06 June 2014

Good Human

Abdul-Hameed Siddiqi, well known for his English translation of Sahih Muslim, notes that what is implied by the term tassawuf is nothing but Ihsan. With that in mind we can understand the joy of the person who once reported to his mentor that he had achieved Ihsan in his prayers. He felt being in the presence of Allah every time he stood up for prayers. "It is great that you should feel that way while praying, " his mentor replied. "But, do you have the same feelings when you are dealing with others? Have you attained Ihsan in relations with your spouse and children? In relations with friends and relatives? In all social relations?" To the perplexed disciple he went on to explain that one must not restrict the concept of Ihsan to the performance of ritual prayers. The term is general and applies to all endeavors in our life.

in this story was Dr. Abdul Hai Arfi, himself a disciple of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. One of the many great contributions of Maulana Thanvi was that he reintroduced Islamic teachings regarding social relations and dealings with others as a religious issue. His message: You must become a good human being before you can ever become a good Muslim. This message destroys a disastrous and tragic misconception that reduces Islam to only the performance of the ritual acts of worship the pillars thus robbing it of much of the rest of the building. (Some others try to construct the building without the pillars an even more devastating and futile act but that is another subject). A very important and integral section of that building deals with our social relations. It is concerned with how we behave in the family. How we interact with relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and all the rest of humanity.

The cornerstone of Islamic teachings in this area is the requirement that we do not cause anyone any hurt through our words or actions. A famous hadith states, "A Muslim is the one from whose hands and tongue other Muslims are safe." [Tirmidhi]. Keeping others safe from our hands and tongues does not only mean that we do not hurl stones or abuses at them, it also means that we do not say or do anything that will hurt them.

This hadith clearly describes this as a defining trait of a Muslim. While it refers to "other Muslims," scholars agree that it is a general requirement that equally applies to non-Muslims except those who are at war with the Muslims. A person who, through his intentional or careless actions or words inflicts unjustified pain on others is not worthy of being called a Muslim.

We can begin to appreciate the value of this teaching by realizing that most problems in our lives are man-made. Life can become living hell if there are problems within the family: the tensions between the spouses, the frictions between parents and children, the fights between brothers and sisters and other relatives.

we may see these extreme attitudes in people who seem to be poles apart in terms of their practice of religion, both stem from the same narrow vision of religion that holds our dealings with others as worldly affairs, outside the realm of Islam.

It is good to remember that Islam is a way of life. We must submit our whole life, not a small subset of our choosing, to the commands and teachings of Allah and His Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Our commitment to Islam must not only be life-long but also life-wide.

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