An Important Question

by Yusuf

a brother who recently accepted the Promised Messiah & Imam Mahdi (as)

______________

One of the most common questions I am asked is:-

“why Islam? What makes it different from any other religion and more importantly why should I embrace it?”.

That question is not always uttered through words alone. It tends to come from a place in a person’s being which intellectually questions the existence of God and the outward practice of Islam. I have to admit that if someone doesn’t know the background of our rituals, then the rituals themselves look very strange. Why would anyone rise before sunrise to wash and pray and repeat that another four times in a day. When we extract the outward ritual which the world sees from the inward life of the person then it does indeed become a matter of speculation. The actions look odd – why bow down, stand up and mutter words in Arabic. Really, to the untrained eye, it just simply looks plain “odd”.

However Prayer does not exist alone, it is an outgrowth from something much deeper. I remember once seeing an old well in the hills of Scotland. There was an old bucket which looked worn and dirty, but when that bucket was plunged into the water that lay far beneath the earth and drawn back to the surface it was transformed and its true use became clear. To any passer by however that bucket was a piece of trash which was kicked around. The frayed piece of rope attaching it to the top of the well however remained intact. A close eye could see its use. That old bucket when viewed properly was refreshing the many travellers who passed by on a hot day and cleansing itself as well as others during the process.

Materially speaking, in a crowded room could anyone possibly agree on their concept of who or what God is – we are in a world (or in the case of London, a city) where a multitude of individuals exist, each from their own background, thoughts, religious practices both internal and external. So based on that why would a person choose Islam over say Christianity or another Eastern Religion which might suit their lifestyle practices and bring about that sense of the sacred. There is a further difficulty with that question when we add terrorism, extremism and human faults and misinterpreted beliefs.

So, from the above, we know that Prayer is not simply a ritual or practice, it is an expression of the belief held inside. Likewise it might also be said that from the beliefs we all hold, we express ourselves outwardly. Perhaps if we have a favourite actor or an idea of what beauty is in our head we might carry a picture of that person or might try to dress in a way that we believe is appealing. These are just a few examples of how inward beliefs are expressed in an outward manner.

One of the most wonderful things about Islam is its unfoldment. Man is not simply growing to become aged, suffer and die. Islam was and is an impartation of Divine Truth to Mankind from God (In Islam we call Him Allah). Such unfoldment was demonstrated when the Koran was given to our Holy Prophet Mohammed (May Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him). This was a direct Revelation between God and Humanity. The Koran reminds us of our heritage, that is to say that our origin is of a Spiritual nature. That unfoldment is also personal and a daily, hourly, moment by moment, unfoldment in formal prayer but also in the people that we meet and things that we do, for Allah is always present with us.

Mankind is very curious about Death. Everyone wants to know what happens beyond the grave. There are even Churches out there trying to forge communications between the living and so called dead. But yet even if such communication were possible they would grow dramatically less with each passing day as we grow away from ignorance and materiality. As the caterpillar grows into a butterfly, he doesn’t return and mix with other caterpillars. It stands to reason then that with each advancing hour, we learn more about Allah and his unfoldment to us we learn to let go and stop looking for some kind of security from beyond the grave. In other words we learn to trust and simply to “be.”

One of the major differences between Islam and other Religions is what is contained in our Holy book, The Koran. It was revealed in the world’s oldest language and treatise upon treatise has been written on every single word of it, trying to grasp its metaphysical meaning. As promised in the Holy Koran we have also been given people in each generation who have been able to help us understand it more. People to whom Allah has called to dedicate to himself completely for the purposes of giving knowledge to others.

One of the striking things about the Holy Koran is how it describes Allah, it lists 99 Names showing us 99 qualities, like “The Friend” “The Comforter” “The King” “The Provider”. There are many more however the Koran lists these 99 particular ones.

By looking closely into these names, we can see that qualities such as joy and happiness and peace can never be owned by a person (whether living or dead) but they flow through all of humanity just as our blood flows through our material veins. They belong to our Creator and we reflect them just as a painting reflects the beauty of the Artist. This is quite a striking contrast from the message that we are given daily by the media. Somehow we rush to other people thinking they will “make us happy”. We often change our jobs to find “peace or more money”. Yet the secret really is realising that we can never be the source of our own happiness, joy, peace or provision. So we take these names, we claim them, we learn them, we work with them, so that the meaning is understood and we find that Allah is always with us, and through these qualities which are his, we can see him in all the things we do.

To truly become Muslim takes a lifetime – to learn to see unfoldment in our lives, to feel Allah’s presence and to trust him. When I first became Muslim I thought that I had to know every bit of Arabic and all of the theory and practice.

All I had to do was to learn to Love and to see Allah in my daily life. As I studied the Koran and learnt more about its teachings, I wanted to pray, that was a very different thing from the ritual which some people do without meaning, understanding or even desire. I look forward to every prayer now and with my every prayer I ask that I become a better person.

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3 thoughts on “An Important Question

  1. Masha’Allah brother Yusuf, may you continue to illuminate our intellects with writing of such beauty and wisdom.

    One thing I may add is I would suggest that you read Imam al-Ghazali’s (may God be pleased with him), a Mujjadid (Centennial Reviver) of Islam’s, stalwart treatise “Alchemy of Happiness”. I am sure you would really like it and benefit from it, and be able to impart the knowledge to our brothers whether Muslim or non-Muslim.

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Alchemy_of_Happiness_(Field)

    If I may add, about the inner significance of ritual worship (Salat) in Islam, the saints of Islam (may God be pleased with them), the Imam Mahdi (may peace be upon him), and his Successors (may Allah be pleased with all of them and strengthen our current one) have elucidated upon this in a very wise and lucid manner.

    Imam Ghazali in particular has a book on this in his corpus of writings called the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences) called “Inner Verities of the Salat” in which he references many sayings of our Master-Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa (may God’s peace and blessings be showered upon him, his companions, and household) and explains the deep significance of prayer.

    http://www.ghazali.org/books/worship.pdf

    To this end, the Imam Mahdi, His Holiness Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (may peace be upon him), the greatest disciple of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), had many works in which he delved deep into this matter such as his beautiful and deeply esoteric work Chashma-e-Ma’rifat (Fountain of Divine Gnosis) or his stalwart work, Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam.

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Philosophy-of-Teachings-of-Islam.pdf

    Khalifatul Masih II, the Promised Reformer (may God be pleased with him), also wrote in his treatise “Ahmadiyyat or the True Islam” the true significance of prayer.

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Ahmadiyyat-or-The-True-Islam-20080506MN.pdf (page 75)

    Allah speaks to us through our hearts, as taught to us by the saints of Islam, and the Promised Messiah (as), and our hearts are always in an ever-changing state as a result of our surroundings and personal effort through the will of God. By heart I do not mean physical flesh organ that pumps blood, but rather the metaphysical concept of “qalb” or “fu’ad” is it is described in the Qur’an, meaning a spiritual organ located somewhere within us through which Allah speaks to us, and is need of constant purifications and may become blackened (full of rust).

    Indeed, the Noble Prophet (pbuh) said, “Our spiritual hearts rust with sins. For the removal of the rust, the polish is the Remembrance of God and seeking repentance.”

    Furthermore, the heart (qalb), intellect (‘aql) – as per the brain, and spirit (ruh) are all connected in a mysterious way and emanate from the purity (or lack of) of the soul (nafs). If the soul is pure and shines bright with Divine Light, then the heart is indeed of the same and reflects Divine Attributes like a mirror without any rust, and this Light shines forth unto the intellect and spirit. From the illuminated intellect, man’s words and actions (through his 5 exterior senses and limbs) are deeply set in wisdom and purity. Therefore, inner purity leads to exterior wisdom.

    Qiyam (Standing) – Your Brain (Intellect) is above your Heart (Love)
    Rukuh (Taking a Bow) – Your Brain (Intellect) is at the same level as your Heart (Love)
    Sajdah (Prostration) – Your Heart (Love) is above your Brain (Intellect)

    It is the Qiyam which represents Islam (the physical, exterior practises as per the 5 Pillars), the Rukuh which represents Iman (the theological concepts as per the 6 Articles of Faith) and the Sajdah which represents Ihsan (spirituality, nearness to and annihilation in God). It is in the Sajdah that man is at his lowest and humblest position, where the heart is most prominent, and Allah converses with us (if He so wills) in this position.

    What is also noticed by Khalifatul Masih II is that each of the positions of Salat represent a certain way of representing humility in geographic locations of the world. He writes:

    “All these movements are symbols of perfect humility and surrender among different peoples. In some countries people express complete submission by standing with folded arms; in other countries, by standing with their arms hanging by their sides. In ancient Egypt bowing with one’s hands on one’s knees was regarded as a symbol of deep respect; in India prostration was in vogue and in Europe falling on one’s knees is considered to be a mode of showing reverence. Islam has combined all these symbols in its mode of worship.”

    If I may add, bowing is considered respectful in China and other countries of the Far East and Orient as well. So, it can be seen that Salat is truly universal and you will show humility towards Allah no matter where you are from, because all of the positions to show reverence in the world are there combined within it.

    The Wudu’ (ritual purification with water before the prayer) and Dhikr (words of remembrance of God after the prayer) are also not without significance.

    Indeed, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said “When you pray, Heaven reclines towards the earth in which you are praying.”

    May Allah illuminate you and all of our brothers and sisters within the Renaissance of Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, throughout the world insha’Allah (God Willing).

  2. Introspection is like digging a hole to an aquifer. Mash’Allah brother keep digging. Insh’Allah your standing on a gusher.

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