape or form is strictly prohibited.
It is a wholesome demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of the Muslims. From all walks of life, from all trades and classes, and from every corner of the globe the Muslims assemble at Mecca in response to the call of God. They dress in the same simple way, observe the same regulations, utter the same supplications at the same time in the same way, for the same end. There is no royalty, but loyalty of all to God. There is no aristocracy, but humility and devotion.
It is to confirm the commitment of the Muslims to God and their readiness to forsake the material interests in His service.
It is to acquaint the pilgrims with the spiritual and historical environment of Prophet Muhammad, so that they may derive warm inspirations and strengthen their Faith.
It is to commemorate the Divine rituals observed by Abraham and Ishmael (Ibraheem and Isma’eel), who are known to have been the first pilgrims to the first house of God on earth, i.e., the Ka’bah at Mecca (Makkah).
It is a reminder of the Grand Assembly on the day of Judgement when people will stand equal before God, waiting for their Final Destiny, and where no superiority of race or stock can be claimed. It is also a reminder of the fact that Mecca alone, in the whole existing world, was honored by God in being the center of monotheism since the time of Abraham, and that it will continue to be the center of Islam, the religion of pure monotheism, till the end of time.
In the performance of Hajj it can easily be observed that it is a course of spiritual enrichment and moral rearmament, a course of intensified devotion and disciplinary experience, a course of humanitarian interests and inspiring knowledge – all put together in one single institution of Islam.
The description of the rules and steps followed during the Hajj are rather lengthy. They will not be discussed here. However, it should be pointed out that during the whole course of Hajj there are informed guides always available to help the pilgrims with right instructions.
It should also be pointed out that the entire course of devotion is to God alone. The Muslims go to Mecca in glory of God, not to kiss a stone or worship a man or a semi-divinity. Kissing or touching the Black Stone at the Ka’bah is an optional action, not an obligation or a prescription. Those who kiss the Black Stone or touch it do not do it because they have faith in the Stone or attribute any superstitious qualities to it. Their Faith is in God only. They kiss or touch or point to the Stone only as a token of respect or a symbol of love for Prophet Muhammad, who laid the Stone at the foundation of the Ka’bah when it was reconstructed. That event has a special significance. It depicts Muhammad as a man designated for peace. When the Ka’bah was under reconstruction, some years before the advent of Islam, the Black Stone was to be laid at its foundation. The tribal chieftains had a quarrelsome dispute over him who was to have the honor of restoring the Stone. This was a very serious matter and the shadows of civil war hung over the holy place. The Stone was held in especially high reverence by the chieftains, although it was nothing more than a piece of stone. This reverence may be attributed to the fact that the Stone was connected with Prophet Abraham, the Great Grandfather of the Arabs, and that it was, perhaps, the only solid stone remaining from the antique structure of the Sacred Edifice. Be that as it may, the Stone as such has no significance whatsoever as far as Islam and the Muslims are concerned.
When the chieftains failed to settle the dispute among themselves, they agreed to let the first incomer decide the issue. Muhammad was the first incomer. He then decided to wrap up the Stone in a piece of cloth and asked the disputants to hold it together and restore it in such a way that each chieftain would have had a part in the operation. They were happy with his wise decision and put it into effect immediately. Thus the issue died out and peace was maintained. This is the moral of the story of the Black Stone. So when the pilgrims kiss the Stone or point at it with reverence, they do so in remembrance of Muhammad, the wise peace-maker. The point may become clearer by comparison. It is a natural thing for a good patriot returning from exile, or a fighting soldier coming back from the battlefield to do certain things upon reaching the borders of his beloved homeland. For example, he may kiss the ground at the borders, or embrace with deep emotions the first few compatriots he meets, or show admiration for some landmarks. This is considered normal and appreciable, but no one would think that the patriot or the soldier worships the ground or deifies his fellow compatriots or attributes some Divine qualities to the landmarks. The behavior of the pilgrims should be interpreted in a similar way. The Ka’bah at Mecca is the spiritual center of Islam and the spiritual homeland of every Muslim. When the pilgrim reaches Mecca his feelings would be like those of a patriot coming home from exile or a triumphant soldier returning from a decisive battle. This is not a figurative interpretation. It corresponds with the facts of history. The early Muslims were expelled out of their home and forced to live in exile for years. They were denied the right to worship in the Ka’bah, the most sacred house of God in existence. When they returned from exile, the Ka’bah was their main destination. They joyfully entered the Sacred Shrine, destroyed all the idols and images that were there, and completed the rites of pilgrimage.
It is in this human perspective that the Black Stone story should be viewed. And it is in the light of such human experiences under extraordinary circumstances that it is best understood.
Apart from Hajj, the “minor pilgrimage” or umrah is undertaken by Muslims during the rest of the year. Performing the umrah does not fulfill the obligation of Hajj. It is similar to the major and obligatory Islamic pilgrimage (hajj), and pilgrims have the choice of performing the umrah separately or in combination with the Hajj. As in the Hajj, the pilgrim begins the umrah by assuming the state of ihram. They enter Mecca and circle the sacred shrine of the Kaaba seven times. He may then touch the Black Stone, if he can, pray behind the Maqam Ibrahim, drink the holy water of the Zamzam spring. The ambulation between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times and the shortening or shaving of the head complete the umrah.
Concluding Remarks about the Hajj
The visit of to the tomb of Prophet Muhammad at Medina (Madeenah) is not an essential obligation in making the Hajj valid and complete. But it is always advisable and strongly recommended that whoever can reach Medina should visit the Prophet’s tomb to pay his respect to the greatest teacher that humanity has ever known.
It should be remembered that the climax of Hajj is marked by offering a sacrifice, an oblation in the way of God, to celebrate the completion of this devotional course and feed the poor so that they may feel the universal joy of the ‘Eed Day. This duty is not undertaken by pilgrims only but by all Muslims with means in every corner of the globe.
One last remark relates to the question of sacrifice and what it actually symbolizes. As already stated in the discussion of the ‘Eeds, it is not the meat or blood that pleases God. It is the expression of thankfulness to Him, the affirmation of faith in Him, that historic event when Prophet Abraham (Ibraheem) was ordered to offer his son in sacrifice, an order which the father and son were ready to obey unquestioningly. But the son’s life was spared and ransomed by a ram. The offering of sacrifice has become an annual celebration to commemorate the occasion and thank God for His favors.
By: Dr. Hammudah Abdalati
From his book: Islam in Focus
For a convert, the first step to enter Islam is to say "ash.hado an la ilaha illa Allah, wa ash.hado anna Mohammadan rasoolo Allah" which is best translated to: I bear witness that there is no deity except God, and that Mohammed is a messenger of God. God in Arabic means Allah; it is the name of God, as Arabs say.
Every Muslim knows that the key to Paradise is this statement, yet too many Muslims simply rely upon this statement and believe that as long as they have made this statement, nothing will harm them. Just like how Christians mistakenly believe that once they believe in Jesus, they will go to heaven even if they did the most horrible things.
They think they will be granted Paradise because of this mere verbal statement of the Shahadah. There is no question that the mere saying of," I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger," is not sufficient for salvation. In fact, the hypocrites used to make this statement quite often yet Allah describes them as liars and says that they shall abide in the lowest abyss of the Hell-fire.
As many scholars state, though, this statement or testimony is the key to Paradise. The famous follower Wahb ibn Munabbih was once asked, " Isn't the statement of la ilaha illa-llah the key to Paradise?" He answered, "Yes, but every key has ridges. If you come with the key that has the right ridges, the door will open for you. Yet if you do not have the right ridges the door will not open for you." That is, the statement must meet certain conditions. These conditions are what will differentiate the person who will benefit from his making of that statement from the one who will not benefit from that statement, no matter how many times a day he may have made that statement.
If we study the verses of the Qur'an and the Hadeeth of the Prophet (peace be upon him), we will find that the conditions of the Shahadah are seven, eight or nine in number depending on how we look at them. It is important that all of us make sure that we are meeting these conditions in our own lives and in our own testimony of faith. We must do our best to satisfy these conditions before it is too late and our testimony will be of no avail whatsoever. It is not simply for the sake of teaching these conditions, indeed there is no benefit to that. But it is, instead, for all of us to look to ourselves and to make sure that we are actually meeting these conditions so that, by Allah's mercy, the doors to Paradise will be open for us by our key of la ilaha illa-llah.
The Conditions of "La ilaha illa Allah"
1- KNOWLEDGE (or al-Ilm):
That is, one must have the basic and general knowledge of what is meant by the Shahadah. One must understand what the Shahadah is affirming and what the Shahadah is denying. Allah says in the Qur'an,
"So know that there is no God save Allah, and ask forgiveness for your sin" (Muhammad: 19).
Similarly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever dies knowing that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah shall enter Paradise.” (Recorded by Muslim).
In fact, the Shahadah itself is a testimony. When one testifies to something, one must know what it is that he is testifying concerns. Obviously, a testimony about something that one does not have any knowledge about is absolutely unacceptable. Allah says in the Qur'an,
"Save him who bears witness unto the truth knowingly" (al-Zukhruf: 86).
Now this condition probably sounds obvious; if someone said to you, "There is no God except Allah," and then said that what he meant by Allah was Jesus, you would immediately tell him that this Shahadah is nonsense. Yet can you imagine that there is a Muslim country in the world that until recently used to have a yearly weeklong celebration to "the Gods of the Sea"! All along they call themselves Muslims and they make the Shahadah numerous times a day.
This clearly shows that they have no idea what the meaning of their Shahadah is. Do you think that this kind of Shahadah will open the doors to Paradise for them? Today, there are many Muslims who wonder why we should not accept secularism. They think that there is nothing wrong with secularism! Many of these Muslims pray five times a day and utter the Shahadah repeatedly. Yet they see nothing wrong with accepting a Lawgiver other than Allah? What kind of Shahadah are these people making?
All of us do our best to learn at least the basics of Islaamic beliefs, the basics of what Shahadah means. In this way, Allah willing, we will be making the correct Shahadah. We will be witnessing to the truth as we are supposed to be witnesses to it.
2- CERTAINTY (or al-yaqeen):
This is the opposite of doubt and uncertainty. In Islaam, in fact, any kind of doubt is equivalent to Kufr or disbelief. We must, in our hearts, be absolutely certain of the truth of the Shahadah. Our hearts must not be wavering in any way when we testify to the truth of, "There is none worthy of worship except Allah." Allah describes the believers in the Qur'an as those who have belief in Allah and then their hearts waver not. Allah says,
"the (true) believers are those only who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere" (al-Hujuraat : 15).
Similarly, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, "No one meets Allah with the testimony that there is none worthy of worship but Allah and I am the Messenger of Allah, and he has no doubt about hat statement, except that he will enter Paradise." (Recorded by Muslim.)
Indeed, Allah describes the hypocrites as those people whose hearts are wavering. For example, Allah says,
"They alone seek leave of thee (not to participate in jihad) who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and whose hearts feel doubt, so in their doubt they waver" (al-Tauba: 45).
Many scholars have stated that the diseases of the heart, or the doubt and suspicions that one allows into one's heart, are more dangerous for a person's faith than lusts and desires. This is because lusts and desires may be satisfied at some time yet the person still knows them to be wrong and he may control himself and repent and give up that evil deed. On the other hand, the doubts and suspicions may linger in the heart, with no cure, until the person finally leaves Islaam entirely or continues to practice Islaam while, in fact, in his heart he does not have the true faith. The greatest cure for these doubts is seeking knowledge. It is through sound knowledge of the Qur'an and the Sunnah that most of these doubts will be removed.
3- ACCEPTANCE (or al-qabool):
If a person has knowledge of and certainty in the Shahadah, this must be followed by acceptance, with the tongue and heart, of whatever that Shahadah implies. Whoever refuses to accept the Shahadah and its implications, even if he knows that it is true and certain about its truth, then he is a disbeliever. This refusal to accept is sometimes due to pride, envy or other reasons.
In any case, the Shahadah is not a true Shahadah without its unconditional acceptance. The scholars all talk about this condition as a general condition in the way that I have just stated. However, there is also a more detailed aspect that we must all be aware of. The believer accepts whatever the implications of the Shahadah are. This also means that he believes in whatever is stated in the Qur'an or stated by the Prophet (peace be upon him), without any right to choose what he wants to believe and what he wants to reject.
Allah says in the Qur'an, "Do you believe in part of the book and reject part of it? And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom" (al-Baqarah: 85).
This is one aspect that the Muslims must be aware of. Although it is not the same as the complete refusal to accept the truth, by rejecting part of the truth that has come from Allah, one also negates his testimony of faith. Unfortunately, many Muslims are doing this nowadays in various ways. Although not all of these forms may necessarily be considered apostasy,they are still very dangerous. For example, if they do not like what is stated in a verse in the Qur'an, they simply reinterpret the verse according to their liking. If they do not like what is stated in a hadeeth, they simply state that the hadeeth must not be authentic although they are not scholars in that area. This kind of behavior is the antithesis of the behavior of the true Muslims. Whatever comes from Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him), the true Muslim believes in as the truth. This goes hand in hand with their testimony of faith.
4- SUBMISSION and COMPLIANCE (or al-inqiyad):
This implies the actual physical enactment with our deeds of our Shahadah. In fact, this is one of the main meanings of the word Islaam itself, "the submission to the will and commands of Allah." This is what Allah commands in the Qur'an,
"Turn unto Him repentant, and surrender unto Him" (al-Zumar: 54).
Allah has praised those who submit to His command by their actions. Allah says,
"Who is better in religion than he who surrenders his purpose to Allah while doing good" (al-Nisa: 125).
Actually, Allah has clearly made it a condition of faith that one submits to the command of Allah and His messenger. Allah says,
"But nay, by your Lord, they will not truly believe until they make you [the Messenger of Allah] judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of which you decide, and submit with full submission" (al-Nisa: 65)
Unfortunately, there are many that claim that there is no relationship between faith and deeds. You can even hear one Muslim saying about another, "That is the best Muslim I have ever met," yet the other person performs scarcely any of the deeds of Islaam whatsoever. This incorrect understanding of faith has spread throughout the Muslim world. Indeed, our Shahadah or testimony of faith must be implemented or realized in our hearts, tongues and actions. In our hearts, we must have love for Allah, fear Allah and hope in Him. With our tongues we must testify to the Shahadah. And with our actions, we must implement what the testimony of faith requires from us.
Anyone who claims to be a Muslim and yet does no deeds, either does not understand Islaam whatsoever or is bearing testimony against himself that his testimony of faith is not a true and correct testimony of faith. This does not mean that the true believer never commits a sin. Indeed, true believers do commit sins, but as long as they recognize that what they did is not correct and it is inconsistent with their obligation of submitting to Allah, then they have not violated the soundness of their testimony or Shahadah. But do not forget they are still sinners. And what is the minimum of submission that is required from a person beyond whom there can be no claim to faith? For those scholars who say that the abandonment of prayers is infidelity, it is the five daily prayers. Whoever does not perform, at least, the five daily prayers have gone beyond the limit that is acceptable for lack of deeds. Allah knows best.
5-TRUTHFULNESS (or as-sidq), as opposed to hypocrisy and dishonesty:
This means that when we say the Shahadah, we are saying it honestly. We actually mean it. We are not lying when it comes to our testimony of faith. The Prophet (peace be upon his) said, "No one bears testimony to there being no one worth of worship save Allah, sincerely from his heart, except that Allah makes the Hell-fire forbidden for him." (Recorded by al-Bukharee and Muslim.)
We are all familiar with those who say the testimony of faith yet they are not saying it honestly. They do not believe in it but they are simply saying it in order to protect themselves or to get some gain from doing so; these are the hypocrites. Allah has described them in the opening of the Qur'an with the following words,
"And of mankind are some who say, 'We believe in Allah and the Last Day,' when they believe not. They think to beguile Allah and those who believe, and they beguile none save themselves, but they perceive not. In their hearts is a disease, and Allah increases their disease. A painful doom is theirs because they lie" (al-Baqarah: 8-10).
Obviously, the Shahadah of those who become Muslims simply to benefit from being Muslim and not because they believe in Islaam will be rejected by Allah in the Hereafter. They will face a painful punishment due to their lying.
6- SINCERITY (or al-ikhlaas):
That is, when we make the Shahadah, we must do so solely for the sake of Allah. We must not do it for any other reason. And we must not do it for anyone else's sake. In this manner, the meaning of sincerity is opposite of Shirk or ascribing partners with Allah. We became and remain Muslims solely for Allah's sake. Allah says in the Qur'an,
"Worship Allah, making religion pure for him" (al-Zumar: 2).
And Allah also says,
"And they are ordained not else than to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him, as men by nature upright and to establish worship and to pay the poor-due. That is true religion" (al-Bayyinah: 5).
And the Prophet (peace be upon him) added, "Allah has forbidden for the Hell-fire anyone who says, 'There is no one worthy of worship except Allah,' and say so desiring the face [and pleasure] of Allah." (Recorded by Muslim).
This is something that we should all think about, especially those of us who grew up in Muslim families and were born Muslim. We should make it very clear to ourselves that we are Muslims only for the sake of Allah. We are not Muslims for the sake of our parents, friends, family or community. It must be clear in our minds that we are Muslims for the sake of Allah first, last and only. One of the signs that we are Muslims for the sake of Allah is that we do whatever Allah asks of us, regardless of what anybody else desires or wants from us. That is, in the same way that we are Muslims solely for the sake of Allah, all of our actions are done for the sake of Allah.
However, sometimes one begins to wonder whether some people meet this condition. Some people from the Muslim world practice Islaam to the extent that it is pleasing to their families. If there is anything in Islaam that their families do not like- although their families are Muslim and therefore they actually should like all of Islaam- then they do not practice that aspect of Islaam. One common example of that nature is mixing between men and women. Sometimes a brother, here in the U.S., will not mix with women and his wife will remain separate from the men. Yet, when they return to their homes, because this is not pleasing to their families who want to mix between men and women, they easily, simply and happily compromise their religion for the sake of their parents. These people must sincerely ask themselves why they are Muslims. Are they Muslims for the sake of their parents and therefore whatever their parents like they will do and whatever their parents do not like they won't do? Or are they Muslims for the sake of Allah and therefore whatever Allah dislikes they will not do and whatever Allah is pleased with they do?
7- LOVE (or al-mahabbah):
That is, the believer loves this Shahadah, he loves in accordance with the Shahadah, he loves the implications and requirements of the Shahadah and he loves those who act and strive for the sake of this Shahadah. This is a necessary condition of the Shahadah. If a person makes the Shahadah but does not love the Shahadah and what it stands for, then, in fact, his faith is not complete. It is not the faith of a true believer. And if he loves something more that this Shahadah or if he loves something more than Allah, then he has negated his Shahadah. The true believer, the one meeting the conditions of the Shahadah puts no one whatsoever as an equal to Allah in his love. Allah says in the Qur'an,
"Yet of mankind are some who take unto themselves (objects of worship which they set as) rivals to Allah,loving them with a love like (that which is due to) Allah only. However, those who believe are stauncher in their love of Allah" (al-Baqarah: 165).
And elsewhere Allah says:
"Say: If your fathers, or your sons, or your brethren, or your wives, or your tribe, or the wealth you have acquired, or merchandise for which you fear that there will be no sale, or dwellings you desire are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allah brings His command to pass. Allah guides not wrongdoing folk" (al-Tauba: 24).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever has three characteristics has tasted the sweetness of faith. [The first of these] is that he loves Allah and His Messenger more than he loves anyone else..." (Recorded by al-Bukharee and Muslim.).
This is one of the most important aspects of Islaam yet, for some reason, it is missing from the lives of many Muslims. They act in Islaam as if Islaam were a chore instead of doing things out of the love of Allah. When Allah orders us to do something, like bear witness to the faith, we should realize that that thing is pleasing to Allah and, therefore, out of our love for Allah, we should be very pleased to do the acts that are pleasing to Allah. But, as I said, this feeling is missing from many, many Muslims today.
8: DENYING EVERY OTHER OBJECT OF WORSHIP:
Although that is clear in the words of the testimony of faith, it does not seem clear to everyone who makes that testimony. Therefore, I am mentioning it explicitly here. In Surah al-Baqarah, Allah clearly reminds us of this important aspect of the Shahadah, the Shahadah is not merely an affirmation but it is both an affirmation and a negation. Allah states,
"And he who rejects false deities and believes in Allah has grasped a firm handhold which will never break" (al-Baqarah: 256).
Perhaps the Prophet (peace be upon him) made this point even clearer when he said, "Whoever says there is no one worthy of worship except Allah and denies whatever is worshipped besides Allah, then his wealth and blood are protected and his accounting will be with Allah." (Recorded by Muslim).
Although this condition should be obvious to everyone who says the words of Shahadah, you can still find Muslims who say the Shahadah and then make acts of worship for beings or things other than Allah. You will find them going to the graveyards and worshipping those in the graves. They will perform acts of worship, not for the sake of Allah, but for the sake of the dead "saints" in the grave. What kind of Shahadah have these people made? Do you really think that their Shahadah will mean anything on the Day of Judgement as long as they believe that acts of worship may be done for other than Allah?
9- ADHEREING to the Shahadah until one dies:
This is must if the Shahadah is to mean anything for you in the Hereafter. You cannot rest on your laurels of what you may have done in the past. No, indeed, the Shahadah must be your banner until your death. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, " A man spends a long time doing the deeds of the people of Paradise and then he ends his deeds with the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire. And a man spends a long time doing the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire and then he ends his deeds with the deeds of the people of Paradise." (Recorded by Muslim)
In another hadeeth, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "By the One beside whom there is no other God, one of you does the actions of Paradise until there is just a handspan between him and Paradise and then the book [preordainment] overtakes him and he does the actions of the people of Hell and he enters into it" (Recorded by al-Bukharee and Muslim.)
And Allah says in the Qur'an,
"O believers, observe your duty to Allah with right observance, and die not save as Muslims [surrendering yourselves to Allah]" (al-Imran: 102).
Dear brothers and sisters, these are the conditions of the Shahadah. These are the aspects of the Shahadah that each and every one of us should look to in himself and ask himself, "Is my Shahadah meeting those requirements? Am I saying it sincerely, honestly and out of love for Allah? Am I saying it based on what it really means? Am I denying all other false objects of worship?"
These questions we should ask ourselves now before we meet Allah. Allah willing, we shall ask ourselves these questions now and we shall find that we have all the right answers for them. Or, if we find we have some deficiency, we shall work to remove that deficiency. Such that, by Allah's mercy, in the Hereafter, our Shahadah will be the key to Paradise for us and the gates of Paradise will swing wide open for us and we will be able to live forever in the bounties of Paradise, with Allah being pleased with us.
Again, it is not simply a matter of knowing these conditions. Indeed, one can meet many Muslims who have these conditions memorized, yet when one looks to their deeds and behavior, one can see that these conditions have no effect on them. This means, in fact, no matter how well he knows and can rattle off these conditions, he, in fact, is not fulfilling them. In the Hereafter, his knowledge of these conditions will be of no avail to him. Indeed, his knowledge will be a proof against him, as he clearly knows what the conditions are that he must satisfy yet he has shown that he is not willing to satisfy them in his life.
By: Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo
Source: This article appeared in two parts in AL-BASHEER magazine (Vol.7, No.5 January-February, 1994).