Tuesday 5 July 2022

Basic Articles of Faith

A few days back, a non Muslim friend asked me what do you Muslims really believe in? And I explained to him that we not only believe in One True God, called Allah in Arabic language, Who has no parallels or associates. And we do believe in all the prophets and divine books that have been reveled before the final divine book, The Quran.

To further my point, I narrated to him the 285th verse of the Surah Al Baqarah (The Cow) the second chapter of Quran, which embodies the basic articles of faith spelt out for the Muslims by Allah:

اٰمَنَ الرَّسُوۡلُ بِمَاۤ اُنۡزِلَ اِلَيۡهِ مِنۡ رَّبِّهٖ وَ الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ​ؕ كُلٌّ اٰمَنَ بِاللّٰهِ وَمَلٰٓـئِكَتِهٖ وَكُتُبِهٖ وَرُسُلِهٖ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيۡنَ اَحَدٍ مِّنۡ رُّسُلِهٖ​ وَقَالُوۡا سَمِعۡنَا وَاَطَعۡنَا​ غُفۡرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَاِلَيۡكَ الۡمَصِيۡرُ‏ 
The Messenger has believed in the Guidance which has been sent down to him from his Lord, and those who believe in the Messenger have also sincerely accepted the same. They all believe in Allah, His Angels, His Books and Messengers. And they say, "We do not discriminate against any of His Messengers. We have heard the Message and submitted to it. Our Lord, we look up to You for forgiveness, for to You we shall all return."

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi explains that in this verse, the basic articles of Faith have been restated briefly. Belief in Allah, His Angels, His Books and in all of His Messengers without exception and discrimination against any and in the accountability to Him at the end of this life are the five basic articles of Faith. After the acceptance of these, the attitude for a Muslim is to submit obediently to each and every commandment of Allah. At the same time, he should not become vain on account of his good acts but should pray to Allah to forgive and show forbearance to him.

The famous 14th century scholar and exegetist Ibn-Kathir explains this verse saying that each of the believers believes that Allah is the One and Only and the Sustainer, there is no deity worthy of worship except Him and there is no Lord except Him. The believers also believe in all Allah's Prophets and Messengers, in the Books that were revealed from heaven to the Messengers and Prophets, who are indeed the servants of Allah. Further, the believers do not differentiate between any of the Prophets, such as, believing in some of them and rejecting others. Rather, all of Allah's Prophets and Messengers are, to the believers, truthful, righteous, and they were each guided to the path of righteousness, even when some of them bring what abrogates the Law of some others by Allah's leave. Later on, the Law of Muhammad, the Final Prophet and Messenger from Allah, abrogated all the laws of the Prophets before him. So the Last Hour will commence while Muhammad's Law remains the only valid Law, and all the while a group of his Ummah will always be on the path of truth, apparent and dominant.

Muhammad Asad Explanation: Lit., "we make no distinction between any of His apostles": these words are put, as it were, in the mouths of the believers. Inasmuch as all the apostles were true bearers of God's messages, there is no distinction between them, albeit some of them have been "endowed more highly than others" (see verse {253}).

Yousaf Ali explains this verse as under:
  • This Surah started with the question of Faith (ii 3-4), showed us various aspects of Faith and the denial of Faith, gave us ordinances for the new People of Islam as a community, and now rounds off the argument again with a confession of Faith and of its practical manifestation in conduct ("we hear and we obey"), and closes on a note of humility, so that we may confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and pray for God's help and guidance.
  • It is not for us to make any distinction between one and another of God's apostles: we must honor them all equally, though we know that God in His wisdom sent them with different kinds of mission and gave them different degrees of rank.
  • When our faith and conduct are sincere, we realize how far from perfection we are, and we humbly pray to God for the forgiveness of our sins. We feel that God imposes no burden on us that we cannot bear, and with this realization in our hearts and in the confession of our lips, we go to Him and ask for His help and guidance.
Explanation Qur'an Wiki: The Qur’ān refers to that privileged community of believers who are the archetype of faith, and to all succeeding communities modelled on their example. This community is honoured by, and greatly appreciates, being mentioned in the same breath as God’s Messenger.

The Messenger’s faith springs directly from the revelations he receives from God, the ultimate truth. It is a degree of faith that cannot be described except by one who has experienced it; it remains beyond comprehension for those mortals who have not experienced divine revelation and is, therefore, totally unique and exclusive to God’s Messenger himself. That is why it is such an honour for ordinary believers to he mentioned side by side with God’s Messenger.

The sūrah defines the nature and parameters of this faith. It is a comprehensive and universal faith, commensurate with the far-reaching and historic role the Muslim community is destined to inherit and take on in the world. It is a commitment that identifies humanity, throughout its history, as being of only two main groups: the believers who represent the party of God, and the unbelievers who constitute the party of Satan.

“Each one of them believes in God...” According to Islam, belief in God is the foundation of a Muslim’s understanding of life, and of the code governing his life, morals, economic and all other activities. It means believing in God as the Supreme Being, the Lord of everything and the sole object of reverence and worship. He is the ultimate authority over man’s conscience and behaviour in every single aspect of his life.

God has no partners in His Godhead and Lordship over the world. He is the Creator and the active ruler of the whole cosmos, and no other power interferes with His organisation and running of the physical world or of life in it. He is the sole provider of life and sustenance for all creation. He is the only and ultimate cause of what befalls the world, without whose will and knowledge nothing, great or small, happens or comes into being in this world.

Nothing and no one but God Almighty should be adored and worshipped, in any sense of the word. God is the supreme authority to be obeyed, and all temporal authority is derived from Him, and from total adherence to His teachings and commands and the laws He lays down. An imperative of faith in God is submission to, and acceptance of, the principles and values He has set out for the moral, social, legal and economic spheres of life. Faith in this sense sets man free from control and manipulation by all other forces, powers and authorities, and from the fetters of obligation or submission to anyone or anything other than God Almighty.

“... and His angels...” This is an important aspect of belief in the unseen, the unknowable which lies beyond human perception or understanding, or, to use the Islamic term ghayb, as already discussed at the beginning of the sūrah. Man’s ability to perceive and accept a world above and beyond the physical world whose existence he can discern and verify sets him above the rest of creation and confers on him his human qualities. This belief puts into proper perspective man’s natural curiosity for what lies beyond the material physical world, which he instinctively and clearly perceives to exist. Without this clear perspective and vision, man resorts to myth and superstition, leading to imbalance and instability.

Angels are a fact of ghayb that humans cannot perceive by conventional sensory or intellectual means. But man has an instinctive urge to look beyond the world that he can see; and God, in His infinite wisdom, has seen to it that this natural and legitimate human urge is satisfied in order to save man the frustration and suffering he would otherwise inevitably encounter. There is sufficient evidence to show that those individuals and communities who have chosen to defy human nature and reject all notion of a world beyond have fallen victim to utterly farcical and fallacious superstitions that have blurred their vision, undermined their mental well-being, and turned their lives into a series of negative and destructive obsessions.

Like other aspects of ghayb, belief in the angels widens man’s perception and understanding of the world around him. It is no longer restricted to what he can see and feel, which is only a small part of reality. He feels safer in the company of these faithful creatures, fellow believers in God’s oneness, who pray constantly for man’s redemption, and in the comforting thought that they are there to help and guide him spiritually. Furthermore, the mere knowledge of this fact is a blessing from God to those who believe in Him and His angels.

“... and His books and His messengers. We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” According to the Islamic view, belief in God’s books and messengers follows logically and naturally from belief in God Himself. To believe in God is to believe in the truth of all that is revealed by Him, and in the honour and integrity of all the messengers He has commissioned, and in the unity of the source of the messages they have preached. A Muslim has no notion of discrimination between God’s messengers. They all preached Islam in various versions, suited to the circumstances of the communities they addressed. Muĥammad, (peace be upon him), was the last and final of those Prophets and messengers who has delivered the final, complete and universal version of Islam, which will remain valid for the rest of time.

The Muslim community, therefore, inherits the legacy of God’s religion on earth in its totality, which places a grave responsibility on Muslims. As bearers of God’s banner on earth, they are the custodians of the greatest gift to mankind. Their mission is to promote and establish the Islamic order, and to stand up to chauvinistic, oppressive and totalitarian ideologies of all kinds, whenever they are advocated, anywhere in the world.

The Muslim community, or ummah, is undoubtedly the legitimate heir to the greatest treasure of guidance, light, confidence and fulfilment, as well as certainty and knowledge, ever made available to mankind. Those deprived of its benefits and blessings might as well be living in darkness and confusion. Their life is inevitably plagued with scepticism, cynicism, unhappiness, spiritual suffering and deprivation.

The history of mankind has seen countless individuals and communities deprived of the sustenance and happiness of faith. The agony and miserable experiences of many a sensitive and troubled heart have been most eloquently and passionately preserved for posterity in poetry, literature and art. There are those, however, who are immune to religious faith and have no desire for knowledge beyond the material world. They go through life with little or no humanity, hardly better than animals. They eat and survive and fend for themselves ruthlessly. They oppress, tyrannize and corrupt others in order to further their own interests and desires. They are despised by God and by their fellow human beings.

Human societies deprived of the grace and blessings of faith in God are miserable despite their affluence, barren despite their wealth, and restive despite their apparent freedom, security and peace. There are, even today, obvious examples of such unfortunate societies, a fact denied only by the arrogant.

Those who truly believe in God and His angels, books and messengers, know well that they shall return to their Lord, and so they turn to Him in obedience and submission, seeking His mercy and forgiveness. “And they say, ‘We hear and we obey. Grant us Your forgiveness, our Lord; to You we shall all return.’“ 

This submission is an expression of their faith. They heed and obey every commandment received from God in affirmation of His oneness and in recognition of the validity of His order in every aspect of life. No submission can be sincere without adherence to God’s guidance and implementation of His rule in every sphere. Man’s faith cannot be complete if he turns his back on God’s teachings and seeks moral, social, economic or political guidance elsewhere. Faith is a quality firmly entrenched in man’s heart and is only given credence when expressed in actions.

With submission and obedience to the Lord comes a feeling of inadequacy and deficiency in paying one’s dues towards God. Thus believers appeal to the merciful God to overlook their failures and shortcomings: “... Grant us Your forgiveness, our Lord...”

The appeal for forgiveness follows the assertion of total submission and obedience. It is then followed by certainty in one’s fate here in this life and in the life to come. God’s word is the final and ultimate truth; everything shall return to Him; He is omnipotent; His will is done and His power unchallenged; His forgiveness, mercy and grace provide the way to escape punishment for sins we commit.

“To You we shall all return.” This statement implies belief in the hereafter, which, from the Islamic point of view, is another essential aspect of faith in God. Islam asserts that God has created man and made him His vicegerent on earth on the basis of a clear covenant encompassing all man’s activities on earth. Throughout his earthly existence man is on probation. When his probation is over, he shall be judged and made accountable for his actions. Thus belief in the Day of Judgement and man’s accountability for his deeds is a correlative of belief in God. This faith plays a central role in shaping and guiding a believer’s conscience and behaviour, and his perception of values and consequences in this life. A believer will live in obedience to God, promoting good and supporting the truth, regardless of whether the result of his endeavour in this world is happiness or suffering, gain or loss, victory or defeat, recompense or deprivation, or even death. The reward he seeks for passing the test of life is in the hereafter. Were the whole world to stand in opposition to him in this pursuit, and were his very life to be threatened, it would not dissuade him. He is dealing directly with God Almighty, fulfilling his obligation towards Him and looking forward to the reward He has in store for him.
This short Qur’ānic verse encapsulates the basic concept of the unity and integrity of the Islamic belief. It is a simple and clear belief in the unity of God, His angels, His books and messengers, with no distinction among those messengers whatsoever, based on total obedience and submission to God and an unshakeable faith in the Day of Judgement.
Such is Islam, a faith perfectly suited to epitomize the full and final divine message. It reflects the procession of faith which began with the creation of man and continued throughout the generations. It has been expounded and elucidated by messenger after messenger, according to the intellectual and social development of the recipient communities. With the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the message is brought to full maturity and its complete unity is declared, leaving man with the task of understanding its principles and details, and implementing it in his life. 
Islam is a religion that recognizes man as a unique being; neither animal nor inanimate, neither angelic nor Satanic. Islam takes a holistic, rather than a fragmented, view of man. It allows for his weaknesses as well as his strengths, treating him as an integrated being comprising a physical aspect with instincts, impulses and natural drives, and a discerning intellectual power, and a soul with spiritual passions and yearnings. It requires of man only such tasks as he is able to fulfil, maintaining that delicate balance between obligations and abilities, with fairness and without duress, satisfying the needs of body, mind and soul in perfect harmony. The corollary to that concept is man’s freedom to choose and bear full responsibility for his choice.
May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others life miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so  that they are able to discuss issues with Non Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
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