Friday, August 31, 2012

ISLAM and the Universality of Spirituality

Those who study and reflect upon the belief systems of religions and cultures are immediately struck by the common humanity and shared spirituality so unmistakably apparent in all of them. A profound faith in the Unity of God, a strong orientation to be good and do good to the wider society in which you dabble in, individual accountability for our every day actions- these are characteristic traits that are distinctly present in almost all religions. As a spiritual order, Islam validates this universality of spiritual experience and seeks to consolidate and build upon the profound legacy of religions that emerged before it on the horizon of humanity. The Holy Qur'an recognizes the diversity of clans, tribes, languages, religions, cultures and nations as a blessing for humankind.

In his Friday Sermon of August 31, 2012 Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius shared some light upon this important theme which places the experience of Islam firmly in its wider historical and spiritual context.

Read the Extracts from the Speech:

“Surely those who believe and the Jews and the Christians and the Sabians – whosoever truly believe in God and the Last Day and do good deeds, shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.” (2: 63)

The verse which I just recited before you sets out three basic requirements needed for salvation namely:

Belief in God: A question begs the distinction as to whether belief is necessary or whether good deeds in themselves are sufficient to attain heaven. This verse answers that question. Winning the pleasure of God and upholding His honour is the achievement of heaven. All our actions have motives behind them. The only way that man’s good deeds can be free from impurities, weaknesses and shortcomings is if they are carried out purely for the sake of God and for no other ulterior motive. 

Thus, when we help someone we should not even wish for receiving thanks from that person because we expect our reward from God alone and not from any human being. Such an attitude to life is not possible for someone who does not believe in God – their motives for good actions must necessarily be other than winning the pleasure of God. For instance, they may hope for winning the approval or love of other people, or they may be motivated by the hope of gaining worldly advantage, in which case their motives are based solely and firmly in this world and in this life. There are a whole host of other play. Often such actions gain the desired result, that is, people are rewarded according to their motives.

Belief in the Day of Judgement: To believe in our own accountability is essential for the maintenance of order and balance in this life. The hope or belief that there is no final accounting is at the root of all criminal activity, whereas the belief in one’s own accountability leads one to strive towards achieving better quality actions.

Good deeds: In the Holy Quran, the doing of good deeds is always accompanied with the concept of belief. As faith without good deeds is hollow, so also good deeds without faith have a quality of hollowness. We could say that all good deeds are a form of sacrifice, for the sake of God.

Furthermore, the Quranic verse (2: 63) tells us that the followers of religions other than ours can also enter heaven, without passing through hell, as it is said that “no fear shall come upon them, nor will they grieve.”

We believe that the great religions of the world before Islam were all founded by prophets who were sent by God. Islam’s distinction was that it was the first universal religion, which addressed the whole of mankind, while earlier religious messages were directed at specific nations – this can be clearly detected from their scriptures. However, since they all received light from the same source, their teachings should not be totally at odds with each other.

It does not make sense to us that the same God should have taught contradictory things to different nations. It is self evident that He could not have done so. Where we find insurmountable gulfs between religions, it is clear to us that this must be the work of later generations of people who manipulated their religions to serve their own purposes, or otherwise unwittingly introduced errors into God’s revelation.

Furthermore, it is difficult to believe that God the Most High who is the Lord of all the worlds, should have provided for the material sustenance of all His creatures, yet He should have deprived some of them of the most beneficial sustenance – spiritual food. God states in the Quran: “For every people there is a Messenger. So when their messenger comes, it is judged between them with equity, and they are not wronged.” (10: 48)

It is clear from this verse that all the nations of the world have received guidance through revelation transmitted by God through His messengers. The aborigines were not deprived of this spiritual food, nor the Indians of the Americas, nor the Eskimos, nor the nations of Africa, nor the peoples of the Indian subcontinent, nor indeed were the Chinese deprived of guidance through messengers appointed by Allah.

Therefore, according to the Quran, we can say that all those who followed the guidance of God, wherever they were found, were indeed Muslims in the literal sense of the word, because they submitted to the will of God. However, it is also clear from the verse of the Holy Quran (10: 48) which I just mentioned, that it is the responsibility of every individual to accept God’s message and therefore His messengers when they come, or when they hear of them. This is something about which we shall be accountable to God.

It is time that I end my Sermon here for the moment. May Allah give me the Tawfiq to continue on the same topic next Friday, Insha-Allah.

Revelation in Creole:

“And tell them Oh Muhyi-ud-Din: “Indeed, I have come to warn you clearly. Like this, We had sent warners to those who have cut (their scriptures) in pieces, and those who have made the Quran into portions. So by your Rab, We will surely question them all about what they used to do. Then declare what you are commanded and turn away from those who ascribe associates to Allah. Indeed, We are sufficient for you against those who mock, who put other god with Allah. This I promise you, soon they shall know.” (30 August 2012)