IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE BENEFICENT, THE MERCIFUL
[Shamim A Siddiqi, New York]
HUMAN CHARACTER AS WE SEE: For centuries together humanity is in search of peace and harmonious growth but it is nowhere visible. Man has become extremely self-centered and is busy day in and day out in multiplying his standard of living whether by hook or by crook and nations are involved too in the same pursuit as a whole. In its wake, people want to master and control the limited material resources of this world for the limited fortunate few of developed societies. As a result, exploitation of the meager resources of the poor nations is going on unabated even in the so-called enlightened modern age, resulting only in chaos and uneasiness all around, culminating in regional wars and skirmishes, racial cleansing, economic slaveries, global hegemonies to control trade and commerce to the benefit of the fortunate few. The rest are crying and lamenting but there is none to come to their help except offering further loans by the world financial bodies and institutions, thereby increasing national debt and economic dependence at an accelerated pace.
It is going on in an unending chain. It is so because man has become selfish, greedy and very much materialistic in approach. He values every thing in terms of money and economic gains. This abnormal love for materialistic ends has caused his character to reach its lowest ebb and the nations comprising such characters are augmenting this chain of socio-economic-political slavery and exploitations to new heights. Man has simply become an economic beast. He measures everything in terms of material gains or losses. Moral values have become commercial values and human values have little or no place in the process of market economy. In sequence, the human character has lost its beauty, charm and the paramount sense of service to humanity. The Qur’an describes this state of humans as: “Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low” [The Qur’an 95-5] and no Khair [good] is left either in the individuals or in the national characters.
This situation further aggravates when man thinks that he is the master of all that he surveys and possesses. This is the only life and there is no life after death. So he must maximize his personal pleasure and comfort even at the cost of others. He feels that he is responsible to none. As such, he has every right to go and lead a life as per his or her wishes, desire and caprices. None should interfere in his personal life. The secular attitude of life only adds fuel to the fire. It promotes values that breed selfishness, greed, unrestricted personal freedom and maximization of personal profits, gains and pleasures. If the man made systems are allowed to control the destiny of man in this millennium any more, humanity will soon meet a catastrophic end. The entire edifice of human society is at stake. The existing selfish, irresponsible and reckless character of men and women and the nations that they represent, as we see around us, must change and rebuild on some high and dependable moral grounds. That is the greatest need of man of the twenty first century. How can we do it? This is a billion dollar question before us. It is a challenge and we have to attend it.
REBUILDING THE HUMAN CHARACTER:
It is only Islam that provides the alternative. Man can behave with responsibility only if he is ever conscious of the fact that he is accountable for all what he is doing on earth. He fears the Supreme authority of one who is his Creator and Sustainer. He feels that nothing belongs to me. Every thing that he has is a trust in his hands and he is to use it the way his Supreme Master ordains. He nurtures the consciousness that his Creator is watching him all the times, irrespective of the fact where he is, what he is doing, what lies in his heart, mind and feelings. He knows the past, the present and the future of all the men and women. It is He Who comes to man’s help when he calls Him in distress, trouble and worries. He holds this firm belief and conviction that no one can deliver him any relief, do any good or cause any harm except his Almighty Lord. Only an all time consciousness of such an omnipotent God, the Creator and the Sustainer of this universe, can help in reshaping the character of man that may behave with responsibility and prove to be trustworthy and dependable under different situations that human society creates, offers or promotes.
These concepts are missing from the ranks and files of our secular and pagan societies and hence what we see around us is selfishness, greed, exploitation, reckless behavior and discrimination in every walk of life. Contrary to the aforesaid plight of people’s conduct, Islam elevates the human character to the highest level of boon and benediction for self, family and society. Let us examine in brief how Islam produces such responsible characters that love and care the human species as an assignment from the Creator and Sustainer, always eager to serve the humans and struggling to deliver justice and fair play under all and every circumstances.
1. Allah ordains to Muslims to enter into Islam in totality, not even ninety nine point nine percent recurring. Allah does not accept partial obedience at all. [Al-Baqarah: 208]
2. The believer makes no associate with Him in any form. Allah abhors Shirk [making partners with Him] in all its form and shape. “You worship none save Him” [17: 23] “O my dear son: Ascribe no partners with Allah” [31-13] It would be tremendously wrong to make partners with Him.
3. Whatever he possesses is a trust in his hands from the Creator and he will be accountable for that. “He may try you by [the test of] that which He has given you” [6: 165]. They are faithful to their trusts and to their pledges [23: 8] “On that day [of Judgment] you will most surely be called to account for [what you did with] the boons of life!” [102:8]
4. The believers are certain of the [life] Hereafter [2: 5]. They say: “We have heard, and we pay heed. Grant us Thy forgiveness, O our Sustainer, for with Thee [our] journey ends.” [2: 285]. And to those who do not believe in the Hereafter, Qur’an warns: “As for those who will not believe in the life to come – behold, goodly have We made their own doings appear unto them, and so they stumble blindly to and fro. It is they whom the worst of suffering awaits: for it is they, who in the life to come shall be the greatest losers!” What a disastrous consequence a disbeliever in the Hereafter will face!
These are the fundamental believes of all the three Abrahamic faiths, the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews. If all have been practicing “Muslims”, the world would have been quite different than what it looks today. Unfortunately, both the Christians and the Jews have polluted these basic concepts of their Deen so much so that they have lost their effectiveness altogether and look like lifeless dogmas. Jews have coined their own God: “O God of Israel” and Christians made Prophet Jesus as the “Son of God”. America declares: “In God we trust” but the entire conduct of the USA only negates it. Thus, the Western societies that predominantly believe in Christianity or Judaism are leading a secular life with materialistic character, facing all the disastrous consequences that I have briefly discussed above. The pagan world of India and the Far East is no better than the Western societies and hence are suffering with the evil consequences of the same materialistic attitude of life as that of the liberal countries. In the midst of this desperate situation, only Islam offers the ray of hope and the process to develop the character that is dependable, trustworthy and benevolent for mankind. Islam provides and maintains a regular system that helps in nurturing such characters. It needs a bit of elaboration.
Islam recommends and approves a life pattern that constantly reminds its each an every follower to live by the aforesaid Abrahamic believes and concepts as an integral part of their life. Rather, Islam polishes them further to new heights. It follows as under:
1. A Muslim whatever he does, he starts it with the name of Allah: “Bismillah hir Rahmanir Rahim”. Thus he makes Him his companion in his work or undertakings and is sure to get His blessings for it.
2. Whenever a Muslim gets anything, he thanks Allah by saying “Alhamdulillah” [all praise are for Allah] and whenever he loses any thing or some body dies or some calamity falls upon him, he recites: “Inna Lillahe wa Inna Elahey Rajewun” [Verily, unto God do we belong and, verily, unto Him we shall return]. He forbears it with Sabr [patience]. Thus his life becomes a symbol of “Sabr and Shukr”- whether it is a tragedy or the moments of happiness, he remains cemented with his Allah.
3. His dependence [Tawakkal] is only on Allah. A Muslim knows very well that all the troubles and worries and all the happiness and pleasure come from Allah. He, thus, gets contentment in life [irrespective of the fact howsoever poor he is] that otherwise cannot be attained in the struggle for the materialistic ends [irrespective of the fact howsoever one is rich]. Under all circumstances, a Muslim recites: “Hasbunallah wa Naimal Wakeel”; “Naimal Mawla wa Naimal Naseer” [Allah is sufficient for us! Most Excellent is He in Whom we trust! (3: 173) “ A blessed Patron and a blessed Helper!” (22: 78). The mightiest power cannot move him to side with it and billions of dollars cannot purchase his conscience. His total dependence on Allah makes his soul indomitable, unbendable and an unselable character.
4. Whenever a Muslim eats or drinks he begins with the name of Allah and at the end he makes this prayer: All the praise are for that [Allah] Who arranges food and drinks for me and [out of his infinite mercy], He gave me Tawfeeq to be the Muslim [obedient to Him]. A Muslim believes that the provision [Rizq] only comes from Allah. What He has destined for him no one can take it back and what He has not allotted to him, he will not get it, even the entire world endeavors for the either end. This makes a Muslim care free character. He struggles for honest means of livings and whatever he earns, he is contented with it. It ends the greed for more and more and puts an automatic check not to cheat and loot others, a character that is hard to trace out in the materialistic societies.
5. Daily at least seventeen times a day, a Muslim in his obligatory Salah [prayers] declares his commitment to his Allah that he worships only Thee and seeks help only from Thee [“Iyyaka Nabudu wa Iyyaka Nastaeen]. - a concept of total surrender in all respect. It relieves him from dependence over all kinds of materialistic sources and stretching hands before the mortal man like him. A Muslim constantly begs his Lord to keep him on the path of righteousness, a path of right people to whom Thou rewarded and not the path that was trodden by those who “went astray” or were “condemned and transgressed”. This constant prayer of Muslim’s heart keeps him away from involvement form all kinds of exploitation, a degraded or a debased life full of temptations.
6. Observing continuous fasting [Sawm] for one month, a Muslims practices day in and day out to bring his physical urges for food/water, rest and sex [that lead the materialistic man to go astray and commit sins and crimes against humanity as he is controlled and dictated by his natural instincts] under his control. A Muslim gradually becomes master of his urges through Sawm. It helps him in developing a habit of “Allah consciousness” [Taqwah – fear of Allah] that keeps him away from all that Allah has prohibited and inclines to do good and serve the suffering humanity with all that he possesses. This month long fasting during Ramadan creates an environment of piety, care and concern for others, especially for the poor, the needy and the destitute. What a marvelous character, the provision of Sawm inculcates in a Muslim.
7. Muslims “spend on others out of what We provide for them as sustenance” [Al-Baqarah: 3]. They spend “their possessions [for the sake of Allah] by night and by day, secretly and openly, shall have their reward with their Sustainer.” [Al-Imran: 274] and give “their wealth for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and those who ask, and to set slaves free” [Al-Baqarah: 177]. And in their wealth: “There is a right acknowledged for the beggar and the destitute”. [70: 24-25]. Thus, every Muslim who is a man of means and has the resources, is not a miser, does not hold and multiplies his wealth on interest bearing transactions but spends it on the poor and the needy day in and day out [openly and secretly], and pays Zakah on the accumulated wealth, if any left at the and of the year, thereby maintaining a constant natural flow of wealth from the haves to the have-nots. Is it not the most ideal welfare system that Islam introduces on voluntary basis and prepares the character that automatically takes care of his brothers and sisters who are deprived and in distress as an obligation from Allah. Such benevolent characters that Islam produces are the boon for mankind.
8. THE MODEL CHARACTER: The life pattern of Prophet Muhammad (S) is the most gracious model and the most perfect exemplary character for every Muslim man and woman to follow in its minutest details in every walk of life. Rasulullah (S) was the greatest champion of human rights, family values taking care of the needy, the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the wayfarers and standing only for justice and fair play to others. He (S) was the most kind and merciful to womenfolk, children, the working class, the oppressed and the down trodden. He (S) always stood for the rights of the minorities and fulfilled commitments that he made in his lifetime. Every Muslim and Muslimah follows Rasulullah (S) as the paramount part of his or her life and tries his or her best to imitate and produce that character in its most perfect format. This elevates the character of Muslims to such heights that the materialistic life pattern or the pagan world cannot even think to attain.
9. A Muslim does not keep the benefits of this benevolent character by himself but struggles hard to build his family on the same lines and goes out to invite other human beings to the fold of their Creator and Sustainer with love, care and concern for the human sufferings. Those humans who respond to his call become his brothers in faith. In this process, if he encounters some opposition or meets a provocative situation, he counters it with patience, cool and calm composure and sweet words and gets it resolved with wisdom. Through this approach, his addressee becomes his bosom friend in due course of time. The Qur’an advocates this process categorically in these words:
“The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one, which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity, [will become] as though he was a bosom friend.” [41: 34]
If the human character could reach to such selfless level, the human society would have become all blessings, both for the haves and the have-nots. It is only Islam that can manage and foster it
CONCLUSION: The human society, if it is really interested to transform this abode of man into a cradle of peace, free of exploitations of all kinds and live without any discrimination on account of wealth, position, color, cast, race, language and geographical bounds, it is left with only one choice to turn its face towards Islam and its basic source, the Qur’an and the life pattern of Rasulullah (S). The greatest need of human society is the inspiring character that can only be produced by Islam and the Muslims as depicted above in brief. Islam elevates the human character to its highest zenith. The materialistic societies of the West and the pagan world of India and the Far East cannot even think to reach that point by denying the concept of God [monotheism in its purest form], accountability in the Hereafter, concept of trust [Amanah] and the model life pattern of Prophet Muhammad (S) that help in creating the requisite exemplary character, a solace for the suffering humanity and the only guarantee to deliver justice to mankind.
Human character in the so-called developed societies stands at its lowest ebb but even in the Muslim societies too it is nowhere visible. It is time that the countries following the Abrahamic faiths and the countries that still practice idolatry come together to a conscious awakening that the good of mankind lies only in reverting back to their Creator and Sustainer and adopting the code of conduct and the system of life that Islam provides. I have tried to depict its glimpses above just to give an idea that what an Islamic character is and how can it help in transforming the human society into an abode of peace for which Islam stands. Will the human society take seriously the opportunity that Islam offers or prefers to march ahead to its doomsday? At least the Muslim world should resolve to produce the model character that Islam promotes and set a model society based on those characters somewhere in their midst. That is the least expected from the Muslim Ummah and I hope a genuine effort in that direction will prove worthy of these expectations.
Shamim A Siddiqi
Dated December 3, 2001