Beauty and Rationality of Islam
( The “Beauty and Rationality of Islam” series aim at showing the foundation of Islam, especially its concept – that Islam was not introduced or founded by Prophet Muhammad but it started with the first pair of human beings – Adam and Eve and that Prophet Muhammad was sent only to confirm and complete the “Religion of Truth” whose teachings were taught by numerous prophets before Islam, including Prophet Jesus (Jesus Christ), Peace be on them all.
Islam is the name given to the “Religion of Truth” when the time came for it to be further expanded and completed. For example, in the past, people learned to pray for request and praise at any time in a simple way and what to say briefly during the prayer; but at the time of the completion of “The Religion of Truth”, in Islam, prayer is established as obligatory and non-obligatory. The non-obligatory prayers can be done at any time of the day or night or whenever required or urgent while the obligatory prayer is regulated, thus:
The Islamic prayer is called solat, and there are five prayers performed daily, each performed at different times of the day, at home, at any suitable place or in the mosque. The prayers are Suboh or Fajar (before sunrise), Zohor (early afternoon), Asar (late afternoon), Maghrib (after sundown) and Ishak, also spelt Isyak (early night). No footwear is worn during the prayer, and before starting each prayer, the main parts of the body – head area, hand and arms and legs – are cleaned using sparing running water. The prayer can be performed alone or in congregation of any size as small as two persons or in thousands as in huge mosques or at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Each prayer is performed by silently reading Quranic verses and executing a set of postures like standing, bowing and sitting on the floor. In a congregation, people, male and female separately, position themselves close to each other in straight rows, showing unity, respect and no distinction of race, colour or wealth – all face towards the Ka’aba in Mecca for unity in prayers of the One God (Allah).
It is hoped that with the proper understanding of Islam, people of other faiths would appreciate Islam and thus live with Muslims as fellow brothers and sisters. There is no place for suspicion, hatred of races and faiths or terrorism. What we need in this world is peace, happiness, togetherness and harmony.
The first article in the series, “The Spirit of Islam – Part 1: Prophets and their missions”, appeared last Saturday, 27 January, in this blog. Part 2: Human nature and Prophet Adam” was posted on Saturday, 3 February, and the third and final part of “The Spirit of Islam”, “Prophet Abraham, Patriarch of Revealed Religions”, appears today, below. )
Beauty and Rationality of Islam
– The Spirit of Islam –
Part 3: Prophet Abraham,
Patriarch of Revealed Religions
Prophet Abraham is known to the believers of the three well-known religions of today – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As the patriarch of the Jews, Christians and Muslims, Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) is closely connected to Muslims in many ways.
The life-story of Prophet Abraham is one characterised by tremendous trials, great sacrifices and complete submission to Allah. And when he had gone through the trials successfully, Allah made him a great leader. Allah says: “And when His Lord tried Abraham with (His) Commands, and he fulfilled them, He said: “Lo! I have appointed thee a Leader for mankind.'” (2:124)
Prophet Abraham spoke out strongly against the worship of idols which his people were practising. He even physically destroyed their idols to prove his point – that things made by man could be destroyed by man. His preaching of the One God, Allah, earned him the wrath of his idol-worshipping people and, one day, he was subjected to torture by fire, from which he escaped. He travelled to Egypt and Palestine and then to Arabia to spread his teaching of the One God.
Prophet Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was unable to bear children. So, with his wife’s consent, he married Hagar (Hajar) for the purpose of begetting a son. His wish was fulfilled and he was blessed with a son, Ishmael (Ismail). However, from the time Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, Sarah, out of jealousy, used every opportunity to make Hagar’s life miserable. This troubled Prophet Abraham and he prayed for Allah’s Guidance. Prophet Abraham, upon receiving Allah’s Guidance, and obeying it, took Hagar and their child, Ishmael, out of Palestine and travelled to the Arabian peninsular. He arrived at a desolate area, the Valley of Bakkah, later to be called Makkah (Mecca).
When Hagar asked her husband if that was the place commanded by Allah for them to live, Prophet Abraham replied: “Yes. It is Allah’s Command.” And Hagar said, “If that is so, then Allah will not abandon us.”
This event led to many significant events over the years. The following main ones were associated with the family of Prophet Abraham:
• Settlement developed
Though this valley (Valley of Bakkah) was a parched desert, water (today known as the Zamzam water) appeared before Hagar, and it gave sustenance to the family and others who passed by. The water attracted people, known as “bedouin”, who roamed the deserts of Arabia seeking pastures for their herds of camel and other animals. Soon a habitation emerged and, not long after, a settlement was established here in this valley which became known as Makkah (Mecca).
• Command executed
Some years later, in Palestine, Prophet Abraham was elated because Sarah conceived a child and Isaac (Ishak) was born. But Prophet Abraham was saddened to receive a dream-vision in which he was commanded by Allah to sacrifice his first-born, Ishmael, who was about mid-teen by now.
But when he told this to his son, Ishmael, who was also a great believer in Allah, he surprisingly agreed. Allah says: “Then when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, He (Abraham) said: ‘O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what it is thy view!’ The son said: ‘O my father! Do as thou art commanded, thou will find me, if Allah so wills, one practising patience and constancy!'” (37:102) (Note: In the Bible, it was Isaac who was sacrificed.)
• Faith triumphed
At the site of the sacrifice, Ishmael put his head down on a rock in preparation for the sacrifice, and Prophet Abraham, with a heavy heart, placed the knife to his son’s throat to execute the sacrifice. Suddenly, a voice, the voice of Angel Gabriel, was heard. Conveying the Message of Allah, the Angel said he had passed the test of his deep faith in Allah, and that Allah required no sacrifice of his son. Prophet Abraham was relieved and thanked Allah for it. The willingness to sacrifice the first-born son was an ultimate test of faith.
Allah says in the Qur’an, thus: “We called out to him: ‘O Abraham! You have already fulfilled the vision.’ Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial; and We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And We left (this Blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times. Peace and salutation to Abraham. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right; for he was one of Our believing servants!” (37:104-111)
• Haj instituted
It was Prophet Abraham, assisted by Ishmael, who built the Ka’aba as instructed by Allah (through Angel Gabriel) as a place for the worship of the One God, and called people to it for the Haj. Allah says: “Behold! We gave the site to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): ‘Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the Haj among mankind…'” (22:26-27) The Haj was thus instituted, and it is one of the five Pillars of Islam.
About Prophet Abraham, Allah says: “Abraham was indeed a model, devoutly obedient to Allah and true in faith, and he joined not gods with Allah. He showed his gratitude for the favours of Allah, who chose him and guided him to the Straight Path. And We gave him good in this world, and he will be in the Hereafter in the ranks of the righteous.” (16:120-122)
When Ishmael became a Prophet, he reminded the people of the teachings of his father and reiterated the belief in the One God. However, when Prophet Ishmael died, many of the people of Mecca gradually over time forgot the teachings and, seduced by satanic forces, reverted to worshipping idols made of clay and stone. [Such “back to old” practice also took place with the people of Prophet Moses. When Prophet Moses left his followers to pursue a religious calling, although for only a short period, his people “made out of ornaments, the image of a calf for worship.” (7:148)]
The pilgrimage to the sacred “House” continued annually, but not as originally instituted. The practice was corrupted by idol worship. The pagan Meccans worshipped 360 idols which were placed in and around the Ka’aba. Also, a trade fair flourished in the vicinity of the Ka’aba with dancing girls and other vices practised. The pagans also indulged in immorality, slavery and cruelty such as pawning away their wives and infanticide (burying female infants alive).
This long period, known as the “Age of Jahilliyah” (Age of Ignorance), extended right to the time of the advent of Prophet Muhammad, Allah’s final prophet, and these atrocities and idol worship came to an end with the inception of Islam.
10 February 2018
(The writer of this series of articles would take a one-month break to undertake an important Islamic obligation – Umrah or minor pilgrimage in Mecca. )