24 September 2008
By Dr Syed Bashir Ahmad
ALL major Islamic practices of worship have very clear 1moral objectives. Salat (the obligatory Prayers), which is the foremost daily ritual in the life of a Muslim, plays a vital role in building the self-driven deterrent and in cultivating the devout conscience: “… Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do”. ( Al-Quran: Al-’Ankabut: 45)
These prayers amount to moral reinforcement for the believer. He resorts to these while confronting the difficulties of life: “O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere”. (Al-Quran: Al-Baqarah: 153) Zakat (the mandatory charity), which has recurrently been mentioned alongside Salat (the obligatory Prayers), is not just a financial tax collected from the rich and passed onto the poor. In the domain of morals, it is rather the medium to purify, whereas in the field of finance, it makes an important instrument of collection and development. “Of their goods, take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them...” (Al-Quran: At-Taubah : 103)
Fasting in Islam is aimed at training the self on abstention from its own wicked desires and on revolt against its own habitual inclinations. In other words, it prepares the self for piety, which is the core of Islamic morality. “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint”. ( Al-Quran: Al-Baqarah: 183)
Likewise, Haj in Islam is meant to train the Muslim on cleansing the self, on devotion and on rising above the vanities, extravagances, commotions and conflicts of life. That is the reason why Islam prescribes the Ehram (simple attire of pilgrimage) denoting entering into a life founded on simplicity, modesty, peace, seriousness and abandoning of pomposity of the worldly life. “For Haj are the months well-known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, Let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Haj...” (Al-Quran: Al-Baqarah: 197)
When these Islamic practices of worship lose these denotations and fail to achieve the desired goals, their significance is lost along with essence of their mission. Thereupon these practices turn to become corpses having no soul. No wonder that many sayings of the Prophet of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) emphasise upon this reality in very eloquent and unequivocal terms.
For example, “He whom his prayers do not prevent from wicked deeds, his prayers are void. How many an awake (in discretionary night prayers) gains from his vigilance nothing but burning of the midnight oil”. About the fasting too he said, “He who does not give up spurious talk and acting upon it, Allah is in no need for him leaving his food and drink. How many a faster there is, who gains noting from fasting except hunger and thirst”.
To be continued ...