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Islam: Faith, Practice & History

483 Pages · 2013 · 1.44 MB · English

  • Islam: Faith, Practice & History

    1


    Chapter


    Preface


    In the name of Allāh, the Beneficent, the Merciful


    O Allāh, send Your blessings upon Muhammad & his Progeny


    The book in your hand is an introductory treatise on Islamic beliefs,


    laws and ethics as well as the early history of the faith in fifty lessons.


    These lessons were part of the Islamic Correspondence Course that I


    compiled, wrote and edited for the Islamic Education and Information


    Centre, Toronto, in the early nineties.


    The course consists of three parts: Part I (twenty lessons) on Islamic


    theology outlines the basic beliefs of the faith; followed by Part II (fifteen


    lessons) on Islamic jurisprudence explaining the spiritual and financial


    issues as well as the social and familial aspects of life; it concludes with


    Part III (fifteen lessons) on the brief history of the first three centuries


    covering the lives of the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter, Fātima, and


    the Twelve Imams of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them all). Each lesson is


    followed by a question paper.


    Besides my own writings, the sources used in preparing this course


    have been duly mentioned at the end of each lesson. nulltheless, I


    would like to acknowledge here the writings of my late father ‘Allāmah


    Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, the board of writers of Dar Rāh-e Haqq Insti-


    tute (Qum, Iran), the late ‘Allāmah S.M. Husayn Tabātabā’i, and


    Ayatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzi. I also would like to thank Br. Haider


    Ali Khoja, a lecturer at Humber College, for preparing the question pa-


    pers for the initial lessons which helped me in preparing questions for


    the remaining lessons in the same pattern.


    I pray to the Almighty Allāh that this book may prove as useful and


    helpful for seekers of truth as did the Islamic Correspondence Course


    2 which soon became popular on a world-wide basis: an Islamic Centre in


    Houston, Texas, included it in its tablīgh program for new Muslims; a


    prominent organization in the United Kingdom plans to put it on-line;


    and the Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania has translated it into Swahili


    and has included it as the intermediary level of its correspondence


    courses.


    Wa mā tawfīqī illa bi’l-lāh.


    Toronto, Canada


    Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi


    Safar 1425 / April 2004


    3 Part 1


    Why Religion?


    4 1. Why Study Religion?


    Why should we investigate about religion and study about God? What


    provokes us to consider religion? There are three reasons:


    5 (A) Love Of Knowledge:


    We all want to know the truth about the world in which we live: Did the


    heaven with its beautiful stars, the earth with its glorious landscapes, the


    beautiful birds, the colourful fish, the blue oceans and the high moun-


    tains—did all these come into being by themselves or are they the


    product of an All-Knowing and Powerful Creator?


    Besides all this, the first question that comes to mind for all of us is the


    origin of ourselves: Where did we come from? Why are we in this


    world? Where are we heading to? The love of knowledge and the search-


    ing spirit within us dictates that we must not rest until we find the an-


    swers to these questions.


    Thus the first reason that compels us to inquire into religion is our


    thirst and love for knowledge.


    6 (B) The Sense Of Thankfulness


    The world around us and the world within ourselves is full of marvelous


    things. The sun and moon, the plants and trees, the mines and minerals


    hidden deep in the heart of the earth; all of them are of great benefit to


    mankind.


    Within ourselves, we have the digestive system, the respiratory appar-


    atus, the heart and other organs of the body; but the greatest of all,


    however, is the intellectual ability of man himself through which he can


    make a mighty mountain crumble into pieces, and create from water and


    iron enormous power and the most delicate objects.


    Now this question poses itself: Should we not engage ourselves in re-


    search and inquiry until, if there is a benefactor, we acknowledge that


    benefactor, to fulfill our duty and offer him our thanks?


    This is the second reason why we should inquire into religion.


    7 (C) Preventing Possible Danger


    If a child were to come and tell you that he saw a poisonous snake go in-


    to the room you were in, you would immediately jump up from your


    chair and undertake a thorough search of every nook and cranny until


    you found it, or until you were satisfied that it was not there.


    Similarly, while traveling by night in a dangerous country, if you


    learnt that bandits were waiting on the road ahead to ambush you—you


    would without any doubt wait until the way ahead was clear of danger,


    and would not take a single step forward until then.


    In these two examples, we have made clear that reason compels us to


    investigate conceivable dangers. It is possible that some of the harmful


    things may turn out to be nothing at all, and that other people may not


    pay any attention to them; but if an inquiry carries the price of a human


    soul, then it cannot be ignored.


    In the history of mankind, we learn of people who were famous for


    telling the truth and who lived an honest life. They claimed that they


    were messengers of God, and they called people towards God and to act


    in certain ways. As a result of the efforts and the constant sufferings of


    these special people in all corners of the world, many groups believed in


    them. Thus the birth of Jesus became the beginning of the Christian cal-


    endar and the migration of the Prophet Muhammad was taken by the


    Muslims as the beginning of their calendar.


    Now, we see that these messengers attracted men to religion and to


    follow particular rules, caused them to fear punishment of their bad


    deeds and convinced them that they would be tried in the Great Court of


    Justice before the Righteous and Wise Judge. They trembled at the hard-


    ships and perils of Resurrection and the harshness of the punishment


    there, and warned men of the dire consequences of evil deeds.


    The question is: Do the warnings of these people make us realize the


    possibility of harm and danger in the same way as did the warning of


    the small child in the example mentioned above? Is it right to ignore the


    words of the messengers of God who, after all, were men of high moral


    standards and who made greatest sacrifices for their cause?


    8 Clearly, the words of the messengers —if they do not make a man cer-


    tain— at least provoke him to think: perhaps what they say is true. If


    what they say is true, then what is our duty? What answer will we have


    in the Court of the Great Judge?


    Common sense reckons the necessity of preventing this “possible


    harm”. What is more, these messengers and prophets call man to a


    healthy and civilized life, and they also say that after death an extensive


    new world and everlasting blessings await one who has performed his


    duty. Does reason allow us to ignore this important message?


    * * *


    There is a similar argument known as the “Pascal's Bet,” named so


    after the famous French mathematician, Pascal (d. 1662 CE). Pascal


    proved the importance of inquiring about religion in the following way:


    If you believe in the life-hereafter, you will gain everything if it really


    exists; and you lose nothing if it does not exist. Therefore, it is better to


    bet that it does exist.


    The theme of this argument was presented by the Shi‘a Imams long


    before Pascal. We also know that Pascal had read Abu Hāmid al-


    Ghazāli's works. It, therefore, seems quite possible that Pascal might


    have read this argument from Imam ‘Ali (a.s.), the first Shi‘a Imam, as


    quoted in Mizānu 'l-A`māl of al-Ghazāli. Imam ‘Ali said:


    The astrologer and the physician both say, `The dead will never be


    resurrected.'


    I say: `Keep your counsel. If your idea is correct, I will come to no harm;


    but if my belief is correct, then you will surely lose.'


    9 2. Some Necessary Qualities Of Religion


    The religion which can fulfill the needs of mankind must have the fol-


    lowing qualities:


    (a) It must satisfy the intelligence and intellect of human beings.


    Islam gives foremost importance to human intelligence. Islam emphas-


    izes that you must understand the faith and then believe in it. Belief fol-


    lows understanding, and not vice versa.


    (b) It must teach and demonstrate dignity of human beings.


    Islam places human beings over and above all other creations of God;


    it promotes equality among human beings. Islam does not allow human


    beings to lose their dignity by bowing down in worship to a fellow man,


    animal or an inanimate object.


    (c) It must be a complete guide to develop the body, mind and spirit of hu-


    mans as a whole.


    Islam does not only develop the soul at the expense of the body; nor


    does it promote the care of the body at the expense of the soul. It pro-


    motes development of all aspects of human life in a balanced way. Islam


    not only talks in general terms about the code of life; it gives specific de-


    tails and also provides examples in the lives of the prophets and imams.


    (d) It must conform with human nature.


    The teachings of Islam takes the human nature into consideration. It


    does not promote, for example, celibacy which is completely against hu-


    man nature.


    (e) It should not be a tool in the hands of oppressors to suppress the masses.


    Islam promotes social justice and rejects the theory of predestination.


    The oppression of a tyrant ruler is not predestined by God. This leaves


    no room for the tyrant rulers and oppressors to say that the masses have


    been predestined for serving the ruling class.


    10


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