Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The balance of Politics and spirituality in Islam-Mufti Taqi Usmani

The Place of Politics in Religion

(The balance of Politics and spirituality in Islam)
By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani 
Translated by Zameelur Rahman

It has become well-known of Christians that they distinguish between religion and politics by their well-known dictum “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”. It is thus as though religion has no relationship with politics and politics has no connection with religion. This worthless concept has slowly advanced to its ugliest form in recent times in the name of “secularism” (al-’almaniyah) or “secularisation” which expelled religion from all matters of life until it did away with it completely.

Truly this concept in reality is one category from the categories of association with Allah [i.e. shirk (polytheism)] whereby religion’s authority in the material world is not recognised and the authority of religion is restricted only to rituals and worship which one practices in his private [life] or in his place of worship. It is thus as if God is not god except in [matters of] worship and ritual, and as far as worldly matters are concerned, they have another god. And refuge is [sought] from Allah.
For this [reason] Muslims firmly rooted [in their religion] will continue to reject this deviant concept in every age and place because there is no scope for it in Islam which safeguards the creed of monotheism in its most accurate expression and its most perfect form, and which assigned divine rules in all affairs of life along with all that they contain of politics and economics. Therefore, it is incumbent on the people of knowledge to reject this concept and refute it knowledgeably and satisfactorily. And indeed they have undertaken this task, and all praise is due to Allah.
However some Muslims in our time[1] who undertook [the task] of refuting secularism have gone too far in this until they fell into a subtle mistake, that changed the focus and caused many errors in this field; that is, they made politics and the establishment of an Islamic government the primary objective and highest aim of all the rules of religion, and it is as though the rules of worship etc. are not aimed at [anything] besides one goal which is the establishment of an Islamic government, and it is as though worship and religiosity (diyanah) are all means in the attainment of this primary objective; to [the extent] that they diminished the importance of worship and made it an exercise and training for the fundamental target, which is the establishment of a theocratic government (al-hukumat al-ilahiyyah).
Due to this cogitation, two dangerous causes of corruption emerged:
First: since worship became a means in the establishment of a theocratic government, it is not regarded as an objective in itself, and by its [performance] is intended a gradual progression to the fundamental target. Thus, if the conditions demanded that these means be sacrificed by choosing other means to [attain] that important objective then indeed from the results of this cogitation is that there is nothing preventing sacrificing them because they are not the objective.
Second: one does not have a relationship with means besides a basic ordinary relationship [which falls] within the domain of necessity, and naturally he will regard it as a transitory passing stage, and will not regard it as his life target and the goal of his efforts, and will not progress in it and excel therein with the sensations of [spiritual] experience, delight and tranquillity within him.
In the words of the esteemed scholar and great preacher Mawlana Shaykh Sayyid Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi (RA) in his refutation of some of such writings , “Indeed those who obtain their religious information from the source of this (over-politicized) interpretation of Islam alone, and limit their study of Islam to these books alone, their relationship with Allah will be rendered restricted and limited, and [will congeal] into dry, rigid formalism (jamidatun rasmiyyah), empty of internal states which the believer is required to adjust [himself] to. 
This is particularly when the emphasis that the root goal of sending Prophets and the end target of their teachings and the utmost of their actions is the production of change in this limited worldly life, and bringing about change for the better, and establishing human civilisation on proper foundations, appears [many] times repeatedly [in these books]; and when the focus on this aspect appears with ferocity and irascibility, enthusiasm and passion, and in a manner that makes conceptions of divine love, lordly pleasure and otherworldly success, meagre; it is natural and something that concurs with reason and is consistent with [logical] analogy that he departs the vehicle of effort and work from the road of faith in the unseen, yearning for the Afterlife, seeking Allah’s pleasure and devotion to His love, that road which the Prophets instituted, to the path of seeking rule, glory, dominance, and achieving rule and subsequently the materialist galaxy.” (Al-Tafsir al-Siyasi li ‘l-Islam, p. 107, published by Nadwat al-’Ulama Lucknow, 1399 AH/1979 AD)
In sum, these authors in their eagerness to refute secularism, and their focus on the political aspect of the Shari’ah, made all of Islam a political ideology, instead of making politics religious. 
The truth is that politics is a branch of the branches of religion, just as business and economics is a branch thereof, and indeed the rules of religion pertain to politics, just as they pertain to business. However nothing of politics and business is the root goal of the message of Islam, nor a fundamental objective of its rules and teachings. Thus, just as the connection of the rules of the Shari’ah to business do not entail that business becomes the objective of religion, similarly the rules of the Shari’ah pertaining to politics do not imply that politics be made the fundamental objective of Islam.
Hakim al-Ummah Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali al-Thanawi (Allah Most High have mercy on him) drew attention to this point in a brief [but] firm statement, all of which is insightful, so we will quote it here, (translating it).  He says (Allah Most High have mercy on him):
“Allah Most High said: ‘those who, if We establish them in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid wrong: with Allah rests the end and decision of all affairs.’ (Qur’an 22:41). It is clear from this verse that the essential objective is religiosity (diyanah) and nothing of politics and jihad is the fundamental objective — it is only a means to establish religiosity. And for this reason, spirituality and the rules [regulating] religiosity were given to every one of the Prophets (upon them be peace) without exception, while politics and jihad were not given to all of them. Jihad and politics were given to some of them when the need and interest [of their communities] demanded [them], and indeed that is the condition of means, since they are not given except for a necessity.
“It is possible that a doubt will arise here in the minds of some, which is that another verse of the Noble Qur’an indicates the opposite of this, that religiosity is a means, and establishment (tamkin) in the earth and politics are the objectives, and this is His statement (Most High): “Allah has promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance [of power], as He granted it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their religion — the one which He has chosen for them” (24:55). Since this verse makes belief and good deeds preconditions to the establishment [of Islam] on earth from what is apparent thereof of establishment and politics being the objective.
The response is that Allah Most High promised in this verse establishment and power, and conditioned them on faith and good deeds, whereby establishment is qualified upon them, so politics and power are promised [to the believers conditional upon] faith and good deeds. It does not follow [however] from it being promised that it becomes the objective, for otherwise Allah Most High said in another place: “If they had observed the Torah and the Evangel and that which was revealed unto them from their Lord, they would surely have been nourished from above them and from beneath their feet” (Qur’an 5:66). So He promised expansion in provision [conditional] upon the observance of the Torah, Evangel and the Qur’an. Can then one say that expansion in provision is the objective of religion? No, rather it is promised. Thus, it is established that a promise does not entail that it becomes the objective. Similarly in the verse of establishment [i.e. 24:55], establishment is promised [conditional] upon faith and good deeds, so they are a consequence of them by the decision of it being qualified upon them, but that is not the objective of religion, nor a target of it.
“Thereby it becomes clear that politics is a means from the means and the objective is spirituality. The implication of this is not that politics is not sought after altogether. I only intend thereby to specify the place of politics in religion in that it is not the objective, as opposed to spirituality, for indeed this is the essential objective.” (Ashraf al-Sawanih 4:28-9, published in Multan)
Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim, vol. 3, pp. 224-7

  1. This was written in the year 1987 
-Adapted from deoband.org article.

Hobbies and Recreations in Islam:

In order to maintain good mutual relationships, humans need to socialize. It results in strengthening of bonds, nurturing of love, and exchange of ideas that benefit society. It is the best way to de-stress oneself; receive helpful advice, which is the most common means of relief from worries and sorrow; and an effective way of receiving reassurances from others. It can be a positive way of pastime, especially if one is in the company of a learned scholar or a pious person, who is sharing his or her gems of wisdom.
All this is good as long as it doesn’t have negative characteristics, some of which are explained below:
One of the specialities of Paradise is that it will be completely devoid of any vain or sinful conversations.
“They will hear no vain talk therein, nor any call to sin.” (Qur’an, 56:25)
The Arabic word “Laghw” used in the verse above means “vain, useless talk or pastime.” Anything that is not beneficial for one’s self, for others, or for the hereafter falls into the realm of Laghw. 

Paradise will have no Laghw in it, there will only be pure enjoyment.
Allah has detailed the qualities of true believers in Surah Mu’minoon (no. 23) and also in several other places in the Qur’an. One of the first qualities mentioned is:
“And those who turn away from vain talk.” (Qur’an, 23:3)
This indicates that sincere believers avoid useless talk and conversation even in the life of this world. Some pastimes, habits and hobbies are so utterly useless that wise people among non-Muslims too avoid them.
In order to decipher whether what we do comes under Laghw or not, we should ask ourselves two key questions:
1. Will this benefit me in this world and the hereafter?
2. Is there something else more beneficial that I can do?
Useless and sinful conversation to “kill boredom” is so common nowadays. Picking up the phone to talk without any specific purpose, meeting people all the time to have chit-chats over food, spending hours in front of the TV watching movies and soaps, or flirting in online chat-rooms are all Laghw. In addition, comedians who say anything to make people laugh, even fabricated statements, and drama and films that are fantastical and far-fetched, not to mention immodest and promiscuous, and give us no beneficial knowledge all fall under Laghw.
If one consistently and honestly guards one’s pastimes by rating them according to the above two questions, he or she in the long term can really make the most out of life.
On the other end of this spectrum, Muslims should be careful not to use a broad brush to sweep every creative, constructive and beneficial hobby under the category of Laghw. Some worldly activities that may not be direct acts of worship in Islam, can become a kind of worship if done with the intention to please Allah. Gardening, pottery, painting (while adhering to Islamic guidelines), reading, fitness and exercise, interior décor, crochet, fashion designing, carpentry, weaving, baking, are a few to mention.
Any activity taken to an extreme is discouraged in Islam. If a person’s life revolves around a hobby or he indulges too much time in it at the expense of obligatory duties, it becomes either Laghw or extravagance. If done within proper limits, it could benefit the person and those around him.
For example, playing word games that improve vocabulary is beneficial, but if done for several hours a day, it can become Laghw. A woman who designs decent clothes for others as her occupation is providing a service to society, but one who is using up all her free time for this activity alone is probably getting into Laghw.
The manner in which sincere believers turn away from Laghw has also been described in the Qur’an:
“Those who witness no falsehood, and, if they pass by vain discourse, they pass by it honorably (in avoidance).” (Qur’an, 25:72)
“And when they hear vain talk, they turn away from it and say: ‘To us our deeds and to you yours; peace be to you: we seek (way of) the not the ignorant’.” (Qur’an, 28:55)
To pass by Laghw “honorably” means to not be drawn to it; not take keen interest in it; and not inform others about it to encourage them towards it. Laghw engages a person so ardently that he might get distracted from important obligatory duties, such as prayer. For example, addictive soap operas, racy romance novels, fantasy-based comic books, and video games.
The sincere believer avoids these pastimes, even if his friends are into them, without indulging in angry outbursts or judgmental statements that could estrange them from him. This is obvious in the above verse that describes how believers send salutations of “peace” to ignorant people.
Let us analyze our personal pastimes and hobbies, and honestly ask ourselves whether each of them will really benefit us in this world and the hereafter. Perhaps then, Insha Allah, we can take steps towards “honorably avoiding” the useless ones, replacing them with lofty righteous deeds that will benefit us, and others, both in this world and the hereafter. 
Courtesy-Saudi gazette

The Nature of Worship (‘Ibadah) in Islam: By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani

The Nature of Worship in Islam

By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani,
Translated by Zameelur Rahman

The Purpose of Man’s Creation
Know that Allah (Exalted is He) created man for His worship.
Thus, Allah (Exalted is He) states in the Noble Qur’an:

“I have not created jinn and humankind but to worship Me.” (Qur’an 51:56)
Meaning, I created jinn and man only for one purpose, which is My worship. The original purpose of man’s life and the original purpose of his coming into this world and residing in the world is that he worships Allah (Magnificent is His Glory).[1]
Are not Angels Sufficient for Worship?
If this question arises in one’s mind, that Allah (Exalted is He) had already created Angels previously for this purpose, so what need is there now to create another creation, meaning mankind?

The answer to this is that although Angels were created for the purpose of worship, they were created in such a fashion that by their nature they were compelled to worship, because only the substance of worship was placed in their innate natures. Besides worship, the substance of sin, disobedience and rebellion were not placed in them.

However, humankind were created in such a fashion that the substance of disobedience was also placed within them, the substance of sin was also placed within them, and thereafter, they were given the command to worship. This is why it is easy for Angels to worship. But within people there are desires, emotions, temptations, and needs, and incitements to sin, and after this they were given the command to save themselves from those inclinations to sin and to control those urges and suppress those desires and worship Allah (Exalted is He).

Two Types of Worship (‘ibadah)
Here, another matter ought to be understood, because of not understanding which, people are often led astray. That is, from one perspective it can be said that every act of a believer is worship. Meaning, if the intention of the believer is correct, and his methods are correct, and he passes his life in accordance with the Sunnah, then his eating will also be worship, his sleep will also be worship, his to-ing and fro-ing will also be worship, his work will also be worship, his playfulness with his wife and children will also be worship.
Now, the question arises that in the same way that all these acts are worship for a believer, Salah is also worship, so what then is the distinction between these two types of worship? The difference between these two [types of worship] should be understood well, and because of not understanding this difference, some people have been led astray.

The First Type: Intrinsic (or direct) Worship
The difference between these two types of worship is that one category of actions are those that are intrinsically worship, and have no other purpose besides servitude to Allah (Exalted is He), and those actions were only instituted for servitude to Allah (Exalted is He), like Salah. The purpose of Salah is only servitude to Allah (Exalted is He), that the slave by means of it worships Allah (Exalted is He) and bows his head before Allah (Exalted is He). This Salah has no other purpose or objective. This is why Salah is original and intrinsic worship. The same is the case with fasting, zakat, dhikr, recitation [of the Qur’an], supplication (du‘a), Hajj, and ‘umrah. All these actions are such that they were all instituted only for the purpose of worship, and they have no other objective or purpose. These are categorised as “intrinsic worship.”

The Second Type: Extrinsic (or indirect) Worship
In contrast to them are some activities which originally have another purpose like fulfilling worldly needs and desires. But Allah (Exalted is He), by His grace, said to the believer that if you fulfill your worldly activities with a good intention, within My prescribed limits, and in accordance with the Sunnah of My Noble Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), then I will give you such reward for those acts that I give to the first category [of worship]. This is why these are not intrinsic worship, but are extrinsic worship. This is the second category of worship.[2]

Halal Earning is Extrinsic Worship
For example, if in order to fulfil the rights of one’s wife and children, while staying within the limited boundaries [of the Shari‘ah], you earn a living, and you earn it with the intention that my wife’s rights are from my responsibilities, and my children’s rights are from my responsibilities, and my body’s rights are from my responsibilities, and in order to fulfil these rights, I am earning a living, then this earning will also become worship of Allah (Exalted is He). However, earning a living was not originally instituted for worship, which is why it is not intrinsic worship, but extrinsic.

Intrinsic Worship is Superior
By this explanation is understood that those types of worship that are intrinsic worship are manifestly superior to that worship which is extrinsically worship, and it has a higher rank. This is why, that which Allah (Exalted is He) said, that I only created jinn and humankind for My worship, its intent is worship of the first category, which is intrinsic worship. The second category of worship, that is extrinsic worship, is not intended.

The Incident of a Doctor
Some days ago, a woman asked me about her husband who is a doctor.
[She said:] He keeps his clinic open and sees his patients, and when the time of Salah comes, he does not offer Salah at its time, and when he closes the clinic at night and returns home, he prays three Salahs at one time; so I asked him, why do you read all your Salahs at one time once you have come home, and why do you not pray there in the clinic so you do not have to make them up? In response, the husband said that the treatment I give to patients is work in service of creation, and service of creation is a great act of worship, and it relates to the rights of slaves, which is why I give it preference, and since offering Salah is my personal affair, this is why I pray them all at once when I reach home.
The woman asked me: What answer can I give to this reasoning of my husband?

Salah is not Forgiven in any Circumstance
In reality, her husband had a faulty understanding here because of not appreciating the difference in the grades that exist between the two types of worship. This difference is that the worship of Salah is intrinsic, regarding which Allah (Exalted is He) stated that even if you are in the battlefield, and the enemy is facing you, even then you must pray. Although some ease has been created in the method of Salah in such a circumstance, yet the obligation of Salah at this time is not waived. Thus, Allah (Exalted is He) has decreed the following verdict with respect to Salah : “Surely, Salah is an obligation on the believers at fixed times.” (4:103)
Now, ponder: Which act is greater than jihad? Yet this command has been issued, that even [while engaging] in jihad, Salah must be offered at its [set] time.

Service of Creation is Worship of the Second Category
Such that even if a person was to have fallen ill, and was so ill that he is unable to perform any action, even in this situation, his ruling is that he must not leave Salah, and he must offer Salah, but some allowance has been given, that if you are unable to pray standing you can pray sitting, and if you are unable to pray sitting you can pray lying down while gesturing; if you are unable to perform wudu, do tayammum, but you must certainly pray.
Salah has not been forgiven in any circumstance because Salah is intrinsic worship that is desired in itself, and is worship of the first rank. The treatment the doctor offers his patients is service of creation which is also a great act of worship, but is from the second rank of worship, not intrinsic worship.
This is why if there is any disparity or opposition between these two types of worship, then in such a situation, that worship which is intrinsic worship will be given priority. Because the doctor did not recognise this distinction between the two types of worship, he was, as a consequence, afflicted by this error.

In Comparison to other Needs Salah is more Important
Ponder! When you are sitting in the clinic to serve creation, at this time you have to get up for other needs, like if there is a need to go to the lavatory or to take a bath, in such a circumstance you will eventually leave the patients and go [to fulfil these needs]. Similarly, if in this time, hunger is felt, and the time for eating comes, will you take a break for eating or not? Since you can pause for those acts, then if the time of Salah comes, what trouble is there if at that time you pause for Salah? And what barrier to the service of creation will be created? While in comparison to other needs, Salah is more important.

In reality, because of not understanding the difference between the two types of worship, this misunderstanding was created.  Although in terms of the second category of worship, a believer can make all his acts worship, as if a believer were to work with a good intention and in accordance with the Sunnah, his entire life would be worship, but this is worship of the second rank. Worship of the first rank, Salah, fasting, Hajj, zakat, dhikr of Allah etc. are intrinsic worship of Allah, and in actual fact, mankind was created for this worship.

Mankind is being Tested
Mankind was created for such worship in order to see that if the human being, in whom I [i.e. Allah] have placed various types of desires and urges, I have placed in him inclinations and attractions towards sins, despite all of this, will this human being come towards Me and remember Me, or will he go in the direction of the invitations to sin and will those urges overcome him? It was for this purpose that mankind was created.

-Ramzan Kis Tarah Guzaren, pp. 9-16

Explanatory notes:
  1. ‘Allamah Shabbir Ahmad al-‘Uthmani wrote in his commentary of Sahih Muslim:
    “Indeed the single purpose of the creation of existence with all its constituent parts is worship alone. All that is besides this is only incorporated within its foundations, preliminaries, supplements and consequences. For indeed Allah (Exalted is He) only created the heavens and earth and all that is between them for mankind, and He did not create them but for worship. Thus, the material world was only created for us, and we were created for the next world and worship.
    “As for the first [statement], many [scriptural] texts announce it. He (Great and Glorious is He) said: ‘He created for you all that the earth contains; then He turned to the heavens and made them seven skies’ (2:29); and He said: ‘Allah has subjugated for you what is in the heavens and what is on the earth’ (31:20); and [other verses] besides these from uncountable and innumerable clear statements.
    “As for the second [statement], the clear text, ‘I have not created jinn and humankind but to worship Me’ (51:56) articulates it.
    “And indeed Allah combined both meanings in one verse where He said: ‘O people! Worship your Lord who created you and those before you, so that you may become vigilant [of Allah and His commands]. He is the One who made the earth a bed for you, and the sky a roof, and sent down water from the sky, then brought forth with it fruits, as a provision for you. So, do not set up parallels to Allah when you know.’ (2:21-22)
    “And the verifiers of this subject – as the likes of the teacher of our teacher [Mawlana Qasim Nanotwi] (his secret be sanctified) – strengthened it with proofs and arguments, and produced detailed explanations, so that argumentation and dispute will not reach to it.” (Fath al-Mulhim, 1:454) 
  2. Worship (‘ibadah) literally refers to the first category or “intrinsic worship,” while it is used for the second category or “extrinsic worship” only metaphorically.  “Even the most substandard student of hadith will certainly be aware of the distinction, that ‘ibadat (rituals/worship) and mu‘amalat (worldly dealings) are two separate things. The books of hadith and fiqh from beginning to end, in their entirety, are full [of indications] that worship and worldly dealings are two separate entities. It is another matter that if in worldly dealings the boundaries of Allah are observed and the pleasure of Allah is kept in view they will bring reward just like worship. And certainly [such reward] will be acquired. And because of this reward, in some texts they are called ‘worship’ as a metaphor. Merely because reward will be attained by means of them, will they now be included within the [primary] meaning of worship, or is it just as the Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘One who prepares a fighter in the path of Allah, he has fought, and one who takes responsibility for a fighter over his family, he has fought.’ (Bukhari, Muslim)? Will even one with the least acquaintance with hadith understand from this hadith that assisting a mujahid or taking responsibility for his family is literally jihad?…
“’Allamah Munawi wrote: ‘Worship (‘ibadah) is the utmost extent of submission, and it is used in the Shari‘ah for that which has been designated as a symbol of the peak of submission, like Salah and fasting.’
“I will now turn your attention to a few hadiths by way of example [to show that this is what is intended by ‘worship’]. It was narrated from ‘Ata’ (Allah have mercy on him): I said to ‘A’ishah: ‘Inform me of the most amazing thing that you saw from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).’ She said: ‘All of his affairs were amazing. He came to me at night, and he entered with me under my blanket, and then he said: “Leave me, so I can worship (ata‘abbadu) my Lord,” and then he got up, performed wudu and he stood and offered Salah .’ (Ibn Hibban)…The two shaykhs [Bukhari and Muslim] transmitted from Anas that he said: ‘Three people came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) inquiring about the worship (‘ibadah) of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and when they were informed [of his Salah and fasting] it was as though they deemed it less.’ What practices did these noble Sahabah regard as worship? And did not the pure wives understand the correct meaning of worship, since in response to this question they described only the ritual practices of worship?”
Courtesy-Deoband.org (with very slight modification)