Imam Zijad’s Corner: Basic characteristics of Muslim Faith

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Basic characteristics of Muslim Faith

The religion of Muslims is in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the way of life which possesses that adapting capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age and context. Let me present some of the major characteristics of Islam which can make themselves appeal to every age and context:

1. Simplicity, Rationalism, and Praxis: Islam is a religion without any mythology. Its teachings are simple and intelligible. It is a religion which does not flow through the air of illusions but lives with human on the ground. It is a religion in which every individual can face the Lord, without any mediation, asking Him for forgiveness and guidance. Islam awakens in person the faculty of reason and exhorts him or her to use his or her intellect. It enjoins him/her to see things in the light of one’s reality. Islam is a very practical religion and does not indulge in empty and futile theorizing. It says that faith is not a mere profession of beliefs; it is the very mainspring of life. Righteous conduct must follow belief in God. Muslim faith is something to be lived. It is not static; it’s active. It is not an object of mere lip-service. The last in the chain of the Messengers of God, Muhammad (S) said: “God does not accept belief, if it is not expressed in deeds, and does not accept deeds, if they do not conform to belief.”

2. Unity of matter and spirit. A unique feature of Islam is that it does not divide life components of matter and spirit. It does not stand for life-denial, but for life-fulfillment. Islam does not believe in asceticism. It holds that spiritual elevation is to be achieved by living piously through hardships not by renouncing the world. In Islam, this world is not the valley of tears, but the field where we seed the future. The Qur’an, the last Word of God, advises us to pray as follows: “Our Lord! Give us the good in this world and the good in the hereafter.”{2: 201}

Islam aims at establishing equilibrium between these two aspects of life – the material and the spiritual. It says that everything in this world is given to man as a gift, but man himself is for the service of a higher purpose: the establishment of a moral and just order so as to fulfill the Will of God. Its teachings cater for the spiritual as well as the temporal needs of man. Islam enjoins man to purify his soul and also to reform his daily life, both individually and collectively, and to establish the supremacy of right over might and of virtue over vice. Thus Islam stands for the middle path (golden way) and production of a moral man in the service of a just and balanced society.

3. A complete way of life. Islam is not a religion in the common, distorted meaning of the word, confining its scope to the private life of man. It is a complete way of life, catering for all the fields of human existence, in all walks of daily life. Islam provides guidance for all walks of life: individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, national and international.

4. Balance between the individual and the society. Another unique feature of Islam is that it establishes a balance between individualism and collectivism. It believes in the individual personality of man and holds everyone personally accountable to God. The Qur’an confirms it: “Man shall have nothing but what he strives for.”  {53: 39}

On the other hand, it also awakens a sense of social responsibility in man, organizes human beings in a society and a state and enjoins the individual to subscribe to the social good. Good for an individual is good for a society. Harmful for an individual is harmful for a society. In short, Islam neither neglects the individual nor society. It establishes a harmony and a balance between the two and assigns to each its proper due.

5. Universality and humanity. Islam is international in its outlook approach and does not admit barriers and distinctions based on color, clan, social status, blood or territory such as were prevalent before the advent of Muhammad (PBUH) and which are rampant in different forms even in this modern age. The best of man is one who is the most righteous, as the Qur’an confirms. Almighty God says in the Qur’an: “O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the Sight of God is one who is a pious and righteous person. Verily, Almighty God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”{49: 13}

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