Ramadhan: The Month of Truth (Final) [Archives:2000/52/Focus]

December 27 2000

Common Sense
By: Hassan Al-Haifi
In the previous two issues, we delved into the pre-Islamic period in Mohammed’s (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) life to shed light on the spiritual evolution of the Messenger of Allah. The early revelations of the Koran were generally very powerful short verses that impress upon the reader the mighty powers of the Divine that are consolidated in Allah, the Al-Mighty, with brief introductions to the spiritual development of man and the series of prophets and messengers that came, from time to time, to correct the misconceptions that have evolved over the passage of time. The essence of these early revelations is to ascertain the fallacy of all the prevailing religious misconceptions, noting that most of these are the work of men, who saw in religion an opportunity for wealth and power and who, accordingly, corrupted the instinctive inclinations of mankind to seek spiritual salvation, with a view towards satisfying the mundane aspirations of these men. In other words, mankind is relieved from having to resort to priests, “holy men”, medicine men and any other human beings, who profess to have quasi supernatural powers or direct connections to the Divine. On the other hand, the essence of faith is manifested to the point of outlining simple worshipping rites that rely on the believer’s intentions and strong motivations of faith. The simplicity of these worshipping rites is sufficient enough so as not to have a need for clerics and priests to “carry the burden” for the believer, while at the same time their regularity ensures one Ð to Ð One contact with the Lord on a daily basis. Their communal nature, while not mandatory, in most cases, is strongly encouraged to promote a fraternal bond among the believers and to instill the principle of the equality of men, notwithstanding their national, ethnic and social affiliation. While the worshipping rites of Islam are significant in providing the Moslems with a high degree of homogeneity and discipline, they also help to create a sense of order in the believer’s life. Moreover, they provide the Moslem with a chance to take care of personal hygienic needs and to clear the mind of some of the pressures of daily life.
In summary, the five principle rites of worship in Islam are: 1) to attest openly that “There is no God, but Allah, and that Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah”; 2) to carry out the five prayers of the day, at their fixed time intervals, preferably collectively in the mosques; 3) To fast during the Holy Month of Ramadhan (from dawn to sundown); 4) to pay the Zakat duty (for those who have acquired the resources that exceed their subsistence needs and managed to keep this position for over a year); and 5) to make the pilgrimage to Mecca (only if able to afford the journey, without causing any hardships on the dependents for sustenance).
Yet, Islam does not end there! In fact, Islam came as a special phenomenon of a far greater global significance, the influences of which cannot be overestimated. Islam insists that oppression and authoritarian rule are anathema to Islam and the political power rests with the masses of the faithful. The Prophet Mohammed (P) and his early disciples had a clear comprehension of the political and social ramifications of Islam and set fine examples of how the responsible officials of the state should act in their official duty, as well as in their personal lives and interactions with people. The respect for human and civil rights was a matter of religious duty rather than merely being a civic responsibility, to these early adherents of Islam and their application of sentience was so in-depth that their piety and love of God could never be questioned, even though some of them have already been pledged with the Lord’s blessings and bliss in the hereafter, for their contributions and struggle for Islam in its primary stages.
Much of what has become universally recognized as human rights have their origins in the teachings and practices of the Prophet Mohammed and his early followers, and this is attested to by many historians and statesmen over the ages. Unfortunately, Moslems, soon after that, became the last to see this important aspect of Islam, as the model Moslem state, set up by Mohammed and followed through, more or less, by the Moslem leaders that followed him for about half a century after that, became the victim of greed and lust for power among the Moslems themselves, whose affinity to earthly things became far closer than it was to the spiritual.
Eventually, the Model State was overthrown, only to be replaced by autocratic regimes. These autocratic regimes, while proclaiming themselves to be the guardians of the faith, on the contrary worked diligently to erase the real fundamental political and social message of Islam. They even had “religious” scholars express and teach that submission to such regimes was a part of religious doctrine, keeping the emphasis on religious worship rites, as the essential elements of Islam! Many Moslem states today have their legitimacy based on this fallacy, and thus regard political awareness as anathema to Islam.
At the present time, many problems and challenges beset the Moslem World. The most serious of these challenges, is to overcome the general lack of grasp of the fundamental political and social principles that Mohammed (P) sought to instill on his followers. Even those current “fundamentalists’, who claim to be struggling for the “revival” of the “true Islamic state,” appear to be no more than disheartening organized efforts to misrepresent Islam and to project a narrow-minded and often distorted image of the real principles of Islam. These “fundamentalists”, by the nature of their organizations and tactics Ð autocratic and non-transparent Ð cannot and should not ever be viewed as the competent manifestation of the message that Mohammed conveyed to mankind. In fact, they often project the image of Islam and Moslems that the Prophet Mohammed (P) or his followers taught or acted directly against. Even the political orientations of such organized fanatics arouses the suspicions of many conscientious Moslems as to their real objectives and origin of support. On the other hand, these extremists tend to project an extremely exaggerated view of some very minor issues that are not of such great significance, such as clothing, appearance, etc., and they overlook the overriding issues of the oppressive regimes that rule in those countries, where they have been allowed to operate with a high degree of freedom and the corruption that surrounds them (and one wonders how the leaders of these “missionaries” are living in lavish wealth and splendor, that would have outraged the Prophet and his early disciples, had they seen it). On the other hand, they reject the concepts of human rights and political freedom as “Zionist and imperialist designs” that are anathema to Islam! Moreover, they insist that their conceptions of Islam are the only legitimate ones, damning the majority of Moslems throughout the world as “heathens” and rejecting the theological and philosophical work of generations of highly regarded Moslem scholars, whose volumes of scholarly works have more to offer for Moslems, in eloquence and content, than what the masterminds of these “fundamentalist” movements have to offer as guidelines for Moslems to pursue. Another characteristic that is disheartening is that the leaders of these movements tend to take on the place of clerics of supreme authority, whose wisdom can never be contested by the followers, or whose orders and judgements can never be questioned or appealed. One would expect that if the ample resources that seem to be available to these suspicious movements is depleted and the general Moslem population becomes more aware of the suspicions that these movements give rise to, they will fade in the strength of the tolerance, which the religious of Islam introduced to the social order of the universe.
Tolerance is one of the principle contributions of Islam to the social and political development of human civilization. It was the tolerance that early Moslems displayed, wherever they went, that lead to its rapid spread (and not the sword as many prejudiced Western historians would like us to believe). It was also tolerance that lead to the cultural advances of Moslems during the Middle Ages, when Europe was in the heyday of its darkness, that eventually lead the foundations for all the scientific, social and cultural advances that the modern world enjoys today. It is in this that one can rest assured that the eternal Message of the Prophet Mohammed that started in the Month of Ramadhan over 15 centuries ago will surely carry on as a positive factor in the development of man, towards the next millennium and in the millenniums to come.