The Religion of Al-Islam
Imam W. Deen Muhammad
The greatest concern that Muslims should have in a non-Muslim environment is the concern for establishing an Islamic society. Many Muslims think that America is not the place for an Islamic society. It is true that America has lost a lot of its character in the last decade or so, but that is because many people are not living true to what they once believed. When Irish are trying to be good Irish, Italians trying to be good Italians, African-Americans and other ethnic groups are trying to be good ethnic groups, they compliment America. They contribute to the beauty of America, and that is what makes America. We are all fortunate to live in a land where all people are free to live and practice their way of life.
Freedom of religion and the right of assembly is guaranteed in the US. Constitution. We as Muslims benefit from these rights that are given to the American people. We are allowed to live and preach our religion without being threatened. However, there is always a subtle, hidden kind of opposition that sincere Muslims are constantly aware of it they are trying to live as Muslims.
Religion is Struggle
There are some people who join a religion believing that from then on everything will be alright. But that is not the case. Accepting a religion is only the first step. Muslims as well as Christians have to discipline themselves. They must know what they want to be and then work at it daily. They must work at disciplining self if they do not want to step out of the mold of their way of life. Disciplining oneself is a constant job, a constant struggle. In fact, Prophet Muhammad said that this religion is not only faith, but also a religion of constant struggle.
In Al-Islam, this struggle is called jihad. And the ultimate struggle is to sacrifice one's life as a witness to defend the way of God. One who willingly gives his life for God's way is called a shaheed (witness) in the Arabic language. Such a person will fight in the Way of God and defend God's Way because he cannot be a liar. If he has to take a position where he has to risk his life by saying what is right or by doing what is right, then he accepts death if necessary. To be a shaheed (witness), we have to be a witness to God and for God in whatever God has established.
To sacrifice one's life for God is the greatest sacrifice, but we must understand that the Muslim is struggling and making sacrifices in his life at all times. If a Muslim works hard to earn a decent living to save himself, family and relatives from poverty, then that is jihad, a struggle. If a Muslim works hard to establish an Islamic society in a non-Islamic environment, that is jihad, a struggle.
It is a Muslim's responsibility to advance the Muslim life in society. And the best way to do this is to follow the good, sound divine principle that Allah gives us in the Qur'an where He says, "The better life is the life of the Hereafter." When believers in religion hear this, they think of the future life with God when this world has come to its end. It is most important to keep in mind that we have to meet Allah one day. When we say, "meet Allah," we mean that we have to live up to what He has required of us. If we fail, we are going to suffer in the measure of our negligence.
The believer who knows he has to make an accounting before God works today for that meeting tomorrow. He gets in the habit of looking to tomorrow and working today for that tomorrow. If we get in this habit, it can orientate our whole makeup. We will think of our responsibilities to our wives, our husbands, our children or to the home and neighborhood, not only in short term requirements, but in long term requirements as well. All Allah wants in us is an orientation in which we not only look at what is going on at the present time, but to also live with the object of fulfilling our responsibilities in order for us to be in the best situation tomorrow.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Live today as though you are going to die tonight. Also live today as though you are going to live forever.” If we live today as though we are going to die tonight, we will try to do everything on the agenda that Allah says, such as performing prayer, being kind, not neglecting our family, etcetera. We will try to do everything on the agenda, for we may die tonight. Living today as though we are going to live forever obligates us to plan for the future. Now this is a wonderful philosophy. Al-lslam is a religion that requires the believer to broaden his sense of responsibility beyond today and beyond himself, as well as requiring him not to neglect himself.
As another example of the broad sense of responsibility required of the Muslim, Prophet Muhammad told us that the Angel Gabriel pressed him so hard concerning his responsibility to the non-Muslim neighbor that he almost thought Allah was making the neighbor equal to or above the Muslim. Now we know that is not the case, but in some situations it is as important for you to help your neighbor as it is for you to help your religious brother. Why is this so? It is because we live in America, Before we can be comfortable in this country, we must first win acceptance in the American society. If we carry ourselves in an ugly way, with an ugly disposition or ugly attitude toward our American neighbors, then we are going to hurt our chances of being able to live peacefully in this society.
We must understand this great responsibility and never forget that the Prophet said, "He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not secure from his wrongful (or injurious) conduct." He also said, "He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should treat his neighbor with kindness."
(to be continued)