Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Muslim's perspective on God

I have shied away from writing anything in detail about spirituality or religion for a long time now. Faith is something intensely personal, and rightly so. But in this globalized era what's personal has become political. And as one can see from the news, the geopolitics of faith have become more important than the principles of it. Which is quite sad.

So this post is my effort to introduce you to God, from a Muslim perspective. I am not here to proselytize. My only intention is to shed all pretenses and barriers around me and just tell you what God means to me and what place religion occupies in a Muslim's life. I hope you will benefit from this post and will be encouraged to do your own research on this religion. 

At the core of the Islamic faith is the principle of Tawheed, which translates into Oneness of God. God is One. He has no parents, no wife, no husband and no children. Among His attributes is that He is like nothing else we know of. He is not needy like humans are. This is best surmised in Chapter 112 of Qur'an- Surah Ikhlas (The Sincerity):

Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One,
Allah , the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born,
Nor is there to Him any equivalent."

This chapter makes it explicit that God, the creator, is different from us humans, His creations. God doesn't have any weaknesses, we do. Thus, we believers don't attribute any image or idol to him because He is beyond this worldly realm and what we procure from our imagination can never ever come close to portraying Him in all His majesty. 

The word Islam means 'Submission to God' and a follower of Islam is a Muslim i.e One who submits himself completely to God. This is what makes Islam a way of life. For a Muslim, the sole purpose of life is to worship and please God almighty. Thus, everything we do in our day to day lives is informed by that love for God. So a Muslim strives on a daily basis to rise above the distractions of the material world (dunya) to worship the Owner of the world(s). 

To make it easier for us to understand HOW to achieve this spiritual state, God sent Prophets to different societies, in different times, with the same message- There is no God worthy of worship except The God. Some of these prophets- as mentioned in the Qur'an- were- Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, Jacob, Joseph, Abraham (May peace be upon all of them) and the seal of all Prophets- Prophet Muhammed (Peace and Blessings be upon him).

Each prophet was sent to a particular society and Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) was sent to the entire mankind. Some of these prophets were sent scriptures, such as Torah, Bible and the Qur'an. Qur'an is considered as the final revelation and is also defined as the 'Criterion' - it is a guide to distinguish right from wrong. In simple terms, it's the user manual for human beings, released by the manufacturer Himself! 

Some people are under the impression that Islam is a religion of do's and don'ts as can often be seen from the Halal-Haram battles on the internet. Islam is so much more than a ritualistic religion. From its follower it requires firstly a complete internal submission followed by a physical one. Faith is a state of mind too, so in the Qur'an Allah asks the believers to have Taqwa i.e. God- consciousness. We are asked to be aware of God and his ultimate power. We are asked to be mindful of the fact that with all its temptations, trials and tribulations, this life is temporary- a test whose results will be out in the afterlife. And it is this very consciousness that makes a Muslim mindful of what he does and does not do. It is his effort to make sure that he doesn't in any way displease God. So he refers to the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the life and etiquette of the Prophet Muhammed) to ensure that he is on the right track. 

The problem occurs when some Muslims lose focus of the bigger picture and occupy themselves with the technicalities and the nitty-gritty of the Halal/ Haram. This takes up so much of their energy and time that in the end they completely lose sight of why those things were required of them in the first place. 
Islam is a religion of action. It's not enough if it's "all there in the heart", we have to translate our intentions into actions too. A demonstration of this is the 5 pillars of Islam. 
They are- 
1)Shahadah-Testimony that there is no God worthy of worship but the God (Allah) and Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) is the last messenger.
2) Salah - 5 daily prayers spread throughout the day for men, women, children- young and old- alike. 
3) Sawm- Fasting in the month of Ramadan from dawn to dusk.
4) Zakat- Annual charity. This is a pre-calculated portion of your annual salary and assets and is given to the poor and needy of the neighborhood. 
5) Hajj -pilgrimage to Makkah. This is required of all those who can financially and physically afford to make the trip from their homelands to Makkah.

Apart from these the believer is given certain guidelines to live by. Some of them are- Internal and external modesty, generosity with money and time, humility in the demeanour, kindness to those around. Islam is a social religion too. A healthy community is viewed as a pre-requisite for harmonious living. Thus, our neighbours have rights upon us. The poor and oppressed of the society have rights upon us. Even the environment has rights upon us. Charity is given utmost importance in the Qur'an. A believer is asked to give charity from what he loves. He is encouraged to ensure that destitute of the society are looked after. We will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement if our neighbour goes to bed without food while we sleep on full stomachs. 

Islam is also a just religion. This might comes as a shocker for those who follow the middle eastern news. But the sad thing is, none of the countries in the Modern world are completely Islamic. They have made a mockery of the 'Shariah' by being extremely prejudiced against woman and those of other races. However, Islam asks male believers and female believers to respect and honour each other and condemns racism in the strongest possible terms. In front of God, what matters is the piety and depth of belief of the person and not whether he/she is black, white or brown. 

The Qur'an emphasises this in the following verse- 
" O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted." ( 4:135)

This fairness and sense of justice is also reinforced in the Prophet Muhammad's last sermon, before his death, where he said: 
" O’ Ye people! Allah says, O’ people We created you from one male and one female and made you into tribes and nations, so as to be known to one another. Verily in the sight of Allah, the most honoured amongst you is the one who is most God-fearing. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab, nor for the white over the black nor for the black over the white except in God-consciousness."

There are obviously some rulings which may appear confusing to non- Muslims. It's understandable but it doesn't mean you make your own assumptions about what it "could mean". You have to put it in the context of the time and place of revelation and how it relates to the present day. If you wish to understand more about Islam, I advise you to read a translation of the Qur'an in whichever language you are most comfortable in. 

And talk to your Muslim friends too! We may not have all the answers all the time, but we will help you look for it (and in the process learn ourselves too). 
This post has stretched out more than I wanted it to and I still can't do justice to it. I hope this was an informative read for you and would love it if you have any feedback or questions. If I don't the answer to any question, I am going to say just that- 'I don't know' ! I am extremely lacking in terms of Islamic knowledge, but I'll try my best to point you to authentic sources from where you can clarify your doubts.

I pray to God that he blesses us with that which is true and pure. And I pray he blesses our lives with peace and contentment. 


  1. Excellent post, Nazreen!! i hope you dont mind that I've shared this via Twitter... and keep going, sis!!! looking forward to reading this upto Z... :-)

    1. Thank you! Of course you can share it!
      I am going to get to the rest of the letters after Eid..

  2. I just chanced upon your blog via FB and I must say, this is such a comprehensive post. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of your blog posts :)

    1. Thank you so much! I enjoyed going through your blog too :)