Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Ordinary practice turned into an act of worship|
|09/16/01 at 02:42:10|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
[center]Ordinary practice turned into an act of worship
By Dr Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef[/center]
Many God-fearing believers feel reluctant to allow themselves some pleasures, such as sport, which helps to increase their physical fitness, and improve their health. To such people, indulging in some pleasurable activities, even though they are permitted by religion, is, at best, wasting time without earning God's reward. Hence, they deprive themselves and their families of many permissible pleasures and modes of relaxation. Their attitude is bound to have a negative effect on their physical health and the health of their children. They become vulnerable to diseases that affect those who do little physical effort. Indeed, it also adversely affects their psychological well-being, making them prone to depressive moods. This reduces their mental productivity, and even their worship.
A person who is going through a period of negative psychological moods finds it difficult to attend to worship. But we know that Islam responds well to human nature and will never be in conflict with it. Contemporary scientists have discovered that certain parts of the human brain are responsible for producing a pleasurable feeling, provided they have the proper stimulus. It has been ascertained that this is very important to psychological health. In fact, stimulating these parts of the brain will help a person to get over a depression which could not be treated by normal methods and medication. Stimulating these parts generates a feeling of hope and optimism, and invigorates the person concerned, making him or her respond positively to what is happening around them.
No person can lead a normal, happy life, enjoying psychological well-being unless he gets his proper share of pleasure and relaxation. Since God has placed a mechanism for pleasure in our brains, then pleasure cannot be contrary to religion. "Children of Adam, beautify yourselves for every act of worship, and eat and drink freely, but do not waste. God does not love the wasteful, Say: Who is there to forbid the beauty which God has brought forth for His creatures, and the good things from among the means of sustenance? Say: They are lawful in the life of this world to all who believe, to be theirs alone on the Day of Resurrection. Thus clearly do we spell our revelation for people of knowledge. Say: My Lord has forbidden only shameful deeds - be they open or secret - sinning, unjustified envy, the association of partners with God - since He has never given any warrant for that from on high - and to attribute to God anything of which you have no knowledge." (7: 31-33)
This means that what God has forbidden is only what comes under the headings included in the above Qur'anic passage, namely, shameful conduct, sin of all types, infringing on the rights of others, associating partners with God and making false allegations about Him. Beyond these, God has permitted all types of pleasure, adornment and beauty. To have such pleasures and enjoyment is perfectly permissible and does not constitute any contravention of God's law.
However, the question remains: Is it not true that permissible pleasure may often mean wasting time in something that earns no reward from God? The Prophet has explained to us a criterion which means that when we avoid forbidden actions in pleasurable activities they become a means to earn reward from God. In other words, they become a form of worship.
At the time of the Prophet, some of his companions who were of limited means felt that they were at a disadvantage. They felt that others who were richer than them were able to donate some of their money to good causes and that would earn them reward, while they did not have the means to match them. Hence, they complained to the Prophet, saying: "Messenger of God, rich people have taken all the reward: they pray like we pray, and fast like we fast, but they also give to charity." The Prophet said to them: "But God has provided you with the means to be charitable. Every time you glorify God, or praise Him, or thank Him, or reiterate His oneness you earn the reward of a charitable act. Similarly, when you enjoin another person to do what is right, or discourage the doing of what is evil, you are credited with a charitable act. Moreover, in the fulfillment of your sexual desire a charitable act is credited to you."
The Prophet's companions were full of amazement. It was inconceivable to them that they could be rewarded for seeking pleasure. Hence, the Prophet explained to them the proper criterion with which to evaluate matters. He told them that when a believer is keen to avoid what God has forbidden and to practice only what is lawful, then his lawful enjoyment becomes a means of earning reward from God.
In fact, avoiding what God has forbidden is the essence of being God-fearing. When this becomes part of enjoying something lawful, even though this lawful thing is the fulfillment of physical desire, it is turned into reward-earning worship. The Prophet did not stipulate any condition for the reward to be earned at the time of fulfilling sexual desire other than avoiding what is forbidden. He has made no requirement that a person should alter his intention so as to move away from pleasure seeking. He has not advised us to make our intention, say, that we should have a son who serves God's cause with all his efforts. To do so is to attempt something unrealistic in the most part.
Let us now consider the rest of the discussion between the Prophet and his companions. They said: "Messenger of God! Would any of us earn a reward for fulfilling his sexual desire?" He said: "Do you not know that when he fulfills it in a forbidden way, he incurs a sin? Similarly, if he fulfills it in a legitimate way, he earns a reward."(Related by Muslim).
In an act of disobedience to God it is not necessary that disobedience should be pre-meditated. It is sufficient that the person concerned knows that his action is forbidden, and it would mean that he has committed a sin. Similarly, when a believer is steering away from what is forbidden, he earns a reward.
One forbidden aspect that must be avoided in any action is to seek self-exaltation or the spread of corruption. This means that in the case of a truly God-fearing believer, all actions are credited as acts of worship, even eating and drinking. Once more, there is no need to have an unrealistic intention for any action. It is sufficient that a person should fulfill his needs in a legitimate way. The Prophet says: "God is pleased with His servants when they praise Him after having something to eat or something to drink." (Related by Muslim).
It is true that when we speak of something as being permissible we mean that it earns no reward and incurs no punishment. However, when we avoid sin as we do it, i.e. doing it with a God-fearing sense, we earn rich reward. That is the reward for being God-fearing, seeking only what is permissible and avoiding what is sinful. That turns a merely permissible action into a pleasurable and enjoyable act of worship.
[i]"Islam in Perspective" - Arab News - 02 April 2001[/i]
Wassalmau Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
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