Reflections of an American Muslim

(Shahid Athar , M. D.)

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"Say: We believe in God and what has been sent down to us,
and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob
and their descendants,
and what was given to Moses, Jesus
and the prophets by their Lord.
We do not discriminate against any one of them
and are committed to (live at) peace with Him " (3:84).


Religion as understood by others is "a way of worship of (a) God." This philosophy requires the presence of (a) God. The religion in Islam is not a way of worship, but a way of life (in a most natural way). So anyone (or anything) which submits (or follows) the natural ways is a Muslim. This includes human beings, animal, plants, planets, stars, etc. This is the only way they can stay in peace. A planet orbits on an appointed route. A tree grows in a particular direction. If this pattern is disturbed (going against the will of God) there will be no peace. So a Muslim is the one who attains peace within and without by submitting his will to the will of God.

God says in the Quran, "If any one desires a religion other than submission the the will of God (islam) it will be accepted and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who are losers" (3:85). "Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky and it had been (as) smoke. He said to it and to the earth, 'Come you together willingly or unwillingly' and they said, "We do come together in willing obedience"' (41:11). "'O you who believe, accept Islam whole heartedly and do not follow thefoot steps of the devil for he is your open enemy" (2:208). "Those who do not believe and die as non-believers, on them is the curse of God and of angels and of men combined" (2:161). "Those who become disbelievers after becoming believers, God will not forgive them" (3:90). "O you who believe, if you follow the People of the Book they will make you disbelievers after you have believed" (3:100).

So far we have discussed the need for the submission to the Will of God. Now we would like to know how we do it. This is rather simple in the sense that the Will of God as described in the Quran is not against the laws of nature. So if we follow the laws of nature and do not over ride it with the laws of human beings (as developed by his/her desires and imagination), then we are doing it find. Let us examine the will of God and submission to it as described in the Quran. On this earth we have been given a contract with God to carry out His orders in an appointed time. If we do well in our part of the contract, He will keep His part of the contract. What is the contract?

God says in the Quran, "I am with you: if you establish regular prayer, practice regular charity, believe in My Messengers, honor and assist them, and loan to God a beautiful loan (charity). Of course I will wipe out from you your sins and admit you to heaven with rivers flowing beneath but if any of you, after this, resists the faith, he has truly wandered from the simple path" (5:13). "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East or the West but the righteousness is to believe in God, the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the Messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your relatives, for orphans, for the traveler, for those who ask, askfor the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, practice regular charity, to fulfill the contract which you have made" (2:177).

God requires that we submit our will to His Will."Your God is one God, submit then your will to Him and give good news to those who hum- ble themselves" (22:34). "Who can be better in religion than he who submits his whole self (physical and spiritual) to God, does good and follows the ways of Abraham for God did take Abraham for a friend" (4:125). From here onward we will examine what comes in our way or what prevents us from submission to the Will of God. It is the attractions of this life, our temptations, vain desires. Let us examine what the Quran says about the life of this world. "What is the life of this world but play and amusement? But best is the home in the Hereafterfor those who are righteous. Will you not then understand" (6:32). "The life of this world is attractive to those who reject faith and they scoff at those who believe. But the righteous will be above them on the Day of Judgment for God bestows His abundance without measure on whom He will" (2:212). "Leave alone those who take their way of life to be mere play and amusement and are deceived by the life of this world. But proclaim (to them) this (truth): That every soul delivers itself to ruin by its own acts. It will find for itself no protector or intercessor except God. If it offered every ransom, none will be accepted. Such is (the end of) those who cause themselves to ruin by their own acts. They will have to drink boiling water and for punishment, one most grievous for they persisted in rejecting God" (6:70). "Such as took their way of life to be mere amusement and play and were deceived by the life of this world, that day shall we forget them as they forgot the meeting of this day of theirs and as they were bent upon rejecting our Signs" (7:5 1). "Did you then think that We created you for mere idle play and that you would not have to return to us?" (23:115).

So if the life of this not for play and attractions or possessions of this world are of not much value, then what is of value? "Beautiful for mankind is the love of the joys (that come) from women, and off spring, and stored up heaps of gold and silver and horses, cattle and land. That is comfort of the life of the world. But nearness to God is the best of the goals (to return to)" (3:14).

However, we human beings do not always appreciate what God selects for us. "Fighting (in the way of God) is prescribed for you and you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you love a thing which is bad for you but God knows and you know not" (2:216). "Say not equal are things that are bad and things that are good even though the abundance of the bad may dazzle you. So fear God oh you that understand that you may prosper" (5:103).

The second thing which prevents human beings from bowing down to the Will of God is his arrogance (takabbar) and self-conceit (kibr). This is the root of spiritual darkness and roots in the fact of the human being's concept of self-assurance and over-confidence in himself, his powers and imagination. This is the cause of rebellion in him.

The Quran reminds him/her of his/her humble origin. "Has not the human being seen that we have created him from a drop offluid yet lo he is an open opponent" (36:77). "He has created the heaven and the earth with Truth. Far is He above the partners they associate with Him. He has created the human being from a drop offluid yet behold! he becomes an open disputer!" (16:3).

After rejection of faith (kufr) and association of partners to God (shirk), the arrogance (kibr) is the third most deadly sin. Iblis was not guilty of being an unbeliever (in God) or of ascribing partners to Him, but of arrogance for which he was thrown out. "And behold, we said to the angels, bow down to Adam and they bowed down; not so Iblis. He refused and was arrogant. He was those who reject faith" (2:34). "God said: What prevented you (Iblis) from bowing down when I commanded you? He (Iblis) said: I am better than he (man); You created me from fire and him from clay. God said: Get down from this. It is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out for you are the meanest (of creatures)" (7:12-13). Refusal, rejection (of truth) and heedlessness are part of arrogance and the opposite of submission and lead to rebellion and make Iblis satanic. When the unbeliever makes Iblis as his guide that person takes up the qualities of his guide, too.

The Quran mentions arrogance in many places: "When it is said to them (unbelievers), prostrate, they do not" (77:48). "And when the Quran is read to them, they fall not prostrate on the contrary, they reject it" (84:21-22). "But those who reject our Signs and treat them with arrogance, they are the companions of the fire to dwell there in forever" (7:36). "To those who reject our Signs and treat them with arrogance, no opening will there be of the gates of heaven nor will they enter into the garden until the camel can pass through the eye of a needle. Such is Our reward for those who do wrong" (7:40). "Your God is God. As to those who believe not in the Hereafter, their heart refuses to know and they are arrogant. Undoubtedly God knows what they conceal and what they reveal. Surely He loves not the arrogant" (16:22-23).

In conclusion, God punishes those who fail to submit because of their arrogance. He is pleased and protects those who accept faith as mentioned in the Quran in the following places: "God is the protector of those who have faith. From the depth of darkness He will lead them forward into light. Those who reject faith and appoint evil ones as their guide, they will lead them into darkness from light. They will be the residents of hell to live thereforever" (2:257). "God wishes to turn to you but wishes of those who follow their bad desires is that you should turn away from Him far, far away. God wishes to lighten your difficulties for the human being was created weak" (4:27-28). "Oh you who believe, if you fear God, He will grant you a criterion (to judge between right and wrong), remove from you (all) evil (that may afflict you) and forgive you for God is the Lord of grace unbound" (8:29).