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The goals and the teachings of Islam go well beyond any legal issues in this world. Islam seeks to create a certain type of individual, an individual who has a strong and proper relationship with Allah. There are a number of important points related to this feature.
First, in Islam, the Muslim has a direct relationship with Allah.
And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then (answer them): I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright
Allah also says
And your Lord said: ‘Invoke Me, I will respond to your (invocation)
Thus, there is no priestly class in Islam. The individual prays directly to God without going through an intermediary. When a Muslim seeks forgiveness, he seeks it directly from God with no human having the authority to tell him if his repentance is sufficient or accepted by God. When a Muslim is in need, he turns directly to God, without having to put his trust and reliance in anyone other than God. When a Muslim wants to read the revelation and guidance from God, he goes directly to the Quran and Sunnah, being able to read them directly by himself.
There are no demigods or clergy that he has to go through. Everything is actually between the individual and his Lord. This direct relationship with Allah is very empowering and reassuring. There is none other than Allah that he is worshipping and there is none who can interfere with his worship of Allah. Under all circumstances, Allah is available to him and he can turn to Him at any time to ask for help, guidance and forgiveness.
This direct relationship with Allah extends to all of an individual’s deeds. The Muslim knows that Allah not only sees his outward actions but that Allah is also fully aware of every intention and feeling that is in his heart. Thus, due to his direct relationship with Allah, the Muslim attempts to perform every deed with the intention of pleasing God. In this way, even the most mundane activity can become an act pleasing to God, if done with the right conditions in the heart. The Muslim sets upon his day, via his close relationship with his Lord, by ensuring that he performs acts that are permissible in the sight of his Lord. That is the Muslim’s goal and intention and as he is conscious of this goal, he is pleasing Allah by the simplest of deeds. Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Everything you spend for the sake of Allah will be rewarded, even if it were a morsel you put in your wife’s mouth.”
When one understands this concept of his close relationship to God and the ability to the transform even mundane activities into acts that are pleasing to God, his whole outlook and behavior completely change. He begins to perform each act differently, realizing that he is doing it for the sake of God. Unfortunately, there are many in this world who are completely negligent of this point.
In Madaarij al-Saalikeen, ibn al-Qayyim stated, “The most exclusive [group of] people who get close to Allah are those who change the nature of their permissible deeds into acts of obedience to Allah.” He also said, “The customary-mundane deeds of those people who truly know Allah are acts of worship [for them] while the ritual acts of worship are customary deeds for the masses.” What he said is very true. Unfortunately, many among the masses of Muslims approach the prayers, fasting and other deeds as common daily practices that they must perform simply because it is part of the culture or way of life. They have no strong intention in their hearts or feeling of doing the act for the sake of Allah. If the quality of the act is poor, it does not matter much to them because they are doing it just to finish.
Hence, these important rites of worship become simply customary with no meaning or effect to them. The one who truly knows Allah is at the opposite extreme. Even the “mundane” deeds he performs are filled with purpose and intent. Hence, they become acts of worship that are pleasing to Allah. Thus, for example, even when a person goes to sleep he does so with the intention of reviving himself such that he can work again for the sake of Allah. Thereby, his sleep even becomes an act of worship of Allah.
Actually, one can take this discussion even one step further. Allah says in the Quran, “Every moment He has a matter to bring forth” (55:29). In other words, at every moment, Allah is creating, distributing, providing, bringing forth life and death and so on. However, in general nowadays, the individual does not see Allah behind all of these actions around him.
The individual today has become desensitized and thinks that all of these things simply occur on their own due to some independent laws of nature. In reality, that is not true. These “laws of nature” are nothing more than Allah’s activity at every second and moment. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah asks humans to observe the cosmos around them. For example, Allah brings the reader’s attention to the tiny bee or the movement of the shadows. Muhammad Qutb notes that Allah’s goal was not to present a scientific lesson in such passages. They are to awaken the human to what is really going on and to tie his heart and everyday activities to his Lord and Creator. Qutb writes,
Humankind’s concentration on the apparent cause has distracted them from seeing the greater reality behind it: the will of Allah who says to something, “Be,” and it is. They ignore that greater will and call the laws, “natural laws” and they say that they are fixed and inevitable. They are stupefied by such limited experiences and therefore Allah is actually distanced from their hearts. This is where the Quranic expression begins, taking them from where they are stupefied and distanced from Allah and taking them back to Allah…
Qutb then writes,
Science tells us, based on the outward causes that we see, that the existence of the sun and the rotation of the earth around it is the cause of the “movement” of the shadows. But the Quranic expression tells us that it is the will of Allah that moves the shadows in the first place and then the sun is placed as a guide for the shadow. Thus, the apparent cause is not the original source but actually comes afterwards… Indeed, it comes later, by the word “then”, after Allah decided this matter by His will, saying to something Be and it is.
In fact, Qutb argues, the end result of this Quranic approach is very clear. In reality, the knowledge that one has about, for example, the bee or the shade does not change upon reading the verses in the Quran in which Allah points to these two. One’s knowledge does not change but, he argues, the individual changes. Qutb states,
Did your information about the shadows or bees change when you read these verses? Certainly not! The information in itself was not new. It was known beforehand. However, that was a knowledge that was a dead, cold, still and unmoving information. But the Quran brings this information and presents it in an emotional or moving setting, in a miraculous fashion, that changes one’s perspective as if it were not what we knew beforehand. The information did not change but we are the ones who changed…
For the new Muslim, this may be a completely new way of looking at the world and may take some adjustment. Many non-Muslims do not see God’s involvement in this world and therefore they do not feel any direct relationship with God. As the new Muslim ponders over the Quran, this feeling may develop within him. He will see Allah’s working in everything around him. This will remind him of Allah and he will no longer be negligent of Allah and his duty toward Him. He will be then, God willing, leading his life in a manner very different from before his conversion to Islam.
- For centuries in various parts of the Christian world, the masses were not allowed to read the Bible. That privilege was restricted to the clergy.
- Recorded by al-Bukhari.
- Quoted in Saalih al-Alayuwi, Mabaahith fi al-Niyyah (no publication information given), p. 15.
- For example, Allah says, “Have you not seen how your Lord spread the shadow? If He willed, He could have made it still then We have made the sun its guide” (25:45).
- Muhammad Qutb, Diraasaat Quraaniyyah (Beirut: Dar al-Shurooq, 1982), p. 42.
- Muhammad Qutb, pp. 42-43.
- Muhammad Qutb, p. 45.