The Four Pillars and the Social Message of Islam

The Four Pillars and the Social Message of Islam

By: Tariq Ramadan

What do the pillars of Islam have to do with the social relations? What message do they have for the benefit and well-being of society? How do these pillars impact our relations with others?

Pillars & Social Relations

“Communal prayer is twenty-seven times better than the prayer of a man alone in his house.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Prayer is the most important pillar of Islam. It is its very essence and explains the link with God but also the fundamental equality that exists between believers, brother beside brother, sister beside sister, all asking for divine guidance based on faith and brotherhood, as they have been taught.

This sense of community is confirmed and reinforced by all the other religious practices, particularly zakat, which is essentially a tax raised for the poor and needy. The stronger our relationship with God, the stronger our desire to serve others will become, too.

A right understanding of zakah takes us to the heart of the social message of Islam: to pray to God is to give to one’s brother or sister. These are the very foundations of Islam as Abu Bakr understood it, when he warned after the death of the Prophet that he would fight anyone who wanted to make a distinction between prayer and paying zakat (what is effectively what happened later with the southern tribes).

The same call is found in the requirement to fast during the month of Ramadan. An act of worship in itself, fasting also leads Muslims to perceive, and to feel inwardly, the need to eat and drink and, by extension, to ensure that every human being has the means to subsist.

Thus, the month of Ramadan should be a time during which believers strengthen their faith and spirituality while developing their sense of social justice.

Pilgrimage clearly has this same double significance: the gathering at Mecca is the great witness to this community of faith that exists among Muslims. Men and women together, at the center, praying to one God, members of a community that share the same hope—of pleasing the Creator and of being forgiven and rewarded in the next life.

In Daily Life

For Muslims, the daily practice of their religion gives birth naturally to a deep sense of being members of one community. This is a dimension that is inherent in the Islamic faith and way of life, which in turn are strengthened, guided, and shaped by this communal feeling: “Certainly the believers are brothers,” (Al-Hujurat 49:10), the Qur’an tells us.

Wherever Muslims live, we are present at the birth of a community that is created and confirmed by prayer and the prescribed religious practices and that then develops progressively as the Muslims begin to use their imaginations and to put in place social activities centered around the mosque (or to create an Islamic association).

This process is evident everywhere in the world, in Muslim countries as well as in the West. To pronounce the Shahadah, which is, as we have said, the essence of Muslim identity, is to share in this community spirit with its immediate implication, which is the promotion of social activities.

In philosophical terms, one might say that this feeling has a part in Muslim identity at the heart of the practice and that it constitutes one of the distinctive characteristics of such an identity. As the Prophet said: “Gather together, for the wolf picks off only the sheep that stand alone.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

In Practice

A rereading of this analysis concerning the communitarian aspect of the four practical pillars of Islam shows a development in the sense of belonging and how these pillars reflect our social life in Islam.

Prayer establishes connections with our Muslim neighbor in a specific place, while zakat enlarges the circle of our social relations, for the whole of the sum must be spent on the needy people in the area where it is raised. It even may be spent abroad if all the local needs are met or if there is an exceptional and vital need.

Fasting develops an even broader feeling, for by fasting and by thinking about it, we are in spiritual communion with the poor of the whole world. And this communion finds a final, tangible, and physical realization in the pilgrimage to Mecca, the sacred place of gathering for millions of Muslims, symbolic of the Ummah.

This is in fact the third circle that delineates the belonging of a Muslim: the Ummah is a community of faith, feeling, brotherhood, and destiny.

All Muslims who say the Shahadah should know and understand that their individual actions are part, an essential part, of the Shahada borne by the whole community of believers: all Muslims are individually invested with the common responsibility of bearing witness to the message before the whole of humankind.

This is the exact meaning of the verse already quoted that links the notion of Ummah (the body, in the singular) with the duty of the believers (the members, in the plural):

So we have made you one community justly balanced, so that you might be witnesses before humankind. (Al-Baqarah 2:143)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Oxford University Press (2004).

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Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 17: Surat Al-Layl

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 17: Surat Al-Layl

Following the opening three oaths that compare night and day to the attributes of men and women in Surat Al-Layl, Allah transitions to the central theme of the surah. Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan teaches us that here Allah is saying that our efforts in this world will go in many different directions, some right and some wrong.

The order of the verbs Allah uses to describe those on the correct path sums up the moral view of the Qur’an: If you give, are conscious of Allah and accept the ultimate beauty (al-husna) through an unhesitating submission to the truth itself, Allah will surely guide you along the path to Jannah.

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 17: Surat Al-Layl

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Source: Bayyinah Institute YouTube Channel

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Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 18: Surat Ad-Duha

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 18: Surat Ad-Duha

Explaining the context of Surat Ad-Duha, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan says that according to several narrations, the surah came down at a moment of sadness in Prophet Muhammad’s life when no Qur’an was revealed to him for a few days.

When the Prophet starts doubting himself and getting anxious, Allah gave him a beautiful consolation, telling him that he was wrong, that He has not abandoned him and promising him that he will reach the end of his mission and witness its results.

These verses, says Khan, are also a message of hope to us. They teach us that sometimes we will experience gaps in our connection with Allah, but that we can always come back.

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Source: Bayyinah Institute YouTube Channel

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Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 20: Surat At-Tin

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 20: Surat At-Tin

In this video Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan focuses on verses 4-6 of Surat At-Tin. These verses follow the opening oaths where Allah reminds us of Prophets `Isa (Jesus), Moses and Muhammad (peace be upon them) and by association of the messages they carried. In this transition to the heart of the surah, Allah makes a strong statement about how He created man in the most upright fashion, balancing him both physically and spiritually.

Those amazing messengers whose memory was evoked in the opening verses, are proof that human beings can be sublime; but then the tragedy is that they have allowed themselves to be reduced to the lowest of the low by rejecting Allah’s message.

Yet again Allah offers hope to those who pull themselves out of the depths of darkness and, guided by Him, correct the wrongs of the past and do everything necessary to fulfill the conditions of their iman.

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Source: Bayyinah Institute YouTube Channel

 

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Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 21: Surat Al-`Alaq

In his introductory comments to a more detailed interpretation of Surat Al-Alaq, Nouman Ali Khan stresses the importance of understanding the context in which its verses were revealed. Here Ustadh Khan reads and explains the narration – verified in Sahih Al-Bukhari – which details Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) very first encounter with Jibreel (peace be upon him). He recounts how the Angel asked him to read three times, each time holding him very tight.

Terrified and unsure of his own sanity, the Prophet rushes home to his wife Khadijah, who, in a beautiful part of this narration, lists all the formidable qualities of the Prophet, assuring him that god will never let him down because of his excellent character and how thoughtful and caring he is to other people.

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 21: Surat Al-`Alaq

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Source: Bayyinah Institute YouTube Channel

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Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 22: Surat Al-Qadr

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 22: Surat Al-Qadr

Surat Al-Qadr is entirely dedicated to Laylat Al-Qadr, the most noble of nights during the month of Ramadan when the Qur’an was first revealed. In this video, Ustadh Nouman teaches us the nuances of the phrase “laylat al-qadr” in Arabic, which combines the meanings of night of “decree”, “honor” and “power”. This is the night when Allah will decree that the angels execute all His decisions for the rest of the year; when Allah revealed the most honorable words through His most honored angel to His most honored messenger.

Finally it is a night endowed with unusual power; a night when all our sincere du`aa’ will be accepted. It is the ultimate night of peace and prayer; one we must take advantage of as the blessed month of Ramadan comes to a close. But above all else, Laylatul Qadr is a celebration of the Qur’an.

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 22: Surat Al-Qadr

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Source: Bayyinah Institute YouTube Channel

 

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Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 23: Surat Al-Bayyinah

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 23: Surat Al-Bayyinah

In this video Ustadh Nouman focuses on the first two verses of Surat Al-Bayyinah, which he says have been the subject of many different interpretations. Here, he delves into the meanings of two key words: “munfakkeen”, which denotes “getting separated”, and “al-bayyinah” (The Qur’an) which means “that which provides clear evidence.”

In his interpretation, Khan concludes that these verses refer to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself, and how his credibility in his community and his honesty, combined with the delivery of this purified scripture, transformed Mecca (and the world) separating those who are truly and genuinely faithful, from those who disbelieve. This separation took place in this world and will continue in the afterlife.

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 22: Surat Al-Bayyinah

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Source: Bayyinah Institute YouTube Channel

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Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 24: Surat Az-Zalzalah

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 24: Surat Az-Zalzalah

In the final passage of Surat Az-Zalzalah, Allah describes the moment of resurrection and how our deeds will be weighed on the Day of Judgment. Ustadh Nouman explains to us that the word “yasdur” gives an entire spectrum of meaning that implies that our existence on this earth was no more than a brief stop at a watershed in a desert journey.

During this temporary stop, believers and disbelievers live together side by side, but at the end of this journey they will be separated and shown their deeds. It’s a mercy from Allah that none of our good deeds will be forgotten, even if they weigh the equivalent of a speck of dust. On the scales of Judgment Day, good deeds and good intentions, no matter how small they seem in human terms, have the heaviest weight.

Ramadan with the Qur’an – Day 24: Surat Az-Zalzalah

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Source: Bayyinah Institute YouTube Channel

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Taraweeh Prayer Live from Makkah

Taraweeh Prayer Live from Makkah

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims enter into a period of discipline and worship as special evening prayers are conducted during which long portions of the Qur’an are recited. These nigh prayersare known as Taraweeh.

The Taraweeh prayer is the addition to the Muslim’s daily routine during the month. It has a special merit over other nights. Abu Hurairah narrated:

“I heard Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) saying regarding Ramadan, “Whoever prayed at night in it (the month of Ramadan) out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Al-Bukhari)

Besides spiritual joy, peace at heart and tranquillity, these prayers establish a unique relationship between the slave and Allah; one converses with Him, supplicates to Him in sincere humbleness.

The Muslim offers his prayers together with the whole congregation, enveloped in the spirit of Ramadan.

Taraweeh… Live from Makkah

Here you can hear the beautiful recitation of the Qur’an, live from Makkah each day, in the blessed month of Ramadan, the month of the Qur’an, watch millions attend the Taraweeh prayer…

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A Brief Guide to Hajj (Poster)

A Brief Guide to Hajj (Poster)

Every year millions of Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah on the lifetime spiritual journey of Hajj, where one meets Allah in the context of matchless diverse and multicultural meetings.

It is a great favor Allah (glory be to Him) has bestowed upon His servants so that they can draw closer to Him and have their sins forgiven.

Hajj types and rituals are briefly explained in the poster below.

BriefguidetoHajj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download the original poster from here.

Link to the e-book on Sound Cloud: http://bit.ly/1NN2uML

 

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