The question posed in today’s lecture is “Why do we need a religion?” I am not going to answer this particular question directly. In fact, I view the “religion” itself as being offensive. It is a misrepresentation of the word “deen”, which means a complete, structured, divinely ordained way of life. Therefore the topic today is “Why are we in need of a correct way of life?”
We have been placed on this earth for a special purpose, and one day we will be questioned regarding the fulfillment of that purpose, and whether we have fulfilled our obligations to God, society and to ourselves.
Religion must address essential humanistic needs - physical needs, societal needs, emotional needs and psychological needs. My mission today is to show you what Islam puts forward in relation to these needs.
It is not my purpose to “win you over to Islam.” We hold firmly that your entering Islam will not benefit Allah in all His Glory in any way, and His Glory will not be diminished by your rejection of Islam. My mission is simply to get you acquainted with what one-fifth of the world’s population espouse as being the Ultimate Truth. It is to clarify your doubts, address your stereotypical assumptions and to call you to the realization that Allah calls you to worship Him Alone.
Turning first to physical needs - it is essential that a person’s physical needs be met, regardless of the individual’s place or situation. Examples of physical needs include food, the quenching of one’s physical thirst, the displacement of one’s sexual drive, the need for freedom, security and peace. Islam touches upon all of those essential aspects of our physical life – what we eat, how we eat, why we eat, with whom we share our food, etc. It is a complete way of life. The Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) gave the example of an individual who is in the middle of the desert, and his camel runs away, taking with it all his provisions. He will raise his hands in supplication and will say, “O Allah, feed me”, but his food that he had was from haram or unlawful sources, and his clothing was from haram or unlawful sources. The Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) asked, how can this man expect that Allah will accept his supplication and prayers? This shows the importance in Islam of fulfilling our physical needs in the correct manner. As Muslims we do not simply seek out sustenance and nourishment. Rather we seek out lawful means to earn the wealth with which we purchase our foods. A true Muslim would prefer to forgo special foods purchase from illicit sources and eat in its place bread and water.
In Islam, the difference between halal (lawful things) and haram (unlawful things) is the articulation of a word and the righteous intention that accompanies it. A good example is marriage. The difference between halal and haram personal relations between a man and a woman is that the bride and the groom saying “I accept” – that utterance governs the entire future of those two people. In Islam, marriage is essential, and having relations outside of marriage is haram – it is a social vice that is deemed worthy of punishment. Therefore we see that the discharge of ones’ physical needs – food, water, and lusts – are governed by the Laws of Allah.
As such, we begin to now see that Islam means to submit to Allah to attain peace with Allah. The scholars of Islam have stated that the essence of Islam is captured in the Qur’an. The essence of the Qur’an in turn is encompassed in the opening chapter of the Qur’an wherein Allah states:
With the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
All the praises and thanks be to Allâh, the Lord of the ‘Alamîn (all that exists).
The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection).
You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).
Guide us to the Straight Way
The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray.
And the essence of the opening chapter of the Qur’an is contained in one verse of the opening chapter: Iyyaaka na’budu wa iyyaaka nasta’een – You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything). Thus, the essence of Islam to is to submit only to Allah.
It is also important to note that Islam contains a martial law that dictate the mannerisms of warfare – laws that are so strict that if a Muslim breaks them against a non-Muslim, the non-Muslim is viewed as being oppressed, and the Muslim is the oppressor. In Islam we hold firmly that if in such a situation the Muslim would be deemed a sinner and at risk of being worthy of Allah’s Wrath and punishment.
As human beings we understand the necessity of a person’s way of life being fluid – inflexible in some circumstances, but malleable in others. Muslims come from many, many different nationalities – but they all believe in the same thing, perform the same acts and submit in unison to Allah. Islam is fluid, and accessible to all nationalities. The Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) informed that he came to teach both the light and the dark in complexion. And the Qur’an states that:
O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allâh is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa (piety). Verily, Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” Al-Hujurat (49:13)
In Islam, it is an individual’s responsibility to his Creator that he lives among the people according to Islam. Therefore, for example, an employee should be diligent, punctual and perform his duties correctly – not because he is afraid that he will be fired or he may suffer a pay cut, but only because he fears Allah. He or she knows that Allah is judging them in how well they fulfill their duties and the obligations that they have been delegated. Similarly, the family situation is based on love, trust, caring and openness, not because a person is a mother or father, but because their Creator directs them to treat their family members with love, respect and justness.
Islam also dictates that we share what Allah has given us on this earth. Islam contains more specific laws relating to the physical environment than any other faith. For example, the Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) said: “A woman has been brought to the door of Hell because she was cruel to a cat.” His companions asked, “How could this be?” He replied, “She confined the cat to a cage so it could not go out and find food, and she did not feed it herself.”
The Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) also said, “A man has been granted admission to Paradise because he gave water to a thirsty dog.”
Once the Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) saw a camel with tears in its eyes. The Prophet consoled the camel, and noticed that it had an excessive load of burden on its back, which was causing it to be distressed. The Prophet ((sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) admonished the person who had done this to the camel.
The Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) would often give his lessons under the shade of a tree. He informed his that the tree can hear him and benefits from his nearness.
The Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) said, “If an individual has an opportunity to plant a tree, even if he knows the Day of Judgment is imminent, let him plant the tree.” The Prophet ((sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) taught us that we would be rewarded for planting a tree even if the fruits of the tree were stolen – because planting the tree itself is an act that is sanctioned by Allah.
We are Allah’s vicegerents on the earth; it has been given us in trust. Just as we are not the lords of nature and the world, so the world is not our property which we can dispose of as we wish or as we are able. Allah created nature and it belongs to Allah. Everything in nature is a sign of Allah’s existence; that is, a token or missive. The Qur’an expresses this truth as follows:
“We shall show them our signs in the [furthest] regions [of the earth], and in their own souls.” Fussilat 41:53
“Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds subjugated between the sky and earth — [here] indeed are signs for a people who think.” Al-Baqarah 2:164
Emotional needs and the Importance of family relationships
Islam also teaches us the importance of the family relationship. The relationship in the home is a relationship that builds communities. The first people that the Prophets would tell of their Divine Message were their own family members – for example, after seeing the burning bush, Moses first went home and told his immediate family of what he had seen; when Noah heard that the flood was about to come, he first went and told his family. The same was true of the Prophet Mohammad (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) – the first people that he told about his message were his wife, his best friend, his cousin and his adopted son.
The Muslims must follow this example. When Muslims give anything – whether it be knowledge or material things – they must begin first with their immediate families, and spread from there to their friends, neighbours and extended families.
Rules for living in society
Islam seeks to stamp out all vices. So intoxication is forbidden in all its forms – alcohol, drugs, cigarettes etc – because intoxication leads to decay in society. Extra-marital activities are also forbidden for a similar reason. The taking of a human life without due cause is forbidden. The Qur’an states – as does the Torah – that the one who gives life to an individual – that is, saves a human life – it is as if he has brought life to all of humanity; and the one who kills an individual, it is as if he has brought death to all of humanity. But the Qur’an also states – as does the Torah – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The one who begins the aggression is the oppressor.
Islam has a shari’ah – a set of laws or rules which Muslims must follow. In Islam, one cannot say that man-made laws could ever be better than laws ordained by Allah. The Qur’an states: “Should not He Who has created know (what is best for His Creation)? And He is the Most Kind and Courteous (to His slaves) All-Aware (of everything).” Al-Mulk 67:14
Why do we have to follow a shari’ah or divine law? Why this way of life? What is so valuable about this way of life that would cause people to leave the path they have known their whole life and join Islam?
The answer is simple. It is not always a person’s own choice, but a guidance from Allah. The Qur’an says that the example of one who receives guidance is as of one who has life. And the example of one who does not receive guidance is as one who is dead.
Success is not tangible or measurable – one can never be rich enough, or pretty enough, or ever have enough things. As the Prophet (sala Allahu ‘Alihi wa Salaam - Peace be upon him) said, “If a man was given a valley of gold, he would search for another one.”