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Muslim seeking the pleasure and mercy of Allah, Most High... Sunnah style!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Path to Salvation

Bismillahi ar-Rahman ar-Raheem

All praise belongs to Allah. We praise Him and seek His Guidance and Forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil of ourselves and the evil consequences of our bad deeds. Whoever Allah guides, there is none that can misguide. And whoever Allah allows to be lead astray, none can guide. And I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and final Messenger to mankind.

As-salaamu 'alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu. Peace be unto every and each one of you setting sight on this journal with an open mind and open heart to either attain a better understanding of Islam or just simply to see how I'll go about explaining pertinent aspects thereof. My only hope and goal is to purify the concepts of Islam by exposing the reality of this most ennobling, seamless, practical, mesmeric and yet most misunderstood religion. And with such clarification, in'sha'Allah (God-willing/if Allah Wills), the non-Muslim can at least distinguish the reality of Islam versus its myths and misconceptions. So if they care to, they might correct those carrying such crude falsehoods and general misgivings about Islam.

The most common concerns I personally hear from those inquiring about Islam is that we, Muslims, with all our prayers, fasting, charity and good deeds, sadly have no salvation. Such thinking couldn't be any further from the truth. It is the similitude of Neptune's distance from the Sun (as recent discoveries have concluded that Neptune's path of orbit takes it further from the Sun than Pluto). I will commence to explicate the achievement of salvation in Islam.

Be certain that any truth and exactness I should explain is from Allah, Most High and that any mistake and inaccuracies are from myself. I pray to Allah that all I write regarding His Way is to His Satisfaction. Ameen.

"Those who believe in the Qur'an, and those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Christians and the Sabians, -any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." -Qur'an 2:62

On the face of the underlined statement above, salvation would appear readily obtainable. But we must as well take into account the artful deceit, dangersome allures and shrewd misguidance evoked by Shaitan (i.e. Satan, the Accursed One) with which we are unceasingly confronted, especially in times we are most vulnerable. Often we succumb to engaging in such fruitless, compromising pleasures. Distancing us further from Allah and nearer the doorstep of disbelief, disregard, doubt and downright recklessness.

But surely, as the Holy Prophet, Muhammad peace be upon him once said, "no nation nor race is superior to another, for of surety, the best of us are those best in conduct and piety." Likewise, Allah tells us in the Qur'an, c.49 v.13: "O mankind! We created you from a single pair, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes so that ye may know each other, not that ye may despise each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the Sight of Allah is the most righteous of you." The criterion of judgement in Islam is one solely based on conduct and piety. Abstaining what's unlawful and enjoining what is right truly is how one earns reverence in Islam.

Notwithstanding, especially for the most pious, many trials lie ahead and deviation is substantially inevitable. Those with fear enough in their Lord to sense remorse and repent to Him directly with all sincerity earn salvation. It is imperative the Muslim be in a constant state of checking and correcting oneself. Sometimes, more times than we care to realize, we forget Allah inadvertently. In saying, "forget", I'm not implying disremembering God's existence, rather, forgetting to do for the sake of Allah in every given circumstance.

During our toughest trials, Believers, are quick to ask the help of Allah and make promise to Allah to do right if He just "let this cup pass", deliver us from this anguish, depression, obstacle or worry. But once Allah shows His Mercy to us and things in life transpire favorably, having us to enjoy some sweet, nectareous scent of success it's not uncommon one should forget Allah and become selfish and ungrateful in such moments. Even begin doing that which they know is harmful and shameful under the banner of celebration or some halfwit excuse resembling something as "I'm a free spirit" -what this really means from the individual whose mouth this disgorges is: "I'm but a slave to my own desires."

For Muslims, we realize, indiscriminately, every circumstance is a trial. The good and the bad. The Murphy's Law times and the suspicious everythings going right times. The Prophet Job (Ayyub) peace be upon him times and the 'will the coins ever stop falling from this slot machine?' times. As rewarding as something good happening to us feels, we must be ever-mindful that we're being tried. Will you remember Allah? Or will Shaitan get the best of you?

All this to demonstrate how effortful it is to retain "belief in Allah and the Last Day" and "work righteousness". How susceptible we are to value this life over the Hereafter. How probable it is that we, intermittently, lose fear and devotion towards Allah. It's exceptionally staggering for the youth, not only in age, but (also) in terms of faith. So in light of this, how does one evade and escape such conditions and ultimately attain salvation?

At last we inch closer to the very theme of the matter. And as we do such, I'm compelled to elucidate the point that in Islam, desires are not repressed. Islam discourages all forms and levels of self-denial. As Allah states in the Qur'an:

"He it is that has created for you the faculties of hearing, sight, feeling and understanding: little thanks it is ye give." -Qur'an 23:78

So in understanding these sensory and intellectual faculties are blessings given unto us from God Almighty. It is clear, then, that they are purposeful and beneficial. Not to be suppressed, but instead, channeled in ways that are better profitable. With them, we can enhance the clarity of our perception of the Signs of Allah. Islam encourages the study of everything in life, to challenge our intellect so that we might excel in faith and piety. Blind faith is simply shunned in Islam. Allah tells us further regarding our senses and intelligence:

"...but of no profit to them were their faculties of hearing, sight, and heart and intellect, when they went on rejecting the Signs of Allah; and they were completely encircled by that which they used to mock at!" -Qur'an 46:26

Moreover, in its original, Arabic text, the word used in the Qur'an for "intellect" is "‘iqâl". This is one of three words in Arabic that describe "intellect" or "intelligence". All of which (literally) describes a harness used for riding and steering either a horse or camel. Off the bat, one may be confused over the connection between a harness for a horse and intellect. Interestingly, with a bit more thought you notice the genius of it. Because as Allah describes, our intellect, when properly applied, aids in excelling our faith, therefore, navigates us safely and rightly, and alertly to avoid harm and misdirection. Similarly, the cord about the horse is pulled by it's rider to lead and steer it in the path perceptually most fitting. But depending on what you allow to have the greater influence on your intellect, decides the direction you "pull" yourself. And in the event you catch yourself before ultimately losing yourself in the wrong direction, in Islam, we are advised to turn back to Allah (directly) and repent. By this, salvation is earned. And through the performance of the 5 daily prayers obligated on every Muslim, one not only worships His Lord, but is as well constantly reminded of His Lord, His Glory and His Promise. This practice gives the Muslim tranquility, peace of mind, assurance and sustains his absolute trust and obedience to Allah.

In Islam, true salvation is not earned or permanently guaranteed through mere acceptance, belief or knowledge. There is no one-time ritual, ceremony or confession a Muslim undergoes and is suddenly healed or saved for all times (i.e. "living under grace"). Indeed, when a person wholeheartedly embraces Islam, reciting what is called "Al Shahadah", which is the testimony of faith, all their previous misdeeds and sins are eliminated, never to be held against them or even mentioned on the Day of Judgement. However, this knowledge and faith of theirs they must continually put into action. Islam is not something a Muslim should leave in the Masjid (mosque, sanctuary), neither is it something they leave at home or in their minds and hearts. The Muslims should instead carry out Islam wherever they carry themselves. For salvation is an ongoing process.

"Our religion is the Baptism of Allah: And who can baptize better than Allah? And it is He whom we worship." -Qur'an 2:138

The Arabic word translated into "baptism" in this verse is "sibghah", which literally means "to color, to give hue or to soak". It's meaning relies heavily on the context it's used. Some translators have interpreted the meaning of this verse as: "We take our color from Allah: and who is better than Allah at coloring...", it's English interpretation can be misleading or perhaps baffling. Unless you consider the general meaning of "coloring". Color is not restricted to physically scribbling a crayon or washable marker over a sheet a paper. Nor is it limited describing the visual shade of a particular object. Color means to modify or to give a distinct quality. In it's context, this verse tells us it is ONLY by worshipping Allah (i.e. praising, asking of His Help Alone; acts of charity and generosity, etc.) that we are delivered from a state of "spiritually filthy" to "spiritually clean". By constantly immersing ourselves in the Will of God, we keep ourselves set on the right path and nearest to our Creator.

"Allah loves those who repent; and He loves those who purify themselves." -Qur'an 2:222

"Say, 'O My Servants who have transgressed against their own souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah Forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.'" -Qur'an 39:53

"Ask forgiveness of your Lord, and turn unto Him in repentance: For my Lord is indeed full of Mercy and loving-kindness." -Qur'an 11:90

"Those that turn (to Allah) in repentance; that serve Him, and praise Him; that wander in devotion to the cause of Allah,: that bow down and prostrate themselves in prayer; that enjoin good and forbid evil; and observe the limit set by Allah;- (These do rejoice). So proclaim the glad tidings to the Believers." -Qur'an 9:112

"But any that in this life had repented, believed, and worked righteousness, will have hopes to be among those who achieve salvation." -Qur'an 28:67

"Our Lord! In Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is our Final Goal." -Qur'an 60:4

This precisely recapitulates the means and path to salvation in Islam. Which, for the Muslim, always has been the way of the Almighty God. It is the immutable, changeless and ever-living law of Allah that has been revealed to all of His prophets and ordained upon all men. To worship, seek the help, the guidance and forgiveness of God and only God; ascribing to Him no partners, associates or idols ("nothing in the skies above, on earth or in the seas below"). An idea that is as well evident in the Bible.

"The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bare the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bare the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked shall turn from all his sins and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die." -Ezekiel 18:20-21

What most Muslims and generally anyone may not be aware, is that there is no contradiction between the Qur'an and the Bible, except in the places where the Bible contradicts itself. And despite the Bible being of no authority to the Muslim, the aforementioned verses from Ezekiel are purely Islam. It informs the believer that they are accountable for their own deeds. Every individual is responsible for their own action and there will be no blame or credit on them for what their father, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, friend or close acquaintance has done. Islam does not endorse the philosophy of "original sin." Rather, more reasonably, "Original Purity". In that, we are all born pure, innocent and free of sin. Having the natural awareness of the existence of one God, this belief, instinct rather, is known as "al-fitrah" in Islam. It is only an individual's surrounding influences (i.e. parents, friends, media, etc.) that misdirect them to believe otherwise. And it is only after puberty, and into the beginning stages of adulthood that an individual is held accountable for their (personal) wrongs and rights. Before then, in the Sight of God, they are blameless and pure.

But so long as a person has a beating and believing heart, they turn for repentance, they will be forgiven. Baring in mind, that Allah does NOT judge by deeds. For it's not only for the Sake of God that people might offer good deeds. They could be doing it for the sake of publicity, appearance or mere reputation. An act that is void of sincerity. And so we're told that Allah doesn't judge by deeds, but by intentions. In other words, the believer cannot think they will live as a slave to their desires, indulging the cake and ale of this world, but then at a certain age suddenly decide to be a servant to Allah. God can neither be fooled nor hustled. Again, salvation is an ongoing process... not a only when times are heavy thing. Not a "I'll do it at my convenience" thing. Neither are there any shortcuts or alternative means to salvation in Islam. We atone for our own sins in keeping true to what God has commanded.

There are many opinions on what best pleases Allah, and what assures His Mercy upon us. So many opinions and for so many reasons. Which does nothing but produce a downpour of (unnecessary) confusion and complications. Islam offers a simple and straightforward solution: repent to God, heed His instruction and avoid what He's forbidden. Words attributed to Solomon peace be upon him in Ecclesiastes testify:

"By this, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." -Ecclesiastes 12:12-13

The commandments of God have never been revised or changed, except by the hands of men. The same commands revealed and taught by Adam peace be upon him to his descendants during his lifetime. The same commands revealed and carried out by Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and finally Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them. Indeed, both Jesus and Muhammad, peace upon them, had been divinely elected to reinforce the Law before them. As Allah tells us in the Qur'an, c.61, v.6: "And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: 'O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah sent to you confirming the Law which came before me...", similarly we see Jesus asserting, more forthright, in the New Testament:

"Think not that I have come to abolish the Law or prophets before me: I am not come to abolish BUT TO FULFILL. Verily, I say unto you, till the Heavens and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in NO WISE pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever shall break least of the commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be considered least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall follow the commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Verily, I say unto you, except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in NO CASE enter the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 5:17-20

The commandments, as reaffirmed, in the Last Testament, Final Revelation, panacea and divine guidance to mankind have since remained from the time of creation. One God, ascribed no partners, idols, intermediaries and NO EQUALS (whether in divinity, might, authority, appearance or otherwise). Loving for your brothers and sisters what you love for yourself. Giving charity to those in need. And when in error, turning to God alone for repentance -for this is the path to salvation.

I intended a quick but concise explanation, but couldn't resist to supply particular spiritual proofs and reiterate where I thought fit. It is my prayer that the understanding of Islam has been elevated for the non-Muslim reader, and that the Muslim, upon reading, has acquired some degree of inspiration. And so now I close this 'more lengthy than expected' blog with a verse from the Qur'an stating what means:

"By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it;
and it's enlightenment as to it's wrong and it's right;
Truly, he succeeds that purifies it,
and he fails that corrupts it."
Qur'an 91:7-9


Anonymous said...

I saw your message on facebook and haven't really had a chance to respond, but I am so glad you have entered the wide wacky world of the blogosphere. You should totally check out some of the people I have linked on my blog...there are lots of awesome Muslim men and women writing out there. Also check out Half Date! (It's linked, too.) Now a sister has to go to bed...assalaamu aleykum wa ramatullahi wa barakatuh.

Bar Kochba said...

I don't understand what you mean by 'salvation'. Are you refering to the Christian concept?

It was a very intersting article. However, I don't understand how you could quote the Torah as saying that G-d's laws never change and still believe that the Qur'an has replaced the Torah.

Also, are all non-Muslims condemned to eternal torment in hell?

Abdul-Vakil (AV) said...

Peace, Bar Kochba:

Thanks first for reading, secondly, thank you for your questions. Certainly, they are appreciated.

By "salvation", I'm speaking of the means by which one is saved or protected against harm or wrath. Suppose I should've supplied this definition in my post.

And no I'm refering to the Christian concept of salvation, whereas they assert one must accept that: 'Jesus was killed or has died for our sins'. What I'm pointing out in mentioning how God's Law never changed, is that such a concept as this in conjunction with "original sin" was contrived by man. In the book of Ecclesiastes 7:29, it's explained like this:

"God hath made man UPRIGHT but they have sought out MANY INVENTIONS."

It's clear from this passage that God has made us all innocent and that it is only us, later in our lives, corrupting ourselves. Again, individual accountability. The whole idea of "original sin" and a 'child of God executed for sins of which were guilty' are inventions. These inventions or innovations to the Divine law or way are known as 'bid'ah' in Islam, and is forbidden.

And if I might correct you. I've never suggested or claimed that the Qur'an replaced the Torah. In fact, if you review it over, I in so many words said that the Qur'an CONFIRMS the Torah. In fact, the Qur'an confirms all Holy Books before it such as the Suhuf (Scrolls of Abraham), Tawrat (Law of Moses), the Zaboor (Psalms of David), the Injeel (Gospel of Jesus), however, as historians and scholars concluded, these Scriptures are either destroyed or no longer exist as they were originally revealed. As the Qur'an says:

"Say: 'We believe in Allah (God), and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in the Books given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord: WE MAKE NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN ONE AND ANOTHER AMONG THEM, and to Allah do we surrender our will.'" -Qur 'an 3.84

And by God's Law being changeless, I mean, God never has revealed anything to contradict what He has ordained in the past. What we may notice, instead, are additions in accordance to a particular society's times. However, the Qur'an, the final message to mankind, we say is for all mankind and for ALL TIMES. As such, there will be no revelation or prophet to proceed it. The Qur'an is preserved as it was revealed and shall forever be guarded, as God promised:

"We have sent down the Message; and We will assuredly Guard it from corruption." -Qur'an 15:9

But be sure to understand that as Muslims, we do believe that remnants of God's Word and the words of prophets remain in the Torah and Bible. But the bulk of these texts are the words of eye-witnesses and historians. For example, an estranged story providing no (good) moral such as Deuteronomy 25:11-12 that tells of a man accompanied by wife and child is rescued by his wife when she kills a man who suddenly attacks him. After which, he orders his child to go to his mother, the person who saved his life and cut off her hands. "Thine eye shall not pity her" it says. Something like this is neither revealed or inspired by God.

Another example would be the last chapter of Deuteronomy dealing with the illness, death and burial of Moses (p). These stories were apparently NOT dictated by Moses as it was revealed to him by God.

As for the New Test. there are four Gospels; none of which are attributed to Jesus (p). We have Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but no Gospel of Jesus (p). And those Gospels present themselves more as biographies of Jesus (p) than the Word of God as dictated by Jesus (p). (Much like the biographies of Muhammad [p] composed by Muslim scholars) In verses like Mark 1:14 and Matthew 4:23, for example, we're told Jesus (p) went this place or that place and "preached the Gospel". Obviously, the Gospel he (Jesus) was preaching was NOT Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. These are obviously remarks credited to either an eyewitness or historian.

Islam is the final culmination and fulfillment of the fundamental truth that God revealed through all his prophets to every nation. It is a way of life characterized by peace: peace with God, peace with oneself and peace with all creations of God through submission to God and His Guidance.

And (finally) in reponse to your last question. No, Islam does not endorse the belief that only Muslims will achieve salvation or Heaven and that all non-Muslims will be condemned. Contrarily, we believe, as the verse I opened my post with implied: Heaven is open to ANY who believes in God and the last day, works righteousness and avoids evil. Islam also believes those who are born mentally defective to where they cannot comprehend right and wrong have guarenteed salvation. Furthermore, the Qur'an tells us this:

"And there are, certainly, among the Jews and Christians, those who believe in Allah, in the revelation to you and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to Allah: they will not sell Signs of Allah for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord, and Allah is swift in account." -Qur'an 3:199

"Of the Jews and Christians (People of the Book) are a portion that stand for the right; they rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten in emulation in all good works: they are in the ranks of the righteous." -Qur'an 3:113-114

I pray to Allah that I've satisfied your questions. You'll have to excuse the lenghtiness, but my aim was to give a detailed enough response so as to avoid giving an answer that only raised additional questions (if that make sense).

Again, thanks for reading and feel free to stop by again.

Peace be unto you.