Islam's Impact on Daily Living
Regardless of how one comes to know Islam, everyone goes through stages and phases within their spiritual development. Some for better, and others for worse (May Allah protect us all, Ameen). We all move down one of two roads, acceptance or rejection. And once we start down one of these roads, Allah tests us by making our individual journeys either easy or difficult.
This article is a sample of some of the insights and observations that Allah has granted me regarding my personal journey from acceptance to certainty. Truly He is the Merciful, the Wise. And I pray that what follows assists all who read this in their spiritual progression. Ameen.
One of the first things to grab my attention as a non-Muslim was the linguistics behind the words Islam and Muslim. Unlike the other religions of the world, Islam is not named after a person, a people, or a place. The word, itself, is a quality...submission. Submission to the One Who created us. Can there be any other name for the true path to God?
A Muslim is quite literally "one who submits". Again, can there be any other name for a true follower of God's teachings and commands? The word Muslim is timeless. In other words, there was no such thing as a Christian before Christ (peace be upon him). Likewise, there was no such thing as a Buddhist prior to the existence of Gotama Buddha, and no Bahai prior to Bahaullah, nor a Zoroastrian before Zoroaster. However, by definition, there were Muslims prior to the advent of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Prior to accepting Islam, these observations had a tremendous impact on me. The teachings of Islam began to shape my personal lens with which I viewed all of the religions, and in fact, all of the world. However, it wouldn't be until three or four years had passed for me to realize another aspect of the word Islam.....
Islam is active. Now, the best way for me to describe this is to use a parallel in Christian terminology. Amongst most Christian groups there is a concept of "being saved", that is, Jesus (peace be upon him) died for our sins and once we accept that we will be granted Heaven (I guess assuming you die in that state). Contrary to the word "Islam", "saved" is passive. Here's what I mean...the very name of the religion Islam indicates an active quality in the believer, submission. Fulfillment of this active quality requires proper action, proper belief, and proper intention on the part of the believer. If you are "saved" then nothing more needs to be done. At that point, religion ceases to be a way of life, a deen, and becomes merely a belief. And beliefs which are no longer acted upon soon become myths.
Perhaps the most profound impact that Islam exerts on everyday life is its impact on the perception of time. We live in a time when things move fast and patience is thin. We can transmit documents across the globe in milliseconds from our cars. We can cook meals in under a minute. And with credit cards it is possible to purchase items before we even have the money. This results in a culture in which we lack patience and we seek instant gratification. In a sense, we almost force ourselves to live only in the present. We have become ahistorical pleasure seekers (as is outlined in The Information & Entertainment Glut and The History of Information), believing entertainment and happiness to be our purpose in life while living in an isolated present, disconnected from both the past and the future.
The Qur'an, however, does not permit a pensive reader to be ahistorical. There is a strong emphasis on time, both at a macroscopic level and an immediate personal one. On a personal level, we are all instructed to "establish the salah". That is, to perform the prescribed five daily prayers at their stated fixed times; between dawn and sunrise, at midday, late afternoon, after sunset, and at night. Not merely ritual, the salah unites the believer's belief with his/her actions and his/her intentions; submitting the mind, the body and the spirit all at once.
With respect to time, the arrangement of the prayer times allows for frequent, short breaks from the hustle and bustle of life to regain a proper perspective on the day's activities. If we are at work, then work becomes an activity which is not merely for making money, but a duty to provide for oneself and one's family, while contributing to society. If we are spending time with our spouse or children or parents, it is not reduced to "having something to do." It is a duty which when fulfilled is quite rewarding in and of itself.
Praying at the stated fixed times also serves as a shield. It prevents us from committing evil. I once heard the five daily prayers compared to cities in a desert…In the desert, the most dangerous part of a journey occurs while the party or caravan is between cities. The dangers are many, be they snakes, scorpions, raiders and thieves, or dehydration and starvation, whatever. The point being that our prayers are like cities. The closer they are together, the safer we are most of the time.
Unlike cities in a desert though, the prayers actually protect us between the prayer times. For someone who prays regularly as commanded by Allah, the simple act of looking at a clock or a watch serves as a reminder. If it is an hour before the time for prayer and we look at our watch, we actually perceive the time in relation to the prayer. It reminds us of our duty to Allah, the Exalted, the Wise. If we happen to be engaged in a conversation which is bad for us, say talking about someone behind his/her back, and we glance at the clock, we are more likely to realize the danger of the situation, and remove ourselves from it or change the conversation.
Another analogy comes from the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself, in which he compared the five daily prayers to a stream outside of someone's home at which they wash five times a day. Naturally, at the end of the day there will be no dirt to speak of on the person's body. So it is with sin and prayer, the sin being the dirt and the prayer being the act of washing.
Ultimately, then, the prayers prescribed by Allah impact our perception of time and create within us a God-consciousness that remains in us throughout the day.
On a larger level, Islam commands the believer to live in the present, have knowledge of the past, and to prepare for the future. The Qur'an is laden with details concerning historical events and personalities, all of which serve multiple functions; be they to settle historical arguments (ie the miraculous birth of Prophet Jesus), to provide hope for those undergoing similar trials, to warn those of the fate of the disbelieving people before them, to put other verses in an historical context, and so on.
Multiple verses in the Qur'an point to the fate of those who disbelieved in the past, quite obviously implying that those who disbelieve now will follow a similar course. Qur'anic verses 6:11, 10:22, 12:109, 22:46, 27:69, 29:20, 30:9, 30:42, 34:18, 35:44, 40:21, 40:82, and 47:10 all ask the question, "Have they not traveled through the earth and have they not seen the fate of the people who came before them?" Accounts of the past, when followed up with this question, command the reader to examine and study the past…to learn from the successes and mistakes of the people of the past and, ultimately, transcribe that knowledge into the present by acting accordingly.
Regarding the present, Allah, Glory be to Him, has laid down many commands and parameters within which we should operate. As the Creator of all, He knows what is best for creation. Thus, He forbids alcohol, demands kindness and obedience to parents, forbids gambling, forbids fornication and adultery, commands truthfulness, etc. These are commands by the One Who created us. He knows what is best for us. To disobey is both arrogant and unhealthy.
And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one or both of them attain old age, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them, but address them in terms of honor.
And lower unto them a wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: "My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they bestowed mercy on me when I was small."
Answer the Call of your Lord before there comes from Allah a Day which cannot be averted
O mankind! If you are in doubt about the Resurrection, then verily! We have created you from dust (ie Adam), then from a nutfah (a mixture of male and female discharge), then from a thing which clings, then from a lump of flesh, some formed and some unformed, that We make it clear to you. And We cause whom We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed term, then We bring you out as infants, then allow you to grow that you may reach your age of full strength. And among you there is he who dies young, and among you there is he who is brought back to feeble old age, so that he knows nothing after having known much…
And when they see a Sign from Allah, they mock at it.
And they say: "This nothing but evident magic!
"When we are dead and have become dust and bones, shall we then be resurrected?
"And also our fathers of old?"
Say: "Yes, and you shall then be humiliated."
It will be a single shout, and behold, they will be staring!
They will say: "Woe to us! This is the Day of Recompense!"
It will be said to them: "This is the Day of Judgement which you used to deny."
The following is just an outline to assist me in finishing this page. Please be patient while this page is being worked on…...
Web Author: Abu Aasiya